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Enchanté by TheGoldenKneazle
Chapter 1: Prologue: Games
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A/N: Hi there! It's me, with the result of my first ever attempt at NaNoWriMo - a Bill/Fleur. I really shouldn't be posting a fourth WIP, but somehow we're here. I hope you like it.
Fleur Isabelle Delacour was angry. In fact, she wasn’t angry; she was steaming, tearing mad.
This in itself wasn’t such a momentous event, because Fleur got uncontrollably angry a lot of the time, due to her Grandmaman’s Veela genes. However, she normally managed to control this boiling rage with a cool and collected outer mask directed towards the object of her annoyance. It usually did the trick; the offender didn’t annoy her again because they felt extremely inferior, and Fleur got to stay at the top of the social pile.
Now, however, she was well aware that she was teetering dangerously on the edge, because for once, she was not upset at someone easily cast off and rejected. She was angry at herself.
“Ça va, chére Fleur*?” Marie asked her sympathetically, moving to hold tightly to Fleur’s arm. Fleur did not answer; instead she clenched her jaw and carried on staring to the hedge-covered horizon where her dream had abruptly ended for no apparent reason.
Fleur though the question a rather stupid one. Here she sat, streaked with dirt and humiliated in front of several schools’ worth of students with a shattered hope of regaining any lost respect in the maze, and Marie was asking her how she was
“Ça va trés bien, merci Marie*,” Fleur replied through gritted teeth, then worried that her friend had caught the sarcasm in the statement. Fortunately, Marie just sat back with a relieved sigh, having bought that ridiculous lie that she was doing very well, and Fleur tried to resist shaking her head in a demeaning manner.
As Aunt Isabelle had always said, neither sarcasm nor obvious contempt was desirable in a woman.
Around her, the crowd who had gathered to watch the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament were starting to get fidgety and shuffle in their seats, the noise levels slowly rising as nothing more interesting could be discerned from the maze. They had been told to expect many hours of long waiting, but apparently, two was the limit.
Fleur could hear many different conversations around her, spanning at least three languages, and a multitude of accents and topics discussed. The students of her own, prestigious school were mixing happilywith the gruff students of Durmstrang and the very… English students of Hogwarts. There was a much higher majority of English being spoken than any other language, and that at least made Fleur feel better, leading her to a more pleasant topic – the thought of her summer job at the English bank, Gringotts, where she would be independent and free of her so-called ‘friends’, who hung on to her so they could rise up the popularity ladder, but really hated her for the aforementioned beautiful looks.
At Gringotts, she could practice her English well enough so that when she started at Les Salles D’Or, the French bank (called ‘The Golden Halls’), she would be able to move through the ranks of Foreign Accountants as fast as she could.
The thought of her impending success cheered Fleur up enough to push her current humiliation a little further back in her mind. After all, she had started off in this humiliating Tournament as a great contender, and this image had only kept after the awful first task of dragons.
Then in the second task, she had also started off well – with all the boys supporting her, and a well-placed bubble-head charm, she had looked like a strong lead… until she had been attacked by those horrible mutants in that murky lake. Her panic had taken over, and she had completely lost her head. The events had looked even worse when she realised her sister would die because she had panicked; her little Gabrielle, the best and most innocent person in her life!
Then Harry Potter had saved her, and she knew she was in eternal gratitude to him for it; fortunately, Fleur was well-practiced in the art of gratuitousness.
Now, on the third task, she had been forced into the maze last, with no head-start. In fact, each of her competitors had been closer to the Cup than she was! But Fleur had been determined to get there anyway, by any means possible.
She had started to run, using a special ‘object locator’ spell to tell her roughly where she needed to go. Successfully, she had managed to get rid of a boggart that came upon her, blast away some awful giant scorpion-like animals (and climb through a hedge to escape), get through a horrid cloud that her made her blind and deaf, feeling her way by brushing the huge hedges either side with her fingertips as she struggled along until it eventually ended, and just as she was rubbing the last of the stinging smoke-like substance from her eyes… there had appeared the most awful and large spider she had ever dreamed of.
Brandishing her wand and looking to the sides, Fleur had been trying to work out a plan when suddenly, she was hit from behind by the most excruciating pain she could have ever felt. It brought her to her knees, then face-first to the floor; writhing in pain and blind, she had faintly heard awful, drawn-out screams. Then everything had been abruptly cut off; the pain, the consciousness… everything.
When she had come around, she had opened her eyes to several of the English wizards and her beloved Madame Maxime, who had carefully helped her up and explained she had passed out and had red sparks over her head; apparently, those awful screams were hers.
But something was wrong with that statement, and Fleur knew it. She had not passed out, she was sure. But nobody believed her. They thought she was just trying to regain some dignity, and that she had been screaming from fright at the oncoming ‘acromantula’; that she had shot red sparks in her panic, and passed out in fear.
Now, three hours after she had entered the maze, Fleur was left here in her defeat, stewing in her anger and desperation to change the outcome somehow, when a shower of red sparks shot high above the maze.
Immediately, the entire crowd gasped, and to the side of her Harry Potter’s friends were frantically muttering to each other. She heard her name from the bushy-haired witch several times, and the gangly ginger one seemed to be agreeing with whatever she said. She tried her best to ignore them, and just watched the steady progression of the ant-like figures of the helping teachers as they flocked to the sight of vanquish. Fleur wondered briefly who had needed help, and why they had needed to be pulled out, before looking once again to the sky above.
There were clouds, dark and heavy, plastering the sky with a sticky heat. They were silent and unmoving, never letting a peek of the darkening sky through in a vaguely menacing and imposing manner. And the colour… it was the bloody, stifling crimson colour that got Fleur. It shouldn’t have been out of the ordinary; no, it definitely wasn’t, Fleur told herself. But a nagging sense of its presence just wouldn’t go away from the back of her mind, and she turned impatiently to the slim silver watch adorning her wrist. Three and a half hours, and still nothing.
Then, the fallen warrior was helped into the arena. It was Viktor Krum, dazed-looking and rubbing his eyes as though a fog had just cleared. At his appearance, there was a raucous mixed reaction from the crowd; both cheers from most of the Hogwartians, because now they would have a victor whoever won, and boos from Krum’s fan-girls and fellow Durmstrang pupils.
Fleur kept her face impassive, mentally calculating the reaction to her reappearance against his.
Along from her, Harry Potter’s friends were having another argument; Fleur wondered if they ever stopped bickering. The bushy-haired girl was telling the boy that she had always supported Harry, and the ginger seemed to be arguing rather heatedly back… oh, that was right; the girl (Hemmonie?) had been Krum’s date to the ball.
Well, she’d seen odder pairings. Maybe the clever bookworm would do the hulking and gruff quidditch player some good? Fleur had her doubts.
And so the time crawled by as they waited impatiently for a winner, with the Cup, to emerge from the maze. Money was being exchanged all over the place, as more bets were taken; students putting their money on Krum and herself either cheered at their winnings or groaned at their loss, and the odds on Potter vs Diggory escalated.
Five hours after she had gone into the maze, Gabrielle was somehow asleep on Fleur’s shoulder and Fleur’s legs had gone to sleep. Fleur was exhausted and half-dead from the fatigue, barely keeping consciousness, but determined to stay awake until the end so as to avoid the humiliation of being a sleeping loser of the very front row of the stands. And then without warning, two figures slammed into the ground not three metres from her.
Both Potter and Diggory had appeared with the cup… how had that happened?!
The crowd around her went wild at the sight of the two champions and the glowing cup that had been the symbol of glory for so many months. The band was playing the most cheering and rousing music they could muster, everyone was jumping, and the teachers were coming down the stairs to the side of them to help them up.
Potter was streaked with mud, his arm streaming with blood, his face pale… he was lying on top of Diggory and refusing to get off.
Fleur’s gaze shifted to Diggory, and immediately something instinctual in her mind clicked at the sight of the handsome boy.
His eyes were open and glassy. His face looked waxy and a little green. His limbs were so stiff… within a heartbeat, Fleur knew he was no longer with them, and totally out of the running for the competition.
Without meaning to, she stood up and screamed in horror at the dead champion almost beside her feet. The two had been there for less than five seconds, but she knew… she knew what the others did not.
Her scream was haggard and high, barely cutting through the happy excitement that exploded in the most awful way around her. Fleur clutched her face, the haunting image of her competitor’s staring face burned onto her eyelids, and her body still screaming of its own accord.
It was her terrified scream that caused a disturbance in the crowd; while most pupils carried on their celebrations, there was confusion as her shriek cut through and reached the ears of those higher up. Students started to realise that there was more to the scene than a couple of winners, and a suddenly frantic team of witches and wizards reached the couple as the cheers started to turn to screams of terror.
For several moments, panic built up like a wave ready to crash, until it was like a stampede around her. All Fleur could see was the body of Harry Potter as he released the Cup and its glory, and clung on tighter to Cedric’s body with one arm whilst seizing Dumbledore’s wrist with his own.
Despite the low volume with which he spoke, despite the distance, despite the loud chaos around them… through it all, Fleur still heard the words Harry Potter whisper to Albus Dumbledore that night.
Later she would claim she had not, that it was impossible, but in reality she could feel the world shifting as he thickly spoke those few words. They would haunt her, in dreams and consciousness, for many years to come.
“He’s back… he’s back. Voldemort.”
It may have been the end of the Tournament, but it was the beginning of what promised to be a rather more deadly game; the most deadly game of all.
Ça va, chère Fleur? - How are you, dear Fleur?
Ça va très bien, merci Marie - I am very good, thankyou Marie.
Chapter 2: Disappearance
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A/N: Apologies for rather short chapter to follow, but I hope it reveals enough about Fleur's present situation for everyone. Plus, I'm not sure if introducing certain people was too soon but... I guess I'll have to find out :)
“Fleur? Hello, Miss Delacour? Oi, Fleur!”
Fleur jerked her head upwards from its hanging position, plastering a nice, fake smile on her face to appease whoever it was that had come by. For once, it seemed she was in luck.
The visitor grinned as Fleur flapped around the desk, making apologies, and silenced her with a raised hand. “Honestly, Fleur, it’s fine! I know how stressed you are, what with all the extra work because of Mhairi’s being gone, so just… cool it.”
“Thank you… I’m so sorry!” Fleur apologised again, flustered, and very aware of how difficult it was so get her tongue around the ‘y’ of ‘thank you’. She sounded so very French at the minute! Although, it was probably because of how tired she was: Jayna – her visitor – was right; since Mhairi, head of all the Vault Management department, had taken leave very suddenly, they had all been snowed under with so much extra paperwork to cram into their already rather extended hours.
With that stress coupled along with the waitressing, Fleur was having trouble keeping her eyes open. How very strange it was to be in this situation; such a low point in one’s life! Three months ago, so much was different. She had borne so much more weight in the social world, and was the Head Girl, Ice Queen and Golden Girl of Beauxbatons with such a promising future.
Now, she was struggling to make it alone, through no fault of her own. Well… maybe a little, she thought wryly. She had hardly asked to be cornered into such a position, but she had certainly chosen to escape through this route.
“Chill, it’s all fine. Look, I just wanted to re-iterate the details of which keys Gornuk should be looking out for…?” Jayna continued on, her mind back in the work as Fleur tried hard to concentrate on what she was saying. Jayna was from Goblin Resources, but all the Gringotts work required inter-departmental co-operation. It was a given when one applied for a job there.
But ever since she had sent off her application, none of her Gringotts’ work seemed real. Fleur performed her job in an eternal state of dreaming, her mind shutting out what it did not want to take in.
Half an hour and two and cups of bad coffee later, and Fleur was back to checking the Keyholder records, still not quite believing what was happening to her life, even as she sat there looking at family trees and disused vault keys, and tried to work out who the keys should go to – it was all standard work for her, as Key Archivist.
Unfortunately, the same disbelieving attitude wouldn’t be with whoever got, or didn’t get, the treasure accessed with that key. The goblins had very intricate rules about who disused vaults went to, and it was all very boring and complicated trying to work out who the key was to be sent to and what they should do with it. Many hours of every day were spent trying to sort out who was getting what, and ruling out heir after heir as she eliminated those ineligible by Goblin rule enforcement. It was all horribly complicated, and written in nasty old English, so it made her head hurt just looking at it, let alone try to decipher it!
