6 - Tintagel
Well, a bit of a confession before we get to the story. I've had to edit parts 1 and 2 slightly to fit with where I am going with this story. I blame taking a 5 months break before continuing it ;) Anyway, the Quidditch tournament was cleared up, and the other thing was only minor.
“Gabrielle?” Aimée called gently.
“Mama?” Gabrielle asked sleepily. “Five more minutes, please. I am having the most amazing dream.”
Aimée laughed softly. “My dear, you are no longer twelve years old, and I believe that last night might have been better than a dream.”
Gabrielle opened her eyes and blinked. “What am I doing here?” she asked.
“That is a question I was going to ask you,” Aimée said.
“The last thing I remember was Harry carrying me back toward the house,” she said, “and I fell asleep.”
“Was the evening that disappointing?” Aimée teased gently.
“Oh no, Mama, it was amazing,” she was feeling more awake now, and she sat up, shifting back against the headboard. “He was amazing.”
“Well, I finally found out what it is like to be myself,” she said slowly, as she tried to work her way through her memories from the night before. “The bond started working for the first time, and everything just clicked. I could feel what he wanted and I could respond to it.”
She paused for a second and then continued. “It started at the restaurant; I told him to ask me a question, so he did. He asked why I tried to hide the Mating from him and not just bring him the problem. So I explained, again, and I think he accepted it this time. He accepted that I didn’t want to manipulate him; I just wanted to try and give him a choice without worrying about me or that everything was on his shoulders.”
“That is good,” Aimée said.
“It is, Mama,” Gabrielle agreed. “And then we went to the nightclub.” She laughed softly. “I thought that I would be in charge, but I was not, not by a long way. We queued up, and he cast a wandless charm to keep me warm, but I don’t think he understood what it felt like.”
“Like his magic was touching me all over. It was amazing. And then inside the night club, people moved out of his way, Mama. You know how Papa can walk through the Ministry and people move out of his way, because they know who he is?”
“Harry can do that with complete strangers and the strangers didn’t even notice they were doing it! He projected this aura around him that was intoxicating, much more so than any mere alcohol. And then on the dance floor, he looked at me, Mama, the way Papa has eyes for you.”
“And I let go. I stopped thinking; I just danced to the music. It wasn’t any of the moves I had planned or was thinking about; I just reacted to the beat, and it worked, Mama, he looked like I was the only person alive, and for the first time, what Fleur said made sense. I am Veela, and I reacted as Veela. My Mate was there, watching me, and he was enjoying what I was doing.
“But then things changed, Mama, I could feel other men looking at me, and Harry could, too.”
“What did he do?”
“He started to dance; it was different than mine, more powerful, more controlled, but it was so graceful. He really can dance, and he matched his moves to me. I felt myself being affected by it, and I fought back, I wanted to stay in control. We moved together, his hands touching me as we danced, claiming me, and then the music changed. It was slower, and I moved into his arms, and I felt weightless.”
“You are weightless,” Aimée sighed. “I do wish you’d eat more.”
“I am the perfect weight for my height,” Gabrielle pointed out with a slight smile. This argument was an old one between them. “But I floated with him and he held me so tightly and yet so softly at the same time.”
“So you danced and then came home?”
“Oh no,” Gabrielle laughed. “Papa sent Aurors to look after us.”
Aimée raised her eyebrows.
“They were trying to blend in, but as we danced, Harry pointed out all of them to me. I was going to the bathroom so that he could sneak up on one, but I turned around and followed Harry to see what he was going to do. I’ll have to tell Daddy that Mr Canton looked scared when Harry talked to him.”
“It wasn’t your father’s fault, dear,” Aimée confessed. “I asked him to send them.”
“Because I was a little concerned your outfit would attract attention and Harry would be upset.”
“You thought he’d blow something up?” Gabrielle asked, and as her mother nodded, she threw her head back and laughed.
“He did destroy two acres of our garden,” Aimée pointed out.
“He was very upset at the time; upset in the way of someone who has just had part of his life torn apart,” Gabrielle said, her good mood fading. “He is always in control, he knows how powerful he is, and even when upset, he keeps a firm control over what he does.”
“That said,” Aimée interrupted, “we still felt it was a good idea.”
“Well, Harry pointed them to where some Muggles were doing nasty things like drug dealing and using date-rape drugs, and he told the French and Spanish Aurors to deal with them. And when they did go to arrest them, Harry had to cast a wandless charm on one of the criminals to stop her from reaching for her gun.”
Aimée smiled faintly. “An exciting evening then.”
Gabrielle nodded. “And we danced most of the evening; it was like the two of us were the only people in the world. And at the end, he carried me home and put me to bed, like a true gentleman. But that wasn’t important; what was important was that we connected last night. He got to see me, and I got to see him.”
“So you are optimistic now?”
“Very much so, Mama, very much so.”
“In which case, I would suggest that you hurry and change, as you will not want to miss the school breakfast this morning.”
Gabrielle looked at the clock on the wall and nodded. “Thank you, Mama.”
“I’ll talk to you later, my dear,” Aimée said as she walked out of the room.
Gabrielle threw back the covers and half-smiled as she looked down at herself. She was still fully dressed and she would not have expected anything else from her Mate. He defined honourable and would not take advantage of any situation.
She stripped quickly and placed the clothes on the back of the chair for one of the staff to clean and then dived into the shower. Normally she wouldn’t wash her hair two days in a row, but the nightclub had been thick with that disgusting tobacco the Muggles liked to smoke, and she didn’t want to go to breakfast smelling like she had spent the entire night dancing in a nightclub with the sexy flying Professor.
With her hair washed in record time, she spent twenty minutes drying it with her wand, before getting dressed and returning to her room at Beauxbatons.
She didn’t pause as she walked straight to the main hall. With any luck, the students would just think she overslept slightly.
She walked in and smiled to herself. The noise level didn’t dim, and no one was staring at her, well, not anymore than she was normally stared at. It was times like this that she wished she could just go up to Harry and kiss him, so that everyone would know that she belonged to him and only him.
“Heavy night?” Claude asked, as she sat with the senior students.
She nodded. “Madame Maxime asked me to look through the rules for the final House project.”
“What are the rules?” Simone asked.
“You know I am not going to tell you,” Gabrielle said with a smile as she took a croissant.
“Spoil sport,” Claude grinned.
She shrugged gracefully and took a bite and then felt something magical impinge on her consciousness. It was a strange feeling, like a warning. She chewed slowly as she examined it dispassionately and realised that it was a foreign feeling. It wasn’t her magic – it was Harry’s.
So she wasn’t surprised when the doors swung open with a bang and four people walked in. Well, two of the people walked in – the other two bounded in as if they had been shot from a canon.
“Nice digs you got here,” one of them said loudly in the worst French accent she had ever heard.
“Ollie,” Harry replied in English, getting to his feet and walking toward him. “French is one of the most romantic languages in the world, yet you sound like you’re butchering a pig when you speak it.”
“Och mon,” Ollie replied with a grin. “Hermione tried, honest; I just cannae get the accent right.”
“And you don’t need to talk like a Scottish peasant either,” Harry said dryly.
“Gabrielle?” Simone asked in French. “What are they saying?”
Quietly, Gabrielle started to translate the speech for them.
“If you insist,” Oliver smiled and then grabbed Harry in a huge hug. “It’s good to see you again, mate; the Cannons just aren’t the same without you.”
“Thanks,” Harry grinned. “Katie,” he smiled a welcome at the girl and hugged her.
“I can’t tell you how much trouble your request caused,” she said in English. “The Harpies were not pleased that I agreed to help.”
“Sorry,” Harry half-apologised.
“Nah, don’t be, I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I told them if they didn’t like it, I already had two friends on the Cannons who could probably get me a job.”
“Damn right!” Harry and Oliver said at the same time and then grinned at each other.
“Anyway, they caved like a Malfoy, and here I am.”
“And we,” Fred said, “are so, so disappointed that you turned to us last!”
“But you must remember, my dear Fred, that we are not world famous Quidditch stars,” George pointed out.
“True,” Fred agreed sadly, before he brightened. “But, I’ll bet we pay Harry more than the Cannons!”
“Close,” Harry smiled.
“Just how much is your contract?” George asked in complete disbelief.
Harry coughed and looked at the other two Quidditch players.
“We won’t tell, will we, Katie?” Oliver said innocently.
“No,” Katie agreed. “‘Fess up, Potter.”
“I might have negotiated image rights at forty-five percent gross.”
“Harry,” Oliver said, slinging his arm around him. “My contract is up for renewal next year; will you please, PLEASE negotiate for me?”
Harry laughed. “Look, let me introduce you to the staff and students here. We’ll go out to the pitch and have a talk after that.”
“Sounds like a plan, oh Professorial one,” George said.
Harry turned to face the entire student body and faculty. “Ladies and Gentleman,” he said, slipping easily into French. “In order to help us win the interschool tournament, I’ve enlisted a few very special friends. So, without further ado, let me introduce them to you. First, a team mate of mine from the Chudley Cannons, and before that, Puddlemere United. The England Keeper, Oliver Wood!”
There was a moment of silence before the students and especially the ones who wanted to be Keepers, leapt to their feet and started to cheer.
“The lovely brunette witch to his left is a future England chaser and star of the Holyhead Harpies, Katie Bell.” There was another cheer, this one louder, as Katie took a bow.
“And finally, legends in their own minds, two close friends of mine, and two extra-ordinary Beaters, who turned down the chance to go pro to enter the world of business, proprietors of the wildly successful Weasley Wizard Wheezes, Fred and George Weasley.”
As if they had been waiting for their cue, Fred and George each pulled something out of their pockets and threw them on the ground. The items exploded with a loud bang and then formed into a giant advertisement for their products that floated merrily up to the ceiling, before exploding in a dazzling display of fireworks. Most of the students applauded loudly.
“Show-offs,” Harry muttered to them in English.
The twins bowed in unison, grins on their faces.
“Okay,” Harry continued in French. “I want all the House Quidditch teams to report to the pitch in an hour’s time. Enjoy your breakfast.”
Gabrielle watched as they filed out, nodding as Harry shot her a quick look, which she interpreted as a request to join them.
“Oliver Wood, Katie Bell, and the infamous Weasley Twins,” Claude almost shouted in his excitement as the doors closed behind them. “Each of them are almost as good as Professor Potter. This means we’re going to have a chance at beating Hogwarts and Durmstrang!”
Gabrielle smiled to herself as the students responded with the loudest cheer yet. They might not have the skill yet, but these students wanted to win so badly she could almost taste it.
“Okay,” she said loudly, “everyone finish your breakfast. I’m sure that Professor Potter won’t mind if anyone who is interested watches from the stands.”
There was a lot of nodding heads as the students settled down.
Harry led his friends into his office inside the “shed” that housed the changing rooms and the brooms.
“Wow,” Oliver whistled under his breath. “This is nicer than our changing rooms at the Cannons!”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “All the French teams chipped in to make sure we had some good facilities to work from.”
“So,” Fred asked, grabbing a seat and settling down. “What calibre of play are we looking at here?”
