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Wherever You Go, That's Where I Am

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“I swear to all of the Gods that I’m going to kill Bill Weasley.” Fleur spat and not for the first time that evening. They’d been working on unlocking the door for about an hour, Hermione having already tried prior to Fleur showing up. It was becoming increasingly apparent that Ron had been - infuriatingly - right. The only way to get into Fleur’s still locked apartment was by not wanting to get in.

Fleur was pacing angrily, glaring at the door as if simply being angry at it would make it budge. If Hermione wasn’t nearly as exasperated as Fleur she would’ve found the tantrum adorable. Part of her still did, watching Fleur’s brows furrow together and her lips purse angrily, even the woman’s clenched fists somehow contributed to the endearing scene.

Hermione was sat on the ground, her back pressed against the wall opposite Fleur’s door, legs stretched outwards as she watched Fleur continue to fume. The scattering of books still lay around her, most of them now closed and stacked up in a pile they had designated the “no good” pile.

Stretching her arms above her head, Hermione sighed, clasping her hands together. “Right, fuck this. Time to change tactics; I’m ordering a pizza.” Hermione declared, holding out her hand as a six pack of beer shot from her apartment and came whizzing towards the two women, the door slamming shut after itself. The pack of beer landed in Hermione’s outstretched hand that she held aloft, her other hand working on ordering food on her phone.

The brunette didn’t miss Fleur’s impressed look, her eyes softening as her attention was drawn back to her.

“Come on, sit down. Let’s just try and take our minds off it for a while.” Hermione encouraged, patting the empty floor next to her, fake fluffing a pillow in an attempt to draw a laugh from the blonde. Her effort was rewarded with a wry smile and a warm chuckle from Fleur, who huffed as she joined Hermione.

A short time passed as Hermione talked Fleur through the menu of a small artisan pizzeria nearby, patiently explaining to an amazed Fleur how the food delivery app on her phone worked. Hermione enjoyed watching Fleur’s barely hidden excitement at Muggle technology; it reminded her of how she first felt when discovering magic and how she often felt now when she learnt something new or heard a new band or read something she hadn’t before.

With the food successfully ordered and Fleur adamant that she now needed a phone, Hermione motioned to the bottles of beer in offer, to which Fleur nodded. The brunette swiftly opened two bottles with her teeth and handed one to Fleur. Hermione looked sheepish at Fleur’s bewildered look, a small frown on the French witch’s face as she inspected Hermione’s teeth for damage.

“Don’t worry, it’s a party trick! Ginny taught me that one.” Hermione laughed, trying and failing not to think of the reaction her parents would have if they knew she was opening bottles of beer with her teeth.

Fleur held up her bottle to Hermione’s, keeping her eyes locked on the brunette’s as the bottles connected in cheers. Hermione took a large gulp of hers, hastily drawing her eyes away from Fleur’s intense blue gaze.

“You and Ginny are close. You’ve never considered…” Fleur gestured, her eyebrow raising suggestively, causing Hermione to choke on a mouthful of beer.

Once recovered, Hermione shook her head firmly. “Have you got a contract with the Weasley’s or something? Is Molly paying you to play matchmaker to her various children? First Ron and now Ginny. You’ll be suggesting I couple up with the Weasley garden gnomes next!”

Fleur laughed earnestly, her head thrown back, hopelessly distracting Hermione who was transfixed by the exposed section of Fleur’s neck and the enticing honeysuckle scent that emanated off it.

“The only thing I think Molly Weasley would pay me to do would be to stay well away from all of her children.” Fleur batted back, getting her chance to enjoy seeing the brunette’s eyes sparkle with delight. “But you and Ginny never…”

Hermione shook her head vigorously, taking another swig of beer to accentuate her point. “She’s like an extremely annoying younger sister. Who is also with Harry, who is basically my brother. It would practically be incest.” Hermione shot, shuddering, causing another bout of laughter from Fleur.

“So no one that you feel like could be your family, got it. What is ‘Ermione Granger’s type then?” Fleur questioned, a playful gleam in her eyes mingled with the sincerity of her question, her forefinger tapping her bottom lip pensievely.

“Ah I see, you’re making up for the fact that we didn’t braid each other’s hair and talk about boys last night? Well, girls in my case.” Hermione returned, trying to give herself some extra time to think before answering the question. She was suddenly all too aware of how Fleur’s thigh was pressed against her own, their legs extended out side by side. Her every nerve seemed to register all at once how the blonde’s entire body was flush to the side of her own; she could feel Fleur’s forearm pressed against her own, the smooth and unblemished skin cool against her tingling scar. The sensation should’ve made her skittish and the urge to yank her sleeve down still lingered, however there was something comforting about Fleur’s arm being there, something reassuring about the way in which Fleur held her arm there without thought, without shying away from the marred skin on display.

“Non, I am just curious. I would assume there would be a queue of eligible women lining up outside your door.”

Hermione couldn’t help the snort that flew from her mouth, her eyebrows raised in astonishment. Her eyes scanned Fleur’s face for signs of amusement - certain that the blonde was teasing her - but she found only sincerity and intrigue, tinged now with a slight frown.

“Well if you didn’t see any on the way in then it’s safe to say that isn’t the case.” Hermione returned, ducking her head in embarrassment. Talking about her love life with her friends was cringe inducing enough, let alone trying to discuss it with someone she actually found attractive.

“You don’t agree with me?” Fleur asked, her frown deepening as she watched Hermione drink the remainder of the beer before beginning to eviscerate the label, her eyes fixed on her task.

Hermione shrugged non-committedly, sighing before finally looking back at Fleur. “I mean I’m hardly a catch. I find it hard to trust people, I’m both physically and emotionally scarred and my idea of a good time largely involves being quiet and reading.” The brunette chuckled softly, returning to picking at the label, peeling it off with care and trying to ignore Fleur’s piercing gaze.

“‘Ermione…” Fleur said fiercely, her hand coming up to rest under Hermione’s chin, turning her head carefully but with force. “You literally saved the world. I think that counts for something, non?”

