Chapter 8 : Festivities
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Where have you gone? Are you ok? Just tell me what’s happened, or let someone here know!
I am making my interview for the new job in a few of days – you promised you’d be here for it. Why have you gone? Please talk to me.
What has happened? Please tell me. I can cope, whatever it is. Please just talk to me! I need to know; I would so much rather know than not know. I’m so sorry for whatever it is that’s happened.
I just really hope you’re okay.
I’m sorry for whatever it is I did. Please write back. I’m going out of my head with worry here… I had my interview earlier. I think it went well – it was a friend of Sara’s but she seemed happy to fall under the Veela persuasion. I thought you’d be here for this.
I hope you’re happy when I run off with your ex-friend Andreas because we’re two foreigners in England. We’ve become closer in our search for you, and he’s threatening to get the Aurors involved.
I’M SORRY. I did not mean that, as I hope you gathered! Well, I officially know Robin now – I can’t believe I haven’t meet this so-called ‘best mate’ (what does that mean?) of yours before. He caught me standing pathetical outside your flat, as he was attempting to go in and beat you up in a brotherly way for missing out on your ‘manly night’ last night.
I sayd, what manly night? What does that even mean? You’re meant to be helping me here, that’s what you said you would do.
Happy Christmas. I hated my present – your absence and no word. So much for a nice ‘get-together’ this evening. Please… just talk to me. Something. Anything.
Just let me know you’re live. I’d quite like to know if something awful has happened, though.
Fleur, I’m so sorry for absence. It’s a family issue. I'll see you after Christmas. Bill.
Fleur knew, even as she awkwardly dragged her suitcase through the Ministry to the inter-country Disapparition room (for which you needed to apply to use, with a very long-winded process involving far too many forms for anybody’s liking), that she would not be able to concentrate on this Christmas, but considering the circumstances, really should do. It was her first communication with her Maman since August, and her first proper meeting with her adorable younger sister in five months too. She needed all her wits about her, but instead, she would be only partially there.
No, Fleur knew herself too well. All through the long queues she was forced to stand in, she was wondering about her boyfriend – where he was, what he was doing, when she would see him again. Why she was so obsessively worried and couldn’t snap out of it. Maybe she was just too used to playing the interested girlfriend? This didn’t feel like acting, but then, everything in this life was made up of pretensions and masks.
Fleur attempted to detox herself of all the Bill worries, knowing that they would do no good, and that she truly wanted to give herself to her little sister after abandoning her so quickly back in the summer. A lifetime ago.
As predicted, when she trundled out of the French Ministry’s Apparition Bureau, Gabrielle flung herself on her brave older sister with melodramatic squeals and exclamations, jabbering away nineteen to the dozen in French. Fleur allowed herself to relax and smile, hugging her sister for a long time and revelling in the sound of her mother tongue. However, she still found it difficult to dive totally back into her sisters’ world of second-year charms, best friend wars, and toad-throwing boys. It seemed so long ago that they had been together, so long since she was in that same situation, and she felt very changed all of a sudden.
Then, with her little sister hanging off her arm and happily jabbering away in French (which was such sweet music to her ears and mind after all these months of the angular English language), she went forwards to her Maman and Papa. They were both looking fairly drawn, but her Papa stepped forwards and gave his girl a special hug anyway.
“Ma Chèrie!” he murmured in her ear as he rocked her slightly. Fleur could tell immediately that her Papa would hold nothing against her, and felt an unexpectedly large breath of relief flood into her from it. At least one of her parents didn’t still wish to disown her.
Turning to Apolline, Fleur found her Maman less forgiving and more forbidding. She stood tall and proud, looking into a distant point somewhere a foot and a half over the top of Fleur’s head, and said only a stiff “Bonjour,” when her daughter stood in front of her warily. Fleur wondered briefly how long it might take to restore their relationship to normal, when she had changed so much and they had such a breach to cross.
Then it was side-along Apparition to their family estate, and tip-toeing around as though she were a stranger, and catching up with her family, and handing out shiny gifts. It seemed like only mere moments went by before Fleur was stood in front of the same Bureau as two weeks ago, with a sobbing Gabrielle, a teary Papa, and softened but still stubborn Maman who looked after her eldest daughter sadly, while she slowly made her way back into the plain white room and turned on the spot, sending her family back into blackness. They had faded into snatched memories once again.
