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Chapter 10 : In The Art Of Change
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We'll walk around pretending
Hey, rich girls!
Well, can you tell me why you're so stuck up?
Elodie & Max Duchamp
beautiful chapter image by savoed @tda!
The Hogwarts Express sped through the countryside, which was now completely covered in a thick layer of white snow.
I scribbled a quick note on a scrap of parchment.
I'm going to France with my friend Max for the holidays. Don't bother coming to get me.
It was to the point, clear. My dad would appreciate that. There was no point in pretending that either of us actually liked the other. He would probably be glad that he didn't have to put up with me and my sarcastic remarks all holiday.
I passed it to Max's owl, who flew into the blizzard. I smirked at the thought of the owl arriving in their pristine kitchen, and Angela flipping out.
I went out into the corridor in search of the others.
Immediately I spotted Potter at the other end of the carriage. He was buying something from the trolley, and he hadn't noticed me yet. I felt the urge to go back inside the compartment.
Ever since last week, when we had attempted to expose Peakes for the lying scum-bag he is, there had been a horrible tension. We had come close to being...friends? No, not quite friends, just people who didn't hate each other.
And I mean, I've concentrated most of my hate on him for two and a half years, so not having anyone to focus the anger and hate on felt bizarre.
He looked up, saw me and quickly ducked his head and avoided my eye. He moved into a compartment. I could tell that the idea of us becoming less than enemies bothered him too. Good, we can just avoid each other for the rest of our school years. Now there's a mature solution.
I entered the compartment, where Dan was reading Witch Weekly, Alex was reading 1000 Magical Herbs and Funghi, and Max was sleeping, and snoring softly.
The click of the compartment door closing woke her up with a jolt. She took one look at me and wrinkled her nose in dissaproval.
"Is that what you're wearing to meet my family?"
Max may be pretty and funny, but she definitely lacks in tact.
"Hey!" I said, "We both know it doesn't matter what your parents think, what matters is how we feel about each other!"
She smirked, but I could tell she still wasn't pleased with my appearance.
"Well, you'll have to do," she sighed. I frowned.
"I tried," I said, sitting down beside her, looking at my blue t-shirt and my skinniest jeans, (the only ones that fit properly).
"Once we get there you can borrow my things," Max said kindly, knowing that the reason I dressed like this was no longer a style choice, it was because I simply never bought new clothes.
Dan looked up from her magazine.
"You need a haircut, too," she said skeptically.
I looked down at my long hair. It was scruffy, and down past my elbows.
"What's wrong with it?" I asked.
"It's like a long curtain of hair," Dan said, "A new haircut could change a lot about how you look."
"Well I'm not cutting it," I said, defensively playing with the ends.
"Your funeral," Dan muttered, going back to what she was reading. Bloody drama queen.
"I'm going to buy something from the trolley," Max said, her tone slightly frosty.
Once she'd left the carriage I looked at Dan, who sat stiffly on the bench.
"Did you two talk? About you and Fred?" I asked her.
"No," Dan answered grudgingly, "I've avoided the subject as much as possible."
"Well I can see why you were placed into Gryffindor," Alex muttered.
"Well she clearly doesn't want to talk to me about it," Dan snapped at her.
Jeez, there's so much hate going on.
Alex rolled her eyes and went back to reading her book.
"Did you talk to Zach?" I asked her tentatively, "About...you know?"
Dan pretended not to have heard me.
I'll take that as a yes.
* * *
“Ah Charlotte,” said Max’s mother, coming forward and kissing me once on each cheek.
“It’s Charlie,” I forced a smile at her. She completely ignored me. Great.
“Maxine has told us so much about you,” she continued to simper, “She told us you are the top in your class. Very impressive.”
From behind her back Max widened her eyes and mouthed ‘sorry’.
“Oh…yeah,” I said slowly, “That’s me. I love books. Books are my favourite thing.”
For some bizarre reason, she seemed to buy my lame attempt at pretending I was clever.
“I’m Isabelle. Now, Allons-y,” she said, turning around to lead us away from the platform.
I walked next to Max, but a few paces behind her.
“Top of my class?” I hissed.
“Sorry,” she said, “But my parents already think I’m running wild at Hogwarts. If
I tell her I have friends who qualify as a good influence, then they’ll stop worrying.”
“So, what?” I asked, “Now I have to spend the whole holiday pretending I’m Alex?”
“Please?” she begged, giving me the puppy dog eyes, “Pretty please?”
“Fine,” I snapped, “No need to bring out the pretty pleases.”
She looked happy at that and linked my arm with hers as we followed Isabelle out of the station.
“Okay, so try and keep up. Your favourite subject is Charms, but you get top grades all around. Your favourite book is Achievements in Charming. You like classical music. You don’t play quidditch, because you think it’s a reckless sport. You’re friendly, and everyone likes you.”
