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Chapter 8: Ward forty-nine
Disclaimer: Anything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling
“Aaliyah! If you’re not down here in five seconds we’re leaving without you!” Mother called up to me.
“I’m coming!” I yelled back.
Yeah right, I’m the only reason they bother going to see Lawrence at all. Once during the Christmas holidays and once during the summer. Twice over summer if I’m lucky. If not I use all methods of sulking within my power. Unfortunately my parents know how much it means to me to visit my uncle and use it as leverage to control my behavior.
I guess that’s normal though. When I was at Hattie’s house a few years ago her parents took away her music-playing thing because she came home after curfew. It’s the same thing, right?
I threw my hair up into a ponytail and ran downstairs where my parents, Lance and Rosalind were waiting. I was glad the twin devil spawns weren’t coming. It was enough having to deal with the others when all I wanted was alone time with Lawrence.
Lance held out his arm and I took it, squeezing my eyes shut as the familiar shoved-through-a-tube sensation swept over me.
We apparated into an alleyway around the corner from the entrance to St. Mungo’s. Walking swiftly we soon reached Purge & Dowse Ltd, and, checking no muggles were watching, stepped through the shop glass into the reception area of the hospital inside. We walked straight through the double doors beside the main desk and started to climb the rickety stairs. We didn’t need the welcomewitch to tell us where ward forty-nine is.
On the fourth floor landing my parents hastened Lance and I through the doors of a corridor labeled SPELL DAMAGE, and looked furitively about them as we turned into the last corridor on the right. Raising his wand father pointed at the door labeled JANUS THICKEY WARD and muttered ‘Alohomora’, before ushering us all through it.
An aged and motherly-looking Healer wearing a tinsel wreath in her hair came up to us.
“Ah here they all are Lawrence, how lovely. He so looks forward to your visits on Christmas, you know!” She told us as she led us over to crazy Uncle Lawrence’s bed.
“Here you are Lawrence. I’ll leave you to it.”
She drew the flowery curtains about the bed to give us privacy and bustled away.
I looked down at Lawrence where he was sitting up in his bed. He had grown a small goatee and his dark blonde hair had started to grey, but his flushed cheeks made him look as cheerful and young as ever.
“How are we all?” He asked, “How’s my favourite niece?”
“Good” I said, taking a seat by his bedside.
“Well,” Father replied, “They’re taking good care of you?”
A look of irritation flashed across Lawrence’s face before being replaced again with a smile. “Yes, yes.”
His blue eyes glanced over to where Rosalind was standing silently before looking back at me.
I scrunched up my nose. “Transfiguration; still easy. Potions; still stupid.”
He chuckled. “I have something for you.”
He jumped out of bed and ducked down to look underneath it.
“Here we are” he said, pulling out a small parcel and handing it to me, “Merry Christmas.”
I ripped open the wrapping and a silver necklace fell onto my lap. I picked it up to inspect it closer. It was fairly heavy and had an oval shaped locket at the end of the chain. A strange design I couldn’t make out was engraved on the face. I tried to open it but it was as though it had been magically fastened shut.
“It doesn’t open!” I said in surprise.
Uncle Lawrence smiled and said mysteriously, “It will one day.”
I gave him a funny look but lent forward to give him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, it’s really pretty”.
It was certainly better than the stack of new dress robes and makeup I had recieved from my parents. I’m trying not to sound ungrateful and all, but seriously, when have I ever worn makeup voluntarily?
“No problem hon.” Lawrence grinned.
“Vanessa, sister, would you please leave us for a moment?” Rosalind said suddenly. “I need to speak with Lawrence.”
Mother nodded. “We’ll be upstairs.”
Father guided Lance and me from the room, leaving Lawrence and Rosalind alone.
Outside we walked back down the corridor to the landing and then continued up another flight of stairs until we reached the Visitor’s Tearoom and Hospital Shop. Inside, the walls, like the rest of the building, was painted a horrible blinding white, punctuated only by portraits of distinguished and pompous looking healers. We sat at a table while Father went up to order some drinks.
I turned to Mother, “Why does Aunt Rosalind need to talk to Uncle Lawrence?”
“None of your business.”
