8 - Hogwarts
A few people have mentioned that Durmstrang could be all over Northern Europe. I went for Germany simply because of the size of the country, and the belief that if England and France had schools
like Hogwarts and Beauxbatons, Germany would have as well.
Gabrielle kept her eyes closed and luxuriated in the feeling. She had no idea how long she had been awake and didn’t care. Many years of dreaming did not come at all close to the feeling of actually being held by her Mate in bed.
She could feel his heart beating through his chest, which was pressed firmly against her back. His arm was over her, holding her against him, and every reassuring breath he took was exhaled against her hair.
Her Mate was holding her.
Her Mate was telling her without words that he wanted her close, that he wanted her. It was a heady feeling of exhilaration and joy. All the fantasies she had enjoyed growing up had centred on acts of passion and desire – in none of her fantasies had she ever stopped to think what it would be like to just be with him. Like a child, she had skipped the build up to get to what she thought would have been the good stuff, as a child not realising the joy that true intimacy could bring; an intimacy that did not rely on acts of the flesh, but of a mental closeness and trust that provided the basis of a true relationship.
That wasn’t to say that she didn’t want the passion; she did, badly. She was just appreciating the new feelings generated by her Mate’s desire to take things slowly.
She had expected that once they had got together in some form that the rest would happen quickly. After all, she was Veela, a race legendary for many reasons, the chief being their openness and ability in the bedroom. And yet he seemed to ignore that reputation and was insisting on spending the time getting to know her as a person.
A person who was a contradiction in terms, who, according to the laws of magic, shouldn’t, couldn’t exist as she did.
As far as she could tell, she was a paradox. Her Mate desired an independent woman – so she had made sure she was. Consistent with the Mating, she was an independent, completely submissive woman.
The first few months after she had made the rash decision to Mate with Harry were a blur to her. She hardly remembered anything apart from the most extreme form of yearning she had ever known. Every part of her, magical and physical, wanted to go to her Mate and be accepted.
She didn’t remember anything anyone ever said to her or if she replied or not. All of her mind was consumed with the idea of her Mate and the fact that she was apart from him.
But then Mama had told her that Harry wouldn’t want a slave; that he would want an independent girl, and that had finally caught her attention.
That scared her; what if she wasn’t what her Mate wanted? That wasn’t supposed to be a problem. Her Veela magic was supposed to ensure that she was exactly what he wanted, that she would always do what he said. So she had spent a period of time – she didn’t know how long – thinking about it, and deciding to use the Bond to see if Mama had been correct.
It had exhausted her – the Bond wasn’t meant to be used over such a distance like that – but she had fought and used everything she had to do it anyway; it was for her Mate, so it didn’t matter what it cost her.
What she discovered had almost made it worse. Her Mate was unhappy. Something wasn’t going right for him in his fifth year; he was angry and frustrated. But she had to ignore that for now; she had to find out what he wanted in a woman. With the help of the Bond she managed to get far enough into his mind to find out what he wanted.
Mama was correct. He needed someone who could stand with him, stand up to him, and not be bowed by the terrible pressures that seemed to be his lot in life. The idea of a personal slave, the fantasy of many men, was simply abhorrent to him. What he wanted more than anything else was a partner – someone to share things with, and someone to love him as he would love them in return.
Due to his upbringing, he wasn’t even sure what love was, but he yearned for it anyway with a fierce longing.
So she knew what he wanted, and what she needed to be; which forced her to become this contradiction: an independent woman, completely submissive. If her Mate wanted independence, he would have that.
Her magic had helped. It told her that she belonged to her Mate, and as she had no wish to destroy that – all she wanted after all was to be the best Mate possible – it had allowed her the freedom to overcome the passive nature of the spell and regain the freedom to become the girl she was going to be originally – only with an added layer of submission to her Mate’s will.
The twist of magic worked. Putting aside her worry about Harry – his life and the danger he was in – and ignoring the worry about being accepted, she grew up as normally as was possible, considering the circumstances. She worked as hard as she could so that she would be what he wanted.
She hadn’t told anyone, although Nana had known. More than anyone, Nana had understood. Nana always understood. They had talked for hours over many nights as she tried to do what she had to do, and Nana had encouraged her. It was Nana who she had first told her ideas to persuade everyone to not to talk about the Mating and allow her to try and win his heart honestly.
Nana had told her that she needed to do things her own way and not listen to other people; that she should stand on her own two feet and make a decision, even if it was a wrong one. She needed to be her own person. How else would she be independent, if she couldn’t even do that?
That had been all the encouragement she had needed to go ahead and try and do things this way. She was determined that she would get what she wanted or that she would fail on her own terms, not on anyone else’s.
She had failed, of course, to win his heart without telling him about the Mating. Everything was in the open now. He knew everything and yet he still chose to be near her. He still chose to allow her the chance to show him how much she needed him and how much he could need her, if he let himself.
She smiled. Now that she had glimpsed the life she could have with him, she wanted him even more. He made the most amazing things seem normal. He took her to Paris, to Barcelona, to Milan, as if it was nothing, and for him it wasn’t. Even though she had travelled widely with her parents, the idea of going abroad for just a meal was almost foreign to her. It was foreign to most people. Harry didn’t look at it like that, though. If it was possible and a good idea, why not do it?
It came down to his power. He knew he was powerful, but he didn’t realise just how everyone else paled beside him. The idea of making a hole in the wards at Hogwarts was beyond the imagination of most people, and yet he had stood there, encased in the most beautiful purple fire that had made her want to join him inside it, and created such a hole.
Of course, that very power had put her in a quandary and made her realise that she was going to have to do two senior projects now. What she had learnt about Harry was too far too dangerous for her to ever consider letting someone else read it. She was going to complete it for him and for him alone.
Technically Harry was a Sport, a genetic variation that couldn’t be explained by natural selection. It wasn’t a word she liked, but the definition fit him.
All magical creatures had one thing in common; their magic came from within them. It came from a well of power that was part of the process of life itself. A wand or a broom or the equivalent allowed them to focus this power and change the world slightly, to better suit their purpose.
While it wasn’t a secret, it didn’t seem well known that spells and wand movements were largely irrelevant. If they were important, everyone would cast spells in one language, and yet they didn’t. The English seemed to prefer using Latin for spells, like Diffindo, where as she had been taught that the same spell was Fendez. They meant the same thing – cleave – and did the same thing, but the word was different.
So the word was acting as a focus for the desire. It was pulling the power from that well and forcing it through the wand with a very clear desire to achieve something specific.
Once you understood that basic principle, you should be able to move a step beyond that and control the magic directly. But it wasn’t that simple. Most people simply didn’t have enough power to do it without a deep level of concentration. Their magic came from inside them.
Harry was different. His magic didn’t come from inside him, it came from outside him. For some reason, he had been given the ability to take magic from his surroundings. And it was that, more than anything else, which made him almost impossible to beat. Because if you didn’t win quickly, you would have lost your chance, as Harry could draw on the infinite power of life. It had been that ability that had been the cause of his victory over Voldemort.
Voldemort had used spells to increase the size of his own pool of magic. The Dark Mark had leeched power from all his servants. The servants had not noticed that they had diminished slightly. It had been another reason for his frequent use of the Cruciatus curse; it had disguised the true reason why they had sometimes felt weak and tired.
So when they had finally met, Voldemort had been able to use his magic to fight Harry and cause Harry unbelievable pain, but Harry always had the deeper reserves, if he had the courage to last long enough for them to show.
She shifted slightly and hugged his arm. During the war, she had hated the knowledge that her Mate was fighting for everything, but knew he had to do it. He wouldn’t be the person he was if he had hidden at the back of the crowd. She had told him that his heroism was a part of him that was deep inside, and it was. She suspected that others over history had enjoyed similar power, but not with anything near the same sense of right and wrong that Harry possessed. It was what was going to make him a legend, and why she could never tell his secret.
Her schoolwork meant more to her now than it had before. It had been a means to an end before – it had helped her be what she thought Harry wanted and allowed her to play the necessary games society demanded so that she could leave school a year early. Now, however, she also wanted Harry to be proud of her. It was a new idea to her, that her mate would want her to be in the limelight for what she could do, and she loved him even more for it. She had been willing to leave school if he had wanted her to, but had hoped that he would allow her to continue. She had never dreamed that he would push her to be the very best she could be, even though she should have guessed that he would.
It was what made her so proud to be his Mate. Of all the people in the world, she had managed to pick the one person who would force her to be this unique creature, who would force her to live to her full potential, and who would love her for doing so. Veela power and the Mating ensured that the Mated Veela was happy with life – deliriously so – no matter what her situation, and most were happy to be loved and to stay at home and be a pale satellite, revolving perpetually around their Mate’s shadow. That wasn’t what Harry wanted at all, he wanted the complete opposite.
She felt his breathing change as he started to wake and shifted in his arms so that she was facing him. He rolled onto his back and stretched. She took a few seconds to thank whichever Deity was looking out for her as she looked at him. His chest, suntanned to a medium-brown was hairless and muscled in a way that spoke of speed, stamina and strength. His stomach had a visible row of muscles under the smooth skin and a trail of black hair that disappeared into the shorts he was wearing. His arms were beautiful in a way that made her wish she had more artistic talent so that she could capture it forever.
He shifted up the bed and opened his eyes. “Hey,” he rasped.
She smiled brightly at him. “Sleep well?”
He yawned again and nodded, reaching for his glasses.
“Wait,” she said softly. “Can I…?”
He looked at her and nodded in a simple display of trust that almost left her breathless. She shifted, throwing a leg over her his body as she straddled his stomach. She paused as an almost painful wave of desire swept through her, threatening to wrest control from her. The last time she had done this, she had been straddling his back, massaging him and the desire had been controllable. This was different; she was looking down at him, and her mind was showing her a series of images: of her naked, writhing over him, her head thrown back, and his hands cupping her breasts. She bit her lip and focused on what she wanted to do for her Mate, rather than what she really wanted her Mate to do for her.
She slid her hands over his chest, allowing her Veela power to come to play. Without being asked, she could feel him turn off his Nullifying field and she continued up, over his shoulder and neck, to his face.
She leant forward so that her hands were over his eyes and closed her own. She let her power reach down and examine him. She told herself that her Mate was injured and that she needed to find a cure for it – she needed to fix him. Images started to shoot through her as her magic told her what was wrong with his eyes and how to fix it.
She pulled back and shuddered lightly. “I need to talk to Hermione,” she said softly.
“Because I can do the same thing with your eyes that I did with your shoulder,” she whispered. “I can use your magic to fix your eyes permanently.”
“But?” he asked, as if expecting a catch.
“But I am too scared to do it without her advice,” she admitted. “This isn’t a shoulder that others can fix if I get it wrong; this is your eyesight. It’s much more important.”
He nodded slowly and shot a crooked smile at her. “I’ve never even thought about doing that.”
“Who would?” she asked. “But you are my Mate, and if something is wrong with you, I want to be able to fix it. Veela powers by themselves are not strong enough, but with your magic, it can be done.”
His gaze changed slightly, and she felt her blood start to pulse faster. He was looking at her differently, as if he was evaluating her. She wanted to put on her Veela power to ensure she looked her best but didn’t. His hand moved slowly and started to play with the tips of her hair. The atmosphere had changed dramatically, and she held her breath, not wanting to break it.
His hand slid up and she leant into it. He gently cupped the back of her neck and drew her down, a movement she more than happy to comply with, and gently kissed her. It was a different kiss than the ones they had shared before. It was more open, less passionate, and more promising. As if they had moved to another level of intimacy, one he wasn’t quite comfortable acknowledging yet, but that he was aware of all the same.
“You are truly beautiful,” he whispered as he broke the kiss.
She smiled at him and leant down to kiss him again. She could feel his hand under her t-shirt, against the skin of her stomach, and prayed that it would continue to move so that she would be touched by the only man she wanted to touch her.
