That Wasn't The Plan
Hermione felt herself tense as the stunningly beautiful blonde woman sat down, slipping out of her long gray coat. Fleur was very slender, but not overly skinny. She had a figure that nearly every girl in the world would murder their entire family to possess. Tall, slender and perfect curves. Her long silvery blonde hair looked like spun silk. Her eyes were a blue not unlike a tropical sea. She wore a dark blue pencil skirt with black stockings and shiny black high heeled pumps. Her blouse was pale pink and a vest that matched her skirt.
Yet, Fleur looked tired, not that it really did anything to dampen her general appearance. She was still amazing to look upon. And that just made Hermione even more insecure. Yet, she had the faintest traces of dark circles under her eyes.
"Hermione Granger." Hermione said, trying to sound as friendly as she could. She remembered all the boys at Hogwarts falling all over themselves and drooling like crazed animals whenever Miss Delacour of Beauxbatons walked by. Even as she took a look around the restaurant, she could see men staring unashamedly at the beautiful woman sitting next to her.
"Harry." Hermione's boyfriend said, though he wasn't looking at her the same way as the other males. In fact, he wasn't looking at her at all. He was scanning to restaurant for any sign this woman had been followed.
"I'm very pleased to meet you both." Fleur replied, shaking each of their hands. "'Ave you ordered yet?"
"No, we thought it best to wait, as we didn't know if you would want to leave right away." Hermione replied.
"Good. I am a bit 'ungry, and we 'ave some time." Fleur smiled with relief. The waitress came by and took their orders a few minutes later. When she finished, and walked away, Fleur turned to Harry.
"Dumbledore gave you gold, oui?" She asked. Harry gave a curt nod, his eyes roaming the patrons looking for anyone who didn't seem right to him.
"Good, you will need it. I should be able to negotiate 'im down, but… greed tends to overpower lust." Fleur sighed.
"Which of the artifacts is it you think you've found?" Harry asked, finally looking to Fleur. Hermione felt herself tense again but Harry did nothing to make her think he was in any way affected by Fleur's enchantments.
"Ze locket. A large gold locket wiz an S etched into it. Zis man we are to zee, 'e is known for dealing in very rare and dangerous items. He's well connected in ze black market. Two weeks ago 'e came to Gringott's in Paris and paid for very advanced warding on 'is property. It made me curious why he would suddenly need extra protection on his shop. Zo, I visited and persuaded him to show me what he was protecting. It felt…foul."
"How did you get involved in all of this anyway?" Hermione asked. Fleur's expression became heartbroken.
"I was asked." She said sullenly. "By Dumbledore. Just after Cedric's funeral, he came to see me at my home. He knew that Cedric and I were… close."
"You were friends?" Hermione asked softly.
"We were more than friends." Fleur admitted.
The waitress arrived with their meals, and set them before each of them before asking if they needed anything else. After she was gone, they began to eat in silence for a bit. Hermione's curiosity became too much to bear however, and she finally had to ask.
"I don't mean to pry, but how close were you?" Hermione asked, looking apologetic. Harry looked up from his own lunch with a curious expression.
"We were falling in love." Fleur said after a long pause. "Cedric was one of the very few at 'Ogwarts, or really my whole world, who was polite to me, and more importantly, unaffected by my allure."
"Allure?" Harry asked turning to look at the woman now. Hermione cringed inwardly as Harry looked her over.
"I'm a Veela." Fleur said simply. "Cedric didn't seem to care about my heritage, zough. He tried to untie us. He felt the spirit of ze tournament was more important zan ze prize. He asked if Viktor and I would like to train wiz him. Viktor chose not to, preferring to be on his own. I zink he thought we were trying to spy on him or zomething. It wasn't until after the second task that he became friendlier to us."
"But you agreed to train with Cedric." Harry said. Fleur nodded.
"He was quite persuasive. I admit that I was at first waiting for a chance to make him look foolish, but the longer I let him speak, the more his words made sense to me. He didn't convince me right away, but as I did not say no, he kept asking me if we could try and help each other. I still don't know why I agreed." Fleur smiled fondly at the memory.
"I zink he got into my head. And ze more I zought of it, making friends with new people who didn't have some kind of agenda was very appealing. Do not mistake me. I wanted to win. I would be ze first Veela to have competed and won such a monumental competition. But why shouldn't I make friends as well."
Hermione listened to Fleur, remembering seeing Cedric and Fleur together a lot, but she couldn't remember when she had begun to notice it. She had been so caught up in her own world, it was no surprise she barely paid any attention to the goings on of the tournament.
"As we prepared, we became friends. "E respected me, and treated me as an equal. 'Ow could I not fall for 'im in the end. At first we resisted ze attraction we both felt, even choozing ozzer people as dates for ze Yule Ball. But, during ze second task, he came to my rescue. Grindylows ambushed me, and as a Veela, my power is subdued underwater. Cedric rescued me, and helped me to save my sister."
Harry simply stared, listening to Fleur's tale while Hermione was wiping at her eyes a bit. She had spoken to Cedric Diggory only once, but he left such a strong impression on her. It had been late in her third year, and Draco, and a few others were picking on her as usual, of course, and Cedric had stopped Goyle from hexing her. He'd used a tongue-tying hex on Goyle, that left him unable to speak properly for a week. After that, Cedric had walked her to McGonagall's office, telling her that one day, things would change, and those idiots would be begging her for forgiveness. The memory made her look affectionately at Harry.
"After zat, I could not fight my feelings anymore." Fleur said, wiping at her own eyes. "We chose to keep it quiet, given all ze press each of us was already getting. It was very hard, but we managed. Just before ze zird task, we talked about what would happen to us when ze tournament was over. We both felt zat we didn't want zings to end between us. We wanted to find out if we could have zomething bigger, zomething special."
"You were going to get married?" Hermione asked with a gasp.
"Non." Fleur shook her head. "At least not right away. We hadn't even discussed zat. But we wanted to be togezzer. I had already accepted a job wiz Gringott's and I knew I could transfer to the British branch. Cedric had a few options, zo we decided to take ze summer and spend it togezzer and figure zings out between us. But zat didn't happen."
Hermione reached out and took Fleur's hand supportively, and gave it a squeeze. The blonde gave a watery smile of appreciation.
