(A/N: Here's the last half of year 5.
I received a PM from Tumshie, who has experience in the UK agricultural profession, after the last chapter stating that in the UK they do not use "ranch" for a place to raise livestock and "farm" for a place to raise crops; but use "farm" for both situations. I originally used "ranch" in this story because that's what I'm used to and because Google showed the same usage (i.e. UK ranches). So, for those who live there as he does, please be aware that I know the term is misused, but because I started the story using "ranch", I'll finish the story that way. Perhaps I'll go back and change it all one day. However, at the moment, I'm trying to finish the story.)
Chapter 31 - Growing Up
It was a slightly cool but otherwise beautiful spring day in late March that found the bond-mates out in the "Muggle village". It was a semi-popular place to go when the weather was nice. Hermione and Gabrielle had come, along with other students, and were doing homework on one of the several picnic tables that were present. Harry was helping Ginny with her homework by showing her a car the school had for show in the fake village. It could not be driven, but Harry was explaining the basics of driving it and how it worked, based on what Dan had explained to him months ago.
"This is the engine area," Harry said, pointing to the area under the open bonnet, or hood. As you can see, it also has a large battery to help it start. The tank for the petrol is in the back and -"
A loud crack and a wave of a magic rolled over them, stopping Harry and causing him to instinctively draw his wand; Ginny mimicked his reaction. There, barely ten feet on the other side of the car, stood Albus Dumbledore with his wand in hand. His purple robe looked rumpled and his beard and hair looked like they had not been combed recently.
Turning slightly, Dumbledore looked right at them. "Harry, we must talk and you must come with me. I'm sorry, my boy, but there is still more you must do." He was interrupted by two men running through the portal doorway from the school.
«Stop! Drop your wand!» one of the men shouted.
Harry recognized the two men as part of the school security. An idea came to him and he dropped to one knee behind the car, yanking on Ginny's arm to pull her behind the cover too.
"I have no quarrel with you," Dumbledore replied, "and my mission is important to everyone in the world. Do not hinder me or I shall be forced to incapacitate you."
Harry tapped his wand on Ginny's head and she faded from sight. "When spells start flying, you cast under the car and transfigure the ground under him to water, a small area but as deep as you can so he falls. Draw power from me if you have to." She whispered that she would and he crawled to the rear end of the car.
Another sharp crack sounded from near the portal. "Professor Dumbledore, what are you doing here?" the voice of the Headmistress called.
Harry looked around the back bumper just enough to see Hermione and Gabrielle across the way. He waved at them with his wand while still trying to stay far enough behind the car that Dumbledore could not see him.
"Madame Maxime," Dumbledore said genially although never lowering his wand, "I'm sorry I must intrude upon your school, but Harry must come with me to finish a task.
Gabrielle finally noticed Harry, so he mimed casting a spell at Dumbledore. She nodded and nudged Hermione with her elbow and whispered, causing Hermione to move her head ever so slightly so he could know she was looking at him.
"I'm afraid that is not possible, Dumbledore." Dismay was clearly evident in the Headmistress's voice. "You must drop your wand and surrender for this violation of our school."
Harry mimed again and Hermione's right eyebrow went up in surprise. He mimed a third time, more emphatically this time. She finally nodded and he could see her slowly go for her wand.
"And I'm afraid I can't do that, my dear."
Harry held up his hand with fingers spread and slowly started dropping fingers.
"Young Harry must come with me. It is either that or Voldemort will take over the world."
One second after he reached one finger, Harry pointed at his bond-mates across the way. He felt a strong pull on his magic, and then two more in quick succession.
Gabrielle suddenly jumped up from her table, transforming as she moved, and threw a fireball from each hand at Dumbledore. Hermione moved too, but her first act was to shove the table forward to act as a physical shield before casting a Stunning spell at the old man.
Apparently, that was all the motivation the security men needed to start casting their own spells, although theirs were more vicious. Dumbledore shielded from it all only to lose his balance and drop the shield as the ground beneath his feet suddenly became liquid. Two more fireballs were hurled at him faster than he could create a shield, forcing him to dunk himself in the waist deep water to avoid getting burned.
As Dumbledore came back up from underwater, leading with his wand already in motion towards the security men, Harry pulled all the magic he could from his bond-mates and silently summoned the wand from the man's hand, ripping it from his grasp so hard it spun him around to face Harry with shock on his face. A Stunning spell from Madam Maxime hit the intruder in the back and ended the fight.
Harry caught the old man's wand when it reached him and as he stood up from behind the car. Slowly, he walked over to where Dumbledore was slumped over the edge of the hole in the ground, his lower half still in the water. "Take that you old idiot." It was only then that his father's warning sprang to memory and Harry silently berated himself for not being more careful.
«Is anyone hurt?» the Headmistress called out in a loud voice. Students from around village started to slowly poke their heads out from whatever hiding place had been closest. The two other teachers who had been with the students in the Muggle buildings started going around checking on them all.
As if struck, Harry finally realized what he had done. Turning to the head of the school, he said, «My apologies, Headmistress. Trouble came and I just reacted. I should have let you handle it.»
An amused looked crept into her expression. «Yes, you should have, but I do appreciate your help.» She looked around and saw Hermione and Gabrielle walking to Harry. «But where is Mlle Weasley?»
Without really looking, Harry pointed his wand to his side and casually said, "Finite." Ginny faded into view as she walked around the front of the car.
Maxime blinked at that, wondering how he had known where the young woman was that exactly when Maxime herself had not be able to see her. Something about their bond was the only thing she could think of. «Yes, well, it is good all of you are uninjured.»
One of the men spoke quietly to the Headmistress. She nodded and turned back. «M Potter, I shall need his wand so it can be checked.»
Dumbledore had already been pulled from the water, searched, tied up, and then awakened. He saw Harry about to hand the wand over and cried out, "No! He must keep the wand! It is the only way he can defeat Voldemort! He must have the wand and he needs my tutelage!"
A security man stunned the old man. «My pardon, Headmistress, I thought it wouldn't hurt to waken him. We'll need to take him in, his wand too.»
The Headmistress took the wand from Harry and touched her wand to it, causing images of spells to rise from it. The three adults looked with rapt attention. After the seven images stopped, the Headmistress peered carefully at the strange looking wand. «I see nothing unusual cast from this, other than the ward weakening spell.»
After another long look at it, she held it out for Harry. «I think Dumbledore has gone insane, but he normally had good reasons for what he did. On my authority, please take this to your home next week, M Potter, and store it in a safe place. Then should you need it for reasons only he knows, you will have it.»
«I will.» Harry slipped the old wand into his robes before pulling each of the girls into a hug, thanking each for helping and that he was glad they were safe.
Dumbledore, looking something like a wet and bedraggled rat, was taken away. Everyone else was guided back to the castle until the wards on the area could be repaired and strengthened.
That evening, all the dorm chaperones and aides ensured that everyone attended dinner. It was obvious the teachers knew why, based on their expressions, but none of said anything when asked.
While the Headmistress normally sat at a table like any other teacher, this evening she came in just as dinner was starting and asked the teacher at Harry's table to take another place so she could sit there. Harry saw Hermione giving him a curious look, but all he could do was shrug. The girl did not ask the Headmistress about the switch. As dinner progressed, the Headmistress talked and answered questions like any other teacher.
Midway through dinner, the Headmistress smiled at them all and said, «I believe it is time I satisfied Mlle Granger's curiosity,» as she stood.
