A/N: Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed the last chapter! You were so encouraging and I greatly appreciate all feedback ^_^. And a HUGE thank you to SnitchSnatcher for listening to me moan and helping me!
I began checking that every single one of the cardboard boxes that littered the flat was taped shut, for what must have been the twelfth time. Everything was ready to go, except me. I was sitting in among a forest of junk and waiting for someone to come bursting into my flat and tell me that I had to stay put for some unknown reason. To be honest, if someone did actually do that I don’t think I’d even ask for a reason. I’m rather easily persuaded into doing things I want to do, even if I shouldn’t be doing them. Like staying in Italy, for instance.
I perched myself on top of a pile of boxes and allowed my eyes to flicker towards the door. The only reason I wanted to stay was so that I didn’t have to go back home and do mundane things, like move back in with my parents, and have wonderful Weasley filled gatherings everyday. Just the sort of life every twenty six year old was after.
I tried to force myself into a weepy farewell to my flat by wandering through the rooms and shaking my head morosely. Nothing happened. My eyes didn’t even have the courtesy to water as I stood on my miniscule balcony, surveying the buzzing side street below me and the terracotta tiles above.
I went back inside the flat, into the crowded living room that I had left only moments earlier and into my tiny kitchen that adjoined it. Everything in my flat was quite open plan and also laughably small. I put both my hands on the countertop and hoisted myself up to sit on top of it. For some reason I had a bit of an aversion to conventional seating and preferred to have a bird’s eye view of whatever room I was in. I supposed it was because of all the time I’d had to spend sitting behind desks in the classroom and then the office.
It was only now, as I sat atop the counter of my little kitchenette, that I began to realise my own lack of sentimentality. I was angry that I had lost my job and regretted that I had to leave my cosy little flat, but I couldn’t muster up anything stronger. No heart ache, no feeling like I was missing a piece of me, no uncontrollable sobbing. I was quite a useless human being in that sense, Dominique would have been wailing and stumbling around dramatically.
Oh well, it wasn’t as though anyone had ever considered me to be overflowing with emotion. I shouldn’t really be all that surprised.
I jumped down off the counter, resolved to leave since there was nothing keeping me here. I had gone to the Italian Ministry two days ago and obtained a long distance floo-ing permit for today, so my fireplace was already hooked up and waiting for my departure.
I had decided to floo to The Burrow, despite the fact that I didn’t really want to be swarmed by a crowd of people, mainly because this crowd of people could all make trips over here via the floo network and help with my stuff. If I had to do it all by myself I’d be unbelievably dizzy within four trips.
I pulled my wand out from behind my ear, conjured a fire in the grate and tucked the wand back into place before chucking a handful of green floo powder into the flames. Quickly, I grabbed the nearest box to me, which was mercifully rather light, and hopped into the flames, shouting ‘The Burrow’ as I went.
I stumbled as I came out the fireplace on the other end of my journey managing to drop the cardboard box I was holding, which hit the floor with a dull clunk. Nothing breakable in there, then. I got over the initial distraction that being too clumsy for my own good had provided fairly quickly, and surveyed the living room noticing an odd sensation rising in the pit of my stomach.
Nothing had changed here since I left. The realisation was both comforting and stifling all at once. It had been eight long years and still the flower patterned curtains Grandma Weasley had made in her youth were draped across the windows, still the floor was covered in that red diamond-patterned carpet and that odd combination of baking and flowers mixed with a hint of must lingered in the air. Was it possible that I had changed but everyone I had left behind was frozen in time?
It was a disconcerting thought that set my nerves on edge. I felt like I was going to have to slot myself into some sort of mafia-like group that wouldn’t be able to accept the fact that I wasn’t the same as them, and never really had been. I bet they’d offer me a cup of tea as soon as they saw me. Being offered a cup of tea is a torturous branding exercise involving ascertaining whether or not you like milk and sugar and in what quantities, rather like a tattoo, but not permanent - and in a mug.
