Taking a tentative sip of his tumbler of firewhiskey, Teddy sent a grateful look over at Roxanne, who hadn’t uttered a word since suggesting they migrate somewhere less frigid. His face pinched into a grimace as the whiskey scalded the sides of his throat, continuing its burning path into the pits of his stomach. He was well aware that he had sworn off drinking with Roxanne, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
He wiped the traces of alcohol from his lips before pivoting on his barstool to look at her. She was staring intently at the brown bottle of beer in her hand, her dark eyes darting across the label. After a few seconds under his scrutiny, Roxanne pulled her gaze away from the bottle and looked at Teddy, her left eyebrow quirking instinctively.
“What? Do you need another?” she asked, her other hand already halfway up in the air to call the bartender over.
Teddy wrapped his hand around her wrist and pulled her arm back down. “No, I’m fine,” he said, his voice rougher than usual. Balling up his fist, he coughed a few times, hoping to clear away the scratchiness.
“Are you sure? You look like you could use another.”
“Merlin,” he chuckled lowly, scrubbing a hand over his face, “I must look horrible.”
“Like death warmed over,” she replied sardonically, a light smile playing at her lips.
Teddy laughed softly, a small grin of his own twisting its way onto his mouth. “That bad, huh?” he asked, lightly nudging her shoulder with his.
She lifted a shoulder and made a noncommittal noise in the back of her throat. “I’ve seen worse,” Roxanne consented, raising her bottle of beer to her lips and draining it in one gulp. She licked the remnants from her lips.
It was difficult for Teddy to maintain his composure. The gesture had been simple, most likely second nature to someone like Roxanne who, though not an alcoholic, consumed alcohol on a regular basis, but it made his head spin. Or maybe that was the four tumbles of firewhiskey and the shot of vodka he had consumed in the last forty minutes. Perhaps he should have asked Roxanne to monitor his intake…
She wrinkled her nose ever-so-slightly, which meant that she was confused and not entirely disgusted. That was something of a plus, he decided as she made quick work of the rest of her beer. “What do you mean?”
“Who’ve you seen that’s worse than me? Or what, for that matter,” he tacked on after a moment’s consideration.
A curious look settled across her features as she regarded him silently, a barely visible line appearing between her brow. To put it simply, she looked conflicted as if she was teetering on the edge of keeping whatever information she had private or unleashing it upon him. In any other situation, he wouldn’t have cared either way, but now that his curiosity was piqued and the firewhiskey had loosened him up, he wanted to know. As she dragged her tongue along her bottom lip, Teddy found himself straightening the slouched line of his shoulders, assuming what most would call an attentive stance. She opened her mouth and then -
Teddy struggled to fight back the growl of frustration, even though he knew she had done it on purpose. Rolling his eyes, he settled himself back onto his stool, lazily gliding a finger along the smooth edge of his glass as Roxanne ordered herself another round.
He shook his head, knowing better than to give into the temptation of another drink. It could only lead to trouble. Or another round of karaoke. “No thanks.”
She regarded him for a short second before shrugging and returning her attention to the bartender. Meanwhile, Teddy resumed his quiet skulking. He had thought she was about to divulge a juicy piece of information, perhaps even make him feel like less of an idiot for drinking away his sorrows, all over the mere sighting of his ex. Of course, she had been the only woman he had ever been serious with, but -
“Do you remember my boyfriend called Tony?” Roxanne asked abruptly.
Teddy furrowed his brow, trying to recall the man in question. “Was he the one with the ponytail?”
“No, that was Philip. Tony was the botanist Lorcan set me up with,” she said, hoping to jog his memory.
It took a few moments for Teddy to place a face to the name. There had been a few times in the past where Roxanne had brought her boyfriend to a family function, but he couldn’t remember their faces and not one of them looked like another, as Roxanne didn’t have a specific type. However, he did notice that most of the men never showed up for another round with the ever-growing Weasley/obnoxiously long slew of other surnames clan, which was unfortunate as she was a great - sometimes even phenomenal - woman.
“He was about a head taller than me, kind of brooding, had a few tattoos…” Roxanne trailed off, hoping it was enough detail.
The image of a scorpion flashed briefly before his eyes and Teddy swung his gaze back to the woman sitting beside him, his eyes wide and incredulous. “You mean the one with the ridiculous looking scorpion tattooed on the side of his neck?”
Roxanne hung her head, utterly embarrassed. Of all the things he could possibly remember about the man: his impressive height, the lithe muscles, the thick-rimmed glasses - he had to choose the stupid tattoo. Using her hair as a shield to hide the glowing tips of her ears, she brought the bottle of beer to her lips and took a decidedly long pull before muttering, “Yeah, that would be him.”
