TITLE: No Defense For You
CONTENT: F/F romance and minimal angst. Fleur/Hermione.
SUMMARY: Its the seventh year at Hogwarts and Hermione discovers she really
is quite feminine but oddly, she has no interest in boys, only in the new Professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts who has a mysterious connection to her.
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but my Firebolt.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first attempt at writing Harry Potter slash.
No Defense For You
It's strange how a summer can change a person. When the sixth year at Hogwarts ended and Hermione parted ways with Harry and Ron, the last thing she thought she would be doing would be seeking feminine advice from her mother. Then again, she hadn't planned on it. One day it just struck her.
She had gotten an owl from Ron... apparently Harry had come to stay with his family earlier than usual that summer and they'd gone to Diagon Alley, meeting up with some cute girls. Reading the letter, Hermione realized that she really was just one of the guys to them, they didn't remotely consider her a girl, especially not with the way they were going on about these cute girls curves.
Looking in the mirror, dressed in her Muggle clothing her parents preferred she wear when she was home, a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt, Hermione frowned. She wasn't ugly, she knew that. After all, it was hard to think one ugly when they still had the premiere Seeker in Quidditch, Viktor Krum, quite enamored with them.
But not ugly didn't quite equal pretty, did it?
Hermione had never considered things such as being attractive or caring about your looks very important. In fact, she thought only vain and silly girls like Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown, who always annoyed her with their incessant giggling, worried about it. Then one by one, the insults she'd received over her years at Hogwarts came back at her. First the ones about her too large teeth before she'd had them fixed, then ones about her frizzy hair, uncontrollable as always, and her baggy robes, which she had bought to be larger than necessary out of comfort.
It was then that Hermione realized something. She took utmost pride in her grades, in her knowledge of magic, and in her studies. Getting good grades and being a good student, to her, showed people her worth, her competence. Why couldn't she show people that through her looks as well? It wouldn't hurt, would it, to take a little more care... to look a little nicer, not for them, but for herself.
Maybe then Harry and Ron would remember she was actually a girl and not tell her the more lurid details of their girl chasing. Well, Ron's girl chasing, she was sure that Harry was just along for the ride, being entirely devoted to Ginny since they had finally found themselves in a relationship. She did love them like they were her brothers, but there were some things she just did not want to hear about.
When she told her mother of her plans her eyes widened and she clapped her hands excitedly, fluttering about with plans. Hermione soon found herself down at Diagon Alley herself, shopping with her mother for new robes which would fit her a bit tighter, showing off her own surprisingly ample curves, along with make up and potions to help easily maintain her new more high maintenance morning routine which included making her hair sleeker and thickening her lashes.
Perhaps it was all this that caused Harry and Ron to stare dumbfounded at her when they met her at the Hogwarts Express. The only thing that was making any noise as she greeted them was Pigwidgeon, Ron's tiny owl, which was fluttering about in his cage, hooting as loud as could be.
Then Ron said quite dumbly, "Hermione, what's happened to you?"
"Went shopping," Hermione informed breezily, walking calmly past him and grinning widely as Mrs. Weasley gave her a knowing wink. It seemed, she too, knew what it was to want a make over in your life.
All was well though, because after a few minutes with Hermione on the train, Harry and Ron realized she hadn't changed at all. She was still their best friend, chattering on about all their new textbooks of which she'd already read half and her duties as Head Girl. It was just now she looked more like the beautiful young woman she truly was.
The rest of Hogwarts noticed the change as well. Not even the Slytherin could find any proper insults for Hermione's new look. It was impossible as now she looked as confident as she always felt. Her long brown hair sleek thanks to the morning potion she always took, swinging loose on her shoulders, her brown eyes dark and glittering, accented by the make up she wore and the thickening spell on her lashes, and her robes, not too tight, but tight enough to entrance many boys who watched her hips swing as she walked down the halls.
Strangely enough, it even helped Hermione deal with the Gryffindors she usually found annoying. Parvati and Lavender took delight in teaching Hermione the tricks they had learned over the years and in talking to them, she found them not nearly as annoying as she once thought them to be. Or as boy obsessed.
Riding high on these reactions, Hermione was having quite a good first week back and that's why she wasn't worried at all as she sat down to take in her first class for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Looking over at Harry and Ron, she gave them a little grin then asked, "Found out who the teacher is yet?"
"Not a clue," said Ron with a groan. He shook his head, causing his red hair to flop about. "I reckon it's someone we never heard of. Tried to get McGonagall to tell us but she wouldn't hear of it."