Hermione looked very surprised by the woman's comment while the rest of the bond-mates chuckled or giggled.
The room went quiet almost instantly as the Headmistress moved to one side of the room so everyone could see her. Her booming voice needed no magical help to be heard throughout the room. «I hope everyone has had a good spring term so far. I am happy to report that the number of demerits this term is lower than normal at this point in the term and your grades are where they should be. Please keep up the good work.
«I also hope everyone understands the need for proper security, based on today's incident in our Muggle Village.» She smiled slightly at the murmured agreements. «To satisfy your curiosity, I do not have the official report yet, but I believe they will tell me that M Dumbledore is suffering from insanity due to his advanced age and was not in full control of himself. Our security team responded promptly and those students there took cover quickly as best they could, which was the correct action to take.»
The Headmistress looked at Harry and a mischievous look appeared. «The Potters came out hiding to help capture M Dumbledore. While I appreciate their help, I also appreciate the rest of you hiding and letting the security team and myself handle the situation. M Potter has told me he will avoid such situations in the future.» She gave him a nod and he returned it. «The portal to our village will be closed for the next several days while the wards there are repaired and strengthened.
«To the main reason everyone was called here this evening,» she paused as murmurs arose briefly, everyone thinking discussion of the attack was the main reason. «Our school's board and the ICW have come to an agreement on what to do about the overcrowding at this school.»
More excited murmurs swept across the room.
«By far, the most common suggestion was to build another wing. One young lady suggested that we build two wings, if we're going to the trouble of building.» The Headmistress looked over at Hermione and smiled. «However, we will not be building any time in the near future.»
«Mlle Dufour, please come forward.» As a sixth year girl from the green dorm came forward, the Headmistress continued. «Mlle Dufour suggested that we build a new school. While that was not a new idea, her suggestion for where to build it was and the ICW like it too. Therefore, this coming summer, construction will start on a new major school of magic in the northern mountains of Greece.»
Everyone applauded loudly and the girl blushed.
«Starting a little more than a year from now, or in the fall of 1996, the school will be built enough to begin accepting students for the first and second years. The rest of the years will begin the following year when construction is expected to be completed. It is not yet known what the official language of the school will be, but we'll have more information next year.» She looked down at the student. «Please come to my office tomorrow morning and I'll give you your prize.» The girl happily returned to her place and everyone clapped for her again.
«Mlle Brun, please come forward.» A fourth year girl from the yellow dorm arose and joined the Headmistress. «Mlle Brun suggested that since the overcrowding is affecting the dorm chaperones the most, that we hire an extra set of chaperones per dorm to help in the duties and that they could live in one of the unused married suites. I liked this idea for its practical approach and we will do that starting next year and for the next five or so years. Please come to my office tomorrow morning for your prize and everyone please congratulate Mlle Brun.»
Everyone clapped as the girl returned to her seat with a very happy expression.
«Mlle Weasley, please come forward.» As Ginny blushed and walked over, the Headmistress explained her idea. «Mlle Weasley told us that Hogwarts in Britain has more room than it has students and suggested we arrange a transfer program, much as they had transferred here. I have talked with the other schools and the new Headmaster Steinhoff at Durmstrang has agreed to allow up to eight students to transfer to his school, should any wish to. Be aware that you must be fluent in German and be starting the third year or higher to attend.»
A few students whispered excitedly, causing Harry to assume they knew German and might want to go.
«The newly appointed Headmistress Sprout at Hogwarts has agreed to allow up to twenty students to attend. You must be fluent in English and at least in second year to attend there.» She looked around the room. «If anyone would like to be considered for transferring to either school, please talk with your parents and see me after you return from our upcoming spring holiday.» Looking at Ginny, she said, «Please see me later for your prize.»
Everyone clapped for Ginny as she took her seat.
«I hope everyone has an enjoyable break starting tomorrow evening. Please do well in your classes tomorrow before you leave.» The Headmistress returned to her seat beside Harry.
Leaning over, Madame Maxime said softly, «Please bring your family to my office after dinner.»
Harry had a good idea what it was about, but was a little unsure. He nodded anyway.
Hermione spoke up. «Headmistress, why won't you build a new wing? You have the land to do it.»
«Yes, we do,» Maxime said with a smile. «However, the overcrowding is not so severe yet. Also, once the school in Greece is built, we expect our enrollment to drop at least twenty percent, perhaps even a little more. A number of students from that region attend here because they have no major school in that area. As M Potter suggested,» surprising Harry that she even remembered what he had written for the assignment, «there need not be one solution to solve the whole problem. The Board of Governors was already considering implementing two other solutions at the same time, so adding a few more will help even more. The overcrowding problem will not be so bad in two years and should be solved in about five years.»
«I see, thank you, Headmistress,» Hermione said, pleased with the detailed answer.
As everyone started to leave after dinner, the Headmistress looked at Harry as she rose. Harry nodded to her and motioned to his girls to follow him.
In the Headmistress's office, the tall woman directed them her sitting area. «Mlle Weasley, do you have a preference for your prize? We can do that now too.»
«I think I'll take the money,» she said excitedly. «I'd like to get a professional level broom when I finish school.»
«As you wish.» She opened a drawer in her desk and pulled a few things out before joining them in her special chair that fit her frame perfectly. A small pouch was given to Ginny and a metal ring a little bigger than a girl's bracelet was handed to Harry. «The Portkey you requested, M Potter.»
The woman looked them over for a moment, but her gaze returned to the young man. «Perhaps it is unfair of me to ask you this, but what are your feelings on the option to transfer schools. Will you be staying here or be going back to Hogwarts?»
Despite the calm way the Headmistress asked the question, Harry could tell she was very concerned about this by the way she was sitting - very tensely. He could understand why as she had gone to a lot of effort to get them here.
«It is an interesting possibility, but I think my first reaction is to stay here.» He noticed Hermione shifting in her seat slightly and his mother's advice about treating the girls well returned to him. «However, it is something the four of us would need to discuss.»
«Of course,» the Headmistress said smoothly, relaxing a little, «it is always a good idea to have agreement on large decisions. I have had nothing but good reports on all of you, including your class scores. I was slightly hesitant about giving you your own suite of rooms, but that has worked out well. I am pleased to hear from your chaperones that you do not isolate yourselves. Then there was this afternoon.»
She sighed heavily. «I have never had anything like that happen at this school before, yet what can be done about men who are insane?»
«The difference between Beauxbatons and Hogwarts is that you had a plan if something went wrong and you had adults who tried to protect us. There, we never had any help until after it didn't matter. Here, we had help in seconds.» Harry smiled at her. «You don't have to make it perfect for us to stay here, your present efforts are good enough.»
«We appreciate all you do,» Hermione added and the other girls agreed.
A warm smile graced the Headmistress's face. «Thank you very much. Unless you have any other questions for me, I'll let you study for your exams tomorrow.»
They bid her good-bye and returned to their dorm room. In the privacy of their suite, Harry looked at the others. «Does anyone want to go to Hogwarts? I mean really want it enough to transfer, not just 'it'd be nice sometimes'?»
«No, I want to stay here,» Ginny said quickly. «There are times I wish we were there, but I don't think we'd have rooms like this there.»
«And we'd have to share our secrets with others there,» Gabrielle added.
Harry looked at Hermione.
