A/N: This oneshot was cowritten by Saliient91 and Taliesin19 for the Flowerpot Garden Collection. Thank you to Nauze and Petrificus Somewhatus for their beta work.
It would generally be correct to assume that a thunderstorm is one of the scariest things in a young child's life, especially that of a four-year-old. However, in the case of Daisy Marguerite Potter, any such assumption would be categorically false.
The little girl was, at present, watching the storm with wide-eyed wonder, practically vibrating with energy as she bounced from window to window, doing her best to not miss a thing.
A flash of lightning briefly shone across the horizon and the covered back patio lit up. It was the perfect outdoor viewing place, always warm and dry thanks to the exquisite charmwork of Harry's wife.
"Daddy! Did you see it? Did you? Did you?"
Daisy dashed from the window to her papa. "It was there, there, there, and there!" She pointed at each window, four large panes running from roof to floor, denying access to the elements.
Harry had been smart enough to switch to an enclosed deck. He recalled the last time they sat out here and had watched a storm. His three and some odd months old daughter had torn out and started jumping in puddles, squealing in delight as the rain fell down and thoroughly soaked the tiny parts of her that the puddle-jumping had not. He had thought it great fun, and with a warming charm on her, there was little to worry about. A cup of hot cocoa afterwards-steam charmed to swirl up into the shapes of various animals-made for a great daddy-daughter time. Harry would cherish that memory for eternity.
"I saw, honey, I saw," he said, smiling fondly as his daughter bounced back to the windows, her feet scarcely touching the floor.
She squealed in delight when the thunder boomed again. Her two palms pressed against the glass as she stared out, head darting, always looking, scanning, searching for the next flash.
"Daddy," his daughter called out.
Her nose was pressed up against the glass, but he could imagine the scrunched up face and deep scowl from her tone of voice alone.
"Yes?" Harry answered in amusement, having a strong idea of what she was about to demand.
"Make it thunder! I wan' hear BOOM!" she yelled the last word loudly, not taking her eyes off the window.
"I'm sorry, flower, but you'll just have to be patient and wait." He almost laughed as he said it. Telling a little helion like her to be patient? He'd have better luck telling the storm to go away.
"But I want it!" she whined petulantly, her heel stomping as she turned around. Her lip began quivering, and he knew he had to change tactics.
"How about you come sit with me?"
Her pout didn't dissipate.
"I'll tell you a story, and you can watch from Daddy's lap. How does that sound?" he said, his voice light and hopeful.
"Okay," Daisy chirped, her frown disappearing as she skipped over and threw herself at him.
Harry smiled down at her and lifted her up. Having his little girl cuddled in his lap, her head pressed against his chest as his hands stroked her lovingly and played with her hair, was just about the most soothing thing for his soul. He knew one day she would get too big and no longer be so willing, so he'd take advantage of these precious moments while he could.
"I wan' hear 'bout maman again!" the little girl exclaimed.
"Oh? Not about how I started flying and playing Quidditch?" he asked.
"I know that one," she told him authoritatively. "Uncle Nev got hurt and the big meanie took his remember-ball. You flew after it, and Gamma McGee got you to play."
Harry smiled. "But there's more to it than just that," he said, brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes. "I'll tell you about Maman and me but first I have to talk about Quidditch. Everything started because of Quidditch."
"Harry, this is Oliver Wood. Oliver, Harry Potter," McGonagall said, introducing them.
They nodded at each other.
"This is our new Seeker, Wood," McGonagall said with glee. "His first flying lesson was today. I watched the entire thing in the hopes of spotting any prospects. Potter's first time on a broom and he manages a fifty-foot dive with his toes skimming the grass to catch a remembrall."
The doubtful look on Wood's face immediately melted away at those words.
"That's perfect!" he exclaimed before a small frown appeared on his face. "But he's a first year. Do the rules even allow it?"
"You let me worry about that," she said, patting his arm with a scroll of parchment. "We need a Seeker and Potter can play."
Wood nodded dutifully as though receiving an order from his commanding officer.
"Treat him as a muggleborn," McGonagall said. "His father may have been one of our best Chasers, but he grew up in the muggle world and won't know anything about Quidditch."
"I will," Wood said, a steely glint in his eyes. "Shall I grab Cole to get things started?"
McGonagall pursed her lips and took a few seconds before responding."Yes, Harry will need a good academic grounding," she said. "Given his father's Gryffindor Quidditch career, and what he just did today on that broom…Cole can give him the orientation while I get him set up."
"And you're sure a first-year can play?" Wood asked again carefully, as though not allowing himself to get his hopes up.
"Yes," McGonagall stated adamantly. "It may have been a century ago but there is precedent for it. I'll have it approved before anyone else can get wind of it."
"P- professor?" Harry piped up in a small voice. "You said my father played Quidditch?"
McGonagall's eyes widened just a fraction as if surprised by the question, but she quickly rearranged her features and gave him a small smile. "He did, Potter," she said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Perhaps I can tell you all about him one day over tea. And your mother, as well. Some of the finest Gryffindor students I've ever had."
Harry swallowed hard and nodded, feeling a rush of pride at her words.
"Very good. That settles it, then. Wood, you introduce Potter to Quidditch properly, and then have him meet with Cole. She'll get him started," McGonagall said, all business once more. "After that, gather the team and have him meet them all, as well."
Wood didn't need telling twice. He immediately led Harry out onto the pitch where he went over the basics of Quidditch, stratagem and rules. Shortly after, Harry met Angelina Cole, a Gryffindor graduate, former prefect and Quidditch captain. Wood explained that she'd had too many injuries in too short a time frame to continue her professional career but had taken up the role of overseeing Gryffindor's Quidditch Team.
"Harry, meet Miss Cole," Wood said, gesturing towards her.
"Hi, Harry, it's very nice to meet you," she said with a warm smile. "I'm Angelina Cole but you can call me Angie like everyone else does."
"Nice to meet you," Harry said, shaking her offered hand.
"Ollie, you can run off now, I'll take care of Harry from here," Angie said.
Wood did as he was told, leaving Harry alone with the woman who appeared closer to his age than most of the other professors he had met in his short time at Hogwarts.
"Let me introduce myself better, I'm Gryffindor's Quidditch Director," she said, making a show of puffing her chest out and looking smug before she began to laugh. "Don't worry, it's just a poncy title for saying I work as a liaison between the alumni and the team. My role is to help support and guide you."
Harry nodded slowly. "Okay," he said, not wanting to admit he didn't understand what that meant.
"But come, sit. There's a fair amount to cover but we should start with the foundation for Quidditch success. Do you know what that is, Harry?" Angie had a mischievous glint in her eyes as she asked.
"A good guess, but not what I had in mind," she said with a wink. "Academics. Academics will be how you get the most out of your development time while on the House team."
Harry frowned. "But what's that got to do with Quidditch?"
"Well, it's not about flying better-or in your case, catching the snitch," she said. "But properly handling your academic career can boost the amount of time you're able to train."
"I...don't understand," Harry said, finally admitting it aloud.
The young woman smiled patiently. "Many successful Quidditch players front-load their academic careers in order to free up space in their 6th and 7th years to focus on their Quidditch careers," she said. "Some are even homeschooled or take correspondence work to get ahead."
"But how does that help?"
Angie patted him on the arm. "At eleven, there is limited strength training you can do, and there aren't any better leagues available for you either. So, while you're the least productive at training for Quidditch, you can get ahead in your courses."
Harry scrunched his nose at this. "Get ahead at school?"
"Yes," she laughed, "you can work hard and skip a year in many classes by going to summer school and doing accelerated courses. For example, you could start your electives early instead of waiting till third year. There's a Durmstrang student playing on Bulgaria's Junior National Team, and he's only fourteen. He's finished most of his OWLs already."
"Wouldn't that just make him graduate school early, though? How could he play on the school team if he's not even in school?"
Angie shot Harry another smile. "He won't finish early. He'll just have a much lighter course load in his final two years. No more than two classes by his 7th," she explained. "And you could do the same. McGonagall would help you get ahead in Transfiguration. We have all the notes and assignments needed for nearly every class taught at Hogwarts. If you want to get ahead, I'd be more than happy to help as well. Basically, you'll need to work hard off the pitch to set yourself up for success on the pitch."
Harry considered this for a moment, a sudden thought striking him. "Does that mean I'll get to stay at Hogwarts through the summer as well?" he asked, unable to hold back his excitement. A whole year without having to see the Dursleys? He'd take all the classes they were offering.
"Well, no," Angie said, looking amused at his response. "Hogwarts doesn't offer summer courses. Beauxbatons is your best bet. They're the only major school that holds classes year-round."
"Beauxbatons," she corrected him, "a school of magic in France. They also run a Quidditch camp. You could take Runes, Arithmancy, and finish with the Quidditch camp before heading back to catch the train. It'd leave you about two weeks after Hogwarts ends."
Harry had never heard of those classes before but he'd ask Hermione about them. The important point was that he would only have to be at Privet Drive for two weeks. Quidditch was quickly becoming his favourite part of the magical world.
"You could take Care of Magical Creatures as well, if you plan to handle dangerous beasts or work with animals," Angie said. "And divination is good if you want to tell the future. Fancy yourself a beast tamer or fortune teller, Harry?"
"Er...no," he said, shaking his head.
"Then Runes and Arithmancy are your best bets. Most useful classes of the lot, in my opinion. Cram them into three weeks and you'll be fine."
Harry nodded slowly as he considered everything he'd learned so far today. It was...a lot. But he decided he liked Angie. And Oliver, as well. Even McGonagall had surprised him earlier by promising to tell him about his parents. It had been an odd morning from the start, but a very good one.
He didn't realize catching a remembrall could change his day so much.
Harry shoved his hands in his pockets as he walked down the pavement, making sure to keep his eyes pinned to the ground. Though he'd gotten fairly good at scaring Dudley away with ridiculous made-up spells, there was always a chance the oaf would grow a spine while amongst his friends.
Harry had only been back at Privet Drive just shy of a fortnight but time had seemed to stretch on as though someone had cast a spell over it.
One more day, he kept reminding himself.
One more day and he'd finally escape the suffocating confines of Little Whinging. Angie, the Gryffindor Quidditch director, had helped set him up for summer lessons and Quidditch camp at Beauxbatons for the next eight weeks. And while Harry never dreamed he'd be so excited to do more schoolwork, the fact that he'd be able to leave the Dursleys only two weeks into the summer holidays was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Ron had shaken his head in deep sympathy when he'd found out, promising to write him often and send sweets. Hermione, on the other hand, had only muttered something about 'Quidditch' and 'favouritism' with herarms crossed tight against her chest.
With a small chuckle at the thought, Harry pulled open the door of his destination and stepped inside from the scorching July heat.
"Harry, good to see you again," said a warm voice from the front desk.
Harry smiled at the old woman. "Hello, Mrs. Williams," he said politely.
"I saved your books from last time, they should still be at your table," she said with a wink.
