The Sugar Quill
Author: Portia (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Something Real.  Chapter: Default
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Fleur Delacour strode through a Hogwarts corridor, her robes billowing gracefully after her

A/N: Thanks to my beta reader Arabella, and all those who reviewed this in Lockhart’s Office and on FAP!

 

Fleur Delacour strode through a Hogwarts corridor, her robes billowing gracefully after her. Her face was creased with scorn. It would have made anyone else’s face look ugly, but Fleur couldn’t look ugly if she tried.

She knew, because she had tried. Her looks had made her the target of certain boys who considered it their birthright to touch any girl they fancied. Suggestive comments and more physical displays of had grown tiresome after a while.  Fleur had begun to search for potions and spells that would thicken her figure, or make her complexion just a little less flawless, or just slightly dull the shine of her hair. After a while she had given up, deeming it not worth the effort. Instead, she had cultivated a forbidding persona---an intimidating glare, a reputation for magical power and knowledge of curses, a sharp tongue—that fended off unwanted attentions better than anything else could have.

Right now, her face was set in the sneer that she had once worked hard to perfect and was now second nature to her. It was all because of this silly ball. Despite her complaints about the cold and the heavy food, Fleur was actually getting to like Hogwarts, although she would not have admitted it to any Hogwarts student for the universe.  The castle was cozy and endearingly quirky, if lacking in the elegance that distinguished Beauxbatons.  She had succeeded fairly well in the first task, coming in second place (vraiment, her charming of the dragon was much better than the showy antics of the Potter boy and that overrated Quidditch star) and she should have had no quarrels with the world.

Except for this ball that Headmaster Dumbledore had announced. It was such an irritating idea, such a nuisance. Not the ball itself—Fleur liked dancing. It was the boys that irritated her. The boys who all made her their first choice as a date, even though they had never talked to her before.

The boys who took one look at her perfect figure and silvery hair and bright white skin and decided that they liked her, no matter how many insults she threw their way.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like being admired for her looks. She did. And not all of the admiration was boorishly expressed.

But…sometimes…well, with her last petit ami back at Beauxbatons, he had been surprised—three months after their relationship had started—to learn that Fleur loved the works of the British Muggle author Jane Austen. Three months. Even though she scarcely went anywhere without her tattered copy of Pride and Prejudice. He had also been surprised to learn that Fleur was entertained by Muggle movies, and that her favorite one was Casablanca, badly dubbed into French. And that Fleur liked skiing and snowboarding.

Even though she’d told him all of this.

Fleur wanted more than this. She loved the awed glances she got from boys (that blushing redheaded boy had been positively mignon when he had sheepishly asked her to the ball, although she had been startled by his asking and had instinctively sneered, sending the poor boy scuttling off in mortification).

But she wanted, just for once, to have more than just glances, more than physical attraction. Words would be nice, and not just words like “you’re beautiful,” either. Real words, with real meaning. As a quarter-veela, Fleur was a magnet for all that was false.

Lost in her thoughts, Fleur kept walking down hall after hall, turning around corners mechanically, not knowing precisely where she was going.

“Oh!” She heard a cry and turned around. There, standing in a doorway—to a classroom, probably, although Fleur could never be sure in this unpredictable madhouse of a school—was a timid-looking girl with tense posture and a slightly crooked nose. She was quite plain, and her anxious expression did nothing to help her. Books, pens and papers were scattered all around her in the doorway. Clearly she’d dropped everything she’d been holding. To make matters worse, the door was heavy, and the girl had to hold it open with one foot while desperately gathering up all her belongings with both her hands. She reached out to grab a book that had fallen farther into the classroom than the others, and she lost her balance and fell.

Fleur moved to help her, when she heard a voice from behind.

“Can’t keep your head over your arse, Midgen?” jeered a pale-blond boy flanked by two overweight companions. “Can’t say that I blame you—after all, there’s not much difference between the two, now is there?”  The girl’s face crumpled, and she looked like she was holding back tears.

Something in Fleur snapped.

“You lizzen to me, little boy,” she began, drawing out her wand and inwardly lamenting her ignorance of English swear words, “if you do not apologize to zis girl, I will curse you so badly that you will truly be unable to tell ze difference between your head and--”

“No need, Fleur,” cut in a deep male voice. Cedric Diggory—the real Hogwarts champion, not the presumptuous little Potter boy—was standing at the end of the corridor. He reached Fleur, the blond boy and the girl in three long quiet strides. “Twenty points from Slytherin, Malfoy,” he said. Fleur started. Cedric had seemed so gentle, so tame—who would have thought he could sound so harsh?

The blond boy—Malfoy—started to protest, but Cedric cut him off. “Yes, twenty. Be glad that it’s not one hundred. Aren’t you ever ashamed to look at yourself in the mirror?”