His hand continued to move, slowly tracing a gentle path up the side of her body, drifting over her ribs. She moaned her pleasure deep in her throat and kissed him harder, whimpering encouragingly.
It was the worst torture she had ever experienced and the most amazing sensation as he continued his slow exploration. His fingers pulled away, and his hand slid up so that there was maybe a millimetre between the skin of his palm and the curve of her breast; a distance that felt like a mile. She wanted to lean forward into his touch, but every thing inside her was telling her that he wanted to make that final movement.
“Please” she begged against his lips.
There was a knock on her door.
“No,” she groaned in disbelief and absolute despair. She felt like crying as his hand returned to her hip, and he suddenly seemed to realise that he was in her bed, in the transported castle, outside of Hogwarts.
Well, if he wanted independence from his woman, this was her chance to show it.
“Wait here,” she said, trying hard to ignore her magic protesting at her giving an order to her Mate. “We’ll continue this in a moment.”
She climbed out of bed, smoothed the t-shirt down, and stormed out of her bedroom to her door. She swung it open violently. “What!?”
In front of her was Simone, the senior seventh year Prefect who, by right, should have been Head Girl, along with Claude, Anton, Henri and the rest of the Quidditch team.
“Gabrielle,” Simone said, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. “We need to talk to you; can you please shut off your Veela power?”
She sighed; she hadn’t even realised she had turned it on, although the blank expressions on the faces of her six male team mates in front of her gave mute testament to the veracity of Simone’s statement.
“What is it?” she asked again.
“We need to talk,” Claude said, managing to avoid stuttering by speaking slowly and looking away from her.
“Simone said that already,” Gabrielle replied, her mind more on the warm and sexy Harry back in bed that she’d been forced to abandon. “Can’t it wait?”
“No, it’s serious,” Claude said firmly. “We won’t all fit in your room, so can we go to the Defence classroom?” It was the nearest classroom to her room.
“Fine,” she groaned and stepped out of the room.
“Gabrielle!” Henri croaked. “Can you please put some more clothes on?”
“Why?” she asked, looking down at herself. The t-shirt covered everything necessary, and anything else would mean extra seconds when getting undressed again to be with Harry.
“Because you’re gorgeous,” Simone said with a hint of jealousy, “and we won’t get anything done if the boys are too busy gawking at you.”
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. Why everyone couldn’t just see that she had her Mate and really didn’t want their attention was beyond her. She turned, picked up a pair of jeans that she’d left on the back of a chair and stepped into them. “Better?”
“Not really,” Claude sighed. “But it will do.”
She nodded and walked barefoot to the Defence classroom, hopping up onto the Professor’s desk and crossing her legs. “So, what’s so important that you wake me up at this ungodly hour?”
“To start with,” Claude said, “it’s nine-thirty, which isn’t exactly early. Secondly, well, we need to talk to you.”
“You’ve said that,” she pointed out again. “What is it?”
“Are you having an affair with Professor Potter?” Simone demanded.
“What?” she blurted.
“We’re not stupid, Gabrielle,” Claude sighed, slumping into a chair. “But what are we supposed to think when Professor Potter calls you Gabby? And you call him Harry, and that’s not even mentioning the way he ordered you to not let him down.”
“And we all remember what you did to that sixth year who called you Gabby the first year you were at school,” Henri added.
“Yeah,” Simone continued. “Are you insane? He’s just using you!”
“I am not having an affair with Professor Potter,” she said slowly and truthfully. An affair was completely the wrong word to describe the Mating. And Harry was not using her, not anywhere near using her, although if they hadn’t interfered…
Henri snorted in disbelief, and the others nodded.
“You’re not telling the truth, Gabrielle,” Claude said firmly. “And you owe us the truth. Especially if he is abusing you. We’ve put up with a lot for you over the past five years. Hell, I even gave up being Head Boy and Simone gave up being Head Girl when you jumped a year. You owe us all, Gabrielle, and you owe me and Simone. Now, the truth, please, what is going on with you and Professor Potter?”
“And if you don’t tell us,” Simone finished. “Our next stop will be the press.”
Gabrielle hissed under her breath and struggled to keep her temper under control. “Do not threaten me,” she growled.
“Simone, shut up!” Claude said firmly, eyeing Gabrielle worriedly. “Gabrielle, calm down. No one is going to the press, I promise.”
She heard his words through the thick fog that seemed to surround her, and she slowly started to relax. Someone had threatened her Mate, and she wanted to fight to protect him. Every instinct was telling her to stop them – to make sure they would not be able to harm him.
She closed her eyes and shuddered. “Do you know what happens when a Veela gets upset?” she asked softly.
“Giant birds and fireballs,” Henri said.
She nodded and didn’t open her eyes, still trying to centre herself.
“What is that monster doing to you!?” Simone demanded.
Gabrielle growled deep in her throat and threw out her hand. Simone flew high against the wall and hung there.
“What the HELL!” Henri, Anton, and the others shouted, almost in unison.
“Quiet!” Claude yelled as Gabrielle glared at the rest of them. “Let me handle this. Gabrielle, let her down, please. Listen to me, Gabrielle, listen to me. Simone did not mean to insult Harry; she only cares about you; she didn’t mean what she said, honestly.”
Gabrielle looked at Simone. “She insulted him,” she growled.
“Would it help if I said I’m sorry?” Simone asked fearfully from the wall.
Gabrielle waved her hand, and the girl dropped to the floor.
“You’re Mated, aren’t you?” Claude said softly.
She nodded proudly, her eyes still focused on Simone.
“Mated?” Simone croaked. “You’re kidding. That’s insane!”
“Harry is my Mate,” she confirmed again.
“How did you know?” Simone asked Claude as she carefully walked back over to them and took a seat.
Claude blushed furiously. “I’ve been doing my senior project on Veela,” he confessed. “Veela can’t do wandless magic, so Gabrielle should not have been able to do that – but it is rumoured that they can borrow magical power from their Mates. So, who have we seen do that exact spell recently?”
“Professor Potter,” Henri replied to the rhetorical question. “Last night to Professor Idiot.”
“Exactly,” Claude said. “Add to that Gabrielle’s half-truth earlier, and it was obvious.”
“My Mate has not been intimate with me yet,” she said through gritted teeth. “Something I would have been able to rectify if you had not interrupted us this morning! Do you have any idea how hard it has been to get him in a situation where he might actually touch me as every damn cell in my body is crying out to be touched?”
Claude, Henri, and the others gulped.
“Gabrielle,” Simone called.
She tuned to glare at the girl.
“Your powers,” Simone said apologetically, holding up her hand to shade her eyes.
Gabrielle groaned softly. “I do not have to be so careful with Harry,” she sighed. “I can be myself.”
There was a silence as the boys pulled themselves together again.
“Harry is not a monster,” Gabrielle said softly, and began to tell an edited version of what had happened over the past eight years.
Claude asked the first question. “So you weren’t lying?”
She looked at him curiously, and he blushed again.
“That it wasn’t me; it was you,” he prompted.
She smiled faintly. “Or more accurately, it was him.”
“What the hell are you two talking about?” Simone demanded.
“When Claude asked Gabrielle out, she said ‘no’ and that it was her, not him, that was the problem,” Anton said with a slight smile. “She said the same thing to me when I asked her out as well.”
Simone surveyed the rest of the Quidditch team. “All of you?”
The boys all shifted and nodded uncomfortably.
“So wait,” Henri said, his face suddenly acquiring a frown. “You’re saying that you’re Mated to him, and you haven’t done anything?”
“Correct,” Gabrielle sighed.
“Is he gay or what?” Henri asked.
Gabrielle growled under her breath again.
“Sorry,” Henri said, holding up his hand apologetically. “I didn’t mean to insult him.”
“No, I’m not gay,” Harry said from the back of the room, causing everyone to swivel and stare at him in shock. “Not that that’s any of your business.”
Harry raised his hands and looked amused. “What? I create a hole in wards that have been worked on for thousands of years and everyone is blasé. I just happen to not be noticed at the back of a room, and everyone is surprised?”
Gabrielle smiled slightly and sighed, reluctantly acknowledging that her chance of getting him back in bed was now long gone.
“I’m sorry,” Simone said first. “I didn’t know.”
Harry shrugged. “I’m used to people making snap judgements,” he said calmly. “It happens a lot. I’ve learnt not to worry about what people think unless they are close friends.”
Simone, Claude and the others all winced, almost in unison.
“I am curious though, about you two giving up Head Boy and Head Girl?” Harry walked over to the desk and lounged casually against it, close enough for Gabrielle to touch.
So she did. She shifted a few inches to the left and leaned against him, smiling happily as his arm slid around her and held her close. It took all of her willpower to stop herself from purring – loudly.
“Gabrielle’s been like a force of nature through this school,” Claude said, leaning back in his chair and sticking his feet up on a nearby desk. “The first year she was here we thought we were getting another Fleur. We were all in our first year when Fleur was in her final year, so we got to see her.
“Fleur was adored, but was a complete brat as well, so we expected more of the same. Gabrielle was different, quieter and more restrained, but a scarily brilliant student. We all fell in love with her, and she was always there for us. Apart from when we were asking her out ourselves, we’d often go to her for love advice. She’d always pass on advice, and it made a lot of us a lot closer. Rather than fighting and bitching, we all seemed to be more mature.
“Of course, it wasn’t until we were older that we realised it was her influence that was making us grow up. Looking at my research, it seems obvious now that Gabrielle was Mated. She had none of the mood swings that Fleur had and was always incredibly focused on some goal. To be honest, we all thought she had decided to become the Minister for Magic and was working to that.”
Gabrielle blinked and laughed. “That didn’t occur to me.”
“Do you fancy it?” Harry asked.
She shook her head. “Papa finds Politics fun and amusing, I do not.”
“Anyway,” Claude continued. “When Madame Maxime came to us last year and told us that she was moving Gabrielle up a year, we had a meeting and decided that she should be Head Girl, and that there would be no Head Boy. We all knew that Gabrielle will not be touched, and it seemed easier that way.
“Besides,” he grinned suddenly. “She can be really intimidating.”
“I can?” she asked, a little surprised.
“Oh yeah,” Simone agreed. “When someone is being silly and stupid, you have this look on your face that makes people feel like they are six again.”
“Oh,” she said and smiled. “I get that from Mama.”
“No shit,” Henri agreed. “I still feel like I’m six whenever your parents come to a school function.”
“Still,” Claude continued, getting the conversation back on track. “This explains why you were allowed to do things with Professor Potter than most students weren’t.”
“Is this going to cause problems?” Harry asked.
“Just out of interest,” Simone said, “and I am just being curious,” she said with a look at Gabrielle. “What would you do if we were going to go to the press?”
“I would stop you. I won’t let you hurt Gabby,” he said coldly.
Claude, Henri, Simone and the others all gulped.
“It’s a good thing we’re not going to be doing that,” Claude whispered. “You are scary.”
Harry nodded. “It’s not something I enjoy,” he explained. “But I value my privacy and my family much more than anything else.”
“It is going to come out, sooner or later,” Henri pointed out.
“I know,” Harry agreed. “But I’d rather it didn’t come out for a while. Gabrielle and I still have a lot to deal with in our relationship. When we have those things ironed out, then I will not object as much to the public knowing. But I do not want anyone thinking that I am doing this because of pity. I deserve the chance to fall in love with Gabby, and I am taking that chance.”
Gabrielle felt her heart swell with pride and love at her Mate’s words.
“Okay,” Claude said. “We need a story for the rest of the students. Last night was a very public announcement that you two know each other.”
“You do know that Fleur is getting engaged to the brother of my best friend?” Harry asked. “And that Jean and Aimée are very good friends of mine? I fought with Jean in the war.”
Claude clapped his hands once. “Perfect! Old family friends would explain it for now – enough so that the other students aren’t as suspicious. We will make sure that the other students know of this history – it makes an excellent cover story.”
Harry looked at his watch. “I think it’s time for you all to get changed; the ceremony starts in an hour.”
“Can we ask what’s going to happen?” Henri asked.
