Okay, I have only one thing to say before I present you with chapter one of this newest novel/la-in-the-making. She knows how much I love her, so I won't go on for ages, but...

Have a fantastic 18th birthday, andy, you deserve it. Thank you for being wonderful and I love you :)

I
 

It was the first day of September, and it seemed as if the whole of Eden Grove was asleep. The moon was still only just visible through the volleys of thick cloud, weakly illuminating the tops of a neat row of houses. Each was accompanied by a square of lawn, and each front door was clearly labelled with a number between eighty-six and one-hundred-and-twelve.

A curtain twitched in the upstairs window of number ninety-two, making a wren on the outside windowsill take off in fright.

Inside, a fairly elderly lady was switching on the light and making to draw aside the curtains and sit for a while in the silence –

‘Grandma!’

The lady sighed, threw on her dressing-gown and pulled her dark grey hair into a plait before opening her bedroom door and calling resignedly, ‘What is it, Teddy?’

The voice of Andromeda Tonks’ only grandchild was muffled as Teddy shouted back something indistinguishable – Andromeda guessed he had his head in his school trunk.

‘You can come over here and talk to me, or you can not talk at all,’ she said reasonably in the general direction of his bedroom, sticking her head out of her door.

Sure enough, a moment later, her recently-of-age grandson emerged from his room looking confused, and not at all happy about being summoned to speak with his grandmother on the cold landing.

‘Grandma,’ he began again, and Andromeda smiled infuriatingly, ‘have you seen my broomstick?’

At this, Andromeda’s smile turned into an indifferent shrug, as she replied tantalisingly, ‘No, but I wouldn’t worry about that for this year anyhow, Teddy.’

She retreated back into her bedroom, closed the door carefully and then called back in the direction of her grandson, ‘I thought I told you to start packing last week, anyway?’

‘You can come here and talk to me, or you can not talk at all,’ Teddy mimicked from the other side of the door.

Andromeda said nothing, but smiled to herself and paused, waiting for –

‘Grandma, what’re you hiding from me?’

When she offered no answer, Teddy persisted, ‘Why won’t I need my broom this year? And why have you given me dress robes?’

Andromeda stuck her head outside her door again.

‘Patience is a virtue, darling.’

Teddy threw her a look that was half-frustration, half-exasperation, and slammed his door after backing into his bedroom. Andromeda grinned to herself and closed her door to her grandson for the second time that morning.

 

Andromeda had managed to do the washing up from the night before (Teddy had insisted he’d do it that morning), washed and dried two loads of dirty clothes (Teddy had expressed the view on more than one occasion that he really ought to be doing this himself by now) and laid out breakfast for the both of them by the time Teddy wandered downstairs at five past ten, dragging his trunk and his broomstick (evidently uncovered from whichever cluttered corner it had been last thrown in), with his Tawny owl, Chester, perched happily on his arm.

‘Don’t look at me like that,’ he grinned as he sat down heavily opposite her, letting Chester fly freely around the kitchen. ‘I’ll have you know I used several charms to help me pack my stuff.’

‘Oh, and it took you the two hours to just lock your trunk, did it?’ His grandmother’s eyes were dancing with amusement.

Teddy pulled a plate of pancakes towards him with a contemptuous glance at Andromeda, and drowned them in maple syrup poured from his wand-tip.

Andromeda laughed. ‘So anything to do with food you can mysteriously do … shame it doesn’t stretch to housework, eh?’

As Teddy ate his pancakes in silence (Andromeda kept adding more to his plate with her wand hidden under a napkin), his hair gradually began to change colour. As a Metamorphagus, a trait he had inherited from his mother, Teddy had the ability to change his appearance at will, although he never seemed quite in control of it during the first few hours of the morning. In his current state, what Andromeda liked to call his ‘authentic state’, Teddy Lupin sported a tanned visage with rather chiselled-looking features, a shadow of a patch of stubble beginning around his jaw – he didn’t bother to shave, he said, because he could hide it when it mattered anyway – and a set of eyes so bright blue that they looked unnatural against his straight, dark hair.

