"It's funny… sometimes, different roads lead people to the same place."
Hey all, it's been a while.
This story, alongside a plethora of others, was written in support of Emily—a teenage girl suffering from a rare form of bone cancer that sadly cost her a leg. You can find this collection by joining the Harry/Fleur Discord /Ujxmcwuc3v.
A huge thank you to Taliesin19, x102reddragon and NerdDragonVoid who beta read and cleaned this chapter up. This is one of three chapters already written, I hope you enjoy!
And to Emily, if/when it makes it to you either in person or either Skype. Thank you for being so brave, I hope we could give you the happiness you deserve.
The last week of June had rolled along with nary a whisper.
His torso was a battlefield that bore the brunt of the injuries he'd sustained those nights ago. Broken blood vessels littered the flesh, turning pale skin a motley mixture of purple and red. The robe fell into place gently, though a grimace followed as Harry took to his feet for the first time in days, the weight making his heels ache.
If not for the aches, he would've assumed that the night in the graveyard was little more than a twilight-hued dream. Though every time he entertained such a notion, a residual pain rose in his chest to ensure the hope was short-lived.
The crisp makings of summer's gaze were warm on his back as he shrugged his school robes on gingerly, careful not to aggravate the fresh wounds.
Harry reached for his wand, the same that, not days ago, had its hand in dispensing the apparitions of his parents—Cedric. He plucked it from its place on the nightstand and brought it to his ear, giving it a light shake.
Nothing, he thought. Not that he'd hoped to hear anything but the deafening silence was lemon and salt in a fresh wound.
Ron cleared his throat from beyond the curtain, "You alright in there, mate?" he asked, "If you ah… need some... help." His voice was strained as his words trailed off into the uncomfortable silence between them.
"I'll be fine, thanks, mate," Harry returned, finishing the final adjustments of his robe. He stowed his wand in his pocket and set his eyes towards the bedside table.
Ron muttered something gently through the barrier that sounded conspicuously like thankful affirmation as Harry reached for one of the various potions laid before him.
Great, was his single thought as he grabbed a vial full of a deep maroon liquid that seemed more akin to sludge and smelt of ozone as he gulped it down—it didn't taste much better. He continued down the line until the potions were empty, and his mouth tasted foul before parting the curtains.
He took a quick survey of the bright alabaster of the hospital wing, "Where's Hermione?" Harry asked, "Just thought, well, you know, me getting out and all."
"She's fine," Ron replied quickly, virtually snapped, before turning to the door.
"Why do I get the distinct feeling like she's not?" Harry asked with a gusty sigh, "Come on, mate, I've been in here long enough; I don't want to get into an argument first thing."
Ron, even in all his stubbornness, chose to acquiesce at that point, "It's silly, really," he said, "Positively stupid if I'm honest."
For someone with a fanaticism for the worst team in the league, Ron Weasley's definition of stupidity was somewhat skewed.
Harry furrowed his brow, "So, are you going to tell me?"
"She's upset about Krum, alright?" He huffed and began a slow trudge to the door.
"Why?" Harry asked, "Did he do something?"
"No, no, nothing like that," Ron amended quickly, "Just.. sad, I guess. Reckons she's not gonna see him again; I reckon it's for the best, really."
"Like I said, it's stupid," Ron continued, heedless of Harry's voice, "Probably won't see him again, what with living a world away. At least not until they can appara—"
"Ron!" Harry said, though a little more forceful.
"Yeah? Oh…" Ron, to his credit, grimaced at his lack of decorum, "You know I didn't mean anything by it, mate…."
His words sent Harry's stomach, already unsettled by the plethora of potions he'd consumed, back to doing flips. The thoughts he'd been able to calm once again returned to the maelstrom that made his throat tickle and tighten and his heart beat hard in his chest.
"How's it been? You know, since..." Ron gestured around him to the Hospital Wing as they crossed the threshold and left into the hallway.
Harry shook his head, "She's not a sore loser if that's what you're wondering," he said, "We've been talking. It's just weird, I guess."
"I don't think I can guess."
"You don't want to," Harry said, "If it's all too confusing for me, you'd probably be dead by now."
"Oi!" Ron shoved Harry with his shoulder, and he tried to hide the sharp inhale of breath, "I take offence to that!"
"That was the point of the joke, yes," Harry drawled before sighing, "I just don't really want to talk about it if it's all the same, mate."
"Don't worry, I get it," Ron nodded gently, "won't hear it from me, not one word."
He doesn't get it, Harry smiled, and the pair continued walking.
"It's not stupid, by the way."
The whole 'not hearing it from me' didn't last long.
"You know, you two… your thing…."
"That thing… yes," Harry nodded with a grin, "Not to be confused with our other thing."
Ron groaned beneath his breath and toyed with his hands as hallowed halls passed them by on their way to the entrance hall, "You know I'm not good with this sort of stuff,"
Harry snorted, "If there was ever any doubt, you've gone and cleared it up."
"Piss off," he muttered, "You've just talked a lot and well… I wanted to make sure you'd be okay with everything."
There was a comfort, Harry supposed, in Ron's blunt approach, as tactless as it was. Hermione was more subtle in her attempts to weasel the information out of him, an approach that tended to slip beneath his guard when he least expected or wanted.
Ron's was an approach from the front, obvious and foreseen. Though in some ways, the dull was better than the sharp.
"I'm good, mate, I promise," Harry replied; the first bead of sweat began to make itself known on his forehead, wiped away by an inconspicuous gesture that seemed to be him simply straightening his hair. "Let's just see how this all goes, I 'spose."
With the brush of shoulders and a gentle smile, Harry felt that after such a year, the schism had finally seemed to have mended. It was that thought, as warm and comforting as it was, that brought harsh clarity back to the situation ahead of him as the pair left Hogwarts proper in favour of the grounds.
Outside of the castle, the cacophony of cries rang loud in his ears. From the lake, the Durmstrang ship, wooden and domineering, had raised its sails. The wind blew against the canvas, making the hull war against the anchor as it eagerly hoped to be on its way.
That, however, was not the sight that jarred him so.
