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Chapter 20: 20. Victoire
I flicked through the forms from St. Mungo’s lazily. My desk was a lot more cluttered than usual, bits of wasted parchment screwed up and broken quills littering the surface. I had a copy of the latest Daily Prophet in to my right, ready for me to duplicate and send to the printers.
Teddy’s Healer had given me a couple of forms to fill out about him, seeing as he couldn’t fill them out himself. I didn’t really know why he asked me to fill them out over his grandmother, but I wasn’t one to argue with a sick man.
“I hate Wednesdays,” Miranda, my boss, sighed.
I looked up from the forms and caught her eye. She held out a stack of parchment for me to file away, which I took dutifully. Over the past couple of weeks, she and I had become a lot closer. She sympathised with my situation and often let me off work early so I could go and see Teddy.
“Hmm,” I said, non-committal. I filed the parchment away in the filing cabinet behind my desk and turned to face her. “Coffee?”
“Thanks, Victoire. You’re a star.”
I laughed, amused by how soft Miranda seemed compared to the first day I met her. During my interview, she’d made me jump through hoops and visibly shake. Now, she seemed more likely to hug me to death than work me to death. I flicked my wand towards the kitchen, and I heard the kettle boil.
“Having a bad day?” I said as I carried two cups of coffee back to my desk. Handing one to her, I saw her smile ruefully.
“No not really,” Miranda said quietly, sipping her coffee. “My husband wants a divorce.”
“What!” I was shocked by how evenly she told me what the matter was. “What’s happened?”
“I don’t really know,” she said bitterly. “One day he tells me he loves me, the next he’s moving out.”
I handed her a tissue as tears spilled from her eyes. “I’m sorry, Miranda.” I didn’t know what to say to her. I had no idea what would make her feel better, what would make things ok again. I had never witnessed a situation like it, and I felt immature and experienced.
“It’s not your fault, don’t worry about me. He’s probably only having an affair…” Miranda wiped her eyes forcefully and threw the tissues in the bin. “I’m better off without him anyway.”
I watched, stunned, as she walked back into her office with her head held high. I marvelled at how quickly she had decided to build up the emotional wall again, how quickly she had shrugged off my attempt to comfort her. I sighed and checked my watch. I had fifteen minutes until I could leave and start packing up Teddy’s things.
He’d given me the job of doing his packing, though somewhat reluctantly. I did it just to keep him happy, because he’d seemed so down recently and I wanted to cheer him up by any means possible. I just wanted to see him smile again, to see the ghost of the Teddy he had been before the accident. Now all I saw was the haunted, hunted look that never wavered. I wished I could just step inside his mind, work out what was bothering him and make it better. I’d do anything to help him.
So I unlocked his front door and let myself into his flat. I was just as empty as it had been when I came to see him all those weeks ago, before I admitted to myself that I needed and loved him.
After tripping over the suitcase that had found its own way into the hall, I looked around. It felt as if there was something missing, as though a small piece of Teddy had left the flat for good. I shook my head, scolding myself. I just didn’t like empty flats, that was all. The eerie silence and cool air made me shiver involuntarily. Moving the suitcase aside, I carried the boxes I had brought with me into his bedroom so I could begin.
The bed was neatly made and the curtains were drawn back stiffly. The room looked lonely and unloved, as though nobody had ever lived in there. The steady dripping of the tap from the bathroom echoed through the bedroom, beating in time with my heart. The surfaces were bare except for three photo frames, which stood in isolation on the bedside table. I moved towards them, ready to pack them, but then I stopped, my heart hammering against my ribs. My eye caught the photo at the front of the three. The dark blue frame decorated with glittering stars enticed me to pick it up. The innocent twinkling watched me, as though I was an unwelcome intruder.
The man and the woman in the photograph smiled up at me, waving. I had not seen them before, yet they seemed so familiar at the same time. Something stirred inside of me at the sight of the woman with bright pink hair. As I watched, her hair turned deep purple then back to pink again. It was only when I looked at the man beside her that I realised who they were; they were Teddy’s parents. The way his father’s fair fell across his eyes and his good-natured grin gave it away.
