Disclaimer: I own nothing and an making no profit.
Acknowledgments: Rpeh on the beta work and idea bouncing.
Author's Note: The final part of my four part holiday bonus series. Happy Holidays!
Harry spun Gabrielle around the dance floor as a new song started to play at the Christmas party. As usual she was remarkably pliant, even to his clumsy leading. Deep down, he knew she was probably doing more to lead him than he was her, but she was too polite to comment.
Still, he always marveled at dancing with her. The slightest move of his arm, or twitch of his fingers on her back, could coax her into moves that marveled him. And to make things even better, it also made him look like he knew what he was doing.
And sure, he'd gotten much better by necessity, but he was still entirely convinced that it was all just her doing that made him seem remotely competent. Even if he had put forth the effort and stepped on her toes once or twice, earning him the wrath Nadia Kulikov for attempting to cripple her protégé.
"May I?" Titus asked stepping up to them, dragging Cora Toivanen with him.
"No," Harry said as Titus slipped between he and Gabrielle and slipped away with her for the next song. Harry shook his head but smiled as Gabrielle giggled and dodged around Titus's feet. Harry turned to Cora.
"Shall we?" he asked.
"Fine," Cora said, shifting and offering her hand. Harry gazed at her for a moment. Cora was always a bit on the frosty side. But he felt like something was bothering her. And immediately got the impression that Titus had shifted her onto him for a reason. He took her hand and started dancing rather slowly with her. She didn't look up at him so he took a moment to look around the party to see if he could find Eva.
He couldn't. So instead he watched Gabrielle and Titus, smiling as she giggled at something his friend said to her. At least until Cora sniffled. Harry turned his gaze down toward the young fin. She really was quite pretty, pale with blond hair and bright eyes, even when she was trying to avoid his gaze.
He remained silent for one full song, just holding the quiet chaser to him and moving with the soft music. He did his best to tune out everything occurring around them at the party while still managing to search for Eva. She was, annoyingly, harder to locate than a golden snitch.
"So Cora," he started after the second song started. "Are you going to tell me what's bothering you or is this going to just stay totally awkward?"
"Nothing is bothering me," she said sharply, turning her face away from his.
"You can try to tell yourself that, but even Titus picked up on it. And, well, he's Titus. There's really no reason to think you're doing a good job hiding it," Harry said. Cora winced at the mention of the beater picking up on something.
"So that's why," she said quietly.
"Why what?" Harry asked.
"Why he plucked me off of the dance floor and how I wound up dancing with you," Cora said.
"He does tend to be more observant than people give him credit for. And he is a very good team captain as I'm sure you've realized. He knows what's going on with his team," Harry responded.
"It is the offseason," Cora said.
"Doesn't mean he doesn't know you far better than you'd like to admit," Harry said. "He can be annoyingly insightful with things like that."
"You've said," she said.
"Anyway, are you going to tell me what's bothering you?" Harry asked.
"I don't want to talk about it," Cora said.
"I gathered that much. And while I'd rather steal my wife away from the wandering hands of Jordan Wall, Titus obviously thought this was important. So, you're either going to tell me, or I'm going to have to resort to desperate measures," Harry said. He gazed over her shoulder at where Titus had passed his wife off to the other beater. Jordan looked confused and afraid as Gabrielle made him dance.
"What would those be?" Cora asked.
"I'm going to pry," Harry nodded, knowingly.
"Mister privacy Harry Potter is going to pry into my personal life?" Cora said, lifting her gaze to meet his for the first time since they'd been dancing. Her icy blue eyes were rather wet looking. Still, she'd fought back the tears, there wasn't a smudge on her makeup.
"And it makes me sick just thinking about it," Harry said. "You can save us a great deal of trouble and just start talking."
"That is not going to work," Cora said. "I do not wish to discuss my personal life with you. I do not see what help that would be."
"Just talking about something can be helpful. And another pair of ears can provide a different outlook on the situation too. And even in just the simplest terms, sharing could just be a weight off your chest," Harry said. Cora sniffled once and just shook her head.
"It is personal," Cora said. "And it is not something I am comfortable with sharing."
"Okay," Harry said, taking a deep breath and exhaling through his nose. He just kept dancing with her until the song ended. As the third song started, he just hugged her tightly to him for a few seconds before stepping away from her.
"Well, Cora, if you ever need someone to talk to. Or if you ever need anyone to help out. I'll always volunteer," Harry said. She just nodded over at him as he turned to walk away. He made it two steps before she spoke.
"Wait, please," she said. He turned back to look at her. She stepped up to him and took his hand once more.
"Yes Cora?" he asked.
"I'll talk," she said. He could tell the two words were difficult for her. He nodded and before whispering.
"I do not know how to start," she said.
"Just start," he advised. "It's always the hardest part. Once you start talking it will all get easier."
"Okay. Well. It. I," she sighed. "I don't know."
"Yes, you do," Harry said. "Or you wouldn't be so torn up about it."
"I am starting to think that Eva does not have the same life goals as I have," Cora said.
"Is this about that investment meeting that Lunfrey made us all attend a few weeks back. Because I can actually set you up with a real financial advisor if you're worried about post-quidditch life," Harry said.
"No," Eva actually laughed as she said it and smiled up at him. "While Eva does like spending money, a lot, we put half of our checks into special funds. We will be fine."
