Chapter 5 : The explanation
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I hated waking up alone.
As a child, it terrified me. I would wake up in the middle of the night and convince myself that all kinds of monsters were lurking in the darkness of my bedroom, and I’d run into my parents’ room and crawl into their bed. I knew I was safe there.
When I got older, I slowly got used to idea of not having anyone beside me when I woke up. And then I got married. I woke up to the sound of my beautiful wife sleeping in my arms, to her subdued snores or indistinct mumbles. On those occasions when either one of us had to spend the night away I dreaded waking up.
That’s what I thought about the next morning, as I squinted in the bright ceiling light, which was turned on in the exact same second that I sat up in my narrow bed. How many more mornings would I have to wake up alone?
Terrance O’Hagan had his dreams within arm’s reach. For as long as he could remember, he had wanted this – to become an Auror. He had spent endless hours of his childhood pestering his older brothers until they finally agreed to play Aurors with him. He had waited by the door every night for his father to come home from work with new stories to tell of his daily fight against evil. And here he was now: he had graduated from Hogwarts before the summer with top marks, been accepted to the Auror program and he was currently making his way through the corridors of the Ministry of Magic, heading for the Auror Department for his second week of training. He couldn’t stop himself from grinning so widely that his cheeks hurt – it was everything he had wished for, and it was coming true.
“Morning, O’Hagan. Good morning, Terrance”, a familiar voice said.
Terrance puffed up his chest and smiled back at Percy Weasley, who was rushing by them on his way to the elevators. Terrance turned his head to meat his father’s eyes. One of the benefits of having a well-known Auror for a father was the fact that he knew important people at the Ministry. Some of them – like Percy – even knew Terrance’s name.
Nobody would say that Terrance’s father was an impressive man just by looking at him. He was short, a little plump and barely had enough hair to cover his head. He wore spectacles with glasses so thick that they made his eyes look three times bigger than they were, giving him the facial proportions of a fly – Terrance assumed it was only a matter of time before he would start to go blind as well. But everyone who knew Mr O’Hagan also knew that there was a lot more to him than what met the eye. He was a skilled duellist, he was the best in the Auror Department at concealment and disguise – except for Ted Lupin, of course – and he got along with everyone. He had a talent for making friends that would come in handy one day – that’s how Terrance’s eldest brother had managed to get hired by the Department of Magical Games and Sports, despite his bad reputation from his Quidditch career at Hogwarts. It was also one of the more important lessons that he had taught his three sons: “If you want to reach the top, you have to make friends with those above you. They are the ones that will help pull you up.” Terrance planned on living by these words – one day he would become Head of the Auror Office, and the Daily Prophet would have nothing but praise for him.
Terrance lifted his head. His father was already over at the door, where he waited impatiently for him to catch up.
“Hurry along, Terry”, called Mr O’Hagan. “You don’t want to be late for Finnigan’s class, do you?”
“Of course not!”
Terrance trotted across the hall to catch up with his father. Once they reached Mr O’Hagan’s office, the older man patted his son’s back and pushed the door open. He was just about to open his mouth – depending on his mood at the moment, Terrance knew that he would either wish him luck with the training or tell him not to embarrass their family name – when a loud shriek made the two men jump and turn around.
Two very large men, whom Terrance recognized as his father’s colleagues, were dragging a woman in her mid-twenties, so strikingly beautiful that Terrance suddenly felt weak in the knees, through the corridor. She was yelling and twisting in their grip, trying to escape. Her hair was strawberry blonde, and her skin was almost glowing in the dusky light. Terrance couldn’t tear his eyes away from her – not only because he wondered what in Merlin’s name was going on, but also because she was the most beautiful woman he had seen in his life.
“Let go of me!” she yelled. “You’re treating me like a bloody criminal! I just want to see my husband!”
“Standing in the arrival hall and squealing top secrets of the Ministry?” said one of the men and altered his grip around her arm. “That’s against the law, Miss.”
“That would be Mrs!” the woman sputtered. “And I demand that you take me to my husband right now!”
For some reason, Terrance felt disappointed. It was not like he would have stood a chance with her anyway, but he didn’t like to hear that she was married. Actually, he thought angrily, he wanted to keep her from seeing her husband too. Casting a glance sideways, he realized that his father seemed to be hypnotized by this woman as well. He hustled him – he was married too, and Terrance was sure that his mother wouldn’t approve of her husband staring at another woman like that.
“What is going on out here?”
Mr O’Hagan cleared his throat. “Mr Barrett!” he said. “I haven’t had the chance to ask yet, but it appears this woman was calling out top secrets down in the arrival hall…”
Barrett’s eyes narrowed. “Statham! Reed!” he called, making the two men stop and turn around. “Bring her over here.” His lips curled into a wide grin when Statham, Reed and the woman came closer. “Well, well, look who it is”, he said. “Come to thank us, have you, Mrs Howells?”
