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Wherever You Go, That's Where I Am

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“Why don’t you look more excited? This is excellent news!” Ginny all but shouted down the phone to Hermione.

Hermione was grateful that she’d had the foresight of putting her headphones in, the wire swinging across her torso as she walked the last few streets towards her London apartment.

She looked at her phone screen as she walked, absentmindedly taking care to avoid the potholes in the all too familiar pavement. Ginny was currently running through Grimmauld place presumably in search of Harry to tell him the news too.

Hermione had been working at the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures since she had graduated from Hogwarts two years previously. It wasn’t necessarily her dream job, having started fairly low on the totem pole despite her Golden Trio status, but she was determined to instil change in the slightly more open minded wizarding world that had been growing with the demise of Voldemort. She’d eagerly accepted McGonagall’s offer of remotely finishing her schooling, which gave her the chance to intern at the Ministry for a year, mostly sitting in and taking notes for the department.

However, after having drafted a revision pertaining to the land rights of Centaurs and passing it onto some colleagues for feedback, her boss had got hold of the document and had been quietly impressed. Based on her revision alone, they had finally agreed to give Hermione a promotion to a more active role in the department, something she’d been vying for since her internship began.

Delighted with the news, her first instinct upon finishing for the day was to tell Harry and Ginny. Well, she’d actually called Harry first, but had been unsurprised when Ginny answered the phone. Whilst the two didn’t officially live together yet, Harry residing at Grimmauld Place with Ron whilst Ginny shared a place with some of her Quidditch teammates a few streets over, Ginny spent most of her evenings at her boyfriend’s house.

“Harry, Ron get out here! Hermione isn’t just the mail and coffee woman anymore!”

Hermione rolled her eyes, crossing the street to her apartment building before turning her attention back to the chaos on screen. She regretted ever introducing Ginny to Muggle technology, although at least Ginny knew how FaceTime worked; Ron still held the phone up to his ear like a middle aged man, or yelled into the screen with only his forehead visible.

As if on cue, Ron appeared on screen, his mop of red hair obscuring the camera.

“THAT’S GREAT NEWS HERMIONE!”

“I’ve told you Ron, you don’t have to shout you bloody idiot.”

Ginny reappeared, snatching the phone from Ron and holding it up so Hermione could clearly see them both, with Harry also coming into shot, blearily walking from his bedroom.

“Thanks guys, it’s been an upward struggle at times, I’m just glad that I might be able to start making some real changes now. The way “Creatures” are treated, classified and controlled is still beyond archaic.”

Hermione keyed in the access code to the apartment building, feeling the magical ward she’d placed on the building relinquish its hold to let her in.

Unconventionally, Hermione had opted to remain in a Muggle area of London when looking for a place of residence. She was a short tube ride away from Grimmauld place and she knew several excellent alleys in which she could apparate to and from her work, Diagon Alley and almost anywhere else she required.

Whilst she saw the benefit of living in a mostly witch and wizarding area, it was important to her to not distance herself from her Muggle upbringing. After all, if witches and wizards were to live in harmony and assimilate successfully into the Muggle world, why isolate oneself to wizarding only areas?

“Yeah yeah, we get it Hermione, you love shagging Gnomes.”

Harry snorted at Ron’s joke, whilst Ginny scowled at her brother and elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

“Ow! ‘Mione knows I’m joking, she’s more of a Hag kind of girl anyway.”

Seeing the lift was out of use, Hermione sighed and started towards the stairs, beginning the long climb to her top floor apartment, pointedly ignoring Ron’s comment, choosing to shoot him a dark look instead.

This reference to Hermione’s preference for the fairer sex was a common source of joking between the group. Hermione was shocked with how unbothered everyone – although mainly Ron – had been about her sexuality. After Ron and Hermione’s brief kiss in the Chamber of Secrets, Ron had half heartedly pursued Hermione until she told him of her sexuality. Whilst she’d always found boys inoffensive to look at, the thought of being intimate with one made her feel positively nauseous. Even dancing with Viktor Krum had been an uncomfortable ordeal at times, that was until she’d told him politely that she’d prefer it if they kept their relationship status firmly as a friendship.

It wasn’t until she’d kissed a girl on Ginny’s Quidditch team however at a very raucous house party, that the pieces had clicked into place and she realised she’d always harboured a preference for women. Retrospectively, Hermione and pretty much everyone else couldn’t believe they hadn’t realised sooner.

Ron had been hurt, but bounced back quickly, finding delight in dissecting every girl in their year to try and ascertain Hermione’s type. She’d lectured him on the pig-headedness of such a game, before admitting that Luna was the closest to her type whilst at Hogwarts. She’d always had a thing for blondes.

“Hags? Are you sure you’re not thinking of your dating history Ronald?”

This time is was Ron’s turn to look unimpressed, turning red to the tips of his ears.

“Hey, you’re technically a part of my dating history so I wouldn’t go there if I were you.”

“Ahh and is that why you’ve had little luck since? Where do you go when you’ve had the best?” Hermione replied, arching a playful eyebrow as Ron turned even redder, mumbling something about “bloody lesbians” before passing the phone back to Ginny.

Hermione finally rounded the last corner of the stairwell, facing the fire door that opened onto the corridor where her apartment was. She was slightly out of breath from her ascent and stopped in the corridor momentarily to catch her breath. As she panted, she noticed the flat two doors down from her had the door swung open, propped open by several large removal boxes.

“Right so when are we celebrating Hermione? Party at yours, mine or Grimmauld?”

Ginny had settled on Harry’s bed, with Harry tossing a Quaffle in the air behind her, catching it before returning it into the air. Hermione ignored the half scrawled upon papers that she spotted strewn across his bed. Whilst Harry was doing well in his Auror training, his drive to complete his homework was much the same as when they were at school, which is to say, very low.

“Did someone say party?”

Ron had returned, still with a pinkish tinge to his complexion.

Hermione approached her door, turning the key but not before glancing back at the boxes in the hallway. She could hear muted voices coming from inside the neighbouring apartment but couldn’t see anyone due to the angle of the half closed door.

“Looks like someone is moving into Mrs. Hague’s apartment,” she mused entering her own apartment, feeling the wards around her apartment envelope her as she closed the door behind her.

“Is she the old bat that smells like cats and gone off milk?”

“That’s the one, such a lovely woman. I’d heard she’d died but didn’t know when the funeral was. I did leave flowers by the door though. That’s a fast replacement, I wonder what the new neighbour will be like?”

Entering the flat, Hermione was greeted by a mewling Crookshanks who she stroked idly as she placed her blazer and work bag on the coat hooks next to the door and removed her boots.

“Let’s hope it’s a fit bird!” exclaimed Ron, roughly joining Ginny and Harry on Harry’s bed, causing the bed to bounce with his effort, much to Ginny’s annoyance.

Hermione rolled her eyes again. “Yes, because that’s the only redeeming quality I want in a neighbour; must be a fit woman.”

Although playing it nonchalant, Hermione had actually been surprisingly saddened when she’d heard of the old woman’s passing. When Hermione first moved in Mrs Hague was the first person to introduce herself, cooing over Crookshanks in the doorway. Upon finding out that Hermione was an avid reader, she often dropped books round that she thought Hermione might like and often marvelled over Hermione’s extensive collection of vinyl, many of which she had managed to retrieve from her parents house after the war.

This line of thought stung Hermione and she shook her head to try and ground herself, remembering the breathing technique that her therapist taught her to stave off intrusive thoughts and overwhelming flashbacks.

“’Mione? You still there?”

Ron had leaned forward, his forehead visible once more.

“Yes Ron. You know what, a party does sound good. Let’s keep it small though, we’ll have it here to prevent Ginny from inviting the whole of wizarding London like she did at the last one at Grimmauld.”

“Are you feeling alright? Hermione Granger agreeing to an impromptu party at her own apartment?”

“Don’t push it Ginny,” Hermione warned, glancing around her apartment to check the general cleanliness of the place. As always, it was neat, the only objects out of place being books littered around on counters and the coffee table, and a few records stacked next to the turntable.

“Fine, we’ll bring the booze and the guests, you provide the snacks? We’ll be over in say, an hour?”

Ginny glanced at Harry and Ron to gain their agreement, before the trio turned back to Hermione on the phone.

“Sounds great, move quickly before I change my mind.”

Springing into action, the trio at Grimmauld began moving erratically.

“Okay! See you in an hour! Love you, congratulations again!”

“Go!” Hermione laughed, spotting Ron in a state of half undress just as the call disconnected.

Finally left alone with her own thoughts, Hermione continued scratching behind Crookshanks’s ears, listening to him purr contentedly at her ministrations.

Her apartment was by no means grand, but it was undoubtedly hers. The design was modern but littered with Victorian details. It had a mostly open plan layout, the hallway making way to a spacious living, kitchen and dining room, modestly furnished with a second hand walnut table and chairs taking up the majority of the dining room area. Despite being fair in size, the apartment had high ceilings and a vast bay window that Hermione had of course transformed into the perfect reading ledge, offering plenty of light and space.

However the star of her apartment had to be the grand oak bookcase, that magically expanded whenever Hermione required more space to place her books, which was frequently. She’d even managed to enchant the bookcase to order the books by subject and alphabetically by surname of the author within that subject.

The bookcase stood to one side of the entryway to Hermione’s room. The other side was flanked by Hermione’s ever growing vinyl collection, with her parents old turntable sat atop the 70’s unit. It was another muggle habit that she’d picked up following the war. Some of her fondest memories of her parents were evenings spent selecting a record to put on whilst they sat and read independently, scattered around the living room as a family. Sometimes they would dance; she remembers dancing on her parents feet when she must’ve been around four, her Mum holding one hand and her Dad the other, swaying her gently to Etta James or Billie Holiday. It didn’t matter what the music was, just that they enjoyed it together.

When she returned to her parents house after the war, she expected it to be ransacked by Death Eaters, her parents possessions destroyed. What she found however was far more eerie; it was exactly the same. Everything untouched, forgotten by her parents. Much like she was.

In a daze, she’d packed what she thought she wanted and sent it to Grimmauld place, where Harry had set a room aside for her as a temporary measure. She’d almost passed the record player by, until her eyes fell upon the record on the turntable. It was an old Billie Holiday, the needle crackling on the record, still spinning mutely. With an ache in her heart, she took them all.

Deciding to prepare a selection of pre-approved vinyl later, Hermione headed on through to the bedroom, picked up some discarded clothing and tossed it in the washing basket before stopping to check her reflection in the large wall mirror.

Although the war had been over for a good two years now, the after effects still lingered on her face. She never got used to her changed reflection. Her jawline and cheekbones were more pronounced with age and her time on the run, her softer edges had become harder, the dark rings under her eyes never fully left her; yet her warm, honey eyes still held a tenderness, something that she had refused to let the war take from her. She pondered her face with the wary gaze of a stranger, afraid of seeing that flat, hollow look that she sported in the year following the Battle for Hogwarts.

With a shaky intake of breath, Hermione allowed herself to slowly remove her t-shirt, peeling back the hem before yanking it over her head. Her torso bore the unmistakable signs of Bellatrix’s handiwork. It had taken her the better part of a year to be comfortable enough with herself to stand in front of a mirror without being repulsed, sickened by what she saw. Slowly, she traced the white, puckered scars that remained, building herself up to stare at that disgusting word that was still carved into her skin; the one that would never truly heal, would never let her forget.

She faltered, her hand ghosting over where the word lay. She couldn’t bring herself to do it, not today. She had days like this, days where it was simply too much, where it was such an impossibility, the weight of the word and what it represented too much to bear.

Sighing, Hermione moved her eyes back up to meet her own in the mirror. She saw her own fear, anger and agony reflected back. She steeled her gaze, watching the swirling honey of her eyes return as her fearful pupils retreated as she once again focussed on her breathing. Four in, hold for four, out for eight. She repeated one of her many calming mantras to herself, breathing “my scars do not show weakness, but strength” to herself over and over until the words lost meaning entirely.

Tilting her chin with resolve, she finally turned from the mirror, wrenching open her wardrobe to assess her clothing options. She was determined not to let the past catch up with her future tonight.

 

 

********

 

 

“Whose stupid idea was it to have a party anyway?” Hermione grumbled from behind a plastic cup, swirling with whatever concoction Ron had decided to make.

Her warning to keep the party “small” had been decidedly ignored by Ginny, Harry and Ron. Her apartment was currently swelling with the amount of people that milled around, a lot of whom she was sure she’d never seen before.

“Oh lighten up Hermione, I only invited half the Quidditch team for you, to you know, keep it quiet!”

Ginny at least had the good grace to blush when Hermione turned her death stare on her.

“Honestly Ginny I swear I just ran into Adrian Pucey, that’s how bizarre your guest list is.”

Ginny guffawed loudly, slapping Hermione on the back and sloshing her own drink slightly in the process.

“Don’t be so dramatic, you know loads of people here! Look, there’s Luna, your dream girl”

Turning as red as a Weasley, Hermione punched Ginny’s arm briskly.

“Are you ever going to let that one go? I say I prefer blondes and suddenly Luna is my soulmate.”

“That’s very flattering Hermione, but I’m not into girls. And I believe your soul is already spoken for.” Luna breezed as she walked into the kitchen, swatting the air around Hermione’s bushy brown hair.

Hermione groaned loudly, once again punching Ginny’s arm.

Luna replenished her own drink from the foaming keg of butterbeer, handing one to Hermione and Ginny in turn.

“So speaking of your love life Hermione…” Ginny started, leaning back against the kitchen counter with a suggestive wiggle of her eyebrows.

“Merlin not this again, I thought project ‘Get Hermione Laid’ had been abandoned after you tried to set me up with that woman that works behind the bar in The Three Dragons.”

Hermione scowled into her drink, recalling the failed date in which she had got rip roaringly drunk to try and counteract her nerves and subsequently ended up spewing on the floor of a very crowded wizarding bar. She’d ended up all over Witch Weekly courtesy of Rita Skeeter and her poisonous quill, which was more than enough of a reason to lay low on the dating scene for a while.

“C’mon, it’s not my fault that you’re hopeless with women, and at least you only got barred from the place for a month! That’s a win in my books.” Ginny started rifling round in Hermione’s cupboards, finding some half full bottles of Muggle alcohol, something Ginny had become quite partial to after trying absinthe for the first time.

“Plus, you can hardly let Ron loose on Tinder and think that we’d let you get away with becoming some sort of nun. Honestly, you’d think that he’d remember how to do a Silencing Charm when he brings them home, can you imagine the drama if me and Ginny forgot?” Harry joined the three women in the kitchen, his eyes looking slightly glazed and his shirt stained with drops of butterbeer.

Hermione chuckled to herself, remembering fondly her afternoon spent with Ron trying to introduce him to the Muggle dating app. Despite his tendency to speak before thinking and his stunted emotional range, Hermione couldn’t help but dote on him. It helped that she found his cluelessness and wonder when it came to Muggle technology endearing, watching his face light up as he swiped left and right (mostly right because it was Ron after all).

On a deeper level, she knew that Ron had grown tired of the sometimes small dating pool that was the London wizarding community. Anonymity was something that herself, Harry and Ron simply weren’t afforded anymore, and she knew herself how draining it could be to sit opposite someone who already knew so much about you, or thought they knew so much; to be forced to talk about truly traumatising and painful memories with someone who didn’t really want to know about you, but rather the you they read about in The Daily Prophet or Witch Weekly. At least with Muggles, you had the freedom of obscurity, they didn’t know you from the next person on Tinder.

She’d been on a few dates herself, both with Muggles and witches over the course of the past two years, but nothing ever seemed to come of them. She dated Ariana, the woman from Ginny’s Quidditch team for a month or two, before they parted ways, ending on friendly terms. They agreed that there was no real spark, despite having pleasant enough sex, Hermione was looking for something like she read in Muggle romance books; someone to truly set her soul alight.

Realising she hadn’t replied to Harry, having gotten lost in her thoughts, she spoke.

“I’m hardly a nun! It’s just difficult finding someone who either hasn’t read my entire life history in a book or conversely doesn’t know magic exists. Have you ever tried explaining to a Muggle that you’re hoping to kiss and potentially more, that you went to a mysterious boarding school in Scotland, know little in the way of the latest Muggle popular culture and can’t account for the emotional trauma of a war that in their eyes, never existed?”

Despite her harsh words, Hermione’s tone was light. This didn’t stop Harry from wincing slightly. Whilst Hermione was far more comfortable talking about their collective trauma due to her sessions with a wizarding therapist, Harry was still firmly of the belief that he had to unpack his grief alone. If it wasn’t spoken about, then he didn’t have to process all that was lost in the war. Old habits and that.

Ginny glanced sideways at Harry, reaching out a comforting hand tentatively to put on the back of his neck, brushing his damp hair softly.

“Well what happened with Ariana? She’s here you know, she was asking about you over by the levitating beer pong table.” Luna asked, motioning towards the dining room with her head.

Hermione’s eyes went wide. “She’s over by the what?!” she exclaimed

Marching briskly out of the kitchen, Hermione entered the throng of people crowded around her dining table. Well, what was her dining table.

The table currently housed plastic cups half full with some swirling glittery green liquid that bubbled and hissed as small ping pong balls were directed into them. It smelt sharply of apples and alcohol.

A hand reached out and grabbed Hermione’s arm gently, before she could open her mouth to scold the players, urging them to be more careful with her prized walnut table.

Her blazing honey eyes met Ron’s soft blue eyes, slightly drooping as he smiled lopsidedly at Hermione.

“S’alright ‘Mione, I’ve told them that if there’s even a splash mark on it that I’d hex them to next week.”

Her anger left her body in a huff, as Ron slung his arm affectionately around her shoulders.

“C’mon, let’s go and pick some music, whoever chose this has clearly never been to a party.”

Hermione allowed herself to be guided by Ron over to the turntable, where he crouched down and began scanning her albums with a familiarity that brought a smile to her lips.

When Ron had pulled out his choice - Green Day, one of the few Muggle bands he had warmed to – and under the watchful eye of Hermione had carefully dropped the needle as she’d shown him previously, Hermione allowed herself to be swept up into conversation with Dean Thomas and Seamus who were passionately discussing ways in which Muggle football could be improved with magic.

With a warm buzz beginning to hit her head as the alcohol seeped into her bloodstream, Hermione felt herself lean into the celebration. She’d finally been given a promotion that would allow her to effect real change in the wizarding world, she was surrounded by her friends – and acquaintances, after all, she genuinely had no idea who a lot of the people currently stood in her apartment were – and felt content seeing everyone she cared about in one room, laughing.

A time later, she was dancing with Harry, watching his arms flail around madly and trying to avoid his wayward feet as they stomped dangerously close to hers, when she heard an incessant rap at the door over the thrum of the music. This pounding was followed closely by a familiar warmth emanating from her wand, the warmth that came whenever someone she didn’t recognise was at the edge of her wards, warning her of a potential intruder.

“I’ll get it” she heard Ginny yell in a slur, watching as a streak of flaming red hair battled through the crowd to Hermione’s front door.

Hermione craned her head to try and spot the visitor, but couldn’t see much beyond Harry’s mop of jet black hair thrashing to and fro to the music.

“I’ll be back in a sec.” she yelled in Harry’s ear in order to be heard.

Pushing her way through the crowd painfully slowly, Hermione reached the hallway just as Ginny slammed the door, turning to face Hermione with a huff and a scowl on her face.

“Who was it?” Hermione questioned, being dragged by Ginny back down the hallway and into the kitchen.

“Honestly why are the French so rude? Is it a prerequisite or something? “Must be a snappy snob to acquire French residency”,” Ginny grabbed the absinthe from the counter and sloshed some into a shot glass for herself, before doing the same for Hermione.

“The French? What are you talking about Ginny, who was it?”

Ginny put the shot to her lips, bracing herself before sharply knocking the liquid back. “Looks like we know who your new neighbour is now; it’s bloody Phlegm!”

Hermione balked, her cheeks immediately becoming flushed.

“What?! As in Fleur Delacour?” she all but shrieked.

She hadn’t seen Fleur in… she couldn’t even think how long, not properly anyway. Not long after the war had ended, her and Bill had swiftly and quietly divorced. For a while, the reasons were kept fairly hush, with Molly and Arthur refusing to even mention Fleur’s name. From snippets of conversations that Hermione had had with Ginny and even the occasional chat with Bill when she visited The Burrow, Hermione had surmised that it was mutual, but still didn’t know the exact reasoning behind it.

Not that she had thought of asking particularly. Her and Fleur had never been close, only crossing paths a handful of times during the Triwizard Tournament in her fourth year. She hadn’t warmed to the girl in the slightest; she was constantly complaining about the cold, the food, the grounds, basically anything that could be complained about was. The thrall that surrounded the woman also irked her to no end. She abhorred the way it turned the male population into drooling idiots.

It didn’t help that Fleur could often be found in Hermione’s sanctuary, the Hogwarts library. She used to sit a few tables down from Hermione, surrounded by a group of bumbling, stuttering boys boasting about their fictional achievements. It made it nearly impossible to concentrate on her homework, for which she had always blamed Fleur. Their eyes would meet occasionally and Hermione always became curiously warm when she found Fleur’s magnetic eyes appraising her. Retrospectively, Hermione had attributed much of her dislike of Fleur to her own attraction to the girl. Her confusion around her sexuality had manifested into a kind of disdain towards Fleur, for which Hermione presently felt ashamed and regretful for.

With Fleur returning to Beauxbatons at the end of the year, Hermione could return to her studies and attempt to cram her burgeoning feelings for women firmly into a 'Do Not Open' box in her brain.

Their next encounter had been at Fleur and Bill’s wedding, which of course ended catastrophically, with The Burrow being torched to the ground and herself, Harry and Ron having to flee as the Death Eaters arrived. Herself and Fleur had been amicable, chatting idly about books they’d both read recently. Fleur was a marvellous conversationalist, the woman could be accused of many character flaws, but her intelligence was not one of these.

Hermione had at one point taken pity on the woman, who often stood to the side at her own wedding, wandering alone on the fringes of Bill’s friends and family. It must’ve been hard, not having any of her own family there for the celebrations. Visa’s were hard to come by at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a war, so Hermione in a fit of uncharacteristic spontaneity had asked Fleur to dance.

Whilst she had always made her dislike of Fleur evident as a fifteen year old, confused and repressed lesbian, she was never blind; Fleur was and always had been, nothing short of stunning. Thinking back, Hermione was surprised at how easily she could recall the softness of Fleur’s hand as it held hers as they danced, the other clasped firmly on her shoulder, squeezing tightly as Hermione twirled her around the dance floor. Her hair was almost silver, and glowed with magic under the festoon lights and of course her captivatingly clear, ice blue eyes were enthralling. Hermione remembered being unable to break eye contact with the woman for the entirety of the dance, allowing herself to be pulled into those depths, desperately seeking something, but what she didn’t know.

She could feel the warmth radiating off of Fleur’s supple yet lithe frame that moved almost instinctively, with a grace that seemed innate to the woman. As the gentle scent of honeysuckle and something distinctly Fleur had breezed into Hermione’s nostrils, she had felt her eyes threaten to flutter shut and she’d had to stop herself from bringing the woman closer into her to inhale more deeply. Hermione had found herself clutching the other woman’s hip unconsciously, allowing her thumb to ripple over the silk of Fleurs dress. Fleurs wedding dress, she’d reminded herself. Her wedding dress that she wore on her wedding day as she’d married her good friend Bill.

After their dance had ended Hermione recalled feeling oddly drawn to the woman, finding her gaze often returning to hers across the crowded marquee, only to find Fleur already looking at her inquisitively, with an odd challenge twinkling in her eyes, much like they had three years prior in the Hogwarts library. She’d felt a warm blush rise on her face, snapping her gaze to her champagne flute, forcing herself not to glance back over at the woman and finding this task quite challenging.

Shell Cottage had been the next time Hermione had met Fleur again, much of which Hermione had forgotten. Some purposefully, much of it involuntarily. Her memory of being on the beach was hazy to say the least. She remembers the gentle but persistent whoosing of the waves crashing on the shore and the smell of salt in the air before that same honeysuckle scent had hit her and she’d been aware of strong but careful arms lifting her.

The days had passed by in blurs, her mind slipping in and out of consciousness. She remembered in sensations, recalling the smell of honeysuckle always in the air, clinging to the sheets of the bed in which she lay bleeding after Bellatrix’s work. Fleur’s nimble hands brushed over her arms, her torso, applying cooling salves, her body tingling with Veela magic. She heard Fleur speaking softly, sometimes in French, sometimes in English and often in a language Hermione didn’t recognise; presumably in Veela. When she managed to open her heavy eyelids, she’d often see Fleur hunched over a cauldron, deftly dropping ingredients in with a determined look on her face, her brow furrowed in concentration. Sometimes, when Hermione would wake shaking from the after effects of the Cruciatus Curse combined with extremely vivid night terrors of Bellatrix standing over her maniacally wielding that cursed knife, she’d be met with the sight of Fleur’s impossibly blue eyes, filled with concern.

She’d let herself be held by Fleur, too overtaken by panic to fight or question the comfort she felt when Fleur would hold her body tightly, stroking her bushy hair and speaking in hushed tones, repeating “It’s just a nightmare ma belle, just a nightmare, you are safe, I have you.”

Once her health was restored to the best of Fleurs abilities again, her, Harry and Ron had left in a hurry, spurred on by the need to find the Horcrux stored in Bellatrix’s vault. She hadn’t had a chance to give Fleur her thanks, or to try and convey or put into words the immense gratitude she felt for the woman. Fleur had saved her life, and for that, she would be eternally indebted to her.

Following this, she’d only ever crossed paths with the woman when she made her infrequent trips to Gringotts, where Fleur still worked as a curse breaker. Hermione found a strange kinship with Bill following the war. They weren’t exactly best friends, but when Hermione began to research how to restore her parents memories - an ongoing task – Bill offered his unrequited support, imparting any and all knowledge he had, even asking around and putting Hermione in contact with anyone he thought may be of help to her.

But she hadn’t ever found the right time, or the right words to say to the French witch. What do you say to someone to whom you owe your life? Hermione was determined on keeping their interactions to quick hello’s or passing nods whenever she saw her, before effectively fleeing the bank. Most importantly, she never allowed her eyes to linger, permitting herself to quick glances to avoid her honey eyes giving away her conflicted emotions.

And now apparently Fleur lived all of two doors down. And had knocked on her door.

“What did she want?!” Hermione exclaimed, snapped back to the present day by Ginny placing another shot in front of her.

Ginny gestured for Hermione to drink, which she did dutifully.

“The stuck up cow wanted us to turn the music down! Said she “couldn’t ‘ear herzelf zink” over the music, what a self-righteous piece of work!” Ginny mimicked a French accent badly, pulling a snooty face in an attempt to impersonate Fleur. Ginny had not warmed to Fleur with time like Hermione had.

“Well what did you say? Did you invite her in? Is she here?” Hermione began to panic, suddenly expecting the blonde to appear through the throng of drunk witches and wizards.

“Oh yeah, because of course the best thing to do when someone is complaining about the noise is to ask them to come in, sounds like a right laugh! That wouldn’t kill the fun at all.” Ginny snarked, earning a glare from Hermione.

“I told her to do one and that we were celebrating your promotion.”

“Ginny! You can’t say that to her, she’s my neighbour! I have to live with the consequences of pissing her off, not you!”

“It’s Phlegm, she’s always pissed off from what I hear.”

Hermione tried to picture Fleur at her door, tried to conjure to mind her blue eyes ablaze with anger. She flushed furiously at the strangely appealing image she’d fabricated.

“I’m going to apologise.” Hermione replied, draining the remains of the latest drink Ginny had poured her.

She made it two steps before stumbling slightly, swaying into the kitchen counter.

“Tomorrow. I’m going to apologise tomorrow” she finished, hearing a steady slur to her words as she spoke.

Ginny laughed at Hermione’s drunken display and laced her arm together with Hermione’s.

“Sounds like a plan my friend, but for tonight, we drink!” Ginny yelled, throwing her arms into the air, earning a resounding cheer from the crowd.

“And hey, at least you got your wish, Mrs Hague is out and a fit woman is in. You do like blondes, don’t you?” Ginny whispered into Hermione’s ear, earning herself a sharp jab in the ribs.

“Shut up, lets play levitating beer pong.” And with that the pair approached Harry, Ron and Luna at the oak dining table.

Chapter Text

Hermione awoke suddenly, squinting in the daylight that was streaming through the small crack in the curtains from where she’d drunkenly tried to draw them closed.

She sat up gingerly, immediately wincing as her head started pounding. She didn’t recall getting to bed the night before, but was grateful that even in her drunken state she’d managed to pull on her pyjamas consisting of an old band t shirt and some old boxers of Ron’s.

“I’m dying.”

A voice next to her declared, making Hermione scramble off the bed, startled.

“Oh Ginny, it’s just you.” She said as, a curtain of tangled bright red hair appeared from under the duvet.

“And me!” Harry joined, sitting up and immediately clutching his forehead, much like Hermione had.

“Me too.”

Ron’s head also appeared, sticking out of the foot of the bed.

“God it smells like a brewery in here, I can feel absinthe seeping out of me.” Ginny all but groaned, slowly trying to clamber out of the crowded bed, kicking Ron in the process.

Hermione couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of her best friends crammed into her king size bed. She immediately regretted laughing, when the sound cut through her persistent headache.

“I’ve got some Hangover Potion stored in the kitchen, I’ll go grab it if one of you starts on the coffee, I need a constant stream of liquids today.”

She took the resounding groans from the trio before her as a yes and began walking towards her kitchen.

As she left the bedroom, she began mumbling some cleaning spells she’d been taught by Molly after Ron had hosted a party at The Burrow whilst Arthur and Molly went to visit Charlie in Romania. If there were worse sounds to hear when hungover than Molly Weasley’s shrill shouting she had yet to come across them. It had been a small miracle that she hadn’t made them clean everything up the Muggle way, taking pity on Hermione and Harry who she was more sympathetic towards than her own children at times.

Avoiding the whizzing of enchanted debris and plastic cups flying into the bin and the mop that had already begun wiping the wooden floorboards of the apartment, Hermione battled her way to the kitchen, rummaging around for her store of Hangover Potions she had previously batch prepared for instances just as this.

Crookshanks meowed loudly, twirling around her legs asking for food, to which she complied and fussed his ginger head for good measure.

“Morning Hermione!”

Hermione gasped as Luna appeared from the hallway.

“Luna! I thought you’d gone home?”

The blonde woman looked surprisingly fresh considering she’d been playing levitating beer pong for the vast majority of the night.

“No no, I got tired from all the Nargles floating around and decided to lay down for a while.”

Hermione was too hungover for this.

“Lay down where?”

“Oh, just in the hallway under some coats, it was surprisingly cosy.”

Hermione looked at the woman, fighting back the comment that she had a sofa she could’ve slept on that was fighting its way past her lips, before she decided it wasn’t worth it.

“Right. Hangover Potion?” she asked, holding out one of the several vials she’d managed to find behind some Healing Potions, Dittany and Muggle solutions such as simple Paracetamol and Ibuprofen.

“Oh no thank you, I don’t seem to get hangovers!” The girl breezed cheerfully.

“Yeah me neither.” Ginny joked, stepping into the kitchen looking frightfully pale even for her, and promptly filled up the kettle and set it to boil.

“You know we have magic, right Ginny? We can boil that right now?”

Ginny had perched herself on the kitchen counter, dropping her head into her hands as she swiftly knocked back the Hangover Potion that Hermione had shoved in her hand.

“I wouldn’t even want to attempt Lumos in this state, I’d end up blowing up your apartment or setting fire to myself. Plus fuck knows where my wand is and I really would burn the place down if I tried wandless magic right now.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at Ginny’s dramatics, taking the stopper out of her own potion and gulping it in one.

She immediately felt the effects of the potion as it worked to dull her headache, coursing through her and leaving her feeling suitably replenished.

“So, debrief. Who did what last night, or rather, who did who?”

At Ginny’s question, Hermione almost regretted giving her the potion. She should’ve let her suffer for longer, maybe that way she’d have some peace this morning.

“Well it looks like you were all very cosy in the bed this morning.” Luna quipped, presumably unaware of the rather lewd implications of her words.

“Ew Luna, Ron is literally my brother.”

“And I’d rather kiss a Plimpy than any of these three.” Hermione shot back. Whilst her hangover had abated, she was still feeling tired and achey from the dancing and levitating beer pong the night before, which did nothing to improve her mood.

Ginny swung herself off the counter, landing in front of an already irritated Hermione.

“Oh that’s a fun game! Fuck, Marry or Kill; Me, Harry and Ron, GO!”

“Easy. I’d fuck you, marry Harry and kill Ron. Sorry Ron, no offence, I’ve just seen the state of your room at Grimmauld and know that I couldn’t live in those conditions.”

Ron lifted his head from where he was currently resting it on the now clean dining room table.

“None taken ‘Mione, I’d marry Harry over me too.”

Taking pity on the tired looking man, Hermione walked over to pass him a steaming black coffee, placing it carefully on a coaster. She really was precious about the table.

“Well now that we’ve established that Hermione wants to fuck me, can we talk about the elephant in the room?”

Hermione slunk into the chair next to Ron, stroking his tangled morning hair fondly. She shot Ginny a warning look, one that hopefully conveyed that whilst she may not be hungover anymore, she certainly wasn’t in the mood for being wound up.

“There’s no elephants in here silly, just Nargles!” Luna chirped, also joining Hermione, Ron and Ginny at the table.

“Not literally Luna, it’s a Muggle saying. And anyway pedanticism aside, can we talk about the fact that Phelgm lives two doors down from Hermione now?”

Hermione’s eyes widened as snippets of the night before came back to her. She’d been so preoccupied by her need to cure her hangover that she’d almost forgotten that a disgruntled Fleur had complained of the noise. Because Fleur now lived two doors down. Because she’d just moved into her apartment block.

“What? How do you know Fleur lives there?” Harry had been too engrossed in his ‘dancing’ to even register that someone had knocked on the door the night prior.

“Wait did we forget to do a Silencing Charm?” Ron mumbled, his head still on the table.

Ginny looked at her older brother’s mop of hair in disbelief.

“No, we’re just all famous for being shit at magic. Of course we forgot you idiot, I was meant to do it as soon as we arrived but I got caught up teasing Hermione about that time when she was banging onto Ariana about a Quidditch team that I’d made up as a joke.”

Ginny guffawed to herself, attempting to bite back her laughter when she saw Hermione’s unimpressed expression.

Clearing her throat, Ginny turned to Harry to answer his question.

“She’s moved into Mrs. Hague’s old place, she practically barged the door down like a battering ram, demanding we turn the music down or she’d kill us!” Ginny said, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

“Seriously? She said that?!” Ron took the bait as always; he was regularly just a step behind his fiery sister’s jokes.

“Of course she didn’t Ron, your sister is just being dramatic as always.”

Ginny laughed at Ron’s blush and dodged his half hearted attempt to hit her arm playfully.

“Okay so maybe she didn’t threaten to kill us, but she was massively pissed off. I would’ve been scared if it wasn’t so funny to see. So when are you going over to apologise Hermione?” Ginny asked, with a faux innocent look on her face as she brought her coffee cup up to her lips, blowing on it gently before slurping loudly.

Hermione nearly choked on the mouthful of coffee she had just taken. In a fit of courage the night before, she had declared she would go over and apologise today. However, in the cold light of day she could think of nothing worse than her first proper conversation with Fleur being about the noise level at her party.

“God not to be dramatic like you Ginny, but I’d rather have a shot of absinthe than go over. Was she really annoyed?” Hermione bit her lip nervously, trying to quell that strange sense of anticipation that she got at the thought of Fleur being angry. She’d seen the woman’s anger several times at Hogwarts, her notorious Veela temper crackling through the Great Hall as she turned down drooling boy after boy, but Hermione had never been on the receiving end of it. There was something thrilling about eliciting any kind of passionate response from Fleur, which Hermione knew made little sense, but she couldn’t stop her stomach from flipping delightfully at the image of those icy blue eyes turned on her with intensity. Even if it was in intense anger.

Ginny had finished her first mug of coffee and used Harry’s wand to summon the still hot kettle over to her now empty cup, a teaspoon of instant coffee following suit.

“Well I mean she was hardly overjoyed, would you be? If the first night of moving into your new place Mrs. Hague had been having a rager would you have been delighted?”

Ron pulled Hermione’s hand from his hair as he sat up slowly, squeezing it lightly and smiling at her before placing it on the table.

“I say bring back Mrs. Hague, at least she never complained about the noise.”

Ginny stared at Ron with disbelief.

“She’s dead Ron, have some respect! Plus the old bat was deaf, of course she didn’t complain!”

Harry’s stomach growled loudly, interrupting what could easily escalate into a Weasley bickering match.

“Have you got anything to eat Hermione, I’m ravenous.”

“Oh I’m sorry Harry, I didn’t realise this was a B&B, how stupid of me!”

Ginny cackled loudly at the sheepish look on her boyfriend’s face.

“You have your own house you know.” Hermione shot back. Whilst she loved her friends dearly their presence was beginning to grate on her. It didn’t help that the thought of facing Fleur was now making her stomach flutter sickeningly, and no longer in a pleasant way.

Luna stood from the table, stretching like a cat in the sun.

“I’m hungry too, there’s a cute muggle pastry shop just round the corner from here. Fancy grabbing some before heading home?”

Harry all but leapt from his chair, nearly knocking it over in his hurry at the promise of food.

“Absolutely. Right, must go Hermione, great party and congratulations again on the promotion, you’re going to be amazing.” Harry smiled at her warmly, his voice sincere as he hugged Hermione in her chair, kissing her cheek in farewell.

After scrambling around the apartment to find their discarded coats, wands and any other belongings that were casualties of the night before, Hermione walked her friends to the door, giving each of them a hug in turn and receiving another chorus of thank you’s and congratulations.

Ginny pulled Hermione in for a big hug, lifting her feet off the ground, making Hermione laugh earnestly.

“Congratulations you massive know it all, you’ll be brilliant. Give the old purists hell. And of course go and give Phlegm hell too.”

Hermione groaned at the reminder, attempting to wriggle free from Ginny’s grip.

“And maybe brush your teeth and shower before you go over, you positively reek.”

Ginny wrenched open the apartment door, dodging Hermione’s attempted punch to her arm.

“Let me know how it goes! Pray for Hermione!” Ginny yelled, snickering the whole way down the corridor to the now working elevator.

“Bye, hate you all!” Hermione shout whispered, conscious of making too much noise lest she further annoy her new neighbour.

Her friends laughter receded as they entered the lift and Hermione shut the apartment door behind her, facing her now sparkling clean apartment.

She sniffed her old and worn The Cranberries t shirt experimentally and pulled back at the scent that filled her nostrils.

“Ginny was right,” she muttered, “shower first, apologise later.”

 

 

*****

 

 

After having a brisk but thorough shower, wolfing down some toast and brushing her teeth, Hermione was currently putting off the inevitable conversation that she needed to have with Fleur.

She’d been procrastinating, moving newspapers around, straightening already tidy knick knacks and watering her plants. She’d even considered repotting her plants, a task she knew would kill a lot of time.

There hadn’t been a sound outside of her apartment. She’d hoped that perhaps she’d hear the slam of a door that might alert her to Fleur leaving her apartment, giving her a reason to not go over.

Hermione shook her head forcefully, trying to quell the annoying voice in her head which was conveniently making excuses as to why she couldn't possibly go and apologise to the French witch. The incredibly beautiful, insanely angry and extremely blonde-and-very-much-Hermione’s-type witch.

“For God’s sake woman, you’re a Gryffindor, pull yourself together!” she scolded herself, moving resolutely towards her bedroom to find some more suitable clothes than her current state of pyjamas. Clean pyjamas, but pyjamas nonetheless.

After discarding what seemed like half of her wardrobe, Hermione settled on something casual. She didn’t want to appear to care too much about what Fleur thought of her appearance. Because she didn’t care, of course, why would she care?

Donning her favourite pair of blue jeans, a white Cocteau Twins t shirt that once belonged to her Dad in what he called his “indie” era, and hastily shoving on her battered converse, Hermione walked back through her apartment, stopping short in her living room. It felt like she was forgetting something. A gift, Hermione thought.

“I should bring Fleur a gift, something as a housewarming slash ‘I’m Sorry I Had A Huge Party and Kept You Awake All Night’ gift.” She muttered to herself.

Scanning the apartment for inspiration, her eyes landed on a particularly riveting book that she’d recently read on some of the lesser known female Duellers that had been lost to history until recently. She recalled that Fleur excelled in Charms; she was a Curse Breaker at Gringotts after all.

“Something else…” Hermione pondered. Whilst a book was the perfect gift for Hermione, she highly doubted that Fleur was as much of a self-confessed bookworm. She didn’t want to imply that Fleur was a know it all or boring, something she often thought about her own proclivity to bury her head in book after book.

“Flowers, or a plant?” Despite having little interest in botany or plants in general growing up - or at Hogwarts for that matter – Hermione had amassed some fairly impressive exotic plants thanks to Luna. It turned out the spaced out witch had a natural talent for propagating extremely temperamental plants.

Hermione selected a plant that Luna claimed changed colour according to the mood of the owner. Personally, Hermione believed the plant changed colour when it wanted watering or more sun, as according to the plant she was most often feeling ‘red’ whatever that meant.

“That’ll do.”

Steeling herself, book under her arm and strange mood plant in her hand, she made her way from the living room, down the hallway to her front door, wrenching it open before she had time to second guess herself or overthink.

With shaking hands, Hermione locked her door and began the walk to Fleur’s apartment.

Her breath was becoming shallow and more rapid the closer she got to the woman’s door and she could hear her heart pounding in her chest, the whoosh of blood rushing to her ears. This is ridiculous, Hermione thought, attempting to breathe steadily. She’s just a woman, just a very attractive woman, nothing to freak out about.

She stood at the door, her hand raised to knock. She practiced her breathing technique, counting four seconds in, holding for four before letting it out for eight counts.

God what if she can hear me breathing at her door like a stalker, Hermione thought, suddenly aware that her palms were sweating.

With one last shaking breath, Hermione moved her raised fist and knocked on the door, praying her knock would go unanswered.

She had no such luck however, as after a few seconds of waiting the door swung inwards, revealing the gorgeous witch who Hermione had successfully avoided for the past two years.

“’Ermione?” Fleur all but breathed.

Hermione could only gape at the blonde, all coherent thoughts fleeing her head just as her own breath whooshed from her mouth, as if she’d been winded. Her nostrils were assaulted with the scent of honeysuckle and that too hard to pin down gloriously Fleur scent. As soon as she’d locked onto those icy blue eyes, sparkling in the mid-morning light she knew, she was utterly fucked.

Unfair. It was entirely unfair for someone to be so attractive, Hermione thought. She scolded herself internally for ever trying to conjure up images of Fleur, as nothing could ever do her beauty justice.

She looked smaller than Hermione had remembered. In her head, Hermione always pictured Fleur towering above her, like a six foot model that had simply strolled off the runway and into Hogwarts. Yet as she currently stood, barefoot and still clutching onto the door frame, she seemed to be almost the same height as Hermione, perhaps marginally taller.

Her hair was pulled back into a messy bun, as if she’d hastily put it up to keep it from her eyes. Tendrils had dropped down, framing her face and Hermione had to physically fight the urge to lean across and tuck them behind her ears.

It was then that Hermione noticed Fleur’s clothing, or lack thereof. She was wearing an oversized blue shirt that was half unbuttoned, with some buttons in the wrong holes as if they’d been done in a hurry. Whilst the shirt covered any particularly intimate areas, Hermione was finding it hard to concentrate, her eyes flitting hungrily from one of Fleur’s exposed collarbones, to her navel that was peeping between a gap in the fabric. She nearly passed out when a breeze from Fleur’s apartment made the hem of the shirt flutter slightly, revealing more of Fleur’s toned thighs.

Fleur’s face had crumpled in confusion before a series of emotions seemed to chase themselves across her face. Annoyance, recognition, shock, surprise and then something that made her face flush before she managed to compose her features into a slight smile, her eyes glittering with intrigue.

I’m fucked, Hermione thought again. She could feel a warm blush rising to her face as she stripped her gaze away from Fleur’s body, trying to focus on her face instead.

Yeah, like that’s any less appealing, Hermione scoffed in her head, taking in the knowing smirk that Fleur’s perfect pink lips currently wore, one sculpted eyebrow cocked questioningly as Hermione continued to try to remember how to form words.

“Plant!” Hermione managed to blurt out, thrusting the plant towards Fleur in a sudden movement.

Plant?! Hermione repeated in her head, watching as Fleur’s smile got wider, her second eyebrow now raised in amusement.

“Ermm, God I’m sorry, I meant… I don’t know what I meant. Can I just start that again?” Hermione rambled, pulling the plant back towards her, shuffling from one foot to the other.

Fleur laughed breathily, seeming to relax slightly as she did so.

“’Ermione, what are you doing here? ‘ow do you know where I live?”

Hermione tried to fight down the rising blush that crept on her face whenever Fleur said her name. Since when was dropping H’s so sexy?

“I live here. In the building I mean, not literally right here.” She mentally face palmed as she started rambling again. “In that one there?” Hermione gestured to her apartment in explanation.

“Wait, I thought Ginny told you that last night?”

Fleur’s smile faltered at the mention of Ginny, and her eyebrows knitted together in confusion.

“Non, Ginny didn’t say you lived there, just that she was celebrating a friend’s promotion. She said some other things too, that I won’t repeat.”

That little snake, Hermione fumed internally. She was going to throttle Ginny when she next saw her.

“Oh. Well yeah, I’m the friend.” Hermione said by way of explanation, waving her hand to accentuate her point, which she instantly regretted doing.

Fleur’s face lit up however, her cupids bow lips pulling up into an amused smile.

“Well congratulations! It seems like you celebrated well, non?” Fleur said pointedly, smiling further when Hermione had the grace to flush again, avoiding Fleur’s playful gaze that held just a glint of annoyance.

“That’s why I’m here actually.”

“Oh? I thought you were here because “plant”?” Fleur teased, holding out her arm to mimic Hermione handing her the plant.

Hermione scowled as best as she could, finding it hard to be angry at the woman. Stupid good looks getting in the way, she thought.

Fleur quirked her head good naturedly by means of an apology, shifting her weight to lean further against the open door.

“Very funny. I’m actually here to apologise for the noise. I asked Ginny to do a Silencing Charm on her way in but she forgot. I swear parties are not a regular occurrence.”

“’Ermione Granger is not a party animal?” Fleur teased lightly.

Hermione was shocked by the ease with which Fleur goaded her. Sure, they’d grown closer over the years after getting past the awkward misplaced hatred phase, but Hermione had not expected Fleur to be so… familiar? Borderline flirtatious?

No, she’s not flirting, Hermione chided herself. She’s just French. And a Veela. Besides, she’s straight and divorced from a man, which hardly screams ‘I’m into women’.

“The war may have changed a lot of things, but my preference for a book over a party is not one of them.” Hermione quipped, before realising the potentially uncomfortable territory she had landed herself in.

Fleur straightened slightly at the mention of the war, her face immediately shifting from playful to concerned.

Hermione tried to avoid making eye contact with the woman, for fear that her eyes would betray the panic she felt at having to attempt to thank Fleur for saving her life. Just apologise, give her the damn plant and get out of here, Hermione thought, furious that she so nearly dragged herself into discussing dangerous and painful memories.

As the silence stretched on, Fleur opened her mouth to say something.

“’Ermione…”

“So anyway! I’m really sorry about the noise. If I would’ve known it was you at the door I would’ve at least invited you in. Sorry about Ginny, she can be… well, she can be Ginny sometimes, as I’m sure you know.” Hermione turned her face determinedly back to Fleur with an awkward chuckle, hoping that she had managed to distort her features into an expression that politely told Fleur to not attempt to bring up the war or worse, Shell Cottage.

“And yes, I brought you a plant as part of the apology, but I think I already said that part.” It was Hermione’s turn to smirk as she proudly held out the strange mood sensing flower, hoping to distract Fleur from her previous comment.

Fleur kept her gaze fixed on Hermione. Her crystal clear blue eyes seemed to be assessing her, trying to gauge her true feelings about the near miss that Hermione had managed to side step ungracefully.

With a slight sigh and a look that seemed to convey that Fleur was begrudgingly letting Hermione avoid the topic this time, the blonde let her eyes drop from Hermione’s and land on the outstretched plant.

“I would tell you what it is but honestly, I have no idea. Botany isn’t a particular interest of mine.” Hermione smiled warmly, trying not to falter as Fleur’s hand brushed her own as she took the plant, causing a surge of heat to fill her chest and ooze into her stomach.

“Thank you ‘Ermione, it’s beautiful.” Fleur cooed, her eyes fixed upon the flower that had curiously begun to turn from red, to pale blue, before seeming to settle on a dusky purple; like a pastel painted sunset.

Hermione tried not to look startled. She’d never seen the plant change colour so rapidly before, or much at all for that matter, to the point that she had started to think the colour changing properties that Luna said it possessed was one of her many eccentricities, like the Nargles she often spoke of. She made a note to self to pay better attention next time Luna started on one of her long, dreamy monologues about plants.

“You’re welcome. I really am sorry, you must’ve had a busy day what with the move and all, the last thing you needed was to listen to a bunch of drunk idiots. I’m including myself in that by the way.” Hermione hoped her face showed her remorse, she really did feel bad, particularly for the terrible impression she was sure it had given Fleur of her.

Fleur waved her hand dismissively, which Hermione took to be an acceptance of her apology.

“There is nothing to forgive. I admit, I was angry yesterday, as you say, it had been a long day especially as the elevator wasn’t working. But not today, and not at you.” Fleur’s eyes sparkled fondly, raising another blush to Hermione’s face.

“Just invite me next time, bon?” Fleur finished.

Hermione smiled warmly, nodding eagerly. The thought of being drunk and at a party with Fleur was all too enticing.

“Oh, and another thing!” Hermione moved the book from where it had been tucked under her arm, momentarily forgotten. It was hard to remember how to talk when Fleur was standing less than a metre away, let alone remembering her hastily procured gifts.

“As a house warming present. Or maybe it’s the other way around? Maybe the plant is better suited as a housewarming?” Hermione furrowed her eyebrows, missing the affectionate look that Fleur was sporting as she watched the brunette get lost in her thoughts.

“Anyway, I know you like Charms and it’s about the history of female professional Duellers, many of whose existence was only unearthed recently, it’s truly fascinating. I thought you might be interested.” Hermione handed over the book shyly, suddenly feeling foolish for not thinking to bring Fleur something less… well, less nerdy.

“You didn’t have to bring me anything ‘Ermione. Thank you, this is very kind of you.”

Hermione exhaled as Fleur took the book delightedly, watching as she ran her long, slender fingers over the spine and began opening the pages with care.

With a blush, Hermione averted her gaze again, trying not to imagine how those nimble digits would feel against her skin.

“Perhaps you should ‘ave these parties more often if it means you shower me with gifts the next day.”

Hermione felt her skin radiate even more heat if that was possible. She couldn’t believe how easy it was for Fleur to turn her into a bumbling idiot, she was no better than those drooling morons that were the male population at Hogwarts.

This thought sobered her slightly, giving her enough mental capacity to reply only a beat later than she would have liked.

“That can be arranged I’m sure.”

Fleur looked both taken aback and slightly impressed by Hermione’s boldness, her blue eyes widening before she managed to school her features back into one of nonchalance.

“Well I should go, I’ve got some errands to run and I’m sure you’ve got plenty of unpacking to do.”

“’Ermione,” Fleur leaned towards the brunette, using the door frame as an anchor as she tilted her body forwards. She looked left and right down the corridor, leaning ever closer to Hermione and finally whispering in her ear conspiringly “I am a witch, I can use magic to do that.”

Hermione focussed on the thought of those drooling boys, images of Ron in his underwear, anything that would stop the heat from rising to her face again as she felt Fleur’s breath hit her ear as the French witch laughed at her own comment.

Fleur moved back to the doorway, looking delighted with the flustered woman before.

Hermione frowned at Fleur, trying her best to show her displeasure. She was not enjoying the ease with which Fleur could reduce her to a horny teenager. She was the brightest witch of her age for Merlin’s sake, a woman shouldn’t be able to render her speechless and unintelligible.

Fine, Hermione thought, if she wants to toy around with power dynamics, then two can play that game.

“Well if that’s the case, maybe you’d want to join me on my errands? I could show you around the area, tell you which pubs to wear old shoes to as there’s a good chance you’ll get stuck to the floors, show you where I choked on the best cruffin I’ve ever had in my life.”

It was Fleur’s turn to look flustered, her eyebrows raised, her pink lips forming a perfect ‘o’ in shock. It would be almost comical if her beauty wasn’t so ethereal.

With a quick shake of her head, Fleur seemed to recover from being wrongfooted, a genuine smile washing over her features.

“Oui! That would be lovely. I just need to get into something, more…” she gestured to her state of partial undress, her eyes locked on Hermione.

Hermione stoically refused to leave Fleur’s gaze. She wanted desperately to follow the path of Fleur’s hand with her eyes as it ran from her collarbone down to the hem of her shirt, but she didn’t want to give the blonde the satisfaction. She wasn’t sure what this strange game they seemed to be playing was, but Hermione was determined not to lose it.

“Of course, how long do you need? I can meet you downstairs in say, twenty minutes or half an hour if that’s enough time?”

Fleur met the challenge in Hermione’s eyes, her blue eyes blazing with amusement.

“Parfait, I will see you downstairs in half an hour.”

“Okay cool! See you soon, Fleur.” Hermione was about to leave, half turning her body when the scent of honeysuckle became stronger, alerting her to Fleur’s increased proximity.

She felt the older witch’s hand grab her wrist softly, the brush of her fingertips leaving goose bumps on Hermione’s skin.

Turning towards Fleur, Hermione gasped as she found her face closer to Fleur’s than she had predicted.

Oh fuck.

Up close, Fleur had a scattering of freckles across her nose, a light dusting that was barely visible against her slightly tanned complexion. Her hair cast a soft light on her defined cheekbones, that silvery glow almost pulsating now that Hermione was close enough to see it clearly. Her lips were quirked up into a sly smile, although her eyes looked almost trepidatious, cautious of whether she was pushing the boundaries of the game too far.

“I’m so glad that we’re neighbours ‘Ermione, we’re going to have so much fun.” Fleur whispered, her lips brushing one of Hermione’s cheeks before repeating the process the other side.

Hermione was rooted to the spot, aware that her breathing had become audibly fragmented, hitching as the scent of Fleur rolled over her in waves. She let out an undignified squeak as Fleur’s nose brushed her cheek as she pulled back. So much for restoring the power balance.

Whilst Fleur’s lips had only been in contact with Hermione’s cheeks for a fraction of a second, Hermione felt like her insides were on fire.

She’s just French, don’t read into it, Hermione repeated in her head, trying to quiet her thrashing heart.

Hermione cleared her throat, trying to not be quite such a useless lesbian and save some face from this entirely mortifying encounter.

“M-me too Fleur. Must go, will see you shortly though.”

Hermione was dazed, beginning to walk the wrong way down the corridor, before turning rapidly and ignoring Fleur’s barely stifled laughter as she passed the woman still stood in the doorway.

“I live this way.” Hermione muttered, her face burning with embarrassment, eyes fixed stubbornly on the floor.

She heard the closing of Fleur’s door as she scrambled with her keys, hurriedly unlocking the door to her apartment and slamming it closed behind her.

“Well that was a fucking shambles.” Hermione groaned, letting her head roll back and hit the door.

If a five minute conversation with the woman had left Hermione feeling confused, flustered and delightfully unravelled in a way she hadn’t felt since… well since ever, she had no clue how she was going to make it through an afternoon with the woman.

Running a hand through her tousled brown hair, Hermione walked over to the record player. A The Cure album sat on the turntable, presumably left there after playing at the party. She carefully moved the needle to the outer groove and dropped it, immediately relaxing upon hearing the slight crackle and hiss as the record began turning.

“And now I wait.” Hermione huffed, laying down on the sofa in an attempt to keep her mind from racing with anticipation at the thought of seeing Fleur again.

Chapter Text

After listening to ten minutes of an album, attempting to read a chapter of a book and nervously pacing around her apartment, Hermione was going spare.

She’d considered a multitude of excuses to try and get out of this meeting with Fleur that she’d stupidly suggested in a silly, childish game of one-upping.

Can I call in sick to my own plans? Hermione thought, but the image of Fleur’s arresting blue eyes filled with disappointment seized Hermione’s chest. She’d considered calling Ginny and making her fabricate some emergency that required Hermione’s immediate presence, it was the least she could do after throwing her in the deep end with Fleur.

Would it be too dramatic if I faked my own death ? Hermione mused, trying to focus on the tiny spark of excitement that was growing in her stomach.

Whilst of course she was nervous to spend an extended amount of time with Fleur, Hermione couldn’t help but feel oddly giddy at the prospect. She absolutely adored her local area, loved walking the grimy but strangely charming London pavements.

She’d chosen this area specifically when looking to move from her temporary room at Grimmauld place. Harry had been more than happy to allow her to stay there permanently if she wanted, but Hermione couldn’t help but find the idea rather morbid.

There was something about being in a house that was familiar and once so full of life that seemed to highlight those who were no longer around. She kept half expecting to hear Tonks’s pealing laughter echoing through the draughty house, or to see Lupin in one of the large armchairs in the study, poring over scrolls of parchment. The house that had once stood as a symbol of unity, of good conquering evil now felt hollow; a bitter reminder of the sacrifices that were made in the war and those that were lost at the hands of darkness.

She would actively avoid going back to Grimmauld place, instead finishing work at the Ministry and walking around the neighbouring areas of London.

It was on one of these walks that she stumbled across the area she currently lived in. Noticing a record store, she had let herself be led inside on a whim. Hermione had spent the better part of an hour browsing records, chatting to the friendly shop keeper about all things music and the resurgence of physical media. The shop keeper had told her about the area, pointing out various local cafes, book stores and pubs as well as a small community garden lined with grand oak trees and plenty of benches upon which she could picture herself reading.

Hermione found herself frequently gravitating back to the area, feeling more at peace than she had since the war had ended and began hunting for an apartment with renewed fervour and quickly found her current abode.

The prospect of showing Fleur around became more thrilling the more she thought about the delight that she found when exploring the area. This was an area in which she found comfort, her home, where she would hopefully have the advantage over the blonde.

Glancing at her watch, Hermione dispelled thoughts of bailing and resolved to head downstairs. She could do this, Fleur was just a woman after all.

She grabbed her well loved leather jacket from the hook in the hallway, donning it as she stepped out of her apartment locking the door behind her as she went.

Speeding up as she walked past Fleur’s apartment, Hermione pressed the elevator call button and stepped inside as it dinged, the doors sliding shut after her.

Her heart thudded noisily in her chest, betraying her calm façade as she worked to control her expression. She checked her reflection as it stared back at her from the mirrored walls of the elevator, attempting to tame her unruly hair and playing with the zip on her jacket nervously.

The doors once again slid open with a sigh, signalling she had reached the ground floor. Stepping out she was slightly relieved to notice that Fleur wasn’t there yet, giving her longer to gain composure.

She reached for her phone, sliding it out of her pocket. Her screen alighted to show several messages from Ginny, as well as a scattering of messages from some guests who were in attendance at last night’s party, thanking her for her hospitality.

Ignoring these for now, she opened her messages from Ginny, chuckling to herself at images Ginny had sent over from the party. There was an action shot of her and Harry dancing, arms flailing and mouths open singing along to whatever was playing, followed by a group shot that she didn’t remember being taken. Ginny was licking Hermione’s face, whilst on her other side Ron was squishing her cheeks affectionately, causing Hermione’s lips to crush together like a fish. Harry had his arm laced around Ron’s shoulder, his face turned and smiling at his friends' antics. Luna looked directly at the camera dreamily, her arm wound around Ginny’s waist.

“And who has got ‘Ermione Granger smiling like this?” Fleur breezed.

Hermione had been studying the photo and hadn’t noticed the French witch appear from the stairwell.

She jumped slightly, nearly causing the phone to slip from her hands, to which Fleur giggled, sidling up next to the flustered witch.

“Oh it’s just Ginny, she sent some photos from last night.” Hermione turned her phone towards Fleur, showing her the photo.

Fleur frowned, leaning closer to the screen, her hair cascading across her face like a curtain, grazing her defined cheekbones.

Although more clothed than she was previously, Fleur looked no less enticing. Hermione was used to catching glances of Fleur in her work wear, usually a skirt or pantsuit with a shirt and some heels that clacked on the flagstones of Gringotts as she walked. Hermione was caught off guard by the casual attire that Fleur was currently wearing, keeping it simple with some blue jeans, a Breton striped long sleeve with the cuffs rolled up and a light grey cardigan that hung delicately over Fleur’s body.

The urge to touch the French woman’s hair, to move it back behind her ears overwhelmed Hermione as Fleur’s arm brushed her own. Hermione cursed herself for putting the jacket on as it formed a barrier between Fleur’s arm and hers.

“It is not moving?”

Hermione smiled fondly, placing her phone in Fleur’s open hand, relishing in the soft feel of Fleur’s palm.

“It’s a Muggle device, they don’t move like pictures do when taken with a wizarding camera. Although…” Hermione tapped on the screen, holding her finger down experimentally.

The image shifted slightly, forming a loop, noise emanating from her phone. She wished she hadn’t taught Ginny how to take live photos, as the now moving image in front of them showed Ginny vigorously and loudly licking Hermione’s face, dramatically moaning as Ron shouted “Get a fucking room, lesbi-!” whilst Harry and Luna laughed.

Luckily for Hermione, the loop stopped there, Ron’s declaration of Hermione’s sexuality cut short. She hoped that Fleur was too enraptured by Muggle technology to pay much mind to what had been said.

Whilst Hermione made no secret of her sexuality, with articles having been published speculating to this point, she hardly wanted to have this confirmed to Fleur Delacour via a drunken live photo.

Hermione glanced sideways at Fleur, trying to gauge how much she had heard. The blonde was frowning, examining the photo in depth.

“And this was taken with this device? An ‘ow do you say, portable?”

“Mobile phone, yes.” Hermione translated almost instinctively before wincing, hoping Fleur wouldn’t take it as her being condescending.

Fleur turned her head to face Hermione, handing her the phone back carefully. One sculpted eyebrow was raised.

“You speak French?”

Hermione blushed, something that seemed to occur whenever Fleur was in close proximity.

“A little, I used to holiday there with my parents when I was younger.”

Fleur looked almost proud, her blue eyes glittering as she flicked her hair out of her face.

“Bon. Now tell me more about this Muggle device as we walk, how do they work?”

Hermione smiled at Fleur, moving forwards to hold the door open and gesturing for Fleur to go first.

“Merci, how chivalrous of you.” Fleur curtsied as she passed, keeping her gaze on Hermione until she stood on the pavement outside.

Hermione caught the addictive scent of Fleur on the wind, the tell tale honeysuckle smell permeating her nostrils. Being as subtle as she could, Hermione indulged herself, breathing the scent in deeply as she followed the French witch out of the building.

“So, where to first tour guide?”

Hermione gestured to their left, her hand reaching for Fleur’s arm to guide her, before she caught herself, her hand stopping short and ghosting awkwardly over Fleur’s wrist.

“This way.”

The women fell into step easily and Hermione allowed the familiar sounds of her feet slapping the pavement to soothe her nerves.

Since stepping out of the building she’d been able to breathe more easily, the overwhelming scent of Fleur dissipating on the gentle breeze, allowing her to think more clearly.

Hermione began outlining the many functions of her phone to Fleur, promising to teach the woman if she were ever to get one. Fleur listened intently, asking questions often and repeating words back to Hermione when she was unsure of their pronunciation or meaning.

Once this topic was exhausted, after a few minutes of walking in silence, the women simply enjoying being outside in the unseasonably warm sunshine, Fleur broke through Hermione’s thoughts.

“So how long have you lived in the area?”

Hermione gestured left again as they came to a junction, her hand reaching for the small of Fleur’s back as a man nearly stumbled into her as he was gawping so openly.

“Just shy of two years. After the war I moved in with Harry for a while at Grimmauld, but needed my own space to…reflect I guess. I found this place by more by coincidence than design.”

Hermione was trying to be as open with Fleur as possible, whilst remaining cautiously guarded. She knew they would need to discuss Shell Cottage at some point, but hoped that Fleur would respect her implied boundaries and keep to safe topics until she was ready.

“And you wanted to live alone? You ‘ave no roommate or… partner?”

Hermione took note of Fleur’s careful use of language. Was she purposefully avoiding pronouns when talking about her love life?

“Whilst I love Harry and Ron they both make horrendous roommates. Ron lives like a pig and I swear Harry is still an eleven year old boy at heart. They’d live off Chocolate Frogs and beans on toast if Ginny let them.”

“You and Ginny are very close, yes?” Hermione glanced at Fleur as she asked this, noting the neutral tone with which she spoke. Her icy blue eyes seemed to harden at the mention of Ginny, much like they had in the doorway of Fleur’s apartment.

“Yes we are. Of course I love Harry and Ron but they can be such boys . It’s nice having female company.”

“So that you can braid each other’s hair and talk about boys?” Fleur said in jest, purposefully knocking into Hermione to make sure she knew she was joking.

Hermione laughed, surprised at the ease with which the noise fell out of her mouth. In fact, she was shocked at how easy Fleur was to talk to now that they were outside amongst distractions.

“Not exactly, but something like that sure.” Hermione replied, meeting Fleur’s open and waiting gaze.

Hermione grabbed Fleur’s arm with force, stopping the woman in her tracks just as a cyclist whizzed past, their bell ringing with annoyance.

Fleur allowed herself to be yanked back onto the pavement, somehow managing to look graceful.

“My ‘ero.” Fleur whispered, reaching to squeeze Hermione’s hand in thanks.

So much for being around Fleur getting easier , Hermione thought, feeling a now familiar warmth spread through her at the simple contact.

Double checking that the road was clear, the witches crossed the street, avoiding the bustle of Muggles rushing past.

“And what about you? Why move here of all places? A majority muggle area of North London, hardly seems like the first choice for a Gringotts curse breaker.”

Fleur grinned, seemingly oblivious of the looks she was drawing from every male that passed by, her smiling face like a beacon.

Hermione had forgotten the attention that being with Fleur drew. Whilst it didn’t elicit the same level of annoyance as it once did when she was a young teen, she couldn’t help but feel angry at the shameless, staring men and a sense of protectiveness towards Fleur.

“Well per’aps that’s exactly why it’s so parfait. Who will know to find me here? I can be anonymous, invisible.”

Hermione couldn’t help the scoff that escaped her mouth at this.

“Fleur, with a face as pretty as yours I think you’d have a hard time being invisible anywhere.”

Fleur’s eyes widened at Hermione’s comment and her pace slowed as she continued to look at the brunette.

Hermione forced herself to maintain eye contact, unwilling to back down from the challenge.

“You think I’m pretty?”

“I have eyes Fleur, of course I do.” Hermione replied, more hoarsely than she would’ve liked.

She felt something pass in the way that Fleur was staring at her so intensely; like a thread was slowly but surely tugging at her, urging her to step towards Fleur, to give in to her inner desires.

Hermione’s shoulder was knocked by a running passerby; the strange connection with Fleur broke with a snap and Hermione began walking again.

“Well I’m sorry for ruining your anonymity, believe me when I say it wasn’t my intention.”

Fleur increased her pace to catch up with Hermione, looking flushed.

“Non, non, I am happy that you live so close! I know that my family will be happy too, they were so worried about me being isolated after - well after Bill.”

Hermione felt Fleur’s unease as she alluded to her mysterious divorce. She watched as Fleur worried her lip, biting softly down on her lower lip, staring straight ahead.

As Fleur was respecting Hermione’s boundaries, she would of course return the favour.

“And how are the Delacour’s? How is Gabrielle, she must be… thirteen? Fourteen now?”

Fleur’s face immediately lit up, her entire being buzzing with energy at the mention of her younger sister.

“Oui, she is thirteen and is a pain in my ass! Maman says she is becoming more troublesome each day.”

“Which you seem delighted about.” Hermione noted, pointing out a squirrel to Fleur that was running up one of the many trees that sporadically lined the street they had turned onto.

Fleur let out a peal of laughter, running a hand through her hair absentmindedly as she paused to watch the squirrel with Hermione.

“She just reminds me so much of myself at that age. Inquisitive, questioning, untrusting of authority figures and sometimes downright rude. It is a difficult time for anyone, but especially for those of us who are Veela, even if only a small part.”

Hermione paused, not wanting to offend Fleur by asking insensitive questions.

“Because of the thrall?”

Fleur turned her head towards Hermione, looking impressed, but unsurprised.

“Oui. I should ask you how you know that, but then I suppose I should expect this from the brightest witch of her age, non?”

Hermione rolled her eyes, scowling at Fleur’s use of the nickname.

“You are cruel to tease me Miss Delacour.”

Fleur feigned looking offended, raising a hand to her heart as if wounded.

“Tease? I would never dare offend a member of the Golden Trio, zis would be blasphemy!”

Hermione scowled further which only caused Fleur to emit a breathy laugh.

“I know about the general concept of the thrall because of my job. Well, I mean I knew of its existence before then, but it’s sort of essential that I know as much as possible about all beings; magical, non-magical, creature, the more I know the more I can help and open up a line of honest communication, to really talk about the issues that affect each community and try to carve out a meaningful way in which the Department can help.”

Fleur had a gentle smile on her face, her eyes never wavering from Hermione as she spoke.

When Hermione met Fleur’s lingering stare, she almost convinced herself she saw her eyes drop monetarily to her lips. Wishful thinking, Hermione thought, embarrassed that she was even remotely deluding herself into thinking that Fleur was being anything other than friendly.

“But you Veela are very secretive, I’m afraid I know little more than that, and rightly so.” Fleur raised an eyebrow quizzically, urging Hermione to go on.

“I don’t think witches and wizards deserve to know the secrets of cultures that don’t concern them, it’s positively draconian and authoritarian. Who are we to police the behaviours of other beings when we have no respect or understanding of the culture, the beliefs, the practices? We make rules that suit us, that revolve around our beliefs and are then surprised when we are met with distrust and resistance?”

Hermione knew she was ranting, but couldn’t bring herself to stop. Her face was flushed and her brown hair was flying wildly in the steady breeze, golden eyes blazing with passion.

“Sorry, we were talking about Gabrielle. Please do tell me to be quiet.” Hermione murmured, lowering her voice.

Fleur reached for Hermione’s hand, stroking it fondly.

“I will not. It is refreshing to see someone so passionate about magical beings, it is a rare occurrence even in today’s “progressive” society.” Fleur sneered as she used the word progressive, her eyes flashing dangerously.

“But yes, the thrall can be challenging when you are young and cannot yet control it. It will be ‘ard for Gabrielle, but I am pleased that she is so… strong willed.” Fleur was smiling again, her index finger still idly stroking the back of Hermione’s hand.

“And I’m sure you’ll be more than happy to step in if needs be.” Hermione smirked, referring to Fleur’s notorious temper, which earned her a poke in the side from the French witch.

“Ouch! We’re here by the way, you have to behave now.” 

Hermione scolded half heartedly, holding her arms out ceremoniously to the record store in front of her.

“Dynamite Records,” Fleur read the sign aloud, her blue eyes greedily raking in the attractive store front.

“What is zis place?”

“It’s a Muggle thing, you can use the discs to play music. Like a Gramophone?” Hermione half questioned. She didn’t want to be telling Fleur information she already knew.

Fleur’s eyebrows knitted together, as she cautiously said “Like a CD?”

Hermione’s face lit up at Fleur’s knowledge.

“Yes! Although these are bigger and the music is played by a needle moving into the grooves, but a similar concept yes. It’s fun, c’mon, I’ll show you.”

Hermione walked into the store, once again holding the door to let Fleur enter, the small peal of a bell announcing their entrance.

“Hey Hermione, haven’t seen you in over a week, was considering sending a search party!” The shopkeeper chirped from behind the cash register.

“Hey James, I’m sorry I’ve been busy at work. This is my friend Fleur, she’s new to the area so of course I had to bring her to the best record store in all of North London.” Hermione breezed back, gesturing to Fleur as she spoke.

A slight blush hit James’ cheeks as he murmured a quick hello at Fleur, his eyes quickly returning to the safer option of Hermione. At least he wasn’t staring, Hermione thought, giving credit to the flustered man.

Fleur looked unperturbed, waving delicately and moving further into the shop, her eye caught by the ‘New In’ section.

“I’ve saved some gems for you here, have a look and see if anything tickles your fancy. The listening booths are back open too, just let yourself in. Give me a shout if you need anything.” James smiled as he busied himself sorting through some new stock behind the counter.

“Thanks!” Hermione shot over her shoulder, trailing after Fleur.

Hermione found the woman towards the back of the shop, her hands flicking through a crate.

“See anything you like?” Hermione asked, her skin pinking slightly at the potential double entendre.

Fleur smirked at the brunette, her fingers pausing in their rifling.

Taking pity on Hermione who currently looked like a deer in headlights, Fleur let her lewd comment die on her lips, instead pulling out the vinyl she was currently paused on.

Grateful for the distraction, Hermione peered at the cover, smiling in recognition.

“Ben E. King, a legend. You like him too?”

Fleur nodded.

“Oui, I like all sorts really. My papa adores CD’s, his father was a Muggle so he has amassed a big collection over the years.”

“And your mother?” Hermione asked, taking the record from Fleur and scanning the track listing.

“She lets him have his ‘obby. She likes mostly French music.”

Boldly, Hermione grabbed Fleur’s hand, leading her towards the listening booths at the back of the store.

“Come on, let’s see what the sound quality is like in here.”

She daren’t look back at Fleur, instead relishing in the feel of the older woman’s slightly warm palm brushing hers, focussing on the way that Fleur’s long and slender fingers twined with hers.

Reluctantly, Hermione dropped Fleur’s hand as she opened the door to the small listening booth, ushering Fleur inside.

Closing the door gently behind them, Hermione immediately regretted her boldness. In her excitement, she had forgotten just how small these booths were.

It was near impossible to not be touching, with just enough space for the pair of them to stand next to each other shoulder to shoulder, facing the record player.

Hermione avoided Fleur’s intense gaze. She could feel the women’s eyes, feel the strange magnetism that she felt towards Fleur urging her to to engage with the French witch.

Breathing the honeysuckle laden air, Hermione felt her head swim with desire, threatening to overwhelm her.

She was snapped back to reality by the sound of Fleur removing the record from its sleeve, holding it carefully up to her face to inspect it.

With Fleur’s blue eyes removed from her, Hermione found it easier to focus, drawing her attention back to the record.

“So what do I do now?” Fleur asked, peering at the turntable suspiciously, which Hermione found adorable.

Hermione demonstrated, lifting the lid of the turntable and letting Fleur place the record carefully in place.

“Do you have a specific song you want on?” Hermione asked, watching Fleur intently as she thumbed the record sleeve.

“I picked the album, you pick the song.” Fleur smiled, handing the sleeve to Hermione for her to select a song, who declined to take it. She already knew what song to choose.

“Give me your hand.” Hermione whispered, beckoning Fleur forwards towards the turntable.

Fleur complied, moving slowly almost as if she was afraid of startling Hermione.

The air crackled; Hermione was holding her breath as Fleur held her hand palm up, awaiting further instruction.

Hermione grasped it gently, explaining the motion required to move the needle to her desired track.

“You see where the lines are slightly bigger, bolder? That’s where the track starts. That’s where the needle goes.” Hermione gulped, her voice barely audible.

Fleur did as she was told, leaning sinfully close to Hermione, their heads level, focussing on the turntable.

“And then drop it, gently. You don’t want to scratch the record.”

With a grace that shouldn’t be surprising to Hermione, Fleur placed the needle on the record.

Hermione sighed at the familiar crackle of the needle hitting the record, and drew back carefully, letting her back hit the opposite wall of the booth.

Fleur followed suit, standing solemnly staring at the turntable like it was about to explode.

As soon as the recognisable sound of the Glockenspiel began, signalling the start of Hermione’s chosen track and filling the booth in waves, the brunette allowed her eyes to shut momentarily, letting the calm that came from listening to music wash over her.