"Good," Harry said. "So what life goals are you not lining up on?" The smile fell off of Cora's face in an instant and Harry actually regretted asking the question. But he knew it had to get out there and that they would have come along to it eventually.
"Everything else," Cora said so quietly he barley heard her over the music.
"Like?" Harry asked.
"I want to spend the rest of my life with Eva," Cora said. "I love Eva. It pains me to be apart from her. I love every single moment we spend together."
"But?" Harry asked, feeling the word linger in the air. He'd seen Cora and Eva enough to feel like their feelings were mutual, but he never really bothered to look that deeply into their relationship.
Titus worried about it more than he did. For purely quidditch reasons. It was never really a good thing to have teammates be overly unhappy or upset with each other during the season. It was one of the reasons relationships between teammates were discouraged wherever possible.
However, in their time in Falmouth Harry couldn't remember ever hearing of the two of them having a row. Titus has never complained of their relationship and it had never seemed to be an issue. Which Harry used to infer that Cora and Eva never really had relationship problems. That ignored the possibility that they were just better at hiding it than most couples, or that they didn't let it affect their play.
Of course, if anyone would have asked him. He would have said that he thought their relationship improved their play. As they grew closer, their on-pitch chemistry increased. They always seemed to know where the other was while playing.
And they seemed to push each other harder than anyone else could, too. They were always there when one was struggling, and always able to pull each other out of any sort of funk that they could possibly be in. And when they were both on hot streaks they could dominate opposing lines.
"But she will not call me her girlfriend to her parents," Cora said.
"Well you know how her parents are," Harry shrugged. Cora glared up at him and he got the distinct feeling that he'd said the exact wrong thing and that she immediately wanted nothing else to do with him.
"That is what she says," Cora responded through gritted teeth.
"Yes, I can see how she might," Harry said.
"And it is not like my parents were thrilled with it," Cora spat. "They struggled to even have me and they always wanted grandchildren. And they had to come to terms with that."
"That sucks," Harry said, unhelpfully.
"I know this already," Cora said. "And we have not even done anything with her parents in months. And I do not think that it very healthy. And I cannot get her to try to approach them."
"Well, her parents have always been stubborn and annoying. Her mother still sends me a Christmas card telling me they wished I was part of the family and I should stop buy for the holiday," Harry said. Cora smiled weakly at him. She knew enough about how Eva's mother acted around him.
"One minute she hates you the next minute she wants Eva to go groveling back to you," Cora sighed.
"It's quite annoying," Harry admitted.
Even after getting married and showing no interest in Eva for six years, Mrs. Larsen still acted like her daughter was moments away from settling down with Harry Potter. He wondered if Eva wanted to go back in time and not tell her mother about her first boyfriend.
Harry had been surprised that cute little Eva hadn't had a boyfriend at Hogwarts. But she'd said she only wanted to focus on quidditch. It had surprised both of them when they hit it off after practice. And eventually one thing had led to another.
Her physical disgust after intimacy sealed the door on that relationship. There had been a lot of crying and a lot of apologizing and eventually he'd convinced her that he understood and that they could certainly still be friends. She'd hugged him and they had stayed friends.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, they'd managed to keep all of it a secret from Titus. And while the beater would look at them in such a way that they could both tell he was debating if they'd ever done anything, they'd never told him flat out.
Harry both figured it just wasn't a story worth telling. That was certainly the reason why he never talked about it. It couldn't have possibly been that he didn't want to deal with Titus teasing him about how he was so bad that he made Eva swear off of men forever.
"We do not even get a Christmas Card," Cora said. "We invited them to join us in Finland last year to meet my parents and they did not come."
"Rude of them," Harry said. Cora frowned and looked away.
"I do not think Eva actually invited them," Cora said. "She got really awkward whenever they came up and seemed too nervous. The way she usually does when she's trying to hide something."
"Did you ask her?" Harry asked. Cora shook her head.
"No. I did not want to get into a fight about it. And I thought I was being petty. Why would she not invite them? Inviting them is harmless. If she did and they were awful about it I would have felt even more terrible," Cora explained.
"I get it," Harry said. Cora sniffled and he had to resist the urge to wipe the tear from her face.
"It is just things like that," Cora said.
"Forgive me," Harry started. "But I'm still not one hundred percent sure just what you're getting at here. I mean you've known for years that Eva's parents are terrible. Why is it becoming an issue now?"
"I thought they would grow out of it," Cora said. "I didn't let it bother me at first. But as time has gone on it has bothered me more and more."
"Well that's understandable. But I don't think that getting Eva's parents to like you is a life goal," Harry said.
"It is not," Cora sighed.
"Well then?" Harry asked.
"I want to get married," Cora said.
"Ah," Harry said. "And Eva doesn't?"
"Well she did not say no," Cora said. And at that point it all started to fall into place for Harry. "But I don't know. I think I scared her with it. And she gets very defensive whenever I try to bring it up."
"So, you are worried that she isn't as interested as spending the rest of her life with you as you are spending it with her," Harry said.
"Yes and no," Cora said. "I can tell she loves me. I know she loves me. I can feel it. But at the same time, she won't commit."
"Well, she has in other ways. You bought a house, you signed matching contracts in Falmouth. You're practically joined at the hip," Harry said.
