Author's Note:

The more I wrote about Fleur when I was working on Firsts, the more I liked her. She changed so much from GoF to DH, and I wanted to explore why and how, so here we are. Let me apologize now for this first Chapter/Prologue because it is almost entirely exposition and not terribly exciting, but I had a lot to say and not

By the age of three, Fleur Delacour knew she was exceptionally beautiful. At five, she understood that people treated her differently for it. She thought it absurd to be judged for something so out of her control, but she was not so stupid as to say so; beautiful people who downplayed the luck of their looks generally came off as braggarts. And Fleur was savvy enough to know how to use her appearance to her advantage.

Most Veela preferred using the natural charms and talents wrought by their blood over the cultivation of their magical abilities, and Fleur was the only Veela at Beauxbatons Academy. It did not bother her to have her skills underestimated; her magic attracted less attention that way, and there were precious few other times when Fleur was not subject to attention. No one underestimated her for long.

Fleur knew that the combination of her Veela's looks and magical talent was likely to prevent her from ever finding a permanent mate. Most boys and men she encountered were either too stunned by her appearance to speak in coherent sentences or else assumed there was nothing about her worth getting to know beyond her face and body. Fleur held no objections to making time for the latter, and her years as a student as Beauxbatons were marked by short flings with particularly attractive fellow students (and in one memorable case, a young professor), and several brief periods of serial monogamy. None of her dalliances meant anything to her, but were enjoyed purely for the physical pleasure they brought. She was careful never to lead anyone on, and so the broken hearts of those left in her wake did not concern her.

The first time Fleur questioned whether her magic was good enough was when she traveled to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry for the Tri-Wizard Tournament in the autumn of her seventh year. There had been no doubt in her mind that she would be chosen as her school's champion. The Goblet would recognize her talent even where others didn't, and her looks would intimidate the competition to carry her the rest of the way to victory.

Even the addition of that child, that second Hogwarts champion, Harry Potter, did not dim her confidence. Of course it was unfair, and Fleur did not hold back in making her displeasure known, but there was no way that a student with only four years of magical education could ever be considered a threat. Why, the Potter boy was so young that he didn't even seem affected by her Veela charms the way most of the other Hogwarts males seemed to be. And there were a few Fleur had her eye on.

But then the first task arrived, and Fleur's carefully constructed façade and sense of invincibility began to erode.

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Dragons. DRAGONS! How could they be expected to fight Dragons?

Fleur had been careful to show no reaction when Madame Maxine revealed to her what her first task would be, had nodded attentively without hearing a word as Madame whispered suggestions as they walked across the grounds. Now she was pacing silently in her sleeping room in the carriage, not wanting to admit that maybe, just maybe, she had gotten into something over her head.

"Fleur, avez-vous le diner?" Alexandre Dubois, the classmate Fleur had considered her biggest competition to becoming a Champion, was standing in the doorway. He spoke more formally than normal, and Fleur knew he was still smarting from being bested by her.

"Non, I am not 'ungry for dinner," she replied, with more petulance than the question deserved. "And speak in 'ze Eenglish. We are supposed to be practicing." She resumed her pacing.

Alexandre nodded and made to leave, but then he stopped and turned back. "I can bring you something to . . to . . ahh, comment dites-vous 'manger?'"

"To eat," said Fleur stiffly.

"Oui, to eat," agreed Alexandre. "I can bring you something to eat later. And then, maybe we can . . ." he waggled his eyes at her and gestured casually below his waist.

Did he really think I would want to . . . now? Is that all he really thinks I am good for, even after the Goblet proved I'm the better wizard?

Unbidden, a scene from earlier that day flew into her head, of the two Hogwarts champions talking quietly to each other in the courtyard. Fleur knew that most Hogwarts students were almost as angry about that Potter boy as Beauxbatons and Durmstrang were. And yet, there had been something almost collegial about the way Cedric leaned in to listen to what Harry was saying. Their interaction was over in seconds, but Fleur had been left with the feeling that Harry had been giving something – something of value – to Cedric.

They are competitors, and yet . . . and Alexandre, he could offer to help me, but instead he only thinks I am good for one thing. Infuriating.

"I have to battle a dragon tomorrow. With nothing more 'zan my wand," she spat out, gratified to see Alexandre's eyes dilate with surprise and fear. "And so 'zis'," she said, fluttering her own hand, "is 'ze last 'zing on my mind." She turned away, assuming he had gotten the message.

But Alexandre wasn't done. "Maybe after," he said softly as he left. "Assuming you live."

