Lost and Found Trilogy
Back home - another life - Part II
"Welcome home," Fleur said in English with barely a hint of an accent. The rest of the conversation took place in French at a break-neck pace. "Where have you been?" she asked before placing a kiss on each cheek.
"Where haven’t I been?" her sister asked rhetorically.
"Professor MarÃ§all always said it’s the sign of a weak mind to answer one question with another," Fleur said haughtily.
Gabrielle sighed. "Alexandria, Cyprus, Alaska, Harrods," she listed.
"Harrods?" Fleur inquired.
"Harry felt that he needed to supplement his wardrobe before showing up at the Burrow," Gabrielle explained.
"You found him?" Fleur shrieked, tossing the Daily Prophet into the air.
"Were you ever in doubt?" Gabrielle countered.
"So, what of the other mission?" Fleur asked.
"Do you want the good news or the bad news?"
"The good news," Fleur answered.
"He is kind and brave and funny and warm and he definitely knows that I’m a girl," Gabrielle said.
"And the bad news?"
"He is a perfect gentleman," Gabrielle said, moving into the kitchen to pour a glass of water.
"You expected bodice-ripping?"
"I was in a tent with him for three days — a tent not much larger than my first flat. We ate and drank and told stories and sang songs, but not once did he treat me any differently than Bill treats me," Gabrielle said, her lips forming a ridiculous pout.
"Oh, the horror," Fleur said, pressing the back of her hand to her forehead. "Might I remind you that a lasting relationship-"
"-does not begin in bed," Gabrielle interrupted. "Yes, I know, but a kiss might have been nice."
"Is he worth waiting for?" Fleur asked.
"I’ve waited eleven years, sister mine, I think I’m entitled to a little sympathy. Yes, bloody hell, yes; he’s worth waiting for. Are you happy now?"
"What did you observe?" Fleur asked.
"He’s still in very fine shape; he’s an excellent flier; he was surveying a magical field in the wilds of Alaska, trying to determine the nature of the charms that anchored the field for no other reason than he wanted to know how it worked. He’s an adequate cook, he lives a fairly disciplined life, he’s taking a daily dose of a Muggle medicine, Bupropion, he’s teaching himself how to play the guitar, and he still gets misty eyed when he talks about his old girlfriend," Gabrielle said, ticking off the items on her fingers.
"And from that you conclude?" Fleur asked.
"That he’s disciplined enough to keep fit, he has a curious mind and has the initiative to start projects and see them through, he’s not afraid to seek help when he needs it, and at one time, at least, he fell deeply in love," Gabrielle said with a sigh.
"And the fact that he’s well to do and has the loveliest eyes never made it to your list?" Fleur asked teasingly.
"I make enough money that I don’t care how much he has, and as for his eyes, well, certain things I will not share with my sister," she said with a wicked smile.
"So, where is he now?" Fleur asked.
"Setting up his flat at number 12 Grimmauld Place."
"Lupin’s house — the old Order Headquarters?" Fleur asked.
"Yes, it’s actually still Harry’s house — he lets the house to Remus and Dora for a Galleon a year — there’s a nice flat in the basement he fitted out before he left England. He asked me to accompany him tonight when he goes to the Burrow," Gabrielle said.
"I’m trying to not read too much into that right now. I suspect he thinks that Molly won’t flay him on the spot if he’s got a comparative stranger with him," Gabrielle said.
"But you are family," Fleur protested.
"Perhaps," Gabrielle responded cryptically. "Wish me well."
What do you say to someone you gave up for dead years ago?
Harry pondered this question as he stood on the threshold, hesitating before knocking. He gave up pondering the question as he felt magic swirl around him.
"Tell me something that only you know," a voice from his past asked.
Harry smiled. "When you sleep on your stomach, you drool," he said.
"I do not, you big lug! Get in here before the neighbours call the Daily Prophet!" she exclaimed.
