I haven't written Fleur's accent because I'd mess it up.
It's always cold in England. Fleur complains and wears short skirts, and Bill laughs and kisses her, over and over. He tells her the sea reminds him of her eyes, and laughs when she rolls them.
"You're not as charming as you think," she lies.
She's been compared to many things, the ocean more than once, but when he says it she doesn't feel proud or bored or exasperated. She's just happy.
She tries for days after that to find something that reminds her of him. Of his hair, of his smile, of his constant, frustrating, enchanting laugh. But his hair is too bright and his smile too wide and his laugh triggers a storm of feelings in her chest like nothing else. They are at war and she is happier than she's ever been in her life.
"Me too. Feels wrong, sometimes," he says, when she's curled into his side on the soft, cold sand, with the sea spread out in front of them.
"It means we haven't let them win," she tells him. She tells him she'd like to live by the sea, even if it's in England.
People die. Fleur pulls Gabrielle down to the ground to make snow angels in the first snow fall. People die, people whose names Fleur knows. She takes a picture of the first opening blossom she sees that spring and sends it to her mother. People die, Fleur watches them fall. The summer they get engaged, she takes Bill to meet her grandmother and the three of them talk Quidditch and baby names. They won't win, she tells herself. They won't win. I won't let them win.
Ginny calls her selfish and Hermione calls her shallow. Maybe she is, but Ginny is mean and Hermione is intolerant. This family did not choose her, but despite what they want to believe, she fits right in. Because this family's greatest strength is their love, and that's why Fleur is still in this cold, breaking country.
Bill doesn't know how to cook. His mother only ever tried to teach Ginny, who hated every moment of it. Fleur rolls her eyes, because she knew Molly was old-fashioned but really. She tells Bill she isn't going to cook for him, so he better learn fast. That night he serves her pasta with grated cheese, an apple, and a sheepish glance towards the burned vegetable sauce. She decides to give him cooking lessons. Actual lessons, she says, slapping his hands away when they start to wander.
Molly walks in on them laughing over something, Fleur doesn't remember what, and stops and stares. Bill has a streak of flour on his cheek and Fleur is splattered with sauce and the meal is burning on the stove while they laugh.
"Here, let me help," Molly says, bustling forward, but Bill steps in front of her before Fleur's objection has made it past her lips.
"She's teaching me to cook, Mum," he says. "We're having fun. Don't worry, we'll clear everything up afterwards."
Molly hovers and talks about waste and unnecessary for long enough that Fleur stops feeling bad about taking over her kitchen. She makes Bill take her out for dinner that evening and wonders if she'll ever get on with the woman who will soon be her mother-in-law. After ten minutes of ranting, Bill is frowning and has stopped replying, so Fleur bites her tongue. They eat the first course in silence.
"I'm sorry," she says finally, after the waiter has come to take their plates away. "I didn't mean to upset you."
He pauses, then takes both her hands in his. "I'm sorry for the way they're treating you. But you don't help when you list everything that's wrong with my home."
His home. Guilt squirms in her gut. Sometimes people say things about her family (monsters, gold diggers, only cause trouble, don't go for looks alone because of course there's nothing beneath them). Bill has never said anything like that. Accepted that she was quarter-Veela without blinking, didn't question that her father wasn't handsome so why would her mother really love him.
"I'm sorry," she says again. "I shouldn't have said anything. It's a nice place really. Cosy."
It's not a total lie. Mostly it's the company that irks her so much. Chickens and cooking could all be acceptable if someone would start a conversation once in a while.
"You should try talking to my father," Bill says, as the second course is served.
"He's afraid of upsetting your mother," Fleur says before she can stop herself.
Bills considers this, then says, "Visit his shed next time he's out there. Mum never goes near the place."
Fleur's doubtful, but she loves Bill and this seems like a very small thing to do for his happiness. So the next time she hears Arthur heading out, she pulls on her boots and follows him.
"My grandfather is a Muggle," she tells him, peering in at the piles of stuff.
"Really? Do you know how aeroplanes stay up?"
She sits on a box full of plugs and explains as best she can the mechanics of aeroplanes while he tries (unsuccessfully) to get a torch working.
"Have you checked the batteries?" she asks finally.
He smiles, slightly condescending. "Of course I have. See here? That's where they go."
He's put them in the wrong way. She pulls up all of her love for Bill and doesn't snigger, instead taking it from him, fixing it and clicking it on.
