A/N: This story is a remaster of my first story, under the same name.
I've decided to delete and repost it, to include some of the newer skills I've accumulated over the months I've been writing. I hope to craft a better romance, better dialogue and a more complex story.
This story was inspired by Sophrosyne's Half Blood Romantic, which I can easily cite as one of my all-time favourites. So if you notice similarities, it was always my intention to pay homage to the fic that got me into writing.
Be sure to review as it helps me grow as a writer!
Enjoy and stay safe!
Harry Potter dreamt an old dream.
At first, he thought it could have been Sirius.
It was a familiar mirage, bolstered by a voice he once knew, but one so peripheral he couldn't put a name to the call. He tried to return its attempts to hail him, though to little avail, his voice stilling as it met his lips.
Fitful slumber had greeted him like an old friend for an age. Harry knew well enough it would soon come to a close. Irrespective of the voice's owner, the ending remained forever the same.
The voice seemed to almost coalesce into something more discernible, turning decidedly feminine. At first, his mind turned to thoughts of his mother, of screams and emerald flashes.
"Be quiet! You'll wake him!" A voice whispered harshly, breaking through the dull mirage of slumber.
"I'm quieter than you are!" A voice responded to the other, a more masculine tone which was quite loud despite his saying otherwise.
"You're going to wake him if you keep it up!" A third voice interjected. "Now shut up!"
"Too late." A groggy Harry replied quietly, seeing a trio of blurred figures surrounding him.
"Harry!" The three voices cried in an ill-imitation of unison that only served to disorientate him further as he tried to emerge from his state of slumber.
There was a brief moment of disorientation before his surroundings' familiarities became apparent. The smell of bacon and breakfast heavy in the air, the warm sunlight peeking brightly through threadbare curtains and the dull background noise of high-octane family life.
He really did love the Burrow.
He reached for his glasses on the bedside table, pushing them on his face. Ron, Ginny and Hermione sat at the end of the bed. He barely had enough time to ensure his glasses sat properly before a curtain of brown hair obfuscated his vision. It was then replaced by a similar curtain of red then finally, a rough pat on his shoulder.
"So, why are you all waiting at the end of my bed?" He asked concerned as. "Isn't there, you know, something better to be doing?"
"We're not so much waiting for you," Ginny explained with darkened features, "More like getting out from under the thumb of Phlegm." Ginny spat the final word with enough vitriol that had Harry reeling in confusion.
Phlegm? Harry wondered as that word seemed to be an agitator that launched the trio into bickering.
"She's not that bad." Ron defended whoever 'Phlegm' was with a fair amount of vehemence, "You haven't given her a chance!"
"You're telling me you've given her a chance beyond staring?" Ginny snorted "You're only defending her because she's gorgeous, and you drool all over her!" The ginger-haired girl bit back angrily.
"I do not drool!" Ron refuted, "Now you're just being a prat for the sake of it."
"You do so!"
"There was a bit of drool," Hermione confirmed with a nod of her head.
"Who's Phlegm?" Harry tried to ask but was drowned out. It seemed they'd all but forgotten about him, united together and against one another in their hatred.
Not the warmest welcome I've ever received.
They didn't answer him, but a low whine from the floorboards in the hallway seemed to draw them from their argument.
"Here we go." Ginny sighed, exhaling a sharp, hot breath from her nose in what he could only assume was anger.
A knock at the door broke them from their argument entirely.
"'Harry?" An accented voice called out inquisitively.
Another familiar voice.
Ginny turned red as the person entered the doorway. She was the most beautiful woman Harry had ever seen to put it simply.
And he had seen her many times before.
It was Fleur Delacour.
Her angelic features were accentuated by her silver hair being put in a bun, with two elegant wisps framing her face and the room seemed almost airless by her entering it. She peered at him through ocean blue eyes inquisitively and whether, by virtue of her beauty or her sudden appearance, he found he couldn't formulate a sentence to greet her. An action that did not go unnoticed by Ginny nor Hermione.
She glided over, with a tray of breakfast in hand, before floating it over to Harry's prone form in the bed.
"Fleur?" Harry said bewildered, finally managing to convert his shock to words, "What are you doing here?"
"Why delivering your breakfast, of course. Unless, of course, you believe a Veela would be in your room for another reason, no?" She teased, arching an elegant eyebrow in faux-suggestion.
Fleur's sudden appearance seemed to make Ginny turn a darker shade of red in her anger, her fist clutching the comforter that Harry was under tightly, which may have gone unnoticed by Harry if his leg wasn't in her clutches alongside the quilt.
"We were having a private conversation Fleur," Ginny said unkindly, though it did not appear that she was perturbed by Ginny's harsh tone, merely offering a smile in return. "We'd very much like if you left us for the moment."
"Very well." She said politely, with an undertone of something akin to a terseness of her own, "I see where I am not required." She turned to Harry. "It was great to see you again, Harry, I hope we can catch up more, enjoy your breakfast." She closed the door quietly behind her and left, her descent audible as her feet collided with squeaky floorboards.
"See she just barges in here." Ginny snarled. "Doesn't even knock, we could've been talking about anything!"
"She did knock!" Ron continued, taking the position of Fleur's only defender in earnest.
"No, she didn't!" Ginny retorted hotly, "Stop defending her!"
"I don't know why you seem so bloody intent on hating her; she's perfectly fine!"
"I suppose it helps when you imagine her naked every time!" Ginny spat. Ron blushed a bright crimson at the accusation, making Harry think the jab wasn't all that far from the truth.
"Ron, she's vain and cruel," Hermione added into the mix in Ginny's support.
That was enough to confuse Harry. Ginny had, for as long as he'd known her, always been passionate and hotheaded, a trait that seemed to be uniquely Weasley if Ron was any barometer. But Hermione was more reserved, less prone to making her feelings known. Fleur must've done something to offend her. Though her support of Ginny seemed to still the argument, now it was just a tentative detente between the trio as they stared at each other.
"She's not that bad." Harry tried, "Go easy on her."
Ron gestured a hand towards him. "See, even Harry agrees."
"He doesn't know her." Ginny refuted, "He hasn't seen what she's like."
I do, He wanted to say, I have. But the words stilled on his lips, neither Ginny nor Hermione looked particularly amicable to listen to anything he had to say.
Reason can't reach a heart unwilling, I suppose
Hermione put a hand on her hip and stared intently at Ron. "What about when she hexed George?"
"They made the showerhead spray mud." The ginger-haired boy deadpanned.
Hermione made to speak but was cut off by Ginny, who seemed in fine form to spout her hatred.
"And she got them so good that they couldn't walk straight for two hours afterwards. Your own brothers."
What is going on?
"If I could hex them that good, I would." Ron pointed out, "You would do the same too."
"They're my brothers." She scoffed but said no more.
"You stuffed their pillows with sheep shit when you were nine."
She waved her hand as if his point didn't count, "I had my reasons."
