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Credit: Awesome chapter image by Midnight_Witch @ TDA




Chapter One: Teddy's Lament


Six Months Later
London, England




It was raining.

Huge rolling masses of cumulonimbi and stratocumuli filled the horizon with their sheer mass, leaving little room to doubt what their purpose was. Forks of lightning flashed dangerously, followed by fits of thunder that sounded like the beating of drums in times of war. The rain itself came down in torrents, soaking the Muggles hurrying to find shelter down to the bone. Things that were still standing looked as if they wouldn't be that way for much longer. It was the type of rain that made the Muggles think of their warm cozy beds waiting for them when they got home. The type of rain that, if it did not let up soon, would force the Prime Minister to get in touch with a man called Noah.

The light from a flash of lightning filtered through the bare windows, illuminating vivid shades of vermilion and amber. It illuminated the man standing in front of the punching bag, his body rigid in a martial arts stance.

To the untrained observer, the man might have been considered a warrior about to slay his adversary. He certainly looked the part: his sharp features and piercing brown eyes lent a sort of savagery that was difficult to emulate. His long dark hair was tied back with a strip of leather and sticking to his bare back. Besides the padded gloves protecting his wide hands, the only other article of clothing he had on was a pair of baggy grey sweatpants he had owned since before his old school days.

In his mind, he was fit too burst with too many pent-up emotions -- shame, humiliation, rage, and even some sadness. A sharp pain that wouldn't seem to leave the place where his heart was. All of this he tried to work out of his system by hitting something while angry rap music pulsed in the background.

In recent months, Teddy had come to believe that a good, strong workout was the perfect remedy for anyone under a great deal with stress. When he was in the mood, he would train until his muscles were stiff and too sore to do little more than collapse onto his bed. He was well known amongst family and friends to go running all the way from Hackney to South Lambeth.

There were some that said he was a glutton for punishment. To those people, he said who gives a rat's behind?

As he switched from pummeling the worn leather bag in front of him to kicking it instead, he felt the corners of his mouth curve in satisfaction.

His plan was working. The hours he had spent waging this internal battle were finally beginning to pay off. Unlike the dreadful gale happening just outside his window, the storm inside of him was beginning to calm. Now that he could think somewhat rationally again, he took in just how hot the room had gotten. Had he forgotten to turn on the air unit again?

His growling stomach reminded him that turning on the A/C wasn't the only thing he had forgotten. Come to think of it, he had also forgotten to check to see if he had received any posts today. After the letter he had gotten yesterday, Teddy hadn't been in the mood to do anything other than to hit something.

With one final kick, he let his foot fall to the ground and took in a deep ragged breath. Glancing out the large window, he frowned at the storm raging outside. Last time he had checked, the rain was no more than a drizzle. Now, he could barely make out the tenement next door.

Teddy vaguely wondered what time it was.

Then, his stomach gave another loud growl. Realizing he was starving, he wiped the sweat off his brow and headed for the kitchen. On the way, he turned off the rap music. The flat was filled with an eerie silence that made him want to shiver.

When he had begun looking for a new flat four months ago, this one held so much appeal for him. For one thing, there were the gorgeous windows. They offered him an excellent view of the Thames. A lot of good it did him now, he though, what with this horrendous weather and all. But on sunny days, he could lean out his window and look out towards downtown London.

The flat had two bedrooms, and he had turned the master into a workout room. He slept on a mattress tossed onto the floor of the second bedroom. Working overtime had made it difficult for him to get around to dealing with buying a bed frame.

Most of his possessions were still packed away in their neat little boxes, compliments of his grandmother. At the time of moving in, Teddy had figured the boxes functioned wonderfully as a dresser until he could get around to purchasing the real thing.

The living room was pretty sweet, what with a brand new settee and a couple of comfortable squashy armchairs taking up most of the space. A floor lamp with a missing shade sat in one corner. He had bought the old dining room table and matching chairs at an open market for next to nothing. The oak hardwood floor looked as if it could use a good scrubbing.

The room off to the side of the living room was just large enough to be considered a kitchen. Like his clothes, most of the kitchen utensils were still packed away in boxes. A small bowl and a glass sat in the sink from when he put them their before he had left for work the day before. He made a beeline for the small refrigerator and was terribly surprised to find it empty except for a pint of spoiled milk, some moldy looking cheese, and a container of potted meat.

Huh. He could have sworn he had gone shopping.

A quick survey of the cupboards came up with half a loaf of bread, a few bags of herbal tea, a single box of generic breakfast cereal, and an orange.

Resigning himself to the circumstances, he reached in and grabbed a handful of bran flakes. As he munched on a second handful, he deliberated on what he wanted to do more: brew up a strong cup of tea or take a hot shower and change into some fresh clothes. Before he could come to a decision, there was a knock on the door.

A frown creasing his brow, Teddy went to the door and put his eye to the peephole. When he saw who it was, the frown vanished and his brown eyes warmed considerably. He opened the door with a grin.

"Man, you look terrible."

"Speak for yourself," said Liam Burke as he stepped just inside the door. "This weather is simply dreadful. Don't you agree?"

"Very much so. Which is exactly why you don't see me out there right now."

Liam removed his cap and shook out his dirty blonde mane. "I doubt that. You haven't been answering any of my calls, Ted. What's wrong, you've decided to become a hermit now?"

