"Yeah, that didn't work."
Harry pulled the egg magically through the air, out of the hearth. Hermione looked at him, somewhat exasperated, as she tended to be whenever a mystery was before her and the solution eluded her grasp.
"It's not even warmer? Not a bit?"
"Cold as ever. Check."
"No new inscriptions around it?"
"This is not The One Ring, Herms," he started, and after locking eyes with an angry friend, he resumed the matter-of-fact tone for the experiments, "and nope… just the same patterns."
"No sign of…"
"There isn't so much as a single ash around it, Mione! No sign that it was bothered or affected by the fire at all… the thing still looks like it's been polished ten thousand times, one after another," he retorted, throwing the egg like a football over the stairs, so that Ron could catch it. They had the entire Common Room to themselves.
"Mione, please," said Ron from upstairs, reappearing after storing the egg safely back inside the boys' dormitory, "you were the one who suggested physical attacks to it last week. Still sounded like a shriek, and we didn't break a shard of it. What's the harm?"
"We don't know anything about it yet," she fumed.
"You are not supposed to, anyway," said Harry, pacing towards the nearest window. "Remember? I'm supposed to figure this out by myself… don't get me wrong, you two," he added, "I appreciate the help… but you're not supposed to give me any advice."
"And just what are you planning to do there?" his red-haired friend inquired, joining Hermione at the couches. Harry already had his body halfway out the open window.
"I'm tired… I think clearer – and faster – when I'm flying. See you guys in a while," he finished, throwing himself head-first down the tower, catching his broomstick mentally seconds later in midair.
Harry laughed, their voices echoing loudly in his ears. He soared above the inner cloisters, ignoring the many students who followed his every move. He had been attracting a lot more of attention while flying lately, mostly due to the prowess shown during the First Task: he was not liking this effect one bit. As much as he enjoyed Quidditch, flying was meant to be a solitary exercise too, and he knew that all too well. He loved it… needed it as much as air.
Pushing those thoughts away, he tipped the broom up, circling the Charms' classrooms and shooting towards what he assumed was the Ravenclaw's House Tower (at least, that's where they all headed after most dinners).
As much as he tried to empty his head, the golden egg resurfaced before his eyes every now and then. Even though he wasn't as driven as Hermione herself when it came to puzzle-solving, he had to admit this one was nagging at him: the bloody thing just shrieked over and over again, no matter what you did to it!
He wasn't far from those thoughts when a golden egg flew right before him, gravity pulling it down, almost hitting the tip of his broom. Even faster than his surprise was his reaction: reflexive as always, the movement came fluid to him, matured, driven: he started a barrel-roll, extending his arm to clutch the object firmly. Harry accelerated, pulling the thing closer to his chest, still aiming the skies. Before he started asking himself how his egg had learned to fly and was now bent on being rescued, he spotted what looked like a waterfall of silvery hair circling on a broom some feet above him. It wasn't that the girl was moving slow… it was just that he was moving too fast.
Fleur Delacour. Unmistakable.
Harry turned around, as quietly as possible, and matched her altitude. No doubt about it… this was not his egg. He wasn't particularly thrilled about the idea of this encounter, though. "Might as well get it over with," he thought.
"I believe this is yours?" he started, approaching Fleur from a blind spot. Two wrong decisions: one not to announce himself from afar and another for doing so in what (he judged) was an almost casual tone. Three if you took the blind spot thing in account. The girl, surprised, faltered in her balance, almost falling over to the side.
Again it was instinct that drove him: he used the egg-free hand to keep the girl in place, holding her a little bit above her left elbow, clutching the arm.
"Steady," he added. "That's it, Harry, treat the older girl like a child. That ought to soften her a bit… you idiot." He quickly regained his paced self. "You okay?"
"Y, Yes," she muttered, breathing more calmly now, eying the grass so far below them. "I should thank you… that would've been a nasty fall."
It wasn't hard to 'read through' her accent. Harry felt a smile in the corner of his own lips. A guilty one. "It would… and you shouldn't thank the person who almost caused your fall in the first place."
