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2012 Writer's Duel: Changing Impressions by HPFF United
Chapter 6 : Fleur's New Family by TheGoldenKneazle
 
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When Fleur Delacour heard the resounding CRACK! of apparition, she knew they were dead.

She whipped around, running to the window with apron flying, and trying to calm her racing mind as Bill would want her to. But she couldn't help it; she had already started mentally saying her goodbyes.

The windows were useless, coated with condensation and partially covered by an over-enthusiastic magnolia. As Bill's footsteps thudded down the stairs above her, she ran to the back door, throwing it open and letting in the snapping gusts that flew to the blue curtains, blustering ostentatiously.

Though it was only April, the sharpness still took her breath away as she peered down the garden, her breath catching as she realised that this was no attack on their home.

She hurried down the garden to the pathetic figures at the other end, lurching forwards to reach the old man of the exhausted trio as he collapsed forward.

The other two were talking rapidly, and through the confusion, Fleur forced her mind to process the English. It was easier now than it had ever been, but her previous panic was still cloaking her mind, and though the man was heavy, he was far lighter than he should have been.

The tall boy was speaking. "...and Harry and Ron have gone to rescue Hermione and Griphook. Dobby brought us here."

Beside her, Bill was carefully picking up the old man - the disappeared wand-maker? - and frowning as he slowly took the weight off her.

The last time he had looked so focused yet ready for action was as they placed the Fidelius charm over Shell Cottage. The time before that, when he has offered to search for Mad-Eye's fallen body.

Fleur may have reached an equilibrium of sorts with their situation - it reminded her strongly of the childhood days when she was kept inside nearly all the time for her 'becoming a lady' lessons - but she knew that every day was a trial for Bill. He never spoke of his annoyance in more than vague and very general terms, but the sort of communication Fleur was skilled in was body language.

It wasn't what you said, it was what you did. And while Bill may protest that he was more than fine, his shoulders constantly held a tension and his face lines of worry.

Now, his shoulders were thrown back, and a gleam was in his eyes. "Who's Dobby, and why can he get into the garden?"

The blonde, dreamy and dirty girl looked up with large silvery eyes, fixing on Fleur and saying calmly, "he's a house-elf. Their magic is different to wizards'."

Bill nodded tersely, and Fleur walked over to the tall, dark boy, questioning him with her expression. From experience, this was easier to understand in a state of shock; sure enough, he nodded at her, and she lightly lifted up his chin, examining the cuts and bruises all over his face before pulling out her wand.

"We'll do that inside. They need to rest," Bill instructed, already turning to the house now that they were in no immediate danger.

Fleur made an effort to smile at the two others with them, trying to remain calm in the face of this confusion. They had both obviously just come out of something traumatic, physically and mentally, and she needed to assume her role of Head Girl all over again.

Back at the house, Bill disappeared upstairs with the old man and promises of finding medicines and food for him. Fleur pulled out two chairs from under the worn wooden table, pushing the tall boy - Dean - into it before starting to run her wand over his cuts, muttering healing spells. Behind her, the girl (who Dean introduced as Luna) was pushing the bread Fleur had been kneading into the oven while she hummed tunelessly.

Fleur had only finished a few scars when a second CRACK! echoed through the house. Everyone jumped up, heads turned almost comically towards the back of the house before running to the heroes outside.

Fleur hadn't even had time to process that the trio arriving would have been severely hurt, but it rose up to slap her painfully in the face.

Ron, holding up a nearly-unconscious Hermione. Harry, bearing a swollen face and a house-elf covered on his own blood from the knife sticking out of his chest. A goblin, slashes on his face, mangled legs, and thinner than any Fleur had been in contact with at Gringotts.

All she wanted to do was run from the scene of destruction and pain before her, pulling a blanket over her eyes to shield herself, but instead Fleur glanced at Bill beside her and steeled herself. She needed to be strong, over-riding the instinct to act weak and let others do the dirty work, as had been programmed into her from a young age.

Then again, many instincts had been programmed into her from a young age, and she had already dismissed most of them when she fell in love with Bill.

Ron was trying to reach Harry, still supporting Hermione, and Bill was between them both as he tried to help his brother. Fleur ran to Hermione, pulling the arm unsupported by Ron around her own neck and moving away with her towards the cottage again. Ron tried to follow them, hanging onto Hermione's hand, but Fleur waved him off.

"'Arry needs you. She will be fine wiz me, we will be out een a minute," Fleur explained shortly, and the despairing brother-in-law dropped Hermione's hand, turning towards his best friend as he grieved.

