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  It was a normal day, it had started like one. With the crazy month she was having at the hospital she just wanted to have a single normal day for once. They receive a lot of patients in the emergency room on account of their kettle-shaped hands. This wasn't even the weird part, the patients for some reason were refusing to say how they got it. The Aurors suspected some sort of illegal potion that was circulating around the region. The healers were sure it was yet another stupid Magic Toc challenge that would soon lose popularity. Whatever the cause of Hermione's sleepless nights was, it had to give her at least a day off.

 

  She snapped her neck as she poured more coffee into her purple polka-dotted cup. A gift from Harry that he won in a random contest and gave to her just because he could. Hermione started using the ugly mug as a joke until she could get a better one but ended up taking a liking to the piece of china that accompanied her during her final years at college. It was her favorite mug and it was already part of her morning routine so there was no reason to change it now. Hermione was eating a piece of toast that was slightly burnt around the edges as she leafed through the Daily Prophet when she saw the news that would turn her next few weeks into hell. 

 

   Fleur Delacour, one of the most eligible single witches of all, announced yesterday that she would marry the one who brought her the only copy of her house key that resides in her cat's collar. 

 

   But don't think that this will be an easy feat to reach my dear readers! The key is magically linked to the lock so any attempt at dishonesty will be impossible as it was Fleur herself who cast the spell. 

 

  The curse breaker even made a point of informing that she will not marry anyone if her cat was injured in any way during this race for her hand. So be creative and put those brains to work because with the number of suitors Fleur has this competition won't last long! 

 

  The article was accompanied by a photo of Fleur leaving work frowning at anyone who approached her with a camera in hand. It seemed like a far more complicated way than it should have been for someone to get married. Couldn't Fleur try to have normal dates like everyone else? The woman was beautiful, with a cascade of platinum hair that covered her entire back, eyes as deep as the treasures lost at sea, and a jawline so sharp that could cut glass. Fleur would have no trouble finding someone nice to spend time with. She was just being extra like usual. 

 

  Hermione finished her toast, grabbed her things, and headed off into what would be by far a normal day. 

 

  She had barely arrived at work when she was already rushed to the emergency room to treat two serious burns, four cases of broken bones due to falls into manholes, and no more than nineteen deep scratches scattered throughout the various parts of the patients' bodies. And all of them were caused by a single individual: Fleur's cat. 

 

  It wasn't the poor animal's fault that a bunch of desperate wizards bent on capturing it. Their irresponsible owner who only thought about herself when she proposed this stupid challenge was the real culprit. With Fleur's warning that the cat shouldn't be harmed in any way, they had to improvise a bunch of elaborate traps. At least she'd care enough about her pet's safety to make that clear. 

 

  If the blonde truly cared though, she would never have proposed this ridiculous challenge that was only bogging Hermione down with work. 

 

  No one, however, had said that the cat wouldn't harm the wizards that were trying to catch it. And the cat must be furious with its owner because the flow of individuals in the emergency room only increased as the week passed. Hermione didn't blame it, she would also staunch her claws in any visible surface if a bunch of mad people insisted on trying to grab her for no apparent reason. The cat was the real victim in this whole story. A poor creature who is obliged to deal with the schemes of their eccentric owner. 

 

  Hermione sighed as she finished disinfecting another "accident" with a nasty fork. Honestly, they could come up with better excuses than this. The truth would be less ridiculous but no grown man seemed willing to admit defeat by a cat. A bunch of proud grown-up babies if you ask Hermione. 

 

  On her lunch break, Hermione decided to eat her sandwich in the park. She had spent hours confined within the walls of the hospital, some fresh air would be nice to her. Hermione sat on her favorite bench and watched the lake while some children played in the grass behind her. Unwrapping her sandwich, she nibbled delicately, eating the skinned part first while humming quietly. Those little quiet moments where Hermione only had to worry about breathing and eating her food were what slowed down her clouded mind. She sighed as she stretched her tired shoulders, too bad her lunch break was so short. 

