𝕸𝖔𝖓𝖔𝖈𝖍𝖗𝖔𝖒𝖊


Act I - Trials of Summer


Chapter 16 - Cracks in the Mask


It begins with pain.

It always does. The darkness. The rustling of the leaves. Whispers of the night.

The shout.

"CRUCIO!"

Her nerves tingle. Muscles snap next. Her body escapes her control. Molten knives drive themselves into every pore in her skin.

Overwhelming.

She screams. There is no one to help her.

Her body shakes. Convulses. A fish out of water.

Nerves burn. Her sanity unravels into threads of suffering.

Darkness feels comfortable. Oblivion feels like salvation.

She should forget. Would she forget? Forgetting would be so easy. Just a little more… A little more, and then— there would be silence.

But she holds. She reaches. She needs to reach it. The light—

The coppery tang of blood pools in her mouth. Her bottom is wet. Body fluids escape her. Her wand rolls out of her reach.

Is this the end?

Seconds become minutes. Minutes become hours. Hours become eternities.

The shadowy tendrils close in. The mist deepens.

Is this the end—

She reaches— the light—

Bright light.

Is she dead? Is she dying? Grandmère once told her a story. About a hall with bright lights. The next great adventure. Was this hers? The end? So soon? Before her life had even truly begun?

Someone speaks out.

"Expecto Patronum!"

A part of her mind registers the spell. Used against lethifolds. She had tried it once. Didn't work. Auror-grade. Not her. Then— then who?

Her eyes open. She sees light. Blinding, soothing light.

She hears his voice.

"Stay here!" he commands. "Keep her safe!"

Safe.

She feels the shadowy tendrils slowly leave her.

Safe.

The impossibly bright guardian's warmth soothes her anxiety. Her Hunger gobbles it up greedily.

Safe.

She remembers her petite sœur. Her papa. Maman, even. Back when she was… Maman.

Safe.

Her wand is back in her palm. Her fingers caress it.

Safe.

The agony is dulling. She feels sleepy. Sleepy. So sleepy. An image appears in her mind. A face to the voice. Messy black hair. Green eyes. Lightning scar. He saved her. She can feel it. Feel the magic working.

She realizes what happened.

Safe.

A small tear escapes her left eye. It trickles down her cheek, hangs off her chin. She wonders. Would she see him again? Why did he save her? Why? Why?

Why?


Fleur woke up to a firm knock on the door. The dry, morning sunlight filtering through the windowsill did nothing to hide the tear tracks on her cheeks. She had cried in her sleep. Again. At least it was getting better. Waking up in the middle of the night from bad dreams was old hat by now, as was sobbing her eyes out from the realization of what had happened.

She had been there, done that. She felt overwhelmed. She cried. She got better. Period.

There was another, louder, knock on the door.

Grabbing her wand, she straightened out her night shirt and quickly glanced out the window at the backyard. It was empty, and there was no one at the door that led into the kitchen. Only after she scanned behind her did she go to the front door, glancing quickly out the window in the hall as she went.

Living in a muggle neighborhood was tough, but at least she didn't have to fear anyone tripping her wards at night. Plus, it was cheap, and she could easily apparate to work and back without stepping outside. Ever.

Life in Britain was not as she expected. It was far, far worse. Those cochons stared at her like hungry jackals eyeing a fresh slab of meat, undressing her with their eyes alone as she walked in public. It didn't take being a veela to feel their lust, their primal desires, the way they wanted to have their wicked way with her.

Fleur recognized the woman standing outside the front door and relaxed somewhat. Madame Moore was a squib who offered private ballet classes to Beauxbatons students during the summer. As Madame Moore had an academy in the muggle world also, she had her headmistress Madame Maxime ask her to help find proper lodging. As it turned out, there was a tiny one-bedroom home available, and Fleur had jumped at the opportunity.

At the very least, it was better than living at the Leaky Cauldron, with stalkers trying to get the better of her dozens of times a day.

