Chapter 1: Fourth Year
Harry Potter was a very unhappy young man. He stood by the shore of the Black Lake and threw stones into the dark waters. Being unable to see them land due to the lateness of the hour only emphasized the splashes and skips.
Yesterday evening, he'd been chosen as the fourth Tri-Wizard Champion. Today, he had no friends. Sure, Hermione stood by him, and he was truly grateful; but the whole school was against him with a vehemence that made second year's 'Heir of Slytherin' issue look like a walk in the park.
As he threw another stone, he realized that he felt utterly alone. Again. Growing up at the Dursleys, he had always felt alone, but for the first three years at school he felt at home. No longer; he was alone again and it was heart rending.
As he reared back to throw another stone, an amused female voice from his right laughingly said, "If you'd like, I can help expand your vocabulary."
Harry stumbled a bit and the large rock he was going to throw for a very dramatic end of his brooding splashed in the shallows, wetting his tatty trainers. Turning to his new companion, he blinked. His first thought was "Fleur?" but he immediately discounted it. The young woman in front of him had the same platinum blond hair, curvaceous figure, and angelic features but she was slightly shorter than the Beauxbatons Champion and in contrast to the Beauxbatons Champion, had a friendly expression on her face.
She smiled at the somewhat confused expression on Harry's face, extended her hand and said, "Gabrielle Delacour." Harry shook her hand, still looking a bit confused. She smiled again and said, "Fleur is my older sister. I am fourteen, where she is seventeen."
Harry nodded and then looked back over the water into the night. He rather forcefully shoved his hands in his pockets and waited for Gabrielle to go away. When she didn't, he turned to her and said, "Can I help you with something?"
The blond girl arched a perfect eyebrow and said, "I think the question is 'Can I help you with something?' You were the one selectively swearing and hurling stones in the water not that long ago, were you not?"
With a bit of a chagrined expression, Harry nodded at his feet. "So, Monsieur Potter" she said in a soft, friendly tone, "How can I help you this evening?"
Harry sighed, and then wondered aloud, "Why not?" walking over to a bench, sat and waved his new confidant over to sit next to him. Over the next three hours, he explained to her about his life. He never intended to give that much detail, but something about her invited his confidence. When he described his first entrance into Diagon Alley including the stares and pointing, she snorted and shook her head irritably. "What?" he asked.
She looked at him pointedly for a moment. Her face softened and she said, "You are not the only person who knows what it is like to be treated like a thing to be stared at, an object" and looked away quickly.
For the first time that evening, he considered her point of view. As a part-Veela, she must have experienced similar situations where people leered and pointed, knowing that many of the observers were thinking the most perverted things about her. With a sadness in his heart, he tentatively reached out and rubbed her back in consolation.
"We're quite the pair, aren't we? The Boy-Who-Lived and the Veela." She chuckled, looked at him with a warm smile and leaned into him, acknowledging his comfort.
He finished his tale of loneliness with his arm around her, holding her close for both of their sake. His tale of isolation was not his alone. At the end, they sat there in silence, letting the night breeze wash over them. They had alternated casting warming charms for each other throughout his tale so they were still comfortable, despite the early November chill.
Eventually, Gabrielle said, "Thank you Harry." When he looked at her with a questioning glance, she turned to him and said very seriously, "I thought that Fleur and I were alone. That I was alone. It is very lonesome to be the people that we are. You have helped me very much this evening. Thank you" and she gave him a firm hug.
Harry fell into the warmth of her hug. He'd been hugged by Hermione many times, by Mrs. Weasley a few times as well. This hug from Gabrielle was so much more. It wasn't the grasping desperateness of the lonely bookish girl who was socially awkward, nor the smothering intensity of the redheaded matron. This was a hug of affection and caring. From someone who knew. He returned the hug affectionately and felt her sigh in his arms. There was a prickly feeling that ran up and down his spine that he ignored and focused on the beautiful girl in his arms.
Slowly disengaging, she put her head on his shoulder and he said, "Friends?"
She flashed him a megawatt smile and nodded enthusiastically, "I'd like that very much Harry." Glancing down at her watch she grew flustered and said, "Merde, it is midnight, and I must be back at the carriages. Ooooh, I am in so much trouble."
Harry stood, smiled and said, "Well, Mademoiselle, since I am the cause of your lateness, allow me to assist you in your time of need" and with an ostentatious flourish, pulled his invisibility cloak out of his robes with a smile. After much admiration of the cloak on her part, he draped it over the both of them and they moved toward the carriages on the Hogwarts lawn.
Now Harry was in a bit of a predicament. This incredibly beautiful brand new friend of his was pressing her body firmly against his own and he had a hard enough time controlling his breathing, much less anything else. Fortunately, it was a relatively short walk and he dropped her at the door to her room. She pulled him in and gave him another firm hug and a quick peck on the cheek saying, "Will I see you at breakfast, friend of mine?"
With a slightly goofy smile, he nodded at her and she smiled back. Wrapping himself in his cloak, she opened the door as if to use the restroom and Harry snuck back to Gryffindor tower.
Through her window, Gabrielle watched the grass move as he trotted back up to the castle. A familiar presence came up behind her and said, "I was worried about you tonight. I couldn't find you anywhere."
Without turning, Gabrielle said, "I was making a new friend." Turning, she saw her sister's raised eyebrows and rolled her eyes at her. "No, I did not kiss him. I know better to do that so very soon." She sighed and watched where she supposed Harry to be and said sotto voce, "But I expect him to be the one" and went off to clean up and go to bed.
Over the next three weeks or so, the two new friends became inseparable. They studied together, they relaxed together. One day, they were relaxing on a couch in the corner of the Gryffindor common room and Gabrielle was telling Harry about her family. Her father's mother was the full blooded Veela in the family it turned out. She had fallen in love with a wizard that she had met at the market of all places.
Harry laughed as she re-enacted her Grand-Mere telling the story of meeting Grand-Pere, with Grand-Pere giving input. She waved her hands in the air, and occasionally telling her non-existent husband to "Ferme le bouche, Papa."
Describing her father, she said, "My father is a good man and a politician." At Harry's raised eyebrows, she gave him a punch in the arm saying, "He is the only one in all of France that is both." After they finished laughing, she continued, "He is the head of all Foreign relations for our Ministry." Her face turned sad and she said, "Sometimes he is away from home more than any of us would like."
Shaking off the mood, she said, "Mama is a Pure-Blooded Witch who, aside from her hostess duties, works for a charity that supports the old and infirm of the French wizarding community." Harry nodded to himself, impressed. He liked to believe his parents would be doing similar things with their own life, had they survived.
Placing a hand gently on his arm, Gabrielle said, "Harry, tell me about your family."
He winced. That night at the lake he'd told her pretty explicitly about the Dursleys, so he knew she was referring to his parents. Looking at his lap, he said softly, but clearly, "I don't know much about them. My dad was a prankster in school and an Animagus – a stag, you know. My mum was a bit of a bookworm with a fiery temper. They got together in their seventh year. They were Head Boy and Girl together. That's about it." He sniffed a little at his surprise tears.
Gabrielle scooted over on the couch they shared and gave him a gentle hug and whispered in his ear, "That's not nearly enough. Let's write to Sirius" he had told her about his Godfather "and ask him to start writing down all his remembrances of your parents and then we shall go to the library and see what we can find, eh?" He nodded and she said with a smile, "We should also enlist the aid of Hermione, she cares for you as well, and knows the library better than both of us combined!"
The three of them searched through various sections of the library with surprisingly good results. In Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts Harry found that his father had been the Deputy Director of Ambassadorial relations, a fast track position in the Ministry and his mother was listed as a "Spell Designer."
Hermione found a treasure trove of information in Who's Who in the Wizarding World. Apparently, the Potter family had a hereditary seat on the Wizengamot, a seat on the Hogwarts Board of Trustees and Harry was a peer of the realm, a Baron no less.
As Harry sat there in shock, he looked at his two friends, Hermione was stunned and had nothing for him. Gabrielle just smiled her smile and said, "What has really changed? You are still the young man with tousled black hair, green eyes and a passion for Quidditch and Treacle Tart." To this Harry and Hermione both laughed, only to be hissed at by Madam Pince.
After digging up a few more facts they headed down to the Great Hall for dinner. Apparently, Harry's great-Grandfather had been Minister for Magic, his grandmother had been a Healer while his Grandfather had been a full time philanthropist.
Hermione had a pensive expression and she turned to Harry and said, "Harry, you should write a letter to Gringotts and have them detail all your accounts and their balances. With some of the things mentioned about your family, you are probably living from a trust account and will come into your complete inheritance at seventeen."
Gabrielle nodded on his other side, "Oui, that is what Fleur and I have in place."
Harry nodded and made a note for one more letter that night.
A few days later, two owls swept down to the Gryffindor table and deposited letters for Harry. Reading Sirius' response first, he smiled and leaned over to Gabrielle and said, "He's going to start a journal and every day write a story or two about mum and dad. He says he knows more about dad so I shouldn't be too disappointed." With a big smile, he said to himself, "Yeah, real disappointed."
Hermione caught Gabrielle's attention and they could only smile at his obvious happiness as he opened the other envelope. The girls watched as his eyes rounded and his complexion paled. Gabrielle, sitting next to him, said, "Harry, is everything alright?"
He turned to her, nodded dumbly and handed her the letter. She settled herself and began to read. Before long she had the same expression as Harry and looked at him. After a brief moment, he began to snicker, which caused her to giggle and before too long they were guffawing.
Hermione would have had her hands on her hips had she been standing and settled for extending a hand across the table to Gabrielle for the letter. Soon, she too was stunned into silence. Harry delicately plucked the letter from her nerveless hands, chuckled nervously and said, "I don't think I'll ever have to worry about money."
The day after they went into Hogsmeade with Hermione and two of Gabrielle's friends, the two of them were on the lawn, underneath a spreading oak, laughing hysterically at Harry's mangled French. Gabrielle had taken on the task of teaching him the language and some of his errors were amusing and sometimes even downright hilarious.
He had just been trying to ask if her mother was in good health but ended up asking if her mother would model her underwear for him. That was why they were both red-faced and panting from the laughing while lying on a blanket surrounded by books and leaves.
After a minute or so, he asked, "Does Fleur know about the First task?"
Gabrielle adopted a serious expression and shrugged. Glancing around, Harry whispered, "I just found out last night, it's Dragons." When her face paled to the color of fresh linen, he quickly said, "Oh, I'm sure that Fleur will be fine. She's a bang up witch."
Gabrielle put her hand in front of her mouth and tears sprang up in her eyes. Shaking her head for a moment, she then launched herself at Harry saying "Non! Non, non, non, I will not let you be hurt!"
Stunned at her reaction, his heart warmed at the same time. The fear that had been oppressive all morning lifted and he could finally think straight. Holding her close as she sobbed on his chest he said, "Hey, hey, don't cry, it's Ok."
She pulled back showing her tearstained face and almost shouted at him, "It is NOT Ok!" and lunged at him again.
Fighting back a smile, he said, "Ok, let's figure this out then. Come on" as her cries subsided he pulled out an old handkerchief for her to use. She smiled and, without thinking about it, used a burst of her Veela power to fix her face and hair.
With a look of chagrin, she looked to Harry, expecting to see a drooling idiot but instead saw him looking at her with confusion. "How'd you do that? I didn't know you could do wandless magic?"
With a broad smile, she said, "Don't worry about it, I'll explain later. How are we going to get you past this Dragon?"
They talked for a bit about his strengths until they hit on flying. "I've always been pretty nimble on a broom" he said. "But I can only have my wand."
Gabrielle laughed and tapped him on the forehead while saying, "Summoning charm Monsieur Potter." Arranging herself in what he called her 'explaining pose' she said "It's a rather simple charm. The incantation is Accio, there are no specific wand movements. What makes it a bit difficult for some to learn is that you must concentrate on the object being summoned until it is in your hands, otherwise the spell will fail."
Nodding his head he pointed at her Potions textbook next to her and said, "Accio book." The book twitched but stayed put. Frowning he tried again and again. Gabrielle demonstrated the spell for him a few times and he resumed. The best he got was a twig to fly three or four feet. Now he was getting frustrated.
Gabrielle sat right in front of him and said, "Harry, look in my eyes." When he did, they both froze. He wanted to fall into the azure brilliance of her eyes. He saw affection, trust, caring. A truly beautiful person, inside and out. Most of all he saw someone that he cared for greatly.
She almost lost control looking into his eyes. The emerald uniformity of the windows of his soul pulled her in and the tug of her magic became stronger. She felt it and could no longer deny what it was telling her.
Her body almost betrayed her by moving of its own accord when she finally asserted her will and said, "Now summon the book. Do it for me." Seconds later, the book was in his hands accompanied by one of Gabrielle's brilliant smiles. Repeatedly he perfectly summoned the objects he focused on.
After ten minutes of success, he turned to her and pulled her into his arms, muttering, "Thank you so much" into her hair.
She gave into his touch and ran the fingers of her right hand through his hair, causing him to groan with pleasure. "That feels good" he said after a moment.
"Well, then" she said as she sat down. "Lay down and put your head in my lap and you can relax until we have to go up for dinner." While Harry lay there, half asleep, Gabrielle kept watch over him, humming a lullaby her mother had sung to her as a child. When she was sure he was asleep, she leaned over and gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead, saying "Stay safe, mon cher" and picked up her Transfiguration book to read.
Up the hill, at the main entrance to the castle, blue eyes watched them unblinkingly.
The next day was pure torture. They ate together with Hermione in complete silence. Finally, the three of them walked to the contestants tent, Harry and Gabrielle holding hands as they tried to maintain their composure.
Hermione crushed Harry in her trademark hug, which caused Harry to smile a bit. The French Veela smiled as well. Harry had talked long on Hermione, her ways and habits. He had often mentioned that he wished he had a sister like her. Her response had been, "But you do have a sister like her." His confused expression cleared and he smiled at her, nodding.
When Hermione broke her hug, with a few tears tracking down her face, Harry leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "Thanks for always being there sister of my heart." This caused her to totally break down and crush him again while he chuckled. She broke away wiping her face and waved as she ran to the stands.
Gabrielle smiled and said, "You are such a good person. She's trying to comfort you and you give her something she's wanted all her life. A brother." Turning serious, she said, "I need to go wish Fleur luck, but" and now her own tears started, "you must come back to me." Looking in his eyes, she was lost again and the magic swirled and moved over her.
They moved together as one and Harry reached out and cupped her cheek, "I will come back to you, I promise" took a deep breath, leaned in and kissed her. His arms wrapped around her slim waist as he pulled her close and hers around his neck. She deepened the kiss for a brief moment and then they mutually broke away, touched foreheads and looked into each other's eyes.
"You mean so much to me" he whispered. "I don't know what I've ever done without you, no Dragon can stop me."
She kissed him again, and ran off, looking back at him every so often. He stood there and watched her go before turning into the tent. Five minutes later, Fleur walked in, looked around and joined Harry in his corner of the tent. Casting a quick privacy ward, she said, "Harry, I am happy for you and my sister, but I think you need to do some reading on Veela when you are done with the task." With that, she kissed him affectionately on both cheeks and began pacing in her corner of the tent.
Deciding he'd deal with that later, he did some deep breathing to relax. He remembered Gabrielle's fingers in his hair and he smiled.
The task went as planned. Harry summoned his broom and after a few terrifying moments, had his egg in hand. As he walked out of the hospital tent, he was bowled over by a blond dynamo that held him in a crushing hug. Smiling, Harry said, "I'm Ok, and I'm back."
Now she let go of her control and began sobbing, the emotion bleeding out of her. Harry dropped his egg and held her close. Hermione came up behind Gabrielle and at Harry's raised eyebrows; she pantomimed hugging and nodded at him.
Realizing that he needed to just hold her, he did. A few moments later, a quick burst of Veela magic, she pulled away and gave him a deep kiss. Hermione's eyes widened in embarrassment, and she looked away.
Before the scores were given, Ron approached the two girls and Harry and made an incredibly inept attempt at an apology. Harry looked at Ron, then at Hermione who stood next to him, Gabrielle who was in his arms leaning back on his chest and then back at Ron. "Well, Weasley" he said causing Ron to flinch, "I expect you just want me to say that everything is just fine now that you have your head out of your arse."
Gabrielle was glaring at the redhead while Hermione clucked her tongue a few times. "If you want to be my friend, you start over at square one. These two" he motioned to the girls, "Stood by me the last three weeks or so and didn't spread all kinds of rumors and be a general ass. So you start over" and walked away with Gabrielle holding his hand. After they passed the red head, Harry said, "Let's go see Fleur, from what I could hear, she was brilliant."
Ron looked sheepishly at Hermione while she just glared at him and tapped her foot. Finally she said, "You are such a jealous prat Ronald Weasley" and stormed off.
Studying with Gabrielle a lot had a positive result in that Harry's grades were going up. Beauxbatons had a more advanced syllabus than Hogwarts in many subjects, so she was able to help him. One night in the library, he had leaned over to her and whispered, "Why do you study so hard?"
She leaned into him and they both shuddered from a flash of desire. Glancing around and seeing that they were alone, a few passionate kisses were shared before she settled down, and leaned into him. "I want to be more than a pretty face."
Shrugging, she continued, "I also love to learn. You may have noticed that my English is pretty good" he nodded at that. She spoke with only a trace of an accent and only slipped into French when upset. "I also know Italian. It's fun for me to learn. I'm not very good at athletics, nor music, but languages and Transfiguration are my thing!" she finished with a smile and a light laugh.
One night, he was in the library alone as Gabrielle had a school meeting and Hermione a Transfiguration club meeting, so Harry was writing a Charms essay when he remembered Fleur's recommendation. He wandered over to the 'Creatures' section and pulled down a book on Veela and began to read. In the fourth chapter, his heart stopped, started, then stopped again. He slammed the book shut and ran out of the library, his belongings forgotten. There was a blur in the hallways as Harry sprinted out of the castle and down to the Beauxbatons Carriages.
He knocked on the door while he tried to catch his breath, clouds of steam making him look like a locomotive at the station waiting to pull away. A young boy answered and Harry said, "Gabrielle Delacour s'il vous plait." The boy nodded and closed the door again.
