"Remind me exactly what we're doing here,"
"Its tradition Teddy," she said flashing him a wicked smile before promptly tripping on a wayward plank.
"No Vicky," Teddy sighed as he caught her and placed her back on her feet, "Our tradition is taking a relaxing dip in the ocean just the two of us the day before we catch the train to Hogwarts. What I don't recall is ever playing out this tradition at such a god awful hour of the morning. It's still pitch black. You can't even see your feet in this light," he pointed out in a bored drawl. Victoire decided that because he couldn't see her she'd be safe sticking out her tongue at him.
"I saw that you little monster," he said staying close behind her in case she tripped again.
"Look it's not my fault the family decided to do the dreaded Diagon run today of all days but we can't disregard tradition, its bad luck," Victoire said reasonably enough as they came out at her family's small pier.
"You can't honestly be thinking about swimming in this light," he said incredulously. But it become apparent as she started tugging clothes over head that that was exactly what she was planning.
"No offense Teddy," she said as both jacket and T-shirt joined her growing pile of discarded clothes, "as adorable as you are I'll be damned if I crawled out of bed just to see your face. I can see that any day."
"There could be anything in that water Vic. You wouldn't be able to see a Kelpie till it was too late," he said rationally. But Victoire wasn't in the mood for rationality.
"So go home if it bothers you so much," she said aiming her last garment at his face. He peeled her shorts of his nose just in time to catch her graceful dive off the pier.
Victoire surfaced further out to a view of the looming black cliffs that backed her house; she could just make out the faraway edge dividing the starlit sky like some great black curtain to a darkened stage. Teddy was nothing more than a vague moonlight smudge against the scene. It was impossible for her to tell what colour his ever-changing hair was in this light let alone the look on his familiar face but it didn't matter. Vic knew that it was only a matter of time till the heady thrill of sneaking out overwhelmed his sense of maturity.
She whiled away the time waiting for him by examining the long hair that pooled around her shoulders. With the moonlight sparking off the water and salt crystals Victoire fancied that it was almost the same shade of silver as her mother's. In reality, and sunlight, she knew it was more of a strawberry blonde but it was fun to pretend for a while. Her mother was so very beautiful.
Abruptly something wrapped around her ankle and Victoire felt a momentary panic as it dragged her underwater. It released her quickly though, and Victoire, spluttering, resurfaced only to find Teddy laughing at her from metres away. She hadn't heard him come in. Unlike her he hadn't come prepared with a bathing suit and was swimming in just his shorts.
"And that proves my point. Anything could sneak up on you here. I guess I better stick around and keep an eye on you," he chuckled. Victoire still wiping salt water from her stinging eyes retaliated by jumping at his head and pushing him under.
Sometime later after they'd exhausted their play fighting Vic was floating on her back watching the rapidly fading stars and wondering.
"Just think Teddy this time next year you could be looking up at different stars," she said staring at them wistfully wondering if she really could read answers in them, with her sister Dominique's Divination textbook of course.
"I don't want to think about it," Teddy muttered. Victoire flipped up right in a moment staring as he treaded water near her. This close she could tell that his hair was a deep brown, much plainer then his usual colour palette.
"Why not?" she asked astonished everyone she knew couldn't wait to get out of Hogwarts, "The world will be your oyster. With your grades you could go anywhere you want, have anything you want."
"Not everything," he said quietly enough that she wondered if he was even talking to her. About to ask what that meant Victoire opened her mouth but Teddy cut her off his voice louder this time, "Look everyone is asking me the same thing. What am I going to do with my life? Can we just not talk about it right now?" She wasn't particularly looking forward to Teddy's graduation either. He'd been with her for most of her life and it was weird thinking that next year she may not have him to fall back on. It made her feel jittery.
It was with more than a little relief, and a lot of curiosity, that she steered the conversation to a harmless discussion of likely replacements for the mostly graduating Gryffindor team. They spent the rest of the early hour debating whether anyone would let James try out in his first year or not. Victoire was inclined to think not and was so busy arguing why that she didn't notice when Teddy went silent.
