The Champion by ficexchange
A gift for AnnaKarenina;
Fleur was fourteen when people stopped telling her she was going to be beautiful and started telling her she already was. While adults suddenly became much more attentive, the difference wasn't too pronounced with her peers—boys still liked her as much as always, and girls still tried not to. Nothing new. Nothing to be afraid of. Just something to enjoy.
So she said yes to the boys she wanted and no to the boys who shouldn't have even thought about asking. She learned very quickly that the ones her age should all have been placed in the second category. The girls came around eventually.
Thomas Devereux was her first boyfriend. Three years older, he came from a family of wealthy shop-owners.
She broke his heart on the Friday before the school year ended, because she was bored.
"Pity about her and the Devereux boy," a friend of her parents' said at their twentieth anniversary dinner that summer. "She would have made a lovely wife."
The Veela piece of her flared up and would have struck the man if her grandmere hadn't laid a gentle hand on her wrist and made polite conversation.
"Girl," her grandmere said that night as they sat alone in two of the chairs in the garden, "people will always assume two things about you because you're beautiful: that you will be a trophy wife, and that you will be happy as one."
Well, fourteen-year-old Fleur didn't care for that at all. "I would not be satisfied with that."
Her full-veela grandmere nodded. "None of us would."
She said yes to fewer boys that next year—only the truly exceptional ones—and became the best student in her year. She felt smug and confident as the year ended.
"Oh, don't be a bore," Gabrielle whined that holiday. "Please come to the city with me. Mama and Papa will be gone to Italy, and I really think we would have fun."
It turned out that they did have fun, the two of them, staying in their family's townhouse in Paris, traveling only when they wanted, visiting museums, and meeting Geoffrey Williams, the young archaeologist their family hired to teach them the history of the city, who surprised Fleur by being interesting despite his goofy face.
He showed her battle sights from the Grindlewald conflict, and told them the magical fashion trends of the early queens.
"I love him," Gabrielle said happily one night, settling down on her pillow. "He's as smart as you, Fleur."
The comment had started the fifteen year old for several reasons, not least because it was a compliment she was rarely paid, but also because it came from Gabrielle, who was sweet and honest.
So when Geoffrey took Fleur on a nighttime tour of Old Paris, she turned away from his attempted kiss, and broke his heart on a Tuesday.
By the time she was sixteen, Fleur stopped accepting dates all together from the boys at her school, though she accepted a few from a prince in Denmark over Christmas. Her empire of friends grew more adoring and envious. It was surprisingly easy to woo the girls who might have been jealous; they had needed a leader, and Fleur had a natural affinity for that.
"When will these owls stop? You have so many admirers I can hardly stem the tide," her father said with his confident, empty smile three days after the New Year. He had always thrived off attention, and loved that his daughter had it in spades. Her pretty, brilliant mother considered her daughter's social ascent a thing of pride.
"They need me," Fleur replied with a satisfied buzz behind her ears as she rushed to try on the new dresses her grandmere had sent from Milan for her date with Edward.
Gabrielle was the one who looked confusedly at her and said, "I don't understand why those girls are your friends. You're so much better than them."
Resisting the urge to condescend to her sister, Fleur answered: "They are fine."
"You mean they're pretty," Gabrielle said with a huff. "But you're pretty enough for the whole school. You don't need them. And you don't need the boring prince. You shouldn't be bored."
Fleur broke the prince's heart on a Wednesday in March, with a short letter and no particular qualms.
And she incorporated into her social network the smart, sincere girls that smiled genuinely when they talked about classes. It was smugly satisfying to see that her new friends became the popular ones just by proximity. It felt like Fleur had conquered the world: her professors adored her, her peers as well. She was top of her class, and she had a family that loved her. Every goal completed.
She thought she might go crazy if something exciting didn't happen.
Then the Tri-wizard Tournament was recommenced, and a pulse of competitiveness ran through Fleur, who was sure she would be chosen.