Then this evening, she was to go to the restaurant she waitressed in and smile and pose flirtily at all the old men with their airheaded girlfriends for five hours, in the hopes of garnering an extra few sickles as a tip that could possibly keep her out of debt for as long as possible.
Fleur’s life was complicated, and it was messy, and it was her own.
For a moment, Fleur contemplated how much nicer her original plan was; graduate Beauxbatons, work at Gringotts in the Vault Transfers - Foreign Transactions - French sector for six weeks; then with work experience, start her years’ novice placement at Les Salles D’Or, which was not only one of the most sought-after jobs in France, it also paid very well and had nice links between both France and England. Then go on to become English assistant (because she would be in France and communicating with England), then just the English department herself, then Head of European transfers, and eventually just Head of Foreign Transactions. Maybe even Vault Transfers!
Admittedly, when she was small, Fleur wouldn’t have said ‘I want to transfer money between foreign vaults when I’m a big girl!’. But it was right next to becoming a princess now, and she had it planned out…
Until the events of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. When Fleur came home from her year in England with Gabrielle having seen a dead corpse, been attacked by ‘English pond mutants’ and ‘horrendous hell-spiders’, as well as witnessing the famous Harry Potter’s declaration that Voldemort was back, her mother had broken down and declared her chained to the house forever.
Unfortunately for Fleur, who knew her mother and her mother’s stubbornness all too well, she knew perfectly well that she would be kept inside all summer long. And she was. Fleur could walk in the extensive gardens of their home, and she could stay inside all she liked, but she could not go into town, let alone go to England by herself for six weeks!
At first, Fleur refused to believe that her mother would allow her to miss out so totally on the work placement that would allow her to realise her life’s ambitions. Yet all too soon, the disbelief turned to anger, and grief. There were many fights waged around Chez Delacour that summer, but the last straw was when her mother forbade her to go to England entirely.
With a heart of steel, Fleur wrote to Gringotts, asking for a year-long placement doing anything instead. They replied in the affirmative. And so, August 30th saw the head girl, ice queen and golden girl Fleur Delacour march out of the front door of her own house with just one suitcase (admittedly she did have four others that had been shrunk inside) and casting off her family in the knowledge that as long as her mother’s will stayed firm, she couldn’t see them.
A month on from that day brought her to the present. Having found a tiny flat (which she put up with only because needs must) and working three days a week at Gringotts, Fleur found herself facing the prospect of debt in half a years’ time. So she had been forced to get a job waitressing in the swanky restaurant La Maison, which had actually fired one of their current waitresses so they could have this beautiful French girl serving their filthy-rich customers. Sadly, the work she had been assigned was deathly boring; she was working in keys. Of course, there were far more aspects to it than first met the eye (such as her current work of assigning the keys of disused vaults to the most direct heirs), but in essence, she had to look up who had which keys for various people that came by her desk.
“Miss Delacour, can I order a new key for vault 457 to be made please?” Keeley from Goblin Resources swung on by to ask. She was always very formal and rather boring, although Fleur was just glad she wasn’t an enemy.
“Of courze, Meess,” Fleur replied, pushing her chair to the part of the rather large and cluttered desk on which the order forms for the manufacturers were laid.
“Thank you. Do you know when it’ll be in?”
“’Opefully about five days,” she replied with a tired smile. It was just so exhausting, talking and thinking in English while working hard and trying to live by herself (with zilch outside help).
Then it was onto the next visitor. “Hey Flower, can I have the spare key to Vault 206 please?”
Fleur narrowed her eyes at the (admittedly handsome) man lounging against her bookcase and waiting for her to hand him the tiny, rusty key. His long ginger hair was pulled back in a ponytail held by a leather thong, and from his ear there dangled a fang.
He was one of the Vault Security lot; a rather arrogant bunch of young men, she thought, who liked to flirt with her and call her nicknames. So far none had been interesting enough to even consider dating.
She turned to face the bookcase and quickly searched through the spares before dangling it in front of him on the chain. He took it with an impish grin.
“Why yes… but nothing you can fetch me from that bookshelf.”
Fleur looked back down to her open files and ignored his grin. However, when he didn’t move away, she looked up angrily with an eyebrow raised.
“What Mr. Weasley,” he said smugly, still grinning. “But I’m Bill. I’m sorry, that was a really bad way of introducing myself, wasn’t it? I got it off one of the other Curse-Breakers. Ah well, now you can say you’ve met me. I’m a superstar, you know.” And he winked and walked back down the aisle between desks, leaving Fleur with the feeling she had been included on the joke she didn’t quite understand.
Weasley. Where had she heard the name before? And his face was familiar somehow…
Frowning, she turned back to the stack of paperwork and felt her eyes almost pop out of her head as she mentally measured the size. 2 feet 8? Something like that… it called for coffee.
Within five minutes, Fleur was back from the drinks machine that some bright soul from Human Resources had put in the centre of their room. Everyone used it, although it made bad coffee, because it was their only way to get it – goblins went everywhere else and highly disapproved of any brain-addling beverages.
So Fleur started to trace up the Knightsbridge family tree, sipping the disgusting black stuff, and wishing Mhairi was here to hand out her coffee to anyone she was feeling inclined to like that day. Honestly, what a day to disappear on!
Suddenly Fleur stiffened at that internal thought. Disappear… well, Mhairi had hardly disappeared now, had she? It was only three days off!
But Mhairi had only ever taken time off for urgent family reasons, such as her six- or four-year-old boys becoming ill. And other than that, she gave about six months’ notice, because everyone knew how much the goblins disliked them having any time off; all this behaviour was good even by their standards!
No. Although an event like this was unprecedented by Mhairi’s standards, there was a first time for everything – goodness knew that the Dutch Transactions worker was late every day if he turned up at all.
“Fleur! Omigosh, I know it’s not either of our breaks, but I just had to show you this. Look – look what’s happened!”
Fleur blinked, snapping out of her Mhairi-centred internal monologue and tuning into Jayna’s rather gobby attitude that for some reason had arrived back at her desk, where it had been just minutes before. “Qu – What?”
A copy of The Daily Prophet was shoved under her nose, and Fleur pushed it down far enough to be able to read the headline: “Mass Azkaban Breakout: Fudge Blames Black”.
Scanning the page, it was clear to read that apparently, a large number of The Dark Lord’s followers had broken out from the wizarding prison, and the British Minister for Magic was blaming Sirius Black for it all, because he had escaped two years ago.
As Jayna rambled about what it would mean for the bank, Fleur couldn’t help pondering that seeing as she believed Harry Potter when he proclaimed that You-Know-Who was back –she had been three metres away as he proclaimed it to one of the most powerful wizards of all time, and seen the corpse of Cedric Diggory – did this mean that the Ministry were refusing to accept that? Was Black all they were cracking him up to be in that case? After all, she already had the Daily Prophet down as an exaggerating and swaggering sort of newspaper, considering all the stories she had heard about Harry Potter there in the past month anyway!
Having learnt about and worked alongside the Boy Who Live for a good nine months, Fleur could safely say that the only thing wrong with his head was the hair that looked like he was hit by a lightning spell on a daily basis.
But maybe Jayna was right. It was going to affect security at Gringotts. Therefore how was it going to affect her?
Chapter 3: Investigators
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A/N: So here is chapter three! Hope you like it. Oh, and I think that most of the chapters are going to be fairly short; I just hope to get them out fairly fast because of it.
Bill had only just got back to his flat when a large barn owl swooped in. Sighing good-humouredly, he dumped his jacket in the hall and went to the table where the owl sat hooting indignantly. From a long experience with barn owls, Bill knew it was better to give them what they wanted rather than make them wait, if you wished to be able to write the next day.
Fortunately, Bill could see from the large and messy scrawl on the front that it was just a letter from Charlie. About time, too! Bill could have sworn that the last time he’d recieved a letter from him was back in Egypt. Admittedly neither of the brothers wrote the most literate and lengthy letters to each other, but they were close, and preferred to keep in touch.
Still, by the relative thickness, it was quite a long one for Charlie. It’d better be good to have made me wait this long, Bill thought. He unfolded it and left it on the table before bringing the new owl to old Llewellyn’s cage, where his own brown owl (the aforementioned Llewellyn) perched with his head under his wing. He was probably sleeping – it was all this old owl did any more, but Bill didn’t grudge him for it. After thirteen long years of extremely active service to his master, Llewellyn deserved a decent retirement consisting of sleep, extra owl treats, and the occasional letter to Molly Weasley to convince her he didn’t need his hair cut.
He still remembered the day he had been given Llewellyn, by his overjoyed parents in the bustling Diagon Alley. He had been a very handsome owl, and although he only flew at a mediocre pace (fast for his kind), he had a lot of stamina. He had certainly lived to a ripe old age.
Considering Bill had been eleven at the time, Llewellyn had been a good name. He remembered being infatuated with ‘Dangerous’ Dai Llewellyn, and that’s why the owl was named Llewellyn. The fast life of the crazy quidditch player who had completed so many famous manoeuvres, and eventually gone on to be incinerated by a chimaera, had fascinated Bill to the extreme.
Unfortunately for his eleven-year-old self, Bill had only ever possessed an average talent for quidditch, barely keeping up with Charlie, until the said younger brother became very good in the two years they spent apart, and eventually went on to become a quidditch legend. Bill still remembered how trampled-on his nerves had felt when, as a third-year, his little squirt of a brother was being heckled for such brilliant Seeking.
Fortunately, there were no lingering annoyances over that. As a Weasley, one became used to making sacrifices and adapting, and no one family member carried a heavier load than any of the others – except for Molly, who the world over was celebrated as a heroic mother.
When Ron had written home in first year that his best friend Harry Potter had been called ‘the new Charlie Weasley of seeking’ by McGonagall, all the Weasleys roared with laughter and pointed out that Charlie should be the Boy Who Lived then.
Lots of people had expected Charlie to go on to play professionally after that, but he had defied expectations and gone on to become a dragon tamer instead, which was what he always wanted really. It was every little boys’ dream – but Charlie apparently got to beat all the other tamers out there hands-down at quidditch anyway.
Bill was just picking up the letter as the barn owl excitedly pecked at the food when another owl swooped in, screeching urgently. Bill cursed under his breath before quickly crossing the room and untying this second roll of parchment. He had a suspicion he knew which organisation of freedom-fighting witches and wizards it would be from, though – the Order had re-formed over the summer, since Harry’s bold declaration of Voldemort’s return, and Bill had immediately signed up, much to the chagrin of his mother.
Since then, they had been sharing news and assigning various suspicious cases to relevant members. So far, Bill had been given none, except calls to meetings from imperious owls that liked to perch on the windowsill with their letter-leg stuck out, before gobbling up any treats lying around.
For this reason, Bill brought the new owl over to Llewellyn’s cage and attempted to place him in, before even glancing at the letter. It didn’t work; the cage had only been designed to hold one owl comfortably, not three large ones who were each rather indignant at this new squash. They created a chorus of indignant hoots until he gave in, bringing poor Llewellyn out to perch on his shoulder and sleep there instead.
When they were all settled happily, Bill returned to his letters, momentarily putting aside Charlie’s in favour of the Order’s doubtless more urgent one.
As expected, the crisp cream parchment was blank with a single ink smudge in the top left-hand corner. Bill moved his wand over it, then touched other random points over the page whilst muttering strings of Latin in the hope that some of them would work. Sure enough, Remus’s familiar handwriting appeared over the page eventually.
It took Bill several minutes to scan the neat script and then re-read it, trying to take in the words properly. Then he sat back and thought.
Remus wrote that three muggles, of the same family name, had gone missing: a middle-aged man and two young boys, aged six and four. They had been missing for nearly a week, and had been connected to a certain Gringotts worker.
The wife and mother was a witch, and it was therefore in doubt over whether or not her boys were magical also, as their father was obviously not. Most oddly, the woman had been reported back at work today. The family were the Yateses; the woman Mhairi Yates, Head of Vault Management. The Order wanted Bill to investigate the situation carefully, and report back anything odd. They wanted nothing offensive or large, and weren’t aiming for any large chunks of information about her. They simply wanted to know what had happened to her family without Moody ordering a full-scale kidnapping and interrogation.
