Chapter 4 : Small Talk
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The glaring screen of my mobile phone quivering on the dresser catches my eye. 3 missed calls, 5 unread texts (four of which were blank – oh mother) and a voicemail.
Maybe I should’ve spent the last 5 minutes being more attentive to my current surroundings, and less wishing I was anywhere but in them.
Plz call me right now !!! LOL XX
Believe me when I say I’ve tried to tell her numerous times that ‘lol’ does not, in fact, stand for ‘lots of love’. Sigh.
“Darling, ring me ASAP!” was the entirety of the voicemail. The anxiety in her voice is what makes me tap in my home number right away – but before I can press ‘call’ Fleur pops her head round my door.
“It eez your mother on ze phone,” she murmurs, pushing the telephone into my hands.
“Hello?” I say softly, trying to conceal any tell-tale signs of my sniffling and sobbing.
“Addie!” my mum all but cries. My lips tug upward of their own accord at hearing the familiar voice. “Baby! This is a big mistake, I’m so sorry, Hon – agh, I miss you so much! I can’t believe I let you get away from me – how on earth did I expect you to cope? Fleur only just told me what happened – you poor baby – do you still feel sick? Dizzy? Oh, let’s just get you home right away – ”
“Woah, woah, Mum, stop!” I finally manage to get out. Sweet Jesus, can that woman talk for England. “What do you mean, get me home? I haven’t even been here an hour…”
It’s enormously tempting. The thought of going back home, I mean. But it’s also exactly what I’ve spent the past few moments mulling over, and have come to the conclusion that I should stick it out a bit longer. At least for the next few days. Otherwise, my mum will think I’m a loser, my dad will think I’m a loser, Florence will think I’m a loser, Fleur, Louis, Dominique…
And I am not a loser, however much I may appear to be.
So, with a wobbly voice, I tell her, “I’m absolutely fine now, Mum. You don’t need to worry, I’m doing fine.”
I catch Fleur’s smile out of the corner of my eye before she closes the creaking door behind her.
There’s a pause. “Really?” Mum says through the line, sounding uncertain. Nice to know she has so much faith in me.
“Yes, really!” I say. I walk over to sit on the bed. Okay, this is easier than I thought.
“Right, so… how are they? Have you met everyone? What do you think of them?” she asks excitedly, all in one rushed breath. I roll my eyes.
“Well, as of yet, I’ve seen the younger boy – ”
“Louis?” she cuts in.
“Yes. And the girl – ”
“Yes, Mum. And Fleur, of course.”
“Right. So what do you think?”
I clear my throat. “Honestly?” I don’t see why I should lie about this. What’s the point? “They’re just as bad as I remember them to be...” I list the words off my fingers: “Snobby. Rude. French. Except now they have an extra dose of hormones and superiority complexes, too, so I guess you could say they are even worse.”
“Oh gosh, Hon, really? That bad?” she says, voice oozing with disappointment. I know my mum, though, and I know she thinks I’m a grade A drama queen.
“That bad.” I nod, even though she can’t see me. I can feel the anger beginning to burn through my veins, egging me on. Just thinking about the, er, distressing events of the past few hours makes my fists curl. “First impressions were exceedingly unfavourable, Mum. You’d think I don’t have feelings or something, if you saw the way they treat me. They’re vile. I just feel like I’m in their way and – and it’s obvious they don’t want me here.”
I’ve already cried once. I can’t break down on the phone.
“Especially Dominique,” I add in a lower voice, my voice turning caustic around her name.
“Oh, babe. What happened?”
I accidentally went into his room, Mummy, and he was mean to me.
I brought my teddy for comfort, Mummy, and she laughed at me.
“Doesn’t really matter. But bottom line is, they haven’t changed a bit, just as I suspected,” I say almost smugly. But not smugly, because it’s nothing to be smug about at all.
“I truly am sorry to hear that. But remember, Hon, you’re not there for them; you’re there for you. Fleur’s nice, though, isn’t she?”
