Chapter 3 : Happy Families
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A/N: I can't believe it took me so long to get this out! I've had the first part of the chapter written for ages but I then I got complete writers block and had no idea how to finish it. At least I got there eventually :D Anyway, I hope you enjoy :)
After ringing the doorbell for a third time, I was practically on the verge of clicking my tongue with impatience. Being kept on the doorstep for any length of time was hardly something I particularly enjoyed, especially when the deranged looking pit-bull next door was growling at me in an undeniably threatening manner. I took another step to my left, endeavouring to put as much distance as I could between myself and the beast. I’d never really been a fan of animals.
I was just about to ring the bell again, when the door was finally opened to reveal Albus. “Teddy!” he exclaimed, leaping backwards to allow me entrance.
“Hey, Al,” I grinned down at him, deciding to save my annoyance at being left outside to someone like Harry, who might actually benefit from it. “How’ve you been?”
“Not bad,” he said, though this was something of an understatement – the boy was practically radiating delight. Bless him. Eight year olds could be downright adorable sometimes (the stress, naturally, being on sometimes).
I stepped inside, Al closing the door behind me, and as I started to make for the living room, Harry poked his head out of the kitchen door.
“Oh, hi Ted,” he said, looking surprised but pleased. “And Al, your mum needs you in the kitchen.”
Al sprinted off without a second’s hesitation, presumably knowing it wouldn’t do to keep Ginny waiting (nothing was worth incurring her wrath), while Harry preceded me into the living room.
“We thought you’d be flooing,” he said conversationally, slouching down in an armchair and turning on the TV with a flick of his wand. “Lily’s been watching the fireplace all day.”
“Gran banned me,” I said truthfully. “I’m in her bad books and she’s making me use Muggle transport as a punishment.”
Harry attempted to look disapproving, but didn’t really succeed. He had, over the years, occasionally tried to enforce discipline upon me, but eventually had mercifully decided to leave it up to Gran, obviously realising that she enjoyed it far more than he did. “What d’you do?” he asked, sounding more interested than reproving.
“Oh, the usual,” I replied vaguely, in no mood to explain the incidents of only a few days previously. “And anyway, how long were you planning on keeping me outside?” I asked, in an attempt to redirect the discussion.
He grinned. “Yeah, sorry about that. As I said, we expected you to floo, and when we heard the doorbell we thought you’d be selling windows or trying to convert us or something.”
And we were having a family tiff. Nothing much.
“So, how’s Ginny’s culinary experiment going?” I asked.
Harry snorted. “Yeah, not too well. She had to call in reinforcements.”
“Teddy, dear, how lovely to see you!”
I spun around in my chair, slightly alarmed by the amount of enthusiasm being displayed, and saw Mrs Weasley bustling towards us.
In my opinion, this happening also encapsulated perfectly the often underappreciated beauty of the world we lived in: Mrs Weasley could live hundred of miles away in Devon, and yet was still able to pop up to the North to assist her daughter whenever a culinary calamity occurred. Magic really was a wonderful thing.
“Hi, Mrs Weasley,” I said, my voice slightly muffled, as she enveloped me in a hug.
“Really, dear, I haven’t seen you in far too long,” she said, squeezing me to the point of suffocation. “I hope you and Andromeda are both doing well?”
I managed to get in no more than a feeble “Yeah, not bad” before Mrs Weasley was turning on Harry, who, almost by instinct, had leapt up from his chair the moment she entered the room, and was now looking somewhat sheepish.
“Harry, you didn’t tell me Teddy was coming too,” she reproached, having released me.
“Oh, didn’t I?” he replied somewhat lamely. “Must’ve – er – slipped my mind.”
Mrs Weasley tsked at him disapprovingly, and opened her mouth to begin on what I didn’t doubt would be a full and detailed interrogation inquiring after every aspect of my wellbeing, when, mercifully, Lily came bounding into the room.
“Ted!” she squealed, running over to me.
“Hey, princess.” I crouched down, and she flung her arms around my neck.
“I haven’t seen you for ages,” she complained.
