Ron Weasley awoke with everything on alert. He had so much energy he felt like the frenetic squirrels in the park that scurry from acorn to acorn and can't decide which one they want. It was Tuesday, and he would finally be able to have coffee with Fleur again.
Get a grip on yourself, man, he reminded himself. It wasn't a date; it was two acquaintances having coffee. Okay, so he was more than curious to get to know her better, but it wasn't a date. Despite the surprising kiss she'd given him a few days ago, there wasn't anything romantic between them. Though he had noticed her before his brother did, it would be weird to have romantic leanings toward one of Bill's ex-girlfriends. Just how would he justify that to him?
Even without the confusion of the thoughts running through his head, Ron was distracted when trying to choose what to wear to work. His afternoon coffee would have to be immediately afterwards with no time for him to change. He finally settled on a combination of hunter green trousers and a royal blue shirt. With his vivid red hair and blue eyes, a blue shirt was usually the best choice.
Ron took an assessing look around his one room flat as if it would look different when he came back from coffee with Fleur. In one corner behind a privacy partition was his bed. Opposite of that was his sofa, a coffee table and his bookshelf, which in addition to books held his wizard chess set, omnioculars, mobile figure of Viktor Krum, and a crystal ball that Luna had given him on a lark because she said he had a Seer's talent. Behind his sofa was a writing desk, his kitchen area, and a small inconspicuous bathroom.
At his door, he took his Chudley Cannon's hat off the coat rack and slapped it on his head. It didn't match the ensemble at all, but he was still Ron Weasley. He might not play the game anymore, but the passion for it would always be a part of him.
When Ron got to the newspaper office, it was in the same state of chaos as any other day. He found that he thrived on the excitement most of the time. He was good at what he did, and he knew it. He quickly found his desk and began his work, all the while whistling jauntily to himself.
Colin Creevey sauntered over and leaned against his desk. "You have a hot date, Weasley?" he asked.
Ron looked up with a smug expression. "Just hot coffee. Now get your arse off my desk!"
"Whatever you say, but let me give you a little warning," Creevey said with his normal amount of gushing enthusiasm, especially in the area of gossip. "Stay clear of Farnham. He's not in a good mood today."
Ron rolled his eyes at his once housemate. "Farnham is never in a good mood, so like I said--get your arse off my desk and go away."
Colin shrugged his shoulders. "You've been warned." He finally left Ron and went to talk with some of the other witches and wizards in the office.
After that, Ron got a good hour of work in without disturbance. Creevey hadn't returned to pester him, and the editor hadn't been by to display the particularly bad mood he supposedly had that day. The relative calm of the start of the day lulled the red head into a sense of comfort and ease that was soon shattered.
Ron and the rest of his coworkers heard his name yelled across the newspaper office.
He looked up from his desk to find the red face of Mr. Farnham, his boss. Farnham was cut from the same cloth as any other newspaper editor the world over. He had a quick temper, barked out his orders, and probably suffered high blood pressure. As such, he was a caricature of a person in Ron's mind, so the reporter made an ugly face at whatever the boss's newest demand might be.
"I saw that!" the man shouted. "Get yourself in my office this instant!"
Ron picked up his parchment and quill, navigating the jungle of desks on his way to the office at the end of the long room. Some of the other writers were busy with their own work, but a few paused to snicker as he passed.
Near the water cooler, Colin spoke up in a sing-song voice. "I told you!"
"Stuff it, Creevey!" Ron said before entering the editor's office.
When Ron made it inside the office, he looked around at all that signaled stress and vice, thinking about the fact that all men had some need, whether legal or illicit. He remembered from his Hogwarts days that Albus Dumbledore's needs were more of the sugar variety. Jack Farnham had his vices, too, and they couldn't be anything typical, either.
The editor could have smoked or drank alcohol; that would have been perfectly acceptable for a man in his position. It might even be less dangerous for his employees than his current proclivity. As it was, the man liked to throw darts as a way to relieve his stress, and he wasn't above taking aim at Ron or any of his coworkers.
"Weasley, where is the Barnes article?" he asked as he balanced a dart in his hand.
"I handed it in to you two days ago, sir," Ron informed him politely.
"I need you to redo it. What you wrote wasn't good enough for owl cage lining," he said with a grunt as he threw his dart. "You seem to have forgotten that you work for the Daily Prophet and not the Quibbler."
