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Hermione was in heaven. 

 

It was a beautiful, sunny day. For once, there was not a cloud in the sky. It was another scorching afternoon, the bright sun casting lazy shadows across the streets. A light breeze provided perfect relief from the heat. 

 

An iced coffee melted in front of Hermione, entirely forgotten. Ice clinked in protest of the beating down sun. Condensation wept down the glass. 

 

Hermione was happily oblivious to the plight of her beverage, far more occupied having her wits snogged out of her. Hermione’s pretty blonde wife was practically draped over her as she kissed Hermione with interest. 

 

Ever the dutiful student, Hermione Granger had been focussed on following Tonks’ instructions. Tonks had been very clear that Hermione and Fleur should continue to sell the ruse of their marriage. At least until they had a clearer idea of what they were going to do next. 

 

Hermione had been more than happy to spend the two days following dreadful immigration interviews visiting every place in town she could think of to flaunt her relationship with Fleur. 

 

Right now they were under a large umbrella, partially shaded from a bright sun in the outdoor area of an upmarket café. 

 

As a Muggleborn student, Hermione had only ever visited Diagon Alley, and Gringotts down at the end of the Alley. She had heard of Knockturn Alley from Harry and other students… But hadn’t ventured off Diagon in all the years she had been shopping as a witch. 

 

The past two days had been an excellent chance to explore more of Wizarding London. The bright and unusual shops and streets wound further than Hermione had ever imagined. With Fleur in tow, Hermione had found a great number of excellent book shops, food markets, and stationery shops. 

 

Now, as the sun loafed in the afternoon sky, Hermione basked in the niceties of Macaroni Bend— a wealthy crescent of shops (mainly eateries) not far from Diagon Alley. 

 

Not that Hermione was terribly focussed on the hospitality options. 

 

Fleur cupped Hermione’s cheek gently, kissing her deeply. Hermione was giddy. Having the part-Veela all over her had become even more distracting since the evening they had almost had sex. Hermione was haunted by all the ‘almost’ moments that had occurred between them. If she shut her eyes for too long, she could feel Fleur’s lips, silken and soft, brushing over Hermione’s hammering pulse point. 

 

Not to mention the times she had seen Fleur in a state of undress.

 

A memory of how Fleur looked throwing Umbridge off, strolling naked down the stairs in their cottage, lurched wildly into focus in Hermione’s mind. She blushed deeply. 

 

Sighing contentedly, Fleur leant back, smiling at Hermione with that million-watt smile she had. 

 

Hermione would never understand how someone could go from looking like an ice queen to a charmer so quickly. 

 

“Wow,” Hermione managed to huskily. 

 

She inwardly face palmed at how dazed she sounded. Something about the blonde had a tendency to make Hermione sound like an idiot. Fleur could drive the usually-succinct Hermione to either rambling madly or speaking monosyllabically.

 

Her current lack of eloquence brought a smirk to the blonde’s lips. 

 

“Will you ever stop saying that?” Fleur teased, settling back in her seat. 

 

Hermione mock-pouted. The light joking at least took her attention off the loud protest of her body, which was practically screaming at her to pull the blonde back in. 

 

“As if you mind,” Hermione retorted, “I know your ego needs regular feeding.” 

 

“As does my stomach,” Fleur quipped, spearing a fry off Hermione’s plate with a lightning quick fork.

 

“Why do you continue to steal my fries after insisting that you don’t want any?” Hermione groaned, “I always ask you if you want to order some and you always make a big speech about not wanting any… only to steal mine!” 

 

“They taste better stolen,” Fleur shrugged, before returning to the salad in front of her. 

 

“I’m starting to think that last kiss was just to get my guard down,” Hermione grumbled, still joking, nabbing some fries before they, too, could be pilfered.

 

Fleur laughed, a light musical laugh. Hermione loved the sound of it. It was far too rare for her liking. 

 

“As if I need a distraction to get past your guard,” Fleur replied airily, before suddenly swiping another fry from Hermione’s plate. 

 

“Hey, now!” Hermione protested. 

 

She had half a mind to wrestle the fry back from the blonde — it was the principle, after all— but was distracted by a couple of other patrons pausing at their table as they exited the indoor portion of the café. 

