Chapter 4 : The Aftermath of the Forest
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Victoire managed to hold it together long enough to report the incident calmly to her boss and the head of Werewolf Capture and get home without incident. Once she’d entered the flat she shared with Teddy, however, she collapsed against the door. Her entire body was shaking.
Why had she volunteered for this stupid assignment in the first place?
Sure, it had sounded interesting at the time, but she’d had misgivings. She should have trusted herself.
But like an idiot, she had jumped on the opportunity to learn more about werewolves. Or, more accurately, to avoid desk duty.
She took a deep, wavering breath, and let it out.
Their bedroom door opened, and Teddy stuck his head out. When he saw her slumped on the floor, his eyebrows drew together. “What’s wrong?” he asked as he hurried over to her.
Victoire could feel the reverberations of her heartbeat throughout her entire body, and she could not seem to stop trembling. She tried to open her mouth to say something, but found herself unable to speak.
“Vic?” Teddy knelt by her side. She didn’t looked at him, and after a moment, he put his hands on either side of her face. She allowed him to turn her head to look at him. Now she could see real fear blossoming in his face – in his eyes, in the way his lips were parted, in the slight crease between his eyebrows. “Are you all right?”
She breathed in and out several times, trying to consider how she should be responding to that. She wasn’t in any immediate danger, but…
He saw her hesitation. “Are you seriously hurt?” She shook her head. “Is anyone else seriously hurt?” She shook her head again, and his grip tightened a little. “So what’s wrong?”
Victoire steeled herself and pulled up her trouser leg, revealing the bandage on her calf. He let go of her to look down, and alarm flashed across his face.
“Come on,” he said. She could hear a slight tremor in his voice. “There’s no reason to be sitting here on the cold floor.”
She allowed him to help her up and guide her into their bedroom. He closed the door behind them softly as she stumbled toward their bed. At this point, she was seriously wondering how she’d managed to hold it together for as long as she had.
She tried to unbutton her trousers, but her fingers were shaking too much to manage it.
Larger hands closed over hers and pulled them back. Victoire leaned back into Teddy’s warm, welcoming body as he wrapped his arms around her. It didn’t help much, but it didn’t hurt, either.
“What happened?” he asked softly. Victoire could feel her body start to tremble again, as if from a distance - she felt so disconnected it was almost as though it was happening to someone else. He tightened his grip. “Take your time.”
Her vision began to blur, and she twisted around to bury her face in his shoulder as the tears started to spill out onto her cheeks.
“Shh,” he murmured, keeping one arm tightly around her waist and moving his other hand up to stroke her hair. “Shh. It’s okay. I’m here.”
“I don’t know what it is,” she said through her tears, her voice muffled by his body. “We don’t know if it’s a bite or a scratch.” She pulled away from him suddenly. “I need a shower.” He let her go, looking thoughtful as she made her way over to the clean laundry basket and pulled out some clothing. When she glanced over at him, his gaze was fixed on her and his head was cocked slightly to one side. “I’m fine.”
He rose, grabbed his wand off the side table, and walked to join her. “I don’t want to contradict you,” he said, “but you do realize that your eyes are puffy and you just grabbed my shirt, right?”
Victoire examined the clothing in her hands and realized that he was right. “Yes.”
Teddy shrugged. “Just wondering.”
When she began to walk toward the door, he followed her, and she looked back. “Teddy, when I said that I needed a shower, I didn’t mean—”
He held up his hands. “I know you didn’t, but please try to understand where I’m coming from. My fiancée just walked into our flat saying that she may have been bitten by a werewolf. I have no intention of getting in the shower with you. However, I’d also prefer not to let you out of my sight. I’m fairly alarmed right now.”
Victoire felt a faint smile spread across her face. “Okay,” she said, letting him follow her out the door. When they reached the bathroom door, however, she stopped and put her hand on his chest. “I need to use the toilet. Am I allowed to do that alone?”
The corners of his mouth twitched, and he leaned against the wall. “I guess that’s reasonable enough.”
