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Chapter 5 : Five
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Victoire met with Dunmore and Lance for a debriefing on her first impressions of Rimmon Astoreth. They sat around Dunmore’s kitchen table in the early morning, fingers tracing the rims of cups of tea far too hot to drink. Dunmore had shocked Lance and Victoire by bringing out a tin of biscuits with the tea in an unanticipated act of hospitality. The biscuits were stale, but it was still a nice gesture.
“Interesting that he has a box reserved for Quidditch games,” said Dumore, frowning, after Victoire had finished filling them in. He was still wearing a bathrobe over a set of crimson pajamas, and his silvery-gray hair was tousled from sleep.
“Why?” said Victoire, trying to bite into a biscuit but finding it completely impossible – they were rock solid. She put it down, feeling a bit awkward.
“Because those boxes are extremely expensive,” said Dunmore. “This probably says a good deal about Astoreth’s motives for taking part in the organization – he wants to live large, feel important.”
“I think we chose the right venue for the undercover work,” said Lance, though he didn’t look confident or satisfied at all. He had dark shadows under his eyes, and Victoire wondered if he’d been working late. “Astoreth definitely doesn’t seem as if he respects women enough to consider one a possible threat.”
“Agreed,” said Dunmore. “So I say we put you back onto the field as soon as possible, Weasley. Maybe ask him to take you sightseeing.”
Victoire nodded, scribbling the idea into a small dragon-leather bound notebook she’d bought. She’d gotten the idea from Lance – she could write down all of her character information into it, and carry it along with her when she became Diana Wade, after casting a simple spell on the pages to make them look like a travel diary to anyone else who read them.
“Try to mention werewolves this time,” suggested Lance. “Just casually slip something into a conversation to see how he reacts. You could even mention the murders.”
“But if you can’t find a logical way to bring it into the conversation, just leave it alone,” said Dunmore. “If you suddenly bring it up and it seems out of place in the conversation, he might get suspicious.”
“Er, okay,” said Victoire, scribbling down some notes.
“And do me a favor,” said Lance, “and Floo me a message when you get home, just so I’ll know you got back safely.”
Victoire smiled down at her notebook as she jotted that down, too. “Sure.”
That concluded the meeting. Victoire was given another vial of Polyjuice Potion and another set of American-style robes from Dunmore, and was sent off on her way. At home, she sent Rimmon an Owl, had a few real biscuits, and went back to sleep.
“Wow,” whispered Victoire.
She hadn't been to the Potter house since she was about five years old. Now, standing in a typical early-December buildup of mud and snow with a dangerous criminal by her side, she leaned against the gate and took it all in. She had hoped that visiting such an emotional monument would bring some kind of a reaction out of Rimmon. It was certainly bringing tears to her eyes.
“They were truly brave,” said Rimmon, grazing his fingertips over the commemorative plaque that had risen out of the ground at their arrival. “To be able to stand up against such a strong force of injustice… I admire them.”
Victoire nodded. “And their poor son, too.”
It was weird, speaking about her Uncle Harry as if he were a stranger. She wondered whether Harry came back here often, to see his first home. She knew that if it had been her, she wouldn't be able to keep away. Victoire had some kinds of discipline – she didn’t lose her temper, didn’t fall in love, didn’t splurge on clothing – but she lacked the discipline to keep away from things that upset her. Even after her seventh year at Hogwarts, she hadn’t been able to throw away any of the things that reminded her of Teddy, from photographs to broken quills. She still had all those things around somewhere.
“Of course, foreigners can’t very well understand their struggle,” said Rimmon teasingly.
“Oh, please,” said Victoire, swatting playfully at him with one hand. “There are some things that everyone can understand.”
Rimmon caught her hand. “Would you like to see my house?”
“Oh. Um…” Victoire hadn’t talked to Dunmore and Lance about this possibility, and she wasn’t sure what they’d want her to do. “I had sort of wanted to see Ollivander’s, next.”
He squeezed her fingers. “My house is a historical monument in its own way – used to belong to the Lestranges themselves, some of Voldemort’s most notorious Death Eaters. Of course I’ve done a bit of refurbishing – taken all the shrunken heads and things out.”
Victoire bit her lower lip. If Rimmon was inviting her into his home, it was obvious that he trusted her. Which was good, in terms of the mission. And a glimpse into his house could be very informative. But there was something about Rimmon that made Victoire uneasy – his complete, unwavering confidence, maybe. He was clearly used to getting whatever he wanted from whomever he asked.
“Um, okay,” she said. “Purely because of the historical background, of course.”
“Of course,” echoed Rimmon, grinning widely. He looked over his shoulder, checking for Muggles, and then (satisfied that the coast was clear) yanked Victoire into a swirl of space that let off at his house.
