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 The Palace of Versailles, 1999 (Vanessa)

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Louis Clement
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PostSubject: The Palace of Versailles, 1999 (Vanessa)   Thu Aug 03, 2017 10:51 pm

The French air filled Louis' lungs as he apparated Vanessa and himself back to the Palace of Versailles. Almost subconsciously he took a deep breath in, closing his eyes for only a moment before Louis' eyes opened to fall upon the Palace. Nothing of the grand building had changed in ten years. It was precisely how he remembered. Strong, imposing... home.

Louis had not thought of it as that in some time, but on arriving back in Versailles, there was no mistaking that part of him, even if only very small, found comfort in the familiarity of the space.

The Frenchman's hands moved to subtly adjust his jacket, childish nerves creeping in as he considered the Palace before him once more. Vanessa had coordinated with the staff, arranging their clothes to suit the mood of their arrival. A mourning period would soon be upon them, and Louis had donned the black suit, with waistcoat and matching tie for that reason.

Moving his firm hold on Vanessa from her body, Louis offered his arm to the witch, pausing for only one more moment before they walked the drive of what was soon to be their home. They'd gone over all of Louis' worries -- what if this was just a way of getting Vanessa to Dominic? What if Dominic was better? How would they know what they were walking in to?

The answer was, they didn't. But whatever was thrown their way, they would deal with it together.

As they broached the top step of the Palace, the doors opened to their presence, the Palace's Butler stood just inside, awaiting their arrival. Louis was not surprised, though, his Grandmere knew everything, and he very much doubted their arrival had been unknown, in fact, he was sure they'd probably almost moved in exactly the manner his Grandmere would have expected.

"Monsieur Clement, Madamoiselle Sheridan." The Butler greeted Louis with a bow that would not have befitted the man who would one day run the house, but one that was enough to be deemed polite, and compliant with the unspoken rules of the job. "This way, s'il vous plaît." He added, not looking back to see if the two would follow his lead.

Louis' eyes shifted momentarily to Vanessa's, silently conveying his distaste for this home coming already. Duty, he reminded himself as he led Vanessa to follow the man down towards the room Louis simply knew they were going to be received in. The throne room, as it was back before his great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Clement, could not be called such a thing anymore. Even if a chair still sat at the head of the room, and people were summoned there by his Grandmere. His father.

He was not wrong, either.

The Butler led them to the throne room, and upon the seat sat their Grandmere. Louis could feel his posture straighten to an excruciatingly perfect position as Vanessa and he moved to stand before the elder witch. Louis' hand rested momentarily on Vanessa's -- a short, quick message that this would be okay -- before he allowed her hand to move back to meet her other one, and he stood without connection to the grounding he needed.

"Grandmere." Louis managed after a moment, giving a small, curt bow to the older woman. His eyes remained on her, though, too afraid to look away in case she were to throw a stinging spell their way. Louis would not allow it. He would simply not allow them to be bullied -- even if Vanessa had warned him against retaliating.

"Vous avez appris que les représailles ne vous aident pas, l'armée valait la peine." Lissette Clement spoke, and almost instantly Louis' jaw was set in frustration. This seemed only to amuse the older woman, before she continued. "Your brother had been given two weeks to live. You've wasted the best part of one in your arrival."

Louis could feel the faint stab of guilt, but it did not register in full. The love he'd once held for his brother was now so minuscule, he wondered how the guilt had registered. Still, though, Louis said nothing. He was very much like the sixteen year old child that Lissette Clement had turned away eleven years ago. Unable to challenge her, and having to take everything she said without retaliation.

His Grandmere did not seem to require an answer, though, as she instead turned her attention to Vanessa. "You came back." The older woman said, bluntly, with no space for an answer. "Now, when we have been calling you to the Palace for ten years." Again, there was no space for an answer, Lissette Clement knew how to control the room. "You will not make that mistake again."

