Bands of steel gripped her lungs. They tightened like a vice. Dark spots hovered in her eyes and the colour drained from the lake as dizziness seized her.
Hold on. She clung to the image of Gabby’s face. Just a little longer.
The dark spots swelled, covering more and more of the lake. Her lungs screamed, bursting for air.
If I breathe, I’ll drown. If I breathe, I’ll drown. Fleur fought the reflex with everything she had. Hold on.
Sparks of white fluttered in front of her eyes. She took a deep breath. Ice cold water flooded in; it burnt and froze her throat and lungs, as if Fleur’d swallowed frozen razors.
If I can’t reach the air, the air must reach me. She dragged her thoughts into order, picturing the water within her lungs and above her. Evanesco.
Her magic was ripped from her as if by some ethereal fist. Sweet, blissful air rushed into her lungs. The black spots faded.
A ten metre wall of black water closed in on her.
Merde. I won’t make it. Fleur clung to her wand and took a deep breath.
The water smashed into her from both sides, spinning her round like a doll and leaving her dizzy.
Fleur blinked and tried to throw the dizziness off. Keep swimming up. I was nearly there. She kicked up toward the dark surface of the water.
A stream of silver bubbles sank down from her nose and lips, past her chin toward the bright depths of the lake.
Bubbles don’t sink. Fleur turned herself around and burst through the surface, gasping lungfuls of air as she floated on her back upon the lake surface. Gabby…
Her stomach and heart twisted all up and around one another, and her eyes grew hot. She struck out toward the shore, pouring the last of her magic into warming charms.
Please let Harry have saved her. Even if he hates me for enthralling and kissing him. A hard lump formed in her throat and her eyes prickled with liquid heat. Fleur Delacour doesn’t cry. Hot tears trickled down her cheeks and arm trails began to trace their way down her cheeks and into the lake. S’il vous plaît, Harry. S’il vous plaît. S’il vous plaît.
She threw herself into swimming, clawing the shore a little closer into view with each stroke. The cold and the ache settled into her bones. Her tears spent themselves into the spray of her swimming.
Fleur dragged herself to the platform, but her strength abandoned her as she tried to pull herself out of the water.
Madam Pomfrey levitated her and bathed her in warming charms. ‘Come with me, Miss Delacour.’
Fleur glanced around.
The crowd cheered and shouted in the stand. The judges sat in their box. The medical tent squatted just beyond the shore, sitting at the end of a trail of water.
‘Gabby?’ She stumbled after Madam Pomfrey, letting the mediwitch support her with one hand. ‘Where’s Gabby? My sister? Where is she?’
‘Anyone who comes out of the lake will be brought straight to this tent.’ Madam Pomfrey ushered her in with a firm hand. ‘You’ll see you sister quickest by staying here.’
No I won’t. I’ll see her quickest if I’m near the lake. Fleur tried to tug herself free.
Madam Pomfrey sighed and pushed her inside with a firm hand. ‘I’m sorry, Miss Delacour, but if I let you wait out there in the cold in your state, you may seriously harm yourself. You’re in shock as it is.’
‘I’m not in shock.’ Fleur found herself seated on a bed a short way from the door. A faint trickle of heat pooled in her bones. ‘I want to see my sister!’
Viktor Krum glanced up from the bed in the back corner. Hundreds of small bite marks covered his torse. Hermione, Harry’s former friend, lay asleep in the bed next to his.
Fleur’s lip trembled and her tears threatened to return.
Madam Pomfrey traced her wand over Fleur’s lips and lower face. ‘Just soft tissue damage. Easily fixed.’ A gentle heat traced through Fleur’s face. ‘There. It would’ve been a real shame to have marked the face of a girl as beautiful as you over a silly game.’
Fleur’s lip curled and feathers prickled under her skin. I’d slice my face off with my own hands for Gabby.
Madam Pomfrey pushed something thick, sticky and sweet into Fleur’s mouth. ‘The warming charms will keep your temperature up until you’ve got some energy back and your body can do it itself.’
Fleur choked down her mouthful of marzipan. ‘Gabby?’
‘You’ll feel much better soon. I’m sure your sister’s fine.’
Madam Pomfrey strode across the room to Viktor Krum, muttering under her breath, and tapped each of his bite marks until they’d all faded away.
Viktor Krum shifted. ‘I am sorry for the curse, da. I get competitive, things got out of hand.’
‘What happened to Gabby and Harry?’ Fleur asked.
Viktor Krum closed his eyes and wrinkled his brow. ‘When I left she was still a hostage of those merpeople. Harry may have saved her, he swims slower than me and I had a head start, so he’s not yet back.’
A silver cat bounded in through the entrance flaps and sat up on its haunches, murmuring in the distinctive Scottish accent of the stern transfiguration professor.
Madam Pomfrey swept out of the tent.
‘She must have gone to get Harry.’ Viktor Krum rubbed at his back with his palm. ‘I hope he is ok, I owe him revenge for all the bites in the next task.’
‘The bites?’ Fleur echoed, staring at the flap in the tent. Her stomach thrashed and flopped.
