Fleur wrapped her cloak tighter around her body when a strong gust of wind blew her way. Irrational irritation sparked up, which she quickly Occluded away. English weather always evoked the same reaction from her, which was foolish to waste energy on. The weather was just another price she paid for choosing to stay in England after all.
“Are you okay?” Fleur glanced at her companion, who was eyeing her worriedly. Fixing her grimace into a neutral expression, she nodded.
“Yes,” she replied shortly. He gave her a long look before nodding himself, not quite believing her but not pushing. That was always what Fleur appreciated in Bill Weasley. He never pushed and unlike almost everyone in Fleur’s life, he respected her. A rare find indeed. She remembered the first day she met him, feeling reluctantly impressed when his gaze never strayed away from her face and how he obviously fought her Thrall. In fact, Fleur had rarely seen a man return as quickly to himself after meeting her. He had been friendly and kind and unlike their other colleges (excluding the Goblins), not condescending. He listened to her opinions and offered his own in return, not to impress her but to contribute to the conversation. It was delightfully refreshing. There had been a few awkward moments in the beginning when he flirted with her, albeit not in a sleazy way, but Bill quickly realised her disinterest and their relationship became strictly platonic after that. Bill was her only friend in England and Fleur genuinely liked him. Like everyone else, she still held him at arms-length, but he came closer than most. Bill was a good man and they had a lot in common, but Fleur knew they would never become lovers, despite how much they made sense together. Fleur knew Bill secretly wished she’d someday change her mind but he never pushed.
“Okay. You ready?” Bill gestured towards the building. Fleur curled her lip in distaste as she took in the unwelcoming sight. They were on a street in London, mostly inhabited by muggles. The whole street looked deserted; many houses had broken windows, paint was peeling from of the doors and trash scattered outside several sets of the front steps. So far, Fleur was unimpressed.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” she eyed the door skeptically. Somehow she had expected more.
“Appearances can be deceiving,” Bill remarked with a sly grin, winking at her playfully. Fleur’s lips twitched and she rolled her eyes good-humouredly. “This is the place,” he added in a more serious tone. “It’s hidden under a Fidelius Charm. According to Dumbledore it’s the safest place in London. It used to be the ancestral home of the Black family,” Bill’s expression darkened. “That lot was as dark as they come. Incredibly paranoid about their security so there’s a lot of nasty wards too,” this information piqued Fleur’s interest, whose gaze shifted into a thoughtful one. “Anyways, are you ready?”
Fleur Occluded once more, just to be safe that her nerves weren’t on display. Then she nodded to her friend.
“Don’t worry, you’re going to do great!” Bill smiled charmingly. Fleur rolled her eyes but was privately glad for his reassurance. She was nervous after all.
Two months into their friendship, Bill had approached her about a secret society founded by Albus Dumbledore during the first war. When Voldemort returned the group was reformed and Dumbledore had recruited Bill, along with his parents who were part of the original members. Order of the Phoenix. Fleur wondered if her friendship with Bill had been pure luck on her side when the whole reason she was in England to begin with, was to help with the War that was brewing. Apparently Bill vouched for her and after one private meeting with Albus Dumbledore himself, Fleur became a member. The timing was fortunate as well, since Fleur was just about to give up on her pursuit. After months of living in England, she had seen no real signs of the country fighting the Dark Lord. The Ministry had denied all claims of Voldemort returning and the public remained wilfully oblivious to the increased cases of violence and crime. Fleur had been planning on returning to France, much to her family’s relief, when Bill had mentioned the Order. Fleur’s mother had been livid when she cancelled all plans on coming home and the two hadn’t talked since. Not that Fleur cared much, they had never been close. It was Gabrielle who Fleur regretted disappointing.
“Let’s go,” she pushed the guilty feelings towards her little sister away and gestured for Bill to enter. The man retrieved a note from his pocket, read it carefully, before passing it over to Fleur. The blonde accepted the note and studied it. The Order of the Phoenix can be found at 12 Grimmauld Place, London, England. She frowned in confusion. They were currently standing in front of a door that was marked with 13 and the one next to it had 11 on it. Surely they were in the wrong place? Fleur was about to voice this out loud when houses suddenly started to shift. Fleur watched in silent awe as a whole new house appeared between number 11 and 13.
