Thank you so much once again to my fab feedbackers, nevillesgal, marauderfan, Urania, dlskin, Rayven and BrightestWitch - you all rock!!
On Friday evening, Ted apparated straight to Godric's Hollow for dinner after finishing up at St. Mungo's. It had been a trying week; in spite of the fact that the week before the L. E. A review had gone better than Ted could have hoped for, he hated that he and Isadora were being forced to hold back a little with their plans to placate the Rita Skeeters of the world. Only three days ago, she had written about her interview of a mother whose young son had been bitten and killed by a werewolf ten years before, and it made Ted feel like she was starting a one-woman campaign against all werewolves - even those that went to great lengths to protect the public. Rita did not seem to understand that werewolves were themselves victims of a bite.
"You look like you could do with a strong drink", commented Ginny as Ted wandered in through the back door. He nodded. "Rita Skeeter still getting to you?"
"A bit. Thing is, the only way I can think of to refute what she is saying, is to give an interview myself - not to her, or any publication that currently prints the drivel she writes, but The Quibbler, or something like that."
"Ted, I don't think that's a good idea."
"Nor do I, which is why I haven't actually done anything about it. Isadora would be fine with it, but her boss would not be pleased, and I don't want to lose my job over Rita Skeeter."
"Well, its the weekend now, and you can switch off a little bit." She handed him a butterbeer and returned to adding pastry to the pie dish on the worktop. "Don't you have some big party or other to go to tomorrow night?"
"Yes, Mari's." At some point soon he was going to have to tell Mari and the rest of them about he and Vic; he still hadn't managed to do so, and felt guiltier and guiltier every time he wrote to Vic because of it. He hated the thought of her at Hogwarts, miles away, thinking that he might not care about her enough to tell them.
"Where are Al and Lily?" Ted asked.
"Al is round at a friend's for dinner, and Lily is upstairs. She's been a little quiet recently; I think that she's really going to miss Al and Rosie when they're away next year, and its just starting to hit her how close its coming up. I've already spoken to Ange about it, though, and said that now Roxie and Freddie are getting older, they should really be coming over to play with Lily and Hugo more often."
"If nothing else, you'll get a good night's sleep after it", said Ted with a grin.
The following day, after the Magpies had annihilated the Cannons by four hundred and seventy points to thirty, Ted apparated to Mari's flat with Wes and Katya to find the party already underway.
"Ted! Wes! Katya!" Mari shouted as the three of them appeared at her front door. "How lovely to see you all!"
Mari hugged them tightly in return - with such gusto that Ted wondered exactly how long ago she had started the party - and then ushered them through to the kitchen where Rowland was chatting to Matt, Hem, and Hem's girlfriend Lydia.
"You all know each other, I take it?" said Mari solemnly.
"I'm pretty sure we do, sweet", grinned Rowland, wrapping an arm around her.
"I brought you something." Ted handed over a parcel containing a large selection of bath potions that Vic and Ginny had separately recommended.
"Wow! They're lovely! Thank you so much!" Mari exclaimed as she opened them, and then hugged Ted again. "You really, really didn't have to."
"I was brought up better than that", he told her in a mock pompous voice. "And its really Ginny you have to thank - she's the one that pointed the advert out to me in The Prophet. Oh, and that reminds me - Lily said that I was to tell you 'Happy Birthday.'"
"Aw! She's a sweet little thing. I shall go and put this away before it ends up in one of the punch bowls."
As Mari left the kitchen, Ted took advantage of the general noise, and pulled Wes to the side.
"Listen, I hate having to ask this, but the Cup final - any chance you could get some tickets so I can bring Al and Lily along. And maybe Harry too, if you can stretch to it?"
"Its fine", laughed Wes. "Just think of it as repayment for the number of detentions that Map of yours got us out of when we were sneaking back from the kitchens after curfew at Hogwarts."
"If that's what you're going by, it'll be a long time before the debt is paid off", snorted Ted.
"Funny. Then again, I could always pay you back another way......nah, let's think about it. For finals, every player gets ten tickets each. I need two for my parents, another two for Rowland and Mari, another two for my sister and that awful boyfriend she persists in going out with. That leaves me with four tickets. So, yeah. That should be fine."
"You sure you don't need more than that for your family?" Ted asked dubiously.
"Nope. If I invite one aunt or uncle, I have to invite all the others. If I invite a cousin, I have to invite all the others. You see how it goes?" Ted, who didn't really, nodded.
"Thanks", he said gratefully. "Al in particular will be really excited. He loves watching Quidditch, and its something else he'll be able to brag to James about, when his brother goes on about how amazing Hogwarts is."
"You have an empty glass!" Ted looked round to see Mari call accusingly in Rowland's direction, and the latter promise to grab them all some more drinks.
Quite a few rounds of drinks and a couple of hours later, they had all migrated from the kitchen to a corner of the sitting room furthest from where the music was blaring out from the Saturday night programme on the WWN presented by Kayleigh MacCormack, sister of Kirley MacCormack of Weird Sisters fame. Ted, in spite of the butterbeer and punch he had drunk - or perhaps because of it - found himself starting to feel slightly suspicious. Every time Mari went to get them more drinks, or Rowland realised their large bowl of crisps was empty, they did not seem to return alone.
In the past hour or so alone, Ted had been introduced to three female Obliviators - Nancy, Debbie and Jessie - that worked with Mari and Rowland, Mari's cousin Iris, and Beth, one of her dorm-mates from Hogwarts. All of them, as well as being a good friend of Mari's, were single. Now, Ted could see Mari returning from the bathroom, bringing with her some other girl that he was sure would be introduced to them all.
"I just bumped into Maia in the bathroom queue", Mari said in an almost conspiratorial tone as she poured out punch that she also seemed to have picked up on her way back from the bathroom. She turned to Maia. "You know Rowland, of course."
"And these are his friends - Wes and Katya work for Montrose Magpies; Matt for Magical Games and Sports - Junior Assistant for the third in command of the Quidditch league no less; Hem and Lydia are training to be Healers. And this is Ted. He works for the DRCMC, and has always been very sweet to me. Guys, this is Maia - the reason I passed my Potions NEWT. Now training to be an Apothecary and the only person I would EVER trust to make anything complicated!"
"Nice to meet you", said Maia shyly. She smiled softly at him, and Ted groaned inwardly, regretting more and more that he hadn't yet told them about Vic. He wished she were here tonight, sitting with them and laughing, telling funny and embarrassing stories about things that happened years ago, and wondered what she was up to now. It was Saturday evening at Hogwarts as much as it was in the rest of the country; with the nights becoming lighter, she would probably go for a wander round the grounds with Nat after dinner, and then spend the rest of the night in the common room - perhaps chatting with Dom, or Louis. Or maybe -
"Ted? TED?!" He almost jumped as he heard Mari shout at him.
"Sorry", he responded sheepishly. "I was.....thinking about.......something."
"I should get back to...." Maia turned and pointed at a small group of people on the other side of the room.
"Sure! Come join us later, though, like I said", Mari told her encouragingly. Maia nodded, and then walked away. Before anyone could say anything, Ted noticed that they were out of snacks again and volunteered to go and get some more.
"I can get it", Rowland assured him.
"Its fine", said Ted through locked teeth; he knew fine well that Rowland would return with yet other girl as well as food. He took the bowl, and wandered through to the kitchen, and to the cupboard where he knew from previous visits that Mari kept large stores of crisps. He emptied a few large bags into the bowl, took a deep breath, and then returned to his friends.
"Maia seemed nice", Matt commented, looking over in her direction as Ted sat back down.
"Yeah, I guess." Ted shrugged; maybe if Matt was interested in some or all of these girls it might give him some peace.
"Vot about you, Ted?" Katya asked pointedly. "Vere any of ze girls liking to you?"
"Were they to my liking?" Ted translated aloud. "I guess they seemed nice enough."
"Nice enough that you would maybe invite one of them to the after-party for the Cup Final?" Mari asked tentatively.
"What after-party?" Wes explained to him that there would be a party similar to the one held on Valentine's Day after the match.
"No?" Mari was aghast. "But Ted.....its been months since you broke up with that monster - I'm sorry, but she was - you can't live like a hermit forever! Now, if you don't pick one of these girls to take, I'll - I'll do it for you!"
"You don't have to", he assured her.
"No, really - I will! You need someone, Ted. You're not the type of person to live a solitary life. My Aunt Ivy, yes. You, no."
"Mari's right. Girls - ah, women - know more about this sort of thing than we do", Rowland informed him. Ted could hear the silent 'apparently' at the end of his sentence.
"I'm sure they do." Ted paused, took a deep breath as he knew the moment had finally arrived, and then grinned at the thought of Vic. "Thing is, I'm not sure my girlfriend would really appreciate me taking someone else to a party."
"What girlfriend", snorted Hem derisively. "You haven't been near a girl in months!"
You think so?
"Actually, I have. Thing is, I've been seeing someone for a little over a month and a half now. I didn't mention it before because we decided that given everything that's happened in our pasts and because of who we are, to take it slowly, but.........its serious now. And I thought you should know."
"A month and a half....." Ted could hear Mari mentally counting as she spoke. "But then - that as when Victoire was home. Does she know who it is?"
"Be a bit hard for her not to know", Ted mumbled.
"What?" Mari replied. "Ted....its my birthday.....I want to know!!"
"She must be ugly if you haven't said anything before now", said Rowland bluntly. Mari elbowed him in the side. "Ouch!"
"She isn't", smiled Ted happily. "She is the most beautiful - and though I always knew it, I didn't really see it, you know? And for six or so weeks now, I've been trying to tell you, and not, because I know what you'll say. But its fine now. Tonight and your procession of girls has convinced me that the constant teasing will be better than more of this."
"For vy vould ve tease you?" Katya asked.
"Just say it", Ted laughed at Rowland and Wes. "Just say 'I told you so'."
"Why would we say......oh", said Rowland, before collapsing on the floor with laughter. "That....is.....so.......funny.....and now my side hurts!"
"What is it?" Wes demanded. "What am I missing here?"
"Its only taken him her entire life", laughed Rowland. "Ouch, my side still hurts - he's finally figured it out!"
"Figured what out?!" Mari asked exasperatedly.
"I told you so!" Rowland roared. "Everyone said she was the most beautiful girl at Hogwarts, and how many years did it take you to notice?!"
"You don't mean......." Wes joined in with Rowland's laughter, and Ted thought he should probably put the girls out of their misery.
"Hah!" Mari shouted. "I knew something was up! I thought maybe you'd just snogged her or something. The way you two looked at each other at Easter!"
"I thought we were quite subtle, actually."
"Yes and no. Tell me everything", implored Mari. When did you get together? How? Who knows? Is it serious?"
"Luna's wedding. It had been coming for a while. I kissed her outside the marquee during the reception. You guys, Isadora, Willa (who thought I was seeing a married woman, but we won't go into that) my grandmother, Harry, Ginny, Nat, Louis and Dom, and Vic's parents. And yes, it is serious."
"I knew it!" Hem exclaimed. "The whole of those six months Victoire and I were together at Hogwarts, I knew you were after her!"
"It was four, and I didn't figure it all out until she was with Evan", said Ted bluntly, thinking it prudent not to mention the kiss he and Vic had shared while she was still seeing Hem. His relationship with Lydia aside, Ted could not fathom how Hem thought he could renew his relationship with Vic when he could not even remember how long it had lasted for.
"Whatever", said Hem, standing up. "Something like that is a rubbish thing to do with friendship. You do NOT go out with your friend's ex-girlfriend."
"What was that?" Ted asked as Hem walked away, quickly followed by a mortified looking Lydia. Ted felt sorry for her; she was a lovely girl, incredibly smart and dedicated towards becoming a world-class Healer. Hem did not deserve her.
"Does he not remember why he and Vic broke up?" Ted recalled the viciousness of Ava Ackerley and the way she had treated Vic after the break-up.
"You know what he's like", shrugged Matt. "Um, listen, I'm going to go over and chat to Maia. She seems like my kind of girl, if you know what I mean."
"Sorry", Ted apologised as Matt slunk off.
"Its fine", Mari assured him. "I told you before that I agree with you over the Hem and Vic thing. And I am so excited that you and Vic have finally got together!!!"
"You don't need to squeal."
"How long have you liked her?"
"Almost a year", he admitted.
"How many times did you tell Rowland and I that you and Vic were 'just friends'?" Wes asked smartly.
"Um....a lot? I'm sorry. I just - I knew you guys would laugh at me, and I wanted to avoid that, but I also wanted you to know that Vic and I are together. And I plan on keeping us that way."
On Sunday evening, Victoire was just finishing the last of the three Runes translations she had to complete for Tuesday's class, when she noticed her owl, Hibou, at the window she was sitting next to. She opened the window, let the bird in, and removed the letter - noticing immediately that it was from Ted. Out of the corner of her eye, Vic noticed (but did not comment upon) the smirk on Nat's face at the way she discarded the translations she had spent hours working on for Ted's letter.
Hope you aren't working too hard - you're smart enough that you don't need to make yourself ill revising! I'm still missing you lots and can't wait for the summer to come. Send me the dates for when you're going to France so I don't book any holidays for then. I want to make sure that you'll be here when I do!
I am writing this having taken two hangover potions following Mari's birthday party last night. I don't know what was in the punch.....just that I drank lots of it and I'm paying for it this morning! Peppermint tea for me for the rest of the day, and I'm glad that I already commited myself to a quiet day in and some leftovers Ginny gave me for dinner. Though eating it isn't really something I want to think about at the moment.
I know I've been an idiot, waiting ages to tell our friends about us getting together, but you will be happy to hear that last night I finally got round to it. Mari said she knew that something was up, but she didn't quite know what, Katya didn't understand why it would be such a big secret, Hem had a go at me because the two of you used to go out, and Wes and Rowland spent about fifteen minutes rolling around the floor laughing because it took me so long to realise I like you. Well, more than like you. I had been putting off telling them because I knew that was how they would react, but after the procession of girls they introduced me to in an effort to set me up with one of them was too much - though not as amusing as what Willa thought. Don't know that she'll ever live that down, as far as I'm concerned!
Wes says he has tickets for the cup final, so I'll be able to take Al, Lily and Harry if he wants to come. Ginny will probably be working. So if James starts getting moody and complaining about the lack of Quidditch he sees while at school, you'll know why! Wes and the rest of them are all looking forward to seeing you again in the summer, and it'll be good being able to hang out normally as a group.
Write back soon and tell me everything that's happening at Hogwarts!
Miss you lots,
"He told them", breathed Vic, almost in relief. Nat had been right; it had not been second thoughts about their relationship, but the knowledge that his friends would tease him endlessly about it.
"See, I said he would", said Nat sensibly, laying aside her Care of Magical Creatures book. "What else does he say?"
"That he's hungover and feeling a little sorry for himself." Vic smiled adoringly at the thought of poor Ted, curled up on the sofa in his flat, alternately sipping peppermint tea and hangover potion. "Ted is the type of guy that needs someone to look after him. Not that he'd admit it, of course. I think it comes of Andromeda and Ginny spoiling him like they did."
Vic knew that Andromeda found it hard to say 'no' to Ted when he was younger, wanting to make the only real family she had left as happy as he could be without his parents; Ginny had spoilt him like an honourary godmother or aunt would, taking him out for little treats to Florian Fortescue's and introducing him to all the Harpies players.
"I don't know that its really done him much harm", Nat put in. "I've known lots of spoiled children. Some of them appreciate what they are given - like Ted. Not all of them end up believing that everyone owes them everything in life."
"He also says that Wes and Rowland and the girls are looking forward to meeting up and going out over the holidays. At least I have my apparition license now - it means I won't be reliant on flooing or Ted to go and meet them. And being of age means I can actually use magic out of school as well. They're all older than me, and its little things like that which will make that gap feel a little less real."
"Vic, you're probably the most mature seventeen year old I have ever met", Nat told her. "You'll be fine. You've met them before and it worked out fine; you got on with them - you told me yourself that Mari much preferred your company to that of Caro, though who could blame her for that? - and you've always been good friends with Wes and Rowland."
"I know. Its just going to be different meeting them as Ted's girlfriend. I'll get used to it, though, I guess." The thought of seeing Andromeda again came to the fore of her mind as well. What would she think and say? How would she treat Vic? Vic knew that Andromeda had never been keen on Caro, however she had always got on well with Ted's grandmother and hoped that would continue. For the first time, Vic realised that it wasn't just her and Ted that would be changed by their relationship - in some ways, it would affect the entire family. Her parents were right; it was a massive step and adjustment. The thing was, Vic knew deep down that she was in this with Ted for the long haul.
In spite of the approaching exam season, Vic found herself unable to remove the smile from her face that Ted's letter had put there, and she was quite sure that several of her classmates thought that she had cracked with the over-work of taking seven NEWTs and was starting to go a little mad. Not wanting news of her relationship to spread through the entire school - James and Ava Ackerley would, in very different ways, be awful to deal with - Vic was content to keep the reason for her smile to herself and continue with her day. She had also developed a nightly habit of mentally counting the days until she would return home for the summer to her family, and to Ted.
Her smile continued on Tuesday evening when she and Nat went to Duelling Club. As a general rule, approximately two thirds to three quarters of the sixth and seventh years were there on any given Tuesday evening - some came sporadically, others never, and many skipped the odd one or two when their homework levels reached impractical levels. On this particular evening, however, Vic was surprised to see that only about a third of the final two year groups appeared. Professor Robards did not share this, and commented to those that did come that exam season always diminished the numbers. Vic could not understand why that could be the case - after all, practical Defence Against the Dark Arts would be assessed as much as the theory, particularly for those about to take their NEWT in the subject and therefore Duelling Club could, to a certain extent, be classed as a form of studying.
"As there are so few of us this evening, it wouldn't make any sense to start anything new. And with exams so close, I do not think it would be practical to add any further information to your already over-loaded brains", Professor Robards said with a smile. "I think it best that we use this time to hone your practical Defence skills for your examinations, and give ourselves half an hour less to practice this evening."
He split them into pairs, as he did every so often so they would not grow too used to the same partner, and Vic ended up with a seventh year Hufflepuff, Tarcisius Trevithick, whom she knew a little as he and his family lived on the other side of the nearest village to Shell Cottage, while Nat found herself facing their fellow Gryffindor seventh year, Jake Burton.
"And now, if you could spread out through the room and start, I will come round and observe how you're doing."
"You ready?" Tarcisius asked with a rougish grin. He was tall, long-limbed and believed by many to be the heartthrob of Hufflepuff House. Vic nodded with a smile.
"Okay", said Professor Robards. "On the count of three. One. Two. Three!"
"Fernunculus!" Vic yelled immediately, pointing her wand at Tarcisius, who had no other defence than jumping instantaneously out of the way and onto the ground.
"Densaugeo!" Tarcisius responded from the ground.
"Protego!" Again he only just managed to avoid the curse, and shot back a hair-thickening charm at Vic, which she ducked, before sending back a Conjunctivitis Curse.
"Petrificus Totalus!" Vic finally got him, and walked over to where Tarcisus lay rigid on the ground with a smile on her face. She lifted her wand, but someone came over behind them and cast the spell before Vic had a chance to.
"Finite." She helped her opponent up, and then turned round to see Professor Robards behind them. "Very impressive, Miss Weasley."
"Thank you, Professor."
"I don't mind saying that having observed all of the students this year, and obviously what has happened in class, you have a natural talent for this."
"Oh." Vic, surprised, did not quite know what to say. Duelling was not really something she considered to be her speciality. Though now that she thought of it, Vic could not pick out one or two things over the rest of them that really were.
"Thank you, Professor." Vic could feel a small blush form on her cheeks; in some ways, she hated such praise.
"No problem. After all, you have just beaten one of my best NEWT level students."
"Hmm." Vic hadn't realised that her partner was so good at Defence; perhaps she, like everyone else, held a small prejudice against those in Hufflepuff and presumed that they were not as smart as everyone else. She knew that she should not. After all, Ted's mother - an Auror and member of The Order of the Phoenix - had been a Hufflepuff, had she not?
"As I said, good work."
"Thanks." As they took a breath before starting again and Robards gave Tarcisius some feedback, Vic glanced over to where Nat appeared to have a massive advantage over Jake Burton.
"Good show", Tarcisius conceded as she looked over at her friend. "I'll get you back this time round, though."
"You wish", Vic responded with a large grin.
By the end of the session, Vic had beaten Tarcisius five out of six times, and actually felt a little embarrassed about the dominance she'd had over him. As Robards called them all back together, Vic wandered over to where Nat stood with a slightly downcast Jake. She smiled at them both, and then turned to listen to their Defence teacher.
"That was a good evening's work, and hopefully some of you will have an idea of what you need to improve on for your end of year exam or NEWT, and as these are not far off, that will help you in the final stretch of revision. This will be the last meeting until after the exams have been completed, and I just want to thank you all for coming along as much as you have. I know that Professor Derwent talks about the time that I put into this group - the fact is, you are the ones that put something extra in and make it a success. It is you and your effort alone. Thank you."
Most of them clapped, including Vic, but as she turned to Nat and tried to start asking about the grimace on her friend's face, Vic heard her name being called by Professor Robards.
"I'll wait outside for you", promised Nat.
"Thanks." Vic wandered over to where her Defence teacher stood as the room emptied, and waited expectantly until everyone else had left.
"Victoire, I watch each and every student that comes here closely. Over the course of a few weeks, a few months, a year it becomes clear who has a natural talent for practical Defense and who does not. You do."
"You do. And I have to ask - you're coming to the end of your sixth year and that final NEWT year goes by so quickly. Have you ever thought about joining the DMLE when you leave here?"
"Not really", she admitted. A career in the DMLE in any form was not one that had ever crossed her mind with any great force. "To be perfectly honest, Professor, I haven't really thought about it too much - actually, no, I have. Its just that no matter how much I think about it, I don't seem to want something enough to really go for it."
"You should consider the DMLE properly", he reiterated. "I know that you have family in the Auror Office, and if you wish to try out for that, I believe that you would have the skill to do well there too."
"Thanks", smiled Vic gratefully. "I'll think about it."
"What was all that about with Robards?" Nat asked as she and Vic walked slowly back to Gryffindor Tower.
"Nothing much", she shrugged. "He just - he thinks because of Duelling Club and in class that I should apply to the DMLE next year. Or.....maybe to the Auror Office if I wanted."
"Victoire Weasley - Auror. It has a bit of a ring to it, actually." Vic made a face. "What?"
"Do you honestly think Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron would ever let me do anything interesting there? They'd be obsessed about protecting me and everything. And Gramma would have a fit about it. The DMLE, however, I might just get away with. What do you think? I know you're set on being a Healer."
"I am. And if the DMLE is what you want to do, then you should fight for it. If the Auror Office is what you want to do, then you should fight for it, and stuff what your uncles think. They are not your parents, and your parents might want you to follow your dreams - even in this", Nat reasoned.
"Maybe. And how was your night?"
"Urgh. Don't even - Jake Burton asked me out for the next Hogsmeade visit. And then when I told him about Dylan, he just said that since he's so far away, he wouldn't know anyway, and if it didn't bother me then it didn't bother him."
"Sounds like an interesting evening", grinned Vic.
"Interesting is not the word!" And with that, the two of them laughed all the way back up to Gryffindor Tower.
Last edited by MissGryffindor; June 5th, 2012 at 10:57 pm.
Hey - to everyone that doesn't make it onto the fb thread - I apologise muchly for the delay in updating - my internet has been down for the last week and a half because of some network fault that I really don't understand. It has, however, now been fixed and I can go online again!!!
And to make up for the fact that I have been unable to post the last two fridays, I will be posting twice a week (monday and friday) this week and next to catch us up!!
And here is the next chapter!!
"Five minutes to go", came Professor Willoughby's commanding voice. Vic barely looked up from her Transfiguration exam, and continued to write about the dangers of cross-species transformations, pleased that the end of the exam was close. This was her third, and there were still another four to sit.
Arithmancy had been awful, but Vic hoped she had pulled through it, though Herbology had been fine. Professor Longbottom had always been good at helping them to revise in class, and break down the work they had covered to make it easier to study outside class. While these exams would not count towards their NEWT marks, Vic knew that it gave the professors a good idea of how well everyone was doing. It was also an opportunity for them to gently suggest that someone struggling with a subject consider dropping it for seventh year. Vic did not want to have to go home for the summer and tell her parents that she would be dropping a subject for another reason than it was something she had chosen to do herself.
"That was a nightmare", Nat groaned as the two of them walked down to dinner after handing in their papers; one of the things Vic preferred about normal end of year exams as opposed to NEWTs and OWLs was that for the most part they took place in large, generally unused classrooms rather than the Great Hall.
"At least its over and done with", conceded Vic with a sigh. "I'm starving now. How many exams do you have left?"
"Three - Charms, Potions and then Defence. You still have Runes as well, don't you?" Vic nodded. "Defence is the last exam anyone has, and that's on Friday afternoon. I vote we try and locate some butterbeer and celebrate Friday night - what do you think?"
"I think that's an excellent idea", smiled Vic. She paused for a moment, stopping in her tracks. "In fact, I think I know how we could get some - you have Friday morning free when I have my Runes exam, don't you?"
"Yeah, I think so. Why?"
"With the offer of a few Zonkos products, I think James might lend us his map and invisibility cloak - you could sneak into Hogsmeade, and with a few tricks we've picked up in Transfiguration we could disguise you a bit." Nat laughed.
"Vic, exams have addled your brains. Why don't we just owl Ted and get him to send us some?"
"Yeah, that could work too", Vic agreed. "And I think you might be right about exams - I woke up in the middle of the night and realised I'd been dreaming about various types of transfiguration. There was something running around the common room looking like a cross between a baby iguana and a mouse, and then you and I were halfway through attempting to become Animagi......."
"You might also want to avoid cheese at dinner tonight."
"Why?" Vic asked, perplexed.
"Its a muggle thing", shrugged Nat. "Cheese before bed is meant to induce nightmares."
"Well, I'm going to write to Ted after dinner and plead for presents of butterbeer and chocolate and give us something to look forward to."
"Something tells me he won't say 'no'."
Nat's view that Ted would send Vic anything she asked for proved to be correct, and he sent back a box, which had been shrunk and had weight reduction charms, filled with chocolate, butterbeer and a small bottle of firewhiskey. He also enclosed a note that had formed a large smile upon Vic's face.
I have sent Hibou back with a box full of what you asked for. I hope that you and Nat have lots of fun using its contents to celebrate the end of your exams. The only thing that annoys me is that I HAD actually intended to send you some stuff anyway, and by asking for it you spoilt my surprise. And now you're reading this and thinking that I should remember that you're not a big fan of surprises anyway!
There isn't much going on here - the Quidditch final is on Saturday, and Wes and Katya are training hard. Rowland, Mari and I have hardly seen them over the last week. In some ways, that's a good thing because it means that I only have half the teasing from our friends about how long it took for me to realise how much I liked you. Harry has finally agreed to come to the final with us, and Lily and Al are both looking forward to it as well. I wonder if Al has written to James yet, showing off about it? I'm just glad that the Magpies aren't playing the Harpies!
Hope the exams are going well, and that you're not driving yourself too mental with all of the studying you need to do! One of the best things about leaving Hogwarts is not having to study constantly. Work is pretty much the same as always, but in some ways I do wish that there was more uptake for my support group - enough to justify a third afternoon, or maybe a full day. Not that I want more people to suffer the way my dad did, just that I want more of those that do to come forward and come to the group.
You and Nat have probably been studying hard so you better enjoy yourselves on Friday night!
Just in case I haven't mentioned it a hundred thousand times, I can't wait for the holidays to see you again!!!!!
On Friday, Vic heaved a huge sigh of relief as they headed to Defence. Their exams were finally almost over, and the long hours she had spent in the library and in the common room studying seemed to have been worth it. In fact, what had freaked Vic out the most was the moment two days previously when she had been walking through the entrance hall and seen Evan and his friends coming out of one of the last NEWT exams. In just twelve months time, that would be she and Nat; their Hogwarts days were starting to come to an end.
"Just a few more hours, and this will all be over", smiled Nat. "Then tonight we can celebrate with the stuff that Ted sent you. And you know as well as I do that we tend to get less homework between exams and the summer holidays. Another three and a half weeks and we'll be at home."
