Starting at the sound of Bert’s voice, Roxanne whirled around to glare at the bearded man. He flashed her a charming smile, all straight, white teeth and healthy, pink gums. It was strange how his near-perfect teeth contrasted his haggard appearance; normally, Bert looked as though he slept in a barn with farm animals. It was surprising that the Leaky Cauldron hadn’t been slapped with any health code violations, what with Bert as their cook and all.
Roxanne gave an imperceptible shake of her head and returned her attention to Bert. “Doing what?”
“Staring at Teddy,” Bert replied simply, resting his chin atop his folded arms.
She scoffed, ducking her head to hide her burning ears. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said loftily, grabbing a knife from the silverware bin at her side and placing it next to the fork in a napkin. “Hand me a napkin ring, please?”
Following her instructions and handing her a roll of paper rings, Bert regarded her silently, watching her work. “I don’t see why you bother denying it, Roxie,” he commented as she rolled up the napkin and secured it with a ring. “It’s just me - your nearest, dearest friend. There’s no need to be embarrassed.”
“I’m not denying it.”
“You just did.”
“If you would let me finish,” she began, raising her eyes to his.
Bert flashed her an apologetic smile. “Sorry.”
Rolling her eyes, Roxanne continued, “I was going to say that I’m not denying it. I was staring at Teddy, but I wasn’t doing it again. That was the first time I’ve looked at him all morning.”
Out of habit, she let her gaze slide over to the bar, where Teddy was washing dirty mugs by hand, a scowl on his face. Roxanne fought a grin. Ever since Teddy returned to work, Hannah had been giving him hell for failing to notify her of his illness. For the past few days, any task assigned to him by Hannah was to be performed without magic, a consequence for being a bad employee.
Though Roxanne knew the truth - or assumed the real reasoning behind his extended absence and the state she found him in - she didn’t contradict Teddy’s story mainly because she was worried about him. She felt sorry for him, even. The poor bloke may be able to fake a smile better than anyone else she knew, but she knew that he was suffering. Well, perhaps suffering was too strong a word. He was upset, and it was easy to see in his moments of vulnerability when he thought no one was looking and let his guard down.
She sighed, hating the way the amusement fell away from his face. It made him look older, more serious. It wasn’t very flattering, and Roxanne was of the opinion that Teddy could make anything work, including blue hair.
Bert snorted, which brought her back to the present. “I’m sure that’s the only time you’ve gazed at him lovingly.”
Roxanne threw a fork at him. Though it made contact with his face, it was brief, mostly because the tines ricocheted off his massive beard. “When are you going to shave that stupid thing off?” she asked, changing the subject and pointing towards his out-of-control facial hair. “It’s going out of control.”
“Never,” Bert answered shortly, “but you’re changing the subject. So,” he fixed her with a pointed stare, one of those looks on his face, “spill.”
She returned his steady stare for a full minute, not saying a word. Upon realising that he was serious, Roxanne raised a brow, struggling to maintain her laughter. “You’re such a gossip hound. Honestly, you’re worse than my mum.”
“Hey, I’ll have you know that I’ve had many conversations with your mum,” Bert interjected, wagging a finger at her, “and she couldn’t hold her own against me.”
“If I didn’t know you had a thing for Clara, I’d swear to Merlin that you were gay.”
“I do not have a thing for Clara!” he exclaimed, though the faint blush creeping to his cheeks said otherwise.
Roxanne laughed, rolling the last of the napkins and tossing it into the wicker basket. “Then why do you always stare at her?”
“For the same reason you always stare at Ted: I think she’s fit!”
Roxanne clenched her jaw, fixing Bert with a sharp glare. “Will you keep your voice down? The whole bloody restaurant heard you!” She threw a cautious look at the bar, hoping against all hope that Teddy hadn’t heard Bert’s loud proclamation. Thankfully, he was too busy pouting over his manual labour to hear anything.
Ever the child, Bert snickered joyfully. “I knew it.”
“You fancy Teddy,” he said, intentionally raising his voice above its usual volume.
Reaching through the pass-through window, Roxanne walloped him on the back of the head. “I do not fancy Teddy,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “I’m just…” she trailed off, shaking her head. “Never mind. It’s stupid.”