Harry sighed and pulled his chair from behind his desk so he was sitting with them. “Not good,” he confessed. “None of them have ever played a Quidditch match before. And I don’t think any of them would be selected for a Hogwarts team.”
“Ouch,” Katie sighed, before she paused for a second and then smiled widely. “So, it’s in the bag then?”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
“Come off it,” she grinned cheerfully. “The only time you lose is when you are unconscious. So, what’s the plan?”
“Katie’s right, oh esteemed leader,” George agreed. “You don’t lose. What’s the plan?”
“That’s complicated,” Harry said with another sigh. “I need your promise that what I say will never leave this room.”
“On my magic, I so swear,” Fred and George said together, and the room filled with a bright blue light that quickly faded.
“You two gave a magical promise,” Oliver blurted out, a shocked expression on his face, “just like that?”
“Sure,” Fred said easily. “This is Harry, and if there we’ve learnt anything over the years of extremely profitable partnership and friendship, it’s that he doesn’t ask things like this lightly and there is going to be a killer story behind it.”
“And we don’t like not knowing, so when it’s a choice between knowing and keeping a secret and not knowing and knowing that we know we don’t know, then we’d rather know and not have to worry about not knowing what we know is going to be worth knowing,” George continued.
“Well said,” Fred smirked.
“On my magic, I so swear,” Katie said. “I want to know as well,” she grinned as she finished the spell. “It’s so good to be back with you guys!”
“I’m not gonna be left out,” Oliver grumbled. “Although I suspect Harry would have just accepted a promise,” he pointed out.
Harry nodded in agreement.
“But, I guess if we’re in this together, against our old school, I’ll be in as well. On my magic, I so swear.”
Harry sighed as they all turned and looked at him. “I guess this all starts eight years ago.”
“Can I get some popcorn?” Fred asked. “Stories are always best with popcorn.”
“Not now,” George said, lightly cuffing his twin on the back of his head. “Listen to Uncle Harry as he tells us a story.”
“Right,” Fred agreed. “Continue, Uncle Harry.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “You all remember the second task of the Triwizard Tournament?”
“You had to rescue little Ronnikins from the dreaded Merpeople,” George said.
“And you saved the sister of that hot Veela,” Oliver added, a little redundantly. After all, Harry had yet to see a Veela who wasn’t hot.
“It’s the sister that we’re talking about,” Harry said. “Basically, when I saved Gabrielle Delacour eight years ago, she Mated herself to me.”
“Fred,” George said slowly. “Was it me, or could you actually hear the capital M in Mated?”
“It wasn’t just you, brother mine,” Fred replied. “So, Harry, what’s with the capital M?”
“We’ve got a Veela playing on the Harpies,” Katie said quietly. “She says that Mating is emotional and physical slavery. The Veela literally hands over everything that matters about herself to someone else. It’s the most unique form of trust in existence.”
Oliver whistled slowly. “But she was all of what, eight?”
Harry nodded. “Which is the earliest age at which they can Mate. The Mating created a bond between us that meant I was never able to connect emotionally with another female.”
“Wait,” Oliver said. “You’ve had a more than a few girlfriends, and what about your Nullifying Field?”
“Nullifying Field?” Katie asked, causing Oliver to groan and blush.
“Try to find me magically,” Harry told Katie.
She pulled out her wand and cast a spell. “You’re not here,” she said, sounding confused.
“I keep a low-level Nullifying Spell around me at all times, with a few other things. What it means is that no magical traps will go off when I touch them and spells like that don’t work on me. Most of them anyway; Hermione knows one that will get around it.”
“Yeah, well, this spell was in place long before I’d created the nullifier, and by that time, my magic seemed to think that it was a part of me, and didn’t bother to tell me that it existed.
“Now, the problem with this Mating is that if I don’t accept Gabrielle as my Mate by her seventeenth birthday, she will go insane and die.”
“I’ve got a feeling of impending doom,” Fred announced. “This is going to get worse, isn’t it?”
“Of course,” George said with some out of place cheerfulness. “Go on, Harry.”
“After trying to undo it for eight years, rather than tell me about it, Jean-Sebastian, Gabrielle’s father, asked Ron and Hermione this summer for advice and assistance on the best way to get me and Gabrielle together. After some discussion, Hermione and Ron agreed to help convince me to teach at Beauxbatons so that Gabrielle could try to get me to fall in love with her.”
“There’s the doom,” Fred said darkly. “If I might translate, Hermione and Ron decided to screw about with your life to save this Veela-chick?”
Harry nodded. “Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten that I’m a big boy now, and I know when I’m being manipulated. When I mentioned to them that I liked Gabrielle, who’s still six years younger than me, they were rather encouraging.”
George snorted. “I’ll bet they were.”
“So, I went to Gabrielle’s parents’ house and played dumb for a bit – I acted like I was falling for Gabrielle and when Jean encouraged it, I challenged him. He told me to speak to Gabrielle, so I did.
“She told me everything, including how everyone had worked together to convince me to come here.”
Oliver whistled under his breath. “What did you do?”
“Torched a part of their orchard, about two acres I guess, Apparated through their wards, and went to my spot in Ilfracombe. I was a little annoyed.”
Katie snorted under her breath.
“From there, I checked out her story, and it was pretty much true. I’ve had words with Ron and Hermione, expressing my displeasure quite strenuously, and last night, had my first date with Gabrielle, which went pretty well.
“Now, the reason I’m telling you this, is because over the next few weeks and months, Gabrielle and I will be sorting out our relationship, and I want you all of you to know the truth, and not start thinking that I’m going after a student, especially not the one who’s most likely to be the Seeker.”
“That’s monstrous,” Katie said, shaking her head.
“I didn’t think I’d acted that badly,” Harry protested.
“Shut up, Harry,” Katie said without rancour. “You’ve acted like a bloody saint. I do have a few questions though. Like, seeing as her parents have known about this for years, what the bloody hell were they doing during that time? Why wait until the last minute to contact you?”
“They were trying to find a cure for her,” Harry answered. “And, well, sixteen is right on the edge of my moral compass, anyway. Any younger, and I couldn’t have done what is needed. It would have been too close to child abuse for my tastes.”
“Right,” Katie nodded slowly. “I guess that makes sense. I can’t believe you didn’t tell them all where to get off, break the bond, and move on.”
“That would have sent her into madness.”
“So what?” Katie asked coldly. “Melissa, my Veela friend, said she’d never considered Mating, not with all the problems it can cause; and she would certainly not just whack it onto some boy she passes on a street. That’s suicidal to start with and destroys the boy’s life.”
“I wouldn’t say my life was destroyed,” Harry said mildly. “But yes, it did make me very lonely for quite a few years.”
“Eight,” Oliver snorted. “Close to a third of your life. Or if we discount the time you spent at the Dursleys, then over half of your magical life.”
“She made a mistake at eight,” Harry protested. “She was a wet, scared kid, who’d just been rescued by someone she thought of as a hero – and despite all the warnings she’d received, she said it just came to her, and she just did it.”
“Why was she scared? Ron said he was just asleep,” Fred demanded.
“I’ve not asked her that,” Harry admitted. “But the Veela and the Merpeople have hated each other for years. The Merpeople were planning on killing Gabrielle; they were going to arrange an accident as soon as Fleur failed the second task.”
“That made some sort of sense,” Fred said slowly. “Not much, but some.”
“But how can you ever know if you will truly love her?” Katie asked. “Because, from where I’m sitting, it seems like you don’t have a choice in this at all. You either Mate with her, or she goes insane – and you’ve got this bond… how will you know if it’s love or just the bond?”
Harry blinked in surprise; he hadn’t really considered that. “I don’t know,” he confessed. “What I do know, is that I’m really comfortable with her. She makes me feel good, and well, she’s good-looking.”
“Yes, and she’s approaching the door right now.”
“How do you know that?” George asked.
“I can tell, roughly, where she is, thanks to this bond.”
“Right,” Katie said.
“Harry,” Gabrielle called in English, as she put her head around the door, a nervous expression on her face.
“Come in, Gabby,” Harry said softly. “I’ve pretty much told them everything.”
“Throwing me to the lions?” she asked, the joke falling a little flat.
“As Harry’s far too nice for his own good,” George said, as he moved backward to allow her some space to pull up a chair.
“And as our darling brother seems to have sold him up the river,” Fred continued, “we, as Harry’s friends, have a few questions to ask you.”
“Wait,” Harry started.
“Harry, shut it,” Oliver said, glowering at him. “Remember Nancy?”
Harry blushed. She had been one of the girls that had slept with him and then sold the story to the papers. Oliver had tried to warn him off her but he had ignored the advice.
“Nancy?” Katie asked.
“A gold-digging bitch,” Oliver grunted, “I’ll tell you about her later.”
“Harry,” Gabrielle reassured him, “it’s okay, really; I’m happy to answer any questions your friends might have.”
Harry nodded and went silent. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to respond here. He hadn’t expected his friends to rally to his cause in this way, especially as he wasn’t as close to them as he was with Ron and Hermione.
She took a seat near to him, and looked at the others with a composed expression. He found himself feeling a quiet pride for the way she faced four hostile faces.
“Just so you know,” Fred said. “We’ve all promised not to tell anyone anything about what we discuss here today.”
“Right,” George agreed. “And Harry’s story, as all his stories do, lacked detail.”
“Exactly. So, can you explain what happened at Hogwarts before you did that Mating mojo?”
She paused for a second, gathering her thoughts. “I was allowed to go on the trip to support Fleur. While it was supposed to be the Goblet that decided, everyone knew it was going to be her. All of Beauxbatons only added one name to the pot – hers.”
Fred and George groaned.
“Why didn’t we think of just bribing someone to put our name down?” Fred asked
“We were broke, remember?”
“Oh yeah; carry on, Gabby.”
“Gabrielle,” she replied, shooting a quick glance at Harry.
“My name is Gabrielle.”
“Harry is my Mate, and as such, has certain privileges that others do not.”
“Right,” George said. “Erm, sorry. So, Gabrielle, please continue.”
Harry smiled to himself and relaxed. She could certainly handle herself, and he would have got around to asking this himself, eventually.
“I was very excited, of course. It was my first trip away from my parents, and I slept in the same room as Fleur. The first task was very exciting – I remember sitting next to Madame Maxime and holding her hand. Tell me, Harry,” she said, turning to look at him. “I have always wondered this. You had mastered the Summoning Spell for the first task, correct?”
“Why did you not just Summon the egg?”
There was a complete silence in the room, as everyone swivelled to look at Harry.
“It never occurred to us,” he said weakly, an embarrassed half-smile on his face. “We just, well…”
Gabrielle smiled and moved on. He had the feeling that she did it to pull the attention away from him when he was a little uncomfortable. “And then, for the second task, Dumbledore,” she said, almost snarling with disdain.
“Wait,” Katie said. “Dumbledore, not Professor Dumbledore?”
“That man should not be a professor,” Gabrielle growled, her eyes flashing. “He invited me to his office where Ron, Hermione and Cho were already waiting. He offered me a lemon drop and asked if I wanted to help Fleur in the next task.
“I love my sister, so of course, I said ‘yes’. I wanted to help her win. He told me that he would cast a spell to make me sleep, and when I awoke, I would have helped her. He did say that I would be underwater, but he did not mention the Merpeople.”
