Chapter 5 : Gossiping Aurors, Birthdays, and Exploding Cakes.
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Three Weeks Later
The end of June came and went, the start of the summer holidays quickly beginning with the return of Rory’s younger siblings and cousins from Hogwarts. The weekend of their return at the start of July had been spent in a flurry of excitement, books, and misplaced family members and friends as Rory’s store had had it’s official opening after months of saving, redecorating and planning.
With Pine Tales officially up and running, Rory had found herself incredibly busy in the last two weeks as customers came and went to garner at her vast collection of wizarding and muggle literature. Even with the additional, though not necessarily willing, assistance from her younger cousins and siblings, Rory still found herself collapsing at the end of each day on her bed in a fit of sore, but happy exhaustion.
The opening of the newest bookstore in Diagon Alley, however, was not the hot topic of gossip in the social circles of the wizarding world. No, the emergence of the latest ‘it’ couple had taken up the limelight for the greater part of the last fortnight and a half. She could still clearly see the look of horror on Teddy’s face when he’d visited her at the store yesterday, with tales regaling the surprisingly gossipy nature of his co-workers.
“Aurors! They’re bloody Aurors! Do they not have anything better to do than to discuss the finer details of my love life – however fake or real it may be?!”
His voice had been so incredulously hysteric that Rory had needed several minutes to recover from her fit of giggles before she could provide him with any kind of advice.
He hadn’t really appreciated her laughter, and was thus unwilling to listen to what she had to say. He’d left in rather the huff back to work.
Shaking her head at the memory, Rory threw the magazine she was holding onto the floor behind the counter. The flashing front cover displaying the pictures the 'reporters' had captured of Teddy and Vic's latest public date.
“Hey Ro, where do you want the latest – Philo… Philomena? Yeah, Philomena Stio - naw fuck how do you pronounce her last name – Stio… Stio – You know what, I give up!” Huffing, Tristan Bell, one of Rory’s cousin’s who’d been pimped out to work for her by her Uncle Matt, stepped into her line of view.
“Where do you want these?” He gestured at the pile of books he carried in his arms.
“The Philomena Stiobhard books?” She asked innocently, and his face darkened at her flawless pronunciation.
“Nobody likes a show-off, Aurora.” Tristan grumbled, his lips pouting. She laughed, and patted his cheek before pointing over his shoulder at the Teen Fiction section. “It should all be alphabetical.” She emphasised before clarifying, “By the author’s last name.”
“I’m still offended that you didn’t go for my suggestion,” Following her direction, Tristan wandered over to one of the more popular sections of the store and began shelving the books he’d grabbed from the stock room.
“Yeah?” Smirking in memory, Rory placed the last book from her pile onto the shelf and waltzed over to drop onto the bean bag that was at Tristan’s feet.
“Yeah, I really think the ‘Like-a-betical’ thing would have picked off.”
“Nobody would have understood the system,”
“Ah they would have if they had any taste in books.” He stated emotively. “Because it would become pretty clear, pretty quick what your system was if all the good books were at the front, and the shit ones were at the back.”
“Yeah but that would only be from our opinion of the books.”
“You say that like any other opinion counts,” Tristan winked down at her and she snorted.
“Just make sure those books go in the right place, in the right order.” Rolling to the side and off of the bean bag, Rory pushed herself to her feet.
“It’s a trait I pride myself for, truly.” She laid a hand over her heart, and he chuckled. “Once you’re finished here you can go.”
“Really?” He tried to hide the excitement in voice, not wanting to sound too desperate but failed.
“Really, I know this isn’t really what you guys had in mind for your summer break. But I do appreciate the extra help, I honestly didn’t think I’d be so busy so early on.”
“Why not?” He asked her, almost as if he was chastising her. “You’ve got a great collection here, Ro, plus the cool little seating area you’ve got upstairs. This may be a bookstore, but it’s not stuffy like some of the older places in Diagon Alley, it’s actually a nice place to hang-out in.” Tristan placed his last book on the shelf and rubbed his hands against his shorts.
“Thanks Trist,” He shrugged and she gave him a quick hug before taking his work apron off his hands.
“You know, it’s not the hardship you think it is.” Walking backwards towards the storeroom, he grinned at her.
“Working for you, it’s not a hardship. You actually make it kind of fun.”
“Yeah?” Tristan nodded, and though she felt a swell of affection for the younger boy at his sweet words, Rory rolled her eyes. “You think you could remind your brother of that the next time he tries to skip a shift?”