It was actually her therapist that had suggested Hermione try to use music as part of her treatment, that it might contribute positively to her healing. Loud noises and crowds still sometimes triggered Hermione, taking her right back to the war. Listening to music helped to stave off panic attacks and act as a distraction. Whilst this didn’t work every time, it provided a welcome reprieve from the dark memories that threatened to consume her on bad days.

There is a rose in Spanish Harlem,

A red rose up in Spanish Harlem.

It is the special one, it's never seen the sun,

It only comes out when the moon is on the run

And all the stars are gleaming

Hermione opened her eyes and glanced at Fleur, watching as the woman gazed in awe at the turntable, brushing a stray hair behind her ear idly. Hermione watched still as Fleur’s hand returned to her side, her fingers moving in time to the music.

Fearing being caught staring, Hermione blushed and looked forward.

It wasn’t long before she felt Fleur’s blue eyes on her profile. Her instinct was to turn, to meet her gaze, but instead she let the French witch look, enjoying the feeling of those intense blue eyes on her.

Fleur’s head returned to face the front and Hermione stole another glance.

There is a rose in Spanish Harlem,

A red rose up in Spanish Harlem.

With eyes as black as coal that looks down in my soul

And starts a fire there and then I lose control

I have to beg your pardon.

I'm goin' to pick that rose and watch her as she grows in my garden

Unless it was a trick of the light, Hermione swore that Fleur looked slightly flustered; her lips were open slightly and her breathing seemed to be faster than normal. Hermione was momentarily captivated by Fleur’s tongue, which peeked out to sweep gently across her lower lip, leaving it looking enticingly wet and plump.

Stop staring at her you pervert, Hermione chided herself, resolving to fix her eyes front and centre until the track was over.

Fading out dreamily, the record began to hiss slightly, signalling the end of the disc.

Neither of them moved for a beat, Hermione enjoying the comfortable silence and still wrapped in the afterglow of the song.

“What happens now?” Fleur asked softly, still looking warily at the turntable.

Hermione stifled her laughter with some success; she wasn’t laughing at Fleur’s lack of knowledge when it came to Muggle technology, she was laughing at the sombre face that Fleur was sporting, the way in which she was hovering near Hermione, on edge, poised to attack the harmless machine.

“You remove the needle gently, just like you placed it on. Then when it’s back on its stand, the top will stop spinning and you can remove the disc.”

Hermione let her eyes wander indulgently to Fleur’s behind as the girl leaned over, doing as Hermione instructed. She immediately felt guilty, suddenly becoming very interested in a Bob Marley sticker that was peeling off the booth.

Fleur turned around proudly, the vinyl held in front of her.

“I did it! Give me the sleeve, I will put it back.”

Hermione relinquished the sleeve, smiling at Fleur’s childish glee as she did so.

“I will buy this one, it is special now.” Fleur declared, following Hermione out of the booth, the door once again being held by Hermione.

Whilst Fleur paid for the record - Hermione had offered, but Fleur declined saying that the book and the plant were more than enough in the way of an apology - Hermione scanned the titles James had left aside for her, picking out a Roxy Music that she’d been looking for and a debut LP from a local band that James assured her were worth checking out.

Fleur watched Hermione’s exchange with the shopkeeper with interest, noting the way in which Hermione shone as James told her things she didn’t know, sharing his knowledge with her.

“I’ll add the Roxy Music to your tab, the other is on me.”

Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but James waved her off.

“I insist, sometimes I think you single handedly prop this place up. It’s the least I could do.” He smiled warmly, handing Hermione the bagged records, before waving the women out the door.

“Lovely to see you Hermione and great to meet you Fleur. I’ll be seeing you both!”

Hermione followed Fleur onto the street, stopping the door from slamming behind her.

She stood awkwardly, fiddling with her bag, suddenly unsure as to whether Fleur wanted to continue exploring or head back.

She needn’t have worried however, as Fleur asked “Where to next?” Her skin glowing in the afternoon sun as she rolled her neck, basking in the warmth.

“How hungry are you? There’s a gorgeous cafe just over the road, they do small batches of pastries, homemade breads, all sorts. And coffee too.”

Right on cue, Fleur’s stomach grumbled loudly.

“You ‘ave my answer, that sounds great.”

The pair set off again, making the short journey to the cafe.

“I’ll get these, save this table? What would you like?” Hermione gestured to one of the small tables placed outside the cafe, allowing customers to sit and watch the world go by.

Hermione moved Fleur’s chair out, pushing it back under as the woman sat down, which earned her an earnest smile from the blonde.

“Just a black coffee please, and I will ‘ave whatever you think looks good.” Fleur leaned back slightly, shutting her eyes and relaxing in the early evening sun.

Hermione had to prise herself away, dragging her feet through the cafe door.

Ordering two black coffees in takeaway cups just in case, Hermione chose two different pastries; one fruity and one chocolate.

Hermione rejoined Fleur, placing the food and drinks on the table.

“Merci ‘Ermione. I really appreciate you showing me around, it can be lonely for me here sometimes.”

Adding a sachet of sugar to her coffee, Hermione drew her eyes away from Fleur’s exposed neck, ignoring the way it was arched as Fleur stretched out.

“It’s okay, it’s been my pleasure honestly. Plus, you know where I live now, I am at your beck and call whenever you get lonely.”

Hermione’s eyes widened in panic. Why did everything that came out of her mouth sound dirty today?

Fleur’s dazzlingly blue eyes were sparkling with humour, watching delightedly as Hermione became uncomfortable under her gaze.

“Bored! I meant bored, you can come over whenever you’re bored. Or lonely I guess. You know what I mean.” Hermione all but shouted, her attempt to cover her gay panic as futile as her barely concealed attraction to the woman.

“I know what you mean, you can relax ‘Ermione, I do not bite. Much.” Fleur added with a wink, taking a bite from the fruity pastry and moaning.

A jolt ran through Hermione at the sound, flashing images of needy hands and supple fingers running up and down her skin assaulting her, causing Hermione to blush furiously yet again.

Hermione’s phone buzzed incessantly. Saved by the bell, Hermione thought, getting the device out of her pocket and glancing at the screen.

“Who is it?” Fleur asked, taking another bite from the pastry, licking errant crumbs from her lips.

Transfixed, Hermione shook her head to clear her thoughts, glancing back at the screen.

“It’s just Ginny. She’s asking how you are.”

This wasn’t strictly true. In fact, the message read “Just checking you haven’t been murdered by Phlegm! On a scale of 1-10 how pissed off was Miss France herself?” followed by several emojis including a baguette and a skull. But Hermione decided it best to paraphrase in this case.

“She knows we are together?”

Hermione tried and failed to suppress the thrum of pleasure that coursed through her when Fleur referred to them as being ‘together’. Her imagination really was running wild today.

Hermione hummed in answer, quickly typing a reply to Ginny, saying she’d call her later.

“I told her I was going to apologise to you today. She’s asking if you’re still mad at me.” Hermione further explained, putting her phone on do not disturb mode before putting it back in her pocket, returning her full attention to Fleur.

“Sorry about that, I always get paranoid when one of them messages. I’d hate for it to be something serious and for me to miss it, to not be able to help if any of them are in trouble.”

Hermione was aware that she was probably over sharing, but she couldn’t help it. There was something about talking to Fleur, being in her presence that made Hermione feel… safe. At peace. She knew this made little sense, but in a very un-Hermione move had decided to unpack this later, trying to stay present in the moment with Fleur instead.

“‘Ermione,” Fleur said lowly, moving forward across the table, her hand stretching out to grab Hermione’s. “Stop. Apologising.”

Fleur’s lips popped slightly on the ‘p’ of stop and Hermione found her honey eyes drawn in, felt her own lips part of their own accord, her breath getting stuck in her throat.

The French witch’s hand squeezed Hermione’s, her hand withdrawing sinfully slowly, blazing along the back of Hermione’s hand, over her knuckles and finally down to her fingertips.

Hermione wrenched her eyes upwards to Fleur’s eyes, allowing herself to be simultaneously soothed and set alight by those impossibly clear blue eyes.

“Okay. Sorry.” Hermione added, smirking at the way that Fleur’s eyes darkened and her eyebrows knitted together in annoyance.

“We should ‘ead back. I have some paperwork I was supposed to look over before work tomorrow.” Fleur said, her tone regretful.

Hermione nodded, trying not to appear glum. The thought of leaving the blonde was strangely not one that she enjoyed. She liked this lightness she felt, she liked the easy way in which they spoke to each other and she liked looking at Fleur. She liked that a lot.

Walking back the way they came, the pair spoke casually of their work duties, with Hermione occasionally pointing out shops, pubs or areas of interest to Fleur.

All too soon, they were back at the apartment building, riding up the elevator together in comfortable silence, Hermione relaxing into the honeysuckle scent and quiet calm air that she now associated with Fleur.

With a ding, the elevator doors slid open. They stepped out, walking a few paces, stopping as they reached Fleur’s door.

Hermione swung back and forwards on her heels, her hand rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly.

“So…”

“So.” Fleur replied, her eyes softening as she watched Hermione fidgeting under her gaze.

“It was really fun today, I had a lovely time.”

“Me too.” Fleur agreed, seemingly waiting for Hermione to continue.

“Well. You know where I am if you ever need some sugar.” Hermione groaned internally. Being inside with Fleur really decreased her capacity for normal speech.

Fleur chuckled, her blue eyes sparkling.

“I will bear that in mind. For when I am lonely.” She shot back, Hermione paling at her innuendo.

Fleur was feigning ignorance, her features schooled into a calm and collected mask, only her eyes giving away her teasing.

“Maybe we could… I don’t know, go for a drink during the week? Or you could come over to mine? I can cook. You can play your record, I have a turntable and a bunch of other records too. Or we could watch a film, I have a TV too.” Hermione rambled nervously, stopping herself before she rattled off every object she owned.

Fleur’s face opened up, a wide smile spreading across her face.

“Oui. All of it. That all sounds good.”

“Okay great!” Hermione replied, still rooted to the spot.

“Erm well I guess just knock? I’m free every evening except Tuesday this week. It’s Ron’s turn to cook at Grimmauld and I need to be on hand with a fire extinguisher and my wand.”

Fleur laughed again, still making no move to enter her apartment.

“Shall we say Friday? I can cook, we can drink. Watch a film. I can help you buy a mobile if you want, I know you said you wanted one.”

“Bon, I look forward to it.”

“Okay.” Hermione paused, knowing she should leave but every fibre of her being screaming at her to stay exactly where she was, the object of Fleur’s attention, the person that she was looking at with those tender blue eyes.

Fleur slowly leaned forward, her eyes staying on Hermione’s, checking if it was okay to proceed.

Hermione nodded imperceptibly, allowing Fleur to plant a kiss on her right cheek and then her left.

“Bonsoir ‘Ermione.”

“Have a good night Fleur.” Hermione breathed back, hoping Fleur didn’t notice the wobble in her voice, her whisper breaking with unspoken desire.

With shaking legs, Hermione turned towards her apartment, glancing back to see Fleur leaning in the doorway, watching her retreat with an unreadable expression on her face.

“I’m just here if you need me!” Hermione shouted, pointing at her door, as if Fleur had forgotten where she lived. “Anything at all, just here!”

Fleur’s laughter flowed down the corridor.

“Goodnight ‘Ermione.”

“Okay. Yeah. Night.” Hermione shot back, fumbling with the lock on her door, pulling the handle before remembering that her door was a push.

“Bye. Night Fleur.” She shouted once more, clutching onto Fleur’s laughter before it disappeared, swallowed by the closing door.

Hermione closed her apartment door behind her, resting her forehead against the cool wood, breathing deeply.

“What the fuck was that?” She whispered, her heart beating rapidly.

Her phone buzzed against her hip, Ginny’s name appearing on the screen.

“Better get this over with.” Hermione murmured, swiping to accept the call as she turned from her doorway.

Chapter Text

“God finally! Where the fuck have you been?! I thought Phlegm had kidnapped you!” Ginny screeched down the phone.

She was sat up on her own bed, her red hair wet and slicked back, as if she’d just got out of the shower.

Hermione laughed, taking off her shoes and hanging up her jacket before trudging through her apartment and flopping on the sofa.

“No, more like I kidnapped her technically.”

Ginny blanched, leaning further towards the screen.

“I’m sorry what?! Can we start at the beginning?”

Hermione leaned back, grabbing a decorative cushion and placing it behind her head for support as she lay down.

“Well I went over to apologise, I took that weird mood plant that Luna gave to me and a book as gifts-“

“Only you, Hermione Granger, would take a book as an apology. I’d be adding that to the list of things you’d need to apologise for if it were me.” Ginny grabbed a comb, running it through her hair, pulling at a large knot.

Scowling, Hermione rolled onto her side, curling her knees inwards and balancing her phone on the coffee table to free up her hands.

“Well luckily for me Fleur isn’t ungrateful like you. She seemed to appreciate both of my very thoughtful gifts.”

Ginny pulled a face, looking positively affronted at the comparison.

“Be best friends with Phelgm then! Have fun eating baguettes all day and looking down on everyone.”

Hermione frowned.

“You know she’s actually really nice. It must be hard for her being here alone, with all her family and friends back in France.”

“Oh god don’t tell me you’re now fawning over Fleur Delacour too, get in line behind the entire male population and half of the female too.” Ginny remarked, playing with an errant thread on her Holyhead Harpies dressing gown.

Hermione avoided answering, praying that Ginny wouldn’t look at the screen and see how flustered she was.

“No!” Hermione snapped, rolling over onto her back. “It’s just that… well do you not think you’re being a little harsh? I mean she’s changed a lot since she was seventeen.”

“Harsh? She’s been nothing but unpleasant to me since I was twelve years old!”

“Yes well we weren’t exactly welcoming of her were we, you still call her Phlegm for crying out loud!”

Ginny laughed loudly, casting a quick charm on her hair to help it dry.

“Okay you’ve got me there, maybe that’s a little mean. But anyway, tell me more about this apology. Was she angry? Did she start screaming at you in French?”

“No. Not at all, she was actually… she was really forgiving. I offered to show her around the area, you know, to help her settle in a bit.”

Ginny sat bolt upright, clutching her phone in both hands.

“Good god you do have it bad for her don’t you?! I was only joking around before but it’s all making sense now. You like Fleur Delacour!”

Hermione blushed furiously, standing up and beginning to pace her apartment, wandlessly casting a Silencing Charm. After all, she knew the walls were fairly thin.

“No I do not! Well not like you mean anyway. I just feel bad for her, she seemed so excited to be out and talking to someone. She really misses her family, I can tell by the way she talks about them.”

Ginny scoffed, still sitting forwards.

“Yeah, and your sudden fondness for her has nothing to do with the fact that she’s blonde and not too hard on the eyes right?” Ginny wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.

Hermione groaned, hating how easily her face betrayed her emotions.

“Hey there’s no judgement here! I’ll admit, Phle- I mean Fleur is fucking hot, like, makes me question my sexuality hot. I just didn’t have you pegged as being into the aloof, rude, snobby ones. I’m just excited we’re talking about your love life like it exists, I thought you were going to become a born again virgin, turn to God or something.”

Ginny cackled at her own joke, continuing unaware of Hermione’s death stare.

“I could just imagine you sitting at home Gongling ‘can my virginity grow back’”, she howled louder as she slapped her knee.

“It’s Google Ginny, not Gongle. And fuck off!” Hermione all but growled, fighting the urge to apparate over and hex the Weasley.

“I’m sorry, I really do want to know how it went. So you showed her around, that’s cool. Neighbourly. And when is date number two then?”

Hermione sighed, walking to the kitchen and boiling the kettle, before checking the freezer for potential dinner.

“It wasn’t a date Ginny, we were just walking and talking. I took her to Dynamite and then we grabbed a coffee.”

“Sounds like a date to me.” Ginny muttered, laying back on her bed.

“And if you must know I’m seeing her again on Friday, I’m going to cook for her and we’re watching a film.” Hermione hoped she sounded nonchalant and didn’t give away the way her stomach fluttered at the thought of seeing Fleur again.

“Oh fuck. So this is like, maybe a thing?” Ginny sounded serious for the first time on the call, looking at the screen gravely.

Hermione didn’t know how to respond to that. Sure, Fleur was gorgeous and Hermione could admit to herself that she found the woman attractive. But Fleur was straight. Fleur was divorced. From Bill Weasley, making Fleur Ginny’s ex-sister-in-law. As red flags went, these were pretty big ones, ones that weren’t to be ignored.

“Of course not Ginny. I just think she’s pretty, but you said yourself, so does everyone with eyes. And probably even people without eyes.” Hermione found a frozen batch of bolognese and started defrosting it.

“We should invite her to Grimmauld.”

Hermione blanched, moving her eyes back to her screen to check whether Ginny was joking.

The redhead looked deadly serious however, a contemplative look on her face.

“I mean it. If you say she’s alright then I’m sure she is, it would give us all a chance to get to know her better. I have a feeling this one isn’t going anywhere.” Ginny added pointedly, smirking at the disapproving look Hermione shot at her.

“Okay. Maybe not this week, Ron is cooking and I doubt she’d be inclined to visit again if the house burns down. Not exactly the glowing first impression I’m sure you’re so desperate to make.” Hermione joked, earning a hearty laugh from Ginny.

“Sure sure, well be sure to mention it to her. Let’s see what it is about Fleur Delacour that’s got you so… flustered.”

“I’m not flustered!” Hermione yelled, glaring at Ginny through the glowing screen.

Ginny cackled, looking smug at the brunette’s reaction.

“Right now piss off, you need a good night’s sleep ahead of your first day doing actual work tomorrow.”

Hermione agreed, suddenly feeling nervous for her work day. In the excitement of her Fleur-centric day, she’d almost forgotten about her newly appointed position.

“I’m really proud of you Hermione. I know how hard you work and I’ve seen how difficult it’s been for you, you know, with everything that’s happened to you. Well, to all of us really. And I know I don’t say it enough but I really appreciate you, you’re incredible and brave and smart and um… yeah. I’m so lucky to have you as a friend.” Ginny said almost shyly, her cheeks rising in colour as she stared directly into the phone. “I love you mate.”

Hermione tried to swallow past the lump in her throat, her eyes stinging with unshed tears.

“I love you too.” It was all she trusted herself to say, a warble evident in her voice even with such a short statement.

“God stop coming onto me you lesbian!” Ginny yelled, balancing her uncharacteristic vulnerability with humour.

Hermione laughed, grateful for the levity lest she start bawling uncontrollably.

“Fuck off. Love you, bye!” Hermione hung up, focussing her energy into making dinner. She had a stack of reading she wanted to get through in preparation of tomorrow.

 

 *****

 

Hermione awoke with a start, her alarm blaring shrilly. She ended up having a rather fitful sleep, her anxiety seeping into her dreams, causing her to have her first night terror in over a month.

She’d woken up panting, her bed t shirt stuck to her back with sweat. The nightmare was always the same in that it wasn’t really a nightmare at all, more of a memory. It began with her, Harry and Ron running through the forest, the Death Eaters hot on their tail. She could taste the tang of the earth, felt the sickeningly heavy aura of dark magic coursing through the air as green light after green light whooshed over her head, splintering branches and sending great clumps of mud scattering.

She would be ducking behind a tree after descending a large bank when she would fall. She knew it was coming, even in her sleep. The tree root would appear and Hermione would stumble, rolling through bracken until the ground shifted beneath her, the damp Peary earth making way and becoming the cool marble of Malfoy Manor.

She would hear her own disembodied screams, feel the sharp edge of Bellatrix’s knife penetrate her skin, blood seeping through her clothes, unnervingly warm.

Bellatrix’s maniacal cackle reverberates through the hall, as Hermione feels her body wracked with an excruciating, all consuming pain as the Cruciatus Curse hits her repeatedly, shaking her violently.

It’s not until Bellatrix’s matted tangle of hair brushes Hermione’s face, her crazed, black eyes swimming before her that Hermione would wake up with a jolt.

Hermione had clambered out of bed, the adrenaline coursing through her, causing her to pace the bedroom, clawing at her t shirt, feeling like she was suffocating. She tried in vain to focus on her breathing, frantically repeating one of her mantras, desperate to stave off the inevitable panic that she could feel rising in her. 

Hermione gave in, letting the panic flow through her as she fell to her knees, gasping desperately for breath, praying for it to be over. She clung onto her hair, rocking her curled up body, willing it to pass. It never got easier, no matter how long it had been since her last night terror and panic attack. Even though she knew what this feeling was, now that she could name it as a panic attack, knew in theory that it would pass, it didn’t stop the enormity of the feeling, the helplessness she felt as wave after wave of anxiety battered her.

After what felt like a lifetime, she heard her breathing become less ragged, her heart cautiously slowing in her chest. Terrified of returning to sleep, she had moved to the living room, immersing herself in the stack of papers she had been working through earlier.

Sleep eventually did come, and that’s how she found herself as she was now, waking up on the sofa, slightly sticky with sweat still.

She turned her phone alarm off, shifting her legs and scattering papers that had been carefully balanced on her thighs as she went to sleep.

Hermione silently cast a spell, the papers reshuffling themselves and whizzing into her work bag that hung from a hook in the hallway.

As she moved towards the bathroom, she cast a few more wordless spells, hearing the kettle come to a boil and begin putting itself into a travel mug, ready for the instant coffee to be added. She’d need it by the gallon this morning.

After showering briskly and throwing on a grey pinstripe pantsuit and white button down shirt, Hermione grabbed her work bag, summoned her coffee and hastily shoved on her loafers.

As she left her apartment, turning to lock the door behind her, she noticed a folded slip of paper attached to her door, her name written in a neat, curling script on the front

Carefully removing it with a frown, she unfolded the paper, smiling as she read.

 

Hermione,

I just wanted to say good luck on your first day, I know you’re going to be amazing.

I would’ve knocked and apparated with you, but I had to leave early this morning - there are some troubles in the lower vaults.

However I’d love to hear about your first day this evening if you are not too busy or tired?

There is wine in my fridge - I am French after all - that is just asking to be drunk.

Come by any time, I will always be happy to see you.

Love,

Fleur

 

As she read and then re-read the note, Hermione noticed a delicate Red rose placed on the floor in front of her doorway. She had just missed stepping on the delicate flower in her rush.

“A red rose up in Spanish Harlem.” Hermione smiled, brandishing a hand over the rose, transforming it into a pin which she attached to the lapel of her suit jacket.

Pocketing the note and locking her door, Hermione sprung down the stairwell with renewed vigour, filled with a giddy energy.

Her good mood carried her the short walk to her preferred apparating alleyway, where she felt the familiar tug in her stomach as she was transported to a short walk away from the Ministry.

She joined the steady throng of commuters, thrusting her headphones on and selecting Spanish Harlem to accompany her the rest of the way to work.

Entering the telephone box, she keyed in 62442. Living in her current apartment she didn’t have the luxury of using the Floo network to transport herself into the Ministry, so the visitors entrance concealed by the telephone box was preferable to the other alternative of flushing herself down a public restroom.

She felt herself being thrust down into the depths of the London tunnel system, arriving into the main hall of the Ministry.

Her loafers joined the loud clacking of feet on the marble hall, the sound of witches and wizards scurrying along to their respective offices only dinned by the splashing water that cascaded down the newly restored Fountain of Magical Brethren.

Hermione scowled as she strolled past the fountain. She had petitioned to have the fountain reimagined to create a more fair view of wizards, witches and magical beings. Her petition had gained some traction, but ultimately the old, white men at the helm of the Ministry decided to restore it exactly as was.

Unbeknownst to them, every day when walking past, Hermione wordlessly cast a charm that reduced the size of the Wizard at the heart of the fountain. Just a smidge, not enough for anyone to notice for now.

Whilst it was hardly groundbreaking, it made her smile smugly to think that one day she could gaslight the old fucks at the top into believing the statue had always been that way; Centaur, Goblin, House Elf and Wizard all the same height, no one superior to the other.

She was snapped out of her reverie by several greetings yelled in her direction.

Hermione was used to being stared at, or rather, she had accepted that being stared at was now commonplace in her life. It wasn’t all bad, as in cases such as this, people were more inclined to greet her.

“Morning Miss. Granger!”

“Morning.” Hermione called back, speeding up as several groups of witches and wizards looked in her direction, whispering to each other.

Once she was on the designated floor of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Hermione breathed a sigh of relief.

Her day passed quickly. Following a short morning briefing in which her boss drew attention to Hermione’s promotion, the witch was given a large amount of paperwork to review pertaining to low level regulations. Whilst it was hardly overhauling the system, Hermione felt good about overturning ridiculous and minor discriminatory laws.

Following a quick lunch that she grabbed from one of the roving lunch carts, Hermione made good headway on some research into Centaur herd migration to pass along to the field workers. These were the experts who made contact with the creatures, beasts and beings in order to build trust. 

Hermione’s researching skills were an asset that the field team relied upon heavily; Hermione’s genuine passion for the welfare, respect and support of magical creatures lent a unique perspective. Not to mention she’d read nearly every decent book under the sun and could recall key facts at the drop of a hat.

“Good job today Hermione. I’ll pass on the recommendations you made and hopefully we’ll hear back about further revisions next week. I’m heading upstairs to the library before I leave, anything you need?” Her colleague Sophia said, making Hermione jump.

Glancing quickly at the clock on the far wall of the office, Hermione was shocked to see the time.

“Wow, I completely lost track of time. I should head off too.”

Sophia began to walk away, waving behind her as she went.

“Actually… Could you do me a favour?”

“Sure!” Sophia replied, looking at Hermione curiously.

“Could you see what books there are on laws - or general background - pertaining to Veelas?” Hermione bit her lip, feeling strangely guilty.

“Absolutely! Fascinating species and unsurprisingly, still absurdly unfairly policed by the crusty white men upstairs.” She scorned.

“I’m not sure how much there will be, I know they’re extremely secretive. But if you could send anything you think might be useful down here? I’ll start research tomorrow.”

“No worries Hermione. Congratulations again on the promotion, you really deserve it.” Sophia said kindly, grazing her hand over Hermione’s, her voice dropping slightly.

Hermione stumbled back as if she’d been burnt, ignoring Sophia’s low chuckle.

“Th-thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You will indeed.” Sophia smirked, her eyes darkening as she watched Hermione’s hips sway as she walked away quickly.

God why can I not just act normal around women? Hermione groaned internally. Why is it so hard to talk to pretty girls?

Thinking of pretty girls, Hermione let her mind wander to Fleur and her proposition of a glass of wine after work.

Her pace quickened, leading her back through the main entrance hall of the Ministry and finally back onto the streets of Westminster.

Weaving through the crowd of Muggles, Hermione donned her headphones and shuffled a playlist, scrolling through her missed messages.

Ron, Harry, Luna and Ginny had all messaged to wish her luck. Ginny’s message also contained a lewd gif of someone spreading their legs at their desk to which Hermione replied with a photo of her scowling face.

Ron had attempted to take a selfie with his thumb up, but had instead used the back camera, sending a photo of his room. Hermione could only make out the desired image via the floor length mirror in the shot, laughing out loud at Ron’s reflection.

Harry said he had sent something to her apartment and Luna had sent a vague message followed by a picture of a fanged looking plant that Hermione was presumably meant to be delighted to be receiving soon.

Turning down an alleyway, Hermione checked for Muggles before apparating to her usual spot close to her apartment.

Trying not to let her excitement get the better of her, Hermione impatiently pressed the elevator call button, opting to take the stairs when it started taking too long. As she took the stairs two at a time, she wrenched out her headphones, barrelling through the stairwell door into the corridor where both her and Fleur’s apartments were.

Should I go straight over? Or does that make me look desperate? Hermione thought, suddenly halting in the stairwell door. She considered her options, glancing at her work bag and debating whether to drop it at home first.

Before she could make up her mind however, Fleur appeared in the hallway, carrying armfuls of flattened cardboard moving boxes.

“Merde!” Fleur jumped, clearly not expecting anyone to be standing in the hallway.

“Shit, sorry!” Hermione moved forwards to help Fleur grab the boxes that had slipped from her hands, already aware of a warmth rushing to her face.

“‘Ermione, I did not expect you to be there. I was just thinking about you.” The blonde breezed, her eyes latching onto Hermione’s.

Hermione immediately felt paralysed under Fleur’s gaze. How on Earth did one woman manage to take her breath away so effectively?

Fleur was still in her work clothes, her white shirt unbuttoned slightly and the sleeves rolled up. She had bent down to retrieve the boxes, causing her navy pencil skirt to ride up just a fraction. Her hair had presumably been slicked back into a neat bun, yet with the efforts of her day it had become gorgeously tousled, tendrils falling around her face. 

In fact the only thing missing from her work attire was her usual heels, which she’d swapped for some trainers. The overall look would be comical if it were anyone else wearing it however on Fleur it looked exquisite; Fleur could make a bin bag look like couture.

“You were thinking about me?” Hermione managed to get out, clearing her throat.

Fleur smiled warmly, taking the boxes from Hermione as they both stood up again.

“Yes! I saw that your note was gone and I was ‘oping that you got it.”

Hermione smiled, recalling the giddiness that the note had filled her with that morning.

“I did, thank you so much. And the rose!” Hermione gestured to her lapel, where the transfigured red rose resided. As she touched it, she silently returned it to its natural state, watching the enamel turn soft, unfurling into full bloom.

Fleur watched, her eyes widening slightly at Hermione’s use of wandless, wordless magic.

“It’s beautiful, thank you.”

“A beautiful rose for a beautiful woman.” Fleur shot at her, Hermione hitting her arm with the stem of the rose in return.

“Oh you charmer, is that the best you have? It takes more than a flower and a pretty smile you know.” Hermione half joked, hoping her tone was light despite the delightful warmth emanating from her stomach, a fluttering sensation that only heightened when Fleur moved a step closer to Hermione.

“Duly noted, I will have to try harder then. Wine?” Fleur offered, her head tilting towards the still open door of her apartment.

Hermione’s mouth dried instantly, whatever joking remark she’d been about to make dying on her parched lips. You’re playing a dangerous game , she thought to herself, refusing to let her warm, golden eyes drop from Fleur’s dazzling blue ones.

“Sounds great! I’m just going to drop my bag off at mine first. Shall I bring anything?”

Fleur’s eyes still twinkled playfully, her flirtation hanging in the air between them.

“Non, just yourself. I will take these boxes down to the recycling. Feel free to go straight in if I’m not back.” Fleur called, starting to head towards the stairwell as she spoke.

Hermione rushed along the corridor, practically flinging her bag inside, but taking care to put Fleur’s rose in a glass of water, before returning to Fleur’s door. She wanted to see what the other woman’s apartment was like without being under those watchful blue eyes, wanted to peek inside Fleur’s everyday life without feeling flustered and tongue tied as she so often was in the presence of Fleur.

With only a moment’s hesitation, Hermione pushed the door open, stepping inside the other woman’s apartment for the first time.

Chapter Text

Hermione was unsurprised to see that the layout of Fleur’s apartment matched her own, but how Fleur utilised the space and made it her own made the place almost unrecognisable.

Fleur had wasted no time in decorating, the walls in the hallway displaying a sort of stone wash effect. The entryway was lined with artwork, which Hermione paused to admire, drawn to one in particular.

It appeared to be an oil painting, yet had been clearly enhanced by magic. It showed a flowing waterfall, water tumbling menacingly off the rock face and pooling into an inky blackness below.

However despite the vaguely ominous aura that the painting possessed, Hermione couldn’t help but feel calm as she watched the water endlessly thundering down. It was strangely enticing in a way she couldn’t quite pin down; there was a gravitas to it, almost like she was gazing upon something holy.

Even when progressing further into the apartment, she could feel the presence of the painting, almost like it was emitting a frequency that she was attuned to. She made a mental note to ask Fleur about it, as she could see no artist signature.

The living room housed a large, decadent cream sofa, which contrasted with the powder blue walls, the only large difference in Fleur’s apartment and her own was the presence of a small fireplace; Fleur must have needed one for access to the European Floo Network.

Similarly to Hermione’s apartment, the doorway to Fleur’s bedroom was flanked on both sides with storage units. Whereas Hermione had a bookcase one side and her turntable and record collection the other, Fleur had a shelving unit with CD’s in one side, and a bookcase on the other.

Moving to the CD’s first, Hermione began scanning the titles eagerly, hungry to learn more about the blonde.

She scrunched her face at several of Fleur’s choices; she seemed to be - or at least at one point had been - a big fan of boy bands. Hermione noted this and saved the knowledge for ammo later, a chuckle escaping her lips as she ran her finger over the case of a particularly cheesy looking album. There were however multiple albums that Hermione also owned, and some that she had never heard of, which ignited her natural thirst for knowledge.

Hermione smiled when she properly observed the large bookcase on the other side of the doorway, littered with not only books - which she endeavoured to quiz Fleur about when she returned - but also photos and knick knacks.

She made her way over, scanning the photos greedily. There was one of Fleur as a child - maybe nine or ten years old - and a baby who she assumed was Gabrielle. A young Fleur was holding her baby sister with a beam on her face. She had a front bottom tooth missing which was beyond adorable and her eyes were sparkling with joy, a joy that Hermione recalled seeing in Fleur’s face when she had asked the witch about Gabrielle recently.

Hermione placed the photo down, picking up another. She assumed this was much if not all of the Delacour clan, seeing as every single female in the photo had strikingly blonde, almost silvery hair and looked like a carbon copy of the next, only showing minimal signs of ageing. Fleur was just off centre of the photo, gazing up at the woman next to her who Hermione deduced must be her mother.

Bringing the photo closer to her face, Hermione watched as Fleur in the photo exchanged some words with her mother, who remained looking at the camera, but opened her mouth in laughter at her daughter’s words, slowly turning to place a kiss upon Fleur’s temple.

Hermione’s chest constricted as she thought of her own mother. The mother who didn’t know she existed.

She put the photo back with a shaking hand, trying to focus on the frame next to it and fight back unwelcome thoughts, thoughts that she tried desperately never to dwell on.

Hermione recognised this picture; Harry had the same one in his room. It was taken shortly before the first task of the Triwizard Tournament, when Hermione had snuck into the Champions tent to wish Harry luck. At that moment, Rita Skeeter had snapped a photo of the four Champions. What she hadn’t banked on however, was Hermione sneaking out of the frame, looking sheepish as she did so.

She watched her fifteen year old self move in the photo, the tent curtain twitching as she ambled out. What she had never noticed before however, was how Fleur’s eyes followed her, watching her with a curious intensity as she made her leave from the Champions. The look only lasted a moment, before Fleur’s eyes returned to face the camera, her face impassive but her radiant blue eyes blazing with some unknown emotion.

Just as she went to look away, Hermione’s eyes glimpsed another photo among the books. A photo of Bill and Fleur’s wedding day.

Hermione couldn’t explain the way that her stomach rolled uncomfortably. She felt suddenly sick but could take her eyes off the photo, watching Bill twirl Fleur around the dance floor, the pair gazing at each other with such fondness, such love .

“I see you have already found ‘ze embarrassing photos. I am lucky I was cute as a child also.” Fleur announced, startling Hermione with her presence.

Hermione spun around, clutching her chest and feeling her heart pound, reaching out for her hand through her skin.

Fleur looked concerned and rushed over.

“‘Ermione are you okay? Désolée, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Fleur’s hands hovered awkwardly, half reaching for Hermione’s shoulders but stopping just short.

Hermione smiled weakly, her heartbeat reverting back to normal speed as she adjusted to the other woman’s presence.

“It’s okay, I was just lost in thought and didn’t hear you come in.”

Fleur still looked concerned despite Hermione’s assurance, a small frown knitting her eyebrows together as her piercing blue eyes searched Hermione’s.

“I promise, I’m okay.” Hermione reiterated, reaching for Fleur’s still hovering hands, taking them in her own and squeezing gently.

Still gazing intently at the brunette, Fleur nodded slowly, seemingly content with whatever she found in Hermione’s eyes.

“Bon, shall I get you that wine now?” Fleur asked, running her thumb gently over Hermione’s hand which was still clasped in hers.

“That sounds great.” Hermione breathed. Whilst being so close to Fleur still overwhelmed her, with the motions of Fleur’s thumb becoming wonderfully distracting, she noticed that same calmness sweep over her.

Fleur emanated an aura that fundamentally made Hermione feel safe. There was a stillness that thrummed through Fleur, even in her moments of brevity, she felt strong and soothing.

That didn’t however stop her from being positively breathtaking. Hermione relished Fleur’s soft skin caressing her. Enjoyed the opportunity to further study the French woman’s flawless complexion up close, drawn to the scattering of freckles across Fleur’s nose, somehow enhancing her beauty.

Fleur gazed at Hermione steadily, happily letting the younger woman’s eyes rove across her face, seeking something.

A blush rose in Hermione’s cheeks when she glanced at Fleur’s full lips, the remnants of hastily removed lipstick visible up close. Fleur’s impassive expression twisted into a smirk when she noticed which particular part of her face Hermione had been preoccupied by.

Saving Hermione from further embarrassment, Fleur diplomatically gave Hermione’s hands a final squeeze, before heading towards the kitchen.

“Make yourself comfortable, or continue staring at pictures of me, as I said, I have always been very cute.” Fleur spoke, making a selection from her small wine fridge.

Hermione nodded, moving away from the bookcase, trying to dispel the image of Fleur and Bill that was currently seared into her head, clouding her vision. She headed towards the breakfast bar that separated the kitchen and living room, watching Fleur open cupboards and retrieve two glasses.

“Are you okay with a Pinot? I have others, but this one is from Maman’s vineyard. Very special.” Fleur asked, uncorking the bottle and beginning to pour when Hermione nodded.

“Your family has a vineyard?”

“Oui. The estate grounds are very big. We are extremely lucky.” Fleur shrugged, swirling the wine in the glass before taking a gentle sip, emitting a moan of pleasure as the liquid hit her throat.

Hermione blushed again, distracting herself by following suit and tasting the wine.

“Fuck this is good! I’ll admit I know little about wine and can’t tell a £5 bottle from a £50 or a Pinot from a Chardonnay, but this is delicious.”

Fleur smiled graciously.

“I won’t tell Maman that you said that, her French soul would be tormented, she’d lose sleep for weeks.” The blonde joked, chuckling at Hermione’s panicked face, fearful at the prospect of being scolded by Fleur’s mother.

“Where are my manners? We should toast! To your first day at your new job!” Fleur raised her glass slightly, holding it towards Hermione for her to make contact with her own glass of wine.

“And to being neighbours. The first of many glasses of wine together I hope.” Hermione chanced, delighted with the way Fleur’s eyes widened in shock before softening as she gazed at the brunette.

Hermione tilted her glass towards Fleur’s, frowning when she noticed that the French witch’s eyes were fixed on her glass of wine.

“You have to look me in the eyes Fleur.”

“Quoi?” Fleur looked at Hermione in confusion, her wine glass still suspended in the air.

Hermione laughed at Fleur’s baffled look, her laugh abruptly dying when Fleur turned her intense blue eyes on her, her black pupils larger than normal. Hermione felt a warmth beginning to swarm in her stomach, found her lips parting as her breathing became shallow. Her vision seemed to almost shimmer the more she looked at Fleur, her amber eyes getting lost in Fleur’s crystal clear icy pools.

“Euuhhhhh…” a strange, strangled noise erupted from her mouth before she could stop it. What was I talking about again? Hermione searched her brain for words, any words.

“It’s bad luck. Sex. Bad sex.” Fleur’s eyebrows rose, her pupils impossibly blown.

Hermione tried again, wishing desperately that she’d never opened her mouth in the first place.

“You have to keep eye contact when you cheers, else it’s bad sex for life. That’s what Ginny says anyway.”

“Well that is certainly not worth the risk then. We couldn’t have that.” Fleur all but purred as she readjusted her glass, keeping her eyes purposely fixed on Hermione as she did so.

What a clever idea Hermione, demand eye contact from a woman that you struggle to be coherent with whenever she looks at you.

Hermione connected her glass with Fleur’s, the glasses emitting a satisfying ringing sound as they collided smoothly.

“Come, tell me about your day.” Fleur demanded, walking around the counter and gesturing for Hermione to follow her to the sofa.

Hermione sat a safe distance from the woman, not trusting herself to be too close. She could barely string a sentence together when at an arm's length from Fleur, her head would probably explode if she felt the heat of the blonde’s body against her. She resolved to sit against one end of the roomy sofa, leaning her weight against the arm.

She wasn’t sure whether she imagined it or not, but Hermione thought she saw a flash of disappointment cross Fleur’s face, before she too settled herself down at the opposite end of the sofa, her features schooled into an impassive mask.

Hermione curled feet up under her, angling her body towards Fleur, whilst Fleur had filled the space between them with her legs, stretching out as she relaxed.

Taking another large swig of wine, Hermione dragged her eyes from the exposed strip of skin that appeared as Fleur stretched; her shirt had become untucked from her skirt.

“I want to talk about your day first, your note said that there were troubles in the lower vaults? Were you hurt?” Hermione asked, concern lacing her voice, her eyes roaming Fleur for signs of injury.

Fleur groaned, nodding as she also took another sip of her mother’s wine.

“Oui, I was called in early. One of my idiot colleagues decided to single handedly attempt to tackle one of our more difficult vaults. I am fine, luckily.” Fleur shook her head in irritation, anger darkening her features, muttering some presumably less than glowing words about her colleague in French.

Hermione thought she’d never seen Fleur look more beautiful. Her silvery hair rippled tantalisingly as the woman absentmindedly reached up to loosen her hair, running her fingers through it briskly. The anger on her face transformed her features, Hermione noted. She looked dangerous , slightly wild. It sent a thrill through Hermione seeing this side of Fleur. There was something more natural, more primal to Fleur when she was like this, something that seemed to call to Hermione.

It wasn’t that Hermione didn’t feel helplessly drawn to Fleur ordinarily. In fact it was becoming increasingly obvious to Hermione that this strange crush or fixation that she’d suddenly developed towards Fleur wasn’t going anywhere. But Fleur’s breezy, flirtatious nature sometimes felt disingenuous to Hermione, like Fleur was playing the part of the cheeky, French Veela who had a smart mouth.

But this anger felt closer to the real Fleur, a Fleur that Hermione was desperate to find out about. The Fleur beyond the version of herself that she showed the world.

Fleur continued talking, describing in detail the complex spell work that had been required to not only contain the dark magic that had seeped out of the vault, but also the healing she had to administer to minimise the damage done to her colleague.

Hermione felt her body reacting keenly, shifting towards Fleur, her arm unconsciously slinging over the back of the sofa. If Fleur were to just stretch her arm slightly, their hands could touch.

“So tomorrow will be filled with boring paperwork. The Goblins are big on making sure everything is by the book.” Fleur finished, draining the last of her wine.

“Top up?” She asked, gesturing to Hermione’s nearly empty glass.

“Please.” Hermione responded, enjoying the hazy feel of the wine taking the edge off her anxieties.

“But now you. I am bored of my own voice, I want to hear about your day. ‘Ow was it ‘Ermione?” Fleur returned with her glass full and the rest of the bottle, which she dutifully poured into Hermione’s glass.

“Underwhelming to be honest. I had all these big ideas, dreams when I left Hogwarts. This vision to make the Wizarding world more accepting, safer for everyone . And everyday just feels like a constant battle.”

It wasn’t what Hermione had expected to come out her mouth. It was the truth, but she hadn’t expected it to fall out so easily. She hadn’t even told Ginny of her displeasure at her job, how the slow pace and seeming unwillingness of some people to embrace change sometimes made her job downright awful.

“It’s just that I thought winning the war was the end of it you know? And in a lot of ways it was. But evil doesn’t just take one form. It’s not neatly wrapped up in one man, one body, soul or whatever.” Now that the words had started she couldn’t seem to hold them back, despite the terror that she felt, the dangerous territory that she knew she was brazenly walking out into.

“It’s like everyone thought that Voldemort would die and we’d all be living in utopia, skipping around singing Kumbaya together.” Hermione scoffed bitterly, her eyes blazing.

“And that just couldn’t be further from the truth. Day in, day out I read these absurd laws . Laws that are discriminatory, bigoted and downright racist and it’s just… it’s draining. Tiring on a level that I didn’t anticipate.”

The anger left Hermione’s eyes as quickly as it had appeared there. She brought her hand to her face, pinching the bridge of her nose, feeling empty.

“Whilst I love fighting for the rights of all magical creatures, beings and beasts, I just sometimes wish I didn’t have to.” She finished, nearly whispering.

Fleur sat and listened, her gaze empathetic, letting the woman talk.

Only when it was clear that she was finished did Fleur speak.

“Can I tell you a story? It is relevant I promise.” Fleur spoke softly, waiting for Hermione’s permission before continuing.

Hermione nodded, fiddling with the stem of her wine glass, embarrassed and slightly regretful of her outburst.

“It was the day that Gabrielle was born. The Clan was so excited, but I was so miserable. Usually, Veela give birth surrounded by the Clan; the older women use their healing magic to coax the mother through the birth, usually without complication.”

Fleur paused, taking a shuddering breath, lost in her own memory.

“But this was different. They did not tell me what had happened, they didn’t need to. I knew that something had gone wrong. They took Maman to a Wizarding hospital and I wasn’t allowed to go and see her. I was so angry at Gabrielle, so annoyed at my unborn sister for taking my Maman away from me. I even kicked my grand-mere when she told me I wasn’t allowed to go.” Fleur chuckled, glancing at Hermione who was listening intently.

“Even in birth Gabrielle was challenging. Hours had passed and she was refusing to come out. My grand-mère was so worried that she finally gave into my demands, agreeing to let me go to the hospital. When we arrived, she stopped me before we went in. She asked me to go and get a receptionist. She would not tell me why, she simply said she needed to speak to someone.”

Fleur’s expression had darkened, her hair shining imperceptibly brighter as she fumed internally.

“When I managed to find someone, they came outside to speak to grand-mère, who told me to go and wait inside, which I did… for a moment. I was never good at following the rules. I went back to eavesdrop on their conversation.”

Hermione stretched her arm on the back of the sofa, her fingers dancing over Fleur’s in what she hoped was a comforting gesture.

“My grand-mère was angry, I could see it immediately. She is full Veela, you see. And for that reason, the receptionist was telling her that she couldn’t enter the hospital. That she didn’t care that her daughter was giving birth, that her grand daughter was being born. Under Regulation 72.b of the law passed by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, it was prohibited for a full blooded Veela to enter a Wizarding hospital.”

Fleur watched Hermione’s fingers running circles over her knuckles, trying to ground herself.

“I think that was the first time that I realised, truly realised that to witches and wizards, I was different. That they would never see me as one of them. That me and my family were other .”

Fleur let her fingers meet Hermione’s, pressing the tips of hers to the other witches, pushing them idly, interlocking their fingers.

“To cut a sad story short, I was allowed into the hospital to be with Maman. But my grand-mère was not. She missed the birth of her granddaughter, which in my culture is… a great affront.”

Hermione searched for Fleur’s gaze, the need to comfort the French witch was overwhelming. Feeling the weight of Hermione’s eyes on her, Fleur allowed her eyes to drift to the waiting gaze of the woman.

“That was, well, 13 years ago now. And in that time, not only has that vile law been overturned, a public apology was issued and reparations paid for emotional damage caused to the Veela species by those who made the foul law.”

Fleur shifted her weight, bringing herself closer to Hermione as she did so.

“I’m not saying that things are perfect for us now, or that it erases the hurt that was caused to my people by witches and wizards. But things are better. Better because of people like you, who fight for us, because it is the right thing to do.”

Fleur smiled earnestly at Hermione, who was currently fighting back tears and avoiding Fleur’s watchful eyes.

“And I can only imagine the emotional toll it takes on you, but think of the emotional toll that you are alleviating in others. You have the power to change things, Hermione. When you talk, people listen. Do not ever think that your job is a thankless one. Thank you. Sincerely.”

Fleur squeezed Hermione’s hand with both of hers, ducking her head to catch a glimpse of her tearful face.

Hermione said nothing, merely nodded. It was all she could bring herself to do, worried that if she started talking again she’d simply burst into tears.

She still felt embarrassed by her outburst. Poor little witch crying because changing laws is hard, Hermione thought. She didn’t even consider the hardship that the woman sitting before her had to face, what her family had to face. She felt ashamed for moaning, and said as much, the thought slipping from her lips before she could stop it.

Fleur’s eyes flashed angrily again as she leant forwards, moving her entire body so that she was inches from Hermione, her knees brushing Hermione’s.

“Please do not be ashamed for being honest with me. That is what I want from you. I want you to be honest, to feel comfortable enough to tell me things. I want us to be…friends.”

Hermione noticed Fleur’s hesitation over the use of the word friend and hope stirred in her chest.

“I do feel comfortable with you.” Hermione whispered, ignoring how vulnerable she felt, how utterly terrified she was about their entire exchange.

Sensing Hermione’s growing discomfort despite her words, Fleur gave Hermione’s hands one last squeeze, before she moved back to her original seat, creating a healthy distance between them.

Quelling her disappointment and shoving down the urge to pull Fleur back to her, Hermione knocked back the rest of her wine in one.

“Don’t tell your mother I did that, I’m sure she’d be mortified.”

Fleur laughed, the sound breaking any residual tension that had been left by Fleur’s story.

“So my work is shit, your work is shit, bon. I’m glad we got the boring stuff out of the way. Now, shall I give you the tour of my humble home? I see you already admired little bébé Fleur?” The French woman joked, holding out her hand to help Hermione off the sofa.

Hermione let herself be led back to the bookcase, her stomach churning uneasily. She didn’t want to have to see Bill and Fleur wrapped in each other’s arms. Didn’t want to go have to watch Fleur twirling happily in her wedding dress.

“I’m equal parts shocked and delighted to see that I make a cameo in your photo collection. I never knew you were such a fan Fleur, I can sign it if you like?” Hermione joked, hoping that the sound of Fleur’s laugh would dispel her strange feelings towards Bill.

Fleur playfully hit Hermione’s arm, letting her hand run from her bicep down to her wrist before releasing her hold.

“Oh shush you. I believe this was taken in a tent for Champions, I was unaware of your presence.” Fleur shot haughtily, flicking her long silvery blonde hair at Hermione in jest.

“God I remember you like this you know. I remember you all like this.” Hermione couldn’t stop the slight smile from pulling at her lips as she brought the photo closer to her, gazing down at the proud French witch.

“You were so…. Different.” Hermione finished diplomatically.

Fleur quirked her eyebrows however, dissatisfied with Hermione’s answer.

“I thought we said we were going to be honest with each other?”

Hermione blushed, meeting Fleur’s playful eyes head on.

“Fine. You were so… snobby? Miserable? Stuck up?” Hermione tried, jokingly raising her hands in defence, backing away from Fleur until she was out of arm's reach.

“Of course I was! That castle is so cold! And draughty, I was freezing for an entire year.”

Hermione recalled those blue silk Beauxbatons uniforms, with the sinfully short skirts. She could picture Fleur strutting around the castle, surrounded by her entourage and a trailing posse of stuttering boys.

“And do not get me started on the food,” the French witch continued, watching Hermione with fondness.

Hermione glanced up, urging Fleur to continue with her eyes.

“Always so heavy! With the meat and the potato and the vegetables and the sloppy sauces. Have you English never heard of fine dining?”

Hermione laughed freely, watching the eyes of seventeen year old Fleur blaze with intensity into the camera, before looking at Fleur presently, those same blue eyes sparkling with mirth.

“I take it back, maybe you aren’t any different now.” Hermione laughed, dodging Fleur’s jabbing hands again.

“And what of you ‘Ermione Granger, what were you like at fifteen, hmm?” Fleur interrogated, holding Hermione’s hands hostage, her natural honeysuckle scent invading Hermione’s senses.

“Well you tell me. What did you think of me at fifteen?”

Fleur paused, regarding Hermione warily, looking between the image of Hermione retreating from the Champions tent and the much changed woman standing before her.

“Or perhaps you didn’t think of me at all?” Hermione questioned, hurt at the thought. The only thing worse than Fleur Delacour thinking ill of her, was Fleur Delacour not thinking of her at all.

Fleur’s eyes widened and her hands were pulling Hermione closer in a flash, her arms suddenly wrapped around the younger woman’s neck.

Hermione paused for a beat before she naturally wound her arms around Fleur’s waist, her hands joining on the small of Fleur’s back.

“Oh ma belle, but of course I thought of you! You were - and still are - ‘Ermione Granger! Brightest witch of her age. Who could not think of you?”

Hermione felt these words against her hair, Fleur’s warm breath tickling some strands as she spoke. Her stomach rolled pleasantly as she allowed herself to breathe in the scent of Fleur’s skin, as her head sat level with Fleur’s neck.

Fleur pulled back slightly, thoughtlessly moving an errant hair from Hermione’s face.

“I thought you were simply adorable. You were always in the library, the sides of your ‘ands were constantly covered in ink. And you were always scowling, like this.” Fleur attempted to mimic Hermione’s frown, her delicate eyebrows pulling together.

Hermione demonstrated in earnest, earning a hearty laugh from the blonde’s mouth.

“Yes, like that! And you and Ron were always bickering, he seemed to get on your nerves constantly, it was rather fun to watch.” Fleur shrugged as Hermione giggled. Perhaps things weren’t so different.

“You wore that pink dress to the Yule Ball also, and you were a wonderful dancer even at fifteen. Viktor Krum however,” Fleur grimaced as she said the name, “well he was stomping all over your feet like a mad man!”

Hermione laughed again, surprised that Fleur took any notice as to who her date to the Yule Ball was. But then after all Viktor was a fellow Champion, it would’ve been hard to not notice his date.

“And I noticed how much you didn’t like me. Phlegm, was the nickname I believe?” Fleur asked, already aware of the answer.

Hermione groaned, covering her face with her hands, looking mortified. Whilst they had agreed on honesty, she didn’t think she had it in her to break it to Fleur that this was still Ginny’s nickname of choice for her.

“Was I really that obvious?”

Fleur dropped her arms from Hermione’s shoulders, removing Hermione’s hands from her face. The brunette feared what she might see in Fleur’s eyes, but when she felt a gentle hand on her chin, forcing her gaze back to Fleur, she found those delicate blue eyes devoid of judgement.

“Do not fret, I can see how you would think of me as… cold. Detached. People have said worse things about me.” Fleur let go of Hermione’s chin and returned to stand next to her instead, picking up the discarded photo and placing it carefully back on the bookcase.

“It wasn’t that I disliked you, it was that I disliked what your thrall did to those around you.” Hermione said quietly, hoping she wasn’t overstepping.

Fleur looked taken aback at the confession, but not offended.

“I mean, the library was my safe space, where I could block everything out. Until you strolled in with your admirers in tow.” Hermione tried to keep her tone light, hoping that this explanation would suffice for Fleur. Confessing that she was in the middle of a sexual awakening and secretly harboured feelings for the French witch was hardly on the agenda for the evening.

Fleur nodded, contemplating Hermione’s words.

“But I understand now. At the time, I blamed you, as if your thrall was something you could control.” Hermione continued, watching Fleur stare at her bookcase, her eyes flirting from title to title.

“Whereas now you know this is not the case?” Fleur finished for her, to which Hermione looked pensieve.

“I suspect this isn’t the case. You Veelas and your secrets.” Hermione offered warmly, bumping Fleur with her hip who bumped her back.

Hermione’s eyes ventured back towards the photo of Bill and Fleur, hoping that she was disguising her distaste better than she assumed she was.

Fleur’s eyes followed hers, landing on the photo before Hermione could shift her gaze away

“‘Ermione…” Fleur began, but was interrupted by the steady vibration of Hermione’s phone in her pocket.

Grateful for the distraction, Hermione began fumbling with her pocket, trying to wrestle the phone out.

“It’s Ginny.” Hermione spoke, gesturing to the name on the screen.

“Answer it.” Fleur replied, heading towards the kitchen.

“I will get us another glass of wine. One more for the road?” Fleur raised her voice, uncertainty bleeding into her choice of words as she used an English idiom.

“Sure, just a small one, I’m a bit of a lightweight.” Hermione called back, answering the FaceTime as she did.

“You can say that again, remember Luna’s birthday last year when you were sick in one of her greenhouses after four shots of fire whisky.” Ginny snickered, clearly having caught the last of Hermione’s reply to Fleur.

Hermione grimaced at the memory. She hadn’t drank fire whisky since.

“Hello to you too Ginny.” Hermione replied, taking the glass of wine that Fleur handed to her.

“Thank you.” Hermione muttered, trying to keep her expression neutral as Fleur leaned her head on her shoulder, appearing on the screen for Ginny to see.

“Salut Ginny, how are you?” Fleur tilted her head towards Hermione’s cheek, feeling the warmth radiate there as her blush grew.

Ginny tried her best to mask her surprise but failed spectacularly. Tact and subtlety were not the Weasley’s strongest attributes.

“Fleur! I’m good, how are you? Trying to get Hermione drunk are you?” Ginny recovered quickly, nudging someone off screen.

“Trying, but she is being boring, insisting on only a small glass of wine. Maybe I will try to tempt her with fire whisky next time, non?” Fleur smirked, watching Hermione’s scowl on screen, enjoying the flushed look on her face.

Fleur swiftly pressed her lips to Hermione’s cheek before walking away, leaving a thoroughly startled and beet red Hermione.

Ginny looked equally aghast, her mouth gaping, dark blue eyes twinkling with disbelief. She quickly mouthed “what the fuck”, making over exaggerated kissing faces, to which Hermione silently fumed, eyeing Fleur to ensure she hadn’t miraculously heard.

On the screen, a hand appeared from out of shot, giving Ginny a gentle push before taking the phone from her. Harry’s bedraggled head appeared, smiling sympathetically at Hermione.

“Hey Hermione, hey Fleur! Ron is here too.”

Hermione heard a stumbling noise and then a crash, as Ron ungraciously bustled over to the kitchen table where Harry and Ginny were currently sitting.

“Did you say hello to Fleur ?” He asked, disbelief evident in his voice.

“Yes. I’m at Fleur’s. We’re having wine. She’s here.” Hermione joined Fleur on the sofa, sitting close enough that their thighs brushed. It’s just so we can both see the screen , Hermione reasoned internally.

“Bonjour Ron, Harry.” Fleur smiled politely, twisting her body so that she was looking more directly at Hermione, observing her as she spoke to her friends.

“We just wanted to see how your first day went. Did you get my picture?” Ron asked, his head bent and speaking directly into the microphone.

“I did, thank you Ron. And I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow if that’s okay? Are we still on for dinner at yours?” Hermione asked. She still felt entirely drained from her oddly cathartic sharing session with Fleur and didn’t feel like unearthing those conflicting feelings about her job again.

“Course ‘Mione, I’m making Ratatouille actually. It’s French. Fleur, you’re French! Why don’t you come too?” Ron exclaimed, his eyes lighting up at the prospect.

Fleur once again leaned closer into Hermione, her silvery hair tickling Hermione’s cheek as she moved.

“Whilst that sounds lovely, I’ve actually made dinner plans with your brother tomorrow.”

Hermione turned her head with such force that she heard her neck click.

“With Bill?” Hermione questioned, beating a confused looking Ron to it.

“Oui.” Fleur replied guardedly, one eyebrow quirked up at Hermione’s impassioned question.

Hermione felt that same stomach churning queasiness that she had when looking at the photo of Bill and Fleur. Whilst she knew her feelings were irrational, she couldn’t help the discomfort that she felt. Picturing Fleur sat across from Bill, laughing at something he said, her eyes glinting playfully, was surprisingly painful.

“I haven’t seen him for a while, I am looking forward to catching up with my ex-husband.” Fleur winked at Ron, seeming to avoid Hermione’s eyes.

“Do you meet up with him often? Bit weird isn’t it?” Ron asked, the famous Weasley lack of tact rearing its head for the second time in one conversation.

“Ronald!” Hermione hissed, dreading to hear Fleur’s answer. She wasn’t sure she could control her discomfort and irritation if Fleur answered that she did.

“It’s okay ‘Ermione, I’m sure it does seem strange. However Bill and I were always friends first and foremost, and that is still true. Just because we are not together anymore does not mean I don’t care about him.” Fleur finished with a shrug, alternating between looking at Ron and Hermione.

Hermione kept her eyes on the screen, not daring to look at Fleur yet. Her answer had done little to dispel the jealous feeling that was currently running rampant through Hermione.

Ron hummed non committedly, sharing an indecipherable look with Ginny.

“Well we meet up every Tuesday here, taking it in turns to cook. You should come next week, it’s Harry’s turn which means there’s a good chance that it will be edible!”

Hermione couldn’t help the fond smile that crossed her face when she looked back at the screen, back at Ron. With Harry it was sometimes difficult to see him as he was when they met, an eleven year old boy. Harry had had to grow up quickly and as such even when he was eleven, it never really felt like it.

With Ron it was the opposite. Every time Hermione looked at him she could still see the dopey, clueless yet big hearted boy who had been so cruel to her at first. He still possessed that boyish charm and tenacity of youth that had first drawn her to him as a child.

In fact he still looked much the same despite the years that had passed. His face was more slender, his jawline more defined and the fluffy scattering of facial hair that he’d developed as a teenager had gradually made way to a wiry, thicker ginger beard.

He was handsome, Hermione could admit that much. She had spent so many years imagining a life in which she and Ron were together; it was what was expected, what everyone had anticipated. And it wasn’t an unpleasant thought. She saw Ron’s kindness, his genuine love towards her, hadn’t missed the way his gaze of fondness turned into one of longing sometime after their fourth year and she knew that he’d take care of her, would do anything for her.

She was extremely grateful that Ron was as gracious as he was when she eventually turned him down. Even thinking of a life without Ron in it gripped her heart, squeezing uncomfortably in her chest.

“Thank you for the invitation, I will take you up on it I’m sure.” Fleur agreed, finishing her wine, snapping Hermione out of her reverie.

“We’ll leave you to it. Chat tomorrow?” Harry asked, appearing over Ron’s shoulder.

“Oh and ‘Mione, bring an extra quill tomorrow, I’ve got a tonne of homework that I need your help on.” Ron added, grinning slyly as Hermione rolled her eyes at him. Still the same eleven year old boy , she thought.

“Fine. Love you all!”

With a chorus of love you’s, the call disconnected.

A silence settled over the women as Hermione sipped her wine, savouring the small glass that Fleur had graciously poured for her.

“They are protective of you.” Fleur broke the silence, her head resting on her hand, leaning against the back of the sofa.

“They’re my family.” Hermione returned, hoping Fleur didn’t use this as an excuse to ask about her actual family.

Fleur simply hummed however, gazing at Hermione intently as she finished the last of her wine.

“Oh shoot, is that the time?” Hermione exclaimed as she glanced at the clock on Fleur’s wall, stunned to see how much time had passed since she’d arrived.

“I have to go.” Hermione said solemnly, seeing disappointment on Fleur’s face too.

“Thank you so much for the wine though. And the company of course.”

Fleur smiled warmly, taking Hermione’s glass and sending it flying into the sink where it began washing itself.

“The pleasure was all mine, I had a wonderful evening. I am sad to see you go.” Fleur added softly, her voice almost a whisper.

Hermione couldn’t help smiling, her lips quirking upwards.

“I live two doors away Fleur, you can see me whenever you like.”

Fleur pouted slightly, looking like a petulant teenager, making Hermione smile further.

“But I’m sad to go too.” Hermione added, taking Fleur’s hand in hers and squeezing it reassuringly.

“Perhaps we could apparate to Westminster together tomorrow morning? I have to go the same way as you for a while.” Fleur suggested, lacing her fingers with Hermione’s thoughtlessly, enjoying the way they fit together.

Hermione nodded eagerly, trying not to question this new found pull she felt towards Fleur, this incessant need to be around the blonde for as long as possible.

“That sounds good. Shall I knock for you?” Hermione stifled a yawn. She hadn’t realised how tired she was until the prospect of bed was so close.

Fleur laughed, catching Hermione’s yawn and doing the same.

“Please do. I will see you out.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at this, refraining from pointing out that the door was less than ten paces away, instead letting Fleur lead the way, their hands still clasped together.

Once the door was open, Hermione begrudgingly let go of Fleur’s hand, her arm swinging aimlessly at her side. She tried to ignore the loss of warmth, instead turning to face Fleur once again.

“Until tomorrow?” Fleur said hopefully, her blue eyes soft in the glowing light of the hallway.

Hermione nodded, savouring a last look at Fleur.

Fleur leaned in slowly, giving Hermione space to move away as she had previously. Hermione stayed put, accepting the gentle kiss that Fleur dropped on one of her cheeks and then the other.

“Goodnight, Fleur.” It was all Hermione trusted herself to say for fear of her voice betraying her twisting insides, the heat that was pooling in her stomach from Fleur’s gentle kisses.

With a gentle wave, Hermione turned, walking the short distance back to her apartment, looking back and waving again at Fleur who was still standing in the doorway, watching her go.

Once inside her apartment, Hermione ran her hands through her hair, feeling the blush that she had been furiously trying to hide bloom on her face.

There was too much for her to process. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. She tried to focus on the safety she felt around Fleur, the way that even the scent of honeysuckle on the woman made her feel instantly soothed. Tried to call to mind the way that Fleur’s eyes seemed to soften when she was being vulnerable or when Hermione was being open and honest with her.

But her thoughts kept turning to the photo of Bill and Fleur, looking every bit the picture of happiness. Whilst she knew these feelings were irrational, she was completely confused by them. Bill and Fleur were no longer together and Hermione had a good relationship with the oldest Weasley, and seemed to be forming a good friendship with Fleur also.

Yet she couldn’t quell the churning in her stomach, or the unexpected boiling anger that she felt at the mere thought of Bill being the person to make Fleur laugh, the person who received her soft gaze of vulnerability.

Hermione was struck with the realisation that she wanted to be that person, wanting to elicit those reactions from her. The realisation came hard and fast with its insistence on being soft and slow.

“This stupid school girl crush.” Hermione muttered, admonishing herself and trying to abandon all thoughts of Fleur as she made her way to her bedroom, suddenly overwhelmingly exhausted.

She undressed with her back to the mirror, unable to face her scars today, before clambering into bed with a huff, annoyed at these strange and unfamiliar feelings.

Before slipping into sleep, Hermione vowed not to let her frivolous feelings get in the way of her budding friendship with Fleur. She was determined not to ruin this.

Chapter Text

Fleur watched Hermione disappear into her apartment, not leaving her doorway until she was certain that the brunette was safely inside, hearing the lock click softly down the corridor.

Only then did she retreat into her own apartment, wincing slightly as she walked. She had done a good job of masking her injuries whilst Hermione had been over, but now that the woman had gone Fleur allowed herself to groan as her shoulder throbbed.

Fleur had been going to tell Hermione about her direct involvement in the incident at work, she really had. But when she’d seen how concerned Hermione looked, how her eyes had anxiously moved around her face checking for signs of damage, she just couldn’t. Besides, she knew her Veela heritage would conveniently speed along the healing process. It wasn’t worth worrying Hermione over, she justified, walking steadily back to the living room.

She did however feel like she was being dishonest with the woman. There was already so much that she wasn’t sharing with her; Fleur was constantly warring within herself, the impatient half of her wanting to blurt out every secret she was keeping from Hermione, the other more rational part of her holding back for fear of being too much too soon.

Biting down the rising guilt that twisted in her stomach whenever she thought of the secrets she kept, Fleur worked on retrieving some Muggle painkillers, hoping to stave off the ache in her shoulders before her Veela blood did the rest of the work. With any luck she’d be able to hide any signs of injury from Hermione over the next couple of days and save the woman from needlessly worrying.

It was quite easy for Fleur to forget about the dangers of her job; she wasn’t facing Death Eaters head on or tied directly to a branch of law enforcement, meaning it was sometimes all too easy to let her guard down when trying to stabilise vaults. It was days like these that served as a painful reminder that whilst Voldemort was gone and his followers facing justice, dark magic did not simply die with them, but lingered.

When she had initially taken the post at Gringotts, it hadn’t been the potential run-ins with dark magic that had drawn her, rather the chance to travel and immerse herself in other cultures as well as the thrill that came from figuring out a particularly tricky cursed vault. Her strength always lay in her natural ability to wield her magic, but her problem solving skills and fierce passion for a challenge weren’t far behind. The combination of these skills meant that employment as a Curse Breaker had seemed like a perfect fit to a young and ambitious Fleur.

The reality of her job was a lot less glamorous than she’d anticipated; the closest she got to an immersive time with other cultures was spending time with the permanently disgruntled Goblins that were her co-workers. But over time she found the balance of physicality and high level cognition that was required on a daily basis to be rewarding. No two vaults were the same after all.

By the time the war started and had thwarted any plans of travel and then once the proverbial dust had settled after the war had ended, Fleur was surprised to realise that she didn’t actively want to travel anymore. She often yearned to return to France, the call of home having become much stronger after being away for such an extended amount of time, but found that being any further afield from family and friends had little appeal the older she got.

What struck her as even more bizarre however was the draw she now felt to the ruthlessly grey and downright dull island that was the UK. This miserable and strange corner of the world had begun to feel like home and not simply because of its occupants. Although she couldn’t deny that certain residents did make the drizzly island more appealing…

Just as Fleur was filling up a glass with water, lost in her thoughts, she heard the gentle whoosh of the fireplace starting up, the embers crackling and casting a green hue across the room. She turned on her heel, wand at the ready and poised to combat any potential intruders.

“This is how you greet your mother? I told you that being in England for too long would make you forget your manners.”

Fleur relaxed her arm and holstered her wand, sighing at the familiar voice of her mother Apolline Delacour. Rounding the corner to the living room, Fleur saw her mother’s face flickering in the grate, a bemused expression dancing on her face.

Apolline’s face was at once strikingly similar to Fleur’s yet also decidedly different; it was as if the similarities only served to heighten the aspects of the two that weren’t the same. Even with the green tinge of the flames, Fleur could see her mother’s sparkling deep blue eyes and her silvery blonde hair dancing in the flames, her face only showing minor signs of ageing. Her mother’s face possessed more natural brevity than Fleur’s; where Fleur’s visage had a natural intensity and sharp, angular features, her mother had a lighter, softer face. The only real signifiers of Apolline’s age were the presence of shallow laugh lines and a slight wrinkling of crow's feet around her dark blue eyes.

“Bonsoir Maman. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Fleur sat carefully on the sofa, easing herself to a seated position as slowly as possible yet still grunting slightly as a pain shot up her shoulder at the impact.

Apolline frowned, concern and slight annoyance flashing across her delicate features. “Are you hurt?”

Fleur waved a hand dismissively, adjusting her posture to dull the aching in her back. “It is nothing, just a bump at work. How are you Maman?”

“I would be better if my daughter responded to my multiple letters, then I would not have to show up unannounced like this, hm? What if I had interrupted something?”

Apolline raised her eyebrows suggestively, earning a groan from Fleur. She had forgotten quite how French and Veela her mother could be.

“In case you forgot Maman, I live alone now, there is nothing to interrupt.” Fleur grumbled, scowling at her mother.

“But in your case this is precisely why there may now be something to interrupt! I thought you said you had company this evening?”

Fleur sighed, stretching her legs out fully and twisting onto her side, ignoring the continued shooting pains up her back and her protesting shoulders.

“I did, she has gone now because it is late. Perhaps you should go too.” Fleur shot jokingly, summoning an ice pack from the freezer and adjusting it to lay under her shoulders, the cold making her gasp as it hit her skin.

“Oh my daughter, so defensive! You wound your mother. And how is Hermione?”

Fleur measured her words carefully, shooting her mother a warning look. This was not a conversational route that she particularly wanted to head down on a good day, let alone in her current frame of mind.

“Hermione is fine. She sends her compliments on the wine.” Fleur watched her mother bristle with pride, a smile creeping onto her face.

“Did you give her the Pinot? She strikes me as a woman who likes a dry wine and the harvest was particularly good last year. I shall send you more to give to her.”

Rolling her eyes, Fleur sat up, willing the painkillers to kick in before her mother added a headache to her list of ailments from the day.

“Yes it was the Pinot. And she shouldn’t strike you as anything, you’ve only met her once, when she was fifteen.”

Apolline huffed, glaring at her daughter.

“Yes but I know these things, I can sense certain things about my daughter's mate.”

Fleur hissed at her mother, her eyes glancing towards the wall closest to Hermione’s apartment. She wordlessly conjured a Silencing Charm, praying that Hermione was already asleep and that the walls weren’t as thin as she suspected they were and that in the case that Hermione was awake, hoped dearly that her French was not good enough to keep up with her mother’s rapid fire delivery.

“Maman do not call her that! You know I hate it.” Fleur had lowered her voice and leant forward, her face much closer to the fire than previously, hoping to convey her sincere annoyance to her mother.

Apolline rolled her eyes at her daughter’s dramatic reaction, studying her fingernails absentmindedly as Fleur continued to scowl.

“And I can assume from your less than pleasant tone that she still doesn’t know? Why you continue to deny your heritage is beyond me. And now that Bill is no longer in the picture there is no reason not to pursue this now.”

Fleur shook her head, bringing her palm up to her face in frustration, her mother’s stoic face only serving to antagonise her.

“We have gone over this Maman, I can hardly barge into Hermione’s life after not speaking a word to her for two years, declare her my… mate,” Fleur stuttered over the word, her distaste clear from her face, “and expect her to fall into my arms with delight.”

Fleur sat upright, gesticulating aggressively as she spoke.

“What am I to say? ‘Sorry Hermione, I know I was married to your best friend’s brother for a while there, but it is over now! You are my mate! Let’s get married and have children and skip into the sunset?!’”

Apolline looked at her daughter with faint amusement, her eyes glinting with glee despite her attempts to look sombre for the sake of Fleur. Although she would never admit it, Apolline enjoyed seeing her daughter’s spirit and passion shine through. It had been lacking in recent years, the war having stolen some of Fleur’s playful and lighthearted traits.

Fleur withered slightly under her mother’s gaze, allowing her aching body to sink back into the sofa.

“Well your current plan is hardly working either. She spent time here but left? Do I need to educate you in the art of seduction my daughter?”

Fleur sat back in disgust, pointedly ignoring her mother’s pealing laughter and pushing aside the way her stomach swooped at the insinuation and the accompanying images that flashed through her brain.

“Maman arrête, I almost threw up my wine. And I am not trying to seduce her, I want to take this slowly, for both of our sakes.” Fleur pulled a cushion off the sofa, propping herself up on the floor with her elbows and settling in more comfortably in front of the fireplace.

“I am sorry ma petite chou, you know how I tease. Although I do not see how this could be moving more slowly. I have never heard of a six year courting. Shall I book the venue for another fifteen years or is that too soon?”

Fleur chose not to dignify her mother’s teasing with an answer, simply flicking her hair in annoyance and rolling her eyes in the direction of the fireplace.

“I am serious now my darling. You must tell her soon, bon? It pains me to see you in such turmoil. It is not natural for a Veela to be without their chosen.”

Fleur hummed non-committedly, playing with a loose thread on the rug to avoid having to be scrutinised under her mother’s shrewd gaze. Whilst she wasn’t keen on her mother referring to Hermione as her ‘chosen’, she would take it over ‘mate’.

“She barely knows me Maman, and she has been through so much.” Fleur thought back to Shell Cottage, envisioning Hermione as she was on the beach, battered and broken. She shuddered as images of Hermione’s blood mixing with sand and the salt water, her hair matted and caked with dried blood, her arm open and seeping a terrifying amount flooded into her mind. The helplessness she had felt had been overwhelming, the urge to protect so strong that she’d grown frantic, ordering everyone out as she worked in Hermione’s obliterated body.

Apolline watched her daughter as she bit her lip, lost in thought. Her eyebrows were knitted together, her pale blue eyes glittering with fear.

“I know ma petite chou, I trust your judgement here. Just don’t be afraid to lead with your heart. She is feeling the effects of the thrall, non? She is reacting to you?”

Fleur shuddered at her lingering thoughts of Shell Cottage. They were not memories she liked to relive; she could only imagine how Hermione coped with them. She wanted to let Hermione know that she was there for her whenever she wanted - if she ever wanted - to talk about what happened at Malfoy Manor, but she hadn’t so far found a good opening. Fleur was all too aware of the possibility that pushing Hermione to talk before she was ready to open up and trust her could be catastrophic and cause unimaginable harm. Her newfound friendship and closeness with Hermione simply couldn’t be risked; now that she was in Hermione’s life, even in some small way, Fleur couldn’t go back to how it was before, how they’d been for the past two years.

