This chapter is dedicated to SH, as a very small way to show my thanks for all the support you show me in chasing my dream!
If you prefer audiobooks, listen to the audio version created by Sam Gabriel below!
The gold and red hangings trembled in the faint breeze from the window, fluttering against the tally-marked the frame above his head. A dull rustle of clothes and sheets drifted from beyond his gaudy curtain.
‘Did you manage to get any of your essays done after I went to bed?’ Neville’s voice carried through the hangings.
‘No.’ Harry pulled his robes on and dragged himself out of bed. A faint ache sapped his limbs.
Today will be a quiet day.
‘It’s due after lunch,’ Neville said.
‘I’ll finish it in Transfiguration.’ Harry pressed his hair down with both hands, but the tufts sprang back up the instant he removed his fingers. ‘Breakfast first!’
Katie warmed her feet in one of the chairs by the fire. ‘Morning Harry, morning Neville.’ She giggled. ‘Nice hair, Harry.’
‘Thanks.’ Harry smoothed it down, but dislodged his bag from his shoulder, spilling his Astronomy books onto the floor. ‘It’s just going to be one of those days, isn’t it?’
Katie bounded from her chair and handed his books back to him, leading the way out of the room toward the Great Hall.
Might as well hold onto it and do some while we eat. As long as Katie doesn’t spill anything, I can add an extra inch or so.
‘Planning to get some done during breakfast?’ Neville asked.
‘Yeah. I reckon I can get a few inches in on Callisto’s craters before we have to go to transfiguration and then I’ll finish on Ganymede.’
‘That should get you all the way.’
‘I remember my Owl year astronomy.’ Katie sighed. ‘George and Fred developed the punching telescope that year, I’m sure it ruined the class grades.’
‘Is that why the three of you were always wearing eyeshadow?’ Harry asked.
A touch of red coloured Katie’s cheeks. No. I might’ve been trying to catch someone’s attention and Alicia and Angelina sort of emulated me.’
‘Well, I did notice.’
Katie’s blush turned a little darker. ‘Who said it was you?’
Harry raised an eyebrow.
‘Fine. It was.’
‘I knew it.’ Harry grinned. ‘It did make you look cute.’
‘Cute?’ Katie scrunched up her face. ‘I didn’t want to look cute, it was supposed to make me sexy.‘
Harry chuckled. ‘It didn’t work.’
‘Oh look,’ Nev remarked. ‘First year Hufflepuffs.’
‘No, Nev, don’t encourage her—’
Katie took off cackling and casting corridor jinxes after them.
‘She’d been so good until you reminded her,’ Harry chided. ‘Barely an attack in the last few days.’
The first years escaped into the Great Hall and Katie stopped to wait by the entrance.
‘Bad Katie.’ Harry wagged his finger at her as they found a space to sit. ‘You’re supposed to have been reformed.’
‘No real Dark Lady ever reforms. Once you’ve chosen something, you’ve got to stick to it.’ Katie helped herself to orange juice. ‘Especially if it’s something important to you.’
Too true. Harry moved her goblet to the opposite side of her plate, away from his essay. He scanned the table for papers, but found only the one copy of Teen Witch Weekly. Which I will never read. Ever.
Katie gathered the toast, butter, and the bacon plate. Harry eyed her sandwich materials.
‘If you touch my sandwich again, I’ll castrate you with this.’ She waved the butter-smeared knife under his nose. ‘Bacon thief.’
‘Won’t that just lead to you being disappointed later, Katie?’ Nev asked.
Katie turned crimson and took a huge bite out of her sandwich.
Harry laughed. ‘And finally, after weeks of being teased about Hermione, Nev gets his revenge.’
He tugged out a quill and some ink. Now what rubbish shall I write about Callisto?
‘Either of you know anything about Callisto?’ Harry glanced between Neville and Katie. ‘Literally anything will do.’
