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For Keeps by tydemans
Chapter 1 : Nothing Good Ever Came From a Long Eared Owl
 
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Nothing good ever came from a long eared owl. Victoire was utterly convinced of that fact.  Anytime she saw those prominent ear tufts sitting erect on the top of a bird's head she knew whatever he offered wasn’t going to be good.

Long eared owls brought you letters like: V, Six months since our last kiss...everything’s required more time than I planned … thinking about us a lot lately… torn between taking the time to finish what I started or running back home to you…a sixth year shouldn't feel tied down at Hogwarts ... I was selfish to ask you to wait and asking for more time is worse … I'll be back before you graduate and we can see where we are then...

Bollocks!

The Daily Prophet exclusively used long eared owls for their correspondence. They were likely the only owls willing to lower themselves to deliver such rubbish as: Miss Weasley, We here at the Daily Prophet wish to offer an opportunity for you to comment on your three day disappearance from Hogsmeade Village the weekend you turned of age.  We are sure you are pleased to hear that the expose on the events of said disappearance and the resulting hospitalization will be a prominent feature of the first page of our latest printing!  Please respond promptly. If we have not received word from you by three this afternoon, we shall proceed with printing and cite you with 'no comment'.

Holy sensationalized load of double bollocks!

Her friend Sara returned from holiday in Brazil insisting that the country had an overabundance of long eared owls. Victoire questioned the source of that particular tidbit, knowing at the time Sara was defending her own choice of carrier for her big news: Victoire, This trip has been way better than expected! I got a job offer...starting next summer... moving halfway around the world right out of Hogwarts. Can you believe it!?!

Yes, she could believe it, because it was sent via bloody long eared owl.

"He's not going away until you take his envelope."

Hush up, Victoire thought. You're moving to Brazil in a week. Some friend you are!

She continued her stare down with the freakishly long eared owl.  The clamour of dishes and the buzz of other conversations around the Great Hall posed no distraction for Victoire.  Her friend, monitoring the battle of wills over the rim of her goblet, proved another matter entirely.

"The Bimas crest’s on the seal,” Sara coaxed.  As if in agreement, the fowl’s knobby skinned talons tapped impatiently on the spot of thick moulded wax embellishing the envelope.  “It's your acceptance letter. Has to be. This is what you killed yourself for on NEWTS."

"Why do I even want it?" Victoire whined.

"Because Bimas is the premier institute of research and higher learning in the wizarding world."  Sara smiled at the lack of response to her comment and added, “Because you still have no idea what you want to be when you grow up so you’re putting off any kind of real decision with more school."

Sara had been Victoire's friend since they started Hogwarts. Victoire grew closer to Sara in some ways than her own sister.  Due, she supposed, to the lack of sibling rivalry between them.

"Just because you know exactly what you want doesn't mean you aren’t a traitor for leaving me to get it," Victoire snipped.  The absence of sibling rivalry didn’t preclude occasional other forms of contention.

"I'm not leaving you alone. You can't walk down Diagon Alley without tripping over relatives and your popularity is downright annoying,"  Sara shot back easily.  She generally refused to rise to Victoire's bait.  "You’ve all kinds of other friends."

Victoire swayed her head side to side, careful not to break eye contact with the owl.  "I have acquaintances. I have frenemies. I have dates, shameless flirts, the occasional would-be stalker. You and Teddy are my real friends."  If she’d known she was going to lose everybody the moment they left Hogwarts, she’d have paid a little more attention. She should’ve been befriending first years all along. They weren’t going anywhere for a while.

"But you're so close -" Sara started when Victoire cut her off, anticipating where Sara intended to take her argument.

"Family’s different; they’ve no choice but to like me."  She finally gave in to the owl.  The bird was never going to blink.  Victoire was left wondering if they even had eyelids and whether that fact was even worth looking up.  She exhaled in defeat, focusing on Sara. "Real friends understand you and choose you anyway."

"I have to go," Sara insisted, "You can't expect me to stay."

"No, that's not… I’m happy for you.  I want what's best for you.”  Victoire balled up her napkin, dropping it down beside her untouched plate.  “I’m possibly a little bitter what's best is so far away." 

Victoire was also less naive than when she encouraged Teddy to go on his grand tour.  He needed some time to find himself and explore his father's mysterious past.  She needed to finish school.  It all seemed so easy, so perfect.

Victoire shook herself out of her thoughts and regarded her friend.  Sara didn't deserve to pay for regrets in Victoire's past.  She proved unbelievably supportive back then and had stoically endured all Victoire's drama since.  Enough, Victoire knew she needed to happy up before she couldn't stand herself.  "Whose big idea was it to put Brazil in South America anyway?"

Sara brightened up immediately well used to the caprices of mood where Victoire was concerned.  "I think the Wizengamot.  Rumour has it the Chief Warlock was allergic to Brazil nuts and sent it straight to the ends of the earth."

Victoire took a deep breath and reached for the letter.




Dear Prospective Applicant,

We appreciate your interest in the British Institute of Magical Arts and Studies. We are sure you understand, for every single position in our program we receive thousands of applications from witches, wizards, and all manner of magical beings from all over the globe. We simply cannot accommodate every candidate, and therefore, we find it necessary to hold your application pending responses to offers already issued...



"Hoot!"

Mr. Big Ears apparently wanted his tip.

Bugger!




Sara allowed Victoire a short grace period of undeterred denial before any attempt at intervention.  But with the end of term looming, Sara had no intention of leaving for Brazil without knowing Victoire had a plan.