“I think so. It is hard to tell.” Fleur frowned, thinking of the way that Hermione looked at the photo of her and Bill on their wedding day, the way her face had distorted and she’d looked almost betrayed. The same happened when Fleur spoke of her dinner plans with Bill; she saw a flash of something akin to jealousy cross Hermione’s face before she managed to compose herself. Fleur also hadn’t missed the way that Hermione frequently gazed at her face, stopping on her lips before blushing.

Yet it was hard for Fleur to know whether this was Hermione reacting to her thrall, or simply the woman reacting to Fleur herself. She was beyond used to people looking at her and seeing only her beauty, how was she to know that Hermione was responding to her thrall, to the call made specifically for enticing her?

“She doesn’t seem to find me unattractive or hate my company,” Fleur shrugged, twisting the threads of the rug back together, watching them twine themselves back to perfect condition as she silently willed them to. “Which is a good start.”

Apolline hummed, urging Fleur to continue.

“She is clever, I know she will piece it together.” Fleur couldn’t help the prideful tone with which she spoke of Hermione. Her intelligence was one of the many traits that Fleur had always found alluring.

“And when she does I will answer all her questions. I just need her to feel like this is on her terms, that her part in this matters. Because it does.” Fleur finished her sentence with determination, her jaw jutting out defiantly and her blue eyes glittering as she looked at her mother.

“She will. The thrall does not make mistakes, the fact that it has even identified a mate for you is… unprecedented. She is a good match for you, she will understand why you have kept this from her.” Apolline all but cooed, sensing the gnawing worry radiating off her daughter.

“What if she doesn’t? I hate lying to her.” Fleur threw her hands up in frustration, getting to her feet and pacing in front of the fireplace.

“Well then tell her everything. Tell her that you’ve known for a long time and have kept it from her.”

Fleur scowled at her mother playing devil's advocate. She knew she hated this tactic. “You know this is not possible, she would run for the hills!” Fleur shouted, throwing her arms up in the air again.

Apolline shrugged, causing Fleur to sigh dramatically and flop onto the sofa, wincing as her back hit the cushions.

“Be patient my child, as you have been for all these years. You have waited before, you must wait again.”

Fleur inhaled deeply, remembering the early days, when the creeping tendrils of her thrall began to stir, alerting her to the presence of her mate. The impossibility of it all, identifying a fifteen year old as a potential mate, the confusion and muted feelings. She had assumed the feeling was one of gentle attraction or admiration; Fleur hadn’t been lying when she said she recalled how studious Hermione was, always in the library with her head buried in a book, her robes dishevelled, her feet swinging under the chair as she read.

Her thrall had made itself known with a fury. Even at seventeen Fleur often found it difficult to control, having to combat the seemingly never ending line of suitors and gawking idiots. Whilst at Beauxbatons, Fleur could let her guard down; women always seemed better prepared for the effects of the thrall than men. But arriving on the Hogwarts grounds was like an assault, a deep violation. Her thrall attacked without mercy, thrashing wildly at anyone and everyone.

As she sat at the Ravenclaw table, trying to block out the lewd stares from every angle of the hall, she became aware of a more gentle pull, dulling the crackling fury swirling in her mind. The smell of parchment in the sun, something woody and a warm sweetness almost like vanilla that called to mind balmy evenings on the Delacour estate and the scent of sweet tea in pitchers swam towards her.

Fleur had searched for the scent, following the red haze that appeared without warning, clouding her vision slightly until she looked at a bushy haired brunette at the Gryffindor table.

Hermione was glaring at her, her honey brown eyes full of anger. They widened slightly when Fleur met her gaze curiously, the French witch half smiling at the unwarranted rage from the fifteen year old. A furious blush took over Hermione’s face as she turned back to face her friends.

Urged on by the strange allure of the girl, the bizarre pulling sensation led Fleur to her feet almost without conscious thought. Gabrielle looked on, thoroughly confused by her older sister, calling her name as Fleur began walking towards the Gryffindor table.

Before she’d managed to conjure up a reason for being at the table, Fleur found herself standing behind Hermione. Her stomach was filled with warmth, a strange wave of calm descended over her and she was compelled to get closer to the brunette.

Hermione had eventually turned, scowling as she did before. Fleur vaguely recalled noticing Ron’s vacant gawking and Harry’s light blush, but her dazzling blue eyes never left Hermione as she asked for the Bouillabaisse.

Fleur had been unperturbed by Hermione’s rudeness, had even inexplicably found it oddly charming, seeing someone be so brazenly impervious to her thrall. A thrill ran through her as she watched Hermione’s cheeks flood with colour the longer Fleur looked at her, the younger woman’s face still stubbornly set in a frown, only her growing blush giving away her potential feelings.

During the course of the Triwizard Tournament, Fleur had watched Hermione from afar, sitting as close to her as she dared in the library, hoping to overhear snippets of conversations in the hopes of gaining an insight into the girl that she found oddly fascinating. When she found out of Hermione’s dislike for her - her and Ginny had never been subtle, with their calls of ‘Phlegm’ echoing through the draughty halls of Hogwarts - she was surprised at how bothered she was by the immature name calling; why did the opinion of this obnoxious, English teenager matter to her?

As the tournament progressed and her free time became even more fleeting, Fleur grew frustrated. Her thrall had become volatile, the pull to Hermione becoming stronger the more time she spent away from the girl. She clung to accidental brushes in the hallways, tried to recall the scent of Hermione, relishing the strange red hue that seemed to alert Fleur of her presence before she could even spot the girl. Her concentration slipped, something which had never happened before and she often found herself daydreaming of the bushy haired witch, imagining scenarios in which she would walk up to her in the library and start a conversation, ask her about whatever book she was reading and they would talk.

In her daydreams, Hermione was always smiling or laughing at something Fleur had said, charmed by the French witch’s presence. In reality, Hermione’s face almost always darkened when she saw Fleur in the library. Fleur would look up with hopeful blue eyes whenever Hermione entered, shooting her a shy smile in an attempt to melt the frosty tension between them, a tension that Fleur didn’t understand. However every time Hermione would spot Fleur, she’d simply roll her eyes, annoyance evident as she slammed her books down on the furthest available table from Fleur.

As the tournament drew to a close with the earth shattering news of Voldemort’s return, Fleur felt restless and panicked. Yes at the dark wizard’s return, but also at the prospect of not seeing Hermione again. She felt she had blown her chance to ever get to know the witch, the woman who she felt a mysterious pull to.

It wasn’t until her wedding day - of all days - that Fleur began to suspect something more than a mysterious pull, something more deeply rooted in her heritage. Being only a quarter Veela, no one in the clan had ever considered the possibility that herself or Gabrielle would identify a mate; the thrall seemed destined to be a nuisance for the pair of them and not a tool with which to find their match.

Yet the strange draw that Fleur had felt towards Hermione in their youth culminated in one simple touch. As soon as Fleur had felt the gentle but firm grasp of Hermione’s hand in hers, it was as if her insides had been set alight.

She’d had to stop herself from gasping as an intensity like she’d never felt before coursed through her, threatening to consume her. That red haze that she hadn’t experienced since her time at Hogwarts returned, creeping into the edges of her eyesight, creating a tunnel vision effect with Hermione firmly at the centre. Musky sandalwood, cedar and that delectable clean sweetness that signified the unmistakable scent of Hermione created a heady concoction, Fleur feeling lightheaded and strangely emotional at the smell.

Fleur was sure that Hermione must have noticed, must have felt the same, but her face betrayed nothing other than a slight flush.

They had twirled together on that dance floor for a song, Fleur letting herself lean into Hermione, to enjoy the unexpected moment that they’d carved out in the midst of a war. When she closed her eyes she could almost pretend that it wasn’t her wedding day and that they weren’t all in mortal danger; she chose to fixate purely on the weight of Hermione’s hand on her hip, gripping her waist instead.

After the wedding had been interrupted by Death Eaters and the remaining guests scattered, Fleur toiled, worrying endlessly about Harry, Ron and Hermione. Mostly Hermione. She listened out for any word of them for months, utilising all her sources to try and find a scrap of evidence as to their safety.

She’d all but given up hope of receiving news of them. She was washing up at Shell Cottage, gazing at the sky and pondering what to prepare for dinner when she felt an agonising twist in her stomach, a blinding pain that had her doubled over, causing her to drop the plates she had been washing up, the porcelain smashing loudly as it struck the floorboards. Before she had time to acknowledge her own pain, she heard a scream from the beach outside of Shell Cottage. She wasn't sure what had been worse; the knowing or the not knowing.

Not bothering to even step over the dishes that she’d dropped, Fleur had yelled for Bill, her voice sounding almost feral, animalistic as her cut, bare feet led her body outside the house, carrying her as fast as she could go. The sound of her feet thudding against wet sand intermingled with her pounding heart, each beat echoing her thoughts of not Hermione. not Hermione. not Hermione.

She knew before she’d even seen the woman, had pieced together the pain she had felt with that of Hermione’s own pain. But she wasn’t prepared for the sight she saw.

The next few weeks had been a frantic blur of making potions, salves, ointments, using her healing magic, trying anything that might help ease Hermione’s pain. When Fleur wasn’t tending to the woman, she was sleeping fitfully in the armchair by the bedside or soothing Hermione as she thrashed around from the night terrors. Fleur was exhausted both physically and emotionally, the connection to Hermione’s pain sitting like a boulder in her stomach, like pouring acid down her throat and searing her apart from the inside out.

And the fury. The hot, white fury that she felt towards Bellatrix for daring to hurt Hermione. She hadn’t cared about concealing her anger, her protectiveness or her care for the woman, her every effort was concentrated solely into restoring Hermione, the urge to protect so fierce she felt that she would combust sometimes looking at the woman’s broken state.

Despite Hermione’s body recovering slowly but surely, Fleur’s instinct to protect didn’t quell in the slightest. She still tended to Hermione, much to the protest of the brunette at times. The night terrors still came, a not so gentle reminder that whilst Hermione’s body may have been partially restored, her mind was another matter.

But then she was gone, without as much as a word. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Griphook all disappeared into the night and Fleur began her infernal waiting game once again, dread seeping into her every cell, her days spent poised to spring into action at the call of the Order.

Once the war had been won, Fleur returned to France, needing time to begin to process the enormity of what had happened. She took this opportunity to share with her mother the sensations she’d been experiencing around Hermione, something which she had been putting off since her first encounter with the brunette. Apolline confirmed what Fleur had already known, but had been trying to keep at bay for years; her thrall had chosen, Hermione was her mate.

“I know patience is not your strongest suit ma cherie, but she will be worth the wait.” Apolline cut across Fleur’s inner thoughts, watching as her daughter stretched herself out and yawned.

“I don’t doubt that at all.” Fleur agreed softly, meeting her mother’s fond gaze for reassurance.

“Well I will update you if there is any change. But for now, we are talking, we are friends and that is okay.” Fleur said half heartedly, trying to convince herself as well as her mother.

Apolline diplomatically nodded her head once, trying to keep the disgruntled look from her face.

“Please do. Answer my letters too please, that way I will not have to spend evenings on my knees with my head in a fireplace.”

Fleur laughed, removing herself from the sofa and once again kneeling before her mother’s visage in the fireplace.

“I will do Maman, I promise to read and reply tomorrow. I love you.”

Apolline smiled fondly, air kissing her daughter through the crackling green fire.

“I love you too. Tell Hermione we say hello, she is welcome at the Delacour estate anytime.”

Fleur continued to wave at her mother as she disappeared from the grate with a whoosh, taking the green flames with her.

“Yes, because taking her home to the parents certainly sounds like ‘taking it slowly’.” Fleur grumbled, eagerly padding towards her bedroom, unbuttoning her shirt and stepping out of her pencil skirt as she did so, the excitement of the evening catching up with her.

Clambering into bed, Fleur allowed herself the luxury of turning over her evening with Hermione in her head, zeroing in on the feel of her soft, warm skin under her lips, trying and failing to hold the sensation in her mind. She returned her attention to the way Hermione’s eyes grew darker when she was angry or impassioned, the way her expressive eyebrows twitched when she was deep in thought, her lips slightly open when she was feeling vulnerable or unsure.

She fell asleep easily to thoughts of Hermione’s honey eyes on her, sitting in the deep rooted calm that she felt whenever in the presence of the woman. She would wait as long as it took, she wasn’t going anywhere. Not this time.

Chapter Text

When Hermione awoke the next morning, she was in a foul mood. Much the same as the night before, she had an extremely broken sleep, however this time not because of vicious memories. Hermione had been plagued by that stupid picture of Bill and Fleur, that seemed to stick in her mind agravatingly. The more she tried to quiet her thoughts, the more frequently she found it spewing up her own personal memories of that day, their wedding day.

She just didn’t understand why Fleur would still have the picture up. As far as Hermione had heard, the divorce was mutual and both Bill and Fleur remained friendly - clearly shown by the fact that Fleur was going for dinner with Bill - but Hermione couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with the photo.

She’d listened to hours of music, had completed a large portion of her required paperwork and had even begun re-reading Wuthering Heights before sleep finally came to her.

That was at 4am and her alarm now blared tauntingly, telling her it was time to get up, which seemed impossible; it felt like she had blinked. Hermione stretched fully, allowing her joints to pop as she did so. The one silver lining this morning was that she would once again get to see Fleur.

Upon thinking of her, Hermione felt her mood shift. She could also smell the honeysuckle scent that she now associated with the woman, could feel her soft hands on her own. It was strange, she’d never felt so at ease with someone so quickly.

It wasn’t that Hermione was closed off, it was just that she was wary, cautious. Trusting people wasn’t necessarily something she found easy to do. It was something that had begun in her childhood; she’d always struggled to make friends, being the subject of ridicule for years, something which hadn’t changed much as she’d got older.

Whereas Harry’s stance was very much one of trusting everyone until they prove they cannot be trusted, Hermione was very much of the school of thinking that she should trust no one until they had demonstrated that they were worthy of her trust. It was in fact this very facet of Hermione that Ginny attributed to her lack of success in the world of dating. This and of course Hermione’s general lack of coherence around good looking women.

Hermione had not always been this way. She was well aware of the physical scars left by the war, having come to some peace with the majority of them besides her maimed arm. Yet the emotional and mental aspects of herself that had changed, she found harder to adapt to, something which she had only begun to understand when she started her therapy sessions.

Her aversion to making close connections, her increasingly distrustful nature, these were qualities that the war had imbued her with. She’d entered the wizarding world as an eleven year old girl full of hope, eager to make connections with like minded individuals. After all, it was hard not to feel elated after finding out that magic was real. Yet she now found herself wary of strangers and even friends at times. With all that was lost in the war, Hermione was almost always poised for yet more loss. She found the easiest way to avoid the pain of losing people, was to attempt to keep them at arm's length. It couldn’t hurt as much if she did lose them if she never let them in.

Except with Fleur. Ever since she’d seen the blonde again she’d felt unexplainably at peace, like a beam of sunlight had burst through the clouds, clouds that she wasn’t even aware were present. She’d thought that having Fleur around would serve as a constant reminder of her time spent at Shell Cottage, but instead Fleur had come to represent a figure of peace, reminding Hermione of all that she had overcome.

Even more confusingly for Hermione, her naturally inquisitive nature didn’t seem to be threatening to overpower her thoughts when it came to Fleur. She didn’t feel like questioning the way she felt about her, the comfort that the woman provided. Not too much at least.

Hermione broke out of her reverie, aware that she was still sitting in bed. With a yawn and another stretch for good measure, Hermione swung her legs out of the bed, opening the curtains to assess the weather. She flung open a window, sticking her hand out, feeling a cool breeze despite the early morning sun.

Opting for a quick, cold shower in the hopes of chasing away the lack of sleep and her general bleariness, Hermione emerged from the bathroom shortly after. Still in a bath towel, she marched over to her wardrobe, being careful not to disturb Crookshanks who was curled up asleep on the rug, and began flicking through outfits.

Deciding on some brown wool trousers, a lightweight, white My Bloody Valentine t shirt -  another hand me down from her Dad - and a grey cardigan, Hermione quickly changed, staring defiantly at her reflection the entire time, trying to ignore the way that her breathing quickened when she allowed a quick glance towards the wound on her arm.

“Fuck you.” She whispered, watching the malice glint in her unusually cold brown eyes, her fists clenching as she rolled the sleeves of her cardigan harshly down over the scar.

Performing a quick charm on her hair in an attempt to tame it somewhat, she quickly made two cups of coffee, opting to use her French press, using the time spent waiting for the coffee to steep to feed a now agitated and awake Crookshanks. She poured the coffee into two travel flasks, grabbing a couple of cereal bars from the cupboard. Ordinarily, she would’ve liked to have ventured to the bakery to get some fresh pastries for herself and Fleur, but her fractured sleep had meant that Hermione was currently running later than she was comfortable with.

With a final pet of Crookshanks’s head as she wrenched on her boots, Hermione grabbed her work bag and headed out of the apartment.

The familiar fluttering sensation started in her stomach as she approached Fleur’s door. She felt a strange thrill shoot through her at the thought of seeing Fleur in her work attire. She’d never allowed herself to pay much mind to the blonde before when she would see her strutting through Gringotts from afar, so she relished the chance to do it up close in an appropriate manner.

Hermione knocked sharply a few times, repeating to herself the promise she’d made the night previously. She was determined not to let her attraction to the blonde spoil the budding friendship that the pair were building.

She heard frantic footsteps approaching the door and was greeted by a flushed looking, partially dressed Fleur.

“Bonjour ma belle.” Fleur breathed, hastily planting a kiss on either side of Hermione’s cheeks, her honeysuckle scent filling Hermione’s senses.

“Désolée, I am running slightly later than usual. This is not a habit I promise.” She added with a charming smile, gesturing for Hermione to follow her into her apartment.

Her flustered appearance and rushed demeanour allowed Hermione ample time to recover from the feel of Fleur’s lips on her cheeks for which she was grateful. Whilst Hermione was slowly becoming accustomed to being in the presence of Fleur, she still couldn’t hide the way her body reacted instinctively to the affection that a very tactile Fleur showed.

She did manage to avert her gaze from Fleur’s torso, where she was currently sporting only a lacy bra, her toned legs housed in some black tailored trousers.

“It’s okay, there’s no rush.” Hermione smiled, stepping over the threshold.

“Make yourself comfortable, I will be, maybe five minutes?” Fleur said, shutting the door behind Hermione and heading off down the hallway.

Hermione gasped audibly at the sight. Fleur’s upper back was covered in purple and yellowing bruises with some faint red lines puckered like she had been struck.

“Fleur what happened to your back? Are you hurt?”

Fleur whipped around instantly, her expression at first puzzled before turning sheepish under the brunette’s intense gaze. After a pause in which she opened and closed her mouth a few times, seeming to weigh her words, the blonde spoke.

“It is nothing, do not worry.” Fleur replied flippantly, quickly grabbing her shirt from where it was hanging on a chair, attempting to cover her back.

“Well it doesn’t look like nothing. Let me see.” Hermione all but commanded, striding towards Fleur, her face blazing with determination and concern.

Fleur met Hermione face on, the shirt pulled onto one arm, her head ducked in an attempt to avoid Hermione’s fury. Placing a finger under Fleur’s chin encouraging the blonde to look at her, their gaze met, Hermione’s honey brown flashing with anger and Fleur’s pale blue eyes looking stoically back at her.

“Let me see.” Hermione said again, more softly this time, almost pleading with Fleur.

Watching the anger slowly dissipate from Hermione’s eyes and instead fill with worry and concern, Fleur sighed, slowly freeing her arm from the shirt and turning, exposing her back to the brunette.

Hermione raised her hand to Fleur’s back slowly, checking that it was okay before she let her fingers gently brush the bruises there. Fleur winced slightly, causing Hermione’s fingers to retreat, only to return a fraction of a second later with a more gentle pressure. Hermione assessed the damage, concluding that whilst it looked rather shocking, the injury was fairly minor. 

After a beat of silence in which Hermione moved her fingers slowly across Fleur’s skin, careful not to cause further harm, she finally spoke.

“What happened Fleur?”

At the care in Hermione’s words, the softness in her voice, Fleur turned back to face her.

“The incident yesterday at work. I may have underplayed my involvement.” Fleur spoke, having the grace to look sheepish as Hermione’s eyes burned with anger again.

“The vault started rebounding spells, attacking my colleague. I had to decide whether to go and get help or whether to step in.”

“And you chose the latter.” Hermione finished for her, frowning.

“Oui. I did send a Patronus for help, but the vault… well it was vicious, relentless even. He could not defend ‘imself single handedly.” Fleur explained, holding Hermione’s gaze, hoping to convey her sincerity.

Hermione sighed, trying to breathe out her residual anger.

“You are angry with me.” Fleur asked, her intonation implying that it wasn’t necessarily a question, more of an observation.

Hermione measured her words carefully before responding. “I am angry with you, but not for stepping in; that’s a part of your job. I’m angry at you for lying to me about it.”

Fleur’s eyes widened. Although she knew Hermione was angry, hearing it confirmed bothered her.

“I did not lie, not technically. I just chose not to tell you.”

Hermione bristled at that, as she stepped back from Fleur slightly. This was not the conversation she’d been planning to have with the blonde this morning.

Fleur realised her mistake and moved forward, reaching for Hermione’s hands as she did so.

“I was going to tell you.” Hermione scoffed at the words, but refrained from saying anything further when Fleur raised an eyebrow, suggesting she was going to continue.

“I was going to tell you, but you looked so worried when I mentioned what happened to my colleague, and I didn’t want to upset you.”

“Well of course it upsets me to know that you are hurt, but it upsets me more to think that you would hide it from me. I thought we agreed to be honest with each other.” Hermione felt bad as she said it, knowing full well that she wasn’t being entirely honest with Fleur about several things and that she was continuously dodging difficult conversations with the blonde, but the anger and terror at thought of Fleur being hurt was clouding her judgement.

Fleur looked wounded, but continued to hold Hermione’s hands.

“You’re right. I am sorry, I should’ve told you. I really do want us to be able to be completely honest with each other. I will not hide these things from you again.” Fleur’s voice was full of resolve, her head bent to better meet Hermione’s eyes with her own.

“I accept your apology. Just please be careful?” Hermione asked, struggling to keep her voice even.

Fleur nodded vigorously, as she pulled Hermione towards her in a gentle hug.

“Now let me see what I can do about those bruises.” Hermione grumbled against Fleur’s shoulder, permitting herself one savouring inhale of Fleur’s bare skin.

Fleur laughed, dutifully releasing Hermione and turning her back.

“It will heal nicely, a perk of Veela blood. But I am happy for you to ‘elp it along. Thank you ‘Ermione.” Fleur said, catching and squeezing Hermione’s hand over her shoulder as it moved up to her back.

Hermione smiled lightly, glad that the air had been cleared. She started work on Fleur’s back. Whilst healing wasn’t a specialty by any means, she knew enough to hopefully minimise the bruising. Her time on the run with Harry and Ron had taught her that much.

Touched by Fleur’s honest communication, albeit it less than wilfully to begin with, Hermione took a shuddering breath to steady her thumping heart.

“I had to do a lot of this when Harry, Ron and I were on the run.” She had tried to inject her voice with nonchalance, failing as she noticed a slight wobble as she spoke.

Fleur said nothing although her body stiffened slightly, as if she could sense Hermione’s sudden unease.

“I even splinched Ron once and had to patch him up after. It’s not a nice thing, having to watch the people you love get hurt, to have to fix them up all the while knowing that it could be so much worse the next time. Because there was always going to be a next time and we all knew it.”

Hermione focussed on her hands, admiring how Fleur’s skin rippled delightfully under the magic. She could almost sense Fleur’s magic lingering under her skin, could feel it rising up to meet her own in an almost palpable way.

The sensation was strangely pleasant. The harder she concentrated her magic into the tips of her fingers as they danced across Fleur’s back, the more she could sense Fleur’s magical core. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she could sense it was pale blue, like her eyes; like an ocean sunset once the sun had dipped behind the clouds, the calm after the flaming brilliance of spectacular reds and oranges. Serenity. Calm. Assurance.

Fleur seemed to also be experiencing something unfamiliar. Her back had arched into Hermione’s touch, a soft gasp leaving her mouth at the sensation of Hermione’s magic coursing through her, seeping warmly into her skin.

“‘Ermione,” Fleur whispered, whether at the strange magical connection that appeared to be occurring or Hermione’s words.

“I’m scared Fleur. Still. Of losing everyone. I know there are still people out there that want to hurt my friends, the people I love the most.” Hermione let the words escape her mouth like a sigh as a delicate powder blue and lilac aura filled her senses, the smell of Fleur’s honeysuckle scent becoming oddly pervasive as she spoke, swarming palpably in the air between them.

“So I need you to be careful Fleur. Because you’re my…friend, and I care about you. Can you promise me, sincerely, that you’ll try extra hard to be safe? For me?” Hermione added, focussing on the last of Fleur’s bruises and the odd calm that the blue and purple hues were providing her, staving off the usual overwhelming anxiety that pervaded when she spoke of the war.

“Oui.” Fleur breathed, her shoulders sagging as Hermione removed her hand and the connection was broken.

Neither of them spoke, both slightly breathless from whatever had just occurred.

Hermione broke the silence first, sudden embarrassment creeping in. Did Fleur feel what she just did?

“It looks good. I’m sure it’ll be less painful once that Veela blood of yours has had time to do its mystical thing.” She forced a laugh, trying to break the tension that was swirling between them.

Fleur turned slowly, looking confused and slightly awed, a dazed smile on her face. “Thank you ‘Ermione. I will… just finish getting ready.” She gestured awkwardly to the shirt, picking it up and walking swiftly towards her bedroom.

Hermione was left to toil, her mind frantically scanning through pieces of information she’d read about Veelas, trying to piece together what on Earth had just happened.

She felt guilt rise once again as she thought of the books that would hopefully be awaiting her at work; any and all books pertaining to Veelas.

It wasn’t that she was actively hiding her research from Fleur, she just wasn’t sure to what extent Fleur would feel comfortable sharing information about her heritage. It was too early in their friendship to tell whether Fleur would take offence at Hermione prying into her life, questioning her culture, much less whether she’d be comfortable knowing that she was reading about her people at work.

Whilst she’d of course prefer to simply ask the other woman about whatever that was, she didn’t want to seem ignorant, or like she was attributing things to Fleur’s Veela heritage. Perhaps there was a more reasonable explanation, one that could be explained away by the power of healing magic.

Hermione determined to read whatever material Sophia had managed to source and survey Fleur to see if she showed any signs of acknowledgement as to something abnormal having passed between them. She could pull some old textbooks she had about healing at home, see if there was any mention of magical auras meeting.

Her inner turmoil was interrupted by Fleur’s return, her shirt firmly on paired with a loose blazer, her silvery locks pulled back into a loose bun.

“Bon, shall we go?” Fleur breezed, her face impassive.

Hermione nodded, searching Fleur’s face for anything abnormal, finding nothing other than her bright blue eyes gazing steadily back.

Fleur led the way with Hermione trailing after her through the apartment door. The blonde slipped her feet into some small heels by the door, wordlessly commanding them to buckle themselves correctly as she ushered Hermione into the corridor.

“I brought a coffee for you, and a cereal bar if you wanted one. I didn’t manage to eat properly this morning.” Hermione held the items out, to which Fleur graciously accepted, her hands brushing over Hermione’s as she took the items.

“That is so thoughtful of you ‘Ermione, merci.”

Hermione watched Fleur’s eyes soften gratefully and a gentle smile tug at her lips and tried not to show just how much pleasure she got from being the cause of Fleur’s happiness.

The pair rode the elevator in a comfortable silence, Hermione shooting glances at Fleur slyly as she sipped her coffee. She watched Fleur’s throat move as she swallowed, becoming entirely too distracted by her pursed lips as she blew the liquid in an attempt to cool it down.

With a ding, Hermione and Fleur exited the elevator, Hermione holding the doors open to allow Fleur to exit before her, glancing briefly at Fleur’s purt behind as she did so.

Just friends, we’re just friends, Hermione reminded herself, ignoring the knowing smirk that Fleur shot her as they exited the building.

“I am sorry that I cannot come to Grimmauld place tonight, I would’ve liked to have seen you and all your friends.” Fleur began, now letting Hermione lead the way to her prime apparatation spot a few streets over.

Hermione’s stomach lurched at the topic. Talking about the war and Bill Weasley in one morning was enough to threaten the return of her less than pleasant mood.

She weighed her words carefully, not wanting to be unnecessarily snappy. Fleur was well within her rights to spend her time with who she wanted, when she wanted.

“It’s okay, there’s always next week. I’m sure it’ll be nice for you to see Bill though. It’s good that you’re on… friendly terms still.”

Hermione hoped that her voice wasn’t too pointed, but she couldn’t help the slight distaste that seeped into her words. She didn’t like this feeling; she wasn’t a jealous person and she especially didn’t get jealous of people she was friends with. Hermione knew and liked Bill very much and his closeness to Fleur shouldn’t be bothering her as much as it evidently was.

Fleur looked at Hermione curiously, her eyes watching the woman with interest bordering on suspicion.

“Oui, I have not seen him for a while. He has been on an assignment away from Gringotts. He’s a very good friend.”

Hermione noticed the emphasis that Fleur put on the word ‘friend’ and refrained from rolling her eyes, a tiny scoff slipping from her mouth however. She kept her eyes forward stubbornly, her pace increasing as she felt Fleur’s eyes bore into the side of her head.

As they turned the final corner, stepping into a dilapidated alleyway, Fleur half jogged a few steps to catch hold of Hermione’s arm.

“‘Ermione I think I need to explain about Bill and I…”

Hermione whirled to face Fleur, momentarily taken aback by the closeness of the woman.

“I don’t think you do.” Hermione said back, her voice low as she gazed into Fleur’s impossibly blue eyes.

There it was again, that strange feeling coursing through Hermione at the point where Fleur’s hand was clutching her arm, pale blues and lilacs threatening to swarm her vision.

Fleur tightened her grip on Hermione’s arm, her eyes intensely focussed on the other witch’s honey brown eyes, her lips open slightly in surprise.

Hermione fought to snap out of whatever was happening, tried to command herself to form words or move, but all she could see, feel and smell was Fleur. Yet she wasn’t scared, this strange and overpowering sensation didn’t fill her with dread, in fact she felt bizarrely at ease. The colourful aura seemed to be pulling her towards Fleur, encouraging her to relinquish to Fleur, to let her overpower her and submit to her base desires.

With a jolt Fleur let go of Hermione’s arm, causing Hermione to stagger back slightly, her breath ragged.

What the fuck is happening? Hermione thought, looking back at Fleur for any signs of acknowledgement this time around.

Fleur had regained her senses but not before Hermione saw her eyes show a flash of surprise and fearfulness before being composed back into a flat mask of indifference.

“We should go, don’t want to be late.” Fleur grabbed Hermione’s arm again before she could protest, this time quickly apparating them both to an area somewhere between the Ministry and the concealed entrance to Diagon Alley.

After feeling the usual tug in her abdomen, Hermione righted herself with the help of Fleur’s hand which still held her arm in a strong grip.

“This is where I leave you.” Fleur said regretfully, taking her hand away, Hermione almost grateful for the clarity that came when the woman wasn’t standing so close, but already missed the feeling of Fleur’s lithe fingers touching her.

“Fleur…” Hermione began, attempting to at least clarify whether the strange occurrences that she was noticing were one sided.

“I am sorry, I really do have to go. But we can talk on Friday? Maybe before?” Fleur’s expression was hard to decipher, looking both saddened and almost scared. What could Fleur be scared of?

Hermione searched the French witch’s face for any clues, but found more questions than answers. Determining that she wouldn’t get any answers now and also slightly worried that she was indeed late for work, Hermione slowly nodded in agreement, letting her displeasure show in a light scowl.

“Fine. Have a nice day.” Hermione muttered, knowing full well that she was being petty, but unable to stop herself. If Fleur wanted to ignore whatever was happening then Hermione would do the same.

Hermione could hear Fleur’s mouth opening and closing behind her, heard her start several words, stuttering before giving up again. Just as she turned the corner to emerge from the alleyway, Hermione looked back to see the blonde seemingly torn between following her and going to work, her expression stricken.

She felt a pang of guilt as she assimilated into the crowd of muggles making their way through the busy London streets. What had started as a simple apparition to work had turned into some strange misunderstanding brought about by whatever had happened when she was healing Fleur. Hermione had never heard of magical cores meeting like that, reaching out to one another from a simple healing spell. It hadn’t been like that when she’d used the spell on Harry and Ron or even Ginny, so what was it about Fleur that elicited such a strong and visceral reaction?

When Hermione finally entered the Ministry she all but sprinted to her desk, eager to see if Sophia had been successful in her task. Whilst Hermione couldn’t control whatever was happening, one thing that she could control was the amount of research she undertook to try and figure it out and she planned to research everything.

 

                               *******

 

“Did you find what you’re looking for?” Sophia asked, making Hermione jump from where she’d been hunched over at her desk, poring over a tome about the history of the Veela. Hermione sighed as Sophia wheeled a chair over, sitting at the vacant desk opposite and handing her a coffee as she did so.

“Not at all. Those damn secretive Veela.” Hermione had been eagerly reading all morning after completing the majority of her daily workload the night before, her near sleepless night paying off after all. She’d found little to none of the information helpful and had spent most of the time questioning the validity of the texts that did possess interesting kernels of information.

Sophia leaned back on the desk chair, resting her feet on Hermione’s desk. “Why the sudden fascination with Veelas anyway? Is there an impending Clan meet that I’m unaware of?”

Hermione frowned, her eyes still scanning the text in front of her. “No nothing like that, I just… I’m friends with someone who is part Veela and I guess I just realised I have some… gaps in my knowledge when it comes to her heritage.”

Sophia smiled, picking up on Hermione’s evasive tone. “Ahh so it’s a female friend is it? I have to say, I’m a little jealous.”

Hermione blushed, finishing her paragraph before looking at Sophia.

Sophia had been hired in the same cycle as Hermione, brought over from the Ministero della Magia Italiano as part of a scheme to help create a more inclusive and diverse workplace. Her and Hermione had been the subject of much workplace gossip over the past year, after some flirtatious banter between the two had culminated in the pair getting carried away and drunkenly kissing at the work Christmas party under some enchanted mistletoe.

Hermione knew that Sophia was objectively beautiful. Her olive complexion was flawless and contrasted with her light brown hair, flecked with warmer blonde tones. She had piercing green eyes that seemed to shimmer in the light and a charming dimple framing her full lips. But nothing had ever really come into fruition from their drunken fumble and that wasn’t for a lack of Sophia trying.

These European women have been sent here to destroy me I swear , Hermione thought frowning at Sophia who sent a tinkling laugh her way.

“You are too easy Hermione. What can I do to help, who has bested me in catching your eye?” Sophia sidled up next to her, ignoring Hermione’s continued frown.

“No one, Sophia, honestly I am just curious. I’m not sure if you can help or not.” Hermione lied, her mind already sifting through what she did and did not want to impart to the woman.

“Have you ever performed any healing spells on anyone?” Hermione turned to face her Italian counterpart, focussing on a new train of thought to try and distract Sophia.

“Not extensively, it’s not my specialty. I can patch up a minor wound with little trouble though. Why do you ask, is this connected to Veelas?” Sophia shot Hermione a look that let her know that she recognised the subject change, but was graciously allowing it.

“Potentially. Have you ever heard of magical cores… meeting, or connecting when healing?” Hermione struggled to think of the right term to use. It was hard to describe exactly what had happened with Fleur to herself, let alone to someone who wasn’t there and hadn’t experienced it first hand.

Sophia hummed in thought, sipping her coffee.

“Not that I am aware of. Although if it’s in relation to Veela, then it could be related to the thrall? I could ask someone to ask someone in one of the Clans? I doubt they will impart anything. As you say, they are secretive, but it’s worth asking?” Sophia raised a shoulder in a lazy shrug, picking up one of the texts Hermione was yet to read, casually thumbing through the pages.

“Or you know, you could just ask your Veela friend? But you are not so good at asking people for things outright are you?” Sophia teased, referring to an extremely embarrassing moment in which Hermione had attempted to ask Sophia on a date at Ginny’s suggestion. Hermione had gotten so tongue tied that she ended up asking Sophia what size shoe she was instead. Unsurprisingly, Hermione decided it best to keep Sophia firmly in the friend zone after that.

“Oh shush you.” Hermione retorted, swiping the book out of Sophia’s hand. “I don’t know if we’re at that level of friendship yet. Is it not rude to ask someone to impart potential secrets about their heritage? And what if it’s got nothing to do with the fact that she’s part Veela?” Hermione trailed off with a blush.

Sophia raised her eyebrows suggestively, nudging Hermione with her elbow.

“You mean if it’s just because you like her and her Veela heritage is irrelevant?”

Hermione scowled, slamming her book shut.

“If you’re not going to help me then piss off.”

Sophia laughed heartily, her green eyes gleaming with delight at Hermione’s annoyance.

“I am sorry, I will stop teasing. I’ll do some digging for you.” With an affectionate pat to her shoulder, Sophia stood up and began the short walk back to her desk.

“Oh and if you’ve completed the revisions for today, the bosses upstairs said we can go. We won’t be getting any more work through until tomorrow now. Fancy a drink?”

Hermione stood up, shrinking her reading materials down. She planned on leafing through the remaining texts later.

“I can’t today, I’ve got dinner at Grimmauld Place tonight. Ron has a half day of classes as well so I’ll probably head over and give him a hand with his homework. Rain check?” Hermione slung her bag over her shoulder, shooting Sophia an apologetic look.

“Sure! If I find anything of interest I’ll let you know. See you tomorrow Hermione.” Sophia blew the brunette a kiss, turning on her heels and heading towards the floo network.

Hermione followed suit after tidying her desk ready for the next day, grabbing some loose sheets from her in-tray that she could action whilst helping Ron. She opted for the floo network, grabbing a handful of powder and throwing it into the grate as she said “12 Grimmauld Place.” Hoping that Ron would be in.

 

                               *******

 

“Hello? Are you home Ron?” Hermione shouted as she stepped out of the fireplace into the study of Grimmauld Place.

Silence echoed through the house, Hermione’s voice ringing back through the dingy hallways. Whilst Harry, Ron and Ginny had made some minor improvements to the decor, the ancestral Black home still seemed to have an unshakeable aura of gloom.

She made her way towards the kitchen, the room that seemed to be the most frequently used by the occupants, trying her best to shift the stone like feeling of foreboding that formed in her stomach whenever she visited Grimmauld Place.

Entering the room, Hermione saw the back of Ron as he was hunched over the kitchen table, headphones firmly on his head attached to a Walkman Disc Player that Hermione had gifted him a few Christmas’s prior. She could hear the gentle tinny noise of the latest Weird Sisters playing as she paused in the doorway, watching fondly as Ron tapped his quill to the rhythm, blotting ink all over the parchment.

She crept behind him and pulled the headphones to the side, shouting “Ron!” loudly in his ear as she did so.

Ron leapt up dramatically, bellowing and stumbling over the legs of the chair causing it to clatter to the floor. “‘Mione! What the bloody hell are you doing here?!” He all but yelled, his wand hand lowering as his brain registered who was before him.

Hermione laughed, closing the distance between them and pulling him into a hug.

“Well who else is going to do your homework for you?” She shot, feeling Ron’s chest rumble with laughter against hers.

“I mean why are you here so early? Harry and Ginny won’t be back for hours yet.” Ron gave her a big squeeze in return, using their height difference to plant a quick kiss on the top of her head.

Separating, Hermione walked over to the kettle and put it on to boil, busying herself by procuring mugs, tea bags and sugar. Ron sat back in front of his half finished essays, watching Hermione.

“I finished work early, thought I’d come and help you on your half day and get some more research done from here. I made you a copy of some more Muggle band CD’s that I think you’d like too.”

She summoned the CD’s from her work bag, grateful that she’d had the foresight to pack them, and handed them to Ron who began stroking the covers like they were precious artefacts.

“Thanks ‘Mione, did I ever tell you that it’s a crying shame that you’re a lesbian?” He joked, earning a hard whack to the arm.

“I’m joking, I’m joking. Pull up a chair, we’re working on Poisons and Antidotes, which you know I’m crap at.”

Hermione passed Ron his freshly made tea and sat down in the chair next to him, cupping her own mug as she perused the very little that he’d written so far. Whilst she scanned the parchment, she could sense Ron gearing up to say something, could feel his brain whirling into overdrive as the silence stretched on.

“So Ginny tells me you showed Fleur around over the weekend.”

Hermione hummed and kept her eyes on the parchment, taking a spare quill from the scattered pile on the table and crossing out Ron’s mistakes.

“And how was that?”

“It was fine. Fun actually, we had some wine together last night too, as you already know.” Hermione replied in a clipped tone, suspicious of Ron’s questioning.

“So when are you going to ask her on a date then?”

Hermione blanched, turning to Ron with an intensity that made him physically recoil.

“I’m not! Why on Earth would I ask your ex-sister-in-law on a date?”

Ron shrugged, holding up his hands in defence, meeting Hermione head on. “Oh well let’s see… maybe because she’s drop dead gorgeous? And single?” He added, nudging Hermione’s foot under the table, which she then trod on in return.

“Yes, she’s single because she is divorced from your brother Ron, your very male brother. What in that sentence says to you that Fleur Delacour is looking to date, let alone date women?”

“So you’re saying you’re interested, you’re just worried that she isn’t?” Ron countered, gently mulling over Hermione’s words.

Hermione huffed, returning her attention to the assignment in front of her.

“You’re twisting my words Ronald. Whilst I am happy to admit that Fleur is of course… very beautiful,” Hermione began, trying to keep her adjectives to a minimum, “that doesn’t mean I want to date her. I don’t immediately want to date every pretty woman I see.”

“I know! I’m sorry ‘Mione, I didn’t mean to offend you, I’m just genuinely curious. Fleur always seemed to like you. She was nearly feral after… well you know” He trailed off, leaving the end of the sentence unspoken between them. Shell Cottage wasn’t a time that any of them liked to revisit.

Ron grabbed Hermione’s hand to still her quill, drawing her attention back to him.

“And you know, I can’t exactly date her, so you’re the only option.” Ron nudged her conspiratorially, laughing as Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Can you at least get the gossip on how exactly my idiot older brother managed to lose categorically the most attractive woman on the planet? He’s surprisingly shtum about it all still; even Mum’s given up asking now. Well, mostly.”

Hermione laughed, imagining Bill undergoing the Spanish Inquisition from his mother.

“So you really don’t know why they got divorced?” It was the first time Hermione had outright asked. She wasn’t one to gossip and felt bad for even entertaining this line ofquestioning, but perhaps if she had more clarity around it, then she could stop her obsessive thoughts over Bill and Fleur.

“No, not a clue. Bill just said it was mutual and that they are still on friendly terms.” Ron shrugged, reading over what Hermione had edited on his parchment so far, his hand still resting gently on hers.

Hermione hummed gently and sipped her tea in thought.

“And what about your love life Ron? I feel like we haven’t had a chance to catch up just the two of us in… well I can’t even think of the last time we did. How’s training going?”

Ron groaned, leaning back in his chair and moving his hands behind his head.

“This dating business is hard. Honestly ‘Mione are you sure you’re not even a little bit interested in me? It would make my life a whole lot easier.” Although he seemed to be joking, Hermione couldn’t help but detect a note of sadness in his voice.

“Ron…” she started, looking at him softly, seeing his blue puppy dog eyes already looking at her.

“I know, I know I’m sorry. You’re a difficult woman to get over Hermione Granger, I think Fleur would be mad not to want you.” He said earnestly, clasping her hand now, turning it over to lace their fingers together and giving it a gentle squeeze.

Hermione was touched by the sentiment and slightly taken aback by Ron’s openness. After their awkward kiss and even more awkward conversation afterwards which involved Hermione trying to let him down as gently as possible, there was an almost unspoken agreement that any references to the two in a romantic sense were to be kept to a minimum.

Harry had consoled Ron, explaining to Hermione that Ron felt like his future, or his idea of the future had been stripped from him. Ron always felt that he and Hermione were an inevitability, that they would end up together once the war was over; it had been a shining beacon for him, something to look forward to in the dark days of the war. The realisation that Hermione didn’t also share this vision for the future gave Ron quite a knock and for a short while their friendship had suffered.

Things had eased up once Ron had begun casually dating and Hermione was grateful that over the course of the last year or so, they had regained their closeness, their friendship strengthened.

“So no dates recently for me and training is hard. No one said it would be like going back to school.” Ron grumbled, flicking through his open textbook, his usual demeanour returning.

It turned out that Harry was quite naturally talented at both the practical and theoretical side of Auror training, showing real dedication to his learning, something which he often lacked at Hogwarts. He had passed all of his assignments so far with flying colours, without having to try excessively hard.

Ron however, was aware that he had to make a concerted effort with every task that was set, putting in twice the amount of work as Harry and still achieving less than him. He moaned to Hermione at least once a week about the amount of homework they were given; it turned out that not having Hermione to copy from presented Ron with a unique challenge in that it more starkly showed gaps in his knowledge.

“I mean you were told that it would be another three years of intensive training.” Hermione shrugged, making notes for Ron to later expand on. Whilst she still didn’t condone copying, she was always more than happy to point Ron in the right direction with his assignments. The Weasley’s could be extremely persuasive when necessary.

“Yeah but I thought it would be more, I dunno, hexing Death Eaters, not sitting in a classroom and listening to someone drone on about potions. Honestly I think I’d take another day in the dungeons with Snape over it sometimes.”

Hermione shot Ron a sympathetic look, gesturing to the textbook in front of him, her face turning serious as she did so.

“More reading, less moaning. I know it’s hard Ron, but I really mean it when I say that I know you’ll make a brilliant Auror.”

Hermione squeezed Ron’s hand gently, making sure to look directly at him as she spoke. She watched his face turn red under her soft gaze and saw his lips move slightly, mumbling something.

“I’ll make some notes for you and then I’ll get on with some reading of my own. Music?”

Shaking his head out of his daze, Ron waved his wand, switching the small countertop radio on to a Wizarding station.

The pair worked in silence mostly, the sound of their quills scratching on paper and Ron slurping his tea breaking through occasionally.

Hermione enjoyed the simplicity of Ron’s company. Whilst Ginny was extremely fun to be around, she required attention and stimulation constantly, quite the opposite of Hermione who often enjoyed sitting in companionable silence reading or listening to music.

Which is exactly what hanging out with Ron entailed. She glanced at the man next to her, his fringe flopping slightly over his face as he scrawled his own notes next to Hermione’s on his parchment. His brow was furrowed in concentration, his tongue sticking out like a small child. Ron had been slightly stocky as a teenager and had since had another growth spurt. He was no longer gangly, his arms and chest having bulked out from two years of physical training. Facially, his jaw had squared off, any remnants of puppy fat disappeared and a bristly beard covered his chin. Hermione was struck with the odd knowledge that Ron was surprisingly handsome, a fact she often forgot due to her purely platonic feelings for him.

“How did you know you liked me Ron?”

Ron’s head snapped up, the tips of his ears becoming furiously red, his quill blotting the parchment messily as he pressed down too hard.

“Ahh fuck.” He said, wiping the mess around with his hand before Hermione wordlessly cleared the spilled ink with a brandish of her hand.

“How did you know you liked me?” Hermione repeated.

Ron frowned harder, jabbing his wand towards the radio to lower the volume.

“What kind of question is that ‘Mione? I don’t know how I knew, I just did . I mean you’re so smart and caring and scary when you’re angry.” Ron chuckled at Hermione’s scowl, “and loyal and dedicated. It’s hard not to like you.”

Hermione blushed hard enough to match Ron’s colour, the pair of them not really looking at each other, favouring an area in the vague direction of the other.

“I guess I knew when I started to miss you when you weren’t around. And I thought about you a lot, like, all the time. We’d been friends for so long and I just sort of started seeing you… differently. I noticed you were gorgeous for one thing.” Ron looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up, his face beet red and his eyes fixed determinedly on his empty mug of tea.

Ron cleared his throat loudly, tapping his fingers on the table to break the silence. “Blimey ‘Mione, why do you ask? Do you just like making a poor man blush?”

Hermione scoffed, pushing the side of Ron’s head in mock annoyance, but deep down a great affection. She had appreciated his honesty and resolved to answer truthfully in return.

“Whilst it is fun to watch your entire face turn as red as your hair, I do have a reason. I’ve never really done the whole dating and feelings thing. I was so wrapped up in trying to keep us alive, trying to help win the war that I guess I just kind of skipped the normal teenage stuff. We all did really.” Hermione refilled her tea, doing the same to Ron’s.

“How do I know what it feels like to like someone? Beyond finding them attractive?” Hermione mused aloud, not expecting an answer from Ron.

Ron shrugged, summoning some biscuits from one of the cupboards and dunking one in his tea, paying attention not to let it break off.

“I guess you wait and see if the feelings go away? Or if they like you too? To be honest Hermione, I haven’t got a bloody clue either.” He laughed, spitting biscuit crumbs at Hermione as he did so, laughing harder as she swept them away, disgust on her face.

“I’d suggest asking someone who isn’t chronically single. It seems I’m only good at love of the unrequited kind.” Ron’s lip half pulled up, but he had that same wounded puppy dog look on his face, earning him an apologetic look from Hermione as she moved his fringe out of his face before cupping his cheek momentarily.

Ron patted Hermione’s hand where it rested on his cheek, leaning into her palm for a split second before returning it to the table.

After a beat of borderline awkward quietness, Ron provided a welcome reprieve from the screaming silence.

“What are you working on anyway? You can’t be that busy if you’re here hanging out with me.”

Hermione picked a biscuit from the packet, chewing thoughtfully, thinking over Ron’s words. Whilst his answers hadn’t been particularly illuminating, she appreciated his perspective on the matter, and he made a good point about perhaps not asking her single friends for dating advice. The researcher in her was already thinking of how best to ask Harry and Ginny about their respective feelings, hoping that Ginny didn’t give her too much grief in the process.

“Hmm? Oh, I’ve just got some loose paperwork, nothing too taxing.”

Ron picked up one of Hermione’s books, holding it up at first with curiosity before his expression switched to playful when he read the title.

“Sirens of the Land: A Complete Guide to Veela Lore Throughout History… an integral read as part of your work I assume? With no ulterior motives?”

Hermione snatched the book back, not bothering to hide her embarrassment from Ron or trying to fabricate an alibi; despite sometimes being as dense as one of Hagrid’s rock cakes, Ron was often scarily good at reading her.

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell Ginny.” He shot, chuckling and ducking his head to avoid Hermione’s swatting hands.

Sighing, Ron picked up his quill and returned to the parchment of notes that Hermione had finished writing for him.

“Right, we’ve got about an hour before Harry and Gin get back and I have to start the food prep. Let’s do this.” His determination was almost comical, his quill poised above a fresh sheet of parchment, a frown returning to his forehead.

“Yes sir.” Hermione joked, saluting him before turning her attention back to her own reading, Ron waving his wand at the radio to return it to a higher volume.

Hermione wanted an advantage the next time she saw Fleur, not wanting to be caught off guard by some bizarre and highly distracting magical connection. Moreover, she wanted evidence that what she had felt was real , that Fleur had experienced it too, despite the seeming willingness of the French witch to act like nothing had happened.

And if that meant reading a million books on Veelas, then Hermione was willing to do just that.

Chapter Text

“Putain!” Fleur exclaimed, kicking wildly at one of the multiple bins that lined the alleyway that she still stood in, Hermione having long since walked off.

This was not the way she had intended to start the day. After the conversation with her mother the previous night, Fleur had awoken feeling positive, eager to clarify her relationship - or lack thereof - with Bill to Hermione; to drive home the fact that Fleur was in fact very single and very interested in Hermione.

Instead her thrall had decided to unhelpfully try and push things along. Fleur had tried her best to hide her own physical response to Hermione’s touch and had been doing a good job of it until her thrall kicked into overdrive. At least that’s what she assumed had happened. Without speaking to her mother or grandmother, she couldn’t be certain.

She had never felt such intensity, even around Hermione. Whilst the effect of the woman on her was normally innately soothing despite the delightful warmth and obvious attraction that Fleur felt, when Hermione ran her fingers along her back it was like her insides had been set on fire. Her restraint had almost snapped as she was bathed in the indescribable red haze that was Hermione, the addictive scent of cedar, sandalwood and vanilla pulling at Fleur’s self control. It had taken everything for her not to moan at the sensation, to not lean into the motions of Hermione’s dexterous fingers, to not throw caution to the wind and press the woman up against the nearest surface and have her.

And this scared Fleur. Her plan was to get to know Hermione organically, to let their relationship come into fruition in the most natural way possible to take the pressure off of both of them. Whilst Fleur had had time to come to terms with the idea of Hermione as her predestined significant other, that didn’t eradicate the initial fear and anger she had felt at having her freedom stripped away from, her heart and soul promised to someone she barely knew. Fleur could only imagine how Hermione would take the news, hence her entire ethos of taking things slowly and trying to establish a level of trust and comfortability between them before telling Hermione the truth.

The last thing she needed was her newly impatient thrall unhelpfully pushing her along, almost ruining all of her hard work and progress so far.

Fleur growled in frustration, striking the bin with her heeled foot once again, letting out a few expletives in French whilst trying to calm herself, reeling her spiralling thoughts back in.

She’d never been particularly interested in learning about her heritage. Where Gabrielle had hung on every word of their grand-mère even at a young age, Fleur had always been less interested in the why of her abilities and more in the simple gift of the abilities themselves. She hadn’t bothered to learn what specifically it was about Veelas that meant her magical ability was enhanced, yet she was more than happy to use her heightened stamina and general prowess for wielding magic without questioning the why of it.

The same went for anything to do with Veelas mating habits. Fleur shuddered as she thought of the word, disliking the animalistic, base implications that came with it. Veela were known for being particularly tactile as a species, craving intimacy, physical touch and strong emotional connections, traits which Fleur also possessed. She was however more reserved when it came to discussing sexual endeavours and she frequently wished that her mother would be too.

Once it had become obvious to both Apolline and Fleur’s grand-mère that Fleur was not only disinterested but actively unwilling to learn the history and lore of her people, they acquiesced, figuring that since she was only a quarter Veela, they would tell her only the necessary aspects. This didn’t include the specifics around what happened when the thrall detected a mate; with such diluted blood the chances of Fleur’s thrall ever identifying a mate was so small, the likelihood so slim that this had been conveniently left out of her Veela education.

For which Fleur was now massively regretting. Even after telling her mother about Hermione over two years ago, the subject remained one of conflict that they often danced around, Fleur only asking questions about the bond or her experiences when absolutely necessary. In her ignorance, she used to find bliss; in denial, she could quell the fear of rejection that she may face when telling Hermione the truth.

“Well I could use some answers now Maman.” Fleur huffed, now grateful that she’d hastily stuffed the previous two letters from her mother into her bag earlier that morning. She hoped that her mother might have outlined what she might expect to experience now that herself and Hermione were in more frequent physical contact. She could sense the changes in herself and felt a shift in the way Hermione reacted to her even from their few days of interaction. Things were beginning to advance quickly whether she wanted them to or not.

Glancing at her simple, gold wristwatch, Fleur swore again. She was already late for work, her outburst having delayed her even further. With a flourish, Fleur apparated herself closer to Diagon Alley, finally entering the Wizarding area on foot.

Gringotts carved an intimidating sight at the end of the cobbled street, the white facade glinting malevolently in the morning sun as Fleur hurried up the smooth marble steps.

Thankfully, the Goblins seemed to be otherwise occupied, hunched over one of the oak pews muttering about something, giving Fleur time to skip past them and descend the narrow stairwell to her office.

As she passed the office belonging to Bill, she considered poking her head in to see if he was back from his excursion yet, but quickly shook the idea from her head. Her less than pleasant farewell from Hermione earlier still left a sour taste in her mouth and she was afraid that she’d immediately start over sharing if she were to see Bill.

Instead, she entered her own office, wordlessly turning on the lights, groaning when she saw her heavily stacked in-tray full of what looked to be pink warning slips, presumably disciplining her for her part in the disastrous vault attack the day before.

“Could this day get any worse?” She moaned, slumping onto her large backed office chair, flexing her shoulders before beginning the arduous task of completing the mountain of paperwork before her.

Several hours had passed and Fleur was yet to leave her office, her mood becoming increasingly foul with every pink slip she read, amended and signed to explain her part in the events of the previous day.

The only upside to the positively mind numbing work she was undertaking was the fact that she had no mental capacity to think about Hermione. None at all. Well, some.

She wondered what Hermione would be doing at the Ministry, wondered what her work friends were like and whether they got to see Hermione’s face when she was blushing at a risqué joke, whether they noticed the simply adorable dimples she got even when she was trying not to smile, her honey eyes sparkling tellingly.

Focus, she scolded herself, re-reading the same paragraph again as she’d taken none of it in the first three times she’d read it through.

She wished she had one of those Muggle devices so that she could talk to Hermione, to ask how her day was going and apologise for her behaviour that morning. She would ask Bill about how she’d get one, Hermione did say that she would help her set it up if she bought one. It was as good of an excuse as any to spend more time with Hermione.

With a sigh and a stretch she decided it was time for a change of pace, resolving to complete her paperwork later and instead take some time to revisit the now contained vault to assess the damage.

Traversing through the damp smelling tunnels of Gringotts via the rickety cart system, Fleur couldn’t help but smile at the glimpses she caught of the damaged sections from where a certain trio flew out on a Dragon. Despite the best efforts of the clean up team at Gringotts, there were still certain sections of the bank that were heavily affected. Rockslides and rubble displacement were much less common now than they were two years ago, but Fleur couldn’t help the slight smirk and strange sense of pride that she felt at the obvious reminder of bravery and courage that the damaged caverns represented.

She shook her head gently, trying to remind herself that this pride wasn’t hers to feel, that Hermione wasn’t hers to feel proud of, despite what every fibre of her being screamed.

As the cart shuddered to a halt Fleur gracefully disembarked, making her way down the now familiar path to the lower vaults. She planned to stay down there long enough for her to have a word with herself and attempt to shake her piteous mood once and for all; she didn’t want her first time seeing Bill after nearly three months to be spent with her whining  about her unrequited feelings towards Hermione.

With a deep breath, Fleur gripped her wand and headed directly to the site of the aggressive vault, brushing thoughts of Hermione aside as it was clearly the only way she was going to get any work done.

 

*****

 

The rest of Fleur’s day passed smoothly. She spent it taking her time examining the vault in further detail and compiled some suggested tactics to tackle it once and for all. Whilst Hermione was never far from her mind, she found it easier to distract herself when she wasn’t stuck behind her desk, finding peace in the careful problem solving that came with the mystery of the dark, ancient vaults.

Upon returning to her office to complete the rest of the irritating pink slips, she found her concentration slipping again, her thoughts trailing back to Hermione. Under normal circumstances Fleur wouldn’t mind at all, but in the current environment it was largely unhelpful.

Fleur endeavoured to get back in contact with her mother about the increasing intensity of her feelings for Hermione. This struggle to concentrate was something of a new symptom, one that seemed to have arrived in her life the same time as Hermione had returned to it. She was reluctant to pass every feeling she had for Hermione off as a condition of her thrall - she knew that the thrall did not choose incompatible partners - but in this instance she thought it was safe to attribute at least some of her lingering thoughts to her heritage.

Before she could dwell too much she could hear the gentle murmur of her coworkers filing out for the day, farewells and calls for the pub being shouted down the hallway, laughter echoing through the flagstone halls. A glance at the large freestanding grandfather clock that took up space in the corner of her office confirmed that it was time to finish and more importantly, time for her to meet Bill for their dinner.

Fleur gathered up her paperwork for the day, enchanting it into small paper birds before sending them flying through her slightly ajar office door to the correct department.

Grabbing her jacket and bag, she followed her co-workers through the narrow corridors briskly, trying to spot Bill amongst them, craning her neck to see if she could spy his bright red ponytail.

Coming up short, Fleur reasoned that she would meet Bill at the restaurant. It was only a short walk from Gringotts to their preferred spot and she had prepared a change of clothes in her bag; she knew that if she were to return home that the urge to seek out Hermione would be too strong, that she would come up with some excuse as to why she needed to be at Grimmauld Place instead. No, this was by far the safer option.

Fleur strolled out onto the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley, letting herself be guided by the wave of witches and wizards currently flocking to the various pubs and restaurants that the area had to offer. There had been an influx of new shops, eateries and pubs opening in Diagon Alley after the war, the Ministry pumping large funds into trying to re-establish the “community spirit” of the Wizarding world. Whilst Fleur thought the money could’ve been spent more wisely by the Ministry, she did begrudgingly make full use of the new amenities. After all, it was hard to find good French restaurants in the Wizarding areas of London.

Her destination appeared as she rounded the corner, the quaint French restaurant sitting between a perfumery and craft beer outlet in a quieter section of Diagon Alley. She could hear the soft tinkling of music coming from the open door of the restaurant, the sound bleeding onto the street in the late summer evening.

Ducking into an alleyway to magic herself out of her work clothes and into her pre-prepared outfit for dinner, she allowed herself one last thought of Hermione before heading back to the small restaurant.

“Bonsoir!” She breezed, waving to the owner who gestured to her usual table outside, busying himself with selecting a wine for her; something which was customary whenever her and Bill visited.

Fleur sat down at the table that was still bathed in the early evening sun. She idly leafed through a copy of The Daily Prophet that had been left by a previous customer. She stopped when she noticed a picture of Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione outside the Ministry, the title of the article signifying that the text was pure drivel with no real substance, a piece written solely as a brief update to The Golden Trio’s lives.

In the picture, the four of them had their heads thrown back in laughter, Ginny clutching Hermione’s shoulder for balance as she did so, Hermione fondly tousling Ron’s hair.

Harry seemed to spot the camera first, his eyes betraying his annoyance as he stared down the barrel of the lens. Ginny and Ron were the next to turn to the camera, Ginny’s blue eyes seeking it out fiercely before throwing up her middle finger in sync with her brother, the pair of them yelling obscenities, their lips moving rapidly in the moving image. Hermione was the last to turn, her posture stiffening as she half turned warily, a glimpse of sadness evident in her golden honey brown eyes before she corralled her friends back into the entrance of the Ministry.

Fleur watched the photo several times, feeling anger twist inside her the more she watched. She knew what it was like to be scrutinised, to be unable to be invisible in the world, at least one pair of eyes always following her; she could only imagine how challenging it must be for someone entirely unaccustomed to it, suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

She was scowling at the paper, feeding her fury with each loop of the picture when she felt a hand land gently on her shoulder.

“Excuse me, but you seem to be sitting in my seat.”

Fleur wheeled round, greeted with the sight of her ex-husband beaming at her.

“Bill.” She enthused, standing up swiftly and stepping into the man’s open arms, allowing her anger to diffuse as he pulled her in closely.

“Sorry I’m late, you know what the Goblins and their paperwork are like, I had to sign my life away before they’d let me leave.” Bill joked, releasing Fleur and taking the seat opposite her as she sat back down too.

He glanced at the open newspaper, his gaze zeroing in on the image. Smirking, he turned the paper around, getting a better look at what Fleur had been so engrossed in upon his arrival.

“A bit of light reading I see? You know if you wanted to know how Ron and Ginny were doing you could’ve just asked me. Or perhaps someone else in the photo is the subject of your attention?” Bill’s tone was light and playful, his eyes sparkling knowingly as Fleur scowled at him, muttering in French under her breath.

Fleur regained composure, ignoring Bill’s teasing. “Yes, you know that I’ve always thought Harry is a good looking man, he has a humble air to him.” She sniffed haughtily, reaching up to release her hair from its restrictive bun.

Bill laughed heartily, slipping the paper back towards Fleur, who briskly closed it and tossed it behind her onto an empty table.

“A shame that he’s with Ginny then. Perhaps one of the other members of The Golden Trio would suffice?” Bill tried again, goading Fleur gently.

“Well about that. I have a bone to pick with you Monsieur Weasley.” Fleur turned to Bill challengingly, enjoying the way his grin faltered as he squirmed uncomfortably under the intensity of her look.

The waiter approached their table with a carafe of water in his hand, pouring for them both, exchanging a few words with Fleur in French as he did so. As he ambled off to get their drinks - a bottle of wine recommended by the owner - Fleur moved her attention back to Bill.

“Oh?” Bill feigned ignorance, shuffling in his seat and sipping from his glass, holding the frosted tumbler to his head in an attempt to cool down.

“Yes. It seems that the apartment building that you recommended for me has an… inhabitant of interest.”

“Oh does it? What is the address again?” Bill furrowed his brow exaggeratedly, tapping a finger against his bristly chin as he did so, looking upwards as if trying to remember.

Fleur complied, reeling off her address. She knew Bill was stalling but was more than happy to wait. They hadn’t even ordered yet so she had plenty of time to chastise him and she planned to use the opportunity to its fullest.

“Maybe that does ring a bell…. Oh, I think Hermione lives there too! Same floor and everything, maybe two or three doors down. What a wonderful coincidence. Small world, hey?” He sipped his water again, nearly spitting it out in amusement as he watched Fleur’s attempt at anger give way to a light blush and an indulgent smile.

“Bill Weasley you meddling man! You knew she lived there and didn’t tell me before I moved in?” Fleur was trying to stay angry, but found it hard. Bill’s easy laugh was infectious. The flaming haired wizard held up his hands defensively as he chortled, leaning back in his chair to avoid Fleur’s half hearted attempt to hit him across the table.

“It must have slipped my mind, you know how forgetful I am.” He winked conspiratorially, thanking the waiter who had returned with their wine. “And hey, although your mother didn’t agree with me on most things, where Hermione was concerned, we both thought you needed a little push.”

“My ex-husband is trying to set me up with another woman. How did my life become so complicated, hm?” Fleur laughed, one eyebrow raised in challenge as Bill poured her some wine from the bottle.

“There is nothing complicated about a green card marriage, dear ex-wife of mine. And no offence but you’re not my type, I prefer brunettes. Much like you.” Bill sniffed, taking a careful taste of the wine, humming in delight at its fullness.

Fleur feigned offence, raising her hand to her heart as if wounded, pointedly choosing to ignore the comment about her proclivity for brunettes. Or one brunette more specifically.

“You mean none of it was real? You cad! Playing with the heart of a woman; unforgivable.”

Bill laughed again, tapping a hand fondly on Fleur’s which lay on the table.

“I’m afraid not. I believe you were just as disinterested in me as I was with you though, always banging on about some other woman.” Fleur swatted Bill’s hand away, willing the gentle flush that was rising to her cheeks to fade.

“So come on, tell me all about it then. I didn’t go to all this trouble of keeping you in the country for you to get quiet on me. How is Hermione?” Bill continued to drink his wine, watching as Fleur selected her starter and relayed it to the waiter in French, interjecting only to ask Bill for his order also.

“Merci beaucoup.” Fleur closed her menu and handed it to the waiter, her silvery hair flowing freely as she moved. She  turned back to Bill who was still waiting for her response.

“Hermione is good. She is having dinner at Grimmauld Place tonight. I was invited, but foolishly declined to have dinner with you; a decision I am deeply regretting already.” She said guardedly, watching Bill become more impatient. The Weasley’s weren’t famously known for their patience. “She did not seem pleased with my dinner plans.” Fleur added as an afterthought.

Bill chuckled good naturedly, holding his wine glass up in mock cheers. “Good! I’m glad to be of service, honestly watching you two avoid each other for two years has been beyond painful. If I knew all it took to hurry things along was a bit of jealousy then I would’ve really played up the PDA.”

Bill made a kissy face at Fleur, leaning over the table jokingly, revelling in Fleur’s laughter and near squeals, allowing himself to be pushed back gently to his seat.

Sobering slightly, Fleur pouted petulantly, cocking her now empty wine glass at Bill for a refill. He complied, watching Fleur mumble in French sulkily.

“I was not ignoring Hermione, she was ignoring me.”

Bill rolled his eyes, pouring the rest of the wine into his own glass, making sure his and Fleur’s glasses were even, levelling them out with such precision that it was almost comical.

“Well you were hardly going out of your way to talk to her. Honestly if I hadn’t all but shoved you into the same apartment building I think you’d have only said “Bonjour” to her for the rest of your days. I’ve never met such a stubborn pair of witches.”

Fleur frowned deeply, almost growling at Bill. Whilst he may be her best friend and have his redeeming qualities like agreeing to marry her to allow her to stay in the country to help win a war, that didn’t give him a free pass to wind her up. Fleur said as much, to which Bill apologised and promised to behave for the remainder of their meal.

As talk turned away from Hermione, Fleur couldn’t help but hope that the brunette witch was having a good evening. Fleur was already looking forward to seeing her again and explaining as much as she dared. 

She smiled to herself as the waiter approached and she sentimentally ordered the Bouillabaisse.

 

*****

“Ta da! It’s Ratatouille!” Ron announced as he lifted the lid from the bubbling, shallow dish that he’d been fussing over for the past hour. The vessel sat in the middle of the kitchen table, with Hermione, Ginny and Harry seated on a bench on one side, Ron and Luna taking up the other side.

Ginny craned her neck slightly towards the large ceramic dish, recoiling as something indistinguishable and mushy looking bubbled, bouncing on the surface before slowly submerging into the slop again.

“I thought Ratatouille was that film that Hermione and Harry tried to make us watch? With the rat chef called Ratatouille?” Ginny asked, keeping her eyes glued to the strangely viscous contents of the dish. “You said we weren’t allowed to watch it because it reminded you of Scabbers and the fact that you shared a bed with an old man disguised as a rat for years?”

Hermione looked at the thick indistinguishable mush cautiously, her head next to Ginny’s.

“The rat isn’t called Ratatouille Ginny, that’s a common mistake.” Hermione said hastily; she had to admit that despite the less than appealing look of the dish, it smelt rather delicious, her stomach growling impatiently.

Ron pushed his tongue out at Ginny who wasted no time in sticking her middle finger up in response. Ron chose instead to focus his attention on Harry, Hermione and Luna who still looked undecided on the edibility of the food.

“Well, we survived Voldemort; we can survive some mystery rat stew.” Harry declared, handing Ron his bowl for him to ladle a portion of the food onto.

Luna went next, eagerly taking her food from Ron, whispering something into the bowl before she began eating. Ginny and Hermione however, exchanged a look, waiting for the verdict from Harry and Luna.

“They’re not gagging and Harry has a really strong gag reflex so it must be okay.” Ginny murmured, leaning into Hermione as she spoke. “I won’t mention Fleur for the entire evening if you eat it first.”

Hermione scowled and pushed her shoulder back against Ginny playfully, standing sharply on her toe under the table for good measure.

“Ouch! Fine, I’ll go first, but just know that you’ll regret it when our entire conversation revolves around you and Fleur and the massive lesbian crush you have on her.” Ginny smirked, rubbing her injured foot with her good one.

Hermione balked slightly, briskly handing Ron her bowl before Ginny could reach for hers. This earned a hearty laugh from Ginny, who let out a snort when Hermione hastily rammed the food in her mouth.

“Ron this is actually… quite good?” Hermione spoke around her piping hot mouthful, making soft exhalations to cool the scalding food down.

Ron beamed, his slightly sweaty face flushing further. “Thanks ‘Mione. Seeing Fleur again has really inspired me to try my hand at French cooking.”

“Yeah, it’s really inspired Hermione to try her hand at the French too.” Ginny nudged Hermione’s side exaggeratedly, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively as she did so.

Harry gave his girlfriend a pointed look, which Hermione noticed gratefully. She could always rely on Harry to gently chastise Ginny when she began to be…well, too Ginny.

“So, come on Hermione, how’s the new job? You sounded pretty knackered on the phone yesterday.” Harry rammed the food into his mouth at great speed, a trait he hadn’t grown out of since living with the Dursleys, where he never was quite sure when or if his next meal would come.

Before answering, Hermione glanced at Ginny with warning eyes, unsurprised to see the redhead already poised, her sharp mouth slightly open with a quick, lewd remark about the possible cause of her exhaustion ready to spill out. Hermione said nothing, instead choosing to point to her Ratatouille as a reminder of the deal Ginny had made moments ago, to which Ginny exhaled dramatically and turned to her food instead.

“It’s a step up from grabbing the entire Ministry coffee and delivering the mail. I just wish they’d let me get my hands on some bigger legislation instead of being stuck overturning regulations that people have forgotten even exist.” Hermione tried to keep her tone light, aware that whilst she knew her friends welcomed her moans and groans about work, she wanted to have a good evening instead of getting bogged down with negativity.

“I’ve heard there’s rumours of a reshuffle you know. With the Muggle election just around the corner it seems even the Wizards are leaning to the left. Could do wonders across the board at the Ministry don’t you think?” Harry replied, slowing his eating pace under Ginny’s withering look.

“Perhaps. I hate that I feel so negative about it all but I’m just tired of hoping constantly.” Hermione huffed, stabbing a slice of Aubergine and chewing it thoughtfully.

“It’s the hope that kills you.” Luna added sagely, helping Ron by wiping his sweaty forehead with a tea towel and dishing him up a portion of Ratatouille.

“What does Sophia think about it all? She’s always been on your wavelength politically hasn’t she?” Harry inquired, running a hand through his scruffy black hair, his scar visible through his fringe.

“I think she’s been on Hermione’s wavelength in more ways than one.” Ginny added surreptitiously, feigning innocence when Hermione turned to glare at the woman beside her.

“What? I said I wouldn’t tease about Fleur, not Sophia.” Ginny finished, jumping up from the bench to avoid the smack that she was no doubt about to receive from Hermione.

“Can we please just talk about something that isn’t attractive European women? I’ve come here to unwind, eat some rat stew and catch up with you all. Can we all do that please?” Hermione all but pleaded. This new found obsession that her friends had with her love life was already beginning to irk her and she’d only seen Fleur twice so far; she dreaded to think what they’d be like if she told them about the planned film night that her and Fleur had on Friday.

Her friends nodded, although Ginny paused, seeming to measure up exactly how annoyed Hermione was with her teasing. Sensing from Hermione’s look of exasperation that she was extremely close to breaking point, Ginny nodded her head swiftly, turning back to the remainder of her food.

The table resumed their chatter with Harry and Ron focussing their attention on Luna, asking about her boyfriend who they had yet to meet. Ginny however caught Hermione’s eye and motioned her head subtly towards the door, excusing herself from the table, presumably wanting Hermione to follow.

With a huff, Hermione followed behind the redhead, letting Ginny lead her to the study.

“If you’ve asked me in here to tease me some more then you can piss right off, I’ve had enough of it today.” Hermione hissed, trying to keep her voice down so as not to alert the others to her genuine annoyance.

Ginny held up her hands before taking a step towards Hermione, slowly lowering her hands to Hermione’s shoulders under her watchful eyes. She gazed at her steadily with an apologetic look on her face.

“I’ve not, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you, I was only playing. What’s got you so worked up today?” Ginny said softly, her voice full of curiosity and remorse.

Hermione sighed, lifting her hands to brush Ginny’s where they lay on her shoulders, tapping them to ask her to let go. Ginny did so immediately and watched Hermione walk over to an armchair by the fireplace, her unofficial designated seat whenever she was at Grimmauld Place. Ginny followed, sitting cross legged on the tattered but homely rug in front of the brunette, her expression serious for once.

“It’s… don’t laugh at me before I say this…” Hermione warned, holding up a finger to emphasise her point. “But it’s Fleur. Something… weird happened this morning.”

Ginny frowned slightly, anger creeping onto her face. “Weird? Did she hurt you?”

“No, nothing like that. She would never hurt me.” Hermione said quickly. She knew Ginny was fiercely protective of her and had a temper far shorter than even Ron’s. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that Ginny would shoot off in search of Fleur if she thought the French witch had somehow injured Hermione.

“There was this weird… connection I guess. But I don’t know if I made it up in my head.” Hermione explained sheepishly. It was frustrating how ineloquent she was whenever it came to trying to verbalise whatever was happening with Fleur. Like there was a language blocker, as if her vocabulary didn’t have the words to describe her own feelings.

Ginny cocked her head to the side in confusion, the anger having left her face and left befuddlement in its place. “A connection? You mean like you had a ‘moment’?” She questioned, clasping her hands together and fluttering her eyelashes in an attempt to appear doe eyed.

Choosing to ignore Ginny’s need to make light of the situation but letting her annoyance at her inability to take her words seriously seep in, Hermione continued on.