"Of course not," Hermione sniffed, her eyes twinkling playfully at him, not at all serious as she acted. "She has far better things to think about."
"You're just as curious as we are, Hermione," Harry accused softly, smiling at her, his gaze knowing.
"Maybe..." Hermione allowed with another grin.
Just then the doors to the classroom opened and in swept the figure of their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. All the boys gaped at what they saw... and so did several of the girls as well.
Hermione, on the other hand, scowled, and scowled deeply at that.
"Bonjour," drawled Fleur Delacour, voice lilting and soft, flashing a perfect and glittering smile which seemed to melt all the boys and the few girls in the class who were enraptured with seeing her. "I am Professor Delacour but please," she flashed a smile again, "call me Fleur. We are all going to be good friends, hm?"
Although it didn't seem possible she could, Hermione scowled even more.
She tried ranting about it to Harry and Ron but they were both too dazed from Fleur's sudden and unexpected reappearance to listen to her. Ron especially, who had always had something of a crush on the woman. Harry, on the other hand, Hermione suspected, was simply affected by Fleur's veela heritage like most of the poor boys in their class. He did have Ginny.
Perhaps that's why Hermione ended up complaining to Lavender and Parvati. She was now glad that she'd become friends with the two of them. It was nice to have more than one female friend. After all, Ginny was busy with Harry more and more lately. As usual, they were sitting on Parvati's bed, which Lavender said was increasingly softer than hers thanks to some spells Parvati had cast, and Parvati was combing Lavender's long light brown hair with gentle efficiency. The habit was a daily one they enjoyed, one that Hermione had never really noticed until she started talking with the two girls. Lavender preferred for Parvati to comb her hair, saying she did it far better than she, being kinder with her touch, and less likely to tear her hair out fighting any knots that formed.
Hermione partially thought that Lavender just liked Parvati taking care of her. Not that Parvati really minded, she thought, watching the look of quiet satisfaction on the dark haired girl's sharp features as she carried out her task.
"Honestly though," Hermione said, tearing her eyes away from them and sitting down in a nearby chair. "Why in the world would they hire her? She barely has any experience at all... only three years out of school herself. What sort of teacher will she make anyway, entrancing all the boys like that?"
"Not just boys," said Lavender sourly, casting a look back at Parvati who reddened at this attention and looked upwards. Lavender seemed to be satisfied with this sign of embarrassment then faced Hermione. "What does it matter if she's our new Professor? No one lasts more than a year in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Even if they have veela blood to help charm their classes. And," Lavender looked pointedly at Hermione who arched an eyebrow at this, "this is our final term."
"Still," mused Hermione, frowning now, "how did she get the job?"
"Oh no," Parvati chuckled, pausing in her combing. She shifted on the bed and looked at Hermione who glanced up at her. Pointing the brush in her hand at her, Parvati said, "Don't go nosing around, Hermione. It's just gotten to the end of the first week, shouldn't you at least wait a month before getting into trouble?"
Hermione scowled at this and Lavender giggled. Except Hermione no longer found the sound annoying. Now it was almost charming, especially with how Lavender's blue eyes sparkled as she leaned back against Parvati who smiled at her. Sighing as Parvati lightly placed her hands on her waist, Lavender said to Hermione, "You like reading, don't you?"
In response to this question, Hermione narrowed her eyes and looked at Lavender as if she was mad. Lavender giggled at this reaction and shook her head, causing her light brown hair to fly about. Parvati smoothed some strands as Lavender continued, "Why don't you visit your favorite place and read up on Fleur then? I'm positive that they ought to have some books that have something to do with her in them. After all, she was the champion for Beauxbatons, wasn't she?"
Immediately, Hermione's brown eyes went wide and in seconds she was out of the room and then out of the dorm itself. And as she went, Hermione could have sworn she heard Parvati murmur in husky tones, "Alone at last."
Only to then be accented by Lavender's giggles which changed into soft moans.
Unfortunately for Hermione, the library didn't have nearly as much information as she would've liked about Beauxbatons or even Fleur herself. It seemed that things hadn't really changed, Madame Maxime kept a tight lid on the goings on at her school and precious little information was available on it or its graduates. She heaved a sigh and pushed aside the fifteenth book she had read through to lean far back in her chair, craning her head to stare up in the library ceiling.
The library was quiet and Hermione enjoyed that, she always preferred the sound of peaceful silence to incessant noise. That's part of why she was so glad to be Head Girl and be awarded with her own room this term. The library's keeper, Madam Pince, didn't make a peep of noise herself except to shush those who did or to keep some of the more curious students away from the restricted section of the library.
