Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no profit.
Clara Stahlbaum rushed into her family's large living room. Most of her family, and relatives, were already there, chatting gaily in the small groups they always seemed to pair off into at any family gathering. She pranced around her brother, Fritz, who took a playful swipe at her with an officer's sabre. She couldn't help but wonder which of the adults let him pilfer that, and think that it was a silly decision.
She rushed over to her parents and embraced her mother, before turning to her father and embracing him as well. They complimented her dress, which, of course, they'd picked out. It was a pale pink outfit with a flowy, tiered skirt that seemed to flow around her whenever she moved. The only piece of jewelry she wore was a simple pair of gold earrings that glistened in the candlelight as she swished away from her parents and over toward the long table set up in the family room.
A gaggle of younger girls found her immediately. They were all dressed similarly to herself and showing off their outfits or dolls or anything they could at their annual Christmas Eve party. Clara smiled brightly and joined in the revelry.
They sat in a circle on the floor, laughing merrily, until Fritz and the boys marched right on through, playing soldier. Fitz commanded them to attack and the girls scattered around the large sitting room, some hiding behind the decorated tree, others, Clara included, fleeing to their respective parents.
Her father would have probably scolded Fritz, but their uncle chose that moment to make his entrance, his apprentice in toe with an almost comically large satchel. All of the children rushed to Clara's uncle. He was always popular at these parties, and he always brought gifts for each child.
The man greeted some of the adults before turning his full attention to the children. He entertained first with magic tricks, where he pulled coins from places where they couldn't have possibly resided, and gifted some of the children with them. Next he pulled colored cloths out, making some seemingly vanish, and others change color.
Fritz snuck in behind his uncle and snatched one. The adult didn't seem to notice at first, continuing with his routine. But after a moment he realized he needed whichever one it was Fritz had stolen. And he simply reached out for it and the cloth floated back to him, to applause from all in attendance, except for Fitz who stared after it incredulously.
Once the tricks were over though, Clara's uncle summoned his apprentice and the large satchel. He proceeded to pull two large dolls out of the bag. They were male and female clowns, with ragged red hair and rosy cheeks. He positioned them carefully and then stepped away from each of them. But once he was a few feet away, each doll started to move.
The clowns swirled around each other, dancing systematically, albeit mechanically, to the amusement of everyone in attendance. After their short routine Clara's uncle put them away in the corner of the room and proceeded to give out the gifts he brought for the children.
All of the girls, save Clara, received a little baby girl doll. They each cradle them and cackled to each other about how much they loved them. Clara stood patiently, expecting hers to come out soon after. But instead her uncle turned to the boys.
They received military toys, rifles, and trumpets, and drums. And again Fritz marshalled the boys in the room into a makeshift battalion. Clara wouldn't help but smile at her brother, momentarily distracted, before her Uncle's attention again turned back to her. He stared at her for one more moment before reaching into the satchel once again.
He pulled out a wooden soldier doll with tufts of white hair sticking out in all direction. It was painted in a yellow uniform and had big, dark eyes. It wasn't a particularly pretty toy, but Clara loved it as soon as her uncle put it in her arms. She cradled it like a baby and moved to sit with it on an open couch near the furnace.
Clara played with the doll until her uncle's apprentice sat next to her. He chatted amiably, complimenting her appearance immediately. Clara knew little about the man that she hadn't learned from eavesdropping on her parents.
They didn't really have anything negative to say about him, except that unlike them he did not come from money. In fact he had very little to his name past his apprenticeship to their uncle. But he worked hard and applied himself to everything he did.
She turned her gaze toward her parents as he continued to talk. They were watching her carefully, but it did not appear that they would make any attempt to interrupt the two young adults. She answered a question she barely heard before turning back to face him.
As Clara turned around a rat fell into her lap. She shrieked and jumped up, causing everyone in the room to look at her and the rat that now rested on the floor. Her brother laughed behind her and the source of the vermin became apparent. Her father rushed over and scolded Fritz before picking up the dead rat by the tail and tossing it into the furnace, wiping off his hands once the task was complete.
The toymaker's apprentice rushed to Clara's side after the fiasco. She took a moment to recompose herself, brushing off his entreaties as she brushed off the lap of her dress, where the dead rat had rested for mere seconds. She turned her gaze back around the room and noticed that Fritz had picked up her toy soldier.
She rushed over and demanded he give it back. He refused and they fought over the doll for a few moments. She pulled it from his grasp but part of it snapped as she did. Clara fell to the ground, staring at her broken toy. Her brother fled, fearing their parent's wrath once again.
Clara's uncle noticed immediately. He fell down to the ground next to her and wrapped a cloth around the broken piece of the toy, fixing it for the moment. She hugged him tightly and then hugged her toy tightly.
But then it was time to say goodnight to everyone. She put the toy on the couch and shook hands with her relatives, bidding them all a merry Christmas before everyone parted for the evening.
And then it was time for bed. So she disappeared from the family room, watching out of the corner of her eye as her parents embraced and shifted in small circles around the floor. She took a moment to stare out at the falling snow before worrying about bed.
She changed, swapping her pink dress for a pale cream nightgown that fell to her ankles, with a red sash around her waist. She was going to go to bed. But then she remembered she'd left her toy on the couch. So she rushed back to the family room, hoping that Fritz hadn't snatched it again. But it was exactly where she left it.
Clara ran to pick it up and turned to exit the room. But then she could have sworn she saw her uncle on top of the Christmas tree. And she would have sworn he threw some powder of some sort on her. But then he was gone in a flash.
Clara yawned, feeling suddenly worn out. She blinked a couple of times and looked around to orient herself. But then she noticed that everything in the room seemed gigantic, especially the Christmas tree. And that the furnace in the corner glowed an angry red color.
And then there were rats everywhere. She tried to get away from them. She hated rats, they frightened her more than anything else. And these were massive. They were all just as tall as her and they stood on their hind legs as they ran around her.
Clara tried to step away from them. But every time she moved in any direction, there were more rats. She was completely surrounded. She cowered away from the rats. But then a large clanging noise startled them. She looked around to find its source.
It took her a moment to pinpoint the furnace. But once she did she noticed that the gate on the front of it was open. And out from the opening crawled a crowned rat carrying a sword. It was the very same rat that her brother had deposited on her lap just a few hours earlier. She stepped back from it as it landed on the ground, mere feet from her. The other rats shifted their attention to what Clara could only assume was their king. They formed ranks behind it.
And then the Rat king was circling her. Clara knew she had to be dreaming. There was no way she wasn't. And this was all just the effect of her brother throwing that stupid corpse on her. But it still frightened her. It all felt so real.
