I See All of You
Bill Weasley sat in Dagranuk’s office in the Department of Gringott’s Security and clenched his right fist – the one that wanted to reach across the desk and throttle the goblin sitting behind it.
The head of security shook his long-nosed, pale head. “I am sorry, Mr. Weasley. Your performance standards are excellent. We have no complaints about that. But this particular position deals with our most elite wizard clients and requires a great deal of public relations. In addition to expert protection of his assets, the sort of wizard you would be working with appreciates a certain…aesthetic.”
You can’t be serious!” Judging by the goblin’s expression, Bill knew that he was serious – entirely so. Bill continued his argument anyway. “I’m losing this promotion because I’m not pretty enough?”
“It is not just that. Our clients will not know what caused your disfigurement.” Bill squirmed at that word, but Dagranuk continued unabated. “It is quite possible that your scars may give the impression that you had…how shall I say this?…difficulty with your work in the past. We must project only supreme competence in our business.”
Bill struggled to hold his voice low. “I would think that my record speaks for itself. 213 straight curses broken without any loss of merchandise or harm to your employees is not supreme competence?”
“You are quite competent.” Dagranuk tapped his slender fingers on his desktop as he spoke. “We both know that. But this is the real world, and I am talking about the image you project. These are two different things, I’m afraid. It may not be right or fair, but it is what it is.”
Bill’s jaw hurt from biting down so hard. He didn’t trust opening his mouth again to respond.
Dagranuk watched Bill for a moment, and then said, “I am willing to offer you a modest raise, given your excellent work history here. That is all I can do.”
Unbelievable. I have the best record of any of the curse breakers. My team’s performance has been flawless. Bloody hell… Bill gave a curt nod, stood up and stalked out of the office.
He had planned on hearing good news today. He’d entered that office with confidence – the same confidence with which he’d handled every case assigned to him since being hired. And he’d expected what was due him. Apparently his hard work, dedication and superior results had been trumped by his looks. It would almost be laughable if the ramifications to his life weren’t so clear. Merlin, he didn’t need the extra money for himself. He could be happy with next to nothing. The life he had now was comfortable. But Fleur…Fleur deserved more.
He glanced at his watch. She’d be home already. The nature of his job as curse breaker meant unpredictable hours and he knew she’d left for home at her usual quitting time. He began to walk the several blocks to their flat…the flat that had suddenly grown small now that discussions of having children were underway…the flat that this promotion would have allowed them to replace with a real house and a decent yard. Well, he’d not tell Fleur about this because this wasn’t over yet.
Dagranuk had not heard the last from Bill Weasley.
Bill soon passed a fancy dress shop where the sparkle of fine fabric in the window display caused him to pause. Wait a minute. Wasn’t he forgetting something? An errand? What was it? Sod it! Tonight was the St. Mungo’s Charity Christmas Ball - a fancy society “event” that was just about the last thing he felt like doing now. And he still had to pick up his dress clothes from the tailor. Luckily that shop was only a few blocks ahead. He continued to walk, kicking at a stray pebble, and soon reached the tailor’s. As he turned and grasped the doorknob to enter, he caught his reflection in the pane window, and, for the first time since his injury, Bill turned away in revulsion.
* * * *
A little later that evening cheerful notes from a Christmas carol floated into their bedroom from the wireless in the living room. The spicy scent of mulled cider hung in the air, teasing Bill’s appetite. He knew that off in the corner of their living room, a beautifully trimmed Christmas tree gave off a soft glow, while flames crackled and sparked in the fireplace. Bill stood shirtless in front of his shaving stand and contemplated how he had let himself get talked into attending this party. He wanted nothing more than to stay home and relax, preferably snuggled up in front of that same fire with his arms around his wife. But then he remembered the hopefulness in Fleur’s voice and the excitement in her eyes when she had shown him the tickets she’d been given by a friend who couldn’t use them. Fleur did love a fancy party. And their social life had quieted a bit since they had married.
