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Chapter 1: Prologue: Grown-up Questions
My heart was racing and my hands were sweaty. I inhaled deeply, held my breath until I could feel my heart throbbing in my temples, and then slowly let it rush out between my lips. I wiped my palms off on my robe and chided myself; it was far too early to be this uneasy. The hands of the clock on my bedside table read four forty-five. Time seemed to mock me. It felt like an hour had passed since the hands had read four thirty.
Restless, I walked over to my dresser and glanced in the mirror. My face was paler than usual and my blue coloured hair was ruffled from dragging my sweaty hands through it nervously. I ran my fingers through it quickly, convincing it to lie in a relaxed manner. It was still early, and my nerves were already besting me.
Discontented by my over-active nerves, I looked down at my dresser top. Although I had not been home recently, it was still a cluttered mess that would suffice nicely in describing me to a stranger if the need ever arose. A stack of assorted magazines was piled on the left-hand side. The stack consisted of several issues of Quidditch Illustrated, a few issues of the muggle publication entitled National Geographic, and an issue of Witch Weekly that sported a bosomy smiling witch on the cover. The right hand side of the dresser top was adorned with old and well-used gizmos that I had received as gifts over the years. My favourites being the small silver deluminator that I had received from Ron and the old-fashioned gold pocket watch, which had been my Dad's, that I had received from Harry on my seventeenth birthday. Propped up along the back of the dresser were several snapshots, some much older than others. There were pictures of myself as a kid with Harry and various Weasleys, pictures of myself and my mates on the Hogwarts grounds, a picture of my Mom and Dad cradling me between them, and a picture of me and her smiling with our arms around each other.
I exhaled slowly. The visual journey through my belongings had brought some comfort to my nerve-wracked body. I could feel my heart rate slowing and felt some tension leech out of my shoulders. The rumpled covers of my bed seemed to call to me. I walked over to the edge of the bed and sat down, leaning back onto my stack of pillows. I could do this; I could do this without my nerves besting me.
I stared passively up at the ceiling for a few moments before my eyes wondered over to the bedside table. Rolling onto my right side, I opened the small drawer. This room had once belonged to my mother. Inscribed on the inside of the drawer in a young girl’s crayon-ed handwriting were the words, “NT +RL 4EVER.” My Nan had told me that she had been infatuated with a certain Richard Lewis as a young girl. These words made me smile because RL were my father’s initials as well. However, my mum’s proclamation of a childish crush was not what I was looking for within the drawer.
Lying inside of the drawer was a small, delicate velveteen box. I reached into the drawer and pulled it out. Holding the box in my hand sent a series of nervous tremors up my arm. I opened the box slowly; the hinges were still stiff with disuse. Inside the box was a delicate gold band adorned with a small diamond. I knew nothing of jewellery or fashion, but Nan had reassured me that it was suitable for the occasion. The sight of the ring caused an increase in my pulse. I snapped the box shut, pocketed it, and left my room.
Downstairs, Nan was fussing about the kitchen like an overgrown hen. She must have heard me enter the room and turned towards me, skillet in hand.
“So, my little Teddy bear,” her voice was deep with crackles that alluded to her age. “You look right handsome. Although I wish you’d leave your hair go, you look so much nicer that way.” Nan had fussed about my hair all twenty-two years of my life. I imagine she had fussed over my Mom’s pink hair in a similar fashion, and it brought a grin to my face.
“Aww Gran, you know I look charming no matter what colour my hair is,” I couldn’t help but chuckle as she pursed her lips. Regardless of intent, she had a way of looking intimidating with her lips pursed.
“Oh fine,” she snapped out in her characteristically stern fashion. “You better get going. I thought you had said that her birthday dinner started at five? It’s rude to arrive just in time to eat.” Manners and appearances were always very important to Nan.
“I know, I know. I just needed some time to collect myself; it’s a big day, Nan.” Her stern expression softened and she walked over to me, pulling me into a rare embrace.