“Forget I said anything,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand, picking up the wicker basket and moving towards the hostess station, where she was assigned to work for the day.
“Oh no you don’t!” Bert hurried out of the kitchen, the door swinging wildly on its hinges. He followed her to the hostess stand. “You can’t do that, Roxie. You have to tell me. You have to.”
“Why, Bert, why do I have to tell you?” she demanded, tossing the basket on top of the stack of menus and folding her arms over her chest.
“Because I told you all about the horny air hostess from Bosnia even though I didn’t want to!”
Roxanne furrowed her brow, trying to recall the story. He had told her so many over the past few months that it was hard to keep them all straight. “You mean the one who gave you -”
“Yes! That one!” he interrupted before she could say anything else. “So, you owe me. Big time.”
Heaving a sigh, Roxanne looked away from Bert and tucked her hair behind her ear. “It’s nothing, really, it’s just that…” she paused and licked her lips, her eyes involuntarily flickering to Teddy, who had finished cleaning the mugs and was now wiping down the bar top. She tried not to stare at his arms. “Well, I’m worried about him.”
“You’re worried about?” Bert repeated. She couldn’t help noticing that he sounded a little disappointed.
“Yes,” she affirmed with a nod. “Ever since I went over to his flat last Friday night -”
“Whoa, wait just a minute!” Bert interjected, his eyes wide and mouth open. “You mean to tell me that you slept with Ted?”
“What! No! I didn’t sleep with him, you eejit,” Roxanne cried, giving him a sound punch on the arm. “What kind of woman do you think I am?” She shook her head and withdrew her wand from the folds of her apron, twirling it right-side up in her fingers and pointing it at the blackboard to the left. The day’s specials appeared in bright orange and pink chalk. Annoyance colouring her features, she continued, “I went over to his flat to make sure he wasn’t dead. No one had heard from him in over a week and I knew that it was close to that time.”
Bert furrowed his brow. “I’m not following…”
Again, Roxanne looked over at Teddy, only this time to make sure he was still at the bar and not making his way towards them. For the past few days, whenever he saw Roxanne standing by herself or he was on his break, Teddy would wander over to her unannounced for a chat. Though amicable, the chats were heavy with awkwardness and Roxanne was always the first to end them, unable to settle into an actual conversation in such discomfort. Once positive that he was busy with his current task, she turned back towards Bert, who looked as though Christmas had come early.
No one appreciated a secret quite like Bert.
“You know how his parents died in the Second Wizarding War and he was left in the care of his grandmother?” Roxanne asked. The bearded lump nodded dumbly, so she pressed on, “Well, she died three years ago around this time of the year and he always gets a little depressed. That’s why I went to go check on him. To make sure he didn’t, you know.” She raised her eyebrows suggestively.
“Off himself?” Bert offered, drawing his finger across his neck.
“Bert!” She punched him on the arm again.
“What? You were thinking, I’m just saying it!”
Exasperated, Roxanne rolled her eyes. “You have no tact whatsoever. It could smack you round the chops and you wouldn’t even notice, would you?”
“Only because my beard would absorb the shock,” quipped Bert with a sly smile.
“One day, I swear to Circe, I’m going to charm that thing right off your face when you’re not watching.”
“Ha,” Bert snorted again, the smile growing wider. “I’d like to see you try. Anyway, I think you should ask Teddy to come with us tonight.”
“To karaoke at the Hog’s Head?” Roxanne choked out, blinking in surprise.
Bert bobbed his head; she didn’t believe it. This sort of thing never happened with Bert. Several times before, she had tried to invite some of her cousins out to a night of karaoke, but Bert always put his foot down, saying that it was their thing. It was their tradition, even if it had only existed for the past two months or so.
“But,” she began, licking her lips, “it’s always just the two of us: no one else is allowed to come along, remember?”
“Yeah, but just the once won’t hurt any,” he responded with a simple shrug.
“I don’t know what to say, Bert.” She flashed him a smile as she twisted her fingers.
“A little gratitude goes a long way, you know.”
