It was a strange feeling, to be called into the Headmaster’s office in order to sort out trouble, rather than be lectured for starting it.
It was even stranger to see Moody in the seat of honor at Professor Dumbledore’s desk, popping Bertie Bott’s into his mouth as his magical eye zoomed around in its socket.
The eye focused in, unblinking, on Tonks. “You’re early,” Moody said as he tossed a pink bean in the air and caught it in his mouth.
“I’m not early,” Tonks said, “I’m on time. To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late.”
“Hmmm…” Moody examined a green bean, then chucked it into the waste bin. His magical eye had not looked away from Tonks. “Is that so?”
In reply, Tonks scrunched up her face, morphed her nose into a pig’s snout, and oinked three times before morphing back.
Moody grinned, and stood up from the chair. He walked over and clapped her shoulder. “Good to see it’s really you.”
“Likewise,” Tonks replied. It seemed silly to tease Moody about their elaborate identification codes when he’d been impersonated for the better part of a year. Instead, she eyed him carefully as he walked back over to the desk. He didn’t appear to be in particularly bad shape, but she was still concerned.
Tonks arched an eyebrow. “Madame Pomfrey told me you were supposed to be resting.”
“I was resting,” Moody said curtly as he shuffled through the stack of parchment on Dumbledore’s desk. “Got an hour’s nap and some Pepper Up Potion. But we’ve got work to do now.”
“An hour’s nap?” Tonks exclaimed. “You spent a year locked in a trunk!”
“Exactly. That’s more than enough resting time. Besides, it’s not every day a Dark Lord gets vanquished.”
That was true enough. Tonks had been taken aback earlier that day when the Hogwarts owl had delivered a note stating that Voldemort was dead and gone, and her mentor had been found locked in a trunk. A hurried Floo conversation later, and she’d been en route to provide backup.
Moody pulled a sheet of parchment from the stack and handed it over. “Here’s the profile on the Champions. Four of ‘em. They’re in the hospital wing. Take their statements while I get the rundown from Dumbledore on what the fuck happened in that graveyard.”
Tonks took the parchment without further comment. She didn’t blame Moody for wanting to jump back into the action. She’d be all keyed up as well, if she had been confined for that long.
“Hold up,” she said as her eyes skimmed the parchment. “Four of them? In a TriWizard Tournament?”
“Apparently so,” Moody growled. “Seems there was a kerfuffle during the name drawing and one extra participant came out. Need to review that with Dumbledore as well.”
“And fake Moody just went along with that, did he?” Tonks rolled her eyes. “Not suspicious in the least.”
“Oh, I’m sure he put up a fuss, but he steered the conversation towards his endgame, no doubt.”
“Which I would have noticed, had I been here,” Tonks said with a smirk.
Moody chuckled. “You’d have noticed before the welcome feast was over. The imposter was always stuffing his face with sausages.”
“Ah, Dumbledore didn’t know you’d gone pescatarian, then?”
“Hadn’t thought to mention it.”
Tonks shook her head with a tsk tsk. “I knew I should have popped in for a visit.” She grinned, though there was a lump in her throat. Moody seemed to notice; he reached out and gave her shoulder a squeeze.
“Not your fault. Remember what we talked about when you first started training. What do I always say?”
Tonks bit back the urge to say constant vigilance just to take the piss. Instead, she took a deep breath and answered, “We’re not at fault when evil people do evil things.”
“Damn straight,” Moody said. “We can’t shoulder the responsibility of their actions. All we can do is stop ‘em best as we know how. You start to forget that, you won’t last out in the field.”
He patted her shoulder and nodded towards the door. “Go on, now. Get those statements. We’ll reconvene back here in ninety minutes.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tonks had no trouble remembering the way to the hospital wing. She’d spent enough time there over the years, what with her penchant for involvement in both pranks and accidents.
Four families were clustered in separate areas of the room. As a Quidditch fan, Tonks recognized Victor Krum right away, lurking in a corner with two older wizards who had to be his parents, with the way they were fussing over him. She knew Mrs. Weasley and Bill, as she’d been good friends with Charlie since they were children, though she was confused as to why they were here. Amos Diggory worked at the Ministry; Tonks assumed the tall boy he was fiercely hugging was his son, whom he talked about nonstop.
It was the family huddled together in the far corner of the room, however, that held Tonks’ attention. Three women, a mother and two daughters by the looks of it, all silvery blonde and regal features, speaking rapidly in what Tonks suspected was French. The elder daughter looked to be about Tonks’ age. She was gorgeous, but that wasn’t what caught Tonks eye.
It was the way she laughed at something the younger daughter said. Or rather, the way she let out a snort as she laughed. She seemed completely unconcerned as she snort-laughed through another story told by her sister.
Tonks grinned. She was well versed in the signs of not giving a shit, being an expert in the field herself, and she appreciated that quality in other women. Especially cute women who were apparently bad ass enough to be TriWizard Champions.
She noticed a thin boy with messy dark hair and glasses standing with Bill and Mrs. Weasley. Harry Potter, she realized. Interesting. Charlie had mentioned that Harry was best friends with his brother Ron. Tonks smiled as she realized that the Weasleys must be here as Harry’s family. That was kind of them, she thought. What with the relatives on her mother’s side being mostly estranged, she appreciated found family.
Tonks was about to head over to speak with Bill and Mrs. Weasley when she noticed the Diggory boy walking towards them with his father in tow. Harry waved eagerly, then ducked his head when the Diggory boy waved back.
Bill met her eye, glanced over towards the two boys, and gave her a wink. She grinned in return, and decided to leave Harry’s statement for later. She glanced down at her notes. The Diggory boy’s name was Cedric, apparently. The unfamiliar blonde girl was Fleur Delacour.
Tonks straightened her posture and headed over with a friendly smile. She thought she noticed Fleur’s eyes skim over her as she approached. Fleur leaned over and spoke quickly to her mother and sister. They each gave her arm a pat before moving to sit on one of the beds. A house elf appeared with a tray of tea and biscuits, which they accepted.
Fleur took a few steps closer to meet Tonks halfway. “Hello,” she said, and Tonks fought to keep her jaw from dropping. Fleur’s voice was musical, but with a husky note that made Tonks’ heart skip a beat.
“Hi,” she managed to say. “I’m Tonks, from the Auror office.” She stuck out her hand in greeting. Fleur took it and gave a firm shake. Her skin was warm, smooth.
“Nice to meet you. I assume you are here to take our statements?”
“What?” Tonks realized she’d been holding Fleur’s hand a few moments past what was polite. She dropped it and nodded quickly. “Er, yes. How did you guess?”
Fleur arched one eyebrow delicately. “Moody mentioned that someone would be coming.”
“Oh. Right.” Tonks cleared her throat. “Well, here I am. You’re Fleur Delacour, correct?”
Fleur blinked. “Oh! I forgot to introduce myself, I… Yes, I am.” She looked slightly embarrassed. “But you may call me Fleur.”
Tonks breathed a little easier, knowing Fleur wasn’t completely unruffled. “Thank you. And you can call me Tonks.”
“You go by your last name?”
“Yeah,” Tonks shrugged. “My full name’s a bit of a mouthful. And it’s too flowery for me.”
“My name literally means flower in French,” Fleur said with a deadpan expression.
Tonks wondered for a moment if it would be possible to leap out the window, but Fleur’s face broke into a grin.
“I am just teasing you!” she said. “Tonks is lovely.”
“Lovelier than my first name,” Tonks muttered. “Which is Nymphadora, by the way.”
“Ah,” Fleur nodded. “That is quite a mouthful.” She pursed her lips in thought. “Would you be adverse to a shorter version?”
Tonks hesitated. “Like what?” Her father called her Dora, but that was a babyish name that only he had the right to call her.
Fleur tapped one finger to her chin. “Nym. Short and sweet. Not too fancy.”
Tonks couldn’t stop herself from returning Fleur’s grin. “Alright. I’ll be Auror Nym to you. Or just Nym, if you like.”
Something sparked in Fleur’s eyes as her grin widened. “Yes. I do.”
Image Description: A foam art gif of Fleur and Tonks against a photo of a forest. Fleur is dressed in blue, Tonks all in black and with pink hair. They shake hands, look down at their clasped hands, and then let go. Art by keyflight790.
Fleur had just settled into the comfiest armchair in the Gringotts employee break room, with a steaming mug of chai in her hands, when the door swung open. Fleur frowned when she saw Jane, the newest addition to the Gringotts bank clerk team, poke her head in. Before Jane could say a single word, Fleur sighed, set her tea down on the table and cast a stasis Charm to keep it hot. She knew she’d be asked to help deal with a difficult client. It seemed to happen without fail every time she sat down for a break.
“Do you mind helping me out?” Jane asked, her face screwed up in worry. “This bloke’s being unbearable about the exchange rates, and I can’t get him to leave. You’re always so good with the customers, won’t you help me?”
Fleur rolled her eyes. She was not particularly good with the customers. She just had an extremely low tolerance for idiots and wasn’t afraid to stand her ground. “Yes, I will help you. But you know, you could just tell him to piss off. The management will not side against you.”
“I don’t think I’m quite there yet,” Jane whispered as they approached the front desk, where a middle aged man in navy robes and a thundercloud scowl was waiting. “But a few more customers like this one, and I will be.”
Fleur smiled as she greeted the man, but it was without warmth. “Hello. My colleague tells me that you are having difficulties with a currency exchange? What is the issue?”
The man’s scowl flickered away for a moment as he took in Fleur’s appearance. She kept her expression calm, but her teeth clenched behind her smile.
“This girl’s trying to get one over on me,” the man grumbled. “She’s saying I only get a hundred Muggle notes for five Galleons. Last month when I was here, I got fifteen thousand. That’s preposterous! How daft do you think I am?”
“And I tried to tell you, sir,” Jane piped up, “that last week you got yen, and this week you’re getting pounds. They have two different exchange rates.”
The man signed and rolled his eyes. “So give it to me in yen this week as well.” His words were clipped and deliberate, and he spoke slowly with a snarky tone. “I’m sure the London Muggles will be able to figure it out. It’s all the same shit, surely even someone as--”
“That is quite enough,” Fleur interrupted. “I highly suggest that you go no further down that road of insults, sir. It will not end well for you.”
Her tone was pleasant, with a steel edge. The man looked irate at first, until he met Fleur’s stare, and his own eyes widened as he realised that she was not the mere pretty face he’d assumed. She was something more.
Jane looked over at Fleur, her brow furrowed with worry. Fleur gave a small shrug, then smiled cooly.
“Of course, while we do recommend that for London you receive your exchange in pounds, we are able to give you any Muggle currency you prefer.” Her smile widened as the man squirmed a bit under her unwavering gaze. “However, should you choose a currency other than the one we recommend, and then encounter issues here in London with that currency, it will be something you must take up with a Muggle bank. You will not be allowed to come back here and and make a fuss.”
The man sucked in a shaky breath. Fleur grinned even wider.
“I… that is…”
“It is your decision,” Fleur said smoothly. “But I take my job extremely seriously. I am here every day. Should you come back, I will be here to assist you. Personally.”
Jane choked and cleared her throat. Fleur could tell she was biting back her amusement. The man looked back and forth between the two women before meeting Fleur’s gaze once more. His shoulders stooped as he heaved a sigh and looked back down at the counter.
“Alright then,” he mumbled. “I’ll go with your suggestion.”
“Excellent.” Her smile widened, and she turned to Jane. “You are able to handle things from here, yes?”
Jane nodded eagerly. She turned back to the man and started to count out his notes. Fleur shot him one last loaded look before she turned sharply to depart, hair tossed over her shoulder as she went.
Bill Weasley leaned against the wall by the break room door. Fleur smiled as she greeted him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She was always happy to see Bill. She wouldn’t have made it through her first week on the job without his sympathy and snark after she’d dealt with some particularly nasty clients.
Fleur was glad she’d not asked him out on a date when they’d first met, as she’d originally planned. It had been difficult enough to start a new job in an unfamiliar culture; a relationship with a coworker would have been an additional complication. They’d forged a good friendship over the past few weeks, one that Fleur valued immensely.
And of course, he was familiar with Nym, the earnest young Auror who’d charmed Fleur during their brief chat at Hogwarts. Bill had offered to set them up socially, but Fleur had declined for the moment. She had been busy hunting for a place to live and setting into her new job.
Now, though, her life had calmed down quite a bit. Perhaps it was time to check in and see if Bill’s offer was still on the table.
“You are a welcome surprise on a humdrum day,” she said. “I thought you were travelling?”
Bill shook his head. “Not until Thursday. I’ve been in meetings all morning, but I wanted to pop in and see if you were free for a break.” He leaned in and wiggled his eyebrows. “I’ve got the real story behind that stain on the HR office carpet. The one that mysteriously appeared after the last happy hour.”
His serious expression made Fleur chuckle. “Oh, really? I am interested to know which of our theories was correct.”
“Prepare to be very surprised,” Bill said with a grin. He nodded towards the front of the room. “Looks like you’ve got someone waiting at the private vaults desk. Sorry to distract you.”
Fleur frowned. “I am not supposed to be working the lobby today. My in tray is filled to the brim with paperwork. Garrett is supposed to be here with Jane. It is not like him to sneak off unannounced.”
“Doesn’t look like he did.” Bill gestured to the left, where Garrett stood by the information desk. He wore a polite smile as an elderly man in robes bearing the Selwyn crest droned on about how the printing on the deposit slips should be larger.
“Ugh,” Fleur huffed. “He could be listening for hours, poor thing. Honestly, pure-blood families here are so trying. They think everyone should be interested in whatever dull things they feel the need to share.”
“We really are quite annoying,” Bill agreed. He laughed as Fleur poked him in the ribs.
“You know the sort I mean,” she said.
“I do,” he agreed. “Well, hopefully the bloke at the private vaults desk isn’t that sort. Go on, I’ll make you a fresh tea in the meantime. Your Stasis Charms are rubbish.”
Fleur made sure to keep her expression pleasant as she approached the desk. Generally, the people who had private vaults preferred to deal with the human employees for the majority of their visit. Not that they were any more courteous to them than they were to the non-human employees. And they rarely picked up that Fleur was something more than human.
Until it was too late.
It was a distasteful attitude in Fleur’s opinion. She hoped that this client would be of the rare non-snooty variety.
“Hello, and welcome. What can I assist you with today?”
The man at the counter grinned. His eyes darted back and forth as he placed a gilded key on the counter. “I’d like to get into my vault. It’s the Shafiq vault. The Green vault.”
Fleur arched one eyebrow delicately. The Shafiq family maintained two vaults; the Green vault and the Ebony vault. They seldom frequented Gringotts, as they were rarely in London, and their vaults were used mainly for storage of the most priceless heirlooms, or so the more gossipy Goblins claimed.
“I will be happy to assist you, mister…” She trailed off so that the man could provide his name.
“Mr. Shafiq, of course.” The man’s smug smirk set Fleur’s teeth on edge.
“Of course.” She fought to keep the sarcasm out of her tone as she tapped her wand against the empty in tray on the desk. The access log for the Shafiq Green vault appeared beneath her wand. She scanned the log before she started the new entry. The last visit to the vault was dated 1987, and the one before that was 1982. All visitors were noted as simply “M. Shafiq.”
She fought to keep her eyes from rolling. Pure-bloods here in Britain were either pompous over their names and titles, or obsessed with secrecy. The Shafiqs were clearly the latter. Still, it wasn’t her problem. As long as the key was legitimate, and the person was on the approved entry list, it wasn’t the bank’s place to ask further questions.
