Chapter 2 : In Which There is a Ball
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At Lady Weasley’s Spring Ball last night, the most notable exciting moment, to be sure, for all the Hunting Mamas and Eligible Daughters was the appearance of the elusive Mr. Bill Weasley, almost indecently tan from his Curse-breaking work in Egypt. But, alas, he was only around for less than an hour before disappearing into the corridors of his house. One would hope that this being his twenty-eighth year, that Mr. Bill Weasley would turn his eye towards matrimony…
- Mrs. Harriet Hortescue’s Societal Observations in the daily edition of The Prophet
For most girls, tonight was a night to dance under glittering lights and laugh with your friends in your pastel colored dresses. It was a night of tart lemonade and sweet pastries. It was a night made for falling in love.
For girls like Fleur, it was a night for boredom. She much preferred the quiet of her sitting room and a paint brush in her hand to that of the exalted ceilings and the chattering of London’s Society.
She watched as her little sister, Gabrielle, danced in her white dress under the floating chandeliers of the Weasley ballroom. Gabi laughed at something her dance partner, one Mr. Dean Thomas, had said to her as he passed her by. The Veela blood and Gabi’s excitement at being at her first London ball just made the seventeen-year-old sparkle just that much more. Fleur felt a corner of her lips tug up as she noticed the glaze come over Mr. Thomas’ eyes as he looked at her sister.
Once in a while, Fleur would lament the fact that the Veela blood had seen fit to skip over the eldest of the Delacour girls, but those moments were few and far between. Her own blonde hair was not as vibrant as her sister’s, tending more to fine and almost white than gold. Her blue eyes were more gray than the pure sapphires of her sister’s. She was too tall and not as curvy and did not seem to have the natural grace her sister had inherited. She didn’t begrudge her sister’s luck in her looks. She adored her little sister and was happy that at least one of them would be married off well.
“Doesn’t she look so beautiful?” came a whisper from Fleur’s left. Turning slightly, Fleur met the deep blue eyes of her mother. A wave of affection came over her for all that her mother had done for them these past few months. She nodded and linked her arm through hers so they could both watch Gabi win over London.
Ever since the death of their father over five years ago, Mrs. Delacour had shouldered the burden of keeping their small family alive, managing their finances so they would be able to live in their tiny house near London with enough money for food and other necessities. Fleur had tried to help in her own way with selling her own paintings. They had managed to scrape by between the both of them.
As Gabi’s seventeenth birthday had approached, Apolline had been determined that her girls would have a season. They hadn’t been able to do it when Fleur had turned seventeen due to being in mourning for her husband but now that Gabi was old enough, they would both have the chance to go.
Fleur had gone along with the planning, but hadn’t actively participated, knowing that it wasn’t really going to be about her. She was already two-and-twenty and thereby an old maid by anyone’s standards, even hers, and she was fine with that. She’d go on living with her mother and painting and could be content.
She would be content. Really, really content. Really, really—
Mentally cursing the small tears that seemed to sneak up on her in the most awkward moments, Fleur blinked rapidly. There was nothing to cry about. She was happy with her lot. She would be happy for her sister when she married some wealthy man who would adore Gabi and help take care of Fleur and Apolline so their poor relations wouldn’t want for anything.
Her mother seemed to sense the shift in her mood and glanced at her eldest from the corner of her eye. “Are you all right?”
Fleur unhooked her arm from her mother’s, still blinking, and now brought up a hand to ostensibly look for a nonexistent dust particle in her eye.
“Yes, I’m fine, Maman. Just something in my eye. I’m going to go to the washroom to check it out.” Not waiting for her mother’s acknowledgement she made her way through the crowd to the corridor of the Weasley House.
She remembered the afternoon her mother and Gabi had come back excited from the one shopping expedition they would be able to afford. They’d met Mrs. Molly Weasley of the Burrow and Mrs. Weasley’s daughter, Ginevra, while in the ribbon shop and had hit it off rather well. Mrs. Weasley had found out that the Delacours were new to town which had led to her extending the coveted invitation to her Spring Ball. The Delacours had managed to contain their girlish squeals until they had finally stepped over the threshold of their rented townhouse.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were well-known in London wizarding society, not only for being moderately rich, but because their family was quite large with six boys and one girl. And when they were all in one place, it was easy to see (not that anyone really mentioned this outside of private conversations in one’s own home) that all were definitely from the same parents given the bright ginger hair and similar features that all the sons and the daughter shared.
The family was also well thought of. Though Fleur had come to expect some arrogance from the British wizards in the ten years since her father had moved the family to England, she had heard about, and tonight she had had the chance to experience firsthand, the Weasley kindness and generosity.
Mrs. Weasley had personally greeted Fleur’s family at the door, speaking to her mother like they were already dear old friends. She’d waved down one of her many sons, a Mr. Charles Weasley, to escort them into the ballroom and give them a quick tour. Mr. Weasley—oh, posh, there were far too many of them to go by polite address in my own head—Charles had been amiable and friendly and Fleur had instantly felt at ease. She could see that her sister and mother felt the same way.
