The leaves of the elm trees whispered in the wind as the sun set beyond them in a wash of orange, pink, and red light. Swathes of meadow grass rippled like waves on the sea, glistening with dew. Harry waded toward the sunset with a broad smile on his face.
He’s not stopped smiling since we left that awful house. Fleur quickened her pace to return to his side; a damp chill soaked through to her toes and legs, drenching her dress from the knees. He will never go back there, not if I have any say in it.
Harry paused at the bank of a small stream and turned his small half-smile on her, reaching for her hand. Fleur’s heart squirmed beneath her breast and she slipped her fingers through his.
He pointed their linked hands at the crest of the woods where the trees’ green melted into the bright sunset. ‘That’s as far as it goes?’
‘It’s quite a lot of meadow.’ He glanced back over the long grass to where the white-washed walls of their small house sat at the top of the hill. ‘I quite enjoy walking through long grass. Vernon always made me cut the grass very short.’
A faint pout crept onto her lips. ‘More wet grass than I would ever care to walk through.’
Harry laughed. ‘We can apparate back, mon Rêve, but I was going to suggest creating some wards.’
‘Across the whole area?’ Fleur swept her hair over her shoulder and studied the meadows. ‘It’s not a small space…’
‘Of course,’ Harry said. ‘It’s all ours.’
‘I can do it.’ Fleur turned her nose up at him. ‘If you watch, you might learn something, mon Cœur.’
‘I thought you didn’t like being watched?’ Harry teased.
‘I make an exception for you.’ Fleur stole a kiss from him and pushed her chest out just enough to catch his eye. ‘You can watch me as much as you like.’
‘What will you show me?’ A teasing glint hovered in his eye. ‘Something… exciting?’
A faint heat crept to her cheeks. ‘Warding, in its most common form, then something exciting.’
‘Oh?’ The little gleam in his eye started to smoulder. ‘And what’s my role in this? Helpless innocent wizard ensnared in the woods and seduced by the wiles of the veela?’
A soft chuckle escaped Fleur’s lips, but the heat in her cheeks crept south and curled in her abdomen. ‘Maybe… but not today. Today: wards. They’re not going to find you and force you back to that ugly little house with your relatives.’
A flicker of disappointment crossed Harry’s face and warmth burst beneath Fleur’s breast. She pressed her lips to his cheek. ‘We’ve all summer to enjoy each other’s company,’ she murmured. ‘But I want to cross off all the rooms inside the house before we move outside.’
Harry laughed. ‘Now that’s a plan I can get behind.’
‘You better.’ Fleur offered him her cutest pout. ‘Now, let’s sort out some wards before you distract me any more than you already have.’
Harry’s brow creased. ‘We don’t want anyone turning up before we can at least prepare ourselves or slip away.’
Fleur pulled her wand out. ‘Anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards are a must, then we’ll need actual protections to stop people just walking up to the door.’
‘Anything I can help with?’ Harry asked.
Fleur arched an eyebrow at him. ‘Not unless you’ve managed to learn a great deal about enchanting and warding in the last few months?’
‘I can’t say that I have.’ Harry’s green eyes sparkled with amusement and his gaze trailed down through her cleavage to her hips. ‘I suppose I’ll just have to watch you.’
A little shiver rippled through her and she curled her toes into her damp shoes. ‘Stop that.’ She pouted and turned her back on him. ‘I need to focus.’
He stepped close behind her. His warm breath brushed the nape of her neck. ‘If you want me to stop, you probably shouldn’t pout like that…’
Fleur reached over her shoulder and patted him in the face with her hand. ‘Be good. The ward I’m about to cast isn’t something most people can manage.’ A touch of pride coloured her tone.
Harry’s arms slid ‘round her waist. ‘Astound me, then, mon Rêve.’
Fleur closed her eyes, gathered her magic, thrust her wand into the air and twisted. ‘Fianto duri.’
A crackling, glowing beam of bright light burst into the sky. The torrent of magic rose almost a hundred feet into the air before tendrils spread away from its tip like the petals of a vast flower. They arced upwards, feeding the spreading, translucent barrier growing above their heads.
Fleur inspected it and let the feel of the magic wash through her. ‘Perfect.’ A slow, deep ache crept upon her as the magic took its toll.
‘As always,’ Harry murmured in her ear. ‘Does that mean I can distract you now?’
‘I need to do it on the other side.’ Fleur pointed her wand at where the edge of the barrier slowed to a crawl halfway back to the house. ‘But first I need to do the other wards.’
‘How do they work?’ Harry asked.
‘Anti-apparition wards are easy enough,’ she said. ‘Do you know what apparition is?’
