Late July 2019
Lying on the floor of her store, Rory watched as Lydia mildly annoyed her older sister by tapping her foot in such a way that it inched closer and closer to stepping on Nadine’s toes with every tap. She could see the desire Nadine had to snap at her sister burning in her honey-coloured eyes, her jaw clenching every now and then when Lydia got just a little too close to her.
Spinning around in the wheelie-chair, Rory smirked quietly to herself as she listened to her cousins argue without actually arguing as they spoke about their days. Well, Lydia and she spoke about their days, Nadine – who was an Unspeakable for the Ministry – only spoke in rather vague anecdotes and analogies.
Currently, Nadine was using the muggle story about the boy who cried wolf to describe one of her co-workers. The raven-haired witch flailed her arms about dramatically as she got carried away with her tale. Lydia scoffed, and Nadine paused mid-sentence to pick a book up off of the shelf she was leaning her bean bag against and flung it at her sister’s face. Lydia only narrowly avoided it, and she glared at her sister before picking up the weapon and throwing it right back at her.
“Alright, enough!” Rory rolled herself forward and caught the book just as Nadine, who’d been hit by her sister’s throw, aimed for Lydia’s nose. Once the book was safely in her arms, she scooted back to safety and checked for any signs of damage to the novel. “You may commence, just leave my stock out of it.”
Her cousins glanced at her, rolling their eyes at the way she stroked the spine of the book, before returning to their bickering. Rory poked her tongue out at them once their heads were turned, not nearly stupid nor brave enough to do so to their faces. Upon her assessment that the book had managed to survive its ordeal without a scratch, she carefully settled it on the side table next to her and rolled her eyes at the direction in which the argument was now heading.
“I didn’t take your bloody bra you daft bint! The girls wouldn’t fit into that grape holder of yours anyway.”
“Grape Holder!? Who’s the human embodiment of a muggle surfboard to call me flat-chested?!”
“Sweet Merlin, save me.” Rory begged, rubbing her face tiredly before intervening. “What seems to be the problem?”
“Lydia took my bra!” Nadine shrieked, and Lydia sat up from the floor in violent protest.
“I did not!”
“You did too, I can see the straps on your shoulders.”
“This is my bra, I bought it yesterday!”
“SHUT IT!” The girls startled at Rory’s interruption, and looked at her warily. “Merlin, would you give it a rest for just a second?”
Nadine grumbled quietly but wriggled around in her seat so she was no longer facing her sister. Lydia swirled around on her butt and crossed her legs, expectantly waiting for Rory to continue.
“Thank-you,” She sighed, “Nade, Lydia couldn’t have taken your bra seeing how she no longer lives with you and you’ve put up those extra alarms the Ministry gave you, meaning she can’t even get into your house without you letting her in.” The eldest of the three girls in the store flushed slightly at the information, but rolled her eyes to disguise her minor embarrassment. “And Lydia, calling your sister flat-chested isn’t the nicest way to go about defending yourself.”
“It’s not like it’s a lie though,”
“Yeah, well you’re not really in a position judge, are you?” Rory remarked, earning a mock-offended gasp from her cousin.
“Just because you got the good Pine genetics doesn’t mean you need to rub it in,” Lydia commented sourly.
“Especially considering some of us are at a biological disadvantage.”
“Nobody gives a shit that you were adopted, Nade.”
“I’m just saying, it’s not really fair to compare.” Nadine muttered airily, earning an eye roll from her younger sister.
“If it helps, you’re not really missing out on much.” Rory grumbled, “The bigger they are, the harder it is to find things that fit and don’t make you look like a balloon.”
Nadine eyed her thoughtfully, lips pursed as she took in the shirt she was currently wearing, and nodded.
“Wow, thanks so much.” Rory retorted drily.
“When’s Molly getting here?” Lydia asked, changing the subject as she gazed up at the clock that was hanging on the wall behind Rory’s head.
“Sometime after seven she said, she had to finish something up at work before coming over.”
“I haven’t seen that kid in so long,” Nadine exclaimed loudly, and Rory hummed in agreement.
“You and me both.”
“Did she ever give you a reason as to why she couldn’t make your party last week?” Lydia tipped back to her stance of lying on the floor and placed her hands under her head for support.
“Her boss wouldn’t give her the evening off,”
“Isn’t she training to be an Auror, though?” Rory nodded, “So wouldn’t Mr Potter have let her come along with him when he was leaving work?”
