This is a belated birthday present for the lovely Wordy! To you guys who have me on alert, obviously I haven't really been writing here for about a year. I probably won't be doing much more with fanfiction, except as the mood takes me. I'd love to hear from you, whether it's via review or just a PM to chat. And everyone else, hope you enjoy =)
Fleur and Gabrielle spent most of their growing-up in the wizarding world, leaving their Veela heritage for the summertime. Each year as Paris emptied and wizards and Muggles alike went abroad, the Delacour sisters and their mother left for the forest in the north of France where their Veela grand-mère and relatives lived.
Above all, Veela took pride in family, and the Delacours were greeted with love and excitement each year they arrived. Fleur's grand-mère swept across the clearing to clutch her daughter to her chest, to stroke Fleur and Gabrielle's hair with claw-like, astonishingly gentle fingers.
There were always cousins. The cousins ranged in age from two years younger than Gabrielle to ten years older than Fleur; including the Delacour girls, there were thirteen, a number holy to Veela, thirteen for the thirteen that made the journey from Transylvania to start a new life in France centuries ago.
Fleur never realized how different she was from her cousins until her mother took a picture. Veela, of course, have neither cameras nor mirrors; their memories are too great for the first and their self-assurance too great for the second. So while Fleur always knew what she looked like and what her cousins looked like, she thought that they were similar: Fleur herself had blonde hair and what humans think of as elven features, though any being who called a Veela "elven" would be lucky to escape unscathed. Without looking at herself and at her cousins in direct comparison, Fleur couldn't possibly see that though she was pretty by mortal standards, her cousins were unparalleled by any non-full-blooded Veela. Fleur had just completed her first year at Beauxbatons when her mother brought the camera.
"I know it's not tradition," Guinevere Delacour said nervously to her mother, "but I thought Fleur might like to have a picture of her cousins at school to look at when she gets homesick." For when she was enrolled at Beauxbatons by the sea, Fleur missed the deep forests of France more than even Guinevere knew.
Fleur's grand-mère turned the camera over a few times, inspecting it with her slender fingers. She gave it back to Guinevere and cawed out the cry that echoed across the hills and valleys that were Veela land, calling the family to her side. Cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts, and great-uncles trickled out of the forest slow as the first summer rain. Fleur ran to her closest friend in the family, her cousin Miradora who was a year younger than she. They clasped hands as their grand-mère explained the camera and what Guinevere wanted. Fleur felt her cheeks flush a bright rose as her grand-mère explained that Fleur was homesick for the Veela clan. Behind Fleur and Miradora, an aunt softly snorted, "This one's more Veela than her mother, for sure." And an uncle replied, "She'll be back forever as soon as she's old enough to leave the humans."
Fleur pretended not to hear that as Guinevere shyly directed her family into three rows in the meadow. The first row, the cousins, including Fleur, Miradora, and Gabrielle, sank down to sit on the grass, sprawled over and under each other in a tangle of limbs. Behind them knelt their parents, looking poised without posing; the great-aunts, great-uncles, and Grand-mère stood behind.
"Smile," Guinevere said. It was more of a suggestion than anything else. Gabrielle, on Fleur's left, beamed. She was used to having the camera, usually in her father's more capable hands, trained on her. The Veela, not being accustomed to posturing before a camera, were caught in various stages of readiness. When, a month later, the film was developed, it was a true snapshot of Fleur's clan. She wouldn't see that until much later, though, for at twelve she could only focus on one thing which she said first softly to herself then, heartbroken, to Guinevere.
"I'm ugly," whispered Fleur. She knew the word and all its connotations, but had never dreamed of it applying to herself. "Maman, I'm ugly."
"Fleur, mon enfant!" Guinevere came to her daughter in disbelief, snatching the photo from her to look at it as if for the first time. "I see thirteen cousins in a row, not one of them ugly."