“No not like that. I don’t think so. More of like… a physical connection… or a magical one?” Hermione held up a warning finger again, pre-empting Ginny’s hyperfixation on the word “physical” in her sentence.

“Fleur was injured at work but she didn’t tell me. I accidentally found out and offered to help heal it; it was only a scattering of bruises, nothing too major.” As Hermione spoke Ginny nodded in encouragement. Hermione noticed that she was paying extra mind to show her attentiveness to what she was saying, leaning forwards to catch her every word.

“But when I started healing her it was like… well I don’t even know what it was like, I’ve never felt anything close to it before. It was like her magic was seeking mine out. I could feel it right under my fingers as I was touching the bruises.” Hermione put her hand out in front of her absentmindedly, repeating the motions she’d been making on Fleur’s back, lost in trying to retell the memory as accurately as she could.

“And I could sense what her magic felt like. It’s kind of… blue and purple. It made my vision blurry, hazy around the edges. And it smelt just like her, she has this really distinct smell to me and it was like all I could feel, all I could see and smell was Fleur . As if it would consume me if I let it.”

Hermione dropped her hand in her lap, letting her eyes drift back to Ginny who was leaning so far forward now her chin was almost resting on Hermione’s knees; like a school child at the foot of their teacher. Hermione held back a giggle at the image, shaking her head to bring herself fully back into the present moment.

After a moment of silence, Hermione spoke again. “But I wasn’t scared, or even worried. I felt… safe. Calm. This bizarre sense of peace and self assurance, like everything was going to be okay. That’s weird right? I mean you’ve never felt like that with Harry have you? I know he heals a lot of your Quidditch injuries.”

Ginny frowned in concentration, rubbing the back of her neck with her hand, sitting back as she did so. “No, never. It feels kind of warm. And tingly. But I can’t sense his magic, I can’t smell him like that. Reckon it’s a lesbian thing?” Ginny added playfully, groaning at herself.

“Sorry, sorry, you know I use humour as a defence mechanism! Sue me, I’m flawed! ” She said dramatically, rising from the floor, one of her knees cracking in the process.

The redhead began pacing in front of Hermione, her arms swinging by her sides as she did so.

“Well it’s a Veela thing then surely? I mean she patched you up after… after what happened,” Ginny’s step faltered slightly at the near mention of Shell Cottage, her eyes purposefully avoiding Hermione, but she recovered well. “It’s got to be her Veela healing powers. We know they’re more potent, so maybe that’s part of it? Maybe she absorbed some of your magic too, to give her like, super booster healing?”

Hermione’s eyebrows knitted together, her brain whirring as she tried to scan her mind for anything remotely useful that she’d read on the subject earlier that day.

“I don’t know. She didn’t seem to react to it, not like I did anyway. So maybe you’re right, maybe she’s used to it and it’s just her body’s way of healing?”

Ginny nodded eagerly, bouncing from foot to foot in excitement.

“Yes! I mean why would she react if it was just a normal sensation for her? She wouldn’t know that it’s any different or abnormal, because to her it isn’t .” Ginny all but yelled before she whispered an apology quickly, suddenly aware that her voice had raised considerably in her excitement.

Hermione hummed, trying to ignore the disappointment she felt. It wasn’t to do with Fleur’s thrall, or her at all for that matter. Her healing spell must have just mingled with Fleur’s innate Veela magic, her natural, heightened healing abilities enhancing the sensation for Hermione and Hermione alone.

Ginny watched Hermione with interest, taking note of her downturned lips, the furrow in her brow and a flash of near sadness in her light brown eyes. She softened, opting to sit on the arm of Hermione’s chair, letting her feet rest in the brunette’s lap.

“Or maybe we’re wrong and it’s something else? You could always ask Fleur, I’m sure she’d be happy to explain.”

Hermione hummed, trying her best to banish any thoughts of bitterness. Her and Fleur were just friends. This conclusion was good. It meant that nothing had to change, that they could continue to spend time together without some strange, unanswered magical element hanging over their heads.

“No, it’s okay. You’re right. It’s clearly linked to Veelas healing abilities. You know me, always overthinking.” Hermione tried to laugh, only managing a short bark before she busied herself by poking Ginny’s big toe through an absurdly large hole in her sock.

“Come on, let’s get back in there before Luna indoctrinates Harry and Ron into some strange cult that her and her boyfriend are clearly part of.” Ginny said, waving her toe playfully in Hermione’s face, causing the brunette to emit a yelp before springing out of the armchair.

Hermione shook her head determinedly, following Ginny back to the kitchen. Whilst she couldn’t help the gnawing disappointment that sat deeply in her, she was going to have a nice evening and ignore the stubborn knot in the pit of her stomach.

 

*****

 

After several rounds of exploding snap, multiple frustrating games of Wizards chess in which Luna single handedly defeated every single one of them consecutively and a final round of would you rather (a favourite of Ginny’s), Hermione let out a yawn, thinking of Crookshanks waiting for his dinner at home.

“Well I don’t know about you lot but I’m tired of trying to decide whether I’d rather fuck a troll, lick in between Filch’s toes or live with Moaning Myrtle. I’m leaving.”

She stood up from the kitchen table, holding out a hand to help Luna out from her place on the bench next to Ron, which she took gratefully, curling into Hermione’s side sleepily.

“And it looks like Luna is too, right?” Ginny remarked, watching Luna nod and close her eyes as she nuzzled further into Hermione’s side, a yawn slipping between her lips.

Hermione patted the blonde’s head affectionately, moving a few loose strands away from her face. Whilst her and Luna didn’t always see eye to eye - Luna’s belief in the skeptical arts had always baffled Hermione - the pair had developed an oddly close bond since leaving Hogwarts. Their group didn’t feel complete when Luna wasn’t there with some bizarre yet astute comment.

“Do you want to floo instead? I don’t want you getting splinched because you’re tired Luna?” Hermione murmured to a sleepy Luna. Ever since the splinching incident with Ron she worried constantly about it happening to her or her friends.

“No I’ll be fine, Hermione. I think the fresh air will do me some good.”

“Are you sure?” Hermione asked again, ducking her head to meet Luna’s ghostly blue eyes, which gazed softly back at her.

“Sure as a sure thing that’s extremely sure.” She said, lacing her arm around Hermione’s back for additional support as she shifted her weight further into the brunette.

Hermione shook her head with amusement, a half smirk on her face as she made her goodbyes to the others, joining them in a near group hug thanks to Luna’s staunch refusal to leave the warmth of Hermione’s body.

“Thanks again for cooking Ron! You’ll be a tough act to follow.” Hermione called behind her as she led Luna through the entryway of Grimmauld Place, Ron trailing them to lock up, leaving Harry and Ginny to head up to bed.

Ron smiled warmly, his face flushing once again at the compliment. “Thanks ‘Mione. And cheers for helping with the homework again, I’d really be lost without you.” He added almost shyly, meeting her gaze before looking away again in embarrassment.

Hermione pulled him in for another hug, taken aback as she always was by the size of him now, his broad back simultaneously hard yet yielding under her touch as she wrapped her spare arm around him.

“Well lucky for you you’ll never have to be.” She spoke into his chest, briskly kissing his cheek before pinching it playfully, Ron catching her hand and pecking the back of it before releasing her.

“Now fuck off out of house and make sure Luna doesn’t end up in the park looking for Floogels or something.” Ron said to the pair, watching them descend the outside steps and reach the pavement before turning to wave again.

“On it Ronald. Love you!” Hermione shouted, laughing as she heard Ron repeatedly shouting “goodnight, love you both!” until he was out of earshot, his bellowing voice no longer audible, lost to the sounds of London at night.

Hermione and Luna walked in silence, the petite blonde still tucked under Hermione’s arm for now, her feet dragging slightly with fatigue as she walked.

“Are you sure you’re okay to apparate Luna? You can always stay at mine, it’s closer to your place than here anyway.” Hermione offered, approaching her usual apparating spot down a narrow alley that cut onto the next street over.

“I’m all good, I promise. It just feels nice to be next to you like this, your new aura colour suits you, makes you warmer.” Luna spoke softly, so softly that Hermione was sure she hadn’t heard her right.

“My aura? What colour is it?” Hermione asked, unsure as to why she suddenly started listening to Luna’s nonsense, but trusting her instincts.

Luna simply smiled sleepily, finally unfurling herself from under Hermione’s arm, bringing a hand up to rest on Hermione’s chest, right where her heart was currently thumping steadily.

“You already know. Goodnight Hermione.” Luna breathed, her voice barely above a whisper still. She wrapped Hermione in a hug, squeezing gently before releasing her and apparating, giving Hermione no time to respond.

Left on her own in the alleyway, Hermione apparated herself as close to her apartment building as she dared, choosing a small but densely forested park opposite the building.

“What a fucking weird day.” Hermione muttered to herself, as she tried to shove down the word lilac which kept repeating itself in her head. Her aura. She didn’t know how she knew it, but she sensed in her very core that it was lilac, the very shade that she saw that morning when she was healing Fleur.

Lost in thought, theorising and re-theorising when she drew a blank, Hermione made her way into the elevator and began the journey up to her floor. She repeated her earlier conversation with Ginny, grounding herself in the logic behind it. Coupled with Luna’s general leniency towards feelings as opposed to facts, Hermione could easily brush aside their conversation. A half asleep woman who genuinely believes that a Yorkshire Tea Bag can map out my future is hardly a credible source of information , Hermione thought testily, her patience well and truly exhausted for the day.

The elevator dinged and Hermione stepped out into the corridor, immediately sensing something or someone was there, the hairs on the back of her neck standing to attention, a pale lilac wash hazing her vision.

Soundlessly she drew her wand and paused slightly, ensuring she was poised to spring at whatever threat lay ahead, the sound of her heart drumming against her chest and her breathing rapidly becoming more shallow filled her ears almost to breaking point. Visions of Death Eaters filled her brain, assaulting her with images of blood, flashing green lights and chilling screams. She jumped out of the elevator, as prepared as she ever would be to face whatever or whoever lay ahead of her.

Chapter Text

“‘Ermione!” Fleur hissed, her arm raised, mirroring Hermione’s current aggressive stance, both of their wands flying from their hands at the silent Expelliarmus they had simultaneously cast.

Hermione exhaled in a gasp, automatically crumpling against the wall as her nervous system fought with the reasoning part of her brain for control of her body. She wasn’t sure what was worse, thinking that there was an intruder in the building or realising that it was Fleur. Her body had an extremely similar autonomous response to both outcomes; increased heart rate, sweaty palms and the departure of all rational thought.

“Fucking hell Fleur, what are you doing lurking in the corridor at night!” Hermione half yelled, aware of the late hour. As she gulped in air, desperately staving off the potential of an impending panic attack, she couldn’t help but notice the way that her body physically relaxed the closer Fleur got. Tendrils of sweet honeysuckle scent wafted towards her with every step Fleur took in her direction, soothing her almost immediately.

The French witch had retrieved and holstered her wand, which Hermione noted was currently affixed to a leather strap on her leg, accessible via a thigh length slit in the navy blue dress she was wearing.

Hermione averted her gaze, shutting her eyes in an attempt to ward off the embarrassingly strong reaction she felt upon seeing Fleur’s leg, the smooth, creamy skin screaming at her to touch it. She wore it to dinner with Bill, she’s been out to dinner with Bill, Hermione’s mind provided unhelpfully, doing nothing to calm her down, only changing her embarrassment to a kind of bruising envy.

The brunette sensed before she saw Fleur standing in front of her. Keeping her eyes closed for a second to brace herself for whatever visceral gut punch Fleur’s gorgeous visage was about to deliver. She felt Fleur’s hands ghost over her clenched fists, the French witch’s long and slender digits unfolding Hermione’s fingers one by one until they were relaxed, her palms open and ready to meet Fleur’s eager hands which slid into her own.

Hermione took a few more seconds to compose herself, revelling in the comforting scent of Fleur, slowly opening her eyes to meet the blonde’s piercing blue gaze roaming her face almost hungrily. The French witch’s expression was amused and doting, with concern laced underneath her playful demeanour.

“Good evening ma’am.” Hermione quipped, letting swathes of calm envelop her, the pale blue and lilac sensation that was unquestionably Fleur gifting her with a sense of tranquility, chasing away the remainder of her anxiety.

Fleur laughed softly, her breath tickling Hermione’s face due to their close proximity. Hermione still had her back against the wall from where she’d jumped back in fright, Fleur standing inches in front of her, both hands still laced with Hermione’s.

“Bonsoir mademoiselle.” Fleur shot back, watching Hermione’s smile grow, knowing that her own half smirk was growing in kind. She felt almost giddy for being so close to Hermione, her magic singing underneath her fingertips where she was touching Hermione in a way that made her want to shiver.

“Do you come here often?” Hermione joked, laughing before she’d been able to finish her comment. It was strange, she didn’t feel nervous, but almost lightheaded and giggly. She laughed in a way that she only did with close friends; the kind of laughter that starts before a joke has even been told, a relaxed and expectant laughter pre-empting a joke.

“In this hallway? Ah oui, I am here all the time. And it appears I will be here far more frequently until I figure out this stupid countercurse. I am locked out.” Fleur added as she gestured to her door, laughing exasperatedly at the absurdity of the situation. She swung her hands in front of her, taking Hermione’s with her.

“What? You are joking, right?” Hermione gasped between her own laughs, stopping to take a proper look at the blonde, pushing Fleur further into the centre of the hallway in order to do so as she gently removed herself from the wall. She liked the way Fleur followed her lead, how her body had reacted to Hermione’s wordless instructions and heeded them without question. The trust was implicit in Fleur’s backward steps, her glittering eyes never leaving Hermione’s golden brown ones as she glided back. It made her feel powerful, knowing that she had already gained a level of trust with Fleur, that their bodies already had a secret language.

“Non, I wish I was.” Fleur chuckled, letting her fingers graze over Hermione’s knuckles where their hands were still entwined. Hermione tried to quiet her laughter with little success, snickering at the irony. Fleur Delacour, renowned Gringotts Curse Breaker, locked out of her own apartment.

“Are you laughing at me ‘Ermione Granger? That is not very neighbourly of you. Aren’t you supposed to offer me refuge in times of need?” Fleur tried to frown, but found that she couldn’t; Hermione looked too adorable trying to suppress her laughter. The French witch felt herself swell with pride knowing that she was making Hermione laugh this way, even if it was at her own detriment.

Sobering slightly, Hermione willed her laughter to die down but her smile remained. She made a show of straightening her face, drawing a soft chuckle from Fleur as she put on her most serious face.

“Who would I be to abandon a woman in her hour of need?” She spoke with an exaggeratedly low voice, trying her best to emulate a cheesy, cringey rom com.

The spluttering laugh that flew from Fleur’s mouth was like music to Hermione’s ears. She didn’t care why she felt the way she did, at that moment she didn’t want to know why Fleur had some strange hold on her. Her earlier anger, confusion, jealousy and disappointment was dispelled by the simple sound of Fleur’s laughter. Feeling like she could breathe properly for the first time all day, Hermione let herself simply bask in Fleur’s company, revelling in the freedom she felt when she was with her.

“Seriously come on, you can explain when we’re inside, Crookshanks is going to be fuming with me if I make him wait any longer for his dinner.” Hermione cocked her head towards her apartment, stopping only to observe the light shimmer of magic that she could now sense around Fleur’s door. There was nothing dark there, no charms placed upon it intending to do Fleur harm, but Hermione could sense… mischief.

Fleur waited patiently just ahead of Hermione as she stooped to retrieve her wand, stopping by her enchanted door. Fleur did her best not to draw attention to the fact that their hands were still lazily laced together in case Hermione noticed and withdrew her fingers. Hermione’s right hand was settled loosely in Fleur’s left, with the blonde gently running her thumb over the brunette’s knuckles, exploring the ridges with precision, committing the peaks to memory. Fleur stayed quiet letting the brunette mutter to herself quizzically, watching her stretch out her free hand and close her eyes as she concentrated on the door.

With a thoughtful hum, Hermione turned back to Fleur, her brow slightly furrowed, a look that Fleur was beginning to realise meant that Hermione was deep in thought. Her mouth opened slightly, her tongue darting out to wet her lips as if she were about to speak, before closing again.

“Yes ma belle?” Fleur enquired as she tugged on Hermione’s hand, urging her to continue the short journey to her apartment.

Hermione looked torn, like she was weighing up whether she wanted to say whatever was about to come next. Fleur waited again with searching eyes, watching Hermione’s eyes sharpen with resolve before clearing, a glint of humour appearing again as her smile returned.

“Nothing. It’s just amusing to me that an extremely talented Curse Breaker has been bested by what feels like a… well, like a prank charm. Did they not teach you Alohomora at Beauxbatons?” Hermione snickered again as she reached her door, dropping Fleur’s hand as she reached into her pocket for her keys, her back to Fleur. Her laugh was cut short and turned into a gasp as the feeling of Fleur pressed flush against her back registered, the blonde’s head coming to rest on Hermione’s shoulder as she fumbled with the lock.

Hermione was acutely aware of Fleur’s arms circling her waist, having to stop herself from automatically leaning into the woman’s touch. Her body tensed, wound up like a coil ready to spring at the slightest release. The feel of Fleur’s arms around her were firm but not claustrophobic, that tantalising honeysuckle scent and the warmth from Fleur’s body as it connected to hers was almost too much. And nowhere near enough.

“We were taught that one actually.” Fleur murmured, her lips ghosting the shell of Hermione’s ear as she spoke, the blonde witch smirking with delight when she heard Hermione swallow audibly, saw her lips part as she let her hands dance across the exposed flesh of Hermione’s stomach from where her t-shirt had ridden up.

Hermione fought to stay in control, her mind thrashing around helplessly trying to push away the blue and lilac haze that began creeping into her vision, that was urging her to tangle her hands in Fleur’s hair, to pull the blonde into her neck and let her ravage the sensitive skin behind her ear.

Keys, just focus on your keys , she thought, lifting her shaking hand to the lock and attempting to ram the right key into the slot. Her frustration grew with each failed attempt, each key scraping uselessly across the opening or jamming as the ridges failed to line up. Fleur’s fingers tracing gentle patterns on her stomach were becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Each movement of those digits sent a warmth coiling in her depths, each pass of Fleur’s fingertips getting closer to a particularly sensitive patch of skin next to her navel.

“Need a hand? Did they not teach you how to use keys at ‘Ogwarts?” Fleur asked back, feigning nonchalance as best as she could, removing one of her hands from Hermione’s waist and taking the bundle of keys from her. She deftly opened the door in one motion. She chuckled in Hermione’s ear, grateful for the fact that the brunette couldn’t see her face; Fleur was sure that she couldn’t hide her hunger, her unbridled want for the woman even if she tried. But try she must.

Without warning Fleur removed her arms from Hermione, stepping away quicker than was necessary, retreating a suspiciously large distance away from the brunette.

Steadying her ragged breaths, Hermione pushed her door inwards and grabbed Crookshanks before he could escape. She had never been more grateful for the distraction that the large ginger cat brought as she buried her face into his impossibly soft fur to hide her outrageous flush.

She silently fumed. She was beyond outraged that she had nearly broken her promise to herself, the vow she had sworn to value her friendship with Fleur above all else. Never before had she been so challenged by someone. It wasn’t like Hermione to lead with her feelings and throw caution to the wind, but there was something about being around Fleur that made her lose her mind.

Having composed herself in Crookshank’s fur - for which he seemed extremely irritated- she held the door open, gesturing for Fleur to enter, which she did with a curt business like nod, her previous flirtations having fled the moment they broke contact.

“Make yourself at home, I just need to feed this miserable ginger fluff ball and I’ll be in. Can I get you anything?” Hermione rushed around her kitchen, wordlessly summoning Crookshank’s food in a hurry. She suddenly couldn’t remember how she’d left the apartment that morning. Was it tidy? Had she picked her dirty clothes off the floor? Had she left anything embarrassing lying around and it had slipped her mind?

“Water would be lovely, merci.” Fleur called back, her voice signifying that she was somewhere in Hermione’s living room.

Hermione peeked over the breakfast bar as she leant down to Crookshank’s bowl, observing Fleur as she walked curiously around Hermione’s apartment. In her earlier panic when she thought there was a potential Death Eater in the apartment building, Hermione hadn’t had a chance to fully look at Fleur, which she was now extremely grateful for.

She’d obviously changed from her work clothes and was now sporting a navy gown that ended just above her ankles and had a large slit up one leg. Now that particular feature Hermione had noticed, but she hadn’t observed the way that the rest of the dress hugged Fleur’s petite frame, the way the light fabric sat perfectly on her, seeming to mould to the blonde’s every curve. It seemed to have been made for her to wear, the dark shade of blue contrasting with her silvery blonde hair that was falling down the open back of the dress which showed off her smooth, pale skin, interrupted only by a couple of freckles that Hermone hadn’t noticed previously. She was a vision.

Hermione couldn’t help but glance down at her own attire; she was still dressed in the same outfit as she had been that morning, only having switched out her grey cardigan for one of Ron’s many Chudley Cannons jumpers which he gave to her to more effectively combat the constant chill that Grimmauld Place possessed. Not exactly couture.

As her eyes drifted back to Fleur she found the woman already looking at her, one perfect eyebrow raised knowingly over her twinkling blue eyes. Of course she knew that Hermione had been looking at her.

Internally groaning and externally blushing, Hermione hurriedly filled two glasses with water and stepped around Crookshanks to meet Fleur in the living room. Placing her own glass on the coffee table, she handed the second to Fleur, being careful not to let her hands brush against the other woman’s. She clearly couldn’t be trusted with physical contact tonight, her raging hormones reducing her to… well, Ron essentially.

“Merci.” Fleur said appreciatively, taking several large gulps before placing her glass next to Hermione’s.

The pair stood in front of the sofa awkwardly. Now that Fleur was actually in Hermione’s apartment, the brunette was suddenly unsure of what to do, the nervousness that often accompanied her time with Fleur reappearing.

“Do-“

“How-“

They both began at the same time, letting out an awkward laugh. Hermione rubbed the back of her neck nervously, gesturing for Fleur to go first. Fleur chuckled, curtseying at Hermione in thanks, before sitting gently on the sofa, her eyes asking Hermione if it was okay. Hermione nodded quickly and sat down too, her legs pulled up to her chest and her arms looped around them. She was taking no chances with Fleur tonight.

“I was going to ask how your evening was? And your day? I’m really sorry I couldn’t be there tonight.” Fleur looked almost guilty as she spoke, her blue eyes gazing at Hermione softly.

Although Hermione knew the Bill conversation was bound to happen soon, she hadn’t mentally prepared herself for it to be this soon. She’d managed to push thoughts of Fleur and Bill’s dinner to the side for the duration of her time at Grimmauld Place and she hadn’t expected to see Fleur properly until Friday by which point she was hoping she’d have managed to untangle her feelings of jealousy or at least shoved them in a box to worry about later.

“Don’t be silly, there’s nothing to apologise for. It was fun, Ron’s Ratatouille was surprisingly edible. I actually finished work early today so I spent the afternoon at Grimmauld too helping Ron with his homework.” Hermione smiled as she spoke of Ron, missing Fleur’s frown at the mention of the second youngest Weasley.

“And I assume that he was kind enough to give you this in return?” Fleur pulled lightly at the sleeve of Hermione’s borrowed jumper, her face crumpled in disgust.

Hermione laughed as she batted away Fleur’s hand playfully. She wanted nothing more than to let Fleur’s hand linger there and that was exactly why she needed the blonde to move it and fast.

“It suits me right? You can borrow it if you like.” Hermione shot, laughing heartily at Fleur’s horrified expression. “On a serious note do you need… I don’t know, some different clothes or something?”

Hermione willed her eyes not to drop to Fleur’s dress, instead gesturing to the woman’s garment with her hand and keeping her eyes fixed determinedly on Fleur’s, which held a flirtatious glint to them.

“Oh, do you not like this then? Do I not look good?” Fleur returned, standing up suddenly and twirling dramatically in front of Hermione, her hands in the air as the bottom of the dress fluttered teasingly.

The brunette couldn’t form words, all thoughts immediately leaving her at the sight of Fleur, who currently had her back turned, her head cocked playfully over her shoulder to look at Hermione. Hermione knew she was messing around, that Fleur liked to partake in this oddly familiar and flirtatious back and forth that they’d seemed to establish as their primary form of communication in this blossoming friendship. But looking at Fleur’s face as it was currently, Hermione couldn’t help but wish for more.

The blonde’s cheeks were slightly flushed, her hair tousled after her impromptu twirl yet somehow falling perfectly, framing her face so that Hermione could only see one half, the other hidden through loose tendrils. Those intensely blue eyes were still gleaming with humour, but Hermione noted her dilated pupils and the way that the blue of her eyes seemed to almost glow around the impossibly inky black pools. Fleur’s pink lips were quirked up in a smirk but Hermione could see a flash of her teeth waiting to break through, a real and genuine laugh ready to burst from her full lips at any moment in anticipation of what Hermione would say next.

Hermione felt that power again like she had in the hallway. There was something about seeing Fleur like this, seeing the easy way with which she spoke, the brazen and unapologetic and sometimes downright silly side of the witch that made Hermione feel safe; like this was a space in which she too could be playful, be open and not need to question every damn thought or impulse or feeling that came to her. She could just be, just exist with Fleur without feeling judged and that was rare. To know that Fleur also felt this level of trust, to show Hermione her lesser known self made Hermione feel… special. Seen. Understood.

After a moment of confusion where Hermione couldn’t ascertain the reason behind the sudden change in Fleur’s demeanour - the woman having started to look concerned and vaguely sad - she realised she hadn’t yet responded to Fleur’s question about her dress, had been too busy drooling.

Before she could rectify this however, Fleur’s eyes darkened and an alluring smile spread across her face. Biting her lip and turning steadily, Fleur advanced towards Hermione painfully slowly, her hips exaggeratedly swaying from side to side with each step.

“You really don’t like it? Perhaps I should take it off then?”

Hermione felt the air whoosh out of her as she audibly choked on absolutely nothing. She could feel her mouth opening and closing yet no sound came out, could sense her eyes widening in shock and her cheeks flushing embarrassingly. If there was ever a time to not be a disaster lesbian, it was now, her only functioning brain cell helpfully interjected.

She was unable to move, unable to look away as Fleur’s hands made their way to the back of her dress, the sound of a zipper beginning to be pulled down as Fleur’s eyes burned Hermione to the spot. She couldn’t move even if she wanted to and fucking hell she didn’t want to.

Suddenly Fleur burst out laughing, her hands reaching for Hermione’s and patting them affectionately as she moved her face closer to where the brunette sat on the sofa still, rooted to the spot.

“‘Ermione, I am joking. Although if you do have anything comfier that would be amazing. I wasn’t joking about wanting to take this dress off.” Fleur stood up straight again, stretching her arms above her head, this time letting out a soft moan as she did so, her shoulder clicking with her efforts.

Still beyond flustered and about ten steps behind, Hermione eventually sprang to action, her brain trying frantically to cover up her obvious gay panic.

“You look gorgeous, Fleur, obviously. You’re beautiful. I mean it’s a beautiful dress. And you look good in it. Because it’s a nice dress. And you’re pretty. And you’re in it.”

Hermione wished she’d never opened her mouth. And here she was thinking that she was becoming impervious to Fleur’s charms, that the overwhelming sensation she now felt with her was one of tranquility, balance and harmony.

Well where the fuck was the zen just then? Hermione thought angrily. This is like “Plant” all over again .

“Right. Clothes. Let’s just focus on the clothes.” Hermione half muttered, heading towards her bedroom and trying her best to block out Fleur’s pealing laughter that followed her. How she was going to survive this night was beyond her.

Distracting herself, Hermione began rooting through her wardrobe looking for viable options. Fleur’s version of comfy was likely to look far more glamorous than “Ron’s ratty old boxers and her Dad’s old band t-shirts”, yet Hermione really didn’t see what else she had to offer her. Growing frustrated with the return of her self sabotaging, overthinking thoughts, Hermione huffed loudly and nearly jumped out of her skin when she turned to see Fleur lounging on her bed, her head propped up against the headboard.

“Fuck, Fleur! How are you so quiet?” Hermione yelled, earning herself another laugh from Fleur. Seeing the woman on her bed, Hermione felt a familiar warmth curl in her stomach. She hoped that some of Fleur’s scent would linger there. Friends, she all but screamed in her own head, You. Are. Just. Friends.

“I am not quiet, you are just unobservant when you are deep in thought like that. You look so cute when you concentrate.” Fleur said earnestly, the earlier teasing glint gone from her eyes, leaving only sincerity and softness.

Hermione gulped but met her gaze head on, smiling back at the blonde who had begun to get off the bed, her dress riding up as she did so. Snapping her eyes back to Fleur’s face, Hermione held out a hand to help her up, which the blonde took eagerly.

“So, what are my options here?” Fleur spoke, all business now that her attire was involved, although still firmly clutching Hermione’s hand.

“Well Ms. Delacour, we’ve got the brand new line from erm..” Hermione rifled through her wardrobe, purposefully landing on one of her garish pyjama sets that had been picked out by Ginny as a joke Christmas present one year. “It’s by the British Heart Foundation. Charity shop chic is so back in this year.”

Fleur tried to hide her amusement but failed spectacularly, only managing to pass off her laugh by making a ‘tsking’ sound at Hermione, reaching over to stop her hand where it was currently clutching onto the hideous set.

“Non, I want something like the t-shirt you had on this morning?” Fleur asked hopefully.

Hermione’s face dropped slightly, her smile faltering as she thought of her father. The smell of spearmint and the sound of the Pixies being played loudly on Sunday morning, her mother telling her dad to be quiet but inevitably joining in with whatever ridiculous dance from his youth that he was trying to revive. The gentle lulling motion of the car as she was driven around the neighbourhood when she was a child and couldn’t sleep. A large and incredibly soft hand presenting her with a fresh book to keep her occupied whilst she waited in the dentistry practice. And finally her own visage erasing itself from the family photos on the wall, her presence completely lifted out of this man’s life. Not her father anymore. Now just a man.

“Not that one.” Hermione said softly, speaking around an impossibly large lump that had formed in her throat, one that she tried to clear by coughing a few times.

“I mean I’m still wearing it now, I’ve been in it all day it’ll be all… Ministry and Grimmauldy.” Hermione recovered, hoping that Fleur hadn’t noticed her temporary absence. She hadn’t got so lost in a memory, so utterly transported away from her present surroundings in a long time.

It had happened a lot in the early days following the war. She had been like a ghost, never truly present. There were a lot of funerals to attend, cleaning up to be done and endless swathes of reporters hounding her, Harry and Ron. The public couldn’t get enough of The Golden Trio. Surrounded almost constantly by people, Hermione had never felt more alone.

She didn’t tell anyone about the flashbacks at first, about the all consuming way in which she was assaulted, haunted by her own experiences. They started as night terrors, only invading her mind when it was at its most vulnerable. To combat this, she simply didn’t sleep, forcing herself to stay awake for days on end; if she didn’t sleep, she was safe from her own past.

That was until they started happening in the day as well. She would be busying herself with her latest assignment or doing the dishes or be in the middle of a conversation when she’d just disappear. Her mind forced her to sit and watch as dark memories streaked across her consciousness, as she was sucked into the past unable to escape the horror that her mind carried for her.

After several months of traumatic flashbacks that seemed to appear oftentimes with no discernible trigger, she had hit her rock bottom. Every morning it got harder to force herself out of bed, to think of a good reason as to why she should get out of bed. Every morning her first thought was “I’m alive” followed by a shattering disappointment at this knowledge.

She’d heard of anxiety, depression and PTSD, but they only existed to her in a vague way, as something that happened to other people, but not her. Not the brightest witch of her age. For all of her reading, all of her countless hours spent pouring over every text possible she’d never taken the time to really ask herself how she was; to check in with herself throughout her entire time at Hogwarts and after. And now that she was checking in, she could see that she wasn’t good at all, not by a long shot.

It was Ginny who had given her the final push to talk to someone. Knowing that Hermione had become worryingly withdrawn, a shell of her former self living a half life stumbling around with no real feeling other than a gaping emptiness, she had suggested a Wizarding therapist that she knew, one who worked with the Harpies.

Hermione had resisted at first; if her friends couldn’t help her then what on earth could a complete stranger offer her? If she couldn’t help herself then how would some unknown person possibly have any usable insight into her mind, her feelings? It took only four weeks of therapy for Hermione to change her mind and she hadn’t looked back since. Whilst her mind was still broken, fractured in a way that she may never be able to repair, she was finally allowing herself to put the pieces back together in a new and healthier way; to discover who she was now , stronger for everything she’d been through.

That wasn’t to say that she didn’t still carry the weight of the war with her, still bore the trauma and ache that never truly went away when she thought of her parents as she was right now, thinking of the t-shirt she currently wore and what it represented to her.

Snapping her glazed eyes back to Fleur who still stood before her, a confused look on her face, Hermione managed to splutter out “I have loads more t-shirts though. Pick from any of these, I’m just going to the bathroom.” Hermione pulled her hand from Fleur’s grip and removed several t-shirts from her wardrobe, ones that hadn’t belonged to her Dad. She wasn’t ready for that yet. She needed a moment alone to breathe, to ground herself and she couldn’t do that here, not in front of Fleur. She didn’t want her to see her weaknesses.

Grabbing her own set of pyjamas, Hermione walked to the bathroom and locked the door behind her, immediately clinging to the sink as she gasped for air. She fumbled with the tap turning it on full blast to muffle the sounds of her desperate breathing, her eyes screwed shut and a light sheen of sweat breaking out onto her forehead as she tried to remember her breathing technique, to name three things she could smell, hear, taste and see.

She hastily splashed water on her face, letting the cold water soothe her burning skin as she placed both of her wrists under the faucet. Name three things beginning with S that you can see. Shower. Soap. Sink. Her breathing slowed as she repeated the exercise, focusing her attention on the here, the now, the immediate.

After several minutes of controlled breathing, Hermione turned off the tap and relinquished her grip on the sink, her palms indented with the curve of the porcelain from where she had been clutching it like a lifeline.

She glanced quickly at herself in the mirror, watching the frenzied panic leave her eyes and be replaced by exhaustion. Hermione let out a slow exhale and began undressing, changing into her usual pyjamas of a pair of Ron - or sometimes Harry’s - old boxers and a band t-shirt. Tonight it was Ron’s checkered navy and white boxers that had frayed slightly at the bottom and a Depeche Mode t-shirt. If she had thought more about it she would’ve grabbed a long sleeved top but in her panic she hadn’t had the capacity to think ahead.

Her scar. Fleur would see her scar. She knew it was irrational to panic about this - after all, it had been Fleur who had attempted to heal said scar - but it didn’t make the thought of her seeing it now any less daunting. Strangely though, instead of feeling compelled to hole up in the bathroom for the evening and avoid the situation completely, Hermione felt a strange compulsion to seek Fleur out. Her burgeoning anxiety mingled with a need to see Fleur, to feel the lilac and blue tendrils of her calm and soothing aura.

Before she could overthink this need, her feet were propelling her towards the bathroom door, her hand pushing down on the handle before she had time to register what was happening.

Fleur jumped back from where she had been standing next to Hermione’s preferred side of the bed, her hands placed suspiciously behind her back. Her face looked sheepish for a second, before a mask of calm descended upon her features.

“‘Ermione. I selected this one, I hope you don’t mind.” Fleur pulled at the bottom of Hermione’s faded Eagles t-shirt. She didn’t seem to be wearing any shorts underneath, opting instead to stay in her underwear.

So much for a sense of calm , Hermione thought, her heart immediately pounding at the alluring sight of the blonde in her t-shirt. Her clothes.

“Y-yes. I mean no, no I don’t mind. It looks good on you.” Hermione added, embracing the blush that she knew had taken over her face. If the result of complimenting Fleur was the ecstatic beam that currently resided on the blonde’s face, then it was worth the embarrassment.

“What have you got there?” Hermione asked, pointing towards Fleur’s concealed hands, one eyebrow raised questioningly. Fleur stepped further back, turning her body more to anticipate an approaching Hermione. The blonde’s eyes widened and her hands fumbled behind her back as she stepped back further trying to distance herself from Hermione as she walked forwards.

“Nothing.”

Hermione’s eyebrows shot up in amusement, maintaining eye contact as she continued to stride towards the blonde. She stopped short when she was inches from Fleur, the back of the blonde’s knees hitting Hermione’s bedside table with nowhere further to go. No escape.

With her gaze still locked with Fleur’s, Hermione reached her arm around the blonde’s back, prising something soft from the woman’s warm fingers. Up close she could feel short puffs of Fleur’s breath across her face, the warmth causing Hermione’s eyes to drop briefly to the woman’s parted lips.

She was closer than she’d intended to be. The bedside table had blocked Fleur’s retreat. Hermione had unknowingly invaded the French witch’s personal space. She faltered, her hand currently locked around Fleur’s wrist, the blonde witch making no attempt to escape her current situation. In fact, if Hermione didn’t know better she would say Fleur looked almost… flustered. Excited.

Her pupils were dilated once more, only serving to pronounce the remaining light circle of blue further. To Hermione’s surprise, she could hear Fleur’s breath coming quicker, the pattern almost becoming erratic the closer the two got to each other; she even thought she saw Fleur’s eyes start to travel south to her lips, but that couldn’t be right. It was the first time Hermione had seen the seemingly unflappable Fleur on the back foot, caught off guard by her boldness. And she liked it.

Filled with a strange confidence, Hermione let her fingers dance across Fleur’s where they still rested behind her back. She slowly peeled back each digit in turn until she could feel the soft fabric that the woman had in her hand. Still watching Fleur’s face, she moved the item so it was in between them, her eyes only dropping once Fleur’s had. Just as the blonde’s eyes dropped Hermione swore she could see the faintest of blushes appear on her face.

Unfolding the fabric, Hermione stared at it blankly for a split second, trying to decipher what she was seeing, before she smiled incredulously, watching Fleur’s face flush more obviously as the blonde actively avoided her gaze.

“You know if you wanted to borrow my clothes you could’ve just asked. I never knew I was such a fashion icon, I’ve always been told quite the opposite.” Hermione held up the balled up t-shirt that Fleur had been attempting to hide from her, trying her best not to laugh at what appeared to be a genuinely embarrassed Fleur.

“Did you plan on wearing two t-shirts to bed? Is it a French thing? Or is this for the Goblin’s to enjoy at work tomorrow?” Hermione teased, waving the t-shirt in front of her before Fleur snatched it back, pouting at Hermione as a laugh fell out of her.

“Non, for your information I just really like…” Fleur turned the t-shirt around, reading the front before speaking again. “Alanis Morisette.” She finished with a heavier accent than usual as she proceeded to re-fold the t-shirt with immense care, sniffing haughtily.

Hermione hummed and nodded, completely unconvinced and letting it show on her face, for which Fleur scolded her by playfully hitting and then holding Hermione’s bicep, her fingers stroking her skin slightly before letting go.

“Fine, I wanted to borrow it for another time. What is wrong with that? It is something friends do, they borrow clothing. Look at that hideous jumper of Ron’s for example.” Fleur shot, throwing her hands up as she did so, the flush leaving her face steadily as she spoke with her usual humour and sharp wit.

Hermione laughed once again, but didn’t speak, merely taking a moment to enjoy her current situation, watching the fire in the blonde witch’s dazzling blue eyes burn with intensity and passion.

Fleur seemed to pause at Hermione’s lack of response however, the blonde suddenly standing still, almost recoiling as if anticipating a physical blow. When she spoke, it was so soft that Hermione thought that she had been imagining things, that was until Fleur spoke again, louder this time.

“Unless Ron is per’aps… more than a friend? And that is why you have his clothes?” Fleur said softly, her eyes cast downwards, her eyes suddenly interested in anywhere but Hermione.

Hermione couldn’t help the look of disgust that she was sure crossed her face at the suggestion of romance between her and Ron. It wasn’t that she found Ron repulsive; he was objectively a handsome man. It was just that he was a man. And also that he was Ron.

“Ew, Merlin no! Ron? He’s like a brother. Well, a brother that I kissed once. But it was a mistake! And besides I don’t… I’m not…” Hermione rushed to reassure Fleur, her hands stretched out automatically to clutch the blonde’s, grateful for Fleur’s tactile and receptive nature as she held out her own in return. 

Hermione paused to consider her next words carefully. She never liked to make a fanfare of her sexuality; it wasn’t something that she had ever explicitly had to tell anyone outside of her friendship group and whilst she knew it was a point of speculation in the Wizarding media, she had always preferred to let others find out organically if the time was right.

Sensing there was more that she wasn’t saying Fleur stayed quiet, letting Hermione fidget nervously with their entwined fingers, waiting patiently for whatever it was that the brunette was gearing up saying.

“I’m not interested in Ron or… people like Ron.” Hermione began cautiously, stopping herself in the hopes that the insinuation was enough, hoping that Fleur wasn’t going to make her say it.

Fleur quirked her head, her sculpted eyebrows knitted together thoughtfully before her expression gave way to realisation, her blue eyes meeting Hermione’s light brown ones. She seemed to be hesitant, her blue eyes searching Hermione’s face, her lips twitching as if she was going to say something, looking for the right words.

“You-“

Crookshanks unceremoniously meowed at Hermione’s feet, slaloming between her legs and purring furiously, effectively drawing the brunette’s attention away from the blonde.

“Sorry, he gets fussy at night, he’s waiting for me to go to bed so he can relax.” With a final squeeze of Fleur’s hands, Hermione lifted Crookshanks up, placing him on his preferred sleeping spot on a comfortable chair in one corner of the bedroom.

“I think that’s our cue to sleep too.” Hermione yawned, drained from what turned out to be a longer evening than anticipated. “I’ll just grab some blankets and then I’ll leave you to it.” Hermione gestured to the bed, making her way back to her wardrobe to rifle around for a spare duvet. She knew she’d shrunk a few for the occasions where her friends would be too drunk to safely apparate home.

“What? You are not sleeping in the bed?” Fleur asked, her voice rising in volume slightly, causing Hermione to spin round and face the blonde. Hermione smiled at Fleur’s utterly bemused expression, her chest constricting pleasantly at the image of Fleur in her t-shirt, standing barefoot beside her bed.

“Of course not, you’re a guest! You can take the bed and I’ll have the sofa.” Hermione explained, continuing her search for the extra bedding before feeling Fleur’s hand on her shoulder, demanding her to turn. Facing her once more, Fleur spoke with determination.

“Non, it is your home, I will not have you on the sofa. I will sleep there instead.”

Before she had even finished speaking Hermione began shaking her head. “No, it’s not happening Fleur. You’re taking the bed, I’ll be on the sofa.”

She once again returned to the wardrobe, her frustration growing as she failed to find the blankets. She could swear she’d put them in here after Harry and Ron stayed after watching the football a few months back.

“Well maybe…”

With a huff Hermione span on her heel, ready to face down the blonde, an argument already on her lips. It died as soon as she saw Fleur biting her lip nervously, her hands twisting in her Eagles t-shirt, blue eyes fixed on the floor before meeting Hermione’s eyes steadily.

“Maybe we could share?”

Chapter Text

Hermione’s mouth was unbelievably dry and she was absolutely sure that her eyes were bugging out of her head. The idea of sharing a bed with Fleur was both overwhelmingly tempting and absurdly nerve wracking, Hermione’s stomach already twisting into knots at the thought.

Fleur was waiting patiently for an answer, her gaze steadily holding Hermione’s, one eyebrow still quirked up questioningly.

“It’s just a thought. It is big enough for both of us after all and that way no one has to sleep on the sofa.” Fleur’s soft voice eventually broke through the silence that had grown weighted with Hermione’s lack of response as she considered her options.

“I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, it was just an idea.” Fleur added, her voice becoming unsure, her blue eyes finally releasing Hermione from their piercing grip, giving her the mental capacity to think clearly.

Shaking her head dazedly, her need to be close to Fleur winning out over her nerves and crushing self doubt, Hermione replied quickly, “No! You’re right, it’s silly when the bed is this big.”

Fleur looked unconvinced as she glanced back at Hermione, her eyes roaming the brunette’s face for clarity and absolute consent, needing the woman to explicitly say that she was okay with it.

“You’re right.” Hermione said again, firmly this time, nodding to accentuate her point. “I’ve had Ginny, Ron and Harry in here all at the same time believe it or not, it’s plenty big enough.”

Fleur’s eyes twinkled mischievously under her raised eyebrows, watching as Hermione considered her phrasing and turned a deep red colour.

Hermione scowled at Fleur, knowing full well what that face meant; it was oddly similar to Ginny’s face when she was about to make a lewd or suggestive comment, a thought which Hermione batted away. Drawing parallels between Fleur and Ginny gave Hermione the immediate ick.

“Don’t even think about it Fleur, you know what I meant.” Hermione huffed, walking to the foot of the bed and removing the decorative throw from the end, folding it gently before discarding it on the back of the chair where Crookshanks was still curled up fast asleep.

Fleur turned her laugh into a cough under Hermione’s withering look, bowing her head in apology and fluffing the pillow closest to her.

“Okay. So are you a left or right side of the bed kind of woman?” Hermione asked, still keeping a healthy distance from Fleur despite knowing the futility of it; she was about to share a bed with a woman that she was extremely attracted to, keeping a “healthy distance” would soon prove to be impossible.

Fleur considered the question whilst looking at the bed in front of her. “I tend to favour the left if I am sharing.” Fleur pointed to the side that wasn’t Hermione’s preferred, a fact which made the brunette smile slightly.

“Great, it’s all yours. Feel free to use the bathroom if you need to, there’s a spare toothbrush in the medicine cabinet if you want it. I know that it’s a Muggle thing and you could just use a spell but…” Hermione shrugged, trailing off as her thoughts turned dangerously close to her parents again. She stuffed the rising thoughts back into their figurative box, making herself busy by idly stroking Crookshanks head, watching as he stretched out further, leaning his head into her hand demandingly.

Fleur nodded appreciatively, shooting Hermione a small smile and a “merci” before disappearing into the bathroom, the click of the lock sounding behind her.

Left alone, Hermione cast her eyes around her room, trying to survey if there was anything she didn’t want Fleur seeing. Once she heard the tap running in the next room, she quietly scanned the floor for dirty laundry, picking up some errant socks that had been kicked under the bed at one point and sending them whizzing into the laundry basket. She opened the bedside table that was next to what would be Fleur’s side of the bed for the evening, checking for any ‘presents’ left from Ginny; the redhead had been known to fabricate fake love notes signed from absurdly named people as well as drawing scarily accurate erotic doodles on post it notes for anyone Hermione brought home to find. Not that the brunette had brought anyone back recently, but she still thought it best to check.

Satisfied that her room was presentable, Hermione clambered onto her side of the bed, drawing the curtains with a flick of her hand before swiftly tucking herself under the covers, turning the main light off in favour of a bedside lamp for a more ambient atmosphere. So far Fleur hadn’t mentioned her scar, but Hermione didn’t want to invite the conversation until she was ready. Debating whether to change her t-shirt into something with long sleeves - concluding that this outfit change may in fact draw more attention to the area - she opted to keep her arm tightly against her side.

After trying to take up a casual position, flipping around the bed as her thoughts became erratic, the brunette finally settled by laying on her back, listening to the sounds of Fleur humming softly in the bathroom and the pounding of her own heart as she tried to pull herself together before the blonde returned.

Moments later the lock clicked fully and Fleur came back into the room, flicking her wrist to wordlessly turn the bathroom light off behind her. She smiled shyly at Hermione as she pulled back the covers and gracefully joined the brunette, lying on her side so that she was facing Hermione who still lay on her back.

“Thank you for letting me stay, this whole situation would be funnier for me if I wasn’t so mortified.” Fleur chuckled despite her words, her bright blue eyes searching for Hermione who turned her head to meet her gaze.

“It’s okay. Any idea who could’ve done it?” Hermione smiled back quickly, her expression becoming concerned when she thought of an intruder. Although the spell hadn’t felt dark or malicious in its intent, the thought of someone entering the building, crossing the wards and casting a charm to lock Fleur out was unsettling.

Fleur however seemed unperturbed by the situation, a close lipped smile crossing her face as she replied, “I know exactly who did it; you’re not the only one with a Weasley as a friend who likes to make your life difficult.”

Hermione’s stomach twinged at the implication, thoughts of Bill and Fleur’s dinner date flitting annoyingly across her mind.

“Bill did this? But why?”

Fleur shrugged, averting her eyes as she sat up slightly, fluffing the pillow once more and curling her arm underneath it before placing her head back down, her silvery blonde hair a halo framing her unfairly gorgeous face.

“You are friends with Ginny, yes?” Fleur asked, her adjusted position meaning that her elbow rested lightly against Hermione’s shoulder, grazing the fabric of her t-shirt.

Hermione nodded slowly, trying to ignore the gentle haze that appeared at Fleur’s touch, the natural honeysuckle scent of the woman creeping off her and embalming Hermione in deep seated warmth.

“And how often does Ginny pass up an opportunity to get involved in your life in the most irritating way possible?”

Hermione didn’t even pause, the word “never” escaping her lips without thought, bringing a hearty laugh from Fleur’s mouth, the mattress bouncing slightly with the movement.

“Exactement. Bill is no different. I have not seen him for months and the best way for him to show his affection for me is to lock me out of my own apartment. They’re pranksters at heart, the Weasley’s, all of them.” Fleur sighed contentedly, a fond smile on her face.

Hermione tried to hide her writhing, lashing jealousy but failed miserably, her clenched jaw and sudden tense posture alerting Fleur to the fact that something was wrong.

Not trusting herself to speak, Hermione opted for a hum instead, hoping that this would suffice as a reply for Fleur. The blonde stayed silent, watching Hermione patiently; the brunette could feel her intense blue eyes fixed on her profile, turning to meet her gaze in the half darkness.

“It’s strange, to think that you were married. Married to Bill. You were - are - so young.” Hermione began, unsure as to where her own words were leading her, knowing only that whatever precipice she was hurtling towards was both dangerous and necessary, that she needed to pursue this line of thought for her own sake, to help sort through her own jumbled feelings.

Fleur shrugged, her elbow grazing Hermione’s shoulder again as she did so, distracting the brunette momentarily. “I think a lot of us that were involved in the war were too young for the things that happened to us, for the decisions that we made.” The blonde looked conflicted as she spoke, her tone softer than it had been previously, hushed under the dim light of the bedside lamp.

Hermione mulled over Fleur’s words, trying to determine their true meaning. She didn’t know why Fleur was talking in riddles, her answers vague and unhelpful. Then again, Hermione could admit that she wasn’t being entirely open with her questioning; the real question she wanted to ask had been swirling around the forefront of her mind for the past two days.

“You can ask me, you know.”

Hermione turned her head first before letting her body follow, mirroring Fleur’s position. Now face to face, she met Fleur’s open gaze, her honey brown eyes dropping briefly to the woman’s lips that had all but whispered the words. Despite the vulnerability in her voice, Fleur’s blue eyes blazed with certainty, a clarity that came with decisiveness.

After a beat where Hermione considered changing the subject, asking a different question or trying to lighten the mood, she mustered up her Gryffindor courage and asked the question that had been haunting her since Fleur had returned into her life. “Why did you and Bill get divorced?”

Fleur smiled almost gratefully, her posture seeming to lighten as she exhaled slowly, like she’d been holding her breath, bracing herself for the question.

“See, that wasn’t so hard was it?” Fleur joked, her foot moving beneath the covers to nudge Hermione, who returned the gesture with a mock scowl on her face that broke all too easily into a smile.

“I mean it’s none of my business, you don’t have to tell me. I guess… I just want to understand it better. How can you be so sure that you love someone and want to be with them, enough to marry them, and then change your mind?” Hermione pondered, talking more to herself than Fleur, her eyebrows pulled together in thought as she waited for Fleur to reply.

To Hermione’s surprise, Fleur laughed before raising an eyebrow. “And love is the only reason for marriage? How old fashioned of you ‘Ermione, I did not know you had such traditional views.”

Confused, Hermione shuffled ever so slightly closer to Fleur, enjoying the way that Fleur’s foot and lower calf still rested over hers from where she playfully nudged her; the weight of it was strangely reassuring, grounding Hermione.

“Well why else would you get married if you didn’t love him?”

Fleur smiled a tight lipped smile at Hermione, the curve of her plump lips accentuated in the warm glow of the lamp, softening her edges.

“I did love Bill. I do love Bill. Just not like that.” Fleur said tenderly, her left hand rising in the space between them as if to touch Hermione’s face before she withdrew it, instead moving a strand of her own hair behind her ear.

Hermione blinked slowly, still struggling to grasp Fleur’s true meaning. Why on earth would Fleur marry someone she didn’t love?

“I don’t understand.”

The sound of Crookshanks’s snores filled the silence as Hermione waited for Fleur to respond. She kept her eyes on the blonde, noticing idly that their heads had crept closer together at some point, their hands nearly touching at the edge of their respective pillows.

“He doesn’t love me like that either.” Fleur whispered, her eyes fixed on Hermione as she spoke. It was like the blonde was urging her to understand, her blue eyes filled with a quiet desperation.

“I needed a visa to stay here, to fight Voldemort, to help in the war. As soon as The Order began recruiting I told Bill I wanted in, that I couldn’t stand by and do nothing, be forced to return to France like they were doing to the other ‘alf-breeds, ejecting them out of the country,'' Fleur spoke with venom, her accent becoming more pronounced as her anger grew. Hermione reached out her pinky to link with the blonde’s in an attempt to comfort her, feeling Fleur’s pinky wrap around her own in response.

“Bill and I were good friends. Working together every day for a year… we knew enough about each other and had been seen in each other’s company so much that it would not be suspicious for us to marry.”

“Which allowed you to get a visa.” Hermione clarified, her brain shocked into stasis.

“Oui. Which meant I could stay and fight.”

Hermione inhaled deeply, propping herself up on her elbow, her eyes blinking slowly as she tried to process what Fleur was saying. Her and Bill were never in love. They were never really together.

“But the wedding? You both looked so happy, so in love .” Hermione said almost breathlessly, her thoughts turning to the photo that resided in Fleur’s apartment, the one that had been bothering her so much. She tried to hide her elation at the news, her mind simply repeating Bill and Fleur were never in love.

Fleur giggled at Hermione’s dumbfounded expression, watching the witch soak in her words as she pulled her back down onto the pillow by her shoulder.

Hermione let herself be guided back down by Fleur’s gentle touch, her eyes still gazing intently into space as her mind fluttered through the times she saw Bill and Fleur together, the pictures shifting with the new information about their marriage. They had never been particularly tactile as a couple, which of course seemed strange to Hermione now, seeing how affectionate Fleur was with her, how she seemed to gravitate towards human contact like a magnet. Hermione had always put Bill and Fleur’s lack of PDA down to a respect for others; Hermione had seen enough of Harry and Ginny with their tongues down each other’s throat in the early stages of their relationship that she knew exactly how gross it was to watch two people switching saliva constantly. Yet with this new information, her memories were coloured differently.

Fleur continued, her pinky tapping Hermione’s to gently demand her attention once more. “What can I say, we are good actors.” The blonde winked conspiratorially, chuckling at Hermione’s blush.

“Besides, the beginning of the wedding was fun, non? It wasn’t that hard to pretend; I do love Bill, he is my best friend. There are far worse people to be married to and I will never be able to truly thank him for what he did for me. How many people would marry me to allow me to stay in the country?”

Hermione scoffed, her eyes returning to where Fleur lay, her heart swelling in her chest at the sight of the blonde. The duvet rested just above her hip, her Eagles t-shirt bunched up slightly to reveal one of Fleur’s delicately protruding hip bones, the suggestion of a defined stomach made clear by the shadows cast by the light of the bedside lamp. The brunette’s eyes travelled upwards, following the curve of Fleur’s neck, spotting a delicate freckle in the smooth expanse of skin below her ear. She had the sudden urge to touch her there, to feel the silky, warm skin against her fingertips, but she cast away the thought, only the blush on her face remaining as evidence.

When she met Fleur’s eyes again, Hermione was unsurprised to see the blonde’s patient gaze waiting for her, a serene smile on her face.

“Fleur I think most people would jump at the opportunity to marry you, regardless of the circumstance.” Hermione breathed, watching curiously as Fleur’s lips parted, her eyes darkening with some unidentifiable emotion.

Hermione cleared her throat, her stomach flipping pleasantly under Fleur’s intense gaze. “But, well. Fuck. So why did it take you so long to get divorced? I mean it’s been a while now since the war.” she mused, growing hot under Fleur’s watchful eyes that still burned into her as she spoke.

Fleur shook her head almost imperceptibly, her eyes gradually becoming lighter as she smiled gently at the brunette opposite.

“We didn’t want the Ministry to rescind my visa, not until the new laws had passed; as you know all too well, laws do not change overnight. Trust me, if we could have finalised the divorce a moment sooner, then we would have.”

Hermione nodded, adding the information to her growing mental almanac of Bill and Fleur’s marriage. Under the soft glow of the bedside lamp, she found it easier to communicate with Fleur, like the darkness offered freedom; in the cocoon of light Hermione felt safe to speak freely.

“What about Shell Cottage? Did you both live there until you came here?” Hermione asked, emboldened by the half darkness that shrouded Fleur’s face, her naturally curious nature piqued by the entire conversation.

“Not exactly. After the war I took a leave of absence from work and returned to France for a while to be with my family. The Cottage… well it never really felt like home for either of us. Too many memories.” Fleur added, her voice gentle and cautious, her words washing over Hermione in swathes of honeysuckle. Hermione swore she felt her scar tingle and she reflexively shifted her arm closer into her body, tucking it aggressively against her torso.

“I was living between places, commuting from France half the time and spending the other half at The Leaky Cauldron when I was too drained to be using the Floo network or apparating.” Fleur continued, her eyes having watched Hermione’s movement. Hermione braced herself for the inevitable questions that would follow, but relaxed when she realised that there were none, that Fleur wasn’t about to push her into opening up further when she wasn’t ready to.

“That sounds draining, you must have been exhausted.” Hermione said earnestly, enjoying the way that Fleur’s eyes never left her own, revelling in the weight of the woman’s gaze on her face when she spoke. Hermione often felt stifled by stares, feeling as though when people looked at her too long, too hard that they were somehow intruding upon her. With Fleur it was different, her bright blue eyes weren’t demanding but unendingly patient, present in a way that demanded nothing of the brunette.

“It wasn’t ideal, non.” Fleur chuckled, her other foot swinging over Hermione’s leg, causing Hermione to gasp at the temperature.

“God Fleur your feet are freezing!” Hermione groaned, fully aware that despite her protests, she was making no attempt to remove the blonde’s feet from her, something she could do with ease.

Fleur laughed softly as she hooked her foot further into the warmth that lay in the crevasse behind Hermione’s knee. “I know, that is why I have put them on you. You are warm.” She said as a way of explanation, shrugging away Hermione’s disgruntled look as she pulled the duvet further up her body.

Hermione considered reminding Fleur that there were spells that would effectively warm her up, but decided against it when she felt Fleur’s body edge closer to her, their arms now flush against each other, their pinky fingers still entwined in the gap between where their pillows met.

A comfortable silence settled over the two, Hermione taking the opportunity to study Fleur’s face up close. The blonde’s impossibly blue eyes were half shut, heavy lidded and sleepy which somehow softened her face; the combination of Fleur’s pronounced jawline, angular, high cheekbones and intense gaze often gave the unintentional impression of harshness, her beauty seeming cold and brutal in its starkness. However in the hazy warm glow of the bedside lamp, the balmy yellow light suffusing over them, Fleur seemed somehow more vulnerable, less perfect and more perfect because of that.

Her supple pink lips were parted infinitesimally, her breath coming in long puffs that signified her relaxed state, the warmth of each exhale barely brushing Hermione’s face but for the scent of honeysuckle and the salty, comforting smell of Fleur . Once again Hermione took the time to look at the scattering of freckles across the bridge of Fleur’s nose, visible even in the low lighting, standing out against her pale skin.

Hermione opened her mouth, unsure as to what she was about to say, but certain that it was necessary.

“I never thanked you.”

Fleur’s eyes flickered open, fixing more assuredly on Hermione, her blue eyes finding the brunette’s with ease and holding her there.

Breathing shakily, Hermione shifted nervously, stilling only when Fleur further entwined their hands, letting her thumb brush soothingly over the brunette’s knuckles.

“For Shell Cottage. For healing me after… after Bellatrix.”

She’d imagined this moment for nearly two years, turning over in her head how she’d approach Fleur, what she’d say to her. It was something that Hermione felt was important, paramount even to her recovery, a huge part of piecing herself together; an integral step in moving forwards. Now that the words were out of her mouth, she couldn’t think, couldn’t try to articulate what it was she wanted to say, her thoughts becoming tangled as her heart rate sped up rapidly.

“Ma belle,” Fleur all but cooed, her free hand reaching for Hermione’s face, the back of her hand caressing the brunette’s face, running her fingers carefully down her cheek before settling on her shoulder, pulling her from her thoughts. “You do not need to say anything, you don’t need to tear yourself open for me.”

Hermione felt her eyes flutter as the lilac and blue haze tinged her vision, her body leaning into Fleur’s comforting touch. She opened her eyes again, collecting herself by focussing on the grounding presence of Fleur, the weight of her legs over hers, the hypnotic motion of her thumb brushing over her knuckles and the tender feel of her palm now cupping Hermione’s shoulder.

“I know. I just needed to say it. I never got the chance before the three of us left Shell Cottage and I… I just needed - I need - you to know how grateful I am. For all of it.”

Fleur’s fingers tightened on Hermione’s shoulder, her eyes drifting across the brunette’s face. “Come here.” Fleur said, suddenly opening her arms, twisting her body and inviting Hermione in.

Without thinking Hermione immediately complied, lacing her arms around the woman’s waist, burying her head into the crook of Fleur’s neck to hide the tears that she could feel pooling in her eyes, her jaw clenching staunchly in a refusal to let them fall.

Fleur ran a hand through the brunette’s hair, letting her other arm encircle her back, clinging onto Hermione fiercely, trying to hide the fury that burned at the mention of Bellatrix.

“You have nothing to thank me for ‘Ermione, I am only sorry that I couldn’t do more and that I couldn’t be the one to…” Fleur stopped short, causing Hermione to lean back enough to see the blonde’s face.

She was startled to see the unadulterated hatred and anger on Fleur’s face, her blue eyes smouldering with rage. Fleur sighed aggressively, closing her eyes and clutching Hermione closer to her.

“I wish she would’ve died at my hands. I wish it could’ve been me who made her pay for what she did to you.” Fleur whispered into Hermione’s hair, her breath warm on the crown of the brunette’s head.

Hermione didn’t know what to say, becoming overwhelmed with the conviction in Fleur’s voice, the vitriol with which she spoke. It echoed how Hermione felt deep inside, spoke to the fiery pit of rage that still burned inside of her, the part that refused to accept or let go of what happened to her, the part of herself that she had to fight with every day.

“What matters is that you are here and she is not. And don’t ever thank me for my part in healing you again, I would do it again in a heartbeat.” Fleur murmured, her lips closer to Hermione’s ear than previously, causing a shiver to run down Hermione’s spine and a warmth to spill across her chest in response.

Hermione simply nodded into Fleur’s arms, feeling exhaustion settle over her combined with a weightless, cathartic elation. She knew that this simple step had been weighing on her since the war, that the words needed to be said but she hadn’t realised the heft of them or the emotional toll that she had attached to this moment. Whilst nothing had changed - she was still scarred, marked for life both physically and mentally - she felt lighter, more free than she had in a long time. Moreover, she felt safe, enshrined in Fleur’s arms that were still wrapped around her protectively.

“The war really fucked me up good, huh?” Hermione muttered, laughing without humour into Fleur’s neck as she reluctantly freed one of her arms to wipe angrily at her eyes and the unshed tears that betrayed her emotions.

“I would be more worried if it didn’t fuck you up, ma cherie.” Fleur returned, loosening her grip on the brunette, using the pad of her thumb to gently swipe away an errant tear from Hermione’s cheek.

Fleur suddenly stiffened, her hand stilling on Hermione’s face with no warning. Curious, Hermione followed Fleur’s eyes, her own breath catching in her throat as she saw the object of Fleur’s interest. Her blue eyes were gazing intently at Hermione’s exposed scar that was currently on display, the duvet having slipped away when she had angrily wiped her tears.

Hermione held her breath, watching an array of emotions flit across Fleur’s face in quick succession before her eyes settled on her own honey brown ones softly. Maintaining eye contact, Fleur lowered her head to Hermione’s forearm, her gaze asking permission to touch it. Hermione nodded, watching in awe as Fleur’s lips ghosted over the puckered scar tissue, her mouth removed all too soon as she lay back on the bed, pulling Hermione into her arms once again.

Fleur spoke after a moment, Hermione’s eyes becoming heavy with sleep as the blonde continued to stroke her hair, her nails occasionally running over the brunette’s scalp to which Hermione had to fight back a moan. “We should sleep. I hear that’s what people do at sleepovers.”

Hermione simply nodded, too tired to protest and enjoying being tangled up with Fleur far too much for coherent conversation to continue for much longer.

With a flick of Fleur’s finger the bedside lamp shut off, thrusting the pair into darkness. Sleepily, Hermione moved one of her legs in between Fleur’s, scooting even closer to the blonde who eagerly clasped her tighter, pressing a gentle kiss to the top of her head.

Hermione felt unfathomably safe as she let her ears fill with the sound of Fleur’s steady heart beat, feeling her pulse thrum delightfully at her neck. Surrounded by the scent of Fleur and feeling the soft ministrations of the woman’s fingers still stroking her hair, Hermione began to slip into unconsciousness with an ease that she hadn’t been privy to since the war.

As she was fading into sleep however, Hermione heard Fleur’s voice, barely a whisper but carrying itself with clarity through the darkness. “Earlier, when you said that you weren't interested in people like Ron…”

Hermione stiffened even in her half sleeping state, unprepared for yet more emotionally taxing conversations, her brain already fogging over and letting sleep take her once more. As her eyes dropped and sleep descended, the last thing she heard was Fleur’s murmur into her hair, barely audible, muffled by the brunette’s own bushy locks, something that sounded close to “I’m not interested in people like Ron either.”

Chapter Text

Hermione stirred in the early morning light, her bleary eyes opening slowly. She couldn’t remember when she’d last slept so well, when she’d awoken feeling so well rested, her sleep unbroken by intrusive and dark dreams.

The first thing she noticed was the weight of Fleur’s body pressed against her and the delightful, airy scent of honeysuckle that seemed to have filled the room. She recalled falling asleep in the French witch’s arms, their limbs entwined and Fleur’s hand running through her hair soothingly. It seemed that in the night however, their positions had changed, as Hermione now lay on her back with Fleur resting on her chest. The French witch had one arm slung across Hermione’s stomach, her fingers clutching loosely at the fabric of her t-shirt.

Trying her best not to disturb the sleeping woman, Hermione basked in the stillness of the morning, listening to Fleur’s breath come slow and loud, the woman’s lips parted and a small patch of drool crusted to the corner of her mouth. Hermione had never seen anyone look so maddeningly beautiful. Fleur’s left leg was resting over Hermione’s hip, effectively trapping the brunette, holding her in place. Hermione made no attempt to move straight away, instead taking a moment to further admire the woman.

Her face was entirely serene, her long eyelashes brushing her cheek, the perfect bow of her lips pronounced in the soft morning glow. She looked younger in the hazy half light of the morning; untroubled. It was almost hard to comprehend that the sleeping woman had married someone to stay in the country, in order to fight in a war that wasn’t hers to fight. She could’ve fled, could’ve easily allowed herself to be removed from the country and stayed in the relative safety of France with her family, leaving everyone behind to fight alone. Hermione shuddered at the thought, fully aware of what the implications of that course of action would’ve been. Without Fleur, she would’ve died, there was no question about it.

Contemplating Fleur’s bravery, her courage to choose selflessly in the face of danger, Hermione was overcome with the urge to protect the blonde, to shield her from the cruelties of the world; she seemed so delicate in her sleeping state. The brunette settled for momentarily drawing her arms tighter around Fleur, relishing the way that the blonde instinctively snuggled closer into her, the smell of honeysuckle and sleep releasing itself from her silvery hair.

After allowing herself a moment to enjoy her current situation - a moment where she considered whether it would be creepy or not to kiss Fleur’s head and coming down on the side of creepy - Hermione tentatively began to move Fleur’s arm, shifting her leg simultaneously which caused the blonde to pull her own leg back, a disgruntled noise slipping from her lips and a frown on her face making Hermione smile and let out a soft chuckle. It seemed that Fleur was not a fan of being disturbed in the mornings.

With the utmost care Hermione managed to extricate herself from the blonde, who sighed deeply before rolling over onto her side, her breathing returning to a steady rhythm that came with sleep.

Tiptoeing out of her bedroom, Hermione wordlessly summoned some more appropriate clothing from the wardrobe and shut the bedroom door softly behind her, glancing at Fleur’s adorably bedraggled head once more before leaving her to sleep. A quick look at the clock on the wall told her that it was earlier than she had anticipated; she had ample time to walk to the bakery down the road and get them both some pastries before she needed to head to work. With any luck Fleur would still be sleeping when she returned.

Hermione changed quickly, spurred on by the want to be back before Fleur woke. After their strange, confessional night Hermione felt closer to Fleur and strangely unwilling to leave her. The magnetism that the blonde possessed only seemed to have strengthened, manifesting as a near physical tether that Hermione felt taut in her chest at the thought of leaving the apartment.

Roused from her thoughts by Crookshanks’s insistent meows as he jumped down off the sofa, stretching languidly before rubbing against her leg, Hermione sprung to action. She cast a quick silencing charm so as not to disturb Fleur and set about feeding the persistent cat.

She rubbed his head fondly, planting a kiss there and whispering “back in a minute” as she headed to the hallway in search of her shoes, briskly shoving her feet into them and exiting her apartment.

As she walked down the hallway, she paused once again at Fleur’s door, taking stock of Bill’s handiwork. Now that she knew it was in fact friend rather than foe behind the locking charm, she could almost sense the Weasley magic; she didn’t know how, but she could often tell Harry’s silencing charms from Ginny’s, Ron’s shrinking charm from Luna’s. It was something in the haze that surrounded the epicentre of the spell, a shimmering edge that when she focussed on it revealed to her the essence of the spellcaster, like a trademark almost.

This one felt mischievous, but benign; sunny and playful and wry in its knowing nature. Smart too, Hermione thought as she ran her hand gently over the edge of the spell, watching the air warp and flutter at her touch, barely discernible. She contemplated casting a few more complex unlocking spells to test the charm but thought better of it; she’d never hear the end of it from Fleur if the spells were to rebound, not after her outburst at the French witch for doing the exact same thing the previous morning.

Her thoughts turned back to Fleur as she felt a pang in her chest and a delightful tug in her stomach which urged her onwards. The sooner she left, the sooner she could get back to Fleur. She hurried into the elevator, all but running out of the apartment building and onto the cracked pavement, heading the same way as both her and Fleur had the day that Hermione showed the blonde around the neighbourhood.

Hermione smiled to herself at the memory, in disbelief that it had only been a few days ago that she’d knocked on Fleur’s door to apologise; now that the woman was in her life, it was almost painful to think of a time before, a time when she wasn’t. This both excited and unnerved Hermione. She found that since the war she often struggled to communicate effectively with even her closest friends. She found that no matter how hard she tried sometimes, she seemed to possess a new inability to open up or make herself truly vulnerable.

This… thing with Fleur - whatever it was - made Hermione nervous. She felt that she couldn’t hide from Fleur, like the blonde somehow had access to the deepest corners of her mind, the parts of herself that even she tried to ignore. There was something about Fleur that was dichotomous; both soothing and unsettling, like a body of water that appeared calm on the surface but held a riptide underneath, ready to drown Hermione. She was scared by the part of herself that whispered that death by drowning in Fleur sounded almost appealing, that the thought of being peeled open by the blonde and stripped down to her bare bones would be an honour.

The worst part of it was that Hermione wasn’t sure whether Fleur was feeling the same, or what she was feeling at all. Whilst the woman was openly flirtatious and extremely tactile, it frustrated Hermione to no end that she wasn’t aware whether this behaviour extended to others, or just her. Thinking about it Hermione was struck with how little she actually knew about Fleur. Besides the wedding - which now she knew was for all intents and purposes fake no longer turned her stomach - Shell Cottage and their brief interactions during the Triwizard Tournament, Hermione hadn’t said more than a few sentences to Fleur.

Until now. So why now? Hermione thought, her body effectively on autopilot as she turned left onto the correct street, dodging some early morning joggers. Just because they lived in close proximity to each other didn’t mean that they had to spend quite so much time together. Surely Fleur wasn’t only now wanting to spend time with her based on location alone?

The blonde had never shown any particular interest in her or any inclination that she wanted to get to know her before and now she was sleeping in her bed, cuddling her like they’d known each other all their lives? Hermione didn’t even cuddle Ginny if they were sharing a bed. In fact the one time that they woke up spooning after getting drunk whilst watching Eurovision at Luna’s nearly ended their friendship, with their usual dynamic only resumed when Ginny accidentally vomited on Hermione’s lap, effectively restoring balance to their friendship.

Whilst half of Hermione revelled in this new found closeness with Fleur, admiring the blonde’s ability to simultaneously soothe and set her alight, the other half couldn’t help but question the feeling. Was it normal, was it right to suddenly feel so attached to someone that for all intents and purposes you barely knew? She wanted desperately to allow herself to go with it, to trust her feelings, her judgement, to trust Fleur but she wasn’t entirely sure that she could.

There was also the added complication of Fleur’s heritage. Hermione’s knowledge of Veelas - much like the rest of the Wizarding world - was sparse at best. This posed a unique challenge for Hermione. Whilst it would be easier to attribute anything that she didn’t understand about the way she felt to some aspect of Fleur’s Veela heritage, Hermione knew better than to do this too. The combination of her self confessed lack of experience when it came to romance, her gaping knowledge when it came to Veelas and her undeniable attraction to Fleur only served to muddy the waters, leaving her flailing and unsure of how she truly felt and what their newfound connection was based upon.

The wind picked up, causing Hermione to shiver and clutch her hoodie tighter around her, shoving her hands briskly in her pockets. She looked around with confusion and doubled back, realising that she’d been so lost in her thoughts that she’d missed the bakery. Stepping into the small shop she ordered a selection of baked goods and two black coffees, paying quickly and moving to the end of the counter to wait for the drinks where she once again turned her mind to her jumbled feelings.

There was still the question of Fleur’s bizarre reaction - or lack of reaction - to whatever happened when Hermione healed her back. Whilst Ginny’s explanation of ‘Mystical Veela Healing Juju’ held up from a distance, it wasn’t based on any evidence, something which Hermione couldn’t put to one side. Not only that but it didn’t explain the constant pull that she felt towards Fleur that only seemed to be growing the more time they spent together. That wasn’t even mentioning the lilac and blue haze that seemed to appear sporadically whenever Fleur was in close proximity, increasing in intensity whenever Hermione’s attraction to the blonde threatened to take over.

She thought of strutting back into her apartment and demanding answers from Fleur, asking her straight out why she was being dishonest, hiding behind half truths and shoddy explanations, skating around speaking to her plainly. Fleur had been receptive to her questioning during their evening together, encouraging her to probe, to pry more than she would have if left to her own volition. Perhaps Fleur was waiting for that to happen, maybe whatever was happening between them hinged upon Hermione being the one to ask the questions.

An uncomfortable twist in her stomach however reminded Hermione of her own avoidance of certain topics. She’d made steps by bringing up Shell Cottage the night before but there was still much that she wanted and felt like she needed to confess. It would be hypocritical of her to demand honesty from Fleur when she was harbouring her own secrets; she too was guilty of slipping sideways in conversation whenever the war, her parents, Shell Cottage or Malfoy Manor came up for which she had valid reasons for wanting to avoid. She desperately wanted to open up to Fleur, felt a compulsion to share her fears with her in a way that she didn’t completely understand, but the crippling terror of making herself vulnerable, of letting her guard down and being hurt hung menacingly at the back of her mind.

Hermione huffed in frustration, shooting an apologetic look at the barista who mistook the noise to be aimed at her. She resolutely pushed her niggling thoughts aside, effectively stopped in her tracks by her own logic. If she herself had her own reasons for wanting to avoid certain topics with Fleur, then she should give the other woman the benefit of the doubt too, at least for now. Hermione would trust that Fleur would communicate with her when the time was right, when she had earned her trust. There must be a valid reason as to why Fleur would hide things from her. Right?

