This one’s a commission for Lyrical, in return for all the amazing support he shows me. Thank him if you enjoy it!
When Harry Met Sally
A blue and white patterned china plate thunked onto the table beside him, scattering dark crumbs across the mahogany. Butter melted into two thick slices of toasted white bread, the smell rose up in faint wisps of steam
‘No…’ Harry poked it back across the table. ‘I said I wasn’t hungry, mother.’
‘You need to eat breakfast.’ Hermione dropped her plate in the sink and put her hands on her hips. ‘It’s important to be healthy.’
Ron cackled from the far side of the kitchen. ‘Yeah, mate. What are you doing? Eat your toast or she’ll send you to your room.’
Harry levelled a flat look at him. ‘That’s a whole lot of laughter for someone whose girlfriend is doing a very good impression of his mum right now.’
Ron grimaced. ‘I’ll just shut up.’
Hermione pointed a finger at the toast. ‘Eat it. You got away with no breakfast yesterday. Not today. Especially not after dragging Sigmund Freud into the kitchen.’
He sighed and bit off a corner, crunching it down. ‘Your girlfriend is a tyrant, Ron.’
‘She made me throw out all my old socks with holes in,’ Ron said. ‘I miss them already.’
‘You never wore any of them!’ Hermione snatched her mug of tea off the side. ‘I’m just… imposing standards.’
‘Pretty sure that’s what Grindelwald said,’ Ron muttered. ‘Only he didn’t hate socks.’
Hermione swatted him with the copy of the Daily Prophet. ‘Insensitive lout.’
‘Sock murderer,’ Ron retorted. ‘Think how many house elves you could’ve freed if you’d not chucked them all. And you call yourself progressive.’
Harry munched on his toast and watched them bicker. ‘Where is everyone?’
‘Home,’ Ron said, sliding one arm around Hermione’s waist. ‘Mum doesn’t like being away, she likes to be able to keep one eye on the clock. Someone’s meant to be coming, though. Dad said.’
‘Who?’ Harry choked the last bite of toast down through dry lips. ‘It better not be Snape.’
Ron snorted. ‘Nah, some auror chick.’
Hermione shot him a glare. ‘Some auror chick?’
‘Yeah.’ Ron hid a grin. ‘Apparently she’s a prodigy and pretty hot.’
‘I don’t think she went through all the auror training just to be called auror chick.’ Hermione huffed and snatched Harry’s plate off the table. ‘Still, if it’s a woman, at least I won’t have to keep babysitting you two.’
‘We’d do it,’ Harry said. ‘You just literally won’t let us.’
‘Last time we tried, she nearly cut off three of my fingers with a huge knife,’ Ron said.
‘It was a teaspoon.’ She dropped his plate in the sink. ‘And I barely touched you, I just turned the tap off because you were wasting water.’
‘It was cold!’ Ron held up his hand. ‘Look, I’m still bruised.’
‘There’s nothing there, mate,’ Harry said. ‘Not even a mark.’
Hermione laughed, drifting round the table and pressing a kiss to Ron’s finger. ‘There, all better?’
Here we go again. Harry stifled a groan.
‘Lav-Lav’s kisses left lip gloss marks,’ Ron said, a broad grin on his face. ‘They were glittery.’
‘Lav-Lav—’ Hermione’s dropped Ron’s hand like it’d burnt her ‘—has left lip gloss marks on every boy in our year.’
‘Not true,’ Harry said.
‘Well, obviously not you, Harry.’ She laughed. ‘But everyone else.’
A little pang twisted beneath his ribs and the doorbell chimed. ‘Right, I’m too famous for Lavender.’ He pushed himself up out of his seat as Sirius’ mother’s painting spewed hate in the hall. ‘I’ll get the door, you two can do that thing where you pretend to argue but it’s flirting.’
Hermione’s cheeks turned pink and Ron flushed red.
Payback. A little of the sting in his chest faded as he padded out through the hall, fumbling for his wand in his pocket.
‘Vile mud-blooded whore!’ Walburga shrieked. ‘Blood traitor scum!’
‘Don’t you get bored of the same insults,’ Harry muttered, wrenching the curtains closed.
‘Honestly, no,’ Sirius’ mother snapped. ‘They get such a rise out of your lot.’
Harry stuck the curtains together with a quick charm and pulled open the door.
‘Mr Potter.’ Umbridge wagged her finger at him, a great grin plastered on her pallid face. ‘I’ve heard you’ve been a bad boy.’
Harry’s jaw dropped. ‘How the hell—’ he caught sight of the high-collared, grey auror robes and deep, purple irises ‘—you’re not Umbridge.’
‘Hiya, Harry.’ Umbridge’s body shuddered and shifted, shrinking into a slim girl with crimson hair. ‘I’m Tonks, baby cousin, it’s nice to meet you!’
He blinked. ‘Baby cousin?’
She cocked her head, tugging at a handful of her red hair. ‘Hmmm, you know what, let’s go green.’ Tonks shook her head and her hair shivered emerald green. ‘You’ve got nice colour eyes, baby cous’.’
Harry held the door open. ‘Baby cousin?’
She swept past him, snagged her belt on the handle and jerked to a halt. ‘Oops, could you, er, unhook me?’
Harry tugged the belt free and closed the door. ‘You’re good.’
‘Cheers!’ Tonks paused in the hall. ‘Huh, this place doesn’t look as fancy as it does in Mum’s old pictures.’
‘Baby cousin?’ Harry pressed.
‘Oh, right.’ She reached up and patted him on the head. ‘You’re my cousin, I’ve got the Malfoy brat because Narcissa’s my aunt, and I’ve got you, because your Dad’s Mum was my Mum’s Aunt.’ Tonks screwed up her face. ‘Wait… Is that right?’
Harry recalled a fading name from the tapestry upstairs. ‘Dorea Potter nee Black?’
‘Yeah.’ She snapped her fingers. ‘That’s the one.’
‘So we’re second cousins?’ he asked.
‘Not sure.’ Tonks shrugged. ‘No idea how it works. Cousin’s are cousins, though. I like you more than that Malfoy brat already. Met him once and he was a stuck up little shit.’
Harry mulled that over. ‘So, you’re my older cousin.’
‘By a year.’ She pulled out her wand. ‘Mum and Dad got super excited when I was a kid, signed me up for everything a bit early because I could control my magic. Finished auror training last year.’
And an auror?’
The smile slid off Tonks’s face. ‘Yeah. Did it all early with kids like six years older than me. Mum and Dad were super proud of their little prodigy baby.’
‘You must be really smart,’ Harry said. ‘Hermione’s going to pester you, though. Fair warning.’
She snorted. ‘It’s just you and her and Ron, right? Mad-Eye said so.’
‘You work with Moody?’ Harry shot her a look out of the corner of his eye.
‘He’s my supervisor.’ Tonks’s brow creased. ‘Well, he was, he’s in trouble now. Apparently he wasn’t supervising very well, so I’ve got Shacklebolt instead, and he made me take time off instead of actually investigating things all the time.’ She shrugged. ‘I don’t get it. I was getting loads of work done, but Bossy Bones doesn’t really take no for an answer.’
The curtains slid open over her shoulder.
‘Nope.’ Harry darted forward and tried to wrench them closed.
‘Stop it, brat,’ Walburga hissed, baring her teeth. ‘I want to see her.’
‘I bet she doesn’t want to see you,’ he retorted.
‘I’m her blood.’
‘Doesn’t stop you annoying me,’ Harry muttered.
‘Some family is better than other… family,’ Walburga spat.
The curtains froze still and slid through his fingers. Harry tumbled to the floor.
‘Ow.’ He dusted off his knees. ‘Sorry, Sirius’s Mum likes to shriek like a banshee and spout obscenities.’
‘I was here in your Fifth Year, I know.’ Tonks stared the painting dead in the eye. ‘Hello Aunt Walburga, you look about as lovely as Mum says you are.’
Walburga Black balled her fists and drew herself up. ‘Your mother ran off with a mudblood. What she deems lovely is nothing I’d sully myself with.’
‘And had me, prodigy witch,’ Tonks said. ‘She was ever so proud of the fact her half-blood daughter was better than anyone else in living memory. Bit upset you died before she could rub it in your face, though.’
Sirius’ mother scowled. ‘Better than my Regulus?’
‘By about five years and two dozen academic records.’ Tonks laughed. ‘And, you know, not dead. Not yet, anyway.’
‘Hope for the House of Black,’ Walburga muttered. ‘Make sure you marry a nice pure-blooded man, like Narcissa’s boy, he’s around your age, we clearly got lucky this once, but we can’t risk it again.’
‘Yeah… you’re going back behind your curtains,’ Harry said. ‘Draco Malfoy’s about as brave and cunning as a pumpkin pasty, you might as well marry Kreacher.’
‘Kreacher is significantly more attractive,’ Tonks said.
Harry snorted. ‘Funny because it’s true.’
‘Half-blood brat,’ Sirius’s mother sniped. ‘Dorea was wasted on your destitute family and they came to the end they deserved.’
Harry’s wand snapped up.
Tonks caught his hand. ‘Oh, shut it. Family is family, whether they’re a cousin or a brother, it doesn’t matter, they’re still family and you should love them. If you’d known that you might actually have some family left, you old hag.’
Harry wrenched the hangings closed. ‘I think I liked the shrieking more.’ He led Tonks toward the kitchen.
‘Can’t you get rid of her?’ Tonks asked.
‘Sadly not.’ He sighed. ‘Mostly we just avoid the hall or stay quiet, if she can’t hear anything, she doesn’t yell much.’
Harry paused in the doorway to the kitchen. Ron and Hermione shared a chair beside the table, whispering and exchanging light kisses.
‘You should probably keep an eye on these two,’ he said. ‘They get up to all sorts if left unattended.’
Tonks snorted. ‘I can see that.’
Ron flushed and Hermione leapt out of his lap.
‘Hi…’ Ron frowned. ‘Nympha—’
‘Finish that word and I will make Hermione a very disappointed girl,’ Tonks growled.
Ron gulped. ‘Sorry.’
‘Brave, brave Gryffindor.’ Harry grinned. ‘So very brave.’
‘Shut up.’ Ron glowered. ‘Percy told me what happened when he called Nympha—’ he clapped his hands over his mouth.
‘He regretted it,’ Tonks said, beaming. ‘For about a month. Professor McGonagall was very impressed with the dick I transfigured on his forehead, she told me so in detention. I really nailed the warts.’
‘Huh.’ Ron dropped his hands. ‘So that’s why everyone calls him Dickhead Weasley.’
‘Yup.’ Tonks wand appeared in her grasp. ‘And I’ll do it again.’
‘You’re the auror,’ Hermione said. ‘I think I saw you about last year, actually, but you looked… older.’
‘Usually do.’ Tonks shrugged. ‘Otherwise people keep asking stupid questions and I get fined for cursing them afterward.’
‘Okay…’ Hermione rinsed out her tea mug, not taking her eyes off Tonks. ‘And you’re here to make sure we’re safe.’
‘Kinda.’ Tonks glanced around the kitchen. ‘I’ll check in a few times a day, make sure everything’s alright, but mostly I’ve got stuff to be getting on with. Auror work.’
Ron nodded. ‘Cool. I’m going to finish sorting my broom handle, needs another coat.’
Hermione rolled her eyes and set her mug down, sweeping out of the kitchen. ‘I suppose I can read while you do that.’
‘We’re a perfect match.’ Ron grinned and bounded up the stairs in a cacophony of creaks.
‘Huh.’ Tonks stuck her head ‘round the door. ‘Was that some secret code for underage sex? Should I go check on them.’
Harry grimaced at the image. ‘I think Ron’s probably doing what he said.’
She sighed. ‘Phew, I feel weird chaperoning you, I’m basically your age.’
‘Yeah…’ He tugged his chair back out and slumped into it. ‘I don’t suppose you’ve got anything interesting to do?’
‘Just work.’ Tonks patted the pockets of her robes. ‘It’s unofficial stuff, so I can show you, but I don’t think you’d like it much.’ She stuck her wand away. ‘Oh, and sorry if I was weird before.’
‘Before?’ he asked. ‘When you were Umbridge? That was kind of weird.’
‘Nah, that was just funny, kind of a running joke at work for me to turn up as Umbridge unexpectedly. Did nearly get cursed by Moody, though. I meant about the family thing.’ Tonk’s lips twisted. ‘I’ve got strong feelings about how families should be, probably because ours is such a mess.’
A little smile crept onto his face. ‘I get that. I always wished I’d had some family I was close to when I was younger.’
‘Well, you’ve got an awesome cousin now! She tousled his hair. ‘You know, I think that actually made it tidier.’
Harry batted her hand away. ‘Don’t make it worse than it is.’
‘Not sure that’s possible.’ Tonks glanced around the kitchen. ‘Fancy showing me about a bit, I need to find somewhere I can do a bit of work.’ She beamed. ‘Good chance to get to know the amazing cousin you never knew you had!’
A warm little glow settled somewhere beneath his ribs. ‘Yeah, sure.’
‘Of course you’re sure.’ Tonks winked. ‘I’m going to be the best friend you always wanted when you were younger. Just like mum and Sirius.’
‘Thick as thieves and caused more trouble.’ She grinned. ‘Now, where are we starting?’
She's All That
Harry tiptoed across the floorboards of the hall past the moth-eaten curtains into the kitchen, rolling his feet on the ones that creaked.
Hermione hummed a quiet tune behind the bronze-studded cover of a book the size of her torso. She paused, turning a page. ‘Ron, can you make us lunch?’
‘I’m not your boyfriend,’ Harry said. ‘But don’t take it personally, I’m not anyone’s boyfriend.’
Too famous. A little pang twisted beneath his ribs. The massive scar on my face and the glasses probably don’t help much either.
Hermione’s book dropped two inches. ‘Well, you don’t have great options here. It’s me or Ron.’
‘Yeah, I can’t believe you stole my first choice without even asking me how I felt about it.’ He pulled open a cupboard, revealing a wall of tomato soup cans. ‘Guess I’ll have to go out with Walburga’s portrait after all, can’t be any worse than the Yule Ball was. Or that date with Cho.’
‘You’re related.’ Hermione wrinkled her nose. ‘It’d be weird.’
‘That’s pretty common for the Most Ancient and Badly Cleaned House of Black according to that tapestry upstairs,’ Harry said, pulling out a can of soup. ‘I’d say the fact she’s much older is weirder, or, you know, a portrait.’
Hermione tutted. ‘You better not just be having soup for lunch again.’
‘I’m not.’ He plucked the saucepan off the drying rack and dropped it on the hob, prying the lid off the can. ‘I would never.’
‘I can see you pouring the soup in. Don’t make me get up and mother you…’
‘You mean you’ll put your book down?’ Harry snorted. ‘I don’t think so. Sounds like an empty threat to me.’ He studied the bronze-studded back. ‘You’ve been reading that one for a while.’
‘It’s tough going,’ she admitted. ‘I found it in the library here, it’s written by goblins and translated from Gobbledegook in between the lines by someone. I thought it would be interesting to read something written by them, all of Professor Binns’s sources are human.’
‘Sounds fascinating.’ Harry tapped the pan with his wand and leant against the side. ‘But I think the real reason you’ve not finished it is because you’re reading another whirlwind romance book with steamy scenes behind the cover of that one.’
‘I am not!’ Hermione huffed. ‘That was one book and I didn’t know it was going to have those scenes in it.’
‘One book that I saw,’ he said. ‘Who knows how many you managed to get through by yourself when nobody was watching.’
Two spots of pink welled up on her cheeks. ‘It’s still better than however many of Sirius’s old playwitch magazines you have stashed under your bed.’
Harry smothered the sting. ‘I suppose you don’t read them now, not now you have the real thing.’
Hermione glowered at him over the top of the book, wrinkling her nose. ‘Your soup is burning.’
Harry gave the saucepan a swirl. ‘Tastes better burnt.’ He poured into a bowl on the drying rack and grabbed a spoon. ‘I think the saucepan’s enchantments are off, though.’
‘They are.’ Hermione glanced up from her book. ‘It gets a lot hotter at the middle than the edges. I checked.’ She sighed. ‘You really should eat something other than soup, you know. You need calcium and proteins at our age.’
Harry spooned soup into his mouth, wincing a little at the heat. ‘There’s nothing in the cupboard but soup.’
‘Did you try the fridge?’ She shook her head. ‘Of course you didn’t, because you’d have to actually make your food instead of just pouring it into things and devouring it like a starving vulture. Boys.’
‘At least we don’t fill the bathroom with a thousand bottles.’ Harry gulped down a few more mouthfuls of soup and wagged his finger at her. ‘I went to shower after you and nearly died of sensory overload.’
‘You can’t die of sensory overload. And there are four bottles, so—’
Walburga’s shrieking exploded into life outside.
Ron stomped in, rolling his eyes. ‘Are you still trying to read that?’
‘Yes.’ Hermione snapped the book shut. ‘Not that either of you two are letting me.’
‘It’s translated into Latin, which you can’t properly read,’ Ron said. ‘And you said yourself that the Gobbledegook runes don’t match the lines anyway.’
‘That doesn’t mean I should just give up.’
‘Pretty sure I can think of better things you could do.’ A grin tugged at Ron’s lips. ‘Something more exciting than books, by your own words.’
Harry cringed and finished the last of his soup. ‘I’m going to see where my cousin is.’ He rinsed out the bowl and the saucepan and put them back on the drying rack. ‘Anyone seen her since she appeared this morning?’
‘The auror chick?’ Ron’s grin broadened as Hermione tutted. ‘Upstairs in the old study. Think she’s working.’
‘Cheers.’ Harry strode out into the hall and climbed the stairs, drifting along the landing.
Light crept under a mahogany door coated in flaking varnish midway along the hall. The portraits eyed it and him with disapproving stares, muttering to each other behind their hands.
He rapped his knuckles on the door.
‘Come in!’ Tonks called.
Harry twisted the door and shoved. It stuck fast.
‘You have to lift it,’ Tonks said.
He pulled the handle up with a grunt and pushed it open.
‘Heya, cous.’ Tonks cocked her head from the other side of a sprawl of paper, sending blossom pink hair tumbling across her shoulder. ‘Come to see what being an auror is like?’
‘Anything to escape Ron and Hermione being all cuddly,’ he said. ‘What are you doing? Anything interesting?’
‘Got a case,’ she replied. ‘Well, it might be one. Just a hunch at the moment.’
‘Mind if I stick about?’ Harry eyed the chair beside the desk. ‘It’d be nice to have some company, even if you’re doing stuff.’
‘Grab a seat and come over here.’ Tonks leant back on her chair and dropped her heels on the desk, wiggling her toes. ‘I like having people about when I’m working, too. Always have, even when I was a little squirt who needed Madam Pince’s help to reach anything above the middle shelf.’
Harry hauled the chair onto the rug beside hers and squinted at the papers. ‘Am I allowed to see this?’
‘It’s fine.’ Tonks flapped a hand. ‘Nothing official. Moody was never fussed about me working at home or wherever.’
He pushed his glasses up his nose and peered at the nearest page. ‘What’s Panathikios’ Potion?’
‘It’s kind of like a love potion,’ Tonks said. ‘Only, it just makes you feel good when you smell or taste it. It’s banned because it’s really really addictive and basically undetectable.’
‘And you think someone’s using it?’ Harry asked. ‘What for?’
‘Yeah. Some girl in your year in Slytherin ended up in St Mungo’s after eating nothing but ice cream for about six weeks.’ Tonks snapped her fingers. ‘Can’t remember her name. She looks like this.’ Her hair shivered blonde, her eyes turned bright blue, and her face shifted into a high, elfin shape. ‘Recognise her?’
‘Never seen her before.’ Harry frowned. ‘Are you sure she’s in my year?’
‘Everyone said so, cous.’ Tonks clapped her hands together. ‘Greengrass. Daphne Greengrass. That’s her name.’
‘Nope.’ He shook his head. ‘Fairly sure you just made her up. She doesn’t exist. There’s an Astoria Greengrass a couple of years below me, though.’
‘Huh, well, same difference. She clearly has an obsession with ice cream, so I’ve been investigating on my own time a bit.’ Tonks’s hair faded back to soft pink. ‘I’m going to steal your eyes, cous. I like them.’
‘Creepy.’ Harry snorted. ‘They’re useless, though, I can’t see anything without my glasses.’
Her eyes flashed bright, emerald green. ‘Oh I just want the colour. Now we really look like family.’ She twisted and peered into the window, letting her face lose a little of its elfin shape. ‘That’s better. That Greengrass girl looks like a little doll and I don’t really want to look quite so much like some fifteen year old boy’s wet dream.’
You look like you’re my sister. A strange, sweet little pain twisted in his chest.
‘How do you do that?’ Harry asked. ‘I grew my hair back with accidental magic, once, but I’ve never seen anyone do that.’
‘I’m a wonderful special prodigy,’ Tonks said. ‘Been able to do it since I was a little kid. Ask my parents, they love to talk about it all the time.’
‘Must be nice,’ he murmured. ‘Having proud parents.’
Tonks lips twitched as she turned back from the window. ‘Yeah, I guess, but, little secret, just between us. I—’ Her heels slipped off the desk and she thudded to the floor with a squeak. ‘I’m okay!’
‘Sure?’ Harry stood and offered her his hand.
‘Thanks, cous.’ Tonks hauled herself up, rubbing the back of her head and shooting him a rueful grin. ‘I have absolutely no sense of balance or where things are.’ She righted her chair and dropped back into it. ‘Anyway, little secret, just between us, yeah, because you’re my cousin.’
