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A/N: I am so sorry this took so long! But it's nice and long as a consolation! Anyway, i need to thank Jenny and Jane for putting up with my procrastination for all this time and also Rachel for putting up with me in the future ;)





Victoire


I sat with my back pressed up against the cardboard boxes and sighed. The boxes remained resolutely in their places and I couldn’t face unpacking them if they weren’t going to unpack themselves. Even opening them would have been too much; I knew that Teddy’s belongings were waiting underneath the cardboard packaging to rub in the fact that my plan was slowly breaking down. I wasn’t that fond of adhering to plans. I often found that life was a little bit more exciting when you didn’t try to control it, and to be honest it was a lot easier to accept the things that went wrong.

I watched the clock ticking on the wall of my bedroom. I’d been counting down the minutes since I woke up this morning, the steady rhythm becoming louder as I tried to ignore it. Wall clocks were quite a stupid invention now I came to think of it. They were not portable, they ticked loudly and they took up valuable wall space. It was much more convenient to wear a watch which wasn’t so irritatingly loud. I rubbed my wrist self-consciously at the lack of my own watch. I’d lost it; rather, misplaced it. I rarely lost things for good. Often they’d turn up under a pile of parchment or in between cushions on the sofa. Once I’d even “lost” my wand by placing it in my quill stand.

I leant my head back against the boxes and considered getting dressed. I had two hours until I had to meet Dominique for her birthday and I couldn’t think of anything else that I wanted to do worse. It was the awkward questions followed by the pitying glance followed by the sympathetic hug that really riled me. Dominique was honest by nature, but I found her words to be blunt and tactless when I least needed them to be. She’d see right through my “happy face” and not leave me alone until she knew the truth of the matter. Being an appalling liar, I always gave in too easily. My lack of will power could be my own worst enemy at times.

I noticed that my legs had gone to sleep so I slowly uncurled them from under my knees and waited for the tingling sensation to subside. Groaning slightly, I got up from my once comfortable position on the floor and stumbled into the shower.
I wish I could have stayed under the warmth of the running water, but sadly I knew it wasn’t to be. Ignoring the world around me wasn’t going to solve anything but I just didn’t know what to do or think.

Teddy was blind. He would be blind for the rest of his life. This was not something I could adjust to easily and I couldn’t bear the fact that he wouldn’t let me help him. The person laying helplessly in the bed in St. Mungo’s was not the one I had grown up with. A bit of his fighting spirit had been stolen from him when he lost his sight and I wondered if he’d ever get it back. I wasn’t going to cry about it, even though I was sure tears would threaten to spill sooner or later. I’d have felt selfish to cry when Teddy was in a far worse position. I just wished he’d stop trying to push me away.

It was ironic, really. He’d spent so long trying to stop me doing the exact same thing, and now that he’d got what he wanted the tables had turned. Well, it was more than ironic; it was bloody frustrating. I didn’t even know how I was meant to feel anymore. I wanted to help him. I wanted him to know I was going to be there for him no matter how much he tried to remove me from his world.

I was forgetting we werent children anymore. There was no going out to play, no tea parties and no running to Maman when things went pear-shaped. I had to deal with this myself. Teddy was going to have to try a lot harder to get me out of his life than he was doing; he knew me well enough to know that too. With this new resolve in mind, I stumbled out of the shower and dried myself off.

My spirits went as damp as my hair when I looked inside my wardrobe. I never felt I had anything to wear. Sure, there were loads of clothes in there, but for whatever reason none of them seemed appropriate for the occasion. I sighed and pulled out an old favourite navy jumper and shoved on a pair of trousers. It didn’t matter what I wore anyway, Dominique had enough style for the two of us.

A small metallic tube on my dressing table caught my eye. My fingers closed around the cold surface and I sighed. I hadn’t worn my lipstick in so long it felt almost alien to me. Yet I could almost feel a slight warmth in my fingers as I held the tube, a little bit of courage from this strange source. Without thinking, I applied a single coat of red onto my lips. I tried to ignore the fact that this was the lipstick Teddy had bought me for Christmas, barely used and as good as new. It just showed how much I needed Teddy. I could live without the lipstick, but I needed him now more than anything.

I frowned at my reflection. It looked so lonely, so plain and unimportant. I didn’t agree with those women who claimed they needed an “other half”, because each person is a whole by themselves. But Teddy was definitely a big part of my life and I felt less of a person without him.

I shook my head, wondering when I’d become a sentimental old wart. Today wasn’t about me, it was about enjoying my sister’s birthday. I wasn’t selfish enough to ruin it for her with my moaning. With any luck, Uncle Harry hadn’t told the family what had happened and I could pretend it hadn’t happened. With one last look at the clock on my wall, I left the house and I heard the lock click before I Disapparated.