It was the restless whinnies of the Beauxbatons Abraxans, tied to the carriages, that made his breath catch in his throat. They dipped their head into troughs to drink at the amber liquid that Hagrid no doubt provided.
Harry's eyes began to search the crowd, "Maybe you should find Fred or George…." he suggested gently from the corner of his mouth, "Or go see if Hermione's doing alright."
"Of course, mate," Ron nodded, "See you soon, yeah?"
With the final word, Ron left in a different direction, and Harry sought his own, gently pushing through the mass of bodies to try and get to the front. Vision darting back and forth in search of light blue robes and silver hair that, even in such a crowd, still stood out.
He searched and searched; the pushing got harsher, his pace quickened as he traversed the crowd with ease.
She wouldn't—couldn't leave without a goodbye, Harry rationalised. She wasn't like that. She wasn't like anyone.
"'Ello' Arry!" A familiar voice called, it had the same accent and when he turned, the same hair colour as the woman he searched for.
Except he had to look down.
Harry could've spun the younger girl around, "Gabby!" he practically cried, "I'm...do you have any idea where Fleur is? I need to see her."
"Mhmm," Gabby nodded energetically but said nothing else, smirking up at him.
"Could you tell me?"
Harry furrowed his brow, "Are you going to tell me?"
"I could," she giggled, "But that wouldn't be fun, non?"
"Okay," Harry said, trying again, the edgings of desperation audible in his voice, "Let me rephrase that; what do you want from me this time?"
"Nope," Harry said before the words had even finished leaving her lips, "We're in a crowd of people, Gabby. Need I remind you that some of these people still don't believe me?"
With the feigned caring only a child could muster, she peered up at him behind light blue eyes, "'Arry?"
Harry exhaled heavily, "Yes, Gabby?"
"That sounds like a 'you' problem."
Despite himself and the situation, a laugh left his lips. The noise made Gabrielle beam, a cute smile upon her face that wore at any resistance he might've formed. At the possibility of not seeing her again, he acquiesced far quicker than he would've liked.
Harry gave a cursory look over either shoulder to ensure no one was listening to their conversation, "And if I do this, you'll take me to her?"
"I never lie," she said. Harry had to scoff at that one.
And with that, they set off.
It was the most forceful command an eight-year-old girl could manage, urging him onwards.
"I'm not a horse, Gabby," Harry laughed. In response, she simply bucked her legs against him as if he was.
The pair drew all sorts of odd looks as Harry hid his head, giving Gabrielle a piggyback ride through the halls of Hogwarts as she commanded from his back.
Yep, Harry thought, this is definitely a new low.
"An Abraxan," she corrected.
"I'm not one of those either."
"I know that," Gabby giggled, "They're much, much faster."
"I'll drop you," Harry threatened, rearing back enough to make the girl squeal, "I'd just be happy you're getting a piggyback in the first place."
Her small, smug voice was quick to fire back, "If you drop me, Fleur will hate you," she said, "plus I'll tell her you give bad piggyback rides; she'll never want one."
"I doubt your sister wants to ride me," Harry said, cringing as the words left his lips.
Oblivious, Gabby simply chuckled, "You don't know her very well then."
The words lingered at his lips for a few moments before he had the courage to speak them, "Well, you know your sister pretty well then, yeah?"
"The bestest," Gabby declared with finality, "she's my best friend in the whole world."
"The bestest?" Harry mimicked her with a smile, "In the whole wide world?"
"The very bestest."
Harry weighed his options before he spoke again, "Well… did you she tell you why she wanted to meet me, away from everyone else that is?"
"Nope," she chirped, thumping her legs into his side, "It's a secret!"
"Do I get to know the secret?"
"Go left here!" Gabrielle ordered from his back, "And nuh-uh! If three people know the secret, it's not a secret, is it?"
"But it's a secret about me, Gabby," Harry rationalised, "Surely I get to know. I'll promise I won't tell anyone."
"I already made that promise!" The little girl exclaimed dramatically, "I used my pinky and all, and everyone knows what happens to Veela who break pinky promises."
Harry shook his head, "No, I don't think anyone knows."
Gabby leant down to his ear, her voice a tiny whisper, "I'm not allowed to tell you," she said, "But werewolves come in the night and eat them up."
A laugh freed itself from his mouth, "Who told you that?" he asked.
Gabby resumed her normal position, her voice regaining its volume, "Fleur did, right after I made the pinky promise."
"I think she's lying to you, Gabby," Harry laughed again, the mirth wracking his form made the girl bounce up and down on his back.
"How would you know," She asked, her voice laden with scepticism, "You're not a Veela."
Harry thought for a moment, "Well, what if I gave you a pinky promise not to tell her you told me?"
He could feel her shake her head from behind him, "Nope," she said, "Anyone who wants me to get eaten by werewolves can't be trusted with secrets!"
With her declaration set in stone, or at least, as stalwart as a child's word could be, they continued onwards. Kicked forward despite the pain in his arms and shoulders, twisting and turning until they ended up in a relatively quiet portion of the castle. Certainly divorced from the cacophony of chatter they'd been subject to before.
"Well… mayyyyybe…" Gabrielle started after not speaking for several moments.
"Maybe Fleur wants to..."
"Gabrielle, I'll drop you," Harry demanded, desperate for an answer as they neared closer to where Fleur was supposed to be, "Fleur will forgive me, I'm sure. I'll even tell her you broke your promise."
The gasp behind him was loud and sudden, "You wouldn't!" she cried, "The… the werewolves would eat me!"
"Then you better start telling me," Harry smiled, trying to keep it hidden in his voice, "or they'll get very, very hungry, very soon."
Gabby huffed, "Maybe she wants to kiss you!"
Her words practically knocked the wind from him; the sweat he'd beat away with Ron came back in full force. The lead weight was back in his throat, swallowing to make the terrible sensation flee.
"It's, well, we're not like that, Gabby," Harry explained gently, "Not like… kissing, just friends."
"But what if she kisses you?" Gabby chirped, urging him onwards, "What if? What if?"
