Actions

Work Header

Cold as Ice

Chapter Text

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. 

 

Hermione shrugged. 

 

“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.” 

 

Tonks chuckled. 

 

“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. 

 

Tonks chuckled. 

 

“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. 

Chapter Text

It took some time for Hermione to locate Fleur. She searched the twins’ bedroom first, finding nothing but several expensive looking suitcases that evidently belonged to the Frenchwoman. Then she searched all the other common spaces in the large stacked house, as well as the immediate outdoors.

 

After some time, Hermione finally found Fleur outside, lying in the grass at the far end of the grounds, lounging in the late afternoon sun. Hermione didn’t even try to hide her annoyance. 

 

“Are we just not going to talk about what’s happening?” Hermione asked, irritable after searching for a good half hour in the dry heat. 

 

Fleur was lying on her back, her arms folded over her face to protect her eyes from the glare of the sun. She had worn a tasteful sun dress which had spread out on the grass around her. Her light blonde hair haloed around her head, giving her an almost comically angelic appearance. 

 

“What’s to talk about?” Fleur asked imperiously, despite Hermione being the one towering over her. Her accent had evidently lessened in the years since Hermione had last seen her. 

 

Hermione frowned. 

 

“The plan?!” Hermione exclaimed, waving her hands exasperatedly, even though Fleur was not looking at her, “Mrs Weasley said you would tell me all the details.” 

 

Fleur let out a long and irritable sigh, not moving her arms from her face. 

 

“What’s to know? We get married, we answer any questions your stupid Ministry ask of us, we do our part to defeat the Dark Lord,” Fleur replied with very little patience, “After that, we can go our separate ways.”

 

“Yes, but details, Fleur,” Hermione pressed, barely restraining herself from using the frustrated tone she usually only reserved for Harry and Ron, “Why? Where do we go after here? What is our role in the war?” 

 

There was a pause so long that Hermione wondered if Fleur had fallen asleep. She watched the slow rise and fall of Fleur’s chest as the blonde lay in the grass. Hermione tried not to be hypnotised by the delicate shape of Fleur’s collarbones and the swell of her breast. 

 

“You don’t need to know why,” Fleur said finally, “And the Order have organised a place for us to live after the ceremony. I certainly hope it is better than this place,” Fleur added judgmentally.

 

“I don’t need to know why?” Hermione replied testily. If there was one thing she loathed, it was being denied some salient knowledge. 

 

“We don’t need to talk excessively,” Fleur drawled, finally removing her arms from her face. Her sapphire eyes regarded Hermione with disdain. 

 

“We’re going to be married,” Hermione deadpanned. She wasn’t sure why Fleur was putting up such a wall and being so rude, but it was beginning to piss her off. 

 

Fleur shrugged.

 

“A sleazy redhead or a frizzy haired know-it-all, makes no difference to me who I marry,” Fleur said idly, looking up at the sky, “Talking won’t change that.” 

 

Maybe it was a day full of being pulled out of her comfort zone, maybe it was the stifling heat causing her tee shirt to feel sticky and uncomfortable… Either way, Hermione found her temper boiling over at Fleur’s continued rudeness. 

 

“I’d rather be a frizzy haired know-it-all than the vapid mean girl,” Hermione snapped. 

 

It was almost as if Hermione had struck Fleur across the face, though she had merely spoken back. In a blink of an eye, Fleur had leapt from her lounging into a fierce stance, wand withdrawn and aimed at Hermione. 

 

“Vapid?!” Fleur hissed, narrowing her eyes, “You know nothing about me! All you know about is what’s written in your stupid textbooks.” 

 

Logically, Hermione should have known she had hit some unseen nerve with Fleur. But logic was out the window and her temper was already rising to clash with Fleur’s. 

 

“At least I know something,” Hermione shot back. An easy insult, Hermione knew she was more intelligent than most people she came across. This seemed to darken Fleur’s mood further, her beautiful face twisting into an angry scowl. 

 

“Get away from me before I hex you worse than I hexed Bill,” Fleur hissed, her eyes darkening with a danger Hermione hadn’t anticipated. Hermione faltered a little, torn between wanting to pull her own wand out or goad Fleur further.

 

She took a deep breath.

 

It wasn’t worth it. 

 

“Fine,” Hermione exhaled through gritted teeth. 

 

She did withdraw her wand as she walked away, however, unsure if she could trust the horrible Frenchwoman from hexing her as her back was turned. 

 


 

Dinner was an uncomfortable affair. Fleur didn’t show. This was probably for the best as Hermione was still in a foul mood following their disastrous conversation.

 

Arthur Weasley arrived home from work just as the group were sitting down to dinner, mopping his sweaty brow with a handkerchief and throwing himself into a chair beside Hermione. 

 

“Busy day at work?” Hermione asked politely, narrowly avoiding Ron’s elbow as he excitedly dived in to grab food. 

 

“You could say that,” Arthur said, sighing, “How are you, though, Hermione? Got to know Fleur a little bit?” 

 

“As much as one can through all the rudeness,” Hermione half-muttered. 

 

Molly shot Hermione a sympathetic smile over the table. 

 

The table at the Burrow was chipped and pocked, but made of sturdy good wood. It was practically groaning under the enormous amount of food Molly had prepare for them all. Hermione wondered if they would even make their way through a half of what was on offer. 

 

“Don’t take it personally,” Molly told Hermione kindly, “She’s horrid with everyone. Quite the little ice queen.” 

 

“Bloody hot though,” Ron interjected between a mouthful of potatoes.

 

“Ronald!” Molly scolded instantly. 

 

Ron at least had the good graces to look sheepish after his mother told him off. 

 

Hermione cleared her throat awkwardly and pushed her stew around on her plate. It was too warm for a heavy, meaty stew anyway. Hermione’s stomach felt entirely too restless to eat it. 

 

“You know, Hermione,” Arthur said warmly, once the others at the table had resumed less tense conversation, “Fleur might not be the kindest person when you first meet her…” 

 

Arthur paused, chewing on a rather stubborn lump of meat. 

 

“But?” Hermione prompted, curious. 

 

Arthur swallowed with great difficulty, wincing. Hermione wondered distractedly if he enjoyed his wife’s cooking. 

 

Arthur pulled out his sopping handkerchief again, this time patting it on the shiny bald patch of his head. 

 

“But— and you’ll understand this when you’re older— sometimes you need to do things for the greater good,” Arthur said kindly, “We all have to make sacrifices when there is a war. Me, I’m working around the clock at the Ministry these days, trying to keep abreast of all the news.” 

 

Hermione frowned slightly at her plate. Working slightly longer hours didn’t quite seem as difficult as marrying someone you clash terribly with. It didn’t quite seem as difficult as Sirius surviving in caves, hiding alone in Grimmauld Place, slayed by Bellatrix Lestrange. 

 

“And we’re all very proud of your sacrifice here,” Molly added, pointing a butter knife at Hermione from across the table and smiling widely. 

 

As Hermione politely smiled back at the Weasley parents, she couldn't help but notice how their smiles seemed a little too-wide, a little disingenuous. Hermione frowned as she thought about it. It was a bit strange that neither of them seemed concerned about her forgoing her final year of education. Since Ron had told them none of the trio would be attending Hogwarts that year, Hermione hadn’t heard Molly or Arthur disagree once. 

 

“Don’t you think it’s a little appalling that school aged kids are making sacrifices in this war?” Hermione asked suddenly, raising her eyes from her plate. Molly’s eyes widened slightly, but whatever fleeting emotion Hermione had seen in them, was quickly hidden again. The Weasley matriarch’s smile tightened and she put her fork down loudly. 

 

You volunteered yourself for this, dear,” Molly reminded too-kindly. 

 

Ron paused in his chewing, seeming to recognise the danger in his mother’s kind tone. He shot Hermione a warning look from under his floppy hair. 

 

Hermione, heeding Ron’s warning, let the topic drop. She was all too aware of what it was like to incur Molly Weasley’s wrath, having received insultingly small gifts from her during her Fourth Year. And that was just because of tabloid rumours. 

 

Hermione dropped her gaze back to the pool of gravy sauce on her plate. It was something that had been on her mind more and more. As each year passed, it seemed as if Dumbledore had intended that children, particularly Harry, would fight against Voldemort and the Death Eaters. How had he not known that Quirrell had Voldemort in the back of his head? And yet he let First Years take him on.

 

“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” Ron asked, being diplomatic for the first time in his life. It appeared his fear of his mother’s temper superseded his usual tactlessness. 

 

“Well, tomorrow will be spent setting up for the wedding,” Molly said, seeming to relax a little, “The Order will come around and we will all go through a rehearsal of types, just to make sure everything will go smoothly.”

 

“Why is Fleur important to the Order?” Harry asked, his green eyes bright with interest. He was raring to go when it came to taking down Voldemort. Being kept in the dark had long been a bugbear of Harry’s, and he was enjoying the fact that each year they seemed to become privy to more information. 

 

However, this time, Molly and Arthur exchanged glances before shaking their heads. 

 

“You know we can't discuss Order matters with you kids, dear,” Molly said with an apologetic smile. 

 

Hermione caught Harry’s eye across the table. His expression soured, obviously irritated that Hermione could marry someone and they could hunt for Horcruxes— but heaven forbid they find out some confidential information for the faction they aided. 

 

The rest of the dinner was equally tense, see-sawing between polite small-talk and unsaid frustrations. Even Ginny, who was due back at Hogwarts in the coming school year, seemed discontented. 

 

It boiled over amongst the teens as they walked around setting out chairs and tables on the grounds the following day. 

 

“I don’t understand how we can be trusted enough one minute to be involved in Order affairs like smuggling Harry here but then the next minute we’re not even allowed to know why Fleur needs to be based here to help!” Ginny grumbled, throwing a folding chair onto the grass with entirely too much force. 

 

Dodging the chair as it ricocheted off the ground, Ron nodded. 

 

“It’s like they’ll take our help but they won’t bloody include us,” Ron said, surly, “It’s beyond a joke.” 

 

Harry picked up the fallen chair, righting it and arranging it carefully beside a small table. He straightened up, pulling his sweaty hair off his forehead. 

 

Harry didn’t look like a boy suited to hot summers. He was thin, pale and tall. He looked every bit like a boy that had grown up in a cupboard, relegated to the shadows of a house he was never welcome in. Today his nose was already reddening from the sun, though Hermione had lent him her SPF50 sunscreen (before Arthur Weasley had excitedly snatched it to inspect the ‘Muggle potion’). Hermione tanned in the summer, but she was every bit a cautious teen. Just as well considering she was spending the summer with a household of gingers and the palest boy known to man.

 

“Why don’t you guys talk to your parents?” Harry suggested, looking at Ron and Ginny, “It’s unfair. We should be let in on the meetings and plans of the Order. I’m sick of us only getting piecemeal information.” 

 

Ron widened his eyes at the very suggestion. 

 

“You’ve met mum, right?” Ginny deadpanned in response to Harry. 


“I don’t fancy our chances, mate,” Ron chimed in, “Why don’t you ask Lupin? He’s practically your God-uncle? Godfather’s kind of brother?” 

 

Harry shook his head, defeated. 

 

“I’ve tried, I just get shut down as much as I do with the other Order members,” Harry groaned. 

 

Hermione wondered inwardly if she could try asking Tonks. The eccentric Auror had been very helpful and forthcoming when it came to assisting Hermione with her wedding attire. 

 

Her thoughts were interrupted by Ginny changing the subject. 

 

“How come Phlegm doesn’t have to help with all this set up?” Ginny groaned, looking across the lawn at the chairs and tables that already dotted the grounds. 

 

In the distance, Molly was using wand work to erect a large marquee. 

 

“Wouldn’t mind seeing her get hot and sweaty,” Ron mused slyly, before Hermione swatted him and Ginny made a loud gagging noise. 

 

“I don’t know, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Hermione responded, “She was absolutely dreadful when I tried to get to know her yesterday. She’s so judgmental and cold!” 

 

“Didn’t we already know this?” Ginny retorted, “She was like that on her exchange to Hogwarts.”

 

“She wasn’t that bad,” Harry interjected, before being roundly dismissed by the two girls. 

 

“She really was,” Ginny insisted, “Mum told me she was up and out of the house before breakfast— probably to get out of getting her hands dirty. Reckons she’s too good for a bit of manual labour, I bet.”

 

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Hermione agreed, rolling her eyes. The heated interaction between her and Fleur was still fresh in her mind. She was irritated that Fleur had done nothing but provoke an argument between them. She had no idea how she was going to actually sell the idea that they were lovebirds the very next day. 

 


 

Fleur appeared at the Burrow again in the early evening, the same time the rest of the Order were arriving for rehearsal. Lupin, Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, McGonagall, Fred and George Weasley, Moody and a large number of others had arrived. All seemed to be buzzing with a nervous energy. It was almost as if they anticipated something was going to happen. What exactly, though, wasn’t apparent at all. 

 

Molly, like the preceding evening, had prepared a table absolutely groaning with heavy food. Tonight, however, they dined outside in the dying sunlight. 

 

Hermione sat across from Fleur, who seemed entirely closed off to everyone around her. Not once did her haughty indifference break during the conversation at the table. She made no effort to speak to anyone, and no effort to follow any conversation around her.

 

Tonks sat on Hermione’s left, rotating between happily nattering to Lupin and talking Hermione’s ear off about the mundane. 

 

Hermione watched Fleur discreetly throughout the meal. She really was stunning, even if she was the most difficult woman Hermione had ever met. Her beauty seemed to exceed human standards, giving her an almost ethereal glow in the setting sun. She looked almost angelic, even as she pointedly ignored everyone at the table. 

 

She was wearing a simple lavender linen dress, but somehow made it look expensive and high fashion. Her hair was loose and flowing down past her shoulders, the platinum blonde looking silvery in the dimming light of the day. 

 

It made Hermione feel frumpy with her bushy hair, plain white tee shirt and pair of sports shorts. How would anyone believe they were together?

 

McGonagall cleared her throat as those around the table were finishing their post-dinner cups of tea. 

 

“Now, I’m sure we’re all aware of the importance of tomorrow going well,” McGonagall lectured, every part the Acting Headmistress that she now was, “I hope you remember after this rehearsal how important it is for us all to maintain the act. From henceforth, everyone adheres to the same story. Fleur and Hermione fell in love following the Triwizard Tournament. They rekindled their romance and decided on a whirlwind marriage.”

 

Hermione looked over at Fleur at this, biting her lip. She met Fleur’s steady sapphire gaze, entirely unreadable. 

 

“To many it will seem out of character for both Hermione and Fleur— here we must emphasise the ‘young and impulsive lovers’ trope. If people ask why Hermione is not attending Hogwarts for her final year, we must all say she is completing her studies via distance learning. Nobody is to talk about Hermione’s parents to anyone. Nobody is to talk about Fleur’s residency intentions.” 

 

The table listened in patient silence, McGonagall’s strong and commanding Scottish brogue demanding their attention. 

 

“Finally, it is of the utmost importance that we prevent Fleur from being removed from Britain from now until the end of the war.”

 

Fleur’s eyes were clear for a moment— and for that brief moment, Hermione swore she saw desolation in them. For the first time, she wondered if Fleur had a choice in all this. Did she even want to be in the United Kingdom? Or was she simply another piece in the Order’s greater plans?

 

But then Fleur inclined her chin proudly, the familiar wall of ice descending over her features to hide any hint at her inner thoughts or feelings. It happened so quickly, so smoothly, that Hermione was left wondering if she had even seen the strange flicker in Fleur’s eyes. 

 

Plates were soon cleared and conversation lulled into more comfortable topics as the teens and the Order shuffled themselves into a kind of lazy arrangement in the lawn to practice the wedding. 

 

McGonagall swept across the lawn, long robes sweeping behind her despite the heavy heat in the air. She swiftly nudged members into line, directing some to more appropriate seats, pointing out where Fleur’s family would sit, and assigning some fake conversations about the pair’s relationship for the Order to disseminate around the party guests. 

 

When she got to the front, she steered Harry, Ron and Ginny to stand beside Hermione. 

 

“What are they here for?” Hermione asked, furrowing her brow. 

 

“Groomsmen and bridesmaid, of course,” McGonagall replied, with more kindness in her voice than Hermione had expected, “Now, do you know how the service will go?” 

 

“Er, no,” Hermione admitted, “I’ve only been to Muggle weddings.” 

 

Fleur, standing across the makeshift aisle from Hermione impatiently, rolled her eyes. Hermione pointedly ignored the blonde. 

 

“Mr. Lovegood will be officiating,” McGonagall informed her, turning so that Fleur was included in the conversation, “He has a strict script, so there is no need for either of you to write your own vows or any of that nonsense.” 

 

“Thank God,” Fleur muttered audibly. Hermione frowned. 

 

“When he gets to the oaths, you two will step forward and hold hands,” McGonagall informed them. 

 

Hermione and Fleur regarded each other warily from across the aisle. 

 

“Go on!” McGonagall insisted impatiently, “And look less like you’re heading to your respective executions, will you?” 

 

“Come on, ‘Mione,” Harry muttered quietly in Hermione’s ear, pushing her in the small of her back to nudge her forward. 

 

Fleur, sighing loudly, also took a step forward. 

 

“Hands,” McGonagall prompted, harnessing every ounce of her teacher’s tone. 

 

Hermione and Fleur, with all the reluctance of two sullen teens, reached out and clasped each other’s hands. Hermione was struck by how smooth and soft Fleur’s hands were. She wondered inanely for a moment if this was the sort of softness Lavender and Parvati aimed for with their excessive skincare regimens. 

 

Hermione avoided looking at Fleur, choosing instead to fixate on McGonagall.

 

“So then Mr. Lovegood will read out the words, which you will each repeat at his direction,” McGonagall explained matter-of-factly, waving her hand in the air, “You both say ‘I do’ at the relevant parts, then kiss and the formal ceremony is done and you walk down the aisle.” 

 

“K-kiss?!” Hermione stuttered, looking horrified. 

 

Hermione’s reaction triggered a surge of Fleur’s temper, who withdrew her hands from Hermione’s and fixed the brunette with a fierce glare. Hermione heard Ginny quietly giggling somewhere behind her. 

 

“You will be newlyweds, yes,” McGonagall replied impatiently, “And it will be expected that you behave like it. At least in public.” 

 

Hermione’s stomach twisted violently and she wondered wildly if she was about to vomit on the ground in front of her former Transfiguration professor and her future wife. Future wife. The words circled sickeningly round in her mind.

 

Ron stepped forward, patting Hermione on the shoulder with a big paw of a hand. 

 

“It’s okay, Hermione, you can practice now in front of us all, if you want,” Ron offered, unable to hide his grin. The gleam in his eye made Hermione’s stomach roil and pushed her over the edge. 

 

The air was suddenly too hot, the dry grass of the lawn poking into her bare feet like small knives.

 

“Shut up, Ron,” Hermione snapped, suddenly finding her voice again, “I-is this over? I have to go… Get a drink.” 

 

McGonagall had barely nodded before Hermione tore off back down the aisle, ignoring the looks from her friends and the Order members. 

 

 


 

Hermione was hiding in the kitchens, gulping at a chilled water, when Tonks came across her. 

 

This evening Tonks was dressed in a leather skirt and a torn shirt. Her face was studded with piercings and she was sporting a fluorescent yellow mop of hair pulled into a ponytail. 

 

“Subtle look,” Hermione greeted. 

 

Tonks hoisted herself up to sit on the countertop beside Hermione. 

 

“Thanks, I try to keep it low key,” Tonks joked. When Hermione didn’t reply, Tonks continued, “You seemed a little freaked out up there.”

 

“Did I?” Hermione said innocently, tapping the side of the glass of water with her fingers. 

 

Tonks snorted, leaning over and plucking the glass from Hermione’s hands. She took a deep drink from the glass.

 

“Please, you looked like Minerva asked you to swallow a snake,” Tonks said, before smiling coyly, “A problem you won’t have with marrying a woman, might I say.” 

 

“I’m not in the mood for lewd jokes,” Hermione said flatly, leaning back against the counter. 

 

“Hermione, nobody is asking you to shag her,” Tonks said slowly. 

 

Hermione, against her own will and best efforts, felt her face break into a hot blush. 

 

“I… I know that,” Hermione hissed, “It’s just… I’ve never… Never…”

 

“Never kissed another girl?” Tonks prompted. 

 

Hermione nodded, embarrassed. The silence between them was punctuated by the loud screaming of cicadas outside the open windows of the kitchen. 

 

“It’s not so different from kissing a boy,” Tonks said gently, “If anything, it’s softer. Girls have such soft lips and tongues…” 

 

Hermione’s blush deepened. 

 

“I just… It’s in front of everyone,” Hermione said quietly, hating herself for being so awkward about it all. After all, wasn’t she the one that had volunteered? Hadn’t she willingly put herself in the position of playing Fleur’s partner?

 

Tonks looked thoughtful for a moment, tapping her lips with her fingers. Her nails were decorated in chipped black nail polish. She kicked her legs as she thought, her combat boots thudding an oddly soothing rhythm against the chipboard cupboards. 

 

“It doesn’t matter,” Tonks said finally, “Nobody is going to tease you or judge you. You’re in a safe space here. Besides, Fleur’s a lovely lass.” 

 

Hermione snorted. 

 

“Sure she is,” Hermione rolled her eyes, “If anyone were going to tease me or judge me, it would be her.” 

 

 

“She’s a tough one to get close to, yeah,” Tonks shrugged, not taking the bait to criticise Fleur, “But she’s not so bad when you get to know her.” 

 

“You know her?” Hermione was surprised. Tonks and Fleur seemed like polar opposites. Tonks was so charming and friendly, with an eccentric and oddball style. Fleur seemed so prim and proper, so cold and stand-offish. 

 

Tonks exhaled, leaning back on her hands and exaggerating her kicks. 

 

“We’ve been in the Order together since she finished school, yeah,” Tonks said casually, “She was actually quite nice about me and Remus getting together.” 

 

Hermione was about to pry further when there was a quiet knock at the kitchen door and Harry entered. His nose was, in fact, bright red from their day in the sun. He pushed his round glasses up his sweaty nose, smiling sheepishly. 

 

“Er, sorry to interrupt,” Harry said, clearing his voice. He mashed his hands together awkwardly, his willowy limbs looking spidery in the yellowed lighting of the kitchen. 

 

“Not at all,” Tonks replied cheerily, sipping on her water some more. 

 

Hermione tugged at the back of her tee shirt, where the sweat was making it stick to her back uncomfortably. 

 

“I wanted to apologise for Ron,” Harry said, stepping forward awkwardly, “Ginny said— I mean, I know— It’s a bit weird for him to make comments like that about you and Fleur. I just want you to know we’re not… We’re not, like, sexualising this or anything. You’re the only one of us who could step up, and you did. We’re proud of you, mate.” 

 

Harry rubbed the back of his neck suddenly, as if embarrassed by the sudden burst of earnest friendship that had emitted from him. 

 

Hermione stepped forward and pulled the tall boy into a tight hug. Sweatiness be damned, those bloody boys were like brothers to her. Even if they could wind her up. 

 

“It just made me so uncomfortable being told I have to kiss her in front of everyone and his comment really bothered me,” Hermione confessed into Harry’s bony shoulder. Harry nodded against her, before being released from the hug. 

 

“I mean, he always had that giant crush on her,” Harry pointed out, “He was bound to make some bonehead comments. I just think he’s a bit jealous of you— but don’t tell him I said that.”

 

Hermione laughed hollowly. 

 

“There’s not much to be jealous of, I’m afraid,” Hermione said, smiling grimly, “Fleur and I just don’t get along. It won’t be a very pleasant experience.” 

 

Tonks slid off the countertop behind Hermione, moving to put a hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. 

 

“Hey, Hermione,” Tonks said softly, “Just go into tomorrow with an open mind.”

 

Hermione felt her shoulders relax a little under the young Auror’s touch, but her mind didn’t calm at all. Tomorrow, in front of her friends and the Order of the Phoenix, she was to wed Fleur Delacour. 

 

She’d volunteered for it. 

 

It was just a task for the Order, even Fleur knew that. 

 

Purely a business-like arrangement. 

 

But for some reason Hermione’s stomach wouldn’t stop squirming and her nerves wouldn’t stop jangling, tickling her at her wrists and temples. 

Chapter Text

Hermione awoke with a jolt, sitting bolt upright in bed. She was drenched in sweat and the sheets were tangled around her. 

 

Ginny, lying beside her, groaned at the last scrap of sheets being wrenched away from her by Hermione’s sudden wrestling.

 

Already the dream that had woken Hermione had faded from vivid reality to a hazy memory. Images of awful cloaked figures became foggier in her mind until she couldn’t grasp at them anymore.

 

The early summer sun was already beginning to beam through the gap in Ginny’s curtains. Hermione watched bright specks of dust float in the light as her heart slowed its racing. 

 

Ginny shifted some more beside her. Hermione looked at the girl beside her, all freckles and wild red hair. Ginny had always been fit, being a sporty kid. But as she had grown into her teens, Ginny had got incredibly toned. Hermione let her eyes run down Ginny’s figure, hugged by her cotton singlet and underwear. 

 

Something fuzzy buzzed in the back of her mind. Hermione pushed it further into the recesses of her mind.

 

Ginny groaned again, running a hand through her loose ginger tresses. 

 

“Is it really morning? I feel like we only just fell asleep,” Ginny grumbled, her voice still thick with sleep. 

 

“It really is,” Hermione said solemnly. She leaned back against the headboard, sighing heavily. Today she was going to marry Fleur. Her chest felt tight already. 

 

For the millionth time, she wondered whether she had bitten off more than she could handle volunteering to take Bill’s place at the altar. 

 

Ginny rolled over to face Hermione, peeking an eye open lazily. 

 

“Ready for the big day?” Ginny asked with an impish grin. Hermione frowned. Ginny disliked Fleur, and knew how much Hermione disliked her too. Ginny had made no secret that she found it highly amusing that Hermione was going to have to play the happy couple with the blonde. 

 

“What have I got myself into, Gin?” Hermione groaned, covering her face with her hands. 

 

“A loveless marriage with a conceited bitch?” Ginny retorted, giggling softly, “But it isn’t forever, ‘Mione. Besides, you’re helping the Order.” 

 

“Yeah,” Hermione replied weakly. 

 

For some reason, that didn’t make her feel better. In fact, she was now beginning to feel like she was about to throw up. Her heart thudded hard in her chest again. 

 

Hermione wondered if she had paled, as Ginny’s facial expression moved from teasing to pitying.

 

Ginny also seemed to take it easier on Hermione after that, keeping jibes to a minimum as they lazily got up and ready for the day. Hermione dressed simply, in shorts and a tee, opting to get into her formal wear later. As the two stepped out onto the landing, Hermione was actually starting to feel her shoulders relax a little.

 

Unfortunately, the idle pace wasn’t to last. 

 

Once Ginny and Hermione headed off down the stairs, they were immediately caught up in a wild whirlwind of activity within The Burrow. The ramshackle structure was buzzing with people— Fred and George were running up and down the stairs in dress robes, the door to the bathroom was open and Arthur was shaving his face.

 

Downstairs, it was even more hectic. Molly Weasley had situated herself in the middle of the large table and was doling out toast as well as chores. 

 

“Ginny! Hermione! Finally!” Molly called out, “Look, I’ve already sent Harry and Ron out with some toast to clear the cobwebs off the building. Perhaps you two can—“

 

“Errr, we’d love to, but I have to help Hermione get ready,” Ginny said hastily, noticing the various people around lugging chairs and platters. Ginny shot Hermione a look that firmly said ‘play along with this.’ 

 

Molly frowned, regarding Ginny and Hermione suspiciously. 

 

“I’ve already had Fred and George try that line,” Molly said flatly, “While already in their dress robes.”

 

“Well! We have to get Hermione’s hair ready!” Ginny improvised, “Besides, I bet the other bride is already getting ready.” 

 

“She is…” Molly conceded, “But—“

 

“Thanks mum! Catch you later!” Ginny chirped. She leapt forward, snagging a couple of pieces of toast off the table. Then she grabbed Hermione by the elbow and practically yanked her back up the stairs. 

 

“Was that really necessary?” Hermione asked, “I’m sure brushing some cobwebs away wouldn’t have been too bad…” 

 

Ginny shot her an incredulous look in the narrow stairway. 

 

“Really? It’s mum. It would have been that, then another task, then another one, until we’re toiling away right up to the ceremony,” Ginny explained. 

 

The two continued their hasty retreat up the stairs, before halting at one of the bedrooms. 

 

The door was ajar and loud French voices were spilling out into the hallway. Hermione couldn’t help but lean in, peering curiously through the open door. Ginny stalled beside her, similarly intrigued. 

 

Fleur, dressed in a pale pink silk dressing gown and with her hair tied in a messy bun, was shouting at what appeared to be her mother, judging by the silky silvery-platinum hair on the back of the head nearest the door. 

 

Hermione took a sick satisfaction in her years of French language classes paying off. 

 

“Fleur, will you just take the box,” Apolline Delacour insisted, gesturing to something out of Hermione and Ginny’s line of sight. 

 

“Why would I want that?!” Fleur retorted back. 

 

“Fleur, it is a reminder of why we must make this sacrifice,” Apolline tried to say calmly, though her voice shook a little. 

 

At these words, Fleur scoffed loudly, rolling her eyes. 

 

Our sacrifice?!” Fleur shot back, “From where I’m standing, I’m the only one sacrificing anything.” 

 

Ginny nudged Hermione, raising her eyebrow. Hermione put a finger to her lips to halt the unspoken questions on Ginny’s lips. Now wasn’t the time for a quick translation. 

 

“Fleur… It is the day of your wedding,” Apolline tried again, “Can’t we try and get along?” 

 

“Wedding!” Fleur laughed bitterly, “It is more like a funeral! Here you are sending me into something so dreadful—“ 

 

 

Hermione didn’t even have time for the sting of the words to hurt her fully. Ginny choked suddenly on her mouthful of toast. At first, she tried to do so quietly, face reddening and eyes watering. But soon she had to loudly cough as Hermione thumped on her back, mortified. 

 

The door whipped open fully and two suspicious part-Veela eyed Hermione and Ginny with displeasure. Hermione tried quickly to glance over their shoulder into the room, spotting a wooden box about the size of a shoebox, open. Inside she could see some glass vials with a silvery liquid, as well as a curious small glass orb. 

 

“Mother, this is Hermione,” Fleur said, before adding through gritted teeth, “My bride to be.” 

 

Hermione held out a hand to shake, but Apolline ignored it, instead critically roaming her eyes over Hermione. Hermione suddenly felt very self conscious of her bushy hair and simple clothes, not having expected to meet Apolline Delacour so early. 

 

“She is not so bad, Fleur,” Apolline said finally, glancing at Fleur. 

 

Fleur scowled. 

 

Hermione’s lip tightened, determined not to let the slight rile her up. She had an entire wedding to get through and it would do the Order no good to lose her temper before it had even started. 

 

“Right…” Hermione said, trying her very best not to let her offense be known, “Well, Gin and I have to get ready. We’ll see you both out there.” 

 

“So what were they arguing about?” Ginny asked as soon as they had returned to the privacy of her room. Hermione frowned. 

 

“Apolline spoke about the sacrifice Fleur is making,” Hermione said tensely, “And Fleur said the wedding may as well be a funeral.” 

 

“That French tart!” Ginny cursed instantly, “Not to mention her bloody mother with the ‘she’s not that bad’ insult.” 

 

“I know,” Hermione groaned, rubbing her temples, “I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the wedding with them both being so insufferable.” 

 

Hermione’s head throbbed with swirling thoughts. She thought of the disdainful way Fleur had refused to talk with her out on the lawns. She thought of the sheer outrage and anger in Fleur’s tone as she shouted at her mother. Tonks had said that Fleur had changed— but from where Hermione was standing, Fleur appeared to be just as rude and judgmental as she had been at Hogwarts during the Triwizard Tournament. 

 

Ginny walked over to her wardrobe, beginning to rifle through hangers. 

 

“I guess you just have to think about it as your sacrifice, too,” Ginny replied, “I mean this whole thing is just as hard on you, if you think about it.” 

 

Hermione hummed, still distracted with her irritation at Fleur, as she pulled out her wedding outfit. 

 

“She’s such a drama queen,” Ginny continued to rant as she pulled out her dress, “Practically a funeral—pssh! As if she’s ever had to go out of her way for a cause before!” 

 

Hermione cringed, though Ginny was too engrossed in her own ramblings to notice. As much as Hermione recognised Fleur was a conceited mean girl— something about the level of pure horror and outrage in Fleur’s voice had been truly hurtful. “Dreadful?” Was pretending to be Hermione’s wife that bad?

 

“And I’m just saying… Who really believes that the Veela blood makes Apolline look like that? Erm, cosmetic procedure much?” Ginny continued, gesturing wildly as she emphasised her point. 

 

Hermione tuned Ginny out as she slowly got changed, her head full of thoughts. Fleur thought of being married to Hermione like a death sentence. Sure, they didn’t get along, but Hermione didn't think she was that bad! It wasn’t even going to be permanent. It was just for the war! 

 

Hermione’s view of Fleur continued to sour as her thoughts continued. The blonde couldn’t even give her a fair chance of working with her. 

 

“And are we even sure that the French accents are real?” Ginny continued rambling, “I mean, I’m not saying they’re faking their accents… I’m just saying I’m skeptical…” 

 

Hermione smoothed down her outfit, turning to face Ginny. 

 

“Bloody hell, Hermione!” Ginny exclaimed, abruptly stopping her rant with a gasp, “You look…” 

 

“Stupid?” Hermione asked nervously. 

 

Hermione was dressed in a black, heavily tailored suit with a white shirt. The suit hugged her body like nothing Hermione had ever really worn before, accentuating her figure. She didn’t wear a tie, the top few buttons of her shirt unbuttoned rakishly instead, revealing the hint of her collarbones and upper chest. She was now even taller, the suit paired with black heels far higher than anything Hermione was used to. 

 

Ginny opened and shut her mouth a few times, stunned. She looked Hermione up and down several times, her eyes widening. 

 

“You look hot, ‘Mione,” Ginny said finally, her eyebrows raising. Hermione pleasantly shivered at the words. 

 

“I… I don’t know what to do with my hair or makeup, though,” Hermione admitted nervously.

 

Ginny clapped her hands together excitedly. 

 

“Say no more! At least my lie to mum about helping you with your hair will be true now!”

 


 

It was early afternoon when Ginny had finally found a hair style Hermione felt comfortable with— her hair out and cascading gently down just past her shoulders. Ginny had tamed her curls nicely though; Hermione had never seen them so controlled. There wasn’t any frizz to be seen and her hair was looking shiny and healthy. 

 

For makeup, Hermione had insisted on simple— Ginny had complied for the most part. Natural looking makeup that just accentuated her natural features, some subtle winged eyeliner. But Ginny had insisted— rather aggressively in Hermione’s opinion— that she wear some bright red lipstick. 

 

Hermione had to hand it to Ginny, the lipstick wasn’t a bad touch. She admired herself in the mirror. She was grateful for Tonks for opening her eyes to the fact that she didn’t have to fit into the classic cookie-cutter mould of what a woman should wear to a wedding. 

 

Ginny herself had tied her wild red hair into an elegant bun at the base of her neck and donned an emerald green gown that showed off her freckled shoulders. She did her makeup in a similarly understated way, settling on a natural looking pink lipstick for herself. 

 

Getting ready for the wedding with Ginny was doing wonders for settling Hermione’s jangling nerves and sour mood. They talked idly about everything and nothing as they finished off their preparations. Ginny had a confidence in herself that Hermione wished she had. She had her own stash of makeup and seemed very experienced in doing her hair in a number of ways. It made Hermione feel less hopeless having her help. Ginny even shared some of her perfume with Hermione — a curious warm, spicy scent. As Hermione dabbed some on her wrists and at the juncture where her jaw met her neck, she hoped it would somehow fill her with some of Ginny’s bold self-assurance. 

 

By the time both girls descended downstairs, most of the guests had already arrived. Molly was bustling around wildly, pushing plates into people’s hands, barking orders at passing Weasleys, wiping sweat off her brow. 

 

“Wow, looking good, ‘Mione!” Harry commented, walking up to Hermione. He opted against his bottle green dress robes, instead wearing a simple Muggle charcoal suit with an emerald green tie. Ron, thankfully, was wearing the same. Hermione was quietly thankful at this fact. 

 

“Fred and George gifted us a couple of suits,” Ron explained, pulling at his lapels and preening, “Makes the old dress robes look pretty shit, doesn’t it?” 

 

“Yeah, these suits are the thing that made your old dress robes look shit,” Ginny replied sarcastically.

 

Ron scowled at the memory of his tattered frilly dress robes. 

 

“Wotcher,” Hermione heard suddenly in her ear. 

 

She turned around to find Tonks standing before her, decked out in a green suit. Her hair was purple and short and she wore black lipstick. 

 

“Going for subtle again, I see,” Hermione greeted. Tonks smirked back. 

 

“Thanks. You clean up well! The suit looks even better with the makeup, Hermione,” Tonks complimented. Hermione smiled awkwardly. Something about compliments from other women always made her so uncomfortable in a way she couldn’t put her finger on. 

 

“You look smart, Hermione,” Molly complimented, before shooing the group, “Now you lot get outside, we aren’t far off starting.” 

 

Hermione felt her stomach drop violently and her palms suddenly drench themselves with sweat. 

 

“Come on, come on,” Tonks said encouragingly, moving behind Hermione to steer her by the shoulders. Harry, Ron and Ginny flanking her, Hermione allowed herself to be led outside into the sunshine. 

 

It was a gorgeous afternoon and the grounds of The Burrow were full of people. The Weasley’s scraggly lawns had never looked so tidy and elegant. Hermione recognised a number of professors from Hogwarts, Luna Lovegood, as well as a large amount of people she didn't know. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, standing around ornate tables.

 

Some were obviously Fleur’s relatives, dressed in fashionable clothes, beautiful and blonde haired. 

 

Others were evidently Ministry officials, dressed in formal looking robes and talking animatedly to Arthur Weasley. 

 

Hermione’s eyes scanned the crowd, falling on Apolline Delacour. She was already most of the way through a large glass of wine, frowning. 

 

“Yeah, Madame Delacour is drunk already,” Tonks commented in Hermione’s ear, “Like, awkwardly drunk for this early at a wedding. She’s not exactly in a cheery mood either, so I’d steer clear of her if I were you.”

 

Hermione rolled her eyes. 

 

Fine, drink yourself into a stupor because I’m not the ideal fake partner for your daughter, Hermione thought to herself darkly, So overdramatic.

 

Hermione was nervous enough without allowing herself the headspace to return to the Delacours disliking her.

 

She knew they had invited a good amount of people in order to make it well known that the wedding had taken place, but she hadn’t thought the crowd would be quite this big. She had pictured the Order and maybe a couple of other people. 

 

“You okay, ‘Mione?” Harry asked, looking at her with a surprising level of perception. 

 

“Just… Just nervous,” Hermione admitted, looking around all the faces dotted around the grounds of the Burrow, “But it’s a bit too late to back out now, I suppose.”

 

“You’ll be fine,” Tonks said, massaging Hermione’s shoulders with her hands, “Besides, marrying a pretty lass? There’s worse sacrifices to make.”

 

Hermione’s throat felt dry.

 

Luna Lovegood appeared in front of the small group, beside her a rather hippie-like man. He had long dirty blonde hair like Luna, but a short and scruffy beard to match. He was dressed in bright purple robes, a formal wizard’s hat on his head, made of the same bright purple material. Around his neck, Hermione noticed a silver chain with a curious pendant, a triangle a circle and a line all together. Most striking, however, were his eyes— a light blue that seemed almost pastel. 

 

Luna bobbed her head in the quirky way she did, looking at Hermione with both a total and lack of attention that unnerved the brunette. She’d never quite been able to puzzle out the Ravenclaw. Half the time she thought she was a flaky eccentric with her head in the clouds, other times she thought Luna was strangely astute. 

 

“Good afternoon, Hermione,” Luna greeted, “I did not know you were involved with Fleur, but it is so wondrous to be invited to your special day. I didn’t pick you for the whirlwind romance type.” 

 

Hermione froze, unsure of how to respond. As far as she knew, Luna’s family were not in the Order and wouldn’t know it was a visa marriage. Time for the first lie. 

 

“Yeah, well, Fleur brings out the spontaneous side of Hermione,” Tonks interjected, filling the silence that had begun to stretch out. 

 

“A side we never knew she had,” Ron joined in with a large smirk, earning a sharp elbow from Hermione. 

 

Luna, if suspicious, didn’t show it. Instead she inclined her head slowly. 

 

“Well, I’m very happy we can help you with your ceremony,” Luna responded, “This is my father, Xenophilius Lovegood.” 

 

At the introduction, Xenophilius abruptly bowed. His bow was so deep and dramatic that it reminded Hermione awfully of the film depiction of Willy Wonka. 

 

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Granger,” Xenophilius greeted upon righting himself, “When I was ordained as a minister, I always hoped to carry out a good number of same sex marriages.” 

 

Hermione fought to suppress a blush. It still made her feel incredibly strange that everyone would now assume she was interested in women in that way. 

 

“Erm, excellent,” Hermione replied weakly, mustering a feeble smile. 

 

Thankfully, the conversation with Luna and her father was cut short as very soon Molly was out and ushering everyone into her seats. Hermione was instructed to stand at the back before walking up the aisle to join her bridesmaid and brides men at the front.

 

Hermione nervously shifted in her heels as everyone began to organise themselves into position for the actual ceremony. She was feeling a little lightheaded and her stomach was doing somersaults. 

 

Ron hung back, standing beside her. 


Growing more agitated as every second ticked closer to marrying a woman who loathed her, Hermione turned to scowl at her red-headed friend. 

 

“What are you doing back here, Ron?” Hermione all but snapped. 

 

Ron, oblivious as always, offered her a lopsided smile. 

 

“Well, ya know, it’s your wedding day and all,” Ron shrugged casually, seeming impervious to Hermione’s harsh gaze, “I know it’s not really… you know… But I figure it must still be pretty shit that your parents can’t be here all the same.” 

 

Hermione’s mouth fell open at the strange show of empathy from a boy who usually had the emotional range of a teaspoon. 

 

“Anyway,” Ron said, rubbing the back of his neck, “I thought maybe it’d be nice if you had someone that cared about you walking you down the aisle. I know a mate walking you down is hardly the same as your dad, but…” 

 

Hermione was touched. Ron had all but accepted Harry into his own family, orphaned as he was and stuck with the abusive Dursleys. Now here Ron was, stepping in to make sure Hermione didn’t feel the weight of her own missing family. As clueless as Ron could be, he really did surprise her at times with his compassion. 

 

“Oh, Ron!” Hermione sniffled, throwing her arms around the redhead’s broad shoulders. 

 

Surprised, and looking a little alarmed, Ron hugged her back. 

 

All of a sudden, some stuffy music began to fill their ears. Hermione, for a moment, felt her stomach object. For the briefest of moments, she was convinced she would throw up on Ron’s dress shoes. But then the moment of panicked nausea passed, and she tried to fix her mind to the task at hand. 

 

This shouldn’t be scarier than facing a basilisk, Hermione thought to herself, furrowing her brows. 

 

Ron took Hermione’s hand, tucking it into his arm. This snapped Hermione out of her panic and she tightened her jaw, resolved to carry out her duty. 

 

Hermione was relieved to have a friend at her side as she walked up the aisle slowly. She felt the weight of everyone’s eyes on her. Judging, scrutinising… Even though she wouldn’t be back at Hogwarts this year, she was sure it would make headlines amongst the school gossips. 

