Note: This is a companion to my other Teddy story, His Parents' Son. It's not necessary to read that one first, as most of the important stuff is covered again within the context of this story, but you are more than welcome to do so. :)
Note the Second: I know it's long, but please don't let that turn you away! It's worth it in the end, I hope!
DISCLAIMER: Teddy isn't mine, though I kinda wish he was. Even though I've got about ten years on him . . . Anyway, it's all Jo's, a magnificent literary genius to whom we all owe all honor and glory and whatnot.
Emily Morrigan was the first girl I ever kissed. We were sixteen when she came down the stairs that led to the girls dorms one night and told me to kiss her. I had been sitting in front of the fire in the Gryffindor Common Room, finishing an essay for Professor Longbottom. Emily's announcement halted that fairly efficiently, though not because I wasn't used to her saying things like that; I was. She did it all the time. She'd just randomly come up to me and make some sort of pronouncement, some conclusion that she'd come to. Whatever she said, she said very matter-of-factly. In all the years I've known her, she's never once shown herself to be embarrassed by anything, and she isn't one to beat around the bush. This occasion was no exception.
"Teddy, I've been thinking," she said as she strode over to me and plopped down on the end of the sofa I was occupying. I didn't look up.
"Mm hmm?" I said, finishing my sentence.
"You need to kiss me." I looked up at that.
"I do?" I asked, figuring she had a . . . well, not necessarily a good reason, but an Emily reason.
"Yes. You changed your hair." She did that a lot, too. She wasn't wrong; I had changed my hair. Doesn't do to wear it blue when Gryffindor's playing Ravenclaw in Quidditch.
"And why do I need to kiss you?" I asked, to get her back on track.
"Because I've been doing some research," she told me. Another common phrase.
"Ah," I said, and went back to my essay. That had explained it, you see. Whenever Emily does her 'research,' she usually comes back with some crazy idea in her head that she will never, never be persuaded to drop.
"I mean it, Teddy," she said, snatching my quill from my hand. I sighed, looking back at her.
"What research is this?" I asked. Maybe you think I shouldn't have encouraged her. But you don't know Emily. She's patient as hell, and if I hadn't asked the question, she would have just sat there, staring at me and not saying anything and stealing my homework implements until I had.
She smiled at me. "I've been researching methods of falling in love," she said. "And I have found that it usually happens out of one of three scenarios. Two people who fall in love are either complete strangers, best friends, or arch enemies. There are varying degrees of course, but the fact of the matter is that you and I have a high potential of ending up as a couple. Unfortunately, my research has also led me to discover that most best friend to true love scenarios take an unbearably long amount of time and anguish to resolve themselves. So I figure that what needs to happen is that you need to kiss me. Right here, right now. Then we'll know if it's meant to be or not. If it is, we've saved ourselves years of unresolved sexual tension. If it's not, we've saved ourselves a lot of time that would have been put to use just wondering and could now be put to use finding the right person."
I was staring at her by the end, amused. I was used to such speeches by then, of course, but I was still amazed at the things she came up with sometimes. "So you want me to kiss you," I said.
"I believe I made that statement some time ago," she said. When I didn't answer, she sighed and put her hands on her hips. "Look, I didn't think you'd have a problem with it," she said. "I mean, you're a bloke. What bloke is going to say no to a snog?"
So I kissed her. I'd never done it before, but George Weasley is my almost uncle, so I knew the theory. Actually, I knew quite a bit more than that, as I was the first guy Harry had ever had to give 'the talk' to. Here's hoping he does better with his own kids, but if not, they can always go to Uncle George, too, to find out what exactly their dad was 'stammering on' about.
But, as I said, I kissed her. And it was enjoyable. I mean, Em's a good looking girl and she's right. No bloke's going to complain about snogging a good looking girl. But there wasn't anything there. It was . . . just Em. And me. Kissing in the Common Room.
I didn't know what she was looking for, to be honest, what she was expecting to learn from kissing me.
Eventually, she pulled away, looking thoughtful. "Well?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said, sitting back on her heels. "I think we may have to experiment with this for a while, Teddy. Until I can get a better read. Research, you understand. I like your hair like that. Have you finished your Astronomy homework yet?"
Yeah. That's how I got my first girlfriend, no lie.
It didn't last long, to be honest, and the break up was as bizarre and abrupt as the getting together had been. It was two weeks later that she'd pulled out of a kiss to tell me that she was sorry, but there was nothing there, that she'd known since the first time, but by now she was sure it wasn't a fluke.
I agreed with as straight a face as I could, since laughing during a break-up seemed a rather uncouth thing to do.
That was the moment that she said, "Excellent. Because I think Robert Boot in Ravenclaw is interested, and I'd hate to leave him hanging a moment longer than necessary. But on to more important things. You pay attention to Professor Longbottom easier than I do. Our last threatened punishment was doing what with the Venemous Tentacula?" And we continued on as we ever had. Like it had never even happened. For two weeks we had been Teddy and Emily, plus kissing, and now we were back to being just Teddy and Emily, sans kissing.
Except that that's not entirely true. There were still moments when Em would just randomly come up and kiss me, as a greeting. I finally told her not to let her current boyfriend see. That comment, made in my seventh year, was, now that I think on it, what started it all. She answered, without missing a beat, that if her boyfriend had a problem with it, he probably wouldn't be her boyfriend much longer.
"Besides," she said. "The French greet each other with a kiss." I rolled my eyes.
"On the cheek," I said. She shrugged.
"Cheek, mouth. Same difference. Speaking of the French, how is Victoire?"
"Well, she's just sitting on the other side of the Common Room, Em, so I imagine you could go ask her yourself," I said, pulling my Transfiguration textbook out of my bag. At this point, my almost-cousin Victoire, or Tori or Tor, as she preferred to be called, was a fifth year. I was thrilled to finally have some of my almost-relatives at school with me, and equally thrilled that I would be gone this year, just missing the most destructive wave of Weasleys and Potters that would very soon be arriving, mainly in the form of my godfather's oldest son James and his partner in crime, cousin Fred. Em and I would not have to worry about who would take up the mantle of Master of Pranks when we were gone.
But I've gotten away from the story again. Anyway, Em rolled her eyes and said, "I mean, how are things between you and Tori?" I arched an eyebrow in her direction.
"Fine," I said slowly. "Tor and I get on great, always have." Then I had to duck, because Em had chucked parchment at me. "What?" I asked, completely bewildered.
"Teddy Remus Lupin, either you are thicker than I had originally thought or you are being deliberately obtuse. I am referring to the romantic progression of the relationship you and Tori share."
I stared at her as if she had grown a second head, and then I began to laugh. "Funny, Em," I said when I could grab a breath. She glared at me.
"Teddy, I'm not kidding." I sobered when I saw that she actually wasn't.
"Wait, you're serious?" I asked her. She rolled her eyes.
"That's usually what not kidding means, yes," she said, exasperated.
"Em, she's fifteen," I said. "She's two whole years younger than I am!"
"And that's a pretty pitiful excuse coming from someone whose parents were, what, fourteen years apart?"
"Thirteen," I corrected, "and that's beside the point."
"It isn't!" she countered, and she was right, and I searched desperately for some other excuse.
"Well, even if it isn't, I can't go out with Tor, she's practically my cousin. Ow!" The last was because Em had hit me. Pretty hard.
"She isn't practically your anything," Em said, and the disdain she directed at me was practically dripping on the carpet. "And stop acting so put upon; I didn't hit you that hard. Harry Potter is your godfather, not your father, not your uncle, not your big brother, ergo, his relatives are not your relatives, and there is no blood connection between you and the eldest Miss Weasley."
"There is so!" I defended, ignoring the slights against my family. "My grandmother is a Black, and the Blacks are distantly related to the Weasleys through –"
"No, I'm sorry," Em said waving a hand in dismissal. "You have run out of pathetic excuses, and since you have nothing more substantial to offer, I will return to my original question. How is the –"
"Em, it's not like that," I said quietly, interrupting her. "She's like my sister, really. I pick on her, she ridicules me, it's like that. And that's all." She gave me a pitying look.
"Teddy, Teddy, Teddy," she said, not entirely unkindly. "When are you going to learn to see what's right in front of your face?"
"It's not like that," I repeated, but the words were a little more uncomfortable this time.