"This was a good idea," he said, "Look Vic." She looked where he was pointing. The sun was just beginning to rise lightening the edges of the horizon to a gilded pink. It was very beautiful and they sat together in companionable silence watching as it rose. It wasn't till it had settled heavily into the morning sky that Victoire started with a jolt.
"Bloody hell," she swore plunging towards the pier and dragging herself up, "Maman and Dad will be up soon," she explained to Teddy as she hastily snatched up her scattered clothes. He lazily started to pull himself together watching her scramble in amusement. The lucky bugger didn't need to worry about getting caught he'd had great practice at playing his god parents against his grandmother ensuring the one thought he was with the other when he wanted to be somewhere else. Victoire was not so lucky. No matter how much they treated Teddy as family she would be in just as much trouble with her parents for sneaking out to see him than if he was any other boy. Hastily she bid him goodbye and raced back to the house.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," Vicky mumbled round the toast in her mouth as she stumbled into the lounge room of her family's tiny cottage three hours later. She needn't have worried the only other person in the room was her twelve year-old brother Louis slouched groggily in an arm chair his silver blonde hair sleep mussed and a hooded sweatshirt pulled over what Victoire was sure was the shirt he'd fallen asleep in.
"Not at all," Louis yawned, "We're still waiting on her royal pickiness. She's only on her sixth outfit change so it may be a while."
"Don't exaggerate Louis," said Dominique as she flounced into the room, of all the siblings she alone had inherited the standard Weasley banner, but where the rest of her relations had hair the colour and consistency of copper wire Dominique's hair was sleek, straight and a red frequently referred to by the master painters as Titan, "it was only the third change," she continued, "and you two should definitely consider making at least one of them. Don't think the cameras will be merciful."
Louis rolled his eyes as he climbed to his feet stretching. Victoire barely contained her sigh of longing as she eyed her sister's perfectly put together outfit she'd barely managed enough time for a shower to get the incriminating salt and sand out of her hair by the time she'd gotten back to even remotely make it down to breakfast at a reasonable hour let alone plan a full ensemble.
"Don't be ridiculous," Louis said grabbing a fistful of floo powder from a giant conch shell on the mantel and throwing it on the fire, "there aren't going to be any cameras. No-one's knows the family is coming today."
"So say you," said Dom and with a neat little pirouette she'd stepped into Louis' fire and disappeared.
Louis glared into the fire after her, "I hope her hair catches on fire."
"Well I just hope she's wrong," Vic said and ushered Louis into the fire, quickly following suit once he'd disappeared.
"Dear Merlin!" Victoire exclaimed a minute later as they stood together watching the brick archway open up to reveal Diagon Alley and the seething mass of people that filled it. She felt her heart sink save Dominique and herself there wasn't a red head in sight.
"Oh yeah the 'trio' have definitely been through here," Louis muttered unhappily as they dove straight into the crowd that overwhelmed the small alleyway.
"How the hell do they always find these things out?" Victoire whispered sticking close to Louis as the jostling crowd threatened to pull the siblings apart.
"I don't know," Dominique said tossing her long red hair over one shoulder as she looked at the many cameras and quote quills hovering discreetly among the throng, "But I sure am glad that I took that extra time to get ready this morning," she sniffed sending a dazzling smile in the direction of the nearest reporter. Victoire elbowed her sister's side hard sending her stumbling sidelong into the crowd. Louis caught Dom easily glaring at the man who was a little too eager to catch her.
"Shove off," Louis said shoving the man back before turning back to Victoire, "This is just bloody ridiculous. We're never going to get there in time." This wasn't the first time that the extensive Weasley family had decided to make a day of buying their school supplies in Diagon Alley even if it was the first time James and Freddy would be joining them. Nor was it the first time that the three of them had found themselves caught up in the sudden explosion of Potter and Weasley mania that inadvertently followed her Aunt and Uncles. So they all knew exactly what to do.
"Split up," Louis and Victoire said together. Victoire nodded.