Hermione remembered that night. Fleur had been brought out of the Maze first. Nearly an hour later, Viktor Krum had been brought out as well. He looked strange as Professor Flitwick and Sprout escorted him. He kept shaking his head, and looking over his shoulder, very bewildered. They had waited nearly two hours for any sign of Cedric, and then they got it when his body appeared right in front of the judges. His body was twisted at odd angles, and covered in blood. He was taken away shortly after that, and they were given the official story the next morning. Dumbledore gave them the real story at dinner, scaring nearly every single person in the Great Hall when he told them all that Cedric had been killed by none other than the most feared and fearsome wizard in history. Lord Voldemort.
"Zat night… I felt my world crumble to ash when Cedric's body was returned. The look on his face… I had never seen Cedric look so afraid. Not even before he faced his dragon. I can't help but wonder what it was he saw that made him fear so much." Fleur finished, sniffling.
"Voldemort." Harry said softly.
"I swore I would make whomever did zat to Cedric would pay. I was blinded by my rage. Now however, I fear for the safety of my family. I have been thinking about quitting , and leaving England's problems to England. And zen I dream of my Cedric, and I see his disappointment so plain, and I know that I must do all I can to help."
They had hardly touched their meals through Fleur's tale, and none of them were hungry any longer. Fleur checked her watch, and then excused herself to use the restroom. Hermione watched her go as Harry pushed his plate away.
"I had no idea she and Cedric were dating." Hermione said, sniffling. "They hid it very well. I don't think anyone knew."
"Do you know what happened to Cedric that night? How Voldemort rose?" Harry asked, Hermione turned around to look at her boyfriend curiosity etched on her features. She shook her head, and Harry gave a nod, rubbing his hands together as he stared at the table.
"He used an extremely ancient and dark ritual. I overheard Dumbledore telling Sirius and the others. Later it was explained to me directly. He needed the blood of someone young and powerful to help create a new body." Harry explained. "I suppose he thought the tournament was the best way to find a suitable candidate."
"How do you know this? How did Dumbledore find out about this ritual?" Hermione asked.
"He has a spy within Voldemort's ranks." Harry said.
"A spy?" Hermione looked awed. She had no idea why she was surprised. It was well known Voldemort had spies within the Ministry itself.
"We should go." Fleur said, returning from the bathroom, and looking as perfect as when she walked in the restaurant. She slipped her coat back on as Harry agreed with her and got to his feet. Hermione followed them, though her mind was screaming for more answers, though she knew this wasn't the time for that. They had a job to do now.
Fleur led them a short way down the street and into a side alley. She then produced a hair brush from her handbag, which she held out to Harry and Hermione.
"This portkey will take us to our destination." She said, looking at them. Harry was keeping watch while Hermione reached out to touch the portkey. Harry also placed a finger on the brush just as it activated.
Hermione truly hated Portkeys. Once again, harry was there to keep her from falling flat on her face. At first glance, it looked as if they hadn't gone anywhere. The alley they were in was nearly identical. Then Hermione heard the sound of heavy traffic and the smell of the ocean was gone.
"Zis way." Fleur said, leading them out onto the street. Hermione walked with Harry, holding his hand tightly as they emerged from the alleyway and onto a bustling street. There were hundreds of people walking up and down the boulevard. On the street, cars passed by with the occasional honk at pedestrians who were crossing to the other side to get to their favorite shop.
Hermione realized after gazing into two different shop windows that they must be in the clothing district of Paris. The more windows she looked into, the more convinced they were in a very high end shopping district.
The men and women they passed all looked as if they'd stepped off the pages of some fashion magazine. It made Hermione feel even more insecure then she had been when she first met Fleur.
"Just up ahead." Fleur said over her shoulder.
They entered a small boutique with a tall, thin, elegant looking woman stood by the counter. There were shelves and shelves of very beautiful looking shoes, and Hermione thought that Lavender would simply die to be allowed to step inside this shop.
However, they didn't stop. Hermione and Harry followed Fleur through a curtain and into the shop's storeroom, and then out a back door into a courtyard, not unlike the entrance to Diagon Alley. Except, Fleur didn't tap on a brick to open the wall. She placed her palm on the center of the wall, and whispered softly in French. Hermione strained to hear what the Veela said, but couldn't.
At once the wall vanished, and their guide led them into France's magical shopping district.
It was much more contemporary then Diagon Alley. In fact, it almost looked like the street they had just come from, save for the wares being sold here.
Fleur led them quickly down the street. Hermione desperately wanted to stop into a few of the shops, but Fleur seemed to be in quite a hurry now. It made Hermione wonder if the French beauty was being up front with them, or if perhaps they were being led into a trap.
After what seemed to Hermione like four or five blocks, Hermione turned left down a side street and after another block, stopped and turned to her companions.
"Perhaps you would prefer to wait for us out side." Fleur said to Harry. "I will need to use my Allure to its fullest power in here, as this man has quite a strong will."
"I'll be fine." Harry said, and a steely tone. Hermione looked nervous as she turned to her boyfriend. Harry had no experience with Veela, so far as she knew, and she knew he'd never forgive himself if he screwed this up because he couldn't control; himself.
"Harry, maybe she's right." She began until Harry turned his cold gaze on her. She immediately hated it, and looked away, rather ashamedly.
"I'll be fine." He repeated.
Fleur smiled apologetically to Hermione and then turned. She took a few deep breaths, and brushed her hair with her fingers. Hermione swore that it got shinier and silkier looking. The girl was almost glowing with beauty and it made Hermione feel truly insignificant, and just plain boring by comparison.
She looked to Harry to see if he was starting to drool yet, but found him staring ahead as if nothing was happening. Was Fleur using her Allure yet? Was It directional, and it wasn't affecting Harry because he was behind her?
"In here." Fleur said walking forward a bit and opening a door. A little bell tinkled, announcing them, and a strong, masculine voice range out in French.
"One moment please."
They walked to the counter, with Fleur in the lead, and waited only a few seconds before a very attractive, and tall man came out from the back. His hair was the color of coal, with a bit of graying at the temples. His face was chiseled, and his eyes narrow and calculating. He was broad shouldered, and barrel chested, and looked as if he could break them all in half with his bare hands.
