The bond that once protected Harry is now killing him by inches. Can it be stopped and who will be able to shoulder the burden?
With that, Harry sat up noting absently the lessened- though still existent- pain and squinted to discern his company. The light caused his eyes to water, so he could only puzzle out the figure before they reached out and handed him something black and fuzzy.
"Bonjour, 'arry. Comment ca- er, 'ow are you feeling?"
The green-eyed boy slid his glasses on, bringing the quarter-veela into focus. She lowered her eyes demurely for a moment, then looked up and smiled. Without the force of her veela charms it was a warm, comforting smile, and Harry couldn't help but smile in return. He tried to speak to let he know he felt better and ended up with a sound that resembled someone strangling wildlife, so he settled with an 'okay' sign with his hand and a nod.
The blonde girl made an approving sound and giggled at his attempts to speak. She picked up a flask of something green and effervescent and cheerfully made him choke down the vile-tasting concoction. Harry mumbled sullenly at having to drink something that had to have come from Severus Snape's cauldron. While the potion did its work, Fleur worked him over with diagnostic spells, some he knew from exposure with Madame Pomfrey, and some that were new. He began to tune out the muttered spells and bons and d'accords after the first few minutes and found his mind wandering through idle musings. He shied away from everything he had experienced in the last two days, and was unsurprised when his thoughts turned to the attractive witch hovering over him. He wondered exactly why Fleur was here in the first place, and after she had finished with her spiel, he tried to ask as much via sign language. Unfortunately, he was obviously still under the influence of whatever poison Snape had created, because in hindsight, rubbing his fingers together like picking through change, shrugging and pointing at the bed seemed more like a proposition that a question.
"'arr-ee... Are you saying what I zhink you said?"
The Boy-Who-Lived's brain, having taken the time to rethink his charades, shook his head wildly while gesticulating with his hands and issuing sounds like wounded sheep, stopping only at Fleur's wicked smile.
"You are cute when you blush, 'arry." Fleur brushed a strand of platinum-blonde hair back into place, "I zhink you were try-eng to zhay Gringott's, no?"
Harry blew out a breath discreetly at the French girl's amused reaction and nodded. Fleur's grin faded from her face a bit as she continued.
"Zhere were many reasons, unfortun- unfortunut- I zhink. Ze goblins starting acting strange aroun' me, all lazy and such, and ah...." The quarter-veela sat next to Harry on the bed, but looked at the far wall. "Bill's brozers- Charles an' Ron- got into a fight wit' Bill about me, too."
Fleur blew out a breath and slumped, a move Harry noted was very unlike her. Her English had deteriorated somewhat as well, and he had a hard time making out some of her words as she started talking again.
"Hiz mozer don't like me eizer. I juz don't know 'ow you do 'ouseold chores- I even tried asking 'er and 'elping, but she juz looks at me strangze when I have to asz 'ow to do somezhing zhat zhe zhinks I zhould know! I juz can't 'elp eet!"
Fleur had continued talking, but it had degenerated into French mixed with a word or two of English, marked with sniffles. Harry couldn't see her face, as she had moved her head forward and shaded it with her hair, and wondered what, exactly, he was supposed to do. Women seemed to be falling apart more and more around him, and it left him feeling helpless. How should he know how to comfort someone when he had such a bad time himself?
Harry sat up slowly and levered himself around so that he was sitting next to the shaking French veela. He reached out a hand slowly, still trying to formulate a plan, but all that came to mind was years of Aunt Petunia's soap operas, and how badly things always went when the actors tried to 'make it all better'.
Fleur jumped when his hand touched her back and began to slide up and down her spine, almost as if he had touched her with a live wire. She turned to look at him through the curtain of her hair, and Harry was surprised to see that the girl's face had contorted to look a bit more bird-like, though not nearly as much as the full veela he had seen. There were no trace of tears on her face, though her eyes were red and puffy as she sniffled. Forgetting himself, he tried to ask if she was going to be alright, but all that escaped was a bass rumble that caused the veela-girl to bury her head in the crook of his neck. The half-dressed boy froze, shocked for a moment before folding his arms around her in a clumsy hug. He continued sliding his hand up and down the girl's back and tried to impress upon her that everything would work out, but all that came out was either a soft susurrus or that deep rumbling.