"What did you call her breakfast the other day? Trollop?"
I'm sure she says far worse outside of breakfast. Whatever could be said about Ginny Weasley, none could say her temper wasn't dangerous.
Ginny made to retort yet again; the argument had quickly devolved into solely Ron and Ginny trading age-old blows. As good as Ron and Hermione were at arguing, the youngest two Weasleys always had a penchant for it. This time, Hermione cut Ginny off in a rare morning display.
"Anyway," Hermione broke through the tension, "How'd it go with the Headmaster? Mrs Weasley said you came in with him late last night."
Harry took a moment to weigh his response, it was made amply clear to him last night the importance of discretion, but he supposed if he obliged them a little they'd be less inclined to think he was hiding something.
"He wanted my help, he needed to interview a candidate for a vacancy at Hogwarts," Harry explained, though wisely decided to keep the more delicate details out of his explanation.
"Why'd he need you?" Ron queried bluntly, "Don't get me wrong, mate, you're good and all, but I don't see you being much help there."
"I wasn't really," Harry admitted candidly, exacerbated by a shrug. "But Professor Dumbledore said he knew my parents. He thought that if the Professor met me, he might want to start teaching again."
"Again?" Hermione interjected this time, "He's taught before, at Hogwarts?"
"Yeah, that's the impression I got," Harry said, turning his attention to the girl who looked eager at the knowledge. "Taught for a good while too by the looks of him."
"What was his name?" Hermione probed eagerly.
"Slughorn, I think." He said, trying to recall the portly man's name although quite a bit had happened since then. "He was older, a bit uh... plump too."
"Doesn't sound familiar," Ron said although he doubted Ron would know him even if he was famous. His knowledge rarely strayed outside of the pages of Quidditch Weekly and the Prophet.
If it isn't Gwenog Jones or the Chudley Cannons, we've lost him.
"If he hasn't got silver hair and an arse, Ron won't care enough to know it." Ginny spat and abruptly left, clearly the conversation didn't interest her any longer.
"Merlin," Ron swore, "When will she give up?"
Harry might've had an answer, had he truly known what was actually going on. Instead, he thought it best to escape the situation entirely.
Harry swung his legs out of bed, careful not to kick any of his bed's sudden occupants or disturb the tray that sat with him. "Well if you're done bickering and digging into my life, I'd prefer to eat downstairs."
Harry was too tired to change the night before, so he supposed his clothes would have to suffice for the moment. They made their way down the stairs, gingerly in Harry's case with the tray in hand.
They made their way into the kitchen where the other plates had been set. Mr Weasley had to go to work, so the only other occupants were Fleur, who was gingerly sipping her tea and Mrs Weasley, who was weaving charms to clean her pots and pans.
"Hello again, Harry," The French witch said, looking up from her steaming cup.
"Hey, Fleur." He greeted, this time more prepared for her presence and this time, he did not fail to structure his sentence. Though he could hear a 'harrumph' from what he assumed was Ginny to the rear at his friendly greeting.
"So what are you doing at the Burrow?" He thought it might make more sense to ask her, rather than Ron, Ginny or Hermione, who all seemed fairly staunch in their defence or contempt of the French witch.
"I thought they would've told you?" She seemed, if nothing else, offended. "I've been engaged to Bill for some months now. I'm staying to acclimate to my new family." She added with an odd undertone, one that may have implied she had more wicked thoughts about her new family.
"Your English has improved," Harry commented offhandedly.
"Thank you, Harry," She said sincerely, though unable to pronounce his name with a fluidity that would suggest that English was her first language, "My job demanded much of me, it's good to hear I wasn't remiss in my effort."
"Job?" He probed, "Last I heard you were working for Gringotts."
"Fleur was forced to quit her job at Gringotts because of her relationship with Bill." Ginny was quick to chime in before the Veela could respond, though she seemed to feign innocence on the matter. Still, her facade seemed weak if nothing else, there was certainly more than a bit of vitriol in her words.
"Not forced, per se," Fleur refuted, annoyance marring her angelic features, "But Goblin's don't look favourably upon my kind, to begin with. They also see relationships between employees as a security hazard, one they seldom allow. I decided to take my leave before anything untoward happened." She said like she'd explained it a thousand times.
Ginny smirked viciously, knowing that she had irked Fleur successfully. It seemed there was a gap in the armour plates of Fleur Delacour, one that Ginny appeared to have located and had taken much pleasure in stabbing into it. The rest of the tables' occupants chose wisely to avoid the tension between the two.
Harry began to eat his breakfast, as did the rest of those sitting at the table. "So what are you going to do now?" Harry asked after swallowing a mouthful of bacon. "Have you got a plan for work in England?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," She professed, it appeared it was her chance to return the vicious smile that was levelled at her not too long ago. "Headmaster Dumbledore has offered me a post at Hogwarts."
"Really?" Harry said incredulously, not that he had anything against Fleur, but she seemed rather young to become a Professor. "I didn't know there were any vacancies that you could fill."
From the look on her face, she appeared to take umbrage at the insinuation that she wasn't capable, as unfound as the implication was. Her lips shifted to one side in a sort of frown.
"I can't go into too many details," She began, "But suffice to say, with your Dark Lord returning the Headmaster fears that with the number of impressionable students within the walls of Hogwarts, that there might be attempts to infiltrate the castle to attack or coax the inhabitants from the walls."
"So you're… helping Dumbledore to stop that?" He asked, confused at what she was implying.
"Not him personally," She shook her head, "The wards cover too much ground for him to act as a surveyor of them constantly, that's where my role lies, I shall endeavour to ensure the integrity of the wards around Hogwarts and update them where possible."
"You know a lot about wards then; I take it?" Harry questioned, wanting to confess that he'd had a lesson about wards himself from the man in question.
"In my humble opinion," She began, although it was made abundantly clear quickly that it was anything but, "I'd say I know more about wards then many of the Curse Breakers at Gringotts."
Harry was starting to reply but was cut off from a snort by Ginny, who tried very poorly to disguise it as an odd-sounding cough.
"I guess it was an easy choice then," Harry said neutrally, not really wanting to play into Fleur's ego.
"I suppose so," She replied with equal neutrality, "He thought I was better suited in helping where it counted, as opposed to wasting away in the Deserts of Egypt and the wetlands of Asia under the scornful gaze of spiteful creatures." She finished angrily, and it became clear that whatever validation she assured herself of during the conversation was irrevocably destroyed at the mention of Goblins who by her indication, weren't very good to her.
Sensing she wasn't exactly amicable about the topic, he let it drop for fear of angering her more. They returned to eating though Harry could still see Fleur's mere presence enraged Ginny.
Harry returned to his breakfast as the conversation tapered off into a disquieting silence and soon descended further into poorly concealed glares. Thankfully, whatever hostilities may have arisen from the Burrow's occupants were halted as the fluttering of wings, and loud hooting was heard from outside the window.
