I stared into the darkness beneath my eyelids, almost feeling like I was waiting for something. Victoire had long since slipped into the bliss of sleep and I was left to toss and turn as I sought that bliss myself. I could hear her gentle snoring from beside me and I imagined some stars above my head as I thanked the lucky ones. Her hand rested gently against my arm and I longed to pull her close and stare into her eyes and kiss away my worries. Unfortunately, my imagination would have to fill in certain gaps for me.
I heard no movement from the living room, where Victoire’s sister slept off her ailment. She had emerged from the shower, shivering, spluttering and breathing heavily. She had not said another word since then and I wondered how we were going to deal with this… hiccup. Victoire did not deal well with things like this, and I knew it would knock her confidence slightly. I sincerely hoped that Dominique was ready to apologise and that they could both put it behind them. Sam, however, didn’t look like he would get another look-in. I forced myself not to smile at the idea of him finally gone.
I wondered what time it was. I had no way of telling how fast the minutes were passing or how close the next day was. In my head, the time could stretch on forever and I would never know. I heard Victoire stir beside me and I squeezed her time.
”Are you okay?” she mumbled sleepily, her hand lightly clasping mine.
“What time is it?”
“Hang on.” She let go of my hand, and I had a brief feeling of being abandoned, before I felt her return to my side. “It’s half-past three.”
“Oh, thank you,” I said, gently shifting my body closer to hers in case the contact was lost. I needed to be close to her to know she hadn’t left my side, hadn’t left me alone in the darkness.
She sighed, her voice stronger as she started to wake up. “Can’t you sleep?”
“No,” I said quietly, our hipbones now touching.
“What’s on your mind?” Victoire rested her head on my chest, and briefly I hoped she wouldn’t notice my erratic heart beat.
“I…” I trailed off, my cheeks warming. “I’m afraid of the dark.” There, I had said it out loud. I had never admitted that to anyone, although I suspected my grandmother had guessed; she had brought me up, after all.
Victoire raised her head slightly, and I wondered if she was trying to see me through the dark. “Really? I never knew that. Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I never felt scared when I was with you,” I said sadly. “But now I don’t know if you’re with me or not. I cant see you.”
“Oh, Teddy,” she said sadly, her hand lightly placed on my chest as she supported herself, her cheeks grazing my cheek. “You know, I cant see you either. It’s the middle of the night.”
I smiled, though of course neither of us could see it. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“Don’t worry, pumpkin,” she said sleepily, a yawn tainting her voice. “No, try and sleep. We’ve got to be up tomorrow to help Grandma with the party.”
“Party?” I said, panic setting in. I didn’t know about any party, and I certainly didn’t want to see anybody yet. “What party?”
“Uncle Ron’s, it’s his birthday tomorrow.” She yawned again. “I mean today. Look, don’t worry about it. They’ll be nice to you.”
“Right,” I said uncertainly. “Goodnight, then.”
Victoire easily slipped back into slumber, though my brain was filled with dread. I wasn’t ready to go out in public. I couldn’t cope, and spending a day in a noisy house with her family was not something I was ready to do. Not only that, but they no doubt were confused enough by the confusing relationship Victoire and I had. I doubted all of them knew about our involvement, and the other half probably didn’t realise how bumpy it had been recently. If they knew, I would be even more ashamed of my behaviour. I wasn’t worthy of Victoire, and I expected all her relatives thought so too. At least in my current condition, I would be able to ignore any snide or disapproving looks. Maybe sometimes ignorance was bliss.
At least now I couldn’t toss and turn; Victoire’s head resting on my chest prevented me moving much at all for fear of waking her again. I wrapped my arms around her shoulders, keeping her close to me as I sought unconsciousness. Possibly an hour or so later, I would never be able to tell, I drifted off to sleep.
“Dominique Weasley!” I awoke to the sound of a loud cry propelling its way through the wall that divided the two rooms. “Get up! You selfish, lazy, hungover-“
“Oh shut up,” Dominique groaned.
I didn’t move or make to get up; this was clearly a scene I didn’t want to interrupt. I listened as Victoire tried to reign in her temper. Neither of the girls moved, both waiting for the other to react.
“Come on, get up. If you make me late,” Victoire warned, her voice dropping. She had probably remembered that I wished to remain asleep. “If you make me late I’ll tell everyone what you did last night.”
“Which was what?”
That clearly wasn’t what Victoire wanted to hear, for she couldn’t seem to form a reply; she made some sort of stuttering sounds before she fell silent. The awkward silence seemed to diffuse itself into the bedroom, so I took that as my cue to get up. I scrabbled around to find my stick, which was leaning against the bedside table and slowly swung my legs out of bed. They hit the cool floor and I shakily got to my feet. I had never been very good first thing in a morning, but everything was so much harder now I couldn’t see. I found it hard to trust my other senses.
“Good morning,” I said, putting on a cheery voice in order to break up the sisterly tension.
“Hello, Teddy,” Victoire said tersely, the sound of her footsteps indicating she was heading towards the kitchen. “We have to leave shortly. Can I offer you breakfast?”
“Um,” I began, though I was interrupted by the emergence of Dominique.
”Yes please, I’m starving.”
Another pause; yet again, no one moved and I wondered if the look on Victoire’s face was as bad as I imagined it to be.
”You deserve nothing, Dom,” she hissed angrily. “I don’t see why I should do anything for you again. I’m ashamed of you.”