The others were now nodding along with her story, their faces easing a little from the outright hostility they had shown earlier.
“And Dumbledore cast a spell on me so that I would fall asleep. However, I am Veela, so sleep spells do not last very long on me. And when I woke up, I was terrified. The Merpeople are our equivalent to the bogeymen and I had been handed over to them by Dumbledore. I faked that I was still asleep as they talked about how Fleur was doing and how they were preventing her from reaching me. They were very excited when she failed the task. They planned to kill me. They had it all arranged to the last detail; they were going to cancel the charm that allowed me to breath underwater, allowing me to drown. They would claim it was an accident.
“I didn’t know what to do; if I moved, they would kill me, but if I didn’t move I was going to die as well. I was petrified; it was like living in a never-ending nightmare.”
Harry moved forward slightly and leaned over, placing a hand on her shoulder. The pattern was disturbingly familiar. Dumbledore had told her enough to be reassured, but not enough to have enabled her to make an informed decision.
She flashed him a small smile and then looked back at the others.
“I remember praying for someone, anyone, to save me, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I was going to die that day.
“Harry arrived and I couldn’t understand what he was waiting for. Krum rescued Hermione, and Diggory rescued Chang; and then a miracle happened. The youngest contestant, someone who didn’t know me, did something unbelievable. He rescued me. He took Ron and me, and brought us both to the surface, fighting the Merpeople who were really upset at his disruption of their plans, as he went.
“I couldn’t believe it; it was like a nightmare had turned in to my greatest dream. I was safe, I was alive and I had met the finest prince in all the lands. And so, when the idea came to me to Mate to him, I did it, not thinking of the problems it might cause me, or the pain it might cause him. I just wanted to do something to say thank you to the boy who had just saved my life. For the boy who was doing what all heroes do and saying that it didn’t matter, that what he did was nothing.
“And so, I gave myself over to him in every way I could.”
“Like a Wizard’s Debt?” Oliver asked.
She nodded. “Only much more so. I didn’t appreciate at the time the bad things it would do to Harry. It was just that Mama and Nana had told me about how much of a good thing Mating was for the man, how I shouldn’t do it unless I was very, very sure, and how I would be risking everything. But Harry had already saved my life, I owed him everything anyway, and I had fallen in love with him that day.”
“Okay,” Katie said, nodding. She was now looking a little uncomfortable. “I think I understand,” she said. “And Harry said that as you grew up, you didn’t want to win him by default, so you went a round-about way of doing it?”
“One more question,” Katie asked. “What if you had died?”
“Harry would have never known I existed, and the bond would have quietly disappeared. At one stage, I did think about doing it that way, but I never entertained that notion for very long,” Gabrielle raised her head proudly. “I am convinced that I can make Harry happier than any other woman alive. I love him for who he is, not for what he has done or the things he might possess. I have my own money, so I will never need his. I am reasonably good-looking, completely loyal, and intelligent enough to keep him interested; and I am Veela, with all that entails.”
There was a small silence before Katie said, “I’m sorry for doubting you.”
“What for?” Gabrielle asked, confused.
“Well, I did kinda think that you were just another person out for Harry’s money and fame. And well, as Quidditch players, we get a lot of that.”
“Yeah,” Oliver agreed.
“I wish you had told us about the problem,” Fred sighed. “You are kinda family after all, but I can understand why you didn’t.”
George nodded in agreement. “And, you know, this whole thing gives me chills.”
“What does?” Harry asked.
“All the stuff we pulled at eight, the pranks, the jokes, and the illegal magic. What if we had made a mistake and done something that seriously impacted someone else’s life? Would we have at least tried to put things right?”
“Luckily, brother mine, all we did was turn Percy’s hair black – not kill him.”
“So, is that everything?” Oliver asked.
“Pretty much,” Harry smiled.
“Apart from one thing,” George said with a big sigh. “Your vocabulary.”
“What about it?” Harry asked.
“It’s atrocious,” Fred pointed out. “You have Gabrielle orbiting around you and all you can say is that she is good-looking?”
“Did you take understatement lessons at Hogwarts we didn’t know about?” George continued. “Good-looking? I’ve got a pet frog that is good-looking, but I wouldn’t compare her to Gabrielle.”
Harry laughed softly. “Okay,” he said, holding up his hands. “Last night, we went to a night club, and Gabby was dressed up, and well, she looked so ethereally beautiful that she didn’t belong on this planet, and when she danced, you could hear an audible gulp from every male in the room – or I would have, if I hadn’t been stunned at just how bloody amazing she looked.”
Gabrielle was blushing now.
“That’s more like it,” Fred grinned. “So, let’s change the subject. As fascinating as all this is, there’s not a lot we can do to help you two with the Mating thing right now.”
George stood and moved to the right, while Fred moved to the left behind him, as they changed seats.
“Quidditch,” George said. “That’s what we’re really here for, right? What’s the plan?”
“Today, we need to pick the best two players for each position, the ones with the most talent. I’ll be working with them through the week, and when you can join us, do so, and we’ll take the best and do what we can to train them.”
“And the final team doesn’t have a chance, right?” Oliver asked.
“A slim one,” Harry said, “it depends on how much I can train Gabrielle.”
“I will do my best,” Gabrielle said quietly.
“One more thing,” Harry said. “Everyone needs to be really encouraging, no talk of defeat, or anything else negative. We want these kids to have the hope that they can win, because if they do, they might be able to pull it off, but if they expect to lose, they will.”
“Makes sense,” Oliver said. “You know, I’ve always wanted to be a coach.”
“Just remember to talk slowly, Ollie” Harry groaned, not liking the look in Oliver’s eyes. It was fanatical and bought back many unpleasant memories.
“If you would like,” Gabrielle said, “I can work with you on your accents later.”
“I think,” Katie said, “that would be a very good idea. It will be nice to get to know you.”
Harry was relaxing in his room, looking at the fourteen names they had chosen, when there was a knock on his door.
He opened it to find Professor Bayard standing there.
“Harry,” he said cheerfully. “Would this be a good time to have a talk with you?”
“Sure,” Harry smiled. “Come in, Professor Bayard.”
“Oh, please call me Greg.”
“I’ve got a bottle of wine,” Greg said, holding out the bottle.
“So, you want something?” Harry asked, chuckling.
Greg laughed softly and nodded. “I believe Olympe mentioned that I’d love to have your assistance in class one day.”
Harry nodded and walked into his kitchen, returning with two glasses. He took the wine, magically easing the cork out and into the bin, pouring the wine into the glasses.
“I have never seen anyone use magic so casually,” Greg said softly, shaking his head.
Harry smiled faintly. “Not much I can do about it,” he explained. “It’s there – I just use it.”
“The difference, Harry, is how you use it. Most of us have magic there, and when we use it, we approach it very formally.”
Harry raised his hands helplessly. “I’ve told Gabrielle that she can do her senior project on my relationship to magic. Perhaps you should ask her later about it.”
“I will. I’m sure it will be most fascinating. She is an excellent student, although she tells me she did freeze when you two were attacked in Paris?”
“A little, but even then, she did the right thing – she allowed me to deal with it.”
“Which does lead me into my request quite nicely. I was wondering if you would mind coming to my senior class on Wednesday, allowing the students to attack you?”
Harry laughed and raised his eyebrows.
“I don’t expect them to get near to you,” Greg explained. “That is not the point, but it would be an excellent training aid, without having to worry about accidentally hurting someone. I have checked your schedule, and you have a free period during that class.”
“Okay,” Harry said. “I’ll do it.”
“Excellent,” Greg replied, toasting Harry.
Harry returned the salute, tasting the wine. It was nowhere near as good as the wine Jean had supplied, not that he had expected it to be. He drank it anyway, to be polite.
“So, how have your first few weeks as a teacher been?”
“Tiring,” Harry said with a slight smile. “I didn’t expect it to be such hard work.”
“Non-teachers never do,” Greg said. “It is our eternal complaint.”
Harry hovered, watching Claude and Anton as Fred and George worked with them, putting them through their paces. The twins were surprisingly good teachers, patient, and using a lot of humour to get their point across. They weren’t afraid to use themselves as examples of how to properly be Beaters.
They were emphasising the benefits of team work, demonstrating how they had been so good together.
Oliver was with the Keepers, running drills with them. Katie couldn’t make it tonight, so the Chasers had an evening off.
The back-up Seeker simply didn’t have the talent needed and knew it, so he was willing to take a back seat and just do what he could to improve, while Harry concentrated on Gabrielle.
He flew over to her. “Climb on,” he said, indicating in front of him.
“Up here?” she asked.
He just nodded and waited, not moving any closer to her.
She swung her leg over her broom and braced against it, before jumping onto his broom.
“Good,” Harry praised as she landed, a little roughly in front of him. “What we need to do,” he whispered, “is get rid of your fear.”
“What fear?” she asked.
He leant forward and kicked the broom into high speed, flying straight down as fast as he could. He could hear her scream over the rushing wind as the ground got closer at an alarming rate.
At the very last second, he pulled up, brushing their feet against the ground before they were away again into the sky.
Gabrielle turned to look at him; her face was white and her eyes wide. “That fear?” she croaked.
He nodded at her.
She gulped and then straightened her back. “Again?” she asked.
Harry smiled softly. “Again, Gabby,” he whispered. “Take the broom; take us both down and then pull up.”
“What if I miss?”
“Then we spend some time together in the Hospital wing.”
“It would kill me to hurt you.”
“Then don’t. Just dive.”
She nodded and reluctantly pushed the broom down; diving toward the ground at about three quarters of the speed Harry had done it at. She pulled up a few metres earlier and manoeuvred them back up into the sky.
“Good first try,” Harry praised. “Now, how do you feel?”
“A little excited,” she confessed. “And scared that I might hurt you.”
“Do you know who I am?” Harry asked softly.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m Harry Potter,” he pointed out.
“I know,” she replied, looking confused.
“No, you think of me as Harry, your Mate, and everything else, but you have to remember that I’m also Harry Potter.”
“What does that mean?”
“That I’m practically unkillable,” he said with a grin. “Now do it again, just faster.”
“All right,” Gabrielle said and dived down, pushing herself and the broom much harder.
She pulled up, a lot lower this time, but misjudged it slightly. The nose of the broom dug into the ground and flipped them both in the air.
He’d been expecting this, and it was exactly because of this that he was making her do it with him on the back of the broom. He tumbled, giving them both a bit of a boost into the air and pulled her against him, allowing his magic to orient them, so that they landed on their backs.
“What happened?” she asked. Her eyes were even wider than before.
“I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Gabby,” he whispered. “Now, next time we do this, let go of your fear, let go of your worries, and just go for it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that before?” she asked.
“Because you wouldn’t have believed me,” he said.
“Oi, Harry,” Fred yelled – his accented French was at least understandable. “You all right?”
“Of course,” he yelled back. “Proving a point.”
“That you’re insane?”
“Takes one to know one.”
“That’s what I like to see,” Oliver roared in English from the other end of the pitch. “We’ll make a professional out of her yet. Don’t forget to teach her how to fly the opposition into the stands!”