"AH, my sweet, you have returned again. I am very pleased to se you again my sweet flower. How can I service you this day?" He said when he caught sight of Fleur.
Hermione watched the man's expression become greedy and openly lurid as Fleur leaned forward. It was then that she noticed their French companion had undone a few buttons on her blouse. The way she was leaning on the counter with her arms helped to push her breasts together, giving her more cleavage than she already had.
Hermione also noted a new fragrance in the air. It was like fresh flowers, and reminded her of spring. She quickly guessed that Fleur was now turning up the charm, as it were, and then she noted that Harry was shaking his head as if to clear it. He looked almost as if he'd been hit by a bludgeour, and was trying to stay on his feet. He swayed a bit, but remained upright.
"Are you alright?" She whispered. Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, and squeeze his eyes shut. He looked up, but his eyes were still clear. He gave her a nod and turned back to watch Fleur.
"I have come to see the locket again." Fleur said in French. "And I have brought someone who wishes to purchase the treasure just as I promised."
"Ah, but you are too late. A very wealthy Englishman is coming to buy it tomorrow. Very interested in it. Offered a fortune. Far too much gold to pass up. Perhaps I can retire, no?" The man laughed, turning and slipping into the back once again. "But, I can give you one last peek, no?"
Fleur kept leaning over the counter, making quite a show as the shop owner kept looking to catch a bit more of Fleur's perfect flesh. Harry leaned down to whisper to Hermione.
"We need to get this and get out. If someone is coming to buy it, they might already have someone here watching." He said. Hermione began to tremble a bit at that thought and looked over her shoulder, expecting to see Death Eaters in the doorway. Perhaps this mission wouldn't be so easy after all.
"Here we are." The man said returning with a heavy black box which he set upon the counter with a thud. He took his wand from a pocket on his apron, and began tapping the box in different places. Hermione saw that each place the man tapped, a rune glowed in a different color. After what felt like an eternity, the box opened, and the man turned it around.
"Remember, do not touch."
Fleur turned to Hermione and Harry and motioned with her head to come closer. They did so, and got their first look at the heavy golden locket resting on black velvet within.
It was egg shaped and made entirely of gold. It was really rather plain looking really, save for the simple S etched into the front.
And yet, Hermione could feel the air get colder around this thing. It reeked of darkness, and made her feel nauseous. She noted Harry too, looked ready to vomit, and his eyes were cold and furious as he looked at it.
"It will be a shame to sell it." The man said as he began to turn the box around and reseal it. "But the money is too good. Maybe even enough to convince you to run away with me my pretty pet."
"Exactly how much money is this man offering?" Harry asked the shop keep who look at him with distaste. Hermione turned to look at Harry as he'd spoken in perfect French. She had been unaware that he spoke anything but the Queen's English, though she really shouldn't have been at all shocked by anything he did.
"Far more than you could imagine." The shop owner replied with a derisive laugh.
"I just wanted to know, so I could make a counteroffer." Harry said. "After all, why should you have to wait to begin your retirement?"
"Do not waste your breath, my friend." The man grinned devilishly. "I am certain you don't have enough pocket money to make such a purchase, much less appreciate such a historical treasure. This is the locket of none other than Salazar Slytherin, after all."
Harry shook his head again as Fleur leaned in and purred softly. Hermione swore she could feel the entire room get warm, and she could smell something that made part of her stir with desire. She gave her boyfriend's hand a squeeze, thinking it strange that Veela Allure could work on women as well. Though given how she felt, and how the two males in the room were acting, she doubted it affected women as strongly as it did men.
Harry took several long deep breaths as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Fleur however was pouring it on as she leaned over the counter. She was so close to the man's face, Hermione was certain she might kiss him.
"Would it really hurt to tell us just how rich you will be?" Fleur asked, licking her lips suggestively. The man gave a laugh.
"No, I suppose it won't." The man continued to chuckle. "Ten million galleons."
Harry looked troubled by this. Hermione was sure Dumbledore had not given him that much. In fact, she had no idea how much the Headmaster had given him.
"That is a lot." Fleur said, keeping the man's attention on her. Hermione wondered if the French companion was stalling for time. "Perhaps I might have to run away with you. Clearly you will be able to keep me in fine silk, and diamonds for the rest of my life, yes?"
"Anything you could ever desire my pet." The man said seductively. It was the last thing he said as Harry hit him with a powerful stunning hex. He fell heavily to the floor as Harry leapt over the counter.
"What have you done?" Fleur cried out with surprise. "I was just going to convince him to give it to you."
"That wasn't going to happen, and you know it." Harry said, bending down and touching the tip of his wand to the man's temple. He began whispering softly, though Hermione couldn't hear what he was saying. Slowly he began to pull his wand away and Hermione saw something silvery being pulled away. Harry shook his wand and the silvery strand of whatever disappeared, and then Harry repeated the process seven or eight more times.
Fleur turned to look at the door nervously while Harry did whatever it was he was doing. Hermione noted the room was cooling down, and the smell of flowers was fading away.
"Grab the box." Harry said when he finished and stood up. Hermione reached out to follow his command and stuffed the black wooden box into the shopping bag she had been carrying with the gifts for Lavender and Neville. Harry leapt back over the counter and started for the door before Fleur spoke, making him turn.
"What have you done?" Fleur asked again in a bit of a panic.
"Surgical obliviation. He has no memory of you or the locket." Harry said.
"Surgical obliviation?" Hermione asked looking fascinated.
"That wasn't the plan." Fleur argued.
"Plans change." Harry retorted. "I didn't have enough money to outbid whoever is coming, and he wasn't the type to barter, unless you offered yourself up, and even then, I don't think it would have been enough. No offense."
"None taken." Fleur said without pause. "What do you intend to do now?"
"Leave." Harry said.
Just as he was about to open the door, it was wrenched from his hand, and four large men entered. Hermione realized at once that Harry had been right. Someone had been watching.
"Hand it over." The leader said as Harry stepped back, keeping himself between these men and Hermione and Fleur. Both girls had pulled their wands now, though both looked very afraid. They were all dressed in the familiar black robes of the Death Eaters, though they were without masks. The leader had cold blue eyes, and a grizzled face in desperate need of a shave. His dark brown hair was slicked back
Two of the others were bald, though one of the two clearly shaved his hair as opposed to the other who had just lost his hair. The last one had graying red hair, and kept licking his lips as he looked at the girls.
