Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no profit.
Acknowledgments: Rpeh for the beta work.
December 18-20, 1999
Harry Potter arrived in Bordeaux in the early evening of the eighteenth. There were only three others on the portkey from Ballycastle. Yet the paparazzi greeted him at the terminal regardless. It was the first time he'd come to France since he'd defeated Lord Voldemort and the French knew it.
Part of him wished that the media circus would have waited until he came to the country for a match, at least then he could hide behind the team and not just be standing alone in a public space while people snapped his photo and yelled questions at him.
Thankfully he saw Bill in the corner and after eighteen months of reporters he'd grown accustomed to getting away from them. Half of the time he'd just Apparate away or glare. Unfortunately, he didn't know his destination and the French weren't accustomed to his glare.
But it was easy enough to give them some kind words and quotable nonsense, albeit in English, before pushing through them and moving over to Bill.
"Good to see you, Harry," Bill said right away.
"Hey Bill," Harry responded. "Ginny not make it in? I thought her Portkey was due in twenty minutes before mine."
"She made it in fine," Bill said, running a hand through his hair. "She just ran into some friends who play for the Lightning and went off with them. I don't think she caught word that you were going to be early and she was off before I could tell her."
"I see," Harry said, adjusting his bag around his shoulder. It was his standard team bag, black with the red Bats logo on it. He'd only brought enough clothing for a few days and not much else. Bill was holding a very similar green and gold one.
"She didn't seem to think you'd mind," Bill said, almost cautiously.
"Nah, it's fine," Harry shrugged. "She thought I was coming in later. Where are we heading to?"
"Public floo will get us to a couple of blocks away from their house," Bill said.
"Can't just go straight there?" Harry asked.
"No," Bill said. "Floo is outbound only there. The French ministry doesn't tend to like politicians' homes accessible by everyone who can say a few words."
"Can't fault them for that," Harry said as they queued up with some others at the public floo terminals near the portkey arrivals.
"Makes you wonder if the Death Eaters knew dad had Privet Drive added to the floo network during your third year, doesn't it?" Bill laughed.
"That's a chilling thought," Harry laughed.
"Thankfully not one we have to worry about," Bill said.
"Is that why they're doing this?" Harry asked.
"No," Bill said. "Fleur's parents wanted to get to know the entire Weasley clan. Considering how tense the wedding was, and how it ended, they wanted to do something nice. I think they wanted to do it last year, but Fleur talked them out of it."
"So they decided to have everyone for a nice little Christmas party and I'm invited because I'm dating Ginny and not because I'm Harry Potter," Harry said.
"Exactly," Bill said. "Charlie couldn't make it back. And the twins aren't coming until tomorrow. I don't think they quite realized just how many extras that entailed. And I think my mother is driving Mrs. Delacour mad."
"I can't imagine why," Harry laughed.
"That's why I offered to come get you," Bill said. "I think Fleur was jealous that I managed to slip out while she was stuck icing biscuits."
"Interesting. So, there's biscuits awaiting?" Harry asked.
"I think they're for tomorrow," Bill laughed.
"It's tomorrow in Japan," Harry said. Bill rolled his eyes as they arrived at the public floo. He and Bill both grabbed some of the communal powder and he followed Bill to their destination.
They stepped out of a fire in what appeared to be an inn of some sort. Bill waved at the barkeep and said something in French that was too quick for Harry to decipher. They stepped outside and Bill led him down a forested street.
"Where are we?" he asked.
"Just a few miles outside of Bordeaux. Their house is just up ahead," Bill said as they walked down the street.
"Anything I need to know before I put my foot in my mouth?" Harry asked.
"You're Harry Potter, does it matter how you act?" Bill asked.
"Ask me again after I eat all the biscuits tonight," Harry said.
"I feel like you could get away with it," Bill responded. "Anyway, how's your French?"
"Mediocre at best. Bad if I'm being honest with myself," Harry said.
"I'd say at least try to use it if you go anywhere with them. At the house they don't seem to mind English but they'd appreciate French in public. I'm sure Apolline will want to take you to the Christmas market. She's always a big part of it and very proud of it," Bill said.
"I've heard of that," Harry said. "It's supposed to be a fun time."
"It's enjoyable," Bill agreed. "Especially if you like the holidays."
"I do. Is that the house?" he asked, seeing the roof of one in the distance. Bill nodded.
"Yes," he said as he turned up one of the drives. "Welcome to Chez Delacour." It wasn't quite as grand as Harry expected. But it was a large two-story building set back into the forest. It was a stone building with two chimneys that he could see, smoke coming out of one of them. Garlands and lights lined the building and it looked quite quaint with snow staring to fall around it.
"Is it wrong I expected more?" Harry asked. He knew that Louis Delacour was high up in the French ministry. He believed the man was in charge of international trade. But he wouldn't have wanted to be quoted on that.
"I did too at first," Bill said. "But you know government jobs aren't always what they're cracked up to be. Not like a quidditch star."
"Hey, Ginny makes more than me. And, I mean, not saying it's not nice. But Fleur always made it seem like they had their own castle," Harry said.
"Well there are stables out back. Apolline like horses. And sometimes it is more how it makes you feel and not what it is," Bill said.
"True enough," Harry agreed, feeling oddly shallow.
"Anyway let's go tell everyone you're here," Bill said as they walked up the steps to the building. Bill opened the front door and walked right in, Harry followed after him.
There was a staircase leading upstairs in the entry. Garlands lined the railing going up. Harry peered upstairs but before he could really fathom going upstairs the smell of baked goods filled his nostrils and his attention turned toward the kitchen, where Bill was already heading.
Harry followed a few steps behind him. His eyes took in the unfamiliar house. It was decorated to the nines for the holiday with something pertaining to the yule on every mantle or wall, mistletoe in nearly every doorway, little villages set up in most little lights gracing nearly everything. Harry wondered how much of it was regular holiday occurrence and how much was for the party. A very large pine tree took up most of the foyer, Harry saw a pair of familiar blondes going through ornaments and hanging them on the tree. He debated saying hello but instead he heard Bill talk from the kitchen.
"Harry's here," he said.
"Harry?" Molly Weasley squealed and Harry turned to step into the kitchen.
"Hey," he said as Mrs. Weasley engulfed him in a hug. He waited as patiently as he could for it to be over. It didn't take nearly as long as usual.
"Give me your bag, Harry," Apolline said as Molly let go of him. He shifted the bag off his shoulder and offered it to her. She took it and it vanished instantly.
"I've sent your and Ginny's things upstairs. Third room on the right will be yours," she said.
"Thanks," Harry said, his attention sliding away from Apolline Delacour and instead toward the pans of biscuits cooling on the counter.
