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Pride, Prejudice, and Duelling Pistols at Dawn by redherring
Chapter 1 : Too Many Mince Pies
 
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that mothers are interfering, the French love fashion, and the less generously-endowed amongst us should steer firmly clear of plunging necklines when we’ve got nothing to show for it.

Currently, all three of these things were causing me problems.

It was at times like this that I really needed a fairy godmother to flick her magic wand and send me off to the ball looking stunning, with my hair respectable and a dress that looked half-decent. Unfortunately, despite possessing all the necessary magical abilities, my godmother was a solicitor living in Marseilles who sent me scarves every Christmas.

Even more unfortunately, I had been burdened with a mother who was more interested in choosing clothes for herself, and whose idea of constructive criticism was “Oh no, you are far too flat-chested for a dress like that, ma cherie!”

She never said things like this to Victoire. She didn’t say them to Louis either, but that was rather beside the point.

“You know, Mum, I think I’ll be fine on my own,” I hinted. She was sitting cross-legged on my bed, looking more like a teenage girl than I did, flicking through all three of the catalogues spread out before her and clearly having the time of her life. I was sitting at my desk, eating one of the few mince pies left over from Christmas, and staring at the unfinished History essay that had been taunting me all holiday but that now seemed positively tempting.

“Really, Nicky, it’s no trouble. Oh, look at this one!” She thrust the catalogue in my face. “It would look stunning on Victoire, don’t you think?”

It took me another fifteen minutes to chivvy her out. She scooped up her catalogues with a look of uttermost hurt, muttering about ingratitude and how there was no shame in a little padding, Nicky dear.

“Maybe you should ask Will,” she called over her shoulder as I attempted to push the door shut without looking like I was slamming it in her face. “It’s more his area of expertise.”

It is more than a little worrying when your boyfriend knows more about designer dresses than you do, but Mum was right, for once. Plus, this whole thing was his bloody fault.

Grabbing quill and parchment, I scrawled HELP!, adding DRESS CRISIS as an afterthought so he wouldn’t think I was being kidnapped or something.

“It can’t be a crisis,” he told me soothingly when he appeared in a whoosh of green flames five minutes later. “You have a month to get ready for this, Dom. A month and three days. So there is absolutely no need to panic.”

“That’s easy for you to say. A pair of black dress robes and you’re sorted.”

“I’m wearing grey, actually.”

What?”

“My robes are grey. Charcoal, to be precise.”

“Well why didn’t you tell me? I need to coordinate with you! I mean, what if I’d turned up in charcoal too? How ridiculous would that have looked? Oh, Will, you are hopeless!”

“I did tell you,” he said, nonplussed and cowed.

“You didn’t!”

“I did! Well, Clarissa did.”

“Clarissa?”

“In her last letter to you. All the owls were out and she had the last one, I mentioned that I needed to tell you this – because I know how important coordination is, thank you very much – and she said the letter was to you anyway so she’d add it in a postscript...”

“Oh,” I said, slightly high-pitched. “Of course. Clarissa. My bad. Sorry.”

Clarissa was Will’s older, bitchier sister. Well, that was harsh. She wasn’t that bad. She could be really rather nice, in fact, which just made her haughtier, pettier tendencies all the more infuriating.

Will, bless him, was under the impression that she and I were on the best of terms.

We were not.

On the contrary, she currently hated my guts, convinced that I had purposefully sabotaged her relationship with my cousin James, which I most certainly had not. James was just a polygamist and an idiot and had ditched her for someone significantly less pretty but probably less high-maintenance. Most of me didn’t blame him. The part that was currently being bullied by Clarissa, however, most certainly did.

“Would you like a mince pie?” I asked Will, to change the subject.

“Um, no thank you. I didn’t mean this to be a chore,” Will said, all sweet and concerned. “You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to. I just thought it would be fun –”

“It will,” I said quickly, “I really want to come. I do, honestly. It’s just a bit... confusing. This is way out of my comfort zone. I mean, what exactly does one wear to this kind of ball? How high up is it on the poshness scale? My mother has decided she knows and has been eager to enlighten me on the subject, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know a thing.”

“Ah.” He grinned. “Good old Mrs Weasley. Well, I could get my mother to take you out, if you like –”

“NOOOO!” I was tempted to wail. “I don’t want her to think I’m some fashion-depraved peasant who can’t find to dress to wear to something as simple as a charity ball! ‘Oh no, Fitzwilliam, that girl will never do! What happens when we’re invited to tea with the Minister for Magic and she turns up in last year’s designers? We shall never be accepted in decent society again, we’ll have to mingle with the... plebs’...”

I had never met Will’s mother, but something told me that Mrs Elward probably did speak like this on occasion, and certainly would if her precious son’s girlfriend, already middle class (cue dramatic gasps and collapsing onto fainting couches), showed her up at a society soiree.

Weasleys don’t do soirees. We do piss-ups in bars (James), drunken rampages (Freddie) and awkward New Year’s Eves (Teddy, Victoire, Molly). The Delacours work along the same lines, just with a classy Bordeaux rather than Firewhiskey.

“That’s all right,” I eventually said instead. “Don’t want to trouble her. I’ll find something. I’m French, after all, it should be in my genes.”

It clearly wasn’t. Yes, my mother always looked effortlessly chic, but I often left the house with toothpaste on my face. Apparently the Weasley fashion chromosome had beaten up and dismembered the less ballsy Delacour one during my creation. Mum was no use anyway. I asked for her help to find a bloody dress for this bloody stupid ball that bloody Will was forcing me to –

Ok, so he wasn’t bloody Will. He was rather lovely, actually.

