Albus Dumbledore sighed deeply and carefully cradled his large mug of hot chocolate. He took a grateful sip of the hot sweet liquid, relishing the comforting heat it brought, warming him down to his fluffy violet slipper socks. He gratefully reclined back against his favourite cushy armchair, more than eager to unwind from the very long day.
He sipped his treat with satisfaction. He wished he could have gone to the kitchens as was his habit; he thoroughly enjoyed talking to the house elves while they worked. But he was tired and he had little desire to run into any of the number of people in the castle that were eager to eviscerate him over today's events.
He closed his eyes.
In hindsight, it hadn't been his best idea to use younger members of important families in the Second Task but there was little to be done. But it irked the old Headmaster of being accused of kidnapping, no matter how…appropriate the statement might have been.
Traditionally the Second Task of the TriWizard Tournament had been designed to test the Champions intelligence and their wits. As per the custom, the judges and the demonstrators took an oath of silence for this Task alone. It was tradition, intended that the Champions were not aided nor were the judges bribed to release the details prematurely, allowing the Champions to compete fairly. The oath allowed them to converse with one another, to finalise details and last minute changes but they could not tell anyone about the task not in the oath. There were of course certain loopholes-it couldn't stop people from overhearing details as organisers discussed them (an obvious fact that many had exploited over the years) but a simple privacy charm negated that possibility. The Champions had been informed of this beforehand. So why was everyone so furious?
He grimaced, unable to lie to himself. What had made it a problem was using an underage daughter of a foreign politician as a hostage. Never mind that Fleur Delacour had no other person she would 'sorely miss' and that he had personally ensured the hostages would be perfectly unharmed it was apparent that Jean Claude Delacour was enraged and would not listen to reason. Olympe was Fleur Delacour's Headmistress and she was not receiving nearly the same fury and the Minister was all too eager to put the blame in his lap-after all he was the head of the Tournament. If it had been an English national there wouldn't have been such a fuss. He was not looking forward to tomorrow's copy of the Daily Prophet.
He sighed deeply and added pink and white marshmallows to his chocolate, smiling slightly as they began to melt. There was nothing in life that compared to sugary goodness.
His bad mood began to dissipate, the chocolate working its own kind of magic, spreading warmth deep in his old bones.
He had miscalculated, he mused, swirling the cup gently. It was foolish of him to expect a foreign wizard to believe that he would never harm or allow harm to fall upon a child, any child. In his determination to keep the Tournament as fair as possible, he had almost completely damaged relations between Britain and France not to mention putting considerable strain in the ICW and jeopardising his position in the body. He would apologize in the morning and be sure to inquire on his elder daughter, Fleur. He hoped she had fully recovered from her ordeal.
The Tournament was definitely arduous, he mused, swirling the marshmallows around, and far more bothersome than he had anticipated. He had suspected there would be strange happenings, but even with his suspicions he had been completely unprepared.
A fourth Champion had been selected, unprecedented in all of the Tournaments history. Harry Potter, Lily and James eldest and heir had been forced into the Tournament. Heir to the Potter fortune, brother of Nathan Potter the Boy-Who-Lived, it had been Harry whose name had come out of the Goblet of Fire.
It was that detail that had him at an absolute loss. Harry Potter, not Nathan Potter had been entered into the TriWizard Tournament.
He had to admit, that out of any of his students finding themselves forced into the Tournament against their will, he would have laid odds on Nathan Potter, not his brother. Nathan had a very good knack of getting into trouble very easily.
The Tournament was a largely political exercise, the Ministry eager to strengthen ties to the outside world and draw attention to Britain. Well that had certainly happened, though probably not in the way Cornelius had hoped, he thought wryly, sipping his chocolate. Britain had become fairly isolated in the magical community over the last hundred years and it had been hoped this would reaffirm its ties to the outside world.
Now instead it had become an absolute circus. A fourth Champion, endangered dragon eggs destroyed, kidnapping allegations, a near fatality…and constant whispers of something far more sinister lurking in the shadows that were considerably more worrisome. His lips pursed and his grip tightened on his mug.
Voldemort was stirring, he was sure of it. For the last few years there had been signs, but recently they were escalating. The Dark Mark appearing at the World Cup. The death of a man near the Riddles' old house. Bertha Jorkins disappearing in Albania, the last known place where Voldemort resided.
He had a very bad feeling that these things were connected.
