“Charlie,” Tonks hissed, hiding in their neatly-arranged closet, cellphone pressed to their cheek. “What have you done?”
“What do you mean, Nym?” Charlie asked, his voice tinny through the connection.
“I mean,” Tonks said, cupping their mouth to muffle the sound, “Fleur! She’s nothing like you described.”
“What did I say?” He sounded amused. “She’s a friend of Bill’s. She’s from France. She’s going to law school. As far as I know, that’s all true.”
“Yes, but it was implied that we would get along. That we’d be compatible flatmates.”
“Nym, she just got there,” Charlie laughed. “Give her time.”
“She’s- she’s,” Tonks stuttered.
“Don’t tell me you’re gotten all xenophobic on me,” Charlie said.
“No,” Tonks muttered. “It’s just... She has this gorgeous accent, but she also has about two hundred pairs of shoes.”
“That seems like a stretch,” he laughed.
“You’re not here,” Tonks reminded him. “You just had to fuck off to Romania and leave me with an extra room to lease.”
“You’ll survive.” They could practically see the smirk on his smug face. “Just give her a real chance. Bill said she’s cool.”
When Tonks didn’t immediately answer, Charlie continued, his voice laced with concern, “Okay? Promise me, Nym.”
“Fine,” they sighed. “I promise.”
After a weighty pause, Tonks continued, “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too,” he said softly.
The silence that followed was broken by the unmistakable clanging of kitchen pans, and Tonks grimaced and murmured, “I should go. Call me soon?”
“Of course. And I’ll see you on Zoom on Tuesday regardless.”
“Yeah,” Tonks smiled, some of the tension easing from their shoulders. The two of them collaborated on videos for YouTube and TikTok, although Charlie hadn’t made it his career, like they had. Much to Tonks’ consternation, their most popular collaborations with Charlie had been the ones centered around his little menagerie of animals, rather than their joint series on romantic attraction and identity.
Tonks hung up the phone and slowly emerged from their closet, pushing aside colorful button-up shirts and band T-shirts, and dusted off their ratty jeans. After a few deep, calming breaths, they emerged from their room and found Fleur poised over the stove. She had three different pans out and the countertop was littered with vegetable scraps and used dishes. How on earth had she already managed to make such a mess of their kitchen?
“Hi,” Tonks smiled awkwardly, trying to set their annoyance aside. “Are you finding everything you need?”
Fleur’s deep blue eyes flicked towards Tonks for the barest moment. She tilted her chin, seeming to mull over the question. Tonks shifted where they stood with growing unease.
“You need better knives,” she said, tossing her long silvery-blonde hair over her shoulder. “These are so dull they’re nearly unusable.”
Tonks bristled automatically, but immediately tried to de-escalate. Charlie said to give her a chance, they reminded themself. You promised.
“You’re not wrong,” they conceded. “I’ve been meaning to get them sharpened.”
Fleur offered a small smile and glanced back down at the stove. Feeling dismissed, Tonks shuffled towards the door, tripping on the upturned rug. Balance restored, they asked, “Do you need anything from the store? I think we’re out of milk.”
“Wine,” Fleur nodded. “Something a little nicer. A Syrah, perhaps? Something that will pair well with the chicken.”
“Sure,” Tonks stifled a laugh. Of course Fleur would want something expensive. Her tastes were stamped all over her fine cashmere sweaters and tailored trousers.
But when they returned to the flat, Fleur had set the table for two. It was hard to be too put off when the coq au vin was so good.
“Fleur, this is amazing,” Tonks mumbled, eyes fluttering closed. “Where did you learn to cook like this?”
After a pause, Fleur answered, “My grand-maman. She lived next door to us when we were young. I would watch her cook for hours.”
“That must have been nice,” Tonks blinked as they reached for their wine glass. “I didn’t really get to know my grandparents. My dad’s parents died when I was little, and my mum had a falling out with hers.”
“It was,” Fleur nodded. “Nice, that is. She let me hide in her kitchen with a book when I wanted some time ‘alone.’ And she let me taste everything.”
Tonks smiled, imagining a woman with Fleur’s blue eyes and fair skin, but with a kind, wrinkled face. Someone who hummed as they worked and wiped their hands on a large, floral apron tied around their waist.
“I’m sorry about your grandparents,” Fleur continued haltingly. “That must have been difficult.”
“Not really,” they shrugged. “I never knew them. I mean, sometimes I mourn the idea of them. Having grandparents, I mean. But that’s a bit different, isn’t it?”
“Perhaps. But I’ve been told that it’s still possible to grieve someone you didn’t know.”
Tonks took a sip, pleasantly surprised by how nice a time they were having. Maybe this could work, the two of them as flatmates.
After they finished their food and the wine, Tonks insisted on doing the majority of cleanup, leaving Fleur to her own devices. As they scrubbed pots and pans, the sound of the tap running in the bath carried to the kitchen. Tonks batted away the mild resentment that bubbled up, that Fleur hadn’t asked if they needed to use the toilet before they drew a bath. It was fine, though. Tonks was sure that she’d be out soon enough.
She was not, in fact. An hour passed, and then two, and Tonks’s foot jiggled anxiously. Yes, they had to pee, but they also needed to shower and get ready for bed.
“Fleur, are you done in there?” They rapped against the door, a bite creeping into their tone.
“No.” Her voice was firm, utterly unyielding. “I haven’t washed my hair yet.”
“It’s been two hours,” Tonks grit out.
“I’ll be out soon,” Fleur snapped, before seeming to catch herself. “I’m sorry. I really will be out after I’ve finished with my hair. Ten minutes, tops.”