Harry didn't know how long he held the slight, shaking girl, but he comforted her as best he could. He found that trying to soothe Fleur caused a similar reaction in him; as her trembling calmed, he noted that his palsy was nonexistent. After a while, Harry moved slightly to try and relieve the strain on his back from twisting to comfort Fleur, and through some odd gymnastics the veela ended up sitting across his lap without removing her head from his shoulder. With a murmured "Merci, 'arry", she had snuggled tighter for a few minutes while he had cradled her in his arms.
In time, however, the blonde girl had extricated herself from the shelter of his arms, brushing her hair back from her face in an unconsciously graceful gesture as she turned to face him. The birdlike cast of her face had faded, and the only hint of her earlier outburst was the slight redness of her eyes. Fleur lifted his right hand- the one that had been caressing her back- and softly kissed his knuckles, then turned it over and kissed the palm.
"Merci, 'arry. You are-" she smiled a soft, trembling smile, "Tu es l'ame de la chevalerie."
Harry dipped his head to her, feeling honored by the sentiment, even if he didn't really understand the words. His cheeks colored as he wondered how long Fleur would continue holding his hand and looking at him like that- he felt the odd stirring in his stomach like he did when serious things happened with women. He raised his head and met the quarter-veela's gaze levelly, tamping down his uneasiness.
Finally, though, Fleur released his hand and seemed to regain her composure.
"Ah, 'arry I apologize. 'eadmaster 'as requested you see 'im, if you are up to eet." The French girl had carefully enunciated 'requested' as if to drive home that it was not a demand.
The raven-haired boy nodded and stood, scrabbling for the sheet when he figured out that he was clothed only in an ill-fitting pair of boxers that had crept perilously close to sliding off. He grunted and pointed at himself, which brought a giggle from the intern mediwitch while she fetched him a spare robe.
Freshly attired, Fleur escorted Harry to the headmaster's stair. He was grateful for the witch's presence when he saw the gargoyle, as he had no way to speak the password, if he even knew what it was. She thanked him for his generosity again, then turned to the statue and said the password.
After a moment, when it became apparent that the statue was not going to move aside, Fleur tried again, with the same lack of results. Stamping her foot imperiously, the slight French girl let loose with a blistering blast of French that ended with a carefully enunciated "'umbug", after which the gargoyle fairly lept aside. Fleur turned to Harry, who was studying the wall in order to get a grip on his laughter.
"'arry, ask the 'eadmaster to change ze password, s'il vous plait?"
Harry nodded gravely, biting his lip as he started up the stairs.
Entering Dumbledore's office, Harry noted that the shelves looked a little bare, but many of the oddities and widgets had been replaced. Dumbledore himself was sitting by a window, looking for all the world like a simple scholar with books piled high on a table next to him and one open in his lap, part of one page covered by his beard. There was a bit of a twinkle in his eye, but that was easily explained with his first sentence.
"When you next see Miss Delacour, please let her know that the password will be 'ginger snaps', Harry."
The laughter Harry had gotten control over bubbled to the surface, and he couldn't help but snort and attempt to not make horrible noises while his shoulders shook in laughter. When he straightens, he pantomimed a tip of the hat to the aged Headmaster for defusing the tension that lay between the two wizards. As the younger of the two settled himself into a chair, Dumbledore let the smile on his face fade slightly.
"Harry, I want to start this conversation out by apologizing to you, again. I had hoped to have answers for you on what exactly happened last night, but it seems that I will need to have assistance on this, and so I will contact Professors Flitwick, Vector, and McGonagall if you wish to continue." Dumbledore paused a moment to look over his half-moon glasses. "I ask that you agree to let them look and discover more about this interference with the magic around you, even if you decide that nothing should be done with it. I ask this because I believe that whatever has happened recently will destroy you if we cannot contain or reverse its effects."
The raven-haired boy beetled his brow and gestured for quill and parchment. Instead, Dumbledore handed him a piece of wood carved to look like a quill with the instruction to wave it and think what he wanted to say. Nodding, Harry waved it between himself and Dumbledore.
