Scion of Gryffindor
32 - Yule Ball
Harry / Tonks ship
"You look very smart."
"Thank you. Could it be the snazzy new dress robes? Or is it the signet rings? No, no; I got it. It's the gorgeous creature on my arm, isn't it?"
Nim smiled brilliantly at him.
"Dear Merlin that was sappy," Neville complained as he and Hannah joined them where they'd stopped just outside the Abbott ballroom.
Hannah smacked his shoulder. "I thought it was sweet!"
Neville muttered something under his breath, rubbing his shoulder.
Harry laughed. "How DID you two get together, anyway?"
Neville flushed, and Hannah smiled at him.
"Oh, there HAS to be a good story in there," Harry observed with a smile.
Neville gave a resigned sigh. "Harry, I know you're muggle-raised. Dora, I'm not sure how much of wizarding traditions you know . . ."
"Lots. My mother was originally a Black, remember."
Neville nodded. "Then you'll understand me when I tell you that my gran is a Matcher."
Tonks stared at him blankly for a moment before she looked impressed.
Harry, confused by the unfamiliar term, looked from Hannah's calm expression to Neville's slightly embarrassed, sheepish grin. Neither of them gave Harry any kind of explanation, so he turned to Nim. "What's a Matcher?"
"Someone who makes matches."
Harry sighed. "Nim," he prompted impatiently.
"Seriously. For some reason, some people can match up couples. A couple who were Matched have a much higher likelihood of getting married and staying happy together. Nobody's quite sure how a Matcher does it, but the leading theory is a specialized form of empathy. Anyway, such people are highly regarded among the middle, lower, and muggle-born classes."
Harry frowned. "Why not everyone?"
Hannah answered, "The upper-upper class tend to be the purest of the pure. They have marriages of convenience for political or blood alliances. They don't marry for love."
Harry guessed, "Malfoy, Nott, Parkinson -"
"Until this generation, the Blacks," Nim added.
Hannah nodded. "Yep, that crowd. Anyway, outside of them, a Matcher is well regarded. They're also very well paid."
"Arranged marriage?" Harry asked in confusion. He couldn't imagine that was the case with the two of them. Neville had never mentioned such a thing, and he'd taken Ginny to the Yule Ball two years previously.
Neville shook his head. "Not at all. From what Gran has told me, she needs to meet the people after they're . . . past puberty." He flushed slightly. "So working through her and arranging a marriage when the two are just babies can't happen. Most of the people who come to her are the families of seventh year students or young adults after graduation. For lack of a better explanation, she can just sense if two people of her acquaintance, each not already in a relationship, would be good for each other."
Tonks said, "Most people don't go to a Matcher. There is something of a sense of . . ." She frowned, trying to come up with the correct phrase.
"Inability to do it on our own?" Neville supplied.
Hannah nodded. "Yeah, that's a good way of phrasing it." She saw Harry's confused look. "It isn't a stigma, Harry. The young adults in question usually dislike the implication that they can't find a good partner on their own." She gave a humorless smile. "In my case, it's the truth, though. After the mess I'd made of the Yule Ball with Ernie in our fourth year, I was very frustrated. Seeing that I was doubting myself, my father asked if I wanted to go to a Matcher. So we went."
"Imagine my surprise when Gran called me into the room and then explained WHY," Neville said with a grin and a far-away look.
Hannah squeezed his arm and smiled at him.
Neville shook himself back to the present. "Anyway, that was the summer before our fifth year. We've been seeing each other since."
"Well, good for you," Harry congratulated them, still trying to absorb this bit of wizarding society.
"Thanks," Hannah said. "Hey," she said suddenly, "would you know about a certain prank that was played on Hogwarts recently?"
"Maybe. What prank are you talking about?"
Hannah looked from his unconvincing innocent expression to Tonks's smirk. "Well, I WAS going to ask about the end of the Halloween Ball, but now I'm thinking there's more than just that."
"Did Ginny mention that I was there?" Harry asked, ignoring the second half of her unasked question. He'd let Ginny know that he didn't care if she told that much, so he wasn't surprised that she'd mentioned it.
