A/N: Thank you to all those who have been reading and especially those leaving such wonderful, in-depth reviews (Sarah & Ray in particular, I'm looking at you!). It's been so nice to return to writing and have someone want to read what you put out there and actually enjoy it, too! Thank you for that. And welcome to the penultimate chapter!
Victoire lay in bed, staring up thoughtfully at a crack in the ceiling plaster, and wondering how she got to such a point in her young adult life that she needed to beg Ted Remus Lupin for sex in a cupboard.
She kicked the duvet away from her legs with a huff. Grimmauld Place was stiflingly hot tonight. Too many bodies under one roof, she supposed.
As was often the case after these big gatherings, most of the family had opted to stay the night in one of the endless number of bedrooms on one of the endless number of floors. After all, it was never a good idea to try and apparate home under the influence of half a bottle of firewhiskey, and the Potter-Weasley family were always more than proficient when it came to toasting whatever happy occasion may have brought them all together.
Usually that would include Teddy and Victoire helping themselves to a bottle between them, playing some silly game that involved the loser knocking back large measures of the lethal stuff or slowly sipping at full glasses and putting the entire world to rights, together. But not tonight.
Teddy had barely said more than two words to her since he'd finally re-emerged from the cupboard and had seemed very keen on making sure he was at least ten foot away from her at all times, with at least three other members of her family between them. It had felt like a life-size game of wizard's chess – whenever she'd made a move towards him, to speak to him, he'd ducked behind her brother, or her dad or Grandma Molly and launched into a conversation about quidditch, or work, or the best recipes for perfect scones.
Ordinarily, Victoire would have been furious at him for being such a prat, but tonight she could hardly try and take the high road when it was her fault they were in this predicament. This was only their third ever fight (if you could even call it that) – discounting their childhood squabbles over who got the first go on the toy broom or the biggest slice of cauldron cake, of course.
She could still vividly remember their first proper falling out, although to this day she wasn't entirely sure what it had all been about. They'd both been at school and she'd just started dating Damian Zabini – Teddy had gone all sulky on her, stopped sitting with her at breakfast or meeting her between classes and generally taken it upon himself to be an arse for a full three weeks. Eventually she'd bribed him back with chocolate frogs and they'd carried on as if nothing had ever happened.
Victoire suspected that Teddy hadn't even known they'd been in a fight, the second time they fell out. It was during the annual family camping trip later that same year – Uncle Charlie had taken them to somewhere on the edge of Loch Lomond for a long weekend in summer. They'd all been bitten to death by midges, as she could recall, but that had been the least of her concerns when Teddy had announced that he would be sharing a tent with James and Fred, and not – as was tradition – with her, anymore. There'd been no explanation, no prior warning or discussion. Teddy had simply made a bee-line for the boys' tent and left her to squeeze in beside Dominique and Lily and cry herself to sleep.
She never mentioned how upset she'd been and instead it had been her turn to give him the cold shoulder. Although, given that they were on school holidays and didn't see each other every day, it didn't seem to have the same impact, much to her chagrin. Eventually she'd gotten bored of being cross with him – more to the point, she'd missed him – and she'd floo-ed round to his gran's house to hang out.
Months later, on reflection, she'd decided that maybe Teddy was just having a bad year. He'd been facing his Hogwarts graduation, after all, and hadn't yet been scouted by the Quidditch leagues. It seemed most people tended to lose their heads a little when faced with the outside, adult world – herself included.
And now here they were, in what was possibly becoming their third ever major disagreement. Except this time both parties definitely knew about it and it was definitely her fault. Because she'd begged Ted Remus Lupin for sex in a cupboard.
She let out something of a groan and squashed her face into her lumpy pillow, ignoring the curious stares of the two hags playing gobstones in the portrait above her bed.
Well, wasn't this just the pinnacle of the spectacular mess she was making of her love life thus far, she thought. Actually – she wrinkled her nose in frustration – calling it a love life was probably putting too grand a title on it. It was more like a string of potential relationships that never really got off the ground, or varying lengths of time spent with different boys that all seemed to come to a rather abrupt end when she found herself unable to take her knickers off for them.
And she wanted to, really. Gods, did she want to! She wasn't unfeeling, she wasn't incapable of arousal. She enjoyed herself when she was with them, when they kissed and touched her. Sweet Circe, she would be the one to initiate it half the time, only to pull herself away at the last moment, stumbling over some unseen hurdle, only to get labelled a cock-tease or frigid for her efforts.
