It was a strange sort of evening, Fleur would later reflect, and it would be the evening that was the defining moment for not only herself and Bill, but for the entire Weasley family, and indeed the Wizarding World as a whole.
The day had started off normally enough, she supposed. It was a warm June day, the last day in June in fact, and the weather was pleasant, so she’d opened all the windows of her little flat. It was just over a month until the wedding, and she had taken full advantage of the day off work to go over her last minute preparations. She spread out all her notes over the wooden table, and pulled up a chair to survey them closely. It was a few hours well spent, and she thoroughly enjoyed every minute. She went over the guest list , making sure invitations had been owled, wondering for the umpteenth time whether it was a good idea to have invited Viktor Krum to her wedding. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. They’d been fellow competitors in the Triwizard Tournament after all, and though he hadn’t exactly been the friendliest during the Tasks, she’d exchanged addresses with him that final day at Hogwarts and had kept up a steady stream of owls in the ensuing years. It was common courtesy really. And she would have invited Cedric if he – She still often thought about the poor boy. She thought she’d seen his father the other day in Gringotts, she was sure she recognised him from the day of the Third Task, and she’d wanted to go over and speak to him, but she wasn’t sure what she would say.
She sighed sadly and set the guest list aside, shaking her head at the amount of Weasley relatives dominating it. It seemed it was a Weasley tradition to have copious amounts of children. Almost involuntarily, Fleur glanced down at her flat stomach. Well, they’d just have to wait and see.
She spent a happy afternoon going over her plans, and reading her latest letter from Maman. Her mother had now taken to writing at least every two days, helping with all sorts for the wedding, offering advice on everything from the bridesmaids’ shoes to the choice of chilled champagne to be served at the reception. She really was being a fantastic help, even though she was writing all the way from France. It was a pity that everyone couldn’t be as helpful and accommodating. She sighed, setting aside her original wedding cake ideas. She still hadn’t been fully accepted into the Weasley family. She supposed she had made some kind of progress with at least some of Bill’s siblings. She could actually hold a conversation with Ron these days, granted it was a rather one-sided conversation, but it was a conversation nonetheless and he had proved to be very helpful in fetching and carrying for Fleur over the holidays. The twins had also become increasingly nice to her, and she often found herself popping into their shop on her days off just to say hello.
It was a shame that the same could not be said for the other members of the family. Fleur had now sadly accepted that she would never be able to regard Ginny as a sister, in the proper sense of the word. She hadn’t seen the girl since the Christmas holidays, and it was clear the girl had no love for Fleur. It really was a shame. Fleur did admire some aspects of her personality, her fierce determination was certainly something she could identify with, but it was very plain that Ginny did not like Fleur. But still Fleur insisted that she be a bridesmaid at the wedding. After all, Gabrielle was going to be a bridesmaid, and she was justifiably excited about it, as rightly she should be. It was only right that both their sisters be included in the ceremony. Ginevra would just have to put up with it.
Charles, or Charlie as she’d learned he liked to be known as, the next sibling after Bill was going to be the Best Man. Fleur was fine with this decision. Bill had let her read a few of his letters, and he seemed a perfectly agreeable sort of boy, a bit outlandish perhaps, and very concerned about these dragons. Fleur didn’t see the attraction herself, after that stupid Welsh Green had scorched her skirt during the First Task; she’d lost any of the fascination she might have had for the creatures. Still, Charlie seemed perfectly fine, and he’d even written a nice little note especially for her at the end of his letter. She definitely was looking forward to meeting him.
As for Bill’s parents, well, Mr Weasley was as pleasant as ever. It was Bill’s mother who seemed to have the problem with her. Ever since the incident at the dinner table all those months before, an incident that still made her shudder when she thought about it, she and Mrs Weasley had maintained a façade of icy politeness whenever they were forced to be in each other’s company. There had been a rather discomfiting amount of strained smiles and feigned politeness between the two of them in recent visits. But still, as long as they could remain civil, at least for Bill’s sake, then it was fine by her. She just prayed she could keep her calm.
To distract herself, she slid off the hard-backed chair and crossed quickly to the wardrobe, her heart thumping in joyful anticipation as it did so often in the run up to the wedding. She opened the wardrobe door and looked lovingly at the only garment it now held, the rest of her clothes having been removed and draped elsewhere around the room in order to give her wedding dress the space it deserved.