"Yep. Nobody knows which part you played, though. So were you Merlin or Gryffindor?"
"Why couldn't I have been Slytherin or even Ravenclaw?"
Neville's lip twitched. "Uh, Harry? I must admit to having watched Lady Ravenclaw." He glanced at Tonks fleetingly before turning back to Harry. "She was moving like a woman, not a man."
Tonks laughed. "Body language?"
She smiled. "Good eye. Yep, I was Ravenclaw."
"So who were the other three?" Hannah asked.
"Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Merlin," Neville teased.
She smacked his shoulder again.
Harry laughed. "Sorry, Hannah, but I'm afraid that's a secret."
She sighed. "You're no fun."
"I disagree," Tonks said. She squeezed Harry's captured arm and said, "With the right motivation, he can be a LOT of fun."
"Dear Merlin you two are sappy," Neville observed.
"More like flirting, teasing, or perhaps even frisky." Hannah smiled at Harry's spectacular blush. "I think it's cute."
"I think SHE'S," Harry started, tilting his head toward Tonks, "very cute, but I can't see how I would qualify."
"Handsome, then," Hannah allowed.
"Stunningly gorgeous?" Nim suggested.
"It's those green eyes that get me," Hannah admitted to Nim.
"Those are nice," the other woman agreed, looking at the increasingly embarrassed Harry critically. "That wind-blown hair is pretty good, too. I have to admit that it's that luscious body that I noticed first, though."
"You do know I'm right here, right?" Harry asked the two, face a brilliant red.
"Of course, dear," Nim patted him absently on his arm, her attention still clearly on her conversation with Hannah. "I'm talking with your friend, though. It's rude to interrupt."
Harry groaned and closed his eyes as if in pain. "Neville, would you please help me escape?"
"You're on your own, mate," Neville choked out, trying to control his laughter.
"Can we PLEASE change the subject?" Harry asked.
Hannah and Tonks laughed, having succeeded in mortally embarrassing the Boy Who Lived. Hannah took pity on him. "That dress and your hair look gorgeous, Miss Tonks."
Nim turned, showing off the muggle style dress. It was a sleeveless black outfit that hugged her shapely figure before flaring out at her hips, flowing down to the sparkling black shoes that peeked out. A starburst pattern centered at her waist was made of small, magically twinkling sequins that matched the edging of Harry's black dress robes. She was wearing her hair long, as black as Harry's, and done in a loose braid that fell down her back almost to the waist. She'd even charmed small silver, glittering pinpoints into it somehow. "Thanks. Harry's elf made the dress and Harry's dress robes, too. A friend helped me with my hair."
"You're not getting out of it so easily," Neville said with a grin.
Dragging his attention away from Nim, Harry looked at Neville quizzically, trying to guess what the other young man meant.
"Prank at the end of the Halloween Ball? You've basically admitted you were there. Gryffindor, whoever he really was, was obviously in on it." Neville mock pouted. "Did you HAVE to turn me into a lemur?"
Harry and Tonks broke into laughter. Even Hannah was fighting a grin.
"Moving on," Harry said, "why isn't Hermione here? Considering who all is here -"
Hannah shook her head. "Yes, it's composed mostly of my friends and classmates. However, Dad did the invites according to his business associates. I could only invite those already coming, or their children. As Hermione doesn't fall into either category . . ." she trailed off with a helpless shrug.
Harry thought about that for a few moments. "Someone will have to let me know about the web of associations. As I know Mr. and Mrs. Weasley aren't in any businesses, the Browns would have to be. I can't even begin to guess some of the other couples."
Nim slipped her hand into his elbow. "I'll let you know, Harry. Mum's kept me up to date on the major business families."
After a moment, Hannah nodded in recognition. "Andy Tonks. Right." She grinned at Harry. "Sorry, it'll take me a while to think of you as really being part of this group."
Harry laughed. "You and me both!"
"How do you keep all these things straight?" Harry asked Nim later. She'd just identified the seventh couple to approach Harry, told him what business they were in, their major competitors and allies, and helped him carry on an intelligent conversation with people he'd never even heard of before.
She shrugged. "How do you keep the differences between Aidan Lynch and Victor Krum straight? Seeking is just something you're interested in. Mum is always telling me about these people, so the same thing applies."