“Two black coffees for…Honey?” The server shouted as she read from the scrawl on the cups, interrupting Hermione’s train of thought. She grabbed the coffees, biting her tongue to stop herself from correcting the barista, her incessantly questioning mind grating on her too much to bother with her usual pedantry.

“Thanks.” She shouted, bracing herself as she headed back out into the chilly morning air.

Hermione quickened her pace, now eager to return to the warmth of her apartment where Fleur was hopefully still sleeping soundly. The closer she got to her apartment building, the more that Hermione felt that same pull, building in intensity, stretching across her chest. She had to fight to keep control of her legs, as the inexplicable urge to start running threatened to take over.

Once inside her apartment building, she stopped quickly at her mailbox, grabbing the few Muggle papers that she subscribed to as well as The Daily Prophet before hurrying up the stairs taking them two at a time, unwilling to wait for the elevator, spurred on by the tug of some invisible thread.

She fumbled with her keys before bursting into her apartment, reminding herself to be quiet lest she wake Fleur. She pulled off her shoes, hopping on one leg as she wrestled to get them off. Wrenching her foot free, she closed the apartment door softly behind her and began creeping towards the kitchen, a task which was made difficult by Crookshanks who immediately made his way under her feet.

“‘Ermione?” Fleur’s voice rang from the living room causing a blossom of warmth to expand in Hermione’s chest. The blonde rounded the corner, stopping at the breakfast bar and shooting Hermione a warm smile which she returned reflexively.

“You’re awake.” Hermione spoke, placing the coffee, pastries and newspapers down as she took in Fleur’s appearance. The blonde was dressed in one of Hermione’s own pinstriped suits, the light grey somehow bringing out the pale blue of Fleur’s eyes which sparkled entrancingly in the morning light. Her long silvery hair was damp from the shower she’d evidently had, one of Hermione’s towels clutched in her hand.

Hermione’s heart stuttered in her chest and she took a shuddering breath at the sight. There was something about seeing Fleur in her clothes and in her apartment that filled Hermione with unbridled joy. It made the space feel more alive, more like home.

“I didn’t think you’d be up. I went out to get us some breakfast.” Hermione held up the brown paper bag, summoning plates and placing the selection of baked goods down on the bar between herself and Fleur.

Fleur draped the damp towel over the back of a chair, approaching the breakfast bar to stand opposite Hermione. Her blue eyes twinkling, she leant over slowly before placing a gentle kiss on either side of Hermione’s face, her nose brushing across Hermione’s as she moved between sides, her breath briefly ghosting across the brunette’s lips before she pulled back.

“Good morning ma belle. How did you sleep? I borrowed some of your clothes, I hope you don’t mind?” Fleur gestured her hand lazily to her outfit, which Hermione took as an invitation to look at the blonde more, a blush rising to her face as she shook her head. She’d happily give Fleur her entire wardrobe if it meant she looked as alluring as she currently did.

“I slept… really well actually.” Hermione confessed, her face flushing as she thought of her limbs tangled up with Fleur’s, wishing she’d taken longer to bask in the quiet intimacy of the morning, missing feeling the weight of Fleur’s body pressed against her own. “How did you sleep?” Hermione managed to stutter out, her stomach writhing delightfully at the thought of an endless morning entwined with the blonde.

Fleur seemed not to notice Hermione’s flustered manner, her attention turning back to the pastries in front of her, food now the priority. “I slept like a log, you make for a very comfortable pillow, I may just have to keep you.” The blonde shot flirtatiously, throwing Hermione a wink for good measure, giggling as the brunette’s eyes widened marginally.

“Merci for the food, I was sad when I woke up and you were not here though.” Fleur pulled back, pouting to show her disappointment, looking adorable despite her petulance.

Hermione’s stomach swooped at the blonde’s words, warmth pooling in her depths. She couldn’t help the pang of regret that resurfaced, though she’d been glad of the chance to sift through her tangled thoughts; it was hard to concentrate effectively around Fleur.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t exactly prepared for a guest, my breakfast menu would have consisted of…” Hermione paused to open the cupboard nearest to her, revealing the scant contents to Fleur. “Some out of date cornflakes or this sad looking cereal bar. Or cat treats, if you’d prefer.”

Fleur laughed, selecting an almond croissant and placing it on her plate as she sat on one of the stools, picking the pastry apart daintily before putting a bite sized piece in her mouth.

“Well you better stock up then, if I’m to be staying here for a while. Knowing Bill I think getting blood from a stone will be easier than getting the countercurse for his stupid enchantment.”

Hermione internally thrilled at the prospect of Fleur staying again, but stifled the emotion quickly lest her face give her away. She dragged her eyes away from Fleur, conscious that she had been staring for too long at the woman’s mouth as she gracefully chewed, her throat bobbing delectably with each swallow.

“I studied the lock some more on my way out this morning. I was thinking of asking Ron and Ginny for any ideas, it sounds like the type of spell that they’d have been subject to growing up. It would be a good starting point for us anyway.” Hermione shrugged, choosing a pain au chocolat and hastily biting into it, trying to keep herself busy to avoid the growing urge to touch Fleur.

“For us?” Fleur asked, one perfect eyebrow quirking up, her blue eyes twinkling with delight as she searched Hermione’s face.

“Of course! It wouldn’t be very neighbourly of me to leave you to figure this out by yourself. Unless you don’t want me to help?” Hermione added, frowning slightly. She didn’t want Fleur to think she was desperately clinging onto any excuse to spend time with her, despite this being extremely close to the truth.

Fleur smiled, her free hand stroking the back of Hermione’s as she spoke. “The brightest witch of her age offering to help little ol’ moi? Who could say no to that.” Fleur’s tone was playful and she laughed at Hermione’s scowl, her laughter increasing as Hermione’s face grew redder.

Composing herself and quelling her laughter, Fleur squeezed Hermione’s hand in apology, lazily entwining her fingers with the brunette’s own, a sigh slipping from her lips.

“I’m not sure how forthcoming any of the Weasley’s will be when it comes to helping me; I don’t think I’m particularly popular in that family.” Fleur chucked mirthlessly, offering some of her pastry to Hermione by holding it close to her mouth, opening her own mouth almost in demonstration.

Hermione parted her lips obligingly, ignoring the way her heart began pounding in her chest as Fleur placed a piece of the pastry in her mouth. Keeping her gaze firmly on Fleur, Hermione watched the blonde’s pupils dilate rapidly as they dropped to her lips, her mouth slightly open as she brushed Hermione’s bottom lip with the pad of her thumb, wiping away an errant crumb.

Grateful for the task of chewing to keep her mouth occupied as she gathered the Fleur filled thoughts that were currently skittering around her brain, Hermione shook her head dazedly.

“They just don’t know you.” she replied softly, the overwhelming urge to protect Fleur once again washing over her, her hand tightening around Fleur’s where they were still connected.

Fleur shrugged nonchalantly, her eyes fixed on their entwined hands. “I cannot blame them. I think Molly believes that I broke Bill’s heart. He was holding off telling her about our… unique arrangement until the divorce was finalised and my residency visa was secure.”

Hermione nodded, thinking back to her own recent conversations with both Ron and Ginny. As far as she was aware, no one in the Weasley family - besides Bill of course - knew the true reason for their divorce.

“I won’t say anything to anyone. I mean I think that’s obvious, but I just wanted you to hear it said out loud. I wouldn’t want anyone talking about me if the roles were reversed and besides, it’s not my secret to tell.” Hermione suddenly burst out, straightening her back as she said it, trying to convey with her eyes her seriousness. She wanted Fleur to trust her, to be convinced that her secret would stay that way despite her allegiance to Ron and Ginny as well as the wider Weasley family.

Fleur smiled at Hermione’s outburst as she moved her free hand to clutch at Hermione’s wrist where she currently held her half eaten pain au chocolat. Fleur brought the woman’s hand to the vicinity of her mouth, maintaining eye contact and taking an eager bite out of Hermione’s pastry, stroking her wrist before letting go.

“Merci. I did not mean to put you in a difficult position by telling you the truth. Now that the divorce is final I assume it’s only a matter of time before Bill breaks the news to his family anyway.” Fleur shrugged, pulling one of the Muggle newspapers towards her from where they lay on the breakfast bar.

Hermione hummed, her brain delightfully fuzzy from Fleur’s relaxed demeanour and excessive physical contact. Her skin was tingling with the familiar sensation that she now attributed to Fleur’s presence, her insides practically vibrating, her chest swelling in elation at the domesticity of the morning.

“I appreciate you helping me and I’d be grateful for Ron and Ginny’s input - if they are willing to offer it.” Fleur finished, sipping her coffee and perusing through the paper, one hand running through her still damp hair, drying it wordlessly as her fingers worked.

“I’ll text Ginny before I get to work. I’m just going to shower, do you need anything?” Hermione gently extricated her hand from Fleur’s, not missing the way that Fleur’s face fell slightly as she did so.

“Non, I will wait for you and then we can walk together to apparate?” Fleur’s blue eyes met Hermione’s, momentarily rendering her speechless before she simply nodded, letting her hand graze over Fleur’s shoulders boldly as she walked past her and towards her bedroom.

The room smelt deliciously like Fleur, the lingering steam from the shower harnessing the honeysuckle scent. Wanting to let the perfume of her skin linger, Hermione showered quickly, drying herself with magic before pulling on some smart black trousers, a loose fitting white shirt which she tucked in, finished with a black sweater vest. She considered rolling her sleeves up, but upon thinking of her scar she kept the shirt firmly rolled down to her wrist.

Grabbing her phone from its place on her bedside table, Hermione shot off a quick message to both Ginny and Ron asking about Bill’s locking charm. She tried to keep the details brief, purposefully not mentioning to either Weasley that Fleur had stayed the night in the hopes that they wouldn’t ask.

Her hopes were dashed almost immediately as Ginny replied with a characteristic lewd remark about there only being one bed and a graphic gif. Hermione quickly shot back several expletives, telling her that she’d call on her break. Ginny was of no use when she was in a taunting mood, which was most of the time.

Pocketing her phone and some headphones from her bedside table drawer, Hermione returned to the living room, finding Fleur still reading the newspaper, her long flowing hair shielding half her face. Crookshanks had settled on the breakfast bar, his body stretched out and obscuring a portion of the newspaper. He was purring loudly as Fleur absentmindedly stroked his head and murmured softly to him in French.

“I think Monsieur Crookshanks is feeling left out this morning. We had so many cuddles yet there was none for him.” Fleur called without looking up, her hand moving under Crookshanks’s chin.

“He’s an attention seeker is what he is.” Hermione shot back, watching Crookshanks roll over to expose his fluffy belly, uncharacteristically letting Fleur stroke him there.

“He likes you, Ron still has scars from where he tried to touch Crookshanks’s stomach.”

Fleur smirked triumphantly, looking entirely too pleased with herself. “Monsieur Crookshanks had good taste.” She replied, finally turning her head to face the brunette, smiling at her widely.

“Are you ready?” Hermione asked, suddenly self conscious under Fleur’s intense gaze which dropped appreciatively over her outfit before returning to her face, the blue of her eyes darker than usual.

The blonde simply nodded, giving Crookshanks a parting kiss on the head, murmuring something inaudible to Hermione into his fur.

“I’m ready to castrate Bill Weasley, yes.” Fleur joked, as she sauntered towards the hallway, quickly transfiguring her heels from the night prior into some more work-appropriate footwear, which were still entirely non-functional in Hermione’s opinion, who opted for her usual loafers.

Once out of the apartment, Hermione fell into step next to Fleur, the pair stopping once more to examine the blonde’s locked apartment, the glimmer of magic swirling around the door handle.

“I really do have to hand it to him, it’s some clever spell work.” Hermione muttered next to Fleur’s head. The blonde had crouched down and begun to perform some cursory diagnostic charms whilst Hermione leaned down behind her, her head resting on Fleur’s shoulder, a steadying hand placed on the blonde’s back.

Fleur huffed in annoyance, shooting off some presumably less than glowing words in French before turning to grasp Hermione’s hand and letting herself be pulled deftly back to a standing position by the brunette.

Hermione stifled a gasp at Fleur’s proximity, the blonde having encroached upon Hermione’s personal space as she stood up. Fleur’s face cleared of anger, a playful smirk lighting up her features as she scanned Hermione’s flushed face.

“So chivalrous. I like it.” The blonde murmured, dropping an unexpected kiss on Hermione’s cheek, watching the brunette’s honey brown eyes widen in surprise before becoming playful in return.

Not one to be bested even when flustered beyond words, Hermione raised Fleur’s hand where it was still clasped in her own, brushing her lips softly against the back of it whilst bowing deeply. Fleur’s laughter was the most glorious sound to Hermione’s ears and she was once again taken aback by the growing fondness she felt for her, unsettled by the knowledge that there wasn’t much that she wouldn’t do to elicit that sound from Fleur.

“Come, the sooner we get to work the sooner we can leave and work on getting my damn door open.” Fleur pulled on Hermione’s hand, leading her towards the stairwell, entwining their fingers as they descended the stairs.

With their hands still attached, the pair walked in step towards the nearby alleyway, checking for any Muggles before Fleur nodded to Hermione who swiftly apparated them to the same destination as the morning prior.

Looking around the dingy alleyway near Westminster, Hermione felt a great appreciation for the progress that her and Fleur had made since the last time they were there together. Whilst she was no closer to untangling her confused thoughts about whatever was happening between herself and Fleur, she felt an ease settle over her knowing that Bill and Fleur had never been romantically involved. It was at least one less issue pertaining to Fleur swirling around her brain.

Hermione’s phone buzzed loudly in her pocket. She shot an apologetic look at Fleur, squeezing the blonde’s hand before letting go, turning her gaze to her phone and replying to the text swiftly. After a quick back and forth, she locked her phone and placed it back in her pocket, her attention turning back to Fleur who was now leaning against the wall.

“It was Ron. He says he’ll meet me and Harry for lunch to try and help with the charm. Care to join us? It’ll be in Diagon Alley somewhere, Ron gets too hangry for us to walk too far for food.”

Fleur smiled, nodding emphatically. “That sounds lovely. Meet me outside Gringotts at say, 1pm?”

Hermione smiled back, shooting off another quick reply to Ron and letting him know that Fleur would be joining them; it was best to warn him, his control around Fleur was often worse than her own.

“Okay. Cool. I’ll see you then.” Hermione rocked on her heels, unsure of how to say goodbye to Fleur, her nerves growing as the silence stretched on.

She was saved by Fleur, who chuckled softly before opening her arms, pulling the brunette into a tight hug. Hermione breathed in the fresh scent of Fleur, letting the lilac and powder blue haze play at the corners of her vision as Fleur’s hands danced across her shoulders and back.

Fleur released her slowly, pulling back just enough to drop a lingering kiss on each of her cheeks, a light pink flush apparent on her own face as their eyes met. 

“What?” Hermione said, watching curiously as Fleur opened her mouth several times, inhaling as if she were about to speak, before stopping short again. The blonde’s arms were still snaked around Hermione’s neck, her fingers idly playing with the sensitive skin at the nape of her neck..

“Nothing. You just… you look very nice today. I like this shirt on you.” Fleur finished, dragging her hands forwards until they rested on Hermione’s shoulders as she adjusted the collar of the brunette’s shirt. Hermione stood transfixed, a strangled whimper escaping her mouth which she tried to cover up by clearing her throat, managing to squeak out a “thanks”.

With one last pat to her collar and a knowing look, a smirking, Fleur began to walk to the end of the alleyway, calling over her shoulder as she rounded the corner.

“I will see you at 1!”

Hermione stuttered in recovery, stumbling over to the edge of the alleyway, emerging in time to see Fleur looking back for her still, that damned smirk firmly on her lips.

“See you!” Hermione called, watching Fleur throw up an arm and wave goodbye without turning, hearing the blonde’s laughter disappear into the general thrum of the busy London street. Hermione watched until she could no longer see Fleur’s silvery blonde hair amongst the commuters.

With Fleur gone, Hermione sighed before turning to begin her own journey to the Ministry, already counting down the minutes until she would see Fleur again.

Chapter Text

“‘Mione!” Ron bellowed, waving his hands frantically as he barged his way past some irritated Muggles as well as Ministry officials, beelining through the bustling crowd towards her.

Hermione rolled her eyes, trying to keep her smile from growing upon seeing Ron battle his way against the flow of pedestrian traffic, Harry’s ducked and apologetic head visible just behind the tall redhead. She was impressed by their time keeping; it was more unusual for them to be on time than it was for them to be late, a fact that irked Hermione to no end.

Her morning had passed by painfully slowly. Both her and Sophia had been in back to back meetings with the Field Research teams, arguing the finer points of Selkie territory and how best to define it when referring to bodies of water. As a result, she hadn’t managed to catch up with Sophia in terms of her Veela research; she wasn’t expecting Sophia to have found anything, but she would’ve appreciated the opportunity to further speculate with someone with a better working knowledge of Veelas than Ginny.

Ron approached through the remains of the crowd, half dragging Harry along with him as he yanked Hermione into a one armed hug. He kissed the top of her head briskly before linking his arms with hers, swiftly pulling her along towards the entrance to Diagon Alley, both her and Harry stumbling to keep up with the boisterous redhead.

“What’s got into you, where’s the fire? Not that I’m complaining of a change from your normal glacial pace.” Hermione bristled, shaking Ron’s arm free of its grip on her, shoving him playfully in reproach.

“I’m starving! The sooner we get there the better, I feel like I’m about to pass out.” Ron all but groaned, dramatically huffing and rubbing his stomach to accentuate his point, walking faster along the busy lunchtime crowded street.

“He had a full English breakfast this morning at Grimmauld, four pumpkin pasties in our first class, two Snickers and half of one of our lecturer's sandwiches because he said he was feeling lightheaded.” Harry fake whispered to Hermione, who laughed heartily, ignoring Ron’s pointed frown as he led them onto a quieter side street, the creaking sign above the Leaky Cauldron swinging in the light breeze.

Ron all but burst through the door of the Leaky Cauldron, greeting Hannah Abbott who was busy pulling pints behind the bar with a wave before ushering Hermione and Harry out before they drew too much attention. Hermione tried to mostly avoid Diagon Alley, knowing that it was an unfortunate inevitability that her presence would draw curious eyes. The three of them were rarely seen together out of Grimmauld Place, and were particularly careful to avoid Wizarding areas when out as a three, an active choice of hers more than anyone else’s.

Of the three of them, Ron has adjusted best to their newfound fame. Whilst he never actively sought out attention, there was something inherently welcoming about him, a friendly air which made him the most approachable and least intimidating out of the three of them. He was always more than happy to stop for a conversation, indulging in autographs and pictures with ease; even when he was occupied and had to turn people down, he did so with such care and warmth that no feelings were hurt. Ron had blossomed under the eyes of the Wizarding world, whereas both herself and Harry had retreated to the shadows, wilting under the weight of the gaze of the world.

Harry had assumed his position as “spokesperson” for the trio to begin with, shouldering the responsibility and resigning himself to the parades of press that were required of them immediately post war. Now however, Harry was happy to let Ron assume his role, the Boy Who Lived preferring to speak only when absolutely necessary. He was always polite when people approached, answering questions and graciously receiving praise, but he was always quick to end the conversation, holding people at arm's length.

Hermione’s approach was simply to avoid going out to Wizarding areas unless it was absolutely necessary. Her role within the Ministry had allowed her to adjust steadily to the near constant stares, whispers and sometimes demanding way with which complete strangers interacted with her, but she didn’t think it was something she’d ever get truly used to. She was simply happy that her panic attacks were less frequent and that the attention that surrounded the three of them had dulled to a manageable buzz, a mild irritant, as opposed to an overwhelmingly menacing presence in her life.

The cobbled streets of Diagon Alley were bustling with life, the lunchtime rush well and truly underway. As always, this didn’t seem to bother Ron, who strode confidently through the parting crowd, ushering both Harry and Hermione along with him.

“We’re meeting Fleur outside Gringotts yeah? I reserved a table at The Thestral, thought it would be better if we had a bit of privacy.” Ron muttered quietly enough for only Hermione and Harry to hear.

Hermione nodded, quickening her pace as Ron did, letting herself be led by Ron’s sturdy hand, looping his arm around her shoulder for comfort.

Gringotts came into view as they rounded the corner, the crowd thinning somewhat as the cobbled streets intersected off, the main street branching off into smaller, thinner lanes.

Hermione felt Fleur’s presence, her heart immediately fluttering in her chest, the incessant pull making itself known in her stomach and the tell-tale sense of calm washing over her.

She instinctively turned her head to the right, following the subtle scent of honeysuckle on the breeze. With a clattering thud of her heart Hermione spotted Fleur, leaning casually against a pillar off to the side of the entrance to Gringotts. The wind played in the French witch’s hair, some loose strands from her bun whipping around her face in the breeze.

Just as Hermione opened her mouth to inform Harry and Ron that she’d spotted Fleur, the blonde whipped her head up as if someone had called her name, her breathtaking blue eyes landing on Hermione immediately, a broad grin creeping onto her face as Hermione felt her face flush in response.

Fleur’s smile faltered however when her gaze landed on Ron’s arm, still slung protectively around Hermione’s shoulders. Puzzled, Hermione caught a glimpse of Fleur’s eyes turning stormy before she composed her face, her usual smile returning, only a tightness in her eyes betraying her facade.

“Fleur!” Harry shouted, waving eagerly and heading towards the blonde with Ron and Hermione trailing behind, Hermione promptly untangling herself from under Ron’s arm much to his confusion.

Hermione watched Fleur pull Harry into a hug, laughing at something he said in her ear. The French witch planted a brisk kiss on either side of Harry’s cheek, which for some reason made Hermione’s stomach clench unpleasantly. She’s French, she reminded herself. She must greet everyone like that. It doesn’t mean anything, see? Hermione thought, glowering as Ron received the same treatment from the blonde, both boys turning pink under Fleur’s attention.

Fleur turned to Hermione, her eyes sparkling with delight. “And bonjour ma belle, how lovely it is to see you again, roomie. It has been too long, non?” The blonde all but purred, approaching Hermione with intent, her hands seeking the brunette’s eagerly.

Hermione let her smile wash over her, chasing away the residual jealousy she’d felt when seeing Fleur greet both Harry and Ron. Fleur’s honeysuckle scent enveloped her as their hands met, the blonde leaning forward to kiss Hermione lingeringly on each cheek, before planting a third kiss slightly closer to her lips than was technically appropriate.

Before Hermione could recover, her Fleur fuzzed brain trying to string together a basic sentence, Ron interjected.

“Why does Hermione get three kisses?” The redhead said almost sullenly, his face still beet red from Fleur’s greeting. At least I’m not that bad, Hermione thought, her light brush nothing compared to the scarlet colour of Ron’s face.

“Because she is the most beautiful of course.” Fleur said with a shrug, planting another kiss to the side of Hermione’s head as she looped her arm around the brunette’s shoulder, just as Ron had done. Hermione automatically wound her arm around Fleur’s lithe waist in response, her hand accidentally dancing over the side of Fleur’s ribs until her hand rested on the blonde’s hip.

Harry and Ron fell into step just ahead of them, Ron leading them through the now sparse crowd towards their destination, the sounds of the two men discussing their Auror training floating back to Hermione and Fleur as they ambled behind.

“And how are you this afternoon? You look well rested, like you had a good sleep last night.” Fleur started playfully, keeping her voice low as she shot a glance at Harry and Ron’s backs.

Hermione smirked, squeezing Fleur’s hip which caused the woman to squeal and wriggle, her hand clutching at Hermione’s to try and get her to stop.

“I slept terribly actually, there was a French woman in my bed who snored. A lot.” Hermione replied lightly, watching the blue in Fleur’s eyes shine in the afternoon sun.

Fleur shook herself free of Hermione, huffing in mock offence and strutting away towards Ron and Harry. Hermione chased a now laughing Fleur, grabbing her waist from behind boldly, her arms encircling Fleur and holding her still.

Hermione ignored the pounding of her heart, focussing instead on the way that Fleur seemed to be leaning into her touch as opposed to away, her head arching back to expose her neck. Fleur could easily break Hermione’s hold if she tried, Hermione was sure of it. Yet the blonde had placed her hands over Hermione’s, gripping them, but not moving them, instead pushing them into her tighter.

“I do not snore Miss Granger.” Fleur said breathlessly, her feet moving with Hermione’s, the pair half waddling due to the restriction of Hermione’s arms. The brunette released Fleur, missing the physical contact immediately. This was soon rectified by Fleur who took hold of Hermione’s hand, coaxing her onwards with a light pull.

“And how would you know? You’re asleep, I’m the one who had to listen to it all night.” Hermione shot back, enjoying the way that Fleur’s eyes glittered encouragingly at her flirtatious tone. Wait am I flirting? Hermione thought, suddenly worried that she’d overstepped some unspoken boundary in their friendship.

As if he’d heard her thoughts, Ron turned his head. “If you two have finished flirting then I suggest we sit down to eat, we haven’t got all day you know.” He shouted over his shoulder, causing Hermione to cast him a withering look, Fleur simply chuckling and nudging Hermione’s shoulder with her own. It didn’t go unnoticed by the brunette that Fleur hadn’t denied any such claims. Neither had she.

Ron scanned the surrounding area for eavesdroppers or worse, reporters, before he pointed to a quiet table outside the pub, making his way inside to get some menus.

Harry sat down, Hermione opting to take the chair opposite him, stopping to pull out the chair next to her for Fleur, who smiled warmly and uttered a quiet “merci” as she did so.

“So how are you Harry? I haven’t seen you for a long time now.” Fleur began, shuffling her chair closer to Hermione so that their knees were touching under the table.

“I’m pretty good thanks Fleur, better than you I hear anyway; I can actually get into my house.” Harry blushed at his own joke, laughing nervously until Fleur and Hermione’s laughter joined his own, his posture relaxing as they did.

“I’m glad you both still see the funny side of it. It will not be so funny when it’s been weeks and I’m still living with Hermione and Crookshanks, living off nothing but corn flakes and cereal bars.”

Hermione scowled, trying to hide the way her stomach flipped at the thought of Fleur being a more permanent fixture in her apartment.

“Hey! I have cat treats too.” The brunette

“It’s not Hermione’s fault that her food reserves are pretty scarce, we tend to make enough food for the whole of the Wizarding population at Grimmauld Place.” Harry came to Hermione’s defence, earning a quick smile from the brunette.

“And it’s not my fault that most of my recipes come from my Mum who only knows how to do portions for nine people.” Ron had returned with menus in hand, a jug of water and glasses hovering behind him as he took the seat next to Harry.

“Eight portions of which you eat.” Harry replied, to which Ron gave his arm a swift punch.

“Anyway, enough about my bottomless appetite. Fleur, looks like my brother is being a prat as always then? Tell me, was he more or less annoying when you were married? Is that why you got divorced?”

“Ronald!” Hermione hissed, her hand hovering protectively over Fleur’s knee as she turned sideways in her chair to face the blonde. “You don’t have to answer that Fleur, it looks like more than one Weasley is being a prat for a change.”

Ron stuck his tongue out at Hermione and shrugged, turning his eyes back to Fleur.

Fleur looked impassive, the only sign of distress being her fidgeting hand that Hermione grabbed under the table, squeezing it reassuringly, keeping her honey brown eyes trained on Ron menacingly.

“I think you should ask your brother about the circumstances of our divorce. And no, he’s far more annoying now that we’re not married it seems.” Fleur spoke with an assertiveness that Hermione had never heard before. Her tone was usually light and playful, but it seemed that where Bill was concerned, she really was leaving it up to him to deal the news to his family.

Ron spluttered a laugh, unperturbed by Fleur’s tone, reeling off his food order to the waiter and grabbing the bread basket from his hand, before turning back to the table. Fleur ordered a peach, walnut and burrata salad as did Hermione, with Harry opting for a smaller version of Ron’s mountainous burger.

As the waiter left, Ron turned his attention back to Fleur. “Sorry Fleur, I’ll play nicely. But only because it looks like ‘Mione will kill me if I don’t.” Ron shot Hermione a toothy grin which quickly turned into a pained look as he was not quite quick enough to avoid the sharp kick to his shin that the brunette aimed at him. “In my defence all I’ll say is that you're lucky Ginny couldn’t make it to lunch, if you think I’m bad then just you wait.”

Hermione silently cast Aguamenti, watching a torrent of water slap Ron across the face, his shit eating grin immediately turned into a grimace.

“Fuck sake ‘Mione! You know my hair goes all frizzy after it’s been wet.” Ron grumbled, drying himself off with a quick spell, his hair dishevelled despite his best efforts to wrestle it back into position.

“Oops. Sorry. My hand slipped.” Hermione shrugged, glancing at Fleur and Harry who were both stifling their laughter, trying not to catch her eye lest they burst out laughing, Harry using his menu to shield his face from view.

Ron leant across the table to flick Hermione on the cheek, the brunette grabbing his hand and biting down into it, chuckling as the redhead yelped and recoiled, his eyes sparkling playfully despite his attempted frown. He clutched his hand dramatically, checking to see if any blood had been drawn, muttering to himself when he saw nothing.

“You’re so annoying you know that? You’re lucky you’re clever and pretty else we’d have ditched you ages ago.” He shot, folding his arms over his chest with a huff as he was pulled back into his chair by a resigned looking Harry, the raven haired boy shaking his head.

“And you’re lucky that Harry and I were in the market for a ginger to complete the black haired, brown haired and red haired trio. That gap is filled by Ginny now so I guess you can leave?” Hermione said, making Ron snort with laughter, his hand reaching over to high five the brunette, clutching her hand as they connected and planting a kiss on it before letting it go.

“Touche.” He chuckled, causing Hermione to laugh too despite herself, dodging Ron’s foot under the table which he’d been trying to tap her with.

“It’s pronounced touché actually.” Fleur muttered rather venomously, Ron’s eyes snapping over to the blonde who was sat with her legs crossed over, her free hand clutching the arm of her chair and the other tightening almost possessively around Hermione’s.

Hermione let her eyes drift to Fleur who looked strangely irate, her eyes purposefully avoiding both her and Ron, an intentional stiffness to her posture. Weird , she thought, glancing at Harry who straightened in his chair and nodded slightly, letting her know that he had noticed too.

Ron simply shrugged, returning his attention to his hair, running a hand through it as he spoke, trying to flatten the fluffy flyaways. “So Bill’s locked you out. I’m quite impressed actually, he’s meant to be the mature one in the family. You know that’s all a front though, he’s actually a sneaky bastard.” Ron leant back in his chair, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun with one of his hands.

“Have you tried Alohomora?” The redhead asked, as he fidgeted in his chair, already scanning the restaurant for his food despite having ordered mere seconds ago.

Fleur raised an eyebrow, looking at Hermione's disbelieving face for support.

“No Ronald, we’re actually both really thick. Fleur is notoriously stupid and doesn’t work as a curse breaker at a prestigious institution and I’m also super well known for being air headed and drastically underprepared in every situation.” Hermione retorted, watching Ron try to figure out whether she was being sarcastic or not.

“I think they’ve tried that one mate.” Harry mock whispered, laughing even when Ron gave him a sharp elbow to his side, the two men starting to scuffle playfully. With Harry in a headlock they finally yielded, the black haired man tapping three times on the table to signal his resignation.

Hermione rolled her eyes at the pair, leaning towards Fleur conspiratorially. “I’m surprised he gave up, Harry is normally so stubborn that it’s not uncommon for him to pass out before he gives in.”

Fleur’s breathy laugh struck Hermione’s ear, the brunette moving her gaze from the men opposite to the blonde beside her. She was smiling warmly, her eyes dazzlingly blue in the afternoon sun. Fucking hell she really is gorgeous , Hermione thought, watching Fleur’s eyes flit around her face curiously, her smile growing and a pink tinge gracing her cheeks when Hermione didn’t look away.

Ron cleared his throat loudly, a smirk already in place as Hermione returned her attention to him, blushing furiously. She glared a warning at him; whilst he wasn’t as relentless with his teasing as Ginny, he could be just as infuriating when he was in one of his moods, which he evidently was today.

“Glad you’ve both remembered that we’re here. I know I’m not as gorgeous as Hermione, but I may actually be more helpful on this occasion.” Ron shot, Harry beating Hermione to the inevitable arm punch that his comment would receive.

Fleur scoffed and mumbled something in French, her body shifting further towards Hermione, her hand retaking the brunette’s under the table.

“So be helpful then? All I’ve heard so far is try Alohomora? What next, do you suggest using a key?” Hermione growled, her patience with the redhead wearing thin. Thank my lucky stars that Ginny isn’t here too , she thought, internally dreading the next Grimmauld Place meet up. The thought of Ginny and Ron and Fleur all in the same place at the time was already giving her a headache.

Ron seemed unfazed as ever by Hermione’s chiding, stretching his arms out and cracking his back before speaking. “Chances are it’s a modified locking charm that he used to use on us as kids. He had a few that he liked to use, all with absurd ways of breaking them, but his favourite was this one where you can’t get in unless you don’t care about getting in.” Ron abruptly grabbed his glass and chugged the water down like a child overcome with thirst, gasping as he finished it before wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, filling up his glass again.

“What you’re saying is that you think the way to get into my apartment… is to not want to get into my apartment?” Fleur spoke slowly, looking at Ron for further clarification, her body turning back towards the table, towards Ron. The redhead nodded, picking absentmindedly at a bread roll before he continued.

“I know, it’s fucking annoying. It used to drive me mental when we were kids. Of course me and Gin always got it the worst because, well, I’ve been told that we have quite the temper sometimes. Makes it more fun when Bill knows he’ll get a reaction.” Both Hermione and Harry scoffed, exchanging a wry look in reference to Ron and Ginny’s short tempers, before composing their faces once again.

“Oh, and it also knows if you’re lying about it too. You have to genuinely not care about getting in, you can’t just be like ‘I don’t care’ and expect it to open up. Your options are to genuinely not give a shit either way, or know the counter curse, which Bill never told me.” Ron shrugged again, crumbs flying over the table as he continued to tear into the bread, wolfing down large chunks, pausing only for breath.

“Merde.” Fleur mumbled, leaning back in her chair sulkily. Hermione couldn’t help but smile at her. She was the only person who could make petulance look positively adorable, her bottom lip stuck out in a genuine pout, eyebrows knitted together in frustration.

“The best way to do it is to do something else entirely. Distract yourself. Me and Gin used to go and play Quidditch, take our mind off it. By the time we got back we didn’t care about the door. That’s when it would open.” Ron laughed despite himself, shaking his head and banging a fist on the table as his laughter abated.

He continued, “I’ll ask Gin as well, or ‘Mione video call her later? She’s got training then physio until the evening, but she’ll be back at Grimmauld for maybe… 6 all being well?” Ron looked at Harry for confirmation, who shook his head.

“It’ll be a late one tonight, she’s got an away game in a few days so they usually run strategy after physio. I’m sure she’ll call you when she’s back though.” Harry smiled a toothy grin at Hermione, who shot one back, mouthing a thank you.

Ron spoke again around a mouthful of bread, “She sends her regards by the way Fleur, she told me to tell you that she’s so looking forward to seeing you at Grimmauld next week. Also she told me to remind you to respond to her message ‘Mione, she said something about a gif with a pair of scissors? Whatever that means.” He shrugged nonchalantly, missing Hermione’s widening eyes and flushed face as she thought back to Ginny’s message that morning and the lewd animation she’d sent. Ron seemed oblivious however; he had moved his attention back to scanning the pub for the waiter, his neck craning to try and spot his food.

“Can you put up with me until then?” Fleur asked, thankfully ignoring or not understanding Ron’s accidental euphemism, her eyes fixed on Hermione nervously. “I promise I’ll try really hard to not want to be in my apartment.”

Hermione looked flabbergasted, clutching Fleur’s hand in reassurance. “I’d be more than happy to have you over! Stay as long as you need.” Hermione chose her words carefully, trying to strike a balance between welcoming, friendly and not too eager. Internally, she was positively ecstatic. This meant she could spend more time in close quarters with Fleur, to hopefully test the bounds of whatever was happening between them and to try and wheedle some answers out of the oftentimes strangely poker faced Fleur.

“And speak to Bill. If he’s going to tell anyone the counter curse it’ll be you. Surely the Goblins can spare him for a few minutes?” Ron added, his attention sidetracked by the arrival of their food, beaming at the waiter and practically salivating.

The waiter placed each dish down and swiftly left. Ron immediately began wolfing down chips, temporarily causing conversation to lull as everyone began to eat.

“S’not in morn?” Ron eventually tried to talk around his mouthful of food, much to Hermione’s evident disgust.

“For Merlin’s sake Ron, chew with your bloody mouth closed!” Hermione chastised, hitting him with her napkin. “We can’t understand a word you’re saying. In fact, maybe keep chewing as you were, I prefer it when you’re quiet.” Hermione added, relishing Fleur’s chuckle as they all continued eating.

Ron swallowed loudly, chugging yet more water before he tried again. “I said, is Bill not at work this morning? Have you not managed to speak to him about all this yet?” He swiftly stretched his jaw around another gargantuan bite of burger, purposefully leaning across the table and chewing loudly in Hermione’s face, sauce oozing out of the burger.

“Ron seriously, we have company! Stop showing off!” Hermione hissed at him, trying to stop a smile from tugging at her lips; Ron may be immature but she secretly relished his carefree manner. Hermione used her napkin to wipe the side of Ron’s mouth dotingly, a splodge of ketchup having escaped from the burger, before she playfully pushed his face back across the table.

Ron held out his plate, replying to something Harry had said about their morning classes. Hermione knew from the familiar gesture that Ron was asking for some of her salad, which she put on his outstretched plate without thinking, placing her bowl back down and continuing to eat when she’d finished dishing some out to him. The redhead laughed at Harry’s joke, his gaze shooting momentarily back to Hermione to send her a wink and an air kiss as a thanks for the salad, the brunette batting the kiss away and chuckling at his antics before glancing at Fleur. She was surprised to see the blonde looking oddly unwell, like she’d been winded, her face having become ashen and contorted, her eyes blazing coldly.

“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” Hermione whispered to Fleur, grateful that Ron seemed to now be occupied by trying to convince Harry to let him have some of his smaller, near identical burger, his own almost completely polished off.

Fleur cleared her throat and shook her head distractedly, her eyes flitting across the table to Ron, her pupils becoming impossibly dark, her face taking on a dangerous edge as she looked at the redhead.

“I’m fine, just thinking about the locking charm.” Fleur murmured back, her eyes still locked onto Ron.

Hermione was unconvinced, reaching her hand back across to Fleur’s knee, searching for the blonde’s own hand. Upon making contact Hermione interlocked their fingers, her honey brown eyes searched Fleur’s face, trying to draw her gaze back to her.

“Hey…” Hermione tried again, this time using her free hand to turn Fleur’s face, her fingers resting against the woman’s cheek, moving them to cup her chin.

Fleur’s eyes finally met her own and Hermione watched as her pupils shrank and then dilated again, the blue becoming more prominent the longer she looked into Hermione’s eyes. Hermione let the blue and lilac haze cloud her, trying to direct it towards Fleur, to see if this was even possible. She now associated the hazy vision with the accompanying calm, laced with the urge to be near Fleur. It was reassuring and in that moment that was all she needed to do, all she could comprehend was Fleur and her desire to comfort her.

“So, Bill, have you seen him today?”

Hermione dropped her hand from Fleur’s cheek as if she’d been burned, suddenly all too aware that they were in the presence of company. She didn’t immediately look away however, her eyes darting around Fleur’s face before landing back on her blue eyes. Fleur nodded almost imperceptibly and only then did Hermione look away towards Ron who had spoken, keeping her hand firmly in Fleur’s lap, entwined with her slender fingers.

Ron’s eyes flitted between the two women, narrowing suspiciously, a teasing glint in his eyes. Sensing the still agitated air that lingered around Fleur however, he let the action go uncommented upon, instead indicating that he was waiting for Fleur to answer.

The blonde relaxed her posture, uncrossing her legs and shuffling her chair closer to the table to reach for the jug of water. She poured both Harry and Hermione a glass, watching Ron gulp the rest of his down before she refilled his also and finally served herself. 

She sipped slowly before finally speaking. “Non, he is stuck doing paperwork for a while after his trip. The Goblins always want everything recorded, it’s such a pain. I’m surprised they don’t make us write down every time that we breathe.” Fleur groaned, eagerly engaging Ron in conversation as if she hadn’t been shooting him daggers mere seconds ago.

So here it is again, Hermione thought, pretending like things just don’t happen. That sudden sharpness, the edge to Fleur’s face, the way her features became almost… dangerous. She hadn’t made it up, she’d seen it. And so had Ron. Yet here they all were, pretending that nothing had happened. Hermione was beyond confused and could feel herself becoming annoyed as Fleur and Ron continued to chat away about the Goblins at Gringotts, Ron launching into a story that Bill had relayed to him before.

Hermione felt Harry’s eyes on her and sought them out, finding comfort in his steady, wordless gaze. He tilted his head, conversing with her non-verbally. Having spent so much time with both Harry and Ron, Hermione was never surprised that they were so attuned to one another’s mannerisms.

Harry’s tilted head said You alright? Hermione shrugged, picking up her water and taking a sip. She looked back at Harry, watched him tap his wristwatch. Later . We’ll talk later. Hermione nodded, turning her attention back to Fleur and Ron, who had moved on from the locking charm and Goblins and were currently arguing over who would pay the bill.

“Oh for God’s sake let’s just split it.” Hermione snapped, wrenching the slip of paper out of Ron’s clenched fist, glancing at the total and leaving the correct amount on the table, plus a generous tip. “We’d better be getting back, you boys have an afternoon full of lectures I believe?”

“And thank God it’s only lectures and not practical work, I think I’d be sick! I need a nap.” Ron yawned loudly, rubbing his swollen stomach as he stood up, stretching to his full height.

“Good luck with everything later Fleur, let us know if you need our help. Our big, strong, muscley help.” Ron rolled up his sleeve, flexing in an exaggerated fashion, earning an eye roll from Hermione and a sharp punch to his bicep.

“Merci Ron, and you too Harry. You have been most helpful. If you see Bill before I do, then please throttle him for me.” Fleur pulled the boys in for a quick hug and a swift peck to either cheek.

“See you next week?” Harry said softly, his cheeks turning slightly pink with Fleur’s full attention on him. The blonde nodded eagerly, squeezing his arm once more before taking a few steps in the opposite direction, back towards Gringotts.

“‘Mione you coming with?” Ron yelled, already walking away from the pub, his pace sluggish from the absurd amount of food he’d consumed.

Hermione paused, glancing at Fleur who seemed to be doing her best to appear nonchalant, looking anywhere but at the trio. Hermione may have only gotten to know Fleur properly over the past few days, but she could already read the woman in some regards; she could tell that Fleur wanted her to hang around. And that was more than enough of a reason to linger.

“I think I’ll walk Fleur back actually, I started early today so I have some extra time to take.”

Ron nodded, opening his arms wide but making no effort to move towards Hermione to receive his hug. “Come here my favourite woman.”

Hermione huffed at his laziness, but walked towards him nonetheless, ignoring Ron’s demands to be careful of his swollen, food filled belly as she pressed as much of her weight as she could onto him, causing him to groan before laughing. She squealed as she felt her legs lifted temporarily off the ground as he picked her up in bear hug, chuckling into her hair. She felt his beard scratch the crown of her head as he pressed a kiss there, releasing her and gently pushing the small of her back as he did so, guiding her in the direction of the waiting blonde.

“Right, see you both!” Ron waved at Fleur, the tips of his ears red, leaving Harry to catch up as he too pulled Hermione in for a quick hug, muttering “I’ll text you later” in her ear. Hermione watched them both go, the sound of a pop alerting her of their apparition. She was finally alone with Fleur again.

“Shall we?” Fleur gestured to the street ahead, the two women setting off side by side.

Hermione was keenly aware of Fleur’s hand dangling next to hers as they walked, feeling warmth spread through her every time their fingers brushed gently against each other. In fact, she was aware of Fleur’s every move, instinctively registering the sway of Fleur’s hips as she walked, the swift and decisive gait of her legs, each stride slightly longer than Hermione’s, causing Fleur to have to slow down every few steps.

The brunette felt Fleur’s eyes dart towards her before she glanced away, missing Hermione’s returning gaze. Fleur looked oddly troubled, her face impassive and her neck held loftily. She was hiding something, some discomfort.

Hermione waited patiently for Fleur to speak as they wound through the streets of Diagon Alley. Whilst every instinct in her yelled at her to barrage Fleur with questions, she knew from experience now that with Fleur, it was all about balance, knowing when to implore for information and when to hold back. In this instance, Hermione could sense that Fleur had to be the one to share of her own volition; pushing her right now would only provide the opposite effect to the one desired.

As they neared Gringotts, the building coming into view as they rounded the last turn, Fleur finally spoke, slowing her pace to a dawdle. “It was nice to see them both. Ron has become… handsome.”

It wasn’t what Hermione had been expecting at all. She wasn’t sure what exactly she’d been anticipating, but it certainly wasn’t Fleur complimenting Ron. Except, Fleur’s tone was almost questioning, like she was trying to ascertain Hermione’s feelings about her statement, not that she necessarily believed it herself.

“I mean I guess, if you like that sort of thing.” Hermione replied carefully, trying to catch Fleur’s eyes which were currently trained straight ahead, giving nothing away.

“And you do not like that sort of thing?” Fleur continued, her voice dropping as she slowed even further, the pair of them now barely moving at all. Her face looked tight, her expression purposefully blank.

“Are you asking me if I fancy Ron, Fleur?” Hermione huffed, trying and failing to keep her impatience out of her voice.

Fleur finally turned her intense gaze on Hermione, her eyes looking guarded, yet fearful. She didn’t respond, her mouth opening slightly before closing again with an exhale. Hermione still waited, her frown deepening the longer Fleur remained silent.

“It’s just he is…very familiar with you. And you with him.”

Hermione scoffed, struggling to believe what a strange direction the afternoon had taken. “Well obviously, I’ve known him since he was eleven.”

This didn’t seem to soothe Fleur, who began fidgeting, her toe tapping on the cobbled street, her arms crossed defiantly across her chest.

“Fleur.” Hermione said softly, reaching for her folded arms, prising one of her hands free. The brunette took a deep breath in, steeling her nerve before she spoke again. 

“I’m gay. I like women.” She said it loud enough to be sure that Fleur heard, but still hushed in case there were prying ears. “I thought you understood, last night, what I said about not liking people like Ron?” Hermione added, her eyes fixed on the blonde’s face, desperately trying to gauge her reaction, the true feelings that Fleur was hiding behind the calm mask of her intensely blue eyes.

“I thought… I thought that I had misunderstood. Seeing you and him today. I thought I had presumed wrong.” Fleur whispered, a light flush blooming across her face, her shoulders sagging and the impassive mask momentarily slipping. She was embarrassed, Hermione realised.

“Fleur, I’d rather snog a boggart than ever be romantically involved with Ron. One kiss from him was enough to confirm it for me for all eternity; I don’t like men.” Hermione reiterated, aware that she was over enunciating, speaking purposefully slowly so that there could be no mistake. “Ron and I are friends. Nothing more. He’s like a brother for Merlin’s sake!”

Fleur seemed to relax, the brunette’s words apparently sinking in. Whilst her face remained frustratingly unreadable, Hermione could sense the tension leave the blonde’s body, felt the coils around her chest loosen and vanish as Fleur nodded slowly.

“Right. D’accord. I’m sorry for asking, I just… I’m not sure. It’s strange…” Fleur trailed off, her fingers grazing the back of Hermione’s knuckles. “It seems there is so much that we don’t know about each other.” She finished, returning her eyes to meet Hermione’s.

“Well that can be rectified, considering you’re still locked out of your apartment. Looks like you’re stuck with me for a while.” Hermione returned boldly, basking in the return of Fleur’s brilliant smile, the still facade slipping from her face, softness returning to her eyes as she looked at Hermione, nodding eagerly.

“Bien. I will meet you back at your flat after work?” She asked quietly, watching with interest as Hermione retrieved her front door key from her pocket, silently removing the protective spell before duplicating it. She handed the freshly made key to Fleur, who cradled it like a delicate flower.

“Sure, just let yourself in. It’s probably best that you have a spare key anyway, in case of an emergency or something.” Hermione explained, not wanting to seem forward. God you’ve only just told her you’re gay and now you’re immediately give her a key to your apartment, you’re a walking lesbian stereotype today, Hermione thought, mentally facepalming.

“Of course. For emergencies.” Fleur replied, her eyes twinkling with mischief as she winked at Hermione. The blonde closed the space between the two of them, kissing both of Hermione’s cheeks before laying a third on the expanse of skin between her cheek and lips just as she had done earlier.

“À bientôt, ma belle.” The blonde whispered, her breath tickling Hermione’s face, her skin tingling delightfully as the haze set in, the sweet scent of honeysuckle drifting over her face.

“Bye.” Hermione murmured, opening her eyes self consciously. She couldn’t remember closing them.

Fleur giggled, stepping back and heading up the marble stairs of Gringotts, pausing only to blow Hermione a kiss at the doorway, one that Hermione faked catching, causing Fleur’s laughter to ring out, echoing across the marble fascia of the bank.

With Fleur inside, Hermione exhaled deeply, running a hand through her hair, bunching some up in a clenched fist.

“I’m well and truly, utterly, fucked.”

Chapter Text

Fleur dashed up the marble steps of Gringotts, taking them two at a time, her giddiness making her feel weightless, free.

Hermione was gay. Whilst this was hardly shocking news - Fleur knew Hermione must’ve had some inclination towards women, else she wouldn’t be her mate and she’d insinuated her proclivity towards women the night before - to hear Hermione say it, to trust Fleur enough to come out to her, to share a very private part of her life signified to Fleur a step forward in their burgeoning friendship.

Fleur couldn’t help but beam at the thought, shoving down the twisting, stabbing guilt that also bubbled underneath her happiness. With every progression that was made in her relationship with Hermione, there was an accompanying guilt stemming from her reluctance to share what so desperately needed to be shared with the brunette.

The closer they became, the more Fleur couldn’t help but doubt her plan. In theory, her slow and steady approach worked; it gave them time to build a solid foundation based on a natural, mutual attraction, getting to know one another without the pressure of their bond weighing upon them. But seeing Hermione open up, her walls slowly crumbling the more time they spent together, Fleur felt her own guilt grow. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could bear to lie to Hermione about something which would change both of their lives irrevocably. She felt deceitful, dirty almost, like she was sullying something sacred.

Striding through the bustling Gringotts lobby, Fleur recalled her mother’s letters, still stashed away in her bag which she’d yet to read. She had planned to peruse them the night prior, to owl her mother back and arrange to speak more about the changes in her and Hermione’s situation. Each interaction she had with the brunette was becoming laced with a charged energy. Fleur felt the pull to her becoming stronger, the need to seek out physical connection, the ache when they were apart making close proximity a need rather than simply a want.

Fleur had managed to complete the bulk of her work for the day that morning, leaving her afternoon fairly empty. She had some of Bill’s proposals to look over. The pair of them had a steady pattern, a rhythm to their work on the lower vaults and they would often share their ideas with each other to sense check the rune work behind the spells they intended to use. Beyond this she could push anything else until tomorrow; she had more pressing matters to attend to.

She entered her office with resolve, making quick work of tidying her desk, sending books flying back to their allocated shelves and shrinking down work to take home with her. Or rather, take with her to Hermione’s.

Smiling at thoughts of the brunette who was never far from her mind, Fleur summoned her mother’s letters, looking at the dates to ascertain which one was designed to be read first. Her mother always dated her correspondence to Fleur, knowing that her daughter was often less than swift with her replies.

Fleur ran her finger under the Delacour wax seal on the envelope, the hard blue wax yielding with a crack under her finger. She pulled the multiple pieces of parchment from inside the envelope, scanning her mother’s elegant pen work.

She read the letter once, then began again, both surprised and a little disappointed at its lack of detail in regards to herself and Hermione. Fleur knew this was intentional on the part of her mother; the subject of her and Hermione’s relationship was historically one that put much emotional strain on them both. Fleur and Apolline regularly butted heads on the subject, her mother particularly vocal in her disapproval of Fleur’s slow and steady approach when it came to her mate. Therefore it wasn’t uncommon for Apolline to be cautious when speaking of the brunette or to simply avoid the subject unless Fleur brought it up.

The letter contained mostly news pertaining to her family. Gabrielle continued to be unruly, having been given what seemed to be a seventh “final warning” this year alone from Madame Maxine. Fleur couldn’t help but laugh as her mother detailed the latest altercation that her younger sister had been involved in, her thrall seeming to have caused some jealousy amongst the older girls. Naturally, Gabrielle deemed the best cause of action to be sneaking her aggressor some U-No-Poo capsules in her food, products that were a gift courtesy of Bill last Christmas. Apparently the poor witch was still yet to open her bowels.

Her mother detailed the goings on of the wider clan, informing Fleur of the upcoming nuptials of her cousin Lucille, to which she would be getting an invite to imminently apparently. Fleur had not seen Lucille for many years and if she had it her way, they wouldn’t see each other for many more. Their relationship had been one built largely on their competitive natures, the two of them always eager to best the other whenever the chance arose. The subject of Fleur and her…distance from her mate had always been one that was met with little understanding amongst the clan. Lucille enjoyed any opportunity to make it known to Fleur that she and her mate had been together since the moment she found out about him.

Whilst she did not look forward to seeing her cousin again, her mothers tone - even in writing - made it clear that her presence would be expected there regardless of their mutual disdain for one another.

Fleur’s father, Olivier, seemed to be well, his semi-retirement doing wonders for his melancholy. He had taken a step back from his duties as a lecturer on the subject of both Magical and Muggle healing techniques, refocusing on his research papers instead. He had always had a passion for academia, but as the years had meandered on, he craved his family, growing tired of the sporadic and often unpredictable nature of his schedule. Appoline informed Fleur that he had been writing his latest body of work on the healing plants of the Pyrenees, whilst overseeing the estate’s expanding crop of grapes for wine.

Folding the letter up and putting it back in the envelope, Fleur opened the second letter, the date signifying that her mother had written this one the day after their conversation in the fireplace, only a couple of days previously.

This letter was far shorter, taking up less than one side of parchment. The scrawl of her mother’s writing seemed more hurried on this letter, like she’d been writing in between performing other tasks. The contents were simple, a list of texts on Veela culture that Apolline was having sent to Fleur. Her tone was demanding, yet carefully so, like she was calculating how far to push her daughter.

Fleur scanned the names of the texts, all of which were in Veela and most of which she recognised from her grandmother’s personal library. Her knowledge of the language was vast despite the disinterest she had for her heritage growing up. Whilst her mother and grandmother had agreed to let Fleur miss much of her Veela education, the language was one area that there was always no compromising on.

At the bottom of the letter, her mother had requested that Fleur make herself free over the weekend for another talk. Whilst her mother didn’t explicitly say that the subject would be herself and Hermione, she didn’t have to. Fleur could sense from the clipped tone of the letter, the underlying assertiveness of it, that it was time. The long overdue talk regarding Veela’s mating habits was to transpire this weekend.

Fleur grimaced, trying to quell the rising defiance that she had always felt towards such matters growing up. It was like a reflex, to resist whenever the subject arose. But she could fight it no more, and couldn't go on ignoring her situation. Moreover she didn’t want to ignore it anymore. The way she felt for Hermione, the connection they had, she wanted to know what it truly meant, how it could be for them both were they to move forward together, for her own sake as well as Hermione’s. When she told Hermione, she wanted to be armed with knowledge, to be best prepared to answer her questions, to quell her fears and most importantly to explain it accurately.

She knew that a lot of her aversion to discuss anything to do with the concept of the Veela mate stemmed from her overwhelming fear of rejection and the seeming lack of autonomy that having a mate caused. There was something so terrifying to Fleur about being tethered to one person forever, regardless of that person being the right person, the perfect person for you. From the snippets that Fleur had gathered over the years, she was aware that she had no choice in the matter. That once the thrall had identified a Veela’s chosen, everyone else would pale in comparison, shrink under the gravity of your predestined mate. As a teenager, this had sounded like a death sentence, a removal of free will, which to a fiercely independent Fleur seemed unthinkable, barbaric, something that should be a cause for mourning, not celebration.

Over time, this was joined by a cold indifference, a detached ignorance. She was only a quarter Veela; the likelihood of it happening to her was so infinitesimal that she could mostly ignore the subject entirely. Which is exactly what she did.

However, that unbridled anger and bitterness, the rejection of her heritage that she’d battled with throughout her formative teenage years was hard to forget and even harder to unlearn. Even when it was first apparent that her thrall had identified Hermione as her mate, at her and Bill’s wedding, the first coherent feeling she’d had beyond the breathtaking, gut wrenching, pole shifting awe, was fear. Powerlessness. Anger. Her entire world had cracked open and for a woman who she barely knew, who now held the ability to utterly break her.

Yet behind this was an overwhelming feeling of peace, a stillness. In that first touch to Hermione’s hand she felt something awaken in her, something that had lay dormant until that very moment. It was as if she’d been living life through a veil, a film placed over her, muting her every experience. When Hermione touched her, she effectively wrenched it off, revealing to her colours she had never seen, leaving her raw. Exposed. Alive. Nothing had ever felt so beautiful and so utterly terrifying.

Left alone with her feelings, with Hermione disappearing with both Harry and Ron on their mission to defeat Voldemort, Fleur had been given time to wallow, to sit in her churned up emotions. She envisioned seeing Hermione again, endlessly going over what she would say and how she would say it. In some of these fantasies she screamed at the woman, allowing all of her pent up anger, confusion and fear to boil over. She resented Hermione for a while, her ability to choose, her seeming obliviousness to the fact that she had upended Fleur’s life. Whilst the blonde knew this wasn’t Hermione’s fault, that she never asked to be Fleur’s mate, this provided her little comfort. In other daydreams the pair would embrace, their souls calling to one another in recognition, all differences reconciled with a simple touch.

The harsh reality of their eventual reunion had been beyond what Fleur could have imagined even in her worst nightmares. When Hermione eventually did arrive, bloody, battered and broken, Fleur’s perspective began to shift. How could it not? When faced with the possibility of her mate dying, she almost died too. There were no words for her agony, her grief. She felt like their time together had been stolen, their future taken before it could even begin.

In that awful and desperate time, she saw Hermione’s strength, her resilience, her unfaltering bravery even in the face of pure evil. The need to protect Hermione, to shield her from anyone and everyone who wished to do her harm was all consuming. Fleur had wanted to murder Bellatrix, to tear her limb from limb for ever laying a hand on the brunette. Her rage was unfathomable, the murderous, bloodthirsty, seething anger of the Veela, ancient and gnarled. Instead of decapitating Bellatrix as she imagined on a daily basis, Fleur had focussed her energy on healing Hermione, in pouring her every ounce of attention into saving the woman who ignorantly carried Fleur’s own heart with her.

And then Hermione left. Fleur healed her and she left and then they fought a war and won. And where did that leave the two of them? When was the right time to tell someone who had been through hell and back, had spent the last 7 years of their life hurtling towards certain death, battling every dark force under the sun that once again, they were losing their right to choose.

Choice. When it came down to it, that was what Fleur feared the most. What if Hermione didn’t choose her? Fleur had no other option, could not be with another even if she wanted to. But Hermione could. Unknowingly, she held Fleur’s pulsating heart in her hands, had her soul locked in a vice and Fleur was powerless to her.

Fleur sighed loudly, her thoughts broken by the crackle of the fire, a particularly large log snapping under the heat of the flames, momentarily drawn out of her thoughts.

Still gazing at the fire, Fleur turned her train of thought to the more positive aspects of her heritage. All of her fears weren’t to say that she hadn’t since learnt to also see the benefits of having a mate, someone selected for you based on complete compatibility. Plus, she couldn’t help but be internally thrilled that Hermione was her chosen. The woman was powerful, brave beyond all comprehension, fiercely loyal, incredibly intelligent and of course, breathtakingly beautiful.

Fleur smiled to herself as she thought of the brunette, playing back lunchtime, focussing on the way Hermione grabbed her waist from behind, the way she had felt her body reacting keenly to the woman’s touch, every fibre of her being screaming at her for more, hungry for Hermione’s attention.

Whereas Fleur had been unsure as to whether Hermione was feeling her thrall a few days prior, the more time they spent together, she could sense the growing connection, and had learned to feel when Hermione was aware of its presence. For Fleur, she sensed the change as an increased magnetism, like the gravity surrounding Hermione was suddenly stronger to her, pulling her more insistently.

Fleur was trying not to let this unnerve her, but until she spoke to her mother she wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. Their relationship sometimes felt like a ticking time bomb, just waiting to explode and Fleur worried that the longer she was leaving it the more disastrous the explosion would be.

What Fleur did know was that she needed to know more so that she could be prepared, and that she needed to know sooner rather than later. She didn’t plan on any bombs going off on her watch, not if she could help it.

“I just need to unlock my apartment so I can actually speak to Maman.” Fleur muttered, scowling as she thought about her ex-husband and the chaos he had caused with his latest prank.

Fleur stood up and stretched languidly, rolling her neck from side to side as she walked around from behind her desk. She summounded some books to a small side table next to a large armchair by the fire; Gringotts was always draughty, no matter the season. The blonde planned to spend the rest of her day researching locking charms, hoping desperately that she might stumble across something more useful than simply ‘try not to want to get into your apartment’. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to spend time with Hermione; quite the opposite in fact. She was eager yet also terrified that spending more time with the brunette in a close proximity may cause her to lose control, to blurt out her secret before knowing the extent of its meaning herself.

That was without mentioning the burgeoning attraction she felt to Hermione. She’d always thought of the woman as beautiful, even before her thrall had made her aware of their connection. But now spending time with her was irresistibly tense, a constant battle raging within Fleur between maintaining control and throwing caution to the wind and letting her impulses run free, prioritising their pleasure. With every lingering touch, every graze of Hermione’s eyes she felt her desire increase and her control slip just a little bit more. Despite feeling disappointed that Hermione had not been in bed when she awoke that morning, she couldn’t help but think that this was for the best; waking up entwined with the brunette may have served to sever her control that was currently hanging by a thread over the abyss of the unknown.

Fleur growled in frustration, keeping her thoughts in check before they could slip into the realm of the inappropriate. Above all she respected Hermione and wanted their first earnest romantic interactions to be ones of complete honesty, with all the facts laid bare and both of them fully aware of what their bond would entail. If Hermione were to accept her. When she got around to telling her.

The blonde shook her head angrily, loosening her hair from its bun in a huff, opening the nearest text to her and flipping to the section on locking charms. She scanned the index idly, looking for anything she deemed useful before settling down, her long silvery tresses now free and cascading down her back.

After reading only a small section, Fleur closed the book roughly, putting it back on the pile and rubbing her forehead exasperatedly. It was no use, she couldn’t concentrate through the churning guilt she felt accompanied by the new sensation of the dull tug she felt in her chest towards - what she assumed was - Hermione.

Checking the clock, Fleur surmised that it was early evening in France. On Wednesdays, her mother tended to host her grandmother at their home, discussing clan issues and generally getting rip roaringly drunk. Since she couldn’t shift Hermione from her thoughts, the blonde decided to be more proactive and take the fight to her mother; perhaps having her grandmother there as a mediator would help the initial discussion to be more fruitful and less aggressive.

Fleur decidedly stood up from the chair, closing and locking her office door wordlessly, muttering a quick silencing charm as an added precaution and slotting a decorative cushion onto the floor. She grabbed some floo powder from the mantle above the fireplace and tossed it into the bright orange flames, watching them turn green as she spoke.

“Delacour Estate, Main Parlour.” She over enunciated, always slightly wary after she accidentally caught her parents in the throes of passion when saying the wrong fireplace as her destination, an accident she never wished to repeat.

Fleur knelt briskly on the cushion, adjusting herself before plunging her head into the fire, her eyes adjusting as the most used parlour of her family home swam into view.

She heard her mother’s voice echoing through the house, her rapid and expressive French ricocheting through the high ceilings and vast halls. Fleur noted the gentle slur to her mother’s voice, one that was barely detectable to the untrained ear but for Fleur was as clear as day. The blonde chuckled and rolled her eyes, sticking her head further into the fireplace in order to better hear.

“Maman! Grand-mère!” Fleur called, listening to the pause in her mother’s tirade and the steady slapping of feet on the wooden floors heading towards the parlour.

Her mother entered the room, glancing confusedly around before her eyes met her daughter’s in the fireplace.

“Fleur! Mon petit chou!” She cooed, rushing over and kissing both of her daughter’s cheeks.

“Maman, Fleur is here!” Apolline called behind her, continuing to talk to Fleur as they waited for Madeleine Delacour to enter. “We were just talking about you.”

Fleur groaned at her mother’s expression which was playful, her eyes slightly hazy from the copious amounts of wine she had no doubt consumed already. As Apolline opened her mouth, Fleur interrupted hastily.

“I don’t want to know. I will assume for the sake of our relationship that it was all good things and that it was totally appropriate and nothing to do with my sex life.” Fleur snapped, already regretting her decision to speak to her mother.

Apolline laughed good naturedly, settling down in front of the fireplace, her glass of wine clutched delicately in one hand, the rest of the bottle in the other. “Always so uptight! You know I only have good things to say about you ma cherie! Your choices however… well you know how I feel about some of those . Your grand-mère and I were simply revisiting an old… prediction shall we say.”

Fleur blanched and then scowled in earnest, her cheeks becoming visibly flushed even with the green hue of the flames doing their best to hide it.

“Maman if I find out that you and grand-mère have been making bets about me and Hermione again then I swear I-“

“You swear what ma petite-fille.” Madeleine spoke, drifting lazily into the room before setting herself down next to her daughter.

“Grand-mère.” Fleur spoke fondly, the anger leaving her body as her grandmother leaned towards the fireplace, kissing both of Fleur’s cheeks briskly. “It has been too long.”

Madeleine nodded as she drained the remainder of her wine, waving her hand to send the bottle over her glass to fill it up again. “And whose fault is that, hm? You distance yourself from your family, it is not good.”

“I blame Bill.” Apolline returned, her eyes twinkling mischievously, delighting in her daughter’s rising frustration which was evident on her face.

“As much fun as this reunion is, I’ve come to talk about more pressing matters. Namely ‘Ermione.” Fleur retorted stubbornly, enjoying the way that both her mother and grandmother couldn’t hide their surprise, both sets of steely blue eyes widening comically.

“And you’re willingly coming to talk about her? Mon dieu, and here I was thinking that saying her name in your presence was more risky than saying Voldemort!” Apolline recovered, far too quickly for Fleur’s liking.

Madeleine sent her daughter a sharp look, Apolline shivering slightly under the power of her mother’s gaze. A full Veela was not to be trifled with.

“Forgive your mother Fleur, I thought I raised her to have better manners.” Apolline frowned into her wine, ignoring her mother’s still stern look, before Madeleine turned towards Fleur, shooting her granddaughter a conspiratorial wink.

“I thought we had agreed to discuss this over the weekend, or have you still not read my letters?” Apolline said exasperatedly, her tone more cautious after her scolding.

“I did read them, just now actually. However my access to the Floo Network at home is… unavailable currently.” Fleur chose her words carefully, trying not to get too ahead of herself; she knew that her mother would be delighted to hear of her current living situation.

“Bill’s idea of a prank, I’m temporarily locked out.”

To Apolline’s credit she didn’t laugh, her face schooled into an expressionless facade, one that Fleur had learnt to mirror well when she needed to. That didn’t hide the tell tale glimmer in her mother’s eyes however, a sheen of humour evident.

“So I’m staying at Hermione’s. Just until I can get in, which will hopefully be tonight. No Floo Network for me until then.”

Both her grandmother and mother looked delighted at the news, which hardly surprised Fleur. She knew that if it was up to them they’d have insisted she moved in with Hermione the second she found out they were mates.

“Before you both go all… Veela on me, this is just temporary and in no way romantic. ‘Ermione is just helping me out as a friend.”

“Friend?” Apolline all but spat, horror evident on her face, her previous impassivity deserted. “Mon petit chou, this is not normal, this is not natural for you and your chosen. Do you not feel the pull? Is your thrall not working?”

Fleur watched her mother spiral into panic mode, her grandmother patting her arm reassuringly with one eyebrow raised at her daughter’s dramatics.

“If anything I’m feeling the pull a little too much. This is what I wanted to speak to you about. Our connection is getting stronger. The more time I spend with her the more I feel like… like I might lose control.” Fleur finished with a fearful whisper, her eyes trained on her grandmother, looking for any signs of concern on her face.

Madeleine merely nodded slightly, shifting her body closer to the flames as she did so. “The thrall is becoming impatient. Tell me everything. Does Hermione seem to be experiencing the same urgency?”

Fleur began regaling to her grandmother and mother the goings on of the past few days, describing in great detail the way in which her thrall seemed to be growing in intensity. She answered her grandmother’s extensive questioning, watching her intently for any signs that things were going awry, that she was unintentionally damaging or causing Hermione - or herself - harm by keeping her silence on the subject.

Madeleine listened to her granddaughter patiently, occasionally conferring with Apolline who had let her mother lead the discussion in an attempt to keep the conversation as calm as possible.

When it was clear that her grandmother had finished speaking, Fleur blurted out the real question that she had been waiting to ask. “So what happens now? What are the… stages. For… mates. What happens if I keep holding onto the truth?” Fleur finished, angry at herself for being so easily flustered whenever the subject of mating habits arose.

Apolline sat forward excitedly, unable to hide her glee, causing Fleur to groan and hold up a cautionary hand, warding her mother off.

“And spare me the gory details please Maman, I just need to know what is to happen after I tell Hermione. How do Veelas go about being… bonded, or whatever.” Fleur shot impatiently, wishing fervently for the conversation to be over.

“It is simple ma cherie. After you have told Hermione about your… connection, as you call it,” Apolline began, measuring her words, her voice purposefully soft so as to not overwhelm her daughter.

“If she is to accept the bond, then your thrall will begin to stabilise, to make itself less known. Its work will be done once Hermione has accepted, until then it will become… impatient, as you are noticing.”

“And when you say accepted, what do you mean? How will I know if she has accepted? Does she have to say it?” Fleur tried again, growing impatient at her mother and angry at herself for not paying any attention to such matters when she was younger. She didn’t like it when gaps in her knowledge were evident.

“Non, it is not verbal as such, it’s an emotional acceptance. Right now Hermione is unaware of her position as your mate, therefore she cannot accept. Even if she is attracted to you - which of course she is mon petit chou - she cannot accept something of which she is not aware. We do not strip others of their autonomy.” Apolline emphasised, twisting words that Fleur herself had once said in a particularly heated argument during her former years.

“And then?” Fleur continued, pointedly ignoring her mother’s attempts at picking at the scabs of healed wounds between them.

“If she accepts then you will have completed the first stage of your bonding. The next, last and most important is sex, of course.” Apolline shrugged, ignoring Fleur’s flushed face and scowl.

“And what if she does not accept? Or what if we don’t complete the second stage? Will I become sick? I have heard stories in the clan.” Fleur recalled her older cousins telling tales of people they knew who knew someone who knew someone else in a Veela clan who died because their mate didn’t accept their bond. Whilst she would normally pass this off as a stupid attempt at humour on her older cousins part, with her ignorance on such matters she wanted to cover all bases.

Her mother laughed heartily, muffling the sound around her glass of wine lest she wake up Fleur’s anger.

Madeleine diplomatically answered her granddaughter, drawing Fleur’s attention towards her by clearing her throat.

“This is only the case for full Veela, in your case it will not be as severe. It is rare for someone with such diluted Veela blood to even find a mate, but the blood has always run strong within you.” Madeleine proffered proudly, smiling at her granddaughter despite the frown she wore.

“You will most likely feel the loss, an ache that will never truly leave you. You may find other partners unfulfilling and I won’t lie ma cherie, you will struggle to feel truly happy with another. But it isn’t a death sentence.”

“A life without happiness is not a death sentence? Maman do not even speak of such things, Hermione will accept once Fleur has confessed and she has had time to…simmer.” Apolline shot, muttering under her breath of her desire for Fleur to spring to action sooner rather than later.

“And Hermione? How will she feel if she does not accept me?” Fleur all but whispered. She dreaded to hear of Hermione’s unaffected life, didn’t want to conceive of a future in which the woman was with someone who wasn’t her.

“It will be much the same. She will not feel the effects as keenly as yourself, but she will never know the true, spiritual love that can only be given by her mate. Now, as for children, you can only bear them by your mate. This is true even for those with a diluted heritage. Once your mate has been identified there is nothing that can change that.”

“But we are both female?” Fleur said plainly, looking at her grandmother with a deadpan expression.

“Ma cherie, you are talking to me from a fireplace in England whilst I am in France. Magic, ma fille.” Apolline cut in, waving her hands as if to accentuate her point.

“I think Muggles can do that too, you know. Not the fireplace part, but the different countries. I think our way is cheaper though.” Madeline countered, indulging her daughter with a warm chuckle.

“So me and Hermione could…” Fleur gestured into the open air, hating every second of the conversation.

“Yes, you can conceive. In fact I must teach you the contraceptive spell, we are highly fertile beings and whilst I would love to hear the pitter patter of my grandchildren's feet, I believe you and Hermione have much to talk through before we think of such things.” Apolline added, reeling off the simple incantation and ignoring Fleur’s extremely flushed face and protests for her to stop, but not before pointing out that there were also potions that could be used to the same effect.

“Is there anything else you would like to ask us, or would you rather run home to your beloved?” Apolline finished, draining the last of her wine, frowning at the empty bottle next to her.

Fleur rolled her eyes, quickly scanning her thoughts to see if she had any burning questions before she could escape.

“What do I do in the meantime? How can I stop my thrall from being so… impatient.” Fleur sighed, thinking of the several close calls she’d had over the past few days. Her attraction to Hermione was becoming almost unbearable, but she needed to tell Hermione about their situation before things potentially escalated.

“The closer you become, the less it will infringe. Have you noticed that it is less apparent when you are touching, when you are close?” Apolline questioned, stretching out her crossed legs, leaning back on one elbow.

“Sometimes. But then also, when I am…when…”

“Oh mon dieu! When you are aroused , it is not a swear word ma fille.” Apolline blustered, rolling her eyes at her daughter’s prudishness.

“Maman arête! Do you understand what a mortifying conversation this is?” Fleur returned, trying to cover her intense embarrassment with anger.

“To be aroused, to be excited by your chosen is nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s the most natural thing in the world!” Apolline shot, looking to her mother for agreement, which she received.

“Let’s keep on topic. When I am… that …my thrall is hard to control. The urge to… progress things with her becomes almost overwhelming, I cannot think rationally.” Fleur finished frostily, hating how powerless she felt to her own heritage.

“Well of course it’s hard to control, you have been fighting with it for the past three years! You are simply out of practice. It will stabilise once more, just like it did when you were a teenager. You just need to learn how to be at one with your inner Veela.” Apolline spoke, pointing her finger sharply into her chest, gesturing to her heart.

“Remember that you are in control. Let the thrall flow through you; do not wrestle with it, let it carry you. Shoving it in a box and ignoring it does not count as letting it flow through you, by the way.” Fleur grimaced at her mother, rolling her eyes at her childish goading.

“I need time to…think everything over. I want to tell her soon. I just need to sort my own… issues out.” Fleur finished lamely, overwhelmed by her new knowledge. “I will owl you if my apartment is still unusable by the weekend.”

“Please do! And keep a note of any changes to your thrall, or Hermione’s reactions to you for that matter. And please, ma cherie, please tell her soon?” Apolline pleaded, her lower lip turning downwards, hands clasped in front of her.

“Oui maman, I will try.” Fleur said softly, her stomach churning at the mere thought of telling Hermione the secret which she had kept for so long now.

Fleur said her goodbyes, accepting kisses from both her mother and grandmother before retreating from the fireplace, the strange sucking sensation pulling at her as she found herself back in her office, the fire returning to its normal orange colour.

With a sigh, she clambered up from the floor, rubbing her sore knees. Glancing at the clock, she realised more time had passed than she initially assumed; she was finished for the day.

