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Chapter 4 : Prague
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Victoire was exhausted. There had been several complications at the Dutch Ministry when the Portkey she’d arranged for had been deemed faulty. This had led to several hours spent waiting around and being stared at by the wizards and witches who moved in and out through the office, and several rather horrible cups of coffee sipped from paper goblets.
Victoire had been filled with horror stories of Muggle travel from her Canadian travel buddy, Sam, but she was beginning to think that the Muggles couldn’t possibly be as disorganized as wizards. At least a Muggle travel agent would have known better than to suggest a bag of dog poop as a Portkey – no wonder the thing had ended up faulty.
In the grand scheme of things, Victoire decided, she wasn’t a great fan of Amsterdam. It hadn’t been one of her favorite cities so far. Sure, it was beautiful, with the colorful houses aligned along the canals, but she hadn’t quite connected with Amsterdam in the same way she had with other cities. As she and Sam had parted ways for a while in Brussels - he had concert tickets in Berlin and she was meant to move on to Amsterdam – she had booked a wizarding hostel in Amsterdam, which she was quite sure was operated by hags. Victoire was not pleased to discover that teenagers with legal access to drugs were not always as in control as they should be. It was when one boy had tried to transfigure his friend into the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland that Victoire had enough.
The Dutch people themselves were lovely. Victoire thought that Amsterdam’s reputation as a party city came mainly from the tourists. She’d enjoyed roaming the Red Light District and liked the fact that there was a daycare right inside it, and that the area was considered a wonderful and safe place to live. She had taken a ride on a canal boat and enjoyed learning about Amsterdam’s history as a port town.
Inevitably, Sam was on her mind. After the kiss in a Brussels square the evening of the day they went to Flanders Fields, they had one more day together before Victoire had left. Victoire hadn’t quite been brave enough to mention the kiss, or to attempt it again: things were too busy with running about to see the sights they might have missed and sorting out Sam’s coach bus to Berlin.
She had decided to take a train from Brussels to Amsterdam, although the two cities were close enough together that she probably could have Apparated, had her Apparating license been legal outside of the UK. Sam had walked her to the barrier, explained one final time how to feed the ticket through the machine so that she could get through, and pulled her in for a last hug. Saying goodbye had been something both had been dreading for a while: having spent every waking and sleeping moment in one another’s company for the past month, Victoire felt that leaving Sam in Brussels was a little like leaving one of her limbs behind.
And just before she had pulled away, she had leaned forward, and he had tilted his head, and instead they were kissing, finally kissing, her hand lightly perched on his shoulder and his mouth tasting like peppermint. And as they pulled away at the sound of a woman with a cool voice who was not using a Sonorous Charm but whose voice echoed through the station anyway, both Sam and Victoire had grinned at one another.
“See you in Italy,” she had said quietly, grinning at her own cheekiness, and she had successfully fed the barrier with her ticket and, pulling her suitcase, hurried away. Every time she had looked back, Sam was still standing there, waving, with a big, goofy smile on his face which slowly faded as her view of him was obscured by a large post. It was when she glanced back and could no longer see Sam that the tears had begun to prick at her eyes.
But that had been several days ago, and Victoire had a lot of time to think about her feelings for Sam. What she liked best about him, she had decided, was that he was so easy to be around. She felt that even if nothing became of the kiss, she would be able to carry on her friendship with him. Sam was funny and easy-going and lacked all of Teddy’s dramatic self-pity and his strange sense that everything had to turn out just as he’d imagined it.
Victoire was finding it difficult not to compare Teddy and Sam. After all, she and Teddy had been together for two years before she left, and they knew all of one another’s quirks. But Sam was her traveling buddy, and there was something so unique and tangible in the shared bond of a desire to see new things that Victoire felt was undeniable. She knew that Sam saw the world in a similar way to herself, that they were two of a kind, the wandering kind, and she adored him for it.
Sam was on Victoire’s mind as she passed through the Czech Ministry’s security and was handed a letter informing her that her parents had arranged for her to have a suite at a wizarding hotel close to the Charles bridge, and they had taken the liberty of canceling her previous booking. Victoire was suspicious of this sudden interference in her traveling plans – she wondered if perhaps they had sent Dominique to Prague as a birthday treat for her sister and to have somebody check up on Victoire. If that was the case, Victoire was going to be a little irritated with her parents, though she liked the sounds of the suite they had booked for her.
She paused at the Ministry tourism desk to pick up some fliers and exchange some of her European wizarding currency for Czech crowns. The Czech Republic had their own currency which would yield better deals than Euros, according to her research, but conveniently both the magical and Muggle businesses accepted the crowns. Victoire thought this very logical.