When she opened the door a few minutes later to let him in, he immediately slid down to the floor to lean against the wall.
After she’d turned on the water, she knelt down. He flashed another strained smile at her, and before she knew what she was doing, she’d sunk her fingers into his hair and pulled him forward for a kiss. At first it was tentative, but once their lips had touched, she felt a flash of desire course through her, and she deepened the kiss and swung her leg over his body so that she was straddling him. His wand clattered across the tiles as he brought his hands up to pull her closer.
When she pulled back, he was glassy-eyed. “I love you,” he whispered.
Victoire kissed him again, softly. “I love you, too,” she said, before rising and stripping off her remaining clothing. As she was about to climb into the shower, she heard Teddy sigh.
When she glanced over at him, he was staring at her. “Sorry,” he said, not sounding remotely apologetic or looking away. “I’m appreciating the view.”
She had no idea how he could appreciate the way she looked right now. Her hair was a mess, and she was sweaty, dirty, and covered in bruises and scratches.
Teddy could be a mystery that way.
As she stood there, under the water, letting it wash away all the sweat and dirt and blood, she could feel her heart starting to speed up again.
What if she was a werewolf? What would that mean?
How would that affect them?
How was she even going to get the potion? She certainly wasn’t up to brewing it, and she didn’t want to tell people. Where would she even go for the full moon? How was she going to tell anyone? When was she going to tell anyone? Her parents and Louis would be hurt if she didn't tell them immediately, and Domi might actually kill her.
Maybe Teddy wouldn’t want her anymore.
When she yanked the shower curtain aside and grabbed a towel off the rack, the flash of desire that had flooded her only a short while before was gone. In its place was just coldness and fear.
After quickly drying herself off, she pulled the fresh clothing on as quickly as possible without looking at Teddy. She moved toward the door, and he quickly rose to his feet and opened it for her. Once she’d reached their bedroom, she climbed into bed and crawled under the blankets. The soft click of the door told her that he’d followed her back in, and she could hear him lay their wands gently on the side table before sitting on the bed.
“Vic?” She turned over and looked at him. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked tentatively. “I didn’t mean to smother you. I just…” he trailed off and rubbed his face. “Can I join you?”
Victoire nodded, and he pulled back the blankets to crawl in. When he hesitantly reached an arm out, she inched over and took refuge against his warm body. “Do you still want to be with me?” she asked after a moment.
She couldn’t recall ever hearing him sound quite so shocked and offended.
“Of course I still want to be with you,” he said. “Don’t be stupid.”
“Victoire.” She looked at him. “I’ve been falling in love with you for longer than I really care to admit. When I gave you that ring, I meant it. The only way I’m ever going anywhere is if you make me - and even then, I’ll probably go very slowly, in hopes that you’ll reconsider.”
He brushed her hair back from her face. “Sweetheart, I can’t imagine my life without you.” He studied her face. “Do you still want to be with me?”
“Don’t be stupid,” she said immediately. “You’re not the one who might be turning into a werewolf.”
“Then I guess our relationship is in pretty good shape.” He kissed her softly and put his arms around her. “Whatever happens, we’ll figure it out. Get some sleep.”
The relative safety of his arms alleviated her anxiety a little, but it still took Victoire a long time to fall asleep.
By the time she woke up, she was alone in bed. Judging from the sunlight peeking through their thick blue curtains, it was mid-afternoon. The stinging sensation in her leg immediately brought her memories of the previous night flooding back.
She rubbed her eyes and sat up, trying to maintain some vague semblance of composure. Going to pieces never helped anyone.
She could faintly hear Teddy’s voice. His words were unintelligible, but his tone sounded agitated.
She got out of bed, and briefly considered putting on something more than the shorts and oversized shirt of Teddy’s that she was currently wearing. The bandage on her calf was clearly visible, and she wasn’t ready for everyone to know about what happened.
At the same time, she doubted that Teddy had let anyone into the flat who didn’t already know.
She opened the door quietly, and his voice became clearer.
