Honeydukes Best (July 1995)
"Why are you crying?"
"I am not!"
Hell. Why did the best-looking man in the bank have to be the one to see her like this? The only man in the place she didn't see mentally undressing her every time he looked her way. The only one under forty who hasn't asked her for a date. The only one she actually wouldn't mind going on a date with.
"It looks like you're crying to me. I guess you call it something different in French, but it's still the same thing. What's up? Can I help?"
"Please. Zhust go away. I am not crying. I am fine."
He shrugs and leaves.
Hell, hell, hell.. Why did she tell him to go? He was being kind. He was treating her as a human being rather than as a servant (the goblins and her human boss) or a sex object (every other human male in the place) or an object of jealousy and malicious gossip (the other secretaries). Why did she tell him to go? Hell.
He comes back. She is still crying, but he doesn't comment on it this time.
Why has he come back? Why is he bothering with her when she was so rude to him?
"Here, I brought you something."
He lays a slab of Honeydukes best chocolate on the desk in front of her.
"Chocolat?" She lifts a tearstained face to his. He is half-smiling, but there is a look of concern in his eyes.
"My sister swears it helps when you're feeling down."
"You 'ave a sister?"
"Yeah." He perches on the edge of her desk, long legs stretched out in front of him. "You might know her. She's at Hogwarts."
Mon Dieu, but he is gorgeous. That hair, those eyes…She does not want him to leave again. Talk to him. Think of something to say. At least she has stopped crying.
"She 'as red 'air like you? Zhinny?"
"That's the one." He smiles. "My baby sister."
"You'ave bruzzers too." It sounds like an accusation: too abrupt. "'Arry's friend and zose twins."
"'Those twins'?" He grins. "Yeah, that pretty much describes Fred and George. And Ron – Harry's friend. And Percy, who was one of the judges in the Triwizard when Mr. Crouch wasn't there. And Charlie, who was there with the dragons for the first task. Seven of us. Charlie said you did well against the Welsh Green."
She shudders and bites her lip.
She is not going to start crying again, but she wishes he had not mentioned the Tournament. The dragon was the best bit, though it had scarcely felt like it at the time. After that was Gabrielle, the merpeople, the grindylow… Then the maze and – Cedric.
She shudders again.
"Sorry." He looks contrite. "I was trying to cheer you up, but I guess the Tournament was the wrong thing to talk about. Eat your chocolate. It'll help. Why were you crying?"
"I was not crying."
"Of course you weren't. Sorry."
She breaks off a piece of the chocolate and puts it in her mouth. It is creamy and sweet; indefinably different from the French chocolate she is used to.
Damn. She is not going to cry because the chocolate tastes wrong. She is not going to cry at all. She is not.
She pushes the slab of chocolate wordlessly towards him, and he helps himself.
"Zat is where I 'ave seen you before I am come 'ere. You were at 'Ogwarts for ze last task."
He nods. "Yeah. Ron – my brother – is Harry's best friend. And Harry doesn't have any family of his own. Or none worth mentioning."
"I know. Poor 'Arry."
She eats another square of chocolate, blinking rapidly.
She is not going to start crying again. She has a family. A family who love her. She misses them. She wants to go home. She wants to go home.
"Fleur, why were you crying?" His voice is kind, the concern in his eyes looks genuine.
He is not supposed to call her that. He is meant to call her "Miss Delacour". Gringotts is nothing if not formal. No one has called her by her first name since she got here. Why does someone being kind to her make her want to cry even more?
"I was not…"
"Yes you were. Can I help?"
She shakes her head and takes another square of chocolate.
He was right. Chocolate does help. A bit.
"I am – I do not know ze word in Eenglish. I want my 'ome. I miss ma famille."
"Homesick?" he asks gently.
She nods. "Oui. If zat is ze word. I am 'omesick."
She tries the word out on her tongue. It is unfamiliar, like the chocolate.
"I'm sorry." He looks like he really is. "That's a horrible feeling."
"You know?" She looks up at him in surprise.
She is not sure she believes him. With his easy self-confidence he does not look as if her were ever scared or worried or – homesick – in his life.
"I know." He helps himself to more chocolate. "I went to work in Africa for Gringotts straight out of Hogwarts. I was horribly homesick at first. It gets better – really."
She swallows, wanting to believe him.
"I 'ope so. I cannot go 'ome. I zhust cannot."
She lifts her chin proudly.
"I am not effrayée. I am not a coward. I 'ave to show zem I can do zis. Zat I am not zhust…" She hesitates.
She does not want this man to think she is vain.
"Beautiful?" He finishes the sentence for her. "You were a Triwizard Champion. I don't think you have to prove anything to anyone."
"I came last."
He grimaces. "Someone had to. And in view of what happened to Cedric, perhaps coming last wasn't so bad."
They both reach for the chocolate at the same time. Their hands touch. She feels herself blushing. He smiles and hands her a piece of chocolate.
Cedric. She does not want to think about him. He was kind, brave, handsome. He is dead.
She shivers, and looks up again.
"Do you sink zat 'e is really back? You Know 'Oo?"
He nods, his face grim and his eyes suddenly hard. "Cedric didn't drop dead of his own accord, and I don't believe the Ministry line that it was an accident. Harry's telling the truth. He's back."
"Miss Delacour!" The female voice behind them is harsh, making them both jump.
He is quicker than she is. He slides the remains of the chocolate into the desk drawer and shuts it before she has even realised what he is doing. Then he pulls a piece of parchment and a quill towards him, scribbles rapidly and folds it over.
He turns to the intruder with a smile.
"Miss Delacour was just helping me with something, Miss Payne," he says. "I am so sorry if I've distracted her from her work."
Few women are able to resist Bill Weasley when he smiles like that.
"That's quite alright, Mr. Weasley," the older woman simpers, unconsciously smoothing her robes with her hands. "No problem at all."
"Thank you Miss Delacour." He gives her the ghost of a wink as he straightens up. "If you would deal with that later, I'd be grateful." He indicates the parchment, and smiles at her as he leaves.
When her boss has gone, Fleur unfolds the parchment.
"I'll meet you outside after work. You need to be introduced to English beer as well as English chocolate. B.W."
Perhaps working here will not be so bad after all.