“Almost like magic,” Bill quipped as she watched her expression. Fleur let out a soft uncharacteristic snort and elbowed him gently.
“Idiot,” she remarked fondly, before slipping on her usual neutral mask. Bill offered her a cheeky wink and opened the door.
While the wards for the house had been impressive, the inside of it was definitely not. In fact it was probably the most distasteful house Fleur had ever been in. It was dark, filthy and the décor was severally lacking. They stood in a long hallway, poorly lit with gas lamps and a large overhead chandelier. There were cobwebs in every corners and on what seemed to be decorated serpents statues. The ugliest piece however was an umbrella stand, which seemed to made from the severed leg of a troll. Fleur briefly wondered if staying in England had been a mistake. The Headquarters for the Order of Phoenix was definitely not as prestigious as Fleur had imagined it. If this was a taste of what was to come, the Veela wanted no part in it. Remembering Bill’s teasing, yet true, words about how looks could be deceiving, Fleur decided to hold her opinions to herself and give this a chance.
“Not as grand as you’d figured?” Bill smirked. Fleur knew her expression gave nothing away, but he knew her well enough to figure out her initial thoughts. Or perhaps he was merely projecting, after all he too couldn’t honestly think this place was grand.
“Looks can be deceiving,” she quoted his own words to him, which made him laugh. There was a crash in the distance, which suggested something had been dropped on the floor, accompanied with a shrill voice screaming. Fleur winced both at the volume and the rude words.
“Tonks!” another voice yelled over the shrill one.
“Sorry!” a different voice apologised. Fleur merely raised one eyebrow at Bill, who shrugged. The two friends made their way further into the house, coming to a stop where a pink haired woman was wresting with a pair curtains. The screaming seemed to come from a portrait, which the woman was currently struggling to close.
“Filthy Mudbloods in my home! How dare you to sully the Black ancestral home in this manner! Have you no respect for your betters?”
“Shut up you old hag!” the pink haired woman yelled back at the portrait.
“Need any help Tonks?” Bill asked in an amused tone. The woman shook her head and a few moments went by until she finally managed to close the curtains and the screaming ceased.
“Bloody portrait,” the woman muttered to herself before turning towards Fleur and Bill. “Wotcher Bill!” she greeted Bill enthusiastically before glancing at Fleur. Her eyes widened momentarily but her smile never faltered, which was impressive. “Hiya! I’m Tonks. You must be Fleur?” she extended her hand, which Fleur automatically shook. While she still thought it strange, Fleur had grown accustomed to the way the English greeted one another.
“I am,” Fleur paused. “A pleasure to meet you,” she added, more for Bill’s benefit than her own. After all she had promised to be polite.
“The pleasure’s all mine, I assure you,” Tonks grinned and Fleur’s eyebrow rose when she noticed her pink hair turn bright red for a moment, before returning to its original pink. Bill didn’t react so Fleur wondered if she had imagined the whole thing. “Oh, I’m a Metamorphmagus so my hair sometimes does that. Sometimes body parts too although I usually have more control over them,” the woman explained easily, obviously picking up on Fleur’s confusion. Fleur nodded in acceptance, hiding the curiosity she felt. After all she had never met a Metamorphmagus in person. Still, she of all people knew better than to ask questions or gawk. Fleur hated when people did it with her so she refused to stoop to their level.
“Your mum’s in the kitchen,” Tonks told Bill, who nodded.
“Has anyone else arrived yet?”
“Mundungus,” Tonks rolled her eyes. “Not that he would ever miss a free meal,” she paused. “Arthur is on his way I think and the kids are all here,”
“They are?” Bill perked up. “All of them?”
“Not the twins,” Tonks seemed sad about that fact. “Your little brother though, who is still a bit of a wanker really,”
“I doubt that will ever change,” Bill remarked fondly.
