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Chapter 2 : Paris
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Lovely CI by Lake @ TDA.
Paris, Victoire Weasley thought to herself, was a place of comforting childhood mixed with exciting adulthood, the city where her mother had brought her eldest daughter on a trip every few years, just the two of them. Paris was a place of elegant beauty, of accordions sat next to traffic cones and filling the dirty street with a romantic air, of the clutter and buzz of the nearly-familiar French resounding about her. For someone who had learned French as a second language and sometimes spoke it at home, Victoire was terribly rusty, her sentences coming out so awkward and desperate that the officials and locals she had thus addressed seemed to take pity on her and switch to her native English.
The plus thing about Paris was that Sam, previously known as Silent Sam who Victoire had first met on her trip to the Giants Causeway, had followed her there. Well, he said his plans were open and he could travel wherever, and why not to the city of lights where he could keep an eye on his favorite English redhead? Victoire had happily accepted, though of course they'd had to travel separately since Sam booked a Muggle aeroplane ticket and Victoire had a Portkey arranged and paid a pretty Sickle for it, too. If anything, since You-Know-Who's defeat wizarding security had grown even tighter, ignoring by large the boundaries and permits of the EU and subjecting the traveling witch, especially from England, to rigorous identification and questioning. But she had managed and happily met Sam at their hostel in Montmartre in the late afternoon, suggesting they wander around the area for a meal and to explore.
Honestly, Victoire was developing a comfortable sort of crush on Sam. After meeting on the coach bus to the giant's causeway, at which Victoire had stumbled across the ancient giant Finn MacCoole himself, they had bonded over their mutual dislike of the self-centered and talkative Condescending Alexander (an American Muggle with a fondness for talking about himself and nothing else) and had snuck away for a pint in Temple Bar upon returning to Dublin. Sam, though he had first seemed quite quiet and boring, actually hit it off with Victoire like a house on fire: he had told her all about Canada, about his travels thus far, about his family and his university, where he studied Politics and Creative Writing. Victoire, in turn, had told Sam all about her large and close extended family, her friends from Hogwarts, and her dreams to continue traveling, which Sam refreshingly supported and encouraged.
Victoire suspected that Sam had a crush on her: in the least vain way possible, she had kind of expected and dreaded it.
When traveling with her mother, Victoire as a child had noticed how people gawped at her, wizards and Muggles alike. While full-blooded Veela generally chose to stay in their own sectors and colonies, possessed with a strange beauty nearly beyond human understanding or desire, those with mixed Veela blood like Fleur Delacour combined that unearthly pull and loveliness with an earthy humanhood, the acknowledgement that that wondrous person is human and attainable and real. Indeed, Victoire's maman was a willowy giant among mortals, her silvery hair recently cut to tickle the tops of her shoulders in a light caress, high cheekbones and pale, smooth skin haughty and suspicious. The cool, sweet scent of her skin and the soft touch of her hands represented the essence of maman to Victoire, the always-warm bosom in which to cuddle, the familiar French accent intermingling with words of both languages and some a language all their own.
But Victoire had never expected to imitate her mother's lure, though her grandmother and aunts were constantly exclaiming what a lovely girl she was growing up to be. Boys had begun to notice her at Hogwarts, an attention she found at times flattering and at times annoying. Privately, Victoire was convinced she had inherited too much of her father: the pale skin which reddened and burned so easily, the strong, blunt Weasley nose, the familiar red hair which seemed to surmount every gene and showed itself so prominently in her other cousins. Molly, who was two years the younger, had once jealously proclaimed that Victoire looked just like her, only a refined and prettier version as she coated mascara onto her own fair lashes. Teddy, after years of careful scrutiny, had insisted that Victoire had a certain glide to her walk, the kind which can only be a birthright. Victoire herself longed for the long, thick dark hair of her friend Katie, for the easily tanned skin and muscular legs of her other friend Cassie, and even the beautiful gray depths of her sister Dominique's eyes, framed by long lashes. She felt tall and conspicuous in a world of short and compact people.