"Okay," she said, and stood, walking toward the girls' stairs.
"It's not!" I shouted after her.
"Whatever you say, Teddy," she called back, and then she was gone. Grumbling, I turned back to my work.
"What's not like what, Teddy?" came a voice in my ear. I jumped. Grinning at me over the back of my sofa was none other than Tor Weasley, long blonde hair shining in the firelight. I clasped a hand over my heart dramatically.
"Gracious, Twa, you took five years off my life!" I said. She rolled her eyes.
"I have asked you not to call me that, Teddy Lupin!" she said, hands on her hips. I smirked.
"Family tradition," I told her.
"That doesn't make any sense," she said, sitting on the back of the sofa so that she could slide backwards onto the seat, her head ending up by my knee. "And you're not related to me." I arched an eyebrow at her.
"Not technically," I said, trying to ignore the parallel conversation I was having. "But that isn't what I meant."
"Then what did you mean?" she asked, looking up at me as best she could. I tried not to laugh.
"Calling you Twa is tradition because it is tradition for the men in my family to call their female friends by names they don't necessarily like." She rolled her eyes again, which looked strange, seeing as her head was upside-down.
"You mean your father insisted on calling your mother by her full name, which hardly constitutes tradition. And anyway are you trying to equate us to your parents?"
"No!" I said very quickly, probably too quickly, as it caused Tor to give me a rather strange look. I coughed. "Don't you have work to be doing?" I asked her. She grinned evilly.
"It's Saturday, Teddy. No one has work to be doing. And don't think your pathetic attempts at distraction are working. You still haven't answered my first question. What's not like what?"
But I wasn't really paying attention anymore. When she'd said Saturday, she'd reminded me of a previous engagement. So as she had continued talking, I had starting shoving things into my bag. Now that she had finished, I stood, grabbing the cloak draped over the sofa's arm. "Well, Twa," I said, much to her chagrin. "I'd love to continue chatting, but I am late."
"Late for what?" she yelled after me, flipping nimbly to the floor. She had to yell, because I was halfway to the portrait hole.
"To speak as men do," I told her, turning to walk backwards. As I was turning round again, I caught Emily, standing at the foot of the girls' stairs, arms crossed, looking smugly at me with her eyebrows raised. I glared briefly at her before leaving the tower.
Maybe my calling Victoire Twa despite all admonishments didn't make a tradition, even if my father had apparently called my mother a name she hated despite all admonishments, but what had become tradition for me was my weekly tea with Professor Longbottom. In a lot of ways, it had been Professor Longbottom who had "rescued" me when I was first at Hogwarts – eleven years old and thinking the entire world was against me. That was before I'd met Emily and before I'd come to terms with who my parents were. Merlin, I was such an angsty eleven-year-old. I wouldn't be that angsty again for the world.
But anyway, Professor Longbottom was easily my favorite teacher, not that I'd ever tell him that, and not that it got him off the hook at all concerning the pranks Em and I pulled. Actually, if anything, it made him more of a target. He was also my Head of House, so the majority of my detentions were spent with him. Actually, that's how the Saturday teas had started in the first place. My first year, I was in his office so many Saturdays for detention anyway that it felt weird not to be there when I didn't have detention. And so it began.
I'd never been able to talk to an adult so easily. Well, except Harry, of course, but he hardly counts. But I could really talk to Professor Longbottom, and he and I actually had a lot in common, and the man gave great advice.
He wasn't in his office when I got there, but that was all right. He was more than likely in one of his greenhouses. I made myself at home, taking a seat in the usual chair, waving my wand at the teapot to start the water warming.
He came in a few minutes later, took one look at me with my feet on his desk, one of his teacups in hand, and said, "Glad to see you've made yourself at home, Teddy." I grinned.
"'Lo, Professor," I said. "Come on in. I've made the tea."
"Thank you, Teddy," he said, pulling off his work gloves. "Especially for inviting me in to . . . my own office."
I grinned wider and waved a hand in mock dismissal. "Don't mention it. Anytime." He gave me a wry look as he sat behind his desk.
"And where is your partner in crime today?" he asked, stirring sugar into his tea.
"Oh, she's causing trouble elsewhere," I said, and then had to disguise a dark face as a horrible thought occurred to me. I hoped, desperately, that it hadn't entered Em's head to talk to Tor.
"So I'll probably be seeing you both in detention next week?" Professor Longbottom asked.
"Probably," I said with a nod. When he groaned, I said, "Oh, come on, Professor. It wouldn't be Saturday without our shining faces."
"Uh huh," he said, fixing me with another one of his famous looks. I gave him my most winning smile, but it was wasted on the man. "Now, Teddy, you know I don't listen to gossip, but I do hear things now and again, one of which is that Emily and the Williamson boy have broken up because of you?"
I stared at him. "She and Derek broke up?" I asked, dropping my feet to the floor in shock. He looked at me in question.
"You hadn't heard?"
"No!" I said. "That little twat didn't say a thing to me!" There was a moment of silence in which my thoughts whirled madly. "Wait, did you say they broke up over me?" I asked him. Professor Longbottom held up his hands.
"Now, keep in mind that my information is purely hearsay. But, yes. That is the word flying around. Something about him not appreciating her enthusiastic way of greeting you, something I've also heard more about than I ever wished to."
I groaned, slumping back into my chair. "No wonder," I said. It certainly explained her behavior. "So that's why she was pushing me so hard toward –" I broke off because Professor Longbottom was arching an eyebrow at me, and quickly covered my tracks. "Well, never mind who, but that explains it. I warned her about kissing me like that!"
"I thought you two were over," he said. I sighed.
"We are. And we were never really . . . you know . . . in the first place. It was just one of Em's crazy experiments. But she keeps kissing me, as a greeting, and I've warned her that she's not going to keep boyfriends that way." Much to my surprise, Professor Longbottom chuckled.
"You just have to make sure that you each find a partner that understands such an . . . eccentricity, like I did."
"Excuse me?" I asked him gleefully, leaning forward. That had been a rather juicy fact he'd let slip. Much to my delight, he coughed uncomfortably.
"Well, I didn't mean that I – now, Teddy, stop looking at me like that."
"Like what?" I asked, the picture of innocence. He glared sternly at me.
"Like your birthday has come early," he said firmly.
"Oh, but it has, Professor," I said with a grin. "Because your mouth may say there's no story, but your countenance tells me otherwise. So come on. Let's have it. Why would dear Hannah have to be accepting of such an eccentricity?"
"First of all, please don't ever call my wife 'dear Hannah' again," he said, and I interrupted him.
"Why not? Don't you?" He gave me another stern look.
"Yes, but I don't care to hear it out of your mouth. And secondly, there is nothing to tell, understand?" I shook my head.
"No, Professor. Because there is something to tell. Otherwise you wouldn't be blushing." Because, to my complete and utter delight, he had started to do just that. It was all I could do to keep from bouncing up and down and clapping my hands together like a Muggle child at his first circus. He cleared his throat, looking away, and tugged at his collar. "Come now," I said conspiratorially, absolutely giddy at being so close to having something on the immaculate Professor Neville Longbottom. "What was it? A torrid romance, a secret affair gone wrong? Some exotic witch from your past you've never gotten over?"
"I happen to be a very happily married wizard, may I remind you–"
"Eh, they all say that," I said with a wave of my hand. "You can tell me the truth, Neville." He glared sharply. "What?" I asked innocently. "We're peers in this room, aren't we? We're speaking as men do?"
"Would you like a detention for insubordination?" he asked me, but in the current situation, he could hardly be intimidating. I pulled out my best trick.
Morphing my face back to its eleven-year-old shape, I allowed tears to pool in my eyes as I said, "You wouldn't do that to me, would you, Professor? I know I've caused trouble before, but I only ever wanted to make people laugh. I have a penchant for mischief, but I'm a good kid, really I am," I said earnestly, letting the tears fall down my face.
Professor Longbottom just sat in his chair, shaking his head at my antics, trying not to be amused. "Now, cut that out," he said, and I reverted, not bothering to hide my smirk.
"So, come now. No more secrets," I said, adopting a businesslike tone. "Let's have it." And I tapped my finger imperiously on the desktop.
After a long moment, he caved, sighing heavily and muttering, "I don't know why I humor you." I grinned, knowing I'd won. "But there really isn't much to tell," he warned.