Staring at my parents’ front door, I had a sudden urge just to turn and run away. Of course, I didn’t because I never run anywhere, but the impulse was there all the same. They would ask questions I did not want to answer, that same concern lining their features and all the time that pitying look when they finally learnt what was wrong. Yes, they cared about me. I appreciated that but right now I didn’t want the attention. It was so much harder to pretend everything was alright if they didnt know anything was wrong.

I rang the doorbell then went inside without waiting for an answer. They knew that it was me coming to pick up Dominique anyway, so a formal “hello” would have been unnecessary. Besides, this was the house I had grown up in.

“Hello?” I called through the house, kicking my shoes off as I reached Maman’s cream carpet. I heard footsteps on the floorboards upstairs and I threw myself into the seat of a sofa near the fireplace.

“Victoire?” Dad poked his head around the doorframe in a flash of colour. His hair was shortly followed by the rest of his body and he joined me on the sofa.

“Hello,” I said glumly. “Having a nice day?”

“Well, I’m much poorer now,” he said with a wry smile. “Did anyone ever tell you your sister was high maintenance?”

“I think someone might have mentioned it once or twice.” I examined my chipped nails with distaste.

“She was most pleased with her new broomstick, though,” Dad said proudly. “I hope she puts it to good –”

“Oh, crap!” I said hysterically. I remembered a little box left on my dressing table, ready to be wrapped up. “I completely forgot to bring her present.”

I felt like bashing my head against something. How could I be so incredibly stupid? Had I left my brain at the hospital with Teddy? It needed a service, that was for sure. It seemed impossible that I had left my flat without the present when I was going to meet Dominique for her birthday celebration. Wands above, I needed help. I rubbed my hands across my forehead miserably. I was an awful friend and an even worse sister.

“Could you nip back home to get it? I’ll tell her you’re on your way.” Dad was ever trying to fix my problems.

“No,” I said sadly. “I haven’t even wrapped it.”

“She’ll forgive you. I’m sure you’ve had other things on your mind,” he said kindly.
His kind words did nothing to console me; it just made me feel so much worse. I didn’t have so much on my mind that I couldn’t remember my sister’s present. And she was important to me, I wasn’t just going to forget her birthday. I had meant to bring the present with me, I couldn’t understand how it had slipped my mind so easily. Maybe a couple marbles had slipped too.

“Yeah,” I said miserably, shifting uncomfortably on my seat. I wasn’t going to tell him about Teddy’s condition if he didn’t directly ask. It wasn’t something one can blurt out in the middle of a conversation. Yes, he’s blind. No, he can’t see. That’s right. No, he wouldn’t like to watch the Quidditch with you next weekend. Not that Teddy would even go and watch the Quidditch, but it’s the kind of tactless thing any of my family would say. They needed to learn that not everything was their business. But I’d always had problems keeping secrets from them, word just travels so fast when you’re part of the Weasley family.

The sound of high heels clicking down the hall brought me out of my bitter thoughts, and I enviously watched Dominique enter the room. She was no more beautiful than I by looks, but the confidence that oozed out of her made her featured a million times more stunning. Again, the urge just to run away surfaced and I had to get a grip on myself. I was not in any kind of competition with my sister, I didn’t need to feel like the ugly duckling. I had more age, I had more experience; maybe I was wiser. Sitting on the sofa next to my father, however, I felt not a bit wise. Deep down, I was naïve and this feeling of wanting to bury my head in the sand miles and miles away from anyone I knew just proved that fact.

“Happy birthday!” I cried, a broad grin covering any awkwardness that had managed to find its way onto my face. “Are you ready for a fun evening filled with responsible behaviour?”

“As always.” Dominique returned the grin and hugged me. She gave me the once over. “You look lovely!”

I appreciated her effort to boost my confidence. “Thanks, but you know you look the money. I, however, can barely scrape a couple of knuts.”

Dominique raised her eyebrows and opened her mouth to speak.

“All right!” Dad interrupted hastily before she could reply. “Have a good evening, girls. Be good.”

“We always are,” Dominique assured him, rolling her eyes. “See you tomorrow.”

As we left the house, I looked sideways at her. “You did tell him you’re staying at mine, right? I don’t want him to think we’ll be out until the early hours of the morning.” She laughed and confirmed that she had indeed told our father the plan. “Good,” I added. “Because I don’t think I have the stamina for an all-nighter.”

“Wimp,” Dominique said lightly as we Disapparated.

The black air around me pulled my body into a squeezing tightness that could never be achieved by miracle-underwear; moments later we landed with a crunch on a gravely path.

“Care to tell me where we’re going yet?” I asked grumpily.

