Hogwarts settled into a routine quickly at the end of the Christmas holiday. O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. students were hard at work preparing for the upcoming exams, but no one was working harder than Harry Potter who after two weeks was beginning to think he would be dead from exhaustion before exams.
"You could simply ask for a bit of a break." Gabrielle told him on the second Saturday night after they returned.
"You know I can't." He replied as she curled into him on the couch. It was one of her favorite moments of the day. Most everyone was in bed, or heading that way, and the Common Room was becoming more and more deserted. She got precious little time with her boyfriend now, and it really irritated her. Still, it made moments like this, where his arms were wrapping around her body and he pulled her tighter into him that made it worth the while.
"Dumbledore is sure that we can beat Voldemort, and I just have to be ready." Harry sighed as he rested his head on her shoulder, taking in her sweet scent.
"I know." She sighed. She reached up and ruffled his perpetually messy hair. "My hero."
"Don't say that." Harry growled. Gabrielle had come to understand that Harry hated being referred to as a hero. Despite the fact he'd done a number of heroic thins in his young life, he didn't see himself that way, which of course made him even more a hero. Gabrielle just liked teasing him though.
"How was your day?" He asked after a moment. They hardly saw much of each other, even at mealtimes thanks to Harry's new schedule.
"Same as ever. Luna helped me with my Transfiguration, and I helped her with her charms, although she really didn't need my help. I think she just likes including me. It's nice. I feel like I'm ready for next year already."
"If she keeps it up. You might be able to skip next year altogether. Maybe that's her intention."
"I'd be kind of nice. I'd be closer to graduating and starting life with you." Gabrielle smiled softly, making him look up with bright eyes.
"That's the second time you've mentioned something like that." Harry said. "You mentioned something like that while we were at your house in France."
"What?' Gabrielle looked a little frightened. "Am I not supposed to think about the future?"
"No, it's just… well it's kind of nice to hear I guess." Harry shrugged, squeezing Gabrielle around her waist and making her give a soft squeal of delight. She turned to him and pressed her lips to his, relishing in the way he returned her affection.
"I know we're still young and all, but… well in a way we are already married. Why shouldn't I think about our life after school?" Gabrielle whispered, leaning into Harry a bit more and enjoying the warmth he was providing.
"I guess it's just that I can't really fathom anything beyond Voldemort." Harry sighed into her shoulder. "It's strange for me to be feeling anything other than crushing depression really."
"Hermione mentioned you used to be a brooder." Gabrielle chuckled softly.
"I didn't brood." Harry said vehemently.
"I'm not going to get in the middle of it." Gabrielle said wisely. "I'm just repeating what I was told."
"Whatever." Harry grumbled.
"What about now?" Gabrielle asked. "This war is coming to a close from the way Dumbledore talked about. At least, that's the impression you gave us. So maybe you should start thinking about life beyond."
Gabrielle moved so that she was now sitting in Harry's lap, her legs stretched out on the couch. Harry leaned so his head was resting on her chest above her breast but not quite on her shoulder, and she wrapped an arm around his neck, her hand resting on his head, her lithe fingers massaging his scalp soothingly. She swore she heard him purring, which made her grin to herself.
"I don't know." He said after she settled down and he had his arms around her waist.
"Well, think. The sky's the limit. We could go anywhere, live anywhere… whatever we want."
"I don't know. I suppose I'd have to get a job. I was considering becoming an auror, but now… I don't know."
"I don't know if I'd like you being an auror." Gabrielle admitted, wrinkling her pretty little nose. Harry lifted his head to look into her soft blue eyes.
"Why not?' He asked.
"I'd be worried about you all the time. Not knowing if you were going to come home to me at night. Or if this was the last morning I got to kiss you before you went to work. I wouldn't stop you if it's what you really wanted, but, I don't know that I'd be really happy about it."
"I never considered that." Harry sighed, putting his head back in it's resting place as Gabrielle continued her ministrations.