The man had told Fleur about his siblings before, and what Fleur could gather, they were all a bit rowdy but very independent and clever in their own way. Bill always had a certain twinkle in his eyes when he spoke of his family, which told Fleur that he loved them dearly and he was loved in return. Fleur never had that certainty like Bill had. Her family was anything but loving, excluding Gabrielle. Fleur quickly shoved down all thoughts of her own sister, now was not the time.
“Ginny is upstairs I think and Harry and Hermione arrived yesterday,” Tonks added thoughtfully. Fleur’s insides froze. She had not taken that in account, which was incredibly foolish of her. Of course, the Golden Trio were in the Order of Phoenix, it seemed almost given. How Fleur had failed to realise that was incredibly short sighted.
“Great, I haven’t seen any of them in a long time,” Bill continued, completely oblivious to Fleur’s inner turmoil. “Are they still the same troublemakers as always?” Tonks snorted.
“Trouble follows wherever they go I’m afraid,” a small smirk appeared. “I’m pretty sure Hermione is the sole reason Ron and Harry are even alive at this point,” Tonks and Bill shared a laugh. Fleur shifted awkwardly at the sound of her name. “Come on,”
“You okay?” Bill touched Fleur’s arm, stopping her from following Tonks down the hallway. Fleur stiffened at the contact, which made Bill quickly drop his hand. While he was generally respectful, he tended to forget her evasion to human contact.
“Yes,” she bit out, mind reeling from this new information. When Bill only gave her a skeptical look, she schooled her features and nodded. There was no need to panic after all. She was no longer seventeen but a grown woman, a curse breaker and a member of the Order of Phoenix. There was no reason for her to feel uncomfortable at meeting a girl she hadn’t seen for three years, someone she never even formally met. No, Fleur shouldn’t be nervous. After all, she was a completely different person now and there was no way Hermione Granger’s presence could affect her so again.
“Okay,” Bill shrugged and began to walk in the direction Tonks headed to with Fleur following him closely behind. Fleur chose to distract herself by taking in details of the house and she discovered it only got worse as they moved further inside. When they walked past a grand staircase, Fleur’s eyes widened in disbelief. The wall on the stairs was decorated with a row of shrunken house-elf heads, mounted on the wall on plaques. It was completely monstrous and even with her Occlumency shields firm in place, Fleur couldn’t hide the disgust she felt. Bill gave her a grimace, obviously agreeing with her.
“Did I mention the Blacks were a scum of the earth?” he murmured. Fleur said nothing, too shocked by the blatant disrespect of Magical Creatures. “Come on,” Bill pulled her away.
The kitchen thankfully had no magical beings mounted on the walls and seemed clean. The room was large, with a huge fireplace at the far end. Iron pots and pans hang from the ceiling and a long wooden table sat in the center of the room, large enough to fit a couple dozen people. The room had a gloomy feeling to it and Fleur felt deeply uncomfortable, although she was careful to not show it.
“William!” a happy voice exclaimed and Fleur watched as a short, slightly plump woman with red hair latched herself onto Bill. Bill accepted the hug with a small smile, patting the woman gently on the back.
“Hello mum,” he said as soon as she drew back. Fleur watched their reunion with a pang of sadness. She wondered how good it must feel to have a mother greet you in such an enthusiastic, loving way.
“Oh Bill, look at you! Have you lost weight?” Mrs. Weasley scowled, eyeing his son.
“Not at all, in fact I’ve gained some,” Bill said with some exasperation.
“You could afford some more,” Mrs. Weasley tutted. Bill met Fleur’s eyes with faint amusement, as if he was trying to tell her; ‘mothers, am I right?’ While she could hardly relate to that, she still smiled slightly for his benefit.