Gabrielle looked up at Harry, who nodded.
“We’re going to enter normally and sit at the tables,” she said clearly. “No dancing, no throwing of butterflies like last time.”
Claude and the others all nodded.
“We’ll let Durmstrang do their entrance.”
“And?” Simone demanded. “We can’t let them appear better than us.”
“After last night’s entrance, I really think that we don’t need to worry about that,” Harry said dryly. “And then the Hogwarts Head Boy and Girl will welcome us, Durmstrang will reply, as will Gabrielle, and the feast will start.”
“That seems a little understated,” Henri pointed out. “And you’ve shown a lot of flair so far, what’s going on?”
Harry smiled wolfishly. “Why on earth would you think that anything is going on?”
Claude laughed softly. “Okay, let’s leave them to it and enjoy the show,” he said. “Come on; let’s get ready to knock the other schools dead.”
The students trooped out.
“Simone doesn’t seem to like me,” Harry said quietly.
“If only that was the issue, it would not be a problem,” Gabrielle sighed. “She had a major crush on you that, as of this morning, just went down in flames.”
“Oh,” Harry said, blushing slightly. “I didn’t know.”
Gabrielle shrugged lightly. “I will talk to her later and make sure that she does not do something rash.”
“Let’s get you back to your room,” he said and Apparated them both.
“How can you do that here?” she asked.
“I feel more powerful here,” he said. “It’s a little strange, but I always have.”
She nodded slowly and mentally filed the information away for future contemplation.
He walked to her door and paused. “Gabby?”
She smiled at him.
“Knock them dead.”
She nodded. It had been phrased as advice, but she decided to take it as an order. The clock on her mantelpiece pointed out that she had just an hour to get ready. She pulled some food out of her tiny fridge and made herself a quick breakfast before having a shower.
It was much easier to use her Veela powers to get clean, but it didn’t feel the same as doing it properly. Like many short cuts, doing something properly was often more fulfilling, and drying her hair always gave her time to think.
She walked over to her wardrobe and took out her best school robes. They hadn’t changed since the school had been founded. She pulled on a knee length skirt and a white blouse underneath, and then pulled the light blue robes over her head. The only thing she didn’t do was put on the traditional beret. She had no need to hide behind the mystery it produced. The students were determined to show that they could hold their heads up this time around.
She pulled on a pair of trainers – they were not an official part of the uniform and were generally frowned upon, but she also knew that she was going to spend most of the day on her feet, and she would rather be comfortable.
She did up the buttons on the front of her robes and then looked at herself in the mirror. She smiled slightly; she looked as about as good as she could. And with Harry’s words locked deep in her heart and mind, she made her way down to the Hall to meet the other students.
Albus walked over to the side of his office and looked down at his Pensieve. It had been his friend for so long. With the practice of many years, he pulled the memory of last night’s arrival by the Beauxbatons students out and put it into the Pensieve. It was a memory he didn’t want to keep inside his brain.
Unfortunately, he could do nothing about the constant reminder that sat in the corner of his lake.
“Headmaster?” Snape called as he entered the office. “The guests are starting to assemble,” he sneered.
“I’ll be right there,” Albus said as he closed his Pensieve. Perhaps he would get a chance to talk to Harry. That would be nice.
“How are you feeling?” Fred asked.
“Nervous,” Harry sighed. “I would really rather not be here at all.”
“You’re not alone,” George said seriously.
Harry nodded. “But on the bright side, Gabrielle is going to blow them all away today.”
“You’re proud of her, aren’t you?”
He nodded again. “Yeah, I am. For the last few weeks, she’s been practising what she’s going to say, and she has all the pressure on her. She’ll be alone out there.”
“I don’t claim to be an expert,” Fred said cheerfully. “But I thought you two said you had a Bond, right?”
“Then use it, you idiot, and make sure she doesn’t feel alone.”
Harry felt himself slowly blush. “Thanks, guys.”
“No problem, love advice is what we’re good at.”
“Harry, if you need love advice from them, you’re in trouble,” Oliver said as he joined them. “You should come to me – I can give you advice.”
“Yeah,” Alicia agreed. “Dump Gabby and sleep with some floozy who’ll be so thrilled that she’s dating a famous Quidditch player she won’t even think of saying ‘no’, right Oliver?”
“It’s always worked for me,” he agreed.
“Oink,” Oliver retorted with a serene smile on his face.
“So,” Katie said, “are we all ready?”
Harry nodded. “You six are going to have to sit with the guests for now,” he said, producing six tickets for the opening meal. “They are the best seats for non-professors and students.” He looked at Fred and George. “I know you’re assistant professors, but we want to keep that under our hats for now.”
“You’re being obscure again,” Fred noted delightedly. “It’s a wonderful talent you have.”
“Thanks, I think. I’ll see you guys later.”
In front of them the students were lining up in their year groups. Gabrielle and Madame Maxime were at the front, but he was having trouble dragging his eyes away from Gabby. She looked amazing in the formal uniform; the light blue made her eyes shine in a way that put the sky to shame.
“She does look good, does she not?”
Harry smiled. “Hi, Aimée. Yeah, she does, very much so.”
“Jean and I will be sitting next to you,” she continued. “We didn’t think you’d want to be alone out there.”
“Thank you,” Harry replied, a little touched.
Aimée shrugged lightly. “Jean is in heaven playing his politics, so I decided I’d find intelligent conversation.”
“Then why are you here?” Harry teased.
“Harry,” Aimée laughed. “You should not put yourself down.”
“Yeah, I have Fred and George for that,” he agreed.
Aimée laughed again. “True, they are a most imaginative pair. I do not envy Molly Weasley bringing them up.”
“You had your own troubles,” he pointed out. “Fleur and Gabrielle.”
She shook her head. “Not really. I love them both, and it was interesting.”
“I think that’s what Molly would say.”
“Harry!” Jean said as he strolled up. He and Aimée were both in expensive looking dress robes. “Being a Professor suits you.”
“Morning,” Harry replied.
“And isn’t it a splendid one?” Jean said cheerfully.
“Absolutely; I’ve had messages from the Minister this morning saying how proud our Government is of Beauxbatons’ entrance yesterday. The newspapers back in France have full colour spreads of every step of the journey, and they are calling it an arrival that will be remembered with awe for the rest of time. I’ve had English and German politicians congratulate me. We have gained so much more political capital off this event than we could have ever hoped for.
“And of course, the fact that my daughter was instrumental in achieving this just tops it off,” he finished proudly.
“How did they know that, Harry?” Aimée asked.
“I gave Hermione a speech,” he said with a shrug. “And just happened to make sure that she was in earshot of the reporters.”
“Just happened?” Aimée asked, a sceptical grin on her face.
“Exactly,” Harry grinned. “And before you interrogate me anymore, it’s time to follow the others in.”
Harry, Jean and Aimée were at the back of the line as they trooped ceremoniously out of Beauxbatons and up to Hogwarts.
The Great Hall in Hogwarts had been heavily modified to accommodate all the extra students and guests. In the centre were the four Hogwarts tables, along with eight extra for the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students. On raised platforms on each side, like in a sporting arena, was row after row of tables for all the visiting politicians, dignitaries, and guests.
He could see Fred, George, Oliver, Katie, Angelina and Alicia in the best seats and nodded to them. To their right, in slightly worse seats, were Scrimgeour, Percy, Ron, and the other senior politicians. He smirked slightly; Percy had been in charge of the seating arrangements and through an oversight, had ‘accidentally’ managed to give Harry the best seats available.
Now that Harry knew that the old D.A. was still active and expanded, he was more than willing to use the resource to get what he wanted.
He had been slightly worried about any negative impact these actions might have on Percy’s career, but Percy hadn’t been concerned at all. He had told Harry, via the Floo, that he knew far too much about what actually was going on for Scrimgeour to fire him – and even if he did, then the royalties from the memoirs he would write would make Percy very rich.
Harry sat quietly next to Aimée, who was sat next to Jean, and Professor Bayard and waited. The Hogwarts students were already in place, and had clapped politely as the Beauxbatons students solemnly took their seats. The door to the Great Hall flew open allowing a strange rhythmic banging to be heard.
Two students, dressed in the blood red robes of Durmstrang marched into view, flanking the door. They were carrying wooden clubs that they were banging on the floor.
“Ladies and Gentleman,” they shouted in accented English. “The students of Durmstrang!”
The drumming quickened in pace and eight students flew into the Hall, each running at full speed, before they jumped, performing some amazing acrobatics in time to the thumps. As they landed, magical sparks escaped on impact, adding to the effect.
The acrobatic students crouched, locked in place, and the drumming became martial as the rest of the students marched in, their faces carefully blanked as they gained their seats.
When they had all sat down, the acrobats ran straight towards the Gryffindor table, diving over it, and the students sitting at it. They landed, flipped once, and dived over the Hufflepuff table to their own in perfect unison.
There was pause, before a roar of approval came from the visitors and the other students. Harry climbed to his feet and applauded. Their entrance hadn’t changed much from the Tri-Wizard tournament.
“I can’t help but notice,” Jean said nervously, “That their entrance was better than ours.”
“If they are still talking about their entrance by the time Gabby’s finished, I’ll eat my hat,” Harry muttered back.
“Friends, colleagues, distinguished guests,” Albus Dumbledore said as he approached a lectern set up in front of the Hogwarts Professors. “I welcome you to Hogwarts.” He paused as the Hogwarts students led a cheer. “This tournament represents the start of a new era of international cooperation.”
“Not under his mentorship, it doesn’t,” Jean muttered.
“So I would like to welcome the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.”
Gabrielle, accompanied by two students in Hogwarts robes and two in the red of Durmstrang, walked in front of Albus and faced the students and audience.
“As you are not here to hear me talk, I will pass the baton to the next generation.”
With a rumble of applause, Dumbledore sat down. The Hogwarts Head Boy and Girl and moved to the lectern. It was with a bit of surprise that Harry realised he didn’t recognise them. He hadn’t been out of Hogwarts all that long. The boy was wearing the trim of Slytherin; the girl the trim of Ravenclaw.
“Welcome to Hogwarts, friends,” the girl said crispy. “On behalf of Hogwarts, we welcome you to our school, and we hope that you enjoy your visit here.”
“And don’t hate us when we beat you at Quidditch,” the Slytherin added with a smile that caused a ripple of laughter from crowd.
The Durmstrang students moved to the lectern next. In more than passable English, they thanked Hogwarts for the invitation and assured them that any victory would be hard fought.
Harry closed his eyes as Gabrielle walked alone to the Lectern. He reached down to the Bond and sent the pride he was feeling through it. The affect on Gabrielle was almost imperceptible to anyone who didn’t know her well. Her back straightened slightly, and her cheeks acquired a little more colour.
He switched his view to Dumbledore, who was surveying the events like a king. There was an almost condescending expression of superiority on his face.
“My friends from Hogwarts, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the welcome you have given us so far,” Gabrielle said in flawless English. “I know that I speak for all my colleagues when I say that so far the welcome has been more than we could have expected. The grace and respect with which we have been treated is a credit to your school and your country.”
A ripple of applause floated down from the stands.
“Watch this,” Harry mumbled to Jean and Aimée.
Gabrielle paused and then repeated the same speech in perfect German, turning slightly so that she was facing the Durmstrang students. The students all had surprised looks on their faces as they listened to her.
In English once more, Gabrielle continued, “As a token of our respect, we present our friends with a gift.” Without pause, she switched to German and turned, approaching Professor Andropov.
“On behalf of Beauxbatons, I would like to present you with this telescope.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out her wand.
Harry felt a minor pull on his magic as the gift appeared in her hands. She hadn’t actually cast an audible spell.
With complete grace, Gabrielle curtsied and handed over the present. “It was made by Marcus Klein, Durmstrang’s first Head Boy, whilst he was at school; this treasure deserves to return to the school.”
She paused and repeated the details again in English.