Scrambling for her books she began shrinking them and sliding them into her bag, summoning some more from her shelves just in case. She hoped that Hermione’s fondness for reading extended to extremely lengthy and brain numbingly boring texts on the magic behind locking spells.

Thinking of the brunette only spurred Fleur on as she quickly straightened her office, papers reordering themself, books marching back to their shelves and the fire immediately extinguishing itself. She planned to make a quick stop at Bill’s office before she left, praying that she hadn’t missed him already.

The corridor was empty as she exited and eerily quiet, everyone having already departed from the more clerical section of Gringotts. Fleur strolled up to the closed door of Bill’s office, tapping her knuckles against it fervently.

“I swear to God Bill if you are in there and ignoring me I will tell your mother that it was you who Epoximised Percy and Ron together and not the twins.” Fleur hissed, her head pressed against the door, listening for movement. After a pause, she swung it open hesitantly, opening it wider when she saw that it was empty. Noticing a scrap of parchment on the back of the door, she tore it off hastily, frowning as she read Bill’s nearly illegible handwriting.

 

Don’t hate me! You know it’s a little funny :)

P.s. Is Hermione big or little spoon?

 

Fleur swore in French, muttering a string of profanities, scrunching the parchment up and turning it to ash in her hand, the paper engulfed in flames. She scattered the remnants on the floor, smushing them into the carpet for good measure before storming out of the office, the door slamming behind her.

She rushed out through the marble entryway of Gringotts, ignoring the grumbling Goblins as they shook their heads at the sound of her heels clacking on the floor, the sound reverberating up to the domed ceiling.

Once outside, Fleur apparated without breaking her stride, appearing in the vacant alleyway a short walk from her apartment building.

She grimaced at the uncomfortable tightening of her chest, the sensation of a rope growing taught, threatening to wrench her body forwards towards the woman at the other end of the thread.

“Patient there,” Fleur murmured to her thrall, feeling it hum underneath her skin, the smooth expanse of her arms almost glowing as the magic coursed through her.

It was strange to feel her thrall awaken again. It felt both familiar and terrifyingly unknown all at once; she could feel the echoes and chaotic ripples of her past, the fury with which her thrall could strike when threatened, but now it had a purpose, intent. Whereas it had thrashed wildly in her teenage years, as soon as it had identified Hermione it had become… tender. Quiet. Still. The only time she felt it stirring in the past few years was when Hermione happened to be near, feeling the magic of her thrall, her Veela blood thrilling whenever she spotted the brunette at Gringotts or caught a glimpse of her walking through Westminster.

She felt it now as a mixture of the two. It was impatient, that was for sure and angry at her for attempting to keep it in check. Her mother’s words rang in her ears as she tried to slow her pace, focussing on the sensation of her thrall coursing through her, emanating outwards.

Fleur closed her eyes and breathed steadily, letting her thrall expand outwards, seeking Hermione eagerly. She found that the more freedom she lent the thrall, the looser the vice in her chest became, the sensation dulling as she felt her thrall willingly withdraw back into her, satisfied by whatever it had found.

“Can you sense her?” Fleur spoke again, feeling rather foolish for attempting to speak to a part of herself, but simultaneously soothed by the ritual of it. It felt like trying to converse with someone you once knew, a childhood friend that she hadn’t seen for years and was suddenly reunited with, trying to find common ground.

She felt her thrall pulse excitedly, sending a shiver down her spine and into the depths of her stomach. She let herself be pulled forward, almost giddy with the sensation, chuckling to herself as she approached the apartment building.

“Don’t worry, we will see her soon.” Fleur gasped as her stomach lurched with excitement, her thrall almost vibrating as she took the stairs two at a time.

She felt Hermione before she saw her, sensing that the woman was not at her own apartment, rather that she was outside Fleur’s own door instead. Opening the door in the stairwell, she emerged to see Hermione sat cross legged in front of her door, books spread out around her as the brunette frowned and muttered to herself.

Fleur smiled at the sight, watching Hermione idly leaf through the book in her lap, scanning the text with her finger, her lips moving almost imperceptibly. She had her shirt sleeves rolled up to her elbows, the puckered scar on her arm visible even from a distance. Her hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail, some stray hairs escaping and falling on her face.

Hermione’s head snapped up suddenly, catching Fleur’s gaze, her expression turning from one of surprise to tenderness, her lips turning up into a warm smile, her honey brown eyes soft.

“You started without me.” Fleur said, making her way over to the brunette, letting her hand come to rest on Hermione’s shoulder, trying to hide her surprise as Hermione’s own hand reached up to cover hers giving it a light squeeze.

“Sorry, I promise I’ve been trying my best to not want to get in.” Hermione returned, her smile growing as Fleur felt a laugh bubble free from her mouth.

“And is it working?” Fleur returned, begrudgingly removing her hand from Hermione’s shoulder so she could sit beside the woman, joining her in peering at the door.

“Yes! I’m inside right now!” Hermione quipped, earning an eye roll and a playful nudge from the blonde. “My place is open if you want to get anything or change into something, I still haven’t bought any food, I’ve been…” she trailed off, her arm flapping in the direction of the locked door.

“I was thinking of ordering something?” Hermione spoke, her attention wavering between the woman beside her and the stubbornly locked door.

“Sounds good, I’m starving. Perhaps Ron was right to get a burger made from an entire cow this afternoon.” Fleur boldly pressed a kiss to the side of Hermione’s head before standing up again, retrieving her stash of books from the depths of her bag and adding them to Hermione’s scattered collection.

Fleur noted the slight flush that her kiss had elicited, her heart skipping a beat at Hermione’s almost dazed look, a dopey smile on the woman’s face. With a parting stroke of the brunette’s head, she began walking the short journey to Hermione’s apartment.

“Be careful of Crookshanks when you go in. If he tells you he needs food then he’s a liar!” Hermione half yelled, Fleur turning her head and nodding, noticing the brunette’s face flush further as her eyes flitted up quickly to the blonde’s face. It seems her gaze was somewhere more south, Fleur thought, smirking under the woman’s appreciative look.

“I will be out soon.” Fleur called back, entering Hermione’s apartment, greeted immediately by a very vocal Crookshanks.

“Bonjour monsieur.” Fleur cooed, leaning down to stroke the cat’s head, listening to him purr loudly under her ministrations. “Your maman says I am not to feed you, but I think you can have some more food, oui?” Fleur continued, dodging Crookshanks' weaving body as she made her way to the kitchen, rifling through Hermione’s mostly empty cupboards until she found some cat treats.

She poured some treats into her hand, letting Crookshanks nibble her fingers as his sharp teeth clumsily crunched around the biscuits. “Shh, don’t tell ‘Ermione.” She whispered, chuckling when Crookshanks meowed his agreement loudly between bites.

Putting the treats back, Fleur briskly washed her hands before walking to Hermione’s bedroom, all but launching herself onto the inviting bed. It smelt deliciously of Hermione, with a faint undertone of her own perfume mingled there too. She delighted at the scent, breathing deeply as she retrieved the Alanis Morisette t-shirt from where she had stashed it under her pillow after she had stolen it from Hermione the night before.

Fleur unbuttoned her shirt quickly, carefully drawing Hermione’s t-shirt over her head, relishing the way that the brunette’s scent clung to it. She shimmied out of her borrowed trousers, hanging them up with the jacket and shirt before casting a quick cleaning spell on them and putting them back in Hermione’s wardrobe.

She grabbed a pair of denim dungarees she found hiding at the back of Hermione’s wardrobe, ones that looked beautifully lived in, dappled with flakes of dried paint and thinning in the knees. Crookshanks rounded the corner as she changed, jumping onto the foot of the bed and curling up to sleep some more, one eye lazily watching her go about her business.

Fleur made a quick stop in the bathroom, examining herself in the mirror before splashing cold water on her face. She contemplated rinsing herself in the shower, but the incessant tug in her chest urged her to have one later.

Satisfied with her attire and buoyant at the Hermione filled evening that lay ahead of her, Fleur made her way through the brunette’s apartment - stopping to give Crookshanks some more attention - before venturing back out into the hallway.

She approached Hermione who was still busy muttering to herself, her hands making intricate movements in front of the door handle, her wand extended leisurely.

The brunette turned as she approached, her breath audibly hitching in her throat as honey eyes scanned her outfit.

“Is this okay?” Fleur asked, suddenly self-conscious under the weight of Hermione’s gaze.

Finally meeting her eyes, Fleur’s fears were dispelled and replaced with yearning, seeing something close to blatant attraction flare in honey brown eyes, before Hermione looked away again so Fleur couldn’t confirm what she had seen.

Hermione cleared her throat before saying “Yes. Yes it’s fine. You look… well. The same as always; stunning.” The brunette spoke earnestly, Fleur feeling her thrall swell outwards at the words, fluttering towards the brunette eagerly. Hermione’s pupils dilated, still fixed on Fleur, her eyes flickering with an array of emotions, each one chasing after the other as Fleur fought to keep up, trying to discern the effect of her thrall on the brunette.

She looked away again, Fleur watching as the brunette composed her face, slowly blinking before turning back to face her with steely resolve in her eyes.

“Right. Let the break in begin.”

Chapter Text

“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.”

Chapter Text

After a beat, Ginny spoke, the screen appearing to shake as the redhead leant her phone against a stack of books as she sat at her dresser.

“And I’m ginger and think that the Holyhead Harpies are going to absolutely destroy Puddlemere United at the weekend.”

Ginny flicked her eyes to the screen briefly, observing Hermione’s look of confusion before continuing. “Oh I’m sorry, I thought we were sharing things that are really obvious?” Ginny snarked, laughing at Hermione’s eye roll, the brunette groaning in frustration, waving her hand to cast a silencing charm on her apartment.

“I’m serious Ginny, this is bad . It’s… it’s Fleur for Merlin’s sake! I’m just like every member of the male population, it’s humiliating. ” Hermione got up from the sofa and began walking to her kitchen, feeding Crookshanks swiftly before heading to her bedroom. She propped her phone up on her bedside table, beginning to undress just out of range of the camera lens.

Ginny was brushing her hair, murmuring spells to untangle some particularly stubborn knots, occasionally glancing at her phone. She spoke as Hermione returned into shot, now dressed in her pyjamas. “Not to mention she’s my brother’s ex-wife. I should probably feel more weird about this…” Ginny paused, looking upwards as if to assess her feelings, before shrugging, continuing to work her hands through her hair.

“Yes but that’s not- nevermind.” Hermione quickly tried to cover up her mistake. Whilst she didn’t feel entirely comfortable not being truthful with Ginny, she’d meant what she said to Fleur. She wouldn’t tell anyone of the true nature of their marriage or their divorce.

“That’s not what? Oh my god did she tell you what happened with her and Bill?” Ginny paused her motions, her phone juddering as she moved, jostling the dresser in her hurry to look at Hermione.

“That’s- that’s… besides the point.” Hermione finished feebly, a weak frown on her face.

Sensing Hermione’s unease around the subject, Ginny narrowed her eyes, but after a pause uncharacteristically held her hands up in surrender. “Look, their divorce is none of my business. Bill has always said that it was mutual and that there were no hard feelings. Plus I’m pretty sure he asked Ron for help setting up a Tinder profile, so I think he’s over it and ready to help Ron sully the good Weasley name.”

Hermione laughed despite herself at the thought, picturing Ron and Bill trying to come up with a witty bio for their dating profiles.

“I don’t understand why this isn’t more shocking to you. I think I like someone Ginny - which all things considered is nothing short of miraculous - and that someone is Fleur!

Ginny snorted, rifling through one of her dresser drawers and pulling out various creams, selecting one carefully and gently squeezing some onto her fingertips before massaging it into her face.

“You can say that again, I considered looking up nunneries in North London when you didn’t answer my calls earlier, asking if they had taken in a new Sister.” Ginny immediately shot an apologetic look at the camera around her stifled laughter, Hermione looking vaguely annoyed, trying not to laugh right along with the redhead.

“You know how much I just hate being right and saying I told you so,” Ginny began, her voice dripping with sarcasm, “but seriously I knew something was up the minute you first spoke to me about her. My suspicions were confirmed when Ron and Harry told me about your lunch with Fleur today; he said you both looked very friendly.” Ginny said suggestively, emphasising her point by thrusting her index and middle fingers together on each hand, making an exaggerated scissoring motion and moaning crudely.

“Yes because that’s exactly how it went down, Harry and Ron ate whilst-“

“Whilst you and Fleur ate each other!” Ginny cut in, snickering loudly, laughing harder as Hermione blushed furiously before burying her face in the pillow in embarrassment.

“God I don’t even know why I bother talking to you, you’re no help at all!” Hermione’s muffled voice carried from the pillow. She paused to inhale deeply, realising that she was in fact lying on the pillow that had been Fleur’s last night; she could still smell honeysuckle and something indescribably Fleur. She felt a sudden pang shoot through her as she realised that she was already missing the blonde’s company.

“Ginny I’m honestly so fucked. What do I do with them?” Hermione mumbled, rolling over onto her side, repositioning her phone, balancing it against the bedside lamp.

“Do with what? Are you asking me about the birds and the bees, Hermione?” Ginny raised her eyebrows suggestively, selecting another bottle from the array in front of her and rubbing some onto what looked like a rather nasty graze on her arm.

“With all these… feelings ! I feel sick, I can’t sleep properly, I can barely concentrate both when she’s around and when she’s not, it’s just horrendous! Christ I haven’t spoken to her in years and now I’m fawning over her like a big, lesbian mess.”

Ginny winced as the potion hit the tender flesh of her arm, Hermione’s expression turning to one of concern.

“Are you alright?”

The redhead waved away Hermione’s question, the skin already looking much improved from the potion. “Ah it’s fine, just a scrape from training today. Coach had us doing drills for fucking hours, hence why I’m at mine tonight and not Grimmauld.”

Ginny gestured around her, as if to demonstrate that she was indeed at her shared flat and not Grimmauld Place. Despite spending ninety percent of her time with Harry at Grimmauld Place, Ginny was still cautious about taking the leap and officially moving in, the presence of her brother as a permanent fixture of the house also a sticking point. She also enjoyed having the luxury of her own space, her absentee housemate - a woman she had met at a Quidditch training camp one year - was currently playing for a team in Germany, meaning Ginny for all intents and purposes, had free reign of the generously sized flat.

“Anyway back to your woeful love life. There’s a reason you didn’t speak to her for years; she may have been married but we all knew you had a weird soft spot for her. Well, everyone except Ron I think. You always disliked her too much, a suspicious amount.”

“What do you mean? You disliked her too!” Hermione retorted, wincing as she thought back on the lengthy discussions that they’d have about Fleur, giggling at their own cruelty. Knowing now how isolated, how lonely Fleur had felt at this time, Hermione was equal parts ashamed and guilty of her actions.

“Yeah but my dislike didn’t come from a place of lesbian pining and confusion around my sexuality.” Ginny smirked playfully, earning an eye roll from the brunette. “Even when we were shit talking her you’d somehow find a way to end up complimenting her. How her hair was too perfect, her skin too glowy and her eyes just too blue.”

Hermione scowled but didn’t dispute Ginny’s words; Fleur’s physical attributes were flawless and she’d never suggested otherwise. “Well yes that’s because I have eyes, Ginny. You can’t say that Fleur isn’t unfairly attractive?”

Ginny feigned vomiting at Hermione’s words, quickly stopping when she sensed Hermione’s patience wearing thin. “There’s a difference between appreciating that someone is good looking on an aesthetic level and wanting to jump their bones; you fall into the latter section, you always have when it comes to Fleur. Your interest in the Beauxbatons uniform was also a big giveaway.”

“Hey, I always looked… respectfully.” Hermione blushed furiously, trying to bat away images of a Fleur roaming the halls of Hogwarts in her blue silk uniform, the hem dancing up in the Scottish breeze. “Thanks for telling me this! I could’ve really appreciated some clarity, I don’t know, five or so years ago?” Hermione bristled with frustration, throwing her hands in the air before sitting up.

“I just don’t understand how this has happened. I feel like I’ve known her for five minutes and yet she just makes me feel… comfortable. Understood. Safe. How could I have not realised all of this before? Am I really that dense?”

Ginny chuckled softly, pausing her actions to look fully at Hermione on her screen. “No offence darling, but you’ve not exactly ever been… attuned to your own feelings, shall we say? It’s not a bad thing! You had other things on your mind, like saving the world from an evil dark wizard.”

Hermione stayed quiet, sensing that Ginny was about to share more. 

“And this isn’t a problem exclusive to you and Fleur. It took you seven years and a literal kiss for you to realise that Ron was attracted to you. Even then I’m pretty sure you probably thought it was a mistake or that he’d got the wrong girl. It seems that unless someone bonks you on the head and wears a huge ‘I fancy Hermione’ sign you’d never notice.” Ginny joked, inspecting her handiwork on her wound, running a hand across it to clear up the residual bruises.

“I never said she liked me back. I’m not delusional, I don’t expect my feelings to be reciprocated.”

Ginny returned her gaze to the screen, grabbing her phone and bringing it closer to her face. “Hermione Granger don’t you dare suggest that you aren’t good enough for Fleur. Has she said this to you? Has she made you feel like that?”

Hermione was taken aback by the rising fury in Ginny’s eyes, her notoriously short temper flaring with ease.

“You’re literally one of the smartest, most intelligent, caring, funny people on the planet? Plus you’ve got that whole ‘she’s really hot but doesn’t know she’s hot’ thing going on which is fucking sexy.” Ginny shot, laughing at Hermione’s blushing face again, the redhead kissing her camera playfully.

“And if Fleur doesn’t see that then she’s not worth it. I’ll hex her into next year if she’s ever said anything to make you feel like you’re anything less than wonderful, Hermione.”

Hermione shook her head vehemently, slightly gobsmacked at Ginny’s kind words; their usual form of conversation revolved around Ginny relentlessly teasing her about something or other, with Hermione scolding her in turn to the point that she sometimes forgot that the real reason that her and Ginny were so close was the fact that they both actually liked each other a lot.

“It’s just hard not to feel… inadequate compared to her. Not just because she’s a walking goddess, but because of her freedom. She’s so brazen. Carefree. She has this confidence and self assuredness that’s magnetic. Like if I spend enough time with her then maybe I can be like that too.” Hermione spoke quietly, but clearly, watching Ginny wave the various bottles away into their draw before grabbing her phone and moving onto the bed.

“Plus she’s funny too, kind of silly and goofy? And just… complete. A whole person with her shit together. Whereas I’m… I’m still broken Ginny. Messy.”

Ginny frowned, jumping in immediately after Hermione had finished speaking. “You’re not broken Hermione, you’ve been through something unfathomable to pretty much anyone. Yes, the war happened to all of us, but I think it’s fair to say that it happened to some people more than others. No one came out of it unscathed, some people are just better at hiding what has been taken, what was lost.”

Her words brought back images of the multitude of funerals, the endless parade of corpses immediately after the war, including Fred.

The redhead lay down on her bed, holding her phone in front of her as she rested on her back, her expression sombre. “I’m sure Fleur has her share of demons and baggage too, it’s just hiding beneath that French, Veela, snooty veneer she has going on.”

Ginny attempted a French accent, the result sounding offensive even to Hermione’s ears. “You’re worthy of love, just as you are Hermione. Don’t ever forget that.” The redhead added sincerely, her eyes boring into Hermione’s through the screen.

“Else I’ll beat you the fuck up. At this rate both you and Fleur can catch these fists.” Ginny exclaimed, making Hermione giggle as Ginny pretended to beat up the brunette through the phone, head butting the screen.

“Thanks Gin. I’m working on it. You know I’m not particularly good at… well the whole talking about my feelings thing. Or feeling my feelings.” Hermione rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly, averting her eyes from the screen.

“I know, and this is a huge step! I’m proud of you, even if I am a little dubious as to the object of your affection.” Ginny shot, watching Hermione frown. “But hey, I’m sure I just need to get to know her.”

Hermione nodded, trying not to show her unease at the prospect of Fleur and Ginny being in the same room for an extended period of time.

“So what’s the issue? If you like her then what’s stopping you from telling her or doing anything about it? Besides the ex-husband, her sexuality and your general lack of coherence around pretty women? Although judging by the way we’re talking and if Ron and Harry’s retelling of lunch are anything to go by, the sexuality part isn’t an issue.” Ginny raised her eyebrows, diplomatically trying to school her features back into neutrality when she saw Hermione’s worrisome expression.

“The issue, Ginny, is that I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. I don’t know how to be with someone, I don’t know how to like someone. I can barely take care of myself most days, how on Earth am I supposed to make room for someone else? To let them in?” Hermione looked at Ginny helplessly, the redhead sifting through the multiple playful, knee jerk retorts that immediately sprung into her head, trying to find something more serious in their place.

“Help me Ginny, what do I do.” Hermione moaned, flopping onto her back, her phone clutched above her head.

“Well Hermione, when a person likes another person, they normally start by telling the other person. The rest can be figured out from there. All of this worrying is irrelevant if she doesn’t like you back.” Ginny shrugged as if her suggestion had wrapped the conversation up, rolling over onto her side and inspecting a series of what looked like old wounds across her collarbone.

“Oh so just like how you and Harry immediately told each other about your respective feelings for each other? Hypocrite much?” Hermione returned teasingly, enjoying Ginny’s scowl as her blazing brown eyes returned to the screen, her fingers still tentatively inspecting old scar tissue.

“Well hey, that was a completely different scenario. He’s best friends with my brother for one thing.”

“Yes and Fleur was with your brother. The difference is staggering, this will be much easier for me.” Hermione shot drily, watching Ginny try to stifle her laughter, covering it with a coughing fit.

“Joking aside - which I know is nearly impossible with you - I don’t think… I don’t think I’m ready to have feelings for someone. I don’t have the capacity to fully let someone in. Plus I get the feeling that she’s holding back too, like she’s hiding something from me, which hardly encourages me to rush to share with her.”

Ginny frowned, her eyes flitting to Hermione on her screen, her coughing subsiding. “You mean the whole mysterious Veela magic aspect? Has there been more since the weird, lesbian healing fiasco?”

“Not that I can say for sure but it doesn’t seem to be going away. The strange sort of haze I told you about when I was healing her? Well it kind of keeps appearing, like a bluey purple fog. And I don’t know I feel a sort of pull towards her sometimes, like I can’t help but want to be near her.” Hermione knitted her eyebrows together, trying to piece her new information about Veela courtesy of Fleur into her working theories, already looking forward to brainstorming with Sophia.

“Well that sounds, like, super gay. And also super like the thrall? Maybe ask Ron about it, considering he spent like an entire year entranced by it, you’d think he’d be an expert.” Ginny cackled, drawing a chuckle out of Hermione despite herself.

“I don’t know though, Ron didn’t seem to be affected at all at lunch; nothing compared to fourth year. And she mentioned that a Veela’s thrall becomes more stable as they get older, so why would it be that?” Hermione frowned, her mind churning over her conversation with Fleur, trying to fit her explanation of the thrall with her own experiences around the blonde.

With an agitated huff, Hermione continued. “I just know Fleur feels whatever it is too, I know that she knows something about what’s happening but she just won’t tell me what it is. Distracting me with all her… her. ” Hermione finished lamely, exhaling loudly in frustration again.

Ginny made a gagging sound again, quieted by Hermione’s raised eyebrow. “If I had to be around you and Harry playing tonsil tennis for a whole year then the least you could do to repay me is to not gag any time I refer to categorically the most beautiful woman on the planet, as beautiful. ” Hermione drawled, watching the readhead roll her eyes before nodding reluctantly in acceptance.

“Fine! I’ll try to keep my… less than warm feelings towards Phle-Fleur to myself.” Ginny corrected herself with an innocent smile, fluttering her eyelashes at Hermione with a laugh.

“Talk to Ron and Harry about the thrall, get Sophia to do some more digging and I dunno, maybe ask the person with the actual answers? I know it’s scary mate, but what’s the worst that can happen?”

Hermione looked at Ginny incredulously, throwing one arm up in the air. “Oh I don’t know Ginny, I could face a mortifying rejection? Could ruin a perfectly good friendship over some…some schoolgirl crush ? She lives two doors away Ginny, I’d have to see her every day.”

Ginny laughed at the thought, acquiescing that maybe it would be fairly awkward if Hermione’s feelings weren’t reciprocated.

The brunette exhaled sharply, running a hand through her hair and bunching it there in frustration. “God Ginny I almost kissed her tonight, what am I doing?”

Ginny shot up, almost shrieking at the screen, Hermione covering her ears and momentarily losing her grip on the phone, the device slipping through her hands and bouncing on the bed. The brunette fumbled for it, grateful that the bedsheets had temporarily muffled Ginny’s continued yells.

Her face came back into view as the brunette cleaned off her screen with her sleeve. “Oh my god Hermione! Lead with that ! You nearly kissed Fleur Delacour? Why didn’t you? Did she look into it? Tell. Me. Everything!”

Hermione blushed as she covered her face with a hand, a sly smile creeping onto her face despite herself. “Well her door opened before I could do anything! And I mean thank god it did. I just can’t believe I was so… reckless. I’m in a much better place than I was two years ago but I’m still trying to focus on myself and I can’t believe I nearly ruined it all by being-“

“Led by your vagina,” Ginny nodded sagely, her face laughably serious. “It’s about time that you did Hermione, dust off the cobwebs and I’m sure she’ll still run good as new.”

Hermione scowled as Ginny cackled to herself, the redhead rolling onto her side, resting on an elbow.

“In answer to your questions” Hermione continued, ignoring Ginny’s continued giggles, “She didn’t pull away or anything but again, she’s just so hard to read sometimes. She does this hot and cold thing that I don’t understand; one minute I think she’s flirting with me and then she’s all standoffish and reserved. Like she’s on the edge of telling me something but backing out at the last minute, suddenly keeping me at arms length.”

“So you’re being edged by Fleur? Wow there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.” Ginny’s eyes sparkled devilishly, the ghost of her laugh still across her face.

After a pause, Hermione spoke again, softly. “I really really wanted to kiss her, Ginny. It was overwhelming. It was all I could think about, all I could see or sense was her. And I didn’t care about any of the reasons as to why I shouldn’t be doing it, I just… sort of went blank.”

A slight frown crossed Ginny’s face. “In a good ‘my brain has stopped working because I’m so horny right now’ kind of way or a ‘I’m being hypnotised by an evil succubus Veela’ kind of way?”

Hermione shook her head vehemently, trying to better articulate the feeling. “It wasn’t unpleasant or like I wasn’t in control of myself, it was just that my rationality fled, like all I could feel was pure…” the brunette cast her hand around, like she was trying to grasp the right word. Ginny raised one eyebrow, arching it wryly.

“Okay so the horny one then, got it. Don’t need to strike Fleur down for hypnotising you. God you need to get laid Hermione, all this lesbian longing is boring me already.” The redhead smiled, letting Hermione know that she was joking, stifling a yawn with the back of her hand.

“Maybe you should talk to Nicole about this tomorrow? I’m sure she’d be far more insightful than me. Not in terms of the Veela stuff, but perhaps she can provide more actual advice as opposed to my comedic genius.” Ginny shot lazily, snaking her arm under her pillow and half closing her eyes.

Hermione hummed non committedly. She hadn’t yet decided whether to speak to her therapist about her thoroughly scrambled feelings towards Fleur. Whilst she didn’t make a habit of keeping facets of her life hidden from Nicole, she couldn’t help feeling almost fearful about vocalising her budding… whatever with Fleur. Afraid both of what Nicole might say and also what she herself might come to realise in the session. The more people she told, the more real and daunting the prospect of telling Fleur of her feelings became.

The brunette’s thoughts were interrupted by an impatient Ginny. However the redhead’s face softened when she saw the nervous glimmer in Hermione’s eyes, the discomfort she was trying to conceal.

“You’ll be fine Hermione. And if you’re not and she breaks your heart then I finally get to have a scrap with Fleur Delacour; it’s a win win situation in my book!” Ginny retorted, her face sincere despite the brevity in her voice. “Talk to Nicole, talk to Ron, talk to Harry. We defeated Voldemort together, we can get you through your first proper crush together too.”

Hermione laughed softly, her angry glare only half hearted. “Thanks Ginny. Rest up, I’ll see you at the weekend? After your game on Saturday?”

Ginny nodded sleepily, yawning loudly again. “Yeah, whether we win or lose, there’ll be drinking at Grimmauld. Invite Fleur if you like, let’s see if this succubus is all she’s cracked up to be.” The redhead opened one eye, a smirk rising to her face as she registered Hermione’s scowl.

“Sleep well darling, message me if you need anything and if you feel up to it then let me know how your session is tomorrow. Love you.” Ginny brought the phone to her face, kissing the screen repeatedly, Hermione saying “love you” back and raising a hand to wave goodbye as the screen turned blank.

With the redhead gone, Hermione exhaled loudly, rolling onto her front and groaning in frustration. The smell of honeysuckle taunted her, her sheets permeated with Fleur’s delectable scent, the cold pillow where the blonde had slept making Hermione ache deep in her chest.

She flipped over again, pushing herself off the bed and striding angrily to the bathroom, wrenching the taps of the bathtub on. Perhaps a bath would help her to settle, she reasoned. At least the motion of drawing water into the tub provided a temporary distraction from her thoughts. She allowed her mind to go blank as she watched the water begin to swirl with a tinge of green and blue hues as the bubble bath that she poured into the tub began to coalesce in the water.

When the tub was around half full, she undressed quickly with her back to the mirror, avoiding having to look directly at the trail of white, pink and red lines slashed across her body. She stepped into the bath, her breath catching in her throat at the heat of the water before she gently lowered herself down, sighing as her skin acclimatised to the temperature.

With a wave of her hand the taps ceased their thundering, the sound of the water in the bath sloshing around as Hermione moved to submerge as much as her body as possible filling the room.

Once she was settled, the warm water working to relax her weary muscles, she summoned the hastily hidden stack of texts on Veelas, sending the ones she’d already read whizzing back into her work bag, keeping the rest by the side of the bath.

She levitated the text at the top, one that Sophia had remarked was “not completely shit”- even taking the time to reiterate this on a post it note she’d stuck to the front of the book - and began to read the contents as she bathed, the book floating a safe distance from the water.

Scanning the chapter titles, she paused, her gaze lingering on a section simply called “The Thrall”. She hesitated, feeling her stomach knot itself with guilt; she couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of betrayal or duplicitousness, like she was going behind Fleur’s back, sullying the trust they were slowly building between them. She settled herself by thinking about the way in which Fleur still seemed to be skirting around her questions, the way she felt that the blonde was withholding information from her.

She shook her head, her curiosity winning out. Hermione warmed the bath again, her hand flicking across the surface of the water as she settled in, the pages of the book turning to her desired chapter.

“Not completely shit,” Hermione muttered, peeling off Sophia’s note and using it as a marker to signify the end of the chapter. “Let’s see if you’re right.”

 

***********

 

Fleur had not slept and as a result, was extremely irritable. After her evening with Hermione, she’d felt unsettled, at odds with herself. On the one hand, she was delighted that she’d had the chance to begin to explain the basic concept of mates to Hermione, and she was even more elated at the woman’s receptive nature; she didn’t seem repulsed or repelled by the general idea of mates which was what Fleur had been secretly fearful of. What if Hermione reacted as she herself had done when she first learned of that aspect of her heritage?

However the brunette had seemed mostly curious, for which Fleur was grateful. Her entire plan - albeit scrappy and she had to admit, flawed - hinged around Hermione finding things out slowly and on her terms, in the hopes that this would limit the almost inevitable fall out that would come from Fleur’s eventual confession. For this, Fleur was happy with their shared evening.

The part that she was struggling with however, was the wanton need that she felt for Hermione. Her thrall, her inner Veela and her own attraction were absolutely furious for being constantly denied. Hermione had been about to kiss her, she was sure of it. And she wanted it, she wanted it so badly that she nearly combusted when her door eventually opened. She’d felt like screaming, bellowing and slamming the door shut when she heard the unmistakable click of her door swinging open almost teasingly, interrupting what could’ve been.

She’d spent most of the night reminding herself as to why she couldn’t let this happen, why she needed to fight back against her every urge to have Hermione; telling Hermione the truth was going to be bad as it currently stood, telling Hermione if they had become more intimate with one another, if their relationship had progressed physically, would be even worse. This was something that Fleur was slowly coming to terms with. Her original plan was - as her own mother had so delicately put it - stupid. Whilst she knew that her intentions were noble and she still believed that telling Hermione prematurely could be catastrophic, she had spent a large portion of the early hours of the morning regretting the years post divorce where she failed to reach out to Hermione.

Time was her nemesis. The longer she waited, the more their relationship blossomed, the harder she found it to tell Hermione and the more she needed to tell Hermione. She would not, could not let herself advance into a physical relationship with the brunette until she had told her the truth, a task made hard by her inability to think straight around Hermione. The heady mixture of her thrall, her own inherent attraction and the blood call that Hermione set off inside of her was a constant battle to keep at bay.

It was in the midst of her all nighter that she’d come to realise the unhelpful and rather deflating truth; there was no right time to tell someone that they were the person who you were destined to be with.

Telling Hermione at age seventeen at her own wedding would’ve been wrong; her visa would’ve been rescinded if anyone found out about the reasons behind her marriage to Bill, Hermione’s attentions would’ve been split between defeating the incarnation of evil and worrying about her romantic life, and the backdrop of a war that quite possibly no one would survive was hardly the ideal environment to start a fruitful and healthy relationship between mates.

If she told Hermione when she saw her again a week ago, the brunette would’ve surely run for the hills. Having not seen her for two years and essentially having had little to no contact with her since the onslaught of funerals immediately post war, or the awkward nods of acknowledgment as Hermione withdrew money from Gringotts, declaring herself destined to the brunette would also, have most likely been unappealing.

And now Fleur was stuck in her current situation, one of her own making. Her plan was working. Her terrible, stupid, horrifically twisted plan was playing out perfectly. Hermione was spending time with Fleur of her own volition, was seeking her out of her own free will and seemed to be enjoying their growing romantic connection.

Fleur felt horrendously torn. This was what she had wanted. She wanted Hermione to have some semblance of choice in this, a choice that she herself didn’t have the luxury of and which she didn’t want. But she knew that continuing to keep up this charade was pointless. They were both hurtling towards the same end, an end which ultimately neither of them could control. Yet she could control the knowledge they were equipped with and she was shattered to realise that she had been choosing wrong, had been withholding the truth for selfish reasons that she now felt no longer made sense.

She’d made several mental pros and cons lists, going over the ways in which she would tell Hermione, trying to minimise the hurt that her truth would surely cause. Had written letter after letter to her Maman and Grand-mére, ranging from pleading to bitter to helpless in tone, letters that all ended up discarded and unsent. Fleur had even left the apartment to walk around the neighbourhood, retracing the steps that her and Hermione had taken the day after she moved in, the first time that the brunette had made contact with her.

And all the while she missed Hermione. An ache in her chest, a hole that the brunette had somehow filled in such a short space of time, made apparent by her absence. She was two doors away yet she missed her. She could be beside her always and it would never be enough.

Fleur was terrified. Terrified of losing Hermione, terrified of never having Hermione and equal parts terrified of the potential of getting to have Hermione. She’d sat in her fear and watched the sunrise over a misty London morning, the city waking slowly yet insistently, grumbling to life, suggesting that she too, begin to start her day. This had been her morning.

It had gone from bad to worse when she exited her apartment to find a slip of paper on her door from Hermione, informing her that she’d been called in early for a departmental inspection, which in turn meant she’d had to apparate early, without her.

Seeing Hermione had quickly become the highlight of her day, the ritual of both starting and ending her day with the woman provided Fleur with great joy whilst simultaneously soothing her thrall. She trilled unpleasantly, calmed only by the sincerely apologetic tone of Hermione’s letter, and the reminder that they were to meet after work to help her set her phone up. A phone she had yet to buy.

Fleur had stomped her way to Gringotts, and had moodily worked through her task list, simmering all morning. She needed to speak to Bill, to vent, to offload before she exploded, her mind refusing to give her any relief from its relentless circling. She also needed to thoroughly chastise the Weasley; she was still annoyed about his door locking stunt, even if it did gift her an evening in Hermione’s bed.

The final straw came when she was informed by one of the Goblins that her request for access to one of the lower vaults had been denied, a situation in which she currently found herself trying not to swing for a wrinkled, four foot tall creature.

“‘Zis is ridiculous. Who told you this? You are mistaken!” Fleur clutched her wand firmly in her hand, the tip fizzling out red sparks idly, the Goblin watching it with a sneer.

“I don’t make the rules Ms. Delacour. After your latest fiasco in the lower vaults, it’s part of the new protocol. For Cursebreakers, access must be requested - and subsequently granted or denied - at least two working days prior to your desired trip.” The Goblin smirked, watching Fleur’s face flush in anger, her nostrils flaring at her barely contained fury.

“I will do no such thing! You are impeding my work, you insolent little…” Fleur continued in French, delighting in the Goblin’s visible incomprehension, his face wrinkling further with effort, his lips slipping open in a grimace to reveal tiny razor sharp teeth.

“If you continue to speak to me like that then I’ll have no choice other than to issue you with a pink slip.” He gloated, removing a booklet of blank slips from his pocket and waving it in Fleur’s direction.

“I’ll tell you where you can put your pink slip-“ Fleur began, her anger finally spilling over as she lurched towards the Goblin.

An arm shot out from behind to restrain her, its weight familiar. “Whoa, there you are Fleur! I’ve been looking for you to assist me after lunch. I’ve got the cart waiting and here’s the permission slip for you, Ulgras. You’ll see that it’s valid for myself and a colleague of my choosing; I choose Fleur.” Bill spoke, his hand still firmly grasping the fabric of Fleur’s blouse, arm outstretched across the blonde’s mid section.

Ulgras snatched the slip from Bill’s hand, inspecting it for longer than was absolutely necessary before grumbling his agreement. “Fine. It looks like your ex-husband has more sense than you. A shame he slipped from your grasp, Veela.” The Goblin turned on his heels, ignoring Fleur’s continued shouts in French, Bill tightening his grip on a now furious Fleur.

“Come on, you can kill me in the lower vaults instead of him, you get to keep your job that way!” Bill shot cheerfully, trying to hide his amusement as Fleur shook herself free of his restraining arm, still muttering in French.

“I wouldn’t look so ‘appy if I were in your position William. I don’t know who I’m more annoyed at, him or you.” Fleur flipped her hair over her shoulder as she set off in the direction of her office, hearing Bill stumble to keep up behind her.

“Well before we get into it, you don’t have to thank me for stepping in back there,” the redhead quipped, ducking to avoid Fleur’s wandless Flipendo that ricocheted off the stone walls before fizzling out as it knocked one of the old lanterns attached to the wall. “Were you really about to throw hands with Ulgras?”

Fleur shrugged, opening the door to her office and gesturing for Bill to follow, the door closing behind them. “It was either him or you, I thought you would be grateful that I burned off some excess anger before I sought you out, hm?”

Bill smiled a crooked grin, timidly sitting in the chair in front of Fleur’s desk, grabbing two shrunken sandwiches from his pocket and restoring them to their usual size. “A peace offering, from the ridiculously overpriced Italian deli that you like. Although I hardly see what there is to forgive; I simply gave you an excuse to find out Hermione’s sleeping habits sooner rather than later.”

Fleur snatched one of the sandwiches, throwing Bill a glare before sinking into her own chair opposite the man, begrudgingly biting into the delicious sandwich. “Yes, thank you so much for locking me out of my apartment, wherever would I be without you?” She drawled sarcastically, placing her legs on her desk, slouching further into the chair.

“Don’t even try to deny that you enjoyed my joke just a little bit.” Bill held up his thumb and forefinger to demonstrate the small amount, a gesture which Fleur mimicked but decreased the distance between her fingers until they were firmly touching.

“Yes, your hilarious joke that saw me homeless for the evening!”

Bill snorted at Fleur’s dramatics, biting appreciatively into his own sandwich. “I highly doubt you were homeless, Hermione is too generous to leave a beautiful woman out in the cold.”

“Where and with whom I spent my evening is simply none of your business.” Fleur retorted, her anger at Bill dissolving as she thought of her evening spent in Hermione’s bed, the comfort she felt in the brunette’s arms, the peace she felt when shielding the woman in turn.

“Fine. At least tell me what’s got you close to fisticuffs with the Goblins? Trouble in paradise already?” Bill gestured towards Fleur’s kettle, setting about making the pair some tea, moving around the office with familiarity as he found Fleur’s store of coffee that she favoured.

“Not as such, in fact everything is going a little too well. It’s becoming… harder to keep myself in check.” Fleur’s voice had dropped. She nodded a thanks as Bill waved a hand at the door, casting a silencing charm before finishing brewing the hot drinks.

“You mean your wonderful twenty year plan isn’t working? But it was so perfect!” Bill chuckled to himself as Fleur huffed, throwing her sandwich wrapper at the redhead.

“You become my mother more and more everyday. She would probably actually like you if she met you now.”

Bill held his chest as if wounded, catching the wrapper and throwing it deftly into the bin. “This conversation is getting borderline Freudian so I think it best if you lead from here, and I do what us Weasley’s do worst; listen.”

Fleur couldn't help the laugh that escaped her lips as she began to unload her tumultuous thoughts, hopeful that Bill may be able to offer a sympathetic ear if not any useful advice.

 

*********

 

“You’ve seemed quieter than usual today, Hermione. Contemplative. We’ve only got ten minutes left until we leave each other until next week.” Hermione glanced at the clock on the wall to see to her surprise that Nicole was right. Their session had passed smoothly so far, with Hermione relaying much of her week with large Fleur shaped gaps missing in her stories.

“Now you know that pushing isn’t my style and I’d never encourage you to share anything you don’t feel ready to, but you know this is a safe space.” Nicole uncrossed her legs, her floor length skirt shifting with her and revealing her intricately detailed cowboy boots.

It was one of the first things that Hermione had noticed about the woman, her sense of flair, which extended from her natural “I’ll give it to you harsh but fair” attitude, down to her clothing; most often to her footwear. It was a pair of feathered boots in their first session, feathers that Nicole had gathered from a flock of Augerys that nested near her house. She’d said that whilst her boots couldn’t tell when it was going to rain, they could tell when it was raining, a joke that had immediately warmed Hermione to the woman.

Today, a pair of hand embroidered cowboy boots, cherry red in colour with some impressively dangerous looking spurs adorned her feet. She said she’d found them in an Oxfam shop for a fiver, a fact which delighted Hermione.

“You’re looking at my boots again Hermione. Must I take them off to command your attention today?” Nicole spoke wryly, her face crumpling into a warm smile, her deep brown eyes crinkling at Hermione’s bashful grin.

“Not necessary. I’ve just… there’s been a lot going on. Or rather…” Hermione started, feeling unhurried as ever by the woman. It was one of the traits that Hermione most treasured in Nicole as both a therapist and a trusted acquaintance, her seemingly endless patience, her stillness. It was unobtrusive in a way that Hermione found teased the truth out of her willingly.

“An old… friend, from before,” Hermione gulped, pausing once again to take a sip of water, Nicole doing the same with her herbal tea. “From before the war has sort of, reappeared in my life.”

“Reappeared?” Nicole asked, her eyebrow quirking at Hermione’s use of the passive word.

Hermione shook her head, chuckling at herself before trying again to be more open. “I know how that sounds but she literally did just reappear. She moved into my apartment building and we’ve been spending some time together, showing her the neighbourhood and stuff.”

Nicole made a humming sound, her waiting for Hermione to continue, probing her with a “And is it nice to see her again?” when it became clear that Hermione was clamming up.

“Nice is one word to describe it, sure.” Hermione answered evasively, playing with her hands before folding her arms across her chest defensively.

Nicole’s dark brown eyes flitted to Hermione’s closed posture, letting it be known that it had been noted without saying a word. “Any other words to describe it at all? Is it a person with positive or negative emotions attached to them?”

The question seemed simple enough and Hermione opened her mouth immediately to respond that it was positive, before she caught herself moving her eyes quickly to her forearm, to her concealed scar. She hesitated, letting herself meet Nicole’s eyes, grounding herself before answering honestly. “Both. It’s erm…it’s a woman who sort of helped me, healed me really, after… after everything at the Manor.”

“Ahh.” Nicole replied, her eyes remaining neutral and calm, her head nodding slowly, the motion flowing from her tight black curls down all the way to her cowboy boots. “So it’s been a time of flux?” She began again. It was a technique that she used often, starting with a vague, harmless enough seeming question. This allowed Hermione time to either be lead by Nicole when it became too hard to express how she herself felt in any meaningful way, or to disagree, to hone in and lead the conversation in a more specific and driven way. It was a tactic designed to help Hermione open up, one that she still struggled with despite her long-standing weekly sessions with the woman.

“It’s been challenging and tumultuous at times, yes, but not necessarily for the reasons I expected.” Hermione started slowly, watching Nicole’s eyes flicker first with confusion and then intrigue as Hermione felt her face flush.

“I mean of course it’s dragged up a lot of feelings regarding, you know, Bellatrix and all of that,” Hermione waved her hand generally, trying to accentuate her will to brush over the events of Malfoy Manor today, before continuing, “but I’m struggling with something… a bit different than what we usually discuss.”

The brunette fidgeted under Nicole’s stoic gaze, the woman waiting calmly as she took another sip of her still steaming tea, her slender walnut brown finger circling the rim idly.

“I erm… I think I might like this person. Romantically. You know, have a crush or, fancy them or… something like that.” Hermione managed to stutter out, moving one of her hands behind her neck before shuffling in her seat, clearing her throat into the silence.

“Okay. And this has been causing you some discomfort?” Nicole replied after a moment, blowing softly on her cup before taking a slow swig, her attention fixed firmly but not stiflingly upon the brunette.

“Some. I’m not sure if discomfort is the word. It’s just I know where I am with my routine before she showed up. My panic attacks aren’t as bad as they were before, I’m still managing to use the techniques to ride them out when they do come, but this woman she just… she’s just not…” Hermione searched for the word, her hand twisting in front of her as if trying to physically grasp it, her eyes unfocused, scanning Nicole’s bookcase distractedly for comfort; she’s long since memorised all the titles there, commenting whenever there had been a new addition.

“She’s unexpected?” Nicole tried, smiling knowingly when she saw Hermione’s gaze stop on a recent purchase, a collection of Emily Dickinson poetry.

“Yes! And also no. I’m not sure. I guess I’m just taken aback by the intensity of the feeling? And the unfamiliarity? I know we’ve not really touched much on my love life but it’s virtually been non-existent anyway up until this point and now there’s this person who I’m trying to let in and it’s… well, it’s harder than I thought.” Hermione finished with a sigh, letting her eyes finally meet Nicole’s again, relieved as ever to find her patient and understanding gaze.

“Navigating feelings for someone new - whether they’re romantic or not - is always difficult. It’s hard to trust new people. It’s something we talk about in these sessions a lot; that desire to seek connection but the inability to do so for fear of opening up, making yourself vulnerable.” Nicole started, watching Hermione relax her posture slightly, her hands coming to rest in her lap.

“What you suffered was a brutal, physical and emotional onslaught of pure evil. No one but you gets to say how you should and shouldn’t feel after that or how you should be affected. The real work comes now, from figuring out what potential blockers you may face because of your trauma and how you can overcome them.”

Hermione nodded mutely, trying to process Nicole’s words. She often said that if external validation worked then no one on the planet would need therapy; and fuck, did Hermione agree with that.

“So you like this woman, but she unsettles you. Or rather, the feelings that she evokes in you unsettles you?” Nicole circles back to Fleur, sensing Hermione’s disengagement.

The brunette hummed her agreement, sifting through her thoughts of Fleur to try and best encapsulate the root of the problem to Nicole. “I’ve never wanted to trust someone like I do her. I want to tell her things, I want to tell her everything but I’m not sure that I can. How will I know that I’m ready? What if she isn’t telling me everything?”

Nicole laughed warmly in such a way that Hermione couldn’t be offended, the sound was so soothing to her. “Oh Hermione, of course she’s not telling you everything! “All the world’s a stage”. We choose every single day who or what we want to show of ourselves to the world. It’s sad but especially true of new or budding relationships.”

Hermione’ eyes unconsciously shifted to Nicole’s copy of the Works of Shakespeare. Fourth row from the top, eighteenth book in from the right, next to a signed copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary and a weather worn Little Women.

“Part of the joy, part of the journey is watching that other person slowly take off the mask, peel each layer back piece by piece until you see the ugly, raw truth. If you look at that and still see beauty, then you’re gonna be okay.” Nicole finished, chuckling to herself as she sipped her tea.

“This friend. She’s part Veela.” Hermione mused, her thoughts turning to her current ‘research’ as she noticed a pristine copy of a Gilderoy Lockhart book charting his imagined time with a Veela clan on Nicole’s top shelf, the one she reserved for books that were gifted to her by clients that she didn’t have the heart to discard of. “I’ve been…reading into their culture, habits. I thought maybe it would help me understand these feelings more.”

Nicole’s face remained impassive and free of judgment as she summoned the steeping teapot towards her, refilling her mug before casting a heating spell on Hermione’s barely touched mug beside her.

“And has it? Would it make you feel better if you could attribute your feelings to something more tangible, more logical?” Nicole blew on her tea softly, the steam’s trajectory changing as she did so.

Hermione fidgeted, making a show of sipping her own tea. Nicole always poured her one despite her protests; the brunette somehow ended up drinking the entire cup of fruit tea by the end of the session despite her dislike for it. “I haven’t managed to find much and all it’s done is made me feel guilty. Almost like I’m spying on her or digging around into her life. I know that sounds stupid and I’m not suggesting that I’m saying I have these feeling for her just because she’s part Veela, but…”

Hermione sighed and replaced her mug on the side table, having nearly scalded the roof of her mouth off on the boiling liquid. “I thought if I could approach this how I do everything else I don’t know, by researching and note taking and mulling it over then I’d be more comfortable with the feeling. But I suppose emotions aren’t something that can be explained away by something in a book.” She finished quietly, laughing drily at herself.

Nicole simply hummed, letting Hermione’s statement hang in the air before speaking again. “These fears that you have Hermione, have you ever thought that she might have them too? That she has secrets of her own that she is not yet ready to share? She’s probably somewhere now just talking away like us two about just how scary it is to give someone the power to hurt you.“

“That doesn’t make me feel better, you know.” Hermione grumbled, crossing her legs “It makes me feel like she’s lying to me. You know how I feel about that.” Hermione added, watching Nicole nod in agreement.

“I know. But is her protection of her own secrets any different from yours? I’m sure the validity of her keeping some secrets from someone she’s only recently reconnected with hold up by her own reasoning. That’s not to say that they’ll hold up to your reasoning. The same can be said in the reverse.”

Hermione grumbled, annoyed that she’d also thought the same thing the morning prior. It didn’t help to hear her thoughts echoed back to her, however much she was sure Nicole was trying to help her.

“How about you start with telling her something small; a simple truth. It doesn’t have to be a big one, just something that shows an intent of letting her in. You can lead by example.” Nicole tried again, her head bowing slightly to seek Hermione’s gaze which she was stubbornly fixing back on the woman’s shoes.

“Your parents, these sessions, this research that you mentioned…these are truths that will need to be told if you’re wanting to form an open and honest relationship with her. You already know that.” Nicole said softly, her tone firm yet infinitely gentle as it always was when she was imparting advice or kernels of wisdom.

“But they don’t have to all come right now. It’s perfectly healthy, natural to form and communicate boundaries, as long as they are communicated. There is nothing inherently wrong with withholding truths that belong to you and you alone. But when you’re looking to form a partnership, a friendship, relationship, whatever… it needs to be based off a want to be truthful and an open line of communication about even the things that you don’t want to or aren’t ready to talk about. Especially those things.” Nicole jabbed her finger gently at Hermione, offering her a biscuit from a tin she procured from a hidden space beside the bookshelf and her bright orange, battered looking armchair.

Hermione declined, watching Nicole inspect a crumbling custard cream, sliding the tin back into the crevice as she put the biscuit delicately into her mouth. She chewed thoughtfully, giving Hermione time to process, the brunette’s brow furrowing in thought as she drummed her fingers on the arms of her chair.

After a brief nod from Hermione to signify she was ready to continue, Nicole began to speak again. “If you can look her in the eyes and say that there’s secrets you can’t yet confide, then hell, at least you’ve communicated that. You’ve shown intent to tell at some point and explained why you can’t for the moment. Boundaries Hermione, use them. Respect them. Enforce them. All good relationships have them.”

Hermione chuckled as Nicole tapped the side of her head, her expression radiating warmth despite the serious look in her eyes. “And try to remember to have fun, there’s nothing quite so wonderful and simultaneously tragic as young love, if you’ll pardon the offhanded use of the term love.” Nicole span the spur on one of her boots, temporarily drowning out the sound of Hermione spluttering on her own disbelief.

“That’s our time for the session.” Nicole placed her hands on either arm of her chair, pushing herself to a standing position as Hermione did the same, grabbing her bag from its place on the floor. “Same time next week. I look forward to hearing more about your friend; your eyes sparkle when you talk about her, she must be special.”

Hermione could feel her face flush and mumbled something unintelligible, causing Nicole to laugh good naturedly, squeezing the brunette's shoulder before releasing her just as quickly.

“Take care Nicole. Thank you, you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about as always. You know I love homework.” Hermione grinned earnestly, revelling in the now familiar rumbling laugh of the woman.

“The diligent student as always. Are you to take the floo to Grimmauld or are you apparating home today?” Nicole continued, beginning to clear away cups as Hermione removed her tan bomber jacket from the hook, checking the chair to see if she’d missed anything.

“Huh? Oh I’ll apparate today, I’m going back to mine. I’ve got to teach my… friend how to use a Muggle phone; she wants to be able to order artisan pizza whenever she wants apparently.” Hermione tried to sound nonchalant, but was entirely aware that she was failing spectacularly, a smile playing at her lips as she thought of the blonde who would hopefully be waiting for her. She felt lighter for having spoken more about her Fleur situation to someone who was armed with more than a quip about her disaster lesbian status, not that she didn’t appreciate Ginny’s version of ‘help’ which was special in its own way. Having a clear objective, some tangible advice and an action to perform gave Hermione the semblance of a plan; a focus other than how her heart rate was already quickening in anticipation of being around the blonde, her chest squeezing and tugging her teasingly onwards.

Nicole hummed amusedly, gesturing to the doorway. “Then safe apparating. Remember, small truths are just as good as the big ones, for now. And don’t be afraid to ask her questions too; she’s in this as well.”

Hermione nodded, waving before turning on the spot, feeling the wrenching pull in her belly button as she appeared in the alleyway next to her apartment building.

She rushed forwards, hurtling through the lobby and up the stairs. She’d missed the blonde more than she cared to admit in the morning, book ending her day with Fleur already becoming a crucial part of her routine. Hermione wrenched open the door to the hallway, wheezing slightly, pausing only to catch her breath.

Her head snapped to the left as she sensed Fleur before she saw her, her eyes adjusting to the bright fluorescent lights. The blonde was already looking at her, having clearly just left Hermione’s apartment, the door still ajar.

Hermione’s heart felt like it was swelling at the sight of Fleur holding Crookshanks in her doorway, the cat’s purrs audible even from a distance. Fleur was cradling him in her arms, the ginger ball of fluff not quite concealing what seemed to be another borrowed shirt of Hermione’s, this time a faded grey and white checkered shirt.

The brunette led herself be drawn in by the woman, not even bothering to hide the goofy smile she could feel playing on her face as she watched Fleur shift her weight to lean against her door frame, her bright blue eyes twinkling, her rose coloured lips pulled up in a satisfied smirk.

As soon as she was within touching distance of Fleur, the blonde moved Crookshanks so she had a free arm, her slender fingers immediately seeking Hermione’s warm hand. Fleur wasted no time pulling Hermione into a tender hug, kissing the top of her head several times much to the brunette’s delight.

Hermione breathed in the honeysuckle swathes coming off of Fleur’s hair, her nose buried deeply there, her arm clutching Fleur’s shoulder to draw her closer. She needed her closer.

Fleur chuckled into her ear before gently coaxing Hermione back enough so that she could look at her, her thumb rubbing over the brunette’s knuckles as her dazzling smile faltered at a muffled, almost tinny sound emanating from behind her.

Hermione leaned to look around Fleur, drawing the blonde behind her slightly as if to shield her from the unknown assailant in her apartment. “Erm, Fleur… what’s that noise coming from my flat?” She looked at Fleur whose expression had turned almost comically frustrated, her lips turning down into a pout, her eyebrows knitting together with annoyance as she sighed before speaking.

“Thank goodness you are here ‘Ermione. What is a Siri and why won’t she shut up?”

Chapter Text

Once Hermione had finished laughing good naturedly and had successfully corralled both Fleur and Crookshanks back into her apartment, she walked confidently towards her living room, following the still muted sounds of Siri chatting away to herself.

The brunette raised an eyebrow at Fleur expectantly, stifling her laughter once again as the blonde rolled her eyes, pointing begrudgingly towards the space between the sofa cushions. Hermione began digging around, bending over the sofa to find what was presumably Fleur’s new phone.

After a few moments of searching, she’d managed to find some loose change, one of what appeared to be Luna’s many crystal bracelets and a note that simply said ‘Eat my shorts? Ask Hermione about what this means.’ in Ron’s messy handwriting. She finally found the source of the noise, her fingers grazing something hard as she pulled the phone out of the crevasse.

“And is there a reason that your new phone is down the back of my sofa?” Hermione shot playfully, looking up expectantly at where Fleur had been stood before she started searching her sofa.

She gasped and jumped slightly when she realised the blonde was now in fact behind her. She turned to see the blonde’s head tilted slightly and her jaw slackened, her blue eyes staring intently at the area of Hermione’s lower back before she quickly caught the brunette’s eyes. Fleur smiled almost nervously, before randomly turning her attention to Hermione’s mantelpiece.

Was she just looking at my arse? Hermione thought, noting Fleur’s sudden interest in the grain of wood on the mantle and the rising pink colour of her complexion.

The brunette cleared her throat loudly, feeling a smirk rise to her face despite the blush that she was sure also accompanied the movement. She held up the phone, telling Siri to be quiet as she did so, waiting for Fleur’s explanation.

Still looking more flustered than normal, the blonde crossed her arms over her chest before rapidly uncrossing them to point at the phone in an accusatory manner. “That thing has been nothing but rude since the moment it switched on! Saying it does not understand me, telling me pointless facts that I did not ask for. Why is it not like your one?” Fleur all but groaned, her lower lip turning down into a pout as Hermiome tried not to laugh and also not to combust at how utterly adorable Fleur looked, her deliciously full lips proving to be quite the distraction for the brunette.

The blonde had really taken Hermione’s offer to ‘make herself at home’ seriously. Despite her own apartment having been opened, Fleur seemed to have let herself in with the key Hermione had provided her with; the brunette had noticed it on her side table in the hallway when she walked in, internally thrilling to see the key next to where hers normally resided.

Not only that, but Fleur had apparently taken the liberty of helping herself to more of Hermione’s clothes, her work shirt draped over the back of an armchair whilst she wore one of Hermione’s old checkered shirts instead. Not that the brunette was complaining at all, in fact she could feel her heart pounding incessantly in her chest the longer she let herself gaze openly at Fleur, watching the scowl disappear off the blonde’s face as she caught Hermione’s eye.

Fleur initially looked curious, her blue eyes gleaming as she watched Hermione observing her. Her expression turned playful and then almost self conscious before she spoke again. “I’m sorry, you don’t mind that I’m here do you? I got a bit carried away with the phone and I went home and I was bored, and then I remembered you gave me a key,” Fleur gestured in the general direction of the hallway where the key currently lay, continuing rapidly “And then I thought of Monsieur Crookshanks and thought maybe it would ‘elp you if I fed him because I know you said you had an appointment and I didn’t know when you’d be home and I didn’t know whether you would have time to go to a shop so I cooked us some dinner and-“

Hermione chuckled softly, moving towards Fleur and cutting off her speech by covering her mouth with one hand, the other coming to rest on the blonde’s wrist. “Fleur. Breathe. That’s a lot of information.” The brunette laughed again when she felt Fleur’s lips moving under her hand, the muffled sound of the blonde’s words vibrating her palm. She ignored the way that the soft brush of Fleur’s lips against her hand triggered a stirring in her stomach, tried to quell images of those lips elsewhere.

She removed her hand slowly, trying not to let her attraction show. This was the first time she’d seen Fleur since her revelation about the woman and whilst she was trying not to let her feelings affect their friendship, she could already feel the small semblance of ‘calm’ she had around Fleur fleeing.

Fleur had a soft smile on her face as she watched a blush form across Hermione’s cheeks. She captured the brunette's spare hand in her own, immediately beginning to play with her fingers idly.

“Shall I go first or was your version of gagging me a hint that you would like to speak before me?” Fleur smirked as she spoke, swinging their joined hands between them.

Hermione glared half heartedly at Fleur, poking the woman’s side and eliciting a squeal from her that quickly turned into laughter.

“Where are my manners? Salut ma cherie, tell me ‘ow your day was? We can play with this stupid Siri machine later.” Fleur pulled Hermione into another hug, kissing one cheek and then the other before releasing her again.

Hermione raised her eyebrow, saying boldly, “Only two? I thought I got three because I’m pretty?” referring to the blonde’s own assertion at lunch the day prior, before immediately kicking herself. Great way to hide your attraction to her you dumb fuck, she thought, anticipating Fleur’s rebuttal.

Her refusal never came. Fleur couldn’t hide her surprise, her blue eyes widening before she composed herself, her smirk returning as she took a step closer to Hermione. “You’re right. You can have as many as you like ‘Ermione.” She leant in closer, Hermione feeling her breath stutter in her throat, praying that Fleur hadn’t heard but knowing that she had.

Fleur’s lips brushed sinfully close to her own. If she were to  turn her head even slightly then she’d be able to feel them against hers. Her head swam dangerously with desire as she felt the heat from Fleur’s skin emanate onto her cheeks, the scent of honeysuckle pervading her every scent mingled with something more earthy, more Fleur.

And then the sensation was gone, Fleur pulling back stiffly, her pupils dilated but her expression tight, almost restrained. Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out, her brain still foggy from Fleur’s close proximity.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.” Hermione jumped as the robotic voice of Siri wrenched her back into the room, the moment passing as Fleur clutched the brunette's toned bicep, scowling at the inanimate object.

A moment passed before Hermione broke the silence. “You sure you still want a phone?” she quipped slightly breathlessly, giggling as Fleur squeezed her arm before hitting it in jest. Hermione reluctantly extricated herself from the blonde, missing the physical contact but grateful for the space to think, to pull herself together before she gave into temptation and threw herself at the woman.

“Bien sûr, how else would I be able to entertain you whilst you are at work? Have you not missed me all day?” Fleur held one hand against her chest, her eyebrows raised and that gorgeously full lower lip turning down into a mocking pout.

Hermione rolled her eyes and crossed the room, walking towards her bedroom, hearing Fleur’s feed padding across the floor after her. Truthfully, she had missed Fleur, quite terribly actually. Recieving the message from Sophia at 5am that she was required at work to help reorganise and essentially find a significant chunk of missing vital documentation that was needed for auditing reasons was not how she’d planned on starting her day. In between organising, labelling and filing, she’d thought of little other than Fleur, her thoughts consumed by her smile, her voice, replaying interactions in an attempt to soothe the strange dull ache in her chest.

The sound of the springs on her bed creaking as Fleur made herself comfortable broke into her reverie. Hermione turned from her wardrobe to see the blonde stretching her entire body out across the bed like a lounging cat, her arms extended above her head. The movement revealed a slip of her midriff as the shirt rose up, showing a taut and subtly toned stomach.

Hermione snapped her head back to the wardrobe before Fleur saw her ogling, grabbing the first long sleeved shirt she could find, pleased when she turned it around to see that it was a Portishead one that Harry had found at a vintage market and gifted to her last year.

“You have not answered my question ‘Ermione, did you not miss me?” Fleur tried again.

The brunette turned with her change of clothes in hand, selecting some comfortable but figure hugging black sweatpants for her bottom half. She rolled her eyes again at Fleur who had settled on her front, her elbows propping up her top half, her legs crossed over one another as she watched Hermione’s movements.

Hermione paused, a sarcastic and flippant comment on the tip of her tongue. She thought of Nicole’s earlier words, her assertion that she should try and breed honesty in their communication partly by leading by example. After a pause where she gathered her courage, Hermione met Fleur’s patient blue eyes.

“I did, actually. It was strange not seeing you this morning. I like our little routine.” The brunette said earnestly, watching as Fleur’s smile became wider and more radiant, the blonde pushing herself up onto her knees so that she was at eye level with Hermione, nodding her agreement with her.

“Is it strange if I said that I’m glad you missed me?” Fleur asked, running one hand through her silvery, silky smooth hair as she spoke, her eyes fixed intently on Hermione.

“Not at all.” Hermione all but breathed, aware of the suddenly crushing weight of tension that was laden in the air, the expectancy hanging in the room that Hermione wasn’t sure if only she was sensing. From Fleur’s face she wasn’t sure; the blonde had what Hermione had grown to suspect was her default expression when the woman was trying to gauge Hermione’s own feelings; the imperceptible mask.

After scanning Fleur’s face for a few seconds in the hope that she’d find a crack in Fleur’s impassive expression, Hermione sighed in frustration, not bothering to hide her disappointment. So much for leading by example , she thought, pointing to the bedroom door. “I’m just going to get changed and then we can chat whilst I set your phone up? I can tell you all about how shitty my day was.”

Fleur nodded slowly, her eyebrows furrowing slightly as if confused. It seemed that Fleur wasn’t aware that her reaction - or lack thereof - to Hermione’s attempt to open up slightly was the cause of the brunette's shift in mood.

The blonde held out her hands for Hermione to help her off the bed, which the brunette did despite her annoyance; any excuse to touch Fleur was always welcomed. The blonde shot her a “merci”, planting a rogue kiss on one of Hermione’s hands before flouncing out of the bedroom, giving her new phone a wide berth and pointedly sitting on the armchair instead of the sofa to glare at it.

Hermione chuckled under her breath, waving for the door to shut as she quickly began undressing. Despite the minor setback, the brunette decided to continue with Nicole’s advice and try to show Fleur that she was making an effort to open up, to lay the foundations of a good and sturdy relationship whether that be romantic or otherwise.

She glanced at herself in the mirror, setting her chin defiantly as she quickly tossed her hair up in a loose ponytail in an attempt to make her unruly curls look slightly less like a mane, before she re-entered her living room.

Hermione clapped her hands together, causing Fleur to turn around in the armchair. “Right. First things first, of course I don’t mind that you’re here! We had plans, I gave you a key, it’s not a problem. And thank you for feeding Crookshanks, he hates Thursdays in this house because of his late dinner.” Hermione laughed as Crookshanks meowed his agreement from across the room, his ears flattening as he listened to her talk about him.

“Second, you are a guest even if you have a key. Can I get you a drink of anything? What’s this about you cooking dinner as well?” Hermione headed towards the kitchen with a frown at the pristine state of it, the lack of evidence of any cooking glaring.

Fleur made her way to the breakfast bar, resting her elbows on the counter. “I cooked at my place. I know where everything is there. I can bring it over when we’re ready.”

Hermione nodded, making a small “ahh” sound as she did so. “And you also have ingredients at your place I presume.” The brunette returned, relishing Fleur’s fond laughter, her head tossed back.

“Now I may not have any food, but drinks I can do. What are you after? I would offer you wine but I have a feeling that my version of a good bottle and yours are somewhat different. Have a look and see what you think.” Hermione smirked as she waved her hand to summon a bottle from the cupboard. She held her hand open to receive the cheapest and nastiest bottle of wine she owned, one that was even too gross to tempt Ginny.

Hermione tried to keep her face impassive as she handed the bottle to Fleur for her to inspect. The blonde’s face wrinkled in disdain almost immediately as she thrust the bottle back towards Hermione, physically recoiling from the offending item.

After a beat, Fleur schooled her features, her eyes the only sign of her disgust, the twinkling blue of them unable to hide her true revulsion. “I think I will go and get a bottle from my apartment for us.” Fleur attempted diplomatically. Hermione could contain her laughter no longer. She clutched the kitchen counter for balance as Fleur’s face registered Hermione’s prank, her eyes widening comically before she scowled deeply.

“Ma belle you are so cruel !” Fleur shot, her glare quickly giving way to a playful expression as she made her way towards the kitchen, keeping her eyes fixed on Hermione who was attempting to plot her escape from the approaching Fleur.

“You would insult my French heritage by trying to poison me with…” she paused to read the bottle, her lip curling up in a sneer as she peered at the label, “Lambrini?”

Hermione couldn’t help but laugh harder at Fleur’s tone, the woman sounding almost strangled. Her laughter ceased when Fleur appeared in the doorway, one eyebrow quirked upwards playfully, a predatory smile on her face.

“You will pay for this ‘Ermione Granger.” Fleur said softly, her voice a gorgeous lilt as she spoke Hermione’s name. The brunette moved backwards as much as she could, her back hitting the counter as Fleur approached slowly, still blocking the entrance to the kitchen.

Hermione darted sideways to try and get past the blonde but not quickly enough, Fleur’s long arms circling her waist with ease and pulling her in. Hermione squirmed, laughing breathlessly as Fleur fought to hold her in place, the blonde scolding her in both French and English in between her own giggles.

“Do you admit defeat?” Fleur asked in her ear, the brunette reflexively arching her back into Fleur’s body, her neck moving to the side to better accommodate Fleur’s head.

Her vision swam delightfully as the heat from Fleur’s breath hit the sensitive skin on her neck. The woman’s lips were held there still, the tip of Fleur’s nose leaving a trail of goosebumps just below her ear as Fleur moved her head further into the crook of Hermione’s neck.

Hermione fought through the honeysuckle laden air, concentrated beyond the lilac fog and turned in place, moving to face Fleur, still held captive by the woman’s arms gripping her waist. At the movement, she saw Fleur inhale sharply as their noses brushed together gently, felt the blonde’s arms relax slightly around her waist, and saw Fleur’s attention slip as their eyes met, her blue eyes blazing gloriously.

Hermione took Fleur’s lapse in concentration and capitalised, slipping free of the woman’s arms and launching herself out of the kitchen, laughing once more as she placed the sofa between herself and Fleur who she could hear beginning to chase her.

“You’ll have to be quicker than that, Delacour,” Hermione taunted as Fleur appeared round the corner to stand the other side of the sofa with a dangerous glint in her eyes that sent a jolt of excitement through Hermione.

“You are forgetting I was the Beauxbatons champion, am now a renowned curse breaker at Gringotts and am exceedingly well versed in Charms. I don’t need pointers when it comes to speed.” Fleur’s tone was haughty and serious, her accent exaggerated as she emulated her prideful seventeen year old self. Hermione let a chuckle escape as she raised her eyebrows, her gaze never wavering from Fleur, watching her every move as she edged infinitesimally around the sofa.

“And you’re forgetting that I faced a three headed dog, a troll and Devil’s Snare just in my first year. Oh, and did I mention I helped to defeat Voldemort? And that’s just during my time at school. I’ve read almost every useful book in the Hogwarts library. Twice.” Hermione returned, “Plus I have a cat.”, she added pointedly, motioning to Crookshanks who was helpfully slaloming between Fleur’s legs, restricting the blonde’s movements.

Fleur carefully stepped around the ginger cat, ignoring Hermione’s snickers as she cooed quietly until Crookshanks returned to the armchair, watching the two women curiously.

A misplaced glance. That was all it took for Fleur to make her move. Hermione let her eyes wander momentarily to Crookshanks as he settled, and the next thing she knew she had been tackled, her back pressed into the soft cushions of the sofa with Fleur hovering over her.

Hermione felt her breath leave her before returning quickly, becoming shallow as she met Fleur’s gaze, enraptured by the woman above her. Fleur’s lips tilted up softly, her eyes openly roaming the brunette’s face before she shifted her leg, her face edging closer with the movement.

“I’ve caught you.”

“You have.” Hermione replied breathlessly, trying not to let the heat of Fleur’s body overwhelm her. She fought to stay in control, suppressing the urge to grab the blonde, to pull her down to where she wanted her, needed her to be.

“I let you catch me.” Hermione managed to whisper as an afterthought, delighted with the way Fleur’s eyes lit up as she spoke, the dazzling blue of them seeming to glow as she grinned down at the brunette.

Hermione felt Fleur’s soft laughter on her face, let herself be soothed and simultaneously set alight by Fleur’s proximity. Her blonde hair was dangling down around them, forming a curtain, the light from the various lamps suffusing through her silky smooth locks. She was pressing some, but not all of her weight onto Hermione, her arms placed either side of the brunette's head to prop herself up.

It was almost excruciating to be so near to her and not feel more of her. If she were to just move her hips upwards, to inch her hand forwards she could finally touch the smooth skin of Fleur’s stomach, could feel the taut muscles that she’d thought about trailing her hands over since she’d seen that small slip of skin.

Hermione moved her weight experimentally, her hand ghosting over Fleur’s hip, feeling the blonde’s body inch forwards in response, a shuddering sigh flying from her lips of its own volition. Fleur’s eyes were lidded, her gaze fixed assuredly on Hermione, darting around her face. She looked almost… afraid.

“Ouch!” Hermione hissed, feeling Fleur’s discarded new phone suddenly digging into her back, the device stabbing into her shoulder blade painfully as she rummaged around behind her.

Fleur immediately shot up, the warmth of her body disappearing as she distanced herself from Hermione, sitting beside her with an almost dazed look on her face, a flush of pink remaining on her cheeks.

“I think that’s my cue to sort this phone of yours out.” Hermione choked out, propping herself up as she managed to find the device, holding it up between her and Fleur almost as a barrier to stop herself from pulling the blonde back to her.

“Bon. I will get the wine and the food, then we can eat and talk and you can tell me how to turn this Siri off.” Fleur scrambled off the sofa, her eyes avoiding Hermione’s as she made her way down the hallway to Hermione’s door.

“Is my Lambrini not good enough for you?” Hermione yelled, laughing as Fleur flipped two fingers up, a scowl on her face as she disappeared out of the apartment.

With Fleur gone, Hermione tried to calm herself, ignoring the delicious tightness she felt in the pit of her stomach. Get a hold of yourself, she internally scolded. It was like a dam inside her had broken since she’d admitted her feelings to Ginny; the effect the woman had on her was near impossible to ignore.

“Small truths, Nicole said small truths. I can do that.” She muttered, retrieving the phone charger from where it lay on her coffee table, plugging the phone in.

She walked past Crookshanks, stroking his head on the way to the kitchen where she composed herself, gathering cutlery, plates and glasses. Fleur announced her presence as she came back through the door, levitating a steaming pan and two bottles of wine.

“It’s nothing fancy - I don’t pretend to be a particularly good cook - but it’s food.” Fleur shrugged as she placed the pot on the counter, her feigned nonchalance breaking slightly as Hermione peered over the pot with intrigue.

“Holy fuck that smells good!” She said after inhaling deeply, the scent of garlic, olives and tomatoes hitting her nose, the aroma comforting and homely.

Fleur smiled proudly, positively glowing under Hermione’s praise. “Honestly Fleur the bar is on the floor when it comes to cooking; it seems Molly Weasley’s good cooking starts and ends with her in that family.”

Hermione gestured to the pot, asking if she could serve them both. With a quick nod from Fleur, who had begun to inspect her wine choices before deciding on the bottle of red in her hand, Hermione began portioning some of the spaghetti onto their plates. “Thank you Fleur, you didn’t have to do this.”

Fleur shook her head, pouring a generous amount of wine into both of their glasses before speaking. “It’s nothing, I just wanted to find a way to say thank you for all your help and hospitality since I’ve moved here. I know it must be strange, not having seen much of me for a while and now…” the blonde waved vaguely between the two of them, the pair locking eyes for a second too long before springing back into action.

Hermione took both plates and headed towards the sofa, foregoing the formalities of eating at the dining room table.

“Is it okay if we eat here? I can start setting up your phone whilst we eat and then talk you through the basics.”

Fleur nodded, settling down on the floor around the coffee table, crossing her legs and patting the empty space next to her in invitation for Hermione to join.

Once they were both sat, food and drink in front of them, Hermione spoke into the comfortable silence. “Fancy putting some music on? Your choice. It might help drown out Siri. Honestly you should be flattered, mine never listens to me when I want it to, and don’t even get me started on Alexa.”