Hermione was more than a little taken aback by the intensity in Fleur’s eyes. She looked vaguely angry and almost insulted, as if Hermione had called into question her attractiveness as opposed to her own. The brunette stood her ground however, letting her own frown form, watching as Fleur’s blue eyes searched her face, flitting from her left to right eye, following the slope of her nose, the curve of her lips and back up again.

“And that’s not mentioning the fact that you are very very beautiful.” Fleur murmured, her eyes dropping more pointedly towards Hermione’s lips, the brunette’s eyes widening with surprise, her cheeks flushing furiously, her breath catching in her throat.

Hermione felt a warmth spool out from her chest, the tendrils of lilac blooming around her vision, dancing in and out as her eyes centred on Fleur. It was like time had slowed to a crawl or that the world had paused, only herself and Fleur able to move. All she could feel, all she could see and smell and touch and think about was Fleur.

She wasn’t sure whether she was moving or Fleur or both, but Fleur’s face seemed to be getting closer, her fingers still clasping Hermione’s chin delicately. Hermione could feel Fleur’s breath on her face, the honeysuckle scent becoming more potent with each passing second.

Fleur jumped as Hermione felt an incessant buzzing at her hip, her phone vibrating against both of their thighs from its place in Hermione’s pocket.

Hermione was grateful for the distraction, eagerly answering the phone and avoiding Fleur’s gaze. She needed a moment to recover from whatever just happened or nearly happened.

“Hello? Oh, right okay! I’ll be down in a second.” Hermione hung up the phone, shooting Fleur an apologetic look. “It’s the pizza, I’ll just go and get it.”

Hermione didn’t wait for an answer, catching Fleur’s brisk nod before all but running down the stairs, intent on ignoring whatever had just passed between them lest she start to have an overthinking meltdown.

She grabbed the pizzas and thanked the delivery driver, watching them cycle off as she tipped them on her phone and headed back up the stairs to the hallway.

Fleur was still seated on the floor, her back against the wall. She was in the process of putting her hair back up, having clearly just taken it down, her hands twisting over one another around the hair tie.

“For you Ms. Delacour. I present to you the wonders of Muggle technology.” Hermione placed both boxes on the floor, handing Fleur some napkins as the blonde tentatively opened her pizza box, peering inside with suspicion.

“We can eat at mine you know, we don’t have to sit out here all evening.” Hermione nudged Fleur, opening her own pizza box and reflexively handing Fleur a couple of slices of her own to try.

“But what if we miss it unlocking itself.” Fleur whispered back, pointing to the door, her hand covering her mouth. Hermione leaned closer to Fleur slowly, exaggeratedly looking left and right before covering her own mouth and replying. “I don’t think that’s how it works, Fleur.”

Hermione laughed as Fleur playfully pushed her face away, her hand lingering on Hermione’s cheek, brushing an errant strand of hair behind the brunette’s ear before removing her hand begrudgingly.

“Hallway it is then. What were we talking about?” Hermione asked, opening another beer for both her and Fleur, blowing gently on the piping hot pizza before taking a delicate bite.

“We were talking about your love life. More specifically, you were about to describe your dream woman and she was about to sound suspiciously like me.” Fleur laughed at Hermione’s blushing face, the brunette rolling her eyes.

“How did you know I have a thing for blondes? Was it Ginny?” Hermione groaned.

Fleur’s eyebrows shot up, a playful smirk creeping onto her face as Hermione realised the gigantic figurative hole she had just walked herself into.

“Non! You told me! Just now. But it’s good to know, I prefer brunettes.” Fleur winked, only just managing to talk around her laughter which increased as Hermione covered her face in embarrassment, desperately trying to hide her mortification.

“Enough about me. What about you? I mean you’re newly divorced, are you ready to… get back out there?” Hermione asked cautiously. Her stomach flipped uncomfortably as she watched Fleur consider her question. The thought of the woman being with Bill was bad enough, but the thought of her being with someone else, starting a romance with someone that Hermione would have to potentially watch play out was making her positively queasy.

“I’m not opposed to the idea of meeting someone, non. But it would have to be someone I have… a connection with. None of this online Muggle dating.” Fleur smiled almost shyly, her eyes darting away from Hermione, a bloom of pink across the top of her cheeks.

Hermione nodded, her stomach somewhat settled by Fleur’s answer, but her mind whirring from her cryptic words.

“Enough of this, I want to know more about you .” Fleur said suddenly, turning her body sideways, crossing her legs and tapping Hermione’s, asking her to do the same. Hermione complied, mirroring Fleur’s position, their knees touching, the boxes of pizza balanced in their laps.

“Okay, what do you want to know?” Hermione swallowed nervously. She’d been thinking about Fleur’s assertion that they didn’t know each other well all day. She desperately wanted to know Fleur and wanted to let her in; she’d meant it when she’d implied as much earlier. But now that Fleur was sat in front of her, her blue eyes fixed intently on her, the full force of her striking, ethereal face focussed entirely on Hermione, the brunette was terrified.

Fleur’s eyes softened as if she sensed Hermione’s unease. The blonde rested her hand on one of Hermione's knees and squeezed. “I’ll go easy on you and you don’t have to answer anything that you don’t want to ‘Ermione.” Hermione met her eyes, nodding slowly, watching Fleur’s smile grow with her own.

“Bon. So. Where did you grow up?” Fleur went to hand Hermione a slice of her pizza, moving her hand at the last minute to dangle it closer to her face, cheese drooping dangerously close to Hermione’s cheek. The brunette dodged the strings of Mozzarella and scowled at Fleur, the blonde giggling mischievously before relinquishing the slice.

Hermione took a small bite, holding up her finger as she chewed to signal for the other woman to wait, trying not to laugh at Fleur’s growing impatience, the blonde tapping her fingers on Hermione’s knee as she waited for the brunette to swallow.

