Chapter 4 : Confrontation
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A week or so later, Bill came into work still frustrated. The early October wind blew around him as he went up the steps and through a smaller door, set to the side of the grand oak ones that let in regular visitors. He couldn’t help but feel as though he was missing something in this mess of an investigation – Mhairi back at work while her family had disappeared, then going down to the vaults to put a suspicious package in a Clankers vault.
None of it made sense.
Well, there was the obvious explanation that Mhairi had been Imperiused; Bill had been checking her for the signs all week. But no, she wasn’t. Then there was blackmail, which was his newest theory. Bill suspected it was that, and her family being held hostage, but there wasn’t much he could do about investigating that one, other than going to her house. If it was anyone other than this strong woman, he would have expected cracks to show in her façade – but if anyone could keep up a pretence forever, it would be Mhairi.
Almost absent-mindedly, he traipsed through the grand halls until he arrived at the Vault Security sector. Although the goblins and wizards who had first built the place hundreds of years ago had never intended the side-halls to be on display to visitors, they had designed them grandly all the same: imposing granite walls (which had been painted over several centuries ago), with minimal windows except for in the high roof. There were grand oak beams criss-crossing up there, and multiple small glass domes which let in rays of sunlight as though they were spotlights on a stage.
Bill automatically went over to the large board with outstanding vaults scrawled across it, and sighed. The Knightsbridge vault was still up there for charm- and curse-breaking so they could access the old treasure left to them. He would need to see to that one today, as it had been up there for several weeks now, and the family were becoming impatient.
Unfortunately for Bill, the Knightsbridge family were old, but not quite old enough for a dragon to guard their vault; he wouldn’t be able to see which of the doors had most recently re-formed (not that he had really expected to be able to).
In fact, none of the outstanding vaults were Clankers ones. Bill frowned for a moment as he headed off to retrieve the spare key from Fleur for the Knightsbridge vault; normally, cursed gold and jewellery was always turning up from the dark corners of Clankers vaults, and curse-breakers were called down immediately.
Then again, Clankers vaults were by far the most interesting vaults. They’d have been snapped up pretty fast.
Either way, Bill’s luck just wasn’t with him. He wouldn’t get to check for the vault which Mhairi had entered, and resigned himself to a standard morning.
Time flew past and before long, his watch was beeping with the signal for lunch – the ministry-enforced hour-long break ‘up top’, sandwiched between the two sets of four-hour shifts below the earth. Bill was just grabbing his lunch off his desk to meet his friend Andreas when there was a commotion around him.
Turning, he saw Fleur Delacour was strutting through the desks, with her long, silvery hair waving down her back, and an almost primal smirk on her face as she headed towards a random person’s desk and posed in front of it. Nearly the whole room had started watching her and her victim as the man stared hungrily at her, his jaw dropping when she tossed her head.
“Ah, bonjour… I was wondering eef you could ‘elp me wiz somezing, Meester Groves,” she asked, twirling a lock of hair, “… Jake,” she added on the end. Her voice had a sultry undertone.
The entire room of Vault Security men smirked in the most demeaning way possible as Jake winked and replied, “I’m sure I can, honey. Ask for it and I’m yours.”
She gave a wry little smile and leaned her hands on his desk, tipping her head to one side. Bill thought she must know that they were all staring at her derrière now… but maybe that was the point.
“I was ‘oping you could tell me eef there are any new enchantments on ze… dragon vaults.” Bill wondered that Jake hadn’t started drooling when she said ‘dragon’ with such a fierce emphasis. Goodness knew that man drooled over much less enchanting women than the French girl – he probably couldn’t believe his luck or his eyes.
“Um…” Jake couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful woman who was now halfway across his desk. It was as if her head was about a foot below her neck. He had been rendered speechless by her beauty at such close quarters.
A different guy from the desk next to them leaned over and said, “that’s not his department, sugar. That’s with the vault files… although dragons are definitely in my files.” He winked, despite the fact he was approximately three times her age.
Fleur smiled. “Why, merci… you ‘ave been very ‘elpful to me. But now, I must go, sadly… I weel be back, later.” Bill watched the French girl peel herself off the table and saunter back out, winking at the two she had talked to and blowing them a kiss by the door.
Bill frowned, thinking. The sexy woman who had been provoking the two men she had talked to did not match up with the tired and frustrated girl he had seen when he had tried to strike up more a conversation with her a fortnight back. Admittedly, Fleur must get pretty much the whole world getting their spare keys from her, but had he really been that bad to talk to? His conversation attempt had been pathetic, but it had been a dare from ‘the lads’ to see how she reacted if he flirted.
