Malfoy millions fund all-witch snow crab capture!
by Allegory Scribo
It’s no secret that Draco Malfoy is on the hunt for redemption, and our favourite blond bad boy may have found the answer in an unusual place: snow crab research! Magical Britain’s reliance on snow crab pheromones is so extensively documented that we won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that the current shortage is reaching dire proportions, putting it at the top of the political agenda and giving Malfoy Jr an obvious outlet for his philanthropic impulses.
Courting the illusive snow crabs is a lengthy process that has traditionally involved multiple brewing stations, the summer solstice and a team of constantly menstruating negotiators. Every school child knows the story of how Hermione Granger solved that particular difficulty, but unfortunately using Muggle technology to replicate the ideal snow crab environment revealed the real issue: crabs don’t trust wizards.
The discovery that Polyjuice – the popular solution that allows non-menstruating scientists to navigate the man-hating crabs – is rendered redundant by Muggle microscopes ushered in a dark period for Magical Britain. Male-identifying scientists immediately proposed a boycott of what they dubbed the “sexist shellfish”. As such, the bulk of private and public research funding, which had once gone to the quest to placate the crabby crabs, was redirected to finding an alternative source of power. Alas and alack, to no avail.
Finally, as snow crab stock dwindled to an alarming low and it appeared as if disaster were inevitable, Malfoy Jr has found the answer. On 1st March an all-witch research team will set off for the Malfoy Antarctic Research Station! When asked what inspired this radical solution, Malfoy Jr made the following statement:
“All-witch teams were doing an excellent job negotiating with the snow crabs before all this reverse-sexism nonsense came about. Not to bash the boffins, but I struggle to understand why Magical Britain has been held hostage to Zacharias Smith’s scientific ambitions.”
Regular readers will remember that Smith is the Acting Head of the Magical Enquiry on Sexism-free Science (MESS) and is responsible for a great deal of the outrage surrounding the crabs’ preference for witches. Smith has not responded to The Prophet’s requests for a comment.
The all-witch team will be made up of the best and brightest witches in Magical Britain:
Minerva McGonagall: One-time Hogwarts Headmistress and all-time badass [note from copy ed: consider rephrasing this] . McGonagall will head up the mission, ensuring that everything from supplies to staff morale remains in tip-top condition.
Cho Chang: A rising star within the Wizengamot and a Ministry representative on the trip. Mx Chang will oversee the crab negotiations and report back on the potential for introducing men into the process.
Pomona Sprout: Expedition gardener and chef, Sprout has over 40 years experience growing enough fruit and veg to feed a hungry castlefull of teenagers. A few scientists and a bunch of snow crabs shouldn’t be a problem, especially with those state-of-the-arctic greenhouses!
Tonks Tonks [note from copy ed: are you sure this is her name?] : Another war hero, this young Auror will be the expedition’s security detail. While snow crabs are generally peaceful, their attitude towards men has provoked concerns for the witches’ safety and it was considered prudent to provide backup.
Fleur Delacour: Chief crab negotiator and recent divorcee [note from copy ed: relevance?] , Delacour has been raising heart rates and eyebrows with her scandalous post-divorce partying [note from copy ed: is this about Clarissa?] . Turn to page 69 [note from copy ed: I know you’re hurting but you have to stop, we only have 52 pages per issue] to catch up on the sultry heartbreaker’s antics.
Fleur looked up from the only slightly stained cake recipe to find that the Malfoy Snow Palace Research Station kitchen had managed to cover itself in a layer of flour. The steel counters were thick with the stuff, white drifts banked up against the kettle and loose particles floated down to speckle the terracotta floor tiles. Pursing her lips at the mess, Fleur tasted flour.
“Sod it all,” she muttered, brushing some flour off the parchment and carefully not thinking about where she had picked up that particular turn of phrase. Tonks would be back from checking the wards soon. “Eggs, strawberries, butter—” Fleur counted off the things she would need as she turned her back on the flour and headed towards the pantry. “Sugar, some flour that hasn’t been on the floor, rose water, chocolate.” Would one kind of chocolate be enough? Maybe two.