"Fleur," Madame Moore smiled. "Got a minute?"

No, she did not have a minute. She wanted to shut the door on the woman's face and return to the safety of her quaint little apartment. She wanted to turn her head away from the growing list of problems in her life, or even better, drink a teaspoon full of Draught of Living Death and lie down for… a decade or so. Maybe things would be better then.

Fleur opened her mouth to politely deny the woman's request—

"I really need to talk to you."

She noisily exhaled. It wasn't as though she had any work today. She was officially on leave so that she could have her stupid play-date with Harry Potter later during the day.

Part of her longed to slam the door in Madame Moore's face, go back to bed, and deal with the fallout as it came. Strange, she had always thought such a selfish reaction stemmed from a fairly small portion of her character. Yet today, it felt overwhelmingly like the majority.

"Okay," Fleur acquiesced. "Come in."

The house felt foreign and empty as she walked back inside, her acquaintance in tow.


After seating Madame Moore at the kitchen table, Fleur went back into her room to put on some clothes that were less… pyjama-like. When she came back out, the woman had already gotten the coffee pot going, and the brew was already a finger deep in the little glass pitcher underneath. Fleur popped some bread into the toaster and watched it carefully to make sure it didn't burn. The toaster was an old one, so no chance for magic to tinker with it.

Still, it gave her something to do other than speak to the madame until the coffee was done.

Placing the finished toast and coffee on the tabletop and setting out a jar of strawberry preserve, Fleur watched as Madame Moore readily accepted the food and wolfed it down. She silently followed suit, resigning herself to a breakfast with company.

"Alright," Fleur finally replied, leaning her elbows on the table. "What did you want to talk about?"

"Your maman called."

It took everything Fleur had not to wince. Her maman, Apolline Delacour, was what most people called a pure-blooded veela. Witches and wizards often tried to apply human breeding principles to the veela race, declaring Fleur to be a quarter-veela or half-veela or some such nonsense.

The truth could not be farther.

There were only two kinds of veela— the ones who bred true, and the ones who did not. Her mother Apolline and her sister Gabrielle both bred true. They were feisty, fire-breathing avian demons who wore human skin like a cloth that could be shed. Others, like herself, were humans who had a fire-breathing, avian demon in them, trying to take over their psyche at all times.

A demon she had come to know as the Hunger.

"What did Maman have to say?"

Madame Moore whipped out a phone. A Nokia— one of those strange devices muggles used to communicate with people far away without an owl post or floo system. Not that she could really tell, but the voices definitely made it across in real-time, allowing two people to have a conversation like they were standing beside one another.

In short, Muggle magic.

Fleur gingerly held the electronic instrument between two fingers, staring at it like it would blow up the moment she wasn't paying attention.

Witches and electronics went together about as well as libraries and flamethrowers. Anything manufactured after the forties broke down whenever magic was in their presence. The average witch in a bad mood could kill a modern telly in just a few hours. Less so if she was throwing spells around.

It was the primary reason behind the 'no-magic-during-summer' rule established and enforced for magicfolk living in muggle areas.

Yet somehow, the problems didn't occur when others like elves or centaurs or true veela used magic in their presence. From what Maman had once told her, witches and wizards were inherently conflicted creatures, and the conflicted nature of their magic interfered with electronics in a myriad of ways. Back then, she had not questioned it further.

But unlike her maman, Fleur was a witch, even though the Hunger was heavily acting out since the night of the Third Task. Still, the conflict had not interfered with electronics thus far, but why take a risk?

After two rings, the phone suddenly let out a click.

"Ma chérie," her mother purred from the other end, her voice dripping with sweetness like pure honey. It was the kind of voice that would give men and women ideas— really bad ideas, though they'd never realize that part. "You 'ardly ever call anymore."

"I 'ardly ever called you at all," Fleur tersely responded, pursing her lips. "What do you want?"

