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Fairytale in the Room of Requirement

Music drifted up to the foot of the wide, stone staircase. Countless pupils drifted past, and the portraits nodded and swayed to its tempo. Professor Mcgonagall tapped her fingers against her hip. 

This is about as good a choice of location to wait as Professor McGonagall’s choice of that tartan horror for a dress. Harry leant against the balustrade, stared at the ceiling, and held his breath as the time dragged by. Maybe Fleur was just setting me up to throw me off for the tournament. He smothered the twist of anxiety in his gut and studied his fingernails. No. Don’t think about stuff like that. She said she’s different. She’s not given you a reason to distrust her. Don’t ruin something for no reason.

Professor McGonagall cast a swift tempus charm. ‘You do have a partner, don’t you, Mr Potter?’

I hope I do. He stamped the knot of worry back down. She promised.

‘I’m sure she’s just fashionably late, professor,’ he said.

‘Well, you can transfigure your robes into something more suitable while you wait. As long as she arrives before Miss Delacour and her date, it will not matter.’

Are you going to transfigure your tartan terror into something suitable, too, professor? Harry bit his tongue before the question slipped out.

Cedric sniggered. ‘I don’t think Fleur Delacour’s arrival will come before Harry’s date.’

Cho giggled into Cedric’s shoulder.

Viktor Krum snorted. ‘Da.’

Hermione hung on his arm, her fingers curled round Krum’s bicep. She worried at her lip so hard the sleek coil of hair atop her head wobbled.

Harry waved his wand over his school robes, transfiguring them in one smooth motion from plain black to a dark shade of green with silver edging. I finally look like the Heir of Slytherin.

Professor McGonagall’s expression tightened, but her eyes remained soft.

Should’ve listened to the raggedy hat. Harry stifled a sigh. Wouldn’t have got all wound up trying to be the perfect hero if I’d not been in Gryffindor. Might’ve murdered Malfoy, though. Of course, most decent people would probably consider that another argument for joining Slytherin.

Movement flashed in the corner of Harry’s eye. Fleur descended the stairs in a gown of shimmering silver. The individual threads shone like they were coated in molten metal and the material shivered around her hips like heat haze. Relief flooded Harry when her eyes flicked to him and softened.

She looks beautiful. A small smile crept onto his lips. Her allure… Harry tore his eyes away and held his breath. Too beautiful. As if everyone didn’t have enough reason to envy and hate me, I’ve got the girl they’re all dreaming about, too. Fantastic.

‘Miss Delacour.’ Professor McGonagall pursed her lips. ‘You are late and without a date.’

Fleur gave the transfiguration professor the sort of look that had reminded Harry of the Hungarian Horntail. ‘My date is already waiting for me.’ She swayed into the middle of the group and slipped her arm through Harry’s.

Her heat burnt against his skin like the summer sun on his back. Deep breaths, Harry. It’s only for a few hours. He forced himself to stand tall and pulled a smile onto his face.

A flicker of warmth passed through Fleur’s eyes, then she turned a broad smirk on Professor McGonagall. ‘International cooperation.’

‘Well, it’s too late to change now. It’s time for the opening dance.’ Professor McGonagall spared a long look for Harry and Fleur and bustled off.

Harry’s heart began to pound. A host of staring eyes prickled on his skin as they approached the Great Hall.

‘I do not enjoy dancing,’ Fleur whispered. ‘Not with people I do not know or trust, so I hope you do not mind if we only dance together. For as short a time as possible if it still makes you uncomfortable.’

Harry took a deep breath and nodded. He pictured the circle of black ink on its white page and tried to drown the whispers in its dark, but the searing heat of Fleur’s skin against his burnt through the circle and all those bright, gimlet eyes glimmered from its depths.

A cheerful waltz burst across the hall and his feet followed Fleur’s light pull. The ink on the page faded into the flash of bright, sky-blue eyes a few inches from his own and the pale rose curve of a small, soft smile. He let himself drown in her until the prickle of eyes eased and the music faded.