‘I won’t tell anyone.’ he promised.
‘I kind of wish they’d let me do things normally, you know.’ She sighed. ‘Like, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy they’re all proud, but I didn’t get to play quidditch, or have fun with friends, or mess about with boys at school like your friend downstairs. I just studied, and now I’m all qualified, I work. Feels like I skipped some good stuff. Wish I could have some of it back, you know.’
‘You’d’ve been in the year above me…’
‘Right. Trolls, basilisks, dementors.’ Tonks grinned. ‘Probably all less dangerous than me trying to fly, though.’
‘I can fly.’ A small smile crept onto Harry’s face. ‘Pretty much the one thing I am good at.’ He snorted. ‘Want to trade? You seem more like the special one than I do.’
‘I could hide the scar, at least.’
Harry touched a fingertip to it and grimaced. ‘Yeah, my aunt tried that a lot when I was a kid. With makeup and stuff. Nothing works. I’d get rid of it if I could.’ He dug his nail in until it stung. ‘Sometimes I wonder if it would heal back normally if I cut it out.’
Tonks tugged his hand away with warm fingers. ‘Don’t think that would be a good idea, little cousin.’
‘Oh.’ He mustered a faint smile. ‘I was just joking. I wouldn’t actually do it. Should probably get rid of the glasses first anyway.’
She beamed and plucked them off his face. ‘Easy.’
Harry sighed as everything beyond her turned to coloured blurs. ‘Yeah, except now I can’t see anything but you.’
‘Nothing else here worth seeing!’ Tonks slipped them on and scrunched up her face. ‘Wow, you are like, blind blind.’
‘As a bat,’ he said. ‘Only without the helpful echolocation thing.’
‘I wonder if I can help.’ She pulled them off, her wand appearing in her hand. ‘My Dad’s parents were optometrists, so I know some eye stuff, and I’m pretty good with transfiguration.’
‘I — er — I don’t think that’s a great idea.’ Harry took his glasses back. ‘Might go wrong.’
‘Yeah, probably true.’ Tonks stuck her wand away. ‘I’m not exactly qualified to mess with you, either, so I’d get into a lot of trouble if it did go wrong.’
Harry shoved his glasses back onto his face. The bookshelves and damp-stained wallpaper came back into focus behind Tonks’s green eyes and pink hair.
‘You know what.’ Tonks jumped to her feet, thwacking her hand on the corner of the desk. ‘Ow… that’s going to leave another bruise.’
‘What do I know?’ Harry asked.
‘I’m not really doing anything very useful up here, so let’s go somewhere.’ Tonks pulled out her wand, tapping it against her palm. ‘All that talk of ice cream has got me kind of fancying some. C’mon, Harry.’
‘We don’t have any ice cream,’ he said. ‘Not unless you want to freeze some soup and pretend…’
‘To Diagon Alley, not downstairs where your friends are canoodling.’ She spun on her heel and stared at the window. ‘Pink’s a bit obvious, though. I’m usually pink, someone might spot me and tell Kingsley I’m not taking my mandatory break from work. Pick a colour, cous!’
‘Nah.’ Tonks shook her head. ‘Too many Weasleys already and if I go redheaded while stealing your eyes I’m going to look like your mum. People would come to all sorts of weird conclusions seeing you spending time with me then.’
‘That’s just unrealistic. Who on earth has silver hair?’ Tonks tutted. ‘What colour hair do you like girls to have, Harry?’
Cho’s face floated before his mind’s eye and his stomach squirmed.
‘Hmmm, doesn’t work too well with your eyes, and I’m blue quite a bit, as well.’ Tonks grinned. ‘This is what I mean, imagine how mad I could drive a boy waiting for me to get ready, or trying things on in shops. Could have been so much fun.’
‘We could be twins!’ Tonks hair shivered dark as Harry’s. ‘Nah, I’m wearing black, I look like a vampire now.’
‘I’m out of colours,’ he admitted.
She swept her curls over her shoulders and her hair faded to a platinum white. ‘There, that works.’ Tonks twirled, flashing him a smile. ‘What do you think, cous?’
Harry grinned back. ‘Like, does it look nice?’
‘Yeah, do you think it works?’ she asked, giving him another spin.
His gaze slipped down the curve of her neck to the little silver charm dangling there. ‘You look pretty,’ he said, dragging his gaze up to her hair. ‘Which is good, right?’
‘You silver-tongued devil.’ Tonks held out her hand. ‘You’ll make me blush.’
Harry snorted and took her hand. ‘The only girl I tried to flatter ended up in tears.’
Tonks cackled. ‘Clearly you need more practice talking to girls.’
A cold darkness clamped about him like a vice and they appeared before the columns of Gringotts with a loud pop.
‘This way for ice cream.’ Tonks tugged on his arm as she released his hand. ‘I’ll even pay, because I got a scholarship to Hogwarts and a tax-free grant for training to be an auror, so I’m just sitting on a small mountain of gold.’
‘Have you got your own place, then? Or are you with your parents?’
‘Got my own little one-bedroom flat.’ She stumbled, grabbing a bollard for balance. ‘Close one. Hate these alleys, they really have it out for me.’
‘What did you even trip on?’ Harry inspected the flat pavement with a raised eyebrow. ‘Like, seriously?’
‘Shut up.’ Tonks waved her fist at him. ‘I’m smart, powerful, funny, and a complete hottie, I needed a character flaw or everyone would hate me.’
‘So you chose immodesty?’ he asked.
She laughed, flashing a bright smile as she headed toward Fortescue’s. ‘What’s your favourite flavour.’
‘I don’t really mind.’
‘Liar.’ Tonks paused before the door. ‘Everyone has flavours they love and hate. I absolutely love cherry and that muggle bubblegum blue one you almost never find.’
‘They banned that,’ Harry said. ‘It had bad stuff in it. Loads of E-numbers. I remember Dudley whining about it.’
‘Dudley?’ She wrinkled her nose. ‘What’s a Dudley?’
‘My other cousin.’
‘As great as me?’ Tonks scanned the flavours in the window. ‘Hmm, no bubblegum here, either.’
‘You are comfortably better than Dudley in nearly every way,’ he replied.
‘Where do I lose out? Remember, if it’s anything physical, I can change it.’ She winked and stuck her chest out a little. ‘‘They get bigger.’
Heat rushed to Harry’s face and he twisted away to study the ice cream flavours. ‘He boxes half well, but that’s about it.’
‘I’d destroy him.’ Tonks pounded her fist into her palm. ‘Dad got me doing loads of self defence stuff as a kid.’ She leant forward. ‘I can see your reflection in the window, cous,’ Tonks whispered in his ear. ‘I can still see how red you’ve gone.’
‘I hate you.’
‘No you don’t.’ She beamed and threw an arm around his shoulders. ‘I am your favourite cousin. It’s been confirmed.’
Harry squirmed beneath her warm arm. ‘Are we going in?’
Tonks’s green eyes shone in the reflection. ‘In a moment. You’re adorable when flustered and I’m trying to think of another way to make you go all red.’
‘Let’s go in.’
She laughed and walked with him, her arm still over his shoulders. ‘Thought of a flavour?’
‘Might try cherry,’ Harry said. ‘I’ve not had it and you were really selling it to me.’
‘What’s your favourite, then?’ Tonks pointed at the ice creams beneath the counter. ‘I’ll get your favourite.’
‘Chocolate, I guess?’ He chewed his lip. ‘Which you’re probably going to think is boring.’
‘Nah, can’t go wrong with chocolate.’ She tugged him around and inclined her head toward the far corner. ‘Isn’t that the girl Bill’s going out with, the French one?’
‘Fleur Delacour?’ Harry followed her gaze. ‘His fiance?’
Fleur reclined in a seat at the corner table, sharing a bowl of ice cream with a red-faced Luna.
‘Should we go say hi?’ he asked.
Tonks’s brow wrinkled. ‘Let’s leave them be.’ She grinned. ‘The way that other girl is staring at Fleur, Bill might need to worry.’
‘Luna?’ Harry glanced back. ‘I didn’t know they were friends.’
Fleur’s eyes flicked up and caught his. She turned a little pink and gave him a small wave. Harry waved back.
‘Yeah, friends.’ A little glimmer of amusement hovered in Tonks’s eyes as she leant over him to order, her hair brushing his cheek. ‘Can we have two large cones, one cherry and one…’
Harry watched her smile in the corner of his eye, a hand’s length from his face, and held his breath. His heart pounded against his ribs at the soft scent of violets.
‘Here.’ Tonks pressed a cone into his hand. ‘Cherry.’
‘Did you get chocolate?’ Harry asked, inspecting the dark purple ice cream. ‘This looks nice.’
‘I did.’ She swept a bag off the counter and onto her arm, snatching up a second cone. ‘We can swap favourites.’ Tonks leant closer, sending Harry’s heart hammering in his chest. ‘Actually, I’m going to steal some of yours anyway.’ She bit the top off. ‘So good.’
He admired the bite mark. ‘Thief.’
‘Sorry not sorry.’ Tonks held hers out. ‘But fair’s fair.’
Harry took a small bite out of the side and winced as the cold sank into his teeth. Rich chocolate washed across his tongue.
‘Goes quite well with the cherry, actually,’ Tonks said, licking hers. ‘It’s warm today, cous, so don’t be slow. If you let that cherry ice cream melt, I will lick it off your fingers to stop you wasting it.’
Heat crept onto his cheeks and he tugged his eyes away from her tongue. ‘I think that would draw some weird looks.’
‘And that’s before I make my tongue extra long.’ She sniggered and stuck a forked tongue out at him. ‘Let’s get a table. I can’t be trusted to walk and eat ice cream at the same time. I will end up on the floor and the ice cream will somehow end up on you.’
‘That would be a shame.’ He glanced across the shop. ‘We could join Fleur and Luna, if you want?’
‘Or the ice cream would end up on the floor and I’d end up on you,’ Tonks said, choosing a small sunlit table by the window. ‘But you’d probably not mind that so much.’
‘You’d still lose the ice cream, though,’ Harry said. ‘It’s still a shame.’
‘But you’d end up under your hottie cousin.’ She winked. ‘Sounds good, right?’
‘Not when I’m holding ice cream.’ Harry licked sweet cherry off his lips. ‘It’s nice ice cream, too. Also, it’s purple, so it’ll probably stain my t-shirt.’
‘Nothing a bit of magic can’t fix.’ Tonks took small bites out of her ice cream with her white teeth. ‘I would know. I’ve yet to eat an ice cream without somehow getting it on me.’
A blob of chocolate dropped onto the front of her dark jumper.
‘See?’ She pulled out her wand and. ‘Evanesco.’
‘Yup.’ Tonks pointed her wand at him. ‘But you have to be careful, because if you get it a bit wrong and vanish your clothes in public, it can be a little embarrassing.’
Harry felt the heat rise on his face and held his ice cream over the table. ‘I’d prefer not to do that.’
‘Me too.’ She grinned. ‘Plus, I like this jumper, it’s warm and soft and comfy.’
‘I stole it from a hag who was giving cursed sweets to muggle children.’ Tonks stuck her wand away. ‘Well, not really stole. She tried to run and Mad-Eye doesn’t like chasing people, so he stunned her. I took the jumper to stick under her head so she didn’t suffocate, but then I forgot to give it back.’
‘I can’t imagine you chasing anyone, either.’
She feigned a glower. ‘Is it because you think I’d trip over?’
‘You are absolutely right.’ Tonks beamed. ‘I ran into a sign last time, smacked right into it. I had a huge letter N right on my forehead.’
‘N for Nym—’
‘Finish that name and I will steal your ice cream.’
‘—phadora.’ Harry met her glare with a grin. ‘Why don’t you like it?’
Tonks wrinkled her nose. ‘Parents. My mum, mostly. It was always, oh my Nymphadora is such a genius, oh my Nymphadora never gets anything wrong, oh my Nymphadora’s such a prodigy.’ She sighed. ‘Never really quite felt like Nymphadora was me.’
‘Sorry.’ He took a bite of ice cream. ‘I’ll stick to Tonks, then. I quite like Nymphadora, though. It suits you. It’s pretty and it kind of stands out from the ordinary, boring names like Harry or James.’ Harry rolled his eyes. ‘My parents couldn’t even think of a second guy’s name that wasn’t Dad’s.’
The corner of Tonks’s mouth curved up. ‘Tell you what, baby cous, just for that, I’ll let you call me Nymphadora, but only when it’s just us.’ She waved her ice cream at him. ‘Can’t have anyone else picking it up, so when other people are about, it’s Tonks.’
‘I’ll try… Nymphadora.’
She hummed. ‘It’s not so bad when you say it, still a bit of a mouthful, though. You might have to shorten it to Dora, or Nym. Nymph will get you your eyebrows vanished, though, even if you’re my favourite cousin.’
‘I better be your favourite cousin.’ He snorted. ‘There’s no way you could like Malfoy more. I could be throwing ice cream at you and I’d still be better.’
‘If you waste that cherry ice cream, I will end you,’ Nymphadora growled. ‘That’s a promise.’
Harry laughed and offered her his. ‘Do you want to swap?’
She glanced between hers and his. ‘Sure, let’s go half and half.’ Nymphadora plucked the cone from his fingers and wrapped his hand up in her chocolate-stained grip with a cheerful grin. ‘Thanks, cous.’
Harry shook his head and wiped chocolate off his fingers, struggling with his smile. ‘You’re such a child.’
‘It’s because I skipped my childhood.’ She beamed. ‘I refuse to grow up any more until I get to enjoy some of it.’
‘I kind of wish you’d been in my year,’ he murmured. ‘I’d’ve known you for ages.’
Nymphadora’s grin softened into a small smile. ‘Yeah. That would’ve been pretty cool. Still, I’m here now, and you keep staring, so you’ll make up for all the time you didn’t see much of me pretty quick.’
‘What? I’m not staring.’ He flushed. ‘I was talking to you, I’m meant to be looking at you.’
She cackled. ‘I’m just messing with you. It’s fun to make you go all red.’
‘I felt like a dick, Dora,’ Harry grumbled. ‘Hmmm, I don’t like Dora as much. Nym?’ He let himself taste the word, holding it in his head with her bright pink hair, and bright smile. ‘Nym’s good.’
Nym pointed the last half of her ice cream cone at the corner. ‘You’re doing less staring than that Luna girl is, but the French girl doesn’t seem to mind all that much.’
‘I wonder how they met,’ he said. ‘I don’t know Luna too well, but I guess Fleur could’ve bumped into her here, she works at the bank.’
‘You ice cream’s melting,’ she said, munching on her cone.
Harry licked the dribble of melted chocolate off the cone. ‘Do you mind bringing me out here every now and again. I could go see Alicia.’
‘Oh?’ Nym cocked her head. ‘Has Harry got a girlfriend?’
‘Just a friend from quidditch,’ he said. ‘She said she comes out here pretty often, so I thought I might meet up with her, but only if you’re alright with it.’
‘Sure,’ Nym said, brushing bits of cone off her fingers. ‘I’d love to watch you talk to another girl. I can heckle.’
‘If you feel you absolutely must,’ Harry replied.
‘Should probably head back.’ Nym patted the bag on the bag of her chair. ‘Before the charms wear off and this melts.’
‘You bought more?’
‘Yup.’ She jumped to her feet, sending her chair clattering to the ground. ‘Whoops.’ Nym picked up her bag and set the chair back on its feet. ‘C’m‘ere, cous.’ She grabbed his hand with warm fingers. ‘Time go make sure your friends were using protection!’
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Harry stumbled into the kitchen, yawning and rubbing at his eyes. He fumbled his wand from his back pocket and jabbed it at the kettle.
Cold shock jolted through him. ‘Jesus.’ He twisted around.
Nym laughed over a spread of open ice cream containers. ‘Not expecting anyone to be here?’
He shook his head. ‘I was going to make myself a nice cup of tea and pretend I’d had breakfast so Hermione doesn’t pester me about it later. She’s probably reading in bed and Ron’s not going to be awake for another couple hours.’
Nym pointed her wand at him. ‘Eat your breakfast, it’s important.’ She patted an ice cream tub. ‘Have some of this, if you like. Turns out there’s no potion in it after all.’
‘That’s good.’ He grabbed a mug from the rack. ‘Wait. We had ice cream from this shop together yesterday…’
‘Good thing it turns out there’s no addictive potion,’ she said. ‘Guess that Greengrass girl you were convinced isn’t real just has a terrible ice cream obsession.’
‘I’ve literally never seen her or heard her name.’ Harry shrugged. ‘Still, I hope she’s alright.’
‘Oh she’s fine. Just collapsed because she wasn’t eating properly.’ Nym narrowed her eyes at him and waved a fist. ‘So eat your breakfast.’ She dipped her elbow into the top of the ice cream and flinched.
The tub flopped into her lap.
Harry laughed. ‘That’s karma.’
Nym groaned and slapped the ice cream back onto the table. ‘That’s cold.’ She hopped up, stumbling on the table leg. ‘And now these are covered in ice cream.’ A wicked little grin crossed her lips. ‘Guess I’d better wash them.’
‘Can’t you just vanish—’
Nym tugged the button open and shoved her jeans down, kicking them off and tossing them into the sink. ‘There.’ She wiggled her bare toes at Harry. ‘Floor’s cold, though.
Harry’s eyes traced the curve of her legs up to a pair of blue and white striped panties with a small pink ribbon bow. Heat rushed to his face.
She laughed. ‘You’ve gone really red.’ Nym danced across the floor to lean on the table corner beneath the light. ‘Seen something you like?’
He dragged his eyes up to her face. ‘You’re going to get cold.’
The hall creaked.
‘You’re here early—’ Hermione froze. ‘What on earth?!’
‘I dropped ice cream on myself.’ Nym tugged her shirt down to cover the top of her thighs. ‘Had to take them off.’
Hermione pursed her lips. ‘In the kitchen. In front of Harry.’
‘He’s my cousin.’ Nym rolled her eyes. ‘It’s fine.’
A soft little ache twisted in Harry’s chest. ‘We’re family,’ he said. ‘Like Tonks said. Not a big deal.’
‘You’ve known each other for two days.’ Hermione snatched her wand out and thrust it at Nym’s jeans. ‘Evanesco.’
The chocolate stain faded away.
‘Cheers!’ Nym grabbed them from the sink and stuck a foot in. She snagged her toes on the waistline and lurched forward.
Harry caught her arm. ‘Careful.’
‘Thanks for saving me from the cold, hard floor.’ She leant on his shoulder as she wriggled back into her jeans. ‘Now, breakfast, cous.’
Hermione snorted. ‘Good luck with that. I have to basically force-feed him.’
Harry glanced at the steaming kettle as it began to whistle. In the corner of his eye, the little pink bow disappeared as Nym buttoned her jeans up. Hermione’s gaze dropped to where Nym’s arm rested on Harry’s shoulder and her brow wrinkled.
What are you frowning at? Harry glanced around. What’s wrong?
‘Anyone else want tea?’ he asked.
‘Gimme.’ Nym frowned. ‘Wait, what tea is it?’
‘Tea, tea?’ Harry shrugged. ‘It’s not fruit, if you’re into that.’
She shook her head. ‘Nope. No thank you. I like my tea like I like my men!’
Hermione blinked. ‘In small pieces in a bag?’
Nym snickered. ‘Yes. But I actually had no follow up for that.’
Harry edged out from under her arm and toward the kettle, picking up a pair of mugs from beside the sink. ‘Hermione?’
‘No thanks, Harry. I’ll go for orange juice.’ She settled down into her seat at the table and peered into the containers. ‘Why’s there so much ice cream?’
‘Nym’s just lost the main man in her life, so she’s drowning her sorrows.’
‘Nym, huh,’ Hermione murmured. ‘I’m sorry to hear about that, Tonks, I hope you’re doing okay.’
Nym snorted. ‘Harry means Mad-Eye. He got removed as my mentor, not sure why, though.’
Harry grinned. ‘Because he couldn’t teach you how to run and not trip over.’
‘I’ve never seen Kingsley run, either,’ she retorted. ‘He’s really bloody tall, so he can probably just walk, stepping over the rest of us like a giant.’
He dropped a tea bag into each mug and poured hot water in. ‘Feel free to grab yours when it’s as strong as you like.’
Hermione pushed the ice cream containers across the table. ‘These are going to melt if you leave them out.’
‘I’ve messed with them,’ Nym said, stealing the mug of tea from Harry’s hands with a grin. ‘Best not to eat them, even if it turns out there’s no very addictive potion in them after all.’
‘I can’t believe you took me to eat ice cream there when you thought there might be an addictive potion in it,’ Harry said, fishing the tea bag out of his mug. ‘What if there had been?’
She winked. ‘A little bit’s probably fine.’
‘That’s kind of irresponsible.’ Hermione heaved the ice cream tubs into the bin and poured herself a glass of orange juice. ‘Aren’t you meant to be looking after us?’
‘Making sure you don’t do anything silly, really,’ Nym replied. ‘I’m more worried about you and Ron. Harry’s only got eyes for his hot cousin.’
Heat crept onto Harry’s cheeks. ‘Maybe my hot cousin should stop being such a tease,’ he grumbled.
‘And miss you going all red?’ She cackled. ‘Not going to happen.’
He groaned. ‘I hate you.’
‘Nope.’ Nym beamed. ‘Not buying it. I am your favourite cousin. The family member you love most in all the world.’
