We'll Fall After the Yule Ball

Chapter Eleven

Harry fiddled with his tie as he nervously awaited the arrival of his date. He had chosen to wear his best set of Hogwarts robes, and rather than a burgundy tie, he wore gold, thinking that the color would accentuate his eyes a bit better. Of course, he knew next to nothing about improving his appearance, but he had at least put forth some considerable effort, praying that the evening went well.

Dinner had finished a bit early, and most of the students had scampered off, leaving Harry all but alone at the Gryffindor table. Romilda Vane had made a valiant attempt at coming to sit beside him, but fortunately for Harry, Ginny and Neville acted as a wall between Harry and the rest of his House, and the third year girl stomped off to her usual seat, sending vengeful looks their way.

According to his digital watch, it was five after seven, and each passing minute only served to intensify the nauseating feeling bubbling in his stomach. He had half a mind to raid Snape's stores in search of a Draught of Confidence to guzzle, but after rumors of strange noises coming from the one closest to the Potion's classroom, Harry wasn't sure he wouldn't be consumed by something himself. Apparently, Michael Corner swore up and down he'd heard a banshee screaming from behind the door on the night of the Yule Ball.

"You excited?" Ginny asked, looking pointedly at Harry. She reached over Neville to procure some dessert, a nice apple cobbler, and Harry stifled a laugh, reminded of the time Dudley had eaten a hot one out of the Dursley's window sill. Harry had been blamed, of course, but even Petunia couldn't deny her son's frantic screams as he begged for milk. "Earth to Harry," Ginny said, snapping her fingers in front of his face.

"I don't think excited is the word for it," he admitted, glancing around to make sure no one was listening. In his patented self-deprecating fashion, Harry said, "It's more like I'm waiting for her to realize she's going on a date with a kid who, six-seven days ago, had never..." he cleared his throat, deciding not to finish his statement, though Ginny nodded knowingly. "I'm also kind of hoping her father won't rip my eyes out the first time I look at her wrong."

"It's bound to happen at least once," Ginny said, frowning thoughtfully. "As bad as I hate to say this," she said, grimacing, "Fleur is too good looking for her Dad not to have high expectations for any suitors she may have. If I was you, I'd make a concerted effort not to do something foolish when he's around. He's bound to be less forgiving than Phlegm at any rate."

Neville chuckled at her comment, but Harry frowned. "Don't call her that," he said reflexively. Ginny mouthed the words back at him with an attitude, and he sighed, shaking his head.

"Now you sound like Hermione," she said, acting like she was disgusted by the thought. The two Gryffindor girls were on good terms, but as Hermione had distanced herself from Harry and Ron, unfortunately, she had also stopped talking to Ginny. While he was sure they would eventually reconcile, he was more worried about his own relationship with Hermione. "I'm sorry I put her down," Ginny said, referring to Fleur, "but you're going to have to get used to it. Veela are some of the most revered and reviled creatures in the wizarding world, and being a quarter Veela won't make a bit of difference." She sighed, noticing that Harry looked ready to lambast her for telling the truth. "She doesn't deserve it, but that's something you have to be prepared for if you're going to date her. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say the only reason she's even interested is because she thinks you'll always stick up for her. Your 'saving people thing' is... well, very beneficial to you right now."

Harry didn't want to, but he considered Ginny's words as he nervously fiddled with his tie. "And don't look so nervous! She'll know right away that you're worried if you keep playing with that damned tie!" The redhead snatched it out of his hands, and Harry had the good grace to look chastised. "Just... try to relax, be yourself, and hey - maybe you'll get laid out of the deal!"

Neville burst out laughing, and Harry couldn't contain his blush; Ginny had nearly screamed her last words, and had certainly succeeded in removing the nervous expression on his face. Of course, it was immediately replaced by fear and embarrassment, but she figured it would be best to get all of those emotions out of the way before the date actually began.