"The only other thing I think might be fun would be Quidditch, but that wouldn't last forever." Harry shrugged.
"Maybe not, but it would give you a bit more time to figure out what you wanted to do. And I understand that the money's quite good. Perhaps you could play for a few years and then become a coach, or a scout, or even work with one of the broom companies."
Harry made a noncommittal noise as his eyes started getting heavy. Gabrielle knew it wouldn't be long before he fell asleep. She heaved a sigh and much to her displeasure, she tore herself out of Harry's warm embrace.
"Come on Harry." She said as she grabbed his hands and pulled him to his feet.
"Ah, Gabbi, I was so comfortable."
"What have I told you about calling me Gabbi?" She asked irritably. "That isn't my name."
"I know, I'm sorry, but I like it. Plus, you are so cute when you get angry. Your accent gets thicker and sexier."
"You're incorrigible, you know that?" Gabrielle mock glared. "Go to bed before you fall asleep standing up."
"I don't want to." Harry whined, making Gabrielle laughed lightly.
"Harry… we're together now. Bonded, and that means for life. We have all the time in the world to snuggle together on a couch in front of a fire and talk about our days. But right now, you need your rest."
Harry gave her a tired smile and bent his head, capturing her lips in a lingering kiss that she felt all the way down to her toes. When he released her, he stumbled slightly up the stairs and into the boys dormitory, with Gabrielle watching him the entire time to make sure he actually went to bed. She then collected her shoes, which were on the floor in front of the couch and started to head for her own room wondering if she would get a little time with her bondmate tomorrow night.
The school year was speeding up now, and the fifth and seventh years students were starting to feel the pressure. Everyday that passed brought OWL and NEWT exams closer. Homework was becoming excruciating and Gabrielle was hardly able to se Harry with every passing week.
With his lessons with Snape and Dumbledore respectively, his Quidditch practices, and most importantly, his studies, the banded pair saw each other only at breakfast and lunch anymore.
It was one of the reasons she was looking forward to the next Hogsmeade weekend.
Harry had stopped her after lunch on the Friday before and asked he if she would like to go.
"Of course I would. I haven't even gotten to see you in a month now." She said with a bright smile. Harry gave her one of his apologetic smiles, but she cut him off before he could attempt to explain his absence.
"Stop." She said, pressing a delicate hand to his cheek. "I know. Let's get through this next week and then we can spend some time catching up."
"Definitely." Harry smiled, still holding her hand to his cheek as he leaned in and kissed her. It was a brief kiss, but held the promise of more. She smiled as he rushed off for his next class.
The week leading up to the Hogsmeade weekend found Gabrielle working to near exhaustion to make sure that she would have no homework or anything that needed done over the weekend so she could maximize her time with Harry. Before she went to sleep on Friday night, she triple checked to make sure everything was done, and even asked Hermione to review everything to make sure she would be free to spend as much time with Harry as possible.
Gabrielle had awoken early Saturday to make sure she would be presentable for her date with Harry. She showered, and then spent extra time on her hair and a bit of makeup before getting dressed. It was still too cold for a skirt or shorts, so she slipped into her tightest jeans and put on a button up blouse which was then covered by a form fitting jumper that accentuated her chest.
When she felt she was presentable she went to the common room to wait for Harry who was only a moment or two behind her. He greeted her with a gentle, chaste, but loving kiss. That was when she saw the very dark circles under his eyes.
"Mon dieu, are you alright. You look terrible." She said, reaching up to caress his cheek. He gave her a tired looking smile.
"I'm alright. Just tired."
"You've been training to hard." Hermione said as she came down the stairs and saw Harry and Gabrielle together. "Dumbledore's working you too hard, and you need some rest."
"Hermione's right. Maybe it would be best if we cancelled so you could get some sleep." Gabrielle suggested, but Harry was shaking his head before she had finished.
