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The branches of the Peverell family tree spread in lines of gentle purple flame from the mark of the Deathly Hallows upon the ceiling. Countless lines of Harry’s cramped handwriting covered the pages plastering the walls.
Harry crouched down and traced the only green line to where it ended at knee height beside the door. ‘Gaunts. The same family that couldn’t claim that dowry…’ He skimmed the names. ‘And apparently also the one that was a bit too fond of marrying each other.’
So fond of it they broke the law and the goblins refused to deal with them. He scowled. Which means Fleur can’t check their records to see what they owned. Not that it seems they owned much from the state of their vaults before they were kicked out of Gringotts.
‘Have you eaten anything?’ Quiet footsteps echoed along the corridor and the slim curve of Fleur’s legs appeared in the corner of his eye.
He grimaced. ‘I may have forgotten.’
She tutted. ‘Stop staring at your terrible wallpaper and eat.’ Fleur poked him with her toes. ‘Knowing you can’t look after yourself, I brought you some food.’
Harry jumped to his feet.
Fleur thrust a plate of small croissants into his face. Midnight blue eyes met his. ‘Eat.’ She pushed him back into a chair and settled into his lap. ‘I’m not going to keep helping you if you let this swallow you up. If I have to, I’ll drag you to work with me under that cloak.’
Harry snorted. ‘Your curse-breaker friend will be heart-broken.’
She rolled her eyes. ‘Heart-broken boys aren’t my problem.’ Her irises faded to summer blue. ‘With one exception.’
Harry shot her a grin. ‘You found a bird-man?’
Fleur glowered at him. ‘I hope one day you get to find out you’re a bird animagus, mon Cœur.’ She tapped the plate of croissants with her fingernail. ‘And you’re still not eating.’
Harry dipped one end of a small croissant into the pot of honey and wolfed it down. ‘Happy bird-witch?’
She laughed and pressed a kiss to his lips, stealing the honey off them with the tip of her tongue. ‘Happier.’ Fleur snuggled into the crook of his neck. The warmth of her soaked into him and she patted her bare feet against the floor. ‘What’re you up to today?’
He shrugged and munched his way through the croissants. ‘I should probably go visit Katie. Make sure she’s ok. Other than that, I was planning to brood in here and then try to seduce you in the hallway. I think that’s the only room left on the list.’
Fleur’s lips brushed his neck. ‘There’s also the bathroom…’
‘I thought we already ticked off the bathroom that morning a few weeks back.’ A smile crept onto his lips. ‘And a few times more afterward.’
‘They don’t count.’ She leant back and stared up at him through dark lashes. ‘It only counts if we start and finish in the same room.’
‘I didn’t realise there were rules.’
‘There are.’ Fleur shifted in his lap and shot him a coy look. ‘The bathroom’s just down the hall…’
Harry’s gaze dipped to the loose cleavage of her blouse and he slid the plate away across the desk. ‘I promised I’d go see Katie this morning.’
The blue of Fleur’s eyes darkened by a few hues. ‘Tread carefully, mon Cœur. I am a very jealous bird-girl.’
‘I’d noticed.’ Harry’s hands slipped to her waist and pulled her against him. ‘And I’m fairly sure you can feel how much I’d like to delay my visit by a couple of hours, but she’s been through a bad week, to say the least, and only because she’s remained a loyal friend to me.’
‘Mmmm.’ Fleur hummed and circled her hips until Harry twitched. ‘I suppose I can be patient for a few hours. I don’t have much to do, though, I sorted the wards yesterday.’ She cocked her head and tossed her hair back over her shoulder. ‘Perhaps I should come with you?’
You still want to meet Katie… Harry wrestled with a knot of anxiety, then smothered it. There’s no reason for me to say no. We’re just friends. There’s nothing that can go wrong.
‘Katie did say I should bring you,’ he remarked. ‘I guess you can come surprise her.’
Fleur huffed. ‘You mean you can’t think of a good reason to say no.’
Harry twitched. ‘A little bit that, yeah.’
‘One day, mon Cœur, you’re going to realise that there’s really nothing you can do that will get rid of me.’ She pressed a soft kiss to his lips. ‘I’m certainly not going to get put off by anything the girl you dated before me might say.’
A little rush of warmth filled him and he tugged her tighter into his arms. ‘You really are perfect, you know.’
Fleur stuck her nose in the air. ‘As always.’
‘I certainly hope so,’ he murmured.
She jumped out of his lap. ‘Let’s go, then.’
Harry staggered out of his chair. ‘I just need to sort out my face.’
‘Non.’ Fleur smoothed her blue dress down and shook out her hair. ‘Leave it.’
