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Last Christmas

Sunlight beamed through the window, flashing and rippling along the bottom of the sink. Fleur placed her hands upon the water, then let them sink into the warmth.

‘When is Harry arriving, Fleur?’ Gabby bounced down the stairs clutching an armful of chocolate-stained mugs.

Maman and Papa exchanged a long look, then glanced at the copy of the Daily Prophet upon the kitchen table.

Fleur let a little heat creep from her palms and the water in the sink steamed and hissed. ‘Soon.’

And we will be having a talk about Katie Bell. Fleur watched her eyes darken in the window and the water bubbled and frothed. Again.

‘In ten minutes,’ Maman said. ‘It will be nice to talk with him a little more, it’s hard to really get to know someone in such a short period of time.’

Another little jab. Fleur wrenched her hands from the sink. Heat bubbled through the bones and the water steamed from her fingers. She is lucky she is Maman, or I would curse her.

Her parents grimaced.

Maman’s eyes darkened and she raised her chin. ‘Fleur, ma Cherie.’

Heat haze shimmered round her hands. ‘Non, Maman! One more word! One more little snide comment! One more jab! I will remind you which of us is the better!’

Fleur!’ Papa snapped.

Fleur whirled on him. ‘You are just as bad!’ Blue flames sprang up on her palms. ‘And you are not resistant to heat, Papa!’

They stared.

‘It’s not hard for me to get to know someone,’ Gabby chirped, wielding hot chocolate powder, milk, cream, and spoon to disastrous effect beside the sink, then scampered across the kitchen and pressed her cold mug of hot chocolate into Fleur’s flame-wreathed hands. ‘Merci, Fleur!’

The heat melted from Fleur’s blood. ‘Gabby would be able to know a little about what he was like just from touching his magic.’ She let the flames linger until the hot chocolate steamed, then pushed it into Gabby’s hands. ‘There you go, greedy little bird.’

Maman drew herself up. ‘Gabrielle’s empathetic magic is not something that should be used lightly, just as your stronger allure shouldn’t be either. I don’t want to hear of either of you using them on anyone who doesn’t understand what it means and hasn’t given permission.’

‘Harry’s magic is really powerful.’ Gabby sighed. ‘His wand felt completely different to any of yours.’

Maman’s face twisted. ‘What did it feel like?’

Papa held his breath.

‘Not telling!’ Gabby dunked her teaspoon into the mug and stirred the cream in, sending small waves of hot chocolate froth over the sides of the mug.

Maybe all that clafoutis helped after all.

‘Gabrielle!’ Maman drew herself up. ‘We just want some assurance that what the papers are saying about him is not true.’

‘And obviously my word wasn’t enough,’ Fleur hissed.

‘Harry is perfect for Fleur.’ A mischievous glint appeared in Gabby’s eyes. ‘If she didn’t love him so much, then I would steal him instead. He saved me from the lake. If he’d kissed me and woken me up it would have been the perfect moment.’

Urgh. Nobody kisses Harry but me. Ever.

Fleur scowled. ‘You know you weren’t in any danger, little chick.’ She plucked the mug of hot chocolate from Gabby’s hands and stole a sip. ‘And if you ever kiss him, even jokingly, or direct your magic at him and risk leaving a lasting impression, I will scorch you to ashes, baby sister.’

‘You’re so possessive, Fleur.’ Gabby giggled. ‘You don’t need to worry, anyway. You sent one pleading look at Harry and he went and saved me. He was coughing up blood from what I heard.’

Fleur turned her nose up at Gabby. ‘Hush, Gabby.’

Maman looked thoughtful. ‘Is that true?’

‘What does it matter,’ Fleur snapped. Heat flashed through her. Feathers rippled along her skin, her eyes swelled large and turned black, and her skull shifted shape. ‘I chose him. That’s the first and last statement you need on the subject. He doesn’t need to have to bleed and suffer to prove anything to anyone else!’

