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Chapter 9 : Make an Exception
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It wasn’t perhaps the ring she would have chosen for herself, but she had to admit it was the most perfect ring in the world, because it was given to her by the person she loved most. When she was younger and had envisaged the perfect wedding, as so many young girls do, she’d always pictured an extravagantly expensive engagement ring, with a diamond the size of her fist that so was bright, you couldn’t look directly at it for fear of blinding yourself. Maybe she wouldn’t necessarily have chosen this ring for herself, but she loved it all the same. She knew Bill didn’t have bags of money to spare, he was on a higher salary than her due to his previous position in Egypt, but this ring must have taken a sizeable chunk out of his wages nonetheless. The glittering little diamond was simple and elegant and the shiny band it was set into was beautiful without being crass or obnoxious. It was perfect, simply perfect.
Taking a well deserved break from packing her things and hoping her suitcase might close; Fleur closed her eyes and thought back to that night. Could it really only have been two nights ago? A little smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, it was hard not to smile these days, as she allowed her mind to drift back...
The front door knocked unexpectedly, causing Fleur to jump slightly in alarm, almost poking herself in the eye with her wand. She’d been so intent on curling her long eyelashes with the wand, a handy little trick Maman taught her when she was eight, that she hadn’t heard the telltale sound of footsteps on the other side of the door. She supposed it was her grumpy landlord; an irritable, rather old little man who spent most of his time nursing a large glass of Firewhiskey in the Leaky Cauldron. She was all up to date with her rent of course, despite buying quite a lot of robes recently, but that annoying little man still took it upon himself to call in every now and then.
Fleur reluctantly got up from where she was perched in front of the mirror and stomped irritably to answer the front door, her slippers slapping against the floorboards, pulling her dressing gown tighter around her as she went. She was in the middle of getting ready to go out with Bill that night, and hoped the landlord wouldn’t stay too late. Her hair was still wet from the bath, and hung round her shoulders in dripping strands, and her silky dressing gown wasn’t the warmest garment in the world. She jiggled the old unreliable doorknob this way and that until she could open the door.
It wasn’t the landlord though. Quite the opposite, in fact. Bill Weasley was standing there, armed with the biggest bouquet she had ever seen. He was half hidden behind the flowers, but she could just make his delightfully familiar face bearing the little sheepish smile that made her heart beat that bit faster.
“Bill!” she exclaimed, a fiery blush suddenly blazing her cheeks as she remembered she was wearing nothing but her dressing gown and slippers and that her hair was sopping wet, and she’d only curled the eyelashes of one eye. “What, what are you doing ‘ere? I thought we were meeting this evening!”
He shifted the flowers so she could see him properly, his whole face lit up by his easy, familiar grin. Fleur could see now that he had really made an effort with his appearance tonight. Unlike her, Bill worked full time hours at Gringotts and usually went out with her straight from work. Tonight however, he was wearing his best dark blue robes, and she could tell he had taken extra time with his hair, but it was different somehow. It was smoothed down and was perfectly immaculate, not one fiery strand was out of place, and it might have been her imagination, but it seemed suddenly shorter. Even his prized earring, that she’d never seen him without since the day she met him, was gone. His whole demeanour seemed different tonight, she couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but it was almost as if Bill was nervous, for some reason. She couldn’t understand why if that was the case. She had more reason than he to be nervous. He wasn’t the one who was just out of the bath!
“I know we were supposed to go out tonight, Fleur, but, well, I sort of need to talk to you,” Bill stammered, thrusting the bouquet of flowers at her.
Fleur frowned. He was definitely nervous. He wasn’t about to break up with her, was he? They had been going out for more than a full year now and as far as she could tell, they’d had no problems whatsoever, apart from that one night – they were fine! They couldn’t be about to break up, it was ridiculous! So why was Bill so nervous then?
“Come in,” she waved him into the flat, noticing with unease how he seemed to be dragging his feet a little bit, and that he kept wiping his slightly trembling hands on his robes.
She dumped the flowers in a jug of water she’d left on the table, then went to join Bill where he sat on the edge of the edge, clenching and unclenching his fists compulsively.
“Fleur, listen, I just thought I’d come right over here. I know we had plans for tonight, and believe me, I had all sorts planned.”
He paused, clearing his throat, while Fleur looked at him with concern. He really wasn’t acting himself. All this stammering and uncertainty and sweaty palms were not the usual trademarks of Bill Weasley. She hoped there wasn’t anything wrong with him or his family. He looked a little paler than usual. Hopefully he wasn’t ill or something.
“You know how important my family is to me, don’t you?”
She nodded silently. Definitely something to do with his family then. She knew it.
“Well, I was just thinking about tonight, and I had all sorts planned. Really, you wouldn’t believe it. Flowers and candles and everything.”
Fleur frowned slightly, unable to see where this was going. Bill seemed to be talking more to himself than to anybody else.
“But then I realised that none of that was right. It wasn’t good enough for you and I knew you would hate all that old fashioned, over the top stuff.”
Fleur nodded sympathetically whenever he paused, feeling she should add some sort of contribution, though she hadn’t a clue what Bill was talking about.
“So then I got to thinking, where would be the best place for it to happen? And I didn’t know, I honestly didn’t. Nowhere seemed special enough. But then, it occurred to me that, well, it doesn’t really matter where as long as we love each other. You know that I love you, don’t you?” he added suddenly.
“Of course!” Fleur nodded enthusiastically, glad to have some input.
