"Is that all?"
"Oh." Glancing down at the menu again I bite my lip and skim the lunch specials. "I'll take a side salad...extra dressing, and maybe a small plate of chips. Actually instead of the extra roll, could you just bring a basket?"
"Er, yes, of course. And you ma'am?" The waiter looks desperately to Fleur who is staring at me over her own menu. She tears her gaze from mine and hands the waiter her menu.
"Ze chicken salad, low fat dressing, please? And a water."
He seems relieved and grabs my menu quickly from me before he disappears into the growing lunch crowd. I scowl at his back and shift in the uncomfortable wooden chair before focusing on Fleur. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
She smiles and shrugs, pushing a lock of golden hair behind her ear. "Eet ees funny to see you ordering so much food. I 'ave never seen you do more zan pick at your salads when we would eat togezzer."
"Well, I'm eating for two, aren't I?" I reply impatiently. "Charlie just stared at me last night at dinner. It was like he had never seen a woman eat a hamburger before." Fleur lifts a delicate eyebrow in question and I look away, my cheeks burning slightly. I wasn't about to tell her it was two cheese hamburgers and a plate full of chips. And a slice of chocolate cake afterward... "Anyway, thankfully all my weight gain has been in my stomach. My shoes still fit."
"You still 'ave a few months to go," Fleur points out, failing to hide her grin. "Eet ees only a matter of time before you start to waddle."
I grimace at the thought. "Don't even joke about that."
"'ow was your birthing class? I feel terrible zat I 'ad to cancel on you. Did you reschedule?"
"No, actually, Randall was there. He stayed to be my coach." There is a pause in conversation as the waiter returns with my salad and our drinks. I spear a small tomato quickly and pop it in my mouth as Fleur watches me.
Nodding I try not to speak too much with my mouth full of vegetables. "How many Randalls do we know?"
"I was under ze impression you were not speaking."
Lifting one shoulder, I shrug and take a sip of my tea. "We've been able to maintain a civil relationship now. It's still a bit awkward..." Trailing off I stare at my salad before looking up at my friend. "But at least he isn't accusing me of trying to kill his mother any longer."
Fleur snorts in before she waves her hand impatiently. "Ze man should know zat you saved ze old hag's life. Eet's wrong for 'er to fuel his suspicions zat you caused her 'eart attack."
"At this point I don't care. It doesn't affect me," I assure her. "I'm just happy he seems to be past wanting to see me rot. And we ran into each other while shopping for some baby items." I explain what happened with the crib Charlie had put on hold and I find myself smiling. "He gave it up though, and tried to pass it off that the clerk made an error, but I saw right through that. I don't know if he truly wanted me to have the crib, or if he was afraid of what I would do to him in my hormonal state. But we were able to laugh a bit. It was...nice."
Fleur's lips quirk softly. "Eet was nice?"
"Yes." I take another bite of salad and feel her eyes burning into mine. I can practically read her mind and I wait until I swallow before I speak. "Don't even think it, Fleur."
Her eyes widen innocently and she places her hand against her heart. "Aveline, I am not theenking anyzing! I am glad you and Randall are getting along again. Eet was 'ard not to slap 'im for what 'e 'as done and said when I was around him for ze photoshoots."
It's my turn to snort. "I bet he would have liked it as long as you were prancing around in a skimpy outfit."
Fleur rolls her eyes and grows silent as the waiter sets our food in front of us. I pretend not to notice that all my plates take up over half of the table. When he leaves she begins to cut her salad into small pieces. "You sound like Bill."
"Is he still giving you grief over the modeling?"
"'e theenks I do eet for ze attention."
"You do." I reply calmly and pick up a knife to cut my roast.
"Well zat ees not ze point," she says with an air of exasperation. "'e theenks I feel 'e is not good enough for me. Zat some man ees going to steal me from 'im because of ze photos, which ees ridiculous. 'e 'as never said eet, but I theenk 'e feels ze photos are one step up from pornography."
I chew the roast slowly, trying to pace myself from devouring the entire meal in room full of strangers. "They're very tastefully done and you look gorgeous in them."
"But," I continue, "Bill is a man. He's probably a bit insecure, considering, and have you ever thought that maybe...after his accident...that he is a bit more possessive? I mean, he's different now, then before, you know? Perhaps he's a bit more..." I try to find the proper word. "Beastial."
"You mean 'e's ze alpha male urniating around 'is bitch to keep ze ozzer wolves away?"
I nearly choke on my roast then and cough before grabbing her water and taking a long gulp. Once the discomfort passes I hand her back the water and wipe my mouth with my napkin before releasing a short laugh. "Well I guess that is one way of putting it, yes."
She makes a dismissive sound in her throat. "I'm not a woman who ees going to be kept, Aveline. I like my jobs and I like making my own money as well. I love Bill and 'e is everyzing I want and I theenk I 'ave proven zat many times. I 'ave tried to make 'im understand zat I am not going to be barefoot and pregnant while he plays ze man of ze 'ouse."
"But you are trying to get pregnant, aren't you?" I ask curiously and she sighs, her eyes drifting down to her barely touched salad.