Hermione had continued staring at the ceiling when a pair of deep blue eyes appeared where it used to be and she found herself gazing up at the very object of all her frenzied research. In an instant, Hermione was scowling.
"That is not a face becoming of a lady," Fleur tsked, her voice as lilting as ever, and Hermione noticed that her accent had calmed down quite a bit in the three years she'd last seen her. Then again, the last thing she'd said to them was that she had wanted to improve on her English. Apparently she had. Sitting smoothly down in the chair next to Hermione, she inspected the books and gave a soft smile. "So," Fleur murmured, reaching out to flip through a copy of Magic of Foreign Institutes, "you are keeping yourself busy, I see."
Never one for mincing words, Hermione narrowed her eyes and studied Fleur closely as she asked, "Why are you here?"
"What? The library?" asked Fleur, looking innocent. She flashed Hermione a bright and charming smile and said in a very faux confession, "I myself enjoy to read, Mademoiselle Granger. Surprising, is it not?"
"Right," said Hermione sharply, "now try really answering my question."
"No sense of humor," Fleur pronounced sadly with a sigh. Fixing her gaze on Hermione, she said simply, "I'm here to teach, of course." She stretched her elegant fingers out on the table, tapping her painted nails lightly on the surface. Watching her nails play out a quiet sort of melody, Fleur continued, "Why else would I be here, hm?"
"Why Hogwarts? Why not teach at Beauxbatons?" Hermione persisted, staring at Fleur's perfect profile, hidden partially by her long and shining silvery blonde hair which reflected the light shining in the room. "That's your school."
Releasing a soft laugh which to anyone but Hermione, and even to her though she'd never admit it, sounded like the tinkling of charming bells, Fleur looked over at the girl next to her. "Would you believe me if I said it was nothing more than a friendly foreign exchange?" Fleur drawled slowly. When she saw Hermione's dark brown eyes narrow, she chuckled. "Non? Very well then," she feigned a look of great exasperation, "I suppose I will have to tell you."
"Tell me what?" demanded Hermione, altogether suspicious that Fleur would tell her anything at all.
"Professor Grubbly-Plank," began Fleur over dramatically, leaning closer to Hermione, so close that she could tell she smelled lightly of lilacs.
"Yes...?" Hermione drew the word out eagerly.
Fleur's blue eyes twinkled and she moved closer yet, their faces inches apart, her breath hot and sweet on Hermione as she said, "Is teaching at Beauxbatons. We had need of a new Care for Magical Creatures teacher and you?" Fleur gave that bell like laugh again and rose to her feet, looking down at Hermione. "Well," she pushed a lock of hair from her eyes, "Hogwarts is always in need of a new Defense Against the Dark Arts expert, are they not?"
"Very funny," said Hermione darkly as she scowled furiously at Fleur who soon chuckled again. Rising to her feet, she met Fleur's eyes fiercely and said in clear and decisive tones, "I'm going to find out why you're really here. Mark my words."
With that, Hermione stomped out the library, hips unconsciously swinging due to her new found femininity, totally unaware that Fleur was watching her all the way, a soft smile of amusement on her sculptured features.
True to her word, Hermione carried out her search, and managed to scrounge up some information on Fleur, finding out that, surprisingly enough, Defense Against the Dark Arts was her focus at Beauxbatons. She'd traveled the country, working as a freelance Auror for the Ministry, seeking out the remaining Death Eaters and other such troublesome creatures with her close colleagues. But when Dumbledore had sent her the invitation to take over the position at Hogwarts it was an offer that apparently Fleur couldn't refuse.
What annoyed Hermione further than learning that Fleur might actually deserve the post she'd recently gained but that she was also quite good at it. All the boys in her classes were still enraptured by her, along with a few girls that included Parvati until Lavender gave her the usual pinch to snap her out of it, but despite that Fleur somehow managed to give entertaining and educational lessons.
Currently they were having a lesson on vampires and Fleur had conjured up a spell that'd allow the class to be able to study one up close. It wasn't so much a vampire itself as a ghost of one, if anything. Clear and translucent, but full enough for people to see it, the vampire was under her command, opening its mouth when Fleur asked it to, so the class could see its pronounced fangs.
"A stake through the heart is the traditional way to kill a vampire," Fleur was saying airily as Hermione leaned forward in her seat, chin cupped in the palm of her hand, watching as Fleur produced her wand from her blue robe. "But we can move the process along with a spell or two," her blue eyes twinkled playfully and Hermione grimaced on hearing several sighs from her admirers. With a flick of her wrist and a wave of her wand, Fleur said, "Boisiti!" A small piece of wood was where the ghostly vampire stood and Fleur smiled as it then disappeared into nothingness. "A convenient spell to use if you ever run into one, no staking needed, it pierces the heart in an instant."
