Chapter Five: Sixth Year: Winter Term
Harry was sitting in the parlour of the new Black Manor showing Sirius and Hestia pictures and drawings of what the Gabi would look like after she was completed building. Sirius was not much of a mariner, but he was impressed with what Harry was showing him.
Henri had recommended a magical shipwright who worked out of Toulon as a place to start their search. The search started and ended with Master Shipwright Proteus.
They found the rather old man fishing off the end of a pier. The Master Shipwright was a caricature of himself; he seemed ancient, brown as a nut and nearly covered in tattoos. He squinted at the couple, recognized Henri's name when Harry mentioned the referral and beckoned them to follow.
A little leery of following people he didn't know to places with which he wasn't familiar, Harry had surreptitiously drawn his wand when they followed Proteus into a rundown shack.
Inside was a beautiful shop that was magically expanded to four times its external dimensions.
"What size?" were the shipwright's first words.
"Forty feet or better."
"Hunh," he grunted as he nodded in appreciation. Rummaging through a long and wide drawer, Proteus eventually pulled out a set of ship's drawings. Immediately he turned to a shelf and poked around a bit longer.
"Ahh," he muttered and dropped a thick envelope of pictures on the huge table next to the drawings. Seeing Harry and Gabrielle on the other side of the room, he gestured at the drawings while grunting, "Well?"
The Potters approached and were amazed. Neither was naval architects, but even to the uninitiated the lines of the fifty-seven foot long yacht were beautiful. A huge cabin gave over to a sleeping area for ten in six separated berths. The dining area sat eight with room for chairs to be pulled up. The lounge appeared to be the definition of comfort and style.
"What's this?" Gabrielle asked as she pointed to a large space accessed via a scuttle in the deck of the galley.
"Below decks storage. Expansion charms give you more room than you could ever use. Tricky to get buoyancy and stability charms right as a result. Will need to teach you how to stow your hold." Proteus was actively scowling when he explained the last.
Harry was on the verge of laughing at the old man. Here was the prototypical grouchy old sailor, yet he was obviously capable of building beautiful vessels of style, elegance and character. It was like talking to The Old Man of the Sea.
Noticing the pictures, Harry picked through the pack and was stunned. Teak decks, Dalmatian oak for the towering mast, brass fittings, gold leaf and mahogany were in abundance with the best Manila hemp for the rigging. He handed the pictures to Gabrielle before asking the old man, "How long?"
A hint of a smile graced Proteus's cracked face. "Ten months minimum. Maybe a full year."
"There's an extra thousand galleons for you if you finish by the beginning of next June."
"Two thousand extra and it's done."
Smiling, Harry extended his hand to seal the deal.
Like the previous year, Henri and Marie accompanied Harry and Gabrielle to London. They all stayed with Sirius and Hestia at the new Black Manor.
Originally, Sirius had decided to sell his mother's home on Grimmauld Place, but he reconsidered after purchasing a large estate in Sussex. Hestia had accompanied him to the old house and watched him very carefully cancel a series of wards on the house. He then cast a fire suppression charm around the perimeter of the property.
Hestia later told Harry that Sirius had an expression approaching glee as he cast Fiendfyre. His childhood home was swiftly consumed, leaving behind a trace of the foundation that supported the home he had hated so much.
Harry and Gabrielle had talked to Sirius who endorsed their idea. They gathered the entire family, including Bill, on the evening of the 28th of August at the new Black Manor.
When everyone was settled and refreshed, Sirius cast a series of privacy wards. After the second ward, Bill and Fleur traded a look of concern. When Sirius was satisfied, he gave Harry a nod.
Gabrielle had convinced him to tell the story before they returned to Scotland.
"They are our family, mon cher. They deserve to know."
"Before I was born, there was a prophecy made…"
He was still getting used to the idea of having a real family and as such wasn't sure what rights and responsibilities he had with regard to them. At her urging, he ploughed on with the revelation.
Harry told the story of his life in short, but through the prism of this new knowledge. Most of the time, his eyes were closed as he focused on drawing strength from his life mate sitting at his side.
Opening his eyes at the end of the story, he was stunned when he saw the tears pouring down Marie's face. Looking to his left, Fleur burst into sobs, which wracked her lean form. Sirius' face was ashen as he held Hestia in his arms. Harry was nonplussed. It was still amazing to him that others could love him.
He was buried under the embraces of Delacour women for minutes as they all wept.
Marie's use of a curse word was so incongruous that Harry couldn't help himself and began laughing. With a confused smile, his mother in law hugged him again and muttered her apologies. He waved her off to find the reaction he most feared.
Harry had been terrified that Henri would be irate. True, Harry had known nothing regarding the prophecy when they signed the marriage contract the summer previous. Henri couldn't justifiably cry 'fraud'. However, Henri's daughter was now married to the most dangerous man to be around in the world. Gabrielle had reassured Harry on many occasions that nothing could pry her from his side, but Harry was more afraid of rejection by his father in law than losing his wife. He'd grown to love the man sitting across from him in the airy sitting room.
He wanted Henri's support very much and in his typical Gryffindorish manner, met the problem square on. He caught Henri's gaze.
Henri Delacour was sitting stone still in his chair as a pair of tears coursed down his face. Harry rose from his chair and approached his father in law. It was a meaningful moment for Harry, for he'd come to love this man and valued his opinion highly. If anyone had asked him at the end of his Third year if he needed anyone, Harry would have scoffed. Now, two years later, Harry knew he needed everyone in the room if he were to fulfil his destiny. This man in front of him was the man he looked up to as a guide, a role model of how to act as a husband and a man. Silently, Harry kneeled in front of the older man and in a questioning voice, asked, "Papa?"
In those moments when Harry recited the prophecy, Henri's heart had broken. There was something about Harry that made him want to take care of the young man. He'd come to love the young man who'd captured his daughter's heart, and his own in turn.
This prophecy seemed like a death sentence. Henri's immediate reaction had been despair and because of which he almost gave up hope. Who could defeat the monster that had nearly controlled Britain and so strongly influenced the continent? Being frank with himself, Henri admitted that Harry's first defeat of Voldemort was a freak accident – Harry himself would concede the point.
But here was the young man, bent but unbroken. Blowing in the wind but never breaking. If Harry was able to bear it, Henri must. For all their sakes. They were family.
Henri's answer to his son in law's plea for help, guidance and love was an embrace.
In Harry's relief, he burst into tears. Sirius knelt behind his godson and wrapped his arms around both weeping men.
Harry marvelled. He had a family. A family that loved him. A family that supported him.
A few minutes later, the men broke their group embrace and stood, albeit a bit shakily. Bill approached Harry and after a small hesitation, took the shorter man in his arms for a quick hug. As he held his soon to be brother in law, Bill whispered, "My wand is yours to command. You have but to ask and I will be there for you."
Harry nodded into Bill's shoulder, "Thanks, Bill."
Marie gathered up her youngest daughter. Gabrielle had watched the interplay with her husband and father with a hint of trepidation. She had hoped that her father would react in the manner he had, but hadn't sure. She'd known that Henri's approval meant the world to Harry and had prayed her father would react with sense instead of with fear.
When Henri embraced Harry, Gabrielle let go the breath she had unknowingly been holding. A few stray tears escaped in the emotion of the moment. Marie and Fleur descended on either side of her and scooped her up just as Harry was being held.
Love was an incredible thing. A power that would support, propel and motivate Harry and Gabrielle to feats they had never dreamed. All because they loved and were loved. Amazing.
Harry was re-reading the short letter he'd received from Remus Lupin. The former Defence professor and Moony of the Marauders had accepted Harry's invitation to meet with him and Gabrielle during the first Hogsmeade weekend. It was a rather sterile letter. No emotion, good or bad in the words.
"I don't want to deal with this," he muttered to his wife as he waved the parchment.
Gabrielle didn't respond. She knew him well enough by now to realize that he was whinging. The best course was to let him be, it would pass shortly.
Grumbling, Harry stumbled into the bathroom for a long shower. Refreshed and revived, the Potters dressed for their morning appointment.
Earlier in the summer, Harry had written Amelia Bones and inquired into the plans for increasing the security at Hogwarts. As much as Harry had hated Dumbledore, he had to admit that the old wizard's presence at the school had been a significant deterrent to Voldemort. With Dumbledore dead and Snape on the run, Harry and Gabrielle (as well as, Henri and Marie) wanted to know what steps the Ministry was taking to secure the castle.
This morning, the Potters and Delacours were to be briefed by Connie Hammer, the new Director of Magical Law Enforcement, and Rufus Scrimgeour, the Head Auror. Harry was surprised to see Sirius up and dressed at breakfast. Usually, he worked out early but didn't become presentable until mid-morning. A flat, "I'm going with you," had been Sirius' only response to questioning. Maybe Sirius was taking his role as godfather/older brother as serious as he'd declared over the summer.
A ripple of apparition pops signified the arrival of the party of five in the Ministry Atrium. Hestia had kissed Sirius as she headed out to the office, leaving the rest for the appointment.
After checking in at security, a short pink-haired witch came down to guide them to the briefing room.
"Cousin Nymph – mmph!" Sirus' exclamation was cut off as his mouth was Vanished. Surprised, Harry turned to the witch who was scowling at Sirius.
Like turning on a light, the young woman's expression cleared as she greeted the VIPs. "I'm Auror Tonks and I'm to lead you to your briefing room. Please follow me."
"Er, what about him?" Harry asked as he indicated to Sirius. The Lord Black raised his hands in an 'At least someone is paying attention here' motion before pointing at his now nonexistent mouth.
Auror Tonks scowled at Sirius before answering. "Sirius is my cousin. He knows better than to shout out my first name."
"Oh, so you're the one…" Harry's recognition of 'Cousin Nymphy' dribbled into murmurs. The glare from the pink haired witch was quite intimidating. Similar to that from Auror D'artagn back in France.
Henri and Marie followed Tonks with Harry behind them. Gabrielle smiled at Sirius and shrugged before catching up with her husband. Sirius sighed. It wasn't the dramatic gesture he'd been hoping for, as he had to exhale through his nose. Sighing through one's nose isn't very dramatic. Shaking his head at how put upon he was, he followed his family to the briefing.
Harry entered a moderately sized conference room to see a large schematic of Hogwarts on a wall next to a map of the castle and grounds. A scale model was on one end of the long table. Standing next to the model were two late middle-aged persons.
The woman had short hair and an air about her that distinctly reminded him of Mad-Eye Moody. She wasn't someone to be trifled with on the best of days. Her face was familiar to him and when she turned at the sound of the door opening, he recognized Connie Hammer.
The leonine man next to her was Rufus Scrimgeour. Based on the documents in their hands it was obvious they were discussing the defences for the school.
"My Lords, my Lady, Foreign Minister, Mrs. Delacour; welcome." Once all were seated and tea served, Director Hammer began the brief. Harry was extremely impressed with the level of detail. Glancing to his right, he saw Henri paying the utmost attention to the Director, occasionally asking pertinent questions. Most of the time he was making the little unconscious noises that signified he was listening attentively. It impressed Harry because it was obvious that Henri was going out of his way to pay Director Hammer the courtesy of paying close attention to her words. She was an extremely busy woman and had many other tasks to accomplish. Harry resolved that the least he could do was the courtesy of paying attention.
Leaning forward, Harry noticed something off with the plan. The DMLE was garrisoning the castle with a permanent force of 30 Aurors and Hit-Wizards. They were rotating personnel out in a staggered rotation, so the entire force wasn't being relieved at the same time.
That was no problem; in fact, it made good sense to Harry. The problem was the location of the Auror command centre and barracks.
"Director?" Harry began somewhat tentatively. "Why are you placing the garrison in the Headmaster's tower?"
Hammer frowned, as if she were trying to remember the reason. Scrimgeour cleared his throat before explaining, "It was felt that the Headmaster's office was the key strategic position of the castle. From there the wards could be controlled and outside communications maintained via the Headmaster's Floo." With a wave of his hand, he finished, "It's also out of the way of the running of the school."
Harry frowned in turn as all the lessons from Beaucourt and Sensei Taguchi began paying dividends. "You are defending the castle from an attack by Voldemort and his minions?"
"What would his goal be?"
The Head Auror regarded Harry as if her were a simpleton, "To take control of the school." Obviously, was unspoken.
"If Lord Voldemort were to take control of…say, the Hufflepuff common room and the associated dormitories. Then, when he threatened to kill every Hufflepuff in the school lest the defenders surrender, do you think he could then take control of the school?"
Harry delivered his mixed observation and rebuke calmly. Connie Hammer flinched, nonetheless. He didn't blame these people. They were law enforcement officers, not soldiers. It was doubtful they had ever been exposed to the type of training Harry and Gabrielle had taken over the last two years, so he kept a civil tongue in his mouth – for now.
Indicating to the scale model of the castle, Harry observed, "There is only one observable passage in or out of the castle. Here," he pointed to the main entrance. "By placing the garrison here, or here," he indicated to two large classrooms directly off the entrance hall, "You have your fighting force directly interposed between the enemy and his goal."
Scrimgeour muttered, "But those are the Charms classrooms…" His objections tapered off as he realized how ridiculous they were.
Harry left unspoken that Voldemort could take control of the castle in a myriad of ways – so long as he had access to the interior of the castle. He watched Scrimgeour fume for a moment while Hammer was noncommittal.
Scrimgeour then did something that instantly earned Harry's respect, "You make a good series of points, my Lord. Unless there is an issue that I am unaware of, we shall move our forces to the rooms you have indicated. Thank you for voicing your observations. Do you have more ideas?"
Harry looked to Sirius who cleared his throat. "Er, yes. Well, there are a series of secret passages that lead out of the castle, here, here, here and here," he elaborated as he pointed out the locations on the drawing. "There is also one, here under the Whomping Willow that leads directly to the Shrieking Shack."
Hammer's face fell while Scrimgeour paled before he rubbed his face. Harry didn't understand their reaction so he asked. "Is this bad news?"
Without looking at him, Hammer replied, "Where there are five known secret passages, there are probably ten more that are unknown. To us, that is."
That sparked a thought for Harry. "What about the Chamber of Secrets?"
This prompted more groans from the law enforcement officers.
The train ride north was more of the same from previous years. The Potters, Hermione, Neville and Susan shared a compartment as they sped past the empty countryside.
Hermione was bursting at the idea of her following a summer regimen similar to that which her friends had followed for the previous summers. "I talked with Mum and Dad and they encouraged it. Since I'm of age in a few weeks, it makes the whole endeavour much easier. I should be able to begin my studies during the Christmas hols. Sirius wrote and offered to help find tutors. Well, after the wedding and all."
Apparently, Steven Granger had humbly apologized to his daughter in private for his bad behaviour at White Rock. Hermione had always been very close to her parents as a young girl. Being friendless, her parents and her books had been her friends. The near estrangement from her father had been very wearing on the bushy haired witch. His considerable efforts to please and be pleased by his hosts didn't go unnoticed by his daughter, though. What most pleased and mollified her was his sincerity.
"He told me that he realized he'd been an ass and didn't like being that way. Apparently Mum had a few choice words for him in private, as well." Hermione and Gabrielle exchanged wicked grins to which Harry only groaned.
Harry and Bill had both bemoaned the fact that when they were in conflict with their Delacour ladies, most of the time the ladies were in the right of it. "It get's damn old being wrong all the time!" Bill had mock complained.
Waving off the two most important women in his life, Harry twirled his fingers in a 'get on with it' motion.
Hermione rolled her eyes before finishing, "Well, there isn't much more to say. Daddy apologized profusely to me." Her expression became contemplative, "He's never really treated me like an adult before. Mainly because I wasn't," she laughed to herself. "But last night, he really humbled himself." She looked at her lap, where her fingers were entwined, "It was a bit scary."
Neville and Susan were in fine spirits. Over the summer, they'd met up a few times. The second time, Neville had worked up the courage to ask Susan to be his girlfriend, to which she enthusiastically agreed.
"So, she kissed your lips off in Chatsworth House's gardens?" Harry asked with a grin. He'd recommended the Derbyshire manor house and associated magnificent 105-acre gardens to Neville as a trip worth taking. Not that Harry'd ever been there himself, but he'd read about the home of the Duke of Devonshire in primary school. From what the Goblins intimated, the Potter home in the same county was not nearly so grand, but still very nice.
Neville blushed, but Susan had no such scruples. "Yep," she answered for her new boyfriend. She surveyed him with an air of proprietorship that he returned in his shy way.
Harry and Gabi traded loving smiles. They really liked Neville, considered him a good friend. Susan they didn't know so well, but what they did know, they liked. If she was as good for him as it appeared, well, all to the better.
Susan had some interesting stories now that her Aunt and guardian was Minister.
"When Lestrange and her boobies tried to breach the wards, it was incredible how stupid they were. None of them were ward breakers. Lestrange was obviously insane, what with her shrieking and whatnot. Do you know, that when they revived her in the holding cells, she demanded to be released so she could carry out her master's wishes?"
Shaking her head at the obvious insanity, Susan continued her rant, "Her compatriots were a mix of mental defectives and stooges. I have no idea what Voldemort was thinking but the Aurors had the three of them in custody within minutes of their arriving at our house."
Harry took in all that she was saying with a hint of confusion. Voldemort wasn't stupid. Insane, yes. But not stupid. Why throw away one of his most powerful terror weapons that was Bellatrix Lestrange? Just her name made people shudder, second only to the 'You-Know-Who' and 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' garbage.
The five friends chatted about Quidditch, the Twins' shop and their travels over the summer the rest of the way to school
Flitwick had been selected by the board to remain the Headmaster, McGonagall as his Deputy. Returning to the practice of the previous Heads, Flitwick was teaching the NEWT Charms classes while Professor Llewellyn was to teach Fifth year and below. The Welshwoman also replaced the amiable Flitwick as the Ravenclaw head of house.
Slughorn was back. Harry groaned when he saw the rotund man eagerly scanning the crowd of students. It was obvious when the Potion Master found Harry and Gabrielle in the throng. His round face brightened perceptibly as he began to make nodding and acknowledging motions toward the couple as if they were long lost friends.
They were about to take their seats at the Gryffindor table, when Professor McGonagall swept down from the Head table. Motioning the Potters to the side, the Transfiguration Mistress welcomed them back to school. "We'll continue your self-paced study in the wanded subjects."
Speaking to Harry she continued, "I received your OWL score for Runes; well done Mr. Potter. I've enrolled you and your wife in the Sixth Year Rune class, as well as, the Magical Government and Estate Planning courses you selected."
Harry nodded in acknowledgement. Gabrielle had been most insistent that she attend the Government and Estate Planning courses with him. How could she support him intelligently if she had no idea what he was talking about half the time?
"Neither of you want to continue Potions or Herbology?" she asked for clarification. When the Potters shook their heads rather definitely, she gave a half smile and continued, "Very well, your quarters are the same as last year. Headmaster Flitwick has made time to continue your advanced Charms studies and we have Professor Shacklebolt returning as the Defence professor. He has agreed to private tutoring as well. I believe we shall continue in the same vein as we did last year; you shall attend class but self-study during the period. That seemed to work well."
After pausing to see if there were any questions, McGonagall drew herself up before declaring, "Mr. Potter, as far as your performance at the Quidditch match this summer," her face softened into a real smile, "Well done! And thank you for the tickets, Professor Flitwick and I enjoyed the match. Well done indeed!"
As the older witch made her way to the back of the Great Hall to receive the First Years, she muttered, "Ploughed her something fierce!"
Harry hadn't seen any Aurors when they first entered the castle, but assumed they were there Disillusioned or under invisibility cloaks. The next day at lunch, the Aurors were not only seen, but making a noticeable presence.
