Chapter 1: An Alluring Difference
A Boon for Bill
A ridiculously long HP fanfic by canoncansodoff
Author's Note, circa 2021: Trying to cross off one of my bucket list items and complete some of my WIPs. Finishing off this one seemed logistically easier to attack than finishing MSWF, unless the muse gets carried away (as she is known to do) or my readers/reviewers make the case for a sequel. So fair warning…this is a sixth year story that may or may not kill off Voldie before I check the "completed" box.
What it does do is address my unhappiness and unanswered questions with HBP's "An Excess of Phlegm" chapter. Why would Hermione be as catty as Ginny making fun of Fleur? Why would Harry leave that cattiness unchallenged? What was Hermione doing at the Burrow, two weeks into hols…don't her parents want to spend time with her? Was Harry saving Fleur from the grindeylows or an Imperious'ed Viktor any less life-debt generating than what he did for Gabrielle? And why were Fleur and Bill spending the summer under Molly's unwelcomed supervision? There had to have been a pretty compelling reason (At least if I was Bill, and engaged to a part-Veela.)
Over the course of picking this story back up, I've gone back and re-read and lightly revised the first 17 chapters for clarity and consistency. Nothing earth-shattering.
Disclaimer: Not my characters, no money being made, etc., etc.
Chapter 1: An Alluring Difference
There was a light on in the kitchen window as Harry Potter and his headmaster approached the back door of the Burrow.
"Somebody is still up at this hour?" the teen asked.
"Arthur has been working long hours at his new post," Dumbledore noted. "Almost everyone at the Ministry has, now that they've finally come to grips with Voldemort's return."
"Ah…perhaps that is his story to tell," the headmaster replied sagely, as he stepped up to the thick wooden door and knocked.
In order to gain entry, Dumbledore was required to answer a challenge through the door crack. Harry's price of admission into the Burrow's kitchen was a bone-crushing hug against Molly Weasley's bosom.
"Oh, Harry! It's so good to have you home!" she exclaimed.
Once the teenaged wizard pulled free from the near-smothering, an old acquaintance immediately drew him into a far more pleasing embrace.
"Eet eez good to see you again, 'Arry Potter," the witch declared, as she kissed each of his cheeks and pressed her chest against his.
"Fleur, what are you doing here?" he stammered, a blush forming where her lips had just touched.
The French witch leaned back and asked, "You are pleasantly surprised, no?"
Harry's ability to answer coherently was challenged by Fleur's thin dressing gown and the amount of cleavage it exposed. Molly was quick to notice the distraction, and pulled out her wand. Her spell work pushed Fleur away from Harry, and transfigured her gossamer gown into a thick terrycloth robe that closed tightly at the neck.
"I'll not have you dressing like a scarlet woman in front of my boys," Molly spat.
"But…I was covered, and you said that 'Arry would not be making his arrival until ze morning?"
Dumbledore took a step forward and held his hands out to separate the two witches.
"I must accept the blame for this," he stated. "We were lucky that Slughorn proved far more agreeable, and the effort far less time-consuming, than I had anticipated…Harry's doing of course. Ah, hello, Nymphadora!"
Harry was embarrassed by the fact that he hadn't realized that there was a third witch in the kitchen. He could hardly believe that this was the same witch he'd first met during his previous escape from Privet Drive…not just because she wasn't sporting her usual mop of bubble-gum-pink hair, but because she hadn't immediately challenged the use of her first name, or teased him for his age-appropriate indiscretion.
"Hello, Headmaster…Watcher, Harry."
"Hiya, Tonks…how are you?"
"Just peachy, thanks," she replied, pushing back from the table. Tonks then pulled her cloak around her shoulders and nodded. "Well, I'd better be off…thanks for the tea and sympathy, Molly."
"Tonks, dear, are you sure that you have to go? Bill and Arthur should be home soon."
The metamorph's eyes met Fleur's, and they shared a small smile before she insisted on saying her goodbyes. She headed out the back door towards the designated outbound apparition point. Dumbledore was close behind, leaving Harry alone with Molly and Fleur.
"Are you hungry, Dear?" the Weasley matriarch asked. "I've got some onion soup on the simmer."
Harry's eyes darted towards the stove and smiled.
"That sounds wonderful, Mrs. Weasley…thanks."
With his attention focused on the delicious aroma, Harry missed Fleur's frown.
"Come sit at zee table with me, 'Arry…I 'ave been longing to see you."