There was a flock of owls, ranging from brown to snow-white like Hedwig flying directly into the Burrow.
"That's a lot of owls," Ron commented offhandedly, chewing carefully on a piece of bacon he'd liberated from Harry's plate. "You order something, mum?"
"No, why's that?" The Weasley matriarch asked from her position at the counter, she peered her head around the corner and noticed the flock of mail-carrying birds. "OWLs."
Ron didn't seem to get it. "Well, of course, they're owls, what other bird carries mail?"
Harry quickly chimed in. "I've seen a toucan do it once."
"Bet that was good."
Hermione huffed, getting panicked. "No! Our tests! What if I've failed? I knew I didn't write enough on the History of Magic exam. I might've got one of Gamp's laws wrong too."
Her worrying had a profound effect on the other two. "Blimey Hermione," Ron exclaimed. "Have some mercy on a bloke, if you failed, how do you think we went?" He said gesturing between himself and Harry.
"Sod off git, I passed everything, even Divination," Harry said with an air of confidence that made Ron chuckle. Harry would be lying if he said the anxiety of his marks wasn't gnawing at his stomach, but he certainly masked it better than Hermione.
Hermione continued her frantic dialogue "I'm sure History of Magic will go over well."
"Was Omgot's Rebellion in 1312 or 1322?"
"1312." Harry decided.
"Well," Ron said with a decidedly jovial tone, "I thought it was 1444, so that might not help my essay."
"It was 1235," Hermione corrected absentmindedly, still watching as the owls became larger in the sky.
"Shite," Harry swore under his breath, and Ron snorted.
I suppose we're in the same boat now.
Though Harry wasn't too anxious about his marks, there was a remnant of fear that lingered in the back of his mind, a concern yet to be lain to rest that seemed almost mocking. The harsh crooning of owls, talons laden with letters, flying through the window did little the assuage his fears.
The owls deposited their contents after their descent through the open window. Molly caught them and began distributing them to the children. The other two were noticeably apprehensive about opening theirs. Harry resolved that he'd take the leap first, deciding it could hardly be worse than what was to come.
But, while there were three Ministry bearing letters that fell into Mrs Weasley's hand, there were also quite a few that didn't carry their seal. Instead, a bunch of motley coloured enveloped with a variety of neat and messy scrawls. Hermione shot him an inquisitive glance, although he didn't want to open them at the table, unsure of what they may contain.
He broke the Ministry of Magic seal on the back and peeled the parchment out of confines.
ORDINARY WIZARDING LEVEL RESULTS
Passing Grade | Failing Grades
Outstanding (O) Poor (P)
Exceeds Expectations (E) Dreadful (D)
Acceptable (A) Troll (T)
Harry James Potter has achieved:
Care of Magical Creatures E
Defense Against the Dark Arts O
History of Magic D
The marks were more than ample, thoroughly surprising Harry as he reread the words on the page to ensure he had not deceived him so. While Ron and Hermione continued their own frantic observations of their year's work, his eyes lingered towards the bottom of the page.
He knew the implications of not receiving an outstanding well enough, the same concern that refused to be stifled was given new life. Sulking on matters so trivial as school marks made him feel like a child, and yet, Hermione's own tirade of school marks and studying felt unbearable. He found his feet dragging him up the staircase with soft footfalls with a muttered excuse.
An action that went unnoticed in the haze of future prospects - to all but one.
Harry found his way to the room and sat carelessly against the bed as if the strength had been sapped from him. He'd always wanted to be an Auror, and now due to Snape's draconian demands, his dream had been slashed before it could even begin. It left him inexplicably empty. Part of him simply just wanted the job to strengthen the connection between him and his father, who Sirius had told him wanted to be an Auror himself.
Perhaps it wasn't meant to be. Harry assured himself lightly, though the pain that lingered within his breast wouldn't be abated by words alone.
He gently folded his scores back into the envelope they arrived in and fished one of the other letters from the pile he'd accumulated, there was maybe ten in total, this one was a light brown and was scribbled with a shaky scrawl on the front.
The Boy Who Lived
That's not necessarily a good start, He mused, before breaking the adhesive seal on the back and fishing out the piece of parchment.
I lost my husband in the First War, and you ended that one. Now, my children grow up with the Dark Lord as a threat again.
You're the chosen one. You have to kill him,
It was succinct, blunt and unsigned. Harry peered over the ink once more before putting the parchment down and sighing. He didn't want to open the following letters, but it was almost like a grim compulsion, he broke the seal of each letter and read the contents carefully, hoping it would only be a one-off.
Some demanded that he give his life to destroy the Dark Lord, others were more passive, thanking him for defeating him the first time but quite firmly relying on him that it was his job to do it again. With each seal he opened and every letter he read found the weight on his shoulders growing heavier and the tickling sensation in his throat growing stronger.
The wards of Privet Drive seemed to be enough to drive away from the owls, but now, they swarmed. At the very least, he supposed it was somewhat better than the waves of state-sponsored propaganda and contempt from last year, but not by much.
"Results that bad Harry?" A voice called from the door. The beautiful visage of Fleur Delacour peered down at him as she floated in the room. He was quick to act and shoved the pile of letters beneath his pillow as inconspicuously as possible. An action that didn't go unnoticed by the French witch and caused a fair amount of sound, she frowned but didn't draw any further attention to it.
"No.." He said, cursing himself, he really was a neophyte at lying, and it was clear she thought similar. "Nothing really."
"What's wrong then?" She questioned, taking a seat beside Harry on the bed.
"I just didn't get the grade I needed," Harry said succinctly, though that certainly was the lesser of his worries at the moment. "Silly of me really, there's a war going on and all."
"It's not silly." Fleur assured him, "Not if you cared about it."
He merely remained silent.
"Would you like to tell me about it?" Fleur prompted, taking his silence as challengable reluctance.
He weighed the benefits of keeping his silence, but in the end, her scrutiny seemed too much, and he acquiesced.
"I..." He struggled to find eloquent words, "I wanted to be an Auror, you see, but with these." He waved the letter that seemed heavier than it had any right to be, "I didn't make the cut."
"You failed?" She guessed.
"I got our second-highest mark; Exceeds Expectations," Harry explained.
"It's not the result you hoped for I take it?"
"Without an Outstanding, Snape won't allow me to continue potions." Harry continued, "Without potions, I can't meet the requirements to become an Auror."
"Does becoming an Auror mean that much to you?" Fleur posed, her head cocked to the side, her eyes glimmering with query in the sunlight.
Does it? Harry wondered.
His introspection yielded little, and in return, Harry merely shrugged.
"My Godfather told me it was a family tradition," Harry said, "Maybe I just wanted to be closer to them and help some people along the way - as I said, it's silly."
