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Chapter 1: In a Brown Study
There was something wrong with this picture.
It was two days after Christmas. He was sitting in his friend Gillian’s very comfortable living room. Her family’s tree was beautiful. There was a roaring fire in the fireplace. He was finally having a chance to catch up with Gillian and two of their other friends, none of whom he had gotten to see very much since they’d finished school sixth months before. The wine was delicious. Everyone else was in bright spirits.
So what was his problem?
He felt a sharp poke in his shoulder and looked over at Johanna, who was sitting next to him on the couch. Her eyebrows were raised. “Knut for your thoughts, Teddy?”
Teddy shrugged. Johanna had bright green eyes that always left him with the impression that she see into his soul, and he was not very proud of where his soul was just then. “Sorry. I think I’m still adjusting to English time.” He had only returned from his most recent overseas assignment from Gringotts a few days before.
She seemed to accept that, though Teddy could see David throw him a curious glance before looking over at Gillian. “Didn’t you say yesterday that you had something important to ask us?”
Her cheeks reddened and she began to wind a lock of her brown hair around her fingers. “Guess what.”
Teddy had already lost track of what they were supposed to be guessing.
Johanna was clearly not as distracted. “No. Just tell us.”
Gillian brushed her dark hair away from her face and took a deep breath. “I asked Shane Donnelly out after work last week,” she said in a rush. “And he said yes.”
Teddy remembered absolutely nothing about Shane Donnelly other than that he’d been in Johanna’s year and in Gryffindor. From the polite look of interest on David’s face, he was in the same position.
Johanna, however, looked as though she were trying very hard to keep the disgust off her face, and given that it was Johanna, she was not doing a very good job. “Why?” she asked incredulously.
Gillian gave her a startled look. “Have you seen his eyes?”
“Yes,” Johanna said irritably, picking at a loose thread on the sleeve of her green jumper. Teddy wondered idly how much clothing she wore out every year because picking at it was a nervous tic that tended to surface every time she was trying to keep herself from saying something offensive. “They’re grey. Who cares?” Teddy nudged her, and she stopped herself. “Sorry,” she said in a measured voice. “Go on.”
Gillian poured herself another glass of wine and began to talk about Shane Donnelly. Teddy put a real honest effort into paying attention, but quickly lost interest. He did not care about Shane Donnelly.
Right now, he was busy thinking about Victoire.
He and his grandmother had been going to Christmas dinner at the Weasleys’ since he was very small, and he invariably had a great time. This year had been no exception.
However, this year, he’d been hit harder than usual by how much he really liked Victoire. She was witty, and she was charming, and she was absolutely beautiful.
She and Fred had spent about an hour in the afternoon coming up with progressively more ridiculous reasons that they missed Teddy’s presence at Hogwarts. Victoire had told him – with a smile that, much to his chagrin, made his heart turn over in his chest – that the biggest reason that she missed him was that no one else in school had hair that was quite as colorful as his.
Then she’d handed him a book of archaic spells and a miniature sphinx that had been prowling the top of his dresser since he’d gotten home that night as a Christmas gift. He had no idea how she'd managed to find the book or, for that matter, how she'd even remembered that he wanted it from one brief reference in a conversation they'd had over the summer.
He also had no idea how she’d remembered that sphinxes were his favorite magical creature. He couldn’t even remember telling her that.
If Fred hadn't been there, Teddy probably would not have been able to help himself from asking Victoire out of the spot. It was just so... thoughtful, and sweet, and gave the ever-growing part of him that really wanted to be going out with the her hope that maybe she felt the same way.
Not that that had been the first time asking her out had crossed his mind. He had first considered it about a year ago. The main reason he hadn’t yet was that he just couldn’t get past the age difference.
Two years didn’t seem like an enormous difference if he was just thinking about it in theory, but in practice, it had taken on a whole different meaning. There was something about a seventh-year dating a fifth-year that seemed unacceptably creepy to him. Now she was a sixth-year, but he was out of school and working. He wasn’t sure if that was slightly more or slightly less creepy, but Teddy had no desire to be creepy at all.