"I still don't think that's proper. I'm sure Ron wouldn't mind bunking up with Harry for a few days and Hermione and Ginny have roomed together before," Molly said.
"Nonsense," Apolline said, waving her hand airily in Molly's general direction.
"They're all unmarried," Molly scoffed.
"And will just sneak into whatever room we don't put them in," Apolline said.
"I am very sneaky," Harry agreed, mostly to make Molly uncomfortable. Molly flushed a deep crimson as Apolline laughed.
"And they all know enough magic to be discreet," Apolline added.
"You're just not going to let me have this, are you?" Molly said as she continued to blush.
"No," Apolline smiled at the other matriarch.
"Are those biscuits ready yet?" Harry asked, giving Apolline Delacour his most practiced smile. In response she swatted him on the shoulder.
"You are as bad as Ronald. They are for tomorrow," she said.
"Yes, but I haven't had anything to eat since before the match," Harry responded.
"I am sure I could make you something," Molly said.
"I could make myself something," Harry said. "Or I could sneak a few of those candy cane biscuits."
"Oh fine," Apolline laughed and handed him a small assortment of Christmas biscuits. Harry ate the first one in one bite. "Just don't tell anyone else."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Harry said with his mouth full. Arthur Wesley and Louis Delacour took that moment to enter the room. They were both laughing jovially about something and Harry turned away to finish the biscuits quickly.
"Harry!" Arthur yelled.
"Harry Potter!" Louis Delacour joined him. Harry turned and smiled at both of them, swallowing the last vestiges of the biscuit as he did.
"Hey," he said.
"Where's Ginny?" Arthur asked. "I thought she was supposed to get in before you."
"She did. But she ran into some friends at the portkey terminal and went to a party with them," Bill said.
"That girl," Molly scoffed with an amused smile. Arthur looked at Harry, concerning rising oh his face. But Harry responded with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders.
"I promised the girls we would help finish decorating the tree," Louis said, clearly looking for a distraction.
"Then why are you here?" Apolline scolded.
"I was going to open up a bottle of the '74 for the occasion," Louis said.
"Good year," Harry commented, having no idea if it was or wasn't.
"Oh, you know wine?" Louis asked.
"I know I like drinking it," Harry said.
"A boy after my own heart," Louis laughed. "I'll bring you a glass."
"Thanks," Harry said.
"Your usual Bill?" Louis asked.
"I shouldn't. Not if Fleur can't drink as well," Bill said.
"I was going to make some cocoa. Why don't one of you go ask Gabrielle what she would prefer and go and tell Ron and Hermione that Harry has arrived. I am sure they will want to know," Apolline asked.
"I can take drink orders," Harry said.
"I'll get Ron and Hermione," Bill said. He turned and left through the same door they'd entered, heading toward the staircase. Harry stepped toward the other door that seemed to lead to the living room where he'd seen the girls decorating the tree.
"Hey," he said. Both Gabrielle and Fleur Delacour turned to face him.
"Harry!" the older witch, Fleur, turned and smiled at him. She still didn't quite get the H on his name out, but it was better than it had been years ago. She moved to him and hugged him.
"Hey Fleur," he smiled. "You're looking great. Congratulations, by the way, when are you due?"
"End of April," she said. "We have not found out the gender yet."
"Planning on it?" Harry asked.
"I do not think so," Fleur said. "We both are amused by the surprise."
"I'd be too impatient," Harry said.
"The only thing I am impatient for is it to be out of me. I am getting huge," she frowned. Her sister snorted, earning her a glare.
"Well you look great," Harry said.
"Thank you," Fleur said. "You remember Gabrielle."
"Of course," Harry said. The younger girl blushed. "She's looking quite lovely as well."
"Oh, uhm, thank you," Gabrielle flushed crimson and looked away from Harry, rushing to the tree to hang an ornament on it. Fleur gave Harry a bemused look. He remembered thinking that Gabrielle was probably around eight during the Triwizard Tournament but he'd been wrong. She'd only been four years younger than him, give or take a month or two. She was starting to look very much like Fleur had during that year, despite still being a few years younger than her sister.
But, despite their similar looks on paper, Gabrielle lacked a certain spark that her sister had. While Fleur was always the centre of attention, the most radiant thing in the room, Gabrielle managed to seem plain regardless.
Part of him wanted to ask about it. But there was no good way of broaching that subject. Ron may have been dumb enough to ask a girl why she didn't have the same spark as her sister. But Harry figured it would be better to not cripple the girl's self-esteem.
"Is Ginny joining us?" Fleur asked.
"Not until later," Harry said. "I was supposed to get drink orders. But Bill had not succeeded in rousing Ron and Hermione yet."
"Sure he has," Ron Weasley said, slapping him on the back. "Any thought of transferring to Chudley yet?"
"No," Harry said.
"Come on, you'd start there for sure," Ron groaned.
"I'll start in Ballycastle eventually too," he said.
"I don't know, Parker is damn good," Ron said.
"A ringing endorsement of your best friend there," Hermione Granger scoffed. She hugged him as she entered the room.
"Well you know, Ginny is already starting," Ron said.
"I heard that," Harry responded.
"Ron enough quidditch talk," Hermione said.
"I was supposed to take drink orders," Harry said, doing his best to change the subject.
"I'll take some wine," Hermione said.
"I am fine," Fleur said.
"Firewhiskey!" Ron exclaimed.
"Really Ron?" Hermione scoffed.
"Hey I like it," Ron responded.
"I would like a wine," Gabrielle said. Harry nodded at the orders and made his way back to the kitchen. Louis Delacour was just uncorking a wine as Harry re-entered the kitchen.
"Fleur was fine, Ron wanted a whisky, Hermione and Gabrielle a wine," Harry said as he re-entered the kitchen.
"Is Gabrielle old enough—" Molly started but stopped abruptly. Harry could tell she wouldn't have served Ginny at that age, but regretted saying anything as it was not her home.
"She is fifteen, if she wants a glass of wine she can have a glass of wine," Apolline said. "It is Christmas after all. Only one glass though, Louis."
"Of course, Love," Louis said, drawing the requisite number of wine glasses. He floated the first filled one over to Harry. He plucked it out of the air and took a sip.
"That's damn good," he said. Louis smiled at him.
"One of the finest we stock," he said. "For special occasions and special guests."
"Well, Merry Christmas then," Harry said, raising his glass in salute of the holiday. Louis laughed jovially and did the same and they drank. A moment later he returned to the living room with the drinks floating behind him. They dispersed themselves as he entered.
