“Or perhaps…” she continued, her voice dropping into a seductive purr. “You are wanting something else…” Right, enough was enough – she hadn’t done anything but play me like a violin for days on end now, and I was the supposed to be the one in charge, dammit.
Leaving my wand outside, I went into the room, immediately noticing Fleur stretched out in the corner of the room – she looked as though she were just waking up from a relaxing nap, and her manacled limbs only adding a touch of surrealism to the image. I felt a twitch…like I said, playing me like a violin.
Arching her back gracefully, she twisted towards me, her breast pushed ever so slightly forward. “I do not… Je comprends pas, ‘Arry. We are…partners, yes? For how many months? Deux, Trois? Just remove these ‘ideous shackles and we will talk – like we used to.” She thrusts her arms forward, as if showing me for the first time the physical cause of her predicament. Pale slender arms held together by enchanted iron, her face soft and inviting, though her eyes, a soft blue, betrayed a hint of the same hardness as her restraints.
I closed my eyes for a moment, rubbing my temples and praying that the headache that will inevitably follow takes a pass just this once. Taking a moment to regain control of all parts of my anatomy, I spoke in as level a tone as possible given the situation.
“Fleur, we’ve been over this before – this isn’t like the last times. You’re father is up to his neck in something that could very well get me killed. You know something about it, and I know you know something about it. We’re both under oath, so just tell me what it is I’m facing.”
She’s the very picture of innocence, and as such, ignored my question entirely.
“You should be a gentlemen, ‘Arry – you have the looks you know, you could be very… charmant…But if you will not let me go, perhaps just loosen my hands… just un peu. I am uncomfortable, and I feel dirty – these clothes, they are no longer any good.”
Oh she’s good. There are many good qualities about Fleur, even if I rarely see them. She’s by far the hottest girl I’ve ever met, and Hogwarts is pleasantly lush. She’s smart, elegant, witty and sharper than most people give her credit for. She carries herself with a class and confidence that I’ve only seen in a few wizards and witches. She is also a manipulative bitch with one hell of temper, and that’s the Fleur that I find myself most often working with.
“I’m not letting you go Fleur. I’m not loosening your bonds, and you’re going to have to deal with me hosing you down once a day as your new bathing regimen. So just tell me what I need to know, and I’ll send you back on your way, along with the cock and bull story about an attempt at ransom against your father.”
Point, Harry. She’d really pissed me off back on day one, slamming me with a full veela aura while I was arranging her cell. When I managed to come to, I hacked her hair to bits, telling her I’d send the pieces to her father with a phony note of ransom. I haven’t – not yet anyway – as any thing that came directly from me was a risk. I wasn’t willing to take. Still, it shut her up for a few hours, and I’ll take any victory these days.
Being under a veela’s magic was the most terrifying experience of my life to date, and that’s an impressive feat. I might have enough control to not turn into a drooling imbecile at first site of Fleur, but nothing with stones could stand up to the full thing. I can’t really describe the sensation, except the sudden need….the need to please her, bring her every comfort her whims desired, to lie at her feet and bask in her beauty – it was overwhelming. My own life and safety weren’t just secondary concerns, they were nonexistent.
I was saved when she asked for my wand. I haven’t carried my original in weeks, and as I pulled out Bella’s…this darkness inhabited my body. I don’t mean darkness as in ‘evil’, though I suppose it probably was. I mean that quite literally, I grabbed the wand, fully intending to give it to Fleur, and suddenly, I felt my insides turn black, as if everything living had fled my body. It was not at all pleasant, though surprisingly not painful either, and I was able to breathe again, though the air tasted cold, bitter, and full of power.
It gave me a break anyway, and I flung myself away from Fleur, scrambling to put as much space between us as possible. She hasn’t tried the trick since – I threatened I’d cut off something that won’t grow back next time, and when I said it, I think both of us assumed I was telling the truth.
She was silent again, before once again, ignoring my query. “If not the manacles, there are other ways to keep people contained you know. A containment ward, perhaps? I could not leave without your permission, but I could be allowed to… stretch my legs? The ward is not so difficult, even a mediocre fifth year at Beauxbatons would have memorized the runes for a basic containment spell, and to extrapolate the requirements to contain a person to a room – it is not terribly hard.”
She shrugged her shoulders, simultaneously raising an eyebrow elegantly before looking at me with a condescending smirk. “Alors, J’oublie, the great ‘Arry Potter does not see fit to learn subjects of any use, ‘e prefers to hear more about the fame he will receive in the future, non?”