It had felt strange to be acting so arrogant and assuming at the time, but it seemed to work for other people with beautiful girls. Out in Egypt, the burning sun had scorched away these sort of mind games that ran amok between English people, and arriving back to a society so built on second-guessing was difficult for him. It was like trying to find your land legs after months at sea; the ground felt so very hard and unyielding, and you lurched all over the place while trying to steady your whirling mind.
Jealous, Bill? He heard Charlie’s voice echo through his head with a laugh. He pushed the thought away; she had probably – no, almost certainly – wanted something. What had she asked Jake for again? He tried to think back as he started to follow Fleur out into the corridor.
It was… it was… new enchantments on the ‘dragon vaults’. It took a moment for Bill to wonder why she was asking that, and think about where he had heard information similar to that before when… Mhairi. A change in Clankers vaults?
Fleur knew, somehow, that something was up with Mhairi too. Only she hadn’t been sent on a mission by Dumbledore.
He sped up almost absentmindedly, catching up enough to see her walk into the Goblin Resources room. It definitely wasn’t where she worked; what did she want from Keeley and Jayna, the two full-time employees in there? She was shaking herself and pulling her blouse further up and her skirt down, making the outfit a lot more acceptable for the workplace, with a disgusted grimace on her face.
Bill carefully walked up to the doorway and stood just outside, listening to the almost silent Goblin Resources department as Fleur tapped her way over to a desk. “Good morning, Meess Davies,” she said politely.
Miss Davies… was that Keeley or Jayna?
“Oh, morning, Miss Delacour! Sorry I didn’t see you there… what is it you need?”
“I was wondering eef there ‘ave been any new security spells put over ze Clankers vaults?” she asked politely. The contrast between the two attitudes in the two different areas was astounding, really.
“Um… give me a moment.” Bill heard the shifting of files from who must have been Keeley, with the awful, huge record-books of the vaults. For several moments there was nothing except the flicking of heavy pages as she searched through the files.
Keeley’s was an odd job – she was somewhere between the Goblin Resource and Vault Management offices, with a touch of Vault Security. Nobody could really describe what her job was. But because the Goblin Resource office only had a few people in it, and ample space for desks and storage, she had been placed in there.
Mostly, Keeley seemed to keep the files of which goblins had taken who to which vault, which had to be why Fleur had come to her. It was quite impressive that she knew to come to Keeley already, and not just walk into the Vault Management sector, which was probably the largest, right next to Vault Transfers. Both had quite a lot of people working in them, but there couldn’t have been more than about 200 workers altogether in Gringotts. Most people would have gone to other departments for this information – Fleur was canny to come straight here.
Eventually, Keeley thumped the large and heavy book back up onto the bulging shelves behind her and gave a sigh. “No, absolutely none. Sorry. There’s not even been a curse-breaker down there this week!”
That much was true; Keeley’s records were up-to-date if that nugget of information was anything to go by.
“Ah, well… thank y-you, Miss Davies,” Fleur said, struggling to form the y, and started back towards the door where Bill was standing.
He knew now what was going to happen; she was going to come out and see him. He wanted it to happen, in some irrational way. The only thing that was in doubt was how he acted… Bill’s thoughts momentarily flashed over how she had mysteriously found out that Mhairi had been down to a vault with a goblin when she wasn’t meant to, how Mhairi had placed a suspicious object within that vault, how she knew it was a Clankers one and had decided to ask about any new enchantments.
She had listened to his and Gornuk’s conversation, he was sure of it. Otherwise how had she known? He could feel his temper rising and his ears reddening as he thought about her listening to his conversation, which had been for the Order, for goodness’ sake! And she had not asked him about anything, she had simply slunk off to manipulate the other idiots in his department about it instead. What a cowardly sneak – he was starting to see where the ice queen reputation came from.
Bill willed himself to calm down – he was twenty-four, not sixteen, and needed to stay on top if he wanted to conceal his Order investigations. He needed to manipulate her right back, damnit!
And then Fleur came out of the office, looking dejected, and walked past before halting in her tracks and whipping around with a look to kill on her face. Her eyes were narrowed to defensive cat-like slits, and her lips were pouted in restrained anger.
He may as well start it before she did; they both knew what the other had done now, and the cards were on the table. “You listened to my conversation with Gornuk,” he accused.
She whipped her hair back. “I did, but eet was an accident. Why are you now following me?”