"So, is this one of your traditions?" Ron asked as Fleur and Gabrielle continued to wander between the boxes containing wrapped ornaments and the tree, hanging them every couple of minutes.
"Yes," Fleur said. "Mother always liked doing it by hand."
"Mum always just did it by magic for us," Ron said.
"We did something similar," Hermione said to the Delacour sisters.
"What about you Harry?" Gabrielle asked as she unwrapped another ornament. A silence fell over the room and Harry saw the younger French girl blush and sip her wine as if she wished with every fibre of her being she could take back the question.
"Nothing similar," Harry said. "The Dursley's used a fake tree."
"Oh," Gabrielle said. "I do not like fake trees."
"Me either," Harry smiled. "You guys need a hand?"
"I don't think so," Fleur said. "We are almost finished. Sit and relax."
"Okay," Harry said, taking a seat on the couch in the room as all of the other guests filtered in. He immediately felt like he would rather do anything other than sit and relax. Apolline entered the room with her a try of cocoa, that Fleur beelined to and immediately filled two cups. Bringing one back to Bill on the loveseat. She sat with her head resting on his shoulder as Gabrielle soldiered on with the ornaments.
The adults started to chat. Harry found he had very little to add so he sat on the couch and sipped his wine. He noticed Ron and Hermione talking quietly to each other as Bill and Fleur discussed the Christmas fair with Apolline. Louis and Arthur seemed enraptured in continuing whatever conversation they were having before.
Harry quickly grew bored of trying to eavesdrop on the conversations and lost himself in thinking about why he was even there as an odd sense of loneliness spread through him. He hadn't been the one invited. Ginny was the Weasley that was supposed to be here. And yet she was out somewhere with friends, having a great time.
He shook that thought from his head, knowing that wasn't her intention. He hadn't even planned on taking the early portkey. But the match had ended early and he had no reason to stick around the stadium. He floo'd to say he'd be in early, but Ginny had already left, so he contacted Bill at the Delacourss to let them know. And that had worked, as far as getting someone to meet him at the terminal. But he'd imagined something more amusing.
He could picture himself in his mind, with Ginny laying against him on the couch as she had in the Gryffindor common room all of those years ago, as Hermione and Fleur were laying against Ron and Bill now. But his couch was empty. It was just him sitting on it, trying to find something clever to say as Arthur and Louis talked about ministry business and Apolline and Molly talked about the Christmas festival.
It became oddly unbearable for him as he knew that Ginny was not there and losing himself fin a fantasy was pointless. And that thought made him feel unbearably alone and distant from everyone else in the room.
He decided he had enough sitting on the couch and he moved over toward the box of ornaments on the table, deciding to join the only other loner in her work. He plucked one from the box Gabrielle returned from the tree.
"I've never decorated a tree before," he admitted. Gabrielle raised her brows and looked at him.
"Never? Not even at school?" Gabrielle asked.
"Never," Harry affirmed as he looked down at the ornament in his hands. It was a basic one, just a metallic golden ball on a hook. He held it up and looked at his reflection in it. He looked tired. Like he'd gotten up too early and been busy all day. Just looking at himself made him want to yawn.
"Well, come with me," Gabrielle said, plucking another ornament out of the box and leading him over to the tree.
"Is there a trick to it?" he asked, gazing up at the ten-foot pine that already seemed to have an ornament on every branch.
"Non. Just look for a branch that seems barren and hang your ornament. Like this," she said as she eyed the tree. She found a spot at about waist level and reached into the branches to hook the ornament around it. The weight brought the branch ever so slightly down and the ornament fell in line with one of the lights. The light reflected off of the crystal ornament she'd hung and Harry thought it looked rather appealing.
"I see," he said, peering at the tree. He took a moment to walk around it. Gabrielle stayed at his side. He found her presence oddly reassuring as her flowery perfume wafted up toward his nose. It reminded him of Ginny and he realized the girls were about the same height.
He turned his attention back to the tree and found a nearly empty branch near the top. He reached up and hooked the ornament around the branch and let go. He almost grabbed it as the weight of it pulled the branch down, assuming he'd done something wrong. But then he remembered how silly that was and instead stepped back to look at it.
"Perfect," Gabrielle said.
"Well I don't know that I'd go that far," Harry responded.
"It looks nice," Gabrielle said. "And that is all that really matters. So it is perfect. Now we do it again."
"Okay," Harry responded. He walked back to the bin of ornaments and took another one out. This one was a plastic bottle of champagne. He peered at it for a moment before finding a spot for it on the tree.
He continued then, losing himself in the routine of it, finding it quite amusing as a turkey joined the bottle of champagne. A couple of birds were his next victims. And then a snowflake, a crystal ball, a group of four wands paired together, a unicorn, and a quaffle followed. But then he returned to the bin of ornaments and saw that it was empty.
"Okay Papa," Gabrielle said, taking her wine glass and sitting on the same couch Harry had vacated a few moments before. "That is all of them. All that is left is for you and Maman to finish it up."
"Is that right?" Louis asked. "Are you girls sure?"
"Positive," Fleur said, sitting up from Bill and smiling rather brightly at her father.
"And you too, Elle?" Louis asked.
"I am sure," Gabrielle nodded. She sipped her wine as Harry sat on the couch next to her.
"Well I think we should refill our drinks first," Louis said. He lifted his wand and the bottles of alcohol floated in from the kitchen.
"Oh, come now, Papa!" Fleur whined.
"You never were very patient, pétale," Louis said.
"Petal?" Bill whispered with a smirk, earning a glare and an elbow from his wife. Who, once she'd finished with him, turned her glare directly on her father.
"After all the work they did today it is rather rude to keep them waiting, Louis," Apolline said as the bottle of liquor floated over to Ron and refilled his glass. A trio of wine decanters refilled everyone else's. Including, to Harry's surprise, Gabrielle's although it waited until Mrs. Weasley's attention was elsewhere.
"Well I suppose you're right," Louis said as he pulled himself to his feet. He set his wine glass down and moved slowly toward the tree. Harry noticed both Fleur and Gabriele sat on the edge of their seats as he watched what could have only been a family ritual.
"How does it look?" Apolline asked. Louis didn't respond right away. Instead he spent a moment seeming to examine every branch of the tree and then turned back to his family and his guests.
"Like it's missing something," he said. "Mister Potter can I ask your assistance?"
"Uh sure," Harry said, unable to hide his surprise. He stood, but not after taking another sip of his wine, and walked back over toward the tree.
"What do you think?" he asked with a sweeping gesture toward the tree.
"I think it looks great," Harry admitted. And he thought it did too, even without being biased at his own effort. It was a large tree, decorated down to nearly every pine needle. He frowned as he tried, and failed, to look for a fault.