"Oh," she said, "before I forget, the incantation to the Contraceptive Charm is Condomasius-"

"Hello, Harry," someone said from behind him. As Ginny's comedic act had continued, Harry had forgotten to focus on the front doors and, as a result, he had completely missed Fleur's entrance. He took a deep breath to settle himself before turning around and he made sure to stand up and embrace the visibly surprised girl. Fortunately, she seemed to encourage the contact once she realized he was initiating it, and Harry felt a bit of his trepidation disappear. Fleur greeted his friends in turn, though he was sure she couldn't remember Neville or Ginny's names, and Harry politely asked her if she was ready. "Yes," Fleur agreed, as Harry rose to his feet. "I hope you don't mind something different for dinner. Father and I don't have the stomach for this greasy English food. No offense," she added at Ginny's stung expression, though Harry had a feeling there was more than a slight jab in the statement. "We're just not used to it."

"It's no problem," Harry said, facing Ginny with a stern glance. She turned away, hiding a half-smile that promised some type of verbal torture later. "I guess I'll see you guys tonight," he announced, stepping away from the table and holding out a hand for Fleur. After a moment's hesitation, she smiled and took it, and they strolled from the Great Hall with the eyes of most of Hogwarts on their backs. Noticing that Fleur was regularly shooting him inquisitive looks, possibly to determine whether he was a big bag of nerves, Harry tried to put on a brave face. "Don't wait up!" he told Ginny, absolutely certain that everyone in the Hall could hear him.

Fleur smiled, feeling comfortable enough with him to wrap one arm around his hip as she walked. He returned the favor, placing his left hand somewhere on her thankfully hidden midriff; he wasn't sure he would be able to walk if she'd chosen more revealing clothing. "Let me ask you a question," he said, partly to get the conversation started, but mostly because he was curious. "What are classes like now that you're... y'know, living at Hogwarts? I mean, is it different than Beauxbatons?"

"Well," she said, smiling, "Beauxbatons is between Marseille and Montpellier, not far from the Mediterranean, so the biggest difference so far is the climate." Harry returned her smile but, thanks to his sheltered life before Hogwarts, he knew next to nothing about France. Of course, Fleur's continued presence in his life was a good reason to learn. "It's in a national park, with a lake on one side and a beach on the other - like the one that we went to in that room of yours. It's not quite as majestic as a castle surrounded by a forest full of magical creatures, but it has its own merits. Some students sun bathe at the beach on the weekends, but its still a bit too cold for that this time of year, and... well, not to sound full of myself, but I tend to attract a lot of attention when I go out in a bikini."

Harry could easily imagine his own reaction to Fleur in a bikini, and he assumed he'd be one of the more reserved viewers. Some men, especially any Muggles watching, would lose their minds in the face of such temptation. Harry stifled a chuckle; he hoped he could get a picture with Fleur in order to wave it in Dudley's face the next time he saw him. Perhaps the Dursley's would want to be freaks too

Fleur continued, a slight bit of irritation creeping into her tone. "As for the classes themselves, everyone that came here for the tournament is grouped by year, so there's really only two classes with twenty or so students each. The Professors would usually let us have class outside in the warm sunshine, especially in the Spring, but for now we have to make due with dusty stone slabs in the dungeons." She shivered at the thought, obviously disliking the dreary nature of that part of the castle. "Headmaster Dumbledore has allocated some unused classrooms for us..."

Her melodic voice expressed concerns with her time at Hogwarts interfering in her studies. Apparently, Fleur wanted to work at Gringotts when she graduated, and as a result of being placed in Scotland, she could not complete certain courses she would have been able to in France. Harry found himself particularly quiet as they walked, having been reduced to an active listener and nothing more. He tried to be positive - at least breaking the ice had taught him something about Fleur - but while he could relate to her disdain for the dungeons, he thought he had a healthy fear of Goblins, in part due to Binns' recitation of the dozen or so rebellions in recent history. He certainly wouldn't be applying to spend half of his life there, guarding the innumerable vaults underground.

Somewhere along the way, Fleur began to lead Harry, as he had no idea where he was going, and had not been given a good enough opportunity to ask her for more information as she was still fervently explaining the differences between each school. Her distinct accent also made it difficult for Harry to follow some things she said, as her excitement butchered the occasional English word, and left him often nodding along incomprehensibly. Luckily, the French contingent at Hogwarts had been given quite a bit of room right near the Forbidden forest, and the couple didn't have to travel far; on the other hand, that meant that it wasn't long before Harry was feeling nervous once again.

