Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no profit.
Acknowledgments: Zaion Indulias for the beta work on this chapter.
Eva and Cora were the only two players present when Gabrielle wandered down to the kitchen. She frowned a little bit and gazed around, but Eva noticed her presence almost immediately.
"Hey Ellie," she said. Cora just looked at her for a few moments, as if she was surprised by her presence. But Cora didn't comment. Instead she moved toward the fridge and took out a bottle of water.
"Hello Eva," Gabrielle responded, gazing around. She did not want to ask directly about the boys. She did not really like Eva all that much. But she also had very little experience with either of the chasers. Well, at least compared to the experience she had with the boys.
"Cora and I left early. Harry should be back shortly," Eva said, she stepped around Cora and grabbed a bottle of wine out of the fridge. Cora just leaned against the counter and looked mildly perturbed by the entire situation.
"I am going to shower," Cora said after a few moments. She took her bottle of water and stormed off toward Eva's bedroom. Gabrielle found that slightly unusual but didn't comment. Instead she just looked back to Eva.
"What is her problem?" Gabrielle asked as Cora disappeared into the bedroom. Eva just shrugged her shoulders.
"She's been like that all day. Don't worry about her. Wine?" Eva opened the twist-topped white and started to look for some glasses.
"No thank you," Gabrielle said. She assumed Harry would insist on drinks of some type and she knew she was too much of a lightweight to start drinking early. She certainly didn't want to fall asleep before dessert showed up.
"Suit yourself," Eva said, pouring her own glass and leaving another empty on the counter.
"I am sorry about the loss," Gabrielle admitted. Eva just shrugged her shoulders.
"It wasn't that bad, actually," the chaser admitted. "A win would have been huge. But we came fairly close. And Montrose is a tough team."
"Well that is good, I guess," Gabrielle said.
"It's an improvement," Eva laughed. "Certainly better than losing by a thousand points."
"I guess it is," Gabrielle said, not really understanding how the margin of defeat mattered. But if the quidditch player thought it was important she wasn't about to argue with her.
"Anyway, you look nice," Eva said. "Where are you going?"
"I found a small French place down by the harbor," Gabrielle admitted. "It is very little, it has like six tables inside. But I have a reservation that we can still make." She glanced at the clock to make sure that was okay. She did not think it was run by magicals, though, so she was not sure if Harry Potter could actually con his way to a table simply by being himself.
"Well that sounds fun," Eva said. "I didn't realize Mathieu was coming back over. I think that Harry and Titus were going out for drinks for Harry's birthday."
"They are?" Gabrielle asked, only really picking up on the latter half of what the chaser said.
"I thought so, I saw them talking in the locker room. Either way, I'm going to go freshen up. Enjoy your night out," Eva said, she turned and walked off toward her room, taking the wine with her. Gabrielle just stared after her for a few moments and wondered just what was going on.
Harry did not strike her as the type to forget anything. Yet if that was the case, then why would he be going out for drinks? Sure, they hadn't really discussed a time or anything to meet at. But Gabrielle had simply assumed they would be meeting after the match. She frowned and perched on one of the kitchen stools wishing she had some way of contacting him immediately.
Of course that seemed completely awkward to her. Harry had never not done something that he'd told her before. And she suspected today would not be any different. So she simply waited, wondering if she'd bothered so much with hair, dress, and makeup for absolutely nothing.
But here fears were waylaid a moment later when the door opened and Harry walked in. He was dressed in basic athletic clothing and looked rather annoyed at something. But when he saw her, he simply smiled at her and she couldn't help it but smile back.
"I am sorry you lost," she said, trying to pout realistically. It was easier than he suspected.
"I'm just happy I beat Parker to the snitch. I can give him shit about it when we meet up at the next World Cup prep," Harry laughed. She couldn't help but smile more at him.
"I thought you would be more upset after the loss," Gabrielle admitted. Harry just shrugged his shoulders.
"I've told you before," he smiled. "You can't win them all. We'd won quite a few in a row, and almost beat Montrose. I'll take it. We have a few more months to get into contention. I think we have a shot."
"Well I hope you do," Gabrielle said.
"Me too," Harry smiled at her. "But either way, I think next year may be a better option. But I'm not going to look ahead to it before this year is officially in the bag."
"That seems smart," Gabrielle said passively. She wasn't that interested in quidditch talk, and she suspected Harry picked up on that. It didn't prevent her from asking her next question, though. "Eva said you were going to get drinks with Titus."
"What?" Harry asked.
"Eva, she and Cora came back a few minutes before you," Gabrielle said. She noticed that at the mention of the chasers Harry looked down the hallway toward Eva's bedroom. "And she said you and Titus were going out for birthday drinks."
"Oh," Harry shrugged. "Titus was going to go out with Ben and Jordan. She probably just assumed I was going with."
"I see," Gabrielle said. "You did not tell her about our date?" Gabrielle asked. She was a bit alarmed that he simply smirked at her immediately.
"You have a boyfriend," he said. She rolled her eyes.
"Yes, I do," Gabrielle admitted. Harry chuckled and turned his gaze back to her.
"No. I didn't," Harry said, answering her question.
"Why not?" Gabrielle asked.
"She didn't ask, I suppose," Harry said. "We don't really discuss what we do on a day to day basis. At least not that often. Had she asked me what I was planning on doing for my birthday I'm sure it would have come up. But she didn't."
"I thought you two were close," Gabrielle said. Harry raised an eyebrow at her.
"What gave you that impression?" he asked.
"You two get along well. You are living together. Every now and then you seem to be on the same page," Gabrielle shrugged, hoping she was getting the analogy right. Of course her English was amazingly more polished than it was at the beginning of the summer. Sure, she'd been completely fluent. But she'd never had to use it on a completely daily basis.