Yet for some reason, Sam seemed to like her, and Victoire was undecided how she felt about that. For one, he was cute in an unassuming kind of way: brown eyes, which she found so interesting, large-rimmed, stylish glasses which magnified them slightly, a mop of dark brown hair constantly tumbling in his eye. Best of all, he was taller than Victoire, at the perfect height to swing a comfortable arm around her shoulder without having to stretch. He could have tipped his head slightly, facing her, and brushed his lips just perfectly along hers. And yes, that idea had occurred to the girl.
But still, despite their budding friendship Sam knew nothing about Victoire. He didn’t know how frustrated and immature she acted around her aggravating siblings. He didn’t know how she used to curse Teddy’s name for no better reason than the fact that the evening letter he sent by owl was one roll of parchment shorter than the letter she had sent him. He didn’t know that instead of wishing for something noble like world peace or an end to global warming or for her father not to be sad sometimes when blowing out the candles on her birthday cakes, she selfishly demanded high marks on her exams, for Maman to finally concede and let the family get a puppy, and once – and even Victoire herself shuddered to admit it – she wished fervently that her hair could grow just a little faster.
Most importantly of all, Sam had no idea that Victoire was a wizard, or that wizards existed, for that matter. He didn’t know about her beautiful, part-Veela mother, or her bratty little brother and sister, or her patient and over-bearing father, or her masses of uncles and aunts and cousins who were far too involved in each other’s business than could be considered healthy.
And of course, he didn’t know about Teddy.
But all that was about to change, considering who they were about to meet. Victoire shifted apprehensively, fiddling with the small tassle which dangled off her purse and automatically feeling its bulk to ensure nothing had been sifted out of her bag while she was distracted. She and Sam were standing on the hill beneath Sacre Coeur, looking out at the metropolis of belle Paris spread before them. Sam, a France virgin, stared out excitedly, scouring for landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and reaching up on his tiptoes to see over the heads of the many hordes of tourists clicking their cameras furiously.
What is it with people and views? Victoire thought to herself, and made a note to ponder this in her travel journal. She wondered what it must be like to see the world through a camera lens first, and one’s own eyes second, as she watched a high-heeled girl snap a photo and then turn away without waiting for the sight of Paris in the dusk to set in.
“Hostel seems alright, eh?” Sam commented, claiming the spot on the fence that the girl had vacated and gesturing to Victoire to join him. She squeezed in next to him, very aware of the pressure of his arm against hers in the crowded overlook.
“Certainly an improvement on Dublin,” Victoire giggled. “I actually trust these beds.” In her hostel in Dublin, Victoire had performed a quick anti-bed bug charm on her bed when her dormmates were out, but she was still paranoid. Uncle Charlie had warned her about a magical mutation of bedbugs who were extremely hard to kill and who often hitched a ride on wizard travelers for years, but Victoire figured the chance of running into those was slim, especially since she had thus far been around Muggles for the duration of her trip. “Shall we head down to dinner, then?”
They began the steep descent, dodging red-faced tourists and stopping every so often to glance into an artisan’s workshop. In one, an old man carefully twisted wires, spectacles perched upon his head and the door to the shop slightly ajar. Fine, delicate sculptures lined the windows. Victoire enjoyed the smooth swish of her sundress against her bare legs, and paused a moment to tie her long red hair back in a ponytail. Though the day’s sticky heat had cooled slightly as the sun began its descent, the heat crowded at her skin, causing a small sheen of sweat to add a permanent shine to her face. She scowled to herself. Well, that must look attractive.
She caught Sam’s eye, and grinned at him. The more she got to know Sam, the harder it was to believe she’d overlooked him on that bus to the Giant’s Causeway. He was comfortable being by himself, not standoffish or shy. Victoire was the same way. Often in Dublin they would grab a coffee at the fantastic Muggle coffeeshop known as Starbucks and sit working on their blogs and writing journals and postcards home (Victoire would sneak out at night to find an owl to mail said postcards). Or, Sam would show Victoire how to navigate on his Muggle electronic tablet screen thing, flabbergasted at how she had to type using her two index fingers. Sam was sweet. And Victoire could tell he liked her too.