 

Draco Malfoy, ever the mummy’s boy, was leaving the indoor section of the café with his mother, Narcissa Malfoy. 

 

Hermione had only seen Narcissa Malfoy a handful of times before. Her impressions up until now had been that Narcissa had seemed like an all together unpleasant looking woman. She had always had a look on her face like she could smell an unspeakable stench nearby. Perhaps that had simply been her reaction to her own husband, however, as today Narcissa seemed perfectly serene. Hermione could almost call her (though she never would admit it) a rather good looking woman for her age. 

 

The Malfoy duo stared blankly at Fleur and Hermione, as if they were shocked to see them there. 

 

Narcissa was the image of Pure Blood money. Her fingers glittered with an alarming amount of expensive looking rings and she was dressed in the finest silk. Her light blonde hair was sleek and straight, unperturbed by the wind. 

 

Draco, on the other hand, was looking less immaculate than Hermione was accustomed to. His usually slicked back hairstyle had locks escaping and he was even paler than usual, sporting bags under his eyes so dark he appeared genuinely unwell. 

 

Despite his sickly appearance, Draco summoned a sneer as he looked at Hermione. 

 

“So the rumour mill wasn’t lying, then,” Draco said, not bothering with a greeting, “I can only assume that Delacour has suffered a head trauma…”

 

“To what do I owe the displeasure, Draco?” Hermione shot back, not wanting to let Draco’s insulting rant continue. 

 

It had been two days of blissful lightness. Two days of not thinking about Voldemort, The Order, The Ministry of Magic. Two days of gloriously wasting time with Fleur. Hermione should have known that it wasn’t meant to last. 

 

Draco scoffed. 

 

“Please, you can quit the holier than thou attitude now, Granger,” Draco laughed, “You’re nothing but a Mudblood who dropped out of school to shack up with an animal.” 

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Hermione could see a muscle tensing in Fleur’s jaw. She placed a hand on Fleur’s lap, hoping to still the blonde’s temper. The last thing they needed was for Draco to lure them into making a scene. 

 

“Animal?” Hermione replied calmly, “That’s rich coming from someone who dropped out to follow Voldemort like a sheep.” 

 

Draco opened his mouth to quip back, but Narcissa Malfoy stepped in front of her son quickly, barring him from moving closer to the table. 

 

“Draco, meet me at the corner of Knockturn by Emeralds’,” Narcissa commanded. Her voice was far stronger and bolder than when Hermione had heard it previously in the presence of Lucius. 

 

“But, Mother—“ 

 

“Do as I say,” snapped Narcissa coldly. 

 

Begrudgingly, with a thunderous expression, Draco backed away. Hermione was sure she could hear snide comments being muttered under his breath as he turned and stalked away. She couldn’t help but notice, despite his bravado, Draco looked small and frail as he walked away. 

 

Hermione turned her attention back to Narcissa, who was now bearing down on their table with every ounce of aristocratic Malfoy arrogance. 

 

“Listen here, little girl,” Narcissa hissed, speaking so quietly that Hermione had to lean in, “I’ve heard all about you. Brightest witch of your age? Pah! I hope you see the sense to fear speaking the Dark Lord’s name aloud.” 

 

Her words were harsh, but her gaze, like melting icebergs lost at sea— seemed almost desperate for Hermione to listen. Hermione was confused. She couldn’t tell if Narcissa was threatening her or trying to tell her something. 

 

“Don’t you speak to my wife like that,” Fleur interjected, drawing to her full height haughtily. 

 

Hermione inwardly tensed. Two proud blondes with big egos. Hermione had to get hold of the situation before they shredded each other to pieces. 

 

It seemed Hermione was too late, as Narcissa Malfoy’s temper boiled over first. 

 

“I cannot believe they let a Mudblood and a Half-Breed like you two in here!” Narcissa said, slamming her bejewelled hand on the table so hard the cutlery clinked in protest, “I certainly won’t be visiting this establishment again!” 

 

Without another word, Narcissa whipped around and sped away on her teetering heels, flipping her platinum hair with anger. 

 

Hermione slowly exhaled a breath she hadn’t realised she had been holding. 

