Harry stood over the fallen body of Voldemort. With one swipe of Gryffindor's sword, he split the Dark wizard's wand in two.
"No!" Voldemort snarled, lipless mouth stained black with his own blood.
"You've cheated death for seventeen years," Harry said, gasping as he clutched at his broken ribs. "It ends tonight, Riddle."
"Never, I will rise again!"
"How? You have no horcruxes left, Tom."
"Don't call me that! I am Lord Voldemort! I am immortal!"
Harry swung again. The blade gleamed in mid-air, and passed through Voldemort's neck with barely a tug to show resistance.
What remained of the most powerful wizard of the last century slumped to the ground, spent.
Harry dropped to his knees, Gryffindor's sword clattering to the bare flagstones beside him.
He barely had the strength to look up, but after seven years he knew her voice as well as he did his own.
Hermione," he said. She knelt beside him, one arm curled protectively
across her stomach. Harry winced at the un-natural angle at which it
was bent, halfway along the forearm.
"He's gone," she said. "It was so simple..."
"Yeah, it was, in the end. It only took us a year to kill him. Dead simple."
"You know what I mean."
"Yeah, yeah, I do."
They turned, smiling with relief as Ron and Ginny made their way into the Chamber.
"You made it as well?"
"Looks like," Ron said. Blood caked the left side of his face, but he ignored it.
She looked remarkably pristine, as though she hadn't spent the last four hours fighting for her life.
"Hi," she said. "It's over?"
"So, what now?" Ron asked.
"I... have no idea," Harry admitted.
"Bye, Ron. Say hi to Padma for me."
"Will do, mate. Thanks for dinner."
"Bye, Ginny. Tell Olivier that I said hello."
"I will, Hermione. Harry, thank you for cooking."
"Thank you for eating. I hope you enjoyed it."
"It was very nice, Harry. Thank you."
"Good bye, Ron."
"See you soon, Hermione."
The door clicked shut, and Harry and Hermione were left alone.
"I thought that went well," Hermione said, as they began to clear the dishes away.
"Yeah. Coconut Brulee. I guess necessity really is the mother of invention."
paused, and looked up at the ceiling, where Harry's first attempt at
preparing dessert was going to prove difficult to remove.
"I'll ask Molly if she has any of Mrs. Skower's Magical Mess Remover when I visit tomorrow," Hermione said.
They stacked everything away in the dishwasher and Hermione set it going with a tap of her wand.
"We should finish off that wine," Hermione said. "It'd be a shame to let it go to waste."
"Yeah," Harry said. "Why did we open two bottles again?"
Ron wouldn't believe you opened it with your wand without shattering
the bottle, and you had to show him how you did it again."
"Oh, yeah, heh."
"Honestly... You still act like you're children."
we are. We're nineteen – it's just that most nineteen year olds haven't
fought in wars for half a decade. They're off doing, I don't know,
getting drunk, and getting off with each other, and going to university
and travelling and everything else."
"I suppose so. It's hard sometimes to remember that."
"Yeah. Anyway, you were born thirty-five years old."
"I was not!"
"Of course you were. You've always been the mature one, Hermione."
"Only because you and Ron wouldn't grow up."
"Us? What about Ginny?"
"She's younger than us – she's only just turned eighteen."
"I only just turned nineteen, Hermione. You're the one who's nearly twenty. Only another two weeks."
"Oh, stop," she said. "I can't believe that it's been a year."
"Yeah, I know. It doesn't seem that long, does it?"
"You're right. Oh... Let's just finish the wine and go to bed."
"Why do we always go to bed alone?"
"Ron has Padma. Ginny has Olivier-"
"No, Harry, be honest."
"Why don't we have anyone?"
"Because... Well, I don't have anyone because I vanished," Harry sighed. "And when I came back Ginny had met l'Olivier l'nurse."
Hermione snorted into her glass.
"As for you and Ron..."
He paused, but Hermione didn't make any effort to deny it.
"Well, I dunno. What did happen?"
think... We were both just waiting for each other to make a move. And
then Padma showed up one night and took him away. I suppose that I
missed my chance."
"They're happy," Harry said. Hermione nodded.
"What about us?" she asked.
here," Harry said, sighing and putting his glass down. He knew that
he'd drank enough for one night – knew that because he'd had too much.