Harry felt another swirl of magic and a click as he pushed against the door. The cottage was similar in layout to many of those on Wyvern Lane; he’d looked at enough of them before deciding against living in Hogsmeade. This one was furnished to reflect the occupants; floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and window boxes filled with exotic plants in bloom. He supposed that the mirror next to the door doubled as some sort of foe-glass, but that detail could wait.
"Come here," she commanded, as she pushed up from a nicely appointed Muggle wheelchair, standing precariously. "Oh, Harry," she said as he swept into her arms. He could feel her shake in his arms.
"Why are you crying?" he whispered.
"Because I thought I’d never see you again," she replied, pushing away long enough to kiss his cheek before sitting down again in the wheelchair. "Don’t mind the chair — my legs work well enough, but five years of bed rest tends to play hob with one’s muscle tone. Oh, Harry, it’s so good to see you again."
"Indeed," he replied. "I’d given up on you. I’m sorry."
"Well, some things don’t change, Harry Potter, you’re still apologizing for everything," she exclaimed.
"And you’re still right," he replied. He pulled a chair away from the table, twirling it around so he could sit in it backwards, and propped his elbows on the back.
"I’m not going to beat around the bush," Hermione began.
"You only beat around the bush when you want me to do something you think I don’t want to do," Harry quipped.
Hermione nodded. "So, why did you leave?"
"Do you want the long version or the short version?" he asked.
"The short version will do," she said.
"Ginny was dead, you were as good as dead, Ron needed something to live for and I was severely messed up. If I stayed in England, Ron would make taking-care-of-Harry his life. He deserved better than that, so I left him in Padma’s clutches. That part seems to have worked out well," he said.
"I can honestly admit that I never saw that one coming," Hermione said. "He’s grown up a lot; they make a nice couple."
"Yeah, it seems that saving her sister kinda evened out the gigantic prat he was on the evening of the Yule Ball," Harry said with a sideways smile.
"So, what did you do, where did you go?" Hermione asked, settling back in her chair as she pulled a strand of hair around one finger.
"I went to Marseilles and discovered that I don’t make a very good drunk. Then I dried out and a brighter than average Muggle doctor concluded that my depression might need some chemical help, so he prescribed an anti-depressant that brought me back into the land of the living, for which I’m quite grateful. I went to Alexandria for a while and then Cyprus. There’s a monastery there where I hung out for a year or two. I would have stayed except that the Abbot said that I had â€˜issues’ I had to work out before he’d consider taking me as a novice. I learned how to play the guitar and learned how to turn off my dreams, which meant that I could sleep again, which was a good thing. I got tired of Cyprus one summer as it began heat up, so I looked at a map and went to North America on a whim. I did the tourist thing in Alaska, ending up in Denali. There are some fascinating things up there, so I spent my summers in Alaska and winters in Cyprus," Harry said, pausing to take a breath.
"No one could get mail to you — the Post Owls returned with a look of disgust on their faces," Hermione complained.
"Yeah, well, that was necessary. I was tired of getting death threats, pleas for money and marriage proposals. I also received a number of indecent proposals, including enough knickers to start my own unmentionable shop," he said, looking up at an incredulous Hermione.
"Women sent you their knickers?" she asked.
"Knickers, pictures, long rambling perfumed letters, and it wasn’t just women," he replied.
"Eeww," she said, making a face.
"I suppose I should set up a mail drop, but I haven’t been home long enough yet to contact my solicitor," he said.
"When did you get in?"
"This morning — I went shopping with Gabrielle because I had a suspicion that my wardrobe of jeans and t-shirts wouldn’t cut it back in England, so I pumped some money into the local economy and came home with several bags of clothing for all occasions."
"How do you and Gabrielle get along?" Hermione asked.
"She’s great — when she’s awake she doesn’t have the cloying thick accent her sister used to have, she’s smart, and she’s incredibly easy to get along with, and she’s not hard to look at," Harry replied.
"Hasn’t tried to work the Veela charm on you?" Hermione asked.
