Hermione Granger was smart. That was an understatement. There was a reason she was always in the library, always reading. There was a reason that the sorting hat had seriously considered her for Ravenclaw, saying the only thing that really rivaled her sense of justice and bull-headed bravery was her hunger for knowledge (not quite the words that it used, but…)
She was the brightest witch of her age, though she was also just human and so folly to emotions, much as she tried to think rationally, sometimes, emotions got the better of her.
She couldn’t exactly put her finger on what annoyed her so much about Fleur Delacour when the girl first arrived to Hogwarts. It had certainly rubbed her the wrong way, Fleur’s complaints about the castle. And she had many of them. Logically, Hermione, after several months, realized this was probably more due to stress of being in a foreign country than anything against the castle itself.
Indeed, it seemed that once Fleur had settled a bit, her complaints lessened.
At least, her ones in English.
But there was something else about her that irked Hermione. It could have been the way that Ron constantly drooled at her. It could have been the fact that she was breathtakingly beautiful and she knew it. She held herself in such a way, her smile constantly full of a dare, coquettish. It annoyed Hermione to no end because she just couldn’t grasp it. Fleur seemed to have an air about her that was both confrontational and invitational. Her gaze wasn’t cold but her demeanor was. It was like she thought herself above everyone, but that also didn’t fit.
Because Fleur did talk to people.
Or rather: she talked to women. And she talked to Harry, perhaps because Harry didn’t become an absolute idiot around her. And she didn’t tear the women down, either. She smiled genuinely and spoke softly with her fellow Beauxbatons girls, and she got on just fine with the girls from Durmstrang as well. Oddly, she even seemed to get on relatively well with some of the Durmstrang boys, including Viktor. Hermione had seen them in the library more than once, huddled together and whispering to each other over some book or other, their voices hushed but accents prominent.
She would have thought it would be them conspiring, though it seemed neither of their headmasters wanted that for them. But their champions got on fine, something which had started to sort of change Hermione’s mind for Fleur.
And Fleur talked to Hermione.
Or, well…she seemed like she wanted to.
Hermione wasn’t stupid. She’d noticed almost immediately that Fleur (and Viktor, actually) had taken a bit of a liking to her. She couldn’t say that she liked it, but they kept their distance at first and though both of their fanclubs tended to follow them, as long as they maintained that distance, Hermione didn’t mind (too) much. Viktor took to finding Hermione in the halls to ask her random questions, and she had to admit, despite his butchering of her name, he was adorable in that he clearly was both very interested in his question and in her answer.
Fleur wasn’t as direct, instead sitting across from Hermione in the library.
At first, that had irritated her. But Fleur only did it without a posse of slack-jawed boys, and sometimes, it seemed like she did it to escape them. Either way, Hermione had tolerated it because, well, it was a free country, and she didn’t have a say in who sat where. Fleur would work in silence, the only noise would be her flipping a page or so. Eventually, Hermione just got used to it, not bothering to even look up when she caught a glimpse of golden hair as Fleur sat.
No, Hermione wasn’t an idiot but…well, she was 14. She’d never had any interest in boys or girls, or romance, or sex. She had better things to learn, thanks, and her sexuality was very much on the backburner. She was young, she had time to worry about that later, when she was grown and probably cared about it more. She had very little experience with infatuation (she didn’t count her childhood crush on a boy named Thomas in year 3) and honestly, she didn’t much care to learn more about it. She supposed that with age, she would have to, but she had better things to do with her time than to analyze why not one, but two, champions (besides Harry: she hardly counted him) had taken some sort of interest in her. In fact, the only reason she could see for their apparent affection was because Hermione was quiet, studious, and left the two of them alone and to their business.
She figured, in their shoes, she’d want the same.
Viktor had taken the academic approach to getting her attention, and honestly, he was so endearing and earnest in his questions that Hermione didn’t realize that maybe he was interested in her until he asked her to the Yule Ball. In hindsight, she saw it more. But Viktor was quietly self-confident. He didn’t blush or shy away from Hermione: on the contrary, he sought her out, gave her little gifts in the form of odd knowledge. He was respectful and kept his distance and only made his interest apparently when it had seemed most appropriate, something that Hermione, while shocked, did appreciate.