"I know," Cora responded. "What more is a couple of rings and a piece of paper?"
"Have you tried asking her why?" Harry asked.
"Yes. She does not give a clear answer," Cora said. "I mean I would be okay with a small thing. It could just be the team for all I care. I just." She stopped talking and shrugged her shoulders but Harry understood the gist of it.
"You just want it to be official," he said.
"Yes," she responded. "You are the happiest married person I know that isn't one of my parents. How did you know?"
"When the thought of living without her became completely unbearable to even fathom," Harry said.
"And when was that?" Cora asked.
"About six years ago at one of these Christmas parties," Harry said.
"You were not even dating her then," Cora said. "How could that have been the point?"
"That's a long story. Perhaps I'll tell it when I'm the best man at your wedding," Harry said.
"You think you would be my best man?" Cora asked, raising her brows to look at him.
"Well it sure as shit better not be Titus," Harry said, doing his best to sound affronted.
"You know people do have lives outside of quidditch. With friends they do not play a sport with all day," Cora said.
"I remember that. But that was from before mine all blew up on a Portkey though," Harry said. Cora opened her mouth, frowned, and closed her mouth. He spun her in a way he would have normally only considered trying if Gabrielle was in his arms, but Cora was agile enough to keep her feet and finish the spin looking at him.
"That was a cheap shot," she said.
"It was a bit too easy," Harry smiled. Cora shook her head.
"You should not joke about that," she said.
"Probably not, but it was easy," Harry said.
"Do you always take the easiest way out?" Cora asked.
"In jokes? Usually," Harry said. "In other matters, no."
"Like what?" Cora asked.
"Like convincing the love of my life to marry me," Harry said. Cora glared at him.
"So that's how you're going to bring it back around?" she asked.
"Yeah, it's the easy way out," Harry said. "But it's effective."
"Well, what should I do?" Cora asked.
"I'm assuming this is what you fought about tonight and why you're stuck on the dance floor without a partner and I can't see Eva anywhere?" he asked.
"Yes," Cora said, turning her to peer around him, doubtless looking to see if her lover had returned. Harry sighed and spared a quick glance at Gabrielle, who was still deftly avoiding Jordan's feet while Titus and
"Well, you already know how awful Eva's parents are. I suppose you could try to worm your way into her father's heart and have him work on his wife. But that seems like a long shot. So, I guess there's really only one thing you can do," Harry said.
"What's that?" Cora asked, her eyes focusing on him as he spoke, narrowing with determination as she started to hang off of his words.
"Are you sure you're ready for it?" Harry asked, letting his voice soften to a whisper. He leaned closer to her so she could hear him. "It's going to be super difficult. It will drain you to your very core. You will be utterly exhausted when you're done. But it will feel better immediately after, like a weight lifted from you."
"What is it?" she asked, her eyes widening in suspense.
"You talk to her," Harry said.
"Excuse me?" Cora asked, blinking in confusion.
"Talk to her," Harry said again.
"Do you think we have not spoken about it?" Cora asked, looking visibly frustrated.
"Not in the depth that it needs to be spoken about," Harry said. "Had you then you wouldn't be having this conversation with me. You'd already have answered your own question."
"We have talked about it," Cora insisted.
"Maybe," Harry said.
"We have!" Cora said.
"Have you? Have you taken her aside, sat down with her, and told her exactly how you feel? Have you told her in detail what it all means to you, and how it makes you feel when she ignores it or changes the subject? Have you told her just what it means to you?" Harry asked.
"Well," Cora started, but Harry cut her off.
"Have you told her just how ardently you love her? Have you told her how the best part of your day is falling asleep in her arms, holding her close to you. How there's nothing better than the seeing her face as the spark that starts your day? How when you're apart you long for her smile, her warmth, her everything? How days feel incomplete if she's not there?" Harry asked.
"Well no," Cora said. "I am not good with words like that in English."
"Then tell her in Finnish and try to translate," Harry said.
"I do not know that I could," Cora said.
"I said it would be hard. There will be hugging and crying and tense moments. But you need to make sure you're both on the same page. I'm sure Eva has things she struggles to talk about with you as well. And communicating is the most important thing," Harry said.
"We understand each other, though," Cora said.
"Maybe," Harry said. "But if that's true you'd be on the same page about this. Maybe you are and the topic just hasn't been approached correctly. You can't ever assume that the other knows. Tell them."
"He's right," Eva Larson said. Harry spun Cora around to see Eva and Gabrielle dancing together behind them. Titus and Jordan were leering behind them.
"About?" Cora sniffled. This time Harry didn't resist the urge. Instead he brought his knuckle to her cheek and wiped the tear away. She glared at him. They stopped dancing but she did not leave his arms.
"There are things that aren't easy for me to talk about," Eva said, blushing and looking away from them."
"Me too," Cora admitted. Harry and Gabrielle both spun their partners so they were closer to each other. Eva paused for a moment before whispering quietly.
"Is falling asleep with me there really the best part of your day?" she asked.
"No," Cora said. "That was Harry being romantic."
"Oh," Eva frowned and looked away. Cora did as well. Harry saw her swallow hard and then take a deep breath before speaking.
