Towering piles of paper rose from the top of Fleur’s desk, looming over the stacks of crates and their odd assortment of worn trinkets. Agdol paced in his office, muttering in Gobbledegook and clutching at his briefcase clips.
I will not miss this stifling, boring place.
Fleur waved her wand and the floating quills drifted back into their box. She plucked it off the desk, weighing it upon her palm. ‘No point wasting them on someone else. I made them.’ Fleur shrank the box down and pocketed it.
Agdol’s office door banged open and he stomped across. ‘There is no legal recourse left to me that can prevent your departure, but I implore you to remain, Miss Delacour. Gringotts is the safest place in this country and you have all the skills to be very successful with us.’
She met Agdol’s dark eyes. ‘I am too skilled to be here. We both know it.’
‘Yes.’ Agdol’s mouth twisted into a snarl. ‘My superiors refused to let me even offer you a role worthy of your skill. They are irz kel beruk, tied to grudges, and would not accept a human among the roles traditionally held by our people.’
Fleur let her expression soften. ‘I appreciate your effort on my behalf, Agdol.’ She pulled open the drawer of her desk and passed him her contract. The little box with the ring, she tucked into her pocket. ‘I must leave.’
Agdol shook his head. ‘It was for Gringotts, not for you. You are as skilled as any goblin in your own way, but foolish pride has cost us before, will cost us now, and will no doubt again in the future.’ He muttered a few harsh words in Gobbledegook. ‘You have been an exemplary, if unorthodox, employee and I wish you well in your future endeavours, Miss Delacour. I hope we do not find ourselves on opposing sides in the future.’
If we do, you will lose. Fleur slid the drawer of her desk shut.
‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I’ve left everything ready for my replacement.’
Agdol ground out a few more curses in Gobbledegook. ‘I have no doubt we will miss you all the more when confronted with their incompetence.’ He shook his head. ‘I have informed the curse-breakers of your departure, so there is no need to trouble yourself with their attentions.’
‘Au revoir, then.’ Fleur waited until Agdol had closed the door to his office, then retrieved her notebook and tucked that away, too.
And now… She checked the clock. I have time to buy cake while I linger for Harry.
Fleur hurried to the apparition point, avoiding catching the eyes of anyone else, and stepped from the bank into the summer sunshine.
Folded blue umbrellas rose on one side of the thin crowd hustling back and forth over the cobbles. Red umbrellas shielded a scatter of sparsely populated tables from the sun on the other.
Fleur caught Katie Bell’s gaze.
Merde. She strode toward her café and chose a table in the sun beside the street. I will not run away from this girl, but I hope she’s not so petty as to spit in my drink.
Katie Bell bounced across, trailed by a floating note-pad and a red-feathered quill. ‘Cake?’ A broad grin spread across her face. ‘We have a lot of cake…’
Smiling at me doesn’t fool me. Fleur eyed the fluttering red feather, smothering a faint prickle of heat beneath her skin. I know what it looks like when shallow little girls try to hide hate behind smiles. If it wouldn’t hurt Harry, you’d curse me the moment I turned my back.
‘Anything sweet and light will do.’ She pointed at the folded blue umbrellas across the street. ‘My usual spot seems to be shut.’
Katie’s expression darkened a touch. ‘It’s going to stay shut. The hit-wizards arrested the whole family yesterday. Voldemort sympathisers or informants or something like that.’
‘They made their choice,’ Fleur replied.
‘They were just scared. Voldemort’s winning.’
‘Voldemort’s winning because people aren’t fighting.’ Fleur suppressed another trickle of heat in her bones. ‘They just sit there and wait to be saved. They’re useless.’
‘Harry will save them,’ Katie murmured. ‘He saved me.’
‘He’s not here to sacrifice his dreams to save everyone else. Harry has his own dreams.’ Fleur balled her fists and forced the prickle of feathers down. ‘There are far too many people who think it’s okay to expect Harry to sacrifice his dreams so they can easily have theirs. And then when he’s saved them, they don’t even say thank you. They hate him, because they don’t like the shadow he casts from the pedestal they put him on.’
‘I said thank you.’ Katie squirmed. ‘And I don’t care that he’s famous or powerful or anything like that.’
You wanted to say more than thank you, I bet. Fleur bit her tongue.
‘Harry appreciates the very few people who feel that way,’ she said.
