This one’s a commission for Darkened Void. I hope you all enjoy it and if you do get the chance to thank him, please do!
A soft glow rose from Fleur, hovering over the coiled braid of her hair like a halo. She spun to the music of the last dance in the soft dusk, all in white, laughing, flashes of pearly teeth and bright, shining blue eyes as she twirled.
She looks like an angel. A little smile tugged at the corner of Harry’s lips, sweet as the sharp edge of the knife twisting beneath his ribs.
Grinning, Bill drew Fleur into a long kiss. Her fingers slid to his shoulder, curling into his clothes as he pulled her into him. Ginny cheered and whistled from the far side, her bright red hair burst in rebellious strands from her bridesmaid’s braid, hanging over the shoulders of her pale blue dress.
Mr Weasley’s eyes caught Harry’s past the kissing couple, flicking to the lightning bolt scar on his forehead, and his smile wilted. The music faded as the wedding dissolved into small conversations and dancing couples.
One day. Maybe. Harry slipped away through the crowd to take a seat at the furthest table, staring down into the gleaming silver blade of the fish knife.
Between green eyes and thin metal frames, the raw red mark upon his forehead cut a jagged line through scattered thoughts of white dresses and long kisses.
But not now. I’m just a danger to be around until Voldemort’s gone.
‘Pourquoi est-ce que tu es là?’ Gabrielle strode through the crowd, the white petals of Fleur’s bouquet fluttering in her hand and the daisies woven in her gold braid trembling. ‘Ce n’est pas là que tu es censé être.’
‘My French is really really bad, Gabrielle,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what you’re saying.’
She thrust the bouquet at him and pointed at the crowd, pursing her rose lips, little creases marring her forehead. ‘Nous sommes censés être là-bas.’
Harry studied the delicate roses, heat creeping onto his cheeks. ‘They’re very nice?’
The lines on Gabby’s brow deepened and she muttered a stream of French under her breath as the flush rose on Harry’s face. She waved her bouquet at the seat. ‘Reste ici, je reviens dans un instant et je vais te faire comprendre.’
Gabrielle turned on her heel and strode off into the crowd, striding across the smooth lawn in pastel blue heels. A stray daisy floated free from her braid, tumbling down the curve of her neck to her shoulder and bouncing off the river-blue silk to vanish into the grass.
‘Where’s Hermione when you need her?’ Harry muttered, peering through the crowd. ‘Or anyone that speaks French.’
Hermione berated Ron by the table on the far side, waving her hands in the air as he shrank back from the elegant tower of macarons, red-faced and sheepish. She shook her head, a familiar exasperated smile on her face, and dragged Ron away behind Ginny and the Twins.
‘Of course.’ He snorted. ‘I suppose Ron does need more chaperoning than I do.’
Charlie and Percy split up, backstepping apart, and Gabrielle strode through the pair of them, tugging a smiling Fleur after her with one hand and clutching a fistful of yellow and pink macarons in the other.
Oh no. Harry’s heart sank. Gabrielle what have you done? Today is meant to be nothing to do with me.
Gabrielle came to a halt at the corner of the table and thrust the bouquet at Harry. ‘Traduis pour moi, Fleur. Il ne comprend pas ce que je dis et je ne parle pas anglais.’
An indulgent smile hovered on Fleur’s lips. ‘My little sister decided she was in need of a translator, Harry.’ She glanced down at Gabrielle as Harry winced from the stab of guilt. ‘Ne t’ ai-je pas dit qu’apprendre l’anglais serait une bonne idée, Gabby? N’aurais-tu pas aimé m’écouter au lieu d’être si têtue?’
‘Non.’ Gabrielle’s frown turned to a scowl, her eyes narrowing. The dark pupil shifted as thin and slit as a hawk’s within the bright blue of her irises and a little shiver ran up Harry’s spine. ‘Je n’abandonnerai pas les choses comme toi. Je suis qui je suis. Je suis comme je suis.’
‘Gabrielle.’ Fleur’s smile faded a fraction. ‘Ne discutons pas de cela. J’ai fait mon choix et c’était à moi de le faire.’
Harry’s heart quickened, anxiety roiled in his chest. What are they saying?
A faint pout curved Gabby’s lips and her pupils softened back to dark circles. ‘Bien. Il suffit donc de traduire.’
‘Qu’aimerais-tu que je dise?’ Fleur asked. ‘Tu pourrais commencer par te présenter, peut-être?’
‘Dis-lui qu’il n’est pas censé être assis seul. Il est censé être là-bas. Avec tout le monde.’ Gabrielle took a bite out of a pink macaron and pointed the bouquet back across toward the conversations at the centre of the tables. ‘Ce n’est pas ainsi que les choses sont censées être.’
Fleur reached across and tugged the macarons out of Gabrielle’s fingers. ‘These are meant to be for later, Gabby.’ She sighed, the indulgent little smile playing on her lips. ‘Harry, my little sister thinks you should be over there with all of us and not sitting here by yourself. She does have a point, even if she is being a spoilt little brat about it.’
Gabrielle stuffed the last half of her pink macaron in her mouth. ‘Qu’as-tu dit, Fleur ? Tu lui as dit ce qu’il est censé faire?’
‘J l’ai fait.’ Fleur straightened Gabrielle’s braid, tucking escaping daisies back into place within the weave of gold and smiling. ‘Harry, while it is up to you if you want to be here or there, I can assure you that Gabby is not going to change her mind about where she thinks you should be and she will not relent until you are where she feels you should be.’ She stacked the macarons back into the tower on the table. ‘I apologise, Gabby is used to getting her way and very determined that that never changes.’
‘That’s okay,’ Harry said, avoiding Gabrielle’s piercing stare and studying the fluttering roses in the bouquet. ‘I was trying to stay out of the way, but it seems to have had the opposite effect.’
‘Qu’a-t-il dit, Fleur?’ Gabrielle demanded, furrowing her brow. ‘Est-ce qu’il va là où il est censé être?’
‘You are going to do as Gabby commands, Harry?’ Fleur shot a fond look at her sister. ‘If I tell her you will and you do not, she will berate us both.’
‘Alright.’ He stood up. ‘I’ll go back to where Gabby thinks I should be. Sorry you ended up getting dragged over to me in the middle of your wedding, Fleur.’
‘Gabby?’ Gabrielle beamed, pointing the bouquet at her chest. ‘Il parlait de moi?’
‘Do not worry, Harry. I do not mind. I am used to Gabby throwing her little tantrums.’ Fleur laughed and patted her sister on the head. ‘Oui, Gabby. Et il vient pour rejoindre tout le monde. Tu as eu ce que tu voulais.’
Harry glanced at Fleur’s little smile and down to where Gabby beamed beside her shoulder. ‘Okay, I’m going, I’m going.’ He side-stepped Gabby and strode back across to join Hermione and Ron, wagging his finger. ‘Have you been stealing macarons, Ronald?’
Ron glowered, the tips of his ears turning red. ‘Fleur’s sister pointed me at them and I thought it was okay.’
‘Gabrielle doesn’t speak English, Ron.’ Hermione sighed and rolled her eyes. ‘If you’re going to try and blame someone, at least blame someone believable.’
Harry chuckled. ‘I think she used you as a decoy, Ron. She stole a handful herself.’
‘Ha!’ Ron turned a smug grin on Hermione. ‘Now who’s right.’
‘Still not you.’ She pointed at the table. ‘Because they’re still not meant to be eaten until later.’
Ron scowled. ‘Can’t ever bloody win with you.’
Harry laughed. ‘Mate, you spend so much time starting and losing these arguments I’m starting to think you enjoy it.’
Ron’s ear’s reddened. ‘I do not.’
Hermione coughed and turned away. ‘Doesn’t Ginny look beautiful, Harry?’
‘That sounds like a trap,’ he said. ‘So I’m going to pretend you said Fleur, as she’s the bride and we should all be admiring her beauty today and say yes, Fleur looks stunning.’
‘Have it your way, Harry,’ Hermione replied. ‘I think Ginny looks very nice in that dress, even if blue isn’t her best colour.’
‘Doesn’t quite work with her hair as well as black or white,’ Harry said. ‘But you can’t really wear those colours as a bridesmaid and I’m pretty sure Fleur chose it with Gabby in mind anyway.’