The class murmured with excitement and Hermione could see Ron's cheeks flush as he stared at Fleur. Rolling her eyes, Hermione focused out the window. It was almost as if she was back in Divinations again, she was so irritated by being there. That was when she heard Fleur say her name.
"Do you have any further suggestions?" Fleur was asking in a playful drawl. "Of how we might deal with our unfriendly guest?"
Meeting Fleur's deep blue eyes and forming the automatic scowl that, for whatever reason, Hermione always found herself doing when around Fleur, she pulled out her wand and called, "Eau'onde!"
In moments a trail of water was in the vampire's mouth, traveling through its system, finally leaking onto the floor and Fleur's expensive high heeled shoes. Fleur smiled widely at this, shaking her foot off and sending water sprinkling about.
"Very good, Mademoiselle Granger," she pronounced. "You may have ruined one of my favorite pairs of shoes but you would have killed the vampire." Fleur smiled at the rest of the class and said, "Another clever way to kill vampires, the Eau'onde spell allows holy water to emerge instantaneously in the vampire's system, killing them through the insides. Although," Fleur flicked her eyes over to the ghostly vampire whose skin and muscles were melting away before the bones vanished, "it is a tad more messy than many would prefer." Fleur focused on Hermione, smiling at her yet again. "Non?"
Before Hermione could reply, class was over and Fleur, as always, found herself surrounded with students bustling to get her attention. The only people who were leaving included Hermione, Parvati, who was firmly being led out the door by Lavender, and then Harry, who had given up on Ron who was with the swarm of people wanting Fleur's attention.
"Honestly," Hermione huffed to the others, "they can't all possibly have questions about her lesson, can they? They just want a chance to stare at her."
"And talk with her and maybe even touch her," added Parvati. When Lavender squeezed her hand a bit hard, Parvati yelped and jumped in the air. Looking at the other girl with dark puppy dog eyes, she said, "You didn't have to do it so hard."
"Sorry," said Lavender, actually sounding apologetic. She ran her fingers lightly over the inside of Parvati's hand. "I'll be gentle next time."
Parvati looked pacified at this and turned her attention back to Hermione. "What's the problem anyway?" she asked. "You did your research and it is pretty obvious she knows her stuff. Why do you care if she's got students mooning over her?"
Scowling at this, Hermione looked over at Harry who was smiling softly at her. "What?" she demanded. "What are you giving me that look for?"
"Nothing," said Harry, a quiet mysterious air in his tones, making it sound like he knew something she didn't for once. "Nothing at all." His bright green eyes then focused ahead and sparkled as he greeted happily, "Ginny!"
In her sixth year, Ginny, much like Hermione, was finally getting some appreciation for her looks. Her thick red hair went well past her shoulders and the warmth of her eyes captured anyone who saw her. That is, if they weren't captured by her charming curves which fit her compact frame well. Even the worn look of her robes couldn't distract from her simple and sweet beauty. She blushed as Harry leaned forward, depositing a light kiss on her lips, obviously not wanting to go further when they were in view of others.
"Hi," Ginny smiled at them, leaning into Harry as he wound an arm around her waist. "Everyone's done with classes for the day then?" She frowned, to look past them as she asked, "Where's Ron?"
"He's with Fleur," said Hermione with a great deal of disdain.
Raising an eyebrow and grinning, Ginny met Harry's eyes and he rolled them back to the heavens, as if to say that he had no clue what to do, and Ginny gave an amused laugh. "Honestly, Hermione," said Ginny with good humor. "What is your problem with Professor Delacour? Granted, she puts half the boys in our school under her veela spell but she's not that bad. I mean, she hasn't been anything but nice to you since she's started, right? And she is qualified."
"I... it's just..." Hermione fumbled for an explanation when presented with Ginny's perfectly reasonable arguments. She realized she really did have no clear reason to dislike Fleur as much as she did. There was just something about her that she found irritating to no end. "I just don't know!" she cried out before scurrying away, almost too quickly for her hips to swing and for several of her onlookers to drool.
Watching her go, Lavender sighed deeply. Looking over at Harry whom she was pretty sure shared her expert opinion, she said, "It is a bit pathetic, don't you say?"
"A bit," Harry nodded, a grin spreading on his features.
