Chapter 2 : The D.C.B.
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The sun was barely up when the alarm went off.
Teddy stirred sleepily beside her, and Victoire shut off the alarm before he could really wake up. “Work?” he asked without opening his eyes.
“Yep.” Victoire pulled the covers back as she got out of bed, and he let out an involuntarily yelp when the cold hit his bare chest. “Sorry,” she said quickly, tossing the blankets back over him. She, unfortunately, had no such refuge from the cold.
On the bright side, that meant that within a few moments of getting out of bed, she was already quite awake. On the downside, it was incredibly uncomfortable.
She grabbed a thick purple jumper off the chair next to their bed on her way to the dresser. The second drawer was still half-open from the day before, and she rummaged around until she found a long-sleeved shirt and trousers that looked like they probably wouldn’t clash out of the darkness of her bedroom.
When she slipped out into the hallway to cross over to the bathroom, she was relieved to find that the trousers she’d grabbed were black and the shirt a teal sort of blue; that was perfectly presentable. There had been a day the week before that she’d ended up with blue trousers, a blue shirt, blue socks, and a blue jumper. Victoire was not overly focused on fashion, but she did try to avoid major fashion faux pas.
She emerged about five minutes later and pulled her bright red hair into a messy bun on her way to the kitchen. After a quick, functional, and completely uninspiring breakfast - Teddy was the cook in the family - she grabbed her coat, gloves, and handbag off the coat rack and walked out the front door. As she made her way down the stairs, she tried not to think about Teddy, who was almost certainly slumbering peacefully under several layers of blankets.
Victoire loved her fiancé dearly, but right now, she also resented the hell out of him.
When she reached ground floor of their building, she ignored the front door, instead turning and striding purposefully toward what looked like a solid brick wall at the back of the building. She closed her eyes as she stepped through it.
The lobby on the other side was reserved for magical transportation. It was also silent but for the crackling of the fire. Other than the flicker of the flames and a glowing orb on the landlady’s desk, it was also pitch-black.
Avoiding the dark shapes littered around the room, Victoire went toward the fire. When she reached the tile floor, she took a pinch of floo powder from a stand just in front of the hearth. When she threw it into the flames, they turned green, and she stepped into the fire. “The Ministry of Magic, Dangerous Creatures Bureau.”
When she stumbled out of the fireplace on the other side, a quick walk down the hall brought her to the office she shared with her squad. Turning into it, she was confronted by the sight of her immediate superior, Van Dedworth. His head was down on his desk, and he was snoring softly.
Victoire grinned and crept past her own desk so she could poke him hard in the shoulder.
He jumped and was actually raising his wand before he recognized her laughter. “Fuck, Vic.” He tossed his wand back onto his desk in disgust. “Don’t do that.”
“You were sleeping,” she informed him as she boosted herself up to sit next to a large pile of papers on his desk.
“I was resting my eyes,” he corrected as he bobbed his head from side to side, working out the kinks in his neck. “That’s what it’s called when your boss does it.”
“Of course.” She began to kick her leg against his desk; very few people were in this early, and the silence throughout the corridor was positively eerie. “What’s new today? Why’d the boss want us in so early?”
Van shrugged and leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head. “Dunno. I guess he’ll tell us soon enough.”
Victoire had first met Van through the youngest of his many siblings, Gallagher, who had been in her year at school. It had been slightly odd to join the Dangerous Creatures Bureau, or D.C.B., and be expected to work alongside his much older brother and sister, both of whom had left Hogwarts before they’d even started.
After the first month or so, however, she’d adjusted. She had to; there weren’t that many people working for the D.C.B.
“How’s Teddy?” Van asked. “Still sleeping peacefully?”
Victoire made a face. “Yeah, the jerk. He runs off to Brazil for five days, doesn’t sleep, and then Gringotts gives him three full days off. I should’ve been a Cursebreaker.”
Van nudged her playfully, a crooked grin playing across his face. “Nah. Admit it, you’d miss the trolls.”
Victoire made a face. “The trolls? No. The acromantulas and the manticores…” she shrugged and let her leg hit his desk once more with a loud thud before letting it hang. “Maybe.”
He laughed, but before he could say anything else, they were interrupted by someone coughing behind them. Victoire looked up and Van swiveled around; a blond man was standing there, looking uncharacteristically somber. “We have a problem,” he said.
Victoire jumped off the desk and started toward his office. She heard Van’s chair squeak as he got up to follow her. “What is it?” she asked.
He shook his head and held a hand out to motion them both into his office. When they entered, they discovered that a few of their coworkers already in there.
Seamus Finnigan closed his office door behind them. Victoire and Van exchanged a puzzled look as they each took a seat.
“What is it?” Victoire repeated.
He sighed. In the end, it was his second-in-command, Lavender Brown, who answered.
Victoire immediately felt confused. The D.C.B. was specifically formed after the Second Wizarding War to deal with creatures that it was okay to hurt or even kill. Werewolves definitely did not fall under that category. One of Victoire’s best friends worked in Werewolf Capture; it was definitely not the same.
“What?” She heard her confusion reflected in the voice of Van’s sister Viv. “What do werewolves have to do with us?”
Lavender ran a hand over her scarred face and sighed. “Here’s the thing,” she said. “Werewolf Capture has a really, really big problem. There aren’t enough of them to deal with it. They seem to think that Werewolf Support and Werewolf Registry aren’t good enough in a fight – which is probably true – and that Dragon Research is liable to go overboard with spells - which is also probably true. That pretty much leaves us.”