“I’ll try, but you know Damian does-”
“Whatever Damian wants.” She finished for him and he grinned charmingly before disappearing into the backroom to grab his things.
Crossing over to the counter, Rory slipped Tristan’s apron in one of the drawers and grabbed the broom that was leaning against the wheelie-chair. Before heading up the staircase to tidy up the mess a group of teenagers had made that morning, she switched the sign around on the door to let any potential customers know that the store was shut for a brief lunchbreak.
Hurrying out of the Auror Department the second his lunch break had begun, Teddy felt the frown that had been permanently marring his features ever since Victoire had announced their ‘relationship’, slip away and the tension in his shoulders eased. Apparating from the Ministry, he found himself standing outside the familiar store, the welcoming sign hanging just above his head as he paid little mind to the closed sign and opened the door. The usual chime of the bell rang out and he glanced around the lower level of the store to find it empty.
All along three of the four walls of the room were floor to ceiling bookcases, with the fourth wall, the one that the front door was located on, was dedicated solely to large windows that let in the natural light and kept the store from becoming stuffy and dreary. In the right hand corner, from where he stood at the door, tucked in between a window and bookcase was the cashier counter – that he knew Rory had charmed only to open to her and whoever was working with her that day. Directly across from the counter and on the opposite wall, was a hidden door that was cut into the bookcase. Within one of the ridges was a door handle, which once pulled, opened into the staffroom that also doubled as the stock room.
Here and there throughout the lower level were pop-up book cases that formed long aisles, and shelving that held little knick-knacks and notebooks, while on the floor at every spare space were circles of bean bags for customers to use when the desire to read their recent purchases was too strong to ignore.
Smiling at the sight, Teddy crossed the floor and climbed the black spiral staircase that led to the Muggle Level of the store and where he could hear Rory working away – the loud decibel of her music giving away her hiding place. Similar to the floor below, the layout of the second level was much the same, the only difference being that floor space underneath the window-covered wall was occupied by bean bags and side tables. A coffee machine took up a little extra space, shelving of coffee mugs hanging from the ceiling by two thin metal chains.
Dancing to the music that was blasting from the speakers, while she supposedly brushed the floor, Rory was oblivious to his entrance. Teddy leaned against the rail of the staircase and crossed his arms lightly in front of his chest. Watching her, caught in her own little world, he felt that dark cloud that had been chasing him all day dissipate as it so often did in her presence.
Spinning around the broom, Rory dipped it as she sang along to the song that was playing, when she looked up momentarily her eyes flicked back down to the floor before she did a double-take and her hold on the broomstick loosened as it fell from her grasp.
“Holy shit,” Laughing nervously, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Heeeeyyyy,”
“Hey,” Teddy laughed and pushed off the banister to walk towards her. “Great duet,”
“Thank-you,” She bowed despite the blush that was ignited on her cheeks. “It’s all about having the right partner,”
“I can tell,” He smiled at her cheekily, and she poked her tongue out at him. “Where’s Tristan, I thought he was helping you out today?”
“He was, but I sent him home. We were a little quieter today, and our bigger rushes are in the morning to lunch periods so he wasn’t really needed for this afternoon.” Rory explained with a shrug of her shoulders, and she picked up the broom that she’d dropped. “Besides, I’m sure there are others things he’d rather be doing with his afternoon than shelving books in an empty store.”
“I don’t know, if I was Tristan, I couldn’t think of anything cooler than getting to spend some time with my awesome older cousin.” Teddy bumped her elbow with his as he followed her to the bean bags.
“Sure,” Uncertain whether he was being sarcastic or not, Rory laughed off what he had intended to be a sly compliment. She laid the broom against the wall, and dropped with a dramatic sigh onto the nearest bean bag. “Ooh, it’s good to sit for a bit.”
“Hmm,” She nodded, her eyes shut blissfully.
Teddy sat down as gracefully as he could with his long legs, on one of the bean bags that were closest to Rory’s and he grunted at the drop. There was a soft giggle, and he looked over to find that Rory was watching him from the corner of her eyes. It was his turn to poke his tongue out at her, though it only made her giggle harder.
“I got us some sandwiches from the cafeteria at the Ministry, not very flash, but yeah.” He pulled the brown paper bags out of his work brief case and handed one over to her, “I think this is the one without butter on the bread,”
She smiled at the fact that he’d remembered another one of her little quirks, and he inwardly fist-bumped at his victory.