 

It could have been worse. 

 

Could have been better. But, could have been worse. 

 

Yes, staff and other patrons alike were staring a little at Hermione and Fleur’s table, but at least nobody had been hexed. 

 

Plus, Fleur seemed to be calming down quickly. She rolled her shoulders and looked at the table. 

 

“Strange,” the blonde noted.

 

Hermione pulled her gaze away from the people staring at them and looked at her wife. Fleur gestured to a large ring lying in the middle of the table. 

 

It was gold with a very large ruby in it. The gold holding the stone in place was styled into two large paws, holding the ruby tightly in place. It seemed very old and very expensive. The ring sat right where Narcissa had slammed her hand. Hermione furrowed her brow. 

 

“Surely rings don’t just fall off like that,” Hermione thought out loud. 

 

“Well, however it ended up being left behind,” Fleur drawled, crossing her arms tightly across her chest, “I’m certainly not returning it to that dreadful woman.” 

 

Hermione suppressed a smile. Fleur Delacour could be bloody cute when she was moody. She reached over and picked up the ring, pocketing it. As much as Hermione loathed the Malfoys, she shouldn’t abandoned what looked like an heirloom. 

 

A cold shiver jolted up Hermione’s arm as she dropped the ring in her pocket, causing her to gasp quietly. She couldn’t place it, but something felt a little bit off. 

 

Fleur’s eyes narrowed with concern and she leaned closer. 

 

“Are you okay, Hermione?” Fleur asked gently. Her bright azure eyes were full of concern. 

 

“Y-yeah,” Hermione managed, “It’s nothing. We should get a move on if we want to do some laundry before we go to Grimmauld Place.” 

 

Hermione hated laundry. She was no good at it. She’d hated it as a Muggle, and hated it as a Witch— even with a wide range of spells to assist. Hermione had never been big on domestic tasks. Something about them always felt excruciatingly boring. 

 

It was nicer doing laundry for someone else nowadays, but it was still incredibly boring. Apart from the absolute mortification of having to handle Fleur’s delicate underwear. After a few too many times of Hermione awkwardly avoiding laundering Fleur’s underwear all together, the couple had agreed to do the chore together instead of taking turns. 

 

Hermione wasn’t dreading it too much this afternoon. By the time they finished, it would be time for dinner and heading to Grimmauld Place. Though Hermione had enjoyed the relaxation of the past couple of days, she was incredibly eager to move forward with escaping the Order’s influence. 

 


 

Fleur ignored the screaming of portrait-bound pureblood ancients as she stepped through the dark hallways of Grimmauld Place, holding Hermione’s hand tightly. 

 

Hermione had seemed deep in thought since they had left the café in Macaroni Bend. Like something was weighing on her, though Fleur was unsure what it could be. 

 

Maybe it was simply the reappearance of the awful Malfoy boy from Hogwarts and his mother. Though Fleur would have expected the crease between Hermione’s brow to have smoothed by now. 

 

Fleur pushed it to the back of her mind as they entered a large dining room. The table featured dusty chandeliers and a large, polished wood table. The wood was so dark it almost looked black. A classic 1800s English Pureblood style, Fleur thought to herself. 

 

It seemed everyone else had already arrived. Around the table were Tonks, Lupin, Fred and George Weasley, Andromeda Tonks, Harry and Ron. Fleur smiled slightly at Tonks waving optimistically. It seemed the metamorphmagus hadn’t had any luck finding anyone else. 

 

Hermione’s brow furrowed further as she looked around the table. It seemed the brunette wasn’t very happy with Tonks’ lack of progress. 

 

Fleur squeezed the brunette’s hand encouragingly as they sat down at the table together. She’d been feeling a lot closer to Hermione over the past couple of days. The reprieve from heavy topics had done wonders for allowing them to relax around each other a little more.  The space from feeling pressured to be vulnerable had felt amazing for Fleur, too. 

 

“Okay, so is someone going to explain what’s going on?” Harry asked, looking around the table expectantly. 

 

He was sat beside Ron, predictably. Even more predictably, Ron was finding it hard not to stare at Fleur. He’d always been weak to the hazy part-thrall that Fleur had. 

