Chapter 11 : Square One
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Teddy had to jog to keep up with Victoire as she sped across the grounds towards the lake. He hadn't expected her to be so receptive to his plan and had come up with several alternatives, and all but the third one were stationed in romantic spots. Plan B had been to magically magnify their voices and shout profanities from the Astronomy tower, and Plan C (the non-romantic one) was to chuck things at the Whomping Willow for kicks. Yet, Victoire had taken so willingly to Plan A, swimming in the Black Lake after curfew, that Teddy needn't have bothered coming up with the others.
"Vic, wait up!" He shouted with a laugh, remembering the footrace they had had almost a year ago now.
"What's wrong, Teddy," she called back over her shoulder, "someone pull a hood over your eyes?" Apparently, he wasn't the only one who remembered the occasion. He sped up then, breaking out into a flat run. He quickly caught up to Victoire. At least his too long legs were good for something.
Noticing his presence, Victoire stopped short, reached out and tapped him on the shoulder. “Tag,” she said playfully, “You’re it!” With a laugh, she took off running.
“You’re kidding!” He shouted as Vic sped off into the darkness. But, never one to turn down a challenge, Teddy took off after her. He chased her across the lawn and down the shoreline with her carefully ducking his hands, laughing the entire time. Teddy half-groaned, half-laughed as Victoire changed direction suddenly and sped back up the grassy slope.
Feeling out of breath, Teddy slowed to a walk as Vic dived behind the trunk of a beech tree. “I’m not going to play anymore, Vic!” He called, devising a plan in his head.
Her blonde head, shining in the moonlight, appeared from behind the tree. “Somehow…I don’t believe you!”
When she ducked behind it again, Teddy sped forward quietly.
“Teddy,” she called softly. “Teddy, were you being serious?” She turned around the trunk again to look where he’d been standing a moment before. When he wasn’t there, she turned to look the other way and ran right into his waiting arms.
“Me? Serious?” He asked as he closed his arms around her torso, her arms pinned to her side, “never.”
“Cheat! Cheat!” She cried ecstatically, shaking with laughter and wiggling to free herself.
“How did I cheat? You’re supposed to keep running!”
Victoire made no comment except to laugh harder. Teddy let her go, and plopped exhausted beneath the branches of the tree. "I need to exercise more," he said, panting.
Victoire laughed and sat down next to Teddy, who wrapped his arm around her shoulder. She didn't seem to mind, but he removed it a minute later. As much as he enjoyed the contact, he didn't think it was the right gesture for what he was about to tell her, as soon as he mustered up the courage that is.
He could feel his jaw tense with every second that passed in comfortable silence. Victoire stared up at the stars as though she was making plans to visit each and every one of them. He began to fiddle with the blades of grass underneath his hands to keep himself from biting his nails. Teddy thought it might be a good idea for him to hold Victoire's hand while he told her he loved her, but now she was busy stretching. He hesitated.
"Ready?" Victoire asked suddenly, taking a deep breath and standing up.
"Wh-what?" Teddy responded in surprise. Had he already missed his opportunity?
"For the swim," Victoire explained incredulously, thinking he might have forgotten about the plan he had hatched for their wild and crazy night.
"Oh...sure," he said as Victoire began removing her shoes, Teddy slowly emulating her.
He was wondering what had happened to his perfect moment when Victoire pulled her dress over her head in one fluid motion. He knew his jaw had dropped, and he froze in the middle of removing his pocket's contents; he'd been completely unprepared for that. He didn't remember discussing them swimming without clothes—without shoes certainly—but without clothes?
"What?" Victoire asked when she saw the look on Teddy's face, "That's a silk dress, and silk and lake water don't mix." She shrugged and stood confidently before him clad only in her undergarments. "Come on, let's go!" She was always so impatient, but she seemed to sense Teddy's unease about undressing in front of her because she turned to stroll casually to the shoreline.
Yeah, he'd seen Victoire in bathing suits probably more revealing than her day-to-day underwear every summer, but her in her underwear was just automatically more intimate. It unnerved him a little. He figured she'd only strip like that in front of him for two reasons. The first was that she still thought of him as Switzerland. She felt no shame or danger in walking around half-naked in front of him because he was neutral-territory in her eyes. That would be heartbreaking to Teddy if that were true, but there always existed the second possibility. There was always the chance that Victoire was also trying to confess feelings that she had for him, and was, uh, being bold. Or maybe the dress really was silk, and she saw no other alternative. That was the kind of logic Victoire had: If you want to take a spontaneous swim, but you are wearing clothing not safe for wearing in the water then remove the clothing. Teddy wished he had the self-confidence to act like that.
