Dear Professor McGonagall,
Thank you for giving me time to discuss this with Ron. In the end, I decided to accept your offer. I will see you sometime in early June, if that is amenable to you.
Sincerely,
Hermione

Since she didn't have an owl, Hermione had to take a trip to the owlery. She fed the elderly Crookshanks, left a note for Ron, in case he came over looking for her before she came back, and left her flat.

Diagon Alley was busy and bustling, and Hermione had to fight her way through the crowds, but she eventually reached the owlery. She sent her letter, paid her fee, and headed home.

As she was wading through the sea of people, something hard connected with her knee. She looked down and saw a shock of fiery orange hair disappearing through the crowd. It had to be a Weasley, but she should have recognized all of them. Curious, she followed the bright head through the crowd to Flourish and Blott's, where she stopped dead. Emerging from the store with a bag and three children in tow was Fleur Delacour-Weasley.

She was dressed in unseasonably warm clothing: black, pointy boots, a black floor-length skirt, and a black blouse. She looked tired and thin, but not yet worn out. Hermione was too surprised at seeing her even to be disgusted that even hardship could not diminish the effect of Veela blood. Men all along the street took a second from their hectic lives to stare at her.

At first, the older woman didn't seem to notice Hermione. She was scolding the redhead, a boy, as it turned out, about the dangers of running away in crowded places.

"And you could 'ave been lost. Look at me, Louis. Do you understand me?"

Her accent was much less prominent, Hermione noticed. It was true, then, that she had gone, not back to France, but to a small wizarding town in Scotland, far away from both the Burrow and Shell Cottage, but still in the United Kingdom. There had been some debate about that amongst the members of the Weasley family.

Fleur looked up and drew in a sharp breath. "'ermione Granger?"

Hermione nodded. "Good to see you again, Fleur," she managed, rather bravely, in her opinion. After all, it had been years since she had last seen the woman, at Bill's funeral. "Are you moving back? To England," she added as an unnecessary afterthought.

"No, no." Fleur's looked pained, and her blue eyes wouldn't meet Hermione's brown ones. "I 'ave taken a job in Scotland. I am 'ere only to geet something for my seester. Gabrielle was busy today."

"Oh." Hermione felt the awkwardness of the ensuing pause rather keenly, and endeavored to fill it. "Would you like to come over for a cup of tea, then?"

Fleur shook her elegant head. "Thank you, 'ermione, but I cannot. I must go now."

Hermione couldn't say she was sorry, but she felt obligated to add, as Fleur began to turn away, "Maybe you will visit Molly Weasley when you get a chance? She'd love to see you."

Fleur stopped dead, and her children looked at her inquisitively. "No," she said. "I do not think I will."

And she walked away, with her long French braid swinging to and fro, especially white against the black of her dress.


At home, Hermione made herself tea and considered telling her future mother-in-law that Bill's children had been to England. She eventually decided against it. Fleur would have spirited them away again by now, and Molly would only be hurt to know that her grandchildren had been so close without her knowing.

She didn't tell Ron, either. Despite his general liking of Fleur, he had been furious when she had disappeared with his nieces and nephews, and he probably wouldn't be pleased to hear that she had refused to introduce her children to the family.

Hermione now turned her thoughts toward Fleur's children.

The oldest, Victoire, had looked well. She was a carbon copy of Gabrielle as Hermione remembered her from the Triwizard Tournament. In twenty years, no doubt she would be the spitting image of her mother.

If she remembered correctly, Louis, the boy, was the middle child. He, too, had seemed content.

The youngest (Delia?), though, had looked miserable. Every few seconds, she had cast a nervous glance at her mother, and she had seemed unable to stop fidgeting.

Hermione frowned, and took a sip of her tea, which had grown tepid while she was lost in thought. She couldn't see Fleur abusing her children, but there was something definitely wrong there...

Oh, well. She couldn't do anything about it. She should give the almost-member of her almost-family the benefit of the doubt. Hermione drained her mug of tea and went off to find Crookshanks, who was sulking because she had left him alone for most of the afternoon.