Chapter 7 : Dates
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Also, this chapter is rather a mixed bag of results. Including the ending… Enjoy ~
Several hours later, Fleur sat down heavily on her old sofa and massaged her temples. Her first date with Bill had not, as such, gone badly – other than the fact it was harder to keep control than she was used to. Bill was very charming and handsome in a more adventurous way than mysterious or pretty, and could turn a situation around with a devious wink. He treated her like an equal, which had been surprising at first considering how patronising he’d once been.
In fact, to her surprise, it had all been a lot more relaxed and enjoyable than many dates she had been on. It was quite an amusing pastime, this competition to see who could take control of the situation; if only they had run out of things to say, it would have been so much easier to swoop in and snatch control! She was unused to the equal grounding, and it disturbed Fleur more than she liked to think about.
They had mutually agreed to a nice, windy park date next weekend. It would be the start of November, and Fleur had (at that point) taken control by explaining how much she loved winter picnics.
However, the entire evening had played out as an unsatisfying battle of the wits. After a slightly awkward start, where they had both measured the other up as Bill offered to take her coat while a waiter flapped around attempting to do the same, Fleur had smiled regally and let him do so. Never let it be said that Fleur Delacour was ungenerous – and let it always be said that she was dangerous.
However, from the moment their eyes had met, Fleur had known that every move had to be calculated. While they ordered their starter and began to eat, Bill had stolen control by entertaining her with an anecdote of his brother Charlie.
“…and then, he was just lying there, with the chickens still scratching all over him!”
“What deed you do?” Fleur asked, widening her eyes as she elegantly spooned some more soup, and wracked her brains for a way to turn the tables.
“We ran. There was not much else we could do, really, since Charlie can run faster than anyone else I know with twice the strength. I haven’t seen him in too long. But,” he cut her off as she tried to interrupt, “I don’t know anything about your family! Tell me about them.” It was a command, a clear instruction that she was doing as he said.
Fleur felt her insides clench. She could do better than this – it had all been easy for too long, and a challenge was what she needed.
She sighed dramatically, handing her soup bowl to the waiter with a careless wink. “My leetle Gabrielle, she was so upset when I left ‘er. Eet pains me every day to not see ‘er, and I so ‘ope to viseet Beauxbatons soon.”
“But why can’t you see her already? I – ”
“She ‘as written to me every day since I left ‘ome, saying I should not ‘ave gone,” Fleur carried on a little louder, drowning Bill out, “but I would always ‘ave left ‘ome. Maman, she was not so ‘appy, and Papa ees steel… not-traught?” Fleur was forced to stop through her lack of vocabulary.
Bill frowned for a moment. “Distraught? But why were they not so happy to have you leave in the first place?”
Fleur mentally cursed. She had been sincerely hoping that Bill forgot that part and let her talk about her family, letting her keep control. “Zey deed not want me to leave after all. But zat ees not ze point, as I came to Eengland anyway. Why deed you come back from Egypt?”
“I was on holiday to watch the Triwizard Tournament, but after hearing what Harry said… other options seemed…” he trailed off. Fleur inhaled sharply at his words, heart suddenly beating at twice the normal rate. Bill had heard and believed Harry Potter too? She had known he was the older brother of Harry’s best friend, but that guaranteed nothing.
Then again, she was simply the older competitor of Harry, and she believed him. Glancing up at Bill, her ice-blue eyes met his warm brown ones, and instead of glancing away immediately and sipping her wine with a careless air, she held his gaze until the waiter arrived with their main courses.
Fleur could hardly remember what she had ordered; it turned out to be a crab dish, as she had not eaten proper seafood since she was last at Beauxbatons, roughly a year ago. However, she could not relish the subtle flavourings as she would usually. She felt shaken for reasons unknown, as Bill attempted to talk about his time in Egypt, but ended up repeating himself a little nonsensically. At least, she was rather sure that, “we went… tomb fighting,” didn’t make any sense for a fluent English speaker, either.
She needed to revert back to the old routine. Bill had extracted far too much knowledge about the true Fleur for her liking, and that needed to be stopped now, especially as it would be dangerous for him to know it when they broke up.
What was her routine again? Observation, anecdote, question, response, anecdote, observation, question… yes, she was prepared for this. Now to divert the attention away from more personal matters.
“Zat woman in ze corner, she does not look so ‘appy to ‘ave received ‘er partner’s presence,” she fake-laughed, flipping her hair back over her shoulder and pointing to their side with her crab-speared fork. She realised a second too late that the last word had been wrong, but smoothed it over by carrying on as though nothing had happened.