He thanked her before walking past several bookshelves towards 'his' table in the back. Mrs. Williams had been very excited to see a young person taking advantage of the library during summer without having to be dragged in by a parent. But what she didn't know was that Harry had literally nothing better to do with his time.
He usually gravitated towards the books filled with pictures. But not wanting to appear childish, he'd pick up the history books instead, particularly the ones about wars. Those always had some wicked scenes to look at. Mrs. Williams had tried gently suggesting a lighter topic but Harry had already been drawn in.
Leaning back in his chair, he cracked open the World War II book he'd started yesterday and continued reading about the Wehrmacht soldiers.
Harry wiped his hand across his sweaty forehead and puffed out a heavy breath, pulling his head back to look up at the seemingly endless rock face before him. He'd only just begun and already his muscles burned with exhaustion. His lungs protested each inhale of frigid air and he was tired...tired...so very tired...
Gritting his teeth, Harry lifted his leg up and pushed forward, grabbing onto a crevice in the mountain, bringing himself one step closer to his destination.
But then he paused.
How much higher did he have to climb? When would he catch sight of his exquisite prize?
He had to have it, he couldn't come up empty.
Higher and higher he'd have to climb. He'd return with it, he'd prove his worth.
Harry's determination grew. The protestations of his muscles wouldn't hinder him. He'd tread on.
But, all at once, a bell-like noise rang loudly in his ears. He shook his head slightly, worried he was growing lightheaded. But it wouldn't go away.
On and on and on and on...
Harry's eyes shot open. He sat up in bed abruptly and turned towards his alarm clock, a shot of fear running through him when he saw the time.
"Oh, brilliant," he said, throwing his covers off and racing towards the bathroom.
He was suddenly inordinately grateful that the dormitory he was staying in had no other occupants. He'd originally thought he might grow bored, being alone all summer. But running late on his first day of class while still having prime access to the shower put a few things into perspective.
Harry got dressed quickly, not even bothering to dry or comb his hair. Then he threw his bag over his shoulder, hurried down the stairs and out of the common room entrance before practically running down the corridors to the assigned classroom.
Another thing he was grateful for: listening to Angie's advice about finding his room before the first day of class. Beauxbatons wasn't nearly as big or confusing as Hogwarts but he would've had a hell of a time trying to figure out where he was going under the stress of being late.
When he reached the right door Harry paused for a second and took a few steadying breaths before pushing it open.
The professor was already taking attendance so he edged his way in, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. But fate was playing cruel tricks on him today, as the only available seat was right at the front, causing everyone to turn their heads as he awkwardly made his way over.
Harry gave a brief apologetic smile to the professor before sitting down.
The room had been relatively quiet before, but at this point, you could have heard a pin drop.
Harry raised his hand. "Here," he said.
The professor looked at him over her glasses. "Don't be late tomorrow," she said simply.
He nodded, breathing a small sigh of relief when she moved past him.
Harry could feel multiple eyes on him as Madame Brodeur began the introductions, explaining what the Ancient Runes course would look like for the next three weeks. The girl sitting next to him had thankfully kept her eyes forward the entire time, taking down notes in a studious manner that was both like and unlike Hermione at the same time.
She was definitely paying attention but she seemed to listen more than write, her quill only coming up occasionally.
Harry frowned at that. She wouldn't be a very good candidate for note-sharing, then.
"Now, after our first lesson today, I'm going to have you all take a pretest," Madame Brodeur said. "Do not fret about accuracy. I only want to see where each of you are at, in terms of prior knowledge. The results of this test will also determine who I will pair you up with throughout the course. Partners are not set in stone and may be changed in the upcoming weeks. Are there any questions before I begin?"
Harry had stopped paying attention at "do not fret about accuracy" but he shook his head along with the others.
Perhaps he should have fretted a bit more though. As the day went on, the professor covered things he'd never even heard of before, and Harry quickly realized he wasn't prepared for this class in the slightest.
It was going to be a difficult three weeks.
As if the lecture hadn't been enough, the pretest was bloody hard. For a second, he thought it might be written in French, for all the words he couldn't recognize. But a second glance at the questions, unfortunately, suggested otherwise. He was just glad it was multiple choice.
He pretended to look very thoughtful as he considered each question, going so far as to cross off a few answers before circling whichever rune had the most interesting looking name.
"It looks as though everyone is finished," Madame said about a half-hour later, receiving several nods in response. She summoned the papers to her desk. "I'll be marking them for a few minutes so feel free to converse with your desk partners in the meantime."
Harry glanced at the girl next to him and gave her a polite smile. "Er...bonjour...je m'appelle Harry-"
"I know English," the girl said at once, her words slightly accented. "Otherwise, I would not be in this class, yes?"
Harry cleared his throat, cursing Angie in his head for making him practice that for ages. "Sorry, er…" he said. "I'm Harry."
"Yes," the girl said, her lips twitching a bit as if holding back a smile. "I know that, too."
Harry had the distinct impression that he was being laughed at but the girl didn't seem very malicious. "Do you have a name, or should I just continue making myself look stupid?"
"You may continue, it's quite fun," she said, definitely teasing him this time. "I am Fleur."
He raised an eyebrow. "Like flower?"
She gave him an impressed look. "Someone has been studying his français," she said.
Harry gave a dry laugh. "Oh yeah, I'm practically bilingual," he said.
Fleur smiled at that, not a very big one, but a smile nonetheless. And Harry realized for the first time just how pretty she was. Hogwarts had some nice-looking girls, probably some very pretty ones even. But Harry had been a bit too preoccupied last year to truly appreciate them.
He wasn't very preoccupied now, however.
Fleur. Fleur the flower.
Merlin, if Ron could hear him now.
"And what are you doing here at Beauxbatons, then?" Fleur said, picking up the conversation.
Harry shook the image of flowers from his head. "I'm trying to get ahead in my schoolwork by taking electives in the summer."
Fleur raised an eyebrow. "How interesting," she said. "And for what reason?"
"Quidditch," Harry said.
The word seemed to cause a slight but instant change in Fleur. "I see," she said, her body angling slightly away from him now. "And this helps with Quidditch because…?"
"Er…" Harry said, wanting to make her face him again but not knowing how to do it. "To get ahead while I can. So my last few years at Hogwarts will be spent more on training than schoolwork. It's...a whole Quidditch thing. I didn't understand it at first, either."
"I understand it, Harry," Fleur said, giving him a thin smile.
She didn't say anything after that, but Harry wanted to keep the conversation going.
"And you?" he said. "Why are you here?"
Fleur paused in the act of organizing her notes. "Well, to learn of course," she said, turning her head towards him.
"And...you can't learn during the school year?" he said.
She rolled her eyes. "To learn more," she said. "Beauxbatons has six electives. But I only have room in my schedule to take three during the year. I'd like the option to try them all, therefore, here I am."
Harry nodded slowly. "Here you are," he said.
"Does that satisfy your curiosity?"
Fleur gave him a polite smile before returning to her papers.
"What year are you?" he blurted out.
She paused again. "Going on my 4th," she said before adding. "And you?"
"2nd," Harry said, suddenly feeling very juvenile.
Any further conversation was halted by Madame Brodeur calling attention. "I have marked your tests," she said, pressing her wand to the stack so that each paper was sent back to its owner. "The name of your partner is at the top of the page. You may meet with them briefly and then be done for the day. It was nice meeting you all. I look forward to our time together this summer."
Harry heard a soft sigh beside him before glancing down at his paper.
He realized, with a bit of embarrassment, that the professor had most likely paired the lowest and highest marked students together.
But he certainly was not complaining.
"Right," Harry said, picking up his backpack and slinging it over his shoulder. "Looking forward to working with you, then."
Fleur looked caught between a smile and a grimace. "You as well," she said, gathering her things. "See you tomorrow. And try not to be late next time, flemmard."
Harry furrowed his eyebrows, making a mental note to look that word up later. "I won't be," he said, shouldering his bag a little tighter against him.
The dream that made him wake up late that morning filtered momentarily through his mind. The endless rock face of the mountain, the exhaustion in his bones. All of it so realistic that it made him sleep right through his alarm.
The mark of a true soldier.
That couldn't be a coincidence, could it?
"What is it?" Fleur said.
Harry cleared his throat, realizing he'd been staring at her while lost in thought.
Fleur the flower.
The pretty, intelligent, clearly disappointed to have him as a partner, flower.
"Sorry," he said with a small smile. "I won't be late. See you tomorrow...Edel."
"What?" she said, forehead pinched in confusion.
But Harry only turned around and walked towards the door, waving at her one last time before heading back to his dormitory.
"This is a surprise."
Harry settled into his seat in the front row, the classroom still relatively empty. "Didn't think I'd come back this year?"
"Didn't think you'd be on time," Fleur said, the barest hint of amusement in her eyes. "I knew you'd come back, Flem. You are many things, I've learned, but a quitter is not one of them. Your ridiculous devotion to Quidditch would never keep you away."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Harry said, raising his brow. "And really? Flem? Flemmard was bad enough."
Lazy. Slacker. Loaf.
Harry had made sure to look that one up straight away last summer.
A whole year had gone by since he'd last seen Fleur, but he was pleased to note that they'd picked up right where they left off. Harry wasn't sure where that was exactly, but he knew that their friendship (if he could call it that) kept him entertained enough in the otherwise dull experience of summer school.
This year Arithmancy was first up in the mornings, a small but welcome blessing. He seemed to have more of a knack for the subject than Ancient Runes-a fact that had Fleur seething on more than one occasion.
This year appeared to be no different.
"Let me see," Fleur said, her accent getting thicker now that she was frustrated.
She grabbed Harry's pretest from his hands as they walked out of their first lesson and rifled through the pages.
"Mon dieu," she muttered, along with several other French words Harry couldn't place. "Did you even open the book once since last summer?"
Harry thought about it for a moment before shaking his head.
Fleur let out a small growl and thrust his test back at him. "You are-you are-what is the word-"
"Intelligent? Brilliant? Charming? Funny?"
"Insufferable," Fleur said.
Harry only laughed. "Oh, come on, Edel," he said, bumping his shoulder against hers. "I offered to tutor you before, didn't I?"
"Oh, don't even start with that," she said, giving him an unamused look. "I'm off to the library to look over this test."
"And I'm off for a fly," Harry said. "You should join me sometime. Good stress relief."
"I am not stressed."
Harry smiled. "Not in the slightest."
"Morning," Sirius said as he opened Harry's bedroom door.
Harry rubbed his eyes and stared at the still haggard-looking man. "Wasn't a dream," he mumbled, blinking rapidly and rubbing his eyes again.
Sirius took three steps in and sat himself on the edge of the bed. "Not a dream, kiddo. We're living together as long as you'll have me."
Harry didn't hesitate at all. He threw himself at the man, and they held onto each other for several seconds, Sirius running a hand up and down Harry's back.
He knew he should probably feel embarrassed, but at that moment, Harry was too thrilled to care. No more Dursleys. He was living with Sirius!
