DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter or Fleur Delacour. Or anyone else. I make no money. At all. Whatsoever. The only thing I get out of this is my (in)sanity.

A/N: I could tell you that I'm new here and ask you to go easy on me, but where would be the fun in that? This is a teaser for a story that I'm almost finished writing (currently fixing a couple of plot holes before I tie it up). It's a heavily-clichéd, feel-good (for me anyway), Dumbledore- and Ron-bashing romp in JKR's world. And there are so few good H/F fics! Enjoy!

Chapter 1

The Trouble With Veela

Fleur Delacour was often overlooked. Oh, she was noticed – as a veela it was hard not to be, to her ongoing distress – but that was only her beauty. Fleur herself, the person within the shell, was a complete unknown to all but her family.

She spent many years perfecting her outer image, the perfect combination of snobbery and shallowness, which she used to push ordinary people away. It offered a counterweight to the natural magical allure that drew them to her in the first place, resulting in a scenario where people loved to watch from afar, but were unwilling to approach her directly. It was the only way she could have any peace.

Unfortunately, it also meant that she had no friends.

Oh, there was the occasional acquaintance, but she had yet to meet someone outside her family who could manage to enjoy her company without becoming either intimidated by her beauty, or enthralled by it. Her few attempts at friendship had ended in rapid disaster: the boys did nothing but drool, and the girls hated her for the way the boys acted. Fleur could never understand their jealousy; why would they desire such a lonely existence?

The result was that she spent a great deal of time on her own, taking solace in books and homework, and academically she was at the top of her class. Of course, this just made things worse: beauty and brains? Impossible! She must be cheating! And on it went.

And if that weren't bad enough, now she was in this stupid Tournament!

Her Headmistress had been quite convincing, playing on her insecurities as she had: wouldn't the students love you if you brought home such glory? Wouldn't it prove once and for all that you earned your grades? Fleur had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker – and worse, it was backfiring spectacularly!

Her performance against the dragon was reasonable enough, though what they were thinking with such a task was beyond her. Even Maxime was angry at the dangers involved, as she had been promised that the Tournament would be safe! But the contract was binding, and Fleur had to compete; and somehow, by some miracle, she had prevailed against the most frightening experience of her life to date.

It seemed a good thing, for once earning the adulation of her fellow students even if she didn't take first place, but she could hear the quiet murmurs in the background. Some wondered if her performance relative to the other Champions – especially a fourteen-year-old who wasn't even supposed to be there – was indicative of her future in the Tournament. Was she really good enough to represent such a prestigious school as Beauxbatons?

The Second Task only leant credence to their fears. Never mind that she was terrified for the safety of her sister – and whose idea was that, anyway? – and never mind that Veela and water don't mix. The fact that she had to be rescued, and came in dead last, had fanned the flames, and the murmurs became a dull roar. She feared her return to the school, as she was likely to be lynched before she could even graduate, for she had no doubt that she was going to lose!

Sadly, though, for all that she was worried about these things, they were the least of her problems at the moment.

Harry Potter, bless his soul, had acquiesced to her request to keep quiet about what had truly gone on in the depths of the Black Lake. She wasn't sure why it bothered her at the time – she was too emotional after her rescue at his hands, let alone that of her sister – but made the request just the same, and he was kind enough to agree. It wasn't until several hours after the fact that her thoughts finally calmed enough that she could think about it.

And now that she had, she was terrified! She stood outside the door to her father's guest accommodations, trembling in fear, clueless as to how he would react. Her father was opposed to this from the beginning, and now that she understood the real danger, she wished that she would have listened! It was too late now, though, and it was time to face the music.

And so she knocked tentatively on his door.

Her mother was unable to get away, and so he and Gabrielle had come to watch. She knew him to be incensed about the kidnapping of her sister by the Hogwarts Headmaster, and he was unlikely to be in a good mood as a result. She loved her parents dearly, and they her, but she never wanted her father's anger aimed in her direction.

He was an intimidating man, high up in the upper echelons of the French magical government, and could be downright scary at times. He had never been so with his family, but she had seen enough of his dealings with unpleasant people to know that she never wanted to be the one to feel his wrath. This was the first time she could recall that she truly feared it, however!

The door creaked open, and Gabrielle's shining blue eyes peered out for a moment before she squealed and threw it wide, jumping into her sister's arms. In spite of the situation, Fleur had to smile as she hugged her; she loved her sister dearly, and the warmth of that love was a sorely needed balm to her troubled soul. She lingered as long as she could before finally making her way inside, where her father was reading by the fire.

He looked up at her, and his brow creased in concern when he took in her tattered appearance. "Fleur?" he called worriedly. "What's wrong, chérie?"

Fleur shifted uneasily, and unable to meet his gaze, she stared for a moment into the crackling fire. It was quite frigid in Scotland at this time of year, so the heat was a welcome respite from the cool air in the halls. Still, as much as she would like to have curled up and forgotten all about it, she forced herself to press on.

"We need to talk, Papa," she informed him nervously.

