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Chapter 6 : Butterbeers For Two
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Merlin, she’d been laughing at him, hadn’t she? Great.
He’d dashed home to Grimmauld Place as soon as his shift had ended, praying there wouldn’t be an emergency Order meeting tonight. He couldn’t miss his first evening out with Fleur. Thankfully, there’d been no mention of any unplanned gathering and Mum had actually seemed pleased when he told her he had plans. She seemed to take this as confirmation that he was settling back into his life here and wouldn’t be returning to Egypt any time soon. He’d hoped he could get ready quickly and leave again before any of the others could see him and interrogate him about his evening. Sadly, his hope had not been realised.
“Where are you off to, Bill?”
The dreadfully familiar, yet unexpected voices caused him to jump. He’d been concentrating on fixing his hair and hadn’t noticed Fred and George Apparating into his dark little bedroom.
He sighed loudly, dragging a comb through his long hair and turned to face them. They were sitting cross-legged on his bed, beaming up at him in an expectant sort of way.
“I have to go back to work,” he lied, turning his back on them to check his reflection in the small mirror he’d nicked from the bathroom. “Order stuff, you know.”
“Can’t fool us with that one!” George laughed.
“Yeah!” Fred agreed. “Just because we’re not in the Order doesn’t mean we don’t know what’s going on, and we just happen to know that you’re not involved in anything tonight!”
Bill scowled. “It’s top secret,” he muttered, trying to smooth down his hair.
“A top secret meeting with one elusive top secret person?” George asked, innocently.
“That’s the ticket,” Bill agreed gravely, now rootling through his drawers for something to wear.
“An elusive, top secret, girl perhaps?” Fred asked, grinning.
Bill froze, his favourite black robes clutched in his hand.
“Maybe,” he replied eventually.
“Who is she?” George asked eagerly.
“A girl,” Bill replied dryly, searching for a clean pair of socks.
Rolling his eyes dramatically, Fred sniggered, “Well we could have guessed that much, William, unless there’s something you’re keeping quiet?”
Bill shot him a filthy look, hating the mention of his full name as well as Fred’s not too subtle implications, while George fell back on the bed, roaring with laughter.
“Yes she’s a girl,” he hissed. “A girl I work with-”
George interrupted him suddenly. “It’s Fleur Delacour, isn’t it?”
Bill’s eyes widened. “How-how did you know?”
George raised an eyebrow. “Please!” he laughed. “You look like a Bludger hit you up the head. Clearly, it’s Fleur Delacour, you haven’t looked like this since the Third Task back in June!”
“Fine,” he admitted at last, quelling the twins’ laughter with an unusually stern glare. “Yes, by some remarkable coincidence, Fleur Delacour is now working at Gringotts and today, well, I invited her out for a drink. Tonight!”
For probably the first time in their lives, Fred and George seemed to have been rendered speechless. Bill felt rather proud of himself for achieving this extraordinary feat, but it didn’t last long. Fred recovered first, sitting up straight and speaking in such a formal, business like tone that Bill was momentarily stunned.
“We’ve been contemplating this situation for a while,” he stated seriously. “And George and I have come to the conclusion that the only way to get to this young lady’s heart is to speak her native tongue, impress her with your innate understanding of her lingo. You know, I think there’s a chapter in that book you didn’t want Mum to-”
Bill cut him off. He had learned, the hard way, that the best thing to do was usually humour Fred and George; pretend to go along with their schemes, so he nodded seriously, as though he actually considered taking his seventeen year old brothers’ advice on girls.
“What would you propose I do?” he asked, as though this matter was troubling him deeply. “Seeing as you two obviously know what you’re doing.”
“No need to thank us,” George swooped in, “but we took the liberty of procuring a few French phrases for you, guaranteed to make her fall in love with you.”
“Well, let’s hear them!”
Fred looked from George to Bill, gleefully rubbing his hands together. “Well, the first one, this is pure gold, ‘tu ressembles à une chèvre malade.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if she married you on the spot with that one.”
“But in the unlikely event she didn’t swoon at that one, you could always try this,” George continued. “’ Vous sentez comme un cochon mort.’ It’s even better!”
Bill smirked. Unbeknownst to Fred and George, he had been doing his own investigation into the French language recently. On his first day working in Diagon Alley, he’d been browsing in Flourish and Blotts one lunchtime and had come across a tattered looking little book in the second hand section. The faded front cover proclaimed it was a ‘beginner’s guide to French.’ He thought it might have been an old Muggle book, certainly the pictures remained stationary, but it was very effective. He kept it out of reach from the rest of the family though, it would have fascinated his dad and he might never have got it back. He’d been flicking through it whenever he had a spare moment. Though he couldn’t exactly be classified as a fluent French speaker just yet, he thought he had grasped enough of the basics to know that the phrases Fred and George suggested weren’t exactly suitable.