"I haven't gotten to spend hardly any time with you since Christmas. I don't know when the next chance will be, and I miss my girlfriend." Harry said pointedly. Both Hermione and Gabrielle smiled at this and Gabrielle reluctantly nodded that she would allow him to go out. They waited for Ron, who Harry assured them was right behind him, and along with Neville and Ginny who had shown up, headed down to the Great Hall for breakfast.
Gabrielle couldn't help but worry as Harry ate. He was clearly awake, but he didn't appear to be as alert as she knew him to be normally. He almost appeared to be in a daze until his second cup of tea. She hadn't spent much time in the Gryffindor Common Room lately, choosing to study with Luna as often as possible. Without Harry being there, Gabrielle had felt a bit like a lame gazelle on the plains of the Serengeti.
Now Gabrielle was wondering if perhaps she had been in the common room more, she might have been more aware of what had been happening with Harry.
"Are you certain you want to go to the village?" Gabrielle asked as Harry slowly ate. "We could stay here and spend time together just the same."
"I'm fine." Harry said again, looking at her with a smile. "I don't want to waste a day away sleeping."
Gabrielle leaned towards him and whispered in his ear. "I could lay with you. It might be more fun to spend a day in bed together."
Harry's fork clanged loudly on his plate as he dropped it, causing a few heads to turn and take in his new bright red complexion.
"What did you say?" Ginny asked, stifling her laughter.
"Just made a suggestion on how we could spend the day together." Gabrielle shrugged.
"You may have broken him." Hermione noted.
"No, he's still got a pulse." Gabrielle smiled. "And he's still conscious. If I had broken him, we'd likely be floating him to the hospital."
"You are…" Harry huffed as he regained control of himself.
"Yes my love?" Gabrielle batted her eyelashes flirtatiously.
"EVIL!" Harry gasped.
"And you love it." Gabrielle replied, pulling him down so she could kiss him.
"I'm so glad I'm not spending the day with you two." Ron rolled his eyes. "I don't know if I could stomach watching you two go at it all day."
"Who are you going with?" Hermione asked interestedly. Ron's face started to color a bit and he shrugged, focusing intently on the food on his plate.
"Who are you going with?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Ginny and Neville." Hermione said brightly.
"Actually, I made other plans." Ginny remarked, coloring a bit, though not as bad as her older brother. "I' told Dean I would go with him."
Ron's head shot up and he narrowed his eyes. He was about to speak when Ginny cut him off.
"If I hear one word out of you Ron, I swear I will get the twins to give me some of those nudist nougats, or whatever, and have the house elves slip them in your dinner." Ginny glowered. Ron looked like he wanted to argue when a petite pretty girl came over and tapped Ron on the shoulder. He turned and the glare melted away to be replaced by a small smile.
The girl was slim and curvy with shoulder length wispy strawberry blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She had an easy smile on her face as she bent down to get Ron's attention.
"Are you ready to go?" She asked softly. Ron nodded, gulped the remainder of his pumpkin juice, said goodbye and shot up from the table to follow the girl out of the Great Hall.
"Who was that?" Harry asked, watching Ron and the girl walk away.
"Morag McDougal." Hermione stammered. "She's in Ravenclaw. When did they start seeing each other?"
"About two weeks ago." Neville said gently. "He helped her out with a couple of Slytherins and they just started talking."
"How do you know that?" Harry asked.
"You've missed a bit." Neville shrugged. "With all your training, you're hardly around anymore. We all miss you, but I think Ron misses you most." Neville glanced at Gabrielle and snickered. "Well second most."
"What could they even have in common?" Hermione asked, still watching where Ron and Morag had disappeared.
"Well, for starters, Morag's family is rather on the poor side. She's got three sisters and a brother, and they're all older than she is. Also… she's a fan of the Cannons."
"Whoa." Ginny said with shock. "It's like fate or something. I mean, I can't think of anyone with half a brain that would admit to liking the Cannons."