Huh, yeah, no.
“Did you tell them about me, or did you write a novel about me?” I asked her,
“Or rather, the fake, better version of me.”
“If you could just pretend to be a fake, better version of you, that’d be great,”
Max said, tightening her grip on my arm as though I would run away.
“Here we are,” said Isabelle, stopping outside a phone box, “The portkey leaves in exactly one minute.”
“What is it?” Max asked, looking around her. The street was almost empty.
“This,” said Max’s mother, picking up an old sweet wrapper with perfectly manicured fingernails.
We all held on tightly, and in one minute there was a jerk.
A few moments later we were standing in front of a house.
No, not a house. It was more like a mansion.
Because Merlin’s spotty socks, that house was huge.
It was at least three stories tall, and about fifteen windows wide.
“Bienvenue!” came a loud voice from the open front door.
I stared at Max. A woman in pale pink dress robes had appeared on the front steps. She had distinct white blonde hair, which told me she was related to the Duchamp family.
“Charlotte this is Gabrielle Delacour,” Isabelle told me, “She’s Max’s aunt.”
The woman smiled at me and shook my hand.
“There’s a problem with the flowers,” she said, “You ordered pink roses, and instead they’re orange.”
Isabelle did a double take and staring ranting in french.
“Mais non! C’est impossible!”
Max gave me a look that said ‘see-how-crazy-my-family-is?’ and we followed her into the house. It seemed to be entirely made out of marble and looked like a museum, full of sculptures and old antiques.
Isabelle ran up the stairs, from where lots of shrieking was coming.
“I apologize in advance for anything my family says,” Max told me.
We followed her up the stairs and down a series of pristine, carpeted halls, until we finally entered a room. There were blonde women running around everywhere, all talking rapidly in French.
And right in the middle of the crowd was a shrieking girl wearing a white wedding dress.
“I TOLD YOU I WANTED A SILVER TIARA! NOT A HAIR BARRETTE!”
Ah, Elodie. Max folded her arms and leant against the wall, keeping out of the way.
I stared around me, standing out more than I’d have liked because everyone else in the room was blonde.
Elodie swivelled around, a fierce scowl on her pretty face and spotted Max.
“MAXINE!” she shrieked, “FINALLY! COME AND GET FITTED FOR YOUR DRESS! NOW!”
Ok, she needs to calm down. I mean, it’s just a bloody wedding.
Max immediately stepped forward, and her aunts, cousins and other veela-like women began to pull, prod and pinch her until she was finally wearing a bright pink bridesmaids dress, with her face covered in makeup and her long blonde hair put up in a bun. She had a sulky expression on her face.
“Stop frowning Maxine, it creates wrinkles,” her mother snapped.
Max didn’t bother to listen to her.
“Et elle? Qui est-elle?”
I looked up and saw every face looking at me.
“Oh, this is Maxine’s friend Charlotte,” Isabelle said, as she adjusted Elodie’s dress.
“Why is she wearing that?” asked a cousin, looking at me with her nose wrinkled.
They all approached me slowly, observing me like I was some sort of zoo animal.
“We’ll have to do something about that hair,” one woman said, “But it’s a good colour.”
“Maybe not blonde enough,” said another woman.
My hair is black! Like inky black! It can’t be blonde at all!
“The eyes are a nice colour,” said another woman, “I always wanted light blue eyes.”
“We could put her in a blue dress. Or maybe purple.”
Oh, so do I have no say in this at all?
“She’s too skinny,” added another woman, “She should wear a dress that gives
her more shape.”
* * *
Three hours later I was sitting in a chair while the hired hairdressers for the wedding were putting all sorts of funny smelling potions in my hair. She then began to curl the ends with her wand.
“I’d really rather if you just left my hair alone,” I told her as politely as possible.
“Sorry,” said the hairdresser, “To leave your hair like that would be a crime.”
“What, a crime against fashion?” I snorted.
“Yes,” she said, in all seriousness.
I raised an eyebrow.
Max, who was sitting in the chair was having the same thing done to her.
“Max, can’t you make them stop?” I pleaded with her.
“Nope,” she said, “They were hired by my mother, and my mother told them to do it. It’s their job.”
I felt like crying.
How was this happening?
I would honestly rather be listening to Angela and Dad talk about their new summer house.
“Done!” said the hairdresser. She sat me up and took a dress off the rack in the corner.
“Who’s dress is that?” I asked nervously.
“Mine,” Maxine replied.
“This really isn’t necessary,” I said, as the hairdresser started forcing the dress over my head, “The wedding isn’t until tomorrow.”
“There’s the wedding rehearsal, and the pre-wedding dinner,” Max groaned, her face the picture of boredom as one of the beauticians started pushing back her cuticles.