Muzzily, he wondered whether he'd ever be able to tell when enough was
"Yes, we are," Hermione said. Harry looked up, and
smirked as his friend lolled back rather bonelessly against the sofa
cushions. "Harry, I feel terrible."
"If you're going to throw up, then-"
not like that," she said. Suddenly, she lurched forwards, nearly
throwing herself into Harry's lap. He had to catch her arms to prevent
her crashing headfirst into his stomach.
"That's enough for you," he said.
"You're right, you're right," Hermione sighed. "Enough is enough."
Harry looked down at his friend. He couldn't remember her ever looking so very bereft.
"What... I mean..."
was, they would later decide, not a case of who had made the first
move. It was just that suddenly they were kissing, their hands clutched
in each other's hair, their lips pressed together, their tongues
They broke apart, looked at one another curiously, and then joined once more in another attempt at a kiss.
They tried. Harry's hands trailed up and down Hermione's back. Hermione ran her fingers across Harry's chest.
By rights, it should have been a scintillating, page burning, torrid clothes-ripper of a kiss.
Harry and Hermione broke apart again. They looked doubtfully at one another.
"You know," Harry said. "I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't drunk so much then I'd never have kissed you. No offence, Hermione."
taken," she sighed. "Because I feel the same way about you. I think,"
she said, taking care with every word, "that we should do our absolute
best to get Ron and Ginny back."
"I agree," Harry said. He went to stand up, and slumped back on the couch. "Tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," Hermione agreed.
fell asleep on the couch, safe in the knowledge that neither was about
to take advantage of the situation and attempt to ravish the other.
Ron awakened reluctantly. Sleep, he had long decided, was a nice place to be. Sleep was a lot less complicated than real life.
rolled over, making it halfway before he bumped into the
still-slumbering form of Padma Patil. He frowned, trying to remember
when exactly in the last month her occasional night staying over at his
had become the occasional night when she'd stay at the flat she rented
with her sister Parvati, and Lavender Brown.
He swung his legs
out of the bed and sat up, rubbing a hand through his messy red hair.
He looked in the mirror and grimaced. Deep, dark circles under his eyes
spoke of another late night – but he liked spending time with his
friends, even if he did always seem to regret it the next day.
minutes later he was washed and dressed. He munched listlessly on some
toast as he waited for Padma to get up. As he flicked through that
morning's Prophet, he wondered whether it was fair that he'd been the one late to bed, but she was the one enjoying a lie-in.
grimaced as he looked at his watch. He had to be going in fifteen
minutes – and he knew from experience that Padma could take that long
just brushing her hair.
He made his way to the bedroom and
poked the sleeping Padma a few times in the back. She responded with a
vague "Hmmmm" and rolled over.
"Good morning," she smiled. "What time is it?"
after eight," he said. "I have to be going soon. I have a match up in
Scotland tonight, and the team coach leaves at half-past."
"Oh. Well, I hope you play well," she said, and rolled over, pulling the covers up and around herself.
looked at her, perplexed. He didn't feel comfortable leaving Padma
alone in the flat – even if all she was going to do was sleep all day.
At the same time, he couldn't think of a polite way of asking her to
Absently, he fingered the handle of his wand,
remembering how on more than one occasion he'd had to be Banished from
his bed at Hogwarts.
Shaking his head, he concentrated on the Arrows training ground and Disapparated with barely a puff of displaced air.
Padma sighed and rolled over, sprawling across the full width of the bed.
awakened with a groan. She sat up and placed one hand to her head,
cursing her forgetfulness in not drawing the curtains the night before.
Bright sunshine streamed in through the windows, and when she waved her
wand at the heavy drapes, she only succeeded in yanking the curtain
rail from the wall and bringing the whole lot crashing down on the
She winced, and cursed, and felt generally poorly
disposed to the world around her. Standing up, she shivered her way
barefooted across the cold hardwood floor. She sighed. She'd stayed at
Olivier's flat a few times now, and every time she found herself
regretting her boyfriend's choice of flooring, and every time she swore
that she'd buy a pair of slippers to keep by the bed, and yet she never
quite got around to it.