‘Probably not in enough detail to understand your explanation of the ward,’ he said.
‘Madame Maxime told me that apparition was like travelling from one edge of a piece of paper to the other by magically folding up all the paper in between until the distance between the two edges was a single step.’
‘Salazar told me that it was like spinning the distance past me as I stepped,’ Harry murmured.
‘Perhaps there are different ways to apparate.’ Fleur shrugged. ‘But both methods involve using magic to manipulate the space in between the beginning and end of the journey.’
‘How can you prevent that?’ Harry enquired.
‘The ward I am about to cast prevents any manipulation of space or distance around its edge. If someone tries to compress the space, my ward tries to stretch it back. Nobody can apparate across the border without breaking the ward.’
‘That’s quite simple.’
‘It is one of the most basic wards.’ Fleur flicked her wand and a brief shimmer fell over the meadows and house. ‘It can be overpowered by compressing the space either side of it until the ward itself covers so little space it is ineffective, but that’s no easy feat and beyond most wizards or witches.’
‘Voldemort did that,’ Harry said. ‘He broke the anti-apparition wards over the Ministry.’
‘He is a powerful wizard. These wards, even my Unyielding Shield Charm, won’t keep a wizard like him out if he really wanted to get in, but I’m sure it would tire even Voldemort.’
‘Could you break through?’
‘Of course.’ Fleur waved her wand at the fading shimmer of the anti-apparition wand. ‘I can rearrange wards like this, re-enchant them, if you like, but most would struggle. The Unyielding Shield is another matter, it repels all magic, even attempts to change it, and while I could exhaust it, that would also exhaust me.’
Harry opened his mouth, but Fleur put a finger to his lips. ‘Anti-portkey wards before I try and explain that ward.’
‘How do they work?’
You just like listening to me talk, don’t you? Fleur caught the small smile hovering on his lips and her heart lurched. I could probably spend an hour describing Beauxbatons’s different carpets and you’d sit there smiling.
‘If you imagine the same piece of paper as before, then instead of folding it many times, the portkey bends the paper so that the points are next to each other on opposite sides of the paper. It then pokes a small, temporary hole through the surface of the paper to join the points, and that is what the user travels through.’
Harry’s forehead furrowed. ‘I don’t understand how you can make a hole? Or how you could stop it?’
Fleur smirked. ‘You just do.’
Harry rolled his eyes at her and grinned. ‘It’s a good thing I’ve got you to do this for me, then.’
Fleur gathered her magic and raised her wand; it glimmered with turquoise light. ‘To prevent someone from making a hole for a portkey, you make the paper tougher. The more magic, the harder it is for the portkey to make the hole.’
And if you layer the magic in the right patterns, you can make it strong enough that it’s all but impossible for anyone but the strongest wizards. Portkeys are blunt pieces of magic.
Fleur cast a web of magic across their property, folding and twisting it over and over until a thick mesh of her power covered the whole thing. An odd, cyan tint filled the air, then faded away as the ache settled deeper and her legs shook.
Harry took some of her weight and drew her back against his chest. ‘Will you be okay?’
‘I’ll be fine. Very tired, especially after adding the other enchantments, but fine.’ Fleur leant her head back on his shoulder. ‘So you won’t be able to distract me.’
Harry tutted. ‘How disappointing. What’s the point of being with a part-veela, sex-craving bird-witch if you can’t screw her all the time?’
Fleur huffed. ‘You are lucky I know you know better and have to finish the wards or I would burn your clothes off—’
‘Sounds good to me—’
‘And leave you out here in the cold,’ Fleur finished.
‘Sounds less good.’
‘Exactement.’ Fleur twisted ‘round in his arms and buried her face in his shoulder, breathing in his soft scent. ‘Now apparate me over there, mon Cœur, and I will finish the Unyielding Shield Charm.’
‘As you wish, ma Princesse.’
The world spun back past them.
It is different. Harry whirls the world to meet him, compressing his destination to him for an instant, whereas I crumple the points together.
Fleur swayed, but Harry’s arms pulled her back against the heat of his body. ‘You’ll have to take me back to the house after this. I might not even be able to stay awake.’
‘Do you want me to cast it?’ Harry stared up at the bright, glowing flower of magic that shone above the house. ‘Would I be able to?’
‘I don’t have time to teach you. And the protection will be better if I cast both halves.’ She pulled herself upright and stepped away. ‘Besides, I’m better at wards than you, so this is my part to play.’
A small smile crept onto Harry’s lips and he stepped after her to wrap his arms around her waist. ‘In case you fall,’ he murmured into her hair.
