Bill felt his mother’s arm on his as she led him away from the little side chamber. At that moment, he was pretty sure that only his mum’s warm fingers curled round his elbow kept him upright. He allowed his mind to wander as they followed Harry through the now empty Great Hall and into the Entrance Hall beyond. In fairness, the school hadn’t really changed since he’d left a few years previous, so he could be excused for only half listening to Harry’s guided tour.
The three of them walked across the sunlit grounds, and all the while, Bill’s thoughts kept straying back to that mysterious girl in the chamber. Who had she been? She reminded Bill of the Veela he had seen at the World Cup last summer, except she couldn’t have been a Veela, could she? Still, he had never seen anyone else with such rippling hair that shone silver in the light, or such a clear, beautiful complexion or eyes that sparkled even in the dim light of the chamber. He had to find out more about her.
“Harry,” he began, in what he hoped was a casual and offhand manner, “who was that, erm, girl back in the chamber?”
“And that’s the Durmstrang ship over there, and – sorry, what was that, Bill?” Harry was too caught up in his tour to fully listen.
“The girl in the chamber,” Bill said rather impatiently. “Who was she?”
“Oh you mean Fleur! Yes, she’s the Beauxbatons Champion, you know, Fleur Delacour,” Harry explained.
Fleur Delacour. It suited her perfectly, Bill thought. He was no great shakes at French but her name was pretty and appealing and slightly mysterious, just like her.
“That’s the Beauxbatons carriage over there,” Harry added, pointing to what looked like a powder blue house some fifty yards away.
Bill craned his neck, in the hope of catching a glimpse of Fleur Delacour. He spotted two girls in those distinctive blue robes and he squinted his eyes hopefully, but those girls, striking as he was sure they were, had neither the shining hair or the poised, confident gait of Fleur.
Fleur Delacour occupied much of Bill’s thoughts for the rest of the morning, and he broke only out of his reverie only when he was required to. Thankfully, neither Harry nor his Mum seemed to notice, both being immersed in their walk round the grounds, and so he was free to think wistfully about her.
He felt like some lovesick teenager as he constantly relived the moment their eyes met in his head. He’d been involved with a few girls over the years, but nobody had ever made him feel like this before. And he hadn’t even spoken to her! This had to be more than just silly adolescent pangs. You’re a grown man, he told himself firmly. She’s a student. Get a grip, mate! Still, he couldn’t help thinking what he would say to her if a conversation between them ever happened to arise. You look just like a Veela? No, she was probably used to men fawning over her, and he didn’t want her to think he was just another mindless admirer. Her beauty was practically other-worldly, but he was positive that there was far more to Fleur Delacour than just a pretty face. Well she was chosen as a Triwizard Champion, so she was obviously extremely skilled, and talented, and brave and clever….and endless list of suitable adjectives formed in his head.
Before he knew where the time had gone, they were back in the Great Hall for lunch. He watched students congregating at the four long tables, celebrating the end of exams and conversing excitedly about the task that night. He almost felt like a student again as he settled himself at the Gryffindor table. Through the throng of black-clad Hogwarts students entering the rapidly filling Hall, the scarlet Durmstrang pupils and shimmering blue Beauxbatons stood out in sharp relief. He looked all around to get another glance of Fleur as the Gryffindor table became more and more crowded. Soon, Fred, George, Ginny, Ron and Hermione had joined them, all eager to talk about the end of their examinations. Ron immediately launched into a long-winded explanation of his failed attempt at his History of Magic exam. As an avid History of Magic student during his own time at Hogwarts as well as someone whose whole career was built around working with goblins, Bill shook his head at his younger brother’s made-up goblin rebels and automatically glanced over at the Ravenclaw table.
There she was.
His heart seemed to be stuck somewhere around the region of his throat as he watched her chatting to a friend. She had an easy smile; he could see it even from across the vast room, that dazzling white grin he wished was directed at him. Her friend laughed at something Fleur said; she was funny, he watched her leaning forwards to listen to someone; she was friendly and genuinely interested in others. And how confident she looked! Nothing about her perfectly poised body, her thrown back shoulders, the way she held her head so high showed even the slightest ounce of fear for the Task ahead. To put it simply, she looked perfect and he wished he could be sitting there beside her, making her laugh and having her look at him with those beautiful eyes, interested in who he was and what he had to say.
He resigned to just looking at her, gazing wistfully across the room, the hand holding his fork suspended in midair, inches away from his gaping mouth.