"It does. But it's missing a top!" And with a flourish of his wand a golden star appeared before him. He held it out to Harry. "Would you like to do the honours?"
"I shouldn't," Harry blushed. "I already feel like I'm intruding."
"Nonsense!" the man said. He held his wand slightly higher and the star levitated toward Harry.
"Go ahead, Harry," Fleur said quietly. Harry nodded and held out his own wand, taking the levitated star into his own power and staring at it for a moment. He took a deep breath, finding it odd that he found himself so nervous, and started to raise the star to the top of the tree.
His mind filled with all manner of how he could screw it up. He half expected that as soon as his magic touched the tree it would burst into flames and ruin the entire decorative motif. And then he'd be to blame for ruining the holiday. Much like his presence had ruined the holidays while he stayed at Privet Drive.
But no such drama occurred as he lowered the star back down onto the top of the tree. He felt Louis Delacour secure it with magic and he let his own levitating spell lapse as he smiled up at the now glowing star.
"There," he said admiring his own handiwork and feeling weirdly proud of himself. "Is it done?"
"Not quite," Louis said. "If you would be so kind, Cherie?"
"Gladly," Apolline said as she too took out her wand. She took her own turn pacing the tree as Harry took his seat next to Gabrielle again. She beamed at him for a moment, at least for long enough to realize what she was doing before she blushed and looked away. Harry's attention was too focused on the tree to notice, though.
Apolline raised her wand and with a practiced flourish tinsel burst from the tip of her wand and started to arrange itself decoratively around the tree. It took her perhaps five minutes of adjusting before she changed her tactic and magical snow started to cling to the branches as well. After a few more minutes the tree looked finished and she turned back to her family.
"Bravo," Fleur said.
"It's beautiful," Harry nodded.
"Can you show me that tinsel spell?" Hermione asked.
"Of course," Apolline smiled. She walked over toward Hermione and did show her the movements. Ron laughed and rolled his eyes at his girlfriend and continued drinking his whisky.
The conversation continued. This time Harry noticed that Arthur and Louis tried to keep him in the loop. He appreciated it, but it became quickly apparent that he didn't really have anything of note to add to their conversations.
Gabrielle, to her credit, tried to ask him about the life of a Quidditch pro. But he couldn't seem to find the words to make it sound like it was anything other than a dull routine. Still, she gazed at him with bright blue eyes and seemed to hang off his words. But Harry found himself with surprisingly little to say. He tried to say more, to stay interesting, but he knew the shortness of his responses must have made it seem like he was uninterested in talking to her. And Apolline Delacour picked up on that.
"Perhaps we could do with some festive music," she said.
"I know a wonderful wireless program," Molly Weasley said.
"Nonsense," Apolline said. "Gabrielle will play us something on the piano."
"Do I have to?" Gabrielle groaned.
"Yes. I would love some live music," Apolline said and gestured to a piano in the corner of the room. Harry hadn't noticed it to that point but he'd been rather distracted by the tree and the decorations.
"Well fine, but only if Fleur sings," Gabrielle said. She stood and moved slowly toward the piano, as if dreading it.
"I cannot," Fleur said, her hand fluttering to her stomach as she made a face. Harry raised his brows at her, getting the distinct feeling that she was using it as an excuse. But he also knew that he wasn't about to call her out on it.
"Please?" Gabrielle pleaded as she sat at the stool in front of the piano, peering down at the keys. Harry didn't think she'd voice it, but he could tell she did not want to be the centre of attention. He wondered how much of that came from growing up in her sister's shadow.
"You will have to grow accustomed to performing soon enough, Elle," Her mother scolded. Gabrielle looked down at her fingers on the keys.
"I sing," Harry said, before he really realized what he was agreeing to. He couldn't remember the last time he sang aloud, much less in front of people. He stood and moved over to the piano wondering why he was going to embarrass himself.
"You do not have to do that," Apolline said. "You are a guest."
"I know," Harry said, scolding himself for not talking the out that appeared before him. "But it should be fun."
"What songs do you know?" Gabrielle asked as Harry stood next to the piano.
"Oh, you know, the basics," Harry said. "I've, uh, never really sang when not alone in the shower so go easy on me to start will you?"
"Anything to distract from my playing," she said as she ran through a quick scale. She paused for a moment to stretch her fingers and then started with a few familiar notes. Harry let his voice join the notes as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer filled the room. Followed by a rousing rendition of Frosty the Snowman before she surprised him with Santa Claus Coming to Town.
Harry found himself rather surprised by how easily the words returned to him, songs he last remembered singing in primary school. He took a few minutes after the third song to sip some more of his wine while Gabrielle played Jingle Bells. She looked at him while he stopped singing but kept playing and he returned to her side. She surprised him then with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen followed by Three Kings. He did not remember the words to those and improvised, drawing quite a few laughs as he did.
"You are terrible," Fleur said, standing and walking toward the couch with a bright smile on her face. She said something quickly in French to Gabrielle and she started playing something slower. Fleur waited a few measures before joining in, in French. It was melodic and captivating, despite Harry only being able to pick up a few words here or there. The sisters continued for another song before Fleur sat next to her at the piano and made her join in a duet.
Gabrielle's voice was considerably softer than her sister's but it made for a nice contrast between the two of them. Once they finished that song Fleur ruffled her sister's hair and returned to Bill on their couch.
Gabrielle shifted the tempo and started on the Twelve Days of Christmas. Harry improvised almost every one of the gifts and moved around the room making each of the other guests add something in. Gabrielle seemed to pick up on what he was doing and would pause until they said something, before continuing. Every guest was laughing as a rousing round ended the song.
After she moved on to Silent Night, slowing down as she continued the song. Harry found himself quite tired after she finished and returned to his wine. He saw Fleur was pretty much asleep on Bill and Ron was nodding off as well.
"I think that is enough, Elle," Louis said. Gabrielle nodded and stopped playing. She moved back to the couch and her wine glass, sitting next to Harry. She gave him a brief smile before blushing and looking away.
"I think it's time for me to take Fleur to bed," Bill said. He stood and lifted Fleur easily as nearly everyone said some rendition of good night as they left the room.
"Perhaps it's time for everyone to turn in," Arthur said as he and Molly rose.
"A good idea. It is getting late," Louis said.
"Gabrielle would you mind?" Apolline said, gesturing to the empty try of cocoa and glasses littered around the room as everyone stated to disperse.
"Non Maman," Gabrielle said. Harry found it to be odd that the only one who couldn't use magic was stuck cleaning up so he helped her by gathering some of the glasses as well. No one commented as he followed her into the kitchen.