“My dear friends from Hogwarts,” Gabrielle continued. “To you, I bring a gift that I hope that you and your visitors will appreciate for a long time to come.”
There was another pull on Harry’s magic, as a gold embossed sceptre appeared in her hand. She held it up and turned slowly so that everyone could see it.
“This sceptre has been specially charmed by the students and faculty of Beauxbatons. To activate it, simply place it in an empty room anywhere in Hogwarts castle. It will create a secure, one-way Apparation point that will allow anyone with the skill to be able to leave Hogwarts without having to walk to the gates.”
She paused and translated her words into German again, before handing the Sceptre over to Professor Dumbledore.
Harry doubted that anyone else noticed, but Gabrielle did not curtsy before the Hogwarts Headmaster, who was looking at her with a strained smile.
Gabrielle walked back to the lectern and faced the crowds before her. “To finish,” she said firmly. “We are looking forward to the chance to test our skill against the renowned teams of Hogwarts and Durmstrang and may the best team win!”
There was a brief second of absolute silence, before the Durmstrang students stood and started to applaud and cheer. They were followed by the Beauxbatons students, and the Hogwarts students, and soon after by all the guests. The noise level rose as Gabrielle curtsied elegantly to them all and rejoined the other Head pupils, who were now looking a little embarrassed.
Harry, who was clapping with everyone else, felt a little sorry for them. The Hogwarts professors should have anticipated that an event like this would mean gifts.
“Do I want to know how my daughter can now do silent magic?” Aimée asked softly.
“She can use mine,” Harry whispered. “But no one else knows that yet.”
She nodded and went back to clapping.
“Without further ado,” Dumbledore said from behind his chair, “let us eat.”
“Oh this is going to be fun,” Draco said with a leer. “I’ll say one thing for Potter, he’s got taste.”
“Just be a little careful,” Snape advised. “Her father might become the future French Minister of Magic.”
“Even better,” Draco replied. “They should recognise the benefits of having the Malfoy name attached to their family. I’ll see if I can get her alone tomorrow and pour on the Malfoy charm.”
“My dear Olympe,” Picup Andropov said as he approached Olympe and Albus. “May I congratulate you on your Head Girl’s performance,” he gushed. “Such an honour for my school to be treated with such respect, and her German was truly outstanding.
“I’m afraid that she has stolen many a heart today,” he continued. “Please tell me she does not play Quidditch as well?”
“I’m afraid, dear Picup, that she is our Seeker,” Olympe said cheerfully.
“Then my students will feel obligated to support Beauxbatons over Hogwarts,” he replied. “No offence, of course, Albus.”
“None taken,” Albus replied dryly.
“And where did she find this priceless antique?”
“I’m afraid that I do not know,” Olympe said, raising her hands apologetically. “I gave her a budget and allowed her to choose her own presents.”
“An exceptionally generous budget,” Andropov continued. “I didn’t even know they made Sceptres like that, but I do know how much this sort of antique costs. Of course, you should have told me beforehand that you were planning on giving gifts.”
“I’m afraid that I presumed that we would be doing it,” she said apologetically, mentally making a note to ask just how much the gifts had truly cost, because it was sounding like the 300 Galleon bill she had been presented with for both was not the actual cost.
“Not to worry,” Andropov said with a shrug. “I know that my students are even now searching for an appropriate thank you.”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and meet with the press.” He turned and strolled off, the telescope held tightly in one hand.
“You were saying, Albus?” Olympe prompted.
“You have certainly come a long way in a few years,” Albus said jovially. “However, that is not what I wanted to talk to you about,” he continued. “I have it on good authority that my groundskeeper was pleased about your return.”
“Albus, I will thank you,” Olympe said sharply, “to keep your nose out of my personal business.”
“When it affects my staff, it is not just your personal business.”
“Oh it is, Albus, and I will not tolerate you interfering.” She turned on her heel and marched off, counting to twenty under her breath in three different languages.
She hadn’t even thought about Hagrid in several years. Their romance had been short-lived. As much as she might have wanted it to proceed differently, they had not been right for each other. It was nice having another half-giant to talk to, but that had been the main problem – she couldn’t actually talk to him. Their interests had been too different, and while it might appear unfair, she simply couldn’t take him to many of the functions she was required to attend.
She was already married, in a way that Hagrid could never understand. Running a school like Beauxbatons was all consuming and took all of her emotions.
Even today, she had been as proud of Gabrielle as if she had been her own. She could see Harry’s influence on the girl and approved whole-heartedly. Gabrielle had come into her own this year, and more importantly, had made Beauxbatons totally outshine Hogwarts, and as petty as that was, it did her heart good to see it.
But she knew she was going to have to deal with Hagrid sooner or later. She had felt genuine affection for him, but nothing more than that, certainly nothing worth losing everything she had worked for years to attain as Headmistress of the school.
For love, she might have; for attraction and companionship, she wouldn’t.
It was that simple. She wanted the fairy tale, and Hagrid wasn’t quite cut out to be her prince, or even her ‘bit of rough’ that would make her happy for the rest of her life.
He moved along the corridors of Hogwarts with an ease that spoke of long practice. He knew just what shadows were cast by what statue, and how to blend into them. The fact that he didn’t have to sneak was largely irrelevant.
He knocked firmly on a painting and entered the room as a door opened behind it.
With a large smile, he leant forward and embraced the woman.
“Put me down, you oaf,” Minerva McGonagall said with sigh, the smile on her face contradicting her sharp words.
“I’ll have you know that I’m not an oaf,” Harry pointed out as he dropped into a comfy chair. “I’ve been living in France. I’m all sophisti-ma-cated now.”
“And yet you can still mangle the language like no other,” Minerva sighed. “Tea?”
“So, did you enjoy embarrassing Hogwarts?”
“I enjoyed embarrassing Dumbledore,” Harry corrected. “That is something completely different. He should have known that, traditionally, this sort of event involves an exchange of gifts.”
“True,” Minerva agreed as she bustled around her kitchen. “I am actually surprised that he didn’t do anything about it.”
“I knew he wouldn’t.”
“Ahh yes, your infamous spy network,” Minerva sniffed. “Infecting our school.”
“If you’d tell me yourself, I wouldn’t have to,” Harry countered with a grin. “And if it helps, I didn’t know about them myself until the other day.”
“I know,” Minerva agreed. “And you know that my first loyalty is always to Hogwarts.”
“How is he, really?”
Minerva paused and walked back into her living room, handing him a cup.
“Confusing,” she admitted. “He is not the same man he once was, and I do not know why.”
McGonagall pursed her lips. “Yes and no,” she admitted with a deep sigh. “There are symptoms that match, but he has had a regular health check up, and nothing has shown up there. I got them to scan for all the common signs, and he came out totally clean.”
Harry sighed. “I really hoped that with me gone, he would return to normal.”
“He hasn’t. Severus and Draco have far too much freedom, and while I would normally not get involved, I will not have my children living in fear. I am doing what I can to offset their influence, but it is difficult. The faculty are split along two lines. Filius is firmly on my side, and I rely on him a lot.”
Harry nodded. “I can’t let this go on anymore, Min.”
“No,” she agreed. “You wouldn’t.”
“He’s pulled all his strings to get me here, and it’s starting to have international repercussions. I won’t have the peace we all fought so hard for disrupted simply to satisfy his desire to play games with me. As much as I hate being back here because of him, I do have a lot of fond memories of Hogwarts.
“Jean is here to keep a firm eye on him, and you know that where France leads, Germany normally follows. With two power-house economies going the same way, a lot of the other European countries will follow suit, which could tip the balance with the Americans and Asians. After the damage our Ministry inflicted during Voldemort’s return to power, we can’t afford to be isolated; our economy would stagnate in a moment.”
“An economy you seem to own most of,” Minerva said with a teasing smile.
Harry laughed softly. “Well, maybe, but that’s not relevant. I have too many friends over here to abandon the country completely. Regardless of how attractive it might seem at times when the bloody press won’t leave me alone.”
“Well, if it helps, questions are being asked over here now as to why you are happier in France than in your own country. There have been rumblings in the Wizengamot to change the laws to make the press responsible for what they print. At the moment, there is no come back for their scandalous lies.”
Harry smiled slightly. “That would be nice. It’s a pity I couldn’t just buy the Prophet.”
“Yeah, made sense, you know? The owner is a curmudgeonly misanthrope. He wouldn’t sell, no matter how much my lawyers offered him.”
“What about starting a rival paper?”
“I’ve not got time,” Harry said and then paused as an idea hit him. “But maybe…” he finished slowly.
He smiled and shrugged. “Just an idea.”
“Well, as you obviously desire to change the subject, let us do just that. When am I going to meet Ms Delacour?”
“Soon,” Harry promised. “Didn’t she look good earlier?”
“She’s part Veela, Harry,” McGonagall pointed out reasonably. “Of course she looks good.”
“Min,” Harry chastised her with a pout.
“She is very beautiful, Harry,” Minerva allowed. “And she is multi-lingual, a sign of intelligence.”
“She speaks German, Italian and Spanish, in addition to her native French,” Harry grinned. “She’s also Head Girl a year younger than normal, a great flyer, and will not be far off getting exam results that match Hermione’s.”
“You’re boasting,” Minerva said with a smile.
“A little,” he allowed. “I’ve not yet really had the chance to do so. Everyone else is too involved in the situation to allow me to just talk about her like a normal person.”
“You will never be normal.”
“You know what I mean,” Harry said as he settled back. “So you don’t think I’m insane for going through with this?”
Minerva paused, before lowering her cup and looking at him seriously.
“Like you, I have done my research about your situation, and grudgingly, I think that you are doing the right thing,” she told him.
“I have seen a change in you, Harry, over the past few months. You are more relaxed and happier, and if that is caused by Ms Delacour, then I heartily approve. I understand your concern about the age difference and I would share it, if she were human. And since she is not, that does make the difference.
“I will admit that I detest the idea of a professor and a student engaging in any sort of relationship at all. The handsome young professor will always be the subject of crushes, and he should never abuse his position.
“But your situation, again, is very unique. Regardless of your ability to teach, one of the reasons you were given the role was to allow you close contact with Ms Delacour. The aforementioned emotional relationship was formed before you became a professor, so again, while I do not like it, I can accept it.
“And in the end, Harry, I will admit to being more concerned about your happiness than any mere rule. If Ms Delacour is as good for you as she appears, then you have my blessing, not that you need it.”
Harry exhaled slowly and smiled at her. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “Your approval means more to me than I can explain.”
She raised her cup of tea to her lips and drank silently.
“So,” Harry said with a grin. “Exactly how on earth do you find time to teach with all this damn paperwork they foist on us? Or are English schools different?”
Minerva looked at him for a second, before throwing her head back and laughing in a way he had never seen from her before.
“Harry Potter,” a booming voice echoed through the Great Hall.
Harry looked up and climbed to his feet.
Moving through the crowd was a large shaven-haired man, a severe expression on his face.
Harry moved in front of his Quidditch students, as he was eating lunch with them. Around him he could see members of the press and other students turning to watch.
“Did you bring castle vith you to make Durmstrang look out of date?”
Harry shook his head. “Of course not.”
“You are sure?” Viktor Krum demanded, his scowl deepening.
“Then ve are still friends,” Viktor shouted, his expression quickly changing to a wide smile. The big Bulgarian Seeker took several steps forward and embraced Harry, easily lifting him off his feet.
“Put me down you stinking Cossack,” Harry gasped.
“Oh you joker,” Viktor laughed and dropped Harry. “How is your shoulder?”
Harry smiled. “It’s getting better, thanks.”
“Good!” Viktor turned to the press. “Vithout Potter, I have no competition in the league; he needs to get vell soon so that I have a challenge again.”
“He beat you last time,” one of the journalists shouted.
“And he is now out for a year,” Viktor agreed. “That is vhat it takes to beat Krum! Harry is the only player who understands.”
“So you two are friends?” another one asked.
