I've switched up the order of things a bit, but I think I explain it as we go through the story, so just keep and open mind. Obviously, I didn't kill Fred, that's a large thing, and Bill and Fleur never got married.
At first, she had tried to pretend like everything was okay, but from the moment he got out of the hospital, he knew her feelings had changed. She never reached for his hand anymore, only kissed him if he initiated it, and couldn't even look him in the eye. She postponed their wedding date, to give him more time to heal, she said. The first full moon, he'd been as surprised as she at his sudden change in behavior. She liked him to be gentle with her, and while he had always wanted to spice it up a little, he had wanted to please her more. That one night, though…he hadn't meant to scare her. Really, he didn't think he was out of line, even though he knew he was a bit out of control. But she had pushed him away, locked the bedroom door behind him, and things just weren't the same after that. When Fleur packed her bags and left the next day, Bill wasn't surprised.
His mother had tried to get him to move back into the Burrow for a while, until he felt better. But he knew moving back into his childhood room and letting his mother stuff him with cakes and puddings wasn't going to make anything better. He had talked to Gringotts about letting him return to Egypt, continue his work as a curse-breaker. They had happily agreed, as he was one of the best they had. He had announced his intention to leave at Sunday dinner at the Burrow and while everyone was shocked, Molly was the only one who tried to talk him out of it. Everyone else recognized that he needed some space. His fiancée walking out and leaving her engagement ring behind hadn't been in his five-year plan, though getting attacked by an untransformed werewolf during the Final Battle hadn't exactly been part of the plan, either. At least he felt fine with leaving his family now. They had all survived and were moving on. He didn't think they needed his morose attitude pulling them back down again. They deserved to be happy.
Egypt was lonely, but he enjoyed his work. He wrote occasional letters home, to let his mother know he was all right, and sometimes she'd write back, but he could tell even in a letter, that she just didn't know what to say. Charlie was really the only other one who ever wrote, passing along notes and well wishes from all the others. He had always been closest to Charlie anyway. They'd visit each other from time to time, too, in Romania or Egypt, but Charlie never could talk him into joining him on return trips to England. He just wasn't quite ready to go back.
It was nearly four years before he felt like he was ready. He arranged it all with Gringotts again, and they were again happy to put him to work in Diagon Alley, translating runes and doing research for other curse-breakers. He would handle the occasional cursed item in a vault, too. He loved Egypt, but he was tired of the sun and the heat. He missed his family. He had missed out on a lot. He knew Ginny had married Harry and really, he would have gone home for the wedding, but rather than let Molly plan an elaborate affair that would have made Harry exceedingly self-conscious, they had eloped. Harry was an Auror and Ginny played quidditch for the Hollyhead Harpies. Fred and George had expanded the shop into Hogsmeade and were running both stores with Lee and their respective girlfriends, Angelina and Katie. Molly didn't mention Ron and Hermione very often, but he gathered they were still together. Ron was playing quidditch for the Chudley Cannons, his absolute dream job. She hadn't said what Hermione was doing. Percy was still a prat and was still working at the Ministry under new minister Kingsley. Molly didn't mention him very often, either, and Bill wasn't sure if he was still dating Penelope or not. Arthur had retired and was tinkering with muggle inventions in his shed most days. It might be nice to go back.
He was packing up the last trunk when Charlie appeared in his living room and held out a small pyramid figurine. Bill just stared at it.
"It's your portkey. I thought it was appropriate. You sure you want to go straight into work? I haven't told anyone we're coming, so we can surprise them at dinner tonight."
"Cute," Bill replied, drily, but then grinned and nodded. "I'm just going to send these to the flat I've rented and check in with the goblins. Then we can go to dinner."
He sent his bags on their way through the floo and took one last look around his home of the past four years, and then he and Charlie activated the porkey and appeared in the middle of Diagon Alley. Bill took a moment to look around and take in the scene. He'd missed it far more than he could say. He saw Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes down the street, all bright colors and faint sounds of explosions. He'd have to stop in and see the shop tomorrow. He was right proud of Gred and Forge, Hogwarts dropouts that they were! He followed Charlie towards the bank, taking in the familiar sites around him.