“Hampstead, not too far from the Heath.” Hermione reasoned that if she kept her answers short and just vague enough, she might be able to curtail Fleur from asking too much about her family and their current whereabouts.

“And did you like it? The area? Was it close to your school? Did you like school?” Fleur spoke excitedly, her spare hand coming to rest on Hermione’s other knee, momentarily distracting her from her train of thought.

“I love the Heath, I still do. I learnt to swim in the Swimming Ponds there and it’s my favourite spot to read, even now.” Hermione smiled, lost in memories of her parents holding her afloat in the ponds on warm summer nights, letting her stay up late enough to watch the sunset in the park, the strong tenor of her dad’s voice as he read to her in the fading light of summer.

“I have never been.” Fleur spoke, her expression almost frustrated, her eyebrows knitted together as she tried to pull together her fractured knowledge of London geography.

“I’ll take you some time if you want, I think you’d like it.” Hermione smiled softly, a bittersweet smile as she swept the images of her parents from her mind and replaced them with pictures of her showing Fleur around the area, sharing one of her favourite places with the blonde.

Fleur nodded eagerly, her hands gripping Hermione’s knees tighter unconsciously, causing the brunette to stiffen slightly as a jolt of pleasure shot through her.

“As for school, it was… I liked learning, unsurprisingly.” Hermione started, faltering as she tried to sum up her oftentimes lonely existence as she grew up, Fleur’s wandering hands not exactly helping her to articulate her thoughts clearly. “But I found it hard to make friends or rather, people found it hard to be friends with me. I wasn’t exactly popular, even before I went to Hogwarts.”

Hermione shrugged, taking a sip of her beer and purposefully avoiding Fleur’s gaze. She dreaded seeing pity in those blue eyes or a lack of understanding; if the harem of people that Fleur seemed to be surrounded by during the Triwizard Tournament was anything to go by then Fleur’s time at school could hardly be regarded as lonely.

“Children can be so fucking cruel.” Fleur said angrily, her body shifting further forward, her sharp tone causing Hermione to look at her quizzically, eyebrows raised.

Fleur caught Hermione’s eye, her anger flaring at the disbelief she believed she saw plainly on Hermione’s face. “What? You think that because I am pretty that I must have ‘ad an easy time of it?”

Hermione stood her ground in the face of Fleur’s temper, patiently waiting until the blonde had calmed down before she spoke, watching the anger in Fleur’s eyes mute to embers as opposed to raging fire. “That’s not what I was thinking at all. I was just… surprised. From afar at Hogwarts it never seemed like you were short of friends. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Fleur sighed under Hermione’s patient gaze. She moved both her and Hermione’s pizza boxes to the side, unfurling her legs and stretching them out in order to lie down. The blonde placed her head in Hermione’s lap, her eyes closing briefly as she shuffled her body to get comfortable.

“This is the part of the sleepover where you braid my hair by the way ‘Ermione.” Fleur shot wryly, her eyes fluttering open momentarily to show Hermione a playful glimmer, her anger dissolved, gone as quickly as is came.

Hermione laughed, lifting up Fleur’s head enough to carefully untie her her bun, gingerly running her fingers through Fleur’s silky smooth locks. “I’m no good at plaiting unfortunately, will this suffice instead?” She asked, continuing to run her hand through the luxuriantly soft hair, letting her nails dig softly into Fleur’s scalp, pulling a soft moan from the woman’s mouth.

Fleur bit her lip and nodded, her eyes screwed shut. After a pause where Hermione settled into a rhythm of sectioning Fleur’s hair, starting at her scalp and letting her fingers trail effortlessly to the very end, Fleur spoke again.

“I’m sorry for snapping at you, it’s not your fault that I’m so… sensitive about it. People take one look at me and assume that everything in my life must be-“

“Perfect.” Hermione mumbled as she took in the woman, realising a moment too late that she had spoken out loud. Abashed, she looked away, but not before spotting Fleur’s smirk, one eye lazily opening before closing again for which Hermione was grateful.

“I’ve always questioned what people want from me, what their motives are behind getting to know me. Do they want to know the real me or just the idea of me? The pretty, shiny thing, an object to be looked at and dangled around.” Fleur exhaled slowly, moving her head to the side slightly to accommodate Hermione’s hand which continued to brush through her hair, occasionally scratching her scalp lightly. The brunette liked the way that Fleur’s face scrunched up delicately when she moved her hand just so, massaging her head in small circles.

Fleur spoke almost breathlessly, pink swatches dappled across her cheeks. “I never truly knew who to trust, so I just stopped doing it. It was easier to be cold and detached, to assume that everyone had some ulterior motive.”

“If you don’t let people in then they can’t hurt you, can’t let you down.” Hermione whispered, saying out loud what she’d often thought since the war, a feeling that had been holding her prisoner for the past two years.

Fleur’s eyes opened and met Hermione’s, nodding slowly. “I felt like I had to prove myself too. That I had to earn people’s approval and show them that I am more than just this, more than a part Veela with a terrific body, although that is true too.” The blonde half joked, lightening the mood and eliciting a breathy chuckle from Hermione.

“I couldn’t win. I was either the object of everyone’s infatuation, a shiny jewel to covet or I was a threat, someone to envy and be cautious of. If I excelled in something, it had nothing to do with my intelligence, my hard work or tenacity. Non, it must be because I’m part Veela, it couldn’t possibly be more than that small facet of me.”

“It sounds… lonely. Isolating.” Hermione said, surprised by the strange parallels she could draw to her own time at school. Whilst she’d never had the issue of people fawning over her for her looks or tripping over themselves for her attention, the end result was the same. A mistrust, a fear of opening up and an oftentimes overwhelming sense of loneliness.

“Oui, it could be. It was. It was harder when I was younger and less sure of myself. It was easier to play the part that people wanted me to; of the conceited, stuck up ice Queen instead of actually working through everything, unpacking it all.” Fleur gestured broadly, her hands sweeping the air in front of Hermione’s face, one of her fingers stopping there to playfully poke the brunette’s nose.