She thought about the Burrow, where
her mum had charmed the carpets to be thick and fluffy. While this had
originally been intended to slow down runaway children, it had the
added benefit of being wonderfully warm at all times of the day.
peeled off her nightdress and hopped into the shower. She was rewarded
with a blast of cold water when she twisted the taps and with a shriek
she darted back out again. She stood, shaking with cold, in the middle
of the bathroom and looked around for a towel. Eventually she found one
in the washing basket. It was damp and cold, and she remembered that
Olivier was working the early shift that morning. Cursing liberally
under her breath, she squelched across the wooden floor and searched
for a towel in the airing cupboard. There were none.
swore rather louder. She could feel her hair tangling and knotting by
the second, and her goosebumps were developing goosebumps of their own.
a full ten seconds she stood still and stared into the blessed warmth
of the airing cupboard, a part of her mind trying to convince itself
that it was a good way of drying off. Another part raging at the
injustices of being a devoted girlfriend. She certainly hadn't needed
to come and see Olivier after leaving Harry and Hermione's – in fact,
she suspected that Olivier would probably rather have had an unbroken
night's sleep before his early start.
She scowled, and Disapparated to her room at the Burrow, where there would be warmth and hot water and carpets.
unspoken consensus, neither Harry nor Hermione mentioned the event that
had convinced them to take action. Rather, they sat down with a big pot
of tea and tried to think of a way to break up two happy couples that
would end to their own advantage.
"Maybe Padma and Olivier would hit it off if we introduced them?" Harry suggested.
"No," Hermione said. "They've met several times, remember? I don't think they have anything in common, anyway."
"Interior design? Ginny's always complaining about the way Olivier's done his flat, but he's really enthusiastic about it."
Parvati who likes interior design, and anyway, I don't think that one
thing is really the basis for a successful relationship," Hermione
sighed. "Although it seems to work or Ron and Padma, I suppose. What do
they have in common, apart from physical attraction?"
Harry gave his friend a supportive smile.
"Does Ron ever say anything about Padma? Anything we can use?"
Harry stared into his tea as he tried to think of something.
"She hogs the bed- Sorry," he added, as Hermione pulled a face. "Anyway, he reckons that she steals all the covers."
What am I supposed to do, say, 'I would also be a perfectly agreeable
girlfriend and when asleep I don't steal the covers'?"
"Could be worth a try," Harry said, with a shrug.
"I don't even know if I do," Hermione scowled. "It's not like anyone's ever been in a position to find out."
Hermione poured herself some more tea.
"What about Ginny?"
"Well, she doesn't like his flat."
"But she keeps going there anyway. I guess he's just l'fantastic," Harry said, pulling a face of his own.
going to have to stop doing that," Hermione said. "One of these days
you'll do it in front of Ginny, and you know how angry she'll get.
She's very... possessive about her right to choose what she wants."
I know. Something else to thank that bastard Riddle for," Harry sighed.
"I bet she wouldn't be half as defensive if he hadn't..."
They exchanged a look loaded with understanding.
"Anyway, Olivier is wonderful, is he?"
think you have a better chance than I do," Hermione said. "She doesn't
like the hours he works, for a start. He wakes her up when he gets up
at four or seven or whenever he gets up."
"We're not getting very far, are we?" Hermione said.
"We've drunk all the tea as well," Harry said. He got up and started making a new pot.
"Who else can we ask?" Hermione said. "I refuse to believe that they're happy together."
"I know," Harry said. "Maybe we can sabotage things ourselves?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I can work on Ron, you can work on Ginny."
"They're too stubborn," Hermione said. "If you try and say something about Padma, that she, I don't know..."
"'Looks down on Ron for choosing Quidditch over a job where he uses his brain'," Harry suggested.
"For example. Well, can't you see Ron getting all defensive and trying to prove that he can think as well as fly?"
frowned. "No, actually, I can't. He'd have done that for you, but with
Padma I reckon he'd just go and have a big row with her. They'd
probably break up over it, but..."
"It's not true."
"Not as far as I know, anyway. I don't talk to Padma that much. We don't exactly move in the same circles."
smiled tightly. Harry the Quidditch star and Padma the Unspeakable. It
was hard to imagine two more divergent career paths.
"Anyway, we don't want to have to lie to get them," Hermione said, with just a hint of uncertainty.
"No, that would be terrible," Harry said, piously. He caught Hermione's eye and they laughed.
they can be broken up without too much effort, then we're just hurrying
things along a bit," Harry said. "I shouldn't have left, not without
talking to her, but I've spent the last year watching her with that
idiot. Besides, if we really thought they were happy then we wouldn't
be having this conversation."
"They do always seem rather eager to go out with us, don't they? And it's amazing how often Olivier and Padma aren't available."
"I've always got on well enough with Padma," Harry said.