The Boy-Who-Lived turned, surprised both by the request, and by the way that the French witch was almost caressing the section of wooden bench next to her.
Harry left a gap when he sat down. Fleur gave him a mock pout, then grabbed his arm and slid her bum over close enough for their thighs to touch.
"Oh, yes…I 'ad no opportunity to zank you for saving me zat night in ze maze."
"Oh, well…you would have done the same…" Harry replied nervously, his brain focused on the leg contact.
Fleur shook her head and squeezed his arm. "Or to zay my thanks again for saving my seester. You remember Gabrielle, no? She never stops talking about her 'Arry Potter. She can't wait to see you as well."
"Is she here too, then?"
"No, no…you are so silly!" Fleur smiled, as she squeezed his arm. "I mean next summer when Bill and I wish to…ah, but you do not know, no?"
"I don't know know what?"
The melodic laugh that escaped from the blonde-haired witch was carried on a mint-scented exhale that brushed against Harry's face like a warm wind.
"Bill and I are intended to be married!" Fleur declared.
"Oh, erm…congratulations," said Harry blankly.
"Zank you, 'Arry," the part-Veela replied, pulling him into another embrace.
When Harry looked over Fleur's shoulder he noticed that Molly had a stern look on her face as she stirred her soup with far more force and speed than was necessary.
"Bill eez very busy these days," noted Fleur, "working very 'ard at zee bank, and sometimes 'elping with 'is father's work as well. I only work part-time at Gringott's for my Eenglish, and Bill and I have been staying here…to help with the watching, but also to save money for zee down payment on a house once we are wed."
Molly let out an audible sniff. Fleur, having already heard something similar on many other occasions, paid her no mind.
"I was so pleased to 'ear zat you would be staying 'ere as well," Fleur continued. "Zere isn't much to do 'ere unless you like cooking or throwing zee garden gnomes! And I know zat 'Ermione 'as been so anxious to 'ave your arrival…"
Harry's eyes lit up at the news. "Hermione? Is she here?"
Molly let another inarticulate sound escape her mouth. "She arrived a few days ago," she then stated.
Confirmation of this news came when Harry felt something warm and furry brush against his leg. He ducked his head underneath the table and smiled.
"Crookshanks! How are you doing, old boy?"
The part-kneazle looked up at Harry, then darted out from the other side of the table.
"Where is he off to?" the teenager wondered, as the familiar scampered up the stairs.
"'Ermione's familiar has been playing zee lookout for her," Fleur answered.
"Ah, I see," said Harry. He rose from the table and faced the stairwell, bracing himself for the hug that he was certain would be soon coming.
A bushy-haired witch smiled when she poked her head into the kitchen, then practically leaped into her best friend's arms.
"Harry, I would have…" she mumbled into his shoulder. "But they said that you wouldn't…."
"Ssssh…s'okay, Hermione," the Boy-Who-Lived whispered into her ear. "I really wasn't supposed to arrive until tomorrow."
Fleur stood and slipped onto the bench on the opposite side of the table. Harry acknowledged this with a mouthed "Thanks" as he guided Hermione down onto the spot that had just been vacated. The Muggleborn then pulled her head back from Harry, and carefully scrutinized his face. He knew what she was thinking, and really didn't want to talk about how he'd been coping over the loss of his godfather. So he took the initiative.
"Mrs. Weasley is making soup for me," he told Hermione. "So how about I tell you all about our new professor in between sips?"
"It's late, Harry," Molly noted, as she levitated a bowl onto the table. "Wouldn't you rather wait until morning, so that you won't have to repeat the story to Ginny and Ron?"
"Oh, I don't mind," Harry said with a smile. His eyes sought out Hermione's, and then Fleur's, but they were both too focused on the soup bowl to return his attention. He frowned a bit in confusion, and then added, "Unless Fleur would rather fill me in on the details about her engagement to Bill?"
Molly pursed her lips. "They aren't actually engaged yet, you know."
"Only because my Bill wishes to do zee 'onorable thing and ask for zee permission first," Fleur countered.
"Whatever…now off to bed, you two!" she ordered, waving both Hermione and Fleur away from the table with her fingers. "Harry will be following right behind after he eats his soup."
Not wishing to get involved in this disagreement, Harry instead focused on filling his stomach. He looked down at the table and frowned, certain that he has seen a spoon. As he ducked to see if it had fallen to the floor, Fleur reached across the table and lightly grasped Hermione's hand.