"Oh, I could never forget that," Ron muttered. Aloud he asked, "Do you have my previous copy with any edits, sir?"
Farnham aimed another dart at the board on the wall behind Ron's head. "I suggest most of it gets scrapped."
Something in his tone made Ron turn to see the tattered remains of his article affixed to the dart board. When he realized what it was, he felt angry about the boss's stupid question as to the location of the article when he'd been using it for target practice.
"Is there anything else, sir?" Ron asked with impatience.
"Yes, one more thing, Weasley," he said as he attempted to throw a hat trick. "You're a friend of Harry Potter's, aren't you?"
"'Was' is the better term," Ron said as he stood and shuffled from foot to foot.
"Ah! So you do know him!" he said with glee. "Then you can fix this article of Mason's in an hour, after you're done fixing that horrid mess of the Barnes article."
"Sir," Ron said testily though still trying to keep a professional front, "shouldn't Mason be fixing his own article? That's what you pay him to do."
"He should, but he's not. You are going to do it," Farnham informed him, "and he is going to get the writing credit for it."
"That's because Mason couldn't write himself out of a wet tissue even if he had one of Rita Skeeter's Quick Quotes Quills!" Ron said with a low growl.
"That's right, but we don't pay him to write well. That's your job, Weasley. We pay Mason to look good and get us readers."
"And the fact that he's your wife's nephew has nothing to do with it at all," Ron said looking at the ceiling. "Nepotism doesn't exist in this office."
Farnham walked to the door to retrieve his darts and said a very placid, "Of course not. That just wouldn't be fair." When he turned to face Ron, he had a smirk on his face.
"What is this article supposed to be about?"
"Oh, the usual, but since you knew him spice it up with something we haven't read yet." That seemed to be the end until he added with the forgetful air of an afterthought, "And don't forget to include his bits about his recent professional Quidditch career and upcoming wedding to Hermione Granger."
Ron choked at the mention. "They're getting married?"
"He's your friend, Weasley. You should know that," the editor admonished lightly.
"Right. Well, I'll get on it," Ron said after verifying what other bits were supposed to go in this article that Gideon Mason was supposed be writing.
It took Ron forty-five minutes to complete the revision of the Barnes article. When he'd brought it to Farnham's office, he still didn't like it and asked for a third copy. Then he burned up what Ron had done and said he had twenty minutes to get him one he could use.
Grumbling all the way, Ron gave dictation to his quill making the article a shambles of either version that he'd proposed. It looked like uneducated tripe in his opinion, but the boss loved it. He sighed at such low standards and went back to his desk to work on the real torture implement for the day, an article about the great War hero Harry Potter and his upcoming nuptials to Miss Hermione Granger.
He sat staring at his empty desk for a long time wondering why he didn't know about the wedding. The slight made him angrier and angrier by the minute. He should have been Harry's best man because they'd been best friends. Instead, he was only aware of the change in events because of his boss.
It was hard to be objective in his article, but Ron remembered he was supposed to be writing as the charming Gideon Mason, the well-traveled reporter. Mason was just as fake and just as popular as Gilderoy Lockhart had been.
Near the end of the day, Colin came prancing back to Ron's desk. "When you get done with your coffee, why don't you come to the pub? A few of us are going for drinks."
"I plan on being busy," Ron said tiredly, "and not with the likes of you."
"The offer's still open," Colin said with a smile as his giggly girlfriend came over to them.
"What's that about?" Vanessa asked as she looked at the long parchment in Ron's hands.
"It's Gideon Mason's new article on Harry Potter and his wedding," he said with clenched teeth.
"Oh, that Mason is to die for!" she said giggling even more.
"Right," Ron said in dismissal, wishing the idiot girl and her bothersome boyfriend would disappear. "I'll just be about turning this in to Jack."
As he walked through the desks for one of the last times that day, Ron was concentrating on getting the offending article out of his hands so he could leave and go see Fleur. Maybe he'd get a moment's joy in a day that was turning sour. When he bumped into a desk and a full jar of ink spilled all over the front of his trousers, he realized that might have been too much to ask for. He sighed deeply and tried to keep the goal of getting to Farnham's office in mind.
"Stand right there, Weasley," Farnham shouted as one of his darts landed at Ron's feet. "Hand it over."
