Chapter 24 : Can-Can You Dance?
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I had another poor night’s sleep. Upon hearing Victoire leave for work, I got up and dressed myself, still unsure as to what I was going to do. Leaving now seemed like a rash decision, but I wasn’t sure if I could be in Teddy’s presence again. Being in the same house as him was proving to be difficult as it was.
What would I tell my parents when I came home early? I felt as if everyone was already expecting me to fail, and I wasn’t keen on proving them right. I now had to choose between my pride and my pride, which obviously meant that making a decision would be extremely difficult.
He knocked on my door about an hour after Victoire left for work, offering me breakfast. I joined him in the kitchen, neither of us saying anything. He looked almost nervous, his feet avoiding the metaphorical egg shells I’d dropped all over the floor whilst smothering a figurative elephant into the room.
“Did you sleep well?” he asked cautiously.
“Not really,” I admitted quietly. I munched on a piece of toast.
“Are you still intent on going home?”
I sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
He smiled a bit more warmly. “I’m glad,” he offered.
I just nodded, focusing on eating my breakfast rather than him. I supposed I ought to have apologised to him, because I’d put him in an incredibly awkward position. I sincerely hoped he had no intention of telling Victoire about my unfortunate slip, because I was certain she’d kick me out of the house faster than I could say “biscuit”.
We finished breakfast in silence, though inside my head thoughts were rattling around noisily. Mostly, I wanted to find a way to make the rest of the week less awkward – I couldn’t take another four days of loaded silences and wondering what on Earth he was thinking and trying to work out what I thought myself. I sort of wanted to just come right out and say, “I’ll do anything to stop this being awkward, let’s just be normal again”. However, it was becoming painfully clear that I wasn’t capable of normal, and suffering in silence would have to do for now.
“What are we doing today?” I asked as we started to clear up the dirty plates.
“I hadn’t planned anything,” he replied. “I wasn’t sure if you were still going to be here.”
I sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“Stop apologising,” he said with a smile. “I know Victoire said she’d take us along to a wine tasting festival tonight, but until then we have time to kill. Is there anything you’d like to do?”
I thought for a moment. “Well, I’ve actually always wanted to try dancing,” I said hesitantly. “You know, the Can-Can. That’s French, isn’t it?”
“I think so,” Teddy said, nodding. He was clearly thinking what I was – if we were learning to dance, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to feel awkward about not talking. “I’ll floo my friend and see if she knows of anything.”
He strode over to a tiny grate in the wall and chucked in some floo powder. I decided to get dressed while he sorted it out, not wanting to eavesdrop on his conversation – he could probably do with having the chance to moan to a friend about how annoying I was. It was best I wasn’t around to hear that.
A few minutes later, he knocked on my door as I was getting undressed and strode in without waiting for me to respond.
“Noo!” I yelled, ducking behind the bed as he stuck his head around the door. “I’m naked!”
He didn’t seem to find that prospect very appealing, so quickly scarpered from the room, with a hasty “sorry!”. I hurriedly threw on a jumper and a pair of jeans and went to see what he wanted.
“Sorry about that,” he said again, blushing slightly. We had clearly been a pair of tomatoes in a previous life. “I just wanted to tell you that there’s a town not far from here that offers lessons to beginners. Still interested?”
“Yeah,” I said, starting to wonder what I’d agreed to. I hadn’t exactly expected him to take my suggestion seriously, let alone know someone who could hook us up with a dance class. The only dancing I could do was the Macarena, which didn’t exactly qualify as a traditional dance.
“The class starts at two o’clock, so we could probably go for a walk near the town before then. Irène says the scenery is pretty out there.” I assumed Irène was his friend, and pictured a tall, skinny French beauty, dressed in a black beret and stripy top. Suddenly I didn’t like Irène very much.
“Sounds good,” I said, sticking imaginary pins in Irène’s slim torso. I probably needed to cut out thinking so much…
I found some sensible shoes and we left for this mystery town. It was pouring down with rain again, which sort of put a dampener on things (literally). Through the murkiness, I could make out a reasonable sized town, surrounded by fields. The buildings stood close together, old architecture looming over crooked narrow streets. We found a footpath and started making tracks in the mud.
