Chapter 3 : In Which Bill and Fleur Make a Decision—Separately
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One would be hard-pressed to miss the fact that Mr. William Weasley has returned to London. He was seen at the Mrs. Weasley's Spring Ball and then several more times at various locations, not the least of which was on the streets of Diagon Alley, a prime location to avoid for a man who wants to retain his Bachelor status.
Unless Mr. Weasley wishes to rid himself of such a condition?
Watch out, ladies!
—Mrs. Harriet Hortescue's Societal Observations in the daily edition of The Prophet
"I'm surprised that you're in town during the Season, Bill," Molly Weasley remarked as she sat back with her cup of hot tea. She and her eldest son were in the family sitting room, finally having a chance to sit down with each other after Bill's rather surprising return to the country. Molly had been sure that her eldest would not be back until the end of the summer, when the London Season was at its tail end.
Despite the primarily feminine décor with the floral patterned settee and chairs, the pale blue walls and curtains echoing the overall sky color, Bill felt at ease. After all, he'd grown up within this room, along with the 20 or so rooms of the mansion on St. Hampton's Court. Here, he'd come running into his mother to cry about the loss of his favorite stuffed dragon. Here, he and his brothers had been the subject of countless lectures from a loving but stern mother.
The same loving and stern mother who gazed at him with a very perceptive look. Bill restrained himself from shifting in his seat. He'd faced down dark curses, man-eating scarabs and poisonous traps in hidden vaults and yet still found himself slightly unease when his mother turned her knowing eye on him.
All seven of them, no matter how much older and wiser they all though they were, could never hold up against that look. Molly Weasley had produced far too many children to be fooled by them. His siblings numbered six: five brothers and a sister who was the youngest of them at seventeen. As he'd grown up and his parents had kept on procreating, he'd had to restrain his eye rolls at their prolificness. It wasn't a subject he wanted to venture near but one that couldn't really be ignored with the increasing number of annoying siblings. Though they had gotten less annoying as they'd grown up. A little.
Clearing his throat, he leaned forward to take a sip of his tea. "I just wanted to visit my family, especially my wonderful mum," he said, a charming smile appearing on his lips.
Molly's face softened at his statement. Damn her children for learning to be charismatic. Not to be thrown totally off course, she opened her mouth to get a straight answer from him when she was interrupted by the arrival of another son.
"Mum! Bill!" Charlie greeted them from the doorway. His eyes lit up when he noticed the biscuits and tea on the table between the two sitting. He made a bee-line for the food, his fingers hovering over the tray for a moment before picking up a chocolate biscuit and biting into it. "I thought I'd—"
"Charles Weasley!" Molly's voice cut across his.
Charlie's eyes widened before he took a moment to swallow the food that had been in his mouth and started again. "I thought I'd find you over here, Bill." His half eaten biscuit waved in the general vicinity of his brother as he took a seat next to his mother on the couch.
Grateful for the save from his mother's interrogation, Bill grabbed onto this change in topic like a lifeline. He didn't miss the look his mother threw at him. She wasn't done with him yet.
"What for?" he asked.
A small knock at the door prevented Charlie from answering. All three redheads glanced at the house elf in the doorway. "Mistress? Modiste here for you," Tella announced, giving an affectionate smile to the two men. She'd been with their family for as long as Bill could remember and had helped them out of more than a few scrapes.
"Oh! I'd almost forgotten! Get Ginny for me will you? I will be in the drawing room with Madam Malkin." Molly excused herself from her sons and headed downstairs to meet the dressmaker.
Standing up, Bill closed the door, his shoulders slumping in relief. He'd be able to get out of the house without his mother continuing on her interrogation of his motives. He wasn't yet ready to reveal them to her because then he'd know no peace and would have to go along with whatever she planned. It wasn't that he didn't love or respect his mother, he just wanted to go about this endeavor his own way.
He turned to his brother who was staring at him curiously as he munched on another biscuit. It was a good thing that their family was rich, otherwise Charlie could've eaten them out of a house and home.