«There are times,» she said slowly, obviously thinking it through, «but I think I have to agree with Ginny. I doubt we'd get to live together there and I've come to like this.»
«We're agreed then,» Harry said with finality and a grin. «Now for the next question.» They looked at him wondering what he was talking about and he pulled out Dumbledore's wand. Understanding, they gathered around it.
«It's a strange looking wand,» Harry said. «I went through a lot of wands at Olivander's and didn't see one quite this unusual.»
«Turn it, Harry,» Hermione told him. «I think there's a rune or something near the end.» After Harry complied, she gasped and whispered, "It's the Deathstick."
All four of them stared at the Deathly Hallow's symbol on the wand for a long moment.
Harry swallowed nervously before switching languages and whispering too. "Not a word of this to anyone as my dad said people might try to kill us if they knew about it. If anyone asks, it's just a plain wand. I'll put it in our vault at home tomorrow night.»
The girls quickly agreed and Harry hid the wand in his room.
The next evening, the Portkey from the Headmistress dropped them in Diagon Alley.
"That's strange," Hermione commented. "I would have thought it would have taken us to the Ministry."
"Perhaps she told them it was so she could go shopping?" Ginny suggested with a teasing grin.
Harry shook his head at the amusing idea. "Hoods up and follow me." They all raised the hoods of their cloaks so they would not be identified as easily and went into the Leaky Cauldron, where Harry threw a few Knuts into the jar to pay for the Floo Powder and they Flooed home.
Dobby appeared and bowed. "Welcome home Master and Mistresses." He quickly collected their bags and cloaks. Foreman Remus is outside, Master."
"Thank you, Dobby. Ladies, shall we go see what Remus has been up to?" He led them to the front door and around the side of the house.
"Are you finally going to tell us what those tasks you and Remus have been so secretive about?" Hermione asked with some exasperation.
"Hey, I'm allowed a few secrets for surprises. You know I'll tell you eventually," he said a little defensively, but mostly teasing.
"We know," Ginny said kindly, rolling her eyes at the older sister-wife. "We also know how much Hermione like to know things."
Hermione threw her a half-hearted glare, but did not contradict Ginny.
"I'm sure it'll be grand," Gabrielle said brightly.
"That's the spirit," Harry told her and put his arm around the girl's shoulder as he led them around the side of the house.
Before they had walked very far, Remus walked around the corner and stopped them. Drawing his wand, he conjured three blindfolds. "I believe you wanted to surprise them, Harry?"
"Right you are. Ladies please stand still for a moment." He grabbed a blindfold from Remus and started tying it on Gabrielle.
"Is this really necessary?" Hermione asked as Remus tied hers on.
"I think so," Harry said jovially as he finished Gabrielle's and started on Ginny's.
When the girls were all blindfolded, Harry and Remus slowly led them forward. As they rounded the corner of the house, Harry looked closely at the new additions. "That's look good. Did you have any trouble with them?"
"Not really. The illusion wards on the one were tricky to install but common enough I didn't have any trouble finding the information on it. The others tasks were simply physical work."
"Ooo, something stinks," Gabrielle said, scrunching up her nose cutely, or so Harry thought.
"Almost there," he told them. When they were inside, Remus closed the door behind them. "All right, you can take the blindfolds off.
The three girls whipped them off and stared.
"We have a barn now?" Hermione asked as she looked around the good sized structure.
"We do," Remus answered. "We need a place to work with the small herd of cattle we have."
"I see a saddle. Does that mean we have horses?" Ginny asked hopefully and Gabrielle looked eager as well, Hermione only slightly so.
Remus chuckled. "A horse is the easiest way to get around the property and look like a Muggle, although I have considered putting an illusion of a horse on a broom."
"How many do we have?" Gabrielle asked.
"Just two for now." At the girls' disappointed looks, he added hastily, "But they are a stud and a mare and I hope to have enough for all of you to ride together by the time Gabrielle finishes school and you live here full time. If not, we can buy what we need. I'll even teach you to ride; I learned recently and it's not too hard."
"This is great, Harry," Ginny told him, the other two agreed.
"I'm glad you like the idea. It's mostly so we can appear to be normal to the surrounding Muggles."
"I've been spending the occasional evening at the local pub and spreading the story you suggested," Remus said.
"What story is that, Harry?" Hermione asked, looking like this was something else he should have told her.
Sheepishly, he explained, "I asked Remus to get to know a few of the local people and let it be known that the place appeared empty because my parents were killed and that I'm just now starting to take over the family property. If you remember, I told you that Sirius said that some of the local people were starting to talk about our property and what had happened to it."
The girls nodded their understanding and Remus said, "Anyway, it's been going well and I've been accepted, or at least as well as I can be considering they don't know much about me and that I'm new."
"Splendid, Remus." Harry looked at the man with a growing grin. "How about surprise number two?"
"There's more?" Ginny asked, her eyebrows raised in surprise.
"Yes, and I think you'll like this one." Harry gestured to Remus who walked to a door on the other side and opened it.
Ginny stopped in the doorway and stared for half a second before she squealed with excitement and threw herself at Harry to hug him tightly then kiss him.
Gabrielle looked at Hermione with bewilderment before walking around Ginny and Harry. "Ooh, that looks like fun." Hermione could only gape at the full sized Quidditch pitch, without stands for spectators.
"I assume this is what the illusions were for?" Hermione asked.
"Yes," Remus answered as Harry was still busy with Ginny, or perhaps Ginny was still busy thanking Harry. "It's the standard set of illusions for personal Quidditch pitches. Each of the sets of goals will look like trees, and within the pitch, flyers will look like birds."
"Birds that fly like madmen?" Hermione asked incredulousness. "You have seen these two fly, right?"
Remus chuckled. "Yes, I remember my year at Hogwarts and Harry's games quite well." He shrugged. "I'm told it will look normal to Muggles, so perhaps it makes the birds look normal, but this is the standards set of wards approved by the Ministry."
"And we can fly in there. I like it," Gabrielle told him.
"Time for the last surprise?" Harry asked, surprising the three with his sudden reappearance.
"There's more?" Hermione asked, as surprised as Ginny had been last time. "How much money have you been spending, Harry?"
"Not all that much actually, or so Remus reported." Harry led them around the end of the barn and back towards the house. "We only had to buy the materials. Remus and Dobby have been doing all the work."
As the girls saw the house, Gabrielle asked, "What is that?"
"The Muggles call it a sunroom," Remus answered with a smile. "I've been enjoying it for the last week since it was finished. It's a nice place for a meal, as well as a place to relax in the evening."
"Wait!" Hermione exclaimed as she looked into the new glass room attached to the back of the house. "Is that a pool inside?"
"There is supposed to be one there somewhere," Harry said dryly. All the girls rushed forward to check it out and Harry turned to his foreman. "Not a word to anyone we're here this week, not even Sirius."
Remus sighed and nodded. "I haven't forgotten, although I don't understand why this visit is such a secret."
"We all like Sirius, Dan, and Emma, but we also want to enjoy some time as just us and no school either." They walked to the door of the new sunroom and Harry nodded as he looked at it all carefully, noting the waterfall from the hot tub that sat a few feet above the pool, and the short diving board on the other end. The white table and chairs near the door into the house were just as he had requested. "The plants are a nice touch."
"Thanks, I thought it gave the place a slight jungle feel instead of being so barren, as well as adding some color."
Harry nodded. "Enjoy it whenever you want, Remus. Unless the girls charm the windows black or something," he said with a wild grin, "and lock the door."