As Teddy gained energy in the mornings, the first thing to change was usually his hair; with lighter, sandy-coloured locks, Andromeda had to agree that his eyes didn’t seem quite so out-of-place, although she did neglect to mention that when sporting this look, he did have a rather alarming resemblance to his father, ex-professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and harmless werewolf Remus Lupin.

Teddy had lost both of his parents when he was barely a few months old, and had been raised by his mother’s mother, Andromeda Tonks, since then. Surrounded by almost-cousins of all ages, Teddy had never felt orphaned: on the contrary, he had so many surrogate mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers it was sometimes hard to keep count.

Besides Andromeda, the closest people Teddy had to a family were they Weasleys. His godfather, Harry Potter, had married into the family via the first Weasley girl in generations – Ginny. Together they had had three more Potters: James, Albus and Lily, the former of which, particularly, loved Teddy like a brother.

The Weasley cousins that Teddy saw the least of were offspring of the third oldest Weasley brother, Percy, and were two young girls named Molly and Lucy. Besides James, Albus and Lily, the closest of the Weasleys to Teddy by far were Victoire and Louis, half-French and eighth-Veela children of the final married Weasley brother, Bill, and his beautiful wife Fleur.

Victoire and Teddy had been close since childhood; Teddy had always spent a lot of time with the Potters and the Weasleys, and Victoire was the closest to him in age. Victoire’s French mother had met Bill Weasley whilst she was in Britain during the Triwizard Tournament twenty years earlier, but after moving to France for a few years when Victoire was two, the family returned to Britain and had lived close by Andromeda and Teddy ever since. Although Teddy liked Victoire and her brother Louis very much, the fifth member of the Delacour-Weasley family, Dominique, was one of those people who could make Teddy annoyed without even opening her mouth. At the age of six, she had decided her name made her sound less than feminine, and despite her parents’ best efforts to assure her it was a perfectly acceptable name for a girl, and if she didn’t like it then couldn’t she be called something nice like her middle name Noami? she insisted everyone call her ‘Minnie’, a more feminine variation of Dominique.

Personally, Teddy thought the name repulsive, but he had to admit that it did suit the girl well: spoilt and selfish in ways that her sister had never been, Minnie grew up disliked by many – not excluding her family members – and Teddy found her, along with her name, utterly revolting.

Unfortunately, it was customary for Victoire, Minnie, Louis and their parents to meet with Teddy and Andromeda on September the first and accompany them to King’s Cross; while Teddy loved to catch up with his two favourite Weasleys on these occasions, having to suffer almost an hour with Minnie made his stomach churn every time.

Finishing his breakfast, Teddy glanced up at the kitchen clock to see that it was approaching quarter past ten, and the Weasleys would be due any second.

Andromeda cleared away the china with a flick of her wand and, just as Teddy was getting up, a knock upon the door announced the arrival of the highly-anticipated half-French family and the not-so-highly anticipated half-French Dominique.

Teddy strode to the door, opened it and was greeted by a sharp pain in the area from his stomach to his knees. He looked down, grinning, and saw a mop of reddish-blond hair about level with his belly button: five-year-old Louis Weasley’s usual welcome.

‘Hurry up, Lou, it’s freezing out here!’ Teddy’s smile widened at the sound of Victoire’s voice, and as Louis finally let him go and scampered into the kitchen at his back, Teddy pulled her into a hug, which she returned most obligingly.

‘Morning, Teddy.’ Bill Weasley nodded at him after he had released their daughter. He held out a hand which Teddy shook, and then followed his children into the house. Teddy kissed his wife, Fleur, lightly on the cheek and expressed his delight at seeing them all again after they had spent the summer visiting Fleur’s sister in France, causing her to pat him on the cheek and exclaim in heavily accented English what a polite and handsome young man he was turning out to be.