"Waitlisted doesn't mean you won't get in."  Sara’s voice held a peculiar mixture of sternness and encouragement few people under the age of fifty would even attempt to pull off.  "People have up to two years to start Bimas once accepted, and you know many defer to travel or take time off.  Teddy did."

Yes, Teddy had no problem getting in, Victoire thought enviously, and he took not only the year he originally planned but another for good measure.  Teddy could be casual about it.  They wanted him right off.

The girls moved through their dormitory, throwing all their worldly possessions out of drawers and trunks.  Seven years of memories, shared wardrobe purchases and items whose original ownership had long since been forgotten. The culmination of Hogwarts spread around them.

"Other people only apply as a backup.  Surely some will get their first choice apprenticeship," Sara continued not really getting she was rubbing in the fact her friend wasn’t good enough to have a choice.

Victoire could almost hear the witch at the admission office in her polished and more than slightly condescending voice: If everyone we would rather have decides not to attend our institution this fall, we will certainly accept your fees and put up with you for them.  She had no idea what to tell her parents. She imagined they were so happy to think she wouldn't be living in their basement when she turned 30 and now, the dream was gone.

Sighing, Victoire gathered a stack of several dozen t-shirts, mostly muggle slogans and graphics, she and Sara had accumulated over their school years.  The girls never missed an opportunity to pick up a new one and send it to the other for giggles.  Some people collected frog cards.  Sara and Victoire collected t-shirts.

"You need to take the tees."  Victoire moved the pile over to Sara's trunk with the hope they’d move along to another topic.

"How’d you work that out?" Sara looked across the stack at her.

"You're going to the warmer climate. Besides," Victoire added in her most proper voice, "I’d never even wear ‘em. You’ve no problem with people staring at your breasts.  I don't like to encourage such behaviour."

Sara threw a pillow at her.

The attempt at distraction proved unsuccessful, however.  Sara was nothing if not focused.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor, she retrieved a pile of shoes from under the bed and continued her previous thought where she left off.  "It's still so surprising," she commented while sifting through several pairs for matches, "I mean, everybody applying had the same Outstanding NEWTS, but you're Head Girl at Hogwarts. That should’ve counted for something."

Not when so many people believed she got the placement solely because of her name, Victoire couldn't help but think.

"Here's what you’re going to do."  Sara held up a particularly complex pair of strappy sandals at which Victoire shook her head and motioned to Sara's pile.  Victoire hated those shoes.  Her mum bought them because they were simply divine and matched the gown Victoire wore to last year's spring ball.  She didn't last an hour before kicking them off.  "You’re going to have someone in your family or one of their well placed friends in the ministry write a recommendation letter.  Your father’s tight with the Minister, right?  Stubborn of you not to do that in the first place."

She may be right, Victoire thought.  Who was I to think I didn't need the help. I needed all the help I could get.

Sara looked at Victoire where she sat against the opposite bed. "And, you’re going to tell them about your condition. That’ll set you apart from the rest of the application pool when a place opens up so you’ll be the one to get in."

Sara was the planner. Victoire, not so much.  She could implement a plan if someone handed one to her. She could draw people's attention to it and rally them for support.  In a pinch, she could even improvise on the fly when a plan went astray.  She could not, however, create even the simplest plan on her own.  Creation involved too many possibilities.  Victoire easily got lost in possibilities.

Right then, however, her possibilities seemed limited. Not to mention unattractive.

"A condition routinely referred to as 'hysterical' anything doesn’t inspire confidence in ones abilities," Victoire countered, banking a pair of rolled up wool stockings off the wall and into the rubbish bin.

"That's just McGonagall talking.  No one’s used that term since the dark ages which, ccoincidently, is the last time anyone exhibited your eccentricity."  She got up from the floor, moved over to the bed against which Victoire was leaning, and began sorting the remaining clothing stacked on top.  "Besides, that's not the term Healer Hayes uses."

Ah, Grant Hayes.  No man would ever live up to Sara's image of him.  Victoire felt sorry for those Brazilian blokes who wouldn't stand a chance against the Healer Hayes standard. 

Victoire tossed the next pair of stockings at Sara’s head and scoffed, "Grant’s a newly qualified healer. I hardly think he can change the terminology for my particular birth defect.

Sara rolled her eyes, as always, when she caught Victoire referring to her condition as a defect or liability rather than an ability.  But having committed herself to the task of planning Victoire’s future, she resisted the urge to lecture the point or comment on the validity of ancient texts mistaking any form of instinctual or emotional magic as hysterics.

"Enough about me and my issues," Victoire begged as she laid her head back against the bed.  "Seventh year’s done.  I'll need to learn to deal, yeah?"  She turned her head toward Sara.  "I’m gonna miss the hell out of you. You know that, don't you?"

Sara’s eyes, damp and glimmering, met Victoire’s. She managed a nostalgic half-smile.  "Ditto, kiddo."

There was probably so much more that could be said, but Victoire would never know how to properly express it.  Sara glanced over to the birdcage by the window with its open door and fresh water.  It had been vacant for a year and a half. 

"I know you won’t forget me; even when I'm gone," Sara replied.



A/N: Much thanks to CelticKisses from Aparecium Forums, Stefeny from LiveJournal, and Keroberros from HPFF ( like Victoire - I need all the help I can get) for beta reading this chapter and giving me great feedback.  
Edited September 2010.




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