Albus was adamant that it was Voldemort and his supporters that slipped Harry Potter's name into the Goblet of Fire. He certainly had the motivation and skill to do so. The question was why? Why Harry and not Nathan? It was so bizarre that Albus had actually second guessed himself; wondering if it had been someone else attacking the Potter family. They had plenty of enemies, not all of them Voldemort's followers. But confounding a powerful magical item such as the Goblet of Fire required skill and incredible magical power, not to mention considerable knowledge as well as subtlety. Tom was certainly knowledgeable and insidious enough to plan such a piece of sabotage and he had followers at large still willing to act on his behalf, many of whom had the power to hoodwink the enchantments on the Goblet.
And yet Harry's name was entered under a fourth school. That truly puzzled him. Tom for sure would not miss a chance to take revenge against the one who had led to his downfall. Unless he wanted Nathan unharmed for a more nefarious purpose he had planned for a later date.
Perhaps he sought to take revenge against the Potters more indirectly and sought Harry's death to punish his parents and his brother by entering the boy in a Tournament that had been disbanded for the large death toll? It was certainly indirect and inaccurate; the boy had not only survived but was actually winning against Champions three years his senior! But the person who had slipped Harry's name into the Goblet was no doubt watching the Tournament closely and reporting everything to him.
It was possible the servant or Tom had confused the two boys but that was highly unlikely. Tom was insane certainly from the numerous vile rituals he had undergone years ago, but his intellect was still intact. Bellatrix Lestrange, the escapee from Azkaban was deranged but he doubted even disguised she would be capable of hiding in the castle or on the grounds. That troubled him. There was something he was missing in all of this.
The Tournament certainly increased opportunities for attacks, with so many guests and dignitaries, security was tight but still had cracks and weaknesses to exploit with the proper motivation. Even the full time Auror presence that James and Sirius had demanded did not help much. And Tom was far too cunning to miss a potential opportunity. He was truly Slytherin's heir.
An old sadness unfurled in his chest as he recalled what promise the young Tom Riddle had once possessed. He had been intelligent, charismatic, brilliant, a joy to teach. But even then Dumbledore had seen the seeds of the darkness within the lad. He had resolved to keep a close eye on the boy and had linked many nasty incidents to him and his 'friends'. Dippet, rest his soul, had been a kind hearted man and was blinded with his sympathy for the young orphan, as well as charmed by the boy's charisma. Albus's warnings had fallen on deaf ears.
And mere decades later that young brilliant student morphed into Lord Voldemort, the most feared Dark Lord since Gellert himself.
He did not allow his thoughts to dwell on that path and instead returned to the matter at hand; Harry Potter in the TriWizard Tournament.
He had to honest; he did not know Harry as well as he did Nathan. He kept a close eye on the Boy Who Lived as he grew up and had had some say in the boy's rearing; although limited. It had been he who had discovered Nathan's potential to become a Mage. They were quite rare; he himself was only a sorcerer, a step below a Mage. Tom, he suspected was also a Mage; he certainly was more powerful than he, though he had the edge in skill and experience. Nathan had the potential to become even more powerful than him as well.
He had advised against training Nathan early. Partly for the risk to the boy's magic, but also for the concern that he would fall into the temptation of power, much like Tom had done as a child. But several attempts on his life made James determined to teach him as early as his magic was ready. The boy was powerful for his age, notably so, though his school work was only average, much to Minerva's dismay.
He was certainly brave; stopping the theft of the Philosophers Stone in his first year with his friends Ronald Weasley, Seamus Finnegan and Dean Thomas. He had been very proud of his student's actions that night; the boy had been resourceful and determined and willing to face Voldemort himself, which spoke volumes about the lad's character. Other adventures throughout his school career showed a boy that, with guidance, could face his looming destiny. That was the most important thing. The young lad showed no signs of going dark, which soothed him immensely. It would have been a disaster for the Light if Nathan were to be swayed to the Dark. As he grew older those worries and uncertainties grew as teenagers were notoriously rebellious. Nathan came from a powerful light minded family but there were always exceptions, Sirius a prime example of that. He had to be guided down the right path as well as recognise and reject the Dark.
But Harry was different. Nathan had to learn to trust and rely on Albus for guidance when Tom returned. Harry did not play a great role in his plans in comparison. He and Neville were the two other candidates for the Prophecy and he had kept a half eye on them; most of his attention on Nathan. He had resolved early on to allow their parents most of the guidance to keep on the right path; the Potters and Longbottoms had always been staunch supporters of the Light and the Order, he could trust them to care for them. As it was, he had no desire to try and interfere in Neville's upbringing with Alice AND Augusta Longbottom guarding the boy. He had always thought it had been better that Tom had gone after the Potters. Augusta had always been implacable and it would have been impossible to get any contact with the boy much less guide him with his destiny.
