“Dom? What are you doing here?” His jaw dropped comically; I would’ve thought his surprise was overdone if I hadn’t known firsthand the extent of his acting skills.
“I’m French, Ted,” I replied, wiping my mouth delicately with a napkin. “I do have a right to eat at my favorite ice cream shop in Paris every now and then.”
Ted eyed my cone, chocolate as always, as if he’d just realized it was there. He glanced down at his own pink scoop. Always strawberry, always a cup; we were quite the unoriginal pair. Birds of a feather flock together, as they said.
“So what brings you here, of all places?” I asked pleasantly, patting the seat next to me. Ted sat down slowly, almost dreamlike. But then again, Ted had always seemed to be a step behind the action. Whereas Delacours, myself particularly, were always three paces ahead.
“I’m engaged to a French lady,” he said, eyebrows raised. “Am I not allowed to visit her sister’s favorite ice cream shop every now and then?”
I grinned and licked my cone. Ted followed my lead, as always. I should have known I’d run into Ted at some point during my vacation. Ever since he and Victoire had declared their everlasting love for each other in April, they’d been skipping back and forth between the UK and France, planning here, registering there, and snogging far more than was strictly polite.
As for me, I was finally done with Hogwarts and wasn’t going to subject myself to as stuffy office as quickly as my Uncle Percy seemed to expect. Instead, I was roaming Paris, lingering in all my favorite stomping grounds from the few years when I’d lived here during my youth. I was staying in a petite, pittoresque hotel, and was spending all my savings happily without a care in the world.
Ted ran a nervous hand through his honey-colored hair and I grimaced. Ever since Victoire had told him she preferred fair hair, his lovely tresses had never been a shade darker than strawberry blonde. I thought it was an insult to him, personally. Ted’s preferred, “default” look was a dark-haired, blue-eyed, long-faced young man that was a cross between his deceased father and my Uncle Harry. Dark hair suited him far better than the blondie look.
“So, how’s freedom taste?” Ted asked.
“Magnifique,” I trilled, and Ted grinned. Anyone else would have thought it odd how much a half-French girl enjoyed the language of her ancestors, but my good old Ted understood my unusual thinking. Well, maybe not understood it, but went along with it and joined in with my laughter.
“I love Paris,” I continued. “I’m definitely going to try and settle here someday.”
“Perhaps you could get a job in the International Magical Cooperation Department and request a placement here?” Ted suggested.
“Oh, don’t even mention the Ministry to me!” I cried, throwing a dramatic hand over my face as if I couldn’t even picture it. “It’s all Percy talks about! Even worse, Harry agrees with him! He seems to think I have Auror potential or something ridiculous.” I grimaced. I could usually count on my most famous uncle to be on my side, but when it came to selecting a job, he tended to forget that I liked to search for happiness, not evil wizards.
Ted shrugged and flashed one of his best grins at me. “Ok.”
It was then that I caught sight of another strikingly blonde head approaching out of the corner of my eye. A closer look revealed it to be none other than my darling older sister Victoire. I turned to greet her as she called out in surprise, “Oh, there you are Dominique, I was looking for you! Who’s that— Teddy? You’re here too?”
She swooped down on us and sat on my other side, kissing Ted hello briefly. “I’m so glad I found you, Dom!” She exclaimed, as Ted, always the gentleman, rose to order her ice cream. I looked over my sister. She was gorgeous as usual; had the blonde hair and skinny frame that I craved, looked exactly like our mother in her flattering crimson blouse. My sister was loud, excitable, and craved attention. How perfect it was for her to land with a man like Ted, who spoiled his girlfriends to pieces and cared for them as delicately as though they were priceless antique china.
“We really need to talk,” Victoire continued on, chatting faster than I preferred to listen to. I looked up from my cone to find her looking extremely serious, her forehead creased and everything. You could always tell when Victoire was really concerned by her forehead. She had a stressful job at St. Mungo’s as an second assistant Healer or something crazy; she got stuck with all the paperwork, but was also called in to help with patients when the hospital was short on staff. She was smart and did well, but her hours were awful and she was forever at the mercy of her Healer and his first assistant. Whenever she was overloaded with work and not enough time to do it, she got a serious crease on her forehead, between her eyebrows. It marred her lovely face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, as Victoire seemed reluctant to elaborate further. She glanced behind her at Ted, who was just returning with her ice cream.
“Not now,” Victoire said quickly, as Ted drew closer. “Can I meet you at your hotel in an hour?”