"Molly, while I am 'appy zat you will be my future mozzer-in-law… I am an adult, and 'Ermione only a few months from being ze same…"
"Yes, but this is my house and…"
"And we are not your daughters," Fleur gently countered. "And I am not yet your daughter-in-law, and 'Ermione is not even zat."
"You can say zat again!" Hermione muttered, just loud enough for Harry to hear as he rose from the bench.
"What can I get you, Harry?" Molly asked.
"Oh, no worries…I was just going to get a spoon from the drawer…"
"There was one on the table…oh, never mind. Sit down…I'll get you another one."
The Weasley matriarch was just about to pull out the silverware drawer when she saw movement in the corner of her eye.
"Oh! They're coming!" she exclaimed, pointing towards the family clock. Bill and Arthur's hands had swung from "Mortal Peril" to "Traveling."
And sure enough, a few moments later the two men emerged from the family's floo connection. They were immediately engulfed in hugs. A warm smile formed on Arthur's lips when he broke free from his wife and noticed the new company.
"Harry! We weren't expecting you until morning!" he said, reaching a hand across the table as his wife set two more bowls of soup onto the table.
"Thanks, Molly," he said warmly. "Been a rough night…good thing our son the curse-breaker was right there by my side."
"Ah, it was nothing," the son and curse-breaker said modestly, as he sat down next to Fleur.
"I hear that congratulations are in order, Bill," Harry said, as he reached over the table.
"Thanks, Harry," the curse-breaker replied, firmly shaking the younger wizard's hand. When Fleur leaned over his shoulder and draped her arms around his neck Bill patted her arm and added, "I still can't believe that she said yes."
Molly blustered out an attempt to change the subject . "Harry, Dear, you'll have Fred and George's room all to yourself during your stay."
"Why? Where are they?"
"They've been sleeping in the flat over their joke shop," said Molly. "Their room is just off the first floor landing now."
"First floor?" Harry confusedly asked.
Arthur asked, "Haven't been given the grand tour of the new upstairs?"
"He's only just arrived," Molly said defensively. She turned to Harry and added, "We've done a little bit of remodeling since your last stay here, Dear."
"A little bit of remodeling?" Bill snorted. "Found my old bedroom then?"
"William!" Molly chided.
"Did your bedroom really get lost?" Harry asked.
Bill smiled. "Dunno. I was out of the country when it supposedly got up and walked away."
Harry imagined a bedroom with legs as it ran down the road. Given all that he'd seen magic do, he wondered if the comment was to be taken literally.
"Why aren't you sleeping in Fred and George's old room, then?" he then asked. "I really don't need a room to myself…I'd be happy to share with Ron again."
Bill snorted. "Sorry, old man…but I'm already bunking with my little brother."
"Really?" asked Harry. "What about Percy's old room…is he back, then?"
Molly choked back some tears and turned away from the table.
"I'm afraid Percy is still…on his own," said Arthur. "Hermione is using his room at the moment."
"I am sharing with my future seester-in-law," the French witch answered. "And getting to know 'er very, very well."
"Ah, I see."
Molly frowned and tried again to control the conversation. "Harry why don't you let me warm that soup up for you, so that you can eat and head off to bed?"
Bill spotted Hermione and Fleur's attention to Harry's bowl and arched an eyebrow. "I'll take care of the soup, Mum," he stated, drawing his wand.
The warming spell was slightly overpowered, causing the broth to boil and spill over the edge of the table.
"Oops, sorry about that…end of a long day and all that" the curse-breaker said, as he vanished the mess.
Molly shook her head and said, "I've got plenty more, Harry dear."
As the matriarch turned back towards the stove, Harry spotted Hermione, Fleur and Bill holding a wordless conversation with head nods and eye movement.
"Are you sure, 'Ermione?" Fleur whispered.
The Muggleborn witch glanced nervously at Harry and bit her lower lip. She nodded her head, then reached down and squeezed Harry's thigh.
"Brace yourself," she whispered.
"For what?" he whispered back.
With his focus on Hermione (and her hand), Harry didn't notice as Fleur closed her eyes and relaxed her shoulders. What he did notice were Hermione's eyes dilating, and the low-pitched whine that escaped from her lips as she squeezed harder on his leg.
"Y-y-yes, Harry?" the Muggleborn stammered, before biting down on her lower lip.
"Are you okay?"
Hermione was taking shallow breaths as her grip on Harry's thigh moved northward.