“I theenk that ze arteest has not painted her so well! I remember zat one year, my aunt ‘ad ordered a portrait of herself wiz ‘er ‘usband – ” no need to state which one, “ – and when eet came, zere was a deeferent spell on eet, so zat zey deed not move but change to bright colours! What ees your worst gift?” She leant forward with a conspiratorial smirk, encouraging Bill to continue. He was watching her through narrowed lids, but proceeded to speak about his own bad presents for a long enough time to convince any other actress that he had noticed nothing unusual about her subject change.
For the rest of the evening, trivial matters were the only topics that Fleur would let herself be steered towards. It was exhausting, as she had to constantly stay on her toes during their back-and-forth conversations. But she enjoyed the entire experience rather too much. Bill, for all his faults, was a great conversationalist, and unlike most dates, she found herself lying only a little to him.
The time fairly flew by as they both struggled for control, and parted with Fleur quickly pressing her lips to his as they stepped outside into the cold, before turning on the spot almost immediately. She had left Bill stepping backwards as she whipped away, and upon entering her flat, dropped down onto the sofa, briefly touching her fingers to her lips before contemplating what time she would have to get up for her shift the next morning.
Bill was replaying Fleur’s side of the conversation over pudding in his head, sitting at his tiny desk in the corner of the Curse-Breakers’ offices for lunch, when he was interrupted by Jayna.
Her presence was first announced by a chorus of wolf-whistles, but unlike Bill’s original assumption, they were not announcing Fleur’s presence but Jayna’s. He was further surprised when she strolled over to his desk instead of any others and placed her hands down in a menacing manner.
“Put down that beef sandwich and look me in the eyes, William Weasley,” were her first words, said softly but with force behind them. Bill raised an eyebrow but did as she said, as otherwise she’d just overwhelm him with reasons to drop the sandwich.
“Alright, what is it, Jayna?”
“Are you or are you not going out with Fleur Delacour?” She was holding his gaze. He blinked, nodding slowly. She sighed, pursing her lips. “Well, in that case, you’d better keep it on the down-low, since Sara Styles still thinks she’s going out with you. She’s got a problem with pretty-girl, too, so can you please tell Sara to get her facts straight and not accost you or tell the rest of us made-up crap?”
Bill frowned; he’d had no idea she was that bad, assuming Sara’s little infatuation to be kept within their acquaintance only. Unfortunately, it looked like he’d got the wrong end of the stick. “Sara’s telling everyone we’re going out?” Jayna nodded grimly, and Bill swore. “Alright, fine, I’ll deal with her. But how’d you find out about me and Fleur?”
“Mhairi found out somehow,” Jayna shrugged, “you know how the re-invented her is all-seeing, all-working and all-knowing.” Bill nodded in agreement, and wondered when he could get to Sara, before waving off Jayna.
A letter wouldn’t be too harsh, right?
No, too indirect. Bill sighed – he’d have to do this the hard way. Heaving himself up from the desk and snagging the remaining lunch, he headed out the door to Human Resources before anyone could catch on to where he was going.
When it came to the second date on Saturday, Fleur had the minor worry about how to wrap up warm and look beautiful doing so. Her compacted wardrobe was not, as such, suited to English weather, and while she was an expert in dressing, her lack of knowledge on this country’s conditions left her frustratingly wrong-footed. It ended with Fleur dressed in another blue pea-coat (which she had been forced to subtly summon all the way from France), and beret, hat, scarf, gloves and boots.
Again, they both turned up late, with Fleur the later this time, and had a charming afternoon talking about work, life and everything in-between. She opened up a little more to gain Bill’s confidence, and though she avoided the topic of why she came to England, it all went rather smoothly and all too fast. The entire time, she could only contemplate how strange it was that two such competitors – vexing opponents, and they both knew it – could have such interesting conversations!
For the first few weeks, organising their relationship around work was difficult. They didn’t want a public relationship, especially as office romances were difficult and awkward once discarded. Also, since the whole of Gringotts believed Sara Styles to be dating Bill – which she was not, though it took a while for it to be ascertained so, and Bill reported that he had tried to get rid of her – which would surely only bring a lot of trouble down of Fleur’s head.
Instead, when Fleur did work, they would have half of lunch together casually in Fleur’s office, and the other half with their own friends. Bill had many more on that count than Fleur, whose beautiful looks, natural distrust, and different accent were all holding her back from opening up.
They worked well as a non-serious couple; they laughed together, there was competition, but could still have a nice chat. Fleur hadn’t even let him kiss her at the end of the park date, instead teasing Bill by almost kissing him… and then moving away with a laugh, a wave, and a turn on the spot again.
However, she was finding the tension difficult to deal with. There was a slight stiffness between them that they were ignoring, as though they both knew exactly how much of a player the other could be. No more investigations towards Mhairi were being performed – it was hard enough being together and attempting to crack the other’s strategy, without trying to form getaway plans to escape from more weighty strategies at the same time.