So you don't actually know what's wrong, and I'll be stuck here all summer?
The elder wizard frowned a bit at the phrasing. "I do not know exactly what is wrong- and you saw what happened yesterday when I assumed what you had done without checking. Three or four heads are better than one here. To answer your other question, the research could be done just as easily at the Order's Headquarters as here. You could Floo between the two points if you wished, as well."
Harry looked a bit green at the thought of returning to Grimmauld Place, but rather than immediately object, he forced himself to breathe deeply and think about what Dumbledore was asking of him. Even if he was being manipulated, this got him away from the Dursleys, and the library of the House of Black was extensive, so he could spend the summer actually learning how to defend himself rather than wasting away and going spare. Taking one more large breath he raised the stick and waved.
I will agree to stay at Grimmauld Place. He blew out a breath and let his shoulders slump a bit. Although it would be nice to have someone to talk to about... Sirius. Would Tonks be available?
A tiny twinkle escaped Dumbledore's eye. "Actually, Nymphadora has been staying at Grimmauld Place recently- which brings me to another issue I must discuss with you in a moment. I will contact the Professors today, and will set up a time for them to meet and discuss what needs to be done to learn more about this phenomenon tomorrow. That will give you the day off to recuperate a bit, and hopefully get your voice back."
So what was the other thing you wanted to talk about?
Dumbledore conjured a bookmark and placed the tome in his lap aside. "Nymphadora and Remus received mail yesterday from Gringott's. You also had a letter addressed to you, but I kept it here while you were sleeping. This has to do with Sirius' will- if you wish to wait and open it later, or do so in private, I will leave." He handed a packet over to Harry, who noted the red seal of official Gringott's business on the flap.
He bowed his head over the envelope for a moment before waving the wand slowly.
Dumbledore nodded as Harry broke the seal on the parchment package. The wax glittered slightly as he unfolded he paper. He remained motionless as he scanned the paper, his eyes flickering slightly as they moved from line to line. Only after reading both pages did a flicker of confusion cross his face. Harry blinked slowly, raising his eyes to Dumbledore and blinking again, before grabbing the quill and waving it.
Is this legal?
The Headmaster nodded. "Gringotts is a law unto itself, Harry. The will is legal and uncontestable by the Ministry. The rest is... unusual, but also legal. It was something that Sirius had begun researching as soon as he had access to a library of magical law."
Harry was amazingly dry-eyed as he looked over the papers again. I don't understand what this will mean. What was Sirius trying to accomplish?
Slipping a lemon drop into his mouth, Dumbledore closed his eyes for a moment before replying. "Harry, I want to be as honest as possible with you. Your godfather did this for a few reasons- some of which could be considered selfish. First, by appointing you as his inheritor, you will take over as head of the Black family name- and you are not a pureblooded wizard, something that would have caused much consternation to Sirius' parents. But the Black line will continue, and as much as he hated their beliefs, he did love his family."
"Of course, as the Head of the Black family line, you are exempt from some rules governing "normal" wizards. The underage magic restrictions, for example, do not apply to you. You will be allowed to test for your Apparition license early, as Lords must be able to travel as they please. Also, even in this day and age there are still items and spells whose use is frowned upon unless you are a Lord or Head of Household."
Can I refuse this?
"Of course. If I may offer an observation, however-" Harry nodded, "due to the way the law is written, if you refuse this, the Lordship falls to the oldest male heir. That is Draco Malfoy." At the boy's scowl, the older man held up a hand. "That is something I wanted you to know before you decided. Wizarding law only recognizes a male as a Lord, so it would not fall to Bellatrix or Narcissa, but to Draco. Do not feel that you must accept this, Harry. It is another burden, but it is also a gift."
The young wizard blew out an explosive breath that rattled in his throat and nodded slowly. He glared at his hands as he refolded the pages, frowning slightly at the tremble. Calming himself mentally, he reached for the wooden quill. So, when can I get to Grimmauld place, then? He paused a moment for the words to fade, then waved it again. And I need my things, if they're still around.
A twinkle reappeared in Dumbledore's eye. "I did recover your belongings, Harry, but had given them to Nymphadora to hold. I regret to inform you, however, that after examining your trunk, your clothes seem to be missing. Perhaps I can apologize to your for yesterday by authorizing a small shopping trip?"