But, there was still the problem that he knew nothing about her. Although considering who they were about to meet, all of that was about to change.
“Victoire! My belle!” They had reached the restaurant. Victoire let out a little sigh of defeat and restrained a flood of annoyance at the open-mouthed, bug-eyed look on the Canadian’s face. After all, she hadn’t properly warned him. A flood of sugary perfume swept through Victoire’s nostrils, and she held back a sneeze as she got a face full of silvery-blonde hair.
“Salut, ma tante Gabbie.”
“You are just ‘ere on ze right time!” Gabrielle Delacour gushed as she kissed each of her niece’s pink cheeks with a resounding smack. She turned to Sam, who smiled weakly.
“Hey, I’m—“ he began, but Gabrielle took his face firmly in her manicured hands and kissed him on each cheek. Victoire noticed she left faint lipstick marks on Sam’s face, and hurriedly wiped at her own just in case.
“Ah, ‘e is charmante, Victoire!” tante Gabrielle exclaimed. She linked arms with each one of the teenagers, dragging them towards the small restaurant and depositing each in one of the seats, more on the sidewalk than on the patio. “Zis is one of my favoreet cafes in Paris! Whenezer I come to meet with friends I always bring zem ‘ere. Ze maitre always gives me ze best deal on drinks!”
The waiter, a thin-faced Frenchman with tawny skin and spiky hair, swept in and began to chatter to Tante Gabbie in rapid French. Victoire turned to Sam and grinned ruefully.
“When you said we were meeting your aunt,” Sam muttered, “I didn’t expect…her.” He gestured a little helplessly in Gabrielle’s direction. The waiter set a glass of wine in front of each of them: a smooth move, Victoire thought, considering he didn’t take his eyes off Gabrielle the whole time.
How could she have been expected to warn Sam? Gabrielle Delacour, like her older sister, was a force of nature. While domesticity and the cool English temper had taught Fleur Delacour that on occasion it was acceptable to hold her tongue, Gabrielle was a wildcard. Only twelve years older than Victoire, she saw her elder niece as a little sister figure who she was honor bound to lead and corrupt. In return, Gabrielle loved to confide in Victoire, shocking and wowing her with the older woman's capers. She seized the chance once they were seated and Sam excused himself to use the toilet.
“J’ai quelque chose a vous confesser,” Aunt Gabby whispered across the table, winking her large, pretty blue left eye conspiratorially.
Victoire giggled, her cheeks feeling warm and flushed from the wine. “Ma tante, why are you whispering? Are you confessing that you have a crush on the waiter?”
Gabrielle giggled back. She coquetted at the waiter, flicking her long strands of silvery blond hair over a thin shoulder. Victoire fleetingly hoped she would age half as well, though with her luck she’d probably skip over the Veela genes, dulled by wholesome, freckled Weasley blood.
“Okay, okay, Eeenglish eet eez,” Gabrielle said. “Not zat zey know Antoine, but eet eez always better to be safe. Paris eez full of ears, yes?”
“Yes,” Victoire said encouragingly.
“Well, last month ze Ministry sent me to Budapest for some negotiations over trade relations: eet is a beautiful city! And you will never guess who Apparated into the city to take me out for a friendly dinner.” Gabrielle winked at the word “friendly.”
“Who was it?”
Gabrielle grinned cheekily. “Your uncle Charlie. And… we ‘ad a moment.”
Victoire gasped, feeling slightly repulsed. “Wait… you and Uncle Charlie? But what about Antoine? Maman has been talking about how you were a sure bet to get engaged.”
“Je sais, je sais,” Gabrielle said, sighing prettily. “But I ‘ave always ‘ad a crush on your uncle: ‘e is so ‘andsome, and so adventurous: ‘e tames dragons, mon dieu!
“Er, I’m not sure how much taming is actually successful-” Victoire tried to interject. She had always secretly thought her mother's younger sister harboured a crush on Uncle Harry, who had once rescued a young Gabrielle from the Black Lake at Hogwarts. Victoire was foggy on the exact details.