‘What’s it worth?’ Katie demanded. ‘I’ll take payment in sexual favours…’
Harry chuckled. ‘Not from me, you won’t. Especially not after you’ve castrated me with that knife.’
‘You have to come to the next DA meeting and teach the Patronus Charm,’ Nev said.
Katie nodded. ‘That or the sexual favours.’
‘Fine.’ Harry pointed his quill at Katie. ‘To the DA meeting. Not whatever twisted fantasy you’re coming up with over there.’
She pouted. ‘You can only resist for so long, Harry!’
‘You two are a weird pair.’ Nev shook his head. ‘Anyway, Harry’s not been to a meeting since the first time and it’s almost the beginning of the Christmas Holidays.’
‘Have they all got the hang of Shield Charms?’ Harry asked.
‘Everyone’s capable of casting most of the OWL level spells,’ Nev said. ‘I’ve been getting them to practise duelling with each other.’
‘That’s a good idea,’ Harry said.
‘Patronus is next.’ Nev grimaced. ‘Hermione keeps bugging me about it.’
‘I’ll come and teach it, then.’ Harry tapped his essay. ‘Now, about Callisto?’
‘I wrote a whole paragraph about its naming and how old it is compared to other satellites,’ Nev said. ‘Try and use lots of long words to stretch things out, Ron repeated the word the twice every time he needed it to make it longer. He claims that nobody ever notices.’
‘Has anyone?’ Harry asked.
‘Hermione noticed straight away. She made him rewrite it last night before you came back from detention.’
‘That’s a shame.’ Harry brushed crumbs off his essay. ‘I would’ve quite liked to see what Professor Sinistra did.’
‘She gets very strict when anyone disrespects her subject,’ Katie said. ‘I heard that at the end of our OWL year she collected all the punching telescopes that Fred and George made, mixed them in with the others, and then gave them a detention separating them for all the disruption they caused.’
‘I think that was just a rumour,’ Nev said.
‘Maybe.’ Katie took another bite out of her sandwich as she turned to Harry, scattering a few more crumbs across his essay. ‘Still a good story, though.’
Harry swept the crumbs off. ‘I will steal it if it goes on my essay…’
‘Sorry.’ She finished it in several bites and gulped down some orange juice, then leant close and peered into his face. ‘Are you really wearing pieces of plastic in your eyes, Harry? Hermione was telling everyone that must be what you were doing if you weren’t wearing glasses anymore.’
‘They’re called contact lenses,’ Harry said. ‘It’s like wearing really small glasses on your eye.’
‘That’s kind of weird,’ Katie said. ‘But you do look better without them, nobody will mistake you for Myrtle’s descendant now.’
‘Thanks,’ Harry said. ‘You do remember we went on a date, right?’
Katie pulled a weak grin onto her face. ‘I try not to think about it, actually.’ She shifted on the bench. ‘You two should probably go. You don’t want to be late and then get caught writing an essay for Sinistra in McGonagall’s lesson.’
Harry tucked his essay back into his bag and got up. ‘I’m still an inch or so short.’
Katie cackled. ‘Don’t worry, Harry. Not every girl’s obsessed with length. Girth’s important too!’
He choked. ‘What?’
‘What?’ She beamed back at him, all bright innocence and cheer.
Nev turned red and swung himself out from under the bench. ‘I’m still here, you two.’
‘Well, I’m not. I’ll see you later, degenerate Katie.’
‘You love it, Harry.’ Katie gave him a wave and knocked her goblet over everything nearby. ‘Damn it!’
‘Narrow miss that,’ Harry said as they headed toward the Middle Courtyard.
‘She has a thing for forgetting where she’s put her drink, doesn’t she.’ Nev laughed. ‘Normally, I’m the clumsy one.’
‘You still are, Nev. Last time we had Potions, you nearly knocked over our cauldron and melted a desk. Katie just hates goblets for some reason.’
Harry grabbed a seat at the back of the class and tucked his homework beneath his classwork. ‘Right. One last inch or so and I’m done.’ He tapped the quill on the desk.
