7 - Milan
Seasons Greetings everyone. I hope everyone has had a great day, regardless of individual beliefs.
As it is tradition to give gifts, here is mine to all of you, from me and my betas.
Please note, however, that this has been worked on at my parents' house on my laptop with a quirky keyboard, so any typos will be the result of that, rather than any genuine mistakes, and they will be fixed later, so plese, do not nitpick today.
“Good morning,” Gabrielle said, as they entered the Delacour family residence.
“Good morning, Gabrielle,” Aimée replied with a welcoming smile.
“What’s going on?” Harry asked, bypassing the normal formalities.
Aimée raised her eyebrows inquiringly.
“The atmosphere in here is about as stilted as when Aunt Marge would visit the Dursleys,” Harry explained.
Gabrielle frowned and concentrated. “How did you pick that up so quickly?”
“Mama?” Gabrielle asked.
“Harry is right,” Aimée admitted.
“William and Fleur had a large argument this morning,” Jean added.
“What were they arguing about?” Gabrielle asked
“Mating,” Aimée said. “Fleur does not want to Mate, and Bill does not understand why.”
Gabrielle frowned softly. “If Fleur has any doubts, then she should not do it,” she said firmly. “It is not as if you can change your mind later. I shall talk to him and explain exactly what he is asking for.”
“Before you do, I’ll have a quick word with Bill,” Harry said to Gabrielle.
“You will?” she asked.
Harry nodded. “Bill’s a Weasley, and he needs some tender, loving care before a serious conversation.”
Gabrielle reached up and kissed him softly on the side of his mouth. “Thank you.”
As she kissed him he reached up and brushed her hair back from her face. “Is he outside?” he asked Aimée and Jean.
“He is by the pool,” Aimée said.
He nodded and walked out the back of the house, heading toward the pool. Bill was pacing angrily and scowled as Harry walked up to him.
Harry didn’t pause as he approached Bill. He picked the taller man up easily and threw him straight into the pool.
The language Bill used to describe his feelings about Harry’s action displayed the length and breadth of his vocabulary, even delving into some particularly nasty Goblin terms.
“Better?” Harry asked, as Bill paused for breath.
The next volley proved that Bill hadn’t quite finished.
“What did you do that for?” Bill eventually demanded from the centre of the pool.
“Blame Ron, he suggested it,” Harry smiled. “He said that whenever a Weasley was upset, a spot of violence was often the quickest way to get through to them. So I decided it was either hit you or throw you in the pool to cool off. If I had hit you, you would be unconscious.”
“So sure of yourself?” Bill half-sneered.
Harry shook his head, amused, and muttered a spell under his breath. Bill floated out of the pool and landed in front of Harry.
“As you seem to need to get it out of your system,” Harry said dryly, pulling off his jumper and moving into a fighting stance with the ease of long practice. “Come on then.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Bill mumbled, looking a little awed at Harry.
“I am. Even without magic, you’re no match for me. I was trained too hard, for too long, by the best. You know that. Can we now stop with the macho posturing?”
“It hurt,” Bill said, pulling up a chair. “You know?”
“No,” Harry said softly. “I don’t. And now that you’ve calmed down, I’ll let you speak to someone who does know.”
Harry nodded and turned to walk back to the house. “Bill,” he said over his shoulder as he paused. “Do not hurt Gabby.” He delivered the threat in the coldest voice he could muster and nodded as Bill paled.
He walked back into the house. “He’s all yours,” he said. “I’d take him a towel.”
“Not a first aid kit?”
“I didn’t hit him -- just let him -- cool off a little,” Harry smiled.
She nodded and gave him a quick hug as she walked outside, grabbing a towel on the way.
“We are going to talk, later, about you spending the whole evening with my daughter,” Jean said, avoiding the question temporarily.
Harry looked amused. “Do you want a few seconds to think about what you just said?”
Jean opened his mouth and then shut it again, while Aimée laughed softly.
“She is still my daughter.”
“And my Mate,” Harry pointed out. “Or she will be soon.” He smiled lightly. “But if it makes you feel better, we can do all that stuff anyway. You can grill me about my prospects, and I’ll lie through my teeth and pretend I’m not trying to get into her knickers.”
“A curious phrase,” Aimée interrupted. “I take it has lost something in translation?”
Harry frowned as he went back over his last words. “Oh, yes, somewhat. In English, the implication is not that I would be wearing them, but would have unfettered access to what they normally contain.”
“Ahh,” Aimée said with a nod. “I see. But please, don’t let me interrupt your testosterone contest with Jean.”
“You know, I just accused Bill of the same thing?” Harry said feeling rather embarrassed. “Are we done, Jean?”
“I think we are,” Jean agreed, looking faintly embarrassed himself.
“Excellent,” Aimée said cheerfully. “Now Harry, I believe you were going upstairs.”
Harry nodded and turned, hiding a smile. He hadn’t been dismissed with that much ease since he had been at school and dealing with Minerva McGonagall on a regular basis. It bought back some nice memories from school and made him make a mental note to talk to Minerva later that day. She was the only person from Hogwarts he had remained in contact with.
He didn’t find it hard to locate Fleur’s room. The swearing and sound of breaking vases led him straight there.
He opened the door and immediately ducked an incoming projectile. At least she wasn’t being wasteful, he noticed. She had created a row of identical vases and was destroying them one by one.
Fleur’s welcome showed that she had picked up more than a few things from her association with Bill, and one particularly vile imprecation made him wince. He ducked to avoid another vase and took a few quick steps forward and pulled her into a large hug.
She reacted by pounding his back, screaming that he had to let go. He ignored her and continued to hold her until her anger turned to tears. He’d found out early on that the best way to deal with his second girlfriend had been to just hold her through her tantrums, keeping his opinion to himself. It had been one of the reasons the relationship hadn’t lasted more than a few days. He couldn’t see himself marrying and spending the rest of his life with someone with such a short temper.
In a strange way, hugging Fleur helped prove that it wasn’t the Veela part of Gabby that he enjoyed so much. Fleur was as much a Veela as Gabrielle was, but she didn’t affect him in any way whatsoever.
“Better?” he asked softly, as he released her.
She nodded and sniffed.
“Feel free,” Harry said, as he waved his hands airily.
Fleur looked at him strangely and released her Veela power, removing the evidence of her tears in a second. “That is strange,” she whispered.
“Being able to use my powers like that,” she explained. “Normally I have to be so circumspect.”
“So you don’t accidentally Enthral Bill?”
She nodded and sat down on her bed.
He walked over and grabbed a chair, moving it in front of her. “And that’s the problem, right?”
She shook her head slowly. “No, not really.”
“Then what is the problem?”
“Bill wants me to Mate him, but I do not want to.”
“Why not?” Harry asked gently. He was trying as hard as he could not to sound accusatory.
“He is thinking that Gabrielle is happy; he does not see the down side to the Mating.”
“Go on,” Harry prompted.
“I am not sure if I should,” she said quietly. “Gabrielle…”
“It will probably help me. There are still things I don’t know.”
“It might,” Fleur admitted. “For Veela, Mating is the most powerful force in our lives. It can override everything we are. Have you noticed that I am tall, as are both my parents?”
“And yet Gabrielle is shorter.”
Harry nodded again.
“Tell me, Harry, have you ever dated a tall girl?”
“Are you saying that the Mating stopped her from growing?”
“Not from growing,” Fleur clarified quickly. “She has grown properly, but she has grown into exactly the height that you prefer. That is the sort of power that Mating has and it terrifies me more than anything else. Gabrielle does not understand, cannot understand, because she doesn’t remember anything else but being Mated to you.
“I am a grown woman, I have a career, a life I enjoy, and the thought of slavery to a man, any man, is almost abhorrent to me. And that fact that I would be happy with my loss of freedom and identity is not a reassuring thought. I have joked about Mating with Bill, saying that I would do it when we are married. But I find that as we get closer to that I just do not want to do it – I can’t do it, Harry.
“I can’t lose myself.”
“Gabrielle seems to have an identity and freedom,” he pointed out softly.
Fleur laughed with a tinge of self-mockery. “My sister is a lot stronger than I am.” She sighed and looked directly at him. “I am going to tell you things I promised that I would not, because I think that you should know. And do not think that Gabrielle didn’t tell you to manipulate you or something; it is that she does not want your pity. She wants your love honestly, and nothing else matters to her.”
He nodded. “I’ve accepted that,” he said softly.
“I love Gabrielle more than anyone else alive. Even though it is silly, I have blamed myself for her Mating to you. If I had not been so arrogant, I would not have been in that damn Tournament and she would not have been placed in danger. If I had been a more proficient witch, I would have rescued her myself, and she would not have fallen in love with you.
“Her life growing up after that was as close to hell as it could have been.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s start with physical affection. Do you remember what it was like when you were growing up at Hogwarts? Do you remember being hugged by Hermione, by Ron, by Molly, even by that Chang girl?”
“The only people that have touched Gabrielle since she Mated to you have been Mama, Papa, and I. Gabrielle would not allow herself to be touched by anyone else, and she would not let herself be seen in anything that was attractive or revealing. She would scream hysterically when we considered having her examined by male doctors. The thought of anyone but you touching her made her physically sick. In a stroke, Gabrielle went from being an adorable, friendly girl, to being a stand-offish child terrified of anyone outside of her family touching her.
“And then there were the problems caused by an eight year old having adult emotions and desires. The tears and despair that she felt when we told her that she couldn’t go to you was unbelievable,” Fleur paused and looked at him directly. “She could not understand why we would not let her do what she wanted to.”
Harry nodded. “I couldn’t have done anything.”
“We know,” Fleur sighed. “We knew. An eight year old should not know the details of lovemaking, much less have overwhelming adult desires coursing through her body.
“For nearly six months we didn’t know what was going to happen with her. I came close to failing school because every second I could spare was spent here. Luckily, Olympe understood what was going on – she felt her own guilt – and covered for me as much as she could.
“Gabrielle had lost her personality. She was almost a blank slate. In normal situations, she would have drawn up her personality from her contact with her Mate. She could talk, react, but there was no spark there – nothing that you could say was Gabrielle. It was like talking to a Golem.”
Harry lowered his head into his hands. “It killed her personality?” he whispered. “This is more horrible than I’d imagined.”
Fleur reached out and lightly took his hands, so that he looked at her. “But then Mama managed to get through to her. She told Gabrielle that you would never feel anything for an empty shell. And for the first time, Gabrielle reacted like a girl. She looked up and nodded. She asked questions, simple questions, but we were able to answer them. She asked about your best friend and who you liked. We knew that Hermione was your best friend and that you had a crush on Cho.