The Rat turned back toward her. It raised the sword it held and then charged at her. Clara shielded herself with her arms but the blow never came. When she looked up moments later she was surrounded by soldiers as well, fighting the rats.
And at their head, fighting against the Rat King, was a yellow uniformed man with disheveled hair. Clara blinked. It was her soldier, gifted to her by her uncle. He looked something like a mix between the doll and her uncle's apprentice. Clara just watched the fight. It did not take her long to realize that her soldier was not winning.
The Rat King bested him with the sword, knocking her soldier down. The creature raised his blade, preparing for the coup de grace. Clara peeled off her slipper and threw it, awkwardly, at the rat. It was the only thing she could think of to do. It didn't appear to do any damage, but it distracted the king.
It turned to face her, waving the sword menacingly in her direction. But before it could take a step toward her a blade pokes through its chest. It looked down at it for a moment, before peering over its shoulder. It could see that it had been impaled by the soldier it had, moments before, bested. After a moment it slumped over, dead. The other rats ceased fighting the soldiers and fled.
Clara ran to her soldier. He was injured, but he would be okay. He smiled at her as he rose back to his feet, before he gestured for her to come with him. She gathered up her slipper and followed.
He led her through a land she didn't understand. But that was unimportant. All that really mattered was the splendor.
First they traveled through a snowy field, where a beautiful blond woman in an icy blue dress seemed to dance through the snow. Little winged angels moved all around her. Clara stared on in awe.
And then they arrived at a gumdrop filled city, people seemed to be everywhere. Her soldier let her walk around through the diverse crowd that seemed to hail from everywhere. She weaved through everyone, admiring everything. She even noticed her Uncle's large toy dolls there and smiled brightly at them.
And then everyone seemed to notice her and her companion. And they all seemed to know what had transpired between the soldier and the mouse king. And they all came to her, one at a time.
She was given chocolate, coffee, tea, and candy canes as each gift-giver performed for the amusement of she and her soldier. When they were done shepherdesses emerged from nowhere, playing on flutes, flowers waltzed around her, and a large woman skated around with her many, many children.
Clara sat on a throne as everyone performed on and on. She couldn't help but smile and sway with the music as she watched the revels.
But eventually it was time to go. A fairy appeared that looked remarkably like her mother and danced with a chevalier who resembled her father. She enjoyed the last act most of all.
Once they were finished, though the fairy came up to her and Clara knew she would have to leave this wonderful place. She hugged her soldier, who kissed her cheek as they separated, whispering his thanks for her help, and waved goodbye to everyone who had just entertained her before the fairy escorted her to a sleigh.
She saved again to everyone. Thanking them and waving over and over as she was placed into the sleigh. Moments later she was being rushed back through the city, through the snowy fields with the angels, and back into her familial home.
Clara shot up from the couch. Somehow she'd fallen asleep where she'd left her toy soldier. She was hugging it to her chest. She looked at it for a moment, and gave it a small kiss on its wooden cheek before hugging it once more, closing her eyes.
And then there was an explosive din while Clara held the pose. She counted in her head, knowing exactly how long she needed to stay frozen on the couch for. And once the time was up she stood and walked out past the now inert furnace.
Clara turned sharply and queued up with the others, brushing out the front of her nightgown and rolling her shoulders deliberately.
"Magnificent Elle," a woman's voice, her mother's voice, the fairy's voice, said from her side as the noise outside grew louder. And Clara remembered that she was no longer Clara. She smiled at the older woman.
"Not as well as you would have done," Gabrielle Delacour responded. She paused at that. Something was not right about that. But she was distracted by conversation.
"Nonsense," the woman, Nadia Kulikov spat. "You will be a remarkable replacement when I am finished." Nadia then stepped out onto the stage.
"You really were brilliant," David Cross said, stretching out his right arm and seeming slightly annoyed at the range of motion offered by the yellow soldier costume. He was the next cast member to take the stage to hear the applause. Gabrielle waited until he gestured back to her to walk in the classical style right out to the center of the stage and curtsey to the crowd.
Once she'd straightened up she gestured to the orchestra below her, and after a few moments she gestured back to the cast behind her, summoning them up to join her for one final bow as a young girl walked up to her and handed her a bouquet of flowers. The curtain fell slowly after another bow and the applause outside started to die down as they cast moved off of the stage.
Gabrielle weaved through other dancers once they were backstage. Most were just talking idly about the performance. Typically she'd join in, but she wanted to wash off the makeup and get changed first.
The Ballet Mistress intercepted her though, embracing her as she approached the small vanity in the back corner with her possessions scattered around it. She took the bouquet of flowers from her and found a rather large decorative vase for them, placing them next to her vanity.
"Well done Elle! Well Done!" she exclaimed. Gabrielle blushed and frowned as she slipped into the chair, intending to wash off her makeup.
"I slipped during the party and nearly ran into a chicken while trying to be cute," Gabrielle said quietly.
"Barely noticeable! Hardly a bobble at all!" The older woman, Margaret Mitchell said.
"She wouldn't be our Ellie if she wasn't harping on herself," Nadia, the Prima, sat at the vanity next to her. She sprayed a washcloth with water from a bottle and started to scrub at her face, staring in the mirror as she did.
"We will just have to beat that out of her!" Margaret said jovially.
"Literally," Nadia nodded, pulling the pins out of her hair with a practiced grace.
"What?" Gabrielle said, looking up feeling rather alarmed.
"Yes but you'd think after six years she'd have learned by now," Margaret said.
"That's a valid point," Nadia said. "Perhaps she's just a slow learner?"
"Slow learner?" another dancer, Sarah Martin, laughed as she walked past her. She was already in street clothing with a bag slung over her shoulder. "Have you watched her in rehearsal?"
"Touche," Nadia said. "What would you suggest then, Sarah, for getting rid of this pesky self-depreciation problem she seems to have."
"Alcohol and a man, obviously," Sarah said dryly.
"I think that really works the best for you," Nadia teased. Sarah made a face at her.
"Date tonight?" Margaret asked. Gabrielle tuned out the conversation, dabbing at her makeup with a damp cloth and then simply pressing it into her face.
"Yeah I think this guy is a real winner," Sarah said with a smile.
"We've heard that before," Gabrielle said quietly. It slipped out before she'd really even thought it. She blinked and buried her face back in the towel, hoping it hadn't sounded as malicious as it had in her head. Thankfully the other three girls just laughed.
"Yeah yeah," Sarah sighed. "Anyway I have high hopes for this one."
"Good Luck," Nadia said.
"Knock him dead," Margaret added.
"Slap Ellie for me," Sarah teased.
"Please do not beat me," Gabrielle responded, dryly.