‘It’s a pretty low bar to clear. Even Sirius’s Mum had half a chance.’
‘Not now I’m here,’ she declared. ‘Nobody’s ever going to knock me off top spot.’
Hermione dragged her book across the table and heaved it open. ‘What potion did you think was in Fortescue’s ice cream?’
‘Panathikios’ Potion,’ Nym replied. ‘Some girl who Harry apparently has completely not noticed in all the years you’ve gone to school with her collapsed after eating nothing but it for most of the summer.’
‘Oh no.’ Hermione’s brow creased and she bit at her lip. ‘Who is it? Is she okay?’
She blinked. ‘Who?’
‘Ha!’ Harry brandished the teaspoon at Nym. ‘See, I told you she isn’t real.’
‘I am starting to feel like I may have hallucinated the whole thing,’ she said, grinning. ‘Good thing I didn’t take this hunch to Bossy Bones this time, she hates it.’
‘How much auror work do you actually do?’ Hermione asked.
‘Only just qualified, so mostly I’m meant to kind of shadow my supervisor and learn the ropes.’ Nym shrugged. ‘My supervisor was Mad-Eye, though, so…’
‘I guess that explains the ridiculous hunches,’ Hermione muttered under her breath.
Harry shot her a frown and she twitched.
‘Are you eating your breakfast yet?’ Nym whirled on Harry, a huge grin on her face.
‘No, mother.’ He folded his arms and took a long, slow sip of hot tea. ‘I’m drinking my tea first.’
Nym stared him dead in the eye, her hair shivering auburn and her eyes brightening to a familiar green. ‘Sweetie, you need to eat your breakfast if you want to grow up big and strong.’
Hermione choked on her orange juice. ‘You can’t do that!’
‘Why not?’ Nym cocked her head. ‘And don’t say because me changing my body by transfiguration breaks Gamp’s Laws because I could be cannibalised, it doesn’t make any sense.’
Harry snorted into his tea. ‘Who’d want to eat you?’
She caught his eye and waggled her eyebrows at him. ‘Well, cous’, when a man and a woman love each other very much—’
‘It’s insensitive,’ Hermione burst out. ‘Harry’s parents were murdered.’
‘Yeah, sorry about that, Harry. I thought they were selling drugged ice cream.’ Nym snickered. ‘Had to take them down.’
Two spots of colour welled up on Hermione’s cheeks. ‘Tonks!’
Nym flapped a hand at her. ‘I’ll stop if Harry is actually upset.’ She shot Harry a small smile. ‘Are you?’
‘Nope.’ He shrugged and sipped his tea. ‘Just funny.’
‘Of course he’s going to say that if you ask.’ Hermione huffed and dragged her book up in front of her face. ‘Fine. Whatever.’
Nym quirked an eyebrow at Harry.
Harry raised both his eyebrows at her and wagged his finger. ‘Insensitive auror chick,’ he mouthed.
She sniggered. ‘Since you’re blatantly trying to avoid eating anything that’s here for breakfast, how about we go find something in Diagon Alley?’
‘Ice cream?’ Harry suggested. ‘I actually quite feel like chocolate ice cream after seeing all those tubs.’
‘For breakfast?’ Hermione lowered her book. ‘That’s so unhealthy. There’s loads of sugar in ice cream.’
‘That’s why it’s tasty.’ Nym stuck her hand out, then dropped it. ‘Let me just grab some shoes.’
‘You probably shouldn’t go around this house barefoot,’ Hermione said. ‘Who knows what sort of things the Blacks had hoarded away.’
‘Biting floorboards would be a hilarious prank, but Mum would have definitely mentioned them.’ Nym vanished with a loud pop.
‘Harry—’ Hermione swivelled in her chair ‘—if her jokes bother you, then you need to say.’
‘They don’t, though,’ he replied. ‘I think I’m developing a dark sense of humour. It’s Voldemort’s fault.’
‘Okay, then. I guess it’s fine.’ She chewed her lip. ‘Just… remember she’s your cousin, Harry.’
He stared. ‘Why would I forget?’
Tonks appeared with a loud crack. ‘Let’s go, cous.’ She froze. ‘No, wait, I still look like your mum.’ Her hair faded dark as Harry’s. ‘There, today we’re siblings!’ Nym grabbed a handful of her fringe and eyed it. ‘Much better than red. Don’t date any redheads, Harry, people will judge you.’
‘Don’t listen to her,’ Hermione said. ‘Date whoever you want.’
‘Thank you, Hermione, I will.’ Harry levelled a mock glare at Nym. ‘I don’t even know any girls who are redheads.’
‘I’m a redhead,’ she said. ‘Or I can be.’
‘You don’t count, you’re his cousin,’ Hermione said. ‘And Harry knows Ginny, she’s a redhead, and she doesn’t have a boyfriend at the moment, either. Oh, and Susan Bones, but I don’t think she’s really your type, Harry.’
‘Ginny’s Ron’s little sister.’ Harry wrinkled his nose. ‘That’d be weird. Even weirder that she kind of looks like my mum would.’
‘She doesn’t really,’ Hermione chided. ‘Honestly, Harry, that’s just silly reasoning, I’m not going to stop dating anyone with brown hair because my Dad’s hair is brown.’
Nym grabbed his hand. ‘C’mon, cous. Let’s go find that girl you wanted to see. I want to see you embarrass yourself and make unsubtle innuendos in the background.’
‘Wait, who?’ Hermione dropped her book. ‘Which girl?’
‘Someone from his quidditch team.’ Nym cackled. ‘I think my little cousin has a crush.’
‘Katie Bell?’ Hermione asked. ‘Really? Something tells me it’s not going to work out with her, Harry.’
‘Why not?’ Harry demanded. ‘It could. It’s not like she’s going to suddenly die on me or anything. Not that I actually do have a crush on Katie. Or on Alicia, either, who’s the friend I actually wanted to meet.’
‘Oh…’ Hermione chewed at her lip. ‘Sorry, I think I’m still a bit wound up over the parents jokes.’
‘So defensive,’ Nym mused, stroking an imaginary beard. ‘Almost suspiciously defensive.’
Harry sighed. ‘Can we just…?’
She snickered. ‘Okay, okay.’
The world closed around him like a fist, crushing the air from his lungs, and they stumbled onto Diagon Alley.
Nym tangled her feet and sprawled into a heap at his feet. ‘Ow.’ She jumped up, beaming. ‘More bruises. I’m like an apple.’
‘Crunchy?’ Harry asked.
‘I don’t think I’d be crunchy.’ She poked herself in the arm and winked. ‘Just super tasty. Fancy a nibble, baby cousin?’
‘Tempting as that is, I was planning on having ice cream for breakfast,’ he replied, heading toward Fortescue’s. ‘You’d need cooking, too.’
‘Did you bring any money?’ Nym asked. ‘It’s your turn to pay…’
Bollocks. Harry patted down his pockets, turning out a galleon and a few sickles. Might be just enough.
‘That’ll cover us.’ She plucked the galleon from his fingers and bounced it on her palm. ‘Pick a flavour for me, any flavour but vanilla.’ She scrunched up her nose. ‘I don’t do vanilla.’
‘Are you going to pick a flavour for me, then?’ he asked.
‘Of course!’ Nym grinned. ‘Anything you hate?’
‘You don’t like strawberries?’ She shook her head. ‘What’s wrong with you?’
‘I like strawberries, I just don’t really like strawberry flavour,’ Harry said. ‘They’re not the same.’
‘That’s valid.’ She wriggled past him in the door and joined the queue. ‘Huh, it’s weirdly busy here.’
‘I think you can get normal hot drinks and stuff here as well.’
‘Makes sense.’ Nym nudged his shoulder. ‘Bill’s French girl and that blonde girl are here again as well.’
Harry pushed his glasses up and glanced around. Fleur sipped from a small, white mug, brushing shoulders with Luna, who skimmed small spoonfuls of ice cream off a small mountain of multi-coloured scoops.
‘So they are.’ He looked over his shoulder at the queue. ‘Should probably say hi.’
Nym grabbed his arm and tugged him back. ‘Oh no you don’t.’
‘Why?’ Harry watched a red-faced Luna offer the spoon to Fleur. ‘You can keep my place in the queue.’
‘Er…’ Nym pulled him around to face the counter. ‘Because they look quite happy as they are, without you blundering into the middle of it.’
‘If you say so.’ Harry threw a glance at their table and caught Fleur’s eye. ‘Oops.’
A smiling Luna slipped a spoonful of ice cream into Fleur’s mouth. She turned pink and looked away.
‘Oops?’ Nym twisted about. ‘Oi, don’t ruin their morning. Pick me an ice cream flavour.’
‘I didn’t ruin anything.’ Harry surveyed the display as Florian Fortescue hovered with the ice cream scoop. ‘The blue one, that looks like your sort of thing.’
‘Blueberry?’ Nym grinned. ‘Good choice, cous’. I like blueberry.’
‘What am I getting?’ he asked, studying the light green ice cream upon the other cone. ‘Mint?’
‘Gooseberry.’ She laughed. ‘Don’t knock it until you try it.’
Harry accepted his gooseberry ice cream and handed over his handful of sickles. ‘It looks like a weird flavour, no wonder you chose it.’
‘I resent that.’ Nym stuck a forked tongue out at him. ‘I’m completely normal.’
‘Sure…’ He bit a tiny bit off the top.
A sharp, sweetness flooded his tongue.
‘It’s actually quite nice.’
‘So’s blueberry.’ Nym beamed at him with blue-smeared lips. ‘Want to try some?’
‘Nah, I’m okay with this,’ he said. ‘Do you want to grab a seat or—’
‘Hi Harry.’ Fleur appeared beside Nym, her long blonde hair twirled into a loose knot. ‘I didn’t realise you came here so often.’ She smiled. ‘You’re taller than when we last met. Not a little boy anymore.’
Harry stretched onto his tiptoes so he could look her in the eye. ‘Still a few inches shorter than you, though.’
‘I am quite tall for a girl,’ she said. ‘Is it just the two of you here? No Ronald?’
‘Just us, yeah,’ he said. ‘How’ve you been?’
‘Hey Harry.’ Luna stepped out from behind Fleur. ‘Is that gooseberry?’
‘Yes, it is,’ Nym said. ‘I’m Tonks, by the way. Harry’s cousin.’
‘Oh.’ Fleur turned a little pink. ‘I was about to say something very embarrassing, then. I saw you sharing ice cream yesterday when Luna and I were here yesterday and jumped to conclusions.’
Nym sniggered. ‘Friends can enjoy ice cream together, right, Luna?’
‘Yes.’ Luna gave them a huge bright smile. ‘But so can not just friends.’
Fleur’s blue eyes flicked to Luna, to Nym, and away outside. ‘I should go,’ she said. ‘But, maybe we can all meet up here again some time?’
‘That’d be good,’ Harry said. ‘So long as Tonks doesn’t mind apparating me about everywhere?’
Nym gave him a thumbs up. ‘More than happy to, baby cous. I have literally nothing else to do now Bossy Bones made me take a break.’
‘I should go home, Fleur,’ Luna said. ‘Daddy is probably worried where I am.’
‘I’ll take you back, then. Unless you would rather floo?’
She shook her head and slipped an arm around Fleur’s waist. ‘This is fine.’
Fleur’s cheeks turned pink and the two of them vanished with a loud pop.
‘Okay.’ Nym nudged him toward the door. ‘There is definitely something going on there, right? It’s not just me?’
She shook her head. ‘They were sitting there eating ice cream off the same spoon all blushy-faced and Fleur couldn’t look us in the eyes…’
‘Maybe she was embarrassed?’ Harry suggested.
‘Yes…’ Nym squinted at him. ‘Are you pulling my leg?’
He raised an eyebrow. ‘No?’
‘Just completely hopeless, then.’ She laughed. ‘I see how it is. Can’t see it until it’s impossible to ignore, huh.’
‘What?’ A little heat crept onto his face. ‘I don’t get it.’
‘You will when you’re older.’ Nym patted him on the head with her free hand. ‘There there, little cousin.’
Harry feigned a glower. ‘You’re one year older than me. One year.’
‘Yeah, but I spend all my time with adults, whereas your friends are painfully sheltered. I had hope for Hermione after the small pieces in a bag joke, but if she can’t handle a few mummy issues jokes…’
‘She gets upset if she thinks people are being taken advantage of,’ he said. ‘What about Ron?’
‘I know Molly.’
Harry snorted. ‘Fair enough.’
‘You, though—’ Nym paused in the street, glancing left and right ‘—where’s your girlfriend going to be?’
‘My friend is probably at the quidditch shop, if she’s anywhere. I didn’t really organise anything.’
‘So we’re really just wandering around and hoping we bump into her.’ She tipped him a wink and drifted up the street toward the broom shop. ‘Sounds like you just wanted an excuse to spend some time with your hot cousin.’
‘That or I wanted to get away from Ron and Hermione being all clingy and flirty,’ Harry said. ‘You’re just a bonus.’
‘I know you’re only saying that because you’re apparently emotionally stunted,’ Nym replied. ‘So I forgive you.’
He skirted the crowd at the window and stepped into the cool shop. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been in here before, you know.’
Rows of shelves of broom polish and products ran off toward the back of the store and sleek, shining new models hovered in the air above them. Harry scanned the small groups of people bustling back and forth, spotting Alicia staring up at the new Cleansweep.
‘I would kill for luck like that,’ Nym said, following him through the crowd. ‘Just turn up and there she is. You know the odds are probably like a million to one? It literally only happens in rom-coms.’
Harry wriggled through the bustling people and waved at Alicia. ‘Hey!’
‘Harry!’ She shuffled her feet and drew back into a gap between displays. ‘Good timing, I’ve been here all morning working and looking at brooms, but Katie just abandoned me to go see some boy and I was about to head home.’
‘I was just getting ice cream with Tonks,’ he said. ‘Thought I’d come see if you were about.’
‘I don’t think you’re meant to have ice cream in the shop,’ Alicia said. ‘Maybe we should head out.’
Harry glanced at his gooseberry ice cream. ‘It’s probably not me you have to worry about, though, Tonks is—’
A loud crash echoed through the store. Tins of broom polish clattered down on top of Nym’s dark hair as she flailed about beneath a collapsed shelf.
‘Much more likely to make a mess.’ A little stab of worry bit at him. ‘Are you okay, Nym?’
‘I’m fine!’ She scrambled to her feet and held up her ice cream. ‘Someone just left that shelf in my way.’
‘Yeah, we should really go outside.’ Alicia led them around the mess and out into the sunshine. ‘So, you never said you had a sister, Harry? Like, never even mentioned her? And I’ve not seen her at Hogwarts…’
‘I’m a squib.’ Nym grinned. ‘Harry’s very ashamed of me.’
‘What?!’ Alicia rounded on him. ‘That’s horrible!
Harry held up his ice cream as a shield. ‘She’s lying. She’s not my sister. She’s my cousin. She’s your age… And she can’t be trusted, so don’t listen to her.’
‘My age?’ Alicia’s forehead creased. ‘I don’t remember you.’
‘I went through a few years early,’ Nym said. ‘I would’ve left when you were just starting.’
Alicia’s jaw dropped. ‘Wait, you’re Nymph—’
‘Just Tonks.’ Nym flashed her a sweet smile. ‘But yes. I am. Special famous prodigy child me.’
‘You have, like, half the academic records in the school.’ Alicia glared at Harry. ‘How did you never mention she was your cousin?’
‘Oh he didn’t know,’ Nym said, throwing an arm around his shoulders. ‘We’re making up for lost time, aren’t we, little cousin?’
‘Yeah.’ He fended the blueberry ice cream away from his t-shirt. ‘Careful, Nym.’
‘Would be a shame if I got ice cream on you and accidentally vanished your shirt in front of Alicia.’ Nym cackled and finished her ice cream in a few swift bites, dusting crumbs of cone from her fingers. ‘Alicia might not mind, but you’d go all red.’
Alicia rolled her eyes. ‘I’m not Katie, I don’t get all gushy every time some boy takes his shirt off.’ She eyed Harry’s midriff. ‘Although, you’re not bad, Harry. I’ve seen enough in quidditch practice to know that.’
Nym’s wand appeared in her hand. ‘Just say the word. We can ogle him together.’
Harry’s face heated up. ‘Or we could… not?’
She sighed. ‘Sorry, Alicia. I think meeting his hot older cousin has turned Harry off other girls, he’s just not interested in anything but me. You should’ve seen how red his face went when he caught me without my jeans on.’
Harry buried his face in his hands. ‘I hate you.’
‘You love me.’ Nym cackled. ‘You love me even more without jeans.’
Alicia giggled. ‘Of course he does, he’s a boy.’
‘I think he bought me ice cream in the hope I’d spill some down my front and accidentally vanish my shirt,’ Nym said. ‘Was that your plan, Harry? See if you can get a glimpse of your hottie cousin with her top off?’
He glared at her, face burning. ‘You know that’s not true.’
‘He’s actually completely oblivious,’ Alicia said. ‘I think Lavender has made like twenty attempts to catch his eye and Harry’s blanked her every time.’
‘Wait what?’ he asked. ‘When?’
‘Like, all the time,’ she said. ‘Katie and I thought you were deliberately ignoring her because she was going out with Ron before, but then we realised you’re actually just completely dense.’
‘I don’t remember any of these times,’ Harry said. ‘I’m fairly sure they didn’t happen.’
‘Like how you were sure Daphne Greengrass wasn’t a real person?’ Nym asked.
‘She is,’ Alicia said. ‘She’s just really really shy. Sits at the back in the corner and hides in her dormitory most of the time.’
‘Ha!’ Nym crowed. ‘She is real. I knew it.’
‘Just rewinding to the Lavender thing,’ Harry said. ‘Are there any other girls I should’ve noticed?’
Alicia giggled. ‘Well, Cho…’
‘Moving on from Cho,’ Harry said.
‘Yeah, probably for the best. That’s not a good idea right now. She has a lot of stuff to deal with at the moment.’
He sighed. ‘I meant as a topic of conversation…’
Nym snickered. ‘Sure you did, baby cousin. Sure you did.’
‘Ron’s sister,’ Alicia said. ‘I don’t know, I’m not really looking out for it. Lavender and Ginny are just really obvious.’
‘Huh…’ Nym grinned ‘That makes a lot of sense, actually.’
‘I’m not going to like this, am I?’ Harry muttered.
‘Is Ginny redheaded?’ Nym asked. ‘I’ve never actually met her.’
‘Yeah, she’s quite pretty,’ Alicia said. ‘Sporty, popular, redhead. Boys like that.’
‘Hermione got cross with me about those redheads look like your mum jokes I was making this morning,’ Nym said. ‘Guess we know why.’
‘That’s not why,’ he replied, ignoring a flutter of doubt in his gut.
‘Oh my god it definitely is.’ Alicia squealed. ‘Hermione’s trying to match-make the two of you.’
‘But I don’t really want to go out with Ginny,’ Harry protested. ‘She’s Ron’s little sister.’
‘And she looks like your mum,’ Nym said.
‘And I’m hotter.’
‘And—’ he narrowed his eyes at her. ‘Nice try.’
‘Nearly got you to admit it.’
‘You look like his twin sister,’ Alicia said. ‘That’s worse than his mum.’
‘Is it?’ Nym frowned and her hair paled to white. ‘There, easy fix.’
‘How the hell did you do that?’ Alicia asked. ‘And how can I do that? I’ve always wanted to dye my hair, but my parents won’t let me.’
‘Afraid it’s a born with it thing,’ Nym said. ‘But, more importantly, back to Harry’s love life.’
‘Because we can’t stop talking about that for a few minutes,’ he muttered. ‘No, that would be ridiculous.’
‘Exactly.’ Nym shook her hair out and stepped across next to Alicia. ‘What about now? Who’s prettier, Harry?’
‘Alicia,’ he said. ‘She’s much nicer than you.’
‘Probably true,’ she replied. ‘But I said prettier and you avoided the question, so I will take that to mean you think your cousin is a hottie and just can’t bring yourself to say it.’
‘You’d do that no matter what I said,’ Harry retorted.
‘Yep.’ She sniggered. ‘I totally would.’
‘Oookay,’ Alicia said. ‘I should really head home. I’ll leave you and your cousin to keep catching up, Harry. It was nice to see you both.’
She drew him into a tight, warm hug. ‘See you, Harry. I work here, so you can come find me most mornings if you’re bored.’
Nym gave Alicia a little wave. ‘Nice to meet you, Alicia.’ She watched Alicia disappear back into the store. ‘I don’t think she wants to be your girlfriend, cous’. Looks like you’re way into the friendzone there.’
‘That’s not a real place.’
‘It’s as real as Daphne Greengrass.’
‘I don’t even want her to be my girlfriend,’ Harry said. ‘So it’s fine. I want to be in the friendzone. She’s my friend.’
‘Who do you want to be your girlfriend?’ Nym teased.
‘She’s not real according to you, so she doesn’t count.’
‘Don’t know then,’ he said. ‘Someone nice. Someone fun. Someone pretty.’ Harry shrugged. ‘It’s not like I have a list of names.’
‘Such a shame I’m your cousin,’ Nym murmured. ‘I bet I’d be right at the top of the list if I wasn’t.’
A little pang twisted beneath his ribs. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun spending time with you. And you’re very pretty. Harry mustered a smile and brushed those thoughts aside.
‘I don’t have a list,’ he said.