Louis had automatically stepped forward, subtly enough to put himself between his Grandmere and Vanessa, his eyes set firmly on the older witch.

"Please, Grandmere, we have much to do. Vanessa will visit Dominic as soon as she has rested from the travelling." Louis insisted, it would be enough to satiate the woman for now, Louis hoped. It would take the verbal lashing from Vanessa's path, and put it firmly on his own. "May I have leave to visit my brother, Grandmere?"

Louis would not bring an apology in to the fray, he refused to apologise for upholding the Clement name all those years ago, but he understood. He understood that his Grandmere could not congratulate his strength, it would undermine Dominic. Making him weaker than he was, but... soon, soon things would change.

For better or worse, Louis could not say.



Translations:
Vous avez appris que les représailles ne vous aident pas, l'armée valait la peine. -- You learned that retaliation does not aid you, the army was worthwhile.

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~ Lord Clement ~ Profile ~ 49 ~

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PostSubject: Re: The Palace of Versailles, 1999 (Vanessa)   Sat Aug 05, 2017 10:46 am

The first sign of homecoming for Vanessa was the way Louis straightened his jacket beside her, offering her an arm as they strode through the ample sized driveway to the front keep. That driveway had once looked impossibly long from the eyes of a five year old bent on racing her cousins to the iron gates bur it was now almost too short. Of course, nothing would provide her with enough time to be ready to greet what waited inside.

The greetings, the formal use of her own surname, it seemed the servants had received special instructions. The Clements may try their best to give of the message that they were simply guests but they weren’t fooling anyone. As the two adults walked together, so did their memories. Memories of two children playing in the piano room, of running around the Dehlientelle despite being told not to, of enjoying picnics on sunny days by the large maze in the palace grounds. Grandmere could take away many things from Vanessa, but the right to call the Palace of Versailles her home was not one of them.

The other thing Lissette Clement couldn’t take way from Vanessa Sheridan was the man who stiffly bowed to the deceptively frail looking woman on the throne. The room they were in may not have been used as a throne room anymore, it may not even be called that in the official plans for the palace but the seat of Thomas Clement, first of his name, commanded the same respect as it had four hundred years ago. Vanessa curtsied alongside Louis, her movements smooth, refined, well-practiced and beaten into her by the woman who now gazed upon them both with sharp, cold eyes.

The initial barb made Louis tense and her grey eyes flick to him, warning him without words. Grandmere knew the secret to winning every battle was getting under your enemy’s skin – both literally and figuratively.

"You came back." The older woman said, bluntly, with no space for an answer. "Now, when we have been calling you to the Palace for ten years. You will not make that mistake again."

“Yes, Grandmother,” the brunette replied, her tone so polite it was impossible to miss the challenge in it. Louis’s place was now at the palace, and Vanessa had no intention of ever leaving his side. Lissette Clement had gotten what she wanted, albeit with a cruel twist of fate. Thankfully before her statement could be challenged, Louis interjected, bringing the conversation back to Dominic.

“Very well,” Lissette spoke, giving her grandson leave to pay his respects to his dying brother. “Your father is waiting for you there,” she added almost as an afterthought, a calculated one to hurt Louis even more. Not only will the younger Clement have to face his dying brother but also the man who stood by and did nothing as his son was dragged from his home.

“And Lady Clement will be kind enough to walk you to the guest quarters,” this was directed at Vanessa, making the position very clear. No impropriety would be tolerated in the palace under Grandmere’s watch. Almost on cue, Tante Lynette entered through the door, looking paler than Vanessa remembered and without a shred of warmth or kindness in her eyes.

“Bonjour Tante Lynette,” the younger witch greeted, another smaller curtsy followed. Her aunt did not return the sentiment, her thin lips parting to only utter two words in English, two words meant to put Vanessa in her place.

“Follow me.”

