Chapter 18 : 18. Victoire
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I spread the nail polish slowly over my fingernails, not really minding that the polish was decorating my flesh as well. I’d never been any good at painting my nails, but I found it strangely therapeutic even though it often took my three or four goes before I got an even surface. Looking at my desk now, I could see the used tissues littering it where I’d wiped off a ruined coat, my impatience having caused me to find something else to do before my nails were dry.
Admittedly I was supposed to be working, but today was a very slow news day indeed and none of my colleagues wanted tea, coffee, biscuits or a soothing solution. Therefore, I wasn’t needed. My new job wasn’t hard at all. It was easily better than my old job because it didn’t involve being on my feet all day serving grotty customers. I could do everything from the comfy position at my desk. A flick of my wand later and all problems could be solved; parchment could be duplicated, ink could be erased and reports could be summoned. It was a wonder they paid me for doing it, really.
Sighing, I carefully turned a page of Witch Weekly, and in doing so I caught the top layer of paint on my index finger. I rolled my eyes, reaching for the remover and the cotton buds, knowing that I was going to have to do them all again.
I looked up from my magazine to see my boss, Miranda, standing in front of my desk. She was, as always, immaculately dressed, her robes pressed and neat. She had the kind of smooth, glossy hair that all women desired. I subtly hid the nail polish behind a stack of papers, though I was sure the smell gave me away anyway. I gave an innocent smile. “Yes?”
“There’s two men here to see you.”
My eyes widened and I turned my head slightly towards the door in order to look them up and down. Nothing about their clothing gave anything away for they were dressed in dark, plain robes. They stood in silence, not moving at all.
“What do they want?” I asked nervously, quickly checking if I’d done anything wrong in the last few days. I decided that having an extra sandwich yesterday at lunch didn’t really count. I relaxed slightly.
“They wouldn’t say.” I gave Miranda a pleading look, but she remained stern. “Just go and talk to them, then they’ll leave.” She eyed my stack of papers which hid the nail polish. “It looks like you’ve got work to do anyway. Go on.”
I felt like sticking two fingers up at her, but I wasn’t keen to show her my nails, nor get on her bad side. I wanted to keep this job, after all.
I approached the two men by the door warily; close up, they looked extremely intimidating and they were a lot taller than I was.
“Miss Weasley?” The darker haired man peered at me, and I nodded.
“How can I help?”
The blonde haired man cleared his throat. “I’m afraid we’ve got some bad news.”
Oh no, not the bad news voice. I’d heard it so many times before when uncles were talking to their colleagues about work. The fact that they had come to see me personally did not bode well. I wiped my hands on my skirt and braced myself for the worst. Images of my family flipped through my mind, filling me with dread.
“Ted Lupin was badly injured last night and was taken to a hospital in Berlin.”
My hands shook as his words sunk in. Teddy. “Is he alright?”
“We don’t have the authority to disclose that information.”
Anger bubbled inside of me as I glared at the two men in front of me. “What do you mean, you don’t have the authority? Who does? Why have you come to see me?”
“Madam, please calm down,” the darker man said, making me laugh bitterly. I had the authority to shout at him if I damned well wished to. They were being deliberately unhelpful and I was desperately trying not to panic.
I knew something like this was going to happen; I’m so bloody unlucky that it was bound to have gone wrong. Why hadn’t Teddy listened to me? He was so stupid, going off to fight when he could have stayed at home. A vision of Teddy, dying, filled my mind and tears threatened to spill from my eyes.
“The German Aurors found your picture inside his wallet. If you would please come with us?”
I nodded glumly, not even needing to ask how they knew who I was; being recognised came with the territory of belonging to such a famous family. I had gone very cold and I was still shaking; I was almost unable to button up Teddy’s coat, my fingers were shaking so much. They took my arm and Apparated away.
Cold air hit me hard, causing me to open my eyes and shiver all the more. We were standing outside a plain building, nothing remarkable about it at all. It looked like an abandoned house, except that it was in the middle of the busy high street next to other muggle shops. I didn’t really care what it looked like, as I was starting to realise how serious this could be. For all I knew, Teddy was already dead, and the thought filled me with such fear that my legs started to wobble.
The two men escorted me down the side of the building in a small alleyway to a small garden gate at the end. On the other side of the fence there was an overgrown garden which definitely needed weeding. I observed it without feeling, just waiting for the men to show me where to go.