“Mr Potter doesn’t oversee the trainees, they’re under the jurisdiction of his Deputy Head, Finchley. From what Teddy’s said, the man’s got an ego the size of a Hungarian Horntail and smells like one too.”
They laughed at the jest, and the bell above the door chimed as a strawberry blonde head appeared in the store. Instead of the girl they’d been discussing, it was her older cousin that greeted them with an amused confused glance at their laughter.
“Sorry if I’m late,”
“All good hun, we’re still waiting on Moll,” Rory kissed Vic on the cheek as the girl wandered past her.
“She’s not here yet?”
“No,” Nadine answered as she waved hello to Vic, who dropped awkwardly and painfully to the floor. Rory chuckled softly at the grimace that covered her best friend’s features.
“Alright there, Vicky?”
“Remind me again why I chose to play Quidditch professionally?”
“The eye candy?”
“The fact you’d get to play the sport you're obssessed with everyday?” Rory offered as her cousins did the same, and Vic scoffed.
“Hmm, oh god-!” She clutched her thigh as if it was seizing up, and she heaved a dry sob. “None of it seems worth it when every muscle in your body protests your need to breathe.”
“Athletes,” Lydia drawled, “Such drama Queens.”
“You think so, Pine?”
Vic and Lydia eyed each other, their smirks softening into something else the longer their stares remained locked and Nadine glanced at Rory confused. A twist in her gut had a flicker of concern running up her spine, and she thinned her lips. Whatever Vic had told her the week prior at her party, Rory knew that there were still feelings there between the eldest Weasley and her cousin. The way they regarded each other and both seemed to have some sort of glow whilst in the other’s presence was just far too telling.
Despite the love she held for her best friend, seeing the way she looked at her cousin only concerned her. She didn’t want Lydia to get hurt, and getting involved with Vic while she was terrified of coming out would only end badly for the both of them.
She frowned, but the expression didn’t last long as the bell chimed above the door again, and the girl they’d all been waiting for finally arrived.
“MOLLY!” Rory shrieked excitedly, leaping out of her chair with such enthusiasm it toppled over.
“Rory!” The girl jokingly mimicked. Wrapping her arms around her in a tight hug, Molly laughed as Rory began mumbling about how much she’d missed her younger friend.
“I hardly saw you all summer, I think the last time we had a proper catch-up was the morning after your graduation party.”
“Merlin don’t remind me of that morning,” Molly grimaced as they pulled apart. “I don’t think I’ve ever been as hung-over as I was that day.”
“You and me both, cuz.” Vic tipped her chin in commiseration.
“Firewhisky and family events,” Lydia sighed, “They’re a match made in hell.”
Taking up one of the back booths in the Leaky Cauldron, the five girls laughed loudly over the tale Lydia was spinning about her hellish flatmates.
“I’ve told you time and time again that you can come live with me, Lyd.” Nadine commented as she took a sip from her glass of Elder wine. Lydia and Rory snorted, the latter of whom attempted to cover it up with a cough when Nadine turned a hard glare on them both.
“Right, and have you accuse me of stealing your frilly, grape-holder lingerie – thanks, but no thanks.” Lydia pulled a face at her sister, earning a slap to the back of the head from her.
“Ungrateful little twit.”
“You’re just jealous that you’re not as voluptuous as I am.” Lydia twirled her straw around her glass before taking a sip from it in a way that the rest of them assumed was meant to be sexy. They each snorted at the remark, causing Lydia to gasp in betrayal. “How rude.”
“How one person can be so deliriously delusional is beyond me,” Smirking at her younger sister, the raven-haired witch sighed mournfully.
“Deliriously delusional, that could be your trademark Lyd,” Rory commented slyly from the middle of the both, a safe distance from the punching range of Lydia who sat on the edge.
“Shove it, Balloon-Boob.”
Molly and Vic glanced curiously between the smirking Lydia, flushing Rory and snorting Nadine, but no explanation was given to them. Instead, Rory crumpled up a napkin and threw it at her cousin’s head. It bounced off of Lydia’s nose harmlessly.
“Immaturity aside,” Rory began, “If you’re really struggling that much with your flatmates, why don’t you just leave?”
“I don’t want to leave without a place to move to, plus because of the terms of our contract, I’d have to find someone to replace me so they could still cover the rent.”