 

As they reached the end of the aisle, Hermione came to a stop in front of Xenophilius and Ron released her. 

 

“You’ve got this, ‘Mione,” Ron muttered in her ear. 

 

Once again, Hermione was surprised by Ron’s thoughtfulness. Though she supposed the pigheaded accidentally offensive comments would come after the ceremony when he had imbibed some of the wine and beer on offer. 

 

Xenophilius shot Hermione a supportive smile, his light blue eyes sparkling. 

 

There was shuffling as heads turned to look at the end of the aisle again. Hermione turned around, a nervous lump growing in her dry throat. 

 

What Hermione saw at the end of the aisle made her clenched jaw slacken instantly. 

 

Fleur Delacour was radiant. 

 

She was dressed in an expensive, traditional wedding dress. It hugged her figure perfectly and flowed to the ground into a long train. Fleur was without a veil, but it was a good choice, as her hair had never looked more healthy and shimmering. Hermione wondered if there was some Veela magic at play with the way Fleur’s hair shone and glittered in the afternoon sun. 

 

Fleur’s face, which Hermione had grown accustomed to seeing in a cold and supercilious sneer, was relaxed and smiling sweetly. She had also gone understated with her makeup, her lips a pretty shade of pink. 

 

Hermione felt almost hypnotised as Fleur slowly walked up the aisle. She walked alone, but it was as if even the crowd in their seats were no longer there. The only person Hermione could see was Fleur. 

 

Hermione couldn’t help but rake her gaze up and down Fleur as she made it to stand in front of her. Fleur shot her a dazzling smile. Her deep blue eyes roamed over Hermione with approval, causing a not unpleasant twinge within the brunette. 

 

Wow… Hermione thought, dazed.

 

She’d never been on the receiving end of a warm smile from Fleur. It was… strange. It made Hermione feel oddly good, in an almost giddy way. 

 

Hermione’s thoughts were curtailed as Apolline Delacour loudly sobbed. 

 

The sourness instantly returned to Hermione’s mood as she shot an unimpressed look at the half-Veela matriarch sobbing in the front row. 

 

“Welcome,” Xenophilius began, “To this celebration of passionate young love…” 

 

Hermione could scarcely keep up with Xenophilius’ words, her attention returning to Fleur. If she didn’t know that Fleur was actually a dreadful ice queen, she could almost mistake her for an angel. 

 

Before she could comprehend it, Xenophilius had already got to the climax of the ceremony. Hermione’s eyes shot up as Fleur stepped forward, reaching out her impeccably manicured hands in front of her. Hermione noticed a large engagement ring on Fleur’s ring finger that had not been there previously. 

 

Clearing her throat awkwardly, Hermione reached out and took Fleur’s hands in her own. They were warm and soft in her own. Hermione was suddenly incredibly self conscious of her clammy hands. Hermione looked up, locking eyes with Fleur. There, she could finally see the icy depths of Fleur’s real feelings. The blonde may be smiling sweetly, but her eyes did not look happy in the slightest. 

 

Fleur hid it well as she repeated her vows after Xenophilius, her voice convincingly tender and cocking her head to one side as she looked at Hermione, speaking of a wild love between them that had never existed. 

 

Hermione’s voice sounded hollow and empty as she repeated her own lines after Xenophilius. 

 

“I promise to love you perpetually, appreciate you forever, and protect you always,” Hermione said, ignoring the flicker of a scornful sneer in Fleur’s face. 

 

It doesn’t matter, I just need to get through this, Hermione urged herself on.

 

But her anxiety was reaching dizzying heights as Xenophilius led them further through the ritial. To promises, to sliding a ring up Fleur’s delicate finger.

 

“Fleur Isabelle Delacour, do you take Hermione Jean Granger as your lawful wedded wife?” 

 

Hermione shut her eyes briefly, squeezing them shut, as Fleur assented. 

 

“Hermione Jean Granger, do you take Fleur Isabelle Delacour as your lawful wedded wife?” Xenophilius prompted. 

 

Hermione opened her eyes, feeling like she was hyperventilating. Fleur narrowed her pretty eyes at her as the silence extended.

 

Apolline Delacour continued to sob in the front row. 

 

Once she said this, there was no going back.

 

“I- I do,” Hermione rasped, as Fleur squeezed her hands forcefully. 

 

Xenophilius, apparently oblivious to Hermione’s trepidation, smiled widely. 

 

“I now pronounce you—“ 

 

“Wait,” Hermione murmured quickly, only loud enough for Xenophilius and Fleur to hear, a great panic beginning to break loose within her. Her heart was thumping in her chest and she felt her stomach roil fearfully. 

 

Fleur didn’t give Hermione a chance to continue, lurching forward suddenly. She reached a hand roughly behind Hermione’s head, her manicured nails scratching the brunette’s neck. In a split second, she had pulled Hermione into a searing kiss. 

 

“Wife and wife!” Xenophilius finished, looking at the two with surprise, “Well look at that! Young love, eh?!’ 

 

Hermione scarcely heard Xenophilius. She felt like someone had hooked her up to some Muggle electrical mains. A wild current rocked through her as Fleur deepened the kiss between them, slipping her tongue into Hermione’s mouth. 

 

All the panicked thoughts that had been crowding Hermione’s brain disappeared in an instant as for once in her life— instinct overtook her brain. Her hands moved to rest at Fleur’s hips, pulling the blonde into her arms as they continued to kiss. 

 

She let her tongue slide against Fleur’s, enjoying the pleasant lurches this produced in her stomach. 

 

Then it was over, Fleur pulled away and smiled widely at the guests, reminding Hermione that they were in fact, not alone. Fleur reached for her hand, Hermione holding it tightly as she led them back down the aisle, waving sheepishly at the guests.  

 

As they got to the end of the aisle, Fleur leaned close to Hermione, her hot breath tickling Hermione’s ear. 

 

“You idiot, you almost ruined the whole thing!” Fleur hissed under her breath, “If you don’t pull yourself together, we’re never going to sell this.”

 

Like a cold bucket of water had been dumped over her, Hermione snapped out of her daze. 

 

“Perhaps if you controlled that nasty smirk of yours, I wouldn’t be struggling so much,” Hermione countered, plastering a false smile across her face as she drew an arm around Fleur for a photograph. 

 

Whether Fleur didn’t have the energy to bicker, or whether she was simply re-committing to the act, Fleur went silent, smiling broadly as a photographer continued to snap their picture. 

 

Hermione suppressed her strong urge to scowl at the blonde as they were trotted around the grounds of the Burrow like show-ponies, posing for couple photos together. The worst was when they had to press their foreheads together and Hermione’s eyes locked with Fleur’s disdainful gaze. 

 

The sooner this visa arrangement is over and done with, the better, Hermione inwardly fumed. 

 

It was with great relief that they were finally released to go and sit at the bridal table for drinks.

 

On reaching the table, Hermione instantly dropped Fleur’s hand and threw herself heavily into her seat with a sigh. 

 

“How were photos?” Ginny asked from across the table with a coy grin, “They looked pretty romantic from here.” 

 

Hermione gritted her teeth, for the other tables were seated far too closely for her to be honest. 

 

“They were fantastic, thanks,” Hermione lied, inwardly cursing Ginny with every name she could think of, “I’m feeling a bit tired though. Might even have to turn in early.”

 

“Oh nonsense!” Arthur Weasley boomed, appearing beside the table, “You only get married once— Hopefully, anyway— Am I right?” 

 

Arthur mopped his sweaty bald patch with a hanky and elbowed a man beside him. 

 

“Right you are, Arthur,” chuckled the man beside him. He looked very official, in pinstriped dress robes and with an impeccably groomed moustache. 

 

“Oh how rude of me,” Arthur said a little too casually, “This is a colleague I’ve recently become friends with at the Ministry, James Cashew. What department do you work in again, James?” 

 

“Immigration,” James answered with a friendly grin. 

 

Arthur gave the table a pointed look. 

 

Fleur smiled broadly, instantly leaning over and putting her hand on Hermione’s thigh. Hermione felt a weird tingling at the manicured hand resting in her lap. 

 

“Charmed to meet you,” Fleur purred. Hermione inwardly groaned, wondering if Fleur was releasing some of her part-Veela thrall to charm the immigration official. 

 

“Nice to meet you two as well,” James replied, “Arthur says you’re like a daughter to him, Hermione. He’s invited so many of us Ministry colleagues from immigration to join in your special day! Very odd, but very lovely all the same.” 

 

Hermione mentally cursed Mr. Weasley. In trying to make the wedding seem more legitimate, he had missed the mark— sailing so far pass the mark in fact— by inviting a heap of people he vaguely knew from the Ministry. Could Mr. Weasley be more transparent? Inviting an immigration official to witness a marriage between a French magical national and a British one?

 

“How kind of him,” Fleur said in a voice that didn’t really sound like she approved at all. Hermione wondered if she thought Mr. Weasley’s move was similarly transparent. 

 

“Very,” James chuckled, “Now if you’ll excuse me, Arthur where are the bathrooms here?” 

 

Fleur’s fingers clenched on Hermione’s thigh and she suppressed a yelp at the manicured nails digging into her skin through her trousers. 

 

“Follow me,” Fleur hissed into Hermione’s ear. 

 

“Ah, excuse us, too!” Hermione yelped, hastily getting up from her chair, “We will see you on the dance floor no doubt!” 

 

Fleur took Hermione’s hand, tugging her through the crowd while smiling politely at guests. As they broke away from the throngs of guests and headed closer to the house, Hermione turned to Fleur. 

 

“What is it?” Hermione asked, not even trying to hide the displeasure in her tone. 

 

“Are you kidding?!” Fleur replied incredulously, “That buffoon Arthur Weasley has only gone and invited immigration co-workers to his son’s friend’s wedding?! Could he be any more obvious?!” 

 

“Well, I don’t see what we can do about it now,” Hermione replied, prickling at Fleur referring to Mr. Weasley as a ‘buffoon.’ 

 

“Well, thank god one of us can think on our feet,” Fleur retorted derisively, “We have to make it to the bathrooms before James Cashew.” 

 

They breached the threshold of the Burrow, their respective heels echoing loudly on the wooden floors of the empty farmhouse. 

 

“Why?” Hermione replied, failing to understand how a bathroom could rectify how suspicious Mr. Weasley had made the nuptials appear. 

 

They stopped in front of the downstairs bathroom and Fleur wrenched the door open, pulling Hermione in roughly by the hand. 

 

“To get caught in the act,” Fleur said impatiently, “Now get on your knees.” 

 

“WHAT?!” Hermione yelped. 

 

“Ugh! Not for real, you fool!” Fleur snapped at her, “Do you want to help The Order or not? Just get on your knees, I’ll hitch up my dress, and then when he bursts in here he will think he has caught us in the middle of something.” 

 

“Oh… er, right,” Hermione replied. It was mortifying, truly. But surely the stiff immigration official would hardly expect people to fake a sexual interaction for the sake of a visa. 

 

Hermione stood in front of Fleur for a moment, their eyes meeting in a steely momentary truce. 

 

“Wait, why do I have to be on my knees? Why can’t you—“ 

 

“As if!” Fleur cut off conceitedly, “Besides, this dress is far too expensive for me to be kneeling in some farmhouse bathroom. Just get down, he’ll be here any minute.” 

 

Audibly grumbling about snobby Frenchwomen, Hermione reluctantly got down on her knees in front of Fleur— unable to think of a better plan in the moment.

 

Fleur pulled up the front of her dress quickly. Hermione was momentarily stunned by the creamy toned legs slowly being revealed for her before Fleur hooked a leg over her shoulder, pulling her in with an expensive heel digging into Hermione’s back. Hermione was unceremoniously wrenched in until her face was almost touching white lace. 

 

Hermione blinked, realising the white lace was the front of Fleur’s underwear. Her face burned up and Hermione desperately hoped Fleur could not feel how red her cheeks were against her thigh. She screwed her eyes shut, feeling her stomach squirm strangely in a way she wasn’t sure she enjoyed. 

 

There was the sound of the door opening before Fleur let out a theatric gasp. 

 

“Oh! Dear Heavens!” shouted the awkward voice of James Cashew, “I- I am so very sorry ladies! The d-door was unlocked!!” 

 

The door slammed again quickly and Fleur released her hold on Hermione. 

 

Hermione tore herself away from the blonde, getting back up to her feet with great speed. She cleared her throat, more than aware that her cheeks were likely still blushing. 

 

Fleur pulled her dress back down and smoothed it, not even bothering to look at Hermione. Before Hermione could even say anything, Fleur opened the door to the bathroom, stepping out gracefully. 

 

“Mon dieu,” Fleur exclaimed dramatically, “I am so sorry Mr. Cashew, we thought we had locked the door.” 

 

Hermione stepped out to stand beside Fleur, her face still feeling too hot. James Cashew was waiting awkwardly for the bathroom, intently looking anywhere but at Fleur and Hermione. 

 

“Er, it’s quite all right,” James spluttered, looking incredibly uncomfortable, “I… Erm… Should have knocked anyway.”

 

“Non, non, non!” Fleur said graciously, waving a hand as if it were nothing, “It is all our fault. My Hermione— mon amour— She is just so passionate you know? We really should learn to restrain ourselves.” 

 

If it were possible for Hermione to feel more mortified, she did. Hermione was now the one pointedly looking anywhere but at Fleur or James. 

 

“Ah, we should go…” Hermione said, incredibly eager to leave the uncomfortable situation. 

 

James could only muster an awkward half-wave, practically running into the bathroom and swiftly locking the door behind him. 

 

Hermione exhaled, walking back towards outside as fast as she could. Fleur fell into step beside her. 

 

“Did you have to say it was my idea to fool around in a bathroom?!” Hermione muttered as soon as they were safely far away from others. She was thoroughly nettled with how embarrassing the whole debacle had been. 

 

Fleur scoffed derisively. 

 

“Who cares? He clearly believed we are together in that way if he got that uncomfortable,” Fleur replied dismissively, “It was necessary in order to keep suspicion off us.”

 

They continued walking across the clipped lawns back towards the guests. Hermione took the opportunity to scowl while she could. 

 

I care!” Hermione replied hotly, “That was so embarrassing! I would never do anything like that!” 

 

“Don’t blame me for your boring real life,” Fleur drawled, “Besides, if your only sacrifice to the Order is a little embarrassment, count yourself lucky. Some of us have to sacrifice a great deal more.” 

 

This only served to irritate Hermione further. She was sick to death of Fleur acting like a martyr for having to marry her. 

 

“Nobody in the Order said anything about having to simulate oral sex in a bathroom!” Hermione hissed as they approached the guests, “Besides, the real sacrifice is having to pretend to be besotted with you!” 

 

Fleur didn’t get time to react to the slight as they rejoined the party-goers. Instead she had to fasten a broad smile on her face as if it was the best day of her life. Hermione got a mean-spirited kick out of it, knowing that the Frenchwoman would have loved nothing more than to hit back with a barbed comment. 

 

“Oh good, there you two are!” Tonks exclaimed, bustling clumsily through two elderly women and causing them to spill their cups of tea. 

 

“What is it?” Fleur replied. To Hermione’s satisfaction, it seemed like Fleur was barely keeping the irritation out of her voice. 

 

“It’s time for speeches!” Tonks replied cheerily. 

 

“Speeches?” Hermione echoed hollowly. Her stomach sank. 

Chapter Text

To say Fleur was unhappy would be an understatement. 

 

Every part of the farce that was being carried out was just another nail in the coffin of her already strained relationship with her mother. 

 

Apolline— for she no longer merited the name ‘Maman’ with Fleur— had always been, for lack of a better term, careless. 

 

Growing up, it wasn’t unusual for Apolline to “forget” about Gabrielle and Fleur, leaving them unattended in the Delacour manor for up to a week at a time. She’d go out for a night of carefree fun, meet a man, reel him in with her thrall, and then go off on a whirlwind fling without a single thought of her daughters at home. 

 

Fortunately, the Delacour grandparents had been wealthy, leaving Apolline with more than enough wealth to hire a house assistant— who ensured Fleur and Gabrielle were kept fed and clothed during Apolline’s unexpected departures. Fleur did the rest: putting Gabrielle to bed, reading her stories, making sure she was doing her homework. 

 

Apolline had told Gabrielle and Fleur from a young age that she couldn’t remember who their fathers were, but that it didn’t matter. For when you had the thrall you could easily find another man. Why let one man treat you as disposable, when you could simply turn the tables and treat all men as disposable themselves? Apolline had laughed. 

 

But then one day, Apolline had come home from a trip into town, ashen faced. She had thrown herself on her bed and remained there for days, barely eating or sleeping. Fleur had recently finished Beauxbatons, so hadn’t cared. She was applying for jobs at the French Ministry and would soon be free of her mother. Gabrielle would be able to start Beauxbatons the following year too. She wouldn’t need Fleur to watch over her so closely. Things were looking up, despite their eccentric mother. 

 

Apolline eventually surfaced after her dramatic depression. She had been in a strange mood, had sat Gabrielle and Fleur down and told them about the great wizarding war. Full blooded humans, she explained, were cruel and treated creatures as lesser beings. They hated every part of their magic spark— everything that made them special. They kept elves as house slaves and had all but exterminated giants. 

 

It was this tension between creature and human that had led to many magical creatures taking the side of the Dark Lord during the war. He fought to celebrate magical blood. 

 

It was with this, and many other profuse excuses, that Apolline explained one of her flings— when Fleur was very young— had been with the Dark Lord himself. 

 

The information alone had hit Fleur, and a young Gabrielle, like a tonne of bricks. They had been aware, through their magical history lessons, that the Veela had been on the side of the Dark Lord in the last great wizarding war. But they had no idea their mother had been so intimately involved with a man known to be one of the most cruel and evil figures of wizarding history. 

 

Back in current time, Harry got to his feet, holding his wand to his throat to amplify his voice. He began to give a very boring — and very false— account of witnessing Fleur and Hermione falling in love. Hermione still had a look of anxious disapproval colouring her expression. Fleur suppressed a groan. She wished the brunette would just pull herself together already.

 

Apolline, being quite into the mystical world of Divination, had regularly visited a Seer to have her future told or to buy trinkets. 

 

The Seer had presented her with a small orb— a prophecy she had rendered that involved Apolline directly. 


The prophecy foretold that the “half-Veela” who had lain with the Dark Lord had a daughter. When this daughter’s blood was spilled into the soil of the United Kingdom by a Death Eater, the Half-Veela would be redeemed and the Dark Lord’s fall would inevitably follow. 

 

If it was anyone else’s mother, Fleur would have expected a different outcome. 

 

But Apolline wanted that redemption. 

 

After her days-long depression, she had owled a group called the “Order of the Phoenix.” They were based in the UK and were a Dumbledore-associated guerilla group focussed on taking down the Dark Lord. 

 

She’d owled them before even talking to her daughters about the prophecy. 

 

So then it just came down to which of her daughters was going to the UK. 

 

Fleur, unable to bear the thought of Gabrielle being sacrificed for the war, instantly vetoed any notion of Gabrielle being the daughter to fulfil the prophecy. But then she argued aggressively with her mother about why they even needed to act on the prophecy. 

 

Apolline had screamed dramatically. It was a chance to end the upcoming war! They had both been there at the Triwizard Tournament when Harry Potter had announced the Dark Lord’s return. Apolline implored Fleur to think of the countless lives that would be saved if she allowed the prophecy to play out. 

 

Of course, Fleur knew it was more than that. Apolline, though careless, was a proud woman. It would no doubt have bothered her after the Dark Lord fell the first time that she was on the wrong side of history. As far as Fleur was concerned, this was all about Apolline’s own selfish redemption. 

 

The Order of the Phoenix had quickly set Fleur up with a job at Gringotts in the curse-breaking department. This would allow Fleur to obtain a work visa and remain in the right spot for the wizarding war. 

 

Fleur had loathed her first meeting with the Order. They spoke as if she were not there, talked about when would be best for her to die strategically, calculating lives lost as if it were as simple as a game of chess. They spoke in terms of good and evil, black and white— but all Fleur could see was grey. 

 

It was only when they had discovered that it was harder for someone with magical blood to obtain a visa that the wedding scheme had developed. Fleur had had her work visa extension declined, and the Order had quickly found Bill Weasley to volunteer to marry her. 

 

But Bill was a pig. 

 

Fleur, in her short time at Gringotts, had endured constant indecencies at his hand. Every time she was in the same room as him, he would knock something of hers out of her hand “accidentally” so she would have to bend over in front of him. He never bothered to raise his eyes from her chest when she spoke to him. Worst of all, when the wedding arrangement was agreed upon — he grew bolder. 

 

Fleur felt totally disposable. 

 

Yes, she had already gone through her teens with boys and girls alike toying with her for her looks and thrall before tiring of her.  

 

Yes, she had gone through her whole life with her mother carting her out for special occasions and forgetting about her the rest of the time. 

 

But at least then she had had some autonomy. 

 

Now she felt like the last parts of her that made her feel whole were now being taken away. Fleur felt like she was made up of gaps where people had taken a part of her away. More empty than whole. 

 

Accepting that she was to die hadn’t been the hard part. Fleur had long conceded that everyone else’s needs would always come before her own, no matter how hard she fought to be seen. 

 

She had done some frantic research in the first week or two, before ultimately concluding that yes, official prophecies had a hideous knack for coming true. No matter how hard you struggled.

 

The hard part had been dealing with Apolline. 

 

At almost every opportunity, Apolline burst into tears. She dramatically bemoaned the sacrifice of her daughter— as if the entire situation were about her. She went on and on about how she would be the one to end the Dark Lord once and for all, through her own child.


It drove Fleur crazy. 

 

As if Apolline were the one that had to sit through numerous Order meetings discussing the best point in time for her to die as casually as discussing the type of tea. As if Apolline got told what job she had to do, and then what person she had to marry. 

 

No. At the end of all this, Apolline would still be as wild and free as she always had been. 

 

Apolline was so careless she had even wanted to bring Gabrielle to the wedding! That had been enough to make Fleur seriously consider cursing her own mother. With a prophecy floating around that a daughter of Apolline was to die in the United Kingdom?! It would be totally reckless to bring the eleven year old to the wedding. She wouldn’t be safe visiting the UK until Fleur had fulfilled the prophecy. 

 

Fleur had spent the days before the wedding avoiding her mother as much as possible. 

 

Apolline had arrived from France well in advance of the wedding, announcing she wanted to spend time with Fleur before the big day. 

 

Fleur had quickly accepted the offer to stay with the Weasleys in order to escape her. She knew Molly Weasley loathed her— hated her for the accusations against Bill, for driving the pig-headed boy away. Hated the way her own husband’s gaze lingered on Fleur despite her pitifully weak thrall. 

 

It was a sacrifice, to be sure, staying with people that barely tolerated you. But it had allowed Fleur some peace from her mother. Until the day of the wedding. 

 

Fleur had already been in an entirely foul mood when her mother had burst in, teary eyed and already smelling of wine. Apolline had wanted to share a box— trinkets Fleur had thought at first— with Fleur. She had opened it to reveal a number of small vials with the silvery cloud of memories within them. That and the cursed orb containing the prophecy itself. 

 

Fleur had been in a white hot rage ever since. 

 

It was sick! 

 

In what world would Fleur possibly want to view her mother’s memories with Voldemort?! In what world would she want to spend her days idly replaying the prophecy foretelling her own death?! 

 

Fleur had snapped, arguing wildly with her mother, not caring that their voices raised. In the end, as always, Apolline had left her in the room alone. 

 

A final act of walking out on Fleur. 

 

Fleur finished readying herself alone in the bedroom. 

 

When she looked at herself in the mirror in her wedding attire, she didn’t see a happy bride. She saw a ghost. She had no idea how she was going to sell this marriage. But she had to. The fate of the war depended on it. 

 

More importantly, Gabrielle’s own life depended on Fleur being the one to fulfil the prophecy. 

 

So Fleur walked down the aisle obediently, like a lamb to slaughter. She plastered a fake smile on her face. She married Hermione Granger, the insufferable know-it-all. 

 

It didn’t mean she had to be happy. 

 

Fleur tapped her fingers impatiently as Apolline sobbed her way through a speech. The words were falser than Apolline’s own care for her children. Hermione cast her a hard look from her seat beside her, and Fleur took the hint to dab a handkerchief delicately at her eyes as if she were getting misty-eyed from her mother’s speech. 

 

“What’s your deal?” Hermione hissed, “You were the one telling me to pull it together, but now you’re sitting here looking like someone’s about to die.” 

 

Fleur snorted darkly. 

 

It was evident The Order hadn’t told Harry Potter and his friends about Fleur’s role in the war. Perhaps to keep their hands clean? Perhaps they didn’t want the teens to find out just how many lives were to be lost in the pursuit of ending one man’s crusade. 

 

Finally, thankfully, the dreaded speeches were over. Fleur could once again push Apolline to the back of her mind— and all the anger and blame that came with it. 

 

Now she just had to get through a little bit more with her ‘wife’ before they could make their excuses to go to their new home. 

 

Fleur was mentally counting how many hours left of the wedding she had left when Hermione stood up and offered her hand. 

 

Of course. The first dance. 

 

Fleur, plastering another smile on her face, took her new spouse’s hand and allowed herself to be led to the makeshift dance floor. 

 

Fleur wondered idly how Hermione could possibly be comfortable in her suit in the dreadful heat. The brunette had yet to take her suit jacket off, and didn’t appear to be breaking a sweat. 

 

Fleur had to hand it to Tonks, she had done a fantastic job when she took Hermione shopping for her wedding attire. 

 

Leave it to Tonks to take a bookish know-it-all and find a way to make her look gorgeous. Fleur couldn’t stop looking at Hermione — if only to take in how stunning she looked. She had been floored when she had seen Hermione at the end of the aisle in her tailored suit. Since when had Hermione Granger possessed this kind of ‘daddy’ energy?! But Fleur had rapidly pushed it from her mind. Hermione Granger was Hermione Granger after all. A self-conscious wallflower who loved to cut people like Fleur down with whatever fact she had read in a book that day. 

 

It was years gone now, but Fleur still remembered hearing the stinging insults from the bushy-haired witch’s mouth whenever the Beauxbatons delegation walked past her in the halls at Hogwarts. 

 

Hermione turned around to face Fleur, a slight blush on her cheeks as she stepped forward. She seemed unsure of herself again. 

 

Fleur suppressed another groan. Did she really have to do Hermione’s job for her on top of everything else?

 

Fleur flashed a seductive smile, taking Hermione’s hands and placing them firmly on her hips. 

 

Brightest witch of her age and she doesn’t know how to dance with another woman, Fleur thought tartly to herself. 

 

It was bad enough that the wedding was a means to Fleur’s end. Having to guide Hermione through it was just too much. 

 

Fleur placed her hands on Hermione’s shoulders, running her fingers across the smooth material of Hermione’s suit jacket. 

 

To Fleur’s surprise, Hermione began to lead the dance, dancing quite well. The surprise must have shown on her face, as Hermione quirked an actually sincere smile. 

 

“Ginny and I used to practice together before the Yule Ball,” Hermione explained quietly, “We took turns leading.” 

 

Fleur’s gaze drifted to the redheaded friend of Hermione’s, sitting at a nearby table watching them. She was attractive, in an athletic way. Fleur felt an odd sort of annoyance. 

 

Fully aware she shouldn’t be looking irritated on her ‘happy wedding day,’ Fleur returned her gaze to Hermione’s. The Gryffindor’s eyes were calming, despite the brunette’s know-it-all tendencies. Fleur let herself get momentarily lost in the warmth of them and the rhythm of the dance. 

 

Fleur liked dancing, she always had. It was just that at school dances, boys had always had a terrible habit of letting their hands roam. It made Fleur feel cheap and ruined any fun she’d had dancing. 

 

But Hermione’s hands remained firmly on her waist, her eyes locked respectfully with Fleur’s. Fleur felt herself able to relax for a moment. 

 

The music faded into another song, others joined the dance-floor, but Fleur scarcely noticed them. 

 

Hermione didn’t bother to push conversation. Hermione didn’t roll her eyes. Hermione didn’t move her hands or eyes anywhere disrespectful. Fleur felt safe and able to enjoy a dance with her partner for once. 

 

Maybe this sham marriage wouldn’t be so bad?

 

Fleur’s relaxation was jarringly cut short by a scream. 

 

Hermione released Fleur, her face paling as she looked over her shoulder. 

 

Turning, Fleur saw with horror a blaze of emerald smoke pluming in the sky— a giant skull made up of emerald stars, with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue. The green smoke around the skull spread wider as it rose higher in the sky. 

 

The Dark Mark. 

Chapter Text

Hermione’s head snapped around as the crowd began to panic, shoving each other, apparating haphazardly, and running. 

 

Hermione found herself jostled and separated from Fleur as chaos broke out. 

 

“‘Mione!” 

 

Hermione could faintly hear Harry and Ron shouting her name above all the commotion. 

 

The brunette’s blood ran cold as she saw the first coloured beams of spells arcing overhead. Trying to focus despite the screams of the crowd, Hermione pulled her wand out from the pocket of her suit. 

 

“Hermione!” Molly Weasley shouted, spotting the young Gryffindor in the crowd and grabbing her arm. She held Hermione tightly, as if she were the only person anchoring her to reality. 

 

“Mrs Weasley!” Hermione shouted back, panic penetrating every word, “What do we do?!” 

 

“Get out of here!” Molly shouted, “Grab Ron and Harry and get out while you can! The Order will try and hold them off!” 

 

“What about Fleur?!” Hermione replied, her mind turning to her new wife that was nearby, but obstructed by the crowd. 

 

“Leave her,” Molly said dismissively, releasing Hermione’s arm. 

 

“But Mrs Weasley— I don’t even know that she has her wand on her with that dress she’s wearing—“ 

 

“Leave her be,” Molly replied savagely, “Things will play out how they play out. Go and find Harry and Ron.” 

 

“But—“

 

Molly was gone in an instant as the crowd jostled further, almost knocking Hermione off her feet. She could hear loud crashes over the shouting, the sound of spells hitting the Burrow or nearby tables. 

 

“Hermione!” 

 

Ron aggressively pushed two Ministry officials to one side, bowling through the panicked party-goers and yanking Harry by the arm. The two boys ran up to Hermione, immediately embracing her with relief. 

 

“We need to apparate out of here,” Ron gasped, his eyes flitting back and forth to the spells streaking across the sky. There were already numerous cracks as the panic filled wedding guests came to the same conclusion, trying frantically to get away from the Death Eaters. The previously penned in crowd was finally beginning to thin. 

 

“Where to?” Hermione asked. Her pulse was thudding heavily and she felt dizzy with adrenaline. 

 

Through the thinning crowd, they could now make out figures in dark hooded cloaks, throwing spell after spell. Clouds of dirt burst up as deflected spells were smacked into the lawn. Plumes of smoke were beginning to rise into the early evening sky as parts of the Burrow lit up with flames. 

 

“Grimmauld Place,” Harry answered quickly, “It’s safe and we can plan our next move there.” 

 

Ron shrieked as a red beam was deflected at the last minute from hitting him— Harry’s quick reflexes saving the day. 

 

“Let’s go,” Ron gasped, “Now.” 

 

“Wait!” Hermione insisted. 

 

The crowd had cleared enough for her to see Fleur. Hair significantly wilder, dress spattered with dirt and grass stains, Fleur was attempting to dodge spells— unarmed. 

 

While the Order were holding off the Death Eaters fairly well, and deflecting a lot of the spells aimed at the escaping crowd— nobody seemed to be halting the spells coming Fleur’s way. Hermione wondered if she was imagining things. But as Fleur dove to miss a red beam, right in front of Arthur Weasley, Hermione sensed something was off. 

 

“Follow me!” Hermione shouted at the boys. 

 

Hermione had never been known for her athletic prowess, but she ran faster than she ever had across the lawns of the Burrow. Her heart felt like it was in her mouth. Weaving around Order members and remaining panicked guests, Hermione powered towards Fleur.

 

Fleur had got to her feet again, face ashen. She seemed to have all but accepted her fate. 

 

“Protego!” Hermione deflected another red spell aimed at Fleur. 

 

As she finally got close enough to the blonde, Hermione quickly wrapped an arm around her, her other arm reached out for the boys to grab. As soon as she felt Harry and Ron grab on, Hermione apparated with a crack.

 


 

The air was hot and dusty as the teens landed heavily on a wooden floor. It was dark and Harry instantly started coughing in the stuffy air. 

 

“Where are we?!” Ron asked, still in a panic. 

 

“Upstairs room,” Harry croaked through coughs, “The one Hermione stayed in when we stayed here.” 

 

Hermione’s arm was still wrapped around Fleur who had yet to say a thing. Her hands were covering her face and Hermione could feel her trembling in her arms. 

 

“God, have we just made a terrible mistake? Should we have stayed and helped the Order?” Ron started pacing immediately, paling more at each step, “Mum and dad will know to apparate out of there as soon as they can— right? God, what about the house? I grew up in that house…” 

 

Harry pulled the heavy curtains open in the room. Light glared through the window, illuminating the room full of sheeted furniture. Ron continued pacing, walking back and forth through thick clouds of dust, lit up in the setting sun. Harry peered out the windows cautiously, his face tinted by the blood red sky. 

 

“Fleur?” Hermione said cautiously, moving to put her other arm around the blonde. 

 

It was as if hearing her name flipped an unseen switch, as Fleur twisted in Hermione’s arms before shoving her away roughly. 

 

“What the heck?!” Hermione yelped, stumbling before regaining her footing. 

 

“You should have left me!” Fleur snapped at Hermione, turning on her. Her hair was wild and flowing, like the Sirens the Veela had long since descended from. Her azure blue eyes were aflame. Hermione didn’t understand why she looked so pissed off. 

 

“You didn’t have a wand,” Hermione replied in a deadpan, “You should be thanking me!” 

 

“Thanking you?!” Fleur laughed darkly, “For what? Your heroic part in this war?” 

 

“God, Fleur,” Hermione spat, her frayed temper boiling over, “Even when someone saves your life you have to be such a brat about it! I wish it had been anyone else that I’d volunteered to marry.” 

 

Fleur’s face flashed with a reaction like a lightning strike, but before the angry part-Veela could respond, Harry had stepped between the two. 

 

“Guys, guys, this isn’t helping,” Harry said steadily, holding his hands up. 

 

Hermione shook her head, wanting nothing more than to burn through her excess adrenaline by throwing all her frustrations at Fleur. But Harry and his damnable knack of bringing people together had their attention. Ron had even stopped his panicked pacing. 

 

“Well, what do we do?” Ron asked Harry. 

 

Harry ran a hand through his sweaty, messy hair. He had a streak of dirt on his angular face and a tear near the armpit of his dress robes. Despite his pale complexion, he seemed to be calming himself.

 

“We know most of the guests got out,” Harry said, speaking half to himself, half to the rest of them, “The attack only lasted a few minutes before we left.” 

 

Hermione reeled at this, before confirming with her wristwatch. Though the Death Eater attack had been mere minutes, it had felt like hours to her amongst all the blind panic. 

 

“The Order were only holding the Death Eaters off so everyone could escape, I bet,” Harry reasoned, “So all we can do is sit put, and wait for word to come from the Burrow. Once we know everyone is safe, we’ll have a better idea of what our next move is.” 

 

There was an uncomfortable silence over the group as Harry’s words hung in the air. Hermione was sure everyone’s minds were going to the same place: they would wait to hear if there were any fatalities. If the Death Eaters had gained an advantage in their attack. If the nightmare of what had just happened would change their plans. 

 

“I could use a bloody strong cup of tea,” Ron sighed eventually. 

 

Harry nodded, leading the way out of the door. 

 

Hermione didn’t look at Fleur as they followed Harry through the once-grand corridors of Grimmauld Place. She couldn’t understand what she had witnessed at The Burrow. Nobody had seemed to have helped Fleur, despite the blonde being unarmed. What’s more, Fleur seemed angry that Hermione had saved her. 

 

Fleur was a pain, that much Hermione was sure of, but that was no excuse for people to leave her in harm’s way in the middle of a Death Eater attack. It made the brunette feel sick. 

 

Molly Weasley’s harsh words rang in Hermione’s ears. 

 

Leave her be.

 

Leave her be. 

 

Hermione looked in front of her, at the back of Ron’s head. His red hair was messy and had blades of grass scattered amongst one side. Hermione briefly entertained the idea of asking Ron about it all… before dismissing it completely. The Weasley loyalty was a double edged sword— Ron would have the back of anyone close to him, but he would lash out if anyone said a bad word against them. 

 

Hermione’s mind wandered further, wondering if Ginny had made it out okay. In all the chaos and jostling of scared party-goers, Hermione had not seen what had happened to the youngest Weasley. 

 

Harry was illuminating dusty and cobwebbed lamps as they walked, lighting the dark manor, but also giving it an unsettlingly haunted look about it. Hermione shivered as she thought about all the pure blood fanatics who had roamed the halls before her. 

 

Almost as if on cue, Ron bumped into a troll-leg umbrella stand loudly, alerting the dreadful portrait of Walburga Black in the downstairs hallway. 

 

A terrible shrieking from the portrait had the group of teenagers jumping, their nerves already shot after surviving a Death Eater attack. 

 

“Filth! Scum! By-products of dirt and vileness! Half-breeds, Mudbloods, freaks, begone from this place! How dare you befoul the house of my fathers—“ 

 

Harry quickly rushed over and threw a thick blanket over the portrait, ushering for the others to rush past it as he dulled her pureblood supremacist ranting. 

 

Harry followed behind them quickly, slamming the door behind them as they scampered into the basement kitchen. 

 

Rushing past the bigoted portrait into the basement kitchen reminded Hermione bitterly of simpler times— when they had spent the summer trying to clear out the house. When it was thought that Sirius would live there happily ever after with Harry. When there was considerably more hope in the world. 

 

The dull clunk of ceramics on wood punctuated Hermione’s depressed thoughts as Harry fished out some mugs and planted them on the large wooden table in the kitchen area of Grimmauld Place. 

 

It was thankfully a little cooler in the basement, sheltered as it was from the hot summer. Harry had lit the lamps and set about boiling a kettle, reminding Hermione sadly of his god-father, long-gone now. 

 

Ron pulled out a chair, the wooden leg loudly scuffing on the stone floor. Ron collapsed into the chair as if he had been on his feet for a week running. 

 

Fleur, looking ridiculous now in her filthy wedding dress, sat down across from Ron at the table. Hermione noticed Fleur wasn’t looking at her either, and was grateful for the break in their sniping. Now that they had properly got away and settled in to wait, Hermione felt exhaustion begin to seep into her bones. 

 

The brunette sat down beside her wife, relieved that at least in the basement kitchen of Grimmauld Place, they didn’t have to pretend to be in love. 

 

A tired and morose silence hung over the table as Harry moved slowly about the kitchen. 

 

Hermione propped her face up with her hands. Her body was tired but her head was buzzing with thoughts. The events of the day had left her with far more questions than answers. 

 

Harry returned to the table with an antique teapot, pouring a steaming brew into each of their mugs. 

 

Ron wrapped his large hands around his mug, staring into the liquid blankly. 

 

“You okay, Fleur?” Harry asked, sitting down across from the blonde, “Looked like we got to you just in time out there.” 

 

Fleur, sighing moodily, looked up at Harry. Tiredness seemed to be sinking into Fleur too, as Hermione noticed a lot of the fight had drained out of her. The blonde simply nodded at Harry before returning her gaze to a blank spot on the wooden table in front of her. 

 

Hermione wasn’t sure how long the four of them sat there in the kitchen. But the tea in her mug had gone cold, barely touched, when there was a pop followed by scampering and muttering. 

 

“Kreacher collected the mail, said nothing, collected the mail for his blood-traitor Young Master,” a small house elf muttered. He had a bulbous, snout-like nose, bloodshot eyes and white hair growing out of his bat-like ears. 

 

“Kreacher!” Harry exclaimed, catching sight of the wrinkled old house elf. 

 

“Oh, Kreacher didn’t see Young Master there,” Kreacher said with a sneer-like smile, bowing in front of Harry before muttering to himself again, “Young Master bringing that little brat of a blood traitor back here… And there’s the Mudblood, standing there bold as brass, oh if my Mistress knew, oh how she’d cry. There’s a new girl, Kreacher doesn't know her name… A filthy half-breed. Dirtying Mistress’s fine house.” 

 

“Kreacher,” Harry scowled, “For the last time, I can hear you when you mutter like that.” 

 

Hermione felt sorry for Kreacher. After all, he was just a product of the mass enslavement of his people. He’d been in servitude for most of his life to a family of pureblood supremacists, of course he had adopted their views. 

 

Hermione didn’t hear what Kreacher said next, but she did hear Harry loudly ask Kreacher what the scroll in his hand was, before the elderly house elf made to scamper off across the room. Harry, with Seeker-like speed, was up and out of his chair, darting after the house elf. 

 

Thankfully, before Kreacher could disapparate, Harry had wrenched the scroll from his hands. With a snarl, Kreacher retreated out the door of the kitchen, slamming it behind himself. 

 

“What is it?” Ron asked, looking equal parts hopeful and apprehensive. 

 

Harry unfurled the scroll, smoothing it out as he read it quickly. 

 

“Everyone’s fine,” Harry said, a smile breaking out on his face. 

 

Hermione could practically feel everyone in the room relax at that. 

 

“There were a couple of injuries,” Harry continued, “Some damage to the Burrow, but nothing that can’t be fixed. We’re to carry on as normal.” 

 

“As normal?” Ron echoed, “What does that even mean these days?” 

 

Harry continued scanning the page. 

 

“Well, they’re going to drop off our things here tomorrow,” Harry said slowly, “As well as drop off Fleur and Hermione’s things at their place.” 

 

“At our place,” Hermione echoed. 

 

With all the terrible excitement of the Death Eaters invading the wedding, Hermione had entirely forgotten that the plan was for her to go and live in a matrimonial home with Fleur. 

 

Hermione cast a sideways glance at Fleur. The blonde’s face was set back to her default indifference, preventing Hermione from being able to tell what Fleur thought.

 

Harry finished reading the letter, passing it to Ron, who eagerly read it for more details on his family and The Burrow. 

 

“I guess you guys go to your place,” Harry said, “Wait for your things to arrive, then come and meet  back here with me and Ron so we can talk about… You know?” 

 

Horcruxes. 

 

The plan had always been to spend what should have been their final schooling year staying at Grimmauld Place, planning their hunt of the horcruxes. Hermione hadn’t given much thought to it since the whirlwind of getting married to Fleur. 

 

“Right,” Hermione replied, furrowing her brow. She finally turned to Fleur, “Where do we live now, by the way?” 

 

Fleur simply groaned, crossing her arms. 

 

“I suppose there’s Floo Powder here?” Fleur said, directing her question to Harry and ignoring Hermione. 

 

Hermione frowned sourly. The bitter fight she’d had with Fleur on arrival at Grimmauld Place was still fresh in her mind, despite the tiredness wracking her body. 

 

“On the hearth above the fireplace,” Harry directed, pointing at the kitchen fireplace.

 

“Thanks, Harry,” Fleur said simply, before standing up in her ruined wedding dress. She walked towards the fireplace immediately. 

 

“Thanks you for showing her where the Floo Powder is but not me for saving her life,” Hermione muttered to the boys, rolling her eyes. 

 

“32 Farrow Lane,” Fleur said abruptly, tossing a cloud of powder into the fire. 

 

“Well, hold on!” Hermione yelped, pushing her chair back as she rushed to follow Fleur, “I haven’t even finished my damn cup of tea!” 