Malfoy gave Cedric a long resentful look, then scurried away with his two companions in tow.

Cedric hurried over to the girl, gathered up all of her belongings and put his arm around her. “Listen, Eloise, don’t pay any attention to him. He’s not worth it—I actually feel sorry for him. Nothing he said to you was true, so don’t believe it.” Eloise let out a noise that sounded suspiciously like a muffled sob.

“Thanks, Cedric,” she said. “I’m all right—I think I’ll just go back to the dormitory now.”

“I know you’re all right. You’re tough—much better than that Malfoy. See you later, all right?” The girl gave a watery smile and walked away.

Fleur just stood there, staring.

Many boys were willing to pick up books and fight off offenders for Fleur. She hadn’t seen many of those same boys do this for crooked-nosed, timid, clumsy girls like Eloise.

Cedric did.

“Hey, Fleur--” came Cedric’s voice. She started, and looked up at him. He grinned. “Never knew you could look that angry, Fleur. Malfoy’s not typical of Hogwarts, so don’t think it.”

“I don’t,” Fleur said, feeling oddly shy. She paused, then said: “What you did for that girl was very nice.”

Cedric blushed. “It wasn’t a big deal. Eloise is a nice girl, and a housemate of mine. Look—I’ve got to run, I have to go see Professor Flitwick about extra-credit Charms work. I’ll see you later.” He walked off.

Fleur suddenly felt wistful.

Fleur had condescended to turn her veela-charm on Cedric, as he had seemed a presentable potential date, but Cedric had actually asked another girl to the ball in spite of that fact. Fleur’s pride had required that she cease flirting with him at once—she would not run after men who preferred others to her! She would not submit to rejection.

She hadn’t felt sorry about it. She had felt insulted for about two minutes and then promptly forgot all about it. There were other good-looking boys, and Cedric was nothing special.

Now, however, she was sorry.

She would have liked to go to the ball with Cedric. She would have liked to talk to him. To find out why he thought Eloise was a nice girl even though she was obviously plain and an object of mockery. To hear about why he liked Quidditch so much. To share her own enjoyment of Muggle authors. Just to talk, rather than to look and be looked at.

When she’d first set her sights on him, she hadn’t considered if he’d be much good at talking.

She’d thought of him the same way all those other boys had thought of her.

And he hadn’t fallen for her charms—of course not, thought Fleur bitterly. I don’t like the ones who fall for that sort of thing, and I can’t have the ones that don’t.

She dug her nails into her palms and bit down on her tongue. She would not cry. There was nothing to cry about, after all. She had lost nothing. She had only been made even more aware of something she had never had.

Someday, she vowed. I’ll have it. I must. There would be someone who could talk as well as stare, who would like all of Fleur and not just the one-quarter of her that was a veela. There would be.

There will be something real, someday. There had better be.    

*                                                              *                                                                              *

“We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss…”

 

The day of the Second Task had arrived, and the groups of students were already milling around outside of Hogwarts.

Fleur Delacour stared at the cold gray lake. She hated lake water. It was cold and mucky and made her silver-blonde hair look greenish. In the frigid February weather, it didn’t look like water at all. It looked like quicksand.

And her sister was in it.

Gabrielle. That was who she would “sorely miss.” Her sister, her flesh and blood, her friend despite the difference in their ages. She was not like those silly boys, who thought that they would miss their little girlfriends more than anyone else in the world.

They’d given her an hour to get Gabrielle out—they’d tried to tell her some nonsense about how Gabrielle would be gone forever if Fleur exceeded the one-hour time limit, but Fleur wasn’t dense.

But… still. Her little sister. In the lake. 

Ludo Bagman ceased his babbling, and Fleur drew out her wand. Her wand hand shook, and she sharply scolded herself. She was no weakling. She would not disgrace herself and her school by allowing her stupid fear to ruin her spell. Taking a deep breath and wrinkling her brow, Fleur cast the Bubblehead Charm, taking pleasure in the way her voice produced each syllable, in the rhythmic cadence of the spell. She was so very good at Charms.

Fleur sauntered out into the lake, walking straight into it. The cold liquid nipped at her body, and she was fairly certain that the lake contained more mud than water, but she held herself rigid and forbade herself to cringe or shiver. She was Fleur Delacour, after all.

She was underwater now—breathing normally, thanks to her perfect charm—and now all that remained was to find her sister. The lake looked like an endless dungeon, just dark and slime and odd swimming shapes all over the place. Light filtered down through the murky liquid, illuminating a ripple here and there, causing shadows to randomly flit about. Fleur felt a misplaced surge of excitement, and then of fear.