Even now Fay was solely conversing with her in English during her private lessons. The instructor claimed it was because no one in the performance would speak in French, so she needed to refresh her ballet English. Gabrielle wasn't sure if she really needed such a refresher. All she knew was that she hadn't consistently used her French since Mathieu was over.
"I suppose we do," Harry said. "But it really just didn't come up."
"Oh. Well. Uhm. When would you like to leave?" Gabrielle asked.
"I believe I heard you talking about an eight o'clock reservation?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Gabrielle said, wondering just where he'd heard that. She thought that she must have told Titus about it.
"Well how long will it take us to walk there?" Harry asked.
"Probably about fifteen minutes," Gabrielle said. "It is just further down the harbor." But we can also apparate there in a few seconds."
"Well we could, but I like walking," Harry said. "What time is it?"
"Seven," Gabrielle said, tilting her wrist to see her small silver watch.
"So would you mind if I showered and changed before we left?" Harry asked.
"Of course not," Gabrielle responded. "I think the restaurant would appreciate if you did not show up in that, too."
"Probably," Harry smiled. But then he noticed the baked goods. "Oh! Cookies!"
"And cupcakes," Gabrielle said.
"And cupcakes!" Harry moved, like a shot, toward them. He ate one of the cookies in one quick bite. He immediately grabbed one of the cupcakes and started to eat it as well.
"You are going to ruin your appetite," Gabrielle sighed, sliding off of the stool and moving over toward him.
"Hungry," Harry said, with his mouth full of cupcake.
"Go take your shower," Gabrielle laughed, pushing him away from the platter of food.
"Yes mother," Harry scoffed, stepping away, but not before grabbing another cookie and heading off toward his bedroom. Gabrielle just shook her head and watched him go. She slid back onto her stool.
She actually found herself a little bit bored, wishing she hadn't already completed her summer assignments as that would give her something to work on. She could have doodled, but she didn't have paper or a pencil, and her wand was upstairs on her bedside table.
At first she spent a few moments shuffling through her small handbag, but it was so basic it didn't entertain her for particularly long. So instead she just sat there, and waited, because she didn't know what else to do. She just leaned against the counter and waited, staring at her watch as the time passed almost agonizingly slowly.
She wrung her hands together and waited, wishing that she could think of something to do to pass the time, despite the fact that she knew it wouldn't be long. Mostly, though, she just found herself rather nervous. And that was enough to annoy her.
She did not think she had any cause to be nervous. She hadgone to places with Harry many times before. She certainly had not felt nervous in the café in Bordeaux. Of course, then, she had simply felt depressed. And she had not felt nervous when he and Titus had taken her and Mathieu out to watch the selection show. And never any of the time she'd been out with the team.
But now she was nervous. And it was unusual to her. She did not like being nervous. She had not even felt nervous on stage when performing the routine at her audition. But there she had known exactly what she needed to do. And she had done it. Here she did not know what she should do. And that was what bothered her.
So really, she did all she could think of. She sat and she waited, patiently, thinking about Harry and what the rest of the night would bring. It was a tediously long twenty minutes.
Eventually though, Harry did return. He walked slowly down the stairs and stepped toward her in the kitchen. He was wearing black jeans and black shoes. Gabrielle noticed the red stripe on the heel of his shoe and made a mental note to ask about that. He had a long sleeved green and black button-up shirt on, but he had the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His hair looked freshly washed and still moderately damp. But he'd at least attempted to flatten it.
"You look nice," she said, smiling at him and slipping off the stool. Harry smiled back at her.
"You too," he smirked. "Very kissable."
"You remember that?" she laughed, but she could feel her cheeks flushing.
"I have a good memory," Harry smiled. "What about me?"
"What about you?" Gabrielle asked, tilting her head to look at him.
"Oh come now," Harry laughed. "You know!"
"I suppose you look kissable enough," Gabrielle blushed, trying desperately to not seem like a giggly schoolgirl as she said it.
"I'll take it," Harry smiled. "Shall we leave?"
"We'll be very early if we do," she said.
"We can walk slowly," he countered. "And the harbor is always nice at night if we need to kill time."
"I guess," she said, swinging her handbag over her shoulder.
"Well then, let's go," Harry said. Gabrielle just nodded and walked with him to the door.
Once they were outside Harry took her hand. It was odd, but she did not protest. He did not squeeze her hand, like Mathieu did, as if he suspected she would fly away if he let go. But rather held it gently, as if it was precious object likely to be crushed by any added stress.
It was a warm evening. The sun was slowly starting to descend. There were still a couple of hours of daylight left, but the last vestiges were quickly approaching. The walked the first block in silence. Harry was simply whistling quietly and staring out over the water, paying little attention to the girl at his side.
"You really do just enjoy walking," Gabrielle said quietly, breaking the silence. Harry didn't respond immediately.
"Yes," he said. "I guess I do."
"Why?" Gabrielle asked.
"Why not?" Harry countered.
"I do not know," Gabrielle shrugged. "I have just never really done walking for the purpose of walking. It has always been more a necessary mode of transportation."
"Well, I did a lot of walking as a kid. It was a way to get out of the house. I've always liked to just wander around and see things. Stop someplace here or there and just enjoy myself," Harry explained.
"I see," Gabrielle said, hoping he would just continue to talk. And he did.
"And I've always liked cities. I guess it's some anti-suburban mindset. I always disliked the rows and rows of identical houses where I grew up. But there's something about cities that I always liked. I think it's why I liked New York so much. There's something about the large sprawling life," he sighed, staring around, as if he was debating his words, trying to decide exactly how to explain himself.
"I am not sure just what you are saying," Gabrielle sighed.
