A/N: I wanted to delve a little further into Fleur's heritage than J.K. Rowling did in her books because I actually find veela rather fascinating. I have plenty of headcanons about them that I've incorporated into this story, so I will state upfront that the information presented here is not necessarily accurate to the Harry Potter canon.

Also this takes place in the beginning of Order of the Phoenix.

I intend for it to have two parts.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.


I'll tie you in my arms, I will smother you

We'll tell each other lies like we tell the truth

I'll color in the sky and I'll color you

I want to draw on your skin

Again, again, again


Animal

Part 1

Fleur had been doing a phenomenal job with ignoring her thus far and Hermione's fork clattered onto her octagonal ceramic plate for the fourth time since she had begun to pretend eating. Her knuckles were bolts wrenched taut; too tight for her fingers to flex or be fully capable of operating silverware. She sighed when Sirius gave pause in his quarrel with Molly long enough to receive a weak, affirmative smile from Hermione, then launched straight back into defending his argument and Molly cut him off enough times for him to begin raising his voice.

The pressure on Hermione's shoulders nearly had her feet jammed through the creaky, scarred wood of Number 12 Grimmauld Place's floorboards, and it certainly had her stomach wrapped around itself in a way that had entirely devoured her appetite. Her vision was murky at the edges and she tried not to think much of it, as she'd suffered similar symptoms near the end of her previous term at Hogwarts and had worried enough to bother Madam Pomfrey. Upon being unable to determine a cause for the problem, she had informed Hermione that it would be difficult to find a solution and asked her to rest up, that there was a good chance she was merely fatigued.

Eventually the blurriness had gone away, but the symptoms had returned now and with a certain vengeance. Her senses were being attacked, drained.

Voldemort was back. She was exhausted.

Between Harry's justifiable anger with two of his best friends, the haze of uncertainty, and tidying Grimmauld Place, she was tired and ready for the mental exhaustion of reading too many books in the Hogwarts library. Cleaning Sirius' inherited home was like sweeping the sand from a desert; whatever work they completed, they found more and it seemed endless. Hermione much preferred the satisfactory and definite end that closing the back cover of a book brought her.

Sirius was yelling now. A deep rumbling from the bottom of his ribcage, his diaphragm a base drum that had his voice rebounding and echoing off the walls - Hermione noted the acoustics were not fit for noise here - and it wasn't Molly's rival shrieking that quieted him.

It was a staged cough that Fleur daintily shielded with the backside of her hand, and Hermione shot her a cautious look, then wondered to herself why she had done it even if it had gone unnoticed by Fleur. She didn't have much of a right to demand silence from her, but she was unsure of what lengths she would go to stop the dizziness in her head and the queasiness in her stomach.

She hadn't felt this sick since the tragic conclusion of the Triwizard Tournament and she had, perhaps foolishly, decided that that was due to the death of her peer and surely not the silent departure of her fling.

She'd named it that after bitter months of separation and unanswered letters. It used to have a rather nice name.

"Ahem."

Hermione was gripping her fork tight enough in the fist of her hand that she thought she may have melted it in her contorted palm, her brown eyes anxious. Her lips were pressed together like the wax seal of a letter for fear of what words or other nasty things would climb out of her throat.

Fleur had shared very little about veela with her in their time together the year before, and Hermione had researched obsessively over the summer holiday in order to soothe the ache inside of her, but had come up short. There wasn't much information on them, not written in books, and Hermione had desperately turned to searching for spells that could have been cast on her that would cause such a severe reaction to being separated from another wizard, removing the 'veela' portion of the equation entirely.

It brought her nothing but heavier half moons beneath her eyes.

In all of her logical, brilliant, calculating brain, Hermione could not come to a satisfactory conclusion. She refused to believe she was lovesick.

Fleur was seated a chair to the left and across from her with her blonde hair wrapped in an intricate bun at the nape of her neck, wisps of it intentionally not tucked behind her ears to frame her crisp jaw. Her black cardigan, synched and elastic-like at the wrists, was conservatively buttoned up to her neck, which was further concealed by her red, black and white plaid patterned scarf. It was thin, clearly for fashion purposes rather than protection against the biting cold, and had frayed ropes of fabric dangling on either end. Hermione had regretfully noticed she was wearing jeans earlier - another obstacle in darting her eyes away to prevent incessant staring – and a pair of low-heeled, black leather boots that encased a generous amount of Fleur's calves. The leather had deep lines and folds, again for fashion, although the belt-like buckles appeared to serve an actual purpose in holding the boots on her petite feet, as there were no laces.

