Independence. Indépendance. No one ever said that it was going to be easy, or enjoyable, or even barely tolerable. In fact, no one had ever really said much of anything about it to her, but that hadn’t stopped her wanting it. Wanting to prove herself as an adult. An indépendant adulte.
So now… Here she was. Sitting alone in a dimly lit wizarding pub, about as far from the beaten track as she had ever been in her entire eighteen years of existence. Cold. Underfed, underappreciated and anything but happy.
This was not what she’d had in mind when she announced that she would be staying in London. This was not what she had envisioned when her parents had scoffed lightly, and she had discovered a fiery determination to prove them wrong. To prove that she could live alone in a foreign country, and become her own woman.
Now, however, she was beginning to think that perhaps she had been wrong. Perhaps she wasn’t cut out for this kind of survival. She could almost hear her own chambre calling out to her, from across the English Channel. Goodness, she wanted to go home.
With a sigh she stood, leaving her half finished butterbeer in its place and deciding that an early night was in order. Perhaps a bright new morning would offer a more cheerful perspective.
The first thing she noticed when she woke the next day was that it certainly wasn’t bright beyond her grimy window. One of the few things that she liked about London was that the weather always matched her miserable mood (if that really was something which she could claim to like, it was more just interestingly ironic).
C’est la vie she told herself flippantly, as she pulled a navy blue tabard over her tailored jeans and extinguished the lights in her flat with a flick of her rosewood wand. Locking the front door behind her, she offered a quick glance down at her watch and, after heaving another melancholy sigh, realised that she was about to be late for work at Gringotts.
She made a mad dash down Diagon Alley and arrived at the bank’s grand double doors, just as her watch clicked over to three minutes past seven.
“You’re late, Delacour.” said her supervisor in an unforgiving voice.
Fleur shuddered, feeling the rise of an engulfing wave of dislike for her boss. “I am zorry.” she said in a voice utterly devoid of her old flair. “It won’ ‘appen again.”
The older woman (stout, with a mole covered in fuzz on her wobbly chin) nodded briskly. “You’re on the fourth floor today.” she said, handing Fleur a set of keys. “One of the toilets is blocked. Let’s hope your cleaning in more satisfactory than your punctuality, aye?”
Fleur nodded, stuffing the keys into the front pocket of her tabard, and heading swiftly towards the door titled ‘Staff only beyond this point”. Her legs ached before she even began her ascent up the narrow stair case.
The fourth floor was in an utter shambles. Whoever had cleaned it yesterday morning must have done an extremely poor job, and Fleur could feel the despair welling inside her gut as she set to work. She started by hoovering the corridor, using her wand to direct the humming machine as she dusted the high window ledges with a yellow cloth in her spare hand. She sneezed, swiping at her nose agitatedly.
Next she began on the individual offices, grumbling to herself in French as she assessed the messily kept desks, and the sheets and sheets of parchment littering the floor. This isn’t what she’d had in mind at all when she’d applied for a job at Gringotts. She’d been hoping for something a little more… Prestigieux, to be honest.
At nine o’clock the business men began trailing in, wearing their fitted work robes and not even casting a second glance in Fleur’s direction as she persisted down the corridor, cleaning supplies floating behind her in a big red bucket. As she trailed dejectedly towards the foreboding blocked toilet, her eyes snagged on the somewhat familiar face of a passer by.
Vivid red hair tied back from his face in a youthful ponytail, throwing the handsome planes of his face into gentle relief. A fang dangling from his earlobe, and he wore bright emerald robes to match his striking eyes. She resisted the urge to gape, and he spared her half a glance, before looking away once again. As if the navy tabard made her invisible. As if the bucket of toilet cleaner inflicted her with transparency.
She’d met him once before- she knew it, though she couldn’t think how. Perhaps at Hogwarts, during her time there last year. That must be it.
She cast another lingering look back over her left shoulder, watching him stride away, oblivious to her existence.
It was her evening routine these days, and as unhealthy as it was to adopt a self-abusive habit, it was better than sitting at home and fighting the overwhelming urge to owl her parents. Not that sitting on her own in that Godforsaken pub was really that much better. She was just… Used to it. The bar staff were friendly too, and for a couple of hours at least, it made her feel slightly less lonely.
So there she was again. Sitting on her own at a round table, with a mug of butterbeer in front of her and her chin resting disconsolately on her upturned palm. Sigh.
More people arrived, and she slipped into a state of mindless consciousness, staring forwards and absently swilling her butterbeer around and around in the brown mug. Her thoughts were empty, and her worries and concerns were sitting on a dusty shelf at the back of her mind. In that moment she was no one. She didn’t matter, not even to herself.
And then a flash of red hair caught her eye.
