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two monsters walk into a bar and they are both beautiful

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This is their story: the eldest boy, the best boy, with his accolades and his earring and his dashing escapades, breaking curses in pyramids, the boy who comes home when he’s called; the girl so beautiful she is inhuman with it, vain and selfish until you see quite how selfless she is.

They are both of them monsters: the werewolf, scarred fighting his parents’ war returned, and the veela, struck beautiful by her grandmother’s life, something ghastly hidden in her bones. They both carry an otherness they did not ask for. They are both judged for their perfection (head boy and champion of Beauxbatons, brave and beautiful, honorable and fair), judged for the way they seek after it (his long hair and his earring, her prettiness, her vanity), and judged for its lack. He is scarred and she loves too hard. She is not a gentle soul.

During the second task, they took each of the competitors’ most precious people: Harry’s best friend, Cedric and Krum’s sweethearts, and Fleur’s little sister. I like to think she worries about it, how much her own life orbits around this little life almost a decade smaller than her. I like to think she worries about it, worries about Gabrielle but also worries about how much she worries, worries about what people will think. I like to think that at fifteen, when a tiny Gabrielle climbed into Fleur’s lap, Fleur decided she didn’t care. She gathered her sister close and worried all she wanted about everything except what other people thought.

I like to think she worries about Bill, when she first starts feeling her orbit shift in his favor. Gabrielle will always be tucked under her wing, but Bill’s hand is in hers, and for the first time in a life of flights and flitting and others’ eyes on the hem of her robe, that hand feels like it should be there. And Fleur worries, because she can feel her orbit shifting, toward this handsome ex-Head Boy with Egyptian sand still between his toes.

I like to think she worries about it, about him, up until the first time she sees Bill with his brothers, amid a gaggle of Weasleys, until she sees him with his one and only baby sister.

Ginny is small and wiry, sharp as a sharpened rosebush branch. Fleur knows something about beautiful, dangerous things. Ginny hates her at first, and Fleur smiles, flits by, moves on. She decided a long time ago not to care about what other people thought. The important thing here isn’t the way Ginny rolls her eyes at Fleur, or the way Ginny will one day learn that they both have hard darknesses under their pretty skins; Fleur likes the way that Bill teases his little sister, falls into the rhythm of his family, wrapped up in a warm possession of these people he loves. She remembers that they are both here because they have wrapped themselves up in a war, to save lives, to save others, to save their own.

She stops worrying about Bill. He will understand about Gabrielle.

The beauty and the beast; the boy and the land-bound siren; the least interesting quality in either of them is the shape of their skin. She is vain, selfish, petty, pretty, and she falls whole-heartedly into a war that isn’t hers.

Fleur is horrified when Molly thinks she will leave Bill for his scars, she is horrified that anyone would think her love skin deep, because Fleur Delacour, above all, knows what it is to be skin deep. They have been casting her as that all her life, this perfect beautiful child, the talented student, the lovely young lady. People swoon around her in the hallways when they aren’t rolling their eyes at her vanity.

This was her skin, not her vanity. This was her birthright, as much as Harry’s green eyes or Bill’s red hair and the war on his heels. This was so far from her self.

These were her selves: Fleur weeping furiously on the shores of the lake, and kissing Harry and Ron when they bring Gabrielle back to the air; Fleur at Shell Cottage, gracious, exhausted, in love in a war zone; Fleur shouting a grieving Molly Weasley down in a Hogwarts tower, declaring how foolish it would be to stop loving a man based on his scars. She is beautiful enough for both of them, after all. They are brave enough for each other. They have both always had the monster in their bones, perfection hounding their heels, little siblings who are all the reason they need to fight to make the world a brighter place.

Few look past Bill’s scars, past Fleur’s luminous beauty, but they look at each other, hold hands, cling tight. He sees her sharp, sharp smile while he grins with his wolf’s teeth, bleeds from his big heart. Between them, they make the world a brighter place, a better one, and don’t care who notices, who sees, who understands. They do, and that’s enough.