A/N: for Hogwarts Online prompt of the day: howling. Credit for a dragon-chasing Gabrielle goes to tat1312.
these dragons, they'll inspire you
whatever it takes to carry you away
it all comes down to action: 4,3,2,1.
- Don't Upset the Rhythm, The Noisettes.
Gabrielle Delacour is a pretty little thing. That's what she's described as. She's a mere shadow cast by the radiance that is Fleur – Beauxbatons champion, astonishingly gifted with magic, beautiful and spectacular and luminescent Fleur.
Gabrielle is a pretty little thing.
And sometimes it makes her want to scream.
She falls in love with the dragons when she's eight. She watches the four champions battle the four beasts, one after the other, and while the Beauxbatons girls around her shriek and scream in fear, she is breathless with the beauty and grace of these creatures, tied ohsotragically to the floor.
She hears the howl of the Horntail on the breeze as it tumbles to its death. It is at that moment, as Harry Potter comes sailing back into the arena looking so smug, that Gabrielle decides she hates him.
He has killed something beautiful and magnificent and he is happy about it. The others cheer and praise him and Gabrielle swallows her protests and watches and waits.
He saves her during the Second Task, and it pains her to have to smile and be grateful to him. She kisses his cheek and colours prettily, acting shy and hiding behind her big sister, her long hair damp and golden with strands of pondweed clinging to it.
"Say merci, Gabrielle," Fleur orders, smiling flirtatiously down at the boy and his friend. Gabrielle silently counts to dix and then stretches her cheeks out in her best, widest grin.
He smiles and acts modest, shrugging his shoulders and blushing. She grinds her teeth together in frustration as Fleur breezes away, Gabrielle following in her shadow, just like always.
Fleur abandons her that evening, drifting away to get ready for a date with an "'Ogwarts boy. 'E is most charmant," her sister insists. Gabrielle replies that she is sure he is.
Once Fleur has left, Gabrielle finds a hat to keep her ears warm and a long scarf that clashes with her pretty little red coat (her life is composed of pretty little meaningless things) and she pads quickly down the carpeted corridor to the door.
She slips outside, and it takes her about an hour of treacherous pathways and cursing and sliding about to make it to the bottom of the hill on which Hogwarts sits. She curves round to the left, following the path from memory.
It soon peters out and she is left to pick her way among huge fallen boulders and heavy clumps of bright green grasses. With all her eight-year-old dedication, she keeps at it until she sees something that has her heart soaring and clenching at the same time. The tail of a dragon.
She hurries forward, along its spine, her hand trailing along its great, dead back. She finds its head, its eyes still open in outrage, but it is so absolutely dead she feels the very air bemoaning the tragedy.
The wind howls about her as she rests a gloved hand on its bronze-hued snout, caressing it gently.
"What are you doing?" a voice shouts to her incredulously, and she turns to see a well-muscled, red-headed young man striding towards her energetically, looking angry.
"Désolée, monsieur," she stammers, stepping away from the dragon and pulling her hat down further, avoiding his gaze. "I wanted to see 'er."
"To gaze at the horrific beast vanquished by the mighty Harry Potter?" he inquires with a hint of irony in his voice, and she scowls furiously.
"Of course not!" her French accent grows thicker with her rage, and her face flushes slightly. "This thing is sad. It was so beautiful and 'Arry Potter 'as killed it with no shame at all."
The man regards her for a long while, and then he moves closer and crouches down by the dragon's snout and lays a bare hand over one of its nostrils.
"I'm here to move her," he explains, looking up at her with a sad smile. "Professor Dumbledore would rather there wasn't a massive dead dragon under the school."
"They are most thoughtless," Gabrielle replies quietly, and gathering her courage she puts her hand next to the man's and peeks at him from under her hat. "I'm Gabrielle."
"Gabrielle?" he repeats, and she is astonished that he has the pronunciation correct.
"You speak it like a French man!" she exclaims with delight, beaming at him. "All these silly English, they say 'Gay-bree-elle.' I do not understand the difficulty."
He laughs at this and rises to his feet, extending his hand down to her.
"Well, Gabrielle, it's nice to meet you. I'm Charlie."
She removes her glove and shakes his hand firmly. His palm is rough with calluses and she gasps as she feels a section of his skin hot under her hand. He smiles and turns his hand over, showing an ugly red burn to her.
"The Ironbelly on the reserve got a little testy over us trying to fix her leg," he explains as though he is proud of his wound. She looks up and sees this prideful, fierce devotion in his eyes as he thinks of the dragon, and her own eyes reflect the fire in his as she turns her gaze to the dead Horntail.