A few long minutes later, the door opened again and there she was, wearing a cloak and radiantly smiling at him. Harry held out his hand, helped her down, and hurriedly pulled her over to a place where they could talk. Her smile had faltered and she said, "Harry, what is the matter?"
He explained what Fleur had said in the tent and then, "I grabbed a book on Veela today in the library, just curious about my girlfriend's background and all." She smiled at the reference, he had just formally asked her to be his girlfriend the day before. "I read in chapter four about The Kiss," he said with fear in his face. "Why didn't you tell me?"
She looked him in the eye and waved at the ground and they sat. Gabrielle cuddled into his arms and said, "All Veela, or part Veela have a magical compass of sorts that tell us who our most compatible mate will be. It is an unmistakable tug on the magic when we are with the person or feeling strong emotions about the person."
She pulled back and began gently caressing his cheek, she said, "You are my perfect mate, Harry. I felt the tug when we first met that night at the lake and it has only grown stronger since. In the weeks that we have known each other, they have been the happiest of my life. I laugh, sing and dance badly." They both smiled knowing that she had almost ten years of dance instruction and danced very well.
"Veela mature faster than humans and I can honestly tell you that I love you Harry Potter, and will until I die. By kissing you, I bond my self to you. There is only you for me, I can never love another. We Veela are very monogamous" she finished with a laugh.
"You are not affected by the Allure of the Veela. When I used my power to clean up after crying and you asked about the wandless magic?" Harry nodded in remembrance, "Most men would be gibbering idiots after I did that, but you were unaffected. I can be myself with you. You appreciate my beauty, but do not lust after me."
When he raised his eyebrows at her, she giggled and said, "Much. Joking aside, you care for me for who I am, not what I look like, or how much money and influence my family has. I care for you because you are my Harry, not the Boy-Who-Lived or your money and other such nonsense."
"Why I didn't tell you?" She sighed and shook her head slowly as he listened intently, "I was scared. I was afraid I would run you off and I would lose the love of my life." She looked him in the eye with wide eyes, completely vulnerable.
Harry pulled her close, and leaned back on the tree, while she leaned on him. His emotions were a whirlwind right now, but he could feel – almost taste – her honesty, and he valued that greatly. Gabrielle had very quickly become the center of his world. The tournament, Voldemort, everything had faded into the background in not even two short months. From his shoulder, he heard her say, "Relax, mon cher. Relax and tell me what your heart says."
Taking a few deep breaths, he exhaled slowly and stopped thinking. His heart was screaming one thing. He smiled and said, "So if I am your Harry, are you my Gabi?"
She smiled and said, "Only for you. No one else can call me that, not even my father."
After a moment to savor the specialness of the night, he said, "With all my adventures, when I've followed my heart, I've not only survived, but triumphed."
With a half-scared look, she said, "What does your heart say now?" knowing that he could condemn her to a life of emptiness and futility with his rejection.
He lifted her chin so he could look her in the eye and softly kissed her. After a quick moment he pulled back and without opening his eyes he said, "That I love you" and kissed her again.
A few days later, Gabrielle accosted him in the Charms hallway the day after the Yule Ball was announced and just looked at him expectantly. Somewhat confused, his brain finally engaged, he dropped to one knee and said with a flourish, "Mademoiselle Delacour, would you do me the great honor of allowing me to escort you to the Yule Ball on Christmas Night?"
She smiled beatifically, curtsied and said, "I would be delighted Baron Potter."
He smiled and rose to give her a quick peck when from behind him he heard, "Can't even get a human date Potty, got to get a creature?"
Harry was moving before Malfoy even finished his sentence. Before the Malfoy heir could even blink, Harry had crossed the gap between them and had his wand pressed painfully in the fleshy part of the underside of Malfoy's jaw. "Be silent," was all he said. The look in Harry's eyes was enough to cause Malfoy to nod dumbly which cut him on Harry's wand.
After staring into the Slytherin's eyes for a long moment, Harry pulled his wand back and gestured down the hall. "Leave" he said and Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle scampered away.
Turning back to Gabrielle, he saw a look on her face that he didn't recognize. Without speaking, she reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling him down the hall. They got to a deserted classroom that she pulled him into and slammed the door shut, muttering a locking charm as she did. Harry figured that he was in for it now. Usually, this was when Hermione really let him have it for some stupid thing he had done.
He looked up, with an apology on his lips when his girlfriend slammed into him, branding him with her kiss. They fell to the floor and she straddled him, kissing him as if her life depended on it. Her hands were everywhere and his lips were claiming her as his own. Feeling bold, he gently caressed and cupped her bum to the accompaniment of groans of pleasure from his girlfriend.
After a few minutes, she pulled back and said in a low voice, "That was the sexiest thing I have ever seen. You were defending my honor; my Chevalier" and softly kissed him again before settling on his chest.
They had practiced dancing every evening since. The rewards given by both parties made them leave their practice room with goofy grins and Harry with his hair even more tousled than usual.
It was finally time for the Ball, and he was getting dressed. Earlier in the day, Gabi had given him a small package that she wanted him to open before he dressed. She blushed a bit, kissed him and ran off to the carriages promising to meet him in the entrance hall. He had opened the package and found a pair of cufflinks in the shape of snitches, the wings beating every so often.
He finished tying his tie (It had taken Hermione a full hour to teach him how to tie it), made sure he had Gabi's present in his pocket and went downstairs, ignoring the plaintive looks from Ron as he passed. He ambled down to the entrance hall, getting there a few minutes early and took up post near the doors.
It was a crystal clear night, the stars shone with a brilliance that he didn't think that he ever remembered. Hearing a noise, he looked down and saw her. She was about ten feet away and she took his breath away. Her hair was piled high on her head in an intricate braid, accentuating the exquisite curve of her neck. She wore a designer dress that was off the shoulder in basic black with a low cut back and a modest décolletage. It was form fitting until mid thigh where it flared out to the floor. Over her shoulders she had a fur stole to keep her warm.
She walked up to her boyfriend who had brain lock, kissed him gently and said, "Harry? Shall we go in?"
He looked her in the eye and merely said, "You are beautiful."
Smiling, she hooked her arm in his and they went up to the door, only to find Hermione there on Viktor Krum's arm. At Gabrielle's insistence, Harry engaged the Bulgarian and they discussed what all wizards with no common ground discuss: Quidditch. Viktor complemented Harry on his performance against the Dragon and Harry complemented Viktor on his World Cup performance.
The ladies looked at each other and rolled their eyes in the same thought: Men. Hermione pulled Gabrielle to the side and with a very serious expression said, "Don't get me wrong, I really like you. I like how you and Harry are together, you make him smile and that says a lot. I just want you to know, that if you hurt him, you'll have to deal with me."
Surprised, Gabrielle turned to her new English friend and said in solemnity, "I cannot hurt him, he is my life." She paused, and in a low voice said, "I love him."
It was Hermione's turn to be surprised and she said, "Oh. Well." Regaining her composure, she said, "Good. I'm sorry if I came across as a twit, but I love Harry as a brother, and he's been hurt so much in his life, I couldn't bear to see him hurt further." Gabrielle nodded and gave the girl a soft hug before they began gossiping about their dates.
Professor McGonagall arranged for the Champions to lead the crowd into the Great Hall and Harry's face was split by an ear-to-ear smile. He never felt so good, the young woman on his arm, his other best friend sitting across the table from him. New friends Fleur and Viktor were at the table and he felt on top of the world. At the end of dinner, he leaned into Gabrielle, said "Thank you for the cufflinks" and flashed his cuffs at her. She smiled brightly as they rose to dance.
As they moved across the dance floor like quicksilver, he couldn't move from her gaze. They ghosted across the dance floor, in perfect synchronization to the music and the other champions and their dates moved aside as Fleur watched her younger sister with wistful pride.
After the introductory dance, the Weird Sisters turned the ball into a dance and Harry and Gabrielle cut loose. She was dancing for him and him alone while he responded with a grace and power that he usually only displayed on his broom.
It was deeply intimate, emotion crashing and melding with movement as their very essence seemed to reach out for each other as magic swirled about the pair.
They were both getting envious looks from many students as they entwined themselves with each other to the throbbing tempo of the music. Occasionally lips would brush, hands grasping and pulling each other close, hips grinding they claimed each other in public for all to see.
After a bit, Harry said, "It's getting a bit hot, would you like to take a walk?" She fanned herself, nodded and took his hand as they walked out. They took two steps outside and she found herself pinned to the wall as he kissed her passionately. She gave as good as she got before he broke away, panting. "You were incredible in there. My god woman, the things you do to me…"
She smiled, proud of how she could affect her man and whispered in his ear, "I almost couldn't control myself with you dancing like that. I wanted to tear your clothes off. The things you do to me…"
Harry laughed and wrapped his arm around her and they ambled down the path, cooling off and enjoying being alone with each other. They reached a small alcove with a bench and he pulled her down next to him, casting a warming charm on her as he did so for the chill of the evening was beginning to be felt. She leaned her head on his shoulder and said, "I am having a wonderful time, Harry. Thank you for being my date."
Harry laughed to himself, "Thank you for coming with me. I still don't know what I've done to deserve you, but I'm grateful nonetheless." He dug in his pocket and pulled out a small wrapped package. "Joyeux Noel" he said as he handed it to her.
She looked at him impishly and squealed like a little girl as she used her nails to slit open the paper. Popping off the lid to the small box, she saw the velvet box inside and looked to Harry in stunned disbelief.
He smiled at her and said, "Go ahead, it won't bite."
She upended the box and put the velvet ring box in her hand. With a tremulous hand she opened the box and saw a beautiful sapphire ring flanked with diamonds in a gold setting. Gasping she looked to Harry who said in a low voice, "It's for your right hand. I know we're young, but some day, I'll have one for your other hand."
She slowly pulled the ring out of the box and looked at it. Handing it to Harry, she held out her right hand, he slipped it on her finger and then kissed her hand fervently. He looked her in the face and with all the feeling, he could muster said, "I love you Gabrielle Delacour."
With a half sob, she pulled him down to her and kissed him with passionate abandon. Her hands were in his hair and then under his robes while his roamed over her open back and sides. She pulled his hand to the front and when he cupped her breast, she moaned appreciatively. He pressed her up against the wall and kissed her with searing intensity. Finally, he broke apart, panting and said, "If we don't stop now, I won't be able to stop" and held her to his chest, panting with emotion as he sat on the bench.
"I've never felt this way before, Harry. You inspire me" she said with a small smile on her face.
He chuckled and said, "You inspire me. I've never had anyone tell me they love me and I'm glad you were the first."
She looked up at him with a shocked sadness. Caressing his cheek, she leaned in, gave him a soft kiss, and then said, "I do love you Harry Potter, very much."
They rejoined the ball and slipped into a slow dance, pressing against one another, not so much hormone driven, but in affection, caring and love. Hermione and Viktor drifted by, a hands width between them and she smiled at Harry who smiled back, they were both having a wonderful time and deserved this happiness after all the trials and tribulations of their first three years. As the night ended, Harry walked Gabrielle back to the carriages. They ambled down the lawn, not wanting the night to end. With a smile Harry led her toward the lake and they sat on the bench where they had first sat that early November night. He wrapped his arms around her and they sat in blissful silence.
"I never want to lose you Gabi."
She shifted in his arms and said, "That is one thing you don't have to worry about, ever."
Harry nodded into her hair and said, "What about after you leave? And next year? I love you and I don't want to be without you."
She was silent for a minute, thinking and said, "This summer, come stay with us. During the summer months we stay at White Rock, our chateau, near the Mediterranean. There is more than enough room. I will write to Mama tomorrow morning to ensure her acceptance."
Harry smiled at the thought of his girlfriend in a bikini. Shaking his head he said, "That sounds wonderful. Can I just floo there?" She nodded and they considered the matter settled.
A while later, a shadow loomed in the darkness, "Mr. Potter, Miss Delacour, it is time to turn in for the evening" Professor McGonagall said. Nodding at the inevitability of the dawn, he escorted her back to the carriage, and after an extensive and thorough parting, he made his way back to Gryffindor tower.
The next morning he heard about the shouting match between Ron and Hermione after the ball. He sat with Hermione for breakfast and asked, "Are you Ok?"
She gave him a half-sad smile and replied, "I'll be fine. I really thought that Ron was my friend, you know? It turns out that he was your friend and just tolerated me." She sniffed into her kippers and said in a very small voice, "I've never had a lot of friends. It's just you now."
Harry wrapped his arm around her as Gabrielle walked up. He caught her eye and nodded for her to sit on the other side of Hermione. She sat and with a concerned tone said, "What is wrong?"
Harry replied, "Ron was an ass last night."
The French girl exhaled loudly and wrapped Hermione in a big hug while she muttered imprecations under her breath. At one point she said something particularly vitriolic and Hermione began laughing through her tears. Wiping her face she said, "I speak French."
Gabrielle laughed and said, "I know. I had to lighten things up somehow, eh?"
At this moment, Professor Dumbledore stopped behind Harry and said, "Mr. Potter, I'd like to see you in my office after you have finished your breakfast, the password is Fizzing Whizzbees."
Harry nodded and the old man walked away. Hermione and Gabrielle crooked their eyebrows and the dark haired boy who could only shrug and return to his breakfast. A few minutes later, he grabbed his bag, patted Hermione on the shoulder and kissed his girlfriend on the cheek before heading up to the Headmaster's office.
After giving the password and trudging up the stairs, he sat in the proffered chair. The Headmaster regarded Harry over his half moon glasses for a moment before cutting to the chase, hoping the direct attack would be advantageous to his cause. "Harry, it has come to my attention that you and the younger Miss Delacour have a romantic relationship, yes?" The pro forma pause was accentuated by the unblinking stare of the old man.
Harry nodded his head and answered, "Yes, sir" wondering how any of this was Dumbledore's business.
Dumbledore responded with a curt nod of his own and said, "Very well then, I must sadly inform you that you will have to break off this relationship today. Are there any questions?"
Harry started to laugh. "Questions sir? I have one. How is my private life any of your concern? Or how about, how do you have any authority over me outside of scholastic issues? Those are the questions that come immediately to mind, sir." Now Harry waited and stared at the old man with an unblinking gaze.
Dumbledore swore internally. He had no authority over Harry in this arena and he knew it. He had hoped to bull rush the boy and intimidate him into obedience. That apparently was not happening. Adopting his grandfatherly air, he said with a smile, "Harry..."
Dumbledore blinked. How did he find out about that? "Excuse me?"
"My Lord would be appropriate as well. Whichever you prefer would be acceptable, Headmaster." The young man's stress of "Headmaster" did not go unnoticed.
"Very well, your Lordship" Dumbledore continued. This was not going at all as he expected. "I think it best if you sever connections with young Miss Delacour."
Harry did not reply, merely stared at Dumbledore.
After fifteen seconds or so, Dumbledore said, "Do you have anything to say, my Lord?"
Harry waited to the count of ten before saying, "I'm still waiting for you to answer my questions, Headmaster."
After another stretch of silence, Harry slapped his hand on his leg and stood. Reaching for his bag, he said, "Very well, I'll see you later, sir."
Dumbledore was shocked, he'd never been so summarily dismissed by anyone, much less a student. "You are not dismissed, Harry."
Without turning, Harry said, "I am Baron Potter and will be addressed as such, Headmaster. If you have nothing further to discuss of a scholastic nature, I'll bid you good day" and walked out of the office.
Harry stormed out of the Headmaster's office. On the outside he looked calm but a swirling mixture of fear and rage was roaring inside of him. How dare he? No one is going to take my Gabi from me! He stalked back to Gryffindor tower, through the empty common room and up to his dormitory. He threw his bag in the general direction of his bed and grabbed his broom. Without thinking, he waved his hand at the window and it jumped open. He smoothly mounted his broom and shot out the window like a bolt.
Within seconds he was at top speed and shooting over the castle. He aggressively slalomed through the towers, diving into courtyards, and skimmed the lawn as he shot toward the lake like a flash of light. Cruising at over one hundred miles an hour, three feet over the lake, he kicked up a rooster tail as he crossed and re-crossed the lake numerous times. The fourth time, he saw a familiar blond figure ahead of him on the shore so he slowed down and landed next to her. Without saying anything, he pulled her in his arms and held her close to his chest, willing her to stay and not fade away. Her muffled voice said, "Cher, you are scaring me, what has happened?"
Without letting her go, he told her what had transpired in the Headmaster's office: the old man's demands and Harry's barely civil refusal. At the end, Gabrielle was enraged, "That batard! How dare he try and take you from me!" By now she was storming up and down in a pacing pattern that threatened to wear a rut in the lake shore.
Having calmed down somewhat, Harry gently took her in his arms and said, "He can't take me from you. No one can. I am yours, remember?"
Her face softened and she cupped his cheek in her hand. She gave him a soft kiss and then said, "I am Gabrielle Delacour, the beloved of Harry Potter and I will show that old man why the daughter of Henri Delacour should not be crossed." She turned and strode away, toward the carriages and beckoned over her shoulder at him. Harry had never seen this commanding, imperious side of her and it made him laugh. It was so incongruous with the intelligent, joyful, sensual young woman he had fallen in love with.
They entered the antechamber of the magically enlarged carriage and Gabrielle gestured to a waiting room saying, "Wait for me there love, I shouldn't be too long." Harry went and sat, picking up a French language version of Quidditch Today and found he could understand quite a bit of what he was reading. He decided to concentrate and use the periodical as a distraction from his moronic Headmaster, as well as, an opportunity to practice his French. Ten minutes later, Harry was deep in a discussion comparing the brute force attack of the Hawkshead Formation vs. the subtly of a Porskoff Ploy when Gabrielle returned, Fleur and Madame Maxime in tow.
Harry stood at the ladies entrance and after the suitable pleasantries were exchanged, Gabrielle wrapped her arm in Harry's and said to the other two, "Headmaster Dumbledore has overstepped his bounds and attempted to interfere with the relationship between me and my bond-mate."
Madame Maxime's eyes widened, but Fleur was unsurprised. Gabi must have already told her sister, Harry thought to himself.
Madame Maxime mumbled something under he breath that sounded a lot like "old idiot" before she gestured to the seats and said, "Monsieur Potter, would you please recount the incident for us all?"