"Oh we'd never hurt you," Margaret said, ruffling her hair. Gabrielle rolled her eyes as the gesture. "Anyway, just wanted to congratulate you. You were sublime, Ellie."
"Thank you," Gabrielle responded quietly. After five years of every various ethnic dances and snowflakes she'd been rather surprised that she'd been cast as Clara this year. She wondered really, if Nadia was simply sick of acting younger and wanted to play a different role. Still the amount of praise she was getting was surprising to her. While backstage was usually rather jovial after the show, she did not remember so many people coming and praising a performer.
Nadia stood from her table and stepped out of the room as Gabrielle continued to cool down after the performance. She'd washed the makeup off by then and had removed her shoes, stretching her toes gently. She wanted to cast a massaging charm on her feet, but her wand was in her bag and she'd left that in the changing rooms.
Moments later Nadia walked in, carrying both of their bags in one hand, and two bottles of water in another. She handed one to Gabrielle with a smile.
"I still can't believe you're not coming to the after party," Nadia said.
"I'd love to, but prior plans," Gabrielle said. She took the water from the older woman and opened it, downing half of the blissfully cool liquid. Nadia set their bags down between the vanities and took her seat.
"I know. Always happens this time of year. Everyone's Christmas thing falls on random dates. Still, you're probably going to be late. It's nearly ten and you're still here," Nadia said.
"They knew I'd be late," Gabrielle responded. "They knew I'd just stop in after the show."
"Where's the event, anyway?" Nadia asked.
"I forget," Gabrielle lied. "I have the address at home. I will have to stop at home and grab it." She knew she couldn't tell Nadia the actual location, as there was no way the woman would believe she could get there in time.
"Of course you did," Nadia smiled at her, shaking her head. Gabrielle just blushed and looked away. She knew the other dancers all thought she was a bit of a ditz. But it was one of the easier ways to keep magic a secret.
"Have a glass of wine for me," Gabrielle smiled, figuring it was best to steer the conversation back to the after party.
"Oh I will. But I have no idea just how I'll deal with David, Alex, and Matt's disappointment when their favorite target of good-natured teasing isn't present," Nadia laughed.
"I'm sure they'll live," Gabrielle smiled. She pulled her bag to her and started rummaging through it. She found a pair of black yoga pants and a sweatshirt. One grew quickly accustomed to changing out of costume and into something much more comfortable. She started pulling on her shoes moments later.
"If you call that living," Nadia teased.
"They will have to survive until next time," Gabrielle said. She slid her rings on. She always wore at least one show ring. She'd gotten a new one for every classical performance. She wore Clara's today on her right hand, it was a simple gold band lined with Emeralds and Rubies making her think of Christmas. She slid the other two she'd brought onto her left hand, where they were now near permanent features, and smiled down at them for a moment before turning her attention back to Nadia. "Thank them for performing so well tonight for me."
"I will do so," Nadia said. "Again, congratulations on tonight."
"Thank you," Gabrielle said. She turned to walk to the exit to the street. A few of her fellow dancers stopped her on the way out, chatting idly about evening plans and the performance. But it only held her up for five minutes or so before she was out on the streets of London once more.
It was a cool night in London. She wished she'd had her wand out, but yoga pants weren't the best garment for hiding a wooden stick. Still, she knew she wouldn't be outside for very long. But when the cool air hit her she felt rather invigorated. So she decided to not apparate straight home. Instead she picked an alley a couple blocks away and popped to it.
She stepped out, onto the Islington street moments later. Snow was falling lightly here, but it wasn't quite cool enough for it to stick. She turned and started to move toward home. She looked up at the night sky, smiling slightly to herself. Christmas always made her think of the past.
Of course, she thought with a sniff, that always made her think of her parents, of her sister, of the family she hadn't known for nearly a decade now. And that always made her sad. But it also made her think of what happened after. Of what that terrible event had caused. And in the end, that was anything but sad.
Her seventh year at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic had been difficult. Not only was the course load heavier, but Madame Fay came more and more often as well, especially early, when she was worried that Gabrielle would miss Falmouth too much.
She never said that to her student. But Gabrielle could tell that was what she was thinking. She would always steer conversations away from that topic. It made talking about her performance in Falmouth much more difficult, but they managed.
She'd written to Harry Potter often. And he'd always replied promptly. She suspected he knew more than she did how not having anyone outside of school could affect someone. Still, as his season grew more and more rigorous his letters seemed a little more rushed. So she stopped writing quite so much.
Of course, looking back she knew that hadn't actually been the case. She was just more nervous about being a nuisance when he was clearly busy. And she grew sick of her friends teasing her about the 'love letters' she was obviously sending Harry Potter.
She had not visited him during the holidays. She'd intended to. But Mathieu had thrown a fit when she implied she would be spending the holiday alone with Harry Potter. So after a fight she'd caved and spent the break with Sophia and her parents.
It was a relaxing break. She'd even managed a floo call with Harry on Christmas. He'd seemed a little disappointed that she hadn't made it. But he hid it well and wished her well. They'd chatted, annoyingly, about quidditch most of the call. But it had still been a nice change of pace.
She'd spent a great deal of time over that break thinking about where she was and what she wanted to do. Fay came over during that time and arranged a couple of interviews with a few directors of ballet companies. She'd been amazingly nervous through both, but Fay had insisted that she'd performed admirably.
When she went back to school after Christmas, her head filled with ballet companies, careers, and life after school, Mathieu became a problem.
She knew that she'd brought upon herself, really. She never really said anything to him after they went back to school, and with schoolwork and dancing she'd found herself really just too busy to think about it. And in the end, it was rather nice to relax against a warm body and kiss here and there after a long day was a nice distraction.
She found that she rather liked doing that, even if the thought of Mathieu didn't really do anything for her. Still, the thought of any of her class mates didn't do anything for her. So she figured the comfort he provided without having too many expectations.
But that changed after her return. He started to touch her more and more when they were alone. Some nights, alone by the fire, he'd try to take her clothing off. She resisted and he would stop. But he would still touch her through it. Eventually, his hands made their way between her legs.
And sure, it hadn't felt bad. Really, it probably felt better than when she did it herself, given that she couldn't quite predict the coming movements. But it felt wrong. She'd stopped him and they'd argued. It was, perhaps, the first time she could remember him really seeming cross with her.
Still she hadn't had the courage to break it off completely then. She squeaked meekly that she wanted to wait for marriage. That she wanted it to be special and to mean something. For it to not just be empty fun on a night blissfully free of homework.
He'd bought it, looking rather frustrated. And she'd kissed him goodnight and gone up to bed. It was not Mathieu that she'd thought of before she slept.