I trailed myself out of the living room and down the hall, which had exactly the same wallpaper as it had on the day I was born, and into the huge kitchen of The Burrow. The feeling in here was more homely, more timeless and easier to cope with. I sat down at the large pine table in the middle of the floor and thought about getting something to drink, but I didn’t move a muscle, telling myself that I didn’t know where anything was. Deep down I knew that I probably did, but I was happier pretending that I didn’t.
The house was eerily empty and I have no idea how long I sat at that bloody table twiddling my thumbs and waiting for reinforcements. The silence in the house had sent me off into a daydream. It was almost as if I wasn’t homeless and sitting in my Grandma and Grandpa’s kitchen... I was, though.
‘Be a love a make me a cuppa, will you?’
I jumped in my seat, startled, and turned to face the direction from which the man’s voice had come from.
‘Oh shit! Sorry, I thought you were Lucy. Wait, that’s no-’
‘Who are you?’ I interrupted without thinking.
I had never seen this man before in my life and there he was, leaning as casual as can be against the frame of the kitchen door.
‘Alright, I definitely know you’re Molly now. Nobody else would be as rude to someone as you just were, especially after breaking into the house themselves,’ he said, a grin breaking out on his face.
And still I had absolutely no idea who he was. He knew me; that much was obvious, and although I felt a vague twinge of recognition I couldn’t quite place him. This bloke was tall with brown hair and eyes and deep lines around his mouth that disappeared when he smiled. Probably a couple of years older than me and actually pretty fit when I thought about it.
And then his eyes were blue.
‘I thought you’d never get it,’ he said as he stepped forward and gathered me into a tight hug.
I was a bit rusty from lack of human contact and I had never been the hugging type, but I had a peculiar feeling that all the rest of the family would be if Teddy, who was only an honorary member, was.
‘Your hair’s not blue!’ I exclaimed when he let me go.
‘Well, I was never going to be twenty two forever now, was I?’
I was more relieved than he could imagine that something had changed and I grinned at him. He was still smiling as he pulled out the chair beside mine at the table and plonked himself down.
‘Hows about that cuppa, then?’
‘Please don’t tell me I’ve returned to a family full of male chauvinists…’ I teased.
I sat on top of the table and swung my feet onto the chair I had been sitting on previously. I felt it was enough to make him realise that no, I would not in fact be making him any tea. Not that I wasn’t enjoying myself; this was probably the most normal, halfway amusing conversation I had been party to in ages.
‘Ah, not to worry, it’s just me,’ he said in reply, although, to be fair, he got up and put the kettle on.
I swivelled around slightly to follow his movements and watched as he silently, but expertly filled the kettle with water and set it on the Aga to boil. Not a single doubt remained in my mind that the rest of my life here would revolve around drinking gallons of tea.
‘Now,’ he said turning his attention back to me, ‘to what do we owe the pleasure of a visit from the mysterious Molly?’
It was a hard question to answer. There was absolutely no point at all in lying and letting him believe that this was merely a flying visit, as I had little doubt that people would get suspicious about my continued presence. Not all of my family were the most tactile and quite a few of them would probably demand what I was still doing here in less than two weeks time.
‘I was fired.’
‘Does that mean you’re back for good then?’ Teddy asked over the high pitched whistling of the kettle.
‘Well, that all depends on whether or not someone will have me,’ I said.
‘Right enough, you’ll need to get somewhere to stay sorted, but you seem to be travelling pretty light,’ Teddy surveyed the empty space around me as he spoke, before lifting the now shrieking kettle off the heat and Accio-ing two mugs over.
‘That’s because the whole heap of it’s still lying over in my flat until I find out where I’m going. I didn’t want to apparate straight home, because I thought there’d be people here able to help me shift my stuff, but it seems like a slow day.’
‘Slow day my arse. Everyone’s at work and the ones who aren’t are out running around like headless chickens, trying to get the wedding plans finished up for Saturday,’ Teddy said scoffing. ‘How d’you take your tea?’
‘Oh Merlin, no tea for me, but why wasn’t I told that you’re getting married? Who’s the girl?’