"My Papa desperately wanted to be an artist before he found his job." Fleur began, a story with the intent to ease his woes. "The only bump in his plan is that he could not paint at all. You could throw the easel at the canvas, and you'd have a better painting. So he pursued a different passion, and he wouldn't change it for the world. He always told me that sometimes, different paths often lead to the same destination, maybe it'll take time, but I'm sure you'll find that path."
This seemed to lift Harry's spirit a little bit. "Thank you, Fleur, that means a lot to me."
"They'd be a fool if they didn't take you regardless, you've accomplished feats that Wizards thrice your age couldn't boast. You were an admirable competitor." Fleur stood up from the bed, offering her hand to him. He took it, noticing absentmindedly how impossibly soft they were and she helped him to get up.
This truly wasn't the Fleur he remembered.
He'd seen more of what he initially thought would be typical of the French witch at the Weasley's table. Egotistical and haughty and yet, here she was, comforting someone who she barely had interacted with prior. Perhaps saving her sister and winning the tournament was enough to garner the respect of the witch.
Or perhaps, he thought, she's grown up.
"While imparting some of my sage wisdom is a benefit of my presence, that's not why I'm here."
"The calling of a higher purpose, I suppose?" Harry jested.
"Hardly." She snorted, "Your book lists came soon after your results and Molly wishes to visit the Alley quickly. Apparently, there are fears that Diagon Alley might become too unsafe to visit soon."
"Thanks, I'll be down in a second," Harry confirmed, as she walked from the room. He stood from the bed and sent a sideways glance to the conspicuous lump the letters formed in the pillow above them.
He gathered some clean clothes before ducking in for a quick shower. A few minutes later, he came down the stairs, wand in his pocket and feeling somewhat refreshed. It was a lot cooler at the Burrow then it was at Surrey, another reason to detest the latter and praise the former.
Mrs Weasley was dispensing floo powder to everyone present; she gave Harry a pinch. "I hope you don't mind dear. Professor Dumbledore gave Bill a copy of your key so he could withdraw some money for you. People are losing confidence in Gringotts you see, quick to jump ship."
"Not at all, Mrs Weasley." He flashed her a reassuring smile. He took his position as second after Fleur. When it was his turn he stepped up to the mark, throwing the powder at his feet and yelling.
His eyes glowed with emerald flames that rose from the fireplace, suffocating pressure followed before he spiralled upwards.
Harry took a running step from the floo, stumbling as his feet hit the hard ground of the Leaky Cauldron. He took a moment to observe his surroundings. He could seldom remember a time where the popular and boisterous pub was this desolate. The lack of people caught him off guard, enough so that he forgot to move from the space he currently occupied, Ron, who came out of the Floo next had no way to halt his advance, crashing into Harry and knocking them both to the ground.
Ron groaned while rolling around, "Blimey mate, could've done the decent thing and move out of the way." He croaked, nursing his sore elbow.
In the process of the pair rising, the remainder of their entourage made their way through the Floo network; most wore bemused smiles until Mrs Weasley made her way through last. She took one look at the prone pair before launching into harsh whispers, careful not to interrupt the few people in the pub.
"Boys!" She whispered hoarsely "Get up, quickly now!"
Her wish was soon granted as the pair finished dusting off their clothes to the few amused patrons before setting off to the rear of the pub.
On their trek there, they crossed the bar. Tom, the bartender, looked as old as ever, his cheeks had hollowed out, and his friendly demeanour was shed. He locked eyes with Harry for a moment hopeful for conversation as they passed the bar. Knowing it was unlikely, he offered a small smile but nothing else. Harry was used to a cacophony of mixed greetings and cheers from patrons drunk and sober alike. But the sudden silence spoke volumes about the psyche of Wizarding Britain. It had shifted polarity in an instance, from raucous cries that the Dark Lord's return was nonsense to a grim realisation of the dangers ahead.
Once they made it to the rear of the building, Mrs Weasley drew her wand. Tapping the predetermined series on the bricks before
Not unlike the pub, the Alley was as desolate as he'd ever seen it. Many shops had forgone their storefronts; instead, they boarded windows and nailed 'CLOSED' signs to the door.
Glittering shopfronts displaying spell books, potion ingredients and cauldrons were abandoned in favour of towering, sombre signs filled with security advice from the Ministry of Magic. The facade of hope really did die a quick death after Voldemort's return was formally announced, one needn't look any further than Diagon Alley for evidence of that.
The Weasleys, Hermione, Harry and Fleur walked the length of the Alley in silence. Too busy taking in the solemn scenery to engage in idle chatter. Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour had been boarded up, and even Ollivander had abandoned his shop. Poorly made wooden stalls lined some of the newly made vacancies, he could hear the calls from the Leaky Cauldron.
'Chimaera Heartstring, twelve sickles an ounce!' A gnarled woman yelled, 'Dragon caviar, clams and cockles!' Another cried, their voices illuminating the surprisingly dull alley.
Halfway down the length of the Alley, Molly called the party to halt. "Alright," she called quietly, "We need to be quick here. We need to wait for Bill to finish retrieving Harry's money. Once we have that, we can head to buy new robes and books. Once we've got-"
"Molly," Fleur interjected to the Weasley Matriarch's evident dismay, "Why don't I escort Harry to Gringotts? That way you can start your shopping while we wait for Bill."
"I'm not too sure about tha-" Molly began again to get cut off by Fleur again.
"We're both Triwizard Competitors and more than capable, we shall be fine. We'll be much quicker this way." She said, "The less time we spend here the better, no?"
Harry remained silent for fear of garnering the anger of one side or the other, though the pair seemed to be staring at each other intently. Fleur's tone seemed to allow no room for resistance, yet Mrs Weasley wasn't cowed so easily.
Mrs Weasley seemed to mull over the words, clearly in search of any excuse, any glaring flaw to deny her request. Eventually, she was forced to acquiesce when she clearly couldn't find any apparent reason to stop them from going."
"Fine." She said somewhat reluctantly, "But be back here quickly."
Fleur dashed a dazzling smile that signified her victory before Molly ushered the others to Flourish and Blotts, Fleur looked at Harry before walking off towards Gringotts.
Harry had to take a few quick steps to catch up before the two of them made their way through the sparsely populated Alley. Through their journey, they passed a seedy-looking man trying to sell some product or another, above him was a derelict sign that read,
AMULETS FOR SALE
EFFECTIVE AGAINST DEMENTORS, INFERI AND WEREWOLVES.
When Fleur walked past he leered at her hungrily.
"An amulet for you madam?" He called lecherously to her, "To protect your pretty neck from danger?"
Harry felt a bubble of rage form within him. People were more concerned about profiting on the war with false trinkets than helping others; greed was all too common in magical Britain, he'd seen more than enough before. The man continued to leer at them as Harry peered at his haphazard stall, his display of wares displayed brightly, as if there was something to be proud about.
Fleur merely ignored him with nary a second glance but looked back to Harry to ensure he was still with her.
"So, how are you faring with the Weasleys?" He asked lightly, an attempt to break through the monotonous silence of their journey to Gringotts.
