Staring at the small silver star in her hand, Fleur couldn't help but scowl, rubbing it between her forefinger and thumb. As she channelled her magic in the tips of her fingers, she concentrated on the feel of it and ensured the metal was inert, entirely void of magical enchantment.
For the sixth time today, she began the tedious work of tracing a dormant runic inscription into the correct areas of the throwing star, carefully checking her notes as she worked. This was her thirty-second iteration, another attempt to fulfil her self-appointed side-project of unravelling a most heinous creation.
If she could recreate it, then there might be a chance to protect others from the horrors she'd experienced.
Fleur tapped her wand against the metal star and began to imbue it with her magic.
This was a delicate process. Enchanting a piece of metal had been done before, for millennia even. It was a notoriously difficult subject but once learned, having an item provide a specific effect was easily achievable, provided the effect wasn't too esoteric.
However, what Fleur was trying to accomplish was to have each point of the star hold a different effect and for the centre to link them all together.
Four different enchantments that all tied together and would have a simultaneous effect upon striking a target.
If she was able to accomplish such a task, it would be a masterwork.
Items that held multiple enchantments harmoniously were few and far between. The most well-known items always held multiple enchantments that worked in concert to create something greater than the sum of their parts: The Goblet of Fire, Hufflepuff's Cup, Slytherin's Locket, Gryffindor's Sword, and Ravenclaw's Diadem.
Creating a legendary enchanted item was not the goal. Although one day she hoped to have the ability to do so, Fleur's side-study into mastery level enchanting was for the sole purpose of unravelling Harry Potter's weapon of wrath and woe — Loki's Anguish.
While many feared the green flash of The Killing Curse, Fleur knew there was a far worse fate to dread. A weapon named after the Norse god of fire and the anguish the poor soul felt as they were paralyzed and cremated alive, with naught but ashes remaining.
If it wasn't such an incredibly horrific and effective weapon, it would have been lauded as the work of a once-a-century genius. Not only for the exquisite finesse required to create such an effect but for how it returned to its master and burned person after person, regardless of the fireproofing enchantments they had performed.
Not only had The Order of the Phoenix been entirely unable to figure out how to counter the weapon, save to avoid being hit by the throwing star, they had been wholly unable to copy or produce a weapon of its calibre.
The greatest minds of the Order had worked on it. Filius Flitwick, Mad Eye Moody, Lily Potter, James Potter, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Minerva McGonagall, Hestia Jones, Bill Weasley; all had been stumped.
Only Lily Potter still spent any significant amount of time trying to unravel it. The two often bounced ideas off each other and tried to attack it from new angles. And it made sense, they hadn't been able to figure how to retard the fire and the only other person as emotionally affected as Fleur by Harry's defection to the ranks of the Death Eaters was his mother
But Fleur pushed all of that out of her mind as the first enchantment took; the runic inscription lit up with the magic of the spell and the boundary line kept it from moving into the middle of the star. Only after every blunted point had a spell, would she try to connect them, if she got that far, that is.
With one finger, from her non-wand hand, she continued to feed a trickle of magic into the spell, stabilising it. She moved her wand to the next spot, the second of four, and carefully, gently, wove her spell into it, ever so delicately enchanting the weapon a second time.
"Great start," a voice called out from behind her. A soft, warm hand gripped her shoulder and Fleur's eyelids closed as she leaned into the contact, still keeping the two enchantments stable.
With a contented sigh, Fleur transferred the second enchantment from her wand to another finger. "Thanks," she said as she brought her hand up, resting it on Lily Potter's. "But as you know, two is manageable, three is rare and I can't ever get the fourth to hold, let alone work them into a single enchantment."
After squeezing her shoulder once more, Lily let her hand fall and then went around the small table, standing across from Fleur. "Harry got stuck in this exact stage," she said, a painful grimace crossing her face as she mentioned him. "He figured it out and I'm sure you will too."
Letting her eyes droop, Fleur swallowed, hard.
Gritting her teeth with newly found determination, she refocused her attention to the third point and wove her wand in a slow figure eight.
Imbuing it with two enchantments had been difficult at first, but it was now completed successfully, with only a modicum of care. Once she pushed on to three, Fleur failed about half the time. Adding a fourth was something she'd only achieved a few times, but not once had she been able to tie them together.
As she held her breath, Fleur felt the third take, and in the corner of her vision, she caught Mrs Potter silently clapping for her.
A smile tugged on the corners of her lips while she did her best to keep focused. With three fingers keeping the enchantments stable, she brought her wand to the fourth and final spike, her breathing quickened as she felt the pulsing of her heart pick up.
Pushing the magic into the fourth blunted edge, she concentrated with all her might. She could sense the magical excitement of the metal, how it was nearing its maximum magical capacity. As she continued to push it to its zenith, she couldn't help but shut her eyes and say a silent prayer.
Fleur exhaled slowly, not daring to allow her breath to disturb her work. Her fourth finger came over and completed the required pass off.
"Take it slow," Lily said, trying to stay calm despite the hope evident in her voice.. "Ease them into the array, you can do it."
Nodding, Fleur took a deep breath in and began to move her fingers across the boundary lines, doing her utmost to keep it smooth and level.
"You've got this."
Fleur's eyes were locked on her fingers and the moment they fully pierced the boundary line, she withdrew her hand, removing it as if it had just been in scalding hot water.
With both of her hands now clasped over her mouth, Fleur bounced on her toes as the array began to glow, softly at first, but as the enchantments seeped deeper and deeper into the middle of the throwing star, she bit her lip and struggled to keep her eyes from shutting.