He helped her clean with magic. It barely took a couple of minutes and she seemed rather thankful for his help. It was only about eleven in the evening then. He frowned. He'd grown accustomed to staying up much later than that.
"Thank you," Gabrielle said from his side. He'd almost forgotten she was there.
"Oh no problem," Harry responded.
"A guest shouldn't have to help," Gabrielle said.
"Nonsense, everyone should pitch in," Harry said.
"At least I can say I tried to get you to not help," Gabrielle said.
"Don't worry, if anyone asks I'll claim I refused to be indolent," Harry said.
"I appreciate that," Gabrielle smiled at him.
"I'm surprised you're home from school already," Harry said.
"Today was our final day of term. I am off until the New Years," Gabrielle said.
"A nice long break," Harry responded.
"Yes. I only stay home for the holiday. I will probably go back after Christmas," she said.
"I always stayed at Hogwarts for the whole term," Harry said.
"I would have been trying to flee to warmer climates from my brief experience there," Gabrielle said.
"Didn't have any to go to," Harry said.
"That would be a problem," Gabrielle said.
"Quite," Harry responded as she finished putting away the now clean dishes. "Now would you be willing to show me to wherever I'm sleeping?"
"Of course," Gabrielle said as she dried her hands and then led him out of the kitchen. The walked down main hallway, away from the living room and toward the stairs once more. He followed her up the stairs and down the hallway. Harry could sense the magic upstairs and he realized quickly that many of the rooms were not permanent parts of the house. She stopped outside of one of them.
"I believe this was you and Ginny," she said. "But you are going to be the one who opens the door so I do not get yelled at if it is your friends and they are naked."
"Oh sure, use me as a scapegoat," Harry said.
"Yes," Gabrielle nodded. Harry opened the door and found the room empty save for his and Ginny's bags.
"All clear," Harry said.
"Good," Gabrielle smiled. "Good night then, Harry."
"Good night, Elle," he responded, barely realizing he used the diminutive her father had used. He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. It reminded him quite a lot of most hotels he'd ever stayed in. He saw a large king bed in the middle of the room, a closet, a desk with a lamp on it, a vanity, and another standing lamp in a corner by the dresser. He took Ginny's bag and set it on the chair at the vanity before turning his attention back to his bag.
He dug through it purely to find some sleepwear, pulling a pair of athletic shorts from the bag with a clean white shirt and his toiletries. He gathered the clothing in his hand and moved the bag to a chair in the corner.
He moved into the bathroom, the thought of a nice warm shower appealing to him. The large tub in the bathroom won out though and he found himself relaxing in it. He dozed a bit, hoping that he'd hear the sound of the door opening and Ginny returning. But that sound didn't come.
An hour or so later he gave up and left the tub, feeling relaxed and refreshed. He dried with magic and threw on his clothing before returning to the bedroom. A wave of his wand darkened the lights in the room and he crawled into bed, curling up with the warm blankets and waiting for sleep.
It took longer to come than he would have liked, thoughts swirling through his head as he waited for sleep to take him. He wondered why he'd decided to rush off to the party after the match ended quickly. He could have kept his plans as normal and not felt like such an out of place burden at the Delacour/Weasley family Christmas.
None of them thought of him as a burden. He knew that it was stupid of him to even think that. But years of the Dursleys had taken their toll, and he knew it would take a while before he ever really trusted his feelings around other families. Ginny would have made him feel like less of an outsider. But Ginny wasn't there. He wondered just where she was at that moment, just what she was doing.
A momentary pang of jealousy shot through him. But he shrugged it off. He had no reason to be jealous. He trusted her and knew she trusted him. But he would have liked her to be there. It was her family, after all. Not his.
He knew that was wrong to think. But it was the truth. They were not his family. Yes, they'd done plenty for him over the years. But he was still the outsider in the group. And he really disliked being the outsider in the group. He hated being the other. Being the one that didn't fit. Being the one that needed to be hidden away in the closet underneath the stairs.
He shoved that thought from his head almost as quickly as it came back and rolled over onto his side, thinking happier thoughts about Christmas carols and holidays of the past. That turned into counting reindeer and then he did eventually fall asleep, hoping that he'd be woken in the middle of the night by a beautiful redhead crawling into bed with him.
But the morning came without any interruption. The sun working gleaming through the windows woke him. His bed was woefully empty and didn't even have the warmth of another body leaving it recently.
He crawled out of bed, showered quickly, shaved and dressed in jeans and a jumper before heading downstairs, curious as to what he would find. He heard voices from the kitchen and entered to find Hermione, Apolline, and Gabrielle.
"Morning," he said.
"Morning Harry," Hermione responded.
"Would you like some coffee?" Apolline asked.
"Please," Harry said and found a mug of it before him a few moments later.
"Help yourself, too," she added, gesturing to a platter of pieces of baguette and croissants on the kitchen counter. Harry picked one off the table and started eating with the coffee.
"Thanks," he said.
"I had just asked Hermione if she and Ron would like to visit the Christmas Market this afternoon with the rest of the family," Apolline asked.
"I'd love to. I know Ginny was excited for the market," Harry said. "It's all she talked about for most of last week." It was mostly true. She mentioned it once or twice. But most of what she talked about was quidditch.
"Did she sneak in during the night?" Apolline asked.
"No," Harry said. "But I'm sure she'll show up today. She was never much of a morning person. What time was everyone planning on leaving?"
"Around four," she smiled and turned to leave the room. "But now I'm going to rouse my husband."
"How have you been, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"I'm well," he said. "How's the ministry?"
"It's going well. It's a little tedious being on the bottom rung but my department head has been giving me more responsibility lately. I think I should move up quickly," Hermione said.
"Good they could all use a kick in the ass," Harry said.
"Why?" Gabrielle asked.
"Harry dislikes politicians," Hermione said.
"My father is a politician," Gabrielle said.
"English politicians," Harry amended while Hermione attempted to remove her foot from her mouth. "The ones that made my life hell for three years and now all want to be photographed next to me."
"Why?" she asked.
"Because I'm Harry Potter. And if they're next to me and we're all smiling then they might not have tried to sell me to Snatchers during the war," Harry said.
"There was very little evidence of that, Harry," Hermione frowned. "Most just did what they were told."
"You know I don't think that makes it any better," Harry said. "But we don't need to have this argument again."
"My father did what he was told during the war," Gabrielle said.
"No," Harry shook his head. "He didn't."
"But he said," Gabrielle frowned.
"Your father offered me shelter and a safe house, against the will of quite a few people. Although I'm not sure they knew. I didn't take him up on the offer because of what I had to do. Hiding wouldn't have ended anything. We could still be hiding," Harry said.
