My eyes flickered open at the sound of my colleague’s voice. I was leaning up against a cold, damp wall whilst accidentally nodding off. I had been sat in this crouched position for three hours, and the darkness that surround us was taking its toll. I yawned and stretched, shifting my position in order to stimulate the blood flow to my legs.
“Sorry, Jack. I’m so knackered.” I reached inside my bag and took out a flask of water, taking a swig to wet my throat.
“We all are,” Jack said shortly. I heard him shuffle away, leaving me alone again.
I hated the darkness. Of course, night was always dark, but I had never experienced such sheer blackness in all my life. No matter how hard I strained to see, I couldn’t even see as close as my nose. Loneliness was my closest companion, and I felt like I was always yearning for the daylight hours when I could see the two other Aurors who I shared my duties with.
It had been three weeks since I left home. Three long weeks without any further development, without any action. We had not been able to find the dark wizards we had been searching for, and now our duties were reduced to keeping watch of our headquarters. It was a demeaning task and it certainly wasn’t what I’d had in mind when I accepted the offer. We were the best, they told us; the elite. The Auror Department needed us to catch evil wizards we knew nothing about. The first week had been exciting, the three of us on our guard as we interrogated the local German towns, questioned witnesses and searched for any trace of them. Towards the end of the second week, we realised that these wizards did not want to be found.
I wanted to go home. I was sick and tired of spending hours outside in the freezing February night, my eyes drooping with fatigue. I craved a warm bed and good food. I felt more and more guilty each day for leaving Victoire when she had asked me to stay. None of this was worth it; we had been sent on a wild goose chase. As every minute passed I resisted the temptation just to Apparate home. I didn’t want to be a traitor and give away our position, yet I felt used. I hadn’t had to raise my wand once so far, and I wondered why I even brought it with me at all.
Every night when I finally went to sleep, I dreamed of home. Victoire danced in and out of my dreams, never lingering completely but nonetheless always there. I couldn’t express how much I missed her. My thoughts always turned to her; I saw things I wanted to tell her about, or something would remind me of her, making me miss her all the more. I regretted coming here even more.
Where ‘here’ was I didn’t know. We hadn’t been told of our position so that there was no chance of a betrayal. Not that we had even had the chance to relay any secrets to our enemies; we had not come across any so far. The only trace of them had been the tragic anecdotes of the locals; they all had seemed to have lost someone close to them thanks to the wizards. Übel; that’s what they called them. It was the only name we had for them, and so it stuck. It was the word the uttered when we described the fire-raising devils who stirred up trouble with their ‘waterproof’ flames. Of course, the muggles didn’t understand that the flames were magical. From the reports we’d guessed that the Übel were using Fiendfyre. That thought alone sent shivers of fear down my spine.
My shift ended, and I eagerly retreated into the damp room they called our headquarters. I had been promised that I could use the Floo Network tonight to contact home. We all had the chance to contact home once during the month, and tonight was my night.
Approaching the dusty fireplace, I grabbed a handful of the green powder that lay inconspicuously on the mantelpiece. I gently sank to my knees, carefully avoiding the bruises and sores that had developed there. I threw the powder into the flames, which immediately turned a brilliant emerald green, illuminating my pasty face.
“Shell Cottage,” I whispered forcefully, plunging my face into the flames. The cool licking of the flames felt odd around my ears, but I ignored it as best I could whilst searching the room in front of me.
I had the perfect view of Bill and Fleur’s living room. It was, as always, impeccably tidy. The cushions on the furniture were precisely placed, the magazines on the table piled neatly. My head felt extremely out of place as it sat in the fireplace. I turned my head slightly in order to look at the clock on the wall. It was nearly seven o’clock, and I was sure that someone would be coming to have breakfast before long. I waited another two minutes until I heard footsteps approaching the fireplace.
“Teddy?” I identified the deep, gravely voice as Bill’s, and I smiled in relief. I had thought that nobody was going to find me.
“Is Victoire there?” My voice was sickeningly hopeful, but luckily Bill didn’t notice. He ran his hand through his red hair and grimaced.
“She’s at work, I’m afraid. She won’t be back until much later this evening.” Bill reached inside his pocket and withdrew a scrap of parchment and a quill. “Can I take a message?”
I sighed, completely gutted that my only chance to speak with Victoire was wasted. I could feel my whole body sagging in disappointment. “No thanks, Bill. I’m coming home next week anyway.”
I watched Bill put away his parchment and quill thoughtfully. It was unusual for Victoire to be working on a Friday morning. The pub didn’t usually need extra help; it was Saturday and Sunday morning she was needed most. She’d relayed many amusing tales of ‘the morning after’.
“Where’s she working?”
“The Prophet,” he replied. “She’s a junior reporter there. I think she’s loving it so far. I can’t tell you how happy I am that she’s got a proper job now…”
“Right,” I said distractedly. I was confused as to why Victoire wanted to be a journalist. She’d never expressed any interest in reporting before. “Will you tell her I asked after her?” Bill nodded. I drew my head slowly out of the fire, whispering into the flames, “Tell her I miss her…”
I shook the soot out of my unwashed hair and stood up. The warm, comforting glow of Victoire’s home was gone, leaving me in semi-darkness once again. I stretched and massaged my knees, hoping to dispel the pins and needles. I could hear a tap dripping somewhere nearby, and a very faint rumbling sound that wasn’t usually there.
Jack, who I had become reasonably close to in the last few weeks, was standing beside me, a mouldy sandwich sitting protectively in his fist. I crossed the room to the vent, listening closer to identify the noise.
“What’s that sound?” I asked in a low voice, now pressed against the damp wall. I could feel the moisture seeping into my robes, making goose pimples rise on my arms and legs.
“How should I know?” Jack said petulantly, biting into his sandwich. I looked away disgustedly.
A loud clatter sounded above us, and my head snapped upwards. I drew my wand, motioning silently for Jack to do the same. I couldn’t help but wonder where the other Aurors were, if they were causing the clanging. It was a deep, dry sound, much like rusty iron being dropped. It was muffled by the layers of Earth above our heads, yet it was still loud enough to make the walls quiver. I narrowed my eyes, moving towards the only door. I reached for the handle, only for the door to slam straight into me as it was thrown open.
I grunted in pain as I hit the floor, clutching my wand tightly. My eyes were trained on the door, but nobody entered the room.
“Jack?” I hissed.
“I’m here, Ted.”
I glanced in his direction and saw that he, too, was watching the door carefully. My pulse raced; this was the most action I’d seen in weeks. I couldn’t wait to tell Victoire about the phantom door opener. I shifted on the floor, preparing to stand up. I got to my knees, my hand reaching for the table beside me. The room was silent for a moment, before –
The blast filled my ears, making me wince and duck. An almighty roaring noise whipped through the underground room as the walls caved in, covering me in soil. I coughed, trying to free my airwaves. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see. Pain shot through my face, my eyes feeling as though they had been trodden on. My had covered them, protecting them from further damage. As the ceiling caved in I felt white pain shoot through my leg. I could hear Jack groaning from the other side of the room, his voice drowned in earth.
I tried to reply, but my throat was dry and dusty. I coughed again, my chest constricted. Fluid formed around my eyes as I felt my consciousness give way. In the distance I could have sworn I heard a feminine voice, the voice of an angel.
The name of that angel slipped through my grasp. Darkness hid it from my view and pain swallowed it. My thoughts forgot it as I lost consciousness.