"I'm fine," the Muggleborn purred.
Harry was far more nervous than fine as his best friend's fingers ran up the inside of his thigh. He reached down and covered Hermione's hand before it reached his bits.
"What's going on?" he hissed, shifting his attention from Hermione towards Bill. The older wizard's response was precluded by a loud moan from Molly.
"Arthur…time for bed!" she ordered, placing her hands on the table and thrusting her ample bosom towards her husband's face.
The Weasley patriarch gasped, more than a bit embarrassed by the obvious signs of his wife's sexual arousal. But not so embarrassed as to look a gift shag in the mouth.
"Erm…right then," he stammered, as he rose from the table. "You four don't stay up too late, right? Goodnight!"
Harry watched with mouth agape as Arthur scrambled up the stairs, keeping one step ahead of his wife and her groping hands.
As soon as Mr. Weasley was out of sight, Hermione hissed, "Oh, fuck!" and dashed into the front sitting room.
"What the hell's going on?" Harry asked.
"Sorry, it was the only way," said Bill.
"Only way for what?" Harry asked, as he rose from the table.
Bill grabbed Harry's arm.
"Sit!" he ordered. "Hermione doesn't need your help right now."
"Pleaze, 'Arry…listen to Bill," Fleur added, as she stood and canceled Molly's transfiguration spell. The shift from thick terrycloth back to thin silk caused her restored dressing gown to fall completely open in the front.
The attention Harry paid to the accidental exposure was short-lived…while it was breathtaking, it couldn't compete with his best friend's sexy moans from the other room.
Fleur followed Harry's eyes and rushed to block the entrance to the sitting room. As she casually retied her dressing gown she said, "Relax, 'Arry…'Ermione has zee situation well in 'and."
Harry doubted this assertion when he heard Hermione growling out some explicit declarations.
"What are you two on about? What have you done to her?"
"Fleur released a variation of her allure that affects women, rather than men," Bill replied. "It's a defense mechanism when a Veela doesn't want to be the centre of men's attentions."
"Eet waz zee only way to get you away from Molly and 'er soup," added Fleur. The French witch then looked back towards the sitting room, pulled her wand, and thought to cast a silencing spell.
"What about Hermione?"
"She'll be fine, once she…releases the effects of the allure," Bill replied. "She's gone through this before, Harry…and she did agree on the need."
"Once she releases the effects? You mean that she's in the other room right now, rubbing one…?"
"Yes she is…and if she isn't too embarrassed over the fact she can explain why later," said Bill. He then pulled a small vial from his pocket and set it down on the table. "Right now, I need you to focus…and drink this potion."
"It's an antidote for Amortentia," Bill asserted. "That's a type of love potion."
"What would I need that?"
"Because we're certain that Mum brewed up a batch last week, and we don't know if she's spiked your soup."
Harry scowled. "You think your Mum wants me to fall in love…with her?"
"No!" Bill nearly shouted. "With Ginny, you berk. Now will you just drink it?"
"This is ridiculous," Harry muttered, shaking his head. "You expect me to believe that Fleur did something that caused your Mum and Hermione to…get so that they have to…oh, Merlin, so that means that right now your Mum and Dad are…?"
"Yes, Harry, they are," Bill said with a sigh. "They probably didn't think to silence the room again, either." This assessment was confirmed when the sound of rhythmic banging drifted down two flights of stairs.
"Oh, that's just…" Harry moaned. He shook his head and added, "Well, so long as they are busy upstairs, maybe you two could back up and start this story from the beginning?"
Bill sighed, and nodded his head. "Fleur and I have been here for a week and a half. We're staying here for the summer because…well because of you."
"Yeah, but…well off-point for now. The point is that when we arrived here and announced that we intended to get engaged, Mum went through the roof. She's convinced that Fleur is using her allure to trap me, and would rather I settle down with the nice English witch that she's picked out for me."
"Zee metamorph…Tonks," Fleur claimed. "Although she eez not part of Molly's schemes, as 'er 'eart belongs to another."
"Either way, within a couple of days of our arrival, Mum had her cauldrons on the boil," Bill said. "She claimed that she was just making medicinal potions, but…well easy enough to tell from the owl-mailed ingredients."
"But if she wanted to use the love potion on you…then why would I need to worry?"