Mrs Howells snorted. “Thank you? For taking my husband to…”
“Hush now”, Barrett interrupted. “You should be grateful – we have just saved your life!”
The woman ignored him. “I need to see him”, she insisted. “I want you to take me to my husband now. Actually, no, I want you to let my husband go so that I can bring him home!”
Barrett sighed, as if he realized that she was a hopeless case. He turned to the two aurors with a suddenly sly facial expression.
“Bring her to Lupin”, he said. “Let him deal with her – it’s his sister-in-law, after all!” Then he turned to Terrance, who instinctively took a step back and braced himself for a scolding. But surprisingly enough, Barrett just raised one of his thick eyebrows with a faint smile on his lips. “O’Hagan… shouldn’t you head off to your classroom? I’m not sure Finnigan will wait for you if you’re late.”
Terrance nodded hastily. “I’ll go straight away, sir!”
The last thing he heard as he hurried along the now empty corridor was his father’s voice, lowered in a confidential tone, as if he was sharing secrets with a close friend:
“A fine boy, Terrance. You’ll see soon enough – it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d be the Minister for Magic one day! He just needs to learn to always act in the way that will benefit him the most. I’ve been trying to teach him that…”
Terrance shook his head and stopped abruptly – he was inches away from colliding with Statham and Reed, who were just stepping out from Teddy Lupin’s office. Statham winked at Terrance before carefully closing the door behind him and locking it with a flick of his wand – a clicking sound announced that the spell had served it purpose, and the two Aurors hurried along.
“They locked the door? Wait; am I a criminal too, now? Or will I just become one?”
Dominique’s voice was full of spite when she sunk into one of the visitor chairs by Teddy’s desk. Her brother-in-law sighed and covered his face with his hands. He felt like he was standing in the middle of a crowd, and everyone was pulling him in different directions and calling his name; everyone wanted him to come with them. He wouldn’t be surprised if his arms or legs would fall off if he’d let them keep going.
“Dom”, he said softly. “Please, just be patient. I know that this is a very strange situation, but you-“
“Please”, Dominique interrupted. “I know that you’re just doing your job, but if you could… You could let him go, make it look like he escaped…”
Teddy met her eyes, which were glossy with tears that were on the verge of falling over the edge and run down her cheeks. He wanted to tell her that everything would be okay; he wanted to do as she wished and let her take her husband back home.
“You know why I can’t, though”, he whispered, barely loud enough for the words to reach into her ears.
She bit her lip and shook her head twice. “I really don’t.”
But she looked as though she did. She looked like someone who was trying to deny facts – someone who would stop at nothing to keep the truth out of their mind, because they knew it would pain them. Teddy had seen that look on several faces before. Each time he had to sit a couple down and tell them that their child had died, it was there. It was on a shocked mother’s face when he announced to her that her son was to be arrested. He had seen it on the face of a ten-year-old boy who had just watched his father get dragged out of his home, having tortured the boy’s mother for the very last time.
“I can’t do that”, Teddy said quietly, “because what if I do, and the prediction comes true? Do you think I’ll be able to forgive myself? Do you think Vic will forgive me, or your parents, or anyone in your family? Would you forgive me?”
“I wouldn’t have to”, Dominique insisted, “because Ben is not a murderer. You know it as well as I do. He’s your friend. Can you really look me in the eye and tell me that you believe this? That you believe that he is capable of doing something so horrible?”
Teddy swallowed. Suddenly, it was so quiet in his office that he could hear his own blood rush through his veins. He lifted his head, stared into Dominique’s eyes and said:
“I can’t take the risk.”
As soon as the words had passed his lips, Dominique rose to her feet. She pulled out her wand, and as she waved it, the door flung open. Without saying another word, or even casting a glance over her shoulder, she stormed out of his office and slammed the door shut.
When Teddy stepped out of the fireplace of his and Victoire’s living room a couple of hours later, his head was still swamped with thoughts. Whatever he did, someone would end up getting hurt. At least this way, he thought, no one will end up getting killed.
Victoire rushed into the room, carrying Remus on one arm. The little boy yowled with joy when he saw that his father was home, and he immediately began wriggling in his mother’s arms.
“Down!” he whimpered. “Put me down!”
Victoire bent down to do as he had asked without tearing her eyes away from Teddy. Her forehead was wrinkled, as if she was trying really hard to figure something out. As soon as Remus’ feet touched the wooden floor, he rushed over to Teddy and wrapped his arms around his legs.
“Hey, little man”, Teddy smiled and picked him up. “Did you have a good day?”
“Auntie Dom was here!” announced Remus happily. “But she was sad.”
Teddy’s eyes flickered from his son to his wife, who was still staring at him.
“She was really upset”, she said flatly. “Told me not to trust you, but she wouldn’t say why.”
A lock of her soft, blonde hair fell into her eyes, but she didn’t lift her hand to brush it away. She just stood there, motionless, and waited for him to explain what was going on.
Teddy bent forward and put Remus down on the floor again.