“Oh, yeah,” I say, thinking of her fussing over me, always making sure I’m alright. “Quite lovely, actually.”
“Things will get better, love. I’m sure of it.”
I mumble a half-hearted ‘mm’ into the receiver. It’s funny − despite the way things have gone, I so badly want to believe her.
“Be a good girl for Fleur. Call me soon, okay? And, for god’s sake, answer your phone when it rings!”
“Your dad, Florence and I all love and miss you, you know.”
“Bye, love bug.”
She clicks off.
I guess I should return the house phone to Fleur. I take a moment to compose myself, and then pull the door wide open.
What I don’t expect to see is Louis Weasley’s face, staring at me, alarmed. He was leaning against the doorframe. We both stumble backwards. I'm starting to think this is the beginnings of a gawky tradition.
Surprisingly, I’m the first to speak, but it comes out as more of a question than a greeting. “Hi?” I say, quirking an eyebrow.
I focus on his face expectantly, but he doesn’t answer.
“Why are – what do you – ”
“Nothing,” he says at once, blinking rapidly as if snapping out of his thoughts. Were his cheeks always that pink? “I was just walking by. I’ll just get going.”
“Yeah,” I manage to say, and he gives me a little nod, stuffs his hands into his pockets, and recedes back into his room.
How much of that did he hear?
I always feel awkward around lovey-dovey people. You know the sort. Whether it’s some slushy sops on TV or a suck-face couple in public, it never fails to make me feel embarrassed (and often a tad nauseated). So as I creep into the kitchen for dinner, led solely by my nose, I’m more than a little perturbed to find Fleur and a vaguely familiar-looking Bill in such a position.
The back of her head of silvery-blonde hair faces me, nuzzling (bleurgh) into the chest of a slim red-headed man, bodies flush against each other as he rests his head on hers. Angry slashes and rips, I notice, tarnish the tall man’s face.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” a horrified voice calls from somewhere behind me. I quickly edge aside, heart fluttering with nerves, to let Strange Boy (You-Know-Who), who is sporting an easy, lazy grin you’d find under the word ‘cheeky’ in the dictionary, enter the room. Someone’s in a better mood. “Dad, Maman… as one of your offspring, I feel like this is something I should never have to see. Especially before eating.”
They smile as they pull apart, keeping one arm wrapped around the other, not looking embarrassed in the slightest. I get the impression that this kind of encounter happens more often than Louis – I mean, Strange Boy – would like.
“Have you ever heard of the expression ‘get a room’?” he carries on in faux disgust.
“I wish,” Bill grumbles, ducking down to smooch his wife's neck.
Fleur laughs in a giggly way I haven’t heard before and shoves Bill lightly on the chest.
Louis ignores them. So do I. “What’s for dinner?”
“An assortment of zings, so zat Adelaide can choose what she likes.” Fleur raises her wand, and I watch in awe as the cluster of pots and pans begin pouring their contents onto various plates and bowls. I’ve seen the odd carrot-chopping knife before, sure, but nothing this collaborative. It’s incredibly orderly and precise – almost graceful. Well, as graceful as bits of metal and plastic jiggling about can be, anyhow.
Louis, staying silent, mooches over to inspect the food. “Bas les pattes!” Fleur frowns, slapping his hand away from the sauces.
Bill smiles, and asks, "Where is the lady in question, then?"
I suppose my precious time as fly on the wall is over…
"Upstairs – Louis, please call ‘er down – “
“Here,” I say meekly, stepping out from the shadows, and they turn to stare at me in surprise. It has only just occurred to me how creepy this must look.
“Ah, salut!” Fleur says cheerfully, smiling at me over her shoulder. “Just in time for dinner. Boys, zis is ze lovely Adelaide Best.”
“Adelaide? Is that really you?” Bill flicks his long red hair out of his eyes and looks at me closely. He does have a handsome face beneath those awful scars; I can see how he managed to attract a woman as stunning as Fleur. “But you‘ve grown so much!” he exclaims, moving forwards to give me a gawky one-armed hug.
