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Chapter 12: Chapter twelve – The Ugly Sticks
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or anything else that you might recognize.
Chapter twelve – The Ugly Sticks
“What time is it?” I asked as I spotted James sitting by my bed once again, just like he did every morning. It had become a habit during my stay at St. Mungo’s – he was always there when I woke up, not leaving my side before I fell back asleep in the evening.
“Almost nine,” he said, lowering his magazine and giving me a warm smile. “Did you sleep well?”
“I guess… it’s the waking up that’s odd. I’m not used to all this softness,” I chuckled.
One of the rare things that I liked about the hospital was the spell that was applied to every bed in the building. It was impossible for the patients to fall out. I really should ask them if they could teach me that one.
“You should ask if they could teach you that, it would be handy at home too.”
Oh, sigh. Why does he always have to think exactly like I do? It really isn’t helping me to stop loving him. He should just act like a jerk and say stupid things! That would surely work!
“If they’re ever going to let me go home,” I replied, rubbing my eyes as I tried to get myself to wake up properly. “I think they’re going to keep me here forever.”
“Yeah. I mean what’s the point? You could be doing this all there and I’m sure we could get a Healer to do house calls – there’s really no reason for you to actually stay here.” James sighed, bored, as he threw his magazine on my bedside table and rested his head on my bed. “I’d be there to help you with everything, and you’d be a lot more comfortable. But no, they just want to torture you… Urgh, wish the Healer would just hurry up and do his rounds like he’s supposed to.”
I just let out a little hem, but didn’t say anything. I really didn’t mind that much being here at St. Mungo’s, not when I had a gorgeous Healer checking up every now and then to see how I was feeling. It was the biggest highlight of my day and also the moment when I got to push aside my feelings for James. To me, that was an improvement, even though a very small one.
James didn’t seem to think that was in any way important. He appeared to dislike Joshua quite a lot, to the point where he didn’t even use his name. ‘The Healer’, that’s all that Joshua was to him anymore. It was quite amusing really, although I didn’t see why he bothered. It’s not like there was even a chance that Joshua would ask me out.
“You should be training that leg of yours, but how is that possible when you’re not even allowed to leave this room?” James continued his rant and I let out a yawn.
“Oh, I’m allowed to leave the room,” I pointed out. “I just don’t want to even if I could! Too many people staring and I really don’t want the papers to be filled with news how I can’t even walk properly. I’m already feeling quite blessed that they haven’t gotten anything out of the Mediwizards. I guess the magical contract they signed is working.”
“How is it feeling today?” James questioned, running his hand along the blanket on top of my leg.
I stretched it a bit; trying to get the feeling if it had improved from yesterday. Honestly it didn’t feel any different, just like yesterday and the day before that. It was perfectly fine, but when I tried to step on it, it failed on me. Joshua said it had something to do with the new bones and how they just needed training, so I wasn’t really concerned. After all, the dreamy Healer had been right about everything else.
Not that I remembered too much of what he’d said to me. I’d been too busy swooning at the sound of his silky voice.
“Same as before. I can’t really tell without trying to stand on it.”
“Do you want to try now?”
“No, let’s wait until Joshua gets here. Maybe, if I do well with my practise, he’ll let me leave,” I replied, even though I didn’t mean it wholeheartedly. But James didn’t have to know that.
He just let out a hem. “I highly doubt that.”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
No, I didn’t think it was. But I didn’t get the chance to tell James that, because at that moment, my room door swung open and an unknown middle-aged man in green Healer robes walked in.
“Hello Miss Miller, I’m Healer Smith and I’ll be taking over your case from this day on.” He greeted me with a smile.
“Why?” I blurted out immediately. The Healer raised a brow questionably and I got the feeling I needed to clarify myself a bit. “Where’s Jo- Healer Llewellyn?”