‘Run out of ideas?’ Nev whispered. ‘This Doubling Charm thing seems tricky…’
‘I feel like I’m trying to explain what’s in the teacup to Trelawney. It’s painful,’ Harry complained.
‘It’s probably a Grim.’ Nev smiled. ‘Astronomy isn’t that bad, though. The only things Trelawney ever predicted successfully were Hermione leaving her class and me breaking her teacup.’
And Pettigrew’s escape. Harry sliced a thin sliver of parchment off the top and bottom, then stuffed his homework back in his bag. That’ll do.
‘My Gran’s friend, Griselda Marchbanks, is on the Wizengamot and head of the examinations board,’ Neville muttered. ‘I heard her tell Gran that the Divination OWL exam is her least favourite because the students just make stuff up and they have to pretend it’s right because there’s no real way of checking. She said the only real prophecies are in some mysterious department of the Ministry.’
A jolt of cold rippled through Harry. A mysterious department, or a Department of Mysteries?
‘What department?’ Harry asked.
Professor McGonagall began to hand out bottle caps of Ogden’s Whiskey to practise on. A faint whiff of alcohol reached Harry’s nose when she placed his on the desk.
‘The Department of Mysteries,’ Nev said. ‘It’s supposed to have loads of weird bits of magic nobody can explain in it, but only the Unspeakables are allowed down there because of how dangerous things are.’
‘Do you reckon they’d send you to Azkaban for getting caught down there?’ Harry asked.
‘Probably,’ Nev said. ‘If it’s as high security as it sounds.’
Fleur wants to work at Les Inconnus. That sounds awfully similar. She might know about it. He cursed under his breath. I should’ve asked her.
‘Mr Potter and Mr Longbottom, I severely doubt that you’re discussing the Doubling Charm, so I suggest you get on and start practising,’ Professor McGonagall called.
Harry glanced at the explanation on the board. Seems simple enough.
‘Gemino,’ he muttered, flicking his wand at the bottle-cap and envisioning a second cap beside it.
A second bottle top formed; blurred letters marked its stop and when Harry poked it beside the original, he noticed the colours weren’t quite right.
More focus and I’ll have that down.
Nev repeated the spell next to him, flicking his wand. He caught the tip on the desk and dropped it. The bottle caps continued to multiply, showering off the desk and onto Nev who’d bent to retrieve his wand.
Professor McGonagall swept over. ‘End the spell, Mr Longbottom.’
‘Finite,’ Nev muttered.
‘That’s the perfect example of the as yet unexplained mystery of this charm,’ Professor McGonagall said. ‘If the caster is interrupted before the spell ends, the item continues to multiply. More practice, Mr Longbottom.’ She bustled away to deal with Ron, who’d managed to turn his top into what appeared to be a button mushroom.
Harry redid the spell, producing a perfect replica of the cap. I should really just stop coming to lessons. He pressed his fingertips to the acorn necklace beneath his robes. I wish I could just leave and go to France. A soft melancholy swelled up within his chest. No. He stamped the feeling out. No hoping. Wishes are made.
‘Can you tell Professor Sinistra that I’m feeling ill?’ Harry asked.
‘Are you even feeling sick?’ Nev paused in his attempt to cast the charm and bottle caps spilt everywhere. ‘Bloody hell. Finite.’
‘Of a sort,’ Harry said.
Homesick. He passed Nev his homework essay and watched the clock tick. Not so long, then I can leave. He closed his eyes and imagined the feel of the breeze and the smell of the willow. Fleur’s warm smile crept in amongst them.
A soft chime came from the clock.
Harry stuffed everything back into his bag and slipped out as everyone tidied, hurrying toward the chamber. He splashed across Myrtle’s bathroom, the acorn already in his hand, and closed the entrance behind him.
‘Azure.’ The necklace flowed into the form of a mirror.
