The Flower of the Heart
High, refined cheekbones, slender, elegant brows, bright, clear, blue eyes and full lips framed by flowing, silver hair stared out of the mirror.
Perfect. Fleur pushed the small mirror over with the tip of her finger. As always.
Madame Maxime’s silhouette loomed on the other side of the Venetian blind. Fleur pushed it up and saw her caught in conversation with Hogwarts’ gamekeeper. Fleur recognised the look on the huge man’s face all too well.
Fleur let the blind fall and slipped out of her room. She drew her magic into herself as far as she could. Madame Maxime will be furious if I get caught by a bunch of boys. Fleur scowled and stepped down into the long grass. And it will validate the rumours those harpies like to spread.
A chill soaked into her shoes and cloak. Fine, cold mist hovered in the air, coating her in water droplets.
‘Merde.’ Fleur shivered and stared up at Hogwarts’ grey battlements. ‘Does this awful place never see any sun?’
I suppose they need the walls to be so thick and ugly just to keep out the cold and the rain.
She strode into the Great Hall. A dusk sky twinkled over her head and a faint white circle of magic glowed around the goblet’s stand. Its rippling blue flames threw faint shadows across the flagstones. Fleur put one foot through the age line.
It flared bright as a full moon, then settled back to a dull glow.
She stepped all the way through and fished a piece of parchment from her pocket.
Fleur Delacour. She read the parchment’s slanting, delicate script read in the blue light of the goblet, then dropped it into the flames. They turned red, then faded back to azure. Accepted. As always.
She spun on her heel.
A shadow passed the entrance of the hall.
‘Merde,’ Fleur whispered.
If it’s Madame Maxime, I’m in trouble.
A dark, messy-haired Hogwarts student made his way along the wall to her right.
Gabrielle’s age, but he’ll probably be half-handsome when he’s older. Fleur wrinkled her nose at his round glasses. If an English boy can learn some style, that is.
The boy followed the edge of the wall, his head cocked. The goblet’s flames illuminated his face as he drew neat, flashing off his glasses. She glimpsed a pair of sharp, emerald eyes.
Merde. He saw me. Fleur held her breath. Now he’ll come bother me.
One of his eyebrows quirked and he carried on.
That’s the same boy that ignored me before. Interesting. She allowed her magic free, letting her allure swell to its usual level and stomping her foot. Now we’ll see if he notices me.
The young wizard paused a few steps from the end of the hall and shot her a second glance. ‘Tempus.’ Silver numbers ghosted from the end of his wand, then he vanished into the corridors beyond the hall.
Good thing none of the other girls saw that. Fleur pursed her lips. I wonder if he’d be able to resist my magic if I actually try?
She stole back out into the drizzle and down the uneven, steep, slippery steps.
‘Where’ve you been, Fleur?’ Caroline’s chubby face stretched into a sickly smile as the small, round girl skulked from the shadows at the end of the corridor.
‘Yeah, Fleur.’ Emilie’s gangly figure crept out from behind Caroline. ‘Been sneaking up to Hogwarts to bewitch little boys again, have you?’
‘I don’t bewitch anyone,’ Fleur said. ‘If you’re both still upset that your boyfriends are so weak-minded they cannot resist my magic then take it up with them, or, better still, ask yourselves why they might be looking at other girls when they have you.’
We’re not best friends anymore. You ran off chasing boys and left me behind. Fleur hid a small smile. And now your boys leave you to chase me. Fair’s fair.
‘Our boyfriends were fine until you used your veela magic to enchant them and lure them away,’ Emilie hissed. ‘At least we know those rumours about you really are true. Why else would you be sneaking out in the middle of the night?’
‘It’s barely early evening,’ Fleur snapped. ‘Your ability to tell the time is as poor as your duelling, Emilie. Would you like me to remind you which of us is the school duelling champion?’
‘Madame would bar you from competing.’ Caroline sniffed. ‘You wouldn’t dare.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ Emilie sang. ‘She’s probably too tired to do anything after her excursion. How many was it, Fleur? Did you lure enough in to satiate yourself?’
‘Bold words from the needy little girl who threw herself at any boy she could see. The whole school knows you lost your virginity to a middle-aged janitor in a bathroom stall. No wonder you can’t keep a boyfriend long enough to stop you coming back to irritate me.’
Emilie balled her fists. ‘You started that rumour and pinned what you were doing on me.’
‘Even Caroline doesn’t believe that,’ Fleur said. ‘And she’s gullible enough to believe every time a boy says I love you before he starts trying to take off her clothes.’
‘Oh no, you’re not turning this one around,’ Caroline crowed. ‘Madame Maxime forbade us from going out after curfew.
‘I hope you got enough to keep you sated for a while, because she’s not going to let you slip out again.’ Emilie’s lip curled. ‘Or maybe the other rumours are true? Maybe for all her unnatural charm, poor little Fleur’s never been so much as kissed.’
‘As if I care what you or your rumours say.’ Fleur stuck her nose in the air and stared at a point just over Caroline’s head. ‘You’re both just less than me. Less attractive. Less powerful. Less important. Go ahead and try to satisfy your empty lives by whispering about me, it won’t redeem you and it won’t work.’
Caroline gasped. Emilie reached for her wand.
Fleur caught her wrist. ‘Why would you even try? Charms, duelling, enchanting… I’m better than you at every aspect of magic. We’re not children anymore, Emilie. You can’t flaunt your first boyfriends and early kisses in my face and expect me to care. Go back to your room and take Caroline with you before I decide to actually take someone you care about away.’
They scurried away like frightened mice.
Fleur caught sight of her reflection in the window. Merde. Not so perfect now. She took several deep breaths and watched her reflection’s eyes shrink, shifting from black to light blue. Feathers slid back into her skin all down her spine. I shouldn’t let those two get to me. I wasted enough tears on them years ago. Now, I’ve left them behind.
‘I should write to Gabby and make sure she’s ok,’ Fleur murmured as she slipped back into her room. ‘She will be lonely now I’ve left and I promised I’d write, but I’ll need to borrow a school owl, if I can.’