Obedient as the toddler who had first learned to walk in the palace, Vanessa followed, praying to all the Gods that Louis’ visit would be easier than her own.
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PostSubject: Re: The Palace of Versailles, 1999 (Vanessa)   Sat Aug 05, 2017 4:10 pm

Louis could sense without looking that Vanessa's eyes had moved to him when he tensed at his Grandmere's words. He forced himself to relax, not wishing to put Vanessa in a situation where she had to try to keep both herself and him in check. That would be unfair, and he would not allow it.

Her retort to their grandmere made his lips twitch slightly with the idea of a smile, but it never materialised. Later, he told himself, when they were alone, they could bask in the small moment of triumph they had taken from their grandmere, but not now.

Even when he was given leave to go to Dominic, however, Louis didn't move, waiting for Vanessa to be dismissed too. He would try his very best not to allow Vanessa to be alone with their grandmere, for the simple fact he knew Vanessa would be held accountable for her actions, when all she'd done, in reality was show that she valued loyalty to him.

For a moment, Louis wished that he had left, to hear his Grandmere speak to Vanessa in a manner so cold made him tense again. Vanessa was his intended. His Grandmere could not take that away from him. She would not keep them apart. Vanessa might be being shunned to the guest wing of the house, but Louis would not allow such a thing to stop them being together.

As the doors opened to admit his Maman to the room, Louis had the instinctive pull to go to her, but he pushed it away. His mother had always favoured Dominic, and it was clear in her face that she was living through hell. Her eldest, her favourite son had only days left, and she was left with only the second son she did not even pretend to know.

Everyone in the house had betrayed him, in some manner, too. In the moment he'd needed his Maman, she had turned her back. His father had done the same, the only one who had tried had been Vanessa, but he had not known, not until his return.

Lynette Clement didn't even acknowledge her son as she ushered Vanessa from the room, Louis turned back to his Grandmere to offer a small incline of his head before he moved off towards Dominic's room. Head clouded with a mass of information already, Louis found himself before his brother's door quicker than he would have liked.

He paused, stealing himself a small shaky breath, before he composed himself to the military standard steely gazed face he'd perfected in his time away. One knock, a moments pause, and Louis opened the door of his brother's room. Dominic lay in bed, seemingly asleep, his father stood by the window, looking out across the grounds.

Louis closed the door almost silently and stood, waiting, just inside the door for his father to say something. Anything. Thomas Clement was, by right, the head of the family now, but there was no denying that even his father had no power over his own mother. Thomas Clement should have been the one to decide Louis' fate, but he had stepped aside, all too easily, to allow his youngest son to be pushed from the family without a second thought.

"Louis." Thomas' voice came across the room. There was no emotion of any description in that single word, and with the man's back turned, Louis had no way in trying to read him, either.

"Father." Louis responded politely, because even if he had been pushed from the family, Thomas Clement could not take that much from him. And now, more than ever, Louis Clement was a necessity, not a luxury.

Another pause, another heartbeat, Louis looked from his father's back to his brother. Still nothing else was said, so Louis moved closer to Dominic's side, taking in his brother's sickly thin body. His chest was barely rising up and down, but he was still trying to live. Louis swallowed thickly, sadness being allowed for a moment, until Louis' eyes came back to his brother's face.

He pitied Dominic, he'd never chosen to be ill. Had he have been well... Louis supposed they would have found a suitable wife. Dominic would never have been too weak to defend himself, the house. Dominic would have been here for years to come, whilst Vanessa and he made their own way through life, away from Versailles, perhaps. Definitely happy, though.

Dominic had taken that much from him...

So much...

"Getting angry won't change anything, Louis. It never has, it never will." Louis almost jumped from his reverie at his father's voice, the older Clement now stood on the opposite side of the bed, watching him. "You have much to learn, very quickly. You will be brought up to date with all the news of the family, the business, and what we expect of you quite soon. You will not disobey us. You will do your duty, but first, you will sit." Thomas told him, summoning a chair to his brother's side for the youngest Clement.