Victoire took a cab to her hotel, giving the man a generous tip and causing his stern face to crack a little into a smile. The hotel was tucked into a square overlooking a grand cathedral, just up the road from where the ancient Charles Bridge crossed the Vitava river, and she suspected it would be hidden from Muggle eyes. Looking at the red buildings and the cobbled streets, Victoire concluded with a soft smile that Prague was beautiful. There was something cool and calming in the air, and she decided to get settled into her hotel as quickly as possible and spend the evening wandering around the pretty area and finding a nice outdoor café at which to have her supper.
She was very pleased with the hotel suite, noting that there were two bedrooms and wondering if she might see Dominique or even her youngest sibling Louis pop up from the wardrobe. The suite had a small kitchenette in the same room as a couch and desk, and the two bedrooms branching off. The beds were set with crisp white linens and the windows opened to the square outside, from which a warm evening breeze eased through the room. Victoire smiled.
“Well played, Mum and Dad,” she murmured to herself, pouring a glass of water and setting her wand down on the table in the kitchen. Leaning against the counter, she tugged her long red hair up into a round bun on the top of her head, gazing out at the tourists gazing up at the great cathedral in the square. “Now, Dommy, where are you?” She would never had dared to refer to her sister as “Dommy” in person.
Her question was not answered until she was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, touching up her makeup before heading out to find a place to eat. As much as she already missed Sam, and as she was determined to figure out the Muggle intery-net once and for all so she could send him a message, Victoire was quite pleased to not have to share a hostel room with Sam and a handful of strangers for the first time in a month. She was leaning into the mirror and drawing on a thin black line of eyeliner when she heard the door swing open and heard an all too familiar voice.
“Look, there’s a bag here, she must be here!” a girlish voice cried out. Victoire smiled, deciding to prolong the suspense for a moment before going out to greet her sister. And then –
“Vic? Are you in?” The voice was male, a little nervous, trembling through the suite. Startled, Victoire’s hand twitched and she smeared a line of black liner in an obtuse angle across her eyelid. Scowling, she opened the door to the bathroom and stared.
Dominique threw her slim body into her older sister’s arms, grinning. Victoire automatically hugged her sister back, but her eyes were fixed on the boy behind her.
Teddy Lupin looked the same as she remembered him, the same in a way that irritated Victoire – how dared he look the same when she felt she had changed so much, learned to much? But there he was, here in Prague: half a hands-breath taller than herself, dark hair hanging in his eyes, pale skin and polished, expensive shoes and neatly ironed jeans and pressed shirt. Teddy wore Muggle clothes well, but he was also slightly neurotic about having his clothes pressed into neat lines.
“Hey, Vic,” he said, looking down at his shoes. Victoire forced a smile, her heart racing against her chest.
Dominique insisted that she was hungry and they find a restaurant at which to eat before any explanations would be given. She showed Victoire how Teddy had cast a concealing charm over their suitcases to hide them from her in the suite. She cheerfully linked her arm through her elder sister’s and chatting about the trip via Portkey and how her parents had been far happier at the idea that Teddy would be looking out for the girls while they were traveling.
There was a restaurant right next to the hotel, so the trio chose a table on the outdoor patio and ordered some fine Czech beer, which was allegedly cheaper than water here in Prague. Victoire took a long sip, hoping it would help her loosen up. Having her ex-boyfriend suddenly invading her private space, her traveling time, was something she had never really considering occurring and which made her a little uneasy. She both wished she had Sam to talk to and calm her down, but was also glad that he wasn’t here to see the angry, immature side of her which her sister and Teddy were bound to eventually bring out.
“So,” she said, squeezing her sister’s wrist where it was resting on the table and smiling despite herself. Victoire tended to giggle in awkward situations. “How exactly did you two end up here in Prague? How did you even know you’d be able to find me here in Prague?” She watched an elderly couple walking by as they stared up at the large cathedral in the square.
Teddy opened his mouth to reply, but Dominique beat him to it. “Well, we knew you were heading out west eventually,” she said. “So Dad owled his contacts and found out you’d booked a Portkey from Amsterdam to Prague for today. I really wanted to come and do something, Vic, this summer has been so incredibly boring. Louis just holes up in his room doing… well, whatever teenage boys do and my friends have been really busy and even when we do hang out it’s so boring not being able to use magic…”
“So I was round yours and Dominique was talking about going to visit, but Bill wasn’t so sure about her going alone,” Teddy explained, fixing his warm brown eyes on Victoire’s face as if he would memorize her. “And Fleur suggested they send me as well, they’ve been really lovely and paid for everything.”
