Noelle stretched out on the warm sand. Every day the argument she had with her parents haunted her.
"Noelle! What was the meaning of that!" her father had fumed.
"He's a friend, Papa, he's just a friend."
"He seemed a lot friendlier than he should be!"
The argument had continued until after they arrived back in Paris. In Cannes, it was no different. Finally she had managed to assure her father that there was nothing going on between herself and Sirius, even though her heart shattered every time she denied him.
Now, here it was, late June. She picked up the latest letter from Lily. Lily was bored to death in Yorkshire. Noelle was bored in Cannes. Quickly she made the connection. She jumped to her feet and hurried back to the main house.
"Maman!" she called through the vast hallways. "Maman!"
Her mother came around the corner of the parlor. "What is it, Noelle?"
Noelle took a deep breath and asked, "May I invite Lily to come to Cannes? Just for a few weeks?"
Noelle's big blue eyes silently pleaded with her mother. She could see her mother thinking hard.
"Just Lily? Not the boys right?"
Finally her mother responded. "Very well. She can come."
Noelle squealed, and flung her arms around her mother.
Noelle headed for her rooms, whistling sharply for Etoile. As she walked briskly up the stairs to the breezeway that led to her rooms her heels clicked in rhythm with her heart. Etoile was perched on the back of her desk chair, waiting for her. She stroked the owl's feathers idly as she searched for a quill and some parchment. Quickly she scribbled a message to Lily. Fastening it securely to the leg of her owl, she then opened the door leading outside. With a soft hoot, Etoile spread his wide wings and soared off toward England.
Noelle watched him until he was a tiny speck in the sky. Turning back into her room, she brushed her hair off her face. Her room in Cannes was near perfect. It was at the top of the house, so she was completely isolated from her parents. Over her bed was a large sliding panel that covered a single piece of glass. This was she could stargaze all night long if she wanted. The bed itself was large and oval shape. The entire room was done in shades of blues and white. There were lots of windows to let the sunlight in and all the furniture was mad of pale bleached wood. There were bookshelves lining one long wall with her favorite stories. Noelle sighed happily as she took in her surroundings. She flung herself on her bed and stretched luxuriously. . The cool linen sheets felt silky against her warm skin. A nap would feel great right now, she thought. Rolling over, she dozed off.She awoke a few hours later to find that night had fallen, and Etoile had returned. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she pulled the letter from the owl's beak.
I'm so excited! Mom and Dad said I could come, but I have to fly on a Muggle airplane. They don't trust the Floo Network to get me there safely. I can come next Monday, if that's all right with you. Could you pick me up at the airport in Cannes? Owl me back with your answer ASAP. Can't wait to see you!
Noelle thought hard, and got up to walk to her parents rooms. Outside the door, she heard their voices raised in an argument. She paused, knowing she shouldn't be listening.
"Noelle is too weak to have visitors!" her father yelled.
"You cannot close her off to everything, François! She needs to live, every minute she can!" Catherine Lemieux pleaded with her husband.
"She will live longer if she is careful, and if we are careful with her! Too much excitement will harm her!" her father thundered.
"What does it matter? A few more years? Why should she want to live longer if she has nothing to live for?" her mother sounded tearful.
Her father was silent. Then he spoke, and his voice trembled. "I just want what's best for her." She could hear the tears in his voice. "I am terrified of losing her."
By now, Noelle too was in tears. Rarely had she heard her parents speak so openly of her declining health. She didn't hear anything else from inside the room. The door opened and her mother stepped out. She quickly wiped the tears from her face and pasted on a fake smile, pretending she hadn't heard anything.
"Maman, Lily has responded. She says she can come, but she has to take a Muggle airplane. Can we pick her up at the airport?"
Catherine reached out a hand and smoothed her daughter's hair away from her face. She nodded. "We can do that, cherie. When is she coming?"
"Bon, we will meet her."
Noelle hugged her mother tightly. Her father peeked around the door, and she wrapped him in a hug as well. Glancing at his daughter's face, François knew she had heard everything.
"Don't worry about me Papa. I'm as safe as houses."
He smiled at her British slang. "I just worry you are not taking good care of yourself at Hogwarts."
Noelle placed her hand over her heart. "I am Papa, I promise. I have very good friends there. But promise me something."
Her father raised his eyebrows.
"Promise me I can come home for Christmas? Please?" Her navy eyes begged him.