"I'm not a pervert," Remus protested, "I could guess that means they want privacy." After a moment he asked, "Would they really do that?"
Harry watched the girls checking out the various chairs to see how comfortable they were. "I would bet Gabrielle would do that." Ginny too he thought but did not say.
"I'll start on the greenhouse next week," Remus said, steering them back to safer conversational ground.
"That'll be good. I'll get Neville over to help this summer."
"They won't be here this week?" Remus asked.
"No," Harry replied. "Their break is next week."
All three additions were greatly enjoyed all week long and the only adult who was aware of their presence there was Remus Lupin.
Harry had lost count of the number of times this day he had had to abandon the search for the Golden Snitch and make a defensive play in this game. Their team generally benefitted when he did this, but it also dragged the game on for a longer time. Today, however, anything legal was required.
Their team had won the "B" division plus the first round of the play-offs, and today they were playing the winner of the "A" division for the championship. There had been no doubt that playing the Blue-A team was going to be very hard. It was well known that five of the seven players, all seventh years, wanted to play professionally and several professional scouts were in attendance.
Because the other team's Chasers were so good, Harry could not just fly in circles looking for the Snitch; he had to use every trick he saw at the Quidditch Championships in Britain last year and make defensive plays to break up the opposing Chasers' plays when he could just so his team even had a chance to stay close to the same score. The Blue-A team was spectacularly good and his team had been the only one this season who had given them a challenge and Harry was not sure his team would win. At the moment, the Blue-A team was winning 170-50.
Another swoop from Harry in front of the opposing Chasers slowed the attack just enough that the Red-B Chasers were able to get into a better defensive position with Ginny making a play for the Quaffle. A crack of a Beater Bat made Harry turn to see where it was going. Luckily, it was not coming his way, but it was on a line directly for Camila and she was looking the other way.
«Camila! Turn!» he shouted at Philip's cousin and their lead Chaser. The girl managed to turn just enough that the Bludger caught only the edge of her uniform, but it had been close.
Harry quickly scanned the area for the Snitch but still saw nothing. Another crack of the bat sounded and this time Harry did not even have time to shout nor did Ginny have time to react before the Bludger hit her left shoulder from the back. Without consciously thinking about what he needed to do, Harry turned and raced towards her as the first wave of a pain indicator hit him, telling him Ginny was indeed hurt.
The world seemed to slow down to Harry as he urged his broom to go faster while Ginny let go of her broom and started to tumble off in slow motion towards the ground about forty feet below. Hoping he was calculating everything correctly, Harry angled down and held his hand out. More than he ever had before, he pushed his magic, not into his broom for more speed but into his hand willing Ginny to come to him.
Hermione stood up and gasped in shock when she saw Ginny knocked off her broom and Harry flying over to save her. Gabrielle bumped into her and she threw her arms around the girl as Gabrielle hugged Hermione for dear life. A feeling of weakness then came over both of them as Harry reached for Ginny and she seemed to break the laws of physics as her fall seemed to slow dramatically before Harry snatched her out of the air by leaning over his broom and grabbing the back of her uniform. It felt like their magic slammed back into them, leaving them weak in shock, as Harry took his broom down in little more than a controlled fall.
Ginny tried to let her legs take most of the shock as they hit the ground in a much slower and controlled way than she had expected when the Bludger had hit her, but the multiple shocks of the hit with the blinding pain, being caught by Harry with the jolt sending more pain, and then hitting the ground had come so fast, she was not really able to control anything except for making sure her feet hit first. Crumpling to the ground and landing on her injured shoulder sent a new wave of agony through her causing her world to go black.
Harry had not meant to drop her as the ground came up to meet them, but he was falling off his broom from the extra weight and precarious position he had caught her in. Ginny's scream and then sudden silence made him scramble from where he had landed in a tumble over to her as she went limp. "We need a Healer!" he screamed as he looked her over, trying to determine what he needed to do.
In the background noise, Harry heard the referee's whistle blow, not that Harry cared at the moment. He only had eyes for Ginny and Healer Landri running towards them. Based on how close he was, Harry thought the healer must have started running towards the second Ginny had been hit and before she had even hit the ground.
«Don't move her!» the Healer yelled as he ran up to them. In one motion, he dropped his bag near Ginny and started the diagnostic charms.
The time for the charms and analysis was the longest few seconds of Harry's life.
«Good, no spinal or head damage.» Another wave of the man's wand and Ginny slowly floated up and shifted into a more normal position from her slightly twisted state. «She is in no danger M Potter. The injury is only in her left shoulder and that can be healed. Do not worry about her. I'll take good care of her on the sidelines until the game is over.»
«So she'll be fine?» Harry had to make sure. Even with Ginny unconscious, he knew she still felt pain as he still felt that indication from her.
«Yes, she'll be as good as new in a few days. She'll be staying with me overnight though. Finish your game; I promise I'll take good care of her,» the Healer assured Harry as he slowly walked to the sidelines with Ginny floating with him.
He looked to the stands and saw Hermione and Gabrielle in what looked like death grip on each other. Doing his best to ignore his worry, he smiled nervously and waved at them. Relief flooded over them and they relaxed a little.
«I know it will be hard,» Harry heard his team captain say as his hand gripped Harry's shoulder and shook it a little in companionship, «but we have to finish the game. Giraud will come in and finish the game for her and then you can go see that she'll be fine.»
Harry nodded, although his mind was not on the reserve Chaser who was coming into the game. Bruno was right, he knew. He needed to get his head back in the game and finish it, then he could go to Ginny. Looking up at the scoreboard, he saw they were now down by 140 points.
Bruno slapped him on the shoulder again. «Yes, they scored again before the whistle blew as my mind was on Weasley too. I'm sorry I made it that much harder on you Potter, but it's up to you to end this. Do it fast.»
Knowing there was nothing else he could do, Harry nodded and walked over to his broom. He saw Ginny's a short distance away and went over to it and picked it up. Pulling out his wand, he shrank it and put it in an inner pocket to give to her later. Putting his wand away and mounting his broom, he rocketed into the air, determined to find the Snitch as soon as possible.
Five minutes after the whistle restarted the game, the Snitch smacked into Harry's palm and ended the game. A glance at the scoreboard showed that Blue-A had indeed taken advantage of Red-B's second best scorer being out of the game. Even with the points for the Snitch, Red-B had lost by forty points. Harry never wanted anyone to get injured, but Ginny's injury did not even help them to win - it was completely meaningless other than it hurt her dearly.
Harry slipped the Snitch into the pocket with Ginny's broom, wanting to keep it as a motivational reminder later, and flew over to his injured redhead. His brunette and blonde were already there and assisting as they could.
«Good catch,» Gabrielle told him as she hugged him.
Hermione hugged him too. «You played well.» When they released each other, she answered the obvious question. «It's still only her shoulder that's injured. However, because it was a direct hit to her shoulder blade and not a glancing blow, he's going to have to vanish the broken bone and give her Skel-Gro. She has a lot of bruising there too, so she's going to have to stay in the hospital overnight.»
«A good summary, Mlle Granger,» Healer Landri complimented her as he levitated a still unconscious Ginny - who was now on her stomach - and started to walk slowly back to the school building. «I have reduced most of the swelling and bruising, enough to be able to heal her shoulder. She should be able to leave my care by lunch tomorrow, but no Quidditch for at least two months to allow that shoulder to completely heal. She'll also need to avoid any blows to that shoulder for the same time. A light exercise program starting in a week would be good. In fact, her overall excellent physical shape helped her. I would expect her to be completely recovered by the end of the summer.»