"Ah, ah," I scolded, waving a finger. "No excuses." He rolled his eyes.
"There was a girl I went to school with who reminds me quite a lot of Miss Morrigan. Same straightforward manner, same inability to cater her comments to the situation, same way of saying exactly what was on her mind when it was on her mind."
"Who?" I asked.
"Luna Lovegood. Or, Scamander, now, I suppose. She got married a few years back. Has a couple kids now, too, unless I'm much mistaken."
"Enough stalling," I said insistently. "What's the story?"
"I told you, Teddy. There really isn't one." I glared at him. He looked away and hedged for a few moments. "There was a kiss," he finally admitted.
"Aha, now it comes out," I said. He rolled his eyes and tried to keep from looking embarrassed.
"Her father had just died, and she was very upset. She didn't have anyone else, and she just kept saying that she couldn't feel anything. She was begging me to help her feel something, and so I did . . . the only thing I could think of."
"You kissed her?" I asked. He nodded.
"Just once," he repeated.
"That's it?" I asked. He shrugged.
"That's it." I felt cheated somehow. His story had been kind of lame for so much avoidance.
"So what's the cause for embarrassment?" I asked him. "If that's all that happened. Why were you so reluctant to talk about it?"
"Luna broke up with me two weeks later," he said after a pause.
"Wait, I thought you said there wasn't anything else!" I said.
"There wasn't," he said flatly, with a chuckle. "But facts like that never got in Luna's way. She broke up with me two weeks later, and that was the end of things, except that now, whenever she sees me, she greets me with a kiss."
"Ah," I said with understanding. "You know, if you'd just told me this from the start, you'd have saved yourself a lot of unnecessary embarrassment," I pointed out.
"In a conversation with you? I doubt it," he said wryly.
"You know you love me," I told him. "You know I stimulate your hum-drum life." He rolled his eyes.
"Is that what you call it? Stimulation?" I grinned.
"But of course," I said. "Think how boring Hogwarts will be when I'm gone."
"Not very," he said. "James Potter and Fred Weasley will be here by then, both utterly determined to live up to their namesakes." I stood, grinning.
"And I wish you the best of luck when that day comes," I told him as I grabbed my cloak. "Thanks for the tea, Professor!"
"Anytime," he said as I headed out the door. "Oh, and Teddy?" he called. I poked my head back through the door. "Emily's right, you know."
"About what?" I asked suspiciously. He smiled secretively and pulled a stack of essays toward him.
"About Tori Weasley, of course," he said. I stared at him in shock, mouth hanging open. He glanced up. "I told you. I hear things," was all he said.
I glared in the direction of the school. My plans for the evening had suddenly come to include murdering my best friend.
I didn't of course. I didn't even chew her out, to be honest. I mean, she's Em. I can't stay mad at her, which is incredibly frustrating, let me tell you. To her credit, she didn't bring up Tor again – well, no, that's not entirely true. She never brought up Tor directly. But she would glance at me knowingly if she happened to catch me looking in Tor's direction. She would innocently ask how the session had gone whenever I got back from tutoring Tor in Arithmancy. She would fill the days with these little things that made it impossible for me to forget what she had brought up, and I desperately wanted to forget it. Why? Because of the worst thing that she had done. Planted the seed of something in my mind, something that made me wonder, what if?
It was really all Em's fault, in the end. Because she'd been the one to bring it up, and so I would, over the next few months, find myself thinking about Tor in ways I never had before.
I suppose I haven't really set up the standing relationship with myself and Tor at the time that all this was happening. What I'd told Em was true; she was like my sister in a lot of ways. We'd grown up together and we teased each other mercilessly. I don't know of any other requirement for honorary siblinghood. I started calling her Twa because it's the phonetic shortening of her name. I continued to call her Twa because it bugged her so much. We'd gone back and forth on that point so many times . . . it got to the point where I would use the name just to see what new exchange she would come up with.
"What's up, Twa?"
"Teddy, please don't call me Twa. It's Tor."
"Your grandmother calls you Tori."
"Okay, Tor or Tori. But not Twa."
"Your mother calls you Victoire."
"Is there a point to this review?"
"Your father calls you Tor, your grandmother calls you Tori, your mother calls you Victoire, and I call you Twa. It's all part of the way things work. So I ask again. What's up, Twa?"
"How's it going, Twa?"
"Teddy, repeat after me. Tor. Ree."
"See? It's not that hard."
"You're right! Thanks for the lesson, Twa!"
"If you call me Twa, Teddy, I swear to Merlin I will rip your vocal cords out through your mouth and strangle you with them.
"Now, now. What would your grandmother say if she could hear you use such language? Really, Twa, I am surprised at you."
"You know that you are one of the most impossible people I've ever met?"
"Yes. The first is James, followed closely by Fred followed closely by my sister, but after Dominique, there you are in fourth."
"What, Dominique beat me out? I'm going to have to do something about that!"
"Are you learning impaired?"
"Well, the Prefect status and ten OWL's would definitely argue 'no,' but I suppose it's not out of the realm of possibility . . . I don't think so, though."
"Then why is it so hard for you to call me by my name?"
"But I do call you by your name."
"Your name is Victoire Antionette. Victoire. Vic. Twa. It's French. It doesn't shorten to Tor. It doesn't shorten to Tori. It shortens to Twa. Or Vic. I could call you Vicky, I suppose –"
"Well then. Twa it is."
"I hate you."
"Ah, you say that, but you don't mean it."
"And how would you know that?"
"Because if you meant it, you'd have found yourself another Arithmancy tutor by now."
Oh, I loved sparring with her. Not that it was all banter; we got on really well, just in general. When she was terrified of going to Hogwarts and couldn't tell her dad, I was the one she came to. When I got too worried over something, I'd write to her for her simple, straightforward way of looking at things. But until that fateful day in the Common Room, I had only ever thought of her as a sister.
And suddenly, I couldn't anymore. As my NEWT's approached, I kept finding myself dangerously distracted by the way she flicked her blonde hair over her shoulder as she sat studying, how her blue eyes sparkled when she laughed at something I'd said, the way she chewed on the end of her quill . . . it dismayed me that I could go on and on. I'd gone on a few dates since Emily, but nothing serious, and I'd never spent as much time thinking about a girl as I did about Tor.
Just after Easter, she went on her first official date. I spent the entirety of that day wanting to punch something, specifically the nose of that jerk who was taking her. I tried to chalk it up to feelings of brotherly protection, but, as Emily told me at the end of that day, if everyone and their brother didn't know how I felt about Tori Weasley, it was only because they'd been too ill to get out of bed that morning.
"Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is, Teddy," she huffed. "You go up to her, you tell her you like her, you kiss her, and you see what happens. It's that –"
"Shove off, Em," I muttered darkly, not in the mood. She gave me a withering glance.
"Okay, but you remember what I told you two years ago? About the tendencies of friendship romances? This, right here, is what I was talking about. Unresolved sexual tension. And you need to do something about it, because you're really starting to bug me."
And she left me to walk back to the castle on my own.
I was in a black mood for the rest of the day, and it bugged me. It bugged me that some girl I'd splashed in mud puddles and had flying snowball fights with had that much power over me. I tried everything to get my mind off of her that night as I sat in the Common Room – books and homework and pranks, but I couldn't concentrate on either of the first two, and Em was punishing me for being so terse.
And then she walked in, looking almost as foul as I felt. She stomped over to me, her face clouded, and slammed her bag down on my table. For one wild moment, I feared that someone had told her something about how I'd been acting, but when she had huffed down angrily beside me, arms folded, glaring at nothing in particular, I relaxed. Her temper had nothing to do with me, it seemed.
We sat there, in companionable anger for a few moments until she turned her head and said, "Greg Wilkins" – her date – "is a complete and utter prat. You?"
Well, I wasn't about to tell her the truth, so I just said, "Em's being impossible. What did Wilkins do?"
"He kissed me," she said with a glower while I tried not to snap my quill in half. "And then thought I was joking when I told him to stop."
"Did he do it again?" I asked through clenched teeth, deciding there and then that if the answer was yes, Gregory Wilkins would be spending some time with dear Madame Pomfrey, courtesy of some rather nasty jinxes my godfather had taught me.