“I know,” I agreed, though I’d popped around barely three days previously. “I’ve missed you, Lils.”
“Missed you too,” she replied. “James and Al say you promised to play Quidditch later – will you?” she implored.
Slightly taken aback by the abrupt change of subject, I told her, “’Course I will, but only if your dad says he’ll play too.”
We both turned to Harry, as did Mrs Weasley. “Please, Daddy,” Lily said, looking utterly adorable.
“Um, yeah, sure,” he said, as if he really had a choice.
Looking very pleased with herself, Lily released me, and looked up at Mrs Weasley. “Grandma, Mummy says she needs your help.”
“Oh, Merlin, what has she done now?” Mrs Weasley fretted. “I’ve only been gone two minutes!”
“James, if you don’t stop it now, I will turn your ears into cumquats!” came a snarl from the kitchen, and Mrs Weasley hurried off without further delay, Lily close on her heels.
Harry chuckled, sinking back down into his chair. “Lord, I don’t envy her.”
I shook my head in bewilderment. “Not to be rude or anything, but how hard can it be to cook one cake?”
“They’ve done three, actually,” Harry corrected me. “The first was too burnt to be salvaged, and then the cat sat on the second one, and so now they’re onto the third. And there’s the savoury part of the meal to be cooked as well, I suppose, though I suspect Molly’s been doing most of that.”
“Don’t suppose you’ve been helping at all?”
“Nope. Cooking’s not really my forte. And wait, I’m cross with you, anyway!” He fixed me with a peeved sort of look. “I can’t believe you roped me into playing Quidditch.”
I grinned. “Oh, you know you love it really.”
“No, I don’t. I’m too old for that sort of thing.”
“Harry, you’re thirty-four,” I pointed out. “And I know that you just want an excuse to hide in here reading your newspaper.”
“So would you if you had three children under the age of ten,” he muttered. “Honestly, what I’d give to be sixteen again.”
Knowing as I did the sort of things Harry had faced at my age, I rather doubted this, though decided not to point it out. “You just don’t like it because we always win,” I said teasingly.
That had him riled. “You don’t always win,” he said defensively. “And even if you did, it wouldn’t be fair because Ginny got to choose her team first.”
Quidditch was an unquestionable tradition in the Potter house, and whenever we played (which was often) we always stuck to the same teams: Ginny, Al and I against Harry, James and Lily. While it was true that we didn’t win a hundred percent of the time, we certainly beat them three times out of five. It was a pretty fair match, though, as Ginny (being a former professional) was by far the best, Albus (with his fear of heights) was by far the worst (though he could kick so hard that no one would ever dare voice this fact) and I was average, while our opposing team comprised of three reasonably talented players.
This amiable, Quidditch-related discussion continued for the next five minutes or so, at which point the football match on television started to get really interesting and we consequentially fell into a silence broken by the occasional groan, curse or cheer, but just as I was really getting absorbed in the game, Mrs Weasley returned and announced that dinner was served.
“No matter how bad it is, be nice,” Harry warned me somewhat unnecessarily, as we headed into the dining room.
“I’m always nice,” I said rather defensively.
“Yeah, I know. It was more of a reminder for myself.”
I couldn’t help thinking that it would just be better for everyone if Mrs Weasley (who was an amazing cook) had just been allowed to do lunch, especially as she was here already. Not needing to add to the list of females currently mad at me, however, I simply joined Harry in lavishing praise after praise on the slightly shrivelled chicken when it was brought to the table.
While I helped myself to vegetables (which had been cooked by Mrs Weasley, and were done to perfection), the family matriarch filled us all in on the traditional dose of Weasley gossip.
“Charlie has a new girlfriend,” she informed us, spooning a large quantity of peas onto James’s plate, causing him to wrinkle up his nose in disgust, though he did not dare protest.
“Oh,” we all grunted in unison, attempting to sound surprised, though this was a story that she related to us on a worryingly regular basis.
“Some foreign girl, apparently,” she continued. “Ellie or something. She’s a fellow dragon-worker. Dragon-tamer? Well, whatever it is that he does, she does it too.”
