Title: Behind My Smile
Rating: 3rd-5th Years (being safe)
Warnings (if any): None
Author’s Note: This story was written for BrokenPromise as part of the Secret SPEW Story Swap 2012. A MASSIVE thank you with chocolate icing and a cherry on top to the magnificently speedy betas, WrenWinterSong and noblefate!
Extra note to BrokenPromise: Well, you did say I could write about anything! I hope you enjoy this story; I had a lot of fun writing it. Have a truly magical Christmas!
Undulating waves of light glided across his face as he stepped forward to greet her. He shook her hand and smiled. It was polite and gentlemanly – unlike the leers of desire she was so used to receiving. It was very British.
He told her his name and she smiled graciously, batting her eyelids as had become habit. His smile faltered infinitesimally, and he dropped her hand, turning instead to the dark, hulking boy on her left, the Quidditch player who had captured so much attention from the many girls who inhabited this school.
The three of them stood in a contemplative silence, grasping at the knowledge that they had made history, that they three alone were champions, and that by the end of the year one would have obtained eternal glory.
She did not in this moment know that another would be joining them in their quest for honour. She did not in this moment know that the boy with the nice smile would not live beyond the year. But she did know that that boy was different; he had not stared at her face in wonder or fallen for her beguiling ways. In fact, he barely seemed to have noticed her. She observed him from the corner of her eye and resolved to change his mind.
Fleur Delacour’s mind, once made up, was difficult to alter.
“Perfect,” a voice murmured from behind her.
Fleur spun around, swathes of silver satin spiralling around her as she did. Her friend, Adrienne, was hovering in the doorway, watching her with a misty-eyed look. “Are you sure it’s all right?” she asked, a slight tremor of nervousness that she couldn’t explain hidden somewhere in her voice.
“All right?” repeated Adrienne. “You of all people must know ‘ow flawless you are!” Fleur couldn’t be sure, but she thought she heard a tinge of envy shape Adrienne’s words. She turned back to her reflection in the mirror. Her dress was made of layers of the lightest fabric she had ever seen. It rippled at the lightest touch and glistened silver like dewdrop-spangled cobwebs. When she moved, it lingered behind her, caught up in the air, leaving a sparkling trail like a shooting star. Her hair was swept over one shoulder and trickled down her chest. She looked unearthly, emitting radiant shimmers of silver that bedazzled everyone who beheld her.
Or so she hoped.
She turned back to Adrienne and smiled. “You look beautiful too,” she said.
Adrienne scrutinised her sea-green dress, adjusting it very slightly to fully accentuate her voluptuous figure. “It’ll do. Come on, we’d better meet everyone else. Zey’ll be leaving soon.”
They made their way through the long corridor that ran through the main body of Madame Maxime’s enchanted carriage. It was a lot more spacious on the inside than it appeared to be from the out, with small rooms that housed two students each, a large study, and Madame Maxime’s quarters. They heard the excited babble before they saw the small crowd that had formed at the entryway to the carriage and joined it, greeting their friends with cries of adoration for each other’s dresses and speculations about what the night held.
Many of the Beauxbatons students were attending the Yule Ball with each other, and were already pairing up. Adrienne and Fleur, however, were both going with Hogwarts students. When everyone had assembled, Madame Maxime emerged from her room. “A little talk, I think, before we begin ze night’s festivities.” Her voice boomed out over their noise, and they immediately fell into an attentive hush.
“I do not need to remind you zat you are not only representing our school, but our nation as well. I do not want to contend with dis’onourable be’aviour tonight, and I expect you all to maintain ze ‘ighest acts of decorum. I ‘ave been impressed by your be’aviour thus far, and expect to continue to be so.”
As she finished speaking, she pulled open the doors of the carriage, letting an icy gust of air freeze their faces. She led the way out into the snow, and blasted a path clear with her wand. The girls clutched at their dresses as they followed, fretfully keeping them out of the snow. Fleur was no longer taking an interest in the conversation around her; she was thinking about the ball. For nearly two months now she had watched the Diggory boy, engaged him in conversation, and tried her best to beguile him, but to no avail. He remained as reserved and polite as the first time they had met.
She was unused to such displays of indifference, and had not been able to understand it until she heard about the Other Girl. The Other Girl with whom he had apparently asked to attend the Yule Ball on the same day of its announcement. The Other Girl whom Fleur had observed from the opposite end of the breakfast table; the Other Girl whom, she had noted with a strange mingling of pleasure and disgust, was not nearly as beautiful as she.