Hermione blinked. ‘Gabrielle?’
‘Yeah.’ He recalled the indulgent little smile on Fleur’s lips and laughed. ‘Or maybe Gabby chose it with herself in mind. She’s kind of spoilt. She demanded I come back over here.’
‘You speak French?’ Ron asked. ‘Since when, mate?’
‘Since never.’ Harry shrugged. ‘Gabby decided that the bride had no better things to do at her wedding than translate for her younger sister and dragged her over to translate for her.’
Hermione wrinkled her nose. ‘That’s kind of horrible.’
‘Yeah, I felt a bit bad for Fleur, though she didn’t seem to mind too much, so I came back over.’
‘You shouldn’t have been being all moody over there anyway.’ Hermione’s eyes softened. ‘Even if it’s understandable, this is a day to enjoy before everything else comes back.’
Harry caught a glimpse of Ginny dancing with Bill between two tables, swaying around chairs with a bright grin. Fleur watched, confiscating pink macarons from Gabby’s hands and shaking her head.
‘I was trying to let everyone enjoy it,’ he murmured. ‘One look at my face and everyone suddenly remembers everything else.’
Hermione’s lips twisted. ‘We’ll leave tomorrow, Harry. And we will find a way. Dumbledore left us what he thought we’d need and we can do it.’
Ron grunted. ‘Yeah. If you can kill a bloody gigantic snake as a kid, you can manage a treasure hunt. Just have to do it as fast as we can without getting caught. No sense in giving up before we start, Harry.’
‘Yeah.’ A little warmth welled up as he watched Ginny laugh and shove one of the Twins back over a chair. ‘I’ve not given up, mate. Just want it to be over, you know. To get on with all the stuff I actually want one day.’
Little Victoire bawled and squirmed, waving her chubby fists at Bill and wailing. Her cries echoed back off the ceiling of the hall past the scatter of chairs to him and the chatter of the family burbled beneath her distress as they huddled in pairs around her.
‘She’s really not very happy about this whole christening thing,’ Harry murmured, glancing to his left. ‘Cute baby, though.’
An empty chair sat on the floor beside him
Oh. A little pang twisted beneath his ribs. Got bored of me again, did you?
Harry ran his eyes over the huddle. Ginny wriggled between Mrs Weasley and Bill, cooing over Victoire’s little striped socks as they hung half off her kicking feet. Fleur rested her head on Bill’s shoulder, her blue eyes wide and brimming with adoration as she lifted wriggling Victoire into her arms and hummed until the baby calmed.
A little smile crept onto his face. One day. His elbow brushed the cold, metal arm of the empty chair next to him and his cheer dwindled. Maybe.
Harry lifted himself up from the seat and drifted out into the sun.
Gentle light fell over the neat grass to the wild hedge and the wood beyond, a mottle of green and brown and shadow tangling into the distance. A pair of ducks floated upon the small river beside the church, followed by a cluster of bobbing ducklings as they paddled into the reeds.
How is it so easy for everyone? He sighed and pulled off his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Even bloody ducks.
‘What are you doing out here?’ Hermione stepped alongside him, a knowing glint in her eye. ‘Just catching some air?’
‘No.’ Harry slipped his glasses back on. ‘I think I’m going to head off.’
She rested her hands on her hips. ‘Harry…’
‘Hermione…’ He put his hands on his hips, looking down his nose at her. ‘What?’
‘Why?’ Harry tried to smooth out the knot of feeling and tug its thread apart into some words. ‘I guess I don’t really feel like I should be here.’
‘Where else do you belong, if not here?’ Hermione asked. ‘All your friends and family are here.’
Good question. He watched ducklings hop up the bank and disappear into the rustling reeds. Very good question.
‘Do you think I could make a pond at Grimmauld?’ Harry asked. ‘I think I’d quite like a pond. Throw some fish in there, maybe some nice plants. I don’t know, irises, lilies too, I guess.’
‘You’ve got all the money and space you could need,’ she said. ‘If you want a pond, you can have a pond.’
‘I think it’d be nice. I could sit beside it in the morning and drink coffee, or wine in the evening.’ Harry smiled. ‘Feed the fish a bit. Sounds peaceful.’
Hermione’s lips pursed. ‘Sounds lonely.’
‘That’s what the fish are for. Otherwise I’d be drinking all that wine by myself.’
‘Fish are nice,’ she said. ‘Not quite as good at conversation as people, though.’
He mustered a smile. ‘I can’t keep people in a pond, Hermione. I’d get arrested. Rita Skeeter would write an entire magazine on it.’ Harry adopted a thoughtful expression. ‘I could buy some ornaments, though. Those small animated stone frogs or something.’
‘Have you tried meeting anyone?’
‘Frog salesman?’ He shook his head. ‘I’ve only just now had the idea about the pond.’
‘I heard Susan Bones ask after you the other day at work.’
‘I think Ginny would object.’ He managed a faint smile. ‘Susan Bones definitely doesn’t sell frog ornaments, not unless I’m very wrong about what’s so interesting down the front of those tight dresses.’
‘Would Ginny really object?’ Hermione murmured. ‘I know you know about him.’
‘No, she probably wouldn’t care at all.’ Harry sighed. ‘We never officially got back together after it all. Your soon-to-be mother-in-law just keeps sitting us next to each other in some kind of unquenchable optimism.’
Hermione’s eyes dropped to the ring on her hand. ‘Yes, I did mention that. Fleur did, too.’
‘Molly’s quite stubborn.’ He patted his pockets down until he found his wand. ‘I’m going to head—’
‘Que fais-tu ici?’ Gabby shoved the door open and stepped in between them, turning her back to Hermione. ‘Tout le monde est à l’intérieur. Je suis à l’intérieur. Tu es censé être là-bas avec nous et Victoire. Tu dois passer du temps avec Victoire ou elle ne saura pas qui tu es.’
Hermione slipped back inside.
‘Wait…’ Harry sighed. ‘Now how am I meant to know what she’s saying, Hermione?’
Gabby pointed inside. ‘Reviens avec moi.’ A small frown creased her forehead. ‘En fait, non, nous sommes sur le point de partir pour déjeuner, n’est-ce pas? Nous devrions plutôt partir devant. De cette façon, je peux m’assurer que tu te retrouves là où tu es censé être.’
Heat rose in Harry’s face. ‘Er…’
‘Allons-y.’ She held out her arm and stared him in the eye.
Harry eyed her elbow. ‘Do you mean…?’
‘Pourquoi n’as-tu pas encore appris à parler français?’ She reached out and took his arm. ‘Fleur sera là plus tard. Elle pourra traduire pour que tu comprennes .’
The river and the woods jerked sideways and Harry stumbled forward into a small entrance hall.
‘Voilà.’ Gabby pointed through the first door. ‘Nous serons tous là-dedans. Allons voir qui est censé être assis où.’
Harry glanced down at their linked arms and up at Gabby.
‘Quoi?’ She stared back with bright, river-blue eyes. ‘Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas?’
He flushed and slipped his arm free of hers. ‘Sorry.’
Gabby’s pupils shivered into slim slits and softened back into dark circles. ‘Allez.’
That’s weird. The hairs prickled on the back of Harry’s neck. How’s she doing that? I’ve never seen Fleur do that.
She stalked down the corridor, her red heels clicking on the hardwood floor, and swept into the first room. Harry threw a quick look around. Vivid oil paintings hung on the white walls between dark wooden beams and the hardwood floored corridor stretched down to a flat white wall.
‘I assume this is where we were meant to be having lunch?’ Harry muttered. ‘That or I’ve been kidnapped by a girl a head shorter than me.’
I’ve not been properly kidnapped since Fourth Year. A strange, wry nostalgia settled on him. I don’t see a giant cauldron or a snake, though. Probably for the best, that would ruin lunch.
Gabby leant around the door and scowled, beckoning him forward. ‘Pourquoi es-tu toujours là? Viens ici. Nous devons réorganiser les choses.’
Harry hurried down and into the room.
‘Merci beaucoup.’ She beamed, sticking the tip of her tongue through her white teeth, humour sparkling in her blue eyes. ‘Tu agis déjà comme tu devrais le faire.’