And frigid she was most certainly not. Like any Ravenclaw worth her salt, when this problem had first reared its ugly head, she'd done her research. Having first read quite a few saucy novels from the shady aisle at the back of Flourish & Blotts, she'd experimented by herself in the safety of her flat and found that, not only could she definitely have a mind-blowing orgasm if she set her mind to it, but that she was really rather good at getting herself there.
In fact, if losing one's virginity was a one-player sport, she reckoned she'd probably be the world champion at it by now. But – alas – it was not. There was only so much she could achieve on her own, and that was why she needed Teddy.
And really, she thought crossly, tossing and turning once more beneath the heavy duvet – if he could just stop being so scandalised by the idea for one moment, she was sure he would see the genius in her plan.
There was no one she trusted more than Ted Lupin, no one she cared about more than him, no one she knew better (or longer, for that matter). He really was the perfect candidate for the job. And for some reason, although she couldn't quite put her finger on why, something in her gut was telling her that this was the answer – that he was going to be the answer to her problem.
Cajoled by her own logic and realising there was no way she was getting to sleep any time soon, Victoire sat up and swung her legs out of bed.
Uncle Harry had insisted on Teddy also staying the night at Grimmauld Place after he'd knocked back several rounds of firewhiskey with her Uncle George (all the while steadfastly ignoring her, of course), and she knew which room he always took when he did – second floor, third on the left, the same one his mum used to use back in the time of Order meetings and the like.
If she went to his room, she reasoned, he'd be a captive audience – he'd have to listen to her argument, once and for all. So, pulling a jumper over her thin pyjamas, and under the watchful gaze of the gobstone-playing hags, Victoire padded barefoot out into the corridor.
Teddy listened to the rain as it lashed against the window, trying to let the sounds of the raging autumnal storm block out his own unwanted thoughts.
His time spent alone in the dark cupboard had done nothing to quiet the new little voice that had taken up residence in his head – the one that was telling him what an idiot he was being by not giving in to Victoire's demands. Nor had it erased the memory of how she'd felt beneath him, pressed against the cupboard wall and completely there for his taking. The smell of verbena leaf shampoo and the sweetness of pumpkin juice on her breath.
He let out something between a moan and growl and rubbed his tired eyes.
These were not the types of thought you were supposed to have about your best mate, he practically pleaded with himself. He'd had them before, he could at least admit that to himself now – every once in a while, something would happen to pull at the carefully constructed platonic image he held of her and it would send Teddy off into a spiral of dangerous thinking.
Like the first time she'd worn that stupid blue dress or whenever she started dating someone new. The times they would cook together in his flat and they'd have to squeeze around each other in his tiny galley kitchen, laughing and swearing at each other to get out of the way. And just like the times he would turn up at her office to surprise her with take-out from Bathilda's Bakery, and she'd look up from her unending stack of paperwork and flash him one of those ridiculously wide smiles.
Okay, so maybe it happened rather more often than he'd still care to admit.
There were also those evenings when he'd go round to theirs to watch muggle football on the tellybox with Roxanne. Vic would sit with them reading her books and insist on wedging her feet under his legs to keep her toes from getting too cold. Sometimes he'd catch himself absentmindedly rubbing his thumb across her knee and wonder what on Earth he was doing, not that she ever seemed to mind.
He cursed internally. There was another thought there now, shouting at him from the darkest recesses of his mind, a sort of growing awareness that was making him feel incredibly uneasy the more it took shape.
Swinging his legs out of bed, Teddy began to pace the length of the bedroom, catching sight of his reflection in the small speckled mirror and noting that his hair had turned that same shade of deep violet as earlier. Victoire's favourite colour, his brain unhelpfully supplied.
Sweet Salazar, he thought angrily, what had the girl done to him now? He needed to find her and put a stop to this nonsense once and for all, before this new feeling – and he had a horrible suspicion he already knew what it was – had chance to properly realise itself in his head. Then he'd really be buggered.
Pulling on a pair of pyjama bottoms over his boxer shorts, he headed out into the hallway – he knew which room she always stayed in here (third floor, fourth on the right), and he strode soundlessly but purposefully towards the staircase – only to come crashing into someone halfway up the stairs in the darkness.
"Oomph!" came the muffled cry as he collided with the oncoming body – reflexively swinging out an arm to catch and steady whomever he had just caught off guard. He felt a soft hand on his shoulder as the other body righted themselves and then a whispered "Lumos."
He blinked once, twice, into the new huddle of light and found himself staring up into the same face he hadn't been able to stop thinking about all evening.