“Cool,” we grunted again.
“I really wish he’d settle down,” Mrs Weasley said (James mouthing the words along with her) and shaking her head with worry. “He’s getting too old for this sort of thing.”
“Mum, calm down,” Ginny said in a poor attempt to disguise her exasperation, whacking James on the arm as she did so. “Charlie’s just fine, and I’m sure this Ellie is perfectly nice.”
Mrs Weasley muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “young” and “blonde” under her breath, before returning to her meal. A brief silence fell, in which it couldn’t have been clearer that everyone was straining to think of something to say that wouldn’t allow Mrs Weasley to complain some more about Charlie. Albus got there first.
“Looking forward to going back to Hogwarts, Ted?” he asked eagerly, a piece of chicken falling off the fork suspended some inches above his plate.
“Er…” It seemed cruel to quash his excitement by saying “Um, no,” so instead I told him the gentler version: “Well, the holidays have only just started so I’m kind of focusing on that, you know… But yeah, I can’t wait to get back,” I added, when he looked crushed.
“I really can’t wait to go,” he said wistfully, as though we hadn’t heard it a thousand times before.
“I’ve only got two years to go,” James said somewhat snidely.
“James,” Ginny admonished, “be nice.”
“I am nice!”
“That includes being nice to Albus.”
“Ginny,” Mrs Weasley said disapprovingly, “don’t be so hard on him.”
“Don’t take his side!”
“Pass me the salt, will you, Harry,” I said rather more loudly than was strictly necessary.
“Oh, sure,” he said distractedly, passing me the pepper instead as he tried to figure out a way to stop James kicking Al under the table without incurring his mother-in-law’s wrath for being too hard on her grandchildren.
Another brief silence then ensued, but just as Mrs Weasley was forcing second helpings of sprouts onto my plate, the Hogwarts discussion reared its ugly head yet again.
“I’ve got to wait forever,” Lily sighed.
“We know, dear,” Ginny said tiredly. “But it’ll make it even more special when you finally get there.”
Ginny had said this so many times that I wondered if the words still held any meaning for her or, for that matter, for Lily.
“If I’m in Slytherin, I’ll die,” Albus announced.
“Trust me, Al, you won’t,” Harry told him.
“But James said –”
“Don’t listen to James.”
“Hey!” James protested. “Teddy said –”
“I didn’t!” I objected, as Harry turned to me with wounded eyes. “I like Slytherins! There's absolutely nothing wrong with being one.”
I did genuinely believe this, as one of my best friends, Juliet, was a Slytherin. I considered pointing this out, but then decided against it, knowing that should I so much as mention a girl’s name, Mrs Weasley would instantly inquire whether or not she was my girlfriend, which would only lead to awkward questions and Harry attempting not to laugh throughout the whole conversation.
I glanced at Harry, who grinned, before glancing at Ginny, clearly hoping that she would be the one to introduce the next topic of conversation. She popped a forkful of mashed potato into her mouth, reprimanded Albus for having his elbows on the table, and then said, “Have you heard from Bill recently, Mum? Everything still on for tonight?”
Mrs Weasley nodded, taking a sip from her glass. “As far as I know, yes. You are all still coming, aren’t you?” she asked, in a manner that suggested refusal to comply would result in torture of some kind (possibly by being forced to endure the crooning of her favourite singer, Celestina Warbeck, for any length of time).
“’Course we are,” Harry said quickly. “Looking forward to it, in fact. Aren’t we, kids?” He looked around at his children, daring them to disagree.
“’Course we are,” they echoed in unison.
Mrs Weasley beamed at them. “Victoire’s looking forward to seeing you all again,” she assured them. “She had such fun last time.”
“On that note – James, don’t you dare attempt to dye her hair again,” Harry warned. “I’m pretty sure she likes it blonde.”
“That was an accident!” James protested.
“Sure it was.”
“Whatever you say, son.”
“And anyway, I was, like, four. I couldn’t control my magic.”
“That’s no excuse.”
“But Dad –”
“Who’s Victoire?” I interrupted, partly to break up the row before it could escalate into something huge, and partly because I rather felt I was missing something here.
