There he goes, strutting around the halls with his pelvis thrusted out in front of him like he’s king of the school, his new paramour wrapped under his arms—a gift to show off— as he smiled handsomely at everyone he passed, acting like everything was normal. Acting like he hadn’t broken up with her just last week.
“Hey Delacour, I heard you’re on the market again.”
Fleur slams her locker closed, ignoring the knowing smirks from the boys whose stares chase after her figure. She struts down the hallway, head held high, towards her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. They pass each other, both refusing to make eye contact, both pretending to deny the other’s existence. He can flaunt his new relationship all he wants. Fleur isn’t going to give him the satisfaction of reacting.
By the time lunch comes around, three boys have ridiculed her and seven more have catcalled her in the halls. As if she would ever lower her standards again. She doesn’t even remember what she saw in him.
To make matters worse, she lost all her friends in the breakup. Of course they’re going to side with the popular football star even though he was the one in the wrong despite what the rumor mill has churned out.
So Fleur is eating alone. Not a problem. Except every one is watching her, waiting for her to explode, to grab a soda and dump it onto her ex or maybe his new plaything. They wait for her to break; examine her for growing cracks.
She ignores them, stubbornly keeping her gaze on her salad. It's pathetic looking.
As she stabs a cherry tomato with her fork, her vision swims.
She will not cry. She will never give them the satisfaction.
A lunch tray slams down in front of her and a girl slides into view. Fleur looks up, her fight response activating. Have they resorted to more confrontational bullying?
The bushy haired frame of Hogwarts’ resident bookworm looks down at her.
“Is this seat taken?”
Fleur stares, unable to believe her eyes. She shakes her head, not trusting her voice.
Hermione plants herself down onto the table bench across from Fleur like they’ve done this before – eat lunch together – when in reality they’ve barely exchanged any words outside of the necessary conversations inside the classroom.
Everyone is staring louder now but Hermione is either ignorantly unaware or determined to ignore them. She opens her canister of food – some sort of fish stew – and digs in.
Fleur follows suit after a beat. They eat in relative silence with Fleur picking at the bitter leaves of her salad and Hermione’s quiet slurping. It’s...nice. They’re practically strangers, but even then, Fleur doesn’t feel quite alone anymore.
Her vision swims even more.
“Don’t let them see.” Hermione shifts in her seat. Fleur realizes she’s doing her best to block the others from seeing her. Specifically from seeing her cry. The realization doesn’t help the burning of the tears.
What does it mean when a stranger shows you more compassion than the people you used to call friends?
“Do you have some sort of makeup pad or egg?” Hermione asks.
“Egg?” Fleur gives a weak watery laugh.
Hermione furrows her eyebrows. “The, you know, spongey thingy.” She makes a squeezing motion. “To wipe them away without being obvious.”
For a moment, Fleur is still, then she throws her head back and a full laugh draws forth from her chest. Everything feels so ridiculous. She squeezes her eyes closed as tears stream from her eyes, gasping with laughter.
Fleur wipes them away, still giggling. “I don’t think I’ll need them anymore. Thank you.” Her lashes are wet against her cheek and her chest hurts from holding the tears back for so long but she smiles at Hermione, a real genuine smile. Hermione stills and Fleur fears that she might have made her uncomfortable before she catches the pink on Hermione’s cheeks.
Hermione ducks her head into her canister. “Don’t mention it.”
Fleur grins, feeling her appetite return. They don’t speak for the rest of the lunch period, but Fleur doesn’t mind it.
The rest of the week passes in similar fashion. Every day during lunch, Hermione would quietly join Fleur at a table they had all to themselves. They rarely talked and it was comforting. Fleur almost prefers it to the constant chattering of her old friends whose mouths never stopped moving with the latest gossip.
But soon, Fleur found herself growing more and more curious of her silent steady companion. When the next lunch period rolls around, she gathers her courage and extends a hand in friendship.
“Hey wanna get milkshakes after school? My treat.”