“No, I know. It’s just a lot more hassle than it’s worth.” She heaved a sigh, and pushed her empty glass away from her as their food arrived at the table. “I’ll wait and see how I feel once our lease comes to an end in October.”
Vic thanked the waiter who set their food on the table, and her stomach grumbled appreciatively at the burger and chips she’d ordered. From the corner of her eye, she caught Rory tucking a napkin into the front of her shirt and placing another on her lap. She smirked wryly, earning a fry to the face that she caught in her mouth. Rory rolled her eyes, but her lips twitched upwards with amusement.
“Talent like mine deserves to be flaunted, Ro.”
“I know.” She winked at the brunette, getting an unattractive snort in response.
“It’s a gift,” Retorting to the dry look Nadine was giving her, Rory smacked her lips together obnoxiously.
“Much like your style,” Speaking around the food in her mouth, Lydia pointed a finger at the napkins Rory was currently wearing. “I didn’t know serviette couture was in.”
“It’s alright love, I won’t hold it against you.” Rory hummed patronisingly, “We can’t all be fashion icons.”
“Praise Merlin for that,” Molly muttered under her breath, causing the table to laugh and for Vic to regard her cousin quietly.
The auburn-haired girl had been rather withdrawn that evening, not speaking as often or joining in as frequently to the conversation as she normally did when around people she got along with well. Molly may have been the quieter of the two of them, but she was by no means shy or ever without anything to say. In fact, despite her more reserved nature, she was the most outspoken out of the elder Weasley grandchildren. It was for this reason that Vic found Molly’s current state of smiling demurely and laughing softly at what the rest of them had to say, just a little more than concerning, and she made a mental note to take the girl aside at some point to ask her what was wrong.
Sitting up a little more proudly, Rory readjusted her bib-like napkin and tucked into her food. Within moments of taking a bite of her burger, she had to change her bib as half of the sauce within her bite had fallen from her mouth and down her front. Rory sighed, cleaned herself up and picked up a fork and knife, knowing that it was the only way she could avoid not ruining her clothing. All the while the rest of the table watched her knowingly.
“How was the store today, Ro?” Still smirking at her cautiously eating friend, Vic chewed absent-mindedly on a chip. Rory heaved a weary sigh, dramatically rolling her eyes as she looked away from her meal.
“Busy, chaotic, and I swear if Tristan tries reordering my stock one more time…” She drifted off, the threat hanging in the air atop of the table.
“Yeah, but you love every minute of it.” Vic retorted, and Rory shrugged hardly the denying the fact.
“Did you manage to fix that bookshelf?” Lydia asked, her eyes narrowed with a concern that piqued Vic’s curiosity.
“Yeah, it didn’t take much more than a couple of basic charms – the difficult thing was making sure the books were all restored to their original condition.”
“What happened?” Vic inquired, and Molly leaned forward from next to her to get a better look at Rory as she spoke up.
“There’s a group of girls who’ve been coming into the store everyday for the last week, and they take up the entire Teen Fiction section giggling and gossiping behind their hands while they watch the boys working. It does my bloody head in, but I’ve been putting up with it because they always leave the store with several purchases so you know – business. But this morning…” Rory rubbed her forehead tiredly before pinching the bridge of her nose. “They had begun to target Damian a little more than Jay and Trist, and were following him around the store when they got too close to the ladder he was using to restock one of the higher shelves and knocked him clean off of it into the bookshelf.”
“Merlin, is he ok?”
“Dame? Yeah no he’s fine. A few scrapes and bruises, but he was fine – bloody pissed at the girls though, he just about tore their heads off when he told them to get the fuck out of his way. Not the best example of customer service, but hey – they could’ve seriously injured him.” Rory pursed her lips, and clucked her tongue.
From the corner of her eye, Vic caught Molly falling back against her seat and she briefly turned her head to see her cousin better and found the girl with a conflicted, heavy expression to her face.
“Aside from almost sending my cousin to St. Mungos, the girls in their fawning completely destroyed my bookshelf as the ladder, whilst it toppled over, tore down all the shelves in it’s path to the ground.”
“Did they help you tidy up?”
“After Damian shouted at them, they were too embarrassed to stay in the store for any longer than another heartbeat.” She shook her head at Vic’s question, and Vic scoffed.
