We need to talk about Fleur.
Fleur is probably the most underrated female character in the Harry Potter series. When she is discussed at all, her bravery and loyalty to those she loves is often overshadowed, and instead it is her beauty that is under discussion. Many of the other female characters in the book are initially suspicious of Fleur–Hermione and Molly and Ginny Weasley most notably.
Fleur is not-quite-entirely-human; her grandmother was a veela, a race of beautiful women with siren-like qualities and powerful magic who can turn to harpie-like creatures when angered. Her part-veela heritage manifests by making her incredibly beautiful and inspiring lots of male attention and female jealousy. Ron finds himself especially vulnerable to Fleur’s beauty, much to the ire of Hermione and Ginny.
When we initially meet Fleur, she is visiting Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament, hoping to become the champion for her school. Fleur attended Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, a French wizarding school. Despite the film’s portrayal of the school as an all-girls academy, the books are fairly clear that Fleur attends a co-ed school and that she beats out all of the other students brought along to become her school’s Triwizard Tournament competitor.
And though she gets a lot of grief about it, one can hardly be surprised at Fleur’s reaction to Harry as a competitor. When Harry’s name is pulled from the goblet, Fleur is among those who are outraged. Not only is Harry too young to enter the competition, but his entrance gives Hogwarts twice as many champions in the tournament (2 champions, to the other school’s single champion), an unfair advantage for a school that already has the advantage of being the tournament host.
Also unsurprising is Fleur’s reaction to Ron, who is fairly entranced by Fleur. Ron often finds himself red-faced and bumbling around Fleur, who is very dismissive of her young would-be suitor. And let’s be honest:
Ron only wants to go to the Yule Ball with Fleur because she’s hot. The two have nothing in common, and they barely know one another at that point. Ron is several years younger than Fleur, who must be accustomed to and exhausted by the male attention she receives because of her beauty. Fleur is not obligated to say yes to a date, even with one of our favorite characters. She is not obligated to be kind to men and boys who consistently underestimate her cognitive and emotional abilities and express interest only in her body. She is not obligated to allow herself to be fetishized because of her race or because of the way her race and sex make someone else feel. She. Is. Not. Obligated.
Of course, Ron’s feelings about Fleur and the way that other boys in the school react to her beauty earns her the dislike of Ginny and Hermione. The two make fun of Fleur’s accent and mercilessly tease Ron about his reaction to Fleur. The undercurrents of sexual jealously are apparent even in Ginny’s teasing. Of course, it is entirely possible these reactions are exacerbated by Fleur’s veela blood (remember that part of a veela’s power is to create desire in men and jealousy in women).
Ron and the others finally begin to see Fleur’s humanity in the second task of their tournament, when Harry saves her little sister Gabrielle from the merpeople after Fleur gets caught by grindylows in the water. Fleur expresses extreme gratitude to Harry and Ron, and a kind-of friendship begins to form, though there is still a stilted quality to the relationship. As the champions undertake the final task, there is a camaraderie between Harry and Fleur.
During the tournament, Fleur meets Bill Weasely—the two seem immediately transfixed by one another. Eventually, Fleur begins working a part-time job at Gringotts Bank and dating Bill. Both are part of the Order of the Phoenix. When Bill brings Fleur home to spend a summer getting to know his family, the time is strained. Fleur is blunt and critical, and the Weasely family is easy-going for the most part, and the two attitudes chafe against one another.
But Fleur stands by Bill after he is attacked by a werewolf, though his family openly expresses that they thought she would leave when she saw how scarred Bill was. Fleur is furious at their suggestions—and it’s not hard to see why a part-veela would be angry that she might leave a “contaminated” husband after a werewolf bite. At this point Molly Weasely finally comes to her senses and embraces Fleur’s devotion to her son.
Fleur is also incredibly helpful during the battles against Voldemort, fighting alongside the Order of the Phoenix and her husband. She is still blunt and critical, and she is still very, very beautiful. But just as when she was competing in the tournament all that time before, she prizes her family over all else—and she is fierce. What has changed, at this point, is not so much Fleur as the other characters’ views of her. This is not to say that she is a static character–we certainly see development between those initial moments when she arrives at Hogwarts and the moment that she stands as one of its defenders, but Fleur’s core characteristics have remained the same.
And this is all pretty brilliant, because Fleur is a complicated character. We need to keep talking about her.