Harry responded with a single gesture that perhaps wasn’t the politest reply one could make, but which got his point across perfectly.
“Ready to go back up?” he asked.
She nodded. “And I’ll do it right this time.”
“Yes, you will.” He smiled.
“You look tired,” Fleur said as she came through the Floo.
“I ache in places I didn’t know could ache,” she complained softly. “And I have a lot more respect for Harry than I ever did before.”
“In what way?”
“The amount of theory that goes into playing Quidditch professionally is astronomical. I thought they just went out there and played. Harry explained just three moves to me today and I can hardly keep them straight. Do you know that he is supposed to help the Chasers, distract their Beaters and try to un-sight the Keeper?”
“What does un-sight mean?”
“Block their view of the play. And he has to keep an eye on the other Seeker, and the Snitch.” She collapsed down onto a chair. “I didn’t think it would be this hard. I just thought it would be flying around, you know, and then chasing the Snitch. And I’ve only been doing it for four days!”
“He is pushing you hard?”
Gabrielle looked at her sister. “Our team is atrocious,” she sighed. “Most of the players are three to four years behind their equivalents at Hogwarts. Everyone is undergoing intensive training at the moment and I have to be the best, because a Seeker can make or break a match.”
Fleur nodded. “What about your school work?”
“I don’t even want to think about that,” she sighed. “I just want to collapse.”
The Floo roared, and Harry walked in.
“Hi, Fleur,” he said with a smile.
“Harry,” Fleur greeted him with a smile. “I hear you have done the impossible and turned Gabrielle away from her books.”
Harry laughed softly. “If that were true, the other teachers would be lining up to kill me, so I’m here to do something about it.”
“Oh?” Fleur asked.
“I took a course in physiotherapy last year,” he explained, “to get over a niggling ankle injury. I figured if I knew what was causing it, I could do something about it. Anyway, I’m guessing that Gabrielle is starting to get sore?”
She nodded, too tired to talk.
“So I figured I’d give her a massage.”
Gabrielle blinked and looked up in pure hope. “Really?” she asked.
He nodded, a slight smile on his face.
“I am certain that this is my cue to leave,” Fleur said with a cute laugh. “I am only a sister and can not compete with the offer of a massage from a Mate.”
“Bye, Fleur,” Gabrielle said, just wanting to feel better. She didn’t even notice as her sister left.
“In to the bedroom,” Harry said. “You need to lie down.”
“Carry me?” she asked hopefully.
He laughed under his breath and picked her up, throwing her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
“This wasn’t what I had hoped for,” she pointed out.
“You were being lazy.” She could hear the smirk in his voice.
He placed her down on her bed. “Take your shirt off and lie down.”
She wanted to get excited by his words; she wanted to take them differently, but she was far too sore from her training to do more than just give the thought passing consideration. She pulled off her t-shirt, and collapsed face down on the bed, not even bothering with the sports bra she was wearing.
She felt the bed move as Harry straddled her, pouring something cold between her shoulders. She felt a flicker of his magic and knew that her bra had disappeared; then his hands touched her and she groaned in pleasure.
She didn’t move and closed her eyes, as he worked her shoulders and then her back. It didn’t take long before she was asleep.
Harry walked with Professor Bayard into the Defence Against the Dark Arts class feeling a little nervous. He didn’t like showing how good a fighter he was; it was the one skill he wished, at times, he didn’t have, as he was much prouder of his Quidditch skills.
“As promised,” Greg said to the class. “I have secured Professor Potter’s assistance in this class.”
“One practise dummy, reporting for duty,” Harry said with a slight smile.
The class laughed.
“We are going to practise our duelling,” Greg continued. “So, let’s move the desks back and get to work.”
“What do you want me to do, exactly?” Harry asked, as the students prepared the room and sat around the outskirts.
“Don’t fight back, but block and dodge everything you can.”
“Simone,” Greg called. “You’re first.”
The dark-haired girl nodded and bounced to her feet eagerly. “Riddikulus!” she chanted, pointing her wand at Harry.
“I’m not a Boggart,” Harry smiled, turning his body the exact degree needed to let the spell flash past him.
“How did you do that?” Simone gasped and cast a banishing charm at him.
He twisted again and the spell came within a hair’s breadth of hitting him, as it flew past.
“Claude,” he called. “Could you just cast a spell at me quickly?”
“Which spell?” Claude asked.
“Diffindo will do,” Harry replied casually.
Claude shrugged and cast the cutting spell at Harry, who dodged again.
“Professor Bayard, do you mind if I…?” he asked, trailing off.
“Go ahead,” Greg said.
“Okay,” Harry moved over to the two students. “You seem to have a small technique problem. You’re pointing your wand and then casting the spell. That gives your opponent a few seconds to work out where the spell is going to go, so he can get out of the way.” He pulled his wand out and created a series of targets on the wall. “What I want you to do is to hold your wand up, like this.” He held his wand in front of him, pointing to the ceiling. “And then cast like this.”
“Diffindo!” he shouted, and at the last second, with a violent slash, he brought the wand down so that it was pointing at the target.
The target split in two, and he turned back to the students. “You try it,” he encouraged. “Point at the last second.”
Simone and Claude nodded and cast the spell.
“Better,” Harry praised. “When you are duelling, the best way to win is to avoid being hit. And if your opponent can see where you are going to cast your spell, they already have an advantage over you. Simone, fire at me again.”
He moved in front of the targets and waited.
“Diffindo!” Simone called, pointing at his stomach at the last second. Unable to dodge in time, he let the spell crash into his shield. The shield flared for a second, and then vanished.
“Good!” Harry said. “That flare shows that you hit. Claude, you try.”
When he had finished and all the students had hit him and left the room, he sat down at the desk. “That’s tiring,” he said with a slight smile. “Sorry for stealing your class.”
“Harry,” Greg said, handing him a glass of water. “I am a good professor, I can teach, but I am not a fighter. I have studied my craft and fought in formalised duels, but I have never been taught as you did today. I teach my children to win meaningless competitions; you desire to teach them how to win if they are ever facing a real danger.”
Harry nodded. “We had a lot of really bad Defence teachers at Hogwarts, so we had to make our own club.”
“The Defence Association,” Greg said with a nod.
“If you want to learn something, contact Neville Longbottom. He’s a private Defence instructor these days.”
“Really?” Greg asked. “I shall.”
Harry nodded and smiled. “I’ve got to get to the pitch. I’ll see you later.”
“Try and join us for dinner one day,” Greg called after him as he hurried along.
It was seven in the evening, which made it six in England, and like clockwork, Fred, George, Oliver, and Katie Portkeyed in. They all looked as tired as he did. They’d been doing this for four weeks straight, working their normal jobs and then working late into the evening either working with the kids or working with Harry on tactics and strategies.
“I thought that tonight,” Harry said quietly. “We’d do something different.”
“Like what?” Oliver snapped and then held up his hand in apology.
“Give them a practice game. Us against them.”
Katie smiled slowly. “I like it,” she said. “It will be fun to fly, just like the old days.”
“Just take it easy on them,” Harry smiled. “Even if we are outnumbered, we are professionals.”
“Some of you are,” Fred pointed out with a smile. “But enough about Quidditch; how is your relationship with Gabrielle progressing? I demand gossip.”
“You’re like an old woman,” Oliver snorted.
“So I shouldn’t respond?” Harry asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Oliver grinned. “I was merely stating a fact.”
“Right,” Harry said dryly. “There’s nothing really to report. I think that we both thought that working together as Seekers would be romantic. It isn’t. The closest we’ve got to romance is the massages I’ve been giving her, and before you get your minds into the gutter, they are same as the physio ones Ollie and I get at the Cannons, and they are about as sexy as Umbridge in a bikini.”
Everyone, except for Ollie, shuddered playfully.
“So, what are you going to do about it?”
Harry groaned and looked at the calendar on the wall. “I’ve got no idea,” he grumbled. “She’s working as hard as I am, keeping her grades up and learning to play Quidditch, and the pressure is starting to show on her as well, but we only have another five weeks before we go to Hogwarts.”
“You need to take a day off,” George said. “We’ve all taken days off, but you do this every night and all weekend. You’re going to burn out. I know you think you’re immortal…”
“And probably are,” Fred grinned.
“Quite,” George agreed. “But even you get tired. So, take Gabrielle away for a day, call it Seeker practice somewhere different, and spend some more time getting to know her.”
“They’re right,” Oliver agreed. “And while you’re there, kiss the girl.”
Harry raised his eyebrows inquiringly.
Oliver shrugged. “She’s a fox, she’s more mature than I am, and she’s a very patient teacher.”
“I agree,” Katie said. “Especially about her being more mature than Ollie. If you’re serious about falling for her, at some stage you are going to have to kiss. If you do it now and find that nothing happens, well, then you have the time to find a way to break the bond and allow her to live – which is what you want, right?”
“I will,” Harry smiled. “Tomorrow.”
“Take her to that beach you like and your cliff,” Fred suggested. “Chicks dig that sort of thing.”
“Ignoring your extremely sexist language for a second, just where did you learn that?” Katie asked suspiciously.
“Witch Weekly Magazine,” he grinned. “They sent us a copy for placing a large advertisement in there.”
“Gabby?” Harry called into the Floo.
“Yes, Harry?” she asked, looking up from her desk, where her quill was flying.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
She looked at the pile of paperwork in front of her, sighed, and then looked back at him with one eyebrow arched.
“If you have to work, how do you feel about working on your senior project?”
She paused and turned to face him, a semi-hopeful expression on her face.
“We both need a day off, so I’m going to take you somewhere and we’ll spend the day talking about things other than Quidditch.”
“That sounds nice,” she smiled. “Should I wear anything special?”
“Clothes, dress a little warm; it might get a bit cold.”
“I’ll pick you up at nine.” He paused at the fireplace. “You did really well today.”
“Thank you,” she said and smiled as he vanished. She placed her quill down. He really had no idea what he did to her. Her concentration was going to be shot now, as she would much rather think about what they were going to do tomorrow, than worry about the effects of the French Revolution on the treatment of the Giants.
She walked over to her closet and started to examine the clothing she had at school. She was tempted to call for Fleur’s help, but she wanted to try and do this on her own.
Jeans were pretty much a given; not only were they warm, but they made her legs and bum look good. It was what to wear with them. She flicked through her shirts before moving over to the jumpers.
She held up a white jumper and shook her head at her reflection; it would make her look too pale in the late autumn sunlight. She needed something darker than that. A black jumper was dismissed as quickly, but a blue-grey turtle-neck was perfect. It made her eyes look greyer than blue and more mysterious. A pair of grey trainers would finish the outfit perfectly.
She decided to leave her hair free, because if they were going to be outside, it always looked good in the wind – that was why the Veela power created one.
She looked at her bed and sighed. As much as she wanted sleep, the essay she needed to do was more important. She was not going to miss graduating early in exchange for a few extra hours of sleep.
At nine o’clock, she was ready. She had been ready for forty minutes but would never confess that to anyone. Her outfit had been changed and then changed back several times, and she admitted to herself that she was slightly nervous. This was the first time he had made a move to do something with her and she wanted it to go perfectly – or as perfect as anything could go with him.