“Sure,” I said, but Victoire hushed me. She kissed Ted again as he handed her a cone, and I was left to wonder at my sister’s mysteriousness while she chattered happily on about bouquets for bridesmaids.
“Hi,” I said, pulling open the door to my motel room at my sister’s knock. She greeted me cheerily enough as she stepped in, but I wasn’t deceived; her brow was still wrinkled.
“What’s up?” I asked, once she was settled in the one chair in the room and I was perched on my unmade bed. She fiddled with the clasp of her handbag and uncrossed her legs. I waited patiently. I’d learned the hard way that it was a bad idea to press my sister into talking.
Finally, as I was about to insist she speak, Victoire took a deep breath and said too quickly, as if she wanted to get it over with, “I’m not in love with Teddy anymore.”
I felt my jaw drop and did nothing to stop it. A thousand thoughts raced through my head. Victoire and Ted were the world’s most perfect couple; they were so deeply in love, everyone else’s emotions paled in comparison. Ted cared for Victoire even more than his grandmother or harry, while Victoire had found her true self when she’d realized Ted was her soul mate. Furthermore, their wedding was all the Weasley clan had talked about for nearly three months. The big day was August twenty-fourth, just three weeks away. Gran began hyperventilating every time someone mentioned it, which was during every conversation. What would this mean? Finally, I managed to say, “Er, Victoire? You do know you’re engaged to him?”
“I know!” Victoire wailed, wringing her hands, tears filling her large eyes. “I’m such an awful person! How can I do this to Ted? How can I tell him?”
Somewhere in the midst of my disbelieving thoughts, it dawned on me what the cause of this whole episode had to be. If my eyes could’ve grown wider, they would have. I tried to shake the thought away, but it danced right back. I gulped. “Victoire, who is he? Who made you change your mind?”
My sister’s tears spilled over and I crossed the room to gather her into my arms. “His name’s Dwyn,” she whispered into my hair.
I jerked back involuntarily. “What kind of name is Dwyn? You’ve fallen in love with a man named Dwyn over Ted?” My insensitivity hadn’t improved since graduation apparently.
“It’s Welsh,” moaned Victoire, then added, “It’s stupid, I know. I don’t know how it happened!”
“How about you tell me, and we can figure out ‘how it happened’ together.”
Victoire nodded numbly, and I settled back down on the couch. Her story was shorter and simpler than I’d imagined; with my sister, stories tended to be complicated and passionate. That was just the kind of person she was.
“I met him in a class at St. Mungo’s a few years ago,” Victoire began, “And didn’t think much of it. We went out a few times, but we faded apart pretty quickly. And then a couple weeks ago I was visiting a patient at work and I ran into him, and it was like I was seeing him for the first time all over again.” Victoire sighed genuinely. “And he’s completely different than Teddy, but just as loving, and suddenly Teddy wasn’t Teddy anymore… He was just little Teddy, a brother. It’s as if everything I felt for Ted got flipped over to Dwyn.”
“Victoire,” I said patiently, “This sort of thing happens. Cold feet. Longing for a different kind of passion. It’ll pass.”
“No!” Victoire said, “I thought that too! And I waited, and I tried to ignore it, but I keep on seeing him at work, and we talk during lunch, and he really likes me! He fills my dreams…”
I buried my face in my hands. I couldn’t, I shouldn’t have believed her, but I saw in Victoire’s eyes how she felt. Victoire wasn’t the kind of person to skip from man to man; she devoted herself fully to everyone she cared about, it was one of her best qualities. She didn’t take men for granted, like our cousin Rose. She was true to herself, too; if Victoire loved Dwyn more than Ted, she would know it, and by Merlin she would act on it.
“Oh, damn.” I muttered under my breath. This had happened to other people I knew, too. They dated someone, enjoyed it, moved on, and when they were least expecting it… bam! In love, happily ever after, a miracle, etcetera etcetera. But this wasn’t right. Victoire wasn’t allowed to fall in love just weeks before she married Ted, the nicest, sweetest, most loving man anyone could ever hope to meet. It wasn’t fair.
“But look on the bright side,” Victoire said with a weak smile, “Now you can finally have Teddy.”
I hadn’t known my jaw could fall faster than it had a minute ago.
“Excuse me? I can have Ted?” I spluttered. “What— Victoire— you think I like Ted that way?”
“Of course you do.” She said, as though it were obvious. “I’m not blind; I see the way you look at him, how comfortable you are with him. How easily he can cheer you up.”