"Well where I grew up, and in school really, everything was the same. It was safe and boring. Cities are always different. They change constantly. And you can wander around every day and find something new, if you like, and I relish that," Harry admitted.
"Is that why you always seem excited for road matches?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes," Harry said. "I don't go to a lot of the locales much otherwise. And I like wandering around new areas."
"I guess I can understand that," Gabrielle said.
"You think I'm nuts," Harry laughed.
"Not really, no," Gabrielle said. "I just have never really considered walking around like that. I think if it is something you enjoy it is something you should do."
"You've taken walks around the harbor before," Harry countered.
"Yes," she said. "But never for the purpose of walking. I have always been looking for something. Like a restaurant or a shop. And lately I have apparated home as opposed to walking back."
"Well I've always just enjoyed it," he said, and Gabrielle got the feeling he was done attempting to defend his own logic for it.
"I think it is something I could learn to enjoy," Gabrielle said. Harry looked over at her and smiled.
"Now you're just patronizing me," he said.
"Maybe a little," she smiled. "But honest, too. I do not know if I would ever just walk for fun like you do. But I could probably do it with company." His only response was to squeeze her hand and it was her turn to smile. Unfortunately, their quiet conversation was interrupted.
"Mr. Potter! Miss Delacour, can I have a word with you?" A voice called out. Gabrielle instinctively slid behind Harry as they both turned in the direction of voice. A woman Gabrielle recognized as one of the reporters that had accosted her and Madame Fay approached.
"Sure," Harry said jovially. "I'm going to dinner, leave me alone."
"What?" the reporter blinked. But recovered quickly. "Just a few questions, please."
"No," Harry smiled. Gabrielle stared up at him, attempting to gauge his expression. But he had the mask up and looked happy as a clam.
"Just a few questions!" the woman asked. But Harry just shook his head.
"Sorry, but no," he said, pulling Gabrielle further down the street. "And I don't appreciate being accosted in the street. Most of your co-workers have learned that I'm pretty personable at designated times. It's something I do to avoid these conversations. My next press conference is in two weeks. Ask your questions then."
"Just a few moments-" the reporter started but before she could finish the sentence Gabrielle felt herself being pressed through a tube. They popped back out a few blocks away from the harbor, about the same distance from the restaurant as they were before.
"Should you have done that?" Gabrielle asked.
"Probably not," Harry shrugged. "But there are some benefits to being Harry Potter. And honestly, I doubt any Muggles were really staring at us watching the exchange. So I doubt anyone noticed."
"But how did you know this road would be empty?" she asked as they resumed walking.
"I didn't," Harry shrugged. "But I've walked here before and it's usually a quiet street."
"You could still get in trouble," Gabrielle frowned.
"Maybe," Harry said. "But I've done similar things to reporters before. And honestly, I'd like to see the ministry try. I could probably convince them to punish the reporter before me."
"Would you do that?" Gabrielle asked.
"No," Harry said. "But it's interesting to think about. I've never really tried to use that sort of pull. But I think I could get away with it. Anyway, where's the restaurant?"
"It's a few blocks away," Gabrielle said as they stepped back out onto the main street in the harbor. "You apparated us straight past it."
"Figures," Harry laughed.
"Yes, well, we are still going to be early," Gabrielle said, staring down at her watch.
"Only a little," Harry said. But he slowed their pace.
"You used your influence at the French ministry," Gabrielle said, quietly, as they walked. Harry could barely hear her over the general noise of the harbor area.
"What?" he asked, both to clarify what she'd said and get some sort of reminder of whatever incident that she was referring to.
"For my apparation test. The woman was not going to let me take it, but you convinced her otherwise," Gabrielle said. Harry nodded, remembering the incident.
"Oh well, that was just to make everything easier. Bureaucrats often work like that. You just have to convince them it's easier to let you have your way," Harry explained.
"Well it worked out, so I thank you for that. I would not have wanted to go back and try again at a different date. I am glad it is out of the way," Gabrielle admitted.
"I know the feeling. I was rather nervous for my test," Harry laughed.
"Really? But you had been apparating forever. It was in the book," Gabrielle said. Harry turned and looked at her, raising an eyebrow. She suspected it was because she mentioned Hermione's book detailing the end of the war. Everyone had read it. But it was the first time she had referenced that she really knew the contents. She also remembered him telling her it was mostly lies.
"I had been, yes. But that still made me nervous. It didn't help that half the ministry showed up," Harry said.
"To watch a stupid test?" Gabrielle frowned.
"Oh yes," Harry laughed. "Figured that if I failed it would be laughed about for months. Thankfully I didn't."
"Indeed," Gabrielle smiled. "This is the restaurant." She gestured to a small house on the corner. Harry noticed a menu posted in a lit glass case.
"And we're barely early," he smiled, glancing over to the watch on her wrist. He led her up to the door and held it open for her to walk through. She just gave him a very brief smile and walked up to the hostess.
"Bonjour," the hostess said. Her pronunciation was off and Gabrielle expected she only knew a few basic French words and only ever used them to great customers. She was tempted to start talking in French, but figured that was simply because both Harry and Titus were terrible influences.
"I have a reservation. Delacour for two," Gabrielle said. The hostess nodded.
"Right this way," she said, walking off into the restaurant. Harry and Gabrielle followed her and moments later found themselves at a small table in the corner. The hostess left menus and drink lists on the table and Harry found himself perusing one slowly as Gabrielle let her gaze shift across the restaurant.
"Want to split a bottle of wine?" Harry asked. Gabrielle frowned a bit as he asked. She was hoping to pay, and didn't really know just how much all of it would cost. But it seemed rude to decline the request.
"Okay," she said, pressing her lips together.
"Want to pick?" he asked.