After he recounted the story, including his retreat into formality with the Headmaster, which made Fleur smile broadly, Madame Maxime closed her eyes and leaned back in her oversized chair thinking for a minute. Without moving, she said, "My Lord, did he, at any point, use any kind of magic on you?"
Harry frowned to himself and ran through the memory quickly, trying to remember if there was any surreptitious wand work. "Not that I am aware of, Madame. And please, call me Harry. Only people that annoy me call me 'My Lord'," he finished with a smile.
The half-giantess smiled and said, "Very well, Harry." After another pause, she said, "Is the Headmaster aware of your bond-mate status?"
Harry said, "Not from me" and looked at Gabrielle. She huffed in disdain and shook her head in negation.
The Headmistress pursed her lips and then said, "I am afraid that I can only upbraid Albus for being an old fool and overstepping his bounds. I would suggest you inform him, in writing, of your bonded status and copy the Deputy Headmistress. That should extinguish these lunatic attempts to separate the two of you."
Fixing an intense gaze on Gabrielle and then shifting to Fleur, she said, "Ladies, I would recommend against trying to co-opt your father to act officially at this stage, as that could cause significant harm between Britain and France. As of right now, Headmaster Dumbledore can convincingly claim that he was merely trying to prevent the heartache of a student, nothing more."
When all three teens snorted in disgust at the statement, Maxime smiled broadly, "And I believe the statement as much as you do. However, he can make that claim, so I would advise against formal action." She became thoughtful and tapped her finger on her large shapely chin. "Ladies, I need to speak to Baron Potter alone, please wait outside."
Gabrielle shot Harry a worried look which he tried to quell by squeezing her hand. After the door closed, Maxime said, "My Lord, put aside that I am the Delacour ladies Headmistress and consider me an advisor in this situation." At Harry's nod, she continued, "How serious are you regarding your relationship with Gabrielle?"
Harry got a half smile on his face which answered her question, but he put voice to his expression and said, "When we are of age, we shall marry."
She nodded back at him and said, "Bon. I assume you have told Gabrielle of your intentions and she is amenable to this course of action?"
At Harry's blushing nod, she nodded and continued, "Therefore, I would recommend that you claim your heritage and become an emancipated minor. At that point, the Headmaster has little to no influence over you legally."
She paused, considering her words. "If you desire" she said slowly, "You may wish to enter into a marriage contract with Monsieur Delacour at that point. You will be head of your house and can enter into such a contract. Since it is a magically binding contract, no one can break it, nor force it to be broken."
Harry sat there, contemplating. None of what was being discussed was new to him. He'd been thinking about marrying Gabrielle for the last few weeks and there was no objection in his heart or head. He did have a nagging voice that sounded like Hermione at her worst that was saying "You're only fourteen and have known this girl for two and a half months!" but his heart ran roughshod over the fear.
Responding to the Headmistress, he said, "Thank you Madame for your frankness. I admit to being woefully ignorant as to the processes regarding marriage contracts and will acquaint myself with them in the near future. Also, I was unaware that I could claim emancipation. I will have to research that as well."
Maxime nodded and said, "Harry, my Charms Mistress is well versed in French customs and I am sure that she would be willing to explain to you and Gabrielle about French Marriage contracts and the like."
Harry nodded and said, "Many thanks, Madame. I have a strong feeling that Headmaster Dumbledore would never have told me any of this."
Maxime laughed a merry laugh, incongruous with her large frame. "Non, Harry, I doubt he would. Albus likes his secrets."
Harry smiled and recognizing that the interview was over, thanked her again and moved to the door. Opening it, he saw Gabrielle pause in mid pace while Fleur watched her with an amused expression while sitting in a chair. Harry smiled at his girlfriend and held out his hand. She came to him and said, "So what was…" he stopped her midsentence.
"Is there someplace private we can go discuss this? I'd rather not go to the castle." She nodded and Harry looked to Fleur, who was just standing from her chair and said, "Fleur, do you have some time to join us? I'd like to get your opinion as well."
Surprised, the elder Delacour followed the two as they went into an unused classroom, shut the door and put up a privacy ward. As they settled in, Gabrielle right next to Harry, he looked at his girlfriend and said, "Madame Maxime asked me my intentions for you" which raised the eyebrows of both girls. He counted to five, seeing Gabi's face begin to get red and he said with a smile, "I told her that when we are of age we will marry."
Gabrielle's red face paled then flushed and she pulled him close while whispering, "I love you."
They broke apart when Fleur cleared her throat and said in an amused, dry tone, "Well, since that is all settled…"
Harry laughed and then recounted the rest of the discussion while the Delacour sisters listened intently. After he finished he admitted, "I am not as astute in the customs or laws as you two are and wanted to get your opinions."
Gabrielle paused then let out a tinkling laugh and covered her mouth at Fleur's glare. Harry looked at his girlfriend and she said, "When we were little, Fleur told me that a hero would fall in love with me and that I should get him in bed as fast as possible so as not to lose him." She grinned at her sister and continued, "We were maybe five and eight at the time."
Fleur blushed and said, "In my defense, when I said that I did not realize that 'sleeping together' meant anything more than just that." In an undertone she hissed, "You promised you would never tell that story" which caused all three to laugh.
When they calmed down, Fleur said, "I can tell you that I think Papa will be amenable to a contract when you get emancipated. I know Gabrielle has told our parents of your bonding and that at first they were… hesitant. After I sent a few letters describing my observations of the two of you and Gabrielle's repeated letters, I think you won't have too much trouble there."
She paused, thinking. "Also, since you are coming to stay the summer, that will also help them to see that you are not just a little boy" she said in an apologetic tone. She and Harry had become friends since Harry and Gabrielle had started dating and she felt bad for her casual insult of him on Halloween night.
Harry nodded at the spoken and unspoken statements and smiled at the older girl. In an undertone, he reached out his hand and took hers saying, "Thank you, Fleur."
She smiled brilliantly and gave Harry a hug saying, "I will now leave you two. I'm sure you have many things to discuss." She gave Gabrielle a hug and whispered something in her ear causing Gabi to laugh, blush and then hit her sister on the arm saying "Fleur!"
When the door closed on the laughing elder Delacour, Harry turned to his girlfriend and said, "So…"
Gabrielle looked at him with a somewhat fearful expression and said, "Are you serious?" At his confused expression she continued in a small voice, "About the marriage contract and marrying me when we are of age?"
Harry looked at her for a long moment, savoring her beauty and her person before saying, "Yes. Emphatically, yes."
Her face softened and she smiled as a tear dropped down her cheek. She held her arms out and Harry filled them with a gentle hug, just holding the two of them together in the storm of their emotion.
She laid her head on his shoulder and relaxed into his arms as he sat on his chair with her in his lap. After a few minutes, she said, "So emancipation first then contract."
Harry shook his head and she looked up at him, confused. With a small smile he said, "Lots of kissing, emancipation, then contract."
With a somewhat feral smile, she turned, straddled him and said, "As my Lord wishes" and the mutual ravishment began.
An hour later, they were walking through the halls of Hogwarts holding hands on their way to the library when they heard from behind them, "Harry!"
They turned and saw Hermione bustling up to them with a thundercloud expression. She opened her mouth to begin a rant when Harry said, "Come with us and I'll explain the very valid reason I've missed class today."
As they walked, Harry recounted his meeting with the headmaster to exclamations from Hermione. "He didn't!" "Oh, Harry, you shouldn't have said that." "Why, that old goat!"
The last caused Harry to stop in mid stride and look at Hermione with affection and say, "I'm so proud of you" while an amused Gabrielle looked on. As Hermione looked at him in exasperation, he said, "Standing up to authority and all, it's wonderful." Gabrielle began to laugh and Hermione gave a rueful smile as they went to the library.
After another three hours, they had the process for Harry to claim his emancipation, a thick sheaf of notes on marriage contracts and another book on French Wizarding customs tucked under Harry's arm.
I turned out that all Harry had to do was have his parents will read in his presence, and then hold out his wand and say "I claim my right as Head of the House of Potter" and he was magically emancipated. Wizarding law was very clear on this point. Harry wrote a letter to Gringotts requesting an appointment for the 16th, which was the next Hogsmeade weekend. He would meet Gabrielle at the Three Broomsticks and Floo to the Leaky Cauldron. Hermione wanted to come as well, but Fleur advised that she probably wouldn't be let in. Goblins had an extraordinary ability in being able to see magical bonds, so they would be able to see the bond between Harry and Gabrielle and allow her in for the reading.
The next day, Harry, Gabrielle and Hermione sat down in the study room of the Beauxbatons carriage to write out the letters for Dumbledore and McGonagall. Hermione had brought three books to use as reference and after an hour and a half, they had a letter that they felt would be good enough.
Harry and Gabrielle went to the Owlry while Hermione returned the books to the library. Taking their time coming down, Harry told Gabrielle about Hedwig. How she was his first real friend. She'd suffered at the Dursley's right alongside him and never really complained. Gabrielle let out a sigh and murmured something like, "I will kill them one day," as they wended their way through the ancient castle to the great hall for dinner.
At dinner, two owls winged in and landed in front of Dumbledore and McGonagall. Both took their letter and opened them, reading while they ate. McGonagall was obviously the faster reader as her eyebrows almost flew off her forehead and she looked right at Harry. She stood and scampered over to the Gryffindor table before the Headmaster could even rise and said, "Potter, Delacour, follow me."
Almost running to keep up, Harry and Gabi followed the older witch to her office. When they entered, she sealed the door and put up two privacy charms. Her lips were as thin as Harry had ever seen them and before either teen could say anything, McGonagall spat, "What did he do?"
Harry was nonplussed, and Gabrielle only said, "The Headmaster?"
McGonagall nodded and looked back at Harry. Shrugging, he related the episode in the Headmaster's office, the whole time watching his head of house get angrier. Taking a few calming breaths, she said, "Mr. Potter, Miss Delacour; I understand that the Veela bond once accepted by the male is, in effect, a magical betrothal. Since there is no Marriage Contract in place between your families, you will not be apportioned co-habitating quarters at this time. However, I, as your head of house" she looked at Harry, "Will give you some leeway on being out of the tower after hours only if you are returning from the Beauxbatons carriages."
Turning on her heel, she paced back and forth a few times before saying, "I cannot speak for the Headmaster, but I will tell you that his behavior was abhominable. I will discuss the situation, inform him of my permission for you and…entreat him… to stop pursuing his previous course of action."
She paused and said in a less strident tone, "I cannot guarantee anything, of course. Professor Dumbledore is a strong willed man, and my superior. Please, if he attempts to coerce you in any way" looking at Gabrielle she said, "Either of you. Please come to me. If need be, we can take drastic steps."
The three friends were sitting in the Gryffindor common room later that week when Gabrielle sat up and said, "Harry, get your egg."
With a cheeky grin he said, "Yes, dear."
The two girls laughed as he went upstairs to the boys dormitory. When he returned, Hermione said, "Let's use an open classroom" and headed out the portrait hole.
A few minutes later the three were sitting in Charms classroom #2, covering their ears as the egg screeched at them. Shutting the egg with a snap, Harry shook his head and said, "Ouch, that's not very helpful."
Hermione and Gabrielle laughed. Hermione got a far away look on her face when she said, "No, it's not." Pausing, she looked at Gabrielle, who also got a far away look.
The French girl said, "So we need to translate it."
Hermione bounced out of her seat and said, "Yes!" Pacing back and forth she was muttering to herself as Gabrielle held her head in her hands.
Harry looked back and forth between the two girls before saying, "Maybe it's just too loud, or too loud and too slow at the same time."
Gabrielle jumped out of her chair and kissed him thoroughly. She pulled back and gave him a big smile saying, "You are a genius!"
Turning to Hermione she said, "Let's try muffling it. Blankets, water, snow. The like."
Hermione nodded enthusiastically and began conjuring blankets and a tub of water. The blanket didn't help, but when they dunked it in a tub of water, Harry doffed his glasses, took a big breath and stuck his head in. Almost a full minute later he pulled his dripping head out and took the proffered towel from Hermione.
After drying off, the girls were shocked at the look of fear on his face. "I could understand it, and I don't like it one bit." Looking to Gabrielle he said, "It's about you."
The 16th came and without a hitch, the young lovers flooed to Diagon Alley wearing their best. For Harry, that was still very substandard. When Gabrielle saw him, she gave him a soft kiss and said, "We will also spend some time shopping for new clothes for you my love. You deserve to have quality clothes that fit you."
Harry nodded, a little ashamed that he was in this situation to begin with. Recognizing what he was thinking, Gabrielle hooked her arm in his and said, "Love, did you subject yourself to a loveless, abusive life since you were one year old?"
Seeing her point, he smiled at her and said, "Thank you" gave her a small peck and they strolled down the alley to the bank. Inside, they were shown to a private conference room when Snagrat, the head of the inheritance division entered with an accordion file under his arm. Harry rose and bowed to the Goblin who returned his bow. Gabrielle rose with grace and dignity and Snagrat was introduced to her.
Snagrat made a flourish of bows and said, "Mr. Potter, shall we get to business?" Harry nodded and Snagrat produced a thin sheaf of papers. After the reading, Harry was stunned. He was supposed to go to Sirius if his parents died, which was unsurprising, but they explicitly had outlined that Harry was not to go to the Dursley's.
Gabrielle held his hand and stroked his back as she could tell he was upset. The will stipulated some charitable legacies, one for Hogwarts Quidditch teams, one for a muggle born scholarship and a disbursement for Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew for 100,000 Galleons each. Everything else was left for Harry. The Potter Trust managed the bulk of the family fortune, which Harry could not touch without approval of the Board of Directors, but his personal fortune was still substantial.
Harry frowned at the end of the reading. To get it out of the way, he stood and said, "I claim my right as Head of House Potter" which caused a bright flash of light. Harry retook his seat and Gabrielle's hand saying, "Has this will been read before today?" At Snagrat's negative response, Harry said, "I see. Please disburse all the money to the named legacies including Remus Lupin. Peter Pettigrew is believed to be dead, but if he does attempt to claim this money, will be considered a felon and should be apprehended. Can Gringotts perform this service for me? I would be most…appreciative."
Snagrat smiled and said, "Gringotts would be most happy to assist you Lord Potter. Is there anything else?" Since Harry had recently been updated on the complete holdings of the family, he did not need the folder that Snagrat had, but took it anyway.
They made a quick run to his new vault to withdraw a large sack full of coins. Harry searched out what he was looking for, found it in the back and shoved it in his pocket quickly before grabbing a bag and filling it with gold. Standing there, amongst the gold, Harry looked at his girlfriend and was struck dumb. The way the light that was reflecting off the gold he couldn't help himself. He strode over to her, took her in his arms and kissed her forcefully. Pulling back, both gasping, he said, "You are a goddess. My goddess."
She smiled widely and ran her hand through his hair before kissing him languidly. "Come cher, let's do some shopping."
Three hours and four hundred Galleons later, they were sitting in a small bistro in the alley having a late lunch with all Harry's purchases shrunk in Gabrielle's purse. Harry was wearing an outfit that had sparked a hungry look on his girlfriend's face and afterwards they had enjoyed burning the Dursley rags in a fireplace. They were talking about the summer and Gabrielle was telling Harry about her family's chateau and the surrounding areas while he stroked the sapphire ring on her hand absently.
She told him of the private beach and the pool, the woods and the formal gardens. They usually had dinner on the veranda when the weather cooperated and sometimes on her father's sailboat. Sailing was his hobby and he co-opted his family as his crew. "Expect Papa to get you in sailing togs and out on the boat within days of your arrival," she said with a smile.
Feeling warm at the idea of her family accepting him, he said, "I'd love it." He paused and said, "Do you think they will accept me? After all, I've pretty much laid my claim to their fourteen year old daughter."
She crooked an eyebrow at him and said, "No, I've laid my claim to you. Mama was less than pleased, but Papa understood. The letters were a bit warm for a while, but not quite howlers. Mama is now excited to meet you as is Papa. He may joke with you and play the protective father, but he is really a big teddy bear."
"So says his youngest daughter."
Gabrielle shrugged and they rose to go back to school. Stepping out of the fireplace at the Three Broomsticks, quite a few people pointed and made comments. Technically, he should not have left the general Hogsmeade area. Now that he was emancipated, the point was moot. Walking back to Hogwarts, Harry said to Gabrielle, "A Galleon I get called to Dumbledore's office today."
She laughed, shook her head and said, "No bet, love."
He laughed in return and they held hands and chatted. She was telling him about the shopping excursion she was planning in Nice over the summer and he was teasing her about seeing her in a bikini. Amused at her blush, he said, "Am I teasing too close to home?"
She made an indistinct gesture and when he just looked at her, she said in a low voice, "I only want to dress that way for you. I don't want other men to see me that way. Remember what I said about being seen as an object?"
Harry's laugh died in his throat and he stopped in the middle of the path. Looking her in the eye, he said, "I was just teasing, but if it makes you uncomfortable, I don't care what you wear, so long as you are with me."
She smiled at him and said, "We'll see what I wear at the pool or our private beach. Maybe you'll see something you like?"
Kissing her briefly, he said, "I'm sure I will" and they continued the walk in lighter moods. As they turned the corner and saw the front doors to the castle, Harry said to her, "You owe me a Galleon." She laughed sarcastically and an air of hostility surrounded her as they approached the old Headmaster who was sitting on a bench next to the doors.
Harry and Gabrielle moved as if they didn't even notice him and they had just passed him when Dumbledore said, "My Lord, I need to discuss something with you."
Cursing under his breath, Harry maintained his hold on Gabrielle's hand, turned to the old man and said, "Yes, sir?"
The headmaster glanced at the blond, gave up trying to pry her away and said, "Did you leave the Hogsmeade area today?"
Harry nodded and said, "Yes, I did."
Surprised at the forthright answer, Dumbledore covered his surprise in a twinkling eyed laugh and said, "Then I'm afraid I shall have to punish you, my Lord."
Harry laughed on the inside and squeezed his girlfriend's hand. Adopting a thoughtful expression, he said, "But I thought that adults could come and go from the castle as they pleased." He paused and then tacked on, "Sir."
Dumbledore smiled to cover his uncertainty where the young peer was going with this line and said, "That is true."
Harry brightened and said, "Well, then we don't have a problem" and moved to walk past the Headmaster.