There is only one diner in town. The food is too greasy and the portions too big, but the prices are cheap and the location is centralized. The air always smells of fried oil, and there’s a permanent sheen of grease over all of the surfaces that’s impossible to get out. During the day, it’s full of rowdy teenagers looking to escape their studies. By night, it’s home to drunken stragglers and other lost personas.
“What flavor do you want? I’ll order for you.” Fleur unzips her purse and removes her wallet.
Hermione studies the chalk smudged menu overhead with a furrowed brow. Fleur didn’t know much about Hermione before last week, but ever since then she catches herself stealing glances at the other girl. She likes to think she learned quite a bit.
There’s always a determined set to Hermione’s jaw whenever she’s focused in class. A crinkle in between her brows to match a slight frown. Otherwise when the material is too easy, she sits at her desk with a faraway look in her eyes like she’s chasing after wider potentials than this small sheltered town can offer her.
She doesn’t talk much in class. When she does talk, she’s always right. It leads to equal amounts of admiration and jealousy from her classmates.
“I’ve never had a milkshake before,” Hermione admits, brows set in a straight line like she’s solving some difficult differential equation rather than deciding between banana split or chunky monkey. “What do you recommend?”
Fleur shrugs. “I don’t really drink milkshakes either.”
Hermione turns to her. “Then why are we here?”
“To get to know each other?” Fleur offers truthfully.
Hermione hums. It makes Fleur wanna squirm after her brief moment of vulnerability.
“Wanna share one?” Hermione proposes.
They get a vanilla milkshake. It sits between them on the table, sweating away after both girls took one sip, grimaced, and declared it too sweet.
“What’s your favorite color?” Fleur asks, unable to take the silence.
Hermione raises an eyebrow. “That’s what you’re going with?"
Fleur shrugs a shoulder. “We’ll start small.”
Hermione twirls her straw, stirring the milkshake for the sake of stalling. Fleur traces the movement, watching the whipped cream gradually mix into the shake.
“Blue,” Hermione answers eventually.
Hermione shrugs. “It was the first color that came into my mind.”
Fleur frowns, picking at a straw wrapper. “That’s not what I asked.”
“That’s the answer I’m giving you.” Hermione takes a sip of the milkshake and immediately grimaces. She pushes it away from her.
“You’re…” Fleur doesn’t know what to say. Hermione is a whole enigma and a half. “You’re kind of intense, do you know that?”
Hermione grins. It’s the first full grin Fleur has ever seen on her and something inside her stomach flutters at the sight of it.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“At least be more specific?” Fleur presses. “Which shade of blue?”
Hermione thinks for a second. “Ocean blue.”
“Do you have a reason?”
They converse for a while longer, taking turns asking each other mundane questions. Zodiac signs. Family members. Academic interests. Their plans of moving to London someday. It’s lame and boring but Fleur finds herself hanging onto every word Hermione says.
The bell at the front door rings and Fleur freezes at the couple that walks through.
Hermione follows her gaze lazily over her shoulder.
“That’s your ex, isn’t it?”
Fleur nods. Her tongue is stiff on the roof of her mouth.
“Do you want to leave?” Hermione asks.
It still surprises Fleur, even now—the genuinity of her concern.
She picks at the chipped nail polish on her thumb. “And go where?”
Hermione shrugs. “Anywhere.”
For some reason, Fleur’s stomach flutters again. The thought of Hermione willing to go anywhere with her, anywhere – it feels a lot like freedom. It feels a lot forbidden.
Fleur shakes her head. “It’s fine. He doesn’t bother me.”
Except his voice grows louders. It intertwines with hers in hushed whispers. They’re fighting.
Fleur’s stomach clenches into a knot.
She keeps an eye on them – Hermione watching her and her watching them – and sees him grab her by the arm and pull roughly. Fleur is rising out of her seat before she knows it.
“I’ll be right back.”