"Would you like the truth?" Fleur asked, now facing ahead once more.
"Why would you lie?" Harry's brow furrowed.
Fleur snorted in response, "They hate me." She said succinctly.
"No, they do-" Harry began, but didn't get far.
Fleur laughed bitterly. "You need not lie, Harry, I'm not a child to be coddled."
"I'm not sure they hate you," Harry tried to amend his statement neutrally, "Do you know why they feel so strongly about you?"
"Could you care to wager?" She said sourly, "Ginerva and Molly hate me for similar reasons. I'm taking away their favourite brother and their firstborn son. They think I've enchanted him rather than form any connection with them. I expected them to dislike me at first sight, but their contempt blindsided me." She flashed Harry a sly smile, "Though, I could think of a few reasons Ginerva has gotten so enthusiastic in her efforts to slight me."
Harry sent her a questioning look. She merely shook her head as if the situation amused her.
"So, Hermione dislikes you too, I take it?" Harry queried, despite having seen evidence of such only that morning.
"She was explaining some Charms theory to Ronald, homework maybe. As my area of expertise, I merely corrected some of her statements, and she took umbrage to my assistance. Her disbelief was evident, so I allowed her a glimpse of firsthand evidence of my claim."
"Is it possible you may have… you know, been a bit impolite in your explanation?" He tried to be diplomatic for the sake of remaining impartial. He'd known Fleur for the latter half of their fourth year, though she'd almost certainly grown with time as he'd already seen, the witch that once was no doubt lingered beneath the surface.
Fleur pondered for a brief moment as they approached Gringotts, "It's a possibility, but my intention was only to assist - not slight. If she misconstrued such as an attack on her intelligence, perhaps she truly is petty."
"Hermione has always been sensitive about her intelligence." He admitted candidly, "I imagine she thought you were rude to her. She's great though. I think you'd like her quite a bit."
He could see the similarities between the pair. But whereas Hermione gathers knowledge for the sake of having it, Fleur hoarded knowledge to keep an edge. To form another witty comment or deduction. Both had an incredible grasp over magical theory; Harry thought they were more similar than either cared to admit.
"Perhaps, still she strikes me as the fickle sort. She's passionate about her studies, that much cannot be denied. But she learns for the sake of validation as if by being the smartest of her age, she is finally complete. I know the type, they'll remain by your side until you exceed them. To them, knowledge is power. When deprived of what they hold so dear - their superiority, they'll flee for safer ground."
Harry couldn't help but let anger seep into his voice at Fleur's insinuation. "I don't know where your sudden in-depth analysis of my friends has emerged from, but don't you think maybe you're allowing your own experiences cloud your judgement?"
Fleur did not look amused, and she shot Harry a condescending look. "Don't be naive - don't tell me you don't know what that's like. To be shunned for being better? I don't intend to make her seem a monster in your eyes, but I think you know precisely what I mean. Errant glares and hushed whispers, the scrutiny of your achievements?"
And to Harry's chagrin, he did know what she spoke of well enough.
Though he had seen how Fleur acted too, saw her interact with her fellow delegates during his fourth year. Despite her sayings otherwise, Harry truly did think he was tarring Hermione with a brush she was experienced in wielding.
"Knowledge is powerful, though only when wielded correctly." Fleur finished, "It's not a tool for validation."
Oddly enough, Harry seemed to think Fleur had been guilty of that vice more than once.
Harry was desperate to deviate from the current line of questioning. "Don't you think there's a simplicity to it? Some beauty from knowing about the world around you? That there might be something more to knowledge than its use?"
She pondered it, if only for a split second. "Knowledge only has value in its applicability. Is there a use for learning four spells that enact the exact same reaction when only one is needed? Idle praise for having a wealth of useless knowledge is no true praise. I'd much rather know what needs to be known, rather than learn it all."
Harry reiterated his prior point. "But isn't there an aspect of beauty in being able to understand what's around you? Can't you appreciate the simplicity of just, I don't know… knowing something solely because it's interesting?"
"Does beauty not always serve some purpose?" She retorted, though didn't bother making eye contact with him.
She hasn't got less vain.
Fleur gave an offhand murmur of disagreement before they entered Gringotts. The security presence was overwhelming, armoured goblins carrying an array of weapons. They patrolled the atrium in burnished bronze armour, pushing through the crowd and searching random customers. It appeared the Goblins were undoubtedly taking the threat seriously.
Bill was waiting off in the corner, discussing something with a goblin, adorned in shining green armour that stood out in the sea of copper and brown. Once he noticed Fleur out of the corner of his eye, he made a quick excuse before dashing over and kissing her.
He reached behind him and pulled out a bag of galleons. "There you are Harry," he said, passing the bag over, "It's taking hours for people to receive their money. People are losing confidence in the bank. Thankfully, the Goblin who runs the carts was interested in something we found in Egypt. It was far easier this way."
Bill turned around, his ponytail swinging behind him, across the bank was a wizard getting particularly rowdy with the Goblin Teller, Bill turned back looking apologetic.
"I've got to deal with this," Bill explained. "The Goblins have been charging exorbitant fees to pull money out, no one's happy."
Bill gave Fleur another kiss before flashing Harry a quick smile.
With the brief conversation and display of affection finished, they promptly left the bank. Burnished bronze doors parting for them as they made their exit, flanked by another series of resplendently armoured goblins guarding the entrance with a keen eye.
Harry turned to Fleur as their feet returned to the paved cobbles of Diagon Alley. "You know, I've never really talked to Bill much."
"He's always liked you. You saved Ginevra that alone is enough. But he admires those that are skilled. Coming from such a home, he values the depth of one's abilities greatly over status. He once confessed to me he was surprised you were friends with the Twin's and Ron."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"I suppose you'll have to ask him at some point, won't you?" She said non-committedly. "I imagine you'll get time to talk to him in the near future."
When they exited the bank, the Alley had filled out a bit more but nothing compared to what it once was, they hadn't made it far from Gringotts before they ran into a duo Harry sorely hoped he wouldn't see again.
Draco and Narcissa Malfoy.
"Ah, Potter!" Draco said snidely, looking at Fleur. "Upgraded since your hound got put down? Replaced him with a filthy half breed, though a sight better than degenerate Lupin at least."
Just my luck.
Harry's hand twitched to his wand; the action didn't go unnoticed by Narcissa.
"Mister Potter, who'd of thought that you'd stray so far from Dumbledore's protection? What, with the dire outcome of your last outing, I'd have imagined you have learnt the value of not leaving his sight." She enunciated each syllable with a faux-politeness, highlighted by a sickly sweet smile that made him feel rotten.
That same rudimentary Occlumency he'd picked up from his lessons with Snape hadn't been exercised enough to temper a full rage only ever the beginnings of his anger which had long since passed. The mental exercises, the calming techniques and even the breathing patterns had been forgone in favour of a simmering rage that built within his core.