“I want you to meet someone,” Bill rushed out before his mother could continue making comments about this weight. Mrs. Weasley paused at his words, before turning to Fleur. Her eyes widened, both at Fleur’s appearance and that she hadn’t realised Bill hadn’t arrived alone. “This is Fleur Delacour,” Bill introduced with some pride in his voice. Mrs. Weasley’s eyes narrowed at the tone and she began to inspect Fleur more closely then, who did her best to appear calm with a polite smile.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Weasley,” Fleur began hesitantly. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” Mrs. Weasley only stared at her distrustfully before glancing at her son. Fleur recognised that expression well enough. It was disapproval.
“Mum,” Bill seemed embarrassed on behalf of his mother, shooting Fleur an apologetic look. “Fleur and I met at work. She is a good friend of mine,” he stressed the word. That seemed to be the magic word and Mrs. Weasley’s disapproval was replaced with a welcoming smile, albeit a bit forced.
“Nice to meet you dear,” she clasped both of Fleur’s hands in her own. Bill shot her another apologetic look but Fleur endured the contact, only for his sake. “Fleur you say? That doesn’t sound English,”
“I’m French,” Fleur explained neutrally, almost laughing when the disapproval returned for a moment. She wondered if she was Mrs. Weasley’s nightmare choice for her son, a Veela and French at that. Not that she and Bill were anything more than just friends. Fleur was after all very accustomed to the look Mrs. Weasley previously sported. Men gawked while women frowned. Such was the life of Veela.
“Oh well, nice to meet you anyway,” Mrs. Weasley patted her hand before finally letting go. Bill facepalmed behind his mother, clearly mortified by her behavior. “So, you work with my Bill?”
“Yes, I’m also a Curse Breaker,” Fleur replied politely, ignoring the skeptical look she received for that piece of information. She was used to that. No one ever thought her capable of anything else but being pretty.
“How nice,” Mrs. Weasley remarked. “I gather you are our newest member?” Fleur nodded. “Welcome,” then she turned to her son. “The others are in the drawing room. Supper is in an hour,” then she shooed them out of the kitchen.
“I am so sorry,” Bill murmured when they were alone. “I had no idea she would be like this. Normally she is so welcoming and nice,” he honestly seemed baffled.
“Don’t worry, I’m used to it,” Fleur said not unkindly. Bill seemed even more miserable after that. “Please, don’t apologise,” she added when it seemed like he was about to. Bill’s mouth snapped closed and he nodded.
“Come on, let’s go meet the rest,” he led her down the hallway. The drawing room must have been exquisite at one time, with large windows, a big fireplace flanked by two ornate glass-fronted cabinets and an entire wall covered with a tapestry of that seemed to be a family tree. Two large sofas were positioned by the fireplace, occupied with several people.
“Nice to see you lot,” Bill called out as soon as they stepped inside and every head in the room snapped in their direction. A pretty girl with fiery red hair practically leapt up from her seat and rammed into Bill, who made a surprised sound but hugged her back just as fiercely. Fleur reckoned that must be Ginny, Bill’s only and according to him, favourite sister. Another boy with red hair stood up as well and joined in on the hug. Fleur recognised him immediately. Although he had grown up somewhat, gotten taller and filled out, it was still unmistakably the same boy she saw in the Hogwarts Library three years ago, Ron Weasley. Fleur tore her eyes from the family reunion and looked at the other occupants of the room. Tonks was grinning at a boy Fleur could also recognise easily enough, Harry Potter. Like Ron, he too had matured, but was still rather on the skinny side and his hair unmanageable as always.
“You mind giving me some air?” Bill puffed out and his siblings finally let go of him.
“Excuse me for being excited to see you,” Ginny drawled and crossed her arms defensively. “Not as if you visit a lot,” the words were definitely accusing but there was a hint of playfulness to them as well.
“I’m sorry Gin, we don’t get a lot of time off,” Bill smiled apologetically, looking at Fleur.
“We?” Ginny repeated before finally noticing Fleur. Her open and playful expression slipped away. Fleur kept her face carefully neutral as Bill’s sister scowled at her.
“This is my friend Fleur,” Bill adopted the same tone he used to introduce Fleur to his mother. “She’s our newest Order member,”
“You were in the Twiwizard tournament,” it was not a question but Fleur nodded regardless. “You were in last place,”
“Ginny!” Bill scolded, shocked at Ginny’s rudeness. Fleur almost sighed.