As they stumbled up the stairs, Fleur felt Hermione lose consciousness. It was apparent very quickly that she was in awful shape; tortured? Fleur wasn't going to ask her, because her own experience of extreme pain in the godforsaken maze nearly three years ago was almost too agonising to remember, even with the balm of time to soothe the wounds.

As the girl stirred, slowly regaining consciousness, Fleur took off her ripped jacket and muddied jeans. In fact, all of poor Hermione's clothes were filthy, and though she tried to push Fleur off and do it herself, she was no match for the determined housewife.

Although Hermione allowed herself to be dressed on Fleur's most warm pyjamas and dressing gown, she insisted on being taken outside again. Fleur could see why, but she was feeling stupidly protective over Hermione.

"No, I've got to them! I can't just stay up here, I'm fine!" she cried, swaying as she tried to walk.

Fleur managed to resist rolling her eyes in a childish manner. She shouldn't be falling back into her old ways when she was protective. "You should not, but I will take you anyway. It eez not a good idea..." Fleur started to support her back down the stairs, "...but you remind me too much of Gabrielle. I theenk..." Fleur paused, wanting to say more, but deciding against it.

Matchmaking was for the old, pre-Bill, pre-war Fleur.

It was strange, really, how two very different girls could evoke the same feeling in Fleur, and she swallowed the lump in her throat as she walked into the grief-ridden garden once again.

*

"Why do you feel so protective over Harry, Hermione and Ron?"

Fleur jumped at the serene yet sudden voice from behind her, but it was just a tired-looking Luna.

She looked down to the dishes she was hand-washing. "I don't know..." she said tiredly, but when Luna shrugged and sat down at the table with her head in her hands, it was plain that Luna knew about body language just as much as Fleur did, and wasn't giving up.

"I... in ze Tri-Wizard Tour-na-ment," she started, annoyed at how ineloquent she sounded, "Harry was three years younger zan us ozzer three competitors. He did hees tasks in not so good ways. Like he rescued my seester when 'e deed not 'ave to."

Suddenly, Fleur was almost choking, throat tight. "My seester... eef 'e 'ad not rescued 'er... I do not know what I would ‘ave done. She eez everything to me – ozzer zan Bill, of course. But I 'ave not seen 'er for eight months!"

She looked up beseechingly at Luna, willing her to understand that she wasn't weak after all, that she has managed to defy that part of programming.

Again, this strange and dreamy yet more perceptive than anyone else girl managed to reassure Fleur with a smile. "We all owe Harry so much...it's funny, isn't?"

"Yes...yes we do. I am sorry, you 'ave enough wizout my worries," Fleur apologised, eyes still damp and forcing herself to keep it together. "But 'Ermione... She reminds me of someone, and I cannot 'elp feeling protective of zem all."

"Hermione has been through a lot," Luna agreed amiably, but solemnly. "She reminds you of your sister."

"Yes. My seester... I had a difficult...up-bringing? - and I always was very protective over 'er because I deed not want ze same for 'er."

This was stupid, confessing everything of her life story to Luna; the poor, imprisoned girl who hadn't seen the light of day for nearly five months, who was so different to everyone else. Maybe it was because she seemed so peaceful and able to take anything that Fleur found her so easy to talk to.

A loud burst of laughter came from the sitting room, and Fleur glanced up at the group of school children sitting around the fire, condemned from the world they were risking everything to save. How very like humanity, to throw out their saviours.

When nothing else remains, there is faith, hope and love*. Right now, Fleur had faith in her remaining strands of hope that she just couldn't let go, and she had love for so many people; those by the fire, her husband and his family, some in France... They would pull through yet, Fleur promised herself.

When she looked up again, Luna had gone to join Dean on the sofa, firelight illuminating her features. In many ways, Luna reminded Fleur of Gabrielle too.

*

"Did you talk to Luna about your family?"

Fleur turned to her husband with an amused smile and lift of the eyebrow as he put his arm around her. The wind on the cliff top whipped their hair around their faces, the salty sea breeze stinging in its delicious way, and together they gazed out to sea.

It was two days after everyone had arrived, and it was Bill and Fleur’s first moment alone together, with just the view for company.

“I told ‘er about my seester. Although, there ees not that much to tell.” She paused, resting her head on Bill’s shoulder. “I suppose you mean my Tante?”

Bill nodded slowly. “Yeah… I know it’s just normal for a lot of people, but my family is very different from yours.”