I rolled my eyes, I’ve already come to terms with my past history, and this isn’t the first time she’s insulted by lack of knowledge.
That wasn’t to say I was getting frustrated, and I found myself shouting at her in exasperation. “Fleur…you stupid, most aggravating…what is so terribly difficult to understand? Why can’t you see that we’re on the same side.” Her look of faux shock and amusement brought me out of my rising hysterics, but I continued nonetheless. “We are…” I grumbled defensively, before continuing “Your father’s pissed off a bunch of important people in France, and wants to get back in power. I want to live, and in order to do so, need to kill Voldemort and destroy his base of support. Beyond that, I don’t care if half the bloody ministry is involved with your father’s schemes, as long as they just leave me alone.”
She lets out a string of giggles, a little tinkling noise that’s equal parts genuine amusement and snide condescension. “Oui, of course ‘Arry. It is why I agreed to take your silly oath. I help you when you need help – which is far too often, I think. In return, you swore to keep my family’s affairs a secret. What you ask me now is not at all relevant, yet you hold me against my will. I am thinking, ‘Arry, that you are not a man of his word.”
Calmly as possible, though anger clearly visible, I responded. “My oath, if you can be bothered to recall, was to protect the privacy of your family’s affairs, with the exception, that it involve murder or Voldermort. I know what I saw on Halloween Fleur, you sent me there, remember? I’ve got reason to believe that what’s going on has to do with both, so don’t talk to me about oaths.”
I take a deep breath, reigning in my temper. It almost breaks out again though at the sight of Fleur, who is now smiling at me as if I’m some stupid child, and I can’t help but fear that in someway, I am.
“’Arry, I remember to the word your oath. You cannot slander my family, simply because you believe there may be a conspiracy or murder. You need absolute proof, that the act has been committed.”
I’m horrified, I’m sure my expression is hilarious. Fleur and I exchanged oaths just after I first found out about Monsieur Delacour’s ambitions. I’d met with her privately a few times since, and we never spoke of the oaths again. To hear her say such now…I’ve done something irreversibly stupid, and she’s now playing her trump card.
“Are you saying” I replied slowly, “that I can’t share with anyone besides yourself that your father is planning to kill someone…until after they’ve died.”
She giggled again, that eerie combination of light, airy wisps of laughter and steely malice. “Non, that is not what I’m saying. Once they are dead, you may inform whoever you like that they have been murdered. However, it is only to the corps that you may reveal my father’s involvement.”
Note to self: Never, ever take a wizard’s oath lightly again.
She continued. “The point is of course, moot, as my father is an honorable man, and as such, above murdering those who oppose him, or aligning himself with a madman. Still, ‘Arry, you ought to be more careful, people may take you for a fool.”
“Right then,” I sigh, the recent turn of events breaking the last barrier of a terrific migraine from coming on. “Suppose we make a new deal, I release you, no containments, no anything, and you agree to stay here for the rest of the month, no plots or betrayals – just helping me with the thousands of things I need to do that don’t pertain to your father.”
She scowled, confused by the turn of events, and I took it as a good sign. “Call it my chivalrous streak, but I can’t stand having to keep you tied up like this for weeks on end. So you help me, I’ll quit trying to dig dirt on your father, and everyone’s happy.” I try to lighten the mood with a grin, though it came across as grim. A grim grin. “Think of it as a holiday, I’ll even buy the goose liver stuff – the kind you can’t get at Agincourt.”
“In short, ‘Arry, we will return to our usual arrangement, except you will pay for everything, and I will pretend not to be furious that you are so foolish as to lock me up and learn nothing from the assistance I have given you thus far.”
Game over. Fleur – 2, Harry – 1.
“Yeh…basically.” I mumble.
She smiles, all perfect teeth and soft full lips, and her face seems to glow with the first sign of genuine contentment since her arrival here. “Bon…now release me – I need to bathe, and I have not eaten well in some time…”
Like I said, I’m the one in control, dammit.
“Non, pas de tout. Your accent is terrible, the diction is wrong, and I very much doubt you have any idea what you are saying.”
I grimaced, frustrated from hours of practice and insults. “This isn’t something you learn overnight you know, I’ve hardly been learning for weeks – give me some credit.” I mumbled, determined to put an end to her constant put downs.
Instead, she snapped back, her face sharp and tight, and I couldn’t help but wander if I was seeing a trace of a full veela’s avian form. “The ministry Christmas function is in three weeks, is it not? You want to go, and I promise you the only Englishmen important enough to be invited to the party will have at least some knowledge of French. If you are to pass as the heir of an important family, even a dim one, you must have some idea, compris?”