Though that hadn’t stopped him from thinking about her more and more often lately.
What was wrong with him? Since the beginning of the summer, every little thing about her – the way her eyes sparkled when she was excited, the way she bit the left part of her lower lip when she was trying to figure something out, the way that she had thrown her arms around him when they’d gone a Quidditch game and her team had won (not to mention the feeling of her body pressed up against his) – had begun to drive him to complete distraction.
He’d moved out of his grandmother’s house in July, and somehow when he’d finished decorating his new flat, there were more pictures of Victoire scattered throughout the rooms than anyone else. He had begun to take any excuse he could get to write to her, and he’d awaited her responses with more eagerness than he thought he would ever be willing to admit to anyone. She’d started haunting his dreams, frequently in ways that he knew were horribly inappropriate.
Hell, he hadn’t so much as looked at another girl in months.
He had no idea what to do.
“… but I’m not sure where we should go,” Gillian was saying. “This is my first date since leaving Hogwarts. At Hogwarts, it was always so simple. You go to Hogsmeade together.”
“Yes, well, Hogwarts was extraordinarily lame that way,” Johanna said. “What use is a date if all you can do is go to the same places in Hogsmeade together and find empty hallways to snog in?”
“I dunno, I liked that just fine,” David muttered. When Gillian turned to glare at him, he shrugged. “What? I did.”
David had had no shortage of girlfriends when they were at school.
Gillian blew out an exasperated breath and looked at Teddy. “What do you think, Teddy?”
“No reason to complicate it now,” he said. “Go to Madam Puddifoot’s.”
It took her a moment to process what he was saying, and then a look of revulsion spread across her face. The corner of Johanna’s mouth twitched.
“How about the Leaky Cauldron?” David suggested, picking up a biscuit. He seemed to be the only one actually interested in helping Gillian find a solution to her problem; Johanna clearly disliked Shane, and now all Teddy could think about was where he might take Victoire on a date. There was a nice park near Diagon Alley. He imagined walking through it with her, holding her hand. He imagined finding a quiet spot under a tree and pushing her bright red hair back from her face and lowering his head and–
Someone snapped their fingers in front of his face. “Teddy. Focus.”
He looked at Johanna. “Sorry,” he said. “Just tired.”
She rolled her eyes and turned back to Gillian. “Gillian, it’s not that hard. Just go out to eat. There are plenty of nice restaurants in London.” The loose thread on her jumper had become significantly longer, and Teddy wondered how long he’d be lost in his own thoughts for.
“You could always have a picnic,” he suggested. “Those are nice.”
He was rather proud of himself for finally making a reasonable contribution to the conversation, and was confused when all three of them turned to stare at him.
“Have you noticed the snow on the ground?” David asked after a minute.
Teddy managed to keep himself from groaning. “Oh. Right. Sorry.” He was doing a lot of apologizing tonight.
Maybe this summer he could take Victoire on a picnic. It could be just the two of them. He could say it was to celebrate her birthday. He could bring her flowers and her favorite butterbeer biscuits. He could admit to having feelings for her, and she would smile and lift her hand to his cheek and press her—
A loud crack from the fire distracted him from his thoughts, and he looked up. Gillian had her arms crossed.
“Sorry,” he repeated, trying to will himself to focus and not think about the way Victoire’s lips would feel against his. He was definitely crossing the line into creepy again. She wasn’t even of age.
“Oh, don’t mind him,” Johanna said. “He’s probably just obsessing about Victoire again.” She had a smug smile on her face.
Teddy could feel the back of his neck getting hot. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Of course you don’t.” Gillian laughed and pushed the lock of hair she’d still been toying with behind her ear. “Jesus, Teddy, just ask her out already.”
“Aren’t we talking about your love life?” he countered, running a hand through his festively green hair and suppressing the desire to physically flee from the conversation.