"-and I don't think it would be a stretch to say that I'd get in with my first application. They only take on graduates that know more than one language, and being involved in this tournament might just tip the scales in my favor, you know? If I win, I could even use the prize to get a flat in London..."

She glanced at Harry, who was frowning, and immediately determined that he had been silent for the last five to ten minutes. Zeroing in on him, she said, "What about you, Harry? What would you do with the winnings?"

Harry was caught off-guard; before the tournament, he had often pondered what he'd do with a lump sum of that size, but once he had been selected, he had been more worried about not dying, and then, not embarrassing himself too badly in the process. Now that she had put him on the spot, he wasn't sure. Unfortunately, he didn't think refusing to discuss it would get him out of the spotlight, so he tried to concoct a halway believable plan that sounded like he had thought it through.

"I guess if I had to do something with it... besides, y'know, leaving it in the bank... I'd probably just give it away." At Fleur's disbelieving expression, he smiled. "I'd make sure it went a good cause... not to brag or anything... but my parents left me plenty when they passed, and I never entered this competition, so I couldn't care less about the prize." Sighing, he ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm just trying to survive this thing."

"You really didn't, did you?" Harry frowned, and she rephrased her statement. "You didn't put your name in the Goblet." He nodded, shrugging sadly. "Everyone thinks you did, but... if you're not responsible... then who is?"

"Good question," Harry said, chuckling humorlessly. "I've been trying to figure it out myself. Dumbledore has been calm about everything, but I know he's worried too; I'm pretty sure someone's trying to kill me off without implicating themselves in the process." He spoke in an offhanded manner and, at Fleur's sniff of disapproval, he shrugged. "It's not a situation I ever wanted to be in, but it's not like I can stop it now that it's happened. I don't care about winning, but I'm still going to do my best to prove to everyone that I belong here."

Fleur chose to prolong the silence, perhaps thinking over what he had said. Just when Harry thought things were becoming awkward between the two of them, Fleur shouted something in French. Confused, Harry shot her a concerned glance, but she just smiled, wearing that smug expression that made him feel eleven again, sitting silently under the brim of a hat in the Great Hall.

Harry nearly shouted himself when he realized that the Forbidden forest, which they had just been standing next to, was... stretching? Something distinctly magical was happening, he realized, as trees ten times as tall as him were sucked into the ground and hills were all but removed from the landscape. The grassy clearing they had been squatting in was now a concrete jungle, where a building roughly the size of Gryffindor tower had been precariously placed on the edge of the forest. Harry couldn't contain his surprise, as he briefly took a step backward, a movement that was immediately noticed by the ever-watchful Ms. Delacour.

"Do not fear," she laughed, obviously enjoying the experience of seeing the Gryffindor boy squirm. "This is where we meet with our parents." She opened her mouth to ask him why he had not been here to see his own family, but quite clearly, he had no family to speak of. Feeling suddenly guilty, she toned down her beaming smile. That didn't mean she wasn't going to pick on him a bit. "You can stare down a dragon - not to mention a thousand year old basilisk! - but you're frightened by this?"

Harry shook his head. "Not frightened so much as... worried, I guess? I just hope that your father-"

"Fleur!" a voice cried from within, just as the thick, wooden door opened before them. Harry was surprised once again; he had not been expecting a balding, elderly man to encircle the young woman with his arms, hugging her tightly to his chest. Harry had imagined a stately wizard with all the ruthlessness of Lucius Malfoy (as well as the blonde locks to match) but apparently, Fleur's good looks came only from her mother. "How I've missed you, mon cherie," he whispered in Fleur's ear, before glancing briefly at the boy accompanying her. "And who is this?" he asked, staring pointedly at Harry now that he had extricated himself from his grinning daughter.