Harry cocked his head and gave a half-smirk. Is Tonks the one that told you that my clothes were gone? The half-smile grew a bit at the headmaster's nod, and he gave a rueful shake of the head. As long as she doesn't try to get me in leather trousers like she threatened to, it sounds like a plan.
Heading to the Order's Headquarters was not the easy Floo trip he expected it to be. Before leaving for Grimmauld Place, Harry had gone through yet another set of tests from Madame Pomfrey and her platinum-blonde shadow. After being fed more stomach-curdling potions, Harry found that he could speak again, even if he did sound like he was trying to smuggle stones in his gullet.
When she learned where he was going, Fleur has immediately begun rattling off a bewildering list of things she thought would look good on him, both Wizarding and Muggle. At his shocked look, the part-veela had daintily waved a hand and declaimed "Fashion iz fashion, 'arry."
Despite his protestations that he was going to wear nothing but jeans and t-shirts for the rest of his life, the beautiful French girl and informed him that if he did she'd drag him out and re-outfit him herself. Professor Dumbledore and Madame Pomfrey had simply stood back and smiled, much to his discomfort.
One Floo ride later and Harry was climbing up the stairs with the only pair of clothes that had survived the trip to Grimmauld Place. One hot shower later, and most of his minor aches had gone away, leaving only a weariness that he looked forward to getting rid of that night. He met Tonks in the kitchen and he had followed the bubblegum pink hair of the Auror a few blocks from the Headquarters so they could catch a cab to the stores.
Shopping with Tonks was just about as fun as he could reasonably expect shopping to be- it wasn't something he would ever enjoy, but it wasn't as horrible as it could be. The older woman had kept up a light patter of conversation, allowing him to answer mostly with nods or grunts to accommodate his still-healing throat. She had browsed the racks of jeans before handing him three and shooing him towards the changing rooms. The first pair he had slipped into was pretty tight, and when he walked out to comment on the bad fit, Tonks had turned him around and gave a wolf whistle.
"Nice buns, Harry! Nice to see you haven't blown one off."
The green-eyed boy had whirled around and placed both hands over his butt protectively. "Hey!" he croaked, and then scowled dramatically. He backed in to the dressing room and shut the door forcefully before peeling the devil-spawned things off.
With much less fanfare (and no comments about his arse, thank God, Merlin, and anyone else who listened), Harry was shortly the owner of five new pairs of jeans of various shades and types. Of course, that meant that he needed the rest of his wardrobe.
"Harry, as much as I think buying you nothing but tight t-shirts would make the girls of Hogwarts very happy, you need to have actual clothes, not loungewear." Tonks smiled a bit to take the sting out of her words, and crinkled her nose at him.
The Boy-Who-Lived grumbled a bit. "I have my school slacks and shirts and blazers- that's good enough."
One set of narrowed eyes and a furrowed brow later, and Harry found himself learning the ins-and-outs of polo shirts, henleys, rugby shirts and sweaters, and boggling over the horrible patterns of something called a 'Hawaiian' shirt. It wasn't long before his eyes glazed over, and he shuffled zombie-like to the fitting rooms to try on various outfits, occasionally noting a few that looked good on the put-upon boy in the mirror.
Just has he was bending to pull up a pair of khaki pants that he noticed that Tonks was sitting on the little bench in the room, eyeing him. He jumped a bit, startled, and had to catch himself to keep from falling as the pants caught and bunched around his ankles. The Auror- whose hair had morphed into a blue so dark it was almost black at some point- gave a braying laugh as he righted himself.
"Wotcher Harry! Getting a little tired, are you?"
He blinked owlishly at her. "Must be. When'd you start sitting in here?" He flushed and pulled the slacks up, not meeting her eyes.
Still chuckling a bit, Tonks wiped at her eyes. "Just walked in, actually. You seemed zoned out a bit, so I wanted to startle you awake."
"It certainly did, thanks." Harry muttered. He paused for a moment and looked up. "You know, I really appreciate you helping me with this, but do I really need all of this stuff?" Harry blinked as a thought occurred to him. "You're not gonna make me have to get fitted for a suit, are you? That'd take hours!" The look on his face set Tonks off laughing again.