The moment of truth was at hand. Either it would take, or it would violently explode.
Time seemed to stand still as the glow of the runes intensified, flashed, then held a steady radiance.
Fleur looked up, her hands literally shaking, as Lily was staring at her, joy alight in her eyes.
The delighted older woman threw her arms out wide and began rushing back around the table. "You did it! I'm so proud of you Fleu-"
The sudden explosion left only tiny bits of blackened metal within the protective shielding setup precisely for this sort of thing.
Her shoulders slumped as she rocked back on her heels.
Lily's approach slowed, but she still wrapped Fleur up in a warm hug.
"Keep at it," she said, rubbing soothing circles on Fleur's back. "I have no doubts you'll get it. You're too smart and tenacious to not figure this out."
With a frown marring her face, Fleur let out a low groan as she thought back to her other failures of the day.
"Difficult, hopeless, and seemingly impossible?"
Fleur bobbed her head up and down before resting it on Lily's shoulder.
As the two broke their hug, Lily's hands came to grasp her shoulders. "Anything worth doing is," she said, her eyes shining with a mixture of concern and care.
"What happened when you tried tying in each one as you finished them?" Lily asked as the two broke their hug.
Rubbing her forehead, Fleur sank into a nearby chair. "The array in the middle becomes unstable as I work," she said, letting out a frustrated sigh. "But the faster I work, the less stable each enchantment is."
Lily finished approaching the chair opposite Fleur and sat down. "It's too bad you can't just add an enchantment with a touch," she said, leaning forward, gripping Fleur's knee. "And then link them all together as they are just setting."
That was the thing. Powerful magical artifacts were always understood as an end-product and the process by which they were made was never known beyond those who had accomplished such a feat.
"Did you come to see if I made progress?"
Clapping her hand over her mouth, Lily sucked in a breath. "Oh, right," she said, whipping out her wand and casting Tempus. "I wanted to make sure you didn't work through the Order meeting again."
After noting the time, Fleur stood up, shook off her disappointment, straightened her skirt, and then flicked her hair back over her shoulders. "Alright," she said, offering a hand and pulling Lily back to her feet. "We'd better get going."
The meeting of The Order of the Phoenix began as they all did. People piled into the meeting room, this time a Hogwarts classroom, the leaders stood at the front, and once everyone settled down, the dissemination of information began, followed by discussion.
As Fleur quietly sat in her chair, James Potter, Sirius Black, and Kingsley Shacklebolt huddled together at the front while the rest of the members began to find a seat in the semi-circle.
Albus Dumbledore had led the Order since the war against Grindelwald, but after his death, Mad Eye had become the de facto leader, until he too had been lost. The grizzled veteran auror may not have been the most organised or charismatic of leaders, but he had more than made up for it with grit, tenacity, and a plethora of experience.
It was after his death that James Potter had been the only realistic candidate left. Fleur had heard others lament the loss of Edgar Bones, Frank Longbottom, and even the Prewett twins, as they may have been preferred candidates.
While stalwarts like McGonagall and Flitwick had the seniority and experience to lead, their task of replacing Albus Dumbledore, teaching, and safeguarding the school was more than ample work for the two of them. Where someone like Sturgis Podmore, a veteran of the First War, simply lacked the martial prowess to be considered.
She thought that if Bill or Charlie Weasley were older, or Kingsley Shacklebolt more experienced and connected, they too may have been considered over James Potter.
Not that James Potter wasn't a great leader.
He was. Full stop.
Fleur had the utmost confidence in him. Really it was James, Lily, Sirius and Remus that were the heart and soul of the Order. And amongst them, James Potter was the natural choice.
There was no doubting his zeal or commitment to the cause, not with his daughter, the Girl-Who-Lived, being the primary target.
There was just one glaring problem; his son.
Harry Potter, the former Potter Heir, You-Know-Who's right-hand man. The individual with the highest kill count of anyone since Voldemort had been resurrected at the end of the horrific Triwizard Tournament.
Just thinking about it made her shudder.
Fleur turned her thoughts from dwelling on the past and looked around to see if everyone was here and things were about to get going.
As Bill Weasley shot her a roguish grin and began making his way to sit beside her, Fleur could only wonder if they had called for this meeting because of a tragedy or if there might actually be something positive to report, for once.
The war hadn't been going overly well. They were in a stalemate. The Ministry, under Amelia Bones, had become an effective force and their agreement to work with The Order had brought the war to an exhaustive deadlock, where neither side was significantly stronger than the other.
A war of attrition.
Fleur often felt the only way this was going to end was with both sides slowly being whittled down until the final few combatants duelled for the right to rule over the ashes. Only with the death of a major player could things change.
"Afternoon," Bill said, taking his seat before bringing one foot up to rest on his knee. "How are you?"
Fleur crossed her legs and shifted away from him in her chair, giving him a polite, if not false, smile. "Fine," she said, folding her hands together, resting them on her thigh. "And you?"
Dropping the arm closer to her behind his chair, Bill leaned toward her. "Can't complain too much," he said. "Always good to take a stroll through the Hogwarts grounds on a gorgeous sunny day. It's great to think back on all the good times I had here."
She gave him a tight nod and then turned to face towards the front. James, Sirius and Kingsley were in a furious discussion and things wouldn't be starting on time.
"You making any good memories here?" Bill asked as he nudged his chair closer to hers. "I always found that having good looking company was a great help in that."