“-Antoine is only a boring old banker, ‘e makes good money, yes, but ‘e is so plain! So regular! ‘e is a kind, good man, but ‘e is no dragon tamer!”
Victoire was doing some rapid math in her head. “But isn’t Uncle Charlie, like, ancient? Because Dad’s the eldest of his siblings, but not by much-”
Gabrielle waved Uncle Charlie’s age away with a flick of her manicured paw. Victoire was sure a Muggle wouldn’t have noticed it, but the fake nails had been enchanted to glimmer slightly.
“Zat is no concern of yours, my belle. And let me tell you, zat uncle of yours does not look or act ‘is age.” She gave a suggestive wink, and Victoire resisted rolling her eyes. “But you must tell me about zis new friend of yours, and what ‘appened with darling Teddy?”
Victoire spotted Sam dodging tables in the tightly packed restauraunt. “Il est mon ami, c’est tout,” she said sternly to Gabrielle. “Et souviennez-vous qu’il est moldus: ne parle pas d’Hogwarts, eh, ma tante?”
Gabrielle’s tinkling laugh drew the attention of the waiter, who hurried to fill the declining levels of red wine. “Yes, yes, I will not forget. ‘e is very adorable, and Canadian, you said?” She eyed Sam in a manner that distinctly reminded Victoire of the Hogwarts gamekeeper, Hagrid, admiring a fine Hippogriff.
Sam slid back into the seat next to Victoire, flashing her a shy smile. The girl leaned back in her seat, and listened to Tante Gabby pry into questions of the snowfall levels in Canada, why the Canadians still had the face of the English monarch on their money, and the ins and outs of the Canadian healthcare system. Victoire was impressed at how well-behaved her aunt was, and how Sam held his own against the vivacious French woman. Soon, Victoire thought, taking a sip of wine which she was sure would dye her lips purple, Gabrielle was sure to cajole Sam into speaking some Quebec French.
Later in the evening, a weathered-skinned man in a top hat began to play his accordion next to their table, swaying as a cheeky grin played across his face. From nowhere, a stooped, elderly man emerged and tapped Gabrielle’s shoulder for a dance: giggling, Victoire watched as her aunt twirled radiantly in the middle of the Montmartre sidewalk, her high heels clattering on the rough stones. When the song finished, the diners in the vicinity burst into applause. Victoire tipped the accordion player with a few spare Sickles: she later laughed to herself while imagining the man’s confusion when counting up his earnings the following day.
The following day, nursing a slight wine-induced headaches, Sam dragged Victoire out of bed for an early start. Grumbling goodnaturedly while she straightened her hair and trying to be quiet so as not to wake the sleeping dormmates who had gotten in late the night before, they headed out to the bright, hot summer sunshine.
After purchasing a Nutella-smothered crepe and three euro Nestea (ugh), Victoire and Sam perched on a small stone wall by the Metro to eat their rich breakfast. Setting the bottle down on the pavement, Victoire turned to Sam to ask what he’d thought of her Aunt when a slim hand reached down and grabbed her drink.
Startled, Victoire looked up into the mischievious eyes of two strange, dark-haired girls, who, cackling between themselves, began to walk off with her drink.
Sam was the first to react. “Hey!” He exclaimed, getting to his feet. “You can’t take that- it’s not yours. C’est a elle,” he added in very rusty French. The girls – teenagers, Victoire decided – exchanged glances. The bottle thief slowly and deliberately unscrewed the lid and, dangling the bottle over her mouth, skillfully drank and swallowed. Wiping her lips with the back of her hand, the girl handed the bottle back to Victoire, and with her smirking friend vanished into the crowd of tourists.
Victoire turned to her friend. “Er, what just happened?”
Sam laughed. “I’m a little shocked myself. At least she gave it back, I guess.”
Victoire examined the bottle carefully. “She didn’t put her mouth on it: they were probably just exerting their superiority over us tourists.” She giggled. “It’s a good story, anyway. And I’m still going to drink this, it was bloody expensive.”