“We have a Portkey back in a week, leaving from Prague,” Dominique explained. “Isn’t this exciting? Suze came here with her family last year, she was going on about how beautiful it was. Dad mentioned that Uncle Charlie would like to see us in Romania as well.”
Victoire sighed. She was sure she could handle Dominique – it was confronting Teddy that made her nervous. It was odd, being around him and not holding hands or kissing, and she felt like her body recognized his, felt it would be quite natural to squeeze his arm playfully or plant her lips on his stubbly cheek. But there was something missing there: the natural electricity which had previously existed in the air between them. Now, his familiar gestures were annoying her: the way he was constantly touching his hair, how he crossed his legs and sat like a girl.
“Ted, I think we need to have a good talk about this,” she said, wanting to be honest with him. She wasn’t sure if she found it coincidental or a little smothering that he had followed her across the continent, and she wanted to come clean about Sam. She reasoned that for all Teddy knew, they had broken up on a whim and she could have seen the error of her ways and longed to be back as his girlfriend. She didn’t want to hurt him, but even more, she didn’t want to compromise herself to pacify anyone. That was something she had learned from their weeks apart.
“Yeah, of course,” Teddy said hastily. “I mean, it was a little hasty for me to come here, assuming you’d want to see me…” He was blushing.
“I’m always happy to see you, Ted,” Victoire said, warming to him slightly. “You’re one of my best friends, always will be. I just think… considering the circumstances… perhaps we should clear the air.”
Dominique was making an awkward turtle formation with her hands, giggling quietly. Victoire rolled her eyes at her younger sister’s refusal to be serious. Teddy was saved from responding by the arrival of the waiter, a thin-faced Czech boy who nervously shifted between his feet and gazed at Dominique with a slightly dumbfounded expression – the younger girl was batting her eyelashes at him and quickly distracted him by asking him questions about how to speak Czech.
Victoire privately admired her sister’s boldness. While Victoire felt she was more reserved and comfortable with being on her own, Dominique could and would strike up a conversation with anybody. Perhaps, Victoire thought to herself, the downside was that Dominique could never be truly independent. The younger girl was always surrounded by a cluster of chattering friends or cousins and she would never be content, like Victoire, to sit on a train and gaze out the window in silence for two hours. She was always buzzing and moving – like a giddier version of their father, whose adventurous and inquisitive nature had given him the gift of gab with any stranger. Victoire and their brother Louis were quieter.
That night, Victoire and Dominique shared a room, giving Teddy the bed on his own.
“I bet he’s disappointed,” Dominique said matter-of-factly, sitting cross-legged next to her sister. “That you’re not sharing a bed, I mean.”
Victoire sighed, pressing her cheek into the feathery pillow. She was tired from her long day of traveling, and was slightly dreading the fact that when she woke up, she would have to share Prague with Dominique and Teddy and all the troubles that came with them.
“Nique, it’s lovely to see you, but things aren’t going to fall back into place with Teddy,” she said quietly, hoping the walls were not too thin. “The thing is… well, I’ve met someone else, and I think I really fancy him. I just don’t… fancy Teddy anymore, not in the same way.” She looked up pleadingly at her sister.
Dominique frowned, setting her wand on the bedside table and crawling under the covers. “I don’t understand how you can just stop fancying someone, especially your boyfriend for two years, that quickly,” she said. “Teddy loves you, Vic. Do you know how lucky you are, to have a wonderful bloke love you?” There was something longing in her sister’s voice.
“Love, don’t worry. You’ll find a boyfriend you really like soon – these things can’t be rushed. When you’re least expecting him, he’ll come along. That’s how it always happens. It’s important to be comfortable with yourself first.”
The other girl snorted. “You sound like Auntie Hermione,” she groaned. “I guess you’re right. It’s just… well Molly has a boyfriend, and she’s only in fourth year. Is she prettier than me? Surely not…”
Victoire rolled her eyes again – the gesture was routine when Dominique made one of her more obnoxious comments. “That’s rude, Dominique,” she said sternly. “Molly is very pretty and looks aren’t the only thing people should look for in a partner. What about… about compatibility, and having fun, and their skills at snogging.” She grinned, thinking of Sam. She missed him.
“I guess you’re right,” Dominique said, rolling over and extinguishing the lamp.
“I’m always right, that’s what big sisters are for,” Victoire said.
Dominique hit her with a pillow.
Victoire had fallen in love with Prague.
They began the day early, as was Victoire’s habit when she was traveling. She dragged both Dominique and Teddy out of bed and fetched them all coffee and croissants as the other two got ready and she let her wet hair dry in the crisp morning breeze. Prague was beautiful – the red roofs and the cobbled streets charmed Victoire immediately.
