Chapter 8 : The invisibility cloak
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The message had arrived only minutes before Teddy had planned on leaving his office, a silvery Patronus in the shape of a chameleon (“Gross!” Victoire had said after casting the corporal form for the first time. “I hate reptiles.” Teddy, however, had taken it as a compliment.) It had stopped in front of him, and Victoire’s voice floated out of its luminous centre:
“Dominique has come back. Get home as soon as you can.”
Victoire’s little sister had been missing since the day she had stormed out of Teddy’s office because he wouldn’t agree to release Ben. In fact, Bill and Fleur had been prepared to start a search party if no one heard from her in the following days, so the news of her return had been a relief. However, the seriousness in his wife’s voice had not surpassed Teddy, and so part of the worry that his parents-in-law had planted in him remained as he hurried through the corridors of the Ministry on his way home.
As he walked across his own lawn a couple of minutes later, Teddy looked up at the house. There was a spot below the kitchen window that needed new paint, and the flowerbeds below were covered in glistening frost; whatever warmth had remained in England over the last couple of weeks, it had now succumbed to the upcoming autumn, or even winter, and summer had finally said its last goodbye that year.
Teddy spotted them through the window – two women, still as young as ever to him, sitting across from each other at the kitchen table. From this distance, they could have been twins. However, Teddy’s eyes knew them both too well not to notice their differences, rather than similarities; Dominique's hair had a hint of red that Victoire's lacked, and while Vic's nose was a copy of their mother's, Dominique had more of their father in her, the way he had looked before he had been attacked by a werewolf (which had been before either of them were born, but Teddy had seen photos). And of course, if they had stood up, Victoire's hips and breasts would have let on the fact that she was a mother, while Dominique's lank, slim body had not yet gone through a pregnancy.
Teddy kept moving towards the door while wondering what kind of situation would meet him inside. Would Dominique still be as furious with him, or would she have calmed down and seen reason? Crossing his fingers for the latter, he opened the door and called:
“Hello! I'm home!”
Only seconds later, both his wife and sister-in-law came out of the kitchen.
“Dom,” he said. “Are you all right? We've been worried about you.”
“I just needed some time to think,” she said.
“And I still don't believe it,” she said. “We can't accept this... if that had been you in there, Teddy, Ben would have done anything to get you out. You're one of his best friends in this world.”
Teddy stopped for a minute to think of what she said. It was true. Ben was one of his best friends; wasn't it Ben who had come over to keep him company the first time he would watch Remus by himself and was terrified out of his mind? Wasn't it Ben who had come with him to drag a drunken James Potter out of a bar before he'd make a fool of himself and lose his Quidditch contract, and then agreed to never tell a soul – not even Dominique? Ben, who had always supported him, who had always stepped up, always helped out. Why was he doubting him, even for a second?
“You're right,” he said, eyes fixed on his sister-in-law. “We have to get him out. We can't let Barrett destroy him... he's already started. But we cannot let it go on. There is only one problem.”
Victoire pulled out a chair and sat down on it. “What?”
“They took me off the case,” Teddy answered, his heart pounding hard in his chest as he waited for their reactions. “Another man - O'Hagan - is in charge now. He'll do anything Barrett asks him to.”
“And there's no chance you can convince him to cooperate with us instead?” Dominique wanted to know.
“None at all, I think.”
“So what do we do?” said Dominique. “Do you have a plan?”
Teddy shook his head and sat down across from his wife. “I don't know what to do. I've been talking to Uncle Harry, but since he refuses to come back to the office, I don't know how much he can really help.”
Dominique nodded and bent her head down, and Teddy walked over to her. Placing an arm around her shoulder, he sighed. “We'll figure something out, Dom. We'll sort this out, I promise.”
“Yes, but who knows what they'll do to him in the meantime?” Dominique asked. “Can you at least go and see him? Make sure he's okay?”
“I doubt that they'll let me... but yeah. I'll do it, somehow.”