"She's not going to," he laughed to shroud his anxiety, "You won't have to worry about her."
"Mmmmmmmmm, okay," she seemed to agree before chiming in again, "But what if she does, though?"
"Kissing is for people that want to, you know, go out with one another," Harry explained gently, "You'll figure it out when you're older, I suppose."
Not that I've really figured it out.
Despite not facing her, he could feel her puff her chest out in an attempt to be menacing, "So you don't want to kiss my sister?"
Harry stumbled over his words in an attempt to get them out so quickly, "I…" he murmured, "It's not all as simple as that, Gabby."
Her voice, strong and determined, cut through the air between them harshly, "I'll kick you if you hurt my best friend," she said, "and...and Maman will hurt you too, she turns into a bird when she's angry!"
"Is she a big bird?"
With a feigned gasp that slipped from his lips, Gabby was spurred onwards in the belief her words had him on the back foot, "Papa has a wand too!"
"You're joking," Harry once again attempted to hide his smile, "He… he can't have one!"
"Mhm! And he can use it too, with like, bad spells!" With every threat, she bucked on his back, enunciating her point once again with tiny kicks to his side, "And...and… I'll break my promise too! So the werewolves come, and instead of eating me, they eat you instead."
The tirade finished with the sort of smugness only a child who thought themselves a step ahead could muster. Caught amidst the high of her own threats, Harry wasn't sure she even noticed the poorly masked laughter.
When the mirth subsided, Gabrielle called at a door down the hallway, and his throat constricted all over again. As childish as it was, he battled with the feeling to simply have Gabrielle pass on a message.
He wasn't sure he was ready to say goodbye to her.
Gabrielle descended from his shoulders with a huff, and Harry turned to her as soon as she hit the ground. Her tiny fists were balled up like she was ready to fight, peering up at him with the meanest look she could form.
"You're cute," Harry smiled at her; she bristled, ready to fight back.
"I'm not cute!" She stomped, "I'm mean!"
"What about evil?"
"I'm evy—evil too!" Gabrielle said, her voice a little growl, "No hurting her or I call the werewolves."
"What if they eat you too?"
She narrowed her eyes, "I'll risk it."
With her final words, she gave a knock on the door—her fist tapping some sort of code they'd devised.
The burnished bronze knob opened with a sharp twist that made the lock screech, pulled open with a sudden eagerness.
And then there she was.
Beauty was oddly defined; Harry wasn't sure he'd ever really bothered to find out what exactly it was he liked.
And then she came.
There was an effortlessness within her, a facility for beauty he'd never seen before. It stole the breath from his lungs and held it captive in his throat. Her allure rang loud in his ears like a siren's song, the softest of melodies that made him yearn for beyond the platonic.
Be mine, it called, be mine.
Silver hair had wrapped itself in a neat bun behind her Beauxbatons hat, a single wisp of artisan-crafted tresses framed either side of her face. Her eyes were darker than Gabrielle's light blue—more emotive and, somehow, harder to decipher.
And, within an instant, the breath was stolen once again, and his heart thudded with a dull percussion in his ears.
In her mother tongue, she spoke to Gabrielle with a soft tone; Harry forewent trying to decipher familiar words and instead simply basked in her accent. The way she said her words, the little nuances that made the woman, even if minuscule.
Then, whatever her sister said to her made her laugh.
He'd never thought of laughter as infectious. He'd heard enough people talk about it. Saw the phrase through stolen glimpses of Aunt Petunia's novels he'd steal as a child. It had never meant much to him, at least, not until months ago.
Now, even though he didn't understand a word, her laughter alone made his cheeks hurt.
Whatever needed to be said to Gabrielle had been said, the little girl wrapped her arms around her sister's midriff, the pair forgetting for just a moment that Harry was present. Then, Gabrielle headed back from where they'd arrived from.
As she passed him, a single word left her lips, loud enough that Fleur could hear it clearly.
Then she skipped away, leaving them alone.
They entered the abandoned classroom, devoid of people and furniture save for the two.
There seemed to be a thousand words in his mouth and yet, none. They tasted bittersweet, too sweet, sour and harsh. What could be said to convey what he felt? Were there words yet invented?
So, in place of saying what he felt, he opted for the best he had.
"Hey," Harry said.
Smooth, Potter, Harry moaned internally, Smoooooth.
Fleur laughed beneath her hand and, true to form, gave as good as she got.
Suddenly Harry was smiling, and his throat didn't seem so constricted or his thumping heart so loud.
But then, there was silence between them. It wasn't awkward or uncomfortable. Rather it tried to say what they couldn't, it was destined to fail, but there was a momentary reprieve in the unspoken.
"I—" Harry began, though Fleur chose the exact same moment to start speaking.
With a smile that crossed her features, bright and contagious, she uttered different words than her sister, one that made scalding heat flare in his cheeks.
"A piggyback ride?"
Any hope of hiding the blush was dashed, "She told me it was the only way she'd tell me where you were," Harry defended, "Then she threatened to kick me."
She rolled her eyes in a way that was so distinctly her, "You give in to her too easily, that's why," she said, "If you don't give in, she'll give up. She just likes spending time with you."
"She's cute," Harry shrugged, "it's just easy, I guess."
Fleur fluttered her eyelashes, "Is it easy with me too?"
It was Harry's turn to roll his eyes, "You're an idiot, you know that?"
"You know all the right things to say, don't you?"
Harry laughed the way only she could evoke, "I suppose I've got some alright stuff," he said, "So."
If she noticed his fidgeting hands trying to wring out some of the anxiety, she didn't draw attention to it.
"Why here?" Harry continued for the pair, "It's certainly a long way from the carriage and, well…."
"Yes?" Fleur prompted, cocking her head ever so slight.
"Just it's not like you've got much time left," Harry breathed, "It's a long walk, that's all."
The ugly truth once again found a way to rear its head.
Fleur looked indecipherably red, "I told you I'm not a fan of crowds, I don't like getting lost in them—"
Harry thought he had an answer for that, "I'm sure you stand out in any crowd," it took his voice reaching his ears before he realised what he said, "That's sooo not what I meant," he winced.