She'd bought herself some time at least. But it was time that passed far too quickly. Mathieu had taken her to mean that she wanted to marry him, and started to throw himself into just what they would do together after school.
She ignored him, more or less, mostly because she couldn't think of anything to say to deter him. It wasn't until she realized that his plans for them did not involve ballet in the slightest that she finally cracked on him.
Sophia claimed it was an epic fight. She didn't really remember much of it. Just talk of how early before she'd want to settle down and then seeing nothing but red. She wasn't even sure what specifically had triggered it. But she learned from third parties that she talked a lot about him not understanding anything at all that she'd wanted.
Mathieu hadn't spoken to her since. Annoyingly, about a year later, he and Sophia became a couple. It had really hindered her relationship with her best friend. But she'd kept busy.
Still, at the time, she'd felt much lighter. She remembered flittering around the morning after feeling like she had nothing to worry or linger on. She'd felt bright, happy, relaxed, and free. Really, she'd felt like she was dancing.
She stepped into the lobby of the flat, waving at the doorman as she entered.
"How was the show Mrs-" he started. Gabrielle had intended to let him finish the sentence but she blurted out before he did.
"It was amazing! I felt like I was flying the whole time. I think we'll get rave reviews," she gushed, blushing immediately.
"Rave reviews like always," the doorman smiled knowingly at her.
"Well we are quite good," Gabrielle teased. "Did you and Audrey get your tickets?"
"Yes ma'am. Sunday is perfect, thank you and Merry Christmas," the doorman said as her elevator opened.
"Merry Christmas to you too, Grant," she slipped into the elevator, tapping the button as the door closed.
Moments later she stepped out, digging her keys out to enter the lofted flat. She took out her wand as she entered, using it to light the fire and turn on some Christmas carols as she hopped up the stairs to the bedrooms.
She stepped into the master bedroom and slipped into the walk-in closet, pulling her hair out of the ponytail as she did. She took a dark blue dress off of a hangar and grabbed some matching heels before stepping back into the bedroom. She fished some matching underwear out of one of the dressers in the room before stripping.
She'd intended to simply change and head straight to the party but she changed her plan and instead took a very quick shower, scrubbing herself with peppermint soap and shampoo.
Graduating Beauxbatons had been bittersweet. She'd not really known what to expect from the ceremony. All of her friends had their families coming in but she figured she'd just be alone as she walked off the stage and would have to do her best to get through the day.
But when Madame Maxime announced her name to the crowd and she stepped across the stage the hall exploded in applause. She actually jumped, startled by the noise until she looked toward the crowd.
The Falmouth Falcons sat near the front of the spectators, Harry Potter and Titus Button cheering wildly while the rest of the team clapped and smiled, looking a little embarrassed by their star players. With them she recognized Charlie Weasley and his wife Talia as well as Percy and a girl she didn't know. She also saw Daphne sitting near Harry, smiling coyly at her. And behind them Madame Fay and Calvin were chatting quietly as they applauded.
After the ceremony she'd ran straight to Harry, hugging him tightly. Once she finally let go of him she gave Titus the same treatment. And then Eva and Cora because they were each standing there and it seemed rude not to. And then Fay who approached to congratulate her. And then Harry again because he was simply standing there once she'd finished hugging Fay.
Harry surprised her further then. He'd organized a party for her and her friends. He and Titus had rented out a restaurant and had all sorts of food and alcohol and anything else anyone could possibly need. She'd danced and drank all night.
It had been worth the massive hangover. She'd wanted to stay with Harry. To speak to him more than they had the evening before. But the Falcons were due in Wigtown that night. And so she left with her ballet teacher. She'd arranged an audition for her, with Calvin's help.
And so she found herself in London, auditioning for a job. She'd gotten a spot in the company practically as soon as she'd finished her audition. And she found her life starting, much faster than she'd expected it could.
Fay stayed with her, helped her move into a small one bedroom flat that was probably above her means if not for the money from the tragedy of the previous year. She tried not to dwell on that.
When Fay left she worried she'd be lonely. That she would not be good at living by herself in a strange city. Except, in the end, she didn't have enough time to be lonely. She was up early every morning for rehearsal, and that often continued until late in the evening. By the time she'd gotten home she barely had enough energy to make herself food and crawl into bed.
But it got better. Once she grew accustomed to the routine she found she had more free time. She started going out with the other girls, mostly because she had nothing better to do. She flirted with one or two of the boys but nothing ever came from it.
She'd tried to keep in touch with Harry. She'd written to him and he'd written back. But as she got busier and busier it became harder and harder.
It hadn't really surprised her when he'd shown up at her first performance, or her second, or any of them. And somehow, she hadn't been that surprised at the rings that appeared, themed after each show she did, regardless of her part in it. Something about that just seemed like the kind of thoughtful thing Harry would do, without even realizing how big of a deal it was.
Still, pretending to be a muggle wore on her. Fay had told her it might. It would be hard to keep it a secret. She'd shown her how to cook food the muggle way, wash her clothing the muggle way, clean the muggle way. And she'd advised her to keep her apartment as free of magic as she could, because unexpected visits from new friends could lead to awkward questions.
But she'd shown her how to get to Diagon Alley from there, and Gabrielle went at least once a week, just to feel a part of her society again. Some people recognized her, and would try to chat with her about her time with Harry, or say they felt horrible for what happened to her family. But as the years passed that happened less and less.
She stepped from the shower, picking up her wand and drying herself with a quick flick. She dressed quickly, smoothing the dress out after putting it on as she stared in the mirror. She put her hair up into an intricate bun, pinning it back with a sapphire pin. The look was missing something, though.
Eventually she decided on a small pair of diamond earrings. She didn't look quite as seasonal as she felt she probably should for a Christmas party. But, she figured, it wasn't like there was some ugly sweater theme or something she was supposed to abide by.
She slipped on her heels and walked down to the fire preparing to floo to her destination.
It had been chance, really, nothing but pure chance that changed her life once more. She'd reflected on that for a very long time in the days to come. It was odd, she thought. She'd lived her life in a rather regimented day. She was always supposed to be doing something at a specific time, always striving for some ideal, working toward a goal.
And she'd accomplished her goals. Two years into working for the company and she was already being promoted above more senior girls. She was always being complimented on her dedication and work ethic, and being used as an example for the students and younger members, as what to strive her. The director had gone as far as calling her a prima in waiting.
But the two biggest changes in her life happened purely on a whim. One vanished portkey had done the best it could to destroy her. In the end, it had come close, but it had failed. She'd gotten through that horrible event.
The other event, was little more than stepping through a door at the exact right moment.
The company had finished their fall production, La Sylphide, earlier that day and everyone had gone to a nearby pub to celebrate the successful run. She'd stayed out for a few hours and four or five Fuller's porters.