‘Fianto duri.’ Fleur thrust her wand skyward, pushing every drop of magic she had through it, then twisted.
A second torrent of magic erupted from the tip of her wand, crackling and sparking as it ascended into the dusk sky. The two vast flowers of her magic melded together with a faint shimmer, then the stems fed into the translucent shield and the whole thing faded from sight.
Fleur groaned as the toll sapped the strength from her, and sagged back into Harry’s arms.
‘Back to the house with you.’ Harry bent and swept her up into his arms. ‘A good thing we’re under the Fidelius, or that piece of magic would’ve had every auror in the country here.’
‘It wouldn’t have mattered.’ Fleur leant her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes. ‘I will have to keep reinforcing it to keep it at full strength, but it’s the sort of ward that can stop entire squads of aurors in their tracks. I had to steal a book from Madame Maxime’s private collection to learn it.’
‘What a brilliant, devious, accomplished bird-witch you are.’ Harry laid her down on the sofa, then disappeared into the kitchen.
Fleur listened to the creak of cupboards and the clink of china, settled herself into the cushions and smiled. ‘I’ll make you regret those bird-witch comments, mon Cœur.’
Harry’s footsteps returned. ‘You’ll never make me regret any time I spend with you.’
Fleur wrestled with the weight of her eyelids, cracking one eye open. ‘What’re you up to?’
Harry lifted her head, sat down, then rested her back onto his lap and waved the last piece of the religieuse under her nose. ‘I’m going to eat your cake while you’re too tired to stop me.’
‘You better not,’ Fleur muttered. ‘Or this part-human, sex-craving bird-witch is going to set you on fire and peck out your eyes.’
Harry laughed and bent to kiss her on the forehead. ‘Can you sit up? Or shall I feed you?’
Fleur’s stomach squirmed and she curled her toes into the cushions. Her tired mind conjured fragmented images of Harry’s fingers and the sweet taste of raspberries and cream.
Harry’s eyes flicked down to her feet. ‘That looks like you’d prefer to be fed.’ He plucked one of the raspberries off the top and dipped it into the cream.
Fleur parted her lips and raised her head.
‘Nuh uh.’ He dangled it just out of reach. ‘You’ve got to ask.’
A faint pout crept onto her lips. ‘You are far too fond of making me ask.’ She caught the flash of desire beneath the playful glint in his eyes and smiled. ‘But since you’re so keen, I will ask. Feed me, mon Cœur. S’il. Te. Plaît.’
Harry slipped the raspberry between her lips. His thumb traced the curve of her pout as the sweet taste of sugar melted on Fleur’s tongue. A little heat pooled between her thighs and she sat up and swung herself into Harry’s lap.
‘I’ve changed my mind.’ She caught his fingers and drew them down the buttons of her blouse one at a time, then slipped them beneath her dress and trapped his palm against the heat between her legs. ‘I do want you to distract me.’
‘Sex-craving bird-witch,’ Harry whispered in her ear. ‘But what choice does a wizard have but to try and sate the passion of a veela before she leaves him.’
Fleur squeezed his hand and rested her forehead against his. ‘Try harder,’ she breathed.
His fingers curled, slipping into her so slowly she moaned. His thumb drew gentle circles through her wetness as Harry’s fingers curled and uncurled inside her; waves of pleasure washed through Fleur and a tight coil twisted tighter and tighter in her abdomen.
C’est bon. She bit her lip to stifle the gasps each shiver of pleasure coaxed from her. C’est trés bon.
He tugged the buttons of her blouse open with his free hand and pushed her bra up. Cold air rushed over her breasts and a little moan escaped her throat. ‘Don’t hold back,’ he murmured, sliding his hand up the curve of her neck from her nipple to cup her cheek. ‘Just let go.’
‘I’m not holding back,’ she gasped.
His thumb traced her lower lip and the motion of his fingers sped up inside her. Fleur’s breath hitched and the coil of heat between her hips twisted so tight it took all she had not to try and force his fingers further into her. She took his thumb into her mouth and sucked, closing her eyes as Harry’s thumb slowed its circling over the burning heat between her thighs.
‘You’re perfect,’ Harry whispered, pressing his thumb down a fraction on her tongue and curving his fingers a little deeper inside her.
A soft moan escaped her and Fleur sucked harder; the coil inside her came undone, ecstasy exploded through her, so bright and hot, little white sparks burst before her eyes.
‘Parfait,’ she murmured as his fingers slipped out of her.
Harry’s eyes burnt with desire as his gaze ran over her. ‘You have no idea.’