"You're sweet," Fleur giggled, alleviating some of his embarrassment, "Not suave, but sweet. I just thought we deserved a more private goodbye, is all."
"Do we have to?"
It sounded desperate and childish, but it left his mouth before his lips had a chance to hold it in. Fleur looked confused; her head moved back a few inches as her eyelids fluttered.
"What do you mean, Harry?"
"Do we have to say goodbye?"
"I… I don't know what I mean," he sighed, "Not really anyways, you're my best friend, and I don't know how to feel."
"You're doing Ronald and Hermione a disservice," she said quietly, "You knew that, at some point, I was going to have to go."
Harry exhaled, rough and ragged, "Is that supposed to make it easier?" He said, "Because it doesn't."
The shrug of her shoulders was weak yet was still a knife in his heart, "It's not supposed to make it anything," Fleur said, "Easier, harder—nothing. It's just meant to be."
"I'm not sure that means much to me. It can't. Not really."
"I wish I had the answers, Harry," she said, "I don't. It hurts me just as much as it hurts you."
The weight of desperation seemed to settle itself on his shoulders, destined to make what was meant to be mundane into momentous, "You kissed me. Twice."
His words were simple, laden with the hope that three words would be enough. That everything that could ever be said was encapsulated in three simple words.
And for him, it was.
"I did," she nodded, though her eyes seemed intent on looking anywhere but him, "I was scared for Gabrielle, happy she was safe, happy you were safe too. I felt a lot of things; kissing you was just one of them."
It was telling to him she didn't mention the other time.
"Well, it had to mean something, doesn't it?" Harry practically pleaded, "There was so much we did, we missed lessons, talked, and laughed—"
"Because you're my friend, Harry," Fleur whispered, "And maybe I did feel something, maybe I do. But the world is such an odd place, and I don't know if I'm what you need."
Harry didn't know what exactly he felt, but whatever hope he held was slashed in a single sentence.
Fleur wrung her hands, "It's a sad truth Harry," she said, "But I live across the channel, and that doesn't always seem like much, but it is."
She took a step closer to him, "You're a friend, Harry, maybe the best I've ever had. But some things just don't work out," her voice dropped again, seemingly scared that anything louder would scare him off, "Sometimes things make you happy, it doesn't always mean they last."
Harry shook his head; disbelief etched on his features, "That's just so… pessimistic."
"I suppose I have to be, Harry," she shrugged, "I'm a Veela. What do you think the papers would say?"
"I don't care what they'd say, you know that."
"But you should," her voice implied she was on the retreat, like truths couldn't help but spill out, "because it'd hurt the both of us. The years have been rough, Harry, and you want to lean on me, I get it. But I'm a passing interest, trust me, and I've got my own problems, and I can't ask you to help fix those."
Some of the strength ebbed from his form, "I would help you," he said, "I'd do anything."
"But I wouldn't ask that of you," Fleur maintained, "And I guess I need you to accept that."
The retort brewing on his lips died a quick and sudden death, words that hoped to change her mind stilled on his tongue, and his mouth closed, defeated.
"We're still friends, if you'd like that?" Fleur asked, "You can owl me. We can still talk and do what friends do. Just… whatever we felt? I don't think that can leave Hogwarts."
Then, there was silence again, though not as easy as before. It was the heavy sort, the one that pushed you towards the floor, made you wonder if standing straight was ever going to be possible again.
"I'm sure Gabrielle would like to hear from you too," Fleur resumed, "It just wouldn't be right to let her steed run off, would it?"
"No, I guess not," Harry relented. He couldn't help but let the dejectedness sink into his voice, "Promise me something?"
"Anything I can give."
"You won't forget me?"
His words struck a violent chord, the glistening shimmer of tears fell over her eyes, and she gave a sort of sad laugh.
"You're remarkably unforgettable, Harry," she promised, "Never."
"Do—" Harry started but as quick as he began, he ended the line of thought, "It's inconsequential, really."
Fleur chose to disagree, "No," she said, "It's not inconsequential if it matters to you."
Resuming his question, she leaned in intently, "Do you think there's ever going to be a chance for us? After all this?"
"It's a hard question, Harry. I don't want to take away any hope you have," Fleur said, "But it's funny… sometimes, different roads lead people to the same place."
"I guess that'll have to be enough for now," Harry agreed, "I'll miss you, Fleur."
She returned his words with a soft smile, "I'll miss you too, you'll write, won't you?"
With a final, surprising act, Fleur closed the distance between them. Her hands found his cheeks and dragged his lips onto hers.
It was not like the kiss from the lake, the one that barely touched half his lips. That was cold and foreboding, the sort that only a confrontation with mortality—the drive for human touch could bring about.
This was warm and soft, the gentlest of tender touches caressing flesh that had seldom had any experience in this regard. With it, the things neither could say finally came to the forefront.
She cared just as much as he did, and neither knew quite how much that was, what any of this was. They cared for one another, but life didn't always allow such. Sometimes, people did truly just have to walk different roads and wonder where they'd converge again.
And with the glittering kiss that tasted so uniquely of her, he said farewell to a shard of his heart as she slipped it away, unbeknownst to him.
"It's a shame," she said.
Panic lit his veins; his voice came out quick and hoarse, "What's that?"
"That I have to leave so soon," Fleur giggled, "the weather was just getting bearable."
"You're such an idiot," Harry grinned despite himself.
"Your idiot," she smiled back, "Goodbye, Harry."
"Goodbye, Fleur, I'll write soon."
"I know you will."
With their final words, they trailed back to the entrance hall. With a small goodbye to the ever-energetic Gabrielle, they piled aboard the Abraxan-led carriages. She offered a small wave from the window, and with a kick of their legs, the horse-like creatures led them into the air and away from him.
As she left, the future came and went in the bittersweet way that futures do.
Number 4, Privet Drive, as always, was hot and inhospitable.
Harry supposed that was owed to many things; the animosity present between him and his relatives, burning coals stoked every year by his arrival and quenched by his departure. This year had been no different, he'd been relegated to painting the chips away.