She'd wobbled when she'd leaned off of table she'd been resting at, intending to leave the pub. Nadia had asked if she needed help getting home but Gabrielle waved her off. She was sober enough to walk a couple of blocks.
No one argued with her and so she stepped out of the pub and directly into another human being trying to enter.
"Ouch," she said, struggling to regain her balance.
"Gabrielle?" he asked, catching her in his arms.
"Harry Potter?" she giggled, flushing with alcohol as she realized he was holding her.
"Last I checked," Harry laughed.
"How are you?" she asked, gazing up at him.
"Well," he smiled. "You were amazing on Thursday night."
"Oh. Thank you. Thank you for the ring too," she said, blushing as she remembered she hadn't composed the thank you letter for it yet.
"Oh it's nothing," Harry said.
"It certainly isn't nothing," Gabrielle laughed. "Even if I am accumulating them almost as fast as you are."
"Faster than I am. But you do have slightly more opportunities," Harry teased. Gabrielle rolled her eyes at him.
"What are you doing here?" she asked. By then they'd stepped out onto the street and were standing near the door of the pub. Gabrielle hoped that none of the other dancers had noticed how she'd walked directly into him when leaving. That was an embarrassingly uncoordinated thing for a professional dancer to do, after all. Had they seen it, she'd be teased for months.
"Just came in to grab a beer, maybe something to eat," Harry said. "I live a few blocks over during the off season, was checking in on the flat, seeing that everything was in order."
"Oh, we were having our after party," Gabrielle said.
"So there's a gaggle of dancers inside that I could tell embarrassing stories about you to?" Harry asked.
"Well yes," Gabrielle said, frowning at him. "Or maybe we could not go inside and we could maybe go get food somewhere else."
She had no idea what made her say it. The words were out of her mouth before she really thought of the repercussions they might have. She wondered just how he even saw her, how he looked at her. She wondered if he still saw the thin, figureless girl who crawled onto him in his bed in Falmouth. Well she certainly wasn't a teenager anymore, she was still a great deal younger than him.
But hadn't he said if she felt the same way they could talk about it? Would that be the good kind of talking about it or the bad kind of talking about it? Her head was starting to spin as he responded.
"Like a date?" he asked. She stared at him for a moment. It took every bit of self-control she had left in her body to not laugh.
"Well," she started, pausing for emphasis. "I do not have a boyfriend. So yes, like a date."
"Let's go then," he smiled. "I know a nice place just up the street."
She stepped out of one of the many fires of the lobby of the hotel. It was a freshly built extension of the Cheery Owls Coliseum filled with luxury suites attached to the pitch. The concierge waiting in the lobby smiled at her.
"Can I help you miss?" he asked.
"No. Just here for the party," Gabrielle smiled. The concierge recognized her then, looking momentarily startled.
"Oh yes right in the main ballroom," he said. Gabrielle nodded and moved off toward the room. The doors were closed, but she could hear Christmas music playing from inside. She slipped into the party, looking for a familiar face amongst the crowd, a smile on her face as soon as she saw one.
She hardly remembered the first date with Harry. All she really remembered was waking up with a hangover, rather glad she didn't have to work that day. She'd rolled onto her side to reach for her wand on the bedside table, summoned a bottle of water and some aspirin, and curled back into a ball and slept.
It wasn't until much later in the afternoon, when she was passably coherent, that she realized she'd gone out with Harry Potter the night before. She wondered just what he thought of it. If he'd just assumed they were going out as friends who hadn't seen each other in a couple of months, or if he'd seriously thought of it as a date.
She enjoyed a week off from dancing. Well, from being required to dance. She still went to their practice studio and put in a few hours every day. Nadia, the companies Prima, was one of the only other dancers there when she was. The first two days Gabrielle had stayed out of her way.
But by the third Nadia had noticed her and made her chat while they practiced. She hadn't had much experience with the older woman. Really, all she'd noticed was that she could be quite sharp when annoyed. But while practicing she was rather jovial, clearly just enjoying the dancing more than anything.
Nadia had taken her to lunch after they'd finished. And then invited her to dinner at her home the following night as well. Gabrielle had gone, not sure how to refuse the invitation. She'd met the woman's husband, a short thin man who spent most of his time staring lovingly at his wife.
They'd talked late into the night of love and dance and wine and life. Gabrielle had way more fun than she thought she would. Nadia had cooked, making chicken Marsala and insisting Gabrielle take some of the left overs home. This time she hadn't even thought to refuse.
When they company gathered again the following week and the casting assignments were given out Gabrielle received the first real shock of her professional career. She'd be the understudy for Nadia, in addition to performing as a snowflake and the Arabian dance in that year's Production of the Nutcracker.
"Come now," Nadia said from behind her, almost commandingly. "Move your makeup and what not next to my vanity."
"I-uhm-okay," Gabrielle said, slinging her travel bag over her shoulder and moving toward the corner where Nadia kept all of her things.
"Congratulations on the promotion," Nadia said as they walked.
"Wasn't Julia your-" Gabrielle started, intending to ask about the girl who everybody had thought would be the next one promoted to leading artist.
"Julia is leaving the company at the end of the year for a job in America," Nadia said.
"Oh, aren't there other girls that are senior to me?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes," Nadia said.
"So shouldn't they get this opportunity?" Gabrielle flushed. The last thing she really wanted was other girls annoyed or mad at her for something she hadn't even really done.
"You are the second best dancer in this company, Gabrielle Delacour. I do not pick my apprentices based on seniority but rather on talent," Nadia snapped.
"Yes but Megan and Alison," Gabrielle started again.
"The modesty must stop," Nadia said. "By the time I retire you will be better than me. Now let us warm up. You will be learning both your parts and Clara's this year. It will be a great deal of extra work." Nadia stood, pulling Gabrielle with her into one of the practice studios.
And she was right. She worked Gabrielle harder than even Fay had in the past. But by the time the Nutcracker came around that year she felt she performed better than ever before. She'd written to Harry to tell him of the promotion, finding that she spent three pages simply gushing about the older ballerina.
Harry had responded kindly. And after an exchange of a couple more letters she consented to him taking her out to celebrate.
At the time she'd thought their second date had gone well. She'd chatted happily all night. She thought she was funny, and clever and a great companion. She'd worn a tight sweater and tight jeans and thought she'd looked quite nice too. At least he'd complimented her on the outfit with an obvious leer. And he'd seemed to smile at her the entire evening.
It wasn't until she collapsed into the bed that evening that she'd realized something else. He'd barely spoken the entire night. He'd said nothing about himself. And she hadn't even really asked. And there were all sorts of things she should have asked about too. But she just hadn't. Instead she'd just gushed the entire time about things that he couldn't have possibly cared about!