“Thanks guys,” he said seriously. “You’re a big help.”
And now here he was, sitting at an empty table in the Leaky Cauldron, waiting for her to arrive. He’d made a conscious effort to arrive in good time. He wanted to make a good impression after all. However, those ten minutes were the longest of his life. He sat at one of the few vacant tables, absently drumming his fingers against the wooden surface, his surroundings becoming more and more dismal the more he looked round.
What had he been thinking of, inviting her to the Leaky Cauldron for their first date? There was no denying the shabby little pub was cosy, but romantic? Sadly, no. He supposed he should have invited her somewhere a little more upmarket than the Leaky Cauldron. Even that stupid little teashop in Hogsmeade would be better than this! Tom, the old barman, was very friendly, but he didn’t exactly provide a romantic ambiance. Still, the little Diagon Alley pub was far more in Bill’s price range than anywhere else. His wages had taken a slight dip since he’d come to England, and he wasn’t the kind of man who always had spare change lying around in any case. And, according to the few posters that adorned the walls, there was to be a live music act playing there later in the evening. That would be romantic, wouldn’t it? As long as it wasn’t Celestina Warbeck; he didn’t want Fleur’s ears to bleed on their first date.
His incessant drumming on the table top got louder as his feelings of nervousness heightened, and now his leg was jiggling up and down too. He hoped he wasn’t sweating too. That was all he needed. Where was she? He glanced up at the clock on the wall yet again, and then automatically looked down at his watch. It was still five minutes to seven. Plenty of time. She’d be here. She wasn’t going to stand him up.
He shook the idea off. She’d agreed to come, hadn’t she? He tried to reason with himself. He hadn’t asked her to meet him until seven o’clock. She’d be here soon. Wouldn’t she? What if he’d imagined her agreeing to meet him? What if it had all been a joke? He had just decided on his plan of action; to sprint away from the pub, Apparate back to Grimmauld Place and never mention Fleur Delacour again, when the door to the Leaky Cauldron burst open and a collective hush descended on the previously bustling pub.
Bill glanced up in spite of himself, even though he had drawn his dragon hide jacket round his shoulders and had half stood up, ready to leave. She was here! He sat back down immediately, quickly shrugging off his jacket, and looking around, hoping he didn’t look as nervous, and relieved as he felt.
She spotted him at once, and walked quickly over to the table he occupied, ignoring the gaping stares and awed whispers that followed her as she went. She smiled at him as she unwound her silky silver scarf and hung her coat over the back of her chair.
“I ‘ope I did not keep you waiting!” she said, slipping into the chair opposite him.
“No, not at all!” he lied, and he was relieved that his voice didn’t match the nervous excitement flooding up inside him.
“I ‘ave never been ‘ere before,” she remarked, gazing round at her surroundings with surprising interest.
“It’s probably not the nicest place in the world,” Bill admitted, “but it’s close to work, and that, so I just thought...”
He trailed off awkwardly, mentally kicking himself for making such a stupid statement. Why did he have to bring up the inadequate location? Now she’d know what a foolish mistake even coming here had been!
“I think it’s perfect,” she smiled, and she placed her small, delicate hand over his, which still rested upon the table.
He stared down at their joined hands in disbelief. Just then, the waitress that Tom had hired to help out during the busy evenings ambled over to take their order, and Fleur let go of him at once. Why, why couldn’t the waitress have waited just a few seconds more?
“Can I get you two anything?” the young woman drawled, pulling a tiny notebook and a rather bedraggled quill from her apron.
“A butterbeer for me please,” Bill answered without thinking. Butterbeer, seriously? What age was he, twelve?
But to his surprise, Fleur had answered, “And anozzer for me, please,” and the waitress had shuffled away.
“Really?’ he asked, raising an eyebrow incredulously.
She laughed, and he caught another glimpse of the dazzlingly white, straight teeth. “I tried it at ze Yule Ball at ‘Ogwarts,” she explained. “Much nicer zan zat mead you Britons all love!”
He nodded approvingly. “I was there for the Third Task, you know,” he added.
She looked up to meet his eyes and was startled to see a faint blush creeping into her cheeks. “I know,” she said quietly. “I saw you there that morning.”
