A/N: Apologies for rather short chapter to follow, but I hope it reveals enough about Fleur's present situation for everyone. Plus, I'm not sure if introducing certain people was too soon but... I guess I'll have to find out :)
“Fleur? Hello, Miss Delacour? Oi, Fleur!”
Fleur jerked her head upwards from its hanging position, plastering a nice, fake smile on her face to appease whoever it was that had come by. For once, it seemed she was in luck.
The visitor grinned as Fleur flapped around the desk, making apologies, and silenced her with a raised hand. “Honestly, Fleur, it’s fine! I know how stressed you are, what with all the extra work because of Mhairi’s being gone, so just… cool it.”
“Thank you… I’m so sorry!” Fleur apologised again, flustered, and very aware of how difficult it was so get her tongue around the ‘y’ of ‘thank you’. She sounded so very French at the minute! Although, it was probably because of how tired she was: Jayna – her visitor – was right; since Mhairi, head of all the Vault Management department, had taken leave very suddenly, they had all been snowed under with so much extra paperwork to cram into their already rather extended hours.
With that stress coupled along with the waitressing, Fleur was having trouble keeping her eyes open. How very strange it was to be in this situation; such a low point in one’s life! Three months ago, so much was different. She had borne so much more weight in the social world, and was the Head Girl, Ice Queen and Golden Girl of Beauxbatons with such a promising future.
Now, she was struggling to make it alone, through no fault of her own. Well… maybe a little, she thought wryly. She had hardly asked to be cornered into such a position, but she had certainly chosen to escape through this route.
“Chill, it’s all fine. Look, I just wanted to re-iterate the details of which keys Gornuk should be looking out for…?” Jayna continued on, her mind back in the work as Fleur tried hard to concentrate on what she was saying. Jayna was from Goblin Resources, but all the Gringotts work required inter-departmental co-operation. It was a given when one applied for a job there.
But ever since she had sent off her application, none of her Gringotts’ work seemed real. Fleur performed her job in an eternal state of dreaming, her mind shutting out what it did not want to take in.
Half an hour and two and cups of bad coffee later, and Fleur was back to checking the Keyholder records, still not quite believing what was happening to her life, even as she sat there looking at family trees and disused vault keys, and tried to work out who the keys should go to – it was all standard work for her, as Key Archivist.
Unfortunately, the same disbelieving attitude wouldn’t be with whoever got, or didn’t get, the treasure accessed with that key. The goblins had very intricate rules about who disused vaults went to, and it was all very boring and complicated trying to work out who the key was to be sent to and what they should do with it. Many hours of every day were spent trying to sort out who was getting what, and ruling out heir after heir as she eliminated those ineligible by Goblin rule enforcement. It was all horribly complicated, and written in nasty old English, so it made her head hurt just looking at it, let alone try to decipher it!
Then this evening, she was to go to the restaurant she waitressed in and smile and pose flirtily at all the old men with their airheaded girlfriends for five hours, in the hopes of garnering an extra few sickles as a tip that could possibly keep her out of debt for as long as possible.
Fleur’s life was complicated, and it was messy, and it was her own.
For a moment, Fleur contemplated how much nicer her original plan was; graduate Beauxbatons, work at Gringotts in the Vault Transfers - Foreign Transactions - French sector for six weeks; then with work experience, start her years’ novice placement at Les Salles D’Or, which was not only one of the most sought-after jobs in France, it also paid very well and had nice links between both France and England. Then go on to become English assistant (because she would be in France and communicating with England), then just the English department herself, then Head of European transfers, and eventually just Head of Foreign Transactions. Maybe even Vault Transfers!
Admittedly, when she was small, Fleur wouldn’t have said ‘I want to transfer money between foreign vaults when I’m a big girl!’. But it was right next to becoming a princess now, and she had it planned out…
Until the events of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. When Fleur came home from her year in England with Gabrielle having seen a dead corpse, been attacked by ‘English pond mutants’ and ‘horrendous hell-spiders’, as well as witnessing the famous Harry Potter’s declaration that Voldemort was back, her mother had broken down and declared her chained to the house forever.
Unfortunately for Fleur, who knew her mother and her mother’s stubbornness all too well, she knew perfectly well that she would be kept inside all summer long. And she was. Fleur could walk in the extensive gardens of their home, and she could stay inside all she liked, but she could not go into town, let alone go to England by herself for six weeks!
At first, Fleur refused to believe that her mother would allow her to miss out so totally on the work placement that would allow her to realise her life’s ambitions. Yet all too soon, the disbelief turned to anger, and grief. There were many fights waged around Chez Delacour that summer, but the last straw was when her mother forbade her to go to England entirely.
With a heart of steel, Fleur wrote to Gringotts, asking for a year-long placement doing anything instead. They replied in the affirmative. And so, August 30th saw the head girl, ice queen and golden girl Fleur Delacour march out of the front door of her own house with just one suitcase (admittedly she did have four others that had been shrunk inside) and casting off her family in the knowledge that as long as her mother’s will stayed firm, she couldn’t see them.
