(A/N All Harry Potter characters belong to JKR I'm just having fun with them)
Harry and Arthur walked swiftly up the steps of an old building, the address of which was Number 12 Grimauld Place. Harry was happy to finally be seeing Sirius after so long.
The door creaked as it swung open, revealing a dark and dingy foyer. Harry walked in cautiously, fighting the urge to pull his wand. To his disgust, a severed troll leg had been fashioned into an umbrella stand, and somehow it seemed to be waiting for someone to walk by. A deeper look told Harry that it was enchanted to perform a Tripping Hex on whomever walked by.
Just then, laughter rang through the house; a deep rich booming type of laugh, dispelling the oppressiveness Harry felt. Harry followed Arthur into the sitting room and there playing a game of exploding snap, sat his father's friends: Remus, looking shabby and slightly singed; and his godfather Sirius, dressed in a well made set of robes about ten years out of fashion. A smile that warmed his whole face, lifting years off it, was directed at Harry.
"Harry Potter." Sirius announced to the room, it was just his name, but it felt like more. He stood with his arms wide, Harry wasted no time in greeting him with a firm hug.
"Look at you, almost a man! You're so like your father, yet your eyes are your mother's, as well as your size. You take after her father, a tall strapping man, scared the hell out of your dad when they first met." Sirius stepped back, his eyes drinking in the sight of Harry. Remus stepped up and placed a hand on Harry's shoulder.
"You have grown, Harry. It's good to see you."
Harry turned in greeting, startling Remus by giving him a hug as well. They settled down to share their summers, sitting and talking with a gentle banter and comfortable companionship.
Arthur sat to one side, largely forgotten but content to observe, his last edge of mistrust fading as he saw Harry's reaction to the two hard worn men. It was as if they were favored uncles, meeting after a long absence. Arthur's interest in the conversation became riveted as Harry went into full detail of his events, from the beating by his uncle, to the recent meeting with the Greengrass family. He left very little out, and as he told his tale, Arthur heard many things that were edited from the first telling. The relationship with Belle had Sirius hanging on every word; Remus was excited about the Pensieve, asking if he could view a memory or two. Guilt showed on Sirius' face as Harry described the bonding to the Family Charters.
"You know that makes it permanent, don't you? I can't take it back now." Sirius interjected into Harry's description.
"Yes, I do. It had to be done though, if it was so important to keep the power and wealth from the Malfoy's, I had to make it absolute. Now he would have to kill me to have a chance at it." Harry's tone was defensive.
"Harry, make no mistake, I never wanted to be Head of the Black family, and I just don't like pushing it off on you." Sirius said, gesturing for Harry to relax.
"I don't really like it either, and I suspect I will like it even less in the future, but it didn't seem as if I had a choice."
"No, we didn't." Sirius said, "at least there wasn't a contract marriage lined up. My family made it a matter of pride to sire enough children to fulfill all obligations."
"Speaking of contracts," Remus began, "what of the young Miss Greengrass? A lovely girl if I recall."
Harry groaned, as he could foresee some serious heckling coming his way.
"She is good looking, but I hardly know her." Harry acknowledged.
"But… I bet you want to get to know her better, eh!" Sirius nudged him in the ribs. "I spent a bit of time getting to know her Aunt Karella in the broom closet…man what a time that was! Scary witch though, never fell for any of my lines or stories."
"There is something though…" Harry relayed the events of what happened at Greengrass Manor. "I just feel something was off, everything seemed so scripted."
"You need to be careful Harry. The Greengrass family, while not bad people…exactly, are quite ruthless and very formidable, and despite her pleasing appearance, I think Karella is the power behind the Greengrass men. No one has such bad luck as to have seven husbands just die off." Remus had concern in his eyes as he spoke.
"True, I wish I could be with you during these meetings, but I…" Sirius's frustration was etched into the hard lines in his face.
"It's also not a place I can put myself in," Arthur interrupted for the first time of the night. "My house lacks the status to be present; as much as I hate some of our customs, it would do more harm to break them than good."
"Then we work around the situation. We meet and Harry can fill us in on what happened, even use his Pensieve, and we can plan out responses." Harry smiled at Remus for the support.
