Shit. I was dead meat and Victoire knew it. It was the final straw this time; I'd blown any chance I had with her for sure. She wouldn't and shouldn't stand for that kind of behaviour anymore; the truth was I'd been treating her badly for too long.
Now she was running away. She couldn't hide for long. I turned on the spot and Apparated into her room.
"She's not my girlfriend," I said quietly and shone my lit wand in her direction.
Victoire rolled her eyes and laughed bitterly. "Of course. She wouldn't be your girlfriend would she? Maybe that's because you can't seem to hold one down for long. Why would you be any different with me?"
That caused me to look up. I really wished I had waited until she visited me to make the first move. I hadn't understood why she'd returned my coat without saying hello unless it was a 'no'. Now I knew what had happened, I could just see it: she dropped the coat off and caught me in the act... I was such a fool. A drunk fool.
That's right, I'd had too much firewhiskey or whatever it was the girl had plied me with. I'd been so worried about Victoire's reaction that I hadn't even noticed the pretty girl beside me until she steered me back to my flat (she'd suggested we went on to The Leaky Cauldron, but luckily I'd declined). The next thing I remembered was lying on the sitting room floor next to the girl completely naked.
"I can change," I begged in reply to Victoire's question. "I promise you I'll change."
Victoire sighed. "I'm sure you'll try. But I know you, Teddy. You like your women and that way of life. I'll never be enough for you."
"I've told you I'll change and I will. I've just made that promise," I said forcefully. My mind was made up; it was time to grow up. "If you see that I've changed, will you go out with me?"
"Sure," Victoire said half-heartedly. "Still friends?"
"Of course," I said and hugged her cold body. "I'm sorry."
I couldn't forget it. My past reminded me to change, and I tried my best. I didn't see Victoire again until Christmas - my job kept me busy leading up to the festivities. Aurors are generally busier at Christmastime.
I woke late on Christmas morning. My flat was eerily quiet. Something was missing, something I couldn't put my finger on. All the decorations were up, all the presents were wrapped and my clothes were laid out on the chair. But the quiet bothered me. I flicked my wand, and the Christmas tree started singing Christmas carols. That was
better. I nice touch, if I said so myself. Even Victoire would agree...
Victoire. That's what was missing this year. She hadn't woken me up wearing a Father Christmas hat or pummelling me with fake snow (it rarely snowed here on Christmas day). Disappointment raged inside me and I threw myself out of bed. In a couple of hours I needed to be at The Burrow for Christmas lunch. The thought of Mrs Weasley's turkeys filled by mind and set my hunger off. I stepped into the shower and savoured the feel of warm water, letting it glide over my skin. I acknowledged the fact that maybe I was a little nervous... I hadn't seen Victoire in over a month; how would she greet me? Things weren't just going to return to normal that easily.
The Weasley Christmas party was an enjoyable event, one which I always looked forward to. There was plenty to eat, a warm fire, close friends and I felt like I belonged there. I especially looked forward to meeting Charlie's new girlfriend (he had a different one every year). As soon as I was dressed I gathered up my bag of gifts and Disapparated.
It was actually snowing! The Burrow was hidden by a thick, white mist and little snowflakes settled in my hair. I wrapped my wool coat tighter and rang the doorbell. It took a good half minute for someone to open the door and I stamped my feet in impatience.
The door was thrown open, and I thought there was nobody there. Then I looked down to see two young girls looking shyly up at me. One had caramel coloured skin and dark hair; this was Roxanne. The other had pale skin, glasses and the infamous Weasley hair; this was Lucy. They were both cousins of Victoire, and they still hadn’t let me in out of the cold.
"Hello," I said taking a step forward, avoiding the mistletoe. The girls looked at each other, giggled and scampered off. Thank heavens I was never a young girl, I thought wearily as I stepped into the kitchen which was filled with the hubbub of chatter.
As I stepped over the threshold I was bombarded with boys who seemed to have set up a fan club for me. James, Albus, Hugo and Fred all clung to my legs, demanding to know what I'd brought them for Christmas. Greedy gits. I shook off their offer to play Gobstones with the resident ghoul and found Mr and Mrs Weasley (admittedly there were quite a few of them in the room, but I was looking for the hosts).
"Merry Christmas, Mrs Weasley!" I said, kissing her cheek. I shook hands with Mr Weasley and set the bag of presents on the table.
"How many times do I have to tell you to call me Molly? You're as much a part of this family as anyone else." Molly handed me a glass of Butterbeer and declined my offer of help.
I found Harry in the sitting room in front of the fire. He was deep in conversation with Ron and his wife Hermione. They stopped talking when I joined them.
"Merry Christmas," I said as if I hadn't noticed anything. It wasn't unusual for the three to be discussing private issues.
"Merry Christmas!" they replied enthusiastically.
"Looking for Victoire?" Hermione asked, interpreting my questioning look correctly. "She's upstairs with Ginny, I think."
I thanked her and headed upstairs to Ginny's old room. I stood outside the door, preparing to knock, when I heard Victoire's voice inside.
" ...it's all happening too fast. I'm not ready for a relationship with him."
I heard someone pace across the floorboards. Ginny replied, "You'll know when you see him again. He said he was coming, didn't he?”
"Yes, he did. But things won't be the same-"
"You can't stop change, Victoire," Ginny said quietly. I inched closer to the door, listening intently.
"I know. But I think it's too soon."
"It's been a month. It's long enough," Ginny paced the floor again. "You should give it a try. What have you got to lose?"
At that point I heard someone coming upstairs, so I crept away with my heart in my mouth. Did this mean what I thought it meant? Ginny had convinced Victoire to go out with me! I nearly whooped with happiness.
All I wanted was a chance to make Victoire happy. I'd given up sex and drink and I was ready for this relationship. I honestly thought I was. I nearly skipped downstairs, but I checked myself. I didn't want to look too happy. I had to play it cool... I was going to give Victoire her present.
I had wrapped it myself even though the lady in the shop had offered to gift wrap it for me. After I'd bought it I knew this was it; I was going to wait as long as I had to win Victoire over. I didn't want anyone else but her.
I retrieved my coat from the cloakroom and rummaged inside one of the pockets for the little cuboid package. I held it loosely in my hand and headed back up the stairs.
"Teddy?" I looked down the stairs and saw Victoire at the bottom. She was wearing her blonde hair up for once and she was wearing the black dress she bought when we went to Paris together earlier this year. It flattered her curves and hid the parts of her body which made her feel self-conscious. Her short leather boots came to her lower calf. And, of course, she was wearing her bold, red lipstick.
I joined her at the bottom of the stairs, kissing her on the cheek. "Merry Christmas Victoire."
"Merry Christmas," she replied. I handed her the small parcel and watched as she opened it.
"Thank you!" She opened up the box and admired the new lipstick. It was red, of course, but of a darker hue. "You shouldn't have." Victoire stood on tiptoes and kissed my cheek.
"Mistletoe," I said cheekily, pointing to the sprig above her head. I was about to kiss her lips, but I heard the doorbell ring next to me. "I'll get it."
I wrenched open the door and found myself face to face with somebody unfortunately familiar.
"Teddy Lupin," the familiar face said with a smirk. I took in his broad shoulders, perfect hair and shiny shoes. He was the last person I wanted to see on Christmas Day, let alone ever again.
I didn't move from the doorway, blocking Victoire from view. "Sam Kent."