Search, find her, and bring her out. That is all. Very simple—

“Ahhh! Non! Qu’est-ce que c’est?” Fleur screamed, but the sound went no further than the confines of the air bubble she’d charmed into existence. What were these—these brittle-fingered monsters? Insignificant little pests, they looked like—but they were attacking her in hordes, like bees darting from their threatened hive…Fleur had never seen anything like them. And she was proficient in all French water creatures—but this is not France, she realized, her stomach lurching. Curse Dumbledore for putting these English beasts in the contest. She suddenly remembered seeing them briefly in an old schoolbook—grindylows, she thought, and searched every corner of her mind to remember how to dispel them.  She frantically waved her wand, casting around in her mind for a spell, any spell.

Stupefy! Stupefy! Rictusempra!” Nothing worked, not that she’d really expected the tickling curse to do anything. Mon Dieu, they were closing in on her now, one just scraped its filthy claw against her face, and it was all she could do to hold back another futile shriek. She could keep a Bubblehead Charm going for a long time, but not indefinitely and besides…Gabrielle. The one-hour limit. Fifty minutes had already gone by, and Gabrielle was still trapped in this cesspool that these British called a lake.

Fleur took a deep breath, and screwed up her courage.

Avada Kedavra!” she yelled, without expecting the words to actually do anything. They did not teach this sort of Dark art at Beauxbatons.

And yet the spell appeared to work. The blinding flash of green light soared out of her wand, with a power that Fleur could feel—and it completely missed the grindylows. They did not look the slightest bit discouraged, only annoyed, and more determined to get in her way than ever.

Gabrielle…Fleur thought with increasing panic, then: Pull yourself together, Mademoiselle, she told herself sternly, even as she whacked at the grindylows with both arms. One of them grabbed her wand, and this time Fleur did scream. Without a wand she would not be able to cast a new charm, after this one wore out, as it was already starting to do. She clutched her precious veela-hair wand desperately, fighting against the little monster that had enlisted several of its friends to help in its struggle. I want it to release me…oh, no, I want to break its little hand, so it can’t grab me back again…think, Fleur, think. Ancient Runes. Spell words. What word is needed to make them let go?

Fleur tried word after word, until finally: “Relashio!”  

It worked. Fleur swam away, frenzied, not even bothering to brush the lake weeds out of her hair. She made her way to the mer-village, only to find no Gabrielle.

Fleur had never before felt such sick, helpless panic. Somehow she made her way to the surface and burst through.

Gabrielle! Gabrielle! Elle est perdue--” she sobbed brokenly, shaking off Madame Maxime and the fussy Hogwarts nurse. The headmistress tried to comfort her, but Fleur would have none of it. She had failed. And it was worse than any other failure could possibly have been—worse than if she hadn’t managed to get past the dragon, even worse than if she were to be expelled from school. My sister…I couldn’t even bring back my own sister…Fleur shook convulsively, tears running down her cheeks and loud cries escaping her throat, when suddenly she saw the little bespectacled Hogwarts champion emerge from the lake with his redheaded friend and…Gabrielle! Fleur thought, and then realized that she had screamed it aloud.

Gabrielle! Is she alive? Is she ‘urt?” The little Hogwarts boy…Harry, his name is… tried to tell her something; she couldn’t quite understand what, his voice was so faint. Poor thing, Fleur thought distractedly, He must be exhausted, he saved both his hostage and mine… Fleur brushed off the Hogwarts nurse, ordering her to look after Gabrielle, not caring about the gashes on her usually perfect white arms and face or the tears in her robes. She half-ran over to young Harry.

“You saved ‘er,” she said, her voice throaty. “Even though she was not your ‘ostage.” The boy looked thoroughly embarrassed.

“Yeah,” he said sheepishly, looking up at her, through his odd spectacles, with his messy hair flopping into his eyes. Fleur suddenly felt overcome. She bent down and kissed Harry impulsively, twice on each cheek. Then she turned to the redhead, who was staring vacantly at her.

“And you too—you ‘elped…”

“Yeah,” said the redhead, sounding not so much sheepish as hopeful (Fleur inwardly smiled as she remembered how he’d asked her to the ball), “yeah, a bit--” Feeling the surge of gratitude and tenderness again, she kissed him as well, not failing to notice that his wild-haired amie gave her a look of pure venom. Elle a un peu de tendresse pour lui, n’est-ce pas? How sweet.

Neither of those two looks very impressive, Fleur ruminated, considering the lack of stature and disheveled hair of Harry and the lanky height and freckles of his friend. Going by appearances, they weren’t much.

And Fleur was part-veela.  She knew all about appearances. Knew how pleasing they could be, and yet had learned from bitter experience how hollow they were. The little Hogwarts champion is more than I thought him to be. Clutching Gabrielle’s hand, she walked away from the lake.

 

 

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