“I suppose this is what you call “fun” these days,” I remarked as water dripped down the back of my neck. I ran my hands through my hair, which had started to frizz up.
Teddy handed me his umbrella, rolling his eyes. “I suppose this is what you call “prepared” these days,” he jested, gesturing at my lack of waterproof and umbrella.
“Very funny,” I said sourly, holding the umbrella a bit higher so he could duck under. He shook his head at my offer and stepped to the side; he clearly didn’t want to be any closer to me than he had to be. What, was he scared I’d suddenly lunge for him? “I didn’t really associate France with rain. I assumed it would be sunny.”
He laughed, catapulting raindrops from his face. “Silly woman.”
“Sometimes,” I conceded. “You could have warned me the weather was bad.”
“Next time, I will.”
Yeah, because I was so eager to return to this nightmare again – reliving the embarrassment would be enough of a deterrent in itself. I would be happy enough if I didn’t see him again until Christmas, when he’d hopefully have forgotten all about yesterday’s unfortunate incident and I could go on lusting after him from within the confines of my head. Oh, those were the good old days.
We trudged on through the field in silence, leaving me to admire the scenery, which was actually quite difficult when I couldn’t even see it. Honestly, this didn’t count as a holiday; it was almost like being back at home. The postcards I’d bought certainly didn’t show any rain, which I thought was quite appalling false advertising.
“Come on, then,” Teddy said eventually after checking his watch. “Let’s go and make fools of ourselves.”
“What, again?” I muttered. He poked me playfully and I rolled my eyes. “You know it’s true,” I said heavily.
“Don’t take yourself so seriously,” he said lightly. “There’s nothing wrong with embarrassing yourself every once in a while.” Every minute of your whole life, more like, I thought to myself.
“There’s plenty wrong with it,” I argued as we headed towards the town. “But I’ll give in to it every once in a while. Lucky for you, now is one of those times.”
The dance class was in what looked like a community building, a small place with freshly painted windows. Teddy held the door open for me and we went inside, walking along a dimly lit corridor until we reached the room Teddy had noted down. Inside, the windows revealed a scene of very wet, rolling hills beyond the town.
“Bonjour,” Teddy said apprehensively, approaching a short woman at the front of the room. Her hair was set in strict curls, lips painted a drab coral, which looked like she’d had the lipstick for years and the colour had slowly faded away. I eyed her brightly coloured skirt warily; it had too many frills and layers for my liking.
She winced at his terrible accent and waved him aside. “We shall wait for ze others,” she instructed, pointing to where two people were waiting at the side of the room.
We approached them, glancing at each other but not saying anything. “Bonjour,” Teddy tried again. The couple looked up from their conversation and smiled.
“We’re not French,” the woman said. “We’re just here for our honeymoon. I’m Cheryl and this is my husband, Dave.” She looked at her new husband with a sickly loving look and he beamed at her in an equally sickly manner.
I tried not to barf. “I’m Rose,” I offered. They looked to Teddy, who obligingly gave his name.
“Are you on your honeymoon too?” Cheryl asked, peering at us in turn. “I’ve heard this is a hotspot for romantic getaways.”
“Um,” I said awkwardly, refusing to look at Teddy. “No.”
“I live here,” Teddy said quickly as I turned bright red. “My girlfriend’s in the wine industry. We moved here about a month or two ago.”
Dave looked interested in us, rather than Cheryl, for the first time. “You work in the wine industry?” he asked curiously. “Tell me, what’s the best wine in this area?”
I blushed even further. “I’m not his girlfriend,” I spluttered. “We’re just friends.”
“I see,” Cheryl said, eyeing my hot cheeks. Perhaps she really did see, but I didn’t really care what she thought. “Well, I’m sure we’ll all have fun anyway.”
When it looked like no one else was going to join the class, the short lady at the front of the room stepped closer to us, brandishing some brightly coloured fabric. “You must wear these,” she instructed, throwing us a piece each. I unfolded mine and realised she’d given us a Can-Can skirt.