“So then, this place is as good as any, and I suppose now is the best time as well.”
Fleur watched, utterly bemused, as Bill slid off the edge of her, how embarrassing, unmade bed and knelt on the floor. It took her a moment or two to realise that he was in fact, kneeling on one knee only, and that he was fumbling in the pocket of his robes for something...
Her eyes widened as realisation dawned. Bill was proposing? But...he couldn’t....it couldn’t...he struggled to form coherent thoughts in her head. Now she understood why Bill had been so nervous. She could feel her own hands trembling. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It was those French romance novels Maman used to read. She watched, her eyes wide, her heart thumping, as Bill drew out a little black velvet box from his pocket. With fumbling fingers, he popped open the lid, and there, nestled snugly in the silk lining was the most beautiful ring she had ever seen.
She felt a lump rise in her throat, and before she could stop them, tears began to form at the corners of her eyes as she stared down at the ring; at the humble diamond encased in the glittering silver band. That was going to be her ring. She was being proposed to!
Bill took a great breath, as though to steady himself, as he held the ring towards her. “Fleur Delacour,” he began seriously, though she saw a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “We have had the most incredible year together, and if you’ve enjoyed it even half as much as I have, then I hope you’ll agree it’s been one hell of a ride.”
He paused to grin at her, and she grinned back, despite the tears now cascading down her cheeks.
“I love you so much, Fleur, I really, really do, and nothing in the world makes me happier than spending time with you. If you’ll let me, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I promise that I will never, ever hurt you or upset you and I’ll try my very hardest to make you as happy as you make me. You know how important my family is to me, and I want you to be part of my family too, Fleur. So, what do you say? Will you marry me, Fleur Delacour? Will you join my family and make me the happiest wizard out there?”
For a moment, there was silence but for Bill’s rather heavy, anxious breathing and Fleur trying to discreetly dry her eyes. She looked down at him, at his earnest face, at his immaculately smoothed down hair, at his trembling hands, at his blue eyes staring expectantly up at her. He looked worried, as though she was going to turn him down. Didn’t he know how much she loved him, how right at this minute; her heart was thudding with excitement as she imagined sharing the rest of her life with him?
She could barely stammer the words out but they were there, and she found them eventually. “Bill, I love you,” she whispered, unable to stem to the flow of tears. “I love you very much, with all my heart. Of course I will marry you! Of course! Of course!”
Bill smiled, a real, genuine smile that stretched from ear to ear as he slid the ring onto her finger. In that moment, she thought she’d never seen him look so handsome, so completely happy and utterly content. She knew her own face must carry a similar expression. As the ring slid into place, she couldn’t help but notice how natural it felt sitting there, as if it was made especially for Bill to give to her. She looked down at it, then up at Bill who looked back at her, a slightly anxious expression clouding his face for the briefest of moments.
“Do you like it?” he asked nervously.
“It’s beautiful,” she murmured truthfully, slipping her hand into his. “Ze most perfect ring in ze world.”
Relief split his freckled face and she could barely contain her grin, her happiness. She was engaged to Bill! They were going to spend their entire lives together and she couldn’t wait. Bill’s hands tenderly cupped her face and then he was kissing her, and her arms were round him and his hands were in her sopping hair and in that moment, everything, everything was perfect, just as she’d always hoped it would be.
“I love you,” he whispered softly into her ear, his breath tickling her cheek, as she tightened her grip around him, never wanting to let go of that perfect moment.
“I love you too,” she replied, unable to hold back the smile that crossed her face when she said those words.
“Welcome to the Weasley family,” he grinned, “where red hair is sort of mandatory, but I suppose I could make an exception for you.”
“Promise me one zing though,” she whispered, a sudden thought occurring to her.
“Anything,” he replied immediately.
She smiled. “Put your earring back in, and don’t ever zink about cutting your ‘air!”
She smiled to herself as the memory faded away. She was glad Bill had decided to ditch his original over the top proposal plans in favour of asking her in the little flat. He’d had a whole extravaganza planned, he’d since confided in her, with fireworks supplied by two of his brothers, and floating candles and lots more flowers, but she much preferred his own simple way of doing things. Maybe, she might have preferred to be wearing something other than an old dressing gown, but that didn't matter really. A few years ago, Fleur would have insisted upon the former, adding fancy dress robes and perhaps an orchestra, but now, well, it was amazing how much she had changed in recent times. How much Bill had changed her.
And now she was getting ready to stay with his family! Deciding she really didn’t want her robes to crease, she cast a quick extension charm on her suitcase, making it easily large enough to fit all the clothes she wanted to bring, and a few more pair of shoes. She sat down happily on the bed, admiring her handiwork and thinking about the weeks ahead. She only worked part time for Gringotts these days, and she was very much looking forward to taking some time off and staying with the Weasleys. She’d come across most of Bill’s brothers, including a set of identical twins and there was a sister as well, as students at Hogwarts, and she’d only recently learned that another brother of his had acted as a judge during the Second Task. He had yet another brother too, he’d told her, but Charles, or whatever his name was, was off working abroad, in Bulgaria or something. She hoped they’d like her but why would they not? Bill assured her they would all love her and would soon see her as another member of the family. She hoped so.
She heard a swift knock on the door, and ran to open it at once. She knew it was Bill before she ever swung the old wooden door open. He was here to bring her to his home, to introduce her as his fiancée. She could hardly wait for her new life, as an extended member of the Weasley family, to begin.
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