Turning her chin in a deliberately slow manner, Fleur gave him a fiery glare. "Hogwarts is where I spent the most time with my ex-fiancé, where I found out he had burned my family alive, and where I was tortured in the Third Task," she said, hissing her words. "But yes, I'm sure if I had a little good-looking company I'd forget all about that."
As she turned her body away from him, she felt guilt pool in her stomach. Bill wasn't a bad person and hadn't deserved that.
She was just annoyed by her earlier failures, frustrated that there was no end in sight for this blasted war, and that even if she had the opportunity to face Harry Potter directly, she'd have a greater chance of joining her family in the afterlife than avenging them, unless a miracle occurred.
Her temper had always reared its ugly head at the worst of times, she thought as she shut her eyes and let her emotions ebb. "Sorry," she said as she turned back to him. "It's...been a long day. And he's still out there and I-"
"S'alright," he said, cutting her off, holding up his hand. "I caught you on a bad day. Nothing to worry about."
Whatever else she might have wanted to say was left unsaid as James Potter's voice cut through the clamour.
"Alright, let's get started," he said, garnering everyone's attention. "I'll let Kingsley start us off tonight, with the report on The Ministry."
Potter stepped back as he pushed his glasses back in place after nodding at Kingsley.
"Minister Bones has continued to press the ICW for assistance," he began in his deep rumbling voice. "But there is a lack of urgency to get involved and the ongoing discussions appear to be heading towards the creation of a committee to study the need for ICW intervention… And if they recommend helping, they will form a committee to study the feasibility of providing aid."
Fleur's heavy sigh joined the cacophony of groans and swearing from all around her, but this wasn't unexpected. There were few politicians that would willingly campaign to send aid when the most fervent undertaking to do so had led to the burning of Delacour Manor.
Nobody fancied turning their family into martyrs.
"Though Scrimgeour loathes the very idea of working with us, the joint task force was able to put down two of the three Lestranges, with only Rabastan escaping," he said, causing Fleur to perk up.
The joint task force was one of Potter's best ideas. While the Ministry had too many security leaks, they did have capable wands. The Order had better intelligence, but had lost too many of their most effective combatants. Unless their best were going out in force, they couldn't risk fighting on even terms unless the circumstances were dire.
Having hand-picked teams of aurors act in concert with The Order had allowed them to pull off a number of successful proactive engagements, instead of always responding to Death Eater raids.
"The cost was high, however, as three aurors were killed; two are in Saint Mungo's and both Remus and Charlie are here, recuperating," he said, looking around the room until his eyes came to rest on Madame Pomfrey. "They will make a full recovery?"
The woman inclined her head. "They will, and I dare say they will try to escape the moment they are able to walk," she said, her lips pressed together. "Though their wounds will keep them in bed for a few more days yet."
Bill chortled beside her. "Charlie was already antsy to leave yesterday," he said, shaking his head in amusement. "I'll have to bring him some magazines or something."
"Too bad Hagrid doesn't have any dragons," Tonks said, from the other side of Bill, a wide smile on her face. "You could've levitated his bed down to Hagrid's hut and he would've been in heaven."
Fleur couldn't help but smile at the byplay. She didn't know the Weasley family nearly as well as she knew the Potters, but they all were involved in the war and even she knew how dragon-obsessed Charlie was.
As Kingsley was about to continue, Sirius Black stepped forward. "Remember," he said, his face grim and devoid of his usual light-heartedness. "The last time they lost an inner circle member, You-Know-Who tried to level Hogsmeade."
At the mention of that night, her eyes involuntarily shut, Fleur could see the flames and smell the burnt flesh. That night had cost them dearly. Aberforth had been lost first, along with half the buildings, many of their inhabitants still inside.
But worst of all had been the loss of Mad Eye.
The famed Auror had been with Aberforth and had done his best to take as many Death Eaters with him as possible. He may have been difficult to identify if it hadn't been for his shattered staff and the crushed magical eye. That they'd found them amongst the macabre circle of blood, guts, and bodies...
It had been more than enough to empty the contents of her stomach, and even now it clenched in discomfort.
The Burning of Hogsmeade had been a singularly awful night and had been the turning point in their strategy. No longer would the Order venture out alone to face unknown numbers at battlefields their enemies were already entrenched at.
The Order would only respond in force with aurors and would no longer risk losing critical members they couldn't replace. The attenuation had been too great and the recruitment too sparse.
"Thank you, Kingsley," James Potter said, pushing himself up from the desk he'd been leaning against. "Sirius will provide the details on a lead we have to those in active operations, Lily will break off with those in intelligence and research, while I'll need those with Ministry affiliation to speak with Kingsley and I."
Just as Fleur and everyone else began to move, Sirius shot a few sparks off.
"Wait," he said, calling out in a loud voice, waving his arms. "I have something Sirius to bring up first."
Fleur, and probably everyone else in the room, rolled her eyes at the terrible pun.
"Now that I have your attention," Sirius said, a self-satisfied smirk on his face before he wiped it off and turned serious. "The DMLE and entire Ministry are on high alert, expecting a retaliatory raid for the death of the Lestranges. Alpha and Bravo responders will be called in if they try for something as big."
Looking around at everyone else, Fleur ducked her head and ignored the worried murmurs, following Bill and Tonks to where the active operations members were gathering.
She inclined her head at the others that were already there and then stepped to the side of Tonks, her usual partner.
"Right," Sirius said, giving everyone a once over. "We have a lead on another Death Eater safe house, with multiple sightings over the last two weeks."
Bill cleared his throat. "What's the plan?"