A sharp glint appeared in Katie’s brown eyes and she grinned. ‘I’m his best friend, he better appreciate me.’ She pursed her lips and wrinkled her brow. ‘Let me go get your cake, before I forget, Fleur!’ Katie bounced away.
Fleur sighed under her breath. You’re just waiting, aren’t you? One misstep from me. One mistake. And you’ll defend me the whole time, too, I bet, just so Harry never suspects you wanted me to fail.
‘Fleur!’ Bill diverted from the street through the tables, toying with the dragon fang dangling from his ear. ‘Bit early for your usual lunch break, isn’t it?’
Her heart sank. And here we go, as if on cue.
He dragged the chair beside her out from the table, turned it about, and leant over the back of it toward her. ‘Agdol gave you some time off?’
‘I’ve quit.’ Fleur glimpsed Katie approaching in the corner of her eye. ‘No reason to stay.’
Bill’s shoulders slumped. ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m glad you have.’ He shot her a sharp grin. ‘And not just because I’m fairly sure you could take my job. Things are getting worse here, you’ll be much safer back in France—’
‘I’m not going back to France.’
Katie slipped the plate of cake on the table and rested her hand on Fleur’s shoulder. ‘Does your friend want anything, Fleur?’
Fleur glanced up into a hostile stare. ‘I’m not paying for him.’
Bill laughed. ‘Fair enough.’ He held up his hands. ‘I’m fine, thanks, love. Got a full lunch with the family a little later. They’re out shopping ’round Diagon Alley at the moment.’
A little weight came down on Fleur’s shoulder, then Katie’s fingers vanished and she bustled off.
How dare she? Fleur grappled with the heat within, thrusting her arms under the table as the feather tips slid out of her skin and turning away to hide her eyes. I have made no mistakes. I’ve done everything and more for Harry. She’s the one that betrayed him at that ball!
The smile slid off Bill’s face and he lowered his voice. ‘Fleur, what are you thinking?’ His knuckles turned white ’round the top of the chair. ‘If those Death Eaters catch you…’ He swallowed and shook his head. ‘You can’t stay here, especially not now you’ve no reason to.’
‘My boyfriend is here.’ Fleur held her breath until her temper faded and turned back to the table, picking up her fork. ‘And I’m not leaving him.’
Bill frowned and clenched his jaw. ‘You never said what your boyfriend does?’
‘He kills dark wizards.’ Fleur hid a smile behind a fork of chocolate icing.
And if he sees us together again… The humour drained away and the sweet taste on her tongue turned to ash. Harry’s going to panic. All my work to build his trust up will be ruined.
‘An auror.’ Bill’s forehead creased. ‘Is he any good?’
‘Like he’s been doing it since birth,’ she murmured.
Bill sighed and fiddled with the dragon fang earring. ‘Look. I know you probably get a lot of guys causing trouble for you, so I’m not offended or anything, but you don’t need to lie to me. I know all about all the aurors here. I’m friends with some of them. None of them have a French girlfriend and they all would’ve said something about someone like you.’ He offered her a weak grin and leant a little closer. ‘Be fair, yeah, love? Give me a chance. You have to give someone a chance. If I’m not good enough, so be it, but if you never give anyone a chance, you’ll never find anyone, right guy or not.’
She stabbed her fork into her cake, taking a long deep breath as heat boiled up from her bones. Katie’s eyes bored into her from near the door into the café, then flicked away to the right, her expression twisting into a grimace.
Fleur followed her gaze to where Harry strolled down the street toward the café and her heart plummeted in her breast. Oh merde.
His eyes flicked back and forth between her and Bill and his posture tensed.
Bracing yourself for the worst. A scream of frustration perched itself at the back of Fleur’s throat and she tugged her fork out of her cake, clenching her fingers around it until they turned white. And I’ve done nothing. This is all Bill, he just won’t leave me alone. Well, you reap what you sow, Bill.
She twisted ’round and set her fork down with a loud click. ‘I’m—’
‘Fleur!’ Harry drifted across, a faint shadow hanging in his eyes above the bright smile that turned her stomach. ‘How’s the cake?’
Bill’s head snapped around. ‘Harry Potter?’ He folded his arms on the back of the chair and relaxed over the top of it. ‘You two know each other?’
‘Of course.’ Harry took the chair opposite them. ‘Fleur was my competition in the tournament. It was an unforgettable experience. My dragon was really rather unfriendly.’