It was awkward taking off his clothes. Victoire's dress had slipped so easily off her frame, but he had to unbutton his shirt, remove it, and then the undershirt. But, the winner of all awkward movements was certainly attempting to step out of his trousers. He stumbled a little, having forgotten to remove his left shoe and had to grab the beech tree for support. He could feel himself blush as he chanced a glance in Victoire's direction, making sure she hadn't seen that. To top it off, he was shaking slightly. He didn't know if it was because of lack of clothes, the thrilling rush that surrounded rule breaking, or because he was terrified about what he was going to have to say to Victoire. He thought it might have been a combination of all three. Finally, down to just his pants, Teddy walked down to meet Victoire.
"Ready?" she asked again, looking at him from the corner of her eye.
"Great," she said with a smile and stepped quickly into the lake with Teddy beside her.
"Merlin's pants!" He exclaimed, "this water's cold!"
Vicotire laughed as they both ploughed on towards deeper water. Getting completely wet as quickly as possible was the only way to deal with cold water. Finally, it was deep enough to swim, and they began to really have fun, splashing and laughing and reminiscing about the games they had played at Shell Cottage when they were little. They raced against each other, making sure to turn around before the water got too deep and exposed them to grindylows and the Giant Squid. It was while he was treading water that Teddy, tired from exertion, realized the water was just shallow enough for him to stand.
"No fair," Victoire said, still treading. She looked tired too, so Teddy grabbed her hand and brought her close to him, her body cutting easily through the water to close the distance.
"Here," he offered, "you can stand on my feet."
Victoire was a tall girl, and the boost gave her what she needed to keep all her vital parts above water. "Thanks," she said.
"No problem, Vic." The words came out heavier sounding that he'd meant them too. He'd been struck with the idea that this might be the perfect moment. Even if he missed an opportunity on dry land, standing close together in a lake under a full moon seemed like a romantic atmosphere to Teddy.
"Victoire..." he began at the same time that she said with a bark of laughter, "Hey, do you remember--"
"Oh, sorry were you going to say something?" she inquired, a cheerful smile on her face.
"No, it was nothing. You go first." He responded graciously, though he was really just trying to buy himself more time.
She nodded, "So do you remember that time Uncle Charlie came to visit from Romania, and he brought that woman he was seeing with him...uh, Ror-something...what was it?"
"Riordan or something like that," Teddy replied, a grin breaking out onto his face at the memory. "And she was terrified of being in the water."
"Yes, yes!" Victoire exclaimed, "She was terrified of oceans specifically, but Uncle Charlie convinced her to go out to the beach with him anyway."
"Yeah," Teddy said laughing, "he kept telling her that she 'had to face her fears'--"
"And he promised to hold her hand the whole time, and, I remember him saying quite clearly, 'it isn't any worse than dragons'."
"Oh, right! That is what sparked out entire plan, because he'd brought those working miniatures back for us!"
Tears were leaking from Victoire's face as she attempted to continue the story. "So we snuck up behind them from where they were standing, and set the little dragon models on her heels!"
"Remember, how loudly she screamed! And Charlie looked like he was going to have a heart attack he was so surprised."
"Yeah, she began running around in circles screaming her head off about sea monsters, and we had to dive out of her way to keep from being trampled."
Teddy was having trouble standing because of his laughter, and Victoire had to grab his upper arms to keep herself from tumbling into the water. Teddy shook his head to calm himself, "Charlie saw us, though."
"He looked really angry at first, but when he told everyone else what we'd done and they all started laughing, he eased up."
There was another round of chuckling and a pause.
"Hmm," she said, her eyes trained on his arm.
"Do you think we ruined Charlie's only chance at getting married?"
Victoire shrugged, "It's for the better anyway, she was awful. Remember how mean she was to Louis? Really, she wouldn't make a very good Weasley shouting like that at a four-year old."
Teddy smiled. It was Riordan's negative treatment of the kids that sparked Teddy and Victoire's desire to pull that prank on her. It was probably also the reason why the other adults hadn't been too sympathetic to her plight.
Silence fell between them. Victoire shifted her hand on Teddy's arm and turned her head to look out onto the lake. The water lapped quietly at Teddy's chest, and the full moon above them was reflected in the black water, enhancing the shine of Victoire's hair.