Please have saved Gabby, Harry.
Viktor Krum laughed and nodded his head. ‘Da, the fish. He transfigured all the pebbles around me into aggressive fish. They had very sharp teeth. I owe him a curse or two, I think.’
‘He’s only fourteen,’ Fleur murmured.
‘He was holding his own against me for several minutes before you disarmed him and I think he was holding back, every spell he cast was a minor curse or hex. He hit me a couple times, had he used some of the more powerful curses I’m sure he knows, I would still be in the lake.’
Cedric Diggory blinked and struggled upright. He glanced round, then sagged when he caught sight of Cho in the bed beyond him. ‘I wonder what our scores will be? Did you guys all make it there and back?’
‘Yes,’ Viktor Krum said.
‘No,’ Fleur whispered.
Where is Harry? Where is Gabby? Why is the nurse taking so long?
‘Oh.’ Cedric Diggory’s eyes roved over the tent. ‘Where’s Harry?’
‘The nurse went to get him.’ Viktor Krum pulled his robes back on.
Fleur dragged her Beauxbatons uniform from the end of the bed and struggled into it. All her fingers felt like thumbs, fumbling with the buttons and girdle.
Madam Pomfrey stepped through the flap. A small smile hovered on her lips. Katie Bell hovered behind her.
Fleur’s heart crumbled. Harry left Gabby behind.
Harry staggered through the flap, snow-pale and trembling. Gabby slept in his arms, cradled against his chest with a peaceful smile on her lips.
‘You saved her,’ Fleur whispered. She choked down a knot of hot feeling and blinked back tears. ‘Merci.’
Harry placed Gabby on the bed next to his and accepted the proffered Pepper-Up potion from Madam Pomfrey with resigned, wry smile.
‘I do not expect, Mr Potter,’ Madam Pomfrey said, ‘to see such a dangerous use of self-transfiguration in all the rest of my life. You turned your lungs into some horrible parody of gills, restructured the entire musculature of your chest, and thought it would have no consequences.’
Harry nodded and rolled his eyes, then turned away and pressed a hand to his mouth. A raw, rough cough tore from his throat. Fleur glimpsed a spatter of crimson upon his palm before Madam Pomfrey sat him down.
‘You’ve put far too much strain on your lungs,’ she muttered, running her wand over his exposed chest. ‘Professor Dumbledore told me you decided to pick a fight with a whole tribe of merpeople and razed almost a sixth of the lake bed. No doubt all the dust you breathed in as well as the pressure of your magic damaged your transfigured lungs. I’ve fixed you as best I can, but some of the damage has come back with the reversion. You’ll likely have that cough for the next week or so. Maybe it will remind you that we can’t just put you back together every time you try something so reckless.’
Harry looked like he wanted to object, but bent over to cough into his hand. Another deep, wet, sound tore from his throat and red flecks dotted his palm.
Fleur winced. The only reason the merpeople would interfere is if they were upholding the rules. She glanced at her sleeping sister. Which means he did that for me. She twisted away and dried the corners of her eyes.
‘Is my sister ok?’ she murmured.
Madam Pomfrey bustled over to Katie and Gabby and ran her wand over the pair. ‘They’re both perfectly fine.’
Fleur stumbled from her bed and collapsed down next to Harry. ‘Merci, Harry.’ She wrapped her arms round him. ‘Vraiment. Merci.’
Harry stiffened and edged out of her embrace.
Fleur winced and drew back. ‘Merde, sor–‘ Her words died on her tongue.
Harry’s eye were cold and hard as ice. ‘That’s ok, Fleur.’ He flashed her a horrible, bright smile. ‘I’m sure any boy in my place would’ve ended up doing the exact same.’
Fleur recoiled, stung. What?
Satisfaction flickered through Harry’s cold eyes.
He’s glad he hurt me. Fleur’s heart twisted and her eyes filled with hot, angry tears. I don’t understand.
Viktor Krum peered through the flap. ‘The scores are being announced.’
A small, bitter smile crept onto Harry’s lips. ‘Shall we go see what I got, Fleur?’ He swept out of the tent.
Does he blame me for coming last? A strange lightness swirled round Fleur’s head. Why’s he so angry? Even if he thinks I enthralled him, I only kissed him. Her eyes slid to Gabby and then to Katie Bell. Heat bubbled beneath her skin, feathers prickled down her back and along her limbs. You did something, didn’t you? After the Yule Ball, when I tried to avoid things, you went after him and turned him against me. You must have.
‘Come on, Fleur?’ Harry’s voice called from outside. His tone light and cold as shattered puddle ice. ‘Don’t you want to see our scores?’
And now it’s too late. He hates me. Tears slipped through Fleur’s lashes and her anger evaporated. Fine. Just me, then. As always. Fleur Delacour doesn’t cry. She smeared her tears away and drew herself up.
‘Of course.’ Fleur stepped out of the tent. ‘Let’s see who won, shall we?’
‘I got forty.’ Cedric Diggory grinned. ‘After my Bubble-Head charm exploded, I feared I would do the worst again.’