‘That sounds like an evasion to me.’ She cackled. ‘Keep buying me ice cream, cous’, maybe you’ll get lucky when I start vanishing things.’
How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days
A pile of brooms clattered onto the grass, bouncing off the ant mounds into patches of wild flowers. Long, evening shadows stretched from them across the field.
Ron cheered. ‘Let’s go! Who’s in?’
The twins grabbed the newest pair of brooms. ‘Us.’
‘Me!’ Ginny bounded out of the house, clutching a gleaming new broom. ‘I want to test out my birthday present before it gets too dark.’
Charlie dragged Percy across by the arm, side-stepping Mr and Mrs Weasley as they cleared the dinner things back inside. ‘And us.’
Hermione shook her head. ‘Nope.’
Ron thrust a broom into Harry’s hands. ‘C’mon mate.’
He glanced at Nym.
‘I will probably die,’ she said. ‘The last time I flew, I broke my arm in three places, and I only got about five feet off the ground.’
‘Bill?’ Charlie called. ‘You in?’
Bill’s lips twisted. Fleur motioned toward them with her hand. He muttered something to her and she tensed, shaking her head.
‘I’m good,’ he said. ‘Happy here with my flower.’
Ron groaned. ‘Cringy.’
‘You’re worse,’ Harry said. ‘Way worse.’
Hermione flushed. ‘It’s only cringy because you don’t have a girlfriend, Harry. If you did, you’d say stuff like that, too.’
‘You can call me your flower, Harry,’ Nym teased. ‘I don’t mind.’
‘I do,’ he said. ‘It sounds awful. No offense to Bill and Fleur.’
Nym threw a long look back across the field at the two of them and frowned. ‘Maybe I’ll join you guys and play, actually. Or float nearby and try not to fall off, at least. Not sure I want to be third-wheeling back there.’
Harry handed his broom to Percy. ‘I’ll sit this one out.’
Ron groaned. ‘We’ll lose if you don’t play, mate.’
‘You’ve got Ginny,’ he said. ‘She’s got the best broom.’
‘Well, yeah, but she’s a girl.’
Hermione cleared her throat.
‘I mean, she’s shorter than Charlie,’ Ron blurted. ‘So he has an advantage.’
‘Too late,’ Harry said. ‘You’re in the hole, mate. It’s over. Hermione’s going to remember that.’
Charlie tossed the quaffle at Percy. ‘Up you go, little brother. Sun’s going down, so we don’t have long to play.’
They kicked off into the sky.
‘Sticking about to keep me company,’ Nym said. ‘That’s nice of you.’
‘Well, you’re technically my plus one,’ he said. ‘So I can’t ditch you.’
‘Yeah—’ her gaze slid past him toward the house ‘—I’m glad you didn’t. I don’t think Bill and Fleur are having a happy chat.’
Harry glanced past. Bill waved his hands in the air, red-faced, and Fleur sat, stiff and straight as a telephone pole, whispering back with a clenched jaw and narrowed eyes.
‘Oh,’ he said.
‘Yeah, that’s been coming, I think,’ Nym murmured. ‘Not sure Fleur’s certain about what she wants at the moment.’
‘I thought she said yes?’ Harry asked.
‘Lot of pressure to say yes when someone you like asks you that.’ Nym sighed and started back across the ant hills to the house. ‘She looked a lot happier when we saw her in Diagon Alley than she has at any point today.’
‘I guess.’ Harry shrugged. ‘I don’t think she likes Mrs Weasley’s cooking much, though.’
Nym snorted, tripped on an ant hill, and went sprawling into the grass. ‘I can promise you that’s not why she’s less happy here,’ she said, sticking out a hand. ‘Help me up?’
Harry took her hand and pulled her to her feet. ‘Why, then?’
Nym’s fingers slipped through his. ‘Seriously?’
‘Well, yeah,’ he said, glancing down at their hands, heat creeping to his cheeks. ‘I don’t know if I can help, but if I can…’
‘You want to help her?’ Nym bit her lip. ‘Alright, let’s go over. Just, before we go, I don’t think Fleur really loves Bill anymore, or, if she does, it’s not enough for her to want to marry him now she’s found something new and exciting. And if you’re not sure, you shouldn’t be getting married, it’s a big deal.’
‘She’s going out with someone else as well?’ Harry wracked his brain. ‘Who?’
‘Unbelievable.’ She laughed and tugged on his hand. ‘Come on. Who did we see Fleur spending time with at Diagon Alley when she was all blushey and worried you were there with Ron Weasley?’
‘Luna…’ A flash of Fleur’s pink cheeks as Luna fed her ice cream hit him like lightning. ‘Oh!’
‘You are so dense.’
‘I’m not,’ he said. ‘I just didn’t think about it, because, you know, Bill.’
‘Don’t just side with Bill because he’s a guy,’ Nym said, stumbling over ant mounds and clumps of long grass. ‘If Fleur doesn’t want to marry him, then that’s her choice.’
‘Well yeah, of course.’ He shrugged. ‘I feel bad for Bill, but if Fleur’s changed her mind, then she’s changed her mind.’
Nym’s warm grip vanished as she pitched headfirst into the field. ‘Ow.’
‘Not again.’ Harry laughed and held out his hand. ‘How are you so bad at walking?’
‘I told you, I have to fake it so everyone else doesn’t feel bad about themselves,’ she said, dusting grass and dirt off her front. ‘Now I look like I’ve been rolling around.’
Mr and Mrs Weasley came back out as Fleur and Bill’s raised voices drifted across the field, standing behind Bill as he gesticulated and wrung his hands.
‘Shut up, Harry.’ She huffed grass off her palms and grabbed his hand. ‘And hurry up, the Weasleys are gathering and they’ll all side with Bill.’
‘You can’t be serious!’ Bill shouted. ‘You can’t!’
‘I do not want to,’ Fleur murmured. ‘I thought I did, but now I do not.’
‘But it’s all fine!’ Bill yelled. ‘I don’t get it. I just — I don’t! What did I do? I love you!’
Fleur swallowed. ‘I met someone else.’
Bill froze. ‘You cheated on me.’
‘No!’ She tensed up. ‘I just, I do not think I love you, is all. I do not want to marry you.’
Mrs Weasley drew herself up.
‘Maybe we should sleep on it,’ Mr Weasley said. ‘I remember getting a moment or two of cold feet back before I married Molly. It’s a big decision. I didn’t regret it for a second in the end, though.’
Mrs Weasley nodded. ‘Yes, that’s a good idea, dear.’
‘I am not going to change my mind,’ Fleur said. ‘I have thought about it a lot over the last week or so, and I have decided.’ She slid the ring off her finger and set it down on the table. ‘I am sorry, Bill. I did not mean to hurt you.’
‘But you have,’ he whispered. ‘You really have. I gave you everything I am. And you just… don’t want it anymore.’ He sucked in a deep breath. ‘You heartless bitch.’
Tears welled up in Fleur’s eyes and she swept past him into the grass, stalking down the slope toward them.
‘Fleur?’ Harry half-raised an arm.
‘What?’ She drew herself up. ‘I am not going to change my mind. You will understand in a few years, Harry, but I am sorry I have ruined the evening for you. I did not mean to.’
‘Where are you going?’ Nym asked.
Fleur glanced around and sagged. ‘I do not know,’ she whispered. ‘But I can not stay here.’
‘Would you like to borrow my flat for a bit?’ Nym asked. ‘We can go now, if Harry’s alright going to say goodbye for us.’
He gulped, anxiety knotting tight in his gut. ‘I’ll tell them.’
‘No.’ Fleur’s face softened. ‘I appreciate it, Harry, but I do not want you to ruin your friendships with them over me. I will be fine.’
He smothered his nervousness. ‘It’s the right thing to do. And you’re my friend, too.’
Fleur wiped tears from her eyes. ‘Merci beaucoup, Harry.’
‘Go,’ Nym said. ‘I’ll apparate us all there in a minute. Mr and Mrs Weasley can get Hermione and Ron back to Grimmauld instead of me once their quidditch game ends.’
Harry drew in a deep breath and trudged up the hill. Bill stormed into the house and slammed the door as he stepped onto the patio.
‘Are you okay, Harry?’ Mrs Weasley bustled across. ‘You look a little out of sorts and you’ve been smiling with your cousin all day.’
‘Tonks is going to let Fleur stay with her at her flat, I think,’ he said. ‘So we’re going to head off.’
‘Okay.’ Mr Weasley put a hand on Mrs Weasley’s shoulder. ‘I think that’s probably for the best, Molly dear. You know how messy and upsetting things can get if people aren’t given a bit of space to breathe.’
Mrs Weasley nodded. ‘We’ll take the three of you back to Grimmauld later. You go play quidditch before all the light’s gone. Don’t worry about this, enjoy your summer holidays.’
‘I’m going with Nym,’ Harry said.
Mrs Weasley’s lips pursed. ‘She’s going to take you back to Grimmauld afterwards?’
‘That’s probably fine,’ Mr Weasley said. ‘She’s looking out for the three of you at Grimmauld at the moment anyway.’
‘A girl her age isn’t old enough to be looking after them,’ Mrs Weasley muttered. ‘It’s too much responsibility. Even if she’s already an auror.’
‘You go then, Harry.’ Mr Weasley patted him on the shoulder. ‘Spend some time with your cousin, I know you’ve only just met her recently, so it must be nice getting to know her.’
‘Oh.’ Mrs Weasley clapped a hand over her mouth. ‘How stupid of me, I’m so sorry, Harry. I forget you’ve only just met her. Of course you want to spend time with her. It was lovely to see you, and come back soon, you’re always welcome. Ginny and the Twins missed having someone else to play quidditch with.’
‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘Sorry about… this.’
‘Nothing to do with you, Harry,’ Mr Weasley said. ‘These things happen. Have a good evening.’
He stumbled back through the lengthening shadows to Nym and Fleur. ‘I said goodbye.’
‘Good.’ Nym took Fleur’s hand and wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders. ‘Let’s go back to mine, then.’
The world squeezed tight around Harry and they appeared in a narrow, wood-floored hall with a loud pop.
‘This is me.’ Nym turned a little red and scratched the top of her head. ‘It’s… it’s probably a bit of a mess. In fact, stay here, Harry. Let me just tidy a few things up.’
Fleur slumped against the wall with a quiet sigh. ‘I am not going anywhere, it is fine.’
‘You can come through, Fleur. It’s just my underwear everywhere.’ She snickered. ‘You’re not going to get as excited by my panties as Harry will be.’
Harry shook his head. ‘I’m not dignifying that with a response.’
‘Sounds like something someone who can’t think of a response would say,’ Nym shot back.
A snort burst from Fleur’s lips. ‘I will come help you tidy.’ A strange little gleam entered her eye and her lips twisted. ‘Although, I think I may be as much a worry as Harry when it comes to girls in their underwear.’ She studied the floor. ‘So, if that is… not okay…’
‘I know.’ Nym shrugged. ‘It’s fine. As long as you don’t steal all my favourite bras, it doesn’t matter at all.’ She turned to Harry. ‘And don’t think I won’t know if you steal my underwear and blame Fleur.’
‘I don’t want to steal your underwear,’ he protested. ‘That’s just weird.’
‘You really do not care?’ Fleur murmured. ‘I thought—’
‘Bill and his family are a little more conservative than I am,’ Nym said. ‘And, since Harry’s probably not going to say anything unless I twist his arm because he’s worried about you being upset, he’s not fussed either. He wanted to help you, too.’
Tears welled up in Fleur’s blue eyes, clustering on her lashes. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered. ‘Thank you so much. I thought I would have to say it all alone and—’ she broke down into quiet sobs.
‘Harry, comfort crying Fleur,’ Nym said. ‘I will quickly tidy up.’
A stab of panic lanced through him. ‘But I don’t know how to fix it? What if I make it worse?’
A quiet laugh came through Fleur’s crying. ‘It is okay. The company is enough. I hate crying by myself.’
Harry hovered, gnawing the inside of his cheek as she sobbed. ‘I — er — I really am terrible with crying girls, so just, like, say if you want something. Anything.’
Fleur snorted and smeared her tears away from red eyes and blotched cheeks. ‘Do you make a lot of girls cry, Harry?’
‘I made Cho cry, well, I think she was crying already, actually,’ he said. ‘But I definitely didn’t help. It’s a good thing I don’t have a girlfriend.’
‘You and Ronald’s little sister are not…?’
‘No.’ Harry shook his head. ‘Although, apparently, she has been trying to give me hints, but it turns out I am very very bad at getting those.’
‘Me too,’ Fleur said. ‘I overthink everything.’
‘I literally just don’t realise,’ Harry said. ‘They just go right over my head. It’s probably because I’m still short.’
A small smile crooked her lips. ‘You are not that short anymore and you have got a few more years before you stop growing, too.’
‘Maybe I’ll end up taller than you.’
‘Maybe.’ Fleur sighed and leant her head back against the wall. ‘How did it all get so complicated?’ She dabbed her eyes on her shoulder. ‘I was all in love and so sure, and then I met her and everything was just so different all of a sudden.’
‘Luna?’ Harry asked.
Her shoulders stiffened and she nodded. ‘She was so — so direct. I was just sitting there and she just came over and sat down and told me I was the prettiest girl she’d ever seen and that she really wanted to kiss me. I did not know what to do.’
‘I probably wouldn’t know what to do either,’ Harry said. ‘If it was a guy, that is, if a pretty girl said that, I’d just blurt out yes and go very red.’
‘I panicked and offered to buy her ice cream,’ Fleur said. ‘It turned into a regular thing and eventually.’ She shrugged her slim shoulders and bit her lip. ‘I do not even know when it happened. I just remember sitting there next to her, watching her eat ice cream, watching her lips and the spoon and her licking ice cream and remembering what she said about kissing.’ A small smile curved Fleur’s lips. ‘I got, what is it you say? Butterflies. I still get them. It was very different to with Bill or any other boys.’
‘I’m happy for you,’ he said. ‘That sounds pretty great.’
‘I think it will be,’ she murmured. ‘I wish I did not have to hurt Bill, though. He is a very good man.’
‘Better to tell him, though,’ Harry replied. ‘Otherwise it’d be worse later.’
‘That is what I thought,’ Fleur whispered. ‘But he is upset. He loved me a lot.’
‘Okay.’ Nym bounded back down the corridor. ‘I have hidden all my underwear and tidied up.’ She led them through into a small living room. ‘Just don’t open the cupboard in the corner.’
A round coffee table sat between a pair of small sofas on a short stretch of carpet between a little kitchen and a pair of closed doors. A wardrobe leant against the wall between two condensation-misted windows, lashed close with a Hufflepuff school tie.
Harry snorted. ‘You threw everything in the cupboard, didn’t you?’
‘I did.’ Nym beamed. ‘Look how tidy it looks, usually it’s covered in mess.’ She patted the sofa. ‘Come sit down, Fleur.’
‘Merci.’ Fleur flopped onto the sofa. ‘I feel a little better, actually.’
‘Harry managed not to make it worse?’
‘He was very good,’ Fleur said, flashing a faint smile at him. ‘Excellent boyfriend material.’
‘Okay,’ Nym said. ‘So, boring stuff. The bedroom’s the door on the right. The bathroom is on the left, towels are in the cupboard inside. I changed the sheets on the bed, so no need to worry about catching anything off me, and just give the shower a moment or two before you get in, because it comes out hot as hell for a few seconds before it settles.’
Fleur nodded. ‘Merci.’ She glanced around. ‘What about you?’
‘I’ll stay at Grimmauld,’ Nym said. ‘This is a one-bed flat and I have to apparate there to babysit little cousin Harry and his friends anyway.’
‘Oh.’ Fleur frowned. ‘I do not want to—’
‘It’s fine. I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t okay with it.’ A wicked grin flashed across Nym’s face. ‘Now, rules of staying…’
‘There are no rules!’ Nym snickered. ‘Feel free to borrow all my stuff, the fridge is all but empty, though, because I literally cannot cook to save my life. And—’ she rested a hand on Fleur’s arm ‘—if you want some company and I’m busy, you can invite whomever you like back here.’
Fleur squirmed. ‘Merci,’ she whispered. ‘If you are sure.’
‘It’s that or Harry,’ Nym said. ‘And, between the three of us, Harry’s rubbish company, all he does is stare at me. Which, I am a hottie, so fair, but still, I’m his cousin and it’s weird.’
Harry groaned. ‘I hate you, Nymph.’
Her wand appeared in her hand. ‘That sounded an awful lot like please remove my eyebrows, Nym.’
‘Weird,’ he replied. ‘Because that’s not at all what I said.’
A faint flash of humour passed across Fleur’s face. ‘If it is okay, I would like to use the bathroom.’ She touched her fingers to her face. ‘I look awful when I cry and I think then I would just like to sleep, I am very tired.’
‘That’s fine, you make yourself at home. Let me just sort a few things while you’re in the shower.’ Nym elbowed Harry and shot him a pointed look. ‘We’ll clear out after.’
‘Come meet us at Fortescue’s tomorrow morning?’ he suggested.
Fleur nodded and stood up. ‘That is a good idea. I need to speak with Luna also.’
‘Bonsoir, Fleur,’ Nym said.
Fleur smiled. ‘Bonsoir.’
‘It means good evening, Harry,’ Fleur said, drifting into the bathroom. ‘Bonsoir.’
‘Is she okay?’ Harry murmured.
‘She’ll be fine,’ Nym said. ‘As long as she’s not left by herself to overthink things or make a mess of it. You did the right thing inviting her to Diagon Alley.’
‘I thought that was what that look meant,’ he said.
‘No, that look meant don’t say anything, but you clearly didn’t get that.’
‘It worked out okay,’ Nym said. ‘Bill’s got it worst, but he’s got his family and he’ll pull through.’
‘Yeah, I bet it sucks to be him right now.’ Nym sighed. ‘Not that I have any experience with anything like this, I’m just repeating what I’ve been told.’
‘Well yeah, it’s not like any of my colleagues are going to want to date someone my age,’ Nym said. ‘Actually, I don’t even know anyone my age. That’s what I meant about missing all the fun stuff. I want to do stupid teenage shit before it’s too late and I’m all adult and grown up.’
‘You know Alicia.’
‘That’s true.’ Nym grinned. ‘I’ll go and date her.’
‘And I’ll go out with Ginny, apparently.’ Harry grimaced. ‘I can’t believe Hermione’s trying to set us up.’
The shower drummed on plastic and the plumbing hummed.
‘They were plotting today, you know,’ Nym said. ‘I got a real cold shoulder.’
Harry frowned. ‘Really?’
‘Yeah.’ She poked him on the forehead. ‘Don’t get like that, it’s fine. Ginny was just getting a bit territorial, the only girls you ever paid attention to was Hermione and that Cho girl from what I’ve heard. Having me rock up must have been a bit of a shock.’
‘But you’re my cousin.’
‘Hermione told her, I think,’ Nym said. ‘She warmed up to me a bit later, still got a few glares because I had your attention all day, but I’m not fussed about it.’
The clock on the wall chimed.
‘Eleven,’ Nym muttered, grabbing Harry’s hand. ‘Right. Let’s give Fleur a little space before we see her tomorrow. Back we go!’
A tight cold crushed in on Harry and they appeared in the upstairs office with a loud pop.
‘Time for bed for me,’ Harry said.
‘And me.’ Nym stuck her head out and pressed a finger to her lips. ‘Your friends must already be sleeping, it’s way too late for them not to be back. Molly and Arthur would have taken them here the moment it got dark an hour or ago.’
Harry wandered down the stairs, pausing to listen to Ron’s snores rolling up the landing like thunder, and into his bedroom. He tugged off his t-shirt and jeans, kicking them into a corner with a soft sigh.
A gentle knock came on the door.
‘Yes?’ he said.
Nym pushed the door open. ‘Small snag.’
Heat rushed to Harry’s face and he snatched the duvet off his bed, wrapping it around himself.
‘Too late, little cousin.’ She sniggered. ‘I already had more than enough time to confirm Alicia was right about you being lean but easy on the eye.’
He groaned. ‘Please don’t. What’s the snag?’
‘Turns out, there is literally not a single piece of furniture in any of the other rooms.’
‘Mrs Weasley cleared it out,’ Harry said. ‘Doxies ruined it all beyond saving.’
‘Right, and I’m not really a sleep in a bathtub kind of girl,’ she said. ‘So…’
‘So?’ He raised an eyebrow. ‘Just magic yourself up a bed.’
‘You magic me a bed,’ Nym muttered. ‘Have you any idea how hard it is to conjure something like a bed that would last the entire night and feel better than floorboards?’
‘Sounds like a you problem.’
‘It’s an us problem,’ she retorted. ‘Because it’s impossible and there’s nothing I can transfigure and I’m tired and feeling lazy.’ Her gaze fell on his bed.
Harry sighed. ‘Fine, you can steal my bed. I’ve slept in worse than a bath tub.’
‘Then you end up on the floor, that doesn’t solve anything,’ Nym said.
‘Go share with Fleur?’ Harry suggested.
‘Or…’ She rolled her eyes. ‘I could share with my cousin and not apparate back in and disturb poor Fleur.’
‘Is there really not any other option?’ he asked. ‘This seems awfully… contrived.’ Suspicion rose. ‘Wait, is this a trick? Am I going to wake up and find you looking like Umbridge again?’
Nym cackled. ‘You might now.’
‘Sssh,’ Harry hissed. ‘You want Hermione in here with us?’