Instead of questioning her choice in men, Teddy licked his lips and went an alternate route, one that would hopefully sate the nagging in the back of his mind. “What about him?”
“Well,” Roxanne began, swivelling on her stool to face Teddy, an elbow leant against the bar top to support her weight. “I said that I’d seen worse than you and you wanted to know who.”
“So you pick the dude with the dumb tattoo?” Teddy guffawed loudly.
“It wasn’t dumb!” she argued half-heartedly.
He snorted. “Yes, Rox, it was. Everyone made fun of it as soon as you two left the party.”
“Of course they did,” Roxanne said with a resigned sigh. “It’s no wonder none of them stick around for long.” At his questioning look, she added, “My boyfriends. Almost all of them have fled after meeting the family. I’m beginning to think that the raging gossip is actually some form of black magic.”
Again, Teddy laughed loudly enough to draw the attention of several patrons. The bartender shot him an irritated look. “You know, you may be onto something with that one.”
“I was onto something before you interrupted.”
“Hey!” he exclaimed, holding up his hands at the sudden hostility. “You’re the one who opened up the floor. I was just making sure I wasn’t thinking about the bloke with the Mohawk.”
Roxanne’s expression turned quizzical. “I’ve never dated anyone with a Mohawk. I think that was Molly.”
“No, I don’t think it was Molly. She wouldn’t date someone with a Mohawk; she likes men with pretty hair. She told me so after I cut my hair; remember when it was down to my shoulders? So it must’ve been either Lucy or Rose,” Teddy reasoned.
She rolled her eyes. “And we’re deviated so far from the topic I doubt we’ll ever get back to it.” Pressing the mouth of the bottle to her lips, she took a quick swig, wishing she had ordered something stronger so she could catch up with Teddy, who was clearly feeling the influence of the alcohol. That or he was just in a rambling mood, which was likely.
“We haven’t deviated,” Teddy argued futilely. “Like I said before, I was just making sure I had the right man. I wouldn’t want to be visualising some bloke with hideous hair when he really should have a massive, completely unflattering tattoo of a bloody scorpion on the side of his - OW!”
When he looked at her in askance, his fingers massaging the tender spot on the back of his head, she shrugged. “You were rambling,” she said flatly.
“Oh,” was all he said in response. Dropping his hand, he asked, “So, you were about to explain the relevance of Tattoo Tony.” Teddy just barely ducked out of the way of her hand. “Oi!”
“Stop making fun of him!” Roxanne exclaimed irritably. “For Merlin’s sake, you’re almost as bad as Fred. D’you know what he told our mum -”
“Roxie,” warned Teddy, cutting off her rant before it could begin. Over the past few months, he had hung out with Roxanne enough to know that once she started talking about her younger brother, she wouldn’t stop until she was pink in the face, her breathing ragged.
“Right, sorry,” she mumbled, shaking her head to herself. “Anyway…where was I?”
“Tat - I mean, Tony,” Teddy amended quickly as her eyes narrowed dangerously.
As suddenly as her glare appeared, it vanished, the gleam in her eyes becoming sheepish, embarrassed. Almost absentmindedly, Teddy’s eyes drifted to her ears, which were glowing a fierce red. He fought back a smile: a tell-tale sign she was about to divulge something potentially humiliating. As much as he didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable in his presence, Teddy couldn’t ignore the anticipation building in his stomach. They may have surpassed the awkward point in their friendship, but there was still so much that he didn’t know about Roxanne and vice versa. So the opportunity to discover something new about her - well, it was exciting.
Roxanne hesitated, her embarrassment marred by her discomfort. She looked at Teddy then at the beer bottle held loosely between her fingers and then back again. Pursing her lips, she weighed her options inwardly. She could tell him or she couldn’t, there was no other way. Though she was more inclined to dismiss this entire thing all together, Roxanne couldn’t ignore the hopeful look on Teddy’s face. It was a great contrast from the continuously depressed expression he had been wearing since catching sight of Victoire with her boyfriend, Roger Davies.
Exhaling heavily, Roxanne rolled her eyes and raised the beer to her lips. Just before she took a drink, she returned her gaze to Teddy and smiled tightly. “Bottom’s up.” She tilted her head back and drained the bottle, knowing that she wasn’t going to be able to get through the tale without a bit of liquid confidence.
Well, more liquid confidence, she thought to herself, slamming the bottle down on the bar top with a grimace. Roxanne may have enjoyed the taste of beer, but it didn’t lessen the unpleasant sensation in her stomach.