"I do not know anything about wine," Gabrielle admitted.
"Either do I," Harry laughed. "Red or white?"
"White," Gabrielle responded immediately. "I like Vouvrays and Sancerres if they have either."
"I thought you didn't know anything about wine," Harry said as their waiter approached and Harry ordered a Vouvray off the list. Gabrielle requested water. The waiter left with a nod. Harry turned his attention back to the menu.
At least until the waiter returned with the wine. He sampled it, nodding his affirmation and wondering just what the waiter would do if he'd said it was terrible. Deep down he guessed he simply didn't understand the ritual. The waiter filled Gabrielle's glass, then Harry's, before leaving the bottle in an ice bucket next to the table and giving them more time with the menu.
He didn't look up at his young date until he'd decided what he wanted off the menu. By the time he did she was simply staring out the window over the harbor with her wine in one hand. Harry watched her for a moment before speaking.
"How is the show coming?" he asked. She turned her gaze back to him and took a sip of the wine before placing it back on the table.
"I do not know," she said.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked. He knew their performance were only a couple of weeks away. But he also didn't have any sort of a clue how these things usually progressed.
"I do not think some of the dancers are any good," Gabrielle responded.
"Why not?" Harry asked.
"They make stupid mistakes," Gabrielle admitted. "The director spends more time with the group dances than anything specific. I know my parts. But it seems like whenever we are going to start working on them, we do one or two runs and then they go back to group dancing."
"So you don't feel prepared?" Harry asked.
"I do not know," Gabrielle said. "They never correct what I do. The director nitpicks everything else any dancer does. But watches me do one or two turns and moves on. It is confusing."
"Maybe you're just that good," Harry smiled
"Maybe," Gabrielle said, taking another sip of wine. Her tone indicated that she was simply agreeing with him and not planning to argue that point, but that she doubted it was the case.
"What does Fay say?" Harry asked.
"Fay says to just do what the director says and accept that he knows more than I do," Gabrielle commented. "She has actually been helping out with the other dancers as well. It is odd."
"How so?" Harry took his first sip of wine. Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders, indicating she wasn't particularly sure how to explain it.
"She is different with others. She does not snap at them as much. She explains herself more. With me she would usually just tell me what to do and then be upset when I did not do it. With them she guides them through it more," Gabrielle explained. She pressed her lips together as she spoke. Harry suspected she was trying to detail it better in her head.
"And you don't really know how to interprete that," Harry commented. She just nodded and they both took a moment to take a sip of their wine. Harry wanted to ask more about the dance instructor, but their waiter decided to return at that moment.
The man refilled Gabrielle's wine glass and went over the specials before making sure they had no questions on the menu. After they ordered. Gabrielle picked out the daily fish special and Harry ordered a roasted chicken entree. They decided to split some vegetable tart appetizer that Gabrielle asked about, as well as a tuna tartar.
"Anyway," Gabrielle started again once the waiter left. "I would really like to spend more time on Aurora's introduction. And any dance where Kevin is involved."
"Kevin?" Harry asked, although he had a good idea of what the answer would be.
"He is the male lead," Gabrielle responded.
"And how is he?"
"He gets a little," Gabrielle frowned and for the first time that Harry could remember, seemed to be at a loss for a word. He'd almost completely forgotten that English was the foreign language to her. But after a moment she spoke again. "Touchy?"
"About what?" Harry asked. But his asking just made Gabrielle press her lips together and look down for a moment.
"No. Not like sensitive. Like he touches too much," she explained.
"Oh?" Harry raised both his eyebrows. "Want me to hex him?"
"No," Gabrielle smiled diplomatically. "At least not yet. Madame Fay does not think he does anything unusual. I just do not like being touched. Madame just reminds me that it is part of the business."
"If he's doing something you don't like," Harry started, but Gabrielle just shook her head, stopping him mid sentences.
"It is not like that. There is nothing sexual about it. I mean sure, sometimes a hand has slipped and wound up on my thigh when we make a mistake. And one time I slipped as he caught me and he wound up with his hands on my chest. But that is expected. He is very apologetic when that happens. There are just times where he will guide me off stage, or rest a hand on my back, or hold me in a pose for a time I feel is too long. And it annoys me," Gabrielle admitted.
"Tell him to stop," Harry said.
"I do not want to make a scene. And it is not a particularly big deal," Gabrielle dismissed the entire notion with a simple sentence and turned her gaze back to her wine.
"And how do you think your boyfriend would feel if he were to see you being groped by another man?" Harry asked. Gabrielle just laughed, quietly and raised the glass to her lips before responding.
"I suspect he would be happy that there is finally something there to grope," she countered. "Anyway, I do not think Kevin likes girls."
"I see," Harry said.
"At least he seems to spend an inordinate amount of time with the other male dancers," Gabrielle just shrugged her shoulders.
"To each their own," Harry shrugged.
"I guess," Gabrielle said. Their waiter returned at that moment with the appetizers. He refilled both their wine glasses and Harry ordered another bottle. Gabrielle looked concerned by that, but didn't comment. Instead she helped herself to one of the vegetable tarts. Harry stared at the small cubes of fish.
"That's right," he sighed. "Tartar means raw."
"Yes it does," Gabrielle said. "But the tarts are delicious."
"That's good," Harry said. He took a moment to shovel some of the tuna onto his plate, before taking one of tarts as well. And so they started on the appetizers. Gabrielle started with just a forkful of the fish, but ended up eating it nearly all of it, which Harry focused more on the other appetizer.
Their conversation shifted mostly to the food they were eating, with a few comments about the wine they were drinking as the waiter returned with the second bottle and poured the remnants of the first into their glasses. Once the waiter cleared the plates Gabrielle asked a more direct question.