She looked so horribly French and Hermione could not stand it.

She'd nearly fainted from the splintered cliff of the staircase when Molly answered the door and Fleur stepped in, elegantly fixing the loosely woven wool cap snug over her ears with fingers that were peaking from fingerless gloves cut at the second knuckle. They'd exchanged words, but far too quietly for Hermione to hear her.

So as she cleared her throat to speak with her chin propped up on a limply bent wrist, Hermione both forgot how to breathe and nearly upturned the antique, rectangular dining table out of pent up frustration. She was proud of herself for how she had behaved so far. Fleur deserved Hermione's handprint on her cheek.

There Fleur sat, as careless as ever if her body language spoke correctly, and as unsettlingly pretty as she had been the previous year. Hermione's dreams and memories were blurry and lacked the stark clarity of Fleur's beauty seated only feet away from her.

"If I may," Fleur continued, waiting a moment for any last bullets to shoot from the barrel mouths of Molly or Sirius, then picked up again upon no signs of interruption. Sirius' jaw was unhinged like a loaded catapult, though, prepared. Hermione pressed her lips tighter. "Molly, I respect your – ah- instinct to protect 'arry, but I do zink Sirius is correct in wanting to keep ze Chosen One informed."

The words cascaded from her mouth like velvet in the form of sound and Hermione relaxed at the return of it as though tension had been lifted from her body. She felt less strained, not much, but enough to notice, as though she merely needed to be reassured of Fleur's presence. Her voice, her lulling accent had proved Fleur three dimensional enough for Hermione's subconscious to accept. Her palms still itched to slap her pretty face.

Fleur's eyebrow arched at the silence that tailed on her first words since dinner had begun, and Hermione had to look away.

Remus looked uneasy, there were few things more dangerous than encouraging Sirius Black. Tonks was torn, lines of thought drew themselves in her forehead as her forefinger and thumb caught the angle of her own chin. Fred and George were indifferent, one of them nudging the other inquiring about desert. Sirius was pleased with himself, folding his arms over one another on the table top with a weathered smile influenced by Azkaban and a 'see?'

Ginny worriedly watched Hermione, who still had her fork caged in her fist not unlike the way a caveman would wield a peasant leg, but her eyes were wide and her breathing would have produced the fog of a factory had she been outside. No one else seemed to notice, as Ron and Harry were both agreeing with what little words of wisdom Fleur had bothered to grace them with tonight, and Arthur shook his head. Ron's agreement was most likely far less consensual than Harry's, for the chosen boy had a knack for feigning indifference to Fleur's thrall while Ron fell gracelessly to his knees.

"Are you alright?" Ginny whispered into Hermione's shoulder, not paying Fleur much attention and Hermione knew it was because she wanted her to be aware that not everyone at this table hung onto her words like a dead fish on a hook. She had her own thoughts and opinions, and Ginny Weasley did not think highly of Fleur. Hermione thought it unbecoming of her, though she would never say it aloud. Fleur was rather lovely. An awful life ruiner and heart shredder, but a lovely one. Despite all of that, she was envious of Ginny as she would love to freely wield the ability to hate Fleur the way Ginny did. Ginny's words with Fleur swung like a heavy weapon and they left bruises more often than not.

Neither of them sought out one another very frequently.

Despite being obviously not all right, she jolted as though she was surprised someone had finally noticed her eyes were large and tortured like she had been shackled to Sirius' feet in Azkaban. Her fork clattered onto her plate a fifth time and she didn't miss it when Fleur flickered her bright blue eyes to the utensil and then, for the first time, to Hermione's terrified face. Time halted and something tugged harshly low in her stomach like a surprise portkey. Fleur's focus was back on Molly a blink later.

Hermione felt insulted. It couldn't even be called an encounter, but whatever it was, it had been far too brief to justify the torture she'd felt these past few months. Fleur had given her a mere once over and been done with it. The itching in her palms grew worse and she sat on her hands, pretending to be interested in the dinner table debate that she would be actively participating in if Fleur hadn't been there.

