When the Grangers go to France on vacation, in the summer of 1993, they of course oblige their daughter by touring some of Wizarding France as well. Hermione Granger absolutely cannot miss the opportunity to see some of the incredible things she’s read about.
She also wants to share the Wizarding World with her parents, if she can, since she can’t exactly demonstrate what she’s learning for them at home and magic is amazing. Letters alone cannot cover the brilliance that is magic, no matter how many of them she sends. Hermione likes talking to her parents about magic, enjoys watching their faces light up in wonder, and loves having them turn to her in bemused pride.
Hermione is a witch. She is the first witch in her family. She wants to be Best Witch that she can possibly be, even though it sometimes feels like the magical world is not for Hermione Granger. She will be the Best Witch, even though it sometimes feels like the magical world simply refuses to let her belong where she was always meant to belong.
Well, bully for those wrong opinions, because Hermione Granger is determined to make the magical world for herself. It will at least belong to her, even if she doesn’t and will never belong to it. She refuses to leave and let those wrong opinions win. They’re wrong.
It isn’t particularly pleasant, no, to fight for every scrap of acceptance in a world that should have rightfully been hers all along. This place for the strange and the wonderful and the marvellous should be for Girls Like Her. She shouldn’t have to fight for a place in it; but perhaps Hermione should have expected that there is nowhere that will ever welcome her with open arms and a smile.
In any case, moving on… Wizarding France is an excellent place for the Grangers to tour – this small section of it, that is. They aren’t meant to belong here, any of them, because they’re tourists. They’re English even before they’re Muggles. Hermione is safe in the knowledge that she is only meant to be a visitor here.
It’s also very good because Hermione has… well… the tiniest little bit of trouble talking to her parents about her time at Hogwarts… sometimes. There isn’t any Hogwarts to talk about here!
Look, Hermione Granger has a big mouth and a tendency to rant and she knows it. She really does know it, even if she often has trouble doing something about it. She’s running out of Safe and Not Worrying things about Hogwarts to talk about with her parents. Even her most tedious essays and the simplest school assignments can have Concerning Implications. Any longer and Hermione Granger risks the danger of her talking becoming Sincere Complaining, and then it will surely get away from her.
Hermione Granger is 13 years old and a regular know-it-all and a budding Champion Complainer. She can change almost any subject into a relevant soapbox speech within five to ten minutes – less time if she isn’t forced to try to be polite about it – so don’t get her started.
If Hermione’s dear, concerned parents convince themselves that Hogwarts is Not Good for their daughter, the consequences will be far worse than them not letting her take up that special time-turner arrangement that Professor McGonagall has so generously made for her. Oh, no, if Hermione’s parents knew about some of the exciting stuff that Hermione faces at school – all those trolls and basilisks and pixies and people-eating plants – or some of the horrid people that Hermione faces at school – slur-tossing bullies like Malfoy, school-board-leading slave-owners like the elder Malfoy, and hateful teachers like Snape – they might not want her to go back to Hogwarts at all! And that is a Fate Worse Than Death.
The Petrification Incident of last year was so very difficult to gloss over.
Very soon into her first year at Hogwarts, Hermione wisely determined that her parents Would Not Approve of her doing brave things like setting particularly suspicious teachers on fire and brewing barely-legal shapeshifting potions in haunted bathrooms, even if those rather exhilarating things were The Right Thing To Do. They wouldn’t even listen to her Reasonable Explanations of the situations!
Hermione’s boys are at Hogwarts. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are her greatest and most loyal and only friends. If she leaves Harry and Ron alone for too long, they do rather silly things like jump down secret sewers to fight kill-you-instantly-through-eye-contact monsters while armed with only one working wand and Gilderoy Lockhart. (Goodness, that was so stupid.) Without Hermione to keep them in check on whatever invigorating adventures they inevitably fall into next year, they will almost certainly get themselves killed!
Or at least almost certainly get too much into Quidditch and fail all their classes, which would be another Very Bad Thing to happen. They will surely be Helpless and Hopeless without her.
Perhaps Hermione might not leave the magical world entirely if she couldn’t go to Hogwarts. She might go to another distinguished school of witchcraft and wizardry in a different country – Beauxbatons here in France, for example – or one of the less well-known or day schools in Britain instead, which are all fine and good she’s sure. But none of them will challenge Hermione Granger quite the same way that Hogwarts challenges her, she’s also sure.
Also, if Hermione doesn’t get to go back to Hogwarts, what other school is going to give her a time-travel device so she can take ALL the magic classes? All the other schools that Hermione looked into have fairly strict NO TIME-TRAVELLING policies. Professor McGonagall told her so, to Impress Upon Her the Seriousness of the Offer, which Hermione found completely unfair to children whose parents are devoted Dr. Who fans like herself. Nothing is going to keep Hermione back from experiencing time travel.
Anyway, all in all, Hermione has to show her parents something and she really wants to see certain parts of Wizarding France, so this is Happening and it Will Be Lovely all around. Paul and Emily Granger certainly seem to be enjoying their first foray into exploring the secret magical areas of Wizarding France.
There’s this particular villa with a marvellous house and extensive gardens that used to belong to a fabulously wealthy wizard, which has since come to belong to the French Ministry of Magic and become an exhibition of national heritage open to all those in-the-know about the Wizarding World. The sprawling house has since become a magical art museum! The well-maintained magical gardens even have a small magical zoo attached! There’s lots of magic here for Hermione to show her parents even not counting the neat little stalls throughout the park or the gorgeous little shopping district nearby with its amazing restaurants.
“It’s very different to that ‘diagonally’ place, isn’t it?” Hermione’s mother says enthusiastically.
“Mmm,” says Hermione’s father, eyeing a sweets cart suspiciously. Candy is bad enough, but Hermione thinks he disapproves even more of sugar mice and chocolate frogs that can potentially chase you and your poor teeth down.
They stop for lunch at this charming magical restaurant where the chef, some talented and well-trained witch or wizard, makes the meals at your table with magic, while performing various extra magic tricks. (“Oh, so it’s rather like hibachi or teppanyaki restaurants!” Hermione’s mother said.) Hermione and her mother found the restaurant in one of the guidebooks for tourists that Hermione purchased at the information desk at the entrance, and the restaurant came highly recommended for “Magbobs” and for those travelling with Muggles.
The Grangers are seated at a table with another family, because these specialized cooking tables are quite large, and they don’t initially introduce themselves because this other family looks Very Magical and sound Very French.
However, after the waiter has left with their drink orders, while they’re waiting for their chef to arrive, Hermione’s mother asks a wondering question just a little too loudly.
And the very helpful gentlemen of the other family at the table, who was perhaps waiting for the opportunity to strike up conversation, intercedes gladly. He is more than delighted to introduce himself and his beautiful family to the Grangers. He is exuberant.
And it is All Downhill From There.
Hermione Granger begins at Mildly Embarrassed and moves swiftly into VERY EMBARRASSED and Mildly Horrified. Yes, this gentleman assures them that he is thrilled to have any opportunity to sharpen his language skills, but that doesn’t mean that Paul and Emily Granger need to take him up on his helpfulness. Hermione doesn’t understand why her parents are the sort of people who do Incomprehensible Things Like This. Are her own explanations not good enough for them?
“Charmant! Charmant! May I call you Emily? Paul? Mademoiselle ‘Ermi-nee, was it? Quel nom charmant! A pleasure! A pleasure! ! I am Elouan Delacour,” the helpful gentleman declares, just brimming with joy to Make Conversation. “This is my lovely wife, Apolline, and my wonderful daughters, Fleur and Gabrielle!”