“Victoire.” I said firmly, in my I-may-be-your-baby-sister-but-by-hell-you’re-going-to-listen-to-me voice. “Ted is like a brother to me. He is a brother to me. I have never, never, ever wanted anything like that to happen between us.”
Victoire shook her head knowingly, infuriatingly. She still seemed to think that the three measly years she’d lived longer than I counted for something substantial. “Dom, you may not know it, but deep down inside, you love Teddy more than I ever could. I’ve always felt guilty for taking him from you.”
How in the name of Merlin had we gone from comforting her over her spontaneous love switch to convincing me (unsuccessfully) that I was in love with one of my best friends?
“I assure you, I do not love him like that.” I said, fumbling around to switch back to Dwyn. The subject of Ted and I together was officially closed. It was as bad as Victoire suggesting I lusted for Louis. Ugh. “Anyway. Forget all that. What are you going to do?”
At this, Victoire stared ashamedly down at her shoes. Without looking at me she whispered, “I can’t marry Teddy.”
I had seen this coming, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do either. But I had a moral compass, at least. “You can’t not marry Ted either!” I protested. There was no way Ted was getting hurt over my sister’s sudden change of heart. No. Way.
“He’ll understand, Dom,” Victoire pleaded, “He’s that kind of guy.”
“Victoire!” I said, furious, close to shouting. “You can’t bloody use him like that, depend on his good nature to let you off the hook! Listen to me: No matter what you do, someone will be hurt. If you marry Ted, you’ll be unhappy, and you don’t deserve that. If you don’t marry Ted, you’ll crush Ted and the rest of our family. So it’s up to you what you do, but whatever you decide, you have no one but yourself to blame for the effing consequences.” And with that, I stalked out of the room and left the cramped hotel.
I loved my sister dearly, but did she really think she could ditch Ted for some guy she liked at work? That was definitely the way she leaning; she had never been hard to read. She would make her choice and live her life, and I wouldn’t have anything to do with the chaos she created. My peace and quiet in Paris would soon end; either she’d mope and grouch because she did the obvious right thing, or our family would freak at the sudden wedding cancelation and I’d have to help pick up the pieces. So I was going to make the most of my vacation and go hang out with Ted.
As I turned the corner leading from the cheap hotel, I ran into none other than the subject of my thoughts and recent heated conversation.
“Dom?” Ted’s turquoise eyes were wide. I noticed with pleasure that his hair had gone back to its usual muddy brown. “What a coincidence; I was just looking for you!” He grinned widely and fell into step beside me, despite the fact that his strides had always been longer.
“Same here,” I said happily, shaking away all my bothered thoughts. How could my sister ever fall for someone over this sweet kid?
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” Ted continued, “I need some advice for Victoire and I.”
I clapped a hand to my face. Oh, why did I have a feeling that this wasn’t a good, “where should we go on our honeymoon” plea for help? “Ted, you should know I’m not in an advice-giving mood right now.”
Ted shrugged guiltily and ignored my warning. He seemed to need to get something off his chest. “It’s just that Victoire’s been… a little distracted lately, and it’s gotten me thinking.”
“Victoire’s just got cold feet; she’ll get over it.” I said quickly.
Ted touched a gentle finger briefly to my lips. “I wasn’t finished, you know.”
I sighed. “Continue.”
“And I’ve honestly been wondering if this wedding is a good idea.” Ted finished. “I mean, I love Victoire with all my heart, but her attitude has reminded me that there are other people I could love… more.” Ted’s brow was scrunched up in almost the exact same way Victoire’s was earlier. Ironic. Ha ha.
This could not be happening. “So?” I asked feebly. We had ended up sitting on a bench outside a nail salon. Around us, Parisians bustled about their everyday lives, while my own perfect one was being ripped screaming from its seams. Didn’t anyone get married for life anymore? Did a lifelong promise of undying commitment mean nothing?
“Dom. Dominique.” Ted was still looking serious, but he cracked a grin at my grimace. Perhaps because of Ted’s mother’s name, Ted understood my dislike at having a potential boy’s name instead of a pretty feminine one like Victoire’s. “I think I’m in love with you.”
Damn it, did someone send out a memo declaring that everyone I loved should mess with my emotions until they were as tangled as my hair? What was a girl supposed to do? There weren’t many choices left for me at this point.
So who could blame me for going with the easiest one?
“Oh my goodness Ted,” I said weakly. I was surprised to find that loving Ted didn’t feel as repulsive an idea when it came out of his mouth. I patted his hand. “That solves a lot of problems.”
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