(A/N: The rest of this story should come out in fairly short order compared to the last few chapters. My schedule has changed to give me a little more writing time. I tried to make year 5 a single chapter, but it was so big I had to split it. I can say without a doubt that there are only 2 more chapters after this one.)
Chapter 30 - Balancing Life
Harry was amused with Gabrielle. She had been very observant of him over the last couple weeks. It was not hard to guess why either. September was ending and her birthday was on the 10th of October; therefore, she was trying to catch him doing something for her birthday. He was not sure why she tried because he had plenty of opportunity to organize during the periods she was in class and he was not.
He was also amused by her because when he had his "alone time" with her the night after Hermione's birthday and asked her about her and Ginny checking on him the next morning, the girl had not tried to hide what the two had been doing, nor was she even the slightest bit bashful or embarrassed. His guess that they had wanted to know if he and Hermione had taken the next step physically in their relationship had been correct. He would also admit be being surprised that she had argued that because he was fifteen now, that it would be entirely appropriate for her and Ginny to go topless around him when they turned fifteen. He supposed he could not really refute their logic, but he looked forward to the conversation about that when Hermione heard, assuming he was there and it was not a "girls only" conversation. He thought it would be hightly entertaining to listen to and to watch.
Deciding to put her out of her misery, he tugged slightly on the hand he was holding as they walked back from dinner, causing her to look up at him. «Since your birthday is on a Tuesday, would you prefer to celebrate it on the Friday before, or the Friday after? I thought it would be easier if we didn't have class the next day.»
Her smile brightened, «Before!»
The enthusiasm and expected answer caused him to chuckle. «As you wish. Is there anything special you'd like for your birthday?»
«Yes,» she drawled as her elation from a moment ago disappeared.
Her sudden sadness surprised him. «What?» he asked with concern.
«Lots of kisses, but I know I can't have that until my birthday next year.»
«Ahh, that's so sad,» he told her with fake sympathy even as he moved quickly to pick her up in his arms, one under her knees and the other under her back, and then swung her around, causing her to giggle and his other two girls to chuckle as they walked behind.
Gabrielle now looked her more usual self. «It is sad, but I've waited this long, I can wait until next year - barely.»
Harry kissed her on the forehead before dropping her feet back to the ground. «Maybe I can find something else special for my little Veela,» he said with a grin, gaining a hopeful look from her.
After dinner on the 7th of Oct, Gabrielle was practically dragging Harry back to their rooms. Gabrielle's best friend, Jolien was having to walk very quickly to keep up with her. Hermione and Ginny again followed, letting Gabrielle have her special day.
Harry had once again received permission from the Headmistress to let Dobby come help decorate and cater, as well as open the party up to the rest of their dorm. Again, there were balloons, cake, and punch. Everyone wished Gabrielle, «Happy Birthday».
While Gabrielle was talking to a few of her second year friends, Harry walked over to Hermione and Ginny. «It's hard to believe how old she looks now compared to what she looked like when I first met her less than a year ago.»
«I know,» Hermione agreed. «It's like she aged almost three years in less than one year. I can't tell the difference between her and her class mates.»
«I think I'm a little jealous,» Ginny added, causing the other two to look at her. «At this rate, she'll get her adult breasts before I will.»
Harry chuckled and put an arm around the red-head's shoulder for a reassuring squeeze. «Don't worry,» he quietly told her, «I'm sure you'll have nice breasts. I already like what I see.»
While Ginny blushed bright red, Harry moved the half-step needed to put an arm around Hermione. «Don't you worry about your breasts either, that's my job.» Hermione gave him an embarrassed smile, but did not change color, having mostly grown accustomed to quiet comments like that from Harry over the last few weeks since her birthday with their increased intimacy.
After the party and when it was just the four of them, they gave Gabrielle her gifts and then Harry took her to his bedroom for their hour together before Ginny joined them for sleeping.
"Did you have a good time?" he asked Gabi, switching to English during this time as was their habit now.
"I did. Thank you for the necklace. It is my favorite now." She kissed him on the cheek near his lips.
He felt her glow of happiness, not only in her happy expression, but in her fully releasing her Veela allure and being herself fully without restraint. "Would you like a little something special for your birthday?"
She nodded and looked at him with wide eyes, hopeful.
It was almost certain that he was going to disappoint her at least a little, but he hoped this worked out. He liked making her happy, but he still had a line he had no intention of crossing. "Close your eyes and relax," he told her.
She instantly obeyed, trusting him completely.
Harry felt privileged, or that was the only word he could come up with, to have such complete trust from her. He vowed to himself to do his best to always be equal to that as he leaned down and started slowly kissing her face and neck. She seemed to purr in contentment as he placed light kisses on her to show endearment and affection. After a few minutes, he ended the gesture with a light chaste kiss on her lips and then pulled her to him to hold her close.
«So close, so nice…» she murmured sleepily and completely at peace with the world.
He continued to sit against the headboard of his bed and hold her, stroking her head and hair ever so gently.
When Ginny joined them later, she smiled the sight of the two and whispered, "A good birthday then?"
Harry smiled and nodded. "Help me put her to bed." With Ginny's help, he managed to get Gabrielle under the covers without her waking fully where she promptly snuggled into his side with an arm over him, holding him tightly.
Harry felt good as he soared on his broom the first Saturday in November. It was time for his first Quidditch game of the year. The practices had knocked the rust off of him, or that's how he thought of it. He had been happy to win the spot of Seeker on the team, but hours after the tryout when he had analyzed his flying, he realized that he had not really been up to his usual standard. If he had, the other boy would not have grabbed that one Snitch from him.
He had spent the time since the tryouts getting back into shape, as well as showing Gabrielle the basics of playing Seeker. If she tried hard, he thought she might make a good one when he left.
Since they had so many Quidditch teams, two per dorm, the schedule was created to allow the inter-house game to be played in November as a demonstration game, one each Saturday. They had December and January off for adjustments and more practice (and to avoid the coldest part of the winter), then because the weather was not as cold here as in Scotland, the real games started in February, with all the "B" teams playing each other round-robin, and the "A" teams playing each other, one a weekend or all of the matches over twelve weeks. In May, at the end of the regular season, the top two "A" teams and top two "B" teams had a playoff to determine the school champion.
Taking position, he looked at the boy who held the Seeker position for the primary Red team, or Red-A. Louis Blac was a seventh year who had a good record, or so Harry had been told.
The whistle blew, pulling him from his contemplation of the differences between Quidditch at Beauxbatons and at Hogwarts. Looking down from his position, he saw the balls released, including the Golden Snitch just before it disappeared for the first minute, just like it was spelled to do.
One of the Chasers from the Red-A team grabbed the Quaffle first, forcing his Red-B team to go on the defensive. His team's Chasers gave a good try at defense, slowing down the attackers, but eventually a throw on goal was made. Fortunately, Bruno stopped it before throwing it to Ginny, who led her team's Chasers down the pitch.
Harry pulled his attention from Ginny and the Quaffle and started scanning for the Golden Snitch. The Red-A Beaters were focusing on the Chasers at the moment, so he could mostly ignore them. The other Seeker, Blac, was flying his own pattern although Harry noticed that the other boy was never too far away from him. It was a good compromise strategy.
Half an hour into the game, Harry had only seen the Snitch once. The winged ball had quickly hidden itself again among a crowd of players. He was not sure if Blac had seen it or not, the appearance had been so brief. He was searching diligently though because the two teams were well matched with Red-B down by only twenty points, so the winner would probably be decided by the Seekers.
As he slowly dodged a Bludger that was hit only in his general area to make sure he did not get complacent, he saw a flicker of gold near his team's goals. A quick glance showed Blac was about an equal distance away but looking the other way.
Harry dove to gain speed, which drew Blac's attention, causing the boy to turn and start flying towards Harry. With a grin, he pulled up and flew low to the ground under the Red-B Beaters for protection and toward the prize.
Blac cut the corner by going over the beathers to make up space and pulled in right behind Harry.
Harry reached out to grab the Snitch, but it suddenly zoomed left and down, causing Harry to zip past it.
Blac over shot it as well and pulled left for a sharp U-turn.
Although he had never done the maneuver before, Harry braked as hard as he could as he swerved right, almost directly at the leftmost goal post about half way up. With his left hand firmly gripping his broom, Harry stuck out his right hand to grab the goal post - praying he had slowed enough and was not about to pull his arm out of its socket or throw himself off of his broom.
His hand smacked into the post, stinging greatly, but he held on just long enough for the maneuver to whip him around the post and generally back the way he needed to go at a speed Blac could not hope to match as he did his larger U-turn. Ignoring the fire that he was starting to feel in his shoulder, Harry raced after the Snitch which was trying to head up. Seconds later, Harry's left hand closed over the little winged ball and he flew to the ground as quickly as he could because he had lost control of his right arm. He was finding it difficult to maintain control of the broom with the Snitch in his good hand and the pain in his shoulder.
He had barely landed in a stumble when another player seemed to drop out of the air, obviously jumping off her broom from just above him, grabbing his good shoulder to help steady him before he fell over.
Ginny held out a hand to stop others and screamed, «He's injured! We need a healer!»
With tears in his eyes, he gasped, "My shoulder…" before he sank to his knees.
The school was large enough to have a fully certified Healer and he was already running over, along with the nurse assistant. The team opened a path for the medical personnel to run through.
«Where do you hurt?» the healer asked as he started to do a diagnostic on Harry.
«He said it was his shoulder,» Ginny told the man helpfully while pointing to the one with the limp arm.