Fleur’s face appeared. A gleam of worry hovered in her blue eyes. ‘Harry?’
Harry felt a flood of warmth wash through him. ‘I just needed to talk to you.’
I missed you.
‘That’s an interesting coincidence.’ Fleur’s voice trembled. ‘I ought to talk to you, too.’
‘I’ll be at the willow in a moment,’ he said.
Fleur’s face vanished.
Harry’s stomach knotted and his mouth turned dry. Is she angry with me? Did I do something? An awful chill crept down his spine and crushed the breath from his lungs. Does she want to leave?
He strode into the study, grappling with a tight ball of panic, and grabbed the portkey drawing. ‘Argent.’
Rain drummed down on him, soaking into his robes. Harry transfigured a fallen stick into an umbrella large enough for two and waited.
Fleur apparated in, her face taut and her lips thin. The rain pattered on her shoulders and silver hair, then rose off her as a veil of steam.
‘What’s wrong?’ Harry asked. ‘Fleur?’
‘I did something stupid,’ she whispered.
Harry’s heart plummeted and the umbrella shivered, spilling small streams of water onto the ground around him. Perfect wishes never come true. He smothered the flood of despair. No. She’s not said what. Don’t repeat your mistakes.
‘What did you do?’ he whispered.
‘Non.‘ Fleur stepped under the umbrella and cupped his face in her hands. ‘Nothing like that. You are mine. And that means that I’m yours.’
Relief swooped through Harry’s stomach. She didn’t betray me. She’s not leaving.
‘What happened?’ he asked. ‘Is Gabby okay? Your parents?’
‘They’re fine,’ Fleur said. ‘I did something stupid, is all. One of the girls here, one who came to Hogwarts, she has family in England, a cousin, and she was talking on and on about what the Daily Prophet has been spouting.’ Her hands slipped from his face to his shoulders, pulling him against her. ‘I was so angry with her. I still am. I used Cassandra’s Curse, but I didn’t hold back. The mediwitch thinks that the effects might last for almost a month.’
That’s nothing. The girl will be fine.
‘So?’ Harry tilted her chin up with his fingertip and held her gaze. ‘You told me you didn’t care what I did so long as I was yours, Fleur. I feel the same.’
‘I am in a lot of trouble,’ she whispered. ‘The school has suspended me. I can take my exams, but if I fail I can’t return and do them at the same time as everyone else. They wrote to my parents, too.’
‘You won’t fail.’ Harry held her close. ‘You never fail.’
‘But my parents, they will be angry with you for being the reason I did it.’ Fleur buried her face in his neck. ‘I’m sorry. I made things even harder for you.’
‘I quite like that you wanted to defend me.’ He kissed her on the top of the head. ‘And someone once told me that the more it hurts to get something, the more satisfying getting it is.’
She huffed. ‘Well, at least you’re listening to someone smarter than yourself.’ She sighed and wrapped his arms around her. ‘I was going to ask you to come here for Christmas. I was really looking forward to you being around all the time, but now…’
‘If you want me here and I’m allowed to stay, then I’ll come,’ Harry murmured. ‘I can ignore anything I have to.’
Fleur’s fingers tightened in his robes. ‘Merci, mon Cœur.’
He gave her a little squeeze and held her tight. Faint, sweet marzipan drifted to his nose and the heat of her melted into him.
Fleur leant her head back. ‘Why did you want to speak with me?’
He smiled. ‘I just have a question. What do you know about Les Inconnus?’
Fleur’s brow creased. ‘A little. It’s a secret what they actually do, but most people know about the general fields, the mysteries are famous.’
‘Oh?’ Harry bumped her nose with his. ‘Care to share?’
‘Les Inconnus work at the Bureau d’Énigmes. It was created by an English wizard who came to France after marrying a French witch. He designed the Bureau d’Énigmes based on your Department of Mysteries. Why do you want to know?’
‘Are there prophecies in the Bureau d’Énigmes?’ Harry asked.