Fleur knew patronizing when she heard it. "Look at me!" she cried, dismayed. "My hair is out of place, my dress rumpled—"
"Pah," snorted Guinevere, "And that makes you ugly? It could have just as easily been Miradora in disarray, and would you still find her lacking?"
"But my face … and my nose!" wailed Fleur. "It's all wrong, I don't know why but I can just see, Gabrielle and I, we don't look like them."
Guinevere took a deep breath and abandoned the notion of protecting Fleur. Her daughter was twelve now; Guinevere herself had been much younger when she learned she wasn't a fully-blooded Veela and all the failings, both in her eyes and the eyes of her family, that that came with her human half.
"You aren't like them," Guinevere replied. "You know that you're not full Veela, of course, since you can't transform like them. Your Grand-mère is full Veela; your Grand-père was human. That made me half Veela; your father is human. That makes you and Gabrielle only a quarter Veela."
Fleur traced her finger down the line of her relatives in the photograph. Still captured in time, they carried on beneath it.
"I like my Veela family so much better than Papa's family," she admitted quietly. "But what happens when I am grown up and it begins to matter more that I don't belong?" She didn't want to say that she saw the way Guinevere was delicately treated as an outcast, the way even Grand-mère was still more delicately ostracized for having a child with a non-Veela. Fleur and Gabrielle were too young to be discluded, especially among the cousins, who were more tolerant of differences than the generations before.
"Nothing," said Guinevere firmly. "You do belong." She stroked Fleur's blonde, distinctly Veela hair that looked exactly like Guinevere's own, exactly like Grand-mère's. "Belonging doesn't mean looking like them, it means loving and being loved by them. Can you really imagine Miradora turning away from you because of your nose?" Guinevere affected Miradora's lithe movements, then stuck up her nose snobbishly as if looking down on Fleur.
Fleur giggled despite herself. "I guess Miradora probably wouldn't."
"Of course not, mon enfant. You'll belong with her just like you'll belong with the rest of your Veela family." Guinevere cast a disapproving glance around Fleur's room, a flurried mess of things half out of trunks. "But you may not belong here much longer if you don't do something about this mess you've made of packing."
"Yes I will," exclaimed Fleur with a happier laugh, clutching her mother around her waist. "You can't cast out your own daughter!"
Guinevere grinned and picked Fleur up, hoisting her towards the door. "Can't I?"
Shrieking with laughter, Fleur squirmed away, kissing her mother's cheek and returning to packing. "You won't, you won't." With a jutted, determined chin and a saucy smile, she added, "But I'll pack for you anyway."
Guinevere threw her arms up in delight, exaggerated for Fleur. "And what more could I ask for from my daughter?" She kissed Fleur's cheeks and left her to her packing.
The brief merriment soon left Fleur as she studied the photograph again, at last feeling as though she understood the extent of the differences between her and her Veela relatives. She couldn't hang this above her bed as her mother had hoped; she didn't want to show the fiercely competitive and judgmental Beauxbatons girls that while Fleur was lovely, her family was lovelier. Instead, in her second year at Beauxbatons, she ceased clinging to her Veela heritage. Last year, she had told anyone who listened about her grand-mère in North France who plaited her hair with flowers and stardust. This year, she was prim and quiet and nervous. This year, she shyly approached girls in her own year who she'd decided would be perfect for friends; they were well-liked by the other girls as well as by the professors. She learned that they'd thought she was stuck-up but had always liked her from a distance, wishing they were as beautiful as she.
Even though Fleur knew what real beauty was, she told her new friends how beautiful they were. She threw herself into her studies, ready to provide herself an alternative to a life in the forests with her mother's kin. She finally giggled with girls who weren't her sister or cousin, and that summer in the North, she had letters to write and owls to watch for, a life to look forward to after leaving her family.
When Fleur was thirteen years old, that sacred Veela-number that also defined your departure from childhood, she accepted that she was beautiful for a human and ugly for a Veela, and then she accepted that there were better things to be than one of the beautiful ones.