Dominique nodded and turned around to hug him. “Thank you, thank you so much,” she whispered. “I really just want him to come home.”
“Speaking of coming home,” said Teddy as they let go of each other. “Have you told your parents that you're okay? They have been really worried about you.”
“I told them,” Victoire said. “When I dropped Remus off earlier.”
“Yes, and I should probably go and see them before they start to think you were lying to them,” Dominique said with a shrug. “Thanks for helping out, Teddy. I really appreciate it. I'll see you, Vic.”
As soon as the door closed behind her, Teddy sank back into his chair and hid his face in his hands. “I can't believe it took for Dom to go missing for me to realise this,” he mumbled. “I am such a lousy friend, aren't I?”
Victoire did not respond. In the silent moments that followed, Teddy heard his own stomach growl and cast a glance at the clock on the wall. Yes, it was without doubt time for dinner. As Victoire appeared to be both numb and motionless, he decided to start cooking himself.
“You're quiet,” he commented over his shoulder as he took out a pan and placed it on the stove.
“Yes,” Victoire replied.
Teddy made a pause in his food preparations and turned around. “Is something wrong?”
“Well, you certainly don't seem to think so.” Her tone was short, rough and her arms crossed defiantly over her chest - she looked exactly like Remus did when he didn't get what he wanted. “You're just going to get Ben out of jail, and then we're all going to live happily ever after; that's what you think, isn't it?”
“I'm sorry, I'm not following,” said Teddy, raising an eyebrow as irritation began growing inside him. “Why are you upset with me? I'm doing everything I can to–“
“To set free the man who might murder my little sister?”
“That's not fair!” Teddy said. “This is Ben we're talking about - Ben! My friend.”
“It's always been Ben we've been talking about,” Victoire answered. “But just one week ago, you worried for Dom's life anyway. And now you just don't care about that anymore, because she stops talking to you for a while?”
“This isn't about trying not to upset Dom, Victoire. It's about the fact that with O'Hagan and Barrett in charge of Ben's life, I think it's him we need to worry about.”
“If it's true what you're saying,” said Victoire calmly, “that's even more of a reason not to free him. If they're playing with his mind, manipulating him... doesn't that make him even more threatening?”
Teddy stopped to think about this for a moment. Could it be that Barrett and O'Hagan, who were both desperate not to fail, would in fact turn Ben into a murderer? Was that why they had taken him off the case, because they knew he would never have allowed it? Were they destroying his mind, his soul, in this very second, and replacing it with that of a killer's?
“I'm not sure, Vic,” he said. “I think that I might have to go and see him. I have to know the state he's in. But I promise I won't do anything that can put Dominique in harm's way, okay?”
“How exactly are you planning to go see him?” Victoire asked while getting up on her feet and starting to lay the table. “I thought you said that they weren't going to let you?”
“I have an idea,” Teddy said. “You know, James has Uncle Harry's old invisibility cloak, and it might come in handy...”
Anyone who would have taken a look at James Sirius Potter's grades back when he was in Hogwarts would never have believed that he would end up living in a penthouse in the most expensive part of Tutshill, practically drowning in luxury. How did such a boy end up there, they might ask, because surely he couldn't have a job that paid well enough for it? Surely not with those grades?
Truth was, it wasn’t his grades that got him there. It wasn’t his charm either (though those who knew him from his school days would probably find that more believable). No, it was his athletic skills; he was a professional Quidditch player for the Tutshill Tornados.
Other than a Quidditch player, James was also, as he put it himself, “a ladies man” and, as his mother said, “a slob.” Being a wizard, Teddy really didn't see the trouble in keeping a place tidy, but James seemed to think he had no time to wave his wand every now and then and clean things up. Thus, when Teddy stepped into his god brother’s flat, he wrinkled his nose at the smell and looked around at the filth that seemed to cover every surface: the floors, the benches, the shelves...
“Hello!” he called while stepping over a pile of dirty clothes. “Anyone home?”