“Well, what the fuck are they going to do about it?”
Victoire stopped dead in her tracks. Teddy didn’t swear often, and generally when he did, he wasn’t yelling.
“I don’t know yet,” she heard her uncle’s tired voice, and the pieces fit together. Of course her uncle Harry would have heard. “Teddy, you have to understand – it’s not that simple.”
“What’s so complicated about it?” Teddy snapped. “Some lunatics were running around knowing that they were werewolves. They bit muggles. They bit my fiancée. They deserve to be tossed in Azkaban to rot for being so fucking stupid.”
Victoire blinked and rubbed her eyes. Maybe she was dreaming - she’d didn’t think she had ever heard Teddy sound this angry.
“Seamus and Lavender told me that they weren’t sure whether it was a bite.” Teddy muttered something unintelligible. “And it’s not that simple,” Uncle Harry repeated. “Teddy, you have to understand, it wasn’t so long ago that being a werewolf disqualified you from getting a job. Most of these people remember those days.”
Teddy laughed, but Victoire couldn’t detect a trace of humor in it. “Yeah, and that changed twenty years ago. Welcome to the 21st fucking century.”
Her uncle sighed. “Teddy, it’s a mess. Half of the werewolves were either muggles or children – including the one that attacked Victoire,” he said pointedly, and Victoire was reminded of how small and undersized it had been. She felt a sudden wave of guilt - she hoped that she hadn’t seriously hurt it. “Some of the others had no idea until they transformed last night. The werewolf lobby groups are all over this, Capture and Registry are clashing with Support, and it’s all made more complicated by the fact that it was someone in a different department altogether that got attacked. I was really afraid for a moment that Seamus was going to kill someone.”
Victoire felt a rush of affection toward her boss.
Her uncle hesitated, and then added, “Teddy, even if she was bitten, it’s possible to lead a relatively normal life, especially these days.”
“Harry, do you think I’m stupid?” Victoire could hear the anger and bitterness in Teddy’s voice. “I know what being a werewolf does to you. It’s not just a ‘take a potion at the full moon and everything’s all right,’ so don’t tell me that it is.”
“Teddy, please calm down.”
“Then please stop fucking patronizing me.”
“I’m not trying to patronize you,” her uncle said. “I’m just telling you that there’s a lot that you don’t understand.”
Teddy wasn’t listening. “About being a werewolf?” he snapped. “I understand plenty. I've done my bloody research, remember?"
Uncle Harry sighed again. "I remember."
So could Victoire, but only very vaguely. She'd still been a second- or third-year when Teddy had gotten interested in his father and started doing all kinds of research about werewolves, and the only thing that she remembered about that phase was finding him in the library at school on a sunny afternoon when everyone else was outside and playing a game of chess with him.
He was still talking. "And I understand that because some people are cowards who haven’t gotten with the times, she might be in for a lifetime of pain and exhaustion. And what about children? Where does that leave us?”
Victoire felt her heart stop. She hadn’t even considered that.
Not that she and Teddy had any immediate plans to have children, of course, but they’d talked about it in the abstract, and agreed that they wanted to do so sometime in the future. The idea of not being able to do that hurt. A lot.
She pushed it out of her mind. There was no use going to pieces now.
Teddy lowered his voice a little. “Harry, she asked me whether I still wanted to be with her. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”
“Did she?” Her uncle sounded absolutely exhausted. “Teddy, just be patient. She’s been through a traumatic experience.”
“I am being patient,” Teddy said, the anger finally beginning to leave his voice. “But how the hell can she even ask that? I haven’t ever been exactly subtle in how I feel about her.” His voice broke a little, and Victoire started down the hall. “I just don’t want her to have to go through this.”
Victoire stopped in the doorway. Teddy was sitting on the couch, hunched over and staring down at his hands. Her uncle was sitting in a chair, a small crease of concern between his eyebrows as he watched his godson.
Teddy looked up to see her and winced. “Did I wake you up?”