 

Fleur tried to ignore it. If she paid attention to it for too long, she ended up being rude to the hapless redhead. 

 

Tonks cleared her throat. 

 

She was eye catching tonight, face studded with piercings and hair acid green. She made Lupin look practically beige beside her. 

 

Opposites really do attract, Fleur mused. 

 

“So, some of you know bits and pieces of the situation,” Tonks started carefully, “But not the whole thing. Before I explain it, I just want to get everyone’s agreement that… Even if you don’t agree with what we say tonight or what we want to do, you won’t tell anyone in this room what we’ve discussed tonight.” 

 

“Why don’t you just use Snape and McGonagall’s potion that stops people from blabbing?” Fred asked. The frown on his face seemed to say that he had experienced the potion first hand. 

 

Hermione’s scowl deepened. 

 

“We’re not going to be like that,” Tonks replied, her mouth forming a tight line, “Nothing we do will take away anybody’s bodily integrity or control.” 

 

Harry and Ron were exchanging curious looks. 

 

Fleur’s jaw tightened, trying not to think about the potion being used on Hermione. Trying not to think about being handed over to the Order— to be married off to the pig Bill, to be slaughtered by Death Eaters whenever the time was right… 

 

Hermione must have been thinking similarly to Fleur, as she suddenly crossed her arms tightly across her chest. Almost as if crossing her arms would physically contain any harsh opinions from bursting out. 

 

Fleur had known the light and airy days they had spent shaking off the Ministry interviews would come to an end. But she still wasn’t fully braced for discussing the Order and Voldemort. 

 

“What are you talking about?” Harry asked slowly. He looked around the table expectantly, waiting for someone, anyone, to explain what was going on. 

 

Tonks sighed, rubbing at her temples with fingers that had nails chewed almost to the quick. Lupin put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing encouragingly. 

 

Fleur sympathised. They hadn’t even got into the conversation properly yet and Fleur already felt like she had an incoming headache. Harry and Ron had an impatient energy about them now, barely sitting still in their seats as they continued to look at the faces around the table, waiting for answers. 

 

“Everyone here wants to stop You Know Who and his bigoted lackeys from taking over, yeah?” Tonks began. 

 

A resounding rumble of agreement and nods bounced back at Tonks from around the table. 

 

“Great,” Tonks seemed to relax slightly, “So, because of this, we’ve ended up gravitating to The Order, right? Because they’re set up with the aim of stopping You Know Who.”

 

Harry nodded but Ron furrowed his brow. 

 

“That and it’s our family and friends,” Ron pointed out, “Most of them are former Gryffindors.” 

 

Fleur suppressed an eye roll. Hogwarts students and their fanaticism over bloody school houses. Fleur would never understand it. 

 

“And it’s Dumbledore’s group,” Harry chimed in. 

 

Fleur chewed on her lip to keep quiet. Dumbledore, by all historical accounts, was a man of great power and good politics. But somehow, he always ended up being put on a pedestal by The Order and Harry. As if he could do no wrong and was incapable of having any problematic ideas or beliefs. As if he wasn’t a mere man. 

 

“Dumbledore isn’t here anymore,” Tonks said quickly, sidestepping the entire spectre of the former Headmaster, “And we’ve been noticing a lot of worrying patterns with The Order. Dangerous behaviour. Harmful behaviour.” 

 

“Hold on a moment!” Ron interrupted, his face reddening, “That’s my family you’re talking about!” 

 

Hermione had mentioned in passing to Fleur that Ron had a quick temper, as did most of the Weasleys. So Fleur wasn’t surprised to see the redhead pouncing on Tonks’ words so quickly. 

 

Thankfully, at this point, Ron’s brothers — the twins— stepped in. They gave examples of things The Order had done that they disagreed with. Treatment of creatures and part-creatures. Callousness over the safety of members. Talking in cavalier terms about deaths that they were okay with happening in the name of the ‘greater good.’ 

 

Ron hung on his brothers’ words, eyes widening at examples they provided. 

 

Harry was another matter. He remained stoutly devoted to Dumbledore and the man’s work until Lupin stepped in. Lupin, it seemed to Fleur, was held in high esteem by Harry. Harry’s expression darkened and his demeanour quietened. He trusted Lupin. He believed him. 