"It doesn’t work with me, and no, she hasn’t tried. If anything, she’s been a bit reserved. It’s kind of nice to meet someone, hit it off, and know that they’re not trying to get something from me," he said.
"You know that she does fancy you a bit," Hermione warned.
"If that’s true, she hides it well," Harry replied. "Speaking of hearts on sleeves, is Neville still hanging around?"
Hermione smiled. "Neville’s very sweet," she said guardedly.
"Might I remind you that I was the one who originally set you two up and covered for you when Ron was trying to figure out where you were? Poor bloke was as devastated as I was when you landed in St. Mungo’s after the war," Harry said.
"We survived, Harry," Hermione said sombrely.
"Not all of us, Hermione, not all of us," he said wistfully. "Well, on that happy note, I assume that you’ve been invited to dinner at the Burrow?"
"See you there then," he said, leaning forward to kiss her cheek.
She never heard the crack of his Disapparation from the threshold of her doorway.
Dinner at the Burrow was a smashing success. Harry noted that the table arranged itself neatly into pairs: Fleur and Bill, Molly and Arthur, Padma and Ron, Hermione and Neville, and two spares, Gabrielle and himself. He didn’t receive the expected grilling from Molly. Apart from a very thorough hug when he walked in the door, she hadn’t said more than ten words to him that evening. As the dinner plates were cleared away, Neville sidled up him, twisting his head to indicate that he wanted them to pull away from the milling crowd.
"Might I have a word with you, Harry?" Neville asked politely.
"Certainly, let’s step out into the garden," Harry replied.
The walked across the lawn, pausing to stop and examine some of the herb beds, which Neville pronounced as looking fit and healthy.
"I, uh, wanted to ask you something," Neville began, narrowly avoiding his schoolboy stammer.
"We were roommates for six years, Neville, so stop treating me like Snape," Harry said lightly.
"Right then," Neville said. "It’s about Hermione."
"Lovely girl, that Hermione," Harry said, trying to stifle a grin.
"That she is," Neville said. "I’ve been waiting until you got back, you know."
"Neville, I don’t know, so stop circling around it," Harry said softly but firmly.
"I’d like to get married," Neville began.
"I think that would be good," Harry replied, "but I’ve always favoured women myself."
Neville looked at him in confusion until he cuffed Harry lightly on the back of his head. "Me too, you pillock. What I mean to say is that I want to ask Hermione to marry me, and I wanted to ask your permission first."
Harry gave him a bemused expression. "And why would I be in any position to grant you permission?" Harry asked.
"Well, seeing that her parents are dead and all, and you’re practically her brother, I thought that you could, you know, do the in loco parentis thing," Neville said.
"Are you really sure you want to marry Hermione? You know, the first night you take her to bed she’ll say that whatever you’re doing, is wrong based upon some book that she read?" Harry asked with a straight face.
Neville’s face went pale.
"Buck up, Neville, I was just taking the Mickey out of you. Hermione’s crazy about you. For what it’s worth, you’ve got my blessing," Harry said.
"Really?" Neville asked.
Harry nodded. "Really," he replied.
"She’s, uh, going to want you to give her away, you know," Neville said.
"Is she now?" Harry asked.
"We talked about it once when she was talking about losing her parents," Neville said.
"If she says â€˜yes’ take good care of her, okay?" Harry asked.
"Right," Neville replied.
"Uh, Neville, the Burrow is that way — I suggest you ask her right away," Harry said.
"Thanks, I’ll do that," Neville said, heading back to the Burrow at a good clip.
Harry walked alone out to the Orchard, trying to remember the good times he’d had there without getting too maudlin about a certain redhead that was missing. He was, for the most part, successful, until he heard a mild explosion of voices from the Burrow. Evidently Neville had taken his advice literally.
Harry looked up when he heard the sound of twig snap. He waved at Gabrielle, marvelling at how the moonlight played with her hair.
"What’re you doing?" she asked, leaning up against a tree trunk.