"Dominique," she said, "We'll meet back up in..." but her sister had already disappeared melting easily into the crowd sending people scuttling with just one withering glance, "...Ollivanders. God I hate it when she does that," Victoire muttered receiving only the merest shrug of sympathy from her brother in return.
"Meet you on the other side sister dear," Louis said with an impish grin before he too dove into the crowd his silver blonde mop swallowed in an instant.
"Sweet talker," Victoire mumbled but she couldn't help smiling. Gingerly she began to pick her way through the multitudes making sure to give any reporters a wide berth. It was painfully slow going and only her promise to be there for her cousins' stopped her from just giving up and diving into the nearest shop to wait out this madness in peace. She'd just managed to slip unnoticed past Gringotts, sending a silent apology to her parents for not stopping in, and was beginning to breathe easier when she herself felt an unwelcome elbow in the ribs that sent her sprawling. She directed a withering glare up at the person connected to the offending elbow as she winced and got a rude shock. Victoire was scowling up into the dancing green eyes of Markel Saunders, Teddy's only real competitor for heartthrob of Hogwart's and, Victoire blushed, the recipient of a rather large crush on her part.
He smiled his dazzling smile at her as he helped her up, "Weasley_"
"No!" she said slapping a hand over his mouth but it was too late. A camera flashed somewhere in the near vicinity momentarily blinding her as she felt the horde surge forwards.
"Miss Weasley a statement for Daily Prophet," someone, no doubt a reporter, said pushing what Victoire assumed was a quick-quotes-quill and parchment in her face. It was hard for her to tell as points of coloured light burst before her eyes.
"You bloody git don't you have anything better to report on," swore Victoire swiping at streaming eyes. By the time she was able to look up without her eyes burning Markel had disappeared and she was trapped within a large circle of eager reporters and obsessed fans. The camera seemed to have a very disorientating effect on her brain because it took her a second to locate Ollivanders again in the crowd. She took a step in that direction and found a petite blonde witch standing in her way. Victoire gave her a bland smile and tried to side step the young woman and pulled up short because there she was again, all short skirts and simpering eyes.
"I'm sorry," Victoire said confused, "Do I know you?"
"Miss Aurora Gables," her barricade said treating Victoire to a mega-watt smile, "Writer for Witch Weekly." For the first time Victoire noticed the peacock feather quill and scrap of parchment that she clutched tightly in her bright red talons. A deep frown appeared between Victoire's eyebrows as she took a few steps back. Miss Gables treated her to another patronising smile.
"Miss Weasley, would you care to give a brief interview for our publication?" Miss Gables asked her sweetly, "Of course we'd pay you for your trouble."
"Ahhh," Victoire said uncertainly taking another few steps back, straight into the arms of yet another reporter.
"Miss Weasley what do you think of the Ministry's new policy on House Elf restrictions?" he asked as he turned her around.
"Actually I think..." Victoire started to say before another question cut her off.
"The centaurs are up in arms does your Uncle have any leads on the recent deaths in the British herds?" said another whipping her in his direction.
"Shouldn't you be asking...?"
"Miss Weasley can you tell us about the relationship between your Uncle Harry and Aunt Hermione?"
"Just what exactly does that...?" Victoire said whirling around hands on her hips attempting to pinpoint that particular questioner.
"Victoire is your family having a good time today?"
"I haven't really had a chance..."
"Victoire would you sign my new quidditch glove?" someone shouted. Questions came at her from every direction so fast that it was all Victoire could do just to pick out words. The buzz grew louder as the reporters and fans vied for her attention. None of them seemed to care that she'd been born a year after the war and therefore wholly unrelated to it. People resorted to physically pulling her in their direction to get her attention. Miss Aurora Gables was the surprising winner of that little tussle dragging Vic around to face her with an astonishingly fierce grip on her upper arm.
"Miss Weasley," Aurora Gables said her voice pleasantly crisp, "The wizarding world wants to hear all about your life? What do you do in your spare time? Are there any boys in your life?"