«Yes that seems to be the only injury and he seems to have dislocated it. A brilliant yet foolish flying maneuver.» The man looked at his assistant. «Hold his other shoulder and back, and» he looked at Ginny, «you'll need to move aside.»
Ginny stepped back but watched closely. She could feel that Harry was in pain and wanted it to end, but she was also fearful as to what they were about to do.
As the nurse held his left shoulder and back steady, the healer cast a spell at Harry's right shoulder and flicked his wand at the end.
Harry cried out briefly before going silent with a look of great relief on his face. «Thank you,» he whispered hoarsely.
«My pleasure, young man. Take this,» he held out a phial which Harry quickly downed. «That should help to reduce the swelling. Please be very gentle with that shoulder for the next few days. Also, come by and see one of us this evening after dinner so we can recheck it.»
Harry nodded and thanked them both again while Ginny grabbed his good arm again and helped him to stand, just as Hermione and Gabrielle arrived after their fast trek from the stands.
Gabrielle threw her arms around his waist and buried her face in his chest.
Harry was not sure if she was trying to comfort him or verify for herself that he really was all right.
Hermione had been a step behind the little Veela, her expression alternating between several emotions: fear, concern, and exasperation. The concern finally won.
«Are you really all right?» She asked as she wrung her hands lightly.
He lifted his injured arm a little to beckon her over, and she stepped forward quickly into a hug. Ginny moved too so all four were a tight little knot. «I'll be fine. Some rest and dinner later will help a lot.»
«And you won't be doing that again, right?» Hermione asked, her exasperation leaking out.
Harry chuckled. «Probably not.»
«Probably?» she asked with a raised eyebrow.
«Not for anything less than the championship, Harry» Ginny told him as she stepped back and then bent down to pick up his and her brooms.
Hermione's expression showed clearly that she did not like that answer, but she kept quiet.
When his bond-mates released him, Harry saw Louis Blac stepped forward with his hand out. Harry lightly shook hands with the boy, who was very gentle as well. «Good game, Potter. I'm not sure I could have done that move … or would have wanted the injury that came with it,» both boys grinned at that thought, «but you deserved that win.»
«Thanks, you played well too.»
Blac nodded and walked away. The rest of Red-B, led by Bruno, now crowded around him and congratulated him on the spectacular catch. The Red-A team also congratulated him before everyone headed back into the school.
After dinner that evening, there was a simple party in the Red Dorm common room; punch and snacks had been provided.
People were still talking about his catch this afternoon, which amused and slightly embarrassed Harry. He also found it amusing and actually warming that Ginny had appointed herself his watcher for the evening and took care of him, not that Hermione or Gabrielle were ever far away. There was something about having them near that he liked - a feeling of family he decided finally.
Antonio Bruno finally wandered over with a very pleased look on his face, causing Harry to think that perhaps the seventh year had added some wine or other alcohol to his punch.
«That's the best catch I've ever seen in my time here. Great dedication that was,» the captain of Harry's team said.
«And a great decision to hold tryouts for Seeker.» Bruno gave a small nod to Ginny for her part before he studied Harry for a moment more. «Potter, please promise me that you won't transfer to the A-team if they ask you.»
«Why would they?» Harry was genuinely curious. «Blac is good.»
«He is, but you're better,» said Bruno a little quieter and with intensity.
Harry looked at Ginny, who shrugged slightly. Turning to Bruno, he said, «I don't see any reason for us to change teams. I think we have a good one.»
Bruno's grin lit up. «That's good to hear, very good. And the Healer's report?»
«When I check back in with him he said it's fine and will be as good as new in a couple of days.»
«Very good, very good indeed.» The taller boy looked at Ginny again. «Take good care of our Seeker.»
She flashed him a smile. «I plan to.»
Bruno chuckled and walked away.
Ginny did take good care of him for the rest of the evening and when the two of them went to bed that night.
Harry looked around as he ate breakfast and sighed.
«What's wrong?» asked Philip, the boy who had become his best male friend at this school and was much like Neville was at Hogwarts.
«I like all this,» Harry said as he waved his hand around, indicating the room and the school, «and I'm glad I'm here, but I still miss Hogwarts at times.»
«I do too - at times,» Hermione added from his other side. «Do you suppose it's because we're about to go home for Christmas?»
«Maybe,» Harry replied with a half-hearted shrug.
«What do you miss most?» Philip asked.
«Huh?» Philip looked at him as if he were crazy.
Hermione agreed. «The ceiling in the Great Hall at Hogwarts is charmed to show the sky at it presently is. It makes the room feel much larger than it is, shows the weather outside, and it's some amazing magic.»
«It is brilliant work,» Harry agreed.
«That would be interesting to see,» Philip told them sincerely.
«I like the fountain out front here, but Hogwarts has a lake that's great to walk around when it's not too cold,» Harry listed another reason.
Hermione gave a fake shiver. «I don't miss the cold in the winter. The castle seemed frozen to me for almost three months of the year. It's not too bad outside here today.»
«True,» Harry said with an easy grin. «It's a lot easier to practice Quidditch when the weather only gets cool.»
«It will snow here a few times during the winter,» Philip told him, «but it's usually only for a few days at a time.»
«I wonder how much snow will be on the ground when we go back home?» Harry looked at Hermione who could only shrug. They did not get weather reports about Britain at Beauxbatons, and the French newspaper Hermione subscribed to for them did not mention Britain unless it was major news.
Headmistress Maxime tapped her fork on her glass as she stood. Everyone turned to give her their attention quickly as she did not make many announcements.
«Thank you for your prompt attention. I would like to give everyone an assignment to complete during your Christmas holidays.» She gave a slight knowing smile as she heard the groans. «Dorm aides, please make sure that everyone that is assigned to you knows about this before they leave this evening.
«As I'm sure you've noticed, Beauxbatons is starting to get a little crowded in the dorms. We could make them physically bigger with space expansion runes and charms, but the real problem is the number of students in each dorm. The chaperones and dorm aides can only oversee so many people and maintain the level of oversight that I feel is acceptable.
«There are several possible solutions to this. Building a fifth dorm is the most obvious. However, it is also possible to build up one of the smaller school here in Europe to be a major school like Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, and Hogwarts. Or an entirely new school in another country could even be built. These last two ideas would of course require agreement and cooperation with the ICW as other countries would most likely be involved. I'm sure there are other ways to solve our over-crowding problem too.
«Your assignment, which I want everyone to do, is to think about this problem and make a suggestion as to what we could do. You're also to explore your idea by listing positives and negatives to the idea, and possible solutions to any problems.
«While some feel that the Board of Governors for the school is dealing with this adequately, I feel that the more minds we have thinking about this the more likely we are not to miss any good ideas. So, please sign your name to your essay on this and give it to your chaperone when you return. To make it a little more interesting, if we use any of your ideas that have not already been suggested to the Board of Governors, I'll find a reward for you.»
Many of the students perked up at her last comment.
«I'm not sure what it would be at the moment, but things like 100 Galleons or a copy of a rare book from our library are possibilities.»
Happy murmurs rose.
«A final comment for those who are concerned about losing friends… Whatever solution we pick will probably take a year or two at the soonest to implement, and those already enrolled at Beauxbatons will have the choice to continue their education as originally planned.
«Please remember that this is mandatory for everyone, and have a Happy Christmas if I do not see you later today.»
With her speech done, people started to rise to leave for their first class.
Harry looked at Hermione and saw a gleam in her eye. He wondered what ideas she had for this or if she was just fantasizing about obtaining a copy of a rare book.
After the last class of the day, Harry and his bond-mates hurried to their rooms to grab a bag. They had all packed the night before in anticipation of going home for the holidays. They were to have a full four weeks off: two in December and two in January.
As they walked to the main entry hall with all the Floo connections with Gabrielle enthusiastically leading them, Harry looked at Hermione. "So you still aren't sure if they'll agree or not?" he asked quietly and purposefully using English, although no one else was close enough that they should have been able to overhear.
Hermione sighed and looked displeased before she replied just as quietly. "I don't like it, but no, I don't know what Mum and Dad will say. I think your idea to invite them with us is the best variation though."
"And if they don't want to let us stay at our house for at least a week?" he queried a little aggressively.
She frowned at him. "I don't think this is the time to push it, Harry. Trying to make it happen this summer will be hard enough."
It was Harry's turn to sigh. "I didn't think I'd miss sleeping with you three until I really thought about what this holiday would be like under our parents' rules."
"I know what you mean, but consider the long term. Even if they say no, we've started them thinking about it for this summer, so they should have more time to get comfortable with the idea."
"The reverse is also true," he told her. "They'll have more time to come up with reasons we shouldn't do it too."
Hermione shrugged, not having any other idea for the problem.
They came to the main entrance hall and the Flooes. After checking out with their chaperones, they used a little Floo Powder and went to the Delacours. Both Apolline and Jean-Aimé were waiting for them, eager to see them all, giving warm hugs to each of the students.
There was one other person waiting for them and that was whom Gabrielle rushed to. In a small bassinet was her new little brother. Gabrielle stared at the dark-haired little boy in rapture.
«As I told you in my letter, his name is David.» Apolline reached in and gently lifted him out. After making sure he was all right, she carefully handed him to Gabrielle, making small corrections in the sister's arm placement to support the baby's head better. The other bond-mates gathered around and looked intently.
«He's so small,» Hermione murmured in wonder.
«But very cute,» Ginny commented as she rubbed the back of one finger against the baby's cheek ever so gently. «And soft too. He almost makes me wish I was old enough to have one.»
Harry noticed the gleam in all three girls' eyes and smiled in pleasure. He would have his own family with children one day. He also noticed Hermione suddenly scrutinizing Apolline. «What?» he asked his oldest bond-mate.