Hermione grabbed Fleur’s hand, wrestling with it until the blonde acquiesced by linking their fingers. “Maybe you should be less sure of yourself now, that sounds nice.” Hermione joked, causing Fleur to begin flailing again, the pair laughing before Fleur yielded, settling her head back down onto the brunette’s lap.

“You know that is not true, you hated me when I was younger as we’ve already established.” Fleur continued, watching Hermione take another pull of her beer, passing it into Fleur’s waiting hand.

“I didn’t hate you, we’ve not established that at all! I was just… confused. It was a weird time in my life, being fifteen is hard! Trying to navigate not only the classic Harry stuff of the end of the world and Voldemort and impending doom, but also normal teenage stuff like when am I going to grow tits and why do I notice when girls are pretty but would rather eat my own foot than touch a boy?” Hermione explained, trying her best not to admit that Fleur was for all intents and purposes her sexual awakening.

“And you do not think it was hard for me also? I had the exact same issues, I was just seventeen instead! Plus my thrall was brutal back then. Boys, girls, anyone and everyone, all drooling like morons or giving me daggers because I was ‘ze French Veela ‘arlot stealing ‘zere boyfriends’.” Fleur finished in an exaggerated accent, sounding scarily close to her seventeen year old self.

Hermione laughed freely, accepting the beer back from Fleur, reaching over to get another slice of pizza at the blonde’s request, dangling it into her open mouth.

Fleur chewed slowly, swallowing before she continued. “Plus it was harder for me, at least you could rule out boys, at that point I was still unsure as to who or what I liked.”

Hermione stopped her motion in Fleur’s hair, her hand stilling as she worked to process Fleur’s words. “What do you mean ‘at that point’? You mean you’ve since ruled out boys?”

Fleur laughed warmly, tapping Hermione’s hand impatiently, urging her to continue with her motions. “Men, women… it doesn’t bother me so much. I have always preferred the company of women in bed though. I told you this last night.”

Hermione caught Fleur’s gaze, shock evident on her face, her jaw open comically wide. “Fleur I think I’d remember you telling me that you liked women.”

“I would’ve thought so too, but apparently the brains of the Golden Trio has problems with her hearing when she is sleepy.” Fleur’s eyes sparkled with amusement, watching Hermione shake her head dazedly before she continued her ministrations. “You look surprised.”

“Well, frankly, I am! You… you went to the Yule Ball with Roger Davies.” Hermione shot, aware that she was desperately clutching at straws. She’d begun to get comfortable with the flirtatious back and forth, safe in the knowledge that her growing attraction could never be reciprocated - first because of the Bill situation and secondly because of Fleur’s heterosexuality - but now she felt unsettled. Although she scolded herself internally at her thoughts; just because Fleur was attracted to women didn’t mean she would be attracted to her . How could she be. Why would she be.

“And you went with Viktor Krum!”

“You married Bill.” Hermione replied with a challenging smirk, watching Fleur’s own lips pull up at her teasing, a gleeful glint in her eye.

“And you kissed Ron Weasley.”

“Oh fuck off.” Hermione covered Fleur’s face with her hand, feeling the blonde’s breath against her palm as she laughed, squealing and wriggling in her lap.

“A draw! A draw!” Fleur managed to get out between bursts of laughter, Hermione’s wrist clasped between both of her hands, holding her captive. Hermione looked at Fleur, watching the blonde catch her breath, a vibrant smile still on her face as her laughter faded. Even under the harsh artificial fluorescent lights of the hallway she was a vision. Her long silvery blonde hair was splayed out across Hermione’s lap, tousled from their playful scuffle. Her light blue eyes seemed unnaturally bright, luminous with joy, her sharp edges softening as she looked at Hermione who didn’t bother to disguise her appraising look. Fleur was almost painful to look at, Hermione thought, her radiance bleeding out into the hallway, making a mediocre block of flats in North London feel like… well, magic.

Hermione watched Fleur’s cheeks flush pink as she continued to look at her, only stopping when Fleur looked away almost shyly.

“So we’ve established that we’re both fruity. Good to know. Tell me more about your family, your home. I have fond memories of France from when I was a kid.” Hermione’s stomach flipped at Fleur’s laughter, her eyes brightening at the mention of her home.

“I love France, I miss it all the time. The estate is gorgeous, it’s quite ridiculous actually. But it’s been in the family for generations.” Fleur shrugged, her eyes faraway as she thought of her home.

“Grand-mère used to have a lot of duties in the Veela Clan, mostly hosting ‘gatherings’ where everyone got way too drunk, or that’s what it seemed like when I was younger. She tells me now that there was more to it than that, but I’m not sure I believe her.” The blonde winked and nudged Hermione with her elbow, shifting her weight and sitting up, detangling the brunette’s hand from her hair and placing it in her own hand instead.

“I had a charmed childhood, really; idyllic. My parents are madly in love and have been for as long as I can remember, it’s quite disgusting.” Hermione chuckled, ignoring the stab of pain that sliced across her heart as she thought of her own parents.

“How did they meet?” Hermione spoke around her swollen throat, busying herself with some opening more bottles of beer, passing one to Fleur; anything to keep her mind busy.

“Well it was quite scandalous at the time. My mother was twenty five and she was engaged to a man called Jacques who painted portraits for a living. You might know some of his work actually; I have one in my flat, he really is talented. I will show you if the door ever opens!”

Hermione rolled her eyes and nodded to show she was listening, hanging onto Fleur’s every word.

“Maman and Jacques had been together for seven years, engaged for two and were due to marry later that year. They went to a gallery opening in Bordeaux - for some friend or other of Jacques’s - when my mother spotted my father across the room.” Fleur’s lips were quirked into a warm smile as she spoke, the timbre of her voice soft and melodic; this was clearly a story she had been told many times as a child, Hermione thought.

“My father was an academic at the time, taking jobs as a server at fancy soirées to help pay for his tuition. Maman always says that she’d never seen someone handle glasses of wine so elegantly, although I think that speaks more to her love of wine than her love of Papa.” Fleur joked, pausing to sip demurely at the lightly frothing beer, catching Hermione’s intent gaze, enraptured by her story.