“That does tends to happen when a person gains nine years in age,” I mutter under my breath, cheeks reddening, but I obviously don’t speak quietly enough as he begins to chortle.
“And with an attitude, too? Oh, this is great,” he says with a chuckle. “As if we need more of that in this household.”
I laugh self-consciously just as Louis, nodding towards the door, says, “right on cue.”
“Daddy!” A mass of blonde hair whips past me and throws herself at poor Bill, who staggers backwards with the weight.
“Hey, Dommy,” he laughs, pecking the side of her head.
Okay, I have to admit that is kind of cute. I wish I was as close to my dad.
“How was work?” she asks, loosening her hold to look up at him.
“A bit quiet, aside from some blasted old curse almost paralysing me waist down,” he muses. “That was a close one.”
He’s kidding, right? Please tell me he’s kidding.
“I assume zat ees a joke?” Fleur says uneasily, sharing my concerns.
The greying red-head just smiles in response.
“’Sup, Lou-Lou,” Dominique says, tearing herself off her dad to muss up her little brother’s hair. My lips twitch at the look on his face.
“Maman,” Louis whines, shoving his sister away from him to frantically fix his hair.
“Stop bozzering your brother and set zee table,” Fleur instructs, shooting her daughter The Look. It’s Dominique’s turn to scowl, but she conforms.
Watching them makes my heart twinge a little bit, because it’s such typical family behaviour - another reminder that I’m not with my own.
We then slowly migrate through the open doorway to the dining room, which I note as being awfully nice and pretty and French. There’s even a blackboard on the wall to write the day’s dishes on, and the table is heaped with all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff: meats and wraps and pasties and other fancy things I don't recognise. Anything is better than the plate of snails and frogs I was expecting, anyway. I wait for everyone else to sit down, and then take an empty seat opposite Fleur, beside Louis.
I wonder what I’ll manage to do this time that gets him directing me towards the door. I still can’t believe he overheard me – let’s face it – trashing his family. Oh, the shame; I desperately hope he doesn’t repeat what came spewing out of my mouth earlier. Sometimes, I really do hate being me.
But he appears to pay no heed to me. I'm thinking to myself how well everything is going, all things considered, while ladling chips onto my plate, when I’m asked the question. Yep, the question; the one which inspires tremendous terror in my bones, and makes my heart sink lower than the Titanic:
“So, Adelaide, tell us a bit about yourself.”
Four curious sets of eyes swivel my way. I try to swallow the fear down, but all it does is allow dread to build in the pit of my stomach.
Whatever you do, Addie, don't you dare clam up.
“I… what do you want to know?” I say lamely, my hands, suddenly feeling too big and too heavy, fumbling clumsily with my food.
Dominique snorts into her plate, and I think I see Louis kick her foot under the table. That, or he has a nervous tic.
But Bill smiles. “Anything. Anything at all.”
“Er…” I wildly rack my brain, unsure of what to say. Words catch in my throat. Do they really want to know my favourite colour? Wait, what's my name again..?
“Let me start,” Bill suggests, breaking the silence. I watch anxiously as he finishes chewing his food. “So, I’m Bill. I’m the eldest of seven, and am the best known for my wolfish good looks.” He grins. “I work as a Curse Breaker, which is a helluva lot of fun, but truth be told I’m happiest when spending time with my family.” Dominique “D'AWW”s loudly at this, and Louis snickers. “Now, your turn.”
I direct my energy towards inspecting a pot of salt in the middle of the table, and open my mouth again. “I’m Adelaide. I… like Kneazles, painting, figure skating - but I’m not really that great at it. Erm…” I’m also not great at talking about myself, it would seem.
“Is zere not an ice-rink nearby, Bill?” Fleur says, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the intermission. She beams at me. “We will ‘ave to go sometime, and you can show us ‘ow good you really are!”
I blush, smiling. That actually sounds like fun.
“And don’t you like painting, too, Dommy?” asks Bill. “Maybe the two of you could paint some pictures sometime. Go to galleries together. Whatever you artistic folk do with your time.”