"That will work, but sometimes you will just have to fly by the seat of your pants Harry." Sirius stated with a slight grin. "Now, more importantly, you're going to the Delacour wedding solo, do you realize the opportunity you have before you?" If the look was anything to go by, Harry knew Sirius had a plan for him.
The banter carried on for a few hours before Arthur and Harry had to go, lest Molly start to wonder where they were. Arthur would have to come clean with her soon. He shuddered at the thought.
The night was lit by thousands of swirling colored lights, flittering in the air randomly over the grounds of the Reception. Seven large tents were spaced out, each a different theme, all had a large dance floor inside. Gazebos were scattered throughout the paths and fanciful walkways that connected everything. It was incredible, everywhere you looked were people dressed in fine silks, in fact, dressed in the finest clothes available in the world. It seemed every woman was a stunning beauty, their grace and poise astounding. The men were more varied, but what they had in common was power and wealth.
Harry's eyes took in the elegance of his surroundings, the beauty was not lost on him, yet he felt it was overdone. A beach at sunrise would have suited him just fine. Harry was escorted to his table by an expressionless man dressed in an impeccable uniform.
To his relief, Bill and his date Dora Tonks and Owen with Alessandra were also present. Ian had declined to come, not much of a surprise as he was once more immersed in research.
"What, no date?" Alessandra asked, her eyebrows raised.
"No, apparently the notice was too short. I got a letter expressing her regret that she couldn't attend. It was probably more her family's decision than hers." Harry said slightly bitter, it was embarrassing to not have a date.
"Well, she would need a chaperone at the least, and dresses and travel plans. It is a lot to ask on short notice." Alessandra commented, sipping a clear bubbling wine.
The conversation moved on, and as Harry thought back to the wedding, it had been boring to him. It was very elegant, but Harry could not help but notice that none of the things Belle had said she wanted were there. It was almost as if watching a play, everyone did their part flawlessly, but it had a fake feel to it. In fact, instead of the joy he had expected in Belle's eyes, he saw relief.
He had prime seats here though, and here the decorations were more along the lines of what Belle had wanted. The tables had cloths of sky blue trimmed in silver, the chairs a deep rich blue cushion. White lilies were everywhere by the thousands, the sweet sent filling the air, and what made the biggest effect Harry thought, was the lighting. Charmed balls of light swirled in the air, bouncing off each other and some invisible barrier that kept them contained.
Throughout dinner Harry's eyes lingered on Belle, occasionally flickering to the blond girl beside her, her maid of honor and sister-in-law Fleur. Alessandra and Owen were talking in low tones, sharing an occasional light kiss. Bill and Dora were different, Harry noted. They sat talking and joking, enjoying the food, but had none of the romance that the other couple shared. Dinner had wrapped up, and the speeches began, Harry listening with a growing annoyance. They focused on Jean, men all expressing warmest wishes, and hopes for an alliance in the future. In short, Harry thought they were sucking up, hoping to get in good with the Delacour Family.
"Dumbledore shocked the entire country, stepping down and appointing Sebastian to finish his term. Fudge and his lackeys were scrambling to send congratulations and cursing the Headmaster alternately." Tonks was telling Bill and Owen.
"Is that why everyone is speaking so flatteringly about this Jean?" Alessandra asked.
"Yeah…" Owen answered looking irritated, "it's almost as if she doesn't exist."
Harry had been thinking the same, it seemed no one in the room were her guests; all were here for the Delacour's. It was then that Harry realized they were in fact her only guests in the Pavilion, which is why Harry found himself doing something he never would have contemplated before, standing to give a speech.
"To Belle!" His voice sounded out during a momentary silence. Harry looked around, noticing Bill's smirk and Alessandra's encouraging smile. Every eye was on him as he stood. He cut a dashing figure, a strong promising young man, dressed in a fine black robe trimmed in gold, tailored to fit to perfection.
"A friend I met just this summer…and one I will long remember fondly. Together we faced dangers and lived an adventure, and over the course of a summer she taught me of friendship. She showed her bravery, her compassion, and her determination; she has so much to be valued. So this I have to say… Jean Delacour you are a lucky man, treat her well, and you will be blessed in many ways."