“Gabrielle wasn’t worried about your crush; she knew about the Bond, but she looked at the girls that you liked and drew the conclusion that intelligence was one of the key factors. That was the start of her love of academics. She also knew that you loved Quidditch, so she made sure she could fly, but she didn’t work too hard on that. She felt that the only person who would be able to teach her properly would be you.
“She put together a plan – without telling any of us – to make herself into the woman that she thought would have the best chance at getting through to you. And that should not have been possible. The Mating should have forced her to stay in that blank state, waiting for you.
“Mama’s words put her in a position where the Magic involved was confused. And Gabrielle forged her way through that to make herself into what she wanted to be. It was the bravest thing I have ever seen.
“Some things did not change. She still would not be touched by anyone but us three; she was not interested, even slightly, in other boys as she grew up. Everything she had was dedicated into turning herself into what she thought you would want. In being who you are and the way you are, you gave her the biggest gift possible without even trying.”
“What?” Harry asked, feeling confused.
“Independence. Gabrielle knew that you wanted an independent partner. She thought that having a slave would be abhorrent to you. Is that correct?”
Harry nodded firmly. “Definitely!”
“Gabrielle managed to gain her independence from the Mating by working within the constraints of being Mated. You have no idea how I feel, how all of us feel, to see you and Gabrielle together. It is like we have finally regained our Gabrielle again. She smiles, she laughs, and she is a girl again.
“But that is what has caused the problem. Bill has never known the depth of the problems with Gabrielle. He is male, and because of that, for the longest time, she would not even be in the same room with him alone. So all Bill has seen is a quiet girl blossom into this amazing beauty that is happy and he cannot understand why I do not want that.
“I have not got the strength to fight like Gabrielle has. And Bill is not you. You are different, Harry. You are protective, strong, and you believe in fairy tales.”
Fleur nodded softly. “You believe in love being the most powerful force in the universe. You want a princess you can love and protect, and who can love and protect you. You want a magical romance.”
“I’d never thought about it that way,” Harry said slowly.
“You are a prince, Harry. You are strong, brave, and heroic. You have this power over Gabrielle that you could use to make her do anything, anything a normal man might dream of; you could make her perform degrading acts, and yet the thought of doing so would not even occur to you. All you will do is encourage her to be more independent.”
“I think you are over-estimating me,” he said softly. “But one of the things I like about Gabrielle is her innocence. I am older, more jaded, but she seems to see things as fresh and beautiful, and I want that in my life. I won’t let that innocence be spoiled – not by me, and not by anyone else.”
“And that is what I am talking about. I love Bill, but as a woman loves a man. Not as Gabrielle loves you, or as, we hope, that you will eventually love Gabrielle. I cannot give myself to him, like Gabrielle gave herself to you.”
“And Bill can’t understand that?”
“I can not explain in English well enough; he only hears that I do not want him. And his French is not good enough for the concepts I am trying to make him understand.”
“Gabrielle is talking to him at the moment.”
Fleur smiled slowly. “She will fix it,” she said confidently. “Gabrielle knows better than anyone else what it is like, I hope that Bill will understand,” she paused and then changed the subject. “Tell me, what did you and Gabrielle do yesterday? You were both out of school and Fred told me you were on a date.”
Gabrielle handed Bill the towel she was carrying silently and pulled a couple of chairs over to him. She sat – being careful to ensure she was very slightly out of touching range – and watched him as he dried himself.
Bill was taller than Harry and quite good-looking. But he did nothing at all for her, apart from a feeling of friendship as he was her sister’s love.
Bill finished rubbing his long hair and looked directly at her. “Harry can be the scariest person on the planet,” he sighed in English.
“Not to me,” she said simply.
“No,” Bill agreed. “Not to you. But to anyone who even looks at you in a way he doesn’t like.”
She smiled softly and didn’t disagree with him. The idea of being protected by her Mate was something that warmed her inside. “So,” she said. “Why were you and Fleur arguing?”
Bill looked away from her.
“Please,” Gabrielle said. “I think you’ll find that I know more about the problem than anyone else.”
“Then why ask?” Bill said.
“You will find that being surly does not get you very far,” Gabrielle said softly. “Telling me exactly what the problem is, on the other hand, will probably allow me to explain why Fleur reacted that way.”
“She doesn’t want to Mate with me,” Bill said, as he sunk back in the chair.
“Tell me,” Gabrielle said. “Did you tell her to go away, perhaps bluntly, during the argument?”
Bill looked up and nodded, an embarrassed expression appearing on his face.
“If Harry told me to go away, I would have no choice. I would not be able to stand there and argue with him. I would have to leave, no matter that each step away from him would be breaking my heart, no matter that I would be terrified that he would never see me again, and that I would keep moving away from him forever.”
“What?” Bill demanded, looking horrified.
“If Harry gives me a direct command, I must obey. No matter what it is. No matter how much it might hurt, or how painful it might be, I will do it without pause or hesitation.”
“But what?” Gabrielle asked. “You are asking for a slave, so you must be prepared to look after one properly. I take it you do care for my sister?”
Bill nodded. “Of course I do.”
“That is good. You won’t mind then when she is incapable of doing her job for a few years, because all she wants and needs is you? You won’t mind that she will be a different girl than the one you care about? You won’t mind that you will be the absolute centre of her universe and that if you ever get bored with her, she will go insane and then die?”
“You’re not like that with Harry.”
“I have been Mated to Harry for eight years. I had to fight the magic to regain my independence, and I could only do it because Harry so desires it. I am sure that Fleur can do it as well – eventually.”
Bill frowned and leaned forward, and she leant back, just a little.
“Mating does that?” he asked.
Gabrielle nodded. “It is slavery, Bill, and it changes the Veela. It tries to turn us into what our Mate desires more than anything in the world. The Mate has a huge responsibility to look after the Veela, because she will be totally reliant on him. Of course, we have been talking about this from the negative side. The same thing, from the positive side, is that the Mated Veela will love you forever, will never leave you, never abandon you, and will be willing to do anything that you like in, or out, of the bedroom.”
“But that sounds like – having a doll,” Bill said, running his hands through his hair.
“For a while, yes,” Gabrielle agreed. “Until she either gains a new personality that will suit you or manages to regain her current one.”
“What about arguments?”
“There wouldn’t be any. She would agree with you, and she would certainly never say no to you.”
“But that would mean no make-up sex,” Bill protested and then blushed fiercely.
“What would you need make-up sex for?” Gabrielle asked. “You would have passionate sex whenever you wanted it – with a female genetically designed to match your mood.”
Bill opened his mouth and then shut it again.
“I am only part Veela, and that I think has helped me keep some semblance of my original personality. Veela Mating is tied up so deeply in our genes that it is all-encompassing. Being a Veela Mate requires an honesty and caring deep inside you that most people simply do not have. It requires a nature where you can honestly put others before yourself, an inbuilt nobility that prevents you from taking advantage of a situation where you hold all the cards.”
“What would have happened if Harry hadn’t been Harry?”
“I do not know,” Gabrielle whispered. “And I do not ever want to know. It scares me deep inside.”
“So, to sum up,” Bill said, leaning back again. “I might get a Mate and really good sex, but I lose pretty much everything I love about Fleur for a while, and when I get it back, if I get it back, it might be different, and by that stage, it is too late, and I am responsible for her – and I will always have the nagging guilt that she did it for me.”
“And you did that willingly?”
She smiled faintly. “I did. I compare it to playing Russian roulette with my very existence, only to make it interesting I had five bullets in the six-shooter. It is starting to look like the hammer has hit the empty cylinder.”
“Cute analogy,” Bill said with a smile. “I’ve been a little selfish, haven’t I?”
“You did not know all the facts.”
“I think I did,” Bill admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. “But I only heard the ‘No’ part.”
“So,” Gabrielle said, with as much innocence as she could muster. “You will be apologising to Fleur and having make-up sex now?”
Bill looked at her and then flushed an even brighter red than earlier.
“Come on,” she laughed softly. “I think Harry and Fleur have finished.”
“How can you tell?”
“I can feel him laughing.”
Bill nodded and followed her. As they reached the top of the stairs, Bill reached out to touch her shoulder, but as she felt his hand coming near her, she slipped away.
He looked confused.
“It is part of the Mating,” she said softly, but without apology. “I do not want any male to touch me apart from Papa, and Harry.”
“I just wanted to say ‘thanks’,” Bill said. He smiled slightly, “This explains why you have always been a little undemonstrative.”
“It is hard in your family that believes in touching, but I managed it.” She opened the door to Fleur’s room and paused.
“And,” Harry laughed. “She looked at me with the cutest expression I have ever seen and said in completely straight voice, ‘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!’”
Fleur threw back her head and roared with laughter.
“Telling my secrets?” Gabrielle asked.
“Yep,” Harry said with a smile. His eyes flicked over to Bill, and he nodded as he got to his feet. “Come on, Gabby, let’s leave them to it.”
She smiled at him and nodded.
He walked out of the room and closed the door after Bill entered. “Fleur did tell me a lot about what you went through growing up,” he said to her.
She winced. “I do not want your pity, Harry.”
“How about my admiration?” he asked.
She looked at him curiously.
“I do not pity you, Gabby. But I know what it is like to fight magic, what willpower it takes, and managing to make something of yourself when fighting it is impressive.”
“Thank you,” she said, looking down while her heart raced at praise from her Mate.
“Shall we go and spend the rest of the morning with your parents and go back to school this afternoon?”
“That would be nice.”
He reached out and pulled her into a hug.
She sighed happily and snuggled into him. She looked up as she heard a loud giggle, followed by a thump from the bedroom.
“Make-up sex,” she said.
Harry groaned and raised his hand, whispering a silencing spell. He led her downstairs and into the living room, where Jean was reading a broadsheet paper, and Aimée was looking at what appeared to be the English Financial Times paper – the salmon pink giving it away.
Harry took a seat on the couch, and she sat next to him, snuggling into his side. This was what she had dreamed about for so many years, to be casually sitting next to her Mate. It was hard for her not to smile like an idiot.
“They are happy again?” Aimée asked as she folded up the paper and placed it on a small table next to her.
“They are,” Harry agreed.
“And are apologising to each other in person right now,” Gabrielle added with a smile.
Aimée raised her eyebrows. “So I should avoid that floor for a while?”
“No; Harry added a silencing charm for them.”
“My daughter is a hypocrite,” Aimée sighed. “She leaves the charm off, and it is a mistake – Jean and I forget the charm and we are accused of trying to drive her insane.”
“I have no idea how to respond to that,” Harry said, “so I’ll change the subject.”
“Thank you,” Gabrielle said, feeling her own cheeks heat up.
“Is that the magical version of the FT?”
“Of course,” Aimée said. “I like to keep track of how our stocks and shares are doing.”
“I do as well,” Harry agreed. “Admittedly, it took me nearly two months of studying to find out what it all meant.”
“When did you do that?” Jean asked, as he folded his own paper up and joined in the conversation.