This was the moment he'd been waiting for. Teddy trained his eyes on the water to his right and tried to imagine himself saying the words he'd been practicing since that day in the hospital.
"Victoire," he would begin, using her full name to emphasize the seriousness of his next words, "You've been my best friend since we were kids, and I've loved you as my best friend since then. But, lately..." That was the point where he always stumbled, even in front of a mirror or in his head. "Lately, I've come to think of you as more than that. I will always love you as my first and truest friend, but I must admit that I've also fallen in love with you." And that was it, his whole speech.
He opened his mouth to begin, but closed it as the words died in his throat. Despite all his preparation, he choked. Teddy didn't understand why it had to be so difficult to confess the truth, but it was hard all the same. He let the silence between them continue, the soundlessness and their proximity making him more uncomfortable by the minute.
Teddy couldn't tell if Victoire was uncomfortable as well because her wet hair was matted to her face. Without thinking, he reached up and gently brushed it away.
Stupid hair, he thought wryly as he allowed his hand to linger on her cheek, running his thumb across her smooth skin. Victoire looked up at him at the romantic gesture. She seemed surprised, but looked him straight in the eye, waiting for him to give her insight into his behavior.
Teddy thought about it for a moment without drawing his hand away. He had done all that, that entire loving series of caresses, without thinking about it beforehand. And maybe that was why he was having such a hard time expressing his feelings; he was thinking too much and not acting enough.
So, he bet a lifetime of friendship, took a gamble, and kissed her.
It filled him with the excitement of risk as well as the terror of untraversed territory as his heart beat like a kick drum within his chest and he pressed his lips gently against hers. And when Victoire kissed him back, Teddy felt as though he'd entered Nirvana. She hadn't cursed or punched him, but kissed him back. She wanted this, too! She liked him, too, maybe even loved him. He understood now why people always went on about love being the greatest experience ever, because he could have been offered the Garden of Eden at that moment and he would have turned it down knowing his paradise was in the weight of Victoire's arms around his neck, the gentle tug of her fingers in his hair, and the softness of her skin as he pulled her closer. He was falling fast and deep or flying--he couldn't decide which--when Victoire suddenly pushed him away.
He opened his eyes slowly, not wanting to believe the kiss had ended but ready to shout his love from the Astronomy Tower. He took one look at Victoire's tear-streaked face and reality hit him like a Bludger to the head.
She shoved him away, eyeing him like he was a dangerous animal.
"Vic?" he asked, dread weighing heavy on his chest. He wondered what he had done wrong to produce such an effect on the girl he loved so much.
Victoire looked up at him, but didn't respond right away. Misery and fear twisted her delicate features. "Why?" she sobbed, "Teddy...why?"
Why? Why what? He thought, temporarily lost for words. Terror returned as this nightmare was played out before him. Guilt invaded his thoughts. "Why did I kiss you?" He asked for clarification.
Victoire nodded violently and wrapped her arms protectively around her slender waist. “I trusted you. I thought you were d-different from all...all the other...b-boys.”
Teddy didn't know what to say. He was terrified that confessing his love now would only serve to make the situation worse. So, despite having been ready to say it a million times over just a moment before, Teddy didn't say anything at all. Subconsciously, he clamped his jaw shut and looked away to hide his hurt from Victoire's keen eyes.
Victoire let out another sob, and Teddy turned back to her. But, she was already pulling away. She'd known him for her entire life, and he had just committed an atrocious crime against their friendship and destroyed years of trust. No wonder Victoire didn't want to be near him at the moment, so he let her go.
Self-loathing rose rapidly within him as he watched her walk away through the dark water and back up to the shore. In shame, he looked away when she stepped out of the water, exposing herself to the moonlit night. He could hear her steady footsteps at she began to head back to the castle, but could no longer hear her sobs, an indication to Teddy that she was done crying. For a brief moment, he thought if he could just bring himself to catch up to her and just say what he was really feeling, maybe something of their relationship could be salvaged. But the thought left as quickly as it had come, and Teddy stood paralyzed in the water wondering how it had all gone so wrong.
After giving enough time for Victoire to make it back to her dormitory in Gryffindor tower, Teddy left the lake. He redressed slowly, didn't bother to button his shirt and walked barefoot back up to the castle. He walked with his head hung low, and barely looked up when he heard Dominique call his name.
