Chapter 1 : Painted Blind
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And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions
- T.S. Eliot
He eyes her from across the room when he thinks she isn’t looking, although she told him many years later that he hadn’t been nearly as subtle as he’d once thought. Besides, you weren’t supposed to do that sort of thing when you were standing next to your mother.
This is Harry’s day, and he will not mar it by cheering for Harry’s opponent.
Nevertheless, he finds it hard to stop looking at her. She is undoubtedly lovely, graceful in a way that seems to defy logic. He is instantly drawn to her with magnetic force, despite the overwhelming odds that, after today, he will never see her again.
She will never look twice at him, he thinks with unwavering certainty.
He is still adjusting to being back from Egypt, which, although foreign, is infinitely more exciting than a battered desk in battered London. But the Order needed his help, and he was nothing if not obedient - when duty called, he answered heartily.
The ordinary, he would later ponder, had the innate habit of conjuring the extraordinary. Because he is not expecting that day to be one bit different from the day before, or the day after, or any of the days for the foreseeable future. He is, in fact, simply waiting for the lift - nothing altered from his standard morning routine - when he sees her again.
He knows it is her, because no one else’s hair (no one he has met, anyway) has ever shone in quite that shade of silver.
Somehow a noise escapes from his throat, and embarrassingly enough, it is not a noise that humans should be capable of making. He feels his nose redden and curses his red hair - the family burden! - but she has already turned and spotted him.
Stupid, he thinks to himself, absently playing with the fang dangling from his left ear. His shoes become drastically more interesting than they had been before. But when he chances a glance back up, she is still looking at him. She is smiling.
Caught unawares, he grins back. And taking the stairs suddenly seems like the best idea he’s ever had.
“I am Fleur Delacour,” she tells him, her French accent brushing over the English words like glaze. Of course, he knows this. He bit his nails to the quick last June, hoping she’d make it out of the maze.
“Bill Weasley,” he responds. He is slightly proud of the fact that he could remember his name under the present circumstances. Her eyes flick over to his ponytail, and his hand goes to it automatically, worried that maybe she won’t like it. He refused to cut it at his mother’s insistence, but suddenly finds himself wondering if she might like his hair better short.
“Your ‘air ees very nice.” She smiles as she says it, and his stomach falls to rest somewhere near his shoes.
He doesn’t know if she’ll like the restaurant he picked out, on a whim, for their first date. But he’s not really sure what sorts of restaurants French girls like, and especially not girls that make him all but unable to speak without stumbling over his words.
She greets him with a smile that makes his knees feel a lot weaker than a Curse Breaker’s should. The entire length of the walk to the restaurant, he tries to come up with suitable topics of conversation, and as a result, she leads most of it.
The soup is cold, and the salad is warm, and the after-dinner coffee never even materializes. He wants to crawl under the table for having dragged her here in the first place, but he is a gentleman, and he will last it out, despite the crumbling of his manhood.
It surprises him more than anyone when they stand up after the meal is over, and she thanks him, in her beautifully accented English, for such a lovely time. He helps her on with her coat and bravely slips his hand into hers as they leave. She does not draw it back.
And it is she who instigates that first kiss.
It becomes their restaurant, if only to make fun of the food and the people who, like them, have formed a Saturday night habit in coming here. And over that small wooden table, set with cheap linens and cheap cutlery, they grow to know each other. She hears about all his brothers - five never seemed so large before - and about his sister, and he comes to know her parents and sister through her, too.
After a year, he feels like he knows her better than he knows himself. It is a comfortable feeling, and he wonders what he did without her before. There was a part of him and a part of her that have met, and they have formed Bill and Fleur into BillandFleur.
It is with this thought in mind that he gives her the ring. And it is with a similar thought that she slips it onto the fourth finger of her left hand.
Happy is, for him, an understatement.
It crushes him to see the way his family acts toward her. He has spent months and months talking about the love and companionship that they exude, and this is what they give her in return? He wants to shake them all until their teeth rattle, and make them love her as he loves her. Because it kills him to be made to feel like he has choose, and he refuses to even think about making it.
The first time he ever sees her cry is after one of her arguments with his mum, and he knows that, if he ever felt his heart break before, it is nothing compared to this. All he can do is hold her to him and never let her go, because it is all he knows how to do.
He wants so much to make this right. She has flaws, but they are what make her the woman he loves, and it is this love that bridges everything else.
All he knows is pain. There is so much of it, and it all blends with the next - the wounds on his face trickle right into the wounds on his neck, which meld with the wounds on his chest. The world is red and blurred and he worries, idly, in a semi-conscious part of his mind, if she will still love him, if he makes it through this.
He can sense that she is scared, at first, by the sight of him, and he doesn’t blame her for this at all. He knows he looks like a monster. He feels like a monster, too.
It was nice while it lasted. He almost wants her to leave him; he is at his worst, and he cannot bear for her to see him like this.
But she surprises him (or maybe it’s not a surprise at all). She loves him, and she will stand by him, she says. Come what may, they are still BillandFleur. It is the first true test of their marriage - months before the ceremony! - and they pass with flying colors.
It is the first time he knows, without a doubt, that they will be together forever. It is not the last.
Her arms are wrapped snugly around his waist, her cheek against the curve of his back, and he tries to make himself remember that it is not Harry. Nevertheless, it’s a bit odd, to say the least.
The wind is cold, and his hair is blowing right into his eyes and mouth. For the first time in a very long time, he briefly, abstractly, considers a haircut. But tonight is not the moment for that, and he grips his wand a bit harder in his hand as he flies through something he cannot see.
Ahead of them rides two figures, hunched over an impossibly thin-looking broom. Apprehension twists his stomach; Harry’s arms (no, Fleur’s) tighten around him momentarily. She lets out a gasp as one of the figures disappears with an audible crack.
