Chapter 7 : One Month
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One month. It felt like much longer to Fleur sometimes. In some ways, she felt like she had known Bill Weasley her entire life, she felt like she could say anything around him, could confide anything to his trusting nature. Never before she had trusted someone so completely, in such a short space of time. And yet, sometimes, it felt as though the month had passed by in a blur. It seemed like only a few dizzy hours ago that she was preparing for that fateful evening back in the Leaky Cauldron. She could hardly believe she was sitting in the little pub again, this time to celebrate the joys of the last month.
She hadn’t particularly cared for that shabby pub the first time she’d entered. It was a bit too dim and scruffy for her liking, but Bill had chosen it, so there was no higher recommendation in her eyes. And they’d had a brilliant time after all. She still smiled at the memory of their conversation and good-humoured banter back and forth, and the cold, foamy butterbeer, and the loud, slightly gaudy music and that pleasantly surprising moment when Bill had asked her to dance. It may not have been the classical orchestrated music, or the sweeping ball gowns she always imagined when she used to think of the perfect evening out, but she’d had to admit to herself, that this was better. Much, much better.
In the month since, they’d been out together as often as they could manage it. She’d have been more than happy to meet him every single evening, but Bill sometimes had things to do, family things he’d told her, and she’d spent those evenings in her dingy little flat. Her mother had been alarmed at the dreamy tone her most recent letters had taken on, and she’d been forced to reveal the truth in a hastily scribbled note after her Maman threatened to bring her home. Maman was delighted for her, and Gabrielle had sent relentless owls, asking all about it, which she was now only too happy to oblige. Papa, however, didn’t seem too pleased, but Fleur assumed this was only natural. She knew he would always see her as his little girl, and it can’t have been altogether easy for him what with her leaving home for England, and now having a boyfriend.
A boyfriend! She couldn’t quite comprehend it sometimes. It was hard to believe that she no longer had to admire him from a distance; she was going out with him! She hadn’t been able to concentrate all that day at work, filled with blissful thoughts of the evening ahead. Bill had suggested they meet at the Leaky Cauldron again, a funny, tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Fleur had wholeheartedly agreed with. Though they’d been to any number of places in the past few weeks; discrete little restaurants she didn’t even know existed for affordable, yet agreeable meals, ice creams inside the brightly decorated Florean Fortescue’s in Diagon Alley, once they’d even Apparated to an adorable little teashop in the village near Hogwarts.
Somehow, they were always drawn back to the Leaky Cauldron. It held a kind of significance for them, and now, one month on, it seemed only fitting that they returned again.
Fleur arrived first this time. Bill had whispered in her ear as she’d kissed him that afternoon before she left Gringotts that he’d have to nip home after work, but he’d meet her there, as usual. She felt a blush creeping into her cheeks as she remembered the feel of his lips on hers, his warm comforting hand tucked into hers, the intensity of his deep blue gaze, the way he’d raise an eyebrow before shaking back his fiery red hair and laughing.
She’d slipped into the Leaky Cauldron after making an extra effort with her hair and outfit. Bill assured her, almost every time he saw her that she was beautiful, no matter what she wore, but she still wanted to impress him, especially on a night like tonight. Though her silver dress robes still couldn’t be classified as suitable for an evening in Diagon Alley, she’d used her carefully saved wages to make a purchase at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions that afternoon. She’d stumbled upon the little shop almost by accident, and had then spent a happy hour browsing its contents, with the welcomed assistance of Madam Malkin herself. After trying on several sets of robes, and perusing countless samples of fabric in hundreds of colours and patterns, she’d finally decided on a beautiful set of deep blue robes patterned with tiny, intricately woven flowers in sparkly silver thread.
She hadn’t let on to the aged lady, who’d been so helpful, but the soft blue fabric exactly matched the colour of Bill’s eyes, and, well, the flowery pattern reflected her own name. She used to ridicule the girls at Beauxbatons who become sentimental, soppy wrecks like this, but she couldn’t help it.
Now she sat, dangling her legs at one of the few empty table tables in the Leaky Cauldron, idly looking round and waiting for Bill to arrive. She hadn’t arrived early enough to nab the table they’d sat at for the first date, but had resigned to taking one a few tables over, and glanced despairingly at the plump old witches who occupied their table, gossiping loudly about the raised prices at Magical Menagerie.
The young waitress had already trundled over, and she’d ordered two bottles of butterbeer, which had then been placed before her. Now she waited, enjoying the comfortable atmosphere while the minutes left until Bill’s arrival ticked away. There was no band playing tonight, but a large wooden wireless sat near the worn bar and she sat back in the hard-backed chair, listening contentedly to the cheerful music being pumped around the pub. There was a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, and she closed her eyes, smiling lazily as she took in the homely ambiance. She wished her friends from Beauxbatons could see her now, feeling very much at home in a shabby little pub in England. She could picture their faces now, and she giggled as she took a sip of her drink. She was glad to be away from them, really. She was having the time of her live here without them, and though she sometimes experienced short stabs of homesickness and a tangible pang for her family in France, she knew she was in the right place.
“Alright, sweetheart?” a coarse voice shocked her abruptly out of her thoughts and she opened her eyes to see a small man squatting down beside her, uncomfortably close, his face inches from hers.
“Fine, zank you,” she replied curtly, hoping that an indifferent manner would encourage him to leave her alone.