“And then what happened?” Hermione urged, confused as to why Fleur had stopped talking.

Fleur shrugged, trying to convey nonchalance despite her rigid posture. “And then, well, everything . How much do you know about Veela, ‘Ermione?” She added cautiously after a pause in which she sipped slowly at her beer.

Hermione hummed in thought, her eyebrows knitting together as she rifled through her scant knowledge, tossing out meaningless snippets she’d read recently. “About as much as the next person, which is basically nothing. Why do you ask?” She spoke guardedly, racking her brain, trying to think where this line of questioning was coming from. Had Fleur seen her borrowed books on Veela? Was she about to face the full wrath of Fleur’s anger?

“You commented on my thrall before, about how part of the reason you weren’t exactly my biggest fan at school was because of the effect it had on others.” Hermione nodded slowly, holding Fleur’s gaze as if that might help her to follow the strange turn in the conversation. Fleur continued, her blue eyes boring into Hermione’s with blazing intensity, her demeanour suddenly serious.

“And you said that you used to believe it was something that I could control? Like I could wield it?”

Hermione nodded again, trying to gather her thoughts enough to formulate a coherent sentence. “I said that I wasn’t sure… that I used to think that it was voluntary, but that now I don’t think that’s the case. That it’s…”

Fleur nodded frantically, urging her own. “That it’s what?”

“A sort of instinctive…tool?” Hermione kept her eyes trained on Fleur despite the distraction that the woman’s flushed and devastatingly gorgeous face caused, frowning slightly in concentration as she tried to verbalise her current working theory without insulting the blonde. “If the purpose of the thrall isn’t to disarm or to render the target, well, a slobbering, mumbling mess - which I highly doubt is the aim because of your annoyance towards it - then it must serve another purpose. From a purely evolutionary perspective, if a trait like that isn’t linked to fighting, to battling for territory or for capturing prey then it’s linked to….” Hermione blushed, still unable to tear her eyes away from Fleur, locked into  place by those pale blue eyes.

Fleur’s intensity receded slightly, the familiar playful glimmer dancing across her eyes as she met the brunette’s warm honey gaze. Hermione cleared her throat, staunchly refusing to be the first one to look away despite the squirming sensation she felt in the pit of her stomach caused by Fleur’s face and its proximity to her own, the honeysuckle scent somehow becoming stronger of its own volition.

“Sex.” Hermione breathed out, her voice huskier than she would’ve liked. She cleared her throat again, continuing despite her hoarse voice and sudden dry mouth, “Or reproduction, more scientifically speaking.”

Fleur’s eyes dropped quickly to Hermione’s lips, before she looked away to take a large pull from her bottle of beer, nodding her head before looking back at a still flushed Hermione.

“Oui. The thrall’s main purpose is to identify a Veela’s mate, to test and search for suitable partners. As soon as my mother saw my father, that was it for them. Well, for her, mostly. He is her mate.” Fleur’s voice was quiet and uncharacteristically vulnerable; Hermione wasn’t sure how much Fleur was physically allowed to say regarding the Veela culture and abilities and she found herself leaning into Fleur conspiratorially, as if she were imparting great secrets of the universe.

“So she and Jacques just broke up? But that doesn’t seem fair, weren’t they in love? Didn’t she have a… choice? Didn’t your father?” Hermione stuttered slightly as she finished her sentence, aware that she’d strolled into potentially offensive territory.

“I’m sorry, that probably sounds really ignorant, I’m sure your mother is happier with your father than she ever would’ve been with Jacques.” She breathed out, her hand hovering over Fleur’s knee in a gesture of comfort, before she pulled it back onto her own leg, unsure of herself. Hermione watched Fleur observe this motion and pick up where she could not, retrieving Hermione’s hand and placing it on her knee without thought or hesitation.

Fleur chuckled, a wry smile on her lips. “It does yes, but then I have said the same thing before. I guess the best way to explain it, or to try, based off what my parents have told me over the years is that you may have many people you love in your life,” Fleur’s face turned serious again, her hands toying with Hermione’s fingers absentmindedly, trailing her index finger over the creases she found there. “And these are fine and good and pure loves, true despite them not being your mate. You find something different in each of them. Maybe… maybe your first love teaches you to stand up for yourself more or you decide that you think someone more patient might be better suited for you. Per’aps with the next person you learn that you need more spontaneity and so on and so on.” Fleur gestured with one of her hands, taking Hermione’s hand with her much to the brunette’s amusement, giving the moment some brevity.

“But what if you knew that there was a person who could do all these things and more? It’s not so much that this person is perfect or that they’re the one or that it will be magically easy , but more that they are the best fit. The person that will compliment you, challenge you and grow with you as you shape each other into the best versions of yourselves. Does that not also sound appealing? Is that not also worth taking a chance on?” Fleur bit her lip as Hermione considered the blonde’s words. She couldn’t help but picture Jacques, the man who seemed unfairly tossed aside, wronged by something intangible, unquantifiable and generally mystifying.

“But how did your mother feel about it? About Jacques? Was she not sad? Did she not miss him?” Hermione was almost reluctant to ask but her curious mind was getting the better of her; besides, she reasoned, Fleur didn’t seem to mind in the slightest, the blonde eagerly swigging her beer, her free hand still toying with Hermione’s digits.

“Maman tells me that she was always honest with Jacques about her heritage and what it meant for them. He knew he was not her mate and that if she found hers then there was a good chance that he would hold no light to them. Apparently he took the situation with Papa graciously.” Fleur shrugged, her eyes holding Hermione’s gaze. “I’m not saying that I think it’s fair to Jacques, or that I can even fully begin to comprehend how it must have felt for him. But for Maman she always described it as living life in black and white before she met Papa. Life with Jacques was simple and fun and she was happy, but his soul didn’t sing to hers, she didn’t yearn for him like she did immediately for Papa. He didn’t unlock a secret language that only the two of them could understand. He just wasn’t her mate.”