«Thank you,» Harry told him. «I would like to stay with her tonight. I've had Skel-Gro and know it's not very comfortable.»
The Healer eyed him for a moment. «There really is no need, M Potter. I will keep her unconscious until morning so she'll never feel any discomfort. I'm not sure who gave you Skel-Gro, but there is rarely any need to keep the patient awake with it. I always give a Dreamless Sleep potion when I have to regrow bones and there is no adverse interaction between the two potions. I would strongly prefer you to return to your room and get a good night's sleep. You may come visit first thing in the morning and stay with her until she leaves if you want to, but after your physical and emotional trials today, you need sleep almost as much as she does.»
Harry almost protested the slight against Madam Pomfrey to say she must have had a good reason when she had to regrow his arm, but he held back.
«She'll be asleep and you should be too, Harry,» Hermione said softly.
«Come with us until morning,» Gabrielle begged him.
Looking up at the Healer as they came to the doors of the building, Harry saw the Healer smile ever so slightly. «Please make it after seven, but feel free to sleep as late as you want. I don't believe she will be leaving before twelve.»
«Please take extra good care of her,» Harry begged.
Healer Landri looked at him kindly. «You have my word, M Potter. Go, get a good night's rest. Nurse Rolland will change her clothes and be near after I've worked on the injury and she's a very good nurse.» The healer floated Ginny towards the school's small hospital. Hermione and Gabrielle led Harry back to their rooms.
«Go take a shower, Harry,» Hermione told him. When he did not immediately move because he was still thinking about Ginny, she glowered at him. «Harry, go take a shower or I'll come give you one.» When he started to grin at her, she added, «And I won't be gentle about it.» He lost his grin and started to move. «We'll be there shortly.»
When Harry came out of the bathroom in just his boxers, he was not surprised to find Hermione and Gabrielle already in his bed; he appreciated their desire to comfort him and wanted that. He was surprised to find they were both dressed in a short T-shirt and knickers only.
«I convinced Hermione that we should dress like Ginny normally does since it should be her night with you,» Gabrielle said with a bright smile. «I'll even take my top off for you if you like.»
That made Harry grin despite his tiredness and worry. Pulling the growing girl with budding breasts into his arms for a hug, he told her, «Ginny doesn't take her top off and it's not time for you to do that either.»
«You can hold them if you like. Ginny told me it feels good,» she tried again to advance their physical relationship.
Harry could only chuckle and glance at Hermione, who was rolling her eyes at the girl's antics. «That's good to know, but I'm afraid you'll have to settle for me just holding you close.»
Letting go of Gabrielle, he turned to Hermione and pulled her in for a good hug, feeling her breasts push against his chest. He wished she did not have her T-shirt on, but with Gabrielle here, modesty was a necessity lest the young Veela take the older girl's nudity as an invitation to do the same.
In bed, while Gabrielle did her best to snuggle into him and make him think of her, Harry could not help but check on Ginny through their bond. Feeling her pain to be almost gone made him feel better than the two skimpily dressed witches with him. He pulled Gabrielle to him tightly, but it was not the same as holding Ginny.
The next morning, Harry woke early and went to the hospital wing as soon as he could. Healer Landri looked fresh and he smiled at Harry as he walked in. «Her shoulder is normal again as far as her bones, tendons, and ligaments; but there is still some swelling and bruising left although it will be gone by the end of the day. Nurse Rolland said she had an easy night, so she should be waking soon. I'll be back in a few hours for another check before I release her, but you should be able to take her to lunch. In the meantime, please tell her to stay on her stomach and call me if she needs to get up for the bathroom.»
«Thank you, Healer Landri.»
«Anytime, however, if all of you would quit playing Quidditch then I'd have less to do,» the man said in a friendly way.
«And you'd have less fun on Saturdays,» Harry teased back, as the man's fondness for Quidditch was well known throughout the school.
Landri chuckled and clapped Harry on the shoulder before going to his office.
Hermione and Gabrielle showed up a few minutes later, since it took them a little longer to get ready. Harry gave them the news and they talked quietly.
Ginny woke nearly an hour later and Harry gave her the news on her injury. Very slowly, she tested the shoulder. «It's sore and stiff, but doesn't really hurt beyond a dull ache.» She turned a little red, but told him quietly, "Thank you for catching me, Harry. I'll reward you when we go home in a few weeks."
It was not hard to guess at what she was implying. Gabrielle's increased interest in the conversation did not help. "You don't need to do anything special. I would have done it for all of you and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
She was not to be deterred though. "I ordered a new sleeping outfit for a special occasion. Don't you want to see it?" she asked him coyly, batting her lashes at him as best she could considering her position and inability to face him fully.
Harry closed his eyes for a moment and swallowed. All three of them, and Hermione was the surprise he thought, liked to buy something new to wear once or twice a month. They would owl order it with Hedwig and then show it off to him. Everything they bought with the spending money he gave them looked good on them, but Ginny tended to push the boundaries the most.
From his way of thinking, Hermione probably felt like she did not need to as much as she and Harry were the most physical. Gabrielle really could not push too much as Hermione, Ginny, and Harry would not let her. But Ginny was old enough and far enough along on "their schedule", that she could push some and get away with it. Also, Ginny had been "pushing" for years at home, so it was natural for her to do so … or that's how he thought about it all.
"Let's just get you well and moving around normally. I'm sure everything will be fine," he dodged as best he could. Ginny only nodded, but she had a satisfied and mischievous smile he noticed, and that worried him slightly as to what she might try.
Three weeks later, the three oldest had finished their OWLs and felt reasonably good about their performance on the difficult tests. Gabrielle had finished her "second" year and had scored Exceeds Expectations on all of her courses, except for Charms and Defense where she scored Outstanding - thanks to help from Harry, and an Acceptable in Astronomy because she did not like the subject very much.
Via the Floo, they returned to Delacour Chateau for a week before they were to return to Britain.
Harry breathed a sigh of contentment when they arrived home for the summer. He or one of the girls would have to play taxi driver for Dan and Emma, who had agreed to stay at Potter Manor over the summer, when they were there - just as they had over the Christmas holidays.
"Remus!" Harry called out when he saw the man walk in through the back door. "How's everything going?"
"Very well, actually. Is now a good time for us to talk?"
"Sure. The girls are upstairs putting their things away. Did you have any place special in mind?" Harry asked.
"Let's take a tour then." Remus led him out the back door and towards the barn. "Do you remember the riding lessons I gave you?"
"I think so, but I guess we'll find out." Harry grinned at him.
Remus chuckled. "I guess we will." Two horses were already saddled, since Remus was expecting him. A few minutes later they were riding out the door, Harry a little stiffly and Remus much more comfortably.
"I'll show you the records when we get back later, but overall the ranch is doing well considering we've only just started." Remus pointed towards the cattle in front of them. "As you can see, it's only a small herd, but it's a good start. I hope to have twice that many two years from now and we'll start selling the year after that. I also have a section of land that's growing hay for the winter. My goal is to have it all profitable in three or four years."
Harry nodded as he took all of that in and compared it to his own goals and plans. "I'm impressed, Remus; you've done a very good job. I think I may have to give you a bonus."