"Can I juzt not be conzerned about my darling chérie?" Apolline replied with a little tinkling laugh. "I juzt wanted to know if you are done playing witch in L'Angleterre and want to come join me in aahhh— some mother-daughter bonding."

"It's getting late," she stubbornly replied, not rising to her taunts.

"La petite rébellion iz cute, ma chérie," Apolline continued, letting out a soft mewl, "but it iz time you end it. Come back to maman. Do not tax your leetle head. Talk to Madame Moore. Come home. Or you and I are going to have a very… aahhhh…" Maman's breathing sped up. "A very zerious falling-out."

Fleur inwardly scowled. As she focused, she could hear other soft noises in the background, and voices too. A man, a woman. Maybe two. Maman was far from gender-biased when it came to feeding on others. And knowing her, she had probably orchestrated the whole thing so her daughter would call in the middle.

Promptly hanging up the phone, Fleur returned it to Madame Moore, her face flushed red. And not from embarrassment.

"Is there anything else?" she demanded.

The poor woman seemed to get the hint and shook her head, before scurrying out the front door. Fleur softly exhaled, before walking back into her room and falling face-first into her soft mattress, fully prepared to be lost in her thoughts. It was always better to get as much thinking done as possible, before the actual crisis came to be. That way, when it was present and she only had half a second to make decisions until the borders of sanity started ripping away at her soul, she could skip the pleasantries and go straight to making mistakes.

And knowing Apolline Delacour, things were about to go crazy sooner rather than later. She may have offered her a choice, but it was a paltry illusion at best. After all, her maman always got what she wanted in the end.

Fleur closed her eyes. All this nervousness was making her hungry. She could sense the boys who lived on the other side of the street. Even Madame Moore, forty-six years old and widowed, had dark desires under her shroud of demureness. It wouldn't even take much effort. She could imagine it, fulfilling all her desires, feeding her Hunger, taking her fill of the madame's life. And then she could tear her mark into the woman's mind and soul, forever compelling Madame Moore to come to her willingly, eagerly, yearning to be taken again and again and again—

Until she died.

With supreme effort, Fleur pushed the Hunger back yet again, clenching her fingers into fists until blood dripped from her palms. Grandmère always said the Hunger was both a blessing and a curse for her. Welcome it, and it would make her more. Fight it, and it would consume her from within. But either way, it would gnaw at the walls people erected called their conscience until everything was subsumed into a cesspool of pure, molten desire. And then—

The Hunger would feed. And the creature within her would arise.

Some days were more difficult than others to hold herself back. But nonetheless, it was what she did. It was all she could do. All she had left.

Fleur sighed, glancing out her window at the dark rain clouds in the sky.

Perhaps these British cochons weren't completely off the mark classifying veela as beasts.


It had taken a cold shower to bring things back to normal. Simply standing there, soaking in the feeling of cold water running all over her made Fleur feel better. Physical cleanliness was important— a well-kept body for a well-kept mind and all that —but she was no fool. She knew her mind wasn't flying level lately, and her morale needed all the boost it could get.

Stepping out of the shower, she frowned at her closet. She was not heading for Gringotts today, so her standard attire would not do. No, today required something a bit more extra. Fancier. Appearances were important, more so considering the nature of the task ahead.

Perhaps she could even get some shopping down at the end of the month if everything went alright. During peak hours in a thrift store with lots of people around— after all, men and women alike were less inclined to act on their base desires when surrounded by a crowd.

Fleur glanced at the single envelope on her window sill, and the name adorning the front. William. Probably another offer for a Saturday night at the Three Broomsticks. Wizarding Britain did not have many options when it came to night pubs, so Three Broomsticks it was. Unless one wanted to go the girly coffee date routine, which meant Madam Puddifoot's.

She had learned as much from the scant few conversations she had with the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws of Hogwarts during the previous year.

Not that either option seemed particularly appealing to her.