This was only exacerbated by the heatwave that held Surrey in a tight grip, even something as simplistic as painting became an affair drenched with sweat.
But it was not the labour of his family that made the feeling so, but something he hadn't quite been able to shake, something that seemed a persistent reminder of events passed.
The Diggorys had come to see him.
They'd delayed their visit to the Hospital Wing a week into the holidays, but closure could only taunt them for so long, and soon enough, they came.
Uncle Vernon paid them no mind; Professor Dumbledore had already arrived and informed them of arrangements made. The purple-faced man simply sat in his recliner and stared the TV down, taking his anger out on Aunt Petunia's midday soaps.
Before he knew it, they were all crowded in his room, as small as it was. Sitting beside one another as Harry propped himself against his chest of drawers, trying to make himself as small as possible to avoid the screaming and shouting, the ire he thought he was owed.
Yet, there was nothing. No blame, no curses or words that made him want to retreat in on himself.
Mr Diggory couldn't contain his sobs; his ruddy face turned red with the fight for gasping breaths, his cheeks wet with tears.
Mrs Diggory, however, was different. Her grief seemed beyond tears, and the attrition of loss made her cheeks sallow, her face enfeebled even after a week. She simply sat and stared blankly. She asked questions of him, but not once did she meet his eyes.
She didn't turn to him, simply lifted her head towards the window, "It was quick?" she had asked, her voice deadened and weak.
How am I supposed to answer that?
How did he give them what they needed?
Harry simply nodded; it was a while before any words left his lips, "Yeah… quick," he said, "I'm not sure he had time to fear it or, well, do anything really."
Cringing as the words left his lips, no matter how long he thought on the words, they always felt callous—like he had no right to say it.
"Did… did he win?" Amos asked, "Did our boy do it?"
"We took the cup together, I insisted," Harry breathed rough, shallow as the words fell from his lips, "He did it, he won."
"He suffered very little then," Mrs Diggory said after another pregnant pause, "And after all, Amos ... he died just when he'd won the tournament. He must have been happy."
It sounded desperate, like they wanted to believe it. Harry wanted to believe it too.
The three just sat there, though Harry was unsure what he was meant to do. Silent grieving met heaving sobs on his bed and seemed to sit there for a dull eternity before they rose and headed towards the door.
Harry scrambled towards his bed as they went to leave; his hands met a hessian bag beneath his bed, hauling it upwards with the clangorous percussion of the gold coins inside.
He stopped them before they could exit and held the bag aloft, "They gave this to me and… they told me I won," he said, "It doesn't really feel like it though, I don't know if it ever will. But I know what we lost," he gently shoved it towards them, "It should be his, he should be here, I'm sorry."
They just stared at him, though it was Mr Diggory that was vocal this time, rather than his wife, "You earned it, son, just like Ced did," he whispered, "Go on, put it away."
Dejected but not wanting to pursue it, Harry sat the coins on the floor but fished a single one out, resplendent as he weighed it in his palms.
Instead of the bag, he offered them a single coin, "Take this then," Harry pleaded, "Please, to remember him by, remember he won and was happy."
Amos took the coin gingerly as if he'd break it, "He was very fond of you, you know that?"
"I was starting to."
For the first time, Mrs Diggory met his eyes, and there was nothing in them, "We won't forget him," she promised, "You just don't forget him either, don't forget our boy."
"Never," Harry said with all the power he could muster.
She smiled gently, it was a wistful affair and small, but a smile all the same as Amos showed her the coin, same as any other, but different in all the ways that mattered.
"Take care of yourself, Harry," she asked. He simply nodded in return.
With her final words, they left his room and soon, Privet Drive, leaving Harry alone on his bed.
Full of grief and oddly, gallantry, he rubbed the weariness away from his face. And set off towards his desk and the piece of parchment splayed out on the face.
Even as he painted in the hot sun, sweat stinging his eyes as his baggy clothes overwhelmed him, he wondered if the words he wrote made him brave or a fool.
His quill had moved of its own accord, wanting to simply have someone there after everything that had happened—was happening.
The strokes were soft and unsure as the first words that would seal his fate began to dry on the page.
The ascent to consciousness was not soft as intended; it was bleak and harsh as clarity was forced back into tired eyes.
She closed them shut in an instant, hoping to cling to the final vestiges of sleep at the corners and drift peacefully back into slumber. The hand on her shoulder, however, was there to ensure such a blessing didn't occur.
"It's morning, mon coeur," the gentle voice of her father tickled her ears. She buried them back into the pillow in response.
It was absolutely, positively abhorrent to awaken someone at 8 am.
"Your maman has made breakfast," the same voice sounded again, breakfast sounded wonderful. If she sniffed hard enough, she could smell the pleasantness as it wafted upstairs.
But as wonderful as breakfast sounded, sleep sounded better.
"And…" her father sighed, shaking her shoulder again to ensure she was listening, "There's some letters for you—"
Fleur shot bolt upright in bed, frazzled silver tresses being quickly forced from her face.
"—right here," her father finished, looking slightly taken aback by her sudden rise.
She shook her head, "It's too early," Fleur said, "I only sent them out last night,"
Her last letter had been sent, flown off tied to talons and with it the small hope that the words 'Triwizard Tournament Contender' might sway an employer.
"I know, mon Coeur," the older man agreed, kind eyes gazed lovingly down upon her, "It's two—a simple reply charm, perhaps."
"Or a refusal."
The words sat heavy in the thick summer silence of an early French morning her father seemed to search for the right words.
Fleur had seen the look often enough, the struggle to try and explain to her why the world was as it was.
Followed by the subsequent pain of coming up short.
Her father took a seat on her bed, careful to avoid her legs, "These things simply take time," he said. "Your Maman and I did our best to prepare you for that, perhaps we didn't do as good a job as we'd hoped." He sighed and patted his knees, "But we did try."
"I know you did, you don't need to tell me again," Fleur said, she was never fond of these conversations, "You, Maman. New mouths don't make the same words any different."
"I know, I know," he tried in a more placating tone, "But it'd make us happy—content, if you'd listen to it once more."