“Of course,” Harry said, looping an arm around Viktor. “We both play the game hard, and we have the utmost respect for each other. Viktor is the hardest player I’ve ever met on the pitch, and sure, I might have got the Snitch last time, but he beat me the time before that.”
“And it is my turn to vin again next,” Viktor said, clapping Harry on the back.
“We’ll see,” Harry said with a smile.
“See,” Viktor laughed uproariously. “For a little man, he has a big heart. Now, I must go insult Flint!”
“Did you know that Flint had to do a year at Hogwarts twice, he was so slow?” Harry asked Viktor.
“Really?” Viktor’s eyes lit up in glee. “You are a good friend, Harry Potter,” he announced loudly, before embracing him once more, releasing him, and strolling off to find Flint. The press scurried behind him.
Harry shook his head and took his seat back at the table.
“Are you alright?” Gabby asked softly, she had felt a little twinge from him when the big Bulgarian had picked up her Mate. It had taken her biting her own tongue to stop from trying to protect Harry.
He nodded. “Viktor’s always been enthusiastic.”
“How did you two become friends?” Claude asked. “We all thought you had a big rivalry with him.”
“We did,” Harry said, picking up his sandwich. “But Viktor is a curious one; he came and visited me when I was in hospital. He loves Quidditch more than anything else, and my move to beat him showed him that I love Quidditch as well. And as far as he is concerned, if you treat the sport the same way he does, then you must be a friend.”
He smiled slightly. “He’s also good friends with Oliver, and the two of them have had some legendary nights out. I should know, I was called at three in the morning once to rescue them – they were both too drunk to Apparate and had tried to take the Knight Bus home. Unfortunately, they got on a Muggle Coach and ended up in Newcastle.”
“Is there anyone in Quidditch you don’t like?”
“Flint,” Harry said honestly. “Never have, and I doubt I ever will. The only reason he didn’t become a Death Eater is because he loved Quidditch more. But enough about me, how’s your first day been?”
“Better than we hoped for. We’ve had some fun conversations with the Durmstrang students, as we both speak bad English,” Simone said cheerfully. “Some of the Hogwarts students are okay, but some seem a little arrogant.”
“About normal,” Henri said. “What about you, Professor?”
Harry shrugged. “I’ve got a lot of friends here, so it’s been a lot more fun than I thought it would be.” He looked at his watch. “That said; the professors have a meeting shortly to discuss student exchanges and the like. Not exactly something I am looking forward to.”
He stood and then looked at Gabby. “Hermione and Ron will be floating around, probably with Jean and Aimée; speak to Hermione.”
Gabrielle tilted her head. “Are you sure?”
She smiled brightly at him. “Enjoy your meeting.”
He groaned theatrically. “Don’t stay up too late, you lot,” he said. “Our first match is tomorrow, and we want to do well.”
They all nodded as he turned and walked away.
“So, Gabrielle,” Claude said. “What’s going on?”
Gabrielle smiled slightly. “Do you expect me to answer?”
“No,” Simone said promptly. “We expect you to be as mysterious as always, while we come up with fun explanations.”
“Then do not let me stop your fun,” she replied. “I’m going to do as Harry asked.”
“Gabrielle,” Claude said quietly. “What’s it like?”
“What is what like?”
“Being forced to do what Professor Potter tells you to.”
She paused and then sat back down again. “I think this is a case where a little knowledge is worse than a lot of knowledge.”
“What do you mean?” Henri asked, as the others shifted closer, effectively closing ranks around her.
“A Veela who is Mated is completely submissive; however, we are also what our Mate wants. Harry is unique, in that he wants a mate who is independent and not submissive. He has forced me, without knowing it, to become unique myself. If I truly wanted to, I could ignore an order of his – I can not ever see a situation where I would want to, but that is not important. Unlike every other Mated Veela in history, I am still myself in every way that is important.
“I love Harry in a way that I am afraid that you will never be able to understand, because you are human. To you, it looked like Harry just ordered me to go and talk to someone. To me, Harry just proved how much he trusts me, and how independent he wants me to be. I cannot explain more than that, because I will not break that trust Harry has in me, so please, do not think that I am being abused here. Nothing could be further from the truth.” She paused and looked at the boys. “Ask yourself one question. If you had me, and knew that I would do anything you ask, what would you ask?”
She smiled at Simone, “Make sure they don’t spend all evening thinking about that question, okay?”
Simone nodded. “We are going to need to talk soon, Gabrielle.”
“I know,” she said as she turned and walked out the door, heading outside Beauxbatons. The large grass area between the two schools was covered in small groups of people. She looked for the biggest and she headed toward it. More than likely her father was happily playing his politics, and that would mean that a lot of other politicians would be near him. As she suspected, Mama and Hermione were on the outskirts of the crowd, looking a little bored. She could see Ron somewhere closer to the centre, standing near Papa.
“Mama, Hermione,” she greeted them.
“Gabrielle,” Aimée smiled happily. “You were magnificent earlier.”
She smiled brightly. “Harry was giving me encouragement all through that ordeal. I had no nerves.”
“He was?” Hermione asked.
She nodded. “That is what I would like to talk to you about. Can we go somewhere a little more private?”
Aimée looked at her husband. “He’s going to be playing for hours,” she sighed, “Ronald, too. Let us go and talk.”
Hermione nodded in agreement. “Hogwarts or Beauxbatons?”
“Why not my room?” Gabrielle asked.
Aimée nodded. “Is it at least tidy?”
“Mama,” Gabrielle complained as she led the two women in to the school. “Of course it is tidy,” she whispered. “I had Harry sleeping there last night.”
Hermione and Aimée both looked like they had a thousand questions as they both bit their lips to keep from blurting them out in public.
Gabrielle opened the door to her room and ushered them both in. “Would you like a drink?”
“Tea please,” Hermione said.
“And an explanation,” Aimée added, “exactly what was Harry doing here last night?”
“Not what you think,” Gabrielle complained. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that man to realise that I am female?”
Hermione laughed. “I think that is a complaint that a lot of girls have had about him.”
“What do you expect, dear?” Aimée asked. “As Jean is so fond of saying, Harry is a Chevalier.”
“True,” Gabrielle sighed. “After we moved the castle last night, Harry ordered me to stay awake, forcing my magic to help me pretend that it was nothing. He felt guilty afterward, so I asked him to look after me to make up for it.”
“He felt guilty?” Aimée asked.
“He did, despite me telling him it was the only thing he could do. I understand where he is coming from, he has explained it, and I think he is slowly getting used to the idea.”
“It will take him time, Gabrielle,” Hermione agreed. “So what is it exactly that you wanted to talk about?”
Gabrielle carried three mugs of tea into her living room, gave one to her mother, one to Hermione, and took the third to her favourite chair. She sat down comfortably.
“A few weeks ago, Harry and I kissed for the first time. I was a little enthusiastic about it, and in the process scratched his back a little.”
Aimée sighed. “At least you have the sense not to say this in front of your father.”
Gabrielle grinned. “Anyway, I was using Veela magic to heal him, when I discovered a foreign item in Harry’s shoulder – not the one he injured in Quidditch. I asked him to lower his nullifying field, and then I used his magic to help remove it.”
“Wait a second,” Hermione said, leaning forward, her eyes bright. “You used Harry’s magic?”
Gabrielle nodded. “When he allows me to, I can use his power. I summoned the fragment out of Harry’s shoulder and then healed the damage it caused. I used his magic again today to do the silent spells.”
“That explains that,” Hermione said in a pleased voice. “I had wondered.”
“Anyway,” Gabrielle continued. “When Harry woke up this morning, he reached for his glasses, and I started to think about why he needs them. I slid over him and asked his permission to try something out. He gave it, and like I did before, I let my Veela power slide over him. When I got to his eyes, I could see how to fix them.”
“You can fix his eyes?” Hermione asked excitedly.
“What is the problem?”
“I am unsure,” Gabrielle sighed. “When I did his shoulder, it was easy. I took my power and his power and just did it. This, however concerns his eyes. It is something a lot more serious.”
Hermione looked thoughtful as she took a sip of her tea. “So the problem you have is that you know it works on something simple, but you do not know if it works on something a lot more complicated?”
Gabrielle nodded. “I do not want to gamble, especially on his beautiful eyes.”
“I don’t blame you,” Hermione agreed. “So, let’s look at this logically. Have either of you heard about this ability?”
“The Veela have a history of being able to use their Mate’s magic,” Aimée said.
“But I do not think that a Veela has ever been Mated to someone with as much power as Harry has,” Gabrielle added.
“That does make sense,” Hermione said. “So we’re in new ground here. We’ve seen that you can use the magic to do what you want, so control is not the issue – confidence is. What does Harry think about it?”
“He would have let me try this morning,” Gabrielle said softly. “He trusts me.”
“Congratulations,” Hermione said gently. “This might not have happened how we expected, but it does seem to have worked out in the long term, and we have all learnt some lessons; me, more than anyone. Harry’s trust is something I still have nightmares about losing. But I digress. I do have an option for you.”
“Heal his shoulder. The one he injured playing Quidditch.”
Gabrielle blinked. “That does make sense,” she agreed. “It is more complicated than before, and it will allow Harry to do what he loves most.”
Hermione nodded. “However, I should be there.”
Gabrielle blushed faintly. “Hermione,” she said softly. “You do know that Veela magic is based on intimacy?”
Gabrielle could feel herself blush harder.
“It means that my daughter and Harry will need to be in some form of undress, with skin contact,” Aimée said dryly.
“Oh, right,” Hermione nodded. “Much as I hate to say it, I still think I should definitely be there.”
Gabrielle sighed, “You are probably right. I could probably do that with you watching, but not Ron. I will not be seen like that by another man.”
Hermione nodded agreeably. “He has no medical expertise anyway.”
Gabrielle opened her mouth but didn’t say anything.
“Excuse me,” she said politely before focusing her attention. She could feel something was bothering Harry from her Bond. She closed her eyes and reached down into the Bond. She couldn’t tell exactly what was that matter, so she gathered the love she felt for her Mate and sent it to him.
A few seconds later she felt a gentle caress back and could tell that his spirits had lifted. She smiled brightly and opened her eyes again.
“What did you just do?” Hermione asked.
“Harry was feeling bothered, so I let him know how much I love him,” she said cheerfully. “He is feeling better now.”
“Considering he’s in a meeting with Snape and Dumbledore, I’m not surprised,” Hermione sighed. “When do you want to do this?”
“Tonight,” Gabrielle said firmly. “I do, however, have an ulterior motive.”
“Oh?” Aimée asked.
Gabrielle nodded. “It will tire us both out, so I will be able to sleep with Harry again. It may be only chance I get.”
Hermione laughed softly. “I don’t think he will mind. You are giving him back his Quidditch.”
Harry sat next to Greg Bayard and Olympe. To their right were Andropov, and two of his senior professors; opposite them were Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonagall.
The meeting was going absolutely nowhere, as far as he could see, and Snape was irritating the hell out of him – not that that was in any way unique, unexpected or unprecedented.
He was no longer longing to curse Snape; Gabrielle had taken care of that. Her touch had allowed him to re-centre, but if he couldn’t curse Snape, he could at least wind him up.
“J’aimerais bien que cet idiot la ferme,” Harry muttered. Andropov looked at him and gave a short bark of laughter.
“Harry?” Dumbledore asked in English.
“I said that I'd really like this idiot to shut up,” Harry said, indicating Snape. “We are not going to force our students to take his Potions lessons; frankly, we would not force them to be in the same building with him if we had the choice. Now, can we please move on?”
“You arrogant bastard,” Snape snarled, climbing to his feet. “How dare you.”
Harry reached under the desk and lightly grabbed both Greg and Olympe’s hands, squeezing them warningly; he then shot a look at Andropov, who seemed to understand.
Harry shook his head pityingly. “After all these years, you are still upset about what happened with my father when you were a student? It’s no wonder that you have no time for real teaching, when your mind is locked in the past.”
“Real teaching,” Snape shouted, his face going red. “What would you know about real teaching when all you do is sit on a broom all day?”
