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Chapter 1 : Welcome to the Circus
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“Thanks a million, Dom,” Victoire said breathlessly, kissing her sister on the cheek. “I really appreciate this.”
“No problem,” Dom said, leaning back against Victoire's kitchen counter. “I'm happy to help.”
“Oh by the way, you might inherit a few helpers,” Victoire added. “Roxanne also volunteered to help, she said something about wanting to get out of the house. And Hermione and Ron are making Hugo do chores all summer, to make up for his ridiculous O.W.L. results. They'll pop in eventually.”
“Fine,” Dom said weakly, watching her Victoire grab her wand from by the sink and shrug on a coat. Roxanne was fun when she wasn't anxious about something or other, and Hugo would be in a terrible mood if he considered the job punishment.
“Everything ok?” Victoire asked, looking up.
Dom regarded her sister closely for the first time in over a month. Victoire was flushed, whether with heat, love, or pregnancy Dom couldn't determine. Her face looked worn and tired, and her baby bump was still a shade away from looking like an actual, obvious baby as opposed to just extra weight around the stomach. But Victoire's clear blue eyes still shone out among the mess.
“Oh yeah, don't worry about me,” Dom said, waving a hand vaguely in the air. “Go off to work, and when you get back you'll have a lovely pink room for my niece.”
Victoire grinned. “Thanks a bunch, Dom, it means the world.” And with that, she turned and Apparated away.
Dom glanced down to the bucket of garishly pink paint at her feet. It sat there, mocking her, knowing it represented a few years' worth of doubts and fears. For some reason with an unknown origin, Dom felt that slathering the paint on Victoire and Teddy's tiny spare room would make it official: they would be a family. Teddy. Victoire. And the little girl whom Dom wanted to be named Charlotte.
The three of them, tied together by blood instead of a flimsy marriage certificate.
Dom shuddered, and levitated the can of paint while stuffing the sheets of plastic and hefty brushes under the arm not holding a wand. She stepped towards the back of the house, only to be blasted backward as a loud crack echoed around the room.
“Roxanne!” Dom cried, ripping a plastic cover off her face and spitting hair out of her mouth.
“I'm so sorry!” a girl's voice squealed, from somewhere near the kitchen.
“How's she supposed to know you were standing right were she was going to Apparate?” a deeper voice added defensively.
Dom felt something thick and wet spreading across the seat of her jeans, and leapt to her feet with a yelp. Roxanne and, apparently, Hugo in Side-Along had caused her to drop the paint bucket, which hadn't been closed completely. Dom could feel a circle of the stupid paint on her bottom, and a river of pink cut through the dark wood floor towards the kitchen.
With a wave of her pink-speckled wand, Dom swept the spilled paint back into the can and vanished the reminder on her pants. Forcing a calm front onto her features, she turned to face her two little cousins.
Hugo sat on the kitchen counter, arms crossed and his dark red hair in bad need of a cut. Brow furrowed, he glared at nothing in particular. Next to him, Roxanne fluttered her hands nervously, a guilty expression marring her face. She was dressed to get messy, in ripped jeans and an old Chudley Canons t-shirt.
“I'm so sorry, Dom!” Roxanne repeated, “If I had known―”
“It's fine,” Dom cut her off. “Forget about it.”
Roxanne bit her lip and glanced over to Hugo, who hadn't moved a muscle.
“Well, let's go do this,” Dom sighed, tying her hair up. She levitated all the supplies this time, and finished her route to the room at the back of the house where the baby would live.
It was a small old thing, but no smaller than the rooms Dom's father, uncles and aunt had grown up in. It had windows on two of the walls, lighting it up almost cheerfully. A dented dresser, a rocking chair, and a cream colored crib sat shoved in a corner.
Hugo walked in, snorted, and stuffed his hands in his pockets.
“Is there something you'd like to say?” Roxanne asked Hugo testily.
“Nope,” Hugo said, and without further ado he sat down on the ground and closed his eyes.
“This is going to be a long day,” Dom muttered to herself, coming close to saying it louder. “Alright, Roxanne, you get to spread the plastic around the floors and tape it to the bottom of the wall. Hugo, you and I will move the furniture out into the hall.”
Roxanne took the plastic from Dom and set to work, but Hugo still sat there. Dom waited, but the boy (he wasn't quite mature enough to be a young man in Dom's eyes) didn't acknowledge her. Dom took a deep breath, counted to ten, reigned in her patience, then opened her mouth. “Hugo, if you don't get up this instant and start helping like a nice normal cousin, I swear I am going to call your mother and get her over here to kick your―”
“Coming!” Hugo said quickly, and leapt to his feet.
“That's more like it,” Dom said, and nodded towards the dresser. “Let's tackle this one first.”
“Couldn't you just paint all this with magic?” Roxanne asked, as she painted delicately around the window frame. She had no trouble with the simple, mindless job of painting, and it was actually good for her to stop thinking and worrying at a million miles an hour. But she couldn't remember anyone ever speak of painting walls by hand.