Sitting in comfortable, companionable silence as they ate their lunch, the only sound other than their chewing were the voices of the various Wizard and Witch artists who played over the radio. When both of them had eaten their full, Teddy rummaged around in his briefcase for one of the other packages aside from their food that he’d brought with him that day.
“Here,” Holding out the poorly wrapped object, Teddy blushed when he caught her unimpressed gaze. “I know you said you didn’t want anything, but I just couldn’t not get you something for your birthday – especially because you’d threatened my life and limb if I got you anything for your opening.”
“Which you did,”
“Flowers don’t really count, Rora.”
“Still Teddy, you didn’t have to get me anything.”
“Just take it would you,” He gently shook the present, and though she tried to uphold her unimpressed charade he could see the curiosity and excitement in her eyes. With only slight reluctance, Rory took the gift from his hands and began to unwrap it.
Once the messily wrapped and Sellotaped blue and brown wrapping had been removed, the maroon case underneath was revealed and Rory gasped as she recognised the store. Tips of pink tinged the top of Teddy’s hair, and he cleared his throat as she removed the top from the case.
“Oh Teddy,” Her voice was soft, “It’s beautiful.”
“You like it?” Nervously, he met her gaze.
“Like it? I love it, thank-you Teddy!” Pushing herself up, Rory flung her arms around Teddy and hugged him tight in gratitude. He wrapped his arms around her waist and hugged her back, the scent of her perfume and shampoo surrounding him as she eventually pulled away. “Could you help me put it on?”
Taking the silver necklace from the box, he undid the clasp and slipped it around her neck as she lifted the strands of her short hair up so he didn’t get any of it caught. She turned back around once it was done up and fiddled with the spelled star charm that glimmered against her collarbone.
“Happy birthday Rora,”
“Thanks, Teddy.” She beamed at him before sitting back down in her bean bag, her fingers still spinning the star around them. “You coming tonight? To my parents?”
“Of course,” He told her, “Wouldn’t miss it.”
“Mum said she’s invited the Weasley’s,” Rory paused, cringing when Teddy’s face visibly paled and he groaned. “I’m sorry, I tried to tell her that I just wanted something small, just the family and you and Vic, but then she invited Vic’s family and Brea complained because she wanted to invite James and Freddie so she didn’t get bored – because you know, my party has to be entertaining for the brat. Anyway, Mum felt like she couldn’t invite the Potters and Freddie’s family and not invite the entire Weasley family or your grandmother, so it kind of snowballed.”
“It’s alright, Rora, Vic and I were going to have to face the consequences eventually. We were lucky they didn’t make a scene at the opening when we rocked up together,”
“Nana Molly would have murdered them if they had.”
“See I’m actually surprised that she wasn’t the one who’d made a scene, you know what she’s been like whenever there’s a mention of a significant other in any of our lives.”
“Ah, speak for yourselves.” Rory snorted, “I’m the Queen of Single-town, ‘member?”
“You know what I mean,”
“Yeah I do, but at least she’s never tried to set you up at a funeral – with the deceased’s grandson.” Rory drily reminded him, and he choked on the laughter that erupted from him at the memory.
“Jean’s just trying to-”
“I know she’s only trying to help, but you know you’ve reached a whole new low when your grandmother tries pimping you out at her friend’s funeral.” Her straight face refreshed Teddy’s laughter, and soon the two of them were hunched over, clutching their sides as tears streamed down their faces.
The backyard of the Pine household was decorated simply for the occasion, something that Rory had expressly requested. No fanfare, no over the top celebrations, and no dramatics – this was, after all only her nineteenth.
As she walked down the stairs from her bedroom at her parent’s place, where some of her things were still kept, Rory smiled at the sound of her family who were congregating in the living room.
It may have only been another birthday, not a monumental year like a coming of age or a turn of the decade, but Rory knew that her family was using her birthday as an excuse to throw a party in celebration of Pine Tales’ opening – something she’d vehemently refused, only allowing them the drinks they’d had after the Grand Opening – which had, apparently, not assuaged their need to celebrate the occasion.
She walked into the crowded living room and leaned against the doorframe with a serene smile on her lips as she watched the many faces that made up her family.
On one side, her four grandparents – Penelope and David Pine, Jean and Randall Young – were seated on the couches discussing the restaurant the Pine’s owned. Standing behind the oldest generation was her Aunty Ruby, Ruby’s sister-in-law Katie Wood, and one of her other Aunt’s, Padma, gossiping she was sure about their children.