Bill grinned at this task. Remus made it sound like a walk in the park, but Bill knew better. Yet, how could he resist? The fact that it was his duty to the Order was a mere detail – life at Gringotts was definitely a step down from curse-breaking in Egyptian pyramids at all hours, and needed a good dose of drama to spice things up a little.
This was sure to be a medium-sized dollop of drama, anyway.
It had been ten days since Mhairi’s disappearance, yet she had returned after five days away, with a rather long and surprisingly cheery explanation about how her boys had been seriously ill with a life-threatening disease. Dick Richmond (real name Richard Richmond, but that just sounded ridiculous), who was the Big Boss, the Chief Executive, had not been very happy with Mhairi; but since she had got straight on with her mountains of work in a ridiculously happy manner, he had accepted it with a shrug.
Fleur thought that she would never be that happy to catch up on the work if she came back to a pile of work a fraction of the size of Mhairi’s after five days off. Because Mhairi was now so joyful all the time, she had stopped drinking the coffee except in small shots. Pretty much the whole department was grumpier for it, now that the boss expected them all to drink less coffee too.
But Fleur couldn’t help wondering why it was that Mhairi had come back from this supposed nursing stint so happy. Mhairi had been neutral towards her work at the best of times. At the worst she would have angry-calm breakdowns, and mostly, you would find her frantically going through piles and piles of admin work with her hand repeatedly running through her hair and stress lines.
After all, it was a well-known fact that Mr. Richmond exploited Mhairi, Mhairi with her sense of hard work and organised mind, yet he shamelessly carried on working this way. Many times, people from her Vault Management department had told Mhairi to tell Dick to lighten her workload. She refused, though he could and would not have said no: Fleur did not understand why Mhairi did not; maybe she had a fear of confrontation? It did not fit in well with her character, this rather doormat-like attitude.
These English people, they worked from so early to so late with so few breaks! Where in France lunch would have been an hour and a half or so, these people ate their sandwiches at their desks or went around the corner to a pub for five minutes. Maybe it was just the Gringotts work ethos, as the goblins resented even loo breaks.
Overall, Fleur decided there was something fishy about Mhairi’s whole situation, and decided she wanted to find out what. As luck would have it, Mhairi turned up just a few hours later with an odd request.
“Hello, can I have the spare key to vault 206 please?” she asked cheerfully. Wanting to give her an odd look but instead keeping her eyes respectfully lowered, Fleur grabbed the key from the tray and handed it over to her without comment.
She had hoped that Mhairi would expand on the request, but instead, Mhairi thanked her and walked off.
For a moment, Fleur sat and grappled with her conscience. When you went down to a vault with a spare key, you were driven on those awful carts. Only the goblins could drive them, and because it was a really old vault Mhairi was going to – probably a Clankers one, with the dragon guarding it – you would need some goblins to get past the dragon and open it for you.
Fleur looked around for a few seconds, judged it safe, and darted out with her mug as an alibi. She would make the pretence of going to Human Resources for coffee and listen into the Goblin Resources department instead, hopefully catching Mhairi’s speech as she explained why she needed to go down to the vaults during working hours. No office employee ever did that; except for the Vault Security lot, of course.
Unfortunately, the brilliant plan didn’t work, and Fleur’s adrenaline rush was short-lived. She darted into the coffee room and stood for as long as she could outside without attracting attention so she could see Mhairi’s return, but when Mr. Richmond came along and frowned at her, she had to move along. Mhairi had already gone when she had arrived and now there was no catching her coming back.
As the bitter icing on the soggy cake, Sara Styles from Human Resources walked straight into her as she was heading back to her desk, making the coffee spill everywhere. Fleur highly doubted that the embarrassment which ensued was an accident – Sara was a prime snob from Human Resources, and not one to be crossed. She claimed to be going out with Bill Weasley, and everybody in Gringotts knew that they were an item, though Bill seemed very discreet about it.
An hour later, Fleur watched the ginger Curse-Breaker walk past again. She wouldn’t have noticed his slightly furtive behaviour if she had not been so paranoid about her own, but the way he was walking so casually and making a very slightly over-the-top show of carelessness alerted her to the fact that he was on a less-than-innocent mission.
The other thing she realised was that he was murmuring slightly under his breath, and he seemed to be saying ‘Gornuk’.
Gornuk was one of the few Higher goblins who could take customers to their vaults that required the Clankers. Fleur hated the Clankers; the nasty pieces of whirring metals that made the guarding dragon expect pain.
However, Mhairi’s key had been to a Clankers vault. It had been in the Clankers box, and Fleur had been interested as to who she would take to deter the dragon, hadn’t she? Fleur decided to take the risk and follow a second person to Goblin Resources.
Fleur hoped that this wouldn’t become a habit; she wasn’t very good with the body language lying when moving, and she didn’t want her coffee spilt this time around.
However, as she strolled behind him, saying hello to a few of the less catty English girls along the way, it all went rather smoothly in contrast to her last mission. Bill walked into the room that backed onto the grand entrance lobby of Gringotts, part of the working goblins’ chambers, and went into a corner with Gornuk. Fleur, offering a prayer of silent pleas up to Merlin, carefully disillusioned herself and waited outside the doorway. In a rare twist of fate, the two were fairly near her and she could hear every word they were saying.
“But why did she come down with you to the vault?” Weasley was asking the goblin (who was relatively friendly).
“To put a package in, and reinforce various protections, Mr. Weasley. Why else?”
“But why couldn’t you just do it?”
“It is a Clankers vault. I could have done it, of course, and even the goblins are finding it a little odd, but the Mistress of the vault allowed it and so we let her come through. There’s no more to it.”
There was a pause, then: “Which vault was it? And what package?”
“I did not see the package, and the goblins’ confidentiality prevents me from saying, sir. I am sorry,” the goblin murmured, truly sounding a little apologetic.
There was a pause, then a chair scraping against the marble floor. “Ah well, thanks Gornuk. It’s been a great help, thank you for your time.” From the slight sound of material rubbing, Fleur guessed they were shaking hands, and decided it was time to make her exit as a visible person.
Just as she started away from them, visible once more, she heard Gornuk pause and murmur a few more words that were just loud enough for her to hear.
“Oh, and Mr. Weasley… there has been some new security placed over it, so I wouldn’t be tempted to investigate.”
Bill’s answer was too quiet to be heard, but Fleur was satisfied; she had heard quite enough to be getting on with.
As she casually strolled back to her little desk, secret smirk gracing her features, she couldn’t help wondering why Weasley was interested in Mhairi’s odd vault activity too. But it wasn’t important now; she needed to get the files of the vault and work out which vault it was that Mhairi had visited, as well as what the new security files were.
It all required a little bit of social manipulation, and Fleur grinned; this, above all things, she could manage.
Chapter 4: Confrontation
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A/N: The fourth chapter is here - all French phrases are translated in the text. Hope you like these fairly drastic changes in certain relationships! Would love feedback on the new situations ;)
A week or so later, Bill came into work still frustrated. The early October wind blew around him as he went up the steps and through a smaller door, set to the side of the grand oak ones that let in regular visitors. He couldn’t help but feel as though he was missing something in this mess of an investigation – Mhairi back at work while her family had disappeared, then going down to the vaults to put a suspicious package in a Clankers vault.
None of it made sense.
Well, there was the obvious explanation that Mhairi had been Imperiused; Bill had been checking her for the signs all week. But no, she wasn’t. Then there was blackmail, which was his newest theory. Bill suspected it was that, and her family being held hostage, but there wasn’t much he could do about investigating that one, other than going to her house. If it was anyone other than this strong woman, he would have expected cracks to show in her façade – but if anyone could keep up a pretence forever, it would be Mhairi.
Almost absent-mindedly, he traipsed through the grand halls until he arrived at the Vault Security sector. Although the goblins and wizards who had first built the place hundreds of years ago had never intended the side-halls to be on display to visitors, they had designed them grandly all the same: imposing granite walls (which had been painted over several centuries ago), with minimal windows except for in the high roof. There were grand oak beams criss-crossing up there, and multiple small glass domes which let in rays of sunlight as though they were spotlights on a stage.
Bill automatically went over to the large board with outstanding vaults scrawled across it, and sighed. The Knightsbridge vault was still up there for charm- and curse-breaking so they could access the old treasure left to them. He would need to see to that one today, as it had been up there for several weeks now, and the family were becoming impatient.
Unfortunately for Bill, the Knightsbridge family were old, but not quite old enough for a dragon to guard their vault; he wouldn’t be able to see which of the doors had most recently re-formed (not that he had really expected to be able to).
In fact, none of the outstanding vaults were Clankers ones. Bill frowned for a moment as he headed off to retrieve the spare key from Fleur for the Knightsbridge vault; normally, cursed gold and jewellery was always turning up from the dark corners of Clankers vaults, and curse-breakers were called down immediately.
Then again, Clankers vaults were by far the most interesting vaults. They’d have been snapped up pretty fast.
Either way, Bill’s luck just wasn’t with him. He wouldn’t get to check for the vault which Mhairi had entered, and resigned himself to a standard morning.
Time flew past and before long, his watch was beeping with the signal for lunch – the ministry-enforced hour-long break ‘up top’, sandwiched between the two sets of four-hour shifts below the earth. Bill was just grabbing his lunch off his desk to meet his friend Andreas when there was a commotion around him.
Turning, he saw Fleur Delacour was strutting through the desks, with her long, silvery hair waving down her back, and an almost primal smirk on her face as she headed towards a random person’s desk and posed in front of it. Nearly the whole room had started watching her and her victim as the man stared hungrily at her, his jaw dropping when she tossed her head.
“Ah, bonjour… I was wondering eef you could ‘elp me wiz somezing, Meester Groves,” she asked, twirling a lock of hair, “… Jake,” she added on the end. Her voice had a sultry undertone.
The entire room of Vault Security men smirked in the most demeaning way possible as Jake winked and replied, “I’m sure I can, honey. Ask for it and I’m yours.”
She gave a wry little smile and leaned her hands on his desk, tipping her head to one side. Bill thought she must know that they were all staring at her derrière now… but maybe that was the point.
“I was ‘oping you could tell me eef there are any new enchantments on ze… dragon vaults.” Bill wondered that Jake hadn’t started drooling when she said ‘dragon’ with such a fierce emphasis. Goodness knew that man drooled over much less enchanting women than the French girl – he probably couldn’t believe his luck or his eyes.
“Um…” Jake couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful woman who was now halfway across his desk. It was as if her head was about a foot below her neck. He had been rendered speechless by her beauty at such close quarters.
A different guy from the desk next to them leaned over and said, “that’s not his department, sugar. That’s with the vault files… although dragons are definitely in my files.” He winked, despite the fact he was approximately three times her age.
Fleur smiled. “Why, merci… you ‘ave been very ‘elpful to me. But now, I must go, sadly… I weel be back, later.” Bill watched the French girl peel herself off the table and saunter back out, winking at the two she had talked to and blowing them a kiss by the door.
Bill frowned, thinking. The sexy woman who had been provoking the two men she had talked to did not match up with the tired and frustrated girl he had seen when he had tried to strike up more a conversation with her a fortnight back. Admittedly, Fleur must get pretty much the whole world getting their spare keys from her, but had he really been that bad to talk to? His conversation attempt had been pathetic, but it had been a dare from ‘the lads’ to see how she reacted if he flirted.
It had felt strange to be acting so arrogant and assuming at the time, but it seemed to work for other people with beautiful girls. Out in Egypt, the burning sun had scorched away these sort of mind games that ran amok between English people, and arriving back to a society so built on second-guessing was difficult for him. It was like trying to find your land legs after months at sea; the ground felt so very hard and unyielding, and you lurched all over the place while trying to steady your whirling mind.
Jealous, Bill? He heard Charlie’s voice echo through his head with a laugh. He pushed the thought away; she had probably – no, almost certainly – wanted something. What had she asked Jake for again? He tried to think back as he started to follow Fleur out into the corridor.
It was… it was… new enchantments on the ‘dragon vaults’. It took a moment for Bill to wonder why she was asking that, and think about where he had heard information similar to that before when… Mhairi. A change in Clankers vaults?