The pantry shelves were the same stainless steel as the kitchen, stretching high above Fleur’s head and glinting down at her as the lights flickered on. Tonks liked to claim that the glare from the steel shelves was far worse than the snow glare, even going as far as to insist on wearing sunglasses when helping Sprout with breakfast. That was the end of the kitchen rota and, now that she thought about it, the last time Fleur had set foot in the kitchen. Judging by the swirling clouds of flour, the kitchen did not appreciate her renewed attentions.
Fleur’s reputation had dogged her from London all the way to the Antarctic and, while her partying had been exaggerated into a bacchanalian bonanza by that scribbler at The Prophet , said reputation wasn’t completely divorced (ha!) from the truth.
She had very publicly broken Bill’s heart. The fact that the public part was accidental didn’t change the fact that she’d done it. It didn’t change the nights out clubbing with Gabrielle, kissing beautiful people and (far harder to forgive) unbeautiful people. Or the questionable kebabs, acid-wash denim robes, letting her allure hang out at the Ministry Ball. Refusing to be the pretty, prissy wife for another moment longer.
None of it was scandalous. It certainly wasn’t the potion-fuelled nights dreamt up by Allegory Scribo. It was, however, rather embarrassing to be gearing up for the case of one's career, only to have the expedition lead take one aside and ask “Are you alright?” Minerva McGonagall had calmly watched Fleur battle a dragon at the age of 17. Who would have guessed that all it would take was a few salacious headlines and a tearful goodbye to Victoire to elicit pity from the steely expedition leader?
Unable to answer the question or acknowledge the dreadful kindness in Minerva’s eyes, Fleur fled. She was rather good at that, she’d discovered. Of course, there is only so far one can run on an Antarctic research station, short of opening a door and going for a walk in a blizzard. So, desperate to escape the cloying atmosphere of the staff room and in search of a nightcap, Fleur had wandered into the kitchen.
“Wotcher,” said Tonks, grinning up at Fleur from her cross-legged position on the pantry floor.
“Hello.” Fleur’s eyes darted past Tonks to the bottle of Pinot noir on the shelf behind her. “Why are you sitting in the dark?”
“Having a picnic.” Tonks held up a half-chewed baguette. She had crumbs in her hair and on the collar of her jumper. “You fancy joining? Cho will be along in a bit. She’s off raiding McGonagall's whisky, braver woman than I, that one.” She waggled turquoise eyebrows at Fleur. “We’re going to get pissed and watch The Wizard of Oz and pretend that we’re not shitting it at the thought of being stuck here for 900 years in the snow.”
“It’s only nine months,” Fleur swallowed. Nine months. Nine months away from Victoire, Dominique and Louis. Nine months of rehydrated food and patchy Skype calls and hardly any magic. And for what? To negotiate with the snow crabs? Or to take part in an elaborate PR rehabilitation of her own name. A name that she would probably go right back to sullying as soon as they returned to London?
“Yeah.” Tonks’ eyebrows were now lime green and pulled together as she examined Fleur. “Seems like a long time though, doesn’t it?”
Finding herself unable to answer, Fleur shrugged her right shoulder. Tonks mirrored the movement, adding in a mournful grimace. It was unexpected and Fleur laughed, releasing the knot of misery that had lodged in her throat. Clapping her hand over her mouth, she glared as Tonks’ grin grew even wider.
“See, this is the tragedy of the English,” said Tonks, hooking an arm around the nearest shelf and using it to pull herself upright. “You French do that ‘ah non, woe iz meh’ act and it looks beautiful and soulful. I try it and I end up looking like a plate of custard that’s been dropped on the floor.”
Fleur shook her head. Tonks was not wrong, but Fleur had been around English women long enough to know that they did not appreciate having their natural puddingness pointed out to them. Speaking of which…
“I’m going to take this wine with me.” She leant past Tonks to grab the wine, smiling as the proximity sent the pink of Tonks’ hair spreading down to her cheeks. She considered leaning a little closer, just to see what other reactions she could draw out of Tonks. Then her usual level-headedness returned and she decided to prioritise wine over flirting. “And,” she took a step back. “I’m not going to put it in Madam Sprout’s log.” She felt her mouth twist at the word. Log. They were witches! If they ran out of food, they would simply snow eagle for some more!
“Oh, don’t know that you should be doing that.” Tonks frowned. “Sprouty is taking the kitchen log very seriously, we need to keep track of—”
“The only thing I’m interested in tracking is the movement of this wine from a glass to my lips.”