Her wedding dress! It still gave her a thrill to think of it. It excited her even more to look at the thing itself. She gently took it out of the wardrobe, wiping her hands on her robes before she touched it, just in case. Fleur held her wedding dress up against her slim frame, looking at herself in the mirror. Her dress was perfect, it really was, she couldn’t have asked for a more spectacular garment to wear on her wedding day. Maman had sent her countless catalogues from France, all of them full of tantalising wedding dresses each more expensive and more elaborate than the last. She looked through them all, smiling at the pictures of the beautiful brides spinning round and dancing in their magnificent, if slightly over the top, wedding gowns. But in the end, she’d bought her wedding dress from her old faithful Madam Malkin’s.
She hadn’t set out that day with the intention of buying her wedding dress. She’d simply popped in one lunchtime, on her way back down the cobbled street after saying hello to Fred and George. It had come to be her favourite shop out of all the interesting little stores that lined Diagon Alley, and it was hard to resist the dress robes and brightly coloured fabrics that filled the window. She’d gone in that afternoon simply because she liked the look of some shimmery gold fabric that had come in the week before and she hadn’t got a chance to examine it properly. Somehow, she’d got talking to the Madam herself, as she had so often, and they’d got round to the subject of wedding dresses. Well! That had been it. Madam Malkin had darted straight behind the counter and returned a moment later, almost completely hidden behind armfuls of pearly white fabric. She’d been forcibly put upon one of the stools in front of the mirror, and Madam Malkin had started her work. Two and a half hours later, she’d had her wedding dress, custom made just for her, and as perfect as she could have hoped.
It was plain without being dull, simple but still radiant. Fleur turned this way and that in the mirror, allowing the delicate detail of the dress to catch the light and reflect back at her. It was perfect, it really was, and she couldn’t wait for the big day to arrive. Her shoes had finally arrived the day before, these had come from a French catalogue. Once she’d described the dress in minute detail to Maman, her mother had got on the case and the shoes had arrived a few days later. Pearly white, and pointy, and high without completely wrecking her feet, she’d decided they were the perfect accompaniment. The only thing really missing, she reflected sadly, was a headpiece of some description. She hadn’t made her final decision on what she was doing with her hair yet, she thought perhaps simply wearing it down would be a bit boring, but she needed a tiara or something. All the tiaras she’d seen in the various catalogues seemed a tad vulgar, and very gaudy in comparison to her dress, so she hadn’t bought any yet. There was still time though, she placated herself, there was plenty of time if she felt the need to make a spur of the moment decision.
After she’d admired the dress from every possible angle as well as carefully taking her wedding shoes out of the tissue lined box and trying them on yet again, she reluctantly put her dress away and packed up her shoes. She made herself a cup of tea, something she was becomingly increasingly fond of the longer she spent in England, and settled herself down; pulling a chair over to the mirror so she could experiment with her hairstyle for the wedding. Leaving her cup aside to let it cool, she grabbed a hairbrush and began separating the strands of silky blonde hair, brushing it up, and piling it up on top of her head. No, definitely not. There were probably charms for this, Fleur thought irritably, but she didn’t know any, and was forced to do it the Muggle way. She really could do with a helping hand, maybe if a certain mother-in-law to be was a bit more accommodating and welcoming…
It was at that moment there came a sharp rap on the door.
Frowning slightly, Fleur set her brush and handful of hair clips down and got up to answer the door. She expected it would be the landlord again. She rolled her eyes, she really couldn’t be bothered with another of his visits at the moment, it was often hard to get rid of him. Perhaps it would be Bill, her heart fluttered at the very thought, though he had said he had to do something with the Order this evening up at Hogwarts.
She definitely wasn’t expecting her prospective mother and father in law to be standing at her door. For a moment or two, she couldn’t breathe, she was convinced something had to have happened to give them cause to arrive at her flat. It wasn’t likely they had just turned up for a friendly chat about the wedding plans.
‘It’s Bill, isn’t it?’ she managed to gasp out at last, looking from one grim face to another. ‘Something terrible ‘as ‘appened?’
‘Fleur, dear,’ Mr Weasley said quietly, tightly gripping the hand of his wife, who looked perilously close to tears. ‘We’ve just got word from Hogwarts, it seems, well, it seems there was some kind of disturbance tonight, and as you know, Bill was up there with the Order, and well…’ he trailed off, as though unable to complete the sentence. ‘Bill’s been badly injured,’ he said at last.
Fleur felt her chest contract, her breath seemed to freeze in her throat, she couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t even think.