"Well I hardly think that's any of your business," a sarcastic drawl said from beside her ear as a hand seized her free elbow. Victoire looked up into the amber eyes of Teddy Lupin and gave a bright smile.
"Teddy," she said in surprise, "I didn't expect to see you here so early." She would have slept in if she was him. The corners of Teddy's mouth quirked up.
"What and miss all this fun?" he said sarcastically before turning his suddenly sparking eyes on the enigmatic Aurora Gables, "This little press conference is over," he said with finality. It was a testimony to how much respect Teddy could command that the reporters let him drag her to Ollivanders without a fight.
Victoire squeezed into the tiny shop as Teddy closed the door behind her with some difficulty and it wasn't just because of the swelling crowd outside. Most of her extended family was packed in there, certainly all the kids at least. She was pressed between her cousin Roxanne, perched awkwardly on a solitary spindly chair, and Teddy, half collapsed into a wall of boxes, but still managed to exchange strained greetings with everyone. Her youngest cousin Lily, balanced next to Dom on a rickety table, waved back enthusiastically almost wiping out an expensive looking set of scales in the process.
"This is ridiculous. You'd think the attraction would have worn off by now," her Aunt Hermione said comforting a teary cousin Hugo. Vic was sympathetic; it couldn't be easy sharing your parents with a bunch of Harry Potter enthusiasts. Louis eyed the crowds pressed against the glass with unconcealed scorn.
"The attraction never wears off," her Aunt Ginny said good-naturedly. Aunt Ginny's patience was legendary.
"And to think you always wished that you could be famous," Uncle Harry muttered to Uncle Ron who grimaced.
"Yeah but I didn't know it would be like this," her Uncle Ron mumbled back.
"Be careful what you wish for," said Teddy receiving a filthy glare in thanks. Her Aunt Audrey, who she had barely noticed until now, spoke up then.
"I know it's safer in numbers but we can't possibly all stay in here," her Aunt said. As if to illustrate her point her daughter Lucy promptly knocked over a pile of boxes. They toppled over in a shower of sparks and a loud bang. Molly jumped hastily aside as a sparkling jet of stars shot past her. Ollivander materialized from the shadows then startling an already nervous James. Poor Freddie wasn't much better. Aunt Angelina had her arm slung around her son's shoulders protectively. It was a testimony to how anxious Freddie was that he didn't shrug it off.
Ollivander looked around his shop in a kind of quiet astonishment and turned to her Uncle Harry lips pursed. Her Aunt Audrey took that as her cue to leave grabbing her two daughters' wrists.
"Well the girls and I have other shopping to get done," she said, "Come on girls we'll meet up with them later and find out what happens," she added as Molly and Lucy protested. Grumbling darkly the two girls followed their mother as she squeezed towards the door.
"I suppose we should go too," her Aunt Hermione suggested.
"Are you mad woman? I'm not stepping out into that mob," Uncle Ron said. Aunt Hermione's answering glower was palpable. Ollivander looked less and less pleased by the minute.
"We could take the kids to Uncle George's," Victoire piped up wanting to strike a compromise for everyone.
"Yeah," Teddy agreed, "I don't think it's a good idea for you guys to step out there right now." Aunt Hermione let her breath out in a huff.
"Fine," she said, "But Hugo's staying with me."
"Lily I think you should stay too," her Uncle Harry said lifting his daughter off the table.
"No!" Lily snapped with an expression on her tiny face almost as fiery as her hair, "I want to go with Vicky." Uncle Harry looked to his wife for support but Aunt Ginny just shrugged.
In the end Victoire, Dominique, Louis and Teddy trooped out the door with Roxanne, Albus, Lily and Rose in tow. The swirling mass of journalists and fans quickly abandoned their procession once they realised the Golden trio weren't among them and that Victoire was perfectly serious in her threat to bat bogey hex anyone who so much as breathed on her younger cousins. They all traipsed into Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes barely a few minutes later. Despite the hubbub outside the shop was almost as tightly packed as Ollivanders. Uncle George came tearing past his orange mop almost hidden under a swaying stack of boxes that were emitting faint squeaks and puffs.
