Chapter 4 : Desk Job
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Grimmauld Place was, as its name suggested, was a rather grim old place to live, and he would much rather have lived at the Burrow again, but security being what it was, he had taken up residence there with the rest of them. Still, taking up the desk job wasn’t all bad. Even though he was still young, the position of a curse breaker was rather high up, and he immediately gained respect from his colleagues, even from his first day on the job. He was given his own office, granted it was no bigger than a broom cupboard, but it was his own, nonetheless. While reading documents and writing reports and filing things away wasn’t exactly the most exciting job on the planet, especially compared with what he was used to, it was still a job, and the Order had to come first.
He sat back at his highly polished desk, which he had wiped with his sleeve that morning, reading a long memo someone had sent him. Line upon line of the slanted script seemed to blur into one so that Bill was reading the same line over and over, without the faintest idea of what any of the words meant. He leaned back in the rickety old chair, stuffing the memo away into an already overflowing drawer, promising himself he’d work on it in the morning. Resting his head in his hands and closing his eyes, he allowed his thoughts to flit, where they so often did these days, back to the subject of Fleur Delacour.
He hadn’t been able to get her out of his head from the two months since their first meeting. Their only meeting, he reminded himself firmly. And it couldn’t really be classified as a meeting, really, since neither of them had spoken. Still, he had taken it as his duty to find out everything he could about her.
He’d cheered her on as she entered that foreboding maze, as loudly as he dared without making his family suspicious, had waited with apprehension as the Task played out, had watched with fear pounding in his chest as red sparks were sent up by one of the Champions, his heart had been in his mouth as she was retrieved from the maze, but relief flooded over him as she was quickly revived by the teachers who patrolled the maze. He had posed as many questions about her as he could at home without rousing the suspicions of his brothers. Unfortunately for Bill, he wasn’t that good an actor, and Fred and George had realised what he was up to straight away. They hadn’t stopped teasing him since.
He hadn’t been able to speak to her of course, despite his intentions to. He’d been formulating his best strategy as he’d sat, restless, watching the Third Task, which admittedly, was not that exciting after the Champions had disappeared within the dark hedges. He decided he would wait until all the initial chaos of the Tournament ended, then approach her from behind, tap her lightly on her delicate shoulder. When she turned round, a bemused smile on her face, he’d bow deeply, and produce a bouquet of roses from behind his back. Obviously she’d be delighted and she would smile, and he’d introduce himself then they’d....then...they’d run off into the sunset, perhaps?
But in all the ensuing chaos, his plan hadn’t come to fruition, and immediately he was swept up into the world of the Order of the Phoenix. You-Know-Who was back and the world had been turned upside down. Still, Bill wished he might have gotten the chance to speak to her, just for a moment, before the real world kicked into overdrive. He thought so much about the moment their eyes had met, he was sure she must have felt something. Still, even if he were to meet her again, what did someone like Bill Weasley have to offer someone like her? What could she possibly see in him, someone who’d had to work hard for every Knut in his pocket, someone she’d never even spoken to, someone who couldn’t bring her home because he was living in the headquarters of a secret organisation that he couldn’t even tell her about? He supposed she had gone back home to France. He couldn’t blame her from getting away from all this without a backwards glance. He’d give almost anything to be back in Egypt. He even envied Charlie these days; his brother was still off in Romania, able to do work for the Order without leaving his beloved dragons behind.
Sighing, Bill pushed his chair out from his desk and stood up, absently shaking back his long hair from his face. His Mum had been on at him again to let her cut it, asking him to consider what the others at the bank must think of it. Bill had refused though, laughing it off, despite what Rita Skeeter had called him once when she interviewed the curse breakers, he rather liked being a ‘long haired pillock.’ He decided a walk would do him good. Being stuck behind a desk all day, as well as being home to his Mum’s delicious cooking, wasn’t exactly doing him any favours. A walk would give him the chance to stretch his legs and clear his head; it was maddening claustrophobic in this cramped little office compared with the wide open spaces of Egypt.
Locking the office door behind him, he strolled along the corridor, glad to have something to do. It wasn’t that he disliked working here, but he often felt like he wasn’t being of any real use to anyone, shut away in that little broom cupboard of an office. He remembered thinking his father’s office at the Ministry was tiny when he visited there as a young teenager. It was a mansion in comparison to his. His boots tapped loudly against the roughly hewn stone floor as he pounded the familiar track down to the entrance hall of the bank. Something in his subconscious had decided that it simply wasn’t going to be enough to walk around the corridors; he needed to actually leave the building, if only for a minute.
Descending another staircase, he found something of a commotion blocking up the corridor. Bank officials were bustling past, muttering in highly carrying voices of ‘young interns getting ahead of themselves’ and ‘stupid little girls doing nothing but making a mess.’ Curiosity sparked, Bill decided to see what all the fuss was about. As one of the new employees himself, at least to this branch, he felt it was his duty to stand up for this girl who apparently had gotten herself into trouble.
He rounded the corner and was met with the rather unusual sight of sheets of parchment covering the ground and drifting off away from the young woman who tried to cling onto them. Well, the poor girl had obviously dropped them, and was now struggling to retrieve them. Wanting to show that not all Gringotts employees were as sullen as the ones who tramped past her, Bill advanced towards the girl with the intentions of helping her. He thought he could hear her crying and he quickened his pace towards her. However, before he could drop to his knees and pick up the fallen parchment, the girl had gone. He thought he could hear a little muffled sob before she was lost in the throng of people and he looked quickly in her direction to see if he could discern who exactly she was when he saw something that made the very breath in his chest seem to freeze.