Fleur took the key and tapped her wand to it. Smoke swirled off the top to form the Shafiq crest. She moved a small set of double-pan scales to the center of the desk. A small jewel at the top of the scale shimmered with iridescent colors.
She set the key down on one pan, and smiled tightly at Mr. Shafiq. “The key is in order. If you would please hand me your wand?”
Mr. Shafiq glanced to the left, then reached into his robes and pulled out a wand. He held it for a moment before he passed it over to Fleur. She took it, and placed it carefully on the other side of the scale. The two pans teetered up and down for a few moments before they settled into equilibrium. The jewel at the top evened out into a pale pink color.
Mr. Shafiq let out a breath that he’d clearly been holding in. Fleur looked at him curiously, but the bland smirk remained perched on his face. She was about to pick up the wand when the scales began to tip slightly. The wand’s pan dropped down slightly, and the jewel’s color deepened to scarlet.
Fleur frowned as she took the wand and studied it for a moment. “I apologise, but there seems to be--”
“Everything is fine,” Mr. Shafiq interrupted. “There is nothing amiss.”
“Sir, I--” Fleur gasped as Mr. Shafiq-- or at least, the alleged Mr. Shafiq-- snatched the troublesome wand from her hand. She felt her face grow hot as her anger welled up. Fleur did have limited leniency for rudeness and condescension from the bank patrons; that was part and parcel of customer service jobs. Physical contact, however-- aggressive or otherwise-- was not something she tolerated at all, nor would her managers expect her to.
“Excuse me, sir, but do be careful where you put your hands. Your wand is not cleared for entry. I can pull up the list of approved visitors to confirm whether or not you need to be added, but I will need--”
Fleur blinked. The most-definitely-not-Mr. Shafiq had his narrowed eyes fixed on her face, and his wand pointed subtly in her direction.
“You can see that everything is in order,” he said softly. “Now give me the key and allow me to be escorted to the vault.”
Fleur nodded absently. That was correct, wasn’t it, the key and wand had balanced, and… wait… no, that wasn’t correct, not at all. She closed her eyes and shook her head to clear the light, fuzzy feeling from her brain, the feeling of--
Her eyes flew open. Imperio, that’s what he had said to her. How dare he, how dare anyone--
She shoved her fear down into the pit of her stomach and let the indignation rise up in her chest. Her blood warmed as she took an even breath and focused her concentration on resisting the curse. It was easier than it would have been for someone wholly human. Veela will was strong, woven over aeons from layers of magic that even Fleur could not fully comprehend.
A slow smile spread across her face as she tilted her head and locked their eyes together. Heat flowed through her body as she willed him to obey her, listen, focus, yes, now, want. She grinned wider as his eyes sparked with her influence.
“Actually, sir, I would very much like you to escort me to the Security office. Would you be so kind?”
The tight expression on the faux Shafiq’s face melted into a wan smile. “Yes, that would be lovely.”
“It would be lovely,” Fleur agreed. “Let’s go, shall we?” She walked around the desk and the faux Shafiq hastened to offer his arm. Fleur smiled and shot a few extra Veela vibes his way as she looped their arms together and steered him towards the security office.
“What’s all this, now?”
Fleur jumped as another man approached them, nondescript with sandy hair, fair skin and a medium build. She hadn’t noticed him before, and wondered what had drawn him over to the situation.
She smiled and gripped the faux Shafiq’s arm tighter. “Please excuse us,” she said to the newcomer. “I am busy with a client at the moment, but if you need assistance--”
“Where are you taking him?” The newcomer asked bluntly. His eyes narrowed as they peered into the faux Shafiq’s face. “Mate, what’s wrong with you?”
“Everything’s lovely,” the faux Shafiq said with a dreamy smile. “We’re just heading to the Security office.”
“Fuck,” the newcomer muttered under his breath. He grabbed the arm of the faux Shafiq’s robes. “Look, I know this fellow, we came in together and clearly, he’s not feeling well, we’ll just leave.”
“Or,” Fleur said, “you could both come with me. We can have a private chat, just the three of us.” It was so easy to stretch her influence further into an additional person, a little extra spark, a fiery thrill as this new man’s eyes glazed over in awe.
“Um…” The newcomer dropped his hands to his sides. He nodded and smiled. “Alright, yeah, that sounds good.”
“Excellent! Let’s go.” Fleur’s eyes flitted around the room. Her heart started to pound in her chest as she noticed another person, a woman with curly blonde hair and deep purple robes, striding in her direction with purpose. She fell the fastest as Fleur inhaled sharply, then exhaled with a smile so smoldering that the woman’s face fell into a dreamy smile before she’d made it halfway to their group.
“Alright, what the fuck is going on here?”
Fleur turned to see a dark haired man in pinstriped robes hurtling towards her with great focus. He was unfazed as his eyes flitted over the others under his spell, but his eyes narrowed as he shoved a hand into his pocket and whipped out a wand.
Fleur had her own wand in hand before he uttered his first hex. She deflected it and moved into a defensive stance, channeling her rage through her wand arm as the three wizards by her side shook their heads and blinked in confusion. Her heart pounded in her chest as the man in pinstripes raised his wand once more.
He could do his worst, Fleur thought angrily to herself. She was ready.
Tonks stumbled as she Apparated into the Gringotts alley. She would have had a clean landing, had she not miscalculated just enough to wind up in the edge of the street, where a flock of pigeons scuffled over a scattering of breadcrumbs.
She picked her way through the pigeons and brushed the breadcrumbs from her robes, then hurried into the building. This was her first important case since Moody had returned. Tonks wanted to make a good impression and show her mentor how capable she’d become.
Preferably without pigeon poop on her robes.
Tonks surveyed the scene as she entered the lobby and flashed her badge to the Goblin at the security desk. The room had been cleared of patrons, save a few witnesses. A handful of Aurors were scattered about taking statements from the bystanders.
She saw Moody in the corner, speaking to two people in Gringotts uniform robes. Tonks recognized them as Charlie’s older brother, Bill, and Fleur Delacour from the TriWizard Tournament. She had heard that Fleur had taken a job at Gringotts, but she knew Bill spent most of his time travelling, so she was surprised, but pleased, to see him.
Bill was sitting on a stool with his left sleeve rolled up. A series of bluish burns on his arm were being tended to by a Healer. He spoke to Moody as the Healer worked, with an occasional flinch of pain flashing across his face.
Fleur stood to Bill’s right, tall and poised. She watched as Moody made notes on a small pad of parchment. Her hand rested on Bill’s shoulder, and she nodded her head slightly as he spoke.
Tonks eyed Fleur’s hand. She wondered if Bill and Fleur had stuck up some sort of flirtation during the TriWizard Tournament. Charlie hadn’t mentioned anything in his letters. Not that he was the sort to get wrapped up in dating gossip, but he and Bill were close. Surely it would have come up in conversation.
Unless it wasn’t serious just yet.
The thought cheered Tonks. It was probably bad taste to ask someone out after a traumatic robbery attempt, but at least it was a chance to reconnect, and potentially reach out in a few days to suggest grabbing a drink. They hadn’t gotten much time to chat at Hogwarts, but Tonks had liked Fleur. Even if she wasn’t available romantically, Tonks was still interested in making a new friend.
Tonks made her way over to Moody’s side. Bill grinned up at her, and gave a salute. Fleur looked over and smiled. It wasn’t particularly friendly, but Tonks smiled back brightly anyway.
“Glad you’re here,” Moody said. His magical eye swirled around towards her feet. “What’s that on your shoe?”
“Nothing.” Tonks attempted to discreetly shoot a cleansing spell at the pigeon poop on her boot. It singed a bit, but it got the job done. “What’s going on? How can I help?”
Moody tapped his want to the parchment in his hand. It rolled up tightly, and he stuck it into one of his pockets. “Let me get you caught up. Weasley, Delacour, why don’t you get some tea?”
“Right,” Bill nodded. The Healer had finished bandaging his wounds. He got to his feet and rolled down his sleeve. He crooked his non-injured elbow towards Fleur. “Care for an escort to the break room, madame?” he asked in a light tone.
Fleur rolled her eyes with a smile. “But of course, good sir.” She linked her arm through Bill’s as they headed towards the employee break room. Tonks’ spirits sank slightly as the sight.
Before they’d taken two steps, however, Fleur paused and looked over her shoulder. Silvery blonde hair swung around her face in a shimmering curtain. “Would you like something? I make an excellent chai.”
“Er… alright then,” Tonks stammered. “That’d be nice. Thanks.”
Fleur smiled. “It is no problem. We appreciate your assistance.”
She seemed calm as she turned and continued on her way, but she was quick to poke Bill in the ribs with her wand after he leaned over to whisper something in her ear. He merely laughed as she continued to pull him towards the break room. Before he went through the doorway, he met Tonks’ gaze and tossed a wink her way. Tonks blushed and turned back to Moody.
“So,” she asked, “bring me up to speed. What’s going on?”
Moody heaved a heavy sigh. “If I knew I had a hot drink coming my way, I might have the energy to tell the story.” His magical eye rolled around in his socket, but his original eye twinkled as Tonks groaned.
“You could have asked for something!” she hissed.
“And ruin your moment? I would never.” Moody seemed amused as he pulled the parchment from his pocket and unrolled it. “Part of being a good Auror is having keen observation skills. I’m not about to get in the way of a meet cute.”
Tonks shot him with a withering stare. “Moody,” she groused, “this is a robbery. Not a meet cute.”
“Attempted robbery,” he corrected. “And that doesn’t mean it can’t be a meet cute as well.” He tapped one finger to his temple. “I have the magical eye, you know. You can’t pull things over on me, no matter how caffeine deprived I am.”
Tonks scowled. “Let’s get on with it. We both know you’d not drink anything they served, anyway.”
“You’re damn right.” Moody slipped out his hip flask and took a long drought. Tonks had worried that Moody’s imprisonment would have raised his (apparently justified) paranoia to intolerable levels. Fortunately, it seemed to have only reinforced his usual levels of paranoia, which hovered at the top limit of bearable.
Moody put his hip flask away and eyed his notes. “Alright, here we go. Seems that someone came in and attempted to access one of the Shafiq vaults. He’s been tentatively identified as Aidan Aali. Had the key and a doctored wand. When Delacour noticed something amiss, he attempted to use Imperius on her. Delacour responded with some Veela hypnotic vibes or whatever they are, then Aali’s backup got involved.”
“What were they after?”
Moody shrugged. “We’re not sure yet. The Shafiq family is powerful, but private. One of the few prominent Sacred Twenty Eight that keep a low profile these days. But they’re an old family. Could have any number of skeletons in their vaults.”
Tonks shivered. She’d heard enough stories from her mother about the sorts of unpleasant treasures that old pureblood families had stashed about. “But nothing was taken?”
“No.” Moody shook his head. “There was a struggle, but Delcour and Weasley managed to contain the three suspects.”
Fleur had appeared beside them, a cup of tea in each hand. Tonks noticed that Moody had jumped slightly, as if caught off guard. Not enough that anyone other than Tonks would have noticed it, but it was still jarring to see.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“There were four of them,” Fleur repeated. She handed one of the cups to Tonks. Tonks smiled in thanks and took a sip. The spicy flavors of the chai were enhanced with a light splash of milk.
Moody frowned. “We’ve only got three in custody. Aari, Anna Welles, and John Dellinger.”
“There was a fourth,” Fleur insisted. “A man. Short, stocky, dark hair.”
“Who’re you talking about?” Bill asked as he returned to the group, mug in hand.
“The man in the pinstriped robes,” Fleur said. “The one who tried to use Crucio on me.”
“He did what?” Bill’s tea sloshed over the side of his mug. “I didn’t see that, when the fuck--”
“It happened!” Fleur snapped. Her fingers went white as their grip tightened on her teacup handle. “Do not try and tell me otherwise. I know what I saw.”
Fleur’s voice shook as her eyes flashed back and forth between Bill, Moody, and Tonks. Tonks held her breath when Fleur’s gaze met her own.
Apparently Fleur was not so unruffled as she’d originally seemed.
“That’s enough.” Moody’s tone left no room for argument. “No one is trying to argue with you. We’ve not taken your full statement yet. Let’s continue where we left off before the Healer came, shall we?”
Fleur let out a slow breath, then nodded. “Yes, that sounds good.” She took a sip of tea.
”Excellent.” Moody handed Tonks the parchment. “Here, you can take the notes. My hand’s starting to cramp.”
Tonks raised one eyebrow. Moody used a charmed quill for dictation. Moody smirked back and continued. “When we left off, the suspects had started a skirmish with Delacour, and Weasley had just stepped in.”
“Of course. I can take it from here.” Tonks grinned at Fleur as she set up the dictation quill. “You can start talking again. Er, whenever you’re ready, I mean.”
Fleur bit back a smile as she took another sip of tea, cleared her throat, and started to speak.
“During the duel, Bill handled the woman and the false Shafiq man. The blond man, Dellinger, was it? He and I dueled. I deflected one of his spells, and it hit him in the chest.”
“What spell was it?” Tonks asked.
Fleur shook her head. “I am not sure. Some sort of dark green light, with a lot of sparks. When it hit him, he started convulsing. That is when the man in the pinstripe robes rushed over and attacked me.”
“Yes. But I was able to dodge it easily.” Fleur frowned down at her drink. “He was… erratic. He was not paying close attention to what he was doing. He shot a few more curses my way, then he tried to assist the blond man, who was getting much worse.”
Fleur turned to Moody. “Is he alright? Dellinger?”
“Unclear,” Moody replied. “He’s been taken to St. Mungo’s. He was in rough shape when they took him in, but I’ve not received any updates.”
Moody didn’t soften his words with any promises that the stranger would be alright. Fleur seemed to relax a bit at his harsh, but accurate, assessment.
Tonks admired how Fleur had conducted herself thus far. She’d taken enough statements in her short career to know what to expect. Usually, people either drew inward or exploded with emotion. Neither was particularly helpful.
She blushed as she realized she’d been staring at Fleur without speaking for a moment too long. An amused smirk bloomed on Fleur’s face as Tonks hastily adjusted the dictation quill.
“Sorry,” Tonks muttered. “Just, er, processing the information. What happened next?”
“The security trolls got involved, and the Aurors showed up.” Fleur grimaced. “I am not exactly sure of the timeline. There was so much going on at once.”
“It’s fine,” said Moody. “You gave us enough to work with.” He nodded towards Bill. “Weasley, come with me. I have a few questions. Go and sit down at the information desk, will you?”
Bill nodded. He turned fo Fleur and reached out to squeeze her shoulder with his uninjured hand. “Let me know if you need anything.”
She nodded. “I will be fine. But thank you.”
“You want to come to dinner with me? Mum would love to have you.” Bill snickered as Fleur snorted derisively.
“She most certainly would not!”
Bill only laughed harder. Tonks watched as Bill pulled Fleur into a side hug and she punched him lightly on his uninjured arm. They didn’t seem to be entangled romantically. That was good. Not that Tonks would have the opportunity to--
“Tonks? Are you listening?”
Tonky blinked as Moody’s voice wafted into her ears. She felt her cheeks burn under Moody’s knowing gaze.
“As I was saying,” Moody continued, “why don’t you give Delacour your personal floo number? In case she remembers anything relevant to the case.”
Tonks wrinkled her nose in confusion. “She can call the Ministry, if…” She trailed off under the weight of Moody’s deadpan expression.
