Though the title protagonist is first an adolescent and then a teenage boy, the Harry Potter series is filled with smart, accomplished, compassionate women and girls to admire. There’s Hermione Granger, of course – she is the entire inspiration for my sex blogging alter ego, after all – but also Ginny Weasley, Molly Weasley, Minerva McGonagall, and Luna Lovegood, to name a few. Many Tumblr posts, Buzzfeed listicles, and tweet threads have been dedicated to these beloved characters, but there is one woman in the Harry Potter universe who does not get enough love, both within the fandom and the series itself: Fleur Delacour.
Ms. Delacour is of course beautiful, but she is also intelligent, bilingual, magically skilled, and deeply devoted to and fiercely protective of her family and friends. Despite these admirable qualities, she is often seen by others as merely snobby, vain, shallow, and rude. Unfortunately, some of my otherwise very favorite characters – Hermione, Ginny, and Mrs. Weasley in particular – treat her horribly at certain points in the series, in a perfect illustration of femmephobia and internalized misogyny. By the end of the final book, Fleur is a key member of the anti-Voldemort resistance movement, harboring fugitives and fighting Death Eaters – all while performing the brunt of the unpaid domestic labor, as is so often expected of women in both the magical and Muggle worlds.
Goblet of Fire
Fleur is introduced in book four, Goblet of Fire, and our first impressions of her are less than charitable, even before we know her name. She is a guest at Hogwarts – a visiting student from Beauxbatons Academy as part of the Triwizard Tournament – but she is depicted as wholly unimpressed by our favorite magical school upon her arrival. Hermione in particular bristles at her seemingly derisive attitude: “No one’s making you stay!” she hisses during the welcome feast. The boys, meanwhile, seem to be especially captivated by her breathtaking beauty (thanks in part to her Veela heritage, we find out later), which annoys Hermione even more. Already, we are seeing the classic “nice nerd girl vs. mean hot girl” trope, like some sort of Taylor Swift music video but with the added elements of magic and weird Britain vs. France undertones.
Fleur is selected as the Beauxbatons champion, the only girl out of the four, and during the first task of the tournament, she performs admirably, placing the dragon into a sleeping trance in order to retrieve her golden egg. Her only mistake appears to have been allowing her skirt to catch fire when the dragon snores and shoots a flame in her direction, but she douses it quickly by using her wand to conjure a stream of water. However, she receives lower scores from the judges than both Viktor Krum and Harry – perhaps Cedric too, as it is unclear from the narrative – for seemingly no reason. Krum caused damage to the real dragon eggs, Harry was injured, and yet their scores were higher than Fleur’s? I would argue that there may have been sexism at play there, whether overt (Karkaroff and Bagman don’t seem like the most progressive of dudes, let’s be real) or more subconscious and subtle (her more “feminine” magic wasn’t as ~bold and daring~ as that of the boys, leaving the judges less impressed).
The first task completed, Fleur fades from the narrative for a bit, reappearing only to give Ron withering looks, complain about the Christmas decorations, and make out with Roger Davies in the bushes during the Yule Ball – you know, typical “mean girl” stuff. But then the second task arrives, and along with it Fleur’s sister. Young Gabrielle is the person Fleur would miss most – the only champion to not have either a best friend or a love interest in this role – and is taken as “hostage” at the bottom of the lake. Unfortunately, Fleur is waylaid by some grindylows and unable to reach her, leaving Harry to carry both Ron and Gabrielle back to the surface. (Cho and Hermione having already been rescued by Cedric and Krum, respectively, which itself was some pretty gross damseling that I hate but won’t get into here.)
The scene that follows their “rescue” – quotes because, as we find out, they were never in real danger – is arguably the first time we see the truly good person that Fleur is underneath her seemingly haughty exterior. She, like Harry, seems to have believed that the hostages were in mortal peril, and she had to be restrained by the formidable Madame Maxime to prevent her from returning to the lake. Once Harry finally resurfaces, with Ron and Gabrielle in tow, she profusely thanks him over and over for saving her sister. She even thanks Ron for his assistance, despite his being just as unconscious as young Gabrielle throughout the entire ordeal.
Following the aftermath of the second task, Fleur is barely present throughout the rest of Goblet – her low scores in the first two tasks meant that she was in last place going into the third, and she was quickly attacked in the maze as part of the grand plan involving Harry, the Triwizard Cup, and the graveyard – but she returns at the leaving feast, still visibly upset about Cedric Diggory’s death, to bid Harry and Ron a warm farewell and tell them she hoped to begin work at Gringotts to “improve her English. ” From this point until the very end of the series, Fleur is consistently warm and friendly with Harry, and because the books are from his perspective, our view of her as readers shifts as well. We begin to see her in a more charitable light – though other characters do not always share this attitude, especially other women.
