Hermione sat awkwardly in an overstuffed couch at The Burrow as various members of the Order of the Phoenix argued right in front of them. Harry and Ron were on either side of her, looking just as uncomfortable as she felt.
The sun had been baking the Burrow all day. Though it was evening now, an unpleasant heat still hung in the air. The argument just made it worse.
Hermione was seventeen now, she could just cast a simple spell to mute the argument from reaching their ears. Yet, she couldn't help but be fixated by the conversation. Like squashing a spider, there was an odd compulsion to look despite the discomfort.
Besides, usually the Order were so hush-hush with their operations, the trio weren’t privy to any of their plans. It was quite the novelty to see one being torpedoed right in front of them.
“I don’t care how many important connections she has in France!” Molly Weasley was bellowing, red in the face, “I say we just deport the French tart right now! She’s strung along my poor Bill for long enough.”
Ron grimaced at that.
Kingsley Shacklebolt cleared his throat, raising two large palms in an attempt to placate Molly. Brave, Hermione thought. Molly was so worked up she looked like she was a kettle about to boil over, all red in the face and full of anger.
“Are you sure Bill can’t marry her?” Kingsley asked in his calm and bassy voice, “Feelings aside, it is crucial we keep the French connection open. God knows the Delacours are the best way to do that. We need to keep Fleur in the UK in order to fit with the Order’s plans.”
So that was it. Fleur and Bill’s sudden engagement was a visa wedding for the benefit of the Ministry of Magic. Hermione shouldn’t have been surprised. She’d never known someone to leave school, meet someone ten years older than themselves and instantly become engaged, all in the space of a couple of years. Hermione should have pegged from the start that there was some Order meddling behind it all. Fleur had always seemed indifferent towards Bill at best, despite his simpering efforts.
“He’s heartbroken, Kingsley,” Molly replied, scandalised, “He refuses to take part in the wedding.”
“Well, maybe he should’ve kept his bleedin’ mind on the job instead of tryin’ to seduce a teenager,” Moody interjected gruffly, “I woulda hexed him too, if I were her!”
“Alastor!” Molly roared in outrage. At this, Lupin stepped forward, putting a hand on Molly’s shoulders— partly in an attempt to calm her, partly to hold her back from taking a swing at Moody.
“Now, Molly,” Lupin said soothingly, almost as if he were speaking to a petulant child, “There’s no lasting harm done. The boils will subside and his eyebrows will grow back. Soon all will be forgotten. Are we absolutely sure that Bill won’t marry her now? It is awfully crucial for our international support.”
Molly shot a dirty glare at Moody from over Lupin’s arm.
“He won’t. He can’t.” Molly replied firmly, “He asked if I could help him leave to stay with Charlie in Romania for a while. I helped him leave late last night.”
“Molly,” Kingsley sighed, rubbing his temples, “Well, do you have another son who can step up? We really need to get Fleur’s residency sorted, and sorted soon. This is the only avenue left for us to try.”
Molly seemed nettled by Kingsley’s words.
“Do I have another son?!” Molly squawked, “As if my boys are all dispensable and can put their lives on hold for the Order at the drop of a hat! No I don’t. Ron isn’t of age, everybody in the wizarding community knows that Fred and George as as gay as they come, and Percy…” Molly broke into sobs, “Percy has only gone and married that awful Clearwater girl without inviting a single one of his family!”
Lupin patted Molly’s shoulder comfortingly. Ron tried and failed to hide his disappointment at a shot at being married to Fleur, even if it were just for show.
“I’ll be seventeen in a couple of months,” Ron stated enthusiastically, though nobody paid him any mind.
“Well,” McGonagall huffed in the matronly way she had. Until now she had been simply sitting on the sidelines, lips pursed, as the Order had bickered over Bill backing out of his arranged marriage with Fleur. Now, however, she had stepped forward and drawn herself up to her full height. The elderly Scottish woman had a commanding presence, helped in part by the fact she had taught several of the faces in the room at one point or another.