Harry had never seemed to be as taken with Albus as Nathan was. He had rarely seen him during his trips to the Potter home. He had often had pressing business and had to leave abruptly following tense conversations between Lily and James. Albus could vividly recall an intense discussion between himself and the Potters being disrupted by frantic shouts from the boys causing the adults to race out of the study, only to find Rose in a curled ball at the end of stairs trembling while her scared brothers tried to help her.
Albus could still remember during the frantic rush of alarm and confusion of a split second accidently meeting Harry's eyes as they realised that their argument had caused Rose's distress. The regret Albus had felt for causing a child pain was nothing compared to the chill Harry's icy glare gave him as young bright green eyes condemned one of the most revered wizards alive.
For a split moment he had gone back in time and the green eyes were familiar blue as Aberforth silently damned him for his attitude towards their sister as he held her body to his tightly to stop her hurting herself.
It had been a sobering moment and Albus was not proud to admit that he kept his distance from Harry and his sister ever since. The parallels between Harry and Rose and Aberforth and Arianna cut too close to the bone.
Of course that would make Nathan Albus and that thought was too unbearable to dwell on.
He forcibly wrenched his thoughts away from unpleasant memories and focused on what he actually knew about the eldest of the Potter children.
Harry Potter was an above average student, noticeably intelligent and studious. He was best friends with Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom and the three were among the best students of their year. He was also close to Luna Lovegood, a Gryffindor a year below them. They were a tight knit group, separate from Nathan's clique of friends.
The group had their own adventures in Hogwarts walls. Harry and Neville had taken down a mountain troll in their first year, something that still gave Minerva chills. A year later the group had discovered and managed to kill, Slytherin's prized basilisk.
Attracting danger was obviously in the Potter blood.
And now Harry was in the Tournament.
Lily had been in hysterics when she had found out her oldest child had been forcibly entered into a binding magical agreement for an extremely dangerous magical event. She had years to process the idea that her youngest son would be a target for Voldemort and his followers, the idea of her eldest son dying seemed to have completely shattered her restraint. Denial was a wonderful thing.
Mind you, Harry was performing exceptionally well, especially given the disadvantage with his age and experience. He managed to completely stun a crowded arena during the First Task by simply walking into the enclosure and talked to a raging nesting Hungarian Horntail. And the dragon had not attacked.
Never in his one hundred and fifty years...he still wasn't sure what the boy actually did. Talking to a Hungarian Horntail…
Unease flickered in his mind. Nathan was a Parselmouth. James had confessed years ago when Nathan first displayed his ability that the Potters were actually distantly related to Slytherin, which he'd already suspected, given the Cloak of Invisibility.
Dragons were related to snakes. It had been theorised that dragons may understand Parseltongue, not that it had been proven. But Parseltongue was a rare enough trait and Harry had already shown no other signs of understanding Parseltongue during the reign of terror in his second year, when Nathan complained of hearing voices in the halls.
It was all terribly puzzling and Albus detested ignorance, especially in such crucial matters. There was something strange about Harry Potter and it was clear he was becoming very powerful. He could not take the chance that he may go dark like another of his students so long ago.
It seemed he would have to start taking a more active role in Harry's life as well.
He drummed his fingers restlessly against the arm of the chair, his chocolate beginning to cool, cursing his cowardice. If he hadn't been so foolish as to keep his distance from the boy he wouldn't be in such a predicament. For all he knew, he could play a part in helping Nathan fulfil his destiny. At the very least he was the Potter heir and Albus would need his support if things took a turn for the worse.
He would have to address and improve his relationship with the eldest Potter child. There was far too much at stake to allow such petty feelings get in the way of the Greater Good.
Such thoughts were his company long after his hot chocolate had been finished, his aged but agile mind spinning with ideas, suspicions and possibilities.
Harry was ready to start kicking walls.
He let out a growl, far louder and menacing than a human throat should have been able to produce as he glared at the unyielding wooden door.
Sirius had finally managed to bully, threaten and beg his parents to come to Hogwarts to discuss the rather large problem of their eldest son having to marry a Veela in a few weeks to save said Veela's life. Once they had processed that information and comprehended it, they had unceremoniously kicked him out of the damn room. He had to marry a complete stranger within a month because of a Life Debt and they were treating him as if he were five years old!
Growling in frustration, Harry paced restlessly, his body aching and wired with tension. Pomfrey would likely be cross when he eventually got back to her but the wrath of the Queen of the Hospital Wing was for once disregarded. There were far more important things at stake than pacifying the relentless witch.