 

  She got up to toss her paper bag in the trash when the movement above the tree caught her eye. 

 

"Hey little one, are you stuck there?" asked Hermione, watching a white cat with fur that was too neat and well cared to be a simple stray animal. 

 

  The cat stared at her with its tail up, attentive to her movements. It had to be the whitest cat Hermione had ever seen in her entire life. Slender, with piercing blue eyes that seemed to analyze her soul. 

 

  Pretty. 

 

"Want help getting down?" Hermione asked and then shook her head "Ok, I don't know why I asked you that, you are a cat, you won't answer me." 

 

  She looked around to see if anyone was watching before pulling her wand out of her robes. She soon noticed this was the wrong move as the cat began to meow indignantly, digging its nails into the branch it was holding on to. 

 

"I was just going to levitate you down, you don't have to do all this scandal." Hermione put her wand away but the cat, despite having stopped meowing, glared at her "See no more wand." Hermione showed her hands up empty. 

 

  Hermione suspected that if the cat recognized the wand it was because they came from a magical family. The cat then decided that she was no longer worth their time and began to lick its paw and rub its head. Hermione rolled her eyes at the gesture of total indifference from the animal. A glance at the clock indicated that if she didn't leave now she would be late for her shift which made Hermione grab her things to leave. 

 

"Look I don't have time to help you out little buddy but I'll give the fire department a call on the way to the hospital so I hope they can help you." 

 

 The cat stopped licking itself and stared at her confused as if it didn't believe the woman would give up so soon. But seeing her leave and not come back to try and capture it like the others before she brought a smile to the cat's lips. 

 

  This had just become interesting.  

 

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   A week had passed and Hermione had already forgotten about her encounter with the white cat. Busy with work and unfinished business, Harry had to almost beg her friend to take some time off for herself. She agreed after much struggle to participate in a game night with the rest of the gang. At least it would serve as a distraction and excuse to get out of the house. 

 

  She was at the market analyzing the wine section trying to understand the difference between each label. And failing miserably. Hermione could be versed in many areas but wine sommelier was not one of them. She gave up and threw the first random bottle that looked good enough for a party into her basket and went to look at the beer session. Or at least tried to but ended up bumping into another person who just didn't fall along with Hermione to the ground because the healer's fast reflexes held the woman by the arm preventing her from falling. 

 

"I'm so sorry Miss, I wasn't paying attention to where I was…" Hermione's eyes met the woman's, causing her eyebrows to rise in recognition "...Going." 

 

  Hermione immediately let go of Fleur's arm, taking a step back to put some space between them. 

 

"It's okay." Fleur said in a sweet voice that made Hermione uncertain "I'm also to blame since I wasn't paying attention to where I was going too." 

 

"Right…" Hermione cleared her throat "Sorry again for the inconvenience. I'll keep walking in that direction, have a nice day Miss." 

 

  Fleur looked like she wanted to say something else but Hermione was already gone. She wouldn't say she ran away, but let's just say for the sake of her pride that she walked at the speed of a wild golden snitch. She only realized that she had forgotten her groceries when she crossed the street corner. Well, she'd have to find another market to frequent from now on. Hermione's heart felt like it was going to jump out of her mouth, because holy shit, Fleur's pictures didn't do her beauty justice. 

 

  She was grateful that none of her friends were there to witness what a lesbian disaster she was. She thanked the three gods for their mercy because fuck. Hermione could understand the appeal that Fleur's unconventional challenge had caused. Not that she would compromise her morals to capture the poor animal, no woman no matter how beautiful was worth that. But man that woman was... Urgh. 

 

  Harry didn't even blink when she showed up with two bottles of fiery whiskey at his house that she had found by chance under her kitchen cupboard. She was pretty sure Ron was the one that left it at her house at the end of the year party the boys made her throw, but that didn't matter. She'd gotten the alcohol, that should keep her head busy for a while. 