“Face it, Severus,” Harry said absently. “The Beauxbatons’ professors are better than you; our students know it, which is why they will not be in the same room as you if they can help it. And we will not make our students take sub-standard courses.”
Snape’s face seemed to turn a new shade of red, and he could feel McGonagall’s eyes digging into him.
“See,” Harry said, deliberately goading the professor. “You can’t even string a sentence together half the time. Let’s face it, you are the only person in the room who isn’t even multi-lingual, and you wonder why we don’t respect you?”
“Hogwarts is the premier magical academy in the world,” Dumbledore said firmly.
“Oh?” Harry asked. “Just how many potions masters have you turned out recently? If you are so good, tell me, what were Fred and George Weasley’s Potions marks? The last time I checked, they are some of the most successful ex-students in history, doing things with potions that others have marvelled at for years.”
“We are better than you,” Snape said childishly.
“The next thing you’ll be saying that Hogwarts is better at Quidditch,” Harry taunted. He prayed that Minerva would keep quiet and let him finish this; he couldn’t believe he had this opportunity, and he was not going to let the opportunity pass him by.
“We are,” Snape growled. “And we’ll prove it. Hogwarts faculty playing against Beauxbatons.”
“Only official staff that are on the payroll,” Harry said, jumping to his feet in faked temper.
Harry grinned and settled back down casually.
“Harry, I think I love you,” Olympe whispered in awe.
Greg looked at Harry and then stood. “I’ll go and let the press know,” he said and walked out quickly.
“We shall look forward to seeing this,” Andropov said with glee. “Harry, if you’d like some practice, I am sure I can persuade Viktor to help out.”
Snape and Dumbledore were looking very confused, while Minerva’s face was blank, and her lips were pursed.
“What is going on?” Snape demanded.
“Why nothing, my dear Severus,” Harry said cheerfully. “You just agreed to an inter-school Quidditch match between the professors as a side-bet to the Quidditch tournament.”
“But it’s far too late to back out now, Severus,” Harry said coolly. “My colleague has already informed the press. Now, to get back to the argument we were having... Professor Andropov, do you have anything to say?”
“No,” Andropov said thoughtfully. “I think you’ve covered everything. I will say that Hogwarts might be hosting this event, but that is it. You do not have any say in how we run our schools. Harry, I know that Durmstrang has a reputation for how we teach Defence, so I would like to invite you personally to see us in action, and make a judgement on that.”
“I would be delighted,” Harry said honestly.
Andropov turned to Snape and Dumbledore, his body language excluding McGonagall slightly. “I am extremely disappointed in what I have seen here today. You both appear to believe that you can bully your way in any situation. That is not the way we do business elsewhere, and Durmstrang will not stand for it here.” He stood, nodded, and led his colleagues out of the room.
Harry and Olympe stood. “Minerva, we’ve had a lot of requests from practically our entire school to attend some of your classes. Can we get together sometime to discuss a practical way of achieving that?”
McGonagall nodded once, and he turned and walked out with Olympe.
As soon as they were out of sight, Olympe grabbed him and gave him a bone crushing hug.
“Do you have any idea how long I have waited for someone to say that to Dumbledore?” she crowed delightedly.
“You don’t think I was being over the top?” Harry asked.
Olympe shook her head firmly. “I invited you to join us because I am still a little in awe of Albus, and it is not a feeling that I like, and despite our ability with English, it is still our second language. I will admit to being surprised by Andropov, but I will have a conversation with him later; it appears that he has reached the end of his tether as well.”
“I thought I might have gone too far,” Harry admitted. “But I saw the opportunity and went for it.”
“You do have a plan, I take it?”
Harry leaned up and whispered in her ear.
Olympe looked at him in awe. “Will you do me a favour, Harry?”
“Of course,” he replied.
“If I get on your bad side, will you just tell me straight out? Because your sneakiness I would find terrifying, if I wasn’t completely on your side.”
Harry laughed softly.
“Now,” Olympe said. “I think it’s time I went and found my Head Girl to tell her to give you the kiss you deserve.”
“Exactly what are you two playing at,” Minerva said disgustedly as she turned on her two colleagues.
“Minerva,” Albus said firmly. “We must stick together at times like this.”
“We are not at war!” Minerva said, slamming her hands on to the desk. “And we do not attempt to bully other schools into forcing them to do something they have already politely declined. This is the sort of petulant behaviour, Severus that makes us look like idiots.”
“It was not that bad,” Albus said lightly.
“Not that bad?” Minerva asked icily. “You have just agreed to play a game of Quidditch against Harry Potter, and might I remind you, that he is the best Seeker this school has ever seen, and only a few months ago, won the World Cup for England! And exactly who are you going to get on your team?”
“First,” Snape snapped. “Potter is injured; he will not be able to play. Second, Draco will play Seeker, I can play Chaser. Minerva…”
“Leave me out of this,” she said firmly.
“I can play Keeper,” Albus admitted. “It’s been a few years, but I still know my way around a broom.”
“And Flint will be another Chaser, as will Sinistra, if I remember correctly. Vector was a Beater back in the old days, so we just need one more.”
The door to Dumbledore’s office exploded open, and Hagrid barged in, his beard bristling. He was holding what appeared to be a large branch from a tree. “Is it true?” he demanded.
“Hagrid?” Minerva asked.
“That ‘ogwarts is playing the Frenchies at Quidditch?”
“I want ter play.”
“Excuse me?” Minerva asked.
“Olympe broke my bleedin’ ‘eart,” he explained. “I’ve got me broom,” he added, waving the huge broomstick around, causing Minerva to duck gracefully, “and I can fly and hit that Bludger.”
Snape looked at the half-giant. “Perhaps you are not completely useless, after all,” he sneered. “Welcome to the team.”
“You are allowing this madness, Albus?”
“Hogwarts will show that it is the best,” Albus said firmly.
“Best?” Minerva demanded icily. “Best laughing stock, perhaps.
“I have never felt as humiliated as I did earlier, when Ms Delacour presented us with such opulent gifts,” she glared at Dumbledore and continued, “especially after I told you that we should have gifts for them, as it is tradition. A tradition that this school even helped to set!
“I do not know what is going on here, Albus. But I do not like it. This school has changed dramatically over the past five years, and I no longer enjoy working here as I once did. I implore you to change your mind, to end this nonsense, and let us once again hold our heads high.”
“The school has not changed,” Albus said with a long suffering sigh. “We have talked about this before.”
Harry walked back to toward his rooms in Beauxbatons, whistling cheerfully.
“You’re looking happy,” Ron said, as he and Jean joined him.
Harry smiled at the both.
“You do know that you can’t play in this match?” Ron reminded him, “with your shoulder.”
“I know,” Harry sighed. “But Gabrielle is a member of the school council, and technically, a member of staff.”
Jean laughed softly. “And if you can’t do it yourself, you’ll let your protégé.”
“Exactly,” Harry smiled.
“What about the rest of the team?”
Harry said the six names softly and how he had organised it.
Ron froze and then looked at Jean. “If he gets into politics, I’m retiring.”
Jean looked at Harry and slowly nodded. “I agree. We shall move into the business world, Ron; we are far too unsophisticated.”
Harry pushed Ron playfully into a wall and pulled out his card to open his door. Inside, Aimée, Hermione, and Gabrielle were sat talking and laughing.
“Evening,” he said, absently creating a few new chairs so that they could all sit down.
“Harry,” Gabrielle said delightedly. “I talked to Madame Maxime earlier.”
She nodded and walked up to him, ignoring her father and Ron. “She gave me an order,” she explained softly as he backed against a wall.
“Oh?” Harry asked again.
Gabrielle nodded. “Which of course put me in a quandary – what if that order was against the wishes of my Mate?”
Harry smiled slightly. “Then you would have to make a decision on your own,” he advised.
She nodded. “That is what I thought you would say. Luckily, I do not think that this order is against your wishes,” she whispered as she reached up and kissed him softly.
He kissed her back gently, his hands sliding around her.
Gabrielle broke the kiss and stared into his eyes. “She told me to kiss you firmly for what you did earlier,” she continued. “As this isn’t the right time that will have to hold you until I can do it properly.”
He laughed softly. “I’m sure Jean is grateful.”
“Absolutely,” Jean squeaked from a corner.
Gabrielle took his hand and moved him over to the seat she had vacated, and then sat and rested against his legs.
“So, why is everyone in my room?” Harry asked.
“My idea,” Hermione said. She looked at Jean and Ron. “To bring you two up to date; Gabrielle is pretty sure that by combining her Veela power with Harry’s power, she can heal his eyes. But we both think that is a little dangerous for a first time, so we’re going to get Gabrielle to heal Harry’s shoulder first.”
Harry blinked. “Heal my shoulder?”
“Yes,” Hermione said. “Worse case will be that it takes an extra month to heal – best case is that you can be back playing Quidditch in a week.”
“No, I can’t,” Harry said firmly. “I’ve signed up for a year at Beauxbatons. I am not leaving early.”
Gabrielle twisted by his feet and shot him another of her special smiles that touched his heart every time. It was a look that was the physical equivalent of her mental touch when she showed him how much she loved him. He reached down and softly touched her face. “Let’s do it,” he said simply.
Her smile seemed to get even brighter.
“If every person in this room wouldn’t kill me, I’d kiss you, Gabrielle,” Ron said, a beaming smile on his face.
“Because this means that Harry can play for Beauxbatons against Hogwarts.”
“He is right,” Jean agreed happily.
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Harry said with a smile. “That settles it, we’re going to do it, Gabby.”
“I am going to be in the room,” Hermione said. “Just in case,” she said, with a look at her husband.
“What?” Ron asked.
“For it to work, Harry will be mostly naked, as well as Gabrielle,” Hermione explained.
“Oh, right,” Ron said. Then in a completely toneless voice he continued. “I am now experiencing insane jealousy, let me go lose all my friends and join the dark side.”
“There, that better?” he asked cheerfully.
Harry laughed under his breath. “He’s right,” he said, adopting the same blank voice. “I’ve had the hots for Hermione ever since Skeeter pointed it out to me all those years ago. I’m going to use having my girlfriend fixing my shoulder as a unique chat up line to finally see if I can score with the girl I consider my sister.”
Hermione put her hands on her hips and glared playfully at her friend and husband.
“I’ll get you two for this,” she threatened. “Or actually, I’ll get Ron; I’ll leave Harry to Gabrielle.
“Oooh, punishment!” Gabrielle said excitedly. “I’ve heard of that. Harry, you must kiss me.”
“I think you’re missing the point, somewhat, Gabrielle,” Hermione sighed.
Gabrielle looked at Hermione. “The idea is to get him to do something I want, right?”
“But I want kissing,” she pointed out.
“But it’s supposed to be something he doesn’t want to do.”
“Oh,” Gabrielle said innocently. “In that case, I want sex.”
Harry looked around, trying to keep his laughter from bubbling out. Aimée was looking resigned, as if she had expected her daughter to say that. Jean, Ron, and Hermione seemed to be having a competition to see who could turn the deepest colour red. What was really impressive was that Jean seemed to be winning, something he wouldn’t have thought possible.
“I blame you for this, Harry,” Aimée groaned.
“She never would have said that before.”
“No,” Gabrielle agreed. “I would have merely thought it.”
“Don’t encourage her,” Aimée begged playfully. “Jean is not ready for this.”
“I’m sorry, Papa,” Gabrielle apologised. “I promise to try not to scare you anymore.”
Jean groaned and leant back in his chair. “Evil child.”
“Me?” Gabrielle. “I am the only innocent one in this room,” she pointed out.
“That depends on your definition of innocent,” Aimée murmured.
“Quite,” Hermione added. “And before this conversation deteriorates any more, I think we should start. Harry, I want to examine your shoulder first.”
Harry nodded and stood. He draped his robes over the back of the chair, and then pulled off his t-shirt quickly.