“Right.” Tonks blinked a bit, staring at Fleur’s lips. Aurors were such simple creatures. “Thing is, what with this being the first snow crab expedition without all the mandatory menstruating palaver—” they shared a shudder, “—it’s important that we keep an eye on what provisions are needed, case us not being stuffed full of hormones makes a difference.”
It was a surprisingly compelling argument. It was also the first time that anyone had bothered to explain to Fleur why, exactly, they were required to keep the loathsome log.
“Well then,” she said. “That is very sensible. Where is the log?”
“Eh?” Tonks blinked some more, short eyelashes brushing over a small mole beneath her right eye. “Oh! Good, that’s good.” She reached out a hand, Summoning the red leather notebook. “Here you go.”
“Thank you.” Dazed and slightly disconcerted by the smell of wandless magic, Fleur scribbled in the notebook.
“Cheers.” Tonks took the notebook back, quirking a teal eyebrow as she read aloud: “Item, wine. Quantity, at least three large glasses. Use, debauchery?”
“One can hope.”
“So you’ve got big plans then?” Tonks’ cockiness had returned. She took a big bite of the previously forgotten baguette.
Deciding that an elaborate shrug would be far more eloquent than words, Fleur unleashed her best shoulder roll and made for the door.
“What are you doing?” Cho stood in the door to the pantry, watching Fleur wrestle the icing sugar sack.
“Mmph,” said Fleur, breathing through her teeth as she eased the sack off the shelf. Whoever’d owled the station that Marie Kondo book could boil their own head. The pantry hadn’t been the same since Pommie decided that the log did not spark joy.
“You know you’ve got flour on your nose?” Cho took an exaggerated step back as Fleur shoved past her, dumping the sugar on the nearest surface. Turning, Fleur smoothed back her hair with her wrists and looked around for the sieve. “Well? Is today the day?”
“You know. The day you admit you’re an idjet and beg our favourite Auror to let you buy her a drink.” Cho moved closer, raising her eyebrows as Fleur began dumping almonds and tinned raspberries into a mixing bowl. “Tonks doesn’t like raspberries.”
“Non.” Fleur avoided Cho’s eyes. “She does not like fresh raspberries, tinned are fine.”
“Are they now?” Cho leant closer, trying to catch Fleur’s eye and almost tipping the end of her long dark plait into the bowl.
“Oui.” Fleur kept her tone light, but Cho started grinning.
“OMG,” she said, almost bouncing on the balls of her feet. “You’re actually serious this time. You’re going to ask her out!”
“Shh!” Fleur flapped her hands, coughing as a cloud of flour rose between them.
“How can I help?” Cho whispered.
“You can’t.” Fleur whispered back. “Now go away.”
“Right, right.” Cho ignored Fleur’s request, stepping around her to inspect the counter. “Well, you’re going to need vanilla essence if you’re using eggs. I think Pommie keeps it in with the batteries and spare shoe laces. BRB.” She darted back into the pantry.
“I do not need any help.” Fleur called after her, taking care to enunciate the ‘h’, just so there could be no confusion.
“We’re stuck in a blizzard, I’ve finished the Raven Cycle and the only thing on the wireless is Och Aye The Flex—” Cho’s voice floated back into the kitchen, sounding like she was upside down. “What else am I going to do? Besides, left to your own devices you’ll probably ice ‘Yer a right bawbag’ on top of the cake or something.”
Unable to deny the truth of Cho’s assessment, Fleur huffed.
It really had been a very long day and Fleur strained to read her own notes. The snow crab’s communication thus far was entirely restricted to clicks and raised antena. Fleur was trying not to take it personally. The artificial candles flickered as she peered at the parchment where she had jotted down the length of each click. Was that a pattern? Could the five second interludes be some form of morse code?
“Pah!” Fleur threw the paper down. It took her a few minutes of frustrated glaring at the ceiling to realise that the paper had landed on a sandwich. Thick brie and tart cranberry compote on golden bread. She bit into it before it occurred to Fleur that, maybe, this mystery sandwich that she had most definitely not made herself might not, actually, be for her.
“You found it then?”
Startled, Fleur inhaled a lump of sandwich. Coughing. Wheezing. Tasting cranberry with every aborted in-and-exhale, she glared at Tonks.