As much as she knew she should be getting bored with this little game, as a kitten plays with a spider before squashing it, there was still something resisting in her. Curiosity killed the cat, but she was drawn to Bill in an inexplicable way, and Fleur wanted to know the secrets he was hiding.
Oddly enough, they only began to relax when there was a notice posted by the goblins that Gornuk had been found dead, circumstances as yet unknown.
It was a normal Monday, mid-November. Everyone was tired, and Fleur couldn’t stop yawning at her desk. It was only when she went into Human Resources for awful coffee mid-morning that Fleur realised anything was wrong. Between the two sectors of Human and Goblin Resources, a notice of some sort had been posted, and there were several people gathered round. Keeley peeled off from the group as Fleur approached, confusion etched on her face, and murmured, “Poor thing,” under her breath to herself.
Naturally, Fleur made her way to the notice. It was horrifying blunt – but that was the way of the goblins, wasn’t it?
‘Gornuk, who has been a prestigious goblin here for several centuries, has been found dead in a London alleyway in. Circumstances are, as of yet, unknown. Goblins are called to say the Rites for him as they wish and humans may mourn in their own way. He is golden now.’
It took a moment for the wheels to turn in Fleur’s mind; Gornuk was more of a familiar name than most, which often went straight over her head, but where…?
Bill. Straight away she wheeled around and headed for the Vault Security offices, making a beeline for his desk and sitting beside him.
More than anything, her boyfriend looked pensive. She gave him a questioning look, and after a moment he answered her carefully, staring up at the high stone ceiling. “He was as close a friend as goblins can be to humans, and I’m pretty sure I was as close to being a human friend as I could be for a goblin. I just hope that whoever did it gets their comeuppance… no point really mourning if the goblins don’t hold with it, is there? He wouldn’t want it. They just say to accept life as it is. So that’s what I’m doing.”
She took his hand and laid her head on his shoulder, glad of the wall that put him in the corner a little. Of course, many people were still watching them, ready to work the rumour mill the minute she left. But for now, Fleur felt the anger and worry seep out of her like waves trickling off a beach. For a moment, they stayed like that, then Bill put his head on top of hers. Between them, they would try not to mourn, and instead mutually comfort the other.
In that moment, Fleur felt more peaceful than she had since… well, since she could remember, really. She was a calm lake with no ripples of anger or hurt, just peaceful stillness inside.
After that, it suddenly felt like a proper relationship. It wasn’t just that they were dating any more; Bill and Fleur were properly going out. Her being there for him and their mutual understanding had made it real; they weren’t just playing any more, not competing against the other for control.
Of course, this only made Fleur the more sorry, because she didn’t want to lose the peaceful state she was in. But she was going to have to, eventually, of course. She couldn’t keep anyone close.
The next time they went out, they both arrived at the gig of the band Bill wanted to show her almost on time; it was his birthday, November 29th. Being a British band, Fleur hadn’t heard of them, but was indignant when Bill exclaimed that he hadn’t expected her to be into wizard rock – in fact, she had been quite the music rebel, but because both her Tante and Maman would have strongly disapproved, her passion was fed only by insomnia-fuelled nights of sneaking a wizarding wireless into her dorm and turning the sound as low as possible.
Then there were several unfortunate weeks before anything else could be organised. In that time, Fleur wrote back and forth to Gabrielle and sometimes to her father – Gabrielle begged her to come back for Christmas so much that Fleur could not refuse, and she also contemplated her renewed relationship with Bill.
It had to be ended, and soon. It was all moving much too fast in the way of feelings, and she would have to break up with him fairly fast. Unfortunately, there being only two weeks or so until Christmas, it would be too heartless to ruin the holidays like that for him.
She would have to keep it until after Christmas, and add it to the pile of post-New Year gloom that was sure to be deposited on them. It made sense, and was rather more proper in a woman to minimise the impact her feelings would have.
But while Fleur started to pull away from the relationship, anticipating the repercussions, Bill seemed to only become more animated. He was very caught up in the Christmas spirit and enjoyed singing ridiculous Christmas songs to her, which was admittedly rather funny until she remembered what she would have to do.
None of it stopped her organising a nice evening in at hers for the last day of work, though. She had bought mulled wine and some funny English pies that Bill (and, indeed, all of the English) seemed to be so fanatic about. She couldn’t help letting the spirited, joyful part of her win the war against the guilt and proper part for the time being, too caught up in the general merriment to mind. She couldn’t get hurt at a time like this, and she wouldn’t hurt anyone else either!
But with no more than a week left of work until the holidays and her new job interview – that he had encouraged her to apply for in the first place – Bill disappeared into thin air.
There was no note. No warning. Nobody had any idea of where he had gone; he had been enchanted away by the fairies. Yet Fleur appeared to be the only one left who cared, abandoned in a sea of people who did not want to spoil their own enjoyment with a care for someone missing so suddenly.
She had been abandoned again.
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