After he had stood aside to let Fleur pass, Teddy turned his attentions to the final member of the family. The two of them stood in almost-awkward silence for a few seconds, until Minnie brushed her way past him with a monosyllabic, ‘hello’. Teddy pulled the heavy door closed behind her.

‘Ah, oui, eet was a most pleasurable trip,’ Fleur was recounting to Andromeda, who had handed each of the present Weasleys a cup of steaming tea and was now bringing over a plate of scones.

‘Ah, Dominique,’ she smiled, spotting the latest addition to her kitchen and offering her a scone.

‘No, thank you, Mrs Tonks,’ Minnie said with forced politeness: she was the only one of the Weasleys, and indeed the Potters, who didn’t refer to Andromeda by her first name and Teddy could only assume that it was because his grandma, stubborn enough in some ways to give the girl herself a run for her money, had flatly refused to call her by the “frankly nauseating” title which had been forced upon the rest of them, ‘I’ve only just had my breakfast and I’m afraid a scone, delicious though I’m sure they are, may interrupt my strict no-snacks policy.’ She gave a sickly smile and lowered herself gracefully onto the chair that Teddy had recently vacated.

Victoire rolled her eyes across the room at Teddy, and announced, ‘Well, I’ll have two, please, ‘Dromeda, if that’s okay? They look fantastic.’

Andromeda obliged, grinning, and then said, as if Minnie had not just sat herself down, ‘And do take a seat, all of you – you’ve come quite a way.’

With a scraping of chairs, the family seated themselves, and Teddy dragged an extra chair from the adjoining room and set it down beside Victoire’s.

‘Don’t you love how she says scones?’ Victoire muttered out of the corner of her mouth as Teddy sat down. ‘You’d almost think she’d been brought up to speak like that.’

It was true, Teddy thought: Minnie seemed intent on being as non-Weasley-like as possible, unless you counted Percy. In fact, Teddy had wondered on more than one occasion whether there had been a mix-up, and Minnie was actually the offspring of the rather more well-spoken Weasley family: amongst her polite yet slightly rebellious older sister and adorably ill-disciplined younger brother, she seemed quite out of place.

The sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds turned their attention back to their guardians, just as Fleur was saying, ‘Of course, Gabrielle and Benjamin are ‘oping to come and see us some time during this term, because of –’ here she lowered her voice to Andromeda so that her words were indistinguishable to Teddy and Victoire, although they could still detect a note of excitement in her tone.

‘Yes,’ Andromeda said, her eyes twinkling, ‘Teddy is getting quite excited himself, although he doesn’t know what for yet, of course.’

Teddy fixed her with his best poor-deprived-orphan look, but she did not relent, and he turned to his friend. ‘She’s been dropping hints about that all summer,’ he murmured, ‘but she’s intent on keeping me hanging.’

Victoire laughed softly. ‘Yeah, mum and Aunt Gabrielle kept having these little whispered conversations while we were there – they were obviously trying to get me and Andy to ask what was going on.’

Teddy remembered from previous conversations that Andréa D’Éloure was Victoire’s French cousin – her and her younger brother Jean-Paul attended Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, and Teddy recalled that the former was around the same age as he.

Although the parents had insisted on naming Andréa and Jean-Paul according to their own home culture, Benjamin and Gabrielle graciously bowed to the inevitable and let their offspring adopt the more British nicknames they had been dubbed by their English cousins; Jon and Andy. Teddy had never met Victoire’s cousins – living in a different country, it was hardly surprising – but that past summer, his grandmother had kept making side comments as if all that was going to change.

‘You should be brushing up on your French,’ she had commented one evening over dinner, and when he had enquired as to the nature of this suggestion, she had merely shrugged and said, ‘you never know who you might meet.’