Ron looked at the small weapon on the floor and gave his boss the parchment without looking at his face. Instead, he heard the other man's grunts and murmurs as he read it.
"This is good work, Weasley. Award winning work. Too bad you'll never be the one to get credit for it," he said as he nodded his head back to the gathered trophies and honors that Gideon Mason had won the newspaper.
"Anything else, sir?" Ron asked in a low voice.
"My dart?" he asked so Ron could pick it up. "Thank you. You're dismissed."
Ron left the newspaper office as soon as he could because he wanted that part of his day to just end and die a gruesome death. He tried to focus on the positive and Apparated as close to the coffee shop as he could get without drawing Muggle attention. While on a normal day, that was close, this particular Tuesday didn't fit that category. While he hadn't actually set a specific time to meet Fleur, he'd assumed they would meet at the same time as their accidental meeting of the last week. He raced to the shop, hoping that he had not missed the French witch entirely.
He hadn't, Ron noted as he saw Fleur leaving the front door alone.
"Fleur! Fleur!" he shouted and waved to get her attention. Finally, he'd be able to see her and get some peace out of this day.
Or he could be wrong, Ron thought, as she turned to him with a look that emasculated most men.
"Vhere vere you?" she asked as more of an accusation, the angry note in her voice bringing her French accent into notice.
"I was working," he huffed as if he were winded.
"I don't 'ave time for your stupid liittle boy games," she snarled. "Iif you did not vant to come, you should not 'ave asked me!"
"Fleur," Ron said as he tried to reason with her, "it's not my fault!"
"Non!" she said, shaking her head as if to clear out all imprints of his voice. "I 'ave a date with a real man, not a liittle boy 'oo cannot keep 'is promises!"
Fleur brushed past Ron with an aura full of scorn, leaving him feeling not for the first time today that the universe was conspiring against him.
"Come back! You don't understand!" he yelled, but it was a futile attempt at getting her attention.
He stared dumbly at the door to the coffee shop, but then Ron decided he didn't want coffee at all any more. His taste was for much stouter stuff and lots of it. This was one of those days that deserved getting pissed into next week. He'd go find Creevey at the pub and drink him under the table.
Several hours later Fleur Delacour looked at the insipid smile of the man in front of her, and she felt so bored that she might fall into a coma at any moment. The cretin just kept talking and talking and would not shut up. His droning was momentarily halted when Fleur accidentally dropped her fork, and it clattered all over her plate.
"Is there anything wrong, Fleur?" her date asked.
"Oui! You are an idiot. I 'ave dated many stupid men, but you must be their king." After saying so, she put down her napkin and stood up from the table.
Her date stood up, too, asking cluelessly, "Where are you going?"
"I need," she paused, "some coffee."
"Wonderful. I'll meet you back at your flat. Marie did say I could come," he added with a hopeful note. "So I will see you for coffee!"
Fleur walked away muttering under her breath. He was too stupid to realize she was dumping him. If he wanted to go have coffee with her roommate Marie, she would just find a way not to be there when he was.
Then her half-formed idea came to light. She could go find Ron and have the coffee they'd originally intended to have. Fleur did not know for sure where he would be or where he lived, but she was resourceful. She used the Floo to call his brother, George Weasley.
The twin padded to the fire wearing his pajamas and his hair unkempt. His unruly appearance might have been because not only was he a business owner with responsibilities that began early in the morning, but he was also a married man with small children.
"I need to speak to your brother," she said after he'd gotten over the initial shock of her call.
He looked at her quizzically as if she'd spontaneously sprouted a third eye in the middle of her forehead. "But you... and Bill..."
"Not Bill," she quickly interrupted much to George's surprise. "I need to speak to Ronald, but I don't know where he lives."
"Why do you want him?" he asked as his eyes narrowed in suspicion.
Fleur briefly considered a flippant answer before minimally supplying, "Coffee."
George would have liked to quiz Fleur more, but his youngest daughter was causing havoc that he couldn't ignore. He gave the witch the address and ended the call.
Fleur Apparated to the coffee shop and placed an order identical to what she and Ron had enjoyed only a few days previous. Then, steeling her resolve, she went to find the red-haired man.