"Papa, this is mon copain," she announced, with a wave of her pale hand, "Harry Potter." He held his hand out to the man, but Mr. Delacour shook his head; already resenting the man, Harry looked down at his feet, and missed the heavy-set man grabbing him by the shoulders and giving him a hearty hug.

"Mr. Potter!" he said, exuding friendliness, as well as a confidence that wouldn't have been out of place on a middle-aged politician. Harry mentally reminded himself that Mr. Delacour worked for the French president, and while he could be a pleasant man, it was much more likely that as soon as Fleur stepped out of the room, Harry would be treated like Hippogriff dung. "A pleasure to meet you! My daughter has been less than forthcoming concerning the guest she was bringing tonight," he said, giving her a mock-glare, "but perhaps that was to sweeten the suprise. I am, however, quite pleased given that Mr. Davies is not in attendance," he said, drawing laughter from the two teenagers. Harry's spirits rose considerably.

Fleur said something under her breath that Harry did not catch, but Mr. Delacour chuckled. "Sir," Harry said, deciding to aim for a respectful tone, though he itched to put the Ravenclaw boy down all the same. "Roger isn't world-renowned for his self-control," he said, smiling. "I hope you find me a bit more mentally balanced."

Harry was referring to the latest Rita Skeeter article questioning his mental faculties leading up to the second task, but he wasn't sure Delacour read the Daily Prophet regularly. The much older man gave him a lingering glance. "That remains to be seen, Mr. Potter. Are you... a fan of Quidditch?" Harry had heard that the French League was very popular, though he didn't know any player or team names; he assumed correctly that Mr. Delacour was an avid fan.

"Barbaric sport, sir," Harry said with a straight face. "Only position out there worth playing is seeker." The much younger man watched his companion waffle, torn between declaring Quidditch the greatest sport ever but realizing that, ultimately, seeker was the only spot that ever seemed to make a difference on the pitch. Harry ignored the man's indecision and added, "Of course, I'm the youngest seeker in a century... so I guess that makes me more barbaric than the rest."

This time Delacour laughed, shaking his head. "You had me going for a minute there, boy," he said with mirth in his eyes. "I heard you're an excellent young prospect, perhaps as good as Krum was at your age. In fact, Fleur said you out flew your dragon in the first task - a feat that I would suggest you never accomplish twice, but it's awe-inspiring all the same. I was unable to attend, you see, because-"

Mr. Delacour continued to talk (mostly about himself) and was oblivious to the silent conversation brewing between Fleur and Harry. Fleur mouthed, "He talks too much!"

Harry, whose attention was divided between both Delacours, smiled. "Sir," Harry said, interrupting a rather long diatribe on Spanish and French relations, "I think Fleur is trying to get your attention." He looked at the long-haired blonde, who swung her head around and faced him with an irritated glare a moment before her father inquisitive glance brought about a friendly smile. Fleur merely waved her hand once, diverting their attention to a house elf that wore an odd beret placed precariously on his tuft of gray hair. Harry was reminded of a much older Dobby, without the tendency to punish himself. It was made plain that the elf had come with the Beauxbatons students from France when he smiled at Fleur and politely said something in French.

"Dinner is served," Fleur said, acting as an interpreter between Harry and the elf. She slipped through an adjacent door with style, her long legs guiding her into the dining room beyond, and the two men joined her momentarily. Fortunately, Mr. Delacour had not noticed the approving glance Harry gave Fleur's rear end on her way out.

"I'm famished," Harry said. He had chosen to skip lunch that day on the off chance that he'd be too full to eat dinner; as a result, he had spent the last period of the day and the three hours following it trying desperately not to eat anything, and he was feeling rather sickly now. The table in front of him would soon fix his hunger problem though, so he smiled delightedly at Fleur, who was a bit more reserved in the presence of her father. However, another problem presented itself as he gazed hungrily at the gathered plates; Harry had absolutely no idea what half of the dishes were made of, much less what they were called.

"I can suggest something if you'd like," Fleur said helpfully; of course, her playful grin promised that he wouldn't necessarily get something he liked. He decided he'd just play along, and as men are prone to do, he let the woman feed him with little conflict.