Had things been a little bit different, she may have even given William a chance. He was older, but not very much so. Handsome, and an accomplished curse-breaker for Gringotts to boot. Under his tutelage, Fleur could have gained an edge with her Mastery and gotten some hands-on experience with Egyptian tombs. Of course, exposure to her allure turned him into a drooling mess like all other men, but that was a given fact. People that could resist her allure were either supremely talented in Occlumency, completely devoid of a sex drive, or gay.

Of course, it was entirely possible for her to focus her allure and straighten such people out like her maman sometimes did, if she so wished. But any behavior that resembled Apolline Delacour was not something she wanted to replicate.

Frankly, she had enough on her plate with the backbreaking work Gringotts assigned her. It was as if they took particular pleasure in shoveling grunt work onto her. And now, she was stuck with a particularly cumbersome assignment, along with all the complications he brought to the forefront.

Potter.

Harry Potter.

The name that changed everything in her life.

Last year, she had dismissed the young and precocious Harry Potter as gay upon their first encounter in the Hogwarts Great Hall.

But the way Potter had looked at Cedric's date, the Chang girl— had disproved her assumptions in that regard. Still, Potter was the Boy-Who-Lived, rumored to have been trained by Albus Dumbledore and other Masters of their craft from an early age. Maybe the boy had developed some rudimentary occlumency shields over time?

It was the only explanation.

Fleur exhaled again. The day had only begun, yet several ghosts from her past had re-emerged. She glanced at her watch, a gold-trimmed beautiful thing from her father and sister before she had left for Hogwarts last year. It was slowly losing its sheen, and Fleur did not have the extra cash to pay for the necessary permanence charm.

Maybe next month.

A mirthless chuckle escaped her throat. Here she was, living in a muggle home the size of an oversized cupboard, hiding her tears from the rest of the world, fighting against her maman for the right to have her own wishes and ambitions.

And yet a simple decision. A single snap judgement, and she could—

Fleur sighed. The frustration was getting to her. It always did. But she had work to do. Maybe someday she would give up and let the Hunger consume everything that made her Fleur Delacour. Maybe then, she would feed and feed, with no other waking thought left in her.

But that day was not today.


Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor was one of the less… troublesome shops in Diagon Alley. For one, it was overshadowed by the larger, grander Sugarplums, therefore drawing less attention from crowds. While that would normally be a problem for her, the shop also understood the importance of privacy by creating separate cubicles for people to sit and enjoy their ice-cream in.

All in all, a perfect choice for the day's venue. More specifically, for her meeting with Harry Potter.

One of the main objectives behind meetings with important, illustrious clients was to seat them at ease. Naturally, Fleur had understood the unspoken implications when Overseer Griphook handed her, a new employee, this case instead of anyone else. It was the perfect chance for her growth and career progression were she to… ensure she was to her client's liking.

Whether she'd end up crossing that bridge later was a different question altogether.

Maman would be so proud if I did.

Normally, such a meeting would be held at a bar. Or, if the client was being forceful, on his own premises. Gringotts did provide overpriced private rooms, but not everyone was comfortable discussing their personal finances in goblin territory. Not that the little buggers cared; they remained overpriced nonetheless.

But Harry Potter was an anomaly.

He hadn't been forceful. Instead, he had offered Fleur herself the chance to choose the venue, and she'd suggested this parlor. The Three Broomsticks may have been a more suitable option, but she was a veela talking to a young man. Apart from the optics, adding firewhiskey to the cauldron could have been catastrophic. Dangerously so.

Ice cream, on the other hand, was far better— it cooled her down. As a creature of fire herself, the delectable dessert served as the perfect deterrent against her allure acting out on its own.

Fleur breathed in, then breathed out.

She strode up to the bar, keeping wary eyes out for any unwanted attention. "I'm 'ere for… 'Arry Potter."