Teddy had a strong feeling that the subtle remarks about language, Andromeda’s nonchalant-ness when it came to his lack of broomstick and the sudden appearance of dress robes were all inter-connected somehow, and he rather had the impression that Andromeda wanted him to know how just as much as he did himself. If she expected him to have worked it out by now, however, she had severely over-estimated him: when it came to mysteries, those were usually better left to Teddy’s best friend and fellow Gryffindor, Sam Millward.

Teddy and Sam had met on their very first day at Hogwarts, six years to that day, and after a frenzied Common Room game of Who-Can-Eat-The-Most-Dung-Beetle-Eyes-Without-Being-Sick (Sam had risen triumphantly to the occasion) and a night in the Hospital Wing, the two boys had set aside their differences (namely, Teddy was a bad loser) and become firm friends.

‘It’s not like they’d get locked up for telling us what they were on about,’ Victoire was saying between mouthfuls of scone, cream and strawberry jam, ‘they just love seeing us suffer.’

Teddy was not entirely sure this was true, as he had strong suspicions that his grandmother had come incredibly close to telling him just what was happening several times, and was about to voice this opinion to Victoire when a snide voice cut across both theirs and the adults’ conversations.

‘Isn’t it time we got moving, all?’ Minnie said primly, standing and holding out her hand to her little brother, who stood immediately and clung to it as though his much less self-absorbed mother wasn’t sitting directly on the other side of the table.

‘Well, not quite, Min,’ Bill said patiently, ‘we’ve got twenty-five minutes until the train leaves, yet.’

‘Yes, but I’d rather not be late for my first day as Prefect, if you don’t mind,’ Minnie replied loftily, ‘I know there are some among us who have only one year of education left and so perhaps find it pointless to be prompt, or others of us who would have us sit and eat scones all day, but I rather feel –”

Victoire had leapt to her feet. For one, mad moment, Teddy thought she was obeying the commands of her unreasonably selfish sister, until he saw that she was shaking with anger.

‘How dare – you’ve no right – so damn rude –” Victoire couldn’t seem to string together a coherent sentence in her fury, but Minnie continued to stare coolly back at her, as if bored with her sister’s performance.

‘Honey, sit down.’ Bill’s voice was quiet and his touch on his daughter’s arm light, but Victoire obeyed its pressure and resumed her seat, muttering mutinously under her breath.

The next ten minutes passed with both families making strained conversation while Minnie stood impatiently by the door, occasionally shooting Teddy defiant, challenging looks.

He wasn’t about to say anything to her face, but Teddy privately agreed with the brief comments about her behaviour that her sister had come out with, and couldn’t help wondering how regularly Victoire had an outburst like that – by the looks of it, not all too often.

When the clock had finally crept to quarter to eleven, Andromeda stood and exclaimed how lovely it had been to catch up, while Bill and Fleur smiled at her and Teddy, and Victoire scowled in the direction of her sister. Sensing her distress, Teddy squeezed her hand under the table. She looked at him and smiled slightly, then they both got up and followed the adults out of the house.

 

Andromeda seemed unusually edgy when Teddy was kissing her goodbye – he couldn’t help wondering whether it was something to do with the same thing she’d been dropping hints about all summer.

‘I’m a big boy now, Grandma, I can look after myself,’ he smiled as she gave him one last hug.

‘Just promise me you will, okay?’

Teddy looked straight into her eyes and was surprised to see something like fear reflected in them. ‘Yeah, I promise.’

He hauled his trunk and his owl cage onto the train in front of him and, as the last whistle blew, jumped up himself. As the doors slid closed and the train began to move, he glimpsed his grandmother and Victoire’s parents exchanging worried looks. Andromeda looked up just before the train rounded the corner and saw Teddy’s face through the window; she blew him a kiss, he smiled in return, and then she was gone.

‘I wouldn’t worry, they’re probably just being paranoid.’

Teddy had not heard Victoire come up behind him, but he was glad of the company nonetheless. He leaned an arm up against the window and turned to face her. ‘And you don’t have any idea what’s going on?’