She clapped a hand over mouth, stifling her sniggering. ‘I mean…’
‘If you said no to sharing with Fleur there’s no way you’d say yes to Hermione.’
‘It’s Fleur,’ he said.
‘True.’ Nym glanced at the bed. ‘You’re dragging this out.’
‘I’m trying to figure out a better solution.’
‘It’s literally just sharing a bed.’ She folded her arms. ‘You’re making it weird by thinking about it more than you need to.’
‘I’ve read enough steamy scenes over Hermione’s unsuspecting shoulder to know what people think bed sharing leads to. You think Ginny dislikes you now, imagine after she hears about this?’
She snickered. ‘We’re going to circle back around to that tomorrow, so I can make you go all red again, but for now, I am tired—’ she stuck a hand under her top and squirmed about, tossing her bra onto the side table ‘—and I want to go to bed.’
Harry watched her kick off her jeans and rummage through his wardrobe in just dark blue lace and a white t-shirt. A strange, sweet little pain twisted in his stomach. ‘What are you doing, Nym?’
‘I got mud and grass on this when I stacked it in the field, I don’t want to sleep in it.’ She glanced over her shoulder. ‘Close your eyes for a moment.’
Harry squeezed them shut. ‘I’m not watching.’
‘I bet you are.’
Heat flooded his face. ‘I’m not!’
Clothing rustled and the wardrobe thudded shut.
‘Missed your chance, then,’ she whispered in his ear.
Bed springs creaked.
‘You can open your eyes now, Harry.’ Nym lay on the far side of his bed in a loose, white t-shirt. Goose pimples rose on her arms and legs. ‘Stop staring at me and bring that duvet back. It’s cold.’
‘I can’t believe I’m agreeing to do this,’ he muttered. ‘It’s stupid. I bet you’re only doing this because you knew it’d make me all embarrassed.’
A broad grin spread across her face. ‘The thought had crossed my mind. It is adorable.’
‘You’re adorable.’ Harry sat on the edge of the bed and held out the other edge of the duvet. ‘Wait…’
‘Yeah, that one doesn’t really work the other way around. I’m not fussed about being adorable.’ Nym grabbed his shoulder and tugged him into the bed. ‘Just lie there, like a normal person, and go to sleep,’ she whispered, her warm breath washing over the back of his neck with a faint scent of violets.
His heart hammered against his ribs and his stomach fluttered, flashing hot and cold. ‘Don’t you want to stay on your side a bit more?’
‘It’s a small bed and I like to sprawl out like a starfish, so you may as well just resign yourself to me touching you at some point.’ Her warm bare feet brushed his legs, sending a thrill bursting through him. ‘Just try not to stick your hands anywhere I’ll want to curse you for, and I’ll try not to stick my hands anywhere that’ll get you too excited.’
Dudley in the shower. Dudley in the shower. He plastered a flash of shirtless Dudley over the hot thrill of the adrenaline coursing through his veins. Think about the tubby cousin and not the really beautiful one who’s in bed with you. Harry stared at the wall, counting the cracks in the plaster as her breathing steadied and deepened. She must have been able to find somewhere else to sleep. Surely. He counted to twenty, tallying crevices until his pulse stopped racing and the thrill ebbed. That’s better.
Tonks rolled onto her face, tangling their legs together and flopping an arm over his chest.
Is she asleep already? Harry held his breath and rolled onto his side.
Nym’s dark hair tumbled across her face, sticking to her lip, and a line of drool hung from the corner of her mouth. Her warm breath tickled his shoulder and a warm little glow rose up within him through the fluttering in his stomach.
‘Definitely a hottie,’ he murmured, closing his eyes.
Nym’s beaming face hovered behind his eyelids as she pranced across the kitchen floor in her striped panties.
I really need a girlfriend. Harry smothered a groan into his pillow. Or at least a bigger bed.
Bright sunlight streamed in through the gap at the top of the curtains, pooling against the door. Nym’s chest rose and fell beside him, the sound of her breathing filled the quiet room and the warm touch of her arms and legs wrapped about him like a blanket.
‘You’re staring.’ Her eyes flickered open, green as his.
Heat rushed to his cheeks. ‘You’re dribbling on my arm.’
Nym flushed and wiped her mouth on the shoulder of her t-shirt, flopping her head back onto the pillow. ‘You know… not to be weird, but this is actually quite nice.’ She hummed and sighed. ‘You’re warm and it feels good to wake up and not be alone.’
Harry let his eyes slide shut, breathing in a soft, violet-tinged smell. Nym.
‘Oi.’ Nym bumped his chin with her forehead. ‘That’s the sort of thing you need to say something to, or you make me feel like an idiot.’
‘It is nice,’ he blurted. ‘It’s just…’
A wicked gleam appeared in her eyes. ‘Are you worried I’m going to notice your morning condition, Harry?’
‘My what?’ He tugged his arm out from under her and patted at his hair. ‘It’s always this bad, I’ve given up on it. Not like it’s worse than the giant scar on my face.’
‘That is not the morning condition I’m talking about.’ Nym sighed. ‘No wonder Ginny’s frustrated. You’re not good at hints.’
‘That was a hint?’
A little smirk crooked the corner of her lips. ‘Are you hoping it is?’ Her smirk spread into a grin. ‘Were you playing stupid, trying to get me to do something silly for a thrill?’
Harry frowned. ‘I’m completely lost.’
Nym snorted. ‘You’re adorable.’ She took a deep breath and squirmed into him. ‘And you smell nice, too.’
‘We should probably get up,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what the time is, but it seems pretty bright outside.’
She moaned. ‘But I’m actually super comfortable where I am.’
‘Well, you stay there, then.’ Harry pushed himself up onto his elbow. ‘I’ll get up. We said we’d go meet Fleur, though, remember.’
‘Oh yeah.’ Nym sat up and smacked her forehead into his cheek. ‘Ow.’
Harry pressed a hand to his stinging face. ‘You are a menace to furniture, even floors, and anyone within range.’
‘Sorry.’ She threw back the covers and stretched. ‘Oh that’s a good stretch. I slept amazingly well.’
Harry watched the white t-shirt ride up to her ribs in the corner of his eye. Don’t stare. He dragged his gaze away from her stomach and the dark blue lace about her hips as his pulse picked up. I think I need a girlfriend.
Nym snickered. ‘Want me to keep stretching for a bit, Harry?’
‘I hate you.’ He staggered out of bed, clapped his glasses onto his face and dragged on the clothes from the heap on the floor. ‘You did that on purpose.’
‘I did.’ She beamed. ‘I knew you’d look.’
Then why do it? His stomach fluttered and coiled into a tight, hot knot. Probably just to make me go red again.
Nym bounced out of the bed, tangled her feet in the duvet and thudded to the floor. ‘Ow,’ she whined. ‘Why didn’t you catch me?’
He helped her to her feet. ‘You’d only take me down with you.’
‘Wasted your chance to get all tangled up with me in just a t-shirt and my underwear,’ she said, grinning. ‘Your loss.’
Harry snorted. ‘I’d just get dribbled on again.’
A sharp knock rang through the room.
‘Harry?’ Hermione called. ‘Are you okay?’
The door creaked open.
Hermione’s face turned scarlet and her jaw dropped. ‘Harry!’
Nym rolled her eyes, tugging the t-shirt down to her thighs. ‘Have you never shared a room with a cousin before, Hermione?’ She grabbed her wand off the bedside table and conjured a duplicate of Harry’s bed. ‘Not even that hard.’
Harry caught her eye and raised an eyebrow.
She smirked. ‘It doesn’t last all that long, but better than nothing.’
‘But there are so many other rooms…’
‘They’re all weirdly empty and probably full of doxies,’ Nym replied. ‘Also, we got back late and I am not good at creeping around quietly.’
‘You turn up in our dormitory all the time, Hermione,’ Harry said. ‘It’s just sharing with my cousin, don’t make it weird.’
‘Yeah.’ Nym’s green eyes shone with mirth. ‘Don’t make it weird, Hermione.’
‘You’re basically naked…’ Hermione shook her head. ‘Fine. Whatever. Clearly Harry’s okay, so I’m just going to go have breakfast.’
‘We’re heading out in a moment,’ Harry said. ‘Promised we’d meet Fleur in Diagon.’
Hermione paused. ‘Is she okay?’
‘Fleur’s a little upset, but she’ll be alright,’ Nym said. ‘So long as she’s not left alone. I let her borrow my flat.’
‘Oh.’ Hermione relaxed. ‘That’s why you’re here. Fleur’s at your place.’
‘Yup.’ Nym grabbed her jeans off the floor and pulled them on. ‘No room to share in my place, it’s just a one bedroom.’
‘I can set up a room for you, if you want?’ Hermione offered. ‘Ron and I really don’t have anything better to do.’
A faint pang twisted beneath Harry’s ribs with the image of her tangle of dark hair and drooling, sleepy smile.
Nym glanced away, plucking her bra off the bedside table. ‘No, it’s okay. I’ll sort it later.’
‘Okay.’ Hermione slipped out, pulling the door closed behind her.
‘Does she always just come right in?’ Nym asked.
‘Everyone does,’ Harry grumbled. ‘You did, too.’
She pushed her bra down the front of her borrowed t-shirt and tugged an arm in through the sleeve, wriggling around with a frown. ‘This is stupid.’ Nym sighed and swivelled around. ‘Can do you it up for me?’
He stared at where the fine dark hairs tumbled down the back of neck. ‘Do what—’
Nym pulled the back of the t-shirt up, baring smooth, pale skin. ‘Just the little clip. Make sure you get both hooks on, I don’t want it to come off and end up wandering around in front of anyone with no bra on.’
Harry swallowed a brief, hot thrill and caught the thin, warm straps between his fingers, drawing them together and inspecting the sets of tiny hooks. ‘Which one?’
‘First one,’ she replied. ‘I can always change me if it’s a little loose.’
‘Right.’ He clasped it and let go. ‘You’re — er — all done.’
Nym shook her t-shirt back down and swept her hair away over one shoulder, baring the fine, dark little hairs at the nape of her neck. ‘I’m going to hold onto this top, since mine’s still grass-stained. Hope that’s alright?’
‘What?’ He tugged his gaze away from the back of her neck and stomped the fluttering in his stomach down. ‘Yeah, no, that’s fine.’
‘Right.’ She twirled around and grabbed his hand. ‘Let’s go see Fleur. Probably time to see Alicia, too, if you want?’
‘Is that okay?’ Harry asked. ‘You don’t have other stuff to do or people you want to see?’
Nym cocked her head, the corner of her mouth curving down. ‘Not really. It’s just you, baby cousin!’
The world crushed the breath from his lungs and flashed dark. Nym’s hand yanked hard on his, dragging him stumbling across the pavement.
‘Close one.’ She patted the lampost a few inches from her nose. ‘Nearly got a few more bruises.’
‘Ice cream brunch?’ Harry pointed at Fortescue’s.
‘Definitely.’ Nym grabbed his hand, tugging him across the street and into the queue. ‘Pick another flavour for me, Harry.’
He skimmed the counter until his gaze fell on a bright pink one. ‘Bubblegum.’
‘Wait, seriously?’ She beamed. ‘I thought they didn’t have it.’
‘The really pink one.’
‘Awesome.’ Nym’s grin spread from ear to ear and a rush of warmth flooded Harry’s chest. ‘Excellent choice. You’re getting rhubarb.’
‘Sounds okay.’ He scanned the seats and caught a flash of blonde from the back. ‘Fleur and Luna are here.’
Fleur waved, gesturing them over.
‘You go,’ Nym said. ‘It’s my turn to pay.’
‘Sure?’ Harry patted his pockets down. ‘I actually don’t have any money.’
‘I’ve got enough.’ She squeezed his hand and released his fingers. ‘Go over there. Try not to say anything stupid, though.’
Right. He drifted through the tables, swerving around a spoon-wielding, screaming toddler and his red-faced mother.
‘Hey Harry!’ Luna beamed and shuffled across, patting the seat. ‘Have a seat.’ She scraped a small spoonful of ice cream out of her bowl and offered it to Fleur. ‘Want to try some? It’s strawberry and it tastes just like your lip gloss.’
Fleur’s face turned bright pink as she bent and let Luna slip the spoon between her lips. ‘It’s nice,’ she whispered. ‘Merci.’
‘We’ve tried nearly all the flavours now.’ Luna put the spoon down and dropped her hand into Fleur’s lap. ‘Just a couple left to go.’
‘Then you can try mixing them,’ Fleur said.
Luna’s grey eyes brightened. ‘Yes. We could make loads of new flavours!’
She seems fine. Harry glanced back across the tables at where Nym was paying. That’s good. I guess Luna cheered Fleur up already.
‘Waiting for your cousin?’ Fleur asked.
‘She’s buying this time,’ he said. ‘She also likes to make me try ice cream flavours.’
A faint crease wrinkled Fleur’s forehead. ‘How long have you known her for? I did not realise you had a cousin.’
‘A few days,’ Harry replied. ‘I didn’t know either. She just rocked up to keep an eye on us because she’s special and already an auror.’
‘She’s very pretty,’ Luna said. ‘Not as kissable-looking as Fleur, but she seems like lots of fun.’
‘She’s fun.’ He caught Fleur’s eye and felt heat rush to his face. ‘Not really thought about kissing her, given she’s my cousin.’
‘I don’t think it would hurt anyone.’ Luna twirled her hair around her finger. ‘You should tell her you think she would be nice to kiss. That’s what I did and I think it went quite well, really.’
Fleur’s cheeks glowed pink in the corner of Harry’s eye. ‘I think Harry meant that he doesn’t think she would be nice to kiss because she’s his cousin.’
‘Oh.’ Luna bobbed her head. ‘I wouldn’t think that would change anything, though. She’s still going to taste and kiss the same as if she wasn’t.’
‘But most people don’t want to kiss their cousins,’ Fleur said. ‘I don’t want to kiss any of mine.’
Luna hummed. ‘I don’t have any cousins, so I’ve not tried kissing them.’
Nym dropped into the chair and slid a bowl of ice cream under Harry’s nose with one finger. ‘What’s this about kissing cousins, Harry? Have you been sharing all our secrets with Fleur and Luna?’
He spluttered, cheeks burning. ‘We’ve not—’
‘Too late to lie, Harry,’ she said, beaming. ‘The secret’s out now.’
Fleur glanced between them, a small frown on her face. ‘You…?’
‘No.’ Harry sighed. ‘She’s just trying to make me go all red again.’
‘You are quite red.’ Luna picked her spoon back up. ‘You look a bit like a strawberry.’
She smiled. ‘That’s okay.’
‘Harry just wishes he could kiss hottie cousin,’ Nym said. ‘He’s been trying to think up a way to convince me to kiss him, so far he’s hoping to tell me he wants to practice for kissing Ginny. I read all about it in his diary.’
‘I’m not fond of diaries,’ he muttered. ‘And I don’t want to kiss Ginny, either.’
‘Didn’t hear you objecting to kissing me, though.’ Nym winked at him. ‘Sounds like your diary was telling the truth.’
Luna nodded. ‘Of course it did, there’d be no point lying in a diary.’
‘I don’t actually have a diary, Luna. She has entirely made this up.’
‘How can she have read your diary if you don’t have one, Harry?’ Luna asked, feeding Fleur ice cream with a little smile. ‘You have to have a diary if she’s read it. Now you just have to ask her to kiss you. I think she’ll say yes.’
Tonks snickered. ‘I’ll say yes, Harry, I promise. Just ask.’
He shook his head and took a mouthful of rhubarb ice cream. ‘I give up.’
Luna studied Harry with serious grey eyes. ‘You have to ask, Harry. Once you’ve asked, then you can kiss her more, because you know she wants to kiss you back.’ She twisted about and tugged Fleur’s lips down to hers, tangling her fingers in her platinum blonde hair. ‘See?’ she breathed, flicking the tip of her tongue across her lips. ‘It’s nice. Fleur tastes like strawberries.’
Heat flooded Harry’s face. ‘I think there’s been a fundamental misunderstanding somewhere, Luna. It’s not about asking or how I ask, it’s about wanting to ask.’
‘Harry’s emotionally stunted, Luna,’ Nym said. ‘He doesn’t notice Ginny’s hints, so he probably has no idea what to do when or if he likes a girl.’
‘I would notice,’ he muttered. ‘Probably.’
A laugh burst from Fleur’s lips. ‘I think your cousin knows you quite well, Harry. You do not notice Ginevra’s hints at all and she is not being very subtle.’
‘I notice them now.’ Harry let another spoonful of sweet, tangy rhubarb melt on his tongue. ‘How was I meant to know what her hints were?’
‘That is what girls usually do,’ Fleur said. ‘We hint and wait for the guy to do something about it.’
‘I don’t hint,’ Luna said. ‘I don’t understand why you’d hint. It’s like asking, but people are less likely to notice. You should just ask, Harry.’
Harry pointed his spoon at Nym. ‘I hate you. You are my second least favourite cousin.’
She snorted and stuck out a bubblegum-pink stained tongue. ‘How did you find my flat, Fleur? Was it okay?’
Fleur nodded. ‘It is perfect, thank you. I am glad I did not have to stay at the Burrow, I do not know if that would have gone well.’
‘Has Bill said anything to you?’ Harry asked.
Luna ate small spoonfuls of ice cream with a wide, bright smile.
Fleur shook her head. ‘He does not know where I am and I have not seen him at work yet.’ She frowned. ‘I will probably transfer away, I think. I do not want to always be there near him, it will only hurt him.’
‘Well, you’re welcome to borrow my flat for a little while yet,’ Nym said. ‘I can just stay at Grimmauld for a while.’
‘Merci,’ Fleur murmured, glancing at Luna. ‘Actually, Nympha — Tonks, I was hoping you would not mind if I invited Luna back to have dinner with me soon.’
Luna beamed. ‘We were going to try and bake something together.’
Nym grinned. ‘I said I didn’t mind, Fleur. Luna can come over to stay whenever. I’ll come by and grab some of my stuff a little bit later today, that way I won’t need to turn up at an awkward moment.’
‘Are you staying with Harry?’ Luna asked.
‘Yes.’ She tousled Harry’s hair. ‘I am babysitting my little baby cousin.’
‘Whose idea was that, anyway?’ he demanded. ‘Since I am definitely the more mature of the two of us.’
‘It was kind of a group effort.’ Nym leant back on her chair. ‘Molly didn’t want Ron and Hermione left to themselves, you probably shouldn’t be in Grimmauld without someone popping by from time to time in case you come across something nasty, and I quite wanted to finally meet my only bearable cousin.’
‘And you’re on a break,’ Harry said. ‘So you literally had nothing else to do.’
‘Bossy Bones forced me to take one,’ she said. ‘Mad-Eye’s being made to do all the admin he’s not done for the last five years apparently, so Bones must be pretty mad at him, too.’
Luna dropped her spoon with a clatter. ‘I am going to go find Daddy, Fleur,’ she said. ‘I said I’d meet him soon near the bank.’
‘I’ll see you tomorrow, then.’ Pink crept across Fleur’s cheeks as she leant forward and pressed a kiss to Luna’s cheek. ‘Be safe.’
Luna beamed and caught Fleur in a long kiss. Harry glanced away, cheeks burning. Nym caught his eye and waggled her eyebrows at him, dripping ice cream onto her t-shirt.
‘You’re ruining my t-shirt,’ he said, pointing at the pink splotches.
‘Oops.’ She pulled out her wand and vanished it. ‘Sorry, Harry.’
Luna bounced to her feet. ‘Bye Harry, bye Tonks. Have fun kissing later.’
‘Bye Luna.’ Harry glowered at Nym. ‘She better not start telling everyone that.’
Nym cackled. ‘Can you imagine the look on Ginny’s face, though? Or Hermione’s?’
Fleur glanced between them. ‘Do you — do you think it is okay?’
Heat flooded his cheeks and he sighed. ‘We don’t actually kiss, Fleur.’
She snorted. ‘Non. I mean, what I did, with Bill, and now, being with Luna…?’
‘Oh.’ He shrugged. ‘I don’t see what’s so wrong with it. You didn’t want to marry him, so it’s fine to say no, and Luna and you seem happy.’
‘We are,’ Fleur murmured. ‘She gives me butterflies, although, she is quite bold. I told her about Bill and she kissed me.’
‘Without asking?’ Harry rolled his eyes. ‘I thought that was important.’
‘She asked.’ Fleur touched her fingertips to her lips. ‘I did not know what to say, so I said yes.’
‘All’s well that ends well. You really don’t seem to mind her kissing you all that much, given how pink you go, Fleur.’ Nym let her chair bang back to the ground. ‘Are we going to find Alicia, Harry?’
‘We can do,’ he said. ‘She’s probably still working, though.’
‘I do need to go back to work,’ Fleur said. ‘Thank you, both of you.’ She glanced from Nym to Harry and back again. ‘I really appreciate it.’
Harry watched her vanish out the door. ‘She seems better.’
‘It’ll take her a bit of time,’ Nym said. ‘But I think she made the right choice. Luna and her have a very comfortable intimacy, even if Fleur gets all blushy about it.’
‘So I’ve heard.’ She picked her spoon back up, tracing circles in the melted ice cream in her bowl. ‘It must be nice to be all close with someone you trust and love. I’ll grab some of my stuff, so I’m not in their way, and let them get all snuggled up together. I’m really quite jealous, really. I’d love to be in their place.’
Like how we were. Harry smothered a wild flutter as his pulse quickened. And it was nice, waking up with someone like that.
‘I’m kind of jealous, too,’ he murmured.