"Just the once?" she asked.
"Just the once." he confirmed, "This conversation, well, it doesn't get any easier. Part of me hoped it would, hoped something would change. It didn't. The truth, as sad as it is, is that most of those letters aren't going to be what you want to see or hear."
Fleur bristled uncomfortably as the words prickled against exposed skin.
"Maybe I'm preparing you for nothing," he continued, "Maybe you won't have to go through what your Maman did, I—we hope you don't. But there's a chance you will, that being a Triwizard Competitor won't mean everything you hope it will, part of you needs to acknowledge that, even if you don't want to."
She shrugged, unsure of what else she could do, what she should do, "I think, after all this time, part of me has."
"Good…" he trailed off, "Your Maman tears herself up enough as is," a hand-rubbed wearily at his eyes, "and these things, the feelings? They'll pass, these things do. Eventually it gets easier, one day you'll stop thinking about it, just for a little while. Then you'll know you can forget about it even if it's a moment here and there. You'll stop remembering the world can be so very cruel."
Her father procured the two letters from his pocket; one was a finer white, stamped with wax, the quillmenship fine and deliberate. The second was brown, lesser quality and skill, blocky, and pressed into the envelope.
He waved them around, "Whatever these say, we don't care." He said, "There'll be others, more opportunities, more chances to leap and find out where you'll land." Finally, he relinquished the letters into her outstretched hand, "But you're Fleur Delacour, you're our daughter, and you're worth more than refusal letters and bigots."
"Thank you, Papa," Fleur whispered as the man enveloped her across her bed in a tight hug.
"Your sister will want to see what they said," he called as he headed for the door, "Shall I send her in?"
"Please," Fleur called and sat the less-expensive envelope on her pillow.
Before she even had a chance to crack the wax seal, a silver-haired rocket flew in the door and bounded upon her bed like she owned it.
"What did they say?" Gabrielle demanded, "Have you got the job? Did they say no? Are you leaving?"
Fleur shook her head and scoffed, "I haven't even had the letter in my hands for a minute," she said, "Give me a second, okay?"
"That's boring," a frown crossed Gabrielle's features, "Open it, pleaseee?"
Gabrielle's presence was a blessing and a curse in equal measures. Part of her wanted to rip it open, maul the wax seal and devour the words.
And yet, there was a lingering dread. Beyond the seal could be but the beginning, a poor start to herald a poorer finish yet to come.
I'm Fleur Delacour, she echoed, and I'm worth more than refusal letters and bigots.
Even if she didn't particularly feel like it at this moment.
Before her brain could register her actions, the red wax was split, the letter unfolded, and her eyes trailed down the ink.
Fleur exhaled and looked past the letterhead, stamped and ornate and down to the few paragraphs below.
"Dear Miss Delacour," Fleur announced, "We'd like to express our gratitude—"
Gabby cocked her head to the side, "What's gratitude?" she asked.
Rolling her eyes, Fleur explained, "It's like thanking someone," she said. "Now are you going to let me read it?" Her words were met with an enthusiastic nod.
"—express our gratitude for your application," she continued, "and while it remains refreshing that someone of your standing applied for the vacant position, we regret—"
Her eyes trailed a little bit further than her mouth spoke, wordlessly she folded the letter up, placed it back in its envelope, secreting it away in the drawer of her bedside table. With a battle that must've been somewhat visible on her face if Gabrielle's expression was indicative of anything, she fought the urge to cry.
Preparing for the inevitable and actually experiencing it were two vastly different things, and today, she tasted both.
Gabrielle scooted a little closer, "Did they say something mean?" Her voice was small yet full of anger, "I know spells, I can steal Papa's wand—"
Fleur shook her head, "I didn't get the apprenticeship, Gabby," she said, struggling for words that didn't make it seem like she was rambling, "I knew I wouldn't, it'd be too easy if I did."
"Yeah…" was Fleur's meagre contribution to the conversation, "Hey Gabby?"
Fleur stretched her arms out, "I think I'd like a hug."
Gabby crossed the short distance with ease and wrapped her arms around her big sister, nuzzling into her like she did when they were both far younger.
Her face pressed against her shoulder, Fleur made out the muttered voice, "You know how you pushing me on the swings makes me really happy?"
"Well," Gabby reared back a little, "What if I pushed you on the swings this time? Would it make you happy like you make me happy?"
Despite everything, the loss of the Triwizard Tournament, leaving tumultuous feelings behind across the channel, the cold realisation and subsequent proof that even her home didn't want to hire Veela, against it all, Gabrielle possessed a unique ability to make her smile.
"Soon, okay?" Fleur promised, "I've still got another letter to read," the words were laden with dread as they left her lips, her hand lingering over the other envelope.
"If this one is mean, then can I steal Papa's wand?" Gabrielle asked with alacrity, "Amelie has been teaching me these cool spells and—"
"Amelie needs to stop teaching you spells, for one," Fleur interrupted.
"Why? Gabrielle pouted.
Fleur squinted as she looked at her sister, "Because they're illegal?"
Gabrielle refused, "That's because you don't get it," she said as if she was explaining it to a child, "They're cool."
Conceding a battle they'd had too many times to count, Fleur set out to open her next letter, albeit in a slightly more sedate manner.
This letter stood in stark contrast to its predecessor, no letterhead, a messy scrawl that made her feel oddly at ease as she read the first words.
It took her but a moment before realisation finally hit.
"Who's it from?" Gabby tried to peek over the edge to spy a word that'd give the sender away.
A quick hand pushed her back, "Never you mind," Fleur hushed.
I know I'd promised I'd write. It's been a pretty weird couple weeks.
Hopefully you got home safe, I've been doing okay for the most part.
How are you? How's Gabrielle? I hope your parents are doing well.
Fleur's eyes trailed down a few more lines,
I hope finding a job is going well, I know anyone would be happy to have you. You're amazing like that.
I miss you,
"Who's it from?" Gabrielle chirped, finally courageous enough to try again.
Eyes flashed upwards to meet the lighter blue of her little sister, "No one," she said, though perhaps an octave too high and far too quickly.