Hermione doesn’t say anything, though her eyes trail after her. As Fleur walks over to the couple, she feels Hermione’s intense gaze burning into her back. There’s judgment waiting, but for some reason, it’s invigorating rather than demeaning.
She rubs her wrist, recalling the memory of him, and pushes forward, instilling strength into the heels of every step.
“You’re hurting her.”
He looks up and breaks into a wide grin, the corners of his eyes crinkling with gentleness.
Snake , she thinks. Disgust rolls through her stomach. Even now, she sees how easily she could be tricked again, how easily the illusion is maintained.
“Fleur,” he purrs. “What can I do for you?” He pulls the girl under his arm, and Fleur sees his fingers dig into her arm. The girl struggles, unwilling to play her part in his deviousness, but he clenches his teeth and digs his fingers deeper into her flesh and she stills.
Fleur thinks of the mottles of blue, black, and purple and knows that come tomorrow the girl will arrive to school wearing a long sleeved shirt. Fleur focuses on her, ignoring him.
“Are you okay? Do you...need anything?”
Before the girl can respond, he scowls and pulls her out of the way, not caring how her hips collide against the table corner. The girl lets out a whimper and shakes her head.
“I’m fine,” she says. She avoids Fleur’s gaze.
“We’re fine,” he repeats. He grins down at Fleur, apologetic and remorseful, not even a hint of wickedness in his teeth. “We were just having a small disagreement. Nothing to concern yourself over.” His eyes trace movements behind her.
Had she been anyone else, Fleur would’ve been fooled. But she’s been behind those closed doors before.
What did she ever see in him again? She thinks back to freshman year, how she fell so easily for the first gentle smile directed at her and bright eyes that seemed to only radiate warmth. Everyone wanted him. He wanted her. It felt inevitable.
“Just making sure.” Fleur turns away and heads back to her table. She catches Hermione watching her and nods to reassure her. She glances over her shoulder. The girl continues to avoid her gaze. He is watching her however, waving like they’re old friends saying goodbye.
Fleur has learned her lesson. Hopefully the girl will learn the same.
It’s just a shame she even has to.
“Sorry about that,” Fleur apologizes as she sits back down.
Hermione doesn’t speak. She stares at Fleur with unreadable eyes.
Fleur grins. “What’s wro-“
“Has he hit you before?”
Fleur inhales. She doesn’t look away. She knows that aversion will betray the truth, but it doesn’t matter because the truth will show on her face anyways. Some days she looks in the mirrors and traces the dark circles under her eyes, wondering if her younger self would be more heartbroken to see her now or if she would be more heartbroken to see her younger self.
Instead, she says, “Let’s go somewhere else.”
Hermione studies her for a moment and Fleur holds her breath, wishing for her to let it go. She’s not ready. Not yet.
Hermione nods. “Where?”
Fleur lets out a breath of relief. “Anywhere.”
The rest of the school eventually grows used to Hermione’s presence by Fleur’s side and Fleur, like a scorned messiah, grows in popularity once more. A pretty face is only irresistible for so long and the boys grow bold. Like moths to flame, they venture closer.
“Beat it Brad,” Hermione spits over her half-eaten sandwich.
“My name’s Dylan.”
Hermione makes a face. “So?”
“Damn okay. Rude.” He takes a step back but doesn’t leave, staring forlornly at Fleur.
Hermione annihilates him with her glare while Fleur pointedly eats her fries. Eventually, the awkwardness gets the better of him and he leaves like a dog with his tail between his legs.
Fleur laughs. “I didn’t realize you were so tough. You looked ready to punch him.”
Hermione bites into her sandwich, already over Brad and his pathetic attempt at flirting. “I was bullied as a kid too,” she reveals.
Fleur smiles. She doesn’t believe it. “You were? Why would anyone bully you?”
Hermione shrugs, picking at a loose lettuce leaf. “Back then, I would’ve given anything to have a friend.” She looks up at Fleur. “Just one.”