‘Everyone will recognise me…’
Everyone will see me with you. The knot tightened in his gut. And once they know, they’ll try and take you away. Like always.
‘Good.’ She slid her arm ’round his waist. ‘I’m not some secret mistress to be hidden away and snuck back and forth from, and it’s not like we’re not about to start picking fights with Death Eaters and going after horcruxes anyway, is it?’
Harry grimaced. ‘I can’t argue with that logic.’
Let’s hope there’s nobody inside to see us.
‘But you want to,’ Fleur muttered under her breath. ‘Otherwise I wouldn’t have to twist your arm into appearing in public with me.’
Harry winced. ‘Sorry.’
She sighed and leant her head on his shoulder. ‘I know. You can’t help it.’ Her eyes darkened a fraction. ‘I will forgive you for it, probably forever, because you’re you.’
‘I’ll buy you some cake at the café?’ Harry shifted his weight. ‘Will that make it up to you?’
‘It’ll definitely help.’
Harry wrenched the world back past them and stepped into Katie’s family’s café. ‘It’s a good thing you’re so easily bribed, mon Amour.’
A small handful of chairs rested upon the tables surrounding the half-empty counter and blank spaces marked the shelves and walls where pictures and ornaments had once stood.
‘Harry!’ Katie bounced out of the corridor beyond the counter and stopped dead in her tracks. ‘And you must be Fleur.’
‘I’m definitely Fleur.’ Fleur’s fingers curled into Harry’s shirt. ‘It’s nice to finally meet you, Katie.’
Katie drifted around the edge of the counter. ‘Harry’s talked about you a lot, I feel like I already know you.’ She beamed. ‘I hope he warned you that you’re here because we have more cake than we can eat.’
Fleur’s lips crooked. ‘He did promise to buy me some.’
‘There’s no such thing as more cake than Fleur can eat,’ Harry quipped. ‘She’s like an acromantula when it comes to sweet, edible things.’
Katie giggled. ‘That’s not true. Fleur has much nicer legs.’
‘And fewer eyes.’
A soft laugh escaped Fleur’s lips. ‘I don’t—’
‘Is Harry finally here?’ Nev stepped out of the corridor and turned bright red. ‘Oh.’
Merde. Harry’s stomach clenched. Katie knows not to tell anyone, but Nev doesn’t.
‘Neville’s also here.’ She waved a hand out at Diagon Alley. ‘He got nervous about his date and turned up an hour early.’
Nev glanced back and forth between Fleur and Katie, a deep frown on his face.
‘His date?’ Harry asked.
‘Hannah…’ A little wicked gleam appeared in Katie’s eyes. ‘I’ve been teaching him how to impress a girl.’
Nev’s face turned an even brighter shade of red. ‘Please don’t.’
Harry laughed. ‘You’ve been tormenting him with innuendo, you mean.’
‘As if you wouldn’t have joined in like usual.’ Katie flapped a hand at one of the tables. ‘Give me a moment, we can sit here.’
Harry slipped his wand out and flicked it at the table. The four chairs flipped off and settled upon the floor. ‘Done.’
Nev sidled out of the corridor and into the seat in the corner. ‘W-what brings you t-to Britain, Fleur? I-it’s not exactly s-safe.’
‘I am with Harry.’ Fleur chose the chair opposite Nev and crossed her legs, drawing Harry into the seat by the window. ‘I have been for a while, but he likes to keep things to himself.’
Katie’s smile crumbled and she dropped herself into the chair opposite Harry. ‘He sure does.’
Harry glanced between Katie and Nev, tracing patterns across Fleur’s palm with his finger.
‘You can ask,’ Katie murmured, catching Harry’s eye. ‘Neville already knows you know.’
‘How’s everything?’ Harry asked.
‘It’s ok. Dad’s off duty until he’s fully recovered and Mum’s fine. We’re just a bit shaken up.’ Katie watched Harry’s finger circle Fleur’s hand. ‘Good thing you were there.’
‘You were there?’ Nev’s gaze snapped up. ‘What happened?’
‘Walden Macnair wanted to take Katie’s head off with an axe,’ Harry said. ‘I stopped him. I quite like Katie with her head attached to the rest of her.’
‘You’d miss my pretty face,’ Katie joked. ‘Who else would you get to tie their hair up for you after you’d lured them into a trick step if I was headless?’ She giggled. ‘You’d be head-less, too.’
Fleur stiffened and Harry winced.
Was that really the wisest joke to make? He stifled a sigh. Fleur’s going to make me pay for that.
‘You stunned him?’ Nev frowned. ‘He’s still out there?’
