Thanks for all the reviews! sorry this took so long my week was so hectic. I'm glad you guys are liking it so far, I plan for things to start progressing now so let me know what you think.
The Rules of Engagement
Chapter Five: Cheers to the Weekend
To say the trio had dodged a bullet was an understatement. Hermione was grateful for having friends in high places, anyone else and they wouldn't have received such a light slap on the wrist. They would obviously have to dodge Lamont and the Minister for a few weeks, their excursion in Morocco was bound to become the hot topic around the office for the next few weeks but they were prepared for that. Being friends of 'The Boy who Lived' had given them their fair share of practice with all sorts of attention; positive or not.
"And where do you think you're going?" Harry cut in, glaring towards Ron as the three stood up.
"Um… the pub?" Ron smiled faintly as he looked back at Seamus and Hermione who both shrugged, looking at each other inquisitively.
"Oh no, you're staying here to help me with all this paper work." Harry patted the large stack on his desk, removing two quills from his breast pocket.
"What! Can't we another night Harry? I'm about to go off my rocker if I don't get a pint." The red haired wizard complained.
Harry simply glared harder, motioning for him to sit.
"Ron…you stole a hundred thousand pound vehicle from a diplomatic motorcade. I don't care if it was necessity; you can't just run around stealing things without consequence. This is light compared what Thompson would do if he was still at this post."
Ron's lips pursed into a pout and his shoulders slumped in defeat as he shot the other two a regretful look.
"I guess I'll see you lot later."
"Oye, cheer up Ronny boy, it's your turn after all. Remember to keep that quill straight and punctuate, punctuate, punctuate." Seamus mocked, giving his best McGonagall impression. Hermione gave Ron an apologetic frown before Seamus practically yanked her out of the office.
They briskly walked through the marble strewn lobby, flecks of black and silver swirling in patterns over the walls and floor around them. A majestic fountain sat in the middle lined with gold and smooth gray marble; displaying Harry's heroic defeat of Voldermort with the names of all who gave their lives during the war encircling the base in protruding gold script. Hermione found herself ignoring the pristine beauty of their setting as she glared at the back of the Irishman's head; his hand pulling her even harder towards the floo.
"Seamus! Easy now, it's going to come clean off if you pull any harder." She complained.
"Ya still want that drink yeah?" Seamus asked, letting her go and walking briskly towards the floo.
"Of course, even I have my limits. It's been a hellish week." Hermione replied, trying to keep up. The Irishman was obviously in dire need of a drink as he practically sprinted through the green flames. When she emerged she already found him making his way to the pub across the street, money in hand.
She entered the pub, smoke billowing around her as she found her way to the bar; two tall glasses filled with dark liquid already sitting in front of her partner.
"You don't waste any time do you?"
He shrugged indifferently as he dropped two shot glasses of baileys into the glasses.
"I wanted to get here before the rush, plus I got something to tell ya and I'm afraid ya'll be right cross with meh. Might as well get a few drinks in before ya hit meh."
"Seamus... how long have we known each other? I'm sure whatever you have to say isn't all...that...bad." Hermione watched in amazement as Seamus drank his two drinks in succession, slamming the last glass down and wiping the foam from his upper lip as he threw a set of coins down on the bar.
"Oye! Another round girly, keep em comin!" he shouted at the bartender before turning to her, his eyes pensive.
"This is a night of celebratory festivities is it not?" He drawled out innocently. Hermione nodded slowly, folding her arms over her chest as she eyed him carefully.
"Well it seemed only proper to celebrate with everyone that's contributed to our success...or whatever ya want to call it, in Morocco."
Her eyes widened with realization as she hit him hard on shoulder. "Seamus Finnigan you didn't?"
"Oui, it seems as z'ough 'e did."
Hermione instantly stiffened, turning slowly on the barstool to see Fleur; a smile slowly spreading across her flawless features as she took the seat next to the younger witch.