Remus shook his head and looked elsewhere for a moment. "Harry, you don't have to. This is the best place I've ever lived for more than a few days and you've given me a stable job."
"This is better than living at Hogwarts?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Honestly, yes. I don't have any real responsibility over rebellious teenagers here," the man said with a smile. "I'm also not on-call every hour of every day and I don't have to deal with Snape."
Harry laughed as they continued to gallop across the large field and toward what looked like a small house in the distance. "No, you don't have to worry about us or him. How are you doing?"
"Fine," Remus said without hesitation. "Like I said, I've got a good place to stay without anyone coming after me, I see Sirius from time to time, I go to the local pub - which you're going to have to come to sometime to meet everyone - I have some spending money to buy any important potions I might need, I generally get to do whatever I want when the ranch doesn't need me, and I've got a safe place to go once a month. There's not much more I could ask for. My supervisor is even a decent guy," he said with a wry grin.
"Suck up," Harry teased back at him, although he was thinking about what Remus had said, or rather what he had not said. "What about a girl in your life?" he asked, genuinely curious.
Remus gave him a surprised look. "Just because you've got three doesn't mean that I need one."
"Oh," Harry said with sudden realization, "sorry about that, I didn't realize you swung the other way. So, is there a special guy?"
"What?! No, just no, Harry," Remus said forcefully and scowled at Harry. "I know some like that and that's fine for them, but it's only girls for me." At Harry's dubious look, he added, "I just haven't found one for me, especially one that will put up with my … condition." The last word was said a little defensively, despite it not being a secret.
"Then why don't you go find one?"
"You don't know how hard that is."
"I guess I don't, but what I do know is that if I were you I'd start looking for a female werewolf as she'd understand," Harry said with a pointed look.
Remus looked away in embarrassment. "I suppose that is an option I hadn't fully considered, but I'd prefer not to inflict myself on anyone."
"Look, there must be a female werewolf out there that's decent like you are. Find her and see if you can make a go at it. If it becomes serious, let me know and I'll add her to the wards. I'd expect you to vouch for her and make sure that she doesn't put anyone in danger, but otherwise, I can't think of any reason for you not to have a significant other, Remus. You know, someone to really share your life with." Harry watched him consider that and found it amusing that this seemed to be a new line of thought for the man. Harry wondered if the man was simply trying to ignore all reminders that he was a werewolf.
After a long moment, Remus said, "Thanks, I'll think about it and, well, there are a couple of them that I know…"
"I see, trying to equal what I have, huh?" Harry said, doing his best to keep a straight face.
"What? No, no, no. I meant that-"
Harry burst out laughing unable to hold it any longer.
"You're as bad as Sirius at time," Remus murmured, but he made sure Harry could hear him.
Trying to change the subject Remus quickly said, "I hope you don't mind, but I built a small house here at the edge of the property." He pointed to the small ranch house not too far ahead. "As you'll feel in a moment, we're about to leave the wards on the main property. I think your ancestors fashioned the wards to deal with local Muggles in this way and I've done the same thing so they'll come here instead of the main house.
"This is the ranch office and it's got a telephone and a box for the post. I've also set up a few wards for protection and as an alarm. There's also one to listen for the phone and let me know if it goes off; however, there's not enough magic to prevent Muggle devices from working," Remus explained.
They got off their horses and let them graze on some grass while Harry inspected it. "Not much here," he said when they were inside, indicating the desk, phone, answering machine, and light - that was all. "I suppose it makes us look more normal?"
"Yes. About half of the larger ranches in the area have something like this." Remus pointed to the two doorways behind him. "There's a bathroom and another small room, so someone could stay here if they had to."
"Good job, Remus, really good job." Harry was very pleased with the family friend and that Sirius's suggestion had worked out so well.
As they neared the house on their return trip, Harry spied Ginny flying on the Quidditch Pitch. Hermione and Gabrielle were sitting in chairs at the side. He also noticed that his broom was there too, brought by Ginny he was sure. He gave his horse to Remus and bid the man good-bye for the moment as he headed for his broom.
Dan and Emma had joined them that evening, but were now in their bedroom. Everyone had generally settled down for the night.
Harry was waiting on Ginny, as it was her turn to join him, but he was not sure what was taking her so long. His bedroom door finally opened and she walked in wearing her night gown, pulled tight but showing bare calves - as usual since she normally slept in a short T-shirt and knickers which showed a small strip of her stomach. She locked his door with the knob, then pulled out her wand and sealed it, both physically and for sound.
To say that Harry was surprised at that was an understatement. Not even Hermione did that and they were adventurous at times.
She walked over and put her wand on the nightstand and then stood near the bed looking slightly hesitant, or perhaps as if she were gathering her courage. Just before Harry was about to ask her what was going on, Ginny tugged at her gown tie and then shrugged the gown off and let it fall all in one quick motion.
He forgot to breath and his eyes went wide as he took her form in. She stood here in a new lingerie outfit that was a sheer light green and completely see-through except for two little hearts up top and a small green triangle on the bottom that was held up with what looked like a string. She smiled a little nervously before turning around slowly. The back of the top was completely sheer and like the front stopped several inches above where the bottom should be, except that there was no back to the bottoms. As she completed the turn, he realized that the back consisted of two strings: one horizontal and one vertical.
"Harry?" Ginny softly called.
A shiver and a sudden breath brought him back to reality. "G-Gin? W-What are…" He could not finish the sentence as his mind was still taking the sight of her in.
With a smile of satisfaction, Ginny said, "I told you I would reward you for saving me … again. Do you like my outfit?"
He could only nod, afraid to try talking again after his somewhat failed attempt.
Ginny seemed to glide forward before she crawled up on the bed and sat on Harry, pinning him down - not that he really wanted to be anywhere else right now. He had seen Hermione completely naked before, but he had never seen this much of Ginny. She technically had all the private parts covered, but it was a close thing. Now that his brain was starting to work again, he realized just what she was offering him.
"This is twice now." She tilted her head slightly in a shrug, causing her loose hair to sway. "The second time wasn't as dramatic, but it's no less important. I have no doubt what would have happened if I'd fallen from that height as I was in no condition to try to save myself. So, whatever you want, it's yours." She gave him a contented smile, sort of Mona Lisa like.
Harry did his best to look at her face and not at the other very interesting parts of her that he could see if he tried, lest his brain freeze up again. As he was about to ask her why this reward, the answer suddenly hit him, or he was almost certain this was the answer.
While Gabi might do something like this, it would be for entirely different reasons. Ginny saw an actual debt between them and because of how she was raised, she felt she had to do something. She might despise or even hate her mother, but she was an EnglishPureblood girl and had been raised in that culture with all of its traditions and beliefs.
Sirius had tried to explain much of it to him, including one time when it was just to two of them, and the topic of marriage had come up. Not only had Sirius explained about the marriage ceremony, but how Wizarding marriages actually worked on a day-to-day basis - the relationship between husband and wife. His godfather had been very clear that unless the marriage was between unusual people, the wife might try to persuade her husband to do things a different way - usually in her way - but when push came to shove she would let her husband make the final decision. Furthermore, a good wife in a British Pureblood marriage rarely if ever contradicted her husband in public; the most she would normally do would be to whisper advice in his ear for him alone to hear. (In private she would be more vocal until he made up his mind.) It was a large part of why their society was so male-dominated.