“I was,” Fleur said instead, fighting the urge to stiffen at the reminder and at the tone.
“Blimey,” Ron stuttered; blushing crimson, eyes wide open and a familiar glazed look in his eyes. Fleur exhaled slowly before plastering a polite smile on her face.
“It’s nice to meet you Ginny. Bill has told me all about his favourite sister,” her smile faltered slightly when Ginny merely raised an eyebrow, wholly unimpressed with the greeting.
“Didn’t you have a more profound accent?” she ignored the pleasantries. This time Fleur did stiffen.
“I used to, yes,” she forced herself to remain polite, this was Bill’s sister after all. Inwardly she cringed at the memory of her heavy accent. She had worked hard to get rid of it, after all people seemed to take her more serious without it. Or at least mock her less.
“I see,” was the only thing Ginny said in return and proceeded to glare at Fleur.
“What the bloody hell is a matter with you two!” Bill asked angrily. “Ginny stop being rude and for Merlin’s sakes Ron, close your mouth!” Fleur gently touched his arm, not wanting him to start an argument for her sake. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do, since Ginny’s eyes zeroed in on the movement and her scowl deepened. Fleur suppressed a sigh. Great. Bill seemed oblivious to his sister’s attention but calmed down at Fleur’s touch. “Listen, she’s a good friend so please be polite,”
“A friend,” Ginny deadpanned.
“Yes,” Bill gritted out.
“You’re not dating?” Ron finally spoke, his voice way too loud. He was still staring at Fleur with that dopey expression.
“No we’re not,” Bill answered sternly. Ron opened his mouth, probably to say something stupid if Fleur recognised that particular expression on a man. “Nor will she go out with you,” Fleur almost smiled at his protectiveness. Normally Bill only used that tone on leering men they encountered on the job and Fleur imagined he never thought he had to use it on his own brother. A pang of guilt hit her then. Her presence brought out the worst in Bill’s family and she wondered if he was only embarrassed or if he regretted bringing her along.
“Nice to see you again Fleur,” another voice cut in before Ron could respond. Fleur turned to see Harry standing behind the siblings, a genuine smile on his face. Both grateful for his intervention and sincerely glad to see the boy again, Fleur smiled. Harry’s eyes unfocused for only a brief moment until he snapped out of it and held out his hand. Harry was another one of the few males Fleur had met that seemed almost unaffected by her Thrall. That, saving her sister and the fact that he had always remained respectful were the reason Fleur liked Harry Potter so much.
“Nice to see you too Harry,” she took great care of pronouncing his name correctly, unsure if she was proving something to him or herself. Harry’s smile widened.
“Your English is much better,” he remarked. “Not that it wasn’t good before,” he amended awkwardly. “How’s Gabrielle?” Fleur was pleasantly surprised by the question and her expression softened.
“She’s doing well,” Fleur assured him. “A troublemaker but that’s nothing new,” she couldn’t help the fondness in her tone. Harry nodded and then awkwardly shifted.
“I’m good,” she answered automatically, a well-rehearsed answer. Standard protocol.
“That’s nice,” Harry scratched his head. Fleur recognised his awkwardness did not stem from his discomfort being around Veela but more from the social encounter itself. It appeared that the Boy-Who-Lived was uncomfortable socialising. The newfound information only made Fleur like him more.
“Right,” Bill cleared his throat, which drew Fleur’s attention back to him. Bill however was staring pointedly at Ron; whose mouth had opened yet again. If Ginny had been glaring before, she looked positively murderous now. Fleur suppressed a sigh. “Where’s Hermione?” Bill asked Harry, probably trying to distract the siblings but it only made Fleur stiffen. No one seemed to notice, except Harry who eyed her curiously.
“She went to visit her parents,” Ginny replied dismissively. “She’ll be back tonight,”
“Great,” there was an awkward pause. “Well I’m going to show Fleur her room so she can settle in,” Bill ignored his siblings protests and grabbed Fleur’s arm and dragged her out of the room. This time Fleur let him without a fuss.
