𝟎𝟎𝟏 - 𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐭
July 27th, 1995
"Is it true you know five languages?"
I glance up at my cousin as he plops down beside me on the plush couch, giving him a mildly amused look. "It is true, actually. Not fluent in all of them, though. Yet."
"Well, what are they, then?"
"English, of course, if you couldn't tell," I say dryly, earning a light punch on my shoulder. "A bit of Japanese. A fair amount of Portuguese. I'm mostly fluent in French."
"What's the fifth language?"
Blaise gives me a look of disbelief as he punches me a little harder on my shoulder. "Hah, hah. Very funny."
"I'm not kidding," I say with a shrug and a slightly smug look on my face as I look away from him and fold my hands over my lap.
"Yeah, right. Whatever."
"It's not my fault I inherited the Zabini gene for greatness, but you didn't," I say with a smug smirk, ignoring the kick I get in my shin as he mutters something about me being an asshole.
"You've been here for all of two days, and you're already giving me cheek," he grumbles, crossing his arms.
"What can I say? I've grown comfortable."
My parents, Corinne and Alaric Zabini, have worked for the Ministry of Magic for all of their adult lives. More specifically, the Department of Mysteries. Their job has sent them all around the world, consequently sending me all around the world. I wasn't even born here. I was three months in my mother's womb when she and Father moved to the United States.
Now that I've begun my fifth year of schooling, they both agreed that I should stay in one place in order to complete my O.W.L.s, and so now we're back where they grew up so that I can attend the same school they did—Hogwarts.
Blaise is my cousin (Colette Zabini is my mother's sister), and he lives in a manor far too big for just him and his mother, which is why Aunt Colette insisted that my parents and I stay with her for however long we remain here—even if it's forever.
"Yeah, you were comfortable the last time we met too," he grumbles, giving me a slight glare. "You were only seven, but you had a strong grip on my hair. Gave me a bloody bald spot for a month."
"It's what you deserved," I say calmly, my smirk growing. "Now you know not to touch my Wizarding Chess set, little cousin."
"We are one month apart!"
It's this moment that Aunt Colette strides into the parlor room, her eyes widening when she sees us. "Why aren't you two ready! We have guests coming in thirty minutes!"
My aunt and my mother are practically carbon copies. They're both known famously for being ridiculously beautiful, with deep, brown, flawless skin, big shiny black eyes framed by long lashes, and kinky black curls that are never out of place. Most think that they're twins, but my mother is in fact three years older. She wears her hair shorter than Aunt Colette does too.
"Oh, we were just leaving to get ready," Blaise drawls with an eye roll, not shifting a single inch from his leisurely position on the couch.
"Then get going!" she says with a scowl, before adding sweetly, "You too, Cellie, dear."
I cringe slightly at the childhood nickname, but I force a smile onto my face as I stand up and brush my hands on my thighs. "Of course. I'll be down soon, Auntie."
Even in the most down-trodden places on the planet, there will always be found an upper echelon—the elite. In my time in France, the elite were typically those with Veela blood. In Japan, high society was littered with witches and wizards with rare poplar wood wands.
In London and all of Great Britain, Purebloods consider themselves elite.
I can't quite say that they're wrong.
I suppose this dinner party is partially to celebrate my family's arrival. Some of the attendees will be old friends of my parents', and I'm sure they'll enjoy catching. But I am certain that that is also just a guise, a sugar-coated shell to cover the fact that these dinner parties are only ever thrown so that the elite can get in on trade secrets, rub elbows with the right Ministry workers, bribe each other. The works.
And that's why I am excited. You're never too young to learn what it means to be the best of the best, or at least that's what Mother likes to say.
I leave Blaise behind to stride down the many vast halls of the manor, passing by portraits of my ancestors and elaborate decor. We're a gold kind of family, favoring both golden decor and golden accessories. Even the staircase shines with gold trims that glint in my eye as I walk carefully up, my hand dragging along the cool railing. As I walk up towards the second floor, my parents begin their descent down the stairs.
I smile tightly when I see them. As per usual, they look...not perfect together, not completely and utterly in love together, but powerful together. My mother's shirt curls are pulled up into a bun, and she's wearing this long dark green dress made of silk. Her collarbones are covered with a thick necklace that has emeralds embedded in it, and the stones on her rings glint with wealth. When she sees me, she tilts her chin up a little and scans me.
My father walks just a step behind her. He gives me a small smile when he sees me, making my smile grow a bit too. His skin is darker than my mother's and mine. He's got a big build, towering over most people with broad shoulders and bulky muscles. Even his face is muscular, with a scar running down his jaw that he's still never told me the story about. My father and I don't share very many physical similarities unlike my mother and I. I've always wished I inherited his hazel eyes.
"Celeste," my mother sighs softly as we pass each other, "I've left a dress on your bed. You'll wear it tonight."
"Thank you," I say with a smile, choking back a laugh when Father winks at me as they both continue going downstairs.
"And don't be late. We wouldn't want to set a poor impression on our guests, would we?"
I nod as I step up into the second floor, standing by the railing to watch my parents disappear from my view before sighing softly and walking off towards my new room. It's a massive manor, the upstairs floor having twisting hallways and nearly a minute walk to reach the guest bed I've claimed for myself.
Stepping inside, I grimace slightly when I see the interior. Honestly, it was the lesser of all evils. It's obvious that Auntie Colette decorated all the bedrooms. Just as she does with men, she has terrible taste in interior design.
Only difference is that her husbands always seem to die mysteriously (which is why she is always in "mourning" and dressed in black), whereas her foul decorations are eternal.