"What was that all about?" Charlie asked, mouth full again but Bill didn't bother to correct him.
"What?" Bill pretended not to know what he was talking about. Partly to annoy Charlie and partly for the same reason that he'd been glad his mother had been called away.
His brother's left eyebrow rose. "You know. She was giving you the Piercing Stare."
Bill sat back down and watched Charlie finish off the biscuit in his hand, thinking. Maybe it would be good to at least tell someone in his family. Charlie was the brother he was closest to, being four years apart in age. Plus, he'd been in town longer than Bill and might have needed information in the task that Bill was setting himself to.
Taking a deep breath, he jumped in. "I'm getting married."
Charlie choked on his third biscuit (really, the man could show some restraint).
Bill got to his feet and made it over to his brother, slapping him heartily on the back. Once Charlie had regained his ability to breath normally, Bill sat back down. "Is it really that surprising?" he asked.
Charlie poured himself some tea and took two long sips before setting it back down and breathing in deeply. "Bill. You've made sure to be on one of these treasure hunts for every single Season for the past ten years. You've avoided every large party that Mum's thrown that doesn't involved one of our birthdays because you know that she would throw every eligible daughter into your path. You've outright stated that you were avoiding marriage for as long as I can remember. And now you're getting married? To whom? Why won't you tell Mum?" The questions started pouring out of his mouth.
Bill held up a restraining hand. "I haven't even asked the bride yet, so how am I supposed to our mother who will just get overly excited and tell the whole of the Wizarding world and probably some of the Muggle world, too?"
Charlie stared at his older brother in confusion. "Wait. So you're telling me that you're getting married but the girl doesn't even know it yet? What's the big rush on this?"
He looked at his brother, noting both the similarities and the differences between them. While they were both in possession of the famous Weasley red hair, Charlie had taken after their father in getting blue eyes and a shorter hair. Charlie, who was more taken with studying dragons and other magical animals, didn't have the hardened edge that Bill had acquired in his work as a Curse-breaker. He'd had to hone his instincts to a fine edge so he could always keep one step ahead of any latent curses that laid over buried treasure.
His brother also did not have an expiration date on his life.
In the years since Babbling Belinda had made her chilling prophecy to him, he'd gone through phases of utterly believing in what she had said to scoffing and writing her off as crazy. Except, even in those moments, he couldn't totally shrug her off. He'd stayed away from roses, both in the gardens at the Burrow and in any bouquets he would give the ladies he was involved with. As the years passed and his thirtieth year approached, he'd resigned himself to his fate.
At eight and twenty, he was just at the age to get married and start his own family. While he had five other brothers who could inherit the Weasley estates, he knew his father wanted to continue the tradition of passing the duties and responsibilities of being a Weasley patriarch to the eldest Weasley son. And while he expressed exasperation and frustration at times at what was expected of him, Bill would never dishonor his family, especially his father, by not taking care of them. So before his time on this earth was up, he was going to marry and he was going to produce an heir. He would do it for his family.
But none of this would he impart to his brother. No one in his family even knew about Babbling Belinda and neither had Bill seen hide nor hair of her since that significant moment in Diagon Alley. There was no need to have them have this black cloud over their head when there was nothing to really be done with it.
Because he wouldn't say anything, Bill just shrugged. "I just felt like now was a good time as any." Not wanting to stay on that same line of thought, Bill said, "Like I said, I think I've found the perfect girl: Gabrielle Delacour."
Charlie's eyebrows rose and he let out a low whistle. "That's aiming pretty high, Bill. She's got some Veela blood." Bill gave him a look and Charlie's hands came up in mock surrender. "Yeah, yeah. You're the great William Weasley. 'Watch out, ladies!'" Charlie made a sweep with his arm, as if indicating a headline, chuckling.