He continued to shave - an agonizingly slow process. He remembered the days when he’d quickly drag the blade across his face without a care, and sometimes, when he was in a hurry, without even any lather. He could still hear the coarse scraping sound his beard would make with those careless strokes. No more. Shaving had become quite a difficult task since his attack by Greyback. The day of the attack was now several months, many healing charms, and hundreds of medicinal remedies ago. But even with those heroic efforts, the last facial wound had closed only days ago. At least now his razor had to navigate only the slashes and ridges of fragile scar tissue.
Fleur stepped into the room and the shimmer of her pewter dress robes caught his eye in the corner of the mirror. Bill angled his head just a touch to get a better view of her reflection, and for a moment all thoughts of shaving were lost. Her lacy, open neckline sank to the tip of her cleavage, only hinting at the perfection that lay below. His eyes worked their way up the creamy skin of her chest to the gentle rise of her collarbone blanketed by those silky blonde tresses, and then to her slender throat, one of his favorite places to kiss her. He reached her face, where her smooth cheeks held just a hint of color, contrasting with the cool blue of her eyes. And then finally that mouth, with only a sheer tint of rose-colored gloss. It was pure, classic Fleur – sophisticated, effortless beauty. She took his breath away.
Her throaty voice floated across the room. “Beel – would you like somezing to eat before we leave? Dinner will not be served unteel late.”
“No thanks, love. I’m fine.”
Fleur whipped around to the doorway. “Oh, no! I left ze cider simmering on ze stove!”
Bill watched his wife make her way quickly to the kitchen, her steps graceful and light, even with her silver stilettos, her robes clinging to every enticing curve.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. They would attend this party. And his Fleur would have the time of her life.
Turning back to the mirror, he completed one last, careful stroke with his razor. He rubbed his jaw line with his thumb and forefinger and gave a quick nod. Done. But then, uncharacteristically for Bill, he stayed in front of his reflection for a moment, his eyes raking over his face, assessing the ravaged flesh. If he turned to the right and glanced quickly at the left side of his face, he was almost recognizable as the old Bill. That side had been injured less severely. But the right side…
* * * *
Fleur turned off the stove and checked the clock in the entry once more as she walked from the living room back to the doorway of their bedroom. She grabbed her small jeweled purse and stood there silently, watching with appreciation as her husband finished shaving. His back was to her, and her eyes slowly traveled from his shoulders, broad and strong, then over his muscular back. Bill had thrown himself into his recovery with a zeal she had not seen before in her usually relaxed fiancé, building his body back from its long dormancy while he recovered from his wounds. She continued to take in the results of that hard work. His back tapered down to a lean waist, framed by the waistband of his black dress trousers. And those trousers fit perfectly, showing off the rounded form of his, what do ze British call eet? ‘bum’. Fleur smiled as she imagined giving him a playful squeeze over his right back pocket.
Then Bill stopped shaving and swore softly, throwing his razor into the basin with a clunk.
“What eez it?” she asked.
He seemed startled by her, and turned his head to his left, offering her only a glance as he quickly answered, “Nothing.” Then he started to grab his shirt to finish getting dressed.
“Wait,” she told him. “Stay just like zat for a moment.” She was enjoying this too much.
This time he turned more fully to her and gave her a quizzical look. Those muscles rippled across his freckled skin as he tossed the shirt back and grabbed a small towel instead.
Fleur waltzed into the room, hips swaying, her eyes locked on her husband. “Allow me.”
* * * *
Bill’s breath caught at the sultry lilt of Fleur’s voice as she walked towards him. Her accent was like music and never failed to raise his pulse. But then again, everything about her got his heart racing. And amazingly enough for this average bloke with carrot hair and skin covered in freckles, he knew he used to do the same for her.
Taking the towel, she then reached up and gently wiped the remaining flecks of lather from his face, while her other hand slid into his back pocket and squeezed.
The side of Bill’s mouth rose into a small, lopsided smile.
Maybe he still did.
* * * *
Less than an hour later Fleur gripped Bill’s hand tightly as they Apparated to the Christmas ball. Bill smiled despite the unsavory feeling of pressure and squeezing. Apparating with Fleur could actually be called enjoyable. He loved the feel of her hand, small and soft and tentative in his strong grasp, and he loved the grateful look in her eyes when he steadied her upon their arrival. As she leaned her head into his shoulder, a fiercely protective feeling washed over him. He held her for a moment, and then they turned to enter the party.