Sirius let out a breath before he ran his hand up and down his face. "Breach hard, breach fast," he said, looking the younger man in the eye. "You and Hestia will destroy the wards."
He turned to Fleur after receiving acknowledgement from the pair "Dragon Group will be made up of four teams, and Phoenix Group will have three more on containment and backup."
Fleur gave a tight nod and shared a look with Tonks.
"Emmeline and I will be Team One," Sirius said, continuing on. "Fleur and Tonks Team Two, Remus and Charlie Team Three, and the Weasley Twins team Four, comprising Dragon Group."
Tonks bumped her shoulder. "Two teams of twins, I like it," she said as her hair changed to match Fleur's silver-blonde, her features sharpened and her eyes changed to the same sky-blue as hers.
Fleur's stomach lurched as she took in the sight. With a slightly rounder face, combined with the Tonks' shorter stature, Tonks looked remarkably like what Gabby would have, had she lived long enough.
With her mouth suddenly dry, Fleur tried to plaster a smile on her face, but all she could feel was a burning desire to avenge Gabby. Anger coursed through her veins, the familiar, ever present feeling she'd long grown accustomed to.
Veela were renowned for their fury and she would wage war until she had her vengeance.
As she cut through the haze of anger that had blinded her, she noticed the room had suddenly become deathly silent, and it took her a second to realise why.
The alert armband on her left bicep was vibrating.
Her mind recognised the meaning in an instant.
"All right," James's Potter's magically enhanced voice called out. "This is not a drill! Everyone to your staging points!"
Fleur felt a tug on her hand as Tonks took a hold of it, pulling her into a run. The two of them exited the room, along with everyone else, and made their way to the assigned antechamber.
The only thought that went through her head was that they were fortunate that school was out for the summer. Racing through the hall with students all around wouldn't be fun.
The two entered the room and moved to their assigned position, just to the left of the floo.
Her rosewood wand slipped into her fingers, the familiar wood and connection to her family a welcome solace even in the most trying times. As she twisted it in her fingers, the leaders of the Alpha responders came in.
"With Remus and Charlie missing, Sirius will lead Second Squad with Bill as your second," James Potter said, barking out orders while everyone listened in attentive silence. "Emmeline and Hestia will be the balance of your squad."
Fleur felt Tonks grip on their still connected hands tighten. They were normally Third Squad, with Emmeline and Hestia, tasked with supporting the other two squads and engaging forces when the first two squads were outnumbered, or in need of aid.
Without Dumbledore and Mad Eye, First Squad, Lily, James and Sirius, were the ones called on to faceYou-Know-Who himself, or the best the Death Eaters had to offer.
While they'd never been able to out-duel the Dark Lord on their own, their teamwork and ingenuity could stalemate or overwhelm him, forcing him from the field.
This left Second Squad, Bill and Charlie, led by Remus. They were usually given specific tasks, or targets, or took on the difficult, highly dangerous Death Eaters aside from Voldemort himself.
Harry Potter, Lucius Malfoy, Dolohov, a Lestrange, or the like.
But without two key members, they were being reorganised. Fleur didn't know which one of them it was, but their clasped hands were suddenly clammy.
If they were going as two teams, this meant the Beta responders were being called into action too, instead of calling up a few to help.
Though, it made sense as they were more defensive in nature, or additional support to be brought in if the Death Eaters attacked en masse. Flitwick commanded the group, and a number of younger members were filling out the ranks.
Fleur couldn't help but shake her head as she recalled the argument between Iris and her parents. The Girl-Who-Lived wasn't content to just sit back and stay well protected. She, along with her friends, were itching to take part in Order business. And now that they were of age, their arguments held significant weight.
Even with that argument in their back pocket, they were not cleared for active combat as of yet, each of them having to undergo extensive training first.
"We're supporting Lily and James, Babe," Tonks whispered into her ear, the hold on her hand getting painful. "You up for this?"
They'd be facing whomever was leading the raid, and if it wasn't Voldemort, it would likely be Harry Potter or Antonin Dolohov, or both of them.
She looked at Lily and saw conflicting emotions. Her face was pale, her shoulder tight, and she was hugging herself with her free arm, staring off at nothing.
What would a mother be thinking about, facing the possibility of trying to kill their own son?
Fleur shook herself out of her thoughts and turned her attention to Tonks. "We're up for this," she said, feeling the churning of hatred within her. "We've trained for this. We can do this."
As she spoke, she wondered if she really believed her own words or if she'd merely been psyching herself up for this.
"Okay, everyone check gear," Sirius barked out as he finished pulling on his dragonhide armour. "We leave in two minutes."
Extricating her hand from Tonks', Fleur withdrew her bottomless bag and began to put her armour on. She slipped her arms into her top before pulling it over her shoulders.
"Hogsmeade is under attack," James said, walking between them, already in his combat gear. "Aurors are convening and the patrol team counted over a dozen Death Eaters before falling back, with more sounds of apparition heard."
Fleur let out a breath as she put on her customised wand holster on one wrist and her quick-access item storage holster on the other.
The words sunk in.
Doing her best to keep her anxiety at bay, she tried to focus on getting ready, placing her legs into her pants, one after the other, when someone came rushing into the room.
"Don't go! Hogsmeade is a feint," Madame Pomfrey said, huffing out her words before taking a second to catch her breath. "Send Bravo to Hogsmeade and Alpha to Diagon. You-Know-Who will strike there."
James looked at the woman that interrupted his briefing, levelling a hard stare at her, his jaw tight as everyone awaited his response. "Your source is sure?"