Fleur had never been jealous before; she hadn’t had cause to be. She had been the object of other girls’ jealousy but had never quite understood the unrelenting nature of that angry snake, which writhed and squirmed within the chest of those infected by it. Now, whenever she thought of Cedric, the snake would hiss and tighten its firm hold around her heart, squeezing it until it threatened to smother all her emotions. She did not betray this jealousy, of course. She didn’t like the way it distorted her mouth into an ugly sneer.
As the Beauxbatons students fought through the cold bite of winter air towards the castle, Fleur tried to force aside her hostile thoughts. This night was not meant to be bitter. She was going to prove to Cedric that other normal boys practically fought for her company and didn’t waste their time on skinny, bookish girls.
They entered the Entrance Hall, and Fleur was immediately dazzled by the bright silver walls, the ice-encrusted window ledges, and the fake snow that was falling above their heads, vanishing before reaching them. For once, the staff of Hogwarts looked as though they’d at least tried to make an effort, even if the overall effect was slightly overwhelming. She began to search the gathering crowd of people, all weaving in and out of each other, searching for their dates with expressions of apprehension.
Adrienne nudged her. “Isn’t zat ze boy you’re going wiz?” She pointed to a tall, athletic boy with sleek brown hair wearing formal black dress robes.
“Yes,” replied Fleur. “Roger Davies.”
The two of them had met whilst Fleur, having little to do, had hovered outside the Ravenclaw common room and pondered the answer to the question that the queer talking raven had asked her. Roger had approached her from behind and asked her if she needed any help. He had gone on to show her around the common room, and then his dormitory, and then soon enough there had been little desire to admire the lofty architecture of the tower… He had later declared his love for her and asked her to attend the Yule Ball with him. Despite her mood, Fleur smiled at the memory.
“Aren’t you going to go over to ‘im?” asked Adrienne, teasing her out of her thoughts.
“I’ll wait over ‘ere; ‘e can come to me.”
“Fleur, you’re not going to lead ‘im on, are you?”
A mischievous grin darted across her lips as she eyed him speculatively. “I ‘aven’t decided yet.” Any feelings she might have for Cedric certainly weren’t going to stop her from having a little fun.
Adrienne sniffed disapprovingly and turned to leave. “I’m going to find Cormac. See you later.” She headed towards a tall, broad-shouldered boy with curly blonde hair and a smile of self-assurance that Fleur did not like. She heard her own name being called and glanced around to see Roger waving to her. He was standing next to the Other Girl - the girl Cedric was going with. The snake’s hold on her heart became almost unbearable, but she smiled at Roger and glided forwards, determined to radiate good grace.
“Hello, Fleur,” said Roger breathlessly, blushing pink as she neared him. “You look … wonderful!” Fleur smiled and kissed him on the cheek, watching as his expression became dazed.
“Good evening, Roger,” she said, lowering her voice to its huskiest level. “I ‘ope you’re well.” He beamed at her without answering, and she turned to the girl standing beside him. “Ah, we ‘aven’t been introduced. I’m Fleur Delacour.”
“Oh, this is my friend Cho Chang,” blustered Roger, finally coming to his senses. “I hope you don’t mind her staying with us – she’s waiting for Cedric.”
Fleur arranged her face into her most gracious smile and extended an elegant hand. “Lovely to meet you.”
“And you,” Cho said. “And I just have to say, your dress is gorgeous!”
Fleur smiled again but said nothing in return; she did not need to lower herself to such levels of ingratiation. As she turned away, she caught sight of Cedric winding his way through the crowd towards them, and a strange breathless sensation swept through her, making her thoughts hazy and undistinguished. He came up behind Cho and placed a hand on her waist, whispering into her ear. Cho’s face lit up, and she turned as he took her hand and kissed it. It seemed as though they had forgotten everyone else in the room. Fleur averted her eyes and felt her chest constrict.
Roger repeatedly tried to engage her attention, but his words fluttered away from her like startled moths, impossible to catch. There was no point trying to ignore that fact that she liked Cedric. She liked him more than she’d ever liked anyone else. She had a sudden urge to be at home, to be wrapped in her mother’s arms and hear her father’s reassuring chuckle. They would be having their own Christmas celebrations now, she realised. Gabrielle would have stayed awake half of the night before in eager anticipation of the important festivities. She wondered whether they missed her.
The Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts approached them. “Champions and their partners need to follow me. You will be taking up the rear into the Great Hall.” She beckoned, and they followed after, Fleur dragging Roger behind her. They stopped in front of the large oak doors, which had been enchanted to sparkle silver, and waited whilst the woman went off to find the remaining two champions.