“Clearly we have two options,” McGonagall put forward in her Scottish brogue, “Either we scupper the wedding plan entirely—“
“In which case Fleur is deported in a couple of weeks by the Ministry of Magic and we lose the great deal of European support her family and their connections provide. They’ve made it clear their hands are tied if Fleur isn’t in the UK to secure a foothold,” Shacklebolt replied severely.
“Or,” McGonagall interrupted tersely, “We simply find another person of age in the magical community who is willing and able to marry her right away.”
“Someone connected to the Order,” Moody added swiftly, “Can’t afford to trust any outsiders with the key to our offshore support. Constant vigilance.”
“Yes,” McGonagall agreed, “Now, who do we have left? Lupin, perhaps?”
“Er, this is awkward, but I’ve recently eloped myself,” Lupin replied hastily, rubbing the back of his greying hair with one hand. Interested murmurs broke out which were instantly silenced by a glare from McGonagall.
“We don’t need the details,” McGonagall interrupted, “Fine, how about Nymphadora?”
“I hate that name,” Tonks groaned before offering a lopsided grin, “And I can’t, on account of being the one who eloped with Remus and all.”
The trio looked up in surprise at this revelation, as various order members broke into whoops and excited congratulations.
“I didn’t even know they were bloody dating!” Ron hissed to Hermione and Harry, who looked just as surprised as him.
“Hush!” McGonagall interjected, “There will be plenty of time for celebration after we have finished resolving Order business. Now, Kingsley, Moody, Hestia, Dedalus, Elphias, Sturgis and Emmeline are all already married… That leaves Hagrid—“
Hermione heard Ron quietly gag beside her.
“And Mundungus Fletcher,”
Ron gagged louder that time, earning a look of stern disapproval cast across the room by McGonagall.
“Unfortunately Rubeus is already on assignment seeking giants in the caves of Scotland and cannot be reached,” McGonagall said with a small frown, “And as for Mundungus—“
“He can’t be trusted as far as we can throw him,” Tonks interjected, “Which ain’t far considering he stole three of our lunches just the other day!”
“We don’t really have many other options,” McGonagall replied tersely, “And we’re running out of time.”
“What about you, Minerva?” Moody asked gruffly.
At this, much to the absolute shock of the trio on the overstuffed couch, McGonagall blushed a deep scarlet.
“Alastor!” McGonagall chided in a scandalised tone, “The girl is less than a third of my age!”
“You wouldn’t be the first of your age to pick up a pretty trophy bride to warm your bed,” Moody replied bluntly, entirely unphased.
McGonagall shook her head profusely at the suggestion.
“Absolutely not,” McGonagall insisted, blushing deeper, “It would be beyond inappropriate! Not to mention I was a professor during her exchange at Hogwarts.That would raise far more attention and questions than we would want for such an arrangement.”
“Fine, off the hook then, I spose,” Moody grumbled, “But that means we’re forced to trust Fletcher. What are the chances he screws it up?”
Hermione felt a deep disgust in the bottom of her stomach. Fleur was about to be married off to Mundungus Fletcher, all for the sake of the war against Voldemort. Hermione was much of the same mind as Tonks— she wouldn’t trust Mundungus with anything to do with the Order, let alone playing along with a fake marriage. That, and for some unknown reason, the thought of Fleur being married to Mundungus — even purely for visa purposes — made Hermione’s skin crawl enough that she found herself suddenly getting to her feet.
“I can do it,”
Hermione was surprised by the words tumbling out of her own mouth. By the quiet choking noise behind her, Harry and Ron were just as surprised as she was.
“Hermione, dear, you’re just a child,” Molly responded, as the rest of the Order turned their attentions to the curly haired brunette.
“I’m of age,” Hermione replied calmly, “And Fleur is only two years older than me.”
“Hermione, no,” Molly replied firmly, crossing her arms across her chest.