"Let's just through this exam first, alright?" laughed Vic. "I think going to Duelling Club we should be alright with the practical side of things. Its the written exam that's going to be a bit tricky."
"What?" Vic turned to look at Nat as she scoffed.
"Vic, you know this stuff inside out. You are probably in the top four or five in our year at Defence. You'll be fine."
"I hope so."
"Have you thought any more about what Robards said? About joining the DMLE?"
"A little", admitted Vic. "I've been studying too much to think more than that. Its just - me, a member of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad? Nat, can you honestly see me duelling with people and arresting them?"
"Maybe. You'd be good at it." They turned into the Defence corridor, and Vic could see a queue already starting to form outside their classroom.
"Actually, I thought I might talk to Rowland and Mari during the summer about what being an Obliviator entails. That way I could do some Defence-like stuff and fulfill Gramps's dream of at least one of us continuing his work with muggles. Sort of."
"And you're not tempted by the life of an Auror?" Vic snorted. "What?"
"You know as well as I do that it wouldn't work out", said Vic as they joined the end of the queue. "Neither of my uncles would let me do anything dangerous; they're far too protective. I'd spend the whole of my career filing at the Ministry. I might as well join the Wizengamot Administration Services for all the action I would get to see."
A few minutes later, Professor Robards called them in, and once everyone was seated explained yet again the format that the exam would take. They would sit a written examination that would form half of their grade. They would then get a fifteen minute break, after which he would call them in one by one to assess their practical skills and that would form the other half of their final grade.
"Any questions?" Vic looked around the room, and although there were a number of nervous faces, nobody raised their hands. "In that case, we shall begin. You may turn over your papers, and you have precisely one hour to complete it to the best of your ability. Good luck."
Vic turned over the paper, and picked up the quill that had been left on the desk; all Hogwarts exams took place under strict conditions, including the use of specially provided quills that had anti-cheating charms. She glanced through the questions quickly, calmed herself as she processed the fact that they covered areas she and Nat had studied extensively in preparation for the exam, and then started to answer the first question - 'Please describe in detail the most effective way to deal with a Dementor attack.'
By the time that Professor Robards gave them all their five minute warning, Vic had answered all of the questions extensively, and was checking over her answers. She looked up, and glanced around the room. Her sometime-Ravenclaw study partner Louise Carwell was still writing frantically; a couple of Slytherins on the opposite side of the room were giving each other significant looks; Nat appeared to be checking over her paper in the same way Vic had, and a Hufflepuff Vic couldn't remember the name of was anxiously looking around the classroom as if for inspiration. Not that he would find it; Professor Robards had cast a charm so that all of the Defence posters and murals on the walls were covered with a silvery sheen to prevent them cheating during the exam.
"How did you get on?" Nat asked nervously as they wandered out of the classroom amid loud chatter.
"Okay, I think", said Vic. "I'm glad it over though - just the practical to go now! How did you find it?"
"Not as bad as I thought it would be, to be honest. The question on Inferi was awful, but I think I managed to fit everything in, and I know it sounds strange to say that I loved an exam question, but that last one on the Unforgivables was great given that it was the last thing we looked at last night; it was really fresh in my mind." Vic laughed.
"You're right, it is strange", said Vic as they sat down on some steps along the corridor. She opened up her bag, and took out her Defence notes, quickly skimming through them to confirm incantations. She had no idea exactly what they would be required to do for the practical, but assumed that some duelling might be required.
"As long as I pass everything this year, I think I should be able to push myself to get at least an 'E' in all my subjects when we do the NEWT."
"That's what you need to get into St. Mungo's, isn't it?" Nat nodded.
"Actually......I was wondering. Do you think that over the summer, Ted might let me sit in on one of his group sessions at St. Mungo's? Its the closest thing I would be able to get to actual work experience there, and since regular attendance is a requirement for Trainee Healers - "
"You could write to him and ask", said Vic, raising her head. "He might have to ask permission from his boss, or someone at Mungo's, but I don't think it would bother Ted personally."
"I will do, thanks."
"I think its a great thing, Healing. Its not for me, but it takes a lot to do it - we should probably head back along now; I think our fifteen minutes are over - I don't know, sometimes I think you and Ted will end up doing big things, and I'll be one of those people that just kind of works away and doesn't really do anything big."
"I don't think that's true. And if you went into being an Obliviator like Rowland and his girlfriend, that is something worthwhile; think of all those poor traumatised muggles you'll be able to help. Besides, you don't have to do anything big workwise to make something of your life. You could do what your grandmother did - you could marry Ted and raise seven children." Vic snorted.
"One step at a time! We've been together just under two months - its a bit early to be thinking about that. I get your point, though." The thing was, although she and Ted had only just been together a matter of weeks, of all the relationships she'd been in - all three of them - this was the only one in which she felt like she was part of something solid enough to last. And that scared her a little.
At the end of the Friday support group, Ted packed up and then went to the back of the room where Lydia was waiting for him; she had spoken to him when she and one of the other trainees, Susanna had arrived at the start of the afternoon, and asked him if they could talk after the group meeting had finished.
"Hey", said Ted as the last of the trainees left. "I think I have an idea what you want to talk about."
"Is it that obvious?" Lydia smiled nervously. "I just wanted to say sorry for the way Hem acted at Mari's party the other weekend. It must have been really awkward for her, and I hope that it didn't cause too much trouble."
"You don't need to apologise", Ted pointed out, wondering if Hem knew anything about what Lydia was saying. Knowing his former dorm-mate as he did, Ted suspected not.
"I honestly didn't think it would be an issue. They broke up more than a year ago. And given the circumstances....." Ted broke off, unsure if Lydia knew why Hem and Vic had broken up.
"You mean because they broke up when he kissed someone else?" Ted nodded awkwardly. "Don't worry - Mari told me one night when we were at the Leaky. I don't think you were there that time. She said she thought I should know what kind of person he was. He and I talked about it, and really you shouldn't judge someone based on one mistake; from what I've heard, that Ava girl pushed herself on Hem and when he left Hogwarts he ended it as quickly as he could. At least, that's what Matt told me."
"Ava isn't the nicest person in the world, and she hates Vic. Like I said, I didn't realise that Vic and I seeing each other would cause any issues for him."
"I think he would have preferred you to mention it to him quietly first, that's all." Ted kept his mouth shut and nodded, not wanting to tell Lydia that Hem had spoken about restarting his relationship with Vic. She was far too nice, and too good a person through and through for him, though Ted didn't want to be the one to tell her that.
"Anyway, Hem and I will be at the match tomorrow - Matt managed to get us tickets - and I didn't want there to be any disagreements between the two of you or anything."
"There won't be", Ted assured her. He wasn't about to get into an argument with someone like Hem while Al and Lily were there. "I'm taking my godfather and his kids with me. Arguing with Hem will be the last thing on my mind. And....I'm sorry for you as well - I could tell that what happened at the party really embarrassed you."
"Its fine. But I would appreciate it if you could pass my apologies on to Mari."
"I will do", Ted promised. "And I'm pretty sure that she already forgives you."
His conversation with Lydia dogged Ted as he got ready the following morning. The fact was that Vic's relationship with Hem - or rather, the end of it - had been the end of Ted's friendship with him. As much as Ted felt guilty that he had kissed Vic when she and Hem had still been together, anyone that cheated on Vic wasn't really worth much to Ted. Or had it been even earlier than that? Had their friendship been doomed from the moment Hem and Vic had got together, Ted mused. Did his deeper feelings for Vic really go back that far?
Unable to find a concrete answer, Ted apparated to Godric's Hollow, hoping for a Magpies victory over the Wimbourne Wasps. He stepped inside the back door, and found Harry serving up some french toast to Al and Lily; their treat breakfast that only ever seemed to be served when Ginny wasn't there.
"Morning, Ted!" Lily shouted excitedly as she put lashings of mayple syrup on top of her breakfast.
"Lily, I think that's enough", said Harry. "You don't want too much sugar, do you? How are you, Ted? There's some extra there if you haven't had any breakfast yet."
"I actually already ate." Ted cursed the two slices of toast he had made himself. "You guys looking forward to the match?"
"I can't wait!" grinned Al. "James was mad when Lily and I wrote to him that we were going! He's never been to one of these finals before."
"Well, I'm sure he'll get to go to one at some point", said Ted. "You excited too, Lily bean?"
"Yep! And daddy is coming with us this time as well, aren't you, daddy?"
"That I am." Harry turned to Ted. "Ginny had to head off early - there's some sort of press conference for the coaches about now, and she had to go and report their team news. Listen, thanks again for getting us tickets. I haven't been to one of these finals since Ginny was playing for the Harpies."
"I'm sure you could have got tickets if you'd really wanted them", Ted pointed out. Aside from Ginny's Quidditch contacts and the fact that the England coach had been Harry's first Gryffindor team captain, Harry pretty much had an 'in' for most things in the wizarding world. Ted found it hard to think of someone saying no to him.
"I haven't seen Wes or Katya much over the last week or two; they've been too busy with training for the match."
"Victoire written recently? I haven't seen Bill or Fleur since last Sunday."
"Yeah, she had her last exam yesterday." Ted smiled as he thought to the parcel he had sent to her earlier that week filled with chocolate and butterbeer. He had also included a small bottle of firewiskey and - considerately - a couple of hangover potions in case it affected Vic and Nat too much. "I think she's looking forward to coming home for the summer. Its strange to think that James has been at Hogwarts for almost a year now."
"I know", admitted Harry. "Time has been passing by so quickly - and Al will be going after the summer. And Rosie."
They headed over to the national stadium early, and soon found that it had been a good idea to do so; the VIP area that their tickets entitled them to watch the match from was crowded, and as Ted had promised to keep seats for Mari and Rowland they were lucky to get a group of seats near to the front.
"Nightmare getting through!" Mari exclaimed as she and Rowland turned up. She hugged Ted, said hello to Al and Harry, and then went to sit next to Lily.
"We got caught behind the lead singer of that dance music band you hate - WellTuned Witches? - and her entourage."
"Melody Cartwright?" Ted doubted that was really the so-called singer's first name, but it was the one she went by. Rowland nodded.
The match itself was one of the dullest that Ted had sat through since Wes had joined the Magpies, and the only interesting incident was when one of the Wimbourne Chasers had his nose broken by a Bludger hit at close range by one of Wes's team-mates. A tad squeamish at times, Ted had been glad to see it from the VIP section and not close at hand. In the end, the Magpies pulled out a victory by a margin of two hundred and fifty to ninety.
"Is it finished now, then?" Lily asked as people around them started to move. Ted could not disagree with the sentiment; it had certainly been a game to forget. That said, he was delighted for Wes, who now had his first professional medal and had scored four goals. It would certainly make up for the Arrows taking the league title on goal difference.
"The match is finished, but there's still the presentation to go", Harry told her, pointing up to a large box on the other side of the stadium where Ted noted that the Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, Gwenog Jones (herself a former winner of the trophy with the Holyhead Harpies) was getting ready to present the cup.
"Your mum won that cup a couple of times when she played for the Harpies", Harry told Al and Lily. "Before James was born. Ted probably doesn't remember coming here to watch the finals she played in."
"I don't", Ted admitted as he turned to watch the presentation ceremony. The Wasps team went up first to collect their runners-up medals, and their captain, Pryce, was presented with a small shield to commemorate the day. Then, the Magpies team went up one at a time to receive their medals and the trophy, the captain bringing up the rear so everyone would be presented with their medals before the cup was lifted. It astounded him that just under a year after they had left Hogwarts, one of his best friends was actually part of the winning team in a professional Quidditch final.
"Feels weird, doesn't it?" Rowland said to him. "It seems like only yesterday Wes and I were playing in the Gryffindor team together. And now, its like he's a real Quidditch player."
"That's because he is", Ted smiled.
"You're coming to the after-party?" Ted nodded; the party was due to be held at the Magpies stadium, and portkeys had been arranged to transport anyone who did not wish, or was unable, to apparate. "Mari and I are going as well."
"Ted, we're going to leave now", Harry came over and told him. "I promised Ron and Hermione we would go over after the match, and stay for dinner. Ginny is going to join us once she's sent off her article for the Evening Prophet. I take it you'll be at The Burrow for Sunday lunch tomorrow? I think Andromeda is coming as well."
"Yes, and yes", Ted confirmed. He hugged Lily goodbye, and clapped Al's shoulder.
"Thank you for bringing us, Teddy", chirped Lily. "I don't like Quidditch as much as Al and James do, but I had lots of fun."
"That's alright, Lily bean."
"I......I didn't want to say before, but I notice that someone didn't come over and speak to us", said Rowland once Harry, Al and Lily had left.
"Yeah, I noticed that too", added Mari.
"I'm sorry", said Ted. "I know he's your friend, and I don't want to get in the way of that; if you want to go over and speak to him then you can."
"Your friend?" said Mari perceptively. "Not ours?"
"I don't know", shrugged Ted. "The way his relationship with Vic ended.......and he's changed since we left Hogwarts. Aside from the fact that we both seem to want to be in a relationship with Vic, I don't know that Hem and I have anything in common now."
"Yeah, you do have a bit of a point. He can be a bit of an idiot at times", admitted Rowland. "Anyway, we should be getting to the party. Don't want to miss out on the good food."
Rowland was right to hurry them, as Ted noted the food seemed to disappear almost as quickly, and the room was filled with Magpies players and staff and their friends and families. It seemed to Ted to be much busier than the similar party that been held at Valentine's. When it was busy, Ted pulled Mari to the side, and passed on Lydia's apology.
"Silly girl", smiled Mari as she sipped a glass of mead. "She should know that she doesn't need to apologise for him. And you don't need to worry either. I've told you more than once that I agree with you over how he treated Vic."
"And what.....what if it wasn't - what you know isn't the full story", Ted admitted.
"I thought he cheated on Vic with that Ava girl? Or did they not get together until after he and Vic had split up?"
"This goes no further than the two of us?" Mari nodded. Ted took in a deep breath, knowing he could trust Mari and her judgement. "Last but one New Year, when Vic and Hem were together, Caro and I had been arguing. A lot. I thought it was over between us. Then, at Harry's party, I got drunk and kissed Vic. I kissed her. That was the first time anything had happened with Vic - I had never thought of her like that before; at least not consciously. Then on the train back to Hogwarts, Caro and I got back together and that night Vic and I agreed that the kiss had meant nothing. She and Hem broke up about four weeks later when she caught him and Ava. I....didn't tell Rowland or Wes, though I'm pretty sure she told Nat."
"And Hem doesn't know about this?" Ted shook his head as Mari sighed. "Ted, I think its probably for the best that you don't tell anyone else. It would cause more trouble than its worth. And there is a difference - you and Vic had so much history. She wasn't a random snog or anything, and both of you at least had the manners to feel guilty about what you had done. Otherwise I wouldn't only be finding out about this now."
"Trust me, Ted. Its for the best." He nodded.
"So......not that I ever thought it was boring, but it seems like this whole thing with you and Vic sounds a lot more interesting than I've been led to believe", said Mari with a grin.
"In some ways I really don't understand the need for a Hogsmeade visit just before we go home for the summer", said Vic as she put her purse and a comb into her bag. "We'll be able to go to Diagon Alley for anything we want to shop for in a few days anyway."
"Not us mere muggleborns that have yet to get an apparition license", put in Nat, idling through a magazine as she waited for Vic to finish getting ready.
"Don't worry about it", she laughed. "I actually think its a good idea to give everyone a chance to relax after exams have finished and by giving us a Hogsmeade visit, the teachers give us more space to do that. We're not all cramped in the school itself and out on the grounds."
"I guess. I wish we were going home on Thursday or Saturday." Ted had, unfortunately, reminded her in his last letter that he would be unable to meet her at King's Cross as the support group wouldn't be finished in time. Vic had subsequently written off to her parents to ask if Ted could come over for dinner that night to make up for it and was awaiting their response.
"I'm sure your parents will say yes. And it really isn't going to be that long until you see Ted again."
"Right, that's me ready. Do we have time for breakfast?"
"That would depend on whether or not you want there to be anything left in Honeydukes when we get there." Nat stood up, and grinned at her, leaving Vic aware that her friend knew her far too well.
"Hogsmeade it is, then", laughed Vic as she moved towards the door. "And you're right - the holidays are coming up pretty quickly. Any plans at all?"
"A few. Dylan and his friends are going off to some music festival and they want me to go with them; my parents are taking me to Croatia for a week sometime, though I can't remember the dates - oh, and Ted said he was going to see about the St. Mungo's thing for me. How about you? It can't be that long after the holidays start that you'll be going to France for Gabrielle and Michel's wedding." They stepped through the Fat Lady's portrait and started walking along the corridor, Vic noting happily that the sun seemed to be holding its own against the seemingly encroaching cloud.
"Yeah. Its only a week or so", Vic sighed. She would get to spend a little time with Ted, and then be separated from him yet again when she went to her aunt's wedding. Part of her couldn't wait until Hogwarts was over properly so she and Ted could have a normal relationship.
"That dress you'll be wearing looks amazing. Do you know that I've never actually been a bridesmaid?"
"Really?" Vic was surprised; then she remembered that she had far more relations than Nat did. Well, close ones in any case.
"Only child of an only child, remember? And you would have been bridesmaid for.....?"
"Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry first of all. Uncle Percy and Aunt Audrey - Molly and Lucy's parents - were after that, and their wedding was probably the hardest one; they can both be very.....precise about what they want, and I remember going to lots and lots of dress fittings. Which isn't very interesting for a small child. Then Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione. And last was Uncle George and Aunt Ange. So Tante Gabrielle makes number five. Really I think I was asked so many times because I was the oldest." Vic pitied Uncle Charlie's wife if he ever found one; with she and her cousins all being old enough, the poor woman would either have to upset some of them by choosing just one or two, or have all of them as bridesmaids.
"With all of that experience, perhaps you could set up a business planning magical weddings if you don't think being an Obliviator is for you after you've spoken to Rowland and his girlfriend about it." Vic laughed, the sound echoing around the entrance hall as they joined the end of a long queue being checked out of the school against Filch's list.
"I'll think about it", Vic laughed again at the thought. Perhaps it would be interesting, though it certainly would be more stressful than obliviating and the hours would be longer. And Vic wasn't quite sure that she had the patience to deal with weeping brides-to-be.
"I hope you're not trying to sneak anything out", rasped Filch as he held some sort of detection device in front of them.
"Not today", smiled Vic in an attempt at humour.
"Better not be trying to sneak anything out for that cousin of yours. I've got my eyes on him and his friends! His grandfather and his uncles all over again, he is. And next detention he has with me, I'll be showing him the files!! They need sorting out again." He coughed, and Vic took it as her signal to leave. She thought it prudent not to mention firstly that he should not be worried about what James might try to sneak out of the castle, but rather what he might try to sneak in, and secondly that showing James what his grandfather, Uncle Fred and Uncle George did to get into detention might give him Ideas.
"I wonder what your cousin James did this time", mused Nat with a grin once they were out of Filch's earshot.
"I'm not sure I want to know", sighed Vic. "If I don't know, then I can't get into trouble for not telling Aunt Ginny what he's been up to. At least they don't expect me to be responsible for him all the time. I did promise to pick up some stuff from Zonkos for him; he gave me a few galleons for it. I don't know eactly what it is - he just gave me the product code. Perhaps it would be best for you to be the one that carries it on the way back."
"Maybe", shrugged Nat. "You have any other shopping to get out of the way quickly before we go to Honeydukes?"
"Why can't we go there first? We usually do."
"Because......I think we should give another shop a shot at being first for once. It would be rude not to. And besides, whatever it is that James wants might sell out quickly. You don't want to disappoint the cousin that can cause you the most trouble, do you?"
"I suppose not." Though Vic couldn't help but feel that Nat was up to something. Nat had virtually insisted that Vic come to Hogsmeade with her, when Vic had said the other day that she might not go; she was messing up the order in which Vic wanted to visit certain shops, and there was something in her face that said she was keeping a secret. And Vic was desperate to know what it was.
"So, Zonkos first, then. I don't really need to buy anything today. Do you?"
"Other than what I'm getting for James and replenishing my chocolate supply, I promised Molly and Lucy some sugar quills. Aunt Audrey can be a bit of a squib when it comes to sugar. Thinks its evil. Aunt Hermione is the same, but that's probably because her parents were dentists before they retired."
"Excellent. So that should get us to Honeydukes...." Nat loooked down at her watch. "Yes. Before it gets too busy."
When they got to Zonkos, it transpired that the thing James had asked for could only be brought in by special order. "Oh", said Vic when the assistant told her. "Its for my cousin. Maybe he didn't realise."
"I doubt that. Anyone wanting such mischief making material would know that they are specialist goods......perhaps if you gave me your cousin's name, I could check our order book?"
"Sure, I guess. Thinking about it, he is the type to only give me half the information. James Potter."
"We do have an order for a Master J. Sirius Potter for the article you requested."
"Yes, that'll be him, changing about his name for the order and then not telling me anything about it", sighed Vic. He'd find it more amusing that way. The assistant went through the back, and emerged a couple of minutes later carrying a small box.
"Thank you", said Victoire as she handed over the money James had given her. "I take it everything is in here?"
"Oh, yes", the man smiled. "Your cousin has excellent taste."
"That doesn't set my mind at ease", Vic muttered under her breath as she and Nat left.
"What I don't understand is why he doesn't just order whatever is in that box from your uncle?" Nat asked as they turned left and started to walk towards Honeydukes. "Wouldn't he get it cheaper there?"
"Probably. After all, Uncle George does like to encourage new talent. But it makes it easier for Aunt Ginny to trace." They both burst into laughter, and Vic had to admit she found it funny how James, who pretended such bravado at times, could be put in his place so quickly by his mother. She had wondered once where Aunt Ginny had learnt how to do it, until she remembered that her grandmother would have had her Uncle Fred and Uncle George to keep in line.
In Honeydukes, Vic felt suspicious of Nat once again, when her friend suggested speeding up their time in there by picking up the sugar quills Vic had promised to get Molly and Lucy while Vic chose her own chocolates. Vic nodded, tried to focus on her chocolate buying and wondered yet again just what her friend was keeping from her.
"You're acting a little weird today", Vic informed Nat when she returned. "You.....you didn't agree to meet up with Jake Burton or something stupid like that, did you?"
"Um, no. And I would only be doing that if I were under a love potion. I just think its so sunny.....its summer.....its a day to be spending outside in Hogsmeade and not in any shops."
"I guess", agreed Vic as she picked up a third box of chocolate caramels. "Do you think this is enough to last me until we go home?"
"Vic, we're going home in SIX days."
"Yeah....." Once they had paid, Vic put her purse away as they left the shop. She then turned to Nat. "So, how about a drink at the Broomsticks?"
"I think that sounds like a great idea. I haven't been in there in ages", came a voice from behind her that most certainly did not belong to Nat. Vic's heart skipped a beat as she spun round. "TED!"
"I was last time I checked", he grinned before pulling her into a tight hug. "You have no idea how much I have missed you, and I figured you wouldn't mind if I butted in on your last Hogsmeade visit of the year."
"I'm going to ignore how much I hate surprises because I love that you're here", said Vic as she squeezed him tightly. She eventually let go and then turned to Nat.
"You knew about this!" It was not a question; it was now clear to Vic exactly why her friend had been acting so strangely over the past few days.
"Yes, I was a co-conspirator. I was instructed to make sure that you made it to Hogsmeade at the appropriate time. And speaking of the appropriate time, I should get going; I have plans to meet Dom and a few of her friends at Gladrags in about ten minutes or so. We'll meet you back here about half an hour before we need to be back up at the school so you can come up with us."
"Oh, Nat before you go - I spoke to Isadora, and she is fine with you observing one or two of the support groups", Ted told Nat. "In fact, she thinks it is a great idea and finds it encouraging that such broad-minded witches want to be Healers. She just wants me to clear it with one of the senior Healers at St. Mungo's first."
"Okay", nodded Nat. "And thank you so much for even asking for me."
"No worries. And hey - if you do get to come along, you'll also get to meet at least a couple of trainees, and find out what they think about working at Mungo's."
"That would be even better. Thank you sooooooo much, Ted! And I should really be going now."
"Thank you", said Vic sincerely, as she pulled Nat into a hug. "I don't know what I did to deserve as good a friend as you, but whatever it was I'm glad I did it."
"Me too. Have a good time, and I'll catch up with you later." As Nat walked off, Vic turned back to Ted, smiling broadly. Her day, which honestly hadn't really been too bad thus far, had just improved a thousand fold. She really, truly, did have the best boyfriend ever.
"Exactly when did you arrange this?" Vic asked Ted.
"When I replied to Nat's letter about St. Mungo's, I put a bit at the end in a sort of invisible ink that only appears to the person writing the letter and the person it is addressed to. And to be fair, she did exactly what I asked her to", said Ted as he took Vic's hand. "Now, I know I said a drink at the Broomsticks would be good - "
"But you want to be gawped at about as much as I do, and so you would prefer to go somewhere else, though preferably somewhere that isn't Madam Puddifoot's?" Ted laughed at the pleading look on her face. He had forgotten the hatred she had for the little teashop.
"Pretty much. I brought a picnic; I thought we could go out of the village a little bit - up towards where the caves are but not as far as the caves themselves." Ted lifted up the bag he had brought with him, filled with bought food and Honeydukes chocolate he had bought the previous day in the Diagon Alley store. Vic nodded, a big smile on her face, and Ted started to lead her off, delighted that he'd had the idea of gate-crashing her Hogsmeade visit.
Although Ted had seen Vic since her return to Hogwarts at the end of the Easter holidays - when he'd come to the Memorial Day service - it felt like far too long ago, and he'd spent the previous few days with a goofy grin on his face that he'd had the cause of forced out of him by Ginny. Who had promptly laughed at him in his lovesick state.
"You don't think this is over the top or anything? I ask hopefully", said Ted with a smile as they passed through the turnstile that took them out of Hogsmeade village.
"No. Actually, I think it is very sweet, very Ted-like and very thoughtful. And it makes me smile to think that you couldn't wait the extra six days until I get home. By the way, I wrote to maman and dad to ask if you could come over for dinner next Friday. I told them you wouldn't be able to make it to King's Cross because of Mungo's", Vic told him.
"Yes", Vic nodded. "I've decided its a thing. It means something that has the essence of Ted."
"And this is one of them?" Ted asked, amused.
"Yep. You see, I know you too well. Better than anyone."
"You know, that is probably true", Ted admitted, as he found that it wasn't quite as disconcerting as he would have thought, and realised that the same thing was probably true in reverse. "Do you find that weird? That we've skipped that bit at the beginning of a relationship where you get to know the other person properly."
"Not really", said Vic thoughtfully as she paused for a second in their walk. "I would actually have found it weird if there was much about you and I that the other one doesn't know." Though they had, Ted mused, obviously been mad about each other for ages without the other finding out.
"And now, I want to hear everything that I've missed while I've been at Hogwarts", said Vic.
"Well, I've written to you about all of it. But I can tell you again if you like. Before I do, though, I think we should lay out the picnic stuff here." He took a tartan rug out of his bag, and laid it on the ground, before handing Vic a couple of goblets and sitting down, Vic next to him. "Butterbeer?"
"Please." he poured drinks out for the two of them, and then asked her what exactly she wanted to know.
"Well", Vic began with a wicked grin. "How about when you told Wes and Rowland about us. That sounded like quite a funny story."
"Yes, funny for them." Ted made a face, and sighed dramatically. "We were at Mari's birthday party and they were all trying to set me up with a succession of dull, random girls, when I finally had enough and informed them in no uncertain terms that I didn't think my girlfriend would be too happy with me going out with one of the girls they were trying to set me up with."
"Quite right", Vic giggled as she started to root through the food bag. "And......what happened next?"
"They rolled around the floor laughing at me, Mari said that she'd figured something had happened - she thought we might have snogged, but that was it. Once they'd finished rolling around and laughing at me, they pointed out just about every single time that I'd denied liking you as anything more than a friend and made fun of me for it. Then they said that they had been sure we would end up together since the first time they met you."
"They met me between your first and second year", said Vic incredulously as she selected a ham roll.
"I know. But apparently the fact that I was able to accept the fact that you were a girl when I was twelve and not care about it, was apparently a sign to Wes and Rowland then that you and I were meant to end up together."