“Blimey.” Tonks ignored the glare, darting forward to bang Fleur on the back. “You ok? That was supposed to be a gift, not an assassination attempt.”
“A sandwich is not a gift.” Fleur gasped, showering crumbs onto the infuriating crab notes. “And why are you giving me sandwiches?”
“Er…” said Tonks. “No reason, thought you might be having a shit day, is all.”
“What?” Fleur hadn’t told anyone about her struggles to document the crabs’ clicking. Her eyebrows were immaculate and her skin had never looked better. Either Tonks had done something she knew would annoy Fleur (unlikely, she was infuriatingly likeable) or she had bad news and was trying to soften the blow. Drawing herself up to her full height, Fleur turned to Tonks. “What is going on?”
“Nothing!” Not that Aurors ever squeaked, but Tonks definitely squeaked. “Just missed you at dinner and—”
“I miss dinner all the time,” Fleur interrupted, her mind working fast. “What time is it? Has the post come?” She checked the time, horror creeping over her as she noted the late hour. The last post came two hours ago. “Was there a letter? Are the children alright? Tell me—”
“They’re fine. Look, sorry I scared you. The kids are fine.” Tonks spoke quickly. “And just so you know, if I ever did hear something had happened to your kids, I wouldn’t break it to you via a cheese sandwich.”
“How kind.” Fleur fought to keep her breathing steady. Had she been able to draw an unimpeded breath since Tonks entered the room? The Auror was a menace.
“Tis actually,” said the menace. “You’d at least get a decent pud for something like that.”
“Yeah, you know. Something with cream and meringue and chocolate.” Tonks’ eyes sparkled as she listed the ingredients; flashing from green to hazel and then back again.
“You still have not told me why you thought my day was shitty.” Taking a step closer, Fleur found herself once again muscling into Tonks’ personal space. It was something she’d found herself doing more and more, ever since their crumb-strewn meeting in the pantry. Manipulating Tonks’ obvious infatuation was second nature, literally. Fleur’s Veela-side responded to hot blushes, stuttered sentences and quickened breathing in the same way that a cat might respond to a dish of thick cream. Never mind that cream is not good for cats and allowing her Veela instincts to take over was not good for Fleur. “Well?”
“Well what?” Tonks asked, her eyes darting to Fleur’s mouth. They were standing in the middle of the common room, the big velvet sofa must be pressing against the back of Tonks’ knees. Fleur was close enough to kiss her. Hungry enough to press her lips to Tonks’ lips and her hands to Tonks’ hips; to push her down onto the sofa.
“The sandwich,” she said instead, mentally taking a step back from the unexpectedly pleasant fantasy.
“Ah.” Moving neatly to the side, Tonks put some space between them. “Right. Thing is, er, I’m guessing you haven’t had a chance to see this evening’s Prophet ?”
“Girls? Is everything alright? I heard banging and… What on earth is going on in here?” An angry Pommie is a fearsome sight. As she took in the cake-batter spattered kitchen, the ex-Hogwarts gardener and current Arctic hash-slinger seemed to grow by five feet. “Well?”
“Erm…” Fleur helplessly surveyed the kitchen. The flour had been transformed into cake batter and was slowly sliding down the walls. It was matted into Cho’s fringe and creeping down the back of Fleur’s robes. In that moment she couldn’t quite remember why they had entered into such a vigorous batter fight. “We were…” Something cold dripped off her fingers, alerting her to the fact that she was still clutching a handful of the stuff. “Erm…”
“Fleur’s making Tonks a cake,” Cho butted in, banishing the batter from her own robes and grinning at Fleur. “Bit of a mess there, hen.”
Shaking with silent outrage at this betrayal, Fleur lifted the fist of cake batter.
“Now now!” Cho danced back, darting behind Pommie. “Careful where you—”
“Clean this mess up before I cover you both in salad cream and send you off to spend the night with the crabs.” Pommie’s voice was as hushed as death and twice as ominous.
They scrambled to do as bidden, casting hasty cleaning spells at the walls and ceiling.
“Now.” Pommie settled back against a batter-free section of the bench. “Explain.”
Fleur simply wished to take latest issue of The Prophet , rip it into small squares, urinate on the squares and then set fire to them. Which is how she ended up accidentally slapping the newspaper out of Tonks’ hand. She may have underestimated the extent of her rage.