I didn’t like surprises, but then again I really didn’t know any good pubs (as Dominique so kindly told me). As Dominique frequented pubs with her friends alarmingly often, I’d asked her to find us somewhere good to spend the evening. After all, the only pub in Diagon Alley that I’d been to was The Leaky Cauldron, and I used to work there so that was out of bounds. I didn’t want my boss spying on me; I didn’t particularly want to give him the business either. It was another of those awkward situations I liked to avoid. All the “how have you been”s, and the look up and down as they assess whether your image has improved or gone downhill; no, I hated that kind of scrutiny. Once they were out of my life, I preferred them to stay that way. No casual hellos in the street, no wondering how they are and certainly no eye contact. Let bygones be gone.

Therefore it was with dismay that I heard where Dominique had booked a table.

“The Krupp and Skrewt.” Dominique reached inside her handbag to retrieve an address neatly written on a piece of parchement. “It’s up here somewhere, but I’ve never been. Charles tells me the food is excellent.”

Charles was her latest boyfriend, but I didn’t stop to dwell on Charles’s preferences. A sense of dread started to worm its way around my stomach, followed by a slow sense of dread. Still, I tried not to get back into my rather pathetic paranoia; I wasn’t going to dwell on bygones this evening. I’d find a way to ignore them, or at least sit with my back to the room. Yes, I’d do that.

I wrapped Teddy’s coat closer around my body without really registering that I still hadn’t given it back to him. February was an unforgiving month for weather and I had no intention of giving it back to him soon. As far as I was concerned, this was a part of him I was going to keep. The sun was setting and silhouetted against it was a grand old house with weathered stone walls and a slate roof. On a brightly coloured sign above the door, a krupp and skrewt were pictured fighting in the middle of a cobbled street.

Dominique held the freshly painted door open for me and I really wished she’d just go in first. Yes, I was a coward. But I did not want to be the one who made the entrance; just in case. She followed closely behind me and the door slammed as she let go of it. The pub, however, was not busy at all. We were quite early in arriving so this did not surprise me. I was grateful there weren’t many people waiting to stare as we entered. We sat down in a cosy corner and, once we’d ordered our drinks, Dom turned to me with her beady blue eyes and asked me the questions I pretended didn’t exist.

“How is Teddy feeling?”

I shifted in my seat and looked away from her. “How much did Harry tell you?”

“Just that he’ll be out of St. Mungo’s soon.” Dominique smiled as she answered her own question. “When you next go and see him give him my love, wont you?”

“Sure,” I said weakly. In truth, I doubted I’d be going back to see Teddy any time soon. I clearly wasn’t wanted. This thought must have shown on my face, because Dominique was looking at me strangely.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing!” I denied immediately. Panic started to rise in my throat and I desperately tried to think of an alibi of sorts. Anything to put her off. I couldn’t think of anything plausible.

“Right,” she said slowly, taking a sip from her redcurrant rum. “So you’ve gone all pale and blotchy for no reason?”

“I’m always pale,” I said hotly. “and… well, it’s warm in here. I’m allowed to go blotchy, it isn’t a crime.”

“It should be,” she said with a smirk. “It makes you look awfully guilty.”

I eyed Dominique disparagingly. What had she to worry about? It’s not as if her boyfriend was blind and on the way into depression; Charlie was a delight who had no problems or faults that I could find. Compared to Teddy, with his particularity for drink and hormones, Charlie seemed like an angel. Then again, anyone Dom knew was depicted perfectly. They made up the shiny aura that was seen by all; it never left her.

“I have nothing to feel guilty about,” I said defensively. If anyone should feel guilty, it was Teddy for being so hopelessly bottled up. Then again, I could hardly blame him for it; none of this was his fault.

“Are those tears?” Her tone was accusatory, but I knew she meant well somewhere behind her eyes.

“No,” I said without any conviction; tears were now breaking free of my eyes and dribbling down my cheeks. I was an utter mess.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” she said kindly, and dragged her chair around the table and sat close to me. Her arm around my waist felt extremely reassuring.

“It’s all going wrong,” I said miserably. Once the words left my mouth I realised how stupid they sounded. I was a teary, pathetic wreck. “I don’t know what to do.”

“I’m sure it hasn’t gone wrong, Victoire,” she soothed. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Make Teddy less blind?” I said weakly.

“Make him less what?” Dominique cocked her head to one side; most likely she was wondering if she’d heard me correctly. Unfortunately, she had. More tears fell.

“There’s nothing I can do,” I hiccupped. “He doesn’t want me anymore.”

“Bollocks,” Dom said sternly. “Now, don’t you drown in self-pity while I go and get you some tissues.”

I wiped the mascara off my cheeks as my ever persistent sister approached the bar. The first time I looked over I didn’t notice anything different about the scene; it was just Dominique at the bar, nothing unusual. But the second time I peeked through my wet lashes I noticed a very unwelcome figure leaning against the bar. In his hand were a packet of tissues and on his face a very disconcerting smile.

I should have expected it. This was, after all, a pub I was familiar with. Its name had been spoken in my flat every Saturday when Sam went to meet his friends. Why should he treat this Saturday any different?

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