“On tour, as with most things.”
“What did you actually do on tour?” Gabrielle asked.
“Normally we’d get up at around six am, especially if we were somewhere hot, and have a big breakfast. We’d relax for half an hour, and then make our way to the practise pitch. We’d normally only spend a couple of hours flying drills, because by that time we are normally at peak physical fitness, and all we need to do is maintain our current state. And at lunch time, we’d be free to do what we wanted for the rest of the day.
“I’d normally go sight-seeing with some of my team-mates, and then at night, I’d spend the time relaxing in my hotel room, doing what I could to keep myself occupied.”
“It sounds a bit boring,” Jean said.
“Some of the other young players would go out to a night club and well, erm, fraternise with the fans. I tried that once and had to do a combined Apparate/Obliviate to get out of there with my clothes on. The fans were a little bit rabid.”
“That’s not a surprise,” Gabrielle teased. “Harry Potter, Quidditch God, out in public for all those girls.”
“Just wait until you are out with me,” Harry said with a smile. “And you are the target of some pretty awful taunts.”
“They won’t be true,” she replied calmly. “Well, some of them probably will be, but that will be none of their business.”
Harry shook his head and laughed.
“You two seem more comfortable with each other,” Aimée said.
“I think we got a lot of things sorted out between us yesterday.”
“That did not stop Harry and Jean having testosterone issues this morning,” Aimée said to Gabrielle, a teasing glint in her eyes.
“Papa,” Gabrielle sighed.
“Why are you blaming me?” Jean protested, raising his hands.
“Because Harry does not initiate these things, he only reacts,” she said simply.
“You are still my daughter,” Jean said with a shrug. “I retain the right to act like it at all times.”
“And I could have handled it better,” Harry stepped in. “However, our balloons were pricked neatly by Aimée, and I don’t know about Jean, but I hadn’t felt like that since I was at Hogwarts.”
“I am married to her,” Jean said, “I get it all the time.”
“Well, I’d offer my consolations, but frankly, any man who has someone like Aimée by his side does not need any consolation from anyone.”
Jean laughed and nodded. “Best decision of my life,” he agreed.
Aimée blushed prettily and looked down demurely.
“I always knew I would have to fall in love with someone special,” Jean continued, looking fondly at his wife. “She would have to understand that any female children we had would be Veela, and that they would be unholy terrors to raise.”
“I was not a terror,” Gabrielle protested with a smile.
“Right,” Jean said in disbelief. “Of course, I had no real choice about marrying Aimée.”
“Oh?” Aimée asked delicately.
Jean nodded. “Aimée was my fourth girlfriend.”
“Fifth, actually,” Aimée sniffed.
“Fine, fifth,” Jean grumbled. “Anyway, I’d taken a few home to meet my mother, and she had dismissed all of them immediately and made a few comments concerning my intelligence about being attracted to such butterflies.
“I took Aimée home for the first time.”
“And I spent the journey being warned about his mother,” Aimée interjected.
“Yes,” Jean agreed. “And we walked into the house, and Mama said, ‘Another one, Jean?’”
“I was about to reply, when Aimée stepped in front of me, and looked at Mama. ‘I am not another one,’ she said, in a cold voice. ‘I am the last one.’
“Mama looked at her, and for a second, I thought there was going to be violence. No one had ever said that sort of thing to Mama before.”
“What happened?” Gabrielle asked.
“Mama turned to me and said. ‘Marry this girl, Jean-Sebastian, because you will be making a big mistake if you do not.’”
Harry and Gabrielle laughed.
“I always liked Jean’s mother,” Aimée said with a smile. “She had a wonderful directness about her and was quite willing to answer all my questions about Veela, and she was a huge help bringing up Fleur and Gabrielle.”
“Sadly, she passed away last year,” Jean sighed. “She had me late in life, and was very old.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said softly.
Gabrielle placed her hand on his leg, stroking softly. “Mama and Nana were a lot alike,” she said with a smile. “And when they would fight, which wasn’t often, the only thing we could do was hide. Fleur and I would hide under Papa’s desk.”
“That’s where you went?” Jean asked. “I’d always wondered. Personally, I would walk around the estates.”
“We weren’t that bad,” Aimée protested.
“No,” Jean agreed. “What was really bad was the fights you and Gabrielle would have about…” he trailed off, as if he suddenly realised he had said too much.
“About me wanting to go to Harry then,” Gabrielle finished softly.
“You know it wouldn’t have worked?” Harry asked softly, as he shifted so that he could look into her eyes.
“I do now,” she sighed. “Mama was right, but back then, I felt that all I would have to do is show up, you would understand, and we would move things into the bedroom.” She smiled wryly. “Explaining to a stubborn ten year old who hadn’t actually hit puberty yet that she was not ready, when she had all this knowledge in her head and overwhelming feelings in her body was not easy.”
“Impossible,” Aimée agreed with a smile.
“And we broke many vases in our arguments.”
“So it runs in the family then?”
“Not the entire family,” Jean said lightly.
“You will be staying for lunch?” Aimée asked with a smooth change of subject.
Harry nodded, “We have a practice this afternoon we need to be ready for.”
“How are you two doing?” Harry asked, as he handed Fred and George a bottle of water. “You’re spending more time here than the others are.”
Fred looked slightly guilty. “Well,” he said. “We might have hit on an untapped goldmine here.”
“Yeah,” George agreed. “A whole school full of kids who don’t know what pranks are and have never had a need for our products before.”
“And this is why I’ve had to de-curse my food four times this week?”
“Yes,” Fred admitted. “We’re selling our products here, as the first bastion in our expansion into France. With Hermione, and now Gabrielle helping us speak the language, we’re a lot more comfortable with the idea of moving into Europe. Some of the seventh years have expressed an interest in coming to work for us when they leave.”
Harry nodded. “Good, do we need any more investment capital?”
“No,” George replied. “We’ve been putting aside twenty-five percent of our profits to fund future expansion.”
“And if we hadn’t done that, we would have paid you more than the Cannons,” Fred grinned.
“I know,” Harry admitted. “I’ve been paying close attention to your financial statements. What have you guys been thinking in regards to floating a stock offering on the stock exchange?”
“We don’t want to do it, if we can avoid it,” George said seriously. “We don’t like the fact that we’d have to answer to others. Our business is reliant on Fred and I taking risks, and adding a layer would ruin the ability we have to move fast. Sure, it might make us a lot of money, but money isn’t everything.”
“But you are our partner,” Fred said, his face just as serious. “And we’re willing to listen if you have differing advice.”
“Relax,” Harry said with a smile. “I agree. If you need the cash, I’ll supply it as a low-rate loan.”
Fred and George looked at each other and then laughed.
“You had us worried for a minute, mate,” George said.
“Yeah,” Fred agreed, fanning himself down.
“Hey, guys,” Oliver said as he walked into the room. “How’s it going?”
“Great,” George replied. “We’re looking at expanding to France.”
“Sounds like a good idea,” Katie said, as she walked in. “And look who I found wandering around like lost kittens.”
“Angelina, Alicia,” Harry said in surprise. “What brings you two to France?”
“Officially, we’re ‘just visiting friends’,” Angelina said.
“We’re here to help.”
“The Falmouth Falcons have noticed that the Cannons and the Harpies are getting a lot of good publicity with Katie and Ollie helping you out. And with Flint and the Wigtown Wanderers making some wild claims, we were unofficially ordered to see if we could help out.”
“Oh man, I’m getting chills,” Oliver said. “The best team Gryffindor ever produced back together again.”
“And that gives me an idea,” Harry said slowly.
“Oh?” Fred asked.
“Don’t ask,” George advised. “He’s got that ‘I’m going to do something obscure that will pay off in a few weeks time’ look he gets.”
“True,” Fred agreed.
Harry just smiled and walked over to the Floo. “Olympe,” he called.
“How’s your school budget?”
“Tight,” she said without breaking into a smile.
“Break it,” he replied. “And bring six Galleons down here.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Olympe said dryly.
“Six Galleons?” Ollie asked. “We all earn more than that in a minute.”
“Of course,” Harry smiled. “Like George said, I’m just planning ahead.”
“Right,” Katie said dryly. “We’ll leave you three to talk about things – they’re ready with their magical promises – while we go and get tonight’s practice going.”
“Okay, get Gabby to practice her feinting.”
“So,” Angelina asked as the others moved out. “What’s so secret that you need our magical promises?”
“If you could first…” Harry said.
The two witches cast the charm.
“It all began eight years ago…”
“Harry!” Oliver yelled. “Can I borrow you for a few minutes?”
“Take a break, Gabrielle,” Harry said with a smile and swooped down and over to the Keeper.
Gabrielle watched him go with a smile and looked around the Quidditch pitch. Angelina and Alicia were chatting as they flew around the perimeter, picking up the Quaffles they had been using for practice.
Katie was removing some accuracy charms from the goals. Without really thinking about it, she drifted over to the older girl.
“Hi, Gabrielle. You’re beginning to look really good,” Katie said cheerfully.
“Thank you,” she said with a smile. “Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” Katie replied and waved her wand at the remaining goal. They dropped to the ground and walked into Harry’s office.
“What’s up?” Katie asked, as she perched on the end of the desk.
Gabrielle wet her lips nervously. “You know about the bond I have with Harry? And that I’ve had it for eight years? It has allowed me to see snapshots of Harry’s life when he was growing up.”
“Uh-huh,” Katie said, her body language changing, becoming defensive.
“Well, some things have not been making sense to me,” she said slowly. “You seemed overly protective of Harry, beyond mere friendship, and well, something about you pulls at the bond.” She looked up and met Katie’s eyes. “Are you the other woman Harry slept with?”
Katie slowly turned red and stumbled into a chair. She lowered her head into her hands.
“Katie?” Gabrielle asked, moving closer to her. She hadn’t expected her question to have this sort of response.
“What has Harry told you?”
“He confirmed what I already knew – that he had slept with four women, but nothing else. He tried to dissimulate, saying that there were only three, as he’d taken pains to keep the fourth relationship secret,” Gabrielle replied. “But whenever he was intimate with someone I would know – the bond would make me sick and listless, and I would lie in bed all day terrified that I was about to lose Harry before I even had a chance to see him as my Mate.”
Katie nodded and smiled bitterly. “He kept our relationship secret,” she agreed. “How much do you know about what happened between us?”
“From Harry? Nothing.”
Katie ran her fingers through her hair. “It started so well,” she said softly, almost to herself. “We met up one night in a bar. He wanted to get out for an evening; I was out with my team mates. My date took one look at Melissa, my Veela friend, and left me in a heartbeat. Harry and I got talking, comparing bad dates, and at the end of the evening, he walked me home. We were both a little tipsy. I invited him in, but you can guess what Harry said.”