"That's.....a little bit mental." Ted laughed loudly.
"You have met Wes and Rowland, haven't you? Of course it was a little bit mental. They are a little bit mental."
"I'm - its good that they've taken it well", said Vic. "That they think we're doing the right thing. I always think that if you get on with the friends of the person you are going out with, then it makes life a lot easier."
"True", conceded Ted. "But Wes and Rowland were never going to take it badly, I don't think. And Mari and Katya have been really good too. Particularly Mari - she treats me like an honourary younger brother, which is quite nice. I've never had an older sister - or brother, and it makes a difference from being the older, responsible one. When I told her and Rowland that I was coming to meet you today, she said I was to tell you that they're all looking forward to seeing you again in the summer, and to make sure that you have plenty of time free for them."
"Wow", Vic raised her eyebrows. "That's really nice of her. I know that she's a few years older than Rowland and stuff. I did wonder sometimes if she saw me as just a child, really. Its nice to see that everyone is taking the news of our relationship so well. Almost too well."
"What do you mean too well?" Ted felt a little confused. He thought that the way he and Vic always got on was a good thing. It felt so much better than the constant rows he had been used to with Caro.
"I don't know", Vic shrugged. "Don't get me wrong - you and I feels so right. More so than anything ever in my life. I just never thought it would be this simple."
"If it makes you feel better, not EVERYONE has been overly positive", grimaced Ted.
"Oh?" Vic looked up at him nervously.
"Its not - its nobody you're related to........Hem was there when I told Wes and Rowland, and he didn't really take the news overly well. Said that friends didn't go out with friends' exes." Ted rolled his eyes as Vic moved over and lay her head on his shoulder.
"Its none of his business. I know that we were wrong - that kiss when I was still seeing him - but he kissed Ava in full view of anyone passing through that corridor. And I could never, ever regret that kiss we had, because I think it was the start of me realising that you were more than a best friend to me. Took me a long time to figure it all out, but that for me was a big turning point."
"Really?" Ted turned his head slightly to look down at Vic, brushing a stray, loose hair or two behind her ear.
"Yeah. He can't do anything to us. I didn't even know you were still friends with him. That said, I wouldn't object to him living happily ever after. Or Evan, for that matter."
"Yes, but you're a much nicer person than Hem is", Ted pointed out. "And I don't really count him as a friend. But Wes and Rowland do, I think, so I sometimes end up on the same night out as him. His girlfriend is really nice - she's a trainee at St. Mungo's - and we all think she's far too good for him. Anyway, we've wasted too much time talking about idiots like Hem. I bring family news, too."
"Oh?" Vic almost jumped up, and then sat, kneeling across from him. "Good family news, I hope?"
"Relax", Ted grinned. "Everyone is fine. Honest. Grams told me to say that she hopes you'll visit her during the holidays; Ginny says she can't wait to see you when you get home either. Apparently you owe her a long walk and chat?"
"I do", laughed Vic. "I promised her a talk about this guy I liked and was looking for advice about, but it never happened. Mostly because a few hours later he decided to kiss me and we've been together ever since."
"That better have been me", smiled Ted as he pulled Vic in for a kiss.
They spent the next few hours chattering away about rubbish and staring up at the sky, looking at cloud shapes. After Vic had proclaimed the last one to look like a hippogriff, Ted glanced at his watch and sighed heavily; it was time to pack up and start heading back down to the village.
"I wish this wasn't the end of our day", said Ted as he took Vic's hand, stopping her from packing away the goblets they had used. "I wish we could.....go for a walk on the beach near your house, and then I could take you out for dinner in Diagon Alley somewhere."
"That sounds amazing", sighed Vic. She looked up at him and smiled. "I wish we could do that too. In six days we can. Well, in six days I'll be home, and we can spend more time together, properly."
"Yeah. We can." They walked back to Hogsmeade slowly, until they were almost there and Ted realised that they were running late and they had to almost run the rest of the way.
"Hey. Stop", said Ted as they passed Schrivenshaft's. "I should...I should leave you here. I can see Nat, and Dom and the rest of them over by Honeydukes waiting for you."
"And you prefer to say goodbye to me in private?" Vic guessed.
"Something like that", he smirked. He kissed her softly, but quickly, pulling himself away before he made Vic even later than she already was. "I will see you in six days. Even if your parents are unable to invite me to dinner, I'll come over after and we can go for that walk on the beach we were talking about earlier."
"Sounds good", said Vic as she hugged him goodbye. He could feel her smile. "And thank you. For coming today, I mean. I had a really good time, and I was sort of not expecting to today. If that makes sense. And I miss you when I'm here and you're at home."
"It does", laughed Ted. "And I wasn't, you know, being totally unselfish or anything. I wanted to see you. I missed you, too."
Vic let go of his hand, and then turned towards Hogsmeade. "I need to go now."
"Bye. See you in six days."
Ted watched as Vic ran half the length of Hogsmeade village to where Nat and Dom were waiting for her. He smiled as she turned and waved back at him every few yards, doing so for the last time when she'd reached her sister and friends, who nudged her and pointed in his direction.
He apparated home knowing that had he felt anywhere like this before going out with Caro, that relationship would never have lasted a tenth of the time it had done. He hadn't had a proper girlfriend before her, and so Ted had never really experienced the sort of relationship where even the smallest thing - like going on a picnic together - was something special. Vic and he had just clicked in a relationship sort of way, and it had left Ted happier than he could ever remember being.
Last edited by MissGryffindor; June 24th, 2012 at 11:13 pm.
Its holiday time!!!
"You about ready yet?" Nat asked as Vic packed the last of her schoolbooks away in her trunk. It was the last night of term, and the outgoing Gryffindor seventh years had organised a party to celebrate the end of their school careers. Vic had, however, insisted on finishing her packing before going down to the party; past experience had taught her that the less she had to do on the morning the Hogwarts Express left the better.
"I am now." Vic closed her trunk and moved it to the end of her bed; only her toilet bag, the clothes she was wearing, and her pyjamas would need to be thrown in quickly the following morning.
"I am so excited!" Nat breathed as they left the empty dormitory; their dorm-mates had gone down to the party at least half an hour before, Ava Ackerley making snide comments about the lack of personality that must exist in someone that chose packing over partying.
"About the party?" asked Vic. "Or about going home tomorrow and seeing your parents and Dylan again?"
"A little bit of both. More the latter, though. And I'm looking forward to that session Ted's going to let me sit in on. He said that he pitched it as a possible future trainee being interested when he spoke to the Healer that is meant to oversee the group." Nat smiled as they walked downstairs, the faint sounds of an old Weird Sisters track becoming louder and louder. "Thanks again for suggesting I go when I'm staying over at yours - it'll make it so much easier, flooing rather than having to get the train down to London."
"No flooing for you, my friend", grinned Vic. "You're forgetting - I have my license now. We can apparate. I thought I might apparate to Mungo's with you, and then visit Uncle George and Aunt Ange while you're there. I could meet you at Ted's after."
"Hmmm. That's a good idea, actually." The noise grew louder as they stepped through the door that led up to the girls' dormitories. Most of Gryffindor House seemed to be at the party. Vic instantly spotted James laughing loudly in the corner with his friends; Dom and a few of the other fourth years were at the food and drinks table that had been set up, and Louis was sat on the sofa next to the fire with Genie McLaggen, Curtis Kirkwood and Kirkwood's girlfriend.
"Drinks first?" Vic suggested. Nat nodded, and the two of them wandered over to the table Dom was standing next to, helping themselves to butterbeers.
"Shame you don't have any of that firewhiskey Ted sent you left from the end of our exams", whispered Nat with a conspiratorial grin on her face.
"Even if I did, we used up all of the potions he sent with it", Vic replied as she led Nat over to where Dom stood with her friends Emme and Leigh-Anne. "Looking forward to the holidays, girls?"
"Two months of no school......", breathed Leigh-Anne happily. "The last freedom before we have to spend months upon months studying for our OWLs. And two whole months of my mother's cooking."
"The house elves' cooking isn't too bad", said Emme. "And I won't get to see Andrews during the holidays unless we meet up in Diagon Alley to get our books; he's muggle-born, so his family aren't connected to the floo network."
"I take it then that you don't live near each other, then?" Vic helped herself to a sausage roll as Emme shook her head.
"I live in Little Norton, and he stays in Anglesey", grumbled Emme. Vic smiled sympathetically, pleased that both she and her own boyfriend had their apparition licenses - and a floo connection - and so could see each other whenever they wanted to.
"On the subject of boyfriends", Nat muttered under her breath, nodding to the left of Vic. She turned to see Evan approaching her.
"Hi", he said bashfully.
"Hi", Vic responded nervously. She and Evan had tended to stay out of each other's way since their separation, and Vic had hoped that this would continue until the end of term. Evan was, after all, one of the outgoing seventh years; he would not be returning to Hogwarts after the summer. She could feel the eyes of Felicia and the rest of Evan's group of friends looking over at them.
"I was just - I was wondering if I could speak to you for a moment?" Vic nodded nervously, and allowed herself to be taken over to a quiet spot next to the window, on the opposite side of the room to the music.
"Is everything alright?" Vic asked, breaking the silence after a few moments.
"Yes. Fine. Actually, its great."
"Good. Me too." Vic tucked a stray hair behind her ear.
"I just - this is going to sound incredibly cheesy, but I'm leaving tomorrow. For good. And I just wanted to say goodbye and good luck, and that I hope everything works out for you", said Evan nervously.
"Thank you. The same to you", nodded Vic.
"That was pretty much all I wanted to say. That and - no hard feelings? I know things didn't work out between us, but that doesn't mean that I hate you or anything. Maybe its best this way. You seem happy recently, and Felicia and I.....well, we're going to Australia in a few weeks. Estella is letting us stay with her, and she's looking at jobs for me there. Felicia has a few trials sorted out with Australian Quidditch teams too."
"That's good. Evan....I know that I didn't always treat you as well as you deserved, but I tried to make it work. I tried very hard." Vic gazed out of the window for a moment, and then turned back. "And I think you look happy too."
"I should go back to everyone. Its going to be weird without them." Evan turned to walk away, and then paused, looking back. "And Victoire? I hope it works out - Ted, I mean. I still think he liked you the whole time we were together."
"He did." A broad grin formed on Vic's face, as it always did when she spoke or thought about Ted. "And things are working out between us. Just......don't say anything to anyone. We're keeping it quiet for a while. Its a bit of an adjustment for us, you see."
"I won't say anything. Congratulations."
"Thank you. Enjoy Australia." Evan nodded, and then walked back over to where his friends were. Vic noted that as soon as he got there, Felicia drew him as close to her as possible. Vic grinned, shook her head, and walked back over to where Nat, Dom and the others were unsubtly staring at her.
"What was all that about?" Nat asked instantly as she handed Vic another butterbeer.
"Thanks. Nothing, really. He just wanted to say goodbye and good luck. It was a bit strange, actually." Vic had not spoken to Hem since the day they had split up, and it wouldn't bother her if she never spoke to him again; with Evan, who had treated her so well and had not deserved the way she had treated him, it was different. It was still awkward (though in a different way) and Vic wished she was experienced enough to make it less so, to be able to have a proper conversation with Evan without cringing at herself.
The following day, Vic awoke late, but not so late that she did not have time to grab some toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast while having a giggle at her dorm-mates Ava, Kara and Erykah, who - having teased Vic the night before for packing while the party was underway - were now upstairs, hungover and throwing everything in their trunks in a panic.
"Karma", said Vic with a grin as she poured herself a glass of pumkin juice.
"Karma", agreed Nat, raising her own glass of juice in a toast. "So, when is Ted coming over tonight?"
"Around six", beamed Vic. "I know its only been six days since I saw him in Hogsmeade, but I can't wait!! Maybe he could make it a regular thing - perhaps not for every visit, but for some of them."
"Like....the one at Valentine's, perhaps?" Nat suggested with a look of innocence on her face as she took a second sausage.
The journey felt longer to Vic than ever, and she wondered if it was because she was so desperate to see Ted. She had been relieved when her mother had written back to say that there were no problems whatsoever with Ted coming over for dinner, and a little embarrassed at the hints her mother had made about how much she was missing her boyfriend; Vic had no desire whatsoever to hear about how much her parents had missed each other on the occasions when her mother had been forced to travel alone to France.
When they finally reached the Leaky Cauldron - and her father had happily watched Dom and Louis settle in the same muggle taxi - and been handed butterbeers by Hannah, Vic found herself cornered by her godmother.
"You owe me a walk and a catch-up chat", Ginny informed her with a grin. "And I intend to collect on that soon."
"So Ted told me", replied Vic with a smile. "And I have free time before we go to France a week on Monday. Maybe I could come over on Monday or Tuesday, and we could catch up then? That's my favourite part of being at home - getting to catch up with everyone! So, at the end of the summer, Al and Rosie will be coming to Hogwarts too. Are they excited?"
"Very. You know Al hates being far behind James in everything, and Rosie is her mother all over again; she's far too keen to learn not to be excited." Like Vic, Rosie was Ginny's god-daughter. Vic nodded, and glanced at the other side of the room, where James was regaling his father with tales of the last term of his first year at Hogwarts, and Al was looking on, trying his hardest not to appear impressed.
With her mother and Ginny's attention soon diverted to Hannah, who was inviting them to an upcoming party to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her marriage to Neville, Vic sat in the corner, studying her extended family.
Lily was chatting away to Dom, telling her all about what she was learning at her muggle school and complaining that she was not yet able to go to Hogwarts. She missed James, and would miss Al as well after the summer - a loss that would be compounded by Rosie, the cousin Vic had always felt Lily was closest too, going as well. A small part of Vic was dreading being a prefect with both James and Al at school. Being so close in age, they were far too competitive. Gryffindor House would be a very interesting place to be over the next twelve months. Her father was talking to Louis, though about what, Vic could not hear. They seemed to be in close discussion, and Vic wondered fleetingly if it had something to do with Genie.
As she looked over at them, smiling at the knowledge that she was surrounded by a large, slightly mad though loving family, and that she had two whole months to spend as much time as she could with them, Vic's thoughts were interrupted by her mother.
"Victoire, you are ready to go 'ome, ma petite?" Vic nodded, and smiled. "I ave made Bouillabaisse for ze dinner. I 'ope zat Teddy weel like eet."
"I'm sure he will", she agreed. "And thank you, maman. And I - I don't just mean for inviting Ted for dinner; I mean for everything. I know that you really didn't expect what happened, but......."
"Victoire, when I went to 'Ogwarts avec Beaxbatons, I never theenk that I weel meet ze man zat I weel marry. Mais no, I met your fazzer!" Her mother took her hand, and smiled, and Vic knew instantly that she had an ally; the time her parents had been granted to get used to the idea - the reality - of her relationship since her birthday had obviously worked in her favour.
Ted wandered round the room, checking the potions that the members of his support group were working on; they always used Fridays to work on making Wolfsbane, Ted wandering around, smiling, checking their progress and wishing that the Ministry had the sense to hand it out for free. After all, it would dramatically reduce the chances of people being bitten at the full. Obviously it wouldn't stop monsters like Greyback, but those that didn't want to pass on their lycanthropy would jump at the chance to help protect those around them.
"Ted, that's almost five thirty." One of the trainees, Reena, tapped Ted on the shoulder and pointed up at the clock on the wall. Ted nodded, and smiled at the thought that in half an hour he would get to see Vic again.
"That's our time almost up for today", said Ted. "If we pack everything away, we can work on the potion again next Friday. When we're finished, if anyone has anything they need to ask before next week, just ask."
Luck appeared to be on Ted's side, as no one approached him for advice once everything had been tidied up (though his extensive talks with the entire group individually throughout the course of their session may have had something to do with it, he mused).
"Good session today, Ted", said Reena as she helped him put away the last of the cauldrons. Reena was something of a Potions genius, and so tended to fulfill her required attendance by coming on Fridays.
"Thanks", he said gratefully. It always made him feel more confident in what he was doing when one of the Healers or their trainees praised his support group.
"You got anything planned for the weekend?"
"I am going to my girlfriend's house for dinner tonight. And my godfather's eldest got back from Hogwarts today, so I'll go over tomorrow to see him, and I think I've got a lunch invite on Sunday. And somewhere in there I hope to relax for five minutes!" Ted laughed.
"Ah. I see. Have you......been seeing each other long?"
"Just under three months, but we've known each other since we were in nappies and fighting over toy wands", smiled Ted happily. He dropped the last of his files in his bag, and said goodbye to Reena before heading to the reception area and apparating to Shell Cottage.
In spite of the time of year, the beach seemed to be almost deserted, though Ted could see a few muggles swimming in the sea in the distance. He took a deep breath in, double checked that the bottle of mead and large box of Honeydukes chocolates he had purchased were still in his bag, and knocked quickly before walking into the house.
"Hello?" Ted called as he entered the kitchen. Fleur, who must have only been in the sitting room, was first to come through and hugged him tightly.
"Teddy!" Eeet is good to see you! Victoire ees unpacking her theengs. Dominique et Louis aussi. Beel is in ze seeting room."
"Thanks. I'll just go through, then. He went through nervously; Ted didn't really have much experience in dealing with fathers. When he and Caro had been dating, he had met her father twice - perhaps three times - in just under two years, and then only fleetingly, whereas he had met her mother at least a dozen times, and so had soon felt completely at ease with her. While he had known Bill all his life - Bill and Fleur had even been the first people his father had gone to tell about his birth - it was a bit different doing so not only as the boyfriend of his eldest daughter, but with said eldest daughter. He hoped fervently that Bill would continue to treat him normally (as Fleur had) as he had done since the Memorial Day service.
"Hey", said Ted as he walked into the room, a flashback to Wes saying he thought Bill was scary running through his mind. He sat down on the sofa opposite Bill, and lay his bag down on the floor after removing the mead. "I, um - I brought this for you and Fleur."
"Thanks." Bill took it and laughed. "Ted, I'm really not as scary a father as you seem to think I am. You don't need to look so nervous! Your parents would probably amused if I was, but for Vic's sake, I won't pretend to be. At least, not this time."
"Cool. I mean, thanks", said Ted before joining Bill in laughter. This was fine; he had been for dinner at Shell Cottage dozens of times, and as Bill chattered away about the end of the Quidditch season and the favourites for the European Championships, Ted started to feel more at ease - more like he usually did when invited at Shell Cottage, and around Bill at Godric's Hollow and The Burrow.
"I think it'll end up being between Russia and France", Bill concluded. "Ireland are nowhere near as good as they used to be, Oliver Wood has the coaching skill but not the players to win the tournament, and although Sweden are the holders, their best players have retired since last time around."
"I have.....no idea who will win", admitted Ted. "I think Wes is torn about what to do if England end up playing Russia. I think, maybe, he's a bit relieved that he isn't playing internationals yet - trying to score goals against his girlfriend might prove a little bit awkward."
"Ted!" He looked up to see a beaming Vic coming down the stairs. "I - I didn't know you were here - I was just doing some unpacking."
"I haven't been here long", he managed to say before Vic wrapped her arms tightly round him and said that she'd missed him. Ted vaguely heard Bill mutter something in the background about giving Fleur the bottle of mead.
"My father can be very un-subtle when he wants to be", smiled Vic as she leaned in, and kissed Ted. They were interrupted soon, however, by Dom coming downstairs and commenting that she hoped that he and Vic weren't going to spend all their time together doing that and blocking out everyone else.
"Of course not. Have to come up for breath every so often, don't we?" Ted winked at Vic, who smiled and laughed.
"He's teasing, Dom. But you must make allowances for the fact that I don't get to see Ted every single day." She turned to face him. "A walk on the beach after dinner to work off our meal? We can avoid Dom's sensibilities then."
"Sounds like a good idea", agreed Ted, who then remembered the box of Honeydukes chocolates he had in his bag. He walked over to the sofa, took them out, and handed them to Vic.
"For you. My favourite chocoholic", Ted grinned.
"You're worse than I am", Vic nudged Ted. "And its completely your fault that I love it as much as I do. After all, it was you that got me addicted to the stuff."
After dinner, when Fleur commandeered Dom and Louis to do the dishes while she and Bill helped themselves to a glass of mead - "The advantages of having the three of you home for the holidays", according to Bill - Ted reminded Vic of her suggestion.
"Oh. Of course. Maman? Dad? Ted and I are going to walk off our dinner on the beach."
"Just watch for the tide coming in", called Bill as they went out the back door. "The muggles will think its a bit strange if you have to apparate off the rocks on the far end of the beach!"
"Have I ever mentioned how cool your parents are?" Ted asked as he took Vic's hand. She smiled and nodded as they walked through the garden, past Dobby's headstone, and down the winding path that led to the massive stretch of sand next to Shell Cottage.
"You know, when we were little I was incredibly jealous of you living right on the beach", said Ted as he let go of Vic's hand long enough for them to remove their shoes. Vic had once told him that she felt one of the little luxuries of being at home was being able to feel the sand between her toes when she walked along the beach. The next time Ted had visited, he had been converted.
"Really?" Vic replied.
"Of course; all kids want to live by the beach. Its probably something that has never occured to you because you always have done."
"I guess. Come here." Vic tugged on Ted's hand and pulled him down to the ocean, where the water was very shallow. "Ah, paddling. Isn't the water nice and cool?"
"Very. And hopefully this heatwave is here to stay. Oh, listen - I forgot to say - do you remember when I saw you in Hogsmeade I mentioned that Grams was hoping you would come to visit?" Vic nodded slowly. "Don't worry....nothing bad.....she was just wondering if maybe you could make it over for lunch one day next week before you go to France?"
"Sure. I can probably make it later on in the week - I promised Aunt Ginny I would go over to Godric's Hollow on Monday or Tuesday; I think we might sort something out on Sunday when we go to Gramma's for lunch."
"You can sort things out with Grams then as well", Ted suggested. "But....I hope that as well as seeing Grams and your millions of relations, you'll also find some time to fit in seeing me?"
"Hmm", said Vic, faking a contemplative expression as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "I think I might just be able to fit you in somewhere....."
"Good", Ted whispered as she moved in to kiss him. "Because I plan on being around a lot this summer. Particularly where you are concerned."
When Ted returned home that evening and looked back on his trip to Shell Cottage he couldn't help but smile. Lots. Vic was home for the summer, and they had two whole months - her visit to France aside - to spend together, and although Ted would be working most of the time, he was already planning to spend as many evenings as possible at Shell Cottage or at his flat with Vic. Then there would be Saturday lunches he could take her out for; evenings at the Leaky with Wes, Rowland and their girlfriends; trips to pre-season Quidditch games.
He had been a little worried that it would be awkward, being in a relationship with Vic around her parents, but in a way it had turned out to be an extension of how things were with Vic herself - different, but in a good way. Now, Ted felt even more that he was considered one of the family. And he fervently hoped that this would last as long as he intended his relationship with Vic to - a very long time.
Thank you to all who left such lovely feedback - here is another chapter, which, I promise, will contain more action!!
On Sunday afternoon, Vic felt a little bit ashamed as she admitted to herself that being able to apparate to her grandparents' house and the fact that she was going to be able to spend time with Ted were making her just as excited for the day ahead as catching up with the grandparents she had not seen since the Memorial Day service at Hogwarts.
"Freedom", a satisfied Vic said to herself as she apparated into the garden at The Burrow and immediately met her grandmother, who had been out to feed the chickens.
"Gramma!" Vic exclaimed as she flung her arms around her grandmother. "I missed you!"
"Victoire! Oh, how you've grown." Her grandmother extracted herself from Vic's hug and stood back, assessing her critically. "Hmmm, you'll need some filling up, though, I think. Good thing I made a seventh chicken, and that extra leg of lamb, and put on the extra potatoes......and there will be desert as well, of course."
"I'm sure it'll be fabulous as always", smiled Vic. "Maman and dad will be along in a few minutes, and Dom and Louis too."
"And how are Dominique and Louis? The three of you are growing up far too fast", commented her grandmother as she took Vic's arm and steered her towards the house. "I can't believe that after the summer you will be starting your last year at Hogwarts - and Albus and Rosie will start their first. So many of you away for so much of the year......"
"I can't quite believe it either", agreed Vic with a sigh. But then, although finishing at Hogwarts would mean leaving the castle forever, it would also mean being able to spend more time with Ted - having a real relationship with him rather than the long-distance one they currently had for much of the time.
"Have you decided yet what you want to do when you leave Hogwarts?"
"I've got a few ideas", Vic acknowledged. "But I've still to decide on something definite. How is Gramps?"
"Oh, fine as always. He's out tinkering with muggle things in that shed of his. He and Hugo have been thick as thieves over something the past few days - and then Hermione told me that her parents had given Hugo a morotised toy for his birthday, so they've probably been taking it apart to find out how it works." Vic supressed a giggle as her grandmother shook her head; the family knew all too well how her grandfather could get about muggles and muggle devices, and how her grandmother pretended to be frustrated about it.
"I haven't been able to get over to Uncle Ron's since I got back, so I haven't seen Hugo and Rosie yet - actually I've only really seen Lily and Al because they were at King's Cross picking up James."
"And was he behaving himself this term? His uncles all over again that boy...." Vic tightened her hold on her grandmother and smiled softly; she knew how much Uncle Fred's death still played on her grandmother's mind and not a day went by that a member of the family - indeed multiple members of the family - did not think of him.
As they walked towards the house, Vic looked up at her grandparents' home - the scene of so many childhood memories! All of her father's siblings had been married from there (unwed Uncle Charlie aside) and then there had been the sundays she had spent running around the garden as a small child with her cousins, and with Ted. In a way, she still had that - only now Quidditch was the game of choice after they had eaten. Dom, Louis, James and a few of the younger ones would be up on broomsticks, playing against each other. Ted and Vic, as the eldest two, would always select the teams to make sure that they were as even as possible.
It had been in this house that Vic's cat allergy had been identified; that she had broken her wrist a few weeks after her seventh birthday, trying to copy Ted in tree climbing; that her grandmother gathered them all around the fire at Christmas to listen to Celestina Warbeck on the WWN. To Vic, it was yet another family home.
"Look who has just arrived", beamed her grandmother as they walked in to find Uncle George, Aunt Angelina and her cousins Freddie and Roxie exiting the floo. Vic hugged them all in turns.
"Victoire! I can't believe how grown up you look!" Angelina exclaimed, hugging Vic. "It seems only yesterday that George was bringing me over to visit and you were a little thing trying to keep up with everything Teddy did!"
"Thanks. I think", Vic replied as she returned her aunt's hug. She had always felt herself to be extremely lucky with her aunts and uncles; there was not a problem that could not be solved by one of them. They all meant a lot to her, though sometimes in very different ways.
The arrival of Uncle George's family was quickly followed by the rest of her own, and not long after everyone had arrived - including Rolf and Luna, who were at home for once and had been badgered into coming by her grandmother, who had met them in the Apothecary a few days earlier.
"Well, this is nice", said her grandmother, beaming once they had eaten. "I love having you all home for the holidays."
"I don't", James grumbled from the other end of the table next to Ted. He had been claimed by Al and James before he could sit next to Vic, and so the younger cousins - completely unaware of their relationship - had unwittingly conspired to keep them apart. Ordinarily it wouldn't have bothered Vic, so close to the beginning of the holidays, but her trip to France was on the horizon (just eight days away) and she wanted to spend as much time with Ted as possible before her departure. Vic hated it a little bit that she felt like she had become so reliant on him......but being with him felt so natural, so right, that she couldn't help it.
"What's wrong, James? Are we not good enough for you" Ginny asked, grinning.
"I get to play less Quidditch, and I don't get to use magic", he replied, folding his arms.
"Well, your father and I are sorry that we're not cool enough for you, James. You're stuck with us."
"Luna has news to share", Rolf announced in the midst of James's grumbles.
Yes, I do", said Luna dreamily. Vic leaned round Roxie and Rosie, gazing up the other end of the table where Luna - who seemed to Vic to appear more serene than usual, if that were possible - sat.
"Rolf and I are going to have two babies. Twins."
"Luna!" Aunt Ginny exclaimed as she stood up and went over to hug Luna. "Congratulations! When?"
"After the Winter Solstice", she replied placidly as she returned Ginny's hug and the extra serenity began to make sense to Vic. She smiled happily in Luna's direction, and wondered what it was like to have a child, to be pregnant, even. But that particular event would be far off in her life; like Aunt Ginny and Aunt Hermione - and to a certain extent her mother - Vic wanted to have some semblance of a career as well as marriage before having a child.