"You always tell me who it's from," Gabby pouted, "Is it a boy?" The thought seemed to stoke the flames a little more, "Oooh, is it Harry? Please tell me it's Harry!"
Fleur shushed her again, "Quiet, Gabby!" The last thing she needed was her parents learning she was getting messages from the Harry Potter.
Clearly, it was the wrong move.
The devilish smirk that was so unique to her little sister lit up, "Tell me or I'll call Maman."
"You wouldn't dare," Fleur challenged, one she wasn't sure she'd win.
Before her scream could continue, Fleur's hand clamped over her mouth, "I'll tell you, okay?" Fleur relented, "You won't scream?"
Gabby nodded beneath Fleur's hand. "It's from Harry, okay?"
"Is he your boyfrienddddd?"
"It's not like that," Fleur shook her head, "If you're lucky, you'll never really know what it's like."
It's definitely not like that, Fleur promised herself, It could never be like that.
"What does that mean?" Gabrielle asked, looking confused.
Fleur merely shrugged in response, "So are we going to swing or not?"
The little girl perked up in an instant, questions forgotten, "Can we, please?"
"If you get me some breakfast and meet me there, I will."
Without a second glance, the smaller girl bounded out the door, the harsh patter of footsteps faded off into the distance. Fleur looked back down at the page and traced her fingertip over the final words.
I miss you,
It's definitely not like that, Fleur repeated to herself, It could never be like that.
But despite whatever she felt, she walked to her desk and dipped the quill in the inkpot before fishing for some parchment.
It's definitely not like that.
The quill hit the page, and before she knew it, the words were there.
In hindsight, he shouldn't have been so excited.
It seemed childish if he was honest, Hedwig had, in the light of day, deposited the letter into his hand as she'd flown down towards him. It'd taken all of a second before the neat flourishes of his name sent the rake in his opposite hand to the ground and him barrelling inside.
Dudley had been descending the stairs as Harry bounded quickly up them, there wasn't time for antagonism however, he passed too quickly, and soon the bedroom door was locked behind him.
As Harry kicked off his shoes and bounced backwards onto the bed, Hedwig settled on the windowsill, fluttering her feathers.
Harry turned to the bird, "Did you see her?" he asked excitedly, "Was she happy?"
A twist of her head was enough confirmation for him before he tore at the envelope.
I'm glad you wrote, even if a little later than I expected.
Gabrielle and I got home safely. Maman and Papa are also doing well. They're enjoying us being home. Gabrielle misses you, and the cold, surprisingly. Maman isn't in a hurry to let her out of her sight though, she'll have to settle for missing you.
I'm doing well, I visited Paris just yesterday. Both Gabby and I had mille-feuille, it's this pastry with vanilla and custard—it's absolute my favourite.
The job search is… difficult, I guess. I don't know how to really put words to how I'm feeling about it.
There was a few lines gap before she had resumed writing.
Even as a Triwizard competitor not many want to hire a Veela.
It wasn't really as he expected, if he was honest to himself. Harry threw his legs over the side of the bed and re-read the line.
Fleur hadn't been too candid about finding a job, though the thought, at some points in knowing one another, had seemed to rule her more than the tournament did. He hadn't thought to ask—it didn't really seem to be his place.
It'll work out, these things usually do.
"I hope it does," Harry breathed aloud as he trailed ever further down the parchment.
What about you? How has it all been since, well, then?
You don't have to answer the question if you don't want to, ignore me and I'll understand.
If you're not okay, don't just wallow. It never works out well in the end.
I miss you too,
She'd been the only letter he'd received so far, outside of the Diggory's. Harry supposed they could be giving him time; to brood, get angry—whatever he was supposed to feel.
But instead of making sure he was feeling anything, the distance enforced seemed suffocating. Interrupted only by the Daily Prophet that landed through the window of a morning.
Being a liar was one thing, but a lonely liar?
Harry cradled the letter within his hands as he rose from his bed with an eagerness he hadn't mustered all summer.
I guess I'm not so lonely after all, Harry mused, and with the pleasant thought, he wrote words that were slowly becoming familiar.
"I think that one looks like a..."
"Dragon," Gabrielle interrupted, "A Ridgeback!" Congratulating herself on such a victory, the little girl popped her last grape into her mouth.
The meadow below their house was small, but peaceful. Leaf litter swirled and spun in soft winds, twisting and turning around them in a pleasant breeze. There was a tranquillity here, a simple state of just being.
Fleur sighed with her back against the soft ground, "Not what I was thinking, no."
Gabby squinted upwards at the clouds, "A tree," she squinted, "Or… or a puppy."
Fleur scoffed in incredulity, "You're good at seeing things that aren't there," she said.
"They are there!" Gabrielle defended fervently, "You just have to look really hard."
Squinting like her sister had, Fleur stared up at the same cloud, "I don't see it," she said, not that she expected to see anything.
"That's just because you're not looking hard enough."
"I'm looking as hard as I can!"
"Okay, okay," Gabby adopted the small voice of a mentor, "Close your eyes first."
"Isn't that the opposite of what I should be doing?"
"Who's the cloud master here?" Gabrielle said with enough seriousness to make Fleur laugh beneath her breath.
"Fine, fine," Fleur acquiesced and closed her eyes, "Now what am I supposed to be doing?"
"Are they closed?"
"Yes, Gabby," Fleur sighed, slightly annoyed at the game, "Just tell me how I'm supposed to see the clouds."
Fleur thought she was humouring her little sister, making her happy by believing she truly was the 'Cloud Master'.
That was until a small hand snaked into her own, and the bunch of grapes, those she'd packed for her own lunch, were taken in an instant.
Eyes shot open and hands tried to clench around empty air, Fleur turned to her side quickly, rounding on her little sister.
"Gabby!" She cried at the suddenness of the grape-thieving assault, "Give them back to me—"
Though the smaller Veela's cheeks were chubby with red grapes, she smiled widely
"—right now," Fleur finished with a soft exhale, "I'd planned on eating those, you know that?"