“You’re a workaholic, but even you aren’t at the office round the clock.” Moody’s good eye twinkled. “If something comes up off-hours, well. Doesn’t hurt to have a way to connect.”
Tonks narrowed her eyes. Moody grinned. She would have shot back a snarky remark, were it not for Fleur’s amused grin and elegant toss of her hair when Tonks snuck a glance.
Tonks sighed as she ripped off a spare bit of parchment and scrawled her home floo address. “You’re right, as always. Constant vigilance.”
Fleur scowled into the empty tea canister. She was out of lavender chamomile; rooibos would have to do. The perfect end to a perfectly horrid week.
She filled her infuser with tea and dropped it into her favorite mug, printed with a Common Welsh Green dragon that stalked its way around the mug when it got hot. As the tea steeped, she grabbed one of the fashion magazines that her sister had owled her earlier in the week, and went to settle in on her couch by the fireplace.
It was nine in the evening on a Friday, and Fleur was holed up in her studio flat nursing an herbal tea. It wasn’t exactly the exciting city life that her friends back home had assumed she’d be leading when she’d announced her intent to move to London.
It had been more of a culture shock than she’d bargained for at first. She’d thrown herself into her work, and while she enjoyed going out with Bill’s friends when he was in town, she hadn’t clicked with anyone else enough to forge a true friendship. And she had no desire to mingle at the local pubs, fending off people who assumed her accented English indicated a lower intelligence.
She jumped as the fireplace crackled and flared.
“Fleur? Darling, are you there? ” Her mother’s face peered out from the flames. Apolline was a beautiful woman, but more important to Fleur was the fact that her mother-- and her sister-- shared the same smile, the same eyebrow raise, the same pursed lips when they were skeptical. It reminded Fleur that she was not alone, would never be alone, no matter how far she travelled from home.
Fleur smiled and set her tea down on the side table. It was always good to hear from her family, of course, but it was also a treat to be able to slip back into her natural French. “Maman! I am here, yes.”
“This is not a good thing,” Apolline chided. “It is the weekend! You are young, you should be going out with your friends! You should have friends, for that matter.”
Fleur rolled her eyes. “I have friends. But I also have standards.”
“There is a difference between having standards and being closed off.” Apolline leveled her with a knowing gaze. “You are not as open as you once were.”
“I know this,” Fleur sighed. “But Maman, things have changed since I was in school. I have changed. Quite a lot, actually.”
It was true. She had been through quite a lot during the TriWizard Tournament; the close call with her sister, the incident with the Death Eater in the maze. The recent robbery and attempted assault had only complicated matters further.
Fleur didn’t feel as carefree and self assured as she had been as a child. The stakes had been raised, so to speak, and she no longer felt confident with her place in the world.
“I did not say this was a bad thing.” Apolline’s voice was soft as it wafted through the flames. “You are becoming an adult. You are learning that the world is a bigger place than you had imagined. You are becoming more cautious. It is not such a bad thing at all. Within reason.”
“I know.” Fleur smiled sadly. “And I know that you worry about me. But you do not need to. My work keeps me very busy. I am happy to focus on my career for now.”
Fleur avoided her mother’s stare. “I am. And I appreciate that you worry, but you do not need to.”
“Don’t I?” Apolline arched one eyebrow. “Apologies, was it not merely a few days ago when you were nearly hit with an Unforgivable Curse? Is it so shocking that I might be somewhat overly concerned for your wellbeing?”
“You are ridiculous.” Fleur smiled in contrast with the harsh words. “But no, it is not so shocking.” She hesitated, then leaned in closer to the fire. “I love you, Maman. I miss you.”
“I love you, too,” Apolline said, “and you know that I miss you. But I am so very proud of you for striking out on your own.”
“I would not ever have had the strength to do so without you, Maman. You and Papa.” Fleur smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “And actually, I might have a potential new friend in mind.”
“Oh?” A teasing note crept into Apolline’s voice. “A new friend, is that all?”
“Maman!” Fleur protested.
Apolline waved her hand carelessly. “Do not bother with all that. If you did not want me to know, you would not have told me.”
“You are not wrong,” Fleur said with a smirk. “I did meet someone. An Auror who assisted with the heist investigation.”
“An Auror?” Apolline’s eyes narrowed. “Not some seasoned person taking advantage of their position, I hope?”
“No!” Fleur shook her head. “No, not at all! She has only just qualified. You met her at Hogwarts, remember? The one with the pink hair. And,” she added quickly, “she’s a friend of Bill’s family.”
Apolline’s satisfied smile made Fleur breathe a sigh of relief. Apolline was not well versed in the details of British wizarding society, but what little she did know had left her unimpressed. She had met Bill and his mother at the TriWizard Tournament, however briefly, and had been thoroughly impressed by their down-to-Earth mannerisms. Mrs. Weasley might not be overly fond of Fleur-- they were both a bit too direct and stubborn to get on without a bit of prickle-- but she had been warm and welcoming to Apolline and Gabrielle.
“I remember her!” Apolline smiled. “She was adorable, and very competent. And Bill is such a nice boy. Does he approve of this girl? What is her name again?”
Fleur cleared her throat. “It’s… Her name is Nym. Nymphadora Tonks. She is good friends with Bill’s brother. The one who minds the dragons in Romania.”
Apolline’s eyes lit up. “Oh! Such a lovely boy, that Charlie. Surely he is a good judge of character. This Nym must be a sweet person.”
“Honestly, Maman,” Fleur said with a wry grin. “He sends Gabrielle one dragon fossil and you know his entire character?”
“I know enough,” Apolline said firmly. “You are only beginning to learn the difference between who is genuine and who is not. I have a good number of years on you. Believe me when I say, I know a decent person when I meet them.”
Fleur wanted to be skeptical; Apolline hadn’t even met Charlie properly. He had come up in conversation at the TriWizard Tournament, when Gabrielle had shyly asked Bill about the pink, white, and blue striped badge on his jacket. She had been delighted to learn that Bill wore it in support of his brother, who was trans like her, and who was lucky enough to spend all his time with dragons.
Gabrielle had been over the moon three days later, when she’d received the Hungarian Horntail fossil from the dragon sanctuary where Charlie worked, and Apolline had been charmed by the note written in (extremely basic and grammatically incorrect, but impeccably polite) French that had accompanied it.
Fleur did know from Bill’s stories that Charlie was a genuinely kind soul who didn’t suffer fools. If both Bill and Charlie liked Nym, then she was someone worth knowing. Fleur supposed she could give her mother’s self assurance the benefit of the doubt just this once.
“Regardless,” Fleur said with a shrug, “she and I have not had a chance to meet up. It has been so stressful with the robbery attempt. Work security has increased significantly, and my bosses are always in foul moods.”
“Ugh.” Apolline grimaced. “That does sound frustrating. But it is good to know they are serious about their employees’ safety.” She gave Fleur a knowing smile. “Have you thanked this Nym properly for her assistance? Perhaps stopped by her office with a coffee?”
“Maman,” Fleur laughed. “People do not do that here!”
“What, drink coffee?”
“Not that.” Fleur paused. “Although, no, they do not. Not like we do. But I meant that no, you cannot just stop by the Ministry office out of the blue with a coffee.”
Apolline waved her hand carelessly. “A pastry, then.”
“The gift is not the issue,” Fleur said. “And actually, there is no need to bother her at work. I have her home floo address.”
“Aha!” Apolline looked delighted. “Of course you do. Well done.”
“She only gave it to me for official purposes!”
“This is an official purpose,” Apolline shrugged. “I am officially tired of seeing you home alone on Friday evenings. Next week, I would very much enjoy it if I popped into the floo and found an empty sofa.”
A sudden rustle in the kitchenette made Fleur pause. She looked around the studio, but there was nothing amiss. She turned back to the fireplace, but inhaled sharply as the air in front of the pantry rippled slightly, revealing the tip of a black boot for half a second before it vanished once more. As though an invisibility cloak had slipped, then slotted back into place.
Fleur wasn’t home alone after all.
“Fleur? Is everything alright?”
Apolline’s voice pulled Fleur from her brief moment of panic. She had to come up with a plan, she had to concentrate. The intruder could not know that she’d seen anything. She had to play it calm.
Perhaps she should continue talking to her mother? The intruder might get bored and leave, or they might grab whatever trinkets she had lying around and be done with it. But the hairs standing up on the back of Fleur’s neck said otherwise. The intruder might not attack while Apolline was present, but she couldn’t keep their conversation going indefinitely.
Fleur could attempt to Apparate to safety, but she cursed herself when she realized that she’d left her wand in the kitchen. Or perhaps she could escape via Floo once she ended her conversation with her mother. If the intruder gave her enough time.
She steeled herself and took a deep breath. There was no time. The intruder would no doubt make sure of that, should they realize that Fleur was aware of their presence. She had to use the element of surprise to her advantage.
And she very much hoped that her new guest didn’t speak French.
Fleur laughed and nodded. “No!” she said brightly. She spoke a bit faster, but tried to keep her tone light. “There is someone in my flat. Do not ask questions, just let me speak.”
“Of course,” Apolline said. He voice was calm, but Fleur saw her shoulders tense.
“I will end the Floo connection and defend myself,” Fleur continued, as breezily as though they were discussing the weather. “ You must Floo Nym for help immediately. Her home address is Six And A Half Landing Lane. If she is not home, then… well, hopefully she will be home.”
“If she is not home I will Apparate to London myself,” Apolline said firmly. “Be strong. I love you. So very much.”
“I love you too, Maman.” Fleur blinked back the tears that had started to form in the corners of her eyes. “Goodbye.”
Apolline blew a kiss, then disappeared as the flames died down. As soon as her mother’s face dissolved, Fleur dove off the couch to the floor. Not a moment too soon, as a jet of red light struck the couch and turned the cushion to ash.
She sprung to her feet, squared her shoulders, and met the gaze of her attacker. It was the dark haired man from the robbery, the one who’d attempted to Crucio her. His face was clean shaven now, but with the addition of dark undereye circles and unkempt hair. A wand was gripped tightly in his right hand, pointed steadily at Fleur’s chest.
“There’s no escape.” His voice was just above a whisper. “If you attempt to Floo, you die. And you can’t Apparate without this.”
He raised his left hand, which held Fleur’s wand. The dark rosewood shone as the weak light from the kitchen lamp reflected off its veneer. The intruder smiled as he traced slow, swishy figure eights in the air.
Fleur met his eyes, icy blue and unblinking. Heat flowed through her limbs as she turned on her charm and curled a smile across her face.
“I suppose you are right,” she said. “I do need that wand. Would you be so kind as to give it to me?” She focused her mind on enticing the man over, come to me, give to me.
She cringed as his mocking laughter rang across the room. “That Veela shit doesn’t work on me, love.” He sneered, and looked her up and down with distaste. “I’m as gay as they come. Time to face facts. You’ve no wand and no tricks. You’re powerless.”
Fleur grit her teeth as anger coursed through her veins. “Accio wand!”
The look of shock on the man’s face as Fleur’s wand flew through the air and landed firmly in her palm was almost comical. Fleur didn’t blame him. Wandless magic was difficult, especially for someone her age, fresh out of school. But she hadn’t been truly wandless, not when she and her wand shared the same DNA running through their cores. Veela magic was temperamental, yes, but it was loyal in a way that went deeper than humans could know.
He recovered and quickly shot a hex her way, but Fleur had already thrown up a Shield Charm to block it. She shot a few Stunning Spells in return, which he fended off with effort. It was her turn to laugh as he took a second to hide behind his own Shield Charm to gather his bearings.
“You are wrong.” There was no waver in her voice as she raised her wand and moved into a defensive stance.
“I am never powerless.”
Tonks banged her elbow against the doorframe when she Apparated into the house, but she managed to keep her grip on the plastic bag filled with takeaway boxes as tingles of pain shot down her arm. She looked around the space, eggshell walls of the kitchenette bleeding into the pale blue paint of the living room. The windows were still tightly shut, none of her alarms were triggered, no signs of intrusion.
She was unsurprised to find Fleur curled in her usual spot on the end of the couch, legs tucked up and chin resting in her hand. Bland strands of brown hair fell across her face as she stared moodily down at a magazine in her lap. It was flipped open to the same page as when Tonks had left, twenty minutes ago.
Tonks forced a smile and held up the bag. “I’ve got Thai!”
Fleur glanced up, but didn’t smile. She shrugged and looked back down at her magazine. Tonks’ shoulder slumped as she dropped the bag onto the kitchenette counter and began to unpack the food.
They’d been in the safe house for a week, and Fleur had barely spoken a word. Her personality seemed to be charmed away along with her hair, which was now shoulder length and mousey. It reminded Tonks of her own natural hair, though Fleur’s still carried a sheen that no magic could smother.
Tonks herself was currently morphed into an ash blond bloke with an upturned nose. She scrunched up her face and set herself back to normal as she divided the pad see ew, satay, and rice evenly onto two plates.
Protection detail wasn’t meant to be particularly thrilling, but Tonks hadn’t expected Fleur to be so joyless to be around. Gone were the playful smiles and self assured demeanor that had been present at Hogwarts and Gringotts. Tonks had thought that the two of them had hit it off, but she must have been mistaken. Or possibly Fleur had changed her mind.
Tonks had spit Firewhisky down her front last week when a striking blonde woman had swept into her Floo and started firing off directions to a London flat in accented English. After a brief moment of recovery, she’d gotten a grasp on the situation, sent word to Moody and headed out to Fleur’s place as fast as she could.
By the time Tonks had smashed through the front door, Fleur had been holding her own, but she’d taken hits. The blood streaked across her face and torn robes had caused Tonks to hesitate for a moment before stepping in to subdue the dark haired man with wild eyes. They’d nearly had him, but he’d managed to Apparate away as they closed in.
Once Moody and the rest of the backup showed up, everything moved quickly. Tonks gave Moody the rundown and assisted in securing the scene. She’d been hurt when Fleur had shooed her away with a snarl as a Healer attended to her wounds, but she’d assumed that it was fair for Fleur to be out of sorts after nearly being murdered in her own home.
She’d been called into Moody’s office the next day for some grim news. “I checked Delacour’s memories in the Pensieve,” he’d said with a grimace. “Her assailant was no ordinary intruder. That was Reynard Bardolph.”
Tonks had shuddered at the name. Reynard Bardolph was well known in the Auror office as a high profile thief with no qualms about killing innocent bystanders. He’d evaded capture for the past decade as he racked up a dozen confirmed burglaries, along with numerous allegations that had yet to be proven.
Not that it mattered; anyone who was able to identify him always wound up dead long before he was anywhere close to being apprehended.
“He came after her once, he’ll do it again. We have to get her tucked away somewhere safe for a while.” He tapped one gnarled finger on a map of the world. “How you feel about spending the summer by the seaside? Should be nice and sunny.”
Sunny, as Tonks soon found out, was not necessarily indicative of warm. Not on Wildsmith Shore, at least. She had been hoping to get in some quality beach time, but the climate didn’t seem much different than what they’d left behind. Cool, foggy, and prone to drizzle.
They were holed up in a safe house that Moody had secured for them. The place was littered with Muggle-Repelling Charmsand a variety of Moody’s custom charms to keep magical folks away. The little house was perched on pilings to keep it safe from the tide, and a winding wooden staircase stretched from the front door down into the sand.