Hermione walked over to Harry and lightly put her hands on Harry’s shoulder, before jerking them away as Gabrielle growled at her.
Gabrielle flushed bright red as she realised what she had done. “I am so sorry,” she apologised profusely. “It’s an automatic reaction to someone putting their hands on my Mate.” She looked at Harry with a wistful expression. “The closer we get emotionally, the harder it is for me to control.”
Harry looked at her for long moment before nodding slowly. “Kneel.”
Gabrielle sat up, turned to face him and looked at him from her knees.
He stood, pushed his chair back, and kneeled down, sitting on his heels so that his head was the same height as hers.
“Continue, Hermione,” he said softly, before looking at Gabrielle, catching her eyes. “You have nothing to worry about,” he whispered. “When we finally do this, there will be no one else for me for life.”
He felt like he could see her heart in her eye as she opened herself up, letting him see her soul. The expression on her face tore at his heart – the longing, the openness, the trust, and the absolute love was awe-inspiring.
“I’m finished,” he heard Hermione’s voice say, as if from a distance. “Gabrielle, do you think you could please release my husband?”
Harry blinked, breaking the spell, and looked at Ron. “Gabrielle.”
She blinked as well, before blushing furiously. “Sorry,” she apologised.
“No problem,” Ron groaned. “Harry, you owe me a new couch.”
“I’m gonna be sleeping on it for a month now,” he sighed.
“I’ll forgive you, this time,” Hermione said dryly.
“Harry, did you have your Occlumency shields up?” Jean asked.
He shook his head.
“As much as I don’t like saying it, you are truly the man for my daughter,” Jean said softly. “I have never seen a non-Veela manage to keep himself sentient like that, and it was only because of my blood relationship to Gabrielle that I was not Enthralled.”
“I didn’t realise she was using her Veela power.”
“She wasn’t,” Aimée said slowly, “but she wasn’t blocking it either. It was unfocused; she was just being herself.”
Hermione nodded in agreement. “I was watching the magic flow while I was examining your shoulder – that was exactly it.”
“This is what I have wanted,” Gabrielle said softly, looking at Harry. “What I dreamed of for so long – having a Mate with whom I could be myself with.”
“Which is all I want too,” Harry whispered, and he was rewarded with another bright smile.
“Okay,” Hermione interrupted them. “I like my husband sane, thank you very much. So you two go into the bedroom and get ready.”
“Yes ma’am,” Harry grinned and jumped to his feet easily, reaching down and swinging Gabrielle into his arms and carrying her into the bedroom.
Hermione watched them go and shut the door firmly. She looked at her husband and the older couple. “You could feel it, too?”
Jean and Aimée nodded.
“Feel what?” Ron asked.
“Gabrielle wasn’t the only one with her shields down,” Hermione explained. “Harry was completely open.”
“What does that mean?”
“I could feel his magic. It is truly immense.”
“Oh, right,” Ron nodded. “I think I’m going to need to learn Occlumency,” he said seriously. “I can’t go into a trance every time Harry and Gabrielle get lovey. If we’re going to continue to be best friends, being Enthralled by my best mate’s woman isn’t going to work.”
“I will teach you,” Aimée said firmly. “Would you mind having a word with William, though? I think he would benefit from it as well. He was not interested the last time I broached the subject.”
“Oh, Bill’s a Weasley,” Ron said. “You just have to know how to handle him right.”
Jean laughed suddenly. “You mean like throw him into a pool?”
“Well, yeah, but a swift punch or two is often quicker. Who threw Bill into a pool?”
“Ahh, right, Harry’s a little too noble to do the punching thing. He thinks he has an unfair advantage. Charlie’s probably the only one of us who’d have a chance against him like that.”
Hermione laughed softly. “Well, I better get in there and watch; I will admit to being curious.”
“Good luck,” Ron said and turned to face Aimée and Jean. “You two want anything to drink?”
“See if Harry has some wine,” Jean said.
Hermione turned and opened the door to Harry’s bedroom softly.
Gabrielle was sitting straddled over Harry’s stomach, her hands roaming his chest as they kissed softly. She could see Harry’s hands moving over her hips, and she wondered for a brief second exactly what Gabrielle was wearing under what looked like one of Harry’s practice shirts.
For a second, she turned off the part of her mind that was Harry’s best friend and looked at them dispassionately. They were an incredibly well-matched couple; Harry’s darkness was offset by Gabrielle’s light. Harry was bigger than Gabrielle, and he should have dwarfed the smaller girl, but he didn’t. She radiated strength of conviction that allowed her to match her Mate.
She coughed softly, suddenly feeling like a voyeur looking in on something she had no right to be seeing.
Gabrielle broke the kiss leisurely and looked at Hermione. “When I start this, Harry’s defences will shut down. Do not make a movement toward him unless things starts to go wrong. I will be deep in my magic, and I will react with my power and with Harry’s, if I sense a threat to him or to me. As you are a woman, my magic would consider you to be a threat. I will instinctively protect my Mate and my interests.”
Hermione wasn’t quite sure what was more disturbing; the level voice the threat was delivered in, the way Gabrielle’s hands never stopped caressing Harry’s chest, or the way Harry was nodding in agreement.
“Gabby’s right, Hermione,” he said softly. “I have to switch off to let her do this, and she’ll react without thought, before I can regain enough control to stop her.”
Hermione nodded and walked around the bed, taking a seat near them.
Harry leaned back against the bed, watching Gabrielle.
The blonde Veela shifted up Harry slightly. Hermione could feel the magic in the air, but she could tell that neither of them could. They were both broadcasting volumes of magic that was almost breathtaking. She found that she could see what Gabrielle was doing by following the flow of magic.
There was a steady build-up, and then a sharp burst of pure magic. She could hear Harry groan in agony, and she fought the urge to move toward them to get a better look, Gabrielle’s warning firmly in her mind.
The groan became a low scream of agony, before it stopped suddenly. She held her breath.
“Shh, my love,” Gabrielle crooned, her hands rubbing over his shoulder gently. “I’m here. You’re not alone; you’ll never be alone again.” She looked at Hermione for a second and nodded.
Hermione walked closer silently, Harry’s torso was covered in sweat and his eyes spoke eloquently of the pain he had just endured.
Gabrielle lent down and stretched out on top of him, her cheek touching his, as she whispered in his ear. For some reason, Hermione was glad she couldn’t hear what Gabrielle was whispering. She didn’t want to hear what the girl was saying; it seemed far too personal.
As quickly and expertly as she could, she cast a series of spells. As Gabrielle had promised, his shoulder was perfect, as if it hadn’t been destroyed and repaired three times.
Her mind edged away from the sort of power implied in that result.
She could see Harry relax as exhaustion took over from the pain.
Gabrielle slid to the side, draping herself over Harry, holding him as she crooned softly.
Hermione took the blanket and covered them both, before walking out as silently as she could, turning the light off.
Back with the other three, she walked straight over to the wine bottle, poured herself a large glass and downed it as if it was water, before pouring herself another glass. Ron had moved to the couch, and she dropped down next to him, raising her feet onto his lap.
“That bad?” Ron asked.
“You know what Harry’s pain threshold is like?”
Ron nodded. “Stupidly high.”
“I have never seen him in so much pain.”
“And he let Gabrielle do that?” Ron asked.
She nodded and looked at Jean and Aimée. “Harry is in love with Gabrielle. He trusts her more than he trusts Ron or me. And to Harry, trust is the ultimate expression of love.”
Ron nodded in agreement.
“So why is…” Jean started and then appeared to find that he couldn’t continue.
“Then why is my daughter still a virgin,” Aimée asked in the same dry technical tone of voice she had used before.
“Correct me if I’m wrong here,” Hermione said to Ron. “I think it’s because he doesn’t fully believe that Gabrielle is acting on her own free will.”
Ron nodded. “I’m pretty sure that Harry thinks the Mating will end someday soon, and he’ll be alone again, and to him, making love to Gabrielle will be a lifetime commitment, and he doesn’t want to do that while he still doubts that Gabrielle will not leave him when she recovers from the spell she is under.”
“How do we persuade him that Gabrielle’s love is genuine?”
Hermione looked at her husband. “I need to find a way to block the Bond – not destroy it, just allow them to act without it.”
Ron looked back at her levelly. “What are you planning?”
She took a deep breath. “I’m going to find something, and then present it to both of them and explain why I found it, and leave it up to them if they do it or not.”
Ron smiled warmly at her, in a way that reminded her once more why she had married him, despite their bickering as they grew up. He had grown up, and underneath the childish defence measures was a man worthy of her love. He nodded,
“Good idea,” he said simply.
“I agree,” Jean said. “What are they doing now?”
“Sleeping, or more accurately, Harry is sleeping; Gabrielle is guarding him. That took a lot out of him.”
“Do I want to know what happened?” Ron asked.
“When we rebuilt Harry’s shoulder last time, we replaced the bone, but had to wait for the sinew, tendons and muscles to reattach properly – and the bone we used wasn’t as strong as the original. Gabrielle took that a step further, she destroyed the bone, the muscles, everything, and created an entirely new shoulder.” She paused and took another drink of the wine. “It took five of the best reconstruction certified healers nearly twelve hours to do less than she just managed in two minutes. I don’t even want to think about how much power Harry has inside him.”
“Ouch,” Jean exclaimed.
“That’s what I thought,” Hermione agreed.
Jean smiled slightly. “Well, why do we not go back to our apartment and have a late meal?”
Ron smiled. “That will be good.”
“On one condition,” Aimée said firmly.
“No politics,” Hermione and Aimée said together.
“Nervous?” Harry asked as he looked around the dressing room.
Without hesitation, every single head nodded.
“It doesn’t get easier,” he said with a grin.
“Thanks,” Claude said dryly. “That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”
“Seriously, pay attention for a second,” Harry said, crouching in front of them. “You are all good enough to be here and to play. When you get out there the crowd will roar, but you have to ignore them and pretend they’re not there. If you spend your time looking at the crowd, you’ll miss the game.
“Now, Claude, Anton, you must remember what Fred and George taught you; protect Gabrielle when you can, try and take out their Seeker, and don’t go all out for every Bludger - one accurate Bludger hit is better than ten heavy misses.
“Henri, remember Oliver’s advice. Don’t get drawn away from the hoops, I want to see your name on them when the match is over, right?”
“Right,” Henri agreed weakly.
“I didn’t hear you,” Harry said. “Look at me.”
Henri looked up, fear visible in his eyes.
“The crowds are nothing,” Harry said intently, moving in front of him. “All that matters to you is the Quaffle and keeping it out of your hoops. You’ve done it in practice, you’ve saved shots from some of the best professionals in the world; you can do it against Durmstrang, I promise! Now, what are you going to do?”
“Own those hoops!” Henri shouted savagely.
“Damn right,” Harry grinned, and then turned to the Chasers. “Watch each other’s backs, try to attack together, and don’t be selfish. This is a team sport, and teamwork can make the difference between winning and losing.”
“They are better than us, though,” Frederick Girard pointed out. “They have played competitively before, and we have not.”
“You played us,” Harry pointed out, “and held your own. But you are not playing professionals this time; you are playing your peers. They have done it before, but you have nothing to fear, I promise. If you can withstand us, you can defeat them.”
“What if we don’t score enough?” Nicholas Blanc asked.
Harry bit down on his first response, deciding that sarcasm probably wasn’t a good answer at this stage. “Your job is to keep the match close; it will be Gabrielle’s job to win.”
The Beaters and Chasers smiled and slowly nodded. The idea of the pressure being on someone else seemed to make it easier for them.
“Can I have a pep-talk now?” Gabrielle asked in a small voice.
He moved over to her but didn’t say anything; he just looked in her eyes and reached through the Bond. While the students knew about their relationship, he normally didn’t treat Gabrielle any different when he was being a Professor, but this was a special occasion.
“You won’t let me down,” he said softly, as he sent a wave of pride and confidence down the Bond.