“No,” Gabrielle offered.
“Exactly,” she sighed. “But we saw each other again, either in my house in Somerset, or his apartment in London.” Katie paused and looked at Gabrielle. “Do you know anything about what happened?”
“I would get images and feelings from Harry, whenever he was feeling intense emotions. Never enough to see who or what was truly happening.” Gabrielle paused and then said softly. “You have a Quaffle tattooed on your lower back, and you seemed to prefer having him in that position, while he preferred being face to face.”
“The sensations were much more intense like that,” Katie explained. “It was incredible for a while. And then I blew it.”
“What do you mean?”
The tears were now flowing freely down Katie’s face. “I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of. But I have never been with a married man, and I have never cheated in a relationship. And I expect the same from my man.” She paused. “It was the week before the League Cup final. I accused Harry of cheating on me.
“We cared for each other, you know, but we just never seemed to connect – the only thing that was good was the sex. So I figured that he was just using me. It drove me crazy – I knew that there had to be someone else. I was so bent out of shape that I even accused him of betraying his friendship with Ron by ‘shagging Hermione on the side.’”
“I do not imagine that went over well,” Gabrielle said with a sigh.
“He should have hit me – instead he just gave me this very hurt look. I knew it was over,” Katie said. “I would have done anything to take those words back as soon as I had said them.”
“It was not your fault.”
Katie said nothing.
“He still cares for you, you know,” Gabrielle continued. “After the World Cup, when he was in the hospital, he hoped that you would visit him. That was the only time he cried,” she finished, trailing off.
“I never apologised to him, you know? And when he invited me here, in a way, it was worse. Because all I felt from him was friendship.” She looked up. “I should apologise to you, too.”
“Why?” Gabrielle asked frankly.
“For touching what was obviously yours,” Katie said, looking down at the floor. “For causing you such pain.”
“You did not know, you could not have known. But if it makes you feel better, I forgive you,” Gabrielle said gently. “After all, you were right, in a way.”
“There was another woman. Unfortunately, Harry hadn’t the faintest notion who I was at the time.”
“Well, now he does. I know him well enough to see that he’s smitten with you.”
“I make him sick?” Gabrielle asked, confused.
“Sorry, that didn’t translate well – Harry is in love with you,” Katie said.
“And you wish that you were in my place?”
Katie closed her eyes and nodded. “He’s not like other men, is he? He could make my blood heat up with a look, and what made it so effective is that he had no idea he was doing it. He is so beautiful; it comes from inside him, but that Quidditch body really helps. I miss him, but now I realise that I never really had him.”
Gabrielle took a deep breath. She knew what Harry would want her to do in this situation, so despite the fact that she had not voluntarily touched anyone not bound to her by blood or magic in eight years, she moved to Katie’s side and embraced the crying brunette.
They were silent for the longest while. No further words were necessary.
“Fred, George,” Gabrielle called.
“You rang, oh protected one?”
Gabrielle arched an eyebrow.
“We talked to Bill,” Fred said with a grin. “It took him two pairs of underwear to get over whatever Harry threatened him with.”
She laughed softly. “I wanted to ask you two a favour. Will you help us out with our Beauxbatons move?”
“What do you want us to do?” George asked. His voice was friendly but non-committal.
“We’re going to need special effects, fireworks and explosions to make everything more dramatic. Paying for it isn’t a problem, but I need help teaching the lower years how to use them, and how to create their own.”
“You want us to work with hundreds of children and teach them how to use our products?” Fred questioned.
“How much do you want us to pay for the opportunity?”
“Excuse me?” she asked.
Fred smiled. “This is going to be a huge opportunity to advertise our products, the world’s press will be watching, and it’s going to give us a huge boost in sales. And we’ll also have the kids used to using our stuff, so future sales will come to us a well. This is a dream; a chance of a lifetime.”
Gabrielle laughed and shook her head. “Just agree to help.”
“You had that before you asked,” George said. “So we’ll provide our expertise and products free of charge. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.”
“Thank you. Although,” she looked down and faked being nervous. “I do have some bad news for you.”
“What?” they asked in unison.
“You’re going to have to be assistant professors to do this. Which means that you two clowns are going to become part of the establishment!”
Gabrielle would never forget the look of abject horror that appeared on their identical faces.
Gabrielle smiled to herself as she looked at the sea of faces in front of her. Fred and George were to her left, and Harry was to her right. Before her were the students from each year, as well as the headmistress and a few selected professors. Professor Idiot had not been invited.
“Thank you all for coming,” she said slowly. “We are here to tell you exactly how we are going to get to Hogwarts for the upcoming Quidditch Tournament.”
She could see a ripple of excitement run through the crowd of students. She paused to allow the tension to grow.
“We are going to work together to transport Beauxbatons to Hogwarts, in one piece.”
There was a silence from in front of them, before an explosion of noise erupted as everyone tried to shout out questions at once.
Harry took a step forward next to her and raised his hand.
Everyone, including the Professors, quickly quietened.
Gabrielle shot him a grateful look. “There will be three stages to this audacious bit of magic. We will have to work together to do it.
“The first through fourth years will work with our two new assistant professors. Your job will be to create display magic with them to make our entrance as spectacular as possible.
“The senior students will work with me to allow us to actually move Beauxbatons.”
“And the third part?” Claude yelled.
“Professor Potter will make a hole in Hogwarts’ wards that we can use to get in.”
“Can you even do that?” a lone voice asked into the silence.
“Yes,” Harry said simply, with a self-belief that made everyone in the room nod, as if he hadn’t just admitted to being able to do the impossible.
“It is important that this be a secret,” Gabrielle continued. “We want everyone to think that we will be travelling by carriage, so that it will be a complete surprise. So no talking about it to anyone else, not even your parents. This is for the pride of France, and we will show that we are as good as any other school in the world!”
Claude was the first to his feet, with a loud cheer that the others soon took up.
She waited until they had calmed down a little. “So, lower school to the left, upper school to the right; let’s get started.”
She walked with Harry over to the senior students. They all pulled up their chairs and sat waiting for her.
She reached out and uncovered a board she had prepared earlier. On it was a magical representation of Beauxbatons and all of its grounds.
“With Professor Potter’s help, I have worked out the logistics for the transportation of the school to Scotland, in the north of the United Kingdom. It is not as simple as just moving the building and its contents.
“We first have to create a giant bubble around Beauxbatons. This will be the job of the fifth and sixth years. This bubble encloses us in a protective field so that any external motion will not affect the internal. For everyone inside the bubble, there will be no feeling of motion at all.” She waved her wand at the board and a giant circle appeared around the castle which then floated up, leaving a large hole in the ground.
“The seventh years will be in charge of actually moving this huge bubble to Hogwarts.” The castle then floated across the paper and vanished.
“The bubble is, of course, invisible to Muggles. However, Witches and Wizards will be able to see it and actually see through it.”
“Question!” Henri asked loudly. “Has this ever been done before?”
“Not quite on this scale,” Gabrielle replied.
“On what scale has it been done?”
She looked at Harry, who smiled slightly. “Gabrielle and I floated a small children’s toy this morning with it.”
“A toy?” Henri asked. “And you want to move Beauxbatons?”
“The theory is sound,” Gabrielle said firmly. “And once you have the theory, all you need to do is practice and put the effort in.”
“Gabrielle, you are insane,” Claude sighed. “But this is why we accepted that you would be Head Girl this year. Do you think we can do it, honestly?”
She drew herself up to her full height, which wasn’t as intimidating as she might have liked, and looked at them all openly. “I would not have suggested it if I had not thought that we could do it and do it well. I will not have Hogwarts and Durmstrang look down at us as they have in the past. We will turn up in style, we will play Quidditch as it is supposed to be played, and we will represent France in a way that she can be proud of!”
“Gabrielle is right,” Harry said firmly. “If you work together, you can do anything. Magic is as much about belief as it is about ability. I believe in you – we believe in you!”
“We won’t let you down,” Claude said, after the students finished clapping and cheering.
“I know,” Gabrielle replied. “So, ready to learn some new magic that will make Beauxbatons world famous?”
“Good evening, Sibyll.”
“What can I do for you?”
“Something is happening, and I was wondering if you knew what it was?”
“What do you mean?”
“There was a whole school meeting run by that stuck-up little Delacour brat.”
“Tell me, why do you not like her?” Sibyll Trelawney asked as she sipped on a cup of mint tea.
“She is a spoilt, arrogant little child who should not be Head Girl. Just because her father is the famous Jean-Sebastian Delacour, she has been given special privileges.”
Sibyll shrugged. “Happens over here as well. Draco Malfoy, for example, was only stopped from being expelled a time or two because his father was on the board of directors. So, what happened in this meeting?”
“I do not know,” Marjolaine Prévoyez complained. “I was not allowed to participate. Ever since that bloody Potter turned up, it has been horrendous here. All the students worship him, and I receive no respect anymore. I think it might have had something to do with the Quidditch Tournament.”
“He has no respect for the value of our teaching,” Sibyll said coldly. “It is a mistake he will pay for. However, Albus did mention that the Beauxbatons was hoping to arrive without using the flying carriages they arrived in last time.”
“It would be a shame if they couldn’t,” Marjolaine said with a slow smile.
“Absolutely,” Sibyll agreed, matching the smile. “Embarrassing. Especially if I pass on a few rumours to the press that Potter is behind it – and when nothing happens, seeds of doubt will be placed.”
“Will the English press do that?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Sibyll said with a wave of her hand. “The English press like to build people up and then destroy them. It fills a deep seated need in the English psyche for people to be reminded of their proper place.”
“I’ll do what I can to sabotage it,” Marjolaine said.
“Be careful, though,” Sibyll warned. “Potter’s not as innocent as he once was, and if he finds out about it, he might take some direct action.”
“He is still only human,” Prévoyez sniffed. “I shall be careful.”
“Opinions?” Harry asked, as the seven of them sat and relaxed. It was nearly ten o’clock, and they had been working with the kids for four hours straight, before sending them to eat and sleep.
“You know,” Oliver said slowly. “They’re actually doing okay. They’ve been through some brutal training, Gabrielle more than anyone else, but they’ve really worked at it. I’ve got to say that I’m impressed.”
“We are, too,” Angelina said. “Katie had already got them on the right path, and we’ve been able to turn them into some good Chasers.”
“And Claude and Henri are becoming really violent,” George said happily, rubbing his hands together.
“Almost enthusiastically so,” he grinned. “We regaled them with stories of how the Slytherins used to play, and mentioned how they will be targeting Gabrielle. They didn’t like that idea. They’re very protective of her.”
“Good,” Harry grunted. “Gabrielle has improved – as I knew she would. Now that she’s got over her fear of the broom, she would give most of the league a run for their money.”
“Can we recruit her?” Katie asked. “We could do with a new Seeker.”