Where had the fortnight gone? There had been arguments with her mother – many, in fact – that had gone round and round in circles of denial and defence, in every volume and situation possible. Gabrielle had been by turns persuasive, ecstatic, and heartbroken; her Papa had been as lovely as he always was but asking her too many times to come home so they could sort things from there.
Through it all, Fleur stood her ground. Not even the Christmas presents that were so beautifully chosen and wrapped could buy her allegiance; nor could the appearance of two of her cousins who had been her ‘friends’ in Beauxbatons (airheads who had gone along with her for the popularity), Marie and Therese. In fact, these two only solidified her resolve to stay in England.
Fleur had only eighteen hours left to her in which to go completely stir-crazy and run her thoughts in circles over what had happened to Bill, but manage it she did.
When seven’o’clock finally rolled around, she was a jittery, nervous mess. For a start, she had no idea why she was so upset about Bill; she’d also started her new job he had told her to go for before disappeared at the time; she’d had no sleep; and she knew that she had to dump him. It was just what one did with boys after a time; Tante had always told her so. You got them then you left them, just as the waves rolled up the beach and they sank back off it again.
Everything inside her was a mess. She felt too French for England, and too English for France; she felt too much for Bill and she felt obligated to abandon their relationship before she became too tied down in a relationship that would only increase in pain when it ended. She was going round in circles and could make nothing of anything.
Fleur knew nothing of her morning, and was rather surprised when she realised she was standing outside the huge oak doors to Gringotts, before tensely walking through the side door, as she had done for so many weeks before.
The morning passed without a sign of Bill – not a flash of red hair, or a laugh, or a note. Fleur tried to immerse herself in the new and (marginally) more interesting work – Redistributing Vaults in the Vault Management sector. She had about the same size ‘office’ with many less files surrounding her, and she tried hard to start on the treasure archiving.
She tried hard to pretend that she was perfectly relaxed as she answered people’s questions, by turns cheery and depressed, about her Christmas. She tried hard to pretend she was loving the change of her new job. But Fleur could only convince others, not herself.
In the end, this was proved to her the moment a little paper aeroplane (copied from the Ministry) flew into her office with a note written on it. She eagerly snatched it out of the air, almost ripping in half in her eagerness to receive news.
Meet me in our cupboard ASAP.
It was all she needed. Balancing a ‘back soon’ sign on her desk, Fleur abandoned the stacks of work holding her back and rushed into the corridor, momentarily forgetting her new position and walking in the wrong direction before turning on her heel to almost sprint the other way.
Then she was suddenly staring at the cupboard door and frozen up, wondering exactly what this all meant. He’d gone for so long with no words; they were supposed to be a pair. And this door – it was just a stupid cupboard door, sitting there all closed-up, and looking highly dusty with paint that was peeling. You couldn’t even tell it was locked from the outside. But Fleur had an overwhelming desire to punch the door. It was such a smug door, and it seemed so bored and so prominent, but what did it know?
Fighting both a violent urge and a worry that she was going crazy, Fleur wrenched open the door and slammed it behind her before glaring around the room.
Before she knew it, Bill was in front if her, pulling her into him in a big hug that was full of so much worry and mixed feelings. For a moment, Fleur let herself be buried – then she unfroze and shoved him with all her strength.
“Fleur, I - ”
“You deesappeared and you wouldn’t write to me?!” she hissed angrily, her voice already rising. If she could stop to think, the intensity would have surprised even her. “You completely abandoned me and you refused to say anyzing! You wouldn’t even answer your letters from me!”
“No, it’s - ”
“I was zo worried, Beell!” she screeched, words rapidly becoming lost in her French accent. “You ‘ad gone and I deed not know what to do… Oh…”
Bill swept her into another hug but a more gentle one this time, lifting her chin up so she would look at him and know how much he meant it, through his exhaustion. “I’m so sorry, Fleur, I really am. It was just a horrid family issue that had to be sorted out… but I think it’s okay now.” He ran a hand through his hair distractedly.
Fleur glared up, trying very hard not to let her swimming eyes overflow. “You dizzapeared for zo long and now you j-just say sorry? And what ‘as ‘appened wiz your family? Are zey ‘urt?”
