Chapter 2 : The assignment
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Brilliant CI by sammich@TDA.
She used to comment about it when she read one of those corny romance novels that she borrowed from her cousin. She’d say it with tongue in cheek, but it always made me wonder what she’d say to me if she knew. “They think it’s romantic, these Muggle authors, but watching someone sleep is, and always will be, creepy!”
But she didn’t know. She didn’t know how her face transformed the second she fell asleep, how every line softened, how every muscle relaxed. Her eyelids would flutter, and sometimes she’d move her lips a little bit. I used to think she was saying something in her dream, and I liked to imagine what she might be talking about. Her crazy family, her work… maybe even me. And she was so beautiful. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, also when awake, but it was something special about the way she looked when she was sleeping. And in those quiet, peaceful moments, when nothing could be heard except for the sound of her breathing, I knew that I would do anything – anything – for her.
The smell of freshly cooked coffee mixed with fried bacon and eggs crept through the door chink and into the bedroom in which Teddy Lupin was sleeping. At least he was pretending to, but as he inhaled the lovely smell of the breakfast his wife was cooking he realized that he wouldn’t have been able to feel that smell if he’d really been asleep. He opened his eyes reluctantly and squinted in the bright morning light. If Victoire was up and already preparing breakfast, it was most likely time for him to get ready too.
After putting on his work clothes and deciding on a hair colour – he didn’t like the green tint he’d woken up with, and settled for regular brown – he left the bedroom and headed towards the kitchen. He stopped in the doorway, leaned against the jamb of it and watched his wife as she moved between the stove, the table and the refrigerator with her long, silvery blonde hair fluttering behind her. She was dressed in a simple, bright blue dress that made her beautiful, blue eyes pop. They were the only Weasley trait she’d inherited, unless one counted her explosive temper – although, come to think of it, Teddy’s mother-in-law had quite a temper as well. He was lucky enough to never have got on Fleur Weasley’s bad side, and he’d like to keep it that way.
Victoire, who’d just turned around after placing two glasses on the table, jumped at the sight of him. Her hand flew up to her chest and she frowned.
“What are you trying to do?” she asked. “Scare me to death? Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
Teddy couldn’t help but smile at her rosy cheek and startled face expression. He walked over to her, wrapped his arms around her waist and made her meet his eyes. Hers were still widened from the shock, and he bent his head down to place a soft kiss on her lips.
“I’m sorry”, he mumbled. “I was just looking at you. You’re too beautiful, you know. It’s not fair.”
“It’s not fair? To whom?”
“Oh, I don’t know”, Teddy said, pretending to think about it. “Perhaps to every other woman in the world? Or to me? I’ll go mad any day now – it’s a natural effect of being around someone so incredibly beautiful.”
Victoire laughed and shook his head at him. “Why don’t you try that line when it’s not six thirty in the morning and I haven’t even done my makeup?”
Teddy bent his head down to kiss her again. It was a mystery to him, the fact that she still thought she needed to make an effort to look beautiful, when she was the impersonation of natural beauty.
He looked around in the kitchen. “Where’s Remus? He’s not still sleeping, is he?”
“He’s spending the day with my parents, remember? They’ picked him up early”, Victoire said as she let go of him and walked over to kitchen counter to pour the coffee in two cups. “What are you going to at work today?”
Teddy began slicing up the bread. “I wouldn’t know”, he answered. “Probably just paper work. I know it’s an awful thing to say, but I almost hope someone will commit a crime somewhere, just to give me something to do.”
Victoire carried the cups over to the table, sat down and started sipping on her coffee.
“Yes, Ted”, she told him, “that is quite an awful thing to say. But I guess it could be a good thing if you could show the new Head Auror that you didn’t get the job because Uncle Harry is your godfather, but because you’re actually good. You can’t prove yourself to him by doing paperwork, can you?”
Teddy sat down at the table and started filling his plate with food. His mouth watered at the sight of the perfectly cooked eggs and bacon, the home baked bread that Nana Molly had brought over to their place the other day, and the slices of fresh melon and pineapple – Victoire had been obsessed with exotic fruits lately, and Teddy was definitely not complaining.
“So are you feeling any better today?” he asked as he stirred his coffee with a spoon. “I’m sorry you had to miss Roxanne’s birthday party last night.”