"Teddy! Victoire looked really upset, do you know--" Dom cut herself off when she saw his face. She let out a small exclamation of "oh" and ran ahead of him, back to dormitories he suspected to find her sister.
He sighed, looked around briefly for any sign of Brian and Chrys, but when he confirmed that his faithful friend was nowhere in sight, Teddy headed straight for his own dormitory. He walked through the party in a daze ignoring the happy faces that were clapping him on the back and telling him what a great party it had been. Teddy fell into his bed, but found that he could not sleep. He thought about going to the Room of Requirement to play the piano one last time, but couldn't muster up the energy to move. He didn't think it would help him much anyway, not for this pain.
He reached once more for his father’s journal. Opening it up, he found disappointment once again. Only a few sentences were on the page for that day.
…Had a wonderful night with Anne in the Astronomy Tower…never thought I’d ever write those words, but, I suppose, everything has changed now that school is over. Can’t believe that last night was my last night in the castle. Can’t believe that she didn’t even mind the scars…
Teddy set the journal aside, content to know that his father had experienced some joy in his life even if it didn’t make Teddy feel any better. Not really in the mood for either chatting or music, he pulled the curtains on his four-poster shut in wallowed in his self-created misery.
The night was tortuously long. Not even carefully casts spells could block out all the noise of his roommates entering and leaving, or Brian and Chrys's happiness. But morning finally arrived. Soon, every stray possession he owned was packed into his trunk; the posters he had charmed to the walls were removed. Each bed had bags of rubbish piled up to next to it. The sheets, pillowcases and blankets were pulled off the beds and left in a heap, the boys' small contribution to the Elves laundry duties. Drawers had been emptied and double checked, and it was time to go.
Denny came up to Teddy and Brian and extended a hand. They had never gotten along very well, so the gesture was appreciated. But, Denny being Denny just had to mutter, "Wanker," as he left the room.
"Piss off," Brian and Teddy called half-heartedly over their shoulders in response.
"Well," Brian said, "Ready to head to the carriages? I told Chrys I'd meet her down there."
"You go on," Teddy replied,” I’ll be right behind you."
Brian smiled sympathetically and patted Teddy on the shoulder. Teddy hadn't told him anything yet, and Brian hadn't asked him but could obviously tell things had not gone well.
Teddy took one last glance around the eerily empty dormitory that had been his home for the last seven years and sighed. He grabbed the bag he'd be taking on the train with him, and left for the last time.
He didn’t see Victoire until he was on the train platform. A crowd cleared between them, and they stood two meters apart, just staring at each other through reddened, swollen eyes.
It took a while for his voice to digs its way past his misery, but he finally managed to say, “Victoire…” He didn’t know what to say after that or what his intention was when he began speaking in the first place. Whatever he meant to say, Victoire did not stay to listen to.
As though his voice was a catalyst, Victoire swiftly boarded the train leaving Teddy behind to get lost in the crowd.
Despite the fact that all his exams had been finished and school was out, Teddy was still considered the current Head Boy. The first hour or two of his last ride on the Hogwarts Express was busy with last minute duties. Tired, cranky, and miserable, he finally made it over to the compartment where Brian, Dexter, and Dex's friend Lawrence were finalizing their plans for their tour of the continent that summer. The boys sat around a map that was hovering in midair, arguing over priorities and hotel prices, while Chrys sat next to Brian offering up unwanted advice.
"Teddy!" Dexter cried when he entered the compartment, "what's the better thing to see in Greece: some ruins of an ancient Wizarding village or a half-mile long nudist beach?"
Teddy laughed. "I suppose that depends on whose on the beach.”
“Good point,” Dexter and Lawrence said almost simultaneously. Chrys rolled her eyes.
"Are you sure you don't want to come, mate?" Brian asked for about the millionth time that year. Teddy had always turned him down because he'd promised Victoire he'd go with her when she got out of school But, that wasn't really a concern of his anymore. Still, it would be expensive. Brian added, "Having a fourth person could really cut down the cost."
Then again, Teddy thought, what was the point of working so hard and saving all that money if he wasn't going to spend it.
Teddy quickly came to a spontaneous decision. "Why not?" He replied, "Count me in."
A/N: So...what did you think? I hope you enjoyed it. As I was writing the same scene over again, i tried to make it as new sounding as possible. I didn't bore you guys did I? Thanks for reading. I'm hoping to get the next chapter up soon!
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