‘We’re going up there now,’ Mr Weasley continued, ‘Minerva, Professor McGonagall, said we should get there as quickly as we can. We thought you’d like to come with us.’
Fleur nodded gratefully, not trusting herself to speak. Of course she wouldn’t like to come with them, she didn’t want to see Bill lying injured, clearly in a terrible condition. She knew she had to. There was no question of her not going. She had to see Bill, she had to help him. This wasn’t about her, and her girlish, petty little fears. This was about Bill, and she needed to be there for him. Merlin knows he’d been there when she needed him.
Under any other circumstances, she would have been curious to find out what had happened at Hogwarts, especially in recent months, when she’d become more involved in the working of the Order of the Phoenix, but now, the only thing on her mind was Bill. She listened in silence as Mr Weasley explained they were going to Apparate to the boundaries of the school. Apparition. Yes, that was the most logical thing to do. They’d be at Hogwarts in a matter of moments. Still, Fleur didn’t think she was quite up for Apparating at the present moment in time, it was a bit of an effort to simply remain standing upright, never mind turning into the suffocating darkness and reappearing at Hogwarts. She’d probably end up Splinching herself along the way. Therefore, she was extremely grateful and more than a little relieved when Mr Weasley took her hand, as well as his wife’s, and helped them both with Side-Along.
He gave her hand a comforting squeeze before gently letting go as they reached their destination. From what Fleur could judge, they were just at the edge of the forest, the same forest where Madame Maxime had told her the dragons were hidden all those years before. The three of them hurried towards the castle, and if they were here under any other circumstance, Fleur would have liked to have a proper look around, because in spite of all her complaints at the time she had grown rather fond of the old place. But this wasn’t any circumstance, she was here for one reason. And for that one reason, she hurried through the grounds.
There was a strange sort of atmosphere in the air which even Fleur, in her numb and fog-filled mind, was able to pick up on. Clearly, whatever had happened here was more than a ‘disturbance’ as Mr Weasley had put it. There seemed to be an awful lot of students out in the grounds, many in their night clothes, which Fleur found odd, as she had always remembered the strict rules the Hogwarts students had to adhere to regarding their evening curfew. There was a huge gathering of some sort all huddled round the bottom of one of the tall towers. Fleur craned her neck to try and see, but could see nothing through the thick crowd of students and in any case, she had no time to stop and properly inspect.
Through the front doors they went, almost slipping and losing their balance in the Entrance Hall. One of the four huge hourglasses that were mounted on the wall had been smashed, and scarlet rubies lay scattered like drops of blood all over the flagged stone floor. As Fleur followed Bill’s parents up stairs and down corridors, them knowing the way much better than her, she couldn’t help but notice the scenes of devastation all around them. Teachers hurried past them, shaking their heads apologetically, most of them sporting gashes or cuts on their faces, students ran hither and thither, all looking frightened and worried, whispering conspiratorially. The castle itself had taken some damage; windows had been smashed and fragments of glass lay all over the floor, scorch marks littered the walls and even, Fleur shuddered, pools of dark blood glistened on the ground.
In what seemed like forever, or it could have been no time at all, Fleur wasn’t really sure, they burst through the double door of the Hospital Wing. There were only a few occupied beds, so she could see Bill’s immediately. She didn’t see Bill at first though, due to the gathering round his bed. Out of the corner of her eye, she dimly registered that Ron was there, looking stricken, and Harry, whom seemed to be holding hands with Ginny of all people, and there was Hermione, and Remus and Nymphadora whom she knew from the Order, and a blonde girl she didn’t know, and amidst all this, the Hogwarts matron, whose name utterly escaped Fleur, though she’d patched her up during the Tournament, darted in and out, a bottle of ointment clutched in her hand.
They all fell completely silent once they realised that Fleur and Mr and Mrs Weasley had joined them, and as if by one silent consent, they all shuffled away from the bed, giving her a clear view of her future husband. She froze, unable to take a step nearer the bed. She felt her mouth drop open in shock and horror as she stared unblinkingly at Bill, unable to believe what she was seeing.
She thought she’d been scared before. Now she realised that she hadn’t even known what fear was then.