"So have I," Hermione said. "I think she'd come along more often - if Ron invited her. I can't speak for Olivier, though."
"Well, I guess it's something," Harry said. "Ron maybe doesn't like being around Padma too much, and Ginny maybe doesn't like Olivier's working arrangements. It's not much."
Hermione said, forcing brightness into her voice. "It's not much - but
it's something. And maybe it'll be a big enough crack to force a wedge
into." Her voice changed at the end, and she looked a lot less certain.
"Do you think that we should ask someone else's opinion before we try and wreck our best friends' relationships?" Harry asked.
Hermione winced. "Put like that, I don't see that we have much choice," she said. "The only question is, who?"
"Right, so Percy would frown on any hint of impropriety," Harry sighed, several cups of tea later.
"And Bill's in France. I rather think he likes Padma, anyway," Hermione added.
in Romania. Besides, Olivier arranged that delivery of burn ointment a
few months ago, and Charlie can't say enough good things about him
"Fred and George?" Hermione ventured.
day I go to Fred and George for advice on my love life," Harry began,
and then paused. Hermione saw his gaze unfocus slightly, as thought he
were contemplating some horrible image, and then he shivered. "No, I'm
never going to Fred and George for advice about my love life."
"Well, that leaves Colin-"
"No. You, maybe, but he's never quite got past the idea that I'm some big hero. Even if he is good friends with Ginny... Just no."
and Arthur?" Hermione said, shaking her head as she did so. "No, they
seem perfectly happy with Olivier and Padma. We may be all-but-adopted,
but I don't think they'd approve. What about Dean and Seamus?"
everything that normal nineteen year old blokes are supposed to be
doing," Harry sighed, with a hint of annoyance. "Drink, women, flat in
North London... Nah. They'd just suggest we got them drunk and
suggestible. What about Lavender and Parvati?"
discuss my love life with Lavender anymore," Hermione said, with enough
frost to her voice that Harry shivered. "And as for Parvati, well..."
Harry suggested. "I mean, if anything's not going well between Padma
and Ron, she should have some idea, shouldn't they?"
"I know you don't like going to her shop," Harry began, but Hermione shook her head.
"You're right," she said. "It's worth a try. But as a last resort."
"But if it comes to that, you'll have to talk to Colin."
it comes to that, I'll go to Fred and George first, and you're coming
with me," Harry said. "Still, hopefully it won't come to that. We've
got one source of good advice, I think."
read the plaque beside the front door of Number Twelve, Grimmauld
Place. Hermione shook her head, as she always did whenever she saw the
"Tonks likes it," Harry said, without looking. "And so Remus likes it as well."
"She keeps him on a short leash," Hermione said.
means he keeps her anchored," Harry retorted. "Anyway, they make each
other happy, which makes them almost unique among couples we know."
only know four couples, and Molly and Arthur are happy," Hermione said
absently. Reaching past Harry, she pulled the cord for the doorbell
"Okay, they're the only people we could turn to for advice," Harry said. "And they're a happy couple as well. Better?"
"Much. What's keeping them?"
"Maybe they're out?" Harry suggested.
"At ten on a Saturday morning?" Hermione replied, doubtfully. "Not if they did go to Infernus last night."
stifled a grin. Tonks had certainly helped Lupin discover his second
youth, although Lupin always seemed somewhat regretful that this meant
that he was expected to accompany her to wizarding and Muggle
nightclubs every weekend.
"They might still be in bed,"
Harry said. He pulled on the cord and, for the third time, the sound of
the doorbell rang out through the house. It was greeted by a loud
crash, as though something large and heavy had toppled over.
"Tonks," they said together, and shared a look.
A few minutes later the door opened to reveal a shapely, purple-haired, woman in a long towelling robe.
sure this could have waited," Tonks said, her features shifting almost
continuously as she glared at them. "Another ten minutes would have
done," she added.
Harry and Hermione exchanged another look. Hermione appeared mortified. Harry was struggling not to laugh.
"Now, now, Tonks," came Lupin's slightly raspy voice. "I'm sure Harry and Hermione have a reason for their early arrival."
