Written for the Handicap Challenge at the Harry Potter Fanfiction Challenges Forum, set by sick-atxxheart, (who has a knack for fabulous challenges), with the prompt "Nightmares".
The nightmares did not begin straight away, which was perhaps why they were so frightening when they did. If she had dreamt that night about the Grindylow, about Gabrielle trapped and helpless, about her own failure, it would have made more sense. Perhaps it would have got the whole thing out of her system, out of her mind, and meant that one night of bad dreams would have ended it.
But the first dream was a full week after The Second Task. Gabrielle was safely back in France, the Beauxbatons pupils were settled again in their quarters in the Hogwarts grounds, and all Fleur had to do was worry about the Third Task. (All – but really, it could be anything – it wasn't as if she could do anything to prepare except swot up every spell and jinx and hex she could think of and then some.)
It was a little after four in the morning when she woke, screaming and shaking, so distraught that Amalie and Marie-Claude and the others could not calm her, and Cécile ran for Madame Maxime. The headmistress gave Fleur a calming draught, but even to her Fleur could not describe what she had dreamt. It was all there, in her head, horribly, frighteningly real, but she could not talk about it.
The light is hazy, blurred. Shapes are fuzzy, half-seen, scarily indistinct. The weeds catch at her arms and legs, slowing her down. And then – from nowhere, a grinning face, long sharp gingers clutching, clawing, teeth bared, a leering smile.
Pain and fear and failure.
And Gabrielle – trapped, alone. Let down by the older sister who was supposed to look after her, to protect her.
She had failed her sister. She failed.
The Grindylow's face is clear in her vision, her sister's is fading.
The nightmare recurred every night for a week, and by the end of it Fleur was hollow-eyed and exhausted, her astonishing beauty tarnished by lack of sleep and by fear. Finally, Madame Maxime insisted on a consultation with Madam Pomfrey, who prescribed a sleeping potion so potent that even the Grindylow could not break through it, although it left Fleur feeling dazed and uncoordinated during the days. After a further week, Madam Pomfrey stopped the potion, and it seemed to have done its job. The dreams did not recur, although Fleur went to bed each night with an undefined feeling of dread stirring in the pit of her stomach.
She thought that that was the end of it until June, the night after The Third Task. She had failed that task too, but it hardly mattered now. Winning and losing paled to insignificance beside Cedric's death and the rumours of what had happened to him and to Harry when they touched the Cup.
She did not dream of Cedric or Harry. It was the Grindylow again, grinning and, smirking. Clutching a body as Harry clutched Cedric's.
But the body was Gabrielle's, and she, Fleur, had failed her again.
She awoke sobbing and crying, and her mother held her and rocked her back to sleep as if she were a tiny girl again. But the vision was still there in the morning, vivid on the back of her eyelids, more real than Gabrielle sitting opposite her at breakfast, chattering as usual despite the air of fear and uncertainty pervading the room. She could not rid herself of it.
And the dream recurred, over the years, time and again, when Fleur was tired or upset, or sometimes when she was neither. There were variations, differences, but some things were always the same.
Her own failure.
Her first night back in England, alone in her tiny bedsit over Eeylops' Owl Emporium Fleur went to bed with the vision of Gabrielle's tearstained face as they said goodbye fixed in her mind. It was perhaps inevitable that she dreamt of the Grindylow, but this was the first time she had been on her own when it happened. It was over an hour before she managed to calm down sufficiently to drag herself out of bed, still sobbing, light a fire in the grate and make herself a cup of hot, strong coffee. She spent the rest of the night curled in an armchair before the fire, not sleeping, and faced her first day at Gringotts half-awake and groggy.
And during her first year in England, finding her feet, learning her own way, finding Bill, the dream was still there. On nights when Bill was away (and in the early days, he would not tell her where or why); on nights when the catty remarks of the English girls she worked with were just too much; on nights when missing her parents and Gabrielle was a physical ache inside, the Grindylow was there, haunting her nights, stealing her sleep and her self-command and her sense of self.
Even when she and Bill were firmly together, engaged, the Grindylow would not retreat. She woke all too often sobbing and shaking, and Bill held her and rocked her and kissed her wet face and told her it was alright, but she could never free herself of the dream entirely. Her failure to care for Gabrielle, to protect her and keep her safe was always there.
When Greyback attacked Bill, Fleur dreamt of the Grindylow, not the werewolf, and it was her sister's face, not her fiancé's that was ripped to shreds in the dream.
When the days grew blacker, and it seemed that You Know Who must prevail, the Grindylow stalked her sleep and stole what little peace she had.
And when it was all over, and Bill's brother was cold in the ground, she dreamt of losing her sister to the Grindylow, and felt selfishly guilty for doing so when Gabrielle was whole and alive and well and Fred was not.
As the years of peace passed, the dreams came more rarely, but never left her completely. More often than not, though, there was a change. A week after Victoire was born, it was her baby that Fleur saw trapped and alone as the Grindylow drove her back. And it happened again, with the other children. She saw their faces where Gabrielle's had been. She had failed them, let them down, failed to keep them safe. Bill held her when she woke screaming, and rocked her and kissed her wet face and told her it was alright, that the children were fine, but she would haunt their rooms after the dreams, checking on them every hour, afraid to sleep in case the Grindylow came back. She never entirely freed herself of the sense of failure, of not doing all she should, of letting down those she loved the most.
Gabrielle died at the age of thirty-eight, suddenly and unexpectedly from a fever, her unborn daughter dying with her. Fleur did not dream on the night she died, but cried and wailed and raged and screamed in Bill's arms at the fate that had taken her little sister from her. But every night after that in the week that separated Gabrielle's death from her funeral, the Grindylow haunted Fleur's sleep, his leering face grinning, his fingers clutching as he bore her sister away from her forever. She woke sobbing and crying and clinging to Bill, who held her and rocked her and kissed her, but who did not tell her it was alright, because he knew it was not and never could be.
Gabrielle was buried on a bitter day in November, in a dark wizarding cemetery in France, her husband and two boys standing tall and stony faced and dry-eyed in the biting wind. Fleur was only kept upright by Bill's arm around her waist, and Victoire's hand warm in her own. She laid cream roses and purple violets on her sister's grave, and the tears on her face mingled with the stinging rain.
She never dreamt of the Grindylow again.