She locked eyes with him. Even though the effects of her charm seemed to be lost when it came to Harry, he would never go as far as to say those curious blue eyes weren't charming in a particular way. Intimidating, to an extent…
"No, really… you shouldn't blame yourself. I need to pay more attention… it's just that I'm not… used to this weather of yours. It's so cold…"
Harry laughed quietly. "Foreigners do tend to agree on that," and only then he realized he was still holding her arm. She looked down, noticing it too.
"Sorry about that," he said fast, releasing his grip and handing over the egg, "and I suppose you want this back too."
"Once again, thank you!" she started, accepting the egg but not taking her eyes away from his… she seemed confused. What was her problem? "I thought about bringing this… 'clue' along to get inspired… as you can see, it did not work well. Couldn't even hold it properly," she added, securing the egg in a shawl wrapped around her body.
Harry laughed. "Not to worry, I'm not judging… 'been thinking about throwing mine from a cliff too."
It was Fleur's turn to laugh. Genuinely. "Did you now? Tough luck on your assessments too?"
"Tough luck would imply in some luck… anyway… I'll leave you to your thoughts, Miss," he sentenced, making the slightest movement to another direction.
"No," said Fleur rather hastily, and then back to a more self-assured stance, "No, stay. I probably wouldn't even have the egg anymore if it wasn't for you… and, as far as I've heard, you were courteous enough to help Cedric at the First Task. So why not repay the kindness? I'm sure that, should I find something up here, you'd deserve it just as much."
"He told you about that, huh?"
"Shouldn't he…?" she actually seemed nervous. Fleur Delacour, nervous… that was a first.
"No… I mean, there's no problem about it… and I'd have warned you and Krum too, if I wasn't sure that you had been informed as well. This is a competition… I would never get a head-start on any of you."
"So I see. By the way… how was it that you knew we'd been informed?" she asked, a somewhat playful smile on her lips.
"Now that is a good question, isn't it, Miss?" he replied. Strangely, at ease. She sighed, pretending exasperation.
"Very well… I'll find out eventually. And… you can just call me Fleur."
Harry could be mistaken, but he thought he saw a glimpse of blush on her cheeks. "OK, NOW you're delusional, mate… as if she'd blush around you. Focus."
"Harry it is to you, then, just as well. Will you do the honors?" he said, pointing towards the egg. She nodded curtly, flicking open the 'petals'.
Shriek. Horrible shriek. Amplified by the heights. Both students grimaced.
"So thin air's a negative," said Fleur, sealing the clue shut and eying it. "What am I going to do with you?" she said theatrically.
"I'd keep it away from the fire. And don't try to make sounds by smashing it with an axe, too… or any cutting or blunt weapon known to man, for that matter."
"Previous disappointments?" she said, sounding amused.
"Depends on the perspective... it's actually quite fun to see an axe splintered into tiny little pieces… granted that none of the pieces hits you in the eye," he added shrugging. Fleur laughed again.
"Boys will be boys… anyway, I've tried fire too… guess we'll have to think a little further outside the box."
"Guess so. There's time to it, though… I actually decided to fly around to clear my head…"
"And I messed up your plans completely," she finished, sounding sincerely sorry. Harry smiled reassuringly… this was a Fleur he was not aware of. Easy to talk to, even…
"Don't go there… it was imaginative of you to bring it here. And at least we know better now. Care to join me? I'm not the best tour guide you'll ever come across, but I can be a quiet company for a flight… looks like you could use some unwinding too… with Champion responsibilities and all."
Fleur smiled broadly. "I would really like that… lead the way, then... Harry."
And so he did… the boy discovered, rather satisfied, that the French student was not a fool on a broom; she moved gracefully and purposefully, weightless and secure. He tried small feints here and there and sudden changes of course, but she never trailed too far behind. "Fun…"
It really was fun.
Harry pointed towards the Pitch. Fleur followed him and landed softly, with perfect ballerina moves, walking on a small protective railing by the stands not far from him, just her regular elegant self. He thought she was showing off a bit… and the very thought amused him.
"You didn't have to hold back, you know," she started, hopping down from the railing to rest the egg by a bench, her broom left against the railing, "I've seen you at the First Task. You're a very accomplished flier… perhaps, even, the best I've seen," she finished, smiling the truest smile Harry had seen in her face so far.
"Quite flattering of you, M… Fleur," he corrected himself quickly, "but there are far more gifted fliers around. I really love it, though… I'll give you that. And I'm pleasantly surprised too… I should watch myself against French Quidditch teams, should I ever play against them."