“Oh, Ted, sorry. I forgot you wouldn’t know.” Harry swallowed a large mouthful of potato, before explaining, “She’s Bill and Fleur’s eldest, goes to Beauxbatons. She’s staying here for the summer. Her parents thought it would be good for her to get to know the extended family properly.”
Ginny gave a snort of laughter. “She should be a riot. Can’t stand the English, apparently.”
“Don’t be horrible, Ginny,” Mrs Weasley admonished. “Victoire is a lovely girl.”
Ginny shrugged. “I haven’t seen her for about four years. She was pretty sweet the last time, but then again, she was only eleven…”
Mrs Weasley turned to me. “You’ve just finished your fifth year, haven’t you?” she asked. My mouth full of chicken, I merely nodded, and she continued, “Well, she’ll be a year younger than you, then.”
“Oh,” I said vaguely. “Cool.”
“We’re all having a get-together at the Burrow tonight,” Harry told me. “Welcome her home, you know. You should come.”
As Bill and Fleur (and their various offspring) lived in Marseilles and had done so for some years now, I didn’t quite see the logic in ‘welcoming her home’, but I agreed all the same. Despite her dislike of the English, I didn’t doubt that Victoire Weasley would be perfectly nice. If only I’d known just how wrong I was.
“So, a Gryffindor, are you?” Victoire flicked her long, silver-blonde hair over her shoulder in a ridiculously over-the-top manner. “Aren’t they the brawn over brains type?”
I willed myself to keep calm, restraining myself with difficulty from whacking her over the head with the encyclopaedia lying on the nearby table, and instead concentrated on replying to her latest question with the best possible grace. “Not exactly,” I told her through gritted teeth.
She took a long draught of pumpkin juice. “Because I must say,” she remarked airily, “you don’t look much like it.”
“Fair enough,” I said, determined to be nice, though it was growing more difficult with every minute that passed.
While Victoire engaged herself with admiring her own reflection in the nearby mirror, I glanced over at the rest of the Weasleys, who were occupying all of the armchairs around the merrily crackling fire. Mrs Weasley was bustling around offering everyone various snacks and drinks, acting the perfect hostess, while her children and their spouses accepted and declined in equal measure.
“So, what’s Hogwarts like, then?” Victoire asked eventually, not sounding as though she particularly cared, merely desiring to keep the conversation going, stilted and awkward as it was. “My parents considered sending me there, but I’m so glad they chose Beauxbatons instead.”
“Really?” I said, still restraining myself with difficulty from giving her a good slap.
“Oh, definitely. I mean, it’s just so cold here, and the people are so miserable.”
“Really?” I repeated, not caring in the slightest for this depiction of my nation and its inhabitants. I was just considering retorting childishly with some insulting remark about the French, but unfortunately was prevented from doing so by the appearance of Mrs Weasley.
“Hello dears,” she said cheerfully, before inquiring, “Fancy anything to drink? Or eat?” As she spoke, she practically thrust a plate of what appeared to be homemade cakes in our faces.
Merely to appease her, I took one, knowing that she would not rest until she was satisfied that we had all eaten far more than was really good for us. Victoire, on the other hand, politely declined, and Mrs Weasley bustled off to force food on the other family members. As I tucked in, Victoire observed me disapprovingly, arching one elegantly shaped eyebrow. I ignored her, deducing that she was the kind of irritating person who simply didn’t eat and made the rest of us feel bad for nibbling on a carrot stick. This, naturally, was something else I would delight in holding against her with a vengeance.
Purely for the record, I would like to take this opportunity to say that it was not my usual practice to form such a strong dislike for people mere minutes after meeting them. Usually I was the essence of friendliness and charm, or at least I endeavoured to be and had been told by a number of people that I generally succeeded. At first, this particular Weasley cousin had been no exception: I had politely introduced myself, pleasantly acquired drinks for us both, and then proceeded to ask all the right questions (i.e. enough to appear interested but not too many so that I would seem rude or nosy). She had apparently not appreciated this, however.