He could have sworn he saw Fleur Delacour darting round the corner.
But it couldn’t be, could it? That was impossible! There was absolutely no chance, no way, not even the remotest of possibilities that Fleur Delacour could just have walked past him. It was absurd!
And yet, he was sure that nobody else had such silvery hair that shone like that, even in this dimly lit corridor. He hadn’t been working here very long, it was true, but he was sure he would have remembered seeing someone else who could even partly fit Fleur’s description. He had to find out if it was her. He couldn’t just let an opportunity like this go by, even if it was impossible that Fleur could have just appeared here, out of the blue, in his new place of work.
Still, he couldn’t leave all this parchment lying around on the ground.
Fleur, or whoever that was, obviously was supposed to deliver it somewhere, and besides, gathering it up and taking a quick glance at it might give him some clue of where she might have gone.
Ignoring the shaking of heads and mutterings that still passed by him, Bill took out his wand from the pocket of his robes and muttered, “Accio parchment!” At once, the sheets of yellowing paper zoomed towards him and landed in a neat pile in his outstretched hands. He glanced at the topmost sheet. In the thin script scrawled in drippy black ink, it labelled this desired address of this document to be Office 25. Bill stared at it in disbelief. That was his office! Bill never would have said that he was a great believer in fate, but somehow, at this precise moment in time, this seemed to confirm him that he was destined to meet Fleur today. It was going to happen!
Except-bugger-she’d just run off, hadn’t she?
He stood up, not even pausing to brush the dust from his knees, wondering where Fleur might have got to. Would she have made her way up to Office 25, even without the parchment? No, that was unlikely; perhaps she was frightened of going up there without the document? Was she based in an office of her own? He wondered whether she might have gone to the cloakroom. Well, it seemed as possible a place as any. He stowed the document, he didn’t even care what it was, into the deep pocket of his robes and set off at a run towards the staff cloakroom.
He skidded to a halt outside the door, and wrenched it open, peering all around expectantly for the glorious sight he was sure would meet his eyes. With his heart hammering in his chest, and his lungs fighting to take in air, he realised that the dingy little room was empty. He paused to catch his breath, leaning up against the wall. He was sure she would have been here! But no, the cloakroom was just as how he had left it this morning when he’d hung up his favourite dragon hide jacket (however much Charlie protested about it, it was his favourite article of clothing). He turned to leave, to go back up to his office and attend to the blasted document that had started all this, when something caught his eye.
A pale blue something that stood out in sharp relief against the dull grey of the grimy floor.
He turned to look at it at once, still not entirely sure what his eyes had focused on, but knowing, somehow, that it was significant. He bent down to pick it up, his fingers grasping the silky square of crumpled material. It had to be a handkerchief, he decided, a lady’s handkerchief with delicate, scalloped edges and a set of initials embroidered neatly in the corner. He turned it over in his fingers, absently, while the beautifully sewn letters glared up at him, practically screaming at his brain to register what he was seeing.
He looked again at the immaculately crafted letters, two dark blue letters...FD. Merlin!
“Fleur Delacour!” he whispered triumphantly under his breath.
So it was her! She had been here! But where had she gone? He crumpled the handkerchief in his fist, the smooth material soft against the callused skin of his hand. As glorious as this discovery was, it still didn’t really help him find out where Fleur was. A few weeks ago, this small item would have made his day, made him grin sappily like an idiot, but at this moment in time, it was a cruel reminder that Fleur had slipped out of his grasp again.
He supposed he better get back to work now, read whatever document Fleur was supposed to deliver to him, file it away, and write a report. He sighed. His hopes had been raised to such dizzying heights, and then dashed again all in the space of a few minutes. He was forced to realise that he really had no clue where Fleur might have gone, and that it was hopeless to continue this wild goose chase all over the building for her. She could be anywhere by now; in any of the many underground offices, marching along a far-flung corridor, she might even have left the building!
A sudden thought occurred to Bill, so incredibly logical that he couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of it before. The Entrance Hall! Someone there was bound to know where she might be!
He hurried out of the cloakroom, took the steep staircase at a run and finally slid to a stop in the fancy marble Entrance Hall. The many goblins seated on stools behind the high counters, weighing glittering jewels, writing neat entries in leather bound books, barely spared him a glance as he sprinted across the floor, looking for someone he knew, someone he could trust to talk to.
He knew Bogrod, who sat examining a pile of shiny gold coins, and he hurried to speak to him, to ask him if he knew anything, when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Something silvery blonde that stood out in sharp relief against the dull backdrop of the ornate hall, which, despite its fancily decorated exterior, paled into insignificance beside her.
It was her, it had to, it had to! Though he had approached Bogrod and had even opened his mouth to speak, he turned away from the bewildered goblin and headed straight for Fleur Delacour.
But she was leaving, she was exiting the hall. She couldn’t see him; he was going to miss her again. She would leave Gringotts and immediately get swallowed up in the bustling Diagon Alley ahead. He couldn’t let her slip through his grasp again. He had to make himself known to her; he had to grab her attention. And perhaps it wasn’t the introduction he had been thinking up for weeks, but he raised his voice, cupped his hands round his mouth and yelled, “Excuse me! Miss! Wait a second, please, hang on a moment!”
It sounded stupid, even in his own head, but it seemed to do the trick. To his delight, she turned round, and she was more beautiful than he had remembered, a hundred times more beautiful than the phantom Fleurs who had filled his dreams, and suddenly he couldn’t think what to say...but that didn’t matter.
He had found her, they were together, and...she was pointing her wand directly at his chest.
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