 

  Very interesting indeed. 

 

____________________

 

  Hermione was eating a fruit salad in the park when a meow made her turn her head. 

 

"Ah, you again, I see you're not stuck in any trees this time." Hermione joked looking at the cat who was staring at her sitting six steps in front of her "The firefighters thought I had played a prank on them since when they arrived you were gone, sorry for doubting your ability to climb down trees but I honestly thought you were stuck."

 

  The cat continued to stare at her, turning its head to the side and wagging its tail lazily. Due to the proximity, Hermione could see their collar which had an old bronze key hanging from it... Wait a minute. 

 

"You are Delacour's cat." The cat meowed in satisfaction, Hermione swore they had a smug smile on its face "No wonder you hissed at my wand, I should have suspected that a cat from a witch would be smarter than average." She grumbled. 

 

 Hermione made no move to approach the animal, concentrating on finishing her fruit salad. She knew what those tiny claws could do, she wouldn't risk her hand no matter how cute the creature was. The white cat looked displeased with the lack of attention and started meowing trying to get Hermione to look back at them. 

 

"Do you want my fruit salad?" Hermione asked without even looking at the cat "I'm not sure if you can eat this, I know some fruits are good for cats but others can be harmful, better not to risk it. I'll research later but for now sorry I won't share my fruit salad with you buddy." 

 

  The cat's paw began to tap her foot and Hermione laughed "To someone who's been giving me more work lately, you seem pretty harmless." Hermione sighed.

 

  Hermione's fingers made a move to stroke the cat's ear but it pulled away. Hermione withdrew her hand immediately, scolding herself for the silly impulse. 

 

"Oh sorry, no touching okay, I should have figured you'd have some kind of aversion to touch after all you've been through, sorry little one." 

 

  The cat looked at her curiously and if Hermione was paying more attention a slight fascination. 

 

"I have to go but it was good to see you again." Hermione put her little pot in her bag and got up "I'm not sure if you are a familiar or not but if you have a magical link with Miss Delacour please let her know that she is being incredibly selfish and that she shouldn't make your life difficult just to get a partner. She is an incredibly pretty and smart woman I'm sure she can get someone by the conventional way… on second thought forget the last part just ask her to think about your safety first." 

 

  Hermione walked away with flushed cheeks leaving behind a very pleased cat. 

 

__________________ 

 

  It became a habit. The cat continued to meet Hermione in the park. It happened so many times that Hermione started to carry some treats in her bag to offer to the needy feline. Hermione didn't try to touch the cat again or even get her fingers close to the key but that didn't stop the cat from curling up on her leg. Which was unfair and cruel of the cute thing to do. 

 

  Hermione nicknamed them Snowball for the sole reason that the curled-up white cat reminded her of a very fluffy snowball. Nothing creative for a white cat she could admit but hey she wasn't going to argue with the classics. It was better than her grandmother's dog that was named White because he was white.

 

"It's very difficult for me to reconcile you cute self with the clawed monster that keeps sending me patients." the cat meowed in displeasure and Hermione laughed. 

 

  It might be kind of silly talking to the cat in the park but Hermione didn't care. The cat might not speak but it responded in its own way and that was what mattered. Besides, Hermione couldn't deny that the little one's company was doing her some good. 

 

"I saw your owner in the paper this morning in an article about the thirty most powerful women in their thirties." Snowball's ears perked up hearing this "Very original if you ask me." Hermione said sarcastically. 

 

  The cat turned its head and nibbled at Hermione's leg in response "Hey, I didn't choose the title, don't punish me for that." Snowball meowed and began nibbling at their paw in response "But apart from the title it was a very interesting article to read. I was fascinated with some works. I didn't know that Murphy had advanced so much in her research on alternative treatments with erumpent secretion. I should call her to see how she's doing, we haven't spoken in a while outside of work. It would be nice." as much as Hermione said the last part under her breath, the jealous cat listened. 