The Delacours, who are also on vacation in this particular area of Wizarding France, are always delighted to make friends. They have never really had the opportunity to make some good English or Muggle friends and the Grangers are just charming people! Oh, how difficult it must be, they say, to raise a young witch without magic! Why, the Delacour parents have their hands quite full with two young witches and their magic to help them manage!
“Top of her year? Why, you must be very proud!” Monsieur Delacour says brightly, as he seems to say everything. “That is wonderful! Just wonderful! Our Fleur is also top of her year!”
Elouan Delacour is a very short, very rotund gentleman, with a very pointed black beard and a wide, constant smile. Apolline Delacour, to contrast, is statuesque – as unrealistically beautiful as any of those animated or unmoving statues in the nearby art museum – and friendly if not quite so enthusiastic. In their light, fashionable robes and bright, stylish hats, they seem in many ways the exemplary witch and wizard. Discomfort seems foreign to them.
Fleur Delacour and little Gabrielle take after their mother in appearance. They are also Stunningly Beautiful. They appear in every way to be the lovely young witches that Hermione could never be, who have surely never worried about Not Belonging in their lives.
Hermione gets through the rest of the meal by focusing on their chef weave pastry together in mid-air and then bake it before their eyes – and also by telling herself that, at some point, this lunch will be over and this will Stop. She resents the Delacours for intruding on her enjoyment of something that is quite spectacular – oh, how Hermione would very much like to be a witch who could so prettily pull desserts together in the air and then serve people fantastic and delicious magical food – but at least the Delacours will be gone soon. This will end.
It is to Hermione’s great horror that this doesn’t happen. Well, lunch ends, of course, and they pay and leave the restaurant, but their time with the Delacours continues. The Delacours invite the Grangers to spend time with them while they are both vacation in this area of France.
“I grew up in this most charming place, you know,” Monsieur Delacour says proudly, his arm-looped with Emily Granger’s, with their spouses on either side of them as they stroll back to the park. “We visit my family here most regularly and I know the area far better than any guide or book that you could buy! This is where I met Apolline! How could I ever forget the place where I fell in love?”
“Awww,” Emily Granger says.
“How romantic of you,” Paul Granger agrees.
Because they are people who Know How Socializing Works and even Enjoy it.
“It would be a delight to show a young English witch around the best of Wizarding France,” Madame Delacour promises them. “We could not leave our new friends to wander on their own.”
“Why Not?!” Hermione Granger doesn’t cry desperately.
Because Hermione Granger’s parents are the sort of people who believe in Incomprehensible Things Like This, they readily agree to the Delacours’ proposition.
“Oh, but wouldn’t be Nice to be shown around by a Real witch and wizard?” Hermione’s mother says.
“It’s always better be shown around by a local who knows what they’re on about,” Hermione’s father agrees. “We’d be delighted to join you.”
Hermione’s largely unvoiced and admittedly weak objections fall on mindfully deaf ears. From experience, Hermione knows that her parents Do Not Think Much of the childish argument, “But I don’t Want to socialize with these people.” She does not try to make it.
“It will be a wonderful way for Fleur and Gabrielle to practice their English!” Monsieur Delacour enthuses, to equally taken-in Grangers, as they all set out to the botanical gardens as one large party. “Charmant! Oh, you girls will be such good friends by the end!”
It doesn’t seem to matter that neither the Delacours nor the Grangers have any proof of this assumption. Paul and Emily Granger are the sort of people who rather irrationally think that all children who have even the barest of similarities will surely become immediate friends. Even if these similarities are limited to things like a) age, b) gender, and c) proximity. Hermione could tell them that even if Fleur (16), Hermione (13), and Gabrielle (7) were all the same age, It Doesn’t Actually Work Like That.
(Certainly Not For Me. )
Gabrielle Delacour seems like a sweet girl, but she speaks about as much English as Hermione speaks French, which is to say: almost none at all. Gabrielle also isn’t much interested in helping Hermione practice or in practicing herself. Little Gabrielle would rather cling to her mother and chatter to her father, or simper adorably towards the Absolutely Charmed Grangers.
Fleur Delacour may be happy enough to practice her English (which is slow but understandable) by taking a young English witch under her wing at her parents’ insistence, but Hermione is Honestly Not Pleased to be taken under wing by some young French witch. They have Absolutely Nothing in Common whatsoever! Admittedly, Hermione didn’t talk much during lunch, but that’s no reason for Fleur to be under the insulting impression that Hermione is also about seven years old.
Fleur Delacour is many things – intelligent, skilled, and friendly are some of them – but condescending is the one that Hermione Granger finds most prominent. The three-year age difference between them does not actually make Hermione immediately look up to Fleur. Hermione has been outperforming witches and wizards older than her since she first came to Hogwarts. She receives top marks in class and she has brewed almost-illegal potions, sleuthed out basilisks, and out-riddled teachers in her spare time. She is not happy or honoured to be the target of Fleur Delacour’s sweet cooing and condescension.
It doesn’t help that Fleur is sixteen, comfortable in her own skin, and actually DOES know quite a bit more about magic and the magical world than Hermione Granger. It doesn’t help that Fleur Delacour in her lovely robes and stylish hat and effortless grace makes Hermione, in her Muggle dress and childish socks and scuffed shoes and hatless head, feel like Less of a Witch.
It also doesn’t help that Fleur Delacour is Beautiful.
Hermione Granger likes to think that she doesn’t care about appearances and she Doesn’t Care About Appearances. She doesn’t. She does NOT care. However, the world can be filled seemingly to the brim with some very snide and insidious messages sometimes, and little girls remember them. Like how straight and blonde hair = Good and Desirable and Lovely; and therefore bushy and brown hair = Comparably Not Good and Not Desirable and Not Lovely.
And even though these awful messages aren’t true, little girls remember them whether they want to or not, and sometimes little girls Feel Bad Anyway. Because it seems like the world only likes pretty girls and it seems loud and clear that You Are Not a Pretty Girl. Then sometimes little girls feel bad for Not Being Pretty and then they feel bad for Caring About Not Being Pretty (especially when pretty is clearly arbitrary and subjective), and then they also feel bad for being Unreasonably Jealous of Pretty Girls.
It can feel rather Ugly to feel so badly so often, honestly.
And unfortunately, Beautiful Girls can be a reminder of all of this nonsense, even if they don’t mean to be.
Hermione Granger doesn’t need to be told that she is a Pretty Girl Too. She doesn’t need to be assured that she is in her own way beautiful. It would admittedly be very nice to be told sometimes that she is Pretty, but really, she thinks that she would rather live in a world where she could be The Ugliest Girl in the World (which she knows she is not) and it wouldn’t make a difference. It would be very nice to be Ugly if she wanted to be. It would be nice to just Be.
Fleur Delacour is now talking down to her – literally, because she is taller, but also figuratively in how she speaks in an incredibly slow and excruciatingly simple manner – about the first lessons that Beauxbatons gives its first-years in magic. This could be interesting, but Hermione rather wants desperately to interrupt and say flatly, “I’m not a child. I’m not stupid. I am a witch too. You’re not Better than me.”
Except that Hermione knows that her parents would take her to task for Being Rude, even if such an objection feels Eminently Reasonable. So, while the Granger parents chat happily to the Delacour parents ahead of them, Hermione Granger swallows her real thoughts, scuffs her shoes along the path, and settles in to be Absolutely Miserable for the foreseeable future in the place where she doesn’t at all belong.
Shortly into the first Granger-Delacour cooperative venture, Hermione’s sullen silence and curt replies have begun to get to Fleur Delacour. The cooing has stopped and any hair-tossing has firmly entered the realm of nervousness.