"Their message was clear," she said, her lips pursed. "Twenty Death Eaters are to cause destruction and retreat when resistance is stiff. You-Know-Who will be at Diagon."
James rubbed his temples and looked at Lily first, and then at Sirius.
"It's a hell of a gamble," Sirius said, his expression pinched. "Kings said the Ministry is sending their best to Hogsmeade. If we send Bravo and he shows up…"
Removing his glasses, James rubbed his eyes and then looked at his wife again before putting them back on.
"Pomfrey's source has always been reliable," she said, speaking in a slow, deliberate manner. "If we go to Hogsmeade...and You-Know-Who hits Diagon… There won't be anyone to stop them."
Fleur fidgeted with her armour as she, along with the rest of the room, awaited their decision.
James Potter shut his weary eyes and when reopened them they shone with resolve. "We're going to Diagon," he commanded. "If we arrive before them, Sirius will deploy us. If not, Squads enter in order until we push them back or we're forced to retreat."
"One more thing, James," Madame Pomfrey said, closing the distance between them, her voice lowered. "I don't know what it is, but You-Know-Who tasked Harry with a special assignment. Something to accomplish, today."
Fleur could feel her heart beating in her chest as she made sure to not look over at James or Lily. She felt her fear rising.
If Harry had a special task, Alpha would be the one that would have to stop him. When they'd dated, she was always a full step behind Harry in their mock duels. And that was before he'd apprenticed with Dumbledore and Voldemort.
Could she handle this? Was she ready to face him?
She'd been on countless missions since joining the Order, but potentially facing off against veritable monsters? This would be the first time testing herself against the likes of them.
If Harry was there, the four of them would face him and his master at the same time.
A hand fell on her shoulder. "We've been debating having you in our squad for a couple months," Lily said, her eyes shining with warmth and reassurance. "James wouldn't put you with us if he didn't think you were ready."
Lily put her other hand on Tonk's arm. "Both of you."
"Merci," Fleur said, giving Lily a one-armed hug as Tonks murmured a thanks of her own.
All too quickly, they were ready, standing together, Tonks at her side, with James and Lily just ahead of them. Everyone was in their combat gear and prepared for this.
A brief trip through the floo, and the two squads were marching out into the alley. There were a half-dozen people walking about, shopping, going about their day, wholly unaware that potential carnage was heading their way.
After giving a hand signal to halt, James, Lily, and Sirius jogged over to the three person auror patrol lazing about in the centre of the alley.
"Do you know if James or Lily know who Pomfrey's source is?" Tonks asked, after their squad-mates were too far away to hear her whispered words while the two of them stood sentinel, awaiting orders.
Fleur shrugged but kept silent, her eyes hypervigilant, scanning the scene.
Tonks let out an aggrieved sigh. "C'mon, you must know," she said, her voice radiating with poorly repressed curiosity. "They've practically adopted you."
Not looking over at her partner, Fleur repeated her previous action. "If they know, they haven't told me," she said, watching as a heated exchange was occurring between Sirius and the aurors.
"You've got to know," Tonks said, poking her shoulder. "The Mutt doesn't, and I know it pisses him off."
Being familiar with her partner, Fleur knew Tonks wouldn't be letting this go. So, with a roll of her eyes, she just got it over with.
"I don't think they do," she said, trying to think back to possible mentions of the topic. "Lily has always pushed to rely on it but James hates taking Pomfrey's source as fact. All it would take is one betrayal and they could cripple The Order."
With her head on a swivel, Tonks continued to look around, her wand in hand, ready for action. "He fears a trap?"
"If the source is wrong...and Bravo has been led into a trap…"
Tonks' silver-blonde hair wilted into a mousey-brown. "Yeah…" she said, glancing at Fleur before she turned and looked off at nothing.
Any chance of a follow up was cut off by James, Lily, and Sirius' return.
"Williamson and a couple rooks," Sirius said, scowling, his upper lip pursed. "They're staying where they are."
James let out a disappointed breath as he shook his head. "And we're setting up…" he let his words hang as his hand pointed around in a large sweeping motion.
"Knockturn is the most likely access point," Sirius said before he pointed over at some cover across from the dodgy alley's entrance. "You set up there, we'll cover towards Gringotts and–"
"Sorry we're late," one of the Weasley twins said. Fleur could never tell which was which, even after Tonks tried to help. "Fred's just securing the store."
The senior Order members exchanged a look before they nodded at one another in unison. "Bill and the twins will cover the primary entry point," Sirius said, making sure both Weasleys heard before continuing. "And I'll go with Vance and Jones towards Gringotts."
Fleur felt some relief. Alpha's normal complement was ten wands split into three teams. They had a full complement now, but while Fred and George were creative tacticians, their overall ability wasn't up to the level of Remus and Charlie.
"C'mon, Babe," Tonks said, rolling her eyes at Fleur.
Embarrassed that she'd zoned out when they were preparing for a Death Eater raid, Fleur ducked her head and watched her feet as she followed Tonks. They came to a stop outside of a shop. Lily was already there and had begun transfiguring or conjuring suitable covers for their squad.
Fleur didn't waste a second as she carved runes into them, following Lily's handiwork as quickly as she could. With her concentration fully on the task, she ignored Tonks and James' discussion of which of their tactics would be best to keep the enemy bottled up in Knockturn's entrance for as long as possible.
Once their cover was finished, and they had decided upon tactics, Fleur's least favourite part began.