He sighed and leant against the wall, casting a baleful glare at the door.
The only time he had ever this restless was the time he had been recovering from wizard's flu that he'd picked up from visiting Rose in St Moons. It had been awful; aches, pains and the occasional sudden unsteadiness like his legs were going to give out on him. But once his fever had broken he'd been too eager to get out of bed to care. Emmeline had been at her wits end with him and Nate; they had been awful patients. Neville who had gotten it from them had been an angel supposedly, the prat.
Snorting, he tore his eyes away from the door and looked down the hallway of the carriage. Even after living in the Wizarding world his entire life, it was strange to be in something that looked small from the outside but could hold over a hundred people inside. It was also pretty embarrassing, sitting in a school corridor as if he was waiting to be scolded by his teacher for not doing his homework or passing notes in class. Thankfully, there hadn't been any Beauxbatons staff or students going past. From what he had gathered, they were in the guest section of the carriage.
Sighing, Harry wearily dropped into the chair his father had conjured before warding the door after Harry had refused to leave. He let his head fall into his hands, cradling it for a moment, before sighing gustily and running a hand through his messy hair.
He lowered his hands to his lap and just stared at them, his thoughts far away.
His life was far too complicated for a fourteen year old. He had thought it was bad enough being his brother's twin, forever in his shadow, but this…he'd much rather be in the shade.
He tilted his head up to stare at the ceiling. His life sucked. He didn't like self-pity, but tonight seemed a good time to pick up the habit again. His life really sucked.
The story of his life really-he'd done a good thing and it ended up blowing up in his face. He'd saved his fellow Champion from drowning and he'd ended up essentially killing her anyway-unless he married her. It sounded like a twisted fairy-tale and it could only happen to him.
His stomach twisted uncomfortably, as though he'd swallowed a live snake. Urgency pressed down on him, the weight of a life hanging in his hands. Fleur's life resting on his decision. No pressure or anything.
I am so not ready for this, he thought miserably. Forget Gryffindor bravery. He had never felt less like a Gryffindor. He had been in dangerous situations before. He'd faced Dementors, a dragon, had almost died when he was 12 from a basilisk fang being stabbed to the bone of his arm. But those had been instances it had been simple. Survival had been in mind, for him, for his friends, they had had to conquer an enemy. But there wasn't an enemy here to confront and defeat. What exactly could he do?
From what Jean Claude had told him and the little he'd read from the file from the EMHC, not much. And considering how long it was taking for his parents and Padfoot to leave the office, they weren't having better luck. And if there was no other option available…
A sigh left Harry's lips and he opened his eyes. And startled with surprise.
His hands, which had been lying cupped in his lap, were no longer empty. As he lifted them closer to his lap, his own reflection stared back, perfectly formed in the pure clear water that had formed while he had been moping, not a single drop spilling from his hands.
Clearly his powers had been affected from the second task. Water was considered to be linked to emotions and dreams so it made sense that when he was brooding water was stirred. His other mastered element, fire, was linked to passion and creativity and for months he had accidently caused fires when his feelings were even slightly inflamed. He had only begun to rein in his talent in when this happened.
Thank Merlin for Occulmency, Harry thought as he studied the crystal clear water. I probably would have killed myself and everyone around me if I couldn't control my feelings. Why did my powers have to grow now?
According to Reginald Potter, his ancestor and fellow elemental, he had gained his form of an ice fox when he had been 29. Reginald's uncle Albert, a stone elemental had gained his in his early forties. There was simply no rhyme or reason to explain why some developed their powers early and others late, though his had manifested well beyond the norm.
Then again magic did not always follow strict guidelines about how it should behave.
He grunted in amusement and willed his magic to dissipate. The water rippled as it faded away and he clapped his hands together, his palms stinging. He leaned against the chair, blowing out a breath and sent a baleful look at the door, feeling rather petulant, and his knee jumping incessantly as he folded his arms, absently rubbing his upper left arm.
If he was treated like he was a child he might as well act like it.
He certainly wasn't going back to the Hospital Wing.
Another ten minutes had gone by with no sign from the office. He was beginning to nod off, his head drooping onto his shoulder, when a soft noise made him startle and jerk upright. Someone was heading down the corridor.
In the soft illumination of the torches, Fleur Delacour came to an abrupt halt at the sight of Harry sitting outside her father's office. Her hair was loose and wavier than normal, making her look much younger than seventeen and her eyes were larger and shadowed.
For an instant they gaped at one another, at a complete loss of words, eye comically wide.