Teddy shook his head, the grin fading. "No. I've just been really busy."

"I believe it," his friend told him, even as he leaned forward to sniff at Teddy. "Or should I say, smell it?"

Teddy let out an aggravated breath. "What do you want Liam?"

Liam shrugged. "I wanted to check in on my best mate. I heard about what happened at work, and was worried when he didn't answer any of my posts."

"Oh."

Leaving it at that, he turned on his heels and walked back to the kitchen.

Liam wasn't going to let him off that easy. He entered the kitchen to see Teddy pulling a tea kettle out of a box labeled 'KITCHEN THINGS.'

"Ted," he began gently, "You know Weasley was right when she said you need time off. You've been working yourself to death these last few months. You need time to get a handle on things."

He winced at the sound of the kettle being slammed down on the stove.

"There's nothing to get a handle on," Teddy muttered. "Victoire left me, simple as that."

"It's not as simple as that and you know it."

Indeed, Teddy did know it wasn't as simple as that. Things were rarely simple when you got divorced after six years of marriage.

Victoire Weasley, who until recently had been the love of his life, was a decent enough woman. She had her mother's good looks and the Weasley's fiery temper. They had grown up together, only a year or so apart in age. In his sixth year at Hogwarts, they had begun dating. Soon, he found many of his dreams consisted of a single blonde-haired, blue-eyed vixen. It was at that moment he realized he wanted to be with her for the rest of his life. It took long enough, but not soon after she left school, Teddy proposed to Victoire. She more than happily agreed.

Once the ring was on her finger, Teddy wasted no time in making Victoire's life as comfortable as possible. He bought a two-story house out in the country, where she'd have plenty of room for a garden (one of her great loves). He spoke about getting them a few pets, even a horse if wanted to ride one. He was prepared to give her anything she wanted, if only she would love him in return. But he discovered the hard way, when he caught her and a coworker of theirs in a broom closet, that Victoire didn't love him nearly as much as he loved her.

To add insult to injury, it was Victoire who filed divorce proceedings not but a week after being caught in her infidelity. She even had the audacity to kick him out of the house that he had bought for her, forcing him to search for a new home. Thanks to the lack of a prenup, she took nearly all that he owned -- things that he had gotten to make her life comfortable.

Just as things were rarely simple, people were rarely simple. Liam knew that Teddy still cared about Victoire, as much as he tried to deny otherwise. More than anything, he was probably furious at himself for allowing things to go on as long as they had. Surely he should have recognized the signs. Why did he not see the signs?

Whatever the case, Liam knew better than to tick off his best mate when the man had been spending Merlin knew how long pummeling something into pulp. As Teddy moved around the kitchen, making a pot of hot tea, Liam wondered how he could break his friend out of this rut he seemed to have dug himself into.

He took the proffered mug of hot liquid gratefully, but sputtered when he took a sip. "What the hell is this stuff?"

"Chamomile," Teddy replied, drinking his tea with no qualms.

"Since when do you drink chamomile?"

"Since Gran bought me a box of it."

Liam took another swig from his mug and shuddered. "You really need to get out more, my friend."

"And you, Liam, need to get out less."

He laughed, even as he took another drink of chamomile. "But getting out is so much fun. It takes too much effort to stop."

Teddy shook his head even as he smiled. "You're incorrigible."

"Cordy loves it and that's all that matters," Liam said, shrugging.

"Ah yes. Cordy." Teddy leaned against the kitchen counter. "How is she doing by the way?"

Like he did every time his girlfriend was mentioned, Liam's face brightened. "Cordelia's fine. She's been a bit busy with the new shop, but things have eased up some. We're going out tomorrow to celebrate her good luck. You should come with us."

Teddy snorted. "I'm not interested in any ménage à trois you and Cordy want to have. I don't think I could stand the sight of you without any clothes on."

Liam threw his hat at him. "I'm not suggesting any such thing. Knowing Cordy, she'd probably get turned on by you being able change your appearance at will." Ignoring Teddy's hoot of laughter, he continued, "Cordy has a friend of hers who's single. Soteria Alexander. She could join us. Sort of like a double date."

"I don't think so."

"Come on Ted," Liam protested. "Why don't you give her a chance? I like her well enough and know you will too."

"How?" Teddy wanted to know.

"She's blonde."

He gave Liam a droll stare. "And how does that factor in whether or not I'll like her?"

"You're a sucker for blondes," Liam said simply.

"Am not."

"Are too. Let's go down the list," Liam ticked names off with his fingers. "Genevieve Thompson back in fourth year. Tabby Higgins and Jocasta Stevens in fifth. Victoire in sixth." He pointed a finger at Teddy. "Face it, man. You love the blondes."

Teddy only grumbled at that. "I guess it couldn't hurt," he said, as he reached for the box of bran flakes still sitting on the counter.

Liam slapped him on the back. "That's the spirit. We're meeting at eight, at Alexander's restaurant. Elinika's, near Trafalgar Square. You can't miss it."

Teddy shrugged, even as he dumped the remainder of the cereal into his waiting mouth. As he chewed, he discussed the latest gossip from work with Liam. And wondered fleetingly what the heck he had just gotten himself into.

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