"Isn't it great about Rolf and Luna?" Vic asked Ted a little later. After the meal had been cleared away and the younger cousins had either gone off to play Quidditch or hide and seek, Vic and Ted had stolen away to the back of the chicken coop. It was the best place to find privacy at The Burrow, and they were currently sat on the grass, Vic's head resting on Ted's shoulder as she snuggled into him.
"Yeah. And there are so many children running around the place that I guess another couple won't make much difference", he responded cheekily. Vic nudged him. "Hey!"
"What?" Vic said innocently. "Did you hear Lily? She asked Luna if she would be related to the babies, or could be godmother because she was a bridesmaid at the wedding. Aunt Ginny said no; that she would just be an honourary cousin."
"Ah, to be nine years old", sighed Ted. "Do you remember that, being nine?"
"Yes. I tried to stop you going away to Hogwarts, and when that didn't work I tried to join you, remember?"
"Ah, the ageing potion incident."
"The ageing potion incident", nodded Vic in agreement as she noted the stifled laughter coming from Ted. "I think I was just desperate to catch up to where you were, because you were my best friend and when you went to Hogwarts it felt a little bit like you were leaving me behind."
"So.....", Vic continued. "We're finally alone."
"Finally", Ted agreed.
"Boys can be so stupid sometimes", Vic murmured under her breath, too soft for anyone to hear, and then switched her position so she could kiss Ted. She started off softly, and then sunk into it like there had never been an interlude since their last one. Vic wasn't certain what the etiquette was about talking to your current boyfriend about the previous one(s) but she was pretty sure that Ted would be glad to hear that of he, Hem and Evan, it was Ted's kisses that she liked best.
"ROX-Ooooohhhh! Sorry!" Vic separated from Ted to find Aunt Angelina standing in front of them, looking embarrassed. "Ted - Vic - I am so sorry! I didn't realise....."
"Its fine. We - ", Vic stumbled over her words as she and Ted stood up, looking a little sheepish.
"I really didn't realise....."
"That's because not everyone knows", said Ted, taking her hand and giving Vic a little reassurance.
"That's right", added Vic, feeling a little more certain. "Some of the family do, some don't - the truth is that its been a little weird for Ted and I the last three months. We've been best friends as long as we can remember......we want to make sure that this is right and have some breathing space to deal with it ourselves before everyone knows about it. This summer - to ourselves before the family close in on us and try to make things awkward. So please.....if you wouldn't mind?"
"You don't want me to say anything?"
"That would be helpful", said Ted. He glanced at Vic and smiled softly. "Its not like we're trying to deceive anyone or anything - Grams and Bill and Fleur know about us. This - its a big deal and we want to make sure."
Vic nodded in agreement with Ted, knowing that she didn't need more time; she was sure - and it seemed to her like Ted was as well.
"Well, I'll leave you two alone - I was just looking for Roxie." Angelina smiled and wandered away, murmuring something that sounded to Vic about losing bets, and left she and Ted alone.
One thing was for sure: in the Weasley family, nothing remained secret for long.
The following Saturday, Ted was finishing off his breakfast of tea and toast when Vic knocked on his door, having apparated into the building. It was their last proper time together before she went to France on Monday; the following day would, for Vic and the rest of the Bill Weasleys, be split between packing and other preparations for France, and Grandma Weasley's Sunday dinner at The Burrow.
"You can just apparate into the flat, I really don't mind", Ted told Vic through the last few crumbs of his toast as he ushered her in.
"Its polite to knock before you enter someone else's home", Vic replied as she hugged him tightly. She kissed him good morning, and they went through to the kitchen so Ted could finish his tea.
"Do you have much shopping to do?" he asked her.
"Not really. Honeydukes? And I promised my mother I would pick up some perfume at Sabina's Scents - they sell one that Tante Gabrielle really likes, and maman wants to take a bottle over for her. How about you?"
"Honeydukes." He had an inkling Vic knew, but Ted would never admit aloud that Honeydukes was his favourite shop, both in Diagon Alley and in Hogsmeade; he felt that having left Hogwarts he should at least act like an adult, and saying that your favourite shop was one that sold sweets did not - in Ted's mind anyway - sound very grown-up.
"Ted, you're going to turn into chocolate one day, you eat that much of it", Vic teased sweetly. "And then, you'll be eaten."
"As long as its you doing the eating, I'm not really too bothered", Ted blurted out. Vic had an unidentifable look on her face for a few seconds before bursting into laughter. "I'm sorry - that sounded awful!"
"Its alright", smiled Vic, once they had both finished laughing. "Its part of your unique Ted-ness. And I'm sure you'd make very tasty chocolate - after all, you only eat the best."
They left the flat soon after, heading out of the building and into Diagon Alley. It was a busy Saturday - one made busier by the school holidays and parents treating newly returned children to new robes from Madam Malkins as they had grown out of their old ones, large sundaes at Fortescues and the latest magical mischief tools at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes - and Ted and Vic found it hard to make their way through the crowds. Ted had booked a lunch table for them at the restaurant they had visited when Vic was home at Easter, and which he knew she had instantly loved. It was an expensive one, but given that she would be leaving for France in two days and that Ted loved spoiling Vic, he figured it was well worth it.
"Oh, look - they have a summer sale on! Maman will be pleased", said Vic with a smile as they reached Sabina's Scents and pointed at the display in the window. Ted nodded happily, and followed Vic inside feeling a little lucky - he had decided when she'd mentioned visiting this particular store to get her a bottle of whichever scent she wished, and it was therefore not only Fleur that was going to benefit from the seasonal reductions.
Ted followed Vic inside and was immediately astounded and almost drowned by the smells that permeated the store. He instantly picked up vanilla and caramel, toffee, chocolate, Vic herself and peppermint. The shelves were covered in bottles of verying shapes, sizes and colours, and a dreamy looking woman that reminded Ted a little of Luna Lovegood - now Luna Scamander - as she gazed over at them. Ted himself wondered as he glanced around the shop if he had taken some Felix Felicis by mistake that morning - not only was there a sale, this store was nowhere near as busy as the rest of the Alley had been outside.
"Come on." Vic took Ted's hand and led him over to the counter, where she spoke to the dreamy looking woman, who Ted saw from her name badge was called Aurelia.
"How can I help you?"
"Hi, I would like to buy a large bottle of Solis Occasus, please", said Vic, letting go of his hand to remove her purse from the pretty satin bag that one of the aunts had given to Vic for her last birthday.
"Let's see......", Aurelia ducked down and looked under the counter for a few moments, resurfacing with a large lilac-dusky pink bottle. "Would you like it gift-wrapped, miss?"
"Please", nodded Vic, before turning to Ted with a smile. "I remember when I was little, every year Grandmere and Tante Gabrielle came over to stay, we would come here, and Tante Gabrielle would buy a bottle of this perfume."
"A creature of habit, just like you are", Ted replied as he took her hand back again.
"Two galleons, seven sickles, please." Aurelia handed Vic a wrapped parcel, and find took it, replacing it with the requested galleons and sickles.
"Thanks." Vic put the parcel and her purse away, and turned to leave, before Ted asked her what her favourite perfume in the store was.
"Oh. I don't know, actually. Why?"
"I want to get you some, so you can take it away on holiday with you."
"Ted, you really don't have to - "
"I want to", he told her firmly, before turning to Aurelia. "Is there anything special you have in at the moment, then?"
"There is.......Essence of You", she replied slowly.
"Essence of Rue?" Ted asked, puzzled.
"Of You. Its only to be used for couples, which I sense you are?" Ted nodded. "Yes, well, we take a hair from your girlfriend, one from you, and use it to make a unique perfume. Its normally seven galleons, but as part of our summer sale it is currently reduced to three."
"What do you think?" Ted asked Vic, biting his lip. He wondered if she would think it too soon into their relationship to make a perfume that was uniquely them.
"It sounds lovely, but Ted - if you're sure?"
"I'm sure." They each removed a hair, and handed it over to Aurelia.
"Now, as you can imagine this cannot be brewed instantly. If you return in an hour or so, it will be ready for you."
"That's fine", said Ted, handing over payment in advance. "We'll come back and pick it up after lunch. Thanks."
They walked out the shop, Vic whispering in his ear that he needed to stop spoiling her like this before he used up all the gold in his Gringotts account, and Ted replying firmly that Vic was worth every single knut he spent on her. Their next stop, Honeydukes, was not as quiet and Ted had to push them through a crowd to reach the section of the store that held their favourites. Sadly, the hot chocolate powder Ted liked was sold out, and Vic could only find one of the Deluxe boxes she usually bought in dulpicate or triplicate. Finally, the queue was so long that they only just made it to the restaurant in time for the reservation that Ted had made.
"Are you going to get the same thing as last time?" Ted asked as he nudged closer to Vic, sharing her menu regardless of the fact that two of them lay on the table. He smiled at the thought of his good luck continuing; they had been given a quiet table near the back, and for the first time since they'd left the flat, Ted felt that he and Vic were getting the alone time they had promised each other for the day.
"I think I'll go for the salmon this time", replied Vic as Ted felt her foot rest on his beneath the table. "What about you?"
"Hmmm", muttered Ted peaceably as he scanned the menu. "I think I'll go for the Chicken and Leek Crumble."Once they had ordered their meals and a glass of mead each, they were left to only each other's company for a little while until their lunch arrived.
"I'm really starting to like this restaurant", said Vic as she sipped from her glass of mead. "Do you come here a lot when I'm away?"
"No, I've only been here twice actually - if you include today - like I said last time, Albie at work recommended it to me. Its a lot more up-market than the Leaky or the Broomsticks, but the food is just as good."
"Funny", grinned Vic as she tucked away a loose strand of hair; she seemed to be growing it out, and Ted thought it really suited her. But then, ever since he had been delivered that massive wake-up call at Harry's birthday the previous July, Ted thought that Vic became more and more beautiful every day. Not that he would admit that to any of his friends - while Mari and Katya would coo that he and Vic were sweet together, their boyfriends would most likely never let him hear the end of it.
"I'm going to miss you when you go to France, you know."
"I do. And I'm going to miss you lots as well. It would be better if we could have another week or so together before I went, but unfortunately one of the bridesmaids being in a new relationship is not traditionally one of the reasons a bride will postpone her wedding. And you'll have lots of things to do while I'm away."
"True." Vic would be away from Monday until the Friday of the following week, and while she was away Ted had a weekend camping trip planned with Harry, James and Al at a site near a beach in Wales. Ted had suggested inviting Ron and Hugo on the trip as well, but Harry had assured him that Ron had expressed a desire at the age of eighteen never to go camping again. And so far, according to Harry, he had stuck to it. They intended to leave after Ted was finished at St. Mungo's the following Friday, and return on the Tuesday morning.
"And I'm sure that - " Vic was interrupted by the arrival of the waiter with their food, and they both enjoyed their meals so much that neither of them spoke another word until two empty plates sat on the table.
"Sorry - what were you going to say when the food came?" Ted asked as their plates were replaced by desert menus.
"I can't remember said Vic. "Oh - yes - I was going to say that you'll probably be busy at work as well when I'm away. Didn't you say that there were a lot of people taking summer holidays over the next few weeks?"
"Actually, yes. Though most of them are off during the European Championships. So.......there is an extra-large chocolate fudge cake on the desert menu. I ate too much to have one myself - you want to share?"
"That sounds lovely", agreed Vic. It was, in fact, during that desert that Ted's good luck came to an end, as their quiet corner of the restaurant became slightly noisier.
"Hem told me about you two when I ran into him the other day." Ted's blood ran cold as a familiar voice distracted him from the last piece of cake, which was on his fork, and which he was about to pop into Vic's mouth. He looked up to see angry Caro in front of the two of them (her friends Mattie and Alberta behind her) and felt Vic gulp internally at his side. Taking her hand in his to reassure Vic that they were on the same side, and that he would be standing in front of her, Ted nodded.
"We are", he confirmed. "Caro, I - we - "
"He told me what a traitor you were. I thought maybe he was lying, but I see now that wasn't the case. Your friend's ex-girlfriend? How low can you go?" Her eyes flashed darker, and Ted could feel the anger pulsating from her. Everything he had felt uncomfortable with when they had been together came back to the surface, and Ted marvelled that their relationship had lasted as long as it had.
"Caro, it wasn't like that", sighed Ted as he pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I knew - the entire time we were together, I knew - I knew that you wanted her instead! How long has it been going on, Ted? Months? Years?!"
"Caro - believe me, Vic and I only got together in April. THREE months after you and I split up." He became horribly aware that the entire restaurant was listening in. Ted thought it best to speak only of his relationship with Vic, and not mention their two new year kisses.
"And I'm supposed to believe that, am I? Take your word? Urgh, men are all the same - you are just like my father. And that is NOT a compliment. Maybe you're better off not having parents. That way they'll never let you down the way he has me."
"Don't say that", Vic shot back, squeezing Ted's hand as he took a deep breath. He knew she was capable of it; this wasn't the first time Caro had used the fact that his parents were dead in the midst of an argument. "Don't you have any feelings at all?"
"Oh, I do.....Victoire.....", Ted felt the magic in the air, and jumped - Vic with him - as the glasses on their table shattered.
"Caro, I think we should leave", her friend Alberta urged her in a loud whisper. "He isn't worth it. Nor is she."
"Fine", Caro shouted, before turning back to Ted and Vic. "This isn't the end of this, you know. I'll get my own back on you, Ted Lupin."
As Caro stormed out, and he hugged Vic tightly before apologising to the staff, Ted wondered just what depths his former girlfriend would plummet to get her revenge.
Thank you soooooo much to everyone who continues to read this story!!! xx
As the portkey arrived at its destination, Vic heaved a huge sigh of relief; while she loved travelling from her home to her aunt's so quickly, she detested travelling by portkey almost as much as she did floo powder. It made her dizzy, and when she was much younger, a little sick. Vic would never forget the year that they had arrived in France, and she had immediately been sick all over grandmere's favourite set of daytime dress robes. Unsurprisingly, the next time they had visited Victoire had been kept at arm's length for the first hour or so of their visit.
"Bien!" Grandmere's voice was the first that Vic heard as she got her bearings right; glancing around, she caught sight of her grandmother behind the counter of the open-plan living area, their portkey depositing them next to the sofa.
"Maman!" Victoire watched with a smile as her mother ran forwards and embraced grandmere in rapid French, which Vic could only catch some of. While fluent in the language for as long as she could remember, her skills had their limits; she could only understand when the conversation was going at a reasonable pace.
"Victoire! Dominique! Louis! Mes petites!!" Vic turned to the door, where Tante Gabrielle and Michel were just coming into the house - well, Villa, really. Her aunt ran forwards and hugged them all tightly, exclaiming at how much they had all grown since the previous summer.
"Victoire, telle une dame adulte jeune et jolie!" Gabrielle smiled at Vic and made her neice promise that they would go for a long walk as soon as possible. Vic nodded happily, pleased that their little tradition would continue even with the approaching wedding; she felt incredibly lucky to have in Ginny and Gabrielle two young aunts that felt in many ways more like much older sisters.
A little while later, while everyone else was either unpacking, drinking butterbeer or gillywater, or - in the case of Dom - almost cross-examining Michel about France's chances in the approaching European Championships, Vic walked through the fields surrounding her aunt's villa, the sun scorching through the back of her sundress and making Vic profoundly relieved that she knew both a sunburn prevention and a cooling charm.
"Victoire, your muzzer tells me zat you 'ave a new boyfriend, but she weel not tell me who 'e ees", sighed Tante Gabrielle dramatically. Vic laughed; she loved it when her aunt was like this. It meant that she was in a particularly happy mood.
"She did, did she?" Vic replied.
"Mais oui." Vic laughed even more.
"Do you remember, last summer, when I told you about Evan - he was my boyfriend then - and you told me that you always thought that Ted and I would get together?" Gabrielle nodded, and then broke out in a massive grin.
"Teddy et toi?"
"Yes. We got together at the last sort-of family wedding - when Luna and Rolf got married in April", confirmed Vic. "But...well......the thing is, I liked him for ages before that. When I was still with Evan, really. The worst thing is that he knew. The day I split up with him and told him that I wanted someone else, he said after that he knew then that it was Ted. How obvious am I?"
"Ze 'eart wants what eet wants", shrugged Gabrielle. "Michel et moi - we are not ze same, Victoire. We are tres different. 'E ees so quiet and I am moi."
"That you are", grinned Vic. She put a more serious look on her face. "I....I didn't tell maman, but - the thing is - I actually kissed Ted twice before the night we got together. At new year. At the two new years before we did."
"Tan...Tante Gabrielle.....it scares me a little how much I feel for Ted, it really does", Vic admitted. "I don't want to mess it up between us. It could ruin everything with he and I forever and I don't think I could get through the day without knowing that Ted is a floo or an owl away."
"Ma petite, you and Teddy weel be togezzer for a very long time."
"Really?" Gabrielle nodded.
"Zat boy looks at you as like ze best theeng in ze world to 'im. And zat was before 'e was your boyfriend."
"You watched us last summer?" Gabrielle nodded.
"I know zat eet looks to you sometimes zat I am tres old and zat I do not know what eet is to be young and to love truly for ze first time....but zat ees not - I do, Victoire.
"Oh", squeaked Vic. In truth, she hadn't thought of her feelings for Ted being to that extent. And then she recalled her thoughts of the past few weeks, the past few months.....and how she anticipated a long-lasting relationship that seemed to extend into the way she viewed herself as looking in quite a few years time....was she in love with Ted?
That evening after dinner, when Dom had gone for a walk with Gabrielle and Michel, and Louis, her parents and grandmother were sitting out on the terrace, Vic snuck up to her room to write a letter to Ted. They had agreed before her departure that there was little point in doing so during his camping trip as it was a muggle camping site they were going to, but Vic knew that he wasn't going away until Friday and in any case she missed Ted already.
'Definitely a sign you've got it bad', she told herself.
Well, we've made it to France alright; it is now after dinner and Dom has gone for a walk with Michel and Gabrielle - mostly so she can tell Michel how she thinks France should play next month. In twenty years from now my sister will be the next female Oliver Wood, I'll but fifty galleons on it!
I miss you already, and the only reason I didn't start with that is it really is quite pathetic of me, given that I only saw you about twenty four hours ago, and I seem to able to manage weeks at a time when at Hogwarts. I wish that I could have spent more time with you and caught up with Rowland, Wes and the rest of them before I came away to France - we'll have to arrange it when I get home next week.
After Tante Gabrielle and I had our usual walk, she showed us what Dom and I will be wearing on Friday, and it is a massive relief!! I have overheard far too many horror stories in the Gryffindor Common Room (not to mention those pictures of me at Percy and Audrey's wedding that I hide whenever anyone comes over to visit) to be complacent about this, but luckily the lilac colour scheme suits Dom and I, and the dresses are simple enough in design. But enough about clothes, which I know you have never been interested in - and I don't expect that to change.
Vic did not mention the visions she had of she and Ted in their nineties , him pretending to listen as she rattled off a list of new robes that she had bought.
But enough about clothes! Like I said, I really miss you. Thankfully there is so much going on here for the next week and a half to keep me distracted. Michel's family arrive on Wednesday, and then there is the rehearsal on Thursday and the wedding itself on Friday......poor grandmere is going to be really down when Gabrielle and Michel go away on their honeymoon, put we will go and stay with her for a few days to make up for it. They usually floo each other every day; just like our family!!
Not much more to report right now, so I'll stop, except to say that I miss you, that I'll write again soon, and that I miss you.
Looking forward to a week on Friday when you MUST have something planned for the two of us!!
The following Sunday, when Gabrielle and Michel had left for their honeymoon in Croatia, Vic and the rest of the family flooed or apparated to her grandmother's new home in the Burgundian region of France. Her family had lived there for generations, and in her old age, Vic found that grandmere was more and more desperate to return there. The house she had bought just three months previously was ancient - centuries old, perhaps - and Vic loved it.
"Ze rooms are small. Mais c'est home", Grandmere shrugged as she handed them all butterbeers upon arrival. It was a very low-key entrance, and they had all been quieter since Gabrielle and Michel had left the group. Even when Michel's family had departed almost immediately after the reception ended, they had maintained the party atmosphere. Compared to that, this seemed almost like a funeral wake. Not that Vic had ever been to one.
"And zis weel be for you, Victoire, et pour Dominique", breathed her grandmother as she showed them all round the house. Vic smiled, but gulped inwardly. She and Dom would have to share? As much as she loved her sister, and as much as they got on, Vic wasn't sure if their relationship would be able to take sharing a room for even as much as five days.......and this was someone that had shared a dorm with Ava Ackerley for six years.....
"Lovely....", smiled Vic, noting that Dom's eyes immediatley went to the best and largest bed nearest the window. Just the two of them, Vic knew she would not be able to use the eldest child card; she was doomed to spend the rest of her holiday sleeping uncomfortably.
Although the remainder of the holiday was spent in ensuring that grandmere did not miss Tante Gabrielle too much, Vic allowed her mind to drift for much of the time of another subject matter....Ted. The talk she and Gabrielle had shared on the first night of the holiday preyed on her mind as she thought of precisely what her aunt had said. And what Vic's own reaction had been.
Did she love Ted? Yes - he had been part of her life since she was born and was her best friend. Of course she loved him! But that was not the issue......was she in love with him? And that was a harder question for her to answer.
Less than a year ago, she had said those three magic words - 'I love you' - to Evan, and thought that she meant them. Vic did NOT want to make the same mistake with Ted. When she said that to him, Vic wanted to really mean it.
The thing was........Vic felt something for her best friend that she never had for anyone else before, and instinctively felt that this was it - that this was love. And a small part of her was terrifed. Because although this was Ted, it was Ted...........
On Tuesday of the following week, a slightly relieved Ted apparated back to Godric's Hollow from North Wales with Harry, Al and James. As much as he considered his godfather's sons to be his younger brothers, he was glad that in just a few hours he would be sitting in his own flat, feet up on the sofa while he sipped a nice warm mug of peppermint tea, and doing so in peace and quiet. Perhaps it was the length of time James had already been away at Hogwarts, but Ted had forgotten how the two of them could be together - how competitive. If it wasn't muggle sports like swimming, or trying to start a campfire without magic, or games of wizard chess that they played in the tent each evening, it was hints that Al would be Sorted into Slytherin.
All in all, Ted was glad that Al and James were Harry's responsibility and not his.
They had packed up the tent that morning (Ted had to be at St. Mungo's for his support group in the afternoon) with Al and James spending so much time arguing over which one of them had to help their father, that in the end Harry had handed Ted a wad of muggle notes and sent the three of them off for a last ice cream and walk on the beach before their return home.
"We're home!" Harry shouted as he threw open the back door at Godric's Hollow; Ginny had been told to expect them about now, and to have butterbeer and cocoa waiting.
"Boys!" Ginny hugged her sons together, squashing them into her in a way that made Ted grin, before wrapping her arms around Ted himself, letting go, and hugging Harry. "I missed all four of you so much! Lily will be back soon - she had a sleepover with Rosie and Roxie last night. Poor Hermione......."
"And I missed you", Ted heard Harry say pointedly to Ginny. Ted smiled; this was precisely the relationship he hoped that he and Vic would share in the years to come.
"Of course", Ginny grinned. "Did you have a good time?"
"James nicked the prize I won at the muggle fair", Al glared at his brother.
"Dad made me go to bed at the same time as Al", complained James.
"It was a nice place, and the weather was good - no rain", said Harry. "We got to swim in the sea, and I hadn't been to Wales before."
"Why don't you two boys go and put your things away?" Ginny suggested to James and Al.
"Only if Ted promises not to go before we get back", negotiated James.
"Deal. Don't make a mess, though - I don't need to be at Mungo's until just before one; we have hours."
"Have you seen or spoken to anyone since you went away, Ted?" Ginny asked him when Al and James had left the room.
"No. Why?" Ted asked nervously; just what had happened in his absence that would have made it necessary to contact him? Had something happened with Vic, his grandmother, or one of his friends?
"Its just - I think you should see this." Ginny went over to the sideboard, and picked up a copy of a newspaper, handing it to Ted. He glanced at the top.
"Sunday Prophet?" Ginny nodded.
"Unfold it." Ted shared a look with Harry, who shrugged, and then opened it out. The second half was almost completely taken up be an expose on Wes and Katya's relationship. There were a series of pictures of them playing for the Magpies (and one of the full team taken for the final a month earlier) along with one of them being accosted in what looked like the Broomsticks by a Prophet photographer, Wes wrapping a comforting arm around a nervous looking Katya.
"Poor Katya", said Ted. "She looks really freaked. And who - ha! I should have known......Rita Skeeter. Who else would think that two people seeing each other is worthy of making the front page - whomever they are. And they worked so hard to keep it low key; hardly anyone knew about them really."
In spite of the parties Rowland and Mari - and Ted if the birthday party Harry had thrown him could be included - had invited them to, they were never introduced to people as a couple. Both insisted that they did not want the Rita Skeeters of the world writing about them and theorising about their relationship; they wanted to limit all press contact to the subject of Quidditch.
"That's the thing......", said Ginny softly. "Ted, its not enough for you to look at the pictures and the byline. You need to read the article."
Ted frowned, and quickly flicked through a short history of Wes and Katya's careers; how Katya had switched allegiance from her previous team, the all-female Volgograd Vixens, and Wes had been scouted playing for the Gryffindor team at Hogwarts.
While at Hogwarts, Wesley Burke surrounded himself with a close-knit group of friends that remain so to this day. They and his close family alone are aware of the relationship that has developed between he and Miss Markova, who is a number of years older than her boyfriend. One such friend is DRCMC worker on werewolf issues, the son of notorious werewolf Remus Lupin and the godson of The Chosen One, Ted Lupin.
Ted gulped, and felt his stomach start to knot as he read his name. The only person he had really told about Katya and Wes (other than Harry and Ginny) was Vic....who had told Nat....but Ted trusted all four of them implicitly and knew that they would never speak to Rita Skeeter about him.
Lupin's former girlfriend and rising star in the world of Wizarding Fashion Caro Wickham has now lifted the lid on Burke and Markova's relationship, and tells of an atmosphere of secrecy that Lupin was clearly taught by his father and godfather - one that was then passed onto his friends at Hogwarts.
Said Wickham, tipped to be the next great designer of the robes of tomorrow: "After the way I have been treated by Ted Lupin, I have no qualms now about speaking out regarding the relationship between Wes Burke and Katya Markova. I believe that all relationships should be out in the public domain, otherwise they are open to claims that they are not real, or that one person or the other is guilty of duplicity in their affections."
"Ted Lupin has a strange influence over his friends - I suppose it is something he picked up from Harry, or from his father - a man who persuaded his friends to break the law for him. I worry for Katya Markova. As Ted Lupin (whom I loved and trusted) repeatedly cheated on and lied to me during our lengthy relationship, he may make his friend believe that this is acceptable behaviour and lead him to break poor, sweet Katya's heart. I do not worry about Ted's new girlfriend....she can take care of herself and behaves as badly as he does when in a relationship. Had it not been for the honesty of our mutual friend Hemingway Lyttleton, I might never have known of Ted's behaviour. It was he that encouraged me to be equally honest, and to tell my story to expose the lies of Ted, and of his friends that hide their relationship from public view to suit themselves."
"Katya Markova and Wesley Burke are public figures. Thousands of wizards see them playing Quidditch each year, and they rely on fans for their support. They should not be allowed to hide such a large part of their lives from them."
Neither Miss Markova nor Mr. Burke consented to be interviewed for this article, though they were pictured with Mr. Rowland Vance (another Hogwarts contemporary) and Miss Marigold Templeton, whom Caro Wickham also names as a dishonest influence upon Burke and Markova. Montrose Magpies spokeswitch Elsa Grant responded to our owl with a note advising that the team do not comment on the personal lives of any of their players. Markova is expected to return to Russia in the next week or so in preparation for the European Championships. Burke, however, has not made coach Oliver Wood's final selection. Perhaps he should have looked to his friend Lupin for tips; his godfather Harry Potter was part of Wood's Gryffindor team more than twenty years ago.