Fleur knew, somehow, that something was up with Mhairi too. Only she hadn’t been sent on a mission by Dumbledore.
He sped up almost absentmindedly, catching up enough to see her walk into the Goblin Resources room. It definitely wasn’t where she worked; what did she want from Keeley and Jayna, the two full-time employees in there? She was shaking herself and pulling her blouse further up and her skirt down, making the outfit a lot more acceptable for the workplace, with a disgusted grimace on her face.
Bill carefully walked up to the doorway and stood just outside, listening to the almost silent Goblin Resources department as Fleur tapped her way over to a desk. “Good morning, Meess Davies,” she said politely.
Miss Davies… was that Keeley or Jayna?
“Oh, morning, Miss Delacour! Sorry I didn’t see you there… what is it you need?”
“I was wondering eef there ‘ave been any new security spells put over ze Clankers vaults?” she asked politely. The contrast between the two attitudes in the two different areas was astounding, really.
“Um… give me a moment.” Bill heard the shifting of files from who must have been Keeley, with the awful, huge record-books of the vaults. For several moments there was nothing except the flicking of heavy pages as she searched through the files.
Keeley’s was an odd job – she was somewhere between the Goblin Resource and Vault Management offices, with a touch of Vault Security. Nobody could really describe what her job was. But because the Goblin Resource office only had a few people in it, and ample space for desks and storage, she had been placed in there.
Mostly, Keeley seemed to keep the files of which goblins had taken who to which vault, which had to be why Fleur had come to her. It was quite impressive that she knew to come to Keeley already, and not just walk into the Vault Management sector, which was probably the largest, right next to Vault Transfers. Both had quite a lot of people working in them, but there couldn’t have been more than about 200 workers altogether in Gringotts. Most people would have gone to other departments for this information – Fleur was canny to come straight here.
Eventually, Keeley thumped the large and heavy book back up onto the bulging shelves behind her and gave a sigh. “No, absolutely none. Sorry. There’s not even been a curse-breaker down there this week!”
That much was true; Keeley’s records were up-to-date if that nugget of information was anything to go by.
“Ah, well… thank y-you, Miss Davies,” Fleur said, struggling to form the y, and started back towards the door where Bill was standing.
He knew now what was going to happen; she was going to come out and see him. He wanted it to happen, in some irrational way. The only thing that was in doubt was how he acted… Bill’s thoughts momentarily flashed over how she had mysteriously found out that Mhairi had been down to a vault with a goblin when she wasn’t meant to, how Mhairi had placed a suspicious object within that vault, how she knew it was a Clankers one and had decided to ask about any new enchantments.
She had listened to his and Gornuk’s conversation, he was sure of it. Otherwise how had she known? He could feel his temper rising and his ears reddening as he thought about her listening to his conversation, which had been for the Order, for goodness’ sake! And she had not asked him about anything, she had simply slunk off to manipulate the other idiots in his department about it instead. What a cowardly sneak – he was starting to see where the ice queen reputation came from.
Bill willed himself to calm down – he was twenty-four, not sixteen, and needed to stay on top if he wanted to conceal his Order investigations. He needed to manipulate her right back, damnit!
And then Fleur came out of the office, looking dejected, and walked past before halting in her tracks and whipping around with a look to kill on her face. Her eyes were narrowed to defensive cat-like slits, and her lips were pouted in restrained anger.
He may as well start it before she did; they both knew what the other had done now, and the cards were on the table. “You listened to my conversation with Gornuk,” he accused.
She whipped her hair back. “I did, but eet was an accident. Why are you now following me?”
He narrowed his eyes at the girl and grabbed her wrist to stop her stalking off. “No it wasn’t. You’re trying to investigate Mhairi, and you think that because you listened to me first, I won’t follow you when you walk in to my sector and charm the pants off Jake before following his instructions!”
Did she know about the family’s disappearance? Bill wondered, but he couldn’t be sure either way. Better to leave it as an untouched matter.
“I was already investigating ‘er, after she took ze spare key to ze dragon vault and disappeared for five days wizout an excuse!” Fleur retorted angrily, her r’s rolling by accident as she struggled to regain control of her voice.
Bill shook his head, trying extremely hard not to blow up. “Look, just drop it now. I’ll find out why she went and I’ll tell you when I found out. Leave it to me, yeah?”
Fleur stopped in the middle of the corridor they had come to. “Eh… non. I weell do as I wish, because you ‘ave no right to tell me what to do!” She wrenched her wrist from his and stormed off, leaving Bill to stare at her retreating back.
That could have gone better, all things considered. But at least he knew that she hadn’t decided to investigate purely because he was, small mercy that it may be.
He would have liked to stand pensively in the corridor until his watch beeped with the signal for the end of his hour, but Bill was forced to make a quick exit back the way he came. Sara Styles was coming out of the Human Resources office along from him; she was awfully clingy, that woman.
She flung herself into the chair with much more force than it needed, and heaved a large sigh. Personally, she had thought her investigations were going rather well before he decided to come along and mess them all up! As if she would only decide to investigate Mhairi because she had heard his conversation… honestly. That Vault Security lot really were just as arrogant as she had thought.
Fleur was rather enjoying the little rant to herself when an owl swooped in and started to hoot at her. Frowning a little, Fleur bent forwards to examine the owl’s eye markings, before grinning, her bad mood pushed to the side for the moment.
This was Etoile, her sister’s owl, who she had bought just last year for when they went to Hogwarts! The creamy feathers and beautiful sheen had given her away at first, but the star-like markings around the owl’s gorgeous eyes confirmed it.
Eagerly, Fleur snatched and ripped open the letter, to find a note from Gabrielle that was rather long, with a long piece from her beloved Papa behind. There was nothing from Maman.
Fleur ignored the lump in her throat and started to read her sister’s beautiful French script. How good it felt to read French for once, to hear of her sister who she had loved to talk to, to read the beautiful handwriting! She hadn’t even realised how much she missed her sister until then, as France and all of Fleur’s emotions had been shoved into a drawer in her mind that she did not like to look at.
Now, Fleur smiled as she read the childish but lovely letter. Gabrielle wrote several paragraphs on how upset she was, and how she missed Fleur, and asking her to make up with Maman. She poured her heart out over the rest of her life – English lessons at Beauxbatons, some annoying Henri boy that kept pinching her and trying to put leg-locker charms on her, how she enjoyed being a second-year. She said that the new Head Girl wasn’t a patch on Fleur, and she worried that Fleur wouldn’t be home for Christmas, and she begged for news.
Her father was worried about her – he asked her to come back and talk things over, because it was such a sharp and painful exit. He said her mother had simply been worried about her staying in England because her year there so far had been plain hectic. Fleur couldn’t help but frown at that – her mother had meant all of it! Just because her over-protective nature had been transformed into anger for that time didn’t mean it was ok, because the rage had been for a good thing. And her Papa made such excuses about ‘Veela Grand-Mère’ and ‘example set’ and so on, but Fleur couldn’t help feeling that she and Gabrielle were in the same position as her Maman Apolline had been – both were a quarter Veela with a more touchy mother!
Honestly, if it wasn’t for Tante Isabelle, Apolline would have come down much harder on them both when they did something wrong. Many times Fleur had thanked Merlin that her aunt lived with them on and off, depending on the state of her marriages.
It wasn’t worth getting wound up over; she was in a separate country now, and did not have to do anything she did not want to. She would write a polite declination to her Papa later on, but scribble everything to Gabrielle now.
And so Fleur tried to work out all of her anger concerning her situation by writing a good three feet to Gabrielle, about how she missed her, the Mhairi situation, how Bill was accusing her, how odd England was, and how she missed France, but her little sister especially.
Lastly, with a sore and aching hand, she wrote, ‘Demain, chère Gabrielle, je visiterai chez Mhairi, alors je peux voir sa famille… je pense que ce sera très intéressant! A bientôt, ta Fleur xxx’.
And she would. Tomorrow, Fleur would visit Mhairi’s house so she could see her at home with her family... and it would be more interesting than Fleur could possibly have anticipated.
Chapter 5: Allied
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A/N: So this chapter has dodgy flow and mismatching sentences and interesting viewpoint changes... even after editing a couple of times, I'm not doing very successfully, so this will be edited later! I just wanted to get it out so badly :3
Chapter 4: Allied
“Excuse me, madame? Where is our food? We ordered it hours ago!”
A middle-aged woman with an impatient and cross look on her face was gesturing to herself and her husband, and glaring at Fleur as though it was precisely her fault. It wasn’t, of course, and Fleur countered the supposed attack with a lazy flick of the eyes up and down the plump woman. It wasn’t even a calculated move, but after a gruelling five-hour shift that was really unfair when she had already done ten hours at Gringotts, Fleur was on autopilot.
“Je suis très désolée, madame,” she apologized with an icy smile, and a tone that rightly suggested that she wasn’t sorry at all, “I will ‘ave a word wiz ze kitchens. Zey are certainly making ze final touches right now.” Stalking off before the woman could harass her further, she could feel the eyes of the restaurant on her as she moved with practiced skill between the tables.
The feeling was not an unusual one, or one she was unused to – however, Fleur was wishing, not for the first time, that she could force the stares back from her by sheer willpower. She hadn’t been in a playful or flirtatious mood for months, and now even her last reserves of patience had been worn down.
Stalking into the kitchen, Fleur merely sent an icy glare over to the apprentice that was taking care of the obnoxious couple’s meal (receiving a cowering plead of a look in return), before going into the tiny office behind the rack of carving knives. She glared no less while squinting at the chalked table on the blackboard, which timetabled all the waitress’ and chefs’ shifts for the coming fortnight.
Annoyingly, she was meant to be on the exact same shift of tonight tomorrow too – just when she’d wanted to visit her cheery boss and the infamous happy family. Equally annoyingly, La Maison did not take well to their staff swapping around the shifts on this chalkboard.
Fleur considered leaving the mission to lie for a moment, but decided that it would be stupide to pass up an occasion where Mhairi would certainly be at home. Swiftly, she rubbed out her own name and swapped it for the apprentice that she had glared at earlier, Jack – or rather, Jaques, as they all had to be called a French version of their own name according to the manager.
It was in order to maintain the sophisticated French atmosphere, and Fleur had only just bitten down on a scathing observation that being forced to rename fellow employees would create more confusion than atmosphere. Besides, real French restaurants did not serve food like this. The dishes that she relayed backwards and forwards were but English interpretations of the fine French food she had always eaten!
Stalking back out of the office, Fleur was pulled out of her food-centred reverie by a shout from the fish chef – Monsieur Noire was what they all had to call him, and despite the madly curling, sooty hair that escaped from his white hat and the blushing-ham appearance, he was among the most formidable of La Maison’s employees.
“Oi, Madamoiselle Fleur! What do you theenk you are doing, changing the timetable around?” he shouted over the din, impressive French accent catching her ear before the words were swallowed up by the metallic racket.
“I must work tomorrow, Monsieur, though I am very sorry for ‘aving to change ze times around so late in advance,” she simpered, “I weell be working to make up for ze hours.”
He glared at her suspiciously, slicing several salmon heads off without looking. “You ‘ad better. Zis restaurant can do wizout lazy waitresses,” he threatened, before looking back down to his working.
It was a clear dismissal; Fleur was free to go to Mhairi’s the following night.
The next evening saw Fleur standing outside Mhairi’s home at 116 Clarence Road, shivering slightly in her ice-blue coat that wasn’t thick enough, and a raspberry-coloured scarf that twisted around her throat in as artful a way possible. Because her presence was unannounced, Fleur knew that Mhairi would probably be in the middle of doing something as she arrived, but had been confident that she would at least be home for a mid-week family dinner.
Unfortunately, Fleur was wrong – all the lights were off and there were no signs of anyone being in. It was a shame, since just earlier today Mhairi had confessed happily to Fleur that she was having an evening in with her husband and children.
Maybe Fleur would have caught her if she’d arrived earlier; after all, it was half past eight, and children everywhere should have been climbing into bed right about now. But instead, Fleur was stood in the semi-darkness with her hands shoved in her pockets, standing outside the scarlet-painted front door and staring up at the sky while the wind blustered about her, a bite in its gusts.