Sebastian Delacour was nothing if not perceptive, and upon hearing her voice crack, he slowly closed his book, his eyes never leaving her face. She could feel his gaze burning into her, and her cheeks heated in embarrassment and shame. This was the worst day of her life to date, and she wished desperately that she could go back in time and change it!

"Sit down, chérie," he urged softly. "Tell me what's wrong."

Fleur dithered for a moment before finally giving in and gliding gracefully into the armchair nearest the fire. Still holding Gabrielle in her arms, she settled on the edge of the seat, unable to relax in the slightest. Her sister must have sensed her distress, for she tightened her grip, and Fleur soaked in that much-needed feeling of love.

She opened her mouth to speak, but she could not for the life of her figure out where to start. How was she to tell him this? How would he react? Frustrated, she closed her eyes again, tears beginning to leak from them against her will.

She heard her father shift, and sensed him kneeling before her, felt him placing one gentle hand against her cheek, careful not to jostle the bundle in her arms. The gesture of comfort almost broke her completely: how could she accept it when she was about to make him so very ashamed of her? It was almost too much to handle!

"Fleur?" he prompted in deepening concern.

Fleur swallowed thickly, and finally forced herself to confront her fears. "Papa," she began, her voice crackling with emotion, "do you– do you know what happens when– when a Veela owes a life debt?"

Her father sucked in a sharp breath, and his hand stilled. She dared not open her eyes, lest she see his horror: his reaction told her that he knew, and she did not want to see it.

"Did someone save your life, Fleur?" he asked carefully.

Fleur nodded and choked back a sob. It was out now, too late to stop the telling, and she was terrified! "The Grinydlows almost killed me," she admitted tearfully. "'Arry, he– he saved me, Papa, and– and it's the reason he was hurt. His time ran out early because he saved me!"

Her voice rose in pitch as her feelings struggled for release, and her entire body vibrated with the pressure of her pent up emotions. It was too few hours since the event for her to even remotely come to terms with it, not that she knew how! Her life was forever changed, and she could do nothing about it, and that was to say nothing of what it might do to Harry when he found out!

Would he even deem her worthy of saving a second time, especially at so high a cost?

As her mind whirled, she dimly registered that Gabrielle was being pulled away from her, and another sob escaped her at the loss of her sister, who felt like her only anchor in the storm. Moments later, however, even as Gabby's weight disappeared completely, she felt her father's arms come around her in a warm embrace, and he pulled her close, holding her tightly.

It was too much for her – she didn't deserve it – and she finally lost what little remained of her control, her sobs echoing in the chamber. He murmured soothingly to her, but she was so distraught that she could not hear his words. Why had she done this? Why had she ignored her parents and gotten herself into such trouble?

She had no idea how long he held her, but soon she cried herself out, and he gently drew away, lowering himself to stare into her eyes. She was startled to see nothing but concern there; there was no anger, no shame; only the love that he had always given his daughters, whether they needed it or not.

And for the first time in many hours, a tiny sliver of hope arose.

"We'll get you through this, chérie," he soothed. "I promise you, we'll get you through this. Now, why don't you tell me what happened?"

And so she did. She told him of her panic when she discovered that Gabrielle was missing, and how that awful song said that if she was not found, she would never return. She told him how she was so lost in the lake, completely unable to orient herself, her senses and magic disrupted by the unfriendly alien environment. And she told him of how those awful Grindylows sensed her presence and swarmed her like a pack of angry hippogriffs.

"I thought I was going to die, Papa," she whispered. "I knew I was going to die! And next thing I know, they start letting go of me. The last thing I remember is seeing 'Arry casting spells at them like a wild man. I couldn't get any air, and–"

She choked up again, and again her father gave her a hug. There was no possible doubt that the debt was real: had she lost consciousness unattended, not only would her charm have eventually failed and caused her to drown, but those infernal creatures would eventually have found her and killed her anyway! She felt a brief surge of anger at the carelessness of the Tournament organizers, but it disappeared again quickly, buried under her grief.

"Let us be sure," suggested her father, drawing his wand from a pocket in his elegant robes. "Afficher toutes les dettes!"

A pale shaft of white light left the tip of his wand and struck her in the chest, just over her aching heart. She was not surprised when the glow spread, turning a faint gold as it encompassed her entire body, and then brightening into the deepest golden glow she had ever seen. She knew what that meant, and it did nothing to reassure her.

She was right!

He sighed heavily and moved back to his seat, his face drawn, his eyes downcast as he thought it through. There was a palpable sadness about him that made her heart ache all the more. He was about to lose his daughter, and he knew this, but there was nothing to be done. She wanted to take it back, to tell him it was all a mistake!

"Tell me of 'Arry," he said softly. "What do you know of him?"

Fleur drew her legs up beneath her and shrank back into the plush armchair, recognizing that now they were down to serious business. She wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the unnatural cold she felt, and did her best to order her thoughts. What did she really know of him?

"He is... different, from the others," she said slowly. "I first saw him when he came to tell us that he was selected as a Champion. He denied his involvement, but nobody believed him." Her lips quirking slightly in wry amusement, she added, "I think I called him a little boy."

Her father snorted in spite of himself, and motioned for her to continue. She remembered the incident clearly – but she had a very different perspective on it now. The things that had transpired in the interim painted a very different picture of the so-called Boy Who Lived...