Fleur blinked and the spell was broken.
"Err" Harry stammered, his face suddenly heating up. He hastily got up from his chair, cursing his aching limbs that made him stagger like a new born colt trying to find its legs. His mind was suddenly stubbornly blank, like his memory had just been wiped. It would have been a welcome relief, he thought distractedly, to have a sudden amnesia spell and forget the fact he was in such a mess with the girl in front of him.
"'Arry" Fleur breathed, taking a step back in shock.
Fleur really hadn't expected this. Intellectually she had known this meeting was likely to happen at some point. She just hadn't expected it to happen so soon.
She felt uncharacteristically flustered and off balance as she met wide emerald green eyes that had teased her dreams all night. Her heart pounded in her chest like a frightened bird and she could feel her magic shift in response to his presence. It was a troubling sensation.
"Hi" Harry's voice was an octave higher than normal. "How're you?" he winced and shifted awkwardly, glasses flashing as he ducked his head, his face flushed in the light.
"I" Fleur couldn't really say she was fine so she cleared her throat and glanced at the door. "I just came down to talk to Papa." Her throat really was dry she thought, struggling to swallow.
"Oh yeah" Harry bobbed his head quickly in understanding, eyes cutting to the door. "Yeah you're Dad. He's in there with my Mum and Dad. My godfather's in there as well; he called them back here and they, uh... they're talking" he said lamely, looking at a spot at the floor.
"Oh" Her father clearly hadn't wasted time while she'd moped around in bed all day.
"Do you know what zhey are talking about?" Fleur asked unsurely, hunching her shoulders as she wrapped her arms around her waist. The boy was fourteen after all.
Green eyes snapped up to meet hers. For an instant, Fleur's breath caught as she was captured in rich emerald eyes, forgetting herself for a moment as she stared into their depths. She had always scoffed at romantic novels her classmates read; where the hero and the damsel gazed enraptured into each other's eyes and seeing the each other's souls or other such rot. Fleur would prefer to eat Bubotuber pus than read such trash.
But there was nothing trashy about the churning emotion and power she could see flashing through them. For a single instant, the air was charged and electric, the hairs on her arms rising.
Then she forcibly looked away, her cheeks uncharacteristically taking a pink hue, her heart thudding.
"About the Life Debt?" she heard him say softly and her eyes involuntarily flew up again to meet hers. This time, she held herself as she met his eyes. Intelligence and uncertainty along with several other emotions playing through his eyes, flashing by too quickly for her to discern them.
A large obstruction lodged itself in her throat once again; it had been coming and going since her day of moping and crying in her bed. She felt pathetic; wanting merely to crawl under the bed covers and never come out again. Her life as she knew it was over and she just wanted to close her eyes and open them to realise this was all just a really bad dream.
She was drawn from her storm of self-pity by Harry's movement. He'd stepped closer, his eyes running over her face. Idly she took note of the fact his eyes didn't drop below her neck; a welcome change.
He was searching for something in her face, scrutinising her. His penetrating eyes and proximity made it difficult for her to meet his gaze. She forced herself not to step away, struggling not to fold her arms or look away.
Whatever he was looking for, he didn't seem to find it. His eyebrows drew together and he locked eyes with her, refusing to let her look away.
"Is it true what your dad said?" he asked softly, his voice hushed and intent. He was looking for the truth, she realised, her stomach sinking. He didn't believe her father. Who could blame him? She didn't want to believe it.
"The Veela debt" he said, eyes suddenly intense and demanding, urgency colouring his voice and stature as he stared at her, demanding her utmost honesty. Compelling her to speak, a man three years her junior, an inch less in height, intimidating a witch whose ancestors were one of the fiercest races of the world. "Is it true?"
"Yes" she breathed out shakily, keeping herself in place by sheer will alone. She didn't have to ask if what was true, she knew. And so did he.
The fire in Harry's eyes went out and he turned away.
The air rushed out her lungs and she felt suddenly chilled as he abruptly turned and walked away from her, running a hand through his hair. She crossed her arms, her hands holding her elbows as she hunched forward slightly, turning her head away to hide her stinging eyes.
Just what had she been expecting anyway?
"Are you okay?"
Fleur's head shot up startled. She'd thought he'd left.
He hadn't. He'd walked back, looking at her in concern. He studied her for a second, and then pulled out a tissue from his pocket. With a quiet murmur, he transfigured it into an old fashioned hanky. Looking rather awkward, he hesitantly offered it to her.