“The Healer-in-charge is a very busy man, he doesn’t have time for cases like this. He asked me to step in and take care of the rest of your healing process. But I can assure you, I’m just as capable as he is.” He added the last line with a tone that made me feel like I was some stupid schoolgirl, swooning only after handsome Healers.
Which maybe wasn’t that far from the truth…
“Oh…” I just commented, feeling my mood dropping instantly.
Of course Joshua had done that, why would he care about me more than his other patients? There were probably some more interesting cases that he needed to take care of, he had probably stuck by me for this long only because we were neighbours.
“So, how are you feeling then? I heard you were having some trouble walking,” The Healer inquired.
“Yeah.” I nodded, not bothering to tell him anything else.
“Well, get up then so we can have a look.”
I pushed myself out of my hospital bed without a word and dropped down on the floor on my left leg, carefully placing the right one next to it. I had done this same process so many times before, it was one of the rare things I was actually excited about here. But that was all because of Joshua; I got to be close to him when he helped me train my leg, and now that he wasn’t here, it didn’t feel so exciting anymore. I definitely didn’t want to be closer to the annoying new Healer.
I waited for his instructions as I watched him mumble something to his Self-Writing Quill that was floating next to him, taking notes of his evaluations.
“What are you waiting for then? Try to walk!” he said impatiently to me.
“Healer Llewellyn always told me to wait before he gave me permission to walk,” I replied.
“Well, as you can probably see, I’m not him. I do things differently,” he snapped back.
“Now she couldn’t bloody well know that, could she?” James came to my defence immediately, irritation shining through in his tone.
“By paying attention, Mister Potter – something you should start doing too! If you did, you’d know the visiting hours haven’t started yet for today. Now walk, Miss Miller!”
Oh yeah, I’ll walk! I’ll walk right up to you and punch you, you fucking idiot!
At least that’s what I wanted to do and say, but in reality, my knee failed me after the very first step and I had to grasp the bed railing for support.
“That’s it?” The Healer questioned.
“Oi, she’s doing great! You try walking just three weeks after you’ve broken every single bone of your body!” James’s eyes were shooting hexes at the man.
“Wait here, I’ll be right back,” the Healer said and marched out of the room.
“Wait here… where else am I going to go?” I rolled my eyes after him. Did he really think I’d try to escape?
“Bloody arsehole…” James muttered, then turning to look at me. “You alright? You did great.”
“Yeah, feels like that.” I groaned as I pulled myself back on the bed with only one hand.
“Oh, come on, don’t let one idiot ruin your mood. Llewellyn’s been praising you for days, or did you suddenly forget that?”
Llewellyn, did he say? So suddenly Joshua wasn’t a bad choice after all…
I didn’t get to say anything, since Healer Smith returned that moment, carrying two ugly sticks in his hands.
“Here,” he said, pushing them into my lap.
“What am I supposed to do with those?” I asked, refusing to touch the ugly things.
“Walk. They’re called crutches. Muggles use them every time they break their leg. Your only problem seems to be the fact that you can’t hold your weight on your leg. These will fix all that. I wonder why Healer Llewellyn hasn’t suggested it before.” He shrugged.
I glared at the hideous things on my lap. There was no way I was going to use them! Never in a million years.
“You can support your weight with those and be able to walk. You can go home if it works.”
Actually I think there’s a muggle saying or something that you should try everything once, so maybe I was too harsh to judge the pieces of metal…
“Are you serious?” James asked a bit confusedly, staring at the sticks on my lap a bit suspiciously.
“Do I look like I’m joking?” the Healer questioned.
He probably didn’t even know what a joke was.
I could tell from James’s expression that something quite similar was going through his head, but luckily he kept his mouth shut, he probably didn’t want to risk the Healer changing his mind.
“Try the crutches, Miss Miller,” the Healer suggested.
I pushed myself back down from the bed, taking the standing position carefully and adjusting the funny looking stick to my right forearm. I then glanced at the other one confusedly.