She gave herself one last look in the mirror and smiled at the image. It was one of the things for which she was grateful to her Veela heritage; she always looked good, and the tight grey jumper certainly emphasised that.
“Ready?” he called into the fire.
“But of course,” she smiled and walked over to the fireplace, stepping through to his room.
“I thought we’d go to your parents’ house and then Apparate, as we did before.”
“Okay,” she smiled.
He placed an arm around her, and she fought the urge to plaster herself to him. She hardly noticed the spinning while she travelled in the Floo network, taking the time to get used to having him hold her again.
She didn’t think that her parents would be up yet, so she wouldn’t feel guilty about not stopping to say hello.
As soon as they were outside her house and outside of the wards he pulled her into a hug and Disapparated.
They appeared on a stone path. In front of her were the remains of what must have been a medieval building. “Where are we?”
“Really?” she asked, excitedly.
He nodded. “What do you know about it?”
“It’s the legendary home of King Arthur on the west facing coast of Cornwall. Built in the 13th century.”
He smiled and looped his arm around her. “I thought we’d walk down to the beach and have a look around.”
She smiled happily and took the opportunity to cuddle into him. This was perfect, a place she had never seen, rich with history and educatory prospects, and most important, a chance to be alone with him, with no one else to worry about.
“Did you know that Muggles still aren’t sure if King Arthur even existed?” he asked. “They think it might have been Geoffrey of Monmouth who made up the basic story, and others added to it.
“Only we know different, thanks to Merlin, the greatest wizard in history.”
“Why do you say that?” Gabrielle asked softly.
“That Merlin was the greatest wizard?”
“Because he took the country out of the magical Dark Ages, and he helped the Muggles as well. For over eighty years, with first Uther Pendragon, and then Arthur, he instilled a period of stability that if the Muggle records hadn’t been destroyed, would be regarded today as utopian. He was the king’s advisor; everyone knew he was a wizard, but in a time when the rest of the world was burning wizards, he was accepted as the advisor of Kings. While he was building up the Muggle world, he was at the same time creating what has become the modern Ministry of Magic.
“The descriptions he left about Camelot are beautiful, a society based on freedom, hope, and honesty.”
“At least until the Muggles ruined it with their affairs, cheating and infighting,” Gabrielle finished.
“Oh no,” he said as he smiled at her, “the affair part isn’t true. Gwenhwyfar did not have an affair with Lancelot; she loved her husband, and when Lancelot tried, he was shot down. Lancelot wasn’t exactly as pure as the legends stated either, despite being the son of a French baron. He was a lying cheat who wasted his own money and then worked as a mercenary, ending up at Camelot, where he was invited to join the Round Table simply because he was good in a fight.
“And the whole idea of the Holy Grail, and Galahad? I suppose Merlin couldn’t say that he’d sent some of the best Knights away because the foreign Muggles were planning on invading what we now know as Hogsmeade, and he asked them to protect it for as long as was necessary.
“Merlin poured his heart and soul into Camelot; he prayed that it would last forever, but he didn’t realise that he was the key to its success. So when he died, at the age of two hundred and thirteen, it was just Arthur and Gwenhwyfar left. They ruled in peace for a time, before Lancelot, seeing his chance, raised an army and stormed Camelot.
“The battle was fierce; one side fighting for everything they had stood for, the other fighting for the legendary riches of King Arthur’s court.
“Arthur won the day, but he was mortally wounded in a duel with Lancelot. Lancelot was killed, Arthur died shortly afterward.
“Gwenhwyfar took his body to Nimue, the Lady in the Lake, who accepted Arthur and took him to Avalon, where he still lies today, preserved for eternity, the only Muggle allowed entrance.
“Gwenhwyfar left Camelot, and joined a nunnery, where she lived for another six months, before dying of pneumonia.
“Without its charismatic leaders, Camelot soon broke apart, and a few years later, King Pellinore ordered all records of Camelot, Arthur, Merlin and everyone else destroyed, so that people would stop talking about the golden days.
“And in doing so, he made sure that Arthur would be immortal.”
Gabrielle turned to look at him in something close to awe. She thought that she knew her Mate, and yet every time they were alone, he still surprised her. “How do you know all this?” she asked.
“Merlin’s diaries,” he said softly. “I read them on tour last year. They were fascinating; some of the spells he described were awe-inspiring in their majesty. He had a real flair for magic and for making the complicated appear simple.”
He moved against a wall and stopped. The view in front of them was of the endless ocean. She hopped onto the wall and sat, cross-legged, so she could look at him. “I always pictured you as being like Arthur, from the legends.”
“Me?” Harry asked.
“You,” she agreed with a smile. “Arthur was taken from his parents and raised in obscurity, with no idea who he was. He served as a scullery-boy, while his step-brother lived a life of luxury.
“And then one day, everything changed. Far from being normal, he was told that he was the king that everyone in the world was relying on to unite them and to bring them back into one group.
“He had an old, wise wizard who he trusted implicitly, and despite his age, he was a hero. He did what he had to do because there was no one better; although he would never accept that.
“He was brave and wise; deadly on the field of battle, but just when everyone thought they knew him; he’d say something or do something that would change everything.”
Harry blushed a little. “I’m not like that,” he protested weakly.
“Oh, but you are, Harry,” she said, reaching out and taking his hand, pulling it into her lap so that she could run her fingers over his.
“Each of you were children of destiny; one to unite a nation, the other to free a nation from the tyranny of evil.
“Uther Pendragon gave his child to Merlin. Your parents were killed and Dumbledore took control of your life. Merlin placed Arthur in a place where he was treated as a commoner. Dumbledore placed you with your Aunt for the same effect. But that is where things change, and we have proof that Dumbledore was neither as wise nor as good as Merlin.
“Merlin kept a close eye on Arthur; he wanted him to learn humility, but to also have a good life. Dumbledore dumped you like a piece of trash and ignored you until you were useful to him again.
“Merlin created the sword in the stone to give Arthur the confidence boost he needed; Dumbledore didn’t interfere as you and your friends saved the Philosopher’s Stone. Whenever Arthur needed him, Merlin was there with advice, and once Arthur knew his destiny, Merlin kept no secrets from him. Dumbledore kept things from you as you grew, causing you to make more mistakes, rather than less.
“But when the time came and everything rested on the children of destiny, they both stood firm, they refused to be beaten, and did what they had to do. They found the strength inside them, so that when they were alone and everything looked its darkest, they could still succeed.
“Arthur won because of Merlin. You won despite Dumbledore. That is why I think that in years to come, if the truth is ever told, you will be a bigger legend than Arthur, and why I think you will end up on the roster of great wizards right next to Merlin.”
He tried to pull his hand away, but she tightened her grip, forcing him to meet her eyes. She tried to put all of her unwavering faith in him within her look, so that he would know that she meant every word of it.
“I’m not a hero,” he said angrily, his eyes flashing, breaking away from hers.
Suddenly she understood. Her talk of heroes made him think that she was just another person in love with his fame.
“Harry,” she called, “look at me.”
He met her eyes with a marked reluctance. “I don’t love you because of the fame that your heroism might bring. When I first met you I loved you; you were already my hero; it is so deep inside you that it defines you. Heroism is a part of you, Harry, and a part of you that you can never lose. But it is not the only part of you, nor is it the only reason I love you. It was the first reason, but it will never be the last.
“I love you because when you smile at me, it makes my blood race. I love you because you take me to a castle from history and tell me stories of people long lost that makes me want to learn more about them with you. I love you because you have the ability to focus on what you are doing and I want you to focus like that on me. I love you because you’re nice, because you’re grumpy, because you can be pigheaded and stubborn.
“I am a spoilt little rich girl and I like it that way. But when I’m with you, without even trying, you make me feel like the luckiest girl in existence. I love you because you never condemned me for a mistake I made when I was eight years old, and you are giving me a chance to win your love.
“You could quit Quidditch today, and I wouldn’t care. I’d beg you not to, because you love it, but I would beg for you, not for me. You could give all your money away and be poor and I would still love you. Because you can not give away the parts of you that I love most. You can not give away your nobility, your sense of honour, or your courage.
“I love you, Harry, and if you allow me, I shall spend the rest of our lives proving just how much you mean to me.”
He’d stopped trying to pull his hand away near the start of her speech, and now he was looking at her, vulnerable and a little lost, and she felt her heart break a little bit more. Inside him was still the small boy starved of love and affection. Her hatred of Dumbledore grew – something she hadn’t previously believed possible. For what he had done to Harry far outweighed the way he had handed her unthinkingly over to the Merpeople.
And how the Dursleys could treat a boy like Harry as they did still gave her nightmares.
She pulled him closer; he moved unresistingly, and she slid to the side, kneeling on the hard stone and placing her head on his shoulder, and her arms around his torso, hugging him silently.
After a minute, he seemed to relax, his hands moved around her, and he pushed his face into her neck and exhaled.
He sighed deeply before leaning back and smiling at her. “Thanks. Shall we continue?”
She nodded and placed her hand on the wall to help herself down. She held out her hand and smiled as he took it.
They walked in a companionable silence down a steep path to a rocky beach. She looked around eagerly, spending as much time looking at the Muggles as she did at the scenery.
At the bottom, on a rocky beach, he guided her toward what looked like a large hole hewn out of the cliff. “The Muggles call this Merlin’s Cave,” he said. “Alfred ‘Lord’ Tennyson described it, in one of the first modern tales of King Arthur, as the place that Merlin found Arthur and took him to safety.”
They walked into the dim cavern, pausing for a second to let their eyes adjust to the low level of light. The cave was full of Muggles looking around and walking, but Harry ignored them, leading her to the back.
He moved so that he was leaning against a wall and pulled her close against him. She had no idea what he was doing and cared equally as little. If he wanted to just stand in a cave and hold her close, she was more than happy to do that – it seemed like a really good idea to her.
He whispered something she couldn’t quite catch under his breath and she stifled a scream as they both fell through the wall he had been leaning against.
“This is amazing,” she whispered in awe as she looked around. They were in a new cave that seemed to be hewn out of natural quartz. A small hole in the ceiling provided the light that the cave reflected a million times, so that it was almost too bright.
In the centre of a cave was a funeral bier. On it laid a man in the traditional repose – completely encased in crystal. The man was perfectly preserved; he looked very old, with a small grey beard. His eyes were closed, and his face gave the impression of someone who had enjoyed life but had been touched by tragedy.
“Welcome to the final resting place of Merlin,” Harry whispered respectfully. “After he died, Arthur brought him down here and had another wizard create this eternal funeral bier. They wanted to do something so that future generations would be able to see the man who created utopia.
“He’s slept here for nearly a thousand years undisturbed.”
“How did you find him?” she asked quietly.
“I visited last summer like a Muggle tourist, and while I was here, I could feel something wrong with the place, like it should have been bigger than it was, and there was a source of magic that was niggling at the back of my neck. I came back one night and cast a few spells and found this place. And over here,” he moved to one corner, “is the original copy of Merlin’s Diary, the unedited version.”
“Harry,” she gasped, “why have you not told anyone about this place?”