Hermione turned her hand over as her thoughts worked to digest the blonde’s words. She presented Fleur with her palm who immediately began tracing the lines there as she took a steadying breath.

“Why wouldn’t you choose the person who you are destined to spend your life with?” Fleur spoke softly, her voice a sad murmur. Hermione searched her blue eyes quizzically, trying to sift through the emotions she saw there. “Despite it being a part of my heritage, it’s not something I have been particularly… fond of in the past, or understanding towards. But I guess the older I get, the more I see the appeal.” Fleur finished with a nod, her eyes slowly closing as she sighed. When she opened her eyes again, Hermione saw the steely wall, the cold veneer that Fleur was trying to cling onto weaken, instead a kind of pleading seeping in its place.

“You have questions.” Fleur said dryly, the ghost of a smile on her lips as Hermione felt her own face twist into a playful scowl, watching a laugh bubble out of Fleur’s mouth quietly.

“I always have questions, it shows that I’m an active listener.” Hermione shot back, enjoying watching the way that Fleur’s eyes become warmer, the iciness thawing as Hermione twisted her body closer to the blonde, adjusting her sleeves.

“How did your father take it? That seems intense… what did your mother even say? ‘Hello nice to meet you, I saw you across the room and my heritage informs me that we’re destined to be together?’” Hermione waved at a non-existent person down the hallway, Fleur giggling and attempting to grab the brunette’s forearm.

“Arrête!” She managed between laughs, her thumb brushing over the scar tissue on Hermione’s arm, her eyes fixed measuredly on the brunette. Hermione jolted at the contact, resisting the urge to pull her arm free, trying to ignore the pounding of her heart by focussing on Fleur’s steady blue gaze. She let Fleur brush her scar once more before the blonde relinquished her hold, moving her hand back to Hermione’s own instead.

“She didn’t exactly have to say anything to him at first, he felt the pull too. They circled each other the entire night, like magnets they say,” Fleur continued, shuffling so that her shoulder rested against the wall, her body turned towards Hermione. “Maman went home without talking to Papa though; she wanted to explain to Jacques first. Papa found out her name and details on the event guest list and tracked her down a few weeks later. She was the fourth Apolline on the list, he still likes to bring that up when they argue, and says that he wishes he had stuck with Apolline number two; apparently she was charming on the telephone.”

Hermione chuckled with Fleur, bending one of her knees up and resting her chin on it, moving their entwined hands onto Fleur’s leg instead, the blonde reflexively clinging onto her fingers tighter.

“The thrall. I’m still not sure how it works. You say it searches for your mate by ‘testing’ people? What kind of test?”

Fleur held her empty beer bottle up to her eye, squinting at Hermione through the green glass like it was a spyglass, Hermiome laughing before opening the blonde another and swapping the full bottle for her empty one.

“Merci ma belle.” Fleur muttered, raising their clasped hands and kissing the back of Hermione’s with a smirk, watching the brunette’s lips part slightly before she grabbed the beer back, taking a healthy swig before handing it to Fleur once more.

Fleur sat up straight, continuing where she had left off. “So the thrall is similar to a pheromone, designed to attract, but also used to gather information. When our thrall is young and yet to settle, it will test indiscriminately; there is no controlling it.”

Hermione nodded. It wasn’t hard to remember the trail of boys and girls alike that lingered around Fleur like flies in her fourth year.

“Veela are predators by nature; we do come from the same lineage as Sirens after all,” Fleur flipped her hair, the light catching her silvery locks as if to accentuate her point. “A Veela's mate appeals to them first and foremost because they resist the thrall well, even when it is… difficult to do so. Veelas like strength, loyalty, intelligence and heart; the thrall essentially filters out those who aren’t sufficiently equipped in these areas, or are more hedonistic, focussed on lust as opposed to love. However, much like your hormones, over time the thrall learns to strike a balance, to calm down essentially. You notice that Ron can now speak in my presence, oui?”

Hermione’s eyebrows shot up, a puff of air leaving her mouth in a huff. “Just about, although Ron is useless around all women regardless of the thrall.” Something that we seem to have in common , Hermione thought. Whilst she was following Fleur’s explanation of the thrall, it didn’t much explain the intense reaction that Fleur seemed to still elicit from her.

“Well this is because I am older. My thrall is more stable, less intent on… finding a mate.” Fleur trailed off, looking momentarily nervous, her fingers moving beneath Hermione’s to tap her own knee.

“So in terms of the thrall and its relation to finding a mate; the thrall gathers information on how people react to it, specifically how well they resist it and then it makes…a strong recommendation based on this?” Hermione finished, running a hand through her hair before tapping her chin in thought.

Fleur suddenly laughed heartily, her hand clutching Hermione’s more firmly as she looked dotingly at the bemused face of the brunette.

“Bien sûr! Let’s think of it this way; say we are in a restaurant. The waiter takes your food order and based on this compiles a suitable wine list to accompany your food. He weighs up whether it would be best to have something dry, something fruity, something rich; whatever. Then he will tell you what he thinks will suit your dish best.” Hermione watched Fleur’s blue eyes sparkle, 

“But in this fake scenario the waiter knows exactly what you will enjoy the most, what will bring you the most pleasure and the greatest reward. You don’t have to drink the wine he suggests of course, you can always pick something else that will no doubt be nice, pleasant enough. But… does it sound so bad to have the very best wine selected for you? Having the perfect wine to compliment your meal provided specifically for you?”

“That’s a lot of pressure on the wine.” Hermione grumbled into her bottle of beer, shooting Fleur a quick sideways smile to let her know that she was joking. Fleur didn’t look amused however, her eyes widening for a second before she schooled her features into the rarely worn impassive mask that Hermione was learning meant she was trying her best to hide some emotion from her.

“It’s a lot of pressure on the waiter too. Armed with that knowledge.” Fleur returned, watching Hermione warily, with a cautiousness as if she was expecting the brunette to startle her somehow.