It was close to a Muggle seaside resort town, so Tonks frequently morphed into a disguise and went out for food and household supplies. She tried not to use the same disguise more than once, but there were enough tourists that there was little chance of being noticed. It had become evident fairly quickly that neither of them were inclined to cook, but luckily there were plenty of restaurants to choose from.
Tonks was surprised to see that many of the shops boasted flyers and posters on queer community events. She appreciated that the Muggles in the area didn’t seem fussed when she chose a disguise that aligned closely with her own style preferences; something with bright colors and ripped jeans. She’d often heard that Muggles tended to be more backwards and narrow minded compared to wizards, but her experiences in London, and now here, told a different story.
She had wanted to explore more of the town, but Fleur hadn’t wanted to leave the house. Tonks could not understand why. The house was small, boasting only a kitchenette, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. It was comfortable, but stifling, especially when Fleur insisted on keeping the blinds shut, with only slits of sunlight allowed to creep through the slats.
Tonks had blushed when she’d seen the bedroom with its lone full size mattress, but Fleur had seemed unfazed as she’d dropped her overnight bag in the corner of the room and breezed into the bathroom. “I will take the left side of the bed,” she had declared. “You may take the right.”
Tonks hadn’t thought to argue, or transfigure a second bed, until the third night. By that time, they were well into their routine of waking up in tandem to putter around the flat in awkward silence, Fleur on the couch and Tonks fussing with the security setups.
The official story spread throughout the Auror department was that Fleur had sustained grave injuries and been whisked back to France for private medical treatment. It wasn’t a complete lie; she had been seriously wounded, and her family was prominent enough that they would likely stash her away somewhere safe and secluded.
No one would worry about Tonks just yet. She was often sent away on undercover projects. If she wasn’t seen around the office for the next few weeks, it wouldn’t be questioned. Her parents knew she was on a mission and would be incommunicado for a bit, but they didn’t know the details, which wasn’t unusual.
Tonks peered at Fleur and worried her bottom lip between her teeth. Maybe Fleur was injured worse than they thought. Maybe it was some sort of concussion that was keeping her so quiet and listless. Tonks started to panic over what she’d say to Moody if Fleur fell into a coma under her watch.
Fleur’s eyes met her own, and narrowed into a glare that Tonks could have sworn she could feel literally piercing hotly into her retinas. She breathed a sigh of relief as Fleur rolled her eyes and tossed her head haughtily over her shoulder to stare out the slats of the blinds.
Well, then. Probably not a medical issue. Tonks supposed that was good, though her heart still sank a bit as she finished serving up dinner.
Once the plates were divvied up, Tonks used a Hover Charm to send them towards the coffee table. Two glasses of water followed, with only a tiny bit sloshing onto the scuffed hardwood floors.
“I’ve got a surprise for tonight!” She wanted to cringe at how chipper she sounded. She’d have hexed anyone who’d come at her with that sort of attitude under stressful circumstances. Sure enough, Fleur did not turn to look at Tonks, though her shoulders tensed slightly.
Tonks stood awkwardly by the edge of the couch, unsure of whether or not she would be welcome if she sat down. She cleared her throat, and tried again. “Er, if you’re interested, I’ve got tickets to a show.”
Fleur turned slowly towards Tonks and arched one eyebrow, though she remained silent. It was the barest sign of interest, but Tonks drank it up eagerly.
“Here it is!” She pulled a thin silver disc out of her back pocket.
Fleur squinted. “What is this?”
“It’s, er… a play. A musical, really.” Tonks walked over to the floor in front of the coffee table and set the disc down on the floor. “It’s sort of a combination between a Portkey and a Pensieve. At eight o’clock, it will project the show from London, where it’ll be performed live onstage.”
“And how did you acquire this… play?”
Tonks shrugged. “Moody gave it to me on our last rendezvous.”
She hoped her blush wasn’t too noticeable. Moody hadn’t been subtle when he’d passed her the disc for her next date night, his magical eye rolling back into his head as he winked.
“What is it about?”
Tonks beamed. Fleur’s expression remained aloof, but Tonks could see the corners of her mouth turning up slightly.
“It’s called Helga and Ro. Story of the founding of Hogwarts, focused on Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw’s relationship. Bit of Gryffindor and Slytherin being gits in the background, but it’s mostly a romantic comedy. A few liberties taken, I’m sure, but it’s supposed to be fun. Not the boring technical details they teach in History of Magic.”
“I assure you,” Fleur said dryly, “I was not taught about the technical details of your school’s history at Beauxbatons.”
“Right.” Tonks’ blush deepend in a different type of embarrassment. “I didn’t mean… I wasn’t trying to assume.”
“Of course you were not trying to assume,” Fleur sniffed. “It comes so easy for you, to assume that everyone is focused on your problems. There is no need to try.”
Tonks bristled. “Excuse me,” she said sharply. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Fleur huffed out a laugh. “You should know, if you had stopped to think about it for a moment.” She gestured around the living room. “Here I am, trapped, so that your Ministry can get credit for the capture of some criminal.”
“You’re here so that you stay safe,” Tonks argued.
“Of course. Safe so that I am able to testify at a trial.”
“Safe so that you’re safe,” Tonks snapped. “Fuck the trial.”
Tonks inhaled sharply at Fleur’s response, but Fleur’s livid expression didn’t soften one bit.
“You and Moody went on and on about my safety,” she said, “but what about my family? If this person is so dangerous, what happens when he comes after my parents? My sister? My cover story is that I am stowed away somewhere recovering. If this man is so intent on finding me, what is to stop him from trailing me to France?”
Tonks shook her head. “No, it’s not… We’ve been working with the French Ministry, your Aurors have a protection plan worked out, and--”
Fleur chuckled without humor. “Yes, I am sure it is an excellent plan. I have complete faith in our two Ministries to work together. One can always trust the authorities, yes? Especially when they have different agendas. The more bureaucracy, the better.”
“No.” Tonks’ fingernails dug into her palms. Fleur wasn’t entirely wrong. Tonks was well aware of the problems and injustices in the Ministry. But that’s why she’d joined up; to make a difference. It had been Moody who’d convinced her that she could do some good in these dark times.
“You’re right,” Tonks amended, “but you’re wrong. You can trust Moody, you can trust me. I know this is a shit situation. I know we could be fucked. But I promise you, we’re doing the best we can, and I’d… I’d rather… I’ll--”
She closed her eyes tightly to hold back her tears. What was she playing at? No one had been able to stop this Bardolph bloke before. Why was she so sure she could protect Fleur and her family?
The clock on the wall ticked its cadence. Neither woman spoke. Tonks kept her eyes squeezed shut. She wished she’d chucked that disc straight into the fireplace.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt a warm weight on her wrist. Her eyes flew open and saw Fleur staring steadily up at her.
For a moment, Tonks thought she saw the same spark in Fleur’s eyes that she’d seen when they first met. Fleur tugged at her wrist as a playful smile flashed faintly across her face.
“All this babbling is keeping us from our food,” she said lightly. “And it is nearly eight o’clock.”
She scooted over and patted the couch cushion next to her. “Do we need to do anything to activate the play?”
Tonks clenched her lips together to keep her jaw from dropping. “No, I… it’ll just go on it’s own.” She sat down gingerly on the couch and pulled her plate closer.
“Good,” Fleur said in a breezy tone as she grinned. “I do enjoy a good romance.”
“Yeah.” Tonks returned the smile. “Me, too.”
Fleur hummed to herself as she rummaged through the cupboards. She kept one ear trained behind her as she sorted through the meager offerings in the spice cabinet. The heavy sound of Tonks’ footsteps grew softer as Tonks made her way into the bathroom and shut the door.
Once she heard the muffled spray of the shower, Fleur dropped her hands to the counter top and grasped it firmly. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, let her shoulders slump.
Being friendly was exceedingly, painfully difficult.
She had felt bad last week, when she’d snapped at Tonks over dinner. The poor woman had looked stricken at her outburst, though she’d done her best to maintain her calm. Fleur had been prepared to stand her ground, until she’d noticed the hints of brown forming at Tonks’ usually vibrant roots.
Shame had sprung up in her chest. Fleur knew she was not wrong in her assessment of the situation-- it truly was precarious and frustrating-- but it was unfair to take it out on Tonks. She was doing her best. She’d been nothing but kind and accommodating to Fleur. None of this was her fault.
So Fleur had made an effort. She could be charming when she wanted to. She had sat with Tonks and not complained that the pad see ew was medium spicy at best. She had watched the unnecessarily long play, complete with endless musical numbers and references that she didn’t quite grasp.
She had enjoyed the technical aspects of the show, and the story was very gay, which was lovely. But Fleur wasn’t a fan of musicals in the best of times. Throw in the cultural gap with regard to the content, and it added up to a tedious performance.
Watching Tonks, however, was not boring in the least. Tonks laughed at every joke, often before it had been told, as was wont to happen in musical comedies, where one could guess the punch line from the rhyme scheme of the songs. Her nose scrunched up when she chuckled, and the noises she made whilst attempting not to snort-laugh were nothing Fleur had ever heard coming from a human before.
Tonks had made sarcastic quips through her mouthfuls of satay, and Fleur had enjoyed snarking back with her own responses. They had both rolled their eyes at the ending and debated the merits of Helga and Rowena kicking the other two founders to the curb and running the school on their own in peace.
By the end of the evening, Fleur had found herself curled up on the couch with her toes tucked under Tonks’ thigh. Tonks’ arm had rested along the top of the couch, and she’d look much more relaxed than she had the entire time since they’d arrived at the seaside. It had been comfortable. Intimate.
Image Description: A drawing of Fleur and Tonks on the sofa, as seen from above. Tonks wears a Weird Sisters t-shirt and has pink hair. She gestures at a projection of Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw. Fleur has brown hair. She sits with her toes under Tonks’s thigh, watching Tonks. Art by banana-ge-ge.
It had been a lot to process, after spending so much time brooding amongst her own thoughts. Fleur had been careful that evening not to touch Tonks’ side of the bed as they settled in to sleep. She didn’t want to get in over her head.
A rueful smile crept onto Fleur’s face as she ran a hand through her hair. It was short now, and dark brown. She hated it. It suited her more than she’d expected, even accenting her eyes a bit more nicely than her natural blonde. But it wasn’t hers. She was already so far away from home. Losing her signature locks, the ones that matched her sister and mother, made her feel all the more isolated.
Not that she didn’t deserve it. She’d gone over that afternoon in Gringotts endless times in her head over the past few weeks, and had come up with at least a dozen things she could have done differently, innumerable decisions she could have chosen instead of the ones that landed her here, alone, with a family in danger.
She could have fought harder to subdue Bardolph, could have been more charming when his cronies had come round before he showed up. The faux Shafiq had been so obvious, how had she not noticed something was amiss right away? It was likely because she’d had a bit of a headache that morning and been distracted. She should have called in sick for the day and stayed home to rest.
“Are you alright?”
Fleur whipped her head around at the sound of Tonks’ voice. Tonks looked uncertain as she stood in the bedroom doorway in sweatpants and a loose Weird Sisters t-shirt. Her damp hair dripped onto the towel hung around her neck.
Fleur forced a shaky smile. “Yes, I am fine. You just startled me.”
Tonks raised one eyebrow. “You sure that’s it?”
Fleur didn’t like the way Tonks was looking at her, as though she could see right through to Fleur’s thoughts. Tonks was so laid back and spunky, it was easy to forget she was a skilled Auror, who surely had to be quite perceptive and sharp to be good at her job.
It would be easy to underestimate Tonks. She likely used that to her advantage when she had to. Fleur understood that all too well. It was something they likely had in common. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to relax her expression into a real smile.
“There is no food in this house,” she complained. “And this spice cabinet is abysmal. Where is the tarragon? What sort of bare bones operation is this?”
“Sorry if it isn’t up to snuff,” Tonks said with a grin. “I’ll call up Moody, see if we can get transferred to a more upscale hideout.”
“See that you do.” Fleur pointed her nose in the air as she bit back a smirk. “I require only the best.”
“You do,” Tonks said. Her voice was quieter now, more serious. “Er, I…” She gave her bright pink hair a scratch. “I’m sorry. About you being stuck in this mess. And about your family. Their safety, and everything, it’s… I know how hard it must be. Or, well, I don’t know, but…”
She gestured awkwardly, as though that clarified things. Fleur leaned back against the counter and folded her arms across her chest.
“Thank you. I know this is not your fault. I apologise as well. I should not take things out on you. And it is difficult for you as well, I know. This cannot be the way you want to spend your time.”
“What do you mean?” Tonks spread her arms wide. “This is clearly your first undercover mission. Believe me, they’re not usually this good. I’ve had my fair share of kipping in hinkypunk bogs, and they’ve got their charm, don’t get me wrong. But this place is five star accomodation in my book. I’ve got a soft bed, regular shower access, a gorgeous beach view, good company…” A faint blush appeared on her cheeks, and she lowered her arms to her sides, but she didn’t drop her gaze from Fleur’s.
Fleur cleared her throat. “But no tarragon.”
“Ah, that’s right,” Tonks nodded. “Forgot that bit. Never mind then, this is a dump.”
She took a step closer to Fleur and tilted her head questioningly. “I can go and pick up lunch if you like. Or we could go out? Together? Might do you some good to get some fresh air.”
Fleur hesitated. Of course she wanted to go out. She’d been driving herself mad, cooped up in the house. But the thought of having to interact with other people, as though everything was normal, was exhausting to think about.
And if someone found her out, and she wound up putting her family at further risk, she would never forgive herself. She’d already insisted they cut and charm her hair, even though she’d yet to leave the house. It didn’t hurt to be safe, and--
Fleur shook her head quickly. What was she acting like this? Nervous, overly cautious. What had happened to the bold, brash woman she’d been six months prior?
“Alright, we don’t have to go out,” Tonks piped up, ripping Fleur from her thoughts. “You can stay here, and I’ll--”
“No,” Fleur said, her voice firm. “We will both go out. Just give me a moment to get dressed.”
“And disguised!” Tonks added brightly. “I’m a professional you know. I’ll make you unrecognisable.”
“Let’s hope,” Fleur said dryly. “If I am spotted, we may have to relocate, and I am not as fond of hinkypunks as you seem to be.”
They dressed quickly, in the casual jeans and t-shirts worn by the Muggles in town. Fleur now sported a bit of extra thickness around her middle, as well as slightly crooked teeth. Along with her darker hair and large sunglasses, she would be able to blend in with the tourist crowds.
Tonks had morphed herself an upturned nose, red hair, and freckles. Channeling her inner Weasley, Fleur presumed. She smiled as Tonks held open the front door.
“Thank you, Nym,” Fleur called over her shoulder as she made her way down the stairs towards the beach. She sighed happily as her toes dug into the sand, and took a deep breath of salty air. The breeze against her face made her giddy.
“You, er, probably shouldn’t call me that.” Tonks stood next to her, a pinkish-orange flush tingeing her speckled cheeks. “Not that I don’t like you calling me Nym! I do like it! Very much! Just not while we’re out amongst the Muggles. It’s a bit distinctive.”
“Right,” Fleur nodded. She hadn’t realized she’d used that name. She’d thought of Tonks as, well, Tonks, ever since their relationship had veered closer towards professional. Nym was the cute girl with a smart mouth who’d made her laugh. Tonks was the Auror who’d whisked her away and uprooted her life.
It would probably do well to remember the Nym, Fleur decided. She grinned and held out her hand. “Well, then. I suppose I will have to think of something else to call you.”