He sighed softly. “Why? Because it deserves to remain unspoiled. I think of people like Fudge, or Dumbledore, or Scrimgeour using it for political capital, or worse, a million Wizards gawking at him and talking about facts they know nothing about, and it horrifies me. He deserves more than that; he deserves to rest in peace.”
“Then why have you shown me this place?” she asked softly, reaching out to touch him.
“Because I want you to get to know me properly,” he said as he took her hand. “You’ve said you’re in love with me, but that can’t be true, because you only know a part of me. You know the side I show my friends, the side I show the public, but that isn’t me. I’ve shown you because I’ve always been alone, Gabby, and I don’t want to be alone anymore.
“I’m a man who is sometimes more comfortable with dead people than live ones, who likes history as much as he likes sports and who hides his true face from the world for his own sanity.”
She shook her head slowly. “No, Harry, you do not understand what I mean. I can love you truly without knowing you completely. This is another side of you, and yes, knowing this will make me love you more, but it doesn’t change who you are inside.
She paused for a second and took a deep breath. “You have slept with four different girls.”
He blinked at the sudden subject change and stared at her quizzically. “Three,” he said softly.
She shook her head with a small smile. “Four, Harry, even though you never told anyone about her, and no, she didn’t tell either.”
“How did you know?” he asked.
“Because each time I got sick; I would be lethargic and listless, and would lie in bed crying all day.”
“I’m…” he started.
“Do not dare apologise,” she whispered fiercely, her index finger going to his lips. “It was the bond’s response to your pleasure with another girl and each time, I wondered if the bond would fail, if it would vanish completely.”
“How?” he asked.
“Think of it like a fishing line, although I do not like the analogy. While we were apart, it was there, protecting me. But if you had suddenly fallen deeply in love with some worthy woman, it would have been like trying to catch a shark with a children’s toy. You would have broken the bond without even knowing it.”
She shook her head softly. “No, the bond was there, and it did its job. You were never comfortable around other woman and so you never fell in love like a normal person. I took hope from my suffering as it meant that the bond still existed and if you had not fallen for anyone, that meant that I would have my chance to show you that I love you and that I can make you happier than anyone else alive.
“Do you remember how you felt when you won the League for the first time?”
He nodded and smiled.
“That night for me was a school ball, and I danced all night. I was so happy because I knew you were happy, and the next morning, when you were hung over, I thought about snapping the bond.”
“Why?” he asked, a confused look on his face.
“So that you could get on with your life without ever knowing about the bond; I could send myself into madness and give you back the freedom I took away from you.”
“Why didn’t you?” he asked. His tone was curious not accusatory.
“Because I felt like it was the coward’s way out,” she confessed. “I created this problem, I needed to solve it. Dying might have released you, but it would never have made up for the years I had taken from you. I do not want your forgiveness, Harry; I want your permission to make it up to you, many times over.
“I know that this will make me sound like I am a bad person, but as the press started to hound you, I was excited. I knew that you were unhappy and it gave me the incentive to make my plans, because I knew I could make you happy.”
“What about you, Gabby? You say you want to make me happy, but what makes you happy?”
She smiled at him brightly. “Making you happy makes me happy. You can not imagine the feeling of knowing that my Mate is happy, and knowing that I have caused that happiness makes it even more potent.
“I will be happy when you look at me and tell me you love me. I will be happy the morning when I wake up in your arms. I will be happy when I am in our bed, exhausted, because we have made love all night. And if everything goes well, in a few years time, I will be happy when we can make our own family of dark-haired boys and blonde-haired Veela girls.”
He smiled crookedly, his eyes gleaming slightly. “Not blond boys and dark haired girls?”
She shook her head, a little apologetically. “The Veela genes always win, Harry.”
“So is this where you come to think?”
He nodded. “I’ve talked to Merlin a few times over the last year. He doesn’t say much.”
“Pity,” she smiled.
“I know that everyone thinks that I sit on a cliff to think, and I do that occasionally, but I find this place and the surrounding area so much more fascinating. Here, I am not Harry Potter; I am just another Muggle viewing a legendary tourist spot.” He looked at his watch. “Come on, let’s go back to the top. We can have a picnic, and you can ask me questions about magic.”
She took a step forward, screwing up all her courage. Slowly she raised her face and kissed him on the side of his mouth. “Thank you,” she whispered. “For showing me this place and even more so, for showing me another part of you. It is a gift I shall always treasure.”
He pulled her close into a hug and Apparated them both straight out of the cave and back to the top of the cliff.
Madame Maxime straightened her shoulders and threw some powder into the Floo. “Albus Dumbledore,” she called.
“My dear Olympe,” the Hogwarts Headmaster said in surprise. “What can I do for you?”
“I just wanted to finalise the details for our visit.”
He nodded, his pale blue eyes twinkling. “The preparations are well underway,” he said happily. “We are preparing to add two new towers for you and Durmstrang, and we are extending our Halls as we speak.”
Olympe nodded. “That sounds excellent,” she said. “We shall arrive at seven in the evening, your time, on that Friday.”
“We shall look forward to seeing your carriages again,” Dumbledore replied.
“Oh, I’m afraid that we won’t be using them,” she said.
“You won’t?” he asked, the twinkling in his eyes dimming a bit. “You have another way of moving all those students from one country to another?”
“I hope so,” she said. “My senior students are working on a different form of transportation for us. I expect it shall be ready in time.”
The twinkling returned with a vengeance. “But you have the carriages, just in case.”
“Then we shall see you in a few weeks,” Albus said, and after saying goodbye, closed the Floo.
Olympe turned and picked up the knife she used to open letters. She made sure that her door was shut tightly, before she swore loudly and threw the knife against the wall. It quivered, embedded deeply against a child’s picture of a white bumblebee.
She turned and threw some more powder into the fire, calling for Jean.
“I need to scream at someone, and as you’re nominally my boss, you’re volunteered,” she said, abandoning the formal language she normally used. “I’ve just spoken with Dumbledore.”
“You do look like someone who’s just dealt with something unpleasant,” he said. “Stand back; I’m coming through.” The tall form of Jean-Sebastian appeared a second later, with Aimée next to him.
He placed three glasses on the table and expertly poured some port into each one. “How is Albus?” he asked, as he, and Aimée each took a seat.
“Slimy and supercilious,” she grumbled. “He did not like the idea that we would be travelling a different way and was almost gleeful when he realised that the students were designing something.”
“Why?” Aimée asked.
“Because he does not think that they, or we, are capable of it.”
“But surely he must know that Harry is here?”
“I doubt he thinks that Harry would even suggest such a thing,” Olympe grumbled. “Let alone work with the children.”
“Then why let it bother you?” Aimée asked softly.
“Because he gets under my skin. He knows which buttons irritate me, and he presses them for his own amusement.”
Aimée smiled slowly. “And you react, Olympe, and give him the satisfaction he seeks for knowing that he has provoked you. It is time for you to turn it around, and no longer react how he wants. If he speaks to you, you will react with equanimity and you will ignore him if you so feel.”
Olympe took a deep breath. “That’s easier said than done, Aimée” she admitted. “But you are right, I shall try.”
“Jean and I are going to come with you this time. Officially it will be to watch Gabrielle play Quidditch, but unofficially, Jean will be watching Albus. Our Government is getting concerned about him now that Voldemort has gone; he seems to be meddling in places beyond his jurisdiction.”
“Well, while you’re here, any advice on my newest problem?”
“What is that?”
“Fred and George Weasley,” Olympe sighed. “They have been corrupting my students with pranks.”
“Oh?” Jean asked.
“Yesterday, one of them even slipped something into the food that turned the entire faculty’s hair purple! I found it mildly humorous, but Madame Prévoyez was not amused.”
Gabrielle looked out at the endless ocean in front of her and finally understood her Mate’s desire to come to this spot. She was sitting on a grassy clump halfway up a cliff face, with her back against Harry’s chest and his arms around her, holding her close.
She could feel his heart beating with a reassuring steadiness that warmed her as much as his arms did. This was heaven, this quietness and aloneness. She had never felt as at peace with herself and the world. Sure, she had some residual guilt over what she had done to him all those years ago, but at the moment, it just didn’t seem relevant.
They had shared a picnic and explored the ruins of Arthur’s castle for hours before he had Apparated them both here. The precision of his magic had amazed her; the way he had been able to Apparate them both to a spot that was barely big enough for them to stand, a spot that was half way up a cliff. It literally took her breath away.
But she was beginning to think that it was time to try and move things along in their relationship. She lightly moved his arms away from her and turned carefully, so that she was kneeling in front of him.
She raised her right hand to his face and looked deeply into his eyes, searching for something, although she wasn’t quite sure what.
Slowly she leaned in to fulfil a fantasy eight years in the making: kissing Harry Potter.
“No,” he whispered, his hand moving against her chest, just under her neck.
She froze and felt a terrifying mixture of fear and dread. But his eyes were twinkling merrily, and his fingers were stroking the skin of her neck.
“Oh?” she asked, forcing the fear away.
“Not now, not here,” he said. “Too many people have suggested that I kiss you here, but it is too contrived. It is almost artificial. Rest assured that I do want to kiss you. Besides, there’s a test you must past first,” he finished playfully.
“And what is that?” she asked.
“Let’s go and eat, and then I’ll tell you.”
“You are being frustrating,” she sighed.
“I know,” he said with a grin that made up for everything. “But you love me anyway, right?”
She groaned theatrically. “I guess,” she said, ignoring the fact that her entire soul was shouting ‘Yes’ as loudly as it could.
He leaned forward, his arms going around her again and they vanished, reappearing on a paved road leading to a small town. “Come on,” he grinned and jogged away from her.
His enthusiasm was infectious, so she ran after him. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” he laughed and took her hand, pulling her eagerly down toward the sea front.
He stopped outside a place that smelled of fried oil. “Wait here,” he commanded and vanished inside.
She smiled and shook her head lightly. He probably didn’t even realise that if he left now, she would wait here, for as long as it took, for him to come back to her. At some stage she was going to have to explain the phenomenon to him, but not today.
He returned and handed her what looked like wrapped up newspaper in a cone shape. Inside it was what appeared to be a pile of chips, with a piece of what she presumed was fish dipped in a bright orange batter on top – a wooden fork had been stuck into the side of the fish.
“What is this?” she asked.
“Fish and chips,” he smiled happily. “The chips are coated in salt and vinegar, and the fish has tartar sauce on it.”
“And what do you do with it?” she asked warily.
“Eat it, silly.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, sniffing delicately. “Because it looks like someone has gone to a lot of effort to fry the once perfectly respectable potatoes to remove everything that was healthy and good about them. And this fish… orange is not a good colour for food.”
“Gabby,” Harry groaned as he placed his paper down carefully and lifted her onto a sea-wall. “This is England, and you are eating the traditional fish and chips. You can smell the salt in the air from the ocean -- it will add to the taste, I promise.”
“But the fish is still orange!”
“It’s batter; believe me, it won’t kill you.”
She stabbed the fish with the fork carefully as he sat beside her, his legs brushing against hers. “At least it is dead,” she mumbled.
“Try it,” he coaxed. He reached out and took her fork from her hand and expertly cut off a piece of the fish – it looked a reassuring white inside the batter – and held it up.