“She might be on to something,” Lupin mused out loud, scratching the grey bristles on his chin, “Hermione and Fleur being highschool sweethearts that impulsively marry is a hell of an easier sell than Fleur marrying someone like Mundungus Fletcher out of the blue.”
“Is this seriously something you would consider doing for the Order?” Kingsley Shacklebolt asked cautiously, “You will be under Ministry of Magic scrutiny for some time while Fleur applies for residency.”
“I understand,” Hermione replied evenly.
“You also will not be able to attend Hogwarts for your Seventh Year,” McGonagall added, looking at Hermione over the rim of her glasses, “They’ll be expecting you to be living with Fleur as part of their checks.”
Hermione had already discussed not attending Hogwarts with the boys just the previous night. Harry wanted to spend the year searching for horcruxes. They had planned to bunker down at Grimmauld Place, researching the horcruxes and only leaving to seek out each cursed item.
“That’s fine,” Hermione replied, stunning the members of the Order who did not know of the trio’s plans.
And though the conversation dissolved into frenzied debate amongst the Order members, it was all but agreed. In a few short days, Hermione would marry Fleur in a quick ceremony in the garden of The Burrow.
Hermione was followed up the rickety stairs after the discussion by the two boys, frantically asking questions.
“Hermione, are you sure this isn’t going to interfere with our plans?” Harry asked nervously, “We kind of… We really need your help with research.”
“Hermione, Fleur?!” Ron was babbling, a little red in the face, “She’s a chick. Not to mention how cold she was to Bill when he asked her out.”
“Asked her out?” Hermione echoed, turning to Ron in the dim and rickety stairwell. They could still hear the distant rumble of debate from the Order downstairs, punctuated by the creaking of the stairs beneath them.
“From what I heard from Tonks, he tried it on with her repeatedly, despite her saying no,” Hermione said distastefully, “You can hardly blame a girl for hexing a guy in that situation.”
Ron visibly bristled, loyal to his family until the end. He reddened a little more.
“Well, it’s a bit of a ‘he said, she said’ situation isn’t it?” Ron retorted, “I thought you didn’t like her. How are you gonna be able to pretend you’re happily married to her?”
“Well, the Order needed someone more reliable than Mundungus,” Hermione muttered, resuming her slow steps up the stairs, “Besides, she’s not that bad.”
Hermione was lying through her teeth. Something about Fleur had always rubbed her the wrong way, though she had never had much to do with her. The instant Fleur entered any room, Hermione had always felt a sudden low jolt in her stomach, as if a current of electricity was passing through her. It had always made her thoroughly uncomfortable, though she could never quite put her finger on why that was.
“She’s pretty cold,” Ron replied bluntly, “I think she’s fit as hell, but even I can admit she’s a total ice queen.”
Hermione bid goodnight to the boys as they headed off to Ron’s room. The brunette, left to her own devices now, set about getting ready for bed. She was truly reeling at her own actions. Yes, somebody more reliable than Mundungus should be the one to marry Fleur… but did it have to be her?!
Hermione slipped into Ginny’s room. The redhead was already asleep, snoring softly. Hermione wondered what she would have to say about it all. Nobody hated Fleur more than Ginny, except maybe Molly. Ginny called Fleur “Phlegm” and had been horrified at the prospect of Bill marrying her. No doubt she would have some choice words about Hermione stepping up to the plate.
Hermione sighed, placing her wand on the nightstand beside Ginny’s bed before climbing in next to her.
It was for the best. Everyone had to do their bit during wartime.
Hermione’s stomach squirmed.
Hermione was breakfasting with Harry and Ron, fielding question after question from Ginny.
“Yeah, but what I don’t get is why it has to be you,” Ginny frowned, before shovelling a forkful of pancakes into her mouth.
Hermione watched a small trail of syrup run down Ginny’s full bottom lip before connecting with the freckles on the redhead’s chin.
“It was that or Dung,” Ron shrugged, apparently used to the idea after a night’s sleep.
“And considering he’s already lifted half of Sirius’ belongings from Grimmauld Place,” Harry added darkly, “I wouldn’t trust him either.”