“Um. Ow?” Tonks watched with interest as a pink palm print appeared across the her bicep.
“Oh!” Frozen in horror, Fleur started babbling. “Oh no. No, no. I’m so sorry.”
“S’alright,” said Tonks. “Are you alright? I mean I know I’m fatally wounded and all, but you look like one of Pommie’s mutant strawberries.”
“Do I?” Fleur felt her cheeks. She was mortified. Bad enough that the scurrilous Scribo had written another article stuffed full of updates from the Snow Crab trip. Now Fleur had assaulted a team member, the only team member still speaking to her.
“Allegory’s an arse,” said Tonks, her tone far too knowing. “She writes like she’s still editing the Hufflepuff Burn Book.”
“She won a prize.”
“Yeah, the Rita Skeeter Prize for Being An Arse. Look,” Tonks spun her office chair to face Fleur, “we all know you’re not out here to bang the crabs.”
“Seducing the snowy casanovas,” Fleur mournfully quoted Scribo’s latest attack. “And now Minnie en Pommie think I am sending unauthorised updates.”
“What? No they don’t.”
Fleur shook her head. How else would The Prophet know about the snow crab’s dietary requirements? Being granted a seat at the snow crab table was an honour never before bestowed upon a creature with an endoskeleton. It was the crowning achievement of Fleur’s career and in a few poisonous lines Scribo had sullied the entire experience.
“Fleur? I’m being serious here.” Tonks shuffled forward, maneuvering the chair closer. “No one thinks you’re snitching. These things get out. It was probably someone at the owlery, or one of Draco’s demon interns.”
“Then why did they leave?” Minnie, Pommie and Cho had taken one look at Fleur and fled the common room, taking the teapot with them.
“Och, they’re just embarrassed. Not of you!” Tonks quickly explained. “Just the whole business. One of Hogwarts’ own going after a Beauxbaton alumna doesn’t look great for the school.”
“Minnie en Pommie don’t even work at Hogwarts anymore.”
“Which is part of the problem.” Tonks abandoned the chair, squashing onto the sofa next to Fleur. Her arm was very warm, pressing against Fleur through their thermo-layered vests. “If it were me or Cho they’d just terrify us into getting over it. They never taught you, so they don’t really know what to do.”
“Would that work? Being terrified into happiness?”
“Well.” Tonks sat back, rubbing the back of her head. The movement jostled Fleur and, with a huff, she captured Tonks’ hand, guiding it to a safe spot between them. For reasons unknown and unexamined, Fleur kept the tips of her fingers pressed into the fleshy part of Tonks’ palm. Pinning her hand to the sofa. “Obviously Aurors aren’t terrified of anything, big and brave and all that,” Tonks continued, apparently oblivious to the fact that they were almost holding hands.
“Of course,” Fleur nodded solemnly.
“But if I was upset about something? I reckon McGonagall could frighten it out of me. Worked with the Dementors during the war.”
“Ah.” Fleur shivered. “Oui, I think Madam Maxime did something similar. When I was worrying about Greyback…” she trailed off, not quite sure how to end the sentence, or how to steer them back to safe territory.
It was, she realised, the first time they’d spoken for more than a few minutes. Tonks spent most of her time with Cho. She liked to joke that Cho was a spy for Zacharias Smith, planted to discover the snow crab secrets, and Cho in turn would pretend to be investigating the contents of Tonks’ satchel. Then they would both laugh a lot, in that loud, nervous way English women did. Although, Fleur reminded herself for the thousandth time, Cho was not English, she was Scottish. A fact that was, somehow, significant. Speaking of which...
“You said ‘Och’,” she remembered, laughing as Tonks’ face fell.
“Oh heck, did I?”
“Wow. What an embarrassment. You can’t tell her, she’ll never let me get over it.”
“Well, she isn’t speaking to me either, so—”
“Och!” Tonks grinned fiendishly. “Yeah, I said it. Och indeed! Cho doesn’t hate you, she’s just awkward because we all used to fancy you at school and whenever you get worked up it’s like she’s having a flashback to that Tri-Wizard nonsense—”
“Tri-Wizard and one witch.”
“Right. Don’t get me wrong, she’s soppy for Cedders, just maybe she’s also got a small weakness for stroppy Tri-Magi champions.”
