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Coming Back a Swan by Ginny_RED_Potter
Chapter 16 : Surprises; Part One
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 61


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Chapter 16
~ Surprises; Part One


The clouds never expect it when it rains
The sea changes colours but the sea does not change
And so with the slow graceful flow of age
I went forth with an age old
Desire to please
On the edge of seventeen
~Edge of Seventeen, Stevie Nicks


~


Over the next week and a half, I didn't talk to either of my siblings and they didn't give any indication that they wanted to talk to me. Leah went on pretending to be normal and none of us had the nerve to confront her (especially not me- because one, I was pretty sure this whole mess was my fault and two, I'd had more than my share of confrontation this month- and they didn't go so well). But, with the exception of my faking friend, things got too hectic for any of us to stop and think about that disastrous night at my parents' much. Because it was August and that meant my birthday was approaching.

Not just my birthday, my seventeenth-the biggest birthday of them all.

My mother had come to France the day after Michael's party to tie up some last minute loose ends in the planning and Grandmere was busy making sure that the hill housing the gigantic blue tent repelled all of the Muggles. I wasn't allowed anywhere near the tent (because they didn't want me to see how they were decorating it) nor was I allowed to go shopping with my friends when they went to Paris for my birthday gifts.

The only one who didn't go was Henri, which instantly made me suspicious of course. But when I asked him why he was staying all he'd say was "Well someone's got to make sure you stay out of trouble."

So the pair of us walked down to the smaller village nearby and spent the day debating the sexual orientations of every mildly decent looking person (male or female) that walked by.

"I'm telling you, he's straight. And, by the looks of it, ready for commitment."

"How could you possibly know that?"

I sighed heavily, wondering how he could have spent even more years with my cousin and best friends and not know this. Blokes were so dense sometimes, it was really quite embarrassing. "One, he's well-groomed-"

"That could just mean he's narcissistic."

"All men are narcissistic," I told him disparagingly. "That doesn't mean they dress well, shave or practice personal hygene and the like."

"Fair enough. But doesn't that just prove that he bats for your team, not mine?"

"No," I rolled my eyes. "It means that he's mature and knows how to attract women. And two, his left ear is pierced which mean he knows how to handle pain and he's bought jewlery before. Perfect candidate for marriage."

Henri rolled his eyes at this assesment but chose not to argue it further. Instead he persued a new topic, "So, have you had any say in this party so far?"

I took another sip of my drink then answered, "Um, no. Well... I did get to pick out my own dress."

He laughed, "Aren't you worried?"

"About?"

"I dunno, the guest list or the decorations or the fact that, knowing your luck, the tent might very well blow away in the event of a natural disaster?"

I laughed and roll my eyes at his attempt of a joke. "No, no and no. Because Grandmere is perfectly aware of who I'd want to come, mum and Brigitte know my taste in decor and that tent has had so many charms and spells put on it I doubt a giant could move that thing."

"Touche. So what do you think you'll do first?"

"I dunno," I smiled bemusedly. "I s'pose hexing Bayard Dubose might be fun."

He laughed, "While your at it will you get Gigi Montreal as well?"

"Gladly," I grinned. Gigi was one of the very few people at Beaubaxtons that I'd ever truely disliked. And it was safe to assume the feeling was mutual, if the nasty looked she and her friends always shot us when we passed them were any indication. "Though, I highly doubt that either Bayard or Gigi will be at my party. So, it probably won't be my first act of magic."

"True," he shrugged. "What about that girl over there?"

I scanned the face he'd indicated in mild confusion. "Are you sure she's a she?"

He grinned wickedly, "Not entirely."

And just then a girl in a very short skirt walked up and planted a giant sloppy looking kiss on the person in question.

"Guess that answers what team their for."

I stifled a giggle, "Now the question is, what gender are they?"

"One of the great mysteries of life I'm afraid."

***

"Suck it in, you cow!"

"I am! But you’re hurting me, you mental bint! I don't want my ribs crushed!"

"You're the one who insisted we wear these to begin with! Quit whining!"
 