“They’ll survive. I can’t really say.”
“What do you mean?” she demanded, the fury over-riding her relief again. “I am not about to report to ze Minister!”
“It’s not that I don’t want to… it’s because I can’t. It’s to do with You-Know-Who,” Bill said heavily. He hated not telling his beautiful (though reserved herself) girlfriend about parts of his life, such as the Order, but he had to keep quiet for Dumbledore’s sake; for all of their sakes. If Fleur had her mind invaded, they could know everything and she wouldn’t be prepared. But then, she probably thought her chances of mind invasion were much slimmer than the true probability.
Fleur was silent for a moment while Bill’s words sunk in. It was certainly not what she expected, Bill could see that much.
Then – “But why did you not tell me? I understand better zan most people,” she pleaded.
Damn her beautiful eyes. “I – it’s not my fault, it’s because of my Dad’s work,” he attempted. It wasn’t going to work, and it was getting a bit unfair. “Look, it’s just not my place to say. I’d love to tell you but I can’t.”
“Iz zere anyzing I can do to ‘elp? Zat is all I want to do,” she said quietly. Something seemed to be more peaceful inside her.
For a moment, Bill was torn. Then he made his choice.
“Alright then. I’m taking you to my father, at the Ministry.”
It was much later that evening when Fleur sat down in the kitchen of La Maison for a moment, trying to organise her thoughts. It was a lot harder than one might think to serve as the perfect waitress and work through bad feelings at the same time, particularly when they were the kind of feelings that preoccupied your thoughts so much that you became unattractively clumsy.
Most prominently, there was the awful guilt for bugging Bill all that time to contact her. When he had brought her to his father, Arthur Weasley, he had been so kind and accepting, happy to point out the long scar lines along his torso. He hadn’t been at all judging of her, just pleasant and seemingly happy that she was his son’s girlfriend.
Well, to use his exact phrasing, “It’s great that our adventurous boy has someone to tie him down at last!”, accompanied by a cuff over the head from Bill and lots of laughter. It was strange to see such casual teasing between father and son.
Arthur had kindly explained to her that his awful attack had been the reason for Bill’s disappearance… which she had been threatening him through, and even now, Fleur couldn’t prevent a wince and grimace from twisting her features. She was hardly the caring and useful girlfriend Arthur had clearly pictured, and felt terrible for him thinking she was like that.
The other thing was her own swirl of emotions at whether or not to end their relationship. She just didn’t know what to do any more after this afternoon’s revelations, and had decided that it advice she needed. This was normally where girls wrote letters to their mothers or friends to ask their opinions – but Fleur didn’t know which way to turn. Her ‘friends’ in France weren’t those she could ask for advice, her mother currently hated her for the decision to walk out, and she had nobody in England that she knew outside of the office!
Instead, that left Fleur to think about all the previous love advice her Tante had ever given her. Tante Isabelle had had three husbands and two long-term partners, so when she had given Fleur her advice on life and love, Fleur had listened and engraved the words on her heart.
None of the lessons quite seemed to apply to her happiness with Bill, though. Tante had always said to use men for her own gains as they would do to her, but Bill was hardly attracted to her purely because of her Veela genes. He seemed less affected by her persuasive techniques than other men were, no matter how hard she tried!
Scowling, Fleur remembered the evening before he had disappeared. Dinner out then going back to his, she’d been anticipating the evening and where it could lead, only to have Bill equalling all her teasing with other half-seductions. How did he manage to stay above her charms?
Suddenly, a different voice floated across her memory. It was her mother’s, from one of the instances that she challenged her Tante. ‘Stop manipulating my daughter to become as heartless as you, Belle! I don’t want her to have to go through life so coldly climbing the social ladder – I want Fleur to find the boy she loves to spend time with and not have to leave him because you tell her to!’ Her Maman had been shrieking so loudly, and it echoed and swirled through her mind.
Did it apply now? Fleur realised that she wanted to try at this for a little longer, more than she had wanted to do anything in her life. She couldn’t give him up, not yet; it was just too easy to be around Bill, easy and frustrating beyond any frustrations she could remember.
No, she would not give him up until she had to.
Ma Chèrie - my dear
Bonjour - hello (who'd have known, right? :D )