The woman pushed me harshly in front of a mirror.
My long hair, which used to be poker straight and limp, was now wavy and bouncy.
The dress was black, and it came up to mid-thigh, so it wasn’t too revealing.
“I told you that you should wear dresses more often,” said Max, sitting up from her chair to observe.
I hated to admit it, but I actually liked the way I looked.
My face was completely void of makeup, and I still looked pale and a little washed out. Overall my appearance hadn't changed much. However, the dress finally proved that I was a girl, and the hair was pretty. It made me look feminine.
"You're smiling!" Max chuckled.
I immediately forced a scowl onto my face.
"You think you look pretty," she teased, laughing when she saw my expression.
She was right.
* * *
The wedding rehearsal and the pre-wedding dinner went smoothly. No one paid me much attention, although I stuck out quite a bit as one of the only dark haired people around.
Elodie had a total of twelve panic attacks. The biggest one was when she tripped on her way up the aisle during the rehearsal and the heel on her six hundred pound shoe snapped.
It's ridiculous. Who would buy shoes, that obviously can't even keep you upright, for that much money?
Crazy psycho brides, that's who.
After she'd stopped crying, and after she'd stopped flipping out about her running mascara, Elodie managed to say her speech at the rehearsal dinner with perfect charm. Most people started crying then.
Max just sat there with her arms folded, looking bored.
After the rehearsal drinks were served and everyone mingled. Max was dragged off to meet Elodie's fiancés family, and I was left alone, staring absent mindedly at the drinks table, which I wasn't allowed to touch considering I was underage.
"You aren't related to the Duchamp's, are you?"
I spun around in the direction of the voice, the first voice that spoke in english all day. A boy stood there, looking at me and clearly amused by my boredom.
"How can you tell?" I asked dully.
He grinned, "Other than the fact that you aren't blonde? You look incredibly bored."
I frowned because he wasn't blonde either. He seemed to guess my question before I could voice it.
"Michel, Elodie's fiancé is my older brother. I'm not a Duchamp either."
His accent was french, like mine used to be. I nodded, unsure of what to say next. He chuckled.
"So is frowning your usual expression? Or are you just really angry about something?"
I tried to relax my facial muscles from my scowl, "It's my usual expression, unfortunately."
I expected him to leave, but he stayed.
"So why are you here?" he asked, "If you're not related."
"My friend is Elodie's sister," I explained, "She tricked me into coming."
"Ah," he grinned, "So you're not having fun?"
"Not really," I told him honestly.
"Not even now you have someone to talk to?"
I paused before I answered, scrutinizing him. He seemed my age, maybe a little older, and had olive skin and dark hair. It didn't slip my observation that he was quite good looking.
"I guess it's OK, now," I admitted. He grinned, flashing white, pearly teeth.
"I'm Elliot," he said, holding out a hand. I held out mine firmly, but instead of shaking it he lifted it and kissed it lightly.
Woah, chivalry still existed? Who knew?
"Charlotte," I said.
Wait-I hate the name Charlotte? Why didn't I tell him my name was Charlie?
Charlie just sounded so unsophisticated, and this guy seemed so...polished.
"It's lovely to meet you Charlotte," he said.
I was surprised, because no one had ever told me that it was lovely to meet me.
"I'll see you at the wedding tomorrow," he said, still smiling at me (it was becoming a little unnerving), "I'll leave you now, you can go back to...frowning."
He grinned at me one last time. I attempted what might be a charming smile, and he walked away.
He was about a meter away from me when Max swooped in, her mouth open wide in excitement.
"Who was that?"
"Elodie's new brother-in-law," I said.
"Well Elodie's new brother-in-law is really into you," she said knowingly.
I scoffed, "What?"
"Please. I know flirting when I see it," she said, raising her eyebrows at me.
I looked after Elliot. Had he really been flirting with me? Was I really so socially inept that I couldn't even recognise that?
"A-are you sure?" I frowned.
"Yep," she said with certainty, "Told you you should wear dresses more often."
I felt the soft material of the dress.
"We should go," I said, "Before any of your crazy relatives come over here."
"I tried to warn you," Max sighed, taking me by the arm and leading me out of the dining room.
"No, you begged me to come with you," I reminded her.
"Oh yeah, sorry about that."
I grunted dismissively in reply.
"It'll be worse tomorrow," she warned me.
* * *
She was wrong. Things weren't just worse. Things were catastrophic.
"The caterers haven't delivered enough champagne!"
"One of the waiters is sick with the flue!"
"We ordered white gardenias, but only pink ones have been delivered!"
"There's ice on the road, so some of the guests will be arriving late!"
Disaster after disaster struck, and each time Elodie acted as though the world was ending.
Remind me never to get married.
