Lily stood in front of the steps to Dominique's rowhouse, digging in her purse for her favorite lipstick. She finally found it and turned to the small mirror she'd set hovering in the air in front of her, swiftly applying the cherry-red color. The anti-feathering charm had already worn off this particular tube, but it was such a beautiful color, she kept wearing it anyway. It was going to leave beautifully bloody marks all over Dominique's wine glasses, which also recommended it for the occasion.
She plucked the mirror out of the air and stowed it safely in her purse with the lipstick, then dashed up the brick stairs to Dominique's tastefully painted front door.
Dominique answered at once, stepping in with a welcoming smile that showed far too many teeth. If Lily hadn't grown up with her, she probably wouldn't have known that wasn't a real smile. Dominique's ability to paste on a sincere smile at the drop of a hat was legendary. Dominique had on a jaw-droppingly gorgeous floral sheath dress that fitted her like a glove. Lily would have cheerfully mugged her in a back alley for that dress.
“Good evening, Lily,” Dommie was saying, and Lily nodded.
“Where'd you find that dress, Dommie?” she asked, ignoring the pleasantries in favor of getting to the point. Not only did she want that dress for herself, it would sell beautifully if she could manage it for Madame Malkin's.
“Chanel,” said Dominique, dashing all of Lily's hopes.
Of course it was Chanel.
Her cousin Lucy was arriving right behind her with her husband, and Dominique promptly abandoned Lily to fawn over Lucy's husband. Dominique collected people that she felt made her look better, and she adored Hilarion Winston-Fisher because he was a famous Quidditch player and absolutely gorgeous. From the way he was hiding a bit behind his wife, the feeling was not mutual. He and Lucy were both rather quiet, so it was hard to tell if it was shyness or dislike.
Lily decided the idea that Lucy's husband didn't like Dominique was the more fun option for her private musings and made her way cheerfully into the rowhouse. It was filled to the brim with Weasleys and their significant others, because of course virtually everyone except Lily had one of those. She took a slow spin, checking out the room to see who was talking to whom and which group she wanted to join. She wanted to have a word with Rose, since she hadn't got to talk to her since the incident at the Burrow, but Rose was nowhere to be seen. Neither was her boyfriend, Scorpius. Lily's eyes narrowed.
Now that was an interesting development.
No doubt Dominique wasn't sad at Rose's absence, but Lily was dying to know what Rose was up to. Of course she must have some sort of revenge planned, and Lily wanted to know what it was.
She made a beeline for Victoire instead. Victoire and Rose were always hanging round each other, so she was bound to know if Rose was going to show up tonight. Victoire was on the sofa beside her husband, who was deep in conversation with Molly's boyfriend Fitz, talking Quidditch. Victoire looked to be listening half-heartedly to Roxanne, who was standing in front of the sofa gesticulating wildly while she talked. Various cousins and significant others were dodging her as they walked past, though Roxy didn't seem to notice.
“Oi, Lily,” said Victoire when Lily reached her. “Did you just get here?”
“Just a minute ago.” Lily gave her a significant look. “No Rose, I see.”
Victoire shrugged. “Rose said Dominique could go suck a knarl quill. She's not coming tonight.”
Lily laughed. “Did she say that to her face?”
“No, she's not actually speaking to Dommie right now.” Victoire looked down at her drink and wrinkled her nose. “I wish there was actual tequila in this.”
Teddy heard that and turned to give his wife's rounded belly a pat. “Not long now, and then you can get your booze on.”
She swatted his hand away. “No I can't. I'll be nursing the baby. I'm out of luck for the next couple of months. And it's all your fault.”
Teddy did not look abashed. “I seem to recall you participating too.”
“Go and get me something else.” Victoire shoved the glass into his hand. “And see if you can sneak some food out of the kitchen. I'm starving.”
Teddy took off to raid the kitchen, and Lily settled in his place on the sofa. Victoire's belly seemed to be radiating heat beside her, and Lily shied away a bit, finding herself pressed up against Molly's boyfriend instead.
He looked down at her with a smile. “Hi Lily.”
“Hi Fitz. What are you drinking?” She peered into his glass.
“Oh.” Lily lost interest. Molly drank those, and apparently she had Fitz drinking them now as well. Lily didn't care for sour drinks. “Does Dommie have a bar set up? Can we serve ourselves?”
Roxanne had overheard her, and interrupted her own monologue to answer. “Louis is here, so no open bar. I think Dommie is trying to keep him sober enough not to embarrass her.”
“It won't work,” Victoire said with ruthless practicality. “Nothing stops Louis from embarrassing us. Might as well let Reinolt see it now, so if he's going to be scared off, Dommie will know ahead of time.”