‘Well, if you want a hot girl in your bed, you heard Luna, just ask.’ Nym put her spoon down with a grin. ‘That or you can try and be devious.’
‘Like pretending I can’t conjure a bed?’ Harry’s stomach knotted itself up into a hot tangle he wiped sweat off his palms onto his thighs.
Nym winked. ‘If it works…’
While You Were Sleeping
The slim bar of light creeping in beneath the door faded and the darkness fell over the bed, table, and wardrobe. Ron’s faint snoring drifted through the walls from the far side of the house.
She’s still not back from her flat.
Harry reached down and tugged off one sock, flattening it down, then pulled off the other and lined it up on top of the first. He straightened his cold pillows and the duvet.
What are you waiting for? It was a one time joke. She’s probably talking with Fleur and will just want to get her stuff sorted in a room and that’s that.
He tugged the thick, faded purple curtains across to cover the full moon and blinked into the gloom until the faint outline of the bedside table came into view. A sweet, soft pain twisted beneath his ribs, tightening until it caught in his throat.
‘This is stupid.’ Harry pulled his t-shirt off and kicked his jeans away into the corner. ‘There’s nothing to wait for anyway.’ He swept his socks onto the floor and wriggled under the duvet, pulling his glasses off and dropping them on the table. ‘She was just messing with you, it doesn’t matter if it was nice.’
Harry closed his eyes and held his breath. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Si—
A loud pop tore through the room.
He scrabbled for his glasses, sitting up and pulling the duvet up about his shoulders. ‘Nym?’
‘Yeah,’ she whispered. ‘Just me.’
Harry swallowed. ‘What are you doing?’
‘I got distracted talking to Fleur,’ Nym said. ‘Got all my stuff in my old school trunk here, but…’
His heart began to hammer against his ribs and he strained his eyes at her silhouette before the door. ‘But…?’
‘You really are bad at hints. Even innocent ones.’ Her footsteps creaked across the floorboards. ‘Look, I know it’s maybe a little weird, but you didn’t seem to mind yesterday, so…’
A soft, white glow lit the room.
Nym’s green eyes and white hair shone, an arm’s length from him. ‘That’s better. I can see what you’re thinking now.’
A little heat crept onto his cheeks. ‘No you can’t.’
‘I can when you go all red like that.’ She put her wand down on the beside table. ‘I’m taking your lack of reply to be yes, by the way, since you’d only go red if you wanted to say yes but weren’t sure.’
Nym tugged the button open on her jeans. ‘To my question.’
He frowned. ‘You didn’t ask a question.’
‘It was implied.’ She wriggled out of her jeans. ‘I gave you plenty of hints what I wanted all day, which was obviously stupid of me, because we were literally talking about how you don’t get them and you inevitably never said anything, but still, I think you know what I mean.’
‘You mean — you want…?’
‘It was nice waking up with someone instead of by myself,’ she murmured, flapping a hand at him. ‘Now budge over.’
Harry shuffled across the bed, heart pounding. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Don’t overthink it.’ Nym squirmed in beside him and snuggled into his shoulder. ‘It’s just nice being close to someone.’
‘Okay.’ He inhaled a gentle rush of violets and a faint tang of warm spice. ‘I’ll try not to.’
‘Also, I’m not going to try and stay on one side this time, because it’s not going to happen anyway.’
He snorted. ‘You were trying last time?’
‘I was and I woke up all tangled up with you and drooling on your arm.’ She snickered. ‘I’m going to drool on you again, by the way, so… sorry?’
‘I didn’t really mind,’ Harry murmured. ‘It — it was nice waking up close to someone. Especially after watching Hermione and Ron be all close and coupley all the time.’
‘I’ll move my stuff into another room tomorrow.’ Nym’s warm breath tickled his neck as she tugged the duvet toward her. ‘If you want me to.’
A wild fluttering swirled in the pit of his stomach and he took a deep breath. ‘What if — what if I said I didn’t want you to?’
A small smile curved her lips. ‘I’d probably just stay and drool on you some more.’ She wriggled, tangling her cold feet into his warm legs with a soft sigh. ‘I’m going to sleep now, Harry. G’night.’
‘Night, Nym,’ he whispered, letting his eyes slide shut.
A warm, soft weight leant into him, the quiet sound of Nym’s breathing filled the room and a hot, damp patch of duvet rested over his arm.
Harry opened his eyes.
A tangle of white hair fell across Nym’s face, sticking to the dark splotch on the duvet beneath the wet gleam on her chin. A soft fluttering stirred in Harry’s stomach and reached across to brush her hair off her face.
Nym shifted, wiggling her toes against his legs, and her eyes flickered open.
Harry froze. ‘Er… hi?’
She blinked twice, squinting at his hand. ‘And where were you about to stick that hand, Harry?’ A grin spread across her lips. ‘Should I curse you?’
‘You had hair in your face,’ he mumbled, flushing. ‘It looked annoying…’
Nym laughed. ‘I’m just teasing.’ She released a long sigh. ‘I’m glad I came back to your room, now. I nearly didn’t.’
‘You didn’t want to?’ He rested his hand on her shoulder as it grew heavy.
Her eyes flicked to his hand and a faint smile formed on her face. ‘I thought you might think it was too weird.’
‘I don’t find it weird,’ Harry murmured. ‘But it is. People would tell us it’s weird.’
‘Yeah.’ Nym shrugged and his hand slipped off into the duvet. ‘I like this. Don’t really care if other people find it weird. Other people have always found me weird.’
‘Because you’re a super amazing special talented prodigy?
‘That and because I can’t walk over flat surfaces or past furniture without managing to trip over or bump into it.’ She grabbed his hand and pulled his arm around her. ‘There, even better.’
‘Do you know what the time is?’ Harry leant his head back to peer at the gold glow behind the curtains. ‘I feel like it’s mid-morning.’
‘Did you have plans?’ Nym closed her eyes. ‘I’m really rather comfortable where I am.’
‘Not really. But if Hermione comes in and catches us like this I will absolutely never hear the end of it.’
‘She’s not your mother, just ignore her.’ Nym snickered. ‘In fact, ignore her even if she is.’ Her hair darkened to auburn and she opened her eyes. ‘What did I tell you about sleeping with your cousin, sweetie? It was cute when you were six, but it’s a bit worrying for us all now.’
‘That is weird.’ Harry grimaced. ‘Please go back to white hair.’
‘I’m just making sure Ginny and Hermione can’t Oedipus trap you into a relationship.’ She cackled under her breath. ‘Not that I have any ground to stand on when it comes to weird.’
‘As long as Sirius’s Mum never finds out, she might actually approve.’ He closed his eyes, straining his ears. ‘I can’t hear Ron snoring, so it’s at least ten in the morning.’
‘Sounds about right,’ Nym said. ‘I slept very well.’
‘Oi.’ He gave a lock of her auburn hair a gentle tug. ‘Try not to mess me up anymore than you already have, please?’
A bright spark of mischief welled up in her eyes and she wriggled closer. ‘How have I messed you up, baby cousin?’ she purred. ‘Did I do something you didn’t like?’
Harry swallowed as his blood rushed south, searing through his veins. ‘I’m fairly sure that saying things like that is going to do some lasting emotional damage.’
‘We’ll blame it on Cho,’ Nym said, ooching closer until they were pressed together. A huge grin spread across her face. ‘Guess what I can feel, Harry?’
Heat flooded his cheeks. ‘I don’t know, but I’m very sure it’s going to be embarrassing for me somehow.’
She stuck a hand out from under the cover and mussed his hair. ‘You definitely have a morning condition.’
He scowled and batted her hand away. ‘I do now.’
Nym sniggered. ‘Still so obtuse.’ Her eyes flicked down to where their legs tangled beneath the covers. ‘I don’t mean your hair, Harry, I mean what I can feel poking me in the tummy.’
Harry’s face flashed hot and he cringed, shuffling back until his back hit the wall and hoping the bed would open up and swallow him. ‘Sorry,’ he muttered, staring at the damp patch on the duvet. ‘It — er — it happens?’
‘Like me drooling.’ Nym shifted and stretched. ‘I should get up and sort my stuff out.’
‘I thought you were comfortable?’ He chewed his lip. ‘I didn’t make it weird, did I?’
‘I’m not bothered, Harry,’ she said. ‘I’m not getting up because I’m feeling uncomfortable, I’m getting up because if I don’t, I might get tempted to do something stupid.’
A thrill fluttered through his veins. ‘Like?’ Harry held his breath.
‘Like trying to see just how red I can make you go.’ Nym rolled out from under the duvet and stretched up to tug the curtains open at the top.
Harry watched her t-shirt ride up over her hips and took several deep breaths. Don’t think about weird things. Don’t think about weird things. He dragged his eyes away from the black lace underwear and up to the ceiling. Don’t think about weird things.
Nym picked her wand up and padded across to her trunk, flicking her discarded clothes into the corner next to Harry’s with a foot. ‘Right. I’d better set myself up next door.’ She vanished with a loud pop.
Cold air flooded into the bed as a faint breeze swept through the gap in the curtains. Harry rolled over and breathed in a faint wash of violets off Nym’s half off their pillow.
I suppose I should get up, too.
He shoved the duvet back and stumbled to the wardrobe, snatching a clean t-shirt off a hanger and tugging on a fresh pair of jeans.
A quiet knock echoed through the room.
The door creaked open and Hermione stuck her head in. ‘The fact that you immediately expected it to be Tonks visiting you in your bedroom is a little worrying, Harry.’ Her eyes swept across the room. ‘Can I come in?’
‘You’re actually asking?’ He frowned. ‘Has something happened?’
‘You tell me.’ She winced. ‘Sorry, forget I said that, that didn’t come out how I wanted it to.’ Hermione eased the door shut behind her. ‘Tonks seems to be all settled next door.’
‘She got some more of her stuff from her flat last night.’ Harry pointed his wand at his mouth and cast a quick cleaning charming. ‘Is something wrong with you and Ron? Is that why you’re sneaking in here to talk to me?’
‘What? No!’ Hermione shook her head. ‘You’re lying to me is what’s wrong.’
He frowned. ‘I’m not lying to you.’
‘I wandered around the house after I got up and that room was empty an hour ago.’ She folded her arms. ‘So were all the other rooms.’
Harry shrugged. ‘So?’
‘Was she in here?’ Hermione demanded.
‘So what if she was?’ Harry replied. ‘She’s my cousin.’
‘Okay, I think I need to tell you some things.’ She drifted across and perched on the end of his bed. ‘I talked to Percy after you left with Tonks and Fleur, because, well, stuff was obviously happening, and I asked him about Tonks.’
A little knot tightened in his gut. ‘And?’
‘She’s suspended from work—’
‘She was made to take a break,’ Harry said. ‘I know.’
Hermione held up her hands. ‘I’m just going to tell you what I heard and what it makes me think, okay. You don’t have to agree with me.’
‘She was suspended for instability,’ Hermione murmured. ‘Apparently, Mad-Eye was a terrible supervisor, taught her loads of auror stuff, but didn’t pay any attention to how she was feeling. He’s also suspended, but Amelia Bones is making him do other stuff because she’s really furious about it.’
‘She’s not unstable—’
‘I’m just saying what Percy told me,’ she replied. ‘He said she was suspended for signs of emotional instability. She was working all day and night on ridiculous hunches and ideas, didn’t socialise with anyone at the office, and doesn’t talk to her parents or have any friends. Aurors are legally allowed to use lethal force if she judges it necessary or appropriate, but their mental wellbeing is monitored in case their judgment is compromised.’
A little sour heat curled onto Harry’s tongue. ‘So? You think Percy’s not holding a grudge after she transfigured a dick onto his face when they were at school.’
‘He is very much holding a grudge,’ Hermione muttered. ‘But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. She’s… look, I was moved up a class or two at primary school, before I got my Hogwarts letter, and I had no friends or anything, just my parents. I was really really lonely, Harry. At Hogwarts, I latched onto the first person who showed they cared about me and followed him somewhere I thought might get me killed. Tonks went through all her life like that. I don’t think it’s unlikely she’s not a little unstable in some ways.’
‘She seems fine to me.’
‘She’s been all over you since the moment she arrived,’ Hermione said. ‘And I mean all over. It’s like watching Lavender. She was stripping in the kitchen just to catch your eye for a few moments. It’s always cousin this and cousin that. She’s said barely nothing to Ron or I.’
‘She got ice-cream—’
‘And she couldn’t vanish it? She has more academic records at Hogwarts than I could ever hope of holding and I am quite good at exams, Harry.’
And she could transfigure a bed just fine. He stomped the thought out. I already knew she was doing it on purpose, it was obvious.
‘So?’ He shrugged. ‘Nothing bad’s going to happen. She just feels strongly about family and wants to be close to her cousin. In fact, you know what, she already told me that. When she arrived.’
‘I don’t think you really get how much she wants to be close with you.’ Hermione pursed her lips. ‘I am still your best friend, Harry. I’ve risked my life for you, I will — I will do it again, and I don’t and won’t ever regret it, I promise, but what started it was you showing me you cared about me in first year.’
‘Go tell Ron that.’
She winced. ‘I don’t think Ron would understand.’
‘I don’t think I understand,’ Harry muttered.
‘She’s not going to let go.’ Hermione raised her palms. ‘If I’m right, she’s going to latch right onto you. You’re already sharing a room.’ She shot him a long look. ‘And I’m pretty sure that meant sharing a bed, too.’
Heat rose on his face. ‘She’s my cousin.’
‘I don’t think Tonks is going to care about that,’ Hermione whispered. ‘She’s latched on and she will do whatever she thinks she has to do to be close to you.’
‘This is getting really weird.’ Harry clenched his jaw and bit back a flare of anger. ‘And you know what I think, Hermione?’
She bit her lip. ‘No…?’
‘I think you think spinning this story out of half-truths is the right thing to do, not just because of Nym, but because you’re trying to play match-maker between Ginny and I.’ He took a deep breath. ‘And I think I made how I’d feel about going out with Ginny pretty clear.’
‘Okay,’ she said. ‘I have kind of been helping Ginny a bit, so I can see why you would think that. I’m your friend first, though. I’ll help Ginny get a chance, but that’s it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t.’
‘You could give her a chance to be more than Ron’s little sister, you know,’ Hermione chided. ‘But, that’s not important right now. I don’t want you to get hurt because Tonks is unstable and clings to you. If you…. cross lines, people are going to get upset and you’ll burn bridges. Ron’s parents and family will find it weird. God, I find it weird, Harry, but I can ignore it.’
‘You know we’re literally just sharing a bed, right?’
‘And there’s no way it could end up as anything more than that.’ Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘You’re the same age. She’s clingy and very pretty. You’re a boy. It’s basically inevitable…’
‘No it’s not.’
She stared at him.
‘It isn’t.’ Harry turned it over in his head. ‘Okay, you know what, I can kind of see that she might feel a bit more strongly about being close to me than is normal, but that just means I should be there for her, because it means so much to her.’
‘It’s just sharing a bed.’
Hermione sighed. ‘You know, everyone always thinks that Ron’s the stubborn one, but he changes his mind the moment he gets proven wrong. You are way more stubborn than he is.’
‘I’ll tell Ron that you’re latching onto him because we saved you from a troll and we’ll see if he suddenly changes his mind about going out with you, shall we?’ Harry asked.
‘That’s — that’s not the same.’
‘It’s exactly the same,’ he said. ‘You made the comparison before I did.’
‘No, I mean, the consequences are different,’ Hermione replied. ‘If Ron and I fall apart, then we break up, and that won’t be nice, but, well, Ron’s not my cousin, and I don’t know how self-aware Tonks is, but I don’t think she’s going to ignore how she feels because she knows it’s not quite right.’
‘You know,’ he muttered. ‘Before you came in here, I wasn’t thinking about anything like that. It was really simple. We liked it, so we did it, and it was just between the two of us.’
‘That’s the sort of logic that starts off as sleeping together and ends up as sleeping together.’ Hermione stood up. ‘I’m going to give you some space, Harry. Please think about it. Be careful with Tonks. What’s best for her, and you, might not be what you want or are tempted to do.’
‘I’ll think about it.’
‘Thank you.’ She paused at the door. ‘I am just trying to help, Harry. I promise.’ Hermione gnawed at her lip. ‘And I think Ron and I being quite affectionate in front of you all the time is probably part of the problem, too, so I’m not exactly blameless.’
He mustered a smile. ‘I know you’re just trying to help. Thank you.’
Is she right? Harry listened to Hermione’s footsteps fade down the corridor. Does it matter? She’s happy with Ron, isn’t she?
The door creaked open.
‘That sounded like a serious conversation.’ Nym slipped in and shut the door after her. ‘What was it about?’
‘Us,’ Harry blurted. ‘She knew you were in here.’
‘Oh well.’ Nym shrugged. ‘Guess that saves us some sneaking about.’
He chewed the inside of his cheek. ‘Did you — did you get suspended?’
‘Yeah, technically.’ She drifted across and flopped onto the bed. ‘Bossy Bonesy seems to think I need a break and to spend more time with people.’
‘Because of emotional instability…’
Nym stiffened and sat up. ‘Bloody Percy. It bet he made it sound really bad, that dickhead.’
‘Hermione thinks you’re very invested in being close to me,’ Harry murmured. ‘Because you’re lonely.’
She froze. ‘I — I don’t know what to say. Of course I’m invested. You’re my cousin and you’re my age. Of course I want to be close with you. What’s wrong with that?’
Nothing, or at least, not that I can see. Harry grimaced. Well, now what, Hermione?
‘I thought you were okay with everything?’ Nym whispered. ‘Are you not okay? What did Hermione say?’
‘She was worried about — about how close we might get.’
She snorted. ‘I’ve already caught you looking a few times, and that’s just this morning.’
Harry’s face flashed hot. ‘Sorry.’
‘I don’t mind.’ Nym fiddled with the duvet, twisting it over her fingers. ‘It was kind of flattering, really.’ She shuffled across next to him. ‘Let me guess what she said. Lonely prodigy looking for intimacy with the first person she finds who’s her own age?’
‘More or less,’ Harry murmured.
‘She’s probably right. She probably knows firsthand.’ Nym leant her head on his shoulder. ‘I was lonely for years. I cried a lot at school, not having any friends, not wanting to do what everyone else around wanted to do, always being resented for being better. My parents never understood, they were too proud of how well I did to understand. And then I went to train as an auror. It was just the same. So yeah, I came here hoping I’d be able to finally have someone close my own age. I’m very happy it worked out.’
A warm glow settled in Harry’s chest and a smile crept across his lips. ‘And what she’s worried about?’
‘You mean us doing more than sharing a bed? If you weren’t totally oblivious, baby cousin, I’d think you were dropping hints and trying to put ideas in my head.’ She snickered. ‘I think that’d be a bit weird for everyone. Although, that doesn’t seem to have stopped Fleur and Luna from being happy.’
Relief flooded through Harry and he let his shoulders sag.
‘Better?’ Nym asked. ‘I felt that sigh.’
‘Yeah, better.’ He flashed her a smile. ‘I was worried, I quite like being close to you, and I didn’t want to have to stop.’
‘I don’t really see what’s so bad about us being close,’ she said, jumping to her feet. ‘I’m not a complete headcase, I swear.’
‘Just a little bit of one.’
Nym winked. ‘A little bit of crazy is a whole lot of fun.’ She shrugged. ‘Or so all the guys at the department keep telling me, at least.’
‘You are quite fun to be around,’ Harry said. ‘I can’t deny that.’
‘So are you. So you must be a little crazy, too.’
Something's Gotta Give
Frost crystals crowned the smooth, violet ice cream, rising in slim, small clear spines. Harry scraped the edge of the spoon through them and let the ice cream melt on his tongue in a burst of sweet cherry.
‘That’s really good, not at all the same as the other cherry one, either.’ He dug the spoon back in.
‘Fleur said there are actually loads of great flavours, apparently Luna’s fed all of them to her now, so they’ve started mixing them up to create new ones.’ Nym pulled a stool up beside him. ‘My turn.’
Harry held out the spoon. ‘I guess you did pay for it.’
Nym wrapped her warm fingers around his wrist and pulled his hand toward her, catching the spoon between her lips. She grinned and swallowed, licking a drop of ice cream off her lower lip. ‘I think I prefer the other cherry flavour, it’s less sweet and more sharp and strong.’
‘I quite like this one.’
She twisted around on the stool, ducking under his arm and dropping her head into his lap. ‘That’s better.’
‘How are you going to eat ice cream lying down?’
Nym snickered. ‘You’ll have to do a Luna and feed it to me.’
Hermione tutted and swept water back into the sink with her hand, shaking clear drops into the ceramic basin. ‘I guess this is how you felt watching Ron and I.’ She sighed. ‘You know this isn’t healthy.’
Nym rolled her eyes. ‘I know, I know, there’s too much sugar in ice cream. You shouldn’t have it for breakfast. Your parents are dentists, Hermione, they’ve been deceiving you.’
‘Come to the dark side.’ Harry chuckled as two little patches of pink rose on her cheeks. ‘It’s much tastier than toast.’
‘You are not feeding me ice cream, Harry.’
‘More for us.’ Nym swept a stray lock of white hair off her face. ‘Is Ron up yet?’
‘No.’ Hermione checked her watch. ‘He won’t be for another half an hour.’
‘We’ll be gone by then.’ Harry scooped another spoonful out of the ice cream and caught the gleam in Nym’s green eyes. ‘Fine…’ He lowered the spoon. ‘You’re so lazy, not even feeding yourself.’