As each student entered the Great Hall, he or she was directed to an Auror. The students were required to roll up their sleeves to the elbow to be inspected by the law enforcement officer. Harry gave Gabrielle a look of deep approval at what was obviously an attempt to discover if any of the student body had taken the Dark Mark.
When he noticed there were French Aurors standing by and observing the process, Harry was curious. "Do you know what they're doing here?" he asked his wife surreptitiously. She only shook her head, a confused expression on her face. It appeared the British Aurors were executing the search of the student body while the French were back up, as it were.
Harry caught Auror D'artagn's eye and nodded. Receiving his acknowledgement in turn, Harry moved to another Auror he recognized.
Tonks' hair was bright yellow this morning as she greeted him, "Good morning, my Lord. If you'd please roll your sleeves to the elbow, I'd be most appreciative."
Harry complied and watched Tonks first visually inspect his arm before casting a series of detection spells over each forearm. As she bent close to his arms to perform a Revealing spell, Harry whispered, "Find any yet?" She didn't say anything, just slowly shook her head.
After a few minutes, she dismissed him in her cheerful way before shouting, "Next!"
It took a while, but eventually the entire student body was checked. One First year had managed to land himself in the hospital wing already, so an Auror was dispatched to check the young boy in the spirit of completeness.
Flitwick rose before the meal started. Just like the previous evening, he stood on his chair so the assembled students could see him. "Thank you all for your cooperation during the security check. You may or may not be aware, but there is a permanent Auror garrison here in the castle now. There are mixtures of British and French Aurors in the unit, all of whom have the jurisdiction to investigate any crime perpetrated her at Hogwarts and arrest any suspect. This is merely a security precaution now that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned. I ask you all to cooperate with any and all orders or requests from the Hogwarts Garrison. Enjoy your meal."
Harry grabbed a sandwich before pouring milk for himself and Gabrielle. "So, did anyone get arrested?" he asked.
Hermione shook her head. "I got here a bit early as Potions let out ten minutes before time. I was the second person checked and I didn't see anyone get led away or the like."
"Not even Malfoy?"
She shook her head in reply.
Harry frowned as he looked up and down the Slytherin table looking for the tow headed ferret. Finding him, Harry wasn't surprised to see Malfoy staring at Harry with a malicious smirk on his face.
From his side, Gabrielle offered, "One doesn't need to be marked to be a Death Eater."
Unsettled, Harry nodded in agreement and began his meal, unsure as to what horrific occurrence was to plague him this year.
ASSASINATION ATTEMPT ON BONES THWARTED
"Crap, crap, crap," Harry muttered to himself.
"You know, you'll have to clean up your mouth when we have children." Gabi smiled to her husband, "I'll not have them sounding like sailors. Can you imagine Mama's reaction as she holds baby Potter and the first word out of his mouth is 'crap'?"
They both began to rollick in laughter as the visual of Marie's perfect coiffure trembling in her anger. "Directed at baby Potter's parents, of course. Le petite bebé in her arms would be the living embodiment of perfection," Harry observed through his laughter.
Slowly, the laughter tapered off to chuckles. After wiping his eyes, a realization struck Harry stone still. A long moment later, he asked, "You want to have kids?"
Gabrielle had a pleasantly curious expression when she countered, "Of course. But not just children, I want to have your children. Not much could make me happier."
Completely stunned by the idea that she loved him so much that she wanted to have his children, Harry didn't respond. Gabrielle continued, "Don't get me wrong, I won't be one of those socialite women who pop out an heir and a spare and then flit from party to party." Her tender expression returned as she concluded, "But I very much want to be the mother of your children."
Harry smiled in response until she asked, "So what has you fouling the air with your language?"
"Oh, yeah. Someone tried to kill Amelia."
He scanned the article, "Hmm, looks like a clerk under the Imperius forced his way past the security outside her office and Amelia herself took the poor sap down. St. Mungo's doesn't know if they can save him. Apparently his brain is mush after the spell broke."
Gabrielle tapped her chin in thought. "I wonder how long the clerk was under the Imperius."
"It would explain why there were no marked Death Eaters in the castle."
Harry groaned, "Voldemort knew the check was going to happen, so he didn't mark his newest followers."
"What else has been leaked, I wonder?" she mused, pushing her crepe from one side of her breakfast plate to the other.
"Do you think it would be presumptuous of us to tell the Auror Garrison our suspicion?" he asked.
"Can't hurt. What would they say other than 'we know'?"
Harry didn't want to be officious sticking his nose where it didn't belong. Nevertheless, he had demonstrated that he had a different perspective allowing him to see circumstances in a different light. "I'll tell Tonks or D'artagn after lunch."
"Yeah, we figured that," Tonks explained to Harry. They were sitting at her desk in one of the expanded classrooms the Garrison had taken over. He'd just laid out all his and Gabrielle's ideas from the morning.
Reaching for a small booklet, Tonks continued, "Hammer is going mad. She's drawn up this list of security precautions that make old Mad-Eye look like the model for liberal thinking."
Harry chuckled, "Is she bringing him out of retirement to run security for the Ministry?"
Tonks' only response was a baleful glare.
"What about here?"
Shrugging, the young Auror reached for another stack of forms to fill out. "Expect random dormitory searches. Probably personal searches as well."
Snapping her fingers, Tonks remembered, "Oh yeah, the Unspeakables will be here next weekend to go down to the Chamber of Secrets. You available?"
Harry pulled out the organizer that Hermione and Gabrielle had ganged up on him and forced him to use. "I've Quidditch tryouts on Saturday. Katie asked me to be there to help her pick the new team."
"Nine to about noon, probably."
"No problem. They'll be here after lunch."
Nodding to himself, he pulled his new pocket watch out to check the time.
"That's nice," Tonks commented. "Not many people carry a pocket watch anymore. Where'd you get that?"
"My father in law gave it to me for my birthday. I was admiring his at the beginning of the summer so he thought he'd do me the favour."
"Yeah, I really like it." Harry gazed at the Patek Philippe watch, remembering Henri giving it to him in his study. It had been one of many 'Father/Son' moments for the two over the summer. He'd grown very close to his father in law this last summer and had truly come to love the man.
"Anyway, it's telling me that I'm going to be late for my Magical Government class if I don't get moving."
"Later," Tonks mumbled as she dug into the stack of forms.
Harry and Gabrielle walked out of their first Magical Government class a mixture of appalled and intrigued. The Wizengamot was the only governing congress in Europe that was not an elected body. Le Confederation Magique in France, El Parlamento in Spain and so on were at least partially elected. Many had a block of hereditary seats alongside the representative seats.
What was intriguing was the power that the Ancient and Noble houses wielded in Britain. True, some families had abused this power for personal gain, but the opportunity for real change was at hand. House Black, House Potter, House Longbottom, House Bones. They were all like-minded thinkers who were of an age together, (Sirius was Harry's age emotionally, Gabrielle had commented).
A bone of contention for Harry with magical Britain was the incredible bigotry that had been legislated. He would never bring it up to Gabi, but he was incensed by her classification as a 'Dark Creature'. He knew it bothered her so he refrained from ever mentioning it.
On many levels, Harry didn't think that Magical Britain was worth his time. The cynical part of him thought to make a mint of money, live well off the sheep and then walk away. Voldemort was a necessary task that he needed to fulfil for his own reason, not for the mob. The animal known as Voldemort had killed his parents, tried to kill his sister and Harry knew that Gabrielle was next on the Dark Lord's list. There was very little 'civic duty' in his desire to dispatch Tom Riddle.
Taking Gabrielle's bag and tossing it over his shoulder, he had to smile to himself. In Fourth Year, Hermione had started an organization that lasted three hours. The Society for the Protection of Elfish Welfare had died a quick death once Gabrielle had explained the facts of House Elf life to Hermione.
Now, Harry's feelings regarding the rights of non-human magical beings were becoming stronger. His wife was only accorded a bare minimum of courtesy in British society because of her family and husband. If Gabrielle had married anyone other than Lord Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, she would be treated much differently indeed. This fact incensed Harry as they wended their way to the Great Hall for lunch.
Maybe he'd make Hermione the treasurer of his society. Call it C.R.A.P.. The Consolidated Right-thinkers Against Prejudice. Maybe combine with Hermione's society and call it S.P.E.W. C.R.A.P.; it fit with Harry's general opinion of politics in general. His father in law excepted, of course. His furore passed as he laughed the rest of the way to lunch. Gabrielle eyed her husband with an amused expression wondering what was running around in the hamster cage he called a brain.
Estate Planning and Management was a very difficult course. Investments, Property Management, Agriculture overview and Business Law were all covered in this two-year course. There were only a few persons in the class besides Harry and Gabrielle. Unfortunately, one was Draco Malfoy.
The Ferret had been fairly quiet so far this term. No taunts, slurs or other drivel had dribbled out of his mouth in the general direction of the Potters. At least when they were in earshot, that is.
Harry was struggling with the new class. He'd taken Maths in primary school where he had barely covered fractions and long division before going off to Hogwarts. Now he was struggling uphill in trying to compute rates of return for compound interest, compound complex interest and return on investment. To say he was frustrated was an understatement.
Gabrielle had tried to help, but it was Hermione who had really facilitated his break through. Professor Rockefeller didn't explain the 'how' of the maths, just the 'what' of the equation at hand. Hermione was able to help Harry learn all the functions in arithmetic and a smattering of algebra. When Hermione had begun explaining secants, tangents and cotangents, Gabrielle had stepped in and put a stop to it. "Later, Hermione. We can teach him trigonometry next year."
"But you're not planning to come back next year."
Gabrielle's only response was a pointed look.
"Oh. Well, I'll draw up a few sheets of practice equations to help drill you on your maths. I think you've got it, though."
A half hour later, Harry rubbed his face spreading some ink stains from his fingertips to his cheeks and forehead. When he handed over his sheet to Hermione for correction, he didn't understand why the ladies in his life were giggling.
Finally, Gabrielle took pity on him and charmed the ink away.
"You could have just done that right away."
"Aww, is Harry embarrassed?"
Harry muttered something that sounded a bit like 'ah bugger', but answered, "Nothing," when asked to repeat himself.
"My Lord, my Lady, the Headmaster is at your door."
"Please, my Lord Zeus, let Professor Flitwick enter."
A moment later, the perpetually jovial Headmaster and Charms professor entered the Potters' suite. Harry sat up straight when he saw the Headmaster's serious mien.
Addressing Gabrielle, he explained his presence, "My Lady, I regret to inform you that your sister has been gravely injured in an attack on her residence. She is currently in St. Mungo's; her prognosis is unknown."
The three of them used Professor McGonagall's fireplace to Floo to the hospital. Harry hurried to the receptionist to find where his sister in law was being treated. Connie Hammer intercepted him and steered the distraught teens to the fourth floor – spell damage.
Gabrielle was beyond frantic and had moved into terrified as they hurried down the corridors. Harry was stalking in front of her and glaring at anyone who dared impede their progress. Hermione had wrapped her arm around her French friend and half supported, half embraced her as they moved to Fleur's room.
They knew they'd found Fleur when rounding a corner they saw two red-robed Aurors flanking a door. Connie hadn't spoken a word beyond, "Follow me." Now, she motioned for the family to wait. Disappearing in the door for a few seconds, she quickly reappeared with a smile, "Go on in."
Harry charged in, holding the door for Gabrielle and Hermione. They saw a very pale Fleur sleeping in bed, Bill sitting next to her.
With red-rimmed eyes, Bill looked up and announced, "She's going to make it. It was touch and go for a while, but she'll live."
Gabrielle burst into tears of relief, so Harry embraced her. He held her for his own sake as much as hers. His head felt light and a touch dizzy in his relief. They were in turn supported by Hermione who wrapped her arms around her best friends.
The three friends stood there for a long minute before calming. Connie had slipped away, but Bill was still there. With a quick flick of his wand, Harry conjured three chairs and they all sat.
"Henri and Marie?" Harry asked.
"Marie's here, Henri is on the way," Bill answered. "He was in a meeting with the President from which he couldn't break away. We expect him within the hour."
Harry nodded. Needing more of his proximity, Gabrielle moved from her chair to sit in her husband's lap. The room was silent as the four friends – family really – watched Fleur.
"What happened?" Gabrielle asked.
"We had the day off and had decided to picnic up in Nottingham Forest. I know an area in the middle of the Forest that's just beautiful," the tall redhead's expression slackened, "It's very peaceful." Shaking his head to banish the unpleasant memories he was buried under, he continued, "I ran to the bank for some last minute muggle cash as we were going to do a bit of shopping later. That was around ten o'clock. I got back ten minutes later to find her holding off four Death Eaters."
He shook his head in admiration, "She was amazing. She'd already killed two and when I apparated in she used the distraction to take down two more. The remaining two decided to portkey out, but one of the bastards hit her with an Asphyxiation curse. It was a mean one, immediately knocking her out. I didn't know the counter, so I apparated her directly to the hospital and began screaming. I hadn't even blinked when they whisked her away."
He rubbed his hands across his face to wipe away the cascading tears. The woman he loved had been moments from being lost to him forever. "The healers said she was seconds from permanent brain damage. They believe that with an intense potion regimen she'll be alright."
After a long interval, Gabrielle whispered, "Thank you, Bill."
Without looking at his future sister in law, Bill muttered, "I had to. I need her."
The door opened, admitting a pale faced Henri and a red-eyed Marie. "She will be well, Papa," Gabrielle clarified for her parents.
The tension left Henri as he sagged into his wife's arms. Marie began to weep anew in her husband's embrace. "She will live. She will live," he repeated to reassure the both of them.
It was a quiet afternoon, the family sitting vigil at Fleur's bedside. Occasionally one of them would head to the toilet or stretch their legs in a quick walk up and down the ward. Hermione showed herself to be a pearl of great value by anticipating the family's needs and satisfying them without a fuss. She nipped up to the fifth floor for a pot of tea and snacks. Later, she fetched the healer for an update on Fleur's status. Coordinating with the security to keep the press off the floor had been quite easy when speaking for Henri Delacour and Harry Potter. Gently taking down a press release from Henri and Harry and passing it out to the reporters gathered in the reception area made the fourth estate happy, which kept them away from the fourth floor. Running out later in the evening, she arrived with Chinese take away for the family.
She returned to find Fleur drowsy, but awake. Henri was asking, "How are you my Flower?"
Nodding, he told her, "The healer said it would. It's completely normal. He told us you will make a complete recovery."
Fleur closed her eyes as she nodded. Licking her lips she looked at the faces gathered. She nodded and smiled to her sister and Harry, but passed over them. Finding her scarlet haired paramour, she stopped and reached for him with her free hand.
More tears flowed as Bill croaked, "I'm sorry."
Slowly shaking her head, she whispered, "Not your fault. Love you," before she drifted off to the in between land of sleep and potion induced unconsciousness.
Fleur's waking helped everyone find an appetite of sorts. As Gabrielle showed Harry how to use his chopsticks, an idea occurred to him. Leaning into his wife, he asked what she thought. After receiving her nod of approval, he turned to his red-headed future brother in law, "Bill, we'd like to offer Rowan Hill for the two of you when Fleur is released."
At Bill's surprised expression, Harry elaborated, "The warders have been working on the estate's defences for a full year now. I'd like you to take a look at what they've done, but for what we've paid, it should be the best warded home in all of Britain."
"Harry, I'm…well, 'touched' doesn't come close. Thank you. I'm sure Fleur will agree as well. Thank you."
"Just stay out of the Master suite, mate. That's our room," Harry teased to general laughter from his family.
The morning of Quidditch tryouts, Gabrielle was in a less than pleasant mood. "Harry! Where did you put my inkwell?"
Mystified, he responded, "I didn't touch it, love. Is it on your desk?"
"If it was on my desk, I wouldn't have asked! I always leave it on my desk. I never move it. What did you do with it?"
With a spark of annoyance, Harry slowly turned to Gabrielle and answered very deliberately. "I did not move, nor touch, your inkwell. If you'd like my help finding your one ounce of obviously invaluable ink, I'd appreciate it if you'd stop barking at me."
Her face contorted in a snarl, readying her retort. With her lips forming the first words, a look of realization passed across her features, followed quickly by an expression of remorse.
Running to him, she embraced Harry with as much fervour as she had used in castigating him just before. "I'm so sorry!"
Holding her in his arms, he used gentle strokes as he rubbed her back. "Hush, love. You've had a hell of a week. If a little barking is all I get, we're doing alright."
She nodded against his chest. Stiffening in realization, she turned toward the bedroom, pulling him with her.
"What's going on?" he asked.
In a low voice, she muttered, "I need you."
The whole thing felt off – wrong somehow. Frowning, he asked, "You want to make love? Now?"
Without looking at him, she stripped off her T-shirt followed by her brassiere. Harry was in a quandary. His incredibly beautiful, sexy, talented wife was getting naked in front of him. At the same time, the whole situation wasn't right. She wouldn't even look at him, much less the usual flirting, loving words they exchanged in their carnal dances.
She pulled the covers up and tossed her skirt and knickers on the floor. Patting Harry's side of the bed, she beckoned.
Now he was worried. She was never this businesslike about their lovemaking.
Fully clothed, he sat on the edge of the bed and turned to face her. Harry was surprised when she looked him in the face. He saw worry and fear there. "What's wrong, my love?"
Fidgeting with the sheet, she shook her head for a short moment, denying anything was wrong. When Harry only stared at her in response, she sighed. "I'm not giving in. Yet." he finished with humour.
She gave a mirthless smile. Surrendering to his persistence, she explained, "I just realized we haven't made love all week."
Being male and therefore not so quick on the uptake in these situations, Harry was confused. He thought he had an inkling of the issue so he tried his best to reassure his wife. "True. I don't mind."
Her temper spun right back up to where it had been a few minutes before. With an annoyed expression, she repeated what he'd said with more than a little sarcasm, "You don't mind?"
He was sincerely honest, but expressing himself as poorly as an American in Paris. "No, I don't mind. A lot has been going on this week. I don't feel put upon or anything."
She responded with full-bore sarcasm. Waving her hands in mock relief, she exclaimed, "Wonderful! Thank the Creator that Harry Potter doesn't feel put upon because he hasn't been laid in five days!"
Now Harry was hurt. Ridicule had been the coin he was paid with when he'd been honest and tried to be supportive – no matter the ineptitude he'd shown in the effort. Without responding to her barb, he stood, straightened his pants and left her in bed.
Fifteen minutes later, a fully dressed Gabrielle came out to their common room fully dressed. Harry had his back to the door, bent over his Magical Government text reading about appropriation processes and the matching taxation requirements.
Harry turned in his chair to find her standing in the middle of the room, wringing her hands in anxiety.
Moving to her, he firmly embraced her. "I hate it when we fight."
Muffled against his chest, she agreed, "Me too."
Harry held her until she moved to break away. He'd known her long enough to let her tell the story on her terms. Leaning against his desk, he waited.
She moved to the window and looked out at the lawn in the morning light. Without turning back to him, she explained, "I slept badly last night – again." She'd not had a good night's sleep since Fleur had been hurt.
"So I was already grumpy. By the way, my inkwell was on the nightstand."
With a half smile, he asked, "How'd it get there?"
Nodding in acceptance, he waited.
"When you gave me that hug, I thought to myself, 'This is nice, I haven't been in your arms for a while.' That sparked the thought about the last time we'd been together. After some quick math I realized it had been longer than we've ever gone since we've been married."
Bowing her head to hide her face in the curtain of her hair, she admitted, "Part of our marriage is for us to have sex and I felt like I'd let you down."
Shocked, Harry held out his hand and grasped her shoulder. "Just because we're married doesn't mean you have to sleep with me. I want you to want me, not have to be with me." With more than a hint of trepidation, he asked, "Do you feel that way? That you're obligated to have sex with me?"