Fleur slipped out of his lap and down onto her knees. ‘My turn, mon Cœur.’ She ran her fingers along his thigh to his straining trousers. ‘I’ve had something sweet; it’s time for something else.’
A dull thud echoed through the house.
Fleur huffed. ‘That is the sound of someone failing to apparate past the wards.’
‘Sirius or Gabby.’ Harry sighed. ‘What awful timing.’
Fleur gave him a light squeeze, then slipped her bra back on and rebuttoned her blouse. ‘I’ll make it up to you later, mon Cœur. I promise.’
Harry hauled himself to his feet and rearranged his clothes. ‘I’ll hold you to that promise,’ he teased. ‘Is it Gabby?’
‘Gabby can’t apparate alone and she won’t have told anyone the secret, especially without telling us she has.’ Fleur rose to her feet, pulled out her wand, and let Sirius in through the wards. ‘So it must be your godfather. He’s probably feeling a little bruised, bouncing off anti-apparition wards can hurt.’
Harry grinned. ‘I know.’
A sharp knock echoed from the door.
Harry waved his wand at the door and it creaked open to reveal Sirius. A bright red smear marked his upper lip and chin, glistening beneath his bent, broken nose.
‘Decided to put up some wards did we?’
‘Just now, actually,’ Harry replied. ‘Episkey.’
Sirius winced as his nose straightened with a soft crunch, and blinked hard. ‘Thank you.’
‘We can’t leave you with a crooked nose.’ Harry chuckled and waved him onto the sofa. ‘Think of the outcry when the world hears Sirius Black’s face has been marred.’
‘Witches everywhere will be devastated.’
‘The wanted posters will not be half so attractive,’ Fleur added, settling back into the sofa on the other side of Harry.
‘Don’t joke, Fleur.’ Harry smirked. ‘I’ve had to use magic to stop hundreds of attempts to kiss Sirius.’
‘Really?’ Fleur ran her eyes over Sirius’s pale face.
‘Oh, yes.’ Harry’s smile dripped innocence. ‘Dementors can be such persistent creatures.’
‘No witches?’ Fleur matched Harry’s expression.
‘Not even one.’ Sirius sighed. ‘I should consider myself fortunate really, my mother is lining up candidate after candidate to continue the most pure bloodline of the Blacks.’
‘Your mother’s still alive?’ Fleur asked.
‘No. She’s a maddeningly annoying life-size portrait.’
‘So she can’t actually arrange you a marriage then,’ Fleur murmured.
‘Not for lack of trying, I’d imagine,’ Harry quipped.
Sirius snorted. ‘You laugh at my misfortune now, Harry, but you’re the only other possible heir to the family my dear mother will consider.’
‘Her attempts to direct the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black might soon be your problem rather than mine.’
Fleur sniffed. I pity anyone foolish enough to try and steal Harry’s perfect wish from him. He’d burn this whole country to ashes before losing it.
‘Speaking of your mother’s painting and its picturesque placing, how has everyone been?’ Harry’s question carried the faintest touch of malice.
‘You caused panic.’ Sirius laughed. ‘Your disappearing act was a good prank.’
‘Panic?’ Fleur retrieved the plate of cake and helped herself to another raspberry. ‘Vraiment?’
‘Oh yes. You instigated the largest meeting of the Order of the Phoenix since Voldemort returned. Snape promised us that Voldemort knows nothing about this.’
‘What did Dumbledore say?’ Harry murmured.
‘He sent a letter to the meeting that expressed grave disappointment in you,’ Sirius said.
‘Only a letter?’ Fleur asked.
‘Dumbledore’s disappeared off somewhere on his own. He only told us that it was very important.’
Off hunting horcruxes. Fleur smothered the heat welling up in her bones and finished the cake off, one cream-crowned bite at a time. And hoping to hurl Harry to his death the moment he finds them.
‘Mad-Eye Moody wanted to drag you back to headquarters and imprison you until the summer ended,’ Sirius said. ‘Dumbledore assured us that you’d have to be returned to your relatives.’
‘There’s a small snag with that,’ Harry quipped.
‘Your memory charm. Dumbledore mentioned it in his letter. It will be left as you made it until you’re found, then he intends to undo it and return you to your relatives under stricter rules.’
‘Rules,’ Fleur hissed. ‘Albus Dumbledore has no authority over Harry.’
‘Try telling him that,’ Harry muttered. ‘What did the rest of the Order think?’
‘The Weasleys were angry.’ Sirius sighed. ‘I know that you and Ron have drifted apart, but they took your disappearance as irresponsible and were furious. Molly fears your actions will cause more members of the Order to be put in danger.’