"Speaking of the performance. My friends were hoping that they could come and stay for that weekend," she looked to her wine as she finished speaking and waited for his response.
"Which friends?" Harry asked, doing the same.
"Josie, Sophie and Mathieu," Gabrielle said.
"Well we have the rooms, so I don't see why not," Harry responded. "But do you really want them around when you're going to busy with the final stages of preparation?"
"I will not be that busy," Gabrielle said. "Only in the afternoon on the two nights that I perform. And they know that I may not be around. I suspect they largely just want an excuse to be unsupervised before returning to Beauxbatons."
"I'd think they want to support you in your first show, too," Harry added.
"Maybe," Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders as if she wasn't sure how her friends could be particularly interested in seeing her dance. If Harry was honest, he knew the feeling. He wasn't particularly sure how people got so excited to watch him play quidditch, and that was certainly done in a more competitive environment where the focus was more on defeating other teams than individual effort. He wondered if most performs felt that way, and he suspected hearing them gush after the performance would be an eye-opening experience for the girl.
"Well as long as I don't have any parents showing up and threatening to curse me, I'm fine with it," Harry said.
"Well if that is the case you should make sure that Sophia does not spend too much time around Titus," Gabrielle smiled as she spoke. Harry just raised an eyebrow.
"Oh?" He laughed. "She's interested in bedding a quidditch star?"
"She is," Gabrielle nodded.
"She's seventeen?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Gabrielle affirmed.
"Well then they're both adults and whatever they get into is their own business," Harry smiled diplomatically. Gabrielle raised her eyebrows at him, looking skeptical.
"Really?" She asked.
"Yes," Harry responded, focusing his attention back on his wine for a few moments and letting Gabrielle stew that over in her mind.
"Why do I not believe you?" she asked as he placed the glass down on the table.
"I have no idea," Harry just smiled.
"You would be okay with that?"
"Ellie, I've found that life is considerably easier when you don't spend time worrying about what goes on in other peoples' bedrooms," Harry explained.
"I see," Gabrielle responded, looking a little bit surprised.
"And anyway, Titus wouldn't do anything with her," he said.
"I do not know. He seems, well, loose," she frowned, as if that description did not have the connotation she was looking for.
"Really? How many girls have you seen him with this summer?" Harry asked. "Excluding quidditch teammates, yourself, your friends, and our agent." Gabrielle pressed her lips together to think about it. After a few moments the answer came into her head. And honestly, it surprised her.
"Zero," she said.
"Exactly," Harry responded.
"But he talks about girls a lot. And leers at them," she said. Harry nodded.
"He does. And he's certainly not a staunch moralist. But Titus's main focus is quidditch. He knows that getting involved with a young French girl during the middle of the season could likely create a distraction that would otherwise hinder his play. Even if that distraction is simply periodicals wondering if he's a pedophile. Titus is smart enough to avoid that. If it was December, I'd probably be a little concerned," Harry explained.
"So there would be something to worry about?" Gabrielle asked.
"Perhaps concerned was the wrong term. They're both adults, as such it's none of my business. I just know he'd be more willing in the off-season. Titus finds relationships to be distracting. He's only good at focusing on one thing at a time," Harry said. Gabrielle frowned and stared across the table at him.
"But he acts like he is some sort of Casanova," she said.
"He does. And I suspect he does quite well for himself during the offseason. But during the season, he doesn't really focus on that," Harry said.
"How does that work?" Gabrielle asked and it was Harry's turn to shrug his shoulders.
"You'd have to ask him," he admitted. "I've never quite understood it." Harry differed greatly from Titus in that sense. He'd always preferred to wake up next to someone, entangled with someone, and to have someone that he could share everything with. Granted, those someones had been rather limited. But it was still something he preferred, no matter what time of year it was or what else was going on in his life. It was something that made his life feel more valuable.
Titus, on the other hand, preferred to be completely unencumbered during the season. He preferred to spend his free time either with Harry, teammates, or by himself. He didn't like to have to worry about anything that wasn't quidditch. All Harry really knew was that it helped keep Titus focused on the game. And when the beater was focused, he was one of the best players in the league. So he couldn't really argue with his friend about it.
"What about you?" she asked quietly.
"I'm a bit more open," Harry laughed. "I don't typically go out looking during the season. But I'm certainly not opposed. It was easier in Ballycastle."
"Because everyone loved you?" She asked.
"No, well, probably, but no. After the first title the pressure disappeared. So it was easier to be out in public, seen having fun and being a local. People didn't question your motivations as much because the team was winning," Harry said.
"Is that all it takes?"
"In sports? Usually. If you win, people look at whatever you do and use it as a justification for helping you win. Oh there's two players out with the locals? Good on them, way to be involved in the community, it must help them unwind after stressful matches, after all they're tops in the league. But if you lose it's different. It's all just viewed as a distraction then and you're publicly chastised by it," Harry explained. Gabrielle just stared at him. She pressed her lips together and looked a little bit confused before shrugging her shoulders.
"Is there truth to it? Is it a distraction?" she asked.
"There's a grain of truth in it I suppose. But it's nothing I've ever worried about. I mean, Oliver Wood has had some legendary nights. He's admitted to being hung-over in matches where he's pitched a shutout. The people in Puddlemere find it charming. They say it makes him feel more human. But had he given up fifteen goals on twenty shots in the same match, he'd be crucified for it.
"On the flip side, Krum is a devout student of quidditch. He spends all his time studying quidditch. It's one of the reasons everyone calls him the best. His commitment to quidditch is unparalleled, they say. And I'm sure it has helped him. But I know plenty of mediocre players that spend all day studying the sport too. A lot of them wind up in coaching," Harry shrugged his shoulders.