“This is already a bloody nightmare,” Bill sighed and sat down on the bed. Fleur silently inspected the room, reminding herself to use several cleaning spells as soon as she was alone. Her room was obviously a guest room and while it was dusty like the rest of the house, the colour pallet was neutral and the lack decorative pieces was a refreshing. It was rather small; just a bed, a wardrobe, a vanity table and a lone wooden chair in the corner. Under normal circumstances, Fleur might have sneered at the accommodation, but after seeing the rest of the house she was honestly relieved by its simplicity.
“I warned you,” Fleur finally turned to Bill, who was staring forlornly at the floor.
“I know,” he blew out a frustrated breath and looked up, his expression hesitant. “I just thought…”
“You thought your family would be different,” she finished when he trailed off. He grimaced in embarrassment but nodded. “I knew this would happen,” Fleur informed him in a gentle tone, but Bill still flinched. “Don’t be too hard on them, it’s not their fault,” she didn’t really mean it but figured it was something he needed to hear. After all Bill adored his family and they adored him in return.
“How can you defend their behavior?” Bill exploded. Apparently that was the wrong thing to say. “Mum just glared at you like you had offended her! Ron was bloody drooling like an idiot and Ginny… don’t even get me started on how rude she was,” he seemed honestly agitated.
“I’m used to it,” Fleur shrugged. That also seemed like the worst thing to say because Bill scowled further.
“That’s not the point! You shouldn’t be used to this kind of…shitty behavior!” he ran fingers through his hair in frustration. “It’s not right,” Fleur’s expression softened. Bill Weasley was one of Fleur’s favourite people and in moment like these she was reminded why. Always the perfect gentleman, genuinely angry on her behalf when people reacted in a way he found insulting to her. Funny, charming, gentle, handsome and intelligent. Fleur sometimes wondered why she couldn’t like him as a romantic partner. It would make things a lot easier. Then again, when were things easy for her?
“Maybe not,” she hedged carefully. “But I’m still used to this. It’s simply a part of being a Veela. People react to the Thrall,”
“I don’t behave like this,” Bill stubbornly insisted. “Nor does Harry or Tonks,”
“Not everyone, but most do,” Fleur amended. There was a moment of silence.
“Maybe they just need some time to get used to you,” Bill perked up. “They just need to see how wonderful you are and then they’ll behave normally,” Fleur gave him a skeptical look but said nothing. “Dinner will be better, I promise,”
It wasn’t. In fact it was probably worse if anything. Mrs. Weasley kept sending her distrustful looks whenever Bill’s attention was directed elsewhere, Ginny had no such qualms and just glared at her for the entire meal while Ron gawked, his whole face blushing like a tomato. Harry kept shooting her pitying looks while Tonks tried her best to ease the tension with morphing various body parts, but eventually gave up when no one gave her attention. A shady fellow Bill introduced at Mundungus Fletcher, disregarded all table manners and was shoving his face with food, oblivious to the revolting sight he offered to the rest of them. Fleur had Occluded before dinner but even her neutral expression was getting increasingly harder to maintain as dinner dragged on. The only saving grace was that Mr. Weasley seemed immune to her Thrall. He arrived just before dinner and greeted her warmly before drawing Harry into a conversation about muggle appliances, of all things. Bill’s mood had soured considerably and Fleur honestly contemplating feigning sick and excusing herself. The dinner dragged on for almost an hour before Mrs. Weasley shooed them out the kitchen. Fleur only just managed to thank her for dinner before fleeing upstairs. The dinner was a complete disaster but a small part of Fleur was glad that a certain someone had been absent, she figured it could have gone a lot worse.
Fleur and Bill spent the rest of the evening in Fleur’s room, talking about work related things. While not in the mood for such discussion, it did help Bill calm down and return to his charming self. When Bill finally bid her goodnight, Fleur was relieved she at least managed to make one person in the house feel better. Even though it was technically her fault that he felt bad in the first place.