Slowly her father nodded. "I think if I were to tell you no, you would go home anyways." She laughed and hugged her father. "Now get some sleep, Noelle." She nodded and hugged both her parents again. She skipped down the corridors to her rooms. Now all she had to do was wait for Monday.
After what seemed like the longest weekend of her life, Monday finally arrived. Noelle dressed carefully in a Muggle sundress and sandals. She left her long hair down, but added a wide brimmed hat. Her mother was waiting in the front garden. They walked toward the car that the French Ministry provided to take them to the airport. Noelle couldn't contain her excitement. She bounced on her seat like a little girl during the ride through Cannes. At the arrivals gate, she stretched up onto the tips of her toes, peering over heads until she saw the dark red hair of her best friend. The two girls ran to each other, jumping up and down and squealing. When they finally calmed down, Noelle breathlessly turned to her mother,
"Maman, je te presente ma meillieure amie, Lily." (This is my friend Lily.)
Catherine Lemieux hugged Lily tightly. "We have heard so much about you. It is so nice to finally meet you."
They walked down to the luggage carousel to collect Lily's bags. Walking out into the bright sunshine, Lily groaned. "I am going to get so sunburned."
Madame Lemieux laughed softly. "We have plenty of anti-sunburn potions at the house. I have very fair skin and also burn very easily." Lily looked relieved.The ride back to the palatial Mediterranean villa that the Lemieux's used as a summer home was filled with Lily's questions. Noelle was happy to answer them all. She loved talking about France. Lily gazed out the window and sighed. "Now I see why you love it here so much."
When they pulled up in front of the house, Lily gasped. The large stone house was several floors and made of white stone that was bleached by the sun. It had a bright blue tile roof and acres of gardens. The emerald green lawn stretched from the spacious patio until it collided with the powder soft sand of a private beach. The aqua sea lapped at the beach gently. To the left of the main house were rolling green field, and a stable was partially hidden from view by large palm trees.
"Do you ride, Lily?" Madame Lemieux questioned.
"I've ridden a few times."
"Well, Noelle is an accomplished equestrian. She will help you if you choose to go riding."
Catherine Lemieux straightened her shoulders as she exited the vehicle. The girls scrambled out behind her. Once inside the large foyer, Lily's jaw dropped again. The foyer was large and made completely of pale pink marble. The furniture was constructed of deep mahogany. There were many paintings hung carefully on the wall, and Lily was sure that they were all Renaissance originals. To the right of the entrance hall was a large comfortable living room. It looked much lived in and Lily was relieved to see newspapers and empty coffee mugs on the coffee table. She quickly followed Noelle up three staircases to her bedroom. Noelle showed her where to put her clothes, and then she turned to Lily.
"What would you like to do first?"
Lily scratched her head, "Beach."
Noelle smiled widely. "Bon. Let's change."
They hurried into their suits and left Noelle's room. Noelle stopped briefly at a small closet in the hallway. She took out a few fluffy towels and a large bottle of anti-sunburn potion. She waved the bottle teasingly at Lily. Lily pulled a face at her friend. They charged down the hallways and burst out of a side door into the bright sunshine. The girls raced each other to the beach. Noelle dropped the towels onto the sand and bent over, trying to catch her breath. She straightened, holding a hand to her side.
Lily spread the towels out and then began to smear potion over her face and shoulders. She glanced over at the petite French girl. Noelle's long hair, usually dark blonde, had lightened in white streaks. Her skin was a deep honey color, and her navy eyes were sparkling with life. She hardly resembled the pale defeated girl she had been at the end of last term. Lily hated to admit it, but she could tell that Noelle belonged in France.
"Have you heard from James?" Noelle's voice broke through her reverie.
Lily nodded, "Yes. He owled me last week. He is with Sirius and Remus. They're going on holiday with James' family. I think they're going to America." She paused. "Have you heard from Sirius?"
Noelle shook her head, staring out at the sea. "I thought he might owl me, but I have received nothing."
Something in her voice told Lily that her friend wasn't telling her everything. Lily waited. "I have heard from Colin though."
Lily's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"
Noelle nodded. "He asked if I would be his date for the Ambassador's Ball." Noelle dug her toes into the warm sand.
"What did you say?"
Noelle gave her friend an odd look. "I said yes, of course."
Lily gave her a warning look.
"Oh Lily, it is nothing! Everyone else at the Ball is boring. If I did not go with Colin, I would be miserable." She sat up straighter. "That reminds me. We both need to go shopping for new dress robes."
"Why me?" Lily asked.
Noelle smiled at her slyly. "You will be going too, of course. It is in Cannes this year, and you will still be here."