Dumbledore shot his hand out and grasped Harry by the shoulder. Moving faster than the old man thought possible, Harry twisted out of the old man's grasp and wrenched the Headmaster's arm rather painfully while hissing at him, "Never touch me again."
Dumbledore gasped as the ligaments in his 152-year-old arm stretched painfully. Harry let go and Dumbledore rubbed his wrist and elbow and said, "My apologies, I wanted to understand your statement and you were rather rudely walking away. You are not an adult, so you will be docked fifty points and a month of detention."
Harry smirked and said, "I am an emancipated minor, Headmaster. I have every right to leave the castle whenever I see fit. I assume that the 'punishment' you wish to levy is now moot." When the Headmaster just stared at him, Harry nodded and said, "Good. I bid you good day" and swept by with Gabrielle's hand in his own.
After they got a few hallways away, she pulled him into an alcove and said, "You were magnificent!"
Harry sagged against the wall, the adrenalin ebbing from his system. "I just reacted and went with my heart, the minor misdirection helped. Glad it worked out." He laughed and said, "I can't wait to tell Hermione this one."
Gabrielle laughed as well and sauntered saucily up to him, whispering in his ear, "Have I told you how incredibly attractive I find powerful men? Well, powerful, black haired, green eyed men."
Grinning, he said, "No, you haven't."
She kissed his neck, nipping a few time, causing his blood flow to increase significantly. She whispered huskily in his ear, "If you do that again, I won't be responsible for my behavior. I may have to do things to you in public that I'd hoped to only do in private."
With this thought, Harry's mind went blank and they occupied themselves with each other for quite a while.
The rest of the month, they worked on magical forms of surviving underwater. Harry was still very against Gabrielle being his 'Thing you will sorely miss' and let her know every so often that he didn't like it. She would just shush him and get back to her work, squeezing his thigh as she did so. He didn't come out and say it, but he was terrified that something would happen to her in this ridiculous task. He had sought out Fleur on his own and they talked about it, not as competitors, but as two people who loved Gabrielle.
"As I see it, she will be in the lake as my 'Thing you will sorely miss' or yours" Harry had said. "I don't like it at all. I don't trust Dumbledore to ensure her safety."
Fleur nodded, impressed with his response. She had half expected a raging, storming response vice the logical, impassioned person who sat in front of her. "Do you trust our Headmistress?"
Harry paused, thought for a minute and said, "With everything but Gabi's life."
Fleur smiled affectionately, gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, "Good answer Potter." Harry laughed and shook his head. Fleur cut him off, saying, "I know you didn't mean it that way, but it was still an excellent answer. So, what can you really do about the situation? Not much really. Just be as prepared as you can." She hadn't meant to be condescending, but it was there nonetheless.
Harry shook his head, with a haunted look he said, "Something bad is going to happen, Fleur. I can feel it." Fleur moved to comfort him, convinced he was overreacting when he looked her dead in the eye and she froze. Something in his eyes arrested her and made her pause. He said in a flat voice, "Has Gabrielle told you about my 'adventures' here at school?" Fleur frowned and shook her head.
Harry faintly smiled, glad she had kept his confidences and then said, "My first year I encountered Voldemort twice and saved a Philosopher's Stone from him. My second year, again I faced a shade of Voldemort and killed a 60 foot Basilisk with a sword. Granted, I had help from a Phoenix with the Basilisk." Shaking his head from the digression, he continued to his shocked and horrified audience, "Third year I faced over one hundred dementors and my parents' betrayer while having to escape from a werewolf. This year I'm in this bloody tournament."
Seeing he had Fleur's undivided attention, he said, "When I have a bad feeling, most people run for their lives." He paused and then looked at the young woman he hoped would be his sister one day and said, "I can't lose her Fleur."
Nodding dumbly at the open anguish on his face, she held his hand as they tried to think of ideas and plans.
The next day, Harry and Gabrielle were in the library doing homework when Gabrielle threw her hands in the air and began cursing in French. Harry understood most of it and looked at her with an amused expression. She looked at him sheepishly and said, "Gillyweed."
Harry looked back at her blankly at the non-sequitur. Gabrielle assumed her 'explaining pose' and said, "When I was a little girl, I was walking down the beach and I saw a bunch of men diving repeatedly in a certain area of the bay. They had no breathing equipment, but they stayed down for a very long time, half an hour or so. When they came back up, I asked them what they had been looking for when diving. The man told me 'Gillyweed'. When I asked what that was, they bid me be off and I ran home to Mama. When I told her about the men, she laughed and said that Gillyweed is a magical plant that gives you gills and lets you breathe underwater for extended periods." Gabi screwed up her face in apology saying, "I'm sorry I forgot."
With a big smile, Harry said, "Don't worry about it. I'm glad you remembered. I'll ask Neville where we can get some." Talking more to himself than her he said, "Maybe enough to practice with."
Pausing, he said, "I know we've talked about this, but hear me out before you slap me, Ok?" She had an amused expression at this opening and he continued, "I talked to Fleur about the upcoming task. We both agree that you will be the 'Thing we will sorely miss' for one of us."
Her face now turned into a scowl, and he pressed on rapidly, tears forming in his eyes, "I can't lose you Gabi" he whispered. Her scowl quickly faded and tears sprouted in her own eyes. He reached out and grasped her hand desperate to have an anchor to her. "I just can't live without you anymore." Now she enveloped him in her arms, pulling him into her as he fought for control. Her tears wet his hair as they held each other close. She could feel his stuttering breath and he could feel her grip tighten.
Finally, he was able to speak and he said, "I don't trust Dumbledore to keep you safe and I have a horrible feeling that something is going to go terribly wrong and you are going to be hurt or worse. Please be on your guard."
She nodded as he adjusted their embrace so she could rest her head on his shoulder. The sat cuddled up for a bit before he said, "Come on, I'm not going to finish anything here. Let's go for a walk." They gathered up their things and walked about the grounds, just being with each other. Not even an hour before, Harry had been in turmoil bordering on despair, now he felt contentment, peace and even joy in his heart, both due to his feelings about the blond headed witch at his side. Silently, they walked to their bench and sat, watching the sun go down.
The day of the second task arrived and Harry was a bundle of nerves. On the morning of the first task, he, Hermione and Gabrielle had breakfast together. Today he was alone. She's Ok. They're both Ok. She's Ok. They're both Ok. This had become his mantra since he woke up, the only thing that kept him from running mad down to the Black Lake and diving in after his love and other best friend.
The Gillyweed had arrived by Owl order two weeks before and Harry had a few practice runs in the shallows of the lake to acclimate to the lake and the effects of the herb. This morning he had two pouches in his pockets, each with a supply of Gillyweed that should support approximately an hour underwater. He choked down some toast and somehow a plate of scrambled eggs managed to find its way into his belly.
Needing to move, he stood and wandered out of the hall to be stopped by Neville Longbottom. With his usual shy manner, Neville said, "Harry, good luck today. I'm sure Gabrielle and Hermione are fine." With a half smile and a nod, he acknowledged the good-hearted young man and began to meander down toward the lake.
He was wondering what was wrong with him this morning and as he sat on 'their' bench he realized what was wrong. He felt bereft, alone and cut off from everyone. It felt as if he had fallen into a bottomless pit. In his fear, he had assumed the worst. That worst was that those two people who meant more than anyone else in the world to him were dead.
Hermione had always been important to him, but since he had met and fallen in love with Gabrielle, he began to understand how much he felt for his bushy haired adopted sister. Now that he did realize how important she was, he held her as precious to him.
Gabrielle, simply put, was his everything. Between the two of them, his world was currently at the bottom of the Black Lake and he would never forgive Dumbledore for this day, even if no one was hurt in the end.
Remembering to cast Hermione's Impervious spell from third year on his watch, he stood and strode around the lake to the platform where the task would start. He had his wand in a holster attached to his right forearm and a diving knife on his left calf, a present from Hermione.
He found Fleur and after seeing her pale face, he realized that Gabrielle was not in the carriages either. He nodded to her in a commitment to get the young woman back. Fleur half nodded and patted his shoulder. They stood close together, drawing strength from each other as Viktor walked up. "Haf you seen Herm-own-inny?" he asked with a look of fear on his face.
Harry shook his head with a scowl and looked at the lake. Krum scowled as well and muttered, "Dis task is monstrous" to which Fleur and Harry could only agree. A few minutes later, Cedric Diggory arrived and then it was time.
Time seemed to shift for Harry. He vaguely heard Bagman's announcements, noticed Fleur disrobing and casting warming charms on herself. He took her cue, disrobed to his bathing trunks, and pulled out the first pouch of Gillyweed. As if in a dream, he heard a loud bang and the other three dove in the water. He consumed his herb, started his stopwatch and followed.
The familiar transformation did not slow him, as he swam with all the power and intensity he could muster. Both Hermione and Gabrielle had taken the last month to teach him to swim as the Dursley's had never considered it. He wasn't going to join the Olympic squad, but was proficient. The webbing on his hands and feet made him even more capable and he shifted to a dolphin stroke to shoot past his competitors.
Vaguely hearing singing like that in the egg, he changed direction to head right for it. He felt nothing but a need, an intensity that was consuming. He had to find her. He had to protect her. He felt a flash of guilt that he wasn't considering Hermione but pushed it aside as irrelevant. He had to find her and pushed himself even harder.
A hand grabbing his right leg jerked himself out of his focused intensity. Looking down, he saw a swarm of Grindylows emerging from the weed of the lake. Without thinking, Harry punched the water demon right on its squashed nose, causing it to release his leg and grab its face in pain. Taking advantage of the distraction, Harry swam away as fast as he could, only noting after he cleared the cloud of the water demons, that the other three champions were in for a fight to get past that obstacle.
His mouth wide open to get as much water over his gills as he could manage, Harry swam with the same single minded intensity as when he played Quidditch. Without realizing it, he swam past the giant squid and out ran it as it reached for him.
Minutes later, the merpeople village came into view. He saw a half dozen mermen and mermaids rise up in a line from the center of the settlement, so he pulled his wand from its holster in preparation. As he continued on, the merpeople merely watched his progress. Mentally shrugging at their unusual behavior he dove into the village, looking in windows as he sped past. Entering the underwater version of a town square he saw four people tied to posts and guarded by ten mermen with tridents and spears.
Without pausing, Harry began casting. Hermione had figured he might need to cast spells underwater, so for a month straight, every night they had drilled on silently casting one spell: the Stunning spell. The red light lanced out again and again and the mermen drifted to the bed of the lake, unconscious. From above, a spear lanced by, scoring a deep furrow on his left shoulder. Grimacing in pain, he looked up and began stunning the merpeople attacking him from above.
A shot of pain in his leg made him pause. A small trident was buried in his left thigh, and he would have screamed if he could as he pulled it out of his leg. Looking around, through the haze of his pain he could see the merpeople began to crowd around. Through a gap, he could see Gabrielle tied to a statue, her head lolling listlessly. Hands began to grasp him as he thought, I must get to her, and a pressure began to build within him. In a swirling, boiling rage, his magic exploded out of him, banishing all the merpeople from him.
Feeling a bit woozy, he shook his head and slowly swam over to Gabrielle as his blood began to cloud the water. Unsheathing his dive knife, he cut her free and then looked around and recognized Hermione, Cho Chang and Fleur's best friend, Michelle DuFrey. Not seeing the other champions, he cut all four loose and slowly began to tow them to the surface. He was bleeding quite badly from his wounds by now and getting dizzy as he swam upward. He was seeing spots as he broke the surface and heard Gabrielle and Hermione both shriek, "Harry!" and he slipped into unconsciousness.
With a groan, he awoke. It was nighttime and quiet. He supposed he was in the Infirmary as the ceiling was disturbingly familiar. Reaching out to his right, he found his glasses on his nightstand, after settling them on his head he saw Gabrielle sitting in a chair next to him and leaning on his bed, asleep. Beyond her, he saw Hermione and in beds on his left and right were Viktor, Fleur and Cedric. Frowning, he took stock of his body and found his leg and shoulder were sore, but not painful. He stretched and let out another little groan, waking up Gabrielle.
"Harry?" she whispered. His response was to reach out with his hand for hers. He found her hand, heard her gasp and sob as he gently pulled her on the bed next to him so he could hold her. She cried softly as he held her in relief and gratitude. Maybe the task went as expected, but he had been terrified of losing her.
After five minutes or so, she calmed and held his face in her hands and just looked at him, as if trying to memorize every feature, from the small scar on his left cheekbone to the bit of stubble on his face. He gazed at her in turn, admiring her classical beauty, but also the unique beauty that was his Gabi. He leaned in and gave her a soft kiss saying, "I was so worried. I almost ran mad when I couldn't find you. I knew you were at the bottom of the lake."
She tried to maintain her composure, but after a moment or two, burst into tears again and whispered, "My god, Harry, you almost died. My Harry, oh my Harry" and he pulled her close again. After a bit, he felt her relax in his arms so he shifted in a more comfortable position, wrapping his arm around her from behind and fell asleep holding her. He had a small smile on his face; Madam Pomfrey was going to have a fit.
Fortunately for both of them, Hermione wakened them at sunrise with a sleepy expression on her relieved face. She quietly asked, "How are you?"
Gabrielle did not relinquish her position, so Harry stretched with her in his arms and said, "I actually feel pretty good. Last night I was sore from my wounds, but this morning, I feel tip top."
Hermione nodded, "Madam Pomfrey said you were close to being magically exhausted on top of your wounds and was giving you a new potion that acts like Pepper Up, but keeps you asleep. It was to help you regenerate your magical core faster."
Now it was Hermione's turn to sob as she put her hand in front of her mouth. Harry reached out his arms as Gabrielle scooted over and Hermione flew in his arms. "You were bleeding all over and Viktor, Fleur and Cedric were all unconscious by the shore of the lake. The Grindylows and the squid did a number on them. Cedric's legs were pretty mangled, they aren't sure if he'll walk normally again. Fleur had a bad concussion and Viktor" her tears started again "has a badly broken arm and a mild concussion."
Wiping her face she said, "I have never seen Professor McGonagall so angry. She started yelling at Professor Dumbledore right there. Not for what happened to the champions, but for what could have happened to the hostages. The spell that allowed us to stay underwater only had thirty minutes or so left when you pulled the four of us out of the water. She was irate."
Narrowing his eyes, he said, "How did you all get at the bottom of the lake?"
Gabrielle shook her head and said, "I don't know. I went to sleep in my bed and woke up in the lake with you" to which Hermione nodded in concurrence.
Harry's anger at Dumbledore mounted to rage. Before he had been upset that Gabrielle and Hermione had been involved, but somewhere in the back of his mind he realized that this was part of the tournament and there was no getting around that. This was different.
"Right then" and he disentangled himself from Gabrielle and tried to sit up before she grabbed him and pulled him back down.
"You can kill Dumbledore later, love. Right now you need rest." She added in a low voice, "I need you here."
He couldn't say no to her so he lay there, Gabrielle on his shoulder and Hermione in the chair while the three of them caught up. He told them about his experience in the task, which, while dangerous, was still less so than the Dragon of the first task. Gabrielle checked his shoulder and clucked, "You have a scar, love."
He snorted, "One more for the collection." With a bit of a smirk he said, "Want to check the other one on my thigh?"
She looked at him with a sultry gaze and said, "I'd love to" before they both burst into laughter and Hermione shook her head while she lightly blushed at her two flirtatious friends.
Shortly, Fleur and Viktor awoke and Madam Pomfrey bustled out of her office with pain potions in hand. She narrowed her eyes at Harry and Gabrielle, but he stared resolutely back, brooking nothing from her. The healer looked at him in surprise, nodded in acquiescence and dispensed the pain relievers to all three of the wounded champions.
Fleur looked over at her sister and Harry and said, "Are the two of you Ok?" Harry related what had happened and calmed her when he told her of Michelle's involvement in the task.
Apparently, Fleur had been unconscious since yesterday and was unaware of anything that transpired after the squid beat her against a rock. She became as incensed as Harry when Hermione told her about the end of the life support spell and how the hostages had been effectively kidnapped. She was so irate, she too had to be restrained by Hermione and Gabrielle.
After she calmed, Hermione went to Viktor, took his hand and they conversed in low tones, causing Harry to look to the Delacour sisters and raise his eyebrows in mock surprise. They responded with giggling laughs and the atmosphere lightened somewhat. The five conscious survivors of the second task chatted in low tones for a bit when Professor Dumbledore decided to make an appearance.
Harry and Fleur both reached for their wands, only to be tackled by Gabrielle and Hermione. Viktor slowly got out of his bed, leaving his wand on the nightstand and walked up to the old wizard, Dumbledore watching him with a detached amusement.
Krum stopped a few feet short of the Headmaster, looked him in the eye as if searching for something. Not finding it, he spat in the old man's face and said, "Dat is for involving those who did not enter" and slowly returned to his bed. Hermione was shocked, while Harry, Gabrielle and Fleur were all smiling broadly.
The old man cast a quick Cleansing charm to remove the spittle from his face and said in an almost contrite tone, "I assure you Mr. Krum, at no time were any of the hostages in danger."
Harry and Gabrielle stared in shock at the brass the old man had while Fleur shook her head angrily. "How you can tell such lies, I don't know." At the stunned expression on the old man's face she continued, "Harry has told us what happened in the mer-village and Hermione has told us about the termination of the life support spell. The only reason the four hostages are alive is because Harry fought like a lion for my sister and his friend."
Harry felt warm in his heart to hear Fleur say this, but the warm feeling fled when Dumbledore adopted a small smile and his eyes began twinkling. Furious, he spat, "I don't find anything about this situation amusing Headmaster."
"Nor do I" chimed in Viktor.
Dumbledore held up his hands and said, "All the hostages had timed portkeys that would return them to the surface ten minutes before the end of the life support spell, everything was safe."
Hermione had a confused expression and asked, "What was the portkey, sir?"
A little taken aback, the old man said, "Each of you had a knut in your pocket which I personally charmed as a portkey."
Hermione stood and put her hands in her pockets. Gabrielle took the cue and did the same. Both girls checked all pockets in their jeans and shirts before Gabrielle looked at Hermione. Getting a negative shake from Hermione, the part Veela young woman said, "You are mistaken, sir, we have no such portkey in our possession. Neither Miss Granger nor I have changed clothes since the task."