"He never said that he did anything like that," Gabrielle frowned.
"Your father is not the type to seek acclaim. He's a good man with a good sense of right and wrong. And he tried to do what he thought was right. That's more than almost any politician in England can say right now. It's no wonder he and Arthur get on so well," Harry said.
"Oh," Gabrielle said, looking surprised by Harry's words.
"Does Ginny know any way to get here other than the inn in town?" Harry asked.
"I don't think so," Hermione said.
"I think I'm going to go for a run then head down there and wait," Harry said. Patronus me if she shows up?" Harry said.
"I will," Hermione said. Harry couldn't read her expression. It looked desperately like she wanted to continue talking. But she knew better than to press him. And she had more important things to do, like get Ron out of bed and feed him so he wasn't grumpy for the rest of the day. He turned and left the kitchen.
"Did I say something wrong?" he heard Gabrielle ask behind him.
"No," Hermione responded. "That's just Harry. I'll explain later."
"Okay," Gabrielle said as he opened the door and left the building. He remembered the walk down to the inn readily enough. He stretched and waved his wand so his clothing dissolved into standard Bats workout clothing. He remembered the walk to the Inn and wasn't sure it would be that good of a run. So he started out in the other direction at a brisk jog. He gave it a good twenty minutes before he turned around and proceeded toward the Inn. Hermione and Ron were outside looking at the Delacour's home as he finished passed. Ron looked at him like he was insane as he ran by and Harry yelled that he should join him.
He made it to the town not much time later. He walked for a few blocks as a cooldown and then used magic to clean himself and change his clothing back into something more presentable. He entered the inn once his breathing returned to a normal level.
He sat at the bar and ordered a coffee. The glare from the bartender changed his drink order into a Bloody Mary. He sipped at it as he waited for Ginny.
He ordered a charcuterie plate with his second drink and picked at that as the minutes ticked on. The man behind the bar made polite conversation with him here or there. Harry suspected he recognized him but the man was professional enough to not press him on it.
About halfway through his third drink and the rest of the meat he realized he didn't really want to sit in the inn and drink all day. His annoyance at a distinct lack of Ginny or a Patronus telling him she was at the house started to bubble over and he knew he didn't want to focus more on that. A glance at his watch revealed it was just past noon. He threw ample coins down on the bar and started the saunter back to the Delacour house.
He was less annoyed and far more rational by the time he returned to the house. He walked up toward the door when something caught him out. He looked around for the source of the noise but didn't see anything. So instead he turned and investigated the shimmery noise as it sped up. He moved through the woods behind the house and continued to follow it and it became sombre, then happy, then airy. It took him nearly an hour of wandering through the woods to find the source. Twice it stopped and he found himself turned around and confused. Had he not known he could Apparate he would have been rather concerned about the situation. But both times the sound returned.
Eventually, he entered a clearing and saw Gabrielle sitting on tree stump, her eyes closed, as she played a shiny silver flute. She continued, oblivious to his presence as he stepped into the clearing. A horse was tied to a tree near her. It was saddled and looked quite bored as it attempted to graze. She finished the song drew the flute from her lips and opened her eyes.
"That was good," Harry said.
"Oh!" she nearly jumped off the log, her hands flying into the air in shock, the flute flying up into the sky. She fumbled after it but Harry caught it with a levitating charm and floated it back down to her hands.
"Sorry," he said.
"You startled me," she said.
"Well I didn't want to interrupt," he said. "I take it you like music?"
"Yes," she said. "Piano was father's idea. I always preferred the woodwinds."
"Anything you can't play?" Harry teased.
"I can only play those two. I guess three if you count the piccolo," she frowned, looking like thought she disappointed him.
"Well, three more than me," Harry said. "Although I did bang on Dudley's drum set once or twice when they weren't home."
"How was that?" Gabrielle asked.
"No idea," Harry shrugged. "Honestly it just felt good to hit something."
"I see," Gabrielle said, as if she wasn't sure how to respond to that.
"I know, my relatives make a terrible conversation starter," Harry said. "I've just felt oddly reflective lately."
"I am told the holidays do that," Gabrielle said.
"I thought that was only for old people," Harry responded.
"You said it, not me," Gabrielle said.
"Ouch," he said. Gabrielle started to take the flute apart and put it back in the case that rested next to her on the tree stump.
"I am sorry," she said.
"It's alright. I'm a big boy. I'll live. Are you done playing?" He asked.
"I have been at it for over an hour I think it is time to go back home and warm up and then dress up for the market," she said.
"I have to dress up for the market?" Harry asked.
"You are Harry Potter. Do you have to dress up for anything?" she asked.
"I doubt it," Harry said. "But I have never tested that theory."
"I am sure you will be fine in whatever you decide to wear. But perhaps something that does not have a bat on it if you are trying to be incognito," Gabrielle said. Harry gazed down at his jumper, and was only moderately surprised to find the team logo on it.
"Huh," he said.
"You cannot pay that little attention when you dress yourself," Gabrielle said.
"You'd be surprised," Harry responded. She closed the flute case and slipped off her perch.
"Anyway. You will be fine. But you are not a Delacour at the Christmas Market. Because of our family involvement we must look the part," Gabrielle said.
"You're French," Harry said. "Isn't being hoity-toity and dressing up supposed to turn you on?"
"No, that is the Italians," Gabrielle said as she plucked a black helmet from the ground near her feat and moved over toward the horse. Harry followed her.
"Oh, I can't believe I got that wrong," he said as sarcastically as he could manage.
"I can," she said as she untied the horse from the tree and led it around in a circle. It followed her without much prodding.
"Do you ride often?" he asked.
"Less than I did as a child. Fleur liked them more than I did. But it is quicker down the path if you ride than walk. And they need their exercise," Gabrielle said as she turned the horse and started very slowly down the path.
"Huh," Harry said.
"What?" Gabrielle asked.
"There's a path," he said.
"Yes, it leads right to the stables," Gabrielle said.
"Interesting," Harry said.
"Did you wander through the forest to get here?" Gabrielle asked.
"Of course not," Harry said. "That would be silly."
"I do not believe you," Gabrielle laughed.
"Well I was distracted by the music and wanted to find the source of the sound. And have not been known for my ability to think ahead or plan," Harry said.
"Does that not make you worse at quidditch?" Gabrielle asked.
"That might explain my reservist status," Harry said.
"There are rumours that you may not be one for long," Gabrielle said.
"And how would you know that?" Harry asked.
"Do you think that every girl in Europe isn't at least mildly aware of Harry Potter's Quidditch career?" Gabrielle asked.