It was still technically his fault, however. This bloody ball might be in a month and three days, but he had given me only forty-eight days in total in which to prepare for it. Did he not understand what a miniscule amount that was for a newbie such as myself? What had his very expensive pre-Hogwarts education - at a ridiculously exclusive wizarding public school - given him if not crucial life lessons such as this? Surely they must have had classes to educate them in how the common folk live?

“I’m not stressing,” I said, catching him looking at me in a Dear-Lord-Dom-Don’t-Stress kind of way. “I’m fine. Totally fine. Promise.”

“I know,” he said. “And you will find something, I know you will. I have complete faith in you.”

Merci.”

“And you are going to look gorgeous,” he said still more emphatically. He was overdoing it a bit now, I supposed, but as long as he stuck to flattery I was happy to let him continue. “You always do. Well, your hair does interesting things first thing in the morning. And you can look a little... off... after a run. But apart from that...”

I whacked him on the arm, trying to think of a decent comeback, while he grinned sheepishly at his own wit. Unfortunately, he always looked perfectly acceptable first thing in a morning. He never looked “a little off” after a run, mainly because he “didn’t do running” – oh no, he played polo, squash, lacrosse, and enjoyed hill-walking in his spare time. He was a bit of an odd one, my Will.

As no witty retorts seemed eager to claim me, I resorted to a simple “Oi, cheeky!” and decided to forgive him, because he looked really rather adorable sat there cross-legged on my bed... reading a fashion magazine.

“For heavens’ sake, give me that.” I took it off him. “Be fashion conscious in private, ok?”

“Hey, I’m just being helpful!” he said defensively. “Despite all evidence to the contrary, I don’t actually enjoy reading up on ‘How to be the Belle of the Ball’.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“I don’t! Honestly! My mother buys most of my clothes!”

“Oh Lord, I could’ve done without knowing that.”

“I won’t help you at all then,” he declared. “I’ll let you turn up to the ball in something hideous and you’ll be the laughing stock of my mother’s knitting circles for years to come.”

“Don’t say that, that’s exactly what I’m worried about!”

“She doesn’t actually have a knitting circle, you know.”

“Will, I’m serious!”

“I won’t do the ‘you will look gorgeous’ speech again,” he said. “Your ego’s big enough as it is. Anyway, I’d better be going.”

I was rather offended. “Talk about short and sweet. Bored of me already?”

“I – er –” He looked awkward. “I’ve got a... dinner party... to go to.”

Loving girlfriend that I was, I did not laugh. “Of course you have. Which duke, count or earl is holding it this time?”

Cheeks crimson, he said, “It’s one of my father’s business partners. But yes, he is an earl.”

I was used to this kind of thing by now. Moved in high circles, Will did. It was all rather interesting and impressive really, once you got past how bizarre it all was.

“Ok, well, have fun with Britain’s wizarding royalty. I, meanwhile, will be sorting through my sock drawer and defrosting a pizza for tea.”

We headed downstairs to the living room so he could floo away. My brother Louis was already in there, flopped shirtless on the sofa, as you do, doodling in his Charms textbook.

“Oh, hello!” He beamed gleefully when he saw us. “Didn’t realise you were here, Fitzwilliam.”

Louis, unfortunately, was at that age where he still thought he was funny.

“Hilarious, Lou,” I told him while Will squirmed in embarrassment. After seventeen years he was still mortified at the very mention of his full name. “Shove off, will you? Mum wants to see you. And get dressed, for heaven’s sake – it’s indecent, guests or no guests.”

Louis groaned, throwing his textbook dramatically onto the carpet and slouching off out of the door.

“Sorry about him,” I said.

“Oh, it’s fine. I have a little brother, I understand. What does your mum want to see him about? Is she giving him useless dress advice as well?”

I chuckled dutifully. Will’s jokes were often a little off-the-mark, bless him. “No. She doesn’t want him for anything. I just needed to get rid of him because I’d rather like to kiss you before you leave, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all. Very sneaky of you, Miss Weasley.”

He bent down a little and I stretched up on my toes, and our lips met just as Louis swaggered back into the room.

“Dom what’re you on about, Mum didn’t want – Ew!” He had clearly seen us. “Ew! Gross! Urgh!” he shouted. He didn’t move, though.

“If it’s so disgusting then why are you still standing there? Pervert,” I accused.

Will jumped away immediately. He had always been a little awkward about public displays of affection, which I put down to the fact that his mother was probably a very cold woman, the kind who refused to hug her children. “See you tomorrow,” he said.

“See you,” I said. “School again, yay.”

“I can really feel the enthusiasm there. Just think of it like this: only ten more weeks until the Easter holidays!”

“Great,” I said. “Anyway, as my brother is still watching us, you should probably go. Have fun at dinner with the Minister.”

“Will do. And don’t stress over the dress thing. It’s not a big deal, Dom, really.”

“I won’t. Promise.”

“And I hope you haven’t left all your packing to the last minute.”

“Like I ever would,” I protested in mock-offence.

He stepped into the fireplace with a handful of floo powder, and the moment he had been swallowed up in a spurt of green flames, I sprinted away up the stairs, realising it was seven in the evening and I had an essay on goblins to finish and my entire life to pack away in a trunk before the day was out.




A/N: A plot bunny along these lines about a posh guy named Fitzwilliam and a load of angry Hufflepuffs, who will appear in the next chapter, has been rattling round in my head for a while now, and it’s taken me ages to actually do something about it. I haven’t written fluff/humour in a while and so I’ve become quite self-conscious about doing it... hopefully this was mildly amusing :P Reviews are love, if you have a moment, and thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: I do not, of course, own Harry Potter, and nor do I own Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy, or any of the other Austen-related references that will crop up occasionally. Bridget Jones belongs to Helen Fielding (this is used in the banner, and other references may appear later on). The line “It is a truth universally acknowledged...” is, of course, a quote from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, p1.


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