She smiled grimly. "He tried," was all she said, but it was enough to let me know that Harry's lessons had already been utilized.
"Detention?" I asked.
"Next Saturday. Cleaning greenhouses," she said airily.
"Want me to set up an ambush for Wilkins as soon as he leaves the Hospital Wing?" I asked. "Then I could join you next week with Professor L." She laughed, and suddenly the day wasn't quite as horrible as it had been before.
Except that getting her out of my head wasn't working. To be fair to Tor, I don't think she had any idea what she was doing to me. And the worst part of it was knowing that if she had meant less to me, I probably would have been with her by then. But underlying everything I felt about her, every frustration, every infatuation, was something deeper, something just a little more than unsettling, and until I could put a name to it, I knew I didn't have any right to approach her.
And that's how I ended my time at Hogwarts. In a state of, as Emily put it, romantic limbo. By the time the boats had taken us to the train station for our final ride from Hogwarts, I had decided that all I needed was a year away from Tor. The year that I was away from school and from her would, I was convinced, be the end of my unfortunate infatuation.
The train ride home was surprisingly quiet, to be honest. Em and I aren't known for having serious conversations, but that's mainly because we spend most of our in-public time causing trouble and making mischief (just to illustrate, we'd sent our class off with a return to our roots – jinxing everyone's hair pink, our first prank together). But that wasn't to say we didn't have them. We spent a lot of time on that train ride home talking, mainly about what we were doing next. She'd been accepted as an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries, a job she was unusually well-suited for, and I would be starting Healer training in the fall, magical psychiatry, to be exact.
After a while, we fell silent and just sat there, side by side, not speaking and not needing to. Eventually we wound up with my arm around her shoulders and her head on my chest, our fingers intertwined in my lap. And it was perfectly comfortable and she fell asleep.
I couldn't believe that she was sleeping. It was our last train ride home; how could she sleep through it!? But I just shook my head and chuckled and let her be. I sat there, watching the countryside stream past, and let my thoughts wander where they would.
I thought about my first train ride and how miserable it had been. I thought about how far I'd come and where I was going now. And I thought about how terrified I was about the future, not that I'd admit it to anyone. But for the past seven years, my existence had been fairly well set, and I didn't have to worry about it at all. I was at Hogwarts, end of story. But now, at eighteen, I had to actively choose what I was going to do that would make me happy for the rest of my life, and man, did that prospect scare me. What happened to the days when all your choices were made for you, when your Head of House would just bring your godfather to you when you needed help, no matter what you had to say about it, and why on earth had I resented that so much? The people going back to Hogwarts didn't know how lucky they were, and suddenly, I really wanted, needed, to be able to tell them.
And then, almost as if she'd been summoned by my thoughts, Victoire was there, framed by the doorway of the compartment.
"Teddy, I was wondering –" she started, then caught sight of Em. "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry!" she whispered. "I didn't know she was asleep."
"It's fine," I said softly. "Come in, Twa," I said, though my hands had suddenly grown inexplicably cold. Tor looked uncertain.
"I don't want to wake her," she said. I snorted and rolled my eyes.
"Please. You could play a game of Exploding Snap in her lap right now and she wouldn't wake. Come in." So she did, seating herself neatly across from me. "What's up?" I asked her.
She shrugged, seeming a little embarrassed. "Nothing, really, I was just . . . thinking about next year," she said, looking out the window.
"Me too, actually," I admitted. "Feels weird that I won't be going back."
"Everyone's leaving, it seems like," she said softly, not looking at me. She sounded as down as I'd ever heard her.
"Nah," I said, trying to lighten her mood, to make her laugh, because it was suddenly very important to me that she not be upset. "Just me. And I think a poll of the teachers would tell you that Hogwarts is well shut of me."
She did laugh, a little, at that, but then she also began to cry softly. Without thinking, I had released Em and crossed the compartment to hold Tor. "Hey now," I said gently, "what's this about?"
"I don't know," she said miserably, letting her head fall against my chest, as Em's had, but this time . . . I don't even know if I can explain it, but it was so much more alive, almost. "It's just . . . with you and Em graduating and Bea transferring to Beauxbatons, I feel like I'm going to be completely alone next year!" It sounded like she'd been holding this in for a while.
"Oh, Twa," I sighed, stroking her hair and trying to find something to say to comfort her. "You are Hogwarts' golden girl, you know that? Everyone loves you. You want to make friends, just walk into a room and smile. And it's not as if you and I are going to be completely cut off. There are these wonderful creatures they've discovered recently, called owls, I don't know if you've heard of them –" It worked. She gave a weak laugh and shoved at me.
"Oh, shut up," she said, trying not to smile. I laughed.
"And I promise to write you every single detail of my life," I told her, reaching out to wipe her tears away with my thumbs, concentrating on what I was saying so that my hands wouldn't shake, "until I have bored you to tears and you're begging me to never send you another letter ever again."
She reached up and caught one of my hands. "Never," she said fiercely, her blue eyes locking with mine. I was suddenly very aware of how close we were to one another, of her face under my hands and how very easy it would be to lean down and kiss her, and how very much I wanted to.
It scared the living daylights out of me.
I cleared my throat and let my hands drop. "Anyway," I said, trying to recover. "It's also not as if Hogwarts will be devoid of people you know. James and Fred will be there next year!" She groaned.
"Merlin, don't remind me," she said."I have a feeling I'm going to be spending half my life getting them out of trouble!" I grinned at her.
"Well, anytime you need a hand, just give me a shout, and I'll come and knock heads together for you." She looked affronted.
"The son of a Marauder, the grandson of a Marauder, and the son of a Weasley twin all under Hogwarts' roof at the same time, all of my doing? Ha! Right! I like my school standing, thank you very much!" I had to laugh at that.
"See?" I said, through my laughter. "It'll be like I never left." This may have been the wrong thing to say, for Tor sobered and then, before I had registered what she was doing, she had thrown her arms around me in a tight embrace. After a moment's hesitation, I gathered her to me and allowed myself to hold her tight.
"I'm going to miss you, Teddy," she whispered, her voice muffled by my sweater.
"I'm going to miss you, too, Twa," I said.
"Don't call me that," she mumbled. I pulled away, smirking at her.
"Tradition," I said, and she rolled her eyes, but smiled back. "Now, if Bea's moving to France this summer, you should go spend some of the ride with her." She nodded and made to leave.
"Oh, Teddy?" she asked before she was had left. "We're having a surprise party for Uncle Harry's birthday this year, at my house. You'll be there, right?"
"Wouldn't miss it," I told her. And then she was gone. Shaking for no good reason that I could see, I closed my eyes and rested my head against the compartment wall, trying to get a hold of myself. I had really almost done it. I had almost kissed Tor. And what I had done had equally serious implications. If I was going to be writing to her on a regular basis, the whole ignoring Tor for a year to get her out of my head idea wasn't going to work very well.
"I like to think that if cards were exploding in my lap, I would, in fact, wake up," came a very sardonic voice from across the compartment. My eyes flew open to see Em, on her side, head propped up on one fist, staring at me. My stomach plunged as I realized that she had, in fact, been awake for everything that had just happened. Furious with myself and dreading the next words that I was sure were coming out of her mouth, I closed my eyes again and punched the seat in frustration.
"Em," I growled, but she didn't let me finish.
"And I notice that you didn't tell her," she said, pushing herself into a sitting position. "You had a moment there that was rather perfect, and you didn't do a damn thing, Teddy." She didn't sound angry; that was me. She just sounded, well, like she always did. She was stating a fact. And I really didn't want to talk about it. I set my jaw and watched the trees streaming past the window and didn't answer her.
After a minute or two of my silence, she said, very softly, "Why are you so scared of this?" I opened my mouth to deny it, strongly, but one look at her and I couldn't. She wasn't teasing anymore, or poking fun, or exasperated with me or even just mildly curious, any one of which would have caused me to deny the accusation. She was concerned, and she looked it as she caught my gaze. And so I couldn't lie.