“Open,” he ordered.
She did as she was told, trying hard to hide a smile.
He placed the fish inside her mouth. “Eat.”
She locked her eyes on his as she closed her mouth and sucked the wooden fork seductively, running her tongue along the tines of the fork. He gulped and she finally tasted the fish. Considering that it had been royally destroyed by the cooking process, it wasn’t that bad. Anton would probably faint if he ever saw it.
“It is somehow comforting,” she said, a little confused.
“It’s the ultimate comfort food,” he agreed. “It’s quick and easy, relatively cheap, and filling. And on the seafront, it’s the perfect meal.”
She wouldn’t go as far as perfect, but it did seem to match the town they were sitting in. She tried one of the chips and found that it, too, was edible. Not brilliant, but there was something about it that was enjoyable.
“That’s better,” he smiled cheerfully and started to eat his with a vengeance.
He nodded, too busy to talk.
She laughed and settled down, eating hers at a more normal human pace. When she had finished, he took the paper from her hands and balled it up before throwing it in a bin that was a good fifteen yards away.
Her hands felt greasy, so she quickly gave herself a burst of her Veela power.
“Why did you do that?” Harry asked curiously.
“It fixes my greasy hands problem,” she explained.
He laughed and bounced off the wall, lifting her back down. “Now it’s time to introduce you to another great British institution: Crazy Golf.”
“Golf is crazy,” she agreed. “How Muggles can find it entertaining I shall never know.”
“No,” he laughed softly. “That’s not what I meant.” He pulled her alongside him gently and walked down the sea front. He stopped outside a small wooden cabin and came back with two putters and two brightly coloured balls.
She looked at him confused. He walked over to an artificial green covered course and placed one of the balls down. “The idea is to get the ball in the hole at the end with as few hits as possible.”
“But the course isn’t flat,” she pointed out.
“Of course not, it’s crazy,” he grinned.
“And this is fun?”
“Fish and chips followed by crazy golf is great fun,” he assured her. He handed her one of the clubs and casually knocked his ball up to the other end and into the hole. It didn’t look that hard.
She took her ball and placed it as he had and stood in a similar pose to him. She looked down, swung her club back a little, looked at the hole, and swung competently.
And completely missed.
Harry laughed, and she shot him a foul look.
“Let me show you,” he said.
Then all of a sudden, she understood just why this was the best sport in the world.
His arms were around her shoulders and over her own, his hands lightly in place over hers, his chest was against her back, his head was against hers, and his groin was in firm contact with her behind. She felt surrounded by him, and it felt absolutely right.
“Like this,” he said, his hands moving her arms back a little. “Keep your eyes on the ball and hit through it cleanly like this,” he moved her arms forward, and this time her club hit the ball and the ball followed his into the hole.
“See,” he smiled and hugged her tightly. “Now let’s do the second hole.”
“The one with the house in the middle?”
The house, a representation of an American plantation house, had three tunnels through it. She picked the middle one and stroked her ball toward it, smiling as it went straight through.
“Beginner’s luck,” he teased, as he knocked his ball through the passage to the left. “What do you think about the ideas the students came up with?”
“For the visit to Hogwarts?” she asked.
She hunched over her ball and stroked it into the hole. “Not as exciting as I had hoped for,” she confessed. “The problem is that with the wards around Hogwarts, we do not know what we can do, so everything we came up with was a variation of what already exists.”
Harry nodded and hit his own ball into the hole. “There is an idea that I read from one of Merlin’s diaries. It would be difficult…”
“What is it?”
“We take Beauxbatons with us.”
Gabrielle stood up slowly from placing her ball down on the third hole and turned to look at him. “Take Beauxbatons with us?”
He nodded eagerly.
“Can that even be done?”
He nodded. “Absolutely, but the entire school would have to work together. The lower years will be needed to work with Fred and George, while the upper school does the transporting.”
“Why Fred and George?” she asked, biting her lower lip as her ball didn’t make it over a hump, and rolled back to her.
“We won’t count that one,” Harry said. “And because if you want to make a statement, they are by far the best. The school just appearing wouldn’t be all that spectacular, not when compared to the school appearing with fireworks, loud noises, thunder, lightning, and everything else.”
“This is your showmanship appearing again, isn’t it?” she asked, as she hit the ball a bit more firmly. The ball made its way merrily over the hump.
He nodded. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” she said thoughtfully. “Because it makes a spectacular impression, but also because that way, we won’t have to have our education disrupted by being in a different school, and even if we eat with them, we don’t have to worry about the other schools, nor do we have to live in a cold tower. As for the students, they will love the idea of doing something so unique. You are going to teach us the spells?”
“Yeah, because while you are doing the easy bit, I’m going to have to do the hard stuff.”
“Moving the school is easy?”
He nodded. “Compared to making a hole in Hogwarts’ wards so that we can get through them, without actually destroying anything?”
“Can you do that?”
“I hope so,” he said. “Or I’m going to be very embarrassed.”
“Could not Voldemort have done the same thing?”
“I don’t know. Probably. Playing with wards is always difficult, and it won’t be quiet. Everyone will know it is happening, so perhaps that was why he didn’t do it – it would have been useless for a stealth attack.”
“I have foreseen the future,” Sybil Trelawney said in a wavering voice as she entered Snape’s potions dungeon.
“What do you want?” Snape demanded rudely.
“Be nice, Severus,” Trelawney said, her voice changing. “As I know what’s going on in Beauxbatons, and you don’t.”
“Really?” Draco Malfoy asked suspiciously. “How?”
“My colleague, Madame Prévoyez, has passed on information.”
“Why?” Malfoy demanded. “What does she want?”
“Potter humiliated, as he humiliated her.”
Malfoy smiled evilly. “Perhaps we can help her, then.”
Trelawney smiled bitterly. “He should be dead by now; he ruined my prophecy, so he has to pay. Quidditch should not be a problem; they are not very good. But they do have one slight advantage; their Seeker, Gabrielle Delacour is under Potter’s personal tutelage, and he is teaching her everything he can.”
Draco and Snape both scowled.
“So we take her out, and we can win from there?” Draco said with a shrug.
“There is one other thing,” Trelawney said. “My colleague thinks that Potter might be developing some feelings for this girl.”
“Excellent,” Snape said slowly. “Draco, when they get here, I want you to see what you can do with her.”
“In what way?”
“You’re a Malfoy, use that famous charm. Potter might have feelings, but he’s too noble to start up anything with a student. You don’t have that restriction.”
“True,” Draco agreed cheerfully. “It will be fun to steal her from under his nose.”
“And if she says no?” Trelawney asked.
“Unlikely,” Draco snorted.
“Then he will provoke her into a fight,” Snape smirked, ignoring the younger man. “Make Potter step in so that the world can see he’s mucking around with a student. And we’ll make sure that Skeeter woman is around to report on it in the best possible way.”
Trelawney bowed to both of them and retreated out of the room, in a much better mood than when she had entered.
Gabrielle had her bottom lip between her teeth as she looked at the course in front of her. The green tilted to the left and then the right, while dropping at least a metre over an eight metre length. It was the last hole of the course, and he had already hit his ball.
For her to win, she needed to get a hole in one. He didn’t care who won the game, it simply wasn’t important. He’d had an evening of fun.
While he’d done everything before, on his own, this was the first time he had asked anyone to join him playing at being a Muggle and he had enjoyed it so much more than before.
Gabrielle was a lot of fun to be with. She talked to him directly, teased him back when he teased her and wasn’t afraid of trying new things – even if she did have to be persuaded to try the fish and chips. And she was cute standing there biting her lip.
She didn’t complain about things, like previous girlfriends had complained. The fact that he wanted to walk down to the beach earlier had been met with enthusiasm and excitement, not whining about how her shoes were not meant for walking, or how it was too far to go or too cold.
She was completely unselfconscious and didn’t even notice how the Muggles, especially the male Muggles, would stare at her as they walked by. And they had watched wherever they had gone; people had watched, because of her looks and contagious excitement at doing new things. With that had been the flattering realisation that she truly cared about him. Her entire body language screamed that she was with him and that she didn’t care what anyone thought about it.
Some of the Muggles had shot him extremely jealous looks.
It had made him think though, about how he handled himself in public. Usually the roles were reversed. He was the one under the glare of public attention, and he hated it. Watching Gabby just ignore it completely and not let it bother her had made him consider that maybe he should do that very same thing.
Throughout the day, he had seen different aspects of her personality and was starting to understand how they all fit together. She could go from cute to playful to sexy to studious without pause and seemed to enjoy all of those aspects equally. As far as he could tell it wasn’t contrived or artificial; she just reacted naturally to any situation.
More than that, though, he didn’t feel lonely with her. He’d shown her things he had never shown anyone else, and she had simply thanked him for showing it to her – in one case, even trying to kiss him.
He had said no, not because he didn’t want to kiss her – he did – but because he wanted it to be more natural than that. And it was kind of fun to let it build up between them, to play this game of crazy golf while simultaneously playing the oldest game in the world.
She pulled back the putter and swept forward. The ball rolled slowly to the edge of the slope and started its descent, swerving with the contours. It gained momentum, until it was travelling too fast to drop into the hole. It ran straight over it, causing her to groan, before it bounced against the wall and rolled back. It teetered on the edge, before dropping in.
“Yes!” she shouted happily as she dropped the putter and ran toward him. He bent forward a bit and picked her up into a huge hug, swinging her around a few times.
“Beginner’s luck,” he teased.
She smirked at him. “You are just jealous because I beat you at your crazy golf.”
“Not at all,” he denied with a grin. “You were just lucky.”
“The next time, Harry Potter, I will beat you again and you will be too busy admitting you were wrong to talk about luck.”
He lowered her to her feet and picked up the putters. “Let’s get out of here,” he suggested. They walked back to the hut and handed in the putters and coloured balls. The old man spent far more time looking at Gabrielle’s chest than he liked – not that she noticed.
He took her hand and as soon as they were out of sight of the hut, he Apparated them both away to a beach.
The full moon bathed the area in a brightness that almost seemed surreal. She moved in front of him swaying softly to music only she could hear and took his hands, leaning back.
“Dance with me,” she said.
He shook his head playfully and she released his hands, dancing in front of him as he continued to move.
“You are just jealous of my skills,” she teased.
Almost without thinking about it, he reached out and caught her, pulling her close. One of his arms went around her body, while his other hand raised her chin, and he kissed her.
She seemed to be still for the briefest of moments, before her hands went around him, her body moulded against his, and she kissed him back.
Her kiss screamed of passion and desire and a raw need that shot through him. He could feel her hands burrow under his jacket and t-shirt, so that they could stroke bare skin, as she kissed him with everything she had.
It was like no kiss he had ever experienced; it felt like wildfire was burning through his blood as her fingernails gouged his back, and she seemed to be trying to get more contact from him.
He broke the kiss and looked around as he heard a noise. Further up the beach was a lone fisherman, whose face was briefly highlighted by the cigarette he was smoking.
Gabby made a protesting little whine and started to kiss his neck as she pressed against him.
“Sorry,” the fisherman said with a barely visible shrug.
“Gabby,” Harry said gently. “We need to move on.”