Molly, worn wrinkles carving tired hollows in her face, was livid, burning haystacks in her typically kind eyes and one would think Fleur had just led Voldemort in by the perfectly manicured hand.

"Dumbledore-" the great wizard's last name boomed from her throat the way a cannon would, though a name of Dumbledore's status could be launched from the universe itself as a meteor and still seem to pale in comparison to his quiet authority.

"Cannot possibly predict ze future of zis boy," Fleur concluded coldly. "Or any of us, for zat matter. Mrs. Weasley, I believe I am right when I say zat each underage wizard at zis table iz practically one of your own, non?"

"Harry and Hermione are like my own children to me, they know that," Molly replied slowly, flames spitting.

Hermione truly hated to watch Mrs. Weasley become worked up. The woman really was practically her second mother.

"'Z'en zey should be prepared. It is unfair to send zem into ze belly of ze fire wiz no defenses, no knowledge. 'Ow are zey to protect zemselves if zey know no'zing of what zey are up against?" Fleur demanded sharply. "Keeping zem in ze dark will make fools of all of us at costs zat I am not willing to pay, Mrs. Weasley."

Fleur's previously bright blue eyes were an infected inky shade away from black now, like the color hadn't been properly mixed yet, and Hermione's nerves were crawling around the inner walls of her body. Scaling her bones.

She'd seen them that way before. Anger had not been the culprit.

"I know well of how to protect my children," Molly ground her teeth. Hermione thought the heat of her words could broil cauldron water. "And I trust in Albus Dumbledore. Perhaps you don't understand how things are done around here or how we treat family, Fleur, but you're to learn if you'll be sticking around."

Hermione observed Fleur's swollen pupils with a troubled curiosity, swallowing the drowning blue almost entirely, and her nerves had begun to squeeze her from the inside out. Her stomach churned even though there was nothing in it and she felt lightheaded once more.

"I know zat I do not lie to my family," Fleur said lowly, the dim light catching her dark, dark eyes, and Hermione abruptly stood from the table before Molly could, knocking back her chair.

"I'd like to be excused," she squeaked to no one in particular, though her eyes nervously snapped to Mrs. Weasley for approval. Even before Molly's dangerously calm 'go on, dear' she had begun weaving around the other occupants of the dining table and climbing the stairs by two to the bedroom she'd been staying in for a few weeks now.

Immediately the air upstairs was thinner, less suffocating, and Hermione swallowed it in gasps as though she'd just been able to pull her own hands from her nose and mouth. Bursting through the door, she stepped backwards once to close it with the force of her back and then she was sinking down the length of it. Her eyes were on fire, prickling, and this time her hands pressed over her mouth like a hot iron to shush the watery sobs to steam. Her shoulders rattled against the ancient door and she dropped a hand from her face to the floor as a crutch. Despite squeezing her eyes shut, tears leaked out at the seam of them anyways, first only a few, then a steady flow and each counted for the words Fleur had never said.

She felt incredibly stupid. Crying over a schoolgirl crush was never something Hermione found flattering and she'd turned up her nose last year at Parvati for blubbering because of her failure to impress a Ravenclaw fifth year. She had to worry about Harry's survival throughout the term and various obstacles the years before. Her problems were decidedly colossal in comparison to girls crying over boys.

She detested herself for it, but she wept over Fleur Delacour until sleep took her.

She didn't wake up where she fell asleep. The mattress molded to her body and was warm and soft beneath her where the floor was cold and hard, uncomfortable against the jut of her bones where she cried too many words for Fleur to say. Sheets and blankets were tucked up to her chest and they fell away when she sat up, propped on her elbow. She was embarrassed. Hermione was an independent girl and she prided herself on it, and it's a sore blow for someone to have to lift her cried out body from the floor to bed, even if it was most likely Ginny.

Her gut gave another tug and she prayed to Merlin that Fleur went home.

She checked the time on her muggle watch fastened to her left wrist to find it past midnight, late enough for everyone to be asleep, but Ginny wouldn't mind being woken up. Hermione needed her and it became even more apparent as she tumbled out of bed, air heavy and wrong in her chest. She was almost there, almost to the door and she thought that if she could just get out of this room then it'd be easier to breathe, that the strange watercolor tinted edges of her vision would disappear –

Her hand grappled the intricately metal carved handle of the door and then the pressure in her chest nearly pulled her to the floor face first.