Fleur is quite determined to be a Good Hostess for this girl. Not only because her parents are expecting it of her, but because Fleur genuinely wants to be warm and welcoming and wise for a young witch. She wants to be liked and looked-up-to by this other girl. She wants to Set an Example and Be a Role Model and all such things. But whatever she wants, Fleur knows that she isn’t Being Successful while not knowing what to do about it. English isn’t easy.
Fleur admittedly sometimes doesn’t like other people very much, but quite often it seems that other people just aren’t very likeable. They don’t like her first or they like her too much in the wrong way. They like or dislike who they think she is – and they have never thought very hard or long about it.
She is supposedly intelligent and talented and kind, her parents assure her, but no one wants to see that. Fleur could be the Most Wonderful Girl in the World, she thinks, and that would still be overshadowed by how she looks. Sometimes it feels like her whole life has been people taking One Look at her and then not listening to anything she might have to say for herself. They never want to talk about anything interesting either. Fleur’s depths apparently stop at Veela. She has been deemed a skin-deep person: hollow on the inside.
Who is this young English witch to not listen to anything Fleur has to say? They are both young witches who are at the top of their year! Surely they must have a great many things in common! But this little girl seems to want to share nothing at all with Fleur.
Nevertheless, Fleur keeps talking in her hatefully halting English, with the occasional bit of French to help her find her words, to fill the anxious silence between them. Fleur will not let it be said that she did not try. Running out of the “child-friendly” topics that usually entertain her little sister Gabrielle, Fleur looks around desperately for a new subject of conversation.
Their parents and Gabrielle are ahead of them, down the path of the greenhouse they have been touring, and are happily feeding the prize-winning Mousquetons Vénus that are unique to these botanical gardens. Fleur’s mother is chatting happily with the supervising herbologist employed here, who has the familiar “stunned silly” expression on their face.
Fleur does not know what the greenhouses of Hogwarts are like or if they even have them. Still, either way, she would have thought that a young Muggleborn witch might find such showy, animated plants equally enthralling as her Muggle parents, and yet Hermione Granger only seems passingly interested. Fleur follows Hermione’s gaze to the placard in front of the small row of trees beside them, then says a little desperately:
“Ah, les noix de coco sanglante! Mon amie Joséphine use them when she is working with the Professeur de Potions of Beauxbatons, Madame Morien for making more… ah… substitutions? Remplacements? A potion for switching for the blood for the vampires! Poor Joséphine, she is a végétarienne – this is saying she is not liking the eating of the meat or the blood – but it is very difficult to get a good potion that does not use the animals. Probably, she will again make a new potion for her final project for the Potions and the Herbologie.”
Perhaps this is not an appropriate thing to be talking about with a young Muggleborn witch, but Fleur has tried talking about nicer things like friends, favourite classes, and how scary the magical world must seem sometimes to a little girl raised by Muggles. She knows that many people do not like to talk about The Real Problems of Veela and Vampires. She knows that her parents would perhaps not approve of such a subject.
Now that she is thinking about it, Fleur recalls that she has heard many terrible things from her father about the policies of the English regarding those who are not human or more than human. France is no better at all with its own bloody history and present, but the formidable Madame Maxime works hard to keep such hatred from having a home at her Beauxbatons.
But perhaps this change of topic is a desperate Fleur Delacour throwing down the gauntlet. Perhaps this is Fleur Delacour throwing down a challenge, if there is to be a pointless competition between them, because she has her pride as a witch and can so rarely bring herself to refuse a challenge. Perhaps this is Fleur daring this little English witch to react to something, even if it is to be silly and squeamish about blood. This other witch is not Better than her.
Hermione Granger, however, is not particularly squeamish about blood. She does try to resist reaction, because she Does Not Want to be Friends with this girl – she has Decided that she doesn’t want to be friends with this girl – but she can’t help herself. That is actually Very Interesting. Hermione is reluctantly fascinated and suddenly filled with questions.
She can’t Not ask them.
And because she is Hermione Granger, her questions are Many, and they are Reasonably Intelligent, and they are practically ready to Pummel Answers Out of Uncooperative Sources. She might not be happy about the current situation that her too-social parents have trapped her in, but she might as well learn By Any Means Necessary while she’s here. She will climb whatever language barriers that she must; if this particular beautiful teenage witch is the One With the Answers, then so be it.
“What do you mean ‘final project’? Is this a project that your friend is doing with a professor outside of class? Has your friend invented potions before? Is she really a vampire? I’ve never met one; I’ve only read about them; what are they like? Does Beauxbatons allow vampires? Is that at all dangerous? I heard that Beauxbatons allows many non-humans to attend their school, is that true? Do they have to make any sort of accommodations for the students? Do you get to help her make the potions? Does she grow these herself? Does that translate to ‘blood coconuts’? Really? What properties do these ‘blood coconuts’ have that make them a good substitution for vegetarian vampires? Is that a thing?”
Well, Hermione doesn’t ask them all quite like that, in a huge and unrelenting block of questions, but it is Quite Close. She allows a rather stunned Fleur the opportunity to give short responses where she can, but that is the gist of Hermione’s questions that are demanding to be answered by this witch.
And Fleur Delacour? What does Fleur do under such an unexpected bombardment?
Fleur lights up.
Because it is very true that Fleur Delacour is Beautiful, but it is also very true that she is also one of the Cleverest Witches of her Age. Not simply because her parents so say, either. (Give this girl one more year and she will be the very best that all of Beauxbatons has to offer any challenge.) Fleur is so very, very tired of being nothing but her looks when she has So Much More to offer anyone who actually wants it.
Perhaps all of these questions are somewhat rude, in both the question itself and the way of the asking, but they are still questions that deserve answering. Fleur is absolutely delighted to be of service. She will give this girl Most Helpful answers as soon as she and her poor English come to understand exactly what was asked in that extremely bewildering mess of questions.
“Excuse me please, but my English, it is not so good yet, ‘Ermi-nee. Perhaps you say again your questions…?” Fleur says, which is embarrassing, but she lifts her chin and asks anyway. She is making an effort to speak a language that isn’t her own; even if she sounds slow to even her own ears, she knows exactly how smart she is in French. “You… It was very fast and, excuse me please, I did not get some parts of your very fast questions.”
“Oh! Sorry,” Hermione says, and looks a little embarrassed herself, knowing that she didn’t talk enough before for Fleur to need to ask. “I know that I can get a little carried away with questions sometimes. I didn’t mean to lose you.”
“No! No! I am very happy to get your questions! But... une à la fois, ‘Ermi-nee! I can do one at a time! Did you say that your English… ah… château… palais… palace! It does not have vampires? Vraiment?” Fleur seems a little taken aback by this concept, as though it is so very strange for any magical castle to be without a resident vampire.
“Scottish castle,” Hermione corrects. “And not that I’m aware of, unfortunately. I’ve heard so many things about their reactions to sunlight! Is your friend always asleep during the day or is that a myth? Is it true that vampires have deathly pale skin?”
Fleur laughs. “Oh, no! They are not true! Joséphine is… ah… not sleeping in the day and she is very brown! She does not like the… sol- sun , that is true, but we still are all witches, no? We are very clever always in getting new ways to helping our friends! There is not just one type of vampire, tu sais? It is like the different types of… ah… it is not the dogs… les loup-garous? The people who are sometimes the wolf?”
“Werewolves?” Hermione says eagerly.
“C’est ça! Yes, that it is. ‘Werewolves’. J'ai oublié le mot en anglais.”
“I didn’t know that there was more than one kind of werewolf! Or vampire! But there are so many different depictions of them in mythologies!” Hermione says, with great realization. “We haven’t learned about werewolves or vampires in Defence Against the Dark Arts yet… well, our last teacher… well, not properly… and we don’t start Care of Magical Creatures until this coming year! How does that even happen? Are they all from one common ancestor or… or is it convergent evolution… or...?”
