Whizzy, George and Fred discuss the impending success of the Wheezes expansion but all I hear are their muted voices as my concerns overwhelm me. I didn't know how Fred and George could forge a business partnership with a man who hurt their brother. Maybe I was still too young and naive...it was another reason why I would be no good in running a business. Perhaps I was simply too nice. Too full of family loyalty?
"I'm sorry to interrupt," I say abruptly, effectively cutting Whizzy off mid-sentence as I stare at him across the table. I lean forward slightly, my brows furrowed in confusion. "I suppose I just don't understand, Mr. Worthington--"
"You can call me Whizzy, Gabrielle, we've discussed this..."
"And it's quite simple," he continues with his charming smile. "If we start expanding in Europe before America, we will already have control over--"
I wave my hand impatiently. "You say Tonks is living with you now."
Confused, Whizzy stammers and then glances between George and Fred before focusing on me with a small smile. "Not living per se. She is staying with me at the current time."
"Because she broke up with Charlie."
"Yes, that is right."
"Because you kissed her."
"Er, yes." His smile fades and I can feel Fred fidget to my left. He reaches below the table and places his hand on my knee to keep my leg from bouncing up and down. He gives it a soft squeeze but I ignore him as Whizzy continues. "I know it is a rather awkward situation for everyone involved but I do promise to keep my personal life from jeopardizing Fred and George's business. I would hope Charlie would do the same."
I snort slightly and lean back in my chair before folding my arms across my chest. "Do you have brothers?"
Whizzy taps his steepled fingers together, expressing his patience at my questioning. "I have a sister."
My temper rises and I place my hands on the edge of the table as my tone takes on an accusing tone. "Would you be okay if Charlie had stolen Aveline from you and then formed a business partnership with your sister, keeping him in your face constantly with the reminder of his betrayal?"
Whizzy jerks back as if I've slapped him and he frowns before Fred turns to me and takes my arm. "Gabs, let's go talk."
"I don't want to talk," I say coolly, glaring at Whizzy. "I just don't see how this is okay with everyone because it's not okay with me!" I stand, partly on my own accord and partly by Fred tugging me out of the chair. I glower at him before turning to George and doing the same. "You may be fine with hurting your brother to make a few Galleons, but Aveline is practically my sister and I can only imagine what this might feel like for her."
"Gabs," Fred hisses into my ear. "They're divorced, remember?"
"So? It doesn't mean she doesn't love him anymore...she--Fred!" He pulls me away from the table as George clears his throat and begins to apologize to Whizzy. Fred leads me toward the back of the tavern near the loos and he sighs as he releases me and blocks my path back to the table.
"For Merlin's sake, Gabrielle, this is a business meeting."
I cross my arms under my breasts and scowl. "I can't believe you would do this. Whizzy stole Tonks from Charlie and you're willing to work with him? What if you were in Charlie's position?"
"Look," Fred sighs, lifting a hand to his temple. "My personal feelings about this can't interfere with what George and I need to do. This is a fantastic opportunity, not only for the business, but for us. George is getting married and Merlin knows I want to marry you someday. Whizzy's investment in the shops will secure our future and our family's future."
"You don't need his money," I insist. "Give me time and I'll get you the money you need to expand."
"I'm not taking your mother's money."
"Fred," I whine, trying to resist stomping my feet.
"Enough, Gabrielle!" He silences me by lifting a hand and I can see by the look in his eye that this argument is over. I frown and turn away, trying to resist him when he takes me gently by the arm. He steps in front of me and cups my face, lifting my chin until our eyes meet.
"I love you, and I love my brother. And you have to know I would never do anything purposely to hurt Aveline, knowing that you care about her. But you have to accept this is happening. I know my brother and he'll have to understand that this is strictly business."
"And if he doesn't?"
"Then Merlin help us," Fred jokes quietly and he kisses my forehead. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Please just be nice to Whizzy, at least until lunch is over. Please, love."
I hesitate and look away before I finally sigh and nod. "Fine."
"Thank you." He kisses my lips gently and I melt into him before he pulls away and takes my hand. "Let's go eat some free fish and chips."
I follow him back to the table silently. I would be nice to Whizzy for Fred and George but I don't know if I could ever understand how someone could betray a friend the way he did. I don't know how Tonks could betray Charlie either, when she was suppose to be in love with him...or even how Aveline could divorce Whizzy when it was clear in her eyes she still loved him too. Why were they all so damn difficult?
I squeeze Fred's hand softly and pray to the Goddesses that I would never find myself in such a tangled web like that one. With Fred by my side...I knew I had nothing to worry about.