Chapter 1 : Young and Beautiful
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This is also my entry for the Great Gatsby challenge (I thought it was rather coincidental that the song that inspired this comes off of the Great Gatsby challenge), and my quote is in bold. The line belongs to the lovely F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul?
-Lana Del Ray, Young and Beautiful
Hot. Pretty. Beautiful.
In all my eighteen years of life, those words had been my defining characteristics. Never mind that I scored better than most of my class at Beauxbatons on our N.E.W.T.s, or competed in the Triwizard Tournament – my only notable value came from my exterior.
I had inherited my appearances from my mother’s side, the long, silvery-blonde hair, alabaster skin, and sapphire blue eyes. But that was expected, given our veela heritage.
There were countless girls at Beauxbatons who would coo to me that they wished they were blessed with veela blood, and the inevitable flawless beauty that came with it. But “blessing” wasn’t the proper word, at least not in my mind.
I preferred “curse.”
It was a curse, in that every male in the room was attracted to my physical appearance, but nothing more. They all ogled me, and wanted to “snog my brains out,” as they so eloquently put it, but if the prospects of a real relationship entered the scene, they were gone before I can blink.
They all claimed that they were only after me for my appearance, and had no interest in who I was as a person. That, in itself, was more degrading than any ugliness could be.
Take Roger Davies, for example. He asked me to the Yule Ball, complimented me generously, and spent the night acting like a total gentleman. Then, when we left the ball, he tried to lead me up to his dormitory. When I told him that I didn’t want that, he began fuming, and told me, in not so many words, that the only reason he asked me to the ball was to “get into my pants,” another phrase courtesy of the respectful mouths of teenage males.
By the time I finished at Beauxbatons, I was fully sick of dealing with the male species in general. Therefore, the moment I was offered a part-time job at the goblin bank Gringott’s, I snatched it up immediately.
I told people I took the job in order to “improve my English.” While that was partially true, the real reason I took that job was because I’d be working with goblins, magical creatures who were immune to veela powers, and would treat me just like any other person that walked through the massive wizarding bank.
Some people might claim that my issue with men was a petty problem, that I should be grateful for the male attention because “at least I’m getting some.” But there was a deeper issue in that. Sure, guys might have been attracted to my appearance, but looks aren’t going to keep a husband around. Beauty and youth are ephemeral, even for a veela. I wasn’t going to be pretty for forever; eventually, I would age just like every other human being on the planet.
Would anyone still want to love me when I wasn’t young and beautiful?
It was the 28th of July, and I was sweating profusely as I worked. Even though it was one of the hottest days of the summer, the goblins didn’t use the air-conditioning, so the hot air hung stagnant in the office. I fanned myself occasionally with a stack of paperwork, but that only did so much good, and I was sure that my hair was positively stuck to me at this point.
“Excuse me?” a voice interrupted my work. It was a human voice, something I heard so rarely these days, and I snapped my neck up in reaction.
“Yes?” I realized that I was looking at a bloke only a few years older than me, and a very good-looking one at that. Even with my hatred of my appearance, I vainly wished in that moment that I could have at least looked a little more attractive and a little less… gross.
“I have some paperwork that needed to be dropped off here,” the man explained, holding up a thick stack of papers.
“Ah, yes,” I replied, trying to keep my thick French accent as invisible as possible. “I can take zat.”
“Here you go,” he said, placing the paper on my desk. “By chance, what’s your name?”
A brief look of recognition flashed across his face, as he questioned, “You were a Triwizard Champion, weren’t you?”
I was taken aback; I wasn’t used to being remembered for something I did – it was always my appearance that made me notable. I nodded in reply, still too shocked to reply normally.
“I thought so,” he replied casually. “Sorry if that’s not something you like to talk about, it’s just that my little brother’s friend was a Champion as well, so I’ve heard your name before.”
“Eet iz no problem. Which Champion waz eet?” I asked, hoping that it wasn’t the Diggory boy. While I felt horrible about what happened, I also didn’t feel like discussing it, especially with someone who knew him.