"The favorite part of my day is the look on your face when one of us scores a goal assisted by the other. And flying into you for a hug to celebrate. Or when we collapse in a heap after pushing each other too hard running. Those would be tied."
"I like those too," Eva smiled.
"I think we should go home," Cora said after a deep breath. "We should talk."
"Okay," Eva responded. Cora slipped from Harry. He watched as Gabrielle pushed Eva toward Cora.
"Have one more dance first," Gabrielle said. "Then go home and cuddle up and talk. Should never say no to one last dance."
"Good idea," Cora smiled. She leaned over and kissed Eva lovingly as they started to sway together.
"Shall we?" Harry asked, offering his hand to Gabrielle.
"Always," she smiled and slipped into his arms as the song changed.
"I trust Titus and Jordan weren't too painful," Harry said.
"My feet are still in one piece," Gabrielle nodded.
"Good. I'd hate to have to kill them for maiming you," Harry said. Gabrielle just smiled at him as the song controlled their movements.
"So, is falling asleep with me really your favorite part of the day?" she asked.
"You overheard that?" Harry said.
"I did," Gabrielle responded.
"No, it isn't," Harry said.
"Aww," Gabrielle pouted.
"My favorite part is the noises you make when I massage your feet," Harry said.
"Oh," Gabrielle flushed pink. "I see."
"They're pretty adorable," Harry said.
"Well I do love when you do that. It feels amazing. Way better than a numbing charm or a pain potion," Gabrielle admitted.
"I know," Harry said. "That's why I do it."
"I do not think that is the only reason you do it," Gabrielle said with a slight pink flush and a smirk.
"Well it does have other perks as well," Harry said, smiling back at her.
"How late are we staying?" Gabrielle asked, stifling a yawn.
"We can leave whenever, although we should at least say goodnight to the Lunfrey's," he said.
"Do we have to?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes," Harry said.
"Fine, let's find them," Gabrielle said.
"Okay," Harry responded. It only took a couple of minutes to find Derek and Gemma. Harry thanked him for the party, Derek just smirked and thanked him for the titles. Gemma complimented Gabrielle's dress and then they were stepping away from the party. They found a few of their other friends and wished a Merry Christmas to all of them before calling it an evening.
Harry apparated them back to London. He popped them into a secluded section of the city not too far from the Royal Opera House. It was a few blocks from their home, but Gabrielle had started to enjoy their walks through the city.
"Want to stop by your after party?" Harry asked.
"I do not even know where they're having it," Gabrielle responded.
"Nadia told me," Harry said.
"Of course she did," Gabrielle shook her head. "And you apparated us close to it?"
"Naturally," Harry said. "But if you don't want to stop then we don't have to."
"No, we should. Even if we only stay for a drink," Gabrielle said.
"I thought so too," Harry responded and they stepped to the second party of the evening.
They stepped into the pub, the same pub they'd met again at a few years earlier, and saw the party in full swing. Although perhaps only half as populated as it normally would be. Nadia Kulikov saw them first and floated up toward them.
"You made it!" she laughed.
"I told you I'd drag her here after," Harry smiled.
"The star is here," Margaret Mitchell laughed, walking up to them and hugging Gabrielle again. "Can I grab you a drink?"
"An Irish coffee would be lovely after someone made me wander around outside in this," Gabrielle said, glaring at Harry out of the corner of her eyes.
"That does sound good," Harry nodded.
"Coming right up," Margaret laughed and rushed toward the bartender.
"How was the party?" David Cross asked, stepping up and hugging Gabrielle.
"It was lovely," Gabrielle said. "How about here?"
"Slow night. A few people only stayed for a drink then went to their own things," Matt Barnes said, sliding up next to David.
"Mostly just the youngsters with nothing better to do," David said.
"Are you calling me old?" Gabrielle narrowed her eyes.
"I think he's calling me old," Nadia said, turning to glare at David as well.
"I think I'll go see if Margaret needs helps with the drinks," David turned quickly to head toward the bar. Both women laughed as he left. Oddly, he did not return with Margaret and the drinks.
"Thanks," Gabrielle said as she sipped hers. Harry did the same. He let her lead the conversations, exchanging a few words with whomever approached. They spent a few moments mildly concerned for one of the younger dancers, a Fiona Clarke, who seemed depressed in the holiday season.
A little more booze and Nadia and Gabrielle dragged her into the middle of the pub to dance to a bad Christmas song. That seemed to cheer all three of them up and led to Gabrielle and Fiona dancing with each other and giggling. Harry noticed them both whispering and some smirking at one of the younger male dancers.
Harry walked over toward the young man and eventually managed to, quite literally, push him toward Gabrielle and Fiona. The young girl grabbed him and the three of them danced. Harry tried to cut in but Nadia beat him to it.
She and Gabrielle put on a bit of a show, weaving around each other in ways Harry wouldn't have believed had he not been seeing them with his own eyes. There was a rather loud applause when they finished. Nadia laughed and kissed Gabrielle square on the lips before returning to her drink. Gabrielle blushed and walked back to Harry.
"Should I be worried?" he laughed, nodding toward Nadia.
"She is happily married," Gabrielle laughed.
"And you?" Harry laughed.
"Me too," Gabrielle giggled. "Anyway, I'm not attracted to Nadia."
"Oh, any women do it for you?" Harry teased.