“You have a class ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’?” Fleur says, making very little effort to hide her disdainful expression (that is a strange name and a stranger class for an education on non-human people). But shakes her head and moves on. “It is sometimes like the... convergent evolution. Like the Veela with our ‘sisters’ in the Grèce, the harpie and the ménades, and the others around the world. We are not sisters… pas vraiment… but we are very the same that we must be sisters of the heart! Joséphine est une soeur de mon coeur! We even meet in the ‘club des soeurs magiques’, fondé par… made by Madame Maxime when she was a student of Beauxbatons!”
Hermione mouth closes. She is suddenly and very briefly Very Jealous. Hogwarts doesn’t have a Magical Sisters club. If there had ever been a club fair at Hogwarts, Hermione Granger would have joined All the Clubs, but she would have especially joined a Magical Sisters club for Girls Like Her. That sounds Wonderful.
“At Beauxbatons, we learn about the history of the vampires in L’Histoire du Monde – that is ‘ the World History’ – and about the ‘werewolves’ too,” Fleur continues knowingly, and smiles so brightly that Hermione is overcome with the urge to shield her eyes.
Hermione doesn’t cover her eyes because that would be Rude and Absurd, but Fleur in her delight and knowledge really is… enlightening. She’s suddenly just so much Brighter than she was before. Fleur was annoyingly beautiful before, but now it feels rather like squinting at the sun all the time, and it’s almost unbearable enough to quell Hermione’s questions. Almost.
Hermione will have answers, though, so she Persists Nevertheless.
“What kind of vampire is your friend Joséphine?”
“Ah! Joséphine, sa famille… they are from the ‘Vieux Pays’. It is the… l’espoir… tu sais, l’espoir? Hope? It is the hope of her life that she will take the nut of coco to the ‘Vieux Pays’ of her grandmother even if it is her death! But you are not asking what type of person she is, are you?” Fleur says, as teasing and chiding as one might expect from a Big Sister. “Even if we are very… fières… happy with the type, sisters magiques do not like to be… we do not like the questions of the type of witch that we are; to the question we say always, ‘We are the type of witch that does not like you.’”
Hermione can feel the heat go all through her face and an Indignant Response is on the tip of her tongue, because Fleur just told her that there were different kinds of vampires. How was Hermione supposed to then not ask which kind Fleur’s friend is?
But then Fleur winks and continues, “I say this to you because I like you, ‘Ermi-nee. It is very impoli to ask a witch what kind of witch that she is, no? Very not good. She is a witch! That is all that we must know.”
“Oh,” says Hermione, very quietly.
“Come, let me talk with you of the noix de coco sanglantes. They are very interesting! They are very important for the… ah… sucettes de sang… I do not know what they call them in English. They are a blood bonbon? That must be it, yes? They are on a bâtonnet and there is a bonbon on the top, and you get them from the docteur when you are good.”
“Do you mean... Blood Pops?” Hermione offers uncertainly.
“‘Blood Pops’? …Vraiment? Yes, this must be it.” Fleur waves her hand dismissively. “The ‘Blood Pops’ are very important to the… les modes de vie… very important to the vampires here in France, tu sais? Joséphine, she is not ever not having them, and I always have one for her! They are very good! Vraiment! Here, see how… see what they are doing to the, euh, terre autour? The trees need important things. Come! Come look! I helped my friend. Come!”
About five minutes later, when the Granger-Delacour parents look back over at their daughters, they are surprised, to say the least, at the drastic change their girls have obviously undergone. Fleur Delacour is kneeling on the ground, with no care as to her lovely robes, talking excitedly about the calming properties of Blood Coconuts for both the people who are ‘mythologically man-eaters’ and for many magical beasts. Her stylish witch’s hat has either fallen off or been set aside. Fleur has her hands in the dirt and an unknowing smudge of it on her nose.
Hermione Granger is listening raptly, interrupting to ask questions that only seem to make Fleur beam all the brighter. Fleur holds up a handful of dirt and they both lean over it in a scrutinizing fashion. Hermione’s serious expression implies that the qualities of this dirt are a matter of Extremely Important Witching Business.
“Ah, young friendship,” Madame Delacour says fondly. “Let us leave them to their fun.”
Paul and Emily Granger are rather boggled to see their daughter getting along with someone, much less another girl she was apparently so determined to dislike, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be overjoyed for her. Hermione’s mother readily agrees to this newest enchanting Delacour proposition. The Granger-Delacour parents (and Gabrielle) move farther into the greenhouse, knowing that the girls will catch up when they are ready.
Paul asks a question about the exchange of magical-mundane currency in Wizarding France, and Elouan Delacour is more than happy to answer him on the subject.
Twenty minutes later, the Granger-Delacour parents realize that Fleur and Hermione will apparently not be catching up to them. Paul and Elouan return to pull their daughters out of the dirt, where the girls are now avidly discussing the calming properties of music on various magical creatures, because they’ll never see the rest of the botanical gardens at this rate.
“When will we see the Delacours tomorrow?” Hermione asks her mother, after they’ve returned to their hotel for the night. “We’re going to the zoo tomorrow, right? Or are we going to the beaches? Do you think that we’ll have time to stop at the hotel first?”
Emily Granger exchanges a deeply bemused look with her husband. They still don’t quite know what to think of their daughter’s rather sudden friendship with such a very different girl.
“We’re going to the zoo tomorrow, love,” she says. “Why would we need to stop here?”
“Fleur said that she’d bring me books on the world history of vampires and werewolves,” Hermione says distractedly, sorting through the books she brought. (A rather considerable amount, which took several rounds of elimination to narrow down, and yet not nearly good enough.) “I don’t have my school bookbag with me and I don’t want to carry a stack of books around all day. I think she thinks that we don’t have books at Hogwarts. I told her that we did have books at Hogwarts, but I don’t think she believed me. She said she’d make her dad Apparate home to fetch them anyway.”
“Well, maybe you can ask Elouan or Apolline to help you two, love,” Emily says wisely. “They’ll be able to help, won’t they? Go brush your teeth and don’t forget to floss.”
With an Extremely Put-Upon Sigh, of the sort that can only be performed by a Teenager Who Was Going to Do That Anyway, Hermione leaves her books alone and goes to brush her teeth. Once Hermione has left the room and the washroom door has shut firmly behind her, Emily Granger exchanges a deeply amused look with her husband, who only shrugs.
They had gladly accepted the fact that they were raising a girl like Hermione Granger even before they found out she was a witch. They’re very used to accepting rather marvelous things they don’t entirely understand in their contentedly mundane lives.
“Books would do it,” Paul Granger says wryly.
The next morning, to Hermione’s faint surprise, Fleur has kept her promise. Hermione is given a stack full of books in one of Fleur’s old purses, which is enchanted to bigger on the inside and lighter than a veritable book shelf should be. Most of these books are, unfortunately, in French, but Fleur has thoughtfully provided a dictionary and is Extremely Certain that Hermione will prevail. Books are still books, even if they are so unfortunately in French (and she doesn’t know French), so Hermione thanks Fleur very sincerely.
Inwardly, Hermione decides that, perhaps, she can consent to like Fleur Delacour. At the end of the day yesterday, she had found herself still reluctantly greatly liking Fleur, but today she thinks that she can be rid of the reluctance. She also decides that no one ever need know that she ever so badly judged a book by its cover. Especially since she judged the book by her perceptions of the cover, rather than was actually depicted, which is even worse.