Ah. I see, mon Cœur. Fleur bit her lip. You want to see what I do. A chance for me to prove your fear wrong. She caught the little flash of ice in Harry’s eyes as they flicked to Bill and back to her. And you want to hurt him, too. For trying to take away your one perfect wish.
‘You should try curse-breaking.’ Bill grinned and swept his long hair back. ‘Some of the spells I’ve had to take apart make getting eaten by a dragon look blissful by comparison.’
Harry’s eyes cooled a fraction further and his smile brightened. ‘So what brings you to Diagon Alley?’
‘Fleur is being mysterious,’ Bill said. ‘She won’t tell me what she’s doing.’
‘I’m sorry, I meant you, Bill.’ A flicker of satisfaction passed through his green eyes. ‘I know why Fleur’s here.’
‘You do?’ Bill looked like he’d swallowed something particularly sour. ‘Well, I came with my family. You know how it is Harry, all that pre-school year shopping. You should probably carry on with yours before all the good stuff vanishes.’
‘I did all mine a while back. I’ve had all summer to wander around Diagon Alley.’I must have spent half the holidays here.’
Bill’s face tightened. ‘I’m glad you’ve been enjoying your summer, Harry. I wish mine had been so easy, but the war against Voldemort is harrowing. Still, that’s something for us adults to worry about, not you kids.’
Does Harry want me to take his side? Or is he just setting Bill up to tear him down? Fleur sought for any hint in his expression, but that awful bright smile obscured everything but the sharp ice buried in his green eyes. In the corner of her eye, Fleur glimpsed Katie Bell watching the three of them like a hawk. And she’s just waiting for me to make a mistake.
‘Having to fight Voldemort is a terrible burden,’ Harry said. ‘A good thing you adults make sure kids like me never have to carry that burden, right?’
Bill rubbed at the short, ginger stubble on his chin and threw a nervous glance over his shoulder. ‘Ah, here’s everyone.’
Fleur glimpsed a large group of redheads approaching the café.
Fantastique. There are more of them.
Harry’s face hardened.
‘I should introduce you, Fleur.’ Bill waved the whole group over. ‘In case you do take up my offer to come stay with us.’
Harry’s eyebrows rose a fraction.
Merde. Fleur winced. I didn’t tell him about that, did I?
‘Mum, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron and Ginny,’ Bill gestured to each of his relatives in turn, throwing them all a long, pointed look. ‘This is the prodigious French curse-breaker I’ve been talking about, Fleur Delacour.’
Harry folded his arms and met Fleur’s gaze, an unreadable little gleam hovering in his eyes. She could feel his trust wavering behind that shining smile, like a candle flame left out beneath midnight rain.
Enough of this. Fleur tugged her chair ’round the table and pulled Harry’s hand into her lap. I am not like the other wishes, mon Cœur. I am not going anywhere.
‘I’m Harry’s girlfriend,’ she announced.
Bill stiffened and turned to glare at Harry. Harry shot him a beatific grin, more than a hint of satisfaction glinting in his eyes.
‘It’s nice to meet you.’ A faint frown creased Ron’s brow.
‘Indeed,’ Percy replied.
‘A pleasure,’ the identical twins murmured.
‘Lovely to meet you, dear. How have you been, Harry?’ Their mother stared at Harry as if expecting him to wilt beneath the weight of her condemnation. ‘We were all very worried.’
‘I’m very well, thank you.’ Harry slid the arm in Fleur’s lap around her waist and pulled her close, pressing a light kiss to her cheek. ‘By far the best summer I’ve ever had.’
‘Congratulations,’ Ginny whispered, staring daggers at Fleur.
Another one. Fleur held her gaze and the girl dropped her eyes to the floor. At least this one’s given up. She threw a look across to where Katie leant on a table, watching them with narrowed eyes. Unlike that one.
‘Come on, William,’ Bill’s mother said. ‘We need to finish up here and get home. That ham won’t glaze itself.’
The Weasley family drew a little further back down the street.
Bill groaned, stretched and rose out of his chair. ‘Well, Fleur, my offer still stands. You’re welcome to come stay with us where it’s safe. I wouldn’t want you dragged into anything dangerous.’
Fleur didn’t smother the heat; she let the feathers burst through her skin and her eyes flash dark. ‘Go away. You’ve caused me enough trouble with your offer. I am never going to accept it. I am far safer and happier where I am.’