"I suppose. I don't know. I theenk eet was a matter of eet will 'appen when it 'appens, though Bill 'as been, er trying a bit 'arder zan I 'ave."
"Non. And we 'ave been making love nearly every day, or we 'ad been. 'e seems distracted lately, but I theenk eet ees just 'is new job."
"Bill has a new job?" I ask, somewhat surprised. "He's no longer with Gringotts?"
Fleur shakes her head, a thoughtful look entering her eyes as she turns and skims over the nameless faces. "'e is working for some wealthy benefactor, Blackfoot ees 'is name. 'e imports and exports antiques. Bill breaks ze curses from ze more valuable items."
"He runs a shipping company?" I ask pointedly.
Fleur blinks and looks at me, before revelation crosses her features. "Oh, no, 'e is not affiliated with my muzzer at all. Eet ees more of an independent company I theenk. Zey pay 'im a ridiculous amount of money, but 'e 'as come 'ome many nights with bandages. I don't theenk eets very safe but 'e does what 'e wants and what 'e enjoys and eet's not my place to tell him ozzerwise."
"Well, you support him and that's all that matters," I assure her. "I know he loves you and wants to make you happy. Do you have a date for the wedding yet?"
She smiles sheepishly and lifts her hand to observe her ridiculously large diamond. "Actually no. Bill wants to get married as soon as possible, but since ze engagement, eet 'asn't really come up."
"You want to marry him, don't you?"
"Oui! Of course," Fleur replies, shooting me an odd look. "But I am in no 'urry. We are togezzer and love each ozzer and zat ees all we need. I am sure zat is why you and Charlie 'ave not discussed marriage, right?"
I sip my tea thoughtfully. "We're comfortable with what we have. We don't need marriage to solidify it. He's my best friend, company excluded," I add playfully when Fleur narrows her eyes at me. "He helped me through some pretty rough times and I owe him so much for that."
"You do love him."
"Of course I do. We mean a lot to one another."
Fleur hums in her throat thoughtfully before the cheque is placed on our table. We both grab for it but Fleur manages to snatch it before I can.
"Let me--" I begin but she ignores me and pulls out her purse. "Fleur, I ordered like half the menu."
"I 'ave a new shoot scheduled with ze twins and I got my advancement cheque. Eets my treat," she announces smugly and places the proper amount on the cheque before it flies from her hands back to the front of the tavern. I ignore the fact that my plates are nearly scraped clean as we gather our things and stand.
"New photos? For the fall?"
She nods and pulls on her cloak. "Zey are going to be beautiful photos. Ze twins and Randall are extremely talented as ze marketing. I theenk eet's going to be quite scandalous." Her eyes shimmer with excitement.
I laugh and we walk out of the Leaky Cauldron, immediately greeted by the July breeze. Before I can say another word, two fairly attractive wizards approach us...well, Fleur. They practically salivate as they ask for her autograph which she pleasantly gives. I stand back and bite my lip to keep from laughing. Fleur was beyond gorgeous but it was always strange for me to see men make complete fools of themselves around her, probably because it never seemed to faze her. She always seemed...bored, even on the rare occasions when she would flirt or smile back. Bill was the only man I had ever seen Fleur lose herself in.
"Do you ever regret...not being with other men?" I ask her as we walk through Diagon Alley back to London.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you were with Bill when you were seventeen..."
"Paddy," she reminds me.
"Okay, two men," I concede. "But you could really have anyone you wanted."
"I didn't want anyone else," Fleur replies simply. "I 'ave only ever wanted Bill. But why do you ask?"
"Well, you're famous now," I point out. "You didn't notice but nearly every man in the tavern looked at you, even if they were with a woman. I know how much you like the attention, and that's certainly not a bad thing, but do you ever wish you could act on it? All these men sending you letters, approaching you?"
Fleur smiles a bit and looks over at me. "Aveline, you are nearly as beautiful as I am. I 'ave seen men so many times look your way but you never give zem any notice and I do theenk you know you could seduce any man of your choosing whenever you wanted. And I also know you 'ave only been with...four men now?"
"Four?" I ask, struggling to recall if she was right.
"Zere was zat boy, Carson, after you left 'ogwarts, zen Malcolm, zen Charlie, zen Randall."
"Wow, you're right. Four is a lot."
"Eet ees not!"
"Okay, let's stop talking about it now." Laughing, I cover my face with my hand. "I guess we were both waiting for the right man. You just found him much earlier."
"And now you 'ave yours, oui?"
I look at Fleur thoughtfully for a moment as the question hangs in the air. My hand touches my stomach briefly. "Yes, of course."
"Promise me we'll have lunch togezzer again soon. I do not see you or Gabrielle nearly enough anymore and I miss my sisters."
"I promise." We reach the Apparition point and she grips my hand tightly before releasing me. She Apparates back to work and I wait a moment before I follow. I make my way back to the department, my stomach full of food and my bladder threatening to burst. As I take a detour to the bathroom, I desperately try not to think about much I feel like I am waddling.