"We might be completely off-base here," Bill admitted. "But you could be a target of opportunity…so long as she's got the potion brewed, and is still dreaming of her one big happy Weasley family…"
"Molly weeshes Bill to wed Tonks, and to match 'Ermione with Ronald, and to pair up you wiz Ginny," Fleur declared.
"Why would she…that's just so hard to believe," Harry decided.
"I know, I don't want to believe it myself," Bill admitted. "But with Mum almost bragging about the fact that potions were used to get Dad in the right mind…"
"Yeah," said Bill. "Dad laughs about it now, saying 'all's well that ends well'…claims that the potion can't create what isn't there just under the surface to begin with, but…"
Harry shook his head as he eyed the vial.
"Not to doubt what you're telling me," he said, "but if this is all true, why are you helping me?"
"Because it's the right thing to do?" asked Bill.
"True, but…to go against your own family…"
"I think that I'm actually helping the family by helping you, Harry."
"And 'elping 'im start 'is own family," Fleur added with a grin. She turned towards the sitting room after catching movement in the corner of her eye. "Ah, I knew it would be quick with you 'ere, 'Arry…eef you will excuse me?"
The teenage wizard shook his head again as Fleur walked into the sitting room. Then he thought of what may have just happened in the sitting room, and couldn't help but lean forward and twist his head for a look.
"Eyes here, Harry" Bill hissed, covering Harry's arm again. "She's going to be embarrassed enough as it is, don't you think?"
The black-haired wizard thought for a moment, then sighed and leaned as far back as he could without falling off the bench.
"So what did Fleur mean about you helping yourself?" he asked.
"Best that she be here to explain," Bill replied. He then looked down at the vial and asked, "Would it help if I took a vow stating that the vial contains a love potion neutralizer, and that everything else that I've told you tonight is true, to the best of my knowledge?"
Harry stared down at the vial and shook his head.
"That won't be necessary," he decided. "I suppose that you've already dosed yourself?"
"Yeah," Bill replied. "Hermione did as well, once she arrived and we warned her off."
"Yes, Harry…really," Hermione declared from the entrance to the kitchen.
The Boy-Who-Lived looked up towards his best friend. Her hair was in place and her dressing gown tied modestly across her chest. Any sign that she had been sexually aroused…and had satiated that arousal…were gone, so long as you considered her flushed cheeks to be due more to embarrassment than excitement.
"Hey…are you okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine," she muttered, as she cast her eyes downward and walked around the table to take her seat next to Harry.
"Well…erm…thanks," Harry stammered. "For willing to…you know…"
"No worries," Hermione said quietly. "Just make it worthwhile and drink that bloody neutralizing potion before Molly finishes up and comes looking for us."
Given the situation, Harry did not care to hear the words "Molly" and "comes" in the same sentence. But he took this request to heart and brought the vial that Bill had placed on the table to his lips.
Hermione didn't care for the way that those lips were smiling as he downed the neutralizer.
"Something funny, Mister?" she challenged. "I would have thought that you'd react more maturely about this…not like you're Ron…"
Harry's eyes widened at this chastisement. He waited until he'd finished off the vial's contents before responding, however.
"Sorry, Hermione…I was laughing over the fact that you just swore, not that you just…"
"Well, never mind then," she replied, finding it hard to look Harry in the eye.
He decided that it would be best for his eyes (and thoughts) to focus elsewhere as well, so he turned to Bill and Fleur and asked, "So what about you two starting a family, then?"
It was Bill's turn to experience reddened cheeks. He turned to his girlfriend, who nodded and placed her hand over his in support.
"Bill and I…we wish to be married, but we can not do zis without your 'elp, 'Arry."
"My help?" asked Harry.
"Oui," the part-Veela replied. "Because of last year…when you saved both zee life of my seester and myself…"
"What?" asked Harry. "What does…not that I think that I actually saved your lives…no need to…."
"But zere eez a need," Fleur declared. "I can feel it in my 'eart every time zat I zink about fully giving my 'eart to William."
"You…you feel something about me in your heart?" Harry asked incredulously. "Not that I'm not flattered, Fleur, but…"
Hermione decided that she could no longer hold her tongue and entered the conversation.
"Harry, it's not that Fleur has feelings for you…she just feels that she can't act on her feelings towards Bill with the life debt or debts that she thinks are hanging over her head."
"Not zink, 'Ermione…I know," Fleur insisted.
The raven-haired teenager furrowed his eyebrows. "Even if there was a life debt here, which I kind of doubt…why would that get in the way of anything? I could just forgive the debt, or have it paid off with a promise not to betray me, or something?"