Bill clenched his jaw and bounced the dragon fang on the ball of his thumb. ‘Fine. Clearly I’m not your type, you’re into little kids. If you two want to mess about in these dangerous times, you can face the consequences by yourselves.’ He stomped away through the tables.
‘So that’s the selfish attachment Dumbledore said Harry was harbouring,’ Mrs Weasley exclaimed. ‘Everyone else is fighting, or worrying about him, and he’s run off to mess around with some air-headed, pretentious French veela.’
Harry tensed and rose from his seat.
Fleur caught his arm and pulled him back down. ‘I don’t care what the little people think about me,’ she murmured in his ear. ‘I want to enjoy being here with you before you have to go back to Hogwarts.’
These are the last moments of our summer. A soft ache crept in beneath her ribs and the feathers slid back beneath her skin. I’ll barely see him once he’s left.
‘You never mentioned he offered you to come and live with him.’ Harry settled back into his chair, but his posture remained tense.
She sighed and ooched her chair across until she was as close to him as she could be. ‘I refused. He wanted me to be safe.’
‘With an ulterior motive,’ Harry muttered. A dark, cold gleam welled up in his eyes. ‘He’s lucky I didn’t tear him apart.’
Fleur leant her head on his shoulder. ‘I would’ve killed him myself before I let him come between us, mon Cœur. All those easy little things are worth nothing compared to you.’ She cupped his cheek in her hand and turned his face towards hers. ‘I wanted something beautiful so much when I was a little younger, but the more I saw of people, the more I realised it was impossible. I gave up on it. And then you came. Out of nowhere, everything I’d once wanted so badly.’
Harry’s eyes softened and he bent forward and kissed her. ‘Am I getting better?’ he whispered. ‘I’m trying to be better at it. I just — when I saw him… And now everyone knows about you, they’ll all try to take you away.’
She rested her forehead against his. ‘A bit better, I think. It’s ok, mon Amour, I understand. And if you weren’t like you are, you wouldn’t be perfect for me.’ Fleur dug a hand into her pocket and fished out the box with the ring in it. ‘Here. For you.’
Harry pushed the lid open with one finger. ‘I don’t like this ring.’
‘Then destroy it.’ Fleur picked it up and held it in the air before them. ‘That image of me you saw, of me leaving. That’s never going to happen.’
Katie froze on her way toward them through the tables and the colour drained from her face.
This isn’t that sort of ring. Fleur smirked and slid it onto her left ring finger. But for daring to hope to steal him, you can panic for a moment.
‘It was here, right?’ she asked, wiggling her fingers at him.
‘Yes.’ His eyes didn’t leave the gleaming band of bronze. Shadows welled up in their green, so deep and dark everything else seemed to drown beneath them.
‘So take it off.’
You’re not helplessly waiting for your wish to be stolen, mon Cœur. Fleur held her breath. We’re in control. We’ll make our wish come true.
Harry reached out and slid the ring from her finger. He held it in his cupped palm and stared at it as if all the secrets in the world were held within the metal.
‘Now do whatever you want with it,’ Fleur whispered. ‘And, when you’re done with it, we can go back home and you can do whatever you want with me.’
Harry took his hand away and left the ring hovering in the air. The tip of his wand slipped from his sleeve and a thin tendril of red flame snaked through the ring. Drops of molten bronze spattered down onto the cobbles, then he turned to her with eyes hot with desire. ‘Whatever I want?’
A little thrill swept through Fleur, stealing her breath and settling as a soft twist of heat between her thighs. ‘Whatever you want,’ she murmured in his ear. ‘Anything you want to try. However you want to have me.’
He caught her fingers in his, then the world whirled away and she found herself in their bedroom.
You forgot to say goodbye to Katie, mon Cœur. The soft twist of heat between her legs tightened and a flare of triumph rose in her breast. I made you forget about her.
Harry’s fingers drifted across her cheek and his thumb traced the corner of her mouth. Fleur parted her lips and let him slip his thumb onto her tongue.
‘Take it off,’ he said.
She held his gaze, then pushed the straps of her dress off either shoulder and let it slide to the floor.
Harry’s eyes swept down, then flicked back up. ‘All of it.’