"NO!" she declared. "This is the first time the idea has ever crossed my mind! I love you. I love making love with you." Moving to him, she framed his face, "I'm so sorry. I've been a complete ass about this. I just didn't want to be letting you down."
Heaving a sigh of relief, he offered, "What do you say we forget all about this." A playful smile flitted across his features as he pulled her close. "Though, you stripping off like that isn't easy to forget."
She gave him a genuine smile of affection. Her nimble hands headed south when she asked, "Really?"
His response was to gather her in his arms and carry her into the bedroom. There is a gulf of difference between making love to the love of your life and sex. They both preferred the former and so they indulged themselves this early September morning.
Standing on the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, Harry wasn't feeling very enthused about his chosen profession. Fleur had some complications in recovering from the attack, therefore her hospitalization had continued the entire week. Harry had helped Bill move all their joint possessions to Rowan Hill. Afterwards, he keyed Bill and Fleur, along with Henri and Marie, into the wards. He had a fleeting thought of relinquishing control of the wards to Bill but reconsidered. No one would be master of his home but Harry Potter. It was a lesson his parents hadn't learned.
Glancing to his left, he saw Gabrielle and Hermione sitting at a large conjured table with an Arithmancy project sprawled across most of it. It was a beautiful late summer day, so the ladies had opted to watch the Quidditch tryouts with half an eye while hammering away at Professor Vector's massive winter term assignment.
Harry and Gabi's 'making up' had been…brilliant. He smothered a smile when she looked up, met his eye and winked.
Unfortunately, the Quidditch team was not looking too brilliant. Katie was captain this year, which wasn't the problem, per se. Harry figured she'd do fine and it could help her in signing with a professional team. Thinking about her prospects, though, he figured that after the Wimbourne match this past summer and the lobbying by Angelina, Alicia, the Twins and Oliver, Harry figured she wouldn't have any real problems being signed.
McLaggen was back as keeper, also. His bombastic attitude from the beginning of the previous year had not made a reappearance for which Harry and Katie were very grateful.
The beater situation was nearly dire. Jack Sloper and Andrew Kirke were the worst of the crop. The two fourth years had been hitting a bludger back and forth in a strengthening and accuracy drill when it happened. Kirke knew the bludger was there. He saw it coming at him, as he'd just hit it to Sloper. For some reason its presence surprised him, causing him to shriek as it passed close by. The inept beater promptly fell off his broom.
Luckily, he'd only been ten feet off the ground. His luck continued for all involved in that he'd suffered a concussion, which prevented him from continuing his Quidditch career.
Richie Coote and Bobby Peakes weren't bad, so they were tapped for the starting beater positions. They were strapping second years that were decent on a broom. The only knock on them was a lack experience. Neither had ever played in a Quidditch match in their life.
Ginny Weasley turned out to be a superior flyer. She surprised both Harry and Katie in the flying drills. Slaloming in and out of the poles, she'd finished the course a full twenty seconds faster than the second place time. Unfortunately, her small stature at 5'2" was a liability when going up against the stronger, larger lines. Her agility on a broom compensated somewhat. Demelza Robbins, a third year, was tall for her age and a solid flyer. Katie was resigned to these two girls replacing two thirds of the best chaser line Hogwarts had seen in years.
The '96 Gryffindor team would be above average, but couldn't hold a candle to the team of last year, much less the '93 team. Sighing, he straddled his broom and ascended to fly tandem with Katie as they watched chaser drills.
A few seconds later, he was next to her. Without looking at him, she pronounced, "We're gonna suck."
Amused that her thoughts mirrored his of a few minutes ago, he smiled. "Nah, we don't suck. We just won't be the powerhouse team we've been."
Katie nodded in agreement. A mad gleam formed in her eye as her face morphed into a contemplative expression. Harry briefly wondered if the Quidditch Captain's badge caused temporary insanity for the wearer. First Oliver, then Angelina and now Katie.
They watched Ginny Weasley defend a 3 on 1 chaser attack with McLaggen and Peakes filling in as second and third chaser. She did well and broke up the attack. The second time, she was flattened when McLaggen used his bulk to fly right over her.
"She needs a growth potion or something," Katie muttered about the diminutive Weasley. Katie was no giant, but she was a respectable 5'9". Angelina had been the tallest of 'The Girls' at 6'0" and Alicia right behind her at 5'10". No one had muscled The Girls.
Eventually, practice ended. Harry and Katie simultaneously announced, "We've a lot to do." Laughing, they headed back to the castle.
After a shower by Harry and a quick bite to eat, Harry and Gabrielle headed to the second floor girl's bathroom. Outside the lavatory, there was a veritable troop of people. The Headmaster and Deputy were talking with three men and two women who Harry assumed were Unspeakables.
The Potters were in old robes better suited to degreasing an engine than attending a dinner party. Harry smothered a smile at the robes of two Unspeakables. Their fine silk would be taking a beating this afternoon.
"Ah, my Lord. My Lady," Flitwick piped in his squeaky voice. Harry and Gabrielle had debated Flitwick's heritage. Goblin? Dwarf? Gnome? "House Elf," Harry had insisted as they lay in bed, giggling madly.
Shaking his head to clear the thought, Harry nodded in greeting to the Headmaster before turning politely to the others. He smiled amiably while he waited to be introduced.
"Ah, yes." Flitwick cleared his throat. "Our visitors are unnamed persons who work for the Ministry."
Harry quirked an eyebrow at the Headmaster. He turned to the visitors with a smile, declaring, "Unspeakables then." Harry strongly disliked the 'no-name' practice of the Unspeakables. It smacked of the SIS, KGB and CIA where they postured to be above the law. There was no reason whatsoever for their anonymity except a self-perpetuated declaration of need.
He scrutinized them. The two youngest men were barely in their twenties. They looked away from his intense stare. The oldest of the visitors was a silver haired man who not only returned Harry's gaze, but began laughing.
Recognizing that his game of intimidation was up, Harry joined the man in laughter. Gesturing toward the sink, Harry asked the man, "Shall we?"
Somewhat confused, the older man nodded. Harry moved to the sink, Gabrielle in his wake. "§Open§."
As the sink move aside exposing the slide entry, everyone in the lavatory was silent. For all present it was the first time they'd heard Parseltongue, much less seen the entrance of the fabled Chamber of Secrets.
Gesturing at the slide, Harry explained, "This isn't the Chamber proper. This is a slide that goes down for a good while. Say, a good minute or so. After that is a large cavern, which is about a mile long. It's currently blocked by a cave-in that occurred the last time I was down there."
Turning to the Professors, he elaborated with one word. "Lockhart." McGonagall rolled her eyes in remembrance while Flitwick snorted at the memory of the incompetent fraud. Returning his attention to the entry slide, he continued, "After the long cavern is where the entrance to the Chamber proper will be found." Looking around, he asked, "Questions?"
It was a bit amusing for Gabrielle to see her husband lecturing his professors and elders. When they all shook their head on cue, she couldn't smother the laughter that bubbled up. Harry winked at her, extended his elbow and asked his wife, "Shall we?"
The trip to the Chamber of Secrets was slightly anti-climactic for Gabrielle in one sense. In quite a different way, it was a day she'd remember for the rest of her life. Despite Harry's very detailed descriptions of the happenings during his second year in the underground facility, she had been expecting something grand or mysterious. All she had found was a mildewed cavern with snakes carved on every available surface. There had also been an enormous snake carcass that had caused two of the Unspeakables to utter a little shriek as they entered the Chamber.
"What a creepy man he must have been," she had muttered as they walked toward the huge statue Slytherin had carved of himself.
Harry gave a little laugh while nodding his head in agreement. "Old Salazar seems to be a poster child for the Dark Ages 'Egotistical Maniac of the Year'."
Gabrielle smiled at his weak joke, but the expression quickly faded. Her husband's face was slightly pale in the magical light. She wrapped her arm around his waist in an attempt to allay the memories that must be washing over him. Nodding to her with a touch of a smile, he wondered aloud, "I always thought he must be an incredibly egotistical fool. Who carves a huge statue of themselves on the wall of their self-named 'Chamber of Secrets'? How pretentious."
Nodding agreement, she wrinkled her nose at the unpleasant odours in the Chamber. Strangely, the stink of mildew, mould and wet was more overpowering than the rank of the decaying carcass. The cool temperatures and the natural magical protections of a basilisk had slowed the decay of the corpse.
Nonetheless, all present soon had cast the Bubblehead charm on themselves before beginning the exploration of the cavern. Harry opened the mouth of the statue with another self-aggrandizing password; "§Speak to me Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts four§."
Gabrielle had shaken her head when Harry translated for her. "Incredible," she muttered in disgust.
The Potters assisted in the investigation of the space, but after a while were drawn into the conversation between the Headmaster and the Deputy.
"My Lord," Flitwick asked as he gestured to the slain Basilisk, "Do you have plans for the carcass?"
Harry understood where Flitwick was heading with his question. The carcass was Harry's property under the Dragonslayer Law of 1066. He'd never really considered harvesting the Basilisk before, the memories of almost dying down here were not ones he liked to remember. Now, though, he might make some good come of the entire debacle.
"Headmaster, if you would arrange a team of harvesters, I am willing to donate all proceeds of the sale of my trophy to Hogwarts. I think establishing a scholarship fund for the underprivileged would be good use of half the proceeds. Don't you agree?"
If half went to this new scholarship program, the other half went to the schools operating fund. With a large grin, Flitwick agreed profusely, "I think that is a most excellent idea, my Lord. I'll arrange it forthwith."
Gabrielle and McGonagall became entwined in a discussion of the finer points of the first corollary to the eight law of Transfiguration. Fifteen minutes later, Gabrielle looked around for her husband. Finding him standing alone off to the side of the Chamber, she quietly approached him and wrapped her arms around him from behind. She figured the memories were too thick for him.
"I died right here," he whispered.
Her shock was palpable.
Releasing him from her embrace, she moved to his side and looked down on the stones where he indicated. There was a dark stain that must have been semi-dried blood. His blood.
A wave of nausea washed over her. He had been so close to dying before she had ever known him. Before she ever loved him or had been loved by him in turn. Tears coursed down her face as she pulled him to herself. The trials of his life seemed so academic to her at times. Sometimes, it seemed like a dream to her; no one could endure all that had been thrown at him in his short life. The stone, the Chamber and so on.
The puddle of his congealed blood on the floor of this underground chamber wasn't academic, though. It was real and it scared her. It shook Gabrielle to her very foundations, because Harry had nearly or possibly even died in actuality. No one knew exactly what happened when he had been bitten by the basilisk and then subsequently healed by Fawkes. Even the full powers of the Phoenix were not understood. If Harry could have died down here, he could very well die today, or tomorrow or...
Her involuntary shudders were soothed when Harry wrapped her in his arms. Seemingly reading her mind, he murmured, "Hey, it's Ok. I'm fine now and will be in the future. It's going to be fine in the end and we'll have a bunch of beautiful children to run around the woods of Rowan Hill or the beach at White Rock. I'll make love to you under the stars on the deck of the Gabi as much as I can. We are going to make it," he finished with an intensity that was inspiring.
"How do you know?" she asked with a small voice.
"Because I have to. I love you and will settle for nothing less."
Harry was heading to the library to research a topic for Transfiguration. Since he and Gabrielle were on an independent study track, they had much more research than normal sixth years were assigned. Gabrielle and Hermione were in Arithmancy, a class which Harry was eternally grateful that he'd not enrolled. With the mathematical struggles he was experiencing in Estate Planning, he knew he'd be buried in Arithmancy.
So it was that Harry was alone and humming to himself a little ditty that he'd heard on the wireless that morning. As he rounded a corner, Draco Malfoy proved to the Universe that he was incapable of learning from his own mistakes.
"Potter," snarled the Ferret-Who-Bounced.
With a pleasant expression on his face, Harry answered with a placid, "Yes?"
Taken aback by the mildness of Harry's response, Malfoy stared at the young man he hated above all others. Finally, he sputtered, "You've crossed me for the last time."
Malfoy's rant was interrupted by Harry's near-hysterical laughter. "Oh, Draco," Harry wheezed. "You really need a new line. Each time you say 'You've crossed me for the last time,' I kick your sorry arse into the next week. One would think you could have something original."
Malfoy scowled and narrowed his eyes. Nodding to the bookends, he ordered, "Get him."
Without pausing in his laughter, Harry exploded into motion. Lashing out with his left leg, he kicked Crabbe in the right kneecap. The hulking teen began screaming as he fell to the ground, his kneecap having been dislocated. The small disc of bone could now be found halfway up his thigh as opposed to its usual spot.
Goyle grabbed for Harry. Ducking underneath the dim-witted boy, Harry spun and punched Goyle as hard as he could in the left kidney. Three rapid strikes brought the boy to his knees, mouth open in silent agony.
When Goyle finally fell to the ground, Harry explained in his still mild tone, "You'll probably piss blood for a few weeks. If it lasts longer, see Madam Pomfrey about it."
Turning to the Malfoy scion, Harry regarded the boy with raised eyebrows and a look that asked, 'Would you like a taste'?
Malfoy's response was to shakily reach for his wand. Harry said nothing; merely half closed his eyes and shook his head while wagging a finger at the boy.
"Draco, I think it's time I explain a few things to you."
Malfoy's hand froze halfway to his wand.
"First, I could kill you whenever I decide to take that step. You know it and so do I. Hell, the entire castle knows. Second, I tire of these little games. I believe that misters Crabbe and Goyle will not be so eager to assist you the next time you try to enlist them in a venture like this, so it's down to just you."
Slowly closing the blond boy, Harry stared into his grey eyes. "This is your last warning, Draco. Next time, you will bleed and quite possibly die." He paused, allowing this salient point to sink through the bigoted boy's delusions of grandeur. "Are we clear?"
Shakily, Malfoy nodded his acquiescence.
"Just a little reminder. Hermione Granger is protected by House Potter and House Black. Move against her in any way, shape or form and I will destroy you in every possible way."
Nodding again, Draco turned to Goyle and Crabbe. His pale face burning red with shame and rage, he slowly drew his wand. With a muttered, "Mobilcorpus," he levitated his flunkies in order to take them to the Infirmary.
Harry couldn't resist rubbing it in a little. Before Malfoy disappeared, he called out, "Bye Draco! Have a nice day!"
Malfoy didn't look back, but if he had, Harry would have seen the Slytherin's face contorted with rage and a determination to avenge himself.
WIZENGAMOT DECLARES NATIONAL STATE OF EMERGENCY
"Hmm," Harry mused as he read the paper. "Susan," he asked the girl across the table from him as he indicated the headline, "What's this all about?"
With a sarcastic tone, she replied, "What does it look like?"
He rolled his eyes as Gabrielle and Hermione laughed. "Sorry. I was wondering if your Aunt initiated this, or someone else. Do you know the story?"
With a prim smile, Susan replied, "Since you asked so nicely, I'll tell you." More laughter from the ladies. "Mainly, it's being justified as a response to the incessant activity of the Death Eaters. The attack on Auntie at her office was the culmination."
Looking around to see if anyone was eavesdropping, Susan quickly cast a Privacy charm. "In truth, though, Auntie is using it as an opportunity. We all know that the Wizengamot can be purchased at the drop of a hat. She's bypassing them to take the war to the bad guys."
Hermione's face crinkled in thought. Hesitantly, she asked, "Isn't that a slippery slope, though?" When Susan turned to the girl, Hermione continued, "I mean, with all power and authority residing in the Minister's office, what happens if she dies tomorrow and is replaced by a supporter of V-V-Voldemort?" Tentatively, Hermione offered to the now silent group, "They say power corrupts even the best people. I hope she's careful."
A look of defiant protectiveness flashed across Susan's features before subsiding. Admitting the truth of the situation, Susan nodded in agreement, "I hope so, too."
Breaking the awkward silence, Gabrielle took the paper from her husband and skimmed the article. "Hmm, looks like quite a few security improvements." She was silent as she read until she uttered a low expletive, "Veritaserum questioning for all Ministry employees. Loyalty oaths are now required. Mon Dieu," she whispered after she turned the page. "Suspense of Habeas Corpus…" Gabrielle finished with an open mouth.
"But she can't!" Hermione gasped.
"Apparently, she can," Harry countered as he took back the paper from his wife's nerveless fingers.
Even Susan appeared a bit disturbed by the last declaration.
Tonks appeared at Harry's shoulder and very formally requested, "Lord Potter. Lady Potter, would you please come with me?"
Given their previous topic of discussion, the Potters exchanged a nervous look. Standing, Harry shouldered Gabrielle's satchel before following the now blue haired Auror to the Garrison's offices.
Winding through the desks, the threesome settled in the back corner as Tonks cast a few Privacy charms. "Right. Sorry about the cloak and dagger but I have a question from the Minister."
The Potters were taken aback when Tonks asked, "She wants to talk to you about a prophecy and desires to know if you have some time today to chat."
"Harry, Gabrielle, please have a seat," Amelia offered as she rose from behind her massive mahogany desk. Moving around her desk, she signalled to the two guards at her door. Nodding, they closed the doors giving the threesome some privacy.
"I'll cut to the chase," Amelia began. "It has been brought to my attention by the Department of Mysteries that there exists a prophecy regarding you and Lord Voldemort."
Her matter of fact directness was very soothing for Harry and Gabrielle. They'd had enough drama and were eager to deal with facts, not histrionics.
Nodding, Harry offered, "My godfather made mention of a prophecy a few months ago. I don't know the exact wording, but the substance is that it's either him or me. One of us will kill the other."
Amelia regarded the Potters with a look her Aurors knew well. She was sizing them up for their suitability for the task. Looking for more information, she mentioned, "Susan says you two are ahead on your studies."
Harry chuckled while Gabrielle smiled widely. She beat her husband to the punch when she replied, "We could have taken our NEWTs at Christmas."
Gabrielle merely nodded.
Shifting in her seat, Amelia murmured, "Bugger me."
Louder, she sounded much more relieved about the situation in general, "Good. You're taking this seriously and getting as ready as you can."
Harry nodded, "At first, we didn't know about the prophecy, just that Voldemort wouldn't leave me alone and we needed to be able to protect ourselves. This summer, after Sirius told us about the prophecy…let's say that we became even more focussed."
"You're receiving private lessons from Shacklebolt?" When the Potters nodded, Amelia responded, "Good. He's one of our best trainers, we can't send much better than that. The Garrison will help protect the school," she was cataloguing items from a mental list.
Coming to the end of her internal monologue, she pointed out, "It would be counterproductive to release the existence of the prophecy to the public. The media would be clamouring for you to end him right now, when we all know you aren't really ready.
"Do you know how to finish him?"
Harry shook his head, "If he didn't die by a reflected Killing curse, I've no idea how to send him to hell. We've been working on becoming proficient enough to survive the Death Eaters to get to Voldemort."
He and Gabrielle had been duelling Shacklebolt, McGonagall and Flitwick, when the Headmaster had time. During one on one encounters, he could take them down seven out of ten times, but he invariably lost when it was two on one. Fighting alongside Gabrielle in a two on two situation, they always won. It was an oddity that none of them could explain.
He and Gabrielle had discussed it many times and both believed that the only reason Harry had so decisively beaten Snape was because the Potions Master didn't take Harry seriously.
Amelia took out her notepad and scribbled a note to herself as she mumbled, "I'll get the Unspeakables working on an end game solution for him."
There was a pause in the conversation as they all digested the news. Gesturing with her hand, Amelia asked, "Shall we go hear the exact wording?"
"Fucking Trelawney? You've got to be shitting me!"