“Oh no,” Tonks-- Nym, rather-- laughed. “That sounds like a warning.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Fleur said blithely as they strolled across the beach, hand in hand, en route to the little path that spit them out at the far end of town.
It was nice, strolling through the streets, unnoticed by the throngs of people who swept past them en route to the beach, or coming in and out of the bustling little shops. Fleur was not used to going unnoticed. She wasn’t fussed by it, but it did bring a sense of relief. Perhaps Bardolph was lying low for now. Maybe he’d not find her before Moody’s team found him first.
For the first time in weeks, Fleur felt carefree.
They wound up at a brightly lit falafel stand in the center of town. The cheerful woman behind the counter smiled as she dished up falafel pitas with all the trimmings. Nym asked for a side of fries and extra tahini sauce for dipping, and Fleur laughed at her gleeful expression when the woman added a massive bowl of it to their tray before handing it over.
“Do you need a spoon for that as well?” Fleur teased. She was pleased to hear that the charm used to muddle her accent seemed to be working well.
“Maybe,” Nym snickered.
Fleur deftly grabbed the tray from Nym’s hands. “I will carry this over to the table. You pay.” She remembered all too well the time Nym had dropped a pint of veggie pho in their living room. And the time she’d flipped a container of dal. And the time she’d multiplied the ketchup so much that it had waterfalled over the edge of the coffee table.
“You two are an adorable couple,” the woman behind the counter said with an indulgent smile as Nym counted out the Muggle notes and passed them over the counter. Nym’s eyes widened, but Fleur laughed and looped their arms together, keeping the tray balanced gracefully in one hand.
“Thank you,” she replied. “We are just happy to finally get some time away, right Bob?”
Nym choked back a laugh as she stuffed the change into her back pocket. “Right. Always good to sneak off for a holiday.”
“Bob?” The woman behind the counter raised one eyebrow. “That’s an unusual name. Is it short for Roberta?”
“No,” Fleur answered smoothly. “It is her full name. Her parents wanted something unique, but easy to spell.”
“Well, it is that,” the woman said with a knowing nod.
“Wilhelmina here is just jealous,” Nym said with a grin. “No one can ever spell her name correctly on the first try.” She smirked as Fleur fought to keep her expression blank rather than wrinkling her nose in bemusement.
“You two are quite the pair, I see.” From the tone of the woman’s voice, Fleur suspected that she’d picked up on something odd in their interactions, but her fond smile held no trace of annoyance.
“We are,” Nym declared. “Willie, my dear, lead the way to our table.”
They found an empty picnic table, and Fleur just managed to set their tray down before they both burst into a fit of giggles.
“I don’t know why I am laughing so hard,” Fleur gasped, her arms crossed over her stomach as she fought to contain her mirth. “We are being completely ridiculous.”
Nym wheezed as she calmed her own laughter and steadied her breathing. “Well, that’s as good a reason as any to be laughing. The absurdities of life, and all that.”
She grinned and pushed the bowl of tahini sauce to the center of the table. Fleur snatched one of Nym’s fries; she dragged it through the sauce and popped it into her mouth before Nym could object. Not that she would have, Fleur mused, as Nym graciously nudged her fries closer to the center.
Bits of tomato and cucumber salad slipped down Fleur’s chin as she took an enormous bite of her pita, but she barely noticed. The sun was out, the falafel was perfectly crisped, and the company was excellent. She had no room in her heart for any worries today, great or small. Not while Nym’s smile was so bright.
Tonks was shining with excitement as she flew down the stairs and onto the beach. She did her best not to stumble as she made her way to the shoreline. Fleur stood ankle deep in the water with the waves licking at her shins.
She turned and grinned when she saw Tonks. “I think the water is getting warmer,” she called.
They both knew it wasn’t, but that didn’t stop Tonks from wading in next to Fleur. She knocked their elbows together. “How do you feel about going out tonight?”
Fleur looked at her oddly. She opened her mouth, then snapped it shut and smoothed her face into a smile. “What did you have in mind?”
Tonks wondered why she was acting so oddly, then realized what her phrasing of going out might have sounded like. Her face felt hot even as the cool breeze brushed against it. “Er, there’s a show tonight. At the dive downtown, the one called Spark? A surprise concert was just announced.”
“Oh.” Fleur looked thoughtful. “What sort of music?” She wrinkled her nose. “Nothing like that Celestina Warbeck, I hope.”
Tonks laughed. “No! Don’t you think I have better taste than that?”
“True,” Fleur mused. “Your wireless channel selection is impeccable.”
Tonks beamed. She had worried that the always elegant Fleur might not have appreciated her taste in music once the WWN had been set up, but that concern had proven unfounded when she’d caught Fleur humming along to the Weird Sisters’ Gender Is For Fucking offkey in the shower.
“It’s Kissing Inferi,” Tonks confided. “They play undercover at Muggle venues sometimes, as Grave’s Embrace. Charlie just sent me an owl about tonight’s show.”
Fleur’s eyes widened. “Charlie knows we are here?”
“No! Of course not!” Tonks tried to shrug off the pang of hurt at Fleur’s accusation. “He and I are both huge fans, is all. They’re not exactly a mainstream act. We always share news, even when we can’t get to the shows.”
“Of course.” Fleur’s shoulders relaxed. “I am sorry, I did not mean to imply anything. It was… a thoughtless reaction.” She smiled and placed a hand on Tonks’ arm. “I know you would never put me in danger.”
Tonks returned the smile. She appreciated the lack of qualifying terms in Fleur’s response. There was no willingly put me in danger or accidentally put me in danger. There was just that simple trust which Tonks had grown to cherish.
Over the past few weeks since their falafel outing, they had fallen into a much more comfortable camaraderie. Fleur had begun to relax into the sharp and forthright woman Tonks had met back at Hogwarts. They’d taken to ribbing each other more, and they’d discovered that when they worked together in the kitchen, the food did quality did not improve, but it tasted better with the addition of friendly snark.
Fleur had confessed her distaste for musicals, and Tonks had found other shows for them to view together, comedies and dramas, mostly. With a few particularly bad musicals thrown in for some shit talking commentary that left them both howling with tears of laughter on the couch.
“Well,” Tonks said. “How about it? Are you in?”
Fleur chewed on her lower lip. Tonks attempted not to notice how full and soft it looked.
“I am not sure,” Fleur hedged. “Is it safe? There will be other wizards there, yes? What if they notice us?”
Tonks shrugged. “There might be a few, but they won’t be the type to be on the lookout for you. Plus we’ll be in disguise, of course. There are wizards walking around downtown, too, you know. And we’ve been fine.”
Fleur turned to look back at the ocean. The waves crested and receded against Tonks’ ankles. Tonks knew it might be a bit of a risk, but everything was these days. They were at risk even if they never left the house.
And their mental wellbeing was worth something, too. Fleur was much happier now that they ventured out more often. She’d pepped up enough for them to practice dueling in case of an attack, to keep their skills sharp. And of course they were on alert every time they left their safe house.
Protection detail was multi faceted.
Fleur looked back at Tonks, and Tonks flashed what she hoped was her most winning smile, complemented with eyebrows wriggling suggestively. Fleur let out a snort of laughter as she shook her head.
“Okay,” she said. “We can go.” She raised her hand and steadied her features into a serious expression. “But we will be very responsible the entire time. We will remain lucid and on high alert, and we will leave at the first sign of trouble.”
“Got it,” Tonks said with a salute. Fleur nodded, and her face relaxed into a smile.
“Of course, should we wind up being the cause of the trouble ourselves, well…” She trailed off, and her smile twisted into a playful smirk.
Tonks chuckled nervously and swished one foot around in the water. She suspected that Fleur was already beginning to cause trouble for her, if the fluttering in her stomach was anything to go by.
She changed her mind an hour after they’d arrived at Spark. There were no suspicions; Fleur was most definitely trouble.
They were three shots in, and the show hadn’t even started yet. Fleur could hold her drink, but she had one arm draped around Tonks’ shoulders, and her fingers kept brushing against the bare skin of Tonks’ arm. She kept leaning over to whisper in Tonks’ ear during the conversation as well, and the warmth of her breath was giving Tonks goosebumps for reasons unrelated to temperature.
If Tonks' hand slipped a few inches further south from Fleur’s waist, that was purely accidental. Not that Fleur seemed to mind, as she kept bumping their hips together.
“When will the show start?” Fleur asked. She tapped her foot and signed loudly. “This crowd is ridiculous. I suppose that means the band will be good, but I am starting to overheat.”
Tonks eyed Fleur with a skeptical eye. Fleur’s cropped camisole and low riding jeans weren’t exactly the warmest choice of attire. Not that Tonks was complaining. And Tonks had also noticed that there did seem to be a few beads of sweat glistening along Fleur’s collar bone.
They hadn’t bothered with extensive disguises this evening. It was dark in the club, and Fleur hadn’t wanted to be uncomfortable, laden in excessive amounts of transfiguration and charms. She’d been keeping her hair dark and short; a few freckles were enough to make her blend in with the crowd.
Tonks had flattened her own chest and slimmed her hips. Her hair was brown like Fleur’s, grown out to chin length, and she’d morphed her features into sharpened angles. Her sleeveless t-shirt and baggy jeans allowed for an androgynous feel. It was a look she donned fairly often in her regular life, and it felt comfortable to slip into.
The Muggle whisky warmed her skin as Fleur leaned in and rested their heads together. She let out another sigh, and Tonks laughed at her exaggerated expression of annoyance.
“They’ll be out in a second,” Tonks said. “Look, there’s the lead singer!”
Tonks gestured towards the side of the stage where a tall Black man with dreadlocks and a ripped Bad Brains t-shirt was chatting with a stage manager.
“He is quite good looking,” Fleur mused.
“He is,” Tonks agreed absentmindedly. Jack Savage was fit, but it was hard to think about anyone else in that way while Fleur was pressed against her side.
“Come on,” Fleur said abruptly. “We need another drink.” She peeled herself from Tonks’ side and grabbed her hand. Tonks struggled to maintain her balance as Fleur tugged her towards the bar.
“Wait,” she said. “I don’t… We should…” Tonks realized that they were actually headed towards the restrooms. “Where are we going?”
Fleur paused her trek, and turned to raise one eyebrow. “The bathroom, clearly.”
“Um…” Tonks flushed as Fleur’s eyes met hers, smouldering in a way that belied their icy color.
She didn’t say another word as Fleur marched them into the ladies’. A cracked sink and a waste basket overflowing with discarded paper towels greeted them. Of the two cubicles studded with colorful graffiti and copious amounts of ‘fucks,’ one was empty. Fleur didn’t hesitate as she pulled Tonks into the cubicle and snapped the door shut.
“What the--” Tonks’ choked on her question as Fleur’s lips crashed against hers. She gasped and fell back against the cool metal wall as Fleur crowded against her. Frantically, she pushed at Fleur’s shoulders, and Fleur pulled away immediately.
Fleur raised one eyebrow questioningly, then licked her lips, but she remained silent. Tonks opened her mouth to voice one of the many reasons why they shouldn’t be doing this. They’d had a few drinks, they were supposed to be keeping a low profile, they were going to miss the show, they were in a public convenience, for fucks sake.
But Tonks couldn’t bring herself to protest. Not when the corner of Fleur’s mouth was tilted up in that private little smile of hers. Not when Fleur’s eyes roamed over Tonks unabashedly. Tonks inhaled sharply, then wrapped one hand around the nape of Fleur’s neck and pulled her in for another kiss.
Their hips pressed against each other as their hands wandered up and down each others’ bodies, cupping breasts and squeezing hips. Tonks managed to cast a Muggle Repelling Charm and Muffliato Charm with a shaking hand as Fleur ran her lips down the length of her neck.
Image Description: A drawing of Fleur and Tonks in a bathroom stall, as seen from above. There is graffiti all over the walls. Fleur holds Tonks against the wall as they kiss. She has one hand on the wall above Tonks’s head, while Tonks holds her butt and the back of her neck. Art by banana-ge-ge.
The door of the cubicle next to them slammed open. The sink turned on and the bathroom door opened, but the Muffliato kept the other patrons from hearing their soft groans and hitched breaths. Or at least, Tonks hoped it would.
She moved her hands to rest on Fleur’s shoulders. Slowly, she maneuvered Fleur across the scant meter of the cubicle, not letting their lips part even as they moved, until it was Fleur who was pressed against the wall, chest heaving, drops of sweat clinging to her collarbone.
The alcohol had left her bloodstream, but Tonks’ head was still swimming as she lowered herself to the ground. As the knees of her jeans hit the floor, she thought vaguely that she should have cast some sort of cleansing charm, but she was too far gone to care much. Jeans could be washed.
She looked up with a grin as she worked open the fly of Fleur’s own jeans, and tugged them down to her knees along with her underpants in one swift motion. Fleur’s skin was smooth, pale in contrast to the dark blonde curls framing her cunt.
Fleur closed her eyes and threw her head back against the wall. She took a steadying breath, then looked back down at Tonks.
“Change back,” she said insistently.
Tonks blinked. “Er, what?”
“Your face,” Fleur hissed. “Your hair, your… Change back to your usual self. Your true self.”
“Oh.” Tonks blushed, embarrassed for the first time that evening, despite her close proximity to another person’s crotch. “You want… Alright.” She scrunched up her nose, and morphed her face and hair back to normal.
Fleur smiled and ran her hands through Tonks’ hair. “Much better,” she said. Her voice was thick and low. Tonks tried not to focus on how her heart stammered at Fleur’s words, her soft touch. She forced her mind to clear as she leaned in to press a kiss to the inner part of Fleur’s thigh, reveling in the choked sob above her, the fingers tightening in her now-pink hair.
Tonks dove in and spread Fleur’s folds with her fingers. Her tongue traced Fleur’s clit, lightly at first, then with more pressure as she sucked against it.
The short moans that Fleur huffed out as she arched her hips intoxicated Tonks more that the whisky ever had. Her own boxers were soaked, and she ached for some friction against her own swollen clit, but for now, she focused her energy on Fleur. Two of Tonks’ fingers slipped inside of her, slick and pliant. Fleur’s fingers scrambled for purchase against the wall as she bucked against Tonks’ fingers and tongue.
With a few well placed strokes, Tonks felt Fleur tighten around her fingers as she let out a shuddering sigh. She tensed for a few moments as her orgasm wracked through her. Tonks fingered her through the aftershocks, then slid them out. She looked up at Fleur as she slid her fingers into her mouth and sucked them clean.
Fleur’s eyes were wide, wild and unblinking. Tonks got to her feet, and placed a gentle kiss to Fleur’s lips.
“Mmm,” Fleur murmured. “I love tasting myself on you.” She pulled back and smirked. “But I’d like to taste you now, yes? If you do not mind missing the show?”
Tonks didn’t hesitate as she burst through the door the moment Fleur’s jeans were pulled up, much to the surprise of the Muggles huddled around the sink. She grabbed Fleur’s hand and they ran out of Spark hand in hand, giggling, with Fleur’s jeans still unbuttoned.
Tomorrow might come with second guessing, but at that moment, Tonks was only concerned with what the rest of the evening would bring.
It was just past dawn when Fleur stirred from her slumber. She wasn’t surprised to find herself pressed against Nym’s back with one arm draped across her waist. That wasn’t out of the ordinary; it was one of the hazards of bed sharing. Most mornings, she unwound their limbs carelessly and settled back onto her side of the bed before Nym woke up.
Most mornings, however, they weren’t naked.