"Thank you," he said, as she placed a great pile of... meat pie? on his plate. She continued adding other items, some which she herself apparently held in high esteem, judging by the unlady-like portions she was plopping onto her own plate. Her father didn't waste a moment, and before Harry could take a bite of his own food, Mr. Delacour had eaten half his plate.

The conversation that was halted by Fleur's interruption was not renewed, a fact that Harry was increasingly grateful for. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate chatting up Fleur's father (quite the contrary, he figured that every point he won with Monsieur Delacour, he'd win doubly so from his daughter), it was just that what he preferred to talk about was dreadfully boring. This time around, however, Mr. Delacour chose to interrogate Harry about the oncoming second task.

"So," he began, once again oblivious to Harry's discomfort, "how do you think you'll do on the next task, Harry? I assume you won't be flying past the mermen!" He roared in laughter, and Fleur joined him with her light giggles. Harry, on the other hand, nearly choked on his food. "Are you alright, Harry?" Mr. Delacour asked, his meaty hand slapping the boy on the back.

Harry spluttered for a moment, his brain reeling from processing the new information. Delacour had just told him they would be dealing with mermen, and though he had no idea what that entailed, there was no doubt he'd be underwater.. He realized now that he should have tried water to open the egg, and he resolved to do that as soon as possible.

"I'm fine," he said, taking a rasping breath. As he settled down, so did the Delacours, who sat back down and shared a smile at his expense. He joked weakly, "I'm just so used to seeing my friend Ron inhale food I thought I should try it myself."

"Oh, please," Fleur sneered. "If you start to behave like him, I'll have to-"

"Now, now, Fleur," her father said, cheery despite his daughter's demeanor. If he's a friend of Harry's then he must not be too insufferable-"

"You don't understand who this boy is, Papa! He embarrassed me in front of all of the schools. He eats like a pig, he dresses like a fool, and now, he goes out of his way to be rude to Harry, and they are supposed to be best friends!" Harry was briefly confused; he couldn't understand how she had come by that information, but perhaps she was just a bit savvier than he thought. He didn't have time to that information because Fleur wasn't finished, as she tore into another Weasley-related tantrum. "And his sister is just as bad! I can already see that she hates me for my looks, and I know that she just wants him for herself!"

Harry tried to think of something - anything - to say that would defend Ginny and Ron, but in the moment, he didn't have the nerve. Everything she was saying was true, but seen through Fleur's eyes, he didn't think he'd have a different reaction. Fleur was over-bearing at times (oh how he was beginning to find this out firsthand) but it was bearable because she was intelligent and driven as well. She didn't typically paint people with a broad brush, but she obviously held a grudge over Ron's embarrassing invite to the ball.

Fortunately, Mr. Delacour was quick to smile and try to calm his daughter down. "Well, you'll just have to make sure she can't." Just as quickly as Fleur's temper had reached a crescendo, it fell flat. "Delacours always get the thing they set their eye on, Harry," he stage-whispered, glancing over at his daughter. She started to crack a grin, one that Harry returned as well. "I'd do well to remember that if I were you."

"I will, sir," he said, smiling genuinely now that Fleur wasn't beginning to grow feathers. "If you don't mind me asking, how did you and Mrs. Delacour meet?"

"Now that, my boy, was a day to remember." he said, wiping the side of his mouth with a napkin. Harry sensed that a very long, convoluted story was coming, but he didn't mind this time around. Fleur must have already heard her father's recollection of events, perhaps even her mother's own thoughts on the matter, but she smiled and absorbed the story as it was told. Before he knew it, a quick glance at his digital watch showed that it was already past nine, and dinner had been over for quite some time.

"Thank you so much for dinner, Fleur," Harry said, "and you, Mr. Delacour." He stood to shake the older man's hand, drawing a pleased smile from both father and daughter. "It was really nice to meet you, sir."