"Feeling particularly alone, actually," he answered.
"It was rather couple-ish in there," Gabrielle observed.
"So you thought my company was better than feeling like a singleton?" Harry asked rhetorically.
"Well, no accounting for taste, I suppose," Harry said sardonically.
They walked together in silence for a while.
"Hermione says that you fancied me at one time," Harry said.
"Her statement is incorrect," Gabrielle shot back. "That presumes that I stopped fancying you."
"So, being rescued by a fourteen year old boy when you were eight scarred you for life?" Harry asked.
"No, not hardly," Gabrielle said with a chuckle. "I can honestly say that I’ve not met any men like you, Harry."
"I don’t know what to say to that," Harry said.
"I think this is where I’m supposed to say that if you want to kiss me that I promise I won’t slap you," Gabrielle said.
"You know, direct works for me," Harry said, reaching out to push a strand of hair out of her face, "I’m lost with a lot of the subtle human interactions."
Up close, her hair really was as soft as it looked in the moonlight.
The remainder of the summer passed in a blur. Neville and Hermione married in a small ceremony at the end of June, attended by Neville’s parents and the extended Weasley clan, with a reception held on the grounds of Hogwarts. Padma gave birth to a strapping blue-eyed, black-haired girl on Harry’s birthday.
Although no announcements were made, it seemed that all of Wizarding England knew that Harry was back. For every invitation he accepted to a wedding, bar mitzvah, christening, dinner or ministry social event, he’d turn down twenty or more. At each occasion, he was accompanied by a well-dressed, poised platinum blonde who didn’t have to make any overt moves to notify the other women on the scene that Harry Potter was unavailable. Whether by good fortune or design, the most that was said about him in the society articles was "Harry Potter, accompanied by Gabrielle Delacour, was in attendance at the event."
In a rare spell of down-time, Harry was sitting in his flat, going over his monthly statement from Gringotts. He never caught any errors, but felt that it had to be done for some reason. His restricted fireplace burped into life.
"Harry, are you in?" Ron called from the green flames.
"Yeah, come on over," Harry replied. Minutes later they were both sitting at his small breakfast table, chilled bottles of butterbeer in hand.
"You know, you’re looking good," Ron said, pausing to swallow and belch.
"Says the man who’s going through severe Serita-induced sleep deprivation," Harry said with a smile.
"It’s not that bad — I got a stretch of four hours last night — seemed like a luxury," Ron said.
"How long before Padma goes back?" Harry asked.
"She’s talking about not going back," Ron said.
"Can you afford that?" Harry inquired.
"Well enough — I just got a bump up the scale at work. I’m making more than dad now, just for writing about Quidditch! The world’s a crazy place, I tell ya," Ron said, summoning another pair of bottles, offering another to Harry.
Harry pushed the bottle back towards Ron.
"No thanks, it doesn’t really go well with my medicine," he said.
"So, what’s that stuff do?" Ron asked.
"Ask Padma," Harry replied.
"No really, what’s it do?" Ron asked with concern.
"Well, you know what a melancholy moody bastard I’ve been all the time you’ve known me?" Harry asked.
"It takes the edge off — now I’m just an unemployed, lazy bastard," Harry said, smiling. "Seriously — it doesn’t make me happy; it just lets me feel normal without the fog and the fits of rage I used to swim in for months at a time."
"You seem pretty happy though," Ron observed.
"Yeah, well, that’s a different sort of medicine," Harry said, smiling broadly again.
"I suppose Miss Delacour has something to do with that?" Ron asked.
"Yeah, I guess so. I still don’t know what she sees in me, but I figure if lightning strikes, I might as well play along," Harry said pensively.
"Are you and she — uh," Ron stumbled.
"Playing house? Making the beast with two backs? Four bare legs in a bed?" Harry said with a smirk.
"Uh, yeah, I guess that’s what I was asking," Ron said, looking down at his bottle.