Maman flinched and Papa winced.

Gabby shivered and took a sip of her hot chocolate. ‘Fleur,’ she whispered. ‘Easy.’

‘Pardon.’ She closed her eyes and waited for the heat to fade. ‘I am sick of this. All this. Your stupid comments, him being far away, that stupid paper and those English idiots.’ Fleur ground her teeth. ‘And that Katie Bell,’ she muttered. ‘Cette pute, je la brûlerai avant de perdre contre elle.’

Gabby shuddered. ‘You wouldn’t burn anyone, Fleur,’ she murmured.

Fleur fixed her with a long look. ‘I’d burn her,’ she whispered. ‘No shallow little girls are going to steal anything important from me ever again.’

Maman and Papa edged closer.

‘We don’t like you being with someone so dangerous,’ Papa said. ‘We’ve discussed this before, whether the rumours are true or not does not matter, either way you’ll be targeted by someone who could hurt you.’

‘I am a stronger and better dueller than either of you, Maman, Papa.’ Fleur raised her chin. ‘If one of us is to judge, it ought to be me, no?’

Maman fidgeted. ‘Better than the Death Eaters of Britain? Harry Potter is not the enemy of ordinary wizards.’

‘Harry is not an ordinary wizard and I am not an ordinary witch.’

Papa sighed. ‘Fleur–’

‘I’m going to meet him.’ She pictured the willow tree and apparated away with a loud crack.

Harry stood beneath the frost-patched tree, dressed in normal, muggle clothing. ‘Fleur!’ He stepped toward her one hand outstretched, then froze. ‘I’m sorry, it’s not true, none of it’s true, I swear. I will swear. Any vow, anything you ask.’ He swallowed. ‘I promise, Fleur. I would never. You’re the one perfect wish that came true for me.’

Fleur closed the distance between them, slid her fingers into his messy, dark hair and dragged his lips to hers. ‘Idiot. I do not need you to swear.’ She took a firm grip on him and held his face an inch from hers. ‘I’m tempted because then you’d always be mine, but no.’

He sagged within her arms. ‘That’s good.’ A small smile graced his lips. ‘I was scared.’

            Scared I’d leave? Fleur saw the shadow of that fear in his eyes; a deep, dark, vast thing and him just a small silhouette beneath it. I will never leave, not so long as you’re mine.

‘I’d never do something like that to you.’ Harry tugged her hands from his hair and held them. ‘Even if I went completely mad and decided I wanted to leave you, I’d never betray you like that. Never. And if that does happen, just lock me in a padded cell somewhere until I snap out of it, ma princesse.’

Fleur smirked and freed one hand, coating it in blue flames. ‘I would turn you to ashes if you ever did anything to hurt me like that.’

Harry grinned. ‘As long as you bury me under our willow tree…’

Fleur’s insides turned all cold and the fire guttered out on her fingers. ‘Don’t say things like that. It’s not at all funny.’

‘What about your family?’ Harry asked. ‘Do they believe anything about the article?’

‘Gabby laughed.’ Fleur grimaced. ‘Maman and Papa are being difficult still. I yelled at them just now. I don’t think they believe it, the articles are ridiculous, but they don’t like other things.’

Harry’s smile faded. ‘They won’t ever approve of me, will they? I’ll either be a dangerous dark wizard, or Voldemort will be coming after me and anyone close to me.’

‘They do not dislike you.’ Fleur’s heart twisted and she offered him a helpless shrug. ‘I’m sorry, mon Cœur. It’s not personal.’

‘It feels personal,’ Harry said. ‘I had this faint hope that I could just step in at your side and find myself part of a family.’ His smile turned bitter. ‘I should know better by now, wishes like that don’t come true.’

One did.

Fleur pouted and squeezed his fingers. ‘No? Not even one of them.’

A small smile slid back onto his face. ‘Maybe one.’