It took him a minute to notice the stares. People seemed to move out of the way slightly as he passed, their eyes lingering on his face and neck. He tucked down a little into his collar, remembering the looks he'd received before he'd left for Egypt. In Egypt, especially among curse-breakers, it hadn't seemed to matter much. Before Fenrir's attack, he'd been somewhat of an arrogant prat, he knew that. But he'd been ready to give up everything, do whatever Fleur had wanted of him. But it wasn't enough. He didn't wear his hair long enough for a ponytail anymore, but it still hung to his shoulders, and he still sometimes wore clothes that made him look more like a muggle rock star than an employee of Gringotts, though lately he'd filled his wardrobe with more jackets and ties, still in shades of black, gray, and dark purple and green. A fang earring still hung from one ear lobe. In the past, he would have expected people passing by to notice these things, but it seemed nothing could detract from the long angry marks that extended from above his left eye, down underneath his shirt collar.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, he hurried ahead of Charlie then, relieved when they entered the dim yet elegant lobby of Gringotts.
He walked up to the first desk and the goblin recognized him immediately.
"Mr. Weasley. Welcome back. Are you here to sign your papers?"
Bill nodded and the goblin pulled several sheets of parchment from his desk, handing them over for Bill's signature.
"Oh, I'm missing one. Stay here and I'll be back presently," the goblin ordered before disappearing, taking the finished papers with him. Bill and Charlie waited at the desk as they were told.
"How does it feel to be back?"
"So far, okay," Bill replied. "Could do with less staring, I guess."
Charlie frowned a little, then seemed to see something over Bill's shoulder and his face lit up. Bill turned to see a witch approaching them, her eyes fixed on the piece of parchment in her hand, nibbling on the pencil she held in her other, her brow furrowed in concentration. She wore high heels and a black pencil skirt that hugged her figure to her knees, a basic white buttoned shirt tucked into that. Her brown hair was pinned back at the nape of her neck, but random curls were springing loose all around her face. Her complexion was light, but not the opaque paleness of Fleur's. Her cheeks had what looked like a natural flush, the only apparent makeup on her face being mascara that darkened her long lashes and a light gloss on lips that were currently closed around that pencil. Bill had to remind himself to breathe. She was gorgeous. Or maybe he just hadn't seen a pretty girl in a really, really long time.
Charlie was already walking past him when Bill turned to ask who she was. The woman looked up as she heard someone approach her and grinned, parchment forgotten. "Charlie!"
Bill couldn't help it–his mouth fell open. He only knew one Granger, and that was Hermione, Ron's friend turned girlfriend. But this was definitely not how he remembered her looking. And what was she doing at Gringotts? Charlie spun her around, putting her back down and looking at Bill over her shoulder. He winked at him and it was Bill's turn to frown, not sure what was going on. Hermione didn't seem to notice.
"What are you doing back from Romania? Does Molly know you'll be at dinner tonight? Goodness, you'll give her a heart attack!"
"Been a while since a good meal at home, thought I'd just drop in," he said, then winked at her. "I think I'll stay a while. I've built up a lot of holiday time. You are looking lovely today, Miss Granger. Still insisting on the muggle trappings instead of those dull Gringotts robes, I see. Best idea ever, love."
"Hush, stop flirting," she said, poking him in the stomach with her pencil before tucking it into her bun.
"I'm not Mum's only surprise," Charlie said, and gestured behind her. She turned and Bill froze as her gaze fell on him. She looked shocked only for a second, then he suddenly found his arms full of Hermione Granger as she hugged him quickly around the neck, having to stretch up a bit to reach. He had to take a step back to regain his balance, her hug being rather unexpected. As soon as he found the presence of mind to hug her back, she was already untangling herself and stepping away.
"How are you? I can't believe you've been gone so long. Do you know how excited your family's going to be to see you tonight? How long are you here for?"
"Calm down, Granger, let the man breathe," Charlie teased, coming up to them again.
"I'm, uh, back for good. Charlie thought it would be best if I surprised everyone."
Her mouth fell open again and then she grinned. "That's wonderful, really, Bill. Your mother is going to be thrilled."