The gesture almost made the fresh tears fall even as her first genuine smile of the day tugged her mouth. The kind and thoughtful action as well as Harry's rather shy, uncomfortable display in response to her visible upset was sweet and rather endearing. It made her feel less miserable.
She took the hanky and flashed her weak, but genuine smile at him. Looking rather relieved, Harry rocked back on his heels, dropping his eyes as she dabbed her raw eyes.
Looking at him properly, she noticed just how tired he looked. He looked pale in the dim light, with deep bags under his eyes, large enough to hold her Maman's shopping on a trip to Paris. His commanding and intimidating stature was gone and the gingerly way he now held himself told her he was tired and sore at the very least. Guilt poked her conscience with a sharp stick, prodding mercilessly.
They stopped and looked at each other. The awkwardness between them was stifling.
Harry cleared his throat and tried again. "I think, maybe, we should talk" he said hesitantly. "Is that ok?"
Fleur swore she felt her heart stop in her chest for an instant. Her thoughts were racing, chanting 'no, no, no, no, NO' but what came out of her mouth instead was "Oui. I theenk we should talk."
Ok Potter, Harry told himself, you said 'let's talk' so TALK for Morgana's sake!
Sitting beside Fleur in a chair she had conjured, Harry had never felt as out of place. He was acutely aware of the tremors in his legs, the mild chill in the air, the faint warmth emanating from the beautiful, weary girl next to him. And the enormous, flamboyantly pink, as in Albus Dumbledore underwear pink (now wasn't that an image to have scoured from the mind immediately) elephant in the hall.
Give me Slytherin's basilisk any day…
He glanced at Fleur. The statuesque blonde looked nothing like the aloof and haughty Beauxbatons student he'd first seen. She looked drawn and pale, her hair falling into her face, hiding her face from view. Sitting slightly hunched, her imperious demeanour absent, Harry couldn't help but think she looked…defeated. Her slumped shoulders and bowed head gave the impression that the whole world was on her shoulders.
But didn't she? It wasn't every day you found out your own magic had turned against you, intending to kill you because of a ridiculous twist of genetics.
Harry had always been fascinated by science. His mother had encouraged his few interests of the Muggle world, as always pleased that her heritage was not completely rejected in the high pureblood society they lived in. He and his Uncle Remus had spent hours going through the subject; his uncle often just as amazed and confused by the wide and mind boggling detail the discipline could go.
One of his favourites, by far, was genetics. He had spent hours making charts showing how he and his brother and sister had gotten their hair and eye colour from their parents. How his parents had gotten their genes from their grandparents and so on. As the Noble and Ancient House of Potter, he could trace the ancestors on his father's side and find out some of the traits that had passed down the family, like the messy hair all of them shared to Lily's chagrin.
He'd also found out about inbreeding and how it affected people's health and mind. "Is that why the purebloods' are all crazy?" he'd asked his uncle Remus.
"That's not very nice Harry" his uncle had chided, struggling to supress his grin. "Your family is pure blooded too."
Harry had scrunched up his nose. "Does that mean we're crazy?"
"Well it explains a lot about your daddy doesn't it?" Remus said mischievously, suddenly attacking his nephew's sides, making him scream with laughter.
Harry knew about genetic defects and diseases-well at least he knew a bit, genetics was a seriously big and difficult subject. He knew that damaged genes could cause disease and in a way, this Veela...quirk reminded him of something similar. But even so…this was far outside his comfort zone. This wasn't like haemophilia or other inherited diseases. Without realising it, he had caused this genetic crisis.
He was pulled from his musings rather abruptly when Fleur suddenly shifted. Cursing his wandering thoughts, he opened his mouth, having absolutely no idea what to say.
But Fleur beat him to it.
"'Arry" she said softly, her voice rather hoarse and scratchy, a stark contrast to her usual melodious tone. "I am so sorry."
Automatically his mouth opened but she continued her voice soft and sad. Her fingers twisted in her lap and she was staring steadily at them, her hair forming a curtain between them.
"I know Papa said he would talk to you and your family" she said quickly, still not looking at him. "But I 'ave to take responsibility. This is my fault."
He really had to look like an idiot, Harry thought as his mouth opened yet again only for Fleur to start talking again. Giving up, he decided to let her say what she needed to say before trying to speak, if only to stop him looking like a gapping fish. It was clear Fleur had to get this off her chest.
"It is not a good excuse but" she paused and took a breath "I found out about zis yesterday." She took another deep breath, almost covering the hitch in her voice. "I 'ad never 'eard of zis before. Apparently we are supposed to be told as children to make sure eet does not 'appen." She laughed without amusement. "Very 'elpful no?"
