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Chapter 8 : Diplomacy
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Apparently, she was good enough for them to ask her to risk her life and health for their problems, but not to treat with any respect.
Only the barest glimpse of the sunset was visible through the skylight as she climbed up the flights of stairs. When she reached her landing, however, she found herself pausing; she had not forgotten the fight - if it could even be called that - with Teddy that morning, and she was still not at all sure how to deal with it.
She steeled herself, unlocked the door, and pushed it open. It felt very odd to feel so awkward about entering her own flat; she couldn’t remember ever feeling like this before. Van was probably right, she thought ruefully - Teddy’s easygoing demeanor really did spoil her in some ways.
She heard a quick rustling in their bedroom, and then Teddy stuck his head out. “Hey,” he said, offering her a smile. “How was work?”
Amidst her guilt for that morning and the stressful events of work that day, she had completely forgotten that he had no idea that she’d overheard him.
“Okay,” she said, letting her handbag drop onto the floor and pulling her bright blue hat off her head. “Look, Teddy, I didn’t mean to snap this morning. I’m sorry.”
He slumped against the doorway and shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I know you’re under a lot of stress right now.”
“What, and you’re not?” she asked before she could help herself.
“Not like you.” She opened her mouth to argue, and he let out a snort. “Vic, apologies are meant to diffuse a situation. That doesn’t work when you start arguing over it.”
She made a face, but closed her mouth.
He reached out to brush her hair back from her face. “I’ve been a little smothering lately. I know. I don’t mean it, but that doesn’t make it better for you. I’m sorry.”
His voice was calm, but the crease in his forehead told a different story. She stepped up and put her arms around his waist. “It’s okay,” she said as his arms encircled her. “I know you don’t.”
She considered saying something to him about that morning, but decided against it; she wasn’t sure what to say about it. ‘Sorry I overheard you crying’ just didn’t have a great ring to it, and she didn’t think it would help communicate what either of them was feeling any better.
After that, Teddy really did seem to make an effort to be less overattentive. There were still moments where either he was trying too hard or she was just having a bad day where there was definitely tension, but on the whole, things were better.
Unfortunately, just as Teddy was figuring out how to scale back his supportiveness so that it was actually supportive and not just annoying, her mother seemed to decide that she needed to be ‘helping’ more than she was. Victoire loved her mother dearly, but her definition of ‘helping’ sometimes left Victoire wanting to put her head under the Knight Bus. In her mother’s world, the best way to make Victoire feel better was to make sure that her daughter knew that she was available.
Victoire wished that she wouldn’t. The frequent owls inviting her over for tea, dinner, chess, and Quidditch were getting exhausting.
“She means well,” Dominique reminded her one evening. Teddy was working late, and her little sister seemed to have decided that she could talk to Victoire about the situation without Victoire’s “typically emotional Gryffindor” fiance leaning over her shoulder.
“I know,” Victoire said irritably, scowling at her teacup. “I know. But I just want -”
“- to be left alone,” Dominique finished for her. “Yeah. I know. But it’s hard for her to back off...”
“Ever?” supplied Victoire when her sister trailed off. Dominique grinned.
“Well, yes. But especially when one of us is in some kind of trouble.”
Victoire wrinkled her nose at her sister. Dominique’s newly-cropped blonde hair ended just below her chin, which she was resting on one hand as she gazed out the window.
Sensing Victoire’s eyes on her, she looked up. “What?”
“When did you become the smart one?” Victoire asked, and Dominique threw her head back and laughed.
“It had to happen sometime, right?” She picked up her teacup and finished the rest of it.
“More?” Victoire offered, but Dominique shook her head.
Victoire had known that it would only be a matter of time before her sister started to show some common sense in dealing with others, but she wished Dominique had put it off a little longer; she was not at all in the mood to deal with other people being reasonable.
“How’s the investigation going?” Dominique asked, leaning back in the armchair. They were sitting in the living room, which was slightly chilly; Dominique had pulled her jumper back over her head when they’d migrated into the room after eating dinner, and Victoire was wrapped in a blanket.
Her sister frowned. “Seriously?”
Victoire rested her head against the back of the couch and gazed up at the ceiling. “Yes,” she said. “No. I don’t know.” When she looked up, Dominique was raising her eyebrows.
“No,” she decided. Whether or not Dominique was in an uncharacteristically mature mood, she was sure to sympathise with Victoire over the nonsense from Werewolf Capture. “I’m just frustrated. It’s like Capture just brought us in to serve as human shields, and now that they don’t need that anymore, they’re shutting us out as much as possible.”
“And you’re the one who got bit,” Dominique said flatly, and Victoire had to work to hide a smile. At least her sister hadn’t gotten a complete personality transplant with her slightly more nuanced perspective on life. “Or, maybe bit,” Dominique added belatedly, and Victoire felt her mood start to degrade further.
“Right,” she said. “It’s just so...”