“So, how long are you staying here, then?” I asked, simply for something to say.
“Three weeks,” she answered, in a tone that strongly suggested that she doubted she would survive that long. “But my Dad’s coming as well, for the last week. Maman gets to – I mean, she can’t come because she can’t get time off work, so she’ll be at home with Dom and Louis.”
“Dom and Louis?”
“My younger sister and brother.”
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“I wouldn’t mind a couple, actually.”
“You wouldn’t, believe me. Only-children always say that, but it’s only because they don’t understand the true torture of siblings. Trust me on this: your parents have really done you a favour.” She fixed me with a look almost resembling curiosity. “Who did you say they were, again? Friends of my Uncle Harry, or something?”
“Yep, they were.”
“And he’s your godfather?”
“Yes,” I answered somewhat wearily, trying to pretend I hadn’t had this conversation a hundred times before.
“Right...” She still did not seem satisfied, however, and a moment later made to inquire, “So why –?”
“All right, let’s cut to the chase,” I interrupted, deciding to make things easier for both of us. “My parents are dead – died in the war. I live with my grandmother, and I tend to escape to Harry’s whenever I get sick of her shouting, which is quite a lot, so we’re on pretty good terms. Okay?”
For a moment, she simply stared at me, clearly rather taken aback by this sudden revelation, and apparently struggling to digest so much information in such a short space of time. A second or two later, she seemed to compose herself, and said simply, “I see,” before taking another sip of her drink.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, deeming that this might make me seem somewhat uncharitable. After all, Victoire had had no way of knowing about my rather unorthodox family situation, although I might have been a little pleasanter about it if she had been nicer to me in the first place.
“You know, I might just go and talk to my Grandad,” Victoire said after a painfully long pause. “Um… yeah.”
And then she got up and walked away without another word to me.
“Charming girl,” I muttered to myself, taking my glass and the one that she had abandoned into the kitchen and considerately washing them up (Mrs Weasley was under the impression that I was of a polite and helpful disposition, and I strived to maintain this illusion to the best of my ability).
Having washed and dried the articles I question, I made to leave the kitchen, almost walking into Harry as I did so.
“Hey, Ted,” he said, ushering me back inside. “Stay in here with me for a bit, will you? I wouldn’t mind an excuse to escape that lot for a while…”
“Er, Harry, ‘that lot’ are all people you’re very fond of,” I pointed out, feeling more than a little bemused. “You spend half your time with them anyway, so what’s the problem? Just because this isn’t by choice you’ve decided to complain about it?”
“If you must know,” he said, “Percy and Audrey are out there and being as revolting as ever…”
This was nothing new. Percy, the resident stuffed-shirt of the family, had surprised everyone a few years ago by pairing up with his very young, very pretty co-worker. While it was undeniable that they were blissfully happy together, for the rest of us surviving their company had become something of an unavoidable ordeal.
“…Ron’s had a terrible case today and so is in a foul mood…”
Again, hardly an infrequent occurrence: Ron was, by all accounts, excellent at his job, but after a day filled with murders and tortures and Dark Wizard wannabes, he was disposed to be somewhat moody.
“…and Molly clearly hates Ginny’s new haircut but is doing her best not to comment.” Harry groaned. “And it goes without saying that the kids are playing up.”
He suddenly looked a little affronted. “And anyway, remember who you’re talking to! Would you speak to Andromeda like that?”
I loved it when Harry attempted to discipline me – it was always so half-hearted and he seemed permanently uncomfortable about doing so (though in the case of his own offspring, he was always the exact opposite). He really could be quite adorable, sometimes.
“Sorry,” I said unapologetically. “And sorry about the lecture, as well. I’ve had a bit of a rough evening.”
“Er, haven’t you just been talking to Victoire?”
“Yes. Your point being?”
“Oh. Don’t you like her?”
“So you don’t.”
“Well, no, not really.” I sighed. “But I’m probably just misjudging her.”
“Probably. You can be very judgmental sometimes, you know.”
“Thanks,” I said, feeling a little peeved. “Well, what do you think of her?”