"We've come for the box, and its contents." The lead man said menacingly. Harry wasn't at all swayed.
"If you can take it, you can have it." Harry said, slipping his own wand out.
"Do not trifle with us, boy." The leader snarled. "We are far more powerful than the likes of you."
"I wouldn't wager on that." Hermione whispered. Fleur gave her a side long look, but Hermione's eye remained locked on the dark robed men.
"Give us the box, and maybe we'll let you walk out of here with another scar and a limp." The leader said sternly.
"I bet we can make them birds walk funny, eh Dobbins?" the red headed one laughed.
"Answer me this, while I think it over. Just who was planning on buying the box tomorrow? Lestrange? MacNair?"
"You're in over your head boy." The leader responded. "Now, for the last time, hand over the bo…ACK!"
Harry had grown tired of trying to get answers. He whipped his wand upward, sending a slashing hex at the man which caught in across the chest and face. He fell back into his brethren causing them to stumble. The ginger man stepped to the side and attempted to strike, but Harry conjured a shield, which absorbed the spell. Harry retaliated violently, and the ginger man found himself missing his scalp. Blood fell into his eyes as Harry shattered his knee caps making him fall, before driving a conjured pike into his spinal cord.
The two bald men had gotten free of their leader, who was whimpering as he tried to heal the long deep gash that ran up his body. Hermione swore she saw part of the man's innards coming out, and felt the urge to vomit.
Harry faced the two bald men, who were glaring at their young opponent now. Harry waited for one of them to make the first move, but when it became clear in the next second that neither was going to strike first, Harry made his move. With a criss-cross motion, Harry sent just two spells at the men who both seized up as several stomach wrenching cracks were heard, followed by both men gurgling as blood came out of the mouths, before they fell dead at Harry's feet.
"My god." Fleur gasped as Harry stepped over them and knelt next to the leader who had gone extremely pale from blood loss. "I've never seen anything like that before..."
"I have, and I still can't believe he does it." Hermione said shakily. Fleur turned and gave her a terrified look, but Hermione was to entranced by what Harry was doing at the moment to notice.
Harry stood after a moment, and both girls could see the leader was now dead. Harry transfigured the four bodies into garbage bags full of rubbish, and levitated them over the counter. He then used his wand to clean up all the blood from the floor and walls.
"They were Death Eaters." He said, turning to the girls. "That big one had the mark on his arm. Let's go, act normally."
Fleur and Hermione were struggling to act casually as they left, though Hermione was sure she looked guilty of something. She felt extremely nervous as Harry took her hand, and they followed Fleur all the way back into Muggle Paris. They said nothing until Fleur led them back into the alley they had first port keyed into.
"What is to 'appen now?" Fleur asked, looking as if she might pass out. Harry grabbed her arm, and made her look him in the eye.
"There is nothing to connect you to any of this." He said pointedly. "You act as if nothing out of the ordinary has occurred. You never met us, you have no idea who we are. You were never in Paris today."
Fleur nodded numbly and Harry released her arm and stepped back, accepting the compact she offered to he and Hermione.
"Thank you." Hermione said softly. Fleur looked at her for a long minute before closing the gap and hugging her as if they were very old friends. Hermione was so stunned, that she barely managed to pat Fleur's back awkwardly before the blonde released her and turned to hug Harry as well.
"Please take care of each ozzer." She said sadly. "What you share is something to be cherished. To be treasured above everything."
"What are you..." Hermione stammered but Fleur smiled softly.
"One has only to have experienced love for themselves to be able to see it in ozzers." She smiled, tapping her wand to the compact held by Hermione. Harry reached out to touch it as the portkey activated. A blink of an eye later and they found themselves in the same alley they had begun their journey in. Hermione glanced at her watch, shocked to find that the whole thing had taken just over an hour. And then it all began to sink in. Everything she had seen replayed in her mind. She saw the Death Eaters fall to Harry's wand and the truly ghastly way in which he had dispatched them.
Harry tossed the compact into a nearby dumpster before taking Hermione's trembling hand.
"Let's get back to the hotel." He said. "I think you need to lie down, you look ill."
Hermione barely registered the walk back to their hotel, or the elevator ride, or Harry picking her up when she began to slump, or even being laid gently on the bed. She was barely cognizant of anything until Harry sat next to her, and waved a glass of something that smelled strangely and pungent under her nose.
"Eww, what is that?"
"Vodka, I think." Harry said, handing her the glass. "Moody says alcohol helps calm the nerves."
Hermione looked at him for a moment before swallowing all the liquid, and coughing and spluttering.
"Oh, that is really disgusting."
"I don't know a lot about this stuff, and they didn't have the brand Sirius usually drinks. I just grabbed the first bottle I saw at the store." Harry said, wrinkling his nose at the smell from the glass Hermione handed him.
"When did you go to the store? And how could you even buy this?" Hermione asked.
"I just got back, and a confounds charm. You've been kind of catatonic. If this didn't work, I was going to call a healer." Harry said, reaching up to caress her cheek. She closed her eyes at the contact and sighed.
"Sorry. I just..."
"I freaked you out, didn't I? When I killed those Death Eaters?" Harry asked, looking a bit sullen.
"I know that it's a war, and that you are a soldier, and a soldier has to do… well, he has to…"
"Kill his enemy." Harry offered. Hermione looked up at him, wondering how he could be so calm.
"How can you do it? I mean, I know you've been trained and all, but don't you feel anything..." She wondered aloud. Harry finished what was left in Hermione's glass before standing up and walking to the window. He stared out onto the bay for a few moments, and Hermione began to worry she'd insulted him. She was just about to apologize when he began to speak again.
"When I turned fifteen, Dumbledore came to see me. I can still see that grim expression on his face. He wished me a happy birthday and then, he told me it was time for me to know why it was I had been raised the way I had." Harry said sounding bitter.
He told me about Voldemort's original rise to power, and the havoc he wreaked across the Isles. How people were terrified to leave their homes, and how families turned on each other out of fear. Fear Voldemort cultivated. Then he told me how a prophecy foretold of a child who could put an end to it all. Voldemort found out about it, and decided that I was that child."