"Fleur...I didn't...it's not like that." Hermione stuttered out, nervously playing with the ends of her dress blouse as she stared down at her shoes.
"Monsieur Finnigan only z'ought it appropriate to invite moi, I did save your life, non?" Fleur's smile only grew wider as she watched Hermione cringe under her gaze.
"She's got a point 'Mione, if she hadn't stopped Kosta I'd be a little worse for wear right now." He smiled, holding his glass to the French woman before downing it in a few gulps.
"Of course, I'm sorry. I uh...it's been a long week. We usually do this with Ron; I'm just a creature of habit I suppose." She murmured; slipping her jacket off.
The French Auror's eyebrow raised as she crossed her legs, leaning her chin on her hand as her eyes searched the pub. "Oh... 'e will not be joining us?"
"No he's currently knee deep in paper work. After our little trip I doubt he'll have much free time for a while." She glared the older woman down as the bartender brought her their usual pitcher.
"Oh...zat is too bad. I was 'oping to buy 'im a drink to 'zank him for 'is daring rescue."
Seamus chuckled as he sheepishly eyed his drink; blowing the froth from the rim.
"We took that car from a French motorcade ya know that? Seems your Prime Minister was making diplomatic visit. It what right easy, they don't really guard those things very well."
Fleur scoffed, blowing a stray strand of hair away from her face as she pursed her lips.
"Good, 'e deserves some embarrassment. I 'ate zat man! I'm rarely involved in muggle politics but Mon Dieu, make a decision are you staying or going?"
Hermione shrugged, sipping gradually on her beer.
"I'm sure he had his reasons to resign, they must have given him pretty good incentive to come back."
"Yes, I'm sure 'zee sum was quite large. What man could resist 'zee lure of more money and power?"
The younger witch's eyebrow rose as she eyed Fleur inquisitively. She had never seen the older woman so worked up before; it was a pleasant change from her usual stoic demeanor.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa ladies, I came here to drink; not squabble on about muggles and their rubbish ideals and politics. No offense 'Mione."
"None taken, I don't really pay much attention anymore anyway." She sighed indifferently as she offered Fleur one of her glasses.
"Oh no 'zee taste of beer; it's not one of my favorites. I usually stick to wine."
"That is only because ya haven't had proper one yet. Hermione and Ron like that light Pilsner, which I find ghastly." Seamus smiled, wafting the glass of dark liquid towards his nose as he gave a satisfied sigh.
"Guinness is a right good one. She sloshes ya properly hard and when ya wake up she'll be right there with ya to carry ya out through the day. Ya know how many times I've still been knocked off meh feet on the job?"
Hermione turned then, glaring the Irishman down as he cleared his throat; giving her an innocent smirk.
"Of course I always make sure I'm at top game 'Mione, I can assure ya. But you my French beauty look like ya have a bit of a sweet tooth so I'd say some Guinness with a shot of Bailys. It's called an Irish car bomb and it is, in every sense of the words." He called the bartender over ordering three more glasses.
"I'm sorry; he becomes a very bad influence when he drinks." Hermione sighed; shaking her head disapprovingly as she lightly pushed the Irishman on his shoulder.
"Oh come on, it's the weekend. I do not intend to spend my time away from that bloody office sober. I'm not leaving till this stuff is bleeding out meh eyes."
"Non, its okay; I 'zink I would very much like to try 'zis 'car bomb'. You two 'ave not seen me at best yet." The French Auror quipped as she pulled the glasses towards her.
"Ohhhh you hear that 'Mione? We're being challenged."
Hermione laughed as she gave Fleur a warning glance. "We've been known to get pretty wild, I'm not sure you'll be able to keep up."
Fleur's lips curled upwards, her eyes roaming over the younger witch in disbelief.
"You? Wild? Now 'zis I 'ave to see, I accept your challenge."
Seamus gave a satisfied smirk as the trio held the shot glasses over the Guinness.
