Chapter 1 : Grizzled
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“Now, dear, I’m still kicking, I can butter my own scone,” he grumbled, but winked at her. Marguerite hastily waved her wand and cleared up the cup of tea he had dropped when his hand started shaking. They both ignored it.
Mr. Bill’s face was scarred and grizzled, and age had weathered the great folds of flesh. A silver stud –Goblin-made, rumor had it- still glinted from the sagging skin of his left ear. Nurse Marguerite laid an affectionate hand on his shoulder as she passed. In the four years the Weasleys had been living at Le Jardin, the staff had fallen in love with the sharp-witted, good-natured Mr. Weasley and his wicked sense of humor.
Even in old age, when people began the constant battle against the decay of their bodies and their minds, horrific memories still brought these to the surface. The war was always at the edge of their thoughts: Lord Voldemort’s face leered behind every crisp white curtain, the Dark Mark was carved into the beautiful wooden grandfather clock. Each strange face masked a Death Eater. The Nurses, who been born into years of peace, tried to soothe their residents best they could.
Perhaps that was why everyone relied so much on Bill Weasley: he was level-headed, kind and patient. He was a war hero himself, and so the other residents flocked to him.
“Tell me again about Dumbledore,” they would beg. “Tell us about when Harry Potter came back to life. Tell me about Amelia Bones. Tell me how the Horcruxes were destroyed. Tell me about your werewolf scars.”
Residents would queue to sit at his table, to ride their floating wheelchairs next to his as he took his afternoon whiz around the gardens, and would ask him for help them with their financial affairs. Mr. Weasley had time for all of them. Half the old ladies were in love with him, and some of them still had living husbands for goodness sake!
But, in all Le Jardin, there was one person who loathed Mr. Weasley. Her name was Fleur.
Bill Weasley always ignored the horrified looks on the faces of the nurses and his children whenever Fleur spoke to him. Her once-beautiful face, withered and sagging, contorted with rage.
“You ‘ave stolen my cane, you ‘orrible, ‘ideous man!” Or, “where eez my silver necklace eh, eet was a family ‘eirloom!”
Mind altered by dementia and suppressed years of trauma, Fleur directed her hatred and frustration at her decaying self on the only person she recognized: her once-beloved husband, Bill.
Now, as Nurse Marguerite scuttled back respectfully, Fleur approached Bill’s table, eyes narrowed suspiciously. He smiled up at her, sitting back in his chair and wincing as his hips creaked.
“Hello, dear. You look lovely today.”
Marguerite, watching, thought that Fleur looked anything but lovely, her hair in need of a trim, yesterday’s eye makeup smeared across her wrinkled cheek. Bill twitched as if to reach up to her and wipe the smudge away, but stopped himself.
“Won’t you sit and take your tea with me?”
It seemed that today Fleur was too worked up to do more than glare at him. Confused, hesitant, she stiffly eased herself into a wicker chair, glancing about anxiously. Bill waved his wand and conjured some flowers for her, daisies, and she stared at them numbly before forcefully throwing them to the ground. Fleur, of course, was not allowed to carry her own wand anymore.
Bill sighed, feeling even older than his ninety-or-so years. Nurse Marguerite’s heart went out to Bill, and she looked at his wife with wary contempt.
Because Nurse Marguerite had not known Fleur as Bill had, before she grew old and bitter, when she was a young girl giggling with him in the back crannies of Diagon Alley to steal kisses on their lunch breaks. The night of their wedding, when Fleur had fought off Death Eaters until each and every one of their wedding guests was safe. Marguerite had not seen Fleur battling along side him at the Battle of Hogwarts, Veela hair whipping about her face, putting her wand between him and a Killing Curse without hesitation, beautiful face contorting with rage as she whirled on whoever dared attack her husband.
When he first laid eyes on Fleur Delacour, Bill was numbed by her inhuman beauty, her proud smile, the gentle slope of her shoulders. But Fleur was not of the air: she was earth and fire, a being made from the lifeblood of the soil, an imperfectly perfect person with strong opinions and a temper of towering ferocity.
Fleur had tried so hard to teach him French, but Bill was a stubborn Englishman through and through. She had, however, drilled one phrase into his head: Ma jolie femme, comment je t’aime. Comment je vous adore. My beautiful wife, how I love you. How I adore you. He brought out the phrase whenever she was in a mood, wrapping his arms around her as she angrily scrubbed at the dinner dishes, whispering breath tickling her neck until she gave in and turned in his embrace to kiss him, laughing against his lips despite herself.
Marguerite hadn’t known Fleur’s loud, brazen laugh, her strong handshake, her soft smile as she rocked their first baby in her arms, then looked up at him with pure love that emanated out of her eyes and heated him to his bones. Marguerite had not seen Fleur hold him down and cut his hair, dusting off her hands and grinning triumphantly when she won. Now, you do not look like an ‘ooligan, she had proclaimed proudly.
Marguerite had not seen them at his mother’s funeral, tears pricking at his eyes, his little children clutching each others hands and looking up at him fearfully. Fleur had turned Bill away and let him sob into her shoulder so that the children would not see that horrible sight of their father in tears. It had been Fleur who held his hand firmly, lending him her strength to get through that most terrible of days.
When Bill’s back pains had begun, it was Fleur who bossily had the entire cottage rearranged to suit him, moving their bedroom to the ground floor. It was Fleur who rubbed his shoulders lovingly, and told him that to her, he was still the strongest, most magnifique man she knew.
Fleur had been feisty and strong-minded and bold. Fleur had been decisive and passionate. When she began to forget things, like the simplest of spells, or leaving her reading glasses in the cooking cauldron, it was Fleur who demanded they move to the South of France and into permanenent domestic care, in case her mind started failing on her.
“Eet will be fine, cheri,” she had informed him with a flick of the Veela hair and a quick kiss on his roughened cheek. “Maybe you can finally learn some Francais.”
And it had been fine indeed, until Fleur’s memory began to slide, and her old repressed fears and nightmares to float into reality at the tip of her consciousness.
All the while, the strange woman behind Fleur’s eyes glared at Bill, her expression clouded and suspicious, thin hands clenched on the white tablecloth. Bill, looking down at those hands, wished he could take them in his own and kiss away the raging frustrations that warred beneath her skin, this last enemy from which he was powerless to save her.
Bill sipped at his tea and watched his wife through the corner of his eye. In his mind, he pretended that she was the same old Fleur again, prepared to lecture him for not clearing up after dinner, or smiling softly as she gently kissed along each of his scars. For a moment, a trick of the light, he imagined he saw that familiar Veela flick of the hair, the set of her jaw and flash of loving determination that defined the essence of Fleur.
Ma jolie femme, comment je t’aime. Comment je vous adore.
A/N: Thanks for reading my little story! Anything recognizable belongs to JK Rowling. Please review and let me know what you thought.
Inspired by my grandparents.
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