He didn’t seem to want anything from her, either, more than her company. He confessed, quietly, that she fascinated him and he wanted to get to know her better. He was straight-forward and wonderful and quietly self-assured. For a moment, Hermione understood what Ron admired about him. (She realized later, of course, that Ron admired him because of his confidence in Quidditch, but that was neither here nor there). His understated masculinity was more attractive than any man in the castle, and that was why Hermione accepted.
She felt comfortable with Viktor. She felt secure. She felt appreciated for her intelligence and she felt seen in a way that was both slightly uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but not necessarily bad. It was the first time she’d considered what it meant to be an object of desire.
Fleur, on the other hand…Fleur Delacour, for all of her poise, was a goddamn mess.
And Hermione Granger only knew that because she was smart, see. She’d been to France for the better half of all of her summer breaks, and she picked up on the language fairly quickly. French wasn’t overly difficult to learn and once one had the rules down, it was a hop skip and a jump to figure out the more complex grammatical structures, conjugations, and colloquialisms. Hermione wasn’t fluent, per se: her spoken French wasn’t exactly impressive, though it wasn’t abysmal, either. She’d put her level at a solid B1+, maybe a very low B2, which wasn’t too damn shabby. But her comprehension level was stellar. She could understand far more French than she could speak, and she could read nearly as much of the language.
But Fleur, bless her, didn’t know that. It seemed that none of the Beauxbatons students had even thought that perhaps, the Hogwarts students might know some French. They spoke pretty blatantly about people around them, which made Hermione roll her eyes more often than not.
The French. Honestly.
In all fairness, of course, they were correct about most of the student population.
Key word being “most”.
At first, she truly hadn’t quite understood Fleur’s interest in sitting near her. They hardly spoke, and though Hermione grew used to the older girl’s presence, she didn’t exactly act particularly warmly or kindly towards the Frenchwoman. Hermione tolerated her presence because, as stated, it was a free country. But sometimes, especially if the library was nearly empty, she couldn’t help but be irked that Fleur didn’t just sit somewhere else. The most they ever spoke to each other was a simple “How are you?” or “What shit weather.” And both were usually said by Fleur and went relatively unanswered by Hermione.
“I just don’t know what to do, Ari.” She’d heard it one day in the library. It was in French and Hermione stopped her writing to tune in. Much as she might not enjoy a lot of what the French students had to say, she did have to admit that it was nice to practice the language outside of her usual summertime. It was a good refresher and she’d noticed that it actually helped her focus on some other subjects better.
It also made her tired, but that was the nature of translating another language for an extended period of time.
“You literally could have anyone in this whole castle and you had to fall for the one person who turns you into absolute goo,” a teasing voice answered.
The voices were hushed, so Hermione had to strain to hear. She didn’t trust herself to cast an amplifying charm without being obvious, so she had to just pretend to be absorbed in her book while listening.
“Shut up, I’m suffering enough,” the first voice whined.
Hermione managed to duck her head enough so that her hair provided a decently thick curtain, and she turned her head over so slightly. She suspected it was Fleur because she had a vague idea of what Fleur’s voice sounded like, but an odd thing happened when people spoke multiple languages. Sometimes, their voices, including pitch and intonation, changed. So she couldn’t be sure. Fleur’s English was good but her accent was thick, and it made the language sound clumsy and heavy. It deepened her voice from its natural light lilt in French. In English, her brashness shone through. In French, her elegance.
She was able to confirm that it was, indeed, Fleur, leaning on a stack of books nearby and talking to her friend Arielle, a brunette who stood a full several centimeters over even Fleur, who was quite tall herself. Arielle sent a subtle look to Hermione, though Hermione caught it. Fleur kept her gaze carefully forward or on her friend.