Their first stop was to wander across the Charles bridge, which was situated just down the hill from their hotel. The bridge was closed to cars but already filled with pedestrian tourists, admiring and snapping frantic photographs of the blackened statues of saints which lined the bridge’s edges. Beneath them, the water of the shallow river sparkled and Dominique waved at the boaters passing below. Large houses in the distance were framed against lush green hills.
“That’s the castle, I guess,” Teddy said, peering up at his map and then pointing towards the high hill behind them. “We’ll have to climb up there later and get the full view of the city.” He stopped to listen to a pair of guitarists whose music filled the space around them, dropping a couple coins into the open guitar case.
Victoire was particularly entranced by a statue of two men trapped in a carved prison, their hands clasped together in prayer and anguished expressions on their bearded faces. Outside the archway, the two stone men were guarded by a creature of some sort and a man bearing a turban and a scimitar who leaned against the prison with a distant expression. The only color came from another man standing in an assembly upon the prison, who bore a small golden cross out in front of him. Victoire supposed the statue depicted some saint’s unfortunate fate – she found the expressions on the praying men’s faces both tragic and entrancing.
They moved on. “We want to make the clock show in the square,” Victoire told Teddy and Dominique matter-of-factly. “Also, Ted, make sure to keep your wallet in your front pocket and keep your hand hovering around there. Nique, keep your purse held in front of you. There are bound to be pickpockets here. Oh, and be careful of your – wands – as well.” She mouthed this last part.
“Check out at the traveling genius,” Teddy said, moving his wallet to his front pocket of his jeans as Victoire had suggested. She led them through the growing crowds, and in a few minutes of moving through the twisting streets they found themselves in Prague’s Old Town Square, standing before the old astronomical clock.
“Alright, so the little show should begin on the hour,” Victoire said, checking the fine silver watch her parents had given her when she came of age. She gazed up at the astronomical clock, at the three large spheres which were over five hundred years old, and nudged Teddy. “Look, so the clock is surrounded by four of the vices – erm, the threats that the people would have feared at the time.” She pointed. “The skeleton for death, and the man holding the mirror is Vanity. The miser is the statue of the man with the coins. Apparently he also used to be called the Jew but they keep that quiet now…”
“That’s rude,” Dominique said. “And racial stereotyping – you know my friend Suze is Jewish, right?”
Victoire flushed, rolling her eyes. “I’m not stereotyping, Nique, the information is in my guidebook,” she said with forced patience. Dominique tended to be grumpy and argumentative in the mornings. “Anyway, the clock was tended by astronomers and other wizards who put protection spells on its exterior. Several of the saints who do their promenade when the hour strikes were modeled on the faces of famous graduates from Durmstrang.”
When the hour struck, the astronomical cloth flurried to life, the little figures moving in mechanical motions with the crowd staring up and taking photographs. Dominique complained that the show was overrated and boring, and that she was hungry: Victoire and Teddy agreed that it was especially interesting and impressive because of the history.
They decided to spend the next few hours touring around the Jewish synagogues of Prague. Victoire explained to Teddy and Dominique how the old Jewish ghetto had survived the Holocaust for a grim and lonely reason: while Hitler had destroyed many of the old synagogues and areas designated to the marginalized Jews of old across Europe, the Prague quarter had been preserved to be a monument of a lost race.
Victoire’s research into Hitler and the Holocaust reminded her greatly of the destruction Lord Voldemort had planned to wreak upon the Muggles and Muggleborns of England. She and her parents often had lengthy discussions late into the night about what could have been, had the Dark Lord not been destroyed by her uncle Harry. She knew, from History of Magic, that the dark wizard Grindelwald had also been responsible for much of the power which the Third Reich had gained, though much of Grindelwald’s mastery had been forced upon the magical populations, and not the Muggle populations of Europe. Grindelwald knew that he should set into motion the hatreds of Muggles: like a fire, they would turn on one another and devour themselves up.
Grindelwald had been destroyed by Albus Dumbledore, her uncle’s old mentor, and Hitler’s empire had been toppled by the Allied forces. But the price that had been paid lingered in cities like Prague. Victoire was planning to visit the Terezin concentration camp outside of the city during her visit – there was something about the horrific history of the past which filled her with a desperate longing to know. Since meeting the ghosts of the soldiers who had died at Hill 60 in Flanders, Victoire had begun to feel an acute connection to the lost souls of history. She both loved and hated what people had done to each other over the years.