 

  They rolled over a little to present their little white belly to Hermione meowing for attention. Hermione looked at them suspiciously, okay the needy cat seemed to be always looking for the woman's warmth but between that and allowing her to touch them was an abyss of distance. 

 

"Do you want me to pet you? Or do you just want me to stop talking about other women in front of you?"

 

 Hermione had already noticed that Snowball was incredibly attached to her and seemed to get incredibly annoyed when they weren't the focus of her attention. Especially if Hermione complimented other women. The only exception seemed to be when Hermione talked about Fleur. However, that was a subject she avoided as she was seventy percent sure the cat was a familiar and would pass on her secrets to its owner. 

 

  Hermione received two meows which she supposed meant that the cat was just jealous and changed the subject. However, even talking about her day at the hospital, the cat was still on its back and meowing softly. She looked at them suspiciously.

 

"If I try to pet you, will you promise not to bite me?" The cat wagged its tail happily and Hermione brought her hand slowly closer to the furry tummy. 

 

  When she finally touched the soft fur and her hand was still whole, she effectively began to rub the white cat. The fur was as soft as Hermione imagined it would be, although it felt more like a plumage than fur. Curious. Snowball was purring happily allowing Hermione to explore their little tummy freely. 

 

"I would love to know what shampoo Delacour uses on you because your fur is so soft it should be illegal." 

 

  The cat curled up around Hermione happily and the healer picked them up for the first time and started scratching their chin and ears. 

 

"You're really cute. How there are wizards who don't see anything more than the damn key around your neck." Hermione stared at the key in disgust "Your owner is very mean." The cat meowed discontentedly, grabbing the healer's hand with its paws "See, a cute little creature like you deserved nothing more than all the love in the world." 

 

  Hermione was laughing until she realized that Snowball had dropped her hand right over the key. The cat's eyes didn't leave Hermione when her fingers instead of gripping the metal went to the animal's ears. 

 

"Rest assured you, I would not betray the trust you have placed in me by taking that key." Hermione sighed "Although your owner may be beautiful, I have no intention of getting married just because of a silly challenge." 

 

  They meowed confused as if they couldn't believe that Hermione was passing up this opportunity. Hermione lost count of how many wizards passed through the emergency room trying to get close enough to the cat to steal the key. They tried all kinds of crazy tricks, but the cat was too smart and always ran away, not before leaving its mark on the skin of those who annoyed it. 

 

  It was absurd but It was almost as if Snowball wanted Hermione to take the key from them. 

 

"What can I say, I like the courting process too much to give it up like that."   

 

___________________

 

  Hermione was talking to some co-workers when she noticed a package arrived for her. The owl was waiting at the break room table with an impatient look pecking at anyone who tried to approach the package. It was tall for an owl with brown wings with silver accents on the tips giving them an ethereal air. Hermione couldn't identify the species but it sure was a pretty owl. 

 

"Hermione, thank Merlin, you are here." Harold, Hermione's coworker, said relieved as soon as he saw her entering the room "This owl won't let anyone near the package and I just want to have my coffee but she won't let me so please save me from this decaffeinated life!" 

 

"And how am I going to help you? I've never seen this owl in my life." Hermione commented as Harold glared at the animal blocking his way to the coffee pot. 

 

"It has your name on the package." Stephanie said it with such ease that it made Harold huff. 

 

  Hermione found this curious as she didn't remember ordering anything recently but Harold's desperate look made her walk over to the animal without question. Hermione took the package from the owl's paw which, satisfied with its work, flew away with a peep. The smell of coffee soon filled the room as Hermione ran her fingers over her name written in delicate handwriting.   

 

"Who could have sent it?" She muttered under her breath as she unwrapped the package gently. 

 

  Her co-workers didn't even pretend that they didn't want to know what was underneath the package, crowding around Hermione in a small circle like ants. Except for Harold, he didn't have enough caffeine in his blood to care. He was too busy almost inhaling the black liquid of life to join the rest of his colleagues. 

