Victoire Weasley sat in a quiet corner of the living room, watching the people mill about aimlessly. New Years Eve at Uncle Harry's and Aunt Ginny's had become a tradition in the last couple of years, mainly because The Burrow was too small for a gathering of this size. It was fine to celebrate Christmas there with just the family, but when the vast array of friends and co-workers were added into the mix things tended to get more crowded than even a magically expanded room could handle.
She loved the holiday season, but New Years Eve had never been her favourite. It always seemed forced; forced laughter, forced gaiety, forced affection for people one hardly knew. It also meant watching men trail after her mother like eager hounds, something that always irritated her. Not that Fleur Weasley did anything to consciously attract such attention; it came naturally to a quarter-Veela.
I guess one-eighth Veela just isn't enough, Victoire thought to herself. It wasn't that she was desirous of attracting that much masculine attention. No, she wanted the attention of only one young man in the room.
She could see him from where she sat, talking and laughing with Uncles George and Percy. His hair was a dark purple this evening – a perfect match to the necktie he wore. No dress robes for him; he liked to be different, although the frequent glances he was receiving from his grandmother Andromeda made it clear that she, at least, disliked his occasional forays into Muggle fashion.
Teddy Remus Lupin.
She winced inwardly at the name; she hated thinking of him as Teddy. It had worked when he was a child, but he was most definitely not a child now. Ted sounded more like what one should call a man.
Her cheeks flushed in response to her thoughts. She had known Ted all of her life; they had been born on the same day two years apart and had practically grown up together. He, no doubt, thought of her as a sister, but it had been a long time since she had looked on him as the elder brother she never had.
She remembered the day her view of him had started to change. It had been last summer; she was due to start her sixth year at Hogwarts, and he had just finished school. Ted had been a part of the family project to expand Shell Cottage. Being still underage, though, he was unable to do any of the magical tasks, so her father had given him the job of hammering together new window frames the Muggle way.
It had been an extremely hot day. She and her younger sister Dominique had made the rounds of the workers with Grandmaman Weasley's homemade lemonade. Dominique had gone out of her way to leave Ted to her older sister, much to Victoire's chagrin. It wasn't that she didn't like Ted and enjoy his company; she was just growing increasingly aware of him the more time they spent together.
She had been less than two feet away when, in a gesture without a shred of self-consciousness, he had lifted the hem of his t-shirt to wipe the sweat from his face. The muscles on his back moved smoothly under his skin and the waistband of his jeans sagged just enough so she could see the line where his summer tan ended.
She had dropped the pitcher of lemonade she carried. Ted had turned around at the noise and met her gaze; it didn't take long for a flush that matched hers to flood his face. Even his hair had started to turn red, but she didn't hang around to watch that. Spinning around she had fled into the house as fast as her legs could carry her.
The petulant voice shook her out of her reverie. Her little brother, Louis, stood before her, holding a glass of punch and wearing an aggrieved expression. At nine years old this was the first New Years Eve that he had been allowed to take part in the entire party, and he was obviously upset at his sister's lack of attention.
"Sorry, Louis," she said, accepting the glass of punch from him. She hid her smile upon discovering that a large quantity of punch had coated the outside of the glass; she could see the trail of liquid from the punch bowl to where she sat clearly on the dove gray carpet. Aunt Ginny would no doubt be somewhat upset, but as was usual with her it wouldn't last. Besides, Louis had all of his many aunts and uncles securely around his little fingers.
Louis flopped down onto the sofa beside his sister; Victoire quickly cupped her punch glass to prevent further spills. She glanced at Louis, alert for signs of tiredness. Their mother had been concerned about letting him stay up and had enlisted her eldest daughter's help. There wasn't a scrap of tiredness anywhere on Louis face, or in his exuberance. He twisted his sister's hand toward him to be able to see her watch.
"Ten minutes to midnight!" he exclaimed, bouncing on his cushion. He giggled a little before leaning back and into Victoire's side. "Is it true that everyone kisses at midnight?" he asked.
Victoire nodded, putting an arm around her brother. "It's a tradition; each person must kiss every member of the opposite sex to ensure health and prosperity for the coming year. Everyone will kiss his or her spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend first, and then work their way around the room."
Louis laughed out loud. "Will Mamie and Papy kiss?" he asked.