As Harry sat down, the crowd roared, "TO BELLE!" loudly drinking to his toast. Harry met her eyes from his seat; they were shining as she mouthed 'thank you' to him. Harry absently nodded to Jean as he bowed to Harry from his seat, and placed a kiss to the back of Belle's hand, as if showing his promise to do just that.
It was then Harry became more aware of his surroundings, hearing the whispers of people asking for his name and hearing them respond with "The Boy Who Lived, you know, Harry Potter." He sat, pretending to be interested in his dessert, but in truth despite the wonderful flavor and richness of the chocolate and flaky crispiness of pastry, he couldn't eat a thing.
"Wow, will you give a speech for me when I get hitched?" Tonks asked.
"Right," Bill cut in, "he can describe your grace and poise?"
"OY! I'll have you know I can be graceful when I want to!" Tonks defended herself. Music had started in the background, and Belle and Jean were taking their first dance. Halfway through, other couples joined in.
"I can so!" Tonks growled, responding to some unheard barb from Bill. "Just you watch."
She grabbed Harry by the hand and pulled him to the dance floor.
"Come on Harry, we'll show him. I can so dance."
"I never said you couldn't," Harry replied, mildly annoyed but more amused. They danced the remains of the song, Harry more than holding his own; in fact it was a challenge for him because Bill was right, she couldn't dance well at all.
"That was nice," Harry said as the song ended, leading her back to their table. Tonks had the grace to blush, knowing that she was nowhere near Harry's skill level. Bill relieved Harry of his date, and that left Harry all alone at his table. He felt the pendant he got at Gringotts grow warm and tingle; he looked around, noticing several groups talking, and he understood every word. It was obvious that they were different nationalities, yet it sounded to Harry as if they were all speaking English. Harry stood a moment longer, his eyes sweeping the pavilion, when he saw the maid of honor and another of the wedding party still seated. They were close to his age and it was a dance. His mind made up, he crossed the room to ask her for a dance.
"Oh sorry, excuse me," Harry said as he bumped into a dancing couple, repeating it to both dancers. As he did so, he felt the pendant tingle again. He hurried out of the way, not noticing the shock of the couple as he spoke in both their native languages in passing.
As he drew closer to the bridesmaids, another young man stepped up and asked the blond to dance, her cold tone and rejection shocked Harry. As he approached he met her eye, then made a quick decision and smiled at her companion, a pretty girl with wavy dark hair.
"Would you care for a dance?" His voice was low, but pitched just enough to be heard clearly. The girl looked slightly shocked, but nodded and took his hand as he led her to the dance floor. Crystalline blue eyes followed their progression, and watched as they danced. He was good, Fleur thought; she was slightly surprised he asked Marissa to dance when she was sitting so close. It wasn't arrogance on her part, but a reality of having the allure, one her cousin Marissa had long been frustrated by.
They moved gracefully, together keeping proper distance and time. A few songs later she thanked him and faded into the crowd. Noticing Bill nowhere in sight, and Owen and Alessandra quite engaged, Harry wandered down the path to a different pavilion. Here was a different theme; it greatly resembled the fall, heavy leaves swirled in the air, never resting or touching the wandering guests. Also there were more familiar, if less than pleasant, faces. The Malfoy family was here. Lucius was talking politics, and Narcissa alternating disgusted looks at Draco's date Pansy, and fake smiles at some boorish man leaning in much to close for her comfort. Harry chuckled to himself, intent on passing by quickly.
It was then he noticed Alicia Spinnet smiling and waving him over, he cursed slightly under his breath, to walk away would be very rude to a friend, but he had no desire to deal with Lucius or Draco at the moment. He was too late though; Pansy was elbowing Draco and pointing. Sighing, he made his way through the crowd.
"Hello Alicia, you look lovely tonight," Harry said, joining her at the table.
"Wow, so do you Harry, all dashing like," Alicia laughed. "This is my Dad, Allen and my Mum, Carol." Alicia made introductions.
"So Harry, what brings you here? I didn't think you did social functions." Alicia questioned after a moment.
"Oh, well I was invited by the bride, couldn't very well say no to a friend," Harry shifted to keep an eye on the Malfoy's.