“Err, I don’t think I’ll be able to use that.”
“And why is that?” the Healer asked.
“My left hand isn’t working, it hasn’t been fixed yet,” I told him.
“Really?” the Healer questioned a bit bewilderedly. “And why is that?”
“I don’t know. I guess J- Healer Llewellyn didn’t think it was necessary yet.” I shrugged.
“Well that’s odd. I would’ve fixed it immediately and you could’ve left days ago with the crutches. But I guess that’s the problem with some of the Pureblood wizards, they don’t think Muggles come up with anything worth their attention,” he said, general dislike in his tone. “Oh well, I’ll schedule a surgery for later today and you can start planning a ride home for tomorrow.”
“Yes!” James said victoriously. “James Potter’s side-along apparation at your service, Miss Miller.”
“Actually, no. She cannot apparate yet, nor use the Floo, Portkey or brooms. She’ll have to use the Muggle transportation for a while.”
“And walk out from the front door through the swarm of reporters? No thank you!” I replied immediately, shaking my head for that stupid thought.
“That’s your only choice, Miss Miller. You’re welcome to stay as long as you heal properly so you can apparate away, but otherwise that’s your only option.”
“I’m not letting the paparazzi see me with a crutch! Do you know how long the photos would haunt me after that?” I protested.
“Well, I told you your options,” Smith said, his tone bored. “I’ll go continue my round now, let me know what you choose.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! Of course she’s leaving tomorrow, we’ll just have to think of a decoy to get her out unnoticed.” James rolled his eyes at the Healer.
“Well good. You can go plan that, Mr. Potter. You’re welcome to come back later this evening with other guests.”
“Thanks, but I’m not going anywhere,” James said stubbornly.
“Do you want me to get the guards to escort you out?”
“They wouldn’t dare to throw me out!”
“I can assure you, Mr. Potter, if I ask them to, they will. They don’t care who your daddy is at this point. You have ten minutes to get out, so I advise you not to let me catch you here again!”
And with that, the Healer left the room, leaving both James and I staring after him, looking quite dumbfounded.
“That’s not what I meant!” James hurried to say.
“I know,” I comforted, holding out my hand for him.
“I’ve never used Dad’s name for anything! Why would he even think something like that?” he said, sounding annoyed as he took my hand.
“Because he’s a git, that’s why. He clearly doesn’t know anything about you, so don’t take it personally, okay?” I pleaded, squeezing his hand. “Let’s just obey, so I can get home tomorrow, yes?”
“I –“ he started, before glancing at me. “Fine, just for you,” he said, his features softening.
“Thanks.” I smiled. “Now, any ideas how I’ll get out unnoticed?”
“Polyjuice potion? And I can pick you up with my bike?” he grinned as he watched the horrified expression on my face.
“You know perfectly well that I’m not getting on that thing before you learn how to drive it properly and learn muggle traffic regulations! I do not fancy spending another three weeks here just because you managed to run us off the road!”
“Hmph, way to trust your best mate.” James pouted his lips.
“Oh yes, and that hedge just appeared out of nowhere the last time, right?” I teased, chuckling at the memory when he first tried his motorcycle.
“Oh, shut up,” he muttered, but couldn’t prevent the small smile escaping his lips.
“And Polyjuice will be quite pointless, since I’m pretty sure they will be taking at least a few pictures of everybody who walks out through those doors. They have spells to reveal who the person in the photo really is.”
Stupid paparazzi and their clever ways…
“Well, I’ll talk to my Dad, maybe he’ll think of something. I’ll borrow his car, since my bike isn’t good enough for your Highness.”
I smacked him with my crutch and made him howl while laughing.
“This isn’t going to work!” I pointed out as I stared at my reflection on the mirror.
He clearly was mental if he thought this costume was going to fool anyone.
“Sure it is. You’re a very convincing old lady,” James grinned from behind me, trying hard to keep his laughter at bay and then dodged, as I once again swung my crutch in his direction.