She laughed. “Thanks.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Bert said, staring over her shoulder. “Hannah’s coming this way and she doesn’t look too pleased that we’ve been chatting when we could have been working.”
“See you.” He ducked back into the kitchen before Roxanne could get so much as a word out, the door swinging wildly on its squeaky hinges. Annoyed, Roxanne twitched her wand at the door, effectively silencing the obnoxious squeak.
- - -
When Roxanne approached him on his lunch break, Teddy thought that she would patronise him for the previous weekend. Everyone else in the family had, especially Ginny, who thought of Teddy as a son and hadn’t appreciated going a week without contact (“For all I know, you could have been dead! Are you trying to send me to an early grave, Theodore Lupin?”)
They might not have been the closest of friends, Teddy and Roxanne, but word travelled fast in the Weasley clan and if Fred wasn’t exaggerating all the times he described Roxanne’s temper, he was in for it. After all, it was Roxanne who took all of the heat from Hannah Longbottom and he felt that he deserved anything she hurled at him.
So, it was with guarded eyes that he listened to her, somewhat distracted by the way she twirled her hair around her finger as she spoke. It must have been a nervous tick as he had seen her do it when she was at his flat.
Needless to say, Teddy was surprised by her invitation to join her and Bert for karaoke at the Hog’s Head. Blinking, he said, a bit dubiously, “I thought that was your thing. You know, just the two of you.”
Roxanne laughed nervously. “It was, but - uh - we’ve decided to expand our group for two to three and figured you would be the best candidate.”
If it had been anyone else, he would have believed them. However, he knew how serious Bert was about their karaoke nights - he’d tried inviting himself along a few weeks’ back and, ever the traditionalist, Bert had vehemently refused, claiming that Teddy’s presence would throw off their mojo. He wasn’t stupid; Teddy knew what this was about. She felt sorry for him and wanted to distracted him. Normally, knowing this would have bothered him to the point where he couldn’t be around the person. He hated when people took pity on him, for he didn’t want nor did he deserve it.
This time, however, it didn’t annoy him at all. In fact, it was the exact opposite - he felt flattered, being accepted into the Inner Circle of The Leaky Cauldron hierarchy, even though he had worked there almost a year before Roxanne was hired on. Bert was very selective in his friend choices.
“Sure,” Teddy said, smiling. “I’ll go.”
Her responding grin was bright, but not radiant. She was too reserved, too hesitant to let the full impact hit him. “Your shift ends at seven, right?”
“Brilliant,” she said, unravelling her hair from her finger. “I’ll see you at the Hog’s Head at nine then.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
- - -
By the time nine o’clock rolled around, Roxanne was standing outside of the Hog’s Head dressed in a pair of blue jeans and nice top she had borrowed from Rose ages ago, but hadn’t bothered to return. It was a bit tight around the arms and the tummy, but she covered it up with her denim jacket, stuffing her hands into pockets as she waited for Teddy.
She couldn’t believe that he had accepted her invitation. Roxanne thought that he would think she was immature for going to sing karaoke when she could be at a wild Quidditch after-parties with Albus or having a hens’ night with her girlfriends. But he had seemed enthusiastic when she asked him to be a part of her and Bert’s so-called ‘exclusive’ group. She felt like a silly schoolgirl, blushing at the mere thought of him joining them for an evening of drunken singing, but she couldn’t help it. As much as she denied it, Roxanne knew that she had some feelings for Teddy, even if they were only physically.
The wind pick up, turning bitter as it swept up the High Street. It whipped Roxanne’s hair about her face and, shivering, she pulled her jacket closer to her body, wondering when Teddy would appear. She didn’t except him to be on time - he was notorious for being late to various family functions - but she didn’t think that he would be twenty minutes late.
Narrowing her eyes, she threw a nasty glare at the door, where Bert was enveloped in the warm, cheery atmosphere of the Hog’s Head and probably on his third tune of the night, never mind how many drinks he had consumed. Not many people associated the old bar with ‘warm’ and ‘cheery’, but ever since the end of the Second Wizarding War, the owner, one Aberforth Dumbledore, had invested a lot of time and energy is restoring the bar to its former glory. While it might not have been as big as the Leaky Cauldron or as fancy as the Three Broomsticks, it was cosy and the patrons extremely friendly, albeit drunkenly so.
