I winced as the Healer removed my bandages. Sunlight streamed across the room, forcing me to keep my eyes shut. They were still sensitive even a week or two of being moved to St. Mungo’s, and I couldn’t wait for the pain to be over so that I could just go home. Victoire had been in to see me every day, exhausted after working a full day at the office. Though I tried to put her off, she insisted on spending all of her Sundays with me.
“It’s not healthy for you to be cooped up in here all day long,” I protested as she sat on the edge of my bed yet again, dodging the Healer as he left the room. “Why don’t you go and see your parents?”
“You spend every day here,” she said smartly, brushing off my attempt to release her yet again. “And my parents don’t miss me that much. They have other things to do on a Sunday than see me.”
I snorted derisively. “That’s rubbish and you know it. They love it when you visit.”
“I know,” Victoire said meekly, brushing a wayward strand of blonde hair out of her face. She grinned. “I’d just rather be here with you.”
I rolled my eyes and pointed to my un-bandaged, battered face. “Even when I look like this?”
She put her finger to her chin in mock pretence. “I think I can cope for now, seeing as it’s not permanent. If that changes, then of course I’ll be reconsidering.”
I laughed and squeezed her hand. Even though I felt guilty that she was giving up time to sit with me in hospital, I was more grateful than I could express. I’d had doubts, through no fault of hers, that she’d be willing to spend time with me. She had her own life to live and I had not expected her to be so loyal. But the fact that she was sitting at the foot of my bed with a big smile on her face made the pain easier to bear.
Though the pain I felt had diminished considerably, I could not deny that I was still suffering. I didn’t tell Victoire, assuring her that the work the Healers were doing was purely cosmetic. Though my broken ribs had healed, and the burns had cooled, my eyes were not so easily mended. They were awfully sensitive to the light, an odd prickling sensation crawled across them if it was too light and if I was very tired they ached. The Healers still had to finish their treatment, but I was disappointed they weren’t healing sooner. As soon as my eyes were better, I could go back to work.
That was another thing I hadn’t told her; I was intending to resume the mission as soon as I had been discharged from St. Mungo’s. We’d briefly brought up the subject of what was going to happen after I was better, but as soon as the subject turned to my job I’d quickly found something else to talk about.
“Teddy?” Victoire gently removed me from my thoughts. I turned my head towards her. “I wanted to ask you something…”
“Ask away,” I said lightly.
“I was thinking,” she said nervously, “that maybe, once you’ve been discharged, you could move in with me?”
My heart sank. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to move in with her; I wanted it more than anything, anything except my job. I tireless passion for revenge had filled me from deep within. I was eager to catch whoever had attacked our headquarters in Germany. They weren’t going to get off lightly. I still hadn’t heard from my boss whether my colleague, Jack, was alright. The lack of information was deeply worrying me. No news couldn’t be good news, I reasoned, casting my mind over the events of the previous month. My boss had already visited me once already to talk about my return.
“If you don’t want to, that’s fine,” Victoire said hurriedly when I didn’t respond.
“I do want to,” I assured her with a heavy heart. “I do. But I don’t want you to ask me just because I’m a cripple…”
She laughed, thankfully. “You’re not a cripple! You’ll be right as rain in no time. I promise.”
I sighed. “I won’t need looking after, you know that? I can look after myself.”
“Yeah, I know that. But I like looking after people. I used to want to be a Healer, did you know that?”
I frowned, curious. She’d never told me that before, unless when we used to play Healers at her house when we were young counted at all. “Why didn’t you train to be one, then?”
“I don’t like blood.”
I looked at Victoire, sat quite comfortably at my feet, her expression completely innocent and I just had to laugh. The thought of a Healer who couldn’t stand blood was something I’d heard once or twice before, but the fact that it was Victoire saying it made it all the more amusing. She narrowed her eyes at me and I quickly stopped laughing. Antagonising her wasn’t going to make my decision any easier.
“So?” Victoire said once I’d calmed down. I buried my conscience in the back of my mind and smiled.
“I’d love to move in, Victoire.”