Perhaps a bit of Reactive Dislike is to be expected when one insufferable know-it-all encounters another, that’s all. That doesn’t mean they have to be competition, Hermione thinks as she smiles nervously up at Fleur’s breath-taking delight at successfully having given a gift. It also doesn’t mean that they can’t be very good friends if they try.
“Come, ‘Ermi-nee; I see this zoo every… I see this zoo lots and I will show you the good parts. The more good parts,” Fleur declares delightedly. “First, I think that you will like the… ah… I do not know what you say… but they are the.... The cats that are for the witches… and they walk like they are the… ah… les rois of the place. You said to me that you like cats, the last day, yes? I remember you did say.”
Hermione doesn’t have any Reasonable Objections to following Fleur. (She did say that she likes cats, yes.) The Granger-Delacour parents have already given up on keeping Fleur and Hermione with them. Apolline sends them off into the zoo to do as they wish together, with the strict instruction that they return to the front entrance in time for lunch.
“Do not get so distracted that you forget to eat again, mon chou!”
It is somewhat of a rare experience for Hermione to have someone Desperately Want to Show Her Something. It happens sometimes with Harry and Ron, of course. They find a book they don’t understand and want help with it, or they’ve found a book they don’t understand but think that she might appreciate. Harry will tell Ron about Muggle things and then Ron will come to Hermione to figure out if Harry’s being sincere or having him on again. Or Ron will tell Harry about magical things and then Harry will come to her to properly enjoy some mutual, raised-by-Muggles “Wizards are Very Strange Sometimes” sentiments.
Otherwise, typically, Hermione doesn’t have many people telling her, “I saw this and thought you’d enjoy it!” She doesn’t see her parents often enough now for it to be a regular thing with them anymore; it’s become a special treat to look forward to on the holidays.
The resident zoo Kneazles are adorable. They are, just as Fleur promised, very friendly and very fat and Hermione loves Every Single One of Them. Unfortunately, Fleur informs her that she is probably not allowed to steal them. Fleur then drags Hermione away from the Kneazles, because apparently she has so very many things that she thinks Hermione will like! The Kneazles were only the first stop in all the things Fleur wants to share with Hermione.
They go through the zoo together and chatter about all sorts of interesting things while they view the animals, which are all quite small and usually rather local. They talk about the history and nature of familiars, and the sort of magic that people can work with animal partners. On the subject of the art of Seeing Through Another’s Eyes, they talk about what they’ve heard about the further various forms of astral projection – a very complicated and difficult form of magic, Fleur relates unhappily, which is not even taught at Beauxbatons. They talk about what makes various animal parts useful in Potions and Divination and other spell-crafting.
They talk and talk and talk… and talk… and talk. Hermione finds herself yet again in the rather Bizarre and Wonderful Situation of making conversation with another person who can make time fly almost as well as sitting down with a very good book.
Fleur is so very well-read and educated! She is still a little condescending, but it doesn’t seem to be intentional, and now there is the firm understanding (challenge) between them that it is Only a Matter of Time before Hermione Granger catches up to her. (It’s not a competition, except for how it will always, just a little bit be a competition to the likes of Hermione Granger.)
It also occurs to Hermione, while they are having their halting but eager discussions, that Fleur may also be speaking so slowly and simply not just because she thinks Hermione doesn’t know what she’s saying, but also because Fleur doesn’t know what she herself is saying. She doesn’t know if she’s using the right words or being fully understood. Fleur is making a sincere and impressive effort to speak a language that is not her own.
Rather than make a rather awkward and directionless apology, an embarrassed Hermione instead puts in a great effort to compliment Fleur’s English and to speak some halting French phrases in return. Fleur beams at her again, of course, and is more than happy to correct her mistakes and encourage her efforts, unlike most of the bilingual locals who have been rather reluctant to let the Grangers try to order anything in their awful French.
“You are terrible, yes, but that is good!” Fleur laughs. “It is very good! It is more good to be terrible! If we are terrible, then we are only going up! Ce n’est pas la fin du monde! It is not the end of the world to be terrible at something, is it? I will not say if you do not say too!”
On the subject of languages, the topic of conversations turn to magical languages that allow wizards to communicate with animals. Hermione asks (very, very casually) if Fleur happens to know anything about Parseltongue. Fleur doesn’t really. Fleur is frankly rather stumped at first, only vaguely aware of the magical language, but lifts her chin and strides over to the nearest zoo employee to Demand Answers for the both of them. Hermione tries to tell her that that’s Really Not Necessary, but Fleur will hear none of that.
“If we do not know, then we must ask!” Fleur Delacour declares. She clearly possesses no fear whatsoever about asking potentially Silly Questions and Appearing Ignorant to a complete stranger. “I will get you someone for your questions!”
The zoo employee is initially rather bewildered by being accosted by a pair of teenage witches, but then deeply charmed by Fleur’s adept hair-tossing, and Hermione gets her answers. (Parseltongue apparently has roots in India and most of the world doesn’t consider it inherently malevolent, which Hermione thinks Harry will be very glad to hear.) But this is still not enough: Fleur claims to be inspired by Hermione’s many questions and has several questions of her own on the subject. While the wizard is here, surely he can answer them too?
Half-an-hour later, the increasingly shifty zoo employee points at the nearest enclosure and shouts, “OH, MON DIEU! QU’EST-CE QUE C’EST?!” And when Fleur and Hermione turn back around (because nothing remarkable was behind them), the wizard has vanished.
“Quelle impolitesse!” Fleur huffs.
“I wasn’t finished with my next question,” Hermione says unhappily, embarrassedly. Fleur only managed to translate three parts of Hermione’s rather fascinating five-point question.
“Hmph!” Fleur agrees.
Then, without asking either forgiveness or permission, Fleur Delacour loops her arm around Hermione’s own and pulls them together. Once again, Hermione finds herself too boggled by the action to do anything but be tugged along. Their elbows are hooked; their hips brush together; Fleur’s other hand comes down on top of Hermione’s arm and the older girl smiles brightly and determinedly down at her.
“Forget that man impoli!” Fleur says. “Come, you must see this next thing! You will love it. I have so many questions because my grandmother – la mère de ma mère, la Vélane, euh, Veela– she talks to les oiseaux… ah… tu sais? Les oiseaux? Animals who fly and sing.”
“Yes! Birds! My grandmother, she talk to the birds. They do not talk to her, always, because the birds are also very impolis, but at them she talk anyway. Even my English is more good than my talking to birds, but I know some good words!”
“…Alright?” Hermione says, still a little stunned.
She knows that it would probably be very rude to suddenly demand, “Why are you touching me?”
Hermione has some rather Unfortunate Experience in Unwanted Hugs from overzealous relations and family friends, and she knows that people don’t always respond understandingly to, “Please don’t touch me.” Even though privately Hermione thinks that it is Far Ruder of them to envelope her in unwanted embraces and stick their hands in her hair and whatever unsolicited “affection” they unreasonably think appropriate to inflict on a child. However, thankfully, that is a very different “Why are you touching me?” to the one Hermione wants to demand of Fleur Delacour.
Hermione is familiar with the idea of linking arms with someone. Lavender and Parvati go nearly everywhere attached at the arm and hip – sometimes with Parvati’s sister in tow as well. Many people at Hogwarts travel hand-in-hand around the school. It is simply that Hermione Granger is not one of these people. Of her friends: Harry almost never touches other people first and Ron remembers at least half the time that Hermione is a Girl.
Paul and Emily Granger aren’t particularly physical affectionate people either. Not because they don’t love her, she knows, but because they just aren’t a very touchy family. Not like the Delacours are touchy, Hermione has observed over the course of one day of knowing them.
Anyway, people simply Do Not link arms and stroll about with Hermione Granger.
Except, apparently, Fleur Delacour.