“You can try,” Harry laughed. “But I think you’ll find that she doesn’t want to play professional.”
“And she wouldn’t play against Harry,” Angelina pointed out.
“Yeah,” Fred agreed with a smirk. “I can just see that, the two of them racing for the snitch, and both of them trying to make sure that the other got it.”
The door opened and Gabrielle walked in. She walked over to Harry and held out her hands.
Harry smiled and pulled her down into his lap. Gabrielle yawned hugely. “So, are we ready?”
“You are,” Oliver said.
“Thank Merlin,” she sighed. “Another night like that will kill us.”
“Angelina, Alicia, Katie, and Oliver are going to help with the Magic on Friday.”
“Oh, good,” Gabrielle smiled at them gratefully. “We’re going to need all the help we can get.”
“No problem,” Alicia said with a smile. “But is there any way we can persuade you to turn professional?”
“No,” she said with a small laugh. “I am going to have a career where I can travel with Harry around the world when he goes on tour. Having a different schedule would not work.”
“You are really good, though,” Katie pointed out.
“But it is not entirely fair,” Gabrielle replied. “I get a lot of it from Harry; I’m pretty sure that the bond we have has been helping us along, giving me some of his Quidditch skills.”
“I don’t think so,” Harry said. “As far as I can tell, it’s natural. If that were true, you’d be a lot better at the Wronski feint and a lot worse at the Banka-Chucka turn.”
Gabrielle turned in his arms to look at him. “Really?”
He nodded. “Sorry to tell you this, but it’s your hard work and talent that’s got you this far.”
She looked at him, her deep blue eyes clear and wide, digging into his soul. “So you are proud of me?”
“Very much so,” he whispered.
She leaned up and kissed him with incredible softness and tenderness, her hands cupping his face.
George coughed loudly, causing both of them to look up.
“Sorry,” he said, looking apologetic. “But you two are making the rest of us feel inadequate.”
“What?” Harry asked.
Fred laughed softly. “What my darling brother means, no matter how badly he put that, is that we’re normal humans, not fairy tale characters.”
“I am confused,” Gabrielle said with a small pout that took all of Harry’s willpower not to kiss.
“The emotionally constipated twins over there are trying to say that that was beautiful,” Katie said with a forced smile. “And it is the sort of thing normally seen in books, not in person, and we’re all slightly jealous.”
“Sorry,” Harry apologised.
“Oh, don’t be,” Angelina said firmly. “You deserve the fairy tale, both of you.”
“Don’t expect me to say anything,” Oliver said with a smile. “I’m with the constipated twins over there.”
“So I heard,” Angelina said icily. “Just how many groupies did you sleep with last year?”
“I lost count,” Oliver replied levelly.
“As always,” Angelina snorted.
“Oh,” Gabrielle said, before the conversation could deteriorate further. “I need some advice.”
“On what?” Katie asked.
“I need to get a present for Hogwarts and Durmstrang. It’s tradition. I just don’t know what to buy them.”
“Harry,” Angelina said. “Why don’t you take her to Milan, to the magic shops there? They have all sorts of rare artefacts.”
“Good idea,” Harry said.
“And you can have dinner as well,” Alicia said cheerfully. “You two have been working too hard and not spending enough time with each other romantically.”
“Is this normal?” Gabrielle asked Harry. “That everyone orders you to go out on dates?”
“I’m notorious for missing the point,” Harry smiled easily. “So they are just trying to help.”
“But our date was perfect,” Gabrielle pointed out firmly.
“And that was several weeks ago,” Katie said dryly. “And since then, all the two of you have done is work, work, work.”
“But I’ve learnt so much,” Gabrielle protested. “I’ve learnt new moves, new magic, and discovered one of the things that makes Harry so powerful.”
“Spoken like a true academic,” George said in mock-disgust. “We, on the other hand, want to hear stories about kisses that take your breath away and hands inappropriately placed – you know, the good stuff.”
“I’m sure it has slipped your notice,” Gabrielle said with a smile. “But I am Veela, and Harry is my Mate. So categorically there is no such thing as inappropriately placed hands.”
“Damn it, I need to date a Veela,” Oliver said enviously.
“Sadly, Ollie,” Katie pointed out, “Veela are also intelligent, and would run away if they saw you coming.”
“Moving on,” Harry interrupted the nascent argument. “I’ll talk to Olympe later and get permission to take Gabrielle tomorrow.”
“We’re going to have tomorrow off,” Angelina said for the others. “And then we’ll come back Friday morning and spend the day helping out.”
“Yeah,” Oliver agreed. “The press interest in these matches is astronomical now that so many professionals are involved, and the Cannons have bulk-booked a load of seats.”
“How many people are planning on turning up?” Harry asked.
“Oh,” Fred said with another laugh. “I forgot, Harry doesn’t read the papers, does he?”
“No,” George agreed. “He doesn’t know.”
“That they’ve increased the size of the stands at Hogwarts.”
“They now hold seventy-five thousand people.”
Gabrielle gulped audibly.
“You’ll be fine,” Harry said quietly, rubbing her arms softly. “I promise.” He could feel her relax against him, and he turned back for the twins. “Seventy-five thousand people?”
“The press have been billing it as the future of Quidditch. All of France is behind Beauxbatons, all of Germany is behind Durmstrang, and well, England is divided.”
“Yeah,” Oliver laughed. “There are so many Gryffindors helping out France, that people are asking questions about exactly what is going on at Hogwarts, and a lot of people have switched alliances for the duration, claiming that France led by Harry Potter is at least slightly English. Enough to cheer for, at any rate.”
“And our entrance is going to make a bigger splash, isn’t it?” Harry said with a slight smile.
“Rumour has it,” Fred said, “that Dumbledore has been telling the press about how much they will enjoy your carriages.”
“How do you know that?” Katie asked.
“Percy’s been the Ministry official in charge at Hogwarts for the duration,” Fred said casually. “We gave him a few clues about what has been happening, and he’s pounced on it.”
“In what way?” Gabrielle asked.
Fred looked at George, and then at the others in the room. Slowly, one by one, they all nodded.
“Percy’s part of Harry’s crew,” George said simply.
“My crew?” Harry asked suspiciously.
“A generation of people who watched you grow up, some of whom took part in the D.A., who helped at the final battle, who know that if the shit ever approaches the fan again, you’ll be the first person in line with the umbrella. It’s well known that you and Dumbledore don’t get on, so everyone’s been keeping an eye on him.”
“We’re mainly the young ones,” George continued. “The people who were brought up to revere Dumbledore, but who have managed to think for ourselves and seen the manipulation and incompetence that cost us so much during the war – and how at the end, he didn’t even turn up for the final battle.”
“Why didn’t I know about this?” Harry demanded.
“You didn’t need to,” Katie said. “It was never anything that formal. It was just a few old friends keeping in touch with each other. It was Neville who coined the name down the pub one night.”
“So, Percy’s been watching what is going on in Hogwarts, and how Dumbledore is playing games, and he has been encouraging it. It was his suggestion that the press be invited to help welcome all the schools, and Dumbledore agreed that it was a perfect idea.”
“And when we show up in grand style everyone will be there to see it,” Angelina finished.
Harry shook his head slowly. “So, I have a secret army?”
“Yep,” Oliver said. “Loyal to you, my friend, and because you can only get in by invitation by several other members, and everyone swears the old D.A. pledge, it’s stayed silent. Katie recruited me, Angelina, and Alicia a few years ago.”
“Ron and Hermione?”
“Know nothing about it, at all,” Fred said proudly.
“What?” Harry asked, shocked.
“They’re your closest friends,” George said. “They don’t need to be in it; they’re already on your side.”
“Wow,” Gabrielle whispered.
“Yeah,” Harry nodded in complete agreement. “Wow. I’m impressed you’ve kept it a secret from Hermione.”
Fred shrugged. “It wasn’t difficult; most of our meetings are down the pub with a few beers – not the sort of place you’d normally find her. She’s clueless.”
“As is our darling brother,” George agreed. “Charlie’s in; Bill isn’t - yet.”
“So don’t worry, Harry,” Oliver added with a grin as he stood. “You might think you’ll be going to Hogwarts on your own, but there will be a lot of people who have your back. And that’s why we agreed to tell you about it tonight. You’re going back to Hogwarts, and you need to know you have this resource available.”
“Now,” Fred said, as he, too, got to his feet. “I want to hear stories tomorrow about wandering hands. You two spend some time kissing each other goodnight and have fun in Italy tomorrow.”
“Bye,” the others said as they trooped out.
Harry leaned back and laughed softly as he watched them all leave.
“You have some very good friends there, Harry,” Gabrielle said softly.
“Better friends than I thought they were,” he agreed. “More so because they left me alone when I needed to be left alone.”
“And you should take their advice.”
“What advice?” he asked as she turned in his lap again.
She leaned forward and kissed him slowly. “The bit about the breath-taking kisses and the wandering hands,” she whispered against his lips.
His answer was muffled as she kissed him again.
“We might not be back tonight,” Harry said to Olympe. “We’re going out for dinner after we do some shopping.”
Olympe nodded. “I would make some comments about Gabrielle’s grades, but as they have remained perfect throughout, there would be little point. Just don’t bankrupt the school with the gifts. Gabrielle’s tastes are exemplary, if somewhat expensive.”
Harry smiled slightly. “Don’t worry; I’m sure that what we buy will be within the school budget.”
Olympe nodded. “I must say, that you have exceeded my wildest expectations this year, and I am incredibly grateful. You have worked harder than any other teacher with the children, and they, especially the Quidditch teams, adore you. You’ve never treated any of them like children, and they have responded to that.
“Of course, some of the staff, led by Madame Prévoyez, are jealous about your rapport,” she noted judiciously, “but I am keeping a close eye on them.”
Harry nodded. “She still sets me on edge,” he sighed. “I’m not sure what it is about her, but something doesn’t seem right. And I don’t think it’s because she reminds me of Trelawney back at Hogwarts.”
“I will look further into her past; you have excellent instincts, Harry, and are not one to hold a grudge for no reason.”
There was a knock on the door and Gabrielle entered. She was wearing the pale blue robes of Beauxbatons.
“Ready?” Harry asked.
“I am,” she replied. “We will find it easier to get out of school today; everyone knows that we are going shopping for the school presents, so we do not have to hide.”
Harry nodded and looked at Olympe. “We’ll see you later.”
“Have fun,” she said with a smile.
Harry nodded and walked out with Gabrielle, resisting the urge to touch her. “Do you have any ideas?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I am hoping that inspiration will strike me as we look around.”
They moved through the school to the Apparation point, and as it was empty, Harry pulled Gabrielle against him and Apparated them both to Milan.
As soon as they arrived, Harry pulled Gabrielle against him and kissed her deeply.