She smiles at the delighted look on his face and makes shadow puppets in the bright circle of light on the wall.
That evening she goes downstairs for a cup of water and hears Molly and Arthur talking. She pauses at the foot of the stairs when she hears her own name, wondering if she should leave. Wondering if she wants to hear what's being said. Too late. Molly's loud tones are impossible to ignore.
"-just don't know what Bill sees in her. Aside the obvious." Her voice is acidic, cutting Fleur deeper than she'll ever admit.
"She's a smart girl, Molly," Arthur says tentatively, "and it takes a lot of grit to move to another country without knowing a soul."
Molly snorts. "Don't know why she bothered, she can't complain enough about England. Too cold, too wet, too many sheep." Arthur laughs, then stops abruptly as if Molly has sent him one of her cutting looks. "Bill is just so smart, so grounded. He doesn't need her filling his head with romantic notions about war weddings and soulmates."
"What does he need?"
There's a long silence, then Molly says snappily, "He needs someone who understands him. Someone who's as thoughtful and kind as he is."
Arthur sighs. "She makes him happy, Molly. He loves her."
"He definitely thinks he does. But why would he?"
"She's smart," Arthur says again. "She's honest, which he might like even if you don't."
"Sound as if you want to marry her!" Molly says, her voice becoming shrill.
Arthur sighs again. "Don't be ridiculous, Molly. I just think you should give her a chance."
Fleur hears the scrape of his chair as he stands up and his footsteps coming closer, and she turns and flees back to her room, filled with warm gratitude for him.
Christmas comes around again, and this year Fleur spends it with the Weasleys. She misses the snow angels with Gabrielle. She misses her parents. She misses the food and the music she knows. But sitting by the fire with Bill's arms around her, laughing in her ear as she does an impression of the awful singer on the radio, it's not so bad.
She turns the radio back on after everyone except the two of them has gone to bed. Finds something decent and pulls him in for a dance. She likes this, likes the romance of it. Twirling in small circles. His hands on her waist. Hers around his neck. His heartbeat steady under her cheek when she lays her head on his chest. The slow song ends and another, faster and more Christmassy starts up. She has to laugh, because the only dance that would be appropriate for this would be the Fred and George kind. He laughs too, looking down at her with shining eyes.
"This song reminds me of you," she says suddenly. "Of your laugh."
His raises his eyebrows and cocks his head, listening closely. "I think I'm offended by that," he says finally.
"That's because you have horrible taste," she tells him, soothing the words with a kiss. "I get to pick the music at our wedding."
"As long as I get to pick the food."
"As long as you get some French food."
"Of course I will."
The next day she adds three of his favourite songs to the wedding playlist, despite her hatred of them. He can dance with Ginny for those songs.
They find a cottage by the sea. The woman who owns it has tired eyes and streaks of grey creeping into her dark hair.
"It belonged to my parents," she says when Fleur asks why she's selling. She doesn't look at either of them, instead staring out at the grey sea. "They died last year."
"I'm very sorry for your loss," Bill says. And again it's such a cliché, the thing that everyone says, but he's so earnest it doesn't matter. The woman hears it too. Fleur can tell by the way she smiles at him, worn out and warm.
Almost all the furniture is gone and there are pale patches of wallpaper where pictures used to hang. It looks hollowed out. Unloved.
"I like that it has history," Fleur says on the drive back to the burrow.
"It's pretty. Cheap for the size and location as well," Bill replies.
Fleur flicks through the pictures of the house again, not really looking. She's thinking of the woman and her dead parents. She's wondering if the woman has a husband or wife, has children. Has anyone.
"I want lots of kids," she says abruptly.
Bill looks sideways at her, with a strange smile she can't place. She wonders if he's been thinking on the same lines as her.
"It'd be weird if I didn't have a big family," is all he says though.
Bill is attacked by a werewolf. He survives. He's different, but not really. And that's that. That's that, Fleur tells herself. It's happened and now she's got to deal with it. But the first night he's out of hospital and in their bed again, she clings to him and cries. Because she almost lost him. Almost lost this life they're building together. He cries too, and that makes it better somehow. It doesn't ease her fears, but it helps that he shares them. It helps that they're in this together.