"No? You two are joined at the hip — you’re never out anywhere without her beside you," Ron objected.
"Outside of the Burrow, have you ever seen a public display of affection between us other than holding hands?" Harry asked.
"Uh, now that you mention it, no," Ron said, seemingly confused.
"Relax, Ron, there’s plenty going on, we just have the good taste to not writhe like eels in public, and we aren’t doing that yet." Harry confided.
"You would bring up the eel bit — might I remind you that I was an idiot that year?" Ron countered.
"Oh, yeah, you were so much better the following year when you and Hermione went racing out of our tent, into the rain, both starkers, both shouting at the top of your lungs at each other," Harry said glibly.
"Yeah, well, Hermione always knew how to push my buttons," Ron said. "We are much better friends than we were lovers."
"Smartest realization you ever made," Harry said.
"Nope, that would be Padma," Ron said with a proud smile.
"I’ll grant you that."
"So, is this serious?" Ron asked.
"Gabrielle? I think so — it’s not like I have a lot of experience in this area, you know," Harry said.
"Do you love her?"
"I think so," Harry replied quietly.
"Have you told her?"
"Not yet — I’m just enjoying everything as it unfolds," Harry said, staring off into space. "Changing the subject — how would you like to have Sunday afternoon and evening off, let me and Gabrielle watch Serita?" Harry asked.
"What, have you strap her on the back of your motorbike and go racing along the beach?" Ron countered.
"I was thinking something more like pushing her in a pram through the park, but if you think that Padma would approve the motorbike, I’ll see if I can get her a wee little helmet," Harry said.
"Yeah — Gabrielle’s good with kids, and I’ve got to start working on my godfatherly duties, don’t you know."
"What about feeding Serita?" Ron asked, looking interested.
"Padma pumps sometimes, doesn’t she?" Harry asked.
"Yeah," Ron replied.
"Have her lay in a ten hour supply and we’ll keep Serita fed and changed, allowing you two time to sleep or whatever it is that old married couples do when they’re not tending sprogs," Harry offered.
"Yeah, well, we’re not doing that either — I’m on an eight week diet until Padma’s bottom heals up," Ron said.
"Remind me to schedule in some time to feel sorry for you, mate."
"Hey, I resemble that remark," Harry said.
Harry was, for the first time in a long time, happy; in a return engagement of dÃ©jÃ vu, he felt like he was living someone else’s life - again. The melancholy part of his personality was dreading the inevitability that something would occur to screw this up.
The shoe finally dropped on a Friday night, at dinner in London after an outing at the Muggle theatre.
"Harry, we need to talk," Gabrielle said, clutching her purse with one hand, hoping that she wasn’t looking as nervous as she felt.
"So talk," Harry said, stirring his coffee wandlessly. "I’m listening."
"I’m running out of money," Gabrielle said quietly.
"How much do you need?" Harry asked instantly.
"That’s not the point — I am not now, nor was I ever interested in your money," she said proudly. "The French Ministry has asked me to come back."
Harry felt like he’d been pole axed. He tried to breathe, but it was as if his lips had been sealed while his chest was simultaneously squeezed by some giant fist. When he finally managed to speak, he squeaked out "Did you accept the job?"
Harry’s eyes flashed, and then he appeared to tamp down whatever he was feeling. "Well, what’s done is done," he said, standing up to pull a fifty pound note from his pocket and throw it to the centre of the table. "I’ll miss you — terribly," he said, just before Disapparating with the faintest of cracks.
Gabrielle stared at the space where Harry had just been, staring in disbelief. "Mon Dieu! What have I done?" she wailed.
There was an incessant banging on the door. Hermione stirred from her reverie and began to stand.
"Hermione! I don’t care if you’re getting the shagging of your life; I really need to talk to you — right now!" Gabrielle called through the locked door.
Hermione blushed and then laughed at the absurdity of it all, opening the door with a flick of her wand.
