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Chapter 12 : A Chance To Talk
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Now that he thought about it properly, he had never actually introduced a girlfriend, or a fiancée for that matter, to his family. He had only been involved with a handful over the years and none of them had ever progressed to the stage of actually meeting his family. That curly haired Hufflepuff, Lucinda if he remembered correctly, and that blonde Ravenclaw, whose name he couldn’t remember for the life of him, had been nice girls, but their so called relationships hadn’t lasted longer than a few owls exchanged over school holidays. By the time term commenced on his fifth, and then his sixth year at Hogwarts, they were nothing more than people he occasionally said hello to in the corridors. There certainly wasn’t any need to arrange visits to the Burrow so they could meet his parents, any more so than that girl he had met in Egypt.
But then Fleur had come along, and she had changed everything.
But that’s what Fleur did; turned up unexpected, and out of the blue, changing people’s lives forever, for the better of course. It was just a shame that the rest of the family failed to see this. And maybe, he could understand their initial apprehension, but now that Fleur had been here for two weeks, surely they should have warmed to her by now? Ginny was being downright hostile, there were no other words for it. He couldn’t believe that his sweet, innocent, well perhaps those weren’t quite the right words, little sister could behave this way towards someone he loved and cared about so much. He knew Ginny had a temper just as blazing as her fiery hair, but he had never been on the receiving end of one of her rages. Over the years, he’d always been her greatest brotherly ally; someone who would always defend her if Percy tried to boss her around or Fred and George made fun of her. He’d sort of assumed she’d extend the same courtesies to him, had he ever needed her support.
Ron, well, he wasn’t being intentionally hostile, but Merlin’s beard, the boy couldn’t even string a sentence together whenever Fleur was in the room. Bill had tried to explain to her that Ron was simply enamoured with her ravishing appearance and being a sixteen year old boy, he was easily intimidated by someone as beautiful as his fiancée. In some strange, roundabout way, he supposed this could be considered a compliment that Ron was so taken by her beauty that he was reduced to a quivering, scarlet-faced wreck whenever he was in the same vicinity as her. All the same though, it was making Fleur feel rather uncomfortable, and if a room was occupied by both her and Ron at the same time, one or the other would immediately leave, for fear of embarrassment. This made meal times rather inconvenient, Ron rarely left an unfinished dinner plate on the table, so more often than not, it was up to Fleur to politely excuse herself from her barely touched meal, causing his Mum to believe she was insulting her cooking.
Mum hadn’t come round to the idea of his marrying Fleur in the slightest. No matter how polite Fleur was around her, no matter how often he pleaded the situation to her, she would just fold her arms across her chest and sigh deeply. He resorted to desperate measures with her, offering to let her cut his hair as short as she liked in return for her getting to know Fleur better. She hadn’t budged. But then again, he hadn’t really expected her to; she’d rather he grew his hair all the way down to his ankles if it meant Fleur would go away.
Much to his displeasure, she was continually throwing hints into conversation about how much better a wife Nymphadora Tonks would make for him than Fleur ever would. It wasn’t that he had anything against Tonks, she was a right laugh, well she used to be anyway, and she was brave and she was a cracking Order member, but she wasn’t Fleur. His love for Fleur was so intense that it was hard to describe to his Mum, but he told her time and time again, in no uncertain terms, that he would never, ever see Tonks as anything more than a mate, a fellow Order member. And anyway, she was totally besotted with Remus, anybody with eyes could see that. He thought it was rather an unlikely pairing, but look at him and Fleur. Nobody had ever seen that coming, now had they?
Bill reflected sadly that if only everybody could be more like his dad, then he and Fleur would have a much easier time at this whole family get-together malarkey. The world needed more Arthur Weasleys, in his honest opinion, if everyone could be as easygoing, and keen to accept new things as long as those concerned felt they were doing the right then as his Dad was, then the world would be a much less complicated place. Ever since he had first informed them all of his engagement to Fleur, his father had been nothing but accepting, accepting his eldest son’s happiness despite the rest of the family’s reservations, and then accepting his future daughter-in-law when she arrived. When nobody else had struck up a conversation with her, Dad had hurriedly sat down beside her and launched into one of his tirades about Muggles, and that thing he was so fascinated by, ecklectricity, or whatever it was called.