They get married in the Weasley's garden. Bill is radiant in his happiness. Fleur is just radiant. His mother cries and so does her father. Her mother and his father exchange amused looks. Pretend their eyes aren't over-bright. Fleur feels a happiness so intense she's not sure she won't burst from it. They whirl around the dance floor. Eat good food. Her face aches from smiling but she can't stop.
Then the Death Eaters appear and people start dying.
Years later, after the war, they'll marry again. A quiet ceremony with family (their chosen family, not just blood). That day is the one Fleur will count. The date she'll tell strangers when they ask. That day won't be sunny and beautiful, but nobody she knows will die.
She doesn't know that now though. All she knows is that her husband is fighting a man who's quicker than he is, willing to be cruel when he isn't. She's never had that problem. Dark curses fly from her mouth easy as her complaints. People die, but neither of them do.
Torture, she can deal with.
The summer ends and people die along with the leaves. The Order is in shambles without Dumbledore. Most members have lost their fight, their courage. They just want to keep their families safe. Remus and Tonks go into hiding for their baby. Mundungus Apparates away when he sees her in Diagon Alley. McGonagall would be the natural leader, but she's got her school to worry about. Her students come first, she says.
Bill rages, calling them cowards, useless. Fleur understands though. Personally she would rather he was a coward than a corpse. He's not though. So she can't be either. The only way to protect him is to fight alongside him. Use curses he won't. Refuse to back down when he confronts her after, bloody and tired and furious.
"We have to be better than them!" he shouts.
"No magic is bad. It's what you do with it that makes it bad," she retorts.
"You almost killed that man!"
"How many children do you think he's killed?"
That normally shuts him up. He wants the world to be black and white, but if that was true she'd have fucked him then fucked off back to France years ago. She'd have fulfilled every stereotype, proved every one of Molly's comments right. She didn't though. You can be selfish and selfless. You can be shallow and brave. You can use the killing curse and still be fighting for what's right.
More people die. The flowers bloom bright in Fleur's garden. Molly comes over sometimes to help. It feels good to have somebody kneeling beside her in the dirt, someone who isn't afraid to get their hands dirty.
"I used to garden with my grandfather," she tells Molly one day as they pull up weeds. "He's a Muggle, so we used to build trellises by hand."
"Really?" Molly says, surprised.
Fleur lets her smile be soft rather than bitter. "Yes. We're going to make a cot together when Bill and I have our first child."
Molly is quiet for a very long time, until almost all the weeds are gone. "How are you doing, dear? Really?" she asks finally, her voice gentle like Fleur is one of her children.
Fleur smiles again. Looks over at Bill, who's talking seriously with his father, his face creased in a frown that's too old for his face.
"Not too bad. We have good days and bad days."
"The first year is always the hardest," Molly says wisely. "You'll get through it."
Eventually they do. The first year and the war. Not quite whole though. The night after, when Bill has finally cried himself to sleep in her arms, she slips downstairs and uses the Floo to get to France. She's not supposed to. The network is being carefully monitored at the Ministry as they try to catch escaping Death Eaters, and she's definitely causing trouble for them. But she decides she's done enough for them these past three years to be forgiven.
She goes straight up to Grabrielle's room, climbs into her sister's bed and pulls her close.
"Fleur?" Gabrielle slurs, blinking sleepily. "What are you doing here?"
"Shh, go back to sleep," Fleur murmurs, stroking her silky blonde hair.
They get through the next few years too. Fleur's garden becomes a small paradise. Fleur expects Molly to be jealous because the family starts spending more time at Shell Cottage than the Burrow. But Molly pulls her aside one day and hugs her so tightly Fleur thinks she must be breaking inside.
"Thank you," Molly says thickly, pulling back and putting her warm hands on either side of Fleur's face. "Thank you for everything you've done for us. It's hard sometimes to be happy there without him."
Fleur isn't often at a loss for words, but what can she say to that? So she just hugs Molly back. That year she gets a sweater under the tree, and she wears every time she goes to the Burrow, even on the hottest days. That's what cooling charms are for, after all.
She and Bill visit her grandmother again, and her grandmother asks if they've thought anymore about children. "You're still young, of course," she says. "But I'm not, and Gabrielle is getting so big now. Soon she'll be leaving us to live in… Oh, I don't know, Turkey. India. Whatever country is popular nowadays."
Eleven months later Victoire is born. All Fleur can think as she holds the tiny, squirming baby in her arms, is that they didn't win. She didn't let them win.