Florean was a good man, one of the rare few in Britain. He was a tall, gangly man of indeterminate age, though there was a wisdom and strength to him that made her believe he was no younger than fifty. He had squinty eyes and a rare smile that was mischievous when it manifested. Monsieur Fortescue never said much, but when he did, it was always worth listening to.

"Fleur," he grunted, pronouncing her name as 'floor'. She ignored it with practiced ease. With a quick second glance at her face, he gave a slight nod and pointed a finger at the farthest cubicle in the south of the store.

She returned his nod and strode towards its door. Opening it, she found her client staring right at her.

Harry Potter.

"Er… hi."

Fleur pursed her lips, her thoughts running at a thousand kilomètres per second. She was rather new to this client-patron relationship, but were clients not supposed to try and act intimidating to gain the upper hand? Or was Potter still treating her like the unapproachable Beauxbatons champion she was last year?

Either way, she would make it work.

"Lord Potter."

"Harry's fine."

Fleur exhaled. And there it was. The first roadblock. "You are very kind, but if we are to keep this relationship professional, I should call you Lord Potter."

Her client frowned, not that she expected any differently. Boys of his age did not want to be addressed formally by a girl. Especially when said girl was her, and she was sitting with them in a closed cubicle.

"Why? What's the issue?"

Was he really going to pretend to be ignorant? Still, at least he was easygoing and allowed her to set the pace. She could work with this.

"Please do not take this any other way, but you are 'Arry Potter. The Boy-Who-Lived, and as of most recent, the Triwizard Champion." Fleur hoped her words did not sound as bitter as they did in her head. "On top of this, you are a Lord of an Ancient 'Ouse, and depending upon how our talks proceed, a Lord of a Noble and Most Ancient 'Ouse as well. With the association of the Black name, you are, well, someone who is fantastically wealthy and publicly notorious. Most importantly, you are a young male adolescent, and…" she trailed off.

"And?"

Fleur sighed. He was really going to make her say it. "And I am a veela. You are someone who is on the front page of the Daily Prophet every week, not to mention regarded as one of the most eligible bachelors in Wizarding Britain. Public association with a veela might 'ave a negative effect on your reputation, especially if we speak casually to one another."

Harry Potter appeared distinctly troubled by that. For a moment, she wondered whether she had lost her first client before the meeting even began. If so, she could practically kiss her career goodbye.

Why did Overseer Griphook think this was a good idea again?

"I'm… really sorry about all that." Fleur tried to keep her surprise contained. "I'm not really familiar with this whole 'public image' thing, and honestly, I don't care. The Prophet sings praises about me one day and vilifies me the next depending on what gets them the most readers." He paused to take a breath.

Clearly, remembering past issues made him angry. Fleur wondered what they were.

"I know people will talk about it. The Prophet may even target you if you act as my…"

"Liaison," Fleur helpfully supplied.

"Right, that," he carried on. "Like this last year, Skeeter wrote this absolutely horrendous thing about me and Hermione after the First Task. It was horribly embarrassing, and—" he exhaled once again. "Look, all I'm saying is, if you don't want to do this, I understand completely."

Fleur sat there, completely stunned. Was this insufferable young man oblivious to what she had implied, or was he intentionally ignoring it all? It wasn't possible he knew nothing of how veela and other creatures were treated in Wizarding Britain. Did he truly expect her to believe he feared that her reputation would worsen for associating with him?

"Look," he said, putting his palms on the table, "I have no clue how to even deal with all this formality, really. I mean, I know you as the Beauxbatons Champion. We were at Hogwarts last year. So why don't we just pretend we're still at school and discuss whatever…" he animatedly, but awkwardly, gestured around himself, "this is?"

Yes. Yes he did. Harry Potter actually worried more about her than himself.

Fleur couldn't help it. She let out a soft chuckle.

"Yeah, laugh it up, why don't you," he grumbled.

It made her chuckle even harder. It was then that she remembered.

"You— you really aren't affected by my allure."