She laughed. ‘There is no maybe. Now we must head inside and deal with the more important things, like what you bought Gabby for Christmas.’

‘I think she will like it. I don’t really know what anyone expects so I tried to get something I felt fitted.’

‘I wouldn’t worry too much about your present for Gabby. She loves being given things. If you gave her pebbles from the river she would hoard them just like she does everything else.’ Fleur linked their arms. ‘If anything, we should be more concerned about what she might have bought us.’

‘Oh no.’ Harry groaned. ‘It’s going to be something awful.’

Fleur laughed. ‘Probably.’ She whisked them both back into the entrance hall.

Harry surveyed the array of footwear. ‘I finally understand all the shoes.’

‘They’re almost all Gabby’s. She is incorrigible. Maman has given up trying to get rid of them, I think Gabby has bribed Binky to make sure that they don’t get thrown away.’

He chuckled. ‘How sneaky.’

‘Mon Cœur!’ Gabby scampered down the hall and skidded to a halt. ‘Nice girlfriend! She’s almost as cute as me!’

Mon Cœur… Fleur glowered at Gabby’s mischievous grin. I don’t know why I tell you things, you brat.

‘Thanks, Gabby, I found her all by myself!’ Harry slipped his arm round Fleur’s waist. ‘Now I can’t get rid of her.’ He glanced at the piles of shoes. ‘Nice shoes.’

‘They are all Fleur’s.’ Gabby giggled. ‘Now come on, it’s time for Christmas things again.’

Harry gasped. ‘And you lied to me and told me that they all belonged to your innocent baby sister!’

‘I wanted you to buy me more,’ Fleur quipped. She released a long deep sigh and pulled out her wand. ‘But I suppose it really is time I threw away all my old shoes.’

Gabby squeaked and darted in front of her shoes.

‘You seem very attached to your sister’s shoes,’ Harry quipped.

‘You shouldn’t just throw things away.’ Gabby pouted. ‘It’s not right.’

‘Come on, mon Cœur,’ Fleur whispered in Harry’s ear. ‘Putting it off won’t make it any better.’

Harry nudged her in the stomach with his elbow, but let her lead him into the lounge.

‘Harry.’ Her parents offered him a thin, polite smile.

‘How has your first term back at Hogwarts been?’ Maman asked.

A soft sigh escaped Harry. ‘Not the best.’

Papa stuck out his hand. ‘Yes, well, I’m sure there’s no truth–’

‘Are we giving gifts now?’ Gabby sprawled across one of the more comfortable sofas and pushed her feet up against the pale stonework of the wall.

‘You already gave us your gifts,’ Maman said. ‘You couldn’t wait until lunch and Harry’s arrival, so you pestered Fleur for an hour about her present for you.’

‘Harry doesn’t know any of the other people who gave us things,’ Gabby said. ‘I still have my present for him and Fleur.’ Mischief gleamed in her eyes.

It’s definitely going to be something horribly embarrassing.

Harry chuckled. ‘I’m looking forward to it, Gabby. Fleur will make her mortified face.’

Fleur huffed at him. ‘You will turn red as a tomato.’

‘I’ll still get to see your embarrassed pout.’ He leant to her ear. ‘It’s almost as cute as those little gasps you make when–’

Fleur trod on his foot and fought the heat rushing to her face.

‘Aww.’ Gabby giggled. ‘You’ve gone all pink, Fleur.’

You and Harry are a bad combination.

Fleur turned her nose up at Gabby. ‘Here.’ She reached behind the nearest sofa and produced a small, thin wooden box. ‘Try not to break this one.’

Gabby turned it over in her hands before sliding off the lid. The sparkling, white camellia Fleur’d sculpted from ice lay on dark velvet within.

‘You always ask me to make them for you, so I thought you might want a more permanent one, little chick.’

‘It’s so pretty,’ Gabby chirped. She took it out of the box and twirled it in the light. ‘It really won’t melt?