I glanced at Teddy, who looked mortified. I stifled a snigger at the look on his face. “Come on, put it on,” I teased as we all stepped into the skirts. He glared at me.
“Whose idea was this?” he muttered, fiddling with the zip.
“Now you are ready to learn ze Can-Can,” the woman said, satisfied. “It cannot be mastered easily. You must feel ze dance, you must appreciate ze art. You and ze Can-Can are one.”
Cheryl and Dave were watching her with rapt awe. Teddy and I were trying to control our sniggering.
“I am Madame Bonhomme,” she said, eyeing Teddy and I sternly. We stopped laughing. “I shall instruct you in zis beautiful art. Now, watch me. Feel me.”
I raised my eyebrows. We all waited in silence as she closed her eyes, lifted her skirt and then commenced kicking her legs about.
I couldn’t contain it; I burst out laughing at the look on her face. She froze mid-kick, opening one eye and pinning it on me. Oops. She extended one finger in the direction of the door. We dropped our skirts to the floor and then quickly scurried out.
“Oh my goodness,” I chortled once we’d shut the door. “What even was that?”
Teddy laughed, rubbing his forehead with his hand. “I don’t know. But I thought she was going to pop; she’d stopped breathing, I think.” He managed to compose himself. “Shall we head home?”
He took my hand and turned on the spot. I breathed in subconsciously, as I always did when Apparating, and we arrived with a soft thud outside his front door. His hand left mine and I felt the cool breeze on my skin where his warmth had been. He unlocked the door and let me go in first.
“I’ll put the kettle on,” I offered, making my way over to the kitchen counter as he shrugged off his coat.
“Thanks,” he called as I disappeared into the kitchen.
Making tea was therapeutic, in a way. It was a set formula that I knew well and I had control over. I knew when to add the milk, how long to leave the tea in for and how much sugar I needed (one, heaped). In times of crisis, it was always good to make tea. The pattern stopped you thinking like a crazy, it soothed you.
“Sugar?” I asked as Teddy joined me.
“Just one,” he said. “Make it heaped. Thanks.”
I handed him his tea and we trotted into the living room to sit down. “I know today didn’t really go as planned,” I began. “But thanks for taking me to do that. It was fun.”
“No problem,” he said with a warm smile. “It turns out you’re a cheap date,” he teased.
“She probably would have charged a lot if we’d stayed,” I argued, trying to distract from the fact he’d used the word ‘date’.
“Probably,” he agreed, sipping his tea. “You make a good cup of tea, Rosie,” he praised.
“I was a tea girl for a good six months before Boris would let me near the shop floor,” I reminded him. “Which is a bit ironic really, considering how hopeless he is.”
“Well, it didn’t do you any harm, did it?” he responded thoughtfully. “Seeing as you’re now the manager of the most famous book store in the country.”
“No pressure,” I joked.
“You’ll do great,” he said cheerfully. “You can’t be any worse than that last woman he hired for a managerial position. What was her name?”
“Brenda,” I said, remembering the busty horror bitterly. “She was dire. I seemed to recall she thought her breasts were multipurpose tools. Moving stock around, giving directions, making tea…”
“I only met her once, but she wasn’t very pleasant to me,” Teddy recalled.
“She wasn’t very fond of young men,” I said wryly. “I always thought she had a crush on Boris, actually.”
Teddy looked pensive. “Why did she leave, again?”
I blushed at the memory. “I caught her waiting in Boris’s office. Topless.”
“Ah,” he said. “That would do it.”
We lapsed into thoughtful silence. I decided now would be a good time to start writing my postcards, so I fetched them from my room and curled up on the sofa with them.
Molly, I wrote.
Things are a bit better today. We went Can-Can dancing, which was hilarious because the woman was odd. We’re going wine tasting tonight, so hopefully I’ll be able to teach you a thing or two when I come home. I haven’t found any fit French men for you yet, but you can probably do without them now that you have Lorcan. Sorry! Anyway, I miss you. See you at the weekend.
