"Thea, what the hell are you wearing?" Itheinna paused near the bottom of the stairs at the sound of her brother's voice.

"It's… It's a skirt, Julien. A new one."

"You are not wearing that in public!" He announced, hopping up from where he sat and grabbing her by the arm. "Come on, back upstairs. My own sister, wearing that… Unbelievable. I thought you had more sense, Itheinna!"

Sadly, she looked down at the neat black pencil skirt that she'd purchased specifically for the occasion; she thought it had looked rather nice.

"I like it Julien," She told him as he began to rifle through her trunk.

"It's entirely inappropriate. That hemline is completely tasteless. I will not have my sister parading around Hogsmeade like some whore! Here," He seemed to have found whatever it was he was searching for. "Put this on instead."

"It's not so very short, Julien…" It fell nearly an inch past her knees.

"It is. Stop arguing. Father and Mother would be disgusted if they ever saw you in such a thing. You know Father would agree with me, Thea, and I know how you hate to disappoint Mother. I'm sure if Mother had worn skirts like that, Father never would havemarried her."

"Yes, Julien." She sighed in defeat, and picked up the article of clothing he'd flung at her. It was also a black skirt, but floor length.

"Alright. He'll be waiting for you in the common room." Julien informed her as he vanished from her dormitory.

The 'he' in question was, of course, Julien's best friend, Crisóstomo Aristides. Crisóstomo, or Cristó, as he preferred to be called, was the only male at Hogwarts Julien had ever permitted to speak to Ithienna- Cristó didn't realize it, but he'd greatly jeopardized his friendship with Julien by asking his sister to accompany him to Hogsmeade.

Itheinna didn't particularly like Cristó. No one could ever begin to replace Blaise in her heart in any way, but Cristó seemed alright- if a bit loud and pompous. It wasn't as if Thea was missing out on anything by going to Hogsmeade with him; she'd probably have gone by herself, otherwise. Or stayed at the castle to study… She bit her lip nervously. There was the Transfiguration test on Monday… But never mind. She was going to have a lovely Butterbeer with Cristó. Right?

.oO () Oo.

I recall that entire afternoon hoping my devastatedly uninterested expression didn't give away to Cristó that I found him terribly dull. It wasn't at all like when Blaise spoke; Cristó was noisy and crude and rambled the entire time about Quidditch… As if I ever cared about Quidditch! But it was still terribly polite of him to ask me to go anyway, though he didn't again… Perhaps he had a moment amidst all his chatter to find me unlikable? Not that it mattered; I'd be hard-pressed to find an excuse out of that, had he asked me to accompany him again. Julien, at least, didn't pressure me to pursue any sort of relationship. Perhaps he expected me to be some sort of maiden aunt to his children? I probably would have, if it weren't for a few particular events- but I'll come to that later. For now, you may be interested in my brother, and his peculiar hypocrisy at this point in my life.

.oO () Oo.

"Father? Mum? May I have a couple friends over this summer?" Thirteen year old Julien grinned hopefully at his parents. "Not for the whole summer, just a week or so?"

"Who? Which friends?" Lucius saw his wife's agreement on the tip of her tongue, and he, at least, knew to be suspicious.

"Oh, you'll like them very much. They'll be no trouble at all; you'll hardly even see them! They-"

"Their names, Julien."

"I was actually hoping each could come for a different week- maybe not even a week! Just two, three, four days tops…"

"Julien…" At least the boy knew when he was pushing his luck, Lucius noticed with satisfaction.

"Erm… Elizabeth, Jessica, Sarah, Delia, Kimberly, Hanna, Margot, and… Thea, who's that blonde one? With the blue eyes and really long legs?"

"Gina?"

"Oh, no, but her too…Naima! That's the one. And Naima. The Swede." He gave a crooked smile, one he was used to using to get his way. He was met with icy stone.

"Good friends of yours, these girls?" Lucius asked frostily. Julien nodded.

"Very."

"What are their last names?"
"Erm… Let's see… Margot… Margotson, Jessica McJessica, Kimberly Kimber, Hanna Hannaly…"

"Do I look like an idiot to you, Julien? Do you think I wasn't fourteen once?"

"I'm actually thirteen-"

"I don't care how old you are, Julien! That's not the point! No, you may not invite any of those girls here for the summer."

"Or, invite one. And have her stay the whole summer." Narcissa spoke up suddenly, and Julien he eyed his mother uncertainly.

"Why?"

"Well, dear, don't you think that you'd prefer to really get to know one girl? Your father and I could meet her, and then we'd meet her parents… I assume they're all from good families?"

"Right. Sure." He was frowning now. "But I think it'll get boring with just one of them. The whole summer?"

"Yes." Lucius nodded, rather liking his wife's idea. "One for the whole summer, or none at all."

"Five."

"One."

"Three?"

"One, Julien!"

"Fine." He snapped. "I suppose I won't have any then. But you don't understand how dull just one of them gets after a time. The endless talking, the odd belief that I actually care what they're saying…"

"Thea," Narcissa interrupted. "Would you like to invite any friends over this summer?"

Julien brightened at the idea. "Itheinna, you're good friends with Elizabeth, Jessica, Sarah, Delia, Kimberly, Hanna, Margot, Gina and Naima, right?"

"Julien!" Lucius was quickly losing his temper. "None of those girls are going to be setting foot in this house, ever, if you don't drop it!"

Finally defeated, Julien shrugged. "C'est la vie."