Fleur frowned and turned to Hermione confusedly, her tone playful “Who is Alexa? Is she prettier than me?”

Hermione chuckled as she poked Fleur’s side, rolling her eyes at the still confused blonde. “Fleur it’s almost impossible for someone to be prettier than you. Plus, she’s a smart speaker, that thing on the counter over there.” Hermione pointed past Fleur, missing the way that the blonde’s eyes lingered on her, dropping to her lips and back up as their eyes met again.

“The turntable is on, take your pick and I’ll try not to be too judgemental.”

Fleur pushed Hermione’s head playfully as she stood up, making her way over to the music system, raising an eyebrow at Hermione over her shoulder. “I should hope that you wouldn’t judge me, seeing as these are your records. It would be your taste up for questioning, not mine, non?”

Hermione hummed begrudgingly in agreement, watching as the blonde bent over to inspect her record collection, her deft fingers running over the rows of records, her soft voice murmuring titles to herself as the brunette continued to watch her.

Blowing on her food, Hermione turned her attention back to Fleur’s phone, tearing her gaze away from the blonde lest she be caught openly ogling the woman’s behind yet again.

The soft hiss and crackle of the player caught her attention once more, the notes of a jaunty piano seeping into the room. Fleur approached her slowly, a pleased smirk on her face as she looked at Hermione’s approving gaze.

“You cannot go wrong with Carole King.” Fleur said as she resumed her cross legged position next to Hermione, their knees resting against one another.

“Now. Talk to me about your day, you can explain this thing to me later.” Fleur continued, glaring at the phone in Hermione’s hand.

“There’s not too much to talk about.” Hermione began slowly, still undecided as to whether she should reveal the nature of her Thursday “appointments” to the blonde. “We had a departmental inspection so I got called in early by Sophia to help out. It’s a miracle the department is even semi functional looking at the state of their filing system.” Hermione laughed, taking in Fleur’s slight frown.

“And is Sophia your boss?” Her tone was casual, but her demeanour had changed marginally, one of her fingers bouncing on her knee as she blew on a forkful of her pasta.

Hermione chewed thoughtfully, shaking her head as she moaned gratefully into the mouthful. “No, she’s just a colleague and good friend. She’s the only person directly in the department who is vaguely my age and whose views aren’t stuck in the 1700’s.”

Fleur’s frown deepened, her eyes still trained on Hermione. “And did she go to Hogwarts too? I don’t remember hearing of a Sophia from Bill.”

“No, she’s Italian, she transferred over from their Ministry around the same time that I started.”

“Huh.” Fleur said, stabbing her fork into her pasta roughly. “European. Is she blonde too?”

Hermione raised her eyebrow quizzically, getting nothing but a shrug and a smooth, impassive look from Fleur, the blonde’s eyes widening as if to enhance her innocence. “I am just curious as to who has the pleasure of your company all day.”

“Ah! I have a picture of her actually, on my phone. So you can put a face to the name.” Hermione placed her fork down and rifled through her pockets until she extracted her phone. She scrolled through her photos quickly, hiding the screen slightly from Fleur’s view; she didn’t trust that Ginny hadn’t been messing around with her camera roll recently, the redhead often filling her albums up with lewd images downloaded from the web.

She paused as she found a photo of herself, Sophia and Ginny at a pub in Diagon Alley, taken after a particularly gruelling day at the office. The photo showed a tipsy, rosy cheeked Ginny beaming broadly at the camera whilst Sophia was gazing fondly at Hermione, a hand placed on her shoulder, a warm smile on her face that made her dimples more prominent against her olive complexion. Hermione herself was pointing at the camera, her mouth half open and presumably scolding either Ron or Harry who were taking the photo.

Hermione passed the phone to Fleur, continuing to eat as she watched Fleur’s eyes widen, her eyebrows shooting up before her features composed themselves again, her eyes scanning the picture with intent. After a moment the blonde handed the phone back silently, picking up her fork and twirling the spaghetti around her plate.

“She is pretty. Not blonde though.” She murmured, spearing an olive and popping it into her mouth as she turned her blue eyes back to Hermione’s awaiting honey brown ones. “And has anything ever happened romantically between the two of you?”

Hermione gulped and looked away, purposefully stalling as she took a large swig of her wine. Honesty , she thought, turning her body slightly to face Fleur. “We did kiss once. At the office Christmas party. There was mistletoe and wine. I’ve been told there was karaoke, not that I remember much of that.” Hermione laughed awkwardly, glancing at Fleur. She couldn’t be sure, but it looked like Fleur’s features had darkened fractionally, her fork still held aloft as she nodded her head infinitesimally.

When Fleur didn’t speak Hermione continued, “But I’d hardly say it was hardly romantic. Nothing ever happened after. We’re just good friends.”

Fleur hummed, her eyes fixed on her plate, a crease forming on her forehead.

“And you’re right, she’s not blonde.” Hermione ducked her head to catch Fleur’s eye, hearing a soft chuckle escape from Fleur’s lips, her blue eyes finally meeting Hermione’s.

“French wine is better too, although I will hand it to them, Italian food is not so bad.” A playful edge had returned to Fleur’s voice, her eyes glittering again, her cool facade cracking as she finished her last bite of pasta. She picked up her wine and took a big gulp, knocking her glass against Hermione’s in cheers.

“Now your day. It has to have been better than mine. Did Bill Weasley survive the day? Are his balls still intact?” Hermione joked, finishing the last of her pasta as well before summoning the open bottle of wine, topping up both her and Fleur’s glasses.

“Just about. He promised to teach me the spell he used on my door, which helped to dispel my anger somewhat. There’s something about the Weasley’s - I’m sure you’ll agree - that means I can’t stay mad at him for too long. And it’s not for a lack of trying.” Fleur thanked Hermione for the wine, reaching for her now empty plate and stacking it with her own, heading towards the kitchen as she continued to speak.

“He also said he was going to tell his family the truth about our marriage. He mentioned Ginny has a game Saturday so he will tell them the day after, when they’re all together at The Burrow.” Fleur called from the kitchen, the sound of the running faucet shrouding her voice slightly.

Hermione let her head flop back onto the seat of the sofa, her neck arched backwards as she listened to Fleur continue to wash up by hand, letting her eyes slide closed for a moment. The tap turned off and Hermione let the now familiar warmth spool over her as Fleur approached, the blonde’s head appearing over the top of the sofa to peer back at Hermione.

“Salut.” Fleur said softly as she reached out to move a lock of Hermione's hair from her face, letting her index finger trail from the brunette’s ear down to her chin, which she pushed further upwards to better see her honey brown eyes.

Hermione let her head be moved by Fleur’s lithe finger, her lips parting reflexively, a small sigh slipping from her mouth at the feel of Fleur’s fingertips grazing her skin.

Before she could respond, Fleur continued to speak. “How do you think Ron and Ginny will take the news?” The blonde tapped Hermione’s chin once more before skirting around the sofa, settling in on the cushions just behind Hermione.

The brunette eased herself up slowly, stretching out her cramped legs before joining Fleur on the sofa, handing the blonde her recently filled wine glass. “If I’m honest I don’t think it’ll be a shock to Ginny. She’s always been annoyingly perceptive when it comes to things like this. Ron on the other hand… well - and I say this with the utmost love and affection - he can be a little dense sometimes.”

Fleur tossed her head back as she laughed, adjusting herself so that she was closer to Hermione, who had begun to tap at Fleur’s phone experimentally. “How do you feel about the truth being, you know, out there? It must be nice to have one less secret to have to hold onto. Kind of freeing.”

Hermione hoped that she sounded casual, but judging by the way in which Fleur stiffened, she gathered that her tone was more pointed than she intended.

“In some ways, oui. I’m just hopeful that per’aps some of the other members of the Weasley family will think of me more kindly when they realise I didn’t break the heart of their dear William.” Fleur nudged Hermione conspiratorially, earning herself a chuckle from the brunette, who looked back at the phone in her hand thoughtfully.

Fleur pouted petulantly at Hermione’s split attention as she noticed the brunette still playing around with the settings on her soon to be phone. “Show me this phone then. How do I talk to you with it?”

“Well first you’d need my number and I’ve already told you, you’ll have to try harder than that to get it. What do I get in return if I were to let you have it?” Hermione asked boldly, holding the phone above her head and out of Fleur’s reach, her other hand pressed gently against the woman’s chest to keep her at bay, feeling the steady thump of her heart against her fingertips.

Fleur leant into Hermione’s touch, undeterred by the firmness of her hand. Her blue eyes turned thoughtful, scanning the ceiling as if looking for inspiration, before they cleared in triumph, synchronised with the smile that tugged at her lips as she met Hermione’s awaiting gaze. “A secret. You give me your number and I will tell you a secret. Seeing as they’re supposedly so freeing to tell.”

Hermione mulled over Fleur’s proposition, internally thrilling at the prospect of some honesty on Fleur’s part.

“And then If you feel like telling me one in return, you could send me one later, before you sleep? It would only be fair to return the favour for this exquisite meal that I prepared with such care and the endless pleasure that my company brings, non?”

Hermione raised her eyebrows, watching Fleur take a delicate sip of her wine, her blue eyes sparkling with glee, just visible over the rim of the glass as she drank.

“Well I suppose that sounds like a fair trade. It has to be a good secret though; I don’t want to hear that you don’t actually like Molly Weasley or something. It has to be something… personal.”

Fleur nodded slowly, her gaze thoughtful as she swilled her wine around the glass, her attention focussed on the motion. After a pause, she raised her eyes, meeting Hermione’s steady honey brown eyes.

“My secret is that… I was intimidated by you when you were in fourth year.” The confession slipped from Fleur’s lips cautiously. Her face was almost deflated as she spoke, as if she’d been on the cusp of imparting something else and then had changed her mind suddenly, her eyes dulling as she looked back at Hermione.

Hermione couldn’t stop the look of confusion and surprise that took over her face. Fleur was actively avoiding her eyes, her own glittering blue ones darting around the apartment, landing finally on the phone clutched loosely in Hermione's hand.

“You were intimidated by me? You barely spoke to me.” Hermione spoke slowly, feeling a frown pucker between her eyebrows as she flipped through vague memories of fourth year, trying to recall any interactions that would back up Fleur’s claim.

Their only conversation of note had taken place in the library, between the first and second task. Fleur had become a near permanent fixture in the library, something that Hermione had tried and failed to ignore. Madam Pince had banished seemingly half of the male population of Hogwarts from the library; Fleur’s presence wasn’t only distracting to Hermione and the librarian had grown tired of telling students to stop their giggling and whispering whenever Fleur was around.

Hermione had also become aware of the increase in frequency of Viktor Krum’s visits to the library. Between him and Fleur, her patience had been wearing thin. She could feel the weight of their eyes on her when she was reading, determined not to give either of them the satisfaction of returning their looks, only glancing up occasionally to shoot a disapproving glare when they flipped a page too loudly or the scrawling of their quills became too distracting.

Her annoyance became solely directed at Fleur once she had struck up an odd sort of friendship with Viktor Krum. After weeks of his staring, Hermione had acquiesced and confronted him, asking him outright if there was any reason for his lingering stares. In fractured English he’d managed to explain that he had been trying to work up the courage to ask her for help with his English. Over the course of their “lessons”, she’d grown close with Viktor and subsequently accepted his offer to accompany him to the Yule Ball as friends.

Talk of the Yule Ball was rife around the castle, an inescapable and incessant chatter that had fast begun to irritate Hermione. Accepting Viktor’s offer had however afforded her the luxury of being able to stop thinking about the Ball, allowing her to shift her attention back to the real challenge at hand - the second task of the Triwizard Tournament.

On this particular occasion, Hermione had entered the library expecting to see Fleur in her usual armchair as close to the roaring fire as possible. Noting her absence in the form of the empty chair, she had tried to push down the strange feeling of disappointment that rose inside her, focussing her attention instead on a list of books that she endeavoured to read in the hopes of helping Harry decipher the Golden Egg, the meaning of which still evaded them both.

She’d been scanning the shelves, weaving delicately between the rows of books with muscle memory when she’d felt something change in the air. She knew before turning the corner that Fleur was nearby, the knowledge shooting a coiling warmth into her stomach that made her feel uncomfortable, yet also excited.

And there she was. Fleur had been scanning a text, a book resting in her hands. Her lips moved absentmindedly as she read the words, her fingers tracing the lines across the page.

Hermione tried to backtrack before the blonde noticed her, retreating slowly, but her getaway was foiled by a rather aggressive book which shot out before her face, missing her by mere centimetres. The book clattered loudly into the shelf opposite, causing Fleur’s head to whip up suddenly, her eyes fixed upon Hermione.

A silence hung in the air, begging to be broken. Hermione had opened her mouth and closed it again, finding it difficult to form words as Fleur’s eyes drifted curiously over her, seeming to size her up.

It had been Fleur that spoke first, sighing as she closed the book, holding it out for Hermione to take. “There iz nothing ‘elpful in here, but you can see for yourself.”

Hermione had stared at the offered book with caution, her mistrust seeping through as a scowl formed on her face. She’d watched Fleur’s face become impatient before it cleared into a playful look as she waved the book more pointedly at her, almost mockingly.

With a huff Hermione had taken the book, snatching it from Fleur’s hand, purposefully avoiding touching the blonde’s fingers. She’d scanned the title and begrudgingly saw that it was indeed one of the texts on her list. She mumbled a thanks; whilst she didn’t like Fleur at all, she was English after all.

Fleur had leant against the bookcase, one of her hands resting on the nearest shelf as she watched Hermione with curiosity. Hermione remembered shifting under Fleur’s watchful gaze, her mind furiously trying to grasp something, anything to say to the girl in front of her.

When it became clear that the brunette would not speak again, Fleur had spoken. “It iz good that you are ‘elping him. Harry, I mean. He iz far too young for zis.”

Hermione watched Fleur fidget, intrigued despite herself; she’d never seen Fleur look anything less than poised and was surprised by the crack in the blonde’s usually collected facade.

“How do you know that I’m helping him?” Hermione hated the way her voice sounded as it broke through the oddly thick and tense air. It came out thin and hoarse, weak even to her own ears. She tried to counter it by jutting up her chin proudly, deepening her glare.

To her extreme annoyance Fleur had smirked, a singular eyebrow raising, her blue eyes flaring dangerously as she took a slow and deliberate step towards Hermione, closing the gap between them.

“No offence to ‘Arry, but that level of Summoning Charm? It seems… advanced.” Fleur finished with a shrug, Hermione hating how her stomach flipped every time the blonde turned the full force of her eyes on her.

Hermione felt anger flare inside her at Fleur’s words, mingling with the jittery rolling in her stomach. Who was she to pass judgement on Harry’s abilities? This prideful, peacocking girl who knew nothing about Harry or her.

“It’s irrelevant whether I’m helping him or not. Either way you should be less worried about him and more worried about your own strategy.” Hermione hissed, boldly moving towards Fleur, now close enough to the girl to notice the difference in their height, her neck angled backwards slightly to keep her eyes fixed with resolve on Fleur.

Fleur’s eyes had gleamed in the dim light, her lips quirking upwards into a smug smile before she spoke again. “Well ‘Ermione Granger, with you behind him, per’aps I am worried.” Fleur had all but whispered as she bent her head close to Hermione’s ear. She smirked as she brushed past the brunette, heading back towards her usual chair, her hips swaying exaggeratedly under Hermione’s flustered gaze, her heels clicking loudly in the relative silence of the library.

“I will be right ‘ere if you need help finding any ozzer books, ‘Ermione.” Fleur had added, her soft laughter echoing off the stacks of books as Hermione had stormed away further into the library, as far away from Fleur as possible.

Fleur tapped at the stem of the wine glass, the motion breaking through Hermione’s reverie, her gaze snapping back to Fleur currently, images of her at seventeen still fresh in her mind. The blonde sighed before letting her eyes eventually shift back to Hermione. “Well of course I didn’t speak to you, you were always glaring at me! If looks could kill ‘Ermione I’d be one of your Hogwarts ghosts.”

Hermione let out a soft laugh, biting her lip and shooting Fleur an apologetic look. “A fifteen year old glaring at you was intimidating to you? I just don’t believe it.”

One of Fleur’s sculpted eyebrows shot up, her eyes twinkling under Hermione’s challenge. “You seem to have a strange view of me back then, and a strange view of yourself. You didn’t just become the brightest witch of her age when you hit seventeen Hermione; you always were her.” Fleur scanned Hermione’s skeptical face, huffing in frustration when it was clear that she wasn’t being understood.

“You were an enigma, this extremely intelligent fifteen year old who had somehow already faced so much. And then with the Triwizard Tournament, everyone knew that the real reason that Harry did so well, was so prepared, was because of you and your help.”

Hermione shook her head, opened her mouth to protest that whilst she helped, it was Harry who ultimately had to face the challenges, but Fleur interjected.

“You were fascinating to me. I’ll admit, the fact that you disliked me so much only made me want to speak to you more. To figure you out.” Fleur’s voice was low, her eyes had a faraway sheen to them as she appraised Hermione thoughtfully.

Hermione swallowed loudly, busying herself by bringing her wine glass to her lips, noting the slight shake of her hand as she did so.

“And as for never speaking to you, it wasn’t for a lack of trying; your constant glaring was hardly welcoming.” Fleur added playfully, her hand momentarily coming to rest on Hermione’s shoulder before she returned it to the back of the sofa, almost self consciously.

“Well forgive me for being annoyed that the strange, beautiful, older Beauxbatons champion was staring at me all the time.” Hermione quipped, grabbing Fleur’s hand and returning it to her shoulder, enjoying the way that the blonde’s face softened at the physical contact. “It was very distracting when I was, you know, trying to help keep Harry alive and everything.”

Fleur smirked, her eyes gleaming as she shuffled closer to Hermione. “You found me distracting, hm?”

Hermione rolled her eyes, choosing to keep her mouth shut lest her tremulous voice give away her pounding heart, betrayed the shudder of pleasure that went through her at Fleur’s flirtatious tone.

“So? Was my secret good enough to earn your number? Am I worthy now?” Fleur removed her hand from Hermione’s shoulder, reaching it out tentatively to brush against the phone still sitting in Hermione’s hand. The blonde prised the brunette's fingers from the device, keeping her eyes fixed on Hermione as she took the phone from her.

Hermione gulped and nodded, taking a steadying breath before demonstrating to Fleur how to add a number, placing her own in Fleur’s contacts.

“So besides messaging you, what else is this phone good for? How do I take pictures like the one of you and Sophia and Ginny?” Fleur curled her feet underneath her, bouncing slightly in excitement as she began tapping experimentally on the screen of her phone.

Hermione happily leant into Fleur’s side, half heartedly admonishing her as she continued to press random buttons, the phone emitting a cacophony of sounds in protest. “This one here is the camera. You can also flip it around if you press this icon. Front and back camera on this one.” Hermione demonstrated before handing the phone to Fleur, watching as she animatedly snapped away, brandishing the camera in front of Crookshanks as he slept. “You can change your home screen and Lock Screen as well, so if you take a cool picture then let me know and I’ll show you how to do it.”

Fleur nodded thoughtfully, before she turned to face Hermione, a mischievous grin taking over her face. “And what is your Lock Screen?”

Hermione held her phone out, the screen displaying a photo of herself, Ginny and Luna taken by Ron at Grimmauld Place, before Hermione had moved out. The three of them were looking away from the camera, their attention fixed on Harry who could be seen in the corner of the screen, mid story, his arms raised as he acted out one part or another of the story he was telling.

Fleur hummed, her finger brushing over the screen, briefly covering Hermione’s face as she tenderly stroked the image. “So you typically have pictures of friends?”

Hermione nodded slowly, before her face cleared in understanding as Fleur raised her own phone at Hermione, smiling as she slowly brought the camera up, her eyes asking permission.

The brunette rolled her eyes and scowled playfully, trying her best to emulate her fifteen year old self. Fleur laughed earnestly, asking her to scowl more, to look more annoyed. Hermione found herself unable to frown anymore, her attention drawn to the blonde behind the phone, her vibrant blue eyes glowing impossibly bright, her perfect pink lips open in a toothy smile as she continued to giggle at Hermione. She felt her own face respond in kind, a tender smile taking over her face as she observed Fleur openly.

Blushing, Hermione stopped staring, moving her eyes down to the screen that Fleur was now brandishing at her, the impromptu photoshoot over. “I like this one. I think this would be the perfect background, non?”

Hermione examined the photo and blushed deeper. She thought she’d been doing a good job of quelling her feelings, of hiding her stupid crush from Fleur; the photo showed that evidently, she needed to work harder. She was looking past the camera, right at Fleur, her eyes undeniably soft and warm, glowing with fondness and a small conspiratorial smile pulling at her lips. Very subtle , she thought, scolding herself and cringing internally.

Fleur seemed unaware of Hermione’s embarrassment, the blonde following the steps Hermione had outlined to assign the image as her new Lock Screen. When it was done, Fleur smiled proudly, admiring her handiwork and enthusiastically showing Hermione before she spoke again, her voice teasing.

“It only seems fair that if you are my background, that I am yours too, non? We wouldn’t want this… friendship to be unbalanced. Or do you not want to please me ‘Ermione?”

Hermione willed her body not to react to Fleur’s sultry voice, begged her mouth to say no to her request as she thought of Ginny’s inevitable teasing if she were to see a photo of Fleur as her phone background. Instead, she found herself nodding, unable to deny Fleur of anything, not when she was looking at her like that, with her blue eyes heavily lidded, lips parted and the heat of her body pressed against her own.

Fleur smirked, clapping her hands together before running them through her hair, her silvery blonde locks shining as she tousled them to perfection. “Bon. How do you want me?” She all but purred, laughing as Hermione cleared her throat and gripped her phone tighter, the device suddenly seeming slippery in her slightly sweaty hands.

“Umm. Just smile I guess?” Hermione said nervously, glancing at Fleur through her phone screen, the camera doing nothing to dull her radiant beauty. She watched Fleur tut dramatically, the blonde complaining teasingly about Hermione’s lack of talent as a director.

“Okay fine! Give me snooty seventeen year old Fleur. Eet is so cold! I ‘ate zis castle!” Hermione put on an exaggerated French accent, earning a swift hit to her arm from Fleur, who was laughing breathlessly despite trying to look annoyed.

“That’s it, you’re freezing! The castle is so draughty, our food is disgusting! Ron is asking you to the Yule Ball.” Hermione continued, spitting out absurd directives between laughs, snapping away at Fleur who was also giggling, the photos descending into chaos as Fleur hunched over trying to catch her breath.

“That’s a wrap on Fleur Delacour.” Hermione joked, clapping as Fleur curtseyed, bowing low and blowing kisses at an imaginary audience before flopping on the sofa next to Hermione again, resting her head on the brunette's shoulder as they swiped between photos.

“This one, definitely.” Hermione said huskily, clearing her throat, embarrassed at her choice of picture. Fleur was laughing in the photo, her hand outstretched as if to grab the phone back from Hermione, her blue eyes gloriously playful, her features completely free, at ease. Fleur looked utterly happy and Hermione was once again surprised by the intensity with which she felt the desire to be the person who made Fleur smile like, the wanton need to make the blonde happy overwhelming and almost painful in its clarity.

Fleur nodded, happy with Hermione's choice. She drained the rest of her wine and gestured for Hermione to do the same, settling further into the sofa, summoning the remainder of the bottle to fill up their glasses once more.

“Now, tell me what else this phone does, I want to know everything.”

 

*****

 

Hermione spent the rest of the evening outlining the various features of Fleur’s new phone, patiently explaining and re-explaining how to get from application to application, how to text and to Fleur’s delight, how to send voice notes.

Fleur had left late, apologising profusely for keeping Hermione for so long. Hermione had only managed to shake her head, fighting the urge to confess to Fleur that she was beginning to feel like all the time in the world spent with the blonde would never be enough, that she’d never run out of things to say to her.

The blonde had imparted the new standard of no less than three kisses to Hermione’s cheeks, waving emphatically down the hallway, confirming that they’d apparate to work together as usual the following morning before disappearing into her apartment.

Hermione had been tidying her flat, clearing up the remnants of the meal Fleur had prepared when her phone had buzzed, Fleur’s name appearing on the screen just moments after the blonde had left. A voice note.

She smiled as she pressed play, hearing Fleur’s voice emanate from her speaker, her accent more pronounced as she tested the microphone her end. Hermione laughed at the string of French profanities that emitted from her phone, the sound of the phone clattering onto what she presumed was Fleur’s floor mixed in for good measure.

“Salut ma cherie. It has been too long since we have spoken, non? I just wanted to check that we are still meeting up tomorrow evening? To watch a film? It is okay if not, I have been taking a lot of your time recently… bien, anyway. I-merde!” The phone crackled noisily, making Hermione wince and move the phone further from her face as Fleur once again swore before the voice note finished.

As she continued to tidy and get ready for bed, Hermione replied to Fleur, sporadically sending voice notes and texts, watching eagerly as the three dots appeared almost as soon as she’d sent her messages, Fleur replying instantly.

Once she was in bed, Crookshanks curled against her back, she felt her eyelids droop, exhaustion threatening to take over. On the cusp of sleep, her phone buzzed loudly and rhymically, Fleur’s face appearing on the screen.

Confusedly, Hermione answered watching as Fleur came into view, the dim light suggesting that she too, was in bed. Hermione smiled warmly, mirroring Fleur’s own smile, immediately waking up upon seeing the blonde’s face.

“I have another question for you.” The blonde said thickly, her accent more pronounced now that she was tired, a fact that Hermione filed away greedily.

“And it couldn’t wait?” Hermione replied playfully, propping her phone up and tucking her hands under her pillow, watching Fleur tug at the Alanis Morissette shirt she had borrowed, the action causing a pulsating thrill to bloom in Hermione’s chest.

“Absolutely not. What exactly makes this phone so smart? Is there such a thing as a stupid phone?”

Hermione let out a breathy chuckle, before sighing and rolling onto her back, her phone held above her with Fleur’s sleepy face holding her in rapture in the soft glow of her bedroom.

Chapter Text

An unfamiliar musical tone stirred Fleur from sleep, her hand reflexively snaking out from beneath her body, seeking the interruption from her dreaming and stopping it from persisting.

She found the noisy device after a few seconds of rummaging, staring for a moment at the screen which looked foreign to her, her bleary frown clearing when she registered Hermione’s face on the screen, her name flashing brightly making Fleur squint her eyes slightly.

She swiped quickly, answering just before the call could cut off, clumsily rubbing at her sensitive eyes and stifling a yawn as a similarly dishevelled looking Hermione appeared, also still curled in bed, the top of the duvet tucked under her chin.

“Good morning ma belle.” Fleur said softly, her voice thick and heavily accented with sleep, a smile creeping onto her face at the sight of a bedraggled Hermione, the brunette cocooned in blankets, her face soft and vulnerable in the morning light.

“Good morning. I’m so sorry, I think I fell asleep on the phone to you. I just thought I’d call and tell you that it wasn’t because you were boring me.” Hermione joked, her arms stretching above her head as she sat up, the subtle muscles across her back rolling and flexing as she did so, momentarily distracting Fleur.

The blonde shook her head determinedly, waving one hand as if to bat away Hermione’s comment. “People have called me many things over the years, but boring has never been one of them; I did not think you find me boring in the slightest.” She shot back playfully, letting Hermione’s quiet and cracked laughter wash over her as she raised her body up into a seated position, her back resting against her headboard.

“Okay, good. I was just worried, I don’t remember falling asleep. What time was it?” Fleur tried to suppress her smile by biting her lip as she watched Hermione run a hand through her hair, a frown appearing on the brunette’s face as she tried to detangle a stubborn lock of hair tousled from sleep.

Fleur shrugged lazily, feeling a smile creep across her face as Hermione’s eyes turned back to the screen, the brunette's frown clearing as they looked at one another. “I don’t know, it was very late though, I feel like I’ve barely slept. Work is going to be fun.”

Hermione groaned in agreement, the brunette shifting as Crookshanks momentarily blocked the screen, meowing loudly.

“I think that’s my cue to get up. I’ll be over soon, I just need to make myself look less like I’ve stayed up all night.” Hermone gestured to herself lazily, tousling her hair again before petting a now purring Crookshanks.

“I think you look perfect as you are.” Fleur said earnestly, enjoying seeing a blush rise to Hermione’s face, the brunette self consciously averting her gaze. “I’ll be eagerly awaiting your company, you can continue to tease me for my knowledge of washed up boybands.”

Hermione laughed warmly as she got out of bed with Crookshanks following behind her as she headed to her kitchen, the pitter patter of his paws audible through the phone.

“You know my teasing comes from a place of fondness, teenybopper Fleur sounds simply adorable.” The brunette laughed again at Fleur’s scowl.

“I knew I shouldn’t have told you about the time that I went to a Backstreet Boys concert. Music snob.” Fleur added playfully, following suit and getting out of her own bed, wincing as her feet hit the cold wooden floor.

“I’ll add a musical education to the list of things for us to do; it’s never too late to learn what good music sounds like, Delacour.”

“Don’t say anything now that you wouldn’t say to my face, you forget that I know where you live ‘Ermione.” Fleur jabbed a finger at her screen, bringing the phone closer to her face to accentuate her playful frown. “Now hurry up and get here, I’m already on thin ice with the Goblins as it is, I doubt they’d appreciate my lateness.”

Hermione nodded briskly as she finished feeding Crookshanks, turning her attention back to her phone which was currently propped up on the kitchen counter. “Yes ma’am. See you soon.”

“À bientôt ma cherie.” Fleur replied, smiling as Hermione’s warm honey brown eyes met her own before the call finished.

With a sigh, she hoisted herself fully out of the bed, waving a hand behind her to straighten the duvet as she padded towards her bathroom.

Glancing in the mirror, she took stock of her appearance. Despite the slight dark circles under her eyes that hinted at her late night, she was pleased with how she looked. Her bright blue eyes were positively glowing, unable to hide the glee that she felt at her increasing closeness with Hermione. In fact, she’d noticed that the more time she spent with Hermione, the closer they were both physically and emotionally, the more attractive she seemed to be, even by her own estimations.

Throughout her teenage years people had often thought of Fleur as vain; nothing more than a vapid, attractive blonde obsessed with her own looks. For Fleur, whilst she was able to appreciate her own aesthetic beauty, she felt alienated from it, a disconnect between her body and her sense of self. Years of prying eyes, lingering looks and general gawking had left her harbouring a deep seated resentment for her natural allure.

Her beauty allowed people to feel entitled to their stares, entitled to her body, like she was nothing more than a vessel in a display case of a museum. The war had thankfully shifted the perception of those closest to her and had given her a chance to voice her grievances. In the aftermath of the days of darkness, whilst spending time with her family in France she had learnt to reconnect with her body, to see her beauty as part of her heritage, something to be celebrated; something that was hers.

She softly ran her hand across the side of her face, admiring the curve of her jaw, the supple skin of her cheeks and the strong angle of her chin. She wondered what it would feel like to have Hermione’s hands trace her face, what the brunette would unearth as she traversed the angles of her, the planes of her skin.

Fleur met her eyes in the mirror, her lips pulling into a conspiratorial smile as she watched her eyes shimmer as she thought of the brunette, her thrall languidly spooling outwards.

Whilst the weight of people’s eyes had been a long suffering burden to her, there was a particular set of eyes whose attention she always craved, even when she was seventeen. She recalled long wintery nights in the Hogwarts Library, willing Hermione to tear her eyes away from whatever book she had her head buried in and to instead plant them upon her.

Ever since she first stepped foot in the Great Hall, when she felt Hermione’s honey brown eyes blazing into hers, full of scorn, anger and confusion, she’d wanted nothing more than to unravel her gaze; to sink into the depths of the brunette’s eyes.

She thought of the way that Hermione looked at her now, the way in which the brunette had changed, yet her eyes had remained the same. They were expressive. Open. Honest. Hermione did not have Fleur’s skill when it came to levelling a guarded gaze, or for impassivity and it was something that Fleur had always admired, the way in which Hermione’s emotions were always visible just beneath the surface, swirling in her warm golden eyes.

It had become a challenge for her during her short stint at Hogwarts, one that had continued as she healed Hermione, a challenge to draw the brunette's eyes to her, to try and untangle the mass of emotion that she saw there. Her eyes were watchful, intelligent, gleaming with a hidden knowledge that Fleur was always desperate to decipher. When Hermione looked at her, she felt seen, understood and alive.

Fleur gave herself one last cursory look in the mirror before undressing and stepping into the shower, revelling in the cascading warmth as the water enveloped her body. She washed hurriedly, her thrall pulsating insistently as she allowed herself to fill her thoughts with the brunette, ruminating over their long conversations the night before.

Hermione never failed to impress her with her vast knowledge across multiple topics, the brunette always eager to offer witty and insightful comments. Despite her obvious intelligence, Fleur admired Hermione’s vulnerability, her ability to admit where any gaps in her knowledge lay and to soak up new information with an open willingness to change - or alternatively stick by - her views when challenged.

Conversing with Hermione reminded her of the verbal exchanges between her mother and father over the years. She’d never understood their connection, their camaraderie that spanned beyond the way they were tethered together as each other's mate. As a teenager she’d scoffed and teased at the way in which her mother and father could still stay up talking in one of the many parlour rooms of the Delacour Estate until the early hours, despite having spent all day with one another, their conversations never seeming to be exhausted despite having been together for years.

She wanted to know everything about Hermione, to hear her thoughts on every topic no matter how small. Their late night phone conversation had offered Fleur a peek into what life could be like if shared with Hermione, how utterly at peace she could feel if every night were to be spent with the brunette. If only she could find the courage to do what she had to.

Her thoughts darkened as the metaphorical cloud that was their bond drifted overhead, hanging like a gloomy storm cloud on a summer’s day. She’d been close to coming clean the night before, the long kept secret on the tip of her tongue before she’d lost her nerve and had instead swapped it out for another.

She hadn’t lied; she truly had been intimidated by Hermione as a teenager. But this wasn’t the truth that had been eager to slip from her lips, halted by a paralysing fear that grew bigger by the day.

Fleur shut off the water as she huffed her frustration, towelling herself partially dry before performing a wordless spell for the rest, heading back to her wardrobe and grabbing a stormy blue pant suit. She dressed quickly as she glanced at her new phone, the time suggesting that Hermione would be over soon.

Her thrall shuddered at the thought, excitement and anticipation pooling in her stomach. “Behave.” She muttered to herself, chuckling as she felt her thrall recede begrudgingly, humming underneath her skin as she pulled her hair up into a loose, low ponytail, letting a few strands drop down to frame her face.

A knock at her door sent her thrall expanding outwards again, the sensation of a sharp tug in her chest confirming that it was indeed Hermione behind the door.

She willed herself to walk steadily, but failed as the yanking in her chest compelled her to move quicker towards the door, her feet moving faster of their own accord.

“I thought I told you to behave.” She whispered, unable to properly chastise her thrall for the excited tremor that laced her voice. She took a deep breath in before wrenching open the door, a beaming smile taking over her face as she was met with the sight of the brunette.

Hermione’s eyes raked over the blonde appreciatively, Fleur having to keep her thrall at bay as it practically bounded towards the brunette, its effect obvious as Hermione’s pupils dilated slightly.

“God Fleur, late nights look good on you.” Hermione half whispered, her face blooming into a blush before the words had even been uttered.

Fleur chuckled, leaning against the door frame, one hand itching to reach out and touch the brunette, to trace the pink tinge on her face.

“A perk of the Veela blood. Although it scarcely looks as if our late night affected you either; you look beautiful.” The blonde replied, watching Hermione squirm under her gaze, but staunchly refusing to look away, those emotive honey brown eyes set stubbornly forward.

Fleur allowed herself to lean forward and impart her usual greeting onto Hermione's still flushed cheeks, feeling the brunette lean into her lips as she brushed them against her three times, pausing, before placing a fourth near to the brunette’s ear. As she did so, she whispered a soft “good morning”, delighting to hear the greeting returned close to her own ear.

She leant back triumphantly, noticing how Hermione automatically shifted her own body forward to maintain their closeness, orbiting her.

“Shall we? I really wasn’t joking about the Goblins, Ulgras would be all too delighted to hand me a pink slip. I can already see his stupid little face.” Fleur grumbled, trailing off in French as Hermione chuckled dotingly, taking her hand without thought.

“Well let’s not give him the satisfaction then.” Hermione replied, tugging at Fleur’s hand and guiding her towards the stairwell, the blonde returning her attention to Hermione after pulling her door closed.

The pair walked in companionable silence down the stairs, Hermione opening the door for Fleur who squeezed the brunette's hand in thanks, leading them to their usual apparating alleyway, smoothly apparating them both without breaking stride.

Hermione stumbled closer to Fleur as they landed, the blonde steadying her by grabbing her other hand, clasping it in her own.

“You really must stop making a habit of throwing yourself at me ‘Ermione, I just might acquiesce one of these days.” Fleur purred before laughing as Hermione squirmed in her arms, the brunette fiercely attempting to scowl around her blush.

“Oh fuck off to work Delacour, save your smart mouth for Ulgras.” Hermione retorted, wrenching one hand free from Fleur’s grasp, using it to squeeze the blonde’s hip, an area she knew to be ticklish.

Fleur squealed and writhed, laughing freely as Hermione gained the upper hand, the blonde descending into fits of giggles under Hermione’s ministrations, the flailing bringing the brunette's body still closer to her.

“Hmm, been thinking about my smart mouth have you?” Fleur murmured in Hermione’s ear between breathless laughter, watching with excitement as the brunette's arms fell slack around her, Hermione’s breath escaping her in a rush.

Worried, Fleur pulled back, searching for Hermione’s eyes to check that she hadn’t overstepped. The brunette’s expression made coherent thought momentarily flee from Fleur.

Her pupils were heavily dilated, the visible honey brown ring blazing, swirling like molten gold above her flushed cheeks. Fleur felt her breath quicken in turn, her thrall kept in check and dampened by her own blistering desire.

She stood paralysed by the force of Hermione’s gaze, by the sheer weight of the power held there as she glanced towards her lips. Fleur idly felt Hermione’s fingers dance against her hip, the fingers of her other hand brushing against her own, entwined. She knew she needed to move, needed to create some space between herself and Hermione but found herself unable to, rooted to the spot by those watchful, glorious eyes that were watching her and her alone.

Instead Hermione did what she would not, could not and decided for them, her feet stepping forward, her arms wrapping around Fleur’s waist as she pulled the blonde into a hug.

Fleur felt her body relax as Hermione’s head came to rest on her shoulder, her thoughts bounding through her head with ferocity without Hermione’s eyes pinning her down.

“I’ll be seeing you and your smart mouth after work.” Hermione breathed boldly, Fleur unable to keep the surprise from her face as she met Hermione’s smirking face. “For an evening of more Muggle delights. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have been food shopping by then?” Hermione added, striding towards the mouth of the alleyway, leaving a bemused Fleur behind.

The brunette turned at the entrance, holding her hand out for Fleur to take, a soft smirk still in place. “Well? Are you coming?”

Fleur grinned as she paced towards Hermione without hesitation, grabbing her hand and entwining their fingers together as they melted into the throng of Muggles.

 

*******

 

“An entire day of filing and I still can’t find what I need. Who filed the ‘F’s?” Hermione snapped, her head appearing over a stack of loose papers and manilla filing documents.

Sophia raised an eyebrow, leaning back on her chair as she shot a measured look at Hermione. “That would be me. Any feedback on my performance Miss Granger?”

Hermione balked, her scowl clearing as she looked at her colleague lounging freely at her desk, similarly surrounded by loose paperwork. “Yeah, you did shit. What are Erkling’s doing in there?”

Sophia laughed good naturedly, sighing as she rolled herself towards Hermione’s outstretched hand, skimming the file. “Hmm… the ‘E’ looks like an ‘F’, I must have missed this one yesterday. Sorry.” She corrected the file before handing it back to Hermione, who stiffly stood up, stretching out her back.

“Sorry, I’m being mean. I had barely any sleep last night.” Hermione grumbled, placing the file in the correct place before grabbing what she needed, closing the drawer with her hip.

“Did Crookshanks keep you up? Or has Hermione Granger’s love life risen from the dead?” Sophia quipped, ducking as Hermione threw a used quill at her, before leaning against Sophia’s desk, flipping absentmindedly through the folder in her hand.

“With every day that passes I regret introducing you to Ginny just a little bit more.” Hermione replied, shooting Sophia a quick smile to let her know that she was joking, the Italian witch laughing regardless.

“And how is Ginevra? Still with Harry I take it?” Sophia asked brightly, her green eyes sparkling at the mention of Ginny.

Hermione nodded, trying not to laugh at Sophia’s interest. Ever since Hermione introduced the pair to each other Sophia had shifted her romantic attentions towards the redhead, finding a kindred spirit in Ginny with their shared interest in teasing Hermione and flirtatious, lewd natures.

“A shame, Ginny is wasted on a man.” Sophia sighed dramatically, breaking into a laugh once more when Hermione nodded her agreement. “Speaking of women loving women, back to your night of sordid passion; or your night in with your cat, both signs of a lesbian I believe?”

Hermione ignored Sophia’s teasing tone, flipping the page of her file over, highlighting some text with her finger as she went. “Nothing sordid to report; I was actually on the phone.”

“With who?” Sophia asked, summoning a stack of files and adding them to the precariously balanced towers already on her desk. “Your Veela friend?”

Hermione nodded, keeping her eyes glued to the file in front of her and her face impassive, feeling Sophia’s eyes boring into her.

“OoooOoo was Hermione Granger having phone sex?” Sophia goaded, wheeling her chair closer to Hermione, her eyebrows quirking upwards as she nudged the brunette's knee with her own.

Hermione snapped the file shut and hit Sophia sharply on the arm with it, frowning around her blush. “No! We were just talking, we’re just friends.” She finished stiffly, her glare deepening with her flush.

“Ahh, but your tone tells me that you don’t want to be just friends? Is Hermione Granger finally admitting that she has feelings for this mysterious Veela?” Sophia wheeled her chair in front of Hermione, one hand swiping the file from the brunette’s hands to reveal her still scowling face.

“If I tell you, will you give me an update on your Veela findings? I’m drawing a blank here and I need answers.” Hermione grabbed the file back from Sophia, sticking her tongue out as the Italian tried and failed to take it again.

Sophia rolled her eyes at Hermione, narrowing them slightly, before finally nodding, silently agreeing to Hermione’s terms. “Fine, I’ll tell you what I know so far, if you agree to something else.”

Hermione bit her lip, remembering the last time she honoured a promise to Sophia; she’d ended the night by getting banned from a local Wizarding venue after her, Sophia and Ginny had ended up unknowingly crashing someone’s wedding reception, Ginny giving an impassioned toast to the bride Helena and groom John, neither of which were the names of the married parties.

Sensing her reluctance and guessing at the cause, Sophia added “We’ll be sure to steer clear of the Firewhisky and Elven wine concoction this time, but it does involve drinking and your friends.”

Groaning, Hermione motioned for Sophia to lay out her terms. “Tuesday next week; it’s a Goblin Bank Holiday and there’s a rumour going round that we might also be getting the day off. You do owe me a drink.” Sophia grinned crookedly, her white teeth flashing against her smooth, tanned skin, her hands coming to rest on Hermione’s knees.

“What do you say, Monday night? You, me, whoever you want, The Wand and Cloak? There’ll be music and I know the manager and I’ve been promised some free drinks.”

Hermione scoffed, raising one of her eyebrows delicately. “And by ‘know’ the manager, I presume you mean in the biblical sense?”

Sophia tilted her head to the side in confusion, leaning back in her chair before quickly tapping Hermione’s knee in warning as a senior member of staff trundled along the corridor towards their cluster of desks. Hermione opened her file reflexively, nodding animatedly and gesturing to the file as Sophia began to speak.

“…and if you think about it, the Field Research team were only responding to direct complaints from the Merpeople in the Lake. The level of micro plastics really was becoming an issue…”

Sophia shot a smile and waved at their colleague who responded with a nod of their head before rounding the corner. She then craned her neck, nodding briskly to tell Hermione the coast was clear, snapping the file shut again and leaning conspiratorially towards the brunette in case there were more curious ears nearby.

“Biblical sense? Is this your way of asking if I’ve fucked the bar manager? Because yes, yes I have.” The Italian witch winked at Hermione who shook her head in mock disbelief before laughing at the preening woman, Sophia proudly twirling a lock of her dark hair between her fingers.

“So, are we on? A raucous night of drinking and a chance for me to say ‘I told you so’ about your feelings for Ms. Veela, in exchange for my riveting research notes on Veelas?” Sophia leant her elbows on Hermione’s knees, gazing up at her with her eyes purposefully widened, her bottom lip jutting out in a pout as she awaited Hermione’s response.

The brunette sighed, rolling her eyes once more before tapping Sophia’s head with her now closed file. “Fine, but your notes better be good. I can already feel the hangover I’m going to have.”

Sophia laughed loudly, tapping Hermione’s knee good naturedly before wheeling back to her desk. “If I were you I’d start brewing a particularly strong batch of Hangover Potion, the bar manager at The Wand and Cloak was telling me about this cocktail that they make using Dragon Barrel Brandy, gin, vodka, absinthe and blackberry liquor, with a twist.”

Hermione scrunched her face up in revulsion, shuddering at the thought of the no doubt copious amounts of the vile sounding cocktail that she’d be coercing into consuming. “And what’s the twist? That I die from alcohol poisoning?”

It was Sophia’s turn to roll her eyes, the witch leaning back in her chair and motioning for Hermione to approach her desk. “The dramatics don’t suit you, Hermione, better leave them to Ginny!” She shot, watching the brunette huff her way over to her desk, summoning her own chair to peer over at Sophia’s reams of notes laid out on the surface.

Hermione briskly removed her phone from her pocket, glancing at the screen, trying and failing not to be disappointed by her lack of notifications. Whilst she’d been trying to manage her expectations, she had been hoping to hear from Fleur throughout the day, eager as she was to continue getting to know the blonde.

After a moment of deliberation, Hermione shot off what she hoped was a breezy message asking Fleur about her day, sprinkled in with a gif of a perturbed Goblin and a list of films that they could watch later that she considered quintessential Muggle classics.

Putting her phone away before she could immediately start to overthink her text, Hermione sidled up next to Sophia, who wiggled her eyebrows as she motioned towards Hermione’s now hidden phone.

Receiving a quick scowl from Hermione, Sophia clapped her hands together loudly, clearing her throat. “Right! Phones away, class, attention on me! Drink later, Veela 101 first.” The Italian witch quipped, organising her pile of paper and handing the top sheet to Hermione, who began to study Sophia’s scrawl with intent, eager to unearth new information.

 

*****

 

“If anything, I think it will make the majority of my family like you more; Mum will be annoyed at first, mainly at me, but she’ll displace her anger towards you instead.” Bill’s words echoed through the damp and dripping depths of Gringotts, his face lit up by the bright white light that was emitting from his wand.

He grunted with exertion as the spell dissipated, a few sparks sputtering feebly from his wand as he bent over to catch his breath.

Fleur, on the other hand, held her wand aloft, a white thread of light still emanating stoically from it, seemingly unaffected by the exertion of her magic. She gestured for Bill to continue, shooting him a smug grin as the redhead laughed indulgently before raising his wand and muttering a spell in tandem with Fleur.

Over the crackling sound of the spell against a vault door, Fleur responded, her voice raised in an effort to be heard. “And you’re sure that you’re okay to tell them? You want to do this and aren’t just doing it for my sake?”

Bill shook his head fervently, moving his left hand to grip his wand too, the white light from his spell work burgeoning with his added hand. “Fleur, as fond as I am of you, I’ll be relieved beyond words when my mother stops trying to convince me to go to sad, lonely, divorced Wizards clubs; I can practically feel the misogyny emanating from those meetings.”

Fleur’s tinkling laugh bounced around the cavernous space, drowned out by the resounding grinding of metal on metal as the door of the vault twisted off its hinges before crumpling in on itself, revealing a pristine brass doorway behind it.

The blonde’s laughter subsided into a string of expletives, her wand coming to rest by her side as she twirled the object in her hand, scowling at the newly revealed doorway. “‘Zis fucking bank!” Fleur shouted, throwing up her hands before turning her anger towards a laughing Bill.

“At least we’ll never be out of a job! And it’s quite symbolic, don’t you think?” Bill leant against a glistening wall, his back protected from the dewy rock via a protective spell.

Fleur joined Bill, muttering a thanks as Bill’s spell enveloped her, it’s warmth spreading over her like a blanket as it unfurled. “How so? As one door opens another even more stubborn but pretty one appears?”

Bill laughed breathlessly, running a hand through his red locks, swiping his floppy fringe behind his ears for good measure. “Exactly, Hermione is more stubborn and prettier than me, it's safe to say.”

Fleur wandlessly blew Bill’s hair back in his face, frowning as the redhead battled through his locks, his face appearing again with a grin still in place. “And how is Miss Granger? Have you put your big girl pants on and told her yet?”

Groaning, Fleur approached the newly revealed door with caution, sending off a few exploratory diagnostic spells with each step she took, feeling Bill’s silent Protego Maxima shroud her for extra precaution. “Not yet. I lost my chance last night; it was on the tip of my tongue and then she was looking at me with those eyes of hers and I just… I couldn’t do it. I can’t have her looking at me like I’m some sort of monster.

Bill’s eyebrows knitted together as he joined Fleur, his hand reaching out to land on her shoulder. The blonde kept her eyes fixed forward with resolve, still shooting off preliminary spells that swirled around the newly revealed door.

“She won’t think you’re a monster, Fleur,” Bill began cautiously, mirroring Fleur’s stance and talking in the direction of the vault door. “Hermione is one of the most understanding, kind and patient people I know. She’ll be upset that you’ve lied, that you’ve kept this from her, not that she’s your mate.”

Fleur dropped her hand suddenly, the light from her spells disappearing in a feeble puff, leaving the pair in semi darkness. The anger in Fleur’s blue eyes was visible even in the lingering darkness as she spoke. “Don’t you think I know this? Why do you think I keep putting it off? I am afraid, Bill. Afraid of losing her before I even get a chance at having her.”

Bill rocked back on his heels at Fleur’s exasperation, before standing firm, meeting her furious eyes head on as she continued. “I’m afraid that my decision to withhold this from her in the first place came from a place of self sabotage, from this deep seated place of fear. What if I don’t think I’m worthy of her? What if she doesn’t think I’m worthy of her? What happens to me then, hm?”

Fleur looked from Bill’s left eye to his right, noticing that he didn’t flinch even as her anger radiated out towards him. After a moment where neither of them spoke, Fleur felt the anger leave her body in a sigh, replaced with a broiling anxiety that never really left her, the burden of her secret taking its toll on her emotionally.

Bill simply pulled Fleur into a hug, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, squeezing her body tightly before releasing her, keeping his hands firmly on her shoulders as he searched for her gaze.

“Fleur. You know better than anyone that there are no mistakes when it comes to identifying a mate. Your thrall, your Veela picked her for a reason. You’re smart, witty and I suppose you’re quite attractive too, if you’re into that sort of thing; she’d be mad not to jump at the chance to be with you.” Bill smiled playfully, his crooked grin causing Fleur’s lips to be drawn upwards of their own accord.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see the reasons why you and Hermione would make a beautiful match. Hermione will need time to process, but I’m sure she’ll see sense in the end, once she’s got that Gryffindor anger out the way. And once you’ve opened your gob and actually told her.” He added gently, squeezing Fleur’s shoulders for reassurance before withdrawing his hands, Fleur’s pale blue eyes fixed on the ground before glancing up as he moved away.

“Now come on, let’s gather what we’ve got on this shiny new door and head back up, I don’t know about you but I’ve had enough of the dank smell of these walls for today.” Bill waved his wand over him, removing stray debris and freshening up his clothes, before doing the same to Fleur.

They walked in companionable silence, Fleur deep in thought, pondering Bill’s words and wrestling with the constant niggling feeling of guilt that gnawed at her. Once they reached the cart they had travelled in and began the journey back to the surface, Bill spoke, his voice projected over the trundling sound of the cart wheels on the track.

“How are you getting on with your new phone? Did you get Hermione to make the magical modifications?”

Fleur nodded, recalling Hermione’s intent concentration as she had murmured over the phone, the crease on her forehead prominent as she performed a manipulative - and also slightly illegal - charm that Arthur Weasley had taught her that would allow the Muggle device to work even in Wizarding areas. 

When teased regarding the spell’s legality by Fleur, Hermione had insisted there was a grey area where the Wizarding law was concerned, Fleur laughing at the brunette’s stricken face at the suggestion that she was doing something immoral.

“Oui, I haven’t had much chance to look at it today.” Fleur was aware of the gloomy tone that slipped into her voice as she spoke; she’d hoped that she would have more time to utilise her new device to contact Hermione.

Bill turned his head to face Fleur, his red hair whipping around in the breeze. “If only you had a meddling matchmaker friend who was willing to write up the report for you so that you could message your not-so-secret lady friend. I’m such a good ally.”

Fleur laughed along with Bill, half heartedly hitting his arm and trying to ignore the way her stomach squirmed at the thought of speaking to Hermione before the day was over. As her thoughts turned to her phone, Fleur felt a frown form on her face as she recalled the picture of Hermione, Ginny and Sophia on the brunette’s phone.

Whilst she knew she had no right to feel any claim over Hermione, she couldn’t help the writhing jealousy that stirred in her chest when she heard the brunette speak of the Italian woman, a jealousy that had only burned more intensely upon seeing a picture of the woman; she was objectively attractive.

“What do you know about a Sophia? She also works for the Department of Magical Creatures. She’s Italian, I think.” Fleur had hoped her tone was blasé, her voice indifferent, but if Bill’s raised eyebrows were anything to go by, she suspected she was short of the mark.

“Sophia? I know her. Why are you asking me?” Bill said as he clutched onto the railing of the cart more firmly, the vehicle screeching sharply around a corner, sending his body jolting sideways.

Fleur helped the man right himself, rolling her eyes as she did so. No matter how many times they took the same route, Bill never quite managed to find his feet, often forgetting where the more treacherous sections of track lay.

“No reason. I just…” Fleur trailed off, unsure of what exactly she had been hoping to achieve by raising the subject of the woman with Bill. Some reassurance, some voice of reason and logic to stop her irrational thoughts and feelings from taking over, her usual coolheadedness fleeing her whenever she thought of Hermione entwined with someone romantically.

“You’re jealous.” Bill said simply with a shrug, his eyes softening with understanding as he looked at Fleur, who didn’t deny his claim.

“Sophia is nice. By all accounts she’s been a good friend to Hermione and I know that Ron, Harry and Ginny all speak highly of her. Ginny especially, my sister is an incorrigible flirt regardless of gender.” Bill laughed again, taking pity on Fleur and wrapping one long arm around her shoulder. “Sophia is nice, sure, but she’s not you Fleur. There’s a reason Hermione isn’t with Sophia, you have to trust that.”

The cart groaned and sputtered to a halt, one of the Goblins on the platform grumbling their impatience as Bill and Fleur stepped out of the vehicle.

“Come on Ms. Mopey, there’s some cups of tea with our names on it in my office and a report that won’t write itself.” Bill bowed exaggeratedly as the Goblins trundled past them, piling into the now vacant cart with haste, shooting withering looks at the pair. “And tell Hermione I say hello when you message her.”

Fleur glared at Bill’s back as she begrudgingly followed him towards the upper tunnels and subsequently his office. As she walked, she took her phone out of her pocket experimentally, still not entirely trusting of the device. Her suspicion gave way to excitement when she saw Hermione’s name on the screen, a string of messages appearing from throughout the morning.

She nearly bumped into a Goblin in her haste to respond, a wry giggle escaping her lips as she watched the animated Goblin on screen mirror the grumbling one in real life. Rounding the corner, she slipped into Bill’s office, finding him already seated at his desk, two cups of tea in front of him.

“Bill, Hermione has sent me a list of films to choose from. I don’t know what any of these are. Help me?” Fleur pouted, trying to strike sympathy in the redhead.

He glanced up with a wry smile, laughing at Fleur’s pleading expression. “You know that pout doesn’t work with me, I’m immune to your charms.” He did however hold out his hand after Fleur said please, rolling his eyes.

“Let me see the list.” Bill received the phone into his hand, inspecting the message, his eyes widening as he held back laughter. “Casablanca, 10 Things I Hate About You, Dirty Dancing, Grease… Fleur, these are all date films.”

“What?!” Fleur balked, rushing around to Bill’s side of the desk, peering over his shoulder as if she might better understand the list before her.

“These are all Muggle date films. Did Hermione say it was a date?” Bill laughed at Fleur’s flustered face, the blonde standing up straight and pacing, wringing her hands together as she walked.

“No! I think I’d remember if she asked me out.” Fleur tried to still her racing heart, sifting through her memory to try and remember Hermione’s exact words when she extended the offer. “She just said that she’d cook and we’d drink, nothing about a date . Bill what do I do? I can’t go on a date with her without her knowing about you know what.”

Bill chuckled at Fleur’s frazzled manner, the blonde nervously undoing her bun, letting her silvery locks flow freely as she continued to pace. “I haven’t prepared for this. What do I wear? I haven’t bought her anything, I haven’t-“

“Practised kissing her in the mirror?” Bill shot playfully, only spurred on by the furious glare that Fleur aimed at him. “Fleur, calm, I’m sure she’s just picked some Muggle classics, I doubt she paid much mind to the… potential connotations of her selection .”

Fleur threw up her hands exasperatedly, stopping her pacing to face Bill. “Ah yes, I am calm now, thank you for your wise words, why didn’t I think of that?”

Bill chuckled again, raising an arch eyebrow before gesturing to the seat opposite him. “Sit, drink tea. I’ll talk you through each film and we’ll pick the safest option; one that says ‘I really fancy you and want this to be a date, but not until I tell you that you’re my mate and we are bound to one another’.”

Fleur huffed as she sat, picking up her tea and blowing on the hot liquid before taking an exploratory sip. “Fine. But if I find out that you’re lying about the plot again then I really will have your balls this time.”

Bill laughed heartily, slapping a hand on his knee as he recalled the time he convinced Fleur to watch The Silence of the Lambs by telling her that it was about an abnormally quiet herd of sheep.

“I promise I’ll play nicely. We’ll start with the ones I remember seeing, you’ll have to Google the rest.” Bill said matter of factly, pulling out two fresh sheets of parchment and scribing the list from Fleur’s phone on one, and heading up their diagnostic report from the vault on the other.

Fleur frowned as she watched Bill work, musing over his words. “Google?…” she asked after a pause; whilst she didn’t like to admit where gaps in her knowledge lay, she knew that with Bill she was fairly safe from too much ridicule.

“Lord give Hermione strength.” Bill muttered as he began to outline the plot of Casablanca.

 

*****

 

“Don’t you think those films are sort of…” Harry began diplomatically, his green eyes flitting across the screen as he searched for the right word.

“They’re sappy as anything ‘Mione, you may as well just light a bunch of candles, spread some rose petals about and shout ‘I want to fuck you’ at her.” Ron appeared over Harry’s shoulder, snickering and waving before he retreated again, the sounds of his footsteps loud on the wooden floors of Grimmauld Place.

Hermione rolled her eyes, ignoring Ron’s comment as she continued scanning the supermarket aisle for her desired ingredients. “Why do they have to make things so complicated? Why are there seven types of Parmesan?”

Harry chuckled, shrugging as he plonked down onto the sofa, his phone held before him. “What are you making anyway, for this… meeting? Shared evening? Not date?” He teased gently, taking his glasses off and inspecting the grimy lenses, rubbing them on his shirt to clean them off.

Hermione smiled at the Muggle motion; it never failed to amuse her how both herself and Harry had certain rituals that could be made far easier with magic, but reflexively still performed without its use.

“It’s not a date . I only chose those films on Ginny’s advice, she said they were safe options. And I’m attempting to make ravioli, Molly showed me a while ago.” Hermione shrugged, grabbing the cheese at random and adding it to her trolley, eager to leave the supermarket before it began to fill up.

“And you chose to believe Ginny Weasley? She may be my girlfriend, but she’s a devious one.” Harry said playfully, lowering his tone despite Ginny not being present. “I think she’s stitched you up here Hermione, I mean… Dirty Dancing? Really?”

“I picked that one actually, it was - is - Mum’s favourite.” Hermione said quietly, avoiding Harry’s eyes on screen, instead tossing several items into her trolley before moving onto the next aisle.

“Sorry Hermione, I was just playing.” Harry said regretfully, his voice apologetic.

Hermione glanced at the screen, waving her hand nonchalantly, forcing down unwanted memories that were attempting to battle their way to the forefront of her mind. Vignettes of her mother and father trying to recreate the iconic lift scene in the Hampstead Swimming Ponds flitted into her head, her mother being unable to carry a Watermelon in a supermarket without saying the line and of course, their shared love of the soundtrack.

“It’s fine. Perhaps I should have thought about the choices on the list more before sending it to Fleur. I’m hoping she won’t know enough about the films to pick up on it; I don’t want to make her feel awkward or uncomfortable.” Hermione bit her lip pensively, attempting to keep calm despite the rising panic she felt building in her chest.

“Hermione, I’m sure she’ll be happy just to spend time with you. You seemed quite cosy at lunch the other day.” He said pointedly, his green eyes sparkling as he teased, before his face became sincere. “For what it’s worth, I’ve always liked Fleur, she was kind to me during the Tournament and… afterwards, during the war.”

Hermione halted by the fresh fruit and vegetables, turning her attention back towards the screen, meeting Harry’s soft gaze.

“I know Ginny and Ron can be… well, Weasley’s about things like this sometimes. I just wanted you to know that if you’re happy, then I’m happy for you. And I know that none of us are particularly helpful when it comes to dating advice,” Harry chuckled at Hermione’s emphatic nod, a snort of laughter escaping her as she thought about their combined hideous track record when it came to romantic entanglements. “But I’m here if you ever need to talk about things.”

Hermione smiled appreciatively at the black haired man, a blush on his face; honest and emotional declarations never did come naturally to Harry. “Thanks Harry, it means a lot. This is all very… new and overwhelming.”

Harry nodded his agreement, making Hermione laugh with his sincerity. “I’d rather face a Hungarian Horntail seven times over than have to go through it all again. I guess I’ll stick with Ginny for now.” Harry winked uncharacteristically, Hermione giggling as he flushed at his own joke, nervously looking around as if in anticipation of Ginny appearing.

“Have you invited Fleur here tomorrow? Ginny is keen to get to know her more. I’ve told her to be on her best behaviour, not that she listens to me.” Harry chuckled, leaning back on the sofa, his unfinished coursework crumpling underneath him.

Hermione winced and tried not to shake her head in disapproval as Harry wrenched the papers free, scattering them across the floor; she’d been really trying her best to stay out of Harry and Ron’s academic endeavours, but seeing such blasé treatment of their paperwork still grieved her.

“Not yet, I was going to ask her later. I don’t want her to feel obliged to hang out with me everyday just because she lives nearby.” Hermione checked her shopping list once more, checking she’d got everything before manoeuvring the trolley towards the check out, unloading her items as Harry spoke.

“Fleur hardly strikes me as the type of person who would do something she didn’t want to. If she’s spending so much time with you I’m sure it’s because it’s what she wants, not through a warped sense of duty or politeness.”

Hermione hummed in mild agreement as she paid for her groceries, grabbing the packed bags and looking forward to apparating home and beginning her preparations for the evening.

“Right Harry, I’ve got to love you and leave you; I’ve got to learn how to make ravioli in about… two hours.”

Harry groaned as he sat up, calling Ron to come and say goodbye. “I guess that means I have no distraction from coursework. Any chance you’ve got some notes on advanced concealment charms lying around?” The black haired man asked jokingly before wincing as Ron came into shot, hitting Harry’s arm.

“How dare you ask Hermione for notes! That’s cheating! It’s far more polite to just ask her to do it for you, right ‘Mione?” Ron grinned playfully, his flushed face appearing next to Harry’s.

“Yes Ronald, I’ll be thrilled when your three years are up and I receive my qualification as an Auror on behalf of both of you. God forbid either of you actually ever have to do anything in the field, you’d be dead instantly.”

“Nonsense, we’d be fine! We’d have your notes for reference.” Ron scoffed, nudging an embarrassed looking Harry conspiratorially. “Piss off and make your apartment the ultimate lesbian seductress pad, I’ve got some good chat up lines if you want them.”

Hermione laughed loudly as she stepped onto the streets of North London, heading quickly towards the usual apparating spot with haste, the weighty shopping bags knocking against her legs. “Please do share, I’m sure Fleur would like a good laugh.”

Ron scowled and grumbled, accepting a consolatory pat on the shoulder from Harry.

“I really do have to go now, love you both and see you tomorrow.” Hermione said gruffly, wandlessly enchanting the shopping to be lighter, making her walk more comfortable as she rounded the corner of the alleyway.

After a chorus of “love you too”, the phone disconnected, allowing Hermione to apparate in peace, appearing next to her apartment building.

She hurried inside, taking the stairs with intent, suddenly aware of time slipping away from her. Throughout the day she’d managed to keep her thoughts from drifting towards her evening, putting her efforts first into reviewing Sophia’s findings and pulling together various files for proposals, then into the shopping, with the bonus distraction of speaking to Harry. Now she was left with nothing to distract her from her looming evening with Fleur.

The night already felt different to their previous meetings, charged with a nervous and jittery energy, something that wasn’t helped by Ginny’s “helpful” film suggestions. In retrospect, she should’ve suspected that Ginny was up to her usual antics, but Hermione had hoped that the redhead might be more sympathetic towards her after her confession of her feelings towards Fleur.

No such luck, she thought, scowling to herself as she fumbled with the lock on her apartment door, dodging a mewling Crookshanks as she entered, her arms laden with shopping bags.

Hermione began to unpack her groceries, dodging items as they whizzed into the cupboards. She bent down to feed a fussing Crookshanks, running her fingers through his thick fur as he purred appreciatively.

Once the kitchen had been righted, Hermione was able to retrieve her desired ingredients, laying them out on the counter before rummaging around for the recipe penned by Molly Weasley.

She scanned the woman’s homely scrawl, tracing certain words in concentration, drawing her hair up and away from her face into a ponytail.

The brunette exhaled with resolve, focussing on the words in front of her in an attempt to still her fluttering stomach and nervously thudding heart, to quell the rising anticipation she felt as thoughts of Fleur swirled in her mind.

“Right, pumpkin and ricotta ravioli. How hard can it be?”

Chapter Text

As it turned out, Hermione found that pumpkin and ricotta ravioli was in fact, quite hard. Her first two batches of homemade pasta dough had been either too gloopy or too firm, crumbling as she tried to manipulate it and disintegrating as soon as it hit the boiling water.

Crookshanks had watched on in amusement as Hermione eventually gave in and reverted to magic in place of the Muggle rolling pin she’d been using, flying in the face of Molly Weasley’s explicit instructions on the recipe.

After managing to whip up something that resembled ravioli and making a simple sauce to accompany the dish, Hermione had taken a moment to appreciate her handiwork before she began to prepare for Fleur’s arrival.

Whilst cooking, she’d managed to keep her thoughts centred on the task at hand. Now however, she found her attention drifting towards Fleur near constantly; how her voice sounded when she was tired, her accent more pronounced, her usually clear, pealing tone thicker and lower, haphazard in her normally measured delivery. The way her eyes seemed to become even more blue when she told a joke or when she was waiting for Hermione to make a quip in return, their intellect matched and verbal sparring quick and sharp.

Since the revelation surrounding her feelings for Fleur, she had found her thoughts drifting to physical aspects of the blonde, her mind recalling the sensation of Fleur’s body hovering over her own, the way the heat from the blonde’s body seemed to set Hermione alight, leaving her wanting more . And always her smell. Hermione could never quite dispel the lingering scent of honeysuckle and earthy sweetness that pervaded her senses, seeming to go hand in hand with the dull ache, the twinging tautness in her chest that never truly went away.

Hermione shook her head, glancing at the clock and swearing as she saw the time; Fleur would be arriving soon and she was yet to shower, change or clean the mess in the kitchen; her clothes were creased from the day and the side of her hand and fingertips covered in ink from work, her countertops still dusted with flour, the failed pasta doughs sitting sadly on a large wooden chopping board.

Taking the food off the hob and turning the burners off as well as sending a quick cleaning spell at the cluttered countertops, she headed towards the bedroom, flinging open the wardrobe and assessing her options. She had managed to narrow it down to two potential outfits - her rising frustration and panic seeping through, evidenced by the stacked pile of ‘no good’ garments - and was weighing up the pros and cons of both when her phone rang loudly.

Taking the phone from her pocket, she saw Ginny’s face on the screen and answered angrily, speaking before Ginny got the chance. “You have about two seconds to talk, Fleur will be here any minute. Also, what should I wear out of these two and also fuck you.” Hermione rushed out, turning the camera around to reveal her outfit choices, one more casual, one smarter.

Ginny cackled loudly, looking slightly sheepish for a split second before she brought her face closer to the screen, squinting at the outfits laid out on Hermione’s bed.

“Wear the jeans from the one on the left with the shirt from the one on the right. If if gets cold, wear the cropped sandy colour knit cardigan that Ron bought you for your birthday last year - on my recommendation might I remind you, because I’m such a good friend who you love dearly and would never wish ill… no matter what they did or said.” Ginny shot, clasping her hands together and smiling exaggeratedly, fluttering her eyelashes at a scowling Hermione.

The redhead paused, straining her eyes again as she inspected the discarded pile of clothes next to Hermione’s current choices. “God is that your dress from the Yule Ball in that pile there? You really must be panicking. Why do you even still have that?” Ginny managed to say through breathless laughs, her phone jittering around with the force of her laughter. “I remember it being periwinkle blue, not pink. Huh, strange.”

Hermione responded by turning her full attention on the redhead, gripping her phone with intent. “Yes I am panicking actually, because some… arsehole of a friend of mine, decided it would be a good idea to recommend films for me to watch with someone that I have feelings for, that basically shout “I want to fuck you”. So thank you very much for that! What do you want?” Hermione said hastily, dropping her phone on the bed as she began to change, casting a quick freshening and cleaning spell on herself; she had no time left to shower.

“Oh charming! I see how it is, pretty blonde comes into the picture and it’s Ginny who? No time to talk to me anymore. Tell me… did you ever really love me? Was any of it real?” The redhead spoke dramatically, throwing a hand across her forehead and mock feinting, drawing only a slight twitch of Hermione’s lips; the brunette was not in the mood for joking.

“I am genuinely sorry darling, I thought it might help! It worked well enough for me and Harry.” Ginny said with a shrug, inspecting her nails before rolling onto her front.

Hermione scrunched her nose up in disgust. “Not the image I needed just before a date. Thanks for that. Any other pearls of wisdom before I leave?” She drawled at a smirking Ginny, the redhead trying to school her features before she continued.

“Yes actually. I wanted to re-extend my invitation to Fleur for tomorrow. And I wanted to tell you to try and have fun tonight on this date of yours; show her how the English flirt.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow, hopping on one foot as she wrestled with her jeans. “By skirting around talking about any feelings and apologising a lot?”

“Yes. Don’t forget to insult her loads too, then she’ll be hopeless to resist you.” Ginny added with a wink, snickering as a reluctant smile graced Hermione’s lips.

“Thanks for the advice oh wise one, but again, it’s not a date.” Hermione said as she fumbled with the buttons on her shirt, swearing under her breath as she realised she’d put a button in the wrong hole, undoing it and starting again.

“Watching a film, cooking, drinking wine, flirtatious banter… you’re right, none of the above are date activities! So stupid of me.” Ginny smirked tauntingly, waiting for Hermione to take the bait as usual.

“I also cook for you every fifth week, watch films with you and we have been known to drink wine occasionally; does that mean we’re dating too?” Hermione returned, moving towards the mirror in the bathroom to check her appearance, taking the phone with her as she went.

Ginny’s brown eyes glinted playfully, her mischievous smile growing as Hermione raised an eyebrow in mock flirtation at the redhead, smirking despite her nerves. “You wish you could get a piece of this Weasley. Unfortunately I’m taken; a travesty, I know. I’m sure Fleur will do as a consolation prize.”

Hermione laughed loudly, twisting her hair up into a neat but loose bun, watching Ginny make exaggerated kissing faces on the screen.

“Now fuck off, I’ve got a not-date to go on.” Hermione shot, her laughter subsiding as she caught sight of the time on her phone, nerves bundling in her stomach.

“Fine! Love you, have fun on your not-date that is definitely a date. Ask Fleur to come to Grimmauld tomorrow, we can duel for your undying affection.”

“Will do, love you, bye.” Hermione replied with a roll of her eyes, ending the call with her nose, her hands still busy trying to secure her hair in place.

Straightening up she took a deep breath, catching her eyes in the mirror as she did so. She idly ran a hand over her forearm, debating cuffing the long sleeve, her fingertips ghosting over the scarred flesh below the veil of the sleeve material. She traced the letters, spelling out the word carved into her, repeating it in her mind until it lost all meaning, became a sound rather than a word. She let it slip from her lips in a sigh, her self doubt and feelings of inadequacy releasing from her as she did so, her honey brown eyes blazing in the mirror as she stared at her own reflection.

Hermione jumped at the sound of several insistent knocks on the door, her hand shooting away from her arm as her head swivelled towards the sound.

With a last long exhale and an adjustment of the collar on her crisp white shirt, she nodded her head at her reflection and headed for the front door, wiping her warm and clammy palms on her jeans.

Her heart throbbing in her chest, she opened the door, swinging it wide to reveal a smiling Fleur, the blonde brandishing a bottle of wine in one hand and a half concealed, slender plastic case tucked under her other arm.

Hermione had to mentally remind herself to keep her mouth closed and her eyes firmly on Fleur’s face. The woman was wearing a rather distracting deep blue blouse, the silk fabric creasing perfectly, accentuating the dramatic plunge of the garment’s neckline. She felt her eyes drift down for a split second, catching sight of a scattering of freckles on Fleur’s clavicle, prominent against the supple, soft pink skin of the blonde’s chest.

Is she trying to kill me , Hermione thought, her gaze staunchly meeting Fleur’s glittering blue eyes, a hint of smugness playing there already. Great, really subtle.

Hermione could feel a scarlet blush rise to her face, her lips opening and closing before pulling up at the sides, her embarrassment ebbing away at the look on Fleur’s face; she looked proud. Pleased. Her radiance seemed to throb outwards under Hermione’s appreciative gaze.

“You look nice.” Hermione said in a cracked voice, increasingly aware of the fact that she hadn’t yet greeted the blonde. Too busy ogling her , she thought, sheepishly opening the door wider and gesturing for Fleur to come in.

Fleur simply raised an eyebrow, placing a hand on her hip and taking a small step towards Hermione. “Just nice? And here I was thinking I would get all dressed up for our evening.” The blonde spoke in a teasing tone, the fabric of her blouse shifting as she moved, the motion nearly drawing Hermione’s eye downwards again.

The brunette purposefully held Fleur’s gaze, rolling her eyes as she grabbed the blonde’s wrist, gently tugging her inside. “You look gorgeous Fleur. For a change, you usually look terrible.” Hermione joked, earning herself a playful push to her shoulder as Fleur backed Hermione up through her doorway, closing the door behind her without taking her eyes off the brunette.

“You look very nice too; you know I like this shirt on you.” Fleur said almost hoarsely, her eyes boring into Hermione’s as her hand moved slowly from the woman’s shoulder to the hem of her collar, stroking the fabric thoughtfully.

Hermione stuttered out a thank you, her eyes threatening to flutter shut as the tips of Fleur’s fingers grazed her neck, gently, languidly and without intent, yet with a tenderness that made Hermione strangely want to weep.

The brunette cleared her throat, the sound dry and harsh in the weighted silence, Fleur’s eyes moving from the pattern her own fingers were tracing on Hermione’s neck to the woman’s eyes. She looked curious, yet unabashed at her ministrations, merely smiling and removing her hand.

“Salut ma belle. I brought wine for us, there is more in my bag too, I have shrunk it down. I presume you wanted to save your Lambrini for a special occasion.” Fleur joked lightly, leaning forwards and pressing the established three kisses on Hermione’s cheeks, dropping a bonus fourth and fifth on the top of her head, the brunette smiling as she felt Fleur’s breath warm her scalp.

“Of course, the Lambrini is for my wedding day, or the birth of my first child only.” Hermione replied, gratefully taking the offered bottle of wine and walking to the kitchen.