"Eet doesn't work zat way with ze Veela," Fleur replied. "We are ze creatures sexual…if ze life debt eez created eet must be repaid with body and soul…"
"Body and…you mean that you have to give me your body...but I thought that this was about you two?"
"Eet eez, 'Arry."
"You aren't suggesting that you need to give me your virginity, or something like that, to satisfy this debt you think exists?"
The serious expression on Fleur's face lightened considerably with this question.
"Eet would be too late for zat, wouldn't eet William?" she replied coyly.
Harry's attention turned towards Bill, who had his eyes firmly focused on the table in front of him. "So in plain terms…how can I help you two? Do I need to ask Fleur for a kiss, or something?"
The older wizard shook his head. "When she said heart and soul, Harry…we're talking more than just a kiss."
Bill let out a deep sigh as he looked straight into Harry's eyes.
"By granting me a boon, milord!" he stated firmly.
There was silence in the room as the four dwelt on that statement. Not that noise couldn't still be heard, mind you, given what was carrying down the stairs…
"Plain terms, Bill?" Harry finally asked.
"Fleur is certain that her debt to you has to be repaid sexually," the older wizard explained. "But that doesn't mean that there has to be a direct repayment…you could give Fleur to one of your liege-men as a boon."
"Give Fleur to somebody else?" asked Harry. "Like she was my property or something?"
Hermione shook her head and squeezed Harry's hand.
"No, Harry, it's not like that…okay, well maybe it is, but…"
"Not helping, Hermione…"
"You wouldn't be giving Fleur to just anybody…you can give her to Bill as a boon from his liege lord, and then they can become engaged for real," his best friend countered.
"I can?" Harry asked. "And if I did, they could?"
"Oui, milord," Fleur said with a smile.
"And what is all this milord business?" asked Harry. "I'm not a Lord." He then turned towards Hermione and weakly added, "Right?"
His bushy-haired friend smiled and shook her head. "Not that I can tell, Harry…at least not yet."
"You mean that I…"
"As Heir Apparent you can become Lord Potter on your birthday…maybe Lord Black as well, depending on what Sirius set out in his will."
"But I'll only be sixteen? And while Dumbledore said that Sirius left me everything, he didn't say anything about me becoming Lord Potter or Lord Black?"
"I'm not surprised," Bill said. "More than once I've heard him and Mum talking about you needing to enjoy your childhood for as long as possible. But the fact is, as the Potter Heir Apparent you have the right to claim your lordship at sixteen and be recognized as an adult a year early."
"Yeah, well that first bit I can believe," Harry said cynically. "So let me see if I've got this right. When I turn sixteen next month, I can become Lord Potter, and then you can swear fealty to me, and then you can ask for a boon, and I can transfer Fleur's life debt to you so that you two can get married like you should be able to in the first place?"
Bill thought for a moment, then nodded. "That's it, more or less."
"And that would get me off the hook with the Delacour family?"
Fleur giggled. "Wiz me at least. My seester will insist zat she still must be sitting on your hook."
Harry closed his eyes and groaned, while Hermione squeezed his hand and said that there would be plenty of time down the road to worry about Gabrielle sitting on Harry's hook.
"So what would it mean if you become my liege-man, Bill?" Harry asked, his eyes still shut.
"It would mean that I would become your man…you would have my loyalty above all others."
Fleur cleared her throat. Harry opened his eyes while Bill turned towards his girlfriend and blushed.
"Erm, except for my wife, if you don't mind, milord."
This qualifier earned Bill a kiss on the cheek. He then turned back to Harry and said, "Not counting my wife, Harry…but counting my Mum…or Dumbledore…or even Gringotts if it ever came down to it."
Harry mulled this over for a moment. Or at least tried to…it was hard to mull giving the distracting noises coming from upstairs.
He nodded towards the empty vial.
"So that's why you gave me this antidote...in case your Mum spiked my soup?"
Bill shrugged. "I would have done it anyway, but…yes. While I can't actually swear fealty until you assume your lordship, I think that I can prove my worth to you between now and your birthday."
"You don't have to prove anything to me, Bill," Harry said dismissively, as he reached out his hand. The red-haired wizard smiled, and grabbed further up Harry's arm, as a kinsman might shake hands.
And then the moment of camaraderie was ruined by Molly's coarsely-worded encouragement for her husband to ride her like a hippogriff.