‘No. I killed him.’
‘I guess I should’ve expected that.’ Nev’s lips twisted. ‘You seriously injured Malfoy when Katie’s ribs got broken, no wonder you killed someone who wanted to behead her.’
Fleur’s fingers curled ’round Harry’s hand and tugged it across in front of her. ‘I remember reading about that. Rita Skeeter liked to write about Harry a lot, and not just Harry, either.’
Katie turned a little pink and stared down into the table. ‘There was absolutely no truth in that article.’
Nev’s gaze slid to Fleur, then he tugged his eyes away and his brow wrinkled. ‘Sorry,’ he muttered. ‘Harry taught me some occlumency, but I didn’t think to use it.’
‘How does it work?’ Katie leant forward, a curious gleam in her eye. ‘I remember all the boys going weird around you except for Harry back in Fourth year.’
Fleur stared at Katie, toying with a lock of her silver hair until Katie squirmed in her chair. ‘It’s a compulsion. My magic naturally inspires people to desire me, though it requires them to be looking at me. The more focused they are on me, the greater effect it has. My allure’s stronger than most.’ A touch of pride coloured her tone. ‘I can enthral anyone who doesn’t know how or isn’t inclined to resist without trying. It’s not normally so.’
‘But Harry wasn’t affected.’ Katie chewed her lip. ‘Or any girls.’
‘Surely some of the girls,’ Harry quipped. ‘
‘Harry’s all but immune because of his proficiency with the mind arts.’ Fleur pouted. ‘Even my best attempt to ensnare him makes no difference unless I catch him off guard. And girls, well, unless they’re already interested in other girls, they won’t feel it so much.’
‘You tried to charm him?’ Katie’s voice rose an octave.
‘I was curious to see how resistant he was,’ Fleur replied. ‘So was Harry, for that matter.’ Her eyes darkened to midnight blue. ‘I didn’t enthral him for so much as a second. I don’t need magic for that.’
Nev cleared his throat. ‘Harry, is it alright if we talk for a moment?’
Harry glanced between Katie and Fleur. ‘Definitely.’
Nev pushed his chair back and stepped into the corridor.
Harry squeezed out around Fleur, pausing to bend to her ear. ‘Don’t be too jealous, mon Rêve. Katie’s my best friend.’
Fleur leant her head back into his stomach and gave him a small, warm little smile. ‘I’ll be nice.’
Katie twitched and caught Harry’s eye. He winked at her and her shoulders relaxed a little.
Nev’s deep frown held a glint of anger. ‘You never told me about Fleur.’
‘I didn’t tell anyone.’ Harry studied the gleam in Nev’s eyes. ‘Katie only knows because I slipped up.’
‘So you don’t trust us.’ Nev’s face tightened.
Harry suppressed a flicker of irritation. ‘Voldemort sent Macnair after Katie because she’s my friend. The fewer people know about Fleur, the lower the risk of her getting hurt.’
Nev relaxed a fraction. ‘Then what’s going on with you three? You and Katie have your thing and then suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re with Fleur.’ He lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘I saw the photos in the room, but I thought you’d gotten over her and got back together with Katie.’
‘That’s not what it is.’ Harry shook his head. ‘Forget about it. It’s nothing to worry about. Fleur’s my girlfriend and Katie’s my best friend.’ Harry shot a glance back toward the table at Fleur’s tense shoulders and Katie’s squirming. ‘We should go back.’ He pinched a slice of chocolate cake from the counter as he returned.
Katie looked up as they re-joined the table. ‘Had a nice little chat, boys? Decided which of us has the best boobs?’
Nev sputtered and went pink. ‘That’s — that’s not what we were talking about.’
Harry snorted and slid the cake over to Fleur. ‘Fairly sure I remember you saying Fleur had you beat, anyway.’
Katie huffed. ‘We can’t all be sexy French veela.’ She flashed a grin at Fleur. ‘No offence.’
Fleur’s lips pursed. ‘None taken. It’s true.’
Harry inclined his head toward the cake. ‘How much do I owe you?’
‘Nothing.’ Katie turned a little pink. ‘You did save my life. And probably my parents’ lives too. The least I can give you is free cake.’ A wicked glint appeared in her eye. ‘Unless, of course, you’d prefer I repay my life debt some other way.’
Fleur twitched and caught herself in the lip with her fork. ‘What?’
Nev pulled a menu across in front of his face.
Katie beamed. ‘Fleur’s very pretty and has very nice legs, I don’t mind sharing her with you, Harry.’
‘I’m not very good at sharing,’ Harry retorted. ‘I’m an only child. Blame Voldemort.’