“No,” she murmured, as she lightly bit him.
“We’re not alone.”
“Don’t care. I want more kissing.”
He laughed and contemplated Obliviating the fisherman, but decided he had no cause to do so. He bent, lifting Gabrielle into his arms. She responded by shifting to ensure that she didn’t lose contact with him, as he walked them both away.
As soon as he could, he Apparated them a lot further up the beach and made sure that there was no one around for at least a mile.
He let her legs drop to the ground, but kept his arm around her shoulders so that she was still against him. He opened his mouth, but didn’t say anything as she pressed her finger to his lips.
”Can we talk later and go back to the kissing?” she asked, pressing little kisses against his face as her body tried to ensure that there wasn’t a square centimetre that it wasn’t touching.
“Where did you learn to kiss like that?” he asked curiously.
“Why are you asking questions now?” she complained. “I am Veela, Harry. That was my first kiss, ever. Now, can we please do it some more so I can get it right?”
“That was your first kiss?” he asked, shocked.
“I am Veela,” she groaned in frustration. “I know what my Mate wants and I will get better with practice.”
“It’s going to get better than that?” He felt a little awed.
“If you’ll stop talking about it and let us do it again.”
He laughed and leant down to kiss her again, but as he got near to her lips, she moved away, her hands sliding up to his shoulders, encouraging him down onto the sand. He moved to his knees and then followed her as she tugged on his shoulder so that he was lying on top of her, between her legs, holding himself up with his arms.
She sighed again and hit out at his arms so that he fell onto her; her arms went around him, so that she was holding him tightly, and she kissed him again.
He forgot about his worries about being too heavy for her, or that the sand was slightly damp and cold. He gave in to the insistent and demanding kiss.
The second kiss was just as good as the first, if not more so, because of the way her hands were now exploring his back, scratching lightly with her nails, and the way her chest felt against his. Further thought was rendered impossible as she opened her mouth and deepened the kiss for the first time.
He lost all conscious thought as he could feel every move she made, every reaction to him. His hand slid up her side and she shifted under him, encouraging his movements.
“Stop,” he whispered, breaking the kiss and breathing heavily. “Not here.”
“Here’s good,” Gabrielle said with a groan. Her eyes were clouded with passion and her lips looked slightly swollen. “More, please, Harry, more.”
“Not on the beach.”
“I don’t care,” she said as she writhed under him, “here, there, anywhere. Just don’t stop, please, don’t stop.”
“The bond?” he asked, realising why she wanted him to continue.
“Hang the damnable bond,” she almost shouted. “I’ll break it tomorrow, just don’t stop.” Her eyes were begging him to kiss her again, so he did, but this time it was slower. He was trying to work out why she didn’t care about the bond, when going further – making love – would make it permanent.
“No thinking,” she whimpered against his lips. “You’re not all here – kissing me.” She rolled them so that he was on his back and kissed him hard again. Her hands dived under his clothes and started to stroke his chest.
He rolled them back over, and she made a pleased sound as he settled between her legs. He pulled her hands out from under his shirt and held them above her head. He could feel her smile against his lips for a second.
“Gabrielle,” he whispered, placing little kisses against her lips, refusing her attempts to deepen the kiss again. “Relax, my Gabrielle, I’m not going anywhere.”
She whimpered again and looked at him with naked want in her eyes.
He tenderly stroked her hair back from her face. “Come back to me, Gabby.”
Slowly, with his encouragement, her eyes started to clear.
“Why did you stop?” she asked, a tear forming at the side of her eye. “Wasn’t it good?”
“It was – it was the best kiss I’ve ever experienced,” he whispered intently.
“Then why?” she asked as the tear formed a silver trail from her eye down her cheek.
“Because this is not the right place and not the right time. It’s cold, damp, and it’s only going to get colder.”
“I - don’t - care,” she whispered. “I just want to feel you again, feel your lips against mine, feel your body against me, and feel you touch me like I was born to be touched.
“We’ve only just kissed,” Harry said softly. “We’re moving a bit fast.”
“For a human girl, maybe,” Gabrielle sighed. “I am Veela, Harry.”
“Don’t you want your first time to be special?”
“My first time will be special. It will be with you,” she assured him. “Wherever it is.” She closed her eyes. “Don’t you want me?”
“Yes,” he whispered, “very, very much, but not like this, not now.”
“I want you,” she whispered, her eyes still closed, “so badly, Harry. I meant it, give me a single night with you, and I’ll break the bond tomorrow. It’s got nothing to do with the bond and everything to do with how much I want you. Please.”
“No,” he said gently. “Look at me, Gabby. Please.”
Her eyes shot open and he could see an obscure pain inside them. It hurt him to see it there, and he wanted to make it go away. “Don’t move.”
She looked at him, completely immobile, as he gathered his magic and Apparated them both to the Lake District and his small cottage there, placing them both on his bed. Apparating while horizontal was a bit trickier than while standing up.
She gasped as they arrived and felt the bed against her back. He pointed at the fireplace, and a fire roared into existence, quickly warming the cold room and providing some light for them.
“I’m not too heavy?” he asked.
She took a deep breath. “You make it so hard for me,” she whispered softly. “But it is not your fault; you do not understand what it is to be a Mated Veela. I look human, Harry, I appear human, and in many aspects, I am human. But Veela are different, when you kiss me, I feel pleasure, but I also get more pleasure from your pleasure, like a feedback loop. I can feel what you like and what you want, instinctively, and I react to you, and as I do, I get more pleasure from your responses – and when that happens I lose control of my thoughts and lose myself to the emotions and feelings.”
“Isn’t that bad?”
“Oh no -- not at all; it is the most wonderful thing in existence. I am fulfilling my reason for creation. It is everything I could ever hope for and more. You are so warm; your touch brands me as yours and it is perfect.”
He rested his forehead against her and smiled. “I didn’t expect this to happen.”
“I hoped it would,” she whispered. “I want to lose myself to my Mate.”
“I do as well, Gabrielle, but I’m not ready yet.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want to feel like I am making love to the only woman I’ll ever love, that doing so is my final commitment to her, not just a passionate act of abandon.”
“Do you mean that?” she asked. She looked so vulnerable as she stared up at him from his bed.
She buried her face in his neck and hugged him tightly. “Did I ruin today?” she asked.
“No,” he laughed softly. “Surprisingly, having a beautiful girl kissing me like I have never been kissed, and then begging me to make love to her isn’t about to ruin my day.”
“You know,” he teased, determined now to lighten the mood a little. “You are the first girl to ever be here.”
“Where are we?” she asked, although he noticed she didn’t look away from him.
“My cottage in the Lake District.”
“Thank you for bringing me here,” she whispered and ran her hands over his back, causing him to wince slightly as she pressed against the scratches she’d made earlier.
She squirmed out from under him. “Sit up and turn around,” she ordered, and lifted his shirt up as he complied. “I hurt you,” she whispered in horror.
“I didn’t exactly notice it at the time,” he said dismissively.
“Take your shirt off, and lie down,” she ordered again.
He did as he was told, resting his head on his arms. He felt her slide over him, so that she was kneeling over the small of his back. “Relax,” she whispered. “I’m going to try something.”
He nodded slightly and felt soothing ribbons of coolness spread over his back. The scratches stopped hurting. He turned slightly and watched as slivers of magic emanated from her hands and slid over his back.
“You are injured,” she quietly after a few minutes of running her hands above his back.
“You just fixed that,” Harry replied.
“No, not that. Your shoulder.”
“Oh, that was my last Quidditch match,” he explained.
“That was your left shoulder – watching that game almost killed me. It is your right shoulder that feels wrong. May I heal it, please?” she asked plaintively.
He didn’t think there was anything wrong, but he nodded anyway.
Her hands slid up to his shoulder, rubbing gently in a circular motion. “I’m going to try something I’ve read about,” she whispered. “But I need you to trust me. Please, turn off your Nullifying Field.”
He flinched under her hands. The field was like his security blanket, it was something he never turned off; it kept everyone away from him, and in a way, him from everyone else. He took a deep breath and thought about it briefly. It came down to trust; it always did. He closed his eyes and deactivated the charm.
“Thank you,” she said softly and he felt her lips touch the back of his neck.
She shifted over him and her hands pressed down hard against his shoulder. He felt an enormous pull upon his magic and then felt something shifting inside his shoulder. He heard a pop. A searing burst of pain forced a groan out of him. The pain was swiftly followed by a wave of nausea and exhaustion.
“It’s okay, Harry,” Gabrielle crooned. “I’ve got you; you don’t have anything to fear.”
He whimpered as her hands hovered over his shoulder, the same soothing softness from her Veela power removed the pain he was feeling. Her hands moved away from him and he again felt the feather-like touch of her lips on his skin. She shifted off him and held out something in her hand as he moved onto his side.
“It’s bone?” he asked.
“Can you use your Dark Magic sensor on it?”
He nodded and tiredly brought the spell, along with his Nullifier, back to life. It gave off a dull throbbing echo of a ghost, and then the vital searing presence he’d known so well during the second war. “Grasnot,” he grunted. “The head of the only Goblin clan to join forces with Voldemort.”
“The Goblins were fond of turning their enemies’ femurs into daggers,” she said clinically. “You’ve been carrying that chip around in your shoulder for years.”
“How did you know it was there?” he asked, “and how did you remove it?”
“You are my Mate,” Gabrielle replied simply. “I could feel something inside you that was not you - that was foreign. I told you once that I joined my magic to yours. With your permission it goes both ways; I can use your magic to do what I need.”
He nodded and then yawned deeply.
“You are tired,” she said softly, “from a wonderful day and from the magic I just pulled from you.” She moved off him and walked to the mahogany wardrobe in the corner of the room. She opened it and pulled one of his practice jerseys from a hanger. She turned away from him and removed her jumper, t-shirt and bra, replacing them with the jersey, smoothing it down before she kicked off her trainers and slid her jeans down her legs.
Gabrielle ran her fingers through her hair and winced as her fingers got caught in some tangles. She used her Veela power and he could actually see her hair clean itself.
She walked over to him, removing his trainers and pulling off his socks, before reaching for his belt. He shifted slightly to allow her to remove it, and then moved further as she pulled the covers back for him.
“How do you normally sleep?” she asked.
He moved so that he was on his side, slightly curled up.
“Don’t move,” she whispered as she climbed into bed. She turned and backed against him, so that his chest was against her back, pulling his arm around her. “How’s this?”
“Perfect,” he whispered, as the scent of her hair started to ease him to sleep.
“I love you.”
“I know,” he whispered. “I know.”
Sleep took him in an instant. He was content, his heart was at rest. He was no longer alone.
Huge thanks to my beta's Cami, Susan, John, Rachael, and Leslie. And an extra thanks to Kokopelli for first, telling me to rewrite the ending, and when he'd betad that, suggesting an alternate ending to the alternate ending.
I made a decision not to include much of the Quidditch here, because I don't want this to be too Quidditch heavy - especially as we start the tournament in part 8, and we will have plenty of Quidditch then.
Oh, and please don't bother to tell me how my Arthurian legends are "Wrong" - The changes I made were on purpose for this story.
Happy Thanksgiving to those that celebrate it.