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Misapprehension

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They think that it's Bill. That's what they think. All of them. I can see it when they look at me. Their eyes – such pity. There's kindness there too – I can see that. I know that. But the thing that sticks in my craw is the pity.

Because they think that it's Bill.

They're wrong.

It started –

No, started isn't right. Started – started makes it sound like something that's finished. Past. Over and done with. It'll never be over and done with. At least, it doesn't feel like it. Or maybe I just don't want it to feel like it. Maybe I just don't want to let it go (I don't want to let her go).

It started – but never finished – after the Triwizard Tournament. The final challenge. The kids – Christ, they were scared. We all were. We all are. Scared. Sad. You've never heard such howling. The sounds that tore through Amos Diggory were like – nothing. Nothing, at least, that I'd ever heard. Nothing that I've heard since. Not really. This was like an abyss made real. Like if you reached into the space around him it would suck you in, drag you kicking and screaming into a place you'd never get back from.

You'd never get back from.

That's what I remember. That sound. And their faces. Cedric's. So Goddamn pale. He was pale, anyway – but this. This. His lips were drained. Just – fucking drained. All the colour – all the life - gone.

That sound. Those lips. Their faces; the kids.'

Kids. Like that's what they were anymore. After seeing that. Christ. Pale ghosts of children is what they were after that. I swear you could see it in their eyes. Innocence evaporating as you looked at them. Like curls of smoke in the air. And you wanted – God, you wanted to reach out, grasp it, catch it in your hands; keep it safe and still and alive but you couldn't (you can't).

And I knew it when I looked at her. When I looked into her eyes and the girl ghost fled from her gaze as she stared back. Disappeared into the space between us, slipping like so much smoke – so much innocence, so much life – into a time and a place that we couldn't see or hear or feel and never would.

And all I wanted to do was hold her.

___

Debriefing. That's what they call it. Like there's anything brief about it. Debriefing. That was when I next saw her.

She'd just come out of the counsellor's office. She was crying. Her last session, she told me later. Seems like it was doing a hell of a job, right?

Shoulders shaking. That's what I noticed first. I'd come across her in the corridor, her back to me. Trembling. Fucking trembling. Silently. There was no noise to it. Her tears. Just - silence.

I didn't know it was her at the time. Couldn't tell from behind. But she was shaking. Distressed. And I thought – Christ, I don't know what I thought. That maybe she'd been charmed (cursed). I mean – that's how we're trained – we're Aurors. Assume the worst, right? I reached into the back pocket of my jeans, my fingers curled around my wand as I caught up to her. Ready. I reached out.

Hey. Hey. Are you all right?

She spun. I stumbled backwards, startled. By the sudden movement or by what I saw, I didn't know. I still don't.

And her face – her face.

Pale, but not white. Not like – the others. There was this glow to her. Even as she cried, her eyes scrubbed red-raw by so much grief, so much horror; her nose running and threads of clear mucus streaking over her top lip – even then, then, she was incandescent.

Fleur? I said.

She nodded. Wiped her nose with the back of her hand, snot smearing over her skin in a thin line.

Fleur I said again. I let go of my wand, stuffing it back into my pocket. With both hands, I held her by shaking shoulders. I held her. Steadied her.

I led her to my office. It was quiet there. We could talk. Or she could. If she wanted. I didn't want to. I just wanted to make the hurt stop. To take it away from her. If I could reach inside of her – if I could find the part, the pieces that made her ache I would and feel it for her, I would; I would.

But I couldn't, of course. Can't No-one can.

So we sat. That was all. We sat. She spoke some. Murmured worries in her musical, French lilt. We sat and I held her and she rested against me and I felt the weight of her bearing down upon me, her head against my breast and the heat of her, the warmth, and the way her breathing slowed as she softened in my arms and then she looked up at me and whispered something in French that I didn't understand – that I still don't understand, that I've never thought to ask because it doesn't matter it only matters that she whispers it to me - and then -

She kissed me.

---

It's been happening ever since. Me. Fleur. Just kissing at first. Kissing. Holding. She would cling to me. As if she was scared she'd fall to pieces if she ever let go (I didn't want to let go; I don't). And somewhere along the way it became more. Kissing wasn't enough. It wasn't enough to erase the things she'd – we'd – seen.

It wasn't enough to take away the pain.

And then she met Bill.

And I wasn't enough.

We tried a couple of times. The three of us. After all, Bill was a good-looking bloke. And I wanted Fleur. God, I wanted Fleur. But it wasn't for her, or me, or us anymore. It was for him.

And I hated it.

I still do. I hate that I did that. I hate that we became them and me.

But I love her. I still love her.

And they think that it's Bill. They think it's Bill that makes me feel this way. All of them. I can see it when they look at me. In their eyes – such pity. There's kindness there too – I can see that. I know that. But the thing that sticks in my craw is the pity.

Because they think that it's Bill.

They're wrong.