Hermione was sitting bolt upright now. She could feel the sting of tears in her eyes. How could anyone feel threatened by a child? Before she could ask any of the million questions that popped into her head, Harry continued.
And then, Dumbledore told me something, that even now, almost two years later… I still feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it." Harry said, turning to look at Hermione Now. She saw something in his eyes she had never thought she would ever see. It was horror. Not fear, or apprehension, or nervousness. No, this was horror. Hermione felt her heart leap into her throat. Harry was single handedly the bravest soul she had ever met, so what on earth could make him look that way?
"You see, Voldemort fears only one thing, and it's been the driving force in his life. He fears death. That fear led him to search for immortality. To become invulnerable to disease, or weakness. And he found his answer."
Harry went to the small desk in their room, and tapped the heavy black box which contained the locket.
"Dumbledore still isn't sure how or where he learned of it, but Voldemort committed a sin against nature itself when he made this, and the others. They're called Horcruxes."
"Horcruxes?' Hermione asked, her voice barely a whisper. Harry nodded at this and moved back to the window, shivering slightly as he got away from the box.
"In essence, it's a way to tie your soul to this world so that you will never die. That's how he managed to come back. You see, to make a Horcrux, you have to rip your soul apart, and channel a fragment into something, like a locket. So long as the locket remains whole, your soul can never move on. You could be struck with an Avada Kedavra, and you would survive. In a manner of speaking anyway."
"I don't understand." Hermione said. Harry nodded at this.
"Frankly, I'm pretty fuzzy on it as well. The point is that Voldemort is, for all intents and purposes, unkillable. When he came to kill me that night, he had not one, but a few of these abominations hidden all over. He was protected, yet he still felt that I could somehow end his life, and he couldn't have that. So, he came to Godric's hollow, cut down my father, and went after me, but my mum wouldn't let him. She did protecting me, and that is what Dumbledore thinks saved me. But when he cast the killing curse, what was left of his soul was so damaged and fragile that when the curse rebounded, a small fragment of his soul was torn away and it latched itself… on to me." Harry looked up at Hermione as he slowly reached up and pointed to the red lightning bolt scar upon his forehead.
Hermione's gasp was ear splitting. Harry cringed and Hermione leapt off the bed. She walked right up to him and took the glass he was still holding onto and let it fall to the floor so she could hold both of his hands. She stared into his eyes, tears beginning to fall from her soft, chocolate brown eyes.
"Harry, we'll... I'll find a way to..."
"It's gone." Harry said cutting across Hermione. She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times as what he said sunk in.
"Yes, Gone. It was taken out of me the same night I learned all about this. It was why Dumbledore came. He'd found a ritual to separate it from me, and send it on. If it hadn't worked, well, let's just say I probably wouldn't have been sent to Hogwarts. It was the single most excruciating thing I have ever felt. From what I understand, it very nearly killed me and Dumbledore. I was in a coma for a month afterwards.' Harry sighed, squeezing her hands comfortingly.
"My god Harry. I-I just can't believe this." She said, reaching up to wipe her eyes with the back of her hand. "How does one even tear their soul apart to make a Horcrux, and why? There are other ways to prolong life, I mean there are potions and…"
"Voldemort didn't want to be dependent on anything. As for how you rip your soul, you do it with the most evil of all acts. Murder." He said, leaning back so he was resting on the windowsill. "It's important that you understand this. There is a difference between murder, and when I kill one of his Death Eaters. I don't want to take lives, but I have to. I'm protecting myself. I'm protecting you. I'm preventing truly bad people from harming innocent people. Men, women and children. Voldemort and his followers kill for fun, for sport, or to spread fear, which is Voldemort's greatest weapon."
"I understand there's a difference Harry, I just… when you do it, it's like you feel nothing. You're blank… empty. Like killing someone is as natural as breathing to you. It scares me to think you could be so heartless, even if they are evil." Hermione explained.
"The night Dumbledore removed the soul fragment from me, I saw everything Voldemort has ever done. I saw his life in a flash, but to me, I lived it all. I saw through his eyes every single heinous act he had ever committed. Each and every one of his victims from the first person he killed, to my mother. I heard them all beg for mercy. I saw the light fade from every pair of eyes. And I felt the glee he felt. The pure ecstasy he reveled in after he ended a life." Harry said looking and sounding disgusted.
Hermione could only stare in abject horror at what Harry told her as he stood up again.
"I vowed when I woke up and told Dumbledore everything I had seen, that if I could stop him, or any of his followers from harming anyone else, I would do it. You worry that I feel nothing when I take one of those bastards lives, but I do. I feel guilt that I had to end a human being's life, but then I remember that I just prevented someone's family from losing someone, and that somewhere, one of their victims can finally find some kind of peace."
They stared at each other in silence for several long moments before Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck, and drew him in for a long slow, very passionate kiss. At first he was stiff, but then he began to relax and return her kiss, his arms wrapping around her middle drawing her close to him.
"I'm sorry." She said when the kiss finally ended after a long few minutes. "I had no idea you carried such a burden."
"How could you know?" He asked.
"This doesn't change anything, Harry." She said, looking into his eyes, and cupping his face. "It doesn't change how I feel about you. About us. I meant everything I said to you last night. I know that you may not understand, or you may be confused, or you don't feel that way about me. And I don't want you to say it to me if you don't mean it. But I want you to know that I truly do love you, with everything that I am."
Harry nodded slowly, and kissed her softly.
"I don't know if it's love that I feel for you, because I don't know what that's supposed to feel like, but I do feel strongly for you. I want you safe, I want you smiling, and happy. I want to be the reason for those things. I like it when you call my name, like you did last night."
Hermione blushed, but gave him a smile as he leaned his forehead against hers. He slowly slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her a bit closer, and Hermione sighed.
"When I was first told I was going to Hogwarts, I was angry, and confused. I thought I was being punished. But now I know it was so I could meet you. I understand what Sirius and the others wanted for me. I know what it is I'm fighting for. It's for this. Not just for me, but so everyone can have a chance to be with the people they care about, and share moments like this." Harry said softly.
Hermione gave him a watery smile, and sniffled, knowing in her heart that Harry Potter was in love with her, even if he didn't realize that was what he was feeling. She didn't need to hear the words, so long as he kept telling her things like what he'd just confessed. That would be enough for her.