"I'm sure they do," Tonks said, scowling at them again. "I suppose you'd better come in."
swung the door open and Harry and Hermione trooped over the threshold a
little sheepishly. They stopped in surprise at the sight that greeted
Remus Lupin stood at the foot of the stairs, clad in a
robe that did little more than barely preserve his modesty. It was
apparent that he and Tonks were wearing each other's robes. It was also
apparent that the former professor had nothing on underneath.
may consider this suitable recompense for your poorly-timed arrival,"
he said, with a smile that suggested that the marauder in him had not
completely disappeared. "Now, go and make us some coffee while we get
They averted their eyes while Lupin walked up the main staircase. Tonks looked at them and laughed.
"It's such a cute arse," she said. "You don't know what you're missing."
I'm quite happy with that," Harry said. Hermione, for her part, was
apparently trying to stifle either hysterics or nervous giggles.
"Go and make coffee," Tonks ordered, her bad mood now apparently abated somewhat. "And we'll see you in, oh, twenty minutes."
"You said ten," Hermione managed, from behind both hands.
Tonks responded only by winking outrageously, and then wiggling her own posterior as she made her way back up the stairs.
"So," a considerably more cheerful Tonks said, almost thirty minutes later. "What's up with you two this morning?"
and Ginny," Hermione said, without preamble. Harry had the impression
that she wouldn't be truly happy until she was out of the house. He
himself was looking forward to a shower in which he would scrub every
inch of skin several times. "We've decided that we want them."
Remus coughed into his mug, spraying coffee all over the table.
"Um, I, that is..." Hermione tailed off, her cheeks pinker than even Ginny's had ever been.
want to break them up from Padma and Olivier," Harry clarified. "I
missed the boat last year with Ginny, and Hermione and Ron, well, they
never even made it off dry land."
"I see," Lupin said, peering mournfully at his coffee-stained shirt. "This was brand new."
"I'll get you another one for your birthday," Harry said. "Can you help us?"
it's not exactly an ideal way of spending your Saturday, is it?" he
said. "Have you considered that Ron and Ginny might be happy with their
"Of course," Harry said. "And if they are, then fine. But if they're not, well, we think that we can make them happy."
"And how do you propose finding out?" Remus asked. "I'm presuming that you won't just be asking them."
"No," Hermione said.
"A pity. The direct approach is so often the best one."
"Ron would run a mile if Hermione came onto him," Harry said, shaking his head. "And Ginny'd hex my head off."
that is a possibility," Remus said. "But at least you'd know. I must
say, I favour the quick and clean result in this area. Dragging things
out," he glanced at Tonks, "can only delay the inevitable."
"So, you think we should just ask them, then?"
"No," Tonks said.
"No. Don't listen to the professor there," she said. "He's only really been on one date in the last twenty years."
"I'm sitting right here," Remus objected mildly.
"And? I moved in after our first weekend together, remember?"
"True," he allowed cautiously.
not a date if you're living together," she explained. "Anyway, I've
sort of been in this position once before. I thought it'd be a good
idea to just up and tell the guy that his girlfriend was a cheat and
that he'd be much better off with me. It didn't work."
"Fortunately," Remus murmured. Tonks shot him a fond look over the table.
"What happened?" Harry asked.
he dumped her, and then spent the next six months sleeping with every
girl who'd have him, including one of my friends. Then we left
Hogwarts. I think he's a banker now."
"So, you don't think we should just ask them?"
"Not a chance. Listen, Harry, come with me. We're going to talk to Ron, and find out how he feels about Padma."
"Yep. He's playing today, isn't he?"
"Yeah. My match isn't until tomorrow."
she smirked, and shivered. A second later, where Tonks had sat, there
was a tall, arrow-thin brunette girl with blonde forelocks. "How's this
look?" she asked.
"Undercover work," she
said, with a very un-Tonks-like giggle. "The name's Tatiana. Charmed,
I'm sure," she said breathily, extending a heavily manicured hand.
shook it, goggling. He had always wondered how Tonks had survived as an
Auror, given her clumsiness. Now it was clear. 'Tatiana' had only been
in the room for five seconds, but there was absolutely no way that
anyone could have thought that it was Tonks.
"Give us five minutes to get changed, and then we're going to the match," Tonks said, in a more normal voice. "Alright?"
Harry nodded mutely.
"Tonks?" Lupin said, his voice sounding as though it were coming from far away.
"Yes, lover?" she replied, in the breathy, Tatiana voice.
"Please, never let me see you like that again," he replied.
laughed, a tinkling, jarring sound that Harry never, ever wanted to
hear again. He had a feeling that he wasn't going to be so lucky.
When Tonks had gone to get dressed, Hermione turned to Lupin.