Teddy went into the living room, which looked a little – but only a little – better than the hall and the kitchen. James was lying stretched out on the couch, still undressed and with his hair famously messy. He squinted at Teddy, as if he was a source of light and James had just woken up.
“Teddy, mate!” he said. “How are you doing?”
“Better than you, I would guess. Rough night?”
“I had a quiet night, actually. I just didn't bother to take a shower this morning... or get dressed. I had the most dreadful Quidditch training you can imagine last night, and I'm still exhausted from it...”
Teddy laughed, bent down and pushed James’ feet away, and sat down at the end of the couch.
“So what brings you here?” James asked. “Did you just miss me or is it something else?”
Teddy grinned, leaned to the side and wrapped his arms around his legs. “Of course I missed you, Jamie, I can't go an entire week without seeing you!” He pretended to sob, and James rolled his eyes.
“You sound like Mum,” he said. “By the way, have you talked to Lily lately? Did you hear about the new boyfriend?”
“What about him?”
“Well, he's out of the picture already,” James explained. “She didn't want to say why, though. I offered to hex him, but she wouldn't let me.”
Teddy laughed, thinking about the youngest Potter’s temper. “You know your sister, mate. Of course she wouldn’t let anyone else fight her battles.”
James nodded slowly, as if he hadn’t considered this before. Then, he pulled his knees up to his chin, yawned and sat up. “So why are you here, then? If you didn’t miss me?”
Teddy took a deep breath. “I wanted to borrow your dad’s invisibility cloak,” he said. “You’ve still got it, right?”
“Yes. But to be honest, I’m surprised Mum didn’t take it from me,” James said with a grin. “I mean, I can see how she think I abused the power of it…”
“You mean by sneaking into the Holyhead Harpies’ dressing room and spying on the girls in the shower? Yeah. A little.”
“They never made it to the shower!” James said with a disappointed sigh. “To be honest, I wasn’t going to let them, either. I’m not a total creep, you know. I just wanted to play a prank on them, and maybe see a pair of underwear or two… Of course, I tripped and the cloak fell off me before I got to see as much as a glimpse of a pair of knickers…”
“Since when do you need to use an invisibility cloak and sneak into the girls’ dressing room to see any knickers?” Teddy asked, raising one of his eyebrows. “Aren’t you – what was it that Witch Weekly wrote – the ‘most desirable bachelor of the year – if not the century’?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” James said. “I mean, just because you’re old and married and boring, it doesn’t mean–“
“I’m only five years older than you,” Teddy interrupted him, the corners of his mouth slightly pulled up into a small smile. “But I suppose you’re right – I wouldn’t understand. Being married and all. I get to see Vic’s knickers as much as I want!”
“Not that my cousin’s knickers is my favourite topic of conversation, but… really? You still… I mean, you’ve got a kid and everything!”
Teddy laughed. “That’s right, Jamie. We’ve got a kid and we’re married, and we’re still in love! Amazing, isn’t it? You’ll find it too one day. A girl like Victoire, I mean. You’ll see that being a husband triumphs being most desirable bachelor any day of the year.”
“So what do you need it for then? The cloak. If you get to see enough knickers at home, why do you need the invisibility cloak?”
“I can’t tell you. I’m sorry–,” Teddy began, but James interrupted him.
“Since when do we keep secrets from each other? We’re brothers, aren’t we?”
“It’s not like that,” Teddy said. “I can’t talk about it. Trust me, I can’t.”
James raised a suspicious eyebrow. “Is this about the same thing that Mum and Dad are always whispering about? Did they let you in on it? It’s driving Lily mad, you know. She even asked if she could move in here, just to get away from it. Had to turn her down, though. I mean, that would definitely ruin any chances I might have of seeing any knickers at all. I don’t think the ladies would fancy the idea of coming over if I had my little sister sleeping on the couch.”
“No, maybe not,” Teddy said. “Look, James… I’d love to tell you, but you just have to trust me on this one. Can I please borrow the cloak? You’ll get it back in no time, and…”
“Of course,” James said. “Take it, for as long as you need it. Did you really think I wouldn’t let you? Honestly, I consider it to be yours as much as it is mine. And Al’s, and Lily’s.”