"Oh, you don't have to be so formal, Harry," he assured the boy, who was almost the same height as he was. "I enjoyed spending time with the two of you, especially Fleur. This year has been especially trying on our family with Fleur so far from home-"

"Oh, Papa, you know I've been away from home before! I'm an adult now. I'm almost-"

"Eighteen years old. I know you are an adult in every way, my dear. You're as beautiful as your mother, as talented as your father, and far more intelligent than the two of us combined! - but you will always be my baby." Harry noticed Fleur try to hide her blush, and decided that she was most certainly a Daddy's girl. "In any case, I know you want to move to England after school is over, and in many ways I commend you for your drive and focus. But in every way, I miss my daughter."

He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her rather tightly, though Fleur seemed to squeeze him just as hard. "Take care of her, Harry," he said with a wink. "Or the second task will be the least of your worries..." He turned away, presumably to grab his coat, and Fleur made to join him, if only to walk him over to the chimney in the next room. He had already said he was going to Floo back to chateau Delacour, which was located somewhere near Brest (a location that Harry nearly laughed at, but for Fleur's last ditch glare. Fortunately, he had not made a fool of himself - that time).

"I won't take my eyes off of her, sir," Harry mumbled, just loud enough for Fleur to hear as she swept out of the door. Surprisingly enough, she blushed again, giving him a smile that nearly made him crazy. She didn't need an allure to do that, he thought.

Harry waited as the two of them slipped into the following room, pondering the nights events. Her father had been refreshingly kind, not at all like Harry had expected. Of course, he had based that merely on Fleur's good looks, and had worried himself half to death over how brutal the man would be as soon as he took one wrong look at the girl's body. By good fortune, Mr. Delacour had missed those looks, as Harry had not quite been able to totally clamp down when the opportunities had presented themselves. He wasn't a complete pervert about it, but he thought to himself that only the dim-witted or blind wouldn't stare at Fleur - with the small exception being those that preferred the same sex. Perhaps Colin Creevey...

"You were fantastic, Harry," Fleur declared, breaking him from his thoughts. She hugged him lightly, and he tried not to squirm, the feeling of silk and the smell of her hair clouding his senses. "Papa really liked you, I think. He wants to wish you well before the next task," she said, surprising him. "I'm pretty sure that means he approves of the two of us."

"Why do you say that?" Harry wondered aloud. "I don't feel like I made a very good impression. I mean, I nearly choked at one point-"

"You handled yourself well in front of my father," she said, one arm still wrapped loosely around his waist. Harry found himself suddenly concentrating on everything except Fleur, sensing that some boundary between the two was about to disappear forever. Her father had left already, and the house elf was either unseen or otherwise occupied; they were blissfully, and for Harry, quite frighteningly alone. "You have no idea how much that means to me..."

Actually, he did have some idea. Fleur looked at him through her eyelashes, a domineering look on her flawless face. Despite it all, Harry couldn't resist saying, "and I didn't know any of the food, but it really was quite good." She watched as he verbally discounted every smooth move he'd made in the last thirty minutes. "Your father was really nice to me, and all I could do is make a smart comment behind his back at the end, and I kept feeling like I wasn't good enough for you-"

"Last time he was here," Fleur continued, a half-smile on her face, her words silencing his self-deprecating tirade, "I brought Roger with me. He wouldn't try any of the food our elvesslavedover, he didn't laugh at any of father's jokes, and he could barely speak without mentioning either how pretty I am or how important his father is."

"He sounds like Malfoy," Harry chuckled, calming down a bit. "You know. The blonde git from Slytherin?"

She immediately cottoned on, judging by the face she made. "He makes me sick. Father told me that many of the students in Slytherin have parents that... fought in the war against your parents. Is that true?" He nodded, looking grim. "I think he said that a Malfoy was in Voldemort's inner circle..."

Harry did a double-take, realizing she had just uttered the Dark Lord's name. He was impressed, but it didn't feel right to ruin the evening, so he tried to change the subject.

"Maybe that's a conversation we can have another day, Fleur," he said, defusing the tension. She smiled, obviously in agreement. Thinking quickly, he tried to steer her back into her chair at the dining room table, and even quicker wand work produced a bouquet of flowers for the somewhat stunned girl. It was obvious from her reaction that Fleur didn't often take the passenger seat in a relationship; for Harry, who was the younger of the two, and finally exerting some form of control over the older girl, it was a nice change of pace from what he was used to. He tried not to remind himself that a week ago, he hadn't even kissed anyone, and was in the middle of a very long non-verbal pep talk when he heard Fleur speak. It was then that he became imminently aware of her lips, just inches from his own.