Only the red hair spread out on the pillow gave any sort of indication that it was Bill who lay there upon the bed. If they hadn’t told her that it was in fact her husband to be, then she mightn’t even have realised. His face had been slashed and torn beyond all recognition; all those lovable features she knew so well ripped away, a bloody mess left in its place. She wanted to scream at the Matron who was dabbing at his wounds so ineffectively it was clear she wasn’t doing her job properly. She wanted to find all the members of the Order and hex them all for letting Bill get hurt so badly. But most of all, she wanted to rush forwards, push the rest of the onlookers aside, and take care of Bill herself, make him better, make him be himself again, because that’s what she should be able to do.
But Fleur found she couldn’t move at all. Fear literally froze her to the spot, and caught her breathe and wouldn’t let it go. She watched in silence as Mrs Weasley did the very thing she wished she could do herself; take the ointment off the useless Matron and tend to those terrible wounds. Somehow, she managed to catch strains of what Mrs Weasley was saying…something about how Bill was going to be married…
Something inside Fleur seemed to snap. Suddenly she could take it no longer. All the weeks and months of forced politeness, and rejection from the family, and assumptions about her and her personality had finally come to an end. She thought she could actually feel her blood boiling, feel it bubbling and churning through her veins, as her brittle patience and icy exterior final broke.
And then she was yelling, and standing up for herself, and announcing her love for Bill despite his awful scars, and she couldn’t even hear what she was saying because the blood was roaring so loudly in her ears. Before she knew what was happening, and precisely what she had done, she had somehow snatched the ointment off Mrs Weasley, and was now leaning over the bed, gently dabbing at Bill’s poor face.
Silence. For one shivering second, there was complete and utter silence. Fleur couldn’t believe what she had just done. Her heart hammered in her chest, her hands trembled, and she was mortified to note that beads of sweat had formed on her forehead. She could feel the eyes of everyone in the room fixed upon her, awaiting her next move. She didn’t exactly know where she could go from here, if she was entirely honest with herself, all she could do was hope she was helping Bill in some way. She held her breathe, bracing herself from the inevitable outburst about to erupt from Molly Weasley. Then, just as she was delicately dabbing at a particularly severe gash arching across the tattered remains of Bill’s forehead, she heard a voice so gentle and quiet, so unlike that of Bill’s mother that she was sure she must have imagined it. She was talking about a tiara, a tiara of all things, for the wedding. It was the very thing Fleur had longed for, but all that seemed very petty and faraway now.
But still, could this be…acceptance? Was Molly Weasley actually offering help with the wedding? Had she finally resigned herself to the fact that Fleur was going to marry her son?
And then she wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but she was crying and laughing at the same time. She turned round, and to her surprise, found Bill’s mother experiencing what looked like a similar situation. Somehow, she fell against the motherly woman’s cardigan-covered chest, breathing in the sweet, homely scent as she tried to stop the heaving sobs that wracked her body. It didn’t feel weird, and it didn’t feel uncomfortable. It felt utterly comfortable, and utterly right. And then, as she felt Mrs Weasley’s plump arms extending round her and pulling her even closer, she felt like she’d finally been accepted into the Weasley family. She wished Bill could see this, it was all he’d wanted since they’d first started going out, his family and his girlfriend finally getting along. That thought dragged her away from her momentary bliss. Bill. Her husband to be. Savagely injured. She allowed Mrs Weasley to pat her comfortingly on the back, hoping she hadn’t disgraced herself by wiping her nose on her cardigan and finally breaking apart, smiling tearfully and wiping her streaming eyes on the sleeve of her robes.
When everything finally seemed to calm down a little, many hours later, Fleur finally got a moment alone at Bill’s bedside. The others had all retreated as the long hours passed, off to mourn the terrible tragedy that was the passing of the headmaster Professor Dumbledore. Fleur could barely suppress the shudder that coursed through her body at the thought. It was just so horrible and hard to believe. The serene silver bearded old Headmaster who’d made them all feel so welcome during the Tournament, and from what Bill had always told her, a tremendous force to be reckoned with. Dead. It was too terrible to be true, and yet, from the news that had been steadily trickling to the Hospital Wing, true by all accounts.
It made her realise how lucky it was that Bill had survived.
It was this thought that kept her sane as she perched on the edge of Bill’s bed and gently held his hand. It was one of the few places that had escaped damage and she clung onto this fact gratefully. For the first time, she truly realised the dangers they were facing, and fear of the future loomed large, casting dark shadows over them both. But Bill wouldn’t go through it alone again. She’d be there every step of the way from this moment on. She didn’t care if these scars were permanent, or that Bill had been attacked by a werewolf. He was still Bill, and she was still Fleur and they were going to be married.
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