“Tell me about it, I had to close for lunch earlier than normal just so we could get everything cleared out of the way. Preteens are the worst,”
Facing himself in the mirror, he straightened down his bright hair and pulled a face at his reflection. His blazer felt too tight, and it pulled at his shoulders uncomfortably; the tie he wore was closing in around his neck with every breath he sucked in, and his pants felt like they’d shrunk in the wash.
All in all, Teddy was in a state of complete misery.
The alarm on his phone, a muggle device he, Rory and Vic had learned about from Rory’s Aunt Renee several summers ago, went off and he picked it up from his bedside table, slipping it into his jacket pocket. Sliding his wand from the table as well, he took one final, bitter look in the mirror and spun on the spot.
Vic was opening the door as he landed on her doorstep, a grimace mirrored on her features as she greeted him with a nod.
“Shall we get this over with?” He tipped his head back at her, and she locked her front door before looping her arm through his. He spun on his heel and soon the two of them were spiralling through a blur of surroundings before landing unceremoniously in Wizarding London with a resounding crack.
Passing witches and wizards watched them curiously from the corner of their gazes as they wandered the streets, and Vic sidled closer to him with a vibrant smile on her lips. She looked up at him, and he glanced down at her to find her eyes empty of the energy her expression normally held. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pressed a chaste kiss to the top of her head; there was a flash of a camera from behind them and he closed his eyes in brief annoyance before pulling away.
Her arm wrapped around his lower back, and the two of them walked up to the restaurant they’d booked for dinner that evening. He helped her out of her coat and draped it over his arm as the Maître’D showed them to their table. Teddy pulled Vic’s chair out for her after placing her coat over the back of it, and took his seat down opposite her. For a moment, the two watched the other cautiously, awkwardly as if they were total strangers.
He cleared his throat.
“May I get the both of you something to drink?” Still standing at their table, the server looked at them each expectantly before sliding his gaze over to Teddy when he picked up the drinks’ menu.
“Did you want something, Vic?” His gaze met the strawberry blonde’s for a moment before it went over the beverages provided and their prices.
“Just a glass of water is fine, thank-you.” She smiled charmingly at the server, and the man appeared slightly dazed when he turned back to Teddy. Smirking slightly, Teddy repeated Vic’s order and then they were left alone at their table.
She tapped her fingers together lightly, her lips pursing as she smacked them, and he laughed. It came out as a quick, sharp snort that tickled his nose and Vic narrowed her gaze at him quizzically.
“This is bloody awkward, isn’t it?” She smiled, her gaze dropping down to her hands as she noticed what she was doing. A laugh fell from her lips, and her shoulders shook gently in agreement to his statement.
“Just a tad.” He caught her gaze as his laughter died to a soft smile. “I wish Rory was here,”
His smile dipped at her remark and his eyes dropped from hers. There was a discomfort resting on his chest, though he couldn’t quite decipher what it was or what it was from, but it grew with every moment his thoughts drifted to the third member of their tight-knit trio. Teddy hummed, his head turning as he took in the restaurant they were in.
“Can you imagine Rory in a place like this, though?” His smile brightened once more with a smirk at the image he had in his head. Vic chuckled, and he knew she was seeing the same thing he was.
“She’d be so afraid of getting food everywhere that she’d hardly touch her meal.”
“She’d probably walk into the pillars they’ve got all over the place.”
“She’d find a way to get her purse hooked under the chair, and knock the chair over while trying to unhook it.”
“She’d probably trip over her own two feet while walking to the table.”
“She’d talk about getting a wine, but panic when the server came over and instead ask for a lemonade.”
“She’d make us stop and get ice cream on the way home.” Teddy muttered softly, their playful back and forth coming to an end as they both looked wistfully down at the table cloth.
“It doesn’t really feel right, huh?” Vic whispered as she traced a pattern on the cloth. “Doing stuff without her, coming to these places.”
“It doesn’t,” He nodded, “It’s like something’s missing.”
“I don’t like it.”
“Neither do I.”
They shared a commiserating look before being interrupted by the arrival of their waitress.
“Are we ready to order?” Teddy paused at the question, watching as Vic’s expression took on a slight panicked sheen as she hurriedly flicked through the menu. He smirked before turning to face the red-haired girl who stood at their table-side.
“Actually, do you have a dessert menu we could look at? I’m kind of in the mood for some ice cream.”
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