“Les oies d’or!” Fleur introduces, once they reach the next enclosure. “Aussi appelées ‘les nouveaux rois de France’! It is a… blague? Un gag? It is for making laughing, tu vois? The New Kings of France! ‘Oies’ et ‘rois’ sound very the same. I do not know your word for the birds in English.”
“Geese! Golden geese!” Hermione supplies. “I’ve read about these! Is it true they lay golden eggs?”
“Only if you give them the gold for eating! They are like the little dragons!”
Fleur tries to demonstrate speaking bird for Hermione to these enormous, yellow geese, who have a strangely dinosauric quality. Unfortunately, it seems that the proud birds are feeling rather uncooperative, their honking and hissing response to Fleur sounds Very Rude. Fleur is clearly taken aback and her response… well, there’s some more honking and hissing and it also sounds Very Rude.
Hermione doesn’t mean to giggle, but… Fleur is arguing with a goose. The geese eventually waddle off, their heads held high, and Fleur’s upset devolves into sending some Very Rude Sounding French after them. Hermione’s French hasn’t suddenly vastly improved in a few hours, but she is very sure that she catches mention of goose liver and guillotines. With her own head held high, Fleur adamantly refuses to translate any of the exchange, even when Hermione offers to teach her rude English words in exchange.
Hermione reads a lot of books and she’s friends with Ron Weasley, so she believes that she knows a rather respectable amount of rude words. But Fleur just laughs and drags her off to see something else rather than make the reasonable trade.
They talk some more about the various magical languages around the world, such as those spoken by goblins and mermaids. They talk about Fleur’s grandmother’s gift for talking to birds, which is apparently rather limited, but a common enough trait among Veela. They even talk more about Veela, their Eastern European heritage, and their potential origins – there are apparently many wildly different theories behind the mythology: a curse, natural magical mutation, willing transformation, creatures from another dimension, and so on – when Hermione asks very politely if Fleur would share it with her.
They talk and talk and talk… and talk… and talk. Hermione has a brand new stack of books slung over her shoulder, in Fleur Delacour’s old purse, and yet it has been so very easy to resist beginning to read them. Hermione had barely even thought about cracking open a book at all, besides perhaps to Prove Her Point as necessary.
That… does not typically happen in Hermione Granger’s experience.
Hermione learns a lot that day. She still has questions at the end of the day, of course, because she is Hermione Granger and she thinks that she will always still have more questions, but she can’t say that she isn’t Satisfied with what she’s learned. It feels like it would take another full day just to list everything that she learned today!
Back at the hotel, Hermione’s parents send her off to brush her teeth and get ready for bed before it feels like she’s related even a tenth of all the amazing things that she learned while arm-in-arm with Fleur Delacour. Which is reasonable, of course, but it’s all just so fascinating.
The strangest thing that Hermione learned today, which seems to be sticking with her long after saying their goodbyes for the day, is the rather irrelevant information that Fleur is very warm and very strong and smells very good. Could that be yet another Veela thing? Hermione might have to ask if there’s a special magical perfume or soap that the Delacours use – they are very French, after all – so there’s no reason for such a silly thing to be floating around in her head.
Perhaps the problem isn’t just that Hermione Granger doesn’t have much experience with friendships. She also has very little experience with Being Friends With Another Girl. That type of friendship, Hermione believes, is an entirely different sort of beast. She has personally come to believe that female friendships are full of pitfalls that don’t exist with boys who have little reference as to What Girls Are Like, though she doesn’t have much evidence for this.
Hermione Granger sometimes feels like a girl with very little reference as to What Girls Are Like. Well, the world says a lot of things about girls and sometimes it seems as though Hermione is not very good at being one, until she remembers that she is a girl and so girls are like whatever she is like. But still, she doesn’t know much of anything about things like linking arms or smelling so unreasonably nice.
It cannot be that Hermione Granger is Not Like Other Girls simply because she likes to think and read and have opinions. That would be Absurd. All girls do those things. Still… sometimes it seems to a young girl… to this young girl… as though there is something about being a girl who can be friends with girls that is a mystery. It is something that no one has really bothered to Explain to her. Even her mother, who has been unfairly attached at the hip to Apolline Delacour since yesterday and seems to be perfectly comfortable with it.
The world is filled with Girls Like Her, Hermione knows (somewhere out there, her parents have assured her, there are countless Girls Like Her), but… sometimes it seems as though despite this… the world isn’t also filled with girls who want to be friends with a girl like her. Which is a Troubling and Distressing and Probably (Hopefully) Absurd Notion. Hermione would very dearly like to have a friend who is a girl.
She thinks that she could be a very good girl friend. She could be a very good friend to girls, she’s sure, if only she could find one who also wanted to be friends with her.
Fleur isn’t nearly so different as Hermione had originally thought her to be and seems to like her very much. Fleur said so, didn’t she? But does that mean that they’re friends? She brought Hermione books this morning and talked to her all day and happily promised to see her again tomorrow. Those are surely indications of someone who wants to be friends with her.
Oh, how Hermione wishes that she could have a good book (with direct explanations and maybe some nice diagrams) to explain how to catch and keep a friend. There’s no convenient mountain troll to fight together this time. Hermione collapses face-first on her bed and grumpily thinks that she would rather fight another mountain troll (properly this time). It’s dangerous, but at least it’s so much clearer than this! There’s nothing left to doubt there!
The Granger-Delacour cooperative vacationing venture continues grandly. It is widely agreed by the Granger-Delacour parents that this friendship has been a rousing success, and Fleur and Hermione must agree. The only objector is poor little Gabrielle, who is surrounded by adults who want to talk about Boring Stuff and older girls who only want to talk about Even More Boring Stuff.
Thankfully, little Gabrielle is easily mollified by regular offerings of ice cream.
The day after the zoo and the full exploration of the villa, the Delacours take the Grangers to a magical cinematograph show and the next-door museum on the history of magical film. Fleur and Hermione talk most excitedly about “Les Soeurs Illumine” of the 1800s. Augusta Marie and Louisa Jean Illumine, a local Muggleborn witch and her Muggle sister, were responsible for the first potion for developing moving magical photographs. Hermione wonders if Colin Creevey knows this and resolves to mention it to the boy when school starts again.
The museum has many interesting facts about the history of photograph, screens, and mirrors acting as doorways (full and partial) to alternate and unreal dimensions. Hermione and Fleur are talking loudly about Foe-Glasses and the rather dangerous magic of making them, when they notice that the Granger-Delacour parents are all looking somewhat queasy.
“Love, maybe we can talk about something else?” Emily Granger says desperately.
“Fleur,” Elouan Delacour says sternly. “No one needs to hear about how one uses the blood or eyes of the oiseaux augures to make these terrible mirrors. You will put everyone off their dinner!”
Fleur and Hermione exchange a look. Later, it says.
And they shift the topic back to fire spells, which had been the subject of discussion when they came in, coming from the topic of magical buildings that have burned down spectacularly over the course of history. Fleur’s Veela heritage gives her a rather natural knack for fire and Hermione has also always been quite handy with fire spells. Fleur has been telling Hermione about the many, many fire spells that she knows and their various uses since this morning.
“Les filles,” Apolline Delacour interrupts. “S'il vous plaît!”
The next day, they tour the town and stop in nearly every store. They pick out some lovely souvenirs, visit an ancient bookshop where Hermione feels like she could curl up in a ball and stay forever, and they enjoy a rather fantastic puppet show. Elouan Delacour takes them to the house of an old family friend, an elderly witch, for some home-cooked bouillabaisse.