"I guess that explains how I have the highest selling jersey for the Bats," Harry said. "Please tell me you don't have one."
"I do not, but Christmas is just around the corner," she said.
"Oh good," Harry laughed.
"I do not anticipate getting one. I think my mother would hex me if I wore something that unfashionable. And I can only imagine what my friends would say. It took three years before I convinced them I was never in any danger in the lake," Gabrielle said.
"I still can't believe I fell for that," he scoffed.
"Fleur did too. They did a good job convincing you," Gabrielle said.
"I suppose,' Harry said. "Still a sore spot."
"You still won," Gabrielle said.
"I did," Harry responded. "But enough talking about me."
"I feel like the war hero and Quidditch player is more interesting than the schoolgirl," Gabrielle said.
"Perhaps, but I hate talking about me," Harry said.
"I see," Gabrielle said. "I am afraid I am not very good at coming up with conversation. Everyone tells me I am quiet."
"I'm quiet too," Harry said. "But how about you tell me about the horse?"
"I can do that," Gabrielle said. And she started talking about her horse, patting him on the neck as she did. Harry listened to her talk and kept pace next to her. The walk back to the stables only took about another half hour now that they followed the path.
He insisted on helping her put everything away and brush the horse after. She bossed him around quite expertly. Right about the same moment that they finished a silvery otter entered the stable and ran around him.
"What is that?" Gabrielle asked.
"Hermione's Patronus," Harry said. "Ginny is here."
"About time," Gabrielle scoffed. Harry raised his brows at her.
"I'm going to go see her," Harry said.
"Have fun," Gabrielle smiled at him. "I will see you at the market."
"I look forward to it," he said.
A few minutes later he found himself in the Delacour kitchen. He hugged Ginny immediately upon entering. She hugged him back, kissed him, and slipped out of his arms.
"Hey Gin," he smiled down at her. She was dressed in jeans and a sweater and had sunglasses on.
"Hi Harry," she said, squeezing his hand gently.
"How were your friends?" he asked.
"They're doing well," she said. Harry peered around the kitchen. Only Hermione was there with them at the moment and she had her lips pressed tightly together in obvious annoyance.
"That's good. What did you guys get up to last night?" he asked.
"Hit up a club in Muggle Bordeaux," she said. "Do you know where I'm sleeping? I could use a shower and a change of clothing."
"Of course," Harry said. "I'll show you."
"Great," Ginny said. She took his hand and let him lead her from the kitchen and up to their bedroom.
"And here we are," he said as he stepped in.
"My mother is letting us stay in the same room?" Ginny asked. She pulled her jumper off and shimmied out of her jeans almost before the door to the room closed.
"She wasn't thrilled with the idea, but Mrs. Delacour pointed out that we'd all just sneak into the room we wanted to be in anyway," Harry said.
"I knew I liked that woman. You mind if I catch a quick shower?" she asked. She took off the sunglasses and put them down at the vanity. Her eyes were rather bloodshot.
"Go for it," he said. She rushed over and kissed him but then shot quickly into the bathroom. Harry threw himself onto the bed and closed his eyes. He came to a few minutes later to find Ginny rifling through her bag and heading back to the bathroom.
She emerged a few minutes later. She sniffed once and pinched her nose then smiled over at him on the bed. She deposited her old clothing in her bag and then joined him on the bed, crawling into the crook of his arm.
"What's the plan for tonight?" she asked.
"We're going to the Christmas Market around four," Harry said.
"I went to that last night," Ginny responded. "It was pretty boring."
"Gin," Harry sighed.
"What? They said I had to see it," she said as if she hadn't had a choice in the matter.
"Well you're going to see it again. Because I want to and because Mrs. Delacour wants to show us every inch of it. And you're going to be cheerful about it," Harry said, teasingly.
"Yes daddy," Ginny scoffed.
"Gross," Harry said.
"What have you been doing all day?" Ginny asked.
"I went for a run in the morning and then wandered in the forest. Ran into Gabrielle while she was practicing the flute and she showed me the stables," Harry said.
"Half of that sounds like a euphemism for sex," Ginny said.
"I guess it does," Harry laughed.
"But really, the French girl?" she scoffed.
"We were the only two unoccupied," Harry shrugged.
"Is she as bad as Phlegm?" Ginny asked.
"I thought you liked Fleur now?" Harry asked.
"I guess she's alright. Just so sick of mom talking about grand kids. I hope she gets fat," Ginny said.
"Tell me how you really feel," Harry laughed.
"What time is it?" Ginny asked.
"About three thirty," Harry said. "So, about time to head back downstairs and be gracious guests."
"Do we really have to?" Ginny asked.
"Of course we do," he said. He slipped away from her and pulled her to her feet. She resisted him as far as the doorway, making a playful game out of it. But once they were back among her family the attitude melted away and she was a perfect, playful companion.
She stood right near Apolline Delacour as the French matron told them all about the Bordeaux Christmas Market. Despite it being a lecture that would have rivalled anything Professor Binns could have thought up, she remained engaged the entire time, asking pertinent questions every so often.
Harry stayed by her side for most of it. She slipped away once, claiming she eyed something quite interesting. She came back with a smirk on her face as she rubbed her nose against the cold winds. When he asked what she found she'd just giggled and said he'd find out later.
They spent a few hours at the market. Harry enjoyed it more than Ginny. He could tell she grew bored after about a half hour. But she managed to put on a brave face whenever any of her family were around.
The twins joined the group while they were at the market and Ginny immediately explored it with them. Harry shifted toward Ron and Hermione when Ginny left to chase after the twins.
Unfortunately he immediately felt like a third wheel. So he pretended to be incredibly interested in one of the vendors until Ron and Hermione moved on to the next one. He looked around for Ginny and couldn't see it. His eyes found Gabrielle. She was trailing a few feet behind Bill and Fleur, looking exactly how he felt. He moved over toward her, intending to free them both from their momentary problem. But instead Ginny appeared at his side, holding two white cups.
"Hot chocolate?" she asked.
"Thanks," Harry said, taking one of the cups and sipping from it.
"You should come over and check out this booth here. It's got all sorts of these little figurines of what Muggles think elves look like and it's adorable," Ginny said, pulling him in the opposite direction.
"Any of them as cute as Kreacher?" Harry asked.
"Not even close. And next to it there's all sorts of fancy ornaments. I think we should pick one out for our trees," Ginny said.
"Sounds fun," Harry agreed. It took them the better part of a half hour to find one they both found suitable. And by that time Apolline was trying to round everyone up to return to the house for what would be their Christmas dinner.