 

She followed rapidly as the blonde disappeared into the fire, tossing her own handful of powder in the fire and repeating the address Fleur had said. 

 

With a dizzying jerk, Hermione travelled through the Floo Network, before landing heavily on threadbare rug. 

 

“Fleur! You can’t just leave without me!” Hermione growled, looking around her new surroundings. 

 

She had landed in a small house. In front of her was a small couch, to her left a window looking out at the night. To her right was a small table and a kitchenette. There was a front door and a rickety looking staircase. 

 

Assuming Fleur had taken the staircase, Hermione resumed her irritated rage, storming up the staircase until she arrived in a small hallway. To one side was an open door leading to a bathroom, to the other, a shut door. 

 

Hermione wrenched open the shut door, bowling into a small bedroom. 

 

“Fleur!” Hermione exclaimed, aggravated. 

 

Fleur was standing in front of the bed, clawing at her dirty wedding dress. She seemed stricken, her face pale and her jaw set. 

 

“Are… Are you okay?” Hermione asked, her annoyance momentarily forgotten. 

 

“I just want out of this thing!!” Fleur shouted, before falling to her knees on the bedroom floor. 

 

Hermione stood by helplessly, flitting at the edges of Fleur. She wasn’t sure whether or not to help, given how angry Fleur had been at her helping her leave the Burrow. 

 

Eventually, Hermione decided to take pity on the blonde. 

 

Diffindo,” Hermione said softly, aiming her wand at the broken zip at Fleur’s back. The zip severed, the dress opened, parting to show Fleur’s back and the groove of her spine. 

 

Fleur didn’t say thank you. Hermione didn’t expect her to. She just remained kneeling on the floor, her face in her hands. 

 

“Fleur,” Hermione said after a long pause, “How come I was able to follow you here? With a Secret Keeper you would have to tell me directly where this place was— not have me overhear you say it.” 

 

“There is no Secret Keeper,” Fleur mumbled back at Hermione. Her tone was flat, defeated.

 

“What?!” Hermione exclaimed, “But— So— We’re just relying on the wards around this place to protect us?!” 

 

“There are no wards,” Fleur responded in the same lifeless tone. 

 

“What?!” Hermione all but screamed. 

 

How could Fleur be so stupid? How could the Order be so reckless?! 

 

Without waiting for Fleur to reply, Hermione turned on her heel and ran out of the room. She took the stairs two at a time, landing heavily downstairs before running to the front door. 

 

It wasn’t even locked. 

 

Hermione opened the door in a blind panic, bursting outside into the hot summer night. 

 

They were in a bleak suburban street, on a small slice of land. The grass was patchy, yellowed and dying from the summer dryness. It crunched quietly under Hermione’s feet as she quickly stepped out and began casting wards. 

 

She shouldn’t have to do this. 

 

She was still at school, she didn’t know the best wards. 

 

Her heart in her mouth, Hermione’s mind kept flashing back to the chaos of the Burrow as she threw ward after ward up around the small ramshackle cottage. She couldn’t help but imagine another cloudy Dark Mark blazing in the sky above her new abode. 

 

And then what? With no crowd to distract the Death Eaters, with no Order around them? Her and Fleur were teenagers. 

 

An unprotected house was a death sentence. 

 

Hermione’s hair was sticking uncomfortably to her forehead and neck by the time she finished. She had shed her suit jacket, but her shirt was clinging to her back with sweat in the hot night. 

 

But she had protected them. At least as much as she could. 

 

Re-entering the house, Hermione locked the front door before heading upstairs to take a shower. There were only two scrappy towels in the bathroom. The one Hermione took felt like sandpaper on her skin and barely dried her hair. 

 

With no clean clothes to change into, Hermione simply put her white button shirt on again, and pulled her underwear back on. 

 

She couldn’t wait until someone could return their belongings to them. 

 

Now that the spectre of danger had momentarily been pushed back, Hermione felt her body sag with tiredness. She padded across the hallway and into the small bedroom, her whole body feeling like it was weighted down. 

 

Fleur’s ruined wedding dress was in the middle of the floor in front of the bed, but the blonde had climbed into bed, judging from the small lump of sheets on one edge of the bed. 

 

Hermione sighed, throwing herself into the other side of the bed, her eyes shutting before her head had even hit the pillow. 

 

 


 

There was a loud banging. 

 

Hermione stirred, wondering if it was in her dreams. 

 

The banging happened again, more insistent. 

 

Blearily, Hermione sat up, her sleep-addled brain struggling to comprehend the small room she was in as her memories slowly caught up to her. 

 

The other side of the bed was empty, but Hermione could hear the shower from across the hallway. 

 

The banging resumed. 

 

“All right, all right,” Hermione grumbled, getting out of bed and forcing her aching body to make her way downstairs. She felt disgusting in her sweat-drenched, dirty clothes from the previous day. 

 

She assumed it was one of the Weasleys or the Order, dropping off the belongings they had left at the Burrow in their hasty departure. It couldn’t come a moment too soon.

 

Hermione unlocked the door, before swinging it open eagerly. She was very eager to get into some fresh clothes that weren’t lined with sweat and grime. 

 

“Er, hello?!” Hermione was stunned. 

 

In front of her at the door was a short and round woman, prim and proper. She was dressed head to toe in lavender clothing, from her kitten heels all the way up to a ghastly purple bow bobbling on the top of her head. 

 

“Gertrude Umbridge,” the woman introduced herself sweetly, and suddenly Hermione realised who the woman reminded her of as her brain clunked heavily into place. 

 

“Gertrude… Umbridge…” Hermione said slowly, “A relative of Dolores?” 

 

For a horrible second, Hermione wondered if Dolores Umbridge had put a relative up to seeking revenge on Hermione for how things had ended in the Forbidden Forest. 

 

“Sister,” the woman said sweetly, cocking her head to one side, “I’m with the Ministry. Here to monitor your marriage with one,” Gertrude inspected a clipboard in her hands, “Fleur Delacour.” 

 

“Right,” Hermione replied dumbly. 

 

Shit shit shit shit shit. 

 

“Can I come in?” Gertrude prompted, pointing her clipboard over Hermione’s shoulder. 

 

“Er, sure,” Hermione replied, her brain whirring quickly, trying to catch up to this strange turn of events, “How did you get past the wards?” 

 

“They weren’t terribly complicated,” Gertrude said in a sickly sweet tone that instantly rubbed Hermione the wrong way, “Can I have a cup of tea?” 

 

“I’m not sure if we have any,” Hermione responded, following Gertrude as the squat woman wandered into the small cottage, her head turning everywhere, beady eyes taking in every single detail. 

 

“It’s quite sparse in here,” Gertrude commented. 

 

“Well, newlyweds,” Hermione said weakly, “And still young. We didn’t have the budget for anything more lavish.” 

 

“The Delacours are said to come from a long line of money,” Gertrude said suspiciously, turning quickly to look at Hermione. 

 

Hermione suddenly felt like she was under an interrogation. She pulled at the edges of her grimy white shirt, willing it to cover more of her long legs. 

 

“Well, we wanted to make it on our own as much as possible,” Hermione lied quickly, “I’m surprised the Ministry are here doing checks so soon, given the Death Eater attack at the wedding just last night.” 

 

“There is no record of that,” Gertrude said quickly, in a firm voice that left no room for argument. 

 

“Despite numerous Ministry officials being in attendance,” Hermione deadpanned. She was beginning to think she was going to like Gertrude about as much as she liked her sister, Dolores. Hermione could already feel the panic prickling at the back of her neck. If Gertrude shared her sister’s hatred of those with Creature blood, she was no doubt already trying to ruin Fleur’s chances of a visa. 

 

“Correct,” Gertrude replied, “Now I’m wondering why a genuinely married couple would—“ 

 

“Darling!” Fleur announced, descending the stairs obliviously. 

 

Hermione’s eyes almost popped out of her head. Fleur was entirely nude, a seductive look on her face. In one hand appeared to be a strap on. 

 

Hermione let out a strangled noise somewhere between a gasp and a groan. 

 

“Oh my!” Gertrude shrieked, lifting her clipboard to cover her face. 

 

“Oh, my apologies,” Fleur said silkily, descending the last of the stairs, “We were not expecting company so soon. You see, we are young newly-weds, and I am expecting Hermione back upstairs.” 

 

“I— You— “ Gertrude appeared momentarily lost for words at the brazen display, holding the clipboard so firmly it was as if she thought it were a shield. 

 

“Fleur! Put some clothes on!” Hermione said, loathing the blush that was quickly overtaking her own features. There was something so overwhelming in seeing the part-Veela completely undressed, standing there with all the confidence in the world. 

 

“No, it’s fine,” Gertrude spluttered, “I’ll… I’ll return another… more appropriate time.” 

 

She stumbled her way back to the front door, keeping her clipboard up in front of her face at all times. As she struggled to wrench open the door, Fleur grinned puckishly. 

 

“Thank you!” Fleur called out. 

 

Gertrude didn’t respond, hurrying out the door as quickly as she could. 

 

Hermione, jaw dropping, turned back to the part-Veela. Fleur was toned and curved in all the right places, and it was taking all of Hermione’s self control to keep her eyes firmly on Fleur’s face. 

 

“Fleur,” Hermione said flatly, her tone expressing how unimpressed she was. 

 

“Hermione,” Fleur countered, smiling cockily. 

 

“Did you really have to come down naked?” Hermione deadpanned. 

 

“I didn’t have much time to plan when I heard a Ministry official downstairs,” Fleur shrugged. 

 

“And a strap on?!” Hermione said incredulously, shaking her head, “Where did you even get that?!” 

 

“She needs to believe we are a couple of newly weds,” Fleur sniffed, inclining her head proudly, “And we all know what newly weds are like. I found it in the bag Tonks left under the bed for us.” 

 

“Bag Tonks left under the bed for us?” Hermione asked, her eye now beginning to twitch. 

 

Fleur shrugged, turning and beginning to slowly walk up the stairs. 

 

“Of course— the one with clean clothes and other things we might need,” Fleur replied, “How typical of Tonks to throw a strap on in there too.” 

 

“Clean clothes?!” Hermione roared, “Why didn’t you tell me about that?!” 

 

The filthy clothes Hermione was wearing were uncomfortable, grimy and beginning to smell. 

 

“You never asked,” Fleur sniffed, disappearing upstairs. 

 

“Fleur!!” Hermione shouted angrily. 

 

This was set to be a long and painful process. 

 

Chapter Text

When Hermione had finally got a chance to shower and put on clean clothes (she had made an infuriatingly reluctant Fleur show her the bag of spare clothes), she descended the stairs once more. 

 

Her shower had been uncomfortable. Stupid Fleur and her hijinks. Hermione couldn’t stop reliving the drop in her stomach as Fleur had appeared naked in front of her and Gertrude Umbridge. It had been a dizzying shock at the time, but now that the moment had passed, Hermione couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was driving her crazy.

 

Hermione slowed her descent as voices carried up the small stairway. 

 

Fleur was downstairs and talking to someone— Tonks by the sounds. 

 

“How’re you feeling, blondie?” Tonks asked, “Having a bleak day or a better day?” 


“A better day,” Fleur replied, with a chuckle in her voice, “You should have seen Hermione and that Ministry official’s face when I came downstairs! Ha!” 

 

Tonks laughed— evidently Fleur had filled her in on the events of the morning. Hermione scowled, deciding to stall on the stairs a little longer, rather than burst in with a temper. The last thing she wanted was to give Fleur the benefit of another reaction. 

 

“Oh, to be a fly on the wall,” Tonks finally said, after a good laugh, “Speaking of Hermione, the Order are thinking of bringing her into the fold. Letting her in on the meetings and plans since she won’t be returning to school and will be assisting with… Well… Your situation.” 

 

There was a long pause, in which Hermione leaned forward and strained her ears to try and hear any further detail. 

 

“Non,” Fleur said it loudly and suddenly. 

 

“Why not?” Tonks asked, “Don’t you think it might be better if she knew more?” 

 

“Non!” Fleur said louder, “She doesn’t need to know. She’s not rational… She wouldn’t understand. She wouldn’t be able to help the Order with a clear head. She wouldn’t be able to do what needs to be done.” 

 

Hermione gritted her teeth and balled her hands into fists, absolutely fuming at the nerve of Fleur. She couldn’t stand it any longer, loudly walking down the rest of the staircase. 

 

Tonks and Fleur were at the small table. Tonks was nursing a cup of tea, her hair spiked and turquoise. Fleur, dressed now in a summer dress, was eating breakfast delicately, picking at some berries and muesli. 

 

“Hermione,” Tonks greeted, her eyebrows raising at the sudden intrusion, “Wotcher.” 

 

“Hi Tonks,” Hermione greeted, “Hi Fleur.” 

 

“I didn’t make you any, if you're wondering,” Fleur said rudely, not raising her eyes from her muesli. Hermione gritted her teeth. 

 

“I wasn’t wondering,” Hermione shot back. 

 

“Hermione not thinking,” Fleur said significantly, raising her gaze to Hermione challengingly, “Why does that sound familiar? Hmm, maybe because you weren’t thinking this morning either when you let a Ministry Official into our house without any warning?!” 

 

“What would have been the least suspicious option?” Hermione shot back, “Slamming the door in her face?!” 

 

“You’re just lucky I can think on my feet,” Fleur snapped, throwing her spoon down on the table forcefully. 

 

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure the plan of just strolling in naked took so much brain power!” Hermione sarcastically replied. 

 

Tonks smirked at that, looking between the two girls. 

 

“Wow, what a loved up couple,” Tonks deadpanned, “I would never suspect they were up to anything!” 

 

“Oh shut up, Tonks,” Fleur and Hermione said in unison. 

 

Tonks laughed. 

 

“Well, Hermione,” Tonks said, in an apparent effort to ease the tension, “I’m here to drop off your things from the Burrow— your trunk, Fleur’s billions of bags of clothes, and Fleur’s wand. That and update you.” 

 

Hermione glanced over, and saw there were in fact a number of trunks by the door. She took a steadying breath, refusing to look at Fleur, so that she could calm her temper.

 

“Thanks, Tonks,” Hermione said politely, before sitting herself down at the table with the other women, “How is the Burrow? How is everyone?” 

 

“Been better,” Tonks said with a frown, before sitting down and taking another sip of her cup of tea, “But Kingsley knows a bloke who can fix the bits of the Burrow that were damaged as a favour. As for the others? Minor injuries. Nothing even worth writing home about.” 

 

“That’s a relief,” Hermione sighed, her shoulders relaxing from a tension she hadn’t even realised they’d been carrying. 

 

Tonks cast a cautionary look at Fleur then, and Hermione knew what was coming. Tonks’ face turned uncharacteristically serious.

 

“The Order… They’re considering bringing you into the fold— proper-like,” Tonks told Hermione, as Fleur sucked in her breath disapprovingly, “Since you’re not going back to Hogwarts and will be around and helping with Fleur’s situation.” 

 

“I’d be glad to,” Hermione replied, “I think I’m just the kind of rational and level-headed individual the Order could do with. 

 

Hermione shot a smug glance at Fleur. Fleur scowled at her. 

 

“You idiot,” Fleur snapped, “You don’t even know what you’re agreeing to! You’re better off not being that involved.” 

 

Hermione glared across the table at Fleur. 

 

“I’d rather know the details of what was going on,” Hermione countered, “Knowledge is power.” 

 

“Knowledge is a curse,” Fleur spat back, getting up from the table dramatically. 

 

Hermione snorted. 

 

“As if you would know anything about knowledge, Fleur,” Hermione snarked. 

 

“You’re such an idiot!” Fleur exclaimed, throwing her hands up in frustration. She slipped into French suddenly, throwing out a number of curses as she stormed away from the table and up the stairs, leaving her muesli abandoned on the table. The door of the bedroom slammed loudly and Tonks winced. 

 

“I’ll, er… Leave you to sleep on it,” Tonks said cautiously. 

 

“I don’t need to sleep on it,” Hermione replied stoutly.

 

Tonks drummed her fingers on the table, thoughtful. Her freshly painted vivid green nails were already chipped. 

 

“You trust me, yeah?” Tonks asked, quirking a pierced eyebrow. 

 

“Yes,” Hermione replied slowly. 

 

Tonks had been such an amazing help when preparing for the wedding. After helping her find the perfect outfit and feel more comfortable with herself, Hermione trusted Tonks quite a bit. Not to mention she was an Order member and an Auror. 

 

Tonks’ gaze raised briefly to the ceiling, as if she were considering Fleur above them. She cleared her throat before looking down at her now-empty mug. 

 

“Fleur’s going through it, yeah?” Tonks said quietly, “It wouldn’t hurt to cut the girl some slack.” 

 

Hermione rolled her eyes. 

 

“She’s dreadful. I get that she has to commit to a fake marriage to get her visa, but so do I!” Hermione complained. 

 

Tonks smiled sadly, a slight ghost of a smile. 

 

“You’re only seventeen, Hermione,” Tonks said, as if suddenly becoming aware of Hermione’s age, “You probably shouldn’t have got involved in this at all. If it weren’t for bloody Bill… but that’s besides the point. Fleur might have a point about it being better not to be too heavily involved with the Order. You’re still young, you don’t need to know the detail of what they discuss.” 

 

“In the eyes of the law, I’m no longer a minor,” Hermione said defensively, crossing her arms, “I think I can handle myself just fine. Or have the Order conveniently forgotten everything we have done for the cause in the past few years?” 

 

“They haven’t,” Tonks said, getting herself to her feet. She pulled a leather jacket off the back of her chair and put it on, turning away from Hermione before muttering in a barely audible voice, “And maybe that’s part of the problem.” 

 

“I don’t know why everyone keeps treating Harry, Ron and I like children,” Hermione replied angrily. 

 

Tonks didn’t seem interested in arguing, walking to the door slowly. 

 

“They said to tell you they’re interested,” Tonks said with a weary sigh, “And I have. But you should sleep on it for a bit, Hermione.” 

 

“I don't need to!” Hermione said, frowning at the eccentric Auror. 

 

“You do,” Tonks corrected, “And try and go easier on Delacour, yeah?”

 

Tonks left, shutting the door firmly behind her. Hermione frowned at the closed door for some time, before realising she had missed an opportunity to figure some things out. She was bothered by the fact that Fleur had been left relatively unaided at The Burrow and confused by the total lack of protection on the cottage they were staying at. She wanted to ask Tonks about it, to get an idea of what was going on. Had Fleur fallen foul of the Order already? Had she done something terrible? 

 

Hermione bit her bottom lip, her curious brown eyes flicking to the ceiling. 

 

Perhaps she was now married to someone that the Order wanted to keep around for sinister reasons. Perhaps they didn’t trust Fleur not to help the Dark Lord? 

 

Hermione shook her head, willing her overactive imagination to settle. She’d always been naturally suspicious and annoyed by pretty girls— they had a tendency to muddle her mind and distract her in the most curious way. She wasn’t going to let her prejudices and her dislike for Fleur blind her need for rationality. 

 

If there was something funny going on involving Fleur, she would figure it out. 

 

In the meantime, Hermione’s stomach growled. She ventured into the kitchen, spying some brown paper bags of groceries that Tonks must have brought. Fleur had only unpacked a box of muesli and a carton of strawberries, and hadn’t put anything away. 

 

Hermione rolled her eyes. She would eat breakfast and then tidy the kitchen. But after that, she was set to organise her next steps. 

 


 

Fleur was angry. 

 

The stupid Granger girl was driving her up the wall. Fleur was trying to protect her and the stubborn girl was fighting tooth and nail against it. 

 

Fleur envied Hermione. She wished she could go back to seeing the Order as a heroic and simple group. One that just did the right thing and wanted to take the Dark Lord down. That didn’t want to harm anyone in the process. 

 

Fleur put some heeled sandals on, preparing to leave the house. She was sure Hermione would argue with her if she told her she was about to go off to an Order meeting. 

 

Fleur didn’t care. A part of her liked arguing with the brunette. Hermione’s face would light up whenever she got passionate about something. It drew Fleur in like a moth to a flame. She was quickly coming to enjoy her arguments with Hermione, as much as she simultaneously loathed them. 

 

Fleur brushed her long hair in the mirror, thinking about their argument that morning in front of Tonks. She wondered how much of the conversation with Tonks Hermione had overheard before entering the room. Maybe she had been lurking on the stairs for some time? 

 

Fleur hadn’t wanted to tell Hermione that Tonks had arrived, even though she had heard the brunette exit the shower. She wanted time to talk with the young Auror alone. Tonks was one of the only ones in the Order that Fleur had actually related to and connected with. They were friends; and Fleur had longed to have another one of her vents with Tonks that morning. 

 

That and Fleur knew it would annoy Hermione further that she would have to use the wrong sized clothes stashed in the go-bag beneath the bed when her own clothes had arrived and had been sitting downstairs all along. Fleur had thought it would be amusing not to let Hermione know and then see her react. That part, however, had backfired on Fleur’s part. 

 

Hermione hadn’t seemed bothered by the fact she had to wear clothes that weren’t the right size. The tee shirt she wore was tight and rode up, exposing the bottom of her stomach. The shorts she wore too, had been too tight. Hermione seemed entirely oblivious. Fleur, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to keep her cursed eyes from lingering on the bare parts of Hermione’s olive skin that were exposed. She had had to force herself to stare firmly at her muesli instead. 

 

Fleur finished brushing her hair, descending the stairs. She hated to admit that a part of her secretly wanted to look at Hermione some more. 

 

That wasn’t part of any of this. Now wasn’t the time to get distracted. Especially not by the most infuriating witch Fleur had ever met. 

Downstairs was immaculate. The table had been cleaned, dishes done, and groceries put away. Fleur frowned, looking around. The trunks were still left by the door, though Hermione’s was open, showing some neatly stacked clothes. 

 

Hermione herself was nowhere to be seen. 

 

Fleur sighed, a part of her relieved. But a smaller, insistent part of her was disappointed. 

 

Fleur sauntered over to the fireplace, twirling her wand deftly before lighting it. She was relieved to be reunited with her wand. Though she hadn’t wanted to show it, she had been devastated at being parted with it. The hair inside the wand was all Fleur had left of her Veela grandmother— someone who was becoming a hazier memory inside her mind as she got older. 

 

Fleur grabbed a fistful of Floo powder and tossed it in the fireplace. 

 

She muttered the address reluctantly, before stepping in. 

 

As she whooshed through the Floo network, Fleur let her mind turn back to her grandmother. She wondered what she would have made of all this. She wondered if she would have agreed with sacrificing everything for the Order. 

 

Fleur’s feet landed hard on a marble floor. She had arrived at Kingsley Shacklebolt’s manor. Brushing herself off, Fleur walked the familiar way through the grand halls to the room that the Order would be meeting in. 

 

Though it was a scorching day outside, Kingsley’s house was dark and cold, the narrow windows scarcely letting light through. Fleur had goosebumps running up her arms and shoulders as she clicked her way down the hallways. 

 

Every now and again, she saw a house elf scurrying through the shadows. 

 

It bothered her, if she were honest, that so many of the Order had house elves. It made her wonder what they really thought of her, being part creature. Did they see her as an equal?

 

Fleur pushed open the double doors to enter the room where the Order were congregating. It seemed most were in attendance, some looking a little worse for wear. Remus Lupin had a heavily bandaged arm and Alastair Moody had a fresh looking cut on his face. No doubt souvenirs from the Death Eater’s attack on the wedding. 

 

As usual, Fleur did not receive the warmest of greetings. She knew most of the Order disliked her. They thought her arrogant and cold. Difficult to deal with. Some of the men roamed their eyes over her at their leisure, while some of the women scowled at her. 

 

Fleur thankfully found a spot around the large table beside Tonks, who smiled at her. 

 

“Wotcher,” Tonks murmured, as Fleur sank into the seat next to her. 

 

“Been a while,” Fleur joked, trying to keep the mood light.

 

It was conflicting, really, being a part of the Order. Fleur had seen the cruelty and horrors of the Dark Lord and Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup. She’d heard how horrific their reign was through the stories of people her mother’s age. Fleur was eager to do anything that could stop them from regaining power. 

 

But the Order…

 

Fleur looked around the table. They were some damn powerful witches and wizards. Alastair Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minerva McGonagall. Albus Dumbledore himself had founded the group! 

 

Something just didn’t sit right. 

 

Kingsley had already opened the meeting, rehashing outstanding items, attendance, intel collected. Fleur struggled to concentrate, trying to focus on the over arching goal of defeating the bigoted and horrific Dark Lord. 

 

There were a couple of small cracks and a number of house elves arrived, bearing refreshments. They placed them on the table, totally ignored by the Order members. Fleur was the only one that thanked the elves. 

 

It was Minerva’s turn to speak now. She was a much older woman, but obviously wise beyond her years all the same. She was a formidable force of will, and Fleur couldn’t help but respect her. 

 

“As we all know, Albus was working with Harry Potter prior to his death,” Minerva opened in her thick Scottish brogue, “Albus told Harry about the Horcruxes and took him with him on an endeavour to find one.” 

 

The members around the table nodded, already familiar with the information. 

 

“Harry does not know that we know of the Horcruxes,” Minerva continued, “It is key that it remains this way. If he knew, and he asked too many questions, we would risk him discovering that he himself is a Horcrux.” 

 

Fleur’s jaw tensed. 

 

The Weasleys were stoic, sitting at the table listening to Minerva. Fleur knew that they thought of Harry has another son, but they had yet to object to him being marched to his death too. At least it made Fleur feel a little better about her own inevitable sacrifice, knowing she wasn’t the only one they didn’t care about losing. They were just as cavalier about the golden boy of the wizarding world.

 

“What about Hermione?” Remus interjected, “She has a knack for discovering things. Aren’t we worried she will figure it out and Harry will find out?” 

 

“She’s already taken care of that problem herself, by volunteering to aid with Fleur’s visa issue.” Minerva replied, glancing very briefly at Fleur, “She will need to be around enough to withstand the Ministry checks on the marriage. That leaves Harry free to pursue the Horcruxes without her.” 

 

“Ron wants to go with him!” Molly Weasley interjected. 

 

Minerva’s mouth thinned into a line. 

 

“It will be good for Harry to have assistance,” Minerva replied, “We know from his past feats that Harry relies heavily on his friends.” 

 

“How do we expect him to find the bloomin’ Horcruxes without Granger?” Moody grunted, “We know he’s headstrong and brave enough to get the job done… But how do we know he’ll even find them without Granger?” 

 

Minerva frowned then, pushing her glasses up her nose. 

 

The original plan, as discussed at the previous meeting, was to subtly nudge Harry towards what he was expected to do anyway — carry on Dumbledore’s work and hunt down the Horcruxes, eliminating all of them except himself. And if he failed along the way? That was still another Horcrux destroyed. 

 

Hermione and Ron were complications. The Order had debated it for some hours last session— Harry was unlikely to succeed without the two of them, but with them, he might figure out too much. 

 

Lupin sighed heavily. 

 

“I would like it noted that I still disagree with this plan,” Lupin growled, “I don’t think it’s right to keep this from Harry. If Sirius was here—“ Lupin paused as he got momentarily choked up, “The point is… We know Harry is not one to shy away from obligation. I don’t think he would back down and run away if he knew he was a Horcrux.” 

 

“I agree,” Tonks joined in vocally, “It doesn’t seem right.” 

 

Minerva turned a withering stare to Lupin and then to Tonks. 

 

“Whether you think it is right or not,” Minerva said cuttingly, “It is the path of least risk. Or have you all forgotten the last time we faltered?” 

 

“I stand by the decision not to kill Draco!” Lupin said, standing up from his chair and pushing it back. 

 

“As do I,” Tonks replied, “That problem could have been dealt with without Severus having to step in. The problem was that we were too slow to figure out what was happening.” 

 

“I agree,” Fleur spoke finally. Several pairs of eyes glanced at her, simultaneously dismissing her and judging her. 

 

“Albus Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of our time, died because we faltered,” Minerva said severely, “What did we agree when we formed this group?” 

 

“To do whatever it takes to defeat the Dark Lord,” half the table mumbled in unison.

 

“Whatever it takes,” Minerva repeated, “None of us like the things that have to be done, but it doesn't change the fact that they must be done.” 

 

The muscle in Fleur’s jaw twitched. She longed to speak out at that — it was easy to say such things when you were not one of the ones putting your life on the line. 

 

Molly and the other Weasleys were pale, sick at the thought of Ron tagging along with Harry on such a deadly mission. But they didn’t speak. They had been vocal enough at the previous meeting — Molly screaming and shouting until her voice was hoarse at the prospect of Ron being involved in a Horcrux search instead of returning to the safety of Hogwarts. 

 

“Fleur,” Minerva said, bringing the topic back to it’s point, “You may allow Hermione to assist the boys in their planning and research of the Horcruxes, but you may not allow her to join them when they depart for searches. You must intervene if you see she is getting too close to discovering the truth about Harry.” 

 

Fleur snorted, earning some dark looks from people around the table. 

 

“As if she will listen to me,” Fleur replied, crossing her arms in front of her chest. 

 

“Well, you must make her listen,” Minerva replied, her tone nettled. 

 

“Can we move to discussing the plans for when we have overthrown the Dark Lord?” Kinsgley Shacklebolt interrupted in his booming, bassy voice. The tension in the room immediately shifted, a kind of nervous excitement erupting at this conversation topic. 

 

“Of course,” Minerva conceded with a smile, “At the last meeting, we had agreed Kinglsey shall hold the office of Minister for Magic. But we did have some debate over who would hold some of the other offices that will be available when we succeed…” 

 

Fleur tuned out. She had no interest in the carving up of prestigious government titles and portfolios. It made her feel a little sick, if she were honest. The Order could jump so easily from discussing the sacrifice of teens to their eagerness to take over the Ministry once those sacrifices had paid off. 

 

Fleur was disillusioned by it all. The more she saw of the Order, the more they seemed like another political group driven by a want to gain power and control. 

 

The lesser of two evils.

 

Fleur thought about it a lot. The Order might be inherently flawed, but they were nowhere near as bad as the Death Eaters. They would not torture people. 

 

When the meeting finally ended, Tonks invited Fleur for a drink. Fleur accepted, though the pub Tonks chose reeked of sage and incense. Fleur eagerly ordered a red wine, sitting across from Tonks and her pint. 

 

“I don’t know about you,” Tonks said, pulling her pint towards herself, “But I’m absolutely gasping for a drink after that meeting.” 

 

“That is an understatement,” Fleur groaned, taking a hearty sip of her wine, “I often wonder if this is the right way to help.” 

 

Tonks nodded with a frown. 

 

“I think the same, often,” Tonks replied, “But they’re the only group who know what they’re doing when it comes to taking down the Death Eaters. That and they have some bloody strong firepower in there. We’re kind of stuck with them if we want to take down the Death Eaters.” 

 

Fleur frowned, taking another deep drink of her wine. She’d need another one yet to calm herself after that meeting. 

 

Tonks drank deeply from her pint too, sighing when she finally set it down. 

 

“Enough of depressing topics, how is married life treating you?” Tonks said with a coy grin. 

 

Fleur crinkled her nose. 

 

“I thought you said ‘enough of depressing topics’?” Fleur countered, earning a chuckle from Tonks. 

 

The warm summer sun was streaming in through the pub window, lighting up the dusty room of the eccentric pub. It made the bright purple spikes of Tonks’ hair shimmer as she shook her head. 

 

“Hermione is lovely,” Tonks said with a smile, “Not to mention, she’s a much cuter spouse than Bill would’ve made.” 

 

Fleur pulled a face. 

 

“She’s not that lovely,” Fleur countered, ignoring the mention of Bill, “She’s such a know-it-all. It’s insufferable. She just assumes she knows everything and tries to take over.” 

 

“Or maybe you’re just a control freak?” Tonks said playfully before arching an eyebrow, “Though I note you didn’t disagree that she makes a cute spouse.” 

 

“Oh shut it, Tonks,” Fleur said, focussing heavily on her wine.

 

“You’re blushing!” Tonks crowed, “Besides, I totally saw you check her out in that suit at your wedding.” 

 

“I did not!” Fleur gasped, scandalised. To her own fury, she did feel her cheeks warm a little. 

 

Tonks giggled, leaning forward in her seat. 

 

“I can’t wait to see how this pans out,” Tonks said, rapping her fingers on the table between them. 

 

At that, Fleur’s embarrassment subsided and the ever-present heavy feeling of responsibility weighed her down. 

 

“We know how it will pan out,” Fleur said stiffly. 

 

The smile died on Tonks’ lips. 

 

A long pause hung between the two of them, punctuated only by the sound of a bartender putting away glasses behind the bar. 

 

“I still think there’s gotta be another way,” Tonks said quietly.

 


 

Hermione scribbled on a long ream of parchment, surrounded by books. It was absolutely boiling in the Grimmauld Place library, and Hermione frequently wiped at her brow to rid it of sweat. 

 

The boys across the table from her looked like they longed to be relaxing outside on the grass instead, their hair absolutely stuck to their temples and tee shirts darkened with sweat patches. 

 

“I dunno how we have a hope of finding them all,” Ron groaned, throwing his quill down dramatically for the fifth time that afternoon. 

 

Harry rubbed at his temples, the glasses of water that Hermione had charmed to be chilled not easing his discomfort in the slightest. 

 

“One by one,” Harry groaned, “We just have to pick them off as we work them out.” 

 

“Can’t we ask the Order for help?” Ron whined, running a hand through his sweaty red hair, “You can’t tell me Lupin or McGonagall wouldn’t be able to help us.” 

 

“Absolutely not,” Harry snapped, his temper frayed by the combination of heat and little progress on where to start with the Horcruxes, “We have the keep this from the Order. It’s too dangerous and they would probably stop us from going after them. Dumbledore trusted me and me alone with this.” 

 

Hermione sighed, not in the mood for Harry’s heroic speeches. She set her quill down and shook her wrist, tired after all the notes she had been frantically taking. She didn’t even know if any of them would be useful, she just wanted to take in as much as she could, while she could. 

 

If the wedding had taught her anything, it was that anything could happen at all during this war. She had to take every opportunity to prepare when she could. 

 

Ron sighed, his own hot temper close to boiling over. He drummed his fingers on the large library table. His eyes roamed around the room, clearly sick of the study and the heat. 

 

“How’s the marriage going?” Ron asked, changing the subject. 

 

Hermione frowned. She’d almost managed to push the thought of Fleur and her stupid naked stunts out of her mind. 

 

“Terribly,” Hermione sighed, “We already got a visit from the Ministry.” 

 

“Already?” Harry echoed, furrowing his brow, “What if you’d been on a honeymoon?” 

 

“I guess they assumed teen wives couldn’t afford a honeymoon?” Hermione replied, rubbing her face with her hands tiredly, “We’ve been assigned Gertrude Umbridge.” 

 

“Umbridge— as in?” Ron’s jaw dropped. 

 

“Her sister,” Hermione groaned, “So probably just as dreadful, just as suspicious, and just as prone to trying to get rid of part-Creatures.” 

 

“Goddamn,” Ron swore, “So Fleur’s fucked, then?” 

 

“No, she’s… remarkably resourceful… so far,” Hermione said, clearing her throat as she managed to avoid referring to the part where Fleur showed up naked in front of Gertrude to throw her off. The image was still sticking uncomfortably in her mind. 

 

“Think that’s the first time I’ve heard you compliment her,” Ron commented, looking surprised. 

 

“It’s not,” Hermione denied weakly. Harry snorted at that. 

 

“You’ve always disliked her,” Harry pointed out, mopping his own forehead. 

 

“I… I have not!” Hermione argued, “She just dislikes me. She treats me so coldly.” 

 

“She’s cold to everyone at first,” Harry shrugged, “I just think she hasn’t warmed up to you because you always roll your eyes when she’s talking.” 

 

“Like Mum,” Ron added, in what he clearly thought was a helpful tone.

 

“I don’t think I do that,” Hermione sniffed, folding her arms tightly across her chest. 

 

Harry and Ron exchanged amused looks. 

 

Hermione pondered it. She wondered if what they were saying was true. She’d always thought that Fleur was the one that was rude to her first. Was it possible that Fleur was just acting in response to her?

 

Surely not. 

 

Hermione shook her head. 

 

“Wait, if you’re supposed to stay here and help Fleur with her visa crap, how are you supposed to join us when we leave for the Horcruxes?” Ron said suddenly, accidentally knocking some parchment to the floor. 

 

Harry frowned instantly. Clearly it hadn’t crossed any of their minds yet. 

 

“I can do this on my own,” Harry said stubbornly, predictably. Ron instantly interjected with a shout. 

 

We will deal with it together,” Hermione said, cutting short what was sure to be a classic Harry-Ron hardheaded argument, “Besides… We don’t even have a lead yet. Once we’re sure where to go first, we’ll deal with it then.”

 

“Right,” Harry said, though he didn’t sound convinced. 

 

The conversation was curtailed by a loud rumble. Ron clutched his stomach before checking his watch. 

 

“Blimey, dinner time already!” Ron exclaimed, “Staying for some food, ‘Mione?” 

 

“No, I’d better not,” Hermione said, though she said the words resentfully, “I already stayed here for lunch, so I’d better get home and play the dutiful wife.” 

 

“As if it’s such a chore!” Ron retorted, rolling his eyes, “Poor Hermione having to play house with a gorgeous bird!” 

 

Hermione frowned, but didn’t take the bait. 

 

“I’ll see you two tomorrow,” Hermione said, getting up from her seat and stacking her parchment neatly, “We’ll resume our research then.” 

 

“Whoopee,” Ron replied sarcastically. 

 

 


 

 

Hermione landed in to the small cottage, immediately struck by a mouthwatering aroma. 

 

Stepping properly into the cottage, Hermione then saw what looked like a total war-zone in the kitchen. Splatters of flour, puddles of sauce, pots and pans and packages all chaotically tossed about the place. 

 

Fleur was in the kitchen, dressed in a breezy summer dress with a white apron tied over it. She was humming to herself, clearly unaware of Hermione’s arrival. There were pots and pans on the stovetop and Fleur was happily seasoning the contents. 

 

Hermione stared at Fleur. She was all silvery hair and ivory skin, practically shimmering in the evening sunlight as it shone through the windows. She was beautiful, flawless. Hermione felt like she had been knocked upside the head by Fleur’s beauty. 

 

But then Fleur spun around and the humming stopped instantly. Fleur almost seemed to fold in on herself, becoming smaller and more defensive somehow. The easy smile stopped from her face and she regarded Hermione suspiciously. 

 

“I’m making dinner," Fleur said, stating the obvious as if it was a shield she could push in between them. 

 

Hermione found herself thinking of Harry and Ron’s perspectives, wondering if it was her that was causing Fleur to freeze over. 

 

She considered her response carefully. 

 

“It smells good,” Hermione said cautiously, as if she were afraid of retaliation. It was the most neutral thing she could think of to say. 

 

Fleur regarded her curiously, as if she was wondering whether it was a trap of some sort. Finally, she raised her chin in some sort of slight assent, before turning back to her food. 

 

Hermione sat down at the kitchen table nearby, not knowing whether to try and push the conversation further. 

 

She let Fleur continue to work in the kitchen, though in a far more demure way now she knew she was being watched. 

 

“I’m making enough that you could have some too,” Fleur said just loud enough for Hermione to hear, “If you want.” 

 

Well! Look at that, Hermione mused, Maybe I did just need to try a bit with her. Maybe this could really work.

 

A wild thought slipped through Hermione’s mind then; a sudden image of her and Fleur, holding hands. Of kissing in the summer sun. Of her body pressing Fleur’s into a mattress. 

 

A wild flush ripped across Hermione’s neck and she felt suddenly too hot in an already too-hot room. 

 

The heat… It’s just the heat of the day getting to me, Hermione thought weakly, her eyes falling to the floor I definitely didn’t drink enough water today.

 

There was the clinking of ceramics and cutlery. Dazed, Hermione slowly raised her eyes, running up a pair of toned legs. There was a dizzying throb within her and her eyes flicked suddenly to Fleur’s face. 

 

Fleur was eying her in a terribly neutral way, bringing platefuls of food and placing one in front of Hermione on the table. She put her own plate down across from her. She swept away quickly before returning with a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses. 

 

If she noticed something was off in Hermione’s demeanour, she didn’t say anything. Instead, she sat herself down and poured them each a glass of wine. 

 

Hermione forced herself to breathe evenly. 

 

What is wrong with me? Hermione thought to herself, firmly looking at her pasta, I don’t like women… Do I? Maybe it’s just Fleur. Maybe it’s her Veela blood? 

 

Hermione started mentally flipping through memories in her mind, rehashing intense friendships with other girls. Recalling how it felt so much better cuddling Ginny in her underwear during a sleepover than letting Dean Thomas feel her up under her bra. Hermione took a large sip of her wine, slightly panicking at the thought that she could have missed such a giant fact about herself. 

 

Fleur’s fork scraped against her plate. It seemed to emphasise the silence between the two. 

 

Hermione felt stifled in the hot room. She stood up and pushed a window open, though it was a windless day. 

 

She sat back down, looking at the infuriatingly attractive woman across from her. Fleur quirked an eyebrow, pausing her forkful partway to her mouth. 

 

“What is it?” Fleur asked suspiciously. 

 

“Why were you against me attending Order meetings?” Hermione asked, deciding to push the conversation away from the conflicting feelings inside her and towards something more useful.

 

Fleur frowned, before taking a forceful bite of food. 

 

“It’s what is best,” Fleur said simply, before washing her bite down with a generous mouthful of wine. 

 

Hermione frowned then. Damnable Frenchwoman. What does she know about what is best? It seemed like pure arrogance that Fleur could assume what was best for her. 

 

“Do you really think I am irrational? That I couldn’t do what needs to be done?” Hermione asked, recalling the conversation she had overheard between Tonks and Fleur that morning. 

 

Fleur stared at her, right in the eyes. Hermione was surprised by what she saw. A coldness, a hardness, but something else. A shiver of something. 

 

“I do think that,” Fleur said in a voice entirely lacking emotion. 

 

Her words cut Hermione to the quick. It was probably the harshest thing anybody could call Hermione: irrational. She prided herself on her ability to keep things to facts and figures. 

 

Hermione frowned. 

 

“I think you’re underestimating me,” Hermione said, her shoulders tensing. 

 

Fleur sighed, shaking her head, before returning her attention to her meal. Hermione silently fumed, a part of her having hoped for Fleur to retaliate and start an argument. 

 

“You know, Ron and Harry think I’m unfair to you,” Hermione said, her voice biting, “But I think maybe you’re the one that is unfair. You don’t know anything about me but you think you know what’s best.” 

 

“I do know what is best,” Fleur said simply, continuing to eat her meal. 

 

“You’re an arrogant pain in the neck,” Hermione replied heatedly. 

 

Fleur glanced up from her meal, regarding Hermione with her cool blue eyes. 

 

“You’re a know-it-all,” Fleur replied evenly, “You need to get that sometimes you don’t always know everything.” 

 

Hermione dropped her cutlery, letting it clatter loudly on her plate. 

 

“Piss off, Fleur,” Hermione growled. She got up from the table, no longer hungry. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hermione woke up, sweaty and tangled in sheets. She rolled over to see Fleur was not in the bed. She couldn’t even tell if the blonde had gone to bed at all. 

 

After a quick shower and a refreshing change of clothes, Hermione descended the stairs. 

 

Her argument with Fleur was still playing in her mind. She’d gone to bed angry, reading a book to try and calm down until she had drifted off to sleep. A know-it-all. Who couldn’t accept that they didn’t know everything. 

 

Well, Fleur was going to have to get used to the idea that soon Hermione would know everything. Hermione was going to make her intent known to join the Order. 