Fleur, Harry noticed, had a sarcastic streak. Her English also apparently suffered when she got angry; because her accent had thickened the longer she talked.
"Eet is not fair" she hissed, her hands clenching into fists and she whipped her head around to him, ash blonde hair nearly whipping him in the face. Her blue eyes were shooting daggers and Harry controlled the impulse to jump away at the sudden mood change.
"You saved me" she spat, eyes flashing with fury. "You saved my leetle sister Gabrielle. Zere is nothing I can do or say to ever repay you. I was a fool and almost got myself and my baby sister killed. And now my stupid Veela blood 'as done zis!" Suddenly absolutely furious, Fleur leapt off the conjured chair, sending it toppling to the floor with a loud bang.
Harry leapt to his feet, feeling the temperature in the hall rise dramatically. Fleur looked like an enraged Norse Goddess, blonde hair swirling like a cape, her eyes flashing with fury, her long limbs loose and strong, ready to strike down any fool mortal who dared to cross her path.
Luckily the only fool nearby was unafraid of fire.
Fleur's hands were still clenched into fists, light bleeding through her fingers as she swung her heard to glare at the ceiling in absolute hatred, hair falling out her eyes. Harry saw her skin ripple peculiarly, like something was moving underneath it as the hall grew even hotter.
"Fleur calm down" he said firmly. Keep calm, don't shout, don't let the really, really, angry witch get angry with him….
She didn't seem to hear him.
"Why?" she said in a low, dangerous voice, more chilling than if she was screaming, the air getting hotter and hotter, her skin moving and flexing unnaturally as she stared upwards. "Why did you do this to me you bitch?" she spat at the ceiling.
"Fleur" Harry hunkered slightly into a defensive position. This was really not good.
"Is this a punishment?" she demanded, fire licking her balled hands. "Are you punishing me because I don't follow you anymore? Je vous hais, vous chienne cruelle, je ne suis pas votre marionette plus!"
Harry lunged just as she threw up her hands and tackled her, his hands crashing into hers. His velocity threw Fleur against the wall forcefully her back slamming the wall painfully. Harry plastered against her, his hips against hers, his legs keeping her in place while his hands pinned hers to the wall at either side of her head.
Fleur's wide eyes stared into his, too stunned by the sudden turn of events to be angry. Flames licked their joined hands, lighting them like the torches on the wall.
Harry squeezed her hands harder, the heat making his skin tingle. It was not ordinary fire, but that was not important. It would not harm him.
He stared into Fleur's eyes, inches from his own, seeing realisation slowly dawn in her clear turquoise eyes, followed closely by horror.
"Are you ok?" he asked quietly.
Fleur made a choking sound. The flames died abruptly and the hallway plunged back to the cold February air of Scotland.
Fleur's legs buckled and Harry staggered as she slid down, her legs still between his. For the first time he realised just how inappropriate their position was and he sent a mental thank you to the heavens that their parents hadn't walked out of the office at that moment.
Fleur slid down the wall, her legs tucking close to her body as she stared white faced up to him, her eyes huge and stricken. "H-how…?"
Harry gave a half smile that was more of a grimace and crouched down, ignoring muscles that promptly clamoured in protest. "You're not the only one that catches fire when really angry." He scrutinised her, realising to his absolute dismay that she looked close to tears. He would rather have her angry still.
"Hey it's ok" he said lamely, wishing to all his heart that it was true. But the truth was that nothing was alright and both he and Fleur were helpless to stop it.
Fleur closed her eyes and drew her legs up to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her knees and pressed her face against them, as she started to shake with silent sobs.
Unable to stay crouched any longer, Harry slid his aching body down the wall beside Fleur, his muscles inordinately grateful for the relief. He glanced at the girl beside him and hesitantly put his hand on her shoulder, expecting to be shrugged off. Instead, Fleur leaned against him, pressing her head against his shoulder. Awkwardly he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, staring at the wall ahead of him, his throat tight and his own eyes stinging.
She was, she reflected dully, getting very tired of crying.
She had always hated crying, especially in front of others. Crying was a weakness whether or not you were sad. Tears of frustration or anger in the heat of an argument made you look weak, no matter the circumstances.
Now after almost a day of crying, her head had a permanent ache lodged in her skull, her eyes felt ironically dry, itchy and very sore, her hair needed a good brush, her face felt puffy and swollen and she felt so disgusting she had an urge to get an inheritance test done to find out if she really was a Veela because she had never felt less beautiful in her life. And if she wasn't a Veela then she didn't have to worry this ridiculous situation she found herself in.