‘Not so bad, Harry?’ Fleur stepped back and the noise of the rest of the Great Hall crashed back over him like a wave. ‘I think there are a lot of envious wizards out there.’

‘And some envious witches,’ Harry said. ‘Sadly, I think they’re all envious of me.’

Fleur swept her silver hair over her shoulder. ‘You did not answer my question.’

‘It wasn’t so bad.’ He followed her to a side table covered in drinks, a little relief swooping through him. ‘I won’t pretend I want to do it again, though.’

Fleur laughed and perused the bottles. ‘I will not force you. I would rather we danced upstairs alone than before the gossiping peanut gallery.’

Harry picked up a bottle of red wine and frowned. They’re serving alcohol at a ball underage wizards and witches can attend?

‘The ball was only supposed to be for students who were seventeen and over.’ Fleur tapped a finger on the top of his bottle. ‘When your name came out, they decided to let younger years attend so you would not be all alone.’

‘I guess nobody remembered to remove all this from the drinks list.’

‘Wine?’ Fleur tugged the bottle from Harry’s grip and put it down on the table well out of reach. ‘Good wine, not that bottle of paint-stripper you were holding.’

Harry read the label of the proffered bottle of elven  wine. ‘I’ll trust your taste, then. You are French.’

‘I know wine. French or not.’ Fleur tapped two crystal glasses with her wand. They floated after her as she led him to a table at the side of the room. ‘I am a little impressed, actually. My allure did not seem to affect you much and I threw a fair amount your way.’

‘You shouldn’t have done, the others–’

‘They would have stared regardless.’ Fleur tilted her chin up. ‘I do not need magic to catch boys’ eyes. I never have, not since I was a little girl.’ She proffered him the bottle and a glass.

Harry poured himself a glass of white wine. If it’s anything like the firewhiskey, this might help. A horrible sinking sensation seized him and he glanced into the crowd. I hope Katie’s not drinking.

‘Searching for someone?’ Fleur followed his line of sight. ‘That Katie girl?’

‘Avoiding.’

‘Ah.’ Fleur’s blue eyes bored into his. ‘Well, she is not worth wasting thought on, especially not when I am here.’

Harry chuckled. ‘So modest.’

‘C’est vrais.’ She shrugged. ‘Hogwarts is very different to Beauxbatons.’ Fleur sipped her wine. ‘The suits of armour, despite the yule garlands, do not quite match the occasion.’

‘I imagine it is.’

‘We have ice statues at Christmas in France instead of this.’ Fleur smiled and took another sip of wine. ‘I learnt the enchantments in my first year so I could make one for Gabby.’

Harry recalled the photo of the two smiling girls in Fleur’s room. ‘You miss your sister.’

‘She is coming with my mother to see the second task.’ Fleur finished her glass and reached for the bottle. ‘That is not so far away.’

Harry drank some of his own as she glanced away. Half the glass went down like it was water. 

Peeves burst into the room, cackling and showering nearby couples with white berries.

Mistletoe, probably… hopefully.

Dean and Ron scowled at the mischievous spirit as he pelted them with berries.

Harry grinned. They look like they’ve been ditched.

‘Beauxbatons does not have a poltergeist, either.’ Fleur offered the bottle to Harry, a bright spark glimmering in her eyes. ‘A shame, really. He seems most amusing.’

Harry topped his glass up with the burgundy liquid.

‘I believe there’s a debate every year over whether he should be expelled from the halls or not,’ Harry said. ‘He doesn’t cause too much chaos, just enough to be a nuisance every now and again. The caretaker, Argus Filch, hates him.’

‘From what I have heard, your caretaker hates everything except his pet.’

‘There’s probably some truth in that.’ Harry eyed the pristine Christmas cake. ‘Do you think we’re allowed to cut it? I’ve never tried Christmas cake before.’

‘Do you want some?’ Fleur conjured a knife and cut a thin slice. ‘Nobody will tell us no.’

