Disclaimer: not mine
Thank you for all your lovely reviews and thank you Sillimaure for betaing.
The pace of this story won't change. If you want faster moving stories which still have excellent story and character development I recommend you read either or both Harry Potter and Future's Past and Harry Potter and the Price of Being Noble by Driftwood1965. Two of the best HP fanfics out there.
And Sillimaure has posted chapter 12 of Alternate Endeavors which I'm now going to read.
Have a good weekend and I hope you enjoy chapter 14.
Hermione entered the bedroom she shared with her partners. With a slight grin she realised she had started to think of both Harry and Fleur as such—her partners. They still could not spend an indefinite amount of time apart from each other, but by now even that felt natural.
When Harry had joined them, back from whatever mysterious errand he had been on, everything seemed to snap back in its rightful place again for both her and Fleur. Strange how this worked still, even though they could now spend several hours apart. According to Apolline, that feeling would never really go away. No matter how long bond mates could and would spend time away from each other things would never feel completely right until they were back together.
As it was, Harry had pushed the limits of their bond anyway, leaving them for such a length of time that she had started to feel uncomfortable like she had not since the very beginning of their three way bond. Yet when he joined them again it immediately erased all the discomfort quicker than snow melted in the sun.
Of course those feelings were quickly forgotten anyhow, as Hermione, with little help from Fleur, tried to learn where Harry had been that afternoon. Harry just sported a big grin, joined by dual feelings of deep satisfaction and excitement, and either ignored her questions or kept changing the subject without any subtlety whatsoever.
When Hermione had finally noted that Fleur remained uncharacteristically quiet, the proverbial light bulb had gone off in her mind and she had practically demanded the two of them tell her what was going on. Two identical looks of amusement were exchanged between her mates but it did not change a thing—she was still thoroughly ignored. Not that she had given up easily, but Harry had shut her up fairly quickly and very effectively by kissing her, tongue in mouth and all, before telling a gob smacked Hermione her in no uncertain terms that she would simply have to wait and see. All the while, Fleur sat next to them grinning in agreement while feeling rather smug.
Now back in their bedroom, Hermione could not help but sport her own satisfied and happy grin. Harry had certainly developed an effective way to shut her up. When the three of them had finally returned to the manor house, Fleur's levity had quickly disappeared. Hermione had not been surprised when the blonde witch had told them she was going to look for her grandmother, expressing her need to talk to Cecile.
Harry had wanted to go to the kitchen for a snack since dinner was still a few hours away, while Hermione opted to retreat to their room and get some reading done. Fleur had recommended a few books she could start on and Hermione figured she might as well get a head start on them. Not that this caused any hardship for her. The one thing which she knew that still remained the same for her was her love of books. What had changed however was her preferred place of reading. She no longer preferred dark libraries, like the library at Hogwarts, but big light-filled rooms as she had available at her new home. It was yet another area where Wizards should follow the examples of the Muggle world.
Of course the comforts of her private room were a big plus right now as well. The comfy chair she had transfigured for herself, to her own specifications, made for an excellent and comfortable place to read. Hermione smiled ruefully at herself—she was getting rather lazy. It was a good thing that they would soon return to England. Back in the real world she was sure to get a bit more active, especially with her parents around, both of whom could not stand idleness. She used to be the same, but these days she had learned to really enjoy and appreciate her down time.
Seeing the selection of books which Perdu had put in their room at Fleur's request, just a short hour ago, she chose a small book at random and settled in to read. Unfortunately, before she had a chance to finish the introduction she was interrupted by Harry. She did not even have to look up in order to know it was Harry and because she was already engrossed enough in her book she did not, though when he did not come into the room further she did turn her head away from her literature to catch him staring at her.
Hermione was a pleasantly surprised to feel Harry's contentment as he answered. "That is such a Hermione posture. You sitting in a chair, your legs tugged in completely and lost in your reading. I like watching you like that."
"You like what you see, do you?" Hermione teased, inflecting her voice in such a way that she was flirting with the green eyed wizard.
Harry grinned but his only answer was a simple yes before he moved further into the room, past their bed, while removing his shirt. This action caused him to take his eyes away from Hermione but a rather recognisable emotion, which wasn't coming from him, caused him to turn them right back at Hermione. Did she just…?
