The following is a work of fiction which borrows the characters and world created by J.K. Rowling. The Warner Brothers' company also holds financial interests in these works. I am not affiliated with either of them but I feel I owe a great deal to Ms. Rowling, given the many hours of pleasure she's provided me over the years. Aside from keeping me safely off the streets and perhaps improving my written English, I do not stand to profit from this story and have no intention of making any attempt. I also owe a debt to one of the greatest living poets, Mr. Leonard Cohen. I use phrases of his for chapter titles with the utmost respect.
The purpose of writing this tale is my own amusement and perhaps, the enjoyment of one or two others. It's not a very useful hobby, but then neither is philately. It's a story that formed after one too many long drives, quiet afternoons at work and pints of cider. I'm not sure why I'm uploading this where other people can see it but it's probably because I enjoy reading other stories about these two. The more the merrier, I suppose.
As life is all about learning, I'm always interested to hear what people think. If you read this, enjoy it and review it, I'd be most pleased to hear what you have to say. However, if you read it, like it and go about your daily business without doing so, I'll hold no grudges. If you read it and dislike it (though please, you don't have to continue if you think it's a stinker) then tell me why! It will, hopefully, be an educational experience for us all.
However, there is one proviso for this request. If you read this story and dislike it because of the themes of same-sex attraction discussed, please keep your feelings to yourself. I don't care why you find the subject distasteful, I've heard it all before and likely from much more articulate sources. There are hundreds of thousands of stories out there for you; please don't waste your time reading mine. Of course, if you feel I've handled the theme badly or you disagree with my portrayal, that's different.
Still with me? Good. Fantastic. I hate the fact that the previous paragraph was necessary. But we're all grown-ups here, at last. At least, I hope we are because this story contains mature themes. Some of these are wonderful, fun and marvellous events one should aspire to achieve. Others are, regrettably, horrible and nasty. But such is life and the latter are, in this tale, rarer than the former. If you are particularly sensitive to gore, violence or any of the evils we inflict on one another, please proceed with caution.
Please enjoy this story. If you have stories of your own, tell them.
The grey sea hissed and growled relentlessly, roiling and raging against the dark sand and jagged black stone of the Cornish coast. Sheets of misty rain rolled in with startling rapidity when the wind was right only to vanish just as quickly each time it changed. That same wind howled through the battered grass blanketing the dunes and whipped the heads off heaving waves. Icy fingers of arctic air sought out cracks in window frames and door jambs, occasionally hurling frozen pellets against roof and root alike. Birds hid their heads beneath their wings, creatures curled in their dens and people shut their curtains; none willing to face the onslaught. The shore was dark for miles around, the only light shining from a little cottage which stood on an outcropping of weathered stone. The cottage was squat and hunched, save for an overly tall chimney stack. Shells had been pressed into the wet plaster of its walls long ago, earning it its name.
Shell Cottage stood with its back to the storm, weathering as it had a thousand others in its long history. It had seen higher tides, stronger winds, fiercer squalls and longer tempests than this little blast of bad weather. Wind, rain and cold nights had long been its companions.
These immutable facts had caused the original builders of the humble watch house (for before the Wizarding World had been hidden, a magical beacon had shone there) to make a great effort to construct something to withstand these dread forces. The walls were thick, made from black stone and strong mortar; the deceptive fragility of their decorative shells belied their solidity. Grey, unwashed wool had been crammed into cavities where masonry met timber, around the roof joists, windows and doors. Though it was usually muffled, the boom of the tide was ever present inside its walls, loud, sonorous and doleful.
Despite all this, Shell Cottage was a warm and mostly peaceful place. The ceilings hung low, wooden affairs stuffed with straw and entire dynasties of mouse corpses. The windows were small and shuttered inside and out, with the additional protection of thick curtains in most rooms. The doors were similarly equipped though, at the time our tale begins, those drapes hadn't been needed for several weeks. The kitchen, sitting room, parlour and two of the three bedrooms featured fireplaces to defend against the cold. It was before one of these (specifically, in the sitting room) that Fleur and William Weasley found themselves one dismal spring night.
Fleur (nee Delacour) was curled on the lumpy sofa, a blanket around her legs and a steaming mug in her hands. A leather bound book floated steadily in front of her face, pages turning at regular intervals. The firelight painted her hair golden, rather less unearthly than its usual silvery blonde. In the hearth, green and blue flames consumed salty drift wood and danced merrily in her dark blue eyes. She was an unusually beautiful woman and seemed especially lovely sitting reading contentedly in her home.
Bill, as William was known, stretched in his chair, shrugging one aching shoulder up and rolling it around. He had been a wonderfully handsome man in his youth, before a malicious attack left his face, neck, arms and back riven with deep, cruel scars. He had let his dark red hair grow, the better to hide his disfigurement, and it seemed alive with fire that night. His eyes were blue too, but where Fleur's seemed almost faceted, Bill's were flat and as pale as the winter sky. They closed in brief pain before he eased himself out of his arm chair, padding over to the fire place and lifting the kettle.