‘Thank you.’ Harry accepted the slice.

Fleur cut herself one three times the size and picked the marzipan off, eating large forkfuls with a small smile. She caught Harry’s raised eyebrow and laughed. ‘I have a sweet tooth.’

‘Is that your weakness?’ Harry quipped.

A soft chuckle slipped from Fleur’s red lips. ‘Non. It would take more than the offer of something sweet to persuade me to help you win, though I am very fond of marzipan.’

‘Is it a veela thing?’ Harry watched Fleur’s slice of cake vanish in a series of swift, neat forkfuls. 

Sugar glazed her red lips, the little white crystals melting on her skin.

‘Most wizards know very little about veela.’ Fleur licked the sugar from her lips with the tip of her tongue. ‘Witches know even less.’ She poured the rest of the bottle into her glass.

‘The only thing I know about veela is the effect of your allure. I felt it at the World Cup.’

‘So you do feel it,’ Fleur murmured. ‘I wonder, then, why you are so resistant to mine. Mine is stronger than most.’

‘I heard that you’re part-veela, perhaps your aura is different?’ Harry suggested.

‘You were correct that the only thing you know about veela is the feel of our magic. You really should have gone to the library once you knew I was veela.’

‘I’ve had a lot on my mind.’

‘Well, so that you do not embarrass yourself, or me, in the future, I will tell you something about veela.’ She flipped her silver hair back over one shoulder and shifted her chair around to face him.

‘You’d throw away your advantage?’ Harry grinned. ‘That doesn’t seem like you. What about winning?’

Fleur laughed. ‘Do not be naive, Harry. It would take less than an hour for you to find out what I intend to tell you and this way I can control what you know.’

‘I don’t think you’d tell me that if you had any intention of actually using the opportunity.’

Fleur’s eyes flicked toward the bottle. ‘Perhaps not. Truthfully, I dislike the idea of you having misconceptions about me and if I do not tell you myself, you will only hear more silly rumours from someone else.’ She toyed with the last piece of marzipan. ‘The first thing you need to know is that there is no such thing as a part veela. A female child of a veela is a veela. It is a common misconception that we’re part-human creatures, one encouraged by wizards who would like to use certain laws against us, when in fact we are simply witches with an extra set of inherited abilities.’

‘Like parseltongue.’

‘A little more wide-ranging and less reviled, but yes.’

Interesting.

‘So where do veela really come from, then?’ he asked.

‘Eastern Europe has legends that fit our description going back millennia. They can be traced East and down through the Caucus Mountains to the earliest such stories in Mesopotamia. There were myths of harpies, magical creatures, and fire worship all across the region. The rituals and miracles in ancient scripture there are often familiar to us.

‘You can conjure fire.’ Harry sighed. ‘I bet that’s useful.’

‘I am also resistant to the heat,’ Fleur said. ‘Do you want any?’ She leant across the table to procure a bottle of sweet, dessert wine. ‘It has never been my forte, but I can be persuaded to share from time to time.’

‘No, but thank you.’ Harry offered her a half-smile. ‘I don’t think I have your tolerance and I’d rather not get myself, or you, laughed at.’

‘It is very nice, but I do very much dislike being laughed at, so I will save it for myself.’ Fleur began to pour herself a glass, but, midway to tipping the bottle, glanced up and caught sight of a group of wizards making eyes at her and muttering. ‘I hope you will not be insulted if I leave as early as possible. I fear the invitations are about to start.’

‘Relieved.’

The corner of Fleur’s lips twitched. ‘We can return to the Room of Requirement, if you like?’

 Harry raised an eyebrow. ‘Really?’

‘I cannot go back to the carriage early, it would be humiliating, and I have no other company I might prefer.’ A mischievous gleam shone in Fleur’s blue eyes. ‘Most boys would trade a great deal to be alone with me in a room after a few bottles of wine, Harry.’

Katie won’t be able to find me there, and nor will Ron, or Dean, or Ginny. Harry found the idea brought a faint, warm rush of relief.