"I don't know," I whispered, looking down, my indignation and anger seeping out of me, leaving plain old weariness in its place. "I don't know," I repeated, running a hand through my hair. I knew I needed to say something else, but for the life of me, I couldn't come up with it. So I reverted to my default position. I cracked a joke, or tried to. "If you find the answer in that Department of yours–"
"You'll be the very first person I tell," she said, coming over and taking my hand. I smiled a little, still looking out the window. After another slight silence, she said, "Teddy, I – I know I'm not the easiest person to be friends with –"
"That's not true," I said immediately. She smiled indulgently and looked down.
"You're sweet," she said, "but it is true. I know it is. And I guess I just wanted to say something I don't think I ever have. And that's . . . thanks. You've really done an extraordinary job."
"Forget it, Em," I said, flattered at the admission, but also a little uncomfortable at such praise. "Seriously. I didn't do all that much. Just grabbed desperately at the first person my age to talk to me and refused to let go for seven years." That made her laugh.
"So that's all I am to you, then?" she asked, a glint in her eye. "A life preserver?" I grinned.
"Naturally," I said, which prompted the desired response; she hit me.
And the goodbyes weren't as hard as I'd thought they would be, not really. Once at the station, Em and I exchanged promises to write and meet at least monthly for lunch. "And who knows?" she whispered conspiratorially in my ear as my grandmother stood by, waiting. "We may even be able to storm Professor Longbottom's office some Saturday for tea."
I could tell you about that summer and my first year in Healer training now, but the truth is, it isn't really an important part of my story. What is important to know about that year is the fact that I did exchange regular letters with Tor and that I was not at all able to forget about her or get her out of my head.
I'd been so convinced that a year away from her would do the trick, too. I was very wrong. So many of those letters were so hard to write, because I had to keep myself from giving something away. I was terrified that she would find out somehow – that was the underlying unsettling thing, by the way. Fear. And it hadn't gone away, either. And just as Em had forced me to realize, I had no idea why the idea of us terrified me so much. But it did. Opening myself up that much to someone in the way that I would have to with Tor left me completely and utterly terrified, and therefore unable to act in any way at all.
The other important thing to know about that year is that I did make friends, though none that I could talk to in the same way as Em, and I did go on dates with girls, though none that made me not wish I was with Tor instead.
In short, I survived the year all right, but I was really not looking forward to the summer at all.
You know how, when you're really excited about something, time's a bitch and drags on forever, but when you're really dreading something, you scarcely have time to breathe before it's upon you? Yeah. It seemed like no time at all had gone by when I got Tor's letter announcing the end of her sixth year, and would I be able to meet the train, did I think?
I had to write back and tell her no. And don't look at me like that; I really couldn't. I had Field Training at St. Mungo's, so I told her I'd meet her the next day in the meadow behind her house.
I had prepared myself for a lot of things at that first meeting – the familiar nervousness, the possibility of awkwardness, interruptions in the form of snoopy siblings – but what I failed to prepare for was what it turned out I needed to prepare for the most.
I hadn't seen her for a year, and while I hadn't at all forgotten what she looked like or anything, I was completely taken aback when I saw her come running across the field at me. Is it too sappy to say she took my breath away? It's true. Literally, my first thought as I watched her run toward me was, She's beautiful and why had I never before noticed how beautiful Tor was? I don't know, maybe it's not something you notice or think about in connection with your best friends? But I was struck dumb by it, and by the fact that I hadn't noticed it before.
I must have looked a right idiot, standing there, staring at her. But I really couldn't quite do anything else. Her appearance had taken my breath away, as well as my ability to, you know, put a coherent thought together. Which is probably why she reacted as she did. Which is to say, she slowed as she came up to me, a puzzled expression on her face.
"Teddy?" she said uncertainly. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"You look beautiful," I breathed because I couldn't help it. She'd asked, and I wasn't in a state of mind to tell her anything but the truth.
She blushed and looked away, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. "Okay," she said slowly. It was about that time that I came back to myself and, far belatedly, realized I needed to do some covering of my tracks. So I flashed her my most winning smile, threw my hands in the air, and said, "Just thought I'd mention it." She rolled her eyes, and I breathed a mental sigh of relief.
"Are you gonna hug me or not?" she demanded, hands on her hips, so I did as she asked. "I've missed you," she breathed into my neck as she embraced me. I tried not to shiver at the sensation.
"And . . . what was it you missed the most, Twa?" I asked, smirking slightly.
"Oh, I don't know," she said slowly, pulling away. "Possibly . . . this!" And on the last word, she reached up and gave my hair a good tousle.
"Hey!" I protested, not because I cared that my hair was messed up – please – but because it was the anticipated response. She just laughed and took off running, which was my cue to give chase. "You won't get away with that, Twa!" I shouted as I closed in on her, taking every advantage my long legs gave me.
She gave a laughing shriek as I came up on her heels, still trying to outrun me. But it was no use; I reached out a hand and grabbed her around the wrist. I misjudged the weight and force, however, and the two of us went crashing to the ground, laughing all the while. We landed with me on the bottom and her half in my lap on top of me.
My laughter died fairly quickly as the truth of our positions came on me full force. Then she caught my gaze, and she stopped laughing, too. And then, I couldn't help it, it was just . . . everything I'd been holding in for the past year and longer than that besides came rushing to overwhelm me, and I just acted without thinking. Reaching up, I brought her face down to mine and kissed her.
It was incredible, electrifying, and terrifying all at the same time. It felt nothing at all like kissing Em or any of the other girls I had dated. Those kisses were merely enjoyable; the kiss I shared with Tor was alive. It heightened every sense, made me feel like I was about to fly out of my skin. Her lips were so soft and she was so warm, and it was like everything I hadn't been able to help imagining, and I never wanted it to end.
Then she opened her mouth against mine and started to respond, and I suddenly became fully aware of what I was doing.
I broke away from her roughly, all but dumping her out of my lap as I scrambled to my feet, horrified with myself, with what I had just done. "I –" I couldn't get my voice to work. I swallowed and tried again. "I have to go," I rasped, backing away.
"Teddy," she whispered, struggling to stand as well, and I suddenly knew I didn't want to, couldn't listen, to what she had to say. I shook my head.
"I have to go," I repeated, and then I turned and ran, leaving her behind.
"Teddy!" I heard her call after me. "Teddy!" But I didn't turn back. I kept running, until I could Apparate back to my flat, as far from Shell Cottage as I could get.
My heart was pounding, and I couldn't stop shaking as I sank onto the couch in my flat. "What have I done?" I whispered, running my hands through my hair, trying to process what had just happened. "What have I done?" I kept repeating, and I'll be honest here. I didn't know if I was referring to kissing her or to running away.
It didn't take her long to send the first note. I say first because there were several. And there were several because I, coward that I was, didn't answer any of them. They were all in the same vein.
Teddy, please talk to me. What's going on?
Teddy, I'm not expecting anything, I just want to know what happened. Please answer me.
Teddy, please, please, write something. Say something. I don't care what, just, please talk to me.
Teddy, if you're worried that I'm mad at you, I'm not! Now please answer me!
Teddy Lupin, answer me right now! I know you're getting these, now say something!
Teddy, I could forgive you before, but if you don't answer this, I really will be mad at you.
I've given Alia instructions to not come back without a reply, and she'll be relentless, you know she will. Now answer me, damn it!
I'll take a moment here to tell you how much I hate Tor's owl. Alia is mean. She hates everybody except Tor, whom she adores. So if Tor tells Alia, hey, don't leave Teddy alone until he gives you a reply, she will peck at Teddy fingers and face with her insanely sharp beak until Teddy has given her something.
What I gave her was a blank piece of parchment, but Alia didn't know that. Unfortunately, having sent it meant that Tor soon would.
As I watched the owl fly away, I hated myself and my cowardice. What kind of Gryffindor was I, if I couldn't even face what was inside me? And surely, after receiving that blank piece of parchment, Tor would hate me, too. In one afternoon, I had managed to ruin absolutely everything, and the worst part about it was that I couldn't go to anyone to get advice. Harry would be ashamed, Em would say 'I told you so,' and be absolutely no help, and Gram didn't even bear thinking about. Everyone I might talk to was related to Tor, and therefore more likely to take her side than mine, especially since I was the one who'd run away and all she'd done was try to get me to talk about it.
Her last message was possibly the worst.
I'll be in the meadow tomorrow at three. I'll be there for an hour and not longer. If you care about me at all, you'll show up. And if you don't come, you needn't bother showing up in my life again.