Hermione and Fleur talk about food and drink and the various magical sports about the world. (“They are not all so silly!” Fleur assures her laughingly, and winks. “Some are more terrible!”) Hermione is so very glad to finally meet someone who really just Doesn’t Really Care About Quidditch. Hermione enjoys Quidditch matches as much as the next person who frankly doesn’t care much for the sport, but it would be much easier to cheer Harry on if he wasn’t nearly dying in a match every year like clockwork. (First broom jinxes then rogue bludgers! What next?!)
Fleur is so very fascinated to hear about How Muggles Manage (“Just fine, thank you,” Hermione answers tartly, before elaborating) and an outsider’s perspective of the Wizarding World and a magical education. They talk about the clubs at each of their schools, yearly school events, final projects versus exams, and how the Beauxbatons students take their Ordinary Wizarding Levels in their sixth-year rather than their fifth.
“You can pass your good ones early, if you want,” Fleur assures her. “I think it is more good! Our students have more time if they need it. Oh, I would like very much for you to see Beauxbatons! C’est vraiment magnifique!”
The day after that, they travel out to the sea to visit the beaches just because they’re lovely. The Granger-Delacour parents and Gabrielle spend most of their time playing in the sand and the waves, while Fleur and Hermione mostly go strolling together barefoot.
Fleur talks some more about Beauxbatons, a subject that she apparently cannot speak on enough, and this time very self-consciously asks to know more about Hermione’s school afterwards. L’Académie de Magie Beauxbâtons is situated in a palace and it is incomparably gorgeous according to Fleur. She describes enormous fountains and paintings on ceilings and incomparably beautiful rooms (renovated when Madame Maxime became headmistress to become more accessible to everyone), but she is just as eager to hear Hermione awkwardly describe the striking landscape of Scotland, the Great Lake and the mountains beyond, and the mismatched nature of her Scottish castle’s beauty.
Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts seems to have endeavoured to add something to the school. Some people think that the castle hasn’t changed at all since the Founders, but everyone wants to make their mark on the castle, and the school had to be updated and expanded over the years to accommodate new developments and technologies.
The marks aren’t always… useful, though, or as lovely as the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. Armando Dippet, the headmaster before Dumbledore, only improved upon the staff quarters, room, and offices. Dumbledore, on the other hand, has added the Whomping Willow and made renovations like those to the musical chambers where the Hogwarts Choir meets and practices. This one headmaster named “Phineas Nigellus Black” added these hideous gargoyles that sneer down at the students, when the drainage needed to be updated, and they like to spit rainwater at passing students after a storm.
Still… though Hogwarts doesn’t have the same prettiness that Beauxbatons apparently has, though its art and sculpture is the furthest thing from well-organized, Hermione loves it. She could only call certain parts of it pretty or beautiful or handsome, especially when the architecture certainly doesn’t match and sometimes clashes, but she likes even the parts that some might call ugly. It is both lively and gothic – the castle breathes – and Hermione really does love it. It is a home for all the most marvelous misfitting things.
She’s not really thought about it this way before. Even if she sometimes feels like an outsider, among these strange and wonderful and marvellous things, many of which don’t seem to want her here… Hermione loves the Wizarding World.
She loves it more than she can say, really.
“You say you not good at this,” Fleur says finally, “but I say you must be a poète! Une poète, tu sais…? Oui! You make even a witch with blood hot want to see your castle cold and raining. Is it true that your montains turn violet in the… ah… when it is hot?”
“It’s Scotland! It doesn’t really get hot!” Hermione jokes. “You mean the heather?”
So, they take a seat at the edge of the waves and they talk about their schools some more and oh, how Fleur Delacour just Laments some more that Hermione will not have the opportunity to see Beauxbatons while she’s here. It gets… a little Tiresome, quite quickly, so Hermione changes the subject to post-secondary magical education instead. She’s been searching for clearer answers on the subject and, as Fleur is only two years away from graduation, surely she’s thought about what she’s going to do after school? Hermione is thirteen is already the thought of What Happens After School causes her Concern.
Fleur tells her about getting jobs straight out of school thanks to career fairs, about the various specialized apprenticeships that one can take, and about further studies to become something like a healer or a professor of magic. Why, she has a cousin, Jonquil, who studies the magic of space and time, and who teaches at the Université d'Oriande! But Fleur herself, unfortunately, still doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life.
“I am good with the animals,” Fleur says. “First because I am part Veela, but now I am making… ah… une ‘série de sorts’? A group of magic for making animals not angry and other things.”
“Like the goose?”
Fleur groans. “Ferme-la s'il te plait!”
“...It is not terrible if I do not know, yes?” Fleur says finally, and puts her hands into the sand behind her to lean back. “We are not old yet. We have more time to know and see the world first. We can yet be anything we want to be. We are witches, yes? Il n’y a rien – there is nothing that we can not do if we want it.”
“That’s the wonderful thing about magic, isn’t it?” Hermione sighs happily.
Fleur gives her a thoughtful, smiling look.
“...What?” Hermione says.
“You are the most good witch I know, I think,” Fleur says, so very directly.
Hermione blinks at her, too stunned to speak at first, the heat rushing up her cheeks until she blurts out, “Oh, oh, no. I’m still learning. I mean, that’s very kind of you to say, but I’m only just starting my third year! I think you mean ‘best’ witch, by the way. Anyway, you know far more magic than I do, really, since you’re about to go into your sixth year and-”
“No, no! ‘Ermi-nee, that is not it!” Fleur laughs, high and delighted and beautiful. “That is not it! There is more than just knowing the magic. It is what you do with it; it is how you do it. You are the ‘best’ witch because of what I like about you: you like the magic! All the magic, you like it! You like how it is working and what it can do and be helping. All the magic in the world, you like it so much that I remember how I also like it!”
“Oh, um… thank you?”
Fleur laughs again. Really, Hermione should feel like she’s Being Laughed At. When she first met Fleur, whenever Fleur laughed, Hermione had thought that she was Being Laughed At. But now that she knows Fleur Delacour… she knows better… Fleur even told her that it was not because she thinks Hermione is silly. Fleur is just laughing because she’s happy.
“No, no! Thank you, ‘Ermi-nee!” Fleur insists, smiling and sincere and beautiful. “I am thanking you for liking magic! For being you! You make a girl remember that she can do anything.”
Hermione stares back at her, fairly certain that it wouldn’t be the right thing to do to say, “You’re welcome.” What is she supposed to say to that? Right now, Hermione’s face feels like it’s on fire, and she would give just about anything for five minutes with a thick, extensive book entitled something like: What You Are Supposed to Say to SOMETHING LIKE THAT. Surely, someone in the world has written such a helpful and utterly necessary book.
“Well… um… thank you for talking to me about magic,” Hermione says awkwardly.
She regrets this immediately. Sure that underwhelming response is Not Enough to a compliment of the order that Fleur just gave her. In any other situation, from her past experience, Hermione would be able to see the conversation go absolutely flat in front of her.
And yet Fleur just keeps smiling at her.
“Thank you for talking to me about magic,” Fleur answers. “It is so good, ‘Ermi-nee, to talk about magic. Tu ne peux pas savoir, vraiment. Oh, c’est tellement agréable! D’être plus que mon apparence pour quelqu'un. J'avais oublié. Je suis une sorcière et fière de l’être.”
“Pardon? I’m afraid I didn’t catch that?” Hermione says.
“I also like to talk about the magic.”
“Oh… good. That’s good.”
And they sit on the beach and watch the waves for a while, while Fleur smiles and Hermione’s face burns (and Hermione is ever so grateful that her blushing is not so brilliantly obvious as a Weasley’s). Fleur thankfully seems content to let the compliments rest between them without needing further response, so Hermione elects to to just… Move Past This. If they move past this, then the sooner Hermione’s can stop feeling so unreasonably embarrassed.