When Fleur found the door to Ron's flat, it was late and there weren't really many noises coming from within or from the other living quarters in the building. Deciding to go ahead, she knocked on his door. She paused to listen after a few knocks, and though she hadn't heard anything, she tried one more time.
"Creevey, you wanker," she heard Ron say. "I never want you to come to my flat again!" He opened the door so quickly that Fleur's hand was still in the air as if to knock again. He had a bothered look on his face when he thought it was Colin, but Ron's expression worsened at the sight of Fleur.
"What are you doing here?" he said, his eyes narrowing in distaste. "I have had a really shitful kind of day, and I don't need you coming here making it worse."
"I brought coffee," she said, showing him two covered cups in a paperboard holder. "It is still Tuesday."
Ron leaned against his doorframe, looking at her without saying a word.
"Are you going to invite me inside?" she asked, trying to look over his shoulder.
"I'm still thinking about it," he said before turning away from the door.
Though Ron hadn't explicitly invited her inside, Fleur followed him. She looked around the one room flat quickly before having enough sense to close the door behind her.
"So…" she started, studying the tall man near her. He was just slightly taller and stockier than Bill. "Coffee?"
"Put it on the table," he grunted out and showed her the table in front of the sofa.
"This is…" she said looking around trying to find an appropriate and inoffensive word, "small."
"I'm just one man, Fleur. And by the way, how was your man?" Ron asked archly. "You know, the one from your date that you couldn't miss."
"'E was insufferable!" she spat. "I 'ope never to see 'im again!"
"I know the feeling," he said, crossing his arms in front of himself again.
She looked meek as she said, "I thought we could try coffee again. At least you are not so 'orrid."
"Oh, thank you!" he said with a loud, sarcastic voice. "I love not being so horrid. Wasn't he man enough for you, or didn't he compliment you enough?"
"Ronald," she said in a warning tone.
"I know! It's because you're so damned pretty, and don't you know it!" he sing-songed.
"I don't need this treatment from anyone," she hissed.
"I know that, too. You don't need me, Fleur. We're not friends. Not yet," he amended.
"I didn't want to go back to my flat," she declared with a growl after she paced his flat for a few seconds. "That idiot is going to be there because my roommate likes 'im and thinks 'e's 'perfect' for me."
Ron barked a laugh. "You could hex him into next week. At least you could when you were seventeen. Did you get soft and addled?"
"No, do you want me to show you?" she asked acidly, brandishing her wand.
"No," Ron sneered back at her. "You're the one who stood me up. I should be hexing you!"
"You were late!" she said, stomping her foot.
"Because I have a job and an idiot for a boss! I tried telling you, but you wouldn't listen to me," he accused back at her.
"Fine!" she said as she sat down on his sofa, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
"Pouting will get you nowhere, my little flower," he said to her.
"I'm not going anywhere," she announced haughtily. "I'll just sleep right here."
"You do that," Ron nodded at her, though not in friendly invitation. "Let me find you a nice, soft cover. I can't have you thinking I'm inhospitable."
He found a comforter in his closet and brought it over to her. Ron then covered her up in a no-nonsense manner. It was how he often treated his nieces and nephews that refused to go to sleep. Fleur frowned at him, but he didn't feel like relinquishing his hold on his foul mood.
He stalked over to climb into his own bed a short distance away from the sofa. "Nox!" he said once he was there. All the lights in the flat went out leaving them in darkness and silence.
Ron tossed and turned on his bed. He couldn't sleep because of the day he'd had. The drinking didn't help, and to make matters worse, Fleur Delacour was sleeping on his sofa mere meters away. Life couldn't get more comical he thought with a sigh.
"Are you still awake?" a voice called out.
"Yes," he said in defeat.
"Bon," Fleur declared as she gathered up her comforter and walked from the sofa to Ron's bed. Without waiting for an invitation she climbed on top of the bed and lay down to the right of Ron. "Now you can talk to me without yelling."
"You know, I had a bad day," he said tiredly, "and it's not like you made things any easier for me. You wouldn't even listen when I tried to tell you."
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I didn't know to believe you."
"I'm not a liar, Fleur. I promise you that." Another sigh filled the room.
"What made it such a bad day?" she asked after another moment of silence had passed between them.
"Once I got to work, almost everything that could go wrong, did. I have a boss that wouldn't know a good article with my name on it if the thing turned into a dancing dragon. He only compliments what I write when I put this idiot's name on it."