For further details of the laws Ted Lupin has been forcing through the Wizengamot with Isadora Cavendish to the horror of the wider wizarding community, please turn to page 3; for a full page demonstration of the designs of Miss Caro Wickham, please turn to page 17.
"So that's what she meant", said Ted stonily. "At least she didn't mention Vic by name. I can be grateful for that. Even though Wes and Katya will be going mental - not to mention my bosses......."
"Can I read it?" Harry asked. Ted nodded and handed him the paper, before turning to Ginny.
"Vic and I bumped into Caro a week past Saturday when we were having lunch in Diagon Alley", he explained as he caught sight of Harry's eyes bugging out through the corner of his own. "It wasn't the most pleasant experience of our lives. She shouted a lot about how I had cheated on her with Vic, and ended by saying that she would get her own back. Looks like she has."
"I'm so sorry, Ted", Ginny said sympathetically, patting his arm.
"Merlin - Grams! Has she seen this?" Ted groaned deeply. It was one thing explaining to Harry the entire history of his relationships with Caro and Vic, and knowing that between them Harry and Vic had probably told Ginny most of it. It was quite another to have to endure the same conversation with his grandmother.
"We.......she has. It was mentioned on Sunday. Mum invited her over for lunch. The family is completely behind you, Ted. Though I have to say - there were more than a couple of questions about exactly who your new girlfriend is. Especially given what Caro said about her. Percy tried to say something - you know how he can get - but I made it clear that Caro can't always be trusted with the truth and not to take anything she said about any potential new girlfriend on merit. Mostly, the family are mad at her, and George has already said that any of his products that will be used in revenge can be provided free of charge."
"That sounds like George", said Ted as he forced a small grin.
"I'm sure that Wes and Katya will know - its clear from the article - that you had nothing to do with this, Ted", Harry assured him. "Rita Skeeter has been mad ever since that day you and I refused to speak to her about your parents."
"I should go", sighed Ted with a glance at the clock. It was only a little before eleven and he didn't need to be at St. Mungo's for almost two hours - he was grateful that Lydia and Hem would not be assisting the group today - but Ted felt that he should quickly stop by the department, live with the stares from those that were unaware until the past Sunday that his father had been a werewolf, and apologise on his knees to Isadora, Roush and possibly Mockridge for bringing the department into disrepute.
"You don't have to be at Mungo's yet. Stay for an early lunch", wheedled Ginny. "I made a nice salmon salad......"
"I can't; I should stop by work and clean up any mess this article made there. And....I need to figure out how I'm going to tell Vic. It'll need to wait until she gets back - I don't want to ruin her holiday." And I hate the thought of her having to deal with this rubbish just because of my jealous ex-girlfriend.
Vic woke late on the morning following her return from France, having arrived late the night before after a final farewell dinner with grandmere. She glanced at her clock and saw that it was a little after eleven; the note she'd received from Ted the night before, welcoming her back and saying how much he was looking forward to seeing her again had also promised her a lie-in the following morning as he would not arrive until lunchtime.
Yawning, Vic got up, stretched, and opened her curtains to see a beautiful and sunny Cornish summer morning. The sky was a pale blue and unencumbered by clouds, and she could see the sea - something she had missed at grandmere's new home. A wave of excitement ran through her as she thought again of seeing Ted in just an hour or so. The lunch they'd had together in Diagon Alley had been a fortnight ago, and she was longing to spend some time with him again. Hopefully they would be able to go to Diagon Alley again, or perhaps now that Vic could apparate they might be able to spend the day amongst muggles in a random town or city.
After a quick bath - somehow portkey travel always put extra grime in her hair - Vic dressed, choosing a pretty blue sundress to match the day, and ran downstairs for breakfast to find that Ted had already arrived and was waiting for her. For once, her not-so-tactful family seemed to have disappeared, and left the two of them alone.
"Ted!" Vic launched herself into his arms, kissing him and then hugging him tightly. Somehow, the last fortnight seemed to have taken longer than it actually had to pass. "I didn't think you would be here yet!"
"I was up early, and hanging around the flat trying to waste time and just figured I would come over early to hang out. Your parents went to Diagon Alley for a few things, Louis flooed to Genie's."
"Well, I'm glad that I'm more interesting than your flat", quipped Vic with a grin. "Oh, I missed you so much in France. It was a great holiday, and Tante Gabrielle's wedding was lovely - she and Michel are going to be so happy together - but I'm still excited to be home. I know you said about maman and dad, and Louis - where's Dom?"
"You're more interesting than a lot of things", replied Ted, taking her hand and leading her over to the sofa. "And Dom apparently hasn't surfaced yet."
"How was your camping trip to Wales? I don't think I've ever been there."
"Good. Al and James even managed to get on some of the time. It was a muggle campsite, and we got some strange looks - possibly due to James teasing Al about being in Slytherin, or Al threatening to snap James's favourite Firebolt in half if he didn't stop. That said, my blue hair didn't seem to be fitting in either."
"I love your blue hair", commented Vic idly, running her fingers through it. She'd spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks after her talk with Gabrielle, and especially over the last few days at grandmere's, thinking about Ted and how she felt about him. Weighing everything up, she wanted another female perspective and planned to write to Nat over the weekend to ask her opinion - Nat knew her best outside of Ted and the family, and always gave good advice. Telling Evan she loved him had been a mistake - one that Vic did not want to repeat with Ted. This time, she wanted to be sure. In the meantime, however, she did want to introduce the 'L' word into their relationship a little.
"I love my blue hair too - mothers of children James and Al's age tend not to, though. They think I am some sort of delinquent", laughed Ted, clearly recalling a specific incident.
"So, did you have anything planned for today, then?"
"Yeah, I do actually. We are meeting Wes and Katya, and Rowland and Mari at Mari's for lunch in a bit. Something a bit low key after - Katya is going back to Russia soon for a holiday before the Championships, so its sort of a farewell party. Wes is going with her for a few days until she meets up with the national team for pre-Championship training so he can meet her family. Seeing him attempt to learn Russian is quite amusing, actually. He made the mistake of trying it out when Rowland and I were there and we started laughing at him."
"How nice the three of you are to each other!" Vic jabbed back. "Sounds like a good day out to me - I was gutted to miss out on seeing all of them before I went to France. I really like your friends."
"Our friends", corrected Ted.
"Our friends", agreed Vic, feeling the blush that was rising up her cheeks.
"Um, I hate to do this just as you're back, or at all actually, but there is something we need to talk about before we go to Mari's and that's another part of the reason I was early coming over. I had to tell your parents as well. They weren't - yeah, they were pretty mad. Not at you, or about us, but - "
"Ted, breathe", said Vic nervously. "What's wrong?"
Ted sighed heavily. "Do you remember our lunch in Diagon Alley being interrupted?"
"Oh Merlin", Vic's sigh joined Ted's. Caro had obviously done something to get revenge on them.
"Yeah. Between what I read in the Sunday Prophet and what Wes and Katya told me afterwards - "
"The Sunday Prophet?" Vic's blood ran cold; she had a feeling Ted's least favourite journalist was about to become involved, and did not like where this story was going.
"Unfortunately. It seems that when Hem told Caro about us, he also mentioned something about Wes and Katya - obviously thinking that she already knew because they got together before Caro and I split up."
"And Caro told Rita Skeeter about Wes and Katya thinking that Wes would think you had passed on the information?" Vic guessed, her blood starting to boil. She had known Wes for about seven years - ever since the summer between Ted's first and second years at Hogwarts - and hated to think of him being the subject of Rita's gossip. Wes deserved more than that. And Katya - so sweet and caring - was nothing like those 'celebrities' that were constantly in the Prophet or Witch Weekly looking for attention. All they wanted was to work hard at their careers and live as far under the radar as possible. But it seemed that, like her own family, that would now not be the case for Wes and Katya.
"She told Rita - I don't know if they met by chance, if Caro wandered into the Prophet offices, or if they'd always known each other and Caro just never mentioned it because she knew how much I hate the woman, or if it was something else - and Rita had a story printed that not only mentions Wes and Katya but also has a dig at me."
"You?" Vic was surprised - and then she remembered the articles that Rita had been writing for months about what Ted was doing at the DRCMC. Caro would have seen them and known that Rita would love to attack Ted.
"Something about how Wes and Katya keeping their relationship private was because of my influence over him and I taught him to keep secrets or some such rubbish - something I picked up from my father and Harry, apparently. It also mentioned how badly I treated her, and that was the reason she was able and willing (with support from Hem) to tell Rita all about Wes and Katya."
"Euch." Vic was seething inside as her opinion of Caro and Rita lowered further than she thought it could.
"Tuesday was pretty hectic - I had to apologise to my bosses after it mentioned the DRCMC, apologise to Grams, who now admits just how much she hated Caro, and finally to Wes and Katya. It was them that told me that Hem had let something slip. He went over to see Wes after he read the article last Sunday. He says he thought Caro knew about them already, and that he didn't think she would do anything worse than send me a Howler or shout at me in public."
"Aren't our exes just lovely!" Vic said sarcastically. She felt a little bit guilty; Ted was obviously bearing the brunt of Hem's resentment of her new relationship. But a part of Vic knew that contacting him and saying it wasn't all Ted would make things worse - especially if she mentioned the kiss she and Ted had shared while she was still with Hem.
"Yeah, I've been thinking that a lot over the past few days", agreed Ted. "We got back to Godric's Hollow from our camping trip, and Ginny handed me the paper. She's been really good about it, though - so have the rest of the family. Apparently George is offering free WWW products if they are to be used to get back at Caro. Speaking of the family - the article mentions my new girlfriend and I've been having to dodge questions about who the mystery girl is."
"It better be me", said Vic, leaning into Ted and wrapping his arm around her on the sofa.
"You're not that mysterious. At least, not to me. I know you too well - and I want you anyway."
"Likewise, Ted Lupin."
They apparated over to Mari's flat, where Vic found herself immediately enveloped in a large hug by her host, and then Rowland, Wes and Katya, all professing themselves delighted to see her, and teasing her about her relationship with Ted.
"I knew something was going on!" Mari boasted as she handed Vic a butterbeer. "I told Ted so when he finally happened to mention it! You have to tell Katya and I all about it - I don't trust men's descriptions of something like that. Not now, though. Someday when the three of us can sit down with a bottle of that new elf-made wine, you can tell us all about it. Katya won't be back before September 1st, but there will be time when you're home at Christmas."
"That will be good", nodded Vic, before turning to Wes and Katya. "I know that Ted said something, but I just wanted to say sorry myself for this whole thing. I'm far from being Caro's favourite person, and I hate that she used the two of you to get to me, and to Ted."
"Zat Skeeter voman is ze vorst of all", said Katya angrily. "Ve know you did nothing."
"Katya's right", Wes added, taking his girlfriend's hand. "Vic, I was at Hogwarts with the girl, I know what she can be like - especially where you are concerned. The only way this could have been helped is if you and Tedward had figured out everything between you years ago, because then he would never have gone out with the raving lunatic in the first place."
"Anyone got a timeturner on them?" Ted attempted to joke. "Okay, change of subject matter away from people we don't like. There is a Vampires Anonymous concert on at the end of the month - anyone in the country at the time want to go?"
"That sounds good", said Rowland. "I've always liked their stuff."
"No you haven't", laughed Ted. "You used to hate it when I first started listening to them."
"But then you played it constantly and I started to like it", Rowland shrugged. "You up for it, Mari?"
"Definitely. We should go to the Leaky for something to eat first", she suggested. "Do you like them, Vic?"
"Love them", she enthused. She did, however, wish that she didn't have to ask her parents for permission to go. Although she was now of age, and knew that in asking for permission she was opening herself up to having permission denied, Vic had always respected her parents and she knew that they trusted Ted with her, to look after her. But as she was still at school, she felt that she still had to ask.
"I'll speak to Bill and Fleur; don't worry about it", Ted whispered into her ear as Mari suggested they go and sit down. Vic smiled; she truly had the most awesome boyfriend ever. A boyfriend that - as sure as she could be - Vic was really starting to fall in scary, head-over-wand in love with.
Once they had eaten lunch, spent the afternoon chatting away, and Vic had promised to come over and visit as much as possible during the remaining sixish weeks of her holidays, Ted stood up and said that they really had to leave. Vic looked at him a little puzzled, and he smiled enigmatically in return. Did she really think that after almost a fortnight away, he was going to let them spend the entire day with their friends?! He wanted to spend some time alone with his girlfriend and his best friend. Luckily for him, they were one and the same.
"I'm sorry if you wanted to stay longer", said Ted as they stepped out of the building Mari lived in onto the far end of Diagon Alley. "But its been almost two weeks, and I wanted to spend some time together properly - just the two of us."
"What were you thinking?" Vic grinned.
"I thought we could raid Honeydukes of your favourite chocolates, and then go back to my flat", replied Ted, before pulling Vic in closer and kissing her. "Then we can stuff our faces with said chocolate, and you can tell me all about your trip to France and how much you missed me."
"I might be able to do that", said Vic, with a look of feigned contemplation on her face. She took his hand and started walking in the direction of Honeydukes. They had been there so often and loved the place so much that it sometimes felt to Ted as if a magnet were pulling the two of them there. He would have to remember after that awful day (September 1st) to send lots of Honeydukes gift parcels to Vic.
They stopped at a couple of other shops along the way - including Eeylops as Vic was out of owl treats for Hibou - and were almost at Honeydukes when they almost bumped into a group of people exiting Quality Quidditch Supplies.
"Sorry", Ted apologised. "I'm a bit clumsy sometimes - runs in the........oh."
"Ted?" Vic said questioningly, looking from him to the people in front of them.
"Teddy!" said a woman with white blonde hair and clipped tones. "I did not - how is Andromeda?"
"Good. She's...good. I had dinner with her last night." He found it a little surreal having a conversation with Narcissa Malfoy in the middle of Diagon Alley. A glance at the group around Narcissa told Ted that she appeared to be with her daughter-in-law and grandson.
"I'll need to tell Grams that I saw you", Ted added, unsure what else to say. "Oh - I should - Victoire Weasley - Narcissa Malfoy.
He could feel Vic's hand tighten in his, and saw Narcissa glance down at them before nodding in Vic's direction. Ted wished that his grandmother were there too - as much as he was nervous about Narcissa's intentions, the fact that she had even acknowledged Ted's existence in public had to be positive, right?
"My daughter-in-law, Astoria, and my grandson, Scorpius", said Narcissa. She glanced down at the boy and smiled. "I have just been treating Scorpius to a pre-Hogwarts gift - the new England Quidditch robes."
"Lucky boy", Ted forced himself to say; Bellatrix had always been far more Narcissa's sister than his grandmother's, and it was always she rather than his grandmother that Ted associated with his mother's killer. After all, it had been Narcissa that had sheltered Bellatrix while on the run from Azkaban.
"Are you looking forward to going to Hogwarts?" Vic asked Scorpius gently as Ted felt a surge of feeling for her run through him. Vic understood how he felt, and was trying her best to avoid anything approaching an argument even though she knew how he felt about Narcissa.
"Yes", said Scorpius. "Father says that I will enjoy it; he knows that I like Quidditch and he wants me to play for my House team like he did."
"My brother and sister play for our House team", Vic told him. "But I'm not very good at it. What position do you like to play?"
"Keeper", Scorpius told her decisively.
"Well, I hope you get onto the team", said Vic. Ted smiled at her, before turning back to face Narcissa.
"We should really get going", Ted told her. "I'll tell Grams I ran into you."
"Please do tell her we met", said Narcissa. "And that I shall visit for tea as soon as I am able to do so. As she will appreciate, this is a busy time for us - we are preparing for Scorpius to leave us for Hogwarts."
"Yeah. Nice seeing you." Ted and Vic started to move, heading on towards Honeydukes, Ted thinking about what had just happened. Narcissa had acknowledged him.....in public.....
Ever since his grandmother had been ill at the start of the year, the two sisters had been slowly re-establishing their relationship. Maybe his grandmother was right. Maybe Narcissa really was changing for the better.
"Morning!" Ted smiled as he wandered through the door of the DRCMC on Wednesday morning, passing Stanley Winters - one of the few staff members in so early in the morning. He could see further along that Isadora was also already in; ever since the article Rita Skeeter had published in the Sunday Prophet, mentioning Ted and the DRCMC in her outing of Wes and Katya's relationship, he had developed the urge to arrive slightly earlier and leave slightly later.
"Hi, Ted", Isadora greeted him with a smile and an offer of coffee.
"No, I'm fine. More of a tea person, to be honest." he sat down at his desk, and pulled out some parchment, quills and ink to write his weekly diary concerning his St. Mungo's support group. Thankfully that, nor any other measures in progress, would be affected by what Rita had written. Roush and Mockridge had, however, maintained their assertion that Ted and Isadora should lay low for while in terms of trying to pass legislation in the Wizengamot.
"How was yesterday afternoon?" Isadora asked.
"Good. One of the women that's been coming - Zelda - finally opened up a bit in our discussion, which was good. It shows that the ones that do come are getting more and more comfortable with everything. I actually stayed a bit late - one of the Healers mentioned that they actually had someone in the ward that had been bitten at the Full last weekend, so I went along and spoke to him for a while. I explained about the group, and what rights he has under wizarding law."
"Good........not good that he was bitten, but obviously good that you were able to help a little. Sorry, Ted - my brain is a bit mushy this morning! And have you met the new Trainee Healers yet?"
"No worries. Yes, I have. I met them yesterday, actually. There are four of them, and they all seem smart enough." He did not mention that Hem, starting his second year as a Trainee, had also been there and that they had therefore seen each other for the first time since the article had been published. While he had not spoken to Rita himself, he had pushed Caro to do so knowing how volatile she could get on the subject of Victoire. Hem had stayed at the back, not volunteered any information to those attending the group, and had been the very first to leave.
"My age always seems to hit me at this time of year with all the Hogwarts leavers starting new jobs and training. Sally said she felt old when Harry introduced the newbies in the Auror Office."
"You're hardly old", laughed Ted, before admitting that the new DRCMC Junior Assistant Miller Corrigan was a very young looking eighteen year old. As he had been a Hufflepuff and Ted a Gryffindor and the two of them in different years, they had not known each other at Hogwarts. Miller would not be working with Ted and Isadora, but on Vampire Regulation.
"Told you so." Ted stuck his tongue out in reply.
"Ted?" Isadora said a few minutes later, when he had started writing his report.
"Roush and I had a meeting yesterday. One that turned into an argument that I won."
"Okay, now you have my attention." Ted put down his quill, and looked up. "Well?"
"First of all, your support group is going to be made permanent. Roush has also sanctioned another Quibbler interview - this time with you, though you won't be named, just referred to as simply a Ministry official under Roush's conditions - about the group, and how werewolves need the support we give them. He also asks - as I am sure you would do - that you place a great deal of emphasis on the Wolfsbane brewing. Roush says that will set the wizarding community at their ease about it all."
"Wow", breathed Ted. "That's great; I'll owl Luna. We should do it soon, though. She has a lot coming up over the next few months. And the next phase of our legislation?"
"He says that if that goes well and we get a positive response, we can start putting legislation forward again in the autumn."
"That's amazing. I didn't think - after what Rita Skeeter wrote the other week, I figured I was close to being out of a job. Hiring Corrigan didn't help that either."
"Ted, Corrigan was always going to be working here. And you would not be leaving before I fought very hard to keep you here. Rita Skeeter knew all about your past, and that girl you used to go out with gave her an excuse to print it. We haven't had the Howlers Roush and Mockridge thought we would - and that's what prompted Roush to cave yesterday when I went to speak to him about where we're going. Also, its been six months since your group started and I figured that this is as good a time as any to make it permanent."
"Thank you", said Ted. "I can't believe its been a year since I started here. And I have to say, although I love what I do, and what has changed in that time, I could never have enjoyed it as much, or have got as far as I have, without your help. So thank you."
"You're welcome." As Ted looked over at Isadora, he almost thought that he caught a suppressed blush. "And I've enjoyed working with you, too. For the first time in a long time, I've been working alongside someone who wants to fight for something as much as I do."
"Hmmmm." Ted had never really thought of himself as a fighter before. And yet, when he looked back over the last year, he realised that he was becoming more and more of one; standing up for himself properly. Standing up for what he believed in.
On the final Saturday of July, Ted hopped quickly out of the shower, and started to get ready. He, Vic, Mari and Rowland had somehow managed to pick up tickets for the Vampires Anonymous concert in a new venue at the other end of Diagon Alley that evening, and he was due to pick Vic up in less than half an hour. It had not been easy to get tickets, and it seemed as if Ted had spent the last week or so constantly hearing complaints from people who had been unlucky enough to leave it to close to the concert to make their purchases.
Quickly throwing on a ragged pair of jeans (he was, after all, attending a rock concert rather than going for dinner with his grandmother) and a Vampires Anonymous t-shirt, Ted allowed a grin to form on his face at the thought of going to the concert with Vic and his friends. He longed for the day eleven months from then, when Vic would walk out of Hogwarts at the end of the following June never to return as a student; then, they would be able to do things like this all the time. It was a little odd for him to plan so far into the future - Caro remained his point of reference as his only real girlfriend prior to Victoire, and their relationship had been too on/off to make plans too far in advance.
Although they were due to meet Rowland and Mari at the Leaky at six for dinner before the concert, Ted had told Vic he would pick her up at five thirty in the knowledge that there was a good chance she would be running late. Sure enough, when he knocked and then entered the back door at Shell Cottage, he was met by a grinning Bill - who informed him that Vic was still in the process of getting ready, and had said at least three times in the last half an hour that she would "only be another five minutes."
"You want a butterbeer or anything while you're waiting?" Bill asked him. Ted shook his head, hoping that Vic would not be much longer. At least he didn't have to worry about not getting served at the Leaky, as Hannah would somehow always be able to find them a table.
"Where is everyone?" Ted asked, bemused. Although Vic had been pretty much alone when he had picked her up the day after her return from France (Dom had been the only other person at home by the time Vic had come down, and she had been asleep) it was unusual for him to come over and find an almost empty house.
"Fleur is over at Ginny's to get a list of everything that she needs made for Harry's birthday party tomorrow, Louis flooed over to Genie's, and Dom is watching Rosie and Hugo for Ron and Hermione tonight", replied Bill. He smiled in such a way that Ted could tell he was pleased to have the tiniest bit of peace and quiet for once. Shell Cottage, in the midst of the school holidays, had rarely been anything but noisy. Bill wandered over to the bottom of the stairs, and shouted on his elder daughter.
"Vic! Ted's here to pick you up!" He turned back round to face Ted. "That might make her get a move on. You'd think you were off to one of Percy's fancy Ministry events and not a concert, the length of time she's taken today. I thought she was getting better, but you'll just have to accept that she's as bad as Fleur when it comes to this sort of thing."
"I think I'll manage", grinned Ted. He admitted that they were not due to meet Rowland and Mari until six.
"Smart", Bill grinned back. "That's a tactic you should keep going with. In fact, its one I might use with Fleur."
"Ready!" Vic came bounding downstairs with a wide grin. She was dressed in a white t-shirt with the phrase 'Suck my blood' written on it, and a glamour charm that made it flash different shades of red, as well as an old pair of jeans - all leaving Ted wondering just how it could have taken her so long to get ready.
"We won't be out too late", Ted promised Bill, as he had done when the outing had first been mentioned. "Ginny has already made us both promise to be over early tomorrow morning."
"Its alright", laughed Bill. Ted was still adjusting to Bill and Fleur being his girlfriend's parents and not just Bill and Fleur, and sometimes found himself over-compensating with politeness and courtesy. "Fleur and I trust you to look after Victoire."
"I should hope so", Vic told her father as she turned and smiled at Ted. "We should be going now; I don't know how busy the Leaky will be with the concert on. I can't wait! See you later, daddy - enjoy your peace and quiet while it lasts."
Ted waited until Vic had hugged Bill goodbye, feeling slightly humbled by the assurance that he was trusted to look after Vic, and then the two of them apparated to the back of the Leaky. Ted turned and smiled at Vic, before giving her the sort of kiss that he did not dare to in front of her father.
"I notice you didn't do that in front of dad - no matter how much he trusts you", Vic said smugly.
"If I remind him too often of what his eldest daughter and I do when he isn't there, then he might change his mind about trusting me", Ted told Vic as he took her hand and led her into the pub. Vic had been right; the place was almost full - mostly with concert-goers. He quickly spied a final table big enough for the four of them in a corner, and led Vic over.
"Mari and Rowland aren't here yet", Vic commented as they sat down.
"Firstly, they are almost always late, and secondly, we aren't supposed to be meeting them until six. I just wanted to give you some extra time to get ready, and the two of us some extra time alone together", Ted told her as they held hands under the table. As much as he was looking forward to the approaching evening, there was still a small voice at the back of his head constantly reminding Ted that in a little over four weeks, the thing he was dreading would happen - Vic would return to Hogwarts.
"Hello, you two!" They were interrupted from any further conversation by the arrival of Hannah, who came over to take their order. "How are you? Goodness, its busy in here tonight!"
"Hey", said Ted. "There's a Vampires Anonymous concert on at that new place tonight - the Old Ogden's Auditiorium - Vic and I are going with a couple of friends, and figured we'd grab some dinner first. Looks like we weren't the only ones! How are you? Neville enjoying his holidays?"
"We're fine. Business seems to be booming this summer, so Neville's been helping out a bit again - the only way we would see much of each other, really - but we're hoping to go away somewhere for a couple of days before term starts again. My friend Susan promised to take over while we're away. We were thinking Ireland, but no definite plans. And how was France, Victoire?"
"Lovely, thanks", she grinned happily. "Tante Gabrielle's wedding was stunning - her dress was beautiful, so were the ones she had for Dom and I - and then we spent the last few days at grandmere's new house."
"Good, good. We must catch up properly tomorrow at Harry's birthday party. Now, what can I get you to drink? A couple of butterbeers?"
"That would be amazing, thanks Hannah. And if you could make it four, that'll save us ordering again when the other two get here", smiled Ted. As she bustled off to the bar, he turned back to Vic. "I'm really looking forward to tonight."
"Me too. Do you know - and it shows you how dense I am that I needed Nat to point this out to me - that this is our very first double date."
"Really? Yeah, I suppose it would be."
"I like all these little firsts", Vic told him. "Its like......I feel we skipped a few things on the relationship train by being such good friends, and it makes me feel more normal that we still have some of those little firsts."
"I think I get what you mean." Hannah returned with their drinks, and promised to come over as soon as their friends arrived to take their food order. Ted nodded his thanks; more than once, Hannah had miraculously arranged for his order to make its way to the top of the queue, and tonight it would be particularly welcome as the concert was standing room only - and Ted wanted to be as near the front as possible.
The table they had taken was at the back wall, and had benches rather than individual seats. As Ted moved closer to Vic, his attention was caught by a nearby voice.
"Aren't they just love's young dream?" Ted looked up to see Rowland and Mari about to settle onto the bench opposite.
"We ordered your drinks; Hannah will be back in a couple to take our food order", Ted explained to them. "I didn't actually expect you to be so early."
"We can go away and come back when you expect us if you really want", jested Mari as she sipped her butterbeer. "And I'm ready to order straight away, even if no one else is. I always have the Pidgeon Pie when I eat here. A creature of habit. And how are you? Been up to anything exciting since last weekend."
"Visiting Vic, working, visiting Harry, Ginny and the rest of them, sleeping, and visiting Grams", replied Ted, who had enjoyed all of it.
"Hmmm......I've been owling Nat, spending time with Ted when he comes over to visit, and just visiting the rest of the family, really. I had lunch with George, Angelina, Roxie and Freddie today; I minded Molly and Lucy for Uncle Percy and Aunt Audrey the other night while they went to her cousin's birthday dinner; Aunt Ginny brought Al, James, Lily, Hugo and Rosie over the other day so they could go to the beach........."
"Ah, having a large family", sighed Rowland. "Oh, that reminds me - my sister Evangeline flooed me last night - she and her husband are expecting their first baby in December. I hope it isn't a Christmas baby; you'd never know whether to get it one big present or two regular sized ones."
"How practical you are", grinned Mari as Hannah arrived to take their food order.
"This is amazing!!" Vic yelled a little later as they jumped up and down to the sound of the latest Vampires Anonymous song - which was entitled 'Your Blood'. The sound of the bass was ringing in her ears, and they were surrounded not only by Rowland and Mari, but by hundreds of complete strangers.