"Well, I've actually talked with Victor, but I understand what you're saying."
She blinked at him for a moment before shaking her head. "Tri-Wizard Tournament." She gave a little laugh. "Only you, Harry, would be on friendly terms with an international quidditch star AND on a first name basis with the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
"Don't forget that I also have Fudge and his repeated attempts to paint me as a raving lunatic."
"First name basis with two of the most respected professors at Hogwarts."
"Ongoing feud with the headmaster of Hogwarts," Harry countered with a grin.
She put her hands on her hips and turned to glare at him. "Friendships with Bones, McGonagall, and Flitwick; great trainers in Shacklebolt and Lupin; some of the best friends anyone could ask for at school; a great ancestor; friendship with several quidditch stars; your own bloody CASTLE; more social contacts than anyone else on the planet; several very recognizable family names; and a whole huge, bloody PILE of galleons."
Privately, he thought she looked glorious standing like that, eyes flashing with petulant anger. Deciding to just be contrary, he said, "You forgot a few things: a permanent enemy in Fudge and Umbridge because I refuse to lie; a fight with Dumbledore because I want a little independence; an insane Dark Lord trying to kill me because he didn't manage it the first time; and an annoying bug that is trying to pass herself off as real reporter carrying a personal vendetta against me." Smiling winningly at her glowering expression, he said, "On the plus side, though, I'm dating the most charming former auror I know."
Her ire, steadily rising as he listed his perceived problems, evaporated at his last words. "You, Mr. Potter, are incorrigible." She graced him with a dazzling smile.
Harry smiled back and leaned in for a quick kiss. As he was straightening back up, he was suddenly aware of a deafening silence and looked around. Everyone at the party, adult and student, was staring at them. Expressions ranged from highly amused to starry-eyed to indifferent with everything in between. "Oh, bloody hell."
Marcus Abbott, fighting his twitching lip, stepped forward. "So, are you enjoying yourself tonight, Harry?"
Given an out from the embarrassing situation, Harry immediately grasped it. "Yes, it's a great party so far, sir. Thank you for inviting us."
"Not at all. Your parents attended one year, and I remember James's parents coming for years. As a Potter, you would have been invited anyway." He raised a hand to Harry's darkening expression. "Since getting to know you to some degree, you yourself are also earning a much higher place in my estimation."
Harry relaxed a fraction at Marcus's words, further when the entire room stopped staring at him, and even further when Nim rubbed a hand up and down his back. "Thank you, sir."
Abbott smiled and nodded. "Now, if you have a moment, Amit and I would like to speak with you."
Harry was on his guard but allowed Mr. Abbott to lead him toward the Indian couple standing by the large fireplace that contained the traditional Yule log that was crackling merrily.
"Mr. Potter," Amit Patil greeted him as they approached. He turned to Nim and smiled at her charmingly. "And Miss Tonks."
Nim raised an eyebrow at him.
Krupa Patil laughed. "You two individually and as a couple have made quite the impression upon our children. The fact that Harry Potter is dating a former auror, and a metamorphmagus on top of that? The story ran through the rumor mill within minutes of everyone arriving."
Harry smiled sardonically. He glanced at Nim. "Well, you wanted the relationship to become public."
Emily Abbott, stepping to her husband's side, looked at Harry with a disapproving expression.
Harry saw her reaction and sighed. "As my girlfriend, I'm afraid she's going to be targeted by Voldemort." Everyone except Harry and Tonks shuddered.
Moving to a different topic, Harry addressed Amit Patil, "Mr. Abbott said you wanted to speak with me?"
"Yes. I believe that at our introduction Marcus told you what I do?"
"An import business, I believe?"
"The East India Trading Company," Tonks mentioned.
As the other four nodded, Harry was looking at her in confusion. "Didn't that company go under over a hundred years ago?"
Amit laughed. "The muggle side of the business did indeed go out of business. No, we became an exclusively wizarding company when several families, the Potters among them, invested in E.I.T. I inherited the leadership of the company shortly before the girls were born. I must admit that I had originally entertained thoughts of trying to arrange a marriage between one of them and yourself, Mr. Potter."