"Harry," Fleur whispered, "Maybe this isn't the best place..." she trailed off, her lips finding his and her tongue seeking hesitant entrance. There was a long pause, as Harry completely forgot about Hermione, the Yule Ball, and briefly, the entire Boy Who Lived nonsense that had haunted him throughout Hogwarts.

"I'm s-" he mumbled against her lips, a second before she pulled away. "I'm sorry, Fleur-"

"Sorry for what?" she straightened her clothing, looking around to make sure they were still alone. "We haven't even done anything to be sorry about yet-"

"No," Harry said, chuckling. "I mean, I'm not sorry for what we're doing, it's just... I don't want you to think that kissing you... and stuff... is all I care about." He didn't like the way his voice jumped up an octave when he said it, but he was at least sincere about it. The last thing he needed was Fleur running off, claiming he assaulted her or something...

"What if it's all I care about?" she said, her eyes dancing. "We're young, Harry... and we both know that this... whatever it is, is unlikely to last any longer than the Triwizard tournament, if it even makes it that long. I don't say that to hurt your feelings," she assured him, "but I'm not interested in settling down early, and I want to have some fun before I do! You understand that, don't you?"

Some small part of Harry was disheartened by her words, but he was surprised that he welcomed the news that Fleur wasn't that attached to him. Obviously, she didn't mind a bit of fun, as she called it, so he wasn't exactly opposed to the idea.

"I do understand, Fleur, more than you'll ever even know." He shook his head, trying to act a little upset about the situation without throwing a tantrum or shedding a tear. "I hate to say it like this... but being the Boy Who Lived, I'm not sure if I'll make it past the Triwizard Tournament, much less through Hogwarts!"

"Don't say that, Harry!" Fleur said, grabbing him by the wrist. He locked eyes with her slowly, and she softly said, "We're going to make it together. If anything happens out there, we'll look after each other, right?" Harry nodded. "The egg said that 'something we cherish' will be taken from us. All we have to do is win it back in the alotted time..."

Harry pondered her words, but realized the futility of constantly worrying about it. On his own time, he would decide how to approach the cold water of the lake, and the fact that they'd probably be visiting the creatures within. He thought he recalled something about a plant that could give him fins... "Well, we can't copy each other or we'll end up losing points, but whatever you decide to do, I promise I'll help you. There should be no reason any of us actually lose what they've taken from us."

She smiled. "You're a good person, Harry Potter."

"As are you, Fleur Delacour."

For a long time, neither said anything, content to just stare at each other. Fleur's smile never wavered, and Harry found himself tickled pink just to share a quiet moment with her. Typically, she would talk his ear off and he'd struggle to keep up with her accent. But the calm, composed woman next to him was nothing like the girl from earlier. This was a girl that he wouldn't want to let go after the Third Task.

Finally, Fleur leaned down and pressed a kiss against his lips, glancing at his digital watch in the process. "It's almost midnight," she said. "I think you should probably go..."

"Yeah," Harry said, his voice raspy for some reason. He stifled a yawn, and straightened his tie, preparing to stand up. He did have some difficulty ignoring the awkward shape of his trousers, but Fleur's smile remained.

"Can I ask you a question?" she said, suddenly looking nervous.

He shrugged, getting ready to leave. He ran his fingers through his hair trying to make it look like he hadn't been snogging, but gave it up, same as he had a thousands of times before. Fleur opened her mouth, frowned, and then pushed forward with her question. "Will you stay with me tonight?"

-end of Chapter Eleven-


A/N: Happy New Years! I think I promised that this would be finished by Christmas, but as you can see, we're not quite done yet. It will end when I'm good and ready for it to end! - but I feel a conclusion coming in the next few chapters nonetheless. Everyone go out and get wasted on my behalf (just don't charge the tab to me). See you again in 2014!