Gabrielle giggled, exposing stained teeth, "Sowwy!" She said with a full mouth.
Fleur stalked towards her prone sister, "Do you know what happens to grape thieves?" She growled.
Squealing and hopping back, Gabby shook her head.
"You're about to," Fleur threatened on the approach, "they get tickled!"
Leaping across the small distance, fingers wormed their ways into her sister's sides, making her giggle through the mouthful of stolen food.
"T...Top it!" Gabby giggled, trying to worm free.
"Nope," was the simple reply.
After her fingers had worked their way so far in that laughter soon became breathless, grape-flavoured gasps, Fleur relented. It took Gabby a moment to regain her breath, swallowing but some of the food in her mouth.
The first word out of her was incomprehensible, "'Dette!" Gabby called.
"'Dette!" Gabby said again, though this time her words were enunciated by a pointed finger.
Fleur traced the finger to its destination, finding their family owl circling overhead.
Sitting back up, Fleur turned her attention to the bird, "Odette!" She called and the bird descended at the notice, clinging to the last vestiges of a happy flight.
With an outstretched arm, the bird glided down and settled onto it gently. An outstretched foot offered the message it was sent to return with.
"Is it another job?" Gabby asked, finally finishing her mouthful, "Will you get this one?"
Her words were unintentionally blunt, she was a child—she knew no better. But Fleur supposed it mattered little in this instance.
Odette twisted her head to look at her, her plumage, crossed with mocha and snow-white in equal measures ruffled with pride at the delivery. Keen yellow eyes observed her carefully upon landing.
Fleur turned and shook her head, recognising a familiar, messy scrawl as she untied the letter, "Not this time, no."
Perhaps that had been the wrong choice of words, "Oooooh," Gabby marvelled, "It's Harry, isn't it? Isn't it?"
"Yes, it's Harry," Fleur said, rolling her eyes at her sister's antics, "That's what happens when you write to someone, Gabby, they usually write back."
With a sly grin, Gabrielle asked the question she'd been yearning for, "Are you in looooove?"
"It's been three letters," Fleur explained, "and we're just friends, for the hundredth time."
"Three letters could turn into like… a thousand though!" Gabrielle said.
Fleur began to open the letter, "I think someone could do with less reading with Maman."
Gabby pouted, "She reads good books."
"Yes, werewolves and vampires loving one another is prime reading material for an eight-year old," Fleur said, "Want to do something for me?"
"Sure," Gabby perked up at the thought of being helpful in her 'relationship', "What am I doing?"
Fleur smiled at her eagerness, even if misplaced, "Can you run inside and get me some parchment, and my ink and quill too?"
With narrowed eyes and intelligence beyond her age, Gabrielle narrowed her eyes, "Why not just summon it?" She asked, "Why do you even want to write outside?"
It could be summoned, probably without any hassle, but Fleur supposed she did want some privacy to read the letter in comfort.
Precocious as she was in the moment, Fleur was still near ten years older. "If I summoned the ink, I'd get ink all over the walls and carpet, wouldn't I?" She bluffed, "and if I get it everywhere, what's Maman going to say?"
"She's gonna make us clean it," the little girl moped, "I don't want to clean again!"
Fleur smiled as if the answer was simple, "Then go get it for me, please?" She asked, "Plus, do I need to remind you that you ate all my grapes? I think that means I get a favour, don't you?"
Gabrielle mumbled, "you weren't going to eat them."
"That's because you ate them first," Fleur said, "Plus you can bring some more if you get my stuff."
Her words finally seemed convincing enough, Gabby pushed herself up from the grass and ran up the small incline towards the house. Fleur watched as she went, displacing small tufts of grass as she ran to the front door. Alone, she turned her attention back to the letter.
With the letter being open and her mission complete, Odette departed from lingering on the ground beside Fleur, flying towards her perch through the kitchen window.
The words had, even after only the second letter, began to elicit an unconscious smile.
I'm glad you and Gabby are home safe, I miss her too. Even if she did threaten to have me eaten by werewolves.
I'm sure you'll find a job soon, it'll just take time I suppose. Not that I've ever really looked for a job, but like you said, these things sort themselves out.
Who wouldn't want to hire you though, anyway? You're amazing, you sang a dragon to sleep. A dragon. You fought off grindylows and a kappa, you would've completed the maze too. Someone will see how amazing you are soon enough.
I'm doing okay, I guess. I saw Cedric's parents, they wanted to know what happened, how it happened. I don't know if I told them what they wanted to hear, but… well, I'm glad it's over for now.
I'll try not to wallow. At least I've got someone to talk to now. Ron and Hermione are… they're Ron and Hermione.
Tell Gabby I said hello, give her a hug if you're brave enough.
Write soon, be sure to tell me about the job situation,
For a moment, she just sat. Basking in the gentle afterglow of honest praise and care contained within the letter. Though, despite the elation at being told it'd work out, despite thinking she couldn't hear it anymore, she couldn't help but remember his words.
Cedric, she sighed.
Harry had suffered enough, and now he was forced to suffer just a little more. It wasn't fair to Harry, to Cedric, to his parents. It made her just the slightest bit sick in the stomach.
The sort of feeling where the good feelings warred against the bad and left you confused which way you should be facing, what you should be feeling.
But before too long, Gabrielle returned with the parchment, ink and quill, handing it over and sneaking a grape from her pocket.
"You didn't touch anything else in my room, did you?" Fleur said, giving a mock glare to the little girl.
"Nope!" She smiled, "But I got grapes!"
"Thank you," Fleur said, taking the equipment and drawing her wand to transfigure something to write on from a small stone, "Promise me something, Gabby?"
"Don't tell Maman and Papa that Harry is my boyfriend or anything, okay?" She asked, practically pleading, "He isn't, I promise."
It wasn't as if they'd disapprove, but awkward questions tended to stoke awkward feelings.
"Sister's promise!" Gabrielle said, extending her pinky finger to be captured by Fleur's own.
Fleur knew that promise would be kept.
Well, that was until there were more grapes.
With a flourish that wet the quill with ink, she started writing an eager reply.