 

The discussion that followed was messy. Fleur felt like she shouldn’t be listening, like she was intruding on a personal conversation. 

 

Ron suggested— begged, really— that they extricate his parents from The Order.

 

The twins and Lupin vetoed it heavily, citing how they had been in The Order since Ron was a baby. How stuck in their ways and stubborn they could be. 

 

Harry argued that there were things he had to do— that Dumbledore had entrusted to him— that he needed to do. 

 

Lupin, though he seemed like he had much to say on the subject, simply assured Harry that he didn’t need The Order to achieve this. That Harry had to put safety and wellbeing first. 

 

Ever the honourable Gryffindor, this seemed to get through to the dark haired boy.

 

So then the conversation rounded into what they should do next. 

 

Harry didn’t want anyone involved in tackling Voldemort except for himself. 

 

Ron was agreeable enough to a new group, but didn’t want to cut ties entirely with The Order. This led to a whole new debate— in which thankfully, the stubborn Harry wasn’t on Ron’s side. 

 

Ron was getting more and more temperamental. 

 

“Aw, c’mon Ronniekins,” Fred tried, though couldn’t seem to keep the teasing out of his voice, “Don’t tell me Ickle Ron-Ron needs his mummy and daddy to look after him! Spoon feed him, wipe his bum—“ 

 

Ron, shooting a mortified look at Fleur (as if the teasing would prevent her from finding him attractive), reddened before standing up. The redhead stood so abruptly, he knocked his elegant dining chair to the floor. Oblivious to his chair, Ron exploded. 

 

“What, so you’re telling me that because of a little risk I have to cut my own mum and dad out of my life?!” Ron shouted, “That’s insane. Just because The Order have done some harsh things, just because we want to go our own way—“ 

 

Hermione, who had been scowling for much of the meeting, stood up suddenly also. 

 

Fleur had sensed that the brunette had been in a sour mood ever since the Malfoys had confronted them at the café that afternoon. But it seemed like her mood had steadily darkened, leading her to glare across the table at Ron right now. 

 

“Cut your mum and dad out of your life?” Hermione hissed. She spoke quietly, but the table fell silent, her words slicing through the quiet, “You have no idea what truly cutting your parents out of your life is like, Ronald. Get a grip.” 

 

In the dim lighting of the pureblood dining room, Ron’s face purpled, then paled. The anger seemed to bleed out of him, muscles relaxing and shoulders sagging. He just looked guilty. 

 

“Hermione—“ 

 

“Shove it, Ron,” Hermione snapped, storming out of the room. 

 

Concerned, Fleur got up and followed her. 

 


 

Hermione stormed into the dark hallway of Grimmauld Place. 

 

Thankfully, the spot just outside the dining room was devoid of shouting portraits, allowing some quiet. Hermione leaned heavily against the dark wooden walls, letting her head tip back and bump against the wall softly. 

 

Her heart-rate was racing. 

 

Though the summer was still hot, Grimmauld Place was big enough and dark enough that it was only a little warm inside. Hermione shut her eyes, trying to calm down. 

 

She wanted to punch something. 

 

Anger and hate was scratching at her stomach. She felt the wild emotions trying to scrabble their way up to course through her system. 

 

How dare Ron even act like simply avoiding his parents for a while was a sacrifice? He knew what she’d had to do to her own parents. 

 

Hermione fisted her hands, pounding them against the wall in frustration. 

 

“Hermione.” 

 

Hermione opened her eyes, surprised to see Fleur in front of her. She hadn’t even heard the blonde follow her, she had been so distracted with her anger. 

 

“What,” Hermione said flatly. 

 

She knew she was being rude, but her mood had been growing progressively worse over the evening. 

 

“Are you okay?” Fleur asked, letting the flat tone slide, “You’ve been a bit tense ever since the café.” 

 

Hermione felt another jab of annoyance. 

 

“This isn’t about the Malfoys,” Hermione snapped. 

 

Fleur’s face had been softened with concern, her head cocked slightly to one side and her long silky hair cascading over her shoulder. But at Hermione’s words, she seemed to retreat within herself. She drew her shoulders back, her full lips forming into a slight frown. 