‘Not for a long time,’ Fleur promised. ‘And never so long as one of us keeps replacing the enchantments on it.’

‘Thank you, Fleur.’ Gabby put the flower back in the box, then spun to Harry. ‘Is it tasty? It better be tasty. Your girlfriend’s sister is the first person you need to make like you…’

Harry laughed and pulled a handful of tiny presents from his pocket. A faint glimmer of light came from his sleeve as he put them on the arm of the sofa, then they swelled to normal size.

Books. Two books. Fleur studied the other two. Not sure about those two.

‘This one is yours, Gabby.’ Harry picked up one of the odd-shaped ones and passed it across.

She beamed and unpeeled the shining red and gold paper. Harry waited with a bright smile fixed on his face.

Aww, you’re nervous, mon Cœur. Fleur smiled and gave his fingers a gentle squeeze.

Gabby squealed and pulled a colourful, bright, china mug overflowing with sugar quills. ‘It is tasty!’

Fleur laughed. Cherry flavour, too…

‘You said I owed you one.’ Harry grinned. ‘They mug’s enchanted to be unbreakable, to keep your drink warm, and the colours will disappear if something suspicious finds its way into your drink.’

‘It’s perfect.’ Gabby pocketed the sweets before Maman could intervene. ‘Merci, Harry. If Fleur decides she doesn’t want you, I’ll keep you instead.’

‘Thanks.’ Harry chuckled. ‘Hopefully you won’t have to stick to that.’

Gabby shrugged. ‘It’d be ok.’ She giggled. ‘Fleur would be so cross. She’d hurl fire at me again.’

Fleur swatted Gabby with a cushion. ‘You find your own. This one is mine. And I don’t share.’

‘No.’ Gabby sulked. ‘You are terrible at sharing, especially tasty sweet things.’

‘These are for you, Monsieur Delacour, Madam Delacour.’ Harry passed the two that looked like books over to her parents sofa. ‘I thought you might appreciate them.’

Papa unwrapped his, peeking behind the cover of a weathered, aged tome. ‘I can’t read the date, but there’s a good chance this is one of the oldest books on wizarding genealogy I’ve ever had the privilege of touching. This isn’t something to give away lightly, Harry, there can’t be more than a handful of copies of this left in existence.’

Harry blinked. ‘I know you like history, heraldry, and the like. It caught my eye and the owner was willing to part with it.’

‘I shudder to think what the price was,’ Papa muttered, flicking through the pages. ‘This is a thousand years old or more if I’m not mistaken, a lot of these families were wiped out by the Normans.’

‘That was a terrible present, Harry,’ Gabby piped up. ‘We’re not going to see Papa for weeks now. He’ll lock himself in his study with your book and won’t come out for anything but meals.’

‘I’m sure Binky wouldn’t mind bringing my food to my study.’ Papa traced his fingers over the old pages. ‘This is quite fascinating.’

Gabby scowled.

Maman hid her smile behind her hand, then tugged the string loose from her present. ‘I’m not going to open this and find some incredibly rare potions ingredient am I?’

Harry shifted. ‘Would you have preferred something like that?’

Another book slid out of the paper. A battered, scarred cover enclosed thick, yellow pages.

That’s as old as the other book.

‘Obscure Potions and Unique Ingredients. I’ve never heard of it.’ Maman read through the first page, then gasped. ‘Do you know who this was written by?’

‘Helga Hufflepuff.’ A faint smile crossed Harry’s face. ‘I don’t think it’s the original, but it’s handwritten and autographed. I wouldn’t suggest trying anything you find toward the very end of the book, the magical trees you’ll grow are very violent and quite dangerous.’

            Papa glanced up. ‘Your idea of normal Christmas presents are two virtually priceless books… Where did you find them? Once might be a coincidence, but to find two rare books so well suited for us can’t be.’