The first stop was the Pinkas Synagogue. The walls of the old chapel had been hand-decorated with the names of Czech Jews who had died in the Holocaust, names upon names in straight lines of black on the clean white walls. The air within the synagogue was silent and thick. Victoire, Dominique and Teddy, clutching their maps, wandered through the simple synagogue – breathing in names, dates of birth and death, organized by family name. Victoire felt her breath catch in her throat as she looked at families who had been wiped out within a single year – 1942. 1943. Even worse were the families who had been murdered on the exact same day. Victoire found herself looking for girls who had died when they were her own age. She wondered how they might have felt, how frightened they would have been, going to their deaths, being punished for the blood they had been born with.
On the upper floor of the synagogue waited an even more heartbreaking memorial: pictures drawn by children who had been imprisoned at the Terezin concentration camp. Victoire found herself holding hands with her sister as they moved through the small room, gazing at sketches of trains, of lonely houses, of stick people with serious faces. By the time they emerged from the Pinkas Synagogue into the warm air outside, Victoire felt very heavy inside. Looking at Dominique and Teddy’s faces, she was sure they felt the same way.
They moved through the old Jewish cemetery, which was situated on raised ground. Through the centuries, the Jews of Prague had only been allowed that area to bury their dead, and so the earth had risen up with layers and layers of bodies. The thin gravestones stuck up out of the earth like layers of crooked teeth, sticking out at angles and protruding from the overgrown grass.
“I like this,” Teddy said, as they left the cemetery and stopped for a drink of coffee on the way to the famous Old New Synagogue. “I see why you love traveling so much, Vic. It’s really interesting, seeing this.”
“It’s sad,” Dominique said. She had been unusually quiet since leaving the Pinkas synagogue. “Things like the drawings, well, you don’t see that in History of Magic.”
Victoire felt her heart swell with love for her sister. She put an arm around her. “I’m glad you’re here, despite everything,” she said, leaning her head against Dominique’s. She smiled at Teddy, his warm brown eyes sparkling in the noontime sun. “You, too, Ted.” She was quite impressed with how Teddy was settling into acting like a friend around her. Part of her kept wondering what Sam would have thought of Teddy. Had they not shared one crucial thing in common – having snogged the same girl – she suspected they would have gotten on quite well.
The Old New Synagogue was a gateway to the past. From the exterior, its walls were the color of light sand, and dark bricks spiked upwards to hide the attic. The ceilings of the interior were very low, and Victoire and Teddy had to stoop slightly when moving through the doorways. Victoire was particularly interested to see the screen behind which the women would have sat during services.
The synagogue was small and simple, very different from the grand cathedrals which Victoire had visited, like Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s in London, or the great Notre Dame which she had visited with Sam in Paris. Yet she loved the synagogues for this: they seemed to be remnants of the people, of the ordinary people who had made their daily livelihoods in Prague. So many of living monuments seemed only to remember the rich and noble of their days.
As the trio left the synagogue, Victoire led them to a bench where they could admire the ancient structure from the outside. Victoire pulled out a bottle of water from her rucksack and passed it around: both Dominique and Teddy drank gratefully. They were less pleased when she took out the sunblock and insisted they both apply it.
“You’re as bad as Mum worrying about “ze complexion,” Dominique complained. It was true: Fleur Delacour-Weasley was notorious for insisting on protecting her children’s fair skin.
Teddy smiled slightly but stayed silent: his mother had, of course, died when he was a baby.
“Teddy, with your Metamorphing thingy, would you be able to change your body if you get sick?” Dominique asked, taking another sip of water. “I mean, like if you had a spot, could you change your skin so the spot would go away?”
He laughed, patting a hand to his flawless skin. “I suppose that’s the case for a spot. Maybe not for other things, though. Like, if I had lung cancer, I couldn’t just change my lungs into something else without most likely killing myself trying…”
“Also, Dominique, Metamorphmagus abilities can fade or weaken if the wizard is emotionally or physically distraught,” Victoire explained. “So most likely being that sick would have a damper on Teddy’s abilities regardless.” She tapped her knuckles against the wood of the bench with two quick raps. “Knock wood that won’t ever happen.”
Teddy laughed. “I forgot you always used to knock wood, Vic. It’s so-”he cut himself silent. Victoire couldn’t help but wonder if he had been about to tell her she was adorable, and could not help but be pleased he had restrained himself.
Seeing it fit to change the subject, she looked up at the Old New Synagogue. “Have you lot heard about the Golem?” she asked. “I think Hagrid mentioned it once in a Care of Magical Creatures class in my sixth year.” Dominique shook her head, but Teddy nodded. “Well, Nique, the Golem was a creature made of clay built by Jewish wizards here in Prague to help the people with their work.”