It was an ultimatum, and I knew as soon as I read it that there could only be one response to it. No way in hell was I going.
I know what you're thinking. That this would have been the perfect time to go back and tell her everything, explain it all and make things right, and what did I mean I wasn't going? Well, I'm sorry, but it wasn't that simple. For one thing, I didn't have the faintest idea what I would say to her by way of explanation, and for another . . . well, actually, the other part just boils down to me being a ruddy coward.
The prospect of having a relationship with Tor terrified me, and I still hadn't been able to figure out why. And until I had . . . well, I wasn't going anywhere near her. And that was that. I'd made my choice, and I knew I wasn't going to change my mind.
Didn't mean I was able to sleep that night, or that I didn't spend most of the next day pacing my flat, agonizing over what I was supposed to do, hoping that if I spent enough time agonizing over why I was so scared, I'd figure it out before Tor's deadline. But I have to be honest, and tell you that I didn't really try to figure it out, because while I was terrified of a relationship, I was also terrified of identifying why I was so scared.
Told you I was a coward. And pathetic to boot, now that I think back on it.
As it so happens, I did Apparate away from my flat as three o'clock approached. I appeared on the wizard side of the Leaky Cauldron just as it began to rain. I was so addled from my inner turmoil and lack of sleep that I just stood there dazed for a moment, letting the rain soak me through. I hadn't worn a cloak because it was the middle of June. I stared up at the gray sky, not moving, as I got wetter and wetter.
Oh, just great! Now I'm gonna be wet, and I'll probably get sick and die, and nobody'll even care
The memory came to me, unbidden, and I couldn't help but smile a little as the eleven-year-old in me started grousing. That's when a very familiar voice called out, "Teddy Lupin, is that you?" Squinting up into the rain, I turned slowly to see Professor Longbottom leaning out an upper window of the pub.
"Yes, Professor Longbottom," I called, and he rolled his eyes, despite being obviously amused.
"Come in out of the rain, Teddy," he said. "I'll meet you downstairs."
"See, now you're deviating from the script," I told him. He smiled.
"You'll have to let it slide," he said.
"Not a chance," I said, but I knew my heart wasn't really in the joke. He left the window, and I headed inside. I shook the worst of the water from my clothes, then pulled out my wand to perform the Drying Charm. I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing there, if I'd come for advice from Professor Longbottom or a stiff drink.
"You're supposed to let me do that, remember?" came Professor's Longbottom's voice as he emerged from the stairway behind the bar. I gave a half-hearted smile.
"You already dropped the script," I said. He fixed me with a piercing gaze.
"Tea?" he asked finally.
"Or something stronger," I said, running a hand through my hair. He gave me another piercing look.
"Tea," he said firmly. "You sit. I'll bring it over." Nodding, I headed to a table in the corner. He followed me a few minutes later, two steaming cups of tea in his hands. "Two sugars, no milk," he said, setting one in front of me.
"You know my tea preference?" I asked.
"I know it will come as a shock to you, Teddy, but I don't have trouble remembering things that happen once a week for seven years." His comment barely elicited a response. My mind was miles away, with Tor, who was, even now, standing in her meadow, probably under a tree to escape the rain, waiting for me to show up, not believing for a moment that I wouldn't. "Teddy?" Professor Longbottom said, waking me from my reverie. I stood up abruptly.
"I'm sorry, Professor," I said roughly, agitated. "I don't know why I'm here. I should just go." He stopped me with a hand on my arm.
"Sit," he said gently. "Tell me what's wrong." I sat again.
"Professor," I started.
"You haven't been my student for more than a year now, Teddy. I think you can call me by my first name."
"Yes, sir – Neville," I said, correcting myself at his look.
"Now, talk to me," he said. Talk to me. That's what she'd said, and I hadn't. And she was waiting now, waiting for me to come and do that. "Teddy," he said, a hand on my own.
"How did you know Hannah was the one?" I asked him in a rush. If he was taken aback by the question, he didn't show it. He sat back in his chair, considering his answer.
"I suppose I knew the first time I kissed her," he said. "There was something about her, something no other girl I'd known had ever had, something that couldn't be ignored." I sighed and looked away. That wasn't the answer I'd wanted to hear. "Why do you ask?" I shook my head numbly, sipping my tea to give me something to do to avoid his gaze. "Do you think maybe you've found your one?" he asked.
"No!" I all but shouted, but I'd answered too quickly and I knew it. I was met with a raised eyebrow. "I don't know," I amended, running my hands through my hair, which had apparently reverted to its natural brown.
"Choosing to go without your color?" he questioned.
"No, I . . . wasn't even aware it was . . ." I said, distracted. Embarrassed to find tears pricking my eyes, I put my face in my hands and swallowed hard.
"Teddy," Professor Longbottom said hesitantly. "Teddy, I may not be the best one to ask."
I gave a hollow laugh, pulling my feet up onto my chair. "You're married," I said flatly. "You've obviously found answers."
"I'm married, but that doesn't really mean that I've found any answers, Teddy," he corrected gently. "It just means I've found, recognized, something. But I'm not sure I could tell you what that something is."
"Well, it's more than I can do," I muttered.
"Funny thing about love," he said with a sigh. "Wizards have been studying it for centuries, and they're no closer to unlocking it now than they were when they started, really. The Unspeakables who work with love could give you a long, technical explanation of what it is and why people fall in love in the first place, but I can't. All I can tell you is that it's real. And it is completely out of our control. We are ruled by it. It transcends all rationality, all reason, all conscious thought. It exists at a level that we cannot fathom, and I know this because when my mother died, after twenty years of not knowing who she was or who I was or even what anything in her life meant, after twenty years of having nearly everything that makes us human taken from her, my father, who had lived in the same state for just as long, became less because she was gone. I never realized that my father had been so animated until he lost her and wasn't anymore. My parents, who had lost every human capability were still connected through a bond of love so strong that even all they had been through and all they had become couldn't destroy it. Do I understand it? Not one bit. Do I believe in it? With everything I am. It's real, and it's there, whether we're willing to recognize and claim it or not. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away, pretending it's something else doesn't make it go away. It's there, whether we act on it or not, whether we want it to be or not, and there's nothing we can do about any of it except to live with that fact."
I let what he had said wash over me until my tea had grown cold. It helped, but not enough. It alleviated a little of my uncertainty, maybe, but it didn't do a thing to alleviate that deep rooted fear. So I finally just asked him. "Were you ever scared?" I asked, glancing up at him.
"Are you kidding me?" he said. "When I went to propose to Hannah, I was shaking so badly I dropped the ring! I was terrified!"
"Why?" I asked, hoping he'd have an answer.
"I don't know," he said. I don't know. Again. Slowly, I nodded.
"Thank you, Professor," I said, standing.
"Teddy?" he called as I walked away from the table. I turned back. "Where are you supposed to be right now?" he asked shrewdly. I smiled without humor.
"Meeting Tori Weasley," I said. "Explaining myself. But it doesn't matter. It's done." He frowned.
"It's only done if you walk away," he said. I shook my head.
"It's done," I repeated. He stood and crossed to me, a hand on my shoulder.
"It's never too late," he said. I smiled.
"Thanks. How much–" I started to ask, but he stopped me with a raised hand.
"It's on the house," he said. "Drop by any time." I nodded and headed out the door.
Outside, I thought about what he'd said. I glanced at my watch. It was only three-thirty. Tor would still be waiting for me. I could still make it.
I Apparated home.
There's a mirror in my front hall, and I hate it because you can't enter or leave without seeing your reflection, but I can't get rid of it because Gram gave it to me, and you all know how that goes. Well, it was just waiting for me when I got home. I knew what I would see, too, and sure enough, there I was, in all my natural splendor. My hair had reverted to its original brown without even a hint of the blue highlights I usually wore, and I didn't even try to morph it. I knew it wouldn't be any use. Nothing would happen. Sometime in the past 24 hours, I had forfeited that ability.
You can ask me what I did that summer, what my activities were, what I learned from my field experience; in fact, you can ask all you want. I won't be able to tell you. I can tell you what I did not do. I did not go to Dominique's birthday celebration. I did not stay very long at Harry's. I did not really leave my flat except to go to work. I didn't do anything that had the potential to bring me into prolonged contact with any member of the Weasley family. Tor was, I was certain, well past hating my guts, and anyone related to her was more than likely to take her side. Harry's godson or not, she was their angel, their darling daughter/granddaughter/niece, and I was the guy who had taken advantage of her and broken her heart, so I really didn't see any scenario ending well for me.