“It happened a little over a year ago…”
With a flourish, she finished her signature on the last of the documents, which had taken her the better part of the day to finish. A breath of relief rushed through her lips and she settled back into the comfort of her rolling chair, wanting nothing more than to kick her feet up on her desk. Unfortunately, her cubicle was too small to allow such an act of comfort, so she wriggled her toes, delighted to be free of the contraptions her cousins dared to call shoes.
“More like death traps,” she muttered to herself, tossing aside the quill responsible for the deep ache in her hand. Clenching and unclenching her fist in hopes of easing the pain, she reminded herself that it was all a part of the job.
When Roxanne had secured a position at the Ministry, her parents as well as her entire family had been over the moon with excitement. Long gone were the days where the Weasley name was a good as dirt; now, it was golden. She wasn’t all that surprised that the Department of Magical Games and Sports had been so eager to accept her into their office. It wasn’t because she was very athletic (she wasn’t, for the record, unless drinking games counted) nor was she particularly interested in sports. No, she had been chosen from the rather large group of potential employees for one very specific reason: her parents. They were famous, after all. The thought made her nauseous and doubt her capabilities, but after she received her first pay check, suddenly, it didn’t matter anymore. For the first time ever, she had a steady job and she would finally be able to pay the rent on her own.
It was a freeing thought as much as it was an caging one. Financial freedom was perhaps the only benefit of her job, as she was quick to discover that the position offered to her wasn’t nearly as appealing as they made it sound. Then again, since when had the occupation of Personal Assistant to the Head of the Department sounded appealing?
Inwardly cursing her own stupidity, Roxanne rose from her seat, flicking her wand at the stack of freshly signed papers on her desk and sending them to the Head’s office. She waited until the last of the papers flew from the cubicle before bending down to scoop up her shoes and shutting off the lamp clipped to the wall of her cube. One of the last employees left in the office, there weren’t many goodbyes to say, so she was out of the office and in a lift in record time. Roxanne pushed the sleeve of her robe up to glance at her watch. She grinned; it was only a little after seven o’clock, which meant she could still get home and eat dinner with Tony instead of sitting next to him on the couch and eating while he shouted at the football match.
There wasn’t a line for the Floo, which meant an even quicker trip back to the flat she shared with her boyfriend. At the thought of Tony, his dark curly hair falling into his face, Roxanne’s grin returned and she hurriedly stepped into the grate, grabbing a handful of powder from the stand next to the fireplace. Shouting the address, she disappeared in a puff of green smoke.
It was always disorienting, stepping out of the grate while her head spun, which is why she first suspected the pop music echoing throughout the flat wasn’t real. However, after leaning an elbow against the mantel and drawing in several deep breaths, her head was clear, yet the music still played. And if her ears served her right, it was coming from the bedroom. Swallowing her call of greeting, Roxanne tossed her shoes into the seat of the worn armchair. Her brow furrowing, she tip-toed down the hall, the music growing louder in volume as she neared the bedroom.
The tune was recognisable, too, though she couldn’t put her finger on it.
The door was half opened when she reached it, but she didn’t enter. Instead, she pulled her wand from the confines her pocket, more as a precaution than anything else. Just last week, someone had broken into her cousin Lucy’s place and thinking it was her boyfriend, Lucy didn’t do anything. In fact, she didn’t even know she had been robbed until her boyfriend waltzed through the front door with a handful of roses. Roxanne didn’t want the same thing happening to her, especially not when she was well-aware she didn’t live in the best part of town. Tightening her grip, she pushed the door open, preparing to Stun whomever was on the other side of the door.
She might as well have turned the wand upon herself, for she was thoroughly stunned at the sight that awaited her.
Standing in front of the full-length mirror, dressed in a pair of sensible black heels, a red beret, and matching bra and underwear set was her boyfriend of five months, Tony LeMarca. He didn’t seem to notice her appearance, as he continued singing along with the delightful 80’s pop song that Roxanne suddenly recognised as one of Madonna’s tunes, leaning towards the mirror to apply lipstick.
Her lipstick, she realised with a jolt.
Stomping into the room, she slammed her hand down on top of the radio, successfully cutting off the steam of jubilant music. It took Tony a few seconds to notice what has happened, for he continued singing, “Gonna give you all my love, bo-”
He stopped singing abruptly, the tube of lipstick clattering to the floor as he caught sight of his girlfriend in the mirror. Whirling around, sending his precariously perched beret eschewed, the colour drained away from his face. “Look, Roxie, baby, I can explain!”