"I don't know. I guess your doctor friend Katie is pretty and charming and looks like fun," Gabrielle said, tilting her head to the side as she appeared to think about it. "Maybe you should invite her over some night?"
"Are you serious?" Harry blinked.
"No," Gabrielle said, laughing. "Titus just said I should tease you like that."
"Since when do you listen to Titus?" Harry laughed.
"When I think it will be amusing," Gabrielle smiled.
"Meanie," Harry said.
"I'll make it up to you," Gabrielle teased.
"I hope so," Harry laughed.
"Would you like to leave so I can make it up to you?" she asked, raising her brows at him. Harry nodded.
"Uh-huh," he said.
"Then let's go," Gabrielle said, sliding a hand up his leg gently. And after a few quick goodbyes they left their second party of the evening.
They walked home slowly, savoring every moment holding each other as they moved through the city streets. They kissed in the doorway, they kissed more in the elevator, and they kissed against their door as Harry unlocked it.
They barely made it to the bedroom. Gabrielle vanished their clothing and pulled him down onto the bed and into her. It was frantic and warm and quick. After she rolled them over and coaxed him on once more.
After she sat up on him, smiling as his hands lazily caresses her hips and sides. She leaned over to pick her wand off of the bedside table and tapped it once to her stomach before summoning some bottles of water. She handed one to him before stretching her arms above her head, pulling up some of her hair as she did, and letting it cascade back down around her.
"Here I thought you looked tired at Falmouth," Harry sighed happily gazing up at her.
"Well then you plied me with boozy coffee," Gabrielle said.
"Remind me to do that more often," Harry said.
"I might," Gabrielle teased. She drank some of her water before gently sliding down and laying on him.
"I hope you do," Harry laughed.
"You did seem to enjoy yourself quite a bit," Gabrielle sighed as Harry pulled the blankets up over them. She wiggled closer to him and whispered. "Mmm finally warm."
"Me too," Harry said. They were quiet for a few moments, enjoying being close to each other and holding each other. Harry pressed his face into her hair and smiled happily wondering just how he'd gotten so lucky.
"I have a question for you," she said softly after a few moments of silence.
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"Do you even remember our first Christmas?" Gabrielle asked.
"Of course I do," He said. "We were like eight months into dating and had no idea what to do. I watched you perform the Arabian dance and then Nadia dragged us over for Christmas dinner. She made that weird tomato stew thing that still frightens me to this day."
"That was not our first Christmas," Gabrielle laughed.
"Sure it was," Harry said. "What could it have been before that?"
"It was my seventh year at Beauxbatons," Gabrielle said.
"You spent that Christmas at your friend Sophia's house," Harry commented. Gabrielle was rather surprised Harry remembered that specific detail.
"I did. And then you showed up on the first weekend of January insisting it was Christmas," Gabrielle said.
"Did I really?" Harry asked.
"You did," Gabrielle said, smiling to herself at the memory.
It was cold that winter at Beauxbatons. Well, cold for the south of France in January at least. She and Sophia were outside in their powder blue uniforms, charting the final positions of the stars for their Astronomy homework. Sophia noticed them first.
"Is that Harry Potter?" she asked, gazing down the path toward the main gates.
"What?" Gabrielle laughed, and then turned her gaze to the path. "It looks like him and Titus."
"Did you know they were coming?" Sophia asked.
"No, they did not tell me they were coming," Gabrielle said. "They are stumbling around like idiots."
"Well that's rude of them," Sophia smirked. She tucked her homework into her pocket and started to walked toward the boys. Gabrielle thought she did so with way too much sway in her hips.
"Sophie!" Titus yelled. He hugged her as he approached, lifting her and spinning her around. Gabrielle found herself rather annoyed as her friend giggled at that. And somehow, during all of that, her hat wound up on Titus's head.
"Hi," Sophia said rather breathlessly as Titus put her down. He kept an arm around her and looked toward Gabrielle.
"That must be our Ellie!" Titus yelled.
"It is!" Sophia laughed.
"Hi," Harry said quietly, looking at Gabrielle. She blushed a little bit as she approached the quidditch stars.
"Hello," she said.
"Hi," Harry said again.
"What are you boys doing here?" Sophia asked, sensing that conversation was going to wind up in a loop in far too little time.
"We had an exhibition against, uhm, it was against, uh," Harry said.
"The green team," Titus nodded knowingly.
"Oh yes, they were in green," Harry said.
"Did you win?" Sophie asked.
"Did we?" Harry asked.
"We did!" Titus giggled.
"Awesome, fuck the green team," Harry said.
"I agree," Titus said.
"So why did you come here?" Gabrielle asked.
"Because it's Christmas!" Harry said.
"It's January," Gabrielle said.
"Christmas!" Titus said.
"Did you bring gifts?" Sophie asked.
"Did we?" Harry asked.
"Wine and Calvados?" Titus asked, nodding to a bag he had slung over his shoulder.
"Oh yeah, we have that," Harry said.
"Lovely," Sophia giggled.
"Let's go inside and find someplace to drink it!" Titus exclaimed, nodding toward the large ornate palace. Unlike Hogwarts, Beauxbatons was more spread out than built up. It was a sprawling three story building surrounded by gardens and very reminiscent of Versailles.