I nodded. I quite liked Harry – he saved Gabrielle’s life during the Tournament, and I was forever grateful for that. I briefly wondered if this bloke was related to the redhead fourth year that had asked me to the Yule Ball – he probably was, given he had the same bright hair that the boy did… I think his name was Ronald something-or-other.
“I just realized,” the man said, laughing to himself, “that I know your name, but you don’t know mine. I’m Bill Weasley.”
Weasley! That was the last name! So he was Ronald’s older brother – what a small world.
“Nice to meet you,” I replied cordially.
“Same, although I really ought to get back to work now. But I’ll see you around, Fleur, okay?”
I nodded as he turned around and retreated back to wherever he usually worked. It was only after he left that I realized that for the first time in ages, I had had a conversation with a male, and not once did I notice his eyes skim up and down my figure, or try to make a move on me. I was gobsmacked, to say the least.
Not only that, but Bill came back the next day, not to drop anything off, but just to say hello and talk for a little. He did the same the next day, and the next day, until I began to look forward to his daily visits. Because not only did he actually get to know me, which was something I was completely unaccustomed to, but he actually looked like he enjoyed talking to me. He didn’t make any advances, and behaved like a perfect gentleman.
So when, two weeks later, he asked me to get drinks with him after work, I said yes without thinking twice about it.
When we stepped into the bar, the first thing I noticed was how crowded it was. There was a band in the back corner, and people were dancing everywhere.
Bill looked down at me, a look of worry etched on his face. “I didn’t realize that this place would be so busy tonight,” he half-shouted. “Do you want to go somewhere else?”
“Eet iz not bad ‘ere,” I replied. “Ve can stay, I don’t mind.”
“Alright then,” he said, before leaning forward and ordering two Butterbeers. He turned back to me. “I hope you don’t mind Butterbeer, because this place’s brew is phenomenal."
“Butterbeer iz great.” I remember tasting the stuff at the Three Broomsticks while at Hogwarts. It was very sweet, and had this tendency to warm a person from head to toe. I hadn’t had it in a while, and was very much looking forward to trying some again.
We tried to continue a conversation, but it failed, as the atmosphere was just too loud, and we were also trying to drink at the same time.
After we finished our drinks, Bill held out his hand. “Would you like to dance?” he asked. “We might as well, considering we’re already here.”
Visions of the last dance I went to came briefly to mind, when Roger tried to grind up against me as the Weird Sisters played. I pushed the thought from my mind; Bill wasn’t like that, was he?
I placed my hand on his, and he led me out onto the dance floor. He grabbed my other hand, and began to dance. I tried my best to follow his lead, but there were times where I would make mistakes. He didn’t seem to notice, or, if he did, he didn’t care.
It was odd – the juxtaposition created by our waltz-type dancing and the crazy jerking and thrusting being done by the people around us.
“I quite prefer this style of dancing, don’t you?” Bill asked, leaning in so that his breath tickled my ear and sent an unintentional shock down my spine.
I laughed, noticing how much of a gentleman he was. “Oh, definitely!”
He looked at me with amusement, and it was right then that I really noticed how attractive he was. His hair had this rogue-ish look to it, and was both a bright orange and a muted rust colour all at the same time. His eyes were a pale blue that shone even brighter under the soft lights of the bar.
But the best part of his appearance was by far his smile. He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life. He smiled, and I felt safe.
Not only that, but he was as handsome inside as he was out, and that made all the difference in the world.
Maybe there was somebody who would love me when I wasn’t young and beautiful.
Maybe I had found him.
I’m not young and beautiful anymore. My blonde hair is beginning to show streaks of grey, my once-flawless skin is developing lines around my eyes and mouth, and my body isn’t what it once was, seeing that I gave birth to three kids, who have all graduated Hogwarts at this point.
I’m standing on the beach at Shell Cottage, just watching the waves as they come in. With each continuous lap of the saltwater at my toes, I reflect on all that my life has been, knowing that I don't regret a minute of it.
I feel a pair of arms slide around my waist from behind. “I love you, you know that?” Bill says, resting his head on my shoulder.
“I love you too.”
I wasn’t young and beautiful anymore. But he still loved me. Even with my once-amazing physical appearance ripped away, Bill still loved me.
I knew he would.