She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back, making small contented sounds in the back of her throat.
He broke the kiss and smiled at her.
“What do I have to do to get more of that?” she exhaled with a bright smile.
“Be yourself,” he laughed softly.
“I cannot be anything other than Gabrielle,” she smiled. She reached up and kissed him gently. “Thank you.”
“You never need to thank me for that; in fact, you shouldn’t,” he whispered. “I enjoyed it just as much you did.”
Her smile seemed to say that she disagreed, but she would not push the matter. She took a step away from him, undid the buttons on her robes, and then quickly shrank them. Underneath she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, the standard attire that Harry normally wore when they went out.
“We’re going to have to get you a new dress,” he said thoughtfully as he shrugged off his professor’s robes and revealed the dark suit he was wearing.
Gabrielle looked horrified at the fact that she was inappropriately dressed.
“We’re going to go somewhere for dinner, afterwards,” he said, “and no, I didn’t tell you beforehand, because I want to buy you something. You’ll need something for Hogwarts, and if I can’t dance with you, I’ll at least know that you are wearing something of mine.”
“Oh,” she said and seemed to be thinking hard.
“No thinking, Gabby,” he said with a smile. “You’ve been taking the lead in this relationship, today it’s my turn.”
“Yes, Harry,” she replied instantly. “But you do not have to do this; I do not care about your money or anything.”
He reached out and lightly tapped her nose. “No arguments, Gabby. I know you’re not after money, but as I have it, and I want to spend it on you, we’ll be doing just that. Now, let’s go shopping,” he said with a smile. He reached up and cast a concealing charm on his scar and cast the seeing-spell in front of his eyes, placing his glasses in his pocket.
“You are in disguise?” Gabrielle asked with a teasing look.
“I am,” he agreed. “I’m just a normal wizard out on a date with the most beautiful girl in the world.” He smiled as Gabrielle flushed at his praise. It had taken him long enough to get around to flirting back with her, and he was preparing to show her the best time he could tonight.
He wrapped an arm around her and they walked into the busy street and soon entered an odd-looking shop. It reminded him of some of the seedier shops he had seen in Knockturn Alley. It was filled with magical items that were making his Dark Magic detector go mad; it seemed like nearly half of everything in here had been used for dark purposes in the past.
He walked around, looking for something that they could give Hogwarts. He wasn’t sure what was appropriate to give as a gift for a school. He picked up one item and examined it closely, it looked like a foe-glass, but the magical signature was difficult. He looked through it and dropped it quickly, feeling a blush form on his cheeks.
“What is it?” Gabrielle asked.
“It – uh – allows you to see through clothes,” he mumbled.
“Oh,” she grinned and took a few steps back and held her hands out wide. “Or is there a different pose you would like me in?” she asked, as she turned her back on him and bent forward at the waist.
He scowled at her, fighting a blush. She laughed delightedly and moved up to him and kissed him on the side of the mouth. “I don’t mind you looking,” she reminded him in a whisper, before drifting off to look at another aisle.
He looked at the glass on the counter and had to fight the urge to do as she had suggested.
He let Gabrielle look around, keeping slightly away from her and watched as she looked through the items on display. The store keeper came up to her and they were soon involved in a fast moving conversation in Italian. He caught small bits of it, and it seemed like she was arguing with him over one of the pieces.
Eventually, the store keeper raised his hands in defeat, and Gabrielle smiled widely at him.
“This will be perfect for Durmstrang,” she said, indicating an antique telescope in front of her. “It was made by one of their first Head Boys after he left in the seventeenth century. There are only a few left.”
She winced slightly. “I managed to get him down to only three thousand Galleons.”
“I don’t think that Olympe was planning on spending that much.”
“She might not be,” Gabrielle sniffed. “But I am. I’ll give her a smaller bill later. We will not look cheap,” she noted firmly.
Harry smiled and took the telescope to the counter, handing over his own debit card. The storekeeper ran it through a small box and held the box up to Harry. He pressed his thumb against it and felt the magic swirl around him, as his identity was verified.
“Thank you, Mr Black,” the storekeeper said in broken English.
Harry smiled and nodded at him. “Can you ask him to send it to Beauxbatons?”
Gabrielle nodded and spoke to the storekeeper in rapid-fire Italian. As she finished, she turned and put her hands on her hips. “I said that I was going to pay for that,” she reminded him.
“You did,” Harry agreed, as he slid his arm through hers and pulled her against him.
“You are trying to distract me,” she sighed.
He guided her outside and paused to kiss her softly. “Is it working?”
“But of course,” she said with a small pout. “But it is unfair.”
“Probably, but do you think you don’t have that power over me?”
“What do you mean?”
He looked at her seriously. “I can be distracted by you as well, Gabrielle. It might not be a magical edict, but my heart can be affected by you, all the same.”
She blinked at him and he could see the confusion in her eyes.
“Close your eyes,” he commanded.
Almost before he had finished the sentence, her eyes were closed.
“I know what power I have over you,” he said as he ran his fingers over her shoulder and into her hair. “I know what the Mating has done to your free will. I don’t like it, but I know, and I promise not to abuse it.”
“You would never abuse it,” Gabrielle said with complete faith. “But I am glad that you know.”
“I told you,” he said with a smile. “I did some research about Veela.”
“I did not think that you knew,” she confessed. “I thought I would have to tell you later.”
“You can open your eyes again,” he said casually. “Now let’s find something for Hogwarts.”
Gabrielle nodded, and they started to walk further down the stone pavement. “The storekeeper said Mr Black? After Sirius?”
“Yep,” Harry nodded. “I have a second legal identity to allow me to have a degree of anonymity when I am shopping. Harry Potter buying up as much of Merlin’s diaries as can be found is big news. Harry Black doing the same is not.”
Gabrielle stood still, lost in thought.
“What are you thinking?” Harry asked.
“Does this mean that I get to marry you twice?” she asked with an impish smile.
Harry laughed. “Possibly, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes.”
“I noticed that you used a Wizard Debit Card?” Gabrielle asked, smoothly changing the subject.
“Yep, I was one of the first people to get one. I was fed up with carrying money around all the time. The Goblins did a fantastic job with it. It works like a normal Muggle card when I need it to.”
“You have a good relationship with the Goblins?”
“I’ve found that if you’re polite with them, then they are willing to be the same to you. And of course the fact that I have a lot of money with them makes me an important customer. I tend to take their advice a lot and pay them handsomely for it.”
“Do you have any ideas about what we should get Hogwarts?” she asked, as she looked around at the small shops.
“Not really,” Harry admitted. “I don’t want to get anything that endorses Dumbledore in any way.”
“Have you considered making something for them?”
“Like what?” he asked curiously.
“You can manipulate the wards, correct?”
“How about a device that will create an Apparation point for them?”
“Good idea, I can attach it to something, and they can activate it wherever they want. If I do it tomorrow morning, it will be good practice for allowing Beauxbatons through the wards.”
She smiled. “So, now what?”
“Now we go and get you a new dress for dinner.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“That should be the question I ask you,” Harry grinned. “You like designer clothing, and we are in Milan.”
“Versace?” she asked hopefully.
He laughed softly. “You know where their boutique is?”
“But of course,” she smiled. “I have watched Fleur be fitted many times – and grudgingly been done myself.”
“What was the point of looking my best when you were not there to see it?” she asked seriously. “I had no wish to be attractive for anyone else.”
He nodded slowly, and they walked out of the magical area of Milan and into the Muggle section.
“Are they open this late?” Harry asked.
“For customers like us, they are always open,” Gabrielle replied confidently.
She knocked firmly on a black door that only a small golden plaque indicated that it was a boutique. The windows at the front had thick curtains, blocking the sight of the inside from outside.
The door opened and an elderly gentleman looked out. He said something in Italian and started to close the door.
Gabrielle replied in more rapid-fire Italian, her voice cold and forceful.
The old man shrugged and said something over his shoulder.
A younger woman of about forty appeared and took one look at Gabrielle before opening the door fully.
“Little Gabrielle!” the woman cried in French. “It is so good to see you again.”
“It is good to see you again as well, Madame Valerio,” Gabrielle replied. “Madame Valerio, I would like for you to meet Harry Black. Harry, this is the owner of the boutique, Madame Valerio.”
“Charmed,” Madame Valerio said, as she held out her hand.
Harry smiled faintly and bowed his head, lightly kissing the back of her hand. “It is a pleasure,” he said.
“Come in,” she ordered. “Drinks, Lucio, and make it quick.”
The elderly Italian man grumbled under his breath as he wandered out of the brightly lit room.
“Now, what can I do for you?”
“I need an outfit for tonight,” Gabrielle said cheerfully.
“And you are here through choice?” Madame Valerio asked in surprise.
“I have never needed to look good before. I do now,” she replied, glancing in Harry’s direction. “What do you have?”
“If you would take a seat, Mr Black,” Madame Valerio said, gesturing toward a comfortable-looking chair to one side. “We shall get started.”
Harry sat and crossed his legs comfortably.
“I do not understand why you are small when all your family is tall,” Madame Valerio mumbled offhandedly as she walked around Gabrielle, measuring expertly.
“My aunt was small,” Gabrielle said with a shrug. “I got it from her.” She threw a quick wink at Harry.
He smiled at her and accepted the cup of black coffee from Lucio.
Madame Valerio clapped her hands loudly and called out some orders in Italian. Two girls who looked to be in their mid-twenties came out and both gave him appraising looks that he ignored. They listened for a second and then vanished, returning a few minutes later with arms laden with dresses.
“Do you want to…?” Madame Valerio asked, indicating a small dressing room.
“Oh no,” Gabrielle replied, “as long as Lucio isn’t around.”
“You are still a peculiar one,” Madame Valerio said with an amused look. “And Mr Black must be special.”
“Very,” Gabrielle confirmed as she pulled off her t-shirt, leaving her upper body clad only in her bra.
“You are a very lucky girl, Gabrielle,” Madame Valerio said with a sigh. “I know many girls who would kill for your looks and figure.”
Gabrielle smiled indifferently. “All that matters is that Harry likes me,” she said.
“It is love, then?”
Gabrielle looked over her shoulder directly at Harry, and smiled at him softly. “Oh yes,” she whispered.
He smiled back at her.
Madame Valerio walked around Gabrielle slowly and looked at the clothes on the rack. “Take your jeans off, child.”
Gabrielle kicked off her shoes and undid her jeans, bending at the waist as she slid them down her legs.
Harry swallowed hard, positive that the position she chose had absolutely everything to do with the fact that it gave him a perfect view of her delectable derriere.
Madame Valerio chose a dress and said a few sharp words to the assistants, who took the rest away.
“Step,” the elderly woman ordered brusquely, holding the dress in front of Gabrielle, who stepped into it obediently.