"So why does it get reported on?" Gabrielle asked.
"To fill space, I suspect. So the writers can justify their income. It's easier to try to rile up people with indignation than statistics. It's something that you learn to deal with," Harry responded as the waiter returned with their entrees. Harry's chicken looked exquisite, but he couldn't help but be jealous of the large chunk of whitefish Gabrielle had. Perhaps it was simply because it was surrounded with roasted fingerling potatoes with bacon bits worked in. Or maybe something about the summer vegetable medley appealed to him. Either way, he thought wryly, he looked forward to eating half of it once she finished.
The conversation pretty much ceased as the food arrived. Harry exchanged a piece of chicken for a piece of fish. Unfortunately he was unable to successfully barter for a potato. Mostly he just watched Gabrielle eat and wondered if the girl had been starving herself as she cleaned her plate. He was, honesty, a little impressed.
"Dessert?" Harry asked as the waiter cleared their plates. Gabrielle groaned, leaning back in her chair and sipping the last remnants of their second bottle of wine.
"There are macarons and cupcakes at the house," she said.
"And I'll eat those, assuming Titus left any survivors, as soon as I get home. I'm failing to see how that affects getting dessert here," Harry countered.
"Fine," she relented, shaking her head and picking up one of the dessert menus that the waiter returned with. "But can we split something."
"Of course," Harry smiled. "Your pick." Gabrielle frowned and stared more intently at the menu.
"How about the warm blueberry tart?" she asked.
"Works for me," Harry said, staring at the after dinner drink list. When the waiter returned he ordered the tart as well as half a bottle of one of the dessert wines. He wasn't a particular fan of dessert wine, but it seemed like a better option than ordering another full bottle. Especially considering Gabrielle was already rather flushed and starting to look a little tired.
"So where'd you find the macaron recipe?" Harry asked after the waiter left. He remembered her talking about how she missed those cookies from her mother.
"I did not," she responded. "Daphne made them. I mostly just helped assemble. And made the cupcakes."
"I see," Harry said. "I should have known she was somehow involved."
"What do you mean?" Gabrielle asked.
"She's just trying to ply me with sweets," Harry said. "She think it will make me less annoyed."
"Will it?" Gabrielle asked.
"No," Harry said. "But mostly because I'm not annoyed. Well I am, but I can't believe I didn't recognize Astoria myself immediately. Granted, I don't think I've ever formally met her. Could have saved a lot of trouble that way."
"Daphne thinks you are going to fire her," Gabrielle said.
"Good," Harry responded.
"Are you going to fire her?" Gabrielle asked.
"Not a chance in hell," Harry said.
"Then why is it good?" Gabrielle asked.
"It's easier than chastising her. Especially when I'm not really upset about it. I'll just let her stew on it for a couple of days, feel bad about trusting a reporter, even if that reporter is a blood relative, with privileged information and the next time I need her we'll both ignore it. She'll learn her lesson," Harry said as their wine arrived. It was almost too sweet for him. But he sipped it anyway. Gabrielle seemed to like it more than he did.
"That seems mean," Gabrielle said.
"Maybe a little. But I don't care. The articles would have come out anyway. I'm surprised it took as long as it did. I guess it just shows that the sports writers I talk to have a bit more sense than the rest of them," Harry shrugged his shoulders. He knew there were a couple of Falmouth writers that had known about Gabrielle since the wedding. But none of them had felt it important enough to write about.
"She thinks I should do an interview," Gabrielle said.
"Does she?" Harry commented. "Do you want to do an interview?"
"No," Gabrielle said forcibly. Harry raised an eyebrow at her. It was, perhaps, the most definitive response he'd ever heard her give.
"Well that settles that," he said as their dessert arrived. They took turns spearing it with their forks between sips of wine. After a few moments she looked up at him.
"Do you think I should do an interview?" she asked. Her voice was quiet, as if she wasn't sure if he agreed with her decision and was hoping to appease him.
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "It would be a way to be in the spotlight. And eventually make them forget. But by putting yourself in the spotlight you have to deal with that. And I suspect that would likely prolong things. If you have no interest in talking to reporters, then I just wouldn't talk to reporters."
"Then I will not do some stupid interview," Gabrielle said as Harry finished the last piece of tart.
"Well just get used to saying no comment a bit in the next couple of weeks. After that they'll go away and try to find something else to write about," Harry said before finishing his wine.
"Good," Gabrielle responded. The waiter returned and Harry paid, which made the girl frown.
"I wanted to pay," she said quietly.
"Well that's nice of you," Harry smiled. "But I'm not going to make you buy me dinner."
"But it is your birthday!" she argued and Harry just shook his head.
"And I got cupcakes and cookies and great company out of that," he smiled. Gabrielle just frowned a bit. She had hoped to treat him to be nice. But was actually a little relieved, as she still wasn't particularly sure about her finances. She knew she could have afforded the meal. But that in the long run, his option was likely a better one.
"Well thank you," she said quietly.
"No, thank you for inviting me out," he smiled. "I had a great time. Shall we head home?"
"Alright," she said, standing as he did. Except she wobbled a little before recovering with a practiced grace.
"You okay there?" Harry asked.
"I am fine," she said as they walked out the door and into the Falmouth evening. The harbor was chilly for summer, but not unbearably so.
"Well that's good. At least it's a short walk back," Harry smiled and took her hand again.
"You are going to make me walk?" she frowned, leaning a little toward him and moving a little slower than she would have liked. But nothing really seemed level and everything seemed in too much motion.
"Of course. We're not going to apparate after having a drink. That's dangerous," Harry said as seriously as he could muster.
"You had me apparate across the country before I had ever had to do it before after having multiple drinks!" Gabrielle argued.
