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Chapter 6 : Offer
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“Hi Fleur! How are you doing?” Mhairi was rather cheerful as Fleur came up to her, smile in place. She was taking her sweet time about asking Mhairi for the information that she and Bill wanted, because he was so hypocritical and she had an insatiable urge to annoy him right now. However, her curiosity had got the better of her and she had sent Bill a little aeroplane to tell him she was going.
Naturally, that meant that as she sat down on the chair in front of Mhairi’s desk, she saw ginger hair whip out of sight around the corner. Fleur tried to keep a grimace and frown from sliding onto her face. She didn’t need constant watching, as if she were a rogue toddler!
She tried to push the thought out of her mind and concentrate on the conversation. It required delicate handling. “I am good, just a bit tired. How are you?” Fleur was sipping her coffee and leaning back, body language that told people she was relaxed, off-duty, and wanting a chat.
“Ah, good… I’m not so bad m’self. I’ve got Phil coming home early tonight, so we’ve got another family night in!” She beamed happily, and carried on shuffling the files around at the same time.
Fleur smiled back again. This was almost too easy. “Ah yes, ‘ow did your last one go? I know you were eexcited about zat.”
“It was lovely, actually, because we so rarely get to eat together as a family… other than at weekends, I mean. But we’re hoping that it can happen most Tuesdays, you know? And I might even manage to get Phil to cook for me,” she winked.
Fleur laughed, the tinkling sound coming out perfectly natural. She was cut off abruptly, however, when Sara Styles from Human Resources walked in on them without knocking and stopped short at the sight of Fleur, her eyes narrowed at Fleur’s slightly smug and very innocent smile that was aimed at her.
“Oh. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt any… catch-ups, but I have some more important issues that need sorting,” she said in an acidic tone, before talking pointedly to Mhairi. “Do you need any more people on the Vault Selection then?”
Mhairi just said, “No, thanks. I thought I told you it was fine?”
Sara paused, mind obviously whirring, and then smiled a lipglossed grin. It came out looking as fake as her hair dye. “Oh, good; I just wanted to re-iterate. I need to find Bill now – toodle-oo.” And she strutted out with hips swinging and blonde bob shining, leaving Mhairi shaking her own brown-black, wavy and thick hair at her.
“Honestly, that woman is so over-protective of her relationship with Bill Weasley, it’s ridiculous.”
“Are zey offeecially going out, zen?” Fleur asked carefully, knowing that office romances could be rather delicate at the best of times, and also that Bill was listening outside when she didn’t want him to.
Mhairi threw her hands up in the air. “You know, I always thought so, but the attachment seems pretty much on her side.”
“Well… back to your family deenners, were you in ze ‘ouse last n- ”
“Sorry to interrupt! I’m sorry, I just really need to talk to Miss Delacour about a key that I think has gone missing,” Bill declared, bursting into the room and grabbing Fleur by the wrist. Both Mhairi and Fleur jumped backwards.
Fleur was too shocked to do anything except shove her coffee at Mhairi before he jerked her out of the office and into the bustling corridor. Unfortunately for him, she recovered her wits rather fast but allowed herself to be towed into a tiny file office where all the records of previous workers were kept, through all the centuries, with their names and a basic job description crammed in beside thousands upon thousands of others… and with several mops and buckets sat casually in the corner.
It was basically a broom closet, and Fleur had to fight to keep the smile from lifting the corners of her mouth as Bill locked the door, lit up his wand, and turned to her with a mixture of anger, annoyance and relief painted clearly on his face.
For some reason, Fleur was internally giggling about the irony of broom closets and people who annoyed each other being locked inside, but kept her expression angry. Exactly what had he been thinking, ruining their investigation with a stupid explosion like that?
But Bill didn’t seem to realise how well she had been handling the situation. “Honestly, what were you thinking? We’re meant to be undercover here! That could have blown our cover completely.”
“But we are fine, I zink. Nobody ‘as seen,” she replied stiffly, her body taut.
“Really? Because it seemed like it was all about to go downhill to me.”
Fleur huffed. “Did you really theenk that I could not ‘andle myself – and Mhairi – zere? Eet was a deleecate conversation, but I know exactly ‘ow to do thees! You seemply ruined eet!”
He paused, considering. “Well, I suppose that you are rather good at this manipulation thing. But it’s still a good thing that I got you pulled out just in time,” he winked.
Fleur found herself smiling, at her success, at the irony, and at his constant flirtatiousness. She wouldn’t be gaining any further ground with Bill’s admission to the interruption. “Mais oui. Ozzerwise we would both be… I zink you say… up shut creek wizzout a cradle?”
At that, Bill couldn’t help laughing. Fleur was pleased her partner-in-crime seemed to find her bad English funny, and laughed herself. “Something like that,” he got out between chuckles.
Bill was still chuckling when he made it to the Vault Maintenance: Cart Depot entrance. Fleur was quite the firecracker when she wanted to be, and she seemed so stroppily confident compared to anyone else. Somehow, she seemed to be able to hit her point home without losing pride or your respect.
As he signed back in on the board and waited for a service goblin to drive him down, Bill couldn’t help imagining her outside of work. It was purely because of this whole investigation thing they had going, he promised himself. After all, why else would Fleur Delacour want to see him outside?
Or, more to the point, why did he want to see her?
The answer came from that part of his brain that sounded suspiciously like a mental Charlie: because somebody’s got a schoolboy crush on the pwetty French girlie!
Bill mentally shoved the voice. Nobody should ever be calling Fleur a ‘pwetty French girlie’; ‘stunning’, maybe, or, ‘coldly beautiful’, or….