Tonks was knee-deep in video editing when Fleur came home from class, but they paused to watch as she toed off her pumps and dropped her messenger bag in front of the door. She was already eyeing the wine cabinet, a new but beloved installation in the flat.
“Hey,” Tonks smiled tentatively, trying to squash their annoyance at Fleur’s constant little messes. “How was your day?”
“Exhausting,” Fleur laughed wryly, pouring herself a glass. She lingered by the kitchen counter before seeming to make up her mind, gliding over to the stuffed armchair that sat adjacent to the sofa, where Tonks had set up. “How was yours?”
“Productive! I finished up filming a new series on gender expression and I’ve made some good progress on post-production as well.”
“That’s great,” Fleur smiled. “What’s the series about? That’s a pretty broad topic.”
“This series gives some tips on how people who were assigned female at birth can play with more masculine presentation. Clothes, makeup, mannerisms, etc.”
“That sounds like it could help a lot of people.” Fleur took a sip of her wine, long fingers curled gracefully around the stem.
“That’s the idea,” Tonks hummed. “Gender expression is something I’ve spent a lot of time learning about, and I want to be able to share that.” They nodded at the speaker. “Is the music okay? I can turn it down if you want.”
“No, I like it,” Fleur’s eyes fluttered shut and her head tilted back onto the chair.
Oh and once everything starts to shift
Tip the weight that makes this whole thing give
Oh but I don't know where to put my hands
And the thought of silence makes me sick
Tonks let their fingers rest on the laptop as the chorus washed over them. Fleur hummed under her breath at first, nodding along with the beat, but soon she was singing quietly, noticeably off-key. Tonks hid a smile.
Fleur seemed to remember herself as her phone buzzed. She picked it up and peered at the screen. Her fingers flew as she typed a response.
“My sister, Gabrielle,” she explained. “I miss her terribly.”
“I’m sure,” Tonks smiled sympathetically. They didn’t have any siblings, but Charlie was as close as a brother. “Will she come visit you here?”
“I hope so. But she’ll be quite busy with school this year, so I’m not sure.”
Her phone buzzed again. She glanced back at Tonks. “Bill wants to know if you’ve murdered me yet. Should I be concerned?”
Tonks laughed, thinking guiltily of their annoyance over the lack of hot water in the evenings. “Tell him to stop worrying. We’re doing alright, yeah?”
Fleur glanced at them in what might have been amusement, but it was hard to tell with Fleur. Regardless, her long fingers swiped across the screen with mesmerizing speed.
Living with Fleur, Tonks felt a constant push and pull within themself. On the one hand, Fleur was surprisingly enjoyable to be around. She cooked most nights and always set out a plate for Tonks, even if they were working late. The two of them had surprisingly compatible taste in music and it wasn’t uncommon for them to take turns queuing their favorite songs.
On the other hand, Fleur habitually left her things all over the flat. Shoes littered the hallway and living room. Her makeup and face creams lay in a jumble across the shared bathroom vanity. If Tonks wasn’t so clumsy, they might not have minded, but since they frequently stumbled over the clutter or accidentally knocked products off the sink, they were constantly reminded of Fleur’s sprawling influence over the flat. Even worse, because Tonks used the flat for work, and filming in particular, Tonks worked hard to keep it tidy.
In fact, Tonks had just tripped over a strappy sandal on the way to another of Fleur’s impressive meals. They were considering how to reconcile the mixture of appreciation and annoyance they were feeling towards her, when Fleur broke the otherwise comfortable silence.
“Merde!” Fleur huffed in frustration, eyes glued to her phone as she set her wine glass down.
“What is it?” Tonks asked, taking another delicious bite of the boeuf bourguignon they had been salivating over for the last couple hours. Fleur had been right; it was definitely worth the wait.
“A co-worker at my internship,” Fleur explained, her pretty mouth twisted. “He’s being completely unreasonable. I don’t understand it at all.”
“Can I see?” Tonks asked. “Maybe I can help?”
Fleur passed her phone over. Tonks furrowed their brows as they read through the email chain.
“Fleur, your tone in this email...” Tonks glanced up. “You were pretty rude to him. I understand why he reacted like he did.”
“I wasn’t rude. I was simply being straight-forward and honest with him,” Fleur said, her tone indicating this was a conversation she’d had more than once. “I do not think that should be considered rude.”
“My god,” Tonks huffed a laugh. “I can’t believe you don’t see it. Is this a cultural thing?”
Fleur’s fair skin flushed with heat and she stiffened, replying coldly, “I’m autistic.”
Tonks’ eyes widened in understanding. “Oh! That makes so much more sense.”
She shrugged and stood up from the table, taking her finished plate to the sink. “Most people don’t realize.”
Tonks lingered at the table, gathering the rest of the dirty dishes as their mind whirred. Fleur truly wasn’t rude, they realized. She was honest, but never mean. She had a nightly routine that involved hours in the bath but that might be something she needed. Had Tonks judged her too quickly?
“I’m sorry,” Tonks said quietly. “I’m now realizing that if anyone’s been an ass, it’s been me.”
“You haven’t been an ass,” Fleur shook her head, taking Tonks’s dishes, her fingers leaving soap suds on Tonks’s.
“Well, I feel like one,” they snorted. “What do you need? I want you to feel comfortable here. And I know we’ve had some... conflict around living together so far.”
“I know I’m not the easiest person to live with.” The corners of Fleur’s mouth turned down.
“No!” Tonks rushed to reassure her. “Honestly, I’ve been holding you to an impossible standard, I think. Charlie and I had years of practice living together. It was unfair of me to expect that you would slide right into the space he left behind.”
“Oh.” Fleur visibly softened. “Thank you, Tonks.”
“Nym,” they corrected her with a gentle smile. “You can call me Nym.”