 

"A children's book?" Thomas commented reading the title with a frown "Why would they send you a children's book?" 

 

  Her fingers curled around the well-worn back of the book, its age-yellowed pages seemed to whisper the secrets it kept. She opened the cover and from the year of publication, Hermione could confirm that it was indeed the first edition of her favorite Muggle book of all times. Even as an adult. It was impressive how familiar words had the power to bring comfort to her soul. Such a distinct sensation from the vibrant excitement of reading a new book. Calm like a cup of tea made into her favorite ugly mug. 

 

"I have no idea." Hermione had never told a lie while holding a true smile in her life before. 

 

  At her lunch break, Hermione was on her favorite bench awaiting the presence of her feline companion. She ran her hand over her purse as if to make sure her book hadn't mysteriously disappeared. Of all the strange things that had ever happened in her life, this was a possibility with a high chance of coming true. She was interrupted from her thoughts by a pink Camellia held in her lap by a fluffiness of white fur. 

 

  Hermione brought the petals to her nose and slowly inhaled the fragrance. Her eyes were still closed when she asked "Do you happen to know what this flower means?" 

 

  Snowball's response was to wag its tail from side to side with a happy meow. 

 

"No?" Hermione smiled as she placed the flower beside her and made room for the cat to snuggle into her lap "So perhaps you can let me know who was the mysterious soul that sent my favorite book to which I had complained that I was sad that I had lost my copy?" 

 

  Snowball started to purr as Hermione scratched its ears. Hermione had no more doubts that the cat was a familiar. As smart as Snowball was, they couldn't send a package without the help of a human. 

 

"Should I thank you or your reckless owner for the gift?" the cat patted her hand with its paw making Hermione giggle "You know, that's not gonna change my mind about the key." 

 

  Snowball took the Camellia into their mouth and offered it to the healer again. Their blue eyes were full of hope and adoration. 

 

"Sorry, little guy, as cute as you are, I'm not marrying someone I barely know. Also, you could find a better suitor than me for your owner. I'm sure that she has better options than a reclusive healer who spends too much time watching cooking shows for recipes she will never try…" Hermione was interrupted by a paw on her lips.

 

   Snowball had gotten up and started rubbing their little head on Hermione's neck who hugged them promptly. At times like these Hermione had a hard time reconciling the image of the four-legged monster that sent her patients with the affectionate creature that comforted her. 

 

"I know you like me Snowball but believe me you better choose someone else." The cat meowed in displeasure and Hermione sighed "I like you too little buddy." whispered tiredly. 

 

  There was no point in continuing to argue with the cat. First, it would be a very one-sided discussion and second, deep down, Hermione didn't want to let go of the cat's company yet. 

 

_________________

 

  It was raining and Hermione had to have lunch inside the hospital in the cafeteria. Her co-workers couldn't understand why she was in such a bad mood. She'd glared at everyone who wasn't a patient and filled reports with clear irritation if the ink smears on her fingers indicate anything. She let out a sad sigh, the snacks she'd bought for Snowball would be for next time. 

 

  Harold and Stephanie invited Hermione to go to the bar with them after work but she passed. They had launched a new amateur cook program she wanted to see and had promised Harry that she would take a look at his resume. Her friend was trying to change careers and Hermione had experience with these things and offered to help. Which she deeply regretted as Harry's resume was a mess. Hermione would smack him in the face with a newspaper after organizing that poor excuse of writing. 

 

  She would have Apparated straight to the door of her house, but she went to a convenience store beforehand to buy energy drinks. Knowing her… coffee wouldn't be enough for dealing with Harry's resume. Hermione had barely received her change when she heard a crash from outside the store followed by purple smoke. Her instincts spoke louder and she found herself running out of the store with her wand in hand like a crazy woman. 

 

"Fuck, damn cat, why did you have to jump in my face you little piece of shit?" complained a wizard with a freshly scratched face. 