“Animated and made of clay,” Teddy clarified. “Kind of like using the Piertotum Locomotor spell, which brings statues to life. A wizard called Rabbi Loew created a famous Golem – is that the one you’re referring to?”
Victoire grinned at him. “Not bad, mister Lupin. Yes, he was here in Prague. The legend says that the sorcerer had to remove the sacred words of power from the Golem’s mouth so that he could rest on the day of the Sabbath. But one day, Loew forgot, and the Golem, driven mad by the breach of the wizard’s promises, went on a violent rampage through Prague.” She paused and plucked the bottle of water back from Dominique, aware of a couple of tourists giving her an odd look. She supposed she had been speaking quite loudly.
“So the wizard was forced to pull the words of power from the Golem and set him to sleep again, but this time forever,” Teddy finished the story. “There have been other stories throughout Jewish history and culture, but this one is the most famous, if I remember correctly. They’re very rare: no wizard has dared to make one in centuries.”
“Sounds like a Frankenstein’s monster sort of deal,” Dominique said. She flicked her hair over her shoulder and glanced a little shyly at a boy around her age who was leaving the Old New Synagogue with his parents.
“Maybe a little,” Victoire said. “I mean, there are all sorts of theories for Frankenstein, especially since Mary Shelley was a witch herself – I believe the Inferi theory seems quite plausible.”
“Back to the Golem…” Teddy said hastily. Dominique was looking a little green – she had a childhood fear of Inferi.
“Yes, the Golem. Well, the remains of the Golem were allegedly put in the attic of the Old New Synagogue, and for all anyone knows, they have remained there until this day.” She pointed at the top story of the synagogue. “Maybe he’s still up there. According to the story, nobody has been in the attic since the Golem was destroyed.”
A few tiny, dark windows were silhouetted against the dark bricks of the upper section of the synagogue. Starting about halfway up the height of the building, Victoire could see little metal loops, almost like primitive stairs, leading to a door with sloping sides in the roof.
Dominique had noticed the steps as well. “You know,” she said, leaning back on the bench and crossing her legs. “It might not too difficult to sneak up there. A couple Disillusionment charms… potentially use Alohomora on the door…”
Teddy was laughing into his hand. “Nique, you are honestly insane. But I kind of like this plan.”
“Har har, what a lovely joke,” Victoire said. “I’d be all for this plan, if first of all chances are that not only would we be arrested for breaking the Statute of Secrecy, but we could get deported back to England, and I do not plan on going back there anytime soon.” Dominique and Teddy looked a little crestfallen. “Secondly, the Golem was created and put away by wizards. Imagine all the wards and curses put up to protect such a creature? I don’t plan on sprouting a second head, thank you very much.”
“But your first head is so pretty,” Dominique muttered, smirking.
“Spoken like a true curse-breaker’s daughter,” Teddy added. “I guess this explains why you’ve lasted so long traveling. You’re even worse about following the rules than you were at Hogwarts.”
The most trouble Victoire had ever gotten into at Hogwarts was when she and Teddy had been caught canoodling in the Charms classroom when they were supposed to be patrolling on prefect rounds. Professor Flitwick had never been able to look Victoire in the eye after that.
“Let’s get some lunch, and then I have to send an owl to Uncle Charlie,” Victoire sighed, poking Teddy’s arm and dragging herself to her feet. She looked up at the synagogue again, at the lonely rounded door and the dark bricks which had seen so much.
They walked away. For a moment, she thought she heard a low rumbling sound, like gravel being shaken in a cauldron. As if, high in the dark attic of the Old New Synagogue, the Golem had heard them, and was laughing.
At lunch, Dominique made the acquaintance of a delicately handsome American boy who was traveling with his parents. After chatting with him for a while, Dominique had dragged the boy back over to where Victoire and Teddy were enjoying their sandwiches.
“This is Melvin, and his parents said he could spend the afternoon with us!” Dominique said gleefully. “He’s from America!”
“Fancy that,” Victoire said, shaking Melvin’s hand. His unfortunate name did nothing to dim his brilliant smile, though Teddy whispered to her that the poor kid looked a little shocked that so much beauty could come from one family.
“It’s the Veela effect,” he told Victoire as they wandered through Prague. Victoire had it in her mind to walk along the river.
“I wish I could meet an actual Veela and see what all the fuss is about,” Victoire said frankly. She sometimes received these sorts of compliments. While her friends received praise of a specific sort – their pretty eyes, their lovely smiles, their shapely figures – Victoire’s admirers seemed unable to pick out the one thing they liked about her, jumping between her features with growing nervousness and uncertainty. Personally, Victoire was prone to looking in the mirror and picking herself apart from the seams. Her limbs were too gangly, her thighs too round, her teeth too big or her eyes too far apart. Her skin was too pale, or her hair was being unruly. She looked far better with a bit of makeup than without.