Hermione held her gaze, unsure as to what Fleur was looking for in her eyes but unwilling to look away. After a beat she asked her next question. “But back to your mother, you said ‘if’ your mother found her mate; does every Veela not have a mate then? And is there just one? What happens if a mate refuses?” She probed, picking idly at an errant crust from the pizza box, offering some to Fleur who eagerly took a bite, her expression still unnaturally impassive.

“Full blooded Veelas do, yes, but the traits get watered down through the generations. So for Maman, it was not a certainty; she may have never met her mate or have even had one. Mates are not a given and are therefore not commonly…taken lightly.”

Hermione nodded slowly, already filtering through her next questions, reaching up to swipe a crumb from the corner of Fleur’s mouth, gulping as her thumb felt the soft, smooth flesh there.

“As for if a mate refuses… I am not sure. It isn’t common and from whispers of tales passed down through the clans it is… painful.” Fleur averted her gaze, her throat bobbing as she fixed her eyes on the wall opposite.

“And could you… is it possible?…” Hermione breathed, her thumb still lingering on Fleur’s turned cheek. She watched the blonde’s eyes flutter momentarily in profile before she turned her head, a gentle pink flush dancing under the skin where Hermione’s thumb gripped lightly before moving it away.

“I am only a quarter Veela, so the assumption was that it would be unlikely, but not impossible. Not impossible at all.” Fleur was almost inaudible, Hermione having to lean even closer to the blonde to hear her, eyes fixed intently on Fleur’s blue eyes that were still guarded, her feelings impossible to decipher, her thoughts hidden behind a wall of impenetrable ice.

“And how do you feel about that? What if you did find your mate?” Hermione all but whispered back, her stomach lurching at the possible answer, her heart thrashing around noisily in her chest. She thought of Jacques again and the seven years he spent loving Fleur’s mother, diminished by a cruel twist of fate, their love cast aside through no choice of their own. Whilst she wasn’t comparing her own feelings to a seven year love affair, Hermione couldn’t help or deny the spark of hope that lived within her, that grew every time she saw Fleur, the hope that maybe, just maybe , there could be something between them in time. She wasn’t ready to give up on the tiny, minuscule possibility that she could figure out her own feelings for the blonde, that whatever was happening between them could be something . Fleur finding a mate would well and truly extinguish the embers in Hermione’s chest before they’d even had the chance to truly begin to burn.

Fleur shifted forward slowly, Hermione moving her head backwards as Fleur’s face came to rest on her knee where her own head had been moments before, the blonde having encroached into her personal space. Fleur’s blue eyes were glimmering, her pink lips quirking upwards as she walked her fingers along Hermione’s face, starting at her chin and moving up the slope of her nose before tapping the middle of her eyebrows, smoothing the frown that had formed there.

“Well then why would I not choose the best wine?” Fleur whispered back playfully, her honeysuckle scent washing over Hermione intoxicatingly as she spoke. After a moment where Hermione began to feel the creeping lilac haze, she boldly leaned forwards, watching with bated breath as Fleur’s eyes widened, her eyes darkening under the brunette’s unwavering gaze. The brunette moved her head to the side, sweeping a lock of Fleur’s hair behind her ear, exposing the flesh there. She saw Fleur shiver almost imperceptibly, as her own attention was drawn to a small freckle hidden behind the woman’s ear that she’d noticed previously, the strange urge to touch her there bubbling up inside her once again. Pushing it down, Hermione moved her mouth next to Fleur’s ear, feeling the blonde’s breath hitting her neck erratically as she spoke.

“All wine tastes the same, Fleur.”

Fleur pushed Hermione back with a laugh, her face gloriously free, all soft edges and warmth, the cold mask that Hermione disliked so much evaporating. One of Fleur’s clasps on her borrowed dungarees had come undone in the fray and Hermione fought to do it back up, dodging Fleur’s teasing hands that batted her own away before the blonde gave in under the weight of Hermione’s withering look. The brunette evened the straps out, shooting Fleur a half hearted warning glare, the blonde settling for holding Hermione’s wrists as they worked instead of continuing her assault on her hands.

Happy with her handiwork, Hermione grabbed her beer, draining the remainder of the last one, shuffling to sit with her legs extended again, her back to the wall. Fleur joined her, looking indecisive, her mouth opening and closing again. Hermione raised an eyebrow questioningly.

Fleur cautiously placed her head on Hermione’s shoulder, moving slowly to give the brunette the option to move if she wanted to. Hermione stayed put, stretching her arm out and looping it behind Fleur to pull her in closer, the blonde tucked under her arm, her silvery blonde hair tickling Hermione’s chin.

Hermione closed her eyes, letting her hand run through Fleur’s hair, listening to the blonde’s steady breathing, letting the soothing scent of honeysuckle and swathes of blue and lilac wash over her, enveloping her in a feeling of complete serenity. This is how it feels to know peace Hermione thought, letting her eyes slowly open.

It was Fleur who broke the comfortable silence, almost whispering “I wish we met sooner. I wish I spoke to you properly all those years ago,” her voice hushed. Hermione could hear the buzz of the halogen lights, the electricity pulsing through them, could make out the murmur of voices coming from one of the flats further down the corridor.

“I don’t.” Hermione held up a hand, stopping Fleur from interrupting her, which she looked poised to do, her head twisting to look up at the brunette. “I don’t know. Not to go all Luna on you, but I just kind of feel like we were meant to know each other as we are now, to know this version of ourselves.”

Fleur chuckled against Hermione’s cheek, leaning to the side to better see the brunette’s face. “I don’t know, I think I would’ve liked to know fifteen year old know it all ‘Ermione and every other version of you too. And all the ones to come.”