Hermione continued to look at Apolline. «You really only had this baby a week ago? You're so … thin again.»
Apolline chuckled and pressed her hand to her stomach to flatten her robes. «I still have a little extra weight as you can see now.»
«But most women-» Hermione stopped abruptly. «I'm so sorry, I wasn't thinking; that was very rude of me.»
Apolline chuckled again and this time placed a hand caringly on the girl's shoulder. «I'm not offended at your surprise. Most women do have extra weight after giving birth to children. I have less extra weight because the baby was small and I'm a Veela. In another few weeks, you won't be able to tell I have recently given birth except for my enlarged breasts which are heavy with milk.»
Harry took a renewed interest in little David again so as to hide his embarrassment. He had noticed his mother-in-law's "improved" figure as her robes did not hide as much on the top.
«I'd have you tell us all about your school this term right now, but I know Fleur would make you start over when she arrives,» Apolline told them. «So, why don't you take your things up to your rooms and unpack, hmm? Fleur should be here soon and we can talk over dinner.»
The four picked up their bags from where they had dropped them and looked around as they made their way to their rooms. The house was decorated for Christmas, including a live tree in a festive bucket with live fairies on the tree.
«I really like this,» Hermione said with some awe as she looked around slowly and wide-eyed.
«Me too,» Ginny added. Harry could only nod at the coloured balls, lights, wreaths, and other Christmas knick-knacks. It was all so very homey. He wanted to do this too at his home one day.
By the time the four returned, Fleur had come home and immediately started giving hugs. As she hugged Gabrielle, she turned to her mother. «I didn't grow this fast when I was her age, did I?»
Apolline chuckled at the question. «You did and it amazed your father too.»
«I'm still amazed - at both of you,» Jean-Aimé said good-naturedly.
«Come, let's eat dinner,» Apolline directed them all to the dining room, «and you can tell us all about your term and what you think of Beauxbatons.» She carried David in one arm with her and ate with one hand, although Jean-Aimé had to help her by dishing the food to his wife's plate.
The four took turns describing their school year so far. Everyone was happy that Gabrielle had found a few good friends her age, especially Fleur as she had had a difficult time making friends because of being a Veela. Gabrielle was quick to point out that being bonded helped a lot, or so she thought.
Ginny enjoyed telling about their Quidditch match, which forced Harry to show that his shoulder was fully healed. Although Apolline gave him a concerned look, Harry could tell his mother-in-law was pleased that he had played well and won. There was no doubt about Jean-Aimé's thoughts as he beamed grandly and told Harry how proud he was of the boy.
When dinner ended and they moved into the family room, Apolline handed the baby to Hermione to hold, since she had been observing the baby so much. Fleur grabbed Ginny's arm and pulled her to a couch by themselves.
«Ginny, tell me all about your brother Bill,» asked Fleur excitedly.
«Bill? Why do you want to know about him?»
The question caused everyone else to look over at the two.
«I met him during my trip to London a few weeks ago and he asked me on a date. It went well but he asked me to come home with him and meet his family on Boxing Day.»
«To his home? Already?» her father asked loudly in surprise.
«Papa, he told me it wasn't serious, but he wanted to spend some time with me and his family, and because he travels frequently also, the only way he could do that was for me to meet him at his home.» Fleur looked at her father with a little disappointment causing him to back down after a moment, but he looked at Ginny for confirmation.
Ginny thought about what she had been told and her brother. «It's probably true. Bill has brought friends home in the past. I can't remember it ever being a girl before, but I do remember him telling me in a letter about a month ago that he's been very busy at work and traveling a lot.»
Jean-Aimé gave the red-head a nod of acceptance and thanks.
Fleur turned back to Ginny. «We've mostly talked about work and what we do there, so what else can you tell me?»
«Well,» Ginny drawled as she tried to think of what she could say. «Bill was Head Boy at Hogwarts, so he's smart. He's told me he likes his job most of the time, although he finds speaking Gobblygook hard on his throat.»
Fleur laughed. «Yes, I would have to agree.»
«You can trust him. If he promises you he'll do something, he'll do it. He promised me he'd protect me from my other brothers when I was younger and he did a good job of it when he wasn't at school.» Ginny paused, not sure what else to say.
«He is powerful, yes?» Fleur asked with much interest.
«Yes, he might even be the most powerful in magic of all my brothers.» Ginny shrugged. «I'm not sure what else to really tell you. I'm sure I'm biased, but Bill's a good guy and someone you can trust.»
«Wouldn't you say that about all of your brothers?» Apolline asked teasingly.
Ginny smiled but she looked fairly serious. «No, or at least not in the same way. I love them all, but they're also very different. It's probably not fair to any of them, so I don't ever say it in front of them, but Bill's probably my favorite brother.» A grin crept over her. «Although, I've started to appreciate Fred and George more and more as I've grown up,» she finished with a mischievous look.
Harry chuckled and Gabrielle giggled at Ginny's last comment. Hermione alternated between chuckling and a mildly disapproving expression for a moment. Harry was not sure if Hermione disapproved of the twins or of the thought of her agreeing with Ginny about liking their antics.
«How does he react to you?» her mother asked as the levity subsided.
Fleur brightened. «He behaves very well! When I asked him, he admitted that he had to use Occlumency to help avoid distraction. While not perfect,» she sent a quick glance at Harry, «it is workable and he may get better with more time.»
Her mother nodded in satisfaction.
«How about his other behavior?» her father asked. Realizing after the fact what that might sound like, he looked at Ginny and said, «I mean no offense to your family, but I am her father.»
«None taken,» the red-head said graciously.
«He has been very polite, Papa,» Fleur said with a hint of rebuke before her expression changed into a wicked grin. «But I don't think he ever had a choice. As soon as I told him my name, he asked, 'Are you any relation to Gabrielle Delacour?' When I told him she was my sister, and that I did know Ginny, he immediately became nervous and more formal. It was very funny.»
Everyone laughed at Bill's predicament.
«See, my dear husband,» Apolline said smugly, «Gabrielle's bonding has other positive benefits.»
Everyone chuckled or giggled at Jean-Aimé's position now. He graciously nodded agreement to his wife argument.
Ginny walked over to Hermione and held out her hands with a pleading look. Hermione carefully handed the baby over. Ginny moved to sit on the couch next to Gabrielle where the two looked at the baby and played with his tiny hands as the baby continued to sleep peacefully.
After more time discussing Beauxbatons, Fleur's job, and what had been happening at home, everyone retired to their bedrooms.
Shortly after the lights went out, the three bond-mates snuck into Harry's room and crawled into bed with him. A few minutes after they had made themselves comfortable, a weight settled on the end of the bed, startling the four.
«Do you do this at school too?» a soft and motherly voice asked.
«Mother! You scared us!» Gabrielle hissed quietly but forcefully to make her point.
«You have nothing to be scared of if you're doing nothing wrong,» Apolline said matter-of-factly, «but you didn't answer my question.»
«We're all dressed in pyjamas, as according to the rules,» Hermione said with a hint of defiance.
Apolline sat silently and waited.
After several very long seconds, Harry finally answered her. «Yes, we do this at school when we want to.»
«Thank you for answering me, Harry. I am surprised you do not mind your dorm mates seeing your girls in their pyjamas.»
«We, uhh, we have our own room since we're considered to be married.» He hurried on once he realized how that could be taken. «It's really a suite of rooms and we each have our own bedroom so no one else can see us do this.»
«I see,» she said after a moment. «And do you also sleep alone with Gabrielle?»
«No, definitely not,» Harry assured her quickly. «She'll have to be at least thirteen or probably fourteen.»
«Thirteen,» Gabrielle interjected.
«We'll see,» Hermione said. Everyone could hear Gabrielle give a pouty grump in the dark to that answer.
«I'm not fully happy with this, but that will do for this year. I will think on this further and we will talk about it this summer. Will you promise me these rules will stay in place for the rest of this school year?» Apolline's tone made it very clear there was only one acceptable answer and she received a meek "Oui" from each of the four.
«I wished that I could fully understand,» she said a little wistfully, «then again, I'm not sure that I would want to be in your situation either. Be very careful, all of you. It is easy to hurt those who love and who trust you.» Apolline stood and left the room.
«At least she accepts this,» Ginny said.
«Mother does because she's a Veela and Veela understand emotion better, or that's what she told me once.» Gabrielle explained. «She didn't say it, but don't tell Father.»
«Isn't he going to know?» Hermione asked incredulously. «She'll tell him, won't she?»
«No, she probably won't tell him and so he won't know if we don't mention it.» Gabrielle's implied "so don't say anything" was clearly received.
On the morning of the twenty-fourth, Sirius Black arrived via the Granger's Portkey.
"The taxi to England has arrived!" he called out.
The bond-mates all hurried to meet him with a hug, their bags already waiting in the hallway. The adult Delacours walked at a more leisurely pace.
"There's not much, but we have a little snow on the ground that should stay to give us a pleasant Christmas look at home," he told them. "Jean-Aimé, Apolline," he greeted the adults. "Ah, and this is the newest one. David, right?"
Apolline proudly showed off her son. "Yes, David. I think he'll look a lot like his father one day."
Jean-Aimé was looking even more proud than his wife. "You'll be back on the tenth?"
"Yes," Harry told him as he walked over to give each of his in-laws a hug before picking up his bag, causing the girls to follow his example.
"I believe the Portkey has had time to recharge," Sirius said, holding it out when the four looked ready to travel. "I'll see you again in a couple weeks." He waved to the Delacours and said the activation phrase to send them back to the Granger's living room.