She looked up just in time to see him dashing towards her, and she jolted slightly in her chair when he came crashing down onto his knees, right next to her.
She was halfway through enquiring just exactly “Where iz zee fire?” when he interrupted her.
“Miss,” he panted, placing a steadying hand on his chest and gulping down air, “Please give me your knickers, right now.”
Fleur felt her eyes widen dramatically at his startlingly abrupt request, and she repeated in an astonished voice. “My knee-kers?”
The red haired man nodded vigorously, “It’s a matter of extreme importance, ma’am.” He said earnestly. Then he gazed into her eyes imploringly, “You see that fellow over there?” his thumb jabbed towards a man sitting on the other side of the room, holding his sides as he laughed, “Well that’s Irvin Smith: an extremely jumped up arse hole, who just bet that I wouldn’t be able to retrieve a lovely pair of knickers within the next five minutes. I hope you can appreciate just how important it is to bring him down a peg or two.”
Fleur’s eyes returned from over his shoulder, and she looked at his face again, her eyebrows screwing up. The man seemed to sense that she was not convinced, so he grabbed both of her hands in his.
“Come on miss,” he said charmingly, a grin spreading over his face now, “It’s a matter of complete national importance. He-” the thumb jabbed over at Irvin Smith once more, “Is a bleedin’ American!”
“Oh, you Eeenglish.” Fleur snapped, finally finding her voice as she snatched her hands away from the rude young man. “You are ‘orrible!”
The man’s face seemed to light up, “Ahh! You’re French!” he exclaimed, taking her left hand back again and pressing it to his lips, “Well, Monsieur, my name is Bill Weasley and I am very pleased to make you acquaintance.”
Fleur wrenched her hand free for a second time, before saying in an extremely haughty voice, “Monsieur is Mizter, you imbecile!”
Bill just grinned, getting back to his feet and offering her his own hand instead.
“Well then Miss,” he said, “Perhaps I’ll let you give me French lessons, in return for your knickers.”
Fleur glared at him. “Non!” she snapped, ignoring his proffered hand, and drumming her fingers forcefully against the table top, remaining resolutely in her seat, legs emphatically crossed.
Bill, however, seemed unfazed by this apparent obstacle. Once again, he kneeled before her. “Okay.” he said in a much more serious voice, “I can see that you think I approached this in completely the wrong way.”
“You are ‘orrible.” she repeated, glaring at him.
He chuckled. “I completely agree.” he said, “But that man over there-” once again, his thumb found Irvin Smith, who’s laughter seemed to have died down a little, “He is worse. A right git, if I’m honest. All I’m askin’ for is a little help to knock that pompous smile off his face. You know how unbearable he’ll be at work tomorrow, if I lose this bet?”
“There iz no way-”
“Wait, wait.” he said, holding up his hands to halt her reply. “Before you say no altogether, can I just say that you are, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman that I have ever set eyes on. Ever.”
The words caused her indignant reply to die on her pink lips. Fleur blinked confusedly for a moment or two, then his words sunk in and she flushed.
“If you won’t give me your knickers,” Bill Weasley persisted, ignoring the blush staining her cheeks, “Then will you let me take you out some time instead?”
Fleur was suddenly flustered (something which was extremely uncommon for the beautiful blonde). “Non.” she said hotly, shaking her head. “I am…”
“Just a warning,” he said with a smile, “I don’t handle rejection very well. I’ll get a little weepy, and then you’ll get a little weepy, and then the barman over there will get a little weepy, and the whole thing will be an utter calamity. Easier, surly, just to say ‘oui’.”
Fleur just shook her head, feeling slightly alarmed now. She had not been out on a date at all since the Triwizard Tournament ended, and though she might miss the company of a besotted man, she certainly didn’t miss finding out that they were only after one thing.
“Non.” she said again, standing abruptly and stalking as quickly as she could to the ladies room.
Three minutes later she reappeared. Bill had returned to his table with Irvin, and was looking relatively dejected, but his eyes lit up when he spotted her heading in his direction.
She walked over to him briskly, then dropped a pair of white French knickers onto the table in front of him.
“Zhere.” she said loudly, looking between the two men with an angrily arched eyebrow, “I ‘ope you are satisfied now Mr Weasley. Au revoir!”
“Did that girl just give you her knickers?”
Bill Weasley’s mouth was still hanging open, his eyes still riveted on the spot that she had just vacated in front of him.
Irvin’s hand wagged in front of his friend’s astonished face.
“I, you know,” Bill said weakly, “I was just chatting her up. I thought she knew that I was kidding.” Irvin was laughing again now. “I guess not.”
A/N: I had major fun writing this piece, and if anyone bites, I'd love to write some more. Let me know =]
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