The majestic courtyard of the Grand Marquis Hotel in wizard London had been transformed into a winter wonderland complete with twinkling frosty lights brightening the trees and bushes and sparkling snowflakes floating lazily through the air. But magically, the air outside was comfortably warm, the women needing no wraps, even in their revealing dresses.
“Oh, Beel – everything eez so pretty!” Fleur’s cyan eyes were big as she smiled and looked around her.
It did look nice. Bill gave Fleur a small wink and led her up the steps towards the Grand Ballroom. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.
Guests dressed in their finest milled around with tall, bubbling flutes of champagne. They greeted each other with air kisses on each cheek and what Bill surmised was feigned enthusiasm.
“And ze women look lovely.” Fleur surveyed the crowd.
Bill supposed, if he didn’t have Fleur on his arm, that he might have agreed, since those women with their deep ruby lips, upswept hair, dangly earrings and form fitting, bosom-baring dress robes were pretty if you like that sort of thing. None compared, however, to the stunning simplicity of his wife’s soft flowing hair, slender curves, and natural beauty. Most of the women appeared to be leaning on exquisitely groomed men with perfect teeth and tan skin in December. Bill smirked. Who were these blokes?
As they walked, Bill began to sense some of the women’s eyes on him…glances that lingered just a bit too long…the slightest raise of their precisely tweezed brows. And even worse, the men’s gapes of pleasure at Fleur (would he ever get used to that?) which turned into brief moments of surprise when their eyes inevitably turned to Bill as if asking, “How is he with her?”
Several months ago Bill would have flashed those who stared at him a grin and perhaps puffed out his chest. He was a head above most of the men here, and his red hair stood out against the somber black of the men’s attire. It wasn’t hard to be noticed, and he’d certainly enjoyed that in the past. But today…well, he knew it wasn’t his height or his hair color that garnered him looks. The tilt of his head dropped just a notch.
But then he decided to ignore the stares. He was here to show his lovely wife a good time, not to contemplate something he couldn’t change. He turned to Fleur. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Yes. A glass of champagne?”
Bill nodded, scanned the immediate vicinity and spotted a waiter holding a tray with filled glasses of the golden colored, sparkling liquid. By the time he maneuvered his way through the crowd and stood before the man, there was only one glass left. As he reached for it, his hand instead grasped slender fingers with long shimmering nails. Bill turned and found himself staring face to face with a statuesque, exotic beauty. The woman smiled, her teeth a perfect white against smooth skin the color of café au lait. Her liquid chocolate eyes carried a subtle slant framed by lush lashes. Bill knew her from somewhere. But where?
That’s it! She was Mrs. Zabini. He had worked on a case involving her husband and a pair of cursed cuff-links a few years ago. Bill had broken the curse just in time to save the man’s life.
“Please.” Bill motioned for the woman to have the glass. She nodded, and then a brief frown crossed her face as her eyes locked onto his. She searched his face for a moment, then took a step back, as if suddenly finding something distasteful. Bill shrugged his shoulders. He wasn’t sure if she recognized him, but she apparently found him difficult to look at.
He was about to walk away when Fleur grasped his arm. “Beel? Do you have my champagne?”
Bill shook his head and pointed to the waiter walking away with the empty tray. “Sorry, love. Just missed the last one there.”
As he surveyed the room, trying to find another filled tray of drinks, an older gent strolled up and put his arm around Mrs. Zabini’s shoulders. It wasn’t her husband. Bill recognized the man immediately as Tiberius Ogden, a Ministry official and a friend of Bill’s father. Ogden’s incredible hunting exploits had been the fodder of many a dinner conversation at the Burrow, and his father’s stories about Ogden had captured the imagination of all of the Weasley boys. Bill fondly recalled afternoons in the garden where they all had performed similar heroic feats of bravery while hunting fierce wild beasts such as garden gnomes and bunny rabbits.
The years had treated Ogden well, for he was lean and spry, with a full head of neatly-groomed, white hair and discerning green eyes.