On the other side of the room, her many Uncles and honourary Uncle, Oliver Wood, were clustered together angrily and loudly debating the outcome of the last Quidditch season. On the edge of the group, shaking his head at whatever his younger brother had just said, Rory’s father, Ian, caught her eye with a wink. She grinned back at him, pulling a contorted expression to which he snickered and pulled one back.
Her mother, Sadie, and the last of her Aunt’s – Renee – were in the middle of the room, attempting to get Renee’s youngest, Eli, to change out of his stain covered shirt and put on a nice, buttoned up one.
Surrounded by the chaos that was her extended family, Rory found the stress of the store and of the mess her two best friends had gotten themselves into melting away, and she peeled herself away from the doorframe to enter the room – only to get tackled to the ground by her younger sister and brother.
“Jesus!” She laughed as her head thumped against the carpet, Brea and Jared’s bodies crushing the air out of her lungs as they piled atop of her.
“Dog pile!” One of her other cousins yelled, and soon ten other bodies were leaping on top of hers, slowly squishing the life out of her. She was sure that her face was turning a hundred different colours, but rather than be concerned by the rainbow that was her face, the adults only laughed and took photos.
“Some… bloody… help… you… lot… are.” She gasped out while attempt to hit Damian’s butt away from her face, she didn’t trust his behind being that close to her nose and him not to take full use of the opportunity. “I… think… my… lung… has… collapsed – GET OFF ME YOU HEFFALUMPS!”
Smacking all those she could reach, Rory eventually got her way when Nadine and the oldest of the Wood children, Henry, reluctantly detangled themselves from the top of the pile. Once she was no longer covered in relatives, Rory hauled herself off the floor and straightened the hem of the dress she was wearing.
“Bunch of fucking lunatics, the lot of you.”
“Mwah!” Lydia blew her a kiss, Hannah Bell and Francesca Wood (the youngest of their respective siblings) giggled and mimicked the older girl. Pretending to catch the kisses, Rory threw them to the ground and stomped on them before winking at the girls and going to hug her grandparents hello.
“Happy birthday dear,” Jean Young kissed her granddaughter’s cheek and patted the other when she pulled away from their hug.
“Thanks Nana J,” Turning from one grandmother to the next, Rory hugged Penelope in greeting before doing the same to her grandfathers.
“How’s the store going?” David Pine asked as he clapped Rory on the shoulder, pulling her to sit down on the arm of the couch he was on.
“It’s going good, been fairly busier than I thought we would – hopefully it keeps like that and the crowds don’t die down too dramatically.”
“They won’t, honey.” Penelope reassured her, “Your cousins been helping you like they promised they would?”
“For the most part, you know when they REMEMBER TO TURN UP!” She responded, throwing a glare over in Damian’s direction. Hearing her raised voice, the dark-haired boy looked over his shoulder from his conversation with her brother and his, and winked cheekily at her. “Bloody prick.”
“You were never going to get Damian into that store, Aurora.” Randall shook his head, and she sighed.
“I know I mean Damian does-”
“Whatever Damian wants.” The four grandparents echoed, finishing her sentence and she grinned .
The past two weeks had been an interesting whirlwind for Victoire.
For, from the moment Teddy had agreed to be her beard, it had been all go – staged outings to get the media spin-balling, dinner with her family, and heartfelt apologies to appease the betrayal Molly and Fleur felt they had been done. In between all of which she was still having to train from dawn to dusk.
It was enough to make her think that maybe she’d have been better off letting the world think she was a floozy.
Sighing at her reflection, the confliction at lying to her family showing in her eyes, Vic picked her wand and her gift for Rory up and apparated from her apartment. Landing on the front lawn of the modest two-storey home she’d spent many a holiday at, Victoire prepared herself for the show she and Teddy were about to perform.
“Icky-Vicky!” Rory’s cheer greeted her ears as she walked around the house to the back yard, and she chuckled whilst shaking her head at the nickname she could never escape.
“Rory-Bory!” She cheered back and wrapped the shorter girl into a hug, “Happy birthday, love.”
“Thanks honey,” Rory stepped back from their embrace and looked up at her with an apologetic look.
“It’s alright,” Vic whispered, and covered her lips with an enthusiastic grin. “Here, this is for you.”
“I thought I told you lot no presents this year; Does nobody listen to me?”
“No,” Damian, Jared, and Eli answered as they walked past the two, and Rory flipped them off.
“Rude!” Eli - Easton’s younger brother and recent Hogwarts’ graduate - gasped offended.