Fleur is not “onscreen” at all in the fifth book, Order of the Phoenix – the only mentions of her are passing comments about her beginning work at Gringotts and her budding romance with Bill Weasley – but she comes back in a big way at the beginning of the next book, Half-Blood Prince. Harry arrives at the Burrow to spend the majority of his summer holidays with the Weasleys, only to discover that Fleur is staying there as well. She and Bill are newly engaged, and she is taking the opportunity to get to know his family better.
Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, and Hermione (who is also staying at the Burrow because apparently she just never visits her own parents anymore) are less than thrilled at Fleur’s presence, and this is the point in the series where some of my all-time favorite characters behave like major jerks. Mrs. Weasley does little to hide her disapproval of her son’s choice of partner, despite Fleur seemingly being incredibly helpful with cleaning and cooking. She even appears to be angling to set Bill up with Tonks, who is low-maintenance, funny, and easygoing. Fleur may be the Mean Girl™, but Tonks is the ultimate Cool Girl™.
Meanwhile, Ginny refers to Fleur as Phlegm behind her back, while Hermione thinks she’s stupid – despite her demonstrating intelligence and skill throughout the Triwizard Tournament, once again perpetuating the trope that beauty and intelligence are mutually exclusive. It isn’t much of a stretch at this point to imagine Hermione and Ginny having a conversation about how they’re “not like other girls,” that women who engage in such frivolous, feminine activities are vapid and unintelligent. Hermione has two boys for best friends, after all, and Ginny loves Quidditch; they’re “just like one of the guys.” Their internalized misogyny is on full display, and it’s not a good look.
Now, Fleur certainly isn’t perfect. She does have a condescending air about her at times, particularly regarding the simpler, more rural life that the Weasleys appear to live, but I wonder if it’s something of a defense mechanism. She is in a new space, with new people who clearly don’t like her very much, and perhaps in her discomfort, she wraps herself in French sophistication as her armor. Certainly this would explain her behavior upon first arriving at Hogwarts – a completely unfamiliar place, hundreds of miles from her own beloved school. It’s possible that, had Molly embraced her more openly from the beginning, she would not have felt the need to be defensive and critical.
The friction between Fleur and Molly comes to a head at the end of the book when, after Bill is badly injured after battling the (untransformed) werewolf Fenrir Greyback, Molly assumes that Fleur will be calling off the wedding. Surely her vanity meant that she no longer loved him, now that he was permanently scarred and possibly facing werewolf-like side effects. Instead, Fleur finally defends herself in a moment so perfect that I have to quote it directly:
“You thought I would not weesh to marry him? Or per’aps, you hoped?” said Fleur, her nostrils flaring. “What do I care how he looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is zat my husband is brave! And I shall do zat!” she added fiercely, pushing Mrs. Weasley aside and snatching the ointment from her.
Mrs. Weasley fell back against her husband and watched Fleur mopping up Bill’s wounds with a most curious expression upon her face. Nobody said anything; Harry did not dare move. Like everybody else, he was waiting for the explosion.
“Our Great-Auntie Muriel,” said Mrs. Weasley after a long pause, “has a very beautiful tiara — goblin-made — which I am sure I could persuade her to lend you for the wedding. She is very fond of Bill, you know, and it would look lovely with your hair.”
“Thank you,” said Fleur stiffly. “I am sure zat will be lovely.”
And then, Harry did not quite see how it happened, both women were crying and hugging each other. Completely bewildered, wondering whether the world had gone mad, he turned around: Ron looked as stunned as he felt, and Ginny and Hermione were exchanging startled looks.
It is at this moment that the rest of the characters begin to see Fleur as she truly is. She has flaws, of course, but her positive traits far outweigh them; she loves with her whole heart, and she is just as passionate and protective of her loved ones as the rest of the beloved characters who gathered in that room to regroup after the battle and mourn the loss of Dumbledore. The glimpses of her true character that we had seen as readers, from the perspective of Harry, throughout the previous books suddenly become clear to those around him. From here on out, there are no more pointed sighs from Molly, snide remarks from Hermione, or jokes about Phlegm from Ginny.
But Fleur’s status as one of the unsung heroes of the resistance is only beginning.