Fleur’s breath caught and her stomach fluttered above the heat in her belly. She unclipped her bra and let it tumble away, then slid her underwear down her thighs and let it drop around her ankles. Cool air brushed her nipples and whispered between her legs as he admired her. Harry slipped his thumb out of her mouth and ran his fingers through her hair, pressing gently on her head.
She caught his eye as he ran his hand through her hair once more, then slid to her knees, tugging open the front of his trousers. He sprang out, hot and hard in her hand. Fleur traced her fingertips along the length of him, then took his head into her mouth, sucking lightly and running her tongue’s tip over him.
A soft groan slipped from Harry’s lips and his hands slid into her hair. The thrill shot through her, tightening the coil of heat in her stomach. Fleur took him deeper, sliding his tip over her tongue until it rested against the back of her throat. A quiet hiss escaped Harry and his fingers curled in her hair. She drew back, then took him deep again, revelling in his little groans and gasps until her wetness trickled down her thighs.
Harry twitched against the back of her throat and she pulled back, resting his hardness against her cheek. The scent of his arousal filled her nose and the need between her legs coiled tighter. ‘Was this how you wanted me, mon Cœur?’ He twitched against her cheek and she smiled, touching her fingertip to his tip and sucking it clean. ‘Would you like me to swallow or do you want to see me wearing it on my face?’
He released a shuddering breath, his pupils wide and dark. ‘I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do.’
So there’re things you’re afraid to ask of me. Fleur took him back into her mouth, to the back of her throat, then forced him down until she’d managed all of him. I’ll show you there’s nothing I’ll balk at.
She let him slip from her lips as she rose to her feet and stepped back onto their bed, leaning back and opening her legs. ‘Come here, mon Cœur. There’s nothing I won’t do. I’m yours.’
Harry stepped between her knees. His tip brushed through the wetness gleaming on her thighs. Fleur eased herself onto him, then drew back and took a hold of him in her hand, spreading her wetness over him. She drew him forward, running the head of him in circles over her clit until her legs trembled and the pleasure clenched tight as a fist in her belly, then she slipped him down past her wetness and pressed him against the tight ring of muscle beneath.
Harry twitched in her hand. ‘Fleur?’
She opened her thighs a little further apart and held his eyes. ‘I said whatever. Now you’ll know you can do anything.’ Her heart raced in her breast as the desire smouldered in Harry’s eyes, but he remained still against her. ‘I don’t mind if it hurts,’ she whispered.
I like it to hurt a little bit.
He pressed against her until she could feel the throb of his heartbeat against her. Fleur clenched her jaw as Harry eased himself into her, forcing her open. A moan tore from her throat as his head slipped into her, then he began to move, pushing deeper and deeper into her, stretching her further and further. Each thrust left a burn surrounding his hot hardness and the heat knotted tight between her legs, rippling through her in searing tremors that left her legs shaking. Little gasps and moans tore from her lips as Harry drove faster and harder into her.
‘More,’ she gasped.
His thumb traced her lower lip and she opened her mouth to suck on it as the soreness peaked. His fingers drew light circles across her wetness, then curled into her, and the coil of heat between her thighs burst, exploding so hard she saw stars.
Harry’s lips pressed against hers as her legs shook and her breath returned. Warmth spilt from within the throbbing ache and trickled down onto the sheets.
Fleur let the soft burn wash through her and smiled as Harry cradled her against him. ‘Now you’ve had me in every way,’ she murmured. ‘I’m completely yours.’
He kissed her with a small smile on his lips. ‘I like that.’
‘And I’ve had you everywhere,’ she murmured, feeling the raw, sharp throb he’d left behind. ‘You’re all mine.’ A spike of pain tore through her and she winced, glancing down.
Red spread through the sheets beneath her.
Merde. He better not see that. She leant forward and kissed him, shifting to cover the blood on the sheets, hissing at the stab of pain.
‘Does it hurt?’ A flicker of guilt passed through his eyes.
No. No regret. I’m yours.
‘I like it to hurt a little.’ She found her wand, murmuring, ‘vulnera sanentur.’ The throbbing softened to a gentle burn and she smiled, vanishing the blood off the sheets and him without a sound. ‘That’s better. Just a little pain is perfect.’
Harry drew her into his arms. ‘We don’t have to do it again if it hurts, Fleur.’
‘I want to,’ she whispered, curling up on his chest. ‘Not every night, but now and again. I like having you every way I can. I like to feel it hurt and then see you smile.’