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Chapter 2 : Two
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It was a cool, crisp October morning.
Victoire, Macario, and Lance Apparated into an alleyway near Teddy Lupin’s listed address, and walked the rest of the way. Lance had thought out this strategy to avoid attracting attention to Teddy's building. He also had the three of them wearing Muggle clothes - Victoire felt supremely uncomfortable rounding the cobblestone corner in a plaid flannel shirt and dark jeans.
The leaves were curling, shriveling, changing colors. Autumn was Victoire's favorite season. Most of the books in her flat were filled with pressed autumn leaves. She loved to look at them and feel them in the winter, savoring their promise of spring.
"This is it," said Lance in an unusually sharp voice as they neared Teddy's building. Though he was relaxed in the office, Lance became a different person in the field.
Victoire stared up at the building. Apparently, Teddy’s Potion business was flourishing – his building was an extremely fashionable, expensive, all-Wizarding one. Well, Victoire had always known that Teddy would be successful.
After showing the receptionist his Auror badge and assuring her that there would be no trouble, Lance led Macario and Victoire up several flights of stairs to the door of Teddy’s flat. Macario knocked on the door.
Victoire’s heart was racing. She bit her lip – she had promised herself that she would keep calm, but now she was actually here, it was proving impossible. The thought of Teddy – the fact that he was close to her, just beyond a door – sent a jolt of energy through her body. Had he forgotten her? Did he ever lie awake at night, like Victoire did, wondering where she was and what she was doing? Would he still recognize her, after all these years?
She had no idea what she would do when Teddy opened the door. She had fantasized about being reunited with him hundreds of times over the last five years. In some of those fantasies, she ran into his embrace and it was as if they had never been apart. In others, she slapped his face and demanded to know why he had left without so much as a letter.
Victoire took a deep breath.
After a torturous minute, the door swung open. A handsome man in his late twenties stood in the doorway, looking curiously out at his visitors. He had coal-black hair and eyes, but otherwise he looked almost exactly as Victoire remembered: He had high cheekbones, a slightly crooked nose, and dark eyebrows that gave his face an unusually pensive look.
“Teddy,” she said numbly.
Teddy’s face turned pale - like he'd seen a ghost. “Vic?”
Victoire nodded, expressionless. In all her fantasies she had never imagined this - standing still in the doorway, feeling like her body had turned into mush. Teddy took a second glance at Macario and Lance, the color returning to his face. He seemed to be summing them up.
“Is this your boyfriend?” he asked indifferently, nodding at Macario, who scowled at him. Macario spent most of his time scowling.
“No,” said Victoire. “No, he’s a coworker. We’re Aurors, Teddy. I’m an Auror.”
“Oh,” said Teddy, sounding mildly surprised, but not terribly interested.
“We need to have a word with you, Mr. Lupin,” said Lance gruffly. “Mind if we step inside?”
Teddy hesitated. “All right, then.”
The flat was simple but elegant, very much to Teddy’s style. Victoire frowned down at the pristine white rug, which looked extremely expensive – as did the rest of the furniture. The sofas and chairs were covered with a silky, smooth black fabric that looked even softer than velvet. Looking around, Victoire realized that, though the room was very well-decorated, Teddy didn’t have any photographs on the tables or shelves. In fact, there wasn't a single knickknack or personal item in the room, which seemed - though stylish - very cold and empty.
“So, an Auror,” said Teddy, sinking into a large armchair and gesturing for his guests to do the same. “I heard you were in the Ministry – just like you always wanted.”
Victoire smiled wanly. “Yeah.”
Teddy opened his mouth again, with a slight frown, but Macario interrupted him. Interrupting people was another one of Macario's many talents, along with scowling.
“We hear you had connections with the late Sterling Lombard, who worked for the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures,” he said aggressively. “True?”
Teddy nodded. “He helped fund my company when we first started out.”
“Any idea how he died?” asked Lance, who always got right to the point. He had a leather-bound notebook on his knee, and was scribbling down notes on the conversation in it.
“No…” said Teddy, leaning back even further into his seat. “As far as I know, he had a quiet life. No women, no fights, no risks.”