Now Harry was incandescent with rage. He stood and stalked toward the headmaster, "You stupid bastard. You take the people we value most in this world and put them in a task for which they did not volunteer and then you almost kill them. If I had not retrieved all four hostages the other three would have died." By now, he was right in front of the old man who was beginning to look a bit peeved in being told off by a fourteen almost fifteen-year-old wizard.
Adopting a stern expression, Dumbledore said, "I don't have to explain myself to you or anyone else…"
"I believe you do, Headmaster" Harry interrupted. "Otherwise, well" he looked at Viktor and said, "Mr. Krum would you like to do a joint interview? Better yet, Miss Delacour" he looked at Fleur "maybe the three of us should do a joint interview. I'm sure the International Magical Press or some other publication from France or Bulgaria would jump at the opportunity to interview us and get our views on the first Tri-Wizard Tournament to be held in well over one hundred years. What do you think? I'm sure Mr. Diggory would agree with us after he awakens."
Viktor snarled, "I tink dat vould be excellent idea. Boy-Who-Lived, International Quidditch star, and Veela-chick. Yes, I tink the papers vould like to talk to us."
Fleur nodded and with a wicked smile said, "Indeed Baron Potter, I can contact my cousin who is the editor of Le Magique. He could probably be in Hogsmeade by this afternoon."
With his back to Dumbledore, Harry suppressed a laugh, crossed his eyes at Fleur and turned back to the Headmaster and said, "I'm sorry, sir. I've lost the thread of what you were saying."
Dumbledore turned bright red and spat, "You have my humblest apologies for the danger to the hostages during the second task" spun on his heel and almost ran out of the Infirmary.
Harry snorted in disgust, wavered a bit before being caught by Gabi and she helped him back to bed. "Come love, it's time to get you in bed," she said softly.
Very tired all of a sudden, Harry said with a smile, "I have been waiting for you to say that for quite a while, but I'm sorry, I'm too tired right now."
Gabrielle stopped, stared at him with an open mouth before throwing her head back and laughing heartily. Fleur and Viktor joined her while Hermione just blushed and said, "Harry!"
After a moment, Hermione spoke as if she were wondering aloud, "I doubt that the Headmaster would try to kill us all. It's rather farfetched."
Returning Harry's scowl, she said, "I know you are less than pleased with him Harry, but he isn't a complete idiot. So the question becomes, what happened to the portkeys?" No one had an answer to that question.
Two days later, Harry was released from the clutches of Madam Pomfrey so he and Gabrielle went down to her room in the Beauxbatons carriages. She lay on his shoulder as they cuddled on her bed and chatted. Harry took a deep breath and said, "I'd like to talk to your Charms mistress" Gabrielle tensed, "and discuss Marriage contracts. Would you be Ok with that?" He had wanted to bring this up ever since he woke from the second task, but just today had built up the courage to ask.
Without lifting her head she said, "Really? I just…I still find it hard to believe that you love me." Now Harry tensed in her arms. Feeling his response, she said, "No, don't misunderstand, I just have always wondered if a man would love me for who I am and I am still stunned that you do love me for who I am. That's all. To answer your question, yes, I'd like to join you and talk to Madame LeCroix about Marriage contracts."
Harry pulled her close and with a relieved smile said, "Don't get me wrong. I find you beautiful, sexy and incredibly attractive" here she raised an amused eyebrow at him and he continued, "but I love you for the person you are. For your kindness to a young man in distress, for your sense of humor, for your selflessness, for your quick mind and quicker wit." The whole time he spoke, he face softened until she had tears in her eyes.
"Mon amour" she whispered and kissed him passionately.
Two days later, as spring was beginning to peek out of the cold and gloom of winter, Harry and Gabrielle sat down with the elderly widow who taught Charms for Beauxbatons. After the introductions were made, they all sat in Madame LeCroix's comfortable office while she poured coffee for them.
"Now," the professor said in a kindly voice, "Madame Maxime has informed me that you wish to understand Marriage Contracts as they are arranged and conducted in France, is this correct, Monsieur le Baron?"
Harry nodded and set his coffee on the table in front of him. "Yes, this is correct, and please, call me Harry or even Mr. Potter." After a nod of the head by the professor, Harry said, "I will be contacting Monsieur Delacour in the near future regarding Gabrielle". He looked to her and found her beaming at him; he reached out and took her hand.
The Charms mistress raised her eyebrows and said, "Of course, but at your age, it is customary to include a delayed activation clause for the contract until the age of 21 or sometimes even 25 so that the couple can ensure that their prospective marriage partner is to their liking."
Gabrielle shook her head in annoyance at giving out their secrets and said, "Madame, Monsieur Potter is my bond-mate."
With a look of realization, Madame LeCroix said, "Ah, my apologies. The delay need not be included at all then." Furrowing her brow, she said, "Monsieur Potter, are you on good terms with your head of house?"
Harry chuckled, said, "Maybe we need to provide you a bit of background", and over the course of the next ten minutes explained his and Gabrielle's positions.
Once they all had a good understanding, Madame LeCroix explained some of the major tenants of the standard French Marriage contract. "The opening section is an obligatory discussion of marriage and the permanence of the relationship. The second paragraph usually details the terms of the dowry. In most situations the dowry of a wealthy bride-to-be is gold. In your case, you may want to consider heirlooms or even property. In the case of property, depending on its worth, the deed transfer may not happen until the death of the signator, so it is really a peek into the will of the bride's parents. The contract will merely transfer the primary use of the property, be it a primary residence or a summer home to the newly married couple. In the case of heirlooms, it is not unusual for the pieces to be transferred the day after the wedding.
"After that, there is what I call the 'miscellaneous' section. Family alliances are spelled out here, political alliances as well. Given that Henri Delacour is a powerful politician in France, expect to see language there, especially given your position on your Wizengamot and your title. Be prepared to align yourself with France for the foreseeable future with your vote."
Pausing to think, she tapped her fingers on the arm of her chair. "Ah, also, children. Since the Delacours only have daughters, Monsieur Delacour may want you to continue his family name if you have multiple sons. I defer to you, my dear" she looked at Gabrielle "to guide this issue."
They talked for another fifteen minutes about the ins and outs that should be expected when Madame LeCroix said with delicacy, "Monsieur Potter, Madame Maxime did mention that you had an unfortunate encounter with the your Headmaster. With your permission, I will check you for any magic done to your person."
Harry paused for a minute and then assented. Madame LeCroix proceeded to cast multiple detection charms on him, explaining their purpose as she went. She found four tracking charms that she dispelled and then taught Harry and Gabrielle how to cast the detection spell themselves, so they could inspect their belongings at their leisure. At the end, she paused, said, "One more", began a long complicated incantation, and associated wand movement. Harry glowed purple at the conclusion. She frowned at the result and performed the test again with the same purple glow at the end.
She sat down and said, "Monsieur Potter, the last test I performed on you had some rather disturbing results." She paused as if trying to gather her thoughts before saying, "Apparently, your magical core has a restriction, a block on it that inhibits you from accessing your full power capability."
Thoughts flashed through Harry. I'm an orphan who grew up with muggles. Either my parents did this, or someone here at Hogwarts. But who? And why? His grip on Gabrielle's hand intensified and she began to stroke his hand and arm, whispering nothings to him to try to calm him. Eventually the anger and fear began to dissipate. He smiled for Gabrielle and said to Madame LeCroix, "What do we do now?"
The elderly witch said, "Well, first we get you to a healer and together we can relieve you of this block. If done haphazardly it could be fatal." Now Gabrielle's hand crushed his and he tried to calm her down.
Harry nodded and said, "Very well, can we use the Beauxbatons healer and do this now?" At Madame LeCroix's query, he replied coldly, "I don't want to use Madam Pomfrey because she most likely knew of this and did nothing. I do not trust her to perform her duties in my best interest." Nodding, the Charms mistress led the way to the Infirmary and Monsieur LeClerc, the healer.
After a few words, with Madame LeCroix, he approached Harry and asked permission to run some tests on him. After ten minutes, he confirmed Madame LeCroix's assessment and bade Harry take a seat. "We must perform certain calculations based on your current magical index, your estimated total magical index, height, weight and so on. It should take thirty minutes or so. If you'd like to relax here, feel free but please, do not eat anything. When we release the block, you will most likely feel nauseous and well…" he gave a small smile and a shrug which Harry took as "I don't want you making a mess in my infirmary."
Comforted by the man's forthrightness, he lay down on a bed with Gabrielle beside him. She whispered to him, "Why is it always you, my love?"
Harry gave a short laugh and held her close. "It does always seem to be me doesn't it?" After a pause he said, "What worries me is I don't know who did this or why. When we get finished, if I am incoherent, please ask Madame LeCroix if someone could do this to me again and I wouldn't notice." With a bit of a tremor in his voice he said, "It's a bit scary that someone could do this and I didn't notice." He pulled her closer, she hooked her leg over his legs, and they lay there, taking strength and comfort from each other.
They didn't have to wait too long, as Healer LeClerc exited his office holding a clipboard and Madame LeCroix with a tray filled with potions. Gabrielle sat on the chair to Harry's right while the Healer and professor sat on his left. "Monsieur Potter" the healer began, "This is a multi-stage process, for which you will have to be conscious, I'm afraid." Harry grimaced at the pain implied at that statement as LeClerc continued, "First, we will administer several of these potions, which will impair your bodies healing ability. This will allow us to magically fracture the block on your core. If we did not impede your healing ability, the block would heal itself before we could remove it. Then we will immobilize you for your own protection."
Harry nodded, grateful that the process was being explained like this, it helped ease a lot of his fear. Gabrielle was holding his hand and stroking his arm on the other side, a tangible calming presence for him. "Once we have lowered your bodies healing ability we will then begin casting spells to fracture the block.
"This will be quite painful. It will be plain to all when we are successful, as you will have a release of magic that we all will feel, similar to a muggle water dam failing. At that point, we will give you some pain relief potion that will take the edge off the pain as we remove the immobilization. We will need you responsive as we then proceed to magically remove the shattered remnants of the block. You will feel various 'pieces' of the shattered block as a tangible presence in your chest that we will remove. Once that is complete, we will give you a sleeping potion and restore your bodies' healing ability." The healer paused, evaluated his patient and said, "Do you have any questions?"
Harry shook his head and took the first few potion vials; of course they tasted like liquefied rancid horseflesh. The healer motioned Gabrielle away, she gave Harry a kiss and stepped back. After a quick Petrification Spell, the process continued until he heard LeClerc say, "We will now fracture the block, Monsieur Potter. This will be painful."
Painful was an understatement as agony lanced through his chest and down his arms and legs. It felt like his bones were melting and his organs swelling to the bursting point. Just when he thought he would go mad, the pain swiftly ebbed away, and if he could, he would have laid there, whimpering.
Suddenly there was a different type of pressure in him, similar to what he felt at the bottom of the lake. It built quickly and then exploded out of him in a non-painful way. His body relaxed as the body bind was lifted and he sighed in relief. The entirety of his body ached profusely, but, strangely, he felt better despite the pain. He immediately recognized the fractured pieces of the block in his chest, just as LeClerc had described.
LeClerc whispered, "Harry, how many pieces do you feel in your chest?" After concentrating for a moment, Harry held up four fingers. Nodding, LeClerc and Madame LeCroix went to work. Forty minutes later, the two exhausted adults sagged into seats as a tear stained Gabrielle fed Harry a dreamless sleep potion.
He woke up the next morning with a host of people around his bed. The first face he looked for was his Gabi. She was there, right next to the bed, her head on her hand trying desperately to stay awake, her position obviously won from being there all night. Hermione was a foot or two behind her, asleep in a chair. Professor McGonagall was talking to Madame Maxime and Healer LeClerc with a tall, bald black man listening in and taking notes. Fleur, Viktor and a now conscious Cedric were chatting while sitting on a bed across the way. Cedric was actually sitting in a wheelchair while the other two sat on the bed.
Returning his gaze to his girlfriend, he smiled and said, "Morning" to catch her attention.
With no fanfare, she gave him her megawatt smile and slowly lowered herself to give him a kiss. After a few moments she broke away, whispered, "You must stop this, I won't live to see thirty at this rate", and gave him a slow, firm hug.
Professor McGonagall now said, "Welcome back, Mr. Potter. I've been telling Madame Maxime, Monsieur LeClerc and Auror Shacklebolt here some of your adventures the last three years." Both the men were shaking their heads in wonder while the Deputy Headmistress said, "We are not sure, but it would have been possible for Professor Quirrel, while possessed by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, to have bound your magical core in your first year, probably while you slept." Harry nodded at the idea, it sounded plausible enough. She continued, "We will never know for sure, but that is one possible explanation."
She paused and in a softer and more concerned tone he had ever heard her use said, "How are you feeling?"
Harry shifted a bit and said, "Not bad. I'm pretty tired still, but not bad."
Monsieur LeClerc sidled up on the side of the bed opposite Gabrielle and began some diagnostics, muttering as he went. "Good, vital signs are all stable…magical core solid and recharging…Mon Dieu!" he exclaimed at the end.
Harry just sighed and said, "Yes?"
LeClerc ran the spell three more times and sat down on the bed next to his patient heavily. Waving his hand, he said, "Monsieur Potter, the Murchison Magical Index was originally designed for adults so the results for those in the midst of puberty can sometimes be misleading. For example, a young male at fifteen can be at just the cusp of developing an adult magical core where a female at fifteen can have a fully developed core."
Harry nodded in understanding and the healer continued, "Well the average adult wizard has a score of 100 and an average adult witch has a score of 96. Before the procedure, your score was a respectable 71, but now…" he trailed off. Casting a quick privacy ward, the healer said, "These scores can be private, you see."
Harry motioned for LeClerc to stop and pulled Gabrielle inside the boundaries of the ward. At LeClerc's amused expression, Harry said, "I have no secrets from my bond-mate, please, continue."
Nodding in understanding, LeClerc said, "Your score now is 193."
Harry's eyes grew wide, his mouth dropped open and he looked at Gabrielle whose eyes were shining with laughter. "Only you, my love" she whispered in his ear.
He laughed. She was right. With everything in his life, it was only fitting that he had extraordinary magical strength to fight with. Shaking his head, he said, "True" while LeClerc dispelled the ward.
Hermione sat on the bed and the other Champions came over. Fleur Vanished the bed LeClerc had been sitting on and Viktor pushed Cedric in place. Sitting on conjured chairs they all began to chat. Cedric was profusely grateful for Harry's retrieval of Cho Chang in the second task, but it looked like Cedric was done with the tournament. The next day he was going to St. Mungo's for rehabilitation and therapy for his legs. The healers believed he could regain most of the function in his legs, but the therapy needed to begin immediately.
Everyone began to disperse and soon it was only Harry, Hermione and Gabrielle. Hermione looked back and forth between her friends, smiled and said, "I'll see you later" and took off for the castle.
Gabrielle sighed, said, "Finally, I have you to myself", and with a fearful expression said, "I've seen you hurt far too much for my liking these last two weeks." Harry squeezed her hands and tried to think of something humorous to say, but everything fell flat at the expression of pain on her face.
Finally, he said, "What do you say we go on a date this weekend? I'll get us reservations at a nice restaurant, maybe go to the cinema after and we'll get out of here, just the two of us."
Gabrielle smiled and he realized how much her smile meant to him. For the first time in his life, he really made it a goal to try to make someone happy, and it was she. Gabrielle said, "I'd like that very much, Harry."
Smiling back at her, he said, "Just Harry and Gabi, eh?"
She nodded and then said, "Oh, yes. I talked with Monsieur LeClerc and he said no one could bind you again without your knowledge. A binding restricts access to a percentage of magic, like capping a jar, and now that your magic is released, it would be like pushing it all in a sack that is too small. When you were younger, your magical reservoir was much smaller, so binding you would not be noticeable, especially if it was done in your sleep. Now, however, you could not help but feel it and fight back."
Harry sighed in relief and squeezed her hand. "I'm feeling pretty sleepy again, would you stay until I fall asleep?" he asked a little timidly.
She smiled softly, "Harry, I will stay until we are both old and grey, you need not ask. Now" she said in a tone that reminded him of a mother on the telly "You settle in and get some sleep. I will find Hermione and we will bring your books. Hermione and I will study with you here for the next two days and keep you company."
Looking around, she saw they were unnoticed and kissed him firmly. "I have been watching you for the last day and been unable to do that" she whispered and kissed him again, their tongues wrestling for dominance, "It has been pure torture." She pulled up the sheets and Harry settled in for a nap.
The next two days were very interesting for Harry. The two extremely bright, borderline genius, witches and he free form studied Transfiguration and Charms together while he tried to pass on his strength: spell execution. Many times he felt out of his depth, but the ladies seemed to recognize this most of the time and re-orient the discussion so as to explain what they were discussing.
It was amusing to try to keep up, as his best friends would get excited about an idea or tenant and discuss it like some of their peers would discuss fashion. Harry learned more those two days than he had his entire third year.
On more than one occasion, the exhaustion would overtake him and he would fall asleep and be snoring before they even noticed. It truly warmed his heart that Hermione and Gabrielle were becoming such good friends, and it sparked a little idea in his head.
Finally, it was Saturday and Harry was knocking on Gabrielle's door just after breakfast to pick her up. He had a few ideas, so they had decided to make a day of it.
She opened the door and smiled brilliantly at him as he stood there in awe of his girlfriend's beauty. Shaking his head, he appreciatively eyed the hip hugging black skirt, the grey silk blouse and the way she had pulled her hair up and back from her face.
Before he could stop himself, he pushed her back into the room, kicked the door shut behind them and was kissing her passionately. She pulled his shirt out of his pants and was stroking his back, dragging her nails lightly down to his waist before doing something she'd never done before and her hands dove down the back of his pants, cupping his bum and squeezing.
His heart was pounding like a bass drum in his ears as the blood sang through his veins, He could feel her meld her body to his, trying to get ever closer, clutching, pulling, needing.
Harry groaned and a few minutes later tore himself away from her. Breathing heavily, he said, "I am about to start ripping your clothes off, we need to stop."
Her expression challenged that statement for a moment before she cuddled up to him and said, "Yes, for now, we stop."