She could scarcely imagine how nerve-wracking it must be for James and Lily Potter.
Because here she was, envisioning burning Harry Potter alive, over and over, and trying to repress the guilt she'd felt for so desperately wanting to kill their son, and the brother of her adopted sister.
What must James and Lily be dealing with?
The enemy was coming, and they'd have to face off against the Dark Lord and probably try and kill their son at the same time? A young man that had gone from being the affable apprentice of Albus Dumbledore to the monster that had masterminded most of the worst raids of the war. The man with a higher kill count than You-Know-Who, since his resurrection.
And if they didn't show up… Well, that just didn't bear thinking about.
But for some reason, she knew there was something coming. There was an unnatural stillness to the air, a shadow just beyond her vision, and a sense of foreboding that pricked at her skin.
There was no rational reason for the belief but Fleur had always sworn by it, even if it wasn't always right.
With a quick look to her right, she saw Tonks' hair slowly morphing colours while she kept flicking her wand in and out of her holster.
She, herself, had picked up that habit. Their holster's charm work was exquisite and the motion extremely fluid. It was soothing.
When she looked down, she realised she had unconsciously been doing it as well.
A subtle flex of her wrist and her wand was in the holster. A slight movement in the opposite direction and it was out again. Grasping her right wrist with her left hand, she stilled the habit.
She shut her eyes, preparing herself, and thought back to her family.
Maman standing in the kitchen, three knives chopping food to her right, two pots on the stove to her left and in front of her, a single cup of hot cocoa, steaming, waiting for her at the edge of the counter. A chair pulled out in front of Fleur's favourite spot.
A pre-Beauxbatons version of herself satthere, sipping her hot cocoa despite the weather, and the two chatted away, basking in the presence of each other.
Then there was her Papa. The smells of parchment, ink and rich mahogany furniture, a fresh breeze coming in the half-open window. Books and papers piled around him as he sat behind his large, imposing desk. So busy with work that he'd scarcely noticed when his little girl entered until she'd prodded his arm.
The second she did though, a large smile would blossom on his face. He'd put down his quill, turn to face her, and scoop her up in a big hug. A hug that was always accompanied by a soft kiss on the top of her head.
Fleur could practically feel the warmth of her Papa's arms now, the press of his lips to her hair.
All that was missing from the memories was her little angel, Gabrielle.
Oh, how the little squirt had adored her older sister. She could hear the pitter patter of her tiny feet as she raced to give her big sister a hug the second she exited the floo, no matter how long, or short, she'd been away.
Her hand covered her heart as she thought of the scene. Gabrielle's cute squeal of delight. Her arms enveloping her younger sister, picking her up off the ground, so her toes didn't touch, and how Gabby would squirm when her fingers tickled her ribs.
Fleur could hear the echo of her little angel's heavenly laughter.
She could picture all three of them, standing together, her parent's arms around each other and Gabby up on her Papa's shoulders, smiling and waving at her.
But as the vivid scene was held in her mind, it changed and was overpowered. A wall of fire burst forth and their loving smiles turned to agony, from love to terror.
An intense loathing bubbled up within her, fed by the thoughts of her loss. Her family, her friends, and the life she should have been living.
She should be married, debating having kids, be well into a career, and fantasising about sunning herself on beaches with her family.
But all of that had been taken, destroyed by You-Know-Who, when he turned Harry Potter into a Death Eater.
Squeezing her eyelids as tight as she could, Fleur took hold of the towering inferno within her. Her nails pressed into her palms as she wrought it, brought it under her command.
She was no witch.
Fleur Delacour was a Veela.
A person of intense passion.
She'd never understood what her grand-mere had meant by that. Not until she'd fallen for a boy.
One who was handsome, charming, and oh so talented.
She'd almost lost herself the first time they kissed, the desire for more, a fervent lust for life.
But as much as she'd felt lust and love for the young man that he was, Fleur knew it paled against the hatred her heart now harboured.
It was her strength, her courage, and the source of her great resolve to fight this war.
She would avenge her anguish.
Even if it cost her own life to do it.
And with all that animosity brought firmly under her control, she felt it begin.
Every Death Eater raid started the exact same way. They erected wards, blocking non-parseltongue portkeys, stopping apparition, and making the use of the floo useless.
Only those desperate enough to not mind making splinching a body part look like a minor ailment would use it.
It would only be seconds until things began in earnest.
Fleur opened her eyes and looked to her squad-mates for any last second instructions. She caught Tonks' eyes, but the subtle shake of her head had meant she had missed nothing.
Taking a steadying breath, she forced herself to stay calm and composed, and keep the rancour bottled up, even if every instinct was telling her that this was going to be the toughest test she'd yet faced and it would be best to flee.
She brought her wand up and prepared her first salvo, her eyes continually darting between the access to Knockturn and her squad leader.
James splayed open his hand and slowly lowered his fingers, one at a time. He'd started with his pinky, meaning they were going full bore from the get go.
The second Potter's thumb curled in, Fleur unleashed her emotions, the fire within, and a torrent of fire flew from her wand, bathing the whole walkway from Knockturn Alley in deadly flames.
While a steady stream came from her wand, Tonks was doing her usual, firing off deadly spells and banishing jagged shards of metal down the walkway. Meanwhile, James was creating automated transfigurations that charged through her fire, and Lily was… Well, Lily was doing Lily-things.
Her red-hair danced as it reflected the light of the fire, her wand tracing an intricate pattern through the air. Whatever she was setting up was beyond Fleur.