Fleur knew that much. She liked the Weasleys’ fun, loving atmosphere – what she hadn’t liked was trying so hard to be liked by the Weasley women and being discriminated against because she was beautiful.

Her quarter-Veela genes may have meant that she had extraordinary beauty, but it didn’t mean they were the only genes she had. Beauty was a fact of life, and while Fleur had been using hers as taught by her Tante, she owed the change in her life to Bill.

Bill was her new family.

“Yes, but… I like zem,” she said eventually. “I like your family because zey are different to mine.”

*

It was a week later, and though Fleur was coping fine with most of the new family that had been adopted into Shell Cottage, there was one member who was a large and prickly thorn in her side.

Though Griphook’s legs had been mended within 48 hours of his crash-landing in their back garden, he was still requesting meals sent up to his room. Every day. For every single meal.

This might have been acceptable if, like Ollivander, he had been still very frail and extremely grateful for everything she did – in fact, Fleur enjoyed helping the old wand-maker with anything he wanted or needed to do.

Griphook, on the other hand, was exceedingly ungrateful. While he sat in the darkened room he had commandeered all for himself, always talking to Harry, Ron and Hermione (who would exit looking frustrated every time), the goblin would criticize his specially-cooked meals and demand better ones, trying to tell her how to cook better.

And when Dean came down, his face grim, to tell her that Griphook had requested some pre-dinner mead, she snapped.

“He says that it should be from the seventeenth century at the earliest… and he’s willing to contribute to the cost,” Dean related, wincing at the goblin’s choice of words, and backing out of the kitchen. Fleur felt a bit bad for making him feel bad that she was so angry, but she was far more irate at Griphook.

“’E would like us to find ‘im some three ‘undred years old mead that ‘e eez willing to split ze cost on?” she asked lividly. “And ‘e would like it to be served before ze dinner zat I ‘ave spent so long on for ‘im? Well, I will send one of our seventy ‘ouse elves to fetch it from ze shops for ‘im! After all, we always buy our seventeenth-century mead from zere!

“I am so sick of zat goblin! ‘E never says please, or thankyou for zat special food that you ‘ave spent so long on for me! And I refuse to go up to ‘is special room to wiz ze food he will not eat any more!”

Bill hugged her, whispering in her ear to calm her breathing, and went upstairs to tell Griphook that he was to eat downstairs from now on. Fleur hoped that he might warn the goblin to be a bit more thankful too, because she probably couldn’t cope with his complaints while she tried to relax with all the misfits around the table. He was just like a fussy toddler without any of the benefits, and Fleur was having enough trouble keeping the rest of the family happy.

Hermione walked in from the living room, a book in her hand, ringing her out of her post-anger reverie. “Fleur… I’m sorry we’ve all landed on you like this. It’s got to be so difficult for you, with all of us here,” she said a bit awkwardly.

Fleur smiled at her. “Oh, it eez nothing. I am just ‘appy you are safe… it eez just ze goblin. ‘E knows nothing of manners, and ‘is demands…” she scowled, waving the loaded dishes across the room to the dining table.

“We won’t stay for too long,” Hermione promised, but it had an adverse effect on Fleur.

“What? Non, you must stay. We are family, it means nothing to me. It eez nice to ‘ave a full ‘ouse.”

Hermione said no more, simply waving her wand to assist Fleur in the distribution of cutlery. But her resolution and worry was plainly written across her face. It was an expression Fleur was all too familiar with; Gabrielle never gave up easily, either.

*

“I’m going to miss Mr. Ollivander… it’s nice to have him around, since we were together in that cellar for so long,” Luna was saying to Dean.

Fleur couldn’t help but agree. Though his room was going to be free, and there would be less jobs for her to do, the old wand-maker had been a nice, wise addition to their little family of misfits – like a grandfather, or great-grandfather, who can do little but everything he says bears the weight of truth.

However, hearing Luna’s words reminded her of the remaining services she owed him; healing his wounds as well as she could.

Because Ollivander was so emaciated, and had been ill for such a very long time, Fleur had been feeding him a lot of different potions in different orders to attempt to slowly heal his long-festering wounds, and some had started to heal him a little, though he was never going to be the same again.

Tomorrow, he was being sent to Bill’s Aunt Muriel’s. From there, she didn’t know; none of them did.

More and more, Fleur was fighting the urge to hug everyone to her and not let them go. When she had become so maternal, she had no idea, but she just felt so helpless and desperate. They needed safety, and safety she could provide.

For the moment, the safety she could provide was resilience within Mr Ollivander’s body.