“Right now, get going.” She said as she let go of me and pushed me towards the door. Once outside, I breathed in and out slowly for a moment and then turned on the spot. The familiar crushing feeling enveloped me as the front of the house disappeared from sight.
When my world stopped spinning, I looked up to the welcoming sight of Shell Cottage. After my Nan’s house and Harry’s, this place was like a third home to me. As always, it brought a warm smile to my face. I made my way up the path towards the front door.
I hadn’t made it very far before the front door flew open and a slender blonde figure burst through it. She must have heard me apparate. This thought had barely processed in my mind before her warm, petit body was in my arms. I picked her up and swung her around. Holding her tightly to myself, I inhaled deeply and brushed my lips along the side of her creamy neck. I felt her smile against my chest and set her back onto the ground.
“Happy Birthday, Victoire.” I smiled at her warmly. She had truly grown into a beautiful woman over the past few years. I tucked a wayward strand of her light blond hair behind her ears, and took her small hand into my own. Together we continued up the path and into the cottage.
“I was getting worried, Teddy. Maman swore she told you five o’clock, and at first I didn’t believe her. But then I got to thinking that perhaps you got held up at the Academy,” she pulled her bottom lip in and gently bit it. She was thinking. “I thought you were going to miss dinner.”
As we entered the cottage, I glanced around the alcove by the door quickly and pushed her into the sitting room. I pulled her into myself and tilted her chin up towards my face.
“Victoire, it’s your twentieth birthday. There wasn’t a chance in the world that I’d miss this.” I lowered my head towards her parted and waiting lips and kissed her slowly and thoroughly. As per usual, she responded enthusiastically and snaked her arms up around my head. I pulled back slightly before she could have her way and placed my index finger on her pouting lips.
“Come on, let’s go see if your Maman needs any help. I still have to say hello to your Dad.” On our way to the kitchen, I spotted Bill and her brothers in the dining room. I stopped there to greet them. Bill gave me a fatherly hug. Louis nodded uninterestedly, and Dom grinned and punched my shoulder. I sat down with them, vaguely paying attention as Dom chatted animatedly about his internship in Egypt. My nerves had started up again, and I could feel the sweat beading up on the palms of my hands. The tiny box felt as if it weighed a kilo in my pocket.
Just then, Fleur and Victoire emerged from the kitchen. Fleur sat opposite Bill at the table, and Victoire sat down on my left. Dishes of steaming food began to float around the table as we made our plates and began to eat. Fleur was lightly criticizing Louis’ current hair style, long and pulled into a small pony-tail. Victoire joined Bill and Dom’s continuing discussion of Egypt. I could not stay focused on either of the conversations at hand, and found my mind wondering away from the table.
The significance of Victoire’s twentieth birthday seemed to have been lost on her. I suppose that I shouldn’t have expected her to remember it. It was an innocent childhood promise made nearly fifteen years ago; it had escaped my memory until several months ago. I pursed my lips; this evening would be much easier if she had remembered it.
We were young – five and seven years old. The world, or at least the beach of Shell Cottage, was our playground. On that particular evening, we were sitting close to the wire fencing surrounding the cottage. We were playing our favourite game – adventurers. On that particular evening, our pretend magical wands had taken us to a dragon’s lair where I had reluctantly agreed to allow Victoire to save me from the fire-breathing beast. Back from our perilous journey, Victoire was tending my imaginary scorch marks on my arm.
“Teddy bear, that was a good adventure,” she quipped in her characteristically matter-of-fact voice. “Dom doesn’t play like you – he’s too little. He breaks all the rules. I wish you’d stay here all the time so we can go on adventures whenever we like.”
“Victoire, we go on adventures when I come to visit. Besides, I can’t live with you – only married friends live together – like Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione.” I explained to her patiently. “They’ve always been friends so they got married and now they live together.” I was impressed by my own flawless seven-year-old logic.
“Oh,” I could tell she was thinking. She scrunched up her face and chewed her bottom lip. “Well let’s get married then,” she stated forwardly.