Lynnie gave Bee's dress a vicious tug and I stifled a laugh. They were so juvenile.

"Can somebody please do my make-up? The liquid liner keeps picking a fight with me."

"I'll do it, Leah," I said.

"You can't!" Bee objected indignantly.

"My nails are dry," I told her. "And I'm bored just sitting here."

Even though my party didn't start until eleven tonight, they'd woke me up at six a.m. Then, they'd proceeded to pluck, pinch and polish every inch of me all day; until they were satisfied enough to start getting ready themselves. I'd been ordered to sit there and look pretty until they were all finished and then they'd help me into my dress.

Yes, they had to help me into my dress.

Grandmere had insisted the party be a black-tie event so the dresses we'd bought in Paris were even grander than the ones we'd worn for Tante O's wedding. It was going to be the birthday ball of the year, if she could help it.

The plan was for guests to arrive at eleven and mingle for an hour while swanky waiters and waitresses walked through the throngs with trays of hors d'oeuvres. At eleven thirty I was supposed to be making my big entrance and then a meal would be served. The birthday cake was to be brought out at midnight and then the party would truly begin.

Apparently, their were also a few surprises planned for me- and I can't say I wasn't horrified. I loathed surprises, but their intentions were good so I decided to suck it up and just focus on the vague curiosity rather than the mortification I was going to feel.

How I was going to stay up into the wee hours of tomorrow morning- seeing as I'd been ambushed at six a.m. - was beyond me though.

"But you’re the birthday girl!"

"Technically not til midnight," I smirked.

Realizing she was going to lose this one, my cousin heaved a particularly annoyed sigh. "Fine. But I swear to Agrippa if you mess up any of my handy work I will throttle you." She threatened.

"Relax, Bee." I laughed, grabbing the tube of makeup and began meticulously lining Leah's lids. "If I break a nail Lynnie can fix it."

"I don't know the spell."

"Then I'll wear white gloves to cover it." The sad thing was, they wouldn't stick out at this party.

Bee glared as Leah laughed but I could feel her shaking. No doubt, this was why she couldn't line her own eyes, she couldn't keep her hand steady. It was the first real indication I'd gotten since the night of Michael's party that she really still cared. Not that I didn't already know this, but still.

I could tell by the tense way her shoulders curled- as if she expected a blow to the head any moment- and the loud swallowing noises she was making that she was nervous. It was, after all, her ex's sister's birthday party. And- even though I hadn't spoken to either of my siblings since that night and had absolutely no intention to whatsoever - he was going to be there without a doubt. There was only a very slim chance that - due to the obscenely long guest list- they wouldn't see each other. But it was extremely slim, as they were my brother and best friend and would probably both be in the nucleus of activities.

I felt something in my chest tighten. Whether it was a result of the sympathy for my brother or my best friend, I had no idea. But I was almost as anxious as Leah seemed to be. This was exactly what I'd worried about when they started dating. And now I faced the question I'd asked myself a thousand times, who did my loyalties lie with? Did I side with Leah, one of the friends who'd helped me come out of my shell and had been more like a sister than my real one had? Or did I side with my big brother, the one who'd protected me from the jeers and bullying I'd endured at Hogwarts? The dilemma of all dilemmas. Though Michael was making it slightly easier since he hadn't talked to me in weeks.

But it was only one of the many questions swirling dizzily in my head.

Would they get back together? Would they fight again? Or would they both pretend they'd never known each other to begin with? This thought saddened me; even though it was better than the fighting option I still didn't like it.

"Allie, soutene ta tête!"

I'd clearly zoned out so thoroughly that I'd missed my friends finishing their party ensembles and retrieving my enormous dress from the closet. (Seriously, I've seen wedding gowns with less fabric.)

As they strategically maneuvered the dress around my form I felt my cheeks heat up. Suddenly wishing Grandmere would've made my party less of an affair and feeling ridiculously overdressed for anything but my own wedding, I was zipped and tied tightly into the gown and pushed towards the mirror.

Stunned.

That would be the only fitting word for my reaction.