"Of course!" She smiled, remembering many a midnight kiss exchanged between the pair; how Grandpapa Weasley, in his enthusiasm, would often lift Grandmaman off her feet or dip her back towards the floor. They seemed to love each other more with every passing year and set a proud example to all of their children and grandchildren.
"You don't have a boyfriend, Victoire," Louis spoke again. "Whom shall you kiss first?"
Victoire felt a blush start to rise on her face and hoped it would be attributed to the heat of the room. She didn't want to talk about who she was hoping to kiss. "I always kiss Papa first," she answered. "Then Grandpapa, then all of our uncles, in age order, starting with Uncle Charlie."
Louis scowled slightly. "I won't kiss the uncles," he said. "Especially not Uncle Percy."
Victoire laughed. "No, you won't kiss the uncles. You'll kiss the aunts."
Louis's face brightened. "I like to kiss Aunt 'Mione," he said. "She always smells like lilacs." He paused a moment more for thought. "Do I have to kiss the girls, too?"
"Only if you want to."
"I'll kiss Roxanne and Molly," he said, nodding firmly. "But no others." He seemed to become aware of his gaffe, because he quickly added "besides you and Dominique, of course."
With the necessities of kissing resolved to his satisfaction Louis settled down to await midnight. He accepted a hat and a noise-maker from Aunt Audrey, apparently thinking that it was best to be prepared for anything. He gave an experimental puff on the noisemaker and it extended rapidly, striking his sister on the nose. He apologized profusely, but there was no mistaken the mischievous glint in his eyes. Victoire shifted a bit further away on the sofa till her nose was safely out of range.
"How much longer?" he asked.
Victoire glanced at her watch. "Not long," she replied. "You have to be ready."
The words had barely left her mouth when she saw Uncle Harry point his wand at the wireless to turn the volume up. The sound of a large crowd celebrating sounded clearly in the room before the announcer broke in.
"We've got quite a crowd here in Diagon Alley for this occasion, and with less than a minute to go until the New Year they are certainly making their excitement known." The crowd began to cheer, drowning out his words, but everyone in the room recognized their old friend Lee Jordan, who was the star of the Wizarding Wireless Network. Everything from sports broadcasts to the nightly news, to grand occasions like New Years Eve in Diagon Alley, were all a part of his repertoire. In years past he had been a fixture at the New Years Eve party, but as his popularity grew on the wireless so did his demand.
"Ten, nine. . ." the countdown began on the wireless
"Eight, seven, six, five. . ." the occupants of the room joined in.
Four, three, two, one, Victoire finished in her thoughts, then covered her ears with her hands as the room erupted in noise.
"HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!"
Every adult wizard in the room raised his or her wand and a shower of confetti exploded around the room. Louis was enthusiastically blowing his noisemaker until he was red in the face. Victoire risked a glance in Ted's direction and saw him laughing with Uncle George and Papa. It didn't take much to see why; the confetti coming out of Ted's wand was changing colors, just like his hair often did when he was swept up in his emotions.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
The traditional song was now emanating from the wireless, with Lee's slightly off-key voice taking the lead. Victoire had been surprised to learn in her Muggle Studies class that Auld Lang Syne was also a tradition on New Years Eve in the Muggle world.
And then the kissing began. Louis quickly bussed Victoire on the cheek before he stood up to join the tumult of the room. He was immediately caught up by Andromeda Tonks, who laughed out loud when he kissed her on the lips. He then disappeared in the mass of people.
Victoire stood up and worked her way to where her parents were together, still absorbed in kissing each other. She arrived at the same time as her sister, Dominique.
"A-hem!" Dominique coughed loudly and Bill and Fleur broke apart. Fleur drifted away with a smile, Bill reached one arm around each of his daughters and pulled them tight against his chest, planting loud, smacking kisses on each of their cheeks.
Dominique giggled and pushed away, moving through the room and kissing each of her uncles. Victoire kissed her father softly on the cheek. "Happy New Year, Papa."
He smiled at her before taking his arm from her waist and grasping her hand in his. "So," he began, "am I going to have to beat the boys off this year? Or is there one in particular that you intend to kiss?"
Victoire blushed. "It's just another New Years, Papa. There's nothing, and no one, special about it." She hoped her voice was steady, because from behind her she could hear Ted talking and laughing with his grandmother and hers.
