Who: Romilda Vane, Taliesyn Robards
Where: Paris, France
When: 11 April 2002, daytime
They had seen so much already on their trip, but Romilda knew that she and Tali had probably seen only a few of the delights that Paris had to offer. The food was amazing, too. And the company? Well, that wasn’t bad either. Perfect, even.
After visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral, they meandered across the Ile de la Cité to the Square du Vert-Galant, a bright splash of green compared to the towering gothic cathedral. Romilda seized the opportunity to take Tali’s hand, smiling brightly.
“I feel like the cathedral would be a lot more impressive if we hadn’t gone to Hogwarts. Not that it isn’t beautiful, obviously, but it takes the shine off it when you can picture Professor McGonagall marching around the corner any moment.”
“That’s true,” said Tali, nodding. “And none of the gargoyles come to life. Still, not bad for Muggles, eh?” He returned her smile and gave her hand a squeeze.
“I can picture Flitwick coming round the corner too, but he wouldn’t scare anyone. And actually, we probably wouldn’t notice him.”
Still, Hogwarts had the disadvantage of not being in the middle of Paris. Paris! City of Love! Which reminded him of the precious item he carried in his pocket, and the question he needed to ask.
He tensed up a little. “Er… shall we find a seat? A brisk walk after lunch is good but I’ve also heard about the benefits of a brisk sit-down, even a brisk recline.”
“A brisk sit-down?” Romilda couldn’t help but grin. He came out with the weirdest things sometimes, but with the sun shining down on them like this it was the most adorable thing that she’d heard all day. “Should I warm up before all this strenuous activity?” she teased. “I wouldn’t want to pull a muscle.”
She nodded. “I think there’s a bench over there.”
“Well, if you wanna do some stretches I won’t complain. Please, go right ahead,” replied Tali. Oh good. He could still talk normally. “But I think I’ll settle for just sitting down really slowly.”
The bench faced onto the river. He could always jump in if it didn’t go well, he thought glumly. Uh huh. He took several deep breaths and fanned himself with a Notre Dame pamphlet. Stay positive, Tali, stay positive!
“I’ll risk not stretching,” Romilda informed him smartly, dropping onto the bench beside him. Sitting back, she turned her face up towards the sun, enjoying the gentle warmth of it on her skin. She cracked one eye open to look sideways at Tali. “Are you alright, sexy?” she chided, wondering if he had been out in the sun for too long. “Want to go get a drink or something?”
“What? Sexy? No, you are. Shut up,” Tali mumbled through a grin. She did know how to make him feel better easily. He was slightly cheered.
“Nah, I’m fine here. This is great. This is perfect. I…”
Tali had thought he had visualised this moment hundreds of times, but his imagination had skipped some important logistical considerations, such as which knee on the floor looked better, given the angle. Left? Right? He wished he could try it out and decide which was more comfortable.
He was almost going to drop something on purpose when he remembered — speech first, then knees. He’d look a right tit if he got down and then couldn’t say anything. He pulled out a couple of cue cards and hid them behind his Paris map.
He stared at them. He had written down only some brief points. Why hadn’t he just written it out in full? Oh yes, because he didn’t want it to sound recited. Well, he was getting his wish, ‘cause the keywords made no sense to him.
“Uh, Romilda, I…” — time to improvise — “…um, I want to tell you how I feel about you. Which is, that is, uh, you are aware that I love you very much, right? That’s, like, that’s not really a big shock now, right?”
“No, not a shock. I think I’m pretty clued up to that by now.” Romilda rested her hand on his knee. “And I love you too,” she added. It seemed like the perfect romantic setting to say these sorts of things; her feelings still caught her by surprise sometimes and sometimes she worried that maybe she didn’t say it as often as he did.
“OK, great,” said Tali, nodding firmly. “But, um, that’s not the point. The point is, the point is…” His mouth went dry.
Romilda frowned. “The point is…?” She had no idea what he was getting at. Especially with the ‘but’. But, she realised, was not a word she ever wanted to hear after ‘I love you’.
“Yes, I’m getting to that. I, uh, I, um, I have…” He reached into his pocket. The ring box was there. Phew. Great. He tugged on it gently. It didn’t budge. Not so great.
He cleared his throat and gave her a valiant grin, hoping that would buy him some time while he tried wiggling the box out. He didn’t want to be obvious about it. It seemed stuck. God, a couple of days of French cuisine and what, his thighs had fattened out? He didn’t remember his trousers usually being so tight.
C’mon Tali, ‘will you marry me’. It’s just four words. Say them! Look at her. She’s still looking at you. This is probably the most amount of time anyone has ever paid continuous attention to you. You could make her so happy. Don’t let her down.
Tali realised suddenly, that yes, she would be so happy. How could she not be? A proposal in Paris! In the springtime! In the very, very heart of the city. It didn’t get much more romantic than this.
Which is why he was sure she’d say yes — because it was Paris, not because it was him — and then she’d seriously regret it once they were home and there would be no more Paris but still plenty of him and really, only a total brute would condemn her to that fate.
Besides, he also had a sneaky suspicion that if he gave the box an almighty tug it’d come flying out, slip out through his fingers, over the pathway and into the river. Because that was kind of his luck.
Right. Aborting the mission.
He gave up on words and the ring and leant forward to plant a kiss on her instead. “D’you know what…” he said softly, “…you look so divine I forgot what I’d planned to say.”
Romilda laughing, lifting her hand to cup his cheek. He looked so very sincere that it brought a blush to her cheeks. “You really do have an excuse for everything, don’t you?” she asked lightly, kissing him again. “If you remember what it is, you can tell me later. If it’s important, I’m sure it’ll show up somewhere in that brain of yours.”
“I’m sure it will.” It wasn’t as if Tali had given up the idea completely. He was still very, very much enthused about it. Now just wasn’t the right time, that’s all. The plan now was to stash the ring somewhere safe in his suitcase, soon as they got back to the hotel — it’d be very awkward if it fell out while he was undressing, or something — and he’ll just have to bide his time, pick another day back in Wales when Romilda was in a complete rational mood and then, well, he supposed he’d just have to deal with outcome when it happened. Whatever the outcome. But that was a worry for another day.
“And it’s not an excuse. It’s the truth. Helen of Troy has nothing on you, darling.” He kissed her again, and shifted his position so their legs touched. He slung an arm around her shoulders and held her close.
“Do you want to go elsewhere now?” They were many things left to see, and Tali supposed his purpose in being here no longer existed. But being idle was also enjoyable. “Or d’you want to sit here for a bit and possibly appear in Merlin knows how many tourists’ photos?” They were boats going up and down the Seine all the time. He waved at the people on board one going by just now.
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Romilda murmured, contentedly leaning against him as his arm curled around her. She sighed softly, gaze lingering on the passing boat of tourists. “I think I like it here right now. Unless there’s anything you want to do?”
“Nope, not a thing,” Tali replied. He pressed a kiss to Romilda’s temple. They could stay until the sun set if she wanted. He thought back to his life a year ago. No relationship and barely any prospects for one. The change in circumstances was monumental, really. He should just bask in that and not be hasty. Yes, there was time aplenty.