"Non, chérie," velvet voice in her ear, breath on her neck and gone from her lungs.

Hermione remained still, Fleur's arm bent protectively around her waist from behind, the other hand lay over her own on the handle of the bedroom door. Tears were paving paths along her cheeks before she could realize what was happening.

"Séjour," she breathed, pulling Hermione's back flush against her front.

Stay.

Hermione's hand dropped from the handle to hang limp beside her hip and Fleur wrapped her other arm around her waist, resting her forehead between Hermione's shoulder blades. She felt the older girl inhale deeply against her back. The pain below her stomach receded to a slow throb.

She leaned blissfully into the warm body behind her and comfort wrapped itself around her in ribboned bows.

"'Ave you any idea of what you do to me?" Fleur's languid accent seeped into the cracks of her spine and Hermione's neck was twisting with the rapid shaking of her head the moment Fleur began her question. The ribbons snapped and Hermione set her jaw, unpleasant memories and sickness of the summer crawling back to settle into the pit of her stomach. She would not submit to this again.

"Stop it."

"'Ermione..."

"No." Hermione extracted herself from Fleur's arms and rounded on her, finger aimed like a loaded gun. She gathered that Fleur had expected this by the calm expression on her beautiful face, and it fueled her anger. "It's been months. Months! You don't get to reduce me to a bloody, disgusting mess with no justification for yourself and then return eons later with a cheap line or two in exchange for a quick shag!" she shrieked, moving backwards.

Fleur frowned distastefully, producing her wand from within her cardigan to perform a sharp flick and Hermione could sense from the shift in the room's atmosphere that she'd just wordlessly cast a silencing spell.

"You sure the others shouldn't hear?" Hermione asked critically, a bit out of her mind with rage. "Are you sure everyone else shouldn't be aware you essentially purged a fourth year's virginity and took off with it? A bit damaging for you, is it?"

"You are young," Fleur's lips parted to sigh and Hermione detested her all the more for being infernally perfect at everything she did and did not intend. "Ezpecially zen. Only fifteen, 'ermione, do you understand?"

Aside from being a genius, Hermione was delightfully mature for her age. Fleur knew she was not arguing with a child.

"I would like to know how that somehow matters more now than it did then. I'm no longer fifteen," Hermione argued defensively on her behalf. In reality, her birthday was another two weeks away.

"I should 'ave stayed away from you from ze very beginning."

The words sounded stupid the moment they left Fleur's mouth because of how impossible that solution would be to execute. She cursed the way her tongue seemed to grow clumsy in her mouth when she spoke English.

"But you didn't," Hermione reminded her.

Fleur shook her head.

"Non. I cannot do it, it is impossible," she admitted shamelessly.

Fleur's voice was spoken poetry, but Hermione didn't have the patience for her riddles tonight. The sharp pull in her stomach was worse enough again that she stopped distancing herself from Fleur and concentrated on what to say. Grasping desperately at words and spitting them out without any tact. She was hardly being herself.

"Being overly dramatic is not going to help either of us, I hope you know."

Fleur looked harsh for a moment and it took Hermione by surprise.

"You do not understand."

"No, Fleur! You don't understand! I needed you this summer! Cedric is dead and Voldemort is running rampant, Dumbledore's beginning to withhold secrets from Harry, and I can't trust faces I know better than the back of my own hand," Hermione pressed her fist against one of her eyes, the room whirling around as though her feet were planted on a carousel. "It is absolutely infuriating to be in the same room as you, I can't stand it!"

Fleur watched her from the opposite side of the room, her eyes bright, but conflicted. She looked to be thinking.

"I gave you things that I have never given anyone else, and I can't take them back," Hermione said quietly, slumping against the wall, arms wound around herself.

"I should not have taken them," Fleur answered firmly, well concentrated on her English. The language was still sour on her tongue, she was much more elegant in her native French and she longed to explain this to Hermione elegantly.

Hermione shook her head, vulnerably pressing herself further against the wall. "You shouldn't have if you had the intention of leaving."

Fleur agreed with that. She had not been trustworthy and she would not lie about her own selfishness.