Fleur’s smile drops and her stomach twists into something ugly and guilty. Thank you, she wants to say but doesn’t. Never has a day gone by where Fleur didn’t feel grateful for Hermione’s presence in her life.
She feels like a coward for not saying so.
“Why don’t you just tell them to go away?” Hermione asks, reverting the conversation to safer territory.
“It doesn’t matter,” Fleur says, drawing a smiley face with her ketchup before ruining it. “The more you tell them no, the more persistent they become."
“That’s…” Hermione frowns.
“Terrible, I know.” Fleur sighs. “I don’t miss him — I don’t — but sometimes I do miss the freedom I had because of my relationship with him.”
As Fleur predicted, the boys don’t stop. On Tuesday, it’s Kirk. On Wednesday, it’s Liam and Ryan. On Thursday, it’s Dylan again and Albert. When Stephen walks up to her during lunch on Friday, Fleur finally snaps.
“Don’t even start, Kyle,” Fleur drawls, having picked up Hermione’s habit of calling every boy by a different name. She stands up and raises her voice, making sure everyone in this damn cafeteria can hear her. “All I want is one peaceful lunch with my beautiful girlfriend. Is that too much to ask?”
By the time she sits back down, the cafeteria is so quiet, Fleur can hear the sound of Albert breathing through his nose. It’s irritating. Why is he even still here?
She turns and glares at him. He raises his hands in surrender, eyes wide and lips mute with shock from the bomb Fleur has just dropped on him and the entire school, and retreats like a wounded soldier.
Fleur huffs and turns her attention back towards Hermione.
“Girlfriend?” Hermione sends her a lazy smirk.
Fleur shrugs. It’s not a big deal. They don’t have to make it a thing. Words are words (even though she’s witnessed how a few words can completely destroy or build up a person). She digs into her lunch.
“Alright then,” Hermione says.
They don’t talk about it ever, not really, but that doesn’t mean either of them forgets about it. It’s hard to forget when the entire school is talking about it after all. Whispers follow them in the hallways. Eyes trace their every moment, waiting for them to screw up. They hold their heads high, ducking them only if there’s a book in front of them.
They go to prom as friends. Fleur wears a gorgeous blue dress that matches her eyes with ruffles down the front like waves of the sea. (She was quite particular about the color. No, not that shade of blue. )
Hermione wears a breathtaking periwinkle dress with gemstones that go down her shoulder. When they take couple pictures, neither they nor the school bat an eyelash.
They go to separate colleges, an entire country’s distance between them—Fleur in France, and Hermione in the UK. They call once a week, then once a month, then once every three months, until it’s once every year. But neither girl forgets. Their friends know of the other. When one of their names flashes on the other’s phone screen, their friends affectionately call out hey, your girlfriend is calling .
They both meet boys.
Fleur meets Bill, who’s handsome and rugged, with large gentle hands that cover hers. Hermione meets Viktor, a terse boy with a stern face to match but a softie at heart and poetic with his written word.
Neither of them last very long. There are others too, that last even shorter. Fleur brings Coco home for a drunken night and Hermione kisses Angelina in the wings of an unlit stage.
After they graduate, they both end up in London. A lucky coincidence. They move in together because London flat rates are ridiculously hard to afford for newly graduates and with Hermione pursuing her Phd in Mathematical Methods and Numerical Simulations and Fleur pursuing hers in Environmental Management, it’s the only economical choice.
It’s a small flat, with only one bedroom. They manage to squeeze two beds inside, pushed together to make one and every morning they wake up, tangled in each other’s arms.
It’s also merely a coincidence that they’re both single.
During the weekdays, they’re busy with their research. Hermione scribbles away in a small room, dirtying her hands and pants with chalk dust and Fleur spends half her time in lab and the other half interviewing people of importance about new environmental policies. During the weekends, they take a break and let loose. Go to a bar or two.
The same problem from high school arises and both Fleur and Hermione find themselves hounded by men and occasionally women. Luckily for them, they already have a system that works well to deter any unwanted suitors.