There was no doubt in his mind that Ginny would never spout all the Pureblood drivel that someone like a Malfoy would, but Ginny still came from a British Wizarding home and was raised in those traditions. Hence why Ginny was literally offering him everything, yet sat there patiently waiting on him to decide what would happen. Of course, she might also think that Hermione should have "this honor" first and was giving Harry the chance to say so.
All of those thoughts zoomed through his head in a few seconds as did an idea of what might be best, despite what his body wanted at the moment.
"Ginny, I can hardly believe you're offering me such an incredible gift," he watched her smile grow a little, "but we also promised to wait."
"And it is up to you," she softly reminded him and leaned over to kiss him gently, letting her top fall down a little, giving him a complete view of her breasts for a moment before she sat back up and looked at him completely innocently, batting her big brown eyes slowly.
"That's not fair, you're too beautiful," he murmured, causing her to brighten.
"You really think I'm beautiful? That I'm not too … small?" she asked hopefully.
Why did every girl doubt her looks, he asked himself. Making a decision that he hoped he did not regret later, he asked her, "If we do something a little early, do you promise to lie like a Slytherin that it never happened, even if Gabrielle tries to make you admit it?"
She smiled ever so slightly. "Of course nothing happened, Harry. You're too noble and stubborn."
Ginny looked so innocent and sweet he would have believed anything she told him at that moment. He was also sure that if any pranks ever happened around the house, she should be the one he should suspect first. "And your knickers and my boxers will stay on tonight, no matter what we might feel like?"
Her smiled faded slightly. "If you insist." A few seconds later her eyebrows shot up and her smile returned. "You didn't say anything about my top."
"Your birthday is in about six weeks," he reminded her.
With no hesitation, she grabbed her top and pulled it off, tossing it to the floor before looking at him expectantly.
"Never worry, Gin," he told her sincerely, "you'll always be beautiful to me. I thought you were before and this just confirms it."
Ginny practically flung herself at Harry and kissed him soundly. It was a good thing they had nothing to do first thing the next morning as they stayed up late that night exploring a new aspect of their relationship.
A few days later, Sirius showed up as he had promised when Harry had contacted him. They met in the entry way: the four Potters, Sirius, Remus, Emma, and Dan.
"I'd rather stay here," Gabrielle said with a cute pout.
"I know," Harry said with care as he put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her in for a tight hug. "However, your magic isn't really mature enough to learn this and I'd rather you not try and then hurt yourself."
"But I've already done it once," she protested.
"And I'm glad you did and that you didn't get hurt, but I still think you need to wait a couple of years. Now, Emma said she'd take you shopping and I know you like to do that. So you can enjoy yourself that way for a few hours."
Gabrielle pulled back and scrutinized him carefully. "You'll spend time with just me later? Kisses too?"
"Yes," he said with a smile, "kisses just like on your birthday."
"In the hot tub?" she continued.
"Fine, in the hot tub. You can tell me about your shopping and what else you'd like to do this summer."
She kept looking at him and after a long moment said, "All right, I better get a new swimsuit then."
"You already have several," Harry pointed out.
"But not one just for you." Her mind made up, she pulled out the family Portkey that Harry had given her and held it out for the Grangers, who had been watching the conversation with amusement.
"Emma," Harry called just before they could go. "Please be a good mother in regards to the choices?" Gabrielle scowled at him for that.
"Of course, but there is some opportunity for fun at your expense here," she said with a smile as she touched the Portkey and Gabrielle activated it, taking her, Dan, and Gabrielle away.
Harry hoped Emma was just teasing him, and she probably was. If Gabrielle came back with a swimsuit like Ginny's lingerie, he was sure he would have to disappoint her. In three or four years it would be fine, but he was not ready for that now.
"Now that it's just us, let's learn to Apparate," Sirius announced as he walked them outside so he and Remus could teach the three older teens as he had promised last year.
That evening Harry saw Gabrielle's new swimsuit. He was not surprised to see that it was a two piece. He was very happy that Emma had made sure the silver suit was proper. It reminded him of Fleur's suit during the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, and when he rescued Gabrielle and created their bond. He would not be surprised if she had planned the color for that very reason. If asked, he would have to admit that the way Gabrielle looked in her new suit left no doubt that she was a girl.
"Do you like it?" Gabrielle asked, twirling as she walked across the pool area towards Harry.
"I do. It was a good choice for you. It brings out the silver in your hair."
She grabbed the end of her hair and pulled it towards the front of the suit so she could compare. "Hmm, you're right." Dropping her hair, she grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the hot tub.
Harry chuckled as it was fairly clear to him that she had already known that about her suit. The four of them had spent the evening before last sitting in the hot tub together and it had been a hit. He had no doubt they would be spending a lot of time there in the future.
Gabrielle sat on his lap after he sat down in the tub. "Did you get it to work? Can you Apparate now?" she asked, not wasting any time on idle chatter.
"Mostly." At her questioning look, he gave her more details. "Ginny was the first, in that she managed to blink in place. Once I realized she was borrowing power from me, and that we all tended to do that and overpower our first attempt at harder spells, I borrowed magic and Apparated a few feet."
"I felt you borrow magic, but I knew you were not hurt," she told him, obviously proud at his accomplishment.
"Once I did that, Hermione tried next and also managed it. Ginny was also successful and surprised Remus and Sirius. All of us found it harder than we had expected. So we can do short distances where we can see the destination. We'll try longer distances soon."
"I still think I could do it too," she told him pointedly.
"Perhaps, but there's no hurry as one of us is always around to help you go somewhere." When she looked like she was about to argue, Harry kissed her cheek. That surprised her so much her argument was lost. With a teasing grin, Harry continued to kiss her like he had on her birthday and Gabrielle was soon like putty in his hands and practically purring.
Long after their skin was wrinkly, Harry carried a very content Gabrielle out to one of the lounge chairs and sat with her cuddled on him. They softly talked for an hour until it was time for dinner.
Harry laughed at Neville's story. "The twins really put a swamp in the Prefect's bathroom so no one could go in there?"
"I promise," Neville told him with a grin of his own as he helped Harry in the Potter's new greenhouse.
"So what did Sprout do about it?" Harry asked, still trying to regain his breath after laughing so hard.
"She and McGonagall teamed up and marched them back to the bathroom and forced them in and locked the door, after telling them that they couldn't come out until it was totally clean." Neville chuckled again. "Since it was after dinner and they were slow about it, everyone went to bed and they didn't get out until the next morning, but it was spotless. They also started receiving more orders for their prank shop."
Harry shook his head at the twins' antics as he watered the seeds he had just planted. "I wish I could have seen that." Putting his watering can down, he looked at his friend again. "Since we seem to be done, want to come to the house and go for a swim? It's a great way to cool off."
"I, uh, I didn't bring a suit," Neville stammered.
"That's OK, you can borrow one of mine. Come on…" Harry led Neville in and soon they were back out at the pool.
Not long after they had jumped in, the three girls came out in their suits too, all in modest bikinis. Harry laughed at his friend as Neville turn bright red.
"Honestly, Neville," Hermione said as she put a large towel on a lounge chair to relax, "there's nothing to be embarrassed about. There's nothing wrong here and you'd see a lot more on the beach."
"I, I've never been to the b-beach," he finally got out.
"Really?" Harry asked in surprise. "Even I've been once. We'll have to invite you next time we all go."
Neville could only nod at the moment.
By the time Neville left that day, he was only a little pink when he thought of his time at the pool and it was not from the sun.