"Well good for them." Gabrielle said with a approving nod.
"So, I guess that it's just us then?" Neville asked. Hermione turned still looking shocked over what she had seen and gave a nod. Then her brain re-engaged and she smiled.
"Yes, and we'll have fun. I promise not to spend too much time in the bookstore." She promised.
They all got up together and journeyed down to the village together before splitting up. Harry took Gabrielle's hand and they started for Apothecary. Gabrielle wanted to get a few potion ingredients that she was running short on.
"You know, we can hurry and get what we need and go back to the castle." Gabrielle offered.
"I told you I'm fine." Harry chuckled. "I appreciate your concern, but I'm alright."
"You don't look like it, and you staggering a bit Harry." Gabrielle argued. "If you don't get some proper rest you're going to wind up in the hospital wing, and I know how much you enjoy that."
"I want to spend the day with you. I promise that I will go to bed early tonight."
"I wasn't totally joking before.' Gabrielle smiled a bit shyly. "I wouldn't be opposed to spending the day with you in your bed."
Harry's eyes started to bulge and Gabrielle laughed.
"I didn't say we'd be doing anything. I just meant that we could spend the day together and you could rest."
"That's not spending time together. That's you babysitting me to make sure I go to sleep." Harry argued.
"If that's what it takes." Gabrielle shrugged.
"I have been busting my arse over the last month and I've barely seen you or any of my friends. I want a day with you without having to rush off to practice or training or lessons. A few hours with you alone."
"That's sweet Harry, but I'm really worried about you." Gabrielle said, giving Harry a look that made him realize she was going to push until he gave in.
"Ok, how about, we get our shopping done, have lunch and then we'll go back to the castle early and you can watch me sleep?" Harry compromised. Gabrielle smiled and hugged him tightly.
"But, when I wake up, no matter what time it is, you and I go have dinner in the kitchens together."
"This I like." Gabrielle smiled, kissing him deeply. Harry held her tight until she broke the kiss and pulled away. Harry rolled his tired eyes at Gabrielle's glee at having gotten her way.
They went in and out of a few shops, with Harry lingering in a few to drag out the day. Gabrielle caught on to his ploy after the second shop. She wasn't stupid enough to believe Harry was that interested in inks and quills as to examined them individually.
They went to lunch at the Three Broomsticks and found a quiet table in a corner. After they ordered, Gabrielle reached across the table to take her boyfriend's hands in hers.
"I take it your training has been hard."
"Snape has always been tough to deal with. He's really demanding, and if I don't get it right, he loves to tell me how pathetic I am. He's threatened to stop training me I don't know how many times. At least he gives me pain killing potion now."
Gabrielle eyed him and he waved off her questioning look.
"Dumbledore's lessons have been interesting. It's mostly transfiguration, but he's shown me some really interesting charms. He's also kept me informed on stuff. He's certain that things will come to a head very soon."
"Have you ever thought about what might happen when it's all over?' Gabrielle asked curiously. "I mean, once the war's over. What do you think you'll do?"
Harry shrugged again. Madam Rosemerta delivered their lunch with a smile and slipped away.
Gabrielle began cutting her chicken while Harry dug into his fish.
"I guess it depends on when it ends. If I'm still in school, I'll finish, obviously. But if it's later, I don't know. I thought about becoming an auror, but after my lessons with Snape and fighting this war… I don't think I want that. In all honesty, I think I'd like to travel. See the world a bit. I just feel like it would be nice to do some things I always wanted to." Harry said wistfully.
Gabrielle couldn't help but smile at that. She knew how isolated and confined Harry had been throughout his life. She couldn't blame him for wanting to see the world and do all the things he'd never been allowed to.
"Of course, I'd have to wait until you finished school as well."
Gabrielle looked up suddenly. "You'd wait for me?"
Harry leaned in and lowered his voice. "I couldn't very well run off and leave my magic wife behind. I don't think our bond would like that."