“But whyyyy do we need her here?” Ginny moaned, pouting so adorably it made Hermione smile.
“Dunno the details,” Ron replied, lowering his voice suddenly as Arthur Weasley breezed through the room, “Something about her family being involved with support from Europe.”
Ginny made a noise of disgust.
“Surely they can do that from over in France,” Ginny complained, “It’s unfair putting Hermione through the horror of marrying Phlegm.”
“It won’t be so bad,” Hermione said quietly.
“I mean is McGonagall really set on not having people think she had an affair with a student?” Ginny asked wistfully, causing the trio to giggle.
Molly entered the room, looking harried. There was sweat on her brow and her mouth was firmly fixed into a frown.
“You okay, mum?” Ron asked, rather obliviously in Hermione’s opinion.
“Fine,” Molly said a little too cheerily, before turning her gaze to Hermione. She propped her hands on her hips, “Fleur is arriving today.”
Hermione inhaled some of her cereal, choking suddenly.
“Fleur will be in the twin’s room for now, but when they return for the wedding, you and Fleur will move to Bill’s empty room,” Molly said, spite colouring her voice each time she uttered Fleur’s name.
Hermione continued choking, Ron now clapping her on the back with a dustpan sized hand. Hermione finally regained her composure, wheezing.
“Uh, Fred and George are coming to the wedding?” Hermione said weakly, “Who else is coming?”
“Oh, you know,” Molly said dismissively, waving her hand, “The other Order members, some Weasley family friends, Luna and her family, Neville and his grandmother, obviously a few key members of the Ministry… And Fleur’s family.”
“Fl-Fleur’s family,” Hermione echoed.
Hermione had seen them before. Gabrielle, who was a child, when she accompanied Beauxbatons to the Triwizard Tournament. Apolline Delacour, Fleur’s mother, during the final task of the Triwizard Tournament. The woman was the most intimidating person Hermione had ever seen.
Harry had grown solemn, his mind obviously turning to the Triwizard tournament and the circumstances in which he had last seen Fleur’s mother.
Ron on the other hand, had put a large hand on top of hers on the table. The unspoken omission in the list was ringing in Hermione’s ears: her own parents.
Before helping Harry escape to The Burrow, she had erased her parents’ memories and sent them safely en route to Australia. Life was simply becoming too risky. Muggles and Muggle-Borns were being increasingly targeted as the Dark Lord slowly regained traction, not to mention the scrutiny anyone was under when they were close to Harry Potter.
Hermione swallowed heavily.
“Yes, dear,” Molly replied absently, pulling out her wand and casting a quick spell that blasted the dust off a nearby shelf, “No doubt they’ll be as judgmental as Fleur,” Molly muttered darkly.
“Is that even possible?” Ginny said, rolling her eyes.
“Yes, well, I need you lot to help me with cleaning up The Burrow,” Molly replied distractedly, “We’re hosting a wedding in a few days after all. You can start with the breakfast dishes.”
The teens begrudgingly got up, beginning to clear their breakfast plates and mugs. As they sloped towards the kitchen, Molly tapped Hermione on the shoulder.
“Not you, dear,” Molly said with a stern yet warm smile, “Tonks is taking you to find a dress.”
Hermione’s stomach, already churning so violently it was threatening to throw her cereal back up, dropped.
“Wotcher,” Tonks called out with a wave, apparating with a crack into the small paddock behind The Burrow.
Hermione was sitting on the ground, leaning against a dry wooden fence. One hand was fisted in the grass, aggressively pulling out handful after handful.
“Hey,” Hermione replied listlessly.
“You don’t sound so cheery for someone about to get hitched,” Tonks called out as she strode over to Hermione, swinging her arms in a carefree nature as the sun played with the bright purple mohawk of her hair. The last time Hermione had seen Tonks it had been a dark blonde bob. It seemed the young metamorphmagus was restless when it came to her style, constantly changing.