"I knew I would not be answering your letters before ze first one 'ad ze chance to arrive," Fleur admitted honestly.

Hermione tipped her head back sharply, intense eyes on the ceiling, mouth pressed into a thin line and unsure of how to react to such blunt rejection. "Brilliant," she breathed with a disbelieving shrug. Evidently she'd been a fool to even expect a reply.

The tugging in her navel had spread to the rest of her body, pulling her apart like the deathly vacuum of a dementor's open jaw and Hermione closed her eyes against the splitting sensation in her bones.

"I saw ze way zat Viktor Krum boy watched you, ma belle," Fleur chose to delve into her explanation at an angle that she thought would initially put Hermione off, coaxing her forward. "And I was not going to allow some boy to take what is mine."

Hermione had brought her eyes to level with Fleur's again, lips sealed together and a frown on her face. She looked violated, but ever curious and Fleur knew Hermione was not one to interrupt without being given every variable, every bit of information for her to stretch and toy with in order to reach a plausible conclusion. She was smart, and she stayed silent.

"You were very young, too young for me to claim," Fleur continued, and Hermione could detect the telltale inky spills of black begin to dilute the blue of Fleur's eyes. "but such is ze way of ze veela. We 'ave but one chosen and I apologize for my be'avior, but I could not 'elp it. Ze craving I 'ave for you is in'uman and I took you too soon. I felt very sick for months, I did not wish you goodbye when I returned to Beauxbatons and for zat I grew more ill. I 'ave suffered terribly z'ese past months. I cannot sleep. I am drawn away from my tasks by z'ese images in my 'ead. I cannot concentrate. My body is not mine to do with as I please, it is deeply upset with me and my foolish choice to leave you be'ind. Ze blood of my 'eritage is sick to know of ze z'ings I 'ave done. Surely you, too, 'ave felt it?" she held a clenched fist to her chest as she took two steps forward, the click of her boots noisy in the wake of her words. "I 'ave caused you such pain," Fleur couldn't hold Hermione's eyes any longer. They were betrayed and confused, the innocence being drained from them by Fleur's words.

Hermione's frown grew deeper as she fought the tears in her eyes for a third time that night, trapping the breath in her chest for fear of openly sobbing in front of Fleur. She was not knowledgeable of veela, and she was stumbling more now than she had been before being 'informed.' She knew nothing of what 'chosen' were or what they meant to a veela and she felt out of place, so used to just knowing things.

The symptoms Fleur had explained, however, those Hermione knew well. Her lip quivered, eyes scanning left and right along Fleur's face, until she finally relented a single, breathy sob.

"I feel split down the middle," she explained with sharp breaths. Her words were clipped, desperate, but Fleur could sense that she was relieved to relay this information to someone after months of suffocation. "Like my bones are disjointed. I feel literally torn in half. It hurts like I can't explain and it's been like this since you left, it's horrible."

Tears from the eyes of Hermione Granger were not something Fleur had witnessed before and it stirred the blood under her skin with a torch. The veela hissed within her, rumbling behind her ribs, and she dug her nails into her own palm, breathing calmly through her nose.

"Oui, c'est terrible," Fleur confirmed quietly in French. "I 'ave put you z'rou zis and I 'ate myself for it."

Hermione watched her with distrust like a wounded animal, the edges of her eyes swollen from crying.

"What do you mean..." she muttered quietly, collecting her thoughts before continuing. "What do you mean when you say veela have one chosen?"

Fleur seemed to contemplated her answer quite carefully before she bothered to open her inarticulate mouth in this foreign language.

"Veela are famous for z'eir skills as a temptress," Fleur expanded vaguely, looking rather torn to be revealing this information. "Zey can attract nearly any person zey wish to 'ave, but it is driven by lust, by passion, by ze fundamental parts zat work toge'zer to create all that is a veela," Hermione was brought to a particular moment in her past from last term, Fleur's mouth on her neck and hands crawling up her stomach. It distracted her attention and Fleur noticed, watching her with a light, knowing smile. 'Owever, z'ese relationships are not appealing to zem. Zey lack love. Zey long to be united wi't z'eir mate and spend a significant amount of time searching for zem, indirectly or not," Fleur halted for a moment, working through her thoughts to gather the correct words on her tongue to convey them properly in English. "I was not looking when I found you."