Fleur loved to watch the sky. So many emotions could be played across its surface; so many colours, and so varied according to the time of day! Nobody but she ever seemed to notice, and she almost couldn’t believe the world’s casual dismissal of the sky and its beauty.
Right now, coal grey clouds were scudding across the pale orange as it faded to pale blue, fading to navy. They were contoured, like huge candyfloss rocks floating against a beautiful lake. Staring up at them, it was easy to get lost in flights of fancy and imaginings of other times and places.
Snapping out of the dream, Fleur stepped forward and pressed the muggle doorbell next to the shiny number 116. Again, there was a sharp ringing sound from inside, but nobody came to the door. It was obvious they were out, despite Mhairi’s previous happy assurances of a nice night in.
Fleur frowned and stepped backwards, deciding to try again another night. They just weren’t in, and she had no wish to contract frostbite whilst standing here waiting for her, even though it had been such a hassle to get here in the first place. Still, it wasn’t as though Mhairi had some sort of time limit on her – Fleur could take as long as she liked, and would still enjoy the night off for what it was.
She was just turning around to face the gravel path that lead back to the road, mind made up, when there was an ominous rustling from the bush to her right. Fleur stopped, and so did the bush. It was under a window to the house; was there a burglar? It was probably just a cat, out for a twilight walk, in all honesty. However, her assurances didn’t prevent the hairs on the back of her neck from prickling… it just didn’t feel right, not right at all.
Slowly, Fleur closed her fingers around her pocketed wand, and started to draw out her hand when there was a sigh from behind her. She whipped around, peering fearfully into the gloom and hoping she’d just imagined it all – that the wind was the culprit, and nothing was going to happen, it was just the sky affecting her again. It wouldn’t be the first time.
She had finally relaxed and turned around to walk away when there was a tap on her shoulder. She leapt around, brandishing her wand in front of her, as if poking someone in the eye might make the scares go away. The alarm bells that had been tinkling eerily in her mind before were suddenly madly resounding around her head, and Fleur could feel her heartbeat much more strongly than before.
Instead of scraping a face, her wand hit another wand, and for a moment she froze, stunned, before the end of the blocking wand lit up. It brought another face just a foot from hers into shadow and light.
“You might not want to stay out here; it’s a cold evening,” Bill Weasley pointed out.
Fleur unfroze from her genuinely scared expression as he frowned suddenly, carving her face into an expression of cold displeasure. “Zat is why I was just leaving. Zere is nobody in ‘ere,” she added with a scowl and a gesture towards the semi-detached house. For the instant that Bill had knocked down her barriers, she had seemed awfully vulnerable, and he wondered for a moment why she was so unpleasant all the time. The way that she was talked about – but no. That was purely because of his weak co-workers’ resolve, and easily-turned heads.
Realising that he was mentally rambling, Bill steered his thoughts away from the general opinion of Mademoiselle Delacour and concentrated on what she was actually interrupting (an investigation, as opposed to gossiping). Honestly, what was she doing here? She obviously had no idea that Mhairi’s family were missing, and been pretty much sending up a signal to anybody tracking the house that someone was asking for these muggles.
However, Bill still had to resist the urge to half-smile at her comment. “Yeah. And nobody’s coming back, either.” He turned around without looking at her and headed towards the front door, knowing exactly what the stubborn French girl would do, and that she really shouldn’t.
Sure enough, as he used a variety of curse detection spells and unlocked the door, Fleur came up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder imperiously. Touché, he thought; he really should have seen that one coming. “And what is zat supposed to mean?” she demanded angrily.
“It means that Mhairi’s not here, and she hasn’t been for quite a long time either,” he replied, thankful that the range of detection spells had told him that much – he now didn’t have to explain to this amateur how he knew that the family were missing. After all, this was technically against wizarding law, and Order missions were not to be taken lightly either.
Fleur was silent behind him as the door swung open and he silently, slowly stepped over the threshold, checking about himself. He needed to find DNA traces, evidence, blood - anything to test and give the Order clues as to where the missing muggles were, and what had happened to them.
Turning around in the hallway, there was nothing except a blast mark above the door. It was a nasty, crumpled, black hole in the vintage pink-and-white wallpaper, and seemed so very out-of-place. Slowly, Bill reached up and traced around the black scorch on the wall. There was no method in his slow circling, yet Fleur stepped in and watched his finger trace it too. There was a hypnotic quality to it.
For a moment, Bill had a moment of perfect clarity, wondering what the two of them must look like from the outside. A curse-breaker on a mission and an angry French part-Veela, neither of them really knowing the other, and a strange silence as they both stood in the entrance.
Maybe it was the stillness of the house, and maybe Fleur was feeling it as she froze. Maybe it was the slight breeze, and maybe she was breathing in the lifted dust motes as they swirled. Maybe it was the sudden feeling that came upon them both; a feeling of abandoned chaos, as out of Bill’s peripheral vision, he caught traces of a violent mess.
It all seemed frozen, he realised. It was as though time had stopped, and they were in the middle of a freeze-frame. Any minute now, they would walk around the corner, to find Mhairi frozen in a position of wagging her finger at her boys… Bill frowned, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling with the anticipation of it all. He had always been much more at home in the heat, with fire.
But then, this mission wasn’t about staying within his comfort zone - and he shouldn’t have to remind himself of it, either. Bill stepped away, letting his hand fall, and thawing the sudden frost.
Making his way to the right of the stairs that were directly in front of them, he entered what had to be a kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-sitting-room. It took up most of the downstairs, and was littered with toy trains and cars amongst soft quaffles and a tiny broomstick strewn at one end; the evidence of family, young children, was obvious.
Bill bent down to the ground, carefully sweeping his finger along the carpet, but Fleur swished past him carefully and walked to the table. He looked up to see her gagging, moving backwards with a disgusted look on her face.
“Ze smell… zis food is, uh, not right,” she said with a hand over her mouth and nose.
“Gone off?” Bill tried, wondering how much she would take in of the whole situation, and she nodded. “Anything else you can see for me?”
Immediately, the French girl put her hands on her hips and took a defensive stance. “For you? I am trying to help, too – she was and ees my boss! I am seeing for me and for ‘er!”
Bill grinned. Her stubbornness was strangely endearing, or at least proving to him that she was more than a pretty face. “Ok, if you say so… what do you know?”
Fleur sniffed, moving away from the table with disdain, and said, “Mhairi disappears zen returns, to put a zuzpicious package in a dragon vault. Keeley says zere are no new enchantments. Oui?”
Bill didn’t answer, instead turned his head to the side as he stepped carefully through the throng of toys. There was a pattern, he could see that much, and a higher density of crashed cars in a couple of places. If he just turned his head like that…
“Is zis not right?” Fleur demanded behind him, and he absentmindedly nodded, hearing her sigh, then ask, “what are you making?”
“Doing. It’s what am I doing,” he told her, moving backwards to the doorway before tracing the path through the toys with his wand. This was where the door opened and then the chairs were pushed to just so, and then that was where Mhairi grabbed her wand and kicked aside toys to stand in front of her family… and then there were obvious plough tracks through the mess, where the ‘visitors’ walked to them. Mhairi had tried to hex them here and it had missed and shot into the hall, leaving that scorch mark that they had examined before… and then there was a speared car, that must have been from her signature stilettos.
Whoever said that fashion wasn’t useful for anything and that men didn’t notice was wrong, Bill thought, ignoring the fact that he had only noticed because he had nearly been hit by a flying stiletto heel of hers before.
Then… he frowned, unsure if it was all just Mhairi’s kids playing. If he was right, that violence had been used, it was plain to see from here where her legs had been brought around, presumably when she’d been seized (it wasn’t that big a room) and either side were scattered arcs of cars and trains, where maybe someone else had kicked all they could.
In a perverse sort of way, it looked like a snow-angel, with sweeping arcs hollowed out in the shape of a person. Only instead of a sibling tugging on his arm with eager anticipation of his praise for it, there was a horrible sense of foreboding and naivety on his part.
Further along, there was a large outline of squashed cars on the floor, as if one of catchers had been punched in the face and fallen; then the last piece of evidence Bill could see was a long scratch across the wall. Paint had come away in a smooth movement, right next to a patch where it looked as though someone had tried to claw it off. No other spot in the room had wallpaper trying to detach itself from the wall, or ragged scratches in several long lines next to each other.
Bill carefully picked his way through the wreckage to that point on the wall and finally saw exactly what he was looking for. Blood.
Behind him, he heard Fleur sigh loudly and say, “Look, do you want to share ‘elp on zis case? Or eef you want, we can work togezzer on zis?” She didn’t sound very pleased at the prospect, more annoyed that she had to suggest it in the first place. It was all too evident that she just wanted his inferred information and then to scarper.
But he wasn’t about to let that happen. How insipid did she think he was? “Yeah, sure. It does make sense to have two people on a case and not just two separate ones.”
“Good.” Fleur sounded satisfied. Little did she know how her manipulation skills, that seemed to not work on him, would be of a great use when he could pit them against other people. “Well zen, what are you… doing?”
“Collecting evidence,” he said measuredly as he pulled out a glass phial from inside his leather jacket and moved his wand-tip over the blood, occasionally patting the edge as if it were a cigarette and he was dropping ash.
There was very little blood to begin with on the wall, and now, Bill had pretty much cleared up any evidence. Between the capturers who had evidently attacked Mhairi and her family and the Order, nothing left remained to track with. He just needed to clear up after himself.
Carefully, he made the paint knit itself together again and stood up, placing the phial back in an inside pocket to send to Snape later for Blood Tracking, and keeping a poker face at Fleur’s barely controlled rage. It had sprung up fast, he realised.
“Wheech ees?” she said through gritted teeth, sounding almost Australian as her French came out more with the temper. It took Bill a moment to work out what she had even said, and then another to remember back through their patchy conversation.
“Nothing. Now, when the opportunity next crops up, ask Mhairi about her family. We need to see why she wasn’t here, yeah? But don’t mention we were here. Can you even do subtle? Not such a display as what happened yesterday?” he added.
Fleur huffed, storming back out of the house and onto Clarence Road, leaving him to accept that as a yes.
It looked like Bill had just found himself an unwilling partner-in-crime.
Chapter 6: Offer
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A/N: I hope this isn't too much of a fast move, or too surprising! Translations are at the bottom :)
“Hi Fleur! How are you doing?” Mhairi was rather cheerful as Fleur came up to her, smile in place. She was taking her sweet time about asking Mhairi for the information that she and Bill wanted, because he was so hypocritical and she had an insatiable urge to annoy him right now. However, her curiosity had got the better of her and she had sent Bill a little aeroplane to tell him she was going.
Naturally, that meant that as she sat down on the chair in front of Mhairi’s desk, she saw ginger hair whip out of sight around the corner. Fleur tried to keep a grimace and frown from sliding onto her face. She didn’t need constant watching, as if she were a rogue toddler!
She tried to push the thought out of her mind and concentrate on the conversation. It required delicate handling. “I am good, just a bit tired. How are you?” Fleur was sipping her coffee and leaning back, body language that told people she was relaxed, off-duty, and wanting a chat.
“Ah, good… I’m not so bad m’self. I’ve got Phil coming home early tonight, so we’ve got another family night in!” She beamed happily, and carried on shuffling the files around at the same time.
Fleur smiled back again. This was almost too easy. “Ah yes, ‘ow did your last one go? I know you were eexcited about zat.”
“It was lovely, actually, because we so rarely get to eat together as a family… other than at weekends, I mean. But we’re hoping that it can happen most Tuesdays, you know? And I might even manage to get Phil to cook for me,” she winked.
Fleur laughed, the tinkling sound coming out perfectly natural. She was cut off abruptly, however, when Sara Styles from Human Resources walked in on them without knocking and stopped short at the sight of Fleur, her eyes narrowed at Fleur’s slightly smug and very innocent smile that was aimed at her.
“Oh. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt any… catch-ups, but I have some more important issues that need sorting,” she said in an acidic tone, before talking pointedly to Mhairi. “Do you need any more people on the Vault Selection then?”
Mhairi just said, “No, thanks. I thought I told you it was fine?”