James had returned this morning and told me his excellent plan. His dad would pick us up with a Ministry car and that I’d disguise myself as an old lady so the press wouldn’t know it was me. Good plan? Sure, why not, if one executed it well. James’s version of it was dressing me in a pair of ancient robes, a ridiculously large hat with an even bigger feather and glasses.
Not exactly foolproof in my opinion…
I shouldn’t be surprised though. He never was the brains behind our amazing pranks at school. Where was Hayden when you needed him?
“Honestly James, this will fail for sure! They’ll recognize me immediately!” I complained, throwing the ludicrous hat on my hospital bed.
“You’d think that, but that’s because I haven’t told you the best part that will make it work!” he grinned mischievously. “You see, the swarm won’t be there when you walk out and jump in the car. They will be too busy rushing after Gwen Miller who has already left the hospital,” he told me. I must have given him a confused look through the mirror, since he continued: “Teddy’ll be here shortly, he’ll be pretending to be you. Thank Merlin for a Metamorphmagus godbrother.”
I stared at him with my mouth hanging open but no words came out. That was actually a good plan, simple but still clever. How had he come up with that?
“See, I told you I’d sort this out, didn’t I?” James said proudly, a large smirk lighting his whole face.
“I have to say, I’m a bit surprised…” I started a bit suspiciously.
“Okay, fine, you caught me,” he sighed defeatedly as he couldn’t hold his crust. “It was Dad’s plan.”
Of course it was.
I chuckled amusedly as I jumped with one foot back to my bed. “I’m sure you helped.”
“My original plan was actually a lot better! I suggested that I’d take some Polyjuice potion and turn into you. That way I could lure the swarm away from the doors so you could slip out unnoticed. But Dad pointed out that it wouldn’t work.”
”Because you couldn’t be sure if you’d be able to walk either?” I questioned, realising the fact that the potion would not only give James my appearance, but also my injuries.
“That’s right,” James admitted. “Pity. It would’ve been so cool to see what it would be like to be you!”
No, it really wouldn’t have been. That would’ve been the most awkward thing ever! I knew him too well and to have him spend an hour or two in my body? He’d spend the whole time feeling up my chest!
“And I would’ve gotten to know what it feels like to have boobs! Damn it, we should’ve at least tried that plan, it might have worked!” James added, sounding quite disappointed that he’d missed his opportunity.
Luckily he didn’t have time to say anything else, because there was a knock on the door and few seconds later Teddy Lupin peaked inside, his hair coloured as his favourite shade of turquoise.
“Hi guys,” he beamed to us. “Wow! I’m loving the granny look, Gwen!”
“Oi! I’m armed now, you should be careful about what you say,” I said, pointing him with my crutch.
“I’m terrified,” he laughed. “So, everything packed and ready?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, scanning the room once more to check I had everything with me.
There was still the table filled with flowers but I had no intensions of taking them with me, the Mediwizards could do what ever they wanted with them. I had removed all the cards from them though, so the hospital staff wouldn’t sell handwriting samples of James’s whole family to the highest bidder. And other than that, there had only been a few magazines and personal items in the bedside table drawers that I had already packed, I really didn’t have anything else here.
“Great, I guess it’s changing time them,” Teddy commented.
It was always so odd to watch him do it, how his features just suddenly started changing. He matched his height with mine first and then changed his whole posture into a more delicate and feminine one. His hair turned brown and grew longer, the colour of his eyes turned darker and his skin tone took a more tanned shade.
When he was done, it felt like I was looking into a mirror. Almost. Something was still off, I just couldn’t quite figure out what.
I was about to point that out but James beat me to it. “More lashes, you need a lot more eyelashes.”
“Better?” Teddy asked after he had finished his request.