"You chase dragons?" she inquires wistfully, and he laughs at the look of envy on her face.
"Yes. In Romania."
"Oh, but I am jealous!" she replies, and he smiles and puts a gentle hand on her shoulder to turn her round to look up at him.
"If you ever want to come get a taste for it, just write me a letter," he says, and produces a strange implement from one of his pockets that she stares at warily.
"What is this?"
"It's a Muggle pen," he explains with a broad smile. "Takes less time than a quill – and with dragons, time is of the essence. Here, give me your arm."
She holds out her arm and he pushes back her sleeve and scribbles an address on her pale skin, then gently pulls her sleeve back down.
"Drop me a line sometime," he suggests with a smile, and then pulls out his wand and suddenly both he and the Horntail are gone.
Fleur has not even noticed her absence. Gabrielle arrives at the carriage and stops to speak to the horses briefly. The night is very dark, but the horses are warm and comforting and their pale manes and tails glow very slightly and give her enough light to see by.
"Mademoiselle Delacour!" a low female voice exclaims angrily, and Gabrielle flinches back as Madame Maxime looms over her. "What eez ze meaning of zis?"
Her English is terribly accented, far worse than Gabrielle's, and once more the little girl mentally curses the rule that has them all speaking English for the duration of their visit.
"I was walking, Madame," she explains, allowing her bottom lip to tremble and her eyes to fill with crocodile tears. "I forgot the time."
Madame Maxime warns her sternly not to go wandering off again, and to always mind the time, but her gaze softens when Gabrielle nods forlornly and stops to say goodbye to the horses before rushing inside.
"Wait, Gabrielle," the headmistress calls, and Gabrielle halts with her foot on the first step.
Madame Maxime paces over to her measuredly and lifts her chin, studying the stars in her eyes.
"You like ze 'orses?" she inquires neutrally, and Gabrielle's eyes shine with delight.
"Oh, yes, Madame. They are beautiful. Like the dragons."
Madame Maxime releases her, possibly nervous of whatever Monsier Delacour will say when his daughter returns with the dragon fever. Gabrielle beams at the headmistress before curtseying and hurrying inside to get ready for bed.
She writes to Charlie just once, the summer of the year that Fleur officially takes last place in the Triwizard Tournament and Harry Potter swears to Voldemort's return.
She scribbles determinedly in her best handwriting, her written English terrible but all of her heart and zeal and desperation poured into it.
He writes back almost immediately, suggesting that she waits until she is older to visit. He encloses a picture of the Ukranian Ironbelly that had given him the burn he showed her to lessen the blow.
She sticks it on her ceiling so she can gaze at it before she sleeps, and every night her dreams are filled with the howl of the wind in her ears as she sits upon the back of a mighty green dragon, the air before them filled with fire and thrills.
She does not see him again for three years. She turns eleven and in the summer before she attends Beauxbatons for the first time Fleur announces that she will be a bridesmaid for her.
Gabrielle beams at this and she throws her arms around her sister's neck and the tall red-headed man her sister is marrying laughs as the pair of them waltz dizzily around the room.
They stay with the Weasleys (although in truth it's more like camping) and she goes to sleep listening to all the men snoring and feeling the warmth of the house and thinking how much she likes it here, with so many people around her all the time.
She doesn't know anybody and she certainly doesn't want to be left with Harry – she has done her pretending for this holiday, and she doesn't intend to make any more effort. So she follows Fleur around and jabbers away in French, doing her best to be helpful, generally getting in the way and impeding all the chores the women are trying to do.
Charlie arrives two days before the wedding. His mother almost floors him with a massive hug, and Gabrielle peeks out from behind the curtain of the room she and Fleur are sharing, and she sees his strong arms and bright hair and the red burns on his arms and she lets out a squeal of delight.
"Charlie!" she shouts as she rockets down the stairs, her long hair tied up in a ponytail and gleaming in the sunlight. "You 'ave come!"
She bursts out into the garden and he laughs hugely and rushes towards her to sweep her into a hug, spinning her round in a massive circle and teasing silvery giggles from her.
"I've missed you, squirt," he tells her, ignoring the general astonishment of those gathered around. Gabrielle beams at him as he sets her back down on the ground, her fingers twisting in the hem of her skirt.
"I 'ave missed you also," she replies with a shy smile, and he laughs and ruffles her hair, taking her hand to lead her into the kitchen.