"Who?" she asked, full of curiosity.
"Gideon Mason, the newspaper's poster boy."
"He does write good articles," Fleur started.
"No, he doesn't. The rest of us do his work for him, and he gets the glory. He's a waste of human flesh."
"Is that all?" she asked again.
Finally, Ron said, "Under the name of Gideon, I had to write an article about Harry today. I don't like it when people use me just for my connection to Potter," he admitted slowly. "I'm still the one being overlooked because of a different Glory Boy."
"It is like beauty, Ronald," Fleur announced to him. "They don't look beyond the surface of things. These people don't see the truth. They don't see anything at all."
"This is not how life is supposed to be," he protested into the darkness. "He was my best friend. So was Hermione! They didn't even invite me to their wedding!"
"Maybe they did and your owl got lost," she said in a consoling voice.
Ron ran his fingers through his hair in exasperation at the thought of his friends. "Nice try, Fleur."
He shifted himself on the bed, unable to find a comfortable position and then blew out another sigh. "Sometimes the people you think will love you forever… don't."
Even though they were in the darkness, Ron looked away from Fleur in case she might see the expression on his face. She hadn't said a word to him, but he felt her small left hand take his large right hand. She held on to him gently and did not let go. Ron kept hold of her hand as he fell into sleep.
When Ron woke up, he realized for the first time in a long time that someone else was on the bed beside him. He quickly searched his thoughts to remember, and he realized it was Fleur. As he thought of it, the French woman let out a loud snore that caused him to quickly suppress a laugh.
Ron leaned on his side and propped himself up on his elbow. In his wildest teenage fantasies, Ron had never imagined actually sleeping with Fleur. Maybe he might have imagined snogging or groping, but it would take a strong dose of Veritaserum or Cruciatus to get him to openly admit it. From his vantage, he watched her with fascination, thinking about the strange turn they've had of late.
When she finally woke up and looked at him, Ron declared wryly, "You snore. All this time I thought you were perfect, and you snore."
Fleur frowned at him. "I do not!"
"You do," he said with a confident smile that showed she could not argue against him. "I think it might have been as loud as a Muggle motorcycle. Thankfully, I know a few silencing charms, so you didn't disturb my neighbors!"
"Bill never said I snored," Fleur retorted as she sat up in bed.
Ron snorted derisively. "He's a lot nicer than I am."
Fleur made another complaint that Ron ignored. Instead he used his wand to Summon the two portable cups of coffee that Fleur had brought with her the previous evening. He whispered a warming charm and handed her one of the cups.
"Mer… Thank you," she said, covering up what she'd started to say in French.
He winked at her. "You can speak French to me in the morning any time!"
She laughed at him and took a drink of the coffee. So she'd spent all night at Ron's flat. It wasn't at all something she'd planned or anticipated, but it hadn't been too bad. In fact, the talk that she'd had with him had been rather pleasant. It felt like something friends did.
Ron started laughing at one of his own private thoughts, and Fleur looked at him in question. "How are you going to top this?" he asked.
"What?" she asked, mystified.
"On our first 'date' you kissed me. On our second 'date' you slept with me," he said with a wicked look. "My mother warned me about scarlet women like you!"
"Molly Weasley," Fleur breathed, "the real reason Bill and I broke up."
"Really?" he asked with his nose wrinkling in puzzlement.
"No," she said with a soft smile and a shake of her head. "But it is no secret that she did not like me."
"Right, well," Ron said as a minor change of subjects. "Maybe we should do something even more scandalous for our third meeting. That will show my mum!"
That appealed to Fleur's sense of fun immediately, so they discussed what possible activity they could do that would combine the completely innocent and the positively outrageous. Some of the ideas were so random and absurd that Ron had to set down his coffee cup because he was writhing in laughter.
"What day is it?" Fleur asked with sudden confusion, realizing that time had completely eluded her senses.
Ron smiled wide and reached to sip the last of his coffee. Then he quietly saluted her and answered, "Wednesday."
A/N: A huge thanks goes to both Emily and Leanne for the support and encouragement in this fic. Extra special props to Leanne who helped do the pre-posting beta read.
For any interested readers, I do have 2 more parts planned for this, though I can't promise how quickly I will be able to get to them.