Holding her, he never felt like they were too young for anything. With everything he'd been through in his life, to say that he was immature and unable to handle making mature decisions was laughable. She was Veela or part-Veela at least, and was older than her years. No, they weren't too young for these considerations.
After they both caught their breath and rearranged their clothes, they walked to The Three Broomsticks and used the Floo to the Leaky Cauldron. They made a quick visit to the bank to exchange Galleons for Pounds, and promptly caught a taxi on Charing Cross Road.
Harry had the idea that they should sightsee around London. He'd never had the opportunity, nor had she. They toured the Tower of London, walked across the famous London Bridge, walked around Soho and laughed at some, maybe even many of the denizens and continued on. They ate a cozy lunch at a pub, feeding each other fish all the while trying to tickle and kiss each other into submission.
For a surprise, Harry had the next hackney take them to Sloane Street. As he escorted her out of the back seat, Gabrielle's eyes were wide at the names of the shops. He whispered in her ear, "Happy Birthday, we are here for you, my Gabrielle. Price is no object."
She turned to him with a soft smile and cupped his cheek. Without saying anything, they went shopping for her. For the next three hours, Harry was sometimes bored, other times amused, but most often exhilarated to be doing something so ordinary with Gabrielle. This is what I want was the theme marching through his head. The tailors and seamstresses fell in love with her, refusing anything not custom fitted. Many of the items were originals. Yves St Laurent, Givenchy, Chanel and Versache; all the shops treated her as a princess, which is what Harry had subconsciously wanted.
Later, she asked, "Do you want to come into this next shop?" Somewhat confused, Harry looked around and saw they were in front of a lingerie shop and mumbled something about a new pair of trainers and bolted away to her amused laughter behind him. Harry spent the time wandering through Tiffany & Co. and Bulgari.
They had a wonderful dinner at a small Italian bistro, cuddled in a corner booth. A healthy tip kept the manager at bay as they talked late into the evening, the cinema forgotten. As ten o'clock became eleven, she leaned into her man and said, "You treat me so well, Harry."
He smiled and said, "I've recently realized that treating you like the queen that you are is now the purpose of my life."
She began kissing his neck and said, "I wish we were a bit older and we could finish the night together."
Harry nodded, relieved that she was of the same mind as he. Brushing the hair back from her face, he said, "I agree. I love you and find you very desirable" he paused and grinned at her, "In every way" and laughed at her mock exasperation followed by her own smile. "Not now, but not too long from now, eh?" She nodded confident in their relationship and feelings for each other.
Rubbing her hand on his arm as she leaned in, she said, "It takes a true man, a gentleman to say 'no' with love" referring to earlier in her room. She gave him a gentle kiss and said with a contented sigh, "You are my Chevalier, Harry."
He dropped a stack of notes on the table and handed her out of the booth. They walked hand in hand to the taxi stand and caught a cab back to the Leaky Cauldron for a joint floo back to Hogsmeade.
They stumbled out of the floo at The Three Broomsticks in a passionate embrace, and after a short moment, the few patrons began a jesting applause.
"Ummm" he eloquently said to her.
"Yes, let's" and blushing they fled for the door.
The next few weeks went by in a blur of happiness for the couple. Studying under a tree with the liberal use of warming and drought charms, kissing at the lake, talking and laughing in her room while drinking coffee or tea.
Harry was summoned to the Quidditch Pitch for a discussion of the third task. He and Fleur chatted with Viktor as they ambled down the lawn to the Pitch. As Harry and Viktor laughed at a joke of Fleur's, he wondered how the competitors in a tournament that promised 'Eternal Glory' had become such good friends. It could be because Harry was firmly in first place, being the only champion to have finished the second task.
After Bagman had described the maze and the "dangerous creatures" to be provided by Hagrid and others, the three solemn teens stood there in contemplation, surveying the Pitch for a bit, as Bagman left to go wherever he went. As they started to turn and return to the castle for dinner, Barty Crouch stumbled out of the woods, babbling incoherently.
Harry drew his wand and looked around. Frowning, he said, "Let's see what this is about" to the others.
Fleur and Viktor drew their wands as well and they spread out to head over to the now fallen older man.
When they were about ten feet from Crouch, a wide spread of stunning spells lanced out from the forest to their right. Harry and Viktor dove to the ground rolling, while Fleur stood her ground and did something Harry didn't expect. She radiated the Veela Allure as strongly as she could. The spellfire stopped immediately and Harry glanced at Fleur. She seemed to be glowing a yellow-white and her already ethereal beauty seemed enhanced, somehow.
Hearing a choking noise from his left, Harry turned and saw Viktor with a huge sappy grin on his face and he stood to try and rush over to Fleur and win her over. Chuckling, Harry quickly stunned his Bulgarian friend.
Fleur called out in a somewhat strained voice, "Mon frère, find the person who was cursing us. I cannot keep the Allure at this strength for much longer."
Nodding, he ran toward the forest where he heard a stumbling shuffle. Assuming the perpetrator was under an invisibility cloak or Disillusionment charm, Harry stopped, listened and watched for the underbrush to move. Finding his quarry, he let loose a spread of five stunners and was rewarded with a thump as something fell.
"Got him!" he yelled out, and in the back of his mind, he felt Fleur let the Allure dissipate.
Reaching around, he found a person under a cloak, pulled it off and sucked in his breath as he saw Professor Moody. Mimicking Remus from last year, he cast "Mobilcorpus" and the unconscious body of his lunatic Defense professor floated before him exiting the woods.
Returning to his friends, he saw Fleur panting with her hands on her knees. Concerned, he jogged up to her and said, "Hey, you Ok?" She nodded, straightened up and waved her wand to wake Viktor.
As the Bulgarian groaned and rubbed his head, Harry bound Moody while Fleur levitated Crouch. Viktor shook his head clear, looked at the other two and said, "Fleur and I vill take dese two to Infirmary. Harry, you go find your Headmaster and let him know vat has happened."
Not really liking the idea at all, but realizing it was the best plan, he nodded and took off running. Seeing a mass of Beauxbatons students heading down to the carriages he ran over. Finding Michelle DuFrey, Fleur's friend, he said, "Tell Madame Maxime that she needs to get to the Hogwarts Infirmary immediately, there is an emergency." Seeing a panting Harry Potter who was positively radiating magic giving orders authoritatively, she wondered later why she didn't salute before she raced down the lawn to the carriages.
Someone grabbed his arm and Harry's wand was in his hand before he finished turning. It was Gabrielle, and the fear on her face was directly proportional to the look on his own. Relaxing, he gathered her in his arms. "I'm sorry. It's been crazy, we were down by the Pitch and the three of us were attacked." Feeling her stiffen in his arms he quickly said, "We're all Ok. Fleur saved us by thinking quickly and using the Allure at full power. She and Viktor are heading to the Infirmary with the person who attacked us and one other." She pulled away and began feeling all over him, looking for an injury. He laughed and said, "Really, I'm alright" and kissed her on the forehead.
Squeezing her arms, he said, "Look, I've got to find Dumbledore. Why don't you wait for us in the Infirmary with Fleur and Viktor? I'll be along shortly." She nodded and he ran off to the Entrance Hall, before turning into the Great Hall and finding Dumbledore still at the Head Table, talking with Flitwick.
Slowing his pace, Harry approached and caught the Headmaster's attention. Noticing a tightening of the old man's expression Harry leaned in and said, "Sir, something has happened and you are needed in the Infirmary. I've already arranged for Madame Maxime, but Headmaster Karkaroff has not yet been summoned."
Nodding, Dumbledore called for a House Elf and asked, very politely, for Nob to find the Durmstrang Headmaster and request his presence in the Infirmary. They headed out of the Great Hall together, and once they were alone in their trek to Madam Pomfrey's domain, Dumbledore said, "Now, my Lord, what seems to be the matter?"
Harry summarized the events on the edge of the Forest and Dumbledore's pace quickened to the point that Harry had to jog to keep up. Rounding the corner into the Infirmary, he saw Gabrielle, Fleur and Viktor holding their drawn wands on a figure that Harry did not recognize that was lying in one of the Infirmary's beds. Madam Pomfrey was standing a few paces behind Viktor, staring in shock.
Seeing Dumbledore, she said, "Headmaster, he just turned into this man." The normally unflappable Healer recovered her demeanor, sniffed and said, "Must be Polyjuice" before turning to the bed containing Barty Crouch.
After a moment of obvious shock, Dumbledore called for Nob again. "Nob please go to the Defense Against the Dark Arts office and look for a trunk or cabinet that is locked. Open it if you can and assist whomever you find there here to the infirmary." Turning back to the figures on the beds, he said to the assembled, "This man is a Death Eater by the name of Bartemius Crouch Junior."
Harry shook his head and walked over to Gabrielle. Taking her in his arms, his own emotions seemed to calm from the high-wire tension feeling he had been running at for the last hour. Gabrielle whispered in his ear, "Are you sure you are unhurt?"
He nodded into her hair and pulled her a little closer. Suddenly, a thought hit him. Turning out of Gabrielle's embrace, he barely noticed Madame Maxime striding in the ward and said to his Headmaster, "How on God's green earth did you fail to realize that this man was not Mad-Eye Moody?" After a few beats he remembered, "Sir."
Dumbledore seemed to sag while standing there. Before he could continue, Harry let fly, "This is the second servant of Voldemort that you have hired during my time here, Sir." Shaking his head in stunned disbelief at the situation, he struggled for words.
Gabrielle was under no such constraints, "Are you an imbecile? Is that the issue at hand?" Harry's eyes went wide as his girlfriend lit into the stunned old man. Fleur reached out a hand to calm the girl who responded in French, "No! This is how many times he has failed to protect my bond-mate? He must answer."
Turning back to Dumbledore, her eyes seemed to flare like the sun as she said, "How can you continue to fail, Headmaster Dumbledore?"
Dumbledore was nonplussed and looked back and forth between Harry and Gabrielle. From behind him, he heard a voice he did not expect say, "She asks a good question, Albus. Do you have an equally good answer?"
Dumbledore turned to see Minerva McGonagall standing ramrod straight with a no nonsense, take no prisoners expression on her face. She raised her left eyebrow and without humor asked, "Well?"
With surprising sincerity, the old man said, "I have no answer that is fit. My failures as a Headmaster to keep you in a safe environment" here he nodded in Harry's direction, "are stupendous." He paused as if to say more and then reconsidered.
Asking Madam Pomfrey to keep him updated on the health of the two men he continued, "Minerva, Nob may be returning with Alastor soon. The real Alastor that is. Would you please stay here with the Crouchs whilst I contact the Aurors? I would like to discern what was afoot by the replacement of Alastor with Young Bartemius." McGonagall nodded to him and with a sad look at Harry, Dumbledore strode out of the ward with Madame Maxime.
A few minutes later, Harry and Gabrielle walked out of the Infirmary hand-in-hand following Fleur. Just as they exited the castle, Harry remembered, "Hey Fleur" and they took a little detour toward an oak tree that people studied under in fair weather. "You called me, mon frère, back there. Didn't you?"
Fleur smiled broadly, "I didn't even realize it, but yes, I did." She faltered a bit, remembering his family life and said, "I hope I did not offend?"
Harry smiled and gave her a big hug, "Not at all, ma soeur" and she hugged him back with an equally big smile.
After Fleur went down to her room to work on an Ancient Runes paper, Harry and Gabrielle followed at a slower pace. "Did that bother you?" he asked.
"Her calling you 'brother'? No." She blushed a little, "It was actually wonderful." At Harry's curious look she elaborated, "Fleur has always been my hero growing up. You know older sister and all. For her to accept you to the point of calling you 'brother' warms my very soul." She put her head on his shoulder and said softly, "I love you, Harry."
They went down to her room and studied for a bit. She had a Potions test in two days and Harry a Transfiguration test in three. Around ten o'clock, Harry began packing up his bag to head back to the tower when Gabrielle got a nervous look on her face. "Harry?" she asked.
"Hmm?" he said in response, packing up his quills and notes.
"Stay tonight. Stay with me."
Responding to his shocked expression, she said, "Just sleep. I want to wake up with you in the morning."
His face slowly unfroze and he began to smile, "Ok" was all he could muster and he dropped his bag.
She smiled back and shooed him out to use the toilet while she changed. He was down at the carriage dormitory so much that no one commented on his being in the toilet late at night.
He got back to her room and she was wearing her nightgown and already in bed, brushing her hair. Stripping down to his boxers, he climbed in next to her, placing his glasses on the nightstand. He couldn't help it; he reached out for her, and pulled her close to give her a searing kiss.
She responded with animalistic passion and rolled him on his back, straddling him as she kissed him with abandon. His hands had pulled up her nightgown and he was caressing her incredible bum. Her incredible, naked, bum. He realized that he was quickly losing control over himself.
She obviously felt the same way as she pulled back forcefully. He involuntarily squeezed again and she groaned with a frustrated pleasure. She muttered and all he could make out was "Mon Dieu, please soon".
He laughed under his breath as she rolled off him and draped herself over his chest. With a few muttered words, the lights dimmed and soon their breathing slowed. He had to tell her before they lost the moment though so he said, "I want you to know, that I do want to make love to you. Very much. I'm not sure why, but a little voice keeps telling me 'not yet.' Not in a bad way, but it's there nonetheless."
She squeezed him tightly and said, "It must be the bond growing on your side. I feel drawn to you, complete with you, warm in my soul with you. Some of that is the magic of the bond" she looked in his face and said, "Some of that is the magic of the love I feel for you and you for me."
They searched each other's eyes, each other's souls and found what they were looking for. "I've read in some of Grand-mere's books that the Veela's bond-mate will experience the bond as well, and I think that because your core is now unchained, you are developing your side of the bond. It is exciting, n'est-pas?"
"I don't know for sure what it is, but I do know that I love you" he muttered as he rolled over and pulled her back to his chest as they drifted off to sleep.
The next morning was the best of Harry's life. He slowly woke to a wonderfully warm feeling and opened his eyes to a cascade of blond hair and blue eyes watching him. He couldn't help himself and he broke into an ear-to-ear smile. Giving her a quick closed mouth kiss due to morning breath, he pulled his girlfriend on his shoulder as he rolled on his back.
She snuggled in to him and said, "How did you sleep?"
He chuckled, "It took me a while to calm down," she laughed in response, "But once I did, I had the best sleep of my life." She purred contentedly for a while and he held her close. Finally, he rolled out of bed and grabbed his pants. Looking back at her as she sat up, it struck him how truly beautiful she was and it took his breath away.
She looked at him quizzically "What?" He just smiled and got dressed.
After sneaking out of the carriage, he trod the path up to the castle. As it was only 5:30 AM, he had no encounters until he entered the castle. Just turning a corner as he closed the main doors was Professor Snape.
Muttering to himself, Harry tried to will himself invisible and hurried in an attempt to run by the snarky potions master. Snape had continued his reign of terror in the classroom this year. Gabrielle had counseled ignoring the man's constant biting jibes and insults. "Don't even look at him" was her best advice, unknowingly echoing Hermione's counsel. It had helped quite a bit, but the man was still at the top of Witch Weekly's "Most Odious" list for the last ten years running.
He continued to maintain his reputation this morning.
Harry sighed and stopped midstride. Slumping his shoulders he turned to the greasy haired bully and mumbled, "Yes, Sir."
Opening his mouth in what he considered a smile; Snape displayed his yellowed bad teeth for the world to see. "Where are you going, Mr. Potter?"
Still looking at the ground, Harry said with more firmness, "Back to Gryffindor Tower."
Rolling his eyes in impatience, Snape spat, "But why are you out so late after curfew, Potter? I'm afraid you will have to start packing now, boy. Come with me."
They started up to Dumbledore's office and Harry's anger, which had been simmering since he saw Snape, began to boil. Following Snape up the steps, the young Gryffindor squared his shoulders and prepared for battle.
Before they even entered the Headmaster's office, Snape spat, "Headmaster, I demand that Potter be expelled. I just caught him returning from the Beauxbatons carriages. Obviously, he did not return to his dormitory last night."
Dumbledore's eyebrow's shot up and he turned to Harry and asked, "My Lord?" At this address, Snape sucked in his breath and almost had a stroke. Instead, for the very first time in his life, Snape displayed an amazing amount of self-control and good judgment by saying nothing.
Harry looked first at Dumbledore, then the purple faced Snape and decided that brass was needed for this encounter. He laughed.
"Of course I was coming back from the carriages." He held out his bag and nodded at it. "I was studying last night with my bond-mate and left my Transfiguration book in her room. As Transfiguration is first this morning, I ran down there to retrieve it before breakfast. Will that be all, Sir?" and he made to turn to the Headmaster's door.
Snape began to sputter. Saliva was dripping down his chin at an alarming rate causing Harry to laugh again. With mock seriousness, Harry said, "Professor, you should see Madam Pomfrey, she could help you with that problem."
In a towering rage, Snape shouted, "Fifty points from Gryffindor!" as he spun and pulled his wand on Harry.
Harry placidly returned his potion's master's gaze for a moment before looking at the Headmaster. When Dumbledore said and more importantly, did nothing to reprimand Snape, Harry sighed in resignation. He returned his attention to the incensed Potions Master, saying, "Professor Snape, the last comment I made was inappropriate and I apologize. It won't happen again, sir."
When Snape did not lower his wand, Dumbledore snapped, "Severus, lower your wand immediately!"
Haltingly, Snape complied and Harry said, "If there is nothing else then?" At Dumbledore's distracted headshake, Harry made a half bow and swiftly exited the office.
Harry walked back to Gryffindor tower deep in thought. After a shave and a shower, he met up with Hermione in the common room. "Hey, let's go for a walk. I want to talk about something."
With a look of concern, Hermione followed her best friend out the portrait hole and into Transfiguration #6. After he locked and silenced the door, Harry said, "I had another encounter with the Headmaster and Snape."
Hermione groaned, too upset to reprove the lack of the word 'Professor.' Waving her hand for more, he related what had happened. After quite a bit of blushing when she realized that Harry had spent the night with Gabrielle, she finally said, "Ok, the Headmaster let Professor Snape do whatever he wanted to, again, and you took advantage of the situation and escaped unscathed."