She heard Fleur remove her shoes, one and then the other thudding on the wooden floor, the sound followed by Fleur’s footsteps that carried on down the hallway past the kitchen.

As Hermione wrestled with the cork, Fleur appeared the other side of the breakfast bar, the blonde idly stroking Crookshanks who had eagerly trotted from the sofa to greet her, purring loudly before she’d even lay a hand on him.

“And will the Lambrini last until then? Funnily enough I don’t know the shelf life of ‘zis specific…drink,” Fleur almost spat out the word, her nose wrinkling even as she refused to call it wine. “Or do you have upcoming nuptials that I’m unaware of?” Fleur continued, her eyes back on Hermione as Crookshanks kneaded her lap, his claws retracting and extending with each thrumming purr.

Hermione grunted as the cork finally gave in and exited the bottle as she wrenched it out. Looking pleased with herself, the brunette began pouring two glasses, looking to Fleur to tell her when to stop. She laughed heartily as Fleur allowed her glass to be filled nearly to the top, the blonde smirking indulgently before sending some of the liquid back into the bottle with a wave of her hand.

“No offers of marriage yet and no child on the way. Unless it's an immaculate conception; Ginny does often joke that I’m a Nun.” Hermione internally thrilled at Fleur’s sparkling laughter, the blonde smiling toothily as her laughing ceased.

“So no Lambrini for us tonight. A shame.” Fleur sighed dramatically, clinking her glass against Hermione’s in cheers, keeping their eyes locked.

“I’m sure this is a fine substitute.” Hermione added, sipping the wine gratefully, thanking Fleur yet again, the ball of nerves in her stomach furling and unfurling as the blonde turned the full force of her blue eyes on her.

“So I look nice and the wine is fine. The film we are watching, is it okay? You are hardly selling this evening to me.” Fleur teased, watching Hermione place the stoppered wine in the fridge before turning the hob back on to a low heat to warm the pasta up. She shook her head dazedly and turned the burner off again, waving her hand over it instead, realising she’d been about to use the Muggle way of heating by force of habit.

“Well that depends on what film you’ve chosen.” Hermione returned, leaning on the breakfast bar, reaching across to Fleur and tapping the hidden object she still clutched under one arm.

The blonde held a finger up, asking Hermione to wait, capturing her wrist. “Ah oui! Before we get to the films, I have something for you! Close your eyes.”

Hermione did as she was told, turning her palm upwards in the loop of Fleur’s hand around her wrist and stretching her hand out, feeling the cool and hard plastic of the case she’d seen earlier against her skin.

“Open your eyes.” Fleur said excitedly, a tremor in her voice giving away her eagerness.

Obeying Fleur’s instruction, Hermione gazed first at Fleur, meeting the woman’s glittering blue eyes with a wry smile as Fleur leaned further forward across the breakfast bar to tap the object in Hermione’s hand despite Crookshanks’s meows in protest at her movement.

The brunette let her eyes drop to the object, immediately laughing as she registered what it was. “You got me a Backstreet Boys CD?” She managed to choke out, oddly moved despite the fact that she knew it was a gift given in jest.

Fleur watched Hermione run her index finger over the CD case, scanning the track list with a smile still fixed upon her face. As she opened the case and slid out the liner notes, Fleur spoke, “Non, I have let you borrow my very own Backstreet Boys CD. And this isn’t just any copy; it’s limited edition and signed by Brian, see.”

The blonde pointed to the back of the CD case where a loopy signature in black sharpie lay, Fleur being careful not to touch the actual scrawl itself.

Hermione managed to nod enthusiastically, mostly covering up her snickering. Judging by the way in which Fleur was glaring at her, she perhaps wasn’t doing as good of a job at erasing the humour from her eyes.

“You are laughing now, but you will not be once you have listened to it. It’s silly I know, but I thought it might help you get to know me better.” Fleur bit her lip self consciously, leaning back in her chair with a slight blush on her face.

“You think it’s stupid, you don’t have to listen to it.” The blonde interjected into the silence, busying herself by stroking Crookshanks, avoiding Hermione’s eyes.

The brunette placed the reassembled case down, reaching out for Fleur’s hand. “It’s not silly at all, I love it Fleur. I will listen with the utmost care and reserve judgement, I promise.”

Fleur finally met Hermione’s gaze bashfully, her eyes flitting from the brunette’s left to right eye with scrutiny, checking for any lingering signs of teasing.

“If it makes you feel any better, I’ve got some Savage Garden vinyl over there, which is much loved I might add.” Hermione patted Fleur’s hand, the blonde moving to capture it as she shot the brunette a smile.

“You’re right, that does make me feel better.” Fleur replied, watching on as Hermione began to serve up dinner. The blonde shifted an unwilling Crookshanks from her lap, taking the cutlery handed to her by Hermione and their wine glasses, heading over to the dining room table at the brunette’s request.

“I thought we’d sit at the table tonight instead, I don’t want you thinking I eat on the sofa every night.” Hermione said as she finished plating the ravioli, summoning the garlic baguette she’d purchased fresh to accompany the dish. “Just most nights.” She added playfully, walking around the breakfast bar to serve a seated Fleur, opting to take the seat beside her.

“This smells amazing ma cherie. I’m glad to see you made it to a shop. No cat treats for dinner.” Fleur joked, waiting for Hermione to sit down before she began to eat.

“Cat treats are for dessert of course, I’m not completely socially inept.” Hermione returned, gulping and looking away from Fleur, the motion of her mouth as she delicately chewed proving distracting.

“And how was your day? Did you nearly fall asleep at your desk or was that just me?” Hermione asked, humming as she ate, surprised that it was edible. She’d have to thank Molly again for the recipe.

“It was okay, Gringotts never fails to surprise me. Just when I think I have that place figured out it reveals something new. Literally, a brand new door behind another door.” Fleur shook her head, chuckling before telling an abridged version of her day, leaving out the part where she and Bill spent the afternoon analysing every film on Hermione’s list to find the best option.

“I don’t want to talk about work, it is boring and I am not boring.” Fleur declared once she’d finished her story, waving her hand as she sipped her wine. “I want to talk about you.”

Hermione nodded slowly, adjusting her weight in her seat as Fleur turned her body to face her, the blonde’s arm brushing against her own where it rested on the table top.

“Okay. What about me?” Hermione narrowed her eyes in suspicion at Fleur, watching as the blonde mimicked the expression, her eyes twinkling as Hermione laughed at her.

“So Lambrini would be your drink of choice if you were to be married. But do you want to get married? What does ‘Ermione Granger’s dream wedding look like?” Fleur asked, spearing a piece of ravioli with her fork and daintily putting it in her mouth, chewing thoughtfully with her eyes fixed upon Hermione.

The brunette breathed in sharply as she watched Fleur’s mouth close over the fork, her plump lips dragging sensually across the tines. After a longer than acceptable pause, Hermione hummed questioningly, realising she’d missed Fleur’s question, distracted as she was by her lips.

She tore her gaze upwards to Fleur’s eyes, feeling heat rise to her cheeks under the blonde’s knowing smirk, one sculpted eyebrow raised at her as her tongue slipped out to run along the length of her fork, chasing some non-existent sauce.

Hermione gulped, shaking her clouded head bashfully before chuckling and returning to her food in an attempt to calm her roiling stomach, to douse the heat that was growing in her abdomen under Fleur’s watchful and penetrative blue eyes.

“Marriage. I was asking if it was something that interested you, whether it was something you wanted.” Fleur repeated, her voice tinged with humour, Hermione shooting her a grateful look before her expression turned thoughtful as she considered the question.

“On second thoughts, I think I’d rather talk about work.” Hermione tried, half joking, but wary of Nicole’s advice to open up and be receptive to honest communication.

Fleur didn’t respond, instead she waited patiently, swirling her wine glass as she continued to look at the brunette.

Hermione measured her words, talking slowly as she let herself answer honestly, trying not to overthink her answer too much. “It’s strange. Throughout my time at Hogwarts it was an inevitability, a goal to work towards. Something to look forward to. Getting through the war so that Ron and I could, you know, be together. Get married. Have kids. From the viewpoint of someone outside I mean.” The brunette added, wanting to convey that this wasn’t how she felt, rather how she felt others felt about herself.

“It was easy to just… go along with it. There was already so much to think about, much more important and pressing matters, the impending war being the big one.” Hermione tried to make her tone light, but was aware of the way in which her throat felt constricted, the way her forearm tingled almost tauntingly as she spoke.

“So to vaguely answer your question…I’m not sure. Marriage was always this assumed destination, something that I should want. I never really asked myself if it’s what I actually wanted. It’s something I’m only just starting to allow myself to actually think about. My wants. Whether that be marriage, children, a career.” She shrugged, letting her eyes move from her plate and back to Fleur, finding the blonde nodding slowly, her blue gaze patient as always.

“It’s for sure a more palatable thought now that Ron has been scrubbed from the plans.” The brunette said with a wry smile, watching Fleur’s face light up.

“What about you? I mean, you’ve already done it once, ever considered a second go?” Hermione said teasingly into the comfortable silence, revelling in Fleur’s pealing laughter, the way her eyes immediately sparkled at Hermione’s goading.

“The first time did not put me off for life. I’d like to think that if I found the right person that I loved, then I’d like to be tethered to them in every way, to tell everyone that we are tied to one another in a tangible way.” Fleur replied matter of factly, voicing her feelings with confidence, in a way which made Hermione feel glad of her own openness when answering the question herself.

The blonde continued, “It’s also a big part of Veela culture, a Veela wedding is a particularly large celebration, with seemingly endless amounts of good food and even better wine; they can go on for weeks , although the best ones render the guests unable to function much past the first few days.” Fleur pointedly drank a large gulp of her wine, Hermione taking the motion as a cue to top them both up, chuckling as Fleur nodded appreciatively.

“You’d fit right in.” The blonde said playfully, eliciting a laugh from Hermione.

Hermione mulled over Fleur’s words, debating whether to press her or not, her curiosity piqued at the blonde’s mention of Veela celebrations. She tapped her fork against her plate thoughtfully, pushed around her last remaining piece of ravioli.

“You are thinking loudly ‘Ermione, what do you want to ask me?” Fleur asked without looking up, tearing up a piece of bread and dipping it in the sauce before meeting Hermione’s gaze measuredly.

“Are you allowed to tell me about Veela ceremonies? I don’t mean to pry, I’m just… curious.” Hermione asked shyly, holding Fleur’s gaze stoically despite her uncertainty.

“That depends, do you plan on marrying a Veela?” Fleur asked flirtatiously, leaning her body closer towards Hermione as she spoke, her fingers flexing and dancing over the brunette’s forearm where it still lay next to her own on the table.

“If I met a particularly charming one then perhaps. A shame that it hasn’t happened yet.” Hermione returned with an aloof tone, her facade cracking as Fleur’s eyebrows knitted together in an emphatic scowl, her eyes darkening before her face warped into a smirk.

“I must try harder to be more charming then. Noted.” The blonde shot, sipping her wine demurely, keeping her eyes fixed purposefully on a furiously blushing Hermione.

“I’m only half joking about the intention to marry a Veela; we can only divulge certain details of the workings of the clan to those who are due to become part of it.” Fleur shrugged as she dabbed at her mouth with a napkin, lining her cutlery up to signal that she was done eating.

“But then what if you get divorced? I mean, presumably Bill knows Veela secrets? What if he tells someone?” Hermione asked as she stood up, collecting both Fleur’s and her own plate and walking them to the kitchen. “Not that I think he would, I’m just using Bill as an example.” She continued, worrying that Fleur would misconstrue her words as an attack on Bill as opposed to a broader questioning of Veela society.

“There is an oath, a binding oath that those who are not Veela must take. It’s usually integrated into the wedding ceremony.” Fleur said slowly, her blue eyes following Hermione as the brunette washed up their plates by hand, swirling them around in the soapy water.

“I’m sorry I can’t be more specific. It's…. Difficult for me to talk about. The Veela resists.” Fleur gestured to herself vaguely, unaware of Hermione’s gleaming eyes, hungry for knowledge.

“Like an Unbreakable Vow?” Hermione asked excitedly, her hands dripping with soapy water, spraying an annoyed looking Crookshanks as she whirled around to face Fleur.

Fleur chuckled indulgently, watching Hermione dry off her hands before apologising to Crookshanks, the brunette's attention returning to her finally. “I suppose, without the dying part if you break it. It’s more of a vocal blocker, one that stops you from being able to impart well kept secrets. It’s a very ancient spell unique to Veelas. And Sirens too I think; I slept through many of grand-mère’s history lessons.” Fleur shrugged nonchalantly, laughing at Hermione’s alarmed expression at the notion of not paying attention when being taught something.

“But for you? You said the ‘Veela resists’. I assume you need take no such vow.” Hermione pressed, picking up on Fleur’s throwaway comment.

Fleur nodded her agreement slowly, her eyes fluttering closed slightly as she did so, her face contorting in discomfort as her mouth moved softly, her voice inaudible.

Hermione rushed over, saying Fleur’s name, unsure of what to do as the blonde flinched under some unseen assault. She placed a hand on the blonde’s shoulder, her eyebrows knitted together in concern, remaining even as Fleur finally turned her head to shoot a small smile at Hermione.

“It’s okay, I’m okay. I’ve never really tested what I can and can’t tell people. This is new to me too.” She said the last part quietly, thoughtfully as she continued to look at Hermione. “It’s not painful, it’s just strange to feel something that normally co-exists within me become… unbalanced.”

Hermione’s eyes darted around Fleur’s face, scanning for lingering signs of discomfort. Satisfied with what she saw on first look, the brunette met Fleur’s blue eyes, her hand moving from the woman’s shoulder to gently cup her chin to further inspect her. Fleur waited patiently, Hermione feeling the weight of the woman’s gaze on her as she manoeuvred the woman’s head left and then right, checking for any signs of external damage.

“‘Ermione,” Fleur said softly, letting her own hand cover the brunette’s, drawing Hermione’s eyes to her own once more. “I’m okay.”

Hermione inhaled sharply as their eyes met, Fleur’s pale blue eyes seeming to glow in the soft light. She was looking at her fondly, her eyes reassuring as she squeezed Hermione’s hand causing warmth to pool in the brunette's stomach as the soothing scent of honeysuckle overwhelmed her senses.

She spoke in a murmur, her voice dream-like. “It feels like I’m pushing against something. Like there is a band around my throat, stopping me from speaking. The Veela exists almost as an entity in and of itself, the thrall extending outwards separately, but linked to me. When I try to push past it and speak about things I’m bound by blood not to, I-” The blonde tensed up momentarily, her mouth quivering as she tried to verbalise something clearly forbidden.

With effort, Fleur breathed out loudly, her body sagging slightly as she moved Hermione’s hand with her own, resting them in her lap.

“Interesting. Continue.” Fleur said with finality, toying with Hermione’s fingers, dancing her index finger over the inside of Hermione’s wrist, tracing the delicate web of veins visible beneath the pale, thin skin.

The brunette looked wary despite Fleur’s insistence; she didn’t want to continue prying if her questions could potentially cause the blonde pain. She sighed deeply before shifting her focus again, turning her questioning back to Bill as opposed to Fleur.

“So Bill can’t talk about Veelas either because he’s taken the vow? Is it lifelong or can he talk about stuff now?” Hermione inquired eagerly, gesturing with her free hand towards the sofa, urging Fleur to migrate over as the brunette straightened up and walked there herself.

Fleur picked up both wine glasses and followed her, sitting down on the opposite end of the sofa to Hermione, tucking her feet under her and handing Hermione her wine before she spoke. “Bill can talk about the inner workings of Veela with me or any other member of the clan, but no one outside of that. It is binding for life. Why, did you hope to pick his brains about me?” The blonde teased, watching Hermione blush through her scowl.

“Not at all! I have my other Veela sources without the need for Bill.” Hermione returned, her face turning crimson as she said it. Fuck, she thought, aware of the extremely large hole she had dug herself into. Despite Sophia having collated her notes thoroughly, her research thus far had led to more questions and the most important ones still remained unanswered; what was the lilac haze and were her feelings towards Fleur connected to her heritage?

Fleur straightened her back slightly, leaning towards Hermione, her face serious. “Oh yes? And what have you unearthed about my people through this ‘source’? That we’re all incorrigible flirts who lure people in with our fantastic hair and hypnotic eyes?”

Whilst her tone was playful, her eyes were almost fearful, her gaze probing Hermione’s face who met her eyes firmly despite the flush still on her face.

“I may have read a book or two about it, nothing particularly helpful. I might have to start asking you instead, go straight to the source. Have you not been doing some research into the culture of my people?” Hermione returned sheepishly before pointing to the stack of old and battered DVD’s she’d foraged around for; she could only find a few, having to resort to a streaming service for some selections.

Fleur laughed breezily and clutched Hermione’s arm, seeming relieved as the tension fled the room. “Your people?” She asked, one eyebrow raised, her fingers dancing down to Hermione’s own.

“Yes! Muggles! You have a phone now, you’re practically one of us.” Hermione replied teasingly, letting Fleur twirl her fingers around experimentally, feeling her skin thrum with excitement and the lilac haze swirl closer to her as their fingers twined loosely together.

“I will admit Bill helped me to… Google the films earlier.” Fleur replied in embarrassment, her tongue rolling over the word Google with uncertainty, unsure of its accuracy until Hermione nodded encouragingly.

“And? What are we watching? There’s a bunch of others to choose from, you can thank Ginny for most of the list.” Hermione hurried to say, recalling both Harry and Ron’s assertion that the list of films was rather pointed; she didn’t want Fleur to feel coerced or like she’d backed her into a rather romantic corner.

Nobody puts Fleur in a corner, Hermione thought, groaning out loud at her own joke as she scrambled around for the remote.

“Ginny is responsible for the list?” Fleur asked in disbelief, her expression slightly wounded as she sipped at her wine, Hermione noted.

Finally finding the remote wedged under a stack of old newspapers, Hermione returned to the sofa, noticing that Fleur had inched closer to where she had been sat; their knees now brushed each other as she nestled onto the sofa.

“She sent some ideas over, I may have added one or two.” Hermione said vaguely, hoping Fleur wouldn’t ask her which ones. Her conversation with Harry still lingered in her mind, thoughts of her mother coalescing without her permission.

Fleur watched Hermione curiously as she turned on the TV, flicking between apps until she found what she wanted, anything to keep herself from lingering on painful memories.

“You know better than me. Which do you recommend? Which one is your favourite?” The blonde asked, leaning into the warmth of Hermione’s body, her shoulder resting against Hermione's arm which was draped over the back of the sofa.

Hermione considered her words carefully, internally conflicted by her want to open up to Fleur and her stoic willingness to protect her heart, to keep the pain and darkness that swelled within her at bay.

She found Fleur’s blue eyes waiting patiently, her gaze soft and measured as she waited for the brunette to speak. Hermione couldn’t help but be soothed by the blonde’s expression, the warmth radiating off her skin where her shoulder lay against her arm, the weight of it a comforting and grounding presence.

“Dirty Dancing.” Hermione said resolutely, offering no more or less than the title for fear of voicing the images that ran through her mind of her mother grinning gleefully, singing along as Patrick Swayze murmured lyrics to Jennifer Grey on screen, her mothers tinkling voice echoing across her thoughts.

Fleur raised her eyebrow, her lips parting momentarily as if to make a flirtatious comment. It died on her lips however upon looking more intently at Hermione’s face, the brunette sporting a faraway, vacant gaze even as she stared unseeing at the television screen, her jaw clenching and unclenching in profile.

The blonde lay her hand upon Hermione’s as she twisted her body forward, giving Hermione freedom from her gaze, sensing the brunette’s unspoken unease and wanting to alleviate it, to soothe her without directly drawing attention to it.

Without taking her eyes from the screen, Hermione twined her fingers with Fleur’s, squeezing them gently in thanks before releasing them. She summoned a blanket over to them and dimmed the lights as she draped the blanket across both of their legs.

Crookshanks plodded over from where he had been sleeping in the kitchen sink, jumping onto Fleur’s lap and immediately settling down as the blonde reflexively ran her fingers through his dense orange fur.

“Do you need anything before we start watching? Do you want a synopsis or…?” Hermione trailed off, her breath catching in her throat as Fleur shuffled closer to her, the blonde’s arm flush with her own as they sat side by side.

Fleur turned to Hermione with a gentle smile, shaking her head as she held up her glass of wine in answer. “Non, merci. I have wine, I have Monsieur Crookshanks and I have you. What else could there be?” She said casually, unaware of the way in which her words seared across Hermione’s heart, the brunette forcing her head back towards the TV lest her eyes give away the blistering, aching want she felt knitting into her stomach.

Hermione cleared her throat and pressed play, letting the familiar opening titles wash over her, her eyes blurring slightly as the unmistakable voice of Ronnie Spector crooned be my little baby .

Her vision swam as she fought to swallow past the sizeable lump in her throat, focussing on the screen and trying to let the images hit her without meaning; a task which was proving impossible, with every shifting black and white shot of moving bodies imbued with memories of her mother, the film melding together with sounds and fractured flashes from her childhood.

She thought she’d manage, that she’d be okay. She’d watched the film several times since she’d erased all memory of herself from her parents mind. But this time it felt different. Hermione could feel panic setting in, her breathing becoming shallow and her mouth drying up as her mind assaulted her with carefully contained memories she’d stuffed firmly into a mental ‘Do Not Open’ box.

The sound of Bill Medley and Jennifer Warner fading to Merry Clayton, a VHS tape being rewound and flipped before being inserted again. The Ronettes playing, the individual sounds blurring and becoming one as her Mum alternated humming one song and then the other. Her Dad in the other room, his low voice cracking as he tried to harmonise on She’s Like the Wind, his shadow in the frosted glass pane in the door between rooms appearing. Hermione’s eyes fixed on the TV, sensing her Mum swaying behind her, her Dad adamant that he didn’t want to watch the film with them, but standing in the doorway and watching it anyway.

Swathes of purple lapped at her skin, breaking through the flashing images, her panic receding as the lilac haze and honeysuckle scent grounded her in the present. Hermione felt clammy, could sense a sticky sheen of sweat on her forehead as she forced herself to stare resolutely at the screen, not wanting Fleur to know what was happening; how would she explain it, explain what she’d done to her parents without sounding like a monster?

A movement caught Hermione’s eye, her gaze darting down to Fleur’s hand twitching where it lay on her own knee, the blonde’s pinky finger dancing subtly towards Hermione’s own. The brunette exhaled shakily, snapping her eyes back to the TV before letting her own fingers respond in kind, walking them towards Fleur’s comically.

Her eyes still fixed forwards, she heard Fleur let out a breathy chuckle, felt the blonde splay her fingers out wider to accommodate Hermione’s advancing hand. The brunette felt the remainder of her lingering sorrow ebb away, receding as Fleur wrapped her hand around her own, the blonde’s cool slender fingers immediately soothing her.

With the immediate threat of a panic attack over, Hermione allowed herself to sink into the film, trying to force herself to see it through Fleur’s eyes, to imagine that she’d never seen it before.

After what felt like an eternity, she realised her attempts were futile. She felt her eyes drawn to the woman next to her, a glance down at their entwined hands to start with, where Fleur had begun to draw mindless patterns onto the back of Hermione’s hand with her thumb, the motion quelling her panic yet stirring the deep seated yearning in her stomach.

Hermione would snap her eyes back to the screen, silently admonishing herself for her lapse in attention, before finding herself shooting sideways glances at Fleur again, the blonde watching the film intently.

She could feel her palm getting sweaty, the heat from Fleur’s hand warming up her own. Hermione reached for her wine, tugging her hand free from Fleur’s and surreptitiously wiping it on her jeans. Should I take her hand again? Hermione thought, glancing down to see that Fleur had moved hers into Crookshanks’s fur, her fingers kneading the purring cat.

Hermione tried to keep the scowl from her face, burying the irrational jealousy that momentarily reared, settling her hand firmly back in her lap after draining her wine and topping both Fleur and herself up.

As Baby learned to dance on screen, Hermione toyed with the blanket, debating moving her arm behind the sofa. Is that lame? Should I yawn and stretch? , she mused, thinking of the amusement that Ginny would no doubt get from seeing her sorry attempts at playing it smooth, the redhead’s laughter almost audible in her head. Fleur kept her eyes trained on the screen, showing no signs of acknowledgment towards Hermione’s flustered state, for which the brunette was grateful despite having a sneaking suspicion that Fleur knew exactly what she was thinking.

Oh grow up, it’s just a fucking arm , we hold hands all the time Hermione finally scolded herself, moving her arm across the back of the sofa as she braced herself for questioning or teasing from Fleur.

The blonde simply leant back into Hermione’s embrace without a word, sighing as she burrowed into the brunette’s side, her head coming to rest on the woman’s shoulder. Her eyes never left the screen, not even as Hermione finally allowed her body to relax, feeling relief flood through her as she let her hand gently run through Fleur’s hair.

Fleur hummed appreciatively under Hermione’s ministrations, each movement of the brunette’s fingers releasing the delectable scent of honeysuckle, vanilla and something earthy and distinctly Fleur that made Hermione’s heart pound incessantly.

She closed her eyes slowly, inhaling the scent deeply, feeling her eyes becoming heavy as she continued to run the tips of her fingers through Fleur’s hair, feeling the blonde sling an arm across her stomach languidly in response, the woman grasping a bunch of Hermione’s shirt near her hip the last thing she remembered before slipping into sleep.


**********

 

Hermione was jolted from her slumber by the weight of Crookshanks leaping onto her lap and pawing at her tired face, his meows ringing through the silence.

The brunette opened a bleary eye, gently shushing the cat with a stroke of his fur as her senses were roused slightly behind her consciousness. She glanced over at the clock, startled to see that it was a little after 2am; they’d been asleep for a good three hours or so according to her rushed calculations.

She took stock of her surroundings, surprised that she hadn’t woken sooner from a night terror or from memories assailing her dreams, rippling into her peacefulness. That was when she recalled Fleur’s company, looking down at where the woman had been leaning on her.

Fleur’s head was still resting against her shoulder, one arm gripping Hermione’s hip and the other tucked against Fleur’s own body, trapped between the two women where their bodies met. The blonde was breathing evenly, her hair tousled from sleep and splayed out across Hermione’s chest, her pink lips slightly parted and letting a soft whistling sound slip between them with each exhale.

Hermione felt a smile tug at her lips as she watched the dozing witch. She brushed back a lock of Fleur’s hair that had fallen atop her closed eyes, tucking it behind her ear and watching as the French witch stirred marginally, a gentle crease appearing on her forehead as she was disturbed from sleep.

“Fleur,” Hermione half whispered as she stroked her fingers carefully over the woman’s cheek, following the curve of her jawline softly before cupping her chin with tenderness. “Fleur.” She tried again as she ducked her head closer to the blonde’s, her lips ghosting over the woman’s ear.

Hermione heard Fleur mumble incoherently as the woman reflexively gripped her hip tighter, bunching the fabric of the shirt and burrowing her head into the warmth of the brunette’s neck. 

“C’mon, let’s go to bed.” Hermione chuckled, as Fleur tried to nestle in further, murmuring softly in a mixture of French and English.

“Do you need me to carry you or can you make it the ten steps to my bedroom?” The brunette joked, laughing quietly as Fleur finally opened her eyes, the blue of them sparkling as they met Hermione’s honey brown ones despite her still half asleep state.

“We’re going to have another sleepover?” Fleur asked with cautious hope, unable to keep the warmth from her eyes as she untangled herself from Hermione, pushing her body back enough to clearly see the brunette.

Hermione laughed again, reaching out to detangle some of Fleur’s hair with her hands, carefully pulling at the mussed up strands as the blonde watched her with sleep lidded eyes. “Well I think we’re technically already having a sleepover.” She shot, pointedly rubbing sleep from one of her eyes and stifling a yawn, her hand resting against Fleur’s face before she dropped it.

“It’s up to you. Ten steps to my bedroom or… maybe forty, fifty to yours?” Hermione asked, standing up and stretching her arms upwards above her head, her honey brown eyes searching for the lost remote.

Fleur stood up with renewed vigour, waving her hand at the blanket to make it fold itself neatly and then turning on their wine glasses which were promptly sent to the sink to begin washing themselves.

“Non, ce n’est pas une question. I will see you in there.” Fleur walked without her usual poise, stumbling slightly into the arm of the sofa as she padded into Hermione’s bedroom without looking back at the brunette.

Hermione watched her go, savouring the way that the blonde’s voice sounded thicker with sleep, her accent beautifully pronounced as it slipped from her rosy pink lips. She hurried around tidying up and feeding Crookshanks, locking her door and checking the wards were still holding before she headed into her bedroom, her stomach fluttering nervously at the thought of sharing a bed with Fleur again.

The blonde lifted her head as Hermione walked in, pulling back the cover and holding out her hand sleepily for the brunette to take, squinting her blue eyes as Hermione waved her hand to turn the bathroom light on.

“Come quickly, it is cold.” Fleur moaned, eliciting a quiet chuckle from the brunette who busied herself grabbing her pyjamas and slipping into the bathroom, shooting Fleur a quick “be right back”.

Hermione changed hastily and thoughtlessly, yawning once again as she brushed her teeth and collected her discarded clothes from the floor and flung them in the washing basket. She flicked the light off as she exited, not wanting to rouse Fleur from her half sleeping state and crept over the bed by feeling her way in the darkness.

She found Fleur’s still outstretched hand and grasped it, allowing the blonde to tug her into bed where she immediately curled around the brunette, twining their legs together and nestling her head into the crook of the brunette’s neck, one arm clasping her shoulder.

“I borrowed your clothes again. It was a Hole t-shirt; I didn’t see any Backstreet Boys ones.” Fleur said in a hushed voice, her lips brushing against Hermione’s neck as she spoke, causing the brunette to stiffen slightly, grappling with the urge to reveal more of her neck to the blonde.

“That’s fine.” She gasped in reply, grateful for the dark to mask the blush she could feel growing on her face. “It must be in the wash, I wear it all the time.” She joked, cringing at how breathless she sounded, how affected she was by Fleur’s close proximity.

Fleur chuckled into her neck, pulling herself even closer to Hermione, half of her body draped over the brunette’s, her hand teasing the hairs at the nape of her neck.

“Thank you for a lovely evening.” Hermione added once she’d managed to gain control of her voice, steadying it so it didn’t sound quite so desperate, quite so blatantly laced with a burning desire for the blonde that was only becoming harder to ignore with Fleur pressing herself ever closer to the brunette.

“Thank you ma chérie, it was perfect. We will have to finish the film during another evening together; I never did see if Baby managed to do the dance without laughing when he tickled her.” Fleur said earnestly, her tone so endearing that Hermione couldn’t help but squeeze the blonde tighter for a second, relishing the way that Fleur’s frame seemed to fit perfectly with her own as she nuzzled into her.

“Goodnight Fleur.” Hermione said into the darkness, leaving no time to second guess herself before she planted a shy kiss on Fleur’s cheek, letting her hand linger on the blonde’s face as she leaned back against the pillow, her eyes already drooping once again.

“Bonne nuit ‘Ermione.” Fleur replied, returning the brunette's gentle kiss with one of her own on Hermione’s neck before slipping into sleep from the comfort of the brunette’s arms.

Chapter Text

“Fucking shit, bollocks, fuck, shit, fuck .” Hermione growled, throwing the pan into the sink and cradling her burnt hand as she ran it under a slightly warm tap, inspecting her already reddening skin.

She’d not long woken to find Fleur tucked up against her front, the blonde’s back pressed firmly to her, her own arms laced around the blonde’s front protectively as she slept. She’d have happily stayed in that position for longer, forever, if she could, forced to move reluctantly by the sound of Crookshanks scrabbling at the closed door and meowing his frustrations at not being fed at his usual early hour.

Hermione had untangled herself from Fleur carefully, not wanting to disturb the woman who looked positively serene as she’d left her, a soft sigh slipping from her lips and a frown on her face as the warmth of Hermione’s body left her own.

The brunette had decided to try and make breakfast for them both, emphasis on the word try , she thought, as she turned the tap off angrily before poking at the tender burn on her hand.

She looked at the remnants of her now soggy, unsalvageable pancakes that had burnt beyond recognition and huffed, deciding to deal with her injury first before trying to make something edible again.

Opening her cupboard that contained various healing medicines - both magical and Muggle - she moved jars and vials around until she found some burn healing ointment and lathered it on the tender patch on her hand, mentally reminding herself to make more Hangover Potion for the impending bank holiday; she’d been all but cleared out of it by her party the week prior.

As the ointment started working she regrouped, tidying the array of ingredients she had gathered as quietly as she could, worried that her expletives had woken the blonde.

No sooner had she thought of the still sleeping blonde when she heard a voice calling her from the bedroom, still laced with sleep. “‘Ermione.” The French witch called, Hermione feeling her heart thump into double time, pounding harder on cue in her chest.

She dropped the jar in her haste to see Fleur, waving a hand idly behind her to clean up the mess as she all but bounded towards her bedroom to see the blonde whose voice she could hear calling her again.

Hermione opened the door to her bedroom and was struck once again by Fleur’s radiance, her ethereal beauty that was only amplified by the fragility that she exuded when sleepy.

Fleur had managed to prop herself up on her elbows, the duvet pooling around her waist where it had dropped off her sleeping form. Her silvery blonde hair was tousled by sleep in such a way that Hermione could only wish her hair looked; even when dishevelled Fleur seemed to be unflappable, her hair falling into place like pieces of a jigsaw slotting together.

Her blue eyes sought Hermione out questioningly, gleaming as soon as they met the brunette’s honey brown gaze, a warm smile rising unbidden as she stifled a yawn.

Hermione could feel her lips respond in kind, tugging upwards and returning Fleur’s smile as she stood awkwardly in the doorway, unsure as to where she should be despite every fibre of her being insisting that it was as close to Fleur as possible.

The blonde seemed to agree as she patted the empty space next to her, lying back down but leaving a hand outstretched for Hermione to take. The brunette could deny the pull no longer and unwaveringly headed towards the bed, sliding herself back in with Fleur’s hand still clasped in her own, chuckling as the blonde immediately thrust her legs in between Hermione’s for warmth.

“Good morning ma cherie. Am I having a stroke or is something burning? Do I need to be afraid for my life?” Fleur shot playfully, her nose wrinkling at the smell of burnt pancakes.

Hermione rolled her eyes but laughed nonetheless, responding to the playful glint in Fleur’s eyes. “I’m not sure… can you raise your arms above your head? Speak again for me so I can see if your speech is slurred?”

Fleur did as she was told, flinging her arms above her head and taking Hermione’s hand with her, making the brunette laugh heartily as her arm was yanked into the air. “And my speech? ‘ow does it sound?” Fleur added, refusing to relinquish her grip on Hermione’s hand even as the brunette squirmed in an attempt to bring their arms back down.

“You sound very French. Has anyone ever told you that you’re particularly French in the mornings?” Hermione replied once she’d managed to wrestle Fleur’s arm back under the warmth of the duvet, watching as the blonde continued to play with their laced fingers, her blue eyes fixed softly upon her face.

Fleur raised one eyebrow, sidling closer to Hermione who winced as the blonde adjusted her feet, exposing Hermione’s bare legs to the icy coldness of the woman’s toes, making the brunette inhale sharply.

“Well I don’t know if you know, but I am French. How am I supposed to sound? Am I supposed to speak like this.” Fleur exaggerated her English accent, eliciting a laugh from Hermione who rolled her eyes affectionately.

“No, your speech seems fine, no stroke occurring here. I must have burnt the pancakes then.”

Fleur yawned, stretching out her arms and propping herself up, shoulder to shoulder with the brunette against the headboard. “Pancakes, or crêpes? And don’t insult me by saying they are the same thing.” Fleur added, holding her forefinger up to quell the goading retort on Hermione’s lips.

The brunette held her hands up in surrender before swinging her legs out of the bed and standing up. “See what I mean; very French this morning.” Hermione shot, giggling as she dodged a pillow that Fleur threw in mock annoyance.

“They were pancakes, if you could even call what I ended up making that . Come on then, show me how to make crêpes, seeing as pancakes are off the menu.” Hermione called out as she left the bedroom, weaving around a slaloming Crookshanks who darted past her as soon as he heard Fleur’s gentle footsteps approaching.

“Bon, I will go and get my crêpe pan.” Fleur said diplomatically as she glanced over at the blackened pan Hermione had retrieved from the sink, the brunette muttering a spell under her breath to remove the blackened and crispy batter that remained caked onto it. “I will be back.”

Hermione nodded, still concentrating on remembering the right incantation when she felt the blonde plant a swift kiss on her temple. Fleur pulled back with a wry smile on her face, reaching in once more this time to dust flour off of Hermione’s face before she turned on her heel and headed towards the apartment door.

Still dazed from Fleur’s unprecedented kiss, Hermione tried to calm her stuttering heart, running through a series of cleaning spells Molly Weasley had taught her, her thoughts interrupted by the lingering scent of Fleur. Seeing the blonde unguarded and soft never seemed to fail at turning her into a spluttering, speechless mess. Over the years she had always thought of Fleur as all hard edges, sharp, perfect and impenetrable. To see her in her more tender moments, to be allowed to witness Fleur with her armour off seemed like an immense privilege.

She heard the door thud back open before closing again, the sound of Fleur’s recognisable, assured gait reaching Hermione as the blonde made her way into the kitchen.

Fleur gave Hermione a soft smile before she gently nudged her with her hip, moving the brunette out of the way of the hob. “I’ll sort the pan and…” Fleur gestured vaguely to the flour dusted kitchen and the gloopy, lumpy, somehow under and over cooked looking pancakes before continuing, “the rest of this. Keep me entertained?”

Hermione nodded obediently, bending to pick up Crookshanks before leaving the kitchen to sit at the breakfast bar; she thought it best to keep a safe distance from the kitchen for everyone’s sake.

The brunette watched curiously as Fleur began summoning ingredients, deftly and methodically combining them with a confidence that Hermione severely lacked when it came to cooking. After observing the blonde move on from the batter and begin to chop some strawberries  - paying particular attention to the way in which Fleur sucked some of the sweet, red residue off her finger - Hermione distracted herself by flipping through one of yesterday’s newspapers idly, keeping her eyes fixed downwards.

“So what’s on the agenda today for you? Any wild Saturday night plans?” Hermione began, risking a glance up and finding herself both relieved and disappointed to see that Fleur had finished chopping the fruit and was washing her hands, her fingers nowhere near her lips.

Fleur shook her head and opened her mouth to speak before shutting it again, seeming to consider her words, her motions slowing as she pondered. It was only for a fraction of a second, but Hermione sensed the blonde’s reservation, recognised it as Fleur’s way of keeping her at arm's length; of keeping some truth hidden.

The blonde focussed on the bowl of batter, her tone conveying forced nonchalance, stilted slightly. “I have to speak to my mother today, she becomes quite… intrusive if I don’t speak to her regularly.”

Hermione hummed noncommittally, trying to work out from Fleur’s demeanour whether she would be upset if she were to engage her further on the subject. She watched the tense set of Fleur’s shoulders relax as she continued to work the batter in between checking the heat of the pan periodically and meeting Hermione’s inquisitive eyes often.

“I sound like I’m complaining about her. I’m not. Of course she can be overbearing but it’s just because…” Fleur searched for the words, her hands stilling as she picked up the thread of conversation, grateful for Hermione’s patience as she tried to figure out how much she should or could impart.

“She loves you.” Hermione said quietly, her eyes soft and emotive, the familiar burning sensation rising in her throat as hot unshed tears scorched her inside.

“Yes she does. Very much.” Fleur replied with conviction, watching Hermione’s throat bob up and down, observing the tight set of her jaw with some confusion before she found the woman’s honey brown eyes, blazing with some unspoken hurt.

After one beat too much of silence, Hermione slid her eyes away from Fleur, fearful of what the blonde was seeing in her. Did she know? Was she waiting for her to tell her what she already knew deep down? That she had wiped her parents memory and had failed to restore it, to even find them. That she continued to fail, every day that she existed as a stranger to her parents, she failed.

Hermione shook her head and cleared her throat, tasting salt and something metallic, like blood burn in her mouth. She realised she’d bitten the inside of her cheek. “Are you free this evening? Ginny has invited you to Grimmauld Place for a party after her match.” She ploughed on, silently healing the wound as Fleur eventually began mixing again although she continued to not so subtly eye Hermione with concern.

Fleur raised an eyebrow sceptically as she registered Hermione’s words, her eyes sparkling with disbelief. “Ginny invited me? Of her own free will? Or did you hold her at wand point.” The blonde joked as she poured some batter onto the searing hot pan, skilfully swirling wet batter around, moving it with a grace that Hermione could only dream of possessing.

“I swear I didn’t do or say anything. She said she wants to get to know you better.”

Fleur made a delicate snort of derision and doubt, but met Hermione’s gaze, scanning it for signs of untruth. She found none. The blonde sighed softly, her eyes still hardened, guarded as she spoke. “I would like to get to know her better too I suppose. You seem to like her, she can’t be too awful.”

“Well I don’t know about that, she can be quite… well, she’s a Weasley, what more to say. She’s protective of me.” Hermione chuckled, watching Fleur finish plating the crêpes up, dividing them into two portions and sliding one towards her.

“Pour toi, ma belle.” Fleur said, waving a hand towards the dirty dishes before sitting opposite Hermione at the breakfast bar.

“I will come. What time?” Fleur said after a pause in which she delicately cut up her crêpes, spearing a bite sized piece before putting it into her mouth elegantly.

Hermione dragged her eyes away from the blonde’s motion, mortified to see Fleur smirk knowingly, her blue eyes glinting with mischief as she continued to gaze at the embarrassed brunette.

“Ermm, maybe 7? 8? I’m heading over there early to help Harry and Ron with their no doubt copious amounts of coursework, all of which I presume was due last week.” The brunette bit into the food eagerly, thanking Fleur by squeezing the blonde’s shoulder. “So I won’t be able to apparate in with you, but you could Floo in later? Or I’ll add you to the wards when I get there.”

Fleur nodded in agreement. “Bon, I will text you before I head over.” The blonde said smugly, looking thoroughly pleased with herself for displaying her Muggle knowledge.

Hermione gave her a sarcastic round of applause, contorting her face into what she hoped was an exaggerated, impressed expression. “Look at this! Fleur Delacour, the queen of Muggle technology. Steve Jobs eat your heart out.”

“Who?” Fleur wrinkled her eyebrows in confusion, prodding Hermione in the side when the brunette rolled her eyes and muttered something about her Muggle  jokes being wasted on the blonde.

They continued to eat in peace, Hermione idly talking to the smart speaker and asking it to turn the radio on to bleed into the comfortable silence, trying not to laugh as Fleur physically jumped in her seat before composing herself in embarrassment when the speaker began to talk back.

As they finished their breakfast and Hermione started cleaning up their dishes the Muggle way, Fleur leant against the counter questioning the brunette about Dirty Dancing with such intensity that Hermione could barely conceal her amusement.

“But I don’t understand, why would her father encourage her to make friends and then criticise her choice of friends? He seems hypocritical to me.” Fleur was saying passionately, her hip touching Hermione’s as the brunette continued to wash up by hand, passing a begrudging Fleur a tea towel to dry the dishes.

“I don’t think he’s hypocritical, I just think he’s… narrow minded at the beginning. He wants the best for his daughter and he thinks that means some snooty, over-educated and underdeveloped sleazy man child with powerful connections. I don’t want to spoil it, where did we get to again?” Hermione returned, her hands brushing Fleur’s as she passed her a dripping plate, the touch sending a coiling warmth into her stomach.

“The song about the hungry eyes was playing, the three of them were dancing, like this.” Fleur added with a twinkle in her eye, grabbing the brunette's waist and pulling her into the centre of the kitchen.

“This is your dancing space, and this is mine. Hold your frame.” Fleur said with a low voice, trying to emulate Patrick Swayze. The serious expression on her face contrasted with the playful gleam in her eyes as she adjusted Hermione’s posture, beginning to move their bodies in sync.

The fluidity with which Fleur moved was hardly surprising to Hermione, but she still found herself impressed nonetheless and slightly embarrassed by her own juddering movements as she tried to remember how to put one foot in front of the other; a task made difficult by the distracting way in which Fleur’s hips were pressing against her own, one of the blonde’s hands splayed against her hip.

“Stop thinking about it and just move .” Fleur demanded, breaking the brunette’s concentration and causing her to stumble forwards as Fleur did. The blonde managed to catch her in a tangle of limbs, somehow turning the motion into a display of grace as she twirled Hermione outwards before pulling her back in again, her hands assured in their movements.

“Is that Patrick Swayze asking that or you?” Hermione mumbled crossly, unsure as to whether she was envious of Fleur’s elegant footwork or embarrassed at her own ineptitude when it came to the art of dancing.

“Me. Relax. I have seen you dance, you are good. We have danced together before, do you remember?” Fleur said softly, slowing her steps and pulling the brunette closer, shifting from the mambo into a constrained waltz, mimicking the dance they had shared at Fleur’s wedding.

Hermione tried not to scoff at the question, not quite managing to stifle a derisive exhale as she avoided Fleur’s inquisitive gaze. Despite her attempts to forget the dance they shared at Fleur and Bill’s wedding, Hermione had never managed to dispel the pleasant writhing that she felt in her stomach when she thought of how Fleur’s pronounced hip bone had felt under the silk of her wedding dress. The weight of the blonde’s head against her own, her soft lips ghosting over Hermione's ear as Fleur had spoken into it, presumably to be heard over the music. And the way that Fleur had looked at her as the music stopped, almost with awe. She’d tried to forget how time felt suspended as Fleur’s blue eyes had continued to bore into her own, insistently trying to convey something, a pleading desperation tingeing her features.

“Yes.” Hermione said shortly, afraid to say more. Her voice was almost a whisper, an audible hitch in the word as Fleur leant back to meet the brunette’s amber eyes.

They had stopped moving, Fleur’s feet scuffing momentarily against the kitchen floor before stopping altogether, her attention focussed entirely on the brunette.

Hermione swallowed nervously, her mouth seeming to lose all moisture as soon as Fleur’s eyes had found her own. There it was again, that pull, that taut thread between them aching in her chest. There it was, or did it ever really leave? Was it always there, lurking behind their every touch, feeding off of the weighted silences and humming need that Hermione felt for Fleur, her skin thrumming with barely concealed desire.

She watched Fleur’s eyes flit down to her lips. Not an accident, not a mistake. Fleur had looked at her lips and those same eyes were now searing into her own, a glowing ring of blue barely visible around her dilated pupils.

Hermione opened her mouth to speak around the lilac haze that had begun to seep into the fringes of her vision, to say what she wasn’t sure, but to say something. To say take me . Have me . You already have me . Her clock began to chime.

The effect was instantaneous. She watched Fleur’s eyes go from predatory, from primal and almost dangerous to restrained. Saw the guarded expression begin to ooze its way back into her eyes as the clock struck again. And fear. Hermione saw Fleur’s fear.

“Merde is that really the time? I am so sorry, I have to go ma chérie, my mother really will kill me if I am late. She hates tardiness almost as much as she loves giving me unsolicited advice.” The blonde’s tone was too breezy, too unaffected and for the first time Hermione felt searing anger shoot through her for a second, as if a rod of ice had severed her in two. This avoidance. This secret. She was overwhelmed by the urge to scream, to yell at Fleur, to demand that she either stop this game or finish it so that she could at least be free from the aching, tugging, throbbing in her chest. She didn’t know how much longer she could stand to be looked at like that, to be touched like that and yet to not be looked at or touched enough by Fleur.

She said nothing as she watched Fleur scramble for her belongings, rooter to the spot by the intensity of the anger that coursed through her. Fleur continued to rush around the apartment, chattering away distractedly, keeping her eyes strategically away from Hermione’s direction.

Feeling the anger begin to dissipate almost as soon as it had appeared, becoming more dull the further away Fleur got from her, Hermione tuned back into the blonde’s ramblings, feeling strangely empty.

“… and then I will text when I am on the way. What type of wine does Ginny like? Does she drink wine? She seems like she’d drink anything.” Fleur patted Crookshanks tenderly on the head, finally looking at Hermione as she gestured towards the door. “I am so sorry I have to leave in such a rush, I’ve had such a wonderful time.”

Hermione sighed emphatically, her heart already feeling raw around the edges, her feet urging her to move towards Fleur, to close the distance between them. She could swear that she saw it in Fleur’s eyes too, behind the flinty blue mask she could still see the lingering fear, the unspoken truth that Hermione felt more sure than ever existed in a corner of the blonde’s mind. What it was, she didn’t know, but it was keeping Fleur at arm's length.

The blonde was pleading, she could see it in her eyes. And Hermione couldn’t say no to Fleur, no matter how much she wanted to shatter the thin glass veneer of friendship that she was clinging onto with the blonde, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Looking at Fleur, standing halfway in the hallway and half out, Hermione saw what she stood to lose.

So she nodded. She nodded and followed Fleur to the door, accepting the woman’s offered hand, the blonde clutching onto her fingers gratefully.

“À bientôt ma belle.” Fleur said softly, ducking her head to better see the brunette, asking for permission before imparting her usual farewell of no less than three kisses.

Hermione caught Fleur by the the T-shirt before she had time to pull away, offering the woman a kiss of her own in return next to her ear, delighting in the way in which the blonde sighed open mouthed as she tasted Fleur’s salty yet delectably floral skin on her lips.

“See you later.” Hermione breathed, trying and failing not to look smug as Fleur walked away with two distinct blooms of pink on her face, her forefinger coming up to touch the spot where Hermione’s lips had been just before she entered her apartment.

 

******

 

“She knows I am keeping something from her. She can feel it. She can see it. She is feeling the bond more and more each day Maman; I watched her get angry earlier with no clue as to why. It’s because I’m fucking angry Maman!” Fleur spat, pacing in front of the fireplace, her mother’s slightly amused face watching on through the green flames.

“The emotional ties will lessen when she has accepted the bond. So don’t worry, only another… 30 years of suffering for you both by the time you get around to telling her.” Apolline returned, her eyebrow raising as Fleur slumped onto the armchair dejectedly, a scowl fixed upon her face. “And did you ever think that maybe she is angry at you too? That it was her own anger that she was feeling as opposed to a shadow of yours, hm?”

Fleur pointedly ignored her mother, clenching her jaw and digging her nails into the palm of her hand as a distraction, trying to calm the thrashing fury and fear she felt burning inside her, threatening to overtake her.

Apolline observed her daughter warily, sighing before speaking again, attempting to change the direction of the conversation. “And who or what are you angry at mon petit chou?” She began more softly, drawing Fleur’s eyes back to the fireplace.

“I am angry at myself of course. For going through with this stupid plan. For letting myself get so caught up when we are together. For not telling her years ago and for not telling her now.”

“You are over complicating this my child. It is simple. She likes you, bond or not. You like her, bond or not. Be together. Where does this self-flagellation and cowardice come from? It must be on your father’s side of the family.” Apolline said jokingly, rolling her eyes when Fleur staunchly refused to laugh, failing to see the funny side of her predicament.

“Have you ever thought about just giving in and kissing first and asking questions later? I’m sure she will be far more docile about the situation when she is sexually sated, non?”

Fleur scowled at her mother’s face in the green flames, opening her mouth to berate her before she saw the goading look in her mother’s eyes; even the flickering of the fire couldn’t disguise the playful glint she saw there.

“You are teasing me Maman, in my time of need.” Fleur mumbled, curling her legs up underneath her and settling further into the armchair as she felt her anger give way to sullenness.

“It always seems to be your time of need, ma fille. Did you at least have a good evening? How is Hermione, she is well?” Apolline asked earnestly, her eyes studying her daughter intently.

“She is. We watched a film.” Fleur said vaguely, not wanting to admit that she stayed over at the brunette’s yet again. She could only imagine how elated her mother would be and what suggestive remarks would make their way out of her mouth if she were to impart the news to her mother. Fleur was sure the entire clan would be informed of the news before the day was out.

Apolline raised an eyebrow suspiciously, her lips parting to further question her daughter when a loud but hesitant knocking interrupted her.

Fleur’s head swung towards the door, her heart rate rising deliciously, her chest tightening pleasantly, sending a thrill downwards into the pit of her stomach, her thrall stirring excitedly. It was Hermione.

The blonde willed her expression to stay neutral, all too aware of her mother’s inquisitive eyes still fixed upon her. “That’s the door. Stay here and don’t make a sound. ” Fleur hissed, putting her forefinger over her lips in demonstration, frowning as her mother rolled her eyes and feigned zipping up her lips.

“Oui, Maman; you forget yourself ma petite fille.” Apolline called, purposefully raising her voice as Fleur shushed her again, backing away towards the hallway, waiting until she had rounded the corner to let her feet carry her eagerly to the door.

Hermione had her hand raised to knock again, her face comically surprised as Fleur appeared in the now open doorway.

“‘Ermione.” Fleur breathed, trying to keep her voice low without arousing suspicion from the brunette.

“Hey. Again. Why are we whispering?” Hermione whispered back, a small smile tugging at her lips as she leaned closer to Fleur conspiratorially before resting against the doorframe.

Fleur rolled her eyes at the brunette, finding herself angling her body closer to Hermione, mirroring her position against the frame of the door, noting the twitch of the brunette’s arm and bringing her own arm closer, allowing it to brush softly against Hermione’s.

“Because maybe I want to keep our conversation private, hm?” Fleur returned flirtatiously, relishing the way in which Hermione’s cheeks immediately bloomed pink, the way her honey brown eyes held her gaze stoically despite the fact that Fleur knew she was flustered. She could feel the woman’s giddy sense of nervousness; a new sensation, an echo of a feeling burgeoning in her chest in response to Hermione’s own emotions.

“I think maybe we should. You forgot your erm… well you for-forgot your blouse.” Hermione managed to stutter out, holding out the item of clothing, her cheeks flushing further as Fleur smirked.

“Ahh yes, my blouse. How scandalous, what will the neighbours think?” She said teasingly, laughing as Hermione hit her arm playfully, a scowl on her face.

“Merci ma chérie.” She continued, watching as Hermione stayed standing in the doorway, one of her feet tapping nervously.

Fleur opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by her mother’s voice, calling out to her in French, the blonde stiffening immediately as her head swivelled towards the sound before she turned back to Hermione.

The brunette looked momentarily confused, craning her neck unconsciously around Fleur, before her face flashed with hurt, Fleur taken aback by the surge of pain she felt in her chest.

“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know you had company , I’ll just…” She began to turn away, the brunette’s face oddly impassive despite her eyes blazing with anger, Fleur trying not to gasp as she felt the emotion echoed inside herself.

“Company? What, no!” Fleur grasped Hermione’s arm desperately, the action stopping the brunette, her eyes purposely avoiding Fleur. “It’s not.. it’s…”

“Fleur, who is so important that they’re keeping you from your lovely conversation with your mother.” Apolline called out, Fleur wincing and closing her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose with her free hand.

The blonde paused, weighing up her options, all of which seemed dreadful. Before she had time to decide however, understanding dawned on Hermione’s face, the brunette blushing as she registered who the disembodied voice belonged to.

“It’s ‘Ermione, Maman.” Fleur turned her head, scowling at her mother’s interruption, picturing the smug grin on her face as she confirmed what she was sure her mother already knew, praying that she hadn’t heard any of her and Hermione’s interaction.

“Oh god I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you in the middle of… whatever.” Hermione said sheepishly, finally meeting Fleur’s gaze with embarrassment still written all over her face.

“It’s fine, Maman was just leaving, weren’t you?” Fleur said loudly, hearing her mother’s laugh echoing down the hallway from the fireplace.

“You wish! Am I not allowed to meet your friend ?” Apolline returned, the silence in the wake of her speaking deafening as Fleur scrambled around trying to come up with an excuse as to why that couldn’t happen. She was shocked however by Hermione’s look of curiosity, the brunette’s honey brown eyes darting past Fleur with intrigue.

After a pause, Fleur sighed, sliding her hand down Hermione’s arm until it reached her hand, the warmth of the woman’s palm calming her residual anger.

“I’d like to.” Hermione murmured softly, her eyes cast downwards towards where Fleur’s hand was clasped in her own before flickering up to search the blonde’s face.

Merde , Fleur thought, her stomach rolling with nervousness. This wasn’t how she intended for Hermione to meet her mother; she hadn’t had a chance to brief her mother on the do’s and don'ts of such an interaction, namely, don’t mention anything about their growing bond, don’t mention sex and generally don’t be herself around a skittish Hermione.

The blonde scanned Hermione’s face, an eyebrow raised, asking her silently whether she was sure. Seeing nothing other than the brunette’s determination and an imperceptible nod, Fleur sighed again, returning the nod and internally bracing herself for what she was sure was to be a thoroughly mortifying conversation with her mother.

“Fine. We’re coming.” She said in resignation, squeezing Hermione’s hand as she opened the door wider, shutting it after the brunette had stepped inside.

“I should warn you, she is very…. French. And very Veela.” Fleur said quietly in Hermione’s ear as they walked down the hallway, the brunette tilting her head towards Fleur’s lips, the sight of her exposed, bare neck monetarily distracting Fleur.

“What’s wrong with that? Worried that I’ll like her more than you?” Hermione returned softly, a playful glimmer in her eyes despite the nerves that Fleur could feel rolling off of her, melding with her own anxious energy.

“Well you know us Veelas; incorrigible flirts with great hair. But no, I don’t think I need to worry about that.” Fleur smirked back, relishing Hermione’s pealing laughter and the subtle blush of her cheeks at her remark as they rounded the corner to the living room, the fireplace becoming visible.

Fleur gazed steadily at her mother, who was as she expected, looking entirely too pleased with herself. To the untrained eye, Apolline’s expression was smooth, neutral, but Fleur could see the twinkling delight in her eyes even through the flickering green flames which only grew when she pointedly shot her eyes down to Fleur and Hermione’s still entwined hands.

“Maman, this is ‘Ermione, ‘Ermione, this is my mother, Apolline.” Fleur said stiffly, shooting what she hoped was a warning look at her mother, her eyes narrowing dangerously and her head shaking subtly; a clear signal for her mother to behave.

“Hello Mrs. Delacour. It’s lovely to meet you.” Hermione said, waving awkwardly at the fireplace, her hand tightening in Fleur’s own, the blonde beginning to run her thumb across the brunette’s knuckles in what she hoped was a soothing motion.

Apolline waved a hand dismissively, her full attention fixed on Hermione. “Please, just Apolline is fine, I can assure you that I am not as formal or generally ghastly as Fleur has presumably made me out to be. Won’t you sit? You’re both making me nervous standing there.”

Fleur glared at her mother before turning to Hermione and nodding her head towards the sofa, acquiescing to her mother’s request with reluctance. She made sure to keep a safe distance between herself and Hermione as they sat, but angled her foot towards the brunette, the small contact making her feel less scrambled and petrified at the thought of whatever damning statement would inevitably come out of her mother’s mouth.

“I can assure you that the pleasure is all mine Hermione, I have heard so much about you from Fleur. And from elsewhere of course. Although we have already met once before, very briefly I will admit.” Apolline added as an afterthought, her eyes flicking to her daughter whose nostrils had flared dangerously, a reminder for her to keep her mouth shut.

Hermione’s eyebrows knitted together slightly as she searched her memory, causing Fleur to smile despite herself, watching the woman deep in thought. “The wedding, of course! I’m sorry, I was rather…preoccupied.” Hermione finished vaguely, adding a shrug and a half smile, trying her best to ignore the nerves that reared nastily at the vague mention of the war.

“Ah yes. A war will do that. Quite inconvenient.” Apolline said lightly, Hermione scanning her flickering visage in the flames, trying to discern whether she was joking or not, the older Delacour woman harder to read than her daughter.

Apolline’s mouth pulled up, pleased as Hermione’s own smile grew, taken aback by the woman’s candour and humour that seemed overly familiar, but not insensitive or offensive to her even with the war at the heart of the joke. In fact, it made Hermione feel at ease, less on edge, reminding her of Fleur’s own sense of humour and easy verbal sparring.

“Much has happened since then. You look… stronger. Assured. It suits you.” Apolline said sincerely, causing a blush to rise in Hermione’s face, her averted gaze missing Fleur’s look of pride, the blonde’s body moving reflexively closer to Hermione’s.

“It is so nice to see you and Fleur together again. She has always spoken so highly of you.” Apolline started again, Fleur glaring at her mother who was positively beaming at the pair’s closeness, her dark blue eyes thrumming with palpable delight. Fleur was going to murder her once Hermione had left.

“Really? You talk about me to your mother do you?” Hermione said boldly, turning to face Fleur, an eyebrow raised over her twinkling eyes.

“Only about the bad things of course. Like your snobbish music taste and your enjoyment of confusing Muggle technology. And your affiliation with the Weasley’s; mother notoriously hates them.” Fleur returned with ease, the tightness in her chest receding as she leant back against the sofa, her arm resting flush against Hermione’s, the brunette pressing hers firmly against her without thought.

“At least I had the good sense not to marry one of them, perhaps your character should be called into question, not mine?” Hermione shot back eagerly, unable to stop the smile that spread across her face as she looked at Fleur, the blonde seeming to glow in the midst of their familiar back and forth.

Apolline laughed heartily, her smile growing as she observed the half hearted scowl on her daughter’s face, the prideful flush of her face as she turned from Hermione to her mother. “Oh I like this one, she puts you in your place. And I don’t hate the Weasley’s ma petite fille, do not spread this misinformation! Bill Weasley had his uses.” The older woman drawled, shooting a sideways wink at Hermione who chuckled in response.

“What, being a British citizen?” Fleur said drily, frowning and pursing her lips as she watched her mother observe the pair of them, noticing the particular attention that she was paying to their proximity; she was no doubt mentally noting the closeness of their arms and the way that Hermione unconsciously shifted her leg to rest her knee against Fleur’s.

“That is the main one, oui.” Apolline replied curtly, sharing a conspiratorial smile with Hermione as her eyes darted away from her daughter to fully focus on the brunette.

She continued her not so subtly appraisal of Hermione, even as she spoke to her daughter. “Fleur, be a good host and get Hermione a drink won’t you? I thought I raised you to have manners.”

Fleur bit her tongue to keep herself from exploding at her mother, a string of French expletives ready to leave her lips as she felt a fresh wave of anxiety wash over her; she dreaded to think the damage her mother would cause of left alone with Hermione.

She was saved by Hermione however, who she could feel looking at her curiously, the weight of the brunette’s golden brown eyes on her face as she continued to try and communicate silently with her mother, urging her to drop it. “No no, it’s okay, I really mustn’t stay. I only came over to drop… well to return something of Fleur’s.”

Fleur internally groaned as she watched her mother’s eyes widen with curiosity, the subtle quirk of her mouth and dangerous glint in her eye alerting Fleur to the fact that she was about to enquire further.

Apolline didn’t need to ask, however, her perceptive eyes catching sight of Hermione’s gaze as it dropped momentarily to the item of clothing in question.

Apolline purposefully looked at Fleur before she spoke, her dark eyes sparkling with barely concealed triumph, a gentle laugh escaping her lips as Fleur continued to scowl at her mother, heat rising to her face.

“Oh you were returning Fleur’s blouse? Did she let you borrow it? A very lovely colour.”

Fleur fumed silently, glancing at Hermione and seeing the brunette in a similar state of embarrassment, her cheeks pink despite keeping her eyes fixed stubbornly on Apolline. She could feel the brunette’s uncertainty, a dull, gnawing feeling in her chest that made her press her arm closer to Hermione’s. Fleur focussed on letting her thrall expand outwards, just enough for Hermione to feel its presence without overwhelming her.

She heard Hermione breathe a sigh, exhaling, her posture relaxing slightly and her eyes darting to Fleur for reassurance.

“Erm.. no. She… we…” Hermione began cautiously, her eyes flitting between Apolline and Fleur who were in the midst of a silent standoff that she didn’t seem to understand.

Fleur sighed in exasperation as she inched still closer to Hermione, wanting to shield her from the sheer mortification of the situation, the movement only serving to further delight her mother who was practically gleeful, her expression breezy whilst her eyes shone infuriatingly.

“We had a sleepover. We watched a film and fell asleep so I stayed over. I could hardly sleep in my blouse.” Fleur said defensively, her temper rising as she felt Hermione shrink into herself, Fleur angling her body to try and hide her as she seethed at her mother, her blue eyes flaming dangerously.

“Ah I see! You had a sleepover. How wonderful that sounds. And do you have sleepovers regularly?” Apolline said with forced nonchalance, a soft smirk on her face that made Fleur want to growl and launch at the fireplace.

Sensing she was close to pushing Fleur over the precipice into blinding anger as her question hung awkwardly in the air between them, Apolline diplomatically changed the subject, returning her attention to a particularly bashful looking Hermione. “You know I was talking to Fleur before you arrived, Hermione, about visiting France. It’s so lovely here this time of year, the trees in the orchard are beginning to shed their leaves, the air is crisp but the breeze is still lovely and warm. And there is the forest! Fleur knows it well, she used to take refuge there whenever she threw a tantrum, do you remember ma petite fille?” Apolline cooed exaggeratedly, rousing an eye roll from Fleur as she sat back against the sofa with a huff, poking a chuckling Hermione in her side, the brunette relaxing as Fleur leant against her.

“Oui, maman. I used to say I was going to live in the forest with the Wild Abraxan.” Fleur admitted to Hermione, trading some of her pride to see the brunette put at ease. She was rewarded by a fond smile, Hermione’s eyes glittering teasingly at her before returning to look at the fireplace.

“And you would never do something that dramatic now.” Hermione said with faux seriousness, enjoying Apolline’s laughter, feeling strangely comfortable teasing Fleur in the other woman’s presence. 

“Have you been to France before Hermione?” Apolline continued, her eyes crinkling with joy as she watched her daughter struggle to stay annoyed at the brunette, her soft eyes giving away her affection as Fleur waited for Hermione to formulate an answer to her mother’s question.

Hermione nodded her head, speaking slowly and purposefully, measuring her words. “As a child yes, I spent quite a few summers there. Mostly the west, parts that were easy to get to by ferry or train.”

“Not the south?” Apolline said excitedly, ignoring Fleur’s purposeful cough and not so subtle murmured warnings in French, an attempt to draw her mother’s intense attention away from Hermione who was beginning to look like a cornered animal, her eyes cautious and suspicious under her mother’s incessant questioning.

Hermione shook her head, meeting Fleur’s eyes briefly before Apolline turned her head to look at her daughter also.

“Per’aps you could bring her next time you visit us Fleur? You know how much Papa and I love to host. And the estate would be much better seen with a guide. Gabrielle is home soon and I’m sure she’d love to meet Hermione too.”

Fleur stiffened, her eyes widening in disbelief at her mother who held her gaze stubbornly, a challenge clear in her eyes.

“Thank you for inviting me, that sounds lovely.” Hermione said politely, shifting under the palpable tension in the air.

“Well you can think about it, there is no pressure, our door is always open to you. And to you as well I suppose.” Apolline added, turning back to her silently fuming daughter, a look of triumph evident on her face.

“I’m so sorry but I really must go.” Hermione said suddenly, scrambling slightly as she got up from the sofa, her cheeks aflame as Fleur reached for her hand on impulse as she too stood up.

“I’ll walk you out.” Fleur said quickly, beginning to shepherd a skittish Hermione away from her mother, her face smug in the fireplace.

“It was so nice to meet you Hermione, I’m sure we will be seeing much of each other soon.” Apolline called, watching as Hermione turned her head.

“And you Mrs- Apolline.” The brunette replied, waving before she acquiesced to Fleur’s gentle nudge towards the hallway.

The pair walked in silence until they reached the doorway, Fleur’s hand still grasping tightly onto Hermione’s own. As she opened the door she followed Hermione out, closing it slightly to prevent her mother’s prying ears from hearing.

“I’m so sorry about her ma chérie, I did say she can be… intense.” Fleur began, rubbing her thumb across Hermione's knuckles, her eyes shifting across the woman’s face to gauge her emotions.

Hermione met her gaze with confidence, hoping that she looked less flustered than she felt, that her nervousness wasn’t written plainly across her face.

“I like her. She’s a lot like you. Or I guess you’re a lot like her.” Hermione said quietly, a soft smile on her face as she watched Fleur’s own face relax in kind, the expression in her guarded blue eyes making way for her usual playful glimmer.

“I don’t know whether to be offended or pleased.” Fleur returned with a stilted smile of her own. “Thank you for meeting her, she liked you too, I could tell.” She continued almost pridefully, a swell of affection blooming in her chest.

Hermione’s smile grew under Fleur’s doting gaze, her cheeks flushing as she averted her eyes bashfully.

“I’ll see you at the party later. I’ll make Ginny promise to behave.” The brunette said earnestly, squeezing Fleur’s hand before untangling her fingers from the blonde’s.

“I make no such promises for my own behaviour.” Fleur returned haughtily, flicking her hair from her shoulder jokingly, drawing a soft chuckle and an eye roll from Hermione.

“A bientôt ma belle.” She whispered, imparting three kisses on Hermione’s cheeks, taken aback when the brunette pulled her into a tight hug, the woman’s head tucked into the crook of her neck.

“See you soon.” Hermione breathed into Fleur’s ear, before pulling back and making her way towards her apartment, feeling the weight of Fleur’s eyes on her retreating form.

 

******

 

“‘Mione thank god you’re here, tell Harry that King Kong would win in a fight with Godzilla.” Ron shouted emphatically as soon as the brunette appeared in the hallway of Grimmauld Place.

“I told Harry he’d regret showing you that film. And you’re wrong.” Hermione added brusquely, taking off her coat and handing it to the enchanted coat stand before being pulled into a bone crushing hug by Ron.

“Hey Hermione! You’ll be pleased to know we’ve done our homework.” Harry’s voice echoed down the hallway as Ron released Hermione, wrapping an arm around her shoulder as he led her towards the source of Harry’s voice.

Harry was sprawled across the sofa, the coffee table littered with what Hermione assumed was their completed coursework. She tried not to blanch at the dishevelled state of the papers and the heavily scrawled out sections that she could spot, the paper blotched with ink in places.

“Hey you.” Hermione said warmly, leaning down and pulling Harry into an awkwardly angled hug, his dishevelled, jet black hair tickling her cheek.

“Well I mean when we say done…” Ron began, nudging Harry’s legs to free up the end of the sofa, plonking himself down and laying Harry’s feet across his lap roughly.

Hermione rolled her eyes, shivering as she shot some flames into the currently empty fireplace. “Yes I’ll check it over for you both. Tea anyone?”

Ron huffed as he stood up clumsily, half taking Harry with him as they struggled to untangle their gangly limbs. “I’ll make it, you sit down.” He insisted against Hermione’s protests, steering her towards the sofa by her shoulders.

The redhead left the room, humming to himself as the sounds of the cutlery clattering in the drawer and the gentle rumbling of the kettle beginning to boil swam into the room from the kitchen.

“How are you? How was your evening with Fleur?” Harry started, leaning forward to help Hermione instil some order to the scattered papers.

“It was good. We fell asleep so she stayed over. I… I met her mother this morning.” Hermione confessed, watching carefully for Harry’s reaction, whose green eyes widened in surprise before he smiled slyly.

“Ginny does always say that you lesbians move quickly. Isn’t it a little soon for meeting the parents considering you’ve not even been on a date yet; not according to you anyway although I don’t know what else you’d call last night.” He had lowered his voice, conscious of Ron in the next room, the redhead still humming out of tune.

Hermione hit his shoulder in admonishment, gesturing to the papers in front of her. “Do you want me to check these over for you or not?”

Harry held up his hands to signify peace and muttered a soft apology, gesturing for her to continue. Hermione sighed, gathering her thoughts, trying to figure out how best to explain it to Harry, who waited patiently.

“I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot recently. Not that I ever really stop thinking about them. But with everything with Fleur, with… whatever it is, whatever we are… I guess it’s just a reminder that time is passing, life is moving on and there’s all these moments, these milestones in my life that they’re missing. I’m trying to let myself feel excited, to feel happy at the progress I’m making, but it feels kind of… hollow.” Hermione finished quietly, glancing at a sombre looking Harry before busying herself with the papers again, her jaw clenching with the effort of containing her rising emotions.

Harry nodded empathetically, staring into the spitting fireplace as he spoke softly. “I know our situation isn’t the same - your parents aren’t dead and I know that you’ll find them, that we’ll find them and restore their memories - but for now, for the time being, I’m sure it feels for you how it does to me.” He started quietly, keeping his eyes fixed ahead as he spoke.

“With every good thing that happens to me, with every celebration, every achievement, there’s a shadow of sadness across it. That they’re not here to see it, that they’ll never know about any of it. I know it upsets Ginny too, that she’ll never know them.”

Hermione nodded, wordlessly putting a hand on Harry’s knee, waiting to see if he would talk again before she started.

“So much of who I am… how I see the world, how I think, how I feel , is down to my parents. I guess… I guess I just wanted to see that for Fleur. I thought that meeting her mother might give me more insight, would help me understand her more.” Hermione shrugged, picking up one of the now organised piles of paper and a quill, scanning the opening paragraph without really taking it in, her mind still preoccupied.

“And did it?” Harry asked, turning his head, the motion drawing Hermione to do the same, their eyes meeting, a lingering sadness in both.

“They’re a lot alike. Her mother seems less restrained. Maybe I’ll try asking her what’s going on instead of Fleur, I might get a straight answer then.” Hermione grumbled, her quill scratching at the paper as Harry laughed quietly, the sound a rumble in his chest.

After a moment of contemplative silence, Harry reached for Hermione’s hand, stilling her movement, forcing her to look at him. His green eyes were serious, almost fierce as he spoke.

“We’re going to find them, you know. I promise you. We might not talk about it all the time but we’re all looking and researching how to reverse the spell.” His voice was rough with emotion, his hand gripping Hermione’s hand firmly.

She didn’t trust herself to speak, swallowing thickly around the sharp lump in her throat before nodding gratefully and squeezing the man’s hand.

“Right tea all round! We’ll move onto something stronger when Ginny gets back. What time does the game start Harry? Hermione, can you get it on the TV? I’m still no good at working that bloody remote.” Ron came in balancing three full looking mugs, Hermione holding her tongue to avoid pointing out that he could’ve just levitated them to avoid sloshing the hot liquid around which he was currently doing.

“Thanks Ron.” Hermione said as she was handed her tea, silently using a cleaning spell to mop up the drips down the side of the mug and the residual stickiness.

“Scooch up mate. What time is Luna over?” Ron tapped Harry’s knees, the black haired man sliding to the far end of the sofa, Ron sitting the other side of Hermione who had begun flicking through the Muggle channels to find the Wizarding ones that she’d added by modifying the TV.

“She said about 6, I was thinking let’s just order some food in? We can split it between the six of us, presuming that Fleur is coming too?” Harry blew on his mug carefully, jumping slightly as Hermione whirled around with intensity.

“The six of us? I thought it was a party? Is no one else coming?” Hermione said shrilly, both Ron and Harry looking bewildered, Ron’s mouth agape at the brunette's sudden intensity.

Harry glanced at Ron confusedly before his attention returned to a flustered looking Hermione. “No, Ginny said to keep it small. Is that a problem?”

The brunette silently fumed. She was going to throttle Ginny. “No, no problem.” Fuck, Hermione thought. She’d assumed that Ginny’s usual definition of a party would apply, that there would be swathes of people invited, the sheer volume of bodies in attendance giving Hermione ample opportunity to keep Ginny and Fleur away from each other for a large portion of the evening. The thought of the two of them in close quarters, with no one to dilute the redhead’s naturally prying nature filled Hermione with sheer dread.

“It’s starting! Come on you Greens!” Ron yelled boisterously, slinging his arm around the back of the sofa. “C’mon ‘Mione, you can stress about Fleur and Ginny being in the same room later. For now let’s watch Ginny fuck up Puddlemere.”

Hermione bit her lip nervously, but forced herself to relax back against the sofa nonetheless. “Let’s hope she doesn’t break anyone’s nose this time, she was miserable for her entire ban last time.”

Harry agreed emphatically, groaning at the memory of a sulking Ginny until the sound of the whistle blowing on the screen captured the trio’s attention.

“Let’s fucking have you!” Ron shouted as Ginny whizzed across the pitch, her red hair billowing behind her as she received the Quaffle, the match beginning as Hermione’s stomach silently roiled with anxiety as her thoughts turned to the upcoming evening.