Fleur rolled to her back, careful not to jostle Nym into wakedness. She rubbed her eyes and stared blankly up at the ceiling as she started to recall the previous evening’s events.
They’d fucked in the bathroom. Fleur remembered how much she’d enjoyed the sounds of the Muggles milling around outside their stall as she’d gasped out her orgasm. They’d stumbled home, and barely made it through the door before Fleur had Nym pinned to the couch in her boxers. She’d fingered Nym’s clit while she sucked and kissed her breasts, until Nym had come, hard and fast against her hand.
There had been more whisky to drown out the uncertainty of how to react, then more fucking, then a shared shower that had turned into more fucking, then sleep. With a bit more whisky thrown in for good measure.
Nym snuffled out a little snore as she shifted in her sleep. Fleur bit back a chuckle. She supposed that she should feel uncomfortable, stuck in the perpetual morning after a string of tipsy and questionable decisions. But she didn’t. She felt relaxed. Lighter. For the first time in weeks, she felt good.
Who knows how long they’d be stuck here, Fleur mused to herself. If they could manage some more intimacy without things getting awkward, it could be nice. She turned to face Nym’s back, though she didn’t move any closer. The smooth skin bore a few freckles across the shoulders. Fleur wondered if they’d always been there, and how they’d feel under her fingertips as she traced their patterns. Maybe she would find out one day.
Somehow she wound up drifting off again. The next time she opened her eyes, the sunlight streaming through the windows was much brighter, and the other side of the bed was empty. She could hear rustling in the kitchen, accented with a bang every so often. The coffee percolator sputtered in the background, and a soft but distinct ‘fuck’ followed a particularly loud clang.
Smiling, Fleur slid out of bed and rummaged through her assigned dresser drawer for a pair of loose sweatpants and an old shirt. She pulled them on and went to the bathroom to brush her teeth and splash some warm water on her face.
She eyed her reflection carefully. Even with the darker, shorter hair, the face that looked back at her was much closer to the one she’d left behind in London. Her cheeks had more color to them then they had in weeks, and her eyes seemed brighter. Or maybe it was the smile that kept springing to her face unprompted.
She found Nym in the kitchen staring intently at four pieces of bread arranged on two plates. Her wand hovered over the bread as it slowly crisped to a pale brown. Nym’s eyes were narrowed and unblinking, and her face was screwed up in concentration.
Fleur cleared her throat, and Nym straightened up with a start. She turned to smile at Fleur and gesture towards the plates.
“Third time’s the try,” she bragged. “Perfectly toasted.”
Fleur arched one eyebrow. “Impressive,” she teased. “Gourmet level cuisine.”
“It would be if we weren’t out of jam.” Nym gestured towards the tiny table in the corner of the kitchen, which was strewn with condiments and spices. “We’ve got butter, honey, marmalade, cinnamon, paprika, and ketchup.”
“Ketchup?” Fleur wrinkled her nose in disgust.
Nym shrugged. “I wanted to keep all options out on the table.”
Fleur picked up her plate and sat down at the table. A cup of coffee was waiting for her under a Stasis Charm, dark with the slightest splash of milk, just how she liked it. She started to butter her toast as Nym set her plate down across the table.
“I’ll just be a minute,” Nym called over her shoulder as she walked towards the coffee table. “Moody’ll be calling soon. After I report in we can, er…” She trailed off as her cheeks flushed.
Fleur decided not to tease her. “Of course,” she said. “We have all day. Take your time.”
Nym looked relieved as she picked up the two way mirror from the coffee table. Moody checked in every morning, usually just to let Nym know that there was nothing new in the investigation. Bardolph was still at large, and although there had been several suspected sightings, they had never even gotten close to bringing him in.
At first, Fleur had been agitated by the lack of news. Every day that they didn’t capture Bardolph was a day that her family was in danger. As time wore on, however, she grew more calm. Perhaps it was good that they hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him. It could be a sign that he had given up and moved on to other things. After all, should he take on a new face and identity, there would be nothing for Fleur to identify.
Maybe she and her family were safe, after all.
“Tonks? You there?” Moody’s voice crackled over the two way mirror. Nym grinned as she picked it up and gave a salute.
“I’m here, sir,” she said in a faux serious tone. “Ready for any breaking news you might have regarding the weather or which cat mug Podmore’s using today.”
Fleur chuckled to herself as she spooned honey over her toast and reached for the cinnamon. She froze, however, when she heard Moody’s reply.
“We’ve got something a bit more newsworthy than that today,” Moody said. “A break in the case, so to speak. Bardolph is dead.”
The cinnamon dropped from Fleur’s hand and clattered on the table top. Nym sat up straighter on the couch and peered closer at the mirror.
“Merlin’s bollocks,” she swore under her breath. “What happened?”
“Not much.” Moody’s voice was curt. “He showed up at the Ministry, asked to be directed to the Auror department, confessed to Dawlish, then offed himself. Said he’d rather be dead than in Azkaban, flung some sort of powdered poison in his face, and that was that.”
Fleur felt lightheaded. She realized she’d been holding her breath for far too long, and let it out in a shaking sigh.
Dead. Bardolph was dead. And he’d confessed. There would be no need for a trial, no constant threat of retaliation. She and her family were safe. For one brief moment, Fleur was filled with elation, but it quickly began to seep away as she ruminated over the facts. It seemed too easy, too good to be true.
Evidently, Nym thought so as well. She wrinkled her nose as she asked in a dubious tone, “Are you sure it was him? It wasn’t some sort of a ruse?”
“He had Bardolph’s wand on him,” Moody said dryly, “and his dental records matched perfectly. Of course it was a ruse. It was too perfect. Insulting, really. He must think we’re a bloody bunch of brainless twats.”
“Well he’s evaded us this long,” Nym said. “Small wonder he thinks we’re dim enough to fall for this.”
“Well, we aren’t falling for it,” Moody grumbled. “We’ll inform the French Ministry to increase their protection around the Delacours. Maybe switch up the cover story a bit. You two stay put until further notice.”
“No,” Fleur snapped. “We will not. We are coming back to London.”
Nym looked over at her, eyes wide and mouth agape in surprise. Fleur’s hands shook as she curled them into fists and pressed them against her sides. She’d jumped to her feet in the heat of the moment, she realized. Her chair had been knocked over onto the floor.
“Is that Delacour?” Moody asked form the mirror. “Get her over here. If she’s decent, that is.”
Nym flushed as she glared at the mirror. “Of course she is! Don’t be--”
“I’ll be direct, like I always am,” Moody said calmly. “Looks like Bardolph’s not the only one who thinks I’m daft. Delacour! I know you can hear me. Come over here so we can sort this out.”
Fleur straightened her shoulders and strode over to stand behind the couch. She met Moody’s gaze in the mirror, remaining unruffled even as his magical eye rolled around in its socket.
Moody nodded curtly. “Good to see you. I like what you’ve done with your hair. Much more sensible. Anyway. As I’m sure you heard, Bardolph’s surrender was clearly a misdirect. It is not safe for you to come back, so you’ll have to stay put for now.”
“Is that an order?” Fleur challenged.
Moody blinked. His expression didn’t change, but his magical eye focused in on her. “It’s an order for Tonks,” he said eventually, “and a suggestion for you. I can’t stop you from leaving, but--”
“Good,” Fleur interrupted smoothly. “Then we will be leaving immediately.”
“Listen,” Moody growled, “It’s not safe for you to be here, and I’ll not risk my team’s wellbeing to trail you all over London.”
“You do not have to. I will be fine.”
Moody closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’m not dealing with histrionics before my third coffee. Tonks, talk some sense into her. Or don’t. Either way, report back in thirty minutes.”
With a pop, he disappeared from the mirror. Nym set it down carefully on the coffee table before she turned to face Fleur. “You can’t be serious,” she said.
“But I am.” Fleur fought to keep her breathing under control as her stomach rolled. “We will head back to London immediately.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” Nym said bluntly. “There’s no reason for you to come out of hiding. You’re safe here.”
“Perhaps I am,” Fleur said, “but what of my family? Are they safe?”
“The French Ministry--”
“Is staffed by incompetent fools, just like your own Ministry.”
Nym flinched at this, but Fleur continued speaking as though she hadn’t noticed or cared about the hurt look on Nym’s face. “If this Bardolph is so desperate to find me that he is faking his own death as a distraction, then how safe do you suppose my family is, truly?”
“So what’s your plan,” Nym said scathingly. “Put yourself out there for bait?”
Fleur shrugged as thought she had not considered that. “Maybe it was not a ruse after all. Maybe he is truly dead.”
“You know that’s a crock of hippogriff shit!” Nym had flung herself off the couch and hurried around to grab Fleur’s shoulders. “You know that, right?”
Fleur wanted to snap back that of course she knew that, but she remained silent. Nym’s face crumbled as she gave Fleur’s shoulders a squeeze.
“Please,” she said, “let’s just stay here a bit longer. We can figure out a plan, and in the meantime, you’ve got me.”
“No.” Fleur shook her head, though she didn’t move away from Nym’s touch. “I cannot stay here and play house while that monster is on the loose.”
“Play house?” Nym’s voice shook. “Is that what you think this is? What we are? An act? Not something real?”
“It is not something real,” Fleur said. Her instincts were screaming at her to listen to reason but she shoved them deep down in her chest. It was too much, living comfortably in this little beach paradise, growing closer to Nym and falling deeper into a carefree sort of happiness.
She had allowed herself to be distracted for too long. It wasn’t peace, this place. It was a holding cell where she waited for the pain that would inevitably rain down on her whenever Bardolph decided to make his next move. Fleur was done with deluding herself. It was time to return to reality and face whatever was coming.
She gestured around the room. “None of this is real. You and I… we are trapped in these close quarters, away from reality. Of course it feels real now, but it is not.”
“It could be.” Nym’s voice was barely above a whisper. She took a step closer. “If you wanted, it could be real.”
Hot tears sprung to the corners of Fleur’s eyes, but she remained unblinking so they would not fall. “I have to pack,” she said coldly. “Call Moody and arrange a Portkey.”
She shook off Nym’s embrace and turned on her heel to march towards the bedroom. If Nym called out after her, Fleur did not hear it. She had let her guard down for too long.
She would take a shower, let her tears fall in private. Then, she would square her shoulders once more, pack up her belongings and doubts and burgeoning feelings, and move forward.
Tonks stared at the mug of tea on her desk, and gave it a poke with her wand. The niffler printed on the mug snuffled his way along the bottom, stopping every so often to reach up and grab a piece of gold from the rim, then tuck it away before heading back around the mug.
The niffler was charmed to move only when the mug was full, and he’d been making the rounds for the last twenty minutes. She’d been keeping her tea warm rather than drinking it. Once she finished the tea, she would be out of excuses for ignoring the stack of paperwork teetering on the corner of her desk, and she was not in the headspace to deal with forms and reports at the moment.
“Merlin’s pants, Tonks. You’re the sorriest thing I’ve seen all morning, and I’ve just filed a report on a manticore gone off on an arse biting spree with the Department of Magical Maladies.”
Tonks looked up and saw Moody standing by her desk. His magical eye was focused on her, along with a discontented frown. She frowned back harder as she turned to her mug and sighed as the niffler circled around to the other side.
Moody cleared his throat and thumped his hand on her shoulder. “Look. I, er, know you took it rough when Delacour declined protection. But we’ve got to keep our focus on finding Bardolph.”
“She doesn’t want our help finding Bardolph,” Tonks said morosely.
“I don’t give a shit what she wants,” Moody growled. “Bardolph’s been a thorn in our side for years. I’m not letting him off the hook just because Delacour’s lost her marbles.”
Tonks peered at him suspiciously. “You’re not tailing her, are you?”
“No, we are not.” Moody said firmly, but then he grinned. “We’re merely ensuring that we’ve got cover on places where Bardolph might show himself. Should those places coincide with where Delacour is, well. That’s not my concern.”
The sense of relief Tonks felt at knowing that Fleur wasn’t completely on her own soon dissipated when she remembered that Fleur did not want their help. She had made that perfectly clear before they’d taken the Portkey back to London, and again when she’d bid Tonks a stilted farewell at the Ministry.
Tonks supposed that theoretically, she should be grateful for the closure. Often with dating, people drifted away without any explanation, leaving the door to future possibilities frustratingly ajar. Fleur, on the other hand, had been firm as she’d closed and bolted the door on any chance of furthering… whatever it was that they’d been doing.
She chuckled to herself and shook her head. What the fuck had they been doing? Playing house, sharing a bed and getting all domestic before they’d even had any sort of proper date. Perhaps Fleur was right, they’d just been caught up in the fantasy and close quarters and had inevitably begun to mistake if for something that it wasn’t.
But no, that wasn’t correct. Tonks thought about Fleur’s warbled singing and sarcastic quips, the way her nose wrinkled when she was annoyed, and the way the corners of her eyes crinkled when she laughed.
There had been something more, Tonks was sure of it. Or the start of something more, at least. Not that it mattered now. She stared morosely down at her desk. There was no use dwelling on what could have been when--
“Tonks! Are you listening, or have you been struck with a Confundus Charm again?”
Tonks blinked and looked back up at Moody. “Er… what?”
Moody closed both of his eyes and sighed deeply, then opened them and looked upwards as though asking for divine intervention. “I am trying,” he said slowly, “to be supportive, but I can only do so much.” He gave her a level look. “You’ve been back for a week. I’m getting concerned. You’re work’s starting to be affected.”
“Oh, my apologies,” Tonks said in an acid tone. “The delay on this paperwork that no one will ever read is surely far more detrimental to the department than Dawlish’s desk fire yesterday.”
“What! He’s started another one?” Moody’s magical eye went wild for a moment, before he focused back in on Tonks. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t give a shit about the work itself. The fact that you’ve let it slip enough for me to notice is what’s worrying. You’re always a professional through and through, no matter what shit’s going on out of the office. This,” he gestured towards the haphazard paperwork pile, “is not you.”
Even in her wallowing, Tonks snickered and grinned up at Moody cheekily. “Aww! You’re worried about me!”
Moody rolled his eyes. “Obviously.”
“You care about me,” Tonks teased. “You’re doing the concerned mentor thing, because I’m your favorite. You love me best! I knew it.”
“Look around at your competition,” Moody scoffed. “It’s not that big an accomplishment, being better loved than this lot. Don’t go getting a big head about it.”
Moody’s grin was at odds with his words. Tonks felt a rush of affection for her mentor, who’d always been honest with her and never once made her feel that she was anything less than a valuable asset to the team. She reached over and picked up her mug of tea, bringing it to her lips and taking a deliberate sip. The warmth of the tea felt good as she swallowed it down before setting the mug back on the desk.
“You don’t have to worry,” she said. “I’ll be alright. Just having a bit of a sulk, I suppose, but I’ll get over it.” She shrugged and took another sip of tea. “It’s just another job gone to shit. Time to move forward.”
“It wasn’t just that,” Moody said carefully, “but you’re right. It is time to move forward. Tomorrow.”
He flicked his wand towards the paperwork stack. It resorted itself into a neat pile and floated into Tonks’ inbox. “Take the rest of the afternoon off. Go out, get some fresh air. Talk to someone other than me about something other than work. Get a good night’s sleep, come back with fresh eyes. This shit’ll still be here tomorrow.”
“Not if Dawlish sets it on fire,” Tonks said with a grin.
“Always the optimist.”
Tonks stood up from her desk and gathered her things. She made sure to charm her mug clean and dry. Moody wasn’t a hugger, but she paused to give his arm a quick squeeze. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” he grumbled. “Now get out of here before I add more parchment to that pile.”