Now Ogden spoke softly to Zabini. “There you are, Zelda. I’m afraid I was caught up in hearing yet another diatribe of Tofty’s about establishing more stringent protection of rare and dangerous wildlife. I think he’s of the opinion that I may be swayed more easily after having knocked off a few glasses of bubbly. Unfortunately, the poor man could never understand the thrill of stalking an Erumpent across the scorching African savannah, or he would realize he is wasting his breath.”
As Ogden shook his head, he saw Bill and his eyes widened. “Bill Weasley! And your lovely wife Fleur! How nice to see you here!” He turned back to Zelda. “Have you met these nice young people yet, dear?”
The woman’s lips thinned as she shook her head, avoiding eye contact with both of them.
Ogden continued. “Bill is the eldest son of Arthur Weasley. We know each other well from the Ministry – Arthur worked for years in Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, though he was recently promoted. Lovely man…lovely family.” He turned back to Bill and his face turned serious. “I was sorry to hear about the attack, Bill. Now that is a monstrous creature who would better serve society stuffed and mounted over my fireplace mantle.” He stopped himself, then, and watched Bill warily, saying softly, “I suppose that remark was in bad taste. I’m sorry, my boy.”
Bill nodded. “Not at all, Mr. Ogden. I rather agree with you on that point.”
Ogden gave him a firm nod back. “Well, it’s wonderful to see you here. Allow me to introduce Madam Zelda Zabini, my lovely date for tonight’s ball.”
Date. Ogden? What had happened to Mr. Zabini?
Madam Zabini made no move to smile or take Bill’s proffered hand. She simply turned her head away and surveyed the room, as if seeking escape. Bill put his hand back down and glanced at Fleur. Now this was getting awkward. Best to simply excuse themselves and leave. But Ogden, apparently oblivious to it all and quite cheerful, pulled Bill aside and started asking him about his father.
* * * *
Fleur took one look at the haughty way Zabini dismissed Bill and suddenly understood intimately how dogs feel when they raise their hackles. What had her Bill ever done to deserve that kind of treatment? She’d heard a rumor or two about this Zabini woman. Now that she’d met her it wasn’t hard to believe that those stories were true.
Fleur stepped away from Bill, and addressed Madam Zabini. “Excuse me, but eesn’t eet customary to offer a greeting when introduced? Has my husband done zomesing to offend you?”
Zabini’s dark eyes narrowed at Fleur. Fleur had to admit she was stunning, though in a dark and dangerous way, much like the nundu that had provided the fur that trimmed Zabini’s plunging neckline and framed her ample cleavage.
“He worked on a case involving my husband years back.” Zabini lowered her voice, leaning in towards Fleur to purr, “I realize that there can be certain unanticipated…ah… distractions…” Zabini struck a pose and patted her stylish mane. “…but your man should try to keep his mind on his work. It was a frightening time - my husband could have died. I was…vulnerable.”
What was this woman insinuating? Fleur eyed Zabini’s clingy animal print dress with the slit up to her mid thigh and the shapely leg beneath. The woman appeared anything but vulnerable.
Fleur shot back, “My husband ees an honorable man. He would never take advantage of a woman, especially an older one such as yourself.”
Zabini’s eyes blazed. She stood up to her full height and raised her voice to normal conversational level. “Ah, my dear…I do find it offensive when an elegant society function is crashed by commoners. Your husband does not belong here. The Weasleys are solidly entrenched in the middle class, I’m afraid.” She clucked her tongue and shook her head, rankling Fleur further with her pitying expression. “But you are quite beautiful. You could have done so much better. Why, I can think of at least three eligible men I could have introduced you to this very evening…men who could provide for your needs handsomely.”
Fleur was able to keep her voice low and her expression impassive only because Bill continued to talk and laugh with Ogden a few feet away, and she did not want him to hear this conversation. “My needs are more zan provided for. I cannot understand why you think zat your occupation - marrying men for zeir money - ees more commendable zan ze dangerous work my husband does to make ze world a safer place.”
Zabini reddened and took a step back.