 

The chaotic scene in the kitchen from the previous night had been cleaned so thoroughly it was as if the kitchen had never been used before. Fleur was sitting at the table, a black coffee in one hand and a copy of The Daily Prophet in the other. 

 

There was something attractive about seeing a beautiful woman at her table reading. Hermione felt a strange pang of longing that she quickly stuffed down. She cleared her throat and immediately felt Fleur’s eyes on her. 

 

“I’m going to accept the Order’s offer,” Hermione said, speaking more to the room than to Fleur. Fleur made a cute noise of indignation. 

 

No! Not cute, Hermione inwardly corrected herself, Annoying. 

 

“Don’t,” was all Fleur said in response. She spoke firmly and coldly.

 

Hermione snorted. 

 

“You can’t push me around,” Hermione said, smirking. Fleur Delacour was clearly a woman who was used to getting what she wanted. It brought Hermione great pleasure to deliberately not give her what she wanted. 

 

“Hermione,” Fleur said in a warning tone. She put her newspaper and her cup down and stood up. 

 

Whatever argument was about to break out was cut short by a curt knock at the front door. 

 

Hermione sighed, strangely having been looking forward to arguing with Fleur, and went to the door. She opened it to Gertrude Umbridge. 

 

Gertrude, dressed head to toe in an insipid purple, immediately stood on her tip toes, craning her neck to look inside the small cottage. 

 

“Oh lovely, this appears to be a much better time,” Gertrude said in a simpering, sweet tone, pushing rudely past Hermione and into the cottage. 

 

Hermione inwardly groaned, practically sensing the disappointment from Fleur that she had let the squat woman in once again. 

 

“Do your office never book meetings?” Fleur asked, using a tone that was simultaneously icy and friendly. 

 

Gertrude looked all around the room, already scribbling things on her clipboard. She paused mid scribble and smiled. 

 

“In our business, it pays to stop by unexpectedly, dear,” Gertrude said condescendingly. She dragged a chair from the table, screeching it obnoxiously across the wooden floor. She brought it to a stop facing the couch, then gestured at the couch. “Take a seat, ladies.” 

 

Hermione, slowly, warily, walked over and sat down. 

 

Fleur slowly sauntered over too, taking a seat very closely to Hermione. Hermione tried and failed to suppress a shiver as Fleur’s hand came to rest possessively on the inside of her thigh. Her expensive manicure brushed lightly against Hermione. 

 

As much as Hermione loathed to admit it, it felt good. She selfishly allowed herself to enjoy it. 

 

“I am your case worker,” Gertrude said with a too-wide smile, sitting down in the chair across from them, “I’m assigned to assess whether or not this is a legitimate marriage. I’m sure you both know the penalty for aiding a part-Creature in obtaining a visa illegally.”

 

“Far more than aiding a human in obtaining a visa illegally,” Hermione commented, “Which speaks volumes about the Ministry, doesn’t it?” 

 

Whether an approval of Hermione’s judgment, or simply to further their act, Fleur’s hand moved ever so slightly further up Hermione’s thigh. Hermione bit the inside of her cheek. 

 

It was all too much, the heat of the day, Fleur’s hand so possessively on her thigh, an Umbridge hanging the threat of thousands of galleons of fines and imprisonment over her. It all felt dizzying. Hermione shut her eyes for a moment, before opening them again to the toad-like woman before her. 

 

“Humans are nowhere near as dangerous as humans, sweetie,” Gertrude replied, her eyes flicking briefly to Fleur before returning to Hermione.

 

An Umbridge through and through, Hermione thought distastefully. 

 

“I only hurt Hermione if she asks politely,” Fleur said provocatively, nuzzling her nose into Hermione’s neck. Hermione felt her libido spike, again throwing her sexuality into question. 

 

Confusion aside, Fleur seemed to have succeeded in throwing Gertrude off-balance, as the prudish woman averted her eyes and frowned. 

 

Hermione’s mind had already raced away without her permission, mentally flicking through all the ways that Fleur could hurt her if she asked politely. She bit the inside of her cheek harder. 

 

“It’s unusual,” Gertrude began, seeming to gather herself again, “I carried out interviews on several of your classmates from the year of the Triwizard Tournament. Most of them seem to think you didn’t like each other.” 

 

“The tension between us was sexual,” Fleur lied easily. 

 

Gertrude flipped through clipboard to another page, reading it with a smug smile. 

 

“My colleague, James Cashew, reported that the speeches at your wedding said you first fell in love at Hogwarts before separating, only to reconnect recently,” Umbridge continued.

 

 

“That’s correct,” Hermione replied warily. She could still feel Fleur’s breath against her, the warmth of her hand on her thigh. 

 

“Hermione, you apparently often lost your temper that year when it came to Fleur,” Umbridge continued, “Thought she was—” she flicked back another page for effect, “‘insufferable.’”

 

“I…” Hermione tried to think on her feet, to distract or convince as easily as Fleur had managed to do for them both so far, “I was covering for myself. I wasn’t ready to come out back then. You see, my attraction to Fleur caught me entirely off-guard.” 

 

“I thought I knew myself so well. Do you know how scary it is to realise you don’t? To be ruled by rationality only to find yourself confused by… by… feelings? 

 

Wow, Hermione thought to herself, feeling Fleur stiffen a little beside her, Maybe that was a little too convincing. And a little too close to home…

 

Gertrude Umbridge frowned at the pair of them. 

 

“That might be all fine and dandy,” Umbridge said, instantly dismissing Hermione, “But that is hardly proof.” 

 

“Allow me to present you with something more substantial,” Fleur said suddenly, standing up and moving to the fireplace. Hermione watched with confusion as Fleur opened a wooden box that sat beside the box of Floo powder. It was so non-descript that Hermione hadn’t even bothered to question it or open it before now.

 

Fleur fished out some folded pieces of parchment, then tossed them on top of Umbridge’s clipboard before sitting back down beside Hermione. 

 

“What are— oh!” Umbridge exclaimed, suddenly shuffling the parchment hurriedly.

 

“Note the date,” Fleur said primly, returning her hand to Hermione’s thigh, “Hermione sent me those letters during the year I competed in the Triwizard Tournament.” 

 

“I— Fleur?!” Hermione sputtered. She felt like her brain practically imploded from the shock and surprise of what Fleur was saying. 

 

“You can request a sample of her handwriting from Hogwarts,” Fleur said lightly, “It will match. Or simply get Hermione to write something for you now.” 

 

“That… Er… That won’t be necessary,” Umbridge said, getting to her feet and placing the stack of parchment on her chair as if it were a bomb that may go off at any moment, “I still need to inspect the premises.”

 

“Go ahead,” Fleur said, waving her hand, “We have nothing to hide.” 

 

Umbridge, clipboard in hand, began nosing around the room. She pulled out a tape measure and measured the fireplace. She lifted a vase and looked underneath it. She opened every single cabinet in the kitchen and checked under every rug. 

 

It reminded Hermione terribly of the horrible thoroughness her sister Dolores had exhibited when inspecting the part-Creatures teaching at Hogwarts.

 

When Umbridge finally disappeared up the stairs, Hermione immediately got up and snatched the parchment from the chair. She leafed through the letters. Indeed, they did look exactly like her handwriting. 

 

Though she definitely had not written anything of the sort. 

 

Hermione blushed hotly as her eyes caught the phrase ‘my dearest Fleur, how I long to taste between your legs.’

 

“Fleur,” Hermione said in a warning tone, looking up at the blonde sitting innocently on the couch.

 

“You were so desperate at that age, darling,” Fleur said, with a smug smirk, “If not a touch graphic.” 

 

Hermione blushed darker and glared at Fleur. 

 

How in the hell did she even know what my handwriting looked like? How did she copy it so remarkably?! 

 

Her eyes angrily fell to the letters again. 

 

I would even fail a thousand classes if it meant one more touch of your breast?!” Hermione exclaimed, “Oh, come on!”

 

Fleur just smirked back at her. Hermione wanted to throttle her. 

 

But before she could— or could at least get a decent insult in— Umbridge loudly descended the stairs again. 

 

“All in order?” Hermione asked, turning her attention away from the infuriating Frenchwoman and back to the threat at hand. 

 

“So far,” Umbridge said in a clipped tone, scribbling on her clipboard, “But this is just the beginning. We will have several more meetings with many more questions. I will also be interviewing your friends and coworkers.” 

 

“Right,” Hermione replied flatly, “That’s a lot of scrutiny.” 

 

“We have to be careful about giving away visas to part-Creatures too easily, dear,” Umbridge told her confidentially, as if Fleur were not even in the room, “The scrutiny is warranted. Now, I assume you two will be around? No honeymoon planned?” 

 

“Non, we are saving up to do a honeymoon at a later time,” Fleur replied, a lot cooler in her demeanour after Umbridge’s comment. 

 

“How… novel,” Umbridge replied, writing something quickly on her clipboard and underlining it several times, “Well, until next time, ladies.” 

 

Hermione followed Umbridge to the front door and let her out, a part of her irrationally afraid that if she did not follow her to the door, she would just stay indefinitely. As soon as the toad-like woman had left, Hermione turned on Fleur. 

 

How did you manage to get those letters to look like my handwriting?!” Hermione demanded, “And why did you not tell me about them?! Do you know how embarrassing—“

 

“—It was not me,” Fleur replied, “I didn't even know what was in them exactly. The Order gave me that box of fake letters and told me to give it to the Ministry official if they didn’t believe we had a romantic past.” 

 

“But— my handwriting—“ Hermione spluttered, still utterly shocked that someone could impersonate her like this, “How?! 

 

“A niche and complex form of Transfiguration, if I were to guess,” Fleur shrugged, “Based on who gave me the letters.” 

 

“Professor McGonagall?!” Hermione exclaimed, raising her voice, “You mean to tell me that Professor McGonagall—“

 

“—Fabricated letters in your handwriting detailing all the graphic ways we made love?” Fleur replied, quirking a brow and smirking, “Oui.” 

 

“I don’t know why you’re smiling as if this is so bloody amusing!” Hermione fumed, “This is a total violation of my human rights, not to mention entirely inappropriate! Professor McGonagall has taught me since I was a child! She taught you while you were at Hogwarts!” 

 

“Welcome to the Order, darling,” Fleur laughed humourlessly. 

 

Hermione narrowed her eyes. She was quickly becoming tired of Fleur keeping her out of the loop and then blaming it on the Order. 

 

“Fleur—“ Hermione began, but was quickly cut off. 

 

“I need to go in to the office today,” Fleur informed her, “Can you come in and meet me there later this afternoon? I need my coworkers to see you with me if they’re going to be interviewed.” 

 

Well, at least that was some communication and transparency from Fleur. Hermione frowned, but nodded. 

 


 

Fleur frowned as she picked her way through the dark and grimy vault tunnels in her high heels and skirt. She was still technically on leave from work. She’d only stopped in to sort an administrative issue and inform her colleagues of her marriage. 

 

Naturally, the goblins had roped her into breaking a curse on an old vault downstairs. 

 

It had been easy, thankfully. But if Fleur had known, she wouldn’t have worn such expensive heels. She scowled at the filth on her shoes as she made her way back into the stark lighting of the office space, blinking as she adjusted to being out of the dark.  

 

It wasn’t all bad news. The best thing about working with the goblins had been how easily they had accepted her suddenly being married to Hermione Granger after having previously been linked to Bill Weasley. The goblins weren’t big on gossip or trivialities. They cared very little for what people did in their personal lives. So they simply nodded politely and asked minimal questions. It was one of Fleur’s favourite parts of working at a place where most of her coworkers were goblin— no unnecessary prying. 

 

Fleur revelled in the satisfying sound of her heels clicking on the expensive marble floors as she made her way to her office. Gringotts was in a magnificent historical building— even the back office areas were elegant.

 

Once she’d stepped inside her office, Fleur sighed heavily, bending down with a cloth to wipe the dirt off her heels. 

 

“I’d recognise that arse anywhere,” a voice called out crudely. 

 

Fleur’s body immediately tensed as she recognised the voice of Bill Weasley. 

 

“That was a short trip,” Fleur said icily, quickly standing up straight. 

 

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t going to sulk forever about what happened,” Bill grunted, “Besides, I didn’t want to miss any more Order meetings.”

 

Fleur didn’t turn to face him, keeping her back to him as she straightened some papers on her desk. She decided not to reply, not wanting to prolong the conversation with the redhead. He made her skin crawl. 

 

Fleur didn't hear his footsteps as he approached her. She was entirely caught off guard by the strong hand at her hip and the body suddenly pressed against her back. She went rigid at the feeling of Bill pressing his front into her and his hot breath on her neck. 

 

“You broke my heart, babe,” Bill hissed, “You should have just shagged me.”

 

Fleur was debating between skewering his foot with the stiletto of one of her heels or grabbing her wand and hitting him with a nasty curse when someone else interrupted. 

 

“Bill?” 

 

Bill released Fleur and stepped away rapidly. Fleur turned to find Hermione in the doorway, regarding Bill with a strange look. 

 

“Heya, Hermione,” Bill greeted with false charm, “I was just saying hi to Fleur. I just got back from my trip.” 

 

Fleur wondered if she had shown something on her face because of the way Hermione was looking at her. She tried her best to look neutral. The absolute last thing she wanted was for Hermione to be nosing into her business. 

 

Hermione’s gaze flicked back to Bill and she scowled. 

 

“Are you okay here, Fleur?” Hermione asked slowly. Her eyes didn’t leave Bill, who was fidgeting the end of his shirt. He almost resembled a schoolboy who had been caught misbehaving. 

 

Fleur was irritated. She was furious at the gall of Bill. She was annoyed at Hermione bursting in with her goddamned saviour complex when she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. But she was also frustrated by the way her heart skipped a beat at how protective Hermione seemed. It didn’t matter. Hermione just wanted to play the hero and pry, nothing else. 

 

“I’d rather Bill leave, actually,” Fleur said coldly. She drew herself up to her full height, shoulders back and chin raised. 

 

“That’s fine,” Bill said, still talking in his falsely cheery voice, “I’ll see you around. Bye, Hermione.” 

 

He slipped out of the office, not giving either of the women a second look. 

 

Fleur released the breath she had been holding, finally relaxing now that the redhead had left. She looked at Hermione, her stomach sinking as she saw the look of concern on Hermione’s face. 

 

“It’s none of your business,” Fleur said quickly, cutting off any line of questioning before it even began. Hermione frowned, shutting her mouth before opening it again. 

 

“Fleur, it seemed like he—“ 

 

None of your business,” Fleur repeated bluntly. She flipped a curtain of her silky hair over her shoulder as if she wasn’t bothered at all. 

 

“Right,” Hermione replied flatly. She seemed annoyed again. But what else was new when it came to Hermione?

 

Fleur frowned. The way her heart had skipped for Hermione was already forgotten now that they were back to drawing their lines in the sand. 

 

“Tonks has invited us to meet her for drinks,” Fleur informed Hermione in a very matter-of-fact way, “It would be beneficial for us to go, as she is among coworkers. The more people at the Ministry that see us together, the stronger our case.” 

 

“Fine,” Hermione replied. She wasn’t even looking at Fleur now, her curious eyes roaming all over Fleur’s office, seeming to take in even the most minor details. It made Fleur feel exposed. 

 

“Let me take you to meet my colleagues” Fleur said abruptly, ushering the brunette out. 

 


 

Hermione greeted the goblins of Gringotts in a half daze. Physically she was there, shaking hands and smiling. Mentally, she was back in the polished office, replaying what she had just walked in on. 

 

Bill had been pressed against Fleur as Hermione had walked in. She’d felt an odd kind of shock, like a sucker punch to the gut. But then she’d realised Bill’s stance didn’t seem romantic; it seemed aggressive. 

 

Sure enough, when she called out his name, he had released Fleur as if he had been burned. That and the paleness of Fleur’s face told Hermione all she needed to know. 

 

Molly’s explanation of Bill being spurned and broken-hearted wasn’t quite the full story. 

 

Nothing seemed like she was getting the full story. First Molly seemingly content to let Fleur fend for herself unarmed against Death Eaters? Then no protections around the cottage? Now the way that Hermione had just witnessed Bill manhandling the blonde.

 

Hermione didn’t like it. 

 

Her teeth were set on edge, anger flowing through her veins at the injustice of it all. 

 

Why was Fleur dismissing it? Did she not want Hermione to know? Did she not want anyone to know how she was treated? 

 

Was Fleur a victim in all this? 

 

Hermione’s mind was buzzing with thoughts, even as she descended the steps of Gringotts with Fleur into the hot summer evening. 

 

She took Fleur’s hand— it was already becoming a habit— giving it a slight squeeze as she pondered Fleur’s possible predicament. 

 

She couldn’t help it. Though their marriage was a sham, Hermione naturally felt protective of her wife. 

 

If Fleur wasn’t going to tell her anything, how could Hermione find out? Her mind whirred, thinking about possible sources of information. 

 

She didn’t even notice when Fleur tugged lightly on her hand, leading her into a nearby bar. 

 

They stopped as they got in the door and Fleur turned to face Hermione, her deep blue eyes searching Hermione’s. She raised a slender hand to cup Hermione’s face, a slight smile warming her features. 

 

Hermione felt like she’d lost her breath. 

 

Fleur leaned in, her full warm lips brushing Hermione’s softly. Her hand trailed from cupping Hermione’s face down her neck, before finally resting on her shoulder. 

 

Hermione let out a small hum of appreciation.

 

And then the kiss was over, Fleur leaning back again, her eyes once again searching Hermione’s features with interest.

 

Involuntarily, Hermione grinned like an idiot. 

 

Then her brain kicked in. Why was she grinning her head off? Fleur was terrible. 

 

But is she? a voice in Hermione’s head persisted She could be a victim in all this. 

 

Plus, that didn’t change the fact that the kiss had felt amazing and Fleur was looking positively gorgeous in her svelte skirt and high heels. 

 

That again raised questions around Hermione’s sexuality that she stuffed down immediately. 

 

“You’re getting better at acting like you love me,” Fleur murmured approvingly, before turning on her heel and clipping towards a nearby table. 

 

It was then that Hermione spotted the bright bubblegum pink hair of Tonks, waving at them with a smug smile. Surrounding Tonks was the strangest combination of individuals Hermione had seen, Alastor Moody among them. She supposed the risky nature of being an Auror must attract all different sorts. 

 

So Fleur had kissed her for the benefit of the table of Ministry staff, Hermione thought to herself as she followed her wife dutifully. It shouldn’t surprise her, it was part of the deal after all. Yet a part of her felt disappointed at the realisation. 

 

Am I attracted to her? Hermione wondered as she took a seat beside Fleur. Fleur, possessive as always when they were in public, moved her hand to rest high on Hermione’s thigh. Hermione felt a dizzying spike of arousal, an undoubted yes to her pondering. 

 

Could I have been attracted to women this whole time and simply not realised? That question was easier. Obviously. Hermione focussed so much of her time and energy on seeking out knowledge on other things, it left very little time for introspection. She’d never been one to dwell on her own feelings, let alone begin to unpack them. 

 

But here she was, not a book in sight, and a beautiful woman leaning into her. It gave her nothing but time for introspection. 

 

Tonks was introducing everyone at the table to them, and Fleur was being surprisingly charismatic for someone as icy as herself. She clearly wanted to make a positive impression. A smile looked nice on Fleur though. It softened her usually hard edges. 

 

Could I have feelings for her? Hermione found herself thinking, as she watched Fleur flip her hair and flash a dazzling smile. She was enchanting when she was like this, all smiles and warmth. Fleur’s manicure dug into her thigh suddenly and Hermione was jolted back to reality. She hadn’t said anything at all since sitting at the table. 

 

“It’s very nice to meet you all,” Hermione said awkwardly to the table, “I haven’t had much time for socialising before now.” 

 

Understatement of all time. Most people at Hogwarts found her annoying except in small doses. They called her a know it all. Even Harry and Ron obviously got irritated by her at times. She wasn’t exactly a social butterfly.

 

“Hermione is Fleur’s wife,” Tonks explained to the table, “In case you didn’t figure that out from the PDA as they came in.” 

 

The table chuckled and Fleur smiled serenely before nuzzling into Hermione’s ear. 

 

“Could you at least try to make an effort?” Fleur hissed under her breath, “Once again I’m doing all the work here.” 

 

Musings of Fleur’s beauty were instantly forgotten as Hermione suppressed a frown. If Fleur was going to be like that again, Hermione could play her at her own game. 

 

“What can I say?” Hermione replied to Tonks, and the table as a whole, “Fleur’s never been able to keep her hands off me.” 

 

Tonks grinned at her boldness. Hermione cast a sidelong glance at Fleur, who was clearly wrestling to suppress an irritated reaction, before forcing a sweet smile on her face. 

 

“I’m going to get a bar to get a drink,” Fleur said suddenly, standing up from her chair, “Would you like anything, mon amour?” 

 

“Surprise me, love,” Hermione replied, before swatting Fleur’s ass playfully. 

 

Fleur’s forced smile threatened to drop as she tried to discreetly glare daggers at the brunette. Hermione tried her best not to laugh. Who knew it could be so fun to wind the icy blonde up? 

 

“Right,” Fleur said between slightly gritted teeth, before smiling broadly at the table, “I’ll be right back.” 

 

“You two are such typical newlyweds,” a man across from Hermione chuckled, “Tell me, how long have you two been together?” 

 

Grateful the others at the table apparently hadn’t noticed her narrowly avoiding murder at the hands of an irritated Veela, Hermione smiled politely at the man. 

 

“We were high school sweethearts,” Hermione told the man, recalling the narrative the Order had decided on, “We reconnected recently and… Life is too short, you know? Fleur brings out that spontaneous side in me. Getting married was a bit of a whirlwind decision!” 

 

The man laughed good-naturedly. 

 

“Ah, well, when you know you know, right?” he replied, scratching at a blonde beard, “My wife and I had only been dating for about six months when we got married. Look at us now— married for ten years last year!” 

 

Fleur returned with a gin and tonic for each of them. Hermione instantly sucked in her breath at the bitter taste of the gin and tonic. She’d never tried one before. 

 

The hidden smirk as Fleur raised her glass and sipped her own drink wasn’t lost on Hermione. She’d picked a drink that she’d known Hermione would struggle to drink.

 

After quietly evening the score between them, Fleur seemed to settle and was far more enjoyable to be around. She smiled and talked to all of Tonks’ colleagues, making sure to get to know them all. She was attentive to Hermione with touches and glances. 

 

By the end of the night, and a few more gin and tonics in (Hermione had already grown accustomed to the flavour, to Fleur’s disappointment), Fleur was nestling in to Hermione as Hermione had her arm slung around her. 

 

“You know it’s only me left here, right?” Tonks said, quirking a smile at the two of them. 

 

Indeed, Hermione blearily looked up and down the table. When had everyone else left?

 

“Shhh,” Fleur said, shutting her eyes and resting her head on Hermione’s shoulder. 

 

“My Lord, when did you get so drunk?” Tonks laughed at the drunken Veela, “How did you find your first night out at a bar, Hermione? I assume it was, anyway, given that Harry and Ron aren’t of age yet.” 

 

“Absolutely splendid,” Hermione replied with a wide grin. 

 

She hadn’t felt like this before, kind of like the world was a little off-kilter but also so incredibly relaxed. No wonder so many adults drank. 

 

Tonks twirled a lock of bubblegum pink hair around her fingers, leaning on the table and watching Hermione with interest. She had the same kind of knowing look she’d had when they had gone shopping for wedding attire. 

 

“So you’re enjoying yourself,” Tonks stated the fact, rather than asking a question. 

 

Hermione was drawing aimless circles on Fleur’s shoulder with one finger. 

 

“Absolutely,” Hermione smiled. She felt warm and content. She liked being cuddled in to Fleur like this. She liked talking to Tonks. 

 

Tonks opened her mouth to speak, looking like she was about to ask a question, when Fleur interrupted. 

 

“It is nice,” Fleur said, lifting her head once more, “To have a night as regular teenagers. I think this is the first time in a while I haven’t thought about everything else.” 

 

Tonks shut her mouth again, the amused light suddenly leaving her face. 

 

“Tonks, why do you look sad?” Hermione asked bluntly, cocking her head to one side. The metamorphmagus was looking at Fleur like she was at the Veela’s funeral! 

 

“No reason,” Tonks said quickly, affixing a smile to her face, “Just tired I guess. We should call it a night. You two should probably use the Floo in the back of the bar instead of trying to apparate— given the state you two are in.” 

 

“I am in no such state!” Hermione protested, though she slurred her words. She'd meant to ask what ‘everything else’ that Fleur had been referring to was, but as she stood up, the world seemed to tilt uncomfortably. 

 

“Make sure you drink a lot of water before you go to bed,” Tonks advised them, standing nearby as if the duo might just topple over. 

 

To be fair, it was a reasonable concern, as Fleur gripped Hermione tightly around her waist as she teetered on her high heels. Hermione furrowed her brows, focussing on the path to the Floo fireplaces. 

 

Tonks announced their address for them, not trusting either of the drunk girls to pronounce it clearly enough in their conditions, before gently ushering them into the flames. Hermione didn’t appreciate the lack of confidence in her, but stepped in all the same. The violent whoosh through the Floo Network felt so much jerkier and nauseating after drinking. Hermione felt her stomach squirm and protest. 

 

Fortunately, she didn’t throw up, though she felt close to it as she landed on the worn rug of their cottage. Fleur looked deathly pale, as if she had also struggled with the Floo trip.

 

“That was not pleasant,” the Frenchwoman uttered feebly. 

 

“Why did Tonks look at you so sadly?” Hermione asked Fleur suddenly, her tongue emboldened and loosened with liquor. Facts had been building up all day that Hermione couldn’t ignore any longer. 

 

Fleur let out a long and weary sigh. 

 

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Fleur said, with a surprising lack of edge to her words, “What The Order expect of me… What my mother expects of me… It… It’s not easy. I understand why it is important. It must be done. But… it doesn’t make it any easier.” 

 

It didn’t make much more sense than Fleur’s angry evasions had— but it was nice that she was at least trying to be open and friendly this time. 

 

Again, the suspicion that Fleur was being hard done by reared it’s head. Chest puffed full of liquor and Gryffindor bravery, Hermione felt an odd type of protectiveness over Fleur. Though she was her wife only in the black letter of the law. 

 

Hermione reached out and took one of Fleur’s impeccably manicured hands. The skin felt smooth and soft, and a little cold to the touch. 

 

“Are you cold?” Hermione asked, slurring a little as she cocked her head curiously. 

 

“Non,” Fleur said breathlessly, before leaning in suddenly. 

 

Once again, Hermione found herself locking lips with Fleur. The softness, the fullness, the quietly guilty thrill of pleasure that ran through her… It was all heightened by the liquor and the fact that— Merlin— Fleur wasn’t doing this for any audience! 

 

Hermione let out a small sigh, allowing herself to give in to the urge of pulling Fleur closer. The blonde made a small noise of pleasure, before deepening the kiss, her tongue slipping into Hermione’s mouth as the brunette’s arms slipped around her slim frame. 

 

It felt right holding Fleur in her arms. 

 

Fleur, though she gave off a big and intimidating presence— was small and slight in stature. As Hermione held her tightly to herself, Fleur felt as delicate as a small bird. Hermione moved her hands up and down the blonde’s back before holding her tighter, almost afraid that Fleur would startle and fly away. 

 

But the blonde appeared very content, seeming to melt into Hermione’s embrace. 

 

Fleur’s hands travelled of their own accord too, one tangling roughly into Hermione’s curls— in a way that made Hermione’s blood rush in her ears. The other one went on a curious exploration of Hermione’s back. The way Fleur’s delicate fingers ran over her and tugged at her hair, it made Hermione throb with a longing she had been trying to ignore. 

 

She wasn’t clear how much time had passed, but the two parted, bleary eyed. 

 

“Fleur…” Hermione began, unsure of how to articulate her jumbled thoughts. 

 

They were both drunk and exhausted, bleary eyed and in no state to have a deep discussion. Fleur yawned widely. 

 

“I am tired,” Fleur stated simply, before turning on her heel and retreating upstairs. 

 

Hermione’s head was swimming. 

 

Every inch of her body begged her to follow the blonde upstairs. If they weren’t going to talk, they might at least kiss a bit more. 

 

Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted rudely as she lunged forward and immediately walked into an open drawer. 

 

“For Pete’s sake!” Hermione cursed, doubling over and grabbing her poor knee. 

 

“Owowowowwwww,” 

 

Hermione groaned, remaining doubled over and rubbing at the injured knee. All thoughts of Fleur and her sweet, soft skin dissipated and Hermione glared at the carelessly open drawer. 

 

Oh.

 

In the shadowy jaw of the open drawer, Hermione saw the glint of small vials. It was evidently the vials of memories that Apolline Delacour had given Fleur before the wedding. 

 

Swaying dangerously, Hermione crouched down and took a good look at the vials. Her curious hands had a mind of their own, already sinking in to the pile of vials and gently tinkling them around. 

 

She glanced around the dimly lit room suspiciously, as if Fleur might rush down the stairs at any moment. 

 

Slyly, the alcohol in her system egging her on, Hermione grasped one of the vials and slipped it out of the drawer. 

 

She didn’t stop to think about whether it was right or not, whether it was an invasion of her wife’s privacy… Hermione’s tendency to overthink had been soundly halted by several strong doses of gin. 

 

She walked over to a side table in the corner of the room, where there was a pensieve so ornate, it might be mistaken for a decorative bowl. 

 

The room felt like it was tilting awfully again, but the curiosity drove her forward. 

 

Before she knew it, Hermione was spilling the contents of the vial into the pensieve and dipping her head in. 

 

 

. . . 

 

Hermione was suddenly standing outside a door that was slightly ajar. Voices could be heard from the room behind the door. 

 

Hermione reached forward, pushing the door open to reveal a light and airy bedroom. As she stepped forward, her breath froze in her throat. 

 

A man and a woman were lying in a large bed, nothing covering their bare bodies but a white linen sheet. Hermione recognised them instantly. 

 

The woman was Apolline Delacour. Apolline Delacour, gifted by her Veela blood, was almost impossible to age. Hermione couldn’t hazard at how long ago this memory could have been from looking at the half-Veela’s unlined skin and glossy hair. 

 

But tangled around her, arms holding her tightly, was a man that made Hermione’s blood run cold. His face was serpentine, though less so than the current-day version Hermione had seen. He was not bald in this memory, sporting dark hair that was slicked back rakishly, a sinister smirk on his pale face. Hermione couldn’t see it in current-times, but she could see it in this memory; he had been a handsome man. 

 

But that still didn’t explain what Hermione was seeing. 

 

Lord Voldemort wrapped around Apolline Delacour. 

 

They were conversing in rapid-fire French. So fast that Hermione could only pick up bits and pieces. 

 

Voldemort had to leave again soon. See his Death Eaters. 

 

Would Apolline meet him in Spain? 

 

She would. 

 

Bile rising in her throat, Hermione wrenched her head out of the pensieve. She retched, falling to her knees on the hardwood floor of the cottage. 

 

The disgust at seeing Apolline Delacour snuggling with a mass murdering bigot. 

 

The absolute gut-punch of realising the Delacours had evidently been tied closely to Voldemort. 

 

Fleur wasn’t being persecuted; she was being punished. 

 

And from what Hermione had seen— the Delacours deserved it. 

Chapter Text

Fleur nursed a coffee in her hands, wincing at the headache thumping through her brain. She was dreadfully hungover. Parts of the night were a haze, but Fleur vividly remembered the warm pleasantness of being nestled into Hermione’s side at the bar. 

 

Of kissing her back at the cottage. 

 

Fleur shut her eyes tightly, cringing. 

 

She had been so stupid. Hermione had just been so adorably protective, and so sweet. Fleur had entirely forgotten the irritation of the brunette teasing her at the start of the evening and got lost in the strange connection she had felt. 

 

Fleur swallowed another mouthful of coffee, the bitter taste hitting her tongue with satisfaction. 

 

How could she be so stupid? 

 

Fleur hadn’t regretted it at first when she woke up. After all, they were pretending to be married— it wasn’t like they hadn’t kissed before and it wasn't like they wouldn't kiss again. So what if Fleur had kissed her for her and not for the benefit of the act? Fleur deserved the luxury of some teenaged impulsiveness. 

 

Normal teenagers get drunk and kiss other teenagers. 

 

But Hermione wasn't normal and this wasn't a normal situation. The brunette hadn’t been in bed when Fleur got up, and seemed to have already left the cottage. The implication wasn’t lost on the blonde. Hermione felt awkward about it. 

 

Regret, regret, regret. 

 

It washed over Fleur in waves. Deeper and deeper until Fleur was sure it was going to swallow her up. 

 

Why had she been so impulsive? Her and Hermione didn’t like each other. They were always at each other’s throats. Now Hermione would probably act weirdly around her and assume she liked her. 

 

Fleur grimaced at the thought. 

 

There was a knock at the door and Fleur gladly accepted the interruption to her hungover wallowing, sweeping over to answer it. 

 

A grey and grizzled Remus Lupin was standing on the other side of the door, offering a lopsided grin to Fleur. 

 

Lupin wasn’t so bad. He and Fleur were hardly friendly, but at least he had never ogled her or spoken rudely about creatures. He was one of the more reasonable Order members. 

 

“Hello, Fleur,” Lupin smiled, his eyes crinkling at the edges, “Tonks said you might be feeling a little worse for wear today.” 

 

“A little,” Fleur said, sighing deeply, “To what do I owe the visit?” 

 

“Straight to the point, as always,” Lupin chuckled, “You’re aware Gringotts are holding a gala tomorrow night?” 

 

“I’m not going, I’m still on leave,” Fleur replied, confused, “Besides, those galas are dreadful. They’re purely to drum up business with high value clients, sell them all the largest vaults with the most elaborate curses. The goblins themselves don’t even go! They send the dreadful wizards from the sales department.” 

 

“Those galas might be dreadful,” Lupin said, inhaling sharply, “But they do provide certain opportunities. You might remember that Severus has had difficulty getting away from the crowd he is with to pass on information to us.” 

 

“Yes, I recall,” Fleur replied. Severus had only made it to a single meeting since Fleur had joined the order. It seemed the Death Eaters were suspicious of him, despite him killing Dumbledore. 

 

“Well, where else might sympathisers and opponents of the Dark Lord socialise without raising suspicion?” Lupin asked, quirking a brow. 

 

Fleur groaned. 

 

“I’d rather stab my eyes out,” Fleur said flatly, “Those galas are the worst.” 

 

There was a roar of the fireplace behind Fleur. 

 

“Professor Lupin!” Hermione’s voice called out warmly, “What are you doing here?”

 

Lupin smiled again, his eyes crinkling once more. 

 

“I’m not your professor anymore Hermione,” Lupin replied with a smile, “I’m here as the Order are encouraging a large number of us to attend the Gringotts gala. It will be a lovely night, and everyone is encouraged to bring their partners and children, though it is formal dress.” 

 

“No problem,” Hermione replied easily, coming to stand beside Fleur by the door. Fleur noticed that Hermione stood a distance from her, careful to prevent their shoulders from touching. Fleur felt her mood darken. 

 

“Surely the Order don’t need us there,” Fleur interrupted tersely. Lupin’s smile faded a little. 

 

“The more of us there, the better,” Lupin said firmly, before lightening his tone, “Besides, it will be a good chance to publicise your relationship some more as well as catch up with others. It will be at the Grand Hall in Thistlethorpe and there will be rooms around that we will be able to secure for discussions.” 

 

“Great,” Hermione responded. 

 

Fleur frowned, turning to her wife. 

 

“No, Hermione,” Fleur exclaimed, “Not great. We don’t want to be involved in whatever is going on.” 

 

Hermione turned to look at Fleur finally, and Fleur felt a dull shock at the hardness in Hermione’s usually warm eyes. 

 

“I do,” Hermione said before turning back to Lupin, “And please pass on that I would love to accept the Order’s offer to be brought further into the fold.” 

 

“Hermione!” Fleur snapped disapprovingly. 

 

She’d thought, amongst the haze and hastiness of the previous night, that she’d got through to Hermione about the caution to be had with the Order. 

 

It wasn’t just that Hermione would not be able to deal with the awfulness of how far the Order went. Fleur worried that they would find a way to get her involved in some of the more unsavoury activities that they carried out in their march for justice. 

 

“I’ll see you two tomorrow,” Lupin said warmly, “And don’t worry about the RSVP, the Order have already arranged this on your behalf.” 

 

“Of course,” Fleur sighed, rolling her eyes. 

 

If Lupin was offended, he didn’t show it, waving them goodbye cheerily before leaving. Fleur turned to Hermione, but the brunette had already begun to march back towards the fireplace. 

 

“Hermione?” Fleur called out, inwardly cringing at how her voice sounded. Like she cared. 

 

Hermione, almost as if surprised, stopped in her tracks. She turned around. She wasn’t quite looking Fleur in the eyes, determined to look everywhere else in the room. She was radiating a kind of anger and annoyance that Fleur hadn’t experienced from Hermione since her year on exchange at Hogwarts. 

 

“What?” Hermione replied flatly. 

 

“Where are you going?” Fleur asked neutrally. 

 

“Out,” Hermione said coldly, “Need an outfit for this thing now, don’t I? I’ll be out most of tomorrow too, seeing Harry and Ron.” 

 

“Hermione, last night was—“ Fleur began, in a weak attempt at explaining herself, though she didn’t even know what she was going to say. 

 

“This has nothing to do with last night,” Hermione interrupted, folding her arms. 

 

“It obviously does,” Fleur scoffed, finding her own temper beginning to rise. She didn’t like being spoken to with such an attitude, “You’re clearly bothered by last night judging by the way you are acting.” 

 

“It’s nothing to do with last night,” Hermione said, her voice raising. 

 

“Then what is your problem now?” Fleur asked, exasperated. She was hungover and tiring of arguing with the Gryffindor. 

 

“You!” Hermione shot back. 

 

Fleur reeled. She had thought they had been… what? Growing closer after the previous night? 

 

The fireplace shone green and Hermione was gone. 

 

Fleur stayed standing in place. 

 

It had been a moment of illusion. She’d got lost in the alcohol and the pretence of the marriage. Hermione felt nothing for her but disdain. 

 

Fleur felt the sickening emptiness inside her again. 

 

 

 


 

Hermione got ready for the gala at the Burrow. She’d been avoiding Fleur ever since finding out about her mother and Voldemort. Ever since blowing up at her at their cottage. 

 

But whatever the Delacours had done, Hermione had promised the Order she would play her part in the visa marriage. 

 

Hermione straightened her lapels. She was wearing another fitted suit, this time one in forest green. 

 

Ginny had helped her with her hair and makeup again, this time gifting her some of her makeup, perfume and hair products. 

 

“Consider it a late birthday present,” Ginny had said. 


The redhead was clearly upset at the prospect of Hogwarts without Hermione. She had been moping around the entire time she had helped Hermione get ready. Despite Lupin explaining that children were welcome, the Weasleys had made it abundantly clear that Ginny and Ron were not going to attend. Harry, given his high profile, was also out. 

 

Inwardly, Hermione had hoped Ginny was going to be set to attend. She’d grown used to having Ginny to talk to. 

 

She hadn’t told the boys or Ginny exactly what she had seen in the memory Apolline had given Fleur. Not yet. She was desperate to get their view on it, but something was holding her back from sharing. Instead, she had been discussing intently what they thought Fleur was useful to the Order for. 

 

Unfortunately, they had all just heard the same story that Hermione had— the vague excuse about connections in France. 

 

“So I take it from the desperate questions as to why the Order need to keep her around,” Ginny said while finishing taming a lock of Hermione’s hair, “That the marriage has already proven itself to be trying?” 

 

Hermione swallowed hard. She was fuelled by an outrage and anger that cut deeply. Fleur’s family had— very literally, in fact— been in bed with Voldemort all along. Yet Fleur had failed to mention it. 

 

Another part of Hermione, one that had surfaced after she’d snapped at the blonde, was weak from kisses and holding the Frenchwoman tightly. Fleur had a hard exterior, but part of Hermione was convinced that she was vulnerable in all this. Hermione had stayed away from Fleur out of anger, but also so this side of her wouldn’t cause her to falter. 

 

Not before she had all the answers. 

 

She had to find out once and for all from the Order, what they were up to and what Fleur’s role in it was. 

 

“She is… Difficult,” Hermione said, clearing her throat, “Bloody difficult. It would have been easier if it were anyone but her.” 

 

Truer words had never been spoken. Something about Fleur confused Hermione deeply. Drove her to heights of irritation she’d seldom reached, enticed her like nobody else. She felt a blush creep at her neck at the thought of how much she enjoyed kissing the blonde. 

 

“If you had to pick anyone else to fake marry, who would it be?” Ginny asked, her eyes dancing with an easy humour and curiosity. 

 

Hermione regarded her friend. Fierce, toned, attractive. Straight forward to a fault. Possessing an open air that people like Fleur could only dream of. 

 

Ginny was looking pretty in the evening light of her room, her fiery hair wild and freckles more pronounced from the summer sun. Her lips were not as full as Fleur’s, but still looked soft; and Hermione found herself staring. 

 

Hermione had a moment of realisation then.

 

This way she looked at Ginny, it wasn't new. She was just seeing it from another perspective.

 

“I… Have you ever found yourself interested in girls?” Hermione blurted, wanting to talk about what was suddenly dawning on her. 

 

Ginny smiled widely, her eyes squinting with amusement. 

 

“Why does everyone ask me that?” Ginny laughed, “Is it the quidditch girl stereotype?”

 

“Gin,” Hermione replied, smiling despite the seriousness of what was bothering her. 

 

“I dunno,” Ginny shrugged easily, “I guess I used to have a bit of a crush on Padma Patil in Third Year. She’s very cute, without the obnoxiousness of her twin. Yeah, I’d definitely snog her.” 

 

Hermione was staggered by the easy honesty of Ginny. She spoke about it as if it were no big deal. 

 

“You like girls?” Hermione asked, surprised.

 

“Guys mostly,” Ginny said, again unshaken by the topic, “Like Dean, and… well, you know about the crush on Harry.” 

 

Hermione giggled. 

 

“I think anyone with eyes noticed the crush on Harry,” Hermione replied good-naturedly, “Well, except maybe Harry himself.” 

 

Ginny groaned with a smile, miming shooting herself in the head with a wand. 

 

“Why do you ask?” Ginny asked, before her eyes widening, “Wait… don’t tell me— you haven’t got feelings for Phlegm?!” 

 

Horrified by Ginny’s reaction, Hermione decided not to mention any part of secretly enjoying the physical side of her role in helping Fleur get a visa. 

 

“I… Being visible in a same-sex marriage just got me wondering,” Hermione said instead. It wasn't a lie, “I’ve never really considered my sexuality before.” 

 

“Really?” Ginny said, stepping back and admiring her work with Hermione’s hair, “I guess I kind of always assumed you weren’t the straightest wand in Ollivanders.” 

 

“I— What?” Hermione was caught off-guard by the entirely matter-of-fact way Ginny had said it. 

 

There was a knock at Ginny’s door and Molly appeared in the doorway, glad in a truly dreadful maroon velvet dress. 

 

“You should head back to yours now if you want to arrive with Fleur in time, love,” Molly reminded Hermione, “I can’t blame you for wanting to spend time here instead, mind you.” 

 

“Er, right,” Hermione replied. She turned to Ginny, who was still looking at her like she always had. Nothing had changed between them at all after Ginny saying she had always considered Hermione wasn’t straight. It was heartening, giving Hermione a slight boost of courage she never knew she needed. 

 

“I dunno if I’ll see you again before I have to go back to Hogwarts,” Ginny said suddenly. 