‘They volunteered to be put in danger when they joined. The Weasleys are angry because of Arthur’s death, they can blame Dumbledore or me, and their choice is obvious.’
Petty. Fleur swiped the last cream off the plate and licked it off her finger. Harry’s not to blame.
‘Insensitive,’ Sirius chided. ‘Even if it’s true.’
‘The Weasleys are not the only members, despite their number,’ Harry said.
‘Dumbledore suggested they look for you whenever and wherever they can.’
‘Even Snape?’ Ice crept into Harry’s tone.
Fleur put a hand on his arm.
‘No. Not Snape. He actually seemed…’ Sirius struggled with himself for a moment. ‘Impressed. Snivellus is a sneaky sort. He probably admires your ability to disappear as much as he envies it.’
‘Envy?’ Fleur arched an eyebrow. ‘Why?’
‘If Snivelly could disappear and escape both his masters, he probably would,’ Sirius said.
A flicker of disagreement crossed Harry’s face. Fleur made a careful note of it.
‘So Dumbledore is off secretly doing something important and the Order searches for me fruitlessly instead of actually fighting.’ Harry rolled his eyes. ‘Fantastic.’
‘Be careful if you leave the Meadow,’ Sirius said. ‘My cousin, Nym, is adept at tracking down fugitives and is capable of altering her appearance. She was Andi’s and Ted’s little girl, and she’s not even stopped working to sleep recently…’
‘I’ll be careful,’ Harry said.
Fleur hid a smile. Only Dumbledore and Voldemort are a threat to us.
‘I need to return,’ Sirius said. ‘The Order’s at Headquarters more frequently now. Someone will notice if I’m away for long.’
‘Bye, Sirius.’ Harry wrapped the arm Fleur wasn’t holding around his godfather in a brief but strong hug.
‘I’ll let you know as things change.’ Sirius jumped to his feet. ‘But for now the Order is simply trying to combat the rising wave of attacks however we can.’ He leant forward, then smiled and straightened up. ‘I’m going to have to walk past the wards, won’t I?’
‘Yes,’ Fleur said. ‘ Walk to the road, that’s far enough to be beyond them.’
‘If I break my face again you’ll be hated by hundreds of witches,’ Sirius joked.
Harry grinned. ‘I’m sure.’ The humour faded from his face. ‘Take care, Sirius.’
‘You know me.’ Sirius stepped out into the hall. ‘I never do anything rash.’
The door creaked open and shut, then Sirius’s footsteps faded away down the path.
‘You have things you wish to share?’ Fleur asked. ‘You did not agree with him about Snape.’
‘With you?’ Harry wrapped an arm ‘round her shoulders and pulled her close. ‘Always.’ His expression grew dark and his eyes turned to chips of ice. ‘Snape was the one who passed the prophecy to Voldemort and condemned my parents. He was fond of my mother and I have little doubt his true loyalty is to his quest for vengeance.’
Fleur studied the gleam in Harry’s eyes. ‘He’s not the only one who wants vengeance for what happened, is he?’
‘If he’d not done what he did, I would’ve never been at Privet Drive.’ Harry’s eyes turned distant. ‘And the reason he did it…’
He will kill him. Fleur recognised the cold gleam in his eyes. And rightly so. The damage those muggles did…
‘I have a confession, mon Cœur.’ Fleur wriggled into his side. ‘There’s a small part of me that’s a little glad you endured everything you had to endure.’
Harry squeezed her close. ‘There’s a small part of me that’s glad, too,’ he murmured. ‘I can’t even imagine what things would be like if I’d not found you.’
Fleur pressed her lips to his jaw. ‘Don’t get caught up in hating all these other people. We just need to be free, that’s all. Leave them behind, kill them if that’s what it takes, but don’t waste our time together on chasing people who aren’t worth caring about. There are always more shallow, little people to try and drag you down to their level.’
‘I’m going to leave Hogwarts as soon as possible,’ Harry said. ‘I’ll study to take my NEWTs early, this winter, hopefully, and then do whatever research of my own I can manage. Anything I can do to make myself stronger before facing Voldemort, I must do.’
Fleur huffed. ‘There were a lot of pronouns in that sentence that should have been we.’ She drew his lips down to hers. ‘And speaking of we, which room do you want to cross off our little list first?’
‘Once wasn’t enough for you?’ Desire gleamed in Harry’s eyes and his lips curved into a smirk. ‘And you did make me a promise…’
‘I always keep my promises,’ Fleur murmured, toying with the top button of her blouse until his eyes dipped to her breasts. ‘Always.’