"Don't the two of you start again," Ginny chastised, she whapped Harry on his arm and much like Parvati before him, he feigned deep hurt, causing Ginny to rub his arm gently. Harry smiled at this as Ginny went on, "You shouldn't tease her over this. Obviously Hermione hasn't a clue her obsession with Fleur qualifies her as a member of the fanclub."
"When's the next meeting again? I'm supposed to be taking notes," said Parvati, causing Lavender to squeeze her hand again. She yelped and laughed nervously, "Just kidding."
They were walking towards Gryffindor tower, pausing in front of The Fat Lady for Harry to say, "Bumblebee." Then they walked inside and into the common room which was surprisingly empty of people. Most of them were probably still back in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom clamoring for Fleur's attention.
"I still don't understand how you came to this conclusion," said Parvati, sitting down next to Lavender on the couch. Across from them, Ginny settled in a nearby chair and Harry sat on the arm of it, his arm draped over the top. "From everything I can see, Hermione hates Fleur almost as much she does Malfoy."
"A clever ruse," Lavender giggled, she wagged her finger at Parvati, her eyes twinkling. "You should by now to never trust appearances, Parvati. After all, how many people at Hogwarts still think we're boy crazy?"
Parvati made a face at this comment and looked at Harry. "You're one of her best friends," she stated, "do you really invest this theory?"
"It's either she's jealous over Fleur or she's jealous over Ron," said Harry with a smile. "And I reckon the last person she'd be jealous over is Ron." He looked down at Ginny and asked, "Do you think?"
"Oh, this isn't about my brother, that's for sure," Ginny said emphatically. "Fleur is definitely why she's tied up in knots. After all, Hermione's daily rants are always about why is Fleur here and why do so many people fawn over her and why this about her and why that about her..." Ginny smiled again and leaned back, sighing as Harry played with her red hair, his touch gentle. "It's about Fleur."
"What's about Fleur?"
Rather nervously, they all turned to see Ron regarding them with a curious expression which turned dreamy as he said, "She's going to give me extra help with my essay on vampires if I want it. Said so herself."
This caused all of their nervous looks to increase all the more. Not that Ron noticed, he was far too caught up in a daze as he thought about Fleur. One that would have made Hermione scowl and scowl deeply on seeing it.
She couldn't stand it anymore, no one would listen to her about Fleur and for whatever reason Hermione couldn't get herself to stop thinking about it. Not even her duties as Head Girl or her homework could distract her from Fleur. Perhaps that's why she ended up in the deserted portion of the grounds, far away from other people, sitting under her favorite tree, watching the splash of the water caused from the giant squid.
Sighing, Hermione leaned back against the tree, well aware bits of bark were getting in her shiny and perfectly styled hair, and not really caring.
"What's wrong with me?" she asked herself.
No answer came and she sighed again, focusing out at the water, so much that she almost didn't hear the snap of a twig and voices approaching. For whatever reason Hermione felt drawn to hide. Later, she would be very glad that she did this.
"How are things developing, Miss Delacour?" Hermione instantly recognized the kindly and amused tones, they belonged to none other than Dumbledore and the person he was talking to was more than obvious as well.
"Not so well as I had hoped," Fleur murmured, her voice lilting with its French accent, sadness laced in her words. "I think it a mistake, accepting this job. I am very grateful to you, of course, Headmaster, for giving me such a chance but I do not think it will work out for me." She sighed. "I should return to Philippe and the others. He told me this was a bad idea."
"Now, now," Dumbledore clucked his tongue. "I don't think you should be so hasty. After all, wasn't this what you had expected? What even brought you here in the first place?" He was quiet a moment, then continued, "I've heard of all the difficulties you can find in your searching. If you truly believe that yours came to an end years ago, why bother denying it and causing yourself pain?"
"Because," said Fleur, her voice not lilting for once, actually sounding hoarse with emotion as she spoke, "it is pain I know. It is a familiar friend that is nothing when I compare it to what I deal with now. I think my life before was much better."
"Better or easier?" inquired Dumbledore. There was a long moment of silence and Hermione heard quiet footsteps accompanied by a crunch of leaves as he said, "Miss Granger is the stubborn sort. Just give her more time."
Fleur sighed deeply then said softly, "But I do not have much."
Watching Fleur's tall and elegant form walk away, Hermione barely registered the gigantic splash of the squid in the water. What exactly did she have to do with causing Fleur pain? And why was Fleur running out of time? Hermione knew she wasn't exactly nice to the French woman but that was hardly something to cause the tormented manner in which Fleur had spoken to Dumbledore.