“Come on, the cool kids are over here.” Grabbing Vic by the hand, Rory led them away from her younger relatives and towards where the older ‘kids’ were congregating. It was as they neared the group that Rory suddenly slowed and stopped altogether, her gaze locked on a figure with long dark wavy hair and her back to them both. Confused, Vic glanced between the girl and Rory and was about to ask what was wrong when the brunette faced her with a new apologetic expression.
“Shit, so, ah I’ve just realised that I may have – slightly – forgotten to mention that, well all of my family are here tonight, you know,”
“Yeah?” Vic’s face scrunched up not getting what the girl was trying to say.
“My whole family, my cousins – Pine cousins.” Rory stressed, her eyes pleading as she waited, or rather hoped for Vic to catch on. Still a little puzzled, Vic glanced away from Rory and back over to the dark-haired girl, and as Rory’s words spun around in her head it slowly started to click.
Well, that and the dark-haired girl had turned, and the face she’d spent the entire last summer and better half of the last year dreaming about was suddenly there before her in reality.
“Oh,” Her mouth went dry, and the noise of the backyard faded away to nothing as her vision tunnelled on the girl who’d just noticed her presence as well.
Shock written clear across the other’s features, the two stood still taking in one another.
Lydia raised her hand and waved, her lips pulled in a tight, but polite smile, and somewhat dumbly, Victoire returned it before spinning away and closing her eyes.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t think – shit, I didn’t even remember until she got here and – god, Vic I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t be.” Sighing, Vic ran a hand through her hair shakily and opened her eyes. “It’s not your fault, Rory – you should be allowed to invite your cousin to your birthday. This, this really isn’t your fault, it’s mine. If I wasn’t such a coward this wouldn’t be a problem,” She laughed derisively at herself, “Some Gryffindor I turned out to be.”
“You know; you never did tell me what happened between the two of you.” Rory said softly, causing Vic to steal a glance at Lydia.
“I wouldn’t know how,” She muttered.
Watching from where she stood, separated from the girl by several metres of family, Victoire saw images of that night a year ago play out before her eyes; and suddenly Lydia wasn’t laughing with Teddy and a guy she thought she recognised as Easton, but instead was smiling softly to her, the two of them hidden from their families at the Burrow in the orchard. Their hair was mixed together, shades of strawberry blonde mingling with black as Lydia hovered over her – she blinked and she was back in Rory’s back yard, the whispers of that night still fluttering like nerves around her.
“That special huh?” Rory asked, a gentle expression in her eyes as she caught the far-off gaze that had taken over Vic. Blushing, Victoire looked down at the ground and thinned her lips. “Why didn’t you guys see each other afterwards?”
“I… I never wrote her back.”
“Vic,” She didn’t need to look at Rory to see she was disappointed, her tone of voice was evidence enough. “Why?”
“I’m an idiot? I don’t know, it was just – it was so real, and unlike the times I hooked up at Hogwarts, I actually felt something for her and it scared me. It still scares me,” Vic stole another glance at Lydia. “God she’s beautiful.”
“If you just explained it to her-”
“And tell her what? That I’m sorry I didn’t respond to her letters, I was a dick, but hey if you want to hook up again I’m keen? She’s not the girl for that, Rory – your cousin deserves better than that, she deserves someone who isn’t afraid to show her off and bring her home, and be open about the fact she’s… gay.”
“You could be that someone,”
“But I’m not, not yet.”
“Vic,” Rory gripped her hand, and Vic looked down at her with a sad smile. A look passed between them before Vic sniffed, squeezed her hand and stepped away.
“Enough about me, tonight is about you.” A fake grin cracked her face in half and though it’s convinced many of her family in the past, it’s never tricked Rory and doesn’t tonight.
“Not tonight, Ro, I’m – not tonight.”
“Come on, we need a drink.”
Slightly concerned by the amount of alcohol her best friend was currently inhaling, Rory deftly stole the bottle of firewhisky that Vic had been using for shots and offloaded it onto the unsuspecting hands of her grandfather as he passed the duo. Randall shot the girl a startled look before he glanced at Vic and his expression cleared. After shooting her a wink, the old man slunk off with the bottle in hand and Victoire shooting daggers at his back.
“Why’d you do that?”
“Because I’m not going to sit here and watch you drink yourself to a stupor.”
“You’re no fun,” Vic pouted petulantly before flopping backwards on the grass they were sitting on.
“Sorry for being concerned about the well-being of your liver.” Rory rolled her eyes, “I just don’t see how getting drunk is going to solve your problems.”
“It’s not, but it will help me forget about them.”
