No one mentioned anything about my return to Hogwarts for the rest of the week. We celebrated Christmas with new Weasley sweaters from Grandma and no one even brought Hogwarts up at all. I certainly wasn’t going to and Dom seemed to lose interest after our little talk.
Mum and Dad continued their hushed conversations, but there were some things it was better to stay in the dark about. If I didn’t have a say in the matter I’d rather just not know until they were sure about it. No sense worrying over something to come.
But I couldn’t help thinking about it, alone in my room. Especially at night. I kept telling myself it was ridiculous, that I couldn’t possibly do anything about it so worrying was pointless, but it didn’t work. At least not completely.
I couldn’t even owl Teddy about it because I wasn’t supposed to be talking to him. And even if I did he couldn’t really say anything helpful. It would just upset him too which helped absolutely nothing.
Finally, the night before we were supposed to go back to Hogwarts, Mum clears her throat as we finish dinner. “Dom, why don’t you go upstairs with your brother.”
Louis scurries up the steps and Dom only pauses long enough to stick out her tongue at me, a very immature gesture. I keep my eyes on my plate and wait for Mum to say something. She’s always better than Dad when it comes to confrontations like this.
“Your father and I have been talking about your situation at school.” I can feel the heat in my cheeks. My parents think I go off shagging my professor to get a passing grade. I think this is as embarrassing as it gets. “We’ve decided it would be best for you to take a leave of absence from Hogwarts until things settle down a bit for you.”
A leave of absence. They make it sound like a temporary thing, like I’m just staying home sick for a week or something, but that’s not the way it works. I bet I’m done there for good.
“McGonagall has helped us find a private tutor who will continue your studies until we see fit to send you back,” Dad says, finally adding something to the conversation.
Everything they say sounds so clinical and devoid of emotion. Leave of absence, continue your studies, situation at school. Nothing sounds like what I’ve been going through these last few weeks. Or years, depending on how you look at it.
This will be my first January at home since I was ten and I’ll be spending it with my nine year old brother. My life just keeps getting more and more pathetic. “Do you have anything to add?” Mom asks and I shake my head.
There’s nothing to say. Their minds are made up and going back doesn’t sound like much fun. I’d have to share a room with Yvette again and constantly watch my back. Hogwarts hasn’t been like home in years.
But there’s still a nagging part of me that wants to go back and have fun like I did first year before people were so concerned with the way everyone looked.
“Could I take a walk?” I ask and realize that they’ve already left the room. I’d leave in an instant, but I don’t know if that would be considered sneaking out. I did try to tell them I was going.
In the end I grab my coat and slam the front door behind me. They’ll know I left and they can come bother me about it if they want.
I pause for a moment outside and pull my coat closer to my body as the cold wind blows by, but no one comes to the door. It turns out they really don’t care where I go. I don’t know whether to be happy or disappointed.
I walk into town and pass the café I used to hang out in before Yvette decided it was time to move on to bigger and better things. Or anywhere that would serve us alcohol.
Before I even realize I’ve made my decision, I push open the door and let the warmth surround me. My teeth are still chattering as I walk up to the counter and order a hot chocolate. The girl behind the counter looks to be about my age, maybe we were friends when we were kids. Mum used to take me to a muggle play group until I started showing signs of magic.
She sets the hot chocolate in front of me on the counter. “Two pounds.”
I reach into my pocket, but all I feel are a few knuts. No muggle money. The coins jingle together when my fingers brush them loud enough that the girl working there could hear them. “I er, I don’t have any money.” My face burns as she gives me a disbelieving look.
I’m about to leave when someone behind me drops a few coins on the counter. “I’ll pay for her.” I glance back and see Teddy smiling at me. “Fancy meeting you here.” I nod jerkily and warm my hands around the hot chocolate.
“I can pay you back, you know,” I say and reach into my pocket for the knuts. “I just didn’t have any muggle money.”
He shakes his head, but the smile doesn’t change. “My treat.”