"What?!" Ted replied, grinning back at her. Vic waved her hand in dismissal; there was little chance of being heard, never mind having a conversation. Ted had taken her to a couple of Demented Dementors gigs at the Broomsticks the previous summer, but she had never been to a massive concert like this before. In some ways, it was an intense attack on her senses - particularly her hearing - and in others, it was one of the most exciting events she had ever been to. Concentrating on the band in front of them, Vic diverted her attention back to the lead singer, and the end of the song.
Sink in my fangs and draw
Your blood to me as if with a straw
Tastes so good
I don't need to be in the mood
Best I've ever drunk
Doesn't matter you look like a skunk
Want your blood, yeah I do
I want your blood......
At the end of the song, there was a little booing as the band announced there would be a fifteen minute break until the second half of the show. Before she could speak to Ted, Vic found herself heading off to the bathrooms with Mari, where there were lengthy queues.
"I'm totally buzzing!" Mari exclaimed happily as Vic tried to deal with the constant buzzing in her ears. It was as if someone had cast some sort of privacy charm to stop her listening into any conversation. "Are you having a good time?"
"Amazing!" Vic breathed in response. "I had no idea.....have you been here before?"
"Nope. The venue only opened a couple of months ago - I'll definitely be coming agin, though. The atmosphere is great, and the way the building is set up, the Sonorus really echoes through the place. Rowland and I usually just go to smaller places like the Leaky or the Broomsticks to see a band live."
"That's the only way I've seen a live band before as well", Vic told her as they moved closer to the top of the queue. She cast a cooling charm on herself as she realised just how much she had been sweating - it was, after all, not an attractive attribute.
"Do you and Ted want to come out for a few drinks, or go back to my flat after this is finished, extend the night a little?" Mari asked.
"I would, but we can't", Vic replied. "Its Uncle Harry's birthday party tomorrow, and I promised Aunt Ginny I would go over early to help get everything ready. I think Ted did too."
"Another time, then", she shrugged. "I wish Wes and Katya were here too; it would have been good for the six of us to be able to go out to something like this together. Not that just you and Ted aren't good company or anything - I didn't mean it that way - just that - "
"I miss them too", Vic put in.
As Vic exited the cubicle she was in, and went to wash her hands, she saw Mari chatting away to a group of girls that she seemed to know. Vic approached them shyly once she had washed and dried her hands, assuming that they were Mari's former Hogwarts schoolfriends or fellow Obliviators (which reminded her, she still had to ask Mari what the job entailed).
"Hi", Vic said softly as she approached them, turning to look at Mari. "Are you about ready? I think the band are going to be starting again soon."
"I am", nodded Mari. "Oh, listen I'm being rude here - Vic, this is Lydia and her friends Reena, Jaclyn and Meaghan, right? Guys, this is Victoire, Ted's girlfriend. Lydia is oh, Merlin, I forgot - Lydia is training to be a Healer, and so are Reena, Jaclyn and Meaghan."
"Hi", said Vic, taking in the girl that she assumed was now dating her former boyfriend Hem (after all, how many trainee Healers were called Lydia?!) and remembered how she had been described. Vic had to admit that she was pretty, and as she asked them how much they were enjoying the concert, she was also very friendly. Like Ted had, Vic found a small part of herself wondering just why she was going out with someone like Hem. Vic was under no illusions as to what her former boyfriend was like, and by all accounts his bad habits had worsened since leaving Hogwarts.
"You must tell Ted we said 'hi', Victoire", smiled Lydia. "It was nice to meet you, at last. I've heard so much about you."
"It was nice to meet you, too", Vic replied politely, before the group of girls walked away.
"Sorry!" Mari exclaimed once they were a safe distance behind the others. "It wasn't until I was halfway introducing you that I remembered about you and Hem - must be those firewhiskies that Rowland and I had before we went to meet you and Ted. Why that girl is with him, I will never understand."
"Its alright", laughed Vic, who had secretly been a little intrigued about Lydia. She liked to know everyone that Ted did, so that when she was at Hogwarts she could picture him and his life away from her more clearly. It made being apart from him that little bit more bearable.
Vic returned to Ted a little less curious, and enjoyed the second, more mellow, half of the concert, when the band played their slower love songs. Vic found herself leaning back, into Ted, his arms wrapped around her waist as they swayed along to the music. The third - or was it fourth? - encore had just finished when they were approached by a dark-haired couple that Vic did not know.
"Albie!" Ted exclaimed. "Pandora - I forgot you'd said you would be here tonight!"
Vic watched as Ted disentangled himself from her, and hugged the two people she now realised were his fellow DRCMC workers; Vic recalled the amusing letter Ted had sent her about their engagement party only weeks before.
"Yeah. My sister, Annabetta is here as well", said Albie. "You know - the one that hosted our engagement party? - but she wandered off a while ago to speak to an old Hogwarts friend, and we haven't seen her since. In fact, we were looking for her when Pan spotted you."
"And are you going to introduce us to your friend?" Pandora asked pointedly as she stared at Vic, who found herself blushing slightly.
"Oh, sure." Ted turned to Vic, who nodded back happily, knowing what he was asking without exchanging words. "Guys, this is my girlfriend, my Victoire."
Gazing up at him, Vic could tell instantly just how happy Ted was, and it made her more so knowing that it was she that made him so.
"Would this be the same Victoire that was ONLY ever your best friend?" Pandora asked smartly as she shook Vic's hand.
"Yeah, the same one", replied Ted, looking a little sheepish. "And you should probably tell Willa - it'll stop her from thinking that I'm seeing a married woman."
"A - "
"Don't ask", laughed Ted with a wave of his hand. Vic's smile grew as she felt him renew their former pose, Ted winding his arms around her waist and holding her tightly. She really could get used to this.
"I had a good time tonight", Vic said softly once they had apparated back to Shell Cottage, having to turn down Rowland and Mari's repeated offers of extending their night out. "I liked meeting your friends. I'm already looking forward to Albie and Pandora's wedding at Christmas; I don't think that any of the family ever got married then - they were all summer wedding people, mostly. And those that weren't were at Easter."
"Hmmm", Ted murmured as he pressed his lips on Vic's. He clearly had no intention of gossiping, and wanted only to say a proper goodbye to her before she had to go inside. For herself, Vic could not deny that she agreed with him.
"I have to go in", she groaned a few minuted later. "I really had so much fun - but both you and I promised Aunt Ginny we would be over early tomorrow morning, so......"
"Yeah, I know", Ted groaned slightly. "Don't get me wrong - I want to keep my promise to Ginny, I really do - but I also want to spend as much time with you as I can. You're going back to Hogwarts far too soon for me."
"For me too." Once again, Vic had the sensation of dreading the end of the holidays....of dreading leaving Ted behind.
"See you tomorrow; I'll wait until you've gone in", he promised. Vic nodded, gave Ted a final kiss goodnight, and turned, walking towards the house, before opening the door and walking in. The first voice she heard was that of her mother.
"Victoire? C'est toi?"
"Oui, maman", Vic replied as she walked into the sitting room where her parents were sitting with a glass of butterbeer each, listening to the WWN. She was home.
The following morning, it was a slightly groggy Ted that apparated to Godric's Hollow to help Ginny set up; after he'd got back to his flat the night before, he had replayed the night out over and over again in his head, thinking of Vic and the smell of her vanilla shampoo as her hair got in his face towards the end of the concert.
It had not even been four months since they had kissed at Luna's wedding and he had finally told his best friend how he really felt about her. And yet......in some ways Ted felt as if they had been together for years. Perhaps it was because of how close their friendship had always been? Ted was unsure. All he knew as he helped Harry pick out some records and chatted away about the concert, was that he felt more for Vic than he ever had for anyone - and he was pretty sure that he was falling in love with her. No, he was more than sure, Ted told himself as he handed Harry a pile of Weird Sisters records from his godfather's teenaged years, he knew.
"You sure?" Harry asked as Ted handed him the records. Ted nodded.
"Definitely their best work; their harmonies had improved, and their songwriting was at its best when MacCormack was still part of the band", he assured his godfather.
"How was your concert last night? Vic enjoy herself?"
"She did. We both did." Ted smiled happily at the sound of her name.
"Ted? Can I say something and hope that you won't take it too much - "
"What is it?"
"Just......no pressure or anything, but I've known you since you were only a few weeks old, and I have never seen you as happy as you have been in the last three or so months", said Harry solemnly.
"I know. That's because I haven't been", Ted replied honestly. "Harry, it really freaks me out, but I think I'm pretty much falling in love with her."
"I'm not the person you should be telling", Harry grinned.
"I know. And I will", Ted promised. "Soon."
The party seemed to go well - as it always did - and there was a good turnout this year, Vic noted as she looked around her. As well as her extended family (in which she included such people as Luna, Rolf, Hannah and Professor Longbottom and Andromeda) there were former members of Dumbledore's Army and the Order of the Phoenix that Vic recognised from various new year and birthday parties.
"Knut for them?" Vic jumped up to see her Aunt Hermione standing next to her; she had been talking to Ted, but he had been claimed by Al and James to make up a team for Quidditch, in spite of his assurances that his co-ordination was worse than that of a four year old. Vic was now staring off into the distance, hoping to catch sight of him, and of her cousins, as they took to the air.
"Oh, I'm not thinking about anything much; certainly not anything worth even a knut", shrugged Vic happily. She was quite content to watch Ted play Quidditch for hours on end, no matter how much she despised the sport in general. And she couldn't price spending time with him.
"Gillywater?" Ginny asked, joining them. "I see James and Al managed to dragoon poor Ted into joining them after all."
"Yeah, they did. Thanks", said Vic as she accepted the offer of a drink. She glanced over to the tree - their tree - where she and Ted had shared so much, and realised so much. It seemed to be exactly as it had been the last time she had seen it, and yet so much had happened since she had really taken it in last. Vic had been to Godric's Hollow more than once since her return from Hogwarts, but their tree - hers and Ted's - had never come to her attention as she had tended to remain in the house; her aunt, uncle and cousins had not enjoyed the best summer weather thus far.
"Well, they seem to be having fun." Ginny took a stance between Hermione and Vic. "Your concert good?"
"Yeah, it was", smiled Vic, thinking of the night before and Ted's arms wrapped around her.
"You're happy", said Ginny simply.
"I am", Vic agreed. "And I know what your next question is, and the answer is yes - I think I am. And IF I'm not, then I am not far off it."
"Why do I get the impression that I've missed something?" Hermione asked. Vic smiled, and nodded in Ginny's direction before telling Hermione everything - well, mostly everything - that had happened between her and Ted over the preceeding few months. It felt a relief of sorts to tell yet another member of the family, and she knew Ted would not object. It was time, Vic realised, to start thinking about being more open about their relationship. After all, she would return to Hogwarts in a month, and it would be unfair to leave all of the telling to Ted.
Massive apologies for the delay in posting this chapter! Thanks to everyone who has stuck with Ted, Vic and I all the way through!!
"I can't believe you're finally here!" Vic exclaimed happily as she and Nat walked along the beach that lay next to Shell Cottage. It was late on Monday morning, and Nat's parents had departed half an hour or so earlier; the two girls had watched the muggle car trundle away along the winding road that led from Shell Cottage, before unpacking and then heading straight for the beach.
"I know. Its stunning here - so much better than the summer rains we've been having in Worcestershire!" Nat replied with a sigh, leaning her head back to back fully in the glow of the bright August sunshine. "I began to worry that I would never see the sun in all its glory again."
"Well, you don't have to worry any more." Vic stopped and examined a pretty looking shell before popping it into one of the pockets in her sundress. The beach was busy, full of muggles - tourists and locals from the nearby village of Tinworth alike - and she had to be careful, even if she was legally permitted to use magic away from the confines of school. She could not banish anything to her room as she would be able to in winter, when few found their way to the sands.
"How have your holidays been really?" Vic continued as they walked past an elderly couple snoozing on their deckchairs. "You can only write so much in a letter; things always seem to be left out - and I'm sorry that I haven't been able to come and see you. I did mean to, but somehow the time has run away from me since I came home - first there was spending as much time as possible with Ted, then going to France.....and you know what my family is like......"
"I do", Nat laughed. "There is always one of them over visiting, asking you to visit, asking you to babysit. And then there's Ted."
"And then there's Ted", smiled Vic softly. She had told Ted that she and Nat would spend the first night of her stay a deux - a girl's night in with ice cream and chocolate - and then meet him the following day for lunch at the Leaky prior to his Tuesday group meeting, which Nat had permission to sit in on. Vic told Nat this.
"You don't have to give up a night with Ted just for me", Nat replied. "I owe him so much for letting me sit in on this thing - it'll really help me next Spring when I apply to start my training."
"Well, in your own way you HAVE done something to put you in Ted's debt." Nat looked at her questioningly. "If you hadn't been so.....some of the stuff you said made me realise how I feel about him."
"Thank you, but you would have figured it out on your own too. A person can only lie to themself for so long."
"I suppose", shrugged Vic, though she soon realised the truth in the statement - after all, how many times had she told herself in the past year and a half that Ted was only her best friend?
"Let's sit down here", Nat suggested a few moments later as they reached a gathering of rocks that seemed to deter muggles from settling down nearby. The two girls sat down on an old rug that Vic had thought to put in her bag, and gazed out to sea. Vic's wonder of the beauty of the sea that lay at the bottom of her garden never seemed to cease.
"How has your summer been, really? You never did answer me", Vic said lightly. She could tell from how tense Nat looked that something was bothering her friend, and with all she had helped Vic through in her friendship turned relationship with Ted it seemed an opportune time to repay the favour.
"You know me too well."
"It comes from sharing a dormitory with someone for six years."
"I suppose - though I can't say that I know Ava, Kara or Erykah all that well." Vic snorted at this.
"Erykah aside - she really isn't anywhere near as bad as the other two - I don't think I want to", Vic admitted. She did wonder sometimes how such different personalities could end up in the same House.
"And you're avoiding the question." To Vic, that meant it must be bothering Nat a great deal.
"I am. That I am. Its....its Dylan", she admitted after a pause.
"Dylan?" Vic wondered what could have gone wrong. She could never recall Nat and her boyfriend having any real problems - aside from Nat's aversion to football (which mirrored her own to Quidditch). Nat nodded.
"Its - we had a massive row two....maybe three weeks ago. Partly because I told him that I was coming here, though that's really a small piece of the larger issue."
"I thought we got on quite well at new year." Vic felt a little hurt - she thought that she'd made a good impression on him, and Nat had told her so - before setting her own feelings aside.
"Its not you, don't worry about that", Nat assured her. Vic watched as she fidgeted with her hairband; this was another sure sign of nerves in Nat. "Its more that I was going anywhere. He imagined we would have every day together - all summer. He..........he didn't understand why I would be coming to visit you when we see each other all the time at school."
"Like I said, it was a huge fight and that was just part of it. Mostly he wants us to spend more time together - even asked what I thought about leaving Hogwarts and doing my final year at his school. Dylan knows neither of my parents went to Hogwarts, and he doesn't understand the ties I have; he thinks its just another school that you can transfer in and out of."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him that I loved it there, that I found it easier to study in an all-girl environment (which he thinks Hogwarts is) because there was less drama and I didn't want to disrupt my education by changing schools just before I start my final year. He wasn't too happy at that."
"Has he come round at all since?" Vic asked. "I'm really sorry that I don't have much experience of - all my family did go to Hogwarts; they understand the pull of the place and so do all of the boyfriends I've had."
"All of?" Nat laughed. "Oh, Vic - I wish you were always there to make me laugh!! We made up a couple of days later when he realised that I wasn't budging. Its brought me to a decision on something, though."
"When we get back to school, I'm going to speak to Professor Longbottom about the complexities of telling Dylan the truth. If it means I have to tell lies and hide my wand from his friends and he is happy for me to do that, then fine. But after this year everything is going to get more complicated."
"Because after school your lives will be so different, everything will become a lie?" Nat nodded. "I think telling him is a good thing; if he can't deal with it, the sooner you know the better."
"I agree", Nat replied with a flourishing nod. "And like I said, everything has been better since - we both know where we stand with each other."
"I know that hurts, but the not knowing is worse."
"Exactly. And now for happier topics of conversation - what is the plan for tomorrow? Are we meeting Ted at the Ministry or at St. Mungo's?"
"Neither", replied Vic as she picked up another couple of shells that lay next to her in the sand. "We're meeting him at the Leaky; we're having lunch with Ted and Mari, then you and Ted will head off to St. Mungo's, and Mari will tell me all about her job and give me an idea if its something I maybe want to do after next year. After that, I have plans to go to Fortescue's for ice cream with Angelina, Freddie and Roxie."
"I think its great that you're finally deciding what you want to do", Nat said encouragingly. "What's the back-up if you don't like the sound of it?"
"I don't have one - working for Uncle George while I get my head together on what I want to do? I have no ambition, no vocation.....all I ask is that I don't spend my days bored."
"See, now that's something that sounds easy to achieve and really, really isn't."
"I know. Which is why I'm hoping that Mari is very, very persuasive!" Vic turned to face Nat and took in a deep breath.
"On the previous subject - of things we didn't mention in letters - I.....I love him. I'm properly in love with him."
"No, the man in the moon! Of course Ted!" Vic laughed as she saw that Nat had only been teasing her. "I'm sure this time - with what happened between Evan and I when I said something before I was sure, I wanted to be certain before I said anything to Ted. I thought I was, and then I figured I would wait until you arrived and I could talk it though with you. And now - now I know I don't need to. I don't know the exact moment I totally figured it out.....maybe it was when I was 'fessing up to Aunt Hermione.......but I know. I do. I'm in love with Ted."
"I know you are."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Like you said, you needed to be sure; you needed to figure it out on your own. When are you going to tell him?"
"Before I go back to Hogwarts." In truth, a small part of Vic was dreading returning there for her final year; as much as she loved the school, it would part her from Ted for months at a time. "As a going away present."
The following day, the four of them enjoyed a quick lunch at the Leaky before Vic waved goodbye to Ted and Nat as they flooed to St. Mungo's. As they disappeared into the fireplace, Vic and Mari ordered another butterbeer each as Vic pushed away her plate, knowing that she had eaten far too much.
"I hope I'll have room for the sundae I'm supposed to be having at Fortescue's!" Vic exclaimed with a glance at her watch; it was just after ten to one, and she had agreed to meet her aunt and cousins at half past two.
"Vic, there is nothing to you - you'll be fine." Mari rolled her eyes and then took another gulp of butterbeer. "Think of me on Friday night eating all eight of the courses my cousin Violet HAS to have at her wedding reception."
"Fair enough", Vic conceded with a laugh. "So...you were going to tell me all about becoming an Obliviator?"
"Yes, I was. Rowland makes jokes about it and tells everyone its dull as owl droppings, but that's not really the case. Yes, if it has been a while since you've had something to go out to and investigate or fix, then it can be a bit dull - but I figure you make your own fun and excitement on those days."
"A bit of light relief sounds good", Vic replied with a nod. "What sort of things do you do? Can you give me an example or two?"
"Oooooh....let me think......yes - last week a group of us were in Hull, removing the memories a group of muggles had of a small girl performing accidental magic at a funfair; I remember in my first week I was modifying the memory of a soldat....soldier, I think they're called?.....who had seen a couple of guys on Firebolts. You get to meet a lot of people - mostly muggles - that don't actually remember you've met them."
"And the people that work there?"
"All good - the odd bore, but Rowland and I would be able to keep you away from them and you get bores in every office, I guess. And you'd be working in the same building as Ted......able to meet him for lunch everyday. Besides, there would be the chance to move on into the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad if you wanted. They tend to recruit more from the Obliviators than they do directly from Hogwarts."
"What's the difference?" Vic was confused - she'd imagined them to be one and the same thing.
"Obliviators just modify the memories of those that have witnessed something they shouldn't have - can be quite challenging sometimes thinking of an alternative memory for them, depending on what they've seen - and the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad clean up the mess, untransfiguring and that sort of thing. That's why they need more than just Charms at NEWT level. You're doing seven, aren't you?"
"Yes, and you don't need to tell me how mad I am - Nat, Ted and some of the family do often enough - but I couldn't face dropping all of them, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do; this kept my options open."
"Wish I was smart enough to do seven NEWTs", Mari smiled. "Are you sure you don't want to do something more challenging - become an Unspeakable, maybe?"
"I don't think so", snorted Vic. "I would hate to spend the rest of my life having to be careful about what I said in front of everyone I cared about. I did think about the Auror Office - but Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron would never let me DO anything; I'd end up spending all of my time filing and out on simple, non-dangerous cases. Or as non-dangerous as it gets for the Aurors."
"Ted's mum was one, wasn't she?" said Mari, before finishing off her butterbeer.
"She was, yes." Vic hesitated a moment. "That was - I mean, Ted isn't - he isn't over-protective; she died in a war, not because - "
"Vic, its fine." Mari raised a hand and a smile to stop her. "I know Ted isn't one of those restrictive, over-protective boyfriends that doesn't let you breathe without making sure its okay first. I just meant that he would understand and would be supportive. I meant that he wouldn't stand in your way."
"Ah. Sorry", she apologised. "The truth is, some of the family can be over-protective sometimes and I guess I just have a wand-jerk reaction to it."
"Tell me about it. " Mari rolled her eyes. "I think its just when we were born - anyone during, just before or just after the last war seems to have parents that think they're made of glass. And speaking of glasses, let's have another drink! I don't need to be at Madam Malkin's for cousin Violet's final fitting for another half an hour."
Tumbling out of the fireplace in the reception area at St. Mungo's, Ted felt a pang at the remembrance that he and Vic did not have many more lunches left together in the Leaky or elsewhere before her return to Hogwarts. In just a fortnight she would return to school for her NEWT year, and they would be back to being a long-distance couple again. Ted loathed being in what he termed a part-time relationship to himself, and longed for the following June when he and Vic could spend as much time together outside of work as they wished; he hoped that Mari could convince her of the attractions held by a career as an Obliviator - he got to see Rowland and Mari at least once a day at the Ministry and loved the idea of seeing Vic just as often.
"Thanks once again for this", Nat said as they walked up the stairs towards the meeting room. "Healing really means a lot to me, and - "
"Its fine", Ted laughed. "In fact, in some ways it could be argued that you are actually doing me a favour."
"It increases the status of the group with the Mungo's people - legitimises it in some ways - and it makes me look good to my bosses at the Ministry, getting a prospective Healer interested in what I'm doing", Ted told her. He did not mention that while Isadora had loved the idea, one or two of the Healers had been concerned that he was bringing someone in as if to see a freak show; Ted had reacted badly at the insinuation that those who attended his meetings were anything other than witches and wizards with a specific health issue.
"Well, thanks anyway. As much as I love Hogwarts, I can't wait to get next year over with so that I can start my training", she breathed happily. "So - I'll just sit at the back and observe?"
"Yeah. I'll introduce you to some of the trainees; that way you will be able to ask them any questions as we're going along about the group and about Healer training generally", Ted told her as they reached the room; none of the trainees had arrived at yet.
"Excellent. I really lucked out when I found myself sat next to Vic on the Hogwarts Express."
"So did she." Ted took out the parchment, quills and ink he always brought with him in case they were needed. "I hate to think of Vic becoming friends with some of the other girls in your year. And it helped that you were muggle-born as well, I think, with everything our families had been through I would have been worried about her making friends with people that just want to be able to say they're mates with someone from one of the Order of the Phoenix Weasley family. Maybe I have radar for it because of people trying to use me to get to Harry."
"Being someone in the background has its advantages", said Nat philosophically.
"What are your plans for the rest of the week? I didn't get a chance to ask properly at lunch?"
"Nothing much; just spending time on the beach, I think. As I told Vic, summer hasn't really made its way to Worcestershire. I do have my Apparition test at the Ministry on Thursday - timed it for when I visited Vic so I could floo rather than having to get the train to London. I have to be at the Apparition test centre for three thirty."
"You and Vic should hang around the Ministry in the Atrium after and I can meet you there after work", Ted suggested, a plan forming in his head. "We can go out to dinner at the Leaky or wherever. I was actually going to invite the two of you over that night anyway - the quarter finals of the European Championships are on the WWN tomorrow and Thursday, and Russia are playing Switzerland on Thursday night. We can cheer on Russia and cheer up Wes."
Ted had never seen his friend looking so lost, almost like a puppy left behind when its owner was on holiday. He, Rowland and Wes were close friends, but they had never been the type to share their feelings in any great depth and it had taken the events of the past few weeks to make Ted see that Wes was as much head over wand for Katya as he was for Vic. Only a fortnight or so ago, Ted had told Harry that he was pretty sure he was falling in love with Vic; now, he knew for sure. The only thing he wasn't sure about was when to tell her - after everything that had happened with Evan, her feeling as if she had to say it back - and Ted didn't want to push Victoire into anything before she was ready. When she said it back, he wanted her to mean it and for her to know that she meant it.
"Oh, here we go." Ted smiled at Nat and turned round as steps could be heard approaching the door; this was the only meeting room used regularly on this corridor and he doubted today would be an exception. Sure enough, a moment or two later two of the trainees, Meaghan and Carrington, walked in the door. Ted waved, and waited until they came over to introduce Nat.
"How are we today?" Ted asked.
"I'm halfway through a fourteen hour shift", groaned Meaghan, the Welsh lilt in her voice more evident when she was grouchy. "I can't wait to go home tonight and just collapse on the sofa."
"Maybe I shouldn't have asked then", said Ted. "Guys, this is Nat Rivers; she's about to start her NEWT year and wants to go into Healing when she leaves Hogwarts. Nat will be sitting in today to get an idea of what the group is about and speak to some trainees - see what she'll be letting herself in for! Can I ask the two of you to look after her, answer any questions?"
"No problem!" A broad grin spread across Carrington's face as he appraised Nat; he looked to Ted as if he was looking to be Nat's sole guide for the day, and Ted laughed before subtly casting Muffliato in the direction of the two girls and muttering to Carrington that Nat had a long-term boyfriend.
The session itself passed quickly, and it felt to Ted no time at all before he and Nat were walking through the corridors again, heading back to the foyer and the floo; Ted had been invited over to Shell Cottage for dinner that night and the two of them were going straight there.
"Oh no", Ted heard Nat mutter as he was about to ask her opinion of the session. He followed her line of sight to where Hem was standing in the foyer, talking to the new Welcome Witch. "Do you see much of him?"
"Not anymore - not since......I take it you saw the article or Vic told you about it?" Nat nodded. "Its been a mutual staying out each other's way thing since."
"Natasha? I didn't expect to see you here." Unfortunately for Ted - and he could tell by the look on her face for Nat as well - Hem had left the Welcome Witch, with whom he appeared to have been flirting, and walked over to meet them.
"I'm considering Healing as a career", she told him. "Ted was showing me his support group."
"Ah", Hem nodded. "I tend to go on a Friday now."
'Yes', thought Ted. 'So you can hide behind your poor girlfriend when you're around me.'
"I'm assuming that you're staying with Vic at the moment?"
"I am - not that it is any business of yours", Nat told him coldly. "I haven't forgetten what you did to her; what you and Ava did to her. It really didn't surprise me when you did what you did to Wes. I pity anyone else that places their trust in you. Come on, Ted - its spaghetti and meatballs for dinner tonight and Louis and Dom will eat it all between them if we're late."
The two of them walked away from a gawping Hem and Ted nudged Nat, showing her his massive grin. She had spoken to Hem as he had always wanted to but never dared (after all, he hadn't wanted to make their mutual friends feel as if they had to take sides and he now had to work with Hem in a manner of speaking) - perhaps he had discovered the reason for her placing in Gryffindor.
"I've wanted to do that for such a long time", exhaled Nat happily. "Vic didn't want me saying anything to him after he cheated on her with Ava. Knowing what had happened between the two of you while they were still together, my guess is she was guilty because she had cheated as well. It wasn't the same, though. It could never be the same."
Ted took a pinch of the floo powder that lay on the mantel for any patient, visitor or staff member to use, and stood in front of the fire, smiling at the thought of seeing Vic again.