“Surely a nice little girl like you isn’t here by yourself?” he asked, grinning.
She automatically pulled her handbag closer to her, and looked up at the clock on the wall. Ten past seven. Where was Bill?
“I am waiting for someone,” she said frostily, glancing pointedly away from the little man.
He did not seem put off, on the contrary, his smile widened. “Got a boyfriend, have you, sweetheart? Where is he then? Has he stood you up?”
She may not have entirely understood his heavily accented manner of speaking, but there was no denying the tone of his voice. She shuddered involuntarily and wrinkled her nose at the sickening stench of stale tobacco, drink and sweat that seemed to emanate from the horrid, straggly haired man.
“’E is on his way,” she said coldly.
He raised his eyebrow incredulously and she was forcefully reminded of Bill. Where was he?
“Fair enough,” he shrugged and he reached out and patted Fleur’s arm with a grimy, filthy finger nailed hand.
She recoiled at once, looking horrified, and he threw back his head and laughed at the expression on her face. She snatched her arm out of his grasp, and drew her wand out of the pocket of her robes. She pointed it directly into the man’s face and his murky eyes went slightly crossed as he struggled to keep it in view.
“Touch me one more time,” she snarled, “and you will regret it.”
He immediately stood up, glancing warily at the wand still trained upon his chest. “Alright, alright,” he muttered, holding up his hands in mock surrender. “Merlin’s arse, I was just having a laugh!”
She rolled her eyes as he sidled quickly out of sight and she stowed her wand back in her pocket, shaking back her long hair. Though she felt rather proud of herself for thinking and reacting quickly, she was angry that she had had to defend herself against the revolting, bandy-legged little man.
She glanced round at the crowded pub once more, no longer convinced of the friendly atmosphere she was previously so confidently aware of. She decided she wasn’t as fond of the pub anymore. And where was Bill? She glanced once again up at the clock on the wall. Twenty past seven. They had agreed to meet at seven o’clock, as usual. Surely he hadn’t forgotten?
She took another sip of her drink, but it was all she could do to stop herself from spitting it out. It was sickening sweet, the frothy bubbles nauseated her and she glanced up at the clock again, willing herself to swallow it. Bill would be here soon, he’d promised, hadn’t he?
She didn’t want to be here anymore, she wanted to go home, back to her little flat. She’d complained about it often enough, but it now seemed like the most welcoming place in the world. She’d even prefer to be in Gringotts, stalking up and down the corridors delivering memos! Anywhere was better than here. The bandy-legged little man had disappeared back into the shadows of the pub, but she still felt uncomfortable. She wished they’d agreed to meet somewhere else tonight, anywhere else, why couldn’t they have gone out straight from work? Then they’d be together, his arm wrapped comfortably round here and everything would be fine.
Twenty five past seven.
Perhaps she hadn’t heard him correctly. Maybe he’d asked he’d meet her at half past seven tonight. She dismissed the thought immediately. No, they always met at seven o’clock, and tonight was no different. So where was he then?
She tapped the table with her long, perfectly manicured fingertips, trying to distract herself from the possibility that Bill wasn’t going to turn up. Of course he was going to turn up, this was Bill Weasley, for crying out loud! She took another drink of butterbeer, not even caring about the taste now, and found that the bottle was empty.
Half past seven.
People just weren’t half an hour late without any reason. Something must be wrong. For a moment, fear and panic clawed at Fleur’s insides. What if something had happened to Bill? She knew him well enough to understand that he wouldn’t just miss their plans on a whim. He’d mentioned going home...what if there was something wrong with his family? It was perfectly plausible. He had enough siblings after all, there was every possibility that something could have happened to at least one of them, she thought wryly.
She immediately scolded herself for thinking such a thought. And besides, even if there was some kind of family crisis, wouldn’t he let her know? A niggling little thought nagged incessantly at her, but she pushed it aside impatiently. What would you do? the thought asked her. If you were worried about your family, you might forget about sending a message.
Still, there was no excuse for leaving her waiting like this.
She had opened the other bottle and taken a swig before she even realised what she was doing.
Twenty to eight.
She could feel tears forming at the corners of her eyes, and she brushed them aside with an impatient hand. It wouldn’t do to cry in public. She wouldn’t give them all the satisfaction of watching the haughty Fleur Delacour break down in public. There was no reason for any of them to know that she had just been abandoned by her boyfriend, on the celebration of their very first milestone. For all they knew, she was just a girl out enjoying a casual evening drink on the way home from work.
Home. Yes, that’s where she’d go now. She’d leave this stupid little pub and go to the safe confines of the flat she had grown to almost love. Yes, the Wizarding Wireless Network’s ‘Witching Hour’ played at full blast, her duvet and copious amounts of Chocolate Frogs would do just the trick.
Straight-faced and silent, she paid for the drinks and set off on her way. It was only later that night, when she had consumed more chocolate than she thought possible, and nodding sympathetically along to all of Celestina Warbeck’s songs, did she let the tears finally fall, slowly at first before cascading down her face in relentless streams. She wasn’t just lamenting her rapidly declining taste in music, but the loss of what she had hoped would be an evening spent with the person she thought she loved most.
He had lied to her, raised her foolish little hopes so high, and then left her to be humiliated, embarrassed, and if she were being completely honest, more than a little nervous. Fleur Delacour didn’t like to be lied to. Clearly, Bill Weasley was no different from the other tossers from Hogwarts.
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