"Teddy-," "Vic," they both started in hushed surprise.
"Are you alright?" he muttered, quickly checking her over for any sign of missing limb or other injury.
"Yes, yes, I'm fine," she swatted his fussing hands away. "Listen, I need to talk to you. Properly, this time."
"I need to talk to you, too!" he hissed. "This whole thing is driving me-,"
"Me first!" she quickly clamped a hand over his mouth, throwing him an apologetic smile as he frowned, his protests muffled beneath her fingers. "Look, I know you think my idea is terrible… and maybe it is, I don't know. But if you'd just let me explain why it's so important to me then I really think you might come around to my way of seeing it. I mean, it's us, Teddy. We can do anything together, share anything. Why can't we share this? Just the once?"
Victoire was rambling then – off on one of her logical Ravenclaw-brain analyses by the looks of things. Teddy could always tell by the way her brow furrowed, bringing out one tiny line in her forehead, and her gaze sort of clouded over whilst she concentrated.
Unfortunately for Victoire and her undoubtedly well-prepared argument, Teddy's mind had gone completely blank almost from the moment she first started speaking. This was, in part, a well-practiced survival technique for when he recognised one of her infamous lectures coming his way. He'd been on the receiving end of more than his fair share in their time and had learnt it was safer for his life and his sanity just to let her go on, uninterrupted, until she ran out of steam.
But tonight, it was also because he could smell that bloody verbena leaf again, could almost taste it on the skin that was still clamped down over his mouth. Merlin, the girl must practically bathe in the stuff, he thought crossly, resisting the sudden urge to let his tongue trace along the lines of her palm.
Losing all focus entirely, he took her in by the shimmering light of her wand. She was wearing one of her dad's old Christmas jumpers, the big, golden letter B standing out against the itchy maroon wool. Her hair was up in a lopsided plait that had come almost completely unravelled, silvery wisps framing her face, and her skin looked almost unreal, ethereal even, in their small halo of light.
He watched the curve of her mouth as she made her impassioned speech, soft pink lips uttering heated whispers, and the flicker in her eyes which were intently fixed on his – imploring, urging him to give in, to agree with her demands. He inhaled that delicious citrus scent again, head spinning with a wave of unnamed feeling, and struggled to recall why he was even arguing with her in the first place. Rather belatedly, he realised his hand was still clutching hold of her waist.
"And I promise I wouldn't make it awkward, afterwards I mean, we could both just agree to never -,"
Vic's eyes flew wide, words dying in her throat as Teddy suddenly gripped her wrist firmly and prised her hand away. She looked up at him uncertainly – although as she was still standing on the step above him, they were almost level in height for once – and warily took in his clenched jaw, his darkened amber eyes, the deep violet colour of his hair.
"Teddy, are you alright-,"
"Vic," he ground out, "I need you to stop talking."
She blinked. "But, Teddy, I'm trying to-,"
"Stop." His other hand came up to lightly touch her jaw, lidded golden eyes staring at her hungrily. "Please."
Victoire's lips made a soft and silent 'oh' as the moment of realisation washed over her. "… Are you… are you going to kiss me?"
Teddy swallowed thickly, not taking his eyes off her mouth. "I.. I think so, yeah."
Victoire suddenly felt very aware of all the points at which their bodies were already touching. She could feel the arm at her waist, holding her in place firmly but gently, and the rough pads of his fingers as they coasted their way up from the curve of her jaw to her cheek. She felt frozen in place, unable to decide what to do or how she should hold herself. It was almost that same mild panic as being kissed for the very first time – all her limbs felt awkward and in the way. Should she turn her head? Which direction should she turn her head? What if they both went left and it was all bumped foreheads and clashed teeth?
And then she found that she couldn't really think about anything anymore as Teddy's nose brushed against hers – the briefest flash of uncertainty in his brow as he stared down at her from under heavy lashes.
In truth, she wasn't entirely sure who closed the final millimetre of distance between them. The hand on her waist still held her firmly, giving her a tether, a point to root herself to as Teddy's lips met hers. They were both hesitant at first, just the lightest of touches – testing these unchartered waters together. Victoire's eyes fluttered shut, her lips parting ever so slightly as she tentatively brushed her fingers through the soft hair at the nape of Teddy's neck.
At the first taste of her tongue, Teddy groaned with a longing he didn't fully understand. Somehow, she tasted like he'd always imagined she would, without ever realising that he had imagined such a thing at all. Mint from her toothpaste, the warmth of the firewhiskey and something else that he couldn't put a name to but that he knew instantly was just her.