I’d gotten much better at retaliating to her incessant quips, and without missing a beat, drawled, “Yes yes, I’m an English pureblood and you’re my French companion for the evening. All will go well provided daddy doesn’t catch us.” The last sentence was uttered in a mocking, sing-song voice, deliberately added to irritate Fleur. He hadn’t been invited, after all.
“It is not a matter to worry about,” she sniffed, reigning in her exasperation. “It is you who has decided that this function is worth infiltrating, and so it is I who must do all the work, including pounding a language actually worth speaking into your thick, English skull.”
I took a deep breath – I’d thought by releasing Fleur from her imprisonment I’d buy myself at least some relief, but the past fortnight had buried for good any such thoughts. As I said before, Fleur excels in making anything look like garbage when she puts her mind to it, and nothing I did seemed to stop her being her less-than-pleasant self. She had however, wounded my pride, and I felt the need to defend if not my ability to learn a foreign language in less than a month, then at least my effort in the matter.
“I’m the one doing the actual learning Fleur, and your nattering on hardly qualifies as teaching. Let’s not forget that it was I who discovered that a number of important British politicians are just happening to be in Paris during the party, and it was I who stole an invitation in the first place.”
She silenced at that, her jaw opening once before snapping shut. Confident in my victory, I naturally took another step. “And for another matter, we’re wizards. We do magic. Surely someone, somewhere along the way, came up with a spell to absorb a sodding language.
The minute she opened her mouth I wished to magic itself that I had a time turner and could somehow stop myself from going the extra mile. I couldn’t, so I got another verbal lashing instead.
“Oui, if we were trying to learn English, perhaps a spell exists. It cannot be too difficult after all, to translate grunts and noises. But French, it is a magic in its own right – you can no quicker learn such beauty than you could charm your mind to absorb your textbooks…though again, perhaps ‘Ogwarts is an exception.”
Right, tact had just flown out the window – time to hit hard with the home truths. In as spiteful tone as I could muster, I asked. “What exactly, is wrong with you Fleur? You hate English food, you hate English culture, you hate English schools. Language, weather, and by all appearances, even our bloody sovereignty is asking too much from you and your family. So why, exactly, in the very name of magic, are you planning to marry an English man?”
Silence, absolute blessed silence. For weeks, I’d have emptied out what remains of my vault for five minutes of the stuff…now I wondered if I’d gone too far.
She just stood there for minutes, looking at me but not at me – some point in the distance that was invisible to everyone save her. Finally, she shrugged, a graceful gesture designed to render my entire question meaningless, though she answered anyway.
“William…he will do well for himself. He is smart, ambitious…perhaps in a few years, he will be well placed in your English society – an important person within the treasury, non? His family… they are friends of yours, with Albus Dumbledore – I believe that will be important, in your country’s future.” Her posture changed subtly, returning to her usual sense of confidence. “Et oui, he is attractive enough, and like the rest of his brothers, he is weak to my charm…if I choose to occasionally sleep with another, he will either pretend not to notice or pretend not to care.”
Wow. I didn’t have anything to say to that – I’ve come to think that true love is a sort of cosmic joke, and given my history, I’d say I’m well within my rights to think that. But Fleur…this was beyond jaded. The room was suddenly very, very uncomfortable.
“Right, well…fair enough then.” It sounded hollow and false, which it was, but I’d hoped to at least end the conversation gracefully. No such luck. She didn’t respond though, just simply gave me a look that told me what she thought of me – not much – and stalked out the room. I didn’t follow, rationalizing that I needed to spend extra time going over the new spells I was currently studying, and afterward I needed to pick up whatever I was going to do for dinner…
We didn’t talk again for the rest of the day, and dinner was a horribly tense affair, the air stiff without Fleur’s attacks upon my cooking and my subsequent retaliations of her own unwillingness to cook. Hell, I’d even gone through the trouble of picking up a Haut Brion in an effort to say ‘sorry’, and we ended up drinking the entire bottle in one sitting, and in absolute silence. All around, an unmitigated disaster.
Finally, just as I was preparing for bed – a transfigured cot in the corner of one on our three-roomed hide away, she spoke, her voice soft, and with a touch of gentleness that I’d hadn’t had directed at me since the day of the second task. “’Arry, there are some spells for the memory, that perhaps we can use to our advantage. I do not recommend them long term – spells that effect the brain are always dangerous in multitude, but we can see if perhaps once or twice will aid your efforts.”
Turning towards her, I returned a faint smile. “Thank you Fleur…I’m grateful.”
And I was.