The last minute preparations are made the next day and she is bored out of her mind as she is forced to parade up and down behind Fleur. Ginny is funny and friendly but most of her time is taken up with Harry Potter and Gabrielle finds it hard to like anybody that likes Harry.
"Merlin, kid, you look bored," Charlie announces when she has glided past him for the fifth time. He's lounging in a chair next to his brother Bill, and Gabrielle smiles and mimics someone falling asleep before Fleur whirls round and catches her, berating her in rapid French.
"Désolée," she apologises, blinking innocently up at her sister. Fleur frowns at her briefly, but then Bill distracts her with a whispered nothing and Gabrielle seizes the opportunity to escape and dances over to Charlie, hopping up into the seat next to him and abandoning the little bunch of flowers she is carrying on the floor.
"How are the dragons?" she inquires, and her eyes are shining as he grins broadly, one arm flung carelessly across the back of her chair as he expostulates on the conditions of the dragons; the new female they've acquired, the younglings who have just made it out into the wild.
Gabrielle laps it up, every single word, and that night she dreams of dragons in a thousand different colours.
The next morning she is awoken by Fleur's pacing at around five o' clock. She sits up and blearily rubs her eyes as she watches her sister's bare feet pad back and forth across the floorboards.
"Assieds-toi," she suggests, glancing up at her sister's worried face. "Ne t'inquiète pas."
Fleur falls back onto her bed with a sigh, and Gabrielle gets up from her camp bed, wincing as the springs creak.
"You'll be beautiful," she says reassuringly, stroking her sister's long hair gently, wondering when she became the mature one. "And Bill loves you."
"I love him," Fleur replies quietly, and then she turns her head and smiles radiantly up at Gabrielle, running a long finger along her sister's fair cheek. "You'll be beautiful too. You look just like I did when I was your age."
Gabrielle smiles and inside doubts it, but she hugs her sister fiercely anyway, and when their mother comes to wake them up they are curled in sleep next to each other, their hair like a river of sunshine around them both.
Fleur is dazzling, and Gabrielle is so proud of her sister in those blazing, glorious moments where she almost dances up the aisle that she cannot control the huge smile that adorns her cheeks, her face flushed with Fleur's magnificence and her heart swelling with the enormity of the event.
"Might I have the pleasure of the first dance?" a man's voice says near her ear after the meal, and Gabrielle spins to find Charlie leaning over her, his eyes twinkling as he holds his hand out. She ignores her mother's hum of disapproval and allows him to pull her onto the dance floor.
He grins broadly down at her and pulls her up to stand on his feet, waltzing her dizzily around the room.
"You must forgive me for monopolizing you," he whispers to her in a break from the dancing. "Fred and George are insisting on setting me up with a veela cousin, so I need you to be my excuse."
She laughs and her elderberry-dark eyes are full of stars as he spins her under the lights and tells her stories of the dragons. He is describing one particular male with what he calls a 'severe attitude problem' when a silver lynx falls out of the sky.
"The ministry has fallen," it announces in a slow, deep voice. "Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming."
Gabrielle does not know much about the Death Eaters or even Voldemort and she has never heard of Scrimgeour so she merely stares uncomprehendingly at the space where the patronus disappeared until a woman screams and the party explodes into terror.
"Maman!" she cries as people begin to sweep around her, cutting her off until she is alone and lost and helpless and she can feel tears gathering even as she battles them down.
"Gabrielle!" someone shouts, and she turns to see Charlie fighting his way towards her.
"I'm afraid," she sobs into his arms when he reaches her, and he takes her in his arms and pulls his wand out.
"I know. I'm going to make you safe, okay? You need to trust me."
She clings on around his neck and the tears start pouring down and she just nods.
"I do. I trust you."
His arms tighten around her, reassuring in their solidity, and then suddenly the world goes black around her.
She wakes up on a small bed in a sparse, bare room with pretty yellow curtains swinging in a slight breeze. She sits up and her head feels like it will explode.
"Oh, good, you're awake," a voice says with evident relief, and the next second the edge of the bed is depressed as someone sits down on it heavily. "Here, I made you breakfast."
He deposits a tray filled with strawberries and toast and honey and a glass of milk on her lap and her head stops pounding enough for her to recognise him.
"Charlie?" she says with considerable bewilderment. "Where am I?"
"You're in Romania," he replies with a slight grin, picking up the milk and offering it to her. "I brought you here after the Death Eaters came last night. And don't worry, your parents know you're here. They weren't happy about it, but Bill talked them into letting you stay with me for the moment. After all, anyone who was at that party will be on a hit list now – and Romania's probably the safest place you can get, given the circumstances."