Harry caught her gaze and a chuckle burst from him. ‘I have no idea what you’re saying, Gabby.’ A soft smile crept onto his lips. ‘But I’m glad I managed to make you happy.’
A large round table stood in a well-lit, high-ceilinged room. Clear wine glasses and white serviettes rested upon a white tablecloth, and small white cards with dark letters sat before every seat.
Harry pushed his glasses up his nose and stepped closer to the nearest seat. Bill Weasley. He glanced at the next little card. Victoire Weasley.
Gabby strolled around the table, picking up cards one-by-one. ‘Tiens-les, Harry.’ She waved her handful of cards at him. ‘J’ai besoin de mes mains libres pour réfléchir.’
He held out his palm.
‘Merci.’ She placed the stack in his hand with a sweet smile and wandered around the table, humming under her breath. ‘Ronald?’
Harry shuffled the cards until he found Ron’s, holding it out.
‘Hermione?’ Gabby took them both and set them down. ‘Charlie et Percy?’
He supplied them, spreading the cards out on his hand as she swept back and forth from him to the seats.
‘Ginny.’ Gabby stuck out her hand with a small frown.
‘Maybe… not next to me, this time?’
She snatched the card and tossed it upside down before the seat nearest the door. ‘Elle peut aller là-bas, à l’écart.’
Harry passed her the last few and watched Gabby rearrange things with a grin on her face, poking the tip of her tongue through her teeth as she bustled back and forth. A faint smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as she bounced back and forth, murmuring to herself in French.
She seems to be enjoying herself.
‘C’est mieux.’ Gabby hooked a few wisps of gold hair off her face with a finger and surveyed the table with a broad smirk, swapping the two in front of her. ‘Beaucoup mieux. Harry, je t’ai mis ici, à côté de moi, au lieu de Ginevra. Et Fleur est maintenant à côté de moi, donc elle peut traduire.’
‘Did you just rearrange the entire table, Gabby?’ He frowned. ‘Won’t someone mind that?’
‘Tu t’es souvenu que je suis Gabby.’ She beamed and picked up the card in front of her, waving his name at him. ‘Viens t’asseoir.’ Gabby pulled the chair out. ‘Fleur sera bientôt là, ils viennent juste de remettre les chaussettes de Victoire. Elle va pouvoir traduire.’
‘Okay…’ Harry edged round and sat. ‘Where are you—’
She dropped into the chair beside him and tucked the card into the front of her dress as a series of loud cracks echoed down the corridor. ‘Elles sont ici.’
Molly poked her head around the door. ‘Oh, there you are, Harry. I thought we might have left you behind.’
‘No, we got here just ahead of you,’ Harry said. ‘I was outside planning for my new pond when Gabby came out and we decided to go on ahead.’
Well, Gabby decided. He recalled the indulgent little gleam in Fleur’s eyes and a faint smile crept onto his lips. I just did as ordered.
Molly pottered around the table and dropped into a seat, checking the cards either side of her. ‘Arthur you’re here next to me. Ronald—’ she tugged out the seat on her left ‘—you’re also next to me.’
Ron groaned. ‘How did that happen? Hermione, did you swap the names back?’
Hermione shook her head. ‘They’re all in the wrong spots, but it doesn’t matter too much. I just put everyone wherever.’
‘Wasn’t me,’ Harry said, raising his hands. ‘Promise.’
Gabby shot him a sharp glance, hawk-pupiled, her eyes piercing right through him to some point just between his eyes. ‘Tu leur as dit que j’avais tout déplacé ?’
‘Non.’ Fleur drifted around to settle Victoire into the seat between her and Bill with a few hovering charms and a murmur. ‘Mais maintenant je sais qui a déplacé les noms, Gabby. Tu sais que ce n’est pas comme ça que les choses fonctionnent, petite sœur.’
‘C’est comme ça que ça marche. C’est comme ça que ça doit se passer.’
Harry glanced between them.
‘Do not worry, Harry.’ Fleur smiled. ‘I was just telling Gabby that you had not given her secret away.’
‘Oh.’ He shot her half a grin. ‘Sorry, I probably should’ve stopped Gabby, but she seemed happy.’
Fleur threw her head back and laughed. ‘She would not have been stopped, I promise. There would only have been a tantrum until we let her have her way.’
‘Fleur qu’est-ce que tu dis ?’ Gabby pouted at her sister. ‘As-tu vu qu’il se souvient de m’appeler Gabby et non Gabrielle ?’
Fleur rolled her eyes. ‘Tu es très têtue, Gabby.’
‘C’est ainsi que les choses fonctionnent. Tous les autres sont deus par deux, nous sommes donc la seule paire restante.’
Harry felt the warmth rise on his face, anxiety gnawing at his stomach. ‘Did I do something to upset her, Fleur?’
‘No.’ She shook her head. ‘Gabby feels that since everyone else here is paired up, that you are her company for these family occasions. She is pleased you remembered to call her Gabby and not Gabrielle.’
‘Oh. So we’re like the leftover table.’ Harry snorted. ‘Ginny can come join us. And the Twins. I’d say Charlie, but I’ve been told he might be romantically entangled with a dragon.’
‘I think Gabby feels the Twins already count as a pair.’ Fleur lowered her voice. ‘And Gabby and Ginny do not get on very well.’
‘That’s okay, if I’m here, Ginny will avoid us like the plague,’ Harry murmured. ‘I think she’s hoping if she pretends I don’t exist for long enough, I’ll actually disappear.’
Fleur’s smile faded a touch. ‘At least my little sister’s meddling has stopped Molly sitting you next to each other.’ She straightened the shoulders of Gabby’s azure dress, smoothing her sister’s golden hair behind her ears. ‘And, between us, I am not very impressed with how Ginny behaves around you.’
‘Pourquoi parlez-vous de Ginny?’ Gabby demanded. ‘Elle est enfin de l’autre côté de la table.’
‘Je disais juste que nous n’aimons pas la façon dont elle a agi, petite sœur.’
‘C’est qu’une sale pute,’ Gabby muttered. ‘Mais elle verra. Tout se passera comme prévu. J’ai la foi.’
Harry raised an eyebrow.
Fleur smiled. ‘Gabby agrees with me. She does not think it is very nice to pretend you are not here.’
‘I don’t mind her having moved on and having her own life.’ Harry risked a glance across the table. ‘Michael Corner seems okayish, too.’
‘You are not the problem, Harry.’ Fleur turned to Gabby. ‘Veux-tu lui dire quelque chose? Je traduirai pendant que nous attendons et que Victoire est calme.’
‘Dis-lui qu’il est censé venir se promener dans les jardins avec moi par la suite. Nous allons sortir Victoire, afin qu’il puisse apprendre à connaître sa nièce.’
Harry peeked past Gabby and Fleur at where Victoire stared around the room at all the faces, a toothless smile on her face. ‘She seems happy.’
‘She likes having people around.’ A soft smile lit up Fleur’s face. ‘Gabby wants to take Victoire out for a walk in the garden between the main course and dessert. You are welcome to go with her if you would like to. Gabby has invited you.’ She raised a finger. ‘Be warned, though, Harry. Gabby will almost certainly demand you carry my little Victoire for her.’
He laughed. ‘I’ll do as I’m told. Victoire’s not all that heavy-looking. Better than being in here watching Ginny pretend I don’t exist.’ A dull ache sprang up in his breast. ‘That’s actually not much fun at all.’
Fleur’s expression softened. ‘I am sorry. She is not being fair.’
‘Qu’a-t-il dit, Fleur?’ Gabby demanded. ‘Pourquoi fais-tu ce visage triste?’
‘Ne t’inquiète pas, Gabby. Il viendra avec toi. Il a dit oui. C’est elle qui le rend triste, pas toi.’
She beamed, poking her tongue through her teeth. ‘Bon. Je savais qu’il dirait oui.’
Harry caught Fleur’s eye. ‘You’re sure she doesn’t mind, Fleur?’
‘She is pleased you said yes,’ Fleur replied. ‘And not just because she can make you carry Victoire. You are, in her mind, her—’ she hummed ‘—companion for these little gatherings.’
A faint smile flitted across his face. ‘She wants someone to order around and talk French at so she doesn’t get bored, does she?’