“Good one,” Hermione retorted, looking down at the grass as she tore another fistful of it up.
Tonks’ black and worn combat boots thumped to a stop beside her.
“I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but you did volunteer yourself,” Tonks pointed out as she extended a hand to help Hermione up. Tonks’ nails were bitten almost to the quick, black nail polish horribly chipped. Hermione took her calloused hand, allowing the older woman to pull her to her feet.
“I know,” Hermione sighed, “I guess… I just hadn’t thought about all the logistics.”
“Logistics like what?” Tonks asked with a wry smile.
“Like… Wearing a wedding dress,” Hermione said lamely, “I just… I can't imagine feeling comfortable in something like that.”
She wasn’t sure why it was the dress of all things that had caused her to feel so ill about the upcoming nuptials. Perhaps it was just the tip of the stress iceberg, and really in the icy depths she was most afraid of all the people looking at her and judging her… Or Fleur… How had she even taken the news that she was now marrying Hermione?
Tonks grinned toothily.
“Well, in that case… Let’s scratch Diagon Alley, yeah?” Tonks replied, hooking her thumbs into her plaid trousers, “I have a perfect place in mind that we can go to.”
Without any explanation to calm Hermione’s nerves, Tonks had soon side-along apparated them to a small town. It was like Hogsmeade in a way, set up in the hills and with pretty cobbled streets. However, all the people in the town seemed to be rather alternative. In fact, beside Tonks and her brightly coloured mohawk, Hermione was the one standing out like a sore thumb.
“What is this place?” Hermione asked Tonks curiously.
“Weevilton,” Tonks replied, already beginning to stride down the cobbled streets. Hermione hurried to keep pace. “It’s got a lot more options, yeah?”
“Erm,” Hermione hummed, eying some very strangely dressed people walking nearby, “If you say so.”
Tonks walked at quite a clip, her combat boots slapping against the cobbles. Despite Hermione being tall and long legged, struggled to keep up with the purple haired Auror.
“So, you and Lupin married?” Hermione asked, more out of conversation than anything.
“Eloped, yeah,” Tonks replied.
“How long have you and Lupin been… er…”
“Seeing each other? A while now,” Tonks replied cheerily, waving at a couple of men who were holding hands and exiting a nearby shop.
“Wow,” was all Hermione could say, “I didn’t pick you together.”
“You mean you didn’t pick me with a man old enough to be my father?” Tonks replied, “Trust me, I’ve heard it all from my parents.They’ve come round though. Remus is bloody hard to dislike. What can I say? Sometimes who you fall in love with is entirely unexpected.”
“Right,” Hermione replied. She was still surprised. She’d never noticed any kind of connection between the former DADA professor and the young auror. Maybe she was more oblivious to these kinds of things than she thought.
Tonks came to a stop so suddenly, Hermione almost walked into the auror.
“Righto, here we are,” Tonks said brightly, charging forward and opening the shop door for Hermione.
Hermione’s brow furrowed as she took in the shop front. Painted a vibrant green, the shop front had gold lettering above the door spelling: Madam Malori’s Market.
“No-one’s gonna bite ya,” Tonks encouraged, “I took you here because I thought it might be more comfortable and low-pressure.”
Hermione bit her lip, entering the shop.
Inside, much to her surprise, was a modern and relaxed room full of formal clothes of all types: dress robes, muggle suits, tuxedos, dresses. Some quiet punk music played in the background.
“Wotcher,” Tonks greeted with a lopsided grin as a woman appeared from behind a shelf of suit pants.
The woman was young, in her late twenties like Tonks. Her hair was a vibrant blue and cut jaggedly into a shaggy bob. She wore a neon pink jumpsuit with a yellow sweater underneath. She had a number of piercings, the most striking being one that went through the skin at the top of her nose, between her eyes.
“Nymphy Tonks, as I live and breathe!” the woman greeted, smiling broadly, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I thought I told you not to call me that, Magda,” Tonks groaned good-naturedly, “I’m here with my friend Hermione. She’s getting hitched this week and she’s not sure what she wants to wear.”