“Didn't anyone warn him about Louis?” Roxanne's husband Perry craned his neck, looking around the room, either for Louis or for Dominique's fiance, Lily wasn't sure.
“Did anyone warn you?” Lily asked.
“Oh yes.” Perry turned to her with a wide grin. “I think it was one of the first Weasley stories I heard, the tales of Louis.”
“My favorite is the one where Louis is stuffed in a car boot,” Fitz said, sipping his drink.
“I prefer Louis getting shot in the arse, myself.”
“Shot in the arse is my favorite as well,” Molly agreed. “Fine choice, Perry.”
Lily sighed. Louis was an endless source of embarrassing stories for the family to tell. She sometimes thought she could judge whether a friend or significant other would stick around based on their reaction to Louis and his antics. Fitz and Perry both found him hilariously entertaining. Dominique's first husband hadn't liked him and had tried not to invite him round.
Teddy arrived with a small plate of food for his wife, and Dominique noticed them, her eyes going wide with disapproval.
“I don't think you were supposed to steal food before dinner, Teddy,” Lily remarked.
“Pregnant wife owns my soul, I can't afford manners.”
“Damn right,” agreed the pregnant wife in question, her mouth already full.
Dominique called them to the table a moment later. Lily was seated down the end, since as always Dominique had arranged the table to place those she considered most important (in other words, famous) nearest to her and her fiance. Molly, Fitz, Lucy, and Hilarion appeared to have that honor tonight, thanks to their professional Quidditch connections. Lily had been relegated to the position of least importance, along with her cousin Hugo and her brother Albus.
“Oi, you,” she said to her brother as she sat down across from him. “What'd you say to Hob?”
Albus affected great innocence. “Hob?”
“He was acting very odd when we had coffee the other day.” Lily shook a finger at him. “Leave him alone, you tosser.”
“I'm telling Mum you called me names.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “I'll do worse if you don't butt out.”
“Why, do you fancy him? Hob?” Albus asked disparagingly.
When he took that tone, she'd be damned if she'd answer that question. “Butt out, Albus. I mean it.”
Hugo heaved a sigh from beside her. “Albus, please butt out.”
“Oh, you always take her side.” Albus turned away to talk to Perry, who was seated beside him. Perry was a composer, and not famous at all, so he and Roxanne were down the end of the table too. Roxanne had a tendency to make Dominique nervous or uncomfortable, so of course she hadn't put Roxy nearby.
“Thanks, Hugo.” Lily turned her attention to her cousin. Hugo was almost exactly her age, and they'd grown up being rather constantly thrown together because of it, especially at school. She was extremely fond of him, particularly since he didn't baby her the way her older brothers did.
“Do you actually fancy Hob?” he asked in a low voice, making sure Albus didn't overhear.
“No. What I fancy is not going alone to the wedding.”
“Cheers,” Hugo said, starting on his soup. Dominique's dinner parties were always several courses, and her cooking was excellent. Nearly everything Dominique did, she did well (generally quite ostentatiously well), which was one of the many reasons Lily didn't like her much.
“What about you? Who are you taking to the wedding?”
“A co-worker. You haven't met her.”
Lily was intrigued. “Do you fancy her? Is this a serious date?”
Hugo glanced over her shoulder at Dominique, his red brows drawing together in a small frown. “No. I chose her because Dommie will hate her. Everyone hates her, all the teams.”
Lily nodded sagely at that. No doubt because of what Dominique had said about his sister. Now that was how she wished her brothers would be protective of her, instead of running off all her potential dates. “Good for you. That's proper brotherly behavior, right there. So she's another Healer for the League, is she?”
“Yeah. Vastly unpleasant person. I don't know how she keeps her job. She's been banned from two teams because she made the coaches angry.”
“Which teams?” Lily adored gossip. Hugo usually wasn't one to pass any on, so she assumed this was something that was considered general knowledge in the Quidditch world. He would never share confidential information.
“Wigtown and Portree.”
She let out a burst of laughter at that. The coach for the Pride of Portree was her cousin Molly's boyfriend Fitz. She indicated him with her spoon and asked, “Does he know you're bringing this woman?”
Hugo cracked a smile. “No. I probably ought to warn him. I mean, I don't care if she starts anything at the wedding – that's sort of the point, actually – but Molly would probably be a little miffed if I get Fitz dragged into a duel.”
Lily was briefly impressed. Hugo was really pulling out all the stops if duels were even a consideration where his date was concerned. Though since she knew for a fact Fitz had been arrested for getting in a Muggle-style brawl once, it probably wasn't totally out of bounds to expect.