"Like what you see?" His voice suddenly sounded husky as he tossed his shirt on their bed before turning fully to his partner.
There wasn't the slightest bit of embarrassment from Hermione as her eyes roamed all over him and her answer was as simple as his had been. "Yes."
Excitement flooded Harry. Would this be the moment he and Fleur had discussed? Fleur had figured Hermione would probably feel more at ease if her first time was just her and her oldest friend. Ultimately she hoped it would make it easier for Hermione to be with her like that as well. When the moment was there Fleur had told him he should go for it and she would try her best to stay out of it, though even she was not entirely certain how well she could actually manage that given their unique circumstances.
"You know you are allowed to look and touch."
She closed her book and put it on the floor next to her chair not taking her brown eyes off his. "I think I'd like that."
'Strange,' Harry observed absentmindedly, 'there was no nervousness at all, only attraction and no little amount of want—on the part of them both.'
Then, when her hands touched his chest before wandering to his back his attention became a little bit more focused on that. "Do I get to touch as well?"
Harry's mouth found Hermione's lips and unlike the few kisses they had shared thus far, this time, somehow, it became more intense. His hands slipped beneath Hermione's blouse, pulling her closer. Hermione became more insisting herself as her tongue met his and without thinking about it she removed her short sleeved white blouse.
Harry's hands found her breasts and he briefly pulled his head backwards to make sure this was alright. Apparently she did not appreciate this break in kissing, because one hand pulled his head back so they could continue their lip action while her other hand started to pull at his trousers. Harry did not need any further hints.
Soon neither mate, partner and now lover, was wearing anything beyond their underpants. Moving to their bed Harry was soon atop Hermione offering rather tangible evidence of the effect she was having on him. Now she might have believed she had not been ready for that final step, but this little bit of knowledge was enough to make her realise she actually was.
Of course just as she was ready to remove the last stitch of clothing she was wearing, both she and Harry were reminded of their third partner and not in a pleasant way. It was worry they felt before a fear took hold of her, the kind of which not even Harry had ever felt from his wife. Through her bond, Fleur even signalled them she needed them and quickly.
They simply reacted, though Hermione had the presence of mind and grabbed her wand, and rushing towards Fleur conjuring them some clothing from nothing. It was a skill matched by few, but not given any further thought at that particular moment in time.
Fleur's conversation with Cecile had been going better than she had expected, though it actually helped to have her own mother present as a mediator. They were actually sitting down and talking, and explaining their own positions calmly was most certainly a preferable way of communication than both of them trying to force their own opinion on the other. Fleur was honest enough too admit she was just as responsible for their break in relations as her grandmother was. Stubbornness was a trait which did not seem to skip any generation of the Delacour women. It was high time they put their pride aside though.
She had given her grandmother her views which her grandmother had listened to without interrupting. After Fleur had expressed her opinions, her grandmother expressed her regrets about how Fleur and most of her relatives did not share her beliefs anymore. However the fact that she was unaware of the extent of Fleur's own troubles through the years had been an eye opener for her grandmother.
Cecile for her part had admitted there had been growing pressure on her from the religious block of the Veela families to appoint a successor. Something she had not, to her regret, been able to do.
Fleur, who had been unaware of that fact, could understand her grandmother's trouble but pointed out that her grandmother could not force people to believe, least of all mates who usually already came with their own ready formed beliefs.
They did not see eye to eye on everything and at times Apolline's intervention had been absolutely necessary. Still Fleur had happily concluded she and her grandmother were finally able to talk civilly again about some serious matters. Of course when her 'beloved' mates started a conversation of their own and Cecile had guessed at the reason for her lapse in concentration, it had served as an ice breaker. It took her a while until she figured out her gran's teasing innuendo. Maybe she would have been a tad quicker if her mates had not been so distracting. However, she could not be more pleased it was, finally, happening. In the end she supposed she should consider herself lucky her mother had remained oblivious, though she definitely noticed her daughter squirming in her seat.