It was well past midnight when Fleur was about to get ready for bed she realised her nerves were still too frayed for her to properly relax. Ever since she was a small girl, she was used to drinking Chamomile Tea before bed. It was probably the only thing she happily adopted from her mother and it had become a routine by now. Fleur wasn’t as enthusiastic about tea like the English were, but Chamomile tea was her exception. Realising she wouldn’t manage to sleep without it, Fleur braved to go into the kitchen, desperately hoping everyone else had already retired.
The house was mercifully silent as she made her way downstairs, carefully ignoring the disgusting House-Elf décor on the wall. Even though she intellectually knew she was among allies, she still clutched her wand as she softly trekked into the kitchen. This house was beyond creepy. A low glow emerging from room surprised her and she silently shot out a prayer for it wouldn't be Mrs. Weasley who was still awake. As soon as she stepped inside, she almost wished it had been Mrs. Weasley. Fleur let out a small, surprised noise when she noticed the sole figure at the table.
Hermione Granger had always been pretty but she’d grown even more beautiful since Fleur last time saw her. Her bushy brown hair had tamed into soft curls that framed her face nicely. Although previously always hidden under shapeless school robes, it was quite evident how her body had matured, now dressed in a muggle attire. Even seated, Fleur could make out her shapely figure. She still had that same cute button nose, her pouty lips had filled out and while her gaze was on the table in front of her, Fleur reckoned her big soulful chocolate eyes were still just as beautiful. Fleur completely froze at the sight of her and would have turned around, if not for the fact that the sound she made alerted the other girl. Hermione’s head snapped up and brown eyes met light blue. There was some obvious confusion until Hermione realised who she was and her eyes widened. They stared at one another for a long-suspended moment.
“Fleur Delacour?” Hermione finally blurted; her voice slightly slurred. Fleur frowned.
“Hermione Granger,” like with Harry, she was careful to enunciate the ‘h’ in her name correctly. Hermione just stared at her blankly until a small blush rose in her cheeks. Fleur didn’t know how to react, especially since Hermione wasn’t reacting like other people usually did.
“What are you doing here?” Hermione spoke again and then winced. “Sorry, that sounded terribly rude,” Fleur’s eyebrows rose.
“I’m a member of the Order,” Fleur finally decided on, keeping her tone neutral and polite. Hermione’s eyes lit up in understanding.
“That makes sense,” she nodded to herself. Fleur quirked an eyebrow but said nothing in response. She simply stared at the other girl, who stared back. Fleur felt decidedly uncomfortable and unsure of herself. Hermione’s eyes were intense but strangely enough not glaring, only taking her in. Something about the other girl’s behavior felt off and it took a minute until Fleur noticed the glassy look in her eyes. It was however not the same look Ron sported earlier when encountering the Thrall. The blonde’s eyes glanced at the empty glass in Hermione’s hand and the half-finished bottle of fire whiskey on the table. That confirmed her suspicions, Hermione Granger was drunk. This discovery went against everything Fleur knew about the girl and if possible, her discomfort grew.
“You won’t tell anyone will you?” the-now-obviously-drunk-girl asked. The panic was evident in her eyes, which for some reason relaxed Fleur.
“I won’t,” Fleur promised solemnly.
“Thanks,” Hermione’s lips curled up in a smile. Then a confused expression that was entirely too adorable for Fleur’s liking appeared in its stead. “What happened to your accent?” For the umpteenth time that sole evening, Fleur suppressed a sigh.
“My English got better,” she answered stiffly. Hermione frowned.
“It was never bad to begin with,” the sincere tone surprised Fleur. “Your accent was quite nice if I remember correctly,” Hermione seemed to be talking more to herself now and Fleur was reluctantly charmed. This was not how this was supposed to go. Fleur had planned to stay guarded and to ignore the other girl, not have a casual conversation and receive flatter in the middle of the night.
“Thank you,” Fleur managed to get out, honestly bewildered by this exchange. She wanted to ask why the Golden Girl was drinking alone in the middle of the night but it wasn’t her business, so she kept her lips shut.