“Oh!” Magda replied chirpily, looking at Hermione appraisingly, “She’s a bit young, isn’t she?”
“I’m of age,” Hermione replied, a little defensively.
“Right,” Magda replied, undeterred, “Well, how about I go scoop up a wide array of different things, put them in a changing room, and you see what sticks?”
Without waiting for an answer, Magda whirled away in a blur of neon colours.
“This… This isn’t how I imagined a formalwear store,” Hermione said, her eyes roaming around the wild variety of clothes.
“Yeah, that’s why I took you here,” Tonks replied, “They have a bit of everything, including the boring normal stuff.”
“Oh,” Hermione replied politely, “And you know the shop attendant?”
“Shop owner,” Tonks corrected, “Magda Malori. She’s an ex-girlfriend from years back but we’ve remained good friends.”
“Ex-girlfriend?” Hermione echoed, surprised.
“Really?” Tonks chortled, “And here I was thinking most people were surprised I had married a man.”
“I— No, I’m just—“
“It’s fine, Hermione,” Tonks assured, holding up a hand, “You will need to get a little more used to same-sex relationships seeing as you’re about to marry a woman, though. I know they aren’t as accepted in such a widespread way in the Muggle world, but the Wizarding World is totally fine with it.”
“I wasn’t judging!” Hermione insisted, “I was just… Surprised.”
Hermione inwardly face-palmed. Leave it to the know-it-all of Hogwarts to sound like she was judging Tonks’ dating history.
Tonks arched an eyebrow.
“I have to say, I’m a little surprised you’re surprised, I always figured you were…” Tonks trailed off as Magda waved at them across the room, gesturing towards the changing room.
Always figured I was what? Hermione thought to herself, frowning. She was too proud to push the subject though, instead following Tonks to the changing room.
Magda pushed her into a changing room, where Hermione was startled by the large array of items on offer. She decided to try something conservative first, opting for a simple white dress.
She had only just changed into it when Tonks called from outside the changing room, demanding that Hermione show the first outfit to her and Magda.
Sheepishly, Hermione pulled back the curtain, tugging awkwardly at the strapless white gown.
Tonks was leaning against a wall, chewing on a toothpick, tapping one of her combat boots against the ground. Magda was beside her, chewing on her lip.
“What do you think, Hermione?” Magda asked with a friendly smile.
“I… Uh… I dunno…” Hermione replied awkwardly, “I m-mean, I don’t even know what Fleur is wearing!”
“They’re going the old-fashioned route,” Tonks lied to Magda, “You know, seeing the bride in her outfit before the wedding is bad luck.”
When Magda nodded and looked back at Hermione, Tonks shot Hermione a warning look. Hermione’s anxiety spiked. She’d only been in on the plan for less than a day and had already almost blown their cover.
Magda stepped forward, putting a hand on each of Hermione’s shoulders comfortingly. The blue haired woman smelled like peppermint, Hermione noticed distractedly.
“Hermione,” Magda said softly, “I can tell you’re anxious.”
“What? Uh, no,” Hermione stammered.
Magda shook her head with a bright smile.
“Nothing to be ashamed of, love,” Magda said encouragingly, “It’s the most natural thing in the world to be scared before a wedding. But let me share an old secret with you. Close your eyes.”
Hermione was skeptical, but closed her eyes as instructed.
“Now imagine yourself at the venue,”
Hermione pictured the garden at The Burrow, neatly decorated with lanterns and floral arrangements. A number of seats were lined up in the grass.
“Next, imagine you’re standing there,” Magda instructed calmly.
Hermione pictured herself standing in the grass, in front of the chairs. She imagined how the evening would feel, a warm summer evening with the sun’s warmth on her skin just beginning to fade as the day slipped into dusk.
“Now, imagine Fleur,” Magda said, “What she’s wearing isn’t important. Just imagine her.”