“You alone, gorgeous?”
The flashing lights don’t hide the grimace on Fleur’s face, but if the guy notices, he doesn’t let on. Her eyes scan the room. Where is she? She’s late.
It’s as if fate has willed it itself, when Hermione walks through the door at that exact moment and like magnets, their eyes meet across the entirety of the dim bar.
“No actually, I came here with my girlfriend.”
Hermione picks up her pace, squeezing her way through the sea of dancing bodies.
“Who’s this?” Hermione sides up next to Fleur, snaking an arm around her waist. Fleur makes a show of leaning in. She’s missed this, she thinks. Hermione’s presence is a familiar one, but this, the touches and the feelings that come with them—that’s all new.
“Hey babe,” Fleur greets, red lips dangerously close to Hermione’s jaw. “This is uh...Steve?”
“Jason,” the man corrects, as if it matters. Hermione and Fleur wonder why he’s even still there, irrelevant as he is.
Fleur turns her body until her back is to him, hoping he would pick up the cue and leave. “You’re late.”
“Sorry.” Hermione wraps her other arm around Fleur, fingers clasped on the curve of her lower back, pulling Fleur closer somehow. “Crookshanks knocked over my plants again.”
Fleur leans in and inhales deeply. “That explains why you smell like earth.”
Hermione leans back. “Is it bad? I didn’t realize it got on me.”
Fleur pulls her back. She doesn’t want Hermione going anywhere. “No, you’re fine. I like the way you smell.”
Hermione hums and the resonance transfers into Fleur’s chest. It feels better than any music pumping through the speakers.
It becomes a thing even in their adult lives. Their coworkers and colleagues learn of Fleur’s presence in Hermione’s life and vice versa. Getting to know one of them means eventually getting to know the other too. And their friends, bless their hearts, don’t question their dynamic.
“Hey,” Harry calls over the clamber of the bar. “Some dude over there is hitting on your wife.”
Fleur looks over and sees Hermione being cornered by a guy twice her size. “Not on my watch.”
She slams down her beer and slithers over, pressing a kiss to the back of Hermione’s neck and wrapping her arms possessively around Hermione’s waist, pulling her flush against her chest.
“He bothering you, love?”
Hermione turns in her arms, tucking her head under Fleur’s chin as she stares at the man.
“He was just leaving.”
The man looks between them, flustered. “Uh yeah. Um. Have a good night ladies.” He leaves and Fleur pulls Hermione with her, refusing to let her go for the rest of the night. If Hermione minds it, it doesn’t show. Despite there being plenty of room at the table, Hermione sits happily in Fleur’s lap the entire night and if Fleur is more focused playing with Hermione’s fingers than actually participating in the conversation, then that’s fine too.
Things are as they always are; things are as they should be.
Somewhere in the future, they upgrade to a bigger apartment. There’s no need to share a bedroom now, but Fleur always finds herself in Hermione’s bed, leaving her bedroom to function as nothing but a glorified closet.
Neither girl questions it.
They’re cuddling on their newly bought sofa. Hermione’s hand is under Fleur’s shirt, resting over the soft expanse of Fleur’s stomach. Fleur runs a lazy hand through Hermione’s hair. They’re so close, their bodies so melded together, it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
That’s when it hits Fleur.
“Are we dating?”
Hermione stills and a deep cold fear seizes Fleur by the throat. She’s done it now; she’s ruined the best thing in her life. She opens her mouth, ready to take back everything and shove her feelings deep deep down just to go back to the comfortableness they had before when Hermione rubs soothing lines into her skin.
Fleur gives a slow exhale.
“I think we have been for a while now,” Hermione admits softly.
Fleur lifts her head off of Hermione’s shoulder. She stares into those gorgeous eyes she loves so much, always so intense and full of passion, and it finally clicks.
“Yeah?” Fleur can’t help the wide smile that splits across her face.
Fleur leans in and Hermione meets her halfway.