"I think he was telling the truth, Papa," she said after a while. "He was not happy to be there, and he was quite vocal about it. He had no fear of Dumbledore or that awful Potions Professor, and I think he was greatly angered by them."

"Go on," he nodded.

Fleur sighed, her emotions settling as she focused on less troublesome memories. "I remember one boy passing out horrible badges," she frowned. "They were quite rude, but 'Arry said nothing. What I don't understand is why the Professors did not act. It was terrible."

Her father cocked his head to the side, listening as he often did to what she wasn't saying. "What were these badges?" he asked with a frown.

"They said 'Potter Stinks'," she scowled. "And alternately that Cedric was the 'real' 'ogwarts Champion."

His lips thinned as he listened to her explanation. "And this was a 'ogwarts boy that was passing them out?" he asked with an edge to his voice. "And the Professors did nothing?"

"Nothing," she confirmed.

A brief silence fell as Fleur remembered. Even though she was upset that Harry was present at the time, she had never held it against him, choosing instead to take him at his word after she'd had some time to think about it. Because of that, her sympathy for him was pronounced; he was being ridiculed by his own school in front of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, and for what?

For the pleasure of a jealous little boy, near as she could tell. But that the Professors didn't stop him, that had truly incensed her! She herself had been the subject of much ridicule, and knew what it was to see one's enemies tacitly supported by the very people who were supposed to protect her! It was much the same.

"He was very nervous at the wand weighing," she recalled after a moment, "and I do not think he knew what to do when that reporter approached him. He was angry when he returned with her, and I remember thinking that she was not a nice person. Her name is Rita Skeeter."

Her father sucked in a sharp breath at the name. "They allowed that woman to interview a student without supervision?" he asked incredulously.

"You know of her?" she asked, curious despite herself.

"She is a piece of work," he scowled. "She twists and invents words, and never are her articles truthful. She should not have been anywhere near a school."

"Many things are happening that should not," grumbled Fleur.

He snorted in agreement with the sentiment. "Go on, Fleur," he urged. "Tell me more."

"There is not much more to tell, Papa," she frowned. "The rumors say that he is arrogant and prideful, but I have never heard him boast. He is very quiet, and always he is with his two friends, a boy and a girl." Snorting to herself, she added, "The boy is very obnoxious. He even tried to ask me to the Ball, but he left before I could answer. He is very immature."

Frowning in memory, she continued, "And I do not think 'Arry even wanted to be at the Ball. He looked terribly annoyed. It is as if he is being pushed from place to place, forced to do someone else's bidding."

"He did well in the First Task, did he not?" asked her father curiously.

"Yes," she nodded. "He should have been first, Papa, but that idiot Karkaroff will not score fairly."

He nodded his understanding, and silence fell as he pondered what he'd heard so far. Fleur, too, thought of her recollections of him; he was not what he appeared if her suspicions were correct, but nor was he what others wanted the public to believe. There were hidden depths in his eyes, eyes that had seen far too much. He was older than his years for some unfathomable reason.

She'd seen it enough in her father's Auror friends to know what to look for. He had the eyes of a battle-hardened veteran, but not the age for it, which was confusing! What could he possibly have been through in only fourteen years?

"And what do you think of him?" asked her father into the silence, interrupting her musings.

Fleur shrugged. "I do not know, Papa," she sighed sadly. "He is very quiet, as I have said, and I do not think he has a mean bone in his body. He is capable, and he is honorable. He is so very young, and yet so very old. I do not know what to make of him."

Slowly he nodded. "Then we will find out," he declared. "If he is as honorable as you say, then he will do the right thing, but I want to know more about him. Much more. Some of what you told me is worrisome."

Completely unsurprised by his decision, she simply nodded. "What do I do until then, Papa?" she asked quietly. "I do not know how to deal with this! What am I to say to him?"

He shook his head at her. "You will say nothing, Fleur," he told her. "Whether you are of age or not, I am still your father, and it is my place to handle this. I will speak with 'Arry when I am satisfied that I have enough information. Do not worry yourself over it."

A tear slithered down her cheek in silent relief. Telling Harry what was to become of him was the most frightening prospect of all! That her father would take it on, took an enormous burden from her shoulders! There was still more than enough to worry about, but one less thing was truly welcome.

"Who will tell Maman?" she asked quietly.

He smiled a wry smile back at her, understanding her point completely. "I will do that as well," he assured her. "And put your fears away, chérie, you have done nothing wrong, understand?"

When Fleur finally crawled into bed that night, it was with equal measure of relief and terror dominating her thoughts. Her terror was simple to define: she was facing a life-changing event that had never been part of her dreams, and it would forever alter her future in ways that she could not know. Either she would be dead in a month, or–

–she wasn't ready to think about that just yet.

She did not want to die, and truly, she did not think it would come to that. It was simply not Harry's way. If he was willing to assist her at his own expense when there should have been no danger, would he ever let her die when he could prevent it? No, she wasn't worried about that, and she would deal with the rest later.

She was, however, very relieved that it would not be her that broke the news.