Their talk was suddenly interrupted when her father rushed in to join them with a rather frightened and helpless look on his face. "Apolline I was just contacted by Madame Maxime. Gabrielle has been involved in a Quiditch accident. She fell from her broom… We have to floo to Beauxbatons immediately."
Apolline let out a strangled exclamation. "She'll be alright? Tell me, my baby will be alright?"
Fleur too felt like she'd been hit hard in her stomach. She was now very worried for her little sister and her father's reply did not help her, nor did his helpless look. "
"The headmistress has kept the floo to her office open so we can come straight through. We've got to go, but from what I gathered so far it is not looking good." The fear was clearly audible in Alain's voice and he seemed rather close to tears. A gulp escaped Apolline but she rushed with her husband to their floo.
"We're coming with you." Fleur followed close behind, not once doubting Harry and Hermione would join them.
"So am I," Cecile added. She was not about to be left behind when her granddaughter was hurt. Alain did not protest. They all cared about Gabrielle and if his little girl was hurt they would all need each other's support.
They were quickly joined by Fleur's partners and within moments, after a brief explanation to them, the entire family had flooed to Beauxbatons. They were met by the tall headmistress who in a no-nonsense way immediately ushered the family to the school's infirmary, giving a more detailed report on their way there.
"From what I gather, Gabrielle and her friends were playing a game of Quiditch. She was playing seeker and crashed into the other seeker when they both went after the snitch. Both seekers fell from great height. Rightfully they should both have died…"
A collective sound of dismayed gasps as well as a sob from Apolline were audible. Alain pulled his wife close, needing her close as she did him, offering comfort, though she barely noticed.
"…but fortunately one of our present seventh years had the presence of mind as well as the skills to at least slow their fall. Still both flyers hit the ground at some velocity and both suffered severe injuries. Though it was nothing our healer could not fix."
"Then she's alright?" Cecile voiced everyone's question, hope appearing on her face which again was mirrored by everyone.
The group had arrived at the school infirmary as a sign on the wall indicated, but unlike at Hogwarts, Beauxbatons infirmary was not one big room with countless beds. Here every injured or sick student had their own room. Gabrielle's was just right near the entrance but instead of allowing the frantic group access to their relative, Madame Maxime stopped them simply by standing in front of the door. "No, Gabrielle is not alright. Please let me finish before you go in so you are prepared for what you'll find."
Impatient and thoroughly worried faces met her determined one. "Our regular healer is currently absent and the substitute who is only here for a two week period is not knowledgeable on some of the particulars of Veela anatomy. He simply did not know that Gabrielle is of Veela descent, and he applied standard healing potions, one of which Skelegrow."
Of her audience only Cecile had an inkling of why this should be a problem. Still she did not understand how it could happen to her granddaughter who was only a quarter Veela. "That would only be a problem if Gabrielle transformed and there has never been anyone who did not have two full Veela parents who…"
"I do not know why she transformed but it happened. As I understand it, right after she received the potion she woke up, noticed all the people around her and in fright, in combination with all her injuries, she transformed into what I believe to be a Veela."
Madame Maxime's grim look intensified. "According to the healer she started to attack the staff but they managed to stupefy her before she even got out of bed."
Cecile Delacour's face said it all. "Mama, what does this mean?" Apolline demanded, terrified of the anguish she saw in her mother's face. But it was Beauxbatons' Headmistress who continued. "She is currently stuck in her transformation. The Skelegrow had a negative effect as far as we were able to determine. It did really… unpredictable… things to her bones and she still has not woken. I have taken the liberty of contacting a Veela healer with whom we've worked in the past, before calling you because our current healer does not know what to do. He should arrive shortly."
Fleur's grandmother would broke no argument when she said, "I'm also calling our family healer."
The headmistress immediately agreed, indicating the Delacour's matriarch could use the nearest Floo to do just that. A house elf immediately appeared to take her there. Apolline, like the rest of her family, would no longer be denied access to her daughter. "I want to see Gabrielle."
Madame Maxime nodded in understanding moving away from the door. "Of course, but please be prepared, she may look unrecognisable to you. Also, the healer and his assistants are present. You may ask them any question of course. He did however request that no more than two people at the time visit, so she won't feel crowded when she wakes up."