"I would never do something like that. That's just irresponsible," Harry said flatly.
"You are impossible," she countered, scoffing a curse under her breath.
"I try," Harry said. And they were silent for a block or so before Gabrielle spoke up again.
"Did you really have a good time?" she asked.
"I did," he responded. "A fantastic one. Best birthday I've ever had." He was being honest. He usually ignored birthdays, or just had a drink or two with Titus. He'd never really had a birthday date before and he enjoyed the experience. However, that fact did not prevent Gabrielle from thinking he was appeasing her.
"Uh-huh. Sure," she said. Then she paused and said something that she was surprised she had the courage to mention. "Daphne thinks you only tolerate me because I am unobtrusive and do not ask impertinent questions."
"Does she?" Harry asked.
"That is what she said anyway. She said that I should try asking about your scar, or uhm, your friends, or uhm, Dolohov I think his name was," Gabrielle admitted.
"Really?" Harry said. "That's interesting. Maybe I should scold her. But are you asking me impertinent questions now?"
"I do not know," Gabrielle said, she was leaning toward him a little bit, and Harry suspected that she'd have a hard time walking in a straight line on her own. So he assumed her reply was honest.
"Well what's there to even ask about? My scar is a scar. The war has been more or less chronicled. And my friends? What about them? I'm sure you know more than most. And most questions can be answered simply by reading the backs of the chocolate frog cards," Harry said. To his surprise, Gabrielle giggled.
"I have always wondered what it would be like to be on a chocolate frog card. How does that feel?" she laughed. He'd gotten that question before, at promotional events. Usually it was something along the lines of was he annoyed when he got his own card.
"I'm on four," he smiled in response.
"What?" she asked.
"There's the Harry Potter, Boy Who Lived Chosen One card, the Harry Potter, British Seeker card, and the two cards commemorating the last two quiddich championships for the Bats. Hopefully I'm on more than four before I'm done. Couple of World Cup cards and a few more league titles would be nice," Harry teased. He had, although didn't admit it, the quidditch card and the two championship cards. But the players all received the championship cards after winning from the company that made them.
"I was always annoyed when I got stupid sports one," Gabrielle admitted, causing Harry to laugh.
"I bet you were. Anyway, not going to lie, the cards are about the best part of being famous. They're how you know you're a big deal," Harry said. Gabrielle was not sure if he was teasing her or not, she she decided it would simply be best to change the subject completely.
"So the questions do not bother you?" she asked.
"It depends," Harry responded. "As a whole, no. But it's about where and when they're asked. I've talked about most things at least once. It's all on record. I don't like when that's all I discuss, which is why I usually don't discuss them when quidditch is involved. But if it's done in the context of an interview, I'll typically answer, and answer honestly."
"But you are very selective about who you do interviews with," Gabrielle said pointedly.
"Funny how that works," Harry responded, smiling a bit, rather amused that she picked up on that while intoxicated.
"You are confusing," she said.
"I try," he responded. "But it's the random, useless, unrelated questions at press conferences that irritate me. Of course, there are some thing I'm just not supposed to talk about."
"Is that different from the things you don't want to talk about?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes. Those I'm petty about. Those are parts of my life that I feel should be kept private. Those should be my own business. The things I'm not supposed to talk about are things I promised others I wouldn't talk about. And I intend to keep that promise," Harry explained.
"Like what would those be?" Gabrielle asked. And it was Harry's turn to just laugh.
"Telling you would be kind of against the point of it, wouldn't it?" he asked. And Gabrielle just blushed as she realized how that innocent question, meant purely for a clarification, would be taken as asking the questions.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, apologizing immediately.
"But like Dolohov. I promised Kingsley I wouldn't talk about it. So I don't talk about it in public. I think it irritates people because after the war, I was very open about the war. Hermione, Ron, and I answered questions. We explained what Voldemort had done. And we talked. We tried to raise awareness, it's why she published a book. But after the Dolohov massacres we stopped. I used the excuse that I wanted to focus more on qudiditch, and it was distracting otherwise. Sports reporters bought it. And they were, largely, the ones I dealt the most with."
"I do not understand the fascination with that. You had a match that evening. It is on record that the trainer was treating you for an injury that night," Gabrielle said. Obviously she'd read his comments in one of the earlier articles. To her surprise, Harry just chuckled.
"I was nowhere near that match," he admitted.
"But the trainer said you were," Gabrielle said.
"The team doctor simply said what he was told to say, Ellie," Harry said.
"So where were you?" Gabrielle asked. She wasn't sure what she suspected from Harry Potter as she asked the question. If she thought about it, probably a sly comment, an acerbic joke of some type. But whatever it was she expected. She did not expect the truth.
"With the ministry. I was bait for the trap," he said.
"What?" Gabrielle asked shocked by the answer.
"Dolohov wanted me. He wanted to prove I was just a lucky kid. To, I think, resurrect the Death Eaters around him. The massacres were a way to get my attention. That's why they'd never fight. Why they'd run when anyone showed up. The part that's glossed over is the signs they left. Threats to me written in the blood of the Muggle victims," Harry sighed at the memory and figured it was best to leave out the corpses charmed to look like him and his friends.
"That is awful," Gabrielle frowned.
"Eventually they parleyed. I'm not sure how the arrangement was made. But Dolohov agreed to duel me to prove his point. It was made without my knowledge. Kingsley approached me, explained the situation and asked me to provide something for Polyjuice. Kingsley wanted to duel as me. I refused. I told him I'd only help if I could go. Eventually, he agreed.
"It wasn't supposed to be that big of a deal. The location was picked out and monitored heavily. Dolohov would come. The ministry would ambush him, and that would be the end of that.