“And only land you with more when you strip down to your underwear and run around screaming your love for cockroach clusters.” The two shared a look, Vic flushing at the reminder of the first time she’d gotten absolutely hammered.
“You promised to never bring that up again,”
“No, Teddy promised – I just sat there smiling silently.” The brunette grinned innocently. “My point though, Vicky, is that doing this - drinking to oblivion; it’s not going to change anything. It’s not going to solve the awkward tension between you and Lydia, it’s not going to erase the questions about you and Teddy, and it’s definitely not going to keep the watchful gaze of Molly and Fleur off of you.”
Both girls turned to look where the aforementioned women were standing together watching them.
“But it’s the easiest thing I know to do,”
“Vic,” Rory shot her a stern look.
“I know,” The strawberry blonde heaved a sigh and sat up.
“Know what?” Lydia asked as she appeared behind them, and Vic’s entire body tensed at the sound of her voice.
“That firewhisky and family gatherings are never a good combination.” Rory answered quickly with a dry smirk.
“God, don’t I know that.” Lydia grumbled as she dropped down on her cousin’s other side. “Christmas 2016,”
The Pine cousins shivered violently at the date, and Vic glanced at the two curiously.
“What happened in Christmas 2016?”
“Easton, Nadine and Lydia broke into Grandma and Gramps’ liquor cabinet whilst the adults were getting drunk on eggnog and decided to experiment with the various assortments of alcohol that was inside it.”
“Because we were idiots.”
“Were?” Rory teased.
Lydia punched her on the arm without restraint, and Rory tried not to flinch too violently in reaction.
“Anyway, after getting absolutely drunk off our faces – we thought it best to announce what we’d done by singing the Welsh National Anthem.”
“Do you know the Welsh National Anthem?” Vic questioned feeling a little braver to face -Lydia properly now that the story-telling was breaking the ice between them. Lydia and Rory snorted in response to the question.
“Nade and I didn’t, but Easton surprised everyone by belting out every verse word for word.”
“Well, he was in Ravenclaw.” Rory reminded them.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Lydia scoffed.
“Well yeah, I mean you’re in Ravenclaw and you don’t know the Welsh Anthem.”
“What makes you so sure that I don’t?”
“There you go,” She said pointedly, “The reason East knows every anthem in existence, has nothing to do with his being a Ravenclaw – which I still believe is a fucking fluke – but everything to do with his own absurd eccentricity.”
“Yeah, I can’t argue you on that.” The two cousins shared a derisive laugh.
Slightly befuddled at the inside joke about their cousin, Vic tipped her head to the side in question.
“Why do you reckon it’s a fluke that Easton was a ‘Claw?”
“Because after all the times he was dropped by Uncle Clarke, I’d be surprised if the poor kid had any brain cells left. Honestly, it’s a miracle he recalls his own name at times.” The darker haired of the cousins elbowed the other with a knowing smirk.
“Yeah, even that is a bit hit or miss.” Rory tipped her hand side to side, earning a laugh from the other two.
“Uncle Clarke really did a number on him with his butterfingers.”
“Hey! Dad promised me he only dropped me twice,” The girls looked up to find Easton glaring down at his cousins.
“Yeah, well Aunty Renee told me that after the eighth time your Dad dropped you, they just gave up counting.” Lydia countered, an eyebrow raised and Easton glowered, dropping down beside her. “And who would you really trust to be truthful in their account?”
“My mother,” the boy grumbled. Lydia smirked proudly at her minor victory before she threw an arm around her older-by-a-year cousin and pulled him against her for a side-hug.
“Where’s Teddy?” Rory asked, interrupting the cousin bonding as she looked around them for the metamorphagus.
“He got cornered by Mr Potter, something about not telling him something – I don’t know, I was distracted by the bottle Randall was carrying.” Easton explained while trying to extract himself from Lydia’s hold and missing the smirk Vic and Rory shared.
Teddy watched as Easton trailed off after Rory’s grandfather and the Firewhisky the old man was carrying, all the while wishing he could join him if only to avoid the conversation he knew he was about to have with his godfather.
The two greeted the other, Teddy squirming uncomfortably on his feet as they did.
“So, how’ve you been?”
Harry took a sip from the drink he was carrying with a quirked brow.
“Been a bit busy at work recently, huh?” He tried again, though still didn’t receive a response from the man. “I was talking to Easton just before about the latest news at Gringotts-”
“Right.” He cleared his throat and clapped his hands together awkwardly.