Oh, Merlin. Bill paused, his eyes fixed on the ceiling. Pwetty French girlie? Coldly beautiful? Other, progressively more odd yet accurate, descriptions?
He really did have a schoolboy crush on her. His mind never usually came out with such complete guff, and while he normally prided himself on playing such encounters as cool and collected as was humanely possible, he could sense himself becoming unnaturally attached to her.
This was stupid, and it had to stop, however torn and pulled he felt.
But still, the only thoughts that preoccupied his mind in the cart ride down were ones of the degrading manner everyone else seemed to treat her in.
Over the next few weeks, Fleur and Bill only got to talk a few more times. It would happen whenever he dropped by her desk to fetch a key, or she sent him a note about another failed attempt to talk their way into Keeley’s files (just to check, of course), or when Bill tried, and failed, to get Gornuk to speak to him.
Of course, Bill’s attempts in that quarter had been very subtle because he had not wanted to ruin the friendship the two had – well, as close to friendship as goblin and human could have.
And even though Fleur never went to visit him, for fear of having his whole Department explode, he came to visit her often enough to chat, even introducing his friend Andreas from the Vault Transfers: German Sector. Andreas seemed honest and nice, but a little unfriendly. She assumed that was just her French view colouring this perfectly normal German, though, as Bill didn’t make any sign that he felt the same way.
However, it was when Gabrielle wrote her back, in one of her many letters, that Fleur realised she seemed to be giving rather mixed messages about Bill. It wasn’t such a deviation from his true attitude, actually; he was irritating when he was refusing to tell her things, but amusing to be around when he was including her in jokes and information. He wasn’t half as eager as most boys were around her, either – he seemed to appreciate but not give into her charms. That simply made him all the more vexing to her.
It was eight days after the cupboard incident when Fleur was walking along a corridor to talk to Jayna about some vault swaps, and Bill swerved into the steady flow of people with surprising speed, towing her in the other direction.
Fleur was too busy wondering why he was doing this, what it was about, and if most meetings required her to be pulled away by him, before lo and behold, she found herself in the very same broom cupboard she had been in before with him.
As she opened her mouth to speak, he jumped ahead. “Didn’t Mhairi ask you for the spare key to the vault originally?”
Fleur blinked before closing her mouth. “Eh… oui, je pense que…” Thinking so wasn’t going to be enough. She tried again. “But I do not zink zat I can remember… there are so many requests, all day long, and I did not take a note.”
Internally cursing herself, Fleur couldn’t believe her stupidity. It hadn’t been that hard a task, and she’d already told herself at the time to investigate! She felt like hitting herself over the head. She had let them both down, and somehow, stupidity seemed the worst sin of all at that moment.
“Hey, it’s ok. Don’t worry about it,” Bill said, his voice suddenly gentle instead of whirring on higher subjects. “Maybe you need a distraction to help it come back. How’s about dinner at eight on Friday, The Fireworks? I’ll see you there,” he said with a wink, before leaving her to stand in the cupboard and consider the irony of the situation, consoling herself that he hadn’t given her time to refuse. There wasn't anything she could've done. But still, an ache of sadness and frustration swept through her momentarily.
Well, that would be the end of her improved relationship with her fellow investigator, then. Wasn’t it always the end? If she dated, it wasn’t serious – or not on her part. Fleur didn’t go out with half as many boys as the rumours would suggest, but she got through a fair number of the better-looking and richer ones. The rumours weren’t exactly bad anyway; it was well-known among Beauxbatons students that she kept on her high horse when playing with her line of suitors, and refused to do anything more than kiss them.
Tante Isabelle had taught her the English phrase ‘Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ right from when she was young. The twelve-year-old Fleur had solemnly taken in it and engraved this lesson, along with so many others, onto her heart so it may never be broken. In fact, Tante Isabelle had taught her most things she came to know about men; it was she who instructed Fleur in how to use them for her own higher climbing, but never to let herself be used by them.
Tante Isabelle had also taught her that because of her beauty, men would lust after her as much as women would hate her. She should flaunt that; she could get to a better place if she used her beauty and persuasive skills to her advantage. But if she cheapened herself, she would not be the one in control anymore, they would be.
In fact, it was Tante Isabelle who had taught her most about life. Between her Tante and her Maman, Fleur had received a rather nice education of life; Maman teaching her cooking and sewing and the like, and her Tante teaching her ‘business’. Maman had often argued with her sister about how manipulative she was making her daughter, but Isabelle had always argued back that Fleur was going to be targeted anyway. Isabelle had always been far more slack and easy-going around her nieces rather than her sister.
When Friday rolled around, Fleur had taken the evening off from La Maison much to the manager’s disgust, and was lamenting the future loss of comradeship from Bill as she dressed herself in a short black skirt and strappy silver top. Between the two, it displayed her legs to their full advantage but didn’t show off her cleavage – again, leaving her in control.
Fleur was on autopilot as she did her make-up to perfection while the clock chimed eight. She Apparated at precisely twelve minutes past eight, all ready to offer fake apologies. Every time, the boy fell for it in his eagerness to please her.
This time, when she arrived outside the restaurant, she was kept waiting for exactly seven minutes until Bill sauntered up with a leather jacket and nicely-fitted jeans. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” he said with a grin.
Fleur flashed a dazzling smile back. “Ah, eet ees okay, I have only just arrived – I was worried I would keep you waiting.”
Two could play at that game, and this was one Fleur never lost.
oui, je pense que – yes, I think so
Mais oui - but yes
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