‘Of course. And it cannot be me forever.’ Fleur tucked her little sister’s hair back behind her ear. ‘Rien ne rendra Gabby plus heureuse que de lui accorder ton attention, même si tu ne comprends pas un mot qu’elle dit, n’est-ce pas, Gabby?’
A huge grin spread across Gabby’s face. ‘Et rien ne le rendra plus heureux que de me rendre heureux. C’est ainsi que les choses sont censées être.’
Four gnomes dragged away a large, animated frog statue by each of its wriggling limbs, yanking back from the edge of the pond to the sound of frantic croaking.
Well, that’s not gone well. Harry watched them tug it into their burrow with a wry smile. I wonder what they’re going to do with it?
‘You didn’t want to maybe stop them?’ Ginny strode across the lawn, her arms folded across her chest. ‘Someone’s going to have to get that back now.’
‘Hello, stranger,’ Harry replied. ‘And no, I feel like it’s someone else’s turn to leap to the rescue this time. It’s just a frog. I have loads if your Mum fancies another one.’
Ginny scowled. ‘It’s your own fault you’re not interesting to be around. It’s like you’re still living in the past, moping and brooding about as if another war is about to kick off. The only thing we ever had in common was Voldemort.’
‘Thanks, Ginny.’ He shot her a flat look. ‘Not quite sure what that has to do with the frog.’
‘Whatever.’ She drew herself up. ‘Michael’s coming today. I’m going to introduce him to Mum and Dad. You can stick about if you want, but don’t get all oversensitive just because we’re done and I’m with someone else all of a sudden.’
All of a sudden? He smothered a mirthless chuckle. It’s been a year since you started seeing him.
Harry inspected his thumbnail. ‘Does this mean you’ve finally told your Mum we’re not getting back together? The seating arrangements are getting a little bit repetitive.’
Fire flashed in her eyes and she tossed her red ponytail over her shoulder. ‘You don’t fucking do anything, Harry. I’m not sixteen anymore, I’m not impressed by you playing quidditch or—’
‘Saving your life, your brother’s life, your father’s life, your friends’ lives.’ Harry shrugged. ‘I know. But let’s not pretend me still being me is the problem, Gin. I’ve not changed. You’re just desperate to run away to some new life now.’
Ginny balled her fists. ‘At least I have a life. You don’t even have a job. I want a proper guy to depend on, someone who’s going to go and do something, not just always talking about how they feel and expecting me to listen.’
‘Not to be too much of a dick about it, but I’m pretty bloody rich, Ginevra,’ he said. ‘I don’t actually need a job and I don’t really want to do things I don’t enjoy.’
‘Oh rub it in.’ Two pink blotches hovered on her cheek. ‘Rich, famous Harry Potter doesn’t need to do anything, so he doesn’t, and that’s why he’s so boring.’
A little heat rose onto Harry’s tongue. ‘That and you seem to think exciting is getting shagged behind a tree in Hogsmeade these days. Flattering photos in Teen Witch Weekly, though. Thought I saw a little bit of red hair behind that tree and Corner’s horrified face.’
She flushed. ‘That’s not me with Michael. And that was months ago.’
‘Sure it’s not.’ He laughed. ‘You know that everyone already knows about you and Corner. We have for ages. Well, everyone except your Mum.’
‘Fuck off.’ Ginny’s face burnt red. ‘Why didn’t anyone say anything then? You’re bullshitting.’
‘Why didn’t we come to talk to you about it?’ Harry offered her a sweet smile. ‘I think it’s because we found your little escapades boring.’
‘Fuck you.’ She stormed off.
I think I preferred the ignoring phase. He sighed. And I guess it’s true, I’m not really doing anything with my life.
A solitary tree spread dead branches on the rise above the pond, white as bone before the blue sky. Soft melancholy swallowed him up like thick, cool winter fog; he poked a small stone down the bank with his toe and watched it sink through the water into the gloom.
Maybe I just already did the only thing I was meant to do with my life. It was an important thing, at least. Better than nothing.
The gnomes peered at him from the burrow, their eyes glinting from the dark.
‘I’ll trade you the frog for Ginny,’ he said. ‘Or for Michael Corner.’
They scuttled into the gloom of the burrow.
‘Okay, how about you keep the frog and take them both?’ A humourless snort escaped him. ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t take that deal either.’
A series of loud cracks rang out across the garden.
The Weasley family huddled together about the scatter of benches and chairs on their patio. Fleur’s silver hair flashed amidst the red as she hugged a glowing Hermione. Their chatter and laughter drifted across the lawn, distorted by the breeze, blending into the rustle of reeds.
But what am I meant to do if I’ve already done what I was meant to? Just hope the other things happen anyway?
‘Oi, Harry.’ Ron loped across the lawn, a sheepish look on his face. ‘Gather Gin-Gin decided to talk to you.’
‘How was it?’
‘It was great. We’re planning a wedding next summer.’
Ron winced. ‘That bad, huh.’
‘I’m not quite sure what’s so exciting about Michael Corner,’ Harry said. ‘But she’s far too determined to leave everything that happened a couple of years ago behind for us to ever work.’ A little of the heat flared back up. ‘Don’t see why she has to be so bitchy about it, though.’
‘She’s a bit of a bitch sometimes.’ Ron shrugged. ‘Still, though, she’s my sister, you know.’
‘She is?’ Harry clapped his hands to his mouth. ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me?’
‘You’re going to be like this all day now aren’t you?’ Ron groaned. ‘Bloody hell. Just try and not pick a fight, yeah. Gin’s spoiling for you to start something. She’s been on and on about how moody and angry you’ll be about it all morning.’
‘I bet.’ He crossed his arms. ‘If I’m all set up as the bad guy, she must be the good guy.’
Ron grimaced. ‘Something like that. You want to come say hi to Hermione? We’ve not seen you since she started to get all round.’
Harry stared across the lawn at where Fleur fussed over Victoire’s coat. ‘Yeah, sure. If I stay over here I’ll just make Ginny look right.’ He strode over, nodding at Bill, Charlie and Percy.
‘Harry!’ Hermione trundled out of the knot of Weasley’s. ‘How have you been?’ She squinted at him. ‘Have you been eating properly?’
‘I’ve been doing very well, actually.’ He mustered a smile. ‘I’ve been customising animated frog statues. I’ve given them little umbrellas that they put up when they detect the rain.’
She sighed. ‘And have you left your house?’
‘On at least one occasion. Are you practising mothering for in six month’s time? Or is this just force of habit?’
Hermione frowned at him. ‘Both. You look skinny.’
‘I am skinny,’ he said. ‘I’ve always been skinny.’
Victoire threw her striped, blue and white hat onto the grass and wailed.
‘Oh dear,’ Hermione murmured.
‘Sudden regrets?’ Harry scooped the hat back up and passed it to Fleur with a faint smile. ‘An impending sense of doom?’
‘Just a sort of fond resignation,’ she replied. ‘Whenever I start to worry, I just imagine Ron attempting to change a baby and it cheers me right up.’
‘That will be pensieve-worthy.’ He managed a grin. ‘Like when you told him you were expecting and he poured a whole bottle of wine into his lap.’
‘We really weren’t expecting it to happen so soon,’ Hermione said. ‘At least the wedding date is far enough back that I’ll have had the baby and won’t have to buy a completely new dress.’
Victoire’s hat flopped into the grass at his feet.
‘You’re going to get cold ears,’ Fleur said. ‘Only your Auntie Gabby is more stubborn than you, mon petit chou.’
Harry picked the hat back up and a huge smile spread across Victoire’s face, the first tips of teeth poking through her pink gums.
‘Oh I see.’ Fleur laughed. ‘You just want someone new to play with. Thank you, Harry.’
Harry set the hat back on Victoire’s head. ‘There you go.’
A small fist crept up and tugged it off, flinging it away into the grass.
The corners of Fleur’s mouth curved into a fond smile. ‘Do you mind keeping an eye on her for me, Harry? I need to pop inside to the toilet.’
‘Of course.’ Harry set the hat back down on Victoire’s head and took a seat on the bench, settling her on his lap and bouncing her on his legs until she giggled.
‘Not tempted to have your own one?’ Hermione asked.