I don’t even want to think of what a bundle of laughs that’d be. But I don’t have to, because Dominique swiftly changes the subject.
“So, is no one going to acknowledge the big fat elephant in the room?” she bursts, as if she’s been wanting to say that for a while.
Bill turns to her in confusion. “What do you mean? What elephant?”
She rolls her eyes and leans forward on the table, giving the impression she’s about to reveal something super juicy. “I mean that little spat earlier between Maman and Louis that could be heard on the other side of town. What the hell was that about?”
Beside me, Louis visibly stiffens and frowns at his sister for bringing that up. Ugh, does she take joy in being annoying or is it pure stupidity?
“Zat is not sometheenk we discuss at ze dinner table, Dominique,” Fleur says darkly, “but Louis and I are on ze same level now. Are we not, Louis?”
“Of course, Maman.” He seems kind of… withdrawn. Broody. Like there’s other stuff going on in that confusing mind of his. Hell, even I feel confused just looking at him.
Are teenage boys always this moody?
But Fleur doesn’t seem to notice. An affectionate, lipsticked smile spreads across her face, and it’s as if Scary Fleur never existed.
“I don’t think there was an elephant in the room until you mentioned it, Dommy,” Bill laughs, but no one laughs with him.
And then I giggle nervously, which doesn’t really help matters.
We’re tucking into the last few morsels of dessert when there is a loud rap on the front door.
Fleur immediately rushes out of the room and, when a soft voice flutters in from the hallway, the others rise and follow her. I hang back, staring longingly at the remains of my gorgeous soufflé, and so does Dominique.
There’s a collective outburst of “Hey, Vic!” and “How goes it, Ted?” as they all embrace and exchange pleasantries and such. Brace yourselves, everyone − Weasley child numero tres has entered the scene. I can’t help but think it a little odd how Dominique dawdles in the dining room with me whilst the rest of her family seem so excited to see each other. Then again, I’m hardly one to judge.
The enthusiastic voices begin to muffle as, presumably, they pile into another room.
“Should we not follow them?” I ask Dominique, tentatively watching for her reaction, but I may as well be speaking to the empty room; she doesn’t so much as look at me.
“Dominique?” I prompt unsurely. It feels so rude, ignoring the others…
“No one’s stopping you,” she snaps, eyes narrowing, granting me the pleasure of viewing yet another Dominique Scowl™.
Yeesh. I wonder what got her panties in a twist. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that snark.
Sighing in what one might call a slightly histrionic fashion, I walk away from the Wicked Witch of the West and out into the narrow hallway, pausing at the doorway of the living room wherein they’ve all gathered. Louis sits with his parents on a long leather sofa opposite the fireplace, where Barbie sits in an armchair. Uh, sorry, I mean a girl with pretty blonde hair, darkened with copper streaks. A guy with a scruffy blue mop on his head perches on the armrest.
How very… punk.
Not wanting to disrupt their conversation, I hesitate, but it’s Victoire who first catches sight of me. “Adelaide, right?” she says, smiling prettily, her mother's smile, and waves me into the room.
I nod, removing my gaze from her likely boyfriend, and close the door behind me.
“It's been a while, hasn't it?” I tug at the hem of my shirt as she scans over my appearance, as if trying to match me to the mini-Addie from her memory. Or maybe she’s thinking how bedraggled I look (it’s been a long day!). “I’m not sure if you remember me, but I’m Victoire. It’s lovely to see you again.”
She has the slightest trace of French in her accent, but it’s still more noticeable than in her siblings. They are all equally gifted in the looks department, though, and I can now confidently say I know what Dominique would look like if she were to smile, however laughable the concept may be.
“You too.” I smile politely, when really I’m trying hard not to snort with laughter. It’s like we used to be BFFs or something.
“Is your Mum doing well?” she enquires, still smiling.
My mum..? I start to worry, wondering if Victoire’s got her locked up in a tower or something, but then Fleur nods encouragingly and I remember how, as a kid, she did prefer to hang out with the parents rather than us ‘immature’ littlies. Pfft.