“Thankyou, my dear,” the exhausted wand-maker murmured, accepting his sour potion without complaint. “You know, this might sound crazy, but you remind me of someone I knew long ago.”

“Ah, zat eez not crazy,” Fleur responded gently, plumping his pillows behind him. “’Ermione reminds me of my seester. You remind me of my Papa. And fortunately, nobody reminds me of my Tante,” she added on the end, half to herself.

“Yes… you remind me of my niece. She was… so beautiful. And kind…” the old wand-maker’s eyes drifted together, a few words mumbled but not completing their race to be heard. Fleur smiled peacefully. It was nice to help others, a pleasure she had not experienced until several years ago.

It was a shame, because now, it was one of the keenest pleasures she knew. However, it was hardly her fault that she didn’t know of it; Tante Isabelle was her tutor from a young age. It was an explanation in itself.

Fleur stiffened as she heard, for a second, the ghostly calling of her name from that rosy mouth. Rosy…yes, that was right; Tante, looking like the rose, but being the serpent under it**.

If her Tante was a rose, then she was the most beautiful rose in the garden, and the serpent… it was a deadly one, poisoning four-year-olds with lessons on manipulation, lies, and improper values. It would sway in time, feasting on anything that wandered in its path, and leading the small girl in her dance.

That poison she had been given had tainted her life for so long. But Bill… he had set her free, the antidote and the one she could now fully rely on. He had shown her life: how to live, how to take chances, how to let yourself go and enjoy the ride.

Now, they had brought together a gathering of loved ones, and she didn’t want to let any of them go, whatever the cost.

Gazing down at the wise, peaceful face of the slumbering Ollivander, Fleur was reminded that if she really loved them, she would let them go. Starting with the eldest.

*

Teddy Remus Lupin. The newest addition to the close-knit community of the Order was making her eyes sparkle and she hadn’t even met him yet!

Grinning as though she had taken Elixir of Euphoria, Fleur was waving some stacked goblets into the kitchen and caught a glimpse of Harry and Bill talking, before Bill called, “Wait, just a moment.***”

She backed out, hoping fiercely that any progress Bill had made with Harry had not been undone by her entrance.

In snatched moments at night or bypassing the other during the busy days, together they had talked over what they knew and what they guessed about the trio’s mission. While it was quite obvious that they were hunting Voldemort, and from the amount of time spent with Griphook that they were planning some sort of break-in to Gringotts (really, what other type of visit would be made there nowadays?), it was hard to say exactly what they were doing, and why there were doing it.

In short, they were both so worried about the crazy plan that the teenagers were shoving together. They obviously had very little idea about the dangers of Gringotts; even the employees only skimmed the surface of the various typed of protection that surrounded the enchanted vaults, yet Bill and Fleur knew far more than the average witch or wizard with an independent savings account there.

Harry, Ron and Hermione were going to leave, she knew. But Fleur wished that there was something she could do about it; stop them, help them, protect them in some way. If only they would tell Bill! He was trying to get something out of Harry now, and offer what advice he could, but they both doubted anything would come of it.

He was far too stubborn for his own good, she thought fondly, but with a thrill of fear. Stubborn, altruistic, proud, brave… she didn’t want to let him go back to the awful outside world he had just left.

*

Fleur awoke quite suddenly on the morning of May 1st, eyelids shooting open as she breathed in the chilly early-morning air that wrapped itself through the house.

“Fleur…” Bill was beside the window, letting the curtain fall back down as he turned to face her. His face was serious and solemn, and from it she already knew what he was about to say. “They’ve left now.”

She exhaled, propping her face up and leaning on her elbow. Her mind was clear despite the hour. Bill sat down gently beside her on the bed and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her into him and kissing the top of her head. She was glad of it; she was safer with him.

He must be feeling the same sudden stillness, Fleur thought. The house felt extraordinarily empty, even though Dean and Luna still remained, and it was quite a shock.

There was nothing left that she could do, and the thought terrified her. Harry, Ron and Hermione (and Griphook, she supposed) were teenagers, leaving home for the first time; she was already feeling their loss very keenly, anxious that they should come back to visit.

What was there left for her to do?

Well, she could start by preparing breakfast for the remaining few. And so Fleur pulled herself out of bed and went to battle with daily needs, protecting her new family for all she was worth.







A/N: * paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 1:13 (from the Bible).
** paraphrased from Macbeth by Shakespeare
*** Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, p. 417, English edition.
Tante – Aunt
Papa – Daddy



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