Her mouth suddenly dry, Fleur dragged her eyes away from Tonks and stared at the fire. Tonks’ laugh filled the room.
“Fleur fancies Tonkerbell but she’s too feart to ask her out so she’s baking her a cake instead.” Cho spoke in a rush, grinning at Fleur. Oh yes, Fleur remembered why they’d started a cake fight in the first place. It was because Cho was evil and must be vanquished. Also, Fleur had eaten the last of the Marmalade Moles.
“I am not feart. I simply wish to bake my good friend Tonks a cake.”
“Because you love her.”
“No, because I—”
“Fleur,” Pommie barked. “Put. Down. The. Batter.”
Once again, Fleur found herself clutching a handful of pale slop.
“Sorry Pommie.” She tipped the handful back into one of the 12 mixing bowls she’d used so far.
Silently, Fleur and Cho went back to cleaning the kitchen while Pommie sat on the counter and pointed out bits they’d missed. Fleur knew that in Muggle families women in their 40s were considered to be fully grown. Almost too grown, if that Desperate Housewives show was to be be trusted. 40-year-old witches, on the other hand, were still going through magical puberty, and didn’t the rest of the world know it?
“Children,” Pommie muttered as she flicked her wand at the kettle. “Babes in arms, running around and baking love cakes. 40 is far too young for this nonsense.”
“Oh don’t start,” said Cho, casting another scouring spell at the ceiling. “Just because our magic is still growing doesn’t mean we can’t be trusted. Cedric and I have been together since 5th year and we’re fine. It’s drama queens like this one who give young people a bad name.”
“Pah! You talk about the difference between the French and the English; this is the difference,” Fleur interrupted. She was vaguely aware that her voice was a little too loud, that she was smiling far too much to be taken seriously. Tonks smiled back. “All these silly rules, and if there isn’t a silly rule in place you put together a committee and create some—”
“Right, whereas the French are too good to follow the rules,” Tonks interrupted, folding her arms. “Nevermind the fact that you’ve got more regulations in place than any other country in the WU. Pretty sure it’s illegal to even take a piss in a French loo without an Auror standing by to make sure you’ve got an even flow.”
“Goodness.” Fleur made a show of checking her non-existent watch. “It has taken you 45 seconds to start talking about excretion, that is surely a record for an English person, non? Shitting and pissing and fucking—” She sculpted her words to match Tonks’ accent. “Lord blimey governor, get on the blower to her maj and tell her we’ve had a breakthrough.” Taking a deep breath, she almost missed the way Tonks’ shoulders were starting to shake.
“Her maj does like to be kept abreast of these things.” Tonks giggled. Her cheerful grin struck Fleur like a fresh faceful of snow.
“It’s not funny.” She was suddenly breathless, electricity sparking in the tips of her fingers.
“Tis.” Tonks leaned in closer to Fleur. Her eyes flashed, like she was feeling electric as well. “Do you like this thing we’re doing?” She gestured back and forth between the two of them. “The arguing. Does it—”
“Girls!” Minnie was standing in the doorway, clutching a torn piece of radio parchment. “Ms Granger has cracked the case!”
“Oh… good?” Tonks glanced at Fleur. Fleur glanced back. They kept up this glancing business until McGonagall got tired of waiting and informed them that the reason the snow crabs had been resistant to Fleur’s charms was that they couldn’t understand a bloody thing she was saying.
“Yes.” Minnie pursed her lips. “Ms Granger continues to demonstrate her… affinity… for acronyms and she has labelled the condition SNOB.”
“Which means…” Tonks trailed off, her eyes fixed on thin air and her lips moving as she spelled out the acronym.
“Short for Snow-crabs Need Our Blood.” Minnie winced and hurried on, speaking over Fleur’s silent protest and Tonks’ decidedly unsilent protest. “Yes, yes, I know, I know. It’s not what you think. Apparently the snow crabs have not been refusing the communicate with us, we are just unable to understand them if we are not menstruating.”
Tonks and Fleur released matching squeaks.
“It’s… it’s not ideal.” Minnie massaged her temples.