 

"Expelliarmus!" Hermione shouted and immediately the man's wand flew towards her hand while the other remained with the wand in battle stance. 

 

  Hermione's nostrils flared in anger, her wand aimed at the man's head in warning "What did you do with the cat?"

 

  The wizard's eyes widened as he kept his hands raised in surrender "Hey calm down lady, can't you see that I'm the victim here?" 

 

  Hermione kicked the broken potion bottle aside. Her watchful eyes never strayed away from the man "Do you want me to report to the ministry about the illegal use of this manticore potion or would you rather answer my question, Kenny Walsh?" 

 

  The man's face immediately paled after hearing that "How do you know my…"

 

"What. Did. You. Do. With. The. Cat?" Hermione asked again more firmly, her wand going for the man's neck. 

 

"Nothing! I didn't even have time to do anything, that damn beast attacked me before I could put the full plan into action. I just wanted to scare it a little to get the key. Seriously, lady, I had no intention of hurting that monster." 

 

  Hermione had to bite her cheeks to control the urge to curse the filthy man "Get out of my sight before I do something I'm sure I won't feel remorse for." 

 

  The man started to run faster than a broken bicycle. Hermione only lowered her wand when he had completely disappeared from her sight. 

 

"You can leave the cretin already gone." Hermione said in a more controlled voice but was met with silence "Please little buddy I need to make sure you're not hurt." 

 

  Hermione was controlling the urge to cry when she saw movement on her left side. A faint meow was all it took for her heart to start beating again. The white cat seemed to be in perfect condition, pulling out the limping paw it was trying to hide without success. 

 

"Come with me Snowball I'll take you home, I'll take care of you." Hermione took the cat in her arms carefully, with them snuggling into the healer's robes as she memorized every detail she'd taken from Kenny's mind to report him to the minister later. 

 

   The bastard barely knew what awaited him. 

 

____________________

 

  When Hermione said house Snowball didn't think it would be their house. Thanks to the daily prophet's article, Fleur's residence had become common knowledge. Not that this was a security issue since the curse breaker had installed complex barriers. If Hermione wasn't so pissed off to admit it was a pretty impressive job for someone who had put it all together by herself. 

 

  Hermione took a deep breath, holding the white cat gently with one arm while the other banged on the door.

 

"Miss Delacour, please open the door. I have your cat with me." Her gruff tone of voice was quite controlled. 

 

  After minutes of silence, Hermione moved to knock on the door again but Snowball surprised her by getting off her lap. They tapped her leg with their good paw as they got taller, exposing the glowing key on their collar. 

 

"What, I can't just open the door and go in, this would be a home invasion." Hermione complained but the cat just meowed while continuing to hit her leg "Okay, ok, but I want to make it clear that I'm doing this against my will. I hope you don't get me into trouble for this." 

 

  Hermione then took the magic key off their collar with a click and slipped it into the lock without thinking too much about the implications of what she was doing. She didn't even need to turn the knob, whichever spell Delacour put on the key was pretty potent.  

 

  The cat was entering the house and Hermione just followed it, taking care to remove her shoes and leave them near the front door. The room as far as she could see was modest with the absence of trinkets that were taking up space on the shelves. Instead, Fleur seemed to worry about filling the shelves with as many books as she could put her hands on. 

 

 It was cozy with a fireplace that was possibly connected to the floo service, lots of fluffy pillows on the couch, and a scent of sunshine, lavender, and something fresh that Hermione couldn't identify helped with the image of a comfortable house. 

 

  Hermione seemed distracted by shock as this wasn't what she expected… like she didn't know what she expected but it sure as hell wasn't this cute cozy house.  Delacour with all her high-profile attitude didn't seem like the kind of witch who would settle for so little. Although Hermione didn't know her that well, she only knew what appeared in the newspaper and the little incident where she had bumped into Fleur in the market. She had been very polite despite Hermione nearly knocking her to the floor. So, maybe she should save the judgment until after she's met the other woman for more than five seconds. 

