In the wake of Dumbledore’s funeral, a slow pallor seemed to settle over Hogwarts. People were still gathered on the grounds, mingling in small groups as if they were afraid to leave. Inside the castle, silence permeated the stone walls. Peeves was nowhere to be found, and even the paintings did little more than communicate in hushed murmurs.
For Bill, in the hospital wing, the air did not even stir. He lay on the stiff sheets, exiled by Madam Pomfrey right after the funeral. Fleur sat in the hard-backed wooden chair next to his bed, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. It was the first time they had been alone since the accident, as she had taken to thinking of it.
She had nothing to say. There were so many things she wanted to tell him, so many emotions she wanted to express, but words failed her. Everything seemed muted after the funeral services. A soft chime interrupted the silence, and she checked her watch. “I’ll get your potion,” she said softly, pulling a green bottle from the cupboard.
Bill murmured an assent, and remained prone, barely disturbing the thick quiet of the room. Fleur returned to her seat, dabbing some potion-soaked gauze across his forehead. Her fingers were gentle, barely applying pressure to his slowly healing wounds. He sighed, letting his eyes close against her touch.
Setting aside the bottle and gauze, Fleur remained on the edge of her seat, clasping his right hand between hers. He opened his eyes again, regarding her evenly.
“I am so proud of you,” she murmured, unwilling to break the silence. “I do not think I could ever....I do not ‘ave the words to tell you ‘ow I feel.” Her hands clasped his tighter, and he gave her cool fingers a reassuring squeeze.
“And you are fine, zis I know. But when I first saw you....I thought it was ze end.” Impulsively, she lay on the bed beside him, curling her body around his. Her chin rested on his shoulder, and she nuzzled her head into the crook of his neck. “I am scared. What...what will happen to us?”
Bill’s hand gripped hers tighter. “It will be all right,” he whispered, and she pulled closer to him. She sought reassurance in his solidity. Biting her lips, Fleur muffled a sob.
“I am not brave, like you. I want to run, and ‘ide, and keep you with me forever. I am so proud of you, and the whole world will know how brave you are. But I wish....sometimes I wish you were less brave. I am selfish, that way.”
Running his fingers through a strand of her hair, Bill sighed. “I don’t have words either. If there was some way to hide everyone away, I would. I’m no more brave than you are, Fleur, and I reckon I’m just as selfish.”
“Non, you are the most brave and self-, self-, what is that word....”
“Oui, selfless man I know.” Whispering, she added, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
He rested his cheek against the top of her hair, trying not to jar his wounds. The silence stretched between them, neither having the words for the situation. Fleur moved her hand to his chest, her palm resting over his heart. His calloused hand covered hers. “This will always be yours, dear. Je vous aimerai toujours. Mon coeur est à vous.”
Choking back another sob, Fleur laced her fingers through his once again. “I love you, too.”
There was another lull, and the silence seemed to envelope the pair. With a mischievous grin, Bill turned to Fleur and licked her nose.
“William! What are you doing?” she yelped.
He smiled again, the good-natured smile that had drawn her to him. He was so different than most men. “Well, I do have some wolfish tendencies now.”
She giggled. “You silly, silly boy. We were having a perfectly lovely moment, and you ruined ze atmosphere.”
Bill sat up, leaning against the iron headboard of the bed, and looped an arm around her waist. “It was getting a little too soppy, I think. Too much like those Muggle films you like to watch,” he teased.
“Those films are perfectly lovely,” Fleur said, a smile softening her rebuke. He twitted her about them, but it took very little effort to have him watch films with her. It was something Fleur loved, curling up on a sofa with him, and losing herself in the stories.
“Perfectly unreal,” he retorted, tweaking her nose.
Playing with a loose string on her robe, Fluer shrugged. “Perhaps. But they have beautiful endings.”
“Weddings aren’t an ending, they’re more of a beginning, I think.”
Fleur beamed up at him. “Monsieur Soppy, I presume?” she teased. Before he could retort, her eyes lit excitedly. “Oh! I almost forgot to tell you! Your mother ‘as offered me your Aunt Muriel’s tiara for ze wedding!”
“Really?” Bill questioned, disbelief evident. “When did she do that?”
Her face darkened. “After I told her zere would still be a wedding. Honestly! She thought I would leave you because of some silly scar!”
Bill groaned, hoping he would not have to hear of another fight between the two. “This was after the fight, then?”
“Yes. But I think we have reached an understanding. I am a Veela, I am beautiful enough for the both of us,” Fleur answered with an graceful shrug. However, she did not look him in the eye, returning to the loose thread on her sleeve.
Grinning, Bill shook his head. “I don’t think anyone will disagree, dear. You didn’t say that to Mum, did you?”
“Of course. She seemed to think otherwise. I merely corrected her.” Fleur’s face was a mask of indifference, but there was an edge of hurt in her voice. It was brittle, as if she was trying not to cry once again.
Bill snorted. “I reckon that went over well.”
Fleur smiled, but it was forced. “We have reached an understanding. I think she has realized that even though I am a veela, I do think about more zan appearances,” she ended bitterly.
“Non, it is fine. I am used to zis. I am worried about Gabby, though. She is young still, and does not realize how people think. At the wedding–“
Bill rubbed her shoulder reassuringly. “Mum will be fine. And I’ll have a word with Ginny, too. She’ll be glad to look out for Gabby.”
Fleur bit her lip, but continued bravely. “Bill, I do not think that Ginny would appreciate zat. She does not like me all that much. I think I did not try to get to know her well enough,” she admitted.
Instead of being angry, Bill nodded. “Gin’s like that sometimes. Don’t worry; she’ll look out for Gabby. For all her problems with you, she won’t hold it against her.” He paused for a moment, running a finger through her hair. “Ginny isn’t very confident. She’s more bravado than self-assurance. She’s gotten better, but she’s still trying to get over what happened her first year with the diary. It’s not that she dislikes you, but I think she feels threatened by you. Give it time. She’s a lot like Mum, sometimes.”
“I know zis. But I will try ‘arder. When we plan for ze wedding, I will get to know her better, and maybe she will get to know me. She is your sister, and sisters are very important.”
Bill laughed. “Don’t I know it. The trials Gabby put me through...”
Fleur joined him, her laugh lightening the atmosphere. “Oui. And she will probably put you through more before the wedding.” She smiled against his shoulder, glad that he at least got along with her family. Gabby was always very picky about the men Fleur had brought home, more picky than her parents ever were.
“Is she still mad that I didn’t ask her permission to marry you?” Bill asked, smiling.
“I think so. She was quite pleased that she will be a bridesmaid, though. She is content now, I hope.”
Bill groaned. “I hope, too. Last time I saw her, she gave me a bloody questionnaire to fill out! I have no idea what she’ll do to me this time.”
Fleur laughed again, tweaking his nose in return. “Be nice to my sister. Our wedding is going to be perfect.”
“Perfectly lovely,” Bill teased, imitating her accent. He shifted against the iron bars of the headboard, but kept an arm around her. The silence of the hospital wing seemed to creep up among them, dampening their previous amusement.