Summer continued with a week-long holiday to Spain, where they stayed with Philip's family. Philip and his father, along with Camila, acted as tour guides and made sure they saw the famous sites, Muggle and magical, and just generally had fun.
The day after Harry's sixteenth birthday party, everyone who had been invited and stayed overnight left for home. The four Delacours returned to France, Sirius to his house, Neville and Luna to their houses, and the Grangers left for a four-day dental convention.
Harry had a short conversation with Remus, the only one left behind, and the default chaperone in Dan's and Emma's minds. "Remus, I know this will be a surprise to you, but Hermione and I are going to take a short trip to Paris for the next few days. If an emergency comes up, Ginny will know how to get ahold of us."
Remus stared at him thoughtfully for a moment. "You picked this time because Dan and Emma aren't here, didn't you?"
"It worked out conveniently," Harry said with a grin, "but we would have gone before school restarted anyway. This way, what they don't know can't hurt them." Harry looked at the man pointedly.
"Yes, yes," Remus said with resignation, "I get the message: Don't tell anyone you're away. However, exactly what are you going to be doing and why just the two of you?" He gave Harry a smirk of his own.
Not blushing at all, Harry replied, "Hermione discovered some property that the Potters own near Paris, or probably on the edge of it, and we're going to investigate it."
"And the fact that it's just you and her?" Remus slightly teased him.
"That will make us look more normal, as will a glamor to make us look five year older. There will be other times that I'll go out with just one of the girls because having three girls on my arm would look very strange. This is one of those times." To change the subject, he then said, "We'll see you again on Friday. I don't think Ginny or Gabrielle will need help with anything since they promised to stay here on the property, but please look out for them anyway."
"Of course," Remus said before a large grin broke, "and enjoy yourselves."
"Thanks, Remus, we plan to enjoy our little holiday." Harry left to go get Hermione, knowing that Remus was not fooled in any way.
Late Friday morning, Harry was packing his bag to return home, as was Hermione. Besides the things he had brought with him, he was also taking a few souvenirs for Ginny and Gabrielle, as well as a large grin that was hard to get off his face.
As Remus had guessed, he and Hermione had come here to have some alone time now that both of them were sixteen. It was a year earlier than their original schedule, but they had both decided that they were ready for the last step of intimacy and it had been a wonderful, splendid, and a totally brilliant thing. He thought he knew what he would be doing every Monday and Thursday night for the foreseeable future. Hermione seemed just as enthusiastic when he had mentioned it to her.
Harry watched Hermione bend over to finish packing, enjoying the sight. "Don't take too long, we need to return before you parents if we want to avoid a lot of questions."
She turned slightly and smiled at him. "For once, I don't think I care, Harry."
"Shocking," he gasped playfully, causing her to stick her tongue out at him. "Careful, I might have to do something with that."
She closed her bag and then walked over and kissed him deeply. "You mean like that?"
"Witch," he joked as he let go of her and grabbed their bags. "Anytime you're ready."
She held out the Portkey they had purchased to return to England and they traveled to their home country. From there, they Apparated back to their front door step.
Dobby greeted them and took their bags when they entered. He also looked upset. "Master Harry, the Grangers be wanting to talk to you in the Living Room."
Harry looked at Hermione, both of them surprised. "When did they return, Dobby?"
"Last night," Dobby answered. "They did not like their trip and came home early. They surprised Mistress Ginny, Mistress Gabi, and friend Luna. Godfather Sirius brought them over. He laughed when he found you and Mistress not here."
Before more could be said, Ginny and Gabrielle ran into the room and gave the other two hugs; Dobby left with the bags.
"Dan and Emma are here," Ginny said softly.
"I know, Dobby just told us," Harry said.
"They're not happy with you either," Gabrielle told them a little crossly.
"It's all right, Gabi," Harry told her, "don't be upset with them. It will all work out fine. Shall we get this over with?" To Hermione he added, "Be normal." She looked a little embarrassed, but shook it off quickly and held her head high.
He led them to the living room to find the Grangers each reading the newspaper.
"Hi, how are you and how did your convention go?" he asked as they entered the room, standing just inside the door.
The Grangers presented a united front by folding their newspapers and giving disapproving looks together.
"Harry, Hermione," Dan said formally and with a nod of greeting. "We're fine, thank you, and the convention was boring so we came home a day early. We were very surprised to find that you were not only not here but out of the country."
"We're sorry to hear your trip didn't go well," Harry continued for his side. "Hermione discovered a Potter property that we wanted to check out, perhaps to use it to live in after we finished Beauxbatons and needed to stay in the area while Gabrielle finished. However, we found it was just a tract of land and not in an area that we liked, so I arranged for it to be sold." There really had been a property; he had not made that up for Remus's or anyone else's sake.
"I see." Dan looked taken aback, obvious expecting some flimsier made-up story. He turned to his wife.
"You really picked now to go see it?" Emma asked. "And with just you and Hermione?"
"I thought now would interfere less with Beauxbatons and Hermione knows the most about the non-magical world." Harry shrugged. "It's not like I don't have the money and selling this property will give me many times more than we spent on the trip."
Emma looked right at Hermione. "You, both of you," she glanced at Harry too, "promised to wait until you're seventeen for that kind of behavior. Getting pregnant at sixteen is a good way to wreck your life."
When Hermione started to reply, and Harry could tell it would be hotly, he squeezed her hand to stop her. "Let's sit down and I'll point a few things out and then you can add in what I forget. Hmm?" She nodded once quickly as she worked to contain herself and Harry led the four of them to the largest sofa.
"Emma, Dan," Harry said as calmly as he could, "we both appreciate you looking out for us and helping us to grow up. It's why we want you in our lives beyond the fact that you are family."
Dan and Emma looked at each other a little guiltily, but did not say anything.
"Yes, I'll admit that a year and a half ago we said we would wait until we got legally married." Harry shrugged. "We've changed our minds because we're magically married and we think we're emotionally ready." When they looked to object, Harry hurried on. "Also, we're very careful that Hermione won't get pregnant and even if she did, it wouldn't change anything. She could still finish school, we have a house that's completely paid for," he waved his hand to indicate where they were sitting, "and I have enough money that we won't ever have to work if we don't want to. We will work because we don't want to get bored, but we're financially comfortable. We would not have the hardship that most young people would."
"Also, we could get legally married right now, if we wanted to," Hermione told them, "in Scotland and in Spain when we visited it this summer, as well as other countries I'm sure. We've decided to wait on that part to make it easier on us."
Emma leaned back in her chair and rubbed her right temple. "I think this is another of those days that I wish I'd never heard of magic." Dan nodded sympathetically.
"We still love you and want you in our lives," Hermione said and Harry agreed emphatically, "but this is something we want to do and it seems right for us."
Dan sighed. "At least I know you'll be together fifty years from now. I don't think many other parents of teenagers can say that."
Harry smiled at Hermione who smiled back, the battle won.
(A/N: And so ends Harry's 5th year. One more chapter … I promise the next one is the last. If all goes well, it'll be out in 2-3 weeks.
Also, in 1996, it was legal to get married in Scotland at 16 without parental consent, or so someone from Scotland has told me. In Spain, the law was 18 for men and 14 for women; I adjusted the male side down a couple of years for the Magical World via Author's License. While I can't personally go there mentally, I do recognize that "the law" and I don't always see the world in the same way, but it's still the law of the land.)