"Right, enough of that!" Sirius said, a bit of gruffness to his voice. He clapped Harry on the shoulder as they broke apart. "We've only got two weeks before you're off to summer school. We need to take advantage of them."
Harry groaned. "Don't remind me," he said, standing up and slipping on shorts and a practice jersey.
"You're the one who agreed to spend six of your ten weeks of holidays in a stuffy Beauxbatons class instead of galavanting around England doing whatever you and I feel like."
"Tell Angie that I begged off, then," Harry said, nearly pleading. "I'm already ahead a year and a half of school and I'll be done with my electives before 6th year. But still, she pushes me to work harder."
"Well, aren't you trying to be the next Krum? That's what Moony mentioned."
Harry shoved his godfather in the shoulder. "I'm not trying to be the next anybody. I love to fly, I love my teammates, and I just want to play Quidditch."
"I still can't believe it, you know," Sirius said, shaking his head in amusement. "James loved Quidditch about as much as you do and he wasn't skiving off summer to get ahead. He was even Head Boy!"
"Yeah, well, he didn't have to deal with Angie," Harry said with an eye roll. "She tells me what to do and I just do it. It's a lot easier that way, and, I mean, she is trying to help me."
Sirius smirked. "I think I know what's really going on here."
Harry furrowed his eyebrows. "What?"
"Oh yes, I know," Sirius said, closing his eyes and nodding. "Quidditch is the excuse, but you're going to Beauxbatons for a much more noble purpose."
Harry's eyes narrowed, "A more noble purpose?"
"Girls!" Sirius exclaimed, clapping Harry on the back, his eyes lighting up. "Why else would you be there if it wasn't for chasing girls! So, tell me. Tell me, tell me, tell me! Who's the girl-or girls, plural." He tilted his head and tapped his chin with his finger. "One, two, three, four? Oh, wait, no. En français, combien? Un, deux, trois, quatre?"
Harry's head dropped into his hands. "None! I'm there for Quidditch!"
Sirius responded with an exaggerated series of nods and his eyes wide. "Quidditch, sure. Right. Bit of an odd name for a girl, though, innit?"
Harry shook his head. "There. Is. No. Girl!"
Sirius patted him on the head. "There is always a girl, Harry. You're in a foreign country, studying with a class full of older students. There's a girl. There are many girls. I just want to know which ones have caught your eye. Though, as a Potter, you might be a one-gal kind of bloke."
Harry crossed his arms over his chest and set his jaw.
"Fine then, a trade? I tell you about your grandfather and dad finding their gal, and you tell me about the girl you've got your eye on at Beauxbatons. I thought you might have your sights set on Hermione, but Remus said no."
"Hermione?! No way. That's like fancying my sister. Don't even think about my female teammates either, they're just friends too," Harry said, heading off any other potential line of inquiry there.
"Just a Frenchie then, good to know." Sirius grinned in triumph.
Harry scowled. "Fine. You tell me about both of them and I'll say something about a girl."
"See? That wasn't so hard to agree to, now was it?"
Harry's scowl didn't relent, but he listened intently. Learning about family was too important to him.
"Your grandfather found his love at Hogwarts but politics didn't let it happen. Not right away, anyway," Sirius began. "Dorea went off to become a healer and Charlus fought in the war against Grindelwald. They met again when he'd gotten injured. For him, there had only been your grandmother. For her, no man measured up until Charlus. It was a short courtship and that was that."
"My grandmum was a healer?" Harry said in surprise.
"A great one. Put James and I back together countless times," he chuckled. "Much like your mum, actually. She wasn't a healer," he said, answering the question as it was forming on Harry's lips, "just wicked with a wand. She excelled at almost every charm, including the ones for healing."
Harry smiled at that but stayed quiet. He was hanging on Sirius' every word.
"Your mum, Harry…" Sirius's voice trailed off. "She was-well it's hard to describe, really."
"Why?" Harry asked, eyebrows knit together.
"She was as brave as they came. Terrible in her rage but one of the kindest souls. Incredibly intelligent but so easy to get along with. She was friendly with everyone but didn't allow herself to become popular. We all knew she'd be Head Girl. She was just too smart, too responsible and too helpful to not be. But Merlin, was she fierce."
"Fierce? Is that a good...thing?"
Sirius looked down at Harry with a wistful smile. "James met her on the train and that was it. Claimed it was the Potter way. Find the best girl and never settle for less. Lily was that-all that-and more," he said. "But, yes...fierce. She'd not back down from anyone or anything. She had this inner confidence that prevented her from ever failing to achieve what she set her mind to."
Harry nodded. "Professor McGonagall told me about their relationship through school," he said with some trepidation. "She's been trying to tell me about their Hogwarts years and what she knew of them afterwards."
"After your classes?" Sirius said, quirking his eyebrow.
"Yeah," Harry said, "she's been pushing me to get further ahead in Transfiguration and will tell me stories after I complete spells or assignments."
Sirius' eyebrow fell as he chuckled, "Minnie's really been on your case, eh? We thought we had it bad… But bribery, blackmail? That's..." He began to laugh, full deep belly laughs.
Harry stood up and bolted to the door, seeing his chance. "Fine, be that way! I promised I'd tell you about my girl, but not how much," he said with a smirk. He went to open the doorknob but found it had been locked, and he turned and saw Sirius smirking back at him, wand in hand.
"You'll tell me everything you know or you won't get to eat breakfast," Sirius said seriously.
Harry pretended to consider this. "Fine, but only three things or I'll call for Dobby and tell him you were trying to starve me."
The smirk fell off Sirius' lips. "Three things, then," he said with a small pout, still seated on the bed.
"Right. She attends Beauxbatons," Harry said, holding up a finger. "She's a couple years older than me." He held up a second.
Sirius opened his mouth, but Harry cut him off.
"And, lastly, I call her Edel to annoy her."
"Edel? Is that french?" Sirius asked, his hand coming up and rubbing his chin.
"Open the door and I'll tell you," Harry said, knowing he'd baited his godfather successfully.
Sirius acquiesced to the demand and flicked his wand to remove the locking charm.
"It's German, not French," Harry said, cracking the door open
"What? Why would you call her that then?" Sirius said with a frown as he got up to follow.
Harry opened the door and stepped out. "I told you three things already. You'll have to bargain more out of me if you really want to know," he said before racing off to eat.
"We should really stop meeting like this," Harry said, dropping down into his usual seat next to Fleur.
She looked up at him and Harry had to pause for a moment, his words dying in his throat. He wasn't sure if his recent talk with Sirius had addled his brain a bit but he felt as though he was seeing Fleur for the first time.
She'd always been pretty, there was no doubt about that. But she looked different this year. Older, beautiful. The kind of beauty that made Harry feel suddenly too young and all togetherly inadequate.
"Edel…" he said under his breath.
Fleur rolled eyes. Her beautiful, blue eyes.
Had they always been thisblue?
Harry shook his head of the stupid thought before attempting to speak again. "How are you?" he said for lack of anything better to say. "I mean-how have you been? Your year, I mean. How's your year been? And...you, I suppose. How are you?"
Fleur stared at him, her eyebrows slightly raised. "Are you okay, Flem?"
Not in the slightest.
Harry cleared his throat. "Er, well. A lot has changed for me, actually," he said, wondering where he was going with this and why he was still talking. "I've moved in with my godfather this year."
They'd never talked about anything personal before but Harry didn't seem to be in control of his brain at the moment.
"He's an ex-convict."
Fleur blinked and parted her lips.
"Innocent though," Harry added quickly, wiping his now clammy hands against his trousers. "Everyone thought he was responsible for the murder of my parents. But it was actually a rat-animagus-er, I'm not really explaining this well, sorry. They did catch him, though. The rat, I mean. Gave him a Dementor's Kiss, even."
Harry rubbed a hand against his mouth to keep him from saying anything more.
"Harry," Fleur said.
His heart skipped a beat.
She rarely used his first name.
"I know about Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew," she said, her mouth twitching the barest fraction. "It's been in the papers for weeks."
Harry really wished for a hole to open up in the floor and swallow him right up.
Fleur let out a small laugh. "You're cute when you're flustered, you know that?"
If he wasn't sure if Fleur saw him as a child before, he was absolutely certain now.
"That was Edel?"
"Yeah, you did hear me call her that, didn't you?" Harry asked him, his eyes shifting to stare at the sky for a second before he walked past Sirius.
"I knew she was French and older but her," he said, gesturing to where they had just run into Edel's family, "that? And here I thought James had set his sights too high…You don't do anything by halves, do you, Harry?" Sirius said, blinking, shaking his head and tossing one more look over his shoulder.
Harry stuffed his hands in his pockets and then shrugged before continuing to move again. "It's just Edel."
Sirius tugged on his jacket, spinning Harry around. "That wasn't just anything!"
"Look, it's just Edel and we're at the Quidditch World Cup," he said, removing his jacket from his godfather's grasp. "Let's get to our seats and meet up with the rest of my teammates."
"You're not getting out of this that easily," Sirius said, taking two quick steps to catch up to Harry. "Edel is the only girl you've talked about this summer."
Harry rolled his eyes. "We've only spent a few weeks together this summer, Sirius. Between my training and you doing whatever you fancy, we've not exactly had much time to talk."
"And whose fault is that?" Sirius arched an eyebrow.
Harry paused his step so he could give Sirius a flat stare. "Do you want to go back to Grimmauld, drink some tea and share feelings all night or do you want to get to our seats and watch the World Cup?" he asked dryly before carrying on with the crowd heading to the stadium.
Sirius jogged to keep up. "Don't think we aren't going to talk about this after the match is over!"
"Don't think I've forgotten about Edel," Sirius said as he sat down across from Harry.
Harry looked up from his Quidditch magazine as he stuffed his mouth full of Dobby's delectable dinner. "Figured you had. I doubt any of the Irish drank as much as you did last night. Noticed you weren't up when I ducked out for training today."
"Harry, Harry, Harry," Sirius said, shaking his head. "If you thought drinking could distract me from something as important as women, then you've a lot to learn."
Harry's eyes looked up at the ceiling. He finished chewing the bite, swallowed, and then forked another indecent amount of food into his mouth. He then turned back to his magazine, but before he could read a word, it slipped from beneath his fingers and floated away from him.
"I was reading that," he said, scowling at Sirius.
Sirius tutted at Harry. "You can pick out your new gear after you tell me why you call Fleur, Edel."
Harry shrugged and tried to casually play off the question. "I read about Edelweiss in the library one time. It's a flower. And her name means flower, so..." he said, dropping his eyes to his plate.
Sirius sighed. "You know...I thought I'd save this conversation for when you were a bit older," he said, pushing his plate away. "But it looks like you're going to need it even earlier than James did."
"What are you talking about?" Harry said, knitting his eyebrows.