“So am I”, Victoire sighed. “I love it when the entire family is gathered. Luckily, it’s not that long ‘til Albus’ birthday!”
“I guess that’s the upside of having such a large family”, Teddy laughed.
“And I am feeling better. I don’t know why I was so tired last night. It was probably just from working too hard.”
Teddy spent the rest of the breakfast telling her about the things she had missed out on the night before, including her aunt Ginny’s rage when she’d overheard her son James telling his cousins about the prank he had played on his opponents before his last Quidditch match. James was, much like his mother, a brilliant Quidditch player, and much like his paternal grandfather, an infamous prankster. To make matters worse, the opponents in question had been the Holyhead Harpies, the all-female Quidditch team that Ginny had played for before retiring to have children.
“James Sirius Potter!” she had yelled while grabbing him by the ear and pulling him away from his laughing cousins. “When are you going to start acting your age? You’ll be thirty in a couple of years, for Merlin’s sake, and you still behave like a silly schoolboy! Do you realize how embarrassing it is to hear that my own son would do something like that to my teammates?”
At this point, James had worsened the situation even more by grinning and replying:
“You’re old now, Mum, remember? None of those girls could have been your teammate – they probably weren’t born when you played!”
“Did he really say that?” Victoire asked in shock. “Doesn’t he know his mother at all?”
“I know”, Teddy said. “I would have never dared to do it. And she was furious, of course. Harry had to step in to stop her from hexing him.”
Victoire laughed. “I can imagine”, she said. “So was he there? Lily’s new boyfriend?”
The smile disappeared from Teddy’s face. “No. I guess he was too much of a coward to face her entire family all at once.”
“And rightly so”, Victoire told him. “You would have given him a hard time if he had shown up, right?”
“Yes, but I’d have to!” Teddy said in a firm voice. “I need to know if he’s good enough, don’t I? I don’t want her to waste her time on some prat who doesn’t deserve her.”
“And when is Lily going to be old enough for you to let her make her own decisions?” Victoire asked while raising her eyebrows. “She is of age now, you know.”
“Harry and I both agree that she’s not old enough”, Teddy said, crossing his arms over his chest like a stubborn child.
Victoire rolled her eyes, rose to her feet and began clearing the table. “Remus is lucky he’s not a girl”, she muttered. “I bet you’d be worse than Uncle Ron.”
Teddy laughed and stood up to help her. Worse than Ron… that was a bit of an exaggeration, he thought as he placed the bread on a shelf in the pantry. Ron had made a habit of driving his daughter crazy, but Teddy couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Rose was a handful. As if it wasn’t enough that she’d started going out with Draco Malfoy’s son during her fifth year at Hogwarts – now, by the age of twenty-two, she had married him and had his child. Taking that into account, Teddy thought, it was a miracle that Ron was still somewhat sane.
“You should probably get going”, Victoire said. “You don’t want to be late and give Barrett another reason to dislike you, do you?”
A few minutes later, Teddy walked out the door. He had to walk off their property before he would be able to apparate to the Ministry, and he caught himself dragging his feet along the ground. Ever since Harry had retired, he had stopped looking forward to going to work. Barrett had only been Head of the Auror Office for a week, but things had already changed to the worse. Teddy shrugged as Victoire’s words echoed in his mind – he didn’t want to be late, because he didn’t want to give Barrett the satisfaction.
As always, the arrival hall at the Ministry was crowded. People seemed to rush in every direction – some were heading towards the elevators, others towards the fireplaces, and a select few hurried through the large wooden door that lead into the reception. Teddy squeezed his way through a group of people that had stopped in the middle of the chaos and walked over to the elevators. A few minutes later he reached his office at the Auror Department, and he sighed heavily as he sat down by his desk. A giant stack of papers awaited him, and he resisted the urge to throw it into the fire – that probably wouldn’t make him too popular with Barrett, either.
“Lupin!” As often when one speaks of – or thinks of – the devil, his face turned up in the doorway. “This is your lucky day”, Barrett said. “I have an assignment for you, and a very special one… People in this department seem to like you, and I want to see if you can live up to what they’ve told me.”