I was interested to know who had managed to capture Teddy Lupin’s heart and for a fleeting second I considered the possibility of it being Victoire, well, that is I considered it before I remembered she’d already been married for four years and had a two year old.
‘Are you kidding me?’ Teddy’s eyebrows had shifted to half way up his forehead.
‘It’s not me getting hitched! It’s Roxanne.’
The last time I had checked Roxanne was about fourteen. Obviously England had turned into some sort of crazed society where they married off children.
‘Who the hell is allowing this?’ I said.
I was probably a bit too loud as Teddy sloshed a good bit of tea he was carrying right down his jumper.
‘Argh!’ He exclaimed, probably in a good deal of pain.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but Teddy seemed to be in control. He quickly threw the mug down on the table, flapped the scalding jumper about a bit (for no apparent reason), seized his wand and siphoned off the boiling liquid.
‘Merlin! I’m so sorry- have you burnt yourself?’
‘I don’t think so,’ Teddy said.
And that was when I got the most pleasant shock of my life.
I’d been looking at him concernedly, but the moment he peeled up his jumper to check the damage my eyes nearly popped out of my head in surprise. He had the best abs I had ever seen. No wonder Victoire had been after him back in the day, although, if I was her I would never have gotten rid of him. Why the hell wasn’t he married yet?
‘You okay, Molls?’
Shit. He’d caught me looking. There I sat on top of the kitchen table, elbow balancing on my knee, hand propped up in my palm and practically drooling. He’d finished his inspection without me even noticing (because I was too busy being a stalker), and now he was looking at me with that cocky I-know-you-think-I’m-sexy-and-it’s-because-I-am look. Maybe that’s why he wasn’t married? To be honest it wouldn’t have bothered me if he hadn’t caught me staring, so that probably wasn’t it. Maybe he had commitment issues. Maybe I shouldn’t care this much.
Oh my God. I still hadn’t said anything. What was wrong with me? If you’ve met my father you’ll know that mental instability runs in the family
‘Yeah, yes, fine.’
‘Are you sure? You look a little pink in the cheeks,’ he said giving me that grin.
‘Yes, brilliant,’ I replied trying to contain the blush that had risen to my cheeks.
‘Alright then, if you’re sure,’ he said, that infernal grin still plastered to his face. ‘Care to tell me what that outburst about Roxy’s wedding was for?’ He said as he sat down at the table himself.
By this point I had worked out that Roxanne was now twenty two and perfectly able to marry if she wanted to. Although, it made a new feeling of inadequacy rise within me; my cousin four years younger than me- who probably had a job and a house and didn’t ogle men far too obviously for her own good- was getting married before me. Life was good.
‘Misunderstanding. Who’s she marrying? Anyone I know?’ I said as I attempted to get back on track.
‘Does the name Scorpius Malfoy ring any bells?’ Teddy asked the question as if it was no big deal, but I was absolutely scandalised by what he’d just told me.
‘How’s Rose taking it?’
‘Rosie and her long term boyfriend are completely nonplussed by it,’ Teddy said smirking at me over the top of his mug of tea. ‘I never realised how truthful Audrey was being when she said that the only letters you paid attention to were howlers.’
I was slightly ashamed of that fact that I had found out about Victoire’s engagement, pregnancy and the birth of her child via howler. It was a rather aggressive way to hear such news, but all news had come either that way in Italy or from my parents when they decided to stick their heads in the fire.
‘There may have been some truth in it,’ I replied with a sheepish grin.
I liked the fact that Teddy seemed so laidback. He didn’t make me feel guilty for being away for so long and we seemed to be able to just talk like no time had passed, actually, once I thought about it, we didn’t talk that much back then… That would probably constitute as a difference.
‘What are you going to do now then?’
‘To be perfectly honest, I’ve not got a clue.’
A/N: I KNOW. I KNOW. There was a (semi) topless scene. I'm sorry! I couldn't help myself, but I promise not to do it again :P. This was quite introductory, but the next chapter will show the real complications to going home. False sense of security much?