Sirius covered his face with his hand for a moment before running it through his hair. "Harry," he said, his tone heavy enough to catch Harry's attention. "If you're pursuing a girl like Edel, being good at Quidditch and doing fairly well at school isn't enough."
"I'm not-look, I told you. It's just Edel," Harry said with a shrug. "We're friends. Or...something. She gets annoyed with me for doing well in Runes when I barely crack open the book and gets downright pissed when I beat her in Arithmancy. But we also sort of...joke around a bit, you know?" A silly grin formed on his face at the thought.
"Right," Sirius said, raising one eyebrow as he stared at him. "Well, for a girl like that-gorgeous, talented, and driven. She's probably never settled for anything and she never will. If you want to catch her attention someday, showing up and putting in a half-hearted effort won't be enough."
"I'm not trying to date her," Harry said again. The phrase was beginning to feel like a daily mantra he had to say to Sirius.
"Listen to me, Harry. Whether or not you want to date her or any other woman is your decision," Sirius said, his grey eyes solemn. "But it's important for you to know that, while you may have taken on some of Lily's attributes, you've also got some of your father in you as well. He relied on his natural smarts, too. He worked hard at Quidditch, and he was always pretty popular. But, to catch Lily, that wasn't enough."
Harry was listening intently now, his plate long forgotten as he wondered where Sirius was going with this.
"James had to grow up. Your mother wasn't giving him the time of day. Maybe she thought he was wasting his potential or maybe his antics just grated on her. I never got around to asking," Sirius said with a sad smile. "But I'm telling you, Harry. Like Lily, Edel won't be interested in you just because you're good at Quidditch or because you're Harry Potter. The same way Lily didn't like James because he was a great chaser or because he was Head Boy. It wasn't about the achievements for her, it was about the man he became."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked quietly, shifting in his seat, not meeting Sirius's eyes.
"Think of it like Quidditch. If you just showed up to practice, went through the motions and then played the scheduled games, you'd be a pretty good seeker," Sirius said, awaiting Harry's assent.
Fred and George immediately came to mind. They were good beaters, but if they'd decided to be serious about Quidditch they could have been great. It just wasn't their passion. Harry slowly dipped his chin, ready for Sirius to get to the point of the metaphor.
"But if you want to get to World Cup levels, showing up and just doing what you're told isn't going to be enough. Your natural talent will only take you so far. The rest is discipline, dedication, and working your tail off."
"Okay…" Harry said as he stared at him, his lips pinched together.
Sirius leaned forward, edging closer to Harry. "James figured it out towards the end of his Hogwarts years. He grew up, put his nose to the grindstone, and made the most of his talent. And you better believe Lily noticed him then. He used to call her flower sometimes too, you know," Sirius said, his eyes light with amusement.
"Maybe this will be the way to get yours. I'm not saying it's guaranteed," he said softly, regret flashing in his eyes. "Life doesn't work like that. But if you don't give it your all, at least you'll have no regrets."
The slight change in Sirius' voice made Harry look up.
"I didn't smarten up and figure it out at Hogwarts. Dunno if I ever did," Sirius said, leaning back in his chair and staring off as though lost in thought. "Not until it was too late, anyway. I lost the girl I should have snatched up."
This was the first time Harry heard him speak of any woman, and he couldn't help but ask, "What was her name?"
"Marlene," he said, tracing a spot on the wooden table. "Marlene McKinnon."
"Wh- what happened to her?" Harry asked carefully.
Sirius looked away as he answered, "You-Know-Who wiped out her whole family."
Harry didn't know what to say to that. "I'm sorry," he said, hating how inadequate his words were. "I had no idea."
Sirius nodded as if by reflex. "It's fine. Been quite a few years," he said, clearing his throat. "Just smarten up while you have the chance, Harry. Do what you can or you might live to regret it."
He tapped his wand to the magazine and sent it floating back. "Finish up dinner. I'm-I'm going to go check on Buckbeak," he said and then left the room, his half-eaten plate still sitting in front of the seat he'd vacated.
Harry stared at it for a moment before turning his attention back to his own dinner. He forked another mouthful without really paying attention, his Quidditch magazine laying forgotten as he mindlessly ate the rest of his food. All the while, Sirius' words played over and over in his head.
He had a lot to think about.
Harry took a deep breath in and opened the classroom door.
For the first time in the past four years of summer school, he was the first person to arrive.
He'd taken great care to set his alarm early this time, Sirius' words last summer having the desired impact. He wasn't exactly fighting Hermione's spot in the academics department, but he was certainly trying harder. He'd been able to sit his OWLs in June with the 5th years and was on track to start his NEWT studies.
But none of that was why he was early today. No, he'd only wanted to be prepared, to do his best.
Last summer he'd made a right arse of himself the first time he'd come face to face with Fleur, and unfortunately, he never fully recovered over the following six weeks. They'd still bantered as they'd always done; Fleur with a general air of annoyance, Harry with a general air of mischief. But something was slightly off and he hadn't been able to put a finger on it. As though he'd been trying too hard, laughing too loud, talking too much.
Whether Fleur had noticed or not, she'd never said. But Harry had noticed. And he'd come mentally prepared this year.
He'd be cool, calm, and collected.
A hand on his shoulder made him startle.
"Désolé!" Fleur said with a bit of laughter in her voice. "Sorry, sorry, I only wanted to say hello."
"Hello," Harry said a bit pointedly. He straightened himself out before gesturing for her to take a seat.
"Are you still on British time, Flem?" Fleur said, sitting down beside him. "You're here awfully early."
"Funny," Harry said with a dry smile. "But no, I've decided to take up some better habits this year, actually."
"Oh?" Fleur said, propping her chin up on her fist and pretending to look very interested. "Do share, s'il vous plaît."
Harry's eyes shifted over her face for a moment, disappointed to note that she was somehow even more beautiful than last year. But no matter. He'd still be cool, calm, and collected.
"Quidditch is important," he said, glancing away from her. "But so are other things."
The interest on her face seemed to turn genuine now. "Such as?" she said, sitting back against her chair.
Harry shrugged. "This," he said, gesturing to the classroom. "This is important. School, working hard."
"And have you been working hard?" Fleur said, leaning a bit closer to him.
He only shrugged. "Guess we'll have to wait and see."
Students were quickly bustling into the classroom at this point, cutting off the chance for further conversation. They had Ancient Runes first up this year, but Harry had come mentally prepared for that, as well.
"What?" Fleur said, grabbing Harry's pretest out of his hands as they walked out into the corridor after class. "Only a few points lower than me!"
"Well, don't sound so proud of me," Harry said, unable to keep the smug grin off his face.
"Tell me you've been studying over the year, Flem. This better not be stupid luck," she said, brandishing his paper in front of him.
Harry gently pulled it from her grasp. "I may or may not have cracked open the book this summer."
Fleur pursed her lips.
"What?" Harry said with a laugh. "I knew you were competitive, but this is becoming a bit unhealthy, don't you think?"
"Oh, shut up," she said with a roll of her eyes.
When Harry continued walking beside her instead of heading off to his dorm, she shifted her head towards him with a frown. "Is the world ending? Are you going to spend your afternoon in the library with me instead of on your broom out in the sun?"
Harry let out a bark of laughter. "No, that's where I draw the line," he said, stuffing his test in his bag. "I'm just getting a book for later, then heading out for a fly. Maybe instead of studying you could join me?"
Fleur gave him an unimpressed look. "In your dreams, Potter," she said as they entered the library.
She turned on her heel and walked away to pick a table to study at. And as Harry watched her, he finally let the stupid grin he'd been holding back show on his face.
"You've no idea, Edel," he said, shaking his head. "No idea."
Sensing someone's approach, Harry looked up from the array of books he had laid out on the table he'd been solely inhabiting since he'd finished his early breakfast.
"You know it's sunny outside, right, Flem?" an amused voice asked.
Harry's quill stilled at the voice. He'd known it was only a matter of time before they'd run into each other. When he'd seen Fleur step out of that blue carriage along with the other Beauxbatons students a few weeks ago, his entire world had seemed to freeze for a moment.
She was here. At Hogwarts, for a whole year. He'd written to Sirius at once, not even bothering to play it cool, calm, or collected in his letter. He'd been bloody thrilled, and had wanted to share it with someone.
He'd tried to find her after dinner that first night but she'd been taken away with a large group back to the Beauxbatons carriage. He hadn't had much luck the next day, either. Or the one after that. Pretty soon, a week had gone by with no interaction. They didn't share any classes and her school usually sat at the Ravenclaw table during mealtimes. And though Harry had tried to catch her eye on more than one occasion, he'd always come up unsuccessful. At one point, he did it so often that Hermione glared at him and claimed he was acting like every other lovesick idiot drooling after Fleur Delacour, the part-Veela.
Harry was not lovesick, and he most definitely was not drooling. He'd never explained his relationship with Fleur to any of his Hogwarts friends, and for some reason, he didn't want to start now. His and Edel's relationship was...theirs. And Harry liked it that way. He only wished he could have the chance to speak to her alone.
But now, only a few days after Halloween, she'd finally sought him out herself. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.
Fleur sat down in the chair opposite him, dropping a half dozen books on the table as she did so. "You're studying?"
"Yes," Harry said, not looking back up at her as he continued to make notes.
"And you know that it is samedi?" she said, a teasing lilt to her voice.
Harry huffed out a breath as his quill stilled. "Yes, it's Saturday, and it's sunny. I've been here since 6:30 AM. I had breakfast, I worked out, then I finished my Transfiguration homework," he said, still not looking at her. "Hopefully, I have enough time for a fly before lunch and my next assignment."
Harry shifted his gaze back to the passage he was referencing from the book quickly. He wasn't sure what annoyed him more. The fact that she was teasing him about his work habits or the fact that she'd been at Hogwarts for two weeks and hadn't made a modicum of effort to talk to him until now.
Fleur raised her eyebrow and then leaned forward so she could see the book he had open. "NEWT material? But you're in 5th year."
"Yeah," Harry replied, trying to get the last bit of his sentence finished.
"Then shouldn't you only be writing your OWLs?"
He felt her lean over to get a better look, and Harry put down his quill to face her.
"This is one of the courses I'm trying to finish this year. With Quidditch cancelled, I can get further ahead," he said, becoming annoyed as he always did when thinking about it. "I should be able to write the Transfiguration and Charms NEWTs by Christmas. Then one more summer at Beauxbatons, and I'll just have Defense, Potions and Care left. If all goes to plan, Potions will be my only class 7th year."
"That is...rather ambitious."
Harry shrugged, "Natural talent can only get you so far. Discipline and dedication is how you make the most of it," he said, picking up his quill once more. "Or so I'm told."
His words were met with silence for a moment before Fleur spoke again. "You're angry at me."
"What?" he said, finally looking up at her.
"You've been very short with me since I sat down," she said. "Not at all like you were this summer."
Harry gritted his teeth. "Well, it was so long ago, I wouldn't remember," he mumbled.
"Ah," she said simply, nodding her head. "I thought that might be it."