Quite suddenly, Lucius looked angrier than he had since the start of the conversation.

"What did you just say?"

Julien, who had been in the process of standing to leave the room, paused. "C'est la vie. It's French for 'That's Life'."

"I know what it means." He continued to glare at his son. Confused, Julien glanced at his mother for help. She seemed uncertain of whether to be amused or annoyed.

"Lucius, dear," She reminded him, gently placing a hand on his arm. He twitched away from her, but his expression cleared.

"I- I have to go write a letter." He announced, standing up and swiftly exiting the room. Narcissa sighed.

"He doesn't like the French," She offered in explanation. Julien shrugged and left as well. "So, Thea, darling. You were saying?"
Itheinna shook her head and stared down at her lap. Narcissa sighed.

"Very well dear. I suppose you-"

"Well, finally. I thought I would be wandering around this fortress for the rest of my life. And that you'd find my bones in a corridor some fifty years from now. How are you, Narcissa?"

"Blaise, you know we'd never let that happen." She rose and kissed Blaise's cheek affectionately. "Draco's not here yet, but should be arriving any minute now. I'm so glad you could make it. You remember Itheinna, my youngest?"

Blaise fell gracefully into a chair near her. "Of course I do. Hello, Thea."

His easy, friendly smile rendered her entirely incapable of speech, as though it wasn't normally difficult enough.

"Thea, dear," Narcissa crooned. "Go upstairs and change out of your school robes, alright? Dinner will probably be ready by the time you're done."

Both grateful and disappointed for the escape, she nodded and scurried off. Narcissa shook her head once she was gone.

"I don't understand it, Blaise. Not at all. She won't say so, but I don't think she's got many friends, if any at all… I had hoped she'd grow out of her timidity once we sent her to Hogwarts. I wonder sometimes if it's Julien's fault. He does intimidate her, I think."

"Now Narcissa," Blaise chided gently. "I wouldn't worry too much. She is still only, what? Eleven?"

"Thirteen." Narcissa corrected. "Fourteen soon, going into her fourth year, this September."

"I'm sure she'll be fine, she's a sweet enough girl, just rather silent."

"Blaise!" Julien appeared in the door way, grinning. "I thought I heard you come in. Father!" He bellowed back out into the hall. Narcissa winced.

"Really Julien." She admonished. "Send an elf. There's no need to disturb your father quite yet, Draco's not even here year."

"I'm not, am I?" Draco smiled at his younger brother (who was approaching him height-wise at an alarmingly fast rate) as he came in. "Hello Jule," He ruffled Julien's hair (Julien gave him a most disdainful look when his back was turned, and Draco smirked) "Mum," He bent to kiss her cheek. "And who is this stranger who's decided to show up? I was beginning to think I'd never see you again, Zabini!" He nodded towards his friend, who grinned back.

"Draco, dear, and Ginny- this must be the new baby?" A carrot-top, too. Lucius wouldn't be pleased at all, but Narcissa insisted he meet each of his grandchildren at least once. Most of them he'd seen exactly this number of times.

"Yes, little Eric."

"Such a Muggle name." Lucius sneering voice was the first cue to his presence in the room. "So this is what? Number seventy-four? Eighty-two? Ninety-six? Forgive me, I've lost count." He glanced at the bundle and gave the red haired baby a look of contempt. "Oh, hello Blaise," His voice became considerably warmer. "I see you're back from the Mediterranean?"

"For a week now, though I must say I regret it- much nicer weather there, you see…" He tried uncomfortably to talk past Lucius's cruel remark. "I may have to go to Australia next month, so that would be nice too…"

"Masters?" A house elf appeared suddenly. "You dinner is ready."

Blaise leapt up gratefully. "Well, shall we go then?"

.oO () Oo.

"…And she would always swear that my father'd been the only one of her seven husbands she cared for, but then Jefferey- he's my older brother- said she told him the exact same thing, so when we confronted her, she tried to tell us we had the same father, but Jeff's had died two years before was born. And she said yes, but she'd been pregnant for the whole time, a medical record, she swore, and since I was six at the time, I believed it, but Jeff would have none of it. She tried to sweet talk him over later by saying she really had loved his father, but she made the mistake of forgetting how close we were. He told me, and she confessed at last that she hated both of them but if she really had to choose it'd be Jeff's, because he left her with more gold." Blaise chuckled at the memory, shaking his head wryly. "Interesting woman, my mother."

I nodded in agreement, eyes wide. While everyone else had gone out for a quick Quidditch match (my mother and baby Eric as spectators, of course) Blaise, who declared a supreme dislike of the sport after being hit in the face by one too many Bludgers, stayed inside to talk to me. Me.

"But any way, I brought along some pictures from my trip… Would you like to see them?" Not expecting a response, he fished them from his robes. "Here's when I was in Italy..." He handed her three. "Fantastic art they've got there, secured a private tour of the Medici palace. Muggles do some quite spectacular stuff considering they've got no magic…"

I couldn't but notice that in each photograph he strolled along with a different lovely woman on his arm… But I convinced myself that because each was different, they were nothing, nothing at all. I wouldn't let myself consider that Blaise, being thirty that year, would likely be marrying soon, and that I, a boring child, would hardly be a candidate.


(A/N: My goodness that took a long time to update! But despite that fact it will again, I haven't forgotten this story! Those of you who've read What Seems Like Forever know why Lucius dislikes the French…Thanks to everyone who took the time to review!)