Hermione imagined Fleur as she had been at the Yule Ball. Dressed in a sleek silver gown that draped itself so naturally over her body it was as if it was a part of her. Her long platinum blonde hair was loose and flowing down her back, glinting silvery in the evening light. She had light makeup that just enhanced the natural beauty her Veela heritage had gifted her. Pink lipstick on her full lips, and smoky eye makeup that seemed to move as if it were real smoke on her skin. Hermione imagined her standing there, her bright blue eyes, that never seemed to fix on anyone for long, firmly set on Hermione.
Hermione felt goosebumps break out on the exposed skin of her shoulders and arms.
“Okay, now can you imagine yourself in this dress?” Magda asked.
Hermione sighed thoughtfully, imagining her and Fleur gazing into each other’s eyes. Fleur stepping forward and Hermione taking the blonde’s delicate hands with her spidery tanned ones.
“No,” Hermione replied. She opened her eyes with a shaky breath.
Magda was beaming at her.
“Excellent, well, that’s one option ruled out!” Magda exclaimed enthusiastically, “Now on to the next!”
Before Hermione turned back to the changing room, she glanced over Magda’s shoulder at Tonks. The auror had stopped chewing on her toothpick and was eying Hermione curiously.
“How’d the wedding dress shopping go?” Ron asked as Hermione walked in the gate of the Burrow. She had apparated back alone as Tonks and Magda had insisted on going for a drink and a gossip together after Hermione had finally selected her outfit. She was a little nervous about it. It wasn’t exactly a classic wedding dress.
“I decided to go for something more unconventional,” Hermione replied in a non-committal fashion, closing the dry and rickety gate behind her with a squawk.
“Oi, show us then,” Ginny insisted.
Harry, Ginny and Ron were standing by the fence line, hands on hips and dirt smudging their clothes as well as much of their bare skin. They seemed unusually sweaty, even for the hot sun beating down on them.
“Maybe later,” Hermione said hastily, “What are you three up to?”
“Mum insisted we de-gnome the garden,” Ron said, rolling his eyes, “And of course she didn't send anyone that can use their wand to help us.”
Hermione then noticed some nasty looking bites and scratches on the hands of her friends. She hadn’t encountered gnomes before, personally, but was interested in helping so her friends wouldn't take too rough an approach with the creatures. While she hadn’t seen one in person, she had read about them before.
“Let me help,” Hermione said, withdrawing her wand.
“Oh, no,” Ginny smirked, “Mum said when you get home you have to head right inside. Your beautiful future wife has arrived.” Ginny drawled the last words sarcastically, nodding her head towards the ramshackle house behind them.
Hermione groaned outwardly, though her stomach did a nervous flip.
“Hey, you signed up to it!” Ginny replied with a chuckle.
Hermione simply nodded in defeat, trudging her way across the lawns to the Burrow.
Hermione walked into the house without announcing her presence, squinting as her eyes adjusted to the dimness after being outside in the sunshine. She stepped forward cautiously, walking through the hallway and kitchen before pausing as she heard voices.
Sure enough, as she stepped into the doorway of the living room, she found a handful of Order members standing in a small circle debating. Off to the side, Fleur Delacour was sitting primly in an armchair, inspecting her nails as if none of this even involved her.
It had been a while since Hermione had seen Fleur, and yet she seemed just as gorgeous as she had at seventeen. Her skin was dewy and smooth, her features flawless, her white-blonde tumbling down her shoulders as if it were liquid silk.
Hermione swallowed a curious lump that had gathered in her throat.
The Order members seemed to have entirely forgotten about Fleur’s presence, debating the upcoming nuptials as if she were not in the room.
“They’re just so young,” Lupin exclaimed, wringing his hands, “Are we sure there isn’t another way? It seems unfair to put them through a farce like this for the sake of the Order.”
“Well, your wife’s bleedin’ young and that didn’ stop you,” Moody shot back, before being silenced by Kingsley Shacklebolt.