Discussing what had just happened, Victoire led down the steep steps to the Metro station. Old and over packed with sweaty tourists, the Paris Metro left much to be desired when compared to Victoire’s beloved London Tube. Of course, back home she was legal to Apparate, but would often take her younger siblings around London without their parents. Learning to properly use Muggle transportation was an important skill in Victoire’s opinion, one Dominique and Louis didn’t always appreciate. But they would someday, Victoire was sure of it.
As they entered onto a ligne 2 train, standing in between a middle-aged man listening to his ipod and an extremely touchy blond couple, two small, grubby boys followed them on. One positioned himself very close to Victoire’s satchel purse, holding his backpack against it. Victoire was frowning, and about to move away, when a middle-aged passenger in a shabby suit standing near the doors shook his fingers at the two little boys and said something in French. Scowling, the kids leaped back onto the platform just as the doors closed.
“Zey were street kids,” the French man said with a sad face. “You must be on alert when riding ze trains: zey are experts, trained to pickpocket from when zey are very young.”
“Oh… thank you,” Victoire said softly as the man turned back to his iPod. She realized what the little boys’ intentions had been, and felt her purse quickly to ensure her wallet –containing her wallet, and more importantly her wand- was still undisturbed.
“Are you freaking kidding me?” Sam whispered to Victoire, keeping a fervent hand over his front left pocket and the other clinging to the bar for balance. “First the ice tea incident, and now a French Oliver Twist and Artful Dodger?”
“Hold tight, we’re getting off at the next stop: Barbes Rochechouart, yeah?” She gave Sam an appraising look. “If we somehow get separated, you know what station the hostel is close to, I should hope.”
“Right,” Sam said uncertainly. “Maybe I’ll just stick to you like a burr, and we won’t have to worry about that. It’s hard to lose a tall ginger, even in this crowd.” He gave her ponytail a playful tug and Victoire blushed, painfully aware of the couple next to her whose lips were glued together despite the harsh motions of the train.
“Stay close, then,” she said, and navigated them to transfer to ligne 4, direction Porte d’Orleans and nearly colliding with a very large man who bellowed in French at her. She kept a careful hand on her purse, just in case of little boys with hollow eyes and small, quick fingers.
Victoire and Sam spent the day in Paris wandering around Notre Dame and the surrounding Ile de Cite. Victoire was sure she saw the gargoyles on the famous roof moving, hissing fierce faces down on her: glancing around, no other tourists seemed to notice, tipping her off there was some sort of enchantment to hide the living statues from curious Muggle eyes. Examining the statues of the saints outside the cathedral entrance, she let Sam tell her the story of Saint Dennis, holding his doeful head in his hands. Thinking of the Gryffindor ghost back at Hogwarts, she wondered if Saint Dennis had come back as a ghost, and if he would have joined the Headless Hunt. Well, he was a patron of Paris: probably a surefire guarantee of head Hunter status.
In the early evening, they returned to the hostel to encounter the sleeping travelers from the morning: a trio of friendly, pink-faced Australians, who introduced themselves Davie, Ashton and Stella.
Davie, the undeclared leader of the group, explained to Victoire and Sam that the three of them were all friends from Melbourne, and were traveling through Europe for the summer. They had just come from Amsterdam, and engaged in a vigorous discussion with Sam about the finer herbs one could find there. Victoire instantly bonded with Stella, happy to have the company of another female. The Aussies were planning to have a wine and cheese evening picnic on the grass outside the Eiffel Tower, and eagerly invited Victoire and Sam to come along.
So, a few hours later found Victoire sitting cross-legged on a sheet ruthlessly stolen from the hostel, a feast of finger food delicacies spread out before her. Ashton, a round-faced, dark-haired gentleman, presented her with a slice of baguette (nicknamed ‘baggie’ by Davie) topped with Brie cheese, a generous slice of pate, and a pitted green olive.
“Really delicious,” Victoire assured Ashton. She scooted over to move a little closer to him, skillfully balancing a plastic cup of red wine on her bare thigh. “So what do you think of Paris so far?”