“I suppose that'll get one in for your side,” she said then. “For your sister, I mean.”
Hugo grunted and pushed his soup bowl aside, eyeing Dominique's red-gold head down the table. “And may it teach her a lesson.”
After all the dinner courses were finally wrapped up, Dominique served coffee in the living room. Hugo took his cup and wandered round the room, wishing his sister was there to keep him entertained. Lily was fun, of course, nearly a second sister, but he found himself missing Rose and Scorpius. He sidled up to James and Navya, who were sitting with Albus and Fred.
Fred pulled a flask out of his pocket. “Make it Irish, anyone?”
James held out his cup, and Fred added a bit of whiskey to the coffee. Navya waved this off, probably serving as Designated Apparator for the two of them, and Hugo accepted a splash of whiskey in his own drink.
He had just taken a sip of the doctored coffee when Dominique appeared beside him. Fred quickly stowed the flask, and either Dominique hadn't seen it or she pretended she hadn't.
“Hugo, can I have a quick word?” she whispered, nodding her head toward the now-empty dining room.
Warily, Hugo followed her into the other room, wondering if she was about to tell him off about his sister or make some new insulting remark about her instead.
Dominique wrapped both arms around herself and leaned closer to him. “I wanted to ask you something.”
He gave her a look that said to spit it out, and she looked over her shoulder, making sure they were alone.
“I wanted to know what you think of Reinolt,” she said in a low voice.
This was very nearly the last thing Hugo had expected her to say. He had spoken briefly with her fiance when he'd arrived and found the Dutch baron pleasant enough, but the idea that Dominique might ask his opinion of the man had never crossed his mind.
Dominique had never asked him for his opinion on anything before that he could recall.
She took in his surprise and went on, “Look, I know you had some training in psychological Healing before you started with the League, and after everything that happened with Andrew, I just wanted your professional opinion that I wasn't making the same mistake again.”
Hugo was floored. “You want to know if I think Reinolt will turn out to be a criminal like Andrew?”
“Or a cheat like Andrew. Yes.” Her expression had turned mulish, reminding him sharply of her sister. “And I trust you to keep it quiet, too, that I asked you.”
“Of course,” he said, softening a bit toward her. “He seemed all right to me, Dommie. I liked him. I don't think you need worry he'll wind up like Andrew did.”
“Did you think Andrew would be that way, when you first met him?”
“Well...” Hugo tried to recall his first impression of Dominique's ex-husband. It had been a few years since he'd originally met Andrew Campbell, but he remembered thinking the man was a prat from day one. “I never liked Andrew, to be honest. I wouldn't have pegged him for a criminal, but I can't say I was surprised that he cheated.”
“But not Reinolt.” Her face was still tight with stress.
“I don't think so, no. There's no way to guarantee.” That probably hadn't sounded very reassuring, though it was true. He wasn't going to lie to her about it just to be comforting, if only because that would violate the ethics of his profession. He wondered what else he could say. “Did you have a background check done on Reinolt?”
She bristled. “Of course I did, I'm not stupid. And I've an iron-clad prenup, too.”
That was mostly thanks to his mother, not that Dominique had acknowledged it. The prenup would protect her financially and even in a lot of legal ways, but it wouldn't keep her from being hurt. He sighed. “Look, Dommie, you can't know for sure. All you can do is trust your instincts.”
Her face took on a hunted look. All right, so she didn't think she could trust her instincts. That was probably understandable given that she'd already married one bloke that ran around on her and went to prison. Hugo cast about for something diplomatic to say, but Dominique shook her head at him before he could think of anything.
“Well, I suppose you're right, there's no guarantee. I'll just have to hope for the best. Thanks anyway, Hugo.” She patted her hair, though it was still just as perfectly coiffed as it had been all night. “I hope you didn't say anything to Reinolt about this sort of thing, though.”
“I thought you trusted me to be discreet,” he said, mildly annoyed.
“I'm sure you did your best. Make sure you don't say anything to your sister, of course. Lord knows she hasn't the sense God gave green apples. I'd better get back to my guests.” She bustled off back to the living room, leaving Hugo standing alone, surveying the table full of dirty plates and half-drunk goblets of wine, still feeling annoyed that Dominique could never just leave things kindly.
She always had to show she was better than the rest of them.
Well, he'd show her. For half a moment, while she'd seemed vulnerable, asking him what he thought of her future husband and worrying that her second marriage would fail the way her first had, he'd felt a pang of guilt that he'd chosen a date merely to irritate her. The thought had even crossed his mind to cancel on Gwyneira.
But that thought had passed. Dommie needed to be taken down a peg or two.
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