Chapter 1 : Bath time
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Maman said Louis shouldn't listen to Victoire. Louis didn't like Victoire very much either sometimes: she would become very angry at him, and then Louis would turn blue or green or sprout antlers or grow a fluffy tail. It wasn't very comfortable.
Louis had decided he preferred Dominique. Dominique never told Louis scary stories, she never turned him blue or green, and she never made him sprout antlers or grow a fluffy tail, though once she had thrown her pudding at Louis.
The pudding had been difficult to wash out of his hair and Maman had not been happy, but it was still a delicious pudding, and Louis still loved Dominique very much.
Louis loved Dominique so much that he had been brave and had followed her into the dark cupboard where Maman put the brooms and cleaning things.
It smelled funny, Louis thought. The dust tickled his nose and made him want to sneeze, but he didn't want to interrupt Dominique.
"You see," she was explaining, her blonde hair shimmering in the darkness, "if we give Mimi a bath like Victoire asked us, Maman and Daddy will be happy because we obeyed, and we will have more dessert tonight."
Dominique was right, Louis thought as he nodded enthusiastically. She was six years old, so she had to be correct. And Mimi had not had a bath in a very long time. After all, Maman insisted that Louis had to have a bath every night, so he supposed that it was only fair that Mimi had a bath too.
"Now," Dominique stated authoritatively, "you have to empty the bottle of water Victoire gave us into the red bucket over there, while I get Mimi out of the box."
How nice, Louis thought, Victoire had helped them prepare Mimi for her bath. Maybe she wasn't as mean as Louis could remember.
He carefully poured the water into the bucket, but some of it sloshed over the side, wetting his shoes.
"Dominique," he whispered anxiously, "I spilled the water. Maman is not going to be happy."
It was always Maman who made a fuss about Louis' clothes. Daddy said it wasn't important and let Louis run in the mud sometimes.
Dominique shrugged, extremely concentrated on pulling the Spellotape away from the cardboard box in which Mimi was waiting for her bath. "That doesn't matter, she'll be happy Mimi is clean. Is the bucket full?"
"Yes," Louis emptied the last few drops. "What tan I do to help you now, Domi?"
Dominique unstuck a piece of Spellotape from her fingers before making her way to the back of the cupboard and rifling through some of the cleaning products. When she came back, she was carefully holding a blue and red bottle, which she handed to Louis.
He eyed the writing on the bottle with interest. "What does this say?"
Dominique furrowed her brow. "Padma Patil's Particularly Powerful Powder Soap– now with extra bubbles," she read slowly and hesitantly. "You need to put this in the water, so Mimi can be all clean."
Louis obediently held the bottle over the bucket, but nothing happened. Angrily, he shook the bottle harder and harder until the cork fell off and a torrent of blue goo was poured into the water.
The surface immediately frothed, bubbles rising out of the bucket and into the cramped room. Louis let out a happy squeal as one of them popped against his finger.
Satisfied with his work, he continued to make the bubbles surrounding him explode while Dominique wrestled with the last of the Spellotape.
The bubbles really were fascinating, Louis thought, mesmerised by the light objects floating around him. What would it be like to be a bubble? He would float out through the door, out the window, and rise, high up in the sky, higher than James who never let Louis use his toy broom, higher than the dragons Uncle Charlie took care of, higher even than Teddy Lupin's tree house that Louis was not allowed to go in yet.
Teddy Lupin had said Louis would be able to go inside the tree house when he was four. Louis was eagerly waiting for his next birthday, which was in twelve days. He tried to remember how many fingers twelve made, but he had forgotten. Last year, when Louis was three – not even three and a half, but only three – Nana had made a cake like a Stinch for his birthday. Was that the name? A Stinch? Or was it a Stnich? In any case, Louis hoped this year the cake would be as pretty and delicious as the cake from last year.
Maybe he would get a toy broom like James too.
"Louis," Dominique called, "I'm finished! Come and help me!"
He hurriedly scampered over to her, knocking a half-closed vat onto the carpet. An ugly green stain immediately formed, producing a terrible smell, but Louis didn't pay attention, keen on helping his sister.
Cautiously, they pulled back the flaps of the box. Mimi's head appeared, looking startled, and she sneezed as a bubble hit her on the nose. Dominique picked her up under the stomach, dragging her out and over to the bucket.
"You need to take her bottom legs," she instructed, "and put them in the water, and then I will drop the rest of her body, okay?"
Louis nodded, but when he moved forward to catch Mimi's hind legs she hissed and wriggled out of his grip.
"Bad Mimi," he scolded, "you need to tate a bath so Domi and me tan have more dessert."
He made another attempt at grabbing Mimi's paws, successfully dipping them into the bucket, and Dominique immediately dropped the rest of the poor creature into the slimy substance.
"MEEEEEEOOOOOOOWWWWW!" The cat's head broke the surface of the water, screeching and thrashing.
"No, no, no Mimi," Dominique was ready with a brush in her hand and started scraping the cat clean with it, "you're still dirty. Can you hold the bucket please Louis?"
Louis promptly did as he was told, but it was pointless. Mimi squirmed and fidgeted and writhed, scratching Dominique and Louis' arms and hands, until she finally made the bucket topple over, its contents seeping into the carpet. She cowered in one of the corners, fur and soapy water plastered to her body.
Louis began to cry: the scratches hurt, he didn't like the dark, some water had gone up his nose and Dominique had stepped on his foot.
It was a relief when the door flew open, revealing an angry looking Fleur.
"Mais enfin, qu'est-ce-qui se passe ici?" Her mouth fell into a perfectly shaped O, and she had to blink once or twice to make sure she wasn't dreaming. "Oh, mon Dieu… Qu'est-ce-que vous avez fait à ce pauvre chat?!" *
Mimi had bolted out as soon as the door was open, leaving a trail of wet paw prints behind her.
"Victoire told us that if we gave Mimi a bath you would be happy and we would have more dessert," Dominique's bottom lip began to tremble.
The corners of Fleur's mouth began to twitch as she took in the whole scene: bubbles everywhere, her two youngest children sopping wet, an old brush used to clean the toilets discarded on the floor, two of her strongest oven-cleaning products lying empty on the floor, and a huge watery stain on the carpet.
She was going to need a little discussion with Victoire about her younger siblings – getting them to give the cat a bath in a broom cupboard was high on the list of things not to do.
"She did, did she? Well, I will go and talk to 'er about it. 'ow about we get you to ze bathtub – wizzout Mimi zis time – and zen you will have dinner?"
It could have been worse, she had to admit that much. Nothing could outdo the Christmas day on which Victoire had tried to send Louis by owl to Santa Claus against Dwiddle's Doll House.
Several cleaning spells later, Dominique and Louis wrapped in their pyjamas, and a dry Mimi lapping up a bowl of milk in front of the fire, the events of the afternoon were forgotten by all, except Victoire.
Indeed, Victoire had not been allowed any pudding for dessert that evening. It was too bad, Louis mused, spooning the last of his third helping into his mouth.
The pudding really was delicious.
A/N: First off, you should all give the validators a round of applause - the queue is only fourteen hours long!
This one shot was written in the very early hours of the morning. I would love to have your thoughts, even if it's to say "That was terrible. Please stop writing and spare us. Please."
* "What is going on here? Oh my God... What did you do to that poor cat?"
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