“Maybe,” Dom said from across the room, where she was painting even swaths of pink from ceiling to floor. As the only one legally allowed to use magic, she was also the one that had to levitate her brush up high to get by the ceiling. “It would probably just end with a big mess, though.”
“Try it!” Hugo cried, from where he was viciously painting the wall by the door as fast as he could. “There's plastic all over the floor anyway!”
“I don't think Victoire would appreciate us using up all her pink paint in a test of my magical ability,” Dom said crossly.
“Who cares what Victoire thinks?” Hugo said. “Let's do it!”
“I care what Victoire thinks,” Dom snapped. “I am her sister, in case you forgot.”
Hugo muttered something under his breath and dunked his brush back in the paint.
“Have Teddy and Victoire thought about names yet?” Roxanne asked, to break the thickening silence before it dried and hardened along with the paint.
“Victoire can't decide, but Teddy really wants Lila,” Dom replied. “I like Charlotte, personally.”
“Ha,” Hugo snorted, “Teddy dated a Lila once, a long time ago. Remember?”
“Actually I do,” Roxanne said. “After he and Victoire broke up in their seventh year, he dated Lila Something-or-other for a few months.”
“How come I didn't know about this?” Dom exclaimed, an odd note in her voice. Roxanne paused painting to glance over at her older cousin. Dom had gone a shade paler, brush frozen in her hand.
“You lived with Victoire,” Hugo said, splashing pink paint over the wall. “You probably only heard her side of the story and I doubt she even knew about Lila, because she ignored Teddy for long time after the breakup. The rest of us Weasleys still saw Teddy when he was over at Harry's. He brought the girl once or twice.”
Dom's face crumpled for a split second, then she collected herself once more. Hugo was still crouched by the wall, painting away, but Roxanne caught her cousin's eye. Dom had forgotten all about the brush clasped too tightly in her fist, dripping a little pink onto her arm.
“They broke up after maybe two months, probably less,” Roxanne offered. “We never heard about her again after that.”
“I don't care about Lila,” Dom said sharply, and Roxanne winced at the harsh note in the woman's voice.
“Then what's wrong?” Roxanne whispered. She felt the beginning of an actual tear prick her eye. It was these little cracks in the family that had always gotten to her; they appeared out of nowhere when in reality they had been festering for years, widening despite the paint or plaster thrown desperately over them. It reminded her of things she had tried so hard not to think about, of the house she had to get out of, the family sorrows she had to escape.
Dom turned back to her wall and began to paint, slowly and mechanically. But Roxanne felt her lower lip tremble, and she threw down her brush. “Damn it Dom, tell me! What else is wrong with our family?”
Hugo turned around, eyes wide, but Dom beat him to the punch.
“I hate Teddy!” Dom cried, whipping around, hair flinging out of its tie. “I hate how he acts, how he talks, how he looks at everyone! I hate him! I don't trust him!”
“Why?” Hugo asked.
“I don't know! But I don't like him! I hate him! He's up to something!” Dom fell to her knees, sobbing, and her cousins hurried to crouch by her side. She pushed them away even as they arrived, wiping the tears away quickly. “It's silly, it's stupid,” she whispered, “but it's just the feeling I get when he's around.”
Hugo had closed his eyes and leaned against the wall, oblivious to the pink stain that would be on his shirt when he rose from his seat. Tears slid silently down Roxanne's cheeks, and she sat on the plastic cover and hugged her knees. I hate this I hate this I hate this.
Hugo sighed. “So now what? We've got me, who can't pass a bloody class, Dom, who's the sister-in-law of someone she's afraid of, and Roxy, who―”
“Shut up!” Roxanne hissed. “Shut up right now Hugo!”
“What? We can all see it,” Hugo said casually, a dark undertone creeping into his voice. “Uncle George can't quit moping, Angelina doesn't know what to do with him besides yell, and Freddie can't hold a job down for more than a few bloody minutes―”
“Shut up! Just shut up!” Roxanne shrieked, the tears pouring now.
“Hugo, if you can't say anything nice, then leave.” Dom snapped, taking Roxanne under her arm.
“Sending me away won't solve your problems,” Hugo said quietly. “No matter who you yell at, our family is still plain messed up.”
Dom took his hand and drew Roxanne in closer to her. “It doesn't have to be,” Dom said. “Victoire's married a slime ball, George can't get over his past, and your parents care more about grades than you do... That shouldn't tear us apart. We should be able to help each other. Instead of a family, we're acting like a...”
“A circus,” Roxanne offered with a sniffle and the hint of a grin. “Everything crazy and chaotic and somehow people still seem to think it's good thing. When it's just a mess.”
“Just a mess,” Hugo repeated, bowing his head.
“But life will still go on,” Dom sighed, then gestured around her. “C'mon, we're almost finished with this mess.”
“You've got that right,” Hugo chuckled. He dipped his brush back in the can and dabbed it on his nose.
“What a clown,” Roxanne snorted.
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