To be honest, I don't remember much of that summer at all; I spent too much of it feeling guilty and trying not to think about Tor. I had about as much success as usual. It wasn't that I wanted to hurt her – far from it. It's just that . . . well, hurting her seemed to be an inevitable consequence, and it would be better for her if it happened now, before she was in too deep.
Or at least that's what I tried to tell myself. The truth was, I was searching and grasping desperately for any reasonable justification for my cowardice, and I wasn't having a lot of luck. As hard as I tried to tell myself that what was done was done and couldn't be changed, Tor invaded almost every moment of my life, both waking and otherwise.
The unanswered questions and uncertainties plagued me, more so with each passing day, until, by summer's end, I could no longer concentrate on anything else, and my life was visibly suffering for it. That was the low point. That's when I finally broke down.
That's the morning I went to see Emily.
There was, of course, little she could tell me in her letters about what exactly it was she did at her job, but she had said that they'd given her an office of her own and that she worked primarily in the Love Room, quite appropriate, I thought sardonically as I stood before the attendant and said who I wanted and why.
"And it's urgent!" I called down the hall as she disappeared into the Department. Then I went to Em's office and began to pace. She would have answers. I knew she would. She was Em, and that's what she did.
"Teddy?" Mid-pace, I turned. She was standing quietly in her doorway, and she didn't look surprised to see me.
"Why am I so afraid of it, Em?" The question came out as a ragged sort of whisper.
She knew immediately what I was talking about. Smiling sadly, she said, "Because your mother followed your father to war, and that's why you're an orphan." I stared at her. She nodded apologetically. "It's true," she said. "You're looking at your parents and at your godfather's parents and at Professor Longbottom's, and in each case, you're seeing a fiercely in love couple leaving a child behind. It's not Tori you're afraid of, Teddy, or even having a relationship with Tori. It's having a relationship at all, one that means something. That's why you're so scared. You're afraid of being in love because it's why you were alone for so long."
"Are . . . are you sure?" I asked, dazed. She laughed gently.
"It doesn't matter whether I am or not, Teddy. You know whether what I'm saying is true or not."
Weakly, I sank into a chair, my face in my hands. Much as I hated to admit it, I knew she was right. And now that I had a name, an idea, to place to the dread . . . well, it was threatening to overwhelm me.
"Teddy," she said, kneeling in front of me. "Teddy, listen to me." I raised my head. "You have to decide what's most important, whether it's worth it, being in love with her, or whether you really believe it's better to go through life alone. We don't live in a war torn world anymore. The same dangers that your parents faced aren't present anymore. Think about that. And if that's not enough, think about her. Because whatever you choose doesn't just affect you." She paused, and I watched her face almost desperately. Finally, she looked up at me again. "What it all boils down to, Teddy, is two questions. One, is everything right when you're with her, and two, is everything wrong when you're not. Once you answer those . . . it's right in front of you, if you're willing to face it."
I let her words sink in. She had a point, and it was a good one, but I was still uneasy. After the extent to which I had ruined things, could I really just go in and fix it as easily as she seemed to think? The truth is, I was quickly running out of legitimate reasons to avoid confronting it all.
"But, Em, what –"
"Teddy," she said with a little laugh. "I can't answer everything for you. Some things you're going to have to figure out on your own. I will answer one more thing for you, though. Something you haven't thought to ask." My head snapped up. She was wearing her trademark Emily smirk.
"What?" I asked.
"You want to know why you're here talking to me now, this morning."
"And why's that?" I asked, nervous for no good reason.
"Because the Hogwarts Express leaves in half an hour," she said. I stared again, then fumbled to pull out my watch.
Somehow, the fact had not registered that it was September first. And as soon as she'd said that, as soon as I knew that Tor would be leaving in a half an hour and be beyond my reach, I knew what I had to do. There was no longer any question in my mind.
"Thanks, Em," I said, standing and squeezing her hands. "I don't know –"
"Tell me later," she said at once. "You have a train to catch. Now get out of here!" And with a nod, I did.
Unwilling even to wait for the lifts, I ran right past the golden doors and straight up the eight flights of stairs to the Atrium. Once there, I barely paused for breath before Apparating as close to King's Cross as I could. I had to get to the station. I had to.
I got to Platform 9 3/4 with fifteen minutes to spare. The trick now would be finding Tor. Hogwarts, as I'm sure you well know, has quite a lot of students that attend it. Finding one of them, especially in the fog that was thick around the train that morning, was going to be quite a feat. But I couldn't spend all morning deciding, so I just ran down the length of the train, yelling as best I could.
"Tori! . . . Tori Weasley!" I was hoping that someone would have seen her, but no one came forward with helpful directions.
Stopping to catch my breath, I growled in frustration. I couldn't spend this much time looking for her; I had to find her! Desperately, I craned my head around, staring intently through the swirling fog for any familiar face. Then I saw one.
"Nika!" I yelled, running over. The blonde girl – really, Tor in miniature – turned at the sound of her name. When she saw me, her eyes narrowed. "Nika, where's your sister?" I asked through gulps of air. Dominique Weasley placed her hands on her hips and glared at me.
"She doesn't want to talk to you," I was told. Still gasping for breath, I nodded.
"I know that," I said. "But it's urgent. Please, Nika."
"She said she never wanted to see you again. You must have done something horrible, because she's been crying nearly all summer, and she says it's all your fault." Her words stabbed at me like a knife.
"Please, Nika," I said again. "Where is she?"
"I already told you," she said with all the attitude that only a thirteen-year-old girl can possess, "I'm not telling you."
"This must be the first time in your life you've ever respected your sister's wishes," I growled, immensely frustrated. "I'm done playing games, Nika! Tell me where she is!"
"Where who is?" came a new voice, this one belonging to a young redheaded boy, seven years of age.
"Louis!" I said, glad for the first time that summer to run into a Weasley. "I need your sister, Lou."
"And you don't know where she is, do you, Lou?" Nika said pointedly, glaring at him.
"Yes, I do!" he said, affronted. "She's in the last compartment of the train!" I grinned.
"Thanks, Lou!" I shouted, turning and running in that direction as a most disgruntled Nika dragged her younger brother away, presumably back to their parents.
As I ran, I checked my watch, frantically. I had ten minutes left. Families were arriving in droves now, and I had to weave through more and more bodies before I reached the end of the train.
But finally, I made it, and as I climbed on board the train, it was suddenly only a bit of glass and wood separating the two of us. Well, that and every stupid thing I'd done that summer, which was quite a boundary.
Tor knew someone was there before I could say anything. "Mel?" she called, distracted as she rummaged through the small bag on the seat. "Did you bring your copy of Hogwarts, A History with you?" Knowing she expected an answer, I managed to unstick my throat enough to give her one.
"Well, I can't speak for Mel, but I don't have mine, sorry," I said softly.
She turned on her heel so quickly I thought for a moment she was going to fall over. She looked shocked and surprised and scared for a moment when she saw me, but then her gaze hardened, and she looked at me angrily, her eyes blazing.
"What are you doing here?" she spat.
"Apologizing," I said softly. She turned away, looking disgusted.
"You lost your chance to do that," she said softly, her voice hard and unyielding. "So I can't imagine what you could possibly have to say to me. All I know is that I have nothing to say to you."
"Tor," I whispered desperately, and started to say more, but she stopped me, whirling. I could practically see the anger flaring out of her.
"No, you know what?" she said wildly, angrier than I had ever seen her. "I do have something to say to you, Teddy Lupin," she shouted at me, her eyes glossy with angry tears. "I have like you for years, you know that? Years. And you never gave me any sign that you wanted to be anything more than friends, and I was fine with that! I was willing to take whatever I could because I thought never in a million years would you see me as anything other than your little sister. I was fine with it! But then you kissed me. You kissed me, Teddy, and then you ran away. And then you wouldn't even talk to me! I spent the first two weeks of my summer trying to figure out what I'd done wrong, until I thought, you know what? Forget it. This isn't my problem. It's yours. It's yours, Teddy Lupin, and I have no idea what you could possibly have to say for yourself, but I don't want to hear it!" And she turned away from me again, probably so I wouldn't see the tears, but you'd better believe I hadn't missed them.