“What do you mean ‘a group of magic’? Are you talking about spell series? Oh, you are! I’ve read about those! But we haven’t started studying them yet at school because it’s very difficult to perform many spells and then hold them on top of each other, isn’t it? How do you do it? I don’t understand the diagrams that I see in the books – it just looks like an impossible mess – but I know that there is a way of doing it rather simply.”
Fleur throws back her head and laughs. “Simple? No! Mais impossible? No, no, no!”
It isn’t until later, after she’s returned to the hotel again and is still trying to shake Fleur’s dazzling smile out of her head, that Hermione realizes why she likes the way Fleur talks about the future so much. To Fleur, Hermione will see Beauxbatons someday. To Fleur, Hermione will graduate Hogwarts and go on to do amazing things. To Fleur, Hermione’s life here in the Wizarding World is both Natural and Inevitable.
As though Hermione has no other place to the world but the magical part of it. As Fleur might possibly say, with no regard to all the vast, perhaps-not-so-important differences between them: “You are a witch! Where do you belong if not here with me?”
The days go by quickly and, just as quickly, come to an immovable, unfair close.
It’s not fair. It’s too soon.
Hermione Granger and Fleur Delacour have as many fascinating conversations as they can possibly cram into their time together. They talk about why various charms go wrong the ways that they do. They talk about the importance of intent and non-verbal magic, and even a little bit about wandless magic and “hedge magic”. They talk about how magical spells age and evolve over time. They talk about the properties of precious metals and woods and more, and how they come together in the crafting of magical objects.
They talk about the culture of the Wizarding World and the Muggle World. They talk about fairy tales and mythology and science. They talk about the math within magic. They talk about literature and movies and musicals. They talk about fashion and Fleur recounts stories of the most humorous and ridiculous hats she’s ever seen.
They talk and talk and talk.
But they don’t seem to have talked fast enough, because the Grangers’ vacation to France is coming to a close, the Delacours are going back home, and Hermione still has So Many Questions. She has so many things she wants to say and hear. (She still doesn’t even know if she and Fleur Delacour are Officially Friends. Hermione presumes that they are friends, but there’s been no Explicit Declaration, so how can she be sure?)
Hermione is just about ready to work herself up to a panic about all their Unfinished Business, but Fleur just laughs kindly at her and takes Hermione’s hands in her own. Just like she’s been looping their arms together and pressing their sides together when sharing seats.
“We can write, ‘Ermi-nee!” Fleur says. “You have my address now! You will write to me, yes?”
“Of course!” Hermione says, before she is brought down by a Crushing Reminder. “Well, I would, but I don’t have an owl! I could ask to borrow my friend’s owl, Hedwig, but I don’t know if Harry would be alright with sending her as far as France!”
“You can ask him! But do not worry, my family has… ah… a owl is un hibou, right? Your school must have the owls for the students who do not have their own animals! You must write to me. You have not finished my books and you must tell me what you think. I can help you with the French if you need, just as writing to you will help my English!” Fleur looks Hermione in the eyes and smiles, and says, “I will miss you when I am at school.”
“Oh, um. I miss you too!” Hermione says. Then she blurts out, “Are we friends?”
Fleur blinks at her. “When were we not?
Fleur laughs and squeezes Hermione’s hands. “Yes, we are friends and you must write to me. I want to hear all of your new classes and your new terrible teacher of Defence!”
“And you have to tell me how Joséphine’s new potion goes!”
“Yes, yes! I will write all about it.”
The Granger-Delacour parents are very sorry to pull their daughters apart, but it must be done. The Delacours have an appointment with family and the Grangers have a train to catch. Emily Granger tells her daughter to say her last goodbyes and Elouan echoes it. (Elouan Delacour has been Not Crying since their farewells began and Hermione found his goodbye the least enthusiastic thing she’s ever seen him do. Apolline pats him on the shoulder fondly.)
Hermione and Fleur look at each other.
It feels like they’re only just getting started, Hermione thinks wretchedly. This is so unfair. They could do so much more together if only they were given the chance. She feels like they could do anything together, if they were just allowed to be together.
Fleur squeezes Hermione’s hands again and says, “I will see you again.”
“Someday,” Hermione agrees firmly. “Soon.”
“I have the hope.”
And then Fleur apparently cannot hold herself back any longer. She throws her arms about Hermione and kisses her on both cheeks. It’s something that Hermione has seen the Delacours do – Apolline just finished the gesture with Emily and Paul – but not Fleur before and Hermione hasn’t been on the receiving end before. She’s a little taken aback. Even when Fleur pulls back, lets her go, and stands tall again, Hermione could swear that she can still feel that Soft Peck of her lips on each burning cheek.
When Fleur smiles at her, it’s at once delighted and sad. “One day, we will come to visit the other, one of us, and it will be the best of days. Au revoir, ‘Ermi-nee, mon amie.”
“Au revoir,” Hermione echoes. “Until next time.”
And the Granger-Delacour cooperative venture of the Summer of 1993 comes to its end.
On the train back to England, Paul and Emily Granger seem entirely content with their vacation. France was lovely and Wizarding France was even lovelier, and the people they met in Wizarding France were the loveliest of all (and not only because Apolline and her daughters are beautiful). Hermione is Very Glad, of course, that her parents enjoyed themselves, but she finds herself rather busy considering the scrap of paper with Fleur’s address on it.
Is it Awful of her that some part of her is a little glad to see the back of Fleur Delacour?
Oh, Fleur was lovely. She was brilliant and kind and incredible and wonderful… and altogether a little overwhelming. Hermione thinks that it’s quite nice to be figuratively walking on air, on occasion, but she desperately needs ground again before she floats away entirely. Her entire world has been upturned and she needs to set it to new order promptly. A new school year is coming on, after all. Hermione still hasn’t finished reading all their new textbooks! She has review to do. She needs to focus and it will be far easier to focus with Fleur as a pen pal.
Hermione is quite good at reading and writing. She’s always been better with a Reasonable Amount of Time to think her responses over. She’s always thought that she would be quite good at correspondence, if someone would only give her the chance to write faithful letters.
Harry is quite unreliable with correspondence. Although last summer’s interference wasn’t his fault, even at school itself he never has much to say about his summers. Sometimes it feels like Hermione could turn Harry upside down by the ankles and shake for answers, and all that would tumble out would be yet another, “It was alright.”
Ron, on the other hand, tries, but in the way of someone used to having everyone he knows within easy reach. He writes letters, but he gives the impression of someone who would be rather content to just hold on until whenever he next saw her. Ron is not really a person who is generally consumed by urgency or any spirit of promptness.
Fleur will be Hermione’s first proper pen pal.
She wonders how she’s going to explain Fleur Delacour to Harry and Ron. The explanation seems like it would be difficult without anyone having met Fleur, although the best loveliness of Fleur really has nothing to do with her looks. If Hermione had to describe the runaway feeling between herself and Fleur, she… well… she might compare the exhilarating friendship to… well. She might compare this feeling of being known and understood and liked and admired to…
Anyway, letters are far more manageable than people.
The next time they see each other, whenever that may be, Hermione will be Prepared for Fleur Delacour. She will read Fleur’s books and get better at French and be Prepared for Fleur Delacour the next time they meet. For her friend, Fleur Delacour, whom she is going to write as frequently and faithfully as any good friend deserves.
Hermione’s hands close fully around the paper with the address and she holds on to it tightly, even when she finishes memorizing it and pulls out a book for the rest of the journey. She doesn’t tuck the crumpled scrap of paper carefully into her purse again until it’s time to get off the train in England. She’s resolved to begin writing her first letter As Soon As Possible and has already written half of it in her head.
Au revoir, after all.