Her female classmates were stupid. Who cared if she was incredibly beautiful and could reduce men to adoring idiots by just entering the room when she had to deal with the morons throwing themselves at her feet, or the scorn and disdain women felt for her because of their men behaving like lovesick puppies? They never saw the other side of it-unable to form friendships or meaningful relationships of any kind, being hated for what she had no control over. It's not as if she asked to be a human-hawk hybrid freak that could set someone on fire when she lost control.
She snuck a glance at the boy beside her. He was perfectly unharmed; his hands whole and undamaged and looking as though they hadn't just been flash fried by a rampaging unbalanced feathered witch. He didn't even smell like charred flesh which had always made her retch. It was all terribly confusing and didn't quell her guilt at losing control and putting him in danger in the first place. He'd saved her and Gabby and she'd thanked him by almost killing him. And instead of leaving her running and screaming like a normal-and probably sane individual-he'd stayed behind and tried to comfort her.
It managed to make her feel even worse. Harry was a good person, better than she could ever hope to be. He did not deserve what her accursed heritage had wrought. He shouldn't have to deal with this.
She shifted a little and Harry pulled away.
"Better?" he asked unsurely.
She bobbed her head shakily, trying to smile. It felt incredibly fake. "I'm sorry"
Harry shook his head quickly. "Hey it's ok" he gave her a small grin. "I'm fine."
He was right, he was alright, but she had no idea why.
In answer, he shifted awkwardly and held his hand up, palm out. Air flickered and a tongue of fire erupted from the heart of his palm, lightening up the shadows.
Fleur's mouth dropped open in disbelief. His face a little pained, Harry curled his fingers in on his hand and the flame was instantly extinguished.
"Weird after yesterday" Harry said shifting, sounding completely nonchalant about what he'd just done. "I can't really hold it for very long right now."
She stared at him her mouth half open.
"You're an elemental" she breathed out. He had to be, it was the only thing that made sense. And if what had happened yesterday was any indication, he had to have more than one element.
"Yeah" he ran his hand through his hair, looking a little uncomfortable.
"That's what you did in the lake yes?" she asked keenly fascinated. A thought struck her and her eyes widened. "Is that what you did in the First Task with the dragon?"
Harry ducked his head. "I didn't really do anything in the First Task" he said quietly. "I could kind of… communicate with the dragon. It was really weird and I had no idea what I was doing but I managed to tell her I wasn't going to hurt her eggs." He looked vaguely guilty and looked at his hands. "Pretty unfair huh?"
"You 'ave less education than the rest of us in the Tournament" Fleur pointed out logically, a little nonplussed. "Besides I did the same in the First Task, although not as well as you did." She shrugged self-deprecatingly.
"Yeah but you had a disadvantage in yesterday's task though!" Harry protested. "That wasn't fair at all."
Fleur shrugged and stared at her knees, recalling yesterday's events with all too perfect clarity. Just remembering what had happened made her shiver and rub at her neck, where she could still feel phantom tendrils strangling her.
Harry fidgeted and then burst. "Look Fleur-I'm sorry. Well, sort of, I mean I'm not sorry for helping you yesterday. It's just that I know this" he gestured around them "wasn't your fault. It's not as if you asked for this or anything. I mean it's really stupid that I'm getting your magic just because I saved you from some Grindylows. I've been trying to get rid of that by the way, but it hasn't worked yet-"
"'Arry" Fleur leaned over to put a hand on his knee, vaguely amused by his sudden outburst. Any other situation and she would have giggled or scowled at the display.
Harry took a deep breath and calmed down. He turned green eyes on her and she froze in trepidation, her heart stopping mid-thump.
His voice was softer and vulnerable; a heavy weight of responsibility settling on his shoulders. Despite his emotion, his face was set and steady, his eyes resolute.
"I won't let you die Fleur" he whispered. "I can't."
Ok I want to continue this chapter but after-what five months?-I think people have waited enough.
I'm really sorry about the delay. First exams, then thrown nose first into my second semester, I was completely unprepared. I've had little free time and when I did my muse was nowhere to be found. Naturally enough when I was up to my armpits with work my muse was gleefully dancing in front of me and would wave bye-bye when I was winding down. Writer's block is a seriously irritating phenomena and one I have no interest in becoming close companions with.
This is mostly a filler chapter unfortunately. I want to add more to it, but if I do it'll be another month most likely before I post it. I'll start working on the next chapter and hopefully the next update won't be half as long as the last one.
I got 112 reviews for my last chapter, a huge number for me. Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed alerted and messaged me in the last few months.