‘Now I understand why you and my sister are so good at coming up with silly things.’ Fleur put her fork down. ‘You’ve been practising with Katie.’
‘Gabby is better than both of us,’ Harry said. ‘For a horrible moment I thought she was telling me the truth about that veela enclave thing.’
Fleur laughed. ‘You should be so lucky. There are no nudist veela colonies waiting in southern France, Harry. And even if there were, you still wouldn’t have to pretend to be married to both me and my sister to get in.’
‘It was that last bit that gave it away,’ Harry said. ‘She had me going until then.’
Katie’s smile slipped a fraction. ‘And here I thought I was the only one who teased him like that.’
‘Not anymore.’ Harry grinned. ‘But you did get there first.’
Katie giggled. ‘I suppose being your first is still something to take pride in, right, Fleur?’
Fleur’s cheeks turned pink, but she stuck her chin in the air. ‘I certainly enjoyed it.’
‘Cradle-snatcher,’ Harry whispered in her ear. ‘I wasn’t even sixteen.’
‘It was close enough,’ Fleur whispered back. ‘And I bet that time-turner made up the difference anyway.’
Nev cleared his throat and re-appeared above his menu. ‘Can we — er — not talk about this? I have to go meet Hannah and I really don’t want my head to be full of veela enclaves; I’ll say something stupid and ruin it.’
‘Fair enough.’ Harry leant back in his chair. ‘What’re your remaining summer plans, Nev? Besides sweet-talking Hannah. I’m studying for my NEWTs.’
‘And repainting the door to the house,’ Fleur added, picking her fork back up and taking a mouthful of chocolate icing.
‘And that.’ Harry rolled his eyes. ‘I’ll do it eventually, but it doesn’t really need it.’
‘It’s a terrible colour,’ Fleur said. ‘This country is not warm enough to merit so much white. I would like a blue door.’
‘I haven’t found the right colour yet,’ Harry said. ‘There’s a certain shade of blue I’ve got my heart set on…’
Fleur shot him a soft look and paused in her demolition of the cake to squeeze his hand.
‘You sound so grown up,’ Nev muttered.
‘Well, I’m going to come up with some new amusing rumours to scare firsties with,’ Katie said. ‘Luna Lovegood will help, she comes up with some of the best ones.’
‘Which ones were hers?’ Nev asked.
Katie giggled. ‘My favourite was the one where Voldemort’s real mission was to seduce as many girls around our age group as possible to prevent the pure-blooded lines from ever being lost. However, because he himself is impotent, he had to create Harry to do it for him, and everything else is just an elaborate cover to fool Dumbledore, the Ministry, and the Witch Weekly magazine, who’ve opposed Voldemort since discovering his terrible secret.’
A peal of laughter burst from Fleur’s lips. ‘You are not very good at your mission, Harry. You’ve seduced one girl and she’s far from pure-blooded.’
‘I think I need to talk to Luna,’ Harry said. ‘All that terrified blushing suddenly makes a lot more sense.’
‘It’s okay, Harry.’ Katie beamed. ‘We warned them off. Told them all you were also impotent.’
Harry snorted. ‘Thanks…’
‘You should probably try warning Romilda Vane once or twice more.’ Nev sniggered. ‘I’ve overheard talk of love potions.’
Fleur’s eyes narrowed and she scraped the remaining chocolate crumbs and icing off the plate with white knuckles. ‘Love potions are nasty things.’
‘Who the hell is Romilda Vane?’ Harry asked.
‘Dark-haired, not unattractive, a year or so younger than us, and apparently quite a dab hand at potions.’ Katie giggled. ‘I’d watch your food, Harry, and your back, or she’ll be dragging you into broom closets after quidditch.’
‘Thanks, Katie, but it won’t be the first time I’ve been offered something inappropriate by a girl after quidditch.’
Katie flushed pink. ‘I wasn’t serious.’
‘You should probably keep an eye out for potions, though,’ Nev said. ‘I don’t think she was actually joking.’
‘Really?’ Katie’s tone switched to something so hostile it was normally reserved for addressing Slytherin’s chasers. ‘She actually meant it?’
‘Yeah…’ Nev grimaced. ‘Come to think of it, she knew an awful lot about Amortentia, too.’
‘I’ll keep an eye out,’ Katie growled. ‘If anyone tries anything like that I’ll test my human transfiguration on them. Romilda can spend a few hours as a parakeet or a flamingo. I’ll take her to the lake and feed her to the squid…’
Harry laughed. ‘Isn’t she just an adorable little Dark Mistress?’
‘Quite,’ Fleur murmured, her eyes darkening.