“Through the gate, please,” the blonde man said, placing a hand in the small of my back and pushing when I didn’t move. I stumbled through the gate, and as soon as my foot touched the grass a gust of cool air blew over my face, forcing me to shut my eyes.
I heard the sounds of voices around me, and when I opened my eyes I saw that we were in a very small reception area, filled to the brim with witches and wizards seeking medical aid.
“Sit,” the dark haired man told me, indicating a seat beside me. I did as I was told, placing my head in my hands.
What the hell was going on? I hated hospitals with a passion, merely because the smell of sick people and medicine made me feel nauseous. It was too crowed and the large thigh of the witch next to me pressed up against my own thigh did nothing to help me feel more comfortable.
I waited in crowded isolation for ten minutes; with every second came a new visions of Teddy’s pain and suffering, his condition worsening in my imagination.
I looked up and I saw the receptionist peering at me oddly. She had a very heavy brow that would have been better off in an animal shelter and very wide shoulders. She motioned for me to go over to her, and I did. She pointed at the floor plan behind her, which was in German. She was pointing to the floor which had the number four beside it, and I presumed she was giving me directions.
The men walked behind me as I made my way up the old wooden staircase, my feet feeling heavy as they hit the treads. Four flours was a long way up on most days, but today the stairs seemed never ending. I passed people who were either sick or Healers, and occasionally the odd relative, without really seeing them. They seemed to blur before my eyes, fading into the background.
“This is it,” the man closest to me said, grabbing my arm before I could walk off.
My eyes fell on the closed door in front of me. I had to work up the courage to open it, my mind calculating all the horrors that lay within. In the distance I could hear the voices of people downstairs, the sound reminding me to move.
Behind the door were about ten beds, all occupied. It was deadly quiet, and for one terror filled moment I thought I had been sent to the morgue. When I saw one of the patients get out of his bed, I breathed a sigh of relief. My eyes scanned the room for Teddy, finally finding him in a bed towards the other end of the ward.
My fear increased as I walked closer; there was a bandage wrapped around eyes and his jaw was heavily bruised. I sucked in a breath, trying not to cry. He hadn’t seen me yet due to the bandage and he just sat limply on his bed. I felt the Aurors right behind me, and I turned to glare at them so I could have a private moment with Teddy. It irritated me that they were still hanging around.
“Teddy?” I said, standing beside his bed. I took his hand in my own and squeezed it. “It’s Victoire.”
I watched his face anxiously and to my relief a smile spread across it, though he winced slightly as the pain hit him.
“Are you alright?” I asked, my voice breaking as tears fell from my face.
Teddy stroked the back of my hand gently, soothing me. “I’ll be fine. You aren’t crying, are you?”
“No,” I denied, sniffing slightly. We both knew he wasn’t fooled, but I didn’t really mind. I was so worried for him. “What happened to you?”
“I don’t really know yet,” Teddy said quietly. “I just remember an explosion of some kind. We weren’t expecting an attack, nothing had happened for weeks.”
He gingerly moved his legs to the other side of the bed so that I could sit down next to him.
“I’ve been so scared, I can’t believe this has happened.” I wiped the tears from my face, scared by how worried I had been for him. Teddy’s hand left mine, slowly making its way up my arm to find my face. He cupped it, his thumb caressing my cheek and wiping the remaining tears from my eyes.
“I’m fine,” he said consolingly. “The Healers say I can go soon.”
“But your eyes,” I said apprehensively, not wanting to bring his injuries up in case he was embarrassed. “What’s wrong with them.”
“They’re just a bit sensitive to light, that’s all. I’ve got a cream to put on them every couple of hours; nothing serious.”
I examined his face, trying to see if he was hiding anything. I trusted him, yes, but I was worried he’d try to protect me but not telling me what was wrong. I looked down at my hands, lost for words. The silence between us was tense, both of us worried for him.
“Come here,” he said gently, bringing my face closer to him so that I could kiss him. I was gentle, aware of his injuries. Relief overwhelmed me; relief that he was well, relief that he was coming home soon, relief that I loved him so.
I couldn’t recall a time when I had worried more. I cared more for his safety than my own and I knew that I would have given anything to make sure he was alright, that he was safe. It was an intense feeling and when mixed with the worry and angst that I had experienced it was overwhelming. I just wanted to take him home and love him more each day.
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