The only thing Hermione knew for sure was that now she definitely couldn't give up. She had always thought Fleur's arrival at Hogwarts as the teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts was suspicious from the start. But now? Well now, it was more than that.
Now she knew that somehow she was involved. The only thing was to find out why and how. So with that, Hermione rose to her feet and hurried off to the dorm. Hoping beyond hope that maybe Harry and Ron would believe her.
Believe her... they believed that she heard what she did, however, they didn't believe Fleur was truly up to anything sinister as Hermione thought. Especially not Ron who was baffled about Fleur wanting anything to do with Hermione who clearly did not appreciate her many assets as he himself did.
Frustrated at this, Hermione decided her best friends were just not up to task in helping with her Fleur investigations. Which meant she was setting off alone.
Hermione kept a close eye on Fleur, especially in class where they were currently focusing on banshees. Watching with lidded eyes as Fleur magically zipped and unzipped the banshee's mouth that she had captured somewhere or another so the class could hear her ungodly wail, Hermione wondered what she had to do with Fleur being at Hogwarts.
Certainly she was Fleur's favorite student to call on in class. Which was rather strange since it was the one class where Hermione never raised her hand and nearly everyone else around her frantically did. After one such class, Fleur called to her escaping figure, "Mademoiselle Granger? A moment please?"
She froze in her walk and sighed deeply, knowing she had no excuse not to stay as it was rather well known this was her last class of the day. Hermione watched as Fleur shooed away her usual admirers, Ron included, all of which shot her a variety of envious and confused looks as they left the room.
"Well then," Fleur offered her best dazzling smile, "we are finally alone." Hermione gave her a doubtful look at this and Fleur chuckled. "You are wondering why I have asked you to stay after, hm?"
"Yes," allowed Hermione in rather cool tones.
Fleur made a tutting sound then shook her head. "Always so suspicious," she murmured and when she looked at her, Hermione was surprised to see a sad look in her blue eyes. "It bothers me you feel that way."
Opening her mouth to reply, Hermione was interrupted by Madam Pomfrey, apparently having left her ward for whatever reason. "Fleur?" she called. "I have your daily dose." Her eyes flickered over to Hermione and she saw a look of definite surprise in them. "You have to take it now, then we're having a check up today. No dilly dallying or avoiding it. You know it's needed."
"Yes," Fleur sighed deeply. She headed towards Madam Pomfrey, stopping at Hermione's side. "I will return shortly. Wait for me?"
It was more a request than an order and because of this, Hermione gave a stiff nod which caused Fleur to smile softly before she left with Madam Pomfrey. Now alone in the classroom and not quite sure what she was supposed to do other than wait, Hermione let her eyes rest on the desk in front of her.
Her gaze stopped on a rolled up parchment, obviously a letter of some sort, and Hermione walked towards the desk, reaching for it. She knew it wasn't right but it was necessary, she felt. After all, she obviously had something to do with why Fleur was here. She deserved to know the truth of the matter, didn't she?
That was how Hermione justified it to herself anyway. Not that it did much good, as the letter was written in French and Hermione could only make out every other word. The letter was written to her younger sister, Gabrielle, assuring that the courtship wasn't nearly as bad as she thought it would be, that she'd heard worse stories from their grandmother.
One passage in the letter struck Hermione as particularly significant. Especially if she managed to translate it correctly. If she did, then it read:
She is difficult, Hermione, and I wonder if it is worth the effort and pain. Grandmother insists it is and so does Mother. I find myself doubting that though. Having veela blood is very difficult, isn't it, Gabrielle? If I was 'normal' as it were, I would not be here, near her, in this situation.
Ah... I wish I were eleven again. Are you enjoying your first term? I trust you have taken some of my advice and have not gone searching for the hidden passageways as of yet. If you get into trouble from the start it would upset Mother greatly.
So take this advice from your elder sister, hm? Wait a week.
Hermione was contemplating the passage and what it meant when she heard footsteps approaching. Shoving the parchment back on the desk, she whirled around, fully prepared to face Fleur again. Only it wasn't Fleur, it was Professor Snape who looked at her with as much surprise as she did at him.
"Granger," growled Snape, "where is Delacour?"
It seemed that Fleur commanded as much respect from Snape as she did. Somehow that gave Hermione some strange bit of pleasure. Even if he probably only disliked Fleur because she got the job he wanted. "She left," said Hermione. "Went with Madam Pomfrey to the hospital wing. Told me to wait here."