And I wasn't about to let her get away that easily. I'd made up my mind. I crossed to her in barely two strides, grabbed her by one wrist and spun her around. "I'm a coward, I'm an idiot, and I'm sorry," I said firmly, counting off each statement on the fingers of the hand not holding her, held in the air between us. "That's what I have to say."
"That's it?" she growled.
"No, that's just the start," I said. Then I released her wrist almost roughly and took a step back. "But you don't want to hear it." I turned to walk out, but her voice stopped me before I'd gone more than a step.
"Why, Teddy?" she asked, her voice ragged. I didn't turn around as I answered her.
"Because I was scared," I said softly.
"Of not knowing why I was scared," I whispered. Then I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. "I messed up, Tor," I said, still mostly facing away from her. "Several times, and probably irreparably, I know. But I got it wrong. I thought I was afraid that I'd kiss you and there wouldn't be anything there. But it was just the opposite. I was terrified that I'd kiss you and there would be something there, and I didn't even realize that until the moment it happened. That's why I ran away. Because there was something there, Tor. When I kissed you, I realized that I was in love with you. That I am in love with you. And I don't have a good reason for why that scared me so much. It's weird and it's mixed up and I don't really understand it, but it's there, and it has to do with my parents and the fact that I've never really come to terms with what happened to them. It's because I've spent my whole life laughing my way out of things, but I can't laugh my way out of this, of being in love, and of you, Tor. I can't."
The silence was deafening, and I was suddenly exhausted. I also didn't know what to do next. I knew I had nothing left to say – that last speech had taken it all out of me – and it didn't seem much like Tor had anything to say, either. I considered just taking my leave, but then she finally spoke.
"Is that supposed to make me forgive you?" she asked, still clearly angry with me, though not as angry as before.
"It's not supposed to do anything, Tor," I said wearily. "It's just supposed to be the truth. I'm not asking for your forgiveness. I think I've lost that right, and I'm not sure you could give it to me, in any right. I know I've hurt you, Tor, and there's no forgiving that."
"Stop it!" she growled and I turned slowly, confused.
"Stop what?" I asked.
"Stop calling me that!" she shouted, gulping down tears. I stared at her, bewildered. She was asking me not to call her Tor?
"But . . . why? I thought –"
"Because you don't call me that!" she cried angrily, coming over and jabbing at my chest as she said it. "You don't, Teddy! So stop it!" Then she looked away, swiping angrily at her cheeks. "Just . . . fix it, Teddy," she said, and suddenly all the anger was gone from her voice, and she just sounded miserable and as tired as I felt. "Please." And she lifted those blue, tear-stained eyes to mine, pleading.
"How?" I asked, not quite able to breathe. "How do I fix it?"
"Call me by my name," she whispered, not breaking eye contact, and I sure as hell wasn't, either.
"Twa," I whispered, and she closed her eyes, seeming to let the sound wash over her. She took a deep breath.
"Again," she whispered. I reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear – unnecessarily, as it happens, but why should that matter? – and let my fingertips graze her skin.
"I love you, Twa," I breathed, and her eyes snapped open.
"You don't seem afraid anymore," she pointed out. I could feel a smile coming.
"No, I'm still terrified," I corrected. "I'm just putting to use the skills I learned at school and ignoring it."
"I thought you said you couldn't laugh your way out of this," she said.
"That wasn't laughing my way out of something," I said. "That was telling a joke to lighten the mood. An often used technique in certain–"
"Teddy, shut up and kiss me," she said. So I did. It was just as incredible as the first time, actually more so because I was expecting the jolt that screamed, This is the one! at me. I pulled her closer to me, one hand in her hair, one at the small of her back, tasting the salt of her tears on her lips as she kissed me back, her arms wrapped around my neck, fingers brushing at the long hairs that were touching my collar. I remember thinking vaguelythat my hair hadn't been that long in months, before I abandoned the ability to think coherently as Tor opened her mouth against mine.
In the end, it was the all-too-familiar voice of a young boy that I will someday be driven to kill that interrupted us.
"Teddy? Ew, what are you doing?! That's so gross!" I rolled my eyes as Tor and I broke apart, thoroughly irritated with my godfather's eldest son. Tor, however, took a more aggressive approach.
"James Sirius Potter, I will pound you into the ground!" She growled, lunging for him. I caught her by the shoulder and gave her a meaningful look. Turning, I crossed my arms.
"James," I said cordially.
"What are you doing here?" he asked suspiciously, mimicking my position.
"Seeing Victoire off," I said smoothly.
His eyes narrowed. "That's not what it looked like you were doing," he said.
"Well, it was," I said, allowing the slightest edge into my voice. "And there's no need for you to mention this to anyone you're related to, right?"
"I don't have to do what you say!" he said with a smug look.
"You're right," I said, friendly. With a smile, arms still crossed, I leaned down. "And I don't have to keep quiet to your dad about what really happened with the chickens last summer."
He took a step backward. "You wouldn't," he challenged.
"Try me," I told him in my most serious voice. He started to speak, then thought better of it, turned, and left, throwing surreptitious looks over his shoulder as he disappeared into the mist.
"Think he'll keep quiet?" Tor asked me.
"Probably not," I said. "But I'm finding I don't much care at the moment," I said, wrapping my arms around her again. She smiled up at me.
"Me neither," she said.
"Great. Now, where were we?"
It was a few minutes later that the train's whistle sounded, loud and clear, calling all students to the train and all loved ones to the platform. I was not really inclined to leave, somehow.
"Teddy," Tor said, in a voice that was half a moan.
"Mm hmm?" I said, capturing her mouth again. It kept her occupied and quiet for another few moments.
"Teddy," she said again, pulling her head back and sounding firmer than she had before.
"Yes?" I asked, kissing along her jaw.
"Teddy, you have to go," she said, pushing me away. She was trying to look stern, but her eyes were sparkling.
"No, I don't," I said, pulling her to me again.
"Teddy," she said with a laugh, escaping. "The train is leaving, and you can't be on it."
"You sure about that?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, but it came out muffled because I had covered her mouth with mine. Just then, the train lurched to life beneath us.
"Teddy, you have to go," she said against my mouth.
"I have time," I said between kisses.
"No, you don't," she said, and there was a definite finality this time, especially considering that she had pushed me out of the compartment and toward the door out of the train. "I'll write to you," she said as I stepped onto the small platform at the end of the car. "And answer me this time, you jerk!" she said, punching me, but she was smiling.
"I will," I said, and I pulled her to me for one last kiss before I jumped lightly to the train station platform that the Hogwarts Express was slowly leaving behind.
"I love you, Teddy Lupin!" she shouted over the train's noise. I grinned in response, pressed my hands to my mouth and held them out to her. I kept my eyes on her until the train had become no more than a spot in the distance, and then it had disappeared behind the curve of the mountains, and she was gone.
I don't know how much longer I stood there, staring at the place where the train had disappeared, before Harry came up behind me. "I take it you fixed things?" he said, and my gaze turned into a glare.
"James bought Muggle Easter egg dye last summer. That's what happened to the chickens' eggs." Harry laughed.
"Good to know," he said, "but even without James, I'd have been able to tell." I glanced at him, puzzled. "You're rather, uh, vivid at the moment," he said, and without thinking about it, I grew my hair to the point where I could see it. It was pink. Figured. "And, Neville told me about your conversation."
"Of course he did," I muttered good-naturedly. Nothing could really dampen my spirits, it seemed.
"Come on," Harry said. "Let's go home." I let him turn me around and walk me toward the barrier. I felt lighter than I had in months, and I was going to enjoy a lunch served by Ginny, who would no doubt fuss over me. "So what took you so long?" Harry asked me conversationally as we passed through the barrier.
I thought for a long time before I answered. I thought about what Emily had told me, what I now knew to be true. I thought about all the stories I'd been told about my parents. My mother, who loved my father with all her heart, despite how much he'd hurt her, and my father, who had held himself back from love due to the fear of what might happen. How long it had taken him to give in to being happy.
In the end, I gave the only answer I really could.
"Family tradition," I said with a small smile.
Really, what else could I have said? I was my parents' son.
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