A choked cough burst from Hermione.
Harry glanced up.
She grabbed the tea towel and dried her hands. ‘Are you going to see Fleur again?’
‘Alicia.’ He stole a mouthful of ice cream for himself. ‘But Nym is going to see Fleur.’
‘Is she still doing okay?’ Hermione asked.
‘I think so,’ Harry said. ‘But understanding girls is apparently not my greatest gift, so…’
‘She’s doing okay.’ Nym stretched in his lap, wriggling her bare toes and pushing her head back into him.
A flutter of heat swirled south.
‘Up you get.’ Harry hoisted her out of his lap as his cheeks warmed. ‘You can feed yourself, you’re a big girl.’
Nym pouted. ‘I was comfy. Don’t you like having your hottie cousin so close, baby cousin?’ She cocked her head and grinned, mischief gleaming in familiar green eyes. ‘Or do you like it a bit too much.’
Hermione choked on her toast, spluttering crumbs into the sink. ‘I am right here,’ she wheezed.
‘Never seemed to bother you and Ron,’ Harry replied.
‘Well, yes, but—’
‘But?’ Nym bounced out of her stool and stole the ice cream and spoon from Harry’s hands. ‘Are you jealous? Would you rather it was you feeding me ice cream, Hermione?’
Hermione put her hands on hips, scarlet-faced, and let out a long sigh. ‘You know what. I’m not even going to try. Do whatever.’ She whirled on her heel and stalked out.
‘I guess she doesn’t want ice cream,’ Nym said, sauntering across to the sink. She swept her hair over her shoulder and stuck the ice cream back in the freezer and twisted on the tap.
Water drummed on the basin.
Harry’s eyes slid up from where she bounced from one bare foot to the other, to where small, dark curls tumbled down the back of her neck. The flutter of heat returned, a sharp twist in his stomach, a soft pang beneath his ribs. He stood up and took a deep breath, catching a faint wash of violets.
Does she taste like violets, too? Harry swallowed and took another couple of deep breaths. For god’s sake, Hermione, this is your fault. You put this in my head.
Nym twirled ‘round and dropped their spoon in the drying rack. ‘Time to…’ A small smile spread across her face. ‘You’re staring, Harry.’
He studied the grime on the window frame, heat rushing to his cheeks. ‘No I’m not.’
She slid a few steps closer. ‘And you’re really red.’
‘Only because you’re winding me up again,’ he muttered. ‘Such a tease.’
‘You love it.’ Nym shook her hair out. ‘I’ll always be your favourite cousin.’
‘I don’t know, Dudley might stage an unexpected comeback.’
‘Well,’ she murmured, ‘let me know if you’d rather wake up holding him instead of me. I’ll be quite upset, but I’m sure I can change your mind.’
Dudley naked in the shower. Dudley naked in the shower. A blurred image hovered before his mind’s eye beyond the condensation-veiled shower door, slim and curved in all sorts of places Dudley was not. And Dudley definitely doesn’t have purple hair, either.
‘Done fantasising?’ Nym teased. ‘We should head to Diagon…’
Harry’s cheeks burnt. ‘I wasn’t fantasising.’
‘Don’t worry little cousin,’ she purred. ‘I definitely believe you.’
He sighed. ‘Just take me to Diagon, you’ve had your fun, I’m all red.’
‘It’s adorable.’ Nym slid a step closer, a strange gleam in her green eyes. ‘Pick a colour, Harry.’
‘Good choice.’ She beamed, shaking out her hair as it brightened to violet. ‘I’m keeping your eyes, though.’
‘They’re all yours,’ Harry murmured.
‘Just how I like it.’ Nym held out her hand. ‘Let’s go see some people. I’ll check Fleur and Luna haven’t ruined my flat, you can try and escape the friendzone with Alicia.’
‘That’s very much not what I’m trying to do, but okay.’ Harry took her hand, sliding his fingers through hers with a trembling thrill.
The world squeezed tight about them, cold and dark but for the warmth of Nym’s fingers in his, and they stumbled onto the pavement.
Her hand yanked free of his.
‘Ow.’ Nym groaned and stepped back from the metal bollard, doubling over. ‘It was inevitable, wasn’t it?’
‘I think so.’ Harry laughed. ‘Are you okay?’
‘It got me in a very sensitive place.’ She took a deep breath and grimaced. ‘Hurts for girls, too.’
‘Ouch.’ He winced. ‘Sorry.’
‘Not your fault, little cousin, I’m the one who landed us right on it.’ Nym mustered a grin. ‘You’ll just have to be extra careful where you’re sticking your hands when we’re sleeping, because I think that’s left a bruise.’
Heat rushed to his face. ‘I haven’t stuck my hands anywhere bad.’
‘Not while you were awake,’ she retorted, poking her tongue out at him. ‘You definitely got a feel or two in while you were sleeping.’
‘Was it because you star-fished and threw yourself over me? I bet it was.’
Nym flapped a hand at him. ‘Semantics.’
‘Sounds like a pretty important distinction from where I’m standing,’ he said.
‘Go find the girl you’re pining after,’ she said, straightening up. ‘I’ll come find you after I’ve caught up with Fleur.’
‘We’ll be at the store, Alicia’s still working,’ Harry replied. ‘Are you okay?’
‘I’ll be okay, though I might heal that bruise in a moment,’ she murmured. ‘Most of them I’m used to, but this is a sore one. Not doing it in the middle of the street, though. There are places a witch just isn’t meant to stick her wand in public.’
Harry flushed. ‘You could have just said yes.’
‘But you look so adorable when you go all red, baby cousin,’ Nym cooed.
She snorted. ‘And you love me.’
His stomach fluttered and knotted. ‘No I don’t. You’re my second least favourite cousin.’
She beamed. ‘Later, Harry!’
He watched her purple hair disappear into Fortescue’s and strode up the street, squeezing through the crowd into the quidditch store. Alicia’s brown hair stuck out from beside the broom polish shelf.
She smiled. ‘No cousin?’
‘Not this time,’ he said. ‘She’s gone to meet Fleur.’
‘Oh.’ Alicia’s smile faded. ‘Her. I heard about that from the Twins.’
Harry frowned. ‘What did they say? Fleur’s not done anything wrong.’
‘She’s led Bill on for ages, agreed to marry him, then broke his heart and run off to have a fling with some girl younger than you.’ Alicia shook her head. ‘It’s really not okay.’
‘Well, she shouldn’t marry someone she doesn’t love,’ Harry said.
‘No.’ Alicia stuck a hand out and diverted a running child away from the shelf. ‘I didn’t mean that, though. I mean going out with Luna. Luna is four years younger than her. It’s really weird. Like not okay weird.’
‘I guess it is a bit of a gap,’ Harry said.
‘It’s a big gap. Like, if they were ten years older, then it’s nothing, but they’re not. Who knows what she’s influencing Luna to do.’
‘I’d be more worried about Luna influencing Fleur,’ he said. ‘I’m almost certain that Luna more or less told Fleur she wanted to kiss her and just kept doing it until Fleur realised she quite liked the idea.’
‘Wait, Luna asked her out?’ Alicia’s brow creased. ‘The Twins said Fleur asked Luna.’
‘They’re wrong. Or lying, but they probably just assumed.’ Harry studied the stacks of broom polish. ‘Luna is kind of… direct. She keeps telling me and Nym to kiss.’
Alicia snorted. ‘I bet you go all red.’
‘Yeah, I go all red.’ He scowled. ‘Why is that so entertaining for everyone?’
‘It’s fun to get a reaction.’ She shrugged. ‘Most guys try and play it all stoic and unmoved. Makes you feel like they’re not fussed at all and you’re throwing yourself at a rock. And, well, you kind of have a rep for being the rockiest of rocks, because if you don’t notice Lavender’s hints, then you’re either asleep, dead, or gay.’
‘I’m fairly sure I’m none of those.’
‘Sure you’re not gay?’ Alicia stuck a leg out to stop the child as he came hurtling back around and pointed him toward the door. ‘Do you even think about girls at all? Like, ever seen one and thought about kissing her, or, you know…?’
Heat crept onto his cheeks. ‘Yes. I’m not gay. Or dead!’
‘What about asleep?’
He glared at her. ‘I wish I’d befriended Katie now.’
Alicia snorted. ‘Yeah, I bet. She’s the forward one. You and her would probably have been all around the locker room by now. She’d love making you go all red.’
‘So you’re what, shy?’ He raised his eyebrows. ‘You really don’t seem all that shy to me.’
‘Because you’re a basically a rock,’ she said. ‘I know you’re not interested so I don’t get all nervous. No butterflies.’
‘What if I said I was,’ he replied.
Alicia laughed. ‘I don’t believe you.’ She pursed her lips. ‘Although, if you were interested in a girl it would explain why you don’t notice any others? Have you secretly had a crush on someone all this time, Harry?’
‘Yeah, Daphne Greengrass.’
‘No, it’s a joke.’ Harry sighed. ‘Because I thought she wasn’t real.’
‘Doesn’t make sense. She’s really real. Also super shy.’
‘Nym would’ve got the joke,’ he muttered.
‘She probably would’ve got jealous,’ Alicia murmured.
Harry stared at her. ‘What?’
Alicia turned a little pink. ‘I was just joking, because, like, she is kind of all over you, Harry. Like, Lavender bad. If she wasn’t your cousin…’
‘Well she is.’ Harry smothered a brief, bright, hot flutter in his stomach. ‘So that would be weird.’
He glanced around the store and back at the shelves of broom polish. ‘So why are you guarding the shelf?’
‘Your cousin broke it.’
‘Don’t be, it’s a lot easier standing here warning people than actually working on the till.’ Alicia giggled. ‘And the other girl, who’s really bitchy, had to pick up all the tins, so it’s been pretty good for me.’
‘Heya!’ Nym’s purple hair meandered through the crowd toward them.
‘Protect the shelf,’ Harry said. ‘Quick. It might take both of us to stop her.’
‘Oi.’ Nym appeared from between two families. ‘I’ve already had one major Tonks moment, and I usually only manage one a day.’
‘How was Fleur?’
‘I said hi, but she was very much fine.’ She pulled a face and leant on Harry’s shoulder. ‘Third-wheeling isn’t my favourite thing to do. She and Luna were all over one another. So much unnecessary touching and holding.’
Alicia’s eyebrows went up.
‘Well, I’m glad she’s okay,’ Harry said.
Nym snickered. ‘But even more glad that you’ve got your hot cousin back to yourself.’
‘I’m sharing you with Alicia,’ Harry said. ‘In fact, Alicia, would you just like to have her to yourself?’
‘Er, no thanks,’ Alicia said. ‘I’m not into girls. Tried kissing Katie a couple of times when she was going through a phase, was just a bit weird. You’ll have to send your cousin back to Fleur.’ She pulled a face. ‘I still find the fact she’s going out with a girl much younger than her kind of not okay.’
Nym shrugged. ‘As long as people are happy, I don’t really see why it matters.’
He nodded. ‘Yeah, they’re not hurting anyone, in fact, they’re actually pretty good company. Well, provided someone stops convincing Luna to say weird things.’
‘I would never.’ Nym grinned. ‘She came to that all by herself.’
‘Sure she did,’ Harry muttered.
‘Alicia!’ A blonde girl strode through the crowd, waving her folded apron in one hand. ‘I’m on break, you’re up.’
‘Damn.’ Alicia sighed. ‘I can’t really chat and do the till, Harry, sorry.’
‘It’s alright. I’ll come back.’ He glanced at Nym. ‘Home?’
She nodded. ‘Yeah, I think so.’
‘Bye, Alicia.’ Harry pushed Nym away from the shelf. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t let her break anything on the way out.’
She took his hand as Alicia headed to the tills and drifted toward the exit. ‘So how’s the friendzone treating you, baby cousin?’
‘I want to be her friend.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘Not every girl I know is someone I’d want to go out with.’
Nym cocked her head. ‘Which ones are?’
‘Just Daphne Greengrass.’
She snorted. ‘Nice try. I’m sure there’s at least one.’
Harry glanced down at their hands. ‘No, it’s really just Daphne.’
‘Not tempted by little Ginny?’ A broad grin spread across Nym’s face and her hair flashed auburn. ‘What about me? I can look exactly like your mother, to really nail those deep-seated issues.’
‘You’re creating deep-seated issues,’ Harry muttered. ‘Go back to some other colour before you do any more emotional damage.’
She laughed and the world closed tight around them, spilling them onto their bed.
‘Better?’ Nym shoved his over and flopped down against his side, kicking her shoes off as her hair shivered bright purple.
Harry pulled off his trainers and tossed them into the corner, dropping his head back onto the pillow. ‘Much better.’
Nym squirmed against his side, jabbing him in the ribs with her elbow.
‘Ow.’ Harry fended her off. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Getting comfy.’ She stuck a hand down her top and tugged a dark blue bra out, dropping it on the side table. ‘That’s much better.’
‘Tell that to my ribs.’
‘Trust me, my boobs are way happier right now.’ Nym grinned and wriggled out of her jeans, flicking them off the bed with her foot. ‘Nym’s boobs are a free elf.’
He shuddered. ‘Now there’s an image I didn’t need.’
‘Like you haven’t thought about them before,’ she murmured. ‘I know when you’re staring, you go all red. And part of my auror training is to make good use of reflective surfaces to observe my surroundings, so I’m always watching, little cousin.’
Harry’s face burnt. ‘I meant the house elf bit.’
‘Oh.’ Nym squirmed into his side and flopped one arm over his stomach. ‘Well, that’s fair enough.’
‘What do you want to do?’ he asked.
‘Mmmm.’ She drew slow circles on his t-shirt, tracing the patterns with her fingertips. ‘I’m pretty comfy now. Can just stay here.’
His stomach fluttered as her fingers caught the hem of his t-shirt, baring a couple of inches of his stomach. ‘Sure?’
‘There’s not really much to do here,’ Nym said. ‘I can just lie about with you and do nothing.’
Harry stole a deep breath as faint heat traced through his veins. ‘What would you do if you were home?’
‘Probably work.’ Her warm fingertips drifted onto his skin and a little shiver rippled through him. ‘Or watch sappy romantic films.’
‘Yeah.’ A little pink blossomed across her cheeks. ‘I like them. A lot. Watching all those silly rom coms where people find that magic connection. It really gets me.’
‘Never seen them.’ Harry strained his memory, trying to ignore the warmth of her hand sliding under his t-shirt. ‘My aunt was more of a soap opera fan.’
‘Urgh.’ Nym’s fingers traced light circles across his stomach beneath his shirt. ‘No thanks. So much silly drama.’
‘Because rom-coms have absolutely none of that.’ Harry chucked. ‘Right?’
‘It’s not the same,’ she murmured. ‘There’s drama, but it always works out, the guy and the girl always have some beautiful intimate moment and fall in love.’
‘Soap operas do tend to go the other way.’ A flutter of heat swirled in his stomach as he caught her green eyes. ‘I guess I’m probably with you, though I’ve not seen any. Just Love Actually, which is basically a rite of passage.’
Nym tugged her other hand out from under his arm and drew his hand over her, sliding it beneath her loose shirt onto the hot, bare skin of her back. Harry held his breath, Nym’s lips and fingers whirled through snatches of blurry faced actors kissing upon the television. His hand slid up her back along the curve of her spine.
She let out a soft sigh and leant her head back. ‘That’s very nice.’
He took a deep breath as the heat flashed south. ‘I — er — I need a little bit of space, Nym.’
‘Oh?’ A soft little gleam shone in her green eyes and she squirmed a little closer, her breath washed from parted, pink lips to wash across his cheek in a faint rush of violets. ‘Why? I’m very comfortable right now.’
Heat flooded his face. ‘You know why,’ he whispered, draggin his eyes away from her lips. ‘I’m having a really hard time remembering you’re my cousin right now, so I think it’d be smart to take a moment to breathe, before I do something stupid.’
‘Something stupid,’ Nym murmured. ‘But I’m the genius prodigy special child.’ She held his gaze, lips quivering, and tilted her chin up toward him. ‘And I don’t—’
Harry pressed his lips to hers, pulling her into him, breathing in the soft scent of violets and the faint taste of cherry ice cream.
He pulled back. ‘Sorry, I—’
‘Too late for sorry, Harry.’ Nym brushed her fingertips across her mouth. ‘My lips are tingling.’
Harry swallowed. ‘I did say—’
‘Stop saying,’ she whispered. ‘Stop saying and kiss me again.’
Silver Linings Playbook
A broad, dark-wood-framed painting hung on the wall beside the wardrobe. A bunch of tulips burst from the canvas in warm, bright sunset colours. Nym stared up at it, her lips twisted into a strange, bittersweet smile.
‘Sorry,’ Fleur said. ‘I didn’t mean to redecorate, but Luna said she loves tulips and I didn’t want to leave it on the floor somewhere after I bought it. I’ll take it with me now I’ve sorted out a place for myself.’
‘No, no it’s really nice.’ Nym plastered a smile on her face. ‘I was just wondering how I left such a big empty space there all this time and what I’m going to fill it with now you’re moving into your own place.’
‘We can go shopping, if you like?’ Fleur asked. ‘It’d be nice to hunt down something that fits for you.’
‘Yeah.’ She nodded. ‘It’s got to be something that feels right.’
A faint frown flickered across Fleur’s face. ‘Would you like something to drink?’ She glanced back into the kitchen. ‘I do have a bottle of red wine that I was planning on drowning my sorrows in, but I probably shouldn’t let Luna or Harry have more than a glass. They’re not quite of age.’
‘I don’t really drink wine,’ Harry said. ‘So I’m fine with just a glass.’
Luna nodded, waving a steaming wooden spatula from the kitchen. ‘Daddy doesn’t want me drinking lots. He doesn’t like drinking. Not since he was unhappy after Mummy died.’
‘What are you cooking?’
‘Nothing fancy,’ Fleur said. ‘I showed Luna how to make dauphinoise.’
‘I do not know what that is,’ Nym said. ‘Is it tasty.’
‘Very tasty.’ Fleur smiled. ‘Also very unhealthy.’
‘I can live with that.’
Harry nodded. ‘I’m not Ron, but I can generally manage a fair amount.’
‘Unless it’s breakfast, Nym said. ‘Then it’s like you’re on hunger strike.’
‘I ate ice cream.’
Fleur laughed. ‘Have you tried all the flavours yet?’
‘Have you tried gooseberry and chocolate?’ Luna tugged open the oven in a cloud of steam and flapped her huge oven gloves. ‘Fleeeeuuuur, I can’t seeeeee.’
Fleur tip-toed into the kitchen and pressed a soft kiss to Luna’s lips, pulling her glasses off her face. ‘Better.’
A huge, bright smile lip up Luna’s face. ‘Much better.’ She fished out a small, sizzling glass dish, filling the room with a creamy smell.
‘This is probably the best thing this kitchen has ever produced,’ Nym said. ‘I feel really inadequate right now.’ She draped an arm around Harry’s shoulders. ‘A good thing my baby cousin is here to make me feel less untalented.’
‘I can actually cook half well,’ he said.
‘Traitor.’ Nym tousled his hair. ‘You’re supposed to make me feel better, not rub it in.’
‘Daddy can’t cook to save his life, so I learnt,’ Luna said, scooping slices of dauphinoise out of the dish onto plates. ‘He’s pretty useless at looking after himself, really.’
‘I am not British, so I like nice food.’ A faint smirk curved Fleur’s lips as she wrapped her arms around Luna from behind. ‘I have showed Luna so many nice things for us to make or bake.’
‘You seem to like British ice cream just fine,’ Harry said. ‘That counts as food.’
‘So I’m just useless.’ Nym sulked beneath the tulip painting. ‘Harry, you will have to cook for me and make sure I do not starve.’
‘What do you even normally eat?’ he asked. ‘Or is it just ice cream?’
‘Takeaway.’ She beamed. ‘I have like twenty places that recognise my voice now.’
Fleur shook her head. ‘You will have to come and visit us in our new place, Tonks. Luna and I will teach you how to cook.’
‘Just the three of you,’ Harry whispered. ‘Won’t it be sweet?’
‘I don’t know why you’re laughing,’ Nym muttered. ‘You’re going to be my date.’
Harry tensed, his stomach flooding with butterflies. ‘Really?’ he murmured. ‘Nym?’
She glanced away at where Luna poked pastries onto the plates. ‘What’s in those?’
‘Beetroot, feta cheese, and a few other things,’ Fleur said. ‘I’m not hugely fond of meat, but Luna doesn’t eat it at all, so she’s got loads of amazing recipes.’
‘I don’t like eating things that were alive,’ Luna said, dropping her spatula into the sink and tossing the over gloves onto the side. ‘But these are really tasty. Daddy loves them.’
Harry inhaled. ‘It certainly smells really nice.’
Fleur kissed Luna on the top of the head and carried a pair of plates across to the table. ‘Here.’ She plucked a bottle of wine out from behind a corner and jabbed a corkscrew into the top. ‘A thank you from us for letting me borrow your flat, Tonks. I do not think it would have been so okay as it has been without you.’
‘But you were no help whatsoever, Harry,’ Nym said. ‘You just stood there like a lemon.’
‘You’re a lemon.’ Harry folded his arms. ‘A weird lemon.’
Fleur wrestled with the corkscrew and bottle. ‘I may have spoken too soon.’ She set it down on the table. ‘I cannot get in.’