Fleur’s mind whirred through all the implications of this discovery. They needed two people to understand and take down the snow crab’s wisdom, and if they needed to be menstruating to understand the crab communiqué... Fleur’s period was due in eight days... They could get another team member to Polyjuice as Fleur, but by the time they finished brewing it Fleur’s cycle would be over and they would have to wait, losing valuable negotiating time. Minnie and Pommie were past the menopause and Cho’s endometriosis counted her out, and that left…
“Tonks. Tonks will have to come with me.” Fleur looked to Minnie for confirmation. “It’s the only way.”
They’d finished cleaning the kitchen and Fleur had, with some relief, accepted that maybe the cake was a bit much. Retreating to the den with a plate of biscuits and mugs of cocoa, they waited for Tonks to return from checking the wards. Cho was using the time to interrogate Fleur about her intentions. Which would be a lot less annoying if Fleur actually knew what her own intentions were.
If Tonks were Bill, Fleur would know what to do. But if Tonks were Bill, then Fleur wouldn’t be here, failing to bake cakes in the middle of a blizzard for a woman who was… was… And if Tonks were an embittered performance artist who only communicated via lasers, or if she was one of the mums at the school gates, then Fleur would know what to do. But spending months and months watching someone’s dimples appear when they laughed and listening to their outrageous school tales and watching them go out of their way to help everyone expect themselves? Fleur had no idea what to do with that.
Fleur didn’t realise that her hands were shaking until she tried to press the code for Tonks’ bedroom. The negotiations had gone well, but they’d been caught in a freak storm, forced to hole up with the snow crabs and wait it out. By the time the storm eased off enough for them to dig themselves out, 72 hours had passed and their radios were dead. They’d also run out of Cho’s Womb Warming potions and were down to their last tube of Pringles.
“69 69.” Tonks mumbled into Fleur’s neck. She was shaking as well. The little idiot had stood watch for three nights and now the fatigue was making her floppy. Using all the worst English and French words she knew, Fleur pressed the code again. Nothing. Tonks’ shaking was getting worse. Was she running a fever? Fleur lifted a hand to check, carefully brushing damp strands out of Tonks’ eyes and…
“You’re laughing,” she realised. “You—” The rest of Fleur’s sentence was drowned out by Tonks’ impression of a hyena. “You bloody bastard!” Fleur raised her voice, scowling as Tonks laughed harder.
“Sorry, sorry.” Hiccuping gently, Tonks reached past Fleur and pressed exactly the same numbers that Fleur had been pressing. The door swung open.
“I should drop you,” said Fleur, tightening her grip under Tonks’ shoulders and maneuvering them into the small room. The bed was opposite the door and she lowered Tonks onto it.
Something crackled and Tonks winced, reaching down to remove a packet of chocolate frogs from beneath her own ample bottom.
“Poor froggies,” she said, tossing the packet onto the floor and wiggling further up the bed. “Going to sleep now, night night Flo.”
“I told you not to call me that.” Fleur pulled the duvet over Tonks, tucking her in the way she used to for Victoire. “I’m going to get you a hot water bottle. Do you need anything else?”
“Some ice mice would be nice.” Tonks’ eyes were closed, her breathing starting to even out. “Bit cold though. Like me. You could stay,” her eyes fluttered open. “Keep me and the mice warm. Must be tired.” Her eyes closed again.
“Hmm, maybe not.” Fleur moved towards the door, Noxing the light and pausing to look back at Tonks. The light from the hall cast a warm path across the bed, picking up the hints of pink that still lingered in Tonks’ hair. She was fully asleep, her chest moving softly with each deep breath. Taking a deep breath of her own, Fleur closed the door.
“And then what?” asked Cho. “You pretended none of it ever happened and ignored Tonks until she went out to check the wards? The wards that don’t even need checking?”
“Oui? Don’t huff at me!” Fleur glared at Cho and then at Pommie. Just to make sure all her bases were covered. “What? I climb into her bed and cuddle up to her and then we wake up and gaze into each other’s eyes and she smiles at me—” Fleur was vaguely aware that she’d lost her thread. “And, and, and then? She asks, ‘Why are you in my bed?’ and I say…”
“You remind her that she invited you into her bed and then you offer to make her a cuppa.” Tonks was standing in the doorway, her eyebrows flashing between pink and red. “Wotcha Pommie.” Her eyes stayed fixed on Fleur. “You got any of those potato scones left?”