Gabrielle’s back seemed to stiffen and she turned to the other six players. “Ready to prove that we belong here, and that we’re going home with the trophy?” she called.
The others nodded.
Gabrielle took a deep breath and held out her hand in the middle of them.
Harry watched as Claude turned to Gabrielle, a question in his eyes.
“We are a team,” she said firmly, “teams do this.”
Claude’s eyes flashed to Harry, who nodded.
Slowly, the boy reached out and took Gabrielle’s hand. The others followed suit shortly afterward. “Let’s kick their arse!”
“Beauxbatons!” the six boys roared and started to cheer.
Harry smiled as they shouted their fear, shouted out their nerves and prepared for battle.
“Go,” he said firmly. “I’ll be in the dugouts.”
The boys cheered again and jumped on their brooms, flying out the door, Gabrielle last.
He took a few quick steps forward and touched her shoulder. “I am so proud of you,” he said, looking her straight in the eyes. “Play your best, and even if you don’t win, I will still be proud of you, of what you just did, and how hard you have worked.”
“Can I have a kiss for luck?”
He leaned closer and kissed her deeply. “Now, go and catch that damn Snitch.” He meant it as a joke, but he could see in her eyes that she chose to take it as an order.
In the next second she was gone, out the door. He followed her on foot, smiling as he heard the familiar roar of hundreds of thousands of fans yelling and screaming.
His smile grew as he heard a familiar voice start to talk. He had no idea how they had arranged for Lee Jordan to return, but he was glad all the same. There seemed to be a degree of symmetry about this entire situation that he found very appealing.
“Ladies and Gentleman, Wizards and Witches, Distinguished, and Not-So-Distinguished guests, Professors, and greasy sleaze balls, welcome to the first match in this highly anticipated international school Quidditch Tournament.
“In the blue we have Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. Until the start of this year they did not even have a Quidditch team. However, that quickly changed when a fortuitous opportunity arose. Harry Potter, one of the top three Quidditch players in the world agreed to launch their new program. So we will soon see if Potter is as inspirational as a Professor as he is as a player, and as a defeater of Dark Lords.
“In the red, we have the team from the Durmstrang Institute, led by Professor Voltier, and assisted by Viktor Krum, their most famous graduate and another of the top three Quidditch players.
“Speaking on a personal note, let me just say how good it is to be back at Hogwarts, commentating on Quidditch again. If I squint, I can still see Oliver Wood haranguing Fred and George Weasley, while Harry Potter, looking small enough to be eaten by a good size troll, flying nervously around the stands.
“And speaking of nostalgia, I’d like to welcome Professor Minerva McGonagall back to the commentary box. However, unlike before, I am no longer a student matriculating at this school, and can not be threatened by detentions and points off.”
There was a pause, before Lee said in a shocked voice. “You’ll do what?” followed by, “Can you even do that?”
“As I was saying,” Lee continued. “Professor McGonagall will be ensuring, with the aid of some very nasty curses that I don’t get to out of hand.
The English portion of the crowd roared with laughter, a lot of them remembered Lee commentating and how the Professor would try to make sure he kept things fair.
“Rolanda Hooch has graciously come out of retirement to referee this tournament, and she’s calling the captains together.
“The gorgeous-looking blonde in the blue is Gabrielle Delacour, daughter of Jean-Sebastian Delacour, who we remember from the War against Voldemort and how he led the French Aurors on that final day.
“The boy with the clean-shaved head dressed in the red is Gunther Stradivis, Keeper for Durmstrang, and widely reported to be joining Viktor Krum in the professional leagues next year.”
There was a huge roar of anticipation from the crowd as the match got under way.
“And Durmstrang has the Quaffle, passing it with the ease of long practice. They make their way up the pitch, easily bypassing the Beauxbatons Chasers.
“Eric Ernhand leans back to shoot…. And what the heck was that?” Lee’s voice seemed to rise in pitch and intensity. “In a move not seen since the World Cup final, Gabrielle Delacour, shows the sort of training she has received from Potter by breaking up the Durmstrang attack.
“Frederick Girard has the Quaffle, the four Beaters seem to be engaged in a game of tennis as they ping the Bludgers back and forth. He passes to Nicholas Blanc, who shoots, but Stradivis saves, and launches a counter-attack at Beauxbatons.
“Durmstrang races up the pitch, and shoot, oh, unlucky Henri, he came within an inch of stopping that. The Durmstrang Seeker seems to be content to follow Delacour around; I’m not sure if it’s tactical, or if he’s hoping for an opportunity to ask her out on a date.”
“Lee!” McGonagall’s voice echoed around the stadium, to the amusement of most of the crowd.
“Err, right, sorry,” Lee apologised. “Moving on, Beauxbatons attacks, and with a good shot, score their first points in International Quidditch.
Harry watched the game intently, realising that he much preferred playing to merely watching. It was much worse not being able to influence things directly.
His heart was racing like he was in the middle of a long distant run, and he felt like he was sweating more than if he was up there playing.
He had a new appreciation for the sort of things that professional coaches went through, and exactly why his had had two heart attacks by the age of fifty-seven.
They needed the Snitch, badly. As hard as they were fighting, they were slowly being overwhelmed by the more experienced Durmstrang players.
They were currently down by a hundred and ten points, and the gap was growing.
“With the score two hundred to ninety, the game seems to have settled… and having just cursed the match by saying that, the two Seekers take off, because the Snitch is visible at the other end of the pitch.
“The two players are going for it, you can see from their respective positions the influence the professionals have had. Delacour is lower, more crouched, in the position favoured by Potter, while Stradivis is using his strength to stay upright, in a position reminiscent of Krum.
“They’re twenty yards from the Snitch, ten, five.” The crowd groaned as Lee shouted, “and the Snitch sneaks out the way and is now behind them, Stradivis launches into a tight Corkscrew-reverse, but Delacour keeps going.
“Sweet Merlin, a Potter Turn! A bloody Potter Turn – Potter really taught her everything in his locker, as Delacour shoots past Stradivis and catches the Snitch. Beauxbatons Wins! Beauxbatons Wins!”
Harry found himself cheering along with the rest of the crowd, as the students landed in front of him. A second later, he was at the bottom of a pile of six very happy male French Students as they jumped on him, one after the other.
With a small bit of Magical help, he pushed them all off him so he could stand, and congratulated each one individually, taking care to spend exactly the same amount of time with each student, including Gabrielle.
“Take a bow, guys,” he told them, indicating the French portion of the stand, where the crowd was going absolutely berserk. “You did it; you stuck to your guns, played as hard as you could, so now enjoy the victory. Remember this feeling; remember how it feels, so that next time, you work even harder to make sure you can feel it again.”
Seven faces had huge smiles on their faces as they looked at him, before turning and bowing to the crowd.
Harry walked over to the pitch and shook the Durmstrang professor’s hand, offering his sincere condolences. “Viktor,” he shouted.
“I want you to beat Hogwarts, and we’ll see you in the final for a rematch!”
Viktor grinned at him and nodded.
Harry returned to the dressing room, which was now full of students and professors, and resembled the Cannons’ dressing room after they won a major trophy.
He smiled, and leaned against the wall, enjoying watching them be themselves.
“Congratulations, Harry,” Olympe said as she joined him.
“They are the ones that did all the work,” he said.
“You are the one who taught them, Harry; you are the one who gave them the hope that they could do this, and out there, they played for you, not for Beauxbatons.”
“Oh no,” Harry said firmly. “They played for their country and their school.”
“Not all of them,” Olympe said quietly.
His eyes found Gabrielle in the crowd with ease; she was an island of calm around the other students, and for a second she looked back.
“No,” he whispered. “Not all of them.”
Gabrielle finally finished drying her hair and looked at her watch. She had taken her time in the shower, using it to relax from the effort she had put in during the match. Simone had waited with her, but as soon as Gabrielle had finished, she’d left to join the party.
Gabrielle smiled slightly; the only party she wanted was to be away from the crowd, alone with Harry, a party that involved as little clothing as she could get away with.
She glanced at herself in the mirror, and then calmly walked out the door and headed back toward Beauxbatons.
Her mind was locked so firmly on the feeling of warmth she was getting from her Mate being proud of her, that she didn’t notice the figure in the darkness.
Gabrielle stumbled in surprise and looked up. “Thank you,” she said politely.
“I was impressed,” the man said, removing his hood.
“Thank you, Professor Malfoy,” she said coolly.
Draco smiled at her and she struggled to keep a polite look on her face. She could tell that he found her attractive, and that thought made her nauseous. Her Mate did not hate many people; in fact, he hardly hated anyone, but this creature in front of her was one of the people he truly detested and automatically, that made her hate him as well.
“It’s rare to find someone so young and so beautiful to be talented as well,” Draco said, in a tone that she presumed was his idea of being charming.
“Thank you,” she said for the third time, hoping that he would leave if she didn’t stop walking; unfortunately, he just fell into step with her.
“I understand the pressure you’re under,” he continued.
“Oh?” she said, wondering at what stage she could stop being polite. Being Head Girl had some responsibilities, and this being matter of being polite to professors from other schools was one of them. Even if the professor was a pompous, arrogant and offensive idiot.
“I too, come from a famous family – the Malfoy family have been well-regarded for centuries,” he bragged.
“Really?” she said, again being polite, hiding her knowledge that the Malfoy family was full of pure-blood supremacists, and that her own father had fought against his in the war.
“Oh, yes,” Draco continued. “Malfoy Manor is one of the wonders of England, a truly remarkable place, full of history and wealth.”
She truly couldn’t believe that he was really trying to chat her up. And with stories of wealth, at that, as if wealth could impress her, a Delacour, from one of the richest families in France – especially when wealth was irrelevant, when compared to actions and personality. She really hoped he wasn’t going to go onto Quidditch next.
“Of course,” Draco continued. “I was a top Quidditch player as well; I even beat Potter a few times at school. I could have turned professional, but having no need of money, I decided my time was better spent helping others.”
“How noble of you,” she said, keeping her voice straight through sheer force of will. She had studied every single match Harry had ever played in, including his one loss at Hogwarts, and the blatant lying was almost fascinating in a sick, creepy way. “It was nice talking to you,” she said, as she turned toward the safety of her school gates.
“Wait,” Draco said, grabbing her shoulder.
She froze; swallowing hard against the waves of nausea his touch caused her. “Please take your hand off me.”
“Relax,” Draco said, “There’s just the two of us. Why don’t we go down to Hogsmeade and get to know each other better. I’m a professor, no one will mind.”
“Please take your hand off me,” she said again, with gritted teeth. She could feel his desire, what he wanted to do to her, how he wanted to use her, and she felt the bile rise in her throat. The longer he touched her, the more she felt his desires. She felt violated by the darkness in his soul.
“Come on,” Draco said with what he obviously thought was a charming smile. “It will be fun.” His other hand raised up, heading toward her face.
“What a wonderful idea,” Gabrielle said; reacting instinctively to the threat and the anguish he had caused her. She released her Veela power.
Draco’s face adopted a besotted expression.
“Take your hand off me,” she demanded.
“Will you do me a favour?” she asked.
He nodded again, eagerly this time.
“Run as fast as you can into that tree.”
“Anything,” Draco exhaled, as he turned and started to run in the direction she had pointed.
She dropped to her knees as the adrenaline left her, and her stomach heaved.
“Gabrielle, what is it?” Harry asked.
She had no idea why he was there, or how he was there; she just launched herself at him, crying her heart out. “He touched me, and he wouldn’t let go,” she sobbed.
“Who did?” Harry growled, and she felt a surge of almost indescribable rage and anger through their Bond at her words.
“He did,” she said, pointing at the running Draco. She turned, and with a sickening thump, Malfoy hit the tree and bounced off, unconscious before he hit the ground.
“Let’s get you out of here,” Harry said, his body tense, and they vanished, leaving the heir to the Malfoy dynasty, what was left of it anyway, bleeding and unconscious on the grass.
With thanks, as always, to my hard working beta team - John, Cami, Susie, Rachael, and John.
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