She shook her head. His face was suddenly carefully composed, though his agitation was still apparent - he’d completely lost control of his metamorphmagus powers. His hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and eyes were now a disconcerting blood red - as she took a few steps toward him, she realized that even his irises had taken on a dark reddish hue.
It was thoroughly disconcerting, and none the less so for her having witnessed this particular display on two other occasions.
He raised his eyebrows and opened his arms tentatively.
Startling appearance aside, Victoire’s heart melted a little. She made her way over to the couch and curled up against him. He shifted his position to wrap an arm around her. “I love you,” he murmured in her ear.
She squeezed his hand. “Hi, Uncle Harry.”
Her uncle smiled tightly. “Hey, Vic. How are you feeling?
“Tense. I’ll live.” She hesitated, and then asked, “Did Seamus really come close to killing someone?”
Her uncle’s face relaxed a little. “I was definitely worried for a minute or two.” He looked at them for a moment, and then rose. “I’ll leave the two of you alone. If there’s any news, I’ll tell you, and if you need anything… just tell me.”
“Thanks,” Victoire said. It was times like this that made Uncle Harry her favorite uncle – he always knew when he could help and when she just wanted to be left alone. Teddy had always said that it was because she and Harry were typically very similar in that regard. She got up and gave him a quick hug. “I’ll be okay,” she said softly.
He patted her back. “I know you will.” They parted, and he looked past her at Teddy. “A word?”
Teddy got to his feet and followed his godfather to the door. After they’d left the room, Victoire settled back into the couch. She lay her head down on one of the arms - she didn’t have the energy to care what her uncle was saying to Teddy. Instead, she gazed at the framed picture of her and Teddy sitting on the side table. It had been taken in the dead of the previous winter, when they’d gone ice skating with Fred – in the picture, her hair whipped all over the place from under a blue hat Grandma Molly had made for her as they twirled across the ice.
“I love you,” she heard from the doorway, and looked up to see Teddy standing there. His hair and eyebrows were still red, but they’d darkened considerably, and at least his eyelashes and eyes were back to their customary brown.
Victoire tried to smile back, though she wasn’t quite sure she managed it. He rejoined her on the couch. When he lay back, she moved into his embrace.
They sat there in silence for a moment as he stroked her hair.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” he replied. “Is it about why I can’t ever seem to keep my hands off your hair?”
This time she really did manage a smile. “No.” She hesitated for a moment – given the tirade she’d overheard, she was not entirely sure how he would react to this, but she needed to ask it. “Are you sure you wouldn’t care if…” Her voice trailed off, and she looked up at his face.
“If you turn out to be a werewolf?” he finished for her. His face was perfectly composed. She nodded, and he sighed. “Not caring isn’t the word. Of course I’ll care. But it won’t change how I feel about you.”
“And knowing that I turn into a wolf won’t make you less attracted to me?”
Teddy snorted. “Sweetheart, I also know that you can turn into a hawk any time you like, and that hasn’t made me less attracted to you.”
That was actually a fair point, and one that she hadn’t considered.
“This is a little different.”
“A little,” he acknowledged. “But no. Potion or not, I doubt I’ll be interested in having sex with you while you’re transformed, but other than that, I think we’re good.”
That drew a genuine laugh from her
“I love you,” she said softly, shifting her body so that she was kneeling on the couch facing him. He began to breathe more quickly, and she laughed again. “I haven’t even done anything.”
“You’re existing,” he told her. “Vic, you really don’t need to worry about me finding you less attractive. Given what’s happened, I know it’s completely inappropriate, but when you walked in – with my godfather sitting right here, remember – my first thought was that I wanted to scoop you up, carry you off to bed, and make sweet, passionate, adoring love to you.”
Victoire looked down at herself. “Why? I must look like a disaster.”
“Not to me.” He reached up to stroke her face gently, and after a moment, he broke into a smile. “Want me to prove it to you?”
She considered that for a moment. “Yes.”
“Good.” He reached up for her, and she allowed him to pull her down for a deep, fulfilling, and very convincing kiss.
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