There is a flash of green light, and the other figure spirals away. He knows who it is, and she knows who it is, and they instantly say silent words for a fallen soldier. Moody would not want anything more sentimental, he figures, and his main priority is to reach the Burrow.
The thestral beneath them has suddenly faded into view.
She looks absolutely gorgeous, he thinks, as she walks down the aisle toward him. She is wearing the tiara that his mum so generously offered, and this, more than anything, makes his heart swell, his eyes bright.
For a moment, he has to fight the urge to look around for the real groom, because the fact that it is him barely registers on his mind. If her eyes weren’t so fixed on his, he might really doubt it.
He cannot stop looking at her. He is so glad he won’t ever have to.
Her hands in his are light and cool, and he grips them tightly to assure himself that she is real, and that this is real. His mum has covered his scars as best as she could, but he tried to leave them, for the most part, as they were. She is marrying him for him, all of him, scars and all.
She fits perfectly into his arms as they dance, as though she was made for him. He finds he is too speechless to say anything properly befitting this moment, when she isn’t Fleur Delacour anymore, but Fleur Weasley. He tells her how beautiful she looks, but it doesn’t seem like enough. He silently vows to tell her every day for the rest of their lives, to make up for it now.
It is that moment when the world falls apart.
All he can think is protect her protect her protect her.
So he protects her.
No one will ever hurt her as long as he is with her.
He almost forgets that there is a war going on when he is at Shell Cottage. The sound of the waves, the smell of the water, and the sand that somehow infests everything makes the world seem small and cozy and not such a scary place after all. It is a good place to escape, just the two of them.
She matches this place perfectly, he thinks with pride. She is the pearly insides of broken shells and the diamond-capped waves just before they turn into foam. Her laugh is the small, light sound of the wind chimes that hang in welcome by the front door. And she is home, just as this place is home.
Here they can forget the interrogations and the disappearances. The sound of the wireless is a quiet murmur amidst the clink of dishes and the creak of footsteps, and he halfway imagines that if they turned it off entirely, the war might fade away, too.
His brother arrives on the doorstep around Christmastime, without warning, bedraggled and beat down. Ron is given the smallest upstairs bedroom without question, and neither he nor she press him for answers as to where he has been, what he has been doing, or why he is not there anymore.
She is so kind to him, he thinks, watching as she slowly nurses him back to something like health - emotionally, if not physically. He notices the strange silver thing clutched constantly in his brother’s hands, but does not comment on it. It is yet another secret of his adventures, and he is mindful of his family’s secrets.
The first months, he thinks happily, have been good ones, despite the turmoil. He knows innately that he will never tire of listening to her get ready in the morning, or watching the crease between her eyebrows as she reads the French newspaper she insists on having delivered. These are the sorts of small things he is privileged to have the time to get to know. He cannot wait to discover them all.
His first Christmas with her is forever embedded with the sounds of summer.
He does not protest when the rest of them arrive some months later - an eclectic group, but he figures, if this is what he is being asked to do for the war effort, then he will not balk. She is so wonderfully flexible and accommodating, and he finds more to love about her each day.
They cannot live in a feigned idyll forever, though. War is pressing on them like a damp hand, choking out life and hope, and he clings to her for lack of anything else to cling to. The familiar names of those dead or missing are mounting; he worries about the day when his own family’s name will scar that list. He prays it never comes.
Four depart under thick cloaks of mystery while two stay behind, and the world drags on. He wonders if the end of terror is in sight, or if this false paradise is slowly cracking. He wonders if there is a difference between the two.
He holds her hand so tightly in his he fears he might break it (she is so delicate!), but he dares not let go. He means to keep her by him forever, and that includes this night, this moment.
The room is pressed with people willing to battle Voldemort’s forces, and his throat chokes up at the sheer amount of orange Weasley hair visible to him throughout the crowd.
She turns her face up to his, her voice confident, without a single tremor of uncertainty. “We will be all right.”
He presses a light kiss onto her forehead, wishing he could give her more. He wonders if he should try and send her home, to safety, but she would never stand for it, and he will not degrade her in that way. He trusts her.
She fights so bravely. He fights for her, for the future he means to build with her.
I cannot die without having lived. I have not lived yet. I cannot die.
It is his mantra.
It is she who holds him through his brother’s funeral, strength embodied. She is his pillar of support, and he is so, so lucky to have her. He knows.
She senses when he needs time alone, and makes the proper excuses, walking away to stand beside his mother. The brothers are arranged in a line in front of the coffin, oldest to youngest. There is a gap in the line.
He touches the light wood of the coffin with his fingertips, Charlie on his right. Charlie had entered the fight towards the end - all the Weasleys had played their part, he thinks absently, as he feels his younger brother’s rough, callused hand on his own.
“I’m proud of him,” he says. Charlie nods in agreement.
He crosses back to her; she is waiting for him. He takes her in his arms and buries his face in her shoulder, breathing in her scent, his heart constricting with something that is equal parts love and grief. Her hands play absently with his hair, and she allows him just to be with her.
Despite everything that has happened, he has her, and he will always have her.
And it will be all right.
Their first child is born two years, to the day, after that battle. They call her Victoire. Victory.
He has never been prouder of her.
A/N: Many thanks to Slytherinchica08, who -- whether she knew it or not! -- inspired this one-shot through a one-shot of her own; and to Toujours Padfoot, because it's fairly impossible to find a story of mine that she hasn't touched in some way. If you'd be willing to let me know what you thought of this, I'd love to have a review from you! Thank you!
The opening lines come from T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and the title of the story comes from William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I can take credit for neither of them.