Fleur nodded with a smile. “Yes, I spent some time at ‘ogwarts and word does get around, does eet not? Mr. Ogden ees going to be number eight?” And then she went in for the kill. “And ze only thing zat ees offensive here ees that leopard print you are wearing…or rather, zat is wearing you.”
Then Fleur stepped over to Bill and Ogden and turned on her full Veela charm. “Mr. Ogden, eet was a pleasure seeing you again.” She kissed him on his cheek.
A blush rose over his face at that, and he stuttered, “Please…both of you…j…join us in Zelda’s suite tonight - number 311. She will be hosting an after-party. We’d love to see you there.”
Fleur nodded, flashed a too-sugary smile towards Zabini, grasped Bill’s arm and walked.
Her Bill was tense. She could feel the cords of muscle in his arm as she held onto him. Glancing up, she saw him continue to look ahead and avoid her gaze. He held his head high, though. Fleur continued to watch him. There was something in the set of his jaw…
“Fleur…” Bill stopped walking as he interrupted her, running a hand through his hair.
She waited for him to continue.
“Um…” His deep voice went silent as he looked around the room. Finally, shaking his head, he sighed. “Let’s go find you some champagne.” He still wouldn’t look fully at her.
Fleur gripped his arm and stepped around in front of Bill, facing him squarely.
His eyes burned into her and she suddenly realized how this entire evening must have felt to him – dressing up and coming here when he was tired from a long day at work…forced social niceties with people he hardly knew…the inexcusable treatment by Zabini. Yet he had brought her here without protest and had stayed, giving his best effort to show her a wonderful evening.
“Oh, my Beel…you are having a horrible time, no?”
He hesitated. “Not horrible…” He paused again. “I’m not sure if coming here tonight was a good-”
Fleur gasped with a sudden realization. “Beel – you deed not hear what zat evil woman was sayeeng?”
Bill nodded and shrugged his shoulders. “Some. What kind of a curse breaker would I be without an exceptionally acute sense of hearing?” And then he sighed, smoothing the hair from her forehead. “I wish I could give you everything you want.” His blue eyes darkened as he spoke further. “I wish…”
Fleur felt a searing flash of something deep inside her. Did he not realize he was everything to her? That he already gave her all she wanted? That knowing she was loved fully and deeply and totally by this strong, capable and sexy man was the only thing that mattered?
“Please, Beel, don’t.” She reached up and placed a finger over his mouth, preventing him from continuing with this insane conversation any further. His lips were soft and smooth and she loved the silk-stocking feel of them under her touch. Her hand moved slowly to his right cheek – to the rough ridges and deeply colored slashes that ravaged the entire side of his face. He tried to pull away when she touched him there, but she didn’t let him. “This ees my Beel – a brave man fighting ze good fight, even willing to die for it. I know this. And you are strong…strong enough zat zese horrible injuries did not change you… did not change your laughter, or your love, or your bearing. You are my warrior.”
He shook his head and continued anyway. “My God, you’re so beautiful. You deserve so much more than...than watching people turn away from your husband in disgust.”
“Deesgust? Is zat what you think Zabini felt? Oh, my Beel – do you not know what zey say about a woman scorned?”
He looked puzzled for a moment. Then his eyebrows rose as if he suddenly remembered something.
Fleur nodded knowingly. “She wanted you back then, and she steel felt ze pain of your rejection tonight.”
But Bill continued to look at her with that expression – tentative, questioning. Could he not know what she felt? She reached behind his neck with her arms and pulled herself up on her toes, then whispered into his ear, “Women all around me want my husband. But I want you most of all.”
He bent down and kissed her then, the firm strength of his lips crushing the pliable softness of hers as she opened her mouth to him. Everything faded to gray around her. The only thing in the room was the feel of her Bill against her. A heat between her legs began to spread through her body, causing her breaths to come more quickly and her throat to parch with thirst for him. Fleur, who prided herself on her skill at pleasuring her man, suddenly needed her man to ravish her. A kiss in a ballroom was not enough.
“Beel…” Her voice was hoarse. “Come with me. I know ze perfect place where we can be alone.”
And she took his hand and led him towards room 311. Fleur smiled. Madam Zabini wouldn’t be back for hours.