"Oh, she did she?" Snape glowered at Hermione. His eyes narrowed at her and he stepped forward, towering over her. Raking his gaze up and down her body, taking in her shiny hair, neatly pulled back, her thick lashes, dark and beautiful eyes, and, of course, her attractive curves, he snorted. "I hope you're not taking this all seriously, Granger," he said derisively. "Doing this whole transformation of yours. You can't possibly trust any of her kind."
"Her kind?" asked Hermione sharply, her eyes filling with anger. If there was one thing she couldn't stand it was prejudice of any kind. She had certainly dealt enough on her own for having Muggles for parents.
"Veelas," supplied Snape, his gaze glittering on her. "What sort of creatures seek out and wish to spend their lives with those who hate them most?" Seeing a look of surprise emerge on Hermione's face, he formed a slow smile. "Oh, I see," said Snape with delight, "you haven't any idea why she's interested in you, do you?"
"Monsieur Snape," Fleur's voice echoed in the room and for once, Hermione could have sworn her charming and lilting tones were threatening. Deep blue eyes were hard as she crossed the room, boring them into Snape. Oh, it wasn't her imagination at all. Fleur was angry, quite angry at that. "Do you have a reason for being in my classroom, speaking about me to Mademoiselle Granger, or is it just your impeccable manners rising to the surface once again?"
Snarling at Fleur, his eyes glittered dangerously and Snape thrust a parchment at her. "From Dumbledore," he spat out, "asked me to give it to you."
"Oh?" Fleur arched an eyebrow and unrolled the parchment, chuckling at whatever was written there. Looking up after a moment, she rested her eyes on Snape then waved her hand carelessly at him. "You may go." They watched as Snape stormed out of the room and Fleur chuckled again. Looking over at Hermione, she murmured, "I think he may dislike me more than you do, hm? Be careful or he may steal your job."
"I don't... I mean..." Hermione stammered, flustered over her less than fond feelings towards the French woman being brought up.
"It is fine," Fleur said, waving her hand carelessly. "I am not so big headed as to think that everyone must like me. In fact," Fleur smiled at Hermione. "It is because you do not that you are so important to me."
"Snape said you're interested in me because you're veela," said Hermione cautiously, wondering if she'd be able to get the information she wanted through the direct route instead of sneaking around.
Fleur's deep blue eyes darkened, looking like the night sky as they focused on Hermione. "Yes," she said finally, heaving a sigh, "that is true, I suppose."
"Why is that?" asked Hermione softly.
A moment of silence passed then Fleur sighed once more. Walking away from Hermione, she searched through her leather satchel and produced a worn and ancient text. Handing it over to Hermione, she said, "You like to read, no? I think you'll find the answers to all your questions in that book. If you are not frightened away by what you read..." Fleur searched Hermione's features, looking for what Hermione had no idea, then finished quietly, "Come and find me."
Watching Fleur gather her things then walk out of the classroom, feeling altogether baffled about what had just gone on, Hermione looked down at the book in her hands. History and Habits of the Veela was its title.
Clutching the book in her hands, Hermione hurried out of the room, fully prepared to read it from front to cover tonight no matter what happened. Because she just had to know what this was all about.
Only reading was much harder than she expected. For some reason the first years were up in arms, making nonstop noise in the common room and since it was nowhere near lights out, her rage as Head Girl wasn't useful in quieting them down. She considered going to the library but quickly realized that Harry and Ron would be there, writing fake Divinations down for class, and they would want to know why she had a book on veelas. Especially Ron, who was still immersed in his crush on Fleur.
Deciding finally to try and read in her room, Hermione was more than a little frustrated when she found that she could hear all of the noise from the common room from there. Not to mention the noise from the nearby seventh year girl dorms. She really didn't want to spend time looking for a silencing charm which would block out the noise, so she gathered her cloak, put it on and proceeded to leave the dorm.
But not before she passed by the seventh year room that was making all of the noise and opening the door in time to catch the sound of a gasp and a giggle then the always familiar sound of Lavender's moan which caused Hermione to smirk.
Now that she thought back on it, Hermione wasn't sure how she could have ever considered Parvati and Lavender to be boy crazy, it was more than obvious they were fixated on each other. Although, Hermione noted, they certainly hadn't been this obvious before. Maybe it had to do with being in their seventh year and just not caring what others thought as they were about to graduate.
"I'm leaving, so you'll be alone with the first years," Hermione announced to the gasps and moans coming from behind the door. The sounds stopped for a moment and she grinned, realizing she'd managed to embarrass them. "Have fun. Oh, and Lavender? Try a silencing charm next time. You need it. I could hear you from my room and it is quite a ways from yours."