"Stupid, really, that we didn't assume the other side thought the same thing. It's odd how green we still were after the war. But an ambush turned into a pitched battle and I wound up fighting Dolohov myself," Harry sighed.
"So why is that bad?" Gabrielle asked.
"As a whole, it's not. I won. I subdued and disarmed him. I went to help out where needed. But Dolohov just kept taunting me. I'm not sure why it bothered me. Taunts don't usually bother me. I suspect the adrenaline, I'd grown unaccustomed to fighting for my life. His taunts of only being in prison for weeks again and doing it all over again stuck in my head. How none of it would ever end. He'd make sure my entire life was just preventing more of his massacres. In the moment my mind decided that a blasting curse at point blank to his head would prove him wrong. And I guess it did," Harry shrugged his shoulders as he spoke. It took a moment for Gabrielle to really realize what he was admitting. What he's done.
And in that moment her opinion of him changed. Always, he'd been the white knight. Fighting for everyone, really. Fighting for equality, and a better world. And, in his anger, he'd given all of that up to do what many would consider the right thing, what many wouldn't fault him for, but what was everything he stood opposed to.
"I," she started, but she wasn ot sure what to say. She was not even sure what she thought at that moment. Thankfully, though, Harry continued, ignoring the one word sentence she'd left hanging in the air.
"Kingsley saw. The fight was essentially over by that point. He got me out of there in a hurry. Officially, it came out Dolohov was killed by a stray spell. Kingsley and I collaborated on the story and I went back to the stadium to give a press conference on my injury. And since then, the ministry has not asked for Harry Potter to assist with anything past the most ceremonial duties. Kingsley, I think, thinks I'm a bit of a loose cannon," he tried to finish the story with a joke, but it came out flat. And then there was just silence, interrupted only by their soft footsteps as they approached the house.
"Why did you tell me this?" Gabrielle asked. Harry turned and looked at her, his brow furrowed, his expression confused. There was a certain vulnerability in his expression, much like the vulnerability that had been in his voice for the entire story.
"Tell you what?" Harry asked, sounding genuinely like he had no idea about what they were conversing. Gabrielle understood his meaning. Two months earlier, she'd have been confused, and stumbled with her words. But she reacted more swiftly now.
"That you did not like raw fish. I would have suggested a different appetizer," she changed the topic readily enough. And he smiled at her, his cocky half-smile. And before her eyes the masque rose right back up.
"Because the evening was about you, Elle, not me."
"That is silly," she countered. "It is your birthday."
"And I got a date with a beautiful girl out of it," Harry smiled as they walked up to the house. Gabrielle rolled her eyes.
"That came home with you," she teased before blinking a bit at herself. She had intended to say she had a boyfriend. But her mind instead has shifted to something Madame had always drilled into her head.
"Well you do live here," he laughed.
"I guess, Madame always said you should never go home with a boy on the first date. It gives the wrong impression," Gabrielle laughed, shaking her head at the silliness of the situation.
"Huh, most of my dates probably never had that advice," Harry laughed.
"I would suspect they ignored it," Gabrielle teased. "Do I even want to know how most of your dates end?"
"Probably not," he said as they entered the house. Gabrielle slipped away from him when they did, and nearly fell over.
"Woah," she said, pirouetting around and catching herself. She stood still for a moment, her shoulders slumping.
"You're kinda hammered," he laughed.
"Nuh-uh," she countered, stifling a yawn as she did. But then she frowned. "I am going to be terrible for Madame tomorrow."
"Well, you can worry about that tomorrow. We'll get you to bed, you can sleep it off," Harry said. And he walked her up the stairs to her room.
She slipped inside of it, wondering when the alcohol caught up to her. She had felt fine at the restaurant, and for the walk home. But in her room everything seemed to spin a little bit. She sat on her bed for a moment, trying to get the spinning to stop. But it didn't, so she stood up, which just made everything spin more. So she walked to her dresser and leaned against it.
It took her way longer to change into pajamas than she thought it should. And she was not even sure that she finished properly. At least she was pretty sure she did not usually sleep in a pair of panties and a tank top.
But by the time she'd thought about that, she had already wormed her way into her bed. So she figured it would not be worth it to get out. She closed her eyes and wonder when the pounding in her head had shown up. She almost did not hear the knock on her door.
"Mmm," she said. In her mind, at that moment, it was a word. But she was not sure if any sound actually came out. But the door opened. And Harry Potter walked in, with his eyes averted until he was sure that nothing was amiss.
"You should drink this," he said, holding up a small goblet of green liquid.
"What is it?" she asked, sitting up. The blankets pooling at her waist.
"A take on the hangover cure. It'll help you sleep and you won't wake up wanting to throw up or hang yourself," Harry offered it to her and she drank it obediently. Gagging nearly immediately and deciding he was a liar.
"That is awful," she said as he handed her a bottle of water, presumably to wash down the taste.
"I should have specified," Harry laughed. "You won't want to throw up or hang yourself by the morning." She just glared at him as she drank the water. By the time she lowered the bottle from her lips her eyes already felt heavy, and her body very warm. She wasn't sure where to go with the bottle, but Harry just took it from her and placed it on the bedside table. So she laid back onto her bed and smiled.
She barely noticed as Harry pulled the covers up from her waist. For a moment, she entertained the idea of him sliding under them. But he just leaned over and pulled them up to her shoulders. She stared at him, her eyes half closed.
"Embrasse-moi," she whispered breathlessly. Harry just smiled at her.
"Sleep," he whispered, and she nodded. That seemed like a good idea, too. Her eyes closed and she wasn't sure if the soft brush on her forehead was his lips, or her imagination. All she knew for sure is that the room darkened a moment later followed by the door closing softly.
Author's Notes: Thanks for reading and reviewing. I do appreciate it.