It was a rowdy affair, with Fred and George testing out some holiday themed products during the middle of it. Molly started to shout at them, but the rest of the table seemed far too amused by the carolling pixies and whatever charm turned all of the silverware into candy canes.
They spent the rest of the night drinking around the tree again. This time it was Fred and George who serenaded them, at least until Harry, with slight urging from both Louis an Arthur, cast his most powerful silencing charm on them. It took them the better part of two hours to figure out how to counter it and once they had, their only real comment was to see how he'd done it.
It was enough to make Harry wonder just how long it would be until silencing toffee was on the shelves of the joke shop. He made sure to show them a weaker version of the charm.
The party wound down after and Harry found himself leading a slightly inebriated Ginny back to their bedroom. She was giggling rather a lot when they entered and then slipped into the bathroom to change.
He found it odd. Normally she had no qualms about changing in front of him. In fact, he would have guessed she enjoyed it, with how slowly she usually did it. He didn't remember that she'd bought something at the market until she came out of the bathroom wearing a very skimpy green and white furred outfit and matching hat.
"I don't think that's quite what Santa's helpers were going for," Harry said.
"Good thing I have no plans to help Santa," Ginny said, walking over to the bed and crawling onto him. He kissed her as she crawled into his lap, his senses seeming on fire as his lips touched the glitter around hers. He wondered just what it was and how she applied it but he lost himself in her a moment later.
The next morning came too soon. Ginny was already emerging from the bathroom, dressed in Harpies team gear as she started to pack up her belongings. She plucked her outfit form the night before from the ground and tossed it into the bag, rubbing her nose briefly after and then turned to look at him.
"You awake there?" she asked.
"Mmm," Harry yawned, running through the previous night in his head as he debated if he felt like staying awake or not. Despite knowing full well that sleep wouldn't return to him. He'd never been good about falling back asleep.
"Coach wanted to start some early morning practices," Ginny continued. It wasn't uncommon for the Harpies, although the Bats practices were all usually around eleven. I've got to catch an early portkey to be back in time. You'll be able to give everyone my best?"
"Of course," he said. "Ballycastle or Holyhead tonight?"
"Honestly I think I'm going to be a little sore and tired tonight. Can we call it Holyhead tomorrow?" she asked.
"Sure," Harry said. "Floo tonight?"
"Seven?" Ginny asked.
"Perfect," Harry agreed.
"Talk to you then," she said. She threw her back over her shoulder and walked over to the bed to kiss him once more. "Love you."
"Love you too," he said, earning himself another kiss, before Ginny left the room. He tried to go back to sleep but it didn't come. So instead he reviewed some Quidditch plays and waited until a more reasonable hour to dress and head downstairs. He had his breakfast with Bill, Fleur and Gabrielle before Apolline invited him to the market once more. He joined them, but only she and Louis went this time. Apolline had something she needed to take care of herself and Harry spent the time wandering the streets.
Once they got back though, the Weasley clan was setting up to leave. Molly asked about Ginny and Harry relayed that she had an early practice that day. Fleur and Bill were staying on until Christmas Eve, but it was time for the rest of them to go home.
Bill walked them to the inn, where they once again floo'd to the portkey terminal. Minutes later he found himself back in London. But he only stayed there long enough to see the rest of the Weasley's off. After they were on their way back to their homes he popped over to his Ballycastle flat.
It was a modern two bedroom in a new building. The team had suggested it. They were fine with him living in London. But they implied that many players found it good to be seen in the area and to become locals. And Harry didn't mind. Being able to travel nearly instantly between his London flat and his Ballycastle flat was also a perk.
He checked his messages, there was only one, requesting he stop by the stadium when he returned from his vacation. He took his floo to the stadium. The gate guard greeted him with a smile and a wave, barely paying attention as he passed through the magically guarded player's entrance.
The team manager was already talking with someone behind his closed office door. Barker didn't have many hard and fast rules, but one was that his office was only open if the door was open. Barker caught his eye through the glass and gave him a nod. Harry took it to mean that he'd come get him when he was ready. He tried to make out who the manager was talking to but he didn't recognize the other man.
He passed the time by pacing the stadium. He found himself in the team store, merely because it was there, staring up at a wall of Jerseys. Parker, Potter, Button and Quigley were the four main ones on display, lined up in order of number, 7, 17, 18, and 81. It was odd seeing his name on the back of a jersey, the lettering floating above the number seventeen. The reality of it still hadn't set in. He'd watched Quigley in the World Cup all those years ago. And how his Jersey was next to the Irish Legend's.
A very perky and very helpful store staff member came over to him and asked if he needed any help. Once she realized who he was she batted her eyelashes as she asked if there was absolutely anything at all she could do for him. He examined her and an idea struck him.
"What size are you?" he asked, she had a very similar figure to Gabrielle. The girl blinked at him as if she didn't understand the question at first.
"A ladies small, usually," she said.
"I'll take one of those, a Potter one," Harry said. He walked over to the counter and waited for the girl to return with the jersey.
"Here it is," she said, showing it to him.
"Can I have it wrapped and sent to Beauxbatons care of Gabrielle Delacour?" he asked, sliding the paper across the counter.
"Of course," she said, jotting the name down on a pad as she started to ring in the order. She looked up at Harry and then her eyes widened even more and shot to his side. She buried her face in her work then, a flush rising to her cheeks.
"Do I want to know?" Lewis Barker asked.
"It's a joke gift for a friend," Harry said as he turned to look at the manager. Barker was young for his position, a few years shy of forty and handsome.
"I see," Barker said.
"I got your message," Harry said as he paid for the jersey. Barker led him out of the shop after he finished paying.
"I didn't expect you back until tomorrow," the manager said.
"I was a little surprised you were still here too. But I had nothing better to do so I stopped in just to see what you wanted," Harry said.
"Wigtown is going to buy Parker in the winter transfer window," Barker said.
"I assumed someone would be after me instead," Harry said.
"I'm not letting you go anywhere," Barker said.
"What?" Harry asked. He'd never thought the manager was that interested in his play. He'd always been distant. He'd assumed his career had been the owner's decision and one that the manager had to tolerate for the time being. So he'd kept his head down and worked as hard as he could to try to prove him wrong. But Barker hadn't ever seemed to warm up to him.
"You outflew a damned Dragon at fourteen shocking even Viktor Krum. You came to us raw but I expected that and we're fixing it. You've already shown flashes of brilliance. Parker is steady. I'm betting you can be better than that. You're starting our next match against Caerphilly. If Parker gives you any gruff let me know."
"Uh, wow," Harry said.
"Congratulations, Mr. Potter," Barker said before turning to return to his office. Harry smiled to himself, his mind filled with breaking the news to Ginny and how happy she would be for him.