She beamed, her smile lighting up her face and diffusing into her eyes. She carefully leaned forward and kissed my lips gently, making sure she didn’t touch any part of my body that was injured. As her smile tickled my lips I briefly wondered what on Earth I had got myself into. I had pretty much already signed my contract for my boss and I wasn’t one to go back on a promise. But then there was Victoire, who was now kissing me with a passion no one had ever felt about me before. Had I spent so long fighting for her just to alienate and lie to her? I relaxed; no one would blame me for not returning to the mission. I was injured and in love. No fool was going to mess with me.
Kissing my cheek, Victoire swung her legs around the side of the bed and stood up. “I have to go – I promised my parents I’d send an owl to Dom about next weekend.”
“What’s happening next weekend?”
“It’s her birthday. I told you about it, remember?”
I didn’t remember, I must have been asleep at the time. With my bandages over my eyes, it was probably hard to tell whether I was awake or not. I hadn’t been very talkative when I was first transferred to St. Mungo’s. “Oh, yeah. How old is she now?”
“It’s her eighteenth birthday.” Victoire looked pensive, and I thought of the image of Dominique that was fixed in my brain; the ten year old that liked to pull Victoire’s hair and steal her make-up. I couldn’t believe she had grown up so quickly.
“Wow, I can barely believe that! I take it I’m not invited?” I smiled ruefully, trying to hide how much being stuck in hospital made me feel trapped.
“Even if you could go, it’s girls only. Though with the amount of time you spend complaining, I’m sure I could sneak you in.” She grinned wickedly and bade me goodbye. Once the Healer’s reapplied the bandages around my eyes, I fell asleep.
“Lupin?” My eyes flickered open, only to be met by the darkness that the bandages created. I propped myself up so that my visitor could see that I was awake. “I’ve brought the contract with me to discuss.”
I groaned groggily. I didn’t want to explain to him why I wasn’t going anymore.
“Sir,” I began, placing my hand to my head as a headache overwhelmed me. “I can’t go. I’m not ready.”
“I talked to the Healer already,” the brusque voice of my boss barked. I could imagine him twirling his moustache impatiently, as he was prone to do. “And he said that you’ll be discharged in a week, fit for work.”
I frowned, though he couldn’t see it. When I talked to the Healer yesterday, he told me that I would need to rest once I left St. Mungo’s. Then, it clicked. “Have you been waving that badge of yours around again?”
“I can’t think what you mean.” I heard his footsteps travel around the bed as he paced.
“You know damn well what I mean,” I said angrily, clenching my fist. “You’ve been using your Auror pass to get the answer you need. I’m not stupid, sir. I’m not well enough to continue the mission. End of discussion.”
I heard him sigh as he paced around my bed again. “I understand, Ted. But you’re the only hope we’ve got.”
I snorted. “I highly doubt that. And if it’s true then I’m very concerned.”
“We’ve got a new lead,” he said evenly. Every word was intoned for maximum effect.
“The Übel have moved into Austria. They mistakenly tried to burn down a Ministry controlled building. Two more people injured. But we’ve got them, Lupin. I won’t take much to take them down now.”
“Then you don’t need me,” I said stubbornly, playing with a bit of thread that had found its way between my fingers.
“Jack requested you; he says he won’t fight without you there.”
I let this piece of information sink in. I couldn’t believe Jack had been well all this time and nobody had told me. But my sense of duty was tugging at my navel; I felt responsible for the accident in Germany and I wanted to put right what had gone wrong. I wanted to see Jack, tell him I was sorry. I needn’t have to be gone for long. I had to do the right thing. I hesitated only briefly before opening my fist and stretching out my palm towards where I thought my boss was. A smooth, cold pen was placed there, and he helped me sign the contract.
“Nice working with you, Lupin.”
A/N: I can’t believe this is Chapter 19! It could have been yesterday when I posted the first chapter o.O. Anyway, thanks once again for everyone’s continual support. It makes getting up in the morning a lot easier ;) And I’m sorry for the delay in this update. I was sort of busy with RL stuff last weekend! Please review if you have the time! – Marina x