Over the course of the following week, Ted began to truly appreciate Nat's friendship for himself as well as for Vic. As well as calmly and casually putting Hem in his place - something Ted knew that Vic would never have done - she also made herself scarce more than once to allow Ted and Vic some time alone together when he visited in the evenings, subtly offering to help Dom with the Potions essay she had been assigned for the holidays.
On the Monday that followed the encounter with Hem at St. Mungo's (Nat having returned home the previous evening) Ted went straight to Shell Cottage from the Ministry; he and Vic were going to a Demented Dementors gig at the Three Broomsticks and were going early to make sure that they could get dinner and good seats before it started. Ted was also hopeful that they would be able to see the band set up and do their soundcheck, something he had never seen before.
"'Ello Teddy", Fleur chirped as he walked into the house through the back door. She was standing at the counter, chopping some meat while a pile of potatoes peeled themselves at the sink.
"Hey", he replied. "I can see that asking if Vic is ready yet is a stupid question! How are you?" Vic was always downstairs and waiting or upstairs still getting ready when he arrived to pick her up for a date - it was something that pre-dated their relationship, and over the years Ted had become used to waiting for Victoire.
"We are all well, thank you Teddy. And Victoire will be down soon. How is your grandmuzzer? We missed 'er yesterday at dinner and I 'ave not yet 'ad a chance to ask Victoire 'ow she ees."
"She's fine", laughed Ted. "There was a birthday party for one of her friends - a surprise party - so she couldn't make it. I'll let her know you were asking after her."
"Ted!" Vic exclaimed as she walked into the room. She ran over to him and kissed his cheek before admonishing both he and her mother for not calling her down sooner.
"Teddy 'as only just arrived", said Fleur as she finishing her chopping. "Ma petite, are you sure zat you want to go out to eat? We 'ave more zan enough to feed Teddy as well."
"That is a lovely offer, maman, but we want to get there early. The band we're going to see are amazing and Ted and I want to make sure we get good seats."
"Yes, thank you for the offer", Ted added as he took Vic's hand in his. He was immensely relieved that Bill and Fleur seemed to have accepted the change in his relationship with Victoire so quickly and so amicably, and took every opportunity he could to show how much he respected them.
"Finally alone", Ted breathed as they apparated into Hogsmeade village a few moments later, after promising Fleur that they would not be late back - as Vic had pointed out to her mother, Ted had to be at work early the following morning.
"Yes, finally", Vic agreed as he squeezed her hand. Although it was the time of day that seems to shift slowly from late afternoon to early evening, the village of Hogsmeade was as quiet as night and Ted revelled for a moment in the peace and quiet before taking advantage of it to kiss Vic as he would have liked to back at Shell Cottage.
"Mmmmm", murmured Vic when he pulled away again. "I'm going to miss that."
"Me too." He turned round and glanced in the direction of Hogwarts; in just two weeks, Vic would be sitting down to dinner at the Welcoming Feast and Ted would be miles away in Godric's Hollow with Harry, Ginny and Lily.
Though he felt guilty for it, Ted hated the thought of Vic going back to Hogwarts and tried not to think about it. He hoped that before she stepped on the Hogwarts Express they would have progressed to the next stage in their relationship - the 'I Love You' stage. Ted was determined that he would not put pressure on Vic to say those three little words - he loved her too much for that. He also wanted to make sure that when she said it to him, she did so because she truly felt it.
Thank you muchly once again for the lovely feedback - nevillesgal and marauderfan - and here is the penultimate chapter.........
As much as he loved what he was doing with the support group at St. Mungo's, it was with a sense of relief and excitement that Ted left the wizarding hospital on the last Friday of August. Relief because he still had some things to do before his flat became a hub of activity at six thirty, and excitement because he would get to see Vic in less than an hour. The final of the European Quidditch Championships was due to take place that evening, and Ted had invited Rowland, Mari and Vic over to listen to the match on the WWN; Russia had made it through and were to play Spain - a team that they had lost to three times within the past four years. Katya had sent Wes a ticket and he had happily taken a portkey to Germany for the match.
Ted apparated from the St. Mungo's foyer to Diagon Alley, heading straight for Honkeydukes. The shop was open late, until six, on a Friday, and he picked up as many boxes of his and Vic's favourites as he could afford. A quick stop off at Barry's Best Brews (which sold all wizarding drinks) for some butterbeer and he was all set.
In a way, he wished that the final was taking place the following evening so that he and Vic could have a final night together - just the two of them - before her return to Hogwarts. The following day they would be going shopping for Al, James and Rosie's Hogwarts things, Vic having taken Dom and Louis the previous week to time it with their friends' trips, and on Sunday the family would all be at The Burrow for a final family meal before the Hogwarts contingent went back to school. And then, on Monday, Vic would board the Hogwarts Express and return to school for her seventh and (mercifully) final year. Their final proper date before Vic's departure had taken place the previous evening, when Ted had spent more money than he should have taking Vic out for dinner to the poshest restaurant in Diagon Alley - where everything was priced in galleons rather than sickles.
Ted was, however, granted a little luck as Vic was the first to arrive at his flat. Not long after he had set out his purchases and a couple of large bags of crisps on the dining table, there was a distinctive knock at the door. Ted opened it to find a smiling Vic looking back at him. He pulled her into a kiss, closing the door behind her with his foot.
"I've missed you", he murmured as they broke apart.
"Ted, you saw me last night", she pointed out. "But, yeah, I missed you too. I thought I would come over early. We won't get much time to ourselves between now and Monday morning."
"We won't", he agreed.
"I was thinking, though.......we could go for a walk before dinner tomorrow......sneak away from the cousins for a while", Vic suggested. "Its not as if we won't see each other at all; I'm also coming shopping with all of you tomorrow, and Aunt Ginny invited me over for dinner after as well. On Sunday, we can go for that walk."
"I suppose you're right", Ted conceded as he wrapped his arms around Vic. "And I owe Ginny for inviting you shopping and for dinner - she must have picked up on something when I promised Al and James I would come with them."
"I can't believe Al and Rosie are starting at Hogwarts in three days", sighed Vic.
"Me too. I remember when they were born; they seemed so much younger than me."
"You're not that old." Vic patted his arm and laughed.
"Not that old implies that I sort of am old in some way", Ted grumbled. "Besides, you're only two years younger than me. If I'm sort of old, that must make you kind of old......"
"Hey!" Vic exclaimed as she grabbed a cushion and threw it at him. "NEITHER OF US IS OLD!!"
"If you say so........"
Rowland and Mari arrived, true to form, only five minutes prior to the start of the match, pleading work-related issues. Ted felt a little guilty at the thought of how it had meant he and Vic had been able to spend a little extra time alone together. As Mari curled up on the floor next to Rowland while Ted handed her a butterbeer, she told he and Vic all about the incident she and Rowland had been called out to that afternoon.
"..........poor little girl had no control, of course. What the muggle parents must think when they see her do some things, I don't know. I feel a bit sorry for them, really", said Mari. "Oh well, I suppose with her being nine now they only have to wait a couple of years for some Hogwarts teacher to come and visit and explain everything to them."
"I can't believe that", whistled Ted. "No underage magic I ever performed was so......." He couldn't even think of a word to describe the extent of what Mari was telling him.
"Me too", agreed Rowland. "And with it being a big family party, there were almost a hundred muggles whose memories we had to modify." They were prevented from discussing the matter further by the voice of Lee Jordan, the WWN's Quidditch Commentator, announcing that the match was just about to start.
"I'm so excited!" Mari squealed. "I've never known someone who played in a big international final before."
"Me either", admitted Ted; Ginny had fallen pregnant with James in the run-up to a previous Championships twelve years before, and been unable to take her place in the England team that was beaten into second place by Andorra. Ted still felt that her presence could have swung the game in England's favour - after all, they had only lost by twenty points and Ginny was a far superior player to her replacement. She hadn't gone to the final to report on the match for the Prophet either; for some reason it had been given to one of their reporters based primarily in Germany.
"And here we are at the final of the 321st European Quidditch Championships!" Lee Jordan said excitedly. "The teams come out onto the pitch along with impartial Brazilian umpire Jose Da Silva. And they are as follows - for those just joining us - for Russia: Kuznetsov, Denisov, Rostova, Bezhukova, Bolkonski, Kuragin and Markova! And their opponents, Spain, have fielded a very attacking side in Hernandez, Alonso, Martinez, Torres, Sanchez, Angel and Camacho!"
"An attacking side means that they don't think they'll get the snitch", said Ted, recalling what Ginny had once told him about Harpies tactics. "So they want to score as many goals as possible so it doesn't matter."
"Good thing Katya's such a good Keeper, then", said Mari loyally. Ted saw Rowland smile at her; they had all grown close over the last year, he, Rowland, Wes and their girlfriends. A small part of him had worried that they would grow apart after Hogwarts - particularly Wes, as he didn't work in the Ministry and partly because he was a professional Quidditch player.
"And the match begins as Da Silva releases the quaffle, bludgers and snitch", said Jordan as Ted wrapped his arms around Vic on the sofa. "The quaffle is grabbed by Spanish Chaser Alonso, who speeds towards the Russian goal. He goes past Russian Beater Kuragin. He shoots. He scores! Ten-nil to Spain in a matter of seconds, and this looks like being an exciting encounter right from the start. The Russian Keeper Markova - currently with Montrose Magpies - had no chance of reaching it."
"Oh, I really hope Russia win!" Mari exclaimed.
"There's a long way to go yet", Rowland assured her.
"And now Russia are on the attack - Denisov passes to Rostova - back to Denisov - then to Bezhokova - Bezhukova shoots - oh, and it is saved by the fingertips of the Spanish Keeper, Camacho!"
The match continued in the same pattern for a while, leaving Ted a little concerned that the Russian team would be annihilated. Spain were scoring goal after goal after goal, and Russia seemed to be scoring one to every two that their opponents did.
"And Alonso scores again!" Jordan yelled through the wireless. "Its now a hundred and forty points to sixty in favour of the Spanish team! Russia have to be hoping that Seeker Kuznetsov catches the snitch very, very soon. If he doesn't, Russia will not find a way back. It is easy to see how Spain overcame joint favourites France in the semi finals in spite of Giquel's fifteen goals."
"I owled Tante Gabrielle about that", said Vic, once Lee Jordan had mentioned her new uncle. "She just said that the earlier they went out, the longer his holiday from Bordeaux Boars would be and it would mean they could spend more time together."
"That sounds like your aunt", smiled Ted, squeezing Vic's hand. She nodded in response, grinning widely.
"And what......Kuznetsov and Hernandez are speeding towards the edge of the stadium! Have they seen the snitch? Yes, they have - because Kuznetsov has caught it and Russia are the European champions!!!! Can you belive it? It goes to show how much difference a good Seeker can make to a team! And although Russia have triumphed today, it is clear that Spain are very, very close to bringing together a team that could dominate Quidditch on the world stage!" Lee Jordan said as Ted found himself enveloped in a massive group hug; he was unbelievably happy for Katya, and for Wes - he had a feeling that the few words of Russian his friend had been able to learn would now come in handy!
"The presentation will take place in a few moments - and just to remind you, folks, we will be back on September 9th for the start of the new domestic season! And to start with, we have Appleby Arrows at home to Kenmare Kestrels. Reserve your access to WWN now!"
"That was amazing!" Rowland breathed as Ted turned off the WWN. "I wish we were all there too and could celebrate properly."
"Me too", said Mari wistfully. "Maybe next time............"
The four of them listened to the presentation ceremony, all wishing that they were there (even though Ted knew Vic detested Quidditch, Katya had become her friend too) and finished off the butterbeer that Ted had bought earlier.
"Wow, is that the time?!" Mari exclaimed as she glanced at the clock. "Its almost eleven; I didn't realise that we had been here so long. Anyone interested in going to the Leaky for an hour or so before it closes?"
"I should actually be going", said Vic. She was cuddled up next to Ted on the sofa, and he could feel her squirm a little. Ted had always known that Vic felt a little uncomfortable saying that it was time for her to go because she was always the youngest of them and still subject to Bill and Fleur's rules.
"Yeah, we're all going shopping for Al and Rosie's Hogwarts things tomorrow", Ted explained to Mari and Rowland. "They start on Monday, and I promised Al particularly that I would be there."
"I just like shopping", grinned Vic as she snuggled in closer to Ted.
"Looks like its just you and me heading for the Leaky then", Rowland said to Mari.
"Yeah, looks like. And now - " She turned to Vic. "Will we see you again before Monday, then?"
"Nope. Sorry", replied Vic as she shook her head. "Tomorrow I go shopping with the cousins and then go to Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry's for dinner, and on Sunday I have a big family thing at my grandparents' house."
"Oh......" Ted smiled as Mari came over and hugged Vic tightly, saying that she would miss her and that Christmas wasn't really that far away - at which point the two of them and Katya could have a few girly nights out.
"And make sure you write!" Mari added sternly as she and Vic broke apart.
"I will do", Vic promised as Rowland pulled her into a hug as well. Ted stood apart from them, smiling at how well Vic fitted in with his friends - a worry in every relationship - but knowing that he would miss her too. Far more so than Rowland and Mari.
"We should go", said Ted sadly once Rowland and Mari had headed off to beat closing time at the Leaky.
"Let's go for a walk on the beach before I go in", suggested Vic when they arrived at Shell Cottage. She took his hand and started walking towards the end of the garden, pulling Ted along with her. He followed her down to the sand, and like Vic he removed his shoes before they got too far. It was clear that the summer was coming to an end; it was darker than it had been on previous walks they'd taken at this time over the holidays, and the beach was almost deserted. Aside from a couple walking their dog and a small group of teenagers, Vic and Ted were alone with only the sand, the waves and the seagulls for company.
"Its so beautiful here", sighed Vic. "I'm really going to miss it when I go back to Hogwarts on Monday."
"Christmas isn't that far away when you think about it", offered Ted. "Less than four months and you'll be back again - besides, time always passes so quickly at Hogwarts and NEWT year is the worst for that. You'll have so much homework to do that the days will feel like weeks and the weeks will feel like months."
"Hmm. I guess." Ted kissed her softly. "I have something for you......sort of why I suggested this walk.......a going away present of sorts."
"But you're the one that's going away." Ted was a little confused; generally you gave someone a going away present when they were leaving.
"Even though I'm the one that's going away." She seemed to take in a deep breath and Ted worried a little. What was going on?
"Ted, before I go back to Hogwarts, I want you to know that this summer has been amazing. And its been like that because of you. I am.......completely and utterly in love with you and I don't think I've ever been as happy as I have been since you and I got together. No, that's not right, I KNOW I haven't ever been this happy."
"Well, then its convenient that I'm completely head over wand in love with you", Ted told her, smiling happily. He kissed her again, this time for longer, worrying a little that something was about to burst out of his chest. He had intended to tell Vic that he was in love with her anyway, before she got on the train to Hogwarts. This took away his worry that they would part with fear in Vic's eyes.
"I just wanted you to know before I left", Vic told him.
"You give good going away presents", Ted smiled at her. "I figured it out a while ago, but I wanted you to be able to say it first; I didn't want you to feel any pressure to say it, and I thought if I said it first then you might."
"I kind of like that I got to say it first", she admitted. "And you're right - because it helped me be certain that I really was. That I'm in love with you."
It was a conflicted Vic that was woken up by Dom the next morning not long after ten thirty; while she was ecstatic following the conversation she and Ted had shared the night before, in some ways it cast a bit of a shadow over her return to Hogwarts. For the first time, Vic was thinking not about rediscovering the castle that had been her primary residence for the last six years, but about how long it was until the Christmas holidays.
Knowing that she would be busy over the weekend, Vic had used her Friday morning and afternoon to get most of her packing for Hogwarts done. All that remained out of her trunk were the things she would need between then and Monday morning - everything else was neatly stacked, including her new books (of which there were very few). How organised she was did scare Vic a little, however it had been done to free up as much time as possible to spend with Ted......even if it was around other people.
"I still don't get why you're going school shopping again", sighed Dom as Vic ate her breakfast a little while later.
"I told you - because Ted promised James and Al he would go with them, and I would like to spend time with Ted before I go back to Hogwarts. If that means spending time at a Quidditch match, I will do it; if that means - I don't know - going to a concert whether I like the band or not, I will do it; if that means going school shopping for a second time, I will do it." Vic shook her head in mock exasperation before taking another bite of melon.
"What are you up to today, then?" Vic asked her sister through a mouthful of food.
"Not much, actually", replied Dom. "I guess I should probably start packing, though. This summer has passed by really quickly."
"I know", sighed Vic heavily. "You should be taking advantage of it, though - you won't get proper time off from school until next summer. OWL year is awful. Remember all those times when I was in OWL year and you teased me because I spent most of my time studying, even during the holidays? That is going to be you for the next ten months."
"Urgh, don't remind me." Dom had never been as academically inclined as Vic, preferring more practical subjects such as Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures; she wasn't stupid, just uninterested in classes like Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, which Vic felt she was unlikely to continue to NEWT level even though she would probably get an Exceeds Expectations for both in her OWLs.
"Well, I had better be going", said Vic as she looked at her watch. She'd had a bath and taken ages to get ready before coming down for breakfast and it was now almost twelve, the time she was due to meet Ted, her aunts, uncles and cousins at the Leaky.
"Remind maman that Aunt Ginny invited me over for dinner after we're finished, so I don't know what time I'll be back. Is there anything you want or need from Diagon Alley while I'm there?"
"If you're in Quality Quidditch Supplies, could you see if they have any broom polish - you know the kind I like - it'll save me sending off an owl order to the catalogue."
"That's fine." Vic quickly cleaned her plate magically and returned it to the cupboard. Then, once again taking advantage of the fact that she was now of age, Vic apparated to the back of the Leaky Cauldron.
As Vic would probably have predicted, the only people waiting for her were Aunt Hermione, Uncle Ron and her cousins Rosie and Hugo; Ted, she knew, intended to go to Godric's Hollow and floo in with the rest of them. From the half empty drinks on the table, Vic could tell that they had obviously been there a while. Grinning, she ordered a butterbeer for herself from the girl behind the bar (Hannah obviously wasn't around) and went over to join them.
"Morning!" Vic sat down between Rosie and Hugo, and turned to the former. "So, ready to buy your Hogwarts things? Excited about going?"
"Yes!" Rosie exclaimed. "I can't wait to start all my classes and meet the professors. I mean, I know Professor Longbottom already, but mum says I have to start calling him that - "
"Only in school, Rosie", her father reminded her.
"Yes. And I'll be able to see everywhere mentioned in Hogwarts: A History. Mum and I have been reading it together recently."
"Hopefully Hogwarts will live up to your expectations, then", Vic told her. "Anything you need at school, come and ask me. As James, Molly and Lucy will tell you, I also do pick-ups on Hogsmeade weekends, so if you need any new quills from Scrivenschaft's, or sugar quills from Honeydukes......"
"I wish I was going too", grumbled Hugo.
"It won't be long", said Uncle Ron. "Besides, you only have Rosie going ahead of you - I had five brothers telling me how amazing it was before I could go. And you and Lily will get to go at the same time, the way Rosie and Al are."
"Speaking of Al and Lily, I wonder where they all are?" Hermione looked at her watch.
"They'll have lost one of the Hogwarts letters, or Al and James will be arguing, or something like that", shrugged Ron, who then turned to Vic and started telling her all about the new car he and Hermione had bought. It was a full half an hour - and a couple of drinks later - when the Godric's Hollow contingent finally tumbled through the fireplace.
"There you are, I was starting to get worried", Hermione said as she hugged Ginny.
"Oh, James couldn't remember where he'd put his letter - obviously it wouldn't have mattered if Al had, because you'd have Rosie's - and then the cat was sick....." Vic wandered over to where Ted and Lily were standing, her young cousin complaining the same way Hugo had.
".......not a long time", Ted was telling Lily. He turned, looked back at Vic, and smiled. "Vic will tell you herself, won't you?"
"Two years isn't that long, is it?" Ted grinned, obviously thinking about everything she had done when he had gone to Hogwarts.
"I thought it was forever at the time, but it actually goes by quite quickly", Vic told Lily. "And think of the good things - no Al or James to boss you around; all your mum and dad's attention will be on you.......and you'll have Ted all to yourself as well. And I want you to make sure you look after him for me, because I don't want to come back to an over-worked best friend at Christmas."
"Okay", Lily gave a sharp nod of agreement as Vic looked at Ted over her cousin's head.
"Time to get going", Ginny advised as she came over to where they were standing. "How are you, Vic? Still coming over for dinner after, I hope?"
"Definitely am. And I'm fine - even got most of my Hogwarts packing done already! How are you?"
"Frazzled", Ginny laughed. She turned to Lily. "You alright with Teddy and Vic, sweetheart?"
After a quick stop at Gringotts (in which Vic remained in the foyer with Ted and her cousins; she hated the carts and after first year had refused to set foot in one) they went straight to Madam Malkin's. Knowing that if she stayed it would probably result in her buying new clothes she didn't need, Vic used this time to run across to Quality Quidditch Supplies - a shop Harry had categorically told her they would NOT be going into because of how long it took to get James out once he went in - and pick up Dom's broom polish.
"Why did you come with us if you already got your books?" James asked bluntly as they entered their second to last stop, Flouish and Blotts. "I hate school shopping....its bad enough once."
"I still had to get some shopping - and this lot is to take to school with me", Vic held up the bulging Honeydukes bags filled with chocolate, her favourite study aid.
"I can't believe dad wouldn't let us go to Quality Quidditch Supplies", he grumbled. "He knows I want to make sure one of those free Chaser spots is mine. Has Louis told you when Kirkwood is holding tryouts?"
"No, sorry. But then, he probably wouldn't tell me because I have very little interest in Quidditch. Why don't you ask him at Gramma's tomorrow?"
With Felicia and three of the other members of the Gryffindor team leaving, only Dom, Louis and Louis's friend Curtis Kirkwood were left and Professor Longbottom had chosen Kirkwood as the new Gryffindor Captain - something that Vic suspected was due to the antagonistic nature of Louis and Dom's relationship over the previous year; he wouldn't have wanted to pick one over the other. If Vic had been forced to chose between her siblings, she would probably have come down on Dom's side - although Louis had been in the team longer, Dom lived and breathed Quidditch in a way their brother did not, which to Vic made her the better candidate for the captaincy.
"I guess", replied James with a shrug.
Lily dragged the four of them over to where everybody else was, gathering together the books that Al and Rosie would need for their first year, and started pestering her mother for the latest book in the adventure series she followed.
"Please, mummy", implored Lily. "I mean, I'm not going to Hogwarts like James and Al, so you don't need to buy schoolbooks for me. Just ones I want. And its a new one."
"Once we've got Rosie and Al's books sorted, I'll come and have a look at it with you", Ginny promised her.
"And once we've got mine. I am going back to Hogwarts, you know", James put in huffily. Vic smiled; her cousin adored being the centre of attention, and today was Al and Rosie's day.
"Yes, we know", sighed Harry with a grin. "You've made a big enough deal of it all summer."
"This must be quite sad for you, Vic", Hermione said to her.
"Because it will be your last year. Its a strange feeling.........knowing you are going back to Hogwarts for the last time."
"I suppose I don't see it as the last time", said Vic. "I'll be at home at Christmas and at Easter, so in my mind the last time I go back will be after the Easter holidays next year. I understand what you mean, though, but it doesn't seem to be affecting me too much."
"Rowland's sister was like that", Ted reminded her. "She was fine all of her seventh year, and then when she got on the Hogwarts Express at the start of the summer, she started crying and couldn't stop."
"Maybe that will be me", shrugged Vic. She doubted it, though; at the end of her seventh year, she would be leaving behind something magnificent in Hogwarts, but she would be going towards something much better - a life with Ted. Vic caught herself thinking that and had to stop herself from blushing. One hallmark of her relationships with Hem and Evan was that she had never really contemplated the far and distance future and their presence in it. With Ted, she did.
"It'll be ages before I'm thinking about that", smiled Al.
"I don't know about that", said James with a smug grin on his face. "Maybe after you get Sorted into Slytherin, you'll want to leave straight away.....I know I would."
"I'm not going to be in Slytherin!" Al protested angrily.
"Boys, we've had this conversation more times than I want to remember", said Harry. "James, stop teasing your brother; Al, it honestly doesn't matter where you're Sorted."
"Exactly", repeated Ginny as she glared at Ron, who seemed to be about to open his mouth - possibly, Vic presumed, to make a joke about preferring Al and Rosie to be in Gryffindor. "And now, we had better get a move on. Al, Rosie, all we need now is your Charms book. James, why don't you and your dad go and start looking for your books and we'll be able to get out of here sooner?"
"I hate James", Al mumbled as his brother and father went to look for books.
"No you don't", Ginny said as she patted his arm. "You just dislike him - like I used to dislike your Uncle Ron when I was your age."
"Did Uncle Ron keep saying you would be Sorted into Slytherin?" Al asked.
"No. He teased me about......other......things."
They did not remain in Flourish and Blotts much longer, and after a stop at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes returned en masse to Godric's Hollow, where Ginny announced that she couldn't face cooking - even magically - and would get pizzas for them all from the muggle take-away in the village. As the children drifted off upstairs to play, and Harry, Ron and Ted left to go and pick up the food.
"You should tell Uncle Ron", Vic whispered to Ted as he was just about to go. Ted looked back at her questioningly. "I love you, and its time the family knew it; you should tell Uncle Ron, and tomorrow - if it is alright with you - I would like us to stay behind after everyone else has gone home and tell my grandparents."
"That sounds good to me", grinned Ted. "Love you too."
"Bye", Vic called as they wandered out of the house a moment later. Knowing how over-protective Uncle Ron could be, Vic decided it was probably for the best that she warn her aunts.
"Gillywater or butterbeer?" Ginny asked.
"Gillywater", Hermioned replied.
"Butterbeer, please", she smiled. When Ginny returned with their drinks, all three of them sunk into the sofas.
"Ah", sighed Ginny, curling up. "I am so glad that is all over."
"You know, it doesn't seem all that long since we were doing our school shopping", said Hermione wistfully.
"I should probably warn you - I told Ted to tell Uncle Ron about us while they go and pick up the food, so if he comes back in super-protective mode, its completely my fault."
"Its not yours", Hermioned snorted. "Its his. You and Ted are both of age and have every right to be together if you want to be. I take it that you're serious it, then? You wouldn't be telling Ron if you weren't."
"We are", Vic inhaled. "Falling in love with my best friend may not sound like the smart thing to do, but it was the right one for me, and for him."
"I agree", smiled Ginny, raising her glass to Vic in a gesture that showed her god-daughter how pleased she was for her; Vic had shared more than one conversation with Ginny over the summer about her relationship with Ted, and this was the first time she had admitted to being in love with him.
"And you can tell my brother that if he has a problem with the two of you being together, he can come and speak to me", Ginny added grimly.
Vic smiled as she was reminded of something else she would miss upon her return to Hogwarts - her family.
Last edited by MissGryffindor; August 25th, 2012 at 11:30 am.
Thank you to you all for your patience! And for sticking with Ted, Vic and I all the way along our journey.
And now, the final chapter. Enjoy!!
Ted quickly downed the last of the glass of pumpkin juice he had poured out for himself, and grabbed the book he had picked up in Flourish and Blotts for his grandmother the previous day, before apparating to her house. They were due at The Burrow in half an hour, and he had promised to pick her up on the way there as always.
"I'm here!" Ted called as he wandered in through the back door. He wandered through the kitchen and followed the sound of his grandmother's voice. She lay on the sofa, reading an old book that Ted recognised from the days of his early childhood.
"Just catching up with an old friend", she told him, raising the book. "How are you? I take it everything went alright at Diagon Alley yesterday?"
"Yeah", nodded Ted. "Al, James and Rosie got all of their things for going back to Hogwarts. Al and James didn't argue the entire time, surprisingly, and I picked up that new Georgiana Riley book you ordered."
"Thank you, Teddy. And how is Victoire? Looking forward to going back to Hogwarts? I know you'll both miss each other." His grandmother smiled at him softly; sometimes Ted felt as if she was performing Occlumency on him, she knew him so well.
"She's fine." He felt a stupid grin form on his face, but made no moves to stop it. "And yes, I will miss her. Lots. But I've been telling myself that Christmas isn't all that far away, and time passes quicker than you think it will."