A month on from that day brought her to the present. Having found a tiny flat (which she put up with only because needs must) and working three days a week at Gringotts, Fleur found herself facing the prospect of debt in half a years’ time. So she had been forced to get a job waitressing in the swanky restaurant La Maison, which had actually fired one of their current waitresses so they could have this beautiful French girl serving their filthy-rich customers. Sadly, the work she had been assigned was deathly boring; she was working in keys. Of course, there were far more aspects to it than first met the eye (such as her current work of assigning the keys of disused vaults to the most direct heirs), but in essence, she had to look up who had which keys for various people that came by her desk.
“Miss Delacour, can I order a new key for vault 457 to be made please?” Keeley from Goblin Resources swung on by to ask. She was always very formal and rather boring, although Fleur was just glad she wasn’t an enemy.
“Of courze, Meess,” Fleur replied, pushing her chair to the part of the rather large and cluttered desk on which the order forms for the manufacturers were laid.
“Thank you. Do you know when it’ll be in?”
“’Opefully about five days,” she replied with a tired smile. It was just so exhausting, talking and thinking in English while working hard and trying to live by herself (with zilch outside help).
Then it was onto the next visitor. “Hey Flower, can I have the spare key to Vault 206 please?”
Fleur narrowed her eyes at the (admittedly handsome) man lounging against her bookcase and waiting for her to hand him the tiny, rusty key. His long ginger hair was pulled back in a ponytail held by a leather thong, and from his ear there dangled a fang.
He was one of the Vault Security lot; a rather arrogant bunch of young men, she thought, who liked to flirt with her and call her nicknames. So far none had been interesting enough to even consider dating.
She turned to face the bookcase and quickly searched through the spares before dangling it in front of him on the chain. He took it with an impish grin.
“Why yes… but nothing you can fetch me from that bookshelf.”
Fleur looked back down to her open files and ignored his grin. However, when he didn’t move away, she looked up angrily with an eyebrow raised.
“What Mr. Weasley,” he said smugly, still grinning. “But I’m Bill. I’m sorry, that was a really bad way of introducing myself, wasn’t it? I got it off one of the other Curse-Breakers. Ah well, now you can say you’ve met me. I’m a superstar, you know.” And he winked and walked back down the aisle between desks, leaving Fleur with the feeling she had been included on the joke she didn’t quite understand.
Weasley. Where had she heard the name before? And his face was familiar somehow…
Frowning, she turned back to the stack of paperwork and felt her eyes almost pop out of her head as she mentally measured the size. 2 feet 8? Something like that… it called for coffee.
Within five minutes, Fleur was back from the drinks machine that some bright soul from Human Resources had put in the centre of their room. Everyone used it, although it made bad coffee, because it was their only way to get it – goblins went everywhere else and highly disapproved of any brain-addling beverages.
So Fleur started to trace up the Knightsbridge family tree, sipping the disgusting black stuff, and wishing Mhairi was here to hand out her coffee to anyone she was feeling inclined to like that day. Honestly, what a day to disappear on!
Suddenly Fleur stiffened at that internal thought. Disappear… well, Mhairi had hardly disappeared now, had she? It was only three days off!
But Mhairi had only ever taken time off for urgent family reasons, such as her six- or four-year-old boys becoming ill. And other than that, she gave about six months’ notice, because everyone knew how much the goblins disliked them having any time off; all this behaviour was good even by their standards!
No. Although an event like this was unprecedented by Mhairi’s standards, there was a first time for everything – goodness knew that the Dutch Transactions worker was late every day if he turned up at all.
“Fleur! Omigosh, I know it’s not either of our breaks, but I just had to show you this. Look – look what’s happened!”
Fleur blinked, snapping out of her Mhairi-centred internal monologue and tuning into Jayna’s rather gobby attitude that for some reason had arrived back at her desk, where it had been just minutes before. “Qu – What?”
A copy of The Daily Prophet was shoved under her nose, and Fleur pushed it down far enough to be able to read the headline: “Mass Azkaban Breakout: Fudge Blames Black”.
Scanning the page, it was clear to read that apparently, a large number of The Dark Lord’s followers had broken out from the wizarding prison, and the British Minister for Magic was blaming Sirius Black for it all, because he had escaped two years ago.
As Jayna rambled about what it would mean for the bank, Fleur couldn’t help pondering that seeing as she believed Harry Potter when he proclaimed that You-Know-Who was back –she had been three metres away as he proclaimed it to one of the most powerful wizards of all time, and seen the corpse of Cedric Diggory – did this mean that the Ministry were refusing to accept that? Was Black all they were cracking him up to be in that case? After all, she already had the Daily Prophet down as an exaggerating and swaggering sort of newspaper, considering all the stories she had heard about Harry Potter there in the past month anyway!
Having learnt about and worked alongside the Boy Who Live for a good nine months, Fleur could safely say that the only thing wrong with his head was the hair that looked like he was hit by a lightning spell on a daily basis.
But maybe Jayna was right. It was going to affect security at Gringotts. Therefore how was it going to affect her?