Bill, Harry and Hermione all winced. Fleur chuckled.
"Why don't you sleep on this?" Bill asked. "We should be able to find some more time to talk over the next few weeks."
"Without going to the same extremes, hopefully," added Hermione.
Harry nodded in agreement as he looked across the table. "You two are really going to stay here over the summer?"
Bill looked towards Fleur and shrugged. "When we joined the Order last month, our first orders from Dumbledore were to spend the summer here at the Burrow. Two extra wands, in-house protection during your stay and all that. Can't say that the sleeping arrangements are ideal…"
"Or ze 'overing of zee Queen Bee," Fleur added.
"Zat too," Bill teased, adding, "But we'll muddle through somehow."
A cry of passion caught all of their attentions. Bill looked towards the stairs, shook his head, then smiled slyly.
"Now if you'll excuse me, milord…I'd like to do a bit of muddling with my girlfriend while there's still a chance."
Hermione snorted. "Muddling? Is that what you kids call it these days?"
"You might zink about a bit of muddling yourself," Fleur said playfully, as she rose and pulled Bill towards the back door.
"Goodnight, you two," Bill said rather sheepishly. "Don't do anything that we wouldn't do."
Hermione chuckled. "Don't think that I don't know just how much latitude that gives us."
"Latitude?" asked Fleur with a wink. "Eez zat what you kids call it zees days?"
"Goodnight, Fleur…Good night, Bill," Hermione said with a wave and a sing-song tone of voice.
Once the older witch and wizard slipped outside, Harry and Hermione turned towards each other…each searching for a safer topic of conversation than talking about the elephant in the room (i.e. what she had done in the other room).
"So…I'm thrilled that you're here," said Harry. "But weren't you planning on spending more than a week or two with your parents?"
Hermione nodded. "That was the plan, until Madame Pomfrey made a house call last week."
"Poppy?" Harry asked. "You mean…you haven't fully healed yet?"
"Mostly," she replied. "Turns out that I almost depleted my magical core fighting that curse…it's coming back, Harry, no worries. I'll be right as rain for the start of term…but she suggested that I help the process along by doing small amounts of magic each day."
"Yes. Not supposed to do anything complicated right away…First Year spells for the first couple of weeks, then work my way up," Hermione explained. "I could have just as easily done this at home, if it weren't for those Underage Magic laws."
Harry frowned. "Can't you get a medical excuse, or something?"
Hermione sighed. "I could try, but the Ministry would need to approve it, and with me being Muggleborn…"
"It might get approved the day after you return to Hogwarts," Harry agreed. "So what makes being here different?"
This question earned Harry an eye-roll. "It turns out that the Ministry's sensors can't tell who casts a spell within a magical household. They monitor locations, not wands."
Harry frowned. "That makes sense, given the warnings I got for Dobby doing magic at my Aunt and Uncle's…or when I did accidental magic and blew up my Aunt Marge…but that means that last year, at Grimmauld Place…"
"Exactly," Hermione replied. "We could have used magic to clean out all of those rooms, even though Molly claimed that we weren't allowed."
"Figures," Harry spat. "So you can do magic here, and the Ministry won't know?"
"You can too," Hermione nodded. "Just don't let Molly see you do it."
"Does she know that you are using magic?"
Hermione nodded. "The Headmaster and the Matron worked together to convince Mrs. Weasley. She didn't want to at first, but…she eventually agreed, so long as I promised to keep it a secret from Ron and Ginny."
"But not from me?" Harry asked.
His best friend shrugged. "Maybe she forgot?"
A loud shout from up the stairs caught their attention.
"Or maybe she was distracted by Fleur?" Harry asked playfully.
Hermione blushed, and looked down at the table, causing Harry to curse his stupidity.
"Sorry, didn't mean to be a git about it," he said.
She looked up and gave him a thin-lipped smile. "It's okay, Harry…just so long as you know why I did it, and don't make a big deal about it."
"Erm, okay, I can do that."
Hermione looked for the truth of that promise in his eyes. "Are you certain?" she asked. "Because I wouldn't want what happened to change things between us."
"Do you just want to pretend that it didn't happen?" Harry asked. "I guess that I could try, but honestly, that would be rather hard for me…"
"No, I couldn't hold you to that kind of promise," she admitted ruefully.
A funny thought came to Harry's mind, causing him to snort.
"What?" Hermione asked.
"Alright," Harry sheepishly replied. "I was just thinking that there was a way to put us back on an even footing."