Sara paused, mind obviously whirring, and then smiled a lipglossed grin. It came out looking as fake as her hair dye. “Oh, good; I just wanted to re-iterate. I need to find Bill now – toodle-oo.” And she strutted out with hips swinging and blonde bob shining, leaving Mhairi shaking her own brown-black, wavy and thick hair at her.
“Honestly, that woman is so over-protective of her relationship with Bill Weasley, it’s ridiculous.”
“Are zey offeecially going out, zen?” Fleur asked carefully, knowing that office romances could be rather delicate at the best of times, and also that Bill was listening outside when she didn’t want him to.
Mhairi threw her hands up in the air. “You know, I always thought so, but the attachment seems pretty much on her side.”
“Well… back to your family deenners, were you in ze ‘ouse last n- ”
“Sorry to interrupt! I’m sorry, I just really need to talk to Miss Delacour about a key that I think has gone missing,” Bill declared, bursting into the room and grabbing Fleur by the wrist. Both Mhairi and Fleur jumped backwards.
Fleur was too shocked to do anything except shove her coffee at Mhairi before he jerked her out of the office and into the bustling corridor. Unfortunately for him, she recovered her wits rather fast but allowed herself to be towed into a tiny file office where all the records of previous workers were kept, through all the centuries, with their names and a basic job description crammed in beside thousands upon thousands of others… and with several mops and buckets sat casually in the corner.
It was basically a broom closet, and Fleur had to fight to keep the smile from lifting the corners of her mouth as Bill locked the door, lit up his wand, and turned to her with a mixture of anger, annoyance and relief painted clearly on his face.
For some reason, Fleur was internally giggling about the irony of broom closets and people who annoyed each other being locked inside, but kept her expression angry. Exactly what had he been thinking, ruining their investigation with a stupid explosion like that?
But Bill didn’t seem to realise how well she had been handling the situation. “Honestly, what were you thinking? We’re meant to be undercover here! That could have blown our cover completely.”
“But we are fine, I zink. Nobody ‘as seen,” she replied stiffly, her body taut.
“Really? Because it seemed like it was all about to go downhill to me.”
Fleur huffed. “Did you really theenk that I could not ‘andle myself – and Mhairi – zere? Eet was a deleecate conversation, but I know exactly ‘ow to do thees! You seemply ruined eet!”
He paused, considering. “Well, I suppose that you are rather good at this manipulation thing. But it’s still a good thing that I got you pulled out just in time,” he winked.
Fleur found herself smiling, at her success, at the irony, and at his constant flirtatiousness. She wouldn’t be gaining any further ground with Bill’s admission to the interruption. “Mais oui. Ozzerwise we would both be… I zink you say… up shut creek wizzout a cradle?”
At that, Bill couldn’t help laughing. Fleur was pleased her partner-in-crime seemed to find her bad English funny, and laughed herself. “Something like that,” he got out between chuckles.
Bill was still chuckling when he made it to the Vault Maintenance: Cart Depot entrance. Fleur was quite the firecracker when she wanted to be, and she seemed so stroppily confident compared to anyone else. Somehow, she seemed to be able to hit her point home without losing pride or your respect.
As he signed back in on the board and waited for a service goblin to drive him down, Bill couldn’t help imagining her outside of work. It was purely because of this whole investigation thing they had going, he promised himself. After all, why else would Fleur Delacour want to see him outside?
Or, more to the point, why did he want to see her?
The answer came from that part of his brain that sounded suspiciously like a mental Charlie: because somebody’s got a schoolboy crush on the pwetty French girlie!
Bill mentally shoved the voice. Nobody should ever be calling Fleur a ‘pwetty French girlie’; ‘stunning’, maybe, or, ‘coldly beautiful’, or….
Oh, Merlin. Bill paused, his eyes fixed on the ceiling. Pwetty French girlie? Coldly beautiful? Other, progressively more odd yet accurate, descriptions?
He really did have a schoolboy crush on her. His mind never usually came out with such complete guff, and while he normally prided himself on playing such encounters as cool and collected as was humanely possible, he could sense himself becoming unnaturally attached to her.
This was stupid, and it had to stop, however torn and pulled he felt.
But still, the only thoughts that preoccupied his mind in the cart ride down were ones of the degrading manner everyone else seemed to treat her in.
Over the next few weeks, Fleur and Bill only got to talk a few more times. It would happen whenever he dropped by her desk to fetch a key, or she sent him a note about another failed attempt to talk their way into Keeley’s files (just to check, of course), or when Bill tried, and failed, to get Gornuk to speak to him.
Of course, Bill’s attempts in that quarter had been very subtle because he had not wanted to ruin the friendship the two had – well, as close to friendship as goblin and human could have.
And even though Fleur never went to visit him, for fear of having his whole Department explode, he came to visit her often enough to chat, even introducing his friend Andreas from the Vault Transfers: German Sector. Andreas seemed honest and nice, but a little unfriendly. She assumed that was just her French view colouring this perfectly normal German, though, as Bill didn’t make any sign that he felt the same way.
However, it was when Gabrielle wrote her back, in one of her many letters, that Fleur realised she seemed to be giving rather mixed messages about Bill. It wasn’t such a deviation from his true attitude, actually; he was irritating when he was refusing to tell her things, but amusing to be around when he was including her in jokes and information. He wasn’t half as eager as most boys were around her, either – he seemed to appreciate but not give into her charms. That simply made him all the more vexing to her.
It was eight days after the cupboard incident when Fleur was walking along a corridor to talk to Jayna about some vault swaps, and Bill swerved into the steady flow of people with surprising speed, towing her in the other direction.
Fleur was too busy wondering why he was doing this, what it was about, and if most meetings required her to be pulled away by him, before lo and behold, she found herself in the very same broom cupboard she had been in before with him.
As she opened her mouth to speak, he jumped ahead. “Didn’t Mhairi ask you for the spare key to the vault originally?”
Fleur blinked before closing her mouth. “Eh… oui, je pense que…” Thinking so wasn’t going to be enough. She tried again. “But I do not zink zat I can remember… there are so many requests, all day long, and I did not take a note.”
Internally cursing herself, Fleur couldn’t believe her stupidity. It hadn’t been that hard a task, and she’d already told herself at the time to investigate! She felt like hitting herself over the head. She had let them both down, and somehow, stupidity seemed the worst sin of all at that moment.
“Hey, it’s ok. Don’t worry about it,” Bill said, his voice suddenly gentle instead of whirring on higher subjects. “Maybe you need a distraction to help it come back. How’s about dinner at eight on Friday, The Fireworks? I’ll see you there,” he said with a wink, before leaving her to stand in the cupboard and consider the irony of the situation, consoling herself that he hadn’t given her time to refuse. There wasn't anything she could've done. But still, an ache of sadness and frustration swept through her momentarily.
Well, that would be the end of her improved relationship with her fellow investigator, then. Wasn’t it always the end? If she dated, it wasn’t serious – or not on her part. Fleur didn’t go out with half as many boys as the rumours would suggest, but she got through a fair number of the better-looking and richer ones. The rumours weren’t exactly bad anyway; it was well-known among Beauxbatons students that she kept on her high horse when playing with her line of suitors, and refused to do anything more than kiss them.
Tante Isabelle had taught her the English phrase ‘Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ right from when she was young. The twelve-year-old Fleur had solemnly taken in it and engraved this lesson, along with so many others, onto her heart so it may never be broken. In fact, Tante Isabelle had taught her most things she came to know about men; it was she who instructed Fleur in how to use them for her own higher climbing, but never to let herself be used by them.
Tante Isabelle had also taught her that because of her beauty, men would lust after her as much as women would hate her. She should flaunt that; she could get to a better place if she used her beauty and persuasive skills to her advantage. But if she cheapened herself, she would not be the one in control anymore, they would be.
In fact, it was Tante Isabelle who had taught her most about life. Between her Tante and her Maman, Fleur had received a rather nice education of life; Maman teaching her cooking and sewing and the like, and her Tante teaching her ‘business’. Maman had often argued with her sister about how manipulative she was making her daughter, but Isabelle had always argued back that Fleur was going to be targeted anyway. Isabelle had always been far more slack and easy-going around her nieces rather than her sister.
When Friday rolled around, Fleur had taken the evening off from La Maison much to the manager’s disgust, and was lamenting the future loss of comradeship from Bill as she dressed herself in a short black skirt and strappy silver top. Between the two, it displayed her legs to their full advantage but didn’t show off her cleavage – again, leaving her in control.
Fleur was on autopilot as she did her make-up to perfection while the clock chimed eight. She Apparated at precisely twelve minutes past eight, all ready to offer fake apologies. Every time, the boy fell for it in his eagerness to please her.
This time, when she arrived outside the restaurant, she was kept waiting for exactly seven minutes until Bill sauntered up with a leather jacket and nicely-fitted jeans. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” he said with a grin.
Fleur flashed a dazzling smile back. “Ah, eet ees okay, I have only just arrived – I was worried I would keep you waiting.”
Two could play at that game, and this was one Fleur never lost.
oui, je pense que – yes, I think so
Mais oui - but yes
Chapter 7: Dates
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A/N: An update that didn’t take a year? Only ELEVEN days? Shocking! But you have the lovely Helen (AC_rules) to thank for that; she cajoled me into forcing myself to write this, and even nominated Enchanté for Ravenclaw SOTM! The title is now proudly displayed in the summary, and this is the first chapter of this SOTM-winning story :D Can anyone else tell I’m mega excited?
Also, this chapter is rather a mixed bag of results. Including the ending… Enjoy ~
Several hours later, Fleur sat down heavily on her old sofa and massaged her temples. Her first date with Bill had not, as such, gone badly – other than the fact it was harder to keep control than she was used to. Bill was very charming and handsome in a more adventurous way than mysterious or pretty, and could turn a situation around with a devious wink. He treated her like an equal, which had been surprising at first considering how patronising he’d once been.
In fact, to her surprise, it had all been a lot more relaxed and enjoyable than many dates she had been on. It was quite an amusing pastime, this competition to see who could take control of the situation; if only they had run out of things to say, it would have been so much easier to swoop in and snatch control! She was unused to the equal grounding, and it disturbed Fleur more than she liked to think about.
They had mutually agreed to a nice, windy park date next weekend. It would be the start of November, and Fleur had (at that point) taken control by explaining how much she loved winter picnics.
However, the entire evening had played out as an unsatisfying battle of the wits. After a slightly awkward start, where they had both measured the other up as Bill offered to take her coat while a waiter flapped around attempting to do the same, Fleur had smiled regally and let him do so. Never let it be said that Fleur Delacour was ungenerous – and let it always be said that she was dangerous.
However, from the moment their eyes had met, Fleur had known that every move had to be calculated. While they ordered their starter and began to eat, Bill had stolen control by entertaining her with an anecdote of his brother Charlie.
“…and then, he was just lying there, with the chickens still scratching all over him!”
“What deed you do?” Fleur asked, widening her eyes as she elegantly spooned some more soup, and wracked her brains for a way to turn the tables.
“We ran. There was not much else we could do, really, since Charlie can run faster than anyone else I know with twice the strength. I haven’t seen him in too long. But,” he cut her off as she tried to interrupt, “I don’t know anything about your family! Tell me about them.” It was a command, a clear instruction that she was doing as he said.
Fleur felt her insides clench. She could do better than this – it had all been easy for too long, and a challenge was what she needed.
She sighed dramatically, handing her soup bowl to the waiter with a careless wink. “My leetle Gabrielle, she was so upset when I left ‘er. Eet pains me every day to not see ‘er, and I so ‘ope to viseet Beauxbatons soon.”
“But why can’t you see her already? I – ”
“She ‘as written to me every day since I left ‘ome, saying I should not ‘ave gone,” Fleur carried on a little louder, drowning Bill out, “but I would always ‘ave left ‘ome. Maman, she was not so ‘appy, and Papa ees steel… not-traught?” Fleur was forced to stop through her lack of vocabulary.
Bill frowned for a moment. “Distraught? But why were they not so happy to have you leave in the first place?”
Fleur mentally cursed. She had been sincerely hoping that Bill forgot that part and let her talk about her family, letting her keep control. “Zey deed not want me to leave after all. But zat ees not ze point, as I came to Eengland anyway. Why deed you come back from Egypt?”