He narrowed his eyes at the girl and grabbed her wrist to stop her stalking off. “No it wasn’t. You’re trying to investigate Mhairi, and you think that because you listened to me first, I won’t follow you when you walk in to my sector and charm the pants off Jake before following his instructions!”
Did she know about the family’s disappearance? Bill wondered, but he couldn’t be sure either way. Better to leave it as an untouched matter.
“I was already investigating ‘er, after she took ze spare key to ze dragon vault and disappeared for five days wizout an excuse!” Fleur retorted angrily, her r’s rolling by accident as she struggled to regain control of her voice.
Bill shook his head, trying extremely hard not to blow up. “Look, just drop it now. I’ll find out why she went and I’ll tell you when I found out. Leave it to me, yeah?”
Fleur stopped in the middle of the corridor they had come to. “Eh… non. I weell do as I wish, because you ‘ave no right to tell me what to do!” She wrenched her wrist from his and stormed off, leaving Bill to stare at her retreating back.
That could have gone better, all things considered. But at least he knew that she hadn’t decided to investigate purely because he was, small mercy that it may be.
He would have liked to stand pensively in the corridor until his watch beeped with the signal for the end of his hour, but Bill was forced to make a quick exit back the way he came. Sara Styles was coming out of the Human Resources office along from him; she was awfully clingy, that woman.
She flung herself into the chair with much more force than it needed, and heaved a large sigh. Personally, she had thought her investigations were going rather well before he decided to come along and mess them all up! As if she would only decide to investigate Mhairi because she had heard his conversation… honestly. That Vault Security lot really were just as arrogant as she had thought.
Fleur was rather enjoying the little rant to herself when an owl swooped in and started to hoot at her. Frowning a little, Fleur bent forwards to examine the owl’s eye markings, before grinning, her bad mood pushed to the side for the moment.
This was Etoile, her sister’s owl, who she had bought just last year for when they went to Hogwarts! The creamy feathers and beautiful sheen had given her away at first, but the star-like markings around the owl’s gorgeous eyes confirmed it.
Eagerly, Fleur snatched and ripped open the letter, to find a note from Gabrielle that was rather long, with a long piece from her beloved Papa behind. There was nothing from Maman.
Fleur ignored the lump in her throat and started to read her sister’s beautiful French script. How good it felt to read French for once, to hear of her sister who she had loved to talk to, to read the beautiful handwriting! She hadn’t even realised how much she missed her sister until then, as France and all of Fleur’s emotions had been shoved into a drawer in her mind that she did not like to look at.
Now, Fleur smiled as she read the childish but lovely letter. Gabrielle wrote several paragraphs on how upset she was, and how she missed Fleur, and asking her to make up with Maman. She poured her heart out over the rest of her life – English lessons at Beauxbatons, some annoying Henri boy that kept pinching her and trying to put leg-locker charms on her, how she enjoyed being a second-year. She said that the new Head Girl wasn’t a patch on Fleur, and she worried that Fleur wouldn’t be home for Christmas, and she begged for news.
Her father was worried about her – he asked her to come back and talk things over, because it was such a sharp and painful exit. He said her mother had simply been worried about her staying in England because her year there so far had been plain hectic. Fleur couldn’t help but frown at that – her mother had meant all of it! Just because her over-protective nature had been transformed into anger for that time didn’t mean it was ok, because the rage had been for a good thing. And her Papa made such excuses about ‘Veela Grand-Mère’ and ‘example set’ and so on, but Fleur couldn’t help feeling that she and Gabrielle were in the same position as her Maman Apolline had been – both were a quarter Veela with a more touchy mother!
Honestly, if it wasn’t for Tante Isabelle, Apolline would have come down much harder on them both when they did something wrong. Many times Fleur had thanked Merlin that her aunt lived with them on and off, depending on the state of her marriages.
It wasn’t worth getting wound up over; she was in a separate country now, and did not have to do anything she did not want to. She would write a polite declination to her Papa later on, but scribble everything to Gabrielle now.
And so Fleur tried to work out all of her anger concerning her situation by writing a good three feet to Gabrielle, about how she missed her, the Mhairi situation, how Bill was accusing her, how odd England was, and how she missed France, but her little sister especially.
Lastly, with a sore and aching hand, she wrote, ‘Demain, chère Gabrielle, je visiterai chez Mhairi, alors je peux voir sa famille… je pense que ce sera très intéressant! A bientôt, ta Fleur xxx’.
And she would. Tomorrow, Fleur would visit Mhairi’s house so she could see her at home with her family... and it would be more interesting than Fleur could possibly have anticipated.
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