Tonks didn’t wait around to see if he was serious. She darted out the door and down the hall. Once she was out of the building, she made her way to Diagon Alley and meandered through the crowd. She breathed in the warm air and enjoyed the sunlight shining on her face.
Moody was right. She needed to get out of this funk and get back to her real life. She wished Charlie was here rather than Romania. He could always be counted on to rouse up the best sort of trouble. Her flat mates were lovely, but they all worked days and wouldn’t have time for fun until the weekend.
She brightened when she remembered the note that had been delivered via owl to her flat two days prior; an invitation for dinner and gossip from her mum’s favorite cousin. Tonks crossed the street to get to the owl post office so she could scribble out a reply before heading home to take a long, quiet bath while her flatmates were still at work.
At seven o’clock that evening, she flooed over to Sirius and Remus’ flat in London. She was greeted by the delicious smell of ragù and the good natured jabs being tossed back and forth between the two men. Remus smiled kindly in greeting, but Sirius went right in for a hug.
“Alright there, Dora?” He grinned as Tonks rolled her eyes. Truthfully, she didn’t mind the nickname coming from someone who’d known her as a kid. It was nice to have more magical family around, and now that Sirius was officially a free man, Tonks was enjoying spending more time with him.
She liked Remus as well. They’d allegedly met one summer when she was a child and had dropped ice cream down his robes during an ill fated babysitting adventure, but she didn’t recall the details. The current Remus was soft spoken but lively, able to match Sirius quip for quip, and he was always willing to assist when she had a question about something Dark Arts related for work.
“I’m not sure,” she said. She nodded towards the pot of ragù simmering away on the stove. “Will I be alright after eating? It smells divine, but you’re more of a takeaway family, aren’t you?”
“Remus has been learning to cook,” Sirius said cheerfully. “One week in Florence, and he’s an expert on Italian cuisine.”
Remus rolled his eyes. “I can make one dish,” he said dryly.
“I’m aware,” Sirius teased. “You’ve made it twice a week since we got back. Not that I’m complaining!” he added hastily at Remus’ dubious expression. “It’s fucking delectable.”
Sirius sidled up behind Remus to press a kiss to his neck whilst he flicked his wand towards the salad vegetables. The charm missed and hit a stack of napkins, slicing them to shreds.
“Merlin!” Tonks jumped up and headed towards the vegetables. “Can you two keep it in your robes until after dinner? Here, let me--”
“No, no! That’s not necessary!” Remus shooed her over to the table and sat her down. “You’re our guest! Sirius will take care of the salad, you can, er, sit tight and enjoy the wine.”
Tonks appreciated that neither of them brought up the exploding tomato incident from two dinner visits ago, the first and last time she’d been allowed to assist in the kitchen. She opened her mouth to let them know that she’d had more practice preparing meals since then, but she closed it just as fast. She didn’t want to think about her time with Fleur just now.
Two plates of ragù over penne and three glasses of wine later, she had changed her tune a bit.
“I just don’t understand,” she said balefully into her salad bowl. “Sure, it was rough at first, but we got on so well once we… We clicked, you know, and we were, er…” She blushed as she trailed off.
“Oh, we know,” Sirius snickered.
Remus elbowed him in the ribs before flashing a knowing smile at Tonks. “It sounds like you two got very close in a short period of time. That can happen when you spend so much time together in close quarters.”
“That’s right,” Sirius agreed. “Just think about how it was in school. One night of huddling in the same bed after a dungbomb experiment gone wrong, and then bam! You’re thick as thieves forever more.”
“I suppose,” Tonks said glumly. “It just hurts that she won’t even talk to me now.”
“Maybe you need to be more direct.” Wine sloshed over the side of Sirius’ glass as he waved it in the air. “You should make a grand gesture!”
“Or,” Remus interjected, “maybe you should give her some space. And take some for yourself as well. Go out with your friends, have some fun.”
“Better yet,” Sirius added, “go out on a date with someone else.”
Remus nodded. “That’s a good idea.”
“It is? Merlin, call the Daily Prophet!” Sirius laughed as he snagged a stray cherry tomato out of Remus’ salad bowl. “Remus admits that I’ve got a good idea!”
“That’s hardly news,” Remus said with a roll of his eyes. “You’re brilliant and we all know it. Don’t bother pretending otherwise.” He looked back at Tonks. “You’re young. I know that’s terribly annoying to hear, but it’s the truth. Fleur may well come around eventually, but whether she does or not, meeting new people can’t hurt.”
Tonks chewed her lower lip thoughtfully as Sirius topped off her wine glass. Remus was right, she decided. Maybe once all the Bardolph shit was over and done with, Fleur would be open to talking again. But there was no way of knowing when or if that would happen.
For now, Tonks would have to move forward with her life.
“Maman is worried about you.”
Fleur sighed. She and Gabrielle had enjoyed a perfectly lovely twenty three minutes of catching up, but of course she had been expecting the conversation to take this turn eventually.
“Maman does not need to worry about me,” she replied in French. “I am not in any danger. And even if I was, I can take care of myself.”
It wasn’t entirely true, but Fleur figured it was close enough. Bill had come over to her apartment to set up some additional security measures, and he’d identified one of the wizards milling around the corner shop across the street as an Auror. It hadn’t been hard to put two and two together and figure out that the Ministry was keeping an eye on her.
Not that she minded. Her claim about being able to take care of herself had a dash of unearned bravado to it. She was confidant in her own capabilities, of course, but she wasn’t so naive as to think she’d have an easy time with Bardolph, should he get the drop on her. They’d fought once before when she’d caught him off guard; Fleur did not like her chances without that advantage.
But Fleur pushed that thought from her mind as she tried to reassure her sister. Gabrielle still looked worried, however, as she bit her lower lip before speaking.
“I know you can take care of yourself,” she said hesitantly, “but you do not have to. You could come home, if you wanted.”
“No.” Fleur shook her head. “That would just be bringing trouble to you all.”
“We could protect you here,” Gabrielle insisted. “Or we could all go somewhere together where you could all be safe. Maybe we could to back into hiding with your friend! She was nice when we met her at Hogwarts. So funny!”
Gabrielle smiled with childish optimism at this plan. Fleur hoped that she wasn’t blushing. She was absolutely not going to bring her family back to the beach house where she and Nym…
She did not allow herself to finish that thought. She had become well practiced in that by now. It had been ten days since she’d returned to London, and it was becoming second nature to snuff out all thoughts that lead to Nym.
Not that it was making her any more cheerful, but still. It was progress, she told herself.
Fleur knew she’d been hasty in her departure from the safe house. But she didn’t regret her decision. She wasn’t the sort of person who could sit on the sidelines and wait, no matter how prudent it might be. When it came to her family, she would fight tooth and nail to protect them.
When it came to her treatment of Nym, however, well. That was a different story, one with a healthy dash of regret. She’d been unnecessarily cold. Fleur had told herself that it was for the best, to establish distance between the two of them. If the Ministry was intent on pursuing Bardolph, then it would be a conflict of interest for the two of them to become overly entangled.
It wasn’t the correct reason, but it was a reason, so Fleur allowed herself to embrace it as the whole truth for now. That didn’t completely erase the guilt and longing that swirled together in the pit of her stomach at night as she lie alone in her bed, but it was a start.
“Nym is very busy,” Fleur told Gabrielle gently. “I am sure she would love to see you again, but she has other things to take care of.”
“Then you should come here, like I said.”
“I can’t,” Fleur replied. “I have… things to do here.”
She nearly bit her tongue as she cut herself off before she could say ‘I have work,’ because that was not accurate. Her managers had insisted that she take time off, with pay, until further notice. Ostensibly they hadn’t wanted the bank to be targeted by Bardolph or his associates, but she knew that they were also concerned about her.
It was kind of them, but also slightly annoying to have the added pressure. Surely they would not hold her job indefinitely. It was one more way Bardolph was controlling her life and forcing her to wait around for something to change.
Gabrielle frowned. “But when this is all over, you will come home for a visit, yes?” She looked anxious as her eyes widened and her hands twisted together in her lap.
“Yes,” Fleur said. Hot tears sprung to the corners of her eyes, but she blinked them away before they could fall. “Of course I will. I miss you, too.”
She made a show of checking the clock. “I have to go now, but we will talk more later. Take care of Maman and Papa, and remember that I love you all, very much.”
“We love you too,” Gabrielle said. They exchanged farewells and air kisses, then closed the Floo connection. Fleur sighed deeply as she stood up from the couch and started to pace the room.
She rubbed gently at her temples. It was too much, being caged inside her flat with nothing to do, no one to talk to. She had friends, of course, but most of them were work colleagues as well, and she didn’t feel like tiptoeing around her current situation. None of them could possibly understand what she was going through, even if it was safe to share the details with them.
And she did not want to share the details with anyone. Talking about it would only make the dangers feel more real and insurmountable.
Fleur squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. She could not bear to spend another minute cooped up inside, alone with her thoughts. She had to get out.
She glanced out the window with a scowl. There were no noticeable Auror types milling about, but she wasn’t willing to take any chances. She was not in the mood to second guess every person who walked too close to her or smiled too kindly.
Hogsmeade felt like the safer choice for some freedom. She would change into some fresh robes, gather her wits, and then make the trip.
Fleur regretted her decision about five seconds after she Apparated. She’d forgotten that it was term-time. It was apparently a Hogwarts visiting day, and the town was swarming with students. She grimaced as she weaved her way through the crowds. She supposed a quiet drink at the Three Broomsticks was out of the question.
Right as she was about to give up and head back home for a sulk, she heard her name being called out as a hand tapped her shoulder.
“Fleur? Is that you?” Harry Potter stood beside her with his trademark messy hair and a friendly smile, which Fleur returned happily.
“Harry!” She pulled him into a tight hug. “How are you doing? Merlin, it is so good to see you!”
They hadn’t seen each other since the end of the previous school year, but Fleur had remained fond of Harry. His stubborn heroics with Gabrielle during the Triwizard tournament had left a lasting impression, and she’d been relieved when he had emerged unharmed from the scuffle with Voldemort.
“It’s good to see you, too,” Harry said. “I almost didn’t recognize you with the shorter hair. Not that I don’t like it,” he added hastily. “It’s very nice.”
“Thank you,” Fleur laughed as she smoothed a hand over her locks, which were blonde once more, but still short, just skimming her shoulders.
Harry checked his watch. “I’m meeting some people in an hour or so, but would you have time for a Butterbeer? Catch up a bit?”
“Of course,” Fleur nodded. They made their way to the Three Broomsticks together, chatting idly about Harry’s summer and how he’d adjusted to living with his recently exonerated godfather. Fleur shared a few amusing anecdotes of particularly ridiculous clients from when she worked at Gringotts, deftly working around the timing so as not to reveal anything about her current situation. Harry nearly snorted Butterbeer foam up his nose when she detailed the time one of the older Malfoys insisted on renting out an entire private vault to secure his extensive designer underpants collection, which he was sure was under constant threat of being targeted for robbery.
“Your job sounds brilliant,” Harry said as he wiped tears of laughter from his face. “I mean, I’m sure that it’s frustrating at the time, of course.”
“Eh,” Fleur shrugged. “You become immune to it, I suppose.” She saw Harry check his watch again and asked, “will your friends be here soon? Ron and Hermione are their names, correct? It would be nice to see them again as well.”
“Er…” Harry flushed and ducked his head. “I’m actually waiting for Cedric. Cedric Diggory, you remember him? And Cho Chang, I’m not sure if you know her.”
Fleur rolled her eyes. “Yes, I remember Cedric. There were only four Champions, after all. It would be worrisome if I managed to forget one of us. And I remember Cho as well, from the Yule Ball. She is Cedric’s girlfriend, yes?”
Harry grinned sheepishly. “She is, yeah. And mine as well, now.”
“Oh?” Fleur arched one eyebrow. “She has two boyfriends, then?”
“Well, it’s more like, all three of us are together.” There was a blush on Harry’s cheeks, but his smile was easy, happy.
“Ah, I see.” Fleur chuckled and took another sip of her Butterbeer. “That is quite progressive of you. Although frankly, dealing with one partner is such a hassle already. I do not see how you manage to put up with two at once.”
Harry didn’t seem bothered by her comment. “It can be tricky,” he said, “but we always manage to sort things out. It’s all about communication, really. Honesty, too. It’s not for everyone, but for Cedric and Cho and me, we work better together.”
Fleur stared at Harry incredulously. He seemed so much older than he had when they’d first met a year ago. “That does sound lovely,” she said, with a wistful note in her voice. “Having more than one person to care for. Even if if is more work.”
Harry shrugged. “It’s not as though we had a choice. You can’t help who you fall for.”
Fleur flinched and looked down at her now-empty glass. She wasn’t fond of that sentiment, especially these days as fought to keep Nym locked out of her mind and heart. “I would not say that is entirely true.” she muttered. “It is not as though we are doomed to our fates, surely.”
“Of course not,” Harry agreed. “We’ve got control over our choices and actions. But life happens, and sometimes you’ve just got to go along with what feels right.”
“But we’re still young,” Fleur insisted. “How do we know what is right?”
“We don’t,” Harry said. “We just have to make the best choices we can with the information we have at the time.”
Fleur couldn’t help but laugh as Harry’s serious expression. “You sound so grown up,” she teased. “When did you become so wise in the ways of the world?”
“Right about the time an evil wizard came back from the dead and tried to off me for, oh, what was it? The fourth time in my life, I believe.” Harry’s expression was deadpan, but his mouth twitched with the hint of a smile. “I’m sure you know I’ve not had the easiest life. And now, finally, I’ve got a chance to be normal. Well,” he added with a smirk, “as normal as I can be. Which might not be very normal, come to think of it. But I’m happy, living with Sirius, and dating Cedric and Cho.”
He looked at her carefully, as though he could tell she was holding something back. “You deserve to be happy, too, you know.”
“I know,” Fleur said glumly. “But it is not that simple. Right now, everything in my life is…” She trailed off and twirled her finger in the air, as though that would somehow convey to Harry what a mess everything was. “It is not anything I can speak about, but… there are so many things going on that I cannot control at the moment.”
“I know what you mean,” Harry said with a sympathetic look. “Look, I don’t know what you’re going through, but I can tell you from experience, shutting people out doesn’t work. Even when you think it’s for their own good. You don’t have to go it alone.”
Fleur sighed heavily. She disliked being wrong, but she wasn’t so stubborn that she couldn’t admit to it. Harry was right; she couldn’t go it alone, even if she wanted to.
And for the first time since she and Nym had parted ways, she was ready to admit that she didn’t want to.
Harry turned towards the front of the pub where Cedric and Cho had just entered. Fleur smiled and relaxed back into her seat. For now, she would enjoy another drink and some friendly conversation.
Then it would be time for her to think long and hard about how she was going to move forward.
Tonks drained the last of her pint, then put her glass down and flashed a strained smile at the blonde woman across the table. The silence should have ceased to be awkward by now, she thought to herself, seeing as they’d experienced enough of it over the past hour.
Laura Abbott was nice. She had arrived at the pub five minutes early for their date. She had been friendly but not overly touchy-feely in her greeting. She hadn’t laughed when Tonks had knocked over her water glass. She had seemed interested when she asked Tonks about her work.