“I was on holiday to watch the Triwizard Tournament, but after hearing what Harry said… other options seemed…” he trailed off. Fleur inhaled sharply at his words, heart suddenly beating at twice the normal rate. Bill had heard and believed Harry Potter too? She had known he was the older brother of Harry’s best friend, but that guaranteed nothing.
Then again, she was simply the older competitor of Harry, and she believed him. Glancing up at Bill, her ice-blue eyes met his warm brown ones, and instead of glancing away immediately and sipping her wine with a careless air, she held his gaze until the waiter arrived with their main courses.
Fleur could hardly remember what she had ordered; it turned out to be a crab dish, as she had not eaten proper seafood since she was last at Beauxbatons, roughly a year ago. However, she could not relish the subtle flavourings as she would usually. She felt shaken for reasons unknown, as Bill attempted to talk about his time in Egypt, but ended up repeating himself a little nonsensically. At least, she was rather sure that, “we went… tomb fighting,” didn’t make any sense for a fluent English speaker, either.
She needed to revert back to the old routine. Bill had extracted far too much knowledge about the true Fleur for her liking, and that needed to be stopped now, especially as it would be dangerous for him to know it when they broke up.
What was her routine again? Observation, anecdote, question, response, anecdote, observation, question… yes, she was prepared for this. Now to divert the attention away from more personal matters.
“Zat woman in ze corner, she does not look so ‘appy to ‘ave received ‘er partner’s presence,” she fake-laughed, flipping her hair back over her shoulder and pointing to their side with her crab-speared fork. She realised a second too late that the last word had been wrong, but smoothed it over by carrying on as though nothing had happened.
“I theenk that ze arteest has not painted her so well! I remember zat one year, my aunt ‘ad ordered a portrait of herself wiz ‘er ‘usband – ” no need to state which one, “ – and when eet came, zere was a deeferent spell on eet, so zat zey deed not move but change to bright colours! What ees your worst gift?” She leant forward with a conspiratorial smirk, encouraging Bill to continue. He was watching her through narrowed lids, but proceeded to speak about his own bad presents for a long enough time to convince any other actress that he had noticed nothing unusual about her subject change.
For the rest of the evening, trivial matters were the only topics that Fleur would let herself be steered towards. It was exhausting, as she had to constantly stay on her toes during their back-and-forth conversations. But she enjoyed the entire experience rather too much. Bill, for all his faults, was a great conversationalist, and unlike most dates, she found herself lying only a little to him.
The time fairly flew by as they both struggled for control, and parted with Fleur quickly pressing her lips to his as they stepped outside into the cold, before turning on the spot almost immediately. She had left Bill stepping backwards as she whipped away, and upon entering her flat, dropped down onto the sofa, briefly touching her fingers to her lips before contemplating what time she would have to get up for her shift the next morning.
Bill was replaying Fleur’s side of the conversation over pudding in his head, sitting at his tiny desk in the corner of the Curse-Breakers’ offices for lunch, when he was interrupted by Jayna.
Her presence was first announced by a chorus of wolf-whistles, but unlike Bill’s original assumption, they were not announcing Fleur’s presence but Jayna’s. He was further surprised when she strolled over to his desk instead of any others and placed her hands down in a menacing manner.
“Put down that beef sandwich and look me in the eyes, William Weasley,” were her first words, said softly but with force behind them. Bill raised an eyebrow but did as she said, as otherwise she’d just overwhelm him with reasons to drop the sandwich.
“Alright, what is it, Jayna?”
“Are you or are you not going out with Fleur Delacour?” She was holding his gaze. He blinked, nodding slowly. She sighed, pursing her lips. “Well, in that case, you’d better keep it on the down-low, since Sara Styles still thinks she’s going out with you. She’s got a problem with pretty-girl, too, so can you please tell Sara to get her facts straight and not accost you or tell the rest of us made-up crap?”
Bill frowned; he’d had no idea she was that bad, assuming Sara’s little infatuation to be kept within their acquaintance only. Unfortunately, it looked like he’d got the wrong end of the stick. “Sara’s telling everyone we’re going out?” Jayna nodded grimly, and Bill swore. “Alright, fine, I’ll deal with her. But how’d you find out about me and Fleur?”
“Mhairi found out somehow,” Jayna shrugged, “you know how the re-invented her is all-seeing, all-working and all-knowing.” Bill nodded in agreement, and wondered when he could get to Sara, before waving off Jayna.
A letter wouldn’t be too harsh, right?
No, too indirect. Bill sighed – he’d have to do this the hard way. Heaving himself up from the desk and snagging the remaining lunch, he headed out the door to Human Resources before anyone could catch on to where he was going.
When it came to the second date on Saturday, Fleur had the minor worry about how to wrap up warm and look beautiful doing so. Her compacted wardrobe was not, as such, suited to English weather, and while she was an expert in dressing, her lack of knowledge on this country’s conditions left her frustratingly wrong-footed. It ended with Fleur dressed in another blue pea-coat (which she had been forced to subtly summon all the way from France), and beret, hat, scarf, gloves and boots.
Again, they both turned up late, with Fleur the later this time, and had a charming afternoon talking about work, life and everything in-between. She opened up a little more to gain Bill’s confidence, and though she avoided the topic of why she came to England, it all went rather smoothly and all too fast. The entire time, she could only contemplate how strange it was that two such competitors – vexing opponents, and they both knew it – could have such interesting conversations!
For the first few weeks, organising their relationship around work was difficult. They didn’t want a public relationship, especially as office romances were difficult and awkward once discarded. Also, since the whole of Gringotts believed Sara Styles to be dating Bill – which she was not, though it took a while for it to be ascertained so, and Bill reported that he had tried to get rid of her – which would surely only bring a lot of trouble down of Fleur’s head.
Instead, when Fleur did work, they would have half of lunch together casually in Fleur’s office, and the other half with their own friends. Bill had many more on that count than Fleur, whose beautiful looks, natural distrust, and different accent were all holding her back from opening up.
They worked well as a non-serious couple; they laughed together, there was competition, but could still have a nice chat. Fleur hadn’t even let him kiss her at the end of the park date, instead teasing Bill by almost kissing him… and then moving away with a laugh, a wave, and a turn on the spot again.
However, she was finding the tension difficult to deal with. There was a slight stiffness between them that they were ignoring, as though they both knew exactly how much of a player the other could be. No more investigations towards Mhairi were being performed – it was hard enough being together and attempting to crack the other’s strategy, without trying to form getaway plans to escape from more weighty strategies at the same time.
As much as she knew she should be getting bored with this little game, as a kitten plays with a spider before squashing it, there was still something resisting in her. Curiosity killed the cat, but she was drawn to Bill in an inexplicable way, and Fleur wanted to know the secrets he was hiding.
Oddly enough, they only began to relax when there was a notice posted by the goblins that Gornuk had been found dead, circumstances as yet unknown.
It was a normal Monday, mid-November. Everyone was tired, and Fleur couldn’t stop yawning at her desk. It was only when she went into Human Resources for awful coffee mid-morning that Fleur realised anything was wrong. Between the two sectors of Human and Goblin Resources, a notice of some sort had been posted, and there were several people gathered round. Keeley peeled off from the group as Fleur approached, confusion etched on her face, and murmured, “Poor thing,” under her breath to herself.
Naturally, Fleur made her way to the notice. It was horrifying blunt – but that was the way of the goblins, wasn’t it?
‘Gornuk, who has been a prestigious goblin here for several centuries, has been found dead in a London alleyway in. Circumstances are, as of yet, unknown. Goblins are called to say the Rites for him as they wish and humans may mourn in their own way. He is golden now.’
It took a moment for the wheels to turn in Fleur’s mind; Gornuk was more of a familiar name than most, which often went straight over her head, but where…?
Bill. Straight away she wheeled around and headed for the Vault Security offices, making a beeline for his desk and sitting beside him.
More than anything, her boyfriend looked pensive. She gave him a questioning look, and after a moment he answered her carefully, staring up at the high stone ceiling. “He was as close a friend as goblins can be to humans, and I’m pretty sure I was as close to being a human friend as I could be for a goblin. I just hope that whoever did it gets their comeuppance… no point really mourning if the goblins don’t hold with it, is there? He wouldn’t want it. They just say to accept life as it is. So that’s what I’m doing.”
She took his hand and laid her head on his shoulder, glad of the wall that put him in the corner a little. Of course, many people were still watching them, ready to work the rumour mill the minute she left. But for now, Fleur felt the anger and worry seep out of her like waves trickling off a beach. For a moment, they stayed like that, then Bill put his head on top of hers. Between them, they would try not to mourn, and instead mutually comfort the other.
In that moment, Fleur felt more peaceful than she had since… well, since she could remember, really. She was a calm lake with no ripples of anger or hurt, just peaceful stillness inside.
After that, it suddenly felt like a proper relationship. It wasn’t just that they were dating any more; Bill and Fleur were properly going out. Her being there for him and their mutual understanding had made it real; they weren’t just playing any more, not competing against the other for control.
Of course, this only made Fleur the more sorry, because she didn’t want to lose the peaceful state she was in. But she was going to have to, eventually, of course. She couldn’t keep anyone close.
The next time they went out, they both arrived at the gig of the band Bill wanted to show her almost on time; it was his birthday, November 29th. Being a British band, Fleur hadn’t heard of them, but was indignant when Bill exclaimed that he hadn’t expected her to be into wizard rock – in fact, she had been quite the music rebel, but because both her Tante and Maman would have strongly disapproved, her passion was fed only by insomnia-fuelled nights of sneaking a wizarding wireless into her dorm and turning the sound as low as possible.
Then there were several unfortunate weeks before anything else could be organised. In that time, Fleur wrote back and forth to Gabrielle and sometimes to her father – Gabrielle begged her to come back for Christmas so much that Fleur could not refuse, and she also contemplated her renewed relationship with Bill.
It had to be ended, and soon. It was all moving much too fast in the way of feelings, and she would have to break up with him fairly fast. Unfortunately, there being only two weeks or so until Christmas, it would be too heartless to ruin the holidays like that for him.
She would have to keep it until after Christmas, and add it to the pile of post-New Year gloom that was sure to be deposited on them. It made sense, and was rather more proper in a woman to minimise the impact her feelings would have.
But while Fleur started to pull away from the relationship, anticipating the repercussions, Bill seemed to only become more animated. He was very caught up in the Christmas spirit and enjoyed singing ridiculous Christmas songs to her, which was admittedly rather funny until she remembered what she would have to do.
None of it stopped her organising a nice evening in at hers for the last day of work, though. She had bought mulled wine and some funny English pies that Bill (and, indeed, all of the English) seemed to be so fanatic about. She couldn’t help letting the spirited, joyful part of her win the war against the guilt and proper part for the time being, too caught up in the general merriment to mind. She couldn’t get hurt at a time like this, and she wouldn’t hurt anyone else either!
But with no more than a week left of work until the holidays and her new job interview – that he had encouraged her to apply for in the first place – Bill disappeared into thin air.
There was no note. No warning. Nobody had any idea of where he had gone; he had been enchanted away by the fairies. Yet Fleur appeared to be the only one left who cared, abandoned in a sea of people who did not want to spoil their own enjoyment with a care for someone missing so suddenly.
She had been abandoned again.
Chapter 8: Festivities
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A/N: Yes, it’s been far too long… but hey, here’s a nice chapter? With developments? LOTS of developments, actually. Also, apologies for some of the bad spelling/grammar in the letters – it is deliberate, honest.
Also, thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed me so far! In particular, my Claws from the review battle, LittleWelshGirl99, Aphoride, AC_rules, slytherinchica08, Aderyn, WeasleyTwinMom, AndrinaBlack, Nymphie Tonks, UnluckyStar57, marinahill, potterweasleygranger, Miss Muggle, and everyone who has dropped me a single review (I know who you are and I love you all <3 ). You’re all fabulously encouraging and I’d not be here without you :D
Where have you gone? Are you ok? Just tell me what’s happened, or let someone here know!
I am making my interview for the new job in a few of days – you promised you’d be here for it. Why have you gone? Please talk to me.