Dan and Emma greeted them with hugs when they arrived.
Emma also looked closely at each girl with a motherly eye. "My, you're all growing up so fast. You must tell us about school." She looked over to their guest. "Sirius, please stay and have some tea. I'm sure you'll want to hear this too."
"Thank you, I do. However, may I make a request before we get started?" Receiving a nod, he looked at his godson. "Harry, I mentioned in my last letter that you and I need to talk about a few things concerning your property. I'd like to take a couple of hours and do that this afternoon if you don't mind. I think the sooner we do it the better as then I won't forget," he said with an easy grin.
"Sure, after lunch?" Harry asked, looking between Sirius and his parents.
"That would be fine," they said.
"What is this about?" Hermione asked curiously and politely.
Sirius ran a hand through the side of his hair as he thought for a moment. "I think I need to say nothing at this time." When he saw Hermione about to protest, he held up a hand to stop her. "It's not that I'm trying to hide anything, Harry can tell you everything afterward. It's just that if I even try to explain a little, then I'll have to explain it all and I'd rather have Harry's opinion first and then let him explain it to you later. Besides, I really need to be at the Potter Manor house so we can look at things while we talk."
Hermione did not look fully satisfied, but she nodded acknowledgement. Harry was sure that meant he would be explaining it at his earliest opportunity.
They spent the next couple of hours and through lunch, which Emma had prepared ahead of time, talking about school.
Harry let Hermione do most of the talking as he thought about what he was going to say - or really two things he felt he needed to say. Changing how he viewed his new parents, and how they viewed him, was part of his plan. Unfortunately, every bit of it made him nervous.
As lunch came to an end, Harry finally jumped in after Hermione finished explaining about their holiday assignment. He sat up as tall as he could as he said, "Err, Dan, Emma?"
Everyone looked at him, Dan, Emma, and Hermione being the most surprised by him calling them by their names.
"I, uh, I'd like to spend at least some, if not most of our time, over the holidays, at … Potter Manor, and I'd like to invite both of you to come with us so that we can spend more time together, and uh, so you can enjoy it with us." He had done it, he thought, but the nervousness was still with him and even increased slightly as he watched his adopted parents look at each other with surprise and questioning looks, obviously gauging what the other might be considering based on expression.
Dan cleared this throat lightly as he wiped his mouth with a napkin and placed it down. He also glanced at Sirius and saw that the man looked as surprised as he felt. "I suppose it's possible, Harry, but could you tell us why you want to do this?"
Harry glanced at Hermione and saw a supportive smile. "We, uh, we thought it would be nice to be somewhere different, sort of like a short trip. We'd also like to get used to the place a little more. We've only spent a little time there over several short visits." He brightened a little as he remembered another argument. "Oh, and I'd be happy to bring you back here in the mornings and get you in the evenings so you could still work when you have to."
"Also, we've made arrangements to meet with some of our Hogwarts friends, and it would be a lot easier for us to visit with them if we were in a Wizarding home with access to the Floo Network," Hermione smoothly added.
Harry nodded his agreement. Looking at Ginny and Gabrielle, he noticed they were doing their best to look neutral and remain out of the discussion, letting the two who looked to the Grangers as parents handle it.
"I see," Dan said after a moment, looking like he was still trying to comprehend the situation. "Sirius? What are your thoughts?"
"I can see the point of being near the Floo Network and it should be safe enough," he said with a nodding motion as he thought it through. "Who will be visiting?"
"Neville and Luna, maybe a couple of times," Harry answered.
"And we're supposed to spend Boxing Day at the Weasleys, so we'd use the Floo Network to travel there too," Hermione said.
"Fleur might visit us after she leaves the Weasleys so she'd need a bedroom," Gabrielle suddenly said, then looked down shyly when everyone looked at her.
The three adults looked at Ginny since she had remained quiet and she knew what they were silently asking.
"My father strongly requested that we come over for the day and we agreed. He's asked all of the boys too and he said in his last letter that they will all be there," Ginny offered in collaboration.
"Except for emergencies, we do have off until the 3rd of January," Emma said non-committally.
"I suppose we could stay there until we have to go back to work and then all of us return to here until you're to return to France for the last week of your holiday." Dan looked at Harry as if trying to divine the young man's thoughts. He was trying to make everyone happy, but was not completely sure of all the dynamics. There was little doubt in his mind that there was more going on than what was being said. Harry's use of their names instead of "Mum and Dad" was an obvious indicator.
"How do you feel about that?" Dan watched all four of the bond-mates to see their reactions. He saw Harry look at each of the girls briefly and receive a small nod, showing him that this was a group issue in some form.
"I think that will work," Harry replied evenly.
The way it was worded caused Dan to think that while Harry accepted the plan, it was not what he wanted. The fact that Harry did accept the plan made Dan wonder even more what was going on.
"In that case, why don't I take Harry over to Potter Manor and he and I can have our talk while the rest of you pack or prepare the house for everyone to be gone for the next week?" Sirius suggested.
That was agreed upon and Harry left his Portkey to the family house with Hermione and let Sirius Side-Along Apparate him to the Potter home.
Harry noticed Sirius looking at him thoughtfully, but the man did not ask any questions about what had just happened either. Instead, they both buttoned the top button of their coats to keep a little warmer in the winter wind.
"This way," Sirius said as they walked around the north side of house. "Have you looked out here much?" he asked the young man.
"Not really. I know there's a lot of land and no Quidditch pitch."
Sirius's bark of laughter echoed against the house and was the only loud sound around. "It will be easier to explore here when you return home for the summer, but I thought there was something we should discuss now."
"You may not realize it yet, but you have a big problem. Also, a mutual friend of ours has a problem. To your good fortune, it's possible to help our friend and let him help you as well."
Harry thought he understood the basic idea, but there was not enough detail. "Sirius, you're not making a lot of sense. What's my problem and who do we know that has a problem where we can help each other?"
Sirius snorted, his breath visible in the cold. "Harry, you have a lot of land here. Despite it being protected by various charms and wards, the Muggles know it exists. To them you have a big farm house with the appropriate extra buildings; there appears to be nothing magical here. Still, there are expectations with large farms and ranches.
"You have plenty of money to pay the taxes, but the problem is that people expect to see things done with land, unless maybe it was completely covered with a forest, which you don't have. Harry, they expect the land to be worked and if not, questions eventually get asked which you probably don't want to answer, and you don't want them trying to find you and not be able to, as that raises more questions." At Harry's puzzled looked, Sirius said, "Harry, this land is not normal because it's not worked and that sticks out. It needs to be treated like all the other land around you so you'll fit in and can avoid embarrassing questions."
"Oh," Harry said a little more loudly than he had meant to. "But why hasn't that been a problem in the past, you know, since my parents died?"
"From discreetly asking around, it seems that when your parents went into hiding, they told the story that they were going away on a long trip for a few years. No one seemed to think anything of it when that stretched to a few more than that. But now, it's been fourteen years and people are starting to ask questions about 'the Potter place', as they call it."
"How did you find this out?" He looked up at Sirius since the man had stopped near a few out-buildings.
Sirius grinned at him. "There is a small village near here and I went snooping around there very carefully asking about maybe buying this land as a way to gather information. A few coins at a pub to buy beer can be an easy way to hear stories."
"All right, so you're saying I need to start treating the land like it should be. I guess that's my problem?"
"Yes," Sirius agreed.
"How does that work with the rest of what you told me, about a mutual friend … who you haven't mentioned yet," Harry reminded him.
"Let's look at this one," Sirius said, indicating the small cottage in front of him as he went to the door and opened it.
Inside, it was as cold as outside since there was no fire, but it looked like it could be nice little place if someone removed all the dust and otherwise cleaned it.
"Sirius, could you just come out and say whatever you need to say instead of beating around the bush?" Harry told him, with some complaint in his voice.
The man pulled out his wand and cleaned a couch, then shot a fire spell at the fireplace to light what little wood remained before he dropped to the couch. Harry pulled out his wand and cleaned a chair off, one that was near the small fire.
"Harry, Remus Lupin has a problem and I'd consider it a favor if you'd help him and let him help you at the same time," he said slowly.
"At least we're finally getting somewhere," Harry said quietly, although Sirius must have heard because he started looking more nervous. "What is his problem and how does it relate to my problem?"
Sirius sighed heavily. "Remus is a proud person, very proud. I think it comes from having to stand on his own for so long with no one to stand with him. I've been trying to do that since I got out of Azkaban, but he'll only let me go so far, and not very far at that. Harry, he's practically starving since he can't find work right now and he won't let me give him any money."
Harry was shocked to hear that about the family friend. "But why can't he find work now?"
"I don't know, I can't get a lot out of him, but I think it's because the Ministry has been tightening some of their Anti-Werewolf laws, making it harder on all of them. He's been trying to find work in the Muggle world, but since he has no documented education from there, he can only get the most menial jobs and he's lost the flat he used to rent, so he just stays where he can, warming it with magic as best he can," Sirius said sadly. "I've tried to get him to come stay with me, I've got the room, but for some reason he won't do it."
Harry was starting to understand and draw the connections that Sirius had been alluding to. "What makes you think he'd stay here if I offered it to him?"
Sirius opened his mouth, then stopped and let it snap shut before he started to grin. "You've figured out part of my plan at least. Harry, you need someone to run this place, especially while you're not here. What I've been trying to ask is if you'll hire Remus to work for you. If you made it a job, something he'd have to earn, I think he'd go for it. Tell him you'd trust this to very few people and that he's one of those, you know, something heart-wrenching that he has to say yes to."