Harry nodded, looking at the ground. After a full minute of silence he said, "I can't come back here next year Hermione. I won't put up with the interference, the bullying, the blatant abuses and at the same time be apart from Gabrielle."
Hermione looked stricken as he paused and looked up at her, "Please come with me to Beauxbatons."
Completely taken off guard, Hermione almost fell out of her chair. Shaking her head slowly, she said, "I did not expect that question this morning." Seeing a small smile on her friends face she smiled back at her attempt at levity. "I completely understand your reasoning. Can I think about it?"
Harry smiled and shocked her again by giving her a big hug, "Take your time. I'm going to talk to Madame Maxime this morning after breakfast, should I mention that you are considering a transfer as well?"
Pursing her lips, she thought about it. If he leaves, why stay? Beauxbatons is as good a school as Hogwarts, if not better in Potions and Arithmancy. I have no other friends here. With a small smile she said, "Yes, do that. I need to think about how to talk to mum and dad about all this." With smiling faces, for entirely different reasons, the two friends headed down to breakfast.
After a quick breakfast, Harry left Hermione and Gabrielle chatting about their men and he followed Madame Maxime out of the Great Hall. "Madame Maxime?" he called as he jogged to catch up to the Headmistress.
Turning, she smiled at the young man and with an inquisitive expression said, "Monsieur Potter, how can I help you this morning?"
Catching up to her he said, "Madame, what paperwork do I need to fill out so that I and another Hogwarts student can transfer to Beauxbatons for the next school year?"
Madame Maxime widened her smile; she had not had such a good start to a day in quite a long time.
An hour later, Harry came out of the Headmistress' office with a pile of parchment under his arm. Most of it was for application of a student Visa and waiver for the restriction of underage magic use by an emancipated minor.
Whistling as he headed toward the exit of the enlarged carriage, he heard his name being called behind him by his favorite person. Gabrielle caught up to him with a quizzical look on her beautiful face. "What's going on? Why are you here?"
He smiled and showed her the top parchment which was labeled: "Application for transfer to Beauxbatons Academy"
Her hand went to her mouth as she gasped, paled and then looked at him with wide eyes. She looked back at the form, as if she was afraid it had vanished, or she had somehow misread what the inch tall block letters had said. After a moment of staring, a throaty giggle started to bubble up from deep inside her. Dropping her books on the ground, she threw her arms around her boyfriend and kissed him long and deep.
A few moments, or an eternity later, they broke apart with identical grins. Giving her a quick kiss on the tip of her nose, he said, "Gotta go. Transfiguration in twenty minutes" and ran out the door and up the lawn.
May became June and Harry, Gabrielle and Hermione took their extra studying to new heights. With the knowledge of the maze and some basic assumptions, they focused their studies in outdoor survival, offensive spells and rapid transfiguration.
Harry's strength lay in charms, so he quickly picked up the offensive spells but had to put quite a bit of effort into the rapid transfiguration. He eventually became quite good at transfiguring a brick wall, shattering it and then banishing the debris in less than two seconds. Hermione figured it would be a good area effect weapon in case of attack from a wide arc.
Gabrielle helped him master the more advanced offensive spells. She had researched the Flame Whip spell, Bone Breaking curse and Bone Exploding curse. These quickly became Harry's default offensive spells as he mastered them with ease, even to the point where Hermione was afraid to be on the receiving end of some of his spells.
"We should do some basic first aid spells" Hermione said late one night as they left the Charms classroom they had been practicing in.
Harry nodded and said, "Good idea. I'll look some up during my morning free period for us to go over" and so their accelerated preparation went on.
Toward the end of June, all the three friends could focus on was the third task. Even Hermione found it hard to drag her attention away from helping her adopted brother so she could ramp up to her usual intense preparation for exams.
The evening of June 23rd found Harry and Gabrielle sitting on their bench down by the lake. Sometimes chatting about the upcoming holidays, sometimes sitting in silence, savoring each others presence and the scented night air.
"Please be careful tomorrow" she whispered into the night.
He nodded, "I will."
"It will be bad, won't it?"
"I think so. I have another bad feeling about all this. Have you talked to Fleur?"
She half turned and leaned on him, "Yes. After lunch we talked for an hour or so. She…" she paused and collected herself, "She said goodbye to me, Harry."
Eyes wide, he pulled her close, "If I can help it, she'll come back to you. I promise."
"What about you?" She sat up straight and looked into his face with tears dripping down her cheeks. "I need you. Without you, well…" and she held him close, trying to merge their very bodies together so as to never be without him.
With a small smile he said, "I told you before the first two tasks, I've too much to live for now. A dragon, a village of mer-people, a giant squid and a herd of Grindylows can't keep me from you. No mere maze and the nasties in it will keep it from you."
From his chest she almost whispered, "I love you, Harry."
He kissed the top of her head and said, "I love you, too."
June the 24th dawned bright and sunny. During breakfast, Professor McGonagall approached the Gryffindor table where Harry, Hermione and Gabrielle were sitting and said, "Potter, the champions are congregating in the chamber off the Hall after breakfast."
Puzzled, Harry said, "Why, Professor?"
The taciturn professor said, "The families of the champions are here and are awaiting you all in the chamber."
Harry gulped and looked at his girlfriend. There was no possible way that the Dursley's were there, but the Delacours would be there. Gabi gave him a reassuring smile and rubbed his back. Hermione leaned over the table and said, "They'll love you Harry."
He gave her a tremulous smile in return. When Fleur stood from the Ravenclaw table, Harry took a deep breath, thoughts of the third task banished from his mind, and stood with Gabrielle.
He walked the long green mile down the table to the doorway to the antechamber for the Great Hall, not even noticing the amused smile that kept appearing and the disappearing on his girlfriend's face.
They reached the door and Harry stood still for a second before he heard her whisper in his ear, "Even if they don't like you, I'll still be with you." He smiled and very deliberately opened the door, holding it wide for Gabrielle to precede him into the room.
Right in front of him were Viktor and his parents, to whom he nodded and smiled with a little wave, "We need to amble over to them later to get introduced" she said to him as they walked past. Just beyond the Krum family was a surprise for Harry: Molly and Bill Weasley stood there beaming at him.
"Harry, dear, how are you" Molly Weasley exclaimed as she bustled up to him and gave him a big hug. Somewhat confused, Harry gave her a gentle hug in return. Ron had never really put forth any effort in regaining Harry's friendship after the first task. On occasion they would chat, but that was really the extent of the relationship. They had, for better or worse, become acquaintances.
He had overheard Ron bragging about his role in some of Harry's adventures in previous years. Ron's role was somehow larger in the retelling, and Harry's much smaller. In his head, Harry knew that friends drift apart and that it was normal, but from time to time he still missed his first real friend. He felt like now that their relationship was 'hard', Ron didn't think that he was worth the effort.
After breaking apart from the red-haired matron, Harry shook Bill's hand. He'd liked Bill quite a bit in the short stint that they'd been together the previous summer. Recollecting his manners after a short throat clearing from the blond next to him, he said, "Mrs. Weasley, Bill; this is Gabrielle Delacour, my girlfriend. Gabrielle, this is Mrs. Weasley and Bill Weasley."
After the niceties were exchanged, Harry looked expectantly at Mrs. Weasley for an explanation as to their presence. Molly looked at Bill who said in a low voice, "Harry, Ginny has been keeping Mum and Dad up to date on the goings on this year and we know that Ron has not been a shining star as far as his behavior toward you is concerned. Well" he paused to run his hand through his long hair, "according to Ginny, Ron's been a bit of a prick."
Bill didn't even flinch when his mother gasped. Harry smiled; now he really liked Bill.
Continuing on, the Weasley heir said, "Ginny also let us know that you have been a stand up guy this year and we're here to let you know that we still care about you and want you to know that we – all of us – still consider you a friend of the family."
Harry tightened his grip on Gabrielle's hand as he was flooded with emotion. She rubbed his arm as Harry choked out, "Thanks Bill, Mrs. Weasley. That means a lot to me."
When his relationship with Ron had pretty much fallen apart, Harry had wistfully given up on his relationship with clan Weasley. He didn't know how he'd have a relationship with them outside of school, especially now that he was transferring to Beauxbatons, but it did warm his heart that they felt this way about him.
Harry saw Fleur across the room talking with two adults that could only be Henri and Marie Delacour, he said, "Thanks for coming." Taking a mock deep breath, he said, "Now, I need to meet my girlfriend's parents. Most especially, her father."
Bill laughed and Molly smiled while Gabrielle gave a mock scowl, "If you'd like, we'll wait over here" said Molly.
Harry thought for a minute and then said, "That would be nice, see you in a bit."
Walking over to meet Gabrielle's parents Harry was incredibly nervous. For all intents and purposes, he knew that he was meeting his future wife's parents and knew that they had been less than pleased with his and Gabrielle's bonding. Gabrielle looked at him to see if he was ready; he nodded so they closed the last few feet.
Henri Delacour was of average height with dark hair, graying at the temples. He was a strikingly handsome man with a strong jaw and Roman nose. He was lean with a whipcord grace to his movements. Harry knew that there were no male Veela, but it was obvious to him, that Henri had inherited some of his mother's natural charm.
Marie was a stunning woman. If he didn't know better, Harry would have sworn that she was the carrier of the Veela gene in the Delacour family. Her blond hair was upswept in a fashionable style and her tailored Givenchy pantsuit flattered her very attractive figure.
Gabrielle conducted the introductions in French. She and Harry had been stepping up his French lessons, working with Hermione as well. Hermione had the excellent idea to only speak French among themselves, which at first seemed ridiculous, but actually helped Harry quite a bit to stimulate his conversational use of the language. He had wanted to show an effort on his part to be courteous for Gabrielle's parents by speaking their language when they met. Besides, sucking up a little never hurt anyone.
He shook Henri's hand firmly and kissed Marie's hand saying "Enchante, Madame." They greeted him with friendly smiles and Marie bussed his cheeks. So far, so good.
"Baron Potter, you have been the focus of our little Angel's letters home all year long. It is very good to meet you at last" said Henri.
"Please, sir, call me Harry. I've heard so much from Gabrielle and Fleur about the two of you that I have been looking forward to meeting you."
They made some pleasant small talk before Fleur nudged Gabrielle and indicated to the Weasleys with her head. "Who is that gorgeous, tall, red-head you were talking to?"
Gabrielle cocked an eyebrow at her sister while her parents and Harry discussed his upcoming transfer to Beauxbatons. "He is William Weasley; a friend of Harry's who is a cursebreaker for Gringotts."
"Cursebreaker? Really?" She tapped her chin thoughtfully and muttered, "Sexy and smart" causing Gabrielle to burst into laughter.
Waving off the curious looks from their parents and Harry, the Delacour sisters rejoined the conversation. Harry took a moment and waved the Weasleys over to make introductions.
As Bill and Molly walked over, Henri caught Harry's eye and with a hopeful expression said, "So, Harry, do you sail?"
The other three Delacours started laughing and Marie playfully reproved her husband as Harry introduced the Weasley's. "Monsieur and Madame Delacour, may I present to you friends of mine; Mrs. Arthur Weasley and Mr. Bill Weasley."
Handshakes were exchanged all around and when Bill got to Fleur, he turned her hand, brushed his lips across her knuckles and with a small smile said, "Enchante, Mademoiselle."
Fleur made eye contact and with a small smile of her own said, "I am very pleased to meet you Monsieur Weasley."
Henri and Marie exchanged an amused glance and began to chat with Molly about Hogwarts and her school years. Harry was surprised when he found that Molly had been passionately devoted to the study of Ancient Runes and had it not been for the quick arrivals of first Bill then Charlie, she would have pursued a career in warding and possibly spell creation. I guess the smarts in the family had to come from somewhere.
The party exited the school, chatting and laughing as Harry gave everyone a tour of the grounds. There were quite a few narrowed eyes amongst the visitors when they saw the Black Lake and Marie muttered something to Henri to which he stone facedly nodded. After a moment, he said, "Harry, I wish to formally thank you for your rescue of Gabrielle during the second task and praise you for your rescue of all four of the hostages. From what Fleur has written home, you quite literally saved their lives."
"What's all this?" said Molly Weasley with a bit of her well known intensity. Gabrielle then proceeded to explain the situation to the Weasleys whose faces became stonier as the tale went on.
Bill was thunderous, "They never got your permission?" He glanced at Harry and Fleur, "Any of the hostages?"
When there were wry head shakes in return to Bill's question, Molly said, "Right, I've a bit of a discussion that's needed. I'll catch you all up shortly. Henri, Marie, it's been a pleasure meeting you. I'll find you before lunch" and she stormed off toward the castle.
Harry and Bill chuckled and when the somewhat confused Delacours looked at Bill he said with a smile, "I believe Mum is going to have a bit of a chat with the esteemed Headmaster Dumbledore. Be glad we're outside or your ears would be ringing, she doesn't take to kindly to hurting children. Last year, a wizard down the road was beating his wife and kids. Mum found out about it from Fred and George, grabbed her wand, apparated down there and did something. He left town the next day and Mum has been very good friends with Mrs. Haversham ever since."
Lunch was pleasant. A satisfied looking Mrs. Weasley and Bill sat with their family while Harry sat with the Delacours. At one point, Marie said, "It is good to see the champions getting along so well, despite the competitiveness that the tasks must inspire. It shows a maturity about you all that is lacking in most people your age."
Fleur inclined her head, acknowledging the compliment, but Harry, who was ill equipped and ill used to compliments, just blushed and looked at his plate. Marie frowned slightly in concern, caught Gabrielle's eye and then resumed her meal.
During the afternoon, the Delacours and Harry meandered about the grounds, conjuring benches here and there as Delacour Pere and Mere chatted and caught up with their children. Harry was stunned when Marie turned to him and said, "What is your favorite subject Harry?"
Harry's mouth hung open, surprised. Not only had they been treating him as family all day, but it was evident that Madame Delacour sincerely wanted to get to know him. Gabrielle rubbed his arm and smiled encouragingly. "Defense Against the Dark Arts, Ma'am."
Nodding slightly, she said, "And why is that?" Harry didn't notice, but Fleur had hushed her father in the side discussion they were having so as to listen to Harry.
"Well, Defense seems to come naturally to me. The theory isn't the focus, like in Transfiguration; it's all about the execution. Once I can get the hang of a spell, it's merely a matter of stitching it into a cadence of other spells." He shrugged nonchalantly about topics which the bulk of the magical world was either ignorant or considered to be very difficult. Not may people have mastered the Bone Breaking curse, much less in two days. The elder Delacours gaped and Gabrielle smiled broadly.
"He is a prodigy, I tell you" his girlfriend said. Harry blushed and said nothing, looking at the ground.
Marie frowned again and said to her younger daughter, "Why do you say that, Cherie?"
"Two or maybe three weeks ago we sat down and culled a dozen or so offensive spells from a list his Professor Flitwick recommended. He was able to perform them all within two nights and had series set up by the end of the week."
"Series?" Henri asked.
Harry looked up, interested again, "Yes, instead of thinking about each individual spell to cast, which could cause hesitation and an opening for an opponent, Professor Flitwick recommended a sequence of spells to link together, four or five in a row, to be able to speed up spellcasting and maximize effectiveness. It's best to put spells in series where their wand movements flow into each other. The Cutting curse and the Bone Breaking curse are like that. Makes it really easy to speed up the delivery of multiple spells and keep an opponent on the defensive."
Henri and Marie raised their eyebrows as this young man held forth like a professional duelist. Fleur just shook her head with a small smile while Gabrielle looked on proudly.
Harry explained how the combination of a strong Blasting curse followed by a Reductor could bring down almost any shield out there. Depending on the situation, either a stunner or a Bone Breaking curse was the next logical spell.
"Of course" said Marie, bewildered.
Harry's face suddenly became fearful, followed quickly by downcast. He looked at the ground and said, "I hope you all don't think that I'm some crazed lunatic, learning all this about fighting. If it weren't for the tournament, I doubt I'd be learning it at all."
Marie stood and crossed the small clearing they were sitting in and sat next to him. She gave her husband and offspring a look they all knew well and soon it was just she and Harry.
Wrapping her left arm around his shoulders, she said, "Harry, you haven't had much love in your life, have you?"
He looked up, surprised and shocked. "N-not really, no."
She nodded and said, "I can tell." Squeezing him gently in a half hug, she continued "You are a strong and good young man, my daughter would have chosen none other. Be honest with yourself Harry, you are good at these things. Have you been told otherwise?"
It was a prolonged moment of silence before Harry deflated a bit and said, "My Aunt and Uncle."
"Ah, and what did they say."
This time the silence was longer before he almost whispered, "That I'm a freak."
Marie stilled and her considerable temper began to sizzle. Clamping down on her reaction with a visible effort, she said, "Oh?"
Harry began a second purging of the poison of his soul with a Delacour woman, this time it was much shorter and focused only on the Dursleys. At the end, he sighed again and Marie drew him into a big hug.
"You are a good man, don't let those monsters tell or treat you otherwise. You will stay with us for the entire summer, I won't have you go back to them." She gave him a sly smile, "Gabrielle has hinted that you have a topic you wish to discuss with Henri."
Harry blushed, smiled broadly and nodded. Marie stood and said, "Good, we both want you with us. Let's find where our wayward family has wandered off to."
Harry wandered down the path chatting with Marie, the first person who had ever behaved like a mother for him and his heart was warm.
After dinner, he stood in front of the maze, trying to calm his jangling nerves. Since he was so far in front of the remaining two competitors, he had a full five minute head start before Fleur entered and then another forty-five seconds before Viktor started. He was the only champion who had finished the second task after all.
He looked in the stands and saw his own little support team sitting together; the Weasleys, Hermione and the Delacours. Harry had been very impressed how Henri and Marie had wished both Fleur and him luck before they went to find seats.
He was distracted from his thoughts by a hand on his shoulder. He turned to find Fleur there with a wistful look on her face. After studying him for a moment, she pulled him into a warm hug that he returned. He had come to sincerely care about Fleur and didn't want her to be hurt. After a nice, substantial hug, she pulled back and whispered, "You take care in there, mon frère. Gabrielle won't tolerate you disappearing on her."
He chuckled and said, "You too, ma soeur" which earned him another brief hug.
Harry walked up to Viktor and shook his hand. "I'm not glad to be in the tournament, but I'm very glad to have met you and had the opportunity to know you."