"We'll get caught!" Gabrielle exclaimed. "You know the professors are always on the prowl this close to term starting again.
"Well we could sneak back to their hotel with them," Sophia giggled.
"That sounds fun," Titus said, leering down at Sophia. Gabrielle frowned but at least her friend had the dignity to blush slightly at the open implication from Titus.
"Fine let's find an empty classroom. I'm sure they know enough magic to make it very discreet," Gabrielle said.
"I'm bad at magic," Titus nodded as if he were agreeing with her.
"I'm good at magic," Harry said. "I killed a Dark Lord with magic."
"You did," Sophia giggled. "You're a hero for it."
"I'm still not sure how it actually worked though," Harry said.
"What?" Gabrielle asked.
"Well I mean I blew him up with a disarming charm," Harry said, making explosion gestures and noises as he spoke. "Makes no sense."
"Who cares?" Titus laughed. "You won."
"I did win," Harry nodded. "Fuck the green team."
"The Death Eaters were the green team?" Gabrielle blinked.
"No, they wore black," Harry said. "And silly skull charms"
"Weren't we going inside?" Titus asked.
"I think that depended on whether or not you and Harry could be discreet and hide us away in the castle so we don't get in trouble," Sophia smirked.
"Like a princess in a tower!" Titus said.
"Should we really let them drink more?" Gabrielle frowned at the two players.
"Oh, they'll be fine," Sophia said.
"I do not think we should encourage them," Gabrielle said.
"But it's fun!" Sophia laughed.
"It is fun!" Harry said. "Especially the calvados, the calvados is delicious."
"I'll have to try that," Sophia smiled. She slipped from Titus's grasp and took his hand, pulling him toward the castle. "Come now let's sneak right on in.
"We should say hi to Madame Maxime," Harry said.
"No, we should not," Gabrielle responded.
"But it would be good to see her again," Harry said.
"Fine maybe later," Gabrielle responded.
"Okay, later sounds fine," Harry said as they entered the castle. Sophia led them on, pulling Titus forward with every step. Harry followed them, gazing at the ornate decorations and portraits, waving at a few that waved at him. Gabrielle brought up the rear and often had to nudge Harry forward while he continually lagged behind, distracted by the decorations.
Eventually Sophia found a room she thought was suitable and they all ducked inside. Titus shrugged the bag off of his shoulder and started taking out bottles of booze as well as some cheese and crackers. Harry seemed oddly fascinated by one of the desks until Titus spoke.
"Fix the room," he said. Harry blinked.
"What? Did we break it?" he gazed around looking confused.
"It's Christmas, make it Christmas," Titus said. Harry nodded and took out his wand and started waving it around.
Gabrielle half expected the room to explode, but it didn't. Instead a cinnamon smell started to fill the air. Pine joined it moments later, and then a large tree grew into one corner and decorated itself.
A fire place appeared on the wall, with a couch and chairs around it. The walls changed to a sort of decorated gingerbread motif and lights started to pop up lining them. Soon the only light in the room was from the lights on the tree, the fire place, and the decorations. A sort of white powder piled around the tree in a what looked like a massive snow bank, but no cold entered the room.
Sophia walked over toward it as Titus started to pour out the drinks. He floated a glass of the calvados over toward Harry as he finished with the decorations.
"There," Harry said, taking a sip of the calvados. "Christmas."
"Looks good," Titus said.
"What is this?" Sophia laughed, poking her toe into the white mass. "It's like icing or something but it doesn't stick to anything and it's warm."
"I don't know," Harry shrugged, sipping his drink. Gabrielle walked over to examine it as well. She reached down and let her hands slide through it.
"It's like warm bath bubbles but more corporeal," she said. It felt nice on her hand but when she lifted it out, there was no evidence that she'd ever touched it. Sophia smirked at her and then grabbed her and fell back into it.
There was a great deal of shrieking and giggling as the two girls rolled around, Gabrielle trying to get away from Sophia and Sophia trying to keep her in the fake snow. Harry cast a silencing charm over the room as the girls giggled. Then he figured since it was Christmas there should be some sort of Christmas carol playing so he waved his wand again and created the music.
By that point Gabrielle had managed to get out of Sophia's grip and out of the snow. She was flushed and panting from the effort. Harry stepped up behind her and handed her a glass of wine. She paused, clearly debating between her annoyance at Sophia, not wanting to get in trouble, and wanting to have a glass of wine with Harry. She took the wine and stood next to Harry thought.
"That was fun," Sophia giggled.
"It looked fun," Titus said, smirking at her and walking toward her with a glass of wine. She pulled herself to her feet and took it from him, sipping from it.
"It did," Harry said.
"Brat," Gabrielle scoffed. She'd lost her hat in the mess and pulled her hair out of the bun in annoyance.
"It's warm in here," Sophia said as she started to finger the buttons on her robes.
"It should be," Titus said. "It's supposed to be warm and cozy. That's part of Christmas!" He plopped down on the couch, conjuring a table for the wine and food and continued to sip his own drink.
"I think it is cozy," Gabrielle said. She shrugged her robes off. Underneath she was wearing a blue blouse and uniform skirt with the black shoes of the uniform as well. She sat in a chair near the fire and started to take off her shoes and socks.