Victoire’s great-grandmother had allegedly been a Veela, who were magical, humanoid creatures – well, clearly humanoid enough to conceive and bear human children. They lived mostly in Eastern Europe and were notoriously seductive towards wizards, though when angered they obtained birdlike features and became quite aggressive and fiery. Victoire’s Aunt Hermione, who knew everything, described them as a sort of land-dwelling siren. Victoire’s Uncle Ron became a little misty-eyed whenever the subject of Veela came up.
Dominique and Melvin asked if they could go off alone, and Victoire, feeling rather like a parent herself, gave permission. She knew Dominique had been feeling a little like a third-wheel with herself and Teddy, and besides, she wanted to have the chance to spend some time with him on her own.
To her surprise, they avoided the subject of their breakup. Victoire was grateful for this: she didn’t want to ruin the lovely day by dredging up the past, and figured there would be lots of time to discuss. Teddy was in a good mood, though he complained that he needed better walking shoes. Their stroll along the river, waving at the boats passing by and admiring the architecture, felt smooth and calming and natural. Victoire didn’t feel any urge to hold Teddy’s hand, or to reach up and kiss his cheek. She didn’t want to know what he wanted to do. For now, it was alright to slowly and tentatively rebuild their friendship and companionship, and see where things could grow from there.
They talked about all sorts of things: what their friends were up to now that they’d graduated Hogwarts, how Rose came back from her first year at Hogwarts claiming she had a “boyfriend,” causing Uncle Ron to have a cow, how Victoire’s Uncle Charlie had written her Dad to tell him that the kids were welcome to come and visit him at the dragon reserve in Romania, since they were in that general area. Teddy was afraid of dragons, but since meeting the giant Finn McCool in Northern Ireland Victoire’s criteria for what frightened her had dramatically lessened. They laughed about Dominique and Melvin, and how Teddy’s grandmother had gone from fighting a losing battle of protecting her birdfeeder from the squirrels to leaving out specially store-bought squirrel food enhanced with healthy vitamins for mammals.
Victoire felt both different and the same.
They met up with Dominique and Melvin at the Charles bridge, and as they approached Victoire was surprised to see her sister give a few coins to a rather grubby looking man, who grinned his thanks and scuttled off into the crowd. Victoire raised her eyebrows.
“He asked us if we needed directions and we said yes,” Dominique said immediately. “And he insisted on taking us here instead of just telling us, and then asked if we had anything to give him…”
Victoire sighed. “You should have known better, Dominique. People are always trying to take advantage of tourists.”
“Well, I didn’t know he was going to ask for money,” Dominique said defensively. “We’ve had a lovely walk. I showed Melvin the astronomical clock show and told him about the synagogues.”
“I’m going to suggest to my parents that we go round them tomorrow,” Melvin said smartly. His accent, though perhaps a little heavier and harsher than Sam’s, reminded Victoire painfully of her Canadian friend.
Teddy smiled. “That’s great, mate. Do you all fancy having a look at some postcards? I promised Grandmother I’d send her an owl- erm, a letter.”
Melvin didn’t seem to have noticed Teddy’s little slip-up. The group moved towards an open storefront with postcards on racks and other little souvenirs and knick-knacks. Victoire decided she should find something to pick up for Louis from Prague. She had been purchasing small gifts for her family throughout her travels, but her ten-year old brother was especially fun to spoil. He was quite quiet and often seemed to fade into the background, especially in comparison to their cousins Lily and Hugo, who were a year younger than Louis and a lot louder, as well as being best friends.
Melvin brightened, pointing towards a far corner of the store, and tapping Dominique’s arm. “Look, there are those shirts I was talking about, Dom…”
“Don’t call me that,” Dominique said sharply. Melvin looked a little taken aback as the redhead turned away from him, pretending to be very immersed in a postcard display. Melvin glanced at Teddy and Victoire pleadingly.
“She doesn’t think it’s a real name,” Victoire said, taking pity on him.
“It rhymes with ‘bomb’ as well,” Teddy added. Victoire found herself sharing a grin with him. “Although I think that ‘Dom’ is a nickname for a lot of people with that name…”
“She prefers Nique, but only from people she likes,” Victoire concluded. “And I’m quite sure she does like you, and she’s definitely listening and not really examining that postcard.” She nudged Melvin. From behind the display, Dominique’s cheeks were glowing pink. Victoire and Teddy watched as Melvin edged his way back over to the English girl. Within moments they were peering at the postcards.