"What?" he said, getting irritated now.
"You're angry we haven't talked."
"I'm not-you make it sound like-" Harry said before letting out a loud sigh. "I tried, okay? I tried to get your attention so many times that I probably look like a stalker by now."
"Whatever," he said, waving her words away. "You could have tried as well, you know."
Fleur bit her lip as she stared down at her fingers. "You're right," she said. "I'm sorry, Harry. I just...couldn't afford any distractions."
He furrowed his eyebrows in response. "Okay," he said in confusion. "And you can afford them now? After you've been named Champion?"
Her face turned a bit pale at this and Harry suddenly felt sorry for her. Knowing Fleur, she was probably wound so tight with stress, she was close to snapping.
"Congratulations, by the way," he said, his voice softer. "I know you deserve it."
She stared at him for a moment, the colour coming back to her cheeks. "Merci, Harry. Merci."
He nodded and then decided to change to subject. "So what are you studying?" he asked, frowning at her books. "I thought you said you dropped Care?"
"I did," she said, something flashing in her blue eyes that Harry couldn't decipher.
"But Madame Maxime tells me that I'd best get familiar with English creatures as the tasks have often involved them in the past." Her hand hovered over the books and her lips pursed as she grabbed the closest one and flipped open the cover.
"Did she recommend those books too?" Harry said, scrutinizing the spines of the books a little closer.
"No, I...tried to pick some myself," she said, her eyebrows drawing together in a rather cute frown.
Harry gave her a kind smile. "Mind if I...?" he asked, gesturing at the books.
"Sure," she said, nodding almost eagerly. "Any help would be appreciated."
Harry stood up and made his way to her side of the table. He looked through the large stack and separated the eight books into piles. "These are rubbish," he said, pointing to the four books on the left. "These two are… alright. And these aren't bad, but they're more encyclopedic. They'll have everything from the description of habitats to cleaning habits. Basically useless information."
Fleur gave a barely perceptible nod and breathed a visible sigh of relief. "Merci again, Harry," she said, pulling the two books closer to her.
"No problem. But if you wanted something better, I have the books one of my old Defense professors used. He marked them up with all the key info on how to defend against different magical creatures," he said. "And I know our Care professor really well. I can ask him, too."
"You have your previous professor's textbooks?" Fleur said, quirking her head to the side.
"Yeah, he was a friend of my dad's. Helped tutor me the past couple summers, as well," Harry said. "My notes for Care are around too, if you want them."
"If you can spare them, yes," Fleur said, her face lighting up. "Though, won't you need them?"
Harry shook his head and gave her a half-grin. "I wrote my OWL for it already, and I've done the written portion of my NEWTs, too. I've only got the practical exam to go, and I'm not doing that this year with Hagrid's extra duties for the tournament and all."
"That would be great then," she said with a smile as she shifted and opened the first of the two books.
"Do you want me to grab them now? They'd be better than what you have here," Harry said, his feet already moving towards the exit.
"Weren't you trying to finish your homework in time to go for a fly?" Fleur asked, her eyes narrowed slightly.
"I was, but I can always fly later too," he said with a shrug.
"If you're sure," she said hesitantly.
"I am. Just watch my stuff, yeah?" he said, stepping back from the chair.
Fleur glanced down at his work, her eyes lingering briefly on the assignment he had been working on. "Of course. Do you want me to look over this in the meantime?"
"Oh, you don't have to," Harry said with a wave of his hand. "You've got your own work to do."
"Non, it's the least I can do for the help you're giving me," she insisted.
Harry didn't push it. He doubted he could ever change her mind once it was set on something. "Thanks, Edel," he said with a smile. "I won't be long."
"You said I should come. That I wouldn't regret it. Well, I don't see any reason to be out here in the dark at this time of night, Flemmard."
"Calm down and put this on," Harry said, handing his cloak over.
"An invisibility cloak?" she asked, looking the garment up and down.
"Yes, put it on before Hagrid comes out," he said, practically throwing it on her as he overheard Hagrid shooing Fang away.
The door of Hagrid's hut creaked open just as Fleur's feet disappeared.
"Harry, great ter see yeh!" Hagrid's booming voice carried through the quiet grounds as he stepped over the threshold. "I got a real treat fer yeh tonight."
"You did say that, yeah."
Hagrid began walking in the direction of the forest and gestured for Harry to follow. "I miss yeh lately, yeh know?" he said, clapping Harry on the back and nearly causing him to topple into Fleur. "Class isn' the same without yeh."
"Oh?" Harry asked, walking fast to try and match his step with him. "How so?"
"Well, nobody likes ter volunteer ter handle the animals now, do they? Got me fifth years handling me Blast-Ended Skrewts. Always grumbling an' can' appreciate the beauty o' 'em."
"Er…and what exactly is a Blast-Ended Skrewt?" Harry said, having a sinking feeling he wasn't going to like the answer.
"Ah, bit o' a creation o' mine," Hagrid said proudly. "Made 'em by cross-breeding manticores an' fire crabs."
Harry was glad it was dark so Hagrid wouldn't be able to see the grimace on his face. "And how big are they?"
"Oh, they're wee things, no more than three or four feet."
He pitied the poor Care of Magical Creatures students. Babysitting and trying to rear an abomination that Hagrid had created would have even Harry less than enthusiastic.
"How big do you think they'll grow?" Harry asked purely to cover up the noise Fleur made when she stepped on a stick and caused it to break.
"I don' rightly know," Hagrid said, running a hand through his beard. "Eight ter a dozen feet or thereabouts?"
Oh good. Only a ten-ish foot armoured creature. Knowing Hagrid, he'd bred them for a purpose. Perhaps one of the Triwizard tasks? He'd have to make sure Fleur picked up on that.
They walked on a few minutes more, talking about this new breed of magical creature when Hagrid brought up a new topic.
"Yeh know, I was talkin' with McGonagall, an' she was telling me how proud she was o' yeh," he said, beaming down at Harry. "Dumbledore was saying yeh were the early candidate fer head boy, jus like your mum an' dad."
Harry felt his face heat up, knowing Fleur was listening in. "Still too early to say much about that, I'm sure."
"Heard she offered yeh prefect, but yeh turned it down?"
Harry rubbed the back of his neck while he walked. "Yeah, I've already got all the perks, anyway, being Quidditch Captain. Plus, they do patrols after curfew, and I'm up early to train. That doesn't work with my schedule," he said. "Minnie wasn't too upset. Not when I told her I was going to try and get her class done this year, anyway."
Before Hagrid could respond, the conversation was cut off by a sudden flash of light that shone through the trees ahead. When Harry had originally learned about the Triwizard Tournament at the opening feast, he could admit he was slightly jealous. He wanted to be able to test his abilities and compete as well.
Who in their right mind would sign up to face a dragon?
"Dragons, Papa, dragons!"
Daisy's eyes had been slowly growing heavier throughout the story, but the mention of her favourite magical creature roused her with a burst of energy. "When do I get to see dragons, Papa? I wanna, I wanna! Pretty pleeease, Papa," she asked before cutting off with a yawn.
Harry looked down at his daughter and brushed away the hair that had fallen into her eyes. "When you're older."
"Like when I'm big as Teddy?" she asked, her blue eyes wide and brimming with hope.
"When you're as big as Teddy, we'll take you," Harry agreed with a chuckle.
Daisy's eyebrows knit together and a look of intense concentration came to her face. "I'll be big like Teddy when I'm six," she declared after a moment of thought, "then Maman will see dragons with us."
A visit to Charlie wasn't out of the question. The portkey trip wouldn't be too bad for a four-year-old, but a few more years might be better. Though, Harry mused, she might be out of her dragon loving phase by then…
"I wan ride a rainbow dragon!"
Harry withheld the instinct to roll his eyes at his daughter. Everything was rainbows and dragons with her. It shouldn't have surprised him that she combined the two. "I don't think those exist, sweetheart."
"Well I want one," she said, pinching her lips together and balling her fists.
"How about I keep telling you the story and if we have time after, we'll read a book on dragons for bed?"
"Fine, but I wan Maman to read it!"
"If she's home by then," Harry placated his daughter, doubting she'd stay awake long enough to hear the end of the story, let alone anything else. His little angel was already up past her bedtime.
"The one grand-mère read Maman when she was little like me!"
"Of course," he said, running his hand down her head and along her back.
Daisy snuggled into him, ready to hear more of the story.
"So, how do you feel?"
"I can't believe it's dragons," Fleur said.
Harry nodded. "When Hagrid led us to the Forbidden Forest, I was thinking Acromantulas, personally," he said.
"That would have been better."
"I'm not sure you're going to like those Skrewts in a few months, either," he said with a sympathetic frown. "No way those aren't ending up in a future task. Might want to look at them sometime."
Fleur handed back Harry's cloak and then hugged her arms to herself. "Thanks for bringing me, Harry, you didn't have to," she said quietly.
"Of course I did," he said. "I heard Hagrid and Charlie discussing it and thought you should see what you'll be facing. Do you have any ideas on how to handle them yet?"
Fleur stared off back towards the forest. "Non."
"Did you want me to get whatever books I can from Hagrid and meet you in the library tomorrow after breakfast?"
She didn't reply.
Harry waited a few seconds longer before noticing that Fleur kept staring back in the direction of the forest.
"Oui?" she said, turning back to look at him.
He took in the sight of her, face white as a sheet. "Are you okay?"
"I...I don't know."
She seemed to fold in on herself a bit as she said the words aloud, looking younger somehow than he'd ever seen her.
Harry shifted towards her as if by reflex, but then hesitated, not knowing if he should give her a hug...or put his hand on her...or do something to provide her with a bit of comfort. In the end, he chose to awkwardly pat her on the back of her shoulder.
She turned to fully face him but didn't comment on his gesture. "Merci for tonight, Harry. I should get back to the carriage but I'll join you for breakfast. I'd appreciate your assistance with research, but you've already been a large help..."
Harry shook his head before she could finish. "It's no problem, I don't mind helping."
Fleur looked at him for a moment before closing the distance between them and giving him a brief hug. "Merci," she said into his ear.
Harry stilled at the contact. It had been so sudden and unexpected that he hadn't even had time to reciprocate before she was pulling away.
He knew there was a stupid smile on his face as he watched Fleur head back to her carriage and give him a small wave. At first, he hadn't been sure if tonight would be a good idea. But now, he was certain it had been worth it.
For more reasons than one.
"An egg! An egg," Fleur said, pacing back and forth in front of their table in the library. "What am I supposed to do with an egg?"
Harry could see Madam Pince giving Fleur a dirty look and got up to guide her gently back into her seat.
"I know this is all...very frustrating," Harry said, trying to be careful with his words. "But don't you think you're stressing out a bit too much here?"
Fleur shot him a look of disbelief. "How do you mean, exactly?"
"Well, it's just," he said, already regretting having opened his mouth, "the second task isn't until February, Edel. That's nearly three months away."