‘Well? Are you going to say yes?’ Fleur sipped her wine. ‘Or has the thought of the two of us alone late at night left you speechless?’

‘I’m game.’ Harry picked the crust off a mince pie. ‘I don’t really have any other plans.’

Fleur watched him pull the pastry apart and finished the last gulp of her wine. ‘Ok. I will meet you at the stairs in a couple of minutes.’ She tapped the neck of the wine bottle. ‘I need to make a detour to the bathroom first.’

How much has she drunk? Harry ran his eyes over the three bottles. How can she even stand? Aunt Petunia’s about her size, though she’s wider and shorter, and she’d be comatose after half that much.

Fleur strode through the hall, glimmering like the Mirror of Erised. Conversations parted for her like clouds before the summer sun.

No point lingering alone where everyone can see me. Harry pushed himself to his feet and headed for the stairs.

‘You’re leaving.’ Katie’s voice caught him at the exit to the hall.

So close. Harry twisted round on his heel.

Katie’s tight, burgundy-red dress matched the wine in her glass; its neckline plunged far enough to bring heat to Harry’s face. He dragged his gaze up and found a deep well of emotion shining in Katie’s brown eyes.

Harry’s gut coiled into a tight knot. I really don’t want to do this now.

‘Not really my scene, this,’ he said.

Katie edged a step closer to him, tugging at the little finger of her left hand. ‘If you’re bored, or in want of a partner, you can always come dance with me.’

Fleur appeared at the base of the stairs. Her blue eyes roved across the hall to land on Harry and narrowed.

Fantastic. Harry sighed. I should go.

‘Has Roger Davies abandoned you?’ he asked.

‘Yes.’ Katie pointed to where he was dancing with a member of his own year and house. ‘I deserved it, though.’ She extended the same hand in his direction. ‘Would you like to? Not even as a date, just as friends.’

For a moment the warmth and hopeful glint in her eyes tugged at the strings of Harry’s heart.

No. She did it once. She’ll do it again. Harry smothered the tangle of feeling. If I forget, I’ll just repeat my mistake.

He eyed Fleur’s tightening grip on the bannister. ‘I’m afraid I can’t.’

Katie followed Harry’s gaze. ‘Oh. You’re still with her. I guess I’d’ve had to worry after all, huh. It’s okay. I understand.’ She gave him a weak smile. ‘I’ll find Alicia and Angelina. Have a good night, Harry.’

Bye Katie. He watched her disappear into the crowd, and turned and strode toward the stairs,  a bitter pang tearing through his chest. He crushed it down. You were no better than the rest of them in the end.

‘What did she want?’ Fleur demanded.

‘To dance,’ Harry replied.

‘You said no?’

‘I had a prior commitment,’ Harry said. ‘I couldn’t abandon her to dance with another girl. It seemed a bit rude.’

‘How noble of you.’ Fleur smiled and her eyes turned soft as the summer sky.

‘I think it would have been a bad idea.’

I think you would’ve probably used your allure to ruin it. I doubt you’d’ve liked losing out to Katie.

‘I think you were right.’ The slightest edge lingered in Fleur’s tone, a faint sharpness that made all the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

Harry winced as he followed her up the stairs. Definitely a good thing I said no.

Fleur paused before the empty wall. ‘I will choose, I think. You have three more years to play with this enchanted room.’

Harry stepped into a winter palace. Ice statues sparkled like so much diamond in each corner, reflecting a thousand scattered lights of the candles hovering above them.

‘I like the candles in the Great Hall.’ Fleur gestured at her hovering candles. ‘Beauxbatons has crystal chandeliers, but I think this is more scenic.’ 

She took the furthest seat from the door and a bottle of elven wine and an elegant crystal glass appeared on the arm of the chair.

Who left those in here? Harry took the other seat across from her. Probably some seventh year’s date that went wrong.

‘Do you like it?’ Fleur pointed a finger at the room. ‘I tried to make it something that was of both our schools.’