Madame Valerio raised the dress up Gabrielle’s body and expertly fastened the shoulders and the back.
Gabrielle turned and looked at Harry, spreading her arms so that he could have a perfect view of her.
“Wow,” he said as he whistled under his breath. The dress was a shade or two darker than her blond hair and appeared to be made of a chiffon-like material. There was a band of material about nine inches high around her waist that gave the dress its shape, before it flared down from her hips, to just above her knees.
“You like?” Gabrielle asked.
“Absolutely,” he agreed.
“A man with taste,” Madame Valerio said approvingly. “I have shoes as well.” She shouted in Italian again, and one of the girls came back with some brown sandals.
Gabrielle crouched down and quickly put the shoes on, before standing. The heels added an extra couple of inches to her height and with the dress, they emphasised her legs.
“Madame Valerio is amazing,” Gabrielle said to Harry. “We are never in here long; she always chooses the right dress the first time for all her clientele.”
“It is a gift,” Madame Valerio said modestly.
“Are you going to be warm enough in that?” Harry asked.
“It is warm enough outside,” Gabrielle said reassuringly.
“And she will not want to hide beneath a coat,” Madame Valerio sniffed as she walked over to a small table with an old fashioned cash register on it.
Harry, recognising his cue, walked over, and handed her his card. She swiped it and handed him a key-pad, which he typed in his four-digit pin number. The authorisation went through immediately.
“Thank you,” Madame Valerio said.
“No,” Harry said, with a slight bow. “Thank you. Can you send Gabrielle’s clothes to her parents’ house for us?”
“Of course,” she said. “Lucio!” she yelled.
Gabrielle gave the Italian lady a quick hug and a kiss on both cheeks before leading Harry out of the door.
“Gabrielle?” Madame Valerio called. “Will you tell Fleur that my offer is still open?”
“I will,” Gabrielle replied as they walked out into the street.
“What offer?” Harry asked curiously.
“Madame Valerio would like Fleur to model for her.”
“Why not you? You are prettier than Fleur.”
“But I am too short,” Gabrielle said with a smile. “Models have to be a certain height.”
“Besides,” Gabrielle continued. “I do not want others to look at me, only you.”
Harry nodded and took her hand in his. “Let’s go and eat,” he said.
There was an almost visible excitement in the air as the students and professors gathered in the main hall at Beauxbatons.
Harry, along with Fred, George, Oliver, Katie, Angelina, and Alicia were talking in one corner of the room.
“May I have your attention please,” Madame Maxime said from the front, as she stood.
Everyone quickly went quiet and turned to face her.
“It is time,” she said simply. “Gabrielle?”
Gabrielle walked to the front of the school and turned to face the students. “Before we start,” she said formally, “I want to talk to you a bit about the expected behaviour during the Tournament. There has been a rash of pranks in Beauxbatons recently.” She could see some of the students’ faces drop. “I fully expect Beauxbatons’ students to show exemplary behaviour.” She paused deliberately before letting a small smile show on her face. “I also fully expect us to prove that we are not pushovers, and if we are pranked by the other schools, the pranks we do back will be suitable.”
There was a stunned silence from the students, as if they didn’t quite understand what she had said. “There will be some chances to attend a few lessons with the other schools. I would strongly recommend not participating in Potions or flying lessons from Hogwarts, or Defence lessons from Durmstrang. You will find that the professors and the syllabus are very different from what we teach.
“Professor Dumbledore, Professor Andropov and Madame Maxime have agreed that, for the duration of the tournament, all the professors will have equal disciplinary rights over the students, although each student will be punished or rewarded consistent with his or her school rules. So if you are going to play pranks, do not get caught!
“There will also be great deal of press interest in this event. We have agreed with the French National papers that you will only be interviewed with a professor present, and we have received reciprocal promises from Hogwarts and Durmstrang. This is for your own protection and any student found flouting this rule will be returned to France instantly.” She paused again to let the threat sink in. She was well aware of how Rita Skeeter had treated Harry and she wanted to make sure that none of the students had to go through a similar experience.
“We will arrive at nine in the evening, local time. The official opening ceremony will be tomorrow and will be held on the Quidditch pitch. Tonight, we will share a meal with Durmstrang and Hogwarts.
“Remember, when we are at Hogwarts, we are representing France as well as our beloved school. We will not let either down. We will act in the best possible way and we will show the world what we can do.”
She paused and took another deep breath. “Now,” she said with a bright smile at the students. “Are you ready to show the world what we can do?”
The ‘yes’ she got back was shouted at the top of their voices.
“Professor Potter,” she called.
Harry smiled slightly and walked up to the front of the school. “You remember what we have learnt?” he asked. He could see the eagerness in the faces of the pupils sitting before him.
“Where are the carriages?” Madame Prévoyez interrupted.
“We will not be taking them,” Gabrielle said. “Fifth…”
“Wait,” Madame Prévoyez interrupted again. “How are we getting there?”
“Magic,” Harry said and glared at her, causing her to go silent and back away out of sight.
Gabrielle smiled briefly. “Fifth and sixth years, begin.”
Row after row of students pulled out their wands and started to chant. The spell was in Latin and had been changed so that rather than each spell making an individual bubble, they all worked together to make a bigger one.
Harry reached out with his magic, checking the bubble as it grew, reinforcing it in a few small places as it continued to grow.
When it reached full height, he nodded at Gabrielle.
“Seventh years, lift,” she called.
The seventh years all made identical wand movements as they cast a similar spell to Wingardium Leviosa to make the huge castle fly.
“It’s not working,” Gabrielle frowned, an expression of concern crossing her face. “Again!” she called. “And don’t hold back.”
Harry paid close attention to the spells and the amount of magic involved. It should have been enough to lift even more than the amount they were planning. But something seemed to be blocking it.
He spread his arms wide and allowed his magic to soar into the sky. As he looked down, he could see the bubble, and he could also see something on top of it, holding it down.
He growled and traced the magic down to its source. As soon as he discovered the culprit, he returned to his body.
“Stupefy,” he snarled, casting a spell at Prévoyez.
Two things happened. The Professor flew back through the air and smashed against a wall, where she was held in place. And Beauxbatons started to rise into the air.
“Harry?” Olympe asked.
“She was holding us down,” Harry half-snarled. “She can stay there until we’ve landed safely.”
Olympe stormed over to the professor, a thunderous expression on her face. “You have had your final warning,” she said quietly. “Your employment at Beauxbatons is hereby terminated.”
“Oh,” Harry said. “If she’s no longer needed.” He waved his hand, and Prévoyez vanished.
“Harry,” Olympe said, as she looked at him. “I am not sure if I like your smile. What did you do to her?”
“Returned her to the Beauxbatons grounds,” Harry replied innocently.
“Well, perhaps it might be more accurate to say, to the hole that we left behind,” he smirked. “It might take her a few hours of climbing through the mud to get out.”
There was a loud cheer from the younger students, the older ones being too busy keeping their spells intact to join in.
He smiled and turned back to Gabrielle.
Gabrielle looked at the ex-Gryffindor Quidditch Team. “If you’re ready?” she asked them.
They nodded, and they all cast the spell with Gabrielle, and Beauxbatons started on its journey to Hogwarts.
Hermione clapped politely as the submerged ships vanished back beneath the water after the Durmstrang students had disembarked.
She was officially at the welcoming ceremony as Ron’s partner. With senior French and German politicians attending, Ron had been ordered to as well – an order he was more than happy to comply with.
Unofficially, she was in place to provide facts to the visiting journalists about Beauxbatons’ arrival. She had been a little miffed that she hadn’t been asked to help with such a huge scale magic project, but accepted that Gabrielle was more than capable of finding and modifying her own spells.
“Beauxbatons’ arrival should be any second now,” Dumbledore’s enhanced voice said over the chatter. The professors at Hogwarts had cast a large warming charm over the entire area so that the students from Durmstrang, Hogwarts, and the visitors could stand outside protected from the fast approaching Scottish winter.
“Over there!” Neville Longbottom’s voice, also enhanced, shouted, as he pointed to the east. In the distance, Hermione could just make out the shape of Beauxbatons as it moved toward them at a stately rate.
“That’s not a carriage,” Susan Longbottom, nee Bones, shouted. Hermione wasn’t exactly sure why half of her old friends were in the area. They all just seemed to coincidentally show up to help, and they all seemed to know what was going on.
“Sweet Merlin,” Ernie Macmillan yelled. “They’ve brought Beauxbatons with them!”
There was a huge upswing of noise as everyone turned. The press started to scribble rapidly, as the photographers started to take picture after picture.
“Did you know,” Hermione said casually, “that Beauxbatons weighs over one hundred and fifteen thousand tonnes, and that the amount of magic to move something so large represents one of the largest spells ever attempted in history?”
The press paused, looked at her, and then continued to scribble on their parchment. Behind them, presenters from the radio stations were describing the approaching in tones of awe.
“The idea came from Gabrielle Delacour, the Head Girl at Beauxbatons,” Hermione continued along her prepared speech. Her reputation as a know-it-all meant that no one even bothered to question where she was getting her facts from. “And all the students are helping to cast the spell.”
The castle was now fully in view, hovering just outside the boundary caused by the invisible Wards.
“They can’t get through the Wards!” one of the journalists yelled.
“Just wait,” Hermione advised. “I doubt they would have come this far if they hadn’t a plan for that.” Below, she could see Ron, Percy and Charlie start to clear people away from some of the land right next to the lake.
Above them, a bright purple light appeared from the bottom of Beauxbatons and the sound of thunder made further conversation impossible.
“Okay,” Harry yelled. “Guys, stop moving the castle – I’ll take it from here. Help the students maintain the bubble!”
The tired ex-Gryffindors and Gabrielle nodded and changed their spells, causing looks of relief to appear on the students’ faces as their burden was lessened.
“First through third years, start your fireworks!” Gabrielle yelled.
The younger students, eager to finally help, started to cast the spells on the products that Fred and George had taught them.
Harry closed his eyes and reached deep inside for his magic. What he was about to do could not be done by a mere spell – it needed direct manipulation of his power. A wave of purple flame surrounded him as he concentrated harder, dragging his magic to the surface.
With an inarticulate yell, he poured his magic through the floor and against the wards of Hogwarts.
There was a pause as the Wards stood up to his magic. He growled and focused his magic at one spot, pouring more into it. The Wards parted, allowing his magic through.
He grunted and spread his arms, forcing the hole in the Wards to grow until it was big enough to allow the castle through.
“Now,” he whispered through gritted teeth to Gabrielle.
“Lower the castle,” Gabrielle yelled. “Fourth years, create the effects!”
Colin Creevey raised his camera and took a few pictures of the disbelieving scowl on Dumbledore’s face, before he turned his camera back to the slowly descending castle above him.