“Victoire, we can’t get married,” I tried not to laugh at her. Obviously, seven year olds were much brighter than little five year olds. “Only grown ups can get married.”
Victoire’s face again screwed up in consideration, “Well then, we’ll just have to wait till we’re grown up, won’t we?” She seemed impressed by this conclusion. “Teddy, are twenty year olds grown up?”
“I suppose so,” I had never really thought about how old grown ups were before. Twenty sounded pretty old though.
“Good. Teddy, will you marry me when I turn twenty?” Her face matched the earnestness in her voice. “That way you can live here with me and Maman and Daddy, and we can go on adventures whenever we want.”
A platter of Roasted Lamb narrowly missed my head as it clinked into the table and pulled me from my memory. Victoire had been right about one thing, this was certainly going to be an adventure.
“So what do you think, Teddy?” I realized that Bill had been talking to me and quickly wracked my mind to rejoin the conversation. I believe that they had been talking about international laws or something similar. I jumped into the conversation, careful not to allow my mind to wonder away again.
Once dinner was finished, I joined Bill, Dom, and Louis in sitting room. The conversation turned to the current quidditch standings. Although I was fully immersed in the conversation, my eyes occasionally flicked up towards the doorway. I was anxious to get Victoire by herself before my nerves bested me. My heart was beating so forcefully that it threatened to beat through my chest cavity.
After the longest half hour of my life, I saw Victoire emerge from the kitchen. She walked by the doorway, paused long enough to shoot me a mildly suggestive look, and announced that she was going outside for a bit of fresh air.
I couldn’t help but smile at her child-like face and excused myself from the quickly escalating argument about who would play for the cup. I walked towards the front door and quietly slipped outside. The sight of Victoire took my breath away. She really was beautiful – tall and slender, crystal blue eyes. The chain I had given to her last year hung teasingly, resting just above the space between her two petite breasts. Her mouth was slightly upturned, and her thoughts were clearly written across her face. She wanted me. This realization never ceased to hit me in the gut and momentarily take my breath away, but I couldn’t allow myself to linger on that. I had to take care of more important business. The ring box burned hotly against my leg in my robe pocket. I was worried it’d fall right through and ruin the whole damn thing.
“Victoire, I – er, we need to talk,” I cleared my throat and took her right hand within my own. I was certain that she could hear my heart pounding in my chest as I walked her over to the small bench. I glanced at her face; she looked nervous. I could tell she was wracking her mind as to what this could be about. She held her thin bottom lip gently between her teeth.
“Teddy, what’s this about? Is everything alright? Your Nan is fine isn’t she?” The octave of her voice increased with each question.
“Yes, yes. I mean, everything is fine.” With each passing moment, I grew more and more certain that if my heart did not burst through my chest, it would jump up my throat. We had talked about spending our lives together before, but this was so final and permanent – unlike the quiet pillow talk in which we usually discussed our future.
“Then what is it? Teddy, you’re making me nervous,” her eyes studied me, piercing into my own. I clenched and un-clenched my fists, drew in a deep breath that lightly tasted of Victoire’s scent, and exhaled slowly. It was now or never. Almost as if it was in slow motion, I pulled the box from my pocket and dropped onto my knee.
“Victoire Colette Weasley, you’re twenty today. You’re finally a grown up,” I felt my face break into an earnest smile. “I love you and want to keep the first promise I ever made to you – would you, er,” my voice caught in my throat. I willed myself to continue talking. “Would you marry me?”
With the words finally out, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Feeling lighter, I looked up into her eyes. The look in them plunged my world into an icy pool. Her brows furrowed together and her thin lips were pursed together. She gently pulled her hand away from mine and slowly made to stand.
“Victoire?” I managed to ask quietly. I looked down towards the sandy ground – still no response. I felt like a fool, hanging here in this seemingly endless moment. I began to count it in my head as moments of our lives flashed before my eyes. One, Two, Three…
I have the next chapter and the Epilogue completed. You'll have to read along to find Victoire's answer. I will post it asap. Please take a minute to review. And a HUGE thank you to my amazing beta Antigone Black!