"Oh, Fleur. You don't want to be in the tournament," her father had said while her mother watched her with serious eyes and quiet judgment. "It's barbarous."
Fleur ignored them with a wave of her hand.
Gabrielle practically bounced on her toes. "I hope you're the champion. You would be the greatest one ever."
That year, Fleur fought a dragon, danced with the best looking boy in three schools, made half the population fall in love with her, met her future husband, and screamed out her soul when Viktor Krum cast an Unforgivable on her. She met the most famous boy in the world on a Friday, and contemptuously called him a little boy before she had any idea who he was. He pulled her sister from the Great Lake on a different Friday, and saved Fleur's life on a Wednesday, when he failed to do the same for Cedric Diggory.
"You should never have gone there," her mother said the day she arrived home.
"Mama, I am a Champion," Fleur said.
But Mrs. Delacour snapped at her. "You're foolish to think a man will care about such things. Do you think I married your father for his brain or bravery? I married him because he's a Veela, which is why some man will marry you. Not because you were a champion."
"A man will marry me because I let him," Fleur said, sweeping by her mother to send a letter of acceptance to the Gringott's part-time job she had been offered one month before.
She thought of Geoffrey that first day, when a British wizard walked her through the bending tunnels beneath London. He would have loved this. A strange twist was that the goblins, who were the ones she dealt with most often, didn't give a damn that she was beautiful. It was strange and scary and thrilling.
"I have to admit, I didn't think you would last the month at this job," Bill Weasley said after their second date.
"Because I am a woman?" Fleur asked, annoyed. "Because I do not look the part?"
"No." His eyes twinkled as he leaned forward onto his elbows. "Because you're French."
She fell in love with him the following Saturday, when he called her over to help him break a curse that had been tricking his team and debated with her like he thought she was brilliant. She kissed him that evening, and never told him why.
He tried to break her heart on a sunny Sunday afternoon in May, when he packed to go to his parents and fight a war without her.
"You-Know-Who isn't your problem," Bill said, trying to find the shirt she just cleaned for him.
Fleur stepped between him and the bag and made him stop moving. "If he is your problem. He is mine."
"Fleur, this isn't a game," he said, because while he didn't often remember, occasionally the fact that she was six years younger than him bothered him.
"Do you think I do not know that?" she asked, furious in a way only a veela can be. "I remember Cedric Diggory. I remember the way 'arry Potter looked when 'e came back with 'is body. And I remember your face when you found out your father was 'urt. You will not be alone in this fight. I won't allow it."
"I have a family involved. You don't," he said, but it was weak and his eyes were soft.
"You are my family now," she said, holding up the ring he had given her that winter. "I will not be pushed aside."
He sighed and smiled, then, in the way only he could, and wrapped his arms around her. "I love you, you know."
"Because you are not a fool," she said firmly.
He was scarred on Tuesday, and in the years that passed, people would always give her a double-look when they saw them together, as if to make sure she was with him. She would hold his hand tighter, move closer, glaring.
Harry Potter appeared at their house on a Thursday, burying a house-elf in the yard and leaving a goblin and a couple of sick friends with her. He apologized the same day, and she reminded him that he saved her sister.
A week later, she stood on the edge of Shell Cottage, where the sea met land, and watched the large, pretty ocean move like a beast that could never be tamed. She thought about the girl she had been; her pretty fourteen-year-old self would not have taken Polyjuice for Harry. She wouldn't have nursed Luna Lovegood, nor helped that horrid little goblin. She would be floating through society, willfully ignorant, the jewel of her family.
But that girl was gone, faded, brushed aside by her grandmere's truth and Gabrielle's affection and Bill's love. Melted after facing a dragon and squashed by the water of the Great Lake. Reshaped instead. Still beautiful, as always. Still smart, as ever. But also more.
Finally, finally more.
Fleur smiled on that Friday, and thought of the ambitions no one had thought she should have.