"Envy, jealousy, hatred... we Clements do not thrive on such feelings. You will settle with Dominic whatever it is you feel aggrieved for, and we will not speak of this again." Thomas finalised, moving from the room before Louis could even think of the words he wanted to reply with.

Frowning to himself, Louis took the seat, and focused back on his brother. There would not be an apology from anyone, Louis was learning. Despite the fact he'd done the right thing, Louis would not be told this. His anger flashed red hot for a moment, before he let out a settling, slow breath and focused once more.

Now, now he realised that a chart sat on Dominic's bed side, recording his heartbeat that was almost too slow for a living man. Not that Louis completely understood the medical world, but he'd seen the Muggle monitors do it when he'd gone for medicals, when he'd visited his injured colleagues.

For a while, Louis sat silently, simply watching the graph and trying to formulate something to say. He didn't have to say anything, he supposed...

"You know, I always looked up to you, Dominic." Louis whispered, his eyes downcast as he spoke. "You were my big brother. You were supposed to be the head of the Clement family. Even when you couldn't defend yourself, I was loyal to you, kept you safe. Never looked down on you because you weren't like the other boys. I was the only one who believed in you, Dominic.

"Father talks of duty as if I don't understand the concept. As if I am somehow unfit to be the next Lord Clement. He's wrong, Dom, I've always been the son they needed. I have protected the Clement name with everything I have in my life. I fought everyone who would try to bring us down, because of you. I killed Javier for you, our name, our house..." Louis continued, eyes stinging softly with the threat of errant tears.

"But, your pride couldn't take that, could it? You saw it as an act of pity, or perhaps you felt your own weakness for the first time. Your baby brother was overshadowing you now more than ever. You couldn't allow that, could you? Despite the fact I was protecting you, you made it seem otherwise. You had Grandmere send me away.

"For what? I know." Louis continued, jaw setting for a moment, not allowing him to carry on as he looked to his brother's face. Anger was flashing red in the younger Clement's eyes. "You thought you could take Vanessa from me. You thought you could take Vanessa's virtue, defile her, and never have me come for you brother?" Louis asked, though he knew he would get no answer.

"I should have let Javier and the others humiliate you. I should have let them beat you, I should have watched as they made your body give up on you at their hands. But I didn't, because Family and Duty are key to this house. We protect each other from everything. But you... you have never been a Clement.

"And that is why I will let you suffer, not take the revenge I am owed. I will let you die slowly, because you will never understand us. You never have, and I pity you for it." Louis finalised, wiping at his cheeks that had only a single trail of tears etched in to his skin. "And, in not pushing you from this world, I can rest easy knowing that you can hear me, you will know that I, Louis, will be Lord Clement. I will be taking the title you could never fill. And I am going to make this house great with Vanessa by my side."

Louis fell silent after that, simply watching Dominic's chest rise and fall.

The pain, the suffering. It would end. As soon as Dominic's chest stopped rising.

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~ Lord Clement ~ Profile ~ 49 ~

Thank you to the amazing Ruby for the signatures! <3
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PostSubject: Re: The Palace of Versailles, 1999 (Vanessa)   Mon Aug 07, 2017 3:51 pm

Being dismissed by Lissette Clement meant she had nothing more to say, and Grandmere had held this power for as long as Vanessa could remember. Her grey eyes found Louis’ for a brief moment before the young woman followed her Aunt from the room, her feet taking her down the all too familiar route to the guest area of the palace. Had she been less overwhelmed, the brunette would have found time to marvel at how well her body and mind still remembered her childhood home. The Lady Sheridan had been away from Versailles almost as long as Louis and yet her feet knew exactly where to tread, her eyes exactly where to rest and her breathing exactly how to stay measured over the long, silent walk behind the current Lady Clement.