Harry searched around mockingly, "It doesn't appear Dumbledore is here, so why don't you try something, Malfoy?" He spat, and for just a moment, Draco looked like he might. A brief flash of courage flickered across grey eyes, and his face bristled, muscles clenching in his jaw.
He could get revenge for his father if he tried, Harry thought, it did not seem a stretch to assume like a spell was soon to come.
"I dare you Malfoy." Harry taunted, sending his name from his lips, coated with vitriol. "Give me just one reason to stick you next to that bastard father of yours in Azkaban."
That was all the provocation Draco needed, the straw that finally broke the camel's back. Draco's hand flew to his Hawthorn wand, drawing it from the pocket of his robes. To her credit, Narcissa foresaw the outcome of such a showing and reached to still Draco's arm mid-draw.
Fleur, however, had been quicker than the lot. Her wand was raised, and the tip dug into the meat of Draco's cheek - if his Mother's cautious arm had not been deterrent enough, the wand tip that dug into the meat of his cheek clearly was.
"Need a bodyguard Potter?" Draco spat, cocking his head to relieve some of the pressure of the rosewood shaft that had found a home levelled at his face. "Have you told her what happened to the last one?"
Fleur pushed her wand into his cheek as a response. The same glimmer of courage was replaced with apprehension, and Harry felt emboldened for having seen it.
Harry knew he was searching for an excuse to strike within himself - to lash out at anyone he thought deserved it.
That was a thought that scared him more than he cared to admit.
"Not just a pretty face, no?" Fleur said with an artificial cheeriness, though Harry didn't think the 'Half Breed' comment slipped her notice.
"Come Draco," His mother urged her eyes widening slightly at the drawn wands, "I imagine Potter shall be seeing his godfather far sooner then I'll be seeing your father." The pair began to retreat towards the bank, walking backwards slowly, not taking their eyes off the pair. Once they'd walked what they deemed a suitable distance, Narcissa shot a final glare before turning her back.
Harry was about to call at their backs, but Narcissa stopped and beat him to it.
She turned around, pretending to straighten ruffled robes, "Oh, Mister Potter, I shouldn't forget. My sister told me to send her regards alongside an apology; she couldn't be here herself although she so desperately wanted to."
"Tell her to send them in person." He bit back, his anger growing. "I'm sure I could see her along."
She gave a short, grating laugh, almost reminiscent of one he heard all those nights ago. "Oh, I imagine you'll be seeing her soon enough."
Harry fought within himself not to curse her, Fleur saw his internal conflict and placed a hand on his, pushing his wand down. It took a moment for him to calm himself as he watched their figures grow smaller. He gave Fleur a brief look before stowing his wand away in his robe pocket with more force than strictly necessary.
They stayed there for a moment, silent, before Fleur's curiosity got the better of her.
"I was unaware there was such animosity between you and your schoolmates?"
"There's not. Not really, anyway, just a choice few." Harry said, "I would have thought Bill would mention it; the papers wouldn't stop talking about it."
"Bill rarely discusses anything about his 'second job'." She said, being unable to stop what he presumed was disdain from leaking into her voice. "Though if you're talking about the media's view on the Ministry, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't heard about it."
She looked unsure when she discussed his involvement in the Order. It was easily caught on a face that's features were always confident, at least as long as he'd known her.
"Our raid on the Ministry got his father caught, that much was in the Daily Prophet. The fact that he and the rest of the inner circle failed against school kids? That'll warrant punishment from Voldemort I'd reckon. They want their revenge. All of them." He explained, "That means their kids will want revenge as much as them. They think that maybe by hurting me, Voldemort might go easy on their parents. They'll get in groups when they think they're hard enough to have a crack. It's not the first time."
"Here I thought your courting of danger was limited to Dragons, lakes and mazes."
"Add Pureblood fanaticism, Dark Lords and assorted monsters to that list."
"Quite a list," She said, "Are you sure you wish to boast?"
"Might look good on a résumé somewhere."
"So assorted monsters?" He turned to look at her, "I gather that makes for quite a tale."
"All rather boring, honestly."
"I'd still like to hear it."
"Perhaps one day," He said, his voice had an edge he tried to hide, born from trying not to relive such memories, "But not today."
She looked like she wanted to press for more information but chose wisely to refrain from pushing the subject.
They began their journey to Madam Malkin's. It seemed odd to try and start a conversation after the almost violent confrontation just minutes prior, but Harry thought it was worth a shot irrespective.
"So how is Gabrielle?"
The thought of her little sister brought a smile to her face. "She's still enamoured with her hero." She broke into a giggle at the memory. "She still runs about the house some time, pretending to be spirited away by the handsome Harry Potter."
"I am quite handsome." He agreed but noticed her wistful tone. "I take it you miss her a lot?"
She smiled wistfully. "It has been some time, and I miss her dearly."
"Is she having fun at Beauxbatons?" He asked, merely attempting to be conversational.
"Hmm," She agreed mischievously, "I must ask Harry, is your interest in my sister purely conversational or perhaps she has the admirer and not the inverse?"
"Purely conversational." He agreed quickly, a tint of red-tinged his cheeks, his anger lost in favour of embarrassment.
"I'll be sure to include that your answer in my next letter, she'll be delighted, I'm sure."
Harry didn't bother replying, and Fleur merely let out a laugh. It was the first genuine laugh he'd heard from her, any other time he might've heard it seemed to pale in comparison. It was melodic, a sound that pleasantly tickled his ears and seemed to endear him to the idea of drawing more from the platinum hair woman. He was unsure of how to respond to the noise, but couldn't help the smile that automatically crossed his features, even as they crossed the threshold into Madam Malkin's.
After a rather uneventful series of fittings and floating measuring tape attacks, Harry had only two destinations: Flourish and Blotts and Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes. After Fleur concluded idly browsing the assorted fabrics, they moved to the bookstore.
There was no sign of the rest of the Weasleys or Hermione in the store. Harry deduced they must have already gone to Fred and George's shop. Harry began to pick up his school books. Fleur decided she'd need some texts to consult on her work in the wards.
Once Harry had filled his basket, he began browsing the store. There was little of interest to him, outside of school texts, there wasn't a whole lot that filled the shelves of Flourish and Blotts, sappy romance novels and egregious fiction seemed to be the majority of the product left.
He found Fleur mulling over a pair of books in the corner, they both looked archaic. Leather tombs with engraved writing on the exterior, he peered over her shoulder at the title of the one she had decided to keep.
Fleur jumped at his presence; she'd been deep in thought. She sighed before she placed the book back.
She rubbed her face gently. "They've got nothing I need, mostly school books. Not really spell books for those out of school, especially the degree of esoterica I'm searching for. Don't they have anywhere else with books?"