The walls are painted eggshell, the bed is covered in pink and green pillows and sheets, and there's a massive portrait of sunflowers waving in the wind hung up on the wall.
I'm going to have to redecorate soon.
Anyway, I quickly spot the dress. As usual, it's wrapped in brown paper with a little note tied with a string around the center. This is protocol—in the seven times that we've moved, my parents have never failed to shower me with gifts, whether or not I ask for anything. They'll get me the most expensive dresses, tickets to see my favorite artists (though Mother says I have to pay with my money if I want to see Muggles perform), jewelry from all over the world, novels by renowned writers, and even the newest broomsticks for recreational flying.
I suppose that's their way of making up for having to pick up and move so often. I choose not to tell that that I honestly don't care, because I still want all the expensive things.
But I really couldn't care. It's hard to get attached to things, especially people, when I already know I won't have them for long, so having to move so often is nothing more than just inconvenient for me. I hate packing.
There isn't a thing in the world that can't be replaced with something even better.
I untie the note and unfold it, smiling at the familiar scrawl my father always writes in.
My darling Celeste,
I've seen you grow these last sixteen years in so many different countries and manors, seen you adapt to all kinds of situations. But I've never seen you grow in a place we've been able to call home. Let's hope this is the one. Your mother and I love you and are proud of you.
Setting the note aside, I then pick up the package and carefully tear the brown paper. My eyebrows quirk when I see the material of the dress. It's velvety, a dark shade of green similar to the dress my mother is wearing. Quickly, I pull the dress out and let it unfold before me, smiling in approval when I see it.
It's simple, but it's perfect. The material looks like it'll mold to me like a second skin, the neckline low, straps thin, and a slit up my left leg. I change out of my clothes and into the dress quickly, finding a pair of heels to match it before putting on a little makeup and making sure my hair isn't all over the place.
As I look into the mirror, my eyes catch on my necklace, finding the clasp right beside the pendant. I quickly fix it, gently letting the pendant rest between my collarbones. The golden pendant is a locket shaped like a skull, with snakes looping through its eyes. It's empty, though. I've never filled it with pictures. It used to be Mother's, but when I turned twelve, she told me she wanted me to wear it.
A rumbling purr beside me prompts me to snap my head to the left and grin at the sight of my fat grey cat, Cheeky, glaring up at me with his mean yellow eyes. He then yowls up at me as I crouch down to scratch him behind his ears.
"How do I look, Cheeks?" I ask quietly, rolling my eyes when he slowly bites down on my thumb, yellow eyes wide as they watch for my reaction. "You're an asshole."
Cheeky then lets go of my thumb to nip at my heels, hissing slightly as he nearly scratches my foot, pawing at my toes.
"You're right," I sigh, straightening up and kicking the heels off. "They don't match, do they?"
So I change into a better pair of heels, scoop Cheeky up into my arms, and I make my way out of my room, cuddling the fat bastard close to my chest as I carefully descend the glossy steps. I guess I took a little too much time, because I see my family greeting some guests at the door.
My mother gives me a reproachful look when she sees me walking down late, that too with Cheeky in my arms, but I just roll my eyes and set the cat down so he can do whatever the hell he wants. I then slap a smile onto my face as I take the last few steps down, glancing over the guests as I greet them.
The manor, as big as it is, fills up quickly. There are over a dozen families occupying it, middle-aged coupled with smug faces and their children of varying ages in every nook and cranny of the bottom floor. I mostly stick with Blaise, letting me lead me around while he introduces me to some teenagers that attend Hogwarts.
He introduces me to a Vincent Crabbe and a Gregory Goyle, both big boys that look like they used to be pudgier and got some muscle through puberty. They both still have baby faces, though, and they sound like grunting oafs when they talk.
Pansy Parkinson seems alright, though she shrieks very loudly when someone nearly spills their champagne on her dress, and her voice is a little... it's fucking irritating. Other than that, though, the pale, black-haired girl doesn't seem too awful.
My parents drag me around the manor first, introducing me to their old friends from Hogwarts as well as some upper-levels from the Ministry. One blond-haired man with a walking stick shakes my hand, and when I blink, I'm gripping the hand of a woman wearing large, thick glasses. When they're done showing me off, Blaise steals me away. I lose interest quickly as he has me talk with Slytherin after Slytherin, yawning despite the good night's rest I got last night, my eyes drifting off. There will be plenty of time to get to know all these people at Hogwarts—not that I plan to—but there's only so much time left in this dinner party if I intend to hear something interesting. Who won the House Cup or whatever nonsense Millicent Bulstrode is currently yapping on about doesn't interest me.
So when Blaise and some blonde girl are busy in conversation, I slip away quietly, a glass of champagne in my hands. I sip on it carefully as I eye the people around me up, wondering if anyone in this manor could hold a decent conversation.
My eyes land on Aunt Colette first, and I nearly snort out of laughter. She's decked out in a heavy black dress, a sheer veil thrown over her head as though she's attending one of her husbands' funerals yet again. Her sixth husband actually passed recently, about a month ago. The surrounding women don't seem to care how mysteriously her husbands always seem to pass—they look at her with wide, sympathetic eyes as she speaks solemnly.
Rolling my eyes, I look away to make eye contact with Father. He smiles at me before making a pointed look at the champagne in my hands. Rolling my eyes, I set it down on a random server's tray, seeing him stifle a laugh before turning to paying attention to the conversation he's in the middle of.
It's a bore. They all look the same—smug men and women in expensive clothing talking about the news, money, Muggle-borns, and politics. Most of what I'm overhearing I could find in the newspapers I get flown in by owls from around the world.
Fine, then. Perhaps the champagne I hid in my closet will have to make do for sufficient company.
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