“Bill? Bill? Oi Bill!” the impatient voice of his brother Fred dragged him back to the Gryffindor table. Evidently he’d been trying to get Bill’s attention for some time and was annoyed at being ignored.
“What are you looking at?” George asked suspiciously.
Fred followed Bill’s line of vision and upon seeing the target, he nudged George who followed suit. The twins turned to look at each other, identical looks of glee spreading over their freckled faces.
“Who’s that you’re looking at, Bill?” Fred asked loudly.
Bill felt a betraying blush creeping into his cheeks and he struggled to fight it. “I’m not looking at…who says I'm looking at…nothing,” he stammered, unnerved by the grins of his twin brothers. They hadn’t spotted him looking at Fleur, had they?
George raised his eyebrows. “You’re definitely looking at someone! Hey, that’s not Fleur Delacour you’re gazing at with your mouth open, are you?”
Bill’s eyes widened in horror as the twins continued speaking. “I think you’re right, George,” Fred said, nodding seriously. “Fleur Delacour, definitely.”
“The same Fleur Delacour that Ickle Ronniekins asked to the Yule Ball at Christmas?” George pondered, grinning at the look on Bill’s face.
“The very same,” Fred agreed gravely.
“Ron…asked…her…to a ball?” Bill spluttered, glancing over at his youngest brother who was currently arguing with Hermione about whether or not ‘Bodrod the Bearded’ was a real goblin name or not, whilst shovelling large amounts of mashed potato into his mouth. “I assume she said no!”
Fred shook his head. “How could she refuse a fine specimen like this strapping young lad?” he asked, gesturing over at Ron, who was blissfully unaware of this conversation but was instead dabbing at a large ketchup stain down the front of his robes. “It was love at first sight, for both of them.”
“Beautiful, really,” George added, pretending to wipe a tear from his eye.
Bill knew they were only yanking his wand, making jokes like they always did, yet somehow this subject was no laughing matter. Ron couldn’t really have asked Fleur Delacour out, could he?
“You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if he popped the question any day now,” Fred continued. “Yes, he’s only fifteen, but I suppose they’ll run away together-”
“Get married in secret-”
“Have copious amounts of children-”
“And live a long and happy life together in a cottage overlooking the sea.”
“Something wrong, Bill?” Fred asked innocently, noticing the way his eldest brother tightly clenched his fork.
“Of course there’s nothing wrong with him. He wasn’t even looking at her, remember?” George laughed.
“Fine!” Bill finally burst. “Fine! Yes, I was looking at her, and I saw her earlier and she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen and she’s obviously talented and brave and smart-”
Fred held up a hand to silence him. “Please, spare us the details,” he said, while George mimed being sick. “Oh, and we were only joking, by the way. Ron did ask her to the Ball, along with a dozen other stupid boys who thought they had a chance, but she turned him down.”
“Are you going to talk to her?” George asked.
“What am I supposed to say to someone like that?” Bill sighed, toying moodily with his untouched lunch.
“If you’re in doubt, dear brother, why don’t you just take another read of that book you and Charlie didn’t want Mum to see?”
This time, Bill couldn’t stop his cheeks blazing. Not even bothering to feign innocence, he hissed in a low whisper, “Where did you find that?”
“Twelve Fail Safe Ways to Charm Witches,” George sighed. “You and Charlie really shouldn’t leave things like that lying round, Bill, anyone could read it!”
“It was hidden in my room!” Bill protested.
“Well we found it easily enough!” Fred laughed, “and we were only thirteen!” he added.
“Anyway, just think of Chapter Three,” George encouraged. “Complimenting! Complimenting always works!”
“Well, off you go!” the twins chorused and they beamed expectantly at Bill.
“I can’t just go over there now!” he argued. “She’d think I was an idiot!”
As Fred and George rolled their eyes and resigned to eating their lunch, still sniggering, Bill couldn’t help glancing over at the Ravenclaw table every now and then. He wished he did have the nerve just to stroll over there to her right now, but he didn’t. The chivalry associated with Gryffindor house didn’t really extend that far.
But he would speak to her, he decided, and soon. Perhaps not right before the Task, he didn’t want to put her off, but afterwards, definitely. As he attacked his now cold lunch with increased fervour, he thought ahead to tonight. Though he was supporting Harry, he would have a special cheer reserved, just for the Beauxbatons Champion.
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