He appeared to think about it for a moment, before answering, “She’s very like her mum.”
“Is that a good thing?”
He shrugged. “Depends. I think she takes a bit of getting to know, like Fleur did. Half the family couldn’t stand her at first, and now we all like her well enough. I’m guessing it’ll be the same with Victoire.”
I grunted. “Maybe.”
Harry grinned, before wandering somewhat randomly over to the cupboards and retrieving a packet of cauldron cakes, selecting one and chewing on it absently. “What?” he said defensively in response to my raised eyebrow. “I’m hungry!”
I rolled my eyes.
“Don’t give me that. So, anyway, how’s things with Andromeda?” he asked through a mouthful of cake.
“Er, all right,” I answered, a little taken aback by the randomness of the inquiry. “Any reason they shouldn’t be?”
“Oh. Um, why?”
“You haven’t complained about her once. Not even about what you’re convinced she’s been up to with that vicar of yours.”
“Reverend Green,” I muttered.
“Exactly. And if everything was okay, you’d be moaning about how she’d made you have afternoon tea with the pair of them or something. As you haven’t complained once, it only makes sense that something must be really wrong.”
“That doesn’t make sense at all,” I protested. “And I don’t complain about her that much.”
“Oh, come off it, you do. I shudder to think what you say about me when I’m not around.” Harry was grinning as he spoke, however, so I could only assume that he was joking. I sincerely hoped so, at any rate. “Anyway,” he continued, “what’s up?”
Seeing not point in protesting any longer, I merely sighed. “She… found out.”
“About me and Alex.”
“And... she didn’t take it well?”
He fixed me with a look of genuine sympathy. “Sorry, Ted. Really, I am. And in that case, I’ll forgive your bad mood.”
“Thank you. That makes it all better.”
“I knew it would.” He clapped me on the shoulder in a manly gesture of sympathy. “But try not to worry about it, all right? She’ll get used to the idea eventually.”
“Yeah, I know.” I forced a smile. “Thanks, Harry.”
“Harry!” came a cry from the living room, quickly followed by, “No, Albus, stop that!”
“Oh Merlin,” he muttered. “Better get back.”
He rejoined the throng, everything about him simply screaming reluctance, while I remained in the kitchen, chortling at his misfortune. I could not be smug for long, however.
“Teddy!” came Mrs Weasley’s unmistakable voice, and a moment later she appeared in the doorway. “Oh, here you are, dear.”
“I was just – um – getting a drink,” I said lamely, though she didn’t seem in need of an explanation.
“I noticed you talking to Victoire earlier,” she said pointedly. “You seemed to be getting along well. She’s a lovely girl, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” I agreed. “She seems – er – nice.”
“Well, I was just wondering” – she leant in somewhat conspiratorially – “if you would maybe take her out at some point?”
Take her out? “Excuse me?” I asked, considerably alarmed.
“It’s just that she doesn’t really know anyone here,” Mrs Weasley continued. “No one at all, in fact, outside the family, and as she’s quite a bit older than any of her cousins I’m worried things might be a little boring for her. So, if you could just… you know...”
“Oh, sure,” I said, attempting to appear excited by the prospect. “I mean, I’m sure we could arrange something –”
“Perhaps this Tuesday?” she suggested over the rest of my sentence. “Or tomorrow, unless that’s too short notice?”
“Er, Tuesday would be better, if that’s okay,” I said hastily, thinking that I would probably need at least a day to prepare myself for the ordeal.
Mrs Weasley beamed at me. “Thank you, dear,” she smiled, “I really do appreciate it.”
And with that, she bustled off again, no doubt to inform Victoire of our proposed rendezvous. Indeed, she made a beeline for her granddaughter, apparently excited to relay the news. Victoire was clearly not so pleased, however; her face fell for a fraction of a second before arranging itself in a blatantly forced smile. She shot a glance in my direction, clearly wishing to convey to me her lack of enthusiasm. Our eyes locked together, clear blue with deep brown (the shade I was currently favouring), and I forced a smile in return.
Something told me this trip was not going to be fun.
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