"Hot drop, love?"
"No, thank you," she said, smiling at her husband. "I have plenty."
Sometimes, he thought, I almost forget we're at war at all.
Bill grunted and topped his mug up with hot, strong tea. He mooched back to his chair and lifted his notebook, staring at the last few sentences he'd written. Sometimes he almost forgot, indeed, but never for long. He sipped his tea and flipped back a few pages, frowning at his words, searching for some clue or forgotten spell that would give them an edge and allow them to fight back once more. He'd spent many nights in the same chair, engaged in the same pursuit. Nothing useful had come to him and he knew he was not unique in this. No member of the Order of the Phoenix had yet found such a miraculous thing.
The Order was close to collapse, there was no doubt. With Dumbledore and Moody dead; with traitorous Snape; with their one hope vanished and the rest scattered and hunted, what path lay before them? They'd all sworn to give their lives preventing the spread of that which was now ubiquitous. It seemed a mere matter of time before their oaths would be collected.
His heart clenched. The unfairness of if all gripped him once again and he bit the inside of his scarred cheek. Fleur did not fail to notice, but let Bill have his moment uninterrupted. She knew well enough what occupied his mind. Her thoughts were dark as well. She too had been searching old spells and lore, seeking an advantage. She too had failed to find one.
She let her frustration build before gritting her teeth and taking what she intended to be a calming breath. It came as unusually harsh and caused her book to tremble and drop into her lap, startling Bill.
He fumbled with his tea and shot a wary look her way.
"Ennui!" she groaned, flopping against the arm of the sofa. "Perhaps we should visit your mother. She always finds plenty for us to do."
Bill eyed her with amusement but shook his head dubiously. Fleur and his mother were often a volatile combination; a powder keg of forced politeness and discomfort. "I think not. Do you want to get a start on the garden tomorrow, perhaps?"
He, like his wife, found free time near unbearable at the best of times and current times were far from the best. Shell Cottage had been near ruin when they arrived and its current state of comfort reflected the amount of time in which they'd had nothing more productive to do than worry and decorate. They found the distraction and small domestic victories kept them from utter despair. The isolation was hard to bear at times but both knew the importance of an easily defended safe house. The fact that access on foot was possible from one narrow slope alone made up for the effort and loneliness.
Fleur opened her mouth to reply but suddenly snapped it shut, a strange expression crossing her fine features. Before Bill could even form the thought to pose a question, she leapt over the back of the sofa, drawing her wand and racing for the back, and only, door. She summoned her shoes and they met her running feet. Bill roared and threw himself up, mug shattering forgotten on the stones of the hearth.
Fleur felt keenly the intrusion against her wards as she burst into the damp, chilly night and was sure Bill felt the same against his. Her mouth was dry with fear but anger sat hot in her chest. Who dared invade her home? She saw several figures standing out on the sand at the bottom of the hill, just beyond the tide line. Her heart slammed against her ribs at the sight of pale blonde hair in the dim light and she slowed her steps.
"Gabrielle?" she whispered, horror replacing anger. What had happened? She found her stride again and flew down the sand, through the sharp marram grass. She could hear Bill's heavy strides thudding behind her, dropping away as she outpaced him.
She hadn't gone much farther when the face beneath the pale hair resolved itself into a grubby girl, wide-eyed and wild with worry. She was standing beneath the arm of a terribly old man who was dirtier and skinnier than the average scarecrow. A tall, handsome man leaned an arm around his waist, taking much of his weight. As she neared, she recognised (to her enormous relief) Luna Lovegood.
"Luna!" she called, throwing normal caution to the wind. Her wards were breached; whatever magic had accomplished that was neither subtle nor gentle. They needed to flee, and quickly.
"Fleur?" she replied, some surprise in her voice.
"It's me," she said, coming to a stop on the wet sand. "In the Triwizard year, you loaned my sister…?"
"A brandynug charm, for the drafts," she said, smiling faintly. "Hello. Thank goodness we got here safely."
Bill had thumped to a stop beside her, his wand drawn. "How did you get here? What's going on?"
"Mr Dobby brought us," Luna explained, much relieved to be in a safe place again, "he's a house elf of uncommon courage."
"Look," the boy interrupted, "he needs help, please."
"That's Ollivander," Bill said, with wonder. "We all thought he was dead."
"Well, yeah, don't speak too soon."
Bill and Fleur glanced at one another and she nodded. "The spare room." He stepped forward and slid an arm under Ollivander's shoulders and knees, motioning for the young man to do the same. They moved quickly towards the house and Fleur, casting a last, uneasy look around, turned on her heel to do the same.
"I wouldn't," Luna said quietly, sadly. "Mr Dobby should be back soon. There's more to come."