Charles had politely asked both Fleur and Gabrielle for a spot on their dance cards. Gabi had instantly agreed, blushing prettily while Fleur had only smiled, knowing that he couldn’t have only asked Gabi in front of her. Charles had gone off to speak to some other friends after ensuring all three ladies had any needed refreshments. Mrs. Delacour had commented on his gentlemanly behavior, dropping some obvious hints to Gabi to set her cap for him, hints which the younger woman had ignored.
Just an hour into the ball, there had been a stir in the room, murmurs starting up at the edge until it reached Fleur’s curious ears. Being half a foot taller than both her relatives, Fleur had been asked to locate the source which she’d done without trying to be too obvious.
The source had been another Weasley son. The eldest son in fact, Mr. William Weasley. She’d only gotten a glimpse of him before he’d disappeared under a flurry of redheads, presumably the rest of his family. Apparently, though William (Fleur hoped she would never slip up and actually say their given names aloud) was due to inherit the considerable estate and businesses that the senior Mr. Weasley ran, he spent the majority of his time traveling to such far-flung places as Egypt or Albania, in search of cursed treasure to bring back for his father’s trading business. He looked the part of a Curse-Breaker too, with his longer than fashionable hair, now neatly tied in a queue behind his neck, his tanned skin and his tall but quietly powerful form.
Not that she’d been looking.
She reached the door to the washroom and stepped through. The voices of the ladies within the freshening up space suddenly stopped and Fleur felt a little bewildered as her eyes took in four young ladies crowded around the mirror who had turned to see who’d entered. Apparently, she wasn’t who they had been gossiping about and they returned to their idle chatter, albeit in quieter tones.
Shrugging, Fleur used the ladies’ room. This was another thing she didn’t like about London society. The gossip and the back-stabbing. If one somehow didn’t make it into the inner circles in one’s first year out as a debutante, then one basically had no chance of ever making it. One had to be very pretty, very rich or very cunning to do so and Fleur wasn’t any of those. Not that she was dumb, but she wasn’t willing to expend so much energy belittling those around her.
Now that she wasn’t in the same room, it seemed that the girls felt secure enough to speak at a normal volume and Fleur couldn’t help but overhear what they were saying.
“—is having a love affair with the prima ballerina! I heard he even brought her to Egypt with him once!”
A slightly nasally voice cut in. “Well I heard that it isn’t the prima ballerina but the opera singer, Francesca Divine, who is his current mistress. I’ve heard that he’s had at least ten mistresses!”
Gasps abounded in the small anteroom. Fleur rolled her eyes. Who cared who was having an affair with whom? How would that even be useful information?
A quiet voice spoke over the titterings of the other girls. “Mr. William Weasley is an absolute gentleman. I don’t think we should be talking about him this way.” Fleur felt her eyebrows raise at the girl’s gumption to stand up to the rest of the crows.
“What do you know? Your nose is always in a book! I’m surprised you even know which Mr. Weasley we’re talking about, you bluestocking!” Fleur winced at the nasally voice’s rude tone. She couldn’t hear the reply of the quiet voice.
Finished, Fleur took her time arranging her dress so she wouldn’t have to step into that nest of pecking birds. Finally stepping out, she found that the girls had left, leaving one solitary girl in front of the mirror, surreptitiously trying to dry her eyes.
The girl was around Gabi’s age, though unfortunately had none of her beauty. Her hair was plain brown and it looked as if her maid had half-heartedly attempted to put some order to the bushy curls. Her dress was honestly an awful color for her hair and skin, a pale yellow that made her look sallow rather than glowing with youth.
Fleur rustled her dress as she approached the sinks so that the younger woman would know she wasn’t alone. Quickly, the younger girl dropped her handkerchief and straightened up, turning on a sink. Fleur washed her own hands in silence before meeting the girl’s furtive glances in the mirror.
She smiled kindly. “I’m Fleur Delacour.”
The girl glanced shyly away, drying her hands. She then faced the taller girl. “I’m Hermione Granger.”
Fleur nodded in acknowledgement, noting that some part of the girl’s coiffure had fallen. Taking out her wand, she helped charm the hair back into place, silently giving it some extra holding value, a skill her mother had imparted to her at an early age. Hermione blushed and held a hand up to her hair. “Oh, my hair is always falling apart. It’s quite useless sometimes.”
“I heard you stand up to the cro—those girls. I thought that was rather decent of you.”
Hermione smiled, showing some rather unfortunate large front teeth. Fleur tried not to let the sympathy show on her face. “Thank you. Mr. Weasley is rather a nice gentleman. I’m friends with his sister, Ginny, and he’s always been nice to me when I’ve been visiting. I hate how those ladies talk down at people.”
Fleur turned to the mirror to take in her own appearance, noting that her eyes seemed to have stopped watering now that she wasn’t focused on her poor prospective future. “Who was that girl who interrupted you?” It wouldn’t be polite to say “nasally” though she had to restrain herself from doing so.
“Oh, that was Pansy Parkinson. She’s never liked me since our school days for some reason. I don’t even know why I was a part of the conversation,” Hermione sighed. “My mother wants me to be more involved in society as it’s my first year out, but, honestly, I’d rather be at home reading.”