“I was surprised to hear from Gin about you and Victoire,”
“You and me both,”
“Ah – just that it really came out of nowhere,” Teddy plastered a thick smile on his lips and chuckled nervously.
“I’d say,” Harry scoffed, “Because the last I knew, you were in love with her best friend.”
“I-” He didn’t know what to say.
“What’re you playing at here, Teddy? What do you think you’re getting at dating Vicky if you’re in love with Rory? Because if you’re planning to make the girl notice you, hurting her best friend isn’t going to win her over.”
“This isn’t – that’s not… I wouldn’t hurt Vic, Uncle Harry, ever.”
“So what’re you doing?”
Teddy stood silent for a moment, his godfather’s question ringing in his head as he fought for the best way to answer that wouldn’t make him look like the biggest douche in history.
“Honestly, I don’t really know.” He ran a hand through his hair tiredly. “Just, this thing with Vic and I, it’s not what it seems.”
“How so?” Teddy looked over to where Easton had now joined Lydia, Rory and Vic on the grass behind the drinks’ table. “Ted?”
“Promise not to tell anyone what I’m about to say?” He tore his gaze from the laughing foursome to where Harry stood with a confused expression on his face. When his godfather noticed how serious he was, Harry nodded and Teddy let out a low breath. “Vic and I aren’t really dating, we’re faking it.”
“You’re – You’re not?”
“…” Teddy paused, knowing that the real reason for their fake relationship wasn’t his to share. “Vic wanted to get the media, Fleur and Nana Molly off her back about who she was dating – the only way she knew how was if she gave them an answer. Even if it wasn’t true,”
For the longest time, Harry didn’t say anything, only stood there drinking out of the beer in his hand as he processed what Teddy had said.
“So… you’re not dating Vic? You’re faking it?”
Teddy felt a slight weight lift from his shoulders at Harry’s, though confused, understanding.
“And Rory knows about it?”
“Yeah – knows and supports it.” Teddy scoffed, the annoyance he felt at the predicament Vic had gotten them into paling in comparison to the dejection he felt from Rory’s complete acceptance and support of him being with her best friend – even if it wasn’t real.
“If I didn’t think she felt the same way before, I really don’t now.”
Harry watched as his godson’s face fell, his shoulders drooping with despondency and he tore his gaze over to where the birthday girl was laughing hysterically. Even at his age and after all his years, the complicated mess that was youthful hormones continued to confuse and puzzle the man. But before he could attempt to string a clichéd sentence of support that he’d read from one of the parenting books he’d bought over the years on the sly, the chattering of the party was over-shouted by Rory’s mother and brother as they entered with a cake.
The multi-tiered cake was shaped in the design of an open book, and Teddy’s lips pulled in a small smile when he caught the awed expression that took over Rory’s face. Harry watched with a tired sigh as he, trance-like, drifted away from him and over to the girls and Easton as they crowded around the cake Sadie and Jared were supporting.
Out of habit, Teddy slipped an arm around Vic as they watched their best friend blow out her candles. Both lost to their own thoughts and oblivious to the other’s inner turmoil, the two were startled to awareness when the book-shaped cake exploded as the final candle was extinguished.
“Holy shit,” Teddy scoffed his hand covering his mouth in disbelieving laughter, flecks of cake spattering his face. Beside him, Vic cringed as an unpleasant chunk got wedge up her nose. Opposite, Rory wiped the icing from her eyes and licked away the food that was smeared to her lips.
“BREA!” Sadie screamed as she dropped her end of the tray that held the decimated cake and Jared struggled to save what remained of the dessert after being left with the full brunt of it’s weight.
Mischievous laughter could be heard from the middle of the crowd that had formed around Rory, and like the Red Sea the group parted to reveal three figures using each other for support as they turned red with utter amusement. Following the trio’s reveal, multiple shouts of ‘James!’ and ‘Freddie!’ could be heard from the Weasley’s and Potter’s.
Teddy side-stepped the debris that decorated the grass in a two-metre radius around them. Grinning down at her, he swiped a finger down Rory’s cake coated cheek and popped it into his mouth.
“You may look ridiculous,” She swatted him, only making his grin broader. “But you taste good.” He winked and she snorted with a roll of her eyes.
“You’re a dork,” There was a twinkle to her eyes, one that he knew only meant trouble for him, but before he could react she grabbed a piece of cake from the tray her brother was still holding and smeared it across his face.