“So you do know why, then?”
Mother ignored me and turned to Lance.
“Darling are you seeing Cassiopeia today?”
“Yes, I was actually just thinking that I should go over there now. It’s Christmas, after all.”
“Of course darling, just wait for Edward so you can have your tea first.”
“What about Lawrence? He’s your Uncle and we hardly ever see him!” I said, not altogether surprised, just indignant at how blatantly neither of them cared about Lawrence.
“Hush, Aaliyah! Someone might overhear.”
Any patience I had, left.
“Who cares?” I began loudly, “So what if everyone finds out you’re the most heartless, selfish, pathetic people to walk the earth? You have nothing to loose! Nobody cares about you –“
Suddenly my words were cut off, I continued to speak but no sound came out. The next second I felt my knees buckle, and I was being forced to sit back down in my chair. I hadn’t even realized I’d stood up.
I stared at Mother’s hands, but they were empty. I turned my head and saw a furious Aunt Rosalind bearing down on me, wand in hand.
“How dare you make a scene like this?” She hissed into my ear. “You are a complete disgrace. We feed you and clothe you and pay for you, we let you visit your traitorous Uncle, and this is how you show your gratitude?
“You need to learn respect, Aaliyah, and fast.”
I knew that she had removed the spell from me and I spent a moment deliberating on whether she would make a scene herself by trying to stop me from leaving. Deciding to take my chances, I stood up, turned, and walked out of the room. Once the door swung shut behind me I let out a shaky breath but didn’t stop walking until I was back in the Spell Damage corridor. I slid down the wall and sat with my back against it, knees pulled up.
I took a deep breath. I shouldn’t have got so mad. I should have stayed quiet and not said anything. What happened to the secret rebel? Talk about blowing my cover.
Instead of worrying, which has never really been my forte; I got up and headed down the corridor toward Uncle Lawrence’s ward. I looked behind me briefly to check Aunt Rosalind wasn’t following me and when I turned back around I accidently walked straight into someone.
“Sorry” I started to mumble before I saw who it was. I immediately leapt back to put space between us.
“Can’t you watch where you’re walking, Taiven?” James spat.
“Can you not just appear suddenly in the middle of public walkways, Potter?” I snapped back.
I was very aware of my recent epiphany in which I concluded James was not unlikeable. It didn’t help to lighten my mood.
“I can do whatever the hell I want” he said, folding his arms across his chest.
“So sorry, I obviously forgot who I was talking to. Don’t mind me, Mr. Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile.”
I smirked as he blushed. He had won the magazine ‘award’ sometime last year. What a prat.
“That – I – It wasn’t…” he cleared his throat, “shut up, would you?”
I snorted. “Your wit amazes me” I said sarcastically, and then pushed past him.
I could almost hear that puny little brain of his scrambling for a retort.
“Yeah go on,” he called, “find some of your Death Eater pals to grovel after.”
I stopped dead. Calling me a prissy pureblood was one thing, but this, actually accusing me of being some sort of new-age Death Eater?
“You have no idea what you’re saying.” I hissed.
I turned to see him looking at me in disgust.
“I know you follow Malfoy around like a sick puppy. That’s enough.”
“Excuse me? Never compare me to the likes of those sluts trailing after you everyday. I’d rather die than be as pathetic as that.”
“Don’t worry, no one would miss you.”
The door next to where James was standing opened and his mother Ginny, easily recognizable from the amount of times the Potters have been in the Daily Prophet, poked her head around the door.
“What on earth is going on out here?”
We both ignored her.
I took a deep breath and got ready to let rip.
“You bloody prick. You don’t know the first thing about anything, do you? You’re just obsessed with your own popularity!”
He tried to say something but I yelled over the top of him.
“It’s about time you stopped soaking up your father’s glory, Potter, because it was him that did the hard yards, not your lousy arse. And don’t you dare talk about Scorpius and Death Eaters because you don’t have a clue what you’re on about!”
The door opened wider and Lily Potter and Rose Weasley joined Ginny, all three had gaping mouths.
Again James tried to interrupt but I wasn’t finished yet.
I took a couple of steps forward and slapped him across the face. “And don’t you ever assume anything about me ever again!”