She curled into a ball on her bed, wrapping the warm fuzzy blanket she kept on top around her and sniffled against her pillow. She couldn't imagine a situation in which he'd be interested in her after all of that. She'd pretty much only talked of Nadia and ballet. Once she resigned herself to the fact that there was no way Harry hadn't had the completely wrong idea, she managed to fall asleep.
Gabrielle managed to feel better in the morning. She wasn't sure if it was the sleep or the toasted everything bagel with copious amounts of peanut butter. But either way, she felt much better in the morning.
It took her a week to build up the resolve to write to him. This time she didn't really beat around the bush. Well, too much at least. She only spent a paragraph inquiring how he was and what he was doing. But eventually, when she realized she was just rambling in writing to avoid asking what she really wanted to ask, she caved and just wrote the words.
She'd picked out a fancy romantic restaurant in London. She asked if he'd meet here there that Saturday at nine o'clock. The reply came two days later. Like her, he'd written a rambling paragraph. But this one was mostly about quidditch matches and quidditch players. At the end there was one simple sentence. It told her he would see her on Saturday.
She immediately went to the muggle phone she'd bought to make the apartment seem more normal and dialed Nadia's number.
"Kulikov's," Nadia said as she answered on the fourth ring.
"Hey, it's me," Gabrielle said quickly, fully aware she sounded flustered.
"Oh hey Ellie, what's up?" Nadia asked.
"I need a favor," Gabrielle responded.
"What is it? Are you okay?" Nadia asked. "Do I need to come bail you out of jail?"
"No," Gabrielle said quickly, wondering if she sounded like something was seriously wrong.
"Okay," Nadia said, actually sounding somewhat disappointed by that. Gabrielle blinked and barely heard the woman continue. "What did you need?"
"Can you meet me at Harrods?" she asked.
"When?" Nadia asked.
"Does this afternoon work? Say three?" Gabrielle responded.
"Sure," Nadia responded. "What's on the docket though?"
"I have a date on Saturday," Gabrielle started.
"Oh my god with who! I bet it's with Alec. He can barely keep his hands off of you in rehearsal!" Nadia gushed.
"And I need something sexy," Gabrielle finished, feeling the blush rise to her cheeks.
"Oh my god I should call all of the girls!" Nadia continued.
"No. It is not with Alec," Gabrielle said sternly.
"Well who then?" Nadia asked impatiently.
"My friend Harry that I told you about," Gabrielle said quietly.
"Oh the crush. Interesting," Nadia sounded mildly skeptical but Gabrielle figured it was for the best to not point that out.
"Yes," was her response.
"And you need to make him see you as something more than the silly teenage girl he knew a few years ago. To show him you've grown up," Nadia inferred.
"I do not think anyone has ever called me silly before." Gabrielle said.
"So you need the perfect little black dress, got it," Nadia said, ignoring Gabrielle's previous comment.
"So you will help?" Gabrielle sighed exasperatedly.
"Of course. See you at three. It's about time you got laid anyway," Nadia said. Gabrielle just groaned as she hung up the phone.
She'd spent a full hour staring at herself in the mirror Saturday evening. It had taken her the better part of the pervious hour to dress. She wore the black dress Nadia had helped her pick out, it hugged her body perfectly, two thin straps on her shoulders, and flared out into a ruffled skirt with a black bow tied on the waist.
Gabrielle had been skeptical, thinking it looked a little bit young for her intentions. But Nadia told her that she'd only be young for so long, and to play off of that. She'd thanked Nadia after buying the dress, wincing a bit as it cost nearly her take home for the month, but figuring it would be worth it. She'd assumed at that point that their shopping excursion would be done.
That was her first mistake.
Nadia then dragged her to get new shoes. She made her try on about twenty different pairs of stilettos before Gabrielle just refused to go there. No matter what Nadia would tell her that they would do for her legs, ass and gait she simply refused. Eventually they settled on a shorter pair of conservative black heels.
Gabrielle gagged when she saw the price tag, but Nadia simply patted her on the shoulder and said they would be a gift for her. Gabrielle stammered a refusal but the older woman just glared at her and bought the shoes.
She then dragged her to buy all new underwear. This time she didn't let Gabrielle argue as she picked it out, claiming that the garments would do wonders to accentuate her natural form. Gabrielle blushed as she tried them on alone in the fitting room, grumbling to herself as she realized Nadia was correct.
Finally she dragged her to get new makeup. Gabrielle protested here but again Nadia was having none of it. She made her buy new blush and new lipstick, in colors she wouldn't have often worn, to force Harry to see her as something different. She made Gabrielle try different colors until she was so sick of removing it she was debating taking her wand out of her purse and hexing the woman in public, statute of secrecy be damned.
Later in the week, though, when she finally got around to looking at the full affect in her mirror she wasn't really disappointed. She still looked like her, yes, but she also looked different, too. She didn't really know how to describe it. But she thought, when she didn't stare wide eyed at herself, that she looked prettier than normal.
Her hair took almost as long as getting dressed. Eventually she'd settled into a layered, artfully messy style. She'd been told again, to do something different. And whatever she did, absolutely no ballet buns. It felt odd, though, purely because it had been so long since she hadn't had her hair totally pulled back.
Either way, she knew it had worked as soon as she saw him outside of the restaurant. He did an actual double-take when he first looked at her. His eyes going wide. He reached out almost to touch her, before realizing he was doing that and putting his hand down and finally speaking.
"Wow, Gabrielle," he said softly.
"Shall we go inside?" she asked. He blinked a bit at her but nodded.
"Yes," he said and opened the door for her. She stepped in and gave the hostess her name. Moments later they were sitting in a candlelit table in the front window of the restaurant. She stared out the window for a moment before turning her attention fully to Harry.
She'd practiced the stare, she wasn't willing to admit that to anyone. But she knew when she made her eyes wide and looked on that she looked totally enraptured, and she wanted Harry to feel like he was the absolute only one in the world.
He swallowed hard when he stared back. Eventually, though they managed to order a bottle of wine and hear the specials for the evening, before Gabrielle spoke.
"How are you?" she asked.
"I'm well," he responded almost too quickly, nervously. She smiled warmly at him.
"I am glad to hear it. How is the season going? I am afraid that I did not keep as up to date on it as I could be. I only get the Sunday Prophet anymore and so rarely remember to check the standings," Gabrielle said, gazing at him across the table.
"We're in first," he smiled confidently. "As we should be."
"Have you played the Magpies yet?" Gabrielle asked. Harry winced, but then shook his head with a smile.
"Cheeky, you are," Harry responded.
"Well I am sure you would like your revenge," Gabrielle said.