‘My own midget?’ Harry patted her on the head. ‘I’ve still got you as my friend, don’t I? And you’re going to be bringing another midget to these little gatherings soon, too.’
‘One of these days, is it?’ She sighed. ‘Guess you talked with Ginny, then. I’m not looking forward to seeing Michael Corner turn up later. By all accounts he’s become quite unbearable now he’s been signed by a big team.’
‘Michael’s a very famous quidditch player.’ He wagged a finger at her. ‘You better treat him with the awe he deserves. I’ve never seen anyone pass water bottles from the bench with such speed and skill.’
Hermione smothered a laugh. ‘Yes, well. Do try and be nice, it’s not really his fault. I know Ginny’s not exactly gone out of her way to make this easy, but—’
‘I know, I know.’ Harry teased Victoire’s hat down over her eyes. ‘I’ll stay over here with Victoire. She’s much cuter than Ginny and she talks to me more.’ He tugged the hat up. ‘Peek-a-boo,’ he whispered in Victoire’s ear. ‘Look, that’s Hermione, your… aunt-in-law? I don’t know how this works, but you’re related somehow in a kind of complicated Weasley way.’
Victoire babbled and kicked her feet.
‘Yes, I know. It’s a silly name. Don’t worry, nobody else can pronounce it either. You should have heard her first boyfriend try.’
Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘Thanks, Harry.’
A loud crack rang out across the lawn and Michael Corner appeared, arm in arm with Ginny. She pressed herself to his side, ushering Molly, Arthur, and her brothers across.
‘Here go the fireworks,’ Hermione murmured. ‘Maybe I should…’
‘Go defuse?’ Harry snorted. ‘If you want.’ He straightened Victoire’s hat and bounced her on his leg. ‘We’re just fine, aren’t we mini-veela?’
Another loud crack echoed over the garden. Gabby’s eyes ran over the huddle of Weasley’s, lingering on where Ginny hung off Corner’s arm. Her pupils thinned to slits and she picked her way across the bumpy lawn with a frown.
‘Harry,’ Gabby said. ‘Pourquoi le sol est-il si cahoteux?’
‘Nice to see you again, Gabby.’ He waved Victoire’s hand at Gabby. ‘I don’t know about you, mini-veela, but I don’t speak any French, so I have no idea what that meant.’
‘Bonjour, petite Victoire.’ Gabby bent and kissed Victoire on the cheek, settling onto the bench beside him. ‘Tu n’as toujours pas appris à parler français, Harry. Comment es-tu censé me parler si tu ne connais pas le français?’ She pointed at the bumps in the lawn and stuck out one, red-heeled foot. ‘Et pourquoi c’est si accidenté? Je peux à peine marcher sur l’herbe. Nous ne pourrons pas nous promener avec Victoire cette fois-ci et j’espérais que cela t’aiderait à voir le destin.’
‘Oh.’ Harry laughed and pointed across the lawn to the burrow. ‘The gnomes, they tunnel under it. You might want to take those heels off.’
Gabby stared at the holes beside the pond. ‘Qu’est-ce que c’est? Gnomes de terriers? Pourquoi ne s’en sont-ils pas simplement débarrassés?’ She pursed her lips and studied her heels. ‘Ceux-ci sont chers, je n’ai pas vraiment envie de les transfigurer.’
‘Take them off?’ He mimed unstrapping them. ‘It’s just grass, nothing to worry about.’
‘Quoi?’ Gabby stared at him with a strange gleam in her river-blue eyes, twisting around and dropped her foot on his knee. ‘Le réparer pour moi?’
Victoire patted the red leather with one hand, tugging at the strap.
‘That’s right.’ Harry chuckled and nodded. ‘See, you understand me, Victoire. Clearly I should spend more time talking to you.’
‘Tu voulais dire les enlever et aller pieds nus.’ Gabby cocked her head. ‘Je suppose que je pourrais. Si je me blesse aux pieds, tu devras me porter, non?’ She pulled her foot back, slipping off her heels and tucking them under the bench. ‘Merci, Harry.’
The Weasleys vanished inside. Michael Corner’s loud laugh booming out from the kitchen.
What an annoying man. He bobbed Victoire up and down on his knee until she babbled and waved her hands in the air, a warm little glow settling on his heart at her delighted laughter. One day. His cheer faltered as Ginny’s fake laugh drifted from inside. Maybe.
‘Oh, Gabby, you made it on time after all.’ Fleur swept around his shoulder. ‘And I see she has found her companion, Harry. Are you ready to be commanded?’
‘It was Victoire or Michael Corner,’ Harry replied with a small smile. ‘And I think Gabby made the right choice, Victoire is a much better quidditch player already.’
Gabby pouted. ‘Fleur qu’est-ce que Harry a dit? Pourquoi c’est toi qu’il fait rire?’
‘Il a dit que tu avais pris la bonne décision de t’asseoir avec lui et Victoire au lieu de Michael Corner.’
‘Le copain de Ginevra? Le joueur stupide de quidditch avec toutes ces photos nues dans les magazines?’
‘Oui. Il est ennuyeux.’ Fleur bent and hoisted Victoire from Harry’s lap. ‘Viens voir maman, bébé.’
Victoire kicked and squirmed, reaching for Harry.
‘Okay then, you stay put,’ Fleur sat Victoire back on Harry’s leg and took a seat on a chair across from them. ‘She seems to like you a lot, Harry.’
‘I’m a good seat,’ he said.
‘Bien sûr que Victoire l’aime, il va être son oncle.’ Gabby beamed. ‘Nous allons nous asseoir avec Victoire, Fleur, et Harry va réaliser. Tu verras.’
‘Gabby…’ Fleur cupped her little sister’s cheek. ‘Tu sais que les choses ne fonctionnent pas vraiment comme ça. Tu vas devoir apprendre un peu d’anglais pour lui parler.’
‘Harry a besoin d’apprendre français pour pouvoir me parler. Et ça marchera. Comment cela pourrait-il ne pas fonctionner? Je suis là. Il est là. Victoire est avec nous deux. Bien sûr, il se rendra compte.’
Harry raised an eyebrow.
Fleur smiled. ‘Gabby thinks you should learn some French so the two of you can talk to each other without me translating.’
‘Sorry,’ Harry muttered. ‘I have nothing but free time, I’m just terrible at learning things.’
‘She is not going to change her mind about it, so it might be easier to learn a little bit.’ She smiled. ‘Although, Bill has not exactly managed to learn French very well either, his accent is terrible.’
‘Mine will probably be worse.’
‘Fleur!’ Gabby’s pupils shrank thin as the edge of a knife and a faint, white glow rose from her golden hair. ‘Qu’est-ce que tu viens de dire? Qu’est-ce qu’il a dit?’
Fleur frowned. ‘Sois prudent autour de Victoire, Gabby. Ta magie pourrait la bouleverser.’
‘Elle aura sa propre aura un jour. Et j’espère que Victoire choisira de ne pas tout abandonner. Comme moi.’
‘Victoire choisira pour elle-même et je serai heureuse quoi qu’elle choisisse. Et tu dois aussi faire attention à ta magie autour de Harry. Tu ne veux pas qu’il soit pris dans ta magie et pense que tout ce qu’il pourrait soit du à cela, n’est-ce pas?’
‘Harry ne confondra pas magie et destin.’
Harry glanced between them. ‘Er…’
Fleur smiled. ‘Don’t worry. Gabby just doesn’t approve of me giving up most of the magic of our heritage.’
‘Like when her eyes…?’
She nodded. ‘Our magic is a part of us, tied to our fey nature. It makes us wild and difficult. I did not want to be like that for Bill and Victoire, so I gave it up.’
‘But Gabby doesn’t…?’
‘Gabby has always been spoilt and difficult without any help,’ Fleur said, an indulgent smile spreading across her face. ‘She won’t give her magic up. She will expect whoever she sets her heart on to love her for it.’
Gabby’s pupils softened back to dark circles and the faint white glow faded. ‘Est-ce que tu lui as parlé de moi, de ma magie? Qu’est-ce qu’il a dit? Qu’en pense-t-il?’
‘Je lui ai dit un peu. Veux-tu que je lui demande ce qu’il en pense?’
‘Il n’a pas vraiment vu ta magie, alors ne sois pas contrariée s’il ne tombe pas à tes pieds, Gabby. Tu es probablement encore ma petite sœur pour lui.’