Just as she began to contemplate abandoning her post outside of the pub, a sharp, resounding crack drifted up the street from an alleyway not two blocks away. The sudden sound nearly gave Roxanne a coronary. However, when she saw Teddy’s familiar frame - the broad shoulders and the narrow waist - all feelings of fright vanished, replaced by something else that made her feel incredibly juvenile. It was stupid, developing a crush on your cousin’s former fiancé, especially when said cousin was Victoire Weasley and your chances with a guy like Teddy were slim to none, but she couldn’t help herself.
A warm grin spread across his face as he approached Roxanne, removing a hand from his pocket to wave in greetings. “Sorry I’m late,” were the first words out of his mouth.
“It’s fine,” Roxanne dismissed easily. “I expected you to be late anyway.”
“Ouch,” he chuckled, pretending to rub a sore spot on his chest. “That hurt.”
“That’s what you get for making me wait out in the cold,” she responded. Instead of laughing as she anticipated, a look of utmost guilt spread across Teddy’s features. It was a truly tragic sight to behold, and it broke Roxanne’s heart.
But as quick as the look appeared, it was gone, the solemn line of his mouth replaced by another grin. Women in Timbuktu were swooning, Roxanne was sure of it. “Come on,” he said, reaching over her to grab the door handle. He pulled the door open and made a sweeping gesture with his hand, “The first round’s on me.”
“Don’t let Bert hear that,” Roxanne advised cautiously as she stepped through the threshold. The effect was immediate: her nose, her cheeks, the tips of her fingers and toes, which had started to go numb, began loosening up, tingling in that peculiar way when the first licks of warmth caress the skin.
“Why not?” Teddy asked as Roxanne lead him towards a table at the front of the pub, near the small stage. He tried not to let the current crooner distract him from Roxanne’s words, though it was a difficult feat. The woman, a witch with nest of thick blonde hair piled atop her head, was an atrocious singer.
“Because he’ll drink the whole damn pitcher,” she answered with a smile as she beat Teddy to the chase and pulled out her own chair, sitting down. “He’s done so every time I’ve offered to buy the first round.”
Teddy sat down in the only empty chair at the table - right next to Roxanne. It was a tight fix and as she shed her jacket, she elbowed him roughly in the bicep. “Why don’t you return the favour when he buys the second round?”
“Are you sure we’re talking about the same Bertram Hughes?”
“His first name is Bertram?” Teddy inquired dubiously.
“Yeah, but don’t let him know that you know,” she said, her eyes sweeping the vicinity for the bearded man. “He would slaughter me if he ever found out.”
Teddy asked the unnecessary question of “Why?”
She raised an eyebrow, eyeing him sceptically. “Would you want everyone to know that your first name was Bertram?”
Chuckling, Roxanne turned in her seat and flagged down the first waitress that walked by. The two women seemed to be acquainted with each other as they fell into an easy conversation, all thoughts of ordering a round of drinks forgotten.
As Teddy observed her, he realised that she was for more social than he had previously given her credit for. The majority of the time at family functions, she stayed on the outskirts of the party, clutching a drink in her hand and chatting idly with one of her many aunts and uncles. Though they always looked entertained, even engaged in her company, she never seemed to gravitate away from the older party members. Then again, for the past six or seven years, every Weasley-Potter function he had attended, he was too preoccupied by Victoire to notice much else. In the recent months - it had been six months since he ended things with Victoire, more affectionately known in his mind as the Hobgoblin - he didn’t bother sticking around very long at the family gatherings, wanting to avoid potentially awkward situations even though he knew for a fact that Harry and Ginny as well as Ron and Hermione preferred him to their own niece.
The sound of Roxanne’s voice startled him out of his thoughts. Blinking, he turned his attention to her and said, quite stupidly, “What did you say? I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.”
“That much is evident,” quipped the waitress and the two women guffawed at his expense.
“I asked you what type of lager you wanted since, you know, you’re buying.”