Harry blushed spectacularly. The Patil twins were widely regarded as being among the prettiest girls in Hogwarts. On top of that was how poorly he'd treated Parvati at the Yule Ball their fourth year.
The Abbotts and Patils laughed. "Your father wouldn't hear of it," Amit continued. "Upon reflection, I admit that he had the right idea. Choosing for our children is doing them a disservice. If I love them, I must give them the freedom of choice."
"Terry Boot is a good bloke," Harry offered.
Amit made a non-committal gesture. "Perhaps. They are young yet.
"At any rate, the reason I asked to speak with you was due to a labor shortage I have. Much as it pains me to admit it, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is recruiting from among my workers. His promises appeal to the . . . baser natures and urges among my general laborers."
"You're down on help because Voldemort's been recruiting them?"
Amit twitched but nodded.
"I'm sorry to hear that, but I don't see why you're telling me instead of Madam Bones."
"Ah, you misunderstand what I'm after, I'm afraid. I was mentioning it to you because you're sitting on top of a phenomenal yet untapped labor source. I'm referring, of course, to the modifications to the Werewolf Laws you recently pushed through."
Harry tilted his head quizzically. "I hardly have any kind of authority over them. I was just trying to make life easier on them."
Emily Abbott said, "It's for exactly that reason that we're coming to you. If I may make a suggestion?"
Harry looked from Mr. Patil to Mrs. Abbott in confusion. "Please, suggest away."
"Start a sub-contracting labor company. Companies like East India Trading and Abbott Greenhouses -"
"We have our own labor problems," Marcus Abbott interjected.
"- or any other company who wants semi-skilled or general laborers for inconsistent time frames can contract them through you. We pay slightly higher than the going rate, but we get a more stable supply of workers. Due to your recent actions, I believe you will have many people willing to work for you."
Harry's eyes unfocused as he thought about what they were saying. Unspoken, of course, was the presumption that most of Harry's workers in this theoretical company would be werewolves. Truthfully, getting them employed even part time at minimum wage jobs would be a huge improvement for them. "An interesting suggestion," Harry said eventually. "I'll think about it and talk with Andy."
Marcus nodded. "That's all that we can ask." He gave Harry an abbreviated bow. "Lord-Baron." Nodding to Tonks, he added, "Miss Tonks. Have a good evening." Marcus and Emily moved off and greeted another guest almost immediately.
Krupa smiled at Harry and Tonks. "You do make a lovely couple. Congratulations on that, by the by." She sighed. "Well, if one of my daughters didn't manage to snatch you up, at least you -"
"Mother!" Padma interrupted in an exasperated tone as she and Terry happened to be walking past.
The four laughed as the Ravenclaw couple kept going, not even bothering to stop.
"On that note, I believe that we, too, shall take our leave," Amit Patil said with audible amusement. "Lord-Baron, Miss Tonks, have a good evening."
Once the other two had left, Harry moved behind Tonks and wrapped his arms around her. "Interesting idea," he commented, staring at an Abbott family portrait without seeing it.
"More interesting that they brought the idea to you first instead of Mum," Nim said, snuggling back into Harry's embrace and absently running one hand over his arm. "They're seeing you as an equal, not someone to work around."
Harry pondered that for a few seconds. "Hmm. That's comforting."
"As it should be. Keep acting like an adult and everyone will treat you like one. We're at a high-class ball, though. Let's find something else to talk about."
"Fair enough. What do you think of the party?"
"It's been grand so far. I'm having lots of fun. Too bad there isn't a dance floor."
"Hmm," Harry absently agreed. "I'm going to get a drink. Would you like anything?"
"A cold drink sounds good. I'm too close to this fire; I'm hot."
He nodded into her hair and pulled away before he turned toward the drink table. As he walked away, he called over his shoulder, "I think you are, but I admit that I'm biased."
"How Neville and Hannah got together" bunny brought to you by Aaron St. Vines.
Thanks to Cami for the description of Tonks's dress. Without her, I would've left it "a pretty muggle dress". Not that what I did was a whole lot more, but still.
The E.I.T. idea came from Dale.