Hermione inhaled sharply as their eyes met, feeling an incessant pull in her chest accompanied by the all too familiar haze coming thick and fast, clouding the edges of her vision until all she could focus on was Fleur. Instead of fighting it, the brunette let herself slowly move forward, leaning closer to the blonde. She was close enough to see the gradients of blue in Fleur’s eyes. Whilst the outer ring of her iris was distinctly light blue, dazzlingly so, the area closer to the pupil was almost inky blue, dappled with silver that gave her an otherworldly quality. Her beauty was devastating, almost holy in its profundity, made even more apparent when directly under the woman’s gaze.

Their faces were now close enough that Hermione could feel Fleur’s shallow breaths on her cheeks. Her eyes had moved to the woman’s lips, a decision she didn’t remember making, but found herself reluctant to tear her gaze away. Fleur’s pillowy pink lips were parted slightly, her breathing stilted in the weighted silence as Hermione moved ever closer, the haze swarming over her, the smell of honeysuckle invading her, her thoughts sighing Fleur over and over.

The soft click of Fleur’s door swinging inwards snapped Hermione out of her trance, her heart pounding and thoughts reeling as she came to, feeling like she’d surfaced from a great body of water. Giving herself no time to think she all but leapt to her feet, wand raised defensively, her body shielding Fleur who still sat staunchly on the floor, shocked into stillness with a dazed look on her face.

“Your door! It’s open!” Hermione cried, leaning forwards to push her arm between the frame and the door to keep it open in case it changed its mind; she didn’t put it past Bill to have enchanted it to somehow lock itself again as a back up.

“Fleur! It worked! It’s open!” Hermione laughed in disbelief, turning back to Fleur who looked flustered, a delectable pink blush across her face. Hermione laughed once more and reached out her hands to pull the blonde up from the floor.

“How wonderful.” Fleur spoke without emotion as she let herself be pulled from the floor, her eyes still slightly glazed over, a circle of blue just visible around her blown pupils. “I guess I don’t need to stay at your place after all.”

Hermione felt her stomach lurch in disappointment at the realisation, her mind desperately coming up with a reason as to why Fleur still needed to stay the night. What if I just shut the door again? Hermione thought, embarrassed by the irrational thought, by the ache that she felt at the thought of sleeping alone in her bed.

“I guess not.” The brunette murmured sadly, feeling Fleur’s hands grip hers more tightly.

“Will I see you tomorrow? Will you apparate with me?” Fleur asked quietly, playing with Hermione’s fingers, her eyes focussed on the digits.

“Of course! Fleur I… I always want to see you. You can come over any time.” Hermione almost whispered, the earnest words slipping out without her say so, the honest declaration leaving her feeling uncomfortably exposed somehow.

Her worry dissipated when Fleur met her eyes in surprise, an expression of pure happiness taking over her face at Hermione’s words as she pulled the brunette into a hug, her arms circling around her shoulders before resting her chin on her head.

“And I want to buy one of those phones, like you have.” Fleur spoke suddenly, releasing Hermione enough to see her face. “Will you help me get one? Set it up? I’m not very good with Muggle devices, I usually make Papa do it for me.” Fleur shrugged, her arms still laced around Hermione’s neck, the brunette’s hands loosely clasped around Fleur’s waist.

“Sure! I have… an appointment after work on Thursdays though, but I’m free after, say 7?” Hermione noticed Fleur’s piqued curiosity and was grateful when the blonde didn’t pursue questioning her. Whilst Hermione wasn’t ashamed of her therapy sessions, she didn’t feel comfortable talking openly with Fleur about the nature of her appointments just yet.

Hermione circled back to Fleur’s request for help with a phone, saying “Although what would you use it for? Do you know many people with a phone?” The brunette raised an eyebrow in amusement at Fleur’s momentarily defensive look.

“I know you, who else could I possibly need to talk to, hm?” Fleur recovered quickly, wriggling as Hermione squeezed her side in jest. “Bien, go, leave me now. Enjoy your moment of peace before I have the means to annoy you constantly.”

“That implies that I’d give you my number, you’ll have to work harder than that, I don’t just give it to anyone you know.” Hermione felt the loss as soon as Fleur’s arms left her shoulders. The blonde seemed to feel it too, one of her hands brushing Hermione’s and resting there as she leant against the door frame.

“It’s good then that I am not just anyone , isn’t it.” Fleur’s voice was low and flirtatious, that infuriating smirk on her lips as Hermione gulped noisily, only able to nod in agreement.

“Go in, before the door changes its mind.” Hermione managed to say, trying to sound neutral despite her internal sadness at her now lonely evening.

Fleur groaned, pushing off the door frame and stepping closer to Hermione again. “Fine, but just know that I will miss my Hermione shaped pillow this evening. Will you miss your snoring French woman?”

Hermione thrilled at the term your , trying not to let it show, failing spectacularly as she felt warmth rise to her cheeks. She managed to nod, not trusting herself to speak.

“I’m only here if you get lonely.” Fleur said in Hermione’s ear, leaning forward to press her lips to Hermione’s cheeks twice on either side. “And one more for luck.” The blonde smirked as she planted the fifth dangerously close to the brunette’s lips, smirking at Hermione’s dazed appearance.

“Sleep well ‘Ermione.” Fleur said softly, watching the brunette walk backwards, stumbling over the now empty pizza boxes, Fleur’s chuckle echoing along the hallway as Hermione levitated the rubbish, steadying herself as she continued towards her apartment.

“Goodnight Fleur!” The brunette called, waving from her doorway and stealing one last look at the smiling blonde before entering her apartment.

Once inside Hermione breathed deeply with her back pressed against the door, her head spinning from the evening.

“I almost kissed Fleur.” She whispered, the sound of the rubbish clattering into the bin stopping her from spiralling. She muttered to herself as she walked through her apartment, flopping on the sofa, trying not to start panicking at her thoughtlessness.

As if on cue her phone began buzzing, a photo of Ginny with two beer bottle caps on her eyes appearing on the screen. She’d forgotten that she’d promised Ron that she would message her back, her evening with Fleur providing a most pleasant distraction.

The brunette sighed, answering the call, and immediately blurting out “I think I like Fleur.”