The final book in the Harry Potter series begins – after a truly grim opening chapter of Voldemort, Death Eaters, murder, and a giant snake – with Harry’s departure from the Dursleys’ for the final time. The plan to retrieve Harry and transport him to the Burrow is complicated for a variety of reasons, and Fleur has volunteered to be one of the people who takes Polyjuice Potion and becomes a decoy Harry, placing herself in danger. Bill accompanies her on a thestral, as she does not like flying on broomsticks much; interestingly, Hermione is the only other person to ride this way, her broom skills similarly patchy. This is possibly another moment of JKR subtly, possibly even subconsciously, demonstrating the magical world’s views of more feminine skills as “lesser” compared to masculine ones, especially since the only woman involved in this plan to be on a broom is Tonks, the ultimate Cool Girl. But method of transport aside, Fleur does not abandon the mission, even after witnessing the murder of Mad-Eye Moody.
However, neither Fleur nor the rest of our group at the Burrow can afford to mourn for long, as there is a wedding to plan. Originally, it transpires, Fleur had wanted to be married in France, but Voldemort-related events prevented that entirely. So instead, she is having it at the Weasleys’ home, a graceful compromise for both Fleur and Mrs. Weasley alike. In fact, whereas not two months prior they had been at odds, the two women are now a formidable team, and the wedding is planned, set up, and executed beautifully.
That is, until the Minister is murdered, the Ministry falls, and the worst possible wedding crashers show up. Our intrepid trio escapes, along with many others, but not everyone is so fortunate. Though no one is killed or seriously injured, the remaining wedding guests – including Fleur – are interrogated by Death Eaters about Harry’s whereabouts, but no one betrays him. Most of the guests didn’t even know he was there, because he was Polyjuiced to look like a Weasley cousin. Even on a day that would normally be all about her, Fleur takes precaution after precaution to protect Harry. She puts her life, and the lives of her family, in danger to keep him safe, and the thought of giving them information in exchange for protection never even crosses her mind, not for a second.
After the wedding fiasco, she and Bill move to Shell Cottage, a small little house by the sea. When Ron leaves Harry and Hermione during the camping extravaganza that ensues after they steal the locket Horcrux from the Ministry, he stays with Bill and Fleur. They never tell the rest of the Weasley family or anyone else about Ron’s sojourn at Shell Cottage, even during the holidays – the couple using their newlywed status as an excuse to eschew the Burrow for a quiet Christmas together in their new home. Ron eventually leaves to rejoin his friends, of course, and when they all show back up at the seaside home after escaping Malfoy Manor, with several fugitives and a dead house elf (RIP Dobby) in tow, Fleur again takes it in stride. And to be honest? She has a hell of a lot more patience than I do.
For weeks, Fleur’s home is filled to the brim: there’s Harry, Ron, and a freshly tortured Hermione, who are only three of Voldemort’s Most Wanted. Then there’s Luna, Dean Thomas, Mr. Ollivander, and the…let’s say complicated goblin named Griphook (the role of goblins in this universe is a whole other matter unto itself that I will not get into here), the latter two of whom were frail and injured after the events at Malfoy Manor. This is where all that domestic labor I mentioned at the beginning of this post comes in. Fleur does the majority of the housework and cooking, and the extra effort involved with her home going from two people to nine does a number on her. However, she rarely complains, and when Harry apologizes for his role in the whole affair, she responds with grace and humility. (What Harry should have done was actually help with the chores for once, because he and Ron especially don’t really do shit except plan their Gringotts heist.)
The trio finally departs Shell Cottage with Griphook at dawn on the first of May, not knowing that in approximately 18 hours, they would be reunited with Bill, Fleur, Luna, Dean, the Weasleys, the Order, the DA, and the staff and students of Hogwarts in the battle for their lives – a battle in which Fleur fights alongside her husband, family, and friends. She finally meets Percy Weasley after his reunion with the rest of his family, she battles Death Eaters, she witnesses Voldemort’s defeat, and she mourns the loss of Fred and so many others. She doesn’t get an onscreen shining moment in the battle like her mother-in-law, but she is there. Always fighting, always helping, always protecting, like so many other incredible women in this series – and yet, she is never rarely given the recognition she deserves (at least from outside the narrative, as we do know from extratextual sources that she was given awards by both the French and British Ministries of Magic for her brave deeds during the war).
Fleur Delacour, you deserve better than the fandom gives you. I refuse to let you become the token Mean Girl of this series, because you are so much more than that. I refuse to give in to femmephobia and internalized misogyny, to see you as the type of woman who I (being so much more like Hermione) should despise, fear, or malign. You are neither defined by your beauty nor should you be ashamed of it. Your intelligence is not diminished by your heritage. Your strength and your femininity are in no way mutually exclusive, and any one who tries to say otherwise can go eat flobberworms.
So consider this a love letter to you, Fleur – though I’m sure you would agree that it probably would have sounded better in French.