"Oh, that?" he replied, green eyes sparkling. "I guess not. Not like Ron was anyway."

Ugh. He was a Weasley, from what little Fleur remembered. William's younger brother. Even on the off-chance she ended up dating William, it would mean dealing with that impulsive carrot-head. But that was for later.

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why aren't you affected by my allure?" she rolled her eyes. "Most people would 'ave—"

"Bent backwards to accommodate you?" he offered, before snorting. "Sorry, but that's not really my thing."

Fleur narrowed her eyes. Was that what he thought of her? Someone who would use her veela charm and femininity to make life easier for herself? Such a description would be apt for her mother, but to think of her in such a way, especially after seeing her survive the Tournament's tasks last year—

Her body began to heat up.

"Um, are you alright?"

Fleur snapped back to the present, her face slightly red. "…Sorry. I— I was just thinking of something else." Composing herself, she continued. "As I was saying, Lord Potter—"

"Harry."

Fleur sighed. This conversation was going in circles. "Fine, then. 'Arry."

Harry grinned. "Close enough."

Crisis averted and first roadblock taken care of, Fleur swiftly progressed to the next matter. "So how shall we proceed?"

Her new client shrugged. "You tell me. Do you like ice cream?"

Fleur blinked. This was supposed to be a meeting over financial affairs, not an ice cream date.

Still…

She eyed the menu hesitantly. They were in an ice cream parlor, after all, so it would be a shame not to partake. Plus, he was the one who offered first. Her mind made up, she picked up the menu chart and scanned through the contents—

"Florean makes a killer sundae with raspberries," the young lord offered.

Fleur smiled. Perhaps their meeting wouldn't be so bad after all.


The four empty ice cream bowls in front of her were a good indication of how comfortable Fleur had gotten with the new, tentative… acquaintance she had developed with the Boy-Who-Lived. As skeptical about his intentions as she had been earlier, she quickly realized that Harry Potter truly did not care about the Prophet's opinion, or anyone else's for that matter save for his godfather.

In a way, it was enjoyable having a decent conversation with someone without having her allure make a total mess of things.

There was also this… other issue, but luckily it had not reared its head yet.

"And now, I'm supposed to appear for a trial because the people who captured me and tried to kill me ended up dead," Harry groaned, pounding his fist against the wooden table. "Honestly, it's like everyone's priorities are nearly as bad as Hermione's!"

"'Ermione's?" she found herself asking.

"Oh. Yeah, there was this whole thing back in our first year. Hermione— my friend, that is —she sort of implied that getting expelled was worse than being dead, and— um, I don't know, you just had to be there I guess," he finished lamely.

Fleur snorted. Hearing him speak of recent events with his own brand of humor painted a starkly different picture of him than the one she initially had in mind. The fourth year Harry Potter who had entered into the Champion's Antechamber had been puzzled, defiant, maybe even a bit scared. Even during the Wand Weighing ceremony, he looked out of place. Taut. Uncomfortable in his own skin. He was just a boy trying to survive being thrown into a competition for adults.

Back then, she had been furious at him for 'lying' about his disinterest in the Tournament. How dare a petit enfant make light of the same tournament she so greatly valued as her chance to finally stand out and become more than the creature everyone made her out to be?

But in hindsight, it all made sense.

Eternal glory. What a joke.

The Triwizard Tournament drew to a close. And as glorious as it was hyped to be, everyone had forgotten about the results. The latest talk was all about Harry Potter and his upcoming trial. Murder of fourteen purebloods. Conspiracy theories about the return of the Dark Lord. The Triwizard champions were yesterday's news, but the Boy-Who-Lived?

He still sold papers. At every shop. Every street. Every day.

And he had been doing so since he was a year old.

"I believe you," Fleur found herself saying.

"You do?"

Confused, hopeful emerald eyes searched her face. Did her opinion really matter so much to him? He said earlier he did not care much of what others thought, so then why would he— She paused. No. His eyes weren't searching for vindication or support. It was more like—

Like he wanted to believe it himself. That everything he knew, everything he believed in, it was all true. Not one big hoax.