But somehow, somehow, everything pulled itself together and I found myself in a silk lilac dress, sitting on a pew in a church waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive.
Every five seconds I reached down to tug the dress further down my thigh, constantly worried that it was inching back up.
I had never shown this much skin. I felt cold. The church was heated, but I still felt goosebumps creeping uncomfortably up my arms.
Luckily I had been allowed to wear flats. I put my foot down at heels. No way was I tottering around all night looking like an idiot.
"Is this seat taken?"
I looked up and saw Elliot. He looked very nice in a pale grey suit.
"Er...no," I said.
I felt extremely uncomfortable, now that Max had assured me over and over again that yes, Elliot had been flirting with me, and no, he probably wasn't doing it for a laugh.
"Then...can I sit here?" he chuckled as he saw how nervous I looked.
"Of course!" I cried. Crap, maybe that was too eager, "I mean, yeah, if you want to."
He laughed slightly as he slid into the pew beside me.
"You look very nice," he told me.
This was yet another statement that no one had ever made about me, so I had no idea how to react.
Was I supposed to tell him he looked nice too? Should I thank him? Should I deny it and act as though I thought I looked horrible?
Man, I wish I had never put on a dress. Then I wouldn't have to worry about this crap.
"Thanks," I muttered, folding my arms over my chest uncomfortably.
"Am I really so terrible?" he laughed.
I stared at him.
"You frown so much," he said, smiling in genuine concern, "Is it me?"
Yes, but not in the way that you think.
"I'm sorry," I sighed, felling my muscles relax slightly, "It's not you."
Yes it is.
"I just don't know anyone here," I lied, "And I feel kind of like an alien."
"Because you are English?" he asked.
I stared straight in front of me. Was my english accent no longer French? Had I become so English, so estranged from my family, that I could no longer be recognised?
"Actually I'm French," I said, "Well, I was born in France, but my dad is English. Plus I go to school in England, so I haven't spoken French in a while."
He raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"And here I was, thinking that you were an exotic, foreign stranger."
I could tell he was joking and I grinned, "I'm still half English, remember? I'm still half an exotic, foreign stranger."
"Of course," he smiled.
Hey, was that a successful attempt at flirting? Maybe...but maybe not. I should take lessons from Dan when we get back.
Not that I'll be doing any flirting when we get back. Obviously.
The organ suddenly started playing and all the guests turned around to look at the entrance.
The bridesmaids all walked in, each wearing identical bright pink dresses. Max came in third, a thoroughly displeased look on her face (which had been covered in make up).
The ceremony passed quickly. Elodie and Michel read their vows sweetly, and everyone cried. When they kissed everyone clapped. Outside the church, even though it was freezing with a bitter wind, everyone threw confetti as they came out of the church.
We all drove to the reception. Since I didn't know anyone Elliot took the same limo as me. I liked him more and more by the minute.
But maybe it was Charlotte, the exotic, foreign English girl who wore pretty dresses that liked him. Charlie, the scruffy tomboy who made too much trouble probably wouldn't even look twice at him, because she would know for certain that he wouldn't be interested in her.
At the reception we separated to sit at our different tables. Luckily I had been placed beside Max, but she hadn't arrived yet because she was in the car behind Elodie and her new husband, with the other bridesmaids.
I tried to smile at the other people around the table, but they seemed so absorbed in their own conversations so I sat and fiddled with my fork.
More and more guests began to fill up the reception hall, until finally it started to look as though five hundred people had been invited.
I was served a glass of some sweet drink and sat quietly in my seat, sipping it uncomfortably.
"Merlin's beard Charlie, you didn't tell me you had legs!"
I spun around at the sound of the familiar voice.
It was Fred. He was standing with a glass in his hand, taking in my appearance. What the hell was he doing here?
"Fred?" I stared, standing up to face him, "What are you doing here?"
"Our aunt Fleur was invited. She's a distant relative or something. Plus they invited Harry, so a bunch of us came along. What are you doing here?"
"Wait, did you say that Harry Potter was invited?"
"Yes," Fred frowned, "Plenty of us Weasley Potters came along." Then he broke into a smirk,as though he had just realised something very amusing, "Oh, this should be fun."
"Walker?" came the oh-so-familiar voice from behind me, full of shock and horror.
I knew he was here before he even spoke. I turned around, dreading what I would see, praying to god that it wasn't who I thought it was.
Unfortunately, the gods seem to hate me.
"Potter," I uttered, my voice completely horrified.
He just stared back at me.
A/N: Sorry guys, I'm a sucker for cliffhangers :) Let me know what you thought in a quick review, I love getting feedback :) I tried to make Charlie's 'transformation' as un-clichéd as possible, let me know if I succeded or failed!
Until next time! Chapter 11 is almost done, and I am on a roll :) after that I might take a break from this and work on something else :)
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