But after that auspicious start, things had faltered. They didn’t listen to any of the same music. Tonks had misunderstood one of Laura’s jokes and had felt like an arse while Laura stumbled through an explanation. Both of them had made valiant attempts at conversation, but nothing seemed to stick.
“Well,” Laura chirped. “I suppose it’s getting late.” She shifted in her seat and bit her lower lip. “I suppose I’ll see you around. Er, send me an owl sometime, if you want to catch up.”
“Sure,” Tonks said. “I’ll do that.” She wouldn’t, and she was fairly certain that Laura knew that, but she was also fairly certain that the feeling was mutual.
They both stood up from the table and fell into a brief, stilted hug. Laura headed for the door, rather quickly, Tonks thought. She sighed and debated whether she should sit down and order another drink. No point in rushing back home to be alone with her thoughts and three flatmates.
Just then, a flicker of silvery hair caught her eye. She turned to see Fleur standing by the entrance of the pub with her eyes fixed on Tonks. Her expression seemed uncharacteristically hesitant, as though she was struggling with something.
Her eyes widened as they met Tonks’, and something steeled in them as she straightened her shoulders and glided over. Tonks held her breath as Fleur approached with a cautious smile.
“Hello,” she said. “I was not expecting to see you here.”
“Why would you?” Tonks bit her tongue as she realized how rude that sounded, but Fleur smirked and shook her head.
“I suppose that is true,” she replied. “But I was planning on sending you an owl later to catch up.” Her eyes darted down to Laura’s empty glass, which was still perched on the table. “That is, if you are not already… busy.”
“No,” Tonks shook her head. “No, I was just… er, met a friend for a drink, but… it didn’t… I’m free now,” she finished lamely, “if you want to sit and chat a bit?”
Fleur exhaled, and Tonks realized that she must have been holding her breath as well. Her stomach fluttered at the thought that Fleur might be as nervous as she was, even if she didn’t show it.
“I would like that.” Fleur slid gracefully into Laura’s empty seat and gestured politely towards the server, who came over to take their order. Fleur asked for a glass of Firewhisky, and Tonks got a second pint.
Once the server left, Tonks waited for Fleur to speak. Fleur ran a hand absentmindedly through her silky hair. It had grown out some, but it was still on the shorter side. Tonks liked that she hadn’t magicked it back to its original length.
“I wanted to apologize,” Fleur said. Her voice was low, and each word seemed deliberate, weighed down with something important. “I did not treat you very fairly when we parted. I was angry. Not at you, but with the situation. You were so patient with me, so kind, and I did not return the favor.”
“It wasn’t a favor,” Tonks said. She tried to keep the hurt out of her voice. “I was just doing my job.”
“No,” Fleur said, “you were doing more than that.” She reached her hand across the table and let their fingers brush together. “You were right. We had something. We still could, if you would give me another chance. I do not mean to assume that I deserve it, but--”
“You do,” Tonks interrupted. “Of course you do!” She laced their fingers together and gave Fleur’s hand a squeeze. “You’re in a shit situation, I understand that. And I accept your apology.” She smiled brightly. “I like you a lot. And I know you like me too, and that’s… that’s something we can work with. As long as you promise to be honest with me about what you’re feeling. Even if it’s something crap.”
Fleur laughed. “I am not usually one to bite my tongue,” she admitted. “I am told I can be too straightforward for my own good.” She raised one eyebrow and smirked. “Perhaps I should play to my strengths.”
“Perhaps you should,” Tonks agreed. She felt her face heat up as Fleur licked her lips and let her eyes roam over her.
Fleur signed then, and pulled her hand back. “There is something else,” she hedged. She looked nervous as she drummer her fingers on the table. “I have been thinking things over, and… I think it might be best if I go back to France for a bit. Spend some time with my family.”
“Oh.” The fluttering in Tonks’ stomach dropped into a lead weight. “I see.”
“No,” Fleur said with a shake of her head. “It is not what you you are thinking. I do want to try again with you, but right now, I need to be with my family. I need them.”
“I understand, “ Tonks said, and it was the truth. In the short time she and Fleur had known each other, it had become evident just how tight knit her family was. Tonks herself was close to her own parents, so she understood some extent of what Fleur must be going through, the isolation she must have felt during this time.
“I don’t mind waiting,” Tonks said in a hopeful voice, “if you want to make a go of it once all this shit is over and done with?”
Fleur hesitated, then inched her hand back across the table to meet Tonks’. “I would not want to wait. We could still keep in contact. Perhaps you might want to take a trip abroad?” She grinned. “Gabrielle would love to see you again. She was quite taken with you at Hogwarts, you know.”
“Of course she was,” Tonks said with an exaggerated toss of her head. “I’m bloody brilliant.”
“You are,” Fleur said with a laugh. “You truly are.” She glanced over at the bar. “Excuse me for a minute. I need to freshen up before our drinks arrive.”
“Of course.” Tonks’ blood sang through her veins as Fleur stood up and moved next to Tonks so she could press a quick kiss to the top of her head. “Take all the time you want. I’ll be here.”
Fleur headed towards the bathrooms. Tonks eyed her as she made her way effortlessly through the crowd. She signed and leaned back in her chair.
She made a mental note to send Moody an owl to request some time off the very minute she was back in her apartment.
Fleur took a deep breath. Her hands gripped the sides of the porcelain sink as she closed her eyes and took a few more breaths, in and out.
She had done it. She had spoken her piece with Tonks, and somehow it had all worked out. Tonks hadn’t been angry or offended. She hadn’t nitpicked Fleur’s words, she had understood what Fleur was trying to say, even when she hadn’t been particularly eloquent.
It was a lot to take in.
Fleur was brash, she was outspoken, but she was also used to being misunderstood. To have someone outside of her family take such care with her emotions was not something she was familiar with. It seemed a bit ridiculous, to be this young and find someone who meshed with her so effortlessly. They still had a ways to go, of course-- Fleur wasn’t so naive as to believe in a connection at first sight that lead to a magically happy ending. But it was the start of something wholly unfamiliar. A bit scary, in a sense, to take the leap into something far more serious than a schoolyard crush.
But it was a leap she was ready to take. No matter the outcome.
“Alone at last, you and I.”
Fleur’s eyes flew open at the unfamiliar voice behind her. She looked instinctively into the mirror. A chill ran down her spine as she took in the reflection of dark hair and wild brown eyes in a sunken, pale face.
It was Bardolph. Back from the dead, though of course he’d never really left.
“I’ve been waiting for this. A chance for you and I to be alone together. Ever since I Imperiused that poor bastard who took my place. I don’t even know who he was. Just picked him out of the crowd. Gave him Polyjuice, made him turn himself in as me. It was a shitty plan, but I knew you’d let your guard down eventually. It was only a matter of time.”
The mocking tone made Fleur sick as she gripped the sink tighter. She had knows this would happen. Of course he hadn’t really died. She knew this, and still she allowed her guard to drop. Thoughtless, she was so thoughtless, and now she would die, just as he had claimed to.
At least it would be her alone, and not her family. Her lips curved upwards into a shaky smile at that thought.
Bardolph’s wand was raised as he took a step closer. “You killed him,” he hissed. “He was the only person I’d ever loved, and you killed him!”
Fleur blinked in confusion, but didn’t turn to face him. Her eyes remained locked on his reflection. “I did not kill anyone.”
“You did!” Bardolph snapped. “Don’t lie! You fucking killed him,, he died in my arms--”
“Do you mean that man at the bank?” Fleur whipped around to face Bardolph, her eyes aflame. She remembered the man who had shot a curse at her, then fallen to the floor in agony as it has bounced back onto him. “He was killed by his own curse. I do not even know what it was.”
“Fuck you,” snarled Bardolph. “You don’t get to say shit to me, not after-- Expelliarmus!”
Fleur inhaled sharply as her wand flew from her pocket into Bardolph’s hand. He snapped it with a grunt and a sneer, then shoved it into his pocket as he muttered a spell under his breath.
“Can’t call it back to you now,” he said in a mocking tone. “I told you, your Veela bullshit won’t work on me. And don’t think I’ll be satisfied with just you. You fucked my life, I’ll fuck yours, whether you’re here to see it or not.” He raised his own wand with a sneer. “It’s over. Time for you to die.”
Fleur felt heat rise in her stomach. It coursed through her limbs as she curled her hands into fists. This man dared to threaten her, to snap her wand, threaded through with her grandmother’s hair, as though it were nothing. As though she were nothing.
She had never been nothing. She had always known that, had been born knowing that, the way other people were born knowing how to breathe or open their eyes or cry.
Her blood bubbled into liquid flame. Heavy breaths heaved in her lungs as the fire in her veins, her core, came together in her chest, coiled and ready to strike.
“It may very well be time to die,” she sneered. “But not for me.”
And not for her family, either. This whole fucking pub would burn to the ground before she let Bardolph within a league of her sister.
Bardolph’s eyes widened. The mirror was behind her, but Fleur didn’t need it to know what he was seeing. The smokey black matte of her eyes, the glittering grit of her teeth, the smouldering glow at her fingertips.
Veela beauty had a purpose, but people seldom remembered that. Or maybe that was part of their magic as well, the ability to be noticed and unseen at the same time.
A muttered curse flew from Bardolph’s lips as he swung his wand in Fleur’s direction. Fleur raised one fist and flicked her fingers. A ball of fire shot out from her fingertips. It hit the curse with a sharp crackling sound, and it fizzed into oblivion.
Fleur smiled and tilted her head as Bardolph’s jaw dropped. She raised both fists. They glowed an angry red as she channeled more fire through them.
Bardolph threw up a Shield Charm, but Fleur merely laughed. There was no shield for what she was. She was unstoppable.
Two quick flicks of her wrists sent fireballs slicing through the air. They sailed through the Shield Charm as though it were a lace veil. Bardolph screamed as they hit him in the chest. The Shield Charm dissipated as he clutched his hands to his smouldering chest and fell to his knees.
Fleur thrust her fists towards him once more. Two more fireballs hit his chest, muted this time. They were enough to send Bardolph sprawling back onto his arse as he skidded across the floor. His head hit the doorframe with a sickening thud, and he slumped over like a ragdoll.
Fleur heaved a few heavy breaths. She looked down at her fists, uncurled them and flexed her fingers. They still had a sunset glow to them, but the pure fire was somewhat muted. She closed her fists again, and took another breath.
She supposed that she should regret her actions, but she didn’t. This wasn't a slip where she’d let her anger get the best of her. If that had been the case, she’d have burned at least two thirds of the people she’d met ever since she was a child.
This was a deliberate move. It was as deliberate as Bardolph had been when he’d decided to target her family. She didn’t care if it was right or wrong; she’d burn a thousand deaths to keep them safe.
She didn’t regret anything, but the adrenaline crash hit her hard. Hot tears filled her eyes, and her hands began to shake.
“That. Was. Fucking. Hot.”
Fleur gasped as she looked up. Nym stood in the bathroom doorway, eyes wide, mouth agape. Fleur steeled her nerves and fought to keep her face calm, but she couldn’t stop her lower lip from quivering.
“Oh,” Nym breathed. She rushed over and wrapped her arms around Fleur. Fleur pressed her face to the crook of Nym’s neck, but the tears didn’t fall.
“It’s alright,” Nym whispered. Her hand reached up to stroke Fleur’s back. “I’ve sent word to Moody. He’ll be here shortly to collect Bardolph. It’s over.”
Fleur took a deep breath. It was over. She had to collect herself and give a statement to the authorities. She’d need to explain to her family what happened, and then--
“It’s alright,” Nym said again. She chuckled as she ran a hand through Fleur’s hair. “Fuck, you just took out a wanted criminal with your bare hands! You’re strong, no one doubts that! But it’s alright if… if you need…”
She hugged Fleur tighter. “Whatever you need,” she whispered. “It’s alright.”
This time, Fleur’s tears flowed free.
Tonks cleared her throat and smoothed the napkin in her lap. She looked up at the Leaky Cauldron ceiling as though it would provide the answers on how to salvage yet another terrible date.
Tonks blinked blearily at Fleur, who was sat across the bar table. She had a glass of Firewhisky in front of her, and a concerned expression on her face.
“Are you alright?” she asked. “You have not been very talkative.”
Tonks chewed her lower lip worriedly, but that only made Fleur narrow her eyes.
“Do not tell me you are nervous,” she said dryly. “After all we have been through? Finally, this should be something easy.”
Tonks knew Fleur was technically correct. Bardolph was in Azkaban. He’d not woken up from his fireball onslaught until he was safely in custody at the Ministry, and he’d been too distraught over the loss of his partner to hold back his whinging once he realised he had a captive audience in the extremely unlucky Dawlish. He’d spilled enough to keep him locked away for a long time.
But Fleur was completely wrong as well. The two of them had come at this relationship angle all wrong. Who the fuck shares a bed, then sleeps together, then declares a relationship, and then goes on a date?
Ridiculous, the whole thing. Tonks should have called it off and stayed home in bed.
Of course then she’d have had Moody to deal with. The grizzled old bastard had been over the moon when he’d popped into the ladies’ loo and seen Fleur and Tonks intertwined. He’d immediately offered to take on the lion’s share of the paperwork himself, which was completely unheard of, though not unwelcome.
And now that the parchment was filed and the smoke had cleared, Tonks and Fleur were here, sat across from each other in a pub with nothing to say to each other, just like any other couple on a crap date.
“Nym,” Fleur said, a bit more firmly this time. “What is the problem?”
Tonks thought for a moment, then threw her hands up in the air. “Nothing!” she exclaimed. “The problem is that there is no problem!” She dropped her hands and slammed them against the table with a light thud. “Honestly, what the fuck are we supposed to talk about now? We’ve only ever talked about crime shit. Whether it was Voldy gone to dust, or the Bardolph prat… What do we do now? We’ve run out of things to talk about.”
Fleur’s grin widened. She shifted in her seat, and Tonks felt the warm weight of a foot caress her own shin.
“I can think of quite a few things that the two of us could discuss.” Fleur’s tone was silk over steel. “In fact, we have had quite intimate discussions over such subjects already, if my memory serves correctly.”
Tonks swallowed as Fleur’s foot worked its way up her shin. “Er, I don’t know if… that is…”
“For example,” Fleur continued, seemingly unconcerned with the way Tonks was about to fall apart at the seams, “what the hell is the Weird Sisters’ new song supposed to be about?”
Tonks’ jaw dropped for a moment, before she burst into laughter.
“Right?” Tonks gasped in between guffaws. “‘The Grindylow’s Grin.’ Who can give that name to a song with a straight face?”
“Exactly,” Fleur snickered. “What utter pretentious tripe.” She rolled her eyes as she took another sip of her Firewhisky. “And they had the audacity to claim it was a metaphor for the injustice of the women imprisoned for improper use of magic on toadstools.”
“That’s not even a widespread issue!” Tonks cried. “Who the fuck uses toadstools these days for anything except getting stoned?”
“No one uses them for that, either,” Fleur said. “Herbology has come a long way in the past twenty years. They just picked a cause out of a hat. And the song only has five words, repeated over and over and over.”
Fleur sighed heavily. She reached out to grab Tonks’ hand and lace their fingers together. Her blue eyes sparkled from underneath the thick fringe of lashes that she batted Tonks’ way.
“Clearly we need to discuss this further,” she said. Her tone was low, thick and honey sweet. “Perhaps over another round of drinks? At my place?”
Tonks blushed as she met Fleur’s gaze, but she grinned wider than she had in weeks. “Absolutely,” she said as she gave Fleur’s hand a squeeze. “That sounds perfect.”