"All right then you fair maidens, lets commence. Start the count at round one...GO!"
The trio consumed round after round, from the Irish bomb to the sake bomb, Fleur keeping up all the while. It wasn't until they hit their seventh that when Hermione's head started spin, her hands gripped the bar tightly as she tried to steady herself; Seamus and Fleur's laughter echoing in the background.
"All I'm saying is: if she smells like a dog, looks like a dog and tastes like a dog; then I might as well be fecking a dog!" Seamus cackled as Fleur snickered, her hand covering her mouth as she blushed slightly.
"Hey watch your mouth; you're in the presence of ladies you know?" Hermione somewhat slurred as she leaned against her hand, the spinning in her head slightly subsiding.
"Oh come on 'Mione, ya know it's true. Ya all right there? Don't tell meh you're out, we've only just started."
Hermione scoffed as she straightened her back, gulping down the last of her drink.
"Of course not! I'm merely on my second wind, but I think Fleur might be fading fast..." She smiled at French witch's shocked expression.
"I'm not even at zee precipice of being finished Granger, but I am in need of a little break." She took a long silver case from her purse and moved off the barstool.
"I will return momentarily to finish my victory. Excuez-moi."
She gave the pair a wink as she exited the bar; Seamus' eyes following her retreating form as he whistled under his breath. "Ya have to admit she's awfully nice on the eyes. That dress… my god blue really is her color."
Hermione narrowed her eyes on the Irish wizard, her expression showing disapproval. "Are you actually giving her a once over?"
Seamus shrugged, drinking the rest of his glass as he raised his eyebrow towards the brunette. "What if I am? She's a very pleasant woman and I'm a very virile man. So what if I am?"
Hermione scoffed, her eyes darting from the door and back to him in disbelief. "What about Susan?"
"Susan Bones and I are not exclusive may I remind ya. She can shack up with whoever she wants and the same goes for meh, she's made that plenty clear." He replied gruffly, smoothing his sandy locks as he averted his eyes; the subject was obviously not one of his favorites.
"She's been through a lot you know? With both wars and all-"
Seamus growled fiercely, waving his hands in the air as he shook his head.
"Come off it Hermione, I don't wanna go there. Let's just leave it all right? We're celebrating tonight and I'm in the company of two beautiful women, that's all I want to think about right now."
She nodded quietly as she watched him finish another glass and start on the next one. The war had been difficult for them all. With Ron, Harry and her out hunting Horocrux's Seamus had been left at Hogwarts enduring countless torture sessions with the Carrows; she always suspected the young wizard had never fully recovered.
"Ya know she's been gone a little while, maybe ya should go check on her." He sighed, sloshing the contents of his glass as he stared down into it.
Hermione nodded as she slid off the bar stool, her hand finding his and giving a gentle squeeze. He gazed at her hand a while before intertwining his fingers with hers and squeezing back; a silent apology between the two before she made her way out of the bar. The night air hit her viciously and she instantly regretted not bringing her coat as her arms wrapped around her chest, chocolate brown eyes searching the streets for any sign of the French witch. A plume of smoke from the alley way caught her attention and she followed it cautiously as she gripped her wand in her pocket. Relief overtook her when she spotted Fleur leaning against one of the brick buildings a cigarette between her nimble fingers.
"I didn't take you for a smoker." She smiled faintly as she caught the slight panic in Fleur's eyes, indecision marring her features as if trying to decide whether or not to discard the cigarette. Her pride won as she straightened; watching as the younger witch made her way towards her.
"It 'iz a 'abit I try not to practice but I couldn't resist; 'zee tobacco in Morocco is quite good." She brought the cigarette to her lips, breathing in the cancerous fumes and exhaling them expertly as Hermione leaned against the wall next to her.
"We all have our ways to unwind. I won't judge you...too harshly." She joked. Fleur's laugh rang through the alley way, her tongue darting out to lick her bottom lip as she ran her fingers through her silver-blonde hair.