 

  She was distracted by running her finger over a title on the bookshelf that she didn't notice a presence approaching. 

 

"I'd be careful of what I touch if I were you, some of these books scream if they don't get the right charm first." Said a sweet voice that made Hermione jump and points her finger in her direction. 

 

"You!" 

 

"Me?" Fleur turned her head, tapping her chin happily. 

 

"Yes you, I must say, I have nothing to do with what you do with your life, Miss…" Hermione was interrupted by a hand holding her finger gently. 

 

"Fleur please." Fleur said smiling which almost made Hermione lose her train of thought but she was strong. 

 

  She squealed and put a foot of space between them before continuing "Miss… Fleur… I- I have nothing to do with what you do with your life but everyone has a limit. You have been a completely irresponsible owner by putting your cat's safety at risk and it has to stop before they get hurt more than they already have." 

 

"I completely agree this challenge must stop now."

 

"Great since you agree with me... wait, do you agree with me? Why do you agree with me? I haven't even gotten to the argumentative part of the discussion yet." Hermione fixed Fleur with a suspicious look that only had the effect of making the blonde's smile widen.   

 

"But of course, I have no reason to continue with the challenge when I finally get a winner." 

 

  Hermione stared at Fleur for a full second until a flash of a memory of her opening the blonde's door made her eyes widen and she took a step back while Fleur took one forward. 

 

"I didn't come here for that! I just wanted to scold you so you would think more about your cat's well-being." 

 

  Morgana should have protected her but the witch must have been distracted because she had gotten herself into a particularly complicated situation that made her palms sweat like crazy. 

 

"You seem pretty convinced that I don't put my cat's well-being above mine." 

 

"Of course, you don't." Hermione scoffed "I've been having patients in the hospital for weeks now because of your lack of consideration and treating Snowball like they're a toy and not a living being that could very well get hurt from this situation." 

 

"Snowball?" Fleur asked with a chuckle that made Hermione slightly annoyed. 

 

  The nerve of this woman. This pretty, reckless, selfish, gorgeous, inconsequential, too attractive for her own good woman. The blonde didn't seem to be taking the situation as seriously as she should. 

 

"Yes, the collar didn't have a name, just the key so I named your cat but that's not the point! The point is that you are an irresponsible owner and your cat deserves better." Hermione replied in a firm voice. 

 

  Fleur shook her head thoughtfully as if absorbing Hermione's words "You are so adorable, I couldn't have found a better bride." Fleur said in a passionate sigh. 

 

  Of course, Fleur hadn't heard a damn thing Hermione had said. The beginning of a headache was starting to form. It was like arguing with a wall.

 

  She threw up her arms in exasperation "I'm not marrying you! I had no intention of participating in this stupid challenge I just came here for the cat!" 

 

"And can't you see that's what made you win?"   

 

  Hermione paused and glared at Fleur. Her disconcerting blue eyes were too similar to Snowball's for her to stay focused on her task. Fleur brought her hand back to her chin again and that's when Hermione finally noticed that the blonde had the beginnings of a burn in the exact same spot where the white cat had been injured. The gears in her brain were trying to process what they saw realization slowly creeping into her face. The fact that Fleur's eyes had acquired catlike pupils helped a little to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

 

"Are… you… cat… what?" 

 

  Fleur took the confused woman's hand in hers and said in a sweet, serious voice "Hermione, I would never put another individual's safety below my own." 

 

_________________

 

  Fleur Delacour, one of the wizarding world's most eligible bachelors, one of the former Triwizard tournament champions, head of the curse-breaking innovation department, and shapeshifter witch… It was too much for Hermione's poor little gay heart to handle at once. She was surprised and glad she hadn't passed out yet. 

 

"How does the ministry have no mention of you in any of their official documents?" Hermione asked, still in disbelief.