“Do you know of anyone who held a grudge against him?” asked Macario.
“No,” said Teddy again. “Well, some bloke named Simpson had his eye on Lombard’s job for a while – but that must be common knowledge.”
“And do you know anything about the deaths of Quentin Dirge or Martin Blake?” asked Lance.
“Nothing at all,” said Teddy smoothly, “except what was in the paper.”
“Right.” Lance stood up. “I think that’s all. Macario? Victoire? Shall we move on? We have a few more interviews to get through today.”
Victoire didn’t want to leave. Teddy watched her with an unreadable expression as she rose out of her seat, straightening her robes. For a moment, Victoire thought he might reach out, grab her hand, and ask her to stay. It would be nice to sit with him in this room, catching up over a hot drink. Victoire was dying to know what he had been doing for all these years. Why and how had he gotten into selling Potions? How had he been turned into a werewolf? Did he still talk to his old friends from Hogwarts? Had he fallen in love?
Instead, Teddy flashed Victoire a charming but blank smile.
“Nice to see you, Vic,” he said politely. “And nice to meet you, er… Aurors.”
“Bye, Ted,” said Victoire. Lance grunted. Macario pretended not to have heard Teddy at all. And then the three Aurors Disapparated and moved on to the next suspect.
“And you think I’m somehow responsible for these deaths?” asked Richard Laughlin, a pale man with stringy blond hair. “Just because I’m a werewolf and the victims were slashed up?”
“Well,” said Lance uncomfortably. “You also live close to the site of the first murder.”
O’Laughlin’s eyes flashed with anger.
“Sorry, sir,” said Victoire sympathetically. “It’s all we have to go on at the moment.”
During their weeks of interviews, Victoire had taken responsibility for redirecting a conversation that was becoming heated. Lance, who was rather stoic, and Macario, who was downright rude, didn't have much talent for the human side of their job. But Victoire knew how to calm people down, make them feel that they were being listened to and treated fairly. She had had years of experience with her sister Dominique, who in their Hogwarts days was constantly on the verge of hysteria over some boy or some exam.
O’Laughlin sighed. “Well, you’re barking up the wrong tree, Miss. My wife and her daughter can tell you that I haven’t left this town once in about three years.”
“Do you have any idea who might be responsible?” asked Victoire in desperation. She, Lance, and Macario had been interviewing werewolves for almost two weeks, but none of them had provided any worthwhile information. She fully expected O’Laughlin to shrug and say that he had no idea who could’ve killed the three Ministry men, and then ask them to get out of his home.
“Actually,” Said O’Laughlin slowly, rubbing his chin. “I’ve been hearing some things at the pub. Dunno how credible they are, obviously.”
“That’s all right,” said Macario eagerly. “What’ve you heard?”
O’Laughlin took a long gulp of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky from a dusty bottle. “A stranger came in one day – right before the first murder. He’d already had a bit to drink, and he kept right on going. Soon enough he was boasting to the whole pub about some job he’d been asked to do by a very important person. He said that this was just the beginning – that soon he’d be rolling in Galleons, all because of this favor that he was going to do.”
“Any idea what that favor might’ve been?” asked Lance.
“Not one,” said O’Laughlin. “But I didn’t see him in town after that. Never got his name.”
“What was the name of the pub?” asked Victoire. Maybe the owner would remember something about the stranger.
“The Dancing Dragon,” said O’Laughlin, “the only all-Wizard establishment in this bloody town.”
“Yeah, I remember,” said the bartender, a stout man with a bald head but heavy eyebrows and mustache. “Strange bloke, that.”
“Can you remember anything else?” asked Macario impatiently. “His name? Or who he said he was working for?”
The bartender raised his eyebrows. “Well, we all understood who he was working for. Made it very clear… ‘Course you Ministry people wouldn’t know – they keep a very quiet little operation.”
“What’re you talking about?” said Macario, irritated by his incoherency.
“People call it the Underworld,” said the bartender slowly. “It started out as some obscure company, but built up power by overseeing gambling operations. They’ve got a lot of important people in their pocket – including Ministry people. ‘Lot of good duelers, too, from what I hear.”