The goblin returned then, clearing his throat to get Bill's attention. Bill found he was somewhat reluctant to look away from Hermione, but he did, signing the paper and handing it back.
"Thank you, Mr. Weasley, we'll see you first thing in the morning."
"You'll be working here again?" Hermione asked.
"Indeed," Charlie answered for him. "With you in translation and curse research."
Bill's eyes widened a little. "You work in translation and research?"
Hermione nodded. "Well, mostly general research, but I've been picking up translation duties lately, too. I've been here about two years. Your mother never mentioned it?"
He shook his head. "She didn't write often..."
"We're going on to the Burrow now, are you coming?" Charlie asked her.
"I just have to finish something up, then I'll be right there."
"It's Sunday, Granger, you shouldn't be at work anyway. Let loose, have some fun, let a lonely dragon keeper take you out sometime."
She threw him an annoyed, yet teasing, glance. "Really, you're awful. I'd be surprised if you didn't already have a different date lined up for every night you'll be here."
Charlie held a hand dramatically over his heart. "Ah, you've wounded me." Then he straightened up. "Of course, you're right."
She shook her head, trying to look disapproving, but not fully succeeding. "Never fails. Better figure out how you'll answer when your mother nags you about settling down, as she does every other time you're in town."
"You keep putting me off, what am I supposed to say?"
"Merlin, you're as bad as ever! Get out of here and go make Molly happy. I'll be there in a few."
She turned once more to Bill, who was so confused now he didn't know what to say or do. She gave his arm a firm squeeze. "I'm really glad you're back."
Then she turned, walking down the hall, once again studying her parchment. They both watched her for a minute, then Bill turned to his brother.
"What the hell was all that?"
Charlie shrugged. "Hey, I've been trying for three years, but no luck. She's not interested in dragon keepers who only like one night stands, it seems."
"She's Ron's girlfriend!"
Charlie looked surprised. "Can't believe someone hadn't mentioned that to you. They haven't been together since...well, probably about a month after you left. He's with Luna Lovegood now."
"They lived close by. Odd little blonde girl in Gin's year? Mum died messing with potions or something and her dad runs the Quibbler?"
Bill nodded, his head spinning. "Right. Lovegood. Still, Merlin, she's a kid, Charlie."
Charlie raised an eyebrow. "Bollocks. She's twenty-three. And definitely not a kid anymore. Or did you somehow miss that when she jumped on you?"
Bill couldn't help but turn pink. He had, in fact, noticed she was certainly not a little girl anymore.
Charlie grinned again, catching the blush. "Mate, you've been in the desert too long. Well, you'll be working with her now, you lucky sod."
"I'm too old for her. So are you, for that matter. And I'm not interested anyway." He added that last bit a little too quickly for his own liking.
Charlie snorted. "Too old? Hell, her last boyfriend was nearly forty." Bill's eyes widened and Charlie quickly added, "But don't tell Ron about that. He'll go spare. I heard about it from Ginny. Ron's now decided he gets to pick who she dates like she's his sister. I guess since Gin ended up with Harry he doesn't have any other opportunity."
Bill shook his head. It was a lot to take in all at once. "Well, fine, but really, I'm not interested. Anyway, I might as well be sixty. I feel it." Charlie looked like he was going to say more, but Bill interrupted. "Dinner?"
Charlie apparently decided to let it go for now. But Bill didn't miss the slightly worried look his younger brother gave him. "Sure, dinner."
They Apparated into the yard at the Burrow and Charlie grinned. "Let me go first. Hide out here."
Bill smiled back, then waited by the door as Charlie burst into the kitchen.
"Ron, dinner isn't ready yet, you'll just have to wait–oh! Charlie! Oh, my baby!"
Bill smiled as his mother fawned over Charlie.
"Hey Mum, Dad! Thought I needed a good meal tonight."
"Oh, I'm so happy to see you!" Molly was near tears now, and Bill heard his dad chuckle. It sounded like they were both hugging Charlie. Merlin, he had missed them!
"You're so thin, dear, have you been eating properly?"