Hermione was dizzy with questions. Her nerves were tied in highly anxious knots, stiffening her body as she attempted to comprehend the complex gears of fate, the rotating gears in her own head small and insignificant in comparison. The wind had been knocked from her. She could not wrap her mind around the predestined idea of being bound to someone. It was in smutty romance novels without any true substance, it was in those awful muggle romance movies and it was highly illogical.

It was also wildly romantic and Hermione, the girl at heart that she was, found herself swooning.

"You mean to tell me that I...I'm your..." her blush seemed to siphon the words from her throat and fry them.

"Mate, oui," Fleur finished bluntly.

Hermione slowly, cautiously wiped the dampness on her cheeks with the sleeve of her sweater and when she looked up again, Fleur was watching her with predatory eyes. Not unkind, but possessive, and Hermione wondered how she hadn't noticed before.

She was not a material person, not in the least, but her parents were well off and Hermione certainly owned plenty of useless things back home. But to claim ownership of another human being, specifically one retaining the breathtaking beauty Fleur had, nearly blew her mind out her ears.

Fleur, as perceptive as she was, watched as Hermione attempted to mull it over, to let it begin to settle within her and only stepped forward when Hermione offered. Not with words, but Fleur could tell, and as her boots clicked on the rickety wooden floor, Hermione levered her elbow and pushed herself from the wall and into Fleur's arms, heavy sobs falling into the older girl's chest.

Fleur cradled the back of her head, delicate fingers weaving into her hair.

"Je suis désolé, mon amour," Fleur whispered into her hair, tears rising in her own eyes.

Hermione offered no other words, she simply let the torture of the past few months be drained from her exhausted body as she cried, her skin stretched tight over her knuckles from the stress of her fingers clenched around Fleur's cardigan. She had an overwhelming rush of questions washing around the insides of her mind, there was so much she didn't understand.

"I wanted to give you a choice," Fleur murmured against the top of Hermione's head. "So I tried to sever our ties to one another, I was careless in not considering 'ow I would 'urt you."

Hermione felt the pull in her bones again, as did Fleur, and it was as though their souls were breaking free to swap bodies, more at home within one another than they had been within themselves.

"I don't like being away from you," Hermione finally mumbled, her words watery and absorbed by Fleur's black cardigan.

Fleur hummed in agreement.

"It was very difficult not to...mm, 'ow do you English say..." Fleur pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Baiser...ravage you at ze dinner table," she fished the phrase from the complicated quarters of her multi-lingual mind and Hermione leaned back to find a mischievous smile on Fleur's face. She had intended to lightly hit her on the shoulder and scold her for her upfront sexual connotations, but the intention died in her throat when she caught sight of Fleur's brilliant smile and instead leaned up to kiss it from her lips.

It was a brief brush of their mouths, and it successfully extinguished Fleur's smile. Hermione's eyes fluttered closed and she breathed with their lips barely touching, reveling that she could do this and shaming her memory for not recording her kisses with Fleur in enough detail to prepare her for the harsh beating in her chest. She pulled away to take in the sight before her, gently thumbing Fleur's bottom lip. The fingers of her other hand toyed absently with the top button of Fleur's sweater and Hermione buried her nose in Fleur's neck, just below her ear, pausing for this moment as well.

Fleur felt her control ebbing away from her tight grasp, a purr deep in her chest.

Heart thrashing against the staircase of her ribcage, Hermione tentatively gave into her own craving and began kissing Fleur's neck, soft and slow and purely sensual. Fleur's fingers knotted themselves tighter in Hermione's hair, and when she felt the younger girl sucking on her sensitive skin she had to gently pull her talented mouth away.

Hermione's warm brown eyes were curious, questioning, and Fleur slid a hand onto her cheek, silencing her wordless interrogation.

"You are too much for me," Fleur murmured, smile soft on her lips and Hermione leaned into her touch.

She caught the underside of Hermione's chin with soft, careful fingers and tilted her head back the same way she had during her stay at Hogwarts last term. She'd kissed her then with a deadline, a beginning with an ending on the same horizon.

She kissed her now with the same desperate passion she'd had with the knowledge that their time together would be limited, except without any of the limitations and Hermione submitted to her with a tiny groan that lit her veela blood on fire.