"Would you like to dance?" Harry asked, shocking Alicia who was in the process of blowing a bang away from her face.
"Sure, that'd be fun." This time the dancing was fun. Tonks had been clumsy, Marissa rigid and formal as if afraid to touch him, but with Alicia it was comfortable and enjoyable, several songs passed before they stopped and Harry escorted her back to her table. Alicia immediately picked up her punch, taking a long refreshing drink.
"So," Harry asked, "this Heirs test affecting you at all?"
Alicia laughed, "No, why would it?"
"Oh, so no marriage contracts at all then?"
"No Harry, were just regular folks. We're only here because Mum is one of the chefs cooking the dinners…what about you? Potter is a Noble family isn't it?"
"Yeah…" Harry paused, "I'm going to grab a drink."
Alicia nodded, exchanging a look with her parents and wondering if it was something she said.
Harry walked to the buffet, frowning at himself for being touchy about her 'regular folks' comment. He grinned ruefully to himself, deciding to embrace his role in life and actually putting his desire for normalcy behind him, were two different things.
The punch was refreshing, he thought as he drank, standing to the side of the buffet table. Narcissa walked over to get herself a drink, the portly man still following. Harry could see the anger in every movement and gesture she made, a quick glance to Lucius showed him to be deeply involved in conversation. As Harry turned back, he saw the man pour a small vial of liquid into her cup, as she was distracted exchanging pleasantries with another lady.
He felt a sudden confusion, he knew Lucius was a foul man, but could he ignore what he just saw? No, he couldn't. He walked to the other end of the table, making eye contact with her as he went.
Narcissa quirked an eyebrow at him, curiosity showing briefly before her beautiful face regained its regular appearance.
"Mr. Potter, what a surprise…" Her words were soft, her voice sultry.
"That's me," he replied, "surprising and bold. May I have a dance?"
Harry didn't know who was more shocked: himself, Narcissa, or Mr. Portly who was watching her drink with a casual but intense sidelong glance. Her eyes stared into Harry's sharply enough to feel like they were slicing him in half, he cut his own slightly to her drink then back.
"Very well, Mr. Potter, lead the way," she discarded her drink as she followed. To Harry's mortification, the song that began was a slow waltz, and very careful of where he put his hands, he began to dance. Narcissa smiled at his discomfort, and for a bit they just danced.
"You move well, a little stiff, but I'm sure with practice you'll get better. Was there a reason you asked me of all people to dance?" Narcissa asked softly.
"Um…yeah there is. That man who was pestering you, he slipped something into your drink." Harry trailed off.
"Indeed… thank you then. I'm sure the results would have been quite unpleasant. But why involve yourself?"
"I don't know, the thought did cross my mind to walk away, but I guess it's just not in my nature to do so."
"Thank you," the words were quiet, whispered into his ear. He shivered. They twirled and swayed, finishing the song. Harry found himself suddenly on the edge of the crowd, staring into the cold grey eyes of Lucius Malfoy.
"Well, Mr. Potter what a pleasure…" Lucius began, but cut off by Narcissa who pulled him to the side, whispering furiously to him. Lucius stiffened, his eyes scanning the crowd. He made eye contact with Harry briefly, seeming to be at war with himself. Then he gave slight nod of the head, it seemed to be all he could manage before he walked away briskly.
Harry lingered in the pavilion long enough to dance once more with Alicia before following the path to the next pavilion, relieved at putting some distance between him and the Malfoy's. What he failed to notice, were Draco's eyes burning with anger and following his every move.
This pavilion was quite different, the tempo of the music was much faster paced, and the theme seemed to be fire. Flames of all types were on display: different colors, flames that danced in step with the music, and high in the air on pillars were flames in the shape of animals and beasts roaming restlessly as if in a cage. But it wasn't the decorations that had Harry's attention. The topic of conversation between two older wizards perked his interest.
"Yes, of course the Hospital still has a reserve stock of the potions, but with this strike, any potions with Basilisk parts will be incredibly hard to come by."
"Pity raising them is such a dangerous and skilled job. Not one I'd want, to be sure. No sir, they'll get their raises, mark my words."