Because I could hardly believe the girl staring back was me. Sure, I'd improved significantly over the last three years, with the help of les Anges. I could even be considered pretty now. But I'd never looked like this before. Lynnie's temporary hair darkening charm had made the ringlets piled atop my head- accented, not by the wretched itchy tiara Brigitte had fought to have me wear (for once unsuccessfully) but with little pearls Leah had suggested placing throughout- a startling jet black that contrasted with the blue in my gown and the unyielding paleness of my English skin (honestly, after three years you'd think I'd be tan by now) nicely.

I'd been worried about the lack of straps but the intricate bodice held so tight to my form (by magic, no doubt) that I doubted even starting a conga line would make it slip. I'd been unsure about the amount of cleavage the bodice gave me but, looking at it in the mirror, I realized it was just the right amount. Not slutty or not desperate, as I'd worried it would look. I fingered the flaring fabric of the skirt curiously; it felt like a cloud at my fingertips.

My eyes were the exact same color as the gown, I realized, as I searched the face looking back at me. She blinked in astonishment at my friends' handy work. Well, I had to hand it to them; they knew what they were doing. I looked exactly how I'd always wanted to at seventeen. Like a sophisticated, proper adult. A young woman of purpose with grace and composure.

And that made me panic. A large knot began to form in my throat as I realized I wasn't going to be able to live up to this look. It was too elegant, too sophisticated, too adult for me to handle.

"Je vais de ce voyage," I wailed.

Immediately they were clucking around me like a bunch of mother hens. It took me a second to realize that my mother, grandmother and aunts had all arrived upstairs to check on our progress and had joined in the fussing. A chorus of, "You won't trip!"s and "Don't be ridiculous!"s, met my exclaimation quicker than I would have believed possible.

It took me another several minutes to realize my sister was leaning in the door frame, the massive skirt of her pink gown blocking it completely. A vision if I ever saw one.

The knot in my throat swelled as I remembered the last time we'd been in the same room together.

"You know what my problem right now is? My nosy, absent sister who for once in her superficial existence won't mind her own fucking business and leave me the hell alone!"
The words had cut deep, as- I was sure-they'd been meant to. They'd swirled around in my head for the past few weeks in an endlessly dizzying circle. Ringing in my ears agonizingly. In every spare moment, I'd analyzed, criticized and cried over them unable to help myself and entirely unsure of what to do. How was I supposed to help Saundra if she wasn't going to let me? And, after that horrid encounter at the party, should I even try?

Regardless, her presence wasn't exactly soothing.

I tried to ignore her sulking as best I could, force myself to breath and not cry my makeup off (as if there was a chance Bee had used non-waterproof mascara). But the tears came without my permission, a salty mixture of birthday jitters and sibling sorrow.

"Don't cry!" Brigitte blubbered, eyes getting shiny. She was mistaking the reason behind my tears, no doubt. She probably thought it was just because of my coming-of-age. "You'll- I- you're going to make me cry!"

Everyone but Saundra let out a shaky laugh.
 
Her eyes got, if possible, darker. But that didn't surprise me. Saundra had never liked it when Brigitte acted more like my sister than she did. Though I didn't see how she expected me to do anything about that. The fact remained that Brigitte and I were as close as sisters, and Saundra resented me too much to even come near that affinity.

I wondered vaguely, in a detatched chamber of my mind, if this was what my coming of age party was like; what kind of chaos, tafetta and emotion would be flying when it was my wedding?

"I can't help it!" I managed, voice cracking. I didn't bother correcting her assumption. "I'm just- I'm just-"

What was I? I had no idea.

Happy? With my sister, Saundra the Secretive and my brother and best friend broken up? Not bloody likely. Sad? It was my birthday and I was only standing there in the most gorgeous dress I'd ever seen! Overwhelmed? Most definitely, but not because of the grand affair my party was turning out to be. It was more the emotionally charged atmosphere the night was adopting already. I mean, we hadn't even gotten to the tent yet and it already felt like something out of a bad Rita Skeeter novel. It was almost too much for me to take.