"Hey Dad," Roxanne called and disappeared into the depths of the shop with familiar ease. Uncle George glanced at them as Lily clambered off Teddy's back.
"What are you lot doing here?" he asked absently as he stacked the now humming boxes haphazardly on a shelf. Albus wandered off to take stock of the shop's new Wild-Fire Whiz-Bangs selection.
"It was too crowded in Ollivanders we thought we'd wait out the madness here," Victoire answered steadying a box that threatened to slip from her Uncle's grasp.
"Blimey, is it that time already," Uncle George said snapping to attention, "I haven't missed Freddie's wand have I?" He shoved the remaining boxes onto the shelf in one go and brushed off his hands.
"Nah," Teddy replied picking up a fake wand, tickling Victoire with it when it changed into a feathery fake chicken, "Last I saw James was too nervous to grab the wand Ollivander passed him so I'd say you've still got some time."
"Right," Uncle George said as he clasped Teddy's shoulder appreciatively and raced out of the shop calling over his shoulder, "cover for me will you?" Victoire making sure all her cousins were still within sight slipped behind the register with a sigh.
"Look if you're not trying to buy something I'll have to ask you to leave the queue," Victoire was patiently saying ten minutes later to the third guy who'd approached the register, and her, sans merchandise.
"I'm trying to buy you a drink," the guy replied breathlessly to Victoire's intense mortification.
"She's underage," Teddy interrupted leaning back against the front of the counter and eyeing her admirer icily, "andnot interested." There was nothing inherently threatening in the way he said it but Teddy crossing his arms must have been some silent signal because Vic watched her admirer and a couple of other customers scurry away rather swiftly. Teddy flicked her an amused smirk.
"Well I know something she'll certainly be interested in," said a distinctly female voice from further down the line. Victoire couldn't help letting out a tiny scream as she whirled around to face her best friend, her best friend who was supposed to be on the Isle of the Scots till the very start of term.
"Elyse!" she cried as they hugged each other tightly, "You're not supposed to be back in England till tomorrow." Teddy rolled his eyes and without a word took her place behind the counter uncaring of the faces that fell around him.
"Mam told Dad that if she didn't have one day where her socks were completely dry she'd throw all his notes in with the Kelpie he's so obsessed with," she said with a shrug. Elyse's dad worked in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and had been sent, family in tow, to assist the Scottish authorities with the capture of the famed Loch Ness kelpie. Apparently even the new British advancements in magical entrapment the family had taken with them were proving unsuccessful. "But I've got more important stuff to talk to you about," she continued dragging Victoire into a secluded corner under the second story landing.
Victoire never regretted having Teddy for a best friend but there were some subjects one just needed a best gal pal for. The information Elyse had to impart turned out to be of that variety.
"You will never guess who I walked past on the way here," Elyse chirped excitedly.
"Who?" Victoire immediately gratified her by asking.
"Markel Saunders." Her best friend looked proud of herself for imparting such monumental information.
"Yeah," Vic said blushing profusely, "I ran into him earlier. Literally."
"Did you now?" said Elyse with a knowing smile, "Well that explains rather a lot. I heard him gushing to his parents all about you sounding, dare I say it, rather enamoured." Victoire, who felt it was perfectly reasonable to succumb to giddy girlishness occasionally, joined Elyse in her squealing dance.
"Oh Vic he has to like you now," said Elyse dreamily.
"Who likes Cousin Vicky?" said a small voice from above. Vic and Elyse looked to the small landing above them. Crammed with obscure special interest products as it was Vic was surprised that Lily had found a place to sit, but there amongst the merchandise she was, idly kicking her legs as she peered down at them. Vic could see Elyse putting two and two together, realising whose daughter this must be and was watching her work through the first stages of hesitancy to answer her when another less appealing voice repeated the question.