Gabrielle blinks as she takes all this in, and then at Charlie's insistence she gulps down a mouthful of the warm milk and nibbles delicately on a strawberry.
"Maman and Papa really say I may stay?" she inquires, a little incredulously, and he beams at her.
"Yes. They know how much you love the dragons. I am under strict instruction not to let you near any, and you have to be back at school for September."
"I may not go near any dragons?" she repeats, crestfallen, and Charlie laughs aloud and steals one of her strawberries.
"I said they'd told me I couldn't let you. I didn't say I was going to obey. Only, if they ask, I followed their instructions to the letter, okay?"
She bounds out of bed in an instant, flinging her arms around his neck and covering his face in kisses.
"Oh, merci, merci! You are wonderful!"
"Yes, alright, squirt," he says, fending her off with considerable amusement. "Finish eating and then change into something more suitable."
She glances down at the bridesmaid's dress she's still wearing, and then tilts her head up at him and frowns. "I have nothing else."
"There's a bunch of girl's clothes I begged off the guys here with daughters," he explains easily, rolling off the bed and flinging open a wardrobe. "They probably won't appeal much to your fashionable side but they're sturdy and they'll last a while."
She beams and rushes over to the wardrobe, beginning to sort through the pile.
"Eat," he orders firmly, on his way to the door. "And then we'll go catch us some dragons!"
She chases dragons all summer and she only returns home with two days before school starts.
She is tanned and she has a long scar that runs over her collarbone that had given Charlie a heart attack, but she's also got the dragon fever ingrained in her, and even as her mother shrieks at the state of her hair (she'd cut it extremely short to avoid it becoming ensnared on branches when they were out tracking the wild dragons) and immediately regrows it back down to her waist, all she is thinking about is the vicious Romanian wind howling against her window at night at the dragons roaring first thing in the morning and the sunshine and the beauty and the majesty of it all.
She starts school and something about her absurd self-possession sets her apart almost immediately. The other girls chatter nervously on the train and on the first couple of days, but Gabrielle remains quiet, her heart and mind in Romania, because she's chased dragons and, really, the thrill of attending a magic school for the first time has nothing on that.
She settles in quickly, making friends easily with the other girls, and even as they admire her long, silvery hair, all Gabrielle is thinking about is how soon she can get away with chopping it all off so she's ready for the summer.
A boy, Pepin, one day he notices her scar when they're all lounging under a tree, enjoying the last of the sunshine with their buttons undone and their thin white dresses showing underneath.
"Where did you get that?" he asks in amazement and slight awe, and as the other children turn to gaze at it Gabrielle glances down at it momentarily and then lets her head flop back down onto the grass, staring up at the sky and imagining being in it, and smiles slightly.
"Norberta gave it to me," she explains, her index finger tracing it lazily. "I went too near her eggs."
They all stare at her in silence for a long time, until a girl ventures, "Norberta?"
"The Norwegian Ridgeback," Gabrielle replies, as though this should be obvious. "They got her from the gamekeeper at Hogwarts."
"Aren't Norwegian Ridgebacks dragons?" Pepin inquires, sounding as though he doesn't believe it himself, and Gabrielle rolls her eyes.
She becomes 'dragon-girl' after that and they follow her around adoringly, longing for tales of chasing dragons that she never tells them. The dragons and Charlie and Romania – these are hers and she will share them with no-one.
She goes to Romania every summer, much to the disgust and worry of her parents, and she helps Charlie and learns about the dragons and by the time she's fourteen she could write a more detailed thesis on them than the most learned wizard.
"She really has a way with them," one visitor comments in amazement upon seeing her feeding a Welsh Green by hand, her petite figure absurdly small against the blissful bulk of the dragon.
"They love her just as much as she loves them," Charlie explains, watching her fondly as she goes to leave the enclosure and Elvis the dragon stretches its head out after her longingly, its rough tongue darting out to lick the back of her head.
She turns and berates it in French, and the visitor laughs at the sight of the dragon cowering before the tiny girl, looking thoroughly bashful.
Charlie finally capitulates the next year and, as her fifteenth birthday present, he lets her ride with him on the calmest beast on the reserve, and she floats on joy and dreams for days afterwards.
She graduates from Beauxbatons with flying passes in all her subjects and applies straight away for a job on the reserve. Charlie, now in charge, has no trouble in winning support for her to have a place on their newest program of recruits – everyone on the reserve knows Gabrielle.