Without having a clue as to why, I felt my knees wobbling beneath me- threatening to drop my weight completely. My face was in flames at my ultimate embarrassment. Why was I crying? It was such a cringe-worthy overreaction because I was not normally a crier (I rarely had a genuine reason to cry anymore) and I took pride in that fact.

"It's a big day," my mother said empathetically. The rest of them nodded in agreement. Seriously, you really would think I was getting married or something.

I mean, I know adulthood is big but I'm not so sure that it's black-tie-elaborate-gown big. A simple dance floor with music and cake would have sufficed.

"Now," my mother said, eyes shining with tears. "I want to give you your present."

Before I could make a syllable of protest, she'd grabbed a small velvet box from thin air and was handing it to me.

"Open it," she ordered.

I obliged, feeling the looming dread of my first surprise of the evening settle around me like a thick fog. I could tell that this wasn't something she'd bought at any old jewelry store. It was more likely to be some family heirloom that was to be passed on to me- the oldest daughter- and would drive an even deeper wedge between my sister and me. It was going to be a very long night.

The brilliant blue sapphire caused everyone but my mother and Saundra to gasp in awe, including me. It was flanked by two glittering diamonds hanging from a thin silver chain.

My mother beamed. "Do you like it, mon cheri? It was Grandmere's and her mother's and her mother's. It's been passed down through the generation for centuries. To every oldest daughter on her seventeenth birthday."

What can I say? When I'm right, I'm right. I'm not a Seer, but I do know my mother's family. They like the whole passed-down-for-generations thing, it suits the extravagance they surround themselves with. An extravagance I'd grown somewhat found of over the passed few years. The only problem that I kept getting stuck in on my way to happiness was tip-toeing around Saundra.

"I love it, mummy. Thank you," I faked a glittering smile. Trying deperately and failing, not to meet my sister's eyes. She was surprisingly indifferent, cold and untouchable as ice, just as when I'd last spoken to her. My mother took the necklace from the velvet box and fastened it around my neck delicately before I could say anything else.

"Lovely."

"Belle."
"Stunning."

"Magnifique."

"Gorgeous."

"Un vrai Cygne."

It seemed that every single one of my female relatives had some adjective or phrase to describe how I looked. But all I could think was, Merlin's beard, I'm going to trip in this thing and then I'll be laughed at from here to Australia. "Okay, I'm ready," I announced unnecessarily.

And then, it went dark.

Yes, Lynnie had whipped a blindfold out of Merlin only knows where (since her dress definitely didn't have pockets) and was tying it at the back of my head as my female relatives all giggled themselves out of the room.

"What are you-?"

"We want it to be a surprise," Bee informed me.

I groaned, "I hate surprises."

"You'll like these," Leah said with forced eagerness. There was not a doubt in my mind that she was thinking about Michael rather than the torture they were subjecting me to at the moment. Needless to say, I didn't exactly believe her.

They led me down the stairs- telling me when to step in and out of the château. They made me walk all the way up to the tent that way. I stumbled over stray sticks and abandoned burrows, listened for sounds of the party but heard only crickets and the devious laughter of my three friends. The night was a beautiful one, I could tell just by stepping outside. The breeze caressed my cheeks, trying to sooth me and the crisp air had a confidence about it that just declared beauty. I didn't have to see the stars twinkling in the sky to know they were there, the crickets seemed to be serenading them as we walked.

After what seemed like hours, we reached the tent. Giggling, my friends led me inside, where an array of sounds assaulted my ears, and I felt fingers at the back of my head, untying the blindfold. It fell away from my face and I gasped.

Blue. Everything was my signature color. More shades of blue than I knew existed adorened the room. The table clothes, the inside of the tent, the flames of the candles that floated through the air, even the roses in the elaborated center pieces on each table were blue. The whole room seemed to sparkle.

There were people mingling everywhere. Women looking breathtaking in an array of exquisite, and even some exotic, gowns and the men were all swoon-worthy in their dress robes. House-elves had been hired to carry trays of hors d'oeuvres and drinks in tall wine glasses around to offer to the guests and they bobbed in between the crowds of people eagerly serving.