“Poor bloke, how was he to know that Weasley girls are mad as hatters?” Teddy said, poking Victoire in the fleshy part of her upper arm. She swatted his hand away.
“You really know how to pay a girl a compliment, mister.” She twirled a piece of red hair around her finger, smiling at him, then dropped the hair, realizing that he might take this as a sign of flirting.
“Hey, you’re not an easy person to compliment,” Teddy protested.
“Digging yourself into a hole, Ted,” Dominique called from across the store. Teddy flushed.
“What I mean is that you don’t really like to be complimented, Vic. Can be bloody annoying come to think of it. I remember I was trying to ask you out in sixth year, and Uncle Ron lent me this book on how to charm witches, and they said girls love compliments, give them loads of compliments.” He shrugged, a little helplessly.
“I probably thought you were just making fun of me,” Victoire said airily. Truthfully, she’d felt so awkward when Teddy had first told her she had beautiful eyes that she’d run away with the excuse that she heard a prefect coming. The reality was that she was disappointed the best he could come up with was that he had beautiful eyes – honestly, anybody could have beautiful eyes. It was the easiest compliment out there, and doubtlessly the first suggested compliment in that dreadful book.
The rest of the afternoon left Victoire feeling exhausted. She could tell from Dominique and Teddy’s slightly grumpy behavior that they were feeling the same way – after all, they had just traveled from Britain, and they weren’t as accustomed to spending the entire day walking around in the warm sun and filling their brains with information. Dominique and Melvin exchanged hugs and agreed to meet up the next day, to the amusement of Victoire and Teddy.
Upon returning to the hotel, Dominique offered Victoire a piece of paper with boyish handwriting on it, looking confused. “Melvin gave this to me and told me to ‘add him,’” she said. “I think it’s just his name and maybe the state where he lives?”
Victoire smirked. Her experiences traveling with Muggles were proving quite useful. “I’ll show you what to do,” she told her sister. The hotel where they were staying had a few computers for the guests to use in the lobby, and after sending Teddy upstairs to take a nap she led her sister over to the desks.
“What are you doing?” Dominique asked, leaning over Victoire’s shoulder. “What in Merlin’s name is that? It’s you!”
“It’s called social networking,” Victoire explained, moving the cursor over the screen. Sam had helped her set up her page, even though she only had a handful of friends. The profile picture was Sam had taken of Victoire in Paris, standing in a street in Montmartre at the top of a cobble-stoned hill. The tops of her shoulders were bare and freckled, and she was holding a cone of chocolate gelato, her blue eyes sparkling merrily and a long red braid hanging over her shoulder. Even though the photograph did not move like wizarding ones did, Victoire was fond of it. Sam had captured her in a perfect moment.
Sam wasn’t online, but he had left a message for her asking how she liked Prague and telling her all about the concert in Berlin. He sent her the information about the hostel he’d booked for them in Venice, and said he was excited to push her in the canals just to see if her skin would turn green. Victoire giggled at the silliness.
“I approve,” Dominique said as Victoire showed her sister the Canadian traveler’s profile. “He’s cute. I mean, Teddy is probably better-looking-”
“…Teddy can change his appearance at will,” Victoire pointed out.
“Yeah, there is that. But he seems nice. You should bring him back to England, even if he is a Muggle and Dad would have to put away his collection of cursed Egyptian objects and shrunken heads.”
“That would be a blessing in disguise,” Victoire said, shuddering. Secretly, the idea of Sam coming home to meet her friends and family was more thrilling than anything else. “So, shall I send an owl to Uncle Charlie and tell him we’ll be seeing him in Romania in three days, officially?”
“I can’t wait,” Dominique said decisively. She pulled a half-eaten cookie out of her pocket and offered Victoire a bite.
“About Uncle Charlie,” Victoire added, grinning a little wickedly. “Did you know he’s been having a fling with Tante Gabrielle?”
Dominique’s eyes widened in shock. “Gross,” she said, and then added more decisively: “we are going to make him squirm.”
Author’s Note: Thank you for reading and for sticking with this story! I hope you enjoyed this chapter – visiting Prague is highly recommended, and I would also recommend searching for images of the Charles Bridge and Old New Synagogue and the other places as I definitely did not do them justice in describing them here. I’m currently thinking this story will be about eight chapters total, and am trying to update at least once a month.
If you have the time, I’d love to know what you thought of Teddy and Dominique, and of course of Prague and Victoire! I do not own ‘Frankenstein’, Mary Shelley wrote it.
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