‘I stumbled across a collection actually.’ A small smile played on Harry’s lips. ‘I chose two that I thought you would appreciate and I doubt I will ever value them as highly as you will, so they’re better off here.’

Papa laughed. ‘We might have to improve the wards on the chateau if someone finds out about this. This is the sort of indisputable evidence of blood relations that some wizarding families would do a great deal to own.’

‘It’s not too much, is it?’ Harry’s clammy fingers shifted beneath Fleur’s. ‘I’ve never really done this before.’

Fleur squeezed his hand. ‘They’re good presents, mon Cœur.’

Gabby smirked. ‘If that’s what he bought for you, I can’t imagine what he bought Fleur.’

Fleur’s heart lurched. Oh merde. What if it’s much better than what I got him?

‘I think I’ll give you my present first,’ she said.

‘It’s a little more than we expected,’ Maman murmured. ‘It makes our present for you seem very inadequate.’ She passed Harry a soft package. ‘Fleur mentioned that you don’t actually own any dress robes, so we took the liberty of choosing some suitably stylish ones. She said that black, dark greens or blues, and silver suited you, so I hope you like them.’

Harry raised an eyebrow at her.

She laughed. ‘I am veela. I can feel magic, not as well as Gabby, but I know when you’re wearing transfigured clothing, it’s saturated with your magic.’ Fleur reached into her pocket and pulled out a small cloth bag. ‘Here, this is my gift for you.’

Harry dipped his fingers into the bag and pulled out a slim piece of wood. ‘A ring?’

‘I made it from one of the branches of the willow tree.’ She tossed her hair over her shoulder. ‘It is the prettiest thing you own and you will wear it where everyone can see it.’

But especially Katie Bell.

‘Fleur!’ Gabby stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck over Harry’s shoulder. ‘It’s too early for you to get engaged and Harry’s meant to be the one who proposes to you.’

Fleur flushed. I will toast Gabby later.

‘It’s perfect.’ Harry shot her a warm smile. ‘As always.’

Her heart squirmed. ‘Wear it on your wand hand. I tried to imbue it with the desire to protect you, so while you’re wearing it the magic I put into the ring will protect you.’ She cupped his chin. ‘I don’t want you to ever use it.’

‘Thank you,’ he murmured, slipping the ring onto his right forefinger.

‘My turn!’ Gabby pulled her wand out and waved it at the far wall. ‘Ta da!’

Harry choked, a small squeak slipped through Fleur’s lips, Maman’s eyebrows vanished into her fringe, and Papa’s book slipped shut. The willow and the river shone beneath the autumn sun on canvas within a light wood frame. Harry kissed Fleur beneath the leaves, his fingers in her silver hair and at her waist.

Fleur blinked liquid heat from her lashes and swallowed a hot fist of feeling. ‘I’m sure you weren’t invited to that particular rendezvous, Gabby, but thank you. C’est parfait.’

‘I snuck down after you one day and sent the memory to a portrait maker in Paris.’ Gabby beamed. ‘Do you like it, Harry?’

He tore his eyes away from the painting and nodded. ‘Yes.’

Gabby sidled ‘round Fleur with a coy smile. ‘Want to make another one with me instead of Fleur?’

Fleur sighed. ‘You are the worst, Gabby.’

Harry laughed. ‘What would you do if I actually said yes?’

‘Panic.’ Gabby giggled. ‘Fleur would murder me.’

‘And me, too,’ Harry said. ‘We’ll have to run away together before she realises.’

‘Flouting all social conventions for the sake of the heart.’ Gabby pressed her hands to her breast. ‘So romantic.’

‘Hush, you two.’ Fleur’s lips curved into a pout and she pointed her finger at Gabby. ‘You, you need to stop reading Maman’s books. And you…’ She swivelled ‘round on Harry. ‘You stop encouraging Gabby just because you like to make me pout.’