I leant on my stick awkwardly; I could not see the argument and it did not feel like I was actually there, but no doubt Victoire was very aware of my presence. I doubted I was invisible to her.
“I see,” Dominique said shortly. I heard a muffled sound as she sat down on the sofa. “If you don’t tell me what I did, how the hell can I make amends?”
“I shouldn’t have to tell you,” she said crossly, the kettle boiling loudly and she paused until the noise had subsided. “If you hadn’t got so bloody drunk, none of this would have happened.”
“It’s too late for that now, isn’t it?” Dominique said softly. “I can’t change what happened, whatever did happen.”
“I don’t want to talk about it now,” Victoire snapped. She poured what I assumed was hot water into some mugs and started rifling about in the cutlery drawer. “We’ll talk about it this evening.” She handed me the mug of tea and retreated into the bedroom. “Get dressed, Teddy!”
I was not man enough to argue with her, so I followed her into the bedroom, my stick slowly helping me leave the awkward scene. Behind me, I heard Dominique sniffling. Using my stick, I located my clothes on the floor and quickly changed. When I said quickly, I meant quickly for someone who kept forgetting the locations of their clothes and struggled to work out which way their shirt buttoned up. I hoped that when we got back home this evening, Victoire would help me find where the rest of my clothes were being kept.
“Here, let me help you,” Victoire said gently, her hands taking me by surprise as they unbuttoned my shirt. Slowly, she started redoing the buttons up, starting from the hem at the bottom. With each soft movement against the button-holes, I felt calmer. My initial reaction had been to reject her aid and insist that I could manage by myself. However, if I was left in charge the buttons would no doubt remain in the wrong holes and I’d walk about resembling an incompetent beggar.
“Thank you.” I found my tea again and sipped from the mug. “Are you okay?”
“Me?” she said lightly, smoothing out the creases in my shirt. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me; save your anxiety for my sister.”
“Don’t be hard on her,” I implored, taking another sip. “She didn’t know what she was doing.”
“But that’s the issue…”
“It doesn’t have to be, not if you don’t make it one.” I took a long gulp of hot tea. “She’s eighteen. It was almost to be expected.”
She bristled at that comment. “So I should have seen it coming?”
“No,” I added hastily, not keen to get into an argument with her. “Just that you shouldn’t be surprised.”
“I don’t see the difference,” Victoire said sulkily, removing her hand from my shirt. “Get your jeans on. Then we can go and get this over and done with.”
“Yes boss,” I said wryly, my hands feeling around for my jeans. Feeling her eyes upon me, I disappeared into the bathroom. Five minutes later, Victoire was bundling both Dominique and I out of the house. The lock clicked loudly.
“Dominique,” Victoire said archly. “You go ahead, please.” With a pop, I heard Dominique Disaparate, and I turned in the direction of Victoire’s voice. “Can you Aparate by yourself.”
I could do it, I had already done it once. However it wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences. It had left me dizzy, confused and off-balance. “I’d prefer if I went with you.”
“Alright,” she said, taking my arm. “Hold tight.”
I held tight, my eyes squeezing shut even though I could see nothing but darkness. It was just like old times, when I used to rely on Victoire to take me places. I took my Apparition test four or five times (I stopped counting after the third time) before I managed to pass it, three years after I started learning. The last summer before I passed, Victoire was given the task of escorting me to wherever I had to be. Her hands clasped tightly around my arm reminded me of those days when it was just her and me and our friendship.
When I felt solid ground beneath my feet once again, I relaxed and gently lifted my arm out of Victoire’s grasp. I didn’t want to lose the physical contact with her, but all the same I felt walking in arm in arm would raise too many awkward questions. I was sure the stick was going to require some explaining, and I didn’t want my disability to be the main focus of the day.
“Come on, this way,” Victoire said gently. “I’ll walk with you.”
I nodded, the feeling of my head bobbing and the scenery staying constant a novelty. Perhaps I was nodding slightly too vigorously, I couldn’t tell. The movement itself was strangely comfortable.
”Just for future reference,” I said slowly, my stick moving along the cobbled path. “Where are we?”
“We’ve just passed the chicken coop.” She tried to stifle a sigh, but at the time I was straining to hear the clucking of the hens so that I couldn’t miss it. Sometimes, the strength of my hearing surprised me.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
She chuckled lightly, a smile warming her voice. “It’s nothing, Teddy, don’t worry. I was just marvelling at the fact that Grandma still keeps chickens after all these years.”
I felt a smile tug at my lips. “Do you remember when we used to clear the coop out?”
“How could I forget? You were constantly trying to drag me away from the chicken shit.”
I laughed, the noise diffusing through my body. “You never really liked being clean.”
“No,” she said wistfully.
I had nothing more to add, so we continued our stroll in silence. It amazed me how long it took us just to walk the length of the yard. In our youth, we had run from end to end without a second thought, racing each other and chasing after Victoire’s younger cousins. It seemed longer than fifteen years or so ago; it was a whole lifetime.
We stopped soon after my musings of my childhood ended, and briefly I considered abandoning my stick and just running away into the darkness, into the oblivion that was the world I now knew. I’d never know where I was running to, but as long as it was away from the humiliation I was about to face then I couldn’t care less. I couldn’t accept their disappointment. I didn’t want to acknowledge the guilt that I, the son of two courageous and noble citizens, had let them down.
Not even Victoire could keep me safe from that.
A/N: I know, I'm a terrible person who doesnt update enough. I'll try and be a bit quicker with the next update. Thanks to everyone who still sticks with me and who reviews. I love you all!