At this, Fleur let out a biting laugh. "Three months? Three months?" she said, her voice nearly hysterical. "Not all of us get by perfectly fine with procrastination, Flem. Some of us have to put in hard work to get to where we want to be."
The words stung more than Harry cared to admit. He shifted his eyes away from her and opened up a textbook to give himself something to do. "Right," he said, flipping through a few pages. "That's me. Flemmard Potter-lazy, slacking-"
"Stop it," Fleur said, closing the book softly over his hands. She shut her eyes and exhaled a long breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that, I know you've changed. You've helped me so much this year already. I'm just...I'm worried, Harry. I'm worried, and I'm so, so stressed. And I know it's a problem, alright?"
Harry stared at her for a moment, his lips parted. "Why do you do this?" he said, quietly. "Why do you put so much pressure on yourself? You're already leading the tournament-the fact that you're even participating in it is more than most people can say."
Fleur shook her head. "No, It's...it's not enough," she muttered. "It's never enough."
"To who?" Harry said, feeling anger on her behalf.
She shrugged helplessly. "Everyone, Harry. Me," she said, leaning back against her chair. "Look, it doesn't matter, okay? Stress is good. It pushes me."
"Punches you in the face, more like," Harry said, not pleased with her answer. "You work harder than anyone I've ever met, and I'm friends with Hermione Granger."
At this, Fleur raised an eyebrow. "Viktor's girl?"
Harry stared at her in confusion. "What?"
"Viktor," Fleur said again. "Krum? He stares at her all the time, haven't you noticed?"
Harry wasn't sure how the conversation had gotten here, but he shook his head. "No, I don't often look to see where Viktor Krum is staring," he said, feeling a bit annoyed at the fact that Fleur apparently did.
She looked him up and down. "Someone isn't pleased," she said in a matter-of-fact way. "Do you fancy her?"
Harry couldn't help the groan that escaped his mouth. "Why does everyone assume that?" he said. "No, okay? I don't. Absolutely not. Never. Hermione's practically my sister!"
"Okay, okay, calmez-vous," Fleur said with a small laugh. "So she will not be accompanying you to the Yule Ball, I take it?"
"What? No," Harry said, looking at her as if she were mad. "I've only just heard about the stupid thing in Transfiguration today, anyway."
"Stupid thing?" Fleur said with an unimpressed look. "You speak such beautiful words sometimes, Flem."
Harry waved a dismissive hand. "I doubt I'll even be going," he said.
He shrugged. "Not really my thing," he said, staring down at the table so he could avoid her eyes.
Fleur nodded slowly. "Fair enough."
Harry shifted his eyes up again. "You'll be going, I assume," he said. "Heard Davies asked you."
Fleur stared at him for a moment. "Yes, he did ask," she said with a small frown. "How did you hear already? It just happened today."
He gave a small humourless chuckle. "Most anything to do with Quidditch, I hear about pretty fast."
Fleur stared at him for a moment. "I haven't given him an answer yet though," she said. "I've had a few other offers as well."
"Well...a little more than a few."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I bet at least half the blokes in the school asked you the first day alone, Edel."
Fleur scoffed. "Whatever, it's not important," she said. "They don't even know me, they just like how I look."
"Or...maybe they like how you're a Triwizard champion?" Harry suggested.
"Then they can take Viktor or Cedric instead."
Harry let out a loud laugh that had Fleur cracking a grin of her own and Madam Pince threatening to kick them out.
Harry closed his eyes as he felt the brisk wind whipping across his face. It was freezing out, but he hadn't bothered with any heating charms. The cold air caused a rush of adrenaline to pump through his veins as he ascended higher and higher towards the sky.
Nothing in the world was quite like flying. It brought him so much thrill and yet so much peace at the same time. Harry often marvelled at the fact that for the first eleven years of his life, he hadn't even known such a thing could exist. But he couldn't imagine a life without it now.
As he circled around the Quidditch pitch a few times, Harry spotted a figure walking onto the field. He didn't pay them any mind, at first, assuming It was someone coming outside for a spot of fresh air from the ball.
A few laps later, however, they were still standing there.
Harry squinted his eyes before turning his broom in the opposite direction and descending to the ground in a rapid dive.
"Fleur?" he said, gracefully hopping off his broom and walking towards her. "What are you doing here?"
Harry had to blink his eyes a few times as he took in the sight of her. Bloody hell, she was beautiful. Well...she was always beautiful, but she was especially beautiful right now. Her blonde hair up in some complicated twist, her robes a silvery-grey sort of colour, her dark blue eyes bright, shining and somehow even more breathtaking than usual.
He could feel himself reverting to thirteen again, all tongue-tied and flushed.
Fleur wrapped her arms around herself from the cold. "Figured I might find you here."
"Didn't you bring a date to the ball?" he said.
She rolled her eyes. "Roger Davies," she said. "His company was...rather unsatisfactory if I were to put it very, very mildly. The night was supposed to be a fair bit of fun, but it was rather boring if I'm being honest."
Harry forced himself not to grin in response. Instead, he cleared his throat. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said.
"You look very sorry, yes," Fleur said, one eyebrow raised.
His grin finally slipped onto his face, but he only shrugged. "So, what brings you out here on my territory?" he said in a teasing voice.
Fleur let out a soft sigh. "I don't know…since this night was such a waste of time," she said, looking around. "Thought I might finally take you up on that offer."
Her eyes shifted to the broom in his hand.
"What...you mean flying?" Harry said, suddenly feeling very excited. "Why the sudden interest?"
"Well," she said, smoothing down the front of her robes. "You've taken an interest in academics this year...I thought I might reciprocate with the flying."
Harry laughed. "All right, then," he said, leaning against the handle of his Firebolt. "Have you got a broom, or are you planning on stealing mine?"
"Thought I could borrow yours if you'd be willing to part with it."
He never let anyone ride his Firebolt. But in that moment, he couldn't have stopped himself handing the broom over if he'd tried. "Anything for you, Edel," he said with a grin, wondering if she knew just how much he meant it.
"Merci," she said, bowing her head slightly.
Harry watched as she carefully mounted the broom and drifted steadily upwards. She didn't go very high. Nor very fast. In fact, her laps around the pitch were taking forever to finish due to her slow pace.
Starting to feel a bit impatient, he waved his arms to get her attention and she flew down to meet him.
"Yes?" she said, her hair and robes still perfectly in place. "Anxious from your separation already?"
"You said you wanted to cure your boredom, not enhance it," Harry said, ignoring her jab. "You fly like an 80-year old grandmother."
Fleur opened her mouth in outrage and crossed her arms. "Well-perhaps that's what I'm aiming for."
"You're making me want to fall asleep just watching you. Come on," he said, mounting the broom and patting the space behind him.
She frowned at him. "What?"
"Ride with me, come on," he said, patting the broom again. "I'll cure your boredom in no time."
She bit her lip, her eyes shifting from him to the broom several times.
"What, are you afraid?" Harry said in a sly voice.
At this, Fleur's head snapped up. Her eyes were filled with a fierceness that might have made anyone else shrink away. But Harry only smiled.
"You are mad if you think so," she said through gritted teeth as she joined him on the broom. "Now enough nonsense. Show me what you can do."
Harry felt the warmth of her arms around his waist, and he took in a deep, steadying breath to calm his own nerves. She was way too close to concentrate but with practised ease, he forced himself to stay focused on the task. He wanted to show her the time of her life.
And that was exactly what he did.
Through every rapid dive and pull upward, every barrel roll, loop, and spin, he pushed his broom as fast and as high and as low as it could go, the winter air causing their breaths to come out in gasps and their faces to sting in pain. But it was exhilarating. Every second of it.
When Harry finally landed the broom, they practically fell over from the tightness in their muscles.
Fleur laughed in response, her cheeks and nose flushed crimson. "Harry," she breathed, stumbling into him and wrapping her arms around him for support.
He caught her, shutting his eyes and holding her close for a moment, the scent of her hair invading his nostrils. "So, what did you think?" he said into her ear. "Still bored?"
Fleur leaned back and stared at him, her eyes shining bright and lips parted. "Not anymore," she said, her words carried away in the winter wind.
"You did great, Edel. First place in both tasks!"
Fleur beamed in response. "Thanks," she said, stepping forward and wrapping her arms around him.
She was still damp from the lake, but Harry barely registered it as he hugged her back.
"The grindylows," Fleur said as she released him. "They came for me, but I handled them. The Defence book you gave me was magnifique!"
"I'm glad it helped," he said, feeling pleased. "Though I'm sure you would've handled them regardless. You're brilliant with a wand."
"Merci, Harry, but the books Madame Maxime gave me and the ones I found on my own were rather poor. If it wasn't for you, I-"
Whatever else Fleur was going to say was cut off by a silver-blonde blur colliding and latching onto her leg.
"Ah, Harry, meet my little sister, Gabrielle," Fleur said as she patted her head and ran her fingers through her hair.
The little girl disentangled herself, looking at her older sister as though she'd just been stabbed in the back. "Gabby," she said firmly, stomping her heel before turning to Harry. "Fleur kept saying she knew Harry Potter but I thought she was just teasing me." She shot her sister another nasty look and then smiled brightly at Harry.
Fleur opened her mouth to retort but Gabby immediately cut her off.
"I'm a big fan of yours. Ever since you made Seeker in your first year. Youngest in a century!" she said, gushing. "I'm soooo jealous; I can't wait to play! But Maman and Papa won't let me fly anything more than an old Comet." She pinched her lips together and scrunched her nose.
The girl was talking so fast Harry struggled to keep up. But he did catch one thing.
"Fleur talked about me?" he asked, a grin tugging on his lips.
"Non," Fleur said.
"Oh yeah," Gabby said at the same time. "Every summer after wasting her time at Beauxbatons."
Fleur made to place her hand over her sister's mouth but Gabby slipped out of reach and bounced away.
"Always complained how you'd go fly until dark and then beat her at Arithmancy."
Gabby dodged Fleur's next attempt to get control of her. "But flying is the best. I'd do it all day, every day if Maman wasn't so mean," she pouted, jutting out her bottom lip.
Harry laughed. "You like flying?"
"Oui! There's nothing better! Can I ride your Firebolt, Harry? Can I? Can I? Please, please, plllleeeaaaassssseeee!" The girl bounded right in front of him, widening her big blue eyes more than should be fair.
Harry, faced with the impossibility of telling Gabby 'no', had to try something. "Er...are you just asking because I let Edel go for a fly with me?"
Gabrielle's jaw lowered slowly at that. If the earlier knife in the back hadn't been bad enough, it seemed Fleur had just twisted it. "You flew on a Firebolt, with Harry Potter, and you didn't tell me?"
Harry could see Fleur was searching for a way to mollify her sister, but he only grinned and decided to pile on. "Edel was just embarrassed," he said, giving the girl a wink. "I'd never heard someone scream and shriek so much. I'm surprised she wasn't heard all the way across the Channel."
Fleur scoffed loudly. "I did not!"