He knew that having these sorts of feelings for Victoire Weasley could not lead anywhere good. She was too young for him. She was still in school, for god’s sake. Where she was thinking about N.E.W.T.s and potential career options with no real urgency, he was thinking about things like rent and what country Gringotts was going to send him to next. He had no business pursuing someone who still had a year and a half of school left.
Even if the age difference wasn’t all that big, and even if her hair was so perfectly soft and her smile lit up a room and her body—
He stopped himself. He was eighteen, out of school, and working. He needed to not be thinking about a sixteen-year old like this. Not even if she had curves in all the right places and amazing legs and—
“The three of us are,” Gillian agreed, nodding her head at Johanna and David. “I don’t know where your mind is.”
David snickered. “I bet I know where his mind is.”
Now Teddy could feel his face getting hot, too. “Leave me alone.”
“Nah.” David leaned back in his chair, a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his dark eyes. “Let me guess. You’re thinking about her legs, and how much you’d love to run your hands up them until—”
“Shut up,” Teddy snapped. “I am not.”
Though that was only because he’d cut his mind off before it could get there.
“No?” Johanna asked, getting into the spirit of it. “So you must be thinking about how your name would sound on her breath just as she realized how much she really wanted you.”
“I hate all of you,” he muttered, uncomfortably aware that the thought had flashed into his mind at least twice that night.
“Oh, come on, Teddy,” David said. “I don’t know why you won’t just ask her out. Joking aside, it’s really not that creepy. You’re only two years older than her.”
“She’s still in school,” Teddy said stubbornly. “I don’t have any business going after someone underage who still has a year and a half of school left.”
“She won’t be underage in a few months,” Johanna pointed out, leaning forward to pick up her wine glass.
That thought had occurred to Teddy, too. He still wasn’t sure that going out with her would be okay then, but it certainly made it seem a little less creepy.
David was watching him closely. “I don’t want to get punched in the face like you did to Adam last year, so I’m just going to say that she’s a pretty girl. If you don’t ask her out soon, she’s going to get a new boyfriend and you’re going to be out of luck.”
Teddy winced. His friendship with Adam had never really recovered from the time Teddy had hauled off and punched him in the middle of the common room halfway through their seventh year for making some comments about Victoire that Teddy had found to be horribly inappropriate.
Teddy knew that David was right. The trouble of it was, he liked Victoire. He always had. She had a way of brightening up whatever room she was in, and she made him laugh more than anyone else he knew. He had always liked spending time with her. She had never been one of his best friends or one of the friends he spent the most time with, but she had consistently been one of his favorite friends.
And he really, really did not want to screw that up.
He didn’t want to take advantage of their friendship or the fact that he was older than her and could therefore offer a little more glamour and excitement than the boys in her year could. He didn’t want to try to convince her to give him a chance, because he thought he probably could, and that wasn’t what he wanted. He didn’t just want a couple dates because she was curious, and he didn’t want to scare the hell out of her by telling her how strongly he felt.
He had absolutely no interest in jeopardizing their friendship or her happiness just because latey, he couldn’t get her goddamned smile out of his head.
Or the way she looked in—
“Bloody hell,” he heard Gillian mutter. “Do you think he knows that it’s actually creepier to obsess like this than to just ask the girl out?”
Teddy looked up and sighed. “Sorry.” He wracked his brain for ideas. “Why don’t you go ice-skating?” The three of them stared at him blankly. “With Shane,” he added. “Why don’t you go ice-skating?”
Gillian considered that for a moment. “That could work,” she said slowly. “I could bring biscuits and hot chocolate.” She smiled. “That could work really well, actually.”
Teddy forced himself to smile, though at the moment all he could think about was how much he wanted to be taking Victoire out on a similar date.
Sometimes, he really resented his moral compass.
A/N: This was written for AditiDraco95's Angst Challenge.
If you're interested in reading more that I've written about Teddy and Victoire, check out my fics Fish out of Water, Cloud Nine, Fortune Favors the Bold, and The Dark Side of the Moon! :)
I'm not sure how I've done, because angst is a bit outside of my comfort zone, so I'd really appreciate any reviews giving me my your opinion of how I managed it!
Thanks so much for reading!