“I know that, Arielle. She’s always reading. I haven’t figured out a way to get her attention away from reading. I’d never thought I’d be so envious of bound parchment in my entire life.”
That made Arielle laugh. “You’re hopeless, let’s go before she notices that you’re pining at her.”
“I am not.” Fleur huffed.
The entire interaction threw Hermione. She would have been more startled, but Viktor had recently asked her out and so she felt the blow was slightly softened, knowing that someone else was interested in her.
But not just someone else, not just anyone else…Fleur Delacour!!
Fleur Delacour, who held herself with an air that insinuated she knew she was above everyone. Who smiled genuinely when Cho spoke to her in the morning. Fleur who kept her walls up but some of her inner light still shone through. Who Hermione had definitely, definitely misread from the very beginning.
Hermione paid more attention, after that. First thing was first: she acknowledged the other girl the next time that Fleur sat down next to her, a tome in her hand and a heavy sigh leaving her lips.
“Tough day?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
Fleur actually started, looking at Hermione in a mix of shock and surprise. So much so that she didn’t answer for nearly a full minute, as though she’d forgotten the entirety of the English language.
“I…oh, um. Forgive me, I wasn’t expecting…yes, it has been a long day. How has your day been?” she asked, talking slowly, as though testing each word on her tongue before speaking. Hermione realized immediately that she was making an effort to keep her accent in check, something that both surprised and actually disappointed Hermione, a little bit.
“It’s been good, yeah.” She said, sending Fleur a small smile before returning to her work.
Fleur didn’t even open her book for at least another minute or two, before shaking her head and setting to work.
“Oh my god Fleur, just talk to her.”
Hermione stopped in her tracks when she heard those words, again in French. The people speaking were huddled near a statue of Igor the Rich, holding his scale and leering down at Hermione where she paused, listening intently. The trio were too wrapped up in their conversation to notice that one of the various students in the hall had stopped to listen to them.
“I can’t. I don’t know what to say! I forget all of my English.”
“Maybe she speaks French,” a third voice said dryly.
One of them snorted, and Hermione felt herself bristle. Still, she didn’t want to interrupt her own eavesdropping, so instead clung tighter to her books, pretending to sort through them, just in case she was discovered, and concentrated.
“Neither of you are any help.” Fleur said flatly.
“Just do what Viktor did. You guys are friends, I’m sure he’ll get a kick of out watching you try to talk to her.”
“I will absolutely not, under any circumstances, ask Viktor for help in talking to the girl he’s taking to the Yule Ball, honestly Cherie.” Fleur snapped.
“You’re an absolute disaster, Fleur. You’ll not get anywhere until you talk to her.”
“I don’t even know if she wants to talk to me,” Fleur’s voice rang out, saddened.
“Time to find out,” one of them said, and Hermione made sure to not look up even though clearly, she’d been spotted.
Still, she could make out of her peripheral vision that Fleur’s friends shoved her forward and retreated hastily, leaving Fleur fairly close to Hermione. She looked up and pretended to be shocked.
“Ah, Fleur,” she managed, trying hard to fight down the smile that tried to break free.
Fleur, for all of her natural poise, looked absolutely petrified for a moment, panic flashing in her eyes.
She swallowed. “I…’ermione. Bonjour,” she managed, composing herself, if only just. “I…are you…you are going to the library?”
Hermione smiled evenly at Fleur. “I was. Will I see you there?”
“Ah, oui. I’ll walk with you?” Fleur stammered out, and Hermione couldn’t help but let her smile grow a little bigger.
“Sure,” she allowed, and they walked to the library quietly.
Upon arrival, Hermione took her usual spot and Fleur wandered off, coming back a few minutes with another rather large tome and plopping herself down in her usual seat.
Hermione raised her eyebrow at the title of the book, “Muggle Studies?” she inquired, and Fleur cringed.