"I see," Harry said, nodding as he thought it through. "I want to help him, but do you think he could do the job? If he can't, wouldn't that make things worse?"
Sirius chuckled and grinned. "Ah, Harry. You don't know Remus Lupin, very well if you ask that. Not only is he prideful about doing things on his own, he's very prideful to learn quickly whatever he needs to survive. I think he knows enough to get started, and he also has some time to learn, as planting and ranching won't happen until spring. The point is, if you can get him to accept the job, he can move in here," he pointed to the cottage they were in, "now and you can start to pay him so he'll be able to eat and have a permanent warm place to stay."
"That makes sense." Harry looked at his godfather. "And then he can help me while I help him."
"Yes. However," Sirius held up a cautioning hand, "you'll need to meet him alone, say at the Leaky Cauldron - buy him dinner too - and talk him into it. I can't be there or he probably won't accept. But with only you, you'll tug on his heart-strings just enough to overcome his stubbornness - I hope," the last muttered under his breath.
"All right, I will." Harry stood and put out the fire with his wand. "Let's go up to the house and see if everyone is there yet." He shook his head a little, "and get my interrogation from Hermione over."
Sirius laughed hard as they exited the cottage.
Everyone was at the main house and Harry spent the next hour talking about Sirius's plan and how to implement it.
A hand shaking him slightly woke Harry on Christmas morning. Turning from his warm sleeping companion, Harry saw Dobby looking at him. "Dobby?"
"Master Harry, I'm here as you requested. The adults are waking up."
As the grogginess left him, Harry now remembered his order to Dobby so they could avoid Dan, Emma, and Sirius from finding out about their sleeping arrangements.
"Thank you, Dobby. You may return to whatever you were doing." The elf popped away and Harry gave his partner a little shake. "Ginny, you need to get up."
She grabbed him a little tighter. "Sleeping in sometimes is really nice."
He chuckled at her. "It is, but if we want to keep doing this and avoid a confrontation with Dan and Emma, we really should be out of this room before they see us come out."
Ginny sighed and kissed him gently before crawling out. "You have a point." She grabbed her gown and quietly left for her own room.
Later that morning, Harry reflected on his holiday so far as everyone sat in the living room and talked. None of the adults had said anything about Ginny in his bedroom, so he assumed that secret was good so far. The girls had all liked his presents and he had liked theirs. Of course, Dobby had made a wonderful breakfast and had hinted at what sounded like a great dinner.
He was glad he had sent a small gift to Remus Lupin, as there was one here from the man. He hoped Remus agreed to talk the day after tomorrow. He was also unsure as to why the family friend had not accepted the invitation from Sirius to spend Christmas here with them. The only reason Harry could come up with was that it was Sirius inviting him and not Harry, since it was at Harry's house, but Harry did not think that should have mattered. Remus was a real mystery at times.
"Is everyone ready?" Harry called out to draw all the girls into the front parlor with the Floo connection.
Despite his calm appearance, Harry was nervous about today. He was looking forward to talking to Fred and George, and to see if Ron was still doing well. Even though they were friends now and Harry did care for Ron, they were not very close and so Harry was not sure exactly where they stood. Letters between him and Ron had been few and short.
Then there was Molly. He would not have gone over if Arthur had not promised to be there and he knew Ginny felt the same way.
Hermione led the way in, followed by Gabrielle and then Ginny - all in their coats in case they needed to go outside for any reason, although unbuttoned so as not to be too hot while they were inside.
Harry was about to lead the way through the Floo until his cursory look at his bond-mates fell on Ginny. Walking over he slowly opened her coat to see more than the few inches of her outfit that was showing. The jumper, jeans, and boots were a nice look on her, but the jumper and jeans were tight and the jumper had a V-neck that barely avoided showing her bra. If they were only staying around the house, he would have smiled and enjoyed it. "Ginny, that's looks really good on you, but are you sure about wearing that in front of your parents?"
She gave him a mischievous smile and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, Harry, and yes, I'm sure."
"Please tell me why so I know how to act there."
"I know I'm pushing the limits, Harry, but I need to know if my mother will recognize that I'm not a little girl any more … that I'm not hers to command." She looked at Harry with a hope of acceptance.
He looked her over once more quickly. "Very well." He kissed her back on the cheek. "You're coming last though." She nodded her acceptance of his command. He headed to their destination with a toss of some Floo Powder and a command of "The Burrow".
Harry came out the fireplace on the other end with only a stumble. He notice quickly that Mr Weasley, Bill, Fleur, Percy, Charlie, and Ron were already there and waiting. Turning, he lent a hand as his three bond-mates came out of the fireplace too.
Gabrielle hurried over to Fleur and began chattering quickly in French with a few glances at Bill. Fleur listened patiently with an amused grin as Molly Weasley came to the doorway.
Harry cleared this throat and said, "Gabrielle?" He heard her say in French that Fleur had to tell her all about Bill before she skipped back over to grab Harry's arm. Chuckling at her antics, he turned to their host. "Happy Christmas, Mr and Mrs Weasley, and thank you for having us over." While he had not named them, he nodded and smiled to the rest there.
"Happy Christmas to you and yours, Harry," Arthur said, "we're glad to see all of you. Please, hang your coats on a peg and have a seat. Oh dear, we're running out of seats…"
"It's not a problem, I'll take care of it," Harry told him as he pulled his wand out and conjured a couch for the four of them in one of the few areas big enough to hold it. As he went to take his seat, he noticed Molly was frowning, although still quiet and in the doorway. He was not sure if she was displeased with him for using magic or Ginny and her attire as she hung the coats for all four of them or perhaps something else. Molly was only looking them all over and not handing out her usual hugs.
"How are you doing, mate?" Ron asked a little hesitantly.
"We're doing very well, Ron. All of us have Exceed Expectations or Outstandings in all of our classes. The Quidditch team that Ginny and I are on won our first game. Err, what else?" He looked at his bond-mates.
"Beauxbatons has been a lot of fun," Ginny said boldly. "Dad, you'd like it. They have a small Muggle village on the school grounds that's set up like non-magical people would live and work in. I think it's very realistic because it's close to what the Grangers live in. It's even got electricity." She glanced at her mother and saw her frown deepen slightly.
Her father chuckled. "Splendid. Perhaps I should come down for a day to see it. I also could try to bring Headmistress Sprout with me to convince her to do the same at Hogwarts."
"Do you like Beauxbatons better than Hogwarts?" Bill asked the group at large, although he looked mostly at Ginny.
"I think I do, but it's mostly because of our situation. I'm not sure Hogwarts would be so…" Ginny shrugged as she searched for what to say.
"Accommodating?" Hermione offered.
"Yes," Ginny said brightly. "Headmistress Maxime has been really good about helping us when we have special needs because of our … situation, like taking classes together, but most of the time we're treated just like everyone else."
"She does a good job," Harry agreed. "Also, it's been very nice not to have to worry about what's going to happen to us."
"What do you mean?" Charlie asked.
"Without fail," Hermione answered, "something bad has happened to one or all of us at Hogwarts by Halloween. Once or twice it may have been our fault for going somewhere we shouldn't have," she admitted shyly.
"Philosopher's Stone," Harry mumbled.
"But for the most part stuff just happened to us that we couldn't prevent, like the Triwizard Tournament you saw last year," she concluded.
"A troll, possessed diary, basilisk, Dementors, finding a family pet was a disguised Death Eater," Ginny counted off on her fingers before switching to her other hand, "binding contract to a dangerous tournament, dragons, going deep in a lake, a maze of dangerous creatures, kidnapped and then fighting Voldemort in a graveyard. Are ten examples good enough?" she asked sarcastically.
Harry noticed that all of the Weasleys were surprised when hearing the list all together. He noticed Molly shake her head and return to the kitchen. "So, what has everyone else been doing, other than starting to date?" he asked with a grin and nod towards Bill and Fleur, both of which smiled but otherwise did not rise to the bait.
Fred and George come down during their discussion and added their own brand of humor to the conversation that lasted until lunch. The food was good and Molly behaved herself by mostly staying quiet.
By the time they were ready to leave in the late afternoon, Harry thought the visit had gone much better than he had originally envisioned. Ron was friendly, although not overly so, or at least Harry felt like there was some distance between them. That was probably due to their history and not being in each other's company much anymore he thought.
As they said their good-byes, Molly gave them all a hug, although it was not like the smothering ones she used to hand out, and Harry appreciated the restraint.
Arthur pulled them him to the side at the last second. "Thank you for coming over Harry. Do you think we could do this every year?"
"I think so," Harry replied before hedging a little. "It may not always be on Boxing Day though. We might be busy sometimes, but I think we could find a day during the holidays every year … maybe during the summer too."
"I understand and that would be appreciated," Arthur told him with a smile and pat on the back.
«Harry, do you mind if I come over after dinner and spend the night and tomorrow at your house?" Fleur asked him.
«No problem. I'm sure Gabrielle would like that.» He was amused at the looks he received from the Weasleys for using French.
After going home, Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "That went better than I expected, but it's still good to be home." All the girls agreed.
When Fleur arrived later, she was beset upon by all three girls. Harry found it amusing and listened in as he looked over some papers about the Potter property that Sirius had given him so he would be ready to talk to Remus tomorrow.
Harry sat in the Leaky Cauldron in the corner and watched the old family friend he was to meet walk in. He had not seen Remus since late August and the man looked a lot more worn, certainly more gaunt. Though he would never do it, Harry wondered what Remus's clothes would look like if he hit him with Finite Incantatem and Transfiguration Reversal spells.
The older man sat down carefully, as with hidden injuries, even though the last full moon was not recent. "Harry."