Casting a glance at the stack of papers on his desk, Teddy grinned widely. Perhaps he had misjudged his new boss; perhaps things would be the same as it had been with Harry.
“This is top-secret stuff, Lupin, but people say you’re trustworthy”, Barrett said as he sat down across from Teddy. “I’m sure you’ve read about me in the Daily Prophet… you don’t have to deny it, boy, I don’t think there is a soul in the Wizarding World who doesn’t know what… those people think of me. But you see, they’re wrong. I’m not too old, and I will be able to stop the rising murder rates.”
“If you say so, sir”, Teddy mumbled. He had no idea where Barrett was going with this.
“I’ve come up with a method”, the chubby man continued. “We’re not just going to catch murderers anymore. We’re going to get them before they commit the murders. Do you follow me, Lupin?”
“Not quite”, Teddy said as a wrinkle formed on his forehead. “With all due respect, sir, but I don’t think… you can’t possibly know who is going to murder someone, can you?”
“Of course you can”, Barrett smiled. “Have you forgotten that we are magical? Divination is the answer!”
Teddy snorted and stared at his boss, expecting to burst into laughter. It had to be a joke. It had to… but Barrett’s face was serious when he looked back at Teddy, waiting patiently for a response.
“You can’t… you must be kidding!”
“I’m not. In fact, we’ve already got a case. Our Seer – I hired her yesterday – has predicted a murder, and you’re going to arrest the man in question. We’re not going to wait for him to hurt his victim.”
“So you want to arrest someone – throw someone in Azkaban – for a crime they have not yet committed?” Teddy asked. “You can’t do that, it doesn’t work like that!”
Barrett smiled again and leaned forwards. “Keep up, Lupin. I’m Head Auror now. I decide how things work.”
“But sir… divination isn’t always watertight. There must be billions of inaccurate predictions every day! You might end up throwing someone innocent in prison… Actually, you’ll only throw innocent people in prison. That’s not what Aurors do, Barrett. You can’t ask me to do that.”
Barrett wasn’t smiling anymore. His face hardened when he met Teddy’s eyes.
“You’re going to do what I tell you to do, or you’ll be out of here before you can say Potter”, he jerked out. “Things are changing on this department, whether you like it or not. As from right now, this is what an Auror does. We’ve already changed the admission requirements for future applicants. From now on, anyone who wants to become an Auror must master the art of divination.”
Teddy shook his head. Every cell in his body shouted ‘no’, every part of his brain wanted to stand up and protest. It was wrong. Barrett was probably desperate, but what he was doing was wrong, and he couldn’t be a part of it.
“I won’t do it”, he said. “I’ll stick to paperwork, or I’ll find another job. But I can’t be a part of this. I can’t arrest an innocent man based on what a crazy fortune teller says, I just can’t.”
He had expected Barrett to explode. He had already seen him lash out at one of the Trainee Aurors a few days earlier, and he knew that what he was doing was much worse than arriving late to duel class. But Barrett didn’t move, and his face didn’t go red – he didn’t even look upset. Instead, a wide smile grew on his face, and he actually chuckled as he rose to his feet.
“I don’t believe that for a second, Mr Lupin”, he said softly. “I am positive that you will take that back.”
“I’m sorry, but I won’t”, Teddy insisted.
“Yes, you will. You will change your mind the very same second that I tell you this little piece of information that I have not yet shared with you”, Barrett assured him. “You won’t be able to say no once you hear exactly who this certain prediction concerns.”
Teddy stiffened. He could tell that Barrett noticed, because his smile grew even wider as he crossed his arms over his chest. A series of images flashed through Teddy’s mind; images of smiling faces. Victoire. Are you really going to let me die, Ted? It couldn’t be her. Remus, whose big, brown eyes were full of tears as he stared up at him. Daddy, you have to stop them from hurting me. Harry and Ginny. You’ll do everything to save us, son, we know you will. James. I’m counting on you, mate, and I know you won’t let me down. Albus’ entreating face. You’ll do it for me, Teddy, you’re like the caring, cool brother I never had – James doesn’t count, of course. And then Lily, whose lower lip trembled as she met his eyes. Save me, Teddy, if you can.
“Who is it?” Teddy’s voice was shaking.
“It’s your sister-in-law. Dominique’s husband is going to murder her.”
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