The hand at her waist had now wandered to the small of her back, allowing him to pull her towards him as they both deepened the kiss. Victoire made a soft sighing sound from somewhere in her throat that made Teddy's pulse skip. He loved the feel of her mouth against his, that devious tongue that was driving him crazy with each languid, teasing stroke. He thought it might just be the best thing in the whole entire world and couldn't believe how long it had taken him to discover it.
He bit down lightly on her bottom lip and it was as if a timer finally went off in both of them. Victoire moaned loudly, completely forgetting herself or their current location, and pressed herself firmly against him, hands curling into his hair. Teddy was more than happy to reciprocate, letting her feel exactly what she was doing to him as their hips met and earning another little gasp from Victoire. Teddy grinned wolfishly against her mouth.
The hand on her back slid deftly under her jumper and the thin pyjama slip beneath, cool fingertips brushing against scorching skin before trailing up her side, ghosting lightly over her ribcage and coming tantalisingly close to the swell of her breast. Victoire felt herself pouting at the hesitation, not daring to disentangle her tongue from Teddy's, and rolled her hips in encouragement.
The movement almost made Teddy's brain (and other parts) explode right there and then. In fact, he was so lost in her and all that she was making him feel, that he barely even registered the slam of a door a few floors below or the loud and merry voices now disrupting the silence and echoing upwards towards them.
Luckily, Victoire had just about enough rational thought left in her to raise a stilling hand to Teddy's chest and, more than a little reluctantly, he pulled away. He quickly assessed her through half-lidded eyes and allowed himself a smug grin at the sight of her – lips red and swollen, hair mussed and jumper askew – before turning his attention to the oncoming voices.
There was no mistaking those dulcet tones: James and Fred had returned from the local muggle pub, more than three sheets to the wind each by the sounds of it and singing a garbled version of the old Hogwarts school song. Half swaying, half-staggering up the first flight of stairs below them.
Teddy grinned, brushing a hand through his own lopsided hair and was about to suggest a quick relocation to one of their bedrooms when he clocked Victoire's expression. She was staring at him with an emotion he honestly couldn't put a name to – a mixture of confusion, surprise and maybe even fear, or a close relation at least.
"Vic-?" he whispered, questioningly, reaching for her hand in the dark only for her to snatch her fingers away. "What's the matter?"
She shook her head, mouth slightly ajar. "I.. I thought that-," she started, hesitantly. She suddenly seemed to be finding it very difficult to look him in the eye. "I thought that with you it would be…"
"Would be what?" Teddy muttered, one ear on the heavy oncoming footsteps, a hard lump beginning to form in his throat.
Victoire shook her head again and nervously tucked her hair behind her ears. "I'm sorry, Teddy, I made a mistake. I… I should never have asked you to… I'm so sorry."
Without so much as another glance, Victoire spun on her heel, fleeing back up the stairs and away from Teddy who – slack-jawed and speechless – watched her go, both embarrassed and confused. He briefly thought about chasing after her – he knew where she was headed, after all – and checking she was alright, perhaps demand a bit more of an explanation. But his pride was too great for that and besides, he was pretty sure he'd understood the message: her little experiment had failed already. It seemed it was no different with him than the rest of her would-be lovers. Exactly why that discovery made his head swim and his chest hurt so much he wasn't completely sure of yet.
"Teddy!" A jovial cheer from the pair of party-goers – who by some miracle had made it up a flight of stairs intact – tore his gaze away from the now empty spot in which Victoire had been standing.
"What you still doing up?" Fred slurred, cheerfully. James hiccupped loudly beside him.
Teddy swallowed thickly and cleared his throat. "You two look like shite," he muttered, choosing to ignore their question and appraising the carefree duo. James had what looked like vomit down the front of his jacket and Fred seemed to be standing at rather a precarious angle. "Get to bed, both of you, before you wake the whole sodding house."
"That's the spirit, Teddy!" they yelled after him as he pushed between the pair and stalked back towards his room. "Merry Christmas to you, too!"
"It's October, you gits!" Teddy snarled, offering them one last dark scowl before slamming the door behind him.
James and Fred stared after him in amusement, still propping each other up and swaying unsteadily in the middle of the hallway.
"Well!" Fred breathed, heavily. "What's got into his knickers, d'you think?"
James hiccuped again, he was beginning to look a rather disconcerting shade of green. "Nothing, mate. I think that's the problem."