‘Il suffit de lui demander, Fleur.’
‘Gabby would like to know what you think of her magic, Harry,’ Fleur said. ‘Even though you’ve not really seen anything.’
‘She sounded like she was more insisting than asking.’
Fleur laughed. ‘Gabby is always insistent we do what she wants.’
He threw a glance at Gabby. ‘I don’t know. It’s nice, I guess. The glow is the same as you and you looked extremely beautiful when you were dancing with Bill at your wedding.’
Fleur smiled, a little colour rising in her cheeks. ‘I will tell Gabby.’ She turned to her little sister. ‘Harry pense que la lueur est très belle.’
‘Il a dit que je suis très belle?’ Gabby’s eyes went wide. ‘Vraiment?’
‘Je paraphrase légèrement,’ Fleur replied. ‘Mais cela pourrait signifier ça.’
‘C’est ce que ça signifie.’ Gabby beamed, the tips of her ears turning pink under her golden hair. ‘Dis-lui que je crois qu’il est très beau. Et que ses yeux sont très jolis. Et que notre bébé va être encore plus mignon que Victoire.’
Fleur hummed. ‘Gabby is quite flattered.’
‘And Victoire?’ Harry asked. ‘What was that bit?’
‘Oh…’ She tapped her fingers on the table, wrinkling her forehead. ‘Our magic is something to be careful with, especially if, like Gabby, you embrace it. It can inspire certain feelings: in boys—’ Fleur’s lips quirked ‘—in girls, despair and sadness.’
‘Oh.’ Harry glanced down at where Victoire snoozed on his lap. ‘But isn’t she…?’
‘She will be less affected, yes,’ Fleur said. ‘But the magic might still upset her and once Victoire has decided to be unhappy, she is very determined to stay that way until she feels everyone knows just how unhappy she is.’
‘So she’s a stubborn baby.’
Fleur hid a smile behind her hand. ‘You do not like stubborn girls, Harry?’
‘My best friend is Hermione. I dated Ginny.’ He chuckled. ‘I think the opposite’s probably more true.’
‘My little sister will be glad to hear it,’ she said. ‘I think she is intending to order you away from Ginny’s birthday party so she has someone to keep her company.’
‘Doesn’t sound so bad.’ Harry chuckled. ‘I don’t mind doing what she tells me to, it seems to make her happy.’
The corner of his mouth twitched upward. And she has a nice smile.
Gabby scowled. ‘Fleur—’
‘Ne t’inquiète pas, Gabby. Harry disait juste qu’il aime les filles têtues. Et tu es la fille la plus têtue que j’ai jamais rencontrée, donc tu devrais être heureuse.’
A huge smile spread across her face and she stuck the tip of her tongue out between her teeth. ‘Il est censé le faire. C’est ainsi que cela est censé fonctionner. Veux-tu lui dire qu’il doit rester avec moi pour que je n’aie pas besoin de parler à Ginny.’
‘Quoi?’ Gabby turned her nose up. ‘Où est-ce qu’il irait à la place? Pour parler à cette pute stupide ou à son petit ami vagabond? Non. Il est censé être avec moi.’
Harry grinned. ‘Was that me being ordered not to leave the leftovers table?’
‘In so many words. Yes.’ Fleur smiled. ‘I see you are starting to realise how my little sister thinks the world should work. There is her at the centre, then everyone she loves all around her doing what she wants, and everything else revolves around that.’
‘It sounds quite nice really,’ Harry murmured. ‘I’d not mind something like that.’ He mustered a smile through the sound of Michael Corner’s laughter. ‘Maybe. One day.’
Fleur offered him a small smile and stood up. ‘Have faith, Harry.’ She straightened her dress. ‘Would either of you like a drink while I am going to get one for me?’
‘Sure.’ He shrugged. ‘Get whatever for me.’
Gabby wrinkled her nose. ‘Je ne veux boire un verre que s’il y a quelque chose de bon cette fois-ci.’
Fleur sighed and shot her sister a fond, indulgent smile. ‘Je suis sûr qu’il y a beaucoup de bonnes boissons.’ She drifted swept off toward the distant chatter, Michael Corner’s booming laughter and Ginny’s high, fake giggle.
Harry blotted it out and took Victoire’s hands, waving them in the air. ‘No drinking for you yet, mini-veela. Not for a good few years.’
Gabby watched him with a soft gleam in her river-blue eyes. ‘Petite Victoire sourit beaucoup, tu devrais venir en France le mois prochain quand Fleur et Bill l’amèneront rencontrer nos parents. Tu dois les rencontrer aussi.’
He gave her a rueful grin. ‘Our translator’s gone, so I have no idea what you’re saying, Gabby.’
‘Quand est-ce que tu vas apprendre français pour moi?’ Gabby’s slim eyebrows curved down and her forehead creased. ‘Tu rends cela très difficile.’
‘That sounded like a question,’ Harry said, leaning over to grin at Victoire’s beaming face. ‘What do you think? A question?’
Victoire babbled and laughed.
‘I thought so too.’
Gabby’s frown melted away into a gentle smile. ‘Tu vas être un très bon père un jour.’
A flicker of movement caught the corner of his eye. Birds fluttered to the branches of the dead tree at the top of the hill.
‘I’ve got a question, too,’ Harry murmured, the humour fading. ‘Do you think we’re only here to do the one thing? And what should we do when we’ve done it? Is that just… it?’
Victoire tugged at his hands.
‘Right.’ Harry dragged the smile back up onto his face and teased a finger into her little fists, bouncing her arms up and down. ‘I’m sorry, mini-veela, I’m slacking, aren’t I? You can’t be expected to wave your own arms around, that’s just unreasonable.’ A wry chuckle caught in the back of his throat. ‘And if there’s one thing I am good at, Victoire, it’s doing what other people expect me to do for them.’
Barre des Écrins
Confetti swirled down around a red-faced, grinning Ron and a beaming, blushing Hermione. The small crowd lining the stone path between worn graves and green grass cheered and clapped.
They look so happy. The shadow of a smile hovered on Harry’s lips. Good for them.
Michael Corner wolf-whistled and Ginny laughed on his arm, playfully shoving at his chest. Hermione’s mum dabbed at her eyes with one hand, cradling a well-bundled Rose in her other arm.
I wonder how it feels. A faint melancholy tugged at his heart, lapping at it like cold water rising around his ankles. Maybe I’ll find out. One day.
White confetti petals caught in the lapel of his jacket.
Harry plucked them out and cupped them in his hand, watching them flutter on his palm as the rest tumbled away into the grass. ‘Or maybe, my job’s just done.’ He titled his hand and watched the pale petals drift away past Ginny’s red hair and bright smile. ‘And that’s just that.’
The melancholy drew his heart down into a soft dark.
I’m not living in the past, Gin. I think I just did all my living already. A wry little smile crept onto his lips. Just going to be me and those animated stone frogs. Maybe I should start to name them, if I’m going to go mad alone, I should do it properly.
Hermione raised her bouquet of white flowers over her head and waved it. ‘Someone’s going to have to catch this, so get ready.’
Ginny darted onto the path.
‘Oh no you don’t, Gin-Gin,’ the Twins chorused, flanking her. ‘It’s our turn first.’
‘Gabby?’ Fleur nudged her little sister with her shoulder. ‘Tu n’es pas intéressée?’
‘Si c’est censé être moi, le bouquet viendra à moi.’ Gabby folded her arms and turned her nose up. ‘Je n’ai pas besoin de fleurs pour savoir ce que le destin veut, Fleur. J’ai la foi. Cela arrivera bientôt.’
Their conversation softened into swift whispers and Gabby’s pupils sharpened to slits, her blue eyes shining bright as distant stars. Hermione tossed the bouquet up into the air. Ginny held her arms up.
‘Imagine it’s the snitch,’ Michael Corner shouted. ‘No, wait, imagine it’s bludger!’
Fred snatched the flowers from the air and clutched them to his breast with a huge grin. ‘It’s my turn, brother mine.’
‘You don’t even have a girlfriend,’ George retorted.
Harry chuckled under his breath and slipped back toward the small, arched gate and the road.
‘Harry!’ Hermione ran down the path, picking her white dress up.