But apart from that, the family had been as reluctant to accept Fleur as the Ministry had been to accept You-Know-Who’s return. That was why it was so crucial that tonight go well. Tonight was a last ditch effort to bring his family together once and for all in their acceptance of Fleur. He had offered to cook dinner and after a lot of persuading, Mum had finally agreed to give up the rights to her beloved kitchen for one evening, as long as he promised he’d wash the dishes properly afterwards. He was no gourmet chef, that much was blatantly obvious, but living alone in Egypt had given him the basic skills needed to construct a simple meal. And really, it was just a case of increasing the quantity of the ingredients. In any case, the actual food wasn’t the most important thing here, the idea of dinner was just an excuse for everyone to sit down and properly talk.
He’d taken each member of his family in turn before the meal to brief them on what was to happen, Charlie and Percy being the notable exceptions who wouldn’t be attending the meal. He wrote to Charlie often enough and he’d been extremely supportive since the beginning of their relationship, and Percy, well who cared about him anymore? He’d even asked Fred and George to come home to the Burrow especially for dinner and he’d tried to recruit Harry and Hermione, who were spending the last few weeks of summer at the Burrow. Harry, bless him, agreed gamely, but he should have known that Hermione had adopted Ginny’s views on the matter.
So it was with this in mind that all ten of them crowded round the kitchen table that evening to a rather modest supper of slightly burnt chicken and lumpy mashed potatoes (it hadn’t been as simple as Bill first thought, and in hindsight, he probably should have served some kind of vegetables as well). Bill smiled encouragingly at them, as he circled round the crowded table, pouring glasses of pumpkin juice.
‘Now, isn’t this nice,’ he said at last, settling down to his own plate at last, and attempted to saw through the very well-done chicken.
‘Lovely,’ Fleur answered at once after loudly swallowing a mouthful of chicken and smiling brightly. ‘Zank you very much, Bill.’
‘You’re welcome!’ he replied, glad there was some kind of conversation instigated. ‘Mum, is it OK for you?’
His Mum looked up from her plate with a slightly strained smile. ‘It’s very, erm, nice, dear. Thank you.’
Silence. He could practically hear Ginny rolling her eyes. It was time for some conversation no matter how forced.
‘So, Dad,’ he said quickly, ‘how was work today? Did you make any arrests?’
Arthur laid down his knife and fork with a poorly concealed enthusiasm. ‘Well,’ he said eagerly, ‘I was in the office this morning, as usual, when I got an urgent owl…’
Ah, that was better. Arthur Weasley could talk for England if he got started on the right subject. Bill sat back in his chair, feeling slightly more contented as he took a large swig of pumpkin juice in an attempt to wash away the taste of burnt chicken.
‘So Phl – sorry, Fleur,’ Ginny said when Arthur had paused for breath, surprising the whole family, ‘do tell us all about France, we’ve been dying to know.’
Fleur seemed delighted, but Bill glanced sideways at his sister, sure she was up to something. Oblivious to this however, Fleur launched into conversation, talking more than she had the whole two weeks she’d been here, happy to be talking about her beloved France.
‘And Beauxbatons is by no means ze largest wizarding school in France, but it is certainly ze best,’ she continued, her eyes lighting up with fond memories.
‘Of course it is,’ Ginny muttered under her breath.
‘My family has gone to Beauxbatons for generations on my father’s side of ze family, but, of course, my grandmuzzer, zat is to say my muzzer’s muzzer was a Veela-’
‘Of course,’ Ginny muttered again, rolling her eyes and causing Hermione to stifle a laugh behind her napkin.
‘Wait – your Gran was a, a Veela?’ Ron blurted out, looking quickly between Fleur and Bill as though they might be pulling his leg.
‘Close your mouth, Ron, you’ll catch flies,’ Fred said drily.
‘A real Veela?’ Ron asked slowly, ignoring Fred’s attempts to forcibly shut his mouth for him.