‘You were there first?’ Viktor Krum asked. ‘I didn’t see you.’
Cedric Diggory nodded. ‘I went for speed, but my adaption to the bubble-head charm failed; it still exploded when a grindylow pierced it.’
Harry stared off into the distance somewhere beyond the judges box.
Viktor Krum rubbed his palms together. ‘Da, I see. You lost points because you didn’t return to the finish, but did better than the rest of us elsewhere.’
Behind the two of them the judges were conjuring a new set of numbers, hers. Fleur tallied the count as they went.
It’s not terrible, considering I didn’t even manage to get Gabby back.
‘For an innovative and exceptional piece of transfiguration,’ Ludo Bagman boomed, ‘and for being one of only two champions to return with their hostage, we award Mr Potter forty points.’
A murmur of surprise came from the spectators. A tremor passed across Harry’s face as he stared at where Barty Crouch conjured the number four from his wand. Harry’s green eyes brimmed with fury.
‘Had Mr Potter not interfered with the hostage of another champion I would have no reason to remove points,’ Mr Crouch declared. ‘As it is, he disobeyed the rules and must pay the penalty.’
Fleur’s heart sank a little lower. No wonder Katie managed to turn him against me. Every time he helps me, he gets set back.
‘The winner of the second task and new highest scoring champion is Viktor Krum, whose brilliant piece of transfiguration and swift return with his hostage grant him a score of forty four.’ Ludo Bagman thrust his wand back into his robes and twisted round to argue with Mr Crouch.
Viktor Krum grinned. ‘Now I am winning, da?’
‘Eighty six.’ Cedric Diggory pointed at Krum, then at Harry, Fleur, and himself. ‘Eighty two. Eighty. Seventy four. We’re all close enough for the last to task to decide everything.’
‘Yes.’ Viktor Krum nodded and shot Harry a vicious grin. ‘I owe you for those fish. They had nasty teeth.’
Harry chuckled, but his eyes didn’t thaw and his gaze remained fixed on the argument between Mr Crouch and Ludo Bagman. ‘I’m much better above water.’ His eyes flicked back to meet Fleur’s. ‘And I really really want to win now.’
I wish I’d never kissed him. Fleur swallowed a whole barbed tangle of feeling. Liar. You just wish you’d not made a mess of it. She took a deep breath. It can be fixed. Everything can be fixed. It just won’t be easy.
‘You can still win.’ Maman came round from the side of the tent. ‘Four points is nothing. There’ll be ample opportunity to outdo them in the next task. You did well, Fleur, especially in such an adverse environment.’
‘If it had been real, Gabby would be gone,’ Fleur muttered.
Why did Harry even save her, if Katie Bell’s made him hate me so much?
‘Gabby was never in danger. When they asked us who you would be most determined to save your sister volunteered. We were assured that she would be in no danger.’
‘Good.’ Fleur dragged her pride up onto her face. ‘I’ll still win.
Harry swivelled on his heel and strode back toward the castle. Katie Bell burst from the tent and scampered after him. Fleur watched her chase after him with ashes in her mouth. I’ve not lost yet. She forced down the heat that pooled in her bones and smothered the feathers sliding through her skin. I don’t lose to petty, shallow, lying little girls. Not anymore.
Gabby darted from the tent. ‘Fleur!’
A smile crept onto her lips. ‘Gabby. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.’
Gabby shook her head from side to side. ‘Nuh uh. It’s better this way. You’ll see.’
Oh Gabby. This isn’t one of maman’s stories.
Fleur stifled a sigh. ‘Come on, little chick. Let’s go find some hot chocolate and something sweet.’
Gabby beamed. ‘Maman?’
‘You two go. I need to speak with Madame Maxime.’
Fleur let Gabby lead her away toward the carriage. ‘What do you fancy?’
‘Cherries.’ Gabby pouted. ‘I know you have some.’
‘Because you turned over my entire room searching?’
Gabby giggled. A glint of mischief hovered in her eyes. ‘And I bet they’re not the only cherry you’re thinking of giving away, huh, big sister?’
Fleur choked. ‘Don’t let maman hear you talking like that. Where did you even pick that up?’
‘Maman.’ Gabby laughed. ‘Her romance stories have all sorts of steamy bits in as well.’ The mischievous glimmer welled back up in her blue eyes. ‘So, Fleur? Did you talk to him?’
Fleur sighed. ‘He hates me. And that is all I’m going to say.’
Gabby’s brow wrinkled. ‘Then he must not know you very well. You need to talk to him more, otherwise he won’t be able to realise he’s wrong.’
Fleur pinched the bridge of her nose. ‘Gabby, I love you dearly, but if you don’t leave this be, I’m going to hex you until you can’t sit down.’
Gabby giggled. ‘No you won’t,’ she sang. ‘Because then I’ll go steal Harry for myself. He did save me.’
And he’s not happy about it. He probably thinks I enthralled him again. And I bet Katie Bell keeps reminding him of it at every chance she gets.
‘If you want to help, you can take my mind off it by not talking about it.’
Gabby pouted. ‘Fine. You owe me cherries, though.’