“Why don’t you go play in your room for a while?” he suggested. “Mummy and I need to talk about something. After that, maybe you can come with me to visit Harry and Ginny and Aunt Lily! How does that sound?”
Remus was so exited that he skipped all the way to his room. As soon as he was out of earshot, Teddy took a few steps forward, placed his hands on Victoire’s shoulders and cleared his throat.
“I’m going to tell you something”, he said. “And it’s probably going to upset you.”
“You’re scaring me”, Victoire answered.
They sat down on the couch, and Teddy explained everything to her. He told her about Barrett, about the old Seer, about Ben and Dominique and about the promise he had made to Bill. When he had finished talking, Victoire shrank away and stared into the wall for a couple of minute without uttering a word. Teddy waited patiently for her to gather her thoughts, all the while his heart rate was increasing and his palms were getting sweatier.
When she finally opened her mouth, Victoire’s voice was shaking. “You’re not going to do it, are you? You’re not really going to let them keep him locked up?”
“I think I have to”, Teddy said.
“So you think he’ll do it, then?”
“No, I don’t.” Teddy reached over and grabbed her hand. “But what if I’m wrong?”
Victoire let out a sob. She scooted a bit closer to him, and as Teddy wrapped his arm around her, she rested her head against his chest and closed her eyes.
“You have to keep her safe”, she said. “But you also have to do something about Barrett.”
“I know”, Teddy mumbled. “But I really don’t know what I can do…”
“Are you going to Uncle Harry’s?” Victoire asked. “I can only see one solution. You’ve got to ask him to come back to the Ministry.”
Teddy considered her suggestion. Why hadn’t he thought about it before? He wasn’t convinced that Harry would want to come back, but on the other hand, when had he ever turned down the chance to save someone? And at least, Teddy thought, he wouldn’t be all alone in it if Harry came back – he’d have his godfather there to help him and give him advice on what to do.
“Do you want to come with me?” he asked.
“Actually, I’m not feeling very well”, Victoire said and yawned. “I think I’m going to go to bed early. But do bring Remus – Aunt Ginny will be thrilled to see him.”
Ginny was thrilled, indeed, when she spotted Teddy and Remus through the kitchen window. She had spent the afternoon working on an article for the Daily Prophet, and she gladly put it aside to play with her favourite little boy in the world, while Teddy headed upstairs to Harry’s home office. On his way, Teddy passed Lily’s bedroom and noticed the young girl lying on her bed, entertaining herself by making various objects from her shelves soar through the room and dance around in the air, a few feet above her head.
Teddy stopped in her doorway. “Having fun?” he grinned.
“Oh, yes”, said Lily sarcastically. “This is my idea of a perfect night – didn’t you hear?”
“Wow, someone’s grumpy”, Teddy said and raised his eyebrows. “Did you not have a good day?”
“It was horrible, actually”, Lily answered. “I hate working at the Prophet. I know I should be thankful that Mum set it up for me, but it’s not what I want to do.”
“What is it that you want to do, then?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” Lily sighed. “Uncle Bill brought me to Gringotts the other day to see if I wanted to work there, but I didn’t like that either. I’ve been with Al on his job, with Freddie and Uncle George… And Dad won’t let me become an Auror.”
“He won’t?” asked Teddy uncomprehendingly.
“No”, a deep voice said, making Teddy jump and reach for his wand. “Relax, it’s just me”, Harry said and raised one of his eyebrows.
“Why won’t you let her become an Auror? She’d be brilliant!” Teddy said.
“I have my reasons”, Harry said. “It’s really just between me and Lily.”
“Except for the fact that you won’t explain it to me either”, Lily muttered under her breath.
Her father ignored her. “Teddy, do you want to go into my office to talk?”
Teddy nodded and followed his godfather into what had once been James’ bedroom. Once Ginny was convinced that James could handle living on his own, she had helped Harry turn it into an office to allow him to spend more time at home. Of course, that had been before he had retired.
The two men sat down on each side of the large desk. Teddy did not let a second go to waste.
“You need to come back”, he said. “You need to be the Head Auror again.”
Harry took a deep breath. “I can’t do that, Teddy.”
“Why not?” said Teddy loudly. “People will have forgotten by now… Nobody even talks about the break-in at Hogwarts anymore! Besides, it wasn’t your fault anyway.”
“Teddy, you saw what the Prophet wrote about me”, Harry said in a calm voice. “You heard what the parents said when they found out. I can’t be Head Auror again. We’ll have to figure out something else.”
Teddy gave it one last, desperate try. “Please, Uncle Harry… I need your help.”
“And I will help you. Just not in that way.”
And Harry’s stern facial expression and the determined look in his green eyes as he pulled his finger through his grizzled, untidy hair made it clear that there was no point in arguing with him.
A/N: Hello, and thank you for reading my story! If you'd take the time to leave a review and let me know what you thought about this chapter, you would make me very happy!
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