* * * *
When they reached Zabini’s hotel suite door, Bill hesitated. “Fleur – don’t you think this is a little…”
“A leetle what? Dangerous? Exciting? Vengeful?”
“I don’t know… I mean…the door is locked. We could simply go home. We have all the privacy we could want there…”
“I married a curse breaker. Some perks should come weeth all of that danger, no? What ees a locked door to you?” Fleur took a step closer to him. Her pupils were dilated; the blue of her eyes simply a thin arc around deep black pools. Her cheeks were flushed, her breaths coming more quickly.
Fleur’s voice dropped to a throaty whisper. “Take me, Beel. Open that door and take me right now.”
What was he, an idiot? He opened the bloody door.
The minute the door closed behind them and he placed a quick privacy charm on it, they became frenzied – clawing at buttons and zippers, stripping each other of their garments piece by piece, all the while their mouths locked in ravenous hunger. Bill became lost in a flurry of exquisite sensations – the spicy scent of her nape, the sweet wetness of her mouth, the shiver of her skin under his touch as he removed her dress and ran his hand across the velvety smoothness of her back, the warmth of her fingers as she grasped his waistband and unbuttoned his pants. He groaned, then, and picked her up easily, laying her onto the cool, silk sheets of the massive bed, still kissing her.
Later, when they had finished and were lying wrapped in each other, Fleur sighed.
“What is it, love?” Bill raised his head to look at her.
But she simply smiled. “Nothing. I am just happy.” And then her smile left her as she sat up and faced him. “How could you ever doubt that you are enough for me?”
“Fleur…this…how I felt tonight…wasn’t just because….” He shook his head, looked away for a moment, then turned back to her. “I lost a promotion today because of how I look.”
She listened quietly as he explained his conversation with Dagranuk. When he finished, he shrugged his shoulders. “And that was it.”
“You know, Beel – I have ze same problem. People judge me by what zey see, not who I am. So often I have to prove that I am also worthy in here…” She pointed to her head. “…and here.” She placed her hand over her heart.
He took her hand. “But I see all of you.”
She nodded. “Zat ees only one of ze many reasons I love you.”
Bill brought Fleur’s hand up to his cheek. This woman was truly exquisite. She was so more than simply beautiful. And she loved him – with a deep, abiding, unwavering love. Someone like her wouldn’t give that to just anyone. He made her happy. It must be so. She’d just told him that. And he’d almost let Dagranuk take that comfort away from him today.
Bill bent to kiss her softly and then stood up. He began to pull on his shirt.
Fleur climbed out of bed, too and began to gather her clothes. “All right then, let’s go home.”
The note of disappointment in her voice was subtle, but he heard it. Good. She wants to stay. He walked up behind her, zipped up her dress, and turned her around to face him. “Nope. Not home. There’s a spectacular banquet waiting for us downstairs, and I have a feeling you’re just as hungry as I am.”
Fleur’s eyes widened. “We’re staying?”
“We’re staying. And then, after we eat, I want to take my wife onto the dance floor and dance the rest of the night away.”
Fleur clasped her hands together and laughed. God, he loved making her laugh. “Oh, Beel - we haven’t danced together since ze wedding!”
He locked onto her gaze. “It’s been much too long, then.” He gently lifted her chin. “Come on, love. The music is waiting.”
Thanks so much to Eudora Hawkins, my trusty writing buddy and mentor. Without Eudora, this party snippet wouldn't have been finished. I had written the initial part, before Bill and Fleur actually go to the party, and then I simply got stuck. I had no idea whom they would run into at the party. Eudora sent me a full page of possible canon characters that would be fun to use, with character sketches for each, as well as a wonderful descriptions and great plot ideas. At that point I almost wrangled her into co-authoring, but she declined because she was busy writing ME a Christmas story with William Wood and what kind of idiot would I be to turn THAT down? And then to top it off, she unexpectedly turned my file around in a flash, even though she's super busy. Wow. Your Dom Christmas story is coming soon!
And thanks must go to St.Margarets who gave me a read through for grammar before my last version went off to Eudora, squeezing her assistance in before she rushed off to her little boy's soccer tournament, and who helped me early on with characterization and story line.