Victoire shook her head. ‘Come on, let’s find a compartment. All the good ones’ll be taken in a minute.’

Dragging his trunk and Chester’s cage behind him, Teddy followed her down the narrow corridor until she exclaimed, ‘ah!’ and motioned him to follow her into a half-empty compartment to their right.

He pushed his trunk into one of the luggage racks and placed his owl’s cage on the seat beside Victoire before turning to face the current inhabitants of the compartment.

‘Alright, Lupin?’

Teddy’s eyes came to rest on a tall seventh-year with scruffy, dirty-blond hair and a rather arrogant smile sitting nearest to the window. He held out his hand to the boy, who shook it and then, grinning, stood up and used it to pull Teddy into a – very manly, Teddy reminded himself – hug. After having released his friend, Sam Millward sank back down onto his seat and propped his hands up behind his head. ‘Good summer, Teddy?’

‘Was alright,’ Teddy replied with a shrug, ‘Grandma kept hinting about this thing that’s going to be happening this year, though, and I’ve got no idea what she’s on about.’

Sam laughed delightedly. ‘I figured it out aeons ago.’

‘You did?’ Teddy exchanged a surprised look with Victoire, who shook her head and then turned to Sam: ‘So what’s happening? And – er – how did you find out?’

There came a groan from the opposite end of the compartment, and Teddy turned to see another seventh-year friend, David Walters, putting a hand to his head, while his girlfriend, Christina Adams, to his left, waved a quick ‘hello’ to Teddy, and saying, ‘He’s just bored us all half to death with that story – cant you find something more interesting to talk about?’ Teddy thought Sam might have been offended by this comment, but he saw that David’s eyes were twinkling, and from behind him, Sam just laughed.

‘Sit down, Teddy.’

Teddy obliged, squeezing himself onto the seat between his owl and Sam, and turning to his best friend, said, ‘Come on, just tell us what’s going on.’

Sam chuckled again, clearly enjoying Teddy’s intrigue.

‘Agent 630 is proud to present a clear and concise report on the –'

‘Alright, alright,’ Teddy cut across him, grinning, and then stopped. ‘You haven’t really made a report, have you? ‘Cos that’s kind of sad…’

‘Of course not,’ Sam amended hurriedly, ‘but I thought, being a first-class detective and all, I should introduce the whole thing with a – yeah, okay, shut up.’ Teddy grinned across his owl at Victoire, who raised her eyebrows and sighed in mock boredom. ‘Anyway,’ Sam continued, ‘You know my mum works at the Ministry – Department of Magical Transportation – so she’s got to know all about it because of the way the schools’ll be travelling to Hogwarts.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, Miss Weasley, that Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and the Durmstrang Institute for Magical Learning will be coming to Hogwarts this year, perhaps even this day, to take part in –'

‘You’ve got to be joking,’ Victoire whispered, her eyes wide. Teddy was still not quite sure what was going on, but the names of those schools had stirred something in his memory, perhaps something his godfather had told him, years ago …

Sam grinned, evidently pleased with the effect he had created. ‘I’m definitely entering.’

And it was these words, more than the names of those schools, which finally made something click in Teddy’s mind. He let out a gasp. ‘Seriously?’

Suddenly it all made sense – he wouldn’t need his broomstick because there was to be no Quidditch this year; Andromeda had packed him dress robes because he would be going to the Yule Ball; he’d need to brush up on his French because a French school was coming to visit …

He could remember with terrible clarity the description his godfather had given him all those years ago, when recounting his own involvement in the last Triwizard Tournament, and though a bubble of excitement had risen up inside him already, it was punctured somewhat by the recollection of those terrible events. He couldn’t believe the Ministry would have let such a thing be even thought about again.

‘Sam,’ he declared, ‘you’ve having me on.’

Sam shook his head gravely, and reached into his bag to pull out something which made Teddy light-headed with the feeling of extreme anticipation, mixed with an undeniable thrill of fear.

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