"Yes, who likes Cousin Vicky?" Teddy drawled clearly unimpressed. Vic glanced over his shoulder and saw that Dominique had taken over the register to a chorus of adoring sighs.
"They got sick of me," Teddy said one eyebrow raised sardonically, "Who likes Cousin Vicky?" Victoire licked her lips. Teddy had a bad habit of running off her crushes.
"Someone called Markel Saunders apparently," said a self satisfied Roxanne from above her. Vic looked up and groaned Roxanne was winding a telling piece of flesh coloured string around her fingers. She expected Teddy to look smug but when she turned to face him he just looked cross.
"Markel Saunders. Really, Vic?" he said, "I thought you had better taste then that pompous moron." Victoire opened her mouth to retaliate but Lily butted in first.
"Isn't he nice?" she asked Teddy innocently. Victoire jumped in before he could give his opinion on that.
"He's very, very nice Lily," she said, her glare daring Teddy to contradict her.
"But he isn't nice enough for you," Lily stated with the confidence only a seven year old can possess.
"Why do you say that honey?"
"Because Teddy doesn't like him," said Lily as if this was plainly obvious. Victoire felt her mouth pop open in disbelief and she turned on Teddy reproachfully.
"She's not even eight and already you have her twisted around your finger" she accused, "She hasn't even met him."
"And yet she sees him so much more clearly then you do," Teddy said gruffly. Victoire narrowed her eyes at Teddy before tilting her head back to address Lily. She knew she was using her cousin as a way to avoid a head on argument with Teddy and felt guilty about it, but not guilty enough to stop. Lily looked at her with wide eyes.
"Dear Teddy," she said throwing him a filthy glare that he returned blandly, "doesn't know a blooming thing about it. Markel is very sweet and charming."
"Not to mention gorgeous," Elyse murmured quietly to Vic. Teddy flashed them both a furious glower, having evidently heard them, and Elyse went to back to trying to blend in with the scenery. Victoire felt even more like snapping at him. Teddy too was unfolding himself from the shelf he'd been resting on, stepping towards her with flashing eyes.
"I'll have you know Vic that he is nothing more than a Quidditch jock."
"Someone's a bit of a snob now he's been made Head boy," Victoire scoffed. They were almost nose to nose now, Teddy's face set in a furious scowl and Vic's obstinate. He opened his mouth to speak when three things happened at once. There was a small bang and a puff of smoke as a decoy detonator went off, Roxanne who was essentially her father's daughter started espousing the uses and prices of said detonators and the shop door opened to admit a bickering Aunt Angelina and Uncle George.
"How many times do I have to tell you George you can't take advantage of your nieces like this?" her Aunt muttered a somewhat bewildered Freddie following in her wake tightly clutching a small rectangular box.
"I was in a hurry and put them in charge because they were there," Uncle George said unconvincingly.
"Pull the other one," her Aunt replied.
"Can you really blame me? You know the affect they have on customers," her Uncle shot back glancing pointedly at the line of eager customers queuing before Dominique.
"Oh Victoire, Teddy," Aunt Angelina suddenly said apparently realising they'd been listening, "Thank you for watching the store Harry and the others have taken James and Hugo to Florencian's for ice-cream. They said they'd treat you all if you met them there."
The conversation was over for now and Teddy seemed to know it too because he glared at her once more for good measure before stalking off to retrieve Albus. Elyse stared after him in awed speechlessness.
"Well he wasn't very happy about that was he?" she said finally managing words.
"I don't care" Victoire replied, hastily gathering together cousins, "it's not like its anything new. Besides it really isn't any of his business." Teddy reappeared with Albus and Roxanne, Albus she noticed was carrying a number of packages he hadn't had earlier. Victoire bid Elyse a pre-occupied goodbye promising to meet up on the train first thing tomorrow. It wasn't till she was hustling them all out the door that she noticed Rose sneaking an empty detonator box into an overlarge vase by the door as she slipped out, with a meaningful glance back at Victoire. Victoire mentally promised Rose an extra large ice-cream sundae when they got to Florencian's.