"Not that it’s any of your business, but I got the shagging of my life yesterday — today my husband is at his mum’s house, painting the parlour," Hermione said primly. "Come on in Gabrielle, I’ll make some tea."
A minute later they were seated at the kitchen table, a tray of biscuits before them, standing watch over their steaming cups of tea.
"Start at the beginning — assume I know nothing," Hermione said.
"I think we just had our first fight," Gabrielle said, "but I’m not really sure."
"What did you do tonight?" Hermione asked.
"We took in an early show in London and then went to dinner," Gabrielle reported.
"Sounds pretty good thus far," Hermione responded.
"I wanted to talk to him about my situation," Gabrielle began.
"And what situation is that, exactly?"
"I’m running out of money — I need to go back to work," Gabrielle said.
"At which point Harry offered you money," Hermione said.
"Which I refused," Gabrielle said proudly. "Then I told him that I was offered an assignment back with the French Ministry. He asked me if I’d accepted the offer and I said yes. Then he got very angry, stood up and paid for dinner and Disapparated from the restaurant."
"Tell me the exact words — verbatim if you can," Hermione said, her eyes closed, her fingertips on her temples as she tried to visualize this scene.
Gabrielle complied with the request, essentially recreating five minutes of very critical dialogue.
"It’s that bad?" Gabrielle asked.
"If you were anyone else, I’d be hexing you right now."
"What did I do?" Gabrielle pleaded. "How can I fix it?"
Hermione muttered something indistinctly.
"I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that," Gabrielle said.
"I said, â€˜showing up naked, covered in dark chocolate would be a start.’ Harry thinks you just broke up with him, which I’m certain was not your intention," Hermione said calmly, her voice belying the fury beneath her faÃ§ade. "What were you intending to discuss?"
"I wanted to talk about how we could make a long distance relationship work, until I finish the assignment," Gabrielle said plaintively.
"So it’s not a permanent position?" Hermione asked, her face brightening a bit.
"I’m sure that they’d take me on a permanent basis, but no, this was only a temporary assignment that would put me into the black for a couple of years," Gabrielle answered.
"Were you hoping that he would talk you out of it, propose, perhaps?" Hermione inquired.
"That would have been nice, but no, I wasn’t hoping for that; I don’t live in a fairy tale," Gabrielle said coolly.
"I must remind you that Harry only appears to be normal. He can spot a grasshopper from across the Quidditch pitch, but the nuances of human discourse often elude him; it’s as if he were raised by wolves or something," Hermione said. "You need to find him, sooner would be better than later, and grovelling isn’t out of the question; chocolate wouldn’t hurt," she said with a slight smile.
"I’m afraid that appealing as that might sound, it’s not going to happen," Gabrielle said.
"And why not?" Hermione asked coldly.
"Harry’s not in England any more; he’s left again."
"It’s what I do, Hermione. Yes, I’m sure."
"You’re screwed then; Harry took a big chance with you. He might never have told you, but he was very much in love with you and was thinking that you’re the one. Don’t look so shocked, surely you had an inkling of how he felt?" Hermione asked.
"It was always hard to sort out what I discerned from what I wanted to be there," Gabrielle said after a moment of painful silence. "I’m sorry to have troubled you. I’ve got to go pack; I’ve got an international Portkey to catch in the morning."
"That’s it? You’re just going to let him get away like that?" Hermione asked incredulously.
"Some particularly nasty criminals are on the loose back in France, Hermione. If I go back tomorrow I may be able to catch them before any more innocents are slain. Not everything is about me — as for Harry, in between fugitives, I’ll start looking for him again," Gabrielle said with a note of dejection.
"Good luck; you’re going to need it," Hermione said, stifling a yawn.
Copyright © 2006 J. Cornell — all rights reserved.
Many thanks to Runsamok, who a) is a really good Beta b) is really quick and c) doesn't drive me crazy.
Disclaimer - I don't need no stinking disclaimer - see chapter one.
For those of you who want to tar and feather Harry (or Gabrielle) stick around.