Hermione awoke the next morning with Harry's arms wrapped protectively and lovingly around her again. She sighed deeply, reveling in the feeling of his warm muscled chest pressing into her back. She opened her eyes, and gazed at their interlaced fingers with a sleepy smile.
She was truly going to miss this when they returned to the castle that afternoon. She was going to miss a lot of what had happened on their trip when they got back, especially the physical closeness they had shared. She actually frowned at the thought of not sharing a bed with him anymore.
After they had talked last night, they decided to get cleaned up and go out to eat. They shared another wonderful dinner at a little cafe near the hotel. All through the meal, Hermione began to think of what they had done the previous night, and what they might get up to when they returned to their room for the night. Though it was still relatively early, Hermione suggested going back to the room and relaxing for the rest of the evening. She enticed Harry by promising to find a movie on the television.
They crawled onto the bed and snuggled together when they found something that looked good. However, the movie didn't hold their attention for long, as Hermione began kissing on Harry's neck. Hermione was intent on not wasting the time they had left to explore her boyfriend a bit more, especially as she doubted she and Harry would be sent on a mission like this again anytime soon.
Things progressed better than they had the previous evening, as the two lovers were less nervous this time. They took their time, really enjoying the anticipation. It took a while before clothing began coming off, though both she and Harry's hands managed to find bare flesh to touch. Hermione simply loved sliding her hands under Harry's shirt and softly raking her nails down his chest as he made the most delectable hiss each time she did it. It was too amazing for mere words.
Hermione decided that she would have to purchase some sexier undergarments. While Harry didn't seem to be bothered by her plain looking bra, she felt embarrassed when Harry had pulled off her shirt. Though she didn't have a lot of time to dwell on it, as he began raining kisses on her chest. She quickly removed her bra so he could pay proper attention to her breasts, and so she wouldn't feel so self-conscious about it.
As things progressed, Hermione wanted to experiment a bit more. When they had removed the jeans, Hermione rolled them over so Harry was on top of her. The more they snogged, the more she could feel Harry's instinct taking over as he began to push his hips into hers. Once again they had the barrier of underpants between them, but he was still able to give her quite a bit of pleasure as his hardness found just the right spot. It wasn't as good as when she was on top of him, but it worked.
Harry was also much calmer when Hermione reciprocated. She was sure that now that he knew what to expect, he was more relaxed, and enjoyed her ministrations more. They kept at it until quite late, when they both were just too exhausted to do more than share soft kisses.
As she lay in bed with Harry's arms wrapped around her that morning, she thought of other things that they might try in the future. They had gone pretty far the last two nights, considering until then all they had ever done was kiss. Harry's hands had hardly ever strayed from her hips, or her back. And Hermione never would have dared touch a boy the way she had Harry these past two nights. Though now that she had, she wanted more. She wondered with a wry smile, if this was what a drug addict felt like.
She stretched a bit, and rolled over, feeling Harry's hold on her loosen so she could get comfortable. She was certain he had been awake the whole time, but appreciated that he hadn't awoken her before she was ready.
"Good morning." he said softly, reaching up to brush her hair with her hand. She gave a soft purr at his touch, and kissed him lightly.
"Good morning." she whispered huskily. "Have you been awake long?"
"A few hours." Harry replied. Hermione rolled her eyes. "You could have gotten up if you wanted."
"That would have meant letting go of you." He said with a sigh. She smiled again, and kissed him, though it was longer and deeper this time. She felt him pull her closer, and didn't mind that at all, especially when she felt his arousal.
"What time are we supposed to leave?" She asked, pushing herself up, and rolling Harry onto his back so she was laying on top of him. She ground her hips against him softly, loving the friction it caused, and the look of undisguised lust on her boyfriend's face.
Despite everything, Harry was still very much a boy, and she was enjoying the fact it was her making him look so greedy.
"Not until five tonight." He said, again running fingers through her chestnut brown locks.
"Did you want to see or do anything while we were here today?" She asked, stealing yet another kiss. Harry gave her one of the smiles she loved the best and shook his head. She reached up and ran her fingers through his messy black hair and made a face. "I think you need a haircut."
"Probably." He replied, staring into her eyes, and making her heart flutter.
"Hey, I wanted to ask you about something. Yesterday… How were you able to withstand Fleur's Allure. I was even becoming affected when she poured it on, but you seemed fine." Hermione asked, looking at her boyfriend whose arms went around her middle.
"I started learning Occlumency when I was twelve. It's like…"
"I know what it is." Hermione said interestedly. "Protection for your mind."
"It's a bit more than that. But I also have a pretty strong will. At least Moody says so. Anyway… it was weird. I could feel my mind get foggy. But as I knew she was using her Allure, I could shake it off. Though that last blast she used really hit me hard. So, I focused on your hand in mine, and that helped." Harry sighed.
Wow." Hermione said more than a little impressed. "I guess I'm lucky that she didn't seem interested in you then."
"Was there something you wanted to do while we're still here today?" Harry asked.
Hermione gave him a sly smile, and bent to kiss him again, and feeling rather bold she whispered into his ear.
"Take a shower."
"Would you like to go first?" He asked but Hermione shook her head and looked him in those impossibly beautiful green pools.
"I want to take a shower with you." She smiled, though she felt her heart begin to pound in her chest. She couldn't believe what was happening to her. Never in her life had she felt this wanton. On the other hand, she had never had someone in her life to make her feel so desired.
"Ok." Harry said cluelessly. Hermione grinned knowing that things were going to get a bit more interesting and briefly wondered if she could go through with it. Sure Harry had now seen her practically naked, but she was about to reveal all of herself to him, in a very confined space on top of that. It was a rather huge step, but she trusted him, and she knew that it would be fine.
"Go start the water and get in. I'll join you in a minute." She said, nipping at his earlobe. He kissed her soundly before slipping out from underneath her. She watched him head into the bathroom before taking several calming breaths.
She got out of bed and went towards the bathroom, listening to the water. She had no idea if Harry was in the shower yet or not, and her heart was racing at the mental picture of her boyfriend standing in a steaming shower with water pouring down on him.
Taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Hermione reached down, and dropped her knickers to the floor. She opened the door and found that Harry was indeed in the shower already. The glass door was already steamed up, but she could make out his form easily. Step by terrifying step, she drew closer and slid open the shower door, stepping inside, where Harry turned to look at her. She blushed deeply under his gaze, and for an instant thought that she had made a huge mistake.
"Hi." She said stupidly as Harry raked his eyes over her now completely nude form. He smiled softly at her, and then offered her the soap. She smiled at him as he maneuvered around her, brushing against her, so she could get under the luxuriously hot water.
"Will you wash my back?" She asked innocently, handing him the soap.
Harry complied, and Hermione smiled as his hands began to rub up and down her back, slowly. It wasn't long before Hermione turned and wrapped her arms around Harry's neck, and let her true intentions be known. It was a thousand times better than she had imagined something like this could be.
At first Harry kept his hands on her back, holding her tenderly, but then they began to follow the flow of the water and eventually found her backside. She gave a soft moan of pleasure when he squeezed. And then, to her complete surprise and delight, he lifted her up. Her legs automatically wrapped around his waist as he held her by her bottom as they snogged.
She felt his manhood now, brushing against her entrance, which elevated her own arousal. However, she wasn't ready for that yet, though the desire to lower herself onto him was incredibly inviting. However, she reached down to move his member to a safer position.
Eventually Harry's strength began to wane, and Hermione felt herself slipping a bit. So, she lowered her legs from around him, and he set her on her feet again. This was a good thing as Hermione really wanted to take hold of Harry.
What she hadn't expected while she gently caressed her boyfriend was that Harry was starting to feel bolder, and decided it was time for him to explore her body as well. He started with her breasts, which was so amazing. The way his hands slid over her wet chest, and tugged softly on her nipples, making them even harder than they had been already was truly a wonder. But then his right hand began trailing down her stomach. At first she wanted to pull away, but she didn't want to freak him out either. Besides, she was pretty curious as to what he would do.
His hand made its way to between her legs. She took a long breath in through clenched teeth as she felt him slowly rub his hand along her nethers. He wasn't rough, or fumbling. Just slow, and curious. It was nice, but after a few seconds, she began aching for a bit more, especially as he kept hitting a very sensitive spot. The spot that she knew clinically was supposed to be quite important in these matters, but one she'd never really explored before.
Taking her own hand away from Harry's need, she reached down to guide him. All the while, he was kissing up and down her throat, making her breathing ragged and uneven. She kept whimpering as his fingers rubbed her little nub, which began to build that now familiar pressure in her belly.
Lust and a billion years of instinct had taken over, and Hermione couldn't have formed a rational thought if someone offered all the gold in the world. Under her guidance, Harry's fingers were doing wondrous things to her. She began panting heavily as the pressure began building more and more, and she knew that it wouldn't be long.
"Just like that, Harry." She panted when Harry found the perfect spot. "Keep doing that, ooohhhhh."
She was barely standing now, though thankfully Harry had a strong arm around her waist to keep her steady. She was barely managing to keep manipulating Harry's manhood as he continued rubbing soft little circles on her. Her legs were beginning to tremble, and she let her head fall back, giving Harry better access to her throat, which he immediately took advantage of.
It was getting harder and harder to breathe now, and her legs were shaking so badly now that she should have fallen right over. She was whimpering louder now, occasionally begging Harry to keep going, though she was sure he had no intention of stopping. This, in Hermione's opinion was better than when she had rubbed against him the previous night.
All at once her muscles seized up as her climax exploded within her. Her back arched and she opened her mouth in a silent cry of delight. Her arms seemed to have minds of their own as they waved at her sides, and he legs spasmed wildly. Whimpers and long moans managed to escape her mouth as her high began to subside, and she started to relax once again.
Panting and gasping, Hermione slowly came back to herself, and found Harry watching her with a soft look in his eyes. She grabbed the back of his head and planted a hard kiss on his lips as she reached between then and took hold of his arousal once again, intent on repaying his kindness.
"That was really, really good." She sighed when she broke the kiss.
"I did it ok?" Harry asked, sounding worried.
"Yes, Harry you did very well, but I think there's always room for improvement. I'm quite new to this as well. We're going to be learning together I think."
Harry smiled again, and captured her lips in a searing kiss.
They finally climbed out after the water began to get cold, and Hermione had finished what she started with her boyfriend. When they were finally dressed, they found that they had missed breakfast. Harry suggested an early lunch, and they headed out to find a place they had yet to try.
All in all, it was easily the best vacation Hermione had ever had, and she was very anxious for the next time she and Harry could explore their relationship further. However, she realized that she might need a bit of advice on how to proceed from here. Instinct could only take them so far, and most of what Hermione had overheard other girls talk about seemed quite ridiculous, and it wasn't as if she could ask her parents to send some of the more interesting books they had. She wasn't even supposed to know about them, much less have read them, she was certain.
This left her with only one option.
"I just hope she doesn't make fun of me." Hermione thought to herself.
They arrived back at the Hog's Head Pub exactly on time, and found Sirius and Remus waiting for them. The two men looked tired, more so than the last time Hermione had seen them, and she wondered if they had slept at all while she and Harry had been away. Harry handed over the black box to his Godfather. Sirius gave it a disgusted look and held it delicately, as if expecting it to attack him or something. Given what lay inside, Hermione wondered if that was a real concern.
The four headed back to the castle with hardly a word between them. Remus told the two teens that they would be debriefed when they got to Dumbledore's office. They found the Headmaster sitting in his office along with Alastor Moody, and to Hermione's surprise, Amelia Bones, who greeted her respectfully.
"I'm told you're quite the brilliant witch." Amelia remarked upon introducing herself.
"Ever give thought to joining Law Enforcement? We could use good investigators."
"Uh, not really." Hermione replied. "I'd actually been thinking of going into research. Perhaps advanced spell creation or something."
"Well, do give it some thought." Amelia smiled, retaking her seat.
"We were contacted by Miss Delacour last night, and told you had been successful in retrieving your objective." Dumbledore smiled as Sirius handed him the black box. He examined it for a few moments before slipping his wand out of his robes, and tapping the runes that covered the box. "She did mention you had a spot of trouble though."