‘It’s a very cute pout,’ Harry murmured in her ear. His lips brushed her earlobe and a little shiver rippled through her.

‘Careful, mon Cœur,’ Fleur whispered back. ‘I still owe you more than just kisses.’

Because what you did beneath the willow tree was very good. She fought her flush down. And if I have my way, you’ll be doing it again later.

Gabby flopped back into the sofa. ‘What did you get Fleur, Harry?’

‘I couldn’t think of anything that I could make that would be anywhere near as good as something you could make yourself,’ Harry said. ‘So I thought I’d give you these instead. I’m told they’re useful for holding all sorts of things.’

The present he placed in her hands gave a gentle clink.

Fleur slid the paper away. A dark wooden box decorated with carved vine leaves lay beneath. She opened the lid and found a handful of small, crystal bottles stoppered with tiny, rune-engraved corks. Silver mist swirled within them.

‘Those are memories…’ Fleur glanced at Harry. ‘Yours?’

‘They’re very nice vials, but I wanted to put something important inside.’

She kissed him on the cheek. ‘Thank you.’

‘My perspective,’ he murmured. ‘I won’t tell you what they’re of, though, that would spoil the surprise.’ He shot her a grin. ‘Though I was very tempted to make one of them me winning the Triwizard Tournament.’

‘Cheat.’ Fleur stuck her tongue out at him. ‘You cheated.’

Harry laughed. ‘I seem to remember you stalking all your rivals and knowing an awful lot about that dragon task before you were supposed to.’

‘I will win next time when we do some duelling.’ She turned her nose up at him. ‘You’ll see.’

‘Can I see the memories?’ Gabby pleaded.

‘No.’ Fleur shut the lid and crossed her arms over the box. ‘They’re mine.’

Gabby pouted. ‘Why’re you such a rubbish sharer, Fleur?’

‘Greedy little bird,’ Fleur shot back. ‘You’ve got enough sugar quills for a small school, you should be happy with those alone.’

Maman looked up from her book. ‘Lunch will be in an hour, ma cherie. If you want to go watch the memories together, we’ll keep Gabrielle from mischief.’

Fleur shot Gabby a broad smirk, then stood and led Harry to the basement. I’m going to beat him at duelling. See if you’re so happy about being Triwizard Champion then, mon Cœur.

‘This seems an odd choice of place.’ Harry glanced around the small room and out through the door at the racks of wine. ‘There aren’t an abundance of seats.’

‘I’m not going to watch the memories now, I have you here already.’

‘So what are we up to?’

‘I’m going to duel you.’ Fleur smirked. ‘And beat you.’

Harry laughed. ‘Ok, ma princesse.’ His smile gained a sharp edge. ‘You can try.’

‘First, where did you really get those books from? I know you didn’t realise how rare they were.’

‘I stumbled across them at Hogwarts. I had three copies of the one I gave your mother and five of the book I gave your father.’

‘You stumbled across them.’ Fleur scowled and stepped close to him.. ‘You’re keeping secrets from me, mon Cœur.’

‘I have a few left,’ he murmured. ‘Not many, though.’

Fleur’s stomach twisted and turned. ‘I want you to tell me.’ She huffed. ‘And I want you to want to tell me.’

‘You’re so wanty,’ Harry teased. He bumped her nose with his. ‘Such a demanding veela.’

 ‘Whose fault is that?’ Fleur whispered, brushing her lips against his. ‘I think you like making me ask, no? You did before…’

Heat crept onto Harry’s face. ‘Maybe a little,’ he murmured. ‘But I think you liked asking, too.’

Fleur stepped back and smirked. ‘Alas, lunch is only a short time away, mon Cœur.’

‘Alas.’ Harry’s tone turned dry as sandpaper. ‘So if you didn’t lead me down into your dungeon to have your way with me, ma princesse, what did you want?’

Fleur pushed her lips into a pout. ‘You know what I want.’