Their family had always believed in preserving history, and little of it could be preserved if each room was redecorated over the years. As it was, any modifications to the palace had to be done subtly and with a clear intent to not encroach on the historical value of the building and the artifacts it housed. The paintings, vases and furniture that they passed was the same as Vanessa remembered them. If she closed her eyes, it would be like she was back in time, playing the grand piano at Dominic’s birthday party, watching the vase crash from Louis’ very first feat of wandless magic. Time stood still in the palace, now more than ever with its heir taking his last breaths.

“You will be staying here for the month,” her aunt’s sharp words broke through Vanessa’s reverie, making the woman focus on Lynnette Clement. The Lady of the House had always treated Vanessa as the outsider she had believed her to be. At least that hadn’t changed, the witch thought wryly, taking in the suites she now found herself in. “The housemaids are instructed to help you with your dressing. You will be required to stay a month after…. After.” The first sign of emotion her aunt showed came with the admittance that her cherished son would soon be dead. Had Lady Clement ever been kinder to her ward, Vanessa would have felt sorry for her.

As it was, she felt nothing for her older cousin.

“You will see Dominic tomorrow, and will be seen appropriately mourning your intended passing over the following month,” Aunt Lynnette ordered, turning to leave. As for as Lady Clement was concerned, this was all that needed to be said.

“No,” Vanessa replied softly, her tone carrying in the silent space around them regardless. “I will not visit him.”

“You will do as you are told,” Aunt Lynette supplied, her tone cold and her chocolate brown eyes flashing in anger. Perhaps the little girl she had taken to ward well over two decades ago did not have the strength to stand up to her but this woman of six and twenty most certainly did.

“I will wear the mourning dresses, I will grieve appropriately in public, I will do all that is required to maintain the honor of the house,” Vanessa clarified, moving to face her aunt directly despite years of training to not meet your elder’s gaze straight on. “But I will not pay him a visit to relieve the burden of his wrongdoings from his soul. The family name does not demand I forgive your son.”

“Watch yourself, girl,” her aunt threatened, reaching for her wand. For a moment, Vanessa expected the sting of disobedience to mar her flesh once more. The thought of it would be more humiliating and painful than the action itself. However, the sting did not manifest. “My son has done nothing to warrant anyone’s forgiveness, especially not yours.”

And just the way she spoke the words, Vanessa knew. She knew her aunt was perfectly aware of what Dominic had done to a nineteen year old Vanessa. She wondered how Lynnette Clement slept at night, what excuses she clung to in order to justify Dominic’s actions. And in that moment, it was as though a thin veil had lifted from the world. Suddenly Vanessa saw her aunt for the woman she had always been. A selfish mother, a weak woman, and an unworthy Clement.

The last one hurt the most. Just as it had probably hurt Grandmere her entire life.

In that moment, Vanessa forgave her aunt all her cruelty, both to herself and to Louis. Gramdmere’s harshness always had a purpose, it was directed to the betterment of the House no matter where it lay. Aunt Lynnette, she took things personally. She had focused on a son she should have known not to expect greatness from. She had not only gambled with her own happiness but with the future of House Clement. She deserved pity, but little more.

“I forgive you,” Vanessa simply said, lowering her gaze. “Not Dominic, just you, Your Ladyship.”

Aunt Lynnette’s features contorted for a moment, contorted with pain, desperation, failure, anger, all the emotions she would never be allowed to openly display. The burden of their House was great and for the first time, Vanessa realized how unfit Lynnette Clement was to bear it.

“You will leave the palace before Louis’ wedding. Maman is already in search of a suitable bride.”

“Then I beg you inform Grandmere she need not waste her time,” the words were no longer a challenge, just a statement of fact. If Louis Clement taking over the leadership of the House was a bitter pill to swallow, it would come with Vanessa taking her place.

“Don’t fool yourself child, he is no longer in exile and forced to make do with petty whores. As the heir to our estate, he will have his choice of bride.”

“And he will choose me,” the younger brunette finished, leaving no room for argument. She would not make the mistake of believing Louis didn’t care for her, not again.

Never again.

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