They landed right in the middle of the house’s immense front hall, which was decorated with an expensive Persian rug and an ornate chandelier. Rimmon led Victoire down several twisting hallways and into a large sitting room. The entire place screamed money. The stuffed heads of griffins – which Victoire knew for a fact were protected from hunters by Ministry decree – lined the walls, and a rug that was clearly made of a bear was stretched out in front of the magnificent fireplace.
“I’m not a hunter, myself,” said Rimmon, watching Victoire’s inspection of the room. “I have a friend who’s mad about it, though. Always sending me dead animals for Christmas.”
Victoire’s heartbeat spluttered at the sound of the voice. She turned around. Standing at the threshold of the room, wearing a set of luxurious, bottle-green robes, was Teddy Lupin.
She could only tell that it was Teddy because of his voice; he had changed his looks almost completely since she had last seen him. His cheekbones were very high, and he had a pointed nose and a stupid little goatee that was the same white blond as his hair – even lighter than Rimmon’s. Only his eyes remained dead black as they had been back at his flat. Victoire wondered if he always looked this way around Rimmon and his other associates, or whether he had decided to make the change after he had fled his flat. She made a mental note to inform Dunmore and Lance of his new appearance.
“Ted,” said Rimmon, smiling at the intruder. “This is Diana – the one I was telling you about. The American.”
“Right,” said Teddy, hardly even looking at Victoire. “Rimmon, I need to talk to you. A bloke came by looking for work - says he has some useful connections.”
That's got to be Macario, realized Victoire. He had been assigned to go undercover as well, and work his way up the levels of the criminal organization.
“It can wait,” said Rimmon, waving a hand lazily at Teddy. “We just arrived, and I was giving Diana a tour. She’s very–”
“If what he says is true, he could be an enormous help to us tonight,” said Teddy.
Tonight? thought Victoire, also making another mental note that something important must be happening. She stared at Teddy, trying to see his true face through the mask that he was wearing, but it was impossible. Even before they had gotten together, Victoire had hated it when Teddy had changed his face. Even when he was doing it to amuse his cousins, it made her uncomfortable. The real Teddy was the only one she wanted to see.
“Merlin,” said Rimmon with a deep sigh. “Right, then – Diana, I’m so sorry, but–”
“Even in America, business comes first,” said Victoire. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Will you come back tomorrow?” asked Rimmon. “We’re having a little… party.”
Victoire’s heart sped up as he drew nearer to her. Her eyes flickered over to Teddy, who was still standing in the doorway, looking impatient. If they were having some kind of gathering, that meant that he would be there.
“Yes,” she said impulsively, though she wasn’t sure whether Lance and Dunmore would approve of the idea.
“Good…” said Rimmon, leaning down to gently press his lips against hers. Victoire’s heart leapt into her throat, pounding with fear and anger. The touch of his lips was cool and firm, and she felt like an animal that had been cornered. Then he broke away, grinning at her. “I’ll expect you around seven o’clock.”
“Sure,” said Victoire, and Disapparated.
Teddy emerged from the Great Hall at last, and Victoire ran into his arms, almost knocking him over.
“Congratulations,” she said as they sat down together on a bedsheet that Victoire had stolen from her dormitory to spread out on the grass by the Lake. The House-elves would probably be scandalized when they saw the grass stains. “How does it feel to be through with NEWTs?”
“Dunno,” said Teddy with a weary smile, lying down with his hands behind his head. “Exhausting might be the best word.”
The rest of the seventh-years were flooding out of the Great Hall, cheering and hugging each other and celebrating. Teddy didn’t even look up at them – since he and Victoire become close friends in his fifth year, he hadn’t bothered to keep up pretenses. She was the only person he wanted to be around, and he didn’t give a damn about anyone in his year.
Victoire laid her head across his chest so that their bodies formed a T shape, and closed her eyes, letting her skin soak in the sun and her soul soak in Teddy.
“I’m going to miss you next year,” she said.
Teddy leaned forward to kiss the top of her head. “I’m going to miss you, Vic. Like mad.”
“You’ll write to me, won’t you?”
“Of course,” he told her, as he had told her every day for the last few weeks. Victoire kept answering – she knew that the answer would be of course each time, but she still wanted to hear it. “I’ll write to you every week.”
“I’m not going to have anyone to talk to,” mumbled Victoire. “You’re my only friend.”
“You’ll always have me,” Teddy promised her. “I’ll never change.”
Victoire smiled, because she believed in Teddy more than she believed in anything else in the world. She believed in Teddy more than she believed in her parents, more than she believed that the sun would rise each morning. He was always, unwaveringly there for her – when she needed him and even when she didn’t – supporting her, listening to her, loving her. Victoire had never felt his comfortable with another human being. Even with her cousins and Lorelei, there was some distance. Teddy was the only person she could trust with her true feelings, with the true Victoire. She needed him.
And if he said that he wasn’t going to change, then she believed him.
A/N: The return of Teddy! :) Next chapter will feature a tense Auror meeting, some alone meditation time with Victoire, and Rimmon’s party. Thanks for reading! I hope you liked it, and I would love it if you left me a review!
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