Now that they were back at Hogwarts, Harry was able to loose his emotion and was fuming. Pacing back and forth in front of his wife, he gesticulated and cursed.
Gabi sat there calmly. The exact wording of the prophecy hadn't bothered her at all. There were no surprises and, unfortunately, no words of wisdom or assurance. Back in Florence over the summer, she'd resigned herself to the prophecy pitting her man against the beast that was Voldemort just like two gladiators in the ring. She had hoped the prophecy would guarantee Harry's victory, but hadn't hoped too much.
Returning her attention to her husband, she reached out and caught his arm, stopping him mid-stride. "Mon cher, calm down."
Exhaling loudly, Harry nodded in agreement. "You're right." Sitting next to her, he took her in his arms as much for himself as for her. "How did I get so lucky to get you?"
She smiled impishly, "I ask myself the same question every day."
"Why you were lucky to get me?"
"No. Why you were so lucky to get me."
"Oh, you…" he began before tickling her.
"We at WWN's Person of the Hour are honoured to have Baron Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived as our guest. Good morning, My Lord."
"Good morning, Giles."
Harry had been bombarded by requests for an interview since the summer and finally decided to give in and do…"One. I'm only doing one and the rest can go rot!" Gabi had merely rolled her eyes at his dramatics.
"What do you think about the Ministry's actions of late?"
With a bit of humour, Harry countered, "You'll have to be a bit more specific. I think their hands off approach toward the British Quidditch League is exemplary if that's what you want to know."
With a smile, Giles elaborated, "That's good to know, but to be more specific, I think our listeners want to know your opinion of the Ministry's actions in combating He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
"I think that Minister Bones is making real progress. It's going to get worse before it gets better, but I believe we're on the right track."
"That's quite an endorsement. Is Minister Bones helping magical Britain more than her predecessor?"
Leaning back in his chair, Harry sighed. "That's a big question, Giles. I play Quidditch, I'm not a politician."
"But you have a hereditary Wizengamot seat."
"True. I believe that regarding the prosecution of the Wizarding terrorist that many call He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Minister Bones is doing a bang up job. Outside of that arena, I am not yet educated enough to form an opinion that is worthwhile."
It had been Hermione that had insisted Harry refer to Voldemort by one of his euphemisms. "Harry, just because you're unafraid is irrelevant. The bulk of the kingdom is terrified of his name and it would be a distraction for you to insist on using it. Swallow your pride, bend your stiff neck and do it!"
"Fair enough. How's married life?"
With a wide smile, Harry answered, "I'm happier than I've ever been. Lady Potter has been a true gift from Heaven for me." After a few beats, Harry added in a joking tone, "And that's all I have to say about my marriage."
"Right. How's Hogwarts now that Headmaster Dumbledore is no longer in charge?"
The interview was covering safe topics and progressed over the next half hour. Quidditch was discussed, his parents, would he live in France after graduation and so on.
At the thirty-five minute mark, things became a bit dicey. "My Lord, it is known that Lady Potter is part Veela and, therefore, classified as a 'Dark Creature' by the Ministry. What is your opinion on this classification of not only your wife but others in similar situations? Werewolves, Vampires and the like?"
Fuck. Well, let's bring out the big guns.
"I think the entire discussion is so laden with uninformed opinion, bigotry and fear that rational discourse is difficult to come by."
Giles stared at him.
"I think it's an abhomination that my wife is considered a Dark Creature. It's a legacy of pureblood bigotry and legislated prejudice that has been institutionalized for far too many years to count. No person of a mature and modern mind can reach any other decision."
This resulted in more staring from the interviewer. Finally, when it was clear that Harry wasn't saying anything further, Giles jumped in.
"Well." Giles Prichard had never been nonplussed while interviewing, but he was nearly there this day.
"Well," he repeated, "I see that you have a very decided opinion. What do you feel should be done to redress the wrongs you outline?"
Harry smiled with just a hint of ferocity. "Well, I think that in the end I'm a seeker. As I mentioned before, I am still learning the ins and outs of our governmental processes."
"You don't have to know how to sponsor the bill, my Lord. In general, what do you think ought to be done?"
Harry glared at Giles, nonverbally conveying his displeasure with this line of questioning. Giles shrugged, showing his surrender. For the listeners, Harry said, "I'm sure that the politicians know best how to implement reform of this type."
Clearing his throat, Giles took a deep breath. If Harry had thought the previous topic unpleasant, the next topic plumbed the depth of disagreeable discourse.
"My Lord, it is understood that you are the only one who can defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. What are your plans for eradicating this menace from Britain?"
"Who talked Amelia?"
Harry and Gabrielle were sitting side by side in front of the Minister's desk and neither of the Potters were pleased. In truth, they were both furious.
Dodging as best he could for the balance of the interview, Harry tried to pass off the 'rumour' that he was the 'Chosen One' as a bit of nonsense. When the hour had finally ended and the 'Off Air' lamp lit, Harry turned on the interviewer and pounced.
"Who told you that?"
Taken aback at the cold ferocity of his guest, Giles back-pedalled, "Told me what, my Lord?"
Scowling, Harry spat, "Don't play games with me. Who told you I'm this 'Chosen One'?"
"So it's true then?"
"It's a bullshit rumour. But if you keep talking about it, fucking Voldemort might believe it and come after my family even more than he has in the past." Stalking around the interview table, Harry crowded the radio show host into a corner while he jabbed a finger into the man's flabby chest.
"Who was your source?"
"It was just a rumour we were bandying about in the pressroom! I swear!"
In his fear, the man was sweating profusely. Harry decided to believe him for now, but rumours don't just spring from the head of Zeus like Athena had done; rumours have a source. He immediately used the Floo to return to school and his wife. Ten minutes later they charged into the Ministry and the Minister's office, breaking up her ten o'clock with Dirk Cresswell.
"There are three people on the planet who know the entire prophecy and all three are sitting in this room," Amelia responded with a scowl. She too was upset that this rumour was being circulated. However, the implication that she or one of her staff was the leak displeased her greatly.
Leaning forward in his chair, Harry returned the Minister's scowl and upped the ante with sarcasm, "Yes, but how many people know that there is a Prophecy regarding me and Voldemort? Tonks knew about it when she passed on your message."
Gabrielle reached over and rubbed her husband's back in an attempt to calm him. He leaned back in his chair and exhaled loudly as he calmed. He gave her a quick nod to show her that he was under control again.
Since her husband no longer needed her to be under control, Gabrielle let loose. "I am completely puzzled how state secrets are treated with such indiscretion. I was under the belief that this Prophecy and by extension my husband, were actually important to the Ministry. If this is how you treat valuable allies, we shall all roast over the spit as Voldemort laughs!"
She finished her mini-rant in a near shout. Gabi's eyes flashed and narrowed as her fear fuelled her anger.
Swallowing her own anger, Amelia held her hands up, palms outward. "My Lady, we must work together. Remember that I am on your side. There is no evidence that the Ministry is the source of this rumour. It could be mere speculation. Your husband was considered a saviour in 1981 and many people who are afraid of the Dark Lord's return are holding on to that comforting fact. That is the most likely source of the rumour. Speculation and wishful thinking."
Snorting at the probable truthfulness of the explanation, Gabrielle scowled. She wanted a person on whom she could vent her anger and fear. Someone who would feel her wrath.
"That being said, I shall have Director Hammer begin an investigation today before lunch. The timing of this rumour is very suspect. If there is a leak in my security I want that person's head on a pike by supper."
Harry gave a weak smile at the vehemence of the Minister. "You'd make a good Goblin, Amelia."
The women chuckled mirthlessly before Amelia extended the hand of friendship, "I am very sorry that this occurred, Harry. I figured it would get out sooner or later, but was hoping for later."
Harry nodded his scowl relaxing to displeasure. "Me too."
Gabrielle began to repent of her earlier harsh words. "Madam Minister, I regret…"
Amelia cut her off with a waved hand. "Please, forget it. You are understandably under considerable stress and it found an outlet. I've had much worse and will get even worse as time goes by."
"You are very gracious."
Amelia merely smiled and nodded in acknowledgement.
Harry stood and helped his wife out of her chair, "Thank you for taking the time to deal with our temper tantrum, Amelia."
"Not to worry. Given your entrance, I half expected to have to send an Auror around to collect the corpse of Giles Prichard."
"You almost did. I think he needs to change his robes, though." Everyone gave a small laugh as the Potters headed for the Atrium.
Alone as they rode down the lift, Harry smiled and observed, "Your mother and Fleur must be swearing and cursing up a storm right about now."
Gabrielle gave her tinkling laugh as she covered her mouth. "Mama will be nearly rabid by the time Papa arrives home. Fleur might be waiting for us at the school gates."
Harry barked a laugh. "Want to go see Sirius and avoid it all?"
"Most definitely. I need to laugh now and he's the man-child for the job."
"What now, mon cher?"
"I didn't tell Boras about the interview. He's going to kill me."
"Nonsense, write a quick note of apology now. Hedwig will be waiting for him first thing."
They had a fun afternoon in Sussex with Sirius and Hestia. Sirius laughed for a half hour about Harry and Gabi storming Amelia Bones office. After a cosy family dinner, the Potters returned to school.
"My Lord! My Lady!" called an unctuous voice as they passed through the entrance hall.
Harry rolled his eyes as Gabrielle stifled a laugh. After the last few months of their fifth year with Professor Slughorn, the Potters had most decidedly opted out of Potions. His ingratiating, sycophantic behaviour grated on their nerves.
Despite Harry and Gabrielle's outgoing behaviour with their friends, they were very reserved in public. With all the leeches and glory hounds that had tried to attach themselves to Harry, Gabrielle or both of them, they'd become very adept at identifying people who were interested in the Boy-Who-Lived or the Veela Girl as opposed to the few who cared about Harry and Gabi.
Horace Slughorn was very definitely one of the former.
With a soft groan of annoyance, Harry slowed and turned. "Yes, professor?"
Waddling up the couple, the Potions Professor had a bright smile on his walrus-y face. "How are you this evening?"
Harry stared at the man, wondering if Slughorn really believed in the tripe he was spewing. Gabrielle did the civil and responded, "We are well, sir. Yourself?"
"Excellent! Topping! I heard your interview on the wireless this afternoon, my Lord. Well done, if I say so myself. You handled it exactly as I would have counselled. You know, I have helped out quite a few other celebrities in managing their media careers. If you'd like, I can put you in touch with some of them."
Harry was still dumbfounded, so his wife continued to pick up the slack. "That's very kind of you, Professor. Maybe some other time. We are both quite tired from today's exertions."
"Of course, of course." Snapping his fingers in feigned remembrance, he exclaimed, "Before I forget! I'm having a little holiday party in December before the end of term. I am most willing to work around your schedules. Please, let me know which night you are available between the first and fifteenth and we'll all get together."
His enthusiasm was very real now, giving Harry a nauseous feeling. With a half smile, Gabrielle nodded and turned to head back to their rooms.
"Why is it so different going to a regular party as opposed to a 'Slug Club' party?" Harry asked.
"Because the Potions professor wants something from us. At the other parties, it's glamour by association. I can live with that, but I think this holiday party will be the last time we associate with that man."
"Thank you, love," Harry whispered as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "You're the best."
The weather was a bit off for the first Hogsmeade visit of the year. The temperature had dropped significantly in October, leaving frost on the lawn every morning. Harry and Gabrielle were to meet Remus at a new restaurant that had opened on the Hogsmeade high street. The Golden Cauldron was touting itself for the adults of the Wizarding world. Between the cost, dress code and menu, most of the Hogwarts students stayed away.
The Golden Cauldron provided an excellent meal and excellent privacy; two things the Potters required this day. The first month and a half at school had been gruelling. Between advanced studies, extra-curricular activities and 'real world' duties and responsibilities, Harry and Gabrielle had been running themselves ragged.
Just last weekend, they had a welcome relief as they apparated to Rowan Hill to visit Bill and Fleur. The engaged couple had settled in a large bedroom in the east wing of the house, opposite the master suite.
Fleur had mostly recovered from her injuries, but she still experienced some dizzy spells. Ripgut, her supervisor at Gringotts, had been surprisingly understanding about Fleur's need for time off from work. He had allowed her to take indefinite leave (without pay, of course). When she was well, she could return to her position without negative impact to her career.
Harry believed that the goblin position was a combination of two factors. First, Fleur was a non-human magical being. As such, the traditionally cold-hearted goblins had an affinity for her because of her heritage. The second reason was more circumspect and, admittedly, guesswork on Harry's part.
Voldemort was a xenophobic psychopath. He made seductive offers to the downtrodden magical races that appealed to their baser desires, greed or other less than reputable cravings.
The goblins aren't fools, though. They easily saw through his lies to see the manipulation behind the veneer of friendship and offers of assistance. Despite their antagonistic and warlike relationship with the Wizarding govenment, Voldemort's very transparent lies to the intelligent bankers of the magical world held no sway over the Great Goblin Council. The goblin leadership had no desire to rebel only to be cast aside as soon as they had outlived their usefulness.
By extension, Fleur Delacour was the sister in law of the Boy-Who-Lived: the standard bearer for opposition to Voldemort. She also had killed four Death Eaters when she was outnumbered six to one. Competence in battle of that proficiency was highly respected by the goblins. Harry told Gabrielle that he bet the goblins were cackling and rubbing their long fingered hands together when the heard the details of Fleur's altercation. By supporting Fleur, they were tacitly supporting Harry and the opposition to the Dark Lord.
Relaxing at the ancestral home of the Potters was healing for the Potters, as well as, Fleur and Bill. All four felt safe and secure.
At Hogwarts, safety was a relative term.
Harry and Gabrielle were pushing themselves hard in their wanded studies. Harry had progressed to the point where he routinely defeated Professor Shacklebolt. Now, Kingsley would team up with McGonagall for his matches with Harry. With Gabrielle at his side, only a combination of McGonagall, Shacklebolt and Flitwick had a chance of beating them. At this point, the students defeated the masters about fifty percent of the time.
Getting away for a day was exactly what the Potters needed. However, meeting up with Remus Lupin was a high risk/high return situation for the young Lord Potter. In his heart, Harry very much wanted to reconcile with Moony of the Marauders. Now that Harry had a family, he was becoming greedy and wanted more. He wanted another uncle like the one Sirius had become. That was the upside of the situation.
At the same time, Harry was wary. After growing up in the Dursley household, Harry was chary of extending his trust to someone who he judged to have hurt him. That was the downside. Harry felt exposed and vulnerable to Remus. He felt that with a brush off, Lupin could hurt Harry in ways that he'd hoped had been left in Surrey.
Gabrielle had a different perspective.
"Mon cher, the man is a werewolf. Do you realize how hard his life has been?"
When Harry had only frowned in response, she sighed and sat back in her chair. "Werewolves are hated in magical society. Before Lycanthropy was identified as a magical illness, werewolves were viewed as demonically possessed people. They were considered evil and treated as such. That attitude has not changed much in the last thousand years. As such, Remus has most likely been spit on, stoned, degraded in all possible ways, rejected by any who find out about his affliction and had a shitty life in general."
Harry's eyebrows shot up at her cursing. Gabrielle only swore when she was extremely angry or drunk. Since they were taking a study break and it was four in the afternoon, he doubted that she was drunk.
"You're saying I should give him the benefit of the doubt because of what he's most likely been through."
Regaining her composure, Gabrielle nodded sharply. "Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying."
Nodding as he ruminated on what she had said, he thought aloud, "I need to stop thinking of myself and consider what he's been through."
After a deep breath, he nodded. Her point was valid. "Ok, I'll be as open minded as I can."
"Bon. Now, tell me how to do this illusion, I'm completely lost."
He smiled. It was a rare occasion that she admitted to being stuck.
As they walked down the road to Hogsmeade, Harry felt stuck. Intellectually, he agreed with Gabrielle. Remus had many 'extenuating circumstances' in his life that would have prevented him from contacting and attempting to care for Harry.
At the same time, Harry had gone through hell on earth at number 4 Privet Drive.
He vacillated between resentment of Remus' absence and understanding the werewolf's predicament. In short, he was stuck.
Opening the door to the Golden Cauldron for his wife, Harry took a last deep breath of the crisp air. Ducking in the restaurant, his eyes adjusted to the darker interior as he took Gabrielle's cloak for her. Absently handing it to an elf, he divested himself of his own cloak and followed the Maitre d' to the back of the dining room.
Lupin was waiting for them at the corner table. He rose and smiled to the Potters. The Headwaiter held out Gabrielle's chair and the party sat, taking their menus. Gabrielle ordered a bottle of wine for them allowing the sommelier to depart, leaving them alone.
"How are you, Moony?" Harry asked. He'd decided to be generous and use the informal name for the Marauder.
A hint of smile graced the man's face, "I'm well. You two?"
"We're well also. Busy, but well."
An awkward silence descended that was temporarily broken by the return of the sommelier bearing their wine. When the red was opened and set on the table, the silence descended again.
Becoming frustrated, Harry jumped in with both feet. "Moony, the reason I asked to meet with you is that I've got a problem." He then outlined his grievances, real and imagined against one of his father's best friends.
"As I sit here and lay this all out, I feel like quite the petulant child. At the same time…" he tailed off. Looking at the table, he whispered, "It was really bad, Moony." Gabrielle took his hand in support while Harry fought to control his emotions.
Remus worked his jaw twice, but the words failed to materialize. When Harry looked up, he saw a tear track down the man's cheek. Seeing the plaintive expression on Harry's face, Remus finally choked out, "I'm sorry, Harry. I never knew."
"But why, Remus? Why didn't you check on me?"
The older man sighed, as he seemed to fold in on himself. "When they took Sirius away, blaming him for your parents' deaths, I was destroyed. I'd lost everyone who I cared about and who cared for me in return. James, Sirius, Peter and Lily were all dead or nearly so." He looked out the window for a moment. "I took it badly. Within days, I was in Morocco and headed into the hills of Northern Africa. I could be alone, not hurt anyone nor be hurt in turn.
"Two years later when the madness calmed, I returned to Britain. I went to Hogwarts in order to find out from Dumbledore where you were living." Looking away, Remus added, "I realized that I could never have custody of you because of my affliction, but I wanted to see you. Possibly visit you every so often.
"Albus refused to tell me where you were."
Harry closed his eyes in frustration. One more stroke against the dead man. One more sin. He wasn't surprised, but at the same time, he was still enraged.
From Harry's left, Gabrielle asked, "What did he tell you?"
"He told me that Harry was safe and the less people who knew where he lived, the better."
Harry shook his head at his own doubts about Remus' character. The man had just as good an excuse as Sirius for not checking up on him when he was young. Softly, Harry asked, "Why didn't you tell me all this during my third year? I've needed family all my life."
Remus recoiled a little at Harry's rebuke. It had been delivered gently, but it was there nonetheless. Biting his lip and tugging at his sleeve, Remus haltingly replied, "I was…concerned about your…reaction to my affliction."
Nodding his understanding, Harry squeezed Gabrielle's hand in thanks. Her talk to him had opened his perception from just his own world and allowed him to consider Remus' situation. Because of that, the power behind the mild statement was evident.
"We didn't know each other very well. I knew of you from a decade previous, but I didn't know you. I realized that you probably had quite a bit of unwanted activity in your life, what with being the Boy-Who-Lived and all. A pathetic werewolf holding his hat in hand was the last thing you needed."
Harry's eyes snapped open at the self-flagellating statement. He'd been put down his whole life and Harry was unwilling to tolerate those who he cared about put themselves through the same thing. Catching Remus' eye, he corrected the older man, "You can never come to me in a pathetic manner. You are Moony and, as such, are family for me just like Padfoot and Prongs."