‘I do.’

She poured herself a glass of wine and took a long sip. ‘Alone with a veela in a room that can provide almost anything you want. This, I imagine, is the beginning of many adolescent wizards’ dreams.’

‘Not mine.’ Harry grinned. ‘You told me too much about veela. I don’t want to get set on fire.’

‘I would have an advantage here. It is warm and dry, my fire would come to me faster than normal here.’

Presumably, if warm and dry has a positive effect, then wet and cold would create the reverse. Harry filed that away for a later date. 

‘My wand’s easier to reach.’ He let it slip from his sleeve into his palm. ‘Advantage me.’

A ball of blue flames burst into sparks at his feet before he had managed to catch it. ‘I do not need my wand to set you on fire, remember.’

‘Can you transform?’ Harry asked.

‘I can, but I will not, not for your curiosity.’

‘I suppose that’s fair.’

Fleur finished her glass of wine. ‘Where would you be if I had not asked you to be my shield?’

‘Probably here, just alone.’ Harry managed a wry smile. ‘Or I might be downstairs, kissing Katie.’

‘I have never kissed anyone.’ A hint of pink blossomed on Fleur’s cheeks. ‘Despite what the other girls like to say about me.’

‘Neither have I, but I sort of suspect that if I’d agreed to dance with Katie, I would’ve ended up kissing her.’ He smothered the tug on his heart. ‘It would’ve been hard to say no if I was alone.’

‘A good thing I made you come with me.’

‘Possibly. I can’t imagine kissing Katie would end well.’

‘If she turned on you so quickly before, she would again.’ Fleur shrugged her shoulders. ‘I have made that mistake, more than once. Best not to repeat it, Harry, I promise you. It will hurt more each time until suddenly it does not. And that feeling is worse than when it hurt.’

I know. Harry grimaced as the memory of the emptiness clawed at him with sharp, cold talons.

Fleur sighed and leant forward. ‘I asked you yesterday if you would let me test to see how resistant you are to my allure…’

‘I stand by what I said.’ Curiosity stirred in Harry. ‘I didn’t feel too much before. Maybe a little bit earlier, I think.’

‘Focus on me,’ Fleur commanded.

Harry nodded.

Fleur’s summer sky blue eyes shone bright beneath a veil of lustrous, silver-blond hair. Her pale, rose-pink lips curved into a soft, warm smile.

Something lurched inside Harry’s chest and the breath caught in his throat. She’s so beautiful. He tried to drag his eyes away from her lips and failed. The warmth of her skin burnt like a flame, only a hand’s length away. Well, I’m clearly not as resistant as either of us thought.

‘What do you feel?’ she asked.

‘I’ve no idea how I didn’t notice you from the very beginning.’ The words slipped off his tongue as smooth as the bright silver of her dress. ‘You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.’

Fleur stared, a small, bemused smile hovering at the corner of her lips.

Green strands of leaves twisted their way down from around the candles. The sweet smell of hot leaves mixed into the scent of burnt holly and marzipan clinging to Fleur. Their emerald-hued, droplet shapes surrounded a scatter of white berries.

Mistletoe. Harry’s heart dashed itself against his ribs and his mouth turned dry as a desert. Fleur’s in control of the room.

His eyes flicked down from the candles and mistletoe. 

Fleur’s eyes shone a finger’s length away. She murmured something in French beneath her breath and pressed her lips against his, her lashes fluttering against his cheek. Harry breathed in the taste of sharp wine and sweet sugar as she traced the line of his lower lip with the tip of her tongue.

Fleur pulled back and stood, her lips curving into a small, soft smile. ‘À bientôt, Harry,’ she murmured, slipping out.

The door swung shut with a faint thud. 

Harry stared up as the candles faded and the mistletoe curled back up into the shadows of the ceiling. His heart hammered as loud as thunder and a small smile crept onto his lips. 

The ice statues melted away into the floor.

‘Bye, Fleur,’ he whispered.

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