There was a very large stage on one end of the tent with instruments and a background that looked like a projector screen (why was that there?) and even a giant dance floor waiting to be ambushed. And the whole room smelled of roses and lilacs and coconut and cookies and every other delicious aroma you could possibly think of.

All in all, Grandmere had thoroughly out done herself.

It wasn't more than a few seconds before I was being ushered through the crowd of well-wishers to a table right in the center of things. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were all at the next table and my cousins sat at the table next to them. I didn't ask where my siblings were, nor did I have any desire to run into either of them. If I went through the whole night without having to communicate with Saundra and Michael, I would be a very happy girl.

"What do you think?" Brigitte asked eagerly.

"It's- it's," I struggled to find a word for it. And, ridiculously, felt tears spring to my eyes.

"Don't cry!" Lynnie laughed. "You'll mess up your makeup and Grandmere will think you don't like it." She dried my tears with one of the fancy napkins on the table maternally before saying, "You do like it, right?"

I laughed. "Of course! It's brilliant!"

Brigitte was positively beaming, though how she could've possibly been worried I wouldn't like it was beyond me. She'd always been excellent at knowing exactly what people liked, what their style was. It was something she paid meticulous attention to and one of the many things that made Brigitte... well, Brigitte. She noticed minute details, even if it occasionally meant she missed the big picture.

"Now," Lynnie said in a businesslike voice, linking her arms with mine and Leah's. "Let's go mingle, shall we?"

"Yes, let's." My cousin agreed, neither of them seeming to notice how quiet Leah was being. She just linked her arm with mine and then she and Bee pulled Leah and I into the throngs of party guests.

It was then that I got that horrible sinking sensation in my stomach, as if someone had shoved rocks in my mouth and they'd dropped down my esophagus to my stomach without my knowledge. My heart jumped to my throat, which had gone suddenly dry. And a strange rushing was in my ears blocking all sounds of the babble around me.

And that was due to the fact that I'd just spotted a pack of wretchedly familiar teenagers that did not attend Beaubaxtons. My eyes darted around the room, only to see more and more of them. They were everywhere! How had I not noticed them beforehand?

Oh. Right. Blindfold.

I tried to swallow but my mouth was a desert. My mind reeled as it tried to either wrap around the realization or block it defensively, I wasn't quite sure. My vision fuzzed around the edges and my breathing quickened. Yes, it was safe to say I'd gone full-on panic attack.

My friends were too wrapped up in greeting people we knew to notice the ones that we didn't. But I noticed.

And as my thoughts stumbled over each other and tried to untangle, tried to make sense of something, one question pushed to the forefront of my chaotic brain.

How the hell had my seventeenth been plagued by fucking Hogwarts students?

***

It was official. I now had a serious gripe with every single member of my immediate family.

My father was distant and couldn't bother trying to understand me. My sister was secretive and hated me for being happy. My brother had lost all of his loyalty and broke up with my best friend. And now my mother. My mother!
Ugh! I didn't even want to think about it. It was making me sick. My resolution not to confront people anymore had gone completely out the window.

But how could she do this to me? How?!

Once I stumbled over this revelation, I'd broken away from my friends, gone to my parents' and grandparents' table and demanded in a hushed voice that my mother tell me what the hell was going on. I spoke in French so the vaguely familiar woman she was talking to (I was almost positive she was a Hogwarts mom that I'd seen at King's Cross when we'd gone to get Michael and Saundra) wouldn't have the faintest idea what I was saying.

My mother gave me an innocent (too innocent) look with those wide blue eyes I'd inherited and told me (in English) that she'd invited some of her friends from work and their families.

This just infuriated me more. 

A few friends my arse. It looked as if the whole bloody Ministry had showed up- even a reporter or two! What the hell was this?! A charity ball? A high society banquet? One of those snooty rich-people-parties thrown for absolutely no reason at all?

I was beyond furious. Fury didn't even begin to cover all the different ranges of blood-boiling emotions I was feeling at the moment. Several very unladylike French swear words slipped through my clenched teeth but my mother didn't bother reprimanding me, or perhaps she was afraid to. I would've been.