Remus studied his dead friend's son for a long moment before a smile grew on his worn, tired face. When the grin was in full bloom, Moony nodded his understanding.
Harry returned the smile with affection, "I hope you're hungry, I've heard this place is pretty good." The door was closed. What mattered was the here and now. And the future, always the future.
"Damn, it's cold!"
Gabrielle and Neville laughed as Harry was reproved by Hermione. She always managed to infuse her reprimands with an authority that made Harry cringe.
They were headed down to the Quidditch stadium for the Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw match. Ravenclaw didn't have very high prospects for the year, which was a good thing for the Lions. Gryffindor needed a match or two to break in their new side. Coote and Peakes had come a long way, showing quite a bit of promise. They weren't as good as the twins, but as they were only Second years, they would have quite a few years to work together to improve.
The chaser line, though, still wasn't the well-oiled machine that Katie and Harry had hoped to develop. Demelza Robbins was a steady force in the middle. She was a stable flyer who could take and give a shoulder with the best of them. Alongside Katie, they formed a power attack that was formidable.
Ginny Weasley was a stupendous flyer who was more suited to finesse than physical chaser work. Her petite stature worked against her in the scrum, as Katie had foreseen at tryouts. Nevertheless, Ginny was nearly lethal when she had a breakaway. In one-on-one situations, she invariably scored on McLaggen. It was an impressive statistic, as he was the best keeper at Hogwarts and destined to sign a professional contract.
While Harry ruminated on his team's chances, Gabrielle took matters into her own hands and cast a Warming charm on her husband.
Absently, he thanked her, "Thanks, love."
A half hour later, the balls were released and the match in play. Rapidly, the Gryffindor team took control of the contest. Coote and Peakes dominated the Ravenclaw chaser line while the Lions scored seemingly at will. As Harry quartered the pitch, he realized that Oliver had started something six years ago.
Oliver set the bar very high for his Gryffindor Quidditch team. He would accept nothing less than near professional play from his team and drove them mercilessly until they matched his expectations. That winning attitude had been passed down to Katie and Harry who in turn passed it down to the current team. He made a mental note to talk to Katie later about the issue. It might be worth a team meeting to talk about 'The Gryffindor Way' to play Quidditch.
Just after a quick glance at the scoreboard, which showed Gryffindor in the lead 120-20, a glint of gold coupled with a diving Ravenclaw Seeker grabbed his attention.
Quickly zeroing in on the snitch, Harry seemed to leap through the air as he streaked after his quarry. Despite finding the snitch first, the Ravenclaw seeker was further away from it than Harry was. The outcome was inevitable and the match ended in a dominating Gryffindor victory.
As the house congregated around the players to celebrate the victory, Harry wrapped his free arm around his wife. She gave him a quick kiss and he a beaming smile for her when a tapping on his shoulder caught Harry's attention.
Turning, Harry saw the other members of the '93 Gryffindor team. All were bedecked in scarlet and gold, Oliver was beaming and the Twins danced to a tune that only they heard. Alicia and Angelina waved to the Potters as they tracked down Katie.
"Hey, guys," Harry greeted.
"Hey, mate," Oliver replied. "Mozeliak is on the edge of having a baby; he wants to sign you so badly."
Harry smiled. After the summer training with the lads, he was very partial to playing for Puddlemere, even if they didn't have the biggest fees. "Have him call Boras, he's my agent."
"Speak of the devil," Fred mentioned as he nodded over Harry's shoulder.
Turning once again, Harry saw Scott Boras wading through the crowd. His agent waved for Harry to meet him in the stands. After a quick goodbye to their friends, Harry and Gabrielle pushed their way through the crowd to meet Boras in the Hufflepuff stands.
"Afternoon, Harry, Gabrielle."
"Afternoon, Scott. What's the word?"
Glancing around, Boras scooted closer to his client and told him, "Puddlemere is offering fifty thousand galleons for the right to exclusive first negotiations with you."
Harry stared. "They're offering fifty-k just to be the first to talk to me?"
Boras smiled, showing lots of teeth. "Yes."
"Take it and cash the check quickly."
Harry and Gabrielle laughed. After they all settled, Harry mentioned, "Just to let you know, I'm leaning hard toward Puddlemere."
Boras nodded, expecting the news. He had seen whom Harry and Gabrielle were chatting with after the match. At the same time, though, "Just keep an open mind. They could trade the Twins tomorrow or Wood could have an accident."
Harry nodded, "Right. Just so you know…"
"Understood. I'll let United know that you accept their offer and begin negotiations." He handed Harry a sealed scroll, "Here's a list of items that I think you can successfully demand as entering arguments for you contract. No trade clauses, image rights, travel accommodations for you and Lady Potter and the like. Take a look and we can talk next weekend. If you've any questions, owl me or Floo me. You've my Floo address at work and home, right?"
Harry nodded, a bit overwhelmed. Boras smiled a friendlier grin. "It seems a bit much now, but your contract is a big deal so you need to be prepared. Thankfully, the negotiations will be slow. It's a lot of money for a lot of years in a Quidditch lifetime, so Puddlemere won't rush into things. I'll explain everything as we go. In the list," he nodded to the scroll, "are the contract lengths I think you can safely get. The longer, the better is the rule of thumb."
Ten minutes later, Boras bounced out of the stands, a happy agent. Harry wrapped his arms around his wife, a bit shell-shocked. She rubbed his chest and muttered so that only he heard, "All will be well."
"So long as I have you, it will."
DELACOUR ELECTED PRESIDENT OF FRANCE
Gabrielle squeaked when she saw the headline of the Daily Prophet. The family had discussed, via owl, the possibility of Henri's ascension to the highest office in magical France. President Balfour was not seeking re-election due to health reasons, so Henri was the leading candidate for office. Henri and Marie had been thankful that the election process for magical France precluded formal campaigning by hopefuls. Le Confederation Magique assembled; members nominated eligible persons and then voted. It was remarkably similar to the election of a Pope by the College of Cardinals. It lacked the white smoke, though.
Many people would be excited if their father or father in law was elected as the President of a country. However, Harry and Gabrielle were particularly undecided. Henri would have a bigger target on him now. As Foreign Minister and father in law of Harry Potter, Henri's security detail was impressive. Gabrielle could only imagine the increase now that he was President.
Counterbalancing the danger was the opportunity to help people. Despite being a politician, Henri had a noble streak in him that demanded he work for the betterment of all. Because of his heritage, Henri had a soft spot for equal rights for all magical creatures. However, because of his heritage, he was unable to make significant inroads into fair treatment policy. Far too many of the career civil servants knew of his ancestry and held it against him.
Time would tell how effective he would be.
"Pardon, my Lady."
Turning, Gabrielle and Harry saw Auror D'artagn behind them. "I see that you have heard about your father's election," he nodded to the newspaper. "When you are finished with your meal, we need to discuss security arrangements for the two of you."
They nodded and finished their meal quickly. Following D'artagn to the Hogwarts Garrison offices, they were joined by Tonks. As the foursome sat, D'artagn mentioned, "Auror Tonks is our British liaison officer for your security detail." Two more French Aurors entered the office and stood off to the side.
"My Lady, my Lord, may I introduce Auror Lafayette and Auror Ney. They are also on your security detail. Within the castle, you shall be accompanied at all times by one Auror. Whenever you leave the school grounds, we shall assign extra security that is based on your destination."
What followed was a briefing that guaranteed two things: Harry and Gabrielle would have very little privacy for the foreseeable future and it would be a huge hassle to do minor things like Christmas shopping, much less the significant events.
As they headed to class, Harry observed, "Fleur and Bill's wedding is going to be chaos."
Gabi snorted, "That's an understatement." With an impish smile, she teased, "I think I'm going to write her a letter, extolling the virtues of elopement and marriage contracts."
Harry laughed in response, pulling her close. "I think your mother would kill us. She didn't get a wedding for her youngest; I think she'd go 'round the twist if she didn't get one for Fleur."
"But it would be so much fun!" Gabi exclaimed with bubbling laughter. They laughed and exposited various curses and punishments that Marie would devise in retribution. The Potters smiled through the rest of the day despite the new looming threat.
"Tonks, you're great, but I'm very tired of you and the others following us around."
"Understood, Harrikins. But Scrimgeour and Hammer would nail my hide to the doors of the castle if anything happened to you two on my watch."
Harry groaned at Tonks' use of the Twins' favourite nickname for him. Surrendering to the inevitable defeat of his arguments, he raised his hands while conceding, "I give up. I just don't like it."
The Metamorphmagus flopped into the chair next to Harry. "For what it's worth, I understand that you must be feeling pretty closed in with your constant minders."
He sighed, "I'm just whinging. Don't mind me."
She smiled and changed the subject, "What time does the party start?"
As Harry pulled his watch from his pocket he replied, "Seven o'clock. Looks like we're going to be fashionably late."
From the doorway of their bedroom, Gabrielle asked, "Are you complaining, mon cher?"
Harry turned to her only to be struck dumb. He knew his wife was beautiful. Every day he saw her beauty, both inside and out. Gabrielle looked fabulous in Hogwarts robes and her fluffy dressing gown. However, tonight she had taken special care while dressing and doing her hair.
Radiant. Gorgeous. Stunning. Dazzling. Striking.
They all fell short.
She was simply the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen or could imagine. Perhaps the tender look of love that graced her expression accentuated his perception. Most likely, his devotion to her heightened his evaluation of her assets. His love for her whole person decidedly drew out any and all aspects of her beauty for him.
Wordless, he rose and approached her. While maintaining eye contact, he gently grasped her hand and brought it to his lips. After placing a gentle kiss on the back of her hand, he whispered, "I am utterly yours."
Smiling through her devotion, she responded, "As I am yours."
"Shall we?" he asked, as he indicated the door.
"We shall." The Potters headed to the dungeons for their final 'Slug Club' meeting with their very dangerous minder in tow.
In a moment of rare seriousness, Tonks silently wondered if she'd ever find someone to love in the same manner that the Potters loved each other. "Or someone who'll love me in turn," she muttered.
"Ah! My Lord! My Lady! So good to see you!" Slughorn had positioned himself at the door of his expanded quarters, lying in wait for his most famous students.
The Potions Professor began to show off the Potters like a prize bull and heifer to his other guests. Eventually, they made their way to a Slughorn devotee who was trying to convince the Potters to let them write a biopic of their lives so far. "We'll call it, The Potters at Hogwarts."
Ignoring the boor, Gabrielle noticed the tall, cadaverously thin and pale man standing behind the author. He was staring at Gabrielle, but not in the usual lustful manner of which she was, unfortunately, very familiar.
"Oh," the author murmured when he noticed Gabrielle eying the man with a distrustful look. "This is Sanguini, he's a vampire. I've just finished up a biopic about him to be released this month. Just in time for Christmas!"
"How do you do?" the vampire asked as he reached for Gabrielle's hand.
Harry reached for his wand, but wasn't fast enough. Before anyone could blink, Tonks interposed herself between Gabrielle and Sanguini. The vampire was now eying the Veela as if she were a iced sherbet on a hot day. Over her shoulder, Tonks directed Harry and Gabrielle, "Move."
The Potters backed away from the Vampire and in the process, Harry bumped into Gwenog Jones.
The Potions Professor, in an attempt to recover from his Vampiric faux pas, exclaimed, "Gwenog! How are you my dear? I'd like to introduce you to…"
"We've met," the brusque witch interrupted. "How are you, Harry, Gabrielle?"
Remembering her 'discussion' with Oliver from the summer, Harry smiled and replied, "We're well. You?"
"Not bad. Took a bludger in the back from one of those redheaded maniac friends of yours last week. Still a bit stiff."
"I heard it on the wireless. It was a pretty exciting match."
She nodded into her drink. "The Twins have really helped Puddlemere. Their chaser line isn't anything flashy, but they're solid." She cocked an amused eyebrow, "You going to sign with them?"
Harry chuckled. "We'll see. How are Angie and Alicia?"
All business again, Gwenog answered, "They're doing well. They hooped for seventeen goals against Puddlemere."
"Against Oliver?" Gabrielle gasped.
Gwenog smiled and nodded. "Too bad you've the wrong wedding tackle, Harry. We could use a good seeker."
Gabrielle wrapped her arm around Harry, "I think he has exactly the right wedding tackle."
The captain of the Holyhead Harpies laughed. "I suppose you would think that. It was good seeing you two." Gwenog nodded and moved over to talk to Katie Bell, who'd just come in.
"Interesting," Harry commented.
"Looks like Katie may be the next chaser for the Harpies," Gabrielle agreed.
Turning away from their friend, Harry saw the Potions Professor waiting for them to recognize him. The Lord Potter decided to acknowledge the man, but not in the way Slughorn had probably hoped.
"Professor, I'd like to know what the hell you were thinking inviting an Vampire into the school, much less to this party?" Harry scowled at the now sweating Professor of Potions.
"Voldemort is raging out there," Harry waved his hand in a general way to indicate society in general. "Who knows if the Vampire clans have been suborned and you bring an undead creature that feasts on human blood inside the wards of the castle."
Over the podgy man's shoulder, Harry saw Tonks escorting the incapacitated and now hovering undead creature from the room, the protesting author keeping pace. Before she left the room, Tonks caught Harry's eye and motioned for the Potters to stay at the party. Harry nodded while the head of Slytherin house began to protest.
"My Lord! I…I, had no idea that Sanguini would be here…"
Rolling his eyes, Harry interrupted, "Bollocks. How long was he here before we arrived?"
"Oh, well. I'm sure I don't know…"
Severely annoyed, Harry turned away from the man and stalked off. Gabrielle slowly followed, smiling to the important persons who were watching the 'festivities' surrounding Harry, Gabrielle and Slughorn.
Most of them returned the smile, amused that Harry had called the self proclaimed 'Power Broker' on his usual games. Catching up to her husband at the drinks table, Gabrielle leaned in to him and whispered, "Calm down. You're on the verge of making a scene."
Sighing, he apologized, "Sorry. That man just irritates the crap out of me."
Gabi rubbed his back, "Me, too. Don't let him bother you, though. He's a bug."
Harry laughed, "Don't you mean an invertebrate?"
She smiled; it always made her feel good when Harry was in high spirits.
"Hi, guys," greeted Hermione from behind the table.
Harry turned to see Hermione dressed in simple yet elegant robes. She was smiling widely and dropped Gabrielle a wink before saying, "So, Harry. Annoyed much?"
Gabi began giggling into her hand as Hermione laughed under her breath. Confused, Harry looked between the two before asking, "What?"
This prompted the two witches to laugh aloud. Between breaths, Hermione explained, "We had a bet how long you'd last before you snapped at Professor Slughorn. My wager was ten minutes or less." She turned to Gabrielle and smiled, "I'll collect my winnings tomorrow at breakfast, thank you very much."
Turning to his wife, Harry asked, "How long did you bet I'd last."
Gabrielle gave him a small kiss before replying, "I had much more confidence in you, mon cher."
"How long?" he persisted.
"Fifteen minutes," she answered with a smile.
Rolling his eyes at his own predictability, Harry groaned, "I'm so reassured that the most important people in my life have such high expectations of my behaviour."
"Oh, get over yourself," Hermione teased as she reached for the crudités, loading up her plate.
Harry stuck his tongue out at his friend before asking, "So, are you here with anyone?"
Gabrielle saw a hooded look in her friend's expression as she replied, "Not really."
Harry frowned and was about to follow up on the question when Gabrielle squeezed his hand. Harry looked at this wife with a questioning glance.
"Mon cher, would you please refresh our drinks?"
Harry deliberately looked at his full butterbeer and Gabrielle's full wine glass before he caught on to her meaning.
"Right. Be back in a jiffy."
Gabrielle sidled around the table and hooked her arm in Hermione's. "Come, we've much to discuss."
When they had settled in a quiet corner, Gabrielle decided to 'go fishing', "So, you are uncomfortable with asking a boy for a date?"
Hermione blushed. "Not so much uncomfortable, but…afraid, really." The last was whispered so quietly that Gabrielle almost didn't hear her friend.
Hermione half shrugged while sipping from her glass of wine. After a long silence, she began, "I've always been very shy. Hiding behind books was an easy way around it." She waved her hand in a general way toward the crowd, "You've seen that I don't have many friends. For the longest time it was just Harry and Ron."
Gabrielle harrumphed at the mention of Ron Weasley. The tall redhead was still on the list of her least favourite persons due to his treatment of Harry and Hermione.
"You and I are excellent friends, but I only felt comfortable reaching out to you because of Harry."
"What about Neville, Susan and the Twins? Aren't they your friends, also?"
Nodding her agreement, Hermione replied, "Very true."
"So, it seems that you are beginning to outgrow your shyness. What is the real issue? Why are you afraid?" Gabrielle tried to be gentle, but firm with her friend. On more than one occasion, her mama had to extract information that Gabrielle hadn't wanted to discuss, but needed to speak of nonetheless.
"This summer. Ron," Hermione whispered.
Gabrielle didn't say anything, understanding blooming full form in her mind. Reaching out, she embraced her friend. The damage done by Ron Weasley's unthinking self-centeredness coupled with the kidnapping over the summer had caused significant damage that wouldn't be repaired overnight. Hermione sniffled a bit, but didn't cry. The time for tears was over.
Harry returned, balancing two white wines and a butterbeer, Tonks in tow and D'artagn over her shoulder. "Hey, found you…what's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing. Girl talk," Hermione answered. "Thanks," she said as she reached for her refill.
Afterwards, Harry was reluctant to ever admit it, but once they'd shed Slughorn he had a good time at the party. Gwenog aside, it was a very eclectic and interesting group: researchers, politicians, giants of industry, athletes and, of course, the professors.
Strolling back to their quarters, Tonks a discreet distance behind them, they chatted in low tones. D'artagn had returned to the Garrison when they'd determined that no other undead creatures or other threats to their principals existed at the party.
"What was going on with Hermione?" Harry asked.
Gabrielle sighed. "Between the kidnapping this summer and Ron revealing his true colours during fourth year, she is very wary of dating anyone. Combine that with her shyness and it will be some time before she enters in a relationship with anyone."
"Hermione? Shy? You're kidding, right."
Poking her husband in the ribs, she told him, "If she hadn't been your best friend after you saved her life, I seriously doubt you'd know her now."
Harry frowned. It was difficult to imagine his life without his oldest friend. Doing his best to be objective, he took a few mental steps back from the situation and thought while his feet carried him home.
"Ok, I see it," he told her as they entered their quarters. He gave Tonks an absent wave goodnight as he shut the portrait. "Can I help her?" he asked.
With a regretful expression, Gabrielle shook her head. "Not really. Just be her friend."
"And skin anyone who hurts her?" he asked in a hopeful voice.
She moved into his arms as she chuckled. "You've already done that once."
With a grim expression, Harry remembered the grisly conclusion of Hermione's kidnapping. "I'd do it again."
She nodded against his chest. "So would I."
The last two weeks of the fall term was a blur of tests and last minute studying. Since Harry, Gabrielle, Hermione and Ginny Weasley were all in the wedding party for Fleur and Bill's wedding, they all left school a week early. This, in turn, compressed their study schedules. For the three sixth years, it wasn't that bad. Ginny, however, was pulling at her flame coloured hair by the time they congregated in Professor McGonagall's office. OWL year on top of a compressed schedule was stressing the redheaded witch more than usual. Ginny was to use the Floo to return to the Burrow, while Harry, Gabrielle and Hermione used the Floo to travel to the Three Broomsticks.