‘Secrets.’ Harry tried to keep the smile from his face, but failed. ‘Ok. I’ll give you two, but…’ A bright, little glimmer welled up in his eyes. ‘You have to ask.’

‘Oh now he wants to play games.’ Fleur swept her hair over her shoulder. ‘Let me think.’

What do I want to know most? She weighed things up. Katie Bell? This mysterious collection of invaluable books? Whatever he’s up to back in England?

‘What’re you up to in England?’

‘Ah.’ Harry winced a fraction. ‘Can I answer that one last?’

Fleur crossed her arms. ‘Fine. Where did you really get those books?’

‘A secret chamber.’ Mirth glittered in his green eyes. ‘I will take you there to meet what’s left of my family soon, I promise. Is that enough?’

She rested her arms over his shoulders. ‘Promise?’

‘I do.’

Fleur’s heart lurched. ‘Careful with that line, mon Cœur,’ she whispered. ‘Put that ring somewhere else and I’ll never let you go again.’

Harry swallowed. ‘Right. Aren’t I supposed to get some say in it, though?’

‘As if you’d disagree.’ Fleur slid her hands into his hair. ‘Now, you owe me another secret.’

Harry sighed and the humour faded from his eyes. ‘Do you remember the prophecy I mentioned?’

‘Of course.’

‘I did some digging about the Department of Mysteries and I tried to get people to realise Voldemort’s back by casting the Dark Mark over where my parents died – I might have to do that again, since it didn’t work too well. Anyway, Dumbledore’s followers are guarding something in the Department of Mysteries. Voldemort’s are trying to get in. One of my friend’s parents died trying to stop them a few days ago…’

‘So you’re going to kill two birds with one stone.’ Fleur’s abdomen shrank into a tight ball. ‘You’re going to try and break in.’

‘I have to oust Dumbledore first, then my godfather will help me. And I need to get rid of that malevolent worm, Umbridge.’ Harry clenched his jaw. ‘Once she’s gone, I can find the prophecy and learn whatever it says, then destroy or steal whatever people are dying over in the Department of Mysteries, too.’

He means dead, not gone. She could see the ice in his eyes. He’s going to kill her.

‘Gone?’ Images of Harry flanked by aurors, wandless and shackled, swarmed through Fleur’s thoughts and her voice shook.

Harry froze. Every one of his muscle’s tensed. ‘I think you know.’

She took a deep breath and banished the thoughts. ‘Do not get caught.’ Fleur tightened her grip on his hair. ‘Do not get caught throwing out Dumbledore. Do not get caught killing this horrible witch. Do not get caught breaking into the Ministry. And do not get caught afterward.’ She rested her forehead against his. ‘You are mine. Heart, mind, body, and soul. I’m not sharing any of those with anything or anyone, let alone one of those terrible creatures in Azkaban.’

‘I’d really rather not spend any time with them, either.’

He speaks like they’re some annoying family relation. He’s no proper concept of danger at all.

Fleur huffed. ‘In fact. I don’t trust you not to do something stupid. I am coming with you.’

‘No.’ Something close to panic crept into Harry’s tone. ‘You can’t.’

‘I can and I will.’

‘Fleur,’ he whispered. ‘Please. I need to know you’re safe and waiting. I need it.’

She let go of him and crossed her arms. ‘I will be safe and waiting and with you.’

‘Please, Fleur.’ An awful emptiness loomed in Harry’s eyes. ‘I can’t lose you. I can’t even risk losing you. Never. There’s nothing else I have if you’re gone.’

Ah. A twist of guilt pierced through Fleur. Of course. You would see it like that, wouldn’t you, mon Cœur? One perfect wish for a boy who never got anything else.

‘Fine.’ She jabbed a finger into chest. ‘Fine. I understand. I don’t like it, but I will wait. And you, you will come back.’ Fleur swallowed a hot lump of emotion. ‘Because it is not so different for me, either.’

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