Bill sighed. That Harriet Hortescue gossip column was not worth the effort in reading it, yet so many of the ton were addicted to it. It didn't help that whoever the infernal woman (or even man) was had created such a scandal when she'd first started reporting. Unlike previous gossip columnists, Mrs. Hortescue had no qualms about putting full names in the papers. It was an infamous honor to be so mentioned by her. Lately, she seemed to be obsessed with his marital status. A fact which wasn't helping Bill trying to keep his actions on the discreet.
Brushing aside his brother's comment and laughter, Bill stood up. "I'm very well not going to marry someone I can't even bed. Besides, when I danced with her in your stead a few nights ago, she was pleasant to talk to and seemed to have more than clouds in her head. I could at least like her."
But not love her.
That was the one condition Bill placed upon getting married before his time was up. He would need to marry someone he could not fall in love with. It was going to be hard enough to leave his large family whom he all loved well, but to add a wife who was supposed to be his life-long partner and mother to his children that he was also desperately in love with? That would just be cruel.
He watched as his brother nodded in response before helping himself to another biscuit.
Gabrielle Delacour was perfect. Except for the fact that her sister was a bit of a shrew.
"You are not going to marry William Weasley."
Gabi ignored her sister's pronouncement as she buried her nose into the fragrant pink and purple peonies that had just arrived for her. They were really quite lovely and a fresh burst of color from the red and white roses that had arrived in a nearly endless stream for Gabi following her debut at the Weasley ball. But Fleur was not going to have her sister marry a rake, seemingly one of the worst kind if she was going to listen to Miss Parkinson's gossip, which she wasn't really. Really.
"I'm serious, Gabrielle." Using her sister's full name always meant business in Fleur's mind. And apparently in Gabi's as well as she lifted her nose from the flowers.
"Why? He was perfectly nice when I danced with him the other night."
Fleur crossed her arms, a small frown appearing on her face. She restrained the urge to sigh. Her sister was so innocent and young and she didn't want to be the one to expose her to her to the baser urges of men. Though it would only be for her own good.
She looked around the small foyer of the townhouse they were staying in. The house had a used feel to it, having seen many families come and go in its time, she supposed. While the walls and floors, the carpets and furniture all had an almost worn edge to it, the house was at least clean and easy to keep up with just one maid and a cook.
"He's a—I just don't think he's—well, Gabi, he's—"
"A rake? A charmer? A man of many paramours?" Gabi cut across her sister's stumbling explanation, blue eyes twinkling at the shock on Fleur's face. "I'm not a child, Fleur. I also have ears." She wiggled them, an action which never failed to get Fleur smiling. It was such an unusual talent and one that Apolline abhorred yet also found charming though she did ask that her youngest not display such a skill in public.
"Well, yes. All of the above. You deserve having a man who will be loyal only to you." Her hand came out to tuck a blonde curl back up into her sister's hair.
Gabi gave a small smile at the affection in her sister's tone before turning back to arrange the flowers a little better. "I know. But I can't be too picky. I've also got to marry rich for you and Maman."
It was said with no resentment yet it sent guilt tripping through Fleur. She moved to take her sister into her arms, blinking back emotion. "Oh, Gabi. You don't have to worry about us. You know we'll be able to take care of ourselves."
Gabi moved back to meet her sister's eyes. "But you've both been so worried about the money and doing so much to make sure we can keep alive, that I wanted to take that burden away from you. And it would be so easy, just having to marry someone who had money," she whispered, failing to hide the sparkle of tears in her eyes.
Fleur's hand came up to wipe the stray tear that had fallen down her sister's cheek. "You marry whoever you want, rich or poor, just so long as you'll be happy with him. That's what matters most for us."
"I know," Gabi sniffed, before a mischievous grin appeared on her face. "Mr. Weasley is very good-looking and rich, so it wouldn't hurt for me to get to know him better, right?"
Fleur nodded. There wasn't any actual harm in at least finding out more about Mr. Weasley. A determined gleam entered her eyes. She would watch out for the least bit of ungentlemanly behavior and at any smidgen of that towards her sister, Fleur would get him out of Gabi's life. He could count on it.
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