She arrives for the first day of the course, laughable though the idea of her needing any training is, and she sits in the back row of the class next to a tall, lanky young man clutching a large camera.
"Who're you?" he whispers to her as the teacher passes out pieces of paper. Gabrielle turns to him and takes in his dirty blonde hair and earnest blue eyes and holds out her hand.
"Gabrielle," she replies, smiling dazzlingly as he takes her hand and kisses it clumsily. "Who are you?"
"I'm Dennis," he tells her breathlessly, and then is jolted by the teacher at the front.
"Miss Delacour, since you're talking I can only assume you completely understand what is being taught."
"Yes, Madame," Gabrielle replies honestly, smiling reassuringly at her. The teacher's expression darkens.
"Perhaps you would care to explain the best method for approaching a hurt dragon to the class, then?" she asks, her eyes dangerous, and Gabrielle beams with delight at the opportunity to showcase her knowledge so early on.
"Bien sur!" she exclaims happily. "One must always take care to make sure that no other dragons are nearby lest they get attracted the hurt one. Then you must approach it slowly and see if it is at all possible to cure it with magic from a safe distance. If not, you must stun it – a clear shot to the middle of the forehead is usually best – and then –"
"Alright, thank you," the teacher interjects hurriedly, and Gabrielle catches sight of Charlie standing to one side of the doorway, smirking hugely, and her irritation quickly passes over into amusement.
"So you know a lot about dragons, huh?" Dennis asks her as they stroll together towards the compound for the class' first look at one of the dragons they will be helping. Gabrielle smiles up at him, her dark eyes shining with memories.
"Yes. I have spent a lot of summers here."
"Ah, I see," he replies, looking a little awestruck as the sunlight envelopes her in a radiant cloud, making her almost glow. They reach the spot where the teacher has gathered everyone in a circle. All the trainees are staring up nervously at where the dragon has its head pressed curiously against the iron bars behind which it is enclosed.
Gabrielle recognises it instantly and bounds straight past the teacher up to it, working the door controls easily and slipping inside.
"Miss Delacour!" the teacher shrieks in horror, but Gabrielle is already climbing up onto the dragon's foot, laughing as it bends its head towards her and she throws her arms around its snout in a hug.
"Elvis," she giggles as it raises her up off the ground briefly, her legs dangling.
She's given a punishment of cleaning out the recently vacated stalls that dragons are kept in while injured, but Charlie quickly rescinds it because, after all, she probably knows more about the dragons than the teacher.
She finds out that Dennis is the official photographer for a famous wizarding magazine, and that he does it mostly in memory of his older brother Colin who was killed in the final battle for Hogwarts. She lays a hand over his heart when she hears this, and gazes up at him with a terrifying sort of honesty.
"I am so sorry," she tells him, and because she means it more than anyone else he has ever met he can't really handle it and he runs away, trying to hold back tears.
The next day he takes photo after photo of the class, of the dragons – and then he approaches her in the late afternoon with the sun beating lazily down on their heads and offers over a photo to her.
"Oh," is all she can respond when she sees it. It shows her leaning over the great foreleg of a dark-hued dragon, its scales matching her eyes, which are full of dreams and stars. The dragon's eye is behind her, its head resting blissfully on the ground, and the picture is so very full of devotion all she can do is stare.
"Oh, Dennis," she says, and then she has flung her arms around his neck and is kissing him as though her life depends upon it.
"But – but," he stammers, almost dropping his camera in his astonishment. "You're Gabrielle! You can't possibly like me!"
She rolls her eyes and kisses him again, just to make her point, and then lays her head on his shoulder and fists her small hand in the front of his shirt.
"You understand me," she tells him quietly. "You know that I'm not silly like they want me to be. They think because I'm part-veela, I must be delicate and pathetic and useless but I'm not. And you see that."
When their first son is born, nearly seven years later, Gabrielle insists on naming him Charlie. They take him home to their house at the corner of the reserve, and they put him to bed in his cot with the mobile of tiny dragons spinning above his head and the wolves howling in the distant mountains and the dragons snoring nearby and then together they go out and watch the moon rise.
"What more could anybody want than this?" Gabrielle asks softly, her face bathed in moonlight, her head tipping naturally onto Dennis' shoulder as they sit together under the great tree in their back garden.
Dennis glances down at her, with her elderberry eyes reflecting the stars and her wonderful face serene and untroubled, and he wonders the exact same thing.
A/N: please don't favourite without reviewing, thank you.