"Remus, good to see you again. Order whatever you want, it's on me." Harry picked up his own menu.
"I don't really need anything, thank you though."
"It's lunch time, Remus, order something or I'll order something for you. I hate to say it but you don't look too well."
"I'll be fine. Besides, you know of my condition."
"Remus, I can read a calendar and I know the last full moon was almost three weeks ago, yet you look like you haven't had a decent meal in weeks. And let's not forget," Harry grinned ever so slightly, "that I can afford an extra meal or two when needed."
The old werewolf chuckled in defeat and picked up the menu. "You can be just like your father at times."
"I'd like to hope we can continue the family friendship," Harry said encouragingly as he waved Tom's helper over so they could order.
When it was just the two of them again, Harry asked, "So, what have you been doing lately?"
Remus shrugged tiredly. "You know, a little of this, a little of that, whatever I need to so I can survive. What of you and the girls?"
They had told Remus of their bonding, so Harry was not surprised by the question. "We're doing well. We've enjoyed an emergency-free year at Beauxbatons. We also enjoyed Christmas with family a couple of days ago, one you were invited to and didn't come. We did miss you." Harry looked at him pointedly.
Remus shifted uncomfortably and looked around as if searching for their lunch order. "I, uh, I was working, Harry. Thank you for the coat, by the way." He fingered the new coat on the back of his chair.
"Thank you for the pictures of my parents," Harry told him with equal feeling. "They were really brilliant."
"You're welcome," Remus told him with a smile. "I would have given them to you sooner, but I just found them recently, tucked away in an old schoolbook actually."
The slightly uncomfortable silence that developed was broken by the server bringing their lunch.
When it was just them again, Remus looked Harry with careful scrutiny. "Why did you do this, Harry? What did you want to talk about?"
Harry swallowed and chuckled. "I wondered how long it would take you to ask."
"You're as bad as Sirius at times…"
Harry started to laugh. "No, please, any comparison but that!" It made Remus smile at him, as intended. "Remus, I've got a problem and I need your help."
"What about Sirius? He's your godfather."
"He can't really help, he's unavailable," Harry informed him. "I need someone I can trust and someone who's intelligent and someone who's available to help me. I can only think of one person who meets all three conditions."
Remus looked at him suspiciously. "What do you want?"
"I need a foreman for my property. I've got about a thousand acres that have been just sitting there since my parents left years ago. That was fine for a few years or so. But I've been told people in the area are starting to ask questions about how the property can be maintained and such when there's no one living there and the land isn't being worked. The Muggles are starting to notice and I need for that to quit so questions don't get asked that would require Obliviation. Remus, I need you come live there and start ranching or farming and I'm willing to pay you as this is a real job."
Remus blinked in wonder as he took the explanation in. "You can't be serious…" He quickly held up his hand at the mischievous look that came over Harry. "Don't do the name joke. Are you serious? No, you can't be, I don't have any experience like that…" He started trying to talk them both out of the idea.
Harry sighed. "Remus, did you have any teaching experience before you taught at Hogwarts for that one year?"
"You're not looking at this from my side, Remus. My first condition is someone I can trust. The list of adults I can trust is very short and I think you're the only one who's either without a job or has a job that can be ended soon."
"Maybe, Harry, but I still don't know a thing about ranching or farming."
"So what, you'll learn and you've got three months to learn, to talk to people, to read books, whatever. You're intelligent so I know you can do this." Harry stared at him, trying to will him to take the job.
"I don't know, Harry…"
"Damn it! Remus!" Harry hissed, trying to keep the volume of his frustration low. "I need your help. I'll accept a 'no' if you really can't do it, but you have to give me a real reason other than you don't think you can."
"It's not that simple, it's complicated…" Remus looked frustrated in trying to explain it.
Harry stared at him trying to divine the problem. A thought suddenly hit him. "This is about my parents, isn't it? How they wouldn't trust you and left you out, so you're trying to keep only the loosest friendship with me, isn't it?"
"What?!" Remus surprised himself with his outburst and put a fist over his mouth as if trying to stifle a cough.
"If an official apology is what you need, I'll do it. I, Harry James Potter and Head of the House of Potter, do give you an official family apology in accordance to the old ways," as Sirius as taught me, "for ignoring you and treating you badly in 1981. I hereby acknowledge and renew your friendship with the House of Potter and will make restitution for the slight as I am able."
Remus looked at him wide-eyed without blinking for such a far-reaching apology. "Harry, you didn't have to… I mean ..."
"It was the right thing to do," the young man pointedly.
"You still didn't have to, but I accept and thank you for your graciousness. No restitution beyond friendship is required."
Harry nodded. "Good, then when can you start? There's a cottage there you can live in and there's also pay so you buy other things you need."
"I … my condition…" Remus shook his head and looked down.
"Moony," he said softly, causing the man to look up slowly. "I need you. The House of Potter needs you. As long as you don't betray us, which I don't think you ever would," Remus shook his head vigorously, "you can live and work there for as long as you want. We also have a stone shed you can use once a month. Moony, this isn't charity; help me and I'll help you."
The quiet appeal after the outburst did its job. Remus slowly nodded.
"Splendid. You're already keyed into the wards, so you can come as soon as you want. Do you need to give notice for your current job?" Harry doubted there was a current job, but he had to make this look "normal".
"I need to tell them, but I don't need to go in anymore."
"Then take care of that and get your things and come to the house. We have a place for you." Harry grinned. "And you can tell me more stories about my parents as well as the ones that Sirius won't tell me."
Remus's haggard look softened into a smile as he thought that through. "There are a few times I'm sure he'd overlook, like when he snuck some Fire Whisky into the dorm rooms in his seventh year and McGonagall caught him drunk and your father tried to cover for him."
Harry laughed at the idea. "Yeah, stories like that."
They soon parted and Harry went home and directed Dobby to clean the cottage for Remus, to find out that Dobby had anticipated him and already done it. A couple of hours later, Remus arrived and was settled into his new house.
Sirius also came over for dinner that evening and was glad to see his old friend. Remus gave him a few suspicious looks but said nothing about whether he thought Sirius had meddled or not.
Fleur left for home after dinner and a long hug from her sister.
Dobby popped in front of Harry the next morning while he was going over a list of things for Remus to look into. "Your friends have arrived, Master Harry."
"Thank you, Dobby. Please show them to the living room and go tell the other girls."
With a nod, Dobby popped away and Remus left as well.
Harry looked around the library and finally spotted Hermione reading in chair near the fireplace. "Hermione?"
"I heard," she said distractedly as she marked her place in a book while trying to finish the page.
When she made it over to him, still reading, he gently took the book from her, closed it completely, and set it on the table. "It'll be there when we get back."
She sighed slowly. "I know, I was in a good part though."
Harry chuckled as he led her out of the library on his arm. "Why didn't the Sorting Hat put you in Ravenclaw?"
"Because I asked it for Gryffindor and told it I wouldn't accept anything less." At his raised eyebrow, she sheepishly looked forward. "I knew you were going to be in Gryffindor, and I wanted to be there too. You were friendly to me, one of the few on the train."
"Good thing I didn't let the Hat put me in Slytherin then," he teased her gently.
"It is," she told him imperiously, teasing him back as they walked into the living room. Ginny and Gabrielle were already there and hugging Neville and Luna; Hermione left Harry's arm and did the same.
Harry hugged his friends too before saying, "It's really good to see you two again - have a seat." He did not fail to notice that they did not sit closely together nor did they hold hands. He was not the only one to notice.
"What happened with you two?" Ginny asked, looking carefully at each of them, trying to figure out what was going on. Her question triggered scrutiny from the other two girls.
Neville blushed ever so slightly and looked at Luna.
"I told you Ginny would be the first to ask," the blonde told him casually but kept staring at him.
Neville became very self-conscious from all the scrutiny. "Err, we, uh, that is, Luna … and I, me, well, we decided not to date anymore." As the looks from his friends intensified, he hurried on. "We both decided that and we're still friends - really!"
Four sets of eyes turned to Luna. She returned the stares without concern. "I don't think he was infected with Wrackspurts, but what he said is true. We did decide to break up about a week ago and we are still friends."
Ginny moved over to her friend and put an arm around her shoulders. "How are you doing? With the breakup, I mean?"
Luna shrugged and looked at her hands. "I'm fine, I think."
Not looking entirely convinced, Ginny tightened her grip on the girl and stood, pulling her up too. "Let's go talk about it." She led the blonde out of the room and Hermione and Gabrielle went too, each with less than pleased looks, including a frosty glance at Neville.
Neville sighed and leaned forward, putting his elbow on his knees and looking at the floor. "Are you upset with me too?"
Harry snorted. "Me? No, I'm not upset. Whatever happened was up to the two of you." He looked around quickly and ensured they were the only two in the room; they were, but he lowered his voice anyway. "I think the girls are forgetting that Luna is in a different situation from them. You two aren't bonded, and so you're going to date multiple people before you find that special someone for you."
With a pleased look, Neville raised his head and looked at his friend. "Thanks, Harry."
"No problem, mate," Harry said with a momentary lopsided grin. "Don't worry though, the girls will come around, they just need a little time. So, tell me about Hogwarts?"
Neville relaxed and leaned back in his chair. "Like I mentioned in the letters, it's going well. I like the new teachers, and the two extra teachers they hired means there is more likely to be teacher around if someone tries something they shouldn't, as Fred and George have found a few times," he said with a grin. With a shrug he added, "I like it most of the time now."
"Most of the time?" asked Harry.