Love and biscuits,
I would probably end up writing her a new postcard every day – I missed talking to her, so writing to her would have to do for now. I hoped she hadn’t gone and made some new friends in my absence; I wanted to return home and have things be exactly how I left them. My thoughts flicked to Scorpius, who was probably wondering where I’d disappeared off to. I shuddered at the thought, amazed that I’d let the situation get that out of hand. Stalkers had to be nipped in the bud before they got complacent, as Scorpius had done.
I wrote a postcard to Mum and Dad, then one to Albus and one to the shop, addressed to Boris and Matthew. Boris’s wife probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I started writing to him at home. I couldn’t mix business with pleasure, or whatever.
By the time Victoire got back, I’d written all my postcards and posted them, hopefully to be successfully delivered by the Muggle postman. I’d used the Muggle post system before and it had worked all right and as I was currently without an owl, that would have to do.
“We’re leaving in an hour,” Victoire informed me later as I cleared away the empty mugs of tea.
“Right,” I responded, trying to work out what I’d need for a wine tasting. Did they expect you to bring your own bucket so you could do the spitting thing after tasting? No offense to the wine tasting professionals, but there was no way I was going to waste any wine by spitting it out.
When we were ready to leave, Victoire took both Teddy and I by the hand and turned on the spot, taking us to where the wine tasting was to be held.
“This is a really good local winery,” Victoire informed us, knocking on the front door. A bent-over old man answered the door after some time, looking like his face was covered in wire because of his thick beard.
“Welcome,” he said thickly, stepping aside so we could walk inside. The hall was papered with wine bottle labels, with framed pictures of wine bottles hung up on the wall every so often. The little old man took us into a large reception room, where a good twenty other people were chatting away in French. He then disappeared through a door to our right, reappearing from another door carrying crates of wine.
Victoire fetched us a glass each and guided us over to wear the tasting was beginning. The old man poured us a sample in our glasses (which was a lot less than a full glass of wine, I noted disappointedly). She then started making a fuss about the wine, showing us the proper way to taste it.
“Swirl the glass,” she instructed. “Watch for the residue on the sides. Then, smell. Go on, take a big whiff.”
I did as she told us to do, feeling like a bit of a prat. I knew nothing about wine, other than you could get some acceptable plonk for a low price if you looked hard enough. After a song and dance that seemed to last ages, I finally got to drink the stuff, which actually was rather nice. It was free, so I couldn’t really complain.
We stayed for a couple of hours, tasting all the different wines the old man had (and I tasted most of them more than once), until I realised I’d actually drunk more than I’d realised. I held on to Teddy’s arm for support and I saw him and Victoire exchange a knowing glance. Well, I wasn’t exactly renowned for my sobriety anyway, so I didn’t care all that much. Victoire apparated us home and went to put the kettle on.
“Tea, anyone?” she called as I wondered off to bed.
“I’ll take her a glass of water, I think,” Teddy responded humorously as I wobbled into the door.
I had tucked myself into bed, fully clothed, when Teddy knocked on the door. He let himself in and placed the glass of water on my bedside table. As he made to stand up again, I wrapped my arms around him and dragged him onto the bed with me.
“What are you doing?” he asked amusedly.
“I’m cold,” I slurred, pulling him closer to me and revelling in his warm body.
“I’ll get you a hot water bottle,” he offered, trying to wiggle out of my embrace.
“No,” I snapped. “No, I want you. I want your body.”
This was going well, I (sort of) reasoned in my head. I’d got him nearly into my bed with my feminine wiles and charm.
“Who doesn’t?” he joked, trying to pull away again.
“Don’t go,” I commanded, rolling over and pinning him underneath me with my weight.
“Rose, I think you need to let me go,” he said quietly, sounding a lot less amused than before.
I closed my eyes and sighed heavily. “One last thing,” I said. Then, I made to kiss him, only I managed to miss his lips and kiss his eye.
“Thanks,” he said after I pulled away. He rolled me over back to where I’d been before and escaped.
Then, I had a well-deserved snooze.
AN: Bonjour = Hello.
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