"Depends on when it comes," Harry said. "I will freely admit I do not mind seeing anyone else in the finals."
"Well I would expect not," Gabrielle said. "Maybe you should just sign there next."
"I have honestly thought about it," Harry laughed. "But they love Parker. Granted they should love him, he's a hell of a player."
"So is Harry Potter," Gabrielle said. Harry nodded and their conversation continued. She kept it on quidditch to start, knowing that he would talk about that. And he did, animatedly. And eventually it slipped into just talking about people, eating their food at is came and enjoying the conversation and wine.
They stayed in the restaurant until it closed, sipping after dinner drinks and sampling more than one dessert. She took his hand when they left. He looked down at it, but did not remove his hand.
"Walk me home?" she asked, gazing sweetly up at him.
"Oh you walk places now?" he teased. She nodded.
"When it's only a couple of blocks and we're surrounded by muggles," she responded.
"Well you'll have to lead," he said.
"Always making me be the boy," she teased.
"Well there's some things I'd rather be the boy for," Harry smirked at her. Gabrielle turned her gaze back to him and just smirked back. To her infinite surprise, he was the one to blush and look away first. She took a deep breath after he looked away and remained silent until she walked him up to the entrance to her apartment building.
"Well here we are," he said quietly, almost longingly, like he didn't want the evening to end. She just nodded at him, then shifted so she was facing him. After another deep breath she slid her arms around his waist, gazing up into his surprised green eyes.
"Kiss me, Harry," she said quietly. She didn't want any awkward silences, or stares, or anything. She simply wanted his lips to be on hers. He paused, looking momentarily alarmed, before he leaned toward her.
She met him halfway.
They kissed. Gabrielle let her mouth meld to his, she let her body melt against his, and she focused on nothing but his lips, his tongue, his taste. She kissed him like she had never really kissed anyone before. It was deep, it was passionate, it was filled with both love and lust and it made her entire body flush with a fire she hadn't felt before.
She just kept kissing him, over and over and over. Until, finally, her lungs started to fail her and she had to catch her breath. To her surprised, Harry looked equally winded when she lifted her mouth from his. He stared back at her with wild eyes and she knew, deep down, that the night was over. That she couldn't let it get further than that tonight. She wasn't ready for further than that. But she also knew that she'd succeeded.
"Thank you for tonight, I had a wonderful time," she said softly, letting her breath caress his lips, keeping them so intoxicatingly close to his.
"Me too," Harry said just as quietly. He looked like he was going to say more but she interrupted him.
"Good night, Harry Potter," she smiled as coquettishly as she could. "I hope you have pleasant dreams." And she slipped from him and entered her building.
By Monday she'd received a letter asking if she wanted to go out again that next weekend.
Gabrielle slipped through the crowd. The Falmouth Falcons Holiday Party was an elaborate affair. It was for everyone involved with the organization, from the lowliest part-time usher to the players themselves. It was a packed affair.
She slipped toward the open bar and quickly ordered a glass of red wine. She reached into her purse and put a few sickles into the tip jar before taking the wine and sipping it. She turned and moved toward the food, realizing she hadn't eaten since well before the show that evening.
When she arrived where the snacks were laid out she spent a moment surveying the ballroom. She saw Cora and Eva out of the corner of her eyes. They were drawing quite a bit of attention, mostly from younger stadium staff, as they danced and attempted to karaoke White Christmas to each other. She giggled quietly, thinking that they were both terrible dancers, and continued to gaze around the room.
She saw Titus Button and Jordan Wall in a corner. Jordan was talking to a pretty girl she didn't know. Gabrielle expected she was one of the stadium employees. She was giggling rather a lot as she stared up at the Beaters. Titus took a moment to look around, though, saw Gabrielle and smirked at her, and then back at Jordan and Gabrielle knew the boy must have said something stupid that Titus would be teasing him about for quite a long time.
She turned her attention from the pair and grabbed some snacks from the nearby tables. It was a standard holiday fare. She packed a plate with vegetables and dip and some cheese, sausage and crackers before looking around the room once more, slipping back into the crowd and eating a carrot and enjoying the Christmas ambiance.
Gabrielle was surprised by how quickly the next year and a half passed. At first she met with Harry at least one night a week. They'd go to dinner, or to a movie, or to a show or anything just to be together.
But both their schedules were so packed that it became rather difficult to arrange anything. The biggest issue, they soon found, was that while Gabrielle was often rehearsing all day, Harry would be playing in matches in the evenings. They'd try to floo to talk when they could, but often she'd sleep through the call.
At six months they fought for a bit. They even decided that it just wasn't going to work out, in the midst of one of the fights. Because it was obvious they'd never really have the time to be together. They were both too busy, and they both needed something different.
They were split for four days. When they hugged for the first time after, they both started to cry. After that night Gabrielle knew exactly what she wanted. But she wondered if Harry knew it as well.
He joined her at an after party after one of her shows six months after that point. Their routine had continued. It was nice, she thought, but unfulfilled. They'd still go out, and they'd often end nights kissing or cuddling, but exhaustion often prevented it from seeming truly the right time.
She'd made the mistake of confessing this to Nadia, who teased her relentlessly about it. So she tried writing to Sophia to discuss it. Who had responded back in a very similar manner to the prima ballerina.
Still, she walked into the party with a few of the other dancers. They were a little late, having decided to shower and change before joining the rest of the company at the party. Harry was already there, chatting with David Cross at the bar. He smiled at her when she entered and walked straight toward her.
Gabrielle didn't notice the other dancers circling around them. She only had eyes for Harry. They hugged and kissed and he slid a small wrapped box out of his pocket and handed it to her.
"I thought I only got rings for classical shows," Gabrielle said, looking down at the box. The show they'd just put on had been an exhibit on modern dance, and not a classical ballet.
"Themed ones, yes," Harry said, resting his hands on her hips so she could unwrap the box. It was small and red and velvet. She paused and looked at it for a minute. She didn't really feel his hands shift as he moved from standing before her to kneeling before her.
She opened the box slowly. Inside was a single white gold ring. The band was lined with small square diamonds and a large princess cut diamond was set on the center of it. She blinked and looked up, only to notice that Harry was kneeling before her.
"Gabrielle Delacour," he said, his eyes a bright watering green behind his glasses, his hair messy as ever. "Will you marry me?"
Her world stopped. She didn't notice the dance company standing around her. She didn't notice Madame Fay in the back corner. She didn't notice Titus Button standing far too close to Sarah Martin.
Instead all she could see, all she could think of, and all she knew, in that moment, was Harry Potter. She said the only words that came into her mind.
"God yes," and she pulled him up and kissed him to a roar of applause.