What kind of fifteen-year-old boy had those kinds of eyes, and why?

It made her wonder if she knew anything at all about the true Harry Potter. The young man behind the famous title.

"So…" she drawled, "the accounts."

"Ah, yes," he cleared his throat. And just like that, the brightness in his eyes dimmed.

It was yet another oddity. Most people in the wizarding world, France and Britain alike, tripped over themselves for any opportunity to demonstrate their money and authority. Augustin Montague and Cassandra Beaufort at Beauxbatons were two examples who came to mind, and then there was that pale blonde named Malfoy at Hogwarts last year. Roger Davies, her Yule Ball date, had been trying to impress her all night about how he planned to attain his Potions Mastery after Hogwarts from his father's connection to famous potioneer Marcus Belby.

Even William Weasley, for all his age and experience, constantly tried showing off about his industriousness and how much money he kept on making as a successful curse-breaker in Egypt. Though, considering how poorly his younger brother was dressed, Fleur wondered if the eldest Weasley was truly the 'family man' he projected himself to be.

Frowning to herself, Fleur lifted a manila folder from her bag and placed it on the table. "I did a preliminary check on all your assets based on what Overseer Grip'ook 'anded me, and I noted some observations. I was 'oping you would go through them and tell me what you think."

Harry accepted them without a word and promptly dropped the documents into a bottomless pouch. She made a mental note to get one of those as soon as possible. As soon as she had enough money, anyway.

"I should warn you, I know next to nothing about all this stuff."

Fleur laughed aloud. "Not many do. Still, you 'ave your godfather, non? He should be able to 'elp you. Once you are done going through that, we may discuss potential roads forward."

Harry nodded in agreement.

Fleur awkwardly sat there, not knowing what else to do. Was it really supposed to be this easy? She'd half-expected him to reject her idea point-blank and tell her to do it herself while keeping him informed.

"So," he pushed himself off the bench. "Are we done for the day?"

Fleur blinked. That was new. A boy standing up to leave before her? Then again, this was Harry Potter. And by now, he had proven himself to be rather different from the average person.

Perhaps she ought to stop painting Harry Potter in the same vein as other purebloods.

"Yes, that is it for today," she replied, also getting up. "I will await your owl, yes?"

He gave her a jerky nod. "And I'll ask Sirius to help me with all this stuff. I'm not sure how quickly I can get this done, since Griphook gave you three weeks, but I promise to get it done as fast as possible, yeah?"

Fleur easily nodded. That was far better than what she'd hoped for.

"Alright then." The Boy-Who-Lived walked up to the door, pausing one last time to turn around. "Well, er… it was nice meeting you. Again, I guess."

Fleur pursed her lips, and came to a decision. "I have a question."

"…Yes?"

She could see the tautness that overtook him. It was like watching a bowstring being tightly pulled.

"Tell me 'Arry," she asked. "Why are you doing all this?"

The question seemed to have taken him by surprise, as he owlishly blinked. "I don't understand."

"I mean, you are still at Hogwarts, non? And it is your… fifth year there. You should be preparing for your OWLs rather than doing something like this."

Harry mirthlessly chuckled. "I guess it's… an attempt to find out more about my family. I want to know about my father's side. My mother's too. Both of them gave their lives to keep me alive, and I just— I realized I don't know anything about who they were, and where they came from."

He paused, looking upwards at the ceiling. "Sirius made me a son of Black. Britain made me the Boy-Who-Lived. I suppose I want to make sure that the Potter name doesn't end with me. I don't want my parents' sacrifices to be in vain."

And with those enigmatic words, Harry Potter brusquely walked out of the cubicle, leaving a thoughtful Fleur Delacour behind.


Editor: Solo Starfish, the best goddamn starfish the world has ever seen.


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