"Too warm," Sophia disagreed and sent a frown toward the fire. She took her wand from her pocket and waved it over herself. The pale blue robe turned into a pale blue nightgown that left little to the imagination. Her boots shifted into a pair of fur lined slippers and she slipped onto the couch next to Titus.
"Sophia!" Gabrielle gasped.
"What?" Sophia asked, frowning as adorably as she could manage toward her friend, acting like she saw nothing at all wrong with her garb.
"You are indecent!" Gabrielle hissed in French, blushing as she said it.
"That's the point," Sophia giggled. "You should try it too. Get Harry to think you are something more than a little school girl."
"But I am a little school girl," Gabrielle said. "And you are too!"
"Where's the fun in that. Only get to live a little once!" Sophia chided.
"What are you two prattling on about?" Titus asked.
"Something about school girls," Harry said, looking confused, like he only managed to translate a couple of the words in his head while they talked.
"Little Elle was whining that her feet hurt from all her dance practice," Sophia lied. "And how she would kill someone for a foot rub."
"I was not!" Gabrielle spat.
"Sure you weren't," Sophia said. She flipped around on the couch, her legs winding up in Titus's lap as she rolled onto her stomach to look at her friend. "It's like the only thing you talk about after practice."
"We were doing astronomy homework and not practicing and that is not what we were talking about!" Gabrielle said. She looked away as Titus started to trace his hand up Sophia's bare calves. She made no noise of protest and instead just smirked at her friend.
"Is that what we were doing? I barely remember," Sophia laughed.
"I'll do it," Harry said as he sipped the calvados.
"Do what?" Gabrielle asked.
"I'll rub your feet," he shrugged. "If they hurt."
"That's alright," Gabrielle said quietly. She brought her wine to her lips and sipped it. "They're fine."
"It's no problem I don't mind," Harry said sitting before her. Gabrielle blushed and pressed her knees together tightly.
"No I'm fine," she said meekly as Harry picked up her right foot and held it in his hands for a moment. He kneaded it gently in his hands. Gabrielle tensed at the contact but that only lasted for a moment or two. She closed her eyes and let herself get lost in the sensation, letting her body relax into the touch.
She whimpered when he stopped for a drink. But that reminded her that she also had wine she needed to drink. She brought her glass to her lips and sipped it as his hands shifted to her left foot and he continued.
She frowned when he took his hand from her foot to refill their alcohol. But that resulted in more alcohol so it wasn't entirely unpleasant. She let him continue for three glasses of wine. Her vision was a little bleary when she opened her eyes in the now too-warm room. She couldn't help but smile down at Harry as he let go of her feet.
"Better?" he whispered.
"Uh-huh," she nodded. "Where did you learn that?"
"Nowhere. I just did what feels good when the trainer does it," Harry shrugged.
"Mmm, well thank you," Gabrielle said, doing her best to ignore the warmth spreading through her, and the jelly feeling of her legs after his ministrations.
"Any time," he laughed, taking another sip of his calvados. She turned her attention away from Harry kneeling before her, pushing the thought of what she wanted him to do to her from her head, wondering why Mathieu never forced those thoughts to the forefront of her imagination.
But that didn't help, because she just saw Titus and Sophia on the couch. She'd rolled onto her back, her gown was at waist level and his hand was resting rather high up her thigh and she smiled adoringly at him. Gabrielle frowned and looked back to Harry as he finished his drink and poured himself some more.
"Should we maybe give them some privacy?" Gabrielle asked, turning her gaze back to Sophia and Titus.
"They seem fine," Harry shrugged. But a moment later Sophia shifted up into Titus's lap and kissed him. Harry and Gabrielle both watched with a drunken curiosity as they kissed. Eventually Sophia fell backwards, off the couch and into the decorative white snow around the Christmas tree. Her legs wrapped around him and their kissing grew deeper.
"Uhm," Gabrielle whispered meekly.
"Maybe we should give them some space," Harry nodded and stood. He wobbled a bit but far less than Gabrielle did when she rose. She giggled a bit as a rather pleasurable sounding noise came from Sophia in the snow, followed by the sound of fabric being ripped apart. Gabrielle scampered to the door. Harry followed but not before refilling his drink.
"So where's your room," he asked as they stepped outside of the classroom.
"On the third floor," Gabrielle said. "We are not going there."
"How's that work here?" he asked. Gabrielle figured he meant the sleeping arrangements.
"Six to a room. Randomly assigned but often you seem to wind up with your friends. Always three older girls and three younger girls to help out. Usually by year, so seventh get first and sixth get second and so on," Gabrielle said.
"Sounds weird," Harry said.
"Well the older ones are supposed to show them the ropes and what not. More responsibility the older you get."
"You aren't being very responsible right now," Harry smirked.
"I am not," Gabrielle giggled. "It feels oddly good."
"I know, it's why I broke so many rules," Harry said.
"So why did you come here for real?" Gabrielle asked.
"I wanted to give you your Christmas gift," Harrys said.
"You could have mailed it," Gabrielle responded.
"And I wanted to see you," Harry admitted.
"Well that's very nice of you," Gabrielle said. "It is always good to see you."
"And you," Harry smiled at her. "I missed you."
"Oh, I highly doubt that," Gabrielle smirked. "I hear you're with that team doctor for Ballycastle."