Harry snorted "Nowhere worth looking." He thought briefly of Obscurus Books, further down the Alley, although if he were critical of Flourish and Blotts, he'd have to admit, the other store was utterly useless. Unless of course Fleur was suddenly inclined to purchase the many works of Newt Scamander and little else. For a shop that prided themselves on obscurity, they were anything but.
She fell back into her routine of searching through the shelves of books.
"So Harry, if I'm to improve the wards, I'll need to know some of the secrets of the castle. I think as a student of Hogwarts and the second-best Triwizard Competitor, I think you'd be poised to offer me some invaluable assistance."
Harry had to cock an eyebrow at that one. "Second best? I distinctly remember a trophy engraved with my name. Or am I misremembering?" He finished with a cheeky tone.
Fleur gave a short chortle, another melodious sound. "I think you'll find Monsieur Potter." She mocked, "That I am not the same girl that fought in that tournament."
Harry caught her eyes for a split second. "Nor am I the same boy."
"No, I very much doubt that you are." She flashed a quick smile, "A bit taller, perhaps."
She had a point. They were about equal in height where he was quite a bit shorter than her those years ago. But where he still was growing, her upwards ascent seemed to have stilled.
"More powerful too." He boasted.
She browsed the store a little more, adding Potent Shields: An Art of Safeguarding and Defensive Transfiguration, Volume 4 to his basket as he was relegated to carry the burden. "Some of the wards surrounding the castle are over a millennia-old, I'll need something a bit more dated."
They slowly drifted towards the counter, having paid for their respective orders, they left the shop and began down the Alley.
That was when Harry spotted a most peculiar sight.
Draco Malfoy, sans his mother and looking particularly nervous, was heading towards the obscured entryway to Knockturn Alley. Things weren't adding up, Draco wouldn't stray by himself without good reason. His family wasn't very well-liked, and walking lurking around in the depths of Knockturn Alley was dangerous, even for supporters of the Dark Lord.
He walked down the street with a facade of confidence that didn't really hold up against scrutiny. Sometime in the interim, he'd donned a heavy cloak and kept nonchalantly looking over his shoulder, though his nonchalance was feigned. His strides were too lengthy, his walk too quick - he clearly didn't want to be seen. Harry could make out a dark wand tip peeking from his robes, clearly gripped tightly. He carried a coin purse in his other, with another cursory glance over his shoulder, he donned his cloak and disappeared into the labyrinth of Knockturn Alley.
Everything was telling him to pursue Draco. He went to dart off before Fleur reached out, grabbing his hand in a tight grip, fearful of her 'charge' fleeing. She looked at him questioningly; she clearly hadn't seen him.
"That was Draco Malfoy," He whispered harshly. "Heading to Knockturn Alley, alone. We need to follow him."
She still wasn't sure, "Why?" she asked succinctly.
"Because Knockturn Alley is a haven for Dark Wizards," He argued, "If he's venturing there, alone to boot, there's a reason for it."
Fleur had to laugh at that one. "I thought you had more tact, Harry? He's a child and not a particularly remarkable one at that if my memory is correct. Chances are he's pawning some object to pay for his school books if the reports on the Malfoy Family assets being seized were true."
"He had a coin purse," Harry argued again, "Malfoy isn't stupid enough to leave without money, and if he's going down there, there's more than a significant chance it's on Voldemort's Orders.
Fleur had enough of dancing around the point. "Say that he is, what exactly do you think that'll accomplish? You want to barge into an alley filled with 'Dark Wizards' as you put it. You know if you barge in, I'll have to follow you. Between a Veela and the 'Chosen One', neither of us will be able to avoid detection for long. Then wherever he's going will be on high alert, you'll foil their plans for the day. But you'll catch no one. They'll conduct their business in future knowing you're aware of them, it'll be done with greater secrecy, and that's when they get more dangerous. When they must race the clock to avoid discovery."
"But-" He tried to interject but was quickly cut off with quick words and a stern glare.
"Put it this way, Harry, if Draco Malfoy does have a mission, it'll be at Hogwarts, under the eye of Dumbledore. Do you really think one of the most powerful wizards alive wouldn't know of such a threat? But if you charge in after him, they'll just become more unpredictable. A dangerous trait for a dark wizard."
Harry remained silent.
"You may catch a single rodent, but of what consequence is that when the pack is smarter for it?"
Harry had to concede defeat, the feeling in his stomach lessened. But didn't disappear, he was stuck wondering if by listening to Fleur's advice he'd made more problems, or solved them.
"Shall we track down the rest of the Weasley Clan then?" She asked though clearly didn't expect any other answer outside of affirmation. She set off down the street at a quick pace, and Harry was forced to do an awkward little walk-jog amalgamation to close the distance.
As they edged closer to the store, they could hear the raucous noises from within, above the storefront, an animated statue of a wizard with a top hat danced a happy jig before tipping his hat and changing to a leprechaun, then to a bright 'W'.
The joke store, in contrast to the Alley, was packed. The aisles were only small given the amount of product the twins had ladened the store with, but they were brimming with bright faces, mostly children from Hogwarts.
Their centrepiece stood tall in the centre of the store, at its apex. It was emblazoned with the 'WWW' logo, and halfway to the ground, it displayed their most recent product.
YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT
THE CONSTIPATION SENSATION
THAT'S GRIPPING THE NATION
Harry couldn't help but let out a hearty chuckle at their boldness, Fleur, on the other hand, had a look of shock on her face.
"They're going to get themselves killed if this is what they're going to start making." She said sourly, peering at the sign with a frown.
Harry's face morphed into a broad smile. "I think it's brilliant. We'll all need a good laugh before this is over."
As they tried to walk into the shop, their advance was halted by two cracks to their rear.
Harry turned quickly as Fred and George grabbed his shoulders, Fleur took a step back in surprise.
"Harry, our most benevolent benefactor and Mademoiselle Delacour!" started Fred.
"What brings our partner and our brother's lovely fiancé to our humble establishment of jokes and whims?" George said dramatically.
Fleur shot him an odd look at the word partner but said nothing, Harry turned around and embraced each of the twins.
"This place is amazing! I can't believe you got it up and running so quickly." Harry said, looking around at what clearly was a fair amount of work done in a relatively short amount of time.
"Ah my dear Harry!" they said in unison, "It couldn't have been made possible without your generous contribution to the noble fund of Gred and Forge industries."
"As our silent partner," Fred added, "We'd like to show you some of our more 'interesting' products."
The twins whisked him away, dragging him by both of his arms. Fleur followed them at a more sedated pace, weaving through the stunned looks of the shop's patrons.
"Here!" George announced when they arrived at a display cabinet across the store. He gestured towards the stamped tag that ran across the front of the case.
"Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder?" Harry queried, even Fleur looked interested, given her lack of interest in the joke shop, it seemed like an impressive feat for the Twins to manage.
"That's right, my friend! Throw this down, and you've got a guaranteed cloud of darkness at least ten feet wide." Fred reached into a little silk bag, procuring what looked like some form of ashen powder from the confines. He clicked his fingers with the sand-like substance between them exploded into a cloud of black smoke that obscured his vision enough that the Weasley twin simply vanished from view.