Neville looked down as if he could not look at Harry. "Some things aren't for the better." He suddenly looked up. "You're not there, and Hermione and Ginny too. I do like Malfoy being gone, but school is more boring now also."
"I'm sorry," he said sounding truly sympathetic. "I'd invite you to Beauxbatons, but unless you already know French fluently…"
A shake of Neville's head answered the implied question.
"It'll be summers and holidays then."
"Thanks for being a real friend, Harry."
"As are you. Oi! I've got a project you can help me with while you're here. Grab your coat." Harry called Dobby to get his from wherever it was and the two friends walked out the back door.
"This is really nice, Harry," Neville said as he looked around. "You definitely fit in with the other Pureblood families."
Harry chuckled. "Thanks, I think," which caused Neville to chuckle as well. "I want to install a Greenhouse out here somewhere and I'd like your opinion on the best location and size. My mum had planned to put one in, or so the family journal says, but it never got built."
"This is the best time of year to plan one," Neville told him. "We have the longest shadows of the year now, so we know where not to put it. I'd suggest over there," he pointed to an open area not too far from the house. "It'll get good sun in the summer there too. I've got a 16x20 greenhouse and it works pretty well for us, but it depends on what you want to use it for."
"I was thinking mostly common potion ingredients and some food things. Maybe the next size bigger?"
"You could, but it depends on the costs of each. You might be better doing two smaller ones," Neville advised him.
"Make sense. Help me stake it out," asked Harry. So the Harry transfigured four sticks into large stakes and the two of them put the stakes at about the place the four corners would go, with Neville pointing out the best orientation.
Back inside, Harry led them to the library, where he expected to find the girls. He was correct and saw them all gathered around Luna, who was searching the selves for something. Ginny saw them first and nudge the other two Potter girls before walking over. Harry noticed that Neville looked a little apprehensive. He also noticed that the girls looked a little guilty, so he did not worry.
"Neville," Ginny looked him right in the eyes. "I'm sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusion. Luna told us we were being a prat about it." She took the last step forward and gave Neville a short hug.
"Yes, I'm sorry too," Hermione said as she stepped forward.
"And me," Gabrielle added when Hermione stepped back.
Harry watched his friend become redder with each hug. When Gabrielle stepped back from her turn, Harry was sure Neville was not capable of blushing any harder and he had trouble not laughing at his embarrassed friend.
"Err, th-thanks," Neville managed to say.
"It won't happen again," promised Hermione. The other two nodded solemnly.
"Here it is," Luna announced from the other side of the room.
Hermione rushed over and Harry was barely able to grab Ginny's arm before she left. "What?"
Ginny beamed at him. "Hermione remembered to ask Luna about that symbol we were searching for and Luna knew what it was. She also said that I should have known and that we probably had the book here, so she's been searching for it."
"A children's book?" Hermione asked, looking at Luna as if she could not believe it.
Ginny saw the cover as she walked over. "The Tales of Beedle the Bard." She tilted her head and thought for a moment. "Oh, the story of the three brothers versus Death. Yes, I should have remembered." She looked at Harry with a gleam.
"What?" Hermione asked, exasperated.
Luna took the book back and opened it to a story before handing it back, then she recited the story of the three brother and their meeting with Death, and their artifacts, all from memory. "Daddy finds it fascinating," she said at the end.
"This means you could talk to your parents," Ginny exclaimed. At an intense look from Luna, Ginny's eyes went wide and she slapped her hands over her mouth. "Sorry," she said in a very tiny voice.
Harry looked at Luna and Neville as he tried to figure out what to say.
"Don't worry," Neville told him with a grin. "I won't tell anyone what you may or may not have," showing that while he was in Gryffindor, he was not stupid.
Harry gave him a nod and looked at Luna.
Luna stared at him without blinking for a long moment. "I won't tell, but…" Her eyes started to tear and she could not seem to continue - her normally even personality gone.
Understanding her need, as it was much like his, he opened his arms to her and Luna stepped in. As he gave her a hug and patted her on the back, he looked over her shoulder at Ginny. "Since you spilled the beans, you get to go upstairs and dig the ring out of my trunk."
Ginny's expression wavered between guilt and happiness, but she nodded and hurried out of the library.
He let go of Luna and turned to Neville. "I'd make you the same offer, mate, but your parents are still on this side of life."
Neville, nodded his thanks and turned slightly, suddenly becoming interested in looking at the large library.
Ginny soon returned and handed the ring to Harry. Not really knowing what to do with it, he handed it to Luna. She examined it carefully for a couple of minutes while the others watched, even Neville.
Finally, she thrust the ring on her finger and turned it three times. A second later, she turned slightly and said, "Mummy?" in the voice of a little girl.
Harry could see nothing unusual, but he watched Luna reach out and take a step forward as if walking to something, or someone that he could not see.
"I … But I thought you … Oh, mummy, mummy..." Luna sank to her knees and tears started to flow down her face. She nodded slowly for a minute before quietly saying, "I understand. I love you too." Slowly, she pulled the ring off of her finger and let it drop to the floor before burying her face in her hands.
Ginny immediately moved over and put her arm around the girl's shoulders and comforted her.
Harry looked over at Hermione and saw her looking at him pointedly. "I don't know if I want to do it now," he said to the obvious question. He thought he had spoken quietly, but Luna looked directly at him.
"You still should," the quirky blonde told him, "but only once." She wiped her final tears away. "Mum said I wasn't the cause of her death; I had always wondered. She also said I shouldn't tell Dad about this. Thank you for letting me say good-bye to her."
"You're welcome." It seemed Luna was a little more focused than before, or so Harry thought.
The friends enjoyed the rest of the day together and promised to get together again in the summer.
The night before they were supposed to return to the Grangers for the rest of the holidays, Harry gathered all of his girls in his bedroom after the Granger adults had retired to their bedroom. The ring with the Resurrection Stone lay on the floor in front him, as they all sat on the floor with Ginny and Gabrielle on each side and Hermione behind him with her hands on his shoulders. He gathered his courage, but still could not quite bring himself to pick up the ring.
"You can do it, Harry," Hermione encouraged him gently. "We're all right here and you can take it off at any time." The other two girls agreed, encouraging him in the same way.
With a deep breath and thinking of his parents mightily, he grabbed the ring and stuck it on in one swift motion, then turned it around as he had seen Luna do. On the third twist, two images faded in in the open area in front of him. He could still see the room, but his focus was entirely on the two pale images that were looking down at him in affection. "Mum? Dad?"
"Yes, Harry, it's us, or what passes for us here," his father told him.
"I don't understand."
"The Stone is a bridge to the other dimension we all refer to as the afterlife," his mother explained. "It won't allow us to truly come back, but it does allow a reflection of us, or perhaps a shade, to extend back here for a short time. We shouldn't stay too long, but it is good to see you like this," she paused and looked around him, "surrounded by your family."
"I wished you could stay here…" Harry choked up on his overwhelming emotion.
"Son, we would like nothing more, but it's not to be. In fact, I hope we don't see you again for many many years to come."
"And many children later," his mother added quickly.
"It's your choice, son, but I would tell you to put this Stone, and should you ever find the matching Wand, in your vault and leave them there. The wand especially is a very dangerous thing and a number of people would readily kill you to get their hands on that particular wand."
"I understand, Dad." Harry choked on the last word and he had to say it again. "Dad." He looked over and said, "Mum," just because he could.
Lily Potter knelt down so she was eye-level with her son. "Harry, I do have one very important thing to say before we go. While I wished we had been here to protect you so you would have never had to find your special magic, you do have three very wonderful young ladies - each very special in her own way."
He nodded; he could not agree more.
"I admire your efforts to treat each of them the same way and that's good most of the time; however, you must also never forget that they are individuals, each with individual needs. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
"Yes, Mum. I need to do what right for the person."
"That's right. If you do, you will have relationships that will be indescribable to almost everyone else." She let a grin come over her. "Although I do expect the one person who will understand and that you'll be able to relate to will make himself known one day."
"Who?" he asked eagerly.
"I think it's best if I don't say, as he might not contact you. If he does contact you, follow your heart, my son."
Harry nodded, feeling choked up again as his mother stood and his father came down on one knee.
"Harry, I too have one special bit of advice to give you. There are times life is serious and you need to pay attention to the world around you. For example, there is one person whom you know that is a real threat to you." His father paused and looked at him.
After a moment, he said, "Croaker?"
His father chuckled. "Not really. He's more neutral; be careful around him, but he's not a threat to you if you aren't to him. No, I mean Dumbledore. He's still alive."
"I had forgotten."
James Potter nodded. "That is why I'm reminding you. My advice is to be aware, yet enjoy your life wherever you find yourself. Enjoy your family as much as possible. My only regret in dying so young is that I would have liked more time with you and to help you grow up - to just enjoy life with you."
Again, Harry only nodded, not able to speak.
His father stood. "I think it time, son. Know that we've always loved you and always will. We'll see you again one day, but take your time and enjoy life…"
"Even if it's hundreds of years," his mother said with a special smile.
"Huh?" he blurted out.
"Wizards can live a long time, son. As your father said, enjoy it and know that we love you very much." She blew him a kiss affectionately.
"Remember, hide the ring and the wand. Don't tempt yourself or anyone else," his father said firmly but lovingly. "The cloak doesn't stand out so you can use it."
"I will. Good-bye…" It was not until he took the ring off and let it drop to the floor that he realized his face was wet. Wiping away the tears, he found his whole face needed attention and wondered how long he had cried.
Gabrielle was the first to fling herself at Harry and the other two girls followed her example quickly.
"Are you all right?" Hermione asked.