It was almost a half an hour later when she was able to retreat back to her quiet corner. Louis, worn out from all of the excitement (and the kissing, no doubt), had collapsed in their father's arms not long after midnight, and her parents had returned home with him. Fleur had made Victoire and Dominique promise to not stay too late and to Floo straight home.
Dominique was still in the thick of the crowd, flirting energetically with the son of one of Uncle Percy's colleagues. She had more than a one-eighth share of Veela charm; Victoire sometimes wondered if Dominique had magically stolen hers. Or maybe it was just the novelty of new faces. Dominique attended Beauxbatons, not Hogwarts, so most of the young men at the gathering were relative strangers. Victoire, on the other hand, could have told her that the boy she was expending all of her charm on was a total prat; they were both in Ravenclaw and only a year apart, so she was in a position to know.
She didn't say anything, though. Her sister was smart and would figure it out; besides, with only a couple of days before the end of the Christmas holidays she would return to Beauxbatons and quickly forget the boy.
Victoire sighed; she was tired and wanted to get home, but she needed to wait on her sister. She tried not to think about her still incomplete Transfiguration assignment that was due on her first day back at school. She wasn't all that worried about it, though. Transfiguration was her best subject.
Someone dropped down onto the sofa beside her. A fairly large someone, who displaced the cushions enough to bounce her slightly into the air. She looked that way, fully prepared to speak sharply, when her tongue froze in her mouth and her uncooperative cheeks flushed hotly.
It was Ted, and he was grinning broadly.
"I haven't seen you all night, hardly," he said. "You've not been hiding in this corner the entire time, I hope."
"I'm not hiding!" Victoire exclaimed. "I just prefer a bit more peace and quiet."
Ted grinned. "Yes, I know. Not for you the vivacious flirting your sister so revels in."
Victoire glared. "You're making fun of me."
His eyes opened wide in all innocence. "I would never do that!" he declared in a shocked tone of voice. Of course, he spoiled the effect a moment later by grinning. "OK, maybe a little. But you know that's something I've always liked about you; a girl that is secure and comfortable with who she is has no need to encourage those kinds of attentions."
Victoire desperately hoped it was dark enough in this quiet corner to hide the blush that blossomed on her cheeks. A year ago she would not have reacted this way to Ted talking about something he liked about her. A year ago she would have accepted the compliment with hardly any reaction, beyond a sisterly punch on his arm. That was all before that hot summer day and what she had begun to think of as the Incident of the Lemonade in the Daytime.
Ted was still talking, and she forced her attention back to him and away from embarrassing memories.
"You know, I really have missed you since I left school," he said. "It's comfortable to have a friend that knows you better than you know yourself." He smiled a little. "It's less work that way."
Victoire could only agree. "I've missed you too," she said, so quietly that Ted almost didn't catch the words. "It was always nice to look up from a meal and see you at the Gryffindor table; like you said, a friend that knows you better than you know yourself." She felt a grin spread on her face. "And I always enjoyed beating you at Quidditch."
Ted groaned. "ONCE! You beat me once! For pity's sake, are you ever going to stop gloating about that?"
"Maybe next year." Victoire leaned back against the sofa cushions and sighed. Without a thought Ted put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze; she had to make a conscious effort to slow her heart. She sighed again.
"Tired?" Ted asked.
Victoire nodded and let her head drop to rest on his arm. "Very. I wish Dominique would finish her 'vivacious flirting', to use your words. I want to go home, but I can't leave without her." She stifled a yawn; Ted tightened his hold on her shoulders until her head came to rest on his shoulder.
They sat together in companionable silence for a time, each seeming unaware of the other. When Victoire felt Ted's hand slide under the hair at the nape of her neck she stiffened in surprise before pulling away, although her traitorous breathing had sped up. When she met his eyes she lost what little breath she had left.
He was looking at her in the same way that she always saw her parents gaze at each other, and her grandparents, and all her aunts and uncles. His eyes glowed in the dim light and a gentle smile softened the sharp planes of his face and brought a tempting curve to his lips. But that wasn't what did Victoire in. Even as she watched his gaze dropped to her own mouth, and she licked her lips almost involuntarily. Ted groaned faintly and brought his mouth closer to hers.
"I've wanted to do this ever since I heard that lemonade pitcher shatter," he whispered before he closed that final, small gap between them and their lips met.