As she left the room, Hermione heard Parvati chuckle in amusement then yelp as obviously Lavender had pinched her yet again in another sensitive spot. Walking into the common room and to The Fat Lady, she murmured, "Bumblebee."
The Fat Lady frowned at her and said, "Late for you to go out, isn't it?"
"Be quiet," Hermione scowled, disappearing from the painting's sight, "I'm allowed, after all. I'm Head Girl."
Sighing despondently, Hermione wrapped her cloak about her body and shivered. It was getting colder it seemed and part of her wanted to return to the tower, seek out the warmth of the building again. Shaking her head against this as she recalled just how loud Lavender could become and the chances of her actually taking time to use a silencing charm, which would mean parting from Parvati's embrace, were incredibly slim indeed and Hermione decided to keep walking. She had to read this book.
Producing a blue flame in her hand, she warmed herself slightly, and felt much better as she found herself at her favorite spot. The spot where she had heard of Fleur's apparent interest in her. Although, what that interest meant, she had no idea. The squid splashed in the water and Hermione repeated the conversation in her mind, trying to figure it out. As always, it remained a mystery to her.
Sighing again, she set the blue flame down and opened the book to go about finishing it. Or at least getting past chapter thirty which dealt with the origins of the veela species.
"Out late, aren't we, Miss Granger?"
Lifting her head, Hermione sprang to her feet on seeing Headmaster Dumbledore who smiled generously at her, a kind twinkle in his eyes. "Headmaster! I was just reading," Hermione sputtered, showing him the book and feeling quite nervous.
Taking in the title, Dumbledore raised an eyebrow and murmured, "Miss Delacour has spoken with you then?"
"I guess," said Hermione slowly. On seeing Dumbledore's amused expression, she said sheepishly, "Not really. She just gave me this book, is all. Said I should read it if I want to understand. Only I've read almost the whole thing and I'm nowhere close to understanding anything. Especially," Hermione trailed off, not sure how to continue.
"Especially what?" questioned Dumbledore.
"I heard her speaking to you," said Hermione a bit anxiously.
"Oh?" Dumbledore smiled. He tilted his head to one side then murmured, "I should apologize for calling you stubborn then."
"No," Hermione shook her head, "you're probably right. I am stubborn. But I talked with Professor Snape as well and he said I shouldn't trust her, that she's only interested in me because she's veela. I told her that and she gave me this book, saying it'd explain everything but it hasn't explained a thing!"
The words just came spilling out of Hermione's lips, expressing all the frustrations of the past weeks and Dumbledore smiled kindly at her. "Page nine hundred and eighty three is particularly useful, I think you'll find."
Having said that, he turned on his heel and walked away. Leaving Hermione in something close to shock. Sitting down on the ground, next to the blue flame so she could read, Hermione opened the book and hurriedly flipped to the page he spoke of. It was the start of a new chapter, the title of which read: The Fickle Veela in Romance, Cross Species Dating.
Running her eyes over the page, Hermione stopped on a passage that almost made her heart stop. She reread it several times, perhaps even fifty times at the most, making absolutely she had read it right. Each time it was the same so she must have. If she did then it meant something quite unfathomable to her. Hermione's eyes stopped on the passage again.
Veela are likened to the sirens of ancient times but instead of song, they lure in men and women alike with their very presence. There are precious few humans who do not fall under the natural charms of a veela. This is not a issue amongst veela, they are immune to their own powers, but as time has passed more half breeds have been born, resulting in issues when it comes to the mating process.
The veela know their mates on sight. When they meet, a bond is formed and there is nothing more need be said. With half breeds it is a far more complicated process which involves the courtship ritual. It is well documented that veela will waste away without their mates. Half breeds are of no exception but those of human/veela heritage are especially vulnerable, a half breed can last only a few years without their mate before being without them ultimately leads to their death.
Perhaps the most unusual factor for the half breed courtship ritual is that it involves one who is indifferent to them. Never is it someone who has fallen under their thrall. It is the ingrained desire of all veela to not want someone under their power. One would suppose it has to do with the unpleasantness of being married to someone without knowing if they truly love you or are simply caught in your web of charm.
Which is why half breeds consistently mate and court those who show no interest in them or even, in fact, dislike them on sight. This, of course, leads to perhaps the most complicated relationships any have seen.
Paling significantly, the book slipped from Hermione's fingers and fell to the ground as she stared blankly ahead. Barely aware of the splash of the water as the giant squid emerged to the surface.
Just like the book had said, suddenly things had gotten quite complicated.