“You’re wondering why I’m getting drunk,” Hermione’s observation startled the blonde. Fleur wondered how much her usual mask had slipped and she quickly Occluded. “This isn’t something I usually do,” she paused. “In fact this is something I never do,”
“Then why are you?” the question slipped out before Fleur could stop it. Luckily Hermione didn’t seem to mind.
“Special occasion,” the brunette answered vaguely. Fleur wanted to ask further but knew she had no right to, Hermione didn’t owe her an explanation. “Have you ever done something that you know is technically wrong but know you’d end up regretting if you hadn't” Hermione adopted a thoughtful tone. Fleur only just manage to hide the flinch but not the way her eyes darkened.
“Yes,” she answered hesitantly. Hermione nodded and shifted her attention to her glass. Fleur was curious despite herself. It was quite obvious Hermione wasn’t drinking in celebration, especially after a question like that. The blonde wondered what Hermione had done. Again, it contradicted with everything she knew about the girl. Not that Fleur really knew her, just from rumours at Hogwarts during her stay there and then later on stories from Bill.
Fleur didn’t know what to do. She was no near equipped for this scenario and desperately wanted to return to her room but her conscience protested at leaving the girl alone in her drunken state. Her own reaction confused her greatly. Normally she took no interest in other people, rather avoided them at all cost. Bill was an exception but even he had limits.
“You don’t have to stay,” Hermione yet again read her mind. Fleur swallowed thickly, wondering how on earth she was this transparent all of the sudden.
“I know,” was the only thing Fleur came up with. Then something occurred to her. “Do you know Legilimency?” she practically blurted out loud before she could fully form the thought. Hermione looked at her in confusion.
“No,” she stared at Fleur as if that was a strange thing to ask. The blonde found no deceit in chocolate eyes and she relaxed. Even though Fleur was proficient in the art of Occlumency she wasn’t arrogant enough to think she could keep everyone out of her mind. Still she hadn’t felt anyone prob her Mental Shields but one can never be too careful. Hermione’s answer both relieved her and unnerved her. If Hermione wasn’t using magic, how did she read her so well?
“Why do you ask?” the brunette asked innocently. Fleur said nothing. “You’re nervous,” Hermione remarked in surprise. Fleur reacted instinctively and her mental shields shot up with full force.
“Why do you think that?” Fleur bit out, pushing away the irritation that threatened to erupt.
“I see it in your eyes,” Hermione answered easily, unthinkingly. It’s her eyes. They give her away. The memory only served as a fuel to Fleur’s increasing irritation.
“What do my eyes say now?” Fleur challenged. “Are they still sad?” she added with a mocking twist. Hermione’s eyes flashed with something, but it disappeared as soon as it had arrived.
“Yes,” the brunette nodded, either oblivious to the tone or not caring about it. “But mostly they tell me you’re lonely,” Fleur flinched as if she‘d been slapped.
“Was that the wrong thing to say?” Hermione wonders out loud, scrunching her face up in a cute manner. Fleur opened her mouth but no words escaped her. The blonde felt completely transparent in that moment. All her Occlumency training felt like a waste all of the sudden. She had worked so hard to obtain her unreadable expression, something she took great pride in. Even her own mother could rarely catch a glimpse of her real self-nowadays, but a drunk Hermione Granger read her like an open book. Because her eyes give her away. Fleur stumbled back, retreating like a wounded animal. She felt pathetic.
“Fleur?” Hermione called out in a slurred voice, drunkenly observing Fleur jerky movements. Disarmed and feeling completely out of her depth, Fleur turned on her heels and fled the kitchen. She narrowly escaped ramming into a bewildered Harry Potter in the hallway, ignoring his calls for her as she sought refuge in her room. Déjà vu hit her unexpectedly as she closed the door and slumped against it. Turns out that Fleur had severely underestimated Hermione Granger, drunk or not. Maybe this Order business had been a mistake.
For the first time in a long while, Fleur felt emotionally naked and she hated it. Still at the same time she felt seen.
To be continued...