The wave of shock threatened to collapse over her, but somehow she maintained her anger to keep it at bay. For now, anyway. There was no way she was escaping something this traumatic without scars, mental or otherwise.
“How the fuck are you going to explain this?” she demanded furiously, gesturing to his scantily clag figure. “Were you ever going to tell me about -” she cut herself off, swallowing the bile.
He Summoned a pillow, pressing it against his upper body. “I swear to you, this is the first time I’ve ever done this.”
She knew right away that he was lying to her. Tears stung her eyes but she didn’t move to wipe them away. No, she wanted to see what he was doing to her. “You mean this is the first time you’ve ever been caught,” she spat venomously.
Tony swallowed nervously, the scorpion on his neck rippling slightly. “Rox-”
“Shut up,” Roxanne growled through gritted teeth. “I don’t feel like listening to your bullshit. Save it for someone who cares.” She spun around and marched out of the room. It was her hope that he wouldn’t follow, but, naturally, he did, the heels of his stilettos clacking against the floor.
She grabbed her shoes from the armchair and crammed her feet into them. Then she snatched a handful of powder from the jar on the mantel.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
Roxanne’s eyes were hard as steel as she looked at him. “I want you out of my house in an hour. If you’re not gone,” she paused for dramatic effective and then gave him a once-over. As much as she hated to admit it, he looked much better in her underwear than she did. “Well, I’ll leave that up to your imagination.”
The colour drained away from his face as she tossed the powder in the grate. “Oh, by the way, red so isn’t your colour.”
As soon as she finished her story, Roxanne directed her eyes at the bottle in her hands, picking at the label with her thumb more out of compulsion than anything else. Next to her, Teddy remained unmoving, and it looked as though he was trying to decide whether to hug her or laugh at her.
The latter won and with a burst as loud as a balloon, Teddy dissolved into a fit of hysterical laugher.
Roxanne glared at him. “Yeah, laugh it up, fuzz ball,” she growled under her breath, wondering what had possessed her to tell him in the first place. The only people who knew about that story were her parents, her brother, and unfortunately, Bert, who’d forced the story out of her on their first night of karaoke.
“I’m s-sorry,” he panted through his laughter. “I’m not laughing at y-you.” Teddy turned his head to muffle his laughter into his shoulder. Needless to say, it did little to quiet the resounding boom of his laugh.
She would have been perfectly fine hating him for laughing at her, except for the fact that it was for this very reason why she had dragged him out of the cold and into the non-descript pub in the first place.
“I’m glad one of us thinks it’s funny,” Roxanne commented offhandedly as the bartender graciously set another beer down in front of her. She nodded her thanks, lifting it to her lips for a much needed sip.
“Oh, come on, Rox,” Teddy choked out, “you have to admit, even you think it’s a little funny.” He nudged her with his elbow, his smile strained from his suppressed laugher. When she caught the amusement glimmer in his eyes, so unbridled, so easy, she couldn’t help herself.
They collapsed into a fit of uproarious giggles, unable to look at the other without cracking up for the next fifteen minutes.
- - -
An hour or so later, they left the bar, wending their way down Diagon Alley towards Roxanne’s flat. A delightful buzz had entrenched Roxanne whereas Teddy was teetering on the edge of slightly intoxicated and complete drunkenness. Still, she leaned her weight against his solid arm as they walked, occasionally tripping over a raised brick in the otherwise smooth sidewalk.
When they reached her doorstep, Roxanne shook back her hair and looked up at Teddy, who was holding onto the wrought iron railing for support. “Are you sure you’re going to able to get home?” she asked, her words a tad sluggish. “You’re always welcomed to come up.”
He shook his head. “Wouldn’t be a good idea,” he mumbled, barely resisting the urge to reach up and tuck the strands of flyaway hair behind her ears.
That certainly wasn’t the response she was expecting. “Why not?” she asked, unable to help herself.
“I can’t be held accountable for my actions,” he answered. To tell with the suppression, his conscience admonished, and Teddy gave in, reaching in between the short distance between them and smoothing the hair behind her ear.
She shivered in response. “Teddy,” she began thickly, hesitant to inch closer.
Teddy gave a small shake of his head before leaning forwards to press a kiss to her forehead. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he whispered against the smooth skin, “Roxanne.” He stepped away from her, nearly stumbling down the short flight of stairs to the pavement below.
Had she been capable of it, Roxanne might have chuckled.
A/N: So, the verdict? Like it? Love it? Hate it? Loathe it? Let me know in a review! Comments are always appreciated!
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