Lily swallowed nervously. "Who am I supposed to go with?"
Noelle winked at her friend. "I have a few ideas, do not worry." She grinned mischievously. "We will find someone."
Lily groaned and flopped onto her back while Noelle laughed.
The days in Cannes passed swiftly, now that Lily was there. They went riding on the beach every morning and spent most afternoons sunbathing. After two weeks, Catherine decided that it was time to go to Paris to shop for new dress robes. She gathered the girls in the family room and instructed Lily on the proper pronunciation of the shop's name.
"It is called La Maison de Fête. You must say it correctly, or you will get lost."
Lily repeated the words and Catherine nodded. "Bon. D'accord. Allons-y." The girls stepped into the emerald flames.
Once in the shop, the girls were astounded. Lily had never seen anything quite like this before. Carefully dressed witches aided other witches in selecting the most beautiful robes either of them had ever seen. The manager spotted Mme. Lemieux instantly.
"Madame Lemieux! What an honor! And Mademoiselle Noelle, You look ravishing!" she paused. "And how might this be?" she asked spotting Lily.
"This is Lily Evans, one of Noelle's school friends. We will all be needing dress robes for the ball."
The woman's eyes glowed. "Of course. This way please."
She led the girls to a section where young witches were helping other young witches with the robes.
"Choose whatever you like, girls." Madame Lemieux called over her shoulder as she headed for the women's section.
Noelle began sifting through the racks of robes. "What color are you thinking of, Lily?" she murmured softly.
Lily shook her head, not knowing where to begin. "I have no idea. What do you think?"
Noelle eyed her friend critically. Lily trusted her friends taste in design, so she knew whatever Noelle chose, she would look good. Finally Noelle pulled a hanger off the racks. On the hanger were a set of deep copper colored robes. The neckline was low, but still demure, and the straps went around her neck and fastened at the nape. There was a matching cloak of rust velvet. Lily pulled a face.
"Orange? On a redhead? Are you mad?"
Noelle shook her head in exasperation. "Just try them on!"
Lily reluctantly took the hanger and flounced off to the dressing room. Noelle shook her head with a small smile and continued flipping though the racks. A few minutes later, Lily appeared from behind the dressing room doors. A sales-witch hurried to her side, and began to tug on the material until if fit Lily as if it had been made for her. Noelle walked around her friend and said to the sales-witch,
"Can we make it a little redder?"
The sales-witch nodded and aimed her wand at the robes. The color deepened. It complimented her dark red hair and bright green eyes. The time she had spent in the sun had given her cheeks a little color. Noelle smiled with pleasure at her friend, and then turned Lily to face the mirror. Lily gazed at herself and gasped. She had always thought of herself as attractive, but even she had to admit that she looked beautiful. She glanced at the tag hanging from the robes. Her heart sank when she read the price. There was no way she could afford these robes. Noelle saw her friend's face fall, and quickly grabbed the tag out of her hand. Lily began to protest.
"Lily, you are my guest. Do not worry about it."
The look on Noelle's face told Lily it was useless to argue.
"Now, we search for my robes."
She resumed flipping through the racks. Lily reached into the depths of a rack and unearthed a set of ivory silk robes. They had thin spaghetti straps that held up a bodice that was encrusted with pearls. A lightweight ivory cashmere cape was draped over the back of the hanger. She knew that with Noelle's dark blonde hair, navy eyes and deeply tanned skin, these robes would suit her to perfection. She shook the hanger at her friend. Noelle'e eyes went round and she reached for the hanger.
Wordlessly, she headed for the dressing room. She emerged a few minutes later. The sales-witch drew in a sharp breath. Noelle looked exquisite. The ivory silk molded her slim hips and fell in graceful folds. Her dark blue eyes looked almost violet. She slowly turned to face the mirror. She stared at herself.
"I will take these robes." She said, almost to herself.
The sales-witch nodded. Both girls returned to the dressing rooms to change back into street robes. After they had changed, they wandered over to the shoes, and made their selections. Noelle selected a pair of high strappy ivory sandals, and Lily pounced on a pair of bronze heels.
Catherine Lemieux called across the shop. "Girls? Are you ready?"
The girls hurried to her side. She lifted the cover off of her robes. "Do you like these?" Madame Lemieux had selected a set of satin robes in shade of dark mauve that complimented her light blonde hair and fair skin. Both girls nodded in agreement.
"We shall be the belles of the ball!"
Noelle and her mother laughed out loud as they walked into the fireplace.