‘Oh no!’ George cried. ‘It’s all gone wrong, Ron. She’s getting away. Quick, Fred, catch her. There’s no way Ron’s going to ever find anyone better, we need to make sure Hermione doesn’t come to her senses.’
Hermione laughed and rolled her eyes. ‘Go find the food, you lot. I’ll make sure Harry doesn’t somehow get lost between here and the reception.’
He sighed. ‘Must you?’
‘Yes.’ She fixed him with a pointed look. ‘This is the first time you’ve left your house in months and you’re not going to argue with me on my wedding day are you?’
‘But I want to argue.’ Harry mustered a smile and raised his hands. ‘No. Fine. I’m coming.’
Fleur drifted over, Victoire in her arms and a scowling Gabby on her heels. ‘Do not side-long apparate, Harry, Hermione. One stumble and your dress might get torn.’
‘Ah,’ Victoire squirmed for Harry, grabbing at his glasses with her small fingers. ‘Ma.’
‘You can have them, mini-veela, but then I won’t be able to see,’ he said. ‘And that’s somewhat problematic for me.’
‘Don’t let him escape,’ Hermione said. ‘He’s being broody and may try to disappear.’
Harry shot her a betrayed look. ‘I’m not brooding.’
‘You had your brooding face on.’
‘Fleur?’ Gabby poked her sister in the shoulder. ‘Traduis pour moi?’
Fleur laughed. ‘Harry n’est pas toujours heureux à ces rassemblements, Gabby. Hermione essaie de lui remonter le moral et de l’empêcher de repartir tout seul.’
Gabby’s blue eyes flashed, her pupils lancing thin as a hawk’s. ‘Il ne part pas tout seul, il vient avec moi. Et le prochain rassemblement sera beaucoup plus heureux. Quand nous nous marierons tous les deux, ce sera le plus beau jour de sa vie parce qu’il aura enfin réalisé son destin.’
Hermione’s eyebrows shot up.
‘Er…?’ Harry glanced between them as Gabby’s eyes softened, a little suspicion niggling at him.
Fleur smoothed her little sister’s hair down, shifting Victoire’s weight onto her other hip. ‘Gabby is very sure that the next time we get together for a wedding you will be extremely happy.’
Hermione coughed and glanced away across the confetti strewn grass. ‘You go on, Fleur. I’m sure Gabrielle will make sure Harry doesn’t get away.’
Fleur hid a smile behind her hand and vanished with a crack.
That definitely wasn’t quite what Gabby said, was it?
‘I wonder if I should spend some time learning French,’ Harry muttered. ‘I feel like that wasn’t exactly what Gabby was saying.’
‘I think it could be a good idea.’ Humour sparkled in Hermione’s eyes and her lips quivered with laughter. ‘Fleur has been doing her best to translate, but occasionally some things are… lost between languages.’
I suppose it’s not like I’ve anything else to do except name animated stone frogs. He smiled, recalling Gabby’s smile and stream of French. And it would be nice to actually understand, even if it makes me smile.
A strange little pang struck him. ‘I’m going to kind of miss her talking French at me, though.’
‘Don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll keep doing that.’ Hermione’s lips shook and she vanished with a loud pop.
Harry shook his head and turned to Gabby. ‘Hermione was laughing at me. Probably because of whatever you said, Gabby.’ A grin flashed across his face. ‘I’m going to get you back, though. I’m going to finally learn some French, but I’m not going to tell you until I have.’
Gabby beamed back. ‘Aide-moi à attraper quelques confettis, Harry. Victoire voulait jouer avec.’
He gave her a rueful smile and a shrug.
A soft laugh burst from her lips and she bent and plucked a white petal from the grass. ‘Je veux une poignée de ça.’ She waved the piece of confetti at him. ‘Victoire prendra plaisir à le lancer pendant que nous sommes ensemble à la réception de mariage. Et j’aime te regarder jouer avec Victoire, ça me donne des frissons agréables.’
Harry snagged a handful of confetti from the sunlit grass and held out his cupped hands. ‘Is that enough?’
Gabby beamed, poking the tip of her tongue through her teeth. ‘Parfait. Maintenant—’ she stuck out her arm ‘—allons-y. Ou Fleur pensera que je t’ai volé un rendez-vous au lieu d’aller à la réception de mariage.’
Harry slid his arm through hers.
She cocked her head, taking a firm grip on his hand. ‘Tu dois réaliser bientôt, Harry. Je ne sais pas comment t’amener à faire un acte de foi, mais tu dois le faire. L’amour a besoin de foi.’
‘I have no idea what you’re saying.’ He grinned down at her. ‘I’ll just do what I’m told, shall I?’
Gabby’s lips quirked. ‘Pourquoi est-ce si difficile pour toi de voir? Qui te fait sourire? C’est moi.’
A gentle breeze rippled in waves through a sea of poppies and wildflowers, shivering down to the woods at the bottom of the valley and the gleaming ribbon of the river. A pair of pigeons sat on the fence, fluffed up against the wind.
That’s not for me. Harry watched them snoozing in the sun beside each other with a soft, hollow weight in his chest. It’s not what I was meant for.
‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ Hermione said, resting one hand on her belly. ‘We used to walk down to the river, but I’m not up for anything but short walks until the baby’s born.’
‘How’s Ron doing?’ Harry asked.
‘Oh he’s fine.’ She laughed. ‘I was worried how he’d deal with it, but he’s been amazing. I couldn’t ask for anyone to do more to help me. Whenever I’m feeling down or overwhelmed, he’s there to make me smile.’ Hermione glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. ‘What about you? Have you left your house more than once in the last few months?’
‘Does going into the garden count?’ Harry asked. ‘I named all those animated frogs, too, if that helps. And some of the more recent ones do a bit of the gardening for me.’
‘No, that doesn’t count.’ She sighed. ‘We really are going to have to drag you out to see some people, aren’t we?’
‘You can try,’ he said. ‘But I’m honestly quite happy there by myself.’
‘Oh I’m sure you are,’ Hermione replied. ‘But what about when you’re out here with everyone else and can see what you’re missing out on, Harry?’
‘That’s not a very good argument to get me to leave my house, Hermione. That makes it sound like I should stay there all the time.’
‘Don’t you want any of this?’ She lowered her voice. ‘You told me there was nothing you wanted more than family when we were younger.’
‘We’ve all changed since then.’
‘So you don’t want someone to make you smile when you need it most?’ Hermione asked.
‘I can make myself smile.’ He shot her suggestive look. ‘Unless smile is a euphemism for something. Have you been reading period drama erotica again?’
‘I should never have told you about that.’ She laughed. ‘You throw it in my face every time you want to change the subject.’ Hermione’s humour faded. ‘No, Harry, I just mean someone who makes you smile when smiling is the last thing you feel like doing. Give me a serious answer, no deflecting this time.’
A long sigh slipped from Harry’s lips. ‘Of course I do, Hermione, but, well, I think I already did what I was meant to do, and it wasn’t that. That stuff’s all for you and Ron and Ginny and Fleur. It’s not for me.’
‘Then what’s for you, Harry?’ she murmured. ‘Watching us enjoy our happiness and staying all alone?’
‘Something like that.’ He shrugged, ignoring the rising melancholy. ‘And I do enjoy these little gatherings with us all here. Seeing you all so happy. Watching little Victoire grow up.’ A faint smile twitched at the corners of his mouth. ‘Mostly it’s me getting ordered around in French by Gabby.’
Hermione’s brow creased. ‘Did you learn any French?’
‘I tried. I wasn’t very good at it.’
‘I really think you should keep trying,’ she said, waddling over the lawn toward the door. ‘Now, what I originally came out here to say was that you need to get back inside and stop brooding over here. Everyone’s arriving.’
‘I’m coming, I’m coming.’ He followed her into the small dining room and pointed at one of the two gaps beside Fleur. ‘Is that me?’
‘No,’ Fleur said. ‘That is Gabby, you are next to her.’
‘Fair enough.’ Harry slipped into a seat. ‘How’s Victoire doing?’
‘Sleeping upstairs at the moment,’ she said. ‘She had a very long and exciting evening yesterday for her birthday.’ Fleur straightened the cutlery on the table in front of her. ‘You did not come, Harry?’