I mean, she had to have known I'd be angry. Angry to the point of tears (which I was stubbornly holding in at the moment- Birthday girl or not, Bee would murder me if I messed up her handy work. And I wasn't even going to try that whole It's-my-party-I-can-cry-if-I-want-to bit). Yet, she'd still invited them and now she had to face me. 

Face me and tell me that she'd invited the people who'd hurt me, the people I loathed and their parents to my seventeenth birthday celebration for her own selfish reasons.

"Combien?" I demanded gritting my teeth.

"How many, what?" Her eyes widened like a faultless doe, but I wasn't buying it. I could see Grandmere in my peripheral vision looking half-worriedly, half-angrily at us, and I knew she was on my side. Had she warned my mother against this heinous betrayal and now mentally danced the I-told-you-so tango in her head? Most likely. And I didn't blame her in the slightest for it.

"Combien d'entre eux avez-tu invite? Combien de mes amis de votre travail?"


She looked uncomfortable. I already knew the number was ridiculous, I could tell by looking around - which was why I'd asked. I wanted her to squirm. To feel guilty about the number of people she'd invited to my party that I hardly knew. People that were her friends, not mine.


"I thought so," I said letting my disgust color my tone.

The people around us had started to notice and were clearly eavesdropping, but I no longer gave a damn. What did I care if my conniving mother saved face (or lost it, in this case) in front of her friends? She'd invited them, not me. Besides, it was my party and I would do exactly as I pleased. But that didn't involve crying.


"Pourquoi? Pourquoi tu fais cela pour moi?"



"Sweetheart, I-"



But I didn't want to hear her excuses- I already knew why she'd done it anyway- so I stormed away without waiting for an answer.


I went to my friends, pretending as though nothing had happened and hated that I was reminding myself of Saundra; some spoiled queen bee who could act all sugary and sweet, even after something awful. Maybe we had more in common than either of us had realized. Maybe that was part of the problem.

"Hey, birthday girl!" Andre beamed, pulling me into a bear hug.

"Andre, I swear to Fifi. You mess up her hair, I mess up your face," Brigitte threatened shortly before turning back to the conversation she was in.


Despite the soap opera my life was becoming, I laughed. Only Brigitte would swear on the name of her favorite author. She'd been trying to get me to read the 'Enchanted Encounters' series by Fifi LaFolle for ages but I'd always blown it off as pointless fluff (which it was, according to Lynnie).

"Calm down, Brigitte. Don't get your knickers in a twist. I'm not going to mess up Allie's precious hairdo." He told her, rolling his eyes.


She stuck her tongue out at him childishly and something tight in my chest seemed to loosen. This was one of the reasons I loved my friends so much, they could make me forget about the unpleasant things as easily as breathing. Even the fact that about fifty or so Hogwarts students were currently skulking around the tent doing Agrippa knows what.


Adam, Henri and Tre all hugged me next, careful not to mess up the fragile state of beauty that my three best friends had worked since sunrise to get me in. I casually greeted my other friends (including Alice, Roxy and Dominique- who'd made their way through the crowd and took their rightful places at our table) with the standard kiss on each cheek and waited for the rest of the tightness in my chest to disappear all through the very late, very fancy, meal (consisting of all of my favorite foods -both French and English). But it never did, because I could still see the hordes of Hogwarts people in the corner of my eye. Soon the three courses were finished and the mingling was in high gear, but I couldn't fully enjoy anything with so many of my mother's guests sitting close by (some obviously scrutinizing me with the rest of their table if the not-so-subtle gawks were any indication).


This was a nightmare! The day I'd dreamed about for nearly a decade was being tainted by all the people I couldn't stand! And their parents!