“We’ve explored all the other options,” Kingsley replied patiently, “Unfortunately, though Fleur’s part-creature status is what gives us the advantage here, it is also what means she has limited visa options.”
Molly Weasley stood between the three men, her wide eyes suddenly catching sight of Hermione in the doorway.
“Hush!” she insisted, swatting the grown men around her, “There’s no point re-hashing this debate. Especially not here.”
The men followed her gaze and noticed Hermione too, suddenly affixing too-friendly smiles on their faces.
“Why, hello, Hermione,” Lupin greeted gently, “So nice to see you again. We really appreciate what you’re doing here for the Order.”
“Unfortunately, we were just leaving,” Kingsley joined in, “We will see you at the wedding, though.”
The men walked past her, Moody pausing to lean in conspiratorially.
“Constant vigilance, remember lass?” Moody muttered in her ear.
Hermione shivered. It wasn't lost on her that the Moody she had got to know, the one who had repeated that phrase so often during her Fourth Year at Hogwarts, hadn't been Moody at all. It had been Barty Crouch, a mass murderer in disguise.
“Well,” Molly said, clapping her hands together as if she was hoping to distract Hermione from anything she may have overheard, “Hermione, I assume you know Fleur?”
Assume she knew her. Hermione had only sat across from her at the Yule Ball as Fleur complained about everything and swatted her date’s wayward hands. They had even studied at the library at the same table before, around heavy assignment times when the library was far too full for anyone to nab an individual table.
Of course Hermione knew her. Fleur had been a constant and irritating presence around the castle. With her ethereal beauty and dark demeanour, Hermione had found herself noticing Fleur with great annoyance throughout her Fourth Year.
“Yes, hi Fleur,” Hermione said politely, turning to the blonde in the armchair.
Fleur sighed, dragging her gaze away from her nailbeds. She stood up suddenly, drawing herself haughtily to her full height. The slight crinkle between her brows hinted at slight displeasure that Hermione was no longer shorter than her. Still, Fleur affixed a cold smirk and extended a hand.
“Bonjour,” Fleur drawled, “Nice to meet you. And you are?”
The polite smile instantly fell off Hermione’s face and she glowered at the blonde. She was really going to pretend she had never met her before? Never heard of her before? Thanks to Rita Skeeter, Hermione’s name had been in the headlines almost as much as the Triwizard Champions that year. Fleur had frequently spoken to Harry while she was standing right beside her. They had held forced small-talk over the table at the Yule Ball while Roger Davies and Viktor Krum had been off in the bathrooms.
“Hermione,” Hermione said between gritted teeth, “Hermione Granger.”
Molly shot Hermione a sympathetic smile. The dislike the matron of the Weasleys held for Fleur was almost palpable.
“Hermione is the only one we’ve been able to get to agree to marry you,” Molly said to Fleur, her faux-smile in no way hiding the unkindness of her words to the blonde.
Fleur snorted derisively.
“Right,” was all the blonde deigned to say.
Hermione felt a coil of anger in her stomach. How dare Fleur? All these people bending over backwards to keep her in the country and she couldn’t even manage to be polite? It was the same kind of cold arrogance that had rubbed Hermione the wrong way when she had met her at Hogwarts.
“And Bill isn’t here, so you can’t play your little games with him,” Molly hissed, her own temper apparently boiling over. This earned a smirk from Fleur.
“I’d be interested to know exactly what he told you,” Fleur drawled, looking Molly directly in the eye before simply turning on her heel.
As soon as Fleur had left the room all the fight seemed to whoosh out of Molly. Her shoulders slumped and her expression softened. She pulled a face at Hermione.
“You’ve got your work cut out for you there, Hermione,” Molly muttered, “Real piece of work. If only we didn’t need her.”
“Why do we need her?” Hermione inquired, more curious than ever.
“I should get started on dinner,” Molly said too quickly, “You go ahead and talk to Fleur. She knows all the details of what will be happening.”
Hermione watched Molly bustle out of the room, her mind buzzing with conflicting thoughts.