"Waz my presence missed enough for you to come looking?"
Hermione scoffed, shaking her head as she looked anywhere but the blue eyes staring her down, a humorous glint encasing them.
"Seamus was the one to say something; I was perfectly fine leaving you out here to freeze."
Fleur's smile only grew wider as she flicked the cigarette expertly, eyeing the younger witch up and down. She hummed indifferently; leaning on her side as she tucked a stray hair from the younger witch's cheek, her fingers grazing the trail. Hermione felt her face flush as she looked into orbs of blue that were slowly turning a dark sapphire, something unspoken and hopeful reflecting through them.
"Somehow...I don't quite believe 'zat."
Hermione's lips parted slightly, her response catching in her throat.
"There ya are! It's freezing out here, you ladies should be covered."
The two pulled apart hastily as Seamus' form emerged through the darkness, handing the two their coats as he shivered, his breath coming out in large puffs of fog.
"It's right stuffy in there! I couldn't take it. I thought you two might want to accompany meh home, I'm in no condition to apparate so I'm being responsible." He beamed proudly at Hermione. The two often had many arguments about his recklessness in aparating after their drunken exploits.
"I'm proud and of course. A handsome man like you shouldn't be roaming the streets this late at night. Who knows what Wiley women could be lurking around?" Hermione joked while linking her arm in his; welcoming the relief of his timely arrival. He chuckled linking his other free arm in Fleur's and pulling her alongside him, a soft yelp escaping the French woman's lips before falling into cadence with the shorter wizard.
"One can only hope 'Mione, Merlin knows I'd appreciate it right now."
"Ave you no one special to go home to Monsieur Finnigan?" Fleur queried. She felt the man's arm slightly tighten and release, his jaw flexing uncomfortably. Hermione instantly stiffened as well, her feet stopping and then quickly picking back up again as she eyed the Irishman warily; waiting for the impending argument. He gave an exasperated breath before smiling endearingly at the French Auror, his shoulders slightly shrugging.
"I do, but we're not exclusive ya see. Being in my line of work; it presents some challenges. She'd rather not get involved with meh if she's not entirely sure I'll actually come home alive."
Fleur nodded somberly and gave his arm a gentle, comforting squeeze. He flinched only slightly before his smile grew wider, his arm squeezing back.
"Even 'zough I can see 'er point; I must agree.'Zis is our job, if we didn't 'oo else would?"
"That's what I've been trying to say. I do love her ya know? I look at her and I want to give her everything she's never had. Only two women in my life get to have me like that and that's the drink and Susan bloody bones; but she won't just let it be. I love meh job... I don't know who I'd be without it, so I can't win ya see? I'd lose either way."
They approached a dark grey apartment building; vines scaling up the edges and encircling the windows, the light to his flat illuminating through the night.
"Speaking of the devil..." Seamus murmured; his blue eyes lingering on the window before returning to them. His features instantly became concerned as he looked between the two. "You lot gonna be all right?"
The two women looked at each other and then nodded. Hermione uncomfortably shifted her weight from one foot to the other as Fleur's cheeks slightly reddened, her hands sliding into the wool pockets of her pea coat.
"Oui, my 'otel is not far from 'ere."
The younger witch bit her bottom lip as Seamus' eyes darted back and forth between them; inconspicuously nodding towards Fleur. But Hermione's eyes narrowed as she shook head slightly only to receive a sterner glare from the Irishman.
"Well I... I could walk you...if you'd like."
The blonde witch smiled, fully sensing the hesitation in Hermione's tone but not willing to let the opportunity go to waste; she nodded towards the direction of her hotel.
"Zat would be lovely."
"All right then, its settled." Seamus beamed as he made his way up the buildings stoop.
"I'll see ya when I see ya ladies. Have a pleasant night my French rose."