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Although she didn't see it, getting tended to in the medical tent as she was, all Fleur heard after the First Task was about how amazingly Harry Potter had flown, and that maybe he could be considered a serious competitor after all. Truth be told, Fleur didn't really care. She came out of the First Task with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence. Harry Potter may have gotten lucky with the First Task, but there was no way his inferior magical experience would continue to carry him through. It was time to focus on her real competition- Cedric and Viktor, and how to beat them.

But first, there was the little matter of the Yule Ball.

Although Fleur did not personally understand the nervous excitement that accompanied the need to invite – or to be invited – to the Ball, she knew how to fake it. She giggled with her classmates as they debated about which school – Hogwarts or Durmstrang – had the best looking wizards and listened as they agonized over everything from whether they would get asked at all, what robes they should wear, and even how far they might be willing to let their date go in getting inside those robes.

Fleur herself had heard the announcement about the Ball, scanned the Hogwarts Great Hall, and then calmly approached the best-looking boy in the room, a Ravenclaw called Roger Davies. Of course, he immediately agreed to go with her, looking a bit dazed as he answered. Fleur was used to that – she had yet to meet a male over the age of 14 who wasn't rendered speechless, at least initially, by her presence. Some got over it faster than others; Fleur thought it would be a lark to see how long it took Roger.

And then there had been that boy, that little redhead who interrupted her, or tried to, while she had been talking to Cedric Diggory. It was always the same with that type, the ones particularly susceptible to her Veela blood. She tried to be gentle; after all, it would not do for Cedric to think her unkind. It didn't matter anyway. The boy had no sooner stuttered out his question and looked at her face before he was muttering "sorry" and fleeing backwards down the corridor, face bright red.

Fleur sighed to herself. Talking about the ball was already tiring her out. She picked up the golden egg that had been her prize for completing the first task. She already knew that it emitted a most horrible screech when opened, but there must be a way to discover its secrets. Picking up her wand, she set to work.

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Of course, Fleur knew afterwards that Gabrielle had never truly been in danger, but those long minutes before Harry had pulled her to the surface had tested Fleur's nerves and resolve unlike anything she had encountered before. It was the first time she could remember that her combination of looks and skills had truly failed her, and Fleur was only a little embarrassed at how effusively she reacted, thanking first Harry, and then even that redheaded boy, who was apparently one of Harry's closest friends.

She knew there was now likely little chance that she would win the Tri Wizard cup, but Fleur was never one to give up. If anything, she was more determined than ever to prove herself. After she hadn't invited him to the Yule Ball, Alexandre had finally stopped lurking around Fleur's room, and she had told Roger Davies that yes, it had been a lot of fun, but she was just too busy preparing for the final task to spend more time with him.

But that was not all. Although Fleur was fairly certain that most of her Beauxbatons classmates were oblivious, she had a feeling something else – something Dark – was brewing. Other people's assumption that her head was full of fluff was an advantage in these situations; they were not as careful to quiet the conversations Fleur heard as she walked around Hogwarts castle and grounds, apparently enjoying the views. The missing Tri-wizard judge, the Durmstrang headmaster's plans to run somewhere, even the sight of Harry Potter deep in serious conversation with his red-headed friend and the girl who had gone to the Yule Ball with Viktor all led Fleur to vow to keep her head down and her guard up as the third and final task in the tournament approached.

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She knew she should be concentrating on the final task, reviewing in her head the jinxes and counter-curses she would likely be called upon to use, but Fleur couldn't help but notice the man standing in the corner of the room, speaking quietly to Harry Potter. Man, and not boy, for although the tall redhead was likely not too many years out of school, there was nothing childlike about his broad shoulders, his earring, or the cool confidence he exhibited, as if anything in the room that wished for his attention would simply have to wait until he was ready to grant it.

Fleur swallowed hard. Part of her wanted to toss her long hair or do something Veela to capture the attention of the stranger, but she pushed her mind back to the Third Task and what she needed to do. Six months ago she might have thought what she needed to do to win, but she knew better now. Now, she knew it would be a feat just to finish the course. She forced herself to turn away, wondering if she only imagined the feeling of the man's eyes boring into her back. When she dared sneak a look, on the pretense of leaning over to adjust Gabrielle's collar, she was disappointed to note that his attention was focused fully on Harry and he was looking nowhere near her direction.

Fleur sighed, determined to put the man out of her thoughts, at least for the next several hours. She would find Harry after the final task and question him – casually of course – about the redhead and who he was.