The purple light that had created the hole in the Wards was still visible, but only just. From each of the four corners of the castle, a huge burst of flame shot out, like the bottom of a Muggle rocket, appearing to slow the descent of the humongous flying building.
“The fireworks were created by Fred and George Weasley especially for Beauxbatons,” he heard Hermione continue, as he took pictures of the fantastic display that was happening above the castle.
The circles of flames and explosions accompanied the ever-descending Beauxbatons, as bigger and bigger fireworks spells were created.
Colin could see that Ron, Percy, and Charlie had finished the clearing the area, and he took a few more pictures of Dumbledore. The Prophet would never print them, but the look of chagrin would be spread among Harry’s crew members and treated with delight.
The giant castle that looked like it belonged in a fairy tale floated downward, as slowly and gently as if it were being cradled by a gigantic pair of invisible hands. Below it, the purple light that had created the hole in the wards blasted into the lake causing the water to part, leaving a hole for the castle to settle into. As it touched down, all the fireworks and all the lights cut out completely.
The silence was soon broken by strategically planted members of Harry’s crew starting to clap and cheer. The students soon joined in, as did the fans and politicians. Soon, nearly everyone was on their feet, registering their approval of the spectacular entrance.
“Didn’t think that the French had it in them,” the photographer next to him said in awe. “But I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.”
“You think it was Potter that created the hole in the Wards?” another asked.
“Who else could create a hole like that without destroying them?”
Harry collapsed to his knees, exhausted, as he gulped for breath. All around him, the students were either on their knees or laying flat on their backs.
“Never have I been so proud of Beauxbatons,” Olympe’s voice rang out. “Every single one of you is a credit to the school.”
Harry climbed to his feet and looked around. He winced; none of the students looked capable of standing, never mind walking outside to meet Hogwarts and Durmstrang.
“Gabby,” he called, walking slowly over to her.
“Harry?” she asked.
He reached down and used the last of the magic he had available to cast an Enervate spell on her.
She shimmered and climbed to her feet. He’d replaced her physical energy, but not her mental, and there was only one thing he could think of to help that.
“Go out with Olympe and greet Hogwarts,” he ordered. “Buy us some time, and don’t let on just how tired you are. Do not let me down, Gabrielle.”
Her eyes went wide as she took in the command, and she nodded as she straightened her back. “Come, Madame Maxime,” Gabrielle ordered, as she walked out of the Hall proudly, the professors who hadn’t participated walking with her.
Simone and Claude moaned in unison as they each attempted, unsuccessfully, to sit up.
“Dobby,” Harry called.
The house-elf appeared in a flash.
“Go find Hermione and bring her back here. We need Pepper-Up potion, a lot of it, and we need it fast.”
“Dobby will be getting Ms Grangy,” Dobby said and vanished with a pop. Less than thirty seconds passed before Dobby arrived back with a very surprised-looking Hermione.
“Harry?” she asked, running over to him.
“We’ve got a large case of magical exhaustion,” he explained. “We need Pepper-Up Potion to get us all on our feet, we need to back Gabby and the others up and show that that was nothing out of the ordinary, as far as Beauxbatons is concerned; we can all sleep tonight and get our magic back.”
“Okay, Harry,” Hermione said without argument. “Dobby, I need the following ingredients as quickly as you can get them and a large cauldron.”
The elf didn’t say anything as he popped out, and more elves started to appear, setting up the cauldron, a fire, and a table.
“We should have thought of this beforehand,” Harry said with a groan. “I’ve not been this knackered since I fought Voldemort.”
“If it helps,” Hermione said, “everyone was incredibly impressed. The wireless journalists were calling it the best display of magic for over five centuries.”
Harry smiled slightly as he looked out at the row of exhausted students who were starting to pick themselves off the floor. He could see his friends in the corner – they were back on their feet and heading toward him. He wasn’t surprised; as professional Quidditch players, they were used to testing their limits.
“Damn,” Oliver said. “You know, I didn’t believe we’d do it, but these kids are amazing.”
“Damn right,” Fred agreed. “And when they’re back on their feet, we’re going to have to throw them a major party.”
“Good idea,” Harry agreed, his voice loud enough to echo through the hall. “They deserve it, every last one of them.”
He watched as Hermione started to make the potion, her movements were fluid, as she worked faster than he had ever seen to make it.
It was less than two minutes later that she looked at him. “Finished.”
“New version,” she said with a proud smile, before it faded. “Although, since I just invented it, it might not work.”
He walked over to her and took a glass, and without looking away from her eyes, he dipped it in the cauldron, and then drunk.
The look in her eyes was almost enough to match the potion he was drinking. The gratitude at the display of trust made him smile. He could feel smoke coming out of his ears and immediately felt the exhaustion fade.
“Well done, Hermione,” he said softly.
“Thank you,” she replied.
“Fred, George, Ollie, Katie, Angelina, Alicia, get over here and get some of this, then help give it out.”
A few minutes later the students were back on their feet.
“Claude, Simone” Harry called, “lead them out.”
“Us?” Claude asked. “You should do it.”
“No,” Harry replied. “If I go out, it will be Harry Potter in the headlines, not the Beauxbatons students.”
“But you did the hard thing,” Claude protested.
“No, I didn’t. You all worked together to move Beauxbatons, and that was much more impressive. Now go out there and back Gabrielle up. And don’t forget that just because you feel fine, doesn’t mean that your magic is!”
“Okay,” Claude nodded. “Students, behind us. Remember to keep your heads raised high and let’s show the world what we are made of!”
They walked out the door, falling neatly into file as they did.
Gabrielle walked slowly toward the gathered dignitaries outside the main entrance to Hogwarts. Slightly behind her were the professors. As Head Girl, it was her job to represent the students, and Olympe had told her to go first.
Moving the castle had been harder than anyone had expected – none of their calculations had factored in a heavy storm over the English Channel, which had forced them to fight their way through it.
She was mentally exhausted, but her Veela power was keeping her going. Harry had been extremely clever to force her magic to work for her, not against her.
“I am sorry for ze delay,” she said in heavily accented English, as she approached Dumbledore, Snape, McGonagall, and Andropov – the Durmstrang headmaster. “But ze studentz are changing into zer dress robez.” She made a mental note to wash her mouth out with soap later for butchering the language this badly but she didn’t want anyone here to know about her competency yet; she was saving that for the official welcoming feast tomorrow.
“That’s quite alright,” McGonagall said with a smile. Dumbledore had a scowl on his face as he looked at the beautiful castle now settled on what was once a part of his lake. The beauty and elegance of Beauxbatons was a stark contrast to the strong and imposing Hogwarts.
They stood in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, until the doors to Beauxbatons swung open, and the other students joined them, led by Claude.
“My dear Olympe, and students of Beauxbatons,” Dumbledore said loudly, his scowl abruptly vanishing as if it had never been. “Welcome to Hogwarts! I see that you decided to bring your castle with you.”
“My students felt that my carriages were out of date,” Olympe replied formally. “We thank you for your welcome.”
“Our house-elves have prepared food for the evening,” Dumbledore continued. “We hope that the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students will join us. The formal welcome ceremony will be at lunch time tomorrow.”
“Of course,” Olympe said. “We would be delighted to join you for supper.”
“A truly impressive arrival, Olympe,” Picup Andropov, the Durmstrang Headmaster, said as he walked to the front and offered her his arm. “By far the best I’ve seen in many years.”
“Gabrielle!” the press yelled, in a multitude of different languages. “Can you tell us about the spell?”
She gave them a brief smile and shrugged helplessly as she walked over to Claude and Simone.
“They’re yours now,” Claude said with a slightly forced grin as he stepped back into the students gathered behind him.
“I am so proud of all of you,” Gabrielle said in French. “We’re going to join the others, eat, and then get to bed. The food will be strange, as you know, but remember to keep polite looks on your face. If you can’t eat it, our elves will provide proper food later.”
She turned and walked into Hogwarts, the students following her. Behind them, the Durmstrang students walked, followed by the Hogwarts students who ambled in, talking loudly about the entrance Beauxbatons had produced.
By the end of the evening, it was pride alone that kept her from falling asleep. She simply refused to show weakness in front of any of the foreigners. The meal was interminable, and the food was bad as Fleur had warned her.
But she hadn’t let Harry down. He had sat with the other members of the Beauxbatons staff – she was amused by the idea that Harry’s first meal with them was at Hogwarts – while she had sat with the senior Beauxbatons students.
Claude had told her about the Pepper-up potion, and he slipped some into her drink for her, but the effects hadn’t lasted that long – being a Veela meant that she had a different body chemistry than humans.
But with all their students back in the school, she was finally able to go to her room and collapse.
“Hi,” Harry said as she entered her room. He was sitting comfortably in front of the fire.
“Harry,” she smiled, walking over to sit opposite him.
“I’m sorry,” he said seriously.
“What for?” she asked, a little confused.
“For using the Mating against you like that.”
“Oh Harry,” she said with a soft laugh. “That was the only thing you could have done for me. Pepper-Up potions do not work on Veela.”
“Even so…” he trailed off.
She moved off the chair and slid over to him, kneeling by his feet. “Do you know how I felt?”
He shook his head.
“Energised,” she whispered softly. “You forced my magic to work with me, and it would not fail. Without it, I would have fallen asleep in that mess they called bouillabaisse. You found a way for us to make it look like we were not all dead on our feet. And you know what else? I felt a sense of pride and purpose. I was doing something my Mate had told me to do to the best of my ability.”
Harry sighed softly. “I know that here,” he said, pointing to his head. “But here,” he pointed to his heart. “It feels wrong.”
“To order me around and for me to be happy with you doing so?”
“And yet I am, Harry. I am not human; I do not have human reactions.” She paused and thought for a few seconds. “But, if you are racked with unnecessary guilt over what you did, then you can make it up to me.”
“How?” he asked.
“Look after me now. I am so tired, Harry. And please, sleep with me tonight. I have never slept better than I did that night in your arms.”
He looked at her for a few seconds. She felt him search along the bond, checking to see if she was telling the truth. Slowly, he smiled at her, reached down and lifted her from her knees and with a smooth motion, turned her so that he was carrying her in his arms. She sighed gratefully and snuggled into him.
He carried her into her bedroom and gently placed her on the bed. She made no resistance as he undid her robes, enjoying the feeling of her Mate caring for her in such an intimate manner.
She half-smiled as he used magic to change her bra for a t-shirt – he did have some peculiar notions about not seeing her naked – but she was too tired to protest. He slid her into bed, and a few seconds later, she felt him against her back. As she had before, she pulled his arm over her, and fell into a deep sleep. She was exactly where she belonged.
Huge thanks to my betas Cami, Susan, John, Rachael, Leslie and John for all their hard work, as always. Without them, you would not enjoy this stuff anywhere near as much.
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