"You too Monsieur Finnigan." Fleur chuckled as Hermione waved goodbye. They made their way towards bright city lights silence overtaking them both. It was a little while before either of them spoke, the night air cold and thick with unfamiliar anxiety.
"E is a lovely man; an excellent replacement for 'Arry." Fleur murmured; not trusting her own voice as she tried to break the awkward silence. Hermione nodded as she licked her chapped lips, her eyes casting upwards towards the stars before finding light blue eyes shyly gazing at her.
"Um...yeah; though he's a little a wild for my tastes sometimes. Harry and I were always the voices of reason. When he and Ronald get together it's um...well I guess you've seen what can happen."
They both chuckled as they passed over a bridge leading further into the city. The buildings strewn with specs of light as the smell of fresh snow and smog filled their senses.
"You head back to France tomorrow?" Hermione asked, breaking another long stint of silence.
"Non, I am in town for 'zee weekend. I visit William tomorrow and 'zen zee banquet is on Sunday so…" She trailed off then, her shoulders shrugging lightly as they walked.
"Oh…right. Bill invited you?" Hermione asked innocently, highly aware of the fact it had to have been the second oldest Weasley. It was common knowledge that the other members of his family did not hold Fleur in high regard, Ron being the only one who seemed to tolerate her presence; though Hermione suspected it had more to do with the French woman's long appealing legs and gorgeous figure than her actual person. She mentally slapped herself; pushing the thoughts down into her subconscious.
Where did that come from? She thought, settling it must be the alcohol before Fleur answered.
"Oui, 'oo else?" Her tone was light as she smiled softly. She knew full and well the situation with the Weasley's was not on good standing. Molly had barely liked her to begin with when she and Bill had been married, but now after the divorce…she didn't want to think what would happen if she was left alone with the foreboding woman.
"Well…I think you deserve to go either way, we all fought together. You risked your life just as much as any of us so why should you be treated any different?" Hermione offered nonchalantly as her eyes looked anywhere but the witch next to her. She was startled slightly when she felt Fleur's arm loop between hers, a gratified smile on her lips.
"Z'ank you, I don't get to 'ear 'zat much. It's nice to know 'zat someone notices."
The younger witch smiled faintly before returning her gaze forward, a blush creeping from her neck to her cheeks as she tried to change the subject.
"They might make it a yearly event you know? Arthur…Mr. Weasley that is, says it's the first time we're all able to come together since the war. The Ministry is all abuzz with the whole thing."
"Zat's what William 'as been saying, I'm looking forward to it. It's been so long since I 'ave seen 'arry too. I hear Victor will be coming as well…" she trailed off, eyeing the younger witch inquisitively. Hermione cringed slightly, the last time she had seen the Bulgarian seeker things were left awkwardly. Her primary reason for visiting him had been to merely get information on popular Quiddich team hang out's that Stoyan might have frequented. He had told her he felt used and that she barely owled him anymore unless she was after something. Hermione strongly denied this of course but refrained from mentioning her strong desire not to lead him on was the main reason she had lost contact. There just wasn't anything there anymore; apparently she was the only one who could see that.
"Yes...well... I'm sure there will be a lot of familiar faces there."
Silence fell again before they reached the front of Fleur's hotel, red letters lined with bright yellow bulbs that read l'Hôtel Adélaїde. Hermione's eyebrow raised as she smirked at the French witch.
"Staying close to home I see?"
Fleur chuckled lightly as she shrugged. She smiled faintly as she watched a couple walk by hand in hand. "Zee comforts of 'ome are some'zing I cannot do without I'm afraid."
Another moment of awkward silence passed between them as Hermione chewed on her bottom lip, her fingers twisting loose threads in her pockets.
"Well...goodnight I guess..." She said, beginning to turn before long fingers wrapped around her arm and pulled her close. Her breathe caught as soft lips ghosted over her cheek and placed a soft kiss there.
"Bonsoir, mon amour." Whispered Fleur; turning and entering the hotel before the stunned witch had time to respond.