"What are we going to do?" she asked of her former teacher.
so drastic," he assured her quickly. "In fact, before I commit myself,
I'd like to see whether Ginny is as unhappy as you seem to think. I
think that having lunch with Ginny might be nice. It seems to me to
have been some time since I caught up with her - and after all, given
my recent troubles with Tonks, the help of the younger generation might
You've been having- Oh!" Hermione said, as she realised what Remus meant.
"You know, you're evil," Harry said.
laughed throatily. "Tonks brings it out in me. I'm almost tempted to
apply for the Dark Arts post again - just to see if I can break the
jinx on it. I know that I'd have a good time doing it."
"So, that's the plan?" Harry asked.
nodded. "Pretend that Tonks and I are going through a rocky patch, and
see if Ginny has any experience with these professional types that she
can share with me."
"Ginny will never buy that Tonks is the professional one," Harry said.
us," Remus said, grinning wolfishly. "If I do feel that Ginny and
Olivier would be better off apart, then I am sure that between Hermione
and myself, we can come up with something to help matters along."
her appearance, Tonks remained Tonks in nature right up to the moment
that Harry paid for their tickets at the rickety old stadium where
Pride of Portree played their home games. Old though it was, the
Homepride stadium had its charms - not the least of which was the brass
band that oompah'd its way through popular songs before its match.
had always enjoyed watching matches at the Homepride stadium, but he
suspected that today would be an exception. For Tonks, the act of
passing through the turnstile had also brought on a character change,
and now Harry found himself unable to extract his arm from Tatiana's
"Ooh, look," Tatiana squealed. "Oliver Wood!"
Wood turned at the mention of his name, and nodded to Harry.
"Potter. Here to scout out Portree?"
yeah," Harry said. He thought that Caerphilly, for whom he played
Seeker, had already played Portree that season, but nodded anyway.
see your friend Weasley is playing today," Wood carried on. "Good form
this season. Could do with guarding his left hoop more, though. Of
course, he has the reach to make up for it a lot of the time..."
nodded vacantly, already feeling the soporific effect that Wood's long
discourses on Quidditch had induced when they had been teammates at
"But he's a decent prospect," Wood said at last.
"English too, so we might even end up facing each other internationally
Harry nodded automatically, and then suddenly realised that Wood had stopped talking.
Wood made a noise of disapproval.
"You want to concentrate a bit more, Potter? I can just see your coach being delighted if you drift off in your match tomorrow."
"Oh, don't mind him," Tatiana said. "I kept him up last night. Wonderful stamina, he has."
"Er..." Wood said, nonplussed.
"Tatiana Blanc," she said, extending her hand. "Pleased to meetcha."
Wood said. He cast a critical eye over Tatiana's short skirt, long legs
and well-presented attributes. "You were out last night, Potter?
Puddlemere are under strict orders to stay in for at least two nights
before a match."
Tatiana laughed, the tinkling sound she made making both Wood and Harry shiver.
we stayed in," she said. "We stayed in all night, don't you worry."
With a wink so lascivious that it made Wood take a step back, Tatiana
reached down and pinched Harry's bum, making him jump and Wood stare at
the pair of them in a mixture of horror and surprise.
quite," he managed. "Er, I should get to my seat. Potter. Miss Blanc."
He turned abruptly on one heel and hurried away. Harry didn't think
he'd seen Wood so stirred up over anything not related to Quidditch
So distracted was Harry that it took Tatiana pinching him on the bum again to make him snap back to where he was.
"Stop that," he hissed, as she seized his arm again and latched onto it, limpet-like.
you're such a tease," she giggled. "But you're going to have to stop
shivering like that," she added in a Tonks-voiced whisper. "You're
supposed to be crazy about me."
"I'd have to be crazy to be
with Tatiana- Oh," Harry said, as he got it. "I see. Ron will tell
Ginny, who'll ask Hermione, who'll tell her everything."
so clever," Tatiana trilled, and laughed again. "And this way we get to
see how Ron really feels about Padma – how he reacts to you being with
a girl who's beautiful but a complete personality clash should be
interesting," she added, in Tonks' normal voice.
"Can we do without the laugh? At least until we have to see Ron?"
"No," Tonks replied.