The Headmistress did not utter the other reason for this request. Nobody could predict how, if the young girl did wake up, she would react. He would not be able to guarantee everybody's safety if too many people blocked his view of his patient. The young girl's transformation had scared the daylights out of him. Luckily for the Headmistress nobody questioned the healer's request.
It was a given that it was Apolline and Alain who would see their daughter first. After they entered the room Olympe Maxime turned to her former student Fleur and her husband. The third person looked vaguely familiar but she could not place her and she simply assumed she was a relative or acquaintance of her former student. "Please, let me take you to the waiting room. You will be more comfortable there. I will have one of the house elves make itself available for you. If you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to ask."
She took them to a small room which was less then five meters away from Gabrielle's room. Comfortable couches and chairs lined the wall and in the back was a table on which fresh coffee, tea and water were always available. Yet another thing magic was good for.
To her surprise the three visitors sat down together on a couch actually meant for two and the clearly distraught Fleur leaned into the woman, who wrapped her arms around her, instead of her husband. Harry looked kind of helpless but gently held her hand.
Seeing the slightly confused look on her former Headmistress's face, Fleur laughed humourlessly, understanding the question that was not asked. "Madame Maxime, please meet my second mate, Hermione Granger."
A tired chuckle escaped the tall woman. It seemed the two Delacour sisters broke every familiar rule relating to Veela she was familiar with. All she did though, was to nod at the trio in front of her. A gesture repeated by her former student.
Because the running of the school continued no matter what happened, Olympe then excused herself, but before she left she called a house elf by the name of Mina. The small house elf could be called for anything they needed.
The three left behind sat in silence for a while until Hermione could no longer stand the quiet. Not moving from her position, Hermione gathered Fleur in her arms, which Harry copied on Fleur's other side as best as he could. Harry was worried sick as well for his small sister in law. Hermione honestly did not know, at that moment in time, if the ability to share emotions with her mates was a blessing or not. Feeling both Harry's and Fleur's worries and fears on top of her own was not pleasant. They all needed, if not a distraction, something to focus on if only for a little.
"I always thought Veela transformation was a thing of myth."
Fleur turned her head slightly further towards Hermione, glad for the question. "No, while Veela like my grandmother can transform at will, it should have been impossible for Gabi."
"Then how?" Harry asked.
"I don't know. To my knowledge it has never happened before. It is actually why a couple of older clan's died out. They refused to move outside their family units because mixing Veela with Wizards created nothing but second class Veela offspring to them."
Noticing how tired Fleur sounded, Hermione filed the little bit of knowledge away for later reference, but dropped the subject.
"Should that healer not have checked to see that Gabrielle had a Veela heritage and known not to give Gabrielle Skelegrow?" Harry asked while remembering the vile potion he had been administered himself on occasion none to fondly.
"There was absolutely no reason for him to think the potion would have an adverse effect on Gabrielle." A weary Apolline and Alain joined them causing the trio to get to their feet hoping for positive news.
Apolline waved them down again and shook her head. "The healers have arrived, they'll let us know as soon as they know something new."
Noticing her mother's red rimmed eyes and her father's sad look Fleur, almost afraid of the answer, asked, "How was Gabrielle?"
Apolline could no longer hold her tears back. Alain led her to one of the couches. Hermione walked to the table to get her a glass of water.
Receiving no answer from her mother Fleur implored her father to give her the answers she wanted. "Dad?"
Alain shook his head, losing his composure himself. "She… my little girl.. she, her face… contorted…."
The hours passed at an excruciatingly slow pace. Everybody was hoping their worst fears would not come true. Alain had given a brief description, almost unable to speak the words, of Gabrielle's current state, and Fleur had burst out in tears, clinging to Harry and Hermione's combined support like a life line. The images her father had just given her about her little sister would give her nightmares without a doubt.
"She will be fine," an unfamiliar voice spoke with authority, yet not unkindly. Once again everyone got to their feet as a healer in green robes entered. The man did not keep them waiting. "She will be fine. It is not the first time I have seen this happen, and together with my colleagues it did not take much time to reverse the girl's transformation. Healer Assan is currently treating her original injuries and treating your daughter as full fledged Veela."