Teddy never talked about his parents, so I felt slightly guilty about examining the photograph. It seemed a bit too personal, like something I should never have come across in the first place. If he didn’t feel like he could talk about it with me, then I had no right to nosy around. I didn’t know much about them other than the fact that they died in the Battle of Hogwarts. I didn’t know how he felt about the death of his parents. I’d never asked.
Sighing, I placed the photograph back and bent down to study the remaining two. One was of Teddy’s grandmother in her younger days. She was a tall woman, her hair curling in copper ringlets. Her jaw was set determinedly, her eyes focused on the person behind the camera. She was still, her expression fixed in the same position for eternity; it was a muggle photo.
Beside that photograph was a picture of Teddy and I, the very same one that stood proudly on my dresser in my bedroom. I must have been about seven when the picture was taken. It was on Teddy’s tenth birthday, back when we both were a lot more innocent. Our faces were dark and dirty, the mud plastering our features. My best red shoes were ruined, having being scuffed and scraped to a maximum. Teddy was attempting to give me a piggy-back ride, my arms fastened tightly around his neck. In the background, I saw my mother scowling whilst my father laughed, his grin wide. I watched for a moment or two as Teddy tried and failed to hoist me up. He’d never been very strong.
Placing the picture back onto the table with a sad smile, I began packing Teddy’s things into boxes, darkness diminishing them.
“How was your day?” I asked, sitting down on the end of Teddy’s bed.
The sun was setting, and I observed the clouds with tinged with pink sadly. Teddy still wore the bandages around his head, despite his attempts to assure me he was fine.
“Really good,” he said sarcastically. “Very exciting. The Minister of Magic came to see me and left me a bunch of roses.”
“I can’t see them,” I said jokingly, trying to lighten his mood.
“Neither can I.”
I groaned inwardly. I’d gone and stuck my foot in it now. “You’ll have the bandages off soon, though. The Healers said you’ll make a full recovery, didn’t they?”
Teddy shifted in the bed, trying to sit more upright. It was then that I looked at him, really looked at him. His body was getting more thin and frail by the day, and I couldn’t even convince myself anymore that he was getting better. His skin was constantly pale and his hair was dull. I was almost scared to see how the sparkle had vanished from his eyes. He wasn’t the same Teddy anymore; he was different. Whatever he had seen in Germany had changed him, and the remaining injuries did nothing to help him.
I saw him wince and I went to help him, holding his hand and supporting him. To my astonishment, he shook me off.
“Stop it, Victoire,” he said gruffly, his hand dropping to the bed out of my reach. “I don’t need help. I’m fine on my own.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said, the hurt rippling my voice. “You wouldn’t be in hospital if you didn’t need help.”
“I don’t want help. And I’m sick of you feeling sorry for me.”
It was lucky he couldn’t see me; tears were threatening to fall, and my bottom lip was quivering. He tone was so accusatory, so full of loathing that I recoiled, standing up from the bed.
“I don’t feel sorry for you, Teddy! I love you, can’t you see that?” My hands coiled tightly into fists, my nails biting into the palms of my hands. I was trying not to completely break down and sob. I spent every moment of the bloody day worrying about him, thinking of him, trying to find a solution. In the evenings I read any book about magical injuries I could find, resolving to find a cure even if the Healers couldn’t. I was constantly moody, the slightest thing setting my temper off. And every time an owl delivered a letter, I was sure that it would bring the bad news I dreaded and anticipated. His rejection was selfish, his mind focused on the pain he brought upon himself.
“If this is what love is, then I don’t want to know,” he said flatly. I saw his hands shake slightly.
“You don’t know what you’re saying,” I said in a wobbly voice. “Things will be different once you’re better-”
“I’m not going to get better, Victoire!” he growled. His words echoed around my like rippling water. My breath caught in my throat.
“I’m blind!” He said hoarsely, his hands shaking more forcefully. “I’m fucking blind!”