Fleur smiled, a bit stern. "I hardly speak for the quality of France when it comes to Quidditch, monsieur… and I'm not a big fan of the sport either."
Harry shrugged. "I can respect that. Flying just for flying… not a lot of people get that."
"Not a lot of them, indeed."
Silence ruled briefly. Both students opened their mouths to speak at the same time, in that fashion that always breaks sudden tensions.
"You first," she offered.
"Actually, I was going to apologize. I should be going now… I've yet to meet some friends and one of them in particular would fancy killing me if he found out I've been spending time with you."
Fleur's smile relaxed and stiffened almost at the same time. "Is it safe to assume that we are talking about your friend who keeps goggling me like a fish out of water?"
"Clever. It's just that... our friendship just recovered from some bumps… and as much as enjoyed the company – and I really did (Fleur returned to her relaxed smile) – I think it's for the best that, if he asks, I just tell him I was alone."
"I can honor that secret," said Fleur thoughtfully, eying him again, "although I have terms of my own."
"O-ho! Do you, now? By all means, then… terms on the table."
"Just one, really… I do hope we can do this again."
Harry was slightly taken aback by this. He raised an eyebrow. "Easy enough… too easy, in fact… what's the catch?"
Fleur laughed in a more timid fashion. "No catch, really… it's just… well, this is rather embarrassing to admit, but I haven't been able to make many friends so far around here… and I don't really care about quantity, it's just that… this Veela side of me… it…" she trailed off, composing herself. "Well, it makes it hard for me to actually know a person. They don't… react like they should. They are not themselves, most of the time, around me. And you… well, you don't seem affected by it at all! It puzzles me…"
"In a good way, I hope," he added a while later, to break the tension.
"In an excellent way," she replied, a bit ashamed.
Harry was deeply struck; this was an entirely different person before him… he should have known better than to judge on looks first… how bitter she sounded about her genetic heritage… just as bitter as Harry felt about being famous. Maybe even more…
"We all need a break. We all need a chance… why not?", he thought.
"I know we'll still be competitors tomorrow…" she argued defensively.
"We're still competitors today," he replied calmly. "It doesn't mean we can't respect or even talk to each other. You can talk to Cedric just fine, can't you?"
Fleur did not respond… she seemed surprised by his logic. It was a bit offensive on his end, but not enough for him to feel bad about it.
"Well, rest assured, then… should you ever want some company, I'll fly with you. Anytime," he added, picking up his broom and resting it over the shoulder. Fleur seemed relieved as she shook his hand in a mockery of formality.
"I will hold you to that."
"I expect you to…I mean my word. I guess I'll see you around, Miss."
"Fleur," she corrected him. He laughed.
"I'll work on that."
"And I'll try not to look so dazzling to your friend, so you won't have a hard time keeping our conversations a secret," she said playfully. Somehow, Harry considered, being ironic about her own… 'condition'… was a defense mechanism. How well he had used that weapon in the past…
"Well," pondered Harry, walking away, "in his defense… part Veela or not, I'm not sure you could be less than dazzling even if you wanted. So don't try… he's the one supposed to come around. Not you."
The girl couldn't seem to find an answer to the compliment. Mostly due to the fact that he had complimented her… not her heritage… just her.
"I'll…I'll be seeing you then," she managed, feeling stupid and disguising it. Harry waved his hand briefly, before launching himself to the skies, happy for the afternoon's results.
And leaving a very confused (and reasonably elated) Fleur to return to her carriage.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is really just a propaganda to the author "Fledge". It was not asked for, and I could probably be sued (although I hope the tribute itself avoids that, lol...). But I've always considered Fleur a character with lots of unused potential.. and for all I've seen, Fledge makes an excellent (if not the best around here) work when doing that. This is just a rewriting of my own (spoilers-free, even) of how Harry and Fleur could strike up a conversation. It's somewhat similar to her ideas... only from Harry's point of view instead of the girl's. Check the original work as soon as you can...
It really sucks to have so much to do in the real world... I barely had the time to write this down, but it DID remove the writer's block I've been experiencing for a while now... I hope. Good reading, good reviewing, and take care all of you!