“I’m still finding pieces of cake in my hair,” Rory called out across the ground floor of her store, and there was a snort from behind a bookcase in response. “Merlin, I’ve had four showers…”
“It was a big cake,” Lydia reminded her, appearing from the aisle with a dry smirk. “Gotta give the kids some credit,”
Begrudgingly, Rory nodded but the weary look on her face quickly gave way to a bright smile and laugh.
“Yeah I guess. I mean, when those three put their heads together what they come up with is truly astounding.”
Lydia nodded slowly in agreement before pausing with a slight grimace.
“Is it weird that I feel a little sorry for Filch?”
“What?” Rory dropped the strands of hair she’d been surveying for crumbs to look at her cousin incredulously.
“Well, the usual times they ever put their heads together is for pranks, and the majority of their time together is spent at Hogwarts, where their biggest target is Filch, so…”
“I mean the old guy’s a dick at the best of times, but he gets tormented on a daily basis by arrogant wand-waving children, so can you really blame him for his sour personality?”
“True,” Rory commented as she leaned forward behind the counter and cupped her chin with her hand, thinking. “But is it his sour personality that causes the children to mock him, or the mocking that creates the sour personality that then leads to the pranking?”
“Ooh! Like a downward spiral – he’s sour, the kids target him, he’s gets sourer, resulting in more pranks.”
“Or, or – He started off a happy, excited caretaker ready to do his job, but after years of picking up after thankless, ungrateful brats that fire within him was snuffed out.”
“Aw, poor Filch.” Lydia sniffed, her lips pouting at the thought.
It was at that remark that the door to Pine Tales’ opened and a sceptical over-hearer regarded the two worriedly.
“I’m sorry, did you just say – poor Filch, Lydia?” Teddy blinked in disbelief and the dark-haired girl shrugged.
“We were just speculating the cause of Filch’s undesirable personality,” Rory explained as she came around the counter to greet the young man hello. “Which do you think is more likely, Ted – a spiral of sourness and pranks, or years of thankless work?”
“Ah?” He glanced between them, and Rory chuckled at his confused expression.
“You’re right, what if there’s a third option?”
“Ooh! Yes, like jealousy at not being able to pull pranks at the same level as those pulled on him.” Near excitedly, Lydia clapped her hands earnestly at the idea. Rory clicked her fingers liking the suggestion, but before the two could escalate any further with their back and forth, Teddy cleared his throat.
“Are you ready to go, Rora?”
“To go? Where?” Curiously, Lydia regarded the two, her brow quirking when Teddy flushed a little under her gaze.
“We’re heading to Vic’s for dinner,” Rory answered, “Do you – Do you want to come?”
An awkward moment passed between the three of them as each were aware of what had transpired between the two girls the previous summer, but reluctant to speak it aloud in case of crossing any invisible lines.
“Would she mind if I… intrude?”
Rory shared a look with Teddy and chewed on her lip in thought, before smiling wide and shaking her head.
“Of course not, besides more the merrier, right?”
“Right.” Teddy nodded hurriedly when she shot him a look. “You should come, Lydia.”
Rory would admit, that yes, initially the dinner had been awkward and Vic had been a little overwhelmed at the unexpected presence of her once hook-up. But after the awkward pleasantries and stilted small talk had passed, they’d all relaxed and the two girls who’d been avoiding eye contact since the beginning of the evening were soon laughing with their heads bowed together.
The bottles of elder-wine hadn’t hurt the adjustment either.
Sitting now on the two-seater couch with her legs folded on the cushion in front of her, and Teddy leaning against them for support, Rory threw her head back in laughter at the long-winded joke Vic had just shared.
Lying on the floor, with her hands waving above her head theatrically, Vic’s cheeks were red from the amount of laughing she’d done that night. Teddy’s head tipped back on her legs and his eyes met hers, a soft smile on his lips as she looked down at him.
“Hey,” He whispered.
“Hey,” She murmured back, patting him lightly on the face.
Neither of them noticed the questioning look that was coming from Lydia.
A gaze that narrowed with suspicion as the image of what it had seen the night prior at Rory’s party between the two resurfaced. Their interaction after the exploding cake incident, and how the metamorphagus had watched her cousin with a look that should have been reserved for his girlfriend, caused Lydia to believe that there was something a little fishy going on between the other three in the room.
The fact that Victoire was hardly bothered by the blatant flirting that was going down between her best friend and supposed boyfriend, added only another mark on the list of things Lydia found to not be adding up.
By the end of the night, after watching the interactions between the trio and the way Teddy seemed to favour the side of the girl who wasn’t his girlfriend, Lydia swore she was going to get to the end of what was going on.
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