Apolline had to sit down again. Her legs would not carry her any longer. "She'll be fine?"
"Physically, yes, she will be fine." The healer almost smiled as he delivered his good news. "However her entire being took a very large beating. We will keep her in a magic induced coma for the next week or so. Her body needs it to recover and I'm afraid she will need strict rest for the next three months or so. Limited physical action and no magic whatsoever for at least that period. Her body took a rather heavy beating."
"But she will fine," Fleur simply had to ask again, needing the reassurance only the healer could give."
The man nodded. "Yes, she will be fine. She and I will be seeing quite a bit of each other, but with a bit of patience she will be her old self again."
"But the way she looked…" Apolline shook her head as if to dispel the visual image of her little girl which would haunt her till her dying days.
"It actually was a relatively simple procedure to convince Gabrielle's body to transform back. We do have several dozens of centuries experience with the transformations, though I admit I have never heard of it happening to one who has a fully human father and a half Veela mother. This will bear some looking into. Tell me Alain, do you perchance have some Veela ancestors yourself?"
"I'll look into it later," Alain answered in such a way that he indicated now was not the time for such questions. "Can we return to Gabrielle now?"
"Yes of course."
Four days later the Delacour family and their mates were still, predominately, spending their time at Beauxbatons. Trips had been made home to settle a few minor things but for the most part they spent their time at the school waiting for their youngest relative to wake up and rejoin them. Apolline and Alain, understandably, would move away from their daughter's side as little as possible, though they did require sleep and needed to refresh themselves from time to time.
Soon, they established a schedule to ensure there was always someone present just in case Gabrielle awoke. During their stay at the school Harry learned Rubeus Hagrid was living on the premises. After the war the half giant had gathered all his courage and started to court Olympe Maxime. The French woman had not returned his feelings but Hagrid had stayed in France anyway because an interesting project had come up for him.
About fifty years prior in the late nineteen fifties, Beauxbatons had started a small zoo for its Care of Magical Creatures equivalent class. It was a way for the students to get real hands on experience in caring for all creatures great and small, as well as a way to create extra revenue for the school. What had started as a small scale project had grown to be one of the largest zoos in Europe. It was certainly the biggest, and only, magical zoo. They even had a crippled dragon which was one of the reasons why, when offered a job to work at the place, Hagrid jumped at the opportunity. He was not one of the dragon keepers but often visited it and secretly called the beast Norberta after his old dragon.
When Harry learned his old friend was living there, he persuaded Fleur to come visit with him and Hermione, something which was encouraged by Apolline who felt her oldest daughter needed a break from the hospital room.
Hagrid was living in a fairly large home, easily twice the size, though not nearly as homey as his cottage in England. It was a simple house in a long row of similar homes, but once inside spell work had enlarged its space to accommodate Hagrid's more than average size and then some.
The gentle giant was ecstatic to see Harry and Hermione, nearly crushing them in his emotional hug. Fleur had trouble keeping her laughter in check at the sight of both her mates more or less disappearing beneath Hagrid's large arms. Her own greeting was, thankfully, a bit less enthusiastic, but she was made very welcome indeed. Hagrid quickly ushered them inside his home, telling them to sit, though he was regretful that he could not offer them any cakes since he had not been expecting any visitors. Fleur had not quite understood the feelings of relief both her mates had emitted when they both assured Hagrid it was not a problem for them. When Hagrid's back was turned Harry quickly mouthed they would explain later.
They spent an hour or so catching up with Hagrid, before he offered to take them on a tour of the zoo. Seeing the eagerness on his face, the trio really could not refuse and the tour proved quite interesting.
Hermione also learned, in a most unexpected way, about another reason why Hagrid had accepted his job here. His younger brother Grawp had a position at the zoo too. He recognised her too and his methods of greeting had not changed much from her fifth year. She still fit in his fist though he was now surprisingly gentle about it. She wondered just why and how she had made such a big impression on him for such a greeting while Harry remained safely, laughing, on the ground.
All in all, the visit had proven to be a welcome reprieve from the worry and stress about Gabrielle. Then, when they received Alain's rabbit Patronus that Gabrielle was showing signs she was about to wake up, they made it back to her room in record time.