“Yes, she’s good, thank you,” I say, feeling overly polite and kind of stupid (and annoyed at the moron who invented small talk).
“This,” Victoire says, motioning to the broad-shouldered man beside her, “is my husband, Edward Lupin.” She grins, placing her small hand over his, and the diamond on her finger glints proudly in the light.
The blue-haired guy gives me a courteous nod and a crooked smile. “I prefer to go by Teddy, though,” he winks at me.
Hold up: husband? Surely not; they look fresh out of school! And his hair is turquoise! Is that really marriage material?
“And this,” she beams, patting her stomach, “is our soon-to-be-son, little Remmy.” Oh, so she’s not just a little podgy, then – it’s a baby bump. Miss Prissy's got a bun in the oven.
Hold on: baby bump?!
“You’re pregnant,” I state, dumbfounded. They're so young! I don’t know what my mum would say.
“Yes, sixth months along,” she says happily, glancing up at Teddy, who squeezes her hand.
“Ah, it ees all so exciting!” Fleur sputters, grinning from ear to ear. She evidently doesn’t have a problem with the young parents-to-be.
Bill, similarly, looks overcome with joy at the looming prospect of granddaddy-hood. Maybe that’s why Dominique is being such a mardy bum – she’s scared of becoming an aunt. Or something.
I don’t know; I don’t really get people. But it’s fun trying.
I turn to examine the final Weasley’s response – because, apparently, playing Sherlock Holmes is my favourite pastime – but give a little jolt, nearly banging my head on a painting of a goose in the process, as he’s already looking at me with the strangest expression on his face. I get the feeling I’m doing something wrong. It might be the fact that I’m the only one looking indifferent about the fact that another beautiful Weasley child will soon be brought into the world... I quickly plaster a belated smile on my face in reply to Victoire’s news, feeling heat spread up my neck. Don’t you just hate it when you forget to react to things?
“Will you two be staying with us for a while?” Bill asks, jerking my mind back into reality. “Or is this just a quick visit to let us know you’re still alive?”
“We were thinking of popping in from time to time, now that Ted’s off work,” Victoire answers, shifting in her seat, “but we’re staying at a hotel nearby. The Potters quickly got sick of us, hanging around all the time, so it might be for the best...”
“Yeah, we don’t want to get in your way or anything,” Teddy adds, looking sheepish.
“You’re never in the way, Ted,” Louis says firmly, flitting his gaze away from me (phew) to his brother-in-law, and Teddy’s kind brown eyes seem to twinkle with gratitude. I almost ‘aww’ at the pair of them.
They soon regain their sense of masculinity, however.
“Come see the garden? Me and Dad have been working on it,” invites Louis, watching Teddy carefully, eager to impress. He obviously looks up to him… despite them both being of a similar height.
“Sure!” Teddy agrees, a little too enthusiastically. “I thought you’d buffed up a bit, Lou,” he adds teasingly, and the three of them saunter out of the room, leaving Fleur, Victoire, and myself to wonder about the enigma that is men.
But moments after the door swings closed, it opens again.
“Hi.” A head belonging to a defeated-looking Dominique peeks in at us.
“Hi,” Victoire breathes softly, and something shifts in the air around us.
The sisters stare at each other, and for a fleeting moment it’s as if Fleur and I aren’t even there; just the two of them having a wordless conversation. It’s difficult to discern the emotions behind their stares: Caution? Uncertainty? Regret?
As quickly as she came, she leaves. “Dominique,” Fleur calls after her, but the gentle patter of feet on the stairs tells us she’s not coming back.
Talk about trouble in paradise.
A/N: We’ve finally met all the family, so now the exciting stuff can start! What do you think of the characters? I’d lurrrve to hear your thoughts on the chapter or general story, good or bad.
Bas les pattes= hands off!
numero tres= number 3
Also: Changed the story title... again... heheh. Sorry about that. It was annoying me. :( Hopefully this one stays.
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