As she continued her assigned task, Fleur saw the figure that haunted the nightmares of the magical world step into sight.
It had very pale skin, almost chalk-white, a skull-like face with slits for nostrils, and baleful red eyes. The figure's black robes billowed, unaffected by the heat, a yew wand held forth in a thin hand with unnaturally long fingers.
Voldemort was here.
All their spellwork, all their work in trying to bottle them up, seemed to have no effect.
The monster who would murder them all without hesitation was walking towards them, an almost leisurely gait to his step, as if he was strolling through a park on a pleasant, sunny afternoon.
And as he shielded, vanished, or outright dismissed all their attacks, his followers crowded behind him.
Seeing the command to halt her actions, Fleur ceased her spell, but all that spellwork hadn't abated the buildup of animus within her.
Fleur's sharp eyes scanned them for the source of all her bate and woe.
Where was Harry Potter?
She couldn't find any sign he was there as the Death Eaters fanned out around Voldemort, no doubt following his orders.
"What a lovely welcome," Voldemort said as he destroyed the last of the creatures James had sent after him with a single thrust of his wand. "Come out and bow before me. Pledge your lives to me and I will be...merciful."
Lily and James stepped out of cover and stared down at Voldemort and his half-dozen followers. With their matching masks and robes, Fleur couldn't be entirely sure, but she thought she recognised a few of the wands as those of inner-circle members.
"None of us will ever bow to you," James said, his words full of more bravado than he could possibly be feeling. "And you'll find no quarter is given to any of you."
A high cold laugh rippled through the air and Fleur felt dread seep into the atmosphere
When Voldemort finished his mocking laugh he looked right at the Potters. "Your son doesn't seem to mind," he said, eliciting laughter from the Death Eaters behind him.
"He's made his choice and we've made ours," Lily called out, not backing down.
Riddle's nostrils flared before his thin pale lips curved into a vicious smile. "We'll see how brave you are at the end of this, mudblood," he said as he held his wand out wide.
It wasn't the words that sent a shiver down Fleur's body, but the smile and surety he had in them
That wasn't his usual idle boast.
But while she pushed that worry away, Fleur didn't miss the hand signal from James. Things were about to kick off.
In their two person partners, Fleur and James focused on offense while Tonks provided defensive support, with Lily roving between the two as needed.
Or that had been the plan.
But with Voldemort unleashing a flurry of spells and six Death Eaters behind him, they were ordered to all unleash a ferocious assault and push them deeper into the alley, towards the other two squads, lest they be overwhelmed.
Her wand was in constant motion, spells chained together in non-stop fluid motions that Lily had worked on with her for endless hours. Her rage provided more than enough ammo for every lethal spell she fired off.
With a savage grin, Fleur couldn't help but relish her role. Continually sending off deadly spells without having to worry about the ones coming back suited her perfectly. While she pressed as hard as she could, the Death Eaters spread out, engaging all the squads and causing wanton destruction.
As she continued to try and get a hit on any of them, Voldemort moved closer, standing out in the open, and he began sending more destructive spells their way, with Tonks and Lily providing protection.
With the pressing attacks, Fleur had to duck behind cover to avoid an explosion on the street, with paving stones flying towards their position.
As she hid for a second, Fleur felt her wrist holster vibrate three times, long pulse, short pulse, long pulse, before it repeated.
She brought her an arm up and cast the charm to protect her eyes until she had done so.
Peeking up over cover, Fleur saw the exact moment Lily's signalled attack went off.
A blazing beacon of light emerged between them, a magical construct that produced light that went in only a single direction and had been notoriously difficult to destroy in testing.
The light didn't shine toward them but its brightness was so great that its reflection would have blinded them too, had they not already been utilizing the protective spell.
The instant it had gone off, the tide had turned. Instead of being pressed and near retreating, the Death Eaters were howling in pain and trying to find cover from the miniature sun.
While most had their arms or hands covering their eyes, the Dark Lord did not.
His slitted red eyes burned with rage and a constant stream of destruction spewed from his wand, taking on all ten Order members at once.
If it hadn't been for James's relentless attacks, Lily's incredible defense, and the work of the other squads, Fleur doubted her and Tonks would have survived this onslaught. All she could do was shield, dodge, and conjure slabs of rock to keep herself alive.
Snakes made of transfigured debris lunged out of nowhere at all of them, blasting spells sent debris flying, and an impossible number of deadly spells flew all around her.
How Voldemort was able to put up the volume of attacks to suppress and seriously threaten ten of the Order's best at once was unfathomable.
This couldn't last.
Gritting her teeth, Fleur was determined to get back on the attack. And, as if she'd telepathically heard her, Tonks came bustling over into her cover.
"I've got you," she said, her wand blurring. "Light 'em up, Babe."
Trusting her partner, Fleur looked over her cover and prepared a spell she'd been working on just for moments like this.
Calling forth all her fury, she empowered a series of fire balls, each condensed and capable of exploding, expanding, and encompassing a target in an unquenchable fire.
That it resembled the way Loki's Anguish killed people wasn't an accident.
This was her answer, the spell she dreamed of killing Harry Potter with.
Fire balls leapt from her wand, one after another, aimed at Death Eater after Death Eater.
She groaned as the first one missed, the masked man jumping behind cover, still with his eyes covered. Fleur tightened the grip on her wand as the second met a potent shield and burned itself out on it.
Directing the third one, Fleur's spell finally made purchase. Black robes were engulfed in flames and the screams of the dying man were a balm to her hate-filled heart.