‘Victoire would have liked to see you,’ she said. ‘We all would have.’
‘Sorry.’ He shrugged. ‘I’m sure she still had a great day without some distant family friend there.’
The chair between them slid back. ‘Harry,’ Gabby said in soft French. ‘Why were you not in France with us yesterday? I told Fleur to invite you. I know you were invited. You were meant to be there.’
Harry bit his tongue and glanced at Fleur.
‘Gabby would also like to know why you didn’t come,’ Fleur said.
‘But more commandingly.’ A small smile crept across Harry’s lips as Gabby slipped into her seat, smoothing out her sapphire dress.
‘As always.’ Fleur laughed, fussing over the cluster of white orchid flowers in Gabby’s golden hair. ‘Well?’
‘It didn’t really feel like I was supposed to be there,’ he replied. ‘Family thing, you know.’
Fleur glanced at her little sister. ‘Harry did not feel comfortable coming,’ she said in French.
‘What? Why?’ Gabby scowled. ‘Fleur, ask him why.’
Harry smothered a smile.
‘I don’t have to,’ Fleur replied in French. ‘We are all one big family now, but he is not, and Ginny tried hard to make him feel unwelcome to get back at him for not being who she wanted him to be.’
Gabby’s pupils flashed into thin, dark slits and a shivering white glow rose from her hair. A little shudder rippled around the table.
‘We will be one family,’ she retorted. ‘It is destiny. Ginevra was never going to be able to keep him from it.’
‘Gabby, you’re very stubborn,’ Fleur said, smoothing her little sister’s hair down. ‘How long has it been now? It won’t just happen out of nothing.’
‘It will,’ Gabby said, crossing her arms. ‘I have faith.’
‘Small delay!’ Arthur called. ‘We forgot to do the last thing with the sauce. Will only be twenty minutes, but feel free to wander off for a bit. Just don’t go too far!
‘You have twenty minutes, Gabby,’ Fleur murmured in her little sister’s ear.
Gabby slipped a hand into the small bag hanging from her chair and applied a sweet-scented pink gloss to her lips. ‘Harry and I will go outside to look at the flowers.’ Her pupils softened back to dark circles. ‘Hermione said they’re very beautiful.’
‘You needed lip gloss for that, Gabby?’
A little pink rose on her cheeks. ‘Just in case.’
In case of what? Harry’s stomach fluttered as he stood up.
Fleur glanced up. ‘It is too late to escape, Harry,’ she said, switching to English. ‘Gabby has already decided you’re going with her to look at the meadows.’
He laughed. ‘I figured as much when I heard my name, but I don’t mind. She can talk at me in French as much as she likes. I don’t mind at all.’
‘Go on, Gabby.’ Fleur patted her little sister on the shoulder. ‘Don’t waste your time.’
Gabby slipped out from between the chairs and held out her arm. ‘Let’s go, Harry,’ she said in French. ‘Perhaps with all the flowers, it will help you.’
Help me what?
He took her arm and drifted out across the lawn to gaze across the meadows.
‘It’s very beautiful,’ Gabby said. ‘If you spoke French, you could tell me that I’m beautiful too. You are not very good at realising things.’ A frustrated little gleam rose in her river-blue eyes. ‘Faith can move mountains,’ she whispered. ‘Have faith, Gabby.’
Harry held his breath.
‘Of course you don’t understand anything I just said.’ She flashed him a smile, poking her tongue through her teeth, and pointed at the flowers. ‘Would you get me a flower, Harry? A poppy?’ Gabby brushed her fingertips against the petals of the white orchids in her hair. ‘To go with these.’
‘Of course.’ Harry clambered over the fence and plucked a large, red poppy from the swathe in the field. ‘That ought to do it.’ He admired the red petals and held it out over the fence.
Gabby beamed and took it. ‘I would like you to put it in my hair for me, Harry.’ She held the poppy out as he climbed back into the garden and leant her head to the side, indicating the braid with one finger. ‘Be careful with the braid. You have to tuck it through.’
Harry slipped the poppy stem through the golden weave of her hair, tweaking it until the poppy fluttered just above her ear. ‘You look really beautiful,’ he said as she twirled in her sapphire dress, showing off the flowers in her hair. ‘Really really beautiful. You’re going to make someone very happy one day.’
‘This is such a romantic moment,’ Gabby murmured in French. ‘I wish you would just realise. You need to have faith, Harry. There is no mountain that it cannot move. Have faith in me. I am the one that makes you smile. You love me. Just like I love you.’ The frustrated glint appeared in her eyes. ‘It is what is meant to be.’
The breath slipped from Harry’s lungs.
You do make me smile.
‘Have faith?’ He took a deep breath to still the fluttering in his stomach; the trembling swelled until his fingertips shook. ‘Alright. Let’s hope I’ve not completely misunderstood what you just said, Gabby, or this is going to end really badly.’
‘Harry?’ She caught his gaze and swallowed. ‘You are not smiling. You look like—’
Harry reached up and cupped her cheek.
Gabby froze, her lower lip quivering.
He bent and kissed her, a sweet strawberry taste lingering on his lips as he drew back. Gabby stared at him with wide blue eyes, bright pink blossoming across her cheeks.
A little doubt coiled in Harry’s stomach. ‘Er—’
She snatched his hand and dragged him toward the door. ‘Fleur!’ she shouted in French. ‘Fleur come out here and tell Harry to tell me that he loves me. He needs to say it. I need to know.’
Relief flooded through him and a smile crept across his lips. ‘Gabby—’
‘Gabby what did you do?’ Fleur stepped out and across the lawn.
Gabby slowed to a stop, slipping her warm fingers through his. ‘You need—’
Fleur cleaned the smeared pink lip gloss off Gabby’s face with the edge of her thumb. ‘Gabby, this was not what I meant,’ she said in French. ‘You were supposed to spend time with him, not throw yourself at him.’
‘I didn’t,’ Gabby whispered. ‘Just — just tell him to tell me, Fleur.’
Fleur frowned. ‘Harry,’ she said, switching to English. ‘I’m sorry about this. Gabby can be quite forward and is very stubborn about things like romance.’ She rubbed the lip gloss off her thumb. ‘Gabby would like to know how you feel about her.’
Harry hid his humour behind his hand. ‘She makes me smile. Even when I don’t feel like I’ll ever smile again.’
Fleur’s frown faded. ‘Do you mean it, Harry? Gabby will not let you go once she hears that. Although—’ a little chuckle escaped Fleur ‘—I don’t think Gabby has any intention of letting you get away anyway. She is very stubborn.’
‘I mean it.’ He hunted for words. ‘She makes me smile. And I know she loves me.’
Fleur blinked. ‘Harry said you make him smile, Gabby,’ she said in French. ‘And that he knows you love him.’
‘How?’ Gabby demanded, a faint white glow flickering upon her hair like a halo. ‘How does he know?’
‘La foi,’ Harry said, switching to French. ‘A very beautiful girl told me that it can move mountains.’
Gabby flushed and Fleur burst into laughter.
‘When did you learn French?’ Gabby asked, scowling and crossing her arms. ‘Have you known it the whole time?’
‘No,’ Harry drew her close to his side, grinning as her scowl melted into a wide smile. ‘Hermione looked a little surprised the last time Fleur translated something for you and I began to wonder if she was maybe amending her words a little.’
‘Fleur!’ Gabby glowered. ‘Why did you do that!’
‘Because most boys will run away if you command them to be yours, Gabby,’ Fleur said.
‘I don’t mind being ordered around by you,’ Harry murmured in Gabby’s ear. ‘Making you smile makes me happier than anything else has in quite a while.’
Gabby’s cheeks turned pink. ‘That is how it is meant to be,’ she breathed. ‘I knew it would be like this. I hoped when I was a little girl. I knew when I saw you at Fleur’s wedding. And I had faith.’
Fleur retreated back inside the house with a small smile.
‘I’m sorry I took so long to realise,’ Harry whispered. ‘It just never crossed my mind that you would want that. I don’t know why you’d love me.’
Gabby slid her arms around his neck and pulled him down into a kiss. ‘You don’t ask why you love, Harry. You just love. I am how I am. You are how you are. And we are meant to be. I will never stop making you smile.’