Bill choked back a laugh. Charlie was one of the shorter, stockier of his brothers and kept in top shape–best for wrangling dragons, he guessed. If she though Charlie was thin, she was going to go spare when she saw him. He'd inherited the tall, lanky build of his father's side of the family and Molly was always trying to fatten him up, it seemed.
"I'm hardly thin, Mum," Charlie protested. "Wait, though, I have another surprise for you."
"Oh, do you have a girlfriend? Finally? Did you bring her with you?"
Charlie poked his head out the door and rolled his eyes at Bill. "No, Mum, no girlfriend. You know I'm not interested in a girlfriend." He grabbed Bill's arm and dragged him into the kitchen.
"Hullo," Bill said, awkwardly. Molly looked like she was about to faint.
His dad reached him first, then Molly pulled him out of his father's arms to fairly smother him. She was definitely crying now. He found he didn't mind the tight hug and relaxed a little into her embrace. It was nice to be home.
Hermione was the last to arrive, still dressed in that fetching skirt and blouse. She caught Bill's eye as she entered the kitchen and smiled.
"Hermione, look who's here!" Ginny exclaimed from where she sat next to her beloved oldest brother, having abandoned her usual seat next to Harry for the night. The others were spread out around the table, which had been enlarged at least once more since Bill had last been home. To accommodate for all the girls, he supposed. It was odd for him to see nearly as many females at the table as males.
"I know. I got a preview in Gringotts earlier today," the older witch replied, sliding into a chair across from Charlie who was on Bill's other side. Bill could see she still had that pencil stuck in her hair. "Sorry to hold up dinner."
"No worries, dear," Molly said, kissing Hermione on the top of the head as she set a bowl of potatoes down on the table.
"No, none at all, she's just been trying to force feed the prodigal son since he sat down," George replied.
"Don't they have proper food in Egypt? You're far too skinny!" Fred mimicked, in a spot on imitation of his mother.
"Can't you find nice girls in Romania and Egypt who can make sure you get a decent meal," Charlie added.
Molly blushed and took her seat as they all started to fill their plates. "Well, it's about time you did. Goodness, boys, your younger brothers have all managed to find lovely girls." Said girls blushed. "And Harry and Ginny are even married. Honestly, I have enough to worry about trying to find someone for Hermione!"
Hermione looked like she was suppressing an eye roll. "I'm fine, Molly," she said. "I don't need any more blind dates. I'm only twenty-three."
"Still, you spend too much time at work, dear. You're not going to find a nice young man if you spend all your time among goblins and vaults."
"Maybe she's not interested in a nice young man," Ginny muttered under her breath. Bill watched as Hermione shot the red haired girl a sharp look. Charlie grinned and Hermione kicked him under the table. Given the immediate change of expression on Charlie's face, it had hurt.
Molly and the others didn't hear the comment, as normal conversation had already resumed. Bill and Charlie were asked the bulk of the questions and filled everyone in on what they had done since the last time they were home. Hermione's questions for Bill were more specific, given they did some of the same work. Everyone else merely ate and listened, not understanding half of what Bill or Hermione said.
"Oi, Hermione, I can't take it anymore!" Ron finally interjected. "Can't you talk about dull runes at work where the rest of us don't have to suffer through it?"
Hermione gave him a withering look. "Some of us like to talk about things other than quidditch from time to time."
"I talk about things other than quidditch, I just don't ruin everyone's dinner prattling on about dusty–"
"Stop Ron," Harry interjected. "You know Hermione–she just can't stop when she finds something interesting to talk about."
Hermione looked a little sheepish. "I suppose I was monopolizing the conversation," she allowed.
"I don't mind," Bill offered. She smiled across the table at him and he suddenly felt a flutter of something he hadn't felt in a long time. He immediately tamped it down. This was Hermione for Merlin's sake! His mum was right. She needed a nice young man who could still talk about runes and curses all day and night. Not a thirty-two year old with a scarred face, a taste for rare steaks, and a monthly mood change that would scare her.
Besides, Ron was giving him the oddest look from his place beside Hermione. He quickly turned back to his meal, making sure his mother knew how much he was enjoying it.