“Why not the Hit Wizards or Aurors?” Van asked sensibly. “At least they try not to kill people bringing them in. We know how to duel first and ask questions later.”
That was a slight oversimplification, but not much of one.
Seamus shook his head. “They can duel wizards. They’re not trained to fight monsters.”
“So what do they want from us?” Brennan asked from the corner. Victoire rather liked Brennan; they’d been four years apart in school and in different houses, so they hadn’t known each other well then, but they’d joined the D.C.B. at the same time, and over the last few years had become fairly good friends.
Seamus glanced over at Lavender, who raised her eyebrows slightly.
“Let’s start at the beginning.”
Over the course of the next twenty minutes, Seamus and Lavender laid out the story Werewolf Capture had told them.
Three weeks before, a muggle woman from an isolated village had come in claiming that she was a werewolf. Upon being interviewed, she revealed that she had been bitten one night three months before by what she had thought at the time was a wild dog.
She had gone on to say that as the next full moon approached, she began to feel ill, and on the night of the full moon had transformed into a wolf. She had assumed that she hadn’t been getting enough sleep and was losing her mind - she’d had trouble with her mental health in the past.
However, when the same thing continued to happen every full moon, she mentioned to her brother, who (thankfully) was a muggleborn wizard. She was not familiar enough with the magical world to know that werewolves were real, but her brother immediately recognized the signs and had taken her to the Ministry.
Like most werewolves, she had only the vaguest memories of the nights she had spent transformed, but she did feel like she recalled biting others.
There were no reported deaths in the area and no reported werewolf sightings, which seemed unlikely given the high population of witches and wizards in the area. Furthermore, when Werewolf Capture had gone to the village to ask about any suspicious animal bites or attacks, they had been met with hostility and suspicion.
As this point, they had no idea how many werewolves might be running around the area, and needed help in a big way.
“Is it just me, or are there more werewolf cases than usual this autumn?” Victoire murmured to Van.
“It’s not just you,” he said.
Lavender regarded them all for a moment. “This is a mess,” she said flatly. “They have no idea how many people have been running around biting other people, or for how long. However, they do need to tackle this problem now, before even more people get infected.” She paused for a moment. Her face was inscrutable; even after more than three years with the D.C.B., Victoire sometimes found it difficult to read Lavender’s expressions through the heavy scarring on her face - a lifetime of experience reading her father’s expressions didn’t seem to translate to anyone else, even though Lavender’s injuries were superficially quite similar to her father’s. “Or before the bodies start piling up.”
Van, who was significantly better at reading Lavender’s expression than Victoire was, having over a decade more of practice - some of it in far more intimate settings than work - whistled softly. “This probably hits the top ten for the tensest I’ve ever seen her. And that’s including the first time I asked her out.”
Despite the gravity of the situation at hand, Victoire had to work to muffle her snort.
“If anyone doesn’t feel up to the task, tell us now,” Seamus said. “This isn’t what we usually do, and I don’t expect everyone to be comfortable with it. I’ll just say that you’re on another case and can’t be pulled off it.”
He glanced around the room. Though her heart was beating wildly, Victoire did not say anything.
Neither did anyone else in the room.
Seamus waited a bit longer than Victoire thought was really necessary before nodding. “Well, you have a few days before we get back to Werewolf Capture if you want to reconsider. That’s all.”
When they got back to the cubicle they shared with Sienna Kettletoft when she wasn’t out sick with the flu, Van immediately sat down at his desk and pulled a stack of papers toward him.
“Did you know anything about that?” Victoire asked Van, and he shook his head without looking up.
“No,” he said shortly. “But I’m not happy about it.”
Victoire frowned and perched on her own desk. “How come?” He looked at her incredulously, and she sighed. “Other than the obvious.”
Van threw his quill down and leaned forward, resting his head on his hands. “Jesus.” She watched him silently, and after a minute, he shook his head. “This is just a mess,” he said. “Lavender’s right. This is a fucking mess.” He enunciated every word. “And I don’t know what the hell we’re supposed to do other than help them out, but I don’t like this.”
Victoire didn’t much like it, either. Dealing with werewolves always made her feel a little uncomfortable; the idea of having to be careful not to hurt the creature who was trying to kill you defied all logic.
But this was her job, and whatever Seamus said, she suspected that dodging out would end up resulting in desk duty until the werewolf case was resolved.
If there was one thing Victoire did not do well, it was desk duty. And at any rate, she didn’t much like facing trolls, either. How much worse could werewolves be?
Try as she might, Victoire hadn’t quite put the werewolves out of her head when she and Van packed up for the day. Usually, she just used floo powder to get home, but today, despite the cold, she felt that she could use the walk. She waved goodbye to Van when they reached the street, and began to make her way home.
By the time she got to her building, her ears were absolutely freezing, and she was starting to shiver. She stomped up the stairs and when she reached the flat door, she began to fumble for her key.
The door opened before she could find it.
“Hey,” Teddy said, leaning in to kiss her cheek. “Merlin, you’re freezing. What, did you walk home?”
He stepped back to let her in, and she nodded as she sat on the bench to pull her boots off. “Yeah. I just needed to think.”
“Something happen at work?” he asked, a tinge of concern in his voice as he leaned against the opposite wall.
She sighed. “Yeah.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“In a bit.” She kicked her boots aside and tossed her gloves and coat on the bench. “Right now, I just want a hug.”
He held out his arms, and she walked into them. As she stood there with her cheek pressed up against the soft wool of his sweater, feeling his chest rise and fall as he breathed, she felt a sense of comfort wash over her. Everything would be all right in the end.
That thought would come back to haunt her.
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