About twenty minutes later, having found enough pity inside him to wave his wand in James’ place, Teddy left a rather clean flat behind, carrying the invisibility cloak under his arm. Ignoring the fact that had he been under seventeen, the act would have got him in trouble with the Ministry, he then disapparated directly from the lobby. Hermione would have been furious at him for doing it, but he honestly didn’t see the problem, considering that the Muggle doorkeeper was busy staring at his cell phone, and that growing up with his grandmother had led to Teddy practising until he could apparate without making a sound (his grandmother may have been quite old at the time, but her ears had been perfectly fine). (It had also been a really good way of sneaking into Victoire’s bedroom at night while she still lived with her parents.)
Upon arriving in his office at the Ministry, Teddy immediately put on the cloak. Then, he snuck out into the corridor and started walking towards the gaol. A group of Trainee Aurors were blocking his way, and he sucked in his stomach and pressed himself against the wall while passing them. He was convinced that one of the girls felt the gush as he swept by, though, because she cast a suspicious glance over her shoulder in his direction. Teddy held his breath until she finally shrugged and turned back to her friends, saying:
“Yeah, O’Hagan’s dad still won’t let him come back to the program…”
“Are you really upset about that?” answered another boy, and Teddy began walking again. “Terrance O’Hagan is nothing but a bloody bootlicker! Personally, I’m glad to see him gone…”
The narrow corridor leading to the gaol was dark, with only a few enchanted torches lighting it up enough for Teddy to see where he set his feet. The atmosphere was spooky, and it reminded him of the old dungeons at Hogwarts, and the thick chains hanging from its walls. He could still remember the time a couple of older students had lured him into going down there alone at night during his first school year. Teddy shook his head and shivered at the memory, and it wasn’t until then that he realised that he had reached his destination; he was standing outside the thick iron door that led into Ben Howell’s cell.
Crossing his fingers and hoping that Barrett and Mr O’Hagan had been careless, for once, he stretched out his hand and touched the handle. A special kind of security system protected it, meaning that only those involved in the case in particular could open the doors, but it seemed like the Head Auror and his attendant hadn’t taken his name off the records. Teddy smiled contently and pushed the door open.
Ben was sitting on his bed, staring into the stone wall across from it. At the sound of the door opening, he lifted his head, very slowly, and turned it in Teddy’s direction.
“Who’s there?” he said. Teddy was just about to answer when he jumped to his feet. “Dominique?”
“No,” Teddy said quickly, pulling the hood of the cloak off his head. “It’s me.”
It was as if fury took over Ben’s face and twisted his features, making him look absolutely terrifying. Teddy groped for his wand as his heart began beating faster – but this was his best mate! He wasn’t going to hurt him, was he?
“You!” Ben shouted, his eyes darkened with anger. “What have you done to me?”
“Ben, I’m here to help,” Teddy said. “I know that things have sort of spun out of control, but I’m really here because–“
“You said I’d be out of here after a day!” Ben continued, completely ignoring his brother-in-law’s attempt to calm him down. “You said you’d work things out for me!”
“Ben, please,” Teddy tried again, taking a step forwards. “Just listen to me…”
“NO!” Ben roared, leaping forward and pushing Teddy against the wall. “No, you listen! You’ve taken everything from me, Teddy. My whole life… Dom… I thought you were my friend!”
And then, using all of his strength, Ben pushed him back out of the cell, reached out and pulled the door close. The sound of the iron being smashed against the stone doorframe echoed in Teddy’s ears as he crawled up on his feet, the invisibility cloak remaining in a pile on the floor, right next to his left foot. He was just about to go back inside when he heard something. Footsteps, in the corridor; someone was coming. He had no choice but to put the cloak back on and return home.
A/N: Thank you for reading my story! If you've got a minute to spare, please let me know what you thought of this chapter; it would mean the world to me!
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