He winced. Maybe this was a bad idea.
‘A mouse,’ Katie decided. ‘I will feed her to Professor McGonagall.’
‘And on that note,’ Harry said, rising out of his chair. ‘We should go back home and Nev needs to get to his date.’
Katie slid out of her chair, smiled her goodbye to Fleur, then wrapped her arms ’round Harry. ‘Thanks for finally bringing Fleur to meet me,’ she whispered. ‘Stay safe.’
Harry held her close and breathed in a soft tang of broom polish and coffee. ‘I’ll be careful.’ He mussed her hair. ‘You be careful, too. Anyone close to me is a target now.’
‘You have a door to paint,’ Neville quipped, patting Harry on the shoulder.
‘You have a cactus to look after,’ Harry retorted. ‘Have you explained the name to your gran yet?’
Nev paled. ‘She’ll know as soon as she meets Hannah. And then she’ll tell all her friends. They’re all on the Wizengamot. The entirety of Britain’s government will know why I named my cactus Hannah.’
Katie’s giggles drowned out the soft snap of Harry’s apparition. Fleur appeared beside him and caught his hand on the door.
‘I’ll paint it tomorrow, I promise,’ Harry said.
‘Thank you.’ A faint smile flitted across her lips. ‘But that’s not what I want to say.’
‘Then say it.’ His stomach churned. ‘You’re making me nervous.’
‘It will make things more complicated,’ Fleur murmured.
‘I’d rather hear it than not.’
‘She still likes you.’
‘Who?’ Harry blinked. ‘Katie? We talked about it more than a year ago. She said we could just be friends.’
Or something like that. His gut twisted itself into a knot. She can’t still like me. It’s been ages.
‘She lied,’ Fleur said. ‘I could almost taste how much she wanted to be where I was.’
‘That doesn’t make any sense.’ Harry shook his head. ‘Not after that article. Not after she told me to go talk to you when I was getting all worried about that curse-breaker.’
Fleur held his gaze. ‘She loves you, but she wants you to be happy.’ Something horribly fragile hovered in her eyes. ‘You’ll see. At some point, she won’t be able to resist. The moment she can convince herself you’d be happier with her than with me.’
Harry tugged her into his arms and held her close. ‘I don’t believe you, but it doesn’t matter. I’m yours. You’re the one perfect thing I have and I’ll never let you go.’
Fleur’s fingers curled into his shirt, then she crushed her lips against his. ‘Prove it,’ she whispered. ‘I want to feel it.’
‘We’re outside…’ His fingers slipped into her hair. ‘Someone—’
‘The Fidelius.’ Fleur tugged three buttons of his shirt open, then her eyes darkened several hues and she scorched the rest of their clothes away. ‘Nobody can see us.’
‘That’s true.’ He traced his fingertips up the inside of her thigh and through the hot, silk-soft wetness between her legs, cupping her breast in his other hand and toying with her stiff nipple.
She shivered and pushed herself against him. ‘Don’t tease me.’ A moan slipped from her lips as he curled his fingers into her. ‘I want to feel it.’
Harry caught the desire burning in her blue eyes and slid his fingers back out of her. His hand crept up into her hair. ‘You’ll feel it,’ he whispered, twisting her around and pinning her against the door.
Fleur gasped and pushed herself back toward him. Wetness shone on the inside of her thighs and the bright pink between them glistened when he spread her open. Harry eased himself into her as slowly as he could manage until her nails scored lines through the flaking white paint and she thrust her hips back at him.
‘Don’t tease,’ she whispered, little white feathers sprouting along her arms.
He curled his fingers in her hair and tugged her head back to kiss her hard, going harder and deeper until the door rattled and her gasps came in time with the slap of his thighs against hers. Fleur pushed herself back into him faster and faster, then came undone with a soft moan and ragged gasps.
Heat pooled in his belly, swirling hotter and hotter. ‘Fleur,’ he whispered. ‘I’m close.’
‘I don’t care.’ She forced herself all the way back. ‘I want to feel it.’
The green-eyed girl in the glass flashed before Harry’s eyes and he burst inside her, holding her tight against him. Fleur staggered back into his arms and clung to him, veiled in a thin film of sweat. White trickled down her trembling thighs and her breasts heaved as she leant into him, her tangled silver tresses sticking to his chest. A fierce satisfied heat swirled in Harry’s chest as she smiled up at him.
‘I like it when you pull my hair,’ she murmured.
‘We need a shower,’ Harry said.
‘Mmmm.’ Fleur’s hand crept down his chest and over his stomach. ‘Or… we can cross the bathroom off our list first.’
Harry chuckled. ‘Or that.’