Gabrielle reached across and slapped his hand playfully.
"Seriously, it wouldn't be much fun to do all that on my own. I'd like it more if I could share it with you." Harry said with a soft smile that made Gabrielle swoon a bit.
"Where would you want to go?" Gabrielle asked.
"I don't know." Harry answered honestly.
"Maybe this summer we could plan that trip together."
"That's a great idea." Harry nodded. "We could asked your parents and Sirius about different places and maybe map our future journey."
"What would you do while I'm still in school? I'm still two years behind you."
"Maybe I could play Quidditch until you graduated. That would keep my busy enough." Harry shrugged. "It would need to be something I could walk away from pretty easily. Of course, There's always the chance that I won't make it…"
"I don't want to hear that from you." Gabrielle said sternly. "I don't want to hear anything of the sort, are we clear? You are strong, and you have me, and Hermione and Ron and Ginny, and so many people behind you. Plus, you have an extra reserve of magic now with me and our bond. I will give every ounce of my magic to you to help defeat this monster, so I don't want to hear any sort of doubt from you."
Harry could only smile now. Gabrielle's glower softened and she nodded to his plate.
"Now finish your lunch so I can get you in bed." She winked, and Harry could only stare at her for a moment.
"You do know what happens to me when you talk like that, don't you?"
"Why do you think I do it?" Gabrielle smirked.
"Fleur told you too, didn't she." Harry accused.
"She may have mentioned what happens to boys lower regions when you mention taking them to bed. It was actually the Grand Mother who really explained it all, and even suggested we experiment."
Harry dropped his fork again.
"Kreacher had it in his nest." Sirius said as he tossed a small box to Dumbledore. The two were standing in the study of Sirius' family home in London. He was looking around with clear disgust on his face. "I still can't believe it was here all this time."
"Did he say how he came to possess it?" Dumbledore asked.
"My brother." Sirius's tone softened. "Turns out he wasn't as wonderful as my mother believed. Sounded like something happened and Regulus saw Voldemort for what he truly was. Kreacher helped put the locket in its original hiding place on Regulus' orders, and helped my brother retrieve it. Regulus order Kreacher to destroy it, but he couldn't manage it. He was heartbroken over it. Dam elf always loved Regulus more than anyone else."
"We should be thankful for his devotion." Dumbledore said, peering into the box and the somewhat innocuous locket resting inside.
"That thing feels… wrong.' Sirius said eyeing the box. "I still can't believe something like that was in Harry all those years."
"Were it not for his mother's sacrifice, the fragment could have taken over his personality, and perhaps even rid Harry's body of his soul." Dumbledore said as he replaced the box's lid.
"Thanks god for small miracles." Sirius shuddered. "Any word on the others?"
"I have heard from William Weasley. He has spoken to the head of the goblin nation in regards to our situation. They have agreed to audit all vaults of any family associated with Death Eater activity. He claims we might have news in the next few weeks. Kingsley and Nymphadora reported last night that the orphanage is gone, but they are going to search Little Hangelton tonight. I am hopeful that perhaps he hid something in his family's home. He was resurrected there, and was in hiding for nearly a year there. Elphias has offered to go to Albania, but I do not believe we will find anything there. This leaves only Hogwarts to search."
"You don't honestly believe he would have hidden one of those… abominations at the school, do you?" Sirius looked aghast.
"Unfortunately, I do. As to where…" Dumbledore could only shrug.
"We're getting closer to the end, aren't we?" Sirius asked, though he didn't sound enthusiastic at all. In fact, he sounded afraid.
"I fear that we are. We will soon need to begin planning for the final confrontation. Harry is growing quite adept and I am confident he will be able to keep Lord Voldemort at bay long enough for the rest of us to spring our trap. Soon, Sirius, Soon, Harry will be free from this burden at last, and free to live the life he chooses. And I will be free to rest as well."