I sip the hot chocolate slowly, aware of the fact that he’s just staring at me without saying a word. The more awkward it gets, the more I sip. At least if I’ve got something in my mouth I’m no expected to say anything.
“So I haven’t heard from you in a while,” he says, breaking the silence.
“Um yeah, sorry about that. I’ve been distracted.” It doesn’t make up for not seeing him, but at least it’s something. He can’t find out that Uncle Harry sent me away or he’d never speak to him again.
He nods. “I heard. What happened over dinner with Dom-”
I cut him off before he can say anything. I don’t want him to say he believes the rumors, or even worse that he’s on my side. “Let’s not talk about it.”
“Alright then. What do you want to talk about?”
I don’t want to talk about anything, but he’s sitting there so expectantly. I’ve got to say something. “Why’d you come here?”
He smiles and looks around at the café. “I’ve been coming here for ages. We used to come when we were kids, don’t you remember?” I nod, but that doesn’t really answer my question. Of all the times for him to come he comes the one time I’ve been here in years? That’s got to be more than a coincidence.
“I’m not going back to Hogwarts,” I say bluntly. I had to tell him at some point and that was better than him finding out when I don’t show up at the train. It’s best to do it quickly.
His mouth drops open. “What? Why?”
“My parents think it would be best for me to take a break.” He’s staring at me with his mouth hanging open in shock. I guess of all the things he expected me to say, that wasn’t one of them.
“You- you can’t just drop out! Tell your parents you have to go back. I’ll tell your parents you have to go back!” That would only make things worse. Besides, this way he’ll be able to focus on his NEWTs. This is for the best.
“I’ll be fine. There’s more to life than school.” He seems surprised that I’m so calm about this. I can just imagine if someone suggested he drop out of school, even though technically I’m not dropping out. Not yet at least.
His mouth opens and closes and finally he just leans back in his chair. “Why? Merlin Vic, why?”
That’s got to be a joke. He knows what it’s like for me there, all the things that people say about me. It’s practically a relief that I don’t have to go back. But I don’t tell him any of this; instead I shrug and stare at my empty mug.
“Vic, you’ve got to talk to me. We can convince your parents to let you go back. Your dad’s a good guy, if you talk to him I’m sure he’ll understand. I’ll even help you.” Teddy sounds so earnest. It sucks he ended up with me as a friend.
“I’ll see you when you get home for the summer and we can talk more then.” By then he’ll have forgotten that I exist, but it’s all for the best.
He glances around, as though he’s just realized a muggle could hear our conversation. We could blow the statute of secrecy right here and now, wouldn’t that be something to add to my résumé? “Let’s go somewhere else.”
I follow him to my house, but he stops in the doorway. “This is your doing, you know. Your parents won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to.” He’s right about that, but I don’t know what to do. They would know better than me, so I’m listening to them.
“Okay,” I murmur and Teddy’s hair and eyes turn dark, like they always used to when he got angry.
“Why don’t you fight? Do something, Vic! People go after you and you just roll over and let them walk all over you, then come crying to me when you get hurt. Stop playing the damsel in distress and take care of yourself for once.” He stalks off and disapparates with a loud crack. I stand in front of the door, shell shocked. Teddy has never yelled at me before. Never. I count on him for that.
I’m still staring after him when the door opens. Mum smiles stiffly at me. “Did I hear Teddy out here just a moment ago?”
Her voice brings me to my senses. “Yeah. He just- he apparated away.”
“Well I hope you two had a nice time. Are you coming in?” I nod and she goes back into the house. I glance back at where Teddy had been just a few moments ago, but he hasn’t come back. I half thought he’d come back to apologize and say he didn’t mean it. “Victoire!”
I sigh and head back into the house. “Coming, Mum.”
A/N: I've had this chapter ready for nearly a week, but my stupid laptop got a virus! I still don't have full access to it, but I should be able to keep up posting anyways. So are you liking it? The end is near!
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