“I share your sentiments,” Fleur said, smiling at Hermione who smiled back.
The door opened, the music from the hired quartet swarming in behind the matron who entered the washroom. Reminded of her upcoming dance with Mr. Charles Weasley, Fleur excused herself from her new friend and headed back out into the stifling heat of the ballroom.
“There you are!” her mother exclaimed as Fleur approached. The older woman’s face was flushed with excitement, her eyes sparkling. “Oh, there’s been some wonderful news!”
Catching a bit of her mother’s enthusiasm, Fleur caught her hand. “What is it?”
Her mother indicated the dance floor. “Look who your sister’s dancing with! Oh, this is even more than I could have hoped for! He’s bound to fall in love with her!”
Thinking it must be some princely man indeed to have garnered such attention from her mother, Fleur looked about the dance floor to catch sight of her sister’s blonde curls. She spotted her dancing, getting a glimpse of the top of his ginger-head before he moved out of her line of vision. She was slightly confused as her mother hadn’t been this excited when Mr. Charles Weasley had first asked for the dance. “Mr. Weasley? But I—“
Her mother hushed her with a small flap of her hands. “It’s Mr. William Weasley! Mr. Charles Weasley came by to offer his apologies as he had a rush matter to attend to for his family but that he would not leave you and Gabi without a dance partner for the two sets he promised and so had his elder brother there to take his place. Imagine if he falls in love with her, Fleur, she would be so well off! Such success for her first year!”
She could see her mother was in the throes of ecstasy and didn’t really need any reassurance to the very obvious future Apolline was planning. She patted her mother lovingly on the arm to watch her sister and Mr. Weasley. He towered over her petite sister whenever the steps of the dance brought them within speaking distance. Her sister’s eyes were bright but not with any unusual spark in them. His own hooded gaze seemed very serious, as if he was assessing Gabi rather than just dancing.
She didn’t like that look. The snippets of gossip she’d overheard from the washing room filtered back to mind. She wasn’t one to put credence to rumors but if he really was just a rake, she didn’t want her little sister to marry a man like that. A man who wouldn’t put Gabi first. She deserved more.
The dance ended and Mr. William Weasley escorted Gabi back to where Fleur and Apolline stood. Fleur observed Gabi’s flushed face and hoped that it was just due to the heat of the ballroom and not because of anything inappropriate Mr. Weasley had said. As they made it to where they were standing, Apolline took it upon herself to make the introductions. Fleur nodded politely.
Mr. Weasley bowed slightly over her hand. “Miss Delacour, I believe this next dance is mine?” His voice was a low and pleasant timbre, bringing to mind her father’s cigars and the comfort of old books. She mentally shook the comparison off and let herself be led to the dance floor. It was just another tool to this rake’s ensemble.
His hand lightly touched her waist and she jumped at the contact, her eyes flying to his.
His eyes were a deep green, fringed with long, golden lashes. His look was curious at her skittishness. “It’s a waltz, Miss Delacour. You know the steps, I suppose?”
Fleur felt blood rush to her face in embarrassment.
“Yes, I know the waltz.” Her voice was slightly unpleasant, not liking the fact that he seemed to think her an imbecile. While his eyebrows rose a touch, he didn’t comment on her acerbity as he started to move them in time to the music. He kept his touch light while she maintained a stiff posture.
After the one glance in the beginning, Fleur refused to look at him again, keeping her gaze somewhere near his right ear. It was unusual for her to feel petite in comparison to her dance partner, most men either meeting her taller height or just falling short of it. She tried not to enjoy the novelty of it, though there was that slightly pleased feeling of femininity at the back of her mind.
“Are you always this quiet?” His voice cut into her thoughts, amusement laced in his tone.
Her eyes flashed back to his. She refused to acknowledge the beauty of his eye color. His nose was quite straight, his face angular but strong-jawed, his mouth drawn up in what she supposed was a charming look—if one thought him charming.
Which she did not.
“Are you always this rude?” she shot back, before biting down on her tongue. Why couldn’t she think before she spoke?
The amusement in his eyes deepened to mischief and she had to remind herself that she was dealing with a rake, an experienced charmer and to not let herself get swayed by his obvious use of his physical assets.
“Yes,” he answered, as the music came to an end.
Silently fuming at his rudeness, she barely held back the urge to yank her hand out of his hold as he led her back to her family. Apolline was all smiles while Gabi was all politeness, no obvious favor in her face. Mr. Weasley bowed over Fleur’s hand, thanking her for the dance. Fleur, still put out by his lack of tact and his rakish attempts at flirting, nodded, not looking at him, missing the amused smile that once again crossed his face before he took his leave of her.
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed so far. This is such a nice break from the heaviness of “Bend or Break” (which I’m still working on, by the by). In terms of there being “no Voldemort”, this story is purely romantic fluff so I can’t really have Voldemort in there ruining things.
And before anyone else points it out from the previous chapter, I got the age difference wrong between Charlie and Bill, saying it’s 4 years when it’s only 2. I saw that after the fact. But it still works.
Thanks for reading this long rambly thing and please review!
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