"Look, I'm sorry I hauled you out of bed this morning-"
Tatiana laughed. Harry sighed, and hoped that the match was over quickly.
wasn't. Harry had a great deal of time to get used to Tatiana's tinkly
laugh, as well as to observe Tonks' whispered instructions on how to
act around her so that he could convince Ron that he was crazy about
He did, however, draw the line when she suggested that he allow her to nibble on his ear.
enjoying this too much," he muttered, as the Cannons' Seeker finally
seized the Snitch, a full forty-five minutes after Harry thought that
he would have managed it.
"Don't be silly," Tatiana giggled,
swatting him on the arm. Harry rolled his eyes. Tonks had gradually
introduced more and more irritating characteristics to the Tatiana
character as the day wore on, and his normally fairly elastic temper
was beginning to twang a bit.
"Look, the match is over. Let's just go and wait for Ron."
"Oooh, are we going to the VIP area?!?"
held tight to Harry's hand as they threaded their way through the
dispersing crowd. A small scrum of reporters was gathered at the end of
the players' tunnel as the teams dropped down to the ground. Ron looked
tired but pleased, his long hair plastered to his head with sweat as he
dismounted. He caught sight of Harry and grinned, waving his friend
through the crowd. As the reporters spotted Harry, there was the
repeated flash of light bulbs, and he sighed.
friend, Harry?" asked one reporter, and they all turned, first to look
at Tatiana, then to look back at Harry with raised eyebrows. He knew
exactly what they were thinking. Apart from one charity event that he'd
attended with Hermione, Harry had never appeared before the press with
a woman. That the woman in question was now giggling incessantly and
waving at the photographers' and-
-Harry blushed and looked away-
-flaunting her suddenly impressive cleavage for them, made her presence at Harry's side even bigger news.
Harry turned as far towards Ron as Tatiana's iron grip would allow.
"Can we go in?" he asked.
"Er, yeah. Who's she?"
"Never mind. Come on."
Ron's eyes narrowed.
"Trouble?" he asked, his voice suddenly as steely as it was quiet. Harry shook his head hurriedly.
"No, honest. But get moving, would you?"
looked as though he had more questions, but apparently decided that he
was more likely to get answers without the wizarding world's press
"Come on," Harry muttered, giving Tatiana's arm a tug.
forceful," she cooed, triggering a barrage of popping flashbulbs that
left Harry all but blind. Gratefully, he realised that Ron had seized
his free arm, but when his friend began to pull him towards the
player's tunnel it took a second for Tatiana to follow, and he ended up
trying to hold the irresistible force to the immovable object.
aching across his shoulders and with spots from the flashbulbs dancing
before his eyes, Harry found himself in the private tunnel outside the
"So, what brings you to Portree?" Ron asked, his eyes flicking almost imperceptibly on to Tatiana.
Harry wanted me to meet his very best friend," Tatiana said, and
giggled. Harry was somewhat relieved to see Ron shudder as much as he
"Right," Ron managed. "Well, give me ten minutes to get washed and changed, and we can go and chat in the sponsors lounge."
"Great," Harry managed through gritted teeth.
Lupin! Hermione didn't say that you were coming. You're looking well,"
Ginny smiled as they joined her at the pavement table.
was a spur of the moment thing," Remus said. "I happened to bump into
Hermione in Dervish and Bang's just now and she invited me along. I
hope that I'm not intruding?"
"Of course not," Ginny said. "How's Tonks?"
"Ginny," Remus said, a little awkwardly. "I'm told you before, please call me Remus. Or Moony, at least."
"Sorry," she said automatically. "How's Tonks?" she asked again.
Remus and Hermione exchanged a look.
"Is something wrong?" Ginny asked.
"I... I'm not sure," Remus sighed. "Tonks and I have been discussing her work lately."
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked.
she's in a very dangerous job," Remus said, choosing each word
carefully in order that, should Ginny ever bring the conversation up,
he could always say that he hadn't told any actual lies. "And she works
such unpredictable hours. It can be somewhat trying."
"Well, she is
an Auror," Ginny said, mildly. "That sort of thing comes with the job,
Remus. Especially an O Grade like Tonks - she's on call twenty-four
hours a day."
"Like Olivier," Hermione murmured. Ginny nodded.
- although he's only on call one week in four now. A lot of people have
taken accelerated training now, and he's not needed as much. Still,"
she said, with a grunt that could have been construed as a humourless
laugh. "I think he thrives on it. He had the chance to take a position
where he wouldn't have had to be on call, and he passed it on. I didn't
really notice when I was at Hogwarts, but now I have some time that I
can spend with him, and actually get to know him a bit better... I know
it's only temporary, and he says that it's part of paying his dues, but
he's so... committed."