Cedric turned abruptly to Fleur. “How are you, Fleur? Have you had a good Christmas so far?”
“Oh, yes, it’s been very nice. And yours?”
“Great, thank you.”
“How are you finding Hogwarts, Fleur?” asked the girl – Cho Chang.
“Oh, you know, one mustn’t grumble.”
Cho’s smile faltered and she looked slightly confused. “Don’t you like it here?”
“My dear, I come from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. You mustn’t take it personally, but we do things … differently zere.” She turned her back to the two of them, and started chatting at random to Roger, unable to understand quite where the snide comment had come from. Perhaps it was the girl’s condescending smile that had done it, but she didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of hearing that her grotty castle was a good host.
She hadn’t been exaggerating when she said that Beauxbatons did things differently. Her mind drifted back to the palace in which she had spent the past six years of her life. The airy marble rooms, shimmering like opals in the morning sun, were nothing compared to the stained glass roof in the observatory that turned shadows a dusky violet. Everything seemed to sing with life there; it was almost as if the palace was a life-force, pulsing with an ethereal vibrancy that seeped into all that came near it.
The bossy witch reappeared, once again dislodging Fleur’s thoughts of home. Behind her trailed Harry Potter, looking particularly glum; followed by an enthusiastic girl in very brightly coloured dress robes. Viktor appeared behind them, escorting a pretty, nervous girl Fleur recognised to be a friend of Harry’s. As she observed the two couples, she saw Harry goggle at the girl as though he hadn’t recognised her, although why not Fleur couldn’t tell. The girl had always been pretty but seemed to have tried to hide it behind books.
Music suddenly emanated from the Great Hall behind the closed doors, and the witch fussed about the couples, ordering them neatly and telling them where to go. Roger offered Fleur his arm as the doors opened. The other students began flooding in, herded by strategically-placed teachers, and then Fleur and Roger led the way to rapturous applause.
Looking around the Hall, she couldn’t deny that Hogwarts had done an impressive job. It was nothing on the ice statues and enchanted snow-women who sang to the Beauxbatons students during the winter months, but she did feel strangely light and unearthly as she glided down the Hall on Roger’s arm.
As the whole population of the Great Hall sat to eat, Fleur couldn’t help but eye Cedric surreptitiously. He was engrossed in conversation with Cho and only looked up when someone spoke directly to him. Next to her, Roger kept missing his mouth as he stared down the front of her dress. When she did manage to drag his gaze upwards, he bore a dazed expression as though he wasn’t really sure what was happening.
It had always been like this. Boys had scrambled over each other, made fools of themselves, to get her attention, but once they had it they didn’t know what to do with it. They never seemed to realise that she was, deep down, the same as them. That really, all she wanted was for someone to look past her smile and see the person beneath. The person who worried about school grades and cared about goblin rebellions. The person who had never been in love.
Over the years, she had started to act the way they expected her to act. It was less confusing that way; they got what they wanted, and she could persuade herself that it was what she wanted too. The moment she had met Cedric’s eyes, she had known how shallow she was. Yet, for some reason, she found it impossible to shake the outer shell and show him what she really cared about. She was sure he would like her more if she did, and therefore it wasn’t his fault that he had gone to the ball with the Other Girl: it was hers because she hadn’t the courage to let him know her.
Fleur blinked, staring down at her half-finished plate. Her vision was unfocused, and she set down her fourth glass of mulled mead. The chatter around the hall was more subdued now, and Professor Dumbledore rose, flicked his wand, and cleared a space for the dance floor.
Fleur was grateful when Roger held out a hand to assist her in standing up. She smiled at him; for the first time that night, it felt like a true smile. This boy couldn’t help his natural desire for her. Again, that was her own fault for being descended from a Veela. She shouldn’t blame him for her own shortcomings. She took his hand, and they walked – rather more steadily than she had expected – to the dance floor.
Music started from a band in the corner of the hall, and Roger’s sweating hands reached for her waist. Fleur took a breath, trying to disperse the mist that was befuddling her vision, and rested her hand in his, letting him move her to the music. She sensed, rather than saw, the floor filling rapidly, and soon enough the two of them were being buffeted about by the ungainly couples.
When the music ended, Fleur felt her head continue to spin, and she stumbled slightly. Roger grabbed her arm, steadying her. “Are you all right?”
“Yes,” she murmured.
“You’ve gone pale. Sit down – I’ll get you a drink.” He hurried off, weaving sickeningly through the crowd. Fleur stood alone in the middle of the dance floor, swaying, and watching as the blotches of colour that were the people around her loomed ever nearer. She had never been drunk before, but she suddenly realised that this must be it. Her legs felt like liquid, and her head was becoming too heavy to hold up.