 

  They had moved to the couch with Hermione keeping a respectable distance between them. Fleur didn't try to get any closer, a small feat Hermione was grateful for. She looked pleased that she'd managed to get Hermione to stay to listen to her and didn't want to push her luck any further than she already had. 

 

"Registration is for animagus only, as wizards who have gone through a tedious magical process to be able to acquire an animal form at will. I'm a shapeshifter. I was born with the innate ability to change, we're so rare these days that no one thought we'd need to register." Fleur explained calmly. 

 

"You just change to a cat or…" 

 

"Yes, just a cat, disappointing no?" Hermione shook her head, not quite sure if she was agreeing or not. It was hard to tell when Fleur looked at her in that adorable way "But I must say better than being an animagus at least I retain a lot more human abilities while transformed." 

 

"Like?" 

 

"Well, I can cast spells even in my cat form, and I can mix between intermediate stages of transformation as you've seen with my eyes, which of course is a huge advantage because it allows me to speak while transformed." 

 

  Hermione narrowed her eyes "So you could have answered me while I was talking to you in the park all this time!" 

 

"Technically yes but it would be weird if I did. So even if I wanted to and believe me I truly wanted to." Fleur leaned a little towards Hermione "I had to be sure of your intentions first." 

 

  Hermione buried her face in one of Fleur's soft pillows "I had no intention, I just went there to eat my lunch in peace." 

 

"I know." Fleur gave a weary sigh as Hermione looked up from her pillow "You had zero interest in taking the key and only cared about my safety. I honestly fell in love every time you refused to take the key off my collar." 

 

  Hermione buried her head in the pillow so hard her voice was muffled "You can't keep saying things like that to me." 

 

"Why not? It is the truth."

 

"Because it makes me happy and I can't process the wave of feelings I'm having right now." Hermione grunted "We barely know each other. Like you know I think you're beautiful because you heard me say that when I thought I was talking to your cat but that's it. Like how do you want to marry me knowing so little about me?" 

 

"I know the important things, I spent several afternoons listening to you after all." Fleur said, biting her lower lip.

 

  Hermione lifted her face trying to ignore the flush in her cheeks as her nervous fingers tightened on the pillow "Why didn't you try, I don't know, ask people on dates instead of making up this whole challenge thing?" 

 

  Fleur had a twinkle in her eye that Hermione couldn't stop looking at now that she'd paid attention. 

 

"Would you believe me if I told you it was a drunk decision?" 

 

"Yeah, okay." Hermione snorted "Your plan was too detailed to have been a drunken mistake." 

 

"You are right it wasn't, but that put a pretty smile on your face." 

 

  Hermione started squeezing her fingers "Do you flirt like that with everyone?" she whispered, a little shyly.

 

"No." Fleur's face was serious with such a firm tone that made Hermione's breath stop "Only with you." 

 

"You are avoiding my question." Hermione said in a high-pitched voice. 

 

  A delicate hand covered Hermione's and gave it a light squeeze, trying to reassure the healer. 

 

"If you agree to go on a date with me I'll tell you the answer." Hermione opened her mouth to try to protest but Fleur cut her off "We can forget about the word marriage for now. I said I know the important things about you but I want to find out so much more than just that. I-I want to know everything there is to learn about you. And also a date would allow you the opportunity to get to know me too." Maybe it was the first time Hermione finally noticed that Fleur was nervous about the whole thing too. 

 

  She was just better at disguising it than Hermione.

 

"I don't know Fleur." Hermione sighed uncertainly.

 

"Please." Fleur pleaded in a low voice "A date just has to be a date. Two people spending time with each other, nothing more than that Hermione." 

 

"No marriage in the near future." Hermione bit her lip.

 

"We'll get married when you're ready no second less." She lifted her pinky, a gesture so innocent it made Hermione's heart flutter. 

 

  Hermione took her pinky in hers, firming the promise as her heart pounded like crazy "Not a second less."