Macario narrowed his eyes skeptically, but Lance seemed interested.
“What about the original company?” he asked shrewdly. “Do you know what they sold?”
“Er…” the bartender screwed up his face in concentration. “…I think it was Potions.”
Victoire scrambled into her robes, her heart racing. Her arms couldn’t seem to find their way through the sleeves of her tight robes, which had been specifically tailored for dueling.
A closer look at the financial records of Teddy's Potions delivery service had yielded strange results. The company's turnover wasn't bad - but it wasn't nearly good enough to buy Teddy's London flat, or the homes of any of the company's co-owners. It was possible that the entire company was a front for an very different sort of business. So Victoire, Lance, and Macario were heading back to Teddy's to bring him in to the Ministry for more serious questioning.
“It’ll be okay, Vic,” said Lorelei, who was standing in the doorway. “I’m sure Teddy would never do anything illegal. I’ll bet you a thousand Galleons he’s never broken the law in his life.”
Victoire smiled halfheartedly, adjusting her robes. “Yeah. It’s just weird, seeing him again after all these years.”
Lorelei nodded, brushing makeup onto her dark skin - she was going out tonight, as usual. “He didn’t explain any of it when you questioned him?”
“There wasn’t really time for that,” sighed Victoire, pulling a comb through her hair and beginning to braid it. “I guess it’ll always be a mystery. I just thought he’d write me after I saw him. I thought he’d want to see me again.”
Lorelei frowned. “Look, you’ve got to stop pouting around, it’s driving me mad. You’ll go to Teddy’s, realize that there’s been a misunderstanding and he’s obviously done nothing wrong, and then you’ll come back here and I’ll have set you up a nice date with that bloke from my office – the Hungarian one. And everything will be normal again. Okay?”
“Okay,” said Victoire dubiously.
Victoire, Lance, and Macario were joined by a team of five Hit-Wizards for their return to Teddy Lupin’s flat. They met in the Auror Office, crowding around Dunmore’s desk. The Head of the Office was bent over several maps of Teddy’s building and the city surrounding it.
There was a strange ringing in Victoire’s ears. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t understand what Dunmore was telling her. She just nodded mutely, trying to keep her mouth closed so she wouldn’t be sick.
“Right,” said Macario, banging his fist down on the desk and bringing Victoire back down to earth. “Shall we, then?”
“Ready, Vic?” asked Lance more gently than usual. His fingers brushed across the small of her back, warm and comforting. And inappropriate.
Victoire nodded. Then she was lost in the swirl of immeasurable space as Lance pulled her off to the narrow corridor outside of Teddy’s flat.
She landed hard on the floor, stumbling into Lance’s chest. Lance seemed to bristle; he grabbed her by her upper arms and lifted her firmly but kindly off of his body. Victoire couldn’t help but blush. As the three Aurors approached Teddy’s door, Victoire’s legs began to shake.
Macario reached out and knocked on the door. In the low light his hair looked like an inkstain against the parchment colored walls. Or maybe Victoire's vision was blurring.
Everything was still.
“Mr. Lupin?” called Lance. “Are you there?”
There was no answer.
“Right, then,” said Macario, pulling out his wand. With a quick, unspoken spell, the door was blasted open, and the Aurors dashed into the flat – and then stopped dead.
It was like Teddy Lupin had never existed.
The walls – which had barely been decorated to begin with – were bare. The furniture was gone. The expensive French glass doors had been removed from their hinges. Lance and Macario ran upstairs to check the other rooms. Victoire leaned back against the wall, her mind racing. She knew that Lance and Macario wouldn’t find anything. Teddy was gone – but why?
Victoire moved slowly through the silence to the center of the room. Just over a week ago, Teddy's body had occupied this very same space. He had slept here. Eaten here.
How could a person disappear into thin air?
There were several loud cracks. Victoire whipped out her wand, suddenly faced with a dozen masked men.
I hope you enjoyed the second chapter! :) Everything’s moving kind of fast – maybe too fast? But in the next chapter there will be more focus on Victoire’s home life and the Weasley family! Thanks for reading and reviewing!
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