"Ha!" Gabby said, pointing a finger at her. "I knew it! You never fly because you're sccccaaarrreeed."
Fleur glared at Harry before turning her ire on Gabby. "I'm not scared," she hissed at her. "Besides, I flew it solo first, didn't I, Flem?"
"You let her fly on your Firebolt by herself?!" Gabby shrieked. "Does that mean I get to, as well?"
Harry chuckled. "Well, you can't go flying all half-soaked, now can you? You'll freeze to death," he said. He wasn't planning on letting her anywhere near his Firebolt on her own, but she didn't need to know that. "Maybe if Edel wants to supervise, you can go get changed, and I'll take you up and give you a proper tour of the castle?"
Gabby was practically vibrating on the spot. "S'il vous plaît, sœur, s'il vous plaît," she said before turning to her sister. "We can go, right?"
Fleur sighed. "If we must," she said, mouthing a small 'thank you' to Harry above the girl's head.
"Yes!" Gabby darted forward and wrapped herself around Fleur in a tight hug. After releasing her, she grabbed her older sister's hand and began to tug her towards the carriage.
"Walk us to the carriage, Flemmard?" Fleur asked while fondly gazing at her sister.
"Of course." He moved and fell into step behind her, their pace quickened by the overly eager Gabby.
"So Gabby," Harry said, glancing down at her. "What position are you going to play?"
"Seeker for three years and then switch to chaser," she said over her shoulder as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Need the arm strength to build before you switch?"
Gabby stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face Fleur, hands planted on her hips. "You didn't tell me he was so smart!"
Harry had to cover his mouth with his hand to stifle the laughter threatening to burst out.
"He understands Quidditch. I don't see how that makes him smart," Fleur huffed.
"Then you must be an imbecile! Two years younger, always flying instead of studying, and he still beats you at Arithmancy," Gabby said snottily.
She had to dodge her sister's attempt to grab her, and after successfully ducking Edel's hand, she sprinted away toward the carriage.
Fleur raced after her spitfire of a sister, and with the way the little girl evaded her, Harry thought she just might have a future in Quidditch. If she could dodge like this on a broom, he doubted anyone would be able to hit her with a bludger.
Harry jogged on after them as he heard Fleur yell after her sister. "Come back here, brat."
If anything, it would be a fun time. Teaming up with Gabby, he could certainly enjoy an afternoon of teasing Fleur.
The sun still shone bright as the evening sun began to wane. The day was warm, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Yet for the weather to match Harry's mood, it would have to be a cold, wet day of torrential downpour.
He walked beside Fleur with his hands stuffed in his pockets, little to no words being exchanged between them as they took one final stroll around the Black Lake.
"I know I've said it already," Fleur said, turning her head towards him, "but thank you, Harry. I wouldn't have won the tournament if it hadn't been for your help."
Harry shook his head. It wasn't the first time she'd said it and his response was always the same. "It was all you," he said, bumping his elbow against hers. "I just helped a bit with your preparation."
"A bit? The dragons, the notes of the exact creatures to be aware of and how to combat them. I only beat Cedric and Viktor to the Cup by a few seconds because I knew how to handle that Skrewt!"
"You're the one with the trophy and winnings. You won't see my name anywhere," he said before giving her a small smile. "Just Edel Delacour."
Fleur clicked her tongue softly and then turned off the path towards the tree at the edge of the lake that the two of them often sat under.
"So...you're graduating this term, yeah? Not studying at Beauxbatons this summer?" Harry asked after they had gotten comfortable. They were seated a few feet apart on the ground, hidden under the shade of the tree.
"Non, you'll have to suffer without my magnificence," she said, giving him a teasing grin. "How will you pass Runes without my help?"
Harry palmed a rock he'd been eyeing and brought it forth to his fingers. "I figured that, yeah," he said quietly. "I won't be there either. I'm going to study with Remus and then take the NEWTs."
"Just because I'm not there, or...?" she said, looking over at him with one eyebrow raised.
He shrugged. "It wouldn't be the same," he said, not bothered that he was admitting it aloud. "But I also want to spend the time with Sirius and Remus, as well. I know they'd prefer to keep me around this summer instead of spending half of it away from them."
Fleur hummed in agreement. "Maman and Papa always said the same."
Harry nodded as he threw the rock, watching it arc and create a small splash followed by several ripples. "What are you going to do on your first summer of freedom, then?"
"Look for work," she said, shifting her gaze towards the lake. "I'd already been applying places,but winning the tournament has given me some more opportunities."
Harry gave a small chuckle. "I'll bet," he said. "Got one you're really hoping for?"
"Well, I originally wanted to join Gringotts and train as a Curse Breaker, but...a different option opened up recently that I'm considering."
Harry grabbed another rock and whipped it harder into the lake. "Not going to do any travelling or take a trip to celebrate being done first?"
"Non, I'm going to spend time with my family while I sort out picking a career," Fleur said, bringing her knees up and wrapping her arms around them. "What about you? Are you travelling this summer or just staying around to study and train?"
Harry leaned back against the trunk of the tree. "Going to a private island that Sirius inherited-yeah, I know. It's this whole thing," he said at the look on her face. "I'm only back just before the term starts to write my NEWTs and make the train. A summer with family, like you."
He paused for a second before adding, "In case it matters...I can't receive any owls there," he said, not looking at her. "You could owl me when I'm back at Hogwarts, if you wanted."
She didn't respond right away so Harry glanced back up to see her staring at him.
"Perhaps I will," she said, giving him a warm smile. "You made this year really great, Harry."
He tried to return the smile, but it came out a bit strained.
This was going to be the last time he'd ever see her. Harry would be off busy with his studies and Quidditch. She'd be off with her family and starting her career. And whatever she chose to do, he knew without a doubt that she'd be successful. She'd meet a man and fall in love, and the rest would be history.
He'd considered trying to open up to her, trying to start a relationship, but what would that look like? Letters and possibly Hogsmeade weekend visits? A girl out of school with a guy two years younger. It was difficult enough for anyone to try and make that work. But all that aside, he'd be mad to think she'd ever be interested in him in the first place. With her academic excellence, her incredible beauty, her charming personality, not to mention the fact that she had just won the prestigious Triwizard Tournament. He just couldn't picture it.
Fleur had never flirted, she'd never given any indication he was anything more than a friend. They'd started as assigned partners and then fell into an easy friendship. And he'd liked Edel, but what guy his age wouldn't?
But this? Months and months of this. Whatever this was.
This felt like more than just a schoolboy crush.
But what did he know?
Harry sighed and threw another rock into the lake. Their time together was coming to an end. In just a few short hours, she would head back to Beauxbatons and he'd head back into the castle. And his life would move on, Edel free.
"There's one thing I've wanted to ask you for a long time, Harry," Fleur said, breaking him out of his thoughts.
He looked up, catching her impossibly blue gaze. "Yeah?" he said, his voice coming out a bit gruff.
She licked her lips, a small frown marring her forehead. "Why do you call me Edel?" she asked, her eyes searching his.
Harry swallowed hard and turned away, staring out over the lake.
Of course, she had to ask.
Now of all times.
He'd been just a few minutes away from never having to acknowledge it, at all.
Harry shook his head and kept his gaze forward, unsure of how to respond. He'd only given the barest explanation to Sirius, not keen on admitting the full truth. But should he give it now? Would he even be able to lie to Fleur at this point?
"You know why I called you Flemmard," she said, tilting her head slightly to the side. "But I've never understood Edel... and always wondered."
Harry looked down at his feet. He didn't have anything to lose, he supposed. "It's stupid...really. You don't need to hear it."
He could see her frown out of the corner of his eye, and she reached over to place a hand on his arm. "Stupid or not, I'd like to hear it. You've not stopped calling me it for years."
Harry looked up into her inquisitive eyes and then sighed before squaring his shoulders. Even now he couldn't deny her. "Fine, but don't laugh or tease me for it."
"I won't," Fleur said, squeezing his arm with the hand she had placed on him.
He cleared his throat and began to explain. "Right, so...before Sirius, I didn't have a great home life," he said, feeling a bit awkward. He'd never discussed this with anyone before. "But one of the places I'd find solace in was the library…"
"The library?" Fleur said, arching an eyebrow.
"Yeah. It was quiet, and I could hide away and just flip through the books for as long as I wanted," Harry said with a shrug.
"Ah," she said with a nod. "Not that I didn't believe it, but… A little Flemmard voluntarily studying in the library..."
Harry couldn't help but laugh. "No, no studying. I liked to read the books with pictures in them. The ones about the muggle World Wars were my favourite. Guns, tanks, helmets, uniforms, and all that. Things that seemed cool to a boy, you know?"
Fleur smiled at him. "I can see that, yeah. I used to be fascinated by dragons as a girl. Maman would let me read books about them at bedtime."
He could picture the scene perfectly. A younger Fleur engrossed in a book, reading it under the covers well into the night. It brought a smile to his face. "Yeah, well...after I'd flipped through them a bunch of times, I eventually, you know, read them."
"Imagine that," she said with a soft giggle. "Muggle pictures alone would get boring, wouldn't they? At least my dragons blew fire and flew around the pages. I would've watched them for hours if Maman had let me."
Harry snorted. "Still feel that way after you've seen one up close?"
She waved a dismissive hand. "It wasn't so bad. Kind of cute, really, snoring away while I stole its egg," she said, a grin forming on her lips. "But anyway, go on."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Right, so...one of the stories about German soldiers in World War II caught my eye," he said, running a hand through his hair and rubbing the back of his neck. "It said that a flower was sometimes added to their uniforms-a flower called Edelweiss."
Fleur's lips parted. "Edelweiss?" she said. "Edel…"
"Yeah." Harry tried to smile at her but he doubted it came out as one.
"Edelweiss," she tested the word again. "What does that have to do with me? I'm not German… Was it because you didn't like me at first?"
"No," he said, rolling a rock around on his palm, "not at all."
Harry exhaled heavily. He knew he'd have to share the whole story now. But maybe that was for the best. Admit things and then walk away. Let her go on with her life so that he could move on with his.
As Sirius kept telling him, there were lots of fish in the sea. Maybe once she was gone, he could find one for himself.
"Okay…then, what does it have to do with me?"
Harry took a deep breath in and exhaled before beginning. "Edelweiss only grows up above the treeline in the Alps. It was said to be the mark of a true soldier. They had to hike up the mountain in their gear and see if they could locate one, just to pin it to their uniform," he said.
Harry kept looking down at the rock in his hands. He cocked back his arm and threw it, letting all of his frustration propel it further than all the others had before continuing on.
"I'd read it again just before attending Beauxbatons, the first summer of Runes," he said. "Your name means flower, and...I don't know, even from that first class alone, I knew you were special. Driven, smart, funny, genuine," Harry shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair, scratching the back of his head after doing so.
"It just-you just-" Harry dropped his hands, his words were failing him, his mind was being swamped with emotions and his thoughts were jumbled.