Harry sniffled once before he said, "Yeah, I am. Luna's right, only once. My dad also said to put the ring and the wand if I ever find it in my vault and don't tell anyone."
Without waiting, Hermione let go and moved around to pick up the ring. "Dobby?" she called.
The house-elf popped in. "Yes, Mistress?"
She handed him the ring. "Please put this in the house vault." She stopped for a minute and frowned. "The house does have a vault for important things, doesn't it?"
"Yes, Mistress. It's in the Master's personal study and I'll put it there." Dobby popped away, leaving the four to themselves again.
Kneeling again, Hermione asked, "What did they say?"
He felt his eyes get watery but he also knew he was grinning widely. "They said they loved me and that you're all wonderful and my family." All three hugged him tightly. "They also said they didn't want to see us until after a long time and after a lot of children." He blushed with them. "And we might meet someone who'd understand us." At their looks of surprise, he quickly added, "Mum said he might not contact us, but she sounded like she thought he would."
"I wonder who," Hermione said quietly.
"She wouldn't say," he told her.
"It was strange watching you talk to someone when we couldn't see them," Gabrielle said.
"But we're all glad you did talk to them," Ginny told him.
"Come to bed, Harry." Hermione gripped one arm and lifted gently as she stood, causing him to stand as well.
As Gabrielle and Ginny rose, he gave each a hug and a chaste kiss. Hermione was last and he gave her a slightly longer hug and kiss. "Thank you," he whispered.
A minute later, all four were in bed and snuggling together on their sides, with Hermione in front of him and the other two behind him. Remembering his mother's advice, he slowly moved his hand over and gently squeezed and then held one of her breasts as they all went to sleep.
Harry awoke slowly the next morning, taking stock of who he was with and where his hands were - his usual first task in the morning. From the curves against him and under one hand, it was obvious he was still curled around Hermione. Twisting his neck, he saw the warmth behind him came from Gabrielle, with Ginny snuggled against the younger girl.
Gabrielle still amazed him. She was now taller than his chin and she was starting to fill out and look more grown up. He wondered if by the time Gabrielle's next birthday came if there would be any significant physical difference between her and Ginny. If so, that would make things both easier and harder.
Thinking it was about time to get up and he felt like having a little fun, he started to softly caress the soft T-shirt covered mound under his hand. It did not take long for Hermione to softly moan and then for her hand to fly up grab his as she became fully awake.
"Harry, no," she whispered, causing him to grin.
"Yeah, Harry," he heard whispered from behind him, "don't do that unless you do it to me too."
"And me," a third voice chimed in as a hand moved around his middle and lightly ran over his side.
"Hmm," he said amusedly.
"No, get that thought out of your head," Hermione told him sternly as she rolled over to face him.
"Hey, I didn't say anything bad," he defended himself.
"It wasn't hard to guess what you were thinking though." The glare from the brunette was a minor one.
Harry was saved from more reproofs and glares when Dobby suddenly popped into the room. "Mistresses must leave quickly! Dobby was not paying attention and the adults are up!" He started hitting his forehead with his hand.
The bond-mates all looked at one another for a long second in surprise before trying to spring out of bed, only to hit heads, tangle limbs, and generally not really go anywhere. A knock on the door caused them all to freeze and Dobby to pop away.
"We know you're all in there and we're coming in," the muffled voice of Dan Granger said through the door.
Harry sat on the bed in shock as their secret came undone. The girls all instinctually grabbed the sheet and held it to their chest as the door was opened to reveal Dan and Emma Granger, as well as Sirius behind them.
While Dan and Emma looked upset, Sirius seemed to be having great difficulty holding in his laughter, his face turning redder and redder as his smile grew.
"If you'll get dressed, we can talk about this over breakfast," Emma told them, but making no move of her own.
With her head hung, Hermione crawled out of bed and headed for her room looking guilty. Ginny and Gabrielle followed with their heads held only a little higher.
Harry was not sure how to feel, but he did his best to keep an even expression, although his emotions were all over the place.
"At least everyone was clothed," Emma said with some disdain before she led the adults away.
By the time he was dressed, Harry's feelings had mostly settled. He stopped by Hermione's room to talk as she was finishing getting ready.
"I think we should use this to settle our summer schedule," he told her as Ginny walked in.
"We might as well," she agreed, but Harry could tell she was still uncomfortable with it by how she said it.
In truth, he was uncomfortable too as the Grangers had been wonderful about taking him in so he did not have to stay with the Dursleys, but felt he had to go through with it. He was the head of his house.
In the hallway, Gabrielle was waiting for them so they went down as a united group.
Sirius was still grinning as he looked up at them from his breakfast. Dan and Emma still wore displeased looks. The four bond-mates sat at their usual places and started dishing up breakfast.
"I suppose," Dan started, "this sleeping arrangement is why you wanted to stay here for the holidays?"
"It was one of several reasons," Harry admitted slowly.
"As Sirius pointed out, I suppose you weren't breaking our rule, but only because of the technicality of location." Dan did not seem happy to admit that.
Harry almost said that was his view, but decided that staying silent might be better. The girls followed his lead.
"Can you at least explain why?" Dan finally asked after a moment.
"We asked to stay here to avoid breaking your rule, and because we've become used to sleeping together," Harry explained, realizing he had just opened Pandora's box, but feeling honesty was best for this conversation.
"You sleep together at school?" Emma asked, shocked.
"We do." He did not understand her reaction.
"So you let your girls come into the boys' dorm and let your dorm mates see them in their pyjamas? Regularly?"
Harry thought he now understand Emma's shock. He had not considered what it must look like to them. He thought of their little suite as normal now and had forgotten they would not know of it.
"That doesn't happen," Hermione said quickly, then looked over at Harry and back down, not having meant to speak out.
"Oh? How is that possible?" Emma asked pointedly.
Harry almost sighed, but managed to keep it in. "Because of our magical relationship, the Headmistress allowed us to have a suite of rooms to ourselves. We each have our bedroom, but we also have privacy from the rest of the dorm. We consider it a privilege and we try not to abuse it by isolating ourselves, so we try to spend as much time as possible in the common area around others. But at night, we can sleep as we wish."
"We are still abiding by our age plan," Hermione quickly added, "and Gabrielle never sleeps alone with Harry." Gabrielle nodded to confirm the statement.
Silence ruled for a long moment and the bond-mates looked at each other a little uncomfortably. None of them wanted to disappoint the Grangers, but they also wanted to live their life their own way.
A soft chuckle broke the silence and everyone turned to look at Sirius. "What?" he asked the room at large. "It's really not all that bad and it is amusing on several different levels, or it is if you're me."
"Perhaps you could explain that," Emma said a little testily.
"Emma, I can see you're not happy about this, but they were trying to do the right thing by you. You gave them a rule and they followed it. True," he held up his hand to stop her protest, "they only followed the letter and not the spirit of the rule, but they did follow it. They also are sticking to their plan for age appropriate behavior. I really have to commend them for that, considering they could do anything when away at school and many of my classmates would have done that if they'd had the opportunity."
Sirius looked right at Harry. "That includes your father." His grin returned. "Your father would have been laughing his arse off at your predicament and your mother probably would have found it amusing after an initial reaction like Emma's. That's what I meant by it being amusing if you're me. The dynamic between James and Lily was almost always entertaining."
"But Sirius, they're … they're …" Emma shook her head, unable to go on and Dan nodded in agreement to the unspoken argument.
"They said they're not, but even if they are, sometimes kids will be kids," Sirius said with a shrug. "Even if they lived at home with you, they'd still have the opportunity to do all the things you don't want." He muttered, "I know I did a lot of things my parents didn't like when I was that age."
"But that doesn't excuse them," Emma argued back.
Sirius shrugged. "Maybe not, but I still don't think it's as bad as you're making it." He ran his fingers through his hair and looked at the bond-mates for a moment, all sitting silently and waiting to see what Sirius said. "Dan, Emma, to state the obvious, at your house it's your rules, right?"
"Yes," Emma agreed with Dan nodding his agreement.
"So why isn't it Harry's rules at Harry's house?" The Grangers just blinked at him, as if that had not occurred to them. "Also, just maybe, I don't see this as all that bad because I can see they're growing up. Sure, they aren't there yet at fifteen, but they are growing up. I moved out of my parents' house and moved in with the Potters just after I turned sixteen. Charles, James's father, let me do pretty much what I wanted as long as I didn't act unreasonable, that is, as long as I did basically what James did. Since Harry is about that age, as long as he doesn't do anything too stupid," he paused and looked at Harry pointedly, "like getting one of the girls pregnant," he grinned as all four of them turned beet red, "I think I'm fine with it all."
Dan and Emma looked at each other, having a silent conversation.
Harry lightly cleared his throat. "We also wanted to say that we plan to live here most of this coming summer. We're willing to help you with Portkeying between here and your house at any time you like so you can stay with us and we can spend time together, but we want to stay here."
"You know, that could be a good compromise. You could even do that for the rest of the holidays," Sirius suggested.
"Whose side are you on?" Emma asked, although there was no force or bitterness in her tone.
"I'm on the side of trying to make Harry happy while also being reasonable. Yeah, I know, I can't believe I'm being this much of an adult either," Sirius told them with a grin.
Dan sighed. "Fine, we'll stay here the rest of the holidays and you have to help us get back to the house when we need to, but we want to think about this summer."
The bond-mates all smiled boldly. "Thank you," Harry told the Grangers fervently.
"We can change our minds though if the situation warrants," Emma added.
The teens nodded, understanding they would need to be on their best behavior.
(A/N: Thanks to XVRaider1 for continuing to beta this story!)