 

Hermione felt a jolt of anxiety, the reality of the year to come. 

 

“Be safe, Ginny,” Hermione said, trying not to show how worried she really was. 

 

“Me?!” Ginny scoffed, putting up a bit of bravado, “You be safe— and tell Harry and that idiot brother of mine that I say the same to them!” 

 

Hermione pulled Ginny into a tight hug. 

 

 


 

 

Fleur stood by the fireplace, tapping a stilettoed foot impatiently. Even with her habit of taking a long time to get ready, she had still ended up ready and waiting to leave — but with no Hermione in sight. 

 

At first she had been depressed at the treatment the brunette had shown her, then anxious, and now she was back to being angry. How dare Hermione judge her? Hermione Granger always assumed she knew everything— and here she was, doing it again, to Fleur. 

 

The flames flashed green and Hermione climbed out of the fireplace hastily, looking almost apologetic as she straightened herself up. 

 

There was a blush at Hermione’s cheeks that made her look more approachable than she had seemed in the past couple of days. 

 

Fleur let her eyes rake up and down the brunette’s figure. That goddamn ‘daddy’ energy again. By the boatload. 

 

Hermione was in another dashing suit and heels combination, tall and elegant. The forest green of the suit complimented her colouring well. As much as Fleur was loathe to admit it, Hermione had a cursed sexiness about her when she wore suits. She looked confident. 

 

Fleur felt her jaw twitch. 

 

“Sorry,” Hermione said briefly. She held her hand out to Fleur. Fleur stepped forward, a little annoyed that despite all her effort, Hermione had only briefly looked at her. 

 

Hermione plunged her hand into the box of Floo Powder before tossing some in the fireplace and rattling off the address. 

 

And, without another word between the two of them, they stepped into green flames. 

 

 


 

Hermione struggled to keep her composure as she walked into the ballroom with Fleur, her hand resting at the small of the blonde’s back.

 

When she’d arrived back at the cottage her wife had all but given her a heart attack with how she was dressed. Her hair elegantly swept back and knotted at the base of her neck, showing off her delicate collarbones and neck. Her body wrapped in a black silk dress that somehow managed to both show and conceal everything. It had a slit up one side that showed enough hints of Fleur’s thigh that Hermione felt her pulse thumping deafeningly. To make matters worse, it was backless, meaning that every time Hermione was chivalrous and ushered the blonde around, her hand was touching skin. A toned expanse of skin. 

 

The best Hermione could do was try not to look at the infuriating Frenchwoman. She knew if she looked too long, the sight would make her resolve weak. 

 

“What is your perfume?” Fleur asked unexpectedly, as they gazed around the large room looking for familiar faces amongst the formally dressed crowd, “You wore the same one at our wedding.” 

 

“It’s Ginny’s,” Hermione replied simply. She wondered if she imagined the look of jealousy that flitted across Fleur’s face for the briefest of moments. 

 

Fleur didn’t reply, instead smiling gregariously as Professor McGonagall, Lupin and Tonks approached them. 

 

Professor McGonagall was dressed in some dark tartan dress robes. Lupin was dressed in a charcoal grey Muggle suit. Tonks in an almost matching suit to Lupin, though in a vibrant purple. Her hair though, was relatively demure for once. It was black and cut in a tight bob. 

 

“Good evening,” Professor McGonagall greeted briefly, with a curt nod, “Hermione, we shall talk later about your entering the fold. Fleur, may I have a word with you privately?” 

 

Fleur inclined her head regally in assent, before turning to Hermione. Hermione’s eyes locked with an azure blue gaze, that dropped to her lips quickly before meeting her eyes again. 

 

“I’ll be back soon, baby,” Fleur said sweetly, pecking Hermione on the lips before sweeping away. Hermione suppressed the urge to raise her fingers to her lips, to chase the feeling of soft sweetness as Fleur walked away. 

 

However, Hermione couldn’t suppress the urge to let her eyes roam hungrily over her wife as she walked away with McGonagall. The way her back moved in the backless dress as she walked. The way she walked with such elegant confidence in ridiculously high heels. The way her dress hugged her every curve. 

 

“Very convincing,” Tonks noted, drawing Hermione back to Earth. 

 

Hermione blushed, clearing her throat awkwardly. 

 

“Sorry, I, erm… Where’s Lupin?” Hermione babbled, trying to recover. Tonks laughed good-naturedly, sweeping a wine off the tray of a passing waiter without missing a beat. 

 

“He was pulled away for a discussion with someone he knows from back in his school days,” Tonks grinned, “You probably didn’t notice since you were so busy ogling your wife.” 

 

Hermione’s eyebrows shot up and she blushed hotly. 

 

Tonks moved closer, conspiratorially. 

 

“So you were,” Tonks smirked, “I knew it.” 

 

“Shut up,” Hermione replied, “Can we talk about what we’re doing here? What this is exactly?” 

 

“Fine,” Tonks sighed, looking incredibly disappointed that her fun had been scuppered, “But don’t think I’ve forgotten about this. Gringotts, at the heart of it, is a private institution. They make money from lending money and people using their vaults. The bigger the vault, the more impressive the protections on it, the more expensive it is. Trust me… Some of the Black family vaults had dragons down there.” 

 

“So the gala?” Hermione asked, looking around at the sleek and well-dressed people mingling around them, eating and drinking merrily. 

 

“A chance for Gringotts to drum up business,” Tonks explained, “Invite some of the wealthiest clients and heir friends… Feed them some delicious food and liquor them up… Next thing you know, you’ve got a heap of new business.” 

 

“I don’t see any goblins here though?” Hermione asked, furrowing her brow. From what Hermione knew about Gringotts, it was a long running goblin institution. Most of the staff were goblins, though they hired humans as well. 

 

Tonks sipped at her wine, arching an eyebrow at some particularly snooty types that ambled past, giving her bold suit a withering glance. 

 

“The goblins don’t like these kind of things,” Tonks explained, eyes still roaming the crowd carefully, “They’d rather do without the socialising with obnoxious, wealthy drunk people.” 

 

Tonks’ voice had trailed off a little and she seemed to be in passive Auror mode, on alert and surveying everyone around them carefully. 

 

Interested by Tonks’ high level of alert, Hermione also took the opportunity to look around the room. She saw some familiar faces, high ranking officials from the Ministry of Magic. Ludo Bagman. Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy. The Parkinsons. Kingsley Shacklebolt. Amelia Bones. 

 

Hermione’s attention was suddenly caught by a familiar curtain of greasy hair, hanging long and lank either side of a pallid face. Severus Snape was skirting around a group of people. Hermione saw him subtly tap at Shacklebolt’s back before weaving through to talk to the Malfoys. 

 

“Remus said you accepted the offer to enter the fold,” Tonks said quietly. 

 

“I did,” Hermione replied, returning her gaze to Tonks. The usually vibrant Auror looked tired all of a sudden. 

 

“If that’s what you really want to do,” Tonks said evenly, “But once you know things, you can’t un-know them.” 

 

“I already know about the Delacours affiliations,” Hermione replied, a little testily. Tonks looked surprised— and like she was about to disagree— but before she could reply, Fleur herself returned to them. 

 


 

Fleur swept back through the crowd, trying to ignore the stares of the men tempted by her thrall. Still, she was relieved she didn’t have the thrall of a fully-blooded Veela. That would be even more dreadful. 

 

Fleur plucked a glass of champagne from a passing waiter’s tray, enjoying the cool of the glass against her fingers. The room was stuffy, too hot. It felt even more so after a terse talking to from Minerva McGonagall. 

 

McGonagall had chastised her, tipped off from Molly that she had “been aggressive” towards Bill Weasley when he had tried to say hello to her at Gringotts. Fleur bit her tongue for the entire conversation, knowing nothing that she said would sway McGonagall. The Weasleys made up a large faction of the Order, and what they said carried a lot of weight. 

 

It was just the icing on the top of the shitty cake she had been landed with.

 

She was relieved just to get away from the conversation unscathed. McGonagall, in the aftermath of Dumbledore’s death, had got a little ruthless in Fleur’s opinion. 

 

The blonde was relieved to saunter back to Hermione, who was still talking to Tonks. 

 

Hermione looked a little rattled to see her, but actually looked at her this time. As her warm brown eyes met hers, Fleur felt a slight thrill run through her. She couldn’t help it, Hermione’s bossy confidence had an attractive charm to it when she was cleaned up in a suit. 

 

Fleur, unable to quite help herself, but knowing it would fit with their charade anyway, reached up and ran her fingers along Hermione’s jawline. 

 

Hermione’s eyes widened a little and her eyebrows raised. 

 

Fleur leaned in to Hermione, grabbing a lapel of her suit with her other hand. She could feel Hermione slightly tremble as she closed the distance between their lips. 

 

It was a soft and chaste kiss, over in mere seconds, but it lit a fire in Fleur’s belly. She smiled, satisfied, as she released her wife. 

 

“McGonagall asked if you could meet her for a discussion, mon amour,” Fleur told Hermione reluctantly. She wished she could simply play wife with Hermione a little longer. Hermione had been so off with her since the night they had kissed alone, and Fleur had found herself actually missing the intimacy with the brunette— even if it was all an act. 

 

Hermione, who looked like she was having an internal conflict of sorts, just nodded dumbly before jerkily walking away. 

 

“What was that?” Tonks asked, a smirk in her tone. 

 

“Simply doing what I am told,” Fleur sniffed defensively. 

 

Tonks grinned widely. 

 

“Quite eagerly from where I’m standing,” Tonks countered slyly, “Come on, Fleur… I like to think we’ve got to know each other fairly well by now…” 

 

Tonks pouted at Fleur, cocking her head to one side. 

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Fleur replied flatly. 

 

“Come onnnnn Fleur,” Tonks wheedled, “I saw how you two were cuddled together at the bar the other night. You can tell me.” 

 

“Fine!” Fleur snorted, finding Tonks simultaneously irritating and amusing, “This is all your fault, anyway. Introducing her to suits when she looks like that in them…” 

 

“I wear suits too,” Tonks replied, puffing out her chest and winking at Fleur, “But you don’t look at me the way you look at her.” 

 

Fleur took a large mouthful of wine, already annoyed at discussing this topic with Tonks. 

 

“You don’t have that goddamn daddy energy,” Fleur muttered under her breath. 

 

Daddy energy?!” Tonks repeated, her face lighting up, “Oh my god, this is excellent.” 

 

Fleur facepalmed. She was never going to hear the end of this. 

 


 

Hermione wasn't sure how she was feeling as she made her way to the private room where McGonagall was having her discussions with people. 

 

Her mind was a rollercoaster. She had just been so sure that she had figured out Fleur and why the Order treated her like they did, but Tonks’ face when she had mentioned the Delacours and the dizzying way that Fleur had made her feel was shaking her resolve. 

 

As much as Hermione was loathe to admit it, she was coming to enjoy playing wife with Fleur. 

 

The realisation sat uncomfortably with her as she entered the room, feeling the hum of unseen wards and silencing charms around her. 

 

The room was dimly lit, just a few flickering lanterns illuminating it. It seemed to be like an old fashioned smoking room, with squashy elegant chairs and ornate side tables. 

 

McGonagall was sitting in one of the armchairs, two glasses and a decanter at the side table beside her. 

 

“Hermione,” McGonagall greeted. She greeted Hermione as naturally as if they were simply meeting in her office at Hogwarts to discuss an assignment. 

 

The fact that McGonagall had faked love letters to Fleur behind her back flung forward in her mind, and Hermione felt a bitter taste in her mouth. 

 

“Sit down,” McGonagall instructed. 

 

Ever the dutiful student, even to this day, Hermione took a seat by her former Transfiguration professor. 

 

“Our relationship has changed rather drastically of late, hasn’t it?” McGonagall said conversationally, filling the awkward silence between them. She reached over and poured a dram of whiskey into each of the glasses. 

 

“That’s quite an understatement,” Hermione replied. 

 

McGonagall picked up one of the glasses, clinking it against the other one, before raising it to her wrinkled lips. She looked older in the shadowy light. She seemed more tired since Dumbledore had died. And tonight she looked positively exhausted. 

 

“Hermione. I noticed Ronald Weasley walked you down the aisle at the wedding,” McGonagall commented. 

 

“Yes,” Hermione replied, cautiously. She didn’t want to say too much. Not until she knew where the conversation was going exactly.

 

“Your friends are like your family,” McGonagall stated, placing the glass back down on the side table, “It’s one of the things that became more apparent between you three as you grew up at Hogwarts. Potter, Weasley, and yourself are something of a chosen family.” 

 

“I suppose,” Hermione replied. It was true, though she hadn’t spoken to the boys about Fleur. Eventually, she supposed she would. Once she had worked out what she felt about it all. Thought about it all, she reminded herself firmly. She needed to remain rational. 

 

“The difficult thing about welcoming you fully into the Order is that by necessity, Harry cannot know about some of the inner workings,” McGonagall said slowly, “Dumbledore set it up this way— it is for Harry’s wellbeing.” 

 

Hermione nodded slowly. She supposed it made sense. Harry had a tendency to be rash— to leap into action before thinking anything through properly. Sirius’ unfortunate death was a harsh reminder of it. 

 

“I can ensure Harry doesn't hear anything that might make him act dangerously,” Hermione replied. That was probably for the best, actually. 

 

McGonagall cleared her throat, again taking her whiskey and drinking it. 

 

“Well… This is where things get difficult,” McGonagall said, gripping her glass tightly. She pursed her lips, “You’re an adult now, Hermione. You are of age in the wizarding community. You are joining the Order of the Phoenix.”

 

“And I’m ready for that,” Hermione replied, growing a little tired of being treated like an untrustworthy child, “Haven’t I already shown that by marrying Fleur for the Order?” 

 

McGonagall let out a short, sharp huff of air. As though she were teaching Transfiguration to a class of First Years who weren't quite getting it. 

 

“Do you remember when I came to your house to tell you that you were a witch?” McGonagall said slowly, “Do you remember how you felt once you got over the initial scepticism?” 

 

Hermione cast her mind back to the small eleven year old, confronted by a woman who had just morphed into a cat and back in the middle of her living room. 

 

“Scared,” she admitted. 

 

“Terrified,” McGonagall emphasised, “You were terrified because it didn’t make sense. I told you that you just had to trust me until things made more sense. Tonight; I’m going to have to ask you to do that again, even if it might be frightening.” 

 

Hermione bit her lip. It sounded ominous. 

 

“Okay,” she agreed, stretching the word out, as if McGonagall were about to announce some kind of awful catch. 

 


“Excellent,” McGonagall replied, reaching into a discreet pocket in her dress robes and withdrawing a small diamond-shaped vial. It contained a curious burgundy liquid. 

 

“What is that, Professor?” Hermione asked, ever the curious student— even now, in this darkened room, squirrelled away at an expensive gala for people with far more important surnames than her own. 

 

“Minerva,” McGonagall corrected, “Please, we are peers now.” 

 

“Minerva,” Hermione conceded, “What is that liquid?” 

 

McGonagall’s jaw flexed suddenly, as if she were having to push herself to say what she said next. 

 

“A Gagging Potion,” McGonagall replied neutrally, “Severus dropped it off to me just before you came in here and helped me mark the room for it. A rare and complex potion, only discovered a few years ago by a bright witch in Sweden… Two sips and it will prevent even the loosest of lips from ever disclosing a conversation that happened within the bounds marked— even under the most severe pressure. I understand the Dark Lord and his followers have been utilising it a lot this time around.” 

 

“Why do you need it?” Hermione asked, though she already knew the answer. McGonagall already knew that Hermione knew the answer. 

 

The older witch sighed, sympathetically. 

 

“It isn’t that we don’t trust you,” McGonagall explained, “It’s just… What I’m about to tell you tonight is more than even some of the others in the Order know.”

 

It didn’t feel right. 

 

There was a nagging scratch at the back of Hermione’s brain, urging her to refuse— to just leave the room and not come back. 

 

But Hermione needed to know what was going on. Even if she could never speak of it, surely knowing was enough to keep Harry and Ron safe. 

 

“I encouraged the Order to let you in all the way,” McGonagall said— a subtle stroke of ego, “The brightest student I have ever taught. You will help the cause in ways that we can only dream of.” 

 

She unstoppered the delicate vial, before holding it out to Hermione. 

 

Hermione hummed. What could be so severe that Hermione could not speak of it to anyone? Though, if she thought about it… Dumbledore was awfully cloak and dagger when telling Harry about the Horcruxes and taking him along to hunt one. 

 

She reached out, taking the vial from McGonagall. 

 

It smelled and tasted like an old kitchen sponge. 

 

“Just a small sip,” McGonagall cautioned, “And now we wait a short moment while it enters your system.” 

 

Hermione felt a curious sensation, like vines were twisting around her tongue. She grimaced at the sensation. 

 

McGonagall smiled a tight smile of approval. 

 

“Excellent,” McGonagall began, clearing her throat, “I apologise for the difficulty of the things I am about to tell you… But with Albus gone,” McGonagall appeared to tear up a little, dabbing her eye with a plaid handkerchief, “Well… Molly Weasley is no strategist. We’re in dire need of exceptionally bright minds to help us through the war.” 

 

Hermione smiled, her ego sufficiently stroked by the compliment. 

 

“I’m more than happy to lend my assistance,” Hermione replied proudly, subconsciously rolling her shoulders back and puffing her chest out. 

 

“Where to begin,” McGonagall murmured, tapping her wrinkled lips with long fingers. 

 

To Hermione’s total lack of surprise, McGonagall began with explaining how Voldemort had split his soul and stored it in Horcruxes. Hermione nodded along, as if this was news, wanting to cover the fact that Harry had shared Dumbledore’s information with Ron and her. 

 

So far, it didn’t seem like it would be that bad that she couldn’t share the information she was being told. Hermione was willing to bet the next part would be telling her exactly what she already knew about the Delacours, too. 

 

“You see, the difficult thing about the final Horcrux,” McGonagall said, her face becoming even more severe, “Is that Albus has been guarding it for many years now.” 

 

“Then why can’t we just destroy it now?” Hermione asked. 

 

McGonagall sighed, taking a large drink from her glass. 

 

“I was always surprised you never showed much interest in Divination,” McGonagall observed, swirling her glass in her hand. 

 

Despite the serious discussion, Hermione couldn’t help but snort. 

 

“You have to be joking,” Hermione uttered.

 

She couldn’t believe McGonagall could even suggest that. She’d always thought the old Scotswoman had shared her disdain for Professor Trelawney. 

 

“Prophecies are powerful things, Hermione,” McGonagall cautioned. The light from the candles in the room was casting ominous shadows across McGonagalls lined face. 

 

“Like the prophecy about Harry,” Hermione replied, remembering with a chill the night that Sirius died. The night that they’d all almost died. 

 

Hermione had always known the situations they ended up in were reckless, but that. That night was when Hermione realised how dangerous it really was being friends with Harry Potter.

 

Neither can live while the other survives… The words of the prophecy haunted Hermione. She could tell it haunted Harry too; in the pinch of his smile, the furrow of his brow.

 

“Yes,” McGonagall replied, pursing her lips, “Like the prophecy about Harry.”

 

“Is this about that?” Hermione began, in an attempt to cut to the chase, “Because we know plenty about where to go to from here.” 

 

“We know about the Horcruxes too, Hermione,” McGonagall interrupted. 

 

Hermione opened and shut her mouth. From the way Harry had described his interactions with Dumbledore in the lead up to the wizard’s death, they had assumed Harry had been the only one Dumbledore had told. 

 

Hermione struggled to digest this fact. She gripped her glass and downed some of the potent liquid, burning her throat. 

 

McGonagall waited patiently for Hermione’s response. When it finally came, Hermione didn’t hold back. 

 

“Then why have the rest of you not been helping?!” Hermione exclaimed, “Why is Harry left to flounder on his own?”

 

McGonagall inclined her head slowly. 

 

“A fair question,” McGonagall replied, “While it would be beneficial for us to assist, Albus was very firm that this was a task for Harry. This will become clear when he discovers the last Horcrux.” 

 

“Which is…?!” Hermione demanded. She couldn’t believe The Order had withheld such important information from them. 

 

McGonagall sighed heavily then. It was a sigh with her whole body, which seemed to almost slump in the chair. For the first time in knowing the intimidating witch, Minerva McGonagall truly looked as old as she was. 

 

“We’ll get to that in another session,” McGonagall said, “The real reason I wanted to bring you in to the fold, and share confidential information with you, is that you hold a very special position now.” 

 

“As Fleur’s wife?” Hermione surmised. Her mind returned to the disturbing scene that she had seen in the pensieve.

 

“Yes,” McGonagall replied, “It might surprise you to learn that Apolline Delacour has a history with the He Who Must Not Be Named.” 

 

Hermione wasn’t surprised. McGonagall shouldn’t have bothered with the gagging potion. 

 

“Unsurprising, given that many magical creature communities were on the Dark Lord’s side during the last war— including Veela,” McGonagall continued, “Fortunately for us, Apolline came to see what harm the Dark Lord caused and the atrocities he and his followers committed. She still harbours guilt from her history with him to this day.” 

 

“What does that have to do with me?” Hermione asked, not knowing quite how it connected. If Fleur was serving time with the Order due to family guilt— Hermione wasn’t sure there was much she was supposed to do in particular. 

 

“This guilt, and strong desire to right the wrongs of the past, led Apolline to come forward with a prophecy about one of her daughters,” McGonagall explained, “While there has been much debate the prophecy, the long and short of it is this: Fleur needs to have her blood shed on the soil of the United Kingdom for the war to be won.” 

 

Hermione’s jaw dropped. 

 

“So… Fleur could simply get a paper cut and the war could be over before it even ramps up?” Hermione said slowly.

 

Why had they even gone through the sham of a wedding? 

 

“The reasons that wouldn’t work are twofold,” McGonagall interrupted, “It must be by a Death Eater, or someone else aligned with the Dark Lord— the chances of them only leaving Fleur with a papercut are slim. Additionally, there is a large strategic advantage to Fleur being slayed by the Death Eaters.” 

 

McGonagall was speaking so casually, almost as if she were explaining a concept in her Transfiguration class. Hermione felt like her heart had stopped in her chest. McGonagall couldn’t be saying what Hermione thought she was saying. 

 

“A strategic advantage?” Hermione echoed. Her voice sounded distant and faraway, like it was not her own voice at all. 

 

“As I mentioned, the Veela were aligned with the Dark Lord in the last war,” McGonagall explained, seemingly oblivious to Hermione’s state of shock, “As were the Giants and many other extremely powerful creatures. Hagrid is currently seeking to use his familial connection to bring the Giants to our side. The Veela have not been responsive to any efforts to align with us.” 

 

“And how does this relate to their alignment?” Hermione managed to choke out. 

 

“Veela have an extreme loyalty and protection over their own, even if they are not fully blooded,” McGonagall answered, swirling her glass, “The Veela will instantly seek to avenge her death and take down the Death Eaters.”

 

Hermione was silent for a moment as a whole host of emotions washed over her. She felt overwhelmingly sick. But cutting through that— rising to the surface, was a white hot rage.

 

“So… What? Fleur’s life is worth nothing? It’s just a pawn in your game of chess?” Hermione countered, her voice beginning to rise in volume. 

 

McGonagall sighed, a heavy sigh. 

 

“It’s more than that,” McGonagall insisted, “The more firepower for the Light side, the better. You think it would be enough for Fleur to get injured by a Death Eater and then we carry on and win the war? Then what, Hermione? The Dark Lord and Bellatrix Lestrange simply go to Azkaban?” 

 

“Yes!” Hermione replied emphatically, “There has to be a way to make it work. One that doesn’t necessitate Fleur dying and causing god knows how many Veela to flock to the Death Eaters.” 

 

“No,” McGonagall replied, her lips tightening into a thin line, “We cannot run that risk. Do you how many people have escaped from Azkaban now? Sirius Black, Bellatrix Lestrange, Rudolphus Lestrange… We would be forever looking over our shoulders.”

 

“So Fleur has to die, and the Veela must be driven to put their lives on the line for our comfort?!” Hermione replied, her temper raising. It no longer seemed to matter that McGonagall was, until very recently, Hermione’s most respected professor.

 

McGonagall frowned. 

 

“For our lives,” McGonagall hissed, “The threat of the Dark Lord has been on and off for longer than you have been alive, Hermione. You would do well to heed the advice of your elders. The best course of action is to end this once and for all. We must see this to the end. The war is not truly won until Voldemort and his followers lie dead and the Order of the Phoenix are seated at the table of the Ministry of Magic.” 

 

“This is about power?!” Hermione shouted now, getting up from her seat, “You gamble with everyone’s lives for a shot at the Order running the Ministry?!” 

 

McGonagall stood too, drawing herself up to her full height. She glowered at Hermione, who was now almost the same height as her. No longer the small and intimidated student, simpering to get her professor to like her. 

 

“This is about lives, Hermione,” McGonagall enunciated in a cold tone, “Do you know how many thousands were killed in the last war? How many will be killed in this one? And the next one? Do you want that to be on your shoulders?” 

 

“Unbelievable,” Hermione cursed, stomping to the door of the room. She put her hand on the door knob, ready to wrench the door open and leave. 

 

“You’re letting emotions get in the way,” McGonagall stated firmly. 

 

Hermione frowned, turning back to her former Transfiguration professor. 

 

“And what of Fleur? Does she know her death will cause the Veela to put themselves in harm’s way?” Hermione asked, her blood roiling. 

 

“Fleur knows as much as she needs to know,” McGonagall replied evenly, though she at least had the conscience to avoid Hermione’s gaze with the answer. 

 

“This is sick,” Hermione spat, turning the doorknob. 

 

“Hermione, this is for the greater good,” McGonagall said, her voice softening, “A few lives now for thousands, maybe millions, saved later. Fleur knows that, that’s why she agreed to apply for a visa and join the Order. I strongly recommend you let that sink in before we next speak.” 

 

Hermione didn’t reply, too angry to trust the words that would come out of her mouth. 

 

She wrenched the door open, stepping out of the room. As she left the room, she felt the sensation of vines around her tongue once more, only loosening their grip this time. 

Chapter Text

Fleur placed the empty glass of her fourth champagne on the tray of a passing waitress. She had spent the better part of the evening trying — and failing — to evade Tonks. The young auror had found it beyond interesting that Fleur had inadvertently admitted an attraction to Hermione, and was refusing to let the subject drop. 

 

There was nothing Fleur felt less like discussing than Hermione. After how cold the brunette had been after their kiss at the cottage, Fleur was more than aware that the two of them would never be able to get past their differences. 

 

As if on cue, Hermione came storming over to Fleur. She seemed enraged, her entire demeanour changed. She was striding with angry purpose and her eyes were positively ablaze. 

 

Fleur found herself forgetting her train of thought, her jaw slackening slightly. 

 

Fleur, out of the corner of her eye, saw Tonks spot her and begin to make beeline towards her. Tonks didn’t have time to catch up with Fleur though, as Hermione quickened her pace and reached Fleur first. 

 

Without a word of explanation, Hermione grabbed Fleur’s wrist tightly, pulling her with her. 

 

Either unable or unwilling to resist— Fleur herself wasn’t sure— the blonde allowed herself to be pulled through the ballroom and out into a large outdoor area. It was far less crowded; only a few people scattered far apart. 

 

Hermione pulled them to one side near a brick wall, seeming agitated.

 

Fleur could guess what was wrong with the brunette. The Gryffindors from Hogwarts were known to have over-sized moral compasses. Hermione had evidently found out the truth about the plan she had become a part of— and was enraged about it. 

 

“You know, then,” Fleur said calmly. 

 

“Yes!” Hermione snapped, “This is absolutely horrific.” 

 

Fleur shrugged. Yes, it was a bleak situation. But somehow it made it feel a better not being entirely alone in it.

 

“I have come around to the idea,” Fleur replied, “Besides, perhaps the attack won’t kill me? I mean, it is incredibly unlikely, but they only need my blood to complete the prophecy.”

 

Hermione opened her mouth immediately in response— but no sound came out. Hermione’s eyebrows raised, her eyes bulged, and she drew her hands up to her mouth as she opened and shut it with no noise. 

 

“Are you okay?” Fleur asked, confused. It almost looked like Hermione was choking. 

 

“Goddammit— the potion,” Hermione cursed. Fleur was even more confused. 

 

“What potion?” Fleur asked, 

 

Hermione seemed like she was choking again, frantically waving at her mouth. Fleur was truly concerned now. 

 

“Are you… choking? Do you need help?” Fleur asked, looking around for a waiter outside that might have a glass of water.

 

There were no waiters, but she did spot a couple of well-dressed men speaking to a squat woman dressed all in purple. Fleur narrowed her eyes and let out a sigh. Umbridge. 

 

Hermione exhaled heavily, drawing Fleur’s attention back to her. 

 

“I’m not choking, I’m fine… well, not fine,” Hermione began, looking angry all over again, “The point is, yes, I know— and apparently that’s all I can manage to say about it thanks to a blasted potion.”

 

So The Order had interfered again, somehow. Fleur wasn’t surprised. She’d been disillusioned by The Order as long as she’d known them. 

 

But somehow, it was okay. Even though Hermione looked livid— she knew. She knew the impossible situation that Fleur had been placed in. 

 

And for now, that was just enough to turn Fleur’s night around. 

 

Fleur wondered how long it had been living off crumbs like this. Of settling for the small positive in the shitty situation she had ended up in. Fleur no longer cared what latest reason had caused Hermione to be cold and distant towards her.

 

Fleur stepped forward, right into Hermione’s personal space. She noted with satisfaction that Hermione’s eyes widened, the anger momentarily slipping off the brunette’s beautiful features. 

 

“Fleur…?” Hermione asked, her voice suddenly raising an octave as her eyebrows raised. 

 

Fleur delighted in finally eliciting a reaction from Hermione. She pressed herself against Hermione, effectively pinning her to the outside wall of the building. Hermione let out an ‘eep’ as Fleur slipped her thigh between the brunette’s leg. 

 

Even with her high heels on, Fleur was only the same height as Hermione. She leaned her face into Hermione’s ear, smirking. 

 

“Umbridge is over there,” Fleur explained, in what she hoped was a low and sultry voice. She could have sworn she felt Hermione shiver, despite the heat of the summer night. Maybe it was wishful thinking. 

 

It was frustrating, really. Fleur had seldom met someone— man or woman, that would’ve been able to stay composed with her pressed against them like this.

 

But then Hermione was snaking her hands around Fleur’s waist, holding her tight and secure. Fleur leaned back so she could look at Hermione. The intensity was back in her eyes, but she seemed a lot calmer now. 

 

“Why would you go along with this?” Hermione asked softly. She seemed genuinely curious, though horrified. 

 

Fleur winced. 

 

“The lives of innocent people are on the line,” Fleur deadpanned, “And… The prophecy didn’t specify whether it was Gabrielle or me.” 

 

“You think if you didn’t agree they would turn to Gabrielle?” Hermione asked, incredulous. 

 

Fleur shook her head, her mind too full of conflicting thoughts. The entire subject was messy and stressful.

 

“No… I don’t know,” Fleur frowned, “Honestly, with the decision-making of the Order and the selfish guilt of my mother, who knows?” 

 

One of Hermione’s fingers was tracing a circle on the bare skin of Fleur’s back and it was growing far more distracting than Fleur would ever like to admit. 

 

Hermione looked like she was trying to say something again, but couldn’t. Fleur assumed whatever interference the Order had run on Hermione was working again. 

 

Hermione swallowed heavily, cursing under her breath. 

 

“You shouldn’t do it,” Hermione managed finally, “There has to be another way out. I can work it out. We can work it out.” 

 

“Why would you help me? You’ve been ignoring me for over a day now,” Fleur said flatly. Apart from a few flashes of—probably one sided— attraction, it had seemed pretty clear that the two of them were destined not to get along. 

 

Hermione’s hands tightened their grip on Fleur’s waist. Fleur felt her stomach flip dizzyingly at the feeling. 

 

“Because this is bloody mad,” Hermione said fiercely, “They’re almost as bad as the other side!” 

 

“It does feel like that sometimes,” Fleur agreed. She was enjoying leaning into Hermione, the slight blush on the brunette’s cheeks despite the seriousness of the topic, the firm grip on her waist. 

 

Hermione’s gaze seemed to soften the longer they stood there together. 

 

“We should go back inside,” Fleur said finally, reluctantly, “The Order will think something is wrong.” 

 

“Yeah,” Hermione said slowly, her gaze softening further as she kept looking at Fleur. 

 

Hermione leaned in, gently brushing her lips against Fleur’s. Fleur, though still a little put out at Hermione ignoring her lately, accepted the kiss. This time her stomach was doing somersaults. 

 

Hermione was smiling slightly when they finally pulled apart. 

 

Fleur stepped back, releasing Hermione from the wall. Hermione smoothed down her suit, before offering her arm to Fleur. As Fleur took it, she looked around the outdoor area. Umbridge was no longer in sight. 

 


 

Hermione was surprised by how much holding Fleur had quelled her temper.

 

But as she walked back into the gala with the svelte blonde on her arm, her anger returned. She saw The Order making the rounds, forwarding their agenda. She remembered the way they had left Fleur to fend for herself during the Death Eater attack at their wedding. She remembered the total lack of protections on their cottage. 

 

She remembered McGonagall informing her of their plans to take over the plum positions in the Ministry. 

 

 

There was a time when the thought of the Ministry of Magic being led by the likes of Minerva McGonagall would have excited Hermione and filled her with hope. Now, it just left a bitter taste in her mouth. 

 

Tonks approached the two of them, a smug look on her face. Hermione’s brows furrowed as she wondered how much Tonks knew. Hermione had trusted her too. 

 

“Well, well, well,” Tonks greeted, eying Fleur’s hand in Hermione’s arm with a grin. 

 

Fleur shot Tonks what appeared to be a warning look. 

 

Hermione didn’t know what it was about, and didn’t care. It felt like there was a cord inside of her, drawing tighter and tighter, threatening to snap. 

 

“How dare you?” Hermione asked immediately, introducing a sharp tension to the conversation. 

 

It seemed to slice at Tonks, who winced. 

 

“Talk didn’t go well, then?” Tonks asked, attempting a friendly smile. 

 

Fleur’s hand tightened on Hermione’s arm.

 

“Baby, I think we should keep things calm tonight,” Fleur said soothingly, casting a look at the throngs of people around them. 

 

Hermione still felt the awful anger, tensing within her. She wanted nothing more than to shout at every single member of the Order until they justified themselves to her. 

 

But there was something soothing about Fleur’s touch on her arm, and in her sweet voice telling her to keep calm. Hermione tensed her jaw, considering pushing the conversation anyway. But then she simply shook her head and put her hand on top of Fleur’s. 

 

“You’re right, darling,” Hermione said through gritted teeth, “But we will be discussing this, Tonks.”

 

Tonks swallowed, looking uncomfortable, but nodded. 

 

“How about we get you a drink, babe?” Fleur asked, attempting once more to push the conversation on. 

 

She slipped her hand down Hermione’s arm, before taking her hand, entwining her fingers with the brunette’s. Hermione hummed, enjoying the sensation despite her conflicted mind. 

 

Fleur tugged at Hermione’s hand, pulling her away from Tonks and the possibility of conflict. 

 

“Why are you so okay with this?” Hermione muttered to Fleur, as she allowed the blonde to lead them to a tray of drinks. 

 

Fleur plucked a glass of champagne from a waiter’s tray with a polite ‘merci,’ before handing it to Hermione. Hermione took the cool glass from Fleur’s manicured fingers. Fleur met her gaze with a sea of fierce blue.

 

“Because I need to be here,” Fleur said, leaning into Hermione, “Regardless of whether this is messed up or our side is flawed— The prophecy stands.”

 

“But…” Hermione trailed off as Fleur pressed herself against her. She had to take a sip of her champagne to steady herself. 

 

“We can discuss it further, later,” Fleur said, taking a step back, “For now, I just need you to be my wife. Okay?” 

 

“Okay,” Hermione relented with a sigh, “But this subject is far from over.” 

 

Fleur smiled graciously, as if nothing in the world were wrong, inclining her head so Hermione could see a long and soft expanse of neck. Hermione wanted Fleur pressed against her at this gala all night. Wanted to yell, scream, shout. Wanted to walk out of the room and never come back. 

 

The cacophany of strong and competing emotions was overwhelming. Hermione had to wonder how Fleur had held it together dealing with the weight of all this.

 

But perhaps it explained her veneer? The impenetrable wall of ice that had been driving Hermione crazy. Perhaps Fleur kept these walls up because it was the only way to deal with the dreadfulness she was tied up in. 

 

Hermione’s eyes couldn’t stay off the blonde with this new information. Every cold smile, every reserved nod. The way she stood perfectly tall. Tense. Hermione hadn’t noticed it before, but it was like Fleur couldn’t relax. Her blue eyes were roaming the room, her body poised. 

 

Waiting, alert. 

 

Waiting for the awful prophecy to be fulfilled. 

 

Hermione snaked her arm around Fleur’s waist, pulling her close. She couldn’t help the protectiveness that came over her. 

 

Fleur didn’t complain— a nice change. Though maybe it was just because they were in public and had to act the part of the happy couple. 

 

“Salut,” Fleur greeted a boring man in boring dress robes. 

 

The blonde may have quelled Hermione’s temper with Tonks, but the anger was still simmering under the service. As Fleur talked politely with guests at the gala, Hermione’s hand on her waist was the only thing keeping the brunette calm. 

 

How dare the Order use Fleur like she was simply a pawn?

 

How dare they let Hermione unknowingly assist in the death of Fleur?!

 

“Salut,” a male voice mockingly using the French greeting snapped Hermione out of her musings with a frown. 

 

Bill Weasley was standing before them, his eyes only on Fleur. His gaze was so possessive of the blonde that Hermione was practically forgotten. 

 

It did nothing for Hermione’s mood. 

 

“Bill,” Fleur greeted guardedly. Hermione instinctively moved closer, her grip on Fleur’s waist tightening. Her jaw tensed. 

 

Bill Weasley was infuriatingly handsome, his long red hair slicked back for the occasion. He wore a pinstriped suit for the occasion. Hermione thought it rather made him look like a used car salesman. 

 

“You’re looking amazing,” Bill said, his eyes running up and down Fleur in a sleazy kind of appreciation. Hermione could practically feel Fleur shuddering in response. She felt tenser, Hermione could feel it. 

 

“She does,” Hermione interrupted pointedly. She ran her hand up and down Fleur’s side, as if to signal don’t you dare try to harm her. 

 

Bill smirked, his gaze turning to Hermione now. He seemed smug, challenging. Hermione couldn’t be less in the mood for this. 

 

“When’re you coming back to work, Fleur?” Bill said, sliding his eyes back to Fleur. 

 

“I am still on leave for a little while yet,” Fleur said in a very clipped tone. Hermione’s skin was crawling. Each little injustice that the Order was bestowing upon Fleur. 

 

“I miss you around the vaults,” Bill said, mostly in a sneer. Hermione couldn’t stop her brow from furrowing, despite her promise to Fleur to stay calm. 

 

“I certainly am enjoying a break from the grime in those deeper tunnels,” Fleur replied over-politely, “Even the carts down there are dirty. I’m not sure I will ever get used to it.” 

 

“Oh, I dunno Fleur,” Bill said, his smirk growing, “I’m sure you know your way around a shaft, maybe when you’re back you can show me your expertise.”

 

If Hermione had been paying attention, she would have seen Fleur simply roll her eyes and fold her arms tightly across her chest. But Hermione wasn’t paying attention. The tight cord within her, that had been pulled so taut by McGonagall’s truths, Tonks’ avoidance and Bill’s smirks, had finally snapped. 

 

As she had done years before with Malfoy, Hermione lunged forward. In a flash she lashed out, a short and sharp punch directly to the nose. She felt a sickening crunch beneath her fist, but the anger within her drowned out any disgust. She wanted Bill to hurt. To feel as small as he tried to make Fleur feel. 

 

It felt good. A moment of relief, as Hermione nursed her knuckles and Bill doubled over with a pitiable wail. 

 

But then reality came crashing back. The gala had fallen silent— the silence of the upper crust witnessing something decidedly unsavoury. She could see some of the faces of the Order dotted amongst the crowd looking on. Shacklebolt looked mortified. Tonks had a look between amusement and shock on her face. McGonagall simply pursed her lips, eying Hermione with a steely gaze from afar. 

 

Fleur was furious. 

 

“Hermione!” Fleur hissed, “I told you to keep calm!” 

 

“Er,” Hermione was at a loss of words. The onlookers were muttering. She spotted Umbridge in the crowd, looking on with interest. 

 

“We’re leaving,” Fleur said firmly. 

 

Hermione gaped at Bill, blood dripping on the expensive flooring from behind his clasped hands. 

 

“Now!” Fleur snapped, grabbing Hermione’s hand. 

 


 

Fleur was stunned. She tore Hermione out of the gala and back to their home as fast as she could, not wanting either of them to face the wrath of a displeased McGonagall or Shacklebolt. Let alone Molly Weasley. 

 

She marched Hermione to the small table in the living area, sitting her down at it. In short order she had cast a simple spell to assist healing on Hermione’s already bruising knuckles, placed a bottle of wine and two glasses on the table, and sat across from the young witch. 

 

“Talk,” Fleur demanded. 

 

“I… You heard what he said!” Hermione said, defensive. She pouted — adorably, Fleur thought distractedly— and narrowed her eyes as if the blonde was being entirely unfair. 

 

Fleur exhaled, frustrated. She poured them each a generous glass of wine. 

 

“So what?” Fleur said, sipping at her own wine. 

 

“So what?!” Hermione echoed, almost jumping out of her chair, “He can’t talk to you like that!” 

 

Fleur scoffed. Sometimes it was so clear that Hermione didn’t know her. 

 

“He’s hardly the first to speak to me that way,” Fleur said tiredly, “And he certainly won’t be the last.” 

 

This seemed to anger Hermione further. She swore. Which was cute coming from Hermione. The uptight Gryffindor never swore— Fleur assumed she was too much of a goodie two-shoes. Though that theory had just gone out the window with a right hook to Bill Weasley’s nose. 

 

Hermione took her own wine, taking a chaotic gulp from her glass and wincing as she swallowed it. Again, cute. She wasn’t used to drinking as widely and as regularly as they had been lately. 

 

Fleur tried to suppress the wayward feelings of attraction for the curly haired brunette. They weren’t going to help her. Though part of her— a small part of her that she kept locked up tight— felt hopeful at Hermione’s reaction to the prophecy.

 

“Look,” Hermione said, taking a deep breath, “If we’re going to stay married, a couple of things are going to have to change around here.” 

 

Fleur bit her lip. Something in Hermione’s tone and in the fierceness of her gaze was intoxicating. 

 

“Bill can’t talk to you like that,” Hermione said, her voice rough with anger that was still not out of her system, “He just can’t.” 

 

Fleur huffed, annoyed again. Talking to Hermione was always a rollercoaster of emotions like this. Dizzying attraction followed by a free fall of annoyance. 

 

“That’s not my fault,” Fleur growled, “I hexed him very well when he tried to… When he…”

 

Fleur trailed off. The communication had been flowing a lot more between the two of them, but Fleur couldn’t quite get the words out. 

 

“When he tried to what?” Hermione asked. Fleur could see a muscle in the brunette’s jaw tensing. 

 

“Get handsy,” Fleur answered distastefully. She would rather not relive Bill Weasley roughly groping her. It had been enough of an indignity to suffer it and then have the Order pressure her to apologise. Apologise! If she hadn’t hexed him, who knew how far he would have pushed?

 

“Why are you suddenly so protective?” Fleur asked, deciding to pivot the conversation away from herself. 