He paused, collecting another rock before attempting to explain the connection. "I suppose I kept it up because I knew you were like that flower. Edelweiss. Worth risking myself for, climbing a mountain for, just to see if I had even a chance of finding it," Harry said with a shrug. He still wasn't articulating this all that well. "I don't know, I guess you reminded me of that story, so I started calling you Edel. And you never gave me cause to think you weren't."
Harry dropped the final rock, pushed himself to his feet, and turned to see Fleur looking at him. She didn't open her mouth to confess her feelings, she didn't move to make him stop, to stay. She just stared. And the lack of a response was enough of one for him.
He swallowed hard. "Au revoir, Edel," he whispered as he turned and walked back to the castle, hands stuffed in his pockets and head down.
"Will you be okay, Harry?"
Harry looked up to see Ron and Hermione staring at him. "What? Er yeah, I'll just...go find Katie," he said. "I think she's sitting with some of the new Quidditch recruits."
They both nodded and bid him goodbye before heading to their prefect duties.
Harry leaned against the wall for a moment and stared at the train ceiling. To be honest, he'd prefer to sit alone. Nearly the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team had graduated last year, including Fred and George, who'd taken him under their wing since first year and had become like brothers to him.
But they were gone now. Angelina, Alicia. All gone.
Harry'd been so busy all summer, studying, training, and getting to know his father's two best friends that he hadn't had time to think. And while he'd known this year wasn't going to be like the last, the reality of it was hitting him now like a bludger in the face.
This year was always going to be an adjustment. He and Katie had prepared for it all last term despite Quidditch being cancelled for the Triwizard Tournament. Wood hadn't been an idle former captain either, helping to find replacements. He'd encouraged Gryffindors to attend Quidditch camps and had even done some training with them in the summers. He'd needed decent chasers to work on his own skills.
Even Sirius had helped, getting Ginny and Ron-this year's keeper and a new chaser-into Quidditch camps on decent brooms. Though they weren't official members until after tryouts, he was so confident in those that had been groomed for this year's squad that he'd burn his Firebolt if they weren't all on the starting line-up.
Still, he remembered being so angry when he'd heard the news last year. Two whole terms without Quidditch! He couldn't imagine a worse fate at the time. Two-thirds of their chaser line, their beater pair and, of course, their captain and keeper had all been in their final year, when they should be at their best. Instead of dominating and winning the Cup, they were all sidelined, perhaps never being able to take to the pitch together again.
But oh, what an idiot he'd been.
He'd give anything to go back now. Even miss another year of Quidditch just to have her here again.
Harry let out a deep sigh before walking down the train corridor and searching for the emptiest compartment he could find.
"Ollie told you about Peakes and Coote, how they'd be the best bet this year and could work into a real nice duo?" Katie asked as they got off the carriage and walked towards the castle doors.
Harry looked over at her when she repeated the question. "Sorry, what?"
Katie frowned. "What's wrong with you, Harry?" she said, making him pause in his step. "You've been completely out of sorts all day. And you never even said where you were for the first half of the train ride."
Harry sighed tiredly. "I told you, I just wanted some time to myself."
"On the first day of term? After an entire summer of time to yourself?" she said, giving him a flat stare. "You look as if someone stole your broomstick."
"I'm fine, okay," he said, feeling a bit irritated now. "Just...you know, worried about this year. With the young Quidditch team and all."
Katie pursed her lips but didn't say anything more on the subject. "Well, at least we have a Quidditch season," she said as they continued walking toward the castle doors and into the entrance hall amongst the crowd of students. "How did we even manage to survive last year?"
An image of deep blue eyes and silvery blonde hair filtered through Harry's mind at her words. Of countless conversations, smiles, and laughter. Of a broomstick ride on a cold, winter night. And a warm embrace that even now set his heart aflame at the very memory.
And all the while, he'd known it would come to an end. He'd known she wasn't his to see, speak to, to touch forever.
How had he survived? How would he ever survive?
"I don't know," Harry answered.
It was the most honest thing he'd said all day.
They'd entered the Great Hall now, and Harry immediately felt a prickle at the back of his neck as though someone was watching him. It wasn't anything new. People often stared at him despite the fact that he hadn't done anything special in the past three years besides help win a few Quidditch Cups.
He ignored the feeling and kept his head down as he walked towards the Gryffindor table, taking a seat beside Ron and Hermione with Katie on his other side.
The Sorting Ceremony passed by in a blur as Harry continued to stare down at his plate, playing absentmindedly with the utensils. Dumbledore made his speech with the usual announcements, warning about the Forbidden Forest and new staff changes. Harry was just about to look up to see who the new Defense professor was when a voice cut through his boredom and made his head snap up.
"Hello, I'm Professor Delacour, and I'll be assisting Professor Flitwick this year. I'm looking forward to meeting all of you properly. I can't tell you how happy I am to be back at Hogwarts."
Harry dropped his fork, the sound echoing loudly.
A few heads turned in his direction, but he barely noticed them. His eyes were glued instead to the woman before him.
Fleur was here.
Why was she here?
Harry had to force himself to remain seated. He watched as she sat down once more after a polite round of applause from the students.
And then her eyes found his. As deep and beautiful of a blue as he remembered. And the corner of her mouth pulled upward in the tiniest grin that made every inch of him erupt in warmth.
It didn't matter.
Only one thing mattered.
Edel was here.
"And that's when I knew…" Harry looked down as he felt his daughter shift in his lap.
Somewhere through the story, she'd fallen fast asleep. And just when he'd gotten to the good part. "Flower," he said, whispering into her.
She let out a tiny groan, and Harry chuckled. He picked her up slowly, made his way up to her room and placed her in bed, pulling the covers up to her chin.
"Got bored of your story, did she?" Fleur said, peeking in through the doorway.
Harry looked upand winked at her. "Never bored, just so satisfied that she couldn't help but go to sleep, happy and content."
Fleur gave him the tiniest grin. "And just when Maman and Papa were about to be reunited."
"You're giving me that same look, you know," Harry said, walking towards her. "The one you gave me in the Great Hall that day."
"Oh?" she said, pretending to sound innocent. "Which look is that, exactly?"
"The one you shoot at me every time you surprise me," he said, greeting her with a kiss. "It always has the teeniest bit of smugness to it."
"Moi? Smug?" Fleur said, pressing a hand to her chest as he leaned back. "And what exactly was I so smug about then, do you think?"
Harry shrugged. "Maybe the fact that you'd gotten an apprenticeship with the most renowned Charms Master at the time. Or the fact that you'd made me drop my fork and make an arse of myself, staring at you, mouth agape for the whole hall to see."
Fleur grinned and leaned into him as he wrapped an arm around her. "Definitely the latter," she said, as they both stared at their sleeping daughter before looking back at each other. "She did miss all the best parts, though."
Harry raised his eyebrow at her. "Like not being allowed to date a professor? Or having those stolen moments in the office attached to Flitwick's that he definitely didn't know about?"
Fleur turned bright red even after all this time and Harry couldn't help but laugh. "Oh shut up," she whispered. "No one will ever know about that, and you most definitely will not be telling our little Marguerite."
"Daisy won't know til she's older, don't worry," he said, earning a glare from Fleur. "But if not those best parts, then I guess you meant my Quidditch Cup victories?"
At this Fleur rolled her eyes and walked out into the hallway with Harry following after her. "Yes, Harry," she said dryly. "The best parts of our relationship were watching you risk your life on a broomstick."
"Glad you agree," Harry teased. "But I thought you might've said our first Yule together. Guess you didn't like it all that much, eh?"
Fleur smiled, seemingly lost in a memory. "No, no...that was a good one," she said. "First time you met my parents, remember? And got reacquainted with my ridiculous sister."
"Oh, Gabby's always a delight. Though, I remember our first snog in your bedroom more than anything else if I'm being honest," Harry said.
"Definitely a great memory, that one," Fleur said in agreement.
They both sat down on the couch, Harry bringing his feet up to rest on the table. "But seriously, I was so nervous about the whole thing. Sirius had been teasing me, and even Remus didn't let up on it. They had me all psyched out." Harry shook his head, recalling hours of relentless harassment from those two idiots.
"Oh, there was nothing to be nervous about. It was only me," she said, lightly hitting his arm.
"Only you and your entire family," he said. "The same family of the young woman I wanted to date but couldn't, and who'd picked her career just so she could give us a shot."
Fleur shrugged as Harry pulled her closer to him. "Well, I had to do something, didn't I?" she said, raising an eyebrow at him. "You didn't even write me at all that summer. After dropping that stupidly beautiful Edelweiss story on me? I was half in love with you by then, already."
"Oi! That's not fair," he said at once, knowing he was taking the bait, but unable to help himself. "We've been over and over this. I'd told you I was out of contact. Not like I could help where Sirius had demanded we went."
Fleur merely laughed. "If you were really that desperate, you would have found a way," she said.
"Says the girl who didn't say anything to me about her feelings. Term didn't end as soon as you left Hogwarts, you know. You could've put me out of my misery. An owl, at the very least." Harry reached up with his hand and bopped her on the nose.
She ducked from underneath him and giggled. "I was quite cruel, wasn't I?" she said. "But in my defence, I was shocked by it all, all right? You know that, and I apologized for it later!"
Harry just shook his head, a smile on his lips.
"Anyway, the point is, you'll have to finish the story for Marguerite tomorrow. She needs to hear my absolute favourite part," Fleur said, leaning back against him.
"I know, I know, being named Head Boy just like my mum and dad was spec-tacular." Harry said, dusting off the place where his badge would have sat on his chest.
Fleur clicked her tongue. "I hate you sometimes."
"As long as you love me most of the time, I can handle that." Harry grinned down at his wife. "Was your favourite part when I ran up to you the second after I graduated and snogged the daylights out of you in public?"
She let out a loud laugh at the memory. "While that was a very, very defining moment," Fleur said, eyes dancing. "It's not exactly what I was referring to. Come on, Flem, don't make me tell the story myself. You know I love hearing it from you."
Harry brushed the back of his fingers across her cheek. "I know you do," he said softly before giving in to her request. "When I told you about the story of the Edelweiss, I'd left out a very important part. See...I was too embarrassed to admit that young Swiss men would often use it as the ultimate romantic gesture. Scaling up the Alps, risking their lives to present the flower to their bride. A symbol of their deepest devotion and love. Their Edelweiss."
Fleur stared at him, lips parted and eyes shining bright. "And imagine my surprise when you proposed by hand-picking a dozen of them yourself," she said, bringing a hand up to rest against his cheek.
"I know," he said with a smile. "So romantic it made you cry."
"Liar, I didn't cry," she said, wiping a tear away from her eye.
Harry conjured her a handkerchief. "Sirius called me a regular casanova when he heard, the stupid prat."
Fleur let out a soft sigh and nuzzled back into him. "I love you, Harry," she said, taking his hand in hers.
He kissed the top of her head. "I love you too, Edel," he said into her hair. "Always have, always will."