Their security team had a man at the pub who gave the Potters an 'all clear' nod. A quick apparition to Crawley from the Hogsmeade pub deposited Hermione at her home. After a quick greeting to Mr. and Mrs. Granger, Harry and Gabrielle reassured the elder Grangers that they were welcome to wear muggle clothing or robes to the wedding, whichever was most comfortable. The wedding was going to be massive and Gabrielle explained that her sister had many muggle friends who would be attending. Dresses and suits would be worn almost as much as robes.
Promising to meet up with their friends the next day, the Potters headed to Paris and the Île de la Cité. Hermione and her parents were going to drive over the next day via the Calais ferry.
Usually, the Delacour household was a model of tranquillity. It was an island of calm happiness in a sea of turbulence from the outside world. The tone was set by Henri. The man had the patience of a saint and it influenced the entire family. On more than one occasion, Harry had wondered if anyone was at home, the house was so quiet.
Marie was more exuberant than her husband was. Her emotions were usually worn on her sleeve. At the same time, her iron will afforded her a level of control over herself that Harry had never seen. Not even Minerva McGonagall could as ruthlessly push aside her feelings as Marie Delacour could.
The easy familiarity that Harry's family had with each other had been a balm for his old wounds. The Burrow had been a madhouse, exciting in its newfound example of how a family could interact. It was exciting for a while, but Harry was an introvert. After a while, the frenetic activity of the household in Devon wore him out. He knew he couldn't live like the Weasleys did.
The calm tranquillity of the Delacour household was a lifestyle that he embraced. When he and Gabrielle moved out on their own either at the end of this year or the near future, the serenity of Henri and Marie's house was his goal to emulate.
Therefore, Harry was shocked when they appeared in the entry hall of the Delacour home to hear a gabble of voices, distant shouts and even the screeching of an owl. The two man security team in the hall had their wands out, conducting scans of the two new arrivals for the use of glamours and Polyjuice potion.
Ignoring the now routine presence of security, Harry looked to Gabrielle with concern on his face about the noise. She giggled, "Bill's family is staying here for the next week before the wedding."
Nodding, Harry smiled, "Your mother is going to kill Molly."
Now Gabrielle laughed outright. The Twins, Harry and Hermione had painted a very vivid portrait of the Weasley matriarch. "Probably."
Two house elves popped into the foyer, retrieving the Potters shrunken luggage. Harry divested his wife of her travelling cloak and handed it to a third elf. They began to head into the house to find the family when George (or was it Fred?) scampered around the corner, an expression of fear on his face.
"What?" Harry barked, drawing his wand. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two French Aurors mirroring his action.
The other twin barrelled around the corner after his brother. "What are you waiting for? Run!"
"What the hell is going on?" Harry demanded.
With an expression of terror, the twins replied, "Mum."
Stunned, Harry stood there for a second as the Twins ran out the front door. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and grabbed Harry's hand. "Come, mon cher. They are being idiots. Let's find mama."
Shaking his head, Harry walked next to his wife, muttering about morons with more energy than sense. The security team shook their heads in annoyance before Disillusioning themselves.
"Oh, Harry! Gabrielle! It's good to see you!" the voice of Molly Weasley exclaimed. She bustled over to the Potters as she said, "Now that you're here, I'm sure that you can lend a hand. We need…"
Gabrielle interrupted her, "It is very good to see you, Mrs. Weasley. We need to find mama and Fleur. Thank you." She smiled broadly to the redheaded matriarch as she pulled her husband toward the main sitting room.
When they turned the corner in the hall, Gabrielle scowled. "Fleur sent a letter yesterday. She told me that Bill's mother had been intolerable. She seems to think that she is in charge of my sister's wedding."
Harry shook his head and chuckled. "Mrs. Weasley has been 'in charge' for most of her life with her brood. It's probably a reflex to be a bit bossy."
Narrowing her eyes, Gabrielle conceded, "Maybe." She continued in a snappish tone, "And maybe she's a bossy-pants who can't keep her opinions to herself about things that aren't her business."
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Whoa. What'd I do?"
Gabrielle sighed, "Sorry. Fleur's letter was pretty long and she was very upset with Mrs. Weasley. She's been telling Fleur and mama that everything was all wrong. From the menu at the reception to the colours for the church.
"Apparently, it's been 'Well when I got married, we did this' or 'I always thought it would be'. Only once did she say 'Well, a proper wedding should have'. It seems that mama was digging in a box for a colour book when Mrs. Weasley said that. Fleur said mama stopped digging, slowly stood and pierced Molly with a glare that would have had Fleur in tears. Mr. Weasley read the situation correctly and excused himself and his wife. She returned shortly thereafter and apologized."
Harry shook his head. A pop from the entry hall caught his attention and he heard Molly greeting Ginny. Arthur must have apparated her from the Burrow.
"Mama!" Gabrielle exclaimed as they entered the sitting room. Marie's face was a bit tired, but when she saw her youngest child, the woman's expression brightened perceptibly. Harry saw Bill, Fleur and Henri in the room, with three other persons he didn't know.
Embracing Fleur, he asked, "Who're they?"
Fleur whispered, "The wedding planners and the chief of papa's security team. We're going over some last minute flower arrangements and the invitation list. The President of muggle France and the Queen of muggle Britain are attending now, so the security personnel are going crazy."
Shaking his head in sympathy, Harry asked, "Everything else done?"
"Oh, yes," Bill replied as he shook Harry's hand in greeting.
"But then, what's…?" he tailed off.
"My mum doing that's pissing off everyone?" Bill finished with a grin. Fleur had an amused look of disapproval on her face.
"Well, yeah," Harry answered, a bit red in the face.
Bill pulled Harry off to the side as Fleur and Gabrielle embraced. "As I'm sure you've figured out by now, my mother has a few control issues and isn't shy about letting her opinions be known."
Harry smiled at the understatement. "Really? I would've never known."
Bill returned his almost brother in law's smile. "Yeah, it's hard to pick up on some times." They shared a small laugh, before Bill continued. "Mum's just being mum. She crossed the line with Marie the other day so dad jumped on her back. I caught hell from Fleur, so I jumped on mum later. She's left it alone since then." Bill focused on Harry with a hint of humour, "She's focusing on the rehearsal dinner."
Harry's head dropped in mock despair, while Bill laughed heartily.
"Robe fittings. Joy." Harry grumbled as he and the rest of the wedding party trekked into the ballroom of the Delacour house. There were a series of partitions set up for everyone to dress. Harry, Gabrielle, Ginny, Hermione, Charlie Weasley and two of Bill's cursebreaker friends were milling about. The rest of the bridesmaids and groomsmen were to trickle in through the day. The parents of the bride and groom were to be fitted after lunch.
Hermione had arrived mid morning, her parents in tow. They'd left very early to beat the traffic and caught the first ferry from Dover. Fortunately, it had been a light day for traffic in Paris. 'Light traffic' for the City of Light is a relative term, unfortunately. Steven Granger had required a large whiskey to restore his nerves while he and Henri commiserated on the phenomenon.
Currently, Ginny was in a corner buried behind a stack of books. Hermione had offered to help her revise, but Ginny had shaken her off, saying, "Thanks, but I just have to memorize these bloody Goblin rebellion dates."
In an act of supreme mercy, the tailors had attended to the men first. Harry finished up with his fitting in a quick ten minutes. Formal dress robes were so similar to a tuxedo that no one would probably notice the difference.
He stepped out from behind his curtained fitting area to see the eldest Weasley brothers chatting off to the side. Waving to his wife, Harry approached the two redheads.
"Hey, guys. I was going to hop to Toulon to check on our boat. Would you like to come with?"
Charlie laughed, "To get out of this mad-house? Let's go!"
Bill smiled and motioned for the other two to wait. He headed to his betrothed and after a quick exchange, headed back to his oldest and newest brother.
"Get permission?" Charlie teased.
After a quick two fingered salute, Bill muttered, "Let's get out of here before mum shows up."
The men moved to the entry hall to grab their coats. After conjuring a brass ring, Harry cast a quick Portkey spell and two minutes later, the threesome was standing outside of Master Shipwright Proteus' offices.
The wind off the bay was brisk, causing Harry to flip up the collar of his jacket. Ducking his head in the office, he found no one home. There was a sign on the table reading 'Am at stocks' accompanied by a small map which showed the way.
As they threaded their way through crates, winterized boats, ships unloading cargo and the rest of the hustle and bustle of an active port facility, Harry found himself very excited about seeing the Gabi. Rowan Hill was the family seat. Wonderful as it was and as excited as he and Gabrielle were about living there, it wasn't really his. The same was true for White Rock. Eventually, he and Gabrielle would inherit the wonderful retreat, but it would always be Marie and Henri's home in his mind.
The Gabi was his. Just like her namesake, the sailing yacht was Harry's and no one else's.
Rounding the last corner, he came on a fenced in area of the port. "Over here," Charlie called as he pointed off to the left. As Harry moved to the gate, he heard Charlie exclaim, "Holy shit."
Turning the corner, Harry saw the enormous hull of the Gabi up on stocks. It was complete and had the base coats of paint applied. From inside the boat they heard copious amounts of cursing in French, Latin, English and a lilting language that Bill identified as Irish Gaelic.
"She's beautiful," Harry gushed.
"C'mon mate," Bill entreated, "Let's go see the rest of your new girl."
"Does Gabrielle know about this one?" Charlie teased.
Harry apparated to the top of a scaffolding next to the sailboat and peered over the edge. He had first thought to apparate to the main deck, but was now glad that he hadn't as there was no main deck to stand on.
The hull, ribs, crossbeams and knees of the boat were all in place and that was it. No decks, no bulkheads and no ladders. The Gabi looked like the world's largest canoe. Down in her bilges, three men were alternately hammering, casting spells and shouting at each other in various languages.
"Er, excuse me."
All three looked up at Harry and the Weasley brothers.
The oldest man scowled and spat, "What?"
"Is Proteus around?"
"He'll be back soon. Get off my boat."
Irritated, Harry shot back, "It's my fucking boat and I'll stand wherever I want."
"Go fuck a goat and get off my boat you pipsqueak!"
From behind them, a voice explained, "You'll have to excuse Jacques. He was drinking until four AM and still hasn't really recovered."
Turning, Harry saw a middle aged man levitating a large wooden crate. With a quick flick of his wand, he sent the crate down into the hull of the Gabi. The labourers began pulling out planks and tools from the bottomless crate to continue their work.
"How do you do, I'm Marcel Beaufort, apprentice to Master Shipwright Proteus. And you are…?"
After introductions were made, Beaufort led the visitors away from the stocks explaining the progress of the Gabi's construction. "The hull and supports are the most time consuming. Since your boat is hand crafted, all the mundane working of the wood takes time. Layering the spell work on top of that time really stretches out construction." He gave Harry a smile filled with professional pride, "But your boat will never sink."
Following a reassuring conversation, the group rode a portkey back to Paris. Harry headed up to his and Gabrielle's room to start his holiday homework.
Which is where Gabrielle found him an hour and a half later.
"How is the boat coming along?" she asked as she lay across the bed.
"Well enough," he replied. Shifting to the bed, he propped her feet in his lap and began rubbing them. As she groaned in pleasure, he asked, "How was the fitting?"
"Nightmare," she replied.
She cracked an eye open, "Because Fleur is a nervous wreck. Because my mother is trying to prove to Molly Weasley that it is a Delacour wedding, not a Weasley wedding. Because you left me all alone to deal with the big bad posturing parents."
She said the last with a smile on her face and flopped back on the bed so he could carry on his ministrations to her feet.
Realizing that any attempt to justify his behaviour was doomed to failure, he summoned a bottle of lotion, applied a healthy amount to his wife's feet and continued to massage them.
"You are so very hired. Talk to my husband to arrange your pay."
Harry laughed, "Was it really that bad?"
She sighed. "Not really. Mama was a bit of a boor and Fleur is understandably nervous. I just wanted to enjoy the event."
He wiped the excess lotion on his forearms before crawling up next to her. She rolled on her side, allowing him to spoon behind her. "I won't leave you with the big bad parents for the rest of break, alright?"
She giggled and wiggled back into his embrace. As Harry held Gabrielle in his arms, he contemplated family. He realized that his in-laws were flawed people. Henri and Marie could be snobbish and Fleur could be so as well. Bill had a major inferiority complex that it seemed all the Weasley's inherited in one form or another.
Gabrielle was perfect to him, though. Oh, she was a bed hog of the first order. Over homework she could give Hermione a run for her money in the 'most obsessed over stupid shit' category. When she didn't get her way, sometimes she could be very sharp with her tongue. Most annoyingly, she squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle, not the end. Not all those things really mattered, though.
"I would walk through the fires of hell for you," he muttered, not realizing that he had spoken.
Gabrielle turned in his arms to look at him quizzically. "As I would for you, mon cher."
He answered her unspoken question. "I was thinking about family. Our family is not populated with perfect people. They're all flawed, just as I am. But that doesn't matter; I love them more than I could ever have imagined when I was suffering in Surrey." He caressed her cheek as he looked into her eyes, "But you…you're my life. My love. I would walk through the fires of hell for you."
Slowly, he leaned in and kissed her. It was a gentle kiss. One of promise and commitment. Love and affection. After a short moment, he broke the kiss and pulled her to him. Resting her head on his chest, Gabrielle almost began to weep as her feelings were so powerful, rioting through her heart like they were.
Eventually, they roused themselves. Harry finished the Transfiguration essay that McGonagall had set, while Gabrielle worked on her Arithmancy homework.
The gong sounded in the entry hall, announcing lunch. Harry had to chuckle as it sounded like a herd of wildebeest tromping through the halls of the home as the Delacours, Potters, Grangers and Weasleys all made their way to the dining room.
Harry felt like he was eating in the Great Hall as eleven residents plus the three Grangers sat to table. Ron wasn't due until the morning, while Ginny wasn't present.
"Where's Ginny?" Harry asked Hermione.
She shrugged, "Studying, I suppose."
Hermione looked about to see if anyone was watching before leaning into her oldest friend. "I haven't really talked to her in a while, but you know she had a huge crush on you."
Harry groaned. The squeaking and running from the youngest Weasley had been very tiresome the summer before second year. "Yeah, and?"
Another shrug from Hermione before she elaborated, "I'm not sure how 'gone' it really is."
"But Gabrielle and I've been married for a year and a half!"
There was a final shrug before Hermione attended to her meal. Harry shook his head in annoyance as he scooped asparagus from the serving platter to his plate. Gabrielle noticed and gave him a questioning look.
"Later," he muttered and began to devour his meal.
Attempting to avoid the tension between Marie and Molly Weasley, the Potters and Hermione silently slogged through the delicious meal. A quick ten minutes later, Harry handed Gabrielle and Hermione from their chairs and led them all to the Potters' rooms.
A quick Silencing charm later allowed Harry to speak freely. "Hermione, tell Gabrielle what you told me."
Hermione sighed in resignation, "I don't know if that's what's going on."
Rolling his eyes as he pulled three Charms books from his trunk, Harry ordered his friend, "Tell her."
Hermione then related to Gabrielle the history of Ginevra Weasley's crush on one Harry Potter. At the end of the story, Gabrielle was giggling and poking her husband in the ribs.
"It's not funny!" he protested.
"Yes, it is," she collapsed in mirth. "Is the little girl bothering you, mon cher? Do I have to defend my claim on you?" By now, Hermione was laughing alongside her friend.
"Yes! It does bother me," he exclaimed in all seriousness.
Seeing his reaction, both young women calmed. Gabrielle reached out for his hand and gave him a squeeze. "I'm sorry, but it is rather amusing. What young Ginny feels is her business, not yours. You can't be responsible if she fails to accept the reality that you and she can never be together."
Hermione nodded in support of Gabrielle's statement. "Harry, it's a crush that'll pass. Don't worry about it."
Pulling a face, Harry complained, "I don't like hurting anyone's feelings if I can't help it."
Both Gabrielle and Hermione smiled softly. "That's my Harry," Hermione whispered.
"Indeed," Gabrielle concurred.
"So what do I do?" he asked.
"Treat her the same as you've always done," Gabrielle advised.
"Ignore her then?"
"Well, yes." Hermione told him. "I'm not even sure that she's still crushing on you as hard as she had, but I do know that she fancied you quite a bit last year."
"Great," Harry murmured.
"Oh, quit this!" Gabrielle teased. "It's Christmas and I'll not let some little chit ruin our holiday. My sister is being married the day after tomorrow and the day after that is Christmas." Fixing Harry with a mock glare she growled, "You'd better shape up or ship out, buster."
"Yes, dear," Harry replied with a grin. Hermione and Gabrielle began giggling all over again.
The trio sequestered themselves in the Potter rooms for the rest of the afternoon. They worked on homework, chatted with the twins for a bit and escaped out of doors with Charlie, his girlfriend Alexa, the Twins and the newly arrived Sirius and Hestia.
"Where to?" asked George.
"The Louvre?" Gabrielle offered.
Before Hestia's bright expression could evolve into words, Fred snorted, "No way! I need food and fun. Mum's been driving us spare and it's time to cut loose a little."
Harry nervously glanced at Hermione. The last time they'd cut loose in France, his oldest friend had been kidnapped. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sirius, Hestia and Gabrielle checking on Hermione as well.
She must have noticed the attention because she gave a gentle smile while nodding.
George noticed the byplay, so he elbowed his twin hard before declaring, "Whatever is good with you all. I am a bit peckish, though."
"Let's go muggle," Charlie offered.
Therefore, they wandered. Sticking mostly to the Left Bank, they meandered in and out of coffee shops, stores and small art galleries. Some of them were absolute shit, but there were a few gems to be found.
Harry was finally becoming a bit more comfortable with the Potter fortune. Possibly, because he was beginning to earn his own money as part of his Quidditch career. Boras had sent regular updates and the one time potential signing with Puddlemere was looking more and more probable as time passed. Purchasing expensive items didn't cause him to flinch as it had not that long ago.
Gabi selected eight paintings and three sculptures during the afternoon. Harry's Shrinking charm was a godsend. At one point, Hermione had been admiring an Impressionist work when Harry asked what she thought.
"It's beautiful, but…"
A slight frown creased his forehead, "But what?
"Well, it's sixteen thousand Francs."
He waited until she moved on so that he could purchase the painting for her without hearing a slew of protests. As he paid the bill, Gabrielle approached and murmured in his ear, "For Christmas?" She had seen the interaction between Harry and Hermione.
He nodded. "Too much?"
"Non. Just like Bill, Hermione must acclimate to the fact that we will purchase incredibly expensive things for her because we love her."
Fred and George turned out to be shockingly good surveyors of art. They had no training whatsoever, but as George put it, "I know what I like and what I think is a steaming pile of crap. That over there," he pointed at a post modernist painting, "Is a steaming pile of crap. This here," he pointed to the Impressionist painting of a family at play that he was purchasing, "is beautiful." He gave Harry a bright smile, "It's kind of nice spending our first Quidditch pay check!"
Charlie chuckled as he purchased a small bust of a Dragon's head. Harry heard him tell Fred, "It's an Ironbelly. No idea how the artist got the design, but it's almost a perfect representation of a mature male Ironbelly."
They headed into a restaurant for dinner. As the nine-guest party crowded around the table, Harry called, "Padfoot! Come sit over here."
"Padfoot?" the twins gasped in unison.
"Oh, yeah. I never did tell you guys, did I?"
Fred stared at Harry while George gaped at Sirius. A bit bemused, Sirius cocked an eyebrow as he pulled out Hestia's chair for her.
"He's Padfoot?" George asked.
"Yep. My dad was Prongs and Professor Lupin is Moony."
Completely nonplussed, the Twins sat heavily on their chairs. Gabrielle and Hestia selected a few bottles of wine to start with while everyone perused their menus.
Eventually, the aroma of food brought Fred and George back to their senses. Sirius leaned to Harry and asked, "What was that all about?"
