It was horrific that I was thinking of these things. Babette was like my mother and she had been since I was sixteen. Her daughters were my sisters and she was my mentor above all else. I knew things about her that even her daughters didn't know. Things that could toppled her clans. She would be an idiot to try and lash out against me...
But it was nonsense. I couldn't give into my underlying fear of Babette. I was just as strong as she was. And if anyone was to blame for this situation, it was her.
"Babette." I enter the room with a smile and watch as she turns her face toward me, her smile tired but sincere as she sets her tea cup on the table between the high backed chairs and stands. We kiss each other's cheeks and she leads me to the chair, motioning for me to sit as she does the same. I relax and thank her when she pours me tea. She pauses briefly when our hands connect and her gaze holds mine intensely before she smiles again and leans back in her chair.
"It's been too long, Aveline. How have you been?"
"I've been...all right," I concede, folding my hands in my lap. "The Auror department has been dealing with overzealous vigilantes, as well as your typical minor crimes. It's kept us all on our toes lately."
Babette links her fingers together over her bent knee while she studies me. "I can imagine so. I've received numerous updates from Luc regarding Cleansweep. He tells me you've not been to check on progress since your divorce."
I choose my words carefully. "Luc is perfectly capable of handling the company on his own. Between the two of you, I am sure Cleansweep is in good hands."
"And the fortune you've acquired from Worthington?"
Most of my "half" of Whizzy's fortune rested comfortably in a high security vault in Gringott's. "Untouched," I tell her. "Have you decided which investments you wish to make?"
"I believe it's in our best interest to hold off on such decisions. I assume you're still residing in the penthouse above the company?"
Nodding, I feel my stomach clench and I take a sip of tea. "Yes, but I've placed a bid on a house in the country."
This captures Babette's attention and her delicate eyebrows lift in surprise. Her lips curve into a small smile. "Is that so? Are you sure it's wise to live in the country, in a large house on your own? We have many people who would like to see us fail in our rise to power, Aveline. I don't wish for you to fall into an unpleasant situation."
I nearly choke on my tea with bitter laughter. My entire life had become an unpleasant situation because of her. The unsavory plans I carried out for her were just as unpleasant as the beginning of my marriage to Whizzy. And suddenly now Babette was concerned for me? Nevertheless, it was time to come clean with Babette and hope she would understand what I've chosen for myself. Very carefully I lean forward and set the tea cup on the table next to her own. Then I straighten and look at her in the eyes, not wanting to lose any ground by avoiding her gaze.
"I'll be purchasing the house to live in with a man, Babette. A man I've come to care about deeply since my divorce."
If Babette was surprised, she didn't show it. Instead she tapped her fingernail against her knee casually and her lips pursed before they smiled. "Well, this is wonderful news. I'm pleased that you've been able to find happiness, Aveline. When will I get a chance to meet him?"
"You can meet him whenever you please," I tell her simply. "However, there is something else you should know."
"Oh Goddess, help me." Babette laughs and lifts a manicured hand to her heart. "I have come home to so many unpleasant surprises and unexpected news. I will accept anything you tell me, darling, as long as I do not hear the name Weasley."
My sanity near shatters and I am torn between screaming and laughing hysterically. The sound that escapes my lips caught somewhere in between. Babette's nails curl subtly in her cashmere and I lean forward, my elbows resting on my thighs as I steeple my fingers against my lips.
"Aveline?" The tone is dangerous and I hear the hint of desperation and warning.
"His name is Charlie Weasley." I force it out, snatching the bandage off quickly rather than prolonging the sting. "Yes, he is Bill Weasley's younger brother...Fred Weasley's older. Yes, he was in a relationship with Randall's ex-wife...current lover. He came to me after they reunited. We've been living together for a few weeks now, and I am sorry I kept this from you, but I know your contempt for his family. He and I fell into a physical relationship right away but we care about each other. I recently found out I was pregnant, and yes, it's Charlie's child."
I am practically panting by the time I finish and Babette stares at me, her lips parted slightly and her fingers now digging into the material of her jumper. I await her rage, brace myself for it, but Babette stuns me by calmly placing her hands in her lap. She reaches out to me and touches my cheek, causing me to flinch. She laughs softly.
"Aveline, darling, I'm not going to strike you down. Do you fear me?"
"I fear your disappointment," I admit, exhaling slowly.
"I would be lying if I said I didn't despise the Weasleys. They've taken my daughters from me, they turned them into common whores. Goddess, help me." Babette stands and walks to the fireplace, her hand reaching up to the mantle as she sighs. "I could handle Gabrielle's choice, had it been under different circumstances. But she betrayed my trust, whored herself and then lied to me. Fleur is different. She is with that beast, with his tainted bloodline. It's unforgivable. I cannot accept it."
I watch her, watch the licks of fire illuminate her pale face before she turns to me. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't the soft smile on her face as she bends down in front of me and takes my hands in hers. "You are just as much my daughters as Gabrielle and Fleur were. You have been loyal to me, Aveline and I have always planned on rewarding you. You're going to have a child, and though I am loathe to admit it, the Weasleys, excluding their diseased son, are Purebloods. You carry a strong heir in your womb." Her hands squeeze mine gently before she straightens. "I think I would like to meet this young man, at your convenience."
"Y-Yes, Babette, of course."
"Wonderful." She smiles again. "Shall we have lunch now?"
"Lunch sounds wonderful." I stand and soften when she reaches down to touch my abdomen.
"You have a very bright future ahead for yourself, Aveline. That much I can promise you."
I hope so, Gods I hope so.
Babette takes my hand and leads me from the room and my free hand drifts to my stomach where Charlie's baby is growing.