"Death Eaters.' Harry replied simply. "Four of them. The shop owner was told someone would be buying it, but I don't think they intended to exchange gold for it."
"Likely not." Moody chuckled. "Any idea who the bastards were?"
Harry shook his head. Moody grumbled a bit, but said nothing further as Dumbledore opened the box, and levitated the locket out of its resting place.
"So?" Sirius asked impatiently. "Is it one of them?"
"It is." Dumbledore nodded. "This is the Locket of Salazar Slytherin, and it is most certainly one of the artifacts we've been searching for."
"How did he even find that thing?" Amelia asked, staring in awe at the locket hovering over the Headmaster's desk. "It was lost for ages."
"He came across it soon after he left Hogwarts." Dumbledore explained. "It is a family heirloom as he is one of the last descendants of Slytherin himself. Though, after he defiled it, he hid it. However, Sirius' late brother became disenchanted with the Dark Lord, and found it and stole it. It is largely thanks to Regulus' journal that we know of them at all."
"Why would your brother be disenchanted by Voldemort?' Hermione asked.
"Regulus was a Death Eater." Sirius said sadly. "But unlike most of his followers, Regulus was actually pretty smart. We were never close growing up, but when he realized Voldemort was full of lies and false promises, he came to me. It took a while, but I started to trust him and he started passing us information. The last time I saw him, he told me that he knew how to defeat him once and for all, and promised to bring me the key to it. I never saw him again. A few years after the war ended, Remus and I took Harry to my parents' home in London. The house had passed to me, as my mother and father had died. It was there I found my brother's journal, and learned about what Regulus had discovered."
"We tore the house apart looking for that." Remus said indicating the locket. "But it was gone. We learned from the old house elf who was taking care of the place that someone had robbed the place and taken the locket along with more than a few other valuable items."
"It's taken us five years to track this down." Dumbledore sighed with relief.
"How are you going to destroy it?" Hermione asked, making nearly everyone look at her quizzically.
"Excuse me?' Dumbledore asked.
"It's a Horcrux, right? So you need to destroy it so you can get rid of him, right? I just wondered how you were going to do it."
"Miss Granger, how do you know what this is?" Dumbledore asked.
"I told her." Harry said evenly.
Hermione felt the air in the room become increasingly tense. She heard two people groan softly, though she wasn't exactly sure who it had been
"May I ask why you chose to divulge such sensitive information?' Dumbledore asked, lowering the locket back into the box.
"I felt she had earned the right to know. She risked her life to help retrieve it." Harry replied evenly.
"Harry, you of all people know how sensitive this information is." Dumbledore chastised. "While I appreciate your desire to be honest with Miss Granger, you have put her in terrible danger be entrusting her with this. How much did you divulge?"
"I told her about my fifteenth birthday." Harry said flatly. Sirius looked taken aback as he looked to Hermione, who reached out and took Harry's hand in her own. He gave her an impressed smile. Dumbledore on the other hand looked quite displeased by this.
"Do you have any questions?" Sirius asked.
"Sirius, I do not think it wise to …" Dumbledore began but Sirius whipped around to glower at the Headmaster.
"You were the one who suggested she go on the mission with him. If she's going to be a part of his life, why shouldn't she know what he's been through. She's still here with him."
"I'm not going anywhere." Hermione declared. She saw Moody smile at that, and give her a nod. Remus was also smiling at her.
"If you're going to make her a part of all of this, then she should know what she's getting into. She should be given the chance to decide if she wants to risk her life further." Amelia added.
"Old Voldy already knows we're hunting the damned things down." Moody barked. "So it isn't that secret there Al. The only reason he hasn't tried to hide them again is that he can't get at them, which has been lucky for us."
"Albus, secrets get people killed." Remus said pointedly and the Headmaster withered a bit and sighed heavily. He rested his elbows on his desk, and put his head in his hands, rubbing his temples for a few moments. He finally looked up at Hermione and frowned.
"Miss Granger, I must impress upon you the highly sensitive nature of this information. You must not speak of it to anyone outside of this room, something Harry should have remembered, but as it's too late…" Dumbledore gave Harry a disapproving look, which Harry ignored.
"I understand, sir." Hermione said quickly.
"Very well." Dumbledore said, sitting back in his seat. "Thank you for your assistance on this matter. I do not believe you will have to leave the school again, save for the next Hogsmeade weekend if you choose. Now, I believe the two of you can still make dinner."
Harry stood, recognizing the dismissal, and Hermione followed him out of the office.
When they were gone, Dumbledore looked at the others in worry.
"You wanted him to come and learn to be normal." Sirius reminded the old man.
"Normal boys tell their girlfriends important things. Personally, I'm happy to see him opening up to her."
"And you were worried what they might get up to while they were away." Moody grinned.
"Oh they got up to something. I could smell it on them." Remus smirked.
"Ha ha!" Moody barked. "I knew the boy had it in him."
"I wasn't worried about the two of them so much as worried about Harry being on his own. Frankly, I'm thrilled beyond words to see him acting as a normal kid his age should." Sirius said grumpily as he turned to look at his best friend. "I was worried about him taking on a mission alone."
"I never would have allowed her to accompany him had I known he would tell her everything. That information is very important. I am aware the Voldemort knows we're hunting his horcruxes, but so far, he has no idea how many we've found, or how close were are to the rest. If she were kidnapped or…"
"The kid would never let that happen, and I pity any of those idiots who would try it." Moody laughed. Remus nodded his agreement.
"The point is that we can't keep contradicting ourselves with regards to Harry. We either pull him out of school, and keep him as our soldier and send him out on more offensive missions and use him for what we trained him for, or we leave him alone and let him get on with the reason we sent him here for in the first place." Sirius stated solemnly.
"It can't be easy on the girl either." Amelia added. "Her boyfriend is destined to save our world, but all she can think is that he may not come back to her."
"We need to decide here and now if we're going to let Harry do what we've spent his whole life training to do, or are we going to do the right thing, and let him have a chance for a real life." Sirius said as he looked around to those gathered in the Headmaster's office. Each of them all wore a similar look of a troubled mind.
Sirius realized they all felt as torn as he did, and that they were in for a long debate.
debate. After all, Harry was hands down the best fighter in the entirety of the Order. On the other hand, this a chance to let him be what he should have been all along.