Suddenly I felt close to tears. I turned on my heel and swept down the corridor, turning right at the end and slipping through the unlocked door of ward forty-nine.
Inside I took a moment to collect myself, and then approached Uncle Lawrence’s bed.
“Aaliyah! I was beginning to think you went back home!”
I sighed. “I think they’ll probably come and get me soon, I might have, err, lost my temper back there…”
Yeah, twice. Did I really just call my family heartless and then slap Potter?
Lawrence chuckled, “Well, I’m not surprised.”
He sat up straighter, and grinned mischievously.
“So how’s your French?”
I smiled and repeated all the profanities he had taught me – the same ones I’d used back in October over the Snargaluff plants.
“That’s my girl” he said when I had finished.
I bit my lip, contemplating on whether he’d give me a straight answer to my question.
“What did Aunt Rosalind want to talk to you about?”
“Bloomers” he answered, without missing a beat.
I gave him a withering look.
“Bloomers?” I repeated.
“Oui. Never underestimate a woman’s obsession with bloomers, Aaliyah.”
Suddenly Lawrence jumped out of bed.
“A wand, Aaliyah! I need a wand!”
“Let’s go!” He grabbed me by the arm and started dragging me back across the room.
The Healer appeared in front of us. “Now, now, Lawrence. You know you can’t go outside, don’t you, dear? Barry’s not here to take you for a walk today.”
Lawrence pouted and muttered something that sounded a bit like ‘gonna take over the world’, ‘bloody women’ and ‘Barry is a stupid name anyway’.
The Healer practically forced marched Uncle Lawrence back to his bed. I gave her a fake smile so she would bugger off, and then turned my back on her.
“What do you want a wand for?” I asked.
Uncle Lawrence leaned forward and whispered, “To unlock it, then you can get rid of them.”
He abruptly leaned back and yelled in a grand voice, “In there!” and pointed at a drawer next to his bed.
Ignoring the slightly concerned voice inside my head, I pulled my wand out from my pocket and handed it over.
“Ah, you have a wand, should have thought of that.” He pointed it at the draw and muttered “Alohomora”, before running behind me as though I were a shield.
He pushed me forward.
Nervously I took another step and peered into the draw. Inside lay a small pile of Chocolate Frogs.
No, not blood thirsty leehes. Chocolate Frogs.
I sighed. The shit I have to put up with.
I scooped them up in one hand, put my other hand on my hip, and glared at Uncle Lawrence where he was cowering behind the flowery curtain.
Lawrence shook his head, “Doesn’t matter. They move.”
“It’s only a charm.”
“Look, I got chased by one of those once, okay?”
I threw him my ‘I’m-not-impressed’ look.
I rolled my eyes and contemplated whether I should just throw them out the window.
I stuffed them into my pockets.
What? Hattie would do it.
“You aren’t going to secretly leave them in this room?” He asked suspiciously.
“Or just outside the door?”
“Okay” he suddenly seemed a lot happier. “I found them lying around over there” he pointed in the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom’s beds. “Had to lock them away before someone bleeding opened them and let them loose.”
I wondered vaguely whether the fact that my Uncle stole candy from Professor Longbottom’s parents would change our teacher-student relationship. Oh well.
Just then the door to the ward opened and my parents walked in.
“Aaliyah, we’re leaving.”
I scowled at her then turned to Uncle Lawrence and gave him a long hug.
“See you in the summer, love.” He said, squeezing me tighter.
“Yeah, see you. Thanks again for the present.”
“Now, Aaliyah!” Mother said.
I reluctantly let go of Uncle Lawrence and walked over to Mother.
“And don’t think you’re going to get away with that little stunt you pulled earlier” she hissed into my ear, quietly so that no one else would hear. “You are grounded for the rest of the holidays, and you’ll be living on soup and bread.”
I felt on the brink of tears again but pushed them down. I’d wait till I was alone in my room.
I stole another glance at crazy Uncle Lawrence before walking out the door. He suddenly looked older, more like Father, though with lighter hair and blue, not hazel, eyes. He smiled sadly at me before his attention was diverted by the Healer.
At least I had Chocolate Frogs to feast on as well as soup.