My family was absolutely impossible. Selfish to the highest degree and completely irrevocably-


"Ladies and Gentlemen," I hadn't noticed Tre had left our little circle until I turned to see him on stage, wine glass in hand. He'd straightened his dress robes but left his tie untied, giving him an air of cool. A smile was on his lips as he looked each person directly in the eye with a confidence that only a seasoned politician's son (which he was) could pull off without seeming too cocky. His voice seemed to have been magically enhanced in some way and it resonated over the crowd of chattering guests, making the tent fall almost completely silent. "It is eleven fifty-nine-" How he knew this I'm not sure, as there were no clocks anywhere to be seen. "So, if you could all raise your glasses-"

Oh Merlin. My cheeks began to burn. I knew what was coming and the shy little girl still burrowed within me felt nauseous. They were going to toast me. I'd expected this so I grinned and shook my head as my friends all nudged me and raised their glasses.


"Let's all toast to the lovely angel-" Scattered laughter from Beauxbatons people. "Who is officially a woman in ten, nine, eight," he took his watch from inside of his robes and counted down ("Doesn't he know she became a woman in fourth year?" whispered Lynnie). I laughed quietly with my friends as the rest of the guests joined in the count down, "three-two-one! TO ALLIE!" He raised his glass towards me and everyone else followed suit.


"TO ALLIE!"


There were even a few people who shouted, " Pour Ange!" or "ANGELIQUE!"'

And then, everyone took a swig of their drink, nearly spitting it out all over themselves when they saw Tre's new bubblegum pink hair and fake eyelashes.


I smirked in a satisfied bordering-on-smug way and twirled my wand expertly in my hand as the rest of the party (and my first victim) realized what I'd chosen for my first act of legal magic. A few of the people I didn't know (no doubt guests of my mother) looked in a panic between me and my friend, wondering if they were about to witness a row between the birthday girl and her friend. I could feel the shock radiating from those individuals as Tre grinned and began to retaliate before Brigitte intervened ("Rudolphe Noel Theodore Voltaire III, don't even think about messing up her hair!"), then decided to give me a bear hug instead. But those who knew us just laughed along.


Then the lights were put out and two men in tailcoats brought out the cake.


The most elaborate cake I'd ever seen in my life. I had yet to see a wedding cake with this splendor. Five tiers high and adorned with so many candy flowers and icing vines you could hardly see what color the base was. Candles spiraled up the tower and the flames flickered several different colors each. It was almost too beautiful to eat.


But of course, after the singing was finished (Tre, Adam and Henri being the last done with their very slow and morbid version of the birthday song) and I had blown out the candles, Grandmere handed me held out a large knife for me to cut the cake with.


I smiled wickedly and shook my head politely. I still had my wand out, so I flicked it towards the edible masterpiece someone had decided to call a cake and it cut itself into perfectly portioned pieces then floated to the plates of the guests one by one. Everyone laughed at the obvious delight I took in my new freedom.


The breathtaking cake was devoured within minutes and Henri, Andre, Adam and Tre rose from their seats across from me.


"Where're you going?" Dominique asked him curiously.


Tre grinned teasingly. "The toilet. Why? Were you planning on going with us?"


"In your dreams, Voltaire," she scoffed confidently and I longed to have those spell binding eyes and enchanting blonde curls. No matter how attractive I was now, I'd never hold a candle to Dominique or Jocelyn.


"Wait, aren't girls s'posed to be the gender that go to the bathroom together?" Lynnie asked, a smirk identical to her cousin's playing on her lips.


Henri, Adam and Andre just shrugged and turned to leave while Tre made a gesture his mother would have been outraged to see (good thing she was too busy talking to the British Ministry's Head of the Magical Law Department- Roxy and Dominique's Aunt Hermione) then followed the rest of them.


"Well that's trouble," Roxy thought allowed as we watched their backs retreat into the throngs of party guests.

"And you're not?" Alice teased.

Roxy shrugged angelically and took a sip of her wine.

"Speaking of trouble, where are your brothers?"

"Mine's off being nauseating with his date somewhere," Roxy answered.

"Mine is at a table with your brother," Alice said, a bit timidly. "I dunno if he'll come over or not. I know he wanted to though. He doesn't completely agree with Michael."

"Who does?" Bee snorted.