 

At seeing Fleur pull away, the anger was stifled by concern. Hermione shook her head, pushing herself off the wall. 

 

“I’m sorry, Fleur,” Hermione mumbled, pulling the blonde into a clumsy hug, “I don’t know what has got into me. Ron just really rubbed me the wrong way.” 

 

Fleur stiffened at first, but relaxed into the hug, her face nestling into Hermione’s voluminous hair. 

 

“It’s understandable, cherie,” Fleur murmured. 

 

Hermione sniffed, wiping at eyes that prickled with almost-tears. It was still a really raw subject, what had happened with her parents. It probably always would be. 

 

“We should get back in there,” Hermione coughed awkwardly. 

 

When Fleur and Hermione returned to the dining table, the group were discussing ways forward. It seemed while they were out of the room— everyone had confirmed they were willing to join the group. 

 

Harry seemed aflame now, processing the death of his Godfather in a whole new light. He was on his feet, pacing the polished floors alongside the table, taking charge. 

 

Tonks was sitting back now, looking a little relieved that someone else had taken the reins. 

 

“So… If we want to separate ourselves from the Order— how do we do it?” Harry asked the group, “Do we softly leave the group? Phase out involvement? Or a hard exit, with you guys saying you quit and then leaving?” 

 

“I’m in favour of quitting,” Fred quipped with a smile, “—Via fireworks,” George finished impishly. 

 

“As fun as that sounds,” Lupin replied diplomatically, “There are challenges with each approach. If we leave slowly, we have a longer period for them to figure out what we are doing. They know where we all are, and they’re certainly not stupid. McGonagall and Shacklebolt are intervening types, they would try and stop us as soon as they figure out something is going on. But if we all suddenly quit— that’s definitely going to spark off a big interrogation.” 

 

“So… Slowly then?” Tonks replied, quickly weighing up the risks of what Lupin was saying. 

 

“At least until we can get ourselves in a more stable position,” Lupin advised, “My family owns a property out in the country, by a lake. Nobody knows about it except for me. We can put in place the necessary protections and then move out there. The Order won’t know where we’re based.” 

 

“Why can’t you all move in here?” Harry asked, pausing in his pacing, “There’s plenty of room at Grimmauld Place.” 

 

“The entire Order knows about this place and can access it,” Tonks pointed out, “This would be the first place they would look.” 

 

“Right, so, until Lupin’s place is ready?” Ron asked. His gaze kept flitting across the table to Hermione. Hermione pointedly ignored it. She didn’t want to deal with it right now. It had been hard enough to shove the anger and annoyance down for now. 

 

“Business as usual,” Tonks replied. 

 

That was that. The rest of the meeting was spent tying up mundane details, when they would next meet, if anyone else was likely to be helpful, what they would discuss at their next meeting. 

 

Hermione was impatient. 

 

It all seemed to be moving so slowly. Meanwhile, people like the Malfoys were strolling around expensive cafés, all but flaunting their Death Eater membership. 

 

As they were leaving, Fleur was attentive, her hand seeking Hermione’s out in the dark hallways of Grimmauld Place. It was all that was keeping Hermione’s temper calm. 

 

“‘Mione,” Ron husked awkwardly, hurrying to catch them before they left, “About before—“ 

 

“I really don’t want to talk about it,” Hermione replied gruffly, pulling at Fleur’s hand to usher them out faster. 

 

When they arrived home in their small cottage and began getting ready for bed, Fleur flitted around Hermione. She seemed concerned, which was sweet, but Hermione couldn’t shake her mood. 

 

Hermione was touched that Fleur was worried, and she definitely didn’t want to hurt the blonde’s feelings, but she felt annoyance bubbling up. Fleur was going to great lengths to pry and check Hermione was feeling okay, but the blonde couldn’t open up the same way to Hermione in return. 

 

Hermione sighed, emptying her pockets onto a small hallway table. A coin pouch and Narcissa’s gold ring. 

 

The ring spun ominously on the table, almost like it was glaring up at Hermione with a dark ruby eye. As Hermione stepped away from it, she felt her mood noticeably lift. 

 

Curious.