This caught Harry's attention. "Where did you get this stuff from?" He asked incredulously, "This is amazing!"
"Well from Peru, of course!" They said together. "If Peruvian stuff came from China, it'd be called Chinese you see."
Harry looked to the cabinet, trying to find a price. "How much do you sell this stuff for?"
"For Ron? Five galleons a pouch. For you? Free." They announced again in unison, stuffing a pair of the silk bags into his hand before he could argue.
"Free? I couldn't take it." He then argued, despite already being given the product. He tried to shove it back to one of the twins. "Must've cost you a fortune."
"Too late!" said George, the pair lifting their hands up in surrender and soon Harry was forced to plunge the bags into his pocket.
"Yep," Added Fred, "We even held a business meeting on it too. You didn't show up, but we both voted in favour. All partners can take stock for free."
"Poor partner you are anyways, not showing up to meetings," George added. "We'll be sure to reprimand you in the next minutes we publish."
"Quite harshly too I'm afraid." Fred joined in.
"Sorry," Fleur interjected for the first time in a while "How is Harry a partner?"
Harry began to look distinctly more uncomfortable.
"Why dear Fleur, he funded our endeavour here! No less than a thousand galleons!" They spoke together.
"Quite a generous thing too." One of the twins added.
"Lease was quite expensive here." The other one continued, "Not to mention the cost of products."
This seemed to shock Fleur, her eyes widened slightly, but if she was going to say anything further, she thought against it, only nodding at their words.
A loud gong was heard throughout the shop, and the twins shared a nervous look. Fred turned to Harry "Feel free to browse the store; we need to deal with this." With the same infamous crack that heralded their appearance, signified their goodbye as they whirled from existence before his eyes.
"So, Partner?" Fleur repeated his title the moment they'd disappeared.
"I gave them the money I won from the tournament." He said simply.
"Why would you do that?" She said, taken aback by his confession. Though judging by her face, such a reaction seemed rare.
He gave her an odd look. "Voldemort had returned, and the money was tainted as far as I was concerned. I gave it to my friends who wanted to make something of themselves plus like I said. After this is all said and done, the world is going to be short of laughs. I can't think of anyone better to give them back."
"I still think I would've kept the money."
"I've got a vault full of money, more than I know what to do with it. I can go without a thousand galleons."
"I still think there are better ways to have spent it than on the Twins and their endeavours. You could've even invested it with the Goblins." She frowned. "Far more intelligent avenues to spend your coins, what with a war around the corner."
"Then one day, I hope you learn the value of friendship over galleons."
She gave a little noncommittal murmur, "Maybe one day I might."
There wasn't much left to say; they headed to the main staircase, it was a thin, winding affair that was coloured brightly in an array of different shades that didn't mesh together in the slightest. Once they reached the top of the stairs, Ron's distinctive voice could be heard.
"Bloody hell Hermione, I was only joking. I'm sure Harry's fine." He heard Ron sigh through the shelving.
"What if something happened to him? I'm not exactly confident in Fleur's ability to protect him!" She argued, loud enough that Fleur clearly heard what his friend had said.
"I'm sure they'll be fine," Ron said in a defusing tone, an odd prospect for the second youngest Weasley.
Fleur shot him a sour look and rolled her eyes at the statement, a look that seemed to echo 'I told you so.' But he found he couldn't really sympathise with her all that much, given what she said about Hermione, this seemed little more than payback to him.
They rounded the corner to see a red-faced Hermione and Ron attempting to placate her.
"Blimey mate could've used you a bit sooner." He said, surprised at his appearance.
Hermione looked relieved to see him but also far angrier at Ron and Fleur's appearance. "I'm going to find Ginny,'' she said tightly before storming off.
Fleur decided to chime in too, "I best find Molly and tell her we've returned unharmed." She also walked away, leaving Ron and Harry by themselves."
"What happened to Hermione?" Harry questioned.
He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, one minute we're talking fine and then she started on how you hadn't returned and how she was scared because you were with Fleur. I disagreed, and well, you saw where that got us."
Harry snorted before him, and Ron locked eyes. "Mental?" suggested Ron.
"Mental," Harry confirmed.
"I saw Malfoy in the alley today."
This seemed to shock Ron. "So soon after Daddy Dearest got a new home? That's bold."
Harry nodded. "Yeah, he and his mum were going to Gringotts, we ran into them on our way out."
"And?" Ron seemed excited, "Did you curse him?" He asked giddily.
"No," he said to Ron's chagrin. "He and his mum made some comments about Sirius and Fleur. Fleur stopped me from cursing them, and they went into Gringotts."
"If I were you I would've cursed the git something good, maybe even get him a bed in Azkaban next to Daddy," Ron said in equal mixture joking and malice.
"That's not all though" Harry continued, "Fleur and I went to Flourish and Blotts afterwards, when we saw Draco, without his mother, looking particularly nervous heading into Knockturn Alley."
"Did you follow him?"
"No, Fleur convinced me otherwise," Harry admitted.
"Oh." That seemed to confuse Ron. "Not like you to let that go."
"I wouldn't have." Harry said, "I still reckon he's got a mission from Voldemort, no excuse to be lurking in the daylight otherwise."
"I'm not too sure about that," Ron confessed "I hate him as much as the next bloke, but using Draco to do his bidding? He'd have to be pretty desperate to use that ponce, what with Malfoy Senior getting the boot, he'd have to be mad to use his son."
"Could be that's exactly what he wants us to think." Harry waged. "I'd guess -"
Harry grabbed Ron and pulled him aside. Not a second later, a paper dragon spitting flame roared down the aisle, scorching the shelves where Ron and Harry had stood just a moment ago.
At the end of the aisle stood a red-faced Ginny. "I'm so sorry!"
She looked shocked, Harry flashed a reassuring smile, and she seemed to regain some composure. "Mum... Mum wanted me to tell you we're going to leave the Alley soon." She said quickly before darting around the corner.
Both he and Ron followed her down the stairs, after bidding the twins goodbye they met the remainder of the Weasleys, Hermione and Fleur at the entrance of the shop. Ginny shot Fleur a dangerous glare. She merely looked to Harry before rolling her eyes, enraging Ginny even further.
Once they had all left the joke shop, they retraced their footsteps back to the Leaky Cauldron. Harry was one of the last to enter the Floo this time. As he grasped the powder, he realised the weight in the pit of his stomach had never abated, he threw the powder down and yelled,
But he still couldn't shake that feeling, the gnawing in his stomach that seemed to encapsulate the entirety of his stomach. Although he couldn't see through the walls, he still shot a final look towards the direction of the Alley as green flames overtook his vision as he shot upwards through the chimney.
Even despite the disorientation of the Floo, that feeling couldn't be abated.
The feeling that he might've missed something down that Alley.