Chapter 1 : Imperfect
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I loved the sand that always gritted underfoot and could never quite be fully swept away. I loved the smell of salt and ocean when I opened my front door. I loved knowing that the ocean itself was mere steps away, and that my children would grow up swimming in it. I loved the warped wood floors and the rough-hewn furniture and the kitchen taps that were rusted thin and the curtains that were never able to keep out the direct sunlight that pattered across the rooms.
These things were neither good nor bad. They were simply mine, and I loved them for their good qualities and their imperfections alike.
I’m early in the stages of my first pregnancy, just over a year after the end of the war. Our family has stretched considerably since then: George is due to marry Angelina Johnson in the autumn, Ron has just asked Hermione to marry him, and Harry and Ginny are only steps away from getting engaged too. But our son or daughter will be the first Weasley grandchild. Molly cried when she’d heard.
The months have turned my husband quiet, however – not depressed, not anxious, but thoughtful.
I habitually get up to take tea and the early edition of the Daily Prophet by myself at the kitchen table, but on this morning in particular I have unexpected company. Bill is already there when I descended the stairs, his lips framing the rim of his own mug. The smell of coffee twists through the air, but I fight the wave of ensuing nausea, instead coming to sit next to him.
“Good morning,” I say, laying my hands flat on the table in front of me. The sun is peeking over the horizon outside, and one of the sunbeams catches the gold band on the fourth finger of my left hand, turning it to copper with sunlight.
Bill leans over and kisses me gently on the cheek. His fingers reach across the table and strain for the edge of the Daily Prophet, already sitting where the Ministry owl had dropped it that morning. He offers it to me, but I shake my head, willing to let him read it first today. It is enough for me to be able to spend time with him like this, without our rushing to get to work on time or exhaustion from staying up too late at the Burrow talking with the rest of the extended Weasleys.
It is just us; it could have been just us until the end of the world and I would have been happy. Time was painted into a still-life picture of sand and surf and a man and a woman at a kitchen table in a cottage.
Bill sips again from the coffee in front of him, his eyes now trained on whatever headline the newspaper’s dreamed up for us today, and I get up to put on the kettle for my tea. Magic is unpredictable during pregnancy, and so I do it by hand, without my wand; I’ve already exploded two kettles in as many months.
The water is nearly boiling when Bill speaks from the other room. His voice is calm. “Fleur,” he says, “come and have a look at this.”
I cross back to the kitchen table, rest my hands on the back of my husband’s chair. I bend over to read the article indicated by his finger. The paper is damp from the sea air, the edges curled, but not curled enough to obscure the bold black headline: IPSWICH WEREWOLF ATTACK LEAVES TWO DEAD.
Images flash through my mind so fast I don’t have the time to grab hold of one to study it before another takes its place. A dark castle, a limp figure, a too-bright hospital wing surrounded by people, all with the same flaming red hair. My throat closes up, and my eyes sting with tears I do not want to shed. I know that Bill is seeing the same images, but with more clarity, a thousand times worse.
I bring my hands from the chair and wrap them around my husband, laying my cheek to his shoulder and pressing my face into his neck. One of his hands reaches back and rests against my hair, and even then I can feel how it shakes. How much this werewolf attack has made him feel things he has tried to smother for weeks, months, years.
My chest is heavy with pain for him.
“I love you, Fleur,” he whispers softly, and I think my heart will burst.
I remove my arms from his neck and come to stand in front of him; he is so tall the top of his head is level with my chin, even though he is sitting down. Carefully, with fingers as gentle as I can consciously make them, I reach forward and lay my right hand on his cheek. My thumb traces the outline of one of the scars etched on his face, gliding gently over the ridge of the angry pink skin with soft, repetitive strokes.
He closes his eyes, covering that hand with his own, and I lean forward and kiss him.
“I love you,” I murmur against his lips, and he relaxes.
There were many things I loved about Shell Cottage, but there were even more things I loved about the man who had given it to me. He had come into my life without my anticipating it, and even I had been surprised at how quickly I had fallen in love with Bill Weasley.
He was brave and kind. He held doors open for me always, and there was never a time when he couldn’t make me laugh by telling me about his childhood or his job. He never remembered to wash out his mugs, and he was always forgetting the last place he’d put his wand. He had been attacked by a werewolf, and it was something he lived with every day of his life.
But he was mine, and I loved him for his good qualities and imperfections alike.
A/N: There used to be a time when everything I wrote was fluff, and now I look at my author's page and 75% of the stories on there are dark or gritty or angst-ridden. I love writing depressing stories! But everyone needs fluff in their life, too, and that's something I was trying to get at here. Bill/Fleur's quickly transformed into one of my favorite canon pairings. And it was Sarah who gave me the idea in the first place, so this story is most definitely for her!
But if you've read it, I'd love to know what you thought, too! Thank you for stopping by!