 

The question seemed to ruffle Hermione. 

 

“I… I couldn’t stand the way he spoke to you,” Hermione said uncomfortably, “And the Order— The Order with the way they’re using you.” 

 

Fleur, in an uncomfortable moment, wondered if Hermione was pitying her. It made her stomach churn. Fleur frowned, straightening her back. She didn’t need pity.

 

“I have a lifetime of looking after myself,” Fleur said, her tone significantly colder now, “You think someone goes through this world with Veela blood without getting used to being spoken to like an object? Without being used?” 

 

Hermione looked annoyed, then outraged, then sad— all in quick succession. 

 

Fleur expected her to say something. Some overly gallant Gryffindor line. Some know-it-all rant about magical creatures. Some pitying tirade. 

 

But Hermione was silent. 

 

The duo sat sipping on their wine in silence. The red wine had a pleasant smokiness to it that teased Fleur’s tastebuds.

 

Hermione didn’t seek to explain herself further— and neither did Fleur. They were at a stalemate again. But this impasse felt more comfortable than previous ones. 

 

As they sat at their small table in the cottage on the hot summer night, Fleur felt, for the first time in a long time, not alone. 

 

So, for now, the events of the night had been settled. Though Fleur was sure there were many more difficult discussions ahead of them.

 

Later they got ready separately for bed, as usual. Fleur pulled the sheet up over her shoulders as she settled in. She felt the mattress sink a little as Hermione climbed into the other side of the bed. 

 

What was it that Hermione could not say? 

 

The thought pricked at the edges of Fleur’s mind as she nestled into her pillow. She shut her eyes tightly, trying to will herself to stop dwelling on it. 

 

Hermione shuffled closer behind her. Fleur felt a strong arm move around her waist as Hermione cuddled into her back. 

 

It was dark in the room and Fleur felt herself smile slightly as she lay in bed, held tightly in Hermione’s arms. 

 

It had been a long time since Fleur had ever allowed herself the luxury of relaxing around another person. But for once, Fleur felt oddly content as she slipped into sleep. 

 

 


 

Hermione jerked awake, vaguely aware that she had been having a nightmare about shadowy figures, heart pounding. Her knuckles throbbed, reminding her sharply of the gala the night before. The weight of what she knew returned, as well as the sickening anger and fear. 

 

Fleur shifted in her sleep, still in her arms. Hermione felt her temper ebb momentarily. 

 

She wasn’t sure what had drawn her to do it — the horror over Fleur’s situation, the few wines they’d shared, or simply the need for comfort following a tough day— but Hermione had found herself holding Fleur as they fell asleep. 

 

Hermione felt like McGonagall’s revelations had brought Fleur into focus. Hermione felt like she was seeing Fleur clearly now. What she had mistaken for pride, was in fact the same heavy obligation that she had seen Harry carrying around all these years. What she thought was sulking and spoiled behaviour had really been the result of the dread Fleur must have been feeling.

 

It was like a veil had lifted and all the frustration and anger Hermione had been feeling towards the blonde Frenchwoman had gone. What was left… Well, that was complicated. 

 

Fleur shifted in Hermione’s arms and the brunette instinctively tightened her grip on the smaller woman. She felt protective of Fleur. 

 

It was stupid. After all, Fleur was older than her. She knew far more advanced spells. She’d even survived competing in a Triwizard Tournament. 

 

Hermione knew all this. 

 

But for some reason, when she looked at Fleur now— knowing what she now knew— it made her chest ache. 

 

There was a loud thumping at the front door downstairs. 

 

Fleur stirred in her arms. Hermione released the blonde, sighing heavily as she sat up in bed. Fleur sat up too, avoiding looking at the brunette. It was strange. There was an awkwardness between them as if something intimate had happened between them the previous evening, though all they had done was argue and fall asleep in each others’ embrace. 

 

But it was daylight now, and whatever had passed between them was not a pressing matter. 

 

Hermione leapt out of bed, fishing around her belongings before finding a light cotton scarlet dressing gown. She donned it, turning to Fleur with a dark look. 

 

“Please wear something when you come downstairs this time,” Hermione advised. 

 

This seemed to snap Fleur out of her awkwardness, as she quirked a cocky grin. 

 

“As if you didn’t enjoy the view,” Fleur retorted. 

 

Hermione was glad she had to whip downstairs to answer the door so Fleur couldn’t see the blush that had taken over her face. 

 

There was another curt and impatient knock at the door as Hermione reached it. 

 

To the young Gryffindor’s surprise, it was McGonagall. She had been hoping to have some more time to digest what the Transfiguration professor had told her before having to confront her again. 

 

“I’m worried about you, Hermione,” McGonagall said, sweeping past Hermione and into the cottage without any introduction. 

 

“Worried I’ll tell people?” Hermione responded drily, “Hardly an issue with the potion you gave me.” 

 

McGonagall pursed her lips, looking around the interior of the cottage briefly before fixing Hermione with a severe gaze. 

 

“No matter how much you are struggling with what must be done,” McGonagall said seriously, “There is no excuse for striking a fellow Order member. Particularly in front of a large crowd of people. Particularly during a delicate event where some of our members are undercover.” 

 

Hermione frowned. She loathed being told off by McGonagall. Even if she didn’t like to admit it, a small part of her— the perfect student at Hogwarts— longed for the approval of the older witch. 

 

“You didn’t hear what he said to Fleur,” Hermione defended, “Not to mention the fact he’s behaved entirely inappropriately around her in the past, too.” 

 

“We can’t be bogged down by childish playground tiffs,” McGonagall interrupted severely, “This is a war, Miss Granger. I don’t care what Bill Weasley said to Fleur. He’s a fellow Order member and you ought to have his back as he has yours. You’re lucky it’s me coming to see you this morning— I had my hands full with Molly Weasley this morning having to hold her back from having this discussion with you instead.” 

 

“Have each other’s backs?” Hermione repeated hollowly, “But never mind if Order members bloody assault one another, is that right? As long as we win the war?” 

 

She felt rather Harry-like in that moment, standing her ground against a respected teacher. Perhaps a good thing or two had rubbed off from Harry after all. 

 

McGonagall’s face pinched a little. But when she next spoke, her tone was far softer. 

 

“Hermione, I know you have no concept of what is happening— of what is to come,” McGonagall said slowly, “But there are far worse things ahead of us than someone simply saying something rude. There are lives on the line, and I need you to be focussed. I need you to do what needs to be done.”

 

Hermione opened her mouth and closed it again. She didn’t trust herself to speak. She felt patronised. As if she didn’t understand the weight of the situation they were all in! 

 

There was a creak of the stairs as Fleur padded into the room quietly, dressed in a tidy summer dress. Her hair was loose and fluttering, giving Fleur an oddly angelic look in the sunbeams streaming in from outside. 

 

“Fleur, thank you for handling the situation last night and removing Hermione from the event,” McGonagall said quietly to Fleur. 

 

Fleur simply nodded. 

 

“Really, Fleur?!” Hermione replied in disbelief, her voice raising. 

 

“Miss Granger,” McGonagall chided. 

 

“You aren’t my professor any more, Minerva,” Hermione said in a hard voice, “And you certainly are not in a place to be lecturing to me about the weight of lives on the line. Not when you’re marching my very own wife to her demise like a lamb to slaughter.” 

 

“You’re processing a lot right now,” McGonagall said, changing tack to a soothing tone. 

 

“I’m processing some bloody horrific revelations about the people I once looked up to!” Hermione retorted loudly. 

 

There was a loud pause. It seemed to extend for hours and echo in Hermione’s ears.

 

“I’ll leave you to think on your actions some more,” McGonagall replied again in a soothing voice, “I urge you to come with a calm mind to the next meeting of the Order. We cannot work effectively with you being so… emotional.” 

 

Hermione, who had long prided herself on her simple rationality and her morals, felt cut to the bone by the insult.

 

But before she could retort, McGonagall had thanked Fleur again and left the cottage. 

Chapter Text

Hermione was driven by a rage. It was less of the blinding, white hot rage that had led her to punch Bill Weasley. No, this was a calm and seething rage. 

Following McGonagall’s departure from their cottage, Fleur had gone for a shower, asking Hermione not to do anything rash. 

The second that Fleur had ascended the stairs, Hermione had been into the Floo powder and arriving in Grimmauld Place. 

To her frustration— but not her surprise— the damned gagging potion McGonagall had given her prevented her from saying much about anything to Harry and Ron about what she had learned at the gala. 

The boys, having already endured a surprise visit from an enraged Molly Weasley, were looking at Hermione as if she had entirely lost her mind. Harry ushered her to a chair in the living room they were in, while Ron pushed a hot mug of tea at her with his large hands. 

“I can’t bloody say what I want to say,” Hermione bemoaned, “The Order got me to take—“ Hermione was prevented from giving the details by the invisible vines on her tongue, “—something that stops me. But it’s dreadful. They’re so callous.” 

“Okay,” Ron said slowly, sitting down very slowly in a chair across from Hermione, as if a sudden movement might prompt her to attack him, “But… Why did you punch Bill? Mum said you absolutely lost it at him. He’s hardly the one calling the shots at the Order, whatever they’re doing.” 

Hermione sighed heavily, opting to take a long drink from her mug of tea to buy herself some time. There was no delicate way of telling Ron that his brother had been acting like a slimy git… And chances were, Ron wouldn’t want to hear it. He could be so bullishly stubborn in his defence of his loved ones.

Harry was watching Hermione with interest, his bright green eyes slightly narrowed and his head slightly to one side. 

“He… He took things too far,” Hermione settled on. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t enough of the truth to upset Ron, “He said something that crossed a line and I was already upset about the Order.” 

Ron, to his credit, nodded as he digested this information. It seemed just vague enough not to ignite his defensive temper. 

“Well, you’ve met my brothers before,” Ron said finally, “They can be a bit insensitive sometimes.” 

Holding back the laugh in her throat that threatened to burst out at Ron Weasley accusing others of being insensitive, Hermione simply nodded in response, grateful that Ron had accepted her explanation without argument. 

“What can you tell us about the Order and their plans?” Harry pressed, turning the subject back to the things Hermione had tried repeatedly— and failed— to tell them so far. 

Hermione frowned, trying to think of another combination of words, another way, to potentially warn them that the Order were not only carelessly trying to get Fleur killed— but they already knew about the Horcruxes. 

The vines were strangling her tongue with every attempt. 

“I don’t fully trust them anymore,” Hermione said finally, “I think we should be very limited in what we tell them.” 

Harry— who could be like Ron and his family when it came to Dumbledore— looked uncertain. 

“McGonagall has changed since Dumbledore died,” Hermione half-explained, though she was seriously wondering if Dumbledore had also been working in these same dark shades of grey. 

Harry nodded, deep in thought. 

“That’s fine,” Harry said, “We were never going to tell them anything originally. It’s just a shame that now we finally have someone on the inside, you can’t even tell us anything.” 

“I know,” Hermione agreed, “But I’m hoping their general meetings won’t be like that.” 

The boys were disappointed in the lack of information. They hated being left in the dark as much as Hermione did. But at least it wasn’t her fault she couldn’t tell them. 

Ron stretched and yawned. 

“Well, I s’pose we’d better get to the sauna,” Ron said, using his new nickname for the uncomfortably hot library at Grimmauld Place, “The sooner we can find some Horcruxes, the sooner we can end all this.” 

“Yes,” Hermione agreed, her mind distracted by a new thought, “But before we get into the books, I have to pop out and see someone.” 

 



Hermione stalked around the grounds of Kingsley Shacklebolt’s manor. It hadn’t taken long to find Remus, who had quickly informed her of the location of Tonks. Shacklebolt’s manor was apparently a sort of default head quarters for the Order at the moment. 

In fact, when Hermione had arrived, Kingsley and his staff hadn’t been surprised at all, simply waving at her and inviting her to use the library and grounds as she needed. 

Hermione swore that Tonks must know she was looking for her, and wondered idly if Remus had sent an owl hurtling through the baking sun to warn his wife. At every turn, Hermione was coming up empty in her search for the young auror. 

At last, she came across a house elf that was doing a truly bizarre job of cleaning a small music room, mopping carpet with a sopping wet, filthy mop. 

Suspicious, Hermione narrowed her eyes at the small elf. They looked like any other elf, dressed in a plain and filthy sack of sorts, with bulbous features and skinny limbs. But the tufts of hair on the elf were green.

“Tonks?” Hermione accused, putting her hands on her hips, “I’ll hex you if I have to.” 

Hermione, for an awful moment, panicked at the prospect of having accidentally threatened an actual house elf who was enslaved by the Shacklebolts. 

But sure enough, the elf sighed and threw the mop to the floor, before they began oddly extending in height. 

Hermione watched with a sick interest as bones popped and the house elf before her morphed into Tonks, with green long hair and only wearing the (now too tight) filthy sack of the house elves. 

Hermione pointedly avoided observing how short the sack was on Tonks, narrowing her eyes at the metamorphmagus.

“Yes, fine, it’s me,” Tonks sighed, crossing her arms across her chest, “You have no idea how many bloody floors I’ve had to mop this morning while avoiding you. I have no idea how you found me— nobody comes in this wing of the manor.” 

Hermione looked at the sodden mess of the music room floor. 

“The skill level leaves a lot to be desired,” Hermione said. For a moment, Tonks’ expression lifted, but then Hermione frowned at her and the hope on the young aurors face disappeared, “Why didn’t you tell me?” 

“And tell you what?” Tonks said with a heavy sigh, “It’s not my information to share, and I couldn’t even if I wanted to.” 

“Is this why you and Fleur have been giving me so many vague warnings about learning more from the Order?” Hermione asked, her tone thoroughly displeased. Tonks was far from off the hook. 

“Obviously,” Tonks responded, “It’s not a very easy thing to live with, knowing the things that are going to go down.” 

“Knowing?” Hermione countered, her tone thunderous, “You’re aiding these things! Teenagers being put in danger? People used as pawns?” 

Tonks looked conflicted, a terrible mix of guilt and obligation painting her features. 

“It’s not like we have a choice,” Tonks replied, “Who else can stop He Who Must Not Be Named? Everyone in my family tree has had to make this choice: one side, or the other. I chose the one that isn’t set on genocide.”

“We always have options,” Hermione replied fiercely, “I thought you would be more of a thinker than a blind follower.” 

Tonks looked as if Hermione had punched her in the face, equal parts stunned and shocked. 

Further conversation was curtailed as loud footsteps on the marble hallway outside echoed. Hermione turned to the door, which was open just a crack, before turning back to Tonks. 

“Oh for Pete’s sake,” Hermione muttered under her breath. 

Tonks was standing before her as the house elf again, already holding the mop in her hands. 

Hermione turned back to the door as the footsteps stilled. She was allowed to be on the Shacklebolt premises, but a part of her was stressed at some of the other Order members bursting in on her here. Particularly Molly Weasley… But if this was a less frequented area of the manor as Tonks had said, maybe Hermione would luck out. 

“We can’t send him to the packs,” Kingsley Shacklebolt’s bassy voice rang out, echoing despite probably not intentionally projecting his naturally booming voice.

“Fenrir Greyback is high ranking in the Dark Side these days,” replied McGonagall, “Aside from Bellatrix, or the Malfoys, or Severus, he is one of the most trusted Death Eaters.” 

“Sending Lupin to the werewolves is dangerous,” Shacklebolt replied, “They all know who turned him. They all know his allegiance. We’d be showing our hand and risking discovery instantly.” 

Hermione saw Tonks stiffen beside her, mop frozen in place. 

“But if he could find dissidents, disillusioned werewolves,” McGonagall replied, “Those who are more in touch with their human nature, like him.” 

“Then they might yield useful information gleaned from Greyback,” Shacklebolt agreed, “But Lupin is useful to us, even if he is part-Creature.” 

Hermione’s jaw set at that. She had wondered at Shacklebolt’s attitude towards creatures given the number of house elves at his estate could almost rival Hogwarts. But it was entirely different and all together unpleasant hearing verbal confirmation that Shacklebolt didn’t consider Remus his equal given his blood status. 

It was appalling really, that the Order could recognise that Muggle-Born witches and wizards were unfairly discriminated against by a belief that their blood was different. Yet, the Order treated those with creature blood as less equal, purely by the notion of having non-human blood running through them. Hermione wondered if McGonagall herself had house elves in slavery at her own estate. 

“Agreed,” McGonagall concurred, “Which is why it is so important that we explore these non-human avenues this time around. Sending Hagrid to appeal his kind, finally finding a way to get the Veela to co-operate… it makes sense getting Remus to see what intel he can get from the werewolves. Perhaps he can even convince some to defect to our side?” 

“Well, that would be very advantageous,” Shacklebolt agreed, as the footsteps began to continue their walk down the marble hallway outside, “Besides, it’s always good to have more people on our side who are a little more disposable than humans.” 

Hermione grit her teeth so hard at the last comment of Shacklebolt’s that she was glad her dentist parents were no longer in her life to peer at her molars. 

As the footsteps and voices faded, Hermione turned to Tonks. The house elf version of Tonks had paled, knuckles white as she clenched her hands around the mop. 

“Well, if that doesn’t sway your views, nothing else I say will,” Hermione quipped, before leaving the room abruptly. 


Fleur should have known the second she said “don’t do anything rash” that her wife would be out the door the second there was a window to leave. 

Still, she couldn’t help but be annoyed as she descended the stairs to find an empty cottage. 

No matter. Hermione had seemed riled up enough by McGonagall’s visit that Fleur knew there was very little to be said that would have calmed the brunette. 

Fleur had her reasons for doing what she did. They had been in a gala room full of Death Eaters and Order members alike. Hermione snapping didn’t just put the brunette in danger, it put in danger every one of the Order members— particularly those that may have been working undercover. 

Hermione’s rage at Fleur’s situation didn’t justify other people being harmed. 

Though, if Fleur were to be entirely honest, it was really quite sweet how Hermione was unwilling to soften on her protective stance. Fleur had never had anyone in her life before who would be so outraged at her treatment, except maybe Gabrielle. 

There was a sharp rapping at the window and Fleur was drawn out of her thoughts. A barn owl was tapping at a window with a small note tied to its leg. 

Fleur quickly crossed the room, locating some owl treats to placate the owl as she took the message from it. 

“Fleur,

Drinks at the last place we went to together. Now.

Tonks.”

It was strange for Tonks to send such a serious note, or to demand such a thing. After all, it was barely noon and hardly a usual time for them to head to a bar for a drink. 

Fleur considered this as she ushered the owl back out of the cottage and gathered her things to head out. Surely Tonks wasn’t seeking to lecture Fleur on the events of the previous evening as McGonagall had lectured Hermione. Tonks was one of the only members of the Order that Fleur found quite reasonable. 

Within half an hour, Fleur had freshened up and was arriving to the dreadfully sage-scented location where she had last had a solo drink with Tonks. She arrived to find the young auror with long green hair, several facial piercings, and drumming her fingers restlessly on a chipped wooden table in the corner of the room. 

Fleur sat down on the other side of the table, surprised to see that Tonks had already ordered them drinks— and stiff ones at that. Fleur lifted the glass tumbler in front of her, swirling it to gauge what its contents were. 

“Firewhisky,” Tonks answered before Fleur could ask, “You took your time getting here.” 

Fleur’s mouth quirked into a smirk. The metamorphmagus was always a chaotic ball of energy, leaping from one place to the next, simply morphing when she needed to change appearance in any way. Impatience was common with the auror. 

“Here I was thinking that I had got ready quickly,” Fleur replied, setting down her tumbler without a sip, “What is the occasion for a midday drink? Shouldn’t you be off enjoying your weekend?” 

Tonks glowered moodily, sipping at her own firewhisky and wincing at the taste. 

“I don’t even know where to start with that, Fleur,” Tonks replied, “I’m dealing with crisis after crisis here. First, your wife goes and bloody punches Bill Weasley in the middle of an already delicate social situation—“ 

“That was not my fault,” Fleur said, inclining her head proudly, “If Bill wants to mouth off on the assumption that everyone has endless tolerance for him, then that’s a risk he is choosing to take.” 

Undeterred, Tonks carried on her tirade. 

“—Then, in trying to meet with McGonagall to get an idea of how to help your wife, I get an urgent patronus from Remus warning me that said wife is hunting me down to tear me a new one. I spent most of my morning as a house elf cleaning bloody Kingsley’s manor!” Tonks exclaimed. 

At this, Fleur snorted. The thought of Tonks being so terrified of Hermione’s temper that she had ended up cleaning the Shackleton manor to avoid her was hilarious. 

“It’s not bloody funny, Fleur,” Tonks said with a warning tone, necking back another sip of firewhisky.

“It is a bit, though," Fleur smirked, “This whole marriage has been so endlessly amusing to you, it’s about time you had some comeuppance. So, why the urgent drink when it’s barely the middle of the day? I’m assuming Hermione just had a go at you and left. Unless she punched you, too?” 

“You don’t have to look so bloody entertained at the thought of your wife decking me,” Tonks retorted, before her face grew serious again, “Yes, she did have a go at me. But it’s more than that.” 

Fleur sighed, leaning back in her chair. It was too early for this, and the day was already too hot for this. The heat in the bar was stifling, the hot sage-tinged air making Fleur feel a little sick. 

“So what is it, then?” Fleur asked impatiently. Tonks was drumming her fingers restlessly on the table again, an agitated demeanour about her. 

“You might want a drink for this,” Tonks said, nodding at Fleur’s firewhisky. When the blonde didn’t respond, Tonks sighed heavily before continuing, “I don’t think the Order view Creatures or part-Creatures as equals.” 

Fleur exhaled heavily, laughing. If that was the bombshell Tonks was hoping to deliver to her so urgently, it was the least surprising thing Fleur had heard. 

“What gave it away?” Fleur replied sarcastically, “The mass amount of house elves they all own?”

Tonks frowned, perhaps realising how naive she sounded. 

“Let me try that again,” Tonks said, furrowing her brow, “I overheard Kingsley and Minerva discussing Remus and werewolves and Veela and giants as if they were nothing. Kinsgley literally referred to them as being ‘more disposable than humans.’”

Fleur frowned this time. It was a lot more overt than the usual impressions she got from the Order on their views. If she were honest, it did hurt. While she had suspected that they saw her as disposable, as an object, or as someone lesser than the others— she had never expected to hear it confirmed so boldly. Let alone assigned solely to the fact she had some Veela blood in her. 

This time Fleur did take a sip from her tumbler, relishing the burn of the hard liquor as it swarmed her mouth and charged down her throat. 

“What do you expect me to do about that?” Fleur said darkly, her mood considerably dampened by this revelation, “Whether they see Remus and I as equals or not, we have a part to play in taking down He Who Must Not Be Named. What else can we do? Stand by and do nothing as the Dark Side take over?” 

“Yeah, well, that’s the thing,” Tonks said, the drumming of her fingers intensifying, “I think that way too. But something Hermione said to me before we heard all that— it’s stuck in my head. She said there’s always options. I just… I really wonder if this is the only way, you know?” 

Fleur was silent for a moment, considering Tonks’ words and what they meant. She didn’t want to entertain even a glimmer of hope. A prophecy had long ago sealed her fate, not the Order. Even if she were free from the Order, she wouldn’t be free from that.

“You could warn Remus,” Fleur suggested, “Put him on guard that he is to be used as fodder. There is not much else we can do.” 

Tonks slapped the wooden table between them so abruptly that Fleur jumped. 

“Isn’t there?!” Tonks demanded, “How long have we been moaning over drinks how absolutely fucked some of the Order’s attitudes are? How long have we been annoyed that they never seem to take our opinions into consideration? What if we could do it differently? Take down the Dark Lord, but only using people who absolutely know what they’re signing up for and what they are risking. No tricking kids with half-truths, no putting people in harm’s way for purely political reasons, no pressuring people into making dangerous decisions.” 

Fleur felt the small piece of hope deep in her chest spark briefly, as if it were a flint trying to start a fire. 

“Impossible,” Fleur replied, “Without the others, we don’t have the influence, the power, the resources…”

“Sod all that!” Tonks exclaimed enthusiastically, slapping the table once more for effect, “Look, if we’re all putting ourselves in lethal danger anyway, why not do it our way? On our terms? I don’t want to die under the banner of a cause I don’t agree with.” 

Fleur bit her lip, thoughtful. Tonks had a point. If their situation was hopeless anyway, they could at least go about it in a way that felt more right.

“What do you suggest?” Fleur asked, leaning forward. 

 


Hermione was irritated as she left Grimmauld Place much later. The sun was setting, thankfully taking much of the heat out of the day.

Hermione scratched the back of her neck, wondering if she had just wasted valuable Horcrux studying time researching how she could break the gagging potion that McGonagall had dosed her with.

Who was she kidding? 

Hermione knew she was bright, the brightest witch of her age, but this potion had been around for the last two years. The greatest minds in the Order and Death Eaters had undoubtedly tried during that time to find a way around it, or a way to break it. Hermione hadn’t even completed her Seventh Year of schooling yet. 

The rage that had fuelled much of Hermione’s day had been exhausted by hours poring over hot books in the unbearably hot library of Grimmauld Place. Even Ron wrenching every window open had done nothing to ease the discomfort. 

Now Hermione just felt dejected. 

Everything was feeling rather hopeless. 

She stepped into the green flames of the Floo Network, wondering how annoyed Fleur would be with her after McGonagall’s visit and her subsequent disappearance for much of the day. She hadn’t given much thought to the consequences of her actions after leaving in a rage, more annoyed at Fleur showing deference to McGonagall than anything. It drove Hermione crazy that somebody could use Fleur like that and Fleur wouldn’t fight it tooth and nail. It seemed contrary to everything that Hermione knew about the blonde’s volatile temper. Was she that beaten down by what she saw as an inevitability? 

Hermione longed to break the potion that prevented her from telling Fleur that any reasoning given by the Order as to why she must die, instead of just be injured, was being fed by a desire to whip the temper of the Veela community into a frenzy so great, they would assist the Order. 

Hermione was startled as she landed on the rug of their living room face to face with the part-Veela she had just been thinking about. Fleur seemed a lot more relaxed than she had that morning, her features softened as she smiled at Hermione. 

“Welcome back, my wandering wife,” Fleur greeted her, stepping forward with a glass of white wine in her hand. 

Hermione took the wine, a little surprised as Fleur stepped further into her personal space, her lips brushing Hermione’s cheek in a gentle kiss before she stepped back again. 

Hermione cursed her face for heating up, no doubt revealing how much she enjoyed such a gesture with an appalling display of redness. 

“Erm,” Hermione was thrown. As she turned to face the rest of the cottage, she could see a candle on the table and two plates of salad laid out with cutlery, “I thought we left things on kind of bad terms this morning?” 

For a truly wild second, Hermione wondered if Fleur was actually mad at her and was attempting to curse her via salad. But she pushed this thought aside with amusement as she followed Fleur to the table. 

“I know you are angry,” Fleur said simply, sitting down across from the brunette, “You don’t understand why I am cordial and obedient to Minerva despite her treating me as a little…” Fleur frowned before she said the next word, “disposable.” 

“Yeah,” Hermione replied, skewering a piece of lettuce with her fork.

“I was frustrated with you too, you know,” Fleur replied, leaning back in her chair, “I didn’t understand why you didn’t seem to get it. That this is just the way things are.” 

This got Hermione’s attention, and she raised an eyebrow. 

“Was frustrated?” Hermione queried, “But you’re not anymore?” 

Fleur didn’t seem to have any of her usual veneer. She seemed vulnerable. Hermione was fascinated. 

Fleur shifted uncomfortably in her chair for a moment, incredibly out of character for the usually stoic woman. 

“I sat down with Tonks today,” Fleur explained, running a restless hand through her silky hair, “She told me about her conversation with you.” 

Hermione sat in silence, waiting for Fleur to continue. Hermione hadn’t thought her conversation with Tonks had gone well at all, so was curious to know where Fleur was going with this. 

“What you said to her, about exploring other options, it really charged her up,” Fleur explained, “She was so fired up at all the wrongs we see in the Order. Neither of us had ever considered another way. There is the Light side and the Dark side, and that is all we have known.” 

“More like the Grey side and the Greyer side,” Hermione muttered, folding her arms across her chest, “Neither of them are interested in true equality and peace.” 

“Yes, but it was all we had… Or at least all we had allowed ourselves to consider,” Fleur said, twirling her own fork in her elegant fingers. 

Hermione was stunned. 

“So… What does this mean?” Hermione asked, “What happened with Tonks?” 

Fleur sighed, before offering a nervous smile to Hermione. Hermione felt herself melt at the sweet vulnerability of the part-Veela. 

“Tonks suggested we seek another way— with like minded individuals. People that truly know what they are getting into. No sharing half-truths or pressuring people,” Fleur said breathlessly, “She’s gone off in her full ‘auror mode,’ intent on discreetly finding people that might be interested in meeting up to discuss this potential other way. If you’re interested… We’d love you to come along when Tonks is ready to bring the potential members together.” 

Hermione was floored. She hadn’t expected Tonks to actually take on board what she had said so quickly and so deeply. 

“Hermione?” Fleur prompted, distracting the brunette from her surprise, “You started this. You got us to hope for a better way.”

“I… Wow…” was all Hermione could manage, though she inwardly cursed herself for being so lost for words. 

Nobody had ever taken Hermione’s words to heart like that. Yes, people respected that she knew a lot from her reading, but they had never really taken her opinions that hadn’t come from a textbook. When she had set up S.P.E.W., appalled at the blatant slavery occurring in every day wizarding life, she had been laughed at. Even Harry and Ron had found her “unbearable” and “embarrassing” in her opinions and hadn’t taken her seriously when she had suggested that there might be a better way. 

Hermione had gone from feeling entirely drained and dejected to feeling energised in an instant. 

Fleur was watching her with curiosity, but remained silent, seemingly waiting for Hermione to gather her thoughts. 

“I mean, it goes without saying that of course I am interested in coming to the meeting,” Hermione said breathlessly, “But what now? What do we do in the meantime?” 

Fleur smiled, taking a sip from her wine and leaning back. 

“As inconvenient as it is, we cannot raise the suspicions of the Order while we are so early in planning,” Fleur said, though she did not appear inconvenienced in the slightest, “So for now we must continue to sell our marriage to that dreadful Umbridge woman and the community at large.” 

Fleur was smiling widely, and it made Hermione’s heart beat faster. A little longer of the marriage. Even if it was a ruse, Hermione was growing to enjoy every moment of playing the part of Fleur’s wife. 

“Terribly inconvenient,” Hermione agreed with a grin, “I suppose we must resign ourselves to it for the near future.” 

“Exactly,” Fleur said, beaming, “Now… I was thinking at some point or another, Umbridge will likely quiz us on details about each other. We probably need to spend some time getting to know the answers to questions that Umbridge may ask us.” 

Hermione raised her eyebrows. 

The usually closed off Veela openly inviting Hermione to get to know her. 

It was an opportunity that Hermione did not want to refuse. 


The rest of the dinner had been spent as a pleasant first course, of sorts, of the two witches getting to know each other. 

They had eaten their salad and sipped at their wine with broad smiles, rattling off where they had grown up, their first schools, names of relatives. 

As Hermione cleared the plates and Fleur refilled their glasses of wine, they moved to the couch to progress a little further— sharing slightly more personal personal details. 

Hermione admitted that when she had been a child, she had wanted to be Prime Minister. Fleur, a famous quidditch player. 

They both smiled adoringly at each other’s cute childhood dreams, the second wine already washing away at their careful guards that had been lowered more and more since their wedding day. 

Fleur rested a hand on Hermione’s thigh, and Hermione inwardly sighed, enjoying the intimacy between them. Hermione was very content that they would be continuing to play wives a little longer. 

“So, you don’t know who your father is, what about your mother— how did you get along with her while you were growing up?” Hermione asked, though she had some inkling of the answer from the little she had come across so far. 

Fleur frowned. 

“Barely,” Fleur replied, “We were just lucky that we had a housekeeper to look after us growing up. She has always been quite selfish, always off pursuing her own interests and pleasures.” 

Hermione frowned, putting her hand on top of Fleur’s. The part-Veela’s skin was soft and warm to the touch. 

“That must have been hard,” Hermione sympathised, “If your mother was out living her life like that— how did you have time to be a kid? That’s a lot of responsibility so early.” 

Fleur simply took a deep drink of her wine in response. Hermione squeezed her hand. 

“Well, what about you?” Fleur said, smiling slightly, “How did you get on with your parents growing up?” 

Hermione felt a searing ache in her chest, as if someone had just impaled a cold knife in there. 

“I…” Hermione felt out of breath, “I got along with them really well. We were always super close, being an only child you see. We began growing apart when I found out I was a witch, of course. They were very rational and scientific, you see, being dentists.” 

Fleur nodded, her deep blue eyes watching Hermione intently. 

“They never really got that part of me,” Hermione shrugged, “We’d always bonded over our love of facts and knowledge. That was a whole set of knowledge that they didn’t understand and couldn’t really learn. Still… It really hurt having to… Well, you know how the Death Eaters are with Harry… And how they showed up at The Burrow… It was only a matter of time until they found my parents. Parents who would have no way of defending themselves. Anyway, it was really hard erasing their memories and sending them far away— even if it was for their own safety.” 

Fleur didn’t look at her with the usual pity people did when they heard Hermione speak of what had happened to her parents. She was looking at Hermione with a tenderness that surprised her. 

Fleur turned over the hand she had on Hermione’s thigh, entwining her fingers with Hermione’s. 

“I’m sorry that there wasn’t another way to keep them safe,” Fleur said softly. 

Hermione offered a half-smile in return. 

Fleur leaned into Hermione’s shoulder. 

“You know… I never knew you had this side to you,” Hermione admitted, “You’re really quite sweet and sensitive.” 

“So are you,” Fleur replied, “I have to admit, I think I had the wrong impression of you.”

Hermione smiled at Fleur, taking a moment to appreciate how much things had improved between the blonde and herself. There really was a lot more to Fleur than first glance. 

Hermione found herself leaning in, her heart beating hard in her chest. Fleur’s long eyelashes fluttered as the blonde leaned in too. 

Hermione kissed Fleur, feeling like fireworks were exploding in her stomach. Fleur sighed into the kiss and Hermione daringly used the moment to slip her tongue into the Frenchwoman’s mouth. Fleur made a soft noise of approval, sliding into Hermione’s lap. 

Hermione ran a hand through Fleur’s silky soft hair as the kiss broke. Fleur’s breath was coming in quick pants and she leaned into Hermione’s neck, peppering it with sharp kisses. Hermione gasped, her pulse quickening as Fleur pushed her down to lie on the couch. 

Fleur sighed into Hermione’s ear between kisses, her hips moving intoxicatingly as she lay on top of Hermione. 

“Sweet Circe,” Hermione let out in a strangled voice, as all remaining doubts regarding her sexuality flew swiftly out the window. Her hands moved down Fleur’s back, enjoying the feel of toned muscles and curves under her hands. 

Fleur gave Hermione’s neck a teasing nip, causing Hermione’s hips to jerk suddenly. Hermione moved one hand to Fleur’s jaw, pulling the blonde back into a searing kiss. 

Hermione was in heaven, kissing the gorgeous blonde in her arms. Fleur seemed just as content, judging by the way she was grinding into Hermione. 

Hermione felt a pressure building within her steadily, dizzying and breathless. 

Fleur broke the kiss and sat up, panting. 

“I’m sorry,” Fleur gasped, speaking in a rushed and disorganised way entirely unlike her usual way of speaking, “I… Uh… I never meant to push you into anything that might make you uncomfortable.” 

Hermione sat up, her hands coming to rest on Fleur’s hips, something that was becoming an entirely familiar action now. 

Hermione w tousled and out of breath. She’d never felt this out of control before, and it was exhilarating. 

“No need to apologise,” Hermione panted, “That was bloody brilliant.” 

Fleur smiled broadly, before leaning in to capture Hermione’s lips in another kiss, gentler this time. 

Chapter Text

Hermione slammed her hand in exasperation on the kitchen counter, frustrated with Fleur. They were in the middle of an argument yet again. 

 

“Non, non, I don’t understand— how do Muggle dentists not know how to whip up a simple teeth strengthening potion? It would make their job so much easier— it lasts for up to two years before you need another dose!” Fleur insisted, absolutely refusing to accept the notion of how Muggle dentists operated. 

 

They had continued in a haphazard fashion of sharing stories and details from their lives— in between snogging— all the previous evening, until they had wound up cuddling each other to sleep in bed. This morning, they had continued, only for arguments to break out over Fleur’s disbelief of aspects of Muggle life. Unlike many of their previous arguments, this one had a playful edge to it.

 

Hermione found herself rather appreciating how assertive and blunt Fleur could be, her deep blue eyes sparkling with intrigue and her blonde hair glittering in the morning sun. Though Hermione thought Fleur could still be cocky as all hell. 

 

“They don’t know how to make potions!” Hermione insisted, throwing her hands up. She was determined to get her point across, despite Fleur’s stubbornness.

 

“They know about toothpaste,” Fleur countered, crossing her arms across her chest.

 

“I— Well—“ Hermione stopped to consider. She hadn’t really considered that from a wizarding world point of view, toothpaste really was a kind of potion. She frowned, bothered that she had never made that connection. 

 

Fleur seized on the opportunity, instantly sensing a weakness in Hermione’s argument. 

 

“Ah, see, so you admit Muggle dentists are ridiculously inconsistent with their offerings,” Fleur smirked, walking towards Hermione. 

 

“Taking a moment to consider your point is not the same as admitting anything,” Hermione replied gruffly. However, her mood was greatly brightened as the part-Veela, appeased by causing Hermione to pause, came to wrap her arms around her. 

 

“Mhmm,” Fleur hummed, leaning her body into Hermione’s. Hermione found her response awfully smug, but she was too distracted by the delightful feeling of the Veela pressed up against her. 

 

“Though they know some potions, they don’t know a great deal of them,” Hermione said, trying to keep her focus as her wife began to kiss her neck, “It isn’t just about not being able to use a wand or magic to concoct them— they simply don’t know about the existence of a large amount of common potion ingredients that the wizarding world has discovered.” 

 

“I still think it is awfully strange,” Fleur murmured in between dropping soft kisses along Hermione’s jawline. Hermione wanted to roll her eyes, be annoyed at the Frenchwoman for continuing to disagree, but she was fast finding that her body didn’t always follow her brain of late. Her hands made their way to Fleur’s hips, holding her wife firmly to her. 

 

“You are so disagreeable sometimes,” Hermione managed to get out, though the unsteady way she spoke earned a smirk from the blonde. 

 

“Is this disagreeable?” Fleur purred, running her hands up Hermione’s torso. Hermione had never before had someone touch her with such admiration, Fleur’s hands caressing her taut stomach, running up her ribs, cupping her breasts. 

 

Hermione’s brain short circuited. 

 

“I… You…” Hermione had never sounded so stupid in her life. She was finding it near impossible to reconcile that Fleur Delacour was touching her with such desire. Fleur that she had never got along with. Fleur that had always got under her skin. Fleur with her blessed Veela beauty. 

 

However stupid Hermione thought she sounded, Fleur seemed to love the reaction she had elicited from the Gryffindor, judging by the way she smiled triumphantly. 

 

Hermione weighed up a retort, but for once in her life she wasn’t interested in wiping the smile off Fleur’s face. She smiled back, before leaning in to kiss the beautiful blonde. 

 

Fleur moved her hands to clasp behind Hermione’s neck, deepening the kiss. Hermione had just dared to let her hands begin to wander when they were interrupted by a firm knock at the door.

 

Fleur looked just as frustrated as Hermione felt as they broke apart. 

 

“I swear to God if that’s Umbridge I might just hex her,” Hermione growled.

 

“Tempting,” Fleur concurred, heading to answer the door. 

 

Hermione took a steadying breath, trying to regain her composure. She felt like— though, she supposed she was— a hormonal teenager. 

 

Her eyes greedily followed Fleur as she gracefully moved to the door, opening it for the mystery guest. 

 

“Wotcher,” Tonks greeted, pushing past Fleur into the small house. Today she was wearing a leather jacket and ripped jeans. Her hair was blonde and shaved short. Her eyes were an alarming shade of green. She had, however, toned down her usual multiple piercings— only sporting a plain hoop septum piercing. 

 

“Tonks,” Hermione greeted cautiously. She had been pleasantly surprised by what Fleur had told her the previous evening, but given the tense exchange she had had the last time she saw the young auror, she wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed. 

 

“Hey, Hermione,” Tonks replied, coming up to stand by the kitchen counter, “I’m sure Fleur filled you in already…” 

 

“She did,” Hermione replied, “And I’m glad, I really am. I was horrified at everything McGonagall told me.”

 

“It’s not great,” Tonks admitted, rubbing the back of her neck, “I always knew it wasn’t great… But, I guess when you let things slide little by little…” 

 

“They add up,” Hermione finished coldly for her. 

 

Tonks nodded. 

 

“I don’t agree with their methods at all… Let alone some of their final goals… They don’t actually sound that far off the Death Eaters, if I’m being brutally honest,” Hermione added with a frown.

 

Tonks sighed, looking at Fleur with a sad look. Hermione knew now that she was thinking of Fleur’s impending demise. She wondered how much Tonks knew, whether she knew that the Order were insisting the Death Eater that spilled Fleur’s blood must also kill her in order to shore up their alliances. Perhaps Tonks had also been dosed with the same potion as Hermione at one point or another. 

 

“Well, you’re right— we shouldn’t have to settle for this just because it was set up by some great figure like Dumbledore,” Tonks said, helping herself to an apple and sitting down, “I’ve already been doing some ground work. Remus is in— obviously. He’s always respected the leaders of the Order, but he isn’t a sociopath. He agrees it has drifted far too far away from its roots and original purpose.” 

 

“Anyone else?” Fleur asked curiously. Hermione felt her chest ache as a small flicker of hope seemed to dart across the beautiful part-Veela’s face. 

 

“I want to track down Hagrid and ask him, because he seems like he would be on board… But he’s been so bloody difficult to track down since being sent off to seek out the giants,” Tonks groaned, “I tried to sound out Moody but I got the definite feeling that he has serious distrust of anyone that isn’t the Order— no matter who they are or what their goals are.” 

 

“So… It’s you, Remus, Hermione and I…?” Fleur surmised, unable to keep the disappointment out of her voice. Tonks winced. 

 

“I know, I know, it doesn’t sound great— but people have achieved a lot with a lot less, right?” Tonks said hopefully, trying to cheer up the couple. 

 

Hermione bit her bottom lip thoughtfully. She supposed that was the case with Harry, Ron and herself— they had succeeded against insurmountable odds, year after year. 

 

“We can make it work,” Hermione said decisively, nodding firmly. 

 

“About Harry and Ron…” Tonks said, as if she had been thinking along the same lines as Hermione, “How likely do you think they would be to help?” 

 

“Harry? In an instant,” Hermione answered quickly, “He has a strong reverence for Dumbledore, of course, but Dumbledore is no longer leading the Order. Above all, he can’t stand people being treated dreadfully— once we can explain to him some of what is going on, I’m sure he will want to join us. Ron on the other hand…” 

 

Fleur and Tonks exchanged looks. 

 

“How was he after you hit Bill?” Tonks ventured. Everyone knew how fiercely loyal the Weasleys were. 

 

“Surprisingly fine,” Hermione responded, “I don’t know if it’s because he knows Bill better than we do, or because he’s grown up a bit in the time since Voldemort returned, but he took my explanation at face value and that was that.”

 

Tonks smiled grimly.

 

“I suppose we’ve all had to grow up since that night when the Diggory kid was killed…” Tonks mused darkly, “Still, it’s different supporting his mate hitting his brother, compared to going against the direction his entire family are taking.” 

