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Chapter 1: Polaris
Forks scrape grooves into china. The silence speaks louder than any words could. She is all alone. She knows that much.
She lets her food slowly return to room temperature. She doesn’t move. Neither does Bill.
He watches her. Her silvery hair is fading to a dull gray. Her wrinkles are no longer from laughter. He doesn’t eat either.
He gets up. Ministry work, he says.
She stays still. She hardly noticed his physical absence. It feels like he got up from their dinner table years ago. Ministry work, he said.
Victoire’s first year made Fleur so proud. A whole eleven years of successful parenting!
Dominique was bittersweet, but she was only a year younger than Victoire. They were sisters. They needed each other. It was for the best, so Fleur was happy.
But now she had only Bill, and she had never had Bill.
What a beautiful and intelligent woman, he had said. What a handsome and charming man, she had said. But they never said anything of dreams. She wanted to see the world; he wanted to build it.
She wanted to sit at their kitchen table until her children came back to distract her. Waiting upstairs with letters from Gabrielle would work just as well. Bill would spend hours working away in his office, and she would be long asleep by then.
“Madame, may I have this dance?”
Teddy’s silvery pink hair waved a bit as he extended his hand.
“A surprising choice, but I would be honored. How could I possibly turn down the opportunity to tell you how you will be very good to my Dominique?”
“A dance with the most beautiful woman in the room is worth the lecture, but don’t tell my wife I said that.”
“I’ll do my best to pass it on.”
It had been so long since she had danced. Her cheeks still flushed with tiny veins of color when Teddy called her beautiful. Her feet were confused at first, but eventually she fell into the music. It had been so long.
“We’ll visit, you know. She doesn’t want children yet, but I’ll wear her down – just you wait.”
“She’s got such a nice figure, though. Don’t spoil it too soon.”
“We’re quite an odd pair, aren’t we?”
“Victoire fancied you for years. Louis did too, but his current boyfriend is much better for him. You’re too old.”
“Harry fancied you, and not just when he was in school.”
“I think Ronald still does.”
“You’re avoiding the subject.”
“It’s best that I do.”
Teddy looked just past Fleur’s ear and Fleur found a spot over the top of his head and they stood not quite watching each other, but not quite focused on anything else.
“What will we do with ourselves?” Fleur finally said as her eyes went back to the tops of Teddy’s eyebrows. She couldn’t make eye contact. Not without bursting. And she couldn’t let everything running through her mind out. Not tonight.
“Oh I don’t know. We’ll nit scarves. Never quite fit. Die.”
“I was hoping you would say something cheerful.”
“Knitting is cheerful!
“I’m glad you joined the immediate family, Teddy Lupin. I’m very glad.”
“I know the lecture. You won’t have to tell me. I’ll love Dominique until the day I die, and I’ll let her know too. I may be alone, but she doesn’t have to be.”
Fleur feels her heels fall into her shoes as she tenses at Teddy’s words. No, he really means them. She has to believe that he does. Still, she can’t let the sinking feeling go unexplained. He knows he has said something too far.
“He said that too,” is all she can manage.
Ministry work, he said.
Three days ago.
He had flooed in every ten hours, shoving his pretty little face into the otherwise quiet living room. Ministry work. Every time.
She didn’t try to delude herself about the laughter in the background. Fleur hoped it belonged to a pretty girl. A girl who had no expectations of seeing Bill again. Maybe the laughter would carry her to a happier life. No one else should have to live Fleur’s life.
She could find someone. Bill wasn’t home. Her children had their own homes. But she was still holding on.
That was the worst of her failures. No matter what he said or how many pretty girls were laughing behind him, she couldn’t leave. She loved him. Desperately and quietly. She had always loved him.
She had the sneaking suspicion he still loved her too.
Teddy was right. Knitting was a very good hobby. She owed her mother-in-law a dozen Christmas sweaters anyway.
Maybe she’d give something to the pretty girl too. She might need something warm and cozy after she realized Bill was a charming teenager with an awful lot of power. Fleur had needed it.
The kitchen was empty. Her coffee was untouched. The air was stiff with the perfume of more lilies than Fleur had ever seen in her life. She really had loved him. And now all she had were the letters to the pretty girl.
Years of letters.
Her name was Alina.
She deserved to know. To have casseroles brought to her door. To be told she was not alone.
She was such a pretty girl.
In all those years when Fleur sat alone at their kitchen table, she had always expected him to return.
She told herself he wasn’t coming.
The paperwork buried her thoughts for a while. She worked carefully, knowing eventually he would come. Or Alina would. She needed Alina.
Alina would tell her it was okay. She was so sorry; it just happened. He only wanted the best. Telling Fleur would have broken her heart. He still loved his wife. He just needed something more than sweaters and cold coffee.
Alina never came.
Not to Shell Cottage. Not to the funeral. Not to anything.
Fleur looked down at the forgotten coffee and wondered how often Bill had left his cold and lonely. She didn’t bother to reheat it. She didn’t really care.