In magical Paris there was a place where one would find the love of one’s life. This was its sole claim to fame. Culinarily-speaking, it was no great restaurant. Certainly not for Paris. The bread was always a bit stale or a bit soggy, and the main courses very dry. The wines left one gagging. And best not to mention the desserts.
And it was always either full to bursting, at a glance, with so many patrons spilling out onto the street that anyone feeling ready to die of starvation would still have reconsidered, passed it by, suggested the party go elsewhere to avoid the crowds; or else it was empty and eerie and still, when one finally got in, with the waiting elves looking very bored, as though nothing had been prepared all the day.
So for ambience, this was not the place.
And yet still the rumor persisted. Here — here! — one would find a soulmate. It had been woven into the wall panels by some clever French witch, long ago, this spell to bring about purest love; it was some kind of curse left by a handsome wizard troubadour whose beloved had been whisked away to a convent; it was simply a part of the magic of Paris, perhaps.
For Katie Bell, the place was a mere whim, something Angelina and George had booked for her, hoping to bring her out of her slump. Katie was at odds with magical notions of love, you see; she was too retiring, perhaps the result of some terrible accident in her seventh year; she did not collect beaus as some witches did, nor did she bother to meet men, nor did she flirt very much: the business of romance seemed to escape her entirely. And indeed the experience of being kissed by a young wizard brought about more a crawling, bored sensation than any true fervor. Her solid Muggle minister father was alright with this; everyone else saw it as a kind of defect. Katie had been far more alive in her schooldays, quick as a flash on the pitch, at home with her fellow Chasers, so bright and delightful and laughing and not closed, in that way she was now, with all these fellows Angelina and George would throw at her.
She would have to try a bit harder, that was all. To apply herself, to really work at finding a soulmate. Perhaps it would be someone as closed-off as she was, a man left equally bored by the prospect of a grope after a candlelit dinner; someone she could simply talk to, not someone to curl up with or bat her eyes at — for some people were not ever passionate; it was not in their natures. Or perhaps it would be some lothario to draw her out of her mouse-hole, some great lover to incite her to eroticism; some people preferred to jump straight into the sex, and it was the romance that bored them.
So to the restaurant Katie went, her place reserved in advance. She was full of trepidation and dread. She sat at the table and looked around at the empty room, and felt like she’d been made a fool of. For there was no one here! She rang for the elf. The elf came over, and in crisp French that was far far better than hers, told her to stop being silly — there were fellows everywhere.
If she could not see them, then they were not for her, yes?
"So it’s something wrong with me,” Katie decided. For that must have been it. Katie was ill-suited to finding a match, and this was surely a character defect.
"I don’t know that it is," noted a voice, coming up to the table from somewhere behind the house elf. "Hallo, Katie. I think this is my seat."
It was a quick, laughing voice, a voice from some long-ago memory. It corresponded to someone whose brown hand on her shoulder had once made Katie light up with delight, someone whose friendly jokes inspired far more ardor than any candlelit dinner.
"I can’t see the men either," confided Alicia Spinnet. "Only you. Not that I’m surprised."
And solemn Katie, with her Muggle minister father, had never contemplated that it might turn out this way, but she was not the least bit surprised either. This made a terrific amount of sense. A great rush of relief came over her.
She put her hand in Alicia’s.