She wasn’t sure what it was so, so she trailed off, but Dominique seemed to take her meaning. “I know,” she said. “That’s part of why I was glad you didn’t join Capture. They’re great in some ways, and they do good work, but they’re also big on hierarchy and controlling a situation, and that’s not for you.”
She smiled. “Or me.” She cocked her head to one side to stare at Victoire, and her pale blonde hair brushed against her shoulder. “Vic, would it be so bad to be taken off this case?”
Victoire felt her grip on the blanket tighten. When she looked down, her knuckles were white. “Yes,” she said stiffly. “I need to know.”
Dominique looked as though she were thinking over what she wanted to say carefully. In the end, she didn’t have the patience to work out a tactful way to say what she wanted to. “You know, finding this guy won’t change whether you’re a werewolf,” she said flatly.
“I know,” Victoire said defensively, and Dominique’s frown deepened.
“Do you?” she asked, holding Victoire’s gaze. Victoire looked away first, and Dominique blew out her breath in exasperation. “It won’t,” she said again. “So leave it alone.”
As much as Victoire hated to admit it, her sister probably had a point; in some ways, Victoire had linked finding the person to finding out whether she’d been infected. The full moon was rapidly approaching, and with it came a wave of fatigue and irritation. She feared the worst, though as Teddy had quite sensibly pointed out, the fact that she was anxious and expecting to feel that way could explain the way she was feeling all on its own, without any mystical significance attached.
Still. She couldn’t help but feel like the worst was coming. At this point, however, the case was getting so frustrating that she was starting to feel like not being on it would almost be a good thing. Werewolf Capture’s approach to the case was just downright odd. She understood that it was a delicate issue, but action was needed to control this before the next full moon, not making sure that Registry and Support were totally supportive of their actions. Who cared?
On her especially cynical days, Victoire wondered whether Registry and Support were slowing it all down on purpose. After all, if Capture prevented the spread of the curse, they would be out of a job.
She knew better than to say that to them or Seamus, though - she knew that that would get her kicked off the case faster than a Firebolt Gold. Their sandbox, their rules, as Van said.
“But they’re wasting so much time,” she complained to him. They were tramping through a forest with the third member of their team, Sienna Kettletoft. The werewolf case had been going so slowly that Seamus had made the decision to send them out anyway - he didn’t like his people sitting on their hands when there was work to be done, and the D.C.B. always had work to be done.
In a lot of ways, it was almost a relief to be out in open air doing what she knew again. She hadn’t realised how big a toll being stuck in the office for weeks had been until she’d felt the cold rush of the autumn air on her face. It stood in stark contrast to the comfortable but carefully-controlled temperature spell in the Ministry.
She preferred the real thing.
“Yeah, well,” Van responded, lifting one shoulder in a shrug as they walked along. “The werewolf lobby is strong these days. Capture has to play nice, or the lobby will make life for them a living hell.”
Sienna glanced over at him. She was bundled up more warmly than either Victoire or Van, and her cheeks were rosy. Sienna did not deal very well with the cold. “Which of your siblings ended up in Capture, then?” she asked with a grin.
Van smiled, too. He’d long since learned to take his younger siblings following in his footsteps in choosing dangerous careers in good humour. “Robb,” he said. “Only for a couple years, though. He left to join the Hit Wizards. He needed more regular excitement.”
“Ah.” Sienna stopped suddenly and held her hand up. Victoire and Van both froze. “Do you hear something?” she asked softly.
Victoire concentrated, though she was more than willing to take Sienna’s word for it - Sienna had much better hearing than she did.
She didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary, but either Van did or he trusted Sienna enough to take her word for it, because he motioned for them to start out in the direction she was looking at.
They picked through the undergrowth, trying to make as little noise as possible. Something about their creeping along and the crunch of autumn leaves beneath their feet put Victoire in mind of that night in the forest, and she had to repress a shudder. This was her job. She couldn’t start getting tense and unhappy every time she went into a forest.
When they reached the source of the noise, Victoire was sure whether to be relieved or disappointed to find that it was only pixies. Obviously the lack of serious mortal danger was a positive as far as those things went, but in some ways, a real fight might have improved her mood - or at the very least, distracted her from it.
“Sorry,” Sienna said as Van circled around the tree to see if there were any augery or jobberknoll nests they needed to be careful of. “I thought it was something more...” She stopped herself before she said ‘interesting,’ but Victoire knew that she had been about to say it.
From the look on his face, so did Van. “Pixies are problem enough,” he said. “I don’t see any nests. Let’s get rid of them.”
Victoire sighed and raised her wand. At least she was doing something.
When they got back to the office, Seamus was stony-faced. “We found some pixies,” Van started, but Seamus stopped him before he could say anything else.
“You’re off the case,” he said without preamble. Victoire opened her mouth, though she had no idea what she wanted to say, and he added, “All of you.”
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