“Fleur,” a voice said through her seemingly water-clogged ears. “Are you okay?”
“Yesss, Roger, g’way,” she moaned, irritation flaring at his clinginess. Strong hands took hold of her arm and her waist, guiding her somewhere she couldn’t quite make out. A cool breeze rippled around her, and she realised they must have gone outside. “Leave me alone. ‘M fine,” she said.
“I’m not leaving you until you’ve sobered up a bit.” The voice was not Roger’s. Fleur twisted her head up to look into his face and saw Cedric looking down at her with concern. “How much have you had to drink?” he asked.
For some reason, her words got stuck together at the back of her tongue, and Fleur could only smile up at him, in what she hoped was an alluring manner.
“Where did Roger go? He should probably look after you.”
“Cedric Digg’ry,” Fleur said, slurring her words so they formed a blurred chain. “You’re always a gen’leman. You’re sho caring, and za’s why alike you.”
Cedric smiled awkwardly. “I like you too, Fleur.”
“D’you really? Zen let’s stay ‘ere all night!”
“I’m going to have to get back to Cho at some point.”
“Cho, Cho, Cho, why d’you like Cho? She’sh not ash pretty ash me. And I like you more zan she does.”
Cedric avoided her gaze.
“Why won’t you look at me? I like you. Like like you, I mean.” Her words barely made sense anymore, but her heart was beating hard within her, her palms sweating profusely, her tongue strangely dry. “You like me too, I know you do.”
“Just forget Cho and stay wiz me!”
“I’m not forgetting Cho!” he said, with more force behind his words than she had ever heard before, as though a cannon had shot them out of his mouth and straight into her chest. “Why can’t you see that some people simply aren’t attracted to you? It’s not all about appearance!” He sighed and moved his hand from her waist. It felt cold in his absence. “I love Cho. I haven’t told her yet, but I do. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings or offended you in any way, but you have to understand that.”
Tears burned the corners of Fleur’s eyes like acid, but she refused to let them spill forth. Drunk as she might be, she would not cry in front of Cedric Diggory. He seemed to sense her forced calm and turned to face her full on.
“You’ll find someone, Fleur. Someone who can see what a good, courageous person you are. The Goblet of Fire did!” he said, a faint smile making his lips twitch irresistibly. Fleur hiccoughed in an attempt at laughter. “Trust me, you’ll find them. Hey, maybe it’s Roger!” Fleur really did chuckle then, and Cedric smiled. “Are you going to be okay?”
She nodded, and he turned to leave. “Wait!” she called. “Can we forget zis ever ‘appened? I don’t want anything to be awkward.”
It was as though a needle had been pushed into her heart, but she forced her mouth into her brightest smile, nodded, and wandered out into the snow-covered grounds.
The light from the open doors made the snow look like a sheen of golden ice, and, in the darkness that lay ahead of her, she saw colourful pinpricks of lights in the trees and plants. They fluttered in and out of the leaves, and she realised they were fairies. It really was quite a beautiful setting, despite her insistence that it was substandard.
The cold air didn’t seem to affect her, and she stood in silence, watching couples sneaking out together. She thought she spied Adrienne and her date concealed behind a rose bush. In the distance, two large figures strolled arm in arm, creating miniature avalanches as they walked down towards the lake. She recognised one as Madame Maxime.
A strange feeling of contentment washed over her, and she smiled as her headmistress and the Hogwarts gamekeeper stopped and looked out over the frozen lake and iced white forest beyond it. If Madame Maxime could find someone who saw through her appearance, then of course she would too. And besides, she was still only seventeen. She had years to worry about finding the right person. In the meantime, she would just have to have a bit of fun whilst she waited.
She turned to face the castle, its light and warmth beckoning to her. She thought of Roger and the hand he had held out to her, the care he had taken to make sure she was all right. He wasn’t the worst person to share this night with. After all, considering all the other people who had asked her – that odd ginger boy, for instance – he really was quite dashing and considerate. She ambled back towards the castle, towards Roger, and towards a night that, eventually, would seem so insignificant.
The man I marry, she thought, will be much more exciting than Cedric. He will be well-travelled and interesting, with an appreciation for elegant possessions and good taste. But definitely not ginger.
The warmth of the castle embraced her, and she spotted Roger once more, his concerned face searching the room for her. She hitched her smile back up and sauntered over to him, determined to enjoy herself whilst she still could.