I scuffed my feet grumpily on the stone step outside my godfather’s house. I had heard the doorbell sound loudly somewhere inside the house, yet no one had come to welcome me out of the cold. How I hated waiting.
It had been two weeks and three days since I had last spoken to Victoire, and I freely admitted the fact that I had been counting. Every day felt worse, and I felt that the torture wasn’t going to end anytime soon. I knew Victoire, and I knew that if she wanted to see me she would have contacted me by now. Still, it broke my heart every time I received an owl and my hopes were raised momentarily before being dashed. I hadn’t given up on the chance that she might still want me, even after all that had happened over the last six months. Once upon a time I had thought we were inseparable, destined to be best friends forever. I still couldn’t believe that we had left each other’s lives.
Eventually, Harry opened the door and ushered me inside.
“Come on in, Teddy,” he said absentmindedly, looking over his shoulder.
I followed his gaze, looking into the kitchen. A thick cloud of black smoke was wafting through the house.
“Having problems?” I asked innocently, earning a glare from Harry.
“No,” he said through gritted teeth. “Just a temporary glitch.”
I rolled my eyes, not at all perturbed by my godfather’s less than warm welcome. He was often short with others when he had other things on his mind. I followed him into the kitchen and slumped into a chair. I watched him battle with the dinner, which was now aflame. I almost expected him to reach for a fire extinguisher, but instead he pulled out his wand and cast a charm to put out the flames.
“Is well-done alright for you?” Harry grinned sheepishly at me, his eyebrows slightly raised in amusement.
“Perfect.” My eyes trailed over the table, where three places were set. I frowned, wondering where the children were. “Where are the kids?”
Harry waved a dismissive hand in the air. “Hogwarts. They went back last week.”
“Oh.” I had forgotten that normal life had resumed for everyone else. Stuck in a rut, I had assumed that life had stopped with me.
“Have you spoken to Victoire yet?”
I groaned and placed my head in my hands. “You ask me that every time I come here. The answer isn’t going to change.”
Harry sighed and sat down beside me, taken the oven gloves off his hands and slapping them down on the table. “I’m sorry. But I hate to see a good opportunity wasted. I’m sure Victoire will come round in the end.”
“I don’t think she’s going to, Harry,” I said sadly. “She’s truly slipped through my fingers.”
“Don’t give up on her just yet.” Harry stared at the table and cleared his throat. “Have you had any more thoughts about-”
“I’ve told you already,” I said irritably. “I’m going and that’s that.”
A job had come up in the last week for me, which involved doing a lot of raids over in Germany. The German Ministry were having problems with some English wizards over there, and so had enlisted the help of our Ministry to sort them out. It wasn’t a job I was particularly looking forward to. I would be gone for at least a month, possibly longer. When my boss sent me the owl, I knew that I had to go. What was keeping me here? I had no ties, not really. I didn’t have any family, except for my grandmother who could take care of herself. Harry had his own family to look after. Victoire… she wanted nothing to do with me. Going away for a month seemed like the perfect solution.
“I think you’re making a huge mistake,” Harry said disapprovingly.
I rolled my eyes. We had had this debate many times over the last couple of days, but I was adamant that I was going to go. I needed to give myself some space. “It’s my life, Harry.”
“It’s the life I promised your father I’d look after,” he said quietly. Although he was softly spoken, every word was weighted. “I don’t take my responsibilities lightly.”
“Neither do I,” I said hotly. “That’s why I must go to Germany. It’s my job.”
“And there was no one else for the job?”
I clenched my jaw, trying to contain my frustration. “I’ve told you already; I’m going, and that’s that. I’m not changing my mind.”
I saw Harry’s eyes flick in the direction of my hair, and catching sight of myself in the mirror I saw that my hair was steadily growing redder with anger. I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself down. Getting angry wasn’t going to help anyone.
“Alright,” Harry said evenly. “I can see you’re not going to be persuaded. But promise me this – at least tell Victoire where you’re going before you disappear off. You owe her that at least.”
Our eyes met, and I nodded in spite of myself. I knew what he said was right, even though I didn’t want to face her just yet. Maybe my godfather had a point.
I began packing for my trip soon after I had had dinner with Harry. Though I hated to admit it, I really didn’t want to take myself away from Victoire for a month. Although I hadn’t seen her in a couple of weeks, I knew that if I was in another country for a month there would not even be the possibility of me seeing her. I couldn’t come back, not once I’d been appointed with a job there. Magic was a wonderful thing, but it was easily detected and if I decided to go home then I could possibly give the whole mission away. I wasn’t a traitor. My boss told me I was one of his most loyal Aurors, and I was proud to have earned that title.