“I…oui. It is…my worst subject. I’m afraid I’m simply ‘elpless when it comes to these…how would you say, machines démoniaques…” Fleur furrowed her brow, truly trying to find the translation, and Hermione couldn’t help but laugh, because demonic machines was hardly what she’d called them, but she supposed, to someone raised in the wizarding world, the frustration they could cause would certainly make them seem that way.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh. I’m just…I’m muggle born. I could…I could help you, if you like?” Hermione offered, and Fleur eyed her in a way that seemed almost skeptical.
Hermione shrugged in response to a question that she didn’t quite understand in Fleur’s eyes, and Fleur relented, sending her a small and sincere smile. “That would be perfect.” She acquiesced.
“Just make up a homework assignment, Fleur, honestly.” Gabrielle was lightly chiding her sister. She had been for the better half of an hour, and Hermione could tell that Fleur knew she was slightly annoyed by the constant interruptions from her sister. It was after the Yule Ball. After the Second Task. Gabrielle had been spending more and more time in the castle, and at first, that had truly bothered Hermione, because she followed her older sister everywhere, it seemed. Including the library, where her and Fleur had fallen into a nice rhythm of studying and talking during study breaks.
Gabrielle threw off the balance, but Hermione quickly got (mostly) over it, because it seemed that Gabrielle had even less patience with Fleur than Fleur’s friends had with her and her inability to talk to Hermione. At the rate they were going, Hermione was sure that she’d know most of Fleur’s secrets by the end of the year. It was also endlessly amusing that Gabrielle brought up the fact that Hermione couldn’t understand her in nearly every conversation.
On more than one occasion, Hermione had to look away quickly to make sure neither sister saw the smirk on her face.
“Gabi, I told you, if you’re going to be here, be quiet.” Fleur hissed angrily.
Gabi huffed. “She can’t understand me.”
“That’s not the point,” Fleur snapped. “She needs to concentrate.”
“You have it bad,” Gabrielle said flatly, and Hermione raised her gaze in time to see Fleur pinch the bridge of her nose.
“Gabrielle,” she said, a warning, and Gabrielle threw her hands up in the air before crossing her arms.
“Fine! But don’t blame me when you get to the end of the year and you still haven’t even kissed her.”
Despite the fact that Fleur still didn’t know that Hermione spoke French, Fleur turned a bright pink and glared daggers at her sister, casting a wary glance to Hermione just as Hermione dropped her gaze to her book and let her hair fall in her face to hide her own blush.
And really, Hermione could have kept it up for the rest of the year. She…she sort of liked how open and honest Fleur was with her friends, in French. She’d say things like how beautiful Hermione’s hair looked in the sun. Or how smart Hermione was, or how she was an absolute wreck even just being around her, butterflies taking over her stomach and constricting her vocal chords.
“I must look like an absolute simpleton next to her.”
Normally, her friends would roll their eyes and say, with love, “You do, Fleur.”
The best part, though, was when Fleur didn’t think Hermione was paying attention, and she would murmur something under her breath, like how beautiful Hermione looked with ink on her cheek. Or how angelic the sun looked on her skin. How nimble her fingers were as they worked.
It took everything in Hermione to not blush.
In hindsight, Hermione really should have realized sooner that Fleur had nearly always looked at her reverently during their library sessions. But, the further on the year went, the more obvious she became about it.
And god, it was…it was so sweet. Just like with Viktor, it surprised Hermione how…comfortable, she was with it. Fleur was…not as self-assured as Viktor, though she had every right to be. She wasn’t cold, or judging, as originally thought. She was scared. Terrified. And she liked Hermione. And she didn’t want to mess it up, or scare her off, so she gave her space and tried to simply engage Hermione on her own turf. She wasn’t as smooth about it as Viktor, but in her own way, she was…sweet, if a bit naïve and honestly, by the end of it, it was even more endearing because she threw caution to the wind, whispering to Hermione after a hug one night that she thought she was the most beautiful being on the planet.
Another time, after Hermione had started debating the merit of runes versus charms, Fleur had sat back and stared at Hermione and had murmured in French, almost in awe, “My god, you’re so incredibly smart.”