"Simple," Harry grinned. "You stay here while I go into the sitting room and…you know…"
Hermione blushed the deepest shade of red yet that evening.
"Harry!" she hissed. "Don't you dare!"
"Why not?" he asked glibly. "You know I'd do whatever it took to make things right between us."
"Yes, but…still, you just can't…"
Harry snorted. "Of course I can…not like I haven't done it before...wouldn't take any time at all, given what's gone on tonight."
Hermione winced and cradled her face in her hands. "I'm never going to hear the end of this, am I?"
"Not unless you let me square things up."
"You're serious, aren't you?"
"No, I'm Harry, Sirius is my…"
The cheeky, playful attitude faltered at the reminder of his late godfather.
"Oh, Harry…" Hermione said, pulling him into a hug.
And in that quiet moment, hormones won out over grief and Harry realized that his chest was pressed against hers. And then they both realized that the silence was a truer silence than they had heard over the past fifteen minutes.
Hermione broke away from the embrace and scowled. "She'll be checking on us soon enough," she whispered.
Harry grinned. "Guess you'll have to just imagine what I'll be doing tonight in my bed."
He waggled his eyebrows as he glanced towards the sitting room entrance.
"What?" he asked with a grin. "Maybe I'll just be dreaming about Molly's delicious onion soup?"
"But the soup's on the boil over there," Hermione noted, pointing over his shoulder.
"It is, isn't it?" Harry grinned.
"Well you'll need this, then," Hermione said dismissively, as she handed him the spoon that had gone missing.
"Ah…you nicked it so that I couldn't…clever," said Harry. "But where have you been hiding it all this time?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?"
"Wouldn't he like to know what, Hermione," Molly asked from the stairwell.
The two teens turned towards Mrs. Weasley. She had, unfortunately, a certain look about her that made clear what she'd just done with her now sleeping husband.
"Know how we did on our OWL's, of course," Hermione quickly stated.
"Where are Fleur and Bill?" Molly asked.
"He said something about checking the ward line," Hermione lied. "And since nobody is supposed to be out there alone…"
"Well of course she would volunteer," Molly snapped. She scowled, and looked down at her clock. Not seeing any immediate cause for even more concern, she looked back towards the two teens.
"Thought that you two were going to bed?" she asked.
Hermione nodded. "Yes, Mrs. Weasley…we'll be off to bed now."
The matronly witch nodded in approval, and escorted the teenagers up the stairs. Percy's bedroom had also apparently migrated from the second floor to the first, with Ron's bedroom and a bathroom in between it and the Twins' old room.
Molly's careful eye kept Harry and Hermione from gaining any kind of resolution to many of the things that had been said and done that night…but not all.
"Sweet dreams, Harry," said Hermione, as she pulled him into a closely monitored hug.
"Of course…I promised, right?" he asked.
When they broke the hug Harry turned and wished Molly a good night. She kissed his cheek and shooed him into Fred and George's old room in its new place.
It looked exactly as he had remembered it before, except there being a number of storage boxes and half-opened crates. Hedwig was waiting for his arrival on her perch, set beside an opened window. She greeted Harry with an owlish sort of scowl, expressing her frustration over the fact that he hadn't sought her out sooner. He apologized, she nibbled on his finger for his penance, then flew out into the night in search of a good meal.
This left Harry alone with his thoughts as he opened his trunk, changed into his pajamas, and crawled into bed. He considered what Bill and Fleur might be up to outside, then dwelled on what Hermione had allegedly done in the sitting room (And where, exactly? On the sofa? One of the chairs? Lying on her back on the floor with her legs in the air? How would he be able to spend time with her in that room without thinking about it?).
The consideration of these questions forced Harry to realize that he could never again think of his best friend as anything but a sexy and very attractive young woman. The scenes that he imagined alongside these questions…these smutty imaginings...they goaded him into slipping his hand down the front of his pajama bottoms, and making good on his promise to Hermione.
He had been right about it not taking any time at all.
As he cleaned up, Harry wondered if Hermione had been in her bed while he wanked, focusing on what he was doing, and the promise he'd made that he would do it.
Down the hall, inside Percy's old room, Hermione lay in bed with a smile on her lips. While she was quite certain what Harry was doing in his bed, she did allow herself to wonder whom he was thinking of while he was doing it.
But would she have the courage to ask Harry that question in the morning? That unanswered question made her dreams that night far more unsettled than sweet.