What has happened? Please tell me. I can cope, whatever it is. Please just talk to me! I need to know; I would so much rather know than not know. I’m so sorry for whatever it is that’s happened.
I just really hope you’re okay.
I’m sorry for whatever it is I did. Please write back. I’m going out of my head with worry here… I had my interview earlier. I think it went well – it was a friend of Sara’s but she seemed happy to fall under the Veela persuasion. I thought you’d be here for this.
I hope you’re happy when I run off with your ex-friend Andreas because we’re two foreigners in England. We’ve become closer in our search for you, and he’s threatening to get the Aurors involved.
I’M SORRY. I did not mean that, as I hope you gathered! Well, I officially know Robin now – I can’t believe I haven’t meet this so-called ‘best mate’ (what does that mean?) of yours before. He caught me standing pathetical outside your flat, as he was attempting to go in and beat you up in a brotherly way for missing out on your ‘manly night’ last night.
I sayd, what manly night? What does that even mean? You’re meant to be helping me here, that’s what you said you would do.
Happy Christmas. I hated my present – your absence and no word. So much for a nice ‘get-together’ this evening. Please… just talk to me. Something. Anything.
Just let me know you’re live. I’d quite like to know if something awful has happened, though.
Fleur, I’m so sorry for absence. It’s a family issue. I'll see you after Christmas. Bill.
Fleur knew, even as she awkwardly dragged her suitcase through the Ministry to the inter-country Disapparition room (for which you needed to apply to use, with a very long-winded process involving far too many forms for anybody’s liking), that she would not be able to concentrate on this Christmas, but considering the circumstances, really should do. It was her first communication with her Maman since August, and her first proper meeting with her adorable younger sister in five months too. She needed all her wits about her, but instead, she would be only partially there.
No, Fleur knew herself too well. All through the long queues she was forced to stand in, she was wondering about her boyfriend – where he was, what he was doing, when she would see him again. Why she was so obsessively worried and couldn’t snap out of it. Maybe she was just too used to playing the interested girlfriend? This didn’t feel like acting, but then, everything in this life was made up of pretensions and masks.
Fleur attempted to detox herself of all the Bill worries, knowing that they would do no good, and that she truly wanted to give herself to her little sister after abandoning her so quickly back in the summer. A lifetime ago.
As predicted, when she trundled out of the French Ministry’s Apparition Bureau, Gabrielle flung herself on her brave older sister with melodramatic squeals and exclamations, jabbering away nineteen to the dozen in French. Fleur allowed herself to relax and smile, hugging her sister for a long time and revelling in the sound of her mother tongue. However, she still found it difficult to dive totally back into her sisters’ world of second-year charms, best friend wars, and toad-throwing boys. It seemed so long ago that they had been together, so long since she was in that same situation, and she felt very changed all of a sudden.
Then, with her little sister hanging off her arm and happily jabbering away in French (which was such sweet music to her ears and mind after all these months of the angular English language), she went forwards to her Maman and Papa. They were both looking fairly drawn, but her Papa stepped forwards and gave his girl a special hug anyway.
“Ma Chèrie!” he murmured in her ear as he rocked her slightly. Fleur could tell immediately that her Papa would hold nothing against her, and felt an unexpectedly large breath of relief flood into her from it. At least one of her parents didn’t still wish to disown her.
Turning to Apolline, Fleur found her Maman less forgiving and more forbidding. She stood tall and proud, looking into a distant point somewhere a foot and a half over the top of Fleur’s head, and said only a stiff “Bonjour,” when her daughter stood in front of her warily. Fleur wondered briefly how long it might take to restore their relationship to normal, when she had changed so much and they had such a breach to cross.
Then it was side-along Apparition to their family estate, and tip-toeing around as though she were a stranger, and catching up with her family, and handing out shiny gifts. It seemed like only mere moments went by before Fleur was stood in front of the same Bureau as two weeks ago, with a sobbing Gabrielle, a teary Papa, and softened but still stubborn Maman who looked after her eldest daughter sadly, while she slowly made her way back into the plain white room and turned on the spot, sending her family back into blackness. They had faded into snatched memories once again.
Where had the fortnight gone? There had been arguments with her mother – many, in fact – that had gone round and round in circles of denial and defence, in every volume and situation possible. Gabrielle had been by turns persuasive, ecstatic, and heartbroken; her Papa had been as lovely as he always was but asking her too many times to come home so they could sort things from there.
Through it all, Fleur stood her ground. Not even the Christmas presents that were so beautifully chosen and wrapped could buy her allegiance; nor could the appearance of two of her cousins who had been her ‘friends’ in Beauxbatons (airheads who had gone along with her for the popularity), Marie and Therese. In fact, these two only solidified her resolve to stay in England.
Fleur had only eighteen hours left to her in which to go completely stir-crazy and run her thoughts in circles over what had happened to Bill, but manage it she did.
When seven’o’clock finally rolled around, she was a jittery, nervous mess. For a start, she had no idea why she was so upset about Bill; she’d also started her new job he had told her to go for before disappeared at the time; she’d had no sleep; and she knew that she had to dump him. It was just what one did with boys after a time; Tante had always told her so. You got them then you left them, just as the waves rolled up the beach and they sank back off it again.
Everything inside her was a mess. She felt too French for England, and too English for France; she felt too much for Bill and she felt obligated to abandon their relationship before she became too tied down in a relationship that would only increase in pain when it ended. She was going round in circles and could make nothing of anything.
Fleur knew nothing of her morning, and was rather surprised when she realised she was standing outside the huge oak doors to Gringotts, before tensely walking through the side door, as she had done for so many weeks before.
The morning passed without a sign of Bill – not a flash of red hair, or a laugh, or a note. Fleur tried to immerse herself in the new and (marginally) more interesting work – Redistributing Vaults in the Vault Management sector. She had about the same size ‘office’ with many less files surrounding her, and she tried hard to start on the treasure archiving.
She tried hard to pretend that she was perfectly relaxed as she answered people’s questions, by turns cheery and depressed, about her Christmas. She tried hard to pretend she was loving the change of her new job. But Fleur could only convince others, not herself.
In the end, this was proved to her the moment a little paper aeroplane (copied from the Ministry) flew into her office with a note written on it. She eagerly snatched it out of the air, almost ripping in half in her eagerness to receive news.
Meet me in our cupboard ASAP.
It was all she needed. Balancing a ‘back soon’ sign on her desk, Fleur abandoned the stacks of work holding her back and rushed into the corridor, momentarily forgetting her new position and walking in the wrong direction before turning on her heel to almost sprint the other way.
Then she was suddenly staring at the cupboard door and frozen up, wondering exactly what this all meant. He’d gone for so long with no words; they were supposed to be a pair. And this door – it was just a stupid cupboard door, sitting there all closed-up, and looking highly dusty with paint that was peeling. You couldn’t even tell it was locked from the outside. But Fleur had an overwhelming desire to punch the door. It was such a smug door, and it seemed so bored and so prominent, but what did it know?
Fighting both a violent urge and a worry that she was going crazy, Fleur wrenched open the door and slammed it behind her before glaring around the room.
Before she knew it, Bill was in front if her, pulling her into him in a big hug that was full of so much worry and mixed feelings. For a moment, Fleur let herself be buried – then she unfroze and shoved him with all her strength.
“Fleur, I - ”
“You deesappeared and you wouldn’t write to me?!” she hissed angrily, her voice already rising. If she could stop to think, the intensity would have surprised even her. “You completely abandoned me and you refused to say anyzing! You wouldn’t even answer your letters from me!”
“No, it’s - ”
“I was zo worried, Beell!” she screeched, words rapidly becoming lost in her French accent. “You ‘ad gone and I deed not know what to do… Oh…”
Bill swept her into another hug but a more gentle one this time, lifting her chin up so she would look at him and know how much he meant it, through his exhaustion. “I’m so sorry, Fleur, I really am. It was just a horrid family issue that had to be sorted out… but I think it’s okay now.” He ran a hand through his hair distractedly.
Fleur glared up, trying very hard not to let her swimming eyes overflow. “You dizzapeared for zo long and now you j-just say sorry? And what ‘as ‘appened wiz your family? Are zey ‘urt?”
“They’ll survive. I can’t really say.”
“What do you mean?” she demanded, the fury over-riding her relief again. “I am not about to report to ze Minister!”
“It’s not that I don’t want to… it’s because I can’t. It’s to do with You-Know-Who,” Bill said heavily. He hated not telling his beautiful (though reserved herself) girlfriend about parts of his life, such as the Order, but he had to keep quiet for Dumbledore’s sake; for all of their sakes. If Fleur had her mind invaded, they could know everything and she wouldn’t be prepared. But then, she probably thought her chances of mind invasion were much slimmer than the true probability.
Fleur was silent for a moment while Bill’s words sunk in. It was certainly not what she expected, Bill could see that much.
Then – “But why did you not tell me? I understand better zan most people,” she pleaded.
Damn her beautiful eyes. “I – it’s not my fault, it’s because of my Dad’s work,” he attempted. It wasn’t going to work, and it was getting a bit unfair. “Look, it’s just not my place to say. I’d love to tell you but I can’t.”
“Iz zere anyzing I can do to ‘elp? Zat is all I want to do,” she said quietly. Something seemed to be more peaceful inside her.
For a moment, Bill was torn. Then he made his choice.
“Alright then. I’m taking you to my father, at the Ministry.”
It was much later that evening when Fleur sat down in the kitchen of La Maison for a moment, trying to organise her thoughts. It was a lot harder than one might think to serve as the perfect waitress and work through bad feelings at the same time, particularly when they were the kind of feelings that preoccupied your thoughts so much that you became unattractively clumsy.
Most prominently, there was the awful guilt for bugging Bill all that time to contact her. When he had brought her to his father, Arthur Weasley, he had been so kind and accepting, happy to point out the long scar lines along his torso. He hadn’t been at all judging of her, just pleasant and seemingly happy that she was his son’s girlfriend.
Well, to use his exact phrasing, “It’s great that our adventurous boy has someone to tie him down at last!”, accompanied by a cuff over the head from Bill and lots of laughter. It was strange to see such casual teasing between father and son.
Arthur had kindly explained to her that his awful attack had been the reason for Bill’s disappearance… which she had been threatening him through, and even now, Fleur couldn’t prevent a wince and grimace from twisting her features. She was hardly the caring and useful girlfriend Arthur had clearly pictured, and felt terrible for him thinking she was like that.
The other thing was her own swirl of emotions at whether or not to end their relationship. She just didn’t know what to do any more after this afternoon’s revelations, and had decided that it advice she needed. This was normally where girls wrote letters to their mothers or friends to ask their opinions – but Fleur didn’t know which way to turn. Her ‘friends’ in France weren’t those she could ask for advice, her mother currently hated her for the decision to walk out, and she had nobody in England that she knew outside of the office!
Instead, that left Fleur to think about all the previous love advice her Tante had ever given her. Tante Isabelle had had three husbands and two long-term partners, so when she had given Fleur her advice on life and love, Fleur had listened and engraved the words on her heart.
None of the lessons quite seemed to apply to her happiness with Bill, though. Tante had always said to use men for her own gains as they would do to her, but Bill was hardly attracted to her purely because of her Veela genes. He seemed less affected by her persuasive techniques than other men were, no matter how hard she tried!
Scowling, Fleur remembered the evening before he had disappeared. Dinner out then going back to his, she’d been anticipating the evening and where it could lead, only to have Bill equalling all her teasing with other half-seductions. How did he manage to stay above her charms?
Suddenly, a different voice floated across her memory. It was her mother’s, from one of the instances that she challenged her Tante. ‘Stop manipulating my daughter to become as heartless as you, Belle! I don’t want her to have to go through life so coldly climbing the social ladder – I want Fleur to find the boy she loves to spend time with and not have to leave him because you tell her to!’ Her Maman had been shrieking so loudly, and it echoed and swirled through her mind.
Did it apply now? Fleur realised that she wanted to try at this for a little longer, more than she had wanted to do anything in her life. She couldn’t give him up, not yet; it was just too easy to be around Bill, easy and frustrating beyond any frustrations she could remember.
No, she would not give him up until she had to.
Ma Chèrie - my dear
Bonjour - hello (who'd have known, right? :D )