She didn't leave his side that night. Once they'd finished kissing he'd slid the ring onto her finger and discreetly sized it to fit perfectly with his wand when no one else is looking. She found out shortly after that the party was never really for their most recent show, that was the ruse to get her there. He'd planned it with Nadia and David. It was always to be her engagement party.
They were married three months later at the end of his season and between performances for her. They'd wanted it to be a small wedding at a local church in Falmouth, but Harry Potter's wedding was quite the event. They changed the venue to London and invited everyone. Thankfully, Gabrielle thought, the assured presence of Muggles from her dance company meant that the wizards didn't go overboard.
They were married in the morning and portkeyed to Paris in the afternoon. Their first night as man and wife was the first night they spent together. Gabrielle had never felt so wonderful, so complete, so loved as she had in that moment with her new husband.
She was still awake at four seventeen in the morning, staring at the glowing clock on the bedside table. She was laying on him, her head resting on his chest, the cool sheet covering her from the waist down. She stared at the clock, suddenly feeling cold and empty and sad when Harry spoke.
"Can't sleep either?" he said softly.
"No," she said softly, sniffling again.
"Are you crying?" he said, his arms sliding comfortingly around her.
"No," she gasped, sniffling more.
"I don't think I've made a girl cry before. I'm sorry if I wasn't-" he sounded alarmed, she lifted her head to look at him and saw he was gazing down at her, looking very worried. She shook her head and sat up so she was straddling him, his hands instinctively rested on her hips. The sheet fell off of her as she sat up. The only covering on her pale skin were the five rings she wore. Her engagement and wedding ring on her left ring finger, and Aurora, Odette and Kitri, as she'd named them, on her right hand.
"It is not you," she said. "It is just that…."
"What?" he asked as she trailed off. "Please tell me, Gabrielle."
"All of this," she said, looking around the room. "All of this is wonderful. Until moments ago I was happier than I have ever been. But I can't help but think that, well, the only reason it happened is because…"
"Because everyone else died," Harry finished for her. She just nodded, a tear running down her cheek. Harry's hand slid from her hip to it, brushing it away.
"We did all we could, Elle, my Elle. We couldn't control that. It happened. It was awful and horrible and I hope nothing like it ever happens again. But it did. We have to do exactly what I told you we had to do all those years ago," Harry said.
"What's that?" she asked quietly.
"Exactly what they would want us to do," he said, pulling her back down to him and rolling them over so he could better kiss her.
The wall nearest to Gabrielle Potter was decorated with hundreds of large moving photographs of Falmouth Falcons. Some of the shots were familiar to her. Others were not. She saw one very famous shot of Titus Button flying square into Harry Potter, hugging him, laughing, and crying as he spun around his friend.
They weren't wearing Falmouth Falcon uniforms in that shot though. Instead they were wearing English National Team jerseys with a Greek World Cup patch on the sleeve. Gabrielle smiled, remembering her joy hearing that broadcast.
The one next to it had Harry and Titus again, but this time they were joined by Eva Larson. This time they were standing next to the World Cup trophy, with Eva behind it. All three were smirking happily with Brazilian patches on their uniforms. Harry and Titus were holding up two fingers on one hand as they flanked the cup. Eva behind it held up one.
The rest of the photos were all of league play. There were shots of the stadium, shots of the employees, and shots of the players. There was even a shot of a defeat. Well, it was of Harry Potter, as the Montrose Magpies celebrated winning the league cup in the background. It was from the end of his first season in Falmouth. They'd almost done the impossible. They'd made it to the finals. But Harry had lost one more time to Montrose.
There were more victories though. Harry and Titus holding up the League Cup after defeating Tutshill the following year. Harry and Jordan cheering on Cora Toivanen as she scored the winning penalty shot against Wigtown the year after. Titus and Amanda posing with the cup at the solidification of the dynasty with their third consecutive title against Holyhead.
They'd lost, again to Montrose the following year. It seemed to be a theme of World Cup years. Harry had caught the snitch but moments before the catch had been rendered useless by a beautiful goal from Alicia Spinnet.
"Like the art?" a warm voice said from behind her.
"It's okay," she said, not turning to face the man. Instead she nibbled on a cracker and kept gazing down the line.
"The last one is my favorite," He said. She turned to look at it.
She was in it. Wearing a Falmouth Falcon jersey with his number on it. She was sitting on his broom, clutching the League Cup trophy. He was sitting behind her, clutching her tightly to him.
It was taken three days before their wedding. The Falmouth Falcons were, once again, playing against the Montrose Magpies for the league cup. She'd told him in the locker room before the match, as he sat in his locker, his foot tapping nervously before him, that he would win. That her wedding gift to him, her thank you to him for everything he was and would be to her until death did them part, woulfd be that he would win. That he would defeat the Montrose Magpies.
And Falmouth had prevailed. He'd plucked her out of the stands before he'd even given the snitch to the official to confirm the catch.
"That one is not bad," she said, putting the plate of food down on a table near her and slipping around to face him. "But it is still not going in the living room."
"What if I ask nicely?" Harry Potter asked.
"Still no," she said.
"Well it was worth a shot," he said. She just shook her head. The song changed and she smiled up at him.
"Dance with me?" she asked.
"Always," he responded, leading her over to the dancefloor. Again, she barely noticed how everyone else gave them room. This time, he could lead. She'd taught him that much. He moved her expertly as they moved to the music, smiling with eyes only for each other. As the tempo slowed she moved closer to him. Eventually they were simply moving in small circles with her head against his chest.
"I never thanked you, you know," Harry said.
"For what?" Gabrielle asked.
"Everything," he said. "After everything. I don't know if I'd have been able to get by without you there. And then you come back, the perfect everything. And somehow it's me you wanted. I actually felt quite lucky, for really the first time," Harry laughed quietly at the absurdity of it all.
"You were always more composed than me," Gabrielle said.
"I know. I needed to, well, I needed to feel like I was helping someone else. And that was what you needed then. Without it. I really don't know what I would have done," Harry admitted.
"Lived," Gabrielle said. "You are too strong not to."
"Maybe," Harry sighed, as if he didn't really believe it. Then he shook his head as if ridding himself of an unpleasant thought. He whispered.
"You were a wonderful Clara tonight," Harry said.
"You were supposed to be here!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Titus covered for me with Lunfrey. He didn't even notice I wasn't here," Harry said. "You couldn't think I would have missed that." Gabrielle just shook her head with disbelief and again found herself saying the first words that came into her head.
"I love you, Harry Potter," she laughed.
"And I you, Gabrielle Potter," Harry responded and they kissed as the music played on.
Author's Note: Merry Christmas to you and yours and a Happy New Year to all.