Harry let the rest of the conversation drift away; he had an idea that would solve some of his growing concerns. He had no true home; the Burrow was alright for now, but what happened when he turned of age, and had to care for a family? It was a thought that still boggled his mind. He needed a home, preferably a large one so he could have some space to escape in. His vision of two Mrs. Weasley hands on hips yelling and bossing him around caused a shudder, for more than one reason. What was wrong with his head to think of her in that way? The Basilisk just might provide the money for a home, he could hope. With a grin, he turned his attention back to the night and the party, the song that had just started had a spicy Spanish tempo and Harry felt invigorated. He surprised a dark haired beauty in asking her to dance, never mind she was ten years older. This was a perfect song to practice his cha-cha, and tomorrow was the Quidditch World Cup.
Hogwarts had never been as busy over a summer. New teachers were moving in to fill posts that hadn't been filled since long before he had even become a teacher, and old posts were being filled with fresh staff full of enthusiasm. There were crews paid for by Ministry, of builders updating and restoring the wear of countless young witches and wizards. These were things he had dreamed to do; but somehow never had the time before, not to mention the budget, a little manipulation had seen Fudge giving a grant to the school, and paying for the restoration. He felt refreshed for the first time in a long time; the only dampener was the darkness that was on the rise.
His thoughts turned inevitably to Harry Potter, he had watched during the wedding reception as he danced the night away, marveling at the happiness that such a simple act could produce. He nearly choked on his lemon drop as Harry danced with Narcissa Malfoy, wondering if Harry knew the ring she wore was capable of injecting him with deadly venom, or the hate that was clearly showing on the face of both the male Malfoy's. His conversation with Bill on the night Harry returned had shocked him to the core. He had suspected Harry's scar to be something more than a scar, from the end of second year. Nearly all his time since had been spent looking for a way to remove it without damaging Harry. Of course he couldn't inspect the scar without alerting Harry, so to discover his mother's protection isolated the bit of Riddle, was a relief that nearly caused him to shout for joy. The fact that the bit of soul wasn't contained now or destroyed was troubling.
"Albus?" Minerva questioned, interrupting his thoughts.
"Sorry, I was miles away. What can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to inform you I have the schedules worked out, and have assigned classrooms for the new subjects." Minerva informed him.
"Very well, let's go over them, such an exciting time!" Albus laughed while rubbing his hands together. Minerva frowned at the nearly empty candy dish, hadn't it been full just this morning?
"Spell Creation will require an O.W.L. in Arithmancy and be located next door; Dueling will be open as an elective, although Severus wanted to require an O.W.L. in Charms and Defense, really that man. Enchanting will be an elective open to 3rd year and up. Ward Creation will require an O.W.L. in Runes…"
Daphne sat listening to Tracy go on and on about snogging Terry Boot. In normal times she would be happy for her sister and listen with patience, now was not a normal time for her. She had been quite excited when a letter from Harry, delivered by a house elf, had invited her to the social event of the year. Not even her parents had acquired an invitation. She quickly had visions of meeting all sorts of important witches and wizards from around the world. That excitement turned to disappointment and quickly to anger as her father declined the invitation for her.
"Still fuming?" Tracy asked, after it became apparent she was being ignored.
"Wouldn't you be?" Daphne spat.
"Heartbroken is more like it." Tracy agreed, "and you have more to be concerned with, it was the first time he asked you out and he was turned down. I won't even get started on how many girls he could have met-"
"Yeah, please don't." Daphne's voice was cold enough to cut steel. "I've already been over every possible disaster that could occur."
"Not every disaster, I can assure you," Karella's voice cut in. In her hand was the Daily Prophet. She dropped the paper between the two teen witches.
Harry Potter gives Passionate Speech
Our own Boy Who Lived gave a rousing speech in honor of the young Mrs. Belle Delacour. He knows the young woman from being a team member of a Cursebreaking adventure this summer…
Daphne's eyes got wider and wider as she read, seeing pictures of Harry dancing with well over ten different witches, along with questions of where he had been hiding all this time featured in the article. But the most frustrating thing of all was the insinuation that Harry was a very eligible bachelor.
"We need a plan my dear, one that will have Mr. Potter blushing red every time he sees you, and will have you prominently featured in his every thought." Karella said with a smile that caused Daphne to become nervous.