My eyes found Leah, frozen in her chair. The smile on her face was strained, the muscles in her shoulders tense and those big dark eyes were strangely glassy. I could almost feel the pain rippling in her chest at this very moment.

"And where are your brothers, Jocelyn?" I asked tightly, solely to change to subject. I'd seen Edouard with a bunch of Auror friends and Antoine chatting with his fellow professional Quidditch players (both current and retired had showed up it turns out) but I needed to move things along quickly and save Leah, at least a little bit, from the heart wrenching conversation I knew she'd rather fling herself from the top of the Eiffel Tower than listen to.

"Oh they're-"

But she never got to finish her sentence because, just as my cousin, Adam and Tre returned to the table, Grandmere's abnormally loud voice hushed the party guests.

"Bonjour. Je vous remercie, au nom de Allie et de notre famille pour venir. "
Tonight, we have some very special guests. As a surprise for Alexa they have taken time out of their very busy schedules to be here. They were friends with Allie at Beaubatons before they graduated and moved onto bigger and better things. But they still were happy to come out and play for Alexa's birthday. So it is my pleasure to present to you, The Asphodels!"

I stared at the stage in absolute shock as three of my old schoolmates and their two other band members walked out on stage to the shrieks of nearly every teenage girl in the room and whoops of every Beauxbatons bloke who had frequently partied with them.

Little did I know, these were just the first few surprises of many.

***

( Alright, I saved this rant for the end because I knew it would be LONG. I've got a lot to tell you! 
So, on to our first subject- The Fates have something against me and Nora, I swear.
 Nora had wine spilled on her laptop! The poor thing has been taking college courses this summer so I'm sure a wet laptop didn't help matters at all!  And the email she sent me with her original edits for this chapter got lost in cyberspace somewhere. Whether it was my computer's fault or her's is a mystery though because I came back from my trip and my computer had some collosal virus that wiped out several more recent updates I'd done to stories and things. Not to mention screwed with my computer! 
Stupid hackers, why must they annoyingly prey on other people's computers? If there are any hackers reading this I'm telling you to stop it! It's rude and annoying and it puts people {especially me} in an extremely bad mood! Plus I don't want to lose my iTunes again! There is enough stress in the world today without you idiots adding to it. I don't even have credit card numbers on my computer! 
Seriously, why can't criminals just go out and get a job like the rest of us?
Speaking of which, work has also been depleting my writing time as well. And I'm pretty sure at least one person I work with is plotting my death. But anyway, about the chapter.
Originally it was just one long one of all the chaos that goes on during her birthday, but it started getting a bit ridiculous both in length and drama so I've split it into three parts. So, until I post the second part enjoy  this!

10 THINGS I LEARNED IN EUROPE
1) European Traffic Laws are like the pirate code. They are merely guidlines. 
2) Groups of three or more are forbidden in Harrods. Don't ask me why. 
3) Keep away from Parisian pigeons.
4) Don't be afraid to use self-defense tactics on the vendors outside the Eiffel Tower illegally selling mini keychain Towers at night. They will grab boobage and/or hit you when you tell them no. 
5) It is VERY entertaining seeing said illegal vendors run from police.
6) MIND THE GAP! Ha ha!
7)
Pickpockets come in all forms. Even German Tourbus drivers.
8) Some girls are pathetic and can't live without their boyfriends for 10 days- at least, not without some major crying jags.
9) Getting buzzed off French wine at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant while wearing heels is not such a clever idea. 
10) Germany and Britain are the places to go for eye candy. French guys, however, can be cute but most of them think that since you are American, you are also a slut and therefore will hit on you and gross you out.

Told you it would be long! Hope the chapter was worth the wait though! Don't forget to review!

<3 RED
P.S. Alright, alright I just thought of  more so make it "12 Things I learned in Europe"! 
11) DO NOT under ANY circumstances watch The Reader, He's Just Not That Into You or Atonement on an eight hour plane flight while sitting next to your history teacher!!!! 
12) Groups of drunk Dutch guys think that singing "YMCA" in the underground is the way to woo a bunch of American girls. Haha! )


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