She started saying some of the things in English, too, growing bolder in her admiration and affections. Never too forward, which Hermione appreciated. But…god. It was easy to lose hours in the library speaking to Fleur, and though Hermione still spoke to Viktor, she talked to Fleur.
She wasn’t…ready, per se, for anything more than what she’d had with Viktor. Intellectual stimulation and a person to talk to, maybe peck on the lips. To feel safe with. And Viktor was charming.
And Fleur? Fleur was a mess, and in a way, that made her even more attractive, in Hermione’s eyes. Despite trying to play it cool, Fleur fell apart in French and it finally did get to the point that she couldn’t take it anymore.
“She’s beautiful.” Fleur said. She was stood with her friend Arielle once again, and they both were stood in front of Hermione, waiting for her. She had to finish her essay and then she and Fleur were supposed to head to dinner together. Arielle had noticed them and stopped to say hello while Hermione finished her writing.
Hermione could practically hear Arielle’s eye roll. “I know, Fleur. You’ve told me. You’ve told everyone. Except maybe the one person who should hear it, non?”
Hermione smiled to herself as she dipped her quill and tried to get the last of her thoughts down before she got too involved in her eavesdropping.
“I can’t find the words. How can I express them? English is such a, a…clunky language. She deserves to hear it in French. It’s the only language that can capture her as she is.” Fleur said, seriously, quietly, reverently.
“And how is that?”
“Breathtaking,” Fleur said, sounding breathless herself.
And god, that had been too much. She could practically see the look of adoration Fleur had on her face, the same look she always had when she thought that Hermione couldn’t see her or didn’t know she was looking. When she thought Hermione was too wrapped up to take note of how utterly infatuated Fleur was with her.
“It’s a good thing she speaks French, then, (C'est une bonne chose qu'elle parle français, alors)” Hermione murmured, pointedly looking up from her writing, a small smirk on her face as both Fleur and Arielle’s faces dropped in surprise.
Arielle recovered first, barking out a loud laugh as she smacked Fleur on the arm. “Cherie’s never gonna let you live this down,” she said, her laugh changing to a chuckle as she turned on her heel, “I’ll eh, meet you two down there, non? Seems you might have a lot to talk about,” and she left with a twinkle of amusement in her eye that she directed at Hermione.
Hermione shifted her attention to the still shell-shocked Fleur.
“Oui, Fleur, je parle français.” She said, shyly, suddenly losing her bravado and looking down at her paper sheepishly.
She looked up when she heard movement and came face to face with Fleur, who was leaning before her, her expression unreadable.
“You…you speak French?!” she asked, and Hermione nodded, suddenly wondering if she should have said something sooner. If Fleur was upset with her…
But she needn’t have worried, in hindsight. Fleur looked concerned for only a moment as she muttered, “So…all of this time, you…you could understand?? You heard me, and…” she paused, going quiet, when suddenly her lips parted into a splitting and beaming smile, her eyes alight with happiness, “C’est magnifique, ‘ermione!” she proclaimed, “That makes everything so much easier!”
“How do you mea-” Hermione started to ask, but Fleur was already answering, babbling along in French in what, Hermione realized later, was a spontaneous invitation on a date to Hogsmeade.
Hermione was so taken aback, but pleased, that she answered before she’d fully processed the words, and Fleur kissed both of her cheeks, positively beaming.
And now, several years after her confession, after the Triwizard Tournament and all of the problems of the third task, after the war and all that it entailed…she played quietly with her wife’s hair in the dying daylight, Fleur half-asleep in her lap.
“Je t’aime,” Fleur whispered.
"Je t'aime aussi", Hermione whispered back, smiling softly to herself.
Hermione was smart, it was true. Fleur was equally intelligent. But, more than that…Hermione was lucky. If it wasn’t for her smarts, for her skills with the French language…well, god knows how long it would have taken her disaster of a wife to ask her out.
The thought amused her still to no end, though taking in the resting and peaceful visage of her sleepy wife, she decided she would refrain from teasing her about it.