"Fred and George were our version of the Marauders. They nicked the map from Filch and then passed it on to me. Ever since they figured out the pass phrase, they've almost worshipped Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. They didn't go the animagus route and get names, but they were easily the biggest pranksters in school. You've heard of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes?"
"That's them," Harry pointed to the Twins.
"Really?" Sirius asked, a gleam in his eye. After a moment's thought, he called, "Lads, I've an idea."
Very respectfully, George responded, "Yes?"
"How about you hire me on to your shop as a technical advisor?"
George's mouth dropped open so Fred replied, "We'd be honoured."
"A galleon a month should cover it."
The three pranksters wolfed down their meals before heading out front to begin plotting and planning.
Hestia smiled to Harry and Gabrielle. "I've not seen him so happy since he was exonerated."
"I have," Gabrielle countered with a smile.
Confused, Hestia asked, "When?"
"When he talks about you," Gabrielle answered with a bigger smile. Hestia merely blushed and sipped her wine.
The party loudly tromped into the entry hall of the Delacour home. Laughing and carrying on, the family was in high spirits. It had started to snow on the way home and the Weasley brothers had started a snowball fight. Of course, Harry and Sirius had enthusiastically joined.
A host of elves popped in to take their coats and cloaks. While they were shedding their outer garments, Gabrielle kissed Harry on the cheek and told him, "I'm going to check on Fleur. See you in a bit."
She scampered up the wide stairs and headed down the hall of the east wing to Fleur's room. In a nod to propriety, Bill was 'sleeping' in the west wing. If anyone heard the pop of apparition in either of the betrothed's quarters, no one mentioned it.
As she raised her hand to knock, Gabrielle heard a muffled sob in her sister's room. Concerned, she began to open the door while she knocked. Walking in the room, she saw Fleur sitting on the bed, wrapped in Bill's arms. She was crying and he was holding her close while whispering to her. Gabrielle caught, "It doesn't matter. I love you," from her soon to be brother in law.
The couple looked up at Gabrielle, who asked, "What's happened?"
Fleur merely closed her eyes and snuggled back into Bill, so he answered, "My mum."
"Oh, dear," Gabrielle muttered as she moved to a chair. Sitting, she asked, "Can I help?"
Bill shook his head in negation. "Dad's taking care of it. Mum kind of went off this afternoon. She was rather brassed off that everyone was gone and she couldn't task anyone to do something for the wedding. She ended up picking a fight with Marie. It didn't go well."
Gabrielle flinched as her imagination conjured the scenario. "But why…?"
"Why does she do this? Despite her behaviour, my mum is really a very loving and caring woman. See, she lost her brothers in the last Voldemort war and ever since, she's been petrified to lose dad or one of us kids. She goes into these controlling fits when she gets uneasy about one of us. I suppose the wedding of her eldest son is stressful enough, but add on top of it the Death Eater attack this summer, the fact that your dad is Minister of France and Harry being my almost brother in law…she's scared she'll lose me too."
Taken aback at the description, Gabrielle asked, "She told you this?"
Bill smiled, "Oh no. I doubt she's thought it through to that degree. Dad told me."
"Ah." She paused, "And my sister?"
Fleur's muffled voice arose from her betrothed's shoulder, "Is very mad at my mother and his mother and wish they'd both bugger off!"
Gabrielle's eyes narrowed. Bill, familiar with Delacour women and their temper, nervously asked, "Are you going to hex them?"
With a cold smile, Gabrielle stood and answered, "No. I'm only going to have a bit of a chat with them. That's all."
Gabrielle strode into the Weasley parent's bedroom without knocking. With a forbidding expression, she turned on the blotchy faced mother and the red faced father. "Come with me," she beckoned. Not daring to refuse the obviously irate young woman, Arthur and Molly followed.
She led them to the family sitting room, where Marie and Henri were taking their ease after their 'strenuous' afternoon.
"Please sit," she commanded the Weasleys. Withdrawing her wand, she Silenced the room.
Marie had straightened up when she saw the redheads enter the room. She adopted a hostile stance and was about to hurl vituperation at Molly when Gabrielle broke the silence.
"You are all behaving like children."
Completely taken aback, the four parents stared at the Lady Potter.
"You are squabbling like children, you are flinging insults like children, you are crying like children and you are pouting like children. In the process, you are ruining my sister's wedding to a most respectable and agreeable man that I care for greatly. Do you want to ruin your children's wedding?"
All four parents looked to their shoes and there was more than one suspicious sniff.
"That was not a rhetorical question!" Gabrielle informed them. Her voice was rising along with her temper.
"No. We don't want to ruin the wedding," Arthur responded in a soft voice. "Nor do we want to make our children unhappy."
Gabrielle glared at her mother who nodded. "Neither do I, cherie."
"Nor I," added Molly through her tears.
Henri, who had not really added to the fighting, but hadn't tried to stop it either, just nodded his agreement.
"Bon. Then you will publicly apologize to the family and then shut the hell up about the wedding until it is over! You will not offer opinions until or unless you are directly asked by either Bill or Fleur."
All four nodded in synchronization.
Gabrielle spun on her heel to leave the room. Over her shoulder, she called, "If you do not do this, I shall have Harry Silence the lot of you. That will ensure you cannot speak. I will not have Fleur and Bill hurt any further."
"Holy shit! You did what!"
Harry, Hermione, Bill and Fleur were lounging in Fleur's room as Gabrielle related what she had just done.
Fleur and Bill smiled widely while Hermione merely shook her head. Harry was still taken aback, but smiling the whole time. "You're the best," he exclaimed.
"Merci," Bill told Gabi.
She nodded in return. "Hopefully, things will be much more peaceful tomorrow."
The Potters and Hermione allowing the betrothed couple some privacy as they headed to their own rooms.
In the dark of the night, a one armed man prowled about the cathedral of Notre Dame for the sixth evening in a row. His team had been pouring over the gothic cathedral's ward plans, the expected security emplacements both magical and mundane while preparing their own plan.
Taking note of the new wards and protections, Severus Snape headed back to the flat he had rented under a false name. He narrowed his eyes and slouched, making him appear as if his back was humped. Scowling, he muttered as he moved off, "Now is the winter of our discontent…"
Harry rolled out of bed around five thirty. Watching the magnificent creature that was his wife slumber, he couldn't help smiling. She was gorgeous. She was beautiful. She was incredibly smart and witty. She loved him more than her own life. She was his.
"Forget the run," he mumbled to himself and moved back to bed. Sliding in next to Gabrielle, he reached for her. She groaned when his questing hands finally woke her in a very good way.
"Mon amour," she moaned.
They were late for breakfast.
They spent the rest of the morning finishing their holiday assignments. Overall, they had off light. In their magical government course, they had been assigned a spring term paper in which they were to select an aspect of the British Ministry of Magic that they either admired or disliked. Supporting their evaluation with logic, examples and philosophy was required.
Harry had selected an inflammatory topic: the history of institutionalised and legislated bigotry in British Magical Government. Gabrielle hadn't told Harry, but she'd decided to attack the management and laws surrounding magical orphans. The fact that Dumbledore could so easily usurp the Wizarding Office of Child Welfare and Management when he callously placed Harry with his Aunt and Uncle spoke volumes.
After knocking out a short essay for Defence, they meandered down to the library. Harry hoped to peruse the library here and at Rowan Hill in hopes that he could find sources that may not be available at Hogwarts.
Gabrielle reached for a book and absently opened it to the index. "Mon cher, have you thought about talking to Uncle Guillaume?"
Harry furrowed his brow in thought. He remembered Gabrielle and Fleur discussing their uncle, but couldn't remember the context. "Regarding…?"
"Your paper. Remember, Uncle Guillaume is a solicitor for Wizards Against Real-Politik. He may a bit…odd, but he knows the law inside and out. He's used his voluminous knowledge to successfully outmanoeuvre the Ministry on more than one occasion."
Remembering now, he asked, "Does your father resent his brother assaulting the institution that he's worked at all his life and is now become its head?"
Gabrielle chuckled, "Papa finds it amusing. Most of the time, Uncle Guillaume is addressing real shortfalls in the law or the administration of the law. He considers himself to be a self appointed watchdog to either right wrongs or prevent miscarriages of justice!" she finished with a flourish, stabbing her finger in the air very dramatically.
"Of course, there are the times when he makes a complete ass out of himself. A few months ago, he sued the government for the right to marry an animal."
Harry gaped at her. "Really?"
She shrugged, "He didn't want to marry an animal, he just wanted the government to have a precedent set. Considered it an animal protection effort he told papa."
Harry could only shake his head and smile. "Will he be at the wedding?"
Glancing at the carriage clock over the fireplace, Gabrielle nodded in response to Harry's question. "Come, lunch will be soon."
Harry double checked his watch before rising. Stacking his books, he drew his wand and banished them to their rooms. "I hope the parents have all calmed down," he wished as he followed Gabrielle to the dining room.
"As do I," she replied as she paused, waiting for him to catch up.
Lunch was a much better meal than lunch from the previous day. The Weasley parents and the Delacours began the meal with an apology to all assembled and to Harry's surprise, to each other as well.
Halfway through the meal, Ginny Weasley had unceremoniously plopped down in the chair next to Harry. He caught a flash of long red hair out of the corner of his eye and had to suppress a groan of dismay.
He began shovelling his food once again. From his left, Ginny gave a little giggle and muttered, "Harry, be careful. You're in real danger of eating like Ron."
Harry stiffened. Confused and embarrassed, he hoped that Ginny wasn't flirting with him. Disregarding the many stares, he shovelled one last enormous bite in his mouth and stood from the table.
It's amazing what one can see when primed and looking for it.
Swiftly moving to their rooms, Harry was dreading the rest of the day. Directly after lunch was the wedding rehearsal, Gabrielle had told him that it would last the entire afternoon. The wedding party was sixteen strong if you counted Bill, Fleur the youngest Delacour cousin Monique who was to be the Flower Girl and the youngest Weasley cousin Bobby who was to be the Ring Bearer.
The full mass ceremony (the Delacours were Catholic, but didn't make it to church regularly), Security (a nightmare unto itself), and now the prospect of Ginny flirting with him while his wife was less than ten feet away, all made Harry shudder.
Gabrielle opened the door to their rooms fifteen minutes later, quite annoyed indeed. "Was she flirting with you?" she scowled.
Harry shrugged and placated, "It wasn't a big deal. I just didn't want to shut her down in front of everyone."
Gabi's Veela heritage came to the fore as she began huffing and pacing. Occasionally, Harry would pick up a few stray words; "Strumpet," "Fireball," and last but not least, "Rip her hair out."
Gabrielle's ranting calmed Harry. Somehow, he couldn't be worried when she was upset. If he talked to Hermione about it, he was sure that she would mention that he had a hero complex, a 'saving people thing' and was generally a selfless being. He wasn't so sure.
He knew that he derived a sense of stability and worth from his wife. He also knew that it wasn't the most healthy dynamic to have in a relationship, but didn't know how to change. Or if he even wanted to change.
As a result, when Gabrielle or any other person he loved was upset, Harry was also upset. The immediate action to soothe or help the person was almost reflexive for him. He castigated himself, because he believed that he was only acting in his own self interest. Years later, he and Marie would have a somewhat drunken conversation on the topic. "Harry, motivations are like bouillabaisse. There isn't just one ingredient. I would hazard a guess that most of your 'saving people' actions have been taken mostly for others' good, with a little bit of selfishness stirred into the pot." After giving him a motherly kiss on the cheek, she told him, "You are human, are you not? It would be ridiculous to expect you to have pure motives for everything you do."
Standing, he moved to his wife and embraced her from behind, as she had done to him so many times. Interlocking his hands over her flat stomach, he murmured into her ear, "I am yours as you are mine. Ginny is of no consequence."
She deflated at his words. Snuggling back into his arms, Gabi smiled. "Very well, I shan't rip her limb from limb for talking to you." She turned in his embrace, "But I want to know if she tries anything with you."
He rolled his eyes and was jabbed in the ribs for it. "How would you feel if someone was flirting with me?"
This sobered Harry. He remembered a few years back when Jean-Paul what's-his-name showed up and how he'd been eaten up with jealousy and envy. Nodding, he acquiesced. With a hint of humour, Harry teased, "Yes, dear."
She caressed his chest, "Bon." Kissing him she murmured, "You realize that we have an hour before we need to be at the church?"
He smiled against her lips as his hand moved to the zipper of her dress, "I'm so glad you always know the time."
A somewhat dishevelled Lord and Lady Potter hustled the five blocks between Notre Dame and the Delacour home. Their security detail was Disillusioned and in a trail/lead formation. It was a sad commentary on their lives that they didn't even notice the guards anymore. It was a given that the two minders would always be present.
Running up the steps, they were briefly stopped by the security detail at the door. After a quick identity check, they were in the massive, world renowned cathedral. Harry had been in it a few times already, last Christmas the family had attended Christmas mass. He wasn't sure what he felt about religion, but he did find the massive building to be peaceful and calming.
Following Gabrielle to the front of he church, he fell in with the others as they were pushed, pulled, ordered and generally treated like cattle by the wedding organizer. With a groan, he saw that his opposite bridesmaid was Ginny Weasley. Gabrielle was the Matron of Honour while Charlie Weasley was best man.
Harry looked over the church and found Ron Weasley sitting in the pews. Harry's former friend was apparently upset, if the red tips of his ears were any indication. He was talking to Hermione whose posture was stiff and defensive. Not another row. Not here. Not now.
Sliding out of ranks, he moved to Hermione. He heard her finish a retort with, "…not that it's any of your business, Ronald…"
Not wasting any time, Harry plucked at his friend's sleeve, while entreating her, "Come on, you're needed,"
She turned and followed Harry to the front of the church. When they joined the scrum that had formed around the wedding organizer and the bishop, Hermione muttered to Harry, "Thanks."
He nodded in return, "No worries. What was all that?"
"That stupid plonker was asking me if I was dating anyone. Not that he was even half that courteous."
Harry shook his head, "The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?"
She sighed, "Unfortunately, yes."
He frowned at her, the unspoken question clear. With an expression of tiredness, Hermione waved her hand to Harry, the response clear as well, Later.
Disturbed, he looked for Gabrielle, but couldn't find her. Turning around he almost bowled over Ginny Weasley. "Oh, sorry," Harry muttered.
Straightening her jumper, she replied brightly, "No problem." After a short pause, she asked, "So how've you been? We haven't really talked much lately."
When have we ever talked? Harry thought to himself. "Oh, things are good. Gabrielle is a real blessing and I don't think I could have ever wished for someone as wonderful as she is." Please, take the hint.
With a neutral expression, Ginny replied, "That's great. Now, I'm not really sure how it works with Gabrielle and Phlegm being half Veela…"
"Excuse me? Phlegm?" Harry asked coldly.
Ginny's face crinkled in amusement. "Oh, it's just a little joke between Ron and me about Fleur."
"Huh. I don't find anything amusing about calling my sister in law a gob of sputum."
Noticeably fidgeting, Ginny fished for another topic. "How's your Quidditch prospects?"
"Fine. Excuse me," he responded brusquely before brushing past her.
Fuming, Harry walked the long way around the crowd to arrive at his appointed spot between Charlie and Thorne Seward, a long time friend of Bill. Harry was not only mad at Ginny for insulting Fleur, but he had another quandary on his hands: should he tell Gabrielle about the casual insult.
It was obvious that since Ginny was resorting to name calling, she was an incredibly immature 'leetle girl'. Would he get upset if little Bobby Weasley said something inappropriate?
"But Bobby is only five," he muttered.
At the same time, Ginny was about to become his sister in law. It wouldn't do to alienate her right before the wedding. The whole thing had been so hard already because of the parents butting heads; Gabrielle would have his hide if he screwed it up now.
Hermione. He'd talk to her.
Relieved of the immediacy of his burden, he vainly tried to attend to the incredibly convoluted instructions given by the wedding organizer. Tugging Charlie's sleeve, he whispered, "Do you understand what's going on?"
The second born of the Weasley brood gave a nod. Harry exhaled in relief, "Good. I'll just follow your lead and blame you if I screw up."
Charlie attempted to muffle his laughter and failed miserably. The cold glare of the wedding organizer –Harry didn't have the foggiest idea what her name was – washed over him like so much air. After surviving glares from McGonagall and Snape, this lady could piss up a rope as far as he was concerned.
Twenty minutes later, they performed a run through of the wedding at a 'walking pace'. It took thirty minutes and at one point the wedding organizer was turning red with frustration. Obviously, the simpletons were not attending to her easy to follow instructions.
Harry rolled his eyes and made a face at Gabrielle and Fleur causing more laughter. It also caused more redness on the face of miss haughtier than thou wedding organizer bitch. Completely uncaring, Harry ignored her in favour of making his wife, sister in law and brother in law laugh.
They finally made it through the 'walking pace' practice, but now the wedding organizer from hell - "I wonder if she can be exorcised," Harry wondered – wanted to perform a 'running pace' rehearsal. The ladies would process into the cathedral, the gentlemen to enter from the sacristy.
Harry seriously considered casting an illusion of himself so he could duck out, but knuckled under and did what he was told when he saw the pleading expression of Fleur. Didn't mean he wasn't bored to tears, though.
An hour later, he grabbed Hermione's elbow as they left the cathedral. "Hey, I need to talk to you about something. Got a minute?"
"Sure, let's walk and chat."
Harry surreptitiously cast a Privacy charm that moved with them. It wasn't as impregnable as a charm for a fixed location, but it did the trick. He quickly laid out what happened between him and Ginny regarding the 'Phlegm' issue and his quandary over telling Gabrielle.
Hermione thought for a long minute before telling Harry, "If I was Gabrielle, I'd want to know. Just make sure that before you tell her, you make her promise not to do anything that would screw up the wedding." She paused and then followed up, "Make sure you phrase it that way. She thinks more of her sister than her pride. That should help."
"She said that."
Harry winced. Gabrielle had a few moods. Most of the time she was extremely cheerful and fun to be around. Occasionally (roughly five days a month), she was grumpy and difficult. Very rarely, she would become quiet and cold. These happenings were few and far between, but when they did happen it was not an unusual occurrence, for example, for four adults to be ripped a new one dead centre in the forehead.
"You promised you wouldn't do anything to upset Fleur and disrupt the wedding," he threw up in a hasty defence.
She narrowed her blue eyes, not happy at all that he'd reminded her of her promise. Huffing, she spun about and began to pace. Twice she went for the door but was intercepted by Harry.
Eventually, she surrendered. "Very well. I shall say nothing until after the wedding. Possibly at school or later."
Harry nodded, "Fair enough. Come on, we're late for the rehearsal dinner. After that rehearsal, I need a big meal."
Gabi giggled, her good mood restored. "It was rather stupid."
"What was Fleur thinking?" Harry asked.
Hooking her arm in his, they headed down the main stairway. "She told me earlier that both she and Bill wish they had forgone the ceremony and settled with the contract, as we did."
"I could have told them that last summer."
"Oh yes, oh wise one," she teased as she snuck a hand in to tickle him.
Once they reached the entry hall, a quick apparition brought them to the back room of L'Auberge, the restaurant the Weasley's had reserved for the Rehearsal Dinner. The rest of the wedding participants were milling about, chatting and putting a serious dent in the liquor bill for the event. The Potters headed over to the knot of Grangers, who were deep in a discussion with a friend of Bill's. Apparently, Joshua Craven had gone to Healer school. Joshua and the elder Grangers were fully involved in a medical discussion of which Hermione seemed only vaguely interested.
"Hey there," Harry greeted.
With an expression of relieved gratitude, she left her parents and Craven to their comparisons of magical and mundane medical treatments.