"Tonks is the
same," he sighed. "She wouldn't even consider moving down to an E or A
Grade post - even if the chance was there. She loves being on the front
line and going after the real threats."
"It can be trying,"
Ginny said. "Sometimes I think that Olivier wouldn't even notice if I
left him - he's so busy trying to save the world."
"Like Harry," Hermione said.
shook her head. "No," she said. "Harry was... He knew when to let go,
most of the time. His fifth year," she went on, her gaze losing focus
as she looked backward in time. "That was when he was so close to
losing it, but he found a way to channel all that energy of his into
the DA. I think that's when he realised that he didn't have to do it
all himself, do you remember?"
Hermione nodded, and shared a loaded glance with Remus.
Olivier doesn't know how to do that. He's so convinced that he has to
be there - I swear, he'd volunteer for more shifts if he could, but at
least he's smart enough to know how much the body can handle. He still
tries to push himself beyond it, though," she added, in the tone of one
who was relating a problem that she could do nothing about.
"It must be hard for you," Remus said.
I imagine it'll work out," she said. "Olivier wants to train to be a
Healer, and with the accelerated courses and his nurse's training he
could be qualified in another year or so."
"And he won't work as hard then?" Hermione suggested.
relatively speaking," Ginny shrugged. "I mean, if he goes for it, he'll
spend the next year working full time and studying when he's not at
work. After that, he might back off and have half an hour's free time
Remus pulled a face. "At least Tonks has done as
much study as she needs to," he said. "Although I think someone
suggested that she retake Basic Stealth the other day," he shrugged.
Hermione and Ginny smiled.
"It's just..." Ginny began, and tailed off with a scowl.
"What is it?" Hermione asked. Ginny shrugged.
"It's stupid," she said.
"Nonsense," Remus said. "Clearly it's troubling you - so it's not stupid."
just..." Ginny began again, reluctantly. "Olivier does important work,
I can't deny that. I just wish that he didn't keep reminding me of it."
"What do you mea-"
I am needed at l'hopital,' 'Ginnee, I shall not be able to make your
father's birthday, I must be on call,' 'Ginnee, I do important work. I
cannot attend your friend's dinner when I must rise at six the next
morning,'" Ginny said, in a sing-song French accent. "I just sit there,
thinking 'L'oui, l'Olivier,'" she added, with a sigh.
Hermione hid a smile behind her glass.
"I'm sorry, Remus," Ginny said. "You were talking about Tonks."
"It's not important," Remus said. "Nothing that the two of us won't be able to sort out, don't worry."
"You're good for her," Ginny said. "I've always thought so. You're so sweet together."
Remus looked mildly affronted, but smiled. "Well, on behalf of Tonks and myself, I thank you."
"Maybe you can give Olivier some tips?" Ginny suggested.
shook his head. "Basic lesson about men, Miss Weasley. No man likes
having his performance as a boyfriend criticised by another man - and
suggestions are only slightly more welcome."
begging for suggestions at work," Ginny scowled. "I've dropped in to
see him a few times, and he just spends al his time trailing after the
doctors, desperate for anything they'll say to him."
"Well, anyone serious about their field of work is always eager to learn," Remus said.
suppose," Ginny said, downing the last of her drink. "But I've never
known anyone be so pompous at home and such a creep at work. Well -
maybe one of the Malfoys," she laughed. "Oh, listen to me. I'm
dreadful. I shouldn't be so nasty about him - he's nice enough."
"Have you talked about it with him?" Hermione asked.
When he gets home and climbs straight into bed? When he wakes up and
dashes around the flat for ten minutes so that he can arrive early for
his shift? Or maybe in the half-an-hour a month that he seems to have
decided is enough time to spend just on talking to me? And even then I
can see that he gets bored after ten minutes. I know I've only just
finished my NEWTs, but he could at least try and pretend that he's
She looked around and grimaced.
"I did it again, didn't I?" she said. "I'm going to get another drink. Would anyone else like one?"
Hermione and Remus shook their heads and watched as Ginny made her way to the bar.
"Well," Hermione managed.
Remus replied. "I have to say, I suspected that I had the right tactic,
but she's barely needed prodding. I would say that she is about to blow
- and I personally do not intend to be in the vicinity when it happens."