‘My time to shine.’ Nym stepped forward and grabbed it, wrenching at it with one hand. ‘Wow, it’s a tough cork.’ She yanked hard and her hand slipped off and smacked her in the face. ‘Ow.’
Harry chuckled. ‘Are you okay, Nym?’
‘Just another bruise. Probably a black-eye.’ She sighed and thrust the bottle out. ‘You try.’
He grabbed the bottle and twisted. The corkscrew dug into his palm as he tightened it, clenching his jaw as the arms rose. He squeezed them down and tugged it out.
‘I loosened it,’ Nym said.
Harry handed the bottle back to Fleur and poked at the throbbing purple mark on his palm. ‘Strange, because it really didn’t feel like you did.’
‘Wuss.’ She grabbed his hand and smacked a loud kiss to it. ‘There you go.’ Her hair darkened to auburn. ‘Mummy has kissed it all better.’
‘You’re going to leave me with so many issues,’ Harry said. ‘I’m going to need therapy.’
Fleur laughed, pouring them all a glass. ‘Your mother looks a little Ginevra.’
Harry sighed. ‘I know.’
‘He really knows,’ Nym said, grinning as her hair shifted back to purple. ‘Imagine if Hermione had managed to convince you to date her and after a few years it just suddenly hit you. Imagine you’d married her before you realised.’
‘Probably still less traumatising than you.’ He slid into a seat and picked up his cutlery. ‘At least she wouldn’t elbow me all the time.’
‘But eventually you’d call her Mummy at an inopportune moment and there’s just no way back from that,’ Nym retorted.
‘I think I’m going to date blondes,’ Harry said, wincing as he burnt his tongue on a slice of pastry.
‘Oh?’ Luna perked up. ‘Are you asking me, or Fleur?’
He flushed. ‘I actually didn’t consider that there were two blondes in the room before I said that, so I’m going to change to brunettes.’
Nym’s hair darkened to a deep mahogany. ‘Still screwed.’
‘You don’t count, you’re my cousin,’ Harry said. ‘You’d come with issues anyway.’
The corner of her mouth curved down. ‘If I don’t count, you shouldn’t spend so much time staring,’ she said.
‘I deny the staring even happened.’
‘You can deny it all you like, we both know it does.’
Fleur covered her smile with her hand. ‘Doesn’t your suspension end soon, Tonks?’
‘In a couple of weeks,’ she said. ‘But I still have to do stuff when I go back, like talk to the trainee support and guidance person.’ Nym snorted. ‘I did not know they existed, but apparently I was meant to be talking to them every week.’
‘Mad-Eye really dropped the ball,’ Harry mumbled through another mouthful of feta and beetroot.
‘I don’t think he was very up to date with the times,’ Luna chimed in. ‘Daddy has written a lot of articles about his theories on dark wizards. Some of them are very interesting.’
‘Are they as amazing as the other ones?’ Harry asked.
‘No.’ Luna chopped her pastry into hexagons. ‘Those are a lot more fun. People really believe them, too.’
‘Wait, you don’t?’
‘No.’ She laughed. ‘They’re just fun stories, something to poke fun at more serious stuff and get people thinking. Satire.’
‘I think Hermione really believes you think it’s real,’ Harry mused. ‘I’m not sure if I should tell her or not, it is quite funny watching her get all exasperated over it.’
‘I know.’ Luna smirked. ‘It’s very funny. She’s quite smart, but a little unimaginative and dogmatic.’
‘She also wants you to marry Ginny,’ Nym said. ‘I don’t think she really approves of Fleur and Luna being together, either.’
‘Date.’ He wagged his finger. ‘Nobody said anything about marry.’
‘What’s wrong with us?’ Luna asked, her smile fading.
‘Knowing Hermione, she probably finds the fact Fleur’s a little older than you strange,’ Harry replied. ‘I wouldn’t worry about it.’
Fleur squirmed. ‘But—’
‘Who cares?’ Luna said, a huge smile on her face. ‘As long we’re happy, it doesn’t matter. That’s the important thing.’
‘Yeah,’ Nym murmured. ‘It is.’
Fleur took a long sip of wine. ‘I suppose. I do not know how to tell my family, though. I said I broke off the engagement, and they were happy, because they do not like Bill’s family.’ She laughed. ‘Although, Gabby was not happy. I think she believed my wedding was going to be the moment she met her dream boy.’
‘Bill does have a few brothers,’ Harry said. ‘How old is your sister now?’
‘She is just into her teens.’ Fleur smirked. ‘But she is not after a Weasley, she is very taken with the idea of marrying the man who carried her out of a lake a few years ago.’
‘Oh dear,’ he said. ‘Well, I guess that’s a silver lining of the wedding not happening, Ginny would probably start a fight.’
‘Gabby would win.’ Fleur put her wine glass down with a small smile. ‘She is very talented. She is blonde, too, of course, Harry, so maybe in a few years…?’
‘Quite a few years, if she’s only just a teenager,’ Nym said. ‘There’re age gaps and then there are age gaps.’
Fleur’s blue eyes danced between the two of them. ‘Gabby is very determined. I shall introduce you to her, Harry. She does not speak much English yet, so she will babble at you in French, but you might find that cute. Bill did when I tried.’
‘It does sound kind of cute,’ he said. ‘But more in a little sister sort of way.’
‘Ah, well, you can make your own mind up,’ Fleur replied. ‘I think I will invite her and my parents to my new flat, to help decorate and to introduce them to Luna. It would be nice if you and Tonks were there, too.’
‘Sure,’ Harry replied.
Nym nodded. ‘Yeah, of course.’
Luna beamed. ‘Thank you. I am very very nervous.’ She held up her shaking fingers. ‘See. Just from thinking about it.’
‘Have you told your Dad, Luna?’ Harry asked.
‘I told him I met Fleur when I met Fleur,’ Luna said, taking a gulp of her wine. ‘Daddy told me that if I thought I loved her, I should try my hardest and see.’
‘Better than my parents,’ Nym muttered. ‘They keep asking me when I’m going to do something other than work, like dating, and getting married and having kids. I can’t decide if they’ve actually finally forgotten how young I am or if they’re just so old that was normal back in their day.’
Harry snorted. ‘What about both?’
‘Probably is both.’ Nym stabbed a slice of potato with her fork. ‘The first guy I bring home is going to be the last person they expect.’
‘Find a nice girl.’ Harry grinned. ‘Take Ginny. That’d solve two problems in one go.’
‘No thanks. This hottie is straight as an arrow,’ Nym said. ‘No offence.’
‘None taken,’ Luna said. ‘I don’t think Harry would be very happy if you weren’t.’
‘You know what we don’t actually kiss,’ Harry said. ‘Like, it’s not a thing.’
He caught Nym’s glance in the corner of his eye and his stomach flipped, tangling itself into knots. Except yesterday. But that was just one time and it doesn’t count. He stared down at his pastry, cutting up what remained into neat little parcels as the taste and feel of her soft, warm lips lingered at the forefront of his mind.
The knot in his stomach coiled tighter.
‘But you wrote it in your diary.’ Luna’s lips shook. ‘It must be true.’
‘You’re messing with me, aren’t you?’ Harry sighed. ‘Of course you are. Everyone does.’
Fleur laughed and took Luna’s hand, giving her fingers a little squeeze. ‘She does it to me all the time. I do not mind, though. She is very sweet really.’
Luna flushed, fiddling with her empty wine glass. ‘Sugar and spice and all things nice.’
Fleur’s cheeks turned pink and she squirmed in her chair. ‘I think one glass is definitely enough for you.’
‘Probably,’ Luna said. ‘I feel very nice, though, all floaty and warm. If Harry and Tonks were not here I would kiss you a lot.’
Fleur glanced down into her lap. ‘Perhaps later…?’
Luna smiled. ‘It’s a deal, Pretty Flower.’
Nym bit her lip, finishing her wine and setting down her knife and fork. ‘That was really nice. I’m definitely coming back here.’
‘It is your flat,’ Fleur said.
‘Right.’ She flashed a red-wine-stained grin. ‘I meant definitely coming to visit you a lot in the future.’
‘That would be nice.’
‘I’ll drag Harry with me, too.’ Nym glanced up and caught his eye. ‘Right, baby cousin?’
Harry dragged his gaze away from her red lips, a touch of heat rising to his cheeks. ‘Right.’
‘I don’t have many friends, it’s usually just Daddy and me.’ Luna gave them a bright smile and slid her fingers through Fleur’s. ‘That would be really nice.’
‘Especially when my parents come to visit,’ Fleur murmured. ‘I do not know how they are going to react.’
A soft little pang twisted beneath Harry’s ribs. ‘We’ll be there.’
‘Merci beaucoup,’ she whispered, mustering a small smile. ‘At the very least, you can distract Gabby for me. She will be very excited to see you again.’
Nym’s lips twisted. ‘When are you moving into your new place, Fleur?’
‘Very soon,’ Luna said. ‘We’re more or less going to tidy all our stuff up tomorrow and then move across. Fleur’s stuff’s already there.’
Fleur nodded and refilled her wine glass. ‘You can bring your stuff back here this evening if you want, there’s plenty of space and Luna and I are heading out later. We like to wander about at night.’
Harry took a sip of wine, as Fleur proffered the bottle to Nym.
‘Good news for you, Harry.’ Nym nudged his arm with her elbow and poured the last half a glass of wine into her glass. ‘Not going to have me in the way anymore.’
Harry’s red wine curdled on his tongue. He swallowed and plastered a smile over his face. ‘I might miss you a bit, not as much as I’d miss Dudley, of course, but that’s a very unfair comparison.’
Nym snorted. ‘You’d chew your veins out if you had to spend a whole summer with Dudley.’
‘That’s why you’re my second least favourite cousin.’
Luna exchanged a glance with Fleur and pushed back her chair, jumping to her feet. ‘Can you give me a hand getting everything to the kitchen, Harry?’
‘Sure.’ He stacked Nym’s plate on top of his and slid out of his seat, adding them to the pile beside the sink. ‘I can wash, if you like?’
Luna shook her head. ‘We’ll tidy up later, don’t worry. I just want to give them a rinse and get them out of the way.’
‘Grab the empty wine bottle and the glasses as well, please?’ she asked.
‘No problem.’ Harry glanced back at the table.
Fleur leant forward, whispering in Nym’s ear, her eyes dancing with laughter. Nym folded her arms and shook her head, her smile shifting into a scowl.
That looks a lot like Hermione and Ginny when they’re plotting. He picked the bottle and the two empty wine glasses up. But I’m probably overthinking it. Fleur’s smiling too much.
Nym stood up, stumbling back over the leg of her chair into the wall. ‘Ow…’ She shook her head and muttered something under her breath. ‘Harry, I’m going to grab my stuff from Grimmauld and bring it back here. Fancy coming to help?’
He frowned. ‘You need help? It’s one trunk…’
Fleur pursed her lips and shot him a pointed look.
Harry flushed. ‘Er — I mean, yeah, I’ll help. Sure.’
Nym held out her hand. ‘Come on, then.’
‘I really need to learn to apparate myself,’ he said. ‘Sorry.’
‘I don’t mind.’ She grabbed his fingers and froze. ‘Wait, let me just check there’s space for me to dump everything in here.’ Nym stepped across and yanked the wardrobe open.
The door smacked into Harry’s face. Pain flashed through his nose and tears sprang to his eyes.
‘Ooops.’ Nym chewed her lip, her fingers halfway to his face. ‘Are you okay?’
Harry blinked back the tears and poked his nose as the throb faded. ‘Nothing’s broken, I think I’ve survived your most recent assassination attempt.’
‘Sorry.’ She let her arm drop to her side and swung the wardrobe shut. ‘Okay, let’s head back and grab my stuff.’
The world squeezed tight around them in a flash of cold dark and they flopped onto their bed.
‘Well, that was a better landing than the bollard,’ Harry quipped. ‘Much softer.’
Nym sighed. ‘We kind of need to talk, Harry.’
His stomach shrank into a tight, taut tangle. ‘Right. Yeah.’ Harry offered a weak smile. ‘What about?’
‘Yesterday, Harry.’ She drew her knees into her chest and wrapped her arms around them. ‘You remember. You kissed me.’
His stomach fluttered and clenched into a tight, hot ball. ‘You asked me to do it again.’
Nym’s arms tightened around her legs. ‘Yeah. Sorry. That was weird of me, wasn’t it? I shouldn’t have said that.’
A sweet, deep pang knifed through Harry’s heart. ‘Yeah. Cousins. It wasn’t a good idea.’
She stared down into the duvet. ‘Okay, glad we’re on the same page. It was a mistake.’
Somewhere inside Harry a little voice screamed something else, the words rising up onto his tongue, warm and bright as candlelight. He bit them back and took a deep breath. ‘When are you going to move back into your flat?’
‘Tomorrow, I suppose,’ Nym whispered. ‘Is — is it okay if I stick about for one more night? How we — how we’ve been doing?’ Her eyes flicked up, green fading to grey. ‘After that, I’ll just come by like I’m meant to. Nothing weird. I’ll give you some space, as well, I promise.’
‘One more night can’t hurt,’ Harry murmured.
The arm’s length of cold duvet between her feet and his arm yawned open like an abyss, and a hot swell of emotion flared up Harry’s breast. He dug his nails into his palm, twisting the duvet in his fist behind his leg and swallowing a metallic tang.
‘Probably for the best to have some space,’ he said. ‘Will keep me from getting elbowed, or hit with wardrobe doors.’
‘Yeah,’ she whispered. ‘I’m a bit of a disaster. Sorry, little baby cous’, I am trying.’
Harry released the duvet and dragged a smile onto his face. ‘Let’s get your things together and stick them in that wardrobe. I can probably endure being hit in the face with the door at least once more.’
Hermione’s quiet footsteps padded past the shadowed door, soft creaks and squeaks echoing through the cracked plaster walls.
It’s finally morning. Harry stared up into the slim, dark line snaking across the ceiling above his head and listened to the rain pattering against the window.
A gentle cold settled into the fingers and toes where they hung over the edge of the bed. He wiggled them, sighing under his breath, and spread his right hand out under the duvet. Harry’s little finger slid between cold sheet and cold duvet.
Nym shifted, thudding against the wall.
She’s all the way over there. He stretched his fingers a little further into the cool cotton and wrestled with a bittersweet pain twisting beneath his ribs. I guess she must’ve really tried to stay on her side.
‘I guess we should get up,’ Nym murmured.
‘Yeah.’ Harry slid out from under the covers and pulled on some clean clothes. ‘I’ll — er — I’ll head downstairs and grab some breakfast if you’re going to get dressed.’
Her grey eyes slid to her trunk. ‘If you want.’
He slipped out, pulling the door shut with a quiet click behind him and heading down into the kitchen.
‘Morning, Harry.’ Hermione held out the bread. ‘Breakfast?’
Harry stared at stack of slices beneath the clear plastic. ‘Sure. Why not.’ He tugged two out and dropped them into the toaster, tapping it with his wand. ‘Probably shouldn’t make the ice cream eating a habit. It actually isn’t all that healthy.’
‘Too much sugar will ruin your teeth,’ she said, sliding the butter across. ‘Jam, or should I stick it back in the fridge?’
Harry skimmed the label of the maroon. ‘Cherry jam?’ A soft little pang knifed through his ribs. ‘I’m good with just butter. Fairly sure jam’s all sugar, too.’
‘It is.’ Hermione stuck it back in the fridge and rinsed the crumbs off her plate. ‘I try not to have it all the time, but it’s nice.’
He snatched his toast out of the top and dropped it on the plate, scraping a thin layer of butter across the top in a small shower of crumbs. ‘Up to much today?’
‘Not loads.’ She dried her hands. ‘I’m going to do a bit of reading for next year this morning before Ron’s up to distract me. See you in a bit.’
‘See you later.’ Harry crunched a bite out of his toast and choked down a dry mouthful as her footsteps disappeared upstairs and her door creaked shut. ‘Maybe I should do some reading or something, it’s better than doing nothing.’ He forced the rest of the slice down.
Footsteps thudded down the stairs and his stomach writhed and knotted.
Nym drifted in. ‘Hey…’ Her forehead creased. ‘Toast?’
‘It was out.’ He glanced at the fridge. ‘There’s still some ice cream left, though.’
She shook her head. ‘No thanks. Not really hungry.’
Harry finished his toast and gave the plate a swift scrub and a rinse. ‘When are you leaving?’
‘I’ll give it a little bit longer, just in case Fleur and Luna aren’t up yet.’ Nym studied her fingers. ‘Don’t really feel like stumbling into them being all happy and coupley.’
‘Me neither,’ he muttered under his breath.
Their smiles twisted the little pain in his chest, sharpening it until his eyes stung. Harry took a deep breath.
‘I was going to just wander about the house,’ Nym murmured. ‘You can come if you want to.’
He smothered the soft pang in his breast. ‘Yeah, might as well. I’m not up too much.’
She drifted back out, leading him through the dining room’s faded, scratched panelling, past the chipped marble fireplace and into the small room beyond it.
A worn, faded tapestry hung over pale, cracked plaster opposite the window, marred by dark, scorch scars.
‘Huh.’ Nym touched a finger to a name on the far right edge. ‘There’s you.’
Harry took one step closer and squinted. ‘Harry James Potter.’ He followed the line up. ‘My Dad. Dorea Potter nee Black.’
‘I never met her, she died before I was born.’ Nym tapped the smaller portrait next to her. ‘Think I met Charlus, your grandfather, when I was very little, but I don’t remember.’
Harry scanned the columns near his name. ‘Where are you?’
‘Me?’ She stepped across to the far side of the tapestry. ‘I’m over here.’ A small snort escaped her. ‘Right under this big scorch mark where my Mum and Dad would be.’
‘Nympadora Koronis Tonks,’ Harry read. ‘Koronis?’
She scowled. ‘Even worse than Nymphadora. That’s all my Mum. I pretend it doesn’t exist.’ Her wand appeared in her hand. ‘I almost want to burn myself off as well, but if I did…’ Her gaze slipped to the far side of the tapestry and dropped to the floor.
‘I thought we were cousins?’ he asked, glancing back and forth across the gap between their names. ‘But we’re miles apart.’
Nym’s grey eyes lingered on him and she bit at her lower lip, tugging at her left ring finger with her other hand. ‘We are cousins. There’s just a fair few times removed in there.’
Harry stared at the wall of names in between theirs, murmuring them under his breath as he paced from her name back to his. Eight times removed? Nine? Maybe more, I don’t really know how it works.
Nym stared into the faded weave and let out a long sigh, tucking her wand away. He traced the lines connecting his name to hers, stretching onto his tiptoes where it rose back nine generations at the centre.
‘I should go,’ she murmured as his finger came down through the burn mark to rest on her dark-haired, grey-eyed portrait.
Harry’s stomach shrank into a hot, tight tangle. ‘When are you coming back tomorrow?’
‘I could probably get away with not turning up for a day, it won’t do any harm.’ Nym glanced out the rain-spattered window into the dark clouds. ‘If you’d rather.’
‘I’d rather not, really,’ Harry muttered, frowning at the back of her head. ‘I always look forward to seeing you.’
A soft gleam appeared in her grey eyes as she turned around. ‘I’ve been talking to Luna and Fleur about stuff recently, you know.’
‘What did they say?’ he blurted.
‘Fleur keeps telling me to give hints.’ The corner of her mouth twitched. ‘Luna tells me to just say it.’
‘Well, Luna’s way seems to have worked for her, I guess.’ Harry said.
‘I think it depends on who it is you’re trying to give hints to,’ Nym replied. ‘In this case, I think Luna’s way may be the only way.’
Harry held his breath.
‘I’m going to go back to my flat, Harry, but maybe — maybe you’d like to come and stay with me?’ she asked.
A faint smile spread across her face. ‘I’d like you to say it.’
‘I would,’ Harry murmured. ‘Definitely.’
Nym cocked her head, green flooding back into the grey of her eyes as she took a couple of steps toward him. ‘Even though it’s just a one-bed flat, and if one of us doesn’t manage to conjure a bed we’ll end up with some contrived sharing situation?’
‘Even then.’ A soft sweet pain twisted in his heart, spilling onto his tongue, and a touch of heat rose onto his cheeks. ‘I might not try too hard with the conjuring part.’
‘I might not, either.’ Her smile spread into a grin and her dark hair brightened to purple. ‘It’s a lot of effort, conjuring something like that.’
Harry’s eyes caught on her lips as she beamed and a little doubt gnawed at him, chewing his stomach back into a hot swirling knot. ‘I would very much like to,’ he murmured, ‘but…’
Her smile wavered and her feet froze two scratched, mahogany boards from his toes. ‘But…?’
‘I might end up trying to kiss you again if I do,’ he mumbled, heat flooding his face. ‘Sorry.’
She held his gaze with green eyes as his cheeks burnt. ‘Que sera, sera,’ she whispered.
Harry hunted for words, but they faded out on the tip of his tongue.
‘What will be, will be,’ Nym murmured, sliding across the last pair of floorboards between them.
‘Oh.’ Heat fluttered through him. ‘And what—?’
She slid her arms around his neck, bringing a gentle scent of violets. ‘Even you already know the answer to that question.’ Her breath washed against his chin as she tilted her lips up toward his, a soft gleam in her green eyes. ‘But because you’re so absolutely terrible with hints, I’m going to tell you. I want you to kiss me now, Harry. Like you did before.’
‘I could do that.’ Butterflies swirled through his stomach as his eyes dropped to her lips. ‘I could definitely do that.’