“I like it well enough,” Ashton said thoughtfully, looking up at the multi-coloured lights flickering off the Eiffel tower. “I suppose I had this idealized image in my head, of Paris being this romantic place like in that movie about the singing animated cats, or the rat who wants to be a chef.” He popped a rolled cigarette into his mouth, and offered Victoire one. She politely declined, watching as Ashton leaned back on the sheet so he was lying on his side, cheek resting on his hand. “How ‘bout you?”
“Well, I have been to Paris before,” she pointed out. “My mum is French, and so we travel across the channel on school holidays and the like. I love it here, but I certainly know what you mean about the image of Paris in movies.”
Ashton nodded. “Have you been to Versailles yet? No? Well, my mates and I are planning to get up early tomorrow and beat the lines, you and buddy there should come.” He smiled fondly. “My grandma visited Paris when she was young, and she thought that the stables were the actual Paris. It’s one of the things she told me I just had to do while here: she was so excited.”
“Your grandma sounds lovely,” Victoire said, smiling. She helped herself to some more pate. “So, do you see a lot of kangaroos in Australia, mate?” As she and Ashton chatted and laughed, she saw Sam look up from his conversation with Stella and Davie, the latter of whom was talking about wandering through the Red Light district in Amsterdam.
As the night wore on and Victoire grew warm and light-headed from the wine, the group moved down towards the banks of the Seine. Sam, staggering a little, bought three bottles of wine for eight euros from the stealthy-eyed street vendors who haunted the sidewalks around the Eiffel tower.
“Eight euros!” He told Victoire earnestly. “Eight euros! That’s like thirteen bucks! I love Europe. Not only can we drink on the streets, but can buy booze for eight freaking euros!”
“It’s most likely poisoned,” Victoire shot back. Sam laughed and swung an arm around her shoulders.
“You’re snarky, Vic. That’s why I like you.” He stopped and held her back as the Aussies walked merrily towards the riverbank. “You know that, don’t you. You’re the best, yeah you, Vic. ’m so glad we talked that day at the Causeway and you helped me get rid of that Alexander jerk.”
Victoire giggled, throwing her head back to the murky stars. Against the bright lights flickering off the Eiffel tower, they seemed even farther away. She grabbed the wine from Sam’s hand and took a large swig.
“I’m glad I met you too, mister. Though this wine is utter shit, and I blame you.” She swiveled her head and planted a quick kiss on his freckled cheek. “I dunno what I’m going to do in Brussels without my favorite Canadian.”
“You won’t have anyone to steal your ice tea back for you,” Sam commented. He returned the kiss, though his lips landed a little closer to Victoire’s mouth. “Or to teach you about mighty Canadian customs.”
“And you’re surely going to get lost on the Berlin underground,” Victoire added. “If Canada calls me, asking where their traveler went, I’ll let them know.”
“I know my parents will appreciate it,” Sam said with feigned gratefulness.
“Oi! Come over here!” Stella shouted from where she was looking out over the Seine, jumping up onto Ashton’s back. Victoire called back a reply and grabbed Sam’s hand, still slung around her shoulders, and laced her fingers through his. Untangling herself she pulled him by the hand towards the Australians, dancing a little in the music from the riverside club down the way.
“Come on, Canada. I think Paris wants us to dance.”
Author's Note: Hello! So I decided to turn my House Cup entry into a short story collection, to be added to whenever traveling nostalgia sets in. I’d love to know what you thought! Oliver Twist belongs to Charles Dickens, not to me. Any similarities to real life people and situations are definitely not accidental. And if anyone speaks French, I'm terribly sorry about the poor quality- I speak it far better than I write it!
My belle: My lovely
Salut, ma tante Gabbie: Hi Aunt Gabbie
J’ai quelque chose a vous confesser: I have something to confess to you
Je sais: I know
Mon dieu! god!
Il est mon ami, c’est tout. Et souviennez-vous qu’il est moldus: ne parle pas d’Hogwarts, eh, ma tante?: We're just friends. And remember he's a Muggle, so don't talk about Hogwarts.
C’est a elle: It's her's.
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