‘Yes. The witnesses of the prediction are obligated to leave a memory in the bureau, there’s some spell that notifies them if a prophecy is made. I’ve no idea how that works. Some kind of trace on those capable, perhaps. There’re only prophecies about French wizards and witches there, though. The Bureau d’Énigmes has no authority to keep any others.’
‘But if there are prophecies in the Bureau d’Énigmes, then there are likely ones in the Department of Mysteries as well,’ Harry murmured.
Fleur narrowed her eyes. ‘Why’re you interested?’
‘When I escaped from Voldemort, I surprised him with how much stronger I’d grown since our last encounter. He mentioned a prophecy and implied that it was about, or at least mentioned, me.’
‘You want to hear it,’ Fleur said. ‘Why not ask? You’re legally entitled to listen to a prophecy that is relevant to you in France, I’m sure it’s the same in Britain.’
‘The Ministry would never allow me to view a prophecy that’s connected with Voldemort, not when they’re doing everything they can to cover his return up.’
I’ll have to take it myself.
Fleur’s eyes darkened a touch. ‘Tell me you’re not planning to steal it.’
‘I don’t want to lie to you,’ Harry whispered. ‘I need to know what it says. Voldemort knows.’
‘How would you even get in?’ Her eyes shifted to midnight blue and small white tufts slipped from the skin on the back of her neck. ‘How would you get out?!’
‘I don’t know.’ Harry shrugged. ‘I only learnt about the Department of Mysteries today. I might be able to get my godfather to help. He and the rest of Albus Dumbledore’s followers are secretly guarding the department, though whether it’s the prophecy or something else, I don’t know.’
‘Don’t rush in and do something reckless,’ Fleur hissed. ‘I will not have you die, or get sent to Azkaban because you wanted to hear some prophecy that might not even help you.’
A ball of emotion stuck in Harry’s throat. ‘I’ll be careful, I promise. There’s no point winning anything if it loses me you. That’s – that’s just not winning anymore.’
‘And you’ll tell me what it says.’ Fleur’s eyes faded to summer blue and the feather tips slid back beneath her skin. ‘I can’t help you if you keep me in the dark.’
Harry grinned and eyed her up. ‘The dark’s the last place you should be.’
Pink blossomed on Fleur’s cheeks. ‘Are you sure, mon Cœur?’ She snared his fingers in hers and drew them down to her waist, then up until his knuckles grazed her breasts. ‘There are all sorts of things we could do in the dark.’
Heat flashed to his face and his breath shook. The gentle, pale curve of Fleur’s cleavage hovered in his thoughts, mixed with her sugar-glazed lips from the Yule Ball, the pink tip of her tongue and the flash of her white teeth when she laughed, the smouldering fire in her eyes when he kissed her hard. His blood rushed south.
‘You didn’t answer, mon Cœur.’ Fleur’s fingers trailed down his back, her left hand traced a dangerous path across his stomach and up inside his robes onto his chest.
Her lips crushed against his. Harry dropped his hands to her waist and pulled her tight against him. She moaned and pushed him back, trapping his thigh between hers, and slipping her tongue past Harry’s lips. The taste of light, sweet, marzipan melted on his lips as she traced them with the tip of her tongue. He slid a hand through the buttons of her blouse and drew gentle circles across the smooth heat of her stomach. His thumb brushed the hem of her underwear.
Fleur quivered and caught his hand under hers. Desire blazed in her blue eyes. ‘Keep doing that and you’ll need to give me more than just kisses, mon Cœur.’
Harry’s heart raced and he slid his thumb a little lower, slipping it under the hem of her underwear, still drawing light circles on her smooth skin.
Her fingers trapped his. ‘Harry,’ she whispered. ‘I mean it.’
He swallowed and slid his thumb a fraction further down. ‘So stop me.’
Fleur’s lips brushed his neck and her breath washed over his skin. Her fingers vanished. ‘Go lower,’ she murmured.