"No Katie and I got into a fight we're not dating anymore," Harry said.
"I am sorry," Gabrielle said.
"It's fine," Harry shrugged. "We weren't really having fun so it was for the best. We both realized we were really more like friends than anything else."
"I see," Gabrielle said, the words stuck in her head as she thought of her own situation.
"Anyway, I was going to give you a gift!" Harry said, probably too loudly for the current situation. Gabrielle winced against the nose as Harry dug into his pockets. "If I can find it."
"Hopefully you didn't leave it in the classroom," Gabrielle said quietly. They stopped walking through the halls as he looked. Gabrielle turned her attention to a portrait of an oddly adorable horned camel that somehow always made her smile.
"I didn't," Harry said as he pulled a small wrapped box out of his pocket and offered it to her. The wrapping paper was rather crumpled from the general wear of being in his pocket.
"I feel bad I did not get you anything," Gabrielle said as she took it.
"I have way too much stuff as is. I wouldn't worry about it," Harry said. Gabrielle nodded, knowing that was true. She slowly started to peel off the paper and off of it. She vanished it once it was off and opened the box.
Inside as a simple silver charm bracelet. He'd affixed a snitch, ballet shoes, a falcon, and a magic wand to it, leaving plenty of room for growth on the silver links.
"It's beautiful," Gabrielle said, lifting it from the box and examining it in the dim light of the hallway.
"I'm glad you like it," Harry said.
"Put it on?" Gabrielle asked, holding it up to him. He took it from her and she turned her presented her wrist to him. It took him a few moments of fumbling with the clasp before he managed to affix it. She smiled down and shook out her wrist once it was on.
"It looks good," Harry said, looking up at her. He wasn't sure exactly when he wound up mere inches from her.
"It does," Gabrielle said, she lifted her eyes and looked into his. She pressed her lips together and stared at him and everything froze. Harry stared at her and she stared back. And then he leaned to her and kissed her and she kissed him back.
He lifted her up against the wall and kept kissing her. Gabrielle pressed herself back to him. She lost herself in the sensations, in his body against hers, in his warmth on her. She started to ache for him, she wanted nothing more than him in that moment. And then, it all clicked in her head.
"Stop stop stop stop stop," she whispered against his kisses.
"Why?" he whispered back, his breath hot on her lips.
"Because you are drunk," Gabrielle said. "And stupid. Why didn't you just have me in Falmouth? I'd have spent Christmas with you. We could have done this daily. More than daily. Why like this?"
"I'm fine," Harry whispered.
"No," Gabrielle said. "If you were. You would not be doing this. It is like you said before. The timing isn't right."
"But I want you," Harry said.
"You won't even remember this. And I do not want you to wake up with me and not remember it," Gabrielle said.
"But," Harry said.
"No," Gabrielle shook her head, fighting against every fiber of herself that simply ached for him and wanted nothing more than to let him. But it was wrong. She knew it was wrong. She knew she would regret it.
"But," Harry said again.
"Put me down, Harry," Gabrielle said. Harry set her down on the ground.
"Okay," he said.
"I am going to go to bed," Gabrielle said. "You should go back to your hotel and get some sleep."
"I want to stay," Harry said.
"No," Gabrielle shook her head. "Go rest. Come back when I graduate." She slipped away from him and walked back toward her dormitory, doing everything in her power to not look over her shoulder at him for fear that her resolve would break.
"That so never happened," Harry said, blushing furiously and staring down at her.
"I told you that you were too drunk to remember it," Gabrielle said.
"When did you know?" Harry asked.
"When you didn't remember giving me the charm bracelet. And when you didn't try to sleep with me after graduation," Gabrielle said.
"Would that have worked?" Harry asked.
"No. But it's still a fun thought," Gabrielle said.
"I'm positive Titus doesn't remember sleeping with Sophia," Harry said.
"He is lucky. She tried to baby trap him," Gabrielle said. "She was very upset when she got her period."
"Are you serious?" Harry laughed. "That would not have worked on Titus."
"Sure it would have. He would have paid his way out of anything," Gabrielle said.
"You might have a point there," Harry sighed.
"I know," Gabrielle said. "I do have one question though."
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"I overheard you with Cora. You said you realized while at the Christmas party just who you wanted. What was it that made you realize it?" Gabrielle asked.
"It was when I realized that I never had fun with Daphne, and I wasn't having fun with Katie. And I could only think of one person I actually wanted to be at the party with. So I resolved myself to go see her at school when we had an exhibition in France," Harry said.
"And yet you doubt it happened," Gabrielle smiled against his chest.
"No, I was just hoping we could ignore how awful and drunk I was," Harry said. "I'm really sorry that I ever thought that was a good idea."
"It was a good idea," Gabrielle smiled. "It made me realize that I really wanted you. It made me understand how you could reject me at the end of that summer. It made me realize a lot about timing. For a while I thought our timing would always be wrong. And then you walked into that bar during our party. And suddenly it was all right."
"I knew you were there," Harry admitted. "Fay told me the afterparty was there in case I wanted to congratulate you in person. I didn't mean to level you going into the doorway, but I'm rather glad I almost did."
"Me too," Gabrielle said. "Merry Christmas, my love."
"Merry Christmas, Ma bien-aimée."