Fleur had been too enraptured by the first success of her new spell that she missed tweaking the flight of the last two. One must have missed but she swelled with satisfaction as a second Death Eater was engulfed in flames, screaming in agony.
If her family had to die like this, then these monsters deserved every bit of it and more.
After realizing there were still more chances to kill her foes, she fired off a rapid series of cutting curses, the previous spell having taken a toll on her. But as she renewed her efforts, a tremor nearly knocked her off her feet.
She scanned for the source and Fleur lost her breath when she saw it.
With his wand rotating over his head, Voldemort had created a powerful wind that was pulling the buildings apart. Shingles flew off the roofs, windows blew out, and debris, even parts of buildings, were being shorn off by the gale-force winds.
As the tornado built and filled with objects, Fleur realized what was about to happen.
"Find cover!" James called out as he dove behind his own, lying flat on the ground.
Fleur didn't wait as she did a half-turn to get herself behind cover. With her back against the rune-enhanced wall, she sank down to the ground, her arse touching the pavement and her chest tucked into her knees.
While Fleur waited for the unimaginably destructive act to end, she couldn't help but be thankful that Lily Potter was on their side.
This was the first time she'd unveiled this light based attack and it had kept the Order from being overwhelmed, even with Voldemort present. She couldn't help but marvel at how it had often been a new trick or tactic that allowed them to not be overwhelmed by the sheer power and brutality of the grotesque creature before them.
As the attack continued, Fleur felt the impacts against her cover as they rattled the formerly sturdy walls. Bringing her wand up, she edged as far away from it as she dared and began to conjure stone to reinforce the only thing keeping her from being impaled by debris.
Just as she'd finished creating an entire secondary layer, impossibly, the attack intensified, rattling the newly conjured stone, and a piece of metal punctured the wall.
"Enough," Voldemort cried out, his powerful voice echoing through the entire area.
After the wind died down and the alley became eerily quiet, she looked to James and saw that he was on his feet and poking out from behind cover as the tell-tale sound of portkeys going off could be heard by all those that were still in Diagon Alley.
Fleur began to pat herself down, checking for any damage. Her adrenaline was so high that she wouldn't be surprised if she'd gotten injured and hadn't noticed. After checking her head, arms and torso, she worked down her legs and saw a splinter of wood sticking out.
"Merde," she said as her fingers felt the warm blood.
Luckily, it was just a flesh wound, and after three quick charms, it would be fine, until Madame Pomfrey could look it over.
Standing on her feet, testing her hurt leg, Fleur looked around and saw what could only be described as utter devastation.
If she hadn't known she was in Diagon Alley, she might have not recognized it. Whole store fronts were missing and debris was strewn everywhere.
"You may have held off the destruction of your Order for another day but you haven't won this day," Voldemort said, as confident as ever, still standing in the middle of Order members while he was out in the open.
"Hogsmeade was defended and so was Diagon," James said, fully stepping out from cover, his chin held high. "You're retreating on all fronts and it is only a matter of time until you and your little death munchers are all dead."
While her husband was antagonizing his nemesis, Lily moved up beside her husband and she slipped her hand into his. "We'll repair this within a day," she said, her wand at the ready.
"And enjoy pissing on your grave after the next time we meet," Sirius said, casually leaning on his elbow up against his cover.
"Enjoy your little respite," Voldemort said, his visage not having faltered. If anything, it grew more cruel, merciless, and sadistic as they taunted him, as if he knew something they didn't.
"Have you seen your son today?"
And with those few words, James, Lily and Sirius' candor changed while Fleur's heart skipped a beat and her memory was jogged.
You-Know-Who tasked Harry with a special assignment. Something to accomplish, today.
Madam Pomfrey's words came back, hitting her like an unexpected bludger to the gut. Harry wasn't reported to be in Hogsmeade before they left and he wasn't here…
Fleur's mouth ran dry and she could scarcely imagine how the Potters felt in this moment.
A sole spell was cast at the Dark Lord but he merely flicked his wand and a piece of rubble intercepted the neck-high cutting curse.
Following the trajectory of the spell, Fleur's eyes caught sight of Black as he'd re-captured everyone's attention. "They don't have a son," he said.
Voldemort laughed as he turned his head to look at Sirius. "They have a son," he said, lowering his wand and gleefully turning his attention back to James and Lily. "But they won't have a daughter after he's through."
A gasp tore from her throat, and Fleur was sure hers wasn't the only one.
"This plan is of his making, you know," he said, continuing on as if this was some great joke and not an abominable kinslaying. "Assault two targets with all our might, leaving just him to kill the Girl-Who-No-Longer-Lives and Rabastan to get revenge for his family."
Her knees gave out and her hand covered her mouth as bile tried to spew from her mouth. She'd already lost Maman, Papa, and Gabby. Iris had become as close to another sister as she would ever get. And Harry had planned to take that from her too?
Before anyone could respond, Voldemort portkeyed out, leaving only the echo of his mocking laughter behind.
AN: Feels good to get this out and get started on publishing my second fanfic. Though this isn't the first thing published since ITT though. Check SalTalStudios on FFN or AO3 to see my co-written works with Taliesin19.
Also, feel free to join the SalTalStudios discord using this link: discord. gg / hq5ZvYYMA7 (remove the spaces).
Thanks to Petrificus Somewhatus and Taliesin19 for their great help with beta and editing. And, of course, a special thanks to Nauze, for not only coming along to beta the next fic but for pushing me so hard to write the fic idea with Fleur in it. For anyone excited that Fleur is back, be sure to thank Nauze.