“Oh.” Teddy chewed on the inside of his mouth as he tried to conjure the name of a particular brand of beer on spot. Her sudden inquisition, though simple, had thrown him for a loop. “Um - d’you have any Carling Black Label?”
“Bottle or draught?” the waitress prompted.
He looked at Roxanne. “Draught okay with you?”
“Like I said, you’re paying.”
“All right then,” he shifted his gaze from Roxanne to the waitress, “I’ll take two pitchers.”
The waitress grinned at him. “I’ll get it to you in a right jiffy.” She flicked her wand at the tablet on her hand before sauntering away.
“So,” Teddy began.
“So,” replied Roxanne evenly, a slight smile playing at her lips. “Who’s singing first?”
She laughed loudly at his incredulous expression, going as far as throwing her head back in much the same manner as her mother did. “You didn’t think that I’d ask you to come out to Karaoke Night at the Hog’s Head and not make you sing, did you?” Her eyes went wide as the colour receded from his face, the tips of his sandy brown hair turning a delicate pink.
“I figured you were just trying to be nice,” he admitted.
“Why would you think a thing like that?” she asked somewhat stupidly. However, it took not a moment for her to realise the implications of his words. “You think I invited you out because I felt sorry for you?”
“Well, yeah, I did,” Teddy responded, the pink spreading from the roots to the tips of his hair. He looked like a lollipop. “It’s not every day that Bert Hughes breaks tradition.”
“Rubbish,” Roxanne spat, swatting her hand at him dismissively as she tried not to stare at his very pink hair. “Listen here. I might have felt a little bit of pity for you when I went to check on you at your flat,” she began levelly, “but I can assure you that all feelings of pity vanished the moment I returned to work after my break. It was an absolute madhouse.”
Teddy winced. “Sorry about that.”
“You could make it up to me, though,” she continued as though he hadn’t interrupted.
“How do you mean?”
She inclined her head towards the stage, where a very drunken rendition of ABBA’s “Voulez-Vous” was being sung by none other than the Leaky Cauldron’s best cook, Bert Hughes, who had his arm slung round the shoulder of the same blonde woman from earlier.
“Sing,” Roxanne stated simply, tilting her head to the side.
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Nope. I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life.”
Teddy met her gaze and stared at her, waiting for her to yield. But she didn’t, merely raised an imperious eyebrow at him as if daring him to deny her request.
After a few minutes of absolute silence - the waitress had returned with the pitcher and two mugs, placing the lot between the staring pair - Teddy heaved a sigh and grumbled, “Fine. I’ll do it.”
Roxanne looked as though Christmas had come early. Flashing him a very white smile, she poured herself a generous mug of lager. “Consider this payback for making me sing that ridiculous children’s song with you.” She leaned over the table and filled Teddy’s mug as well.
“This is hardly fair,” Teddy argued ceaselessly as he took an experimental sip of the lager. It was fairly good, with a light, smooth taste. “We were alone then. No one else was around to hear.”
She licked the remnants of lager away from her lips. “Come off it, Teddy, you can’t be any worse than that.” She pointed towards the stage, wincing as Bert attempted to reach and hold out a note that was most definitely not in his range.
Teddy considered the spectacle then shrugged. “I suppose you’re right.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could get the words out, the song came to an end and the Hog’s Head erupted in fierce applause. Their waitress, a woman by the name of Elle, wolf-whistled. From the stage, Bert winked at her, dipping low to take a sweeping bow.
“Merlin, he’s ridiculous,” Roxanne chuckled, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear before cupping her hands around her mouth and cheering with the rest of the crowd. Feeling awkward, Teddy followed in her suit. “Anyway, shall I sign us up?”
Teddy was about to protest when he realised what she said. “Us? What do you mean ‘us’?”
She grinned as she pushed away from the table. “You didn’t think I was going to let you sing alone for your first time, did you?” She shook her head, chortling at the expression on his face. “I may have a vindictive side, but I’m not that mean.”
- - -
A/N: Thanks to everyone whom reviewed! I promise that if I haven’t gotten to your review, a response is on it’s way! I appreciate each and every single review as well as everyone who reads! It means the world! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, just drop me a line! =)
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