"Nah, I think we'll pass this time, Harry." The girl smirked at the sigh of relief that escaped him, but it melted off her face as she continued, "We'll leave that sort of shopping for your other girlfriend". Tonks sounded almost petulant at the end, and she looked at the floor.
Harry stilled and looked at the woman curiously. "What're you talking about? I don't have a girlfriend, much less an 'other' girlfriend."
Tonks cocked her head at him, letting her spiky hair bounce around her face. "Well who was the French chick that gave me hell while you were in the shower?"
"Fleur?" Harry look perplexed. "How'd she firecall to Grimmauld, I thought the Fidelus wouldn't let her. Is she part of the Order?" He looked up to see Tonks rolling her eyes. "What?"
"Amorous girls call and you're worried about how they tracked you down? Shouldn't you be pleased that she called, and then try to look good for your woman?"
Harry threw his hands up in the air. "She's not my 'woman'! During the Tournament I was just another little 'Eenglish barbarian' until I saved her sister. Besides, she was seeing Bill Weasley."
Tonks had a smile that rivaled the Mona Lisa's. "Sorry about that, Harry. Maybe she just wants to bring out your inner stud rather than the adorable ragamuffin look you sport sometimes." She ignored his grumblings gracefully and stood. "So why don't you get your ass into those jeans and let's get out of this joint."
Harry had never stripped so fast in his life.
As Harry followed Tonks' bobbing head through the crowd- her hair was green now, and easy to pick out- he reflected that shopping with a witch had its advantages. The young wizard carried a bag containing all of his other clothes purchases- something like ten bags worth- shrunk to fit into one bag, with no real added weight. He was trying to recall which spells the Auror had used to enchant the bag when he followed Tonks through a door. A few moments later he stopped and took a big sniff of the surrounding area. His lips thinned as he looked up and sniffed again.
The petite figure of the junior Order member had turned down an aisle near him, and her head popped up at his call.
The Boy-Who-Lived scowled at the innocent puppy eyes that she turned on him. "I told you weeks ago that I'd never wear leather trousers, so unless we're looking for jackets, we can leave." He crossed his arms over his chest and tried to look imposing and the bag crinkled against him.
"Oh, really?" Tonks stalked into view holding a pair of black leather trousers he was sure was too small for him in front of her. Stunned, he could only watch as the woman slowly swung her hips as she moved towards him, the curves disappearing behind the leather only for an equally-luscious hip to appear on the other side. A question tickled his brain: Had her skirt had those thigh-high slits in the sides the whole time they were out?
Stopping a scant foot in front of him, Tonks cocked her hips to the side, leaving him with a perfect view of a toned leg draped in the clingy black material of her skirt. She inclined her body toward him, almost inviting him to look down her shirt as it gaped open at the neck. Reaching out, she ran a finger down the side of his neck, then traced a line down the middle of his chest. Harry's arms fell to the side as her finger dipped to his bellybutton, the bag dropping from nerveless fingers. When she reached his waist, he felt a buzz through his body. The green-haired woman hooked a finger into his belt loop and pulled him roughly, causing him to stumble towards her on leaden feet. When they were face-to-face, she gave him a heavy-lidded stare.
"Harry," she growled, "You will wear these, and you will look hot in them. If you do not try them on now I will strip you here in the middle of the store and put them on you myself." She curled a hand around the back of his neck and brought her full, pink lips next to his ear. "Okay?" she asked breathily.
Harry tried his best to suppress the pleasurable shiver that raced down his spine. I'm supposed to withstand Voldemort, but I can't even think when a woman comes on to me. Christ. He thought he could feel the fairy-kiss of her eyelashes against his throat and swallowed convulsively.
In a small voice, the Saviour of the Wizarding World rasped, "Okay."
I really wanted to update this within two weeks of the first chapter, but for some reason I hit a block with the last half. You may notice that not much has happened- chapters 3 and 4 will fix that somewhat. I have come out with another story as well- born out of the block I had on this story- that will be updated simultaneously.
Once again, this chapter has not been beta'ed, and has only quickly been run through MSWord for spellchecking.