‘Yes, Ronniekins,’ George said extremely slowly as though Ron was acting very stupid which, Bill reminded himself, he was. ‘A real live Veela, like the ones we saw at the World Cup.’
‘Yeah, so watch out, Bill,’ Fred said mischievously, his eyes glinting wickedly, ‘don’t get Fleur angry or she’ll start throwing fireballs at you and turn all scaly!’
‘Oh very funny,’ Bill said over the raucous peals of laughter of his twin brothers. ‘Very amusing. Take no notice, Fleur.’
But Bill knew she would take notice, and she’d be highly offended, so he placed his hand on her knee under the table and gave it a comforting squeeze. She gently bumped her leg against his by means of reply, and he took that as a sign that she was feeling alright. He then glanced significantly across the table at Harry, hoping he’d catch the hint and bring up the conversation started Bill had coached him on earlier.
‘Yes Bill? Oh! Right, erm, yeah, so how are preparations for the wedding coming along?’ Harry replied hastily, tearing his eyes away from Ginny.
Ten out of ten for subtlety there, Harry, Bill thought wryly, but Fleur seemed glad of the opportunity to talk about their upcoming nuptials.
‘Well, of course, we ‘ave not done a lot so far,’ Fleur replied, ‘though I have lots of ideas and it is all so exciting! Maman and Papa are extremely ‘appy and cannot wait to meet Bill.’
‘Why don’t you just have the wedding in France then?’ it seemed his Mum couldn’t stop herself from saying.
Fleur looked from Bill to his Mum with confusion dawning over her face. ‘But, I was under ze impression zat ze wedding would be in France?’ she said at last.
‘Oh really?’ Molly replied, clanking down her knife and fork with quite unnecessary force. ‘When was this decided? I don’t recall being consulted on the matter!’
Bill sighed, pushing his practically untouched plate away from him. He had wondered when this issue would crop up.
‘But I, I zought zat was what was going to ‘appen!’ Fleur replied, a faint pink blush creeping into her cheeks. ‘I ‘ave discussed it with Bill, and we agreed zat since we are planning to live in England after ze wedding, we should ‘ave ze actual ceremony in France!’
‘Well, you obviously have it all worked out then, don’t you?’ Molly retorted, pushing off her husband’s attempt at a comforting arm round her shoulders. ‘And I suppose we’ll all be expected to traipse all the way over to France in the middle of this War for a wedding?’
‘If you want to see your son get married, zen yes!’ Fleur replied furiously, pushing her hair away from her face.
‘It would be fairly easy to get a Portkey organised,’ Arthur said helpfully.
Bill jumped at the opportunity. ‘Yeah, Mum,’ he said quickly, ‘one of my friends from Hogwarts works in the Portkey office in the Ministry, and he’ll be able to set it up for us, no trouble.’
‘That’s not the point!’ Molly replied angrily.
‘Zen what is ze point?’ Fleur cut in. ‘We can ‘ave ze wedding in France and everyone can come. Easy!’
‘It is not easy! We are in the middle of a very dark and difficult time, in case you hadn’t noticed, and though it might have escaped your silly little brain, the rest of us are very much aware of it!’
‘Surely, zen, zat is all ze more reason to have ze wedding in France!’ Fleur cried, ‘a chance to get away from it all!’
‘Don’t you think I want my eldest son to get married here, in his own house?’ Molly replied quietly, her voice shaking with anger. ‘Don’t you think I want my eldest child to get married here in the house where he grew up?’
It took a moment or two for Fleur to reply, and when she finally did, it was in a quiet voice no more than a whisper. ‘Don’t you zink my muzzer wants ze same for me?’
That was the final straw. Molly stood up and stormed out of the kitchen, banging the door behind her. They could hear her the whole way up the stairs until she reached her bedroom. Fleur looked all along the table, took in all their stricken faces, then burst into tears. Bill looked at her helplessly as she too stood up and ran from the room.
‘Well,’ Fred said after a moment of uncomfortable silence, ‘that went better than expected.’
‘To the happy couple!’ George exclaimed, raising his glass of pumpkin juice.
Bill found he had no answer, but merely let out a groan and put his head in his hands.
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