 

Hermione thought for a moment, tapping her fingers on her lips. She could feel Fleur’s eyes roaming over her, but was determined not to be distracted.

 

“His whole family can’t be as blinkered as his parents,” Hermione said, suddenly, her mind turning to Ginny. Ginny had barely been gone and Hermione already felt like the redhead had missed so much. 

 

Tonks stood up abruptly.

 

“I haven’t even tried to talk to Fred and George!” Tonks said triumphantly. She straightened her jacket, striding towards the door already. 

 

Fleur frowned. 

 

“You’re going already? You only just got here,” Fleur noted. Tonks shot Fleur a cheeky look as she opened the door. 

 

“I’m a woman on a mission!” Tonks retorted, “Besides, I can’t be wasting time— You should have seen how firm Hermione was with me! I can see why you think she has a real ‘daddy energy’ about her!” 

 

With a sly wink, Tonks was out the door again, leaving a truly mortified looking Fleur in her wake. To Hermione’s shock, Fleur blushed a pretty pink, averting her eyes. 

 

“What was that Tonks was on about?” Hermione asked, as Fleur appeared to try and will herself to disappear through the floor. 

 

“Oh, who can ever tell with her,” Fleur muttered, though she was still blushing. She slunk her way around the room, making a beeline for the stairs to escape any further questioning on the subject. 

 

Hermione furrowed her brow, thoroughly confused. 

 

Though they had made great strides in breaking down the walls between them, Fleur still seemed reluctant to share too much. 

 


 

Hermione sat at the table in Grimmauld Place, drumming her fingers and wondering where exactly to start. 

 

She’d told the boys on her arrival to brew a pot of tea and settle in for an intense talk. But now she had them sitting in front of her, actually waiting for her to talk, it was a lot more difficult than she had anticipated. 

 

A lot of the damning information she had about the Order she was unable to say because of McGonagall’s stupid gagging potion. 

 

The topic of their awful attitude towards creatures was difficult to bring up immediately when Ron’s family were so embedded in the group. It would be a lot better if she could discuss that element after getting Ron used to the idea of forming their own group…

 

“Is your plan to wait out the war?” Ron asked, raising an eyebrow, “Because if that’s what you came here to tell us, you’re doing a great job of getting started.”

 

“No, of course not,” Hermione frowned at the redhead, “It’s just difficult to find the right words… For reasons…”

 

“Why don’t you start with what you know you want to say?” Harry prompted helpfully, topping up her mug with some more tea. 

 

Hermione sighed. There was an awful lot she knew she wanted to say, but couldn’t. 

 

“Our plan, going to seek out the Horcruxes, just us— without the Order,” Hermione began, bolstered by settling on things she could say, “We definitely should continue in this vein.” 

 

“What? So your big news is to tell us to keep doing what we are already doing?” Ron asked, confusion knitting his brows together. He had evidently been out in the yard of Grimmauld Place at some point in the preceding couple of days, as his nose was red and peeling, and his forearms looked like they were positively radiating heat from their sunburn. 

 

Hermione sighed, once again feeling rather penned in by McGonagall’s actions and Ron’s delicate temper. 

 

“The Order have brought me into the fold,” Hermione tried to explain, “And as a result, I’m surer than ever that we are better off going on our own.” 

 

“I said this at the beginning!” Harry pointed out, “I said I wanted as few people to be harmed as possible.” 

 

“Yes!” Hermione said, pointing at Harry, “Exactly this.” 

 

“Okay,” Ron agreed, “But again— how is this different from what we are already doing?” 

 

Hermione furrowed her brow. How to explain without being able to explain so much? 

 

“At the moment, we still meet with and help the Order, yeah?” Hermione began, “And vice versa— Like how they helped Harry leave his aunt and uncle’s house for the last time. They know where we are most of the time, and we reach out to each other.” 

 

“Yeah,” Harry replied. Now he was looking as confused as Ron. 

 

“The thing is, I think it would be better if we didn’t accept any help from them moving forward,” Hermione explained, “And that we avoid assisting them.” 

 

“So less people will get hurt?” Harry prompted. Hermione nodded. 

 

Ron crossed his arms across his chest. 

 

“I get that we don’t want to be dragging them into danger,” Ron countered, “But totally cutting them off? I don’t get that part. My family are in the Order.” 

 

“Sirius was in the Order,” Harry chimed in. Ron nodded. 

 

“It’s a group of our friends and family; people we trust,” Ron continued, “Sometimes we might have to rely on them or let them know where we are.” 

 

Harry frowned at that, clearly disagreeing with the idea of dragging anyone into the Horcrux mess. 

 

Hermione longed to tell them that they knew about the Horcruxes. That if anything, they were already keeping tabs on them. She had to find another way to explain herself. 

 

“Things have changed since Dumbledore was around,” Hermione began, bracing herself with a sip from her cup of tea before she shared her unpopular opinions, “With McGonagall in charge… I can’t say a lot… But it isn’t great. I don’t agree with a lot of what they’re doing.” 

 

“What do you mean?” Ron pressed, “My family wouldn’t get involved in anything bad.” 

 

Hermione had an instant flashback to the grounds at the Burrow, with Molly Weasley savagely telling her to leave Fleur in harm’s way. She swallowed, unable to tell Ron how far his parents were willing to go for the pursuit of the Order. 

 

“Their approach, it would harm a lot more people,” Hermione said simply. That seemed enough for Harry, who nodded. Ron, unconvinced, folded his arms across his chest. 

 

“That’s true, I don’t want anyone in the Order getting hurt when we can solve all this,” Harry said staunchly. It wasn’t quite what Hermione was getting at, but it was close enough. It would be easier to explain everything with Tonks and others there. Especially if she could get the twins on board to help Ron understand.

 

“Yes, so, we tackle the threat of Voldemort on our own,” Hermione said, nodding for emphasis, “There are a few in the Order who are just as reluctant to get others hurt, they can help us.” 

 

“Like my parents?” Ron prompted. 

 

Hermione didn’t have the heart to respond. 

 

“Like Tonks and Lupin,” Hermione replied, “Fleur… and maybe even the twins.” 

 

Harry seemed reluctant to have anyone else involved at all. Ron seemed suspicious about limiting their connections with the Order. 

 

“I dunno about this,” Ron said, unsure. 

 

Hermione sighed. She had known it would be difficult. 

 

“I’m quite limited in what I can say, unfortunately,” Hermione sighed, “But, give Tonks a chance, yeah? I can bring her around with Lupin and any others she’s rounded up to explain the option.” 

 

“Fine,” Ron conceded. He had been chomping at the bit to know more about what the Order were doing, as well as feeling terribly sulky about being left in the dark. It seemed he was at least happy to have somebody talking to him. 

 

Harry nodded, unconvinced and confused, but willing to hear out Tonks and Lupin. 

 


 

Hermione arrived home to her beautiful wife, smiling widely as she was reunited with the Veela— despite having only been away for a few hours. 

 

Fleur was sitting on the couch, legs crossed, reading a letter. Her cold expression softened instantly as she looked up at Hermione. 

 

“Hey,” Hermione greeted cheesily. 

 

“How did it go with the boys?” Fleur asked as Hermione came to sit beside her and lean her head on her shoulder. 

 

“As well as it could’ve,” Hermione groaned, “I felt so terrible only being able to speak in half-truths. It felt too much like lying.” 

 

“It will be easier when there are a group of us together to discuss,” Fleur consoled, before returning her gaze to the letter in her hand. 

 

“What’s that?” Hermione asked, perking up and trying to read the letter. 

 

“Our first official interview regarding our partnership visa application,” Fleur replied unenthusiastically, “Predictably sprung on us with very little warning. It’s tomorrow.”

 

“Oh,” Hermione replied, her mood sinking. 

 

The room was suddenly feeling even warmer in the Summer heat. Too warm. 

 

How on Earth were they going to blag their way through an official interview designed to catch them out?

 

Fleur took Hermione’s hand and squeezed it comfortingly.

 

“We’ve been preparing for this,” Fleur reminded her gently. 

 

Still, the very real prospect of the penalty for fraudulently assisting a Part Creature obtain a partnership visa was rearing its head in the back of Hermione’s mind. Not to mention what could happen to Fleur under the Ministry’s archaic laws. 

 

“How long do you think it would take for us to learn Legilimency?” Hermione joked weakly. Though she knew even that wouldn’t work, it was hardly likely they would be interviewed in the same room. 

 

Fleur gave a small laugh. 

 

“We will be fine, Hermione,” Fleur insisted, “We just need to spend from now until then getting to know each other even more.” 

 

“Squeezing years worth of history into one evening?” Hermione said doubtfully. What she didn’t say, was that they would also need to get Fleur to share a hell of a lot more about herself than she had shared thus far. Hermione wasn’t sure simply knowing names of Fleur’s relatives would cut it.

 

Fleur squeezed her hand again. 

 

“Hmmn, and here I was thinking you were the Brightest Witch of Your Age,” Fleur commented innocently, “Or was that someone else? Ronald Weasley, perhaps?” 

 

Hermione narrowed her eyes. She knew what Fleur was doing. The infuriating part of it was that it was working. 

 

“All right, all right,” Hermione groaned, “You can cut that out!” 

 

Fleur smiled devilishly as Hermione got to her feet with annoyance, ready to take the challenge on.

 

It seemed that where Hermione’s ego was concerned, it was a very serious matter, as the brunette witch went to great lengths to prepare them for the following day. 

 

Fleur had never seen so many flashcards, quizzes, educational boardgames, and FAQ sheets all at once— let alone created so fast. 

 

“I typically deal with dire cases,” Hermione explained at one point, looking up at Fleur as she pulled the lid off a highlighter with her teeth, “As in, Harry and Ron the night before their exams.”

 

Fleur laughed. 

 


 

 

Within a few hours, Fleur wasn’t laughing, as she realised the true extent of Hermione’s stamina for studying. Fleur had always considered herself a very studious person, often burning the candles at both ends during her studies. 

 

But Hermione was tireless. Her eyes remained bright and focussed, even as they entered the small hours of the morning. Fleur was in awe. 

 

“Name of my childhood pet rabbit,” Hermione shot at Fleur, with all the authority of a game-show host. 

 

Fleur, caught off-guard admiring Hermione, stumbled. 

 

“Er… Harold? Harry?” 

 

Intense brown eyes flicked up to scrutinise the blonde over the flash card. Fleur floundered. 

 

She hated the feeling of being inadequate, even if it were just in a quiz. Hermione’s eyes were unwavering, unforgiving when it came to learning. 

 

Fleur didn’t have it right. 

 

“Henry?” Fleur ventured. 

 

She could tell instantly from Hermione’s face she was incorrect again. 

 

“Hector,” Hermione corrected. 

 

That authoritative tone. There was a real attractiveness to it, and Fleur found her already tired mind getting distracted. 

 

Gods.

 

Fleur tried to turn her mind back to the task at hand, her eyes moving to the stack of carefully prepared materials. 

 

The difference in the stack of information about Hermione compared to Fleur was stark. Piles of facts towered above the considerably smaller amount of facts Fleur had disclosed about herself. 

 

Fleur felt her stomach sink. 

 

She was trying. She really was. She felt a lot more connected to Hermione than she had with anyone else in years. But nothing could shake the feeling that something dreadful was going to happen— that Hermione was just using her as others had. Or worse— that the closer Fleur got to Hermione, the closer she hurtled the brunette towards danger.

 

Besides, what was there even to tell? 

 

Fleur hadn’t felt like a full, fleshed out person in years. She’d grown used to being a husk, inquired after only in the shallowest terms. Numbing any feeling within herself for fear the weakness would be her undoing. 

 

When she had opened up to Hermione previously, sharing her thoughts on her situation, on the Order, and even the briefest of summaries about her mother… It had shaken her. She’d felt a dizzying sickness accompanying it that caused her hands to tremble. It didn’t come naturally at all— and those things were nothing compared to opening up her whole life to the inquisitive nature of Hermione.

 

Fleur simply couldn’t share any more because she didn’t know how. She’d never allowed herself to be in such a vulnerable position with someone else. 

 

The crushing realisation that she was failing at this weighed Fleur down until she felt like she could barely breathe.

 

“What’s the use?” Fleur exhaled heavily, “We’re never going to pass this. I’m dreadful at it.” 

 

Hermione’s face softened and she put down the flashcards, moving around the table and closing the distance between her and her tired wife. 

 

“Oh, babe, you will be fine,” Hermione said soothingly. She drew her hands to Fleur’s shoulders and rubbed them, kneading the tension out of the muscles. Fleur leaned back in her chair, sighing. 

 

“But, I’m not though, am I?” Fleur asked, her voice suddenly vulnerable. 

 

“Oh, Fleur,” Hermione sighed, moving her arms to loop around Fleur’s neck and leaning forward to kiss Fleur’s cheek, “I think we should call it a night and get some sleep.”

 

Fleur nodded, defeated, though relieved Hermione hadn’t tried to push harder and force the necessary information from her.

 

Hermione seemed to feel a little guilty all the same, casting sheepish glances at Fleur as they headed upstairs and got ready for bed. 

 

As they climbed into bed, Hermione apologised. 

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stress you out,” Hermione told Fleur, “I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard, or kept us up so late.” 

 

Fleur rolled over in bed to look at Hermione. Part of her wanted to discuss what was holding her back. Part of her wanted to say she wasn’t comfortable with any of this vulnerability so soon. 

 

It had been enough to open up to her as much as she had. 

 

But Hermione was looking at her like she was the only person in the world, with that warm supportive smile, and Fleur felt herself relax. She firmly pushed her reservations to the very back of her mind, instead focussing on the good— While the attempts at mental closeness was rattling her, Hermione felt so good to get physically close to. 

 

“It’s okay,” Fleur said with a small smile, “We needed to prepare. Besides,” Fleur’s smile turned coy, “You’re quite attractive when you get all authoritative like that.”

 

For a dreadful moment, it almost looked like Hermione was about to push the subject of getting to know each other enough to pass the immigration tests… But then the brunette’s expression melted.

 

“Really?” Hermione asked, her smile so wide it showed she was genuinely surprised.

 

“Really,” Fleur all but purred, moving fluidly to be on top of Hermione. Her hand came to rest on Hermione’s chest and she slipped a thigh between Hermione’s legs. 

 

 

Hermione’s breath panted out of her mouth in surprise, her eyebrows raising suddenly. 

 

All concerns about emotional vulnerability were now so far out of sight that Fleur only had eyes for the brunette beneath her.

 

Then suddenly Fleur’s lips were pressed against the Gryffindor’s and Hermione’s hands were running hungrily over the blonde. Suddenly nothing else really mattered.

 

They moved together, now every part the newly-wed couple that could not keep their hands to themselves. Hermione deepened the kiss, her hands running over Fleur’s back, feeling toned muscle through the thin silk of Fleur’s night-gown. Fleur’s tongue playfully met hers, as Hermione’s hands moved boldly down to grasp the blonde’s ass. 

 

Fleur shifted her thigh upwards, causing Hermione to moan and grind down on it. 

 

Fleur felt an impossible high at bringing the buttoned-up Hermione Granger to a whimpering mess with just a thigh. 

 

The brunette broke the kiss, her head lolling back as Fleur continued the delicious friction between them. Fleur moved to kiss at Hermione’s neck, enjoying the sharp pants of Hermione’s uneven breath.

 

This was perfect. 

 

Fleur was comfortable with this. This was the kind of vulnerability she could do. Where she was in control, knowing which buttons to push and which strings to pull. 

 

Plus, Hermione was the most delicious distraction from her issues with opening up. 

 

Hermione moved her hands back up to Fleur’s waist, stilling her, before pushing some distance between them. 

 

Fleur pulled back from Hermione’s neck, furrowing her brow with confusion. 

 

Hermione’s chest was heaving and her eyes were glazed. It seemed like she was enjoying this? 

 

“What is it?” Fleur asked, frowning. She didn't appreciate the feeling of rejection. 

 

“Fleur…” Hermione murmured absently, before blinking hard. Her eyes became more focussed. 

 

“Fleur, I’m not sure this is the best idea,” Hermione said tentatively. 

 

Fleur, feeling as though an icy bucket of water had been dumped on her, leapt off Hermione and sat back on the mattress, folding her arms tightly across her chest. She could feel a scowl growing on her face. 

 

“Why not?” Fleur asked coldly. Was she not good enough for Hermione?

 

Her mother had always told her that people would only be interested in her for her looks, and to just enjoy that. But if Hermione wasn’t even interested in that…?

 

Distantly, Fleur knew she was being irrational. But the distance was growing between them again, and Fleur felt her walls rising up again, brick by brick. She couldn’t even share anything meaningful about herself with Hermione. 

 

Even if she did, Hermione had thought her vapid and awful before— what would stop her from forming that opinion again? 

 

Hermione didn’t even want to allow Fleur’s physical advances to continue!

 

“Fleur, I just think you seem in a bad frame of mind…” Hermione said carefully, “I don’t want us to go ahead and do something that we might regret later because the timing wasn’t right.” 

 

Regret.

 

Fleur’s mind latched on to the word instantly. 

 

A parade of former lovers cycled through her mind, their once adoring faces cold and distant once they had had their use of her. 

 

Fleur’s expression hardened. 

 

“You think you would regret sleeping with me?” Fleur challenged, inclining her head. 

 

Hermione raised her hands defensively. 

 

“Fleur, that isn’t what I mean at all—“ Hermione tried again, “Look, I know you’re upset. I’m just trying to do the right thing… I don’t want to hurt you or—“

 

“Hurt me?” Fleur laughed coldly, “You think you can hurt me?” 

 

She was furious now. Fleur had nothing left to hurt. Hermione was fooling herself if she thought that she could hurt Fleur. 

 

“Fleur, honey, it seems like you’re spiralling a little…” Hermione said, her eyes wide and sincere, “What’s going on? Let’s talk this out.” 

 

The sincerity in Hermione’s expression dulled Fleur’s sharp temper a little, enough for her to lower her crossed arms and soften her expression a little. But not enough to draw Fleur out of her carefully constructed defences. 

 

Fleur sighed. 

 

“Just forget it,” the blonde said, defeated. 

 

Hermione frowned, her brilliant brain whirring so fast Fleur could practically hear it. Hermione reached out cautiously, but Fleur withdrew from the touch. 

 

Hermione’s brows crinkled in confusion and concern. 

 

“Fleur, I like you,” Hermione said, “I feel like we’ve been getting along so well lately… You can trust me.” 

 

Fleur sighed. 

 

Everything within her wanted to believe Hermione’s words. But she had believed those same words so many times before, only to be let down. Her chest ached dully. 

 

Hermione was looking at her with such concern. Fleur wanted nothing else but to sink back into Hermione’s arms. She wanted to trust her. They had come this far. 

 

The ache within her grew. 

 

If only Hermione knew that Fleur wasn’t a person that could give her what she needed. Fleur wasn’t even a person, really. She had been broken so many times before, all that was left were jagged pieces hastily taped back together. 

 

 


 

Hermione was confused. 

 

Confused and worried. 

 

After the disastrous events of the previous evening, Fleur had clammed up and rolled over to go to sleep. Hermione hadn't been able to coax the woman into talking any further. 

 

The next morning Hermione was at a loss. She had thought that by bridging the gap in knowledge about Fleur’s involvement in the Order and the prophecy, they had left all their difficulties behind. She felt stupidly naive. How could she have thought it was that simple? That everything would be perfect so quickly?

 

Evidently there were further landmines when it came to getting closer to Fleur. 

 

Hermione tried to think about the few things Fleur had opened up to her about so far. She had only briefly touched on the personal— other than surface things like what they wanted to be when they grew up.

 

Fleur didn’t have a relationship with her father. She barely had one with her mother. She had been raised largely by a housekeeper. 

 

Hermione bit her lip. 

 

It was dreadful timing to discover this vulnerable point of Fleur. They had the immigration interviews that day. 

 

They had to get people to buy into their alternative to The Order. A group that was formed on the need for more openness. 

 

Hermione chomped down hard on her toast, stressed. 

 

She wasn’t sure what to do. She wasn’t good with these kind of gentle social intricacies. 

 

She had often made Lavender or Parvati cry at Hogwarts without even understanding why. She was probably the least qualified person to work out how to get through to Fleur. She had no idea how to figure out a way through to the blonde. 

 

But she knew she had to try. 

 

She had seen the defensiveness rising back up again in the blonde. She had seen the small flashes of hurt in her deep blue eyes. 

Fleur

Even if they didn’t have a visa marriage to pull off or a resistance group to form, Hermione would be compelled to find a way through. The blonde clearly had some kind of problems that were preventing her from letting Hermione get too close. Problems that were hurting her. 

 

Hermione desperately wanted to help. 

 

There was a soft clink of ceramics on the kitchen counter. Hermione turned to see Fleur setting down a cup of black coffee. 

 

Though Fleur looked flawless as always, Hermione could see a tenseness in her face. She was still troubled. 

 

“I’m sorry about last night,” Fleur said quietly, her voice a little hoarse. 

 

Hermione wondered if she had been crying. 

 

Hermione opened her mouth, before shutting it again. What on Earth was the right thing to say? She felt ridiculously like Ronald, forever on the verge of putting her foot in her mouth. 

 

“I know today is going to be stressful,” Hermione said finally, “With the immigration interviews. So, we should focus on being prepared for those as much as possible. But I want to revisit things with you after that. I can tell we still have some work to do with building trust between us… We can deal with all that later.” 

 

A myriad of expressions flitted across Fleur’s delicate features: concern, relief, anxiety… Before finally settling on a perfectly curated expression of neutrality. 

 

“Okay,” Fleur replied simply. 

 


 

Hermione sat in a cool, steel chair, in front of a shiny steel table. 

 

She should be uncomfortable, but after the sticky heat of the summer outside, the cold and rigid chair was a soothing relief. 

 

What was bothering her was that she was stuck in this small room deep in the bowels of the Ministry with an Umbridge instead of sorting things out with her troubled wife. Things weren’t right between them, and these interviews couldn’t come at a worse time. 

 

Fleur and Hermione had had very little time to finish preparing after breakfast before they had had to make their way to the Ministry. 

 

It was hard to believe it was the middle of the day. 

 

The small meeting room was windowless and lit by unbearably bright magical orbs around the walls. Hermione blinked against the lighting, trying to prevent an incoming headache by sheer force of will alone. 

 

Umbridge tapped her long and garish purple nails against the table, creating an obnoxious tinny noise that bounced back at them from the heavy stone walls surrounding them. 

 

Hermione rubbed the bridge of her nose. 

 

“Is it really necessary to have security here for this?” Hermione asked drily, breaking the silence. She nodded at a burly wizard, standing tall next to the sole door in the room, hands clasped in front of himself and a short, thick wand brandished in a visible holster. 

 

Umbridge’s face contorted into an ugly, twisted half-smile, half-grimace. 

 

“Given certain… incidents… that befell my beloved sister,” Umbridge said in a sickly tone, her small eyes flashing dangerously at Hermione from across the table, “And the fact that this application involves a dangerous creature, I put in an application for heightened procedure with the Ministry.” 

 

Hermione folded her arms across her chest. 

 

She was dying to make an acidic comment about the MInistry’s (and the Umbridge siblings’) treatment of those with creature blood, but Hermione didn’t take the bait. Hermione had gathered enough warning from Umbridge’s face when mentioning her sister. 

 

“Nothing to add?” Umbridge prompted, seeming a little disappointed. She pulled out a large, overly fluffy lavender feather and a clipboard, setting them in front of her on the cold table. 

 

“Let’s just get this over and done with,” Hermione replied gruffly. 

 

Umbridge hummed tunelessly, flipping to a page on her clipboard. 

 

“Very well,” Umbridge said, her voice dripping with syrupy sweetness. It was sickening. “First up, what is your wife’s full name?” 

 

“Fleur Isabelle Delacour,” Hermione replied quickly. 

 

The questions came in quick succession. Hermione enjoyed it in a strange way. It was a callback to school time despite the chaos of the world around them. 

 

Hermione shot back an answer in rapid fire to every question. Fleur’s date of birth, place of birth, where she grew up, the schools she attended, names of her family members. 

 

Simple and straight forward facts that Hermione had easily memorised. 

 

It was almost calming going through the exercise of a test. Hermione’s shoulders loosened and she grew more confident. 

 

Umbridge flipped a page on her clipboard violently. 

 

“Well,” Umbridge smiled, looking up at Hermione, “That was a fine introduction, wasn’t it? Now let’s get into the real part of the interview.” 

 

Hermione didn’t let her expression change. 

 

She stared at the woman across the table from her, knowing that just like her sister, Umbridge was trying to mentally break her. 

 

Umbridge’s hair was as ludicrous as usual, pouffed and permed into a tightly curled nest atop her squarish head. A small purple bow perched on top of her hair, a cherry on top of the sickly sundae. Umbridge’s features were deceptively soft, cloaked in wrinkles and motherly jowls. But her small eyes were cold and cruel, drilling sharply into Hermione. 

 

Hermione stretched, goading the woman with an act of indifference. She reached her tanned arms in front of her, leaning back until her back clicked satisfyingly. 

 

“Well, come on, then,” Hermione replied with a yawn, “I’d rather not spend my entire summer in a dingy government interview room.” 

 

Umbridge scowled for a split second, before smiling again broadly. 

 

“So, how old were you when you met Fleur?” Umbridge asked, looking up from her clipboard. 

 

“Fifteen,” Hermione asked. She was suspicious. 

 

“Are you sure?” Umbridge pressed. 

 

Hermione furrowed her brow, but refused to be rattled. 

 

“Very,” Hermione shot back, “My birthday is very soon after the start of the school year.”

 

“Hmmph,” 

 

Umbridge scribbled wildly. 

 

“How did you realise you were interested in her in that way?” Umbridge continued. 

 

Hermione twitched at the tone in Umbridge’s voice when she said “that way,” as if Fleur and Hermione together was something unnatural and wrong. 

 

Undeterred, Hermione set to replying. 

 

“She drew my attention,” Hermione explained, “She was infuriating.” 

 

Umbridge quirked an eyebrow in interest, momentarily pausing in her writing. 

 

Hermione smiled. 

 

“You know how much time I spend reading?” Hermione asked the terrible woman, “I read at breakfast, I read when I wake up and when I fall asleep. It once took me a full day to notice Ronald had a black eye from scrapping with Slytherins because I get so easily distracted by study and reading.” 

 

“And?” Umbridge prompted, her dull eyes showing she was failing to follow the bright witch. 

 

“And yet I noticed Fleur the second she walked into Hogwarts,” Hermione replied, “It drove me crazy. No matter what I was doing, how focussed I was, I would always be distracted by her presence. I was convinced it was because I disliked her, hated her even. I complained constantly about her.” 

 

Umbridge flipped to another page in her clipboard. 

 

“Yes, we have record of that from talking to some of your prior classmates and professors.” Umbridge chimed in irritatingly. 

 

Well,” Hermione interrupted tersely, “It irritated me how full of herself she seemed. You know how people look when they stand in front of a window in the afternoon sun? All radiant and angelic? She looked like that all of the time. She looked like that in the depths of the most miserable Scottish winter day.”

 

Veela blood,” Umbridge practically hissed.

 

“Not just that,” Hermione corrected sternly, “The way she holds herself, the way her face can hide all of her thoughts but her eyes are so telling… She’s fascinating and magnetic, even if she tries her hardest to keep everyone at a distance. Every part of me was determined to dislike her… But just as I couldn’t stop myself from being distracted by her, I couldn’t stop myself from being attracted to her.”

 

Umbridge looked openly disgusted at this point, scribbling wildly on her clipboard. 

 

“Right, so— you realised you were attracted to her because you disliked her,” Umbridge replied waspishly. 

 

“That isn’t quite how I would put—“ 

 

“When did you find out that Fleur was interested in you back?” Umbridge shot at Hermione. 

 

At this question, Hermione got a bad taste in her mouth. Instead of simply tailoring her real experiences with the benefit of retrospect, for this question, she had to rely on McGonagall’s ridiculous fake letters. 

 

Hermione had read all the letters Fleur had in her possession from McGonagall, certain that the Ministry would request them at some point or another. It had churned her stomach, reading some of the more lewd and romantic letters, thinking of her matronly Head of House penning these in the name of Hermione and Fleur. 

 

Hermione tried to keep the distaste off her face. 

 

“During the Second Task, Harry— well, Harry was a bit of an idiot, really. But he was very sweet, rescued Fleur’s sister, and she was very grateful. She seemed to think that Ron and I had been involved too, somehow. Anyway… She kissed each of us, Harry first, then Ron, then me. When she kissed me, she kissed me so close to my lips… Too close to be an accident… And when she drew back, she lingered.” 

 

A pleasant shiver ran down Hermione’s spine picturing the scenario. Hermione blushed. 

 

“Ahuh,” Umbridge replied flatly, “So, then—“ 

 

“I was the one who asked her out,” Hermione interrupted, parroting the events in McGonagalls fabricated letters.

 

Umbridge looked sour at being interrupted. 

 

“I was going to ask, then how did nobody in the school body seem to know that you two were seeing each other?” Umbridge said, her tone hardening, “Why did you attend the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum? Why did Fleur attend with Roger Davies? Why did Roger Davies report—“ Umbridge paused to leaf through her clipboard “making out with Fleur in the courtyard during the ball?”

 

Hermione glared at the squat woman in front of her. She was equal parts annoyed at Umbridge trying to pull a “gotcha” moment and at the mention of Roger Davies. 

 

Hermione knew that it was years ago now, that she hadn’t even really been involved with Fleur back then. Yet, part of her felt enraged at the news of Roger Davies kissing Fleur. 

 

“Well,” Hermione said slowly, trying to keep her temper in check, “I’m sure you saw the Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly and the likes during that time… Everyone’s names were being dragged through the mud. On top of that, we were both figuring out our sexualities. We didn’t want people to know and have it all twisted and gossiped about. Bringing other people to the ball was part of that. It backfired, we had an awful argument, and Fleur kissed Roger Davies to let off steam after we briefly broke up. We were very on and off again due to how difficult that year was.” 

 

“Mhmm, sure,” Umbridge replied, simply swiping her quill once across her clipboard. 

 

Hermione held back from glaring at the dreadful woman. 

 

“Fleur was linked to Bill Weasley recently, was she not?” Umbridge said lightly. Her tone was suspiciously airy, foreshadowing an incoming attack. 

 

“A mistake,” Hermione replied quickly. She was less sure on how to engage on this topic. “He pressured her into something more serious than she wanted. She was trying to see if she could make it work with the traditional ‘husband, wife, 2.5 kids, white picket fence’ situation.” 

 

Umbridge looked unconvinced. 

 

“People seemed to think she was engaged to him,” Umbridge noted, “Some were surprised at news she married you at the last moment instead.” 

 

“He wished they were engaged,” Hermione said bitterly, her temper momentarily flaring. She paused suddenly, taking a moment to gather her thoughts. 

 

Umbridge observed her carefully. She seemed disappointed when Hermione ceased talking on the subject. 

 

“So, your friend Harry gets along with Fleur too?” Umbridge queried innocently. 

 

Too innocently. 

 

Hermione hadn’t prepared for this line of questioning. 

 

“Yes,” Hermione answered cautiously. 

 

Umbridge rapped her fingernails on the cold steel of the table again, unnerving Hermione. 

 

“Is it coincidence that Fleur Delacour marries you, a close friend of Harry Potter, right around the time that Harry Potter turns seventeen, is no longer subject to The Trace, and disappears from his aunt and uncle’s residence?” Umbridge questioned. 

 

Hermione swallowed, taking a moment to think. 

 

So, Umbridge knew what they were doing, at least at a high level. She knew Fleur was tangled up with Harry and the plans to counter Voldemort. 

 

But knowing was not the same as proving. 

 

“Disappeared?” Hermione replied, “That is a bit dramatic. He simply reached the age of maturity and was ready to move out on his own. He attended my wedding in person mere days later. In fact, several of your Ministry colleagues would have seen him there.” 

 

“Where is Harry Potter now?” Umbridge demanded. 

 

Hermione smirked. Umbridge had lost her upper hand by losing her patience. 

 

“I think that is a little irrelevant to the matter of my relationship with Fleur,” Hermione replied imperiously, “Now, if you have no further questions, I’d like to get out of here and spend some time with my wife.” 

 

Umbridge frowned, practically ripping her clipboard in her efforts to draw the interview back in. 

 

“No?” Hermione queried, arching an eyebrow, “Well, in that case, I will see you around.” 

 

Hermione got up and walked calmly to the door, enjoying the growing fury of rustling papers behind her. The security guard eyed her suspiciously, but did nothing to stop her. 

 

As Hermione headed out the door and back to her freedom, Umbridge called after her. 

 

“This won’t be the last of my assessment!” 

 

 

Chapter Text

Fleur kept her head held high as she followed Hermione into the depths of the dreadful Ministry of Magic. It seemed like each floor they descended, the winding hallways grew darker and dirtier. For a Ministry that regulated all magical affairs in the United Kingdom, they really didn’t have the most glamorous of buildings. 

 

Fleur eyed the chipped stone hallway with distaste. 

 

Her high heels clacked loudly on the cold floors, the sound bouncing back off the hardened walls to ring in her ears.  

 

It was hard to remember it was the peak of summer outside. They were so far below ground level now that there was a damp chill in the air, causing Fleur’s skin to prickle and goosebump under her thin summer dress. 

 

Fleur’s stomach was in knots. She wished she hadn’t screwed up so royally the previous night. She wished things were easier. 

 

The sting of rejection was fresh in her mind. Nobody had ever denied her sex before, especially when she already had them melting beneath her the way Hermione had been. Fleur tried not to dwell on it, instead focussing on Hermione’s seemingly honourable intentions for halting. 

 

Hermione had seen straight through Fleur. She knew that Fleur was struggling to trust her deeper, to open up fully. 

 

Fleur wanted to talk to Hermione about it…  Explain that she simply wasn’t able to function like that. But she didn’t even know how to begin, or what to say. 

 

Sorry I can’t get my shit together?

 

Sorry you might end up with a hefty fine and prison sentence because of me?

 

Sorry I’m bringing us both down because I’m a shadow of a person?

 

Whatever unfortunate wording she might have settled on— Fleur didn’t get a chance to speak, as they had scarcely entered the reception area when Hermione was whipped away for her interview down one corridor by a polite receptionist. 

 

Within five minutes of Hermione leaving, Fleur was ushered down a different corridor by a burly man brandishing a wand. 

 

Fleur frowned, not quite expecting Ministry staff to be aiming wands at members of the public. 

 

The man escorting her was wearing heavy black cotton robes, belted with a thick leather belt. A number of keys jangled loudly from the belt. Something was off. He didn’t seem like someone who would be simply asking her administrative questions about a marriage. 

 

Fleur’s shoulders tensed and she held her head higher. She was growing more on edge with each step through the cold and dank corridors. 

 

The man had a heavy scowl and closely shaved head. His narrow eyes kept darting to Fleur as they approached a heavy wooden door.

 

Fishing the right key out of his keyring, the hulking man unlocked the door before directing Fleur to enter with a wave of his ham-like arm. 

 

Fixing the man with an icy stare, Fleur entered the room. 

 

It was a dark, dungeon-like room, lit only by one blindingly bright orb of light in a corner. The room was scarcely furnished— with two steel chairs and a curious steel table. The table stood out to Fleur. It was strange— gleaming bare steel that was unblemished except for two large latches.

 

Standing in the room was a small man with horn-rimmed glasses, a brown set of dress robes, and a clipboard. He was flanked by two hulking, dark robed men similar to the one that had just ushered Fleur into the room. The men in the dark robes had their wands raised at her. 

 

“What is this?” Fleur asked suspiciously, her eyes flicking between the men and the odd metal table. 

 

There was a sudden shuffling and with a gasp, Fleur found herself being choked by a warm beefy arm and restrained by another beefy arm around her waist. The man who had led her into the room had grabbed a hold of her roughly and was half-lifting, half-dragging her towards the table. 

 

Fleur gasped for breath, hating the warmth of the large man against her and the sour smell of his sweat as he man-handled her. 

 

The two other men in dark robes kept their wands trained on her. The man in brown dress robes simply looked bored, looking at his clipboard. His lack of reaction assured Fleur that this had been planned before she had even entered the room. 

 

“Veela,” the man in the brown robes intoned loudly, ignoring the scuffle in front of him, “A humanoid, sentient creature, first discovered in the woodlands of Eastern Europe…” 

 

One of the other dark-robed men came forward to assist. Fleur was wrenched into one of the steel chairs, which was pushed right into the table so firmly she barely hard room to breathe. Her hands were roughly pulled out onto the table before her. 

 

The table, which had confused Fleur with its metal clasps built into it, now made horrific sense. The men snapped the clasps tightly around Fleur’s wrists, binding her to the table. 

 

The men stepped back and Fleur gulped in the cold air as much as she could from her uncomfortable position. The cold, damp air burned her throat as she swallowed down a burgeoning panic, already beginning to stab the pit of her stomach. 

 

The man in the brown dress robes slowly wandered over to the seat across from her, walking at a leisurely pace with his eyes still on his clipboard. 

 

“…Veela are highly dangerous, capable of hypnotising and mesmerising at their best… and attacking with scaly wings, talons and fireballs at their worst,” the man intoned. He sat down in the seat across from her, crossing his legs and placing the clipboard on the table in front of him. He straightened it, ensuring it was at a perfectly lined up with the table edges. 

 

 “I’m not a Veela, my grandmother is,” Fleur said through gritted teeth. Having her hands bound on the table was sending a numbing chill up her arms and forcing her to sit on an uncomfortable angle, half hunched over the table. 

 

The anxiety coursing through her system was making her agitated, a feeling only made worse by being bound in place.

 

The man finally looked up from his clipboard, eying Fleur with disdain. He straightened his robes, though they were already immaculate. 

 

“A quarter of that dangerous creature blood runs through you,” the man responded, prodding at his parchment, “You do not have full human heritage, therefore you are not human.” 

 

“I—“ Fleur attempted to interrupt with the French Ministry’s definition on mixed heritage, but was instantly interrupted by the infuriating man. 

 

“Trevor Harrison,” the man introduced, “I’ll be running your interview today.” 

 

“Interview?!” Fleur snapped, “More like detainment. I’m shackled to a table. This can’t be legal.” 

 

“Under Section 758(b) of the Dangerous Creatures Safety Act 1623, this is a perfectly legal and appropriate way for us to ensure the safety of Ministry staff during our interviews when dealing with a Schedule 2 creature or part-creature,” Harrison replied without missing a beat, “Now, to our first matter… Where were you first registered?” 

 

Fleur frowned, her anxiety twisting into outrage and anger. She tried not to let her temper run away with her, despite the appalling treatment from the jumped up pencil pusher in front of her. It wouldn’t surprise her if part of their intention was to make her snap— just to prove she had the stereotypical Veela temper. 

 

“Veela and part-Veela are not required to be registered in France,” Fleur replied tersely. Instead of savaging him verbally, Fleur settled on trying to burn the man into a crisp via her glare alone.

 

Harrison smiled, a sour smile that reminded Fleur very much of Umbridge. He scratched his quill across his clipboard in an irritating way. 

 

“But they are here,” Harrison asserted, his passive aggressive smile twitching. A firm tap of his quill on his paper emphasised his point.

 

This was a pointless line of questioning, seemingly aimed at throwing Fleur off and fixating on her status as a part-creature. As someone that was somehow lesser. Fleur fisted her hands on the table.

 

“The Headmistress of my school, Madame Maxime, filed the necessary paperwork to register all part-creature students when we came here for the Triwizard Tournament. It is my understanding that we only need to register once with your Ministry, on first arrival to the United Kingdom,” Fleur retorted. 

 

Harrison frowned, clearly hoping to have caught Fleur on a technicality, but scribbled on his clipboard all the same. 

 

Fleur pulled against the shackles attaching her to the table, hoping there was some give that would relax the discomfort. The cold metal was digging into the skin of her wrists, pulling her forward at an angle that was already causing her back to ache. At the slight movement, all three of the dark-robed men raised their wands at her again. Fleur sighed. 

 

“Please remain still, Veela,” Harrison instructed, fixing her with a severe look. 

 

“It’s Fleur,” Fleur corrected angrily, “And excuse me for readjusting, despite the comfort of a freezing and hard table.” 

 

Fleur’s tone was dripping with ire and sarcasm, but Harrison nodded as if she had been entirely earnest. Fleur glared at the men in the room, her temper continuing to ratchet upwards. Her frustration had now almost entirely outweighed her panic at her situation. 

 

“We at the Ministry have a duty to ensure that we are careful with granting residence visas,” Harrison said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, “Particularly when it comes to those classed as dangerous creatures” — he interrupted Fleur as she opened her mouth, “— or part-creatures. We don’t want another magical region’s problems to become our problems, you see. It would hardly be fair for the population of witches and wizards in the United Kingdom to take on all of France’s lethal creatures.” 

 

Fleur chose not to reply, not trusting herself to speak evenly. She bit the inside of her cheek as she fixed Harrison with a cold, unreadable stare. She had no idea how she was to maintain her temper for the entirety of this interview. Fleur didn’t have a great hold on her temper at the best of times.

 

Harrison seemed almost disappointed at the lack of retort, before looking down and scribbling on his clipboard again. 

 

“When is the last time you transformed, Veela?” Harrison asked, not even bothering to look at her now. 

 

“Never,” Fleur replied in a forced tone, “As I have stated a number of times now, it is my grandmother who was the Veela. I am human with a fraction of creature heritage. I cannot transform as I am not a ‘Veela.’” 

 

“Right,” Harrison replied as if he did not believe her at all, “And what affiliations do you have with the Veela? Which clan do you belong to?” 

 

“None,” Fleur replied, her tone growing more impatient, “Veela do not recognise me as Veela. They see me as a human with Veela heritage, which is what I am. As I stated, it was my grandmother who was the Veela, who was part of the community. I am not Veela, therefore am not a member of any Veela clan.” 

 

“Sure,” Harrison said abruptly, again speaking as if he didn’t believe a word she said. 

 

Fleur frowned deeply, pulling her wrists against the shackles on the table again. The hard metal was digging into her skin harder, and it hurt. She could see angry red marks burning into her skin from the pressure of the metal.

 

The dark robed men again raised their wands in a threatening manner, but Fleur ignored them. She focussed on trying to keep her temper under control.

 

“How many times, on average, per week, do you use Veela powers?” Harrison asked, he flipped to another page, “This includes, but is not limited to: fireballs from your hands, producing claws, wandless magic—“ 

 

“I am getting sick of repeating myself, I cannot do any of that because I am not a full blooded Veela!” Fleur snapped. 

 

As she raised her tone, the dark robed men all took shuddering steps back, brandishing their wands even more desperately. Harrison edged his chair back slightly, though not so slightly that Fleur did not notice it. 

 

Fear.

 

Their behaviour was built on fear. 

 

Fear of the unknown. Fear of a difference that they didn’t quite understand. 

 

They had wanted to provoke a temper that would somehow prove she was dangerous and undeserving of a visa, but they were afraid of what that temper held.

 

There was a tense silence in the room as the men regarded Fleur with extreme caution. Fleur bathed in the realisation that the men treating her so appallingly were truly afraid of what she might be capable of. It was an odd feeling. Powerful. Alienating.

 

Harrison cleared his throat, apparently snapping out of his fright. 

 

“We have heard via interviews with numerous people who have previously met your acquaintance that they detect the unmistakeable draw of a Veela Thrall,” Harrison said slowly, accusingly, “Can you explain for me how you claim not to have any of the Veela powers and yet, those around you can feel the Thrall?” 