"Exactly. I remember when your mother first went off to Hogwarts; I thought the Christmas holidays would take forever to come around. Of course they didn't...." Ted's smile softened. It was not often that his grandmother opened up about his mother or grandfather, and he absorbed every single word, every nuance, when she did.
"Of well, it'll be chaos over at The Burrow today", she continued. "Always is the last Sunday before everyone goes back to Hogwarts. I know how much poor Molly misses them all, and both Al and Rosie are going away for the first time. What are your plans for this evening? Are you going over to Shell Cottage to see Victoire?"
"Nope", Ted shook his head. "I said I would give her this evening with her family. We thought we might go for a walk before dinner, though, and she's asked me to stay behind after everyone goes to tell Grandma Molly and Grandpa Arthur about us."
"Knowing Molly, she'll start planning your wedding as soon as she finds out."
"That's what Vic said", Ted admitted. At least telling Molly and Arthur wouldn't be as bad as telling Ron; Ted had been relieved the previous evening that Harry had been with them at the time as Ron was by far the most protective of Vic's uncles. Angelina had even told Vic that she and George had a bet going on when they would get together.
"You really love her, don't you? I can see that you really are happy this time, Teddy. Its not like it was before."
"I am. And its...the opposite, really, of how it was before." Ted knew how much his grandmother had disliked Caro, and how worried she'd been only a year before that they would get married.
"Well, we should get going." His grandmother closed over the book she had been reading and stood up. "Molly will have enough to worry about without us being late."
"Vic! Are you ready yet? You've been up there for ages!"
"Coming dad!" Vic frantically grabbed at her purple cardigan and bag and ran down the stairs, wondering what the fuss was about - she was apparating, not catching the Express. Lateness, though unfortunate and often a cause for her grandmother's concern, would not be catastrophic. At least, not on this occasion.
"Here I am!" She reached the bottom of the stairs to find only her parents waiting for her. "Where are Dom and Louis?"
"They flooed on ahead", her father told her. "Listen, your mother and I have been talking, and we think that you and Ted should say something to the rest of the family soon."
"You are going back to 'Ogwarts tomorrow, and we do not theenk eet fair to Teddy zat 'e ees left to tell everyone about ze two of you. Ze next time you are 'ome weel be Christmas, and you cannot wait until zen."
"Its fine", smiled Vic. "To be honest, most of them already know - well, not the cousins - and Ted and I are going to tell Gramma and Gramps today."
"Don't fancy getting up in front of all your cousins and telling them, then?" Vic grinned at her father's smirk.
"Most of them will be fine - but the Hogwarts Express takes hours, and I'll find it easier to escape James and his constant teasing at school. At least there I can hide from him in my dormitory!"
"Come on, then", he laughed. "Your grandmother will be having kittens - we should have been there ten minutes ago."
"Oh, I always hate this part of the holidays!" Gramma Molly exclaimed as Vic got her breath back, having been hugged to within an inch of her life. "I miss you all so much when you go away.....and this time Albus and Rose are going as well. And I can't believe this will be your final year. It seems only yesterday that you were born."
"I can't believe it either", admitted Vic.
"Have you decided what you're going to do next year?" Angelina asked as Vic and her grandmother walked through to the sitting room, where most of the family had congregated on sofas.
"Mostly. I think I'm going to apply to be an Obliviator. Ted has - " Vic caught his raised eye and smiled. "Ted and I both have a couple of friends who work there, and they made it interesting enough to convince me. I did actually think about the Auror Office after Professor Robards said that my practical Defence was really good, but I didn't think I would actually be allowed to do anything once I got there."
"Of course you would be!" Harry answered just as Ron replied that she most certainly would not.
"Why not?" Hermione rounded on her husband. "There are plenty of women in the Auror Office that do an excellent job."
"No neice of mine is getting sent on any dangerous jobs", he told her stubbornly.
"Every girl there is someone's neice", Harry told Ron. "And if you reconsider...."
"I won't", Vic raised her hand. "Obliviating sounds quite interesting, and the hours will be far more sociable than those of an Auror."
"As long as it isn't too dangerous", said her grandmother. "Now, I better get back to the dinner....need to check on the meats soon...."
Vic caught a few coy smiles from her aunts and uncles as she went to sit over beside Ted and Andromeda, and worked hard to stop herself blushing. She hoped that she and Ted were not in any way obvious to other people; Vic had always hated the idea of being in one of those couples that seemed to ignore everything but each other. Ted meant the world to her, but so did her family and friends.
"How are you, Victoire?" Andromeda asked her. "All packed?"
"She doesn't want to have to get up too early tomorrow morning", added Ted with a grin. Vic glared at her boyfriend, but did not contradict him.
"I just have a few small things left to throw in my trunk at the last minute", she told Andromeda. "It makes life a lot easier - I don't know how much Dom has actually done. She'll probably end up staying up until the small hours trying to find everything. How are you? Ted mentioned you're going away for a few days at the end of next month?"
"Yes, actually. A friend of mine has a daughter living in the magical part of Barcelona, and asked me to go with her to visit. Our portkey is booked for the twenty seventh, I believe."
"That sounds like so much fun! I've only ever been to France", said Vic. "What does her daughter do in Barcelona?"
"Shops and visits the muggle parts of the city, mostly", laughed Andromeda. "Her husband works for the Department of International Magical Co-operation, and he's based in the Ambassador's office."
"You still up for that walk before we eat?" Ted asked Vic.
"Definitely. We should go now, actually", she suggested. "I don't think it'll be that long before the food is ready."
"Off outside to watch the Quidditch?" Ron asked as they passed. "I think I might head out in a bit myself - haven't played in a while."
"Um, no. We were going to go for a walk up the hill, or maybe down to the village", said Ted, feeling as if all of the attention in the room was concentrated on he and Vic.
"That sounds like a good idea - we should get a group of people together. Maybe some of the kids want to go too." Ted cringed inwardly as Ron stood up and made to go over to the window and shout out to the Quidditch-playing cousins.
"I'm sure they are all fine playing Quidditch", said Hermione as she pulled on Ron's robes and forced him back into his seat. "And none of us want to go for a walk."
"But - " He looked away from his wife's glares in Bill's direction.
"Ron, let them go - no-one else feels like a walk", he said quietly.
"I - oh, fine then." He picked up the butterbeer in front of him and Ted gave Bill a grateful smile before taking advantage of Ron's silence to leave with Vic.
"I pity Rosie's first boyfriend", Vic told him once they were out of earshot of the cousins. "Uncle Ron is always so protective. I would never dare to tell him, but in some ways he is the closest to Uncle Percy in terms of being old-fashioned."
"Yeah, I won't be rushing to tell him that either", agreed Ted as he took her hand. "I can't believe that this time tomorrow you'll be on the Hogwarts Express. Maybe we could look into getting a time turner so you could be here longer."
"I don't think that would be practical", laughed Vic.
"See, I'm going to miss that laugh", he told her softly.
"How much?" Vic asked playfully.
"Lots", Ted replied firmly, before kissing her.
They stayed out until the last possible moment, and by the time they got back to The Burrow, everyone else was sitting round the table and waiting for them. Ted was a little disappointed to see that the only two remaining seats were almost at opposite ends of the table; one appeared to have been saved for him by James and Al, and the other was between Angelina and Roxie.
"Now that Teddy and Victoire are here, everyone can tuck in", Molly said with a smile as Ted sat down between two of her grandsons.
"Sorry we were a bit late", Ted apologised as he helped himself to some potatoes. "Didn't realise the time."
"So you should be sorry", James informed him. "I'm absolutely starving."
"I don't see how", snorted his younger brother. "I saw you eating all those sweets from the muggle shop in the village this morning. And mum made a massive breakfast for everyone."
"I was playing Quidditch. It makes me hungry", James retorted.
"Quite right, James", said his grandmother. "Both of you are growing boys that need feeding up. And I have a few different puddings for you to try as well - I wanted to make sure that everyone had some of their favourite before you all go to Hogwarts tomorrow."
Ted smiled at the thought of all the puddings that would be on offer, and felt a rush of pleasure that he and Vic had a shared love of chocolate cake. He glanced down the table and smiled as he saw her laughing at something Roxie was saying, thinking again about how he would miss that laugh over the next days and weeks. It would be harder this time to see the train leave King's Cross with her on it - he almost had pity for the friends that would have to deal with him complaining about how much he missed Vic. But, it was only for a year - and Harry, who had faced the same thing when Ginny had returned to Hogwarts for her final year, had assured him that the time would pass quicker than he realised.
Once the dinner had been cleared away, everyone started to disperse. George and Angelina were taking Roxie and Freddie to visit a cousin that had just had a baby; Andromeda had left early as always, wanting to give the family some time to themselves; Percy and Audrey had promised to visit her parents before Lucy and Molly returned to school; Hermione had made a similar promise to her own parents, and Bill and Fleur had tactfully taken themselves off early with Dom and Louis, reminding the twins that they had not yet completed their packing.
"I told them why we were staying behind", Vic told him when they waved goodbye to her family. "In fact, I ended up telling them when I did and not after dinner because they said I shouldn't be leaving it to you to tell everyone."
"And so you shouldn't", said Ted as he nudged her playfully. They were sat on the sofa, opposite Harry and Ginny.
"I think it is about time we were going too", announced sighed Ginny as she stood up. She glanced out the window, over to where James, Al and Lily stood outside the shed with their grandfather. "Having to get two of them ready somehow takes more than twice as long."
"I'll go and get them", offered Harry.
"Bill said you two were staying late", said Ginny as her husband left the room. Ted nodded as he picked up the unmistakeable sounds of Al and James complaining about having to go home.
"The house will be so quiet without the two of them", Ted noted.
"Yeah, it will take a lot of getting used to", agreed Ginny as her husband and children could be seen coming in the back door to see their grandmother in the kitchen. Ted, Vic and Ginny walked through to meet them, Ted feeling a little nervous as he realised the moment of telling Molly and Arthur was rapidly approaching. While they had always treated him as one of their own, there always remained a doubt in the back of his mind - as Vic's relatives found out in dribs and drabs about their relationship - about whether that would change now that he was "the boyfriend". Aside from anything else, Vic was the eldest grandchild - would that make a difference?
"Oh, I'm going to miss you boys so much!" Molly hugged her grandsons tightly, in a way that Ted knew James and Al would never have permitted her to in public. "You must both remember to write to Gramps and I about how you're getting on! Albus, I hope you enjoy Hogwarts as much as the rest of us did."
"I'm sure he will", smiled Ginny. "But we'd better be getting back - we still have lots to do before we go to King's Cross in the morning."
Once they had all hugged and said goodbye - and Ginny had made Vic promise to write to her at least once a week, and Ted had promised Al and James yet again that he would be at King's Cross the following day - the Potters flooed back to Godric's Hollow, leaving only Ted and Vic with her grandparents. Ted grabbed Vic's hand behind their backs and took a deep breath in, trying to ignore how dry his mouth seemed to have become.
"Are you all packed, dear?" Molly asked Vic as the four of them stood, bizzarely, in Ted's opinion, on opposite sides of the kitchen table.
"Yes, Gramma", Vic replied with a smile. "You know me - I wanted to make sure that I didn't have to get up earlier than necessary tomorrow morning."
"I know I said it earlier, but it really doesn't seem like seventeen years since you were born! And here you are, going away for your final year at Hogwarts....."
"So....", Vic looked up at him for support. Ted nodded, smiling back at her.
"Gramma, Gramps, I wanted to - you know how you were saying that time is passing so quickly - no, that's not the right way to put it - all I mean is......"
"What's wrong, dear?" Molly asked, a look of concern on her face. Ted squeezed Vic's hand behind their backs, and then moved apart from her a little, raising their joined hands between them.
"What Vic is trying to say", grinned Ted, looking not at Molly and Arthur, but at Vic herself. "Is that Vic and I have - as our friends would put it - stopped being silly and finally figured out what has been staring them in the face for a long time and got together."
"Yes, that's what I was trying to say", said Vic apologetically. "Maman and dad know, and we wanted you to know too."
"Oh, Arthur!" Molly squealed. "Isn't it just like how I said it would be when they were little?! Remus and Tonks would be so happy for the two of you!" Before Ted could reply, Molly had run round the table and squashed both he and Vic into her arms.
"Congratulations", said Arthur, shaking Ted's hand and then hugging Vic once Molly had let them go. Ted felt a bit guilty that he had ever doubted their reaction, but he was buouyed by Molly's assertion that his parents would have been behind his relationship.
"This is why we stayed behind - to tell you", explained Vic. She turned and smiled up at Ted in a way that made him realise just how lucky he was - he didn't want that soft, sweet, loving smile to be directed at anyone else.
"Remus and Tonks would be so happy", repeated Molly. "And this will really bring our families together!"
As the familiar Cornish coastline came into view half an hour later, Ted gripped Vic's hand and muttered that they should go for a last walk together on the beach. They had mutually agreed that she should spend the final night of the holidays with her family, but he wasn't quite ready to let her go just yet.
"Shouldn't you be going now?" Isadora asked Ted. It was a little after ten, and she had just sat down with her third coffee of the day. "Not that I'm trying to get rid of you or anything."
"Just about to", Ted replied as he filed away the report he had been working on. "I'm actually just waiting for Albie to reappear. His niece is starting Hogwarts today, and he said he'd give me a shout when he was ready to apparate over to King's Cross."
"I remember the first few years after I left Hogwarts, feeling strange when September 1st came around and I wasn't getting on the train to go back to school. Shows my age that its been a while since that happened."
"You have as much energy as Lily when she gets going - and she's nine", Ted informed Isadora with a grin. "I am going to miss Vic so much."
"Of course you will; its only natural, Ted. If the person I was in love with was going away for months at a time, I'd hate it too", said Isadora earnestly. "And owling someone isn't the same as seeing someone every day."
"I know." Ted grinned. It was a mark of the good friendship that had grown between he and Isadora over the previous twelve months or so that she knew he was in love with Vic without him telling her.......just as Isadora had figured out all those months ago that Ted felt more than friendship for Vic.
"Ted? You ready?" Albie called over.
"Yep." Ted stood and smiled at Isadora before leaving. He and Albie apparated to an alleyway at the back of King's Cross, and walked through the station together. As always, it was easy to spot the Hogwarts students and their families; some parents wore mis-matched muggle clothes.....no muggle would be carrying an owl cage.....the sporting teams they spoke of were the Arrows and the Falcons.....
Through the barrier, Albie instantly spotted his sister and called back to Ted that he would see him back in the office. Ted looked around, and eventually located Vic in the distance, talking to Percy and Audrey. He smiled softly as he watched Vic bend down a little to allow Lucy to whisper something in her ear; the two of them giggled, and as Vic raised herself up again she noticed him. Ted knew that he would never - could never - forget the warm, loving and honest smile that grew across her face as they locked eyes.
"Vic! Vic!" Vic pulled the duvet further over her head, trying to block out both the light that was pushing through her curtains and the sound of her sister's voice.
"Nurngh", Vic muttered as Dom forcefully removed the duvet from her bed.
"Maman says its time to get up", Dom told her. "Breakfast is almost ready, and we need to leave early today, remember?"
"Hmmmm...", Vic replied as she forced herself to sit up in bed and remember just about everything. Ah, yes, her parents had to go to some staff meeting at Gringotts that had inexplicably been called for September 1st; they were all due to head to the Leaky and then on to King's Cross early. Vic had tried to make an argument for apparition - she was, after all, of age - but her parents had insisted that they all make their way to King's Cross together.
"So, you're up? You're not going to go back to sleep - I can go back to finishing off packing the last of my things?" Vic nodded as she blinked wildly, trying to force her eyes to stay open; she had tossed and turned for hours the night before, thinking about how much she would miss Ted.
"Yeah, you should go back to your packing", Vic told her sister. Once Dom had left the room, Vic immediately threw off the covers, knowing that if she lay her head down even for a moment, she would fall straight back to sleep. She yawned widely, and went to open the curtains, finding herself faced with a windy and cloudy day; autumn was clearly on its way.
Vic glanced down towards the beach, and instantly felt relief that she had finished packing the night before. It would give her time to go for a quick walk down to the shore before they flooed to the Leaky. As much as Vic loved Hogwarts, one thing she felt the grounds lacked was a beach - and the black lake could never, ever replace the wildness of the sea around the Cornish coastline.
"Yes?" Vic called back down at the sound of her mother's voice as she finished getting changed.
"Are you nearly ready, ma petite? We 'ave to leave soon and ze breakfast is ready!"
"Coming!" Vic put her pyjamas carefully at the top of her trunk - she always made sure that everything required for the first night back at school was right at the top in case she fell asleep before her unpacking was finished - and made her way downstairs.The smell of her mother's home-made waffles wafted up to her, and made Vic feel much hungrier than she had moments before.
Less than an hour later, Vic found herself hugging her parents goodbye at King's Cross. For some reason, Vic was reminded of the very first time she had caught the train to Hogwarts and been caught between excitement that she was finally getting to go there with Ted, and an oppressive feeling that brought tears close to her eyes as she contemplated the fact that she would not see her parents again until Christmas.
"Au revoir, mes petites", said her mother throatily. "Eet weel not be long to Christmas."
"Look after yourself, and don't study so hard that you make yourself ill", her father told her sternly. "If you want to drop a subject, or give up being a prefect, because everything is too much for you then that is fine."
"I know", she nodded.
"And remember that Ted isn't the only person waiting for you to write", he grinned.
"Bye, daddy." Vic hugged her father tightly and then pulled back so he could speak to Dom and Louis quickly. At the start of the summer, her holidays had stretched before her into eternity, and now the closer it came to eleven o'clock, the faster time seemed to pass.
"We better be going. Behave, and remember to write."
"I weel mees all of you. And Christmas weel be soon."
As they walked away, Dom and Louis seemed ready to leave Vic on her own. She had spotted Dom's friends clustered near one of the carriages up front, pulling their trunks aboard, and supposed Genie must be around somewhere; Louis would be spending the trip with his girlfriend and their mutual friends. Her brother seemed to have separated himself from his old friends a bit in the last year, and although part of Vic was sad about that, it DID mean that Archie Bagman no longer came round to visit constantly and she therefore did not need to listen to him rhapsodising about her.
"Vic!" Victoire turned round to find herself facing Nat.
"Nat! When did you get here?!"
"Now." She hugged her friend and they started to move, along with Dom, to where her friends were boarding the train. Ted had promised to come and see her off, and she wanted to get her trunk in a decent compartment before he appeared. She also hoped to see Aunt Ginny and say goodbye, but accepted that James and Al would probably be running so late that they would only just make the train.
"Feels weird, doing this for the last time on September 1st", said Nat wistfully as she heaved her trunk onto the train.
"I know what you mean", agreed Vic.
"Would you two please stop talking like you're about to retire or die or something?" laughed Dom. "Leaving Hogwarts is not the end of your life, it is the beginning."
"Did you read that line in a book or something", Dom's friend Emme asked with a look of feigned innocence.
"Yeah. One of Lavender Brown McLaggen's", retorted Dom. She settled down into a seat opposite Leigh-Anne, and pulled out a copy of Witch Weekly. Everyone seemingly settled, Vic stood up.
"I'm off to find Ted; he said he would be here around now. I'll be back before we leave." Vic left behind the gossiping girls and jumped back down onto the platform, looking up and down it for Ted. She was so busy doing so, she didn't see Percy, Audrey and her cousins as she passed them.
"Victoire!" Lucy called her. "Victoire!" Vic turned round at the second calling of her name, and smiled at her aunt, uncle and cousins.
"Looking forward to a new term?" Vic asked Molly and Lucy. They both nodded quickly.
"I'm looking forward to starting my new subjects", said Molly. "You study Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, don't you, Victoire?"
"I do", she nodded. "And if you need any help with your homework - not that I think someone as smart as you will - then let me know, okay?"
"I remember my seventh year", said Percy pompously. "All the studying, and of course my Head Boy duties on top of that....well, you can imagine."
"Of course", said Vic, suppressing a giggle at the recollection of the stories she's heard about her uncles' treatment of Percy at the time. Two uncles in particular.....
"I've got something to tell you", said Lucy importantly. She indicated that Vic should crouch down. She complied, and listened to her cousin's whisper. "Mummy says that if I work hard enough at school, I can have a kitten for Christmas - like Lily does!"
"That's - " Vic began to say. She stopped when she glanced across the platform and caught sight of Ted smiling at her. "That's lovely - just remember I'm allergic! I should get moving. I can see Ted over there, and I haven't had a chance to say goodbye to him yet. See you on the train, girls."
A massive grin on her face, Vic had to work hard to resist the temptation to run over to where her boyfriend stood.
"I love you and I'm going to miss you", Ted muttered as he cupped her chin softly. She would have to board the train in a few moments, and he was dreading it.
"Me too. Lots and lots", she admitted. Ted pulled her a little closer and kissed her, Vic falling into his embrace in the knowledge that she would seldom be able to do so in the next six months.
"Oh Merlin!" Ted heard a voice from behind him that, if it did not belong to James, sounded suspiciously like his.
"What are you doing?"
"I've come to see Victoire off", Ted told him, smiling into Vic's lips. "Go away, James."
"That was a bit rude", muttered Vic, but Ted could feel the upward turn of her lips.
"James can't take a hint; you have to be blunt with him. You know that as well as I do", Ted replied. "Besides, I was in the middle of saying goodbye to my amazing girlfriend - a girlfriend, I may add, that I will not be able to see for weeks - and rather enjoying our farewell snog."
"Hmmmm, maybe I'll forgive you. Just this once, mind." And Vic then effectively shut him up for the next few minutes.
"Vic! The train's just about to leave!" Ted groaned as Nat shouted out. He pulled back, before hugging Vic tightly; he really was going to miss her. The summer had felt like it used to, them spending lots of time together. Now he was being forced to return to the reality of a long-distance relationship, and Ted did not like it one little bit.
"I'm going to miss you", he told her.
"I know. I'm going to miss you." He could see she was torn between the excitement everyone felt at returning to Hogwarts and dreading their parting. "I love you."
"I love you, too", said Ted, smiling. He could never tire of saying those words to her - they were worth every 'I told you so' he still got from Wes and Rowland about his relationship with Vic. "And remember - I'll take a daytrip to Hogsmeade at Hallowe'en to see you."
"Definitely", Vic nodded as Nat shouted once again for her to board the train. "I'm coming, Nat!! I should go.......I'll write tonight, once I've got there."
"Good luck with Al and James." Vic laughed and hugged him again quickly. He gave her one final kiss and then walked hand-in-hand with her to the door of the compartment Nat was hanging out of. Ted could see Dom and her friends in the background and waved to them as Vic boarded the train moments before it started to pull out of the station.
"I love you!" Ted called out again with a grin as Vic waved back at him. He watched it pull out, sighing heavily at the thought of the eight and some weeks until Hallowe'en. They would make it through them, though; Vic had all of her NEWT work to distract her, and between his friends, Harry, Ginny and Lily, and his grandmother, Ted doubted he would be allowed any time at all to brood.
Turning round, Ted noticed Harry, Ginny and Lily standing talking to Ron, Hermione and Hugo. All six of them looked a little deflated - Hugo and Lily because they had to wait another two years to go to Hogwarts, and their parents because they'd just seen off Al, James and Rosie. He walked over to them, remembering that James had interrupted he and Vic. James would be unlikely to sit on that piece of gossip for long.
"Hey", said Ted as he approached them. "I take it everyone made it on the train in time, then?"
"Yes, they did", Ginny replied. "The house is going to be so much quieter with both Al and James gone. Poor Neville."
"Is Victoire really, truly your girlfriend?" Lily asked Ted. Ted nodded. "Are you going to get married soon? Can I be a bridesmaid?"
"Steady on", smiled Ted. "She hasn't been my girlfriend for long, and I think we're both a bit young to think about getting married soon. But, if we do, it will be up to Vic to decide who the bridesmaids are."
"Goody. I'll write and ask her if I can be one of them", Lily replied with a decisive nod. Ted looked nervously at Lily, trying to imagine the look on Vic's face when she received a letter from Lily asking if she could be a bridesmaid. He hoped that Ginny might stop her daughter from owling that particular request to her elder cousin; Ted did NOT want to freak Vic out or frighten her off.
"Speaking of, I should apologise for James, Ted. Unfortunately, he takes after his uncle in some respects." Ted laughed, understanding from the look Ginny was giving Ron which of her brothers she was referring to.
"I don't know what you mean", replied Ron, causing Hermione and Harry to instantly snort.
"My OWL year, deserted corridor, you and I almost duelling because you objected to me snogging my boyfriend in private", Ginny responded smartly. "Or how about when you said you'd remove your permission for Harry and I to go out?"
"I was - I - " Ron spluttered.
"If nothing, it'll be interesting to see what your face looks like when Rosie eventually brings home a boyfriend", said Ginny as she took Lily's hand. "Anyway, we should be going. You have to go back to the Ministry, don't you Ted?"
"Afraid so." He knew that the rest of them had the day off work and were planning to go out for lunch in Diagon Alley with George, Angelina and the kids. "I'll be over for dinner as planned, though, so I will see you just before six."
"Are you sure you can't come with us, Teddy?" Lily asked him. "We're going to Fortescue's after lunch with Freddie and Roxie for chocolate ice cream sundaes."
"As much as I love those sundaes, my boss needs me back at work", sighed Ted, promising himself one at some point over the next few days. "Sorry, Lily bean."
He said goodbye to them, and then apparated back to the Ministry and the Victoire-less life he would be forced to lead for the next few months.
As the Hogwarts Express pulled out of the station, Vic flopped down on the seat next to Nat and sighed, fighting the tears that threatened to fall.
"Come here." Nat pulled Vic into a hug. "And have a good cry."
"I can't", sniffed Vic as she pushed back the tears as far as they would go. "I need to go to the Prefects meeting."
"You can have one tonight, then. We'll eat lots of the chocolate you got in Diagon Alley and have a good cry over Ted and Dylan, and how much we're going to miss them."
"Sounds like a plan", nodded Vic. She took in a deep breath and stood up. "Wonder who the Heads are this year?"
"I hope for your sanity that neither of them are from Slytherin."
"Me too." Vic walked out of the compartment and along the corridor, looking out for her cousins. She spotted Rosie and Al in one with Molly, Lucy and their friends, and felt a bit sorry for Al - he was surrounded by his female cousins when he should have been with his brother.
"Alright?" said Vic as she opened the door.
"That's us on our way!" Rosie exclaimed happily. "I can't wait to get there! Isn't it exciting, Al?"
"Yeah." Vic took in the nervous look on her cousin and asked why he wasn't with his brother. Al snorted in response.
"James would never sit with a first year", Al told her. "And anyway, he'll just spend the whole train ride telling me that I'm going to be in Slytherin."
"Any of us could end up anywhere", Rosie informed him. "Are you going to your Prefect meeting, Victoire?"
"I am. And I should get a move on." She turned to leave, but was interrupted by Al.
"Is Teddy really your boyfriend now? James told us he was." He looked a little sceptical, but Vic couldn't really blame him; James was always up to mischief.
"Yes." Vic felt a stupid smile grow on her face. "Yes, Al - Rosie - Lucy - Molly - Ted really is my boyfriend. Any more questions? No? Well, I'll be back along to see you later. Al, try not to eat too many sweets from the trolley - you know too much sugar goes for you."
Vic closed the door on the giggles behind her and grinned, the tears she had struggled with put away - she was going back to Hogwarts and would enjoy her final year there. Yes, she would miss Ted, but the castle and grounds would be some form of consolation at least. And she would have her brother, sister and numerous cousins with her, as well as Nat.
"Vic and Ted sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G...." James's singsong voice carried along the corridor, reaching Vic. She sighed, and turned to see her cousin and his friends poking their heads out of a compartment nearby. Vic frowned at them, but felt herself smiling a little too.
"Funny, James. Very funny", she told him. "You wait until you find a girlfriend........we'll all be waiting to get you back."
"Humph", he replied. "You'll never get me."
"We'll see." Vic grinned and walked on towards the meeting, wondering what her final year at Hogwarts had in store, and thinking of Ted. Little more than eighteen months ago, he had been her best friend - nothing more, nothing less - and now it felt like her world revolved around him.
As she had said to her aunts recently, falling for her best friend may not have been the smartest thing she had ever done - but it had certainly made her happier than she had ever been before. And come what may, Vic knew that she never would, or could, regret it.
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