“In the kitchen, dear,” Fleur dimly heard Pommie reply.
“Righto. Come and help me find them, Fleur?” Tonks left without waiting for a response. In a daze, Fleur stood and followed her towards the pantry. Shutting the door carefully behind them and casting a barrage of Silencing Charms at the door, Tonks turned to Fleur. “Well then.”
“Well.” Fleur avoided Tonks’ eyes.
“I’m sorry,” said Tonks. Inching forward. “I think I got the wrong end of the stick and I’ve been beating myself over the head with it ever since, if that makes sense?”
“It absolutely does not.” Fleur continued to examine the floor.
“I thought,” Tonks spoke slowly, seeming to feel her way into the sentence. “I thought that you were the brave one, you know? Not the cowardly custardy one. I thought that was me.”
“What? I… are we talking about desserts again?” Forgetting to be embarrassed about what Tonks may or may not have definitely overheard, Fleur threw her hands up in frustration. “The English and their stomachs! Is it any wonder that I spend all morning thinking you wanted cake when all you do is think and talk about puddings?”
“I do want a cake.” Tonks grinned. “Always. That’s my default. I always want cake. Why? Where did we get cake from? Did you…” she paused, clearly using her awful Auror senses. “Did you bake me a cake?”
“Oh. Well that’s alright.”
“I did try.” Fleur admitted. “It wasn’t very good and I made a mess so Pommie made me stop. I thought… I thought you’d like cake.”
“Hmm.” Tonks took the final step, tilting her head back to smile up at Fleur. “I like you. Thought you liked me as well, s’why I asked you to stay last night. But then you pissed off back to your room and I went back to thinking that you’re Fleur Delacour, you know?”
Confused and rather pleased to have Tonks so close, Fleur shook her head. Tonks huffed.
“Well come on. You fought a dragon when you were 17.” She started ticking things off on her fingers. “You told Molly Weasley to pipe down, not an easy thing to do—” She grimaced. “You were a civilian but you fought in the Battle of Hogwarts. You told the Chief Snow Crab off for making those comments about Centaurs. I thought you were the brave one, and when you wanted me you’d just click your fingers and—”
Whatever Tonks was planning to say next dissolved as Fleur gently took hold of her chin and bent down slightly to kiss her.
“Is… is that alright?” Fleur asked, taking a deep breath as she pulled back. Her lips were tingling where they had brushed against Tonks’. She wanted to reach up and touch them, but she didn’t want to make any sudden movements.
“Er, yeah. Yeah, that was alright.” Tonks grinned, golden glitter sparked in her hair. “Want to do it again?”
“Non, now I think it is your turn to be brave.” Fleur smiled back, closed her eyes and waited to be kissed.
Sexy shenanigans overshadow return of snow crab crew!
By Allegory Scribo
Magical Britain has waited with bated breath for the return of Draco Malfoy’s snow crab researchers. Unfortunately, science had to take a backseat to speculation about the relationship between Fleur Delacour and Malfoy Junior. No sooner had the team touched down than Delacour was in Malfoy’s arms, with a handshake steamy enough to threaten the snow crabs natural habitat.
When asked about the nature of his relationship with Ms Delacour, Mr Malfoy played his cards close to his chest; “Are you high?” he asked, glaring coquettishly. “We are here to talk about the greatest breakthrough in Magical science since the invention of self-renewing hair gel. Ms Delacour has spent months communicating with the crabs, risking her own wellbeing in order to—”
Mr Malfoy’s impassioned declaration of his feelings for Ms Delacour continued in a similar vein for many minutes. Ms Delacour remained silent, content to sit hand-in-hand with her good friend Tonks Tonks and gaze loving at Mr Malfoy. When pressed—
“Um? You’ve got a couple of visitors?” One of the copy eds was standing in the doorway.
“What?” Blast, she’d just been getting to the good bit. “Can you tell them to come back later?”
“Er…” The copy ed glanced over their shoulder. “They seem a bit… keen.”
“Right.” Sighing heavily, Allegory stood. It was probably a friend of Mummy’s, come to see if they could take her out to lunch. “Did they give a name?”
“Pomona Sprout.” A short, beefy woman pushed past the copy ed. “Here to have a quick chat about some of the articles you’ve been writing. Hufflepuff to Hufflepuff, so to speak.”