 

Fleur refrained from rolling her eyes. 

 

It was hardly a Thrall. 

 

Anyone who had felt a true Veela Thrall would know that. The vague, intangible draw and attraction that people felt towards her was merely a weak hangover of the Veela lineage. It was common amongst those with Veela further up their family tree, and in no way indicative of any special Veela powers or abilities. 

 

Fleur knew it would be futile to attempt to explain that to the small minded man in front of her. It would be opening a door to a line of further challenges and disbelief. 

 

But how to explain the slight draw that the general male population could feel towards her?

 

Fleur set her face in a proud smirk. 

 

“Did you attend the Quidditch World Cup a few years ago when Ireland played Bulgaria?” Fleur asked innocently, smiling widely to show her perfect white teeth. 

 

“Yes,” Harrison said cautiously, narrowing his eyes with suspicion. 

 

“Buncha us from the office got seats all together,” one of the large dark robed men said, before being silenced with a curt look from Harrison. 

 

“And you remember the show from Bulgaria’s… mascots,” Fleur said the last word distastefully. The bigotry towards those with Veela blood had been at an all time high following the high profile use of Veela as exotic mascots. 

 

“Yes,” Harrison said simply, though Fleur noted a slight blush creeping up his neck from his collar. 

 

“Then you must have noticed the effect that the Veela Thrall has,” Fleur continued, “Despite being at some distance from the spectators, I can imagine all those attracted to women were eager to get out of their seats. I bet some had to be restrained by friends and family members to prevent them from trying to get to the Veela.” 

 

The red blush travelled up Harrison’s neck and Fleur knew that he must have been one of the weak-willed spectators that had needed to be held back from physically running to the Veela. 

 

“And?” Harrison bristled. 

 

“And yet, here I am,” Fleur said daintily, “Sitting mere steps away from all of you men. Despite the claims of being a Veela, I have yet to see any one of you climb over the table to get to me, or fall on your knees for me. If I truly had the Veela Thrall, this interview would have been over in thirty seconds at my request.” 

 

“Then how do you explain the feeling of—“ Harrison purpled with awkwardness and embarrassment, finally losing his cool as the power suddenly shifted in the interview dynamic. At a loss for words, he gestured vaguely in Fleur’s direction with his hands. 

 

“I am simply an incredibly attractive woman. Anything anyone might feel is just standard attraction— though I must say, this seems incredibly inappropriate for you to bring up,” Fleur said with a cocky smirk, “Now, did you men drag me into this hell hole of a room to hit on me or to interview me?” 

 

Harrison made a strangled noise halfway between a choke and a yelp. His skin was bright red and purply, his eyes practically bulging out of his head at such an undignified insinuation. The dark robed men simply looked uncomfortable, shuffling from foot to foot. 

 

In an attempt to escape his mortification, Harrison drew his clipboard up and in front of his face— almost to shield himself from Fleur. 

 

He rifled through the pages madly, as if searching for a solution to the situation. 

 

A heavy silence — punctuated only by the rustling of pages— fell over the room. Fleur felt her anger ease a little. The dark robed men were already looking less sure of themselves in the wake of Harrison’s rattled behaviour. 

 

“Trev?” one of the dark robed men ventured, looking at a loss as to what he should be doing. The wand he had trained at Fleur had slackened a little. 

 

“Oh, shut up!” Harrison barked, slamming his clipboard down on the steel table with enough force to make two of the dark robed men jump with surprise. 

 

He was still quite red, though he looked like he had regained some of his composure. His eyes, previously bored and smug, were now alight with anger and hatred. They returned to Fleur, regarding her with malice. 

 

“We are here to assess the level of danger you pose to the general population, and whether we should decline your application on that basis, Ms. Delacour,” Harrison spat acidly. 

 

Fleur, smug smirk still firmly in place, was inwardly relieved. At least that meant that the questions would probably remain on her heritage— a topic she was fine to navigate.

 

“I was under the impression that you would be assessing the validity of my relationship with Hermione,” Fleur said silkily.

 

She really didn’t mind this turn of events. She had been a bundle of nerves thinking of all the obscure things they could ask her about Hermione that she might not know yet. 

 

“Of course we are,” Harrison shot back, “That’s why your wife is being questioned on details of your relationship as we speak. She is a human, and we need to assess whether she has legitimately entered a relationship with you.” 

 

“And me?” Fleur questioned, arching an eyebrow at the detestable man. 

 

“You are a creature,” Harrison replied with barely hidden disgust, “Before we even approach such matters, we have to assess your danger level.” 

 

Fleur drummed her perfectly manicured fingers on the steel table, the only relaxed action she could do while bound in such a way. 

 

“And what are the Ministry’s findings thus far?” Fleur asked, putting on her best bored tone. 

 

Harrison glared at her. 

 

“Undetermined,” Harrison replied sourly, “I am not convinced of your answers regarding Veela traits. Veela remain classed as a high-danger creature.” 

 

“That’s a shame,” Fleur sighed breezily, looking around the room as if Harrison was the least interesting thing in the world to her. 

 

Harrison exhaled heavily through his nostrils. He seemed to be working hard to hold back what he really wanted to say. 

 

This was enough of a victory for Fleur. She had broken the buttoned-down man’s composure. She had derailed his efforts to rile her. The dynamic had been successfully reversed between them. She could chalk this interview up as a win. 

 

“So the interview is over, then?” Fleur asked casually. 

 

“Far from it,” Harrison scowled at her.

 

There was a curt knocking at the heavy door and two of the dark robed men turned their attention to it.

 

“Eh? Enter,” Harrison barked, confused. He did not seem to expect the interruption.

 

Fleur heard the light clunk of the lock and the creak of the opening door. She heard footsteps as one or two people entered the room.

 

Fleur couldn’t turn around properly to see who had entered, but she could see from Harrison’s face that he wasn’t happy about the intruder. 

 

“You are not to be in here,” Harrison said curtly, “That is the entire point of these sessions.” 

 

“Yes, so Ms. Umbridge already explained to me,” the voice of Hermione rang out like a beam of light in the dank dungeon, “But I want to see my wife and I want to know why she is being interviewed under armed guard. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice the line of armed guards all the way down the hallway to this room? Do you take me for a fool?” 

 

“We tried to stop her, Trev,” a voice sounded from behind Fleur, in the same direction as Hermione’s, “But… Well, we weren’t sure what the rules were around hexing her.” 

 

“Buffoon,” Harrison spat, before turning his attention back to Hermione, “Ms. Granger, armed guard is standard procedure for dangerous creatures. I would appreciate if you could stop apprehending our staff and go wait in the waiting room for your… spouse.

 

“I will not,”

 

Hermione’s signature bossy tone rang louder as the brunette ventured further in the room. Finally she came into Fleur’s vision, pausing abruptly as her brown eyes locked onto the shackles. 

 

“And what exactly do you call this?!” Hermione shouted, gesturing at Fleur’s wrists bound to the table. 

 

“Standard procedure,” Harrison bit back, inclining his chin in defiance at the young woman. 

 

“He said he feels attracted to me, too,” Fleur told Hermione puckishly, enjoying the purpling of Harrison’s face once again. 

 

“I— That’s not—“ 

 

Hermione looked positively thunderous. 

 

“I don’t know what passes for an acceptable interview in this Ministry,” Hermione enunciated with carefully controlled rage, “But this is not okay. What on Earth possessed you that you would think—“ 

 

“The interview is over,” Harrison spoke quickly, clearly cutting his losses in the face of an irate Hermione Granger. Fleur smirked. Hermione would likely still bury the man in paperwork with complaints about this. 

 

One of the bumbling dark robed men stepped forward and released Fleur’s wrists from the table. 

 

Relieved, Fleur leaned back in her chair, clicking her sore back and rubbing her bruised wrists. 

 

“Thanks, babe,” Fleur thanked Hermione with a grin. 

 

She should be furious. Part of her still wanted to take advantage of her freedom to lurch forward and slap Harrison across his stupid face. 

 

But mostly, Fleur was relieved to be free. Relieved to see Hermione in this godforsaken place. 

 

Hermione, her brown eyes burning with concern, glanced at Harrison. It seemed like she was similarly weighing up harming the man. Sighing heavily, Hermione took one of Fleur’s hands. Her tanned hand felt warm and soft against Fleur’s cold and sore skin. 

 

It felt like a lifeline. 

 

 


 

 

Tonks swore. 

 

She was sitting across from Hermione and Fleur in a low-key bar, her pint of beer entirely forgotten as the couple filled her in on the “interviews.” 

 

Hermione felt validated by the reaction of the young Auror— who was looking strangely serious for once. She had jet black hair today, long and straight, and bright blue eyes that were wide in shock. 

 

Hermione still felt sick at the situation she had found Fleur in. She had barely let Fleur out of her grasp since then, and was currently rubbing a soothing balm into her wife’s wrists. The blonde’s wrists were already bright with fresh bruises and pressure marks from her shackles. 

 

Fleur had been largely silent since recounting her interview to the women, which had sounded like some bigoted attempt to try and paint her as a dangerous creature in order to disqualify her from the chance of a visa. 

 

“I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised,” Tonks said finally, scowling, “The Ministry, though it has it’s bloody decent folk, has always had factions of dreadfulness. We saw as much when Harry was hauled in over being attacked by a Dementor. There are people not afraid to use the system to set people up, to control people, to manipulate.” 

 

“They clearly know that Fleur is part of a wider plan involving Harry,” Hermione said, circling her thumb to rub the balm soothingly into Fleur’s poor wrists. 

 

“And clearly don’t care how they try to disqualify Fleur from the visa,” Tonks frowned, “And using your interview to try and find out where Harry is?! I don’t like it. That’s not just crooked bigotry, that stinks of Death Eater involvement.”

 

Fleur withdrew one of her small hands from Hermione’s grasp, grabbing her glass of gin and tonic from the table and taking a heavy swig. Hermione couldn’t blame her. She’d thought her own interview with Umbridge had been bad enough. 

 

If anything, Hermione was surprised why Fleur wasn’t angrier. 

 

The blonde had been near silent since they had left the Ministry, only speaking to greet Tonks at the bar, place her order, and then recount her ‘interview’ with a disturbing lack of emotion. 

 

Hermione bit her lip. 

 

She needed to make sure she had time to speak to Fleur alone after all this. She was worried about her. 

 

But for now, they had pressing matters at hand. 

 

“So, what do we do now?” Hermione asked Tonks, “Make a run for it? We could move in with Harry and Ron.” 


Tonks shook her head. 

 

“That would just be a non verbal confirmation that something is definitely afoot. For now they just have their suspicions. You both did a bloody good job keeping them at bay during the interviews,” Tonks explained, “They’ll be licking their wounds and regrouping for their next tactic. At the moment you just have to act normal. It will keep them off-balance and buy us more time to think of our next moves.” 

 

“What are we going to do next?” Hermione growled, “I feel like we’re just dodging crap with no solid ideas of what we’re going to do.” 

 

Tonks drummed her fingers on the wooden table, looking between the spouses across from her. 

 

“Look, I’d be frustrated too if I’d just copped the afternoon you two have,” Tonks said sympathetically, “But the worst thing we could do right now is just make knee-jerk reactions. I’ve had progress with Fred, George and Andromeda! I think we can tentatively plan to meet at Harry’s in a couple of nights and lay all our cards on the table.” 

 

“Fred, George and Andromeda Tonks…” Hermione intoned flatly, “So… The twins and your mum?”

 

Tonks held up her hands in mock defence. 

 

“I know what you’re thinking! It doesn’t sound like much! But you just wait until we get stuck in,” Tonks said quickly, “Besides, I might have more luck tracking down Hagrid before then. Or thinking of someone else useful. Just… hold tight, yeah?” 

 

Hermione cast a look at Fleur. 

 

Fleur was nodding politely, her face expressionless and proud. Previously, Hermione would have written this off as Fleur being distant, cold and proud. But now she knew it was Fleur with her walls up, holding herself tightly together. 

 

Hermione looked back at Tonks. Injustice, anger, frustration were all swirling within her. Every fibre of her being screamed for her to take action. 

 

The Gryffindor took a deep, steadying breath.

 

“Sure.” 

 

 


 

 

Fleur was feeling a little numb. 

 

She had barely followed the conversation with Tonks and Hermione at the bar. Hermione had owled for the colourful auror as soon as they had got out of the Ministry, saying they simply had to take action after what had happened. 

 

Fleur, now she had the time and space to process what had happened to her at the Ministry, felt differently. What was the point? 

 

At least her wrists were no longer aching. The balm Hermione had picked up from a nearby potion shop and rubbed in had done wonders to ease the bruising from the Ministry shackles. 

 

After their drink and chat with Tonks, Hermione had insisted that they go for a walk to clear their minds. 

 

Hermione had taken Fleur to a quiet park. It was pleasant, bright flower beds and darting creatures. 

 

Fleur enjoyed the heat of the late day sun on her shoulders as they walked hand in hand. The grass at the park, unlike at their tiny cottage, was vibrant green and healthy. 

 

“Fleur,” Hermione finally broke the silence that had lasted for most of the walk so far.

 

Fleur sighed, not wanting to talk, but knowing it was unavoidable. 

 

“Mhmm,” Fleur replied.

 

Hermione squeezed her hand. It didn’t soothe Fleur. 

 

“You mentioned your mum once…” Hermione began. Her voice was sure and strong, but her words were clumsy, like she wasn’t convinced she was using the right words. 

 

“Mhmm,” Fleur replied again, guarded. 

 

They walked past a small pond, where a number of small ducklings were chasing after their mother. 

 

“Have…” Hermione paused, before she tried again, “Have you been let down a lot by other people, too?” 

 

Fleur let out a low, humourless laugh. 

 

Everyone she had ever met in life had harboured an ulterior motive. Everyone except Gabrielle. 

 

Even Madame Maxime had simply seen her as a tool to launch Beauxbatons’ reputation to new heights. 

 

Every date, every friend, every adult in her life growing up. All of them had wanted some piece of her to take. Taking and taking and taking. It was a wonder there was any of Fleur left. 

 

Arm candy. A notch on a bedpost. An exotic, part-creature to introduce to friends. A model student. Someone with a useful connection. Someone who had fame after the Triwizard Tournament that they could exploit. 

 

And the latest? A lamb to slaughter. 

 

A means to an end. 

 

Fleur knew Hermione was outraged at every injustice she saw doled out towards Fleur. Fleur knew that Hermione cared in a way that others hadn’t cared. 

 

But when Hermione looked at her like she was the only one in the room… It echoed of all the other people in the past who had looked at her the same way. Only to take what they wanted and toss her aside afterwards. 

 

It was hard to break a lifetime of expecting the second shoe to drop. 

 

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Hermione surmised, seeming to sense that Fleur wasn’t going to follow up her laugh with an answer. 

 

She squeezed Fleur’s hand again, trying to be comforting. 

 

Fleur wished she wasn’t so numb inside and that Hermione’s actions of comfort could actually soothe her. 

 

The birds chirped around them cheerily, oblivious to the sombre mood of the young couple. 

 

“I really did loathe you at Hogwarts,” Hermione admitted, catching Fleur off-guard. She hadn’t expected that. 

 

“I mean, now, especially after being grilled about that year by Umbridge, I recognise a lot of it as misdirected sexual frustration… Of not knowing how to deal with how damned attractive you were and feeling incredibly awkward and angry about it,” Hermione rambled, “But at the time… I just thought you were such a prat. You were so cold and arrogant and didn’t bother trying to soften your opinions on anything.” 

 

Fleur was thrown. She felt a slight smile tug at the corner of her lips, both at Hermione admitting she had found her attractive during the Triwizard Tournament, and the way she had called her a prat. 

 

Hermione paused briefly in her quick talking to take a breath. 

 

“And— I know this sounds bloody awful— it does, doesn’t it? Ron always said I was terrible at dealing with people… And I’ve never agreed with that… But maybe he has a point… Anyway, that’s not what I’m talking about right now…” 

 

Hermione was rambling even more now, gesturing awkwardly with her free hand. Fleur quietly thought it was quite cute. 

 

“Anyway, it drove me insane that everyone would talk about you— At the time I was angry that people were giving such a dreadful girl so much attention,” Hermione shot a cautious look at Fleur, momentarily concerned she had crossed a line, “Um… I mean… Well— Now, I think about the way people spoke about you…” 

 

Fleur remained silent, allowing the rambling brunette to gather her thoughts and continue. 

 

“People spoke about you like you were an object,” Hermione eventually explained, “They talked about your body, speculated about your heritage… Even the straight girls were fixated on how you got your hair to look the way it did. Heck, Ron would stare at you daily like you were one of the magazines he thinks he has so well hidden in his trunk.” 

 

“After you were selected for the Triwizard Tournament, it got even worse,” Hermione continued, “People speculated that you had been picked for your looks, to add a pretty face to the mix for audience interest. People tried to boast about supposed past conquests with you. Some Durmstrang boys made it a game to try to snap some upskirt photos of you whenever you would have to walk up the staircases for classes.” 

 

Fleur frowned. She hadn’t thought about that part of her Triwizard Tournament experience for some time. But it hadn’t been anything she hadn’t expected. 

 

She recalled that a handsome Ravenclaw boy, Roger Davies, had befriended her— briefly giving her hope that some of the male population were interested in actually getting to know her for her. Only for him to drool over her mindlessly for the entire Yule Ball and try to force sex afterwards. She smirked at the memory of how in response, she had given him a black eye that hadn’t faded for weeks. 

 

Hermione’s hand was sweaty as it held firm to Fleur’s. She was nervous she was screwing this up, Fleur could tell. 

 

“Um— What I’m trying to say— I swear I’m not just trying to make you feel terrible— What I’m trying to say… Is I understand if you carry some kind of baggage from the way people treat you,” Hermione managed to get out, “And… I know I can’t possibly know all the dreadful ways people have treated you, or let you down… But I know that it can’t be easy for you to trust people at face value.” 

 

Fleur was stunned at Hermione’s words. It wasn’t that long ago that the brunette had misunderstood her to such a degree that they would simply exchange barbs. 

 

“I know it isn’t as simple as me just telling you that I care, that I won’t let you down… Say or do something awful to you…” Hermione was rambling again, “But— But, I promise I’m here for you. And I’m fine to wait as long as it takes to show you that you don’t have to be afraid of trusting me all the way.” 

 

Fleur squeezed Hermione’s hand. 

 

“Thanks, Hermione,” Fleur said softly, “I do trust you… It’s just hard to trust people fully. It’s hard to open up.” 

 

Hermione looked incredibly relieved that Fleur had finally spoken, taking the pressure off her awkward rambling. But mostly she looked happy that Fleur had taken on board what she had said. 

 

“There’s no rush here,” Hermione promised, “As long as it takes, really.” 

 

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Fleur wasn’t entirely sure what had gripped Hermione with such urgency. The brunette, from the moment they had woken, had been an agitated ball of energy. She couldn’t sit still, jiggling a leg, tapping her ink-stained fingers, pacing the small cottage. 

 

By the time Fleur had showered, dressed, and brushed her teeth, she was feeling thoroughly rushed. 

 

“Hermione, I haven’t even had breakfast,” Fleur grumbled, “You could stop acting like I’ve taken a week to get ready this morning.” 

 

Hermione, clearly unaware that she had been making Fleur feel rushed, stalled in her restless pacing. She looked at Fleur, sheepish. 

 

“Erm, sorry,” Hermione said, her hands twiddling at the buttons of her white linen shirt nervously. 

 

Fleur frowned. 

 

“Hermione, what’s going on?” Fleur asked, cocking her head to one side, “Why do we need to go back to Grimmauld Place so early? Why is it such a rush?” 

 

Hermione sighed, resuming her pacing. 

 

“It will be easier to discuss at the same time with everyone instead of having to repeat myself… Besides, I’m not even sure… It wouldn’t make sense…” Hermione babbled, “Look, I just need to run it past Harry—“ 

 

They were interrupted by a sharp knock at the door. 

 

Fleur went to answer the door as Hermione looked like she may explode from the further delay to the morning’s plan. 

 

Fleur regretted opening the door almost instantly. 

 

Standing on the small doorstep was Minerva McGonagall, drawn to her full height, lips pursed. Every wrinkle on her face was contorted in a way that spelled disapproval. 

 

Fleur stepped back, out of politeness or surprise, she wasn’t sure. 

 

McGonagall entered the small cottage swiftly, greeting them both with stiff formality. Fleur could tell from the first “Ms Granger” that McGonagall had slipped seamlessly back into her old dynamic a of stern Headmistress talking to a student. 

 

Glancing over at her wife, Fleur saw that Hermione didn’t miss a beat. She slipped a ring on her finger before folding her arms, so quickly Fleur barely had time to notice it was the ring that Narcissa Malfoy had left at their table the previous day. 

 

“To what do we owe the pleasure, Minerva?” Hermione greeted guardedly. 

 

Fleur was quietly proud of how much Hermione was coming in to her own already. In Hermione’s first post-Hogwarts interactions with the formidable Scottish witch, Hermione had clearly struggled not to treat McGonagall as the teacher that had ushered her around the cold castle as a small First Year. 

 

Now, Hermione stared down McGonagall as an equal. 

 

Feeling very much like she was a fly on the wall, Fleur shut the front door and skirted around the edges of the room, enjoying the cool breeze the open windows provided. 

 

“We haven’t seen you in some time,” McGonagall said tersely, skewering straight to the point like an iron dagger into soft flesh, “I had expected to see you following your assault of Bill Weasley. I had expected you would explain your actions, perhaps apologise? At the very least, I expected you to stay in touch with The Order as you complete your assignment.” 

 

Hermione scoffed at the mention of Bill. She was no longer the student cowed by school hierarchy and rules. She was emboldened by a more meaningful code. Fleur was in awe as she watched Hermione stand her ground. 

 

“I didn’t come to apologise because I did not want to apologise,” Hermione said bluntly, “The way Bill has been allowed to behave is appalling.” 

 

McGonagall took in Hermione’s words, her intense and intelligent eyes darting around the small cottage, uncomfortably warm in the late summer. McGonagall’s nostrils flared and she let out a small, sharp, huff. 

 

“One could say your behaviour was equally appalling,” McGonagall said finally, “But your unprovoked assault aside, we have heard you have gone and completed interviews with the Ministry’s immigration department. Yet we have heard nothing from you. We have not received a debrief on the interviews, let alone any kind of notification that they were occurring. It is simply unacceptable that we had to hear of this from our other channels.” 

 

Fleur could see a flash of surprise and regret on Hermione’s face. She knew the look was mirrored on her own face. Neither of them had thought to keep The Order happy with updates. They had been too preoccupied with their relationship and with the new faction they had been forming. 

 

“I… I’m sorry for that, but—“ Hermione began. McGonagall didn’t give her a chance to continue. 

 

“Ms Granger, I only conceded to you taking on this assignment because I thought you to be a reliable and sensible young woman. If you cannot cooperate with The Order— if you continue to be reigned purely by selfish emotions— Well, Fleur has changed partners once already. I’m sure the Ministry would be just as understanding if Fleur were to leave you for somebody else and restart her application. Perhaps someone of more standing, who could behave in a simple immigration interview, like myself?” McGonagall berated Hermione in her stern Scottish brogue. 

 

Fleur flinched at being talked about like an object, moved from assigned partner to assigned partner in The Order. She should be used to it by now, but after the pleasantness of Hermione treating her like a person, it stung to be brought right back to how things had been before Hermione. 

 

McGonagall— The Order— they had never once consulted her in what was to be done with her. Since joining The Order and her mother delivering the background of the prophecy, she had simply been treated as an object. 

 

To say Fleur had expected better was an understatement. But she supposed the same strong and honourable witches and wizards in The Order had also been the same people to enslave hundreds of House Elves at Hogwarts. To do nothing as Hagrid struggled with his giant family. To shame Lupin and force him to hide his werewolf status, as if it were an affliction. 

 

Still, it was shocking. McGonagall rarely addressed Fleur herself when discussing Fleur’s affairs. When she did, she spoke to Fleur like she was a child. She was careless when discussing who could pretend to be Fleur’s spouse. 

 

It infuriated Fleur sometimes. 

 

McGonagall was held up to be a pillar of honour. The next best option to Dumbledore. But there were very few she would actually listen to. She regularly dismissed opinions and ideas from other members of The Order. She was cold and calculated as she strategised, able to put feelings entirely out of her mind. 

 

Fleur had no doubt that McGonagall was a highly intelligent and powerful witch. But she was also incredibly ruthless. And that combination scared Fleur. 

 

“You wouldn’t,” Hermione responded with a scowl. Her tone was far less sure than her words. “That would be ridiculous.” 

 

“More ridiculous than her current partner assaulting people at high profile galas? Storming into Fleur’s immigration interview and causing a scene?” McGonagall retorted, drawing her shoulders back. 

 

Hermione let out a small noise of outrage. 

 

“They had her strapped to a table,” Hermione responded, her voice shaking with anger, “They were talking of her and treating her like she was an animal.” 

 

McGonagall didn’t miss a beat. 

 

“She’s part-Veela, Ms Granger,” McGonagall replied coldly, “You may not agree with the treatment, but that is just how things are. Whilst I agree that the Ministry can be a touch heavy handed at times, I think this is once again a case of you being far too ruled by emotions. It has long been a flaw of you, Mr Potter and Mr Weasley. I can only express my regret that I believed you had matured enough to join The Order.” 

 

“You can’t just take Fleur and assign her to a new partner,” Hermione shot back, admirably side-stepping the attacks to her ego and the issues with the Ministry. 

 

McGonagall finally looked at Fleur then, for the first time since Fleur had answered the door. Fleur didn’t like the way McGonagall looked at her. Very rarely with empathy, a trait she exhibited less as the war progressed and hardened the old Scottish witch. Her eyes roamed Fleur carelessly like the men in The Order, lingering a touch too long for comfort, before simply moving away without a second thought. Fleur wasn’t a person to her. 

 

“I have far more influence with the Ministry than you do,” McGonagall said, her hard eyes returning to Hermione, “And I am more capable of being rational and carrying out what must be done. Think on this, Hermione. It would be a terrible complication and dreadful to have to explain to the Ministry, but if you do not improve your behaviour, I’m afraid I will have no choice.” 

 

This seemed to be the final straw that broke Hermione’s control in the conversation. Hermione fisted her hands tightly and stepped closer to McGonagall. She was no longer the small First Year. She was a tall woman, almost equal to McGonagall in height. She looked her former Head Teacher directly in the eyes. 

 

“You don’t even have the decency to include Fleur in a conversation about herself,” Hermione seethed, gesturing at Fleur, “You’ve barely looked at her, though she is just as much a part of this as I am.” 

 

McGonagall took a step back from Hermione, brushing down her tartan robes. She picked an invisible piece of lint off her shoulder. 

 

“You’re emotional again, Ms Granger,” McGonagall replied with an infuriatingly calm tone, “This is the exact problem I am talking about. Correct your behaviour and we won’t need to have another one of these unpleasant conversations. I will be keeping closer tabs on you from now on.” 

 

McGonagall turned away from Hermione. 

 

“Ms Granger,” McGonagall said in simple farewell. She glanced at Fleur again. 

 

Fleur felt a twist of discomfort as the steely gaze ran briefly down her body and back up to meet her eyes again. 

 

“Fleur,” McGonagall said coldly, “I will see you both again soon. Goodbye.” 

 

McGonagall let herself out of the small cottage. Fleur and Hermione stood, shell shocked, until the sharp slam of the door closing snapped them back to life. 

 

“That was…” 

 

“Dreadful,” Hermione finished for Fleur. She shook her head, “At least it has just reinforced that we are doing the right thing. I’m so angry… I just…” 

 

Hermione began to pace again, this time in anger. Her hands flexed and fisted as she furrowed her brows. 

 

“Hermione, don’t let this distract you,” Fleur said softly, coming over to comfort her wife. It can’t have been easy for Hermione having such a challenging conversation with somebody that she had looked up to until recently. 

 

Hermione’s muscles felt tense and jumpy as Fleur wrapped her arms around her, stilling her restless pacing. She held Hermione in a tight embrace until the brunette relaxed. Hermione dipped her head down, coming to rest in Fleur’s hair. She exhaled in a frustrated puff of air into Fleur’s neck. 

 

“We have our way forward,” Fleur said soothingly. She ran her hands up and down the muscles of the taller girl’s back. Hermione was relaxing, slowly. 

 

“I can’t stand the thought of somebody taking you away from me,” Hermione admitted quietly into the safety of Fleur’s neck. She spoke so softly, Fleur wondered if the brunette had meant for her to hear what she said. 

 

Fleur released Hermione from her embrace, kissing the brunette softly on the lips. 

 

“Come, we had plans,” Fleur encouraged coyly, “Though, now you seem less impatient, perhaps I can make some breakfast.” 

 

“Fleur!” Hermione protested, though a smile had begrudgingly returned to her face. 

 


 

“Horcruxes,” Hermione said firmly, sitting down at the large table in at Grimmauld Place. 

 

“Hermione!” Harry yelped in horror, standing up so fast that he almost knocked his chair to the ground, “Dumbledore entrusted me with the confidential—“ 

 

“—We know about them, Harry,” Lupin informed the Boy Who Lived, “The Order are well aware of the existence of them, though not the identity. Dumbledore had kept the members informed of his goal to destroy them, though had been very insistent that he could be the only one to carry out the work. Then later, you.” 

 

The new faction were sitting around the table Grimmauld Place, having received Hermione’s last minute invitation to meet. Harry and Ron were incredulous at Lupin’s words. 

 

“Bloody hell!” Ron muttered, “So much for secrecy!”

 

“It is under great secrecy,” Lupin assured the boys, “The Order are very restricted on when they discuss the topic. Often, particularly with more junior or newer members, conversations can only be held on the topic when members have been dosed with a potion that will prevent them from being able to disclose any part of the conversation.” 

 

“Then why haven’t they talked to me about it?” Harry replied hotly, “I’ve been trying to muddle through on my own since Dumbledore died and you’re telling me that The Order has been there and able to give guidance this entire time?!” 

 

Tonks said nothing, but met Hermione’s gaze. Hermione supposed the bright-haired Auror had been dosed similarly to herself and was therefore unable to speak on the topic. The Weasley twins appeared similarly unsurprised.

 

“It isn’t in their interests to talk to you about it, Harry,” Lupin said solemnly, “They can control you more easily when you are unaware that they know. But rest assured, with our new group, we can work on this problem together. You aren’t alone anymore, Harry.” 

 

Harry furrowed his brow, rubbing the heels of his hands against his temples. 

 

“I just don’t understand…” Harry said with a frown, “Dumbledore said he trusted only me with the task…”

 

Hermione stayed silent, fiddling with the ring on her finger. She was feeling a heavy mood descending again, but understood Harry’s confusion and frustration. Harry had never had anyone he could rely on and look up to before he had met Dumbledore. Harry had always had the wise and honourable wizard on a pedestal. 

 

Hermione agreed Dumbledore was brilliant. He had done amazing things in his lifetime as well. In fact, she was in awe of his legacy. But that didn’t mean that he was always in the right… or always truthful. 

 

Hermione looked to Fleur, sitting beside her. The beautiful blonde was watching Harry intently. Her face was stony, but Hermione could see from the look in her eyes that the blonde felt for the orphaned Harry too. The more Hermione got to know Fleur, the more she understood her to be a surprisingly empathetic woman. Whip smart and guarded, but not as devoid of emotion as Fleur allowed people to believe. 

 

“We will never know what Dumbledore’s intentions were,” Lupin said in a gentle and diplomatic tone, “We cannot know every conversation and decision that was made before his death. All we can do is strive to do the right thing.” 

 

A silence fell over the table. 

 

As usual, the cavernous and grand structure of Grimmauld Place was doing much to keep out the late summer heat. However, wayward sunbeams streamed through window panes, splashing onto the long table they were seated at. 

 

Though they had once spent a summer cleaning the household, it had never quite lost its old and abandoned feel— flecks of dust lit up in the sunbeams like glitter. 

 

Hermione shifted in her seat. She wasn’t in the mood for having to carefully handle Harry’s abandonment issues today. 

 

She knew she was being unfair. 

 

She was almost certain it had something to do with the ornate ring on her finger. 

 

“Can you tell whether something is a horcrux or not?” Hermione said, losing patience with the long silence. 

 

Harry, seated across the table from her, raised his big green eyes to meet her gaze. For all the dark-haired boy had seen, for all he had gone through, there was still a boyish innocence in his eyes. Like he was begging for someone to look after him, take him in and make him whole, but would never voice it. 

 

He was pale. He looked as though he hadn’t been sleeping well. But when you were friends with Harry Potter, you got used to his semi regular patches of night terrors and headaches. 

 

Harry frowned, furrowing his brow. 

 

“I once thought… I thought I could…” Harry said slowly, “I could tell there was something off about that diary Ginny had in our Second Year, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. But… I’m not sure.” 

 

Hermione would usually be patient and empathetic here, recognising that Harry was shouldering a lot of blame for the deaths of Sirius and Dumbledore and whoever else had come to harm in Voldemort’s quest for power. But a dark negativity was more gradually clouding her thinking. 

 

Hermione wrenched the ring off her finger suddenly and tossed it across the table to Harry. 

 

Ever the gifted Seeker, Harry snatched it easily out of the air. He held the ring closely in front of his face, fiddling with it in his fingers. 

 

Hermione almost instantly felt the negativity subside a little, bolstering her suspicions once more. If it wasn’t a horcrux, then there was at least some kind of dark curse on the thing. 

 

The others around the table leaned forward with interest. All had heard at some point or another how the piece of Voldemort’s soul in Tom Riddle’s diary had pulled in Harry, how he had been able to connect with the piece of soul in the horcrux back in his Second Year. 

 

Harry’s eyes flickered shut and he was silent. His fingers stilled on the ring. 

 

Fleur moved her chair closer to Hermione, her hand coming to grab her thigh tightly. Hermione suppressed a shiver as Fleur’s lips brushed at the shell of her ear. 

 

“Why did you not tell me you suspected it was a horcrux?” Fleur whispered. 

 

Hermione could hear the insecurity lurking behind the question. She put a hand on top of Fleur’s. Despite it being a warm day, Fleur’s hand was cold. Hermione squeezed it comfortingly. 

 

“I didn’t suspect anything until late last night,” Hermione whispered back to her wife, “I slept on it, and this morning was more suspicious than ever. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions until I had brought it to Harry to look closely at. You would have thought me absolutely mad for claiming Narcissa Malfoy had dropped off a horcrux out of the blue.” 

 

Fleur frowned slightly. 

 

“I wouldn’t have thought you were mad,” the blonde responded simply. 

 

Hermione smiled, trying to allay any lurking fears that might be prying at the corners of Fleur’s mind. 

 

Everything about Fleur’s life had shaped the woman to distrust others. To read in to their behaviour for the worst. Hermione couldn’t change those doubts overnight, but it was tough to see how easily she could push Fleur away by simply not communicating more. 

 

Hermione had spent the majority of her time with Harry and Ron since she was eleven. Her friendship with the two boys— bless them— had hardly prepared her for a relationship with a partner who would need more emotional support and communication. 

 

Harry’s eyes snapped open suddenly. 

 

Ron jolted in his seat with the abrupt surprise of it.

 

Harry was suddenly paler, suddenly looking more weary and fearful. It was almost as if he had forgotten he was sitting at the table at Grimmauld Place, as he blinked slowly and looked around at his peers. 

 

Harry swallowed heavily, running a trembling hand through his spiky black hair. 

 

“I… I think it is… I… I saw something…” Harry said, his voice unsteady. 

 

Whatever terrible thing Harry had seen, he didn’t elaborate on, simply placing the ring on the polished wood of the table in front of him. 

 

Everyone’s eyes fixed on the small ring. 

 

An elegant looking heirloom. Dangerous. 

 

“Well, don’t just gape at it!” Ron suddenly said, looking around with wide eyes, “Someone squash it!” 

 

This seemed to break the solemness in the room as Fred and George burst into loud peals of laughter. 

 

“Squash it?” Fred giggled, leaning back in his chair. 

 

“It’s a bloody ring, not a fly!” George echoed, slapping his knee and doubling over, “Not to mention a horcrux with Merlin knows what curses on it!” 

 

Scowling and pouting, Ron crossed his arms defensively across his chest. 

 

“I don’t see anybody else rushing to deal with it,” Ron said petulantly, his cheeks reddening a little with embarrassment. 

 

Lupin’s intense gaze on the ring had been broken by the Weasley boys and their antics. He now looked at Hermione with fascination. 

 

“Where did you get it?” Lupin asked with great interest, “How did you suspect it was a horcrux?” 

 

The twins’ laughter curtailed as Hermione answered Lupin, explaining the odd encounter with the Malfoys and second-guessing her sudden decline in mood the previous evening. She explained that it had been a long shot, but she had needed Harry to confirm it for her. As she spoke, Lupin tapped his lips thoughtfully with a finger. 

 

“So, that and the diary makes two,” Tonks thought aloud. 

 

“And Marvolo Gaunt’s ring,” Harry reminded, still pale and solemn, “Dumbledore destroyed that one with the sword of Gryffindor.” 

 

“Three,” Tonks corrected, “Out of the seven Dumbledore suspected You Know Who had made.” 

 

While they talked, Lupin had got up from his seat and walked over to Harry, picking up the ring from the table and inspecting it carefully. 

 

“Godric Gryffindor’s ring,” Lupin exclaimed in awe, “How very perverse for He Who Must Not Be Named to select this as a horcrux.” 

 

“And strange for it to be in the possession of a die-hard slimy Slytherin family like the Malfoys,” George noted. 

 

Lupin walked the length of the table, looking at the ring, his brow furrowed in thought. 

 

“Not necessarily,” Lupin spoke as he paced, “Marvolo Gaunt held some significance for the Dark Lord. Godric Gryffindor, was a powerful and mighty wizard with quite the legacy. It makes sense that the Dark Lord, despite the classic Slytherin-Gryffindor rivalry and inter-house tensions, would seek out the keepsake of one of the Hogwarts founders as a horcrux. Hogwarts was a large part of Tom Riddle’s early life. Ingenious really, because who would suspect a figurehead of the Slytherin house to seek out keepsakes from the other Hogwarts founders?” 

 

Lupin continued pacing. 

 

“As for the possession of it by the Malfoys, that is not so strange when you consider their connections,” Lupin continued, “Bellatrix Lestrange has long been considered the Dark Lord’s right hand soldier. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been in the possession of many of the horcruxes at some time or another. In ensuring their safekeeping, she must have given this one to her sister, Narcissa, to wear amongst her other jewellery. Being constantly on Narcissa’s person, Bellatrix probably considered it a fairly safe place. Hiding in plain sight, so to speak.” 

 

“It makes sense…” Harry concurred slowly, “Before… You know… Dumbledore and I… We’d zeroed in on a locket from Salazar Slytherin, a cup from Helga Hufflepuff and thought that perhaps the others were keepsakes from other Hogwarts founders.” 

 

“Gaunt’s ring, Tom Riddle’s diary, Gryffindor’s ring,” Hermione listed off, “Salazar Slytherin’s locket, Helga Hufflepuff’s cup, something from Ravenclaw. That’s six.” 

 

“Dumbledore had said something about Voldemort wanting to create seven, about it being a significant number,” Harry said, his brow furrowed, “That he had been in the process of creating his last horcruxes when he… Well… When he killed my parents and everything went pear shaped for him.” 

 

“So, it’s entirely likely that there are just the six,” Tonks chimed in, “That’s doable, we can do that. Only one that we need to figure out still, and the rest we already know what we are looking for. Two already destroyed and one in our possession. We’re halfway there!” 

 

Hermione couldn’t help but smile at the unshakeable optimism of the young Auror. It was beginning to make sense over time how Tonks had been sorted into Hufflepuff when she had been at Hogwarts. It was almost maddening how chipper she could be in the face of such adversity. 

 

Hermione herself was more of a realist. The jarring interaction with McGonagall that morning was still fresh in her mind. She was feeling like they were running short of time already. 

 

“When will we be able to move to the stage of disappearing to Lupin’s family’s property?” Hermione asked, before explaining the visit from McGonagall and how she had indicated that they would be under closer management by the Order. 

 

Lupin seemed worried by this, beginning to pull and scratch at the bristles on his chin with nervousness. He exchanged glances with Tonks. 

 

“Soon, but not for a few days…” Lupin admitted, his pacing intensifying, “If things really get out of hand… I guess we could risk it… I just want to be sure I have removed any way of distant relatives inadvertently finding their way there in the hopes of a getaway.” 

 

“Do you think they will get out of hand?” Tonks asked Hermione and Fleur. 

 

“Despite Minerva’s protests, I don’t believe we have acted in any way that would cause the Ministry to doubt our story,” Fleur replied, her hand once again making its way to rest possessively on Hermione’s thigh, “If anything, our conduct at our interviews would have convinced them more. The only issue that exists is that the Order want us to communicate more frequently with them. We can manage that until this new location is available for us all to move.” 

 

Lupin nodded. 

 

“On the topic of the move,” Lupin cleared his throat, looking at those around the table, “We need to all begin tying things up in our lives. Once we go off the grid, we have no idea how long we will need to remain there. We will need to avoid the Order and need to minimise trips to those necessary to track down horcruxes and demobilise You Know Who and his followers.”

 

Fred and George nudged each other. 

 

“On that note—“

 

“If there isn’t anything else big to talk about—“

 

“George and I have a couple of birds we’d like to see before we become hermits,” Fred finished with a grin. 

 

With that, the meeting resolved, the small group making pleasantries and discussing the first big step of their new faction: moving off the grid. 

 

The twins left first, eager to visit the women they had mentioned. Next Lupin and Tonks made their goodbyes and headed off. 

 

Hermione had taken back the ring, fiddling with it with a furrowed brow. 

 

“Hermione,” 

 

Hermione was surprised. She had been so engrossed in her thoughts about horcruxes and the task of destroying them, she had scarcely noticed the group thinning out. 

 

Fleur was in front of her, looking at her with an amused smile. 

 

“Er, sorry, I was lost in thought,” Hermione apologised with a sheepish smile. 

 

Fleur flashed a grin that had the potential to melt Hermione into a puddle on the expensive hardwood floors. 

 

“I figured,” Fleur responded, “I know you like your time to figure things out. With Remus indicating we will be moving sooner than I thought, I should stop in to Gringotts to make sure all my affairs are tidied up. See you at home?” 

 

“Yeah,” Hermione smiled, relieved. It was a nice change to be close to someone who understood her need to stop action and just take time to delve into the inner workings of things. The boys, as close as she was to them, were more prone to immediate action. Hermione liked to look before she leaped. 

 

For a quick moment, the horcrux in her hands was almost entirely forgotten though, as Fleur leaned close enough for the floral hints of her perfume to tease at Hermione’s senses. Hermione gazed into deep blue eyes framed with impossibly long and dark eyelashes. There was a flash of concern in those depths, but mostly something that made Hermione weak— desire. 

 

Hermione felt her knees loosen as Fleur’s full, warm lips pressed against her own. 

 

It was a chaste kiss, barely longer than a few seconds. But Hermione found her eyes flickered shut and her stomach gave a pleasant twang. 

 

“Bon,” Fleur smiled. 

 

The blonde was gone before Hermione had even regained her senses. 

 

Blinking, Hermione tried to recall the train of thought she had been racing along prior to the blonde’s kiss. Damnable hormones. 

 

“Blimey,” 

 

Ron’s overly appreciative tone drew Hermione back to her senses with a slight scowl. 

 

“Right, let’s talk,” Hermione said bossily, turning to the two boys in front of her.