It wasn’t until I was fully packed and ready to leave for the Ministry in London that I remembered my promise to Harry. I hadn’t written to Victoire yet, as I had intended to. My eyes glanced around my empty room for any sign of parchment, though I knew that my search would be irrelevant even if I found any parchment; I had sent my owl to my grandmother to look after while I was away. I sighed, wondering whether to go and see her or not. Eventually, I settled on going to her flat just to see if she was in. If she wasn’t, I would leave her a note. Yes, that seemed like a good plan.
I grabbed my wand and Apparated to her flat. The cold January air whipped at my ankles as I stood out in the cold, waiting for someone to answer the door. What struck me as odd was that there were no lights on in the windows I could see, and there were letters stuck in the letterbox, as though it had been jammed for some time. I waited another half a minute, then grumpily tugged the top letter from the pile out of the brass opening. The top one had yesterday’s date on it, and I frowned. Victoire wasn’t the neatest person I knew, but she was meticulous about checking her post. The fact that she had not checked her post recently was extremely unsettling. I racked my brains for a reason why she wouldn’t have been home, and my mind settled on Sam.
Was it possible that he had forgiven her, and she had moved in with him? I shuddered at the thought. Although our affair hadn’t resulted in a relationship, I had at least hoped it would get Sam out of the picture. I shook myself, my thoughts ridiculous. Of course she wouldn’t have moved in with Sam. She wasn’t that spineless. I checked my watched, reading the tiny date that appeared on the face of it. It was a Sunday, and I knew that there was one place she usually spent her Sundays; her parents’. I shoved the letter back into the wedge in the letterbox and Disapparated.
Here I stood again, on her parents’ front doorstep, ready to face her again. Two and a half months had passed since our first affair, and it seemed nothing had changed at all. She still refused to accept we should be together and I was powerless to convince her. I rang the doorbell and waited, more nervous than I had felt in an awfully long time. I honestly didn’t feel that Victoire needed to know where I was going to be for the next month; it was not as if she was going to miss me. That thought stung, more than I could possibly describe. Once friends forever, now we were accidentally in love, our mistakes burdening us. I knew I was at fault for that.
It was not Victoire who opened the door; it was her mother, Fleur. She said nothing to me, but her eyes said it all. I felt deeply ashamed of myself under her intense gaze. She beckoned me inside and left me standing awkwardly in the hall as she went to fetch Victoire. My face, still tinged with pink, was supposed to remain indifferent, but I felt my emotions creeping up on me. How on Earth could I explain to Victoire what I intended to do? I doubted she’d understand; or worse, she might not care.
“Teddy?” she called from behind me, and I spun around to face her. My eyes widened at how much happier she looked. Her eyes sparkled, her hair shone. I hadn’t seen her looking so healthy in a long time. There was something different about her.
“I went to your flat,” I began awkwardly, not wanting to hear that silence come between us. “But you weren’t there.”
“Clearly,” she said tonelessly. “What do you want?”
I gulped, my eyes drinking in her soft face, her silky hair. How had I let her slip away, knowing the feelings I held for her. I looked away, unable to bear seeing her reaction when I told her where I was going.
“I just came to tell you,” I mumbled, licking my lips, “that I am going away for a month. You won’t be able to contact me until I return.”
My eyes returned to her face, and my heart nearly broke when I saw no change in her expression, no reaction, nothing. The fact that I would be gone for a month, which previously had been an awfully long time for us to be separated, did not seem to affect her at all. This was what our friendship had come to, and again I kicked myself for being such a bloody fool.
“Thanks for telling me,” she said when our eyes met. I almost thought that they were guarded, but then again there seemed little possibility that she cared for me at all any more. “I hope you enjoy yourself.”
I cleared my throat. “Well, it’s for the Ministry. Not much fun there, I’m afraid.” There it was; that silence. The one I dreaded, the one I strove to avoid at all cost. My lame attempt at conversation hung between us and I just wish I could pop it. “Anyway, I better be off. Lots of work to do, you know.”
Victoire smiled and saw me to the door. As I turned to say goodbye, I wondered if a hug would be unacceptable in the situation. I decided it probably would be uncomfortable.
“Take care of yourself, Teddy,” Victoire said as walked through the doorway. I turned, surprised at her gentle tone.
My eyes rested on her lips, and then I realised what it was that was so different; she wasn’t wearing lipstick. I felt utterly rejected as I stared at the nude flesh, my heart sinking. It seemed she didn’t really need me at all; if she could face me without her safety net she felt nothing for me. It was the sign I needed, and I walked away without looking back. I left a part of me behind, the part that yearned for Victoire; the part that loved her.
A/N: I just want to thank each person who has read and reviewed this story so far. I really really do appreciate it! I'm sorry about my sporadic updating, but school and a couple of other writing projects have eaten away at my time. I'll try and be a bit more consistent from now on! Feedback is always appreciated, so please review!
Special thanks to marauder lady for her help with this chapter and unwavering support - you're my rock, sweetie.