"Hey," she greeted hesitantly. Hermione was eyeing Gabrielle with caution.
Gabrielle grinned, "He told me and I agreed not to flay her. Yet."
Rolling her eyes, Hermione laughed and sidled up to her friends. They were jointly complaining about the wedding organizer when Harry felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning, he found a slightly blushing Ginny Weasley. In the corner of his eye, he saw Gabrielle turn, her expression neutral with a vague aura of hostility. Hermione had placed her hand on Gabrielle's arm in an attempt to remind Gabrielle of her surroundings.
Ginny sighed. "I see you told them about my rudeness."
Harry merely cocked an eyebrow in response.
"Of course you did. I don't blame you one bit. I do have a question and it pertains to how many apologies I need to make this evening. Did you tell anyone else about my…inappropriate comment?"
Harry shook his head to which Ginny sighed again. "I am very sorry I used that denigrating nickname for Fleur. I shan't use it again to you, anyone else or even to myself. I'm very sorry."
Happily surprised at this sudden show of maturity, Harry was also confused. Before he could say anything, Gabrielle asked, "What has caused this sudden change of heart?"
Ginny flinched, as Gabrielle's tone was cold and incisive. The redhead glanced to her left before answering. "I ran into the twins and they…informed me that I was mistaken in my assessment of Fleur and that I was being unfair and rude."
Glancing to his right, Harry saw a stone faced Fred and George watching the proceedings. Harry's newfound respect for Ginny dipped a bit.
Trying to play the peacemaker, Hermione cajoled, "Ginny…"
A tad red-faced, Ginny interrupted, "Don't make this harder than it already is, Hermione."
"You've apologized. Thank you for that. I will expect never to hear that awful description of my sister ever again. Is there anything else?" Obviously, Gabrielle was not placated by Ginny's words.
The youngest Weasley's face fell perceptibly. She was obviously hoping for a more amicable resolution to the 'incident'. "No. That's it, thanks for hearing me out."
After the redhead wended her way through the crowd, Gabrielle hissed, "She does not understand that a forced apology is no apology at all."
Hermione shook her head in a 'so-so' manner. "Maybe. I think that the twins gave her some tender loving care that woke her up to her inappropriate behaviour. Based on what I know about her, I think her apology was sincere."
"Really?" Harry asked.
Hermione nodded in return.
"Hmm." Shaking his head, he grumbled, "Whatever, let's just get to Christmas for the love of God."
"Amen," the ladies chorused.
The wedding was to be at three thirty PM and the reception to follow at the Tuileries Gardens of the Louvre. It had taken Henri quite a bit of wheedling to close off such a huge public area adjacent to the national art museum of France.
As for the weather? It's wonderful what Heating charms can accomplish in the middle of winter.
Harry was left alone shortly after breakfast. Gabrielle gave him a quick peck and headed up to Fleur's rooms to help calm her and help her get ready for the ceremony. As a testament to the traditions of centuries, nay, millennia, Fleur had a dozen ladies attending her while Bill and Charlie hung out and listened to a Quidditch match replay on the wireless.
Harry opted to join the men.
The three young men chatted and swapped stories until Charlie, in a hesitant voice, asked, "Harry, would you mind telling us what happened in the Chamber of Secrets?"
When Harry blanched and looked in his lap, Charlie quickly back-pedalled, "You don't have to. Bill and I have always been protective of Ginny and we weren't able to be there for her and, well, you were. We were just curious as all."
Setting down his mug of coffee, Harry waved the Dragon Handler off, "No, it's alright. Let's see…well, I guess I'd best start from the beginning." Telling of his detention with Lockhart the ignoramus and the subsequent first reveal of his Parselmouth abilities made it much easier than diving head first into the life or death struggle a kilometre under the school.
Naturally, the story flowed to the second Parselmouth encounter followed by Filch's cat being petrified. "It was a miracle that all the victims were only petrified. One in a million really. I've never talked to Ginny about it, but I've since wondered if she wasn't fighting Riddle's memory the entire time. Controlling the Basilisk and holding it back. Anyway…"
By the time he finished the story, the Weasley brothers had abandoned their coffee for firewhiskey. Completely taken aback, Bill and Charlie stared at Harry for a long moment. "Fuck." Bill muttered.
"Yeah," Charlie agreed.
"Harry…words fail me. I couldn't have done what you did."
Harry shrugged. He'd always been uncomfortable with praise, much less awe at his exploits. 'Doing what needed to be done' was how he always regarded his adventured. "I just did what I had to do. You guys would have done the same."
Charlie snorted while Bill rolled his eyes. "Besides," Harry continued, "Today's the old man's wedding, no sad more stories today." With a cheeky grin, he added, "I'd lay off the firewhiskey. Fleur will have your hide if you show up sotted."
"Good point," Bill mumbled as he Vanished the bottles and glasses.
"Oi!" Charlie protested good naturedly.
The three of them chuckled and began to discuss very important matters: Quidditch.
Harry and the rest of the male half of the wedding party stood in the sacristy of Notre Dame, listening to the organ music fill the air. The Dursleys had never taken Harry to church even though they were regular members of the Church of England. To say that the Delacours were …sporadic…in their attendance at Mass was to be generous. He hadn't ever been to a high Mass with a full choir and was enthralled and enraptured by the beauty of the music.
Despite his later behaviour, Dumbledore was right at the beginning of first year. Music has a magic all its own.
Listening to the choir singing the famous chorus to Handel's Messiah, Harry was moved almost to tears. None of the men in the party was religious, yet all found themselves moved by the power and emotions invoked by the music.
The chorus finished and the soloist began an a capella rendition of Ave Maria as the rest of the guests filed into the cathedral.
Gabrielle was in the back of the cathedral in a small room with Fleur and their mother. All the last trimmings to her bridal train had been accomplished. She was wearing a diamond tiara from the Potter vaults, gloves that her great grandmother had been wearing when she was married, a blue garter, and new shoes – a penny firmly wedged in the toe.
"I really wish I could have a beer right about now," Fleur muttered.
Gabrielle smiled. "Are you ready Flower?"
Fleur sighed exasperatedly. "Very ready. We should have eloped. Or gone to Gretna Green. Or Las Vegas. Or just signed a wedding contract instead of the betrothal contract."
Gabrielle's expression playfully morphed into one that Fleur had seen countless times. The older sister sighed again, "Fine. You were right."
Smiling happily, Gabrielle bounced out of her chair, "Come on. It's time for you to become Mrs. Weasley."
Fleur smiled broadly and agreed. "Yes, it is time."
Marie had been watching her daughters the entire time, a trickle or two of tears making their way down her face. "I am so proud of the both of you. You've grown into such wonderful women. Both of you married to Englishmen, though!"
"Technically, Harry is Welsh. He was born at Rowan Hill."
Marie mock glared at her youngest before the three of them broke into a giggle fit. "Come, mes enfants. Let us marry off the old maid."
Fleur rolled her eyes and together, they moved to the vestibule.
Severus Snape had all his men in position. When the bells began to toll in the massive church, they would begin.
"…Do you, William Arthur Weasley take this woman to have and to hold. To love honour and cherish, to forsake all others all the days of your life?"
"And do you, Fleur Marie Delacour take this man to have and to hold. To love honour and cherish, to forsake all others all the days of your life?"
Harry looked behind the now married couple's backs and caught Gabrielle's eye, smiling warmly. She returned his smile and in it all the love, affection and warmth for him that was in her heart was plain to see.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife." Bill scooped Fleur into his arms before the bishop could say anything else. As she wrapped her arms about her husband's neck, the bishop, a rotund man, chuckled. "You may kiss the bride," he intoned jovially.
When the couple finally came up from air (Charlie had to poke Bill twice to get his attention), the bishop raised his hands high and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. William Weasley!"
Slowly, radiantly the new husband and wife walked down the steps from the altar. The organist struck up Pachabel's Canon in D while the guests applauded.
Then, right on time, the bells began to toll.
"Avada Kedavra!" was shouted by thirteen voices, nearly simultaneously. The falling forms of the now dead security personnel were masked by the bells announcing the new marriage.
Disillusioned Death Eaters sprinted to the main and side doors. Without breaking his stride, Antonin Dolohov cast the Blasting curse, shattering the mammoth wooden doors.
Gabrielle and Charlie had linked their arms in front of Harry and Ginny for the recession from the church when the doors exploded. Without thought, Harry shoved Ginny down to the ground and ran toward the sound. His wand flashed into his hand and he began casting as he ran. A quick Springboard charm shot him over the newest Weasleys.
At the apogee of his leap, Harry saw a boiling mass of Disillusioned people pushing in the shattered doorway. Acting on instinct, he cast three Bone Shattering curses on the way down. All three hit a mark as three different voices began screaming.
The security inside the cathedral rushed to cover the entrances as the chatter of automatic weapons fire was heard. The Queen had already been portkeyed away. The two Presidents as well. Henri had been furious when his security team had forced his and Marie's hand on the portkey hoop. He did manage to cast a Cutting curse at an invading Death Eater, though. The leg that hit the floor without the rest of the body was a testament to the success of his curse.
A veritable firestorm of green eldritch fire erupted from the back of the Cathedral. Fanning out into the crowd, the Killing curses found their mark causing dozens of corpses fell.
By the time Harry landed, over twenty people were dead on both sides of the fight. Conjuring a shoulder high wall of marble, Harry took cover and began casting like a fiend. As he focused on the threat from the back of the church, Gabrielle, Fleur and Bill joined him. Fleur conjured a continuation the wall around the small party so they were in a barbette of sorts. The newcomers concentrated on the invaders from the side doors.
The cathedral had devolved into a madhouse. Guests were screaming and running in vain attempts to escape the slaughter. It made safe casting of high powered spells very difficult as innocents were consistently obscuring sight lines to the still Disillusioned Death Eaters. That didn't prove to be a difficulty for the Death Eaters, though.
The mundane security was easy to spot as they held firearms. The Death Eaters concentrated on them so one by one they fell under concentrated spellfire.
Frustrated beyond comprehension, Harry stood and began chanting. Gabrielle recognized his spell and warned her sister and brother in law, "Get ready! It's going to be fast!"
Fleur cast a Sonorous charm on herself before shouting, "ALL GUESTS, LIE ON THE FLOOR! ALL GUESTS, LIE ON THE FLOOR!"
Most of the guests were too terrified to disobey, so within seconds, the defenders had clear fields of fire.
Waving his wand in a circle Harry finished the chant with a shout before slumping to the ground. Suddenly, all the Death Eaters were visible.
Surprised, all the combatants froze. Bill, Fleur and Gabrielle cut down fifteen Death Eaters in ten seconds.
Harry struggled to his feet, peeking over the marble barricade. He froze at the sight of Severus Snape in the back of the church, directing the invaders. Enraged, Harry stood and jabbed his wand before casting, "REDUCTO!"
Severus Snape had been looking forward to this encounter since the moment his Master had selected him to lead the assault. In one incarnation, Potter had been a thorn in his side since the half-blood Prince had been twelve years old. This was his chance for payback. This was his chance to show Potter who was the better wizard. Snape saw the entire situation flash before his eyes in a moment. With a sneer, Severus Snape cast the last spell of his unfortunately short life. Just like most of his life, arrogance and pride were his downfall. Almost lazily, he cast the Advanced Shield charm, "Contego."
The overwhelming force met the immovable object. The thick beam of dark purple eldritch fire from Harry's spell ripped apart the shield like so much tissue.
Severus Snape exploded into a fine red mist, staining the walls and floor with gore.
Most firefights, which consist of less than one hundred persons in an open space, usually don't last longer than five minutes. Especially when one of the forces consists of well trained warriors. Snape perished exactly three hundred seconds into the battle. It was almost over.
Dolohov had been shot in the head at the beginning of the assault.
Rowe was dead from Harry's first Bone Shattering hex. His spine was mush.
Rabastan Lestrange had died when engulfed in a fireball from Gabrielle. His charred corpse was stinking and steaming.
Rudolphus Lestrange had been stitched with six bullets in his chest. He was dead before hitting the floor.
Alecto Carrow had died when a Cutting curse from a French Auror which had decapitated her.
Amacus Carrow was the only senior Death Eater left. Confused and unsure how to proceed, he reverted to form. "Mordsmorde!" he cast before running out of the church. It never really registered in his consciousness what he high pitched two toned wailing noise was. He'd been hearing it for a while, but never figured out that the entire cathedral was surrounded by French anti-terrorist units with orders to shoot anyone wearing a mask and black robes. He ran right into a hailstorm of gunfire that almost cut him in half.
Wearing Death Eater robes to an assault of this type was definitely a poor choice.
Inside the church, the defenders ignored the Dark Mark as it formed and hung in the high raftered ceiling. Pressing their advantage on the splintering and scattering Death Eaters, they hunted each one down, killing them like animals. Only one of the invading Death Eaters survived the day. His name was Geoff Eaton and had been a follower of Voldemort for two days. Two days that caused him to swing from a rope three weeks later.
The cathedral was filled with smoke and the screams of the wounded. The Potters and Weasleys slowly stood from their barricade as they heard the security team shouting, "Clear!" from various points of the massive church.
D'artagn ran up to them, worry etched on his professional expression. "Are you all well?"
Bill nodded for the foursome. Without saying anything, D'artagn conjured a hoop and began to cast the Portkey spell.
Time slowed as Harry looked about at the carnage. Freezing, he saw the Grangers huddled over a form. Realization burned through his brain and he screamed. There were no words, but a primal release of rage and pain. Without looking back, he vaulted over the barricade and sprinted to Hermione.
Shoving Steven aside, he saw his oldest friend lying on her back, two bullet holes in her chest. A foam of blood was on her lips and her breathing was laboured.
"Move!" Harry spun about to see Joshua Craven running up to them. Harry leapt out of the way but leaned over to keep eye contact with his friend.
"You're going to be fine, Hermione. Josh is going to fix you right up. You'll be fine, keep fighting. Come on, you're the most stubborn person I know, you can do this." His cajoling and teasing tone brought the ghost of smile to Hermione's face.
A mental windstorm gripped Harry. He couldn't lose Hermione too. Where was Sirius? The rest of the Weasleys? Oh God!
Gabrielle's touch on his shoulder brought him back to reality. Bill and Fleur were there too.
Looking down again, he saw Joshua sighing in relief and sitting back on his haunches. To the Grangers, he explained. "She'll be fine. I've Vanished the bullets and begun knitting the bone and tissue together. I need to get her to a hospital, as the potions are much more effective than the spells I've used. The spells will do the trick, though. She'll be just fine in a few days. Stay here and I'll arrange transport for her."
A long moment later, Craven returned with a portkey to Our Lady of Mercy, the Parisian magical hospital. Harry gave Hermione's hand one last squeeze before she and her parents were portkeyed away. Craven moved to his next patient.
Harry turned to see Bill staring. He was white faced as he watched Charlie cuddling Ginny. The tough and rough Dragon Handler was weeping copiously as he rocked his sister back and forth, calling her name. His girlfriend Alexa was draped over him in an attempt to comfort him. Bill dropped to his knees and began to scream.
His mind immediately registered that Ginny was injured. Hearing Fleur and Gabrielle gasp, he realized that it must be worse than he thought, so he looked closer. Her chest wasn't moving. Her eyes stared lifelessly. She was dead.
Numb, he fell to the floor. Landing on his backside, he could only stare at the girl's corpse. "I pushed her out of the way…" he mumbled. "I pushed her out of the way. She should have been safe. She should have been safe." Looking to his wife for answers, he saw only regret and tears. Gabrielle shook her head, not knowing how it all happened.
"Come, we must get you to a safe place."
Looking up, Harry saw D'artagn with an expression of unutterable sadness standing above him. "I am very sorry, my Lord. But you and Lady Potter must be taken to safety."
Somewhat muddleheaded, Harry shook his head mulishly. "I'm not leaving my family." He nodded in the direction of Bill and Fleur who were sobbing in each other's arms.
"They will be coming as well. Come."
Harry looked about, being relieved when he saw Sirius and Hestia hobbling toward him. Taking his godfather in his arms, he turned back to D'artagn and agreed. "Ok, now we'll go." Seven fingers touched the hoop portkey and were whisked away.
Forty two guests were killed. Seventeen security personnel died in the line of duty. Thirty nine Death Eaters died in the cathedral.
Obviously, the reception was not held.
Sirius had merely twisted his knee diving over a pew as the melee began. He gave back quite a bit and claimed the kill of Alecto Carrow along with three other Death Eaters he didn't recognize.
Ginny was the only Weasley hurt in the engagement. The security detail had smothered all the redheads in the pews, losing two of their number in the process. Harry's marble wall had shielded Bill and Charlie. The security personnel speculated that Ginny had been hit in the side by a Killing curse, but they'd never know the truth.
Arthur and Molly were devastated. They and Ron portkeyed home that evening; Charlie, the Twins and Percy following on their own via apparition. Bill and Fleur retired to their rooms early. It wasn't how either of them expected to spend their wedding night, weeping and holding each other.
Sirius was confined to the couch or bed, so Harry and Gabrielle went to visit Hermione right after a hasty dinner. She was asleep, but Steven and Alice Granger related the prognosis.
"She'll be one hundred percent in two days," Steven informed them with a hint of awe in his voice. "I knew, intellectually mind you, about magic, but to see my bullet ridden daughter healed in a matter of hours makes it quite real." He squeezed Alice's hand. She never took her eyes off her daughter.
After a moment, Steven asked, "Was anyone else we know hurt?"
Harry grimaced. Eventually, Gabrielle answered, "Ginny Weasley was killed. Sirius twisted his knee, but that's it."
"Oh, no," Alice breathed. "Not the Ginny that's a friend of Hermione's?"
"Yes," replied Harry, his voice just above a whisper.
"Poor Mrs. Weasley," Alice lamented.
Ten minutes later, the Potters were back at the Delacour home and headed to bed. It had been a very long day.
1. I own nothing. My thanks to all who have taken the time to review this little tale, I appreciate it.
2. Proteus was the original 'Old Man of the Sea' in the Greek Titan mythology. He was an oracle of sorts, but when the Olympian gods overthrew the Titans, Proteus became a sea creature shepherd for Poseidon. In the Odyssey, Proteus is described as '…the immortal old man of the sea who never lies, who sounds the deep in all its depths, Poseidon's servant.'
3. The suspense of Habeas Corpus allows the government to detain persons for an undetermined time without ever going to court (a la Sirius).
4. I always spell abhomination, abhominable and abhor with an 'h' thanks to C.S. Lewis. See Prince Caspian (the book, not the movie!).
5. I spaced the recommendation from the last chapter so you get two here. Harry Potter and the Ravenclaw Rebels by Silent Magi and The Crow: Phoenix Rising by Belcris. Ravenclaw Rebels is an interesting tale with much promise. It's early in the story, but it's well written with good grammar and an interesting premise. Phoenix Rising is a phenomenal HP/Crow cross. If you liked the movie and like HP, you'll LOVE this story. I was blown away with how good it is. It can be fairly dark and angsty, but it gives an excellent view of …well, just read it before I tell you the plot.
6. Yes, I was intentionally emulating Richard III in describing Snape while he gathered intelligence outside Notre Dame. Except Richard had both arms.
7. Obviously, I'm taking a whack at JKR for the whole 'Phlegm' thing in HBP. She goes out of her way to make the point about not judging a book by its cover in GOF, yet that's exactly what she does to Fleur in HBP. I guess it's only politically correct to make fun of handsome/beautiful people. As Harry says for me, I don't find it amusing at all.
8. Here's the first half of Sixth year. I'll keep plugging away at this and All Because of a Hippogriff. Updates will come when they come, don't ask.