For a moment, neither of them spoke, content in each other’s company just to look at each other. Bill was startled out of his blissful reverie by the waitress setting down the two bottles of butterbeer with rather unnecessary force.
“So,” he said, opening a bottle and passing it across the table to her. “What brings you here to, er, sunny England?”
She took a sip of her drink, gazing at him over the top of the dusty brown bottle. “I enjoyed my time here, very much,” she said eventually, as though she had been thinking hard about the question. “I thought zere would be great opportunities for my career, and I wanted to improve my English!”
“I assume Gringotts wasn’t exactly what you had in mind, then?” he asked gently.
She shook her head vigorously, her long silvery hair flying out around her. “Not really!” she laughed. “But still, perhaps zere are some compensations,” she said slowly, looking up at him once more with those sparkling blue eyes.
“You know,” he said, his face becomingly uncomfortably warm under the intensity of her gaze. “If you want, I could, erm, give you a hand with your English, if you wanted.”
Perhaps she didn’t understand the meaning of that particular phrase, but Bill didn’t complain as she extended her hand over his once more and smiled. “Zat would be wonderful,” she whispered.
As the evening drew on, they talked. Just talked. Bill was pleasantly surprised at how easily the conversation rose to his lips, at how he could make her smile, make her laugh. They talked about their jobs, and their families, even though Fleur had already encountered most of his siblings during her year at Hogwarts. They spoke of their childhoods, though Fleur’s idyllic, luxurious upbringing in France was a far cry from his own raising in the Burrow. They chatted about ideas and hopes for the future, nostalgic thoughts from the past, and everything else in between.
He wasn’t even aware of the time passing until a loud voice from the other end of the pub announced the night’s entertainment was getting underway. There was a smattering of applause and a few catcalls as the ancient Wizarding group, the Hobgoblins, minus the former lead singer Stubby Boardman, began to play. Bill grimaced. The old-fashioned group were a lot more suited to his parents’ music taste than to his, but still, there was no denying that they were capable of belting out a few catchy songs.
Bill caught Fleur smiling as the group began to play, and almost absently tapping her foot along to the rather distinctive song, ‘Grandma got Run Over by a Hippogriff.’ He wasn’t aware of where it came from, but all of a sudden, he was gripped with a burning desire to dance with Fleur Delacour.
Hardly aware of what he was doing, he stood up and offered an arm to her. “Would you like to dance?” he asked.
She looked rather taken aback, and she smiled and stood up, taking hold of his hand. He led her out onto the empty expanse of floor which might vaguely be classified as a dance floor. Not that he was here Bill realised that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. The Leaky Cauldron wasn’t exactly famed for dancing, and the next track the band was performing, ‘Stupefy My Broomstick,’ wasn’t the most romantic of songs. He was about to suggest they just go and sit back down, he was very aware that people were staring, when Fleur took his hands, and placed them on her waist, before reaching up and lightly laying her hands against his shoulders.
Merlin! He didn’t know what to say, but maybe now wasn’t the time for talking. Maybe now was a perfect time just to be quiet and revolve slowly on the spot, feeling her hands against his shoulders, her slim waist under his touch. Perhaps now was just the right time, to gaze into her eyes and not say a word.
And it didn’t matter that people were staring, or that the music was outdated and gaudy or they were dancing in the Leaky Cauldron. It just mattered that he was here with her, Bill Weasley was with Fleur Delacour, and he was having the time of his life.
As he walked her back to her little flat later that night, when Tom had insisted he had to lock up and the Hobgoblins had played every song in their repertoire twice, Bill reflected that maybe the Leaky Cauldron wasn’t as bad as he first thought. They walked, hand in hand, down the cobbled street, her hair glinting in the moonlight, her laugh echoing in the silent night air. He didn’t want to let her go, though he knew he’d see her tomorrow morning in the bank. They’d already made plans for tomorrow night, and yet, he didn’t want this moment to end.
When she insisted she really had to go, he reluctantly dropped her hand, then, without making the conscious decision to do so, he drew her close to him. If she was surprised, she certainly didn’t show it. In a moment that seemed to last an eternity, they simply stood outside her dingy flat, their figures locked together, savouring the moment, never wanting to let go.
“Au revoir, mademoiselle,” he whispered as he finally left.
“Au revoir, monsieur,” she giggled as he turned on the spot and Apparated back to the real world.
A/N Just in case your French isn't quite Beauxbatons standard, the charming phrases Fred and George picked out were 'you resemble a sick goat' and the always romantic 'you smell like a dead pig.' Enjoy!
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