Viktor smiled, which was a rarity, and said, "You too. Maybe ve get together dis summer and fly, eh?"
Smiling, Harry agreed before they were interrupted by Bagman and the start of the task. Moments later, Harry found himself jogging down the entry path to the maze.
The hedge was about 15 feet tall; tall enough to generate the illusion of confining space, giving the path a bit of a claustrophobic feel.
"Point me Triwizard Cup" Harry whispered, using the modified navigation spell to help him at path junctions. Moving at a fast clip, he rounded a corner and found himself staring right at a snarling Cerberus.
"Shit!" he yelled as he dove to the left to avoid the snapping jaws of the left most head. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as hot, humid breath enveloped him and the snick of Fluffy's teeth snapping together sounded like it was right next to his ear.
Bouncing off the hedge wall, he jumped up and began backing quickly casting "Impedimenta!" multiple times. The spell hit the center head between the eyes and it froze while the outside two heads continued to bark and slaver. Strangely, the Cerberus' body seemed to move in slow motion while the two non-affected heads continued their extremely loud exclamations.
With a look of confused surprise that such a basic spell could affect a Cerberus, Harry then used the Impediment spell on the other two heads in quick succession and ran by the now motionless beast. "Thank goodness for an unchained magical core."
Turning back he muttered, "Just in case" and conjured a ten foot tall brick wall that blocked the entire path. "Don't want old Fluffy coming up behind me" and he continued his brisk jog down the path, suitably wary of any further obstacles.
After forcing his way through a Confundus mist, he paused to cast the modified Point Me spell and turned left just as a bell sounded announcing Fleur's entry into the maze.
At the end of the path he was on, he could see that it opened up into a clearing, or at least large box shape. Knowing that there was no way he was at the end of the task; he slowed and brought his wand to the ready. Harry slowly entered the clearing when he heard a swooshing noise to his right and dove the rest of the way into the area.
Rolling to his feet, Harry saw the blade of a huge axe coming right at his head and he dove again, rolling to gain distance from his yet unseen attacker. He heard a bellow of a roar behind him and heavy footfalls as he pushed himself up. Dodging yet another attack, he finally saw that his opponent was a fifteen foot tall Minotaur.
"Oh, no" was all the coherent thought he could muster as he literally ran for his life to get some room from the implacably attacking monster.
Turning to finally go on the offensive, Harry began to chant, "Reducto! Confringo! Stupefy!" The first spell hit the Minotaur in the left thigh and slowed the beast for a half a step. The Blasting curse caused a serious wound in the half man/half bull's left shoulder. However, it didn't slow its charge one iota. The Stunning spell was just so much light as it bounced off the magically resistant, charging monster.
Instead of swinging its axe, the enormous legend of the past lowered its head and drove into Harry's chest, and with a jerk of its thick neck, tossed Harry ten feet in the air.
Harry saw the entire event in slow motion. He half jumped up right as the Minotaur grappled him with its horns. With the toss and shake of its mighty head, Harry flew up and over the ancient monster, landing on his left arm.
A shattering pain drove up his arm and into his brain like a red hot railroad spike. His wrist was obviously broken and his chest hurt like billy-o, but the Minotaur had already stopped and turned, finding his prey and beginning another charge. There was no time for ought else but to attack.
Harry shakily stood and muttered, "No more Mr. Nice Guy" and began a new chant, "Diffindo! Ossio Fractum! Ossio Exploso! Diffindo!"
The first Cutting curse opened up the wound on the Minotaur's shoulder even further and causing it to bleed freely. The monster recoiled and bellowed at Harry before the Bone Breaking curse hit the beast in its kneecap, shattering it. The Minotaur let out a bellow of pain and rage as it began to fall.
The Bone Exploding curse was supposed to hit the knee as well, but the beast had already begun to fall and it hit in the left thigh. The final Cutting curse had already left Harry's wand when he saw the Minotaur's thigh explode in a shower of blood and gore. The second Cutting curse finished the job and severed the leg altogether.
Harry stared for a moment at his fallen adversary and then promptly vomited his dinner in the grass.
After recovering himself, he cast a Stunning spell in the roaring beast's mouth and its screaming ceased. Harry quickly cast some basic first aid spells to stop the bleeding and place the stump in stasis for later reattachment of the leg.
Satisfied with his work, he cast red sparks up and trotted out the exit of the clearing.
In front of him was a long straight section of the maze. As he jogged down it, he noticed that intertwined with the hedge was a set of vines that were covered in small fire red flowers with berries about the size of a cherry.
Harry stopped and closed his eyes. The aroma of the small flowers was enticing. He felt the scent permeate and surround him, almost calling to him. He opened his eyes and it seemed as if the only thing on the planet that made sense was to pluck a berry. The succulent, luscious redness was a siren call that he couldn't ignore.
Reaching out with his right hand, he hesitated then his fingers closed around the berry. Instantly, the berry exploded, coating him in a viscous, tar-like fluid. Stumbling backward, he bumped into the hedge behind him and a dozen more berries exploded. He tried to stand still and Vanish the now hardening sticky substance, but more berries were setting off, seemingly as a result of their neighbors exploding.
Stumbling down the path, trying to outrun the exploding fruits, Harry was Vanishing as much of the goop as he could. He was losing ground and by now was mostly covered in the goo. It was difficult to move, as his arms were sticking to his sides and his feet to the ground. Finally, he was able to Vanish enough of the goo to move on when he heard a loud sput from behind him.
Whirling around, wand at the ready, he saw an enormous Blast-Ended Skrewt, its stinger bobbing like a snake over its back.
Harry growled in exasperation, this was getting to be a bit much. He quickly cast a series of Cutting curses which severed the stinger of the Skrewt. When his Reductor curse bounced off the shell of the advancing lobstrocity, a frustrated Harry shouted "Ossio Exploso!" and the shell of the Skrewt exploded, spewing grayish gobbets of matter all over.
Sighing at the mess, Harry cast a quick Cleansing spell on himself and moved on. By now his arm was throbbing quite badly so he conjured a splint for it and cast a Numbing charm on it. He hadn't really nailed down the Bone Knitting spell in preparation for the task and was regretting it.
With a smile, he figured that Gabrielle would first kiss him senseless and then berate him in French for a good fifteen minutes for not learning the spell properly before Madam Pomfrey or Monsieur LeClerc could fix him up proper. At that point, Hermione would be giving him an earful in English.
With a small chuckle, he rounded a corner and saw, at the end of a long path, the slightly glowing Triwizard Cup. At this point, most teenagers would be ecstatic about the probability of winning the tournament, or at least finishing with the damn thing.
"This is too easy" he said to himself. Looking closely at the hedges and at the ground for any traps he found none. Looking up, he saw a shadow looming over the left hand side of the hedge; a shadow that was disturbingly familiar. Casting the Star Shell charm, a magnesium flare shot out of his wand and arced over the hedge and he saw in clear relief a fully grown Acromantula.
Deciding that the best defense is a good offense, Harry Vanished a section of the hedge on his left. He took a steadying breath, pictured in his mind the actions he wanted to take and jumped through the gap.
As he landed, Harry's wand was a blur. Before the Acromantula had even turned around, Harry had conjured a brick wall, shattered it into pieces the size of a cricket balls and with a grunt, banished the pieces at Aragog's offspring with all the force he could muster. Hearing the oversized arachnid shriek in its piercing voice, Harry repeated himself three times before he even looked at his quarry.
He saw a mess that he hadn't seen since late in his second year as he and Ron had fled the forest in the now feral Ford Anglia. "Lucky my stomach is already empty" he muttered and walked back through the gap in the hedge he had created
He entered the clearing that held the cup and he slowly approached the plinth upon which it stood. Four other paths terminated here in the clearing and Harry saw no one and nothing else. Relaxing slightly, he approached the plinth, studying it from all angles. He cast some basic revealing spells and found nothing. Shrugging, he started to reach for the cup when he heard a rustle behind him. Turning around he leveled his wand and found that he was aiming at Fleur.
He grinned and lowered his wand. She was very dirty and the long braid she had placed her hair was mostly undone. There was a cut running down her left arm and her trousers were torn and bloody on her right leg. Nodding to her, he said, "You Ok?"
She snorted, "A Vampire, a Boggart, disillusioned quicksand and three Quintapeds" she said, answering his unvoiced question. "You?"
He laughed, "A Cerberus, a nasty Confundus mist, a bloody Minotaur, this malevolent exploding plant, a Blast Ended Skrewt" at this, Fleur looked at him quizzically. "Don't ask" he responded to her look, "and the piece de resistance, a fully grown Acromantula. Wonder what Viktor has had?"
Fleur laughed and shook her head. A little regretfully, she said, "Well, go ahead and claim your victory mon frère."
Harry nodded and turned back to the cup. With a bit of a sigh he reached out and grabbed it.
He disappeared and Fleur screamed.
Harry immediately recognized the feeling of the portkey pulling him through space and desperately hoped it was just taking him to the beginning of maze. Somehow he doubted it.
Realizing his landing would be rough, he tucked his left arm in close to his body and was ready to roll and protect his broken limb. When he did land, he tucked and rolled to his left.
As he stood, the last thing he saw was the red flash of a Stunning spell.
Twenty seven minutes later, a rather worse for the wear Harry Potter portkeyed to the entrance of the Third Task maze. Bleeding from multiple wounds and shaking from exposure to the Cruciatus curse, he stumbled to his knees, dropped the trophy and looked up at the crowd which was in silent anticipation.
He saw a blond figure sprinting to him and he could only open his arms as he wept. She slowed as she approached, took him in her arms and pulled him close. Gabrielle wept with her love; weeping for his pain and for the experience he must have had to make him cry so.
"Is Fleur Ok?" he whispered against her chest.
She nodded in response, unable to speak as the relief and pent up emotions rolled over and through her.
A soft hand on his shoulder announced Madam Pomfrey with Hermione, the Headmaster and many other familiar faces behind her. After the Healer conjured a stretcher, Pomfrey and Gabrielle helped him on it and he was levitated up to the infirmary with the Delacours, Hermione, the Weasleys and the staff in tow.
They got up to the Infirmary and Madam Pomfrey started treating Harry for his numerous injuries when Dumbledore said, almost apologetically, "Pardon me Poppy, but" turning to Harry he said, "My Lord, would you please tell us what happened after you were portkeyed away?"
Harry looked at him for a long second, and then said "Pensieve."
Dumbledore nodded, waved his wand and the stone bowl appeared in his hand. After Harry deposited the memory into the bowl, the Headmaster, the staff, the Minister, the Director of International Magical Cooperation, Steven Decatur and the Director for Magical Law Enforcement, Amelia Bones, entered the bowl. Harry lay passively as Pomfrey finished dosing him with a post-Cruciatus, a pain relief and offered a dreamless sleep potion.
Harry set the dreamless sleep on his nightstand and shakily patted his bed for Gabrielle to join him. The Delacours, Weasleys and Hermione all took seats in conjured chairs within hearing distance. All wanting to do something to relieve the evident suffering in the face of the young man that they all cared about.
"Voldemort is back"
Everyone present froze in stunned disbelief, outright terror or denial. For more than one person present it was a mix of all three. Pomfrey froze in mid stride, two empty vials in her hands while Molly Weasley had a hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes.
Through her own shining eyes, Gabrielle softly said, "Tell me."
So he did. The portkey and being immediately stunned. Awakening tied up as Pettigrew stole some of his blood for the ritual. Harry broke down in tears at this point and his girlfriend cradled him to her again. "I felt so helpless and weak, so used. I wanted to not cooperate, I wanted to tear them limb from limb but I was tied to a tombstone."
By now, Marie, Fleur and Hermione were in tears. Marie was in Henri's arms while Fleur and Hermione held each other's hands. Molly Weasley cried on her eldest son's shoulder while Bill's eyes were noticeably bright.
Gabrielle was a pillar of comfort for her beloved and gently said, "What else?" Coaxing the pain and the poison out of him that she knew he had to carry.
The resurrection, the summoning of the Death Eaters, the duel and then the Priori Incantatem. All Harry could say was "my parents" and then he was in her arms again. Eventually, he described the situation with the echoes of those Voldemort had killed and then his escape to the portkey.
He had finished his story and there was no response from his audience. There could be none. He knew they all cared for him to varying degrees, but to the substance of his story? There was no response.
He lay there soaking up the love and affection he could almost reach out and scoop up with his cupped hands and let it subconsciously begin to heal his wounds. The wounds of being used and violated for the resurrection ritual. The wounds of his parents' destruction and the subsequent years of abuse. The wounds of the repeated attacks by a wizard more animal than human. All this had been ripped open like a festering sore in a graveyard outside Little Hangleton.
Gabrielle kicked off her shoes, lay down on the bed next to him and slipped under the covers. Pomfrey didn't even blink this time, nor did her family or their friends. Harry needed the physical closeness of his lover. There was nothing sexual in this act, but it was all about the unconditional love of a woman for her man. She leaned up, grabbed the goblet of dreamless sleep potion and handed it to Harry, "Drink."
He nodded wearily. After quaffing the potion, he pulled her close and immediately began to drift into the undisturbed realm of Morpheus.
The next morning Harry woke up with a pressure in front of him and a face full of tickling blond hair. With a small smile he wondered, Maybe I need to move into the Infirmary if it means I always wake up like this.
He tightened his arm around Gabrielle and she wiggled back into him. After a few moments savoring each others presence, she said, "How are you feeling this morning?"
"Better. Generally sore, but no pain."
"Good" she said. Ten seconds later she tentatively said, "How does your heart feel?"
He pulled her close to his chest and sighed. "I don't know. I feel a lot better than last night, I know that. Thanks for helping last night. It was like getting a splinter out of my heart."
She turned in his arms and they snuggled for a few minutes before they took turns using the lavatory. When he climbed back under the covers she wrapped her arms around him as he backed into her embrace. Finally, he said, "So what happened last night that I missed?"
Gabrielle paused and then said, "When you were taken, Fleur sent up a volcano of red sparks. She was so enraged, she almost transformed as she yelled at your Headmaster when she told us that you had been portkeyed away.
"Viktor had taken a beating from a Hippogriff, so he and Fleur had their injuries tended while your Headmaster sent his Phoenix off in an attempt to find you. Not too long after that, you came back."
He nodded, knowing the story after that. "And after I fell asleep?"
She snorted, "When the troupe of idiots came out of the pensieve" Harry laughed at her description, "Half the staff ran off to their quarters for brandy and your idiot Minister was pale and clammy. He was loudly proclaiming that there must be some misunderstanding. He couldn't be back; Lucius and the others couldn't be Death Eaters and so on."
Harry tensed as she said this. She rubbed his back and in a reassuring tone said, "Director Bones threatened to stun him and Director Decatur told him to, and I quote, 'Shut the fuck up Cornelius'."
Harry laughed out loud at that, some confidence in the Ministry restored.
"Papa then entered the pensieve. Your Headmaster was very uneasy about that, but Director Decatur seemed unconcerned, so no one objected." She massaged his shoulders a little before saying, "When he got out, he and Mama talked in a corner for a minute and then he gave Fleur and me a kiss telling us he needed to return to France immediately." She gave him an impish smile before she leaned close and whispered into his ear, "He also left another portkey. When you are able, he has instructed Mama, Fleur and I to bring you to our home." Harry's eyes widened at that.
She reached over his shoulder and pointed to a trunk that he recognized as his own. "Hermione packed for you with some help from Neville Longbottom. Fleur is packing my room now. I figure we'll be ready when you are. Mama is talking with Madame Maxime about final exams for me and Fleur."
Harry turned to face her and raised his eyebrows. Gabrielle very seriously said, "Papa was most insistent. He isn't like this at home much, and when he is, we all pay attention." Harry nodded and filed the knowledge away for future use.
Madam Pomfrey made an appearance and after running half the known diagnostic charms said he was fit enough to leave. She walked away muttering about "Constitution of an elephant, that one."
As Harry dressed, Hermione came in and embraced him with her usual rib crushing hug and more than a few tears. "Hermione, I'm Ok, really. A bit sore, but overall I'm Ok."
She nodded before glancing at his trunk and said, "You probably want to shrink that."
Harry grimaced a bit. He hated leaving her like this, but there were only a few days left in term and she'd be home with her parents. He put an arm around her shoulders and said, "Are you going to be alright for the last few days of term? Do you need me to stay?"
She shook her head and with fresh tears said, "I just feel so bad for you, Harry. You never get a break, do you?"
With a sad smile he said, "It's the Potter-Murphy law; if it can go wrong, it will with the most disastrous possible results."
All three laughed at that. Hermione turned to Gabrielle and gave her a big hug, "I'll miss you" she said to the blond girl. After breaking the embrace, she shyly asked, "We're friends, right?"
Knowing how important a question this was for Hermione, Gabrielle was touched and embraced the brunette again saying, "Absolutely, we are the best of friends."
With a muttered Shrinking charm, Harry resized his trunk and embraced Hermione again. "Tell McGonagall I've left. She'll understand."
Hermione nodded, more tears sprouting before she impatiently wiped them away, saying "It's not like I'll never see you again, it's just for the summer."
Harry looked at Gabrielle who nodded and said, "If your family holidays in France, please come stay with us. We are right on the Sea and have more than enough room. Also, I believe Papa is going to engage tutors for us this summer, so maybe you can convince your parents to let you come visit?"
With a small squeal, Hermione embraced her French friend and they all began walking out of the Infirmary, the girls locking arms and chatting on the way. Harry watched them and his heart warmed.
They left Hermione in the Entrance Hall where she said she'd inform their Head of House after dinner about Harry's departure. He smiled at her deviousness and gave her one last hug before he and Gabrielle walked down the hill to the carriages hand in hand.
In Gabrielle's room, they found Marie and Fleur chatting and a matchbox sized set of luggage on the dresser. Marie embraced Harry and then took a step back examining him closely. "You'll be alright" was all she said before hooking her arm in his and they all made their way out the carriage and to the school gates for their portkey to France.
1. I own nothing.
2. Don't expect updates on this for a while. Partners, Stand and Hippogriff all have much higher priority than this, but I wanted to get it out there so I'd stop playing with it. Rereading the previous sentence, I realize that came out totally wrong, but hey. Who cares.