“Yeah, but that’s not all,” James said, and started to point out more errors, while Teddy fixed all of them. “Hair needs to be shinier and a bit longer, add some more golden highlights in it. Good. Now frown. See, Gwenny always gets these little wrinkles on the corners of her lips when she frowns, that’s a big give away since they’re visible in every picture the reporters have of her. No, not that kind of wrinkles. Gwenny, I need you to frown too so Teddy can see…”
I just stared at him in surprise. How did he realise all that when I didn’t even see it myself?
“What?” he questioned when I didn’t react immediately.
“Nothing,” I hurried to say and flashed a little frown.
“Ah,” Teddy commented as he seemed to realise what James meant.
I watched in awe as he corrected a few tiny mistakes that I would’ve never spotted myself, and I was pretty sure the reporters wouldn’t have either. But I guess it was easier for James, he had after all stared at my face for over a decade – of course it was easy for him to notice stuff like that, right?
I tried to imagine what it would be like if it was the other way around and I had to help Teddy mould his face to look like James’s. A hem almost escaped my lips as I realised I wouldn’t even need to see James to remember his every little feature.
“What do you think?” James asked me once they were done.
“Perfect,” I nodded and chuckled as I saw Teddy’s familiar grin on my own features.
“Really? I don’t know… something’s still off,” he said, circling around Teddy to figure out what was still wrong.
“You sure you know how to act like me?” I asked Teddy.
“Let’s hope so, James held me a lecture yesterday. Two hours, that’s how long it took. He takes this way too seriously. The reporters aren’t the sharpest persons in the world,” he replied and rolled his eyes at my best mate, something I’m sure had been one of his lessons.
“I bet he smacked you for that comment,” I laughed.
“How did you know?” Teddy smiled.
“Oi, I know!” James interrupted us. “Your boobs aren’t big enough,” he stated.
I blushed immediately, hiding it successfully behind my open hair.
“Now how would you know something like that?” Teddy teased.
“Oh – I – well – I’m a bloke, of course I notice things like that.” He explained. “Don’t tell me you only stare at my cousin’s rack and never notice anyone else.”
Teddy just chuckled amusedly and started to fix his last problem. “Better? Or would you like to actually see them so you could be sure they look exactly the same?”
“Oi! Shut up already!” James protested, probably wanting to smack the back of Teddy’s head, but couldn’t get himself to do it as he looked exactly like me. Teddy on the other hand was practically howling at that point.
I was dying out of embarrassment. Honestly, way to go, Teddy…
“Oh come on, stop taking things so seriously, mate. You know I’m just teasing you,” Teddy said, amusement still evident in his tone.
“Not the place, mate, not the place,” James shook his head. I got the feeling he was avoiding from looking in my direction. That was fortunate for me, because he would’ve spotted my awkwardness immediately.
“Whatever, man. Are we ready now? Or is there still something you’d like to… okay, I’m done already!” Teddy chuckled, stopping his teasing as James gave him a deadly glare.
“Yes, we’re ready. Let’s just go,” I muttered as I stood up and placed the hat on my head again so I could hide my humiliation.
“Right, so the plan is that I walk out with Teddy here. We’ll start heading right and hopefully the whole swarm will follow us. Gwenny, you wait a few moments before you head out. Dad will drive the car in front of the doors immediately once we’re far enough. Once you’re in the car, you’ll drive around the block and pick us up. Understood?” James explained, completely oblivious to my discomfiture. But I tried to pay no attention to all that and just nodded at James.
After we agreed on few more details, the boys prepared to exit the room.
“If something goes wrong, try not to panic, okay?” James turned to look at me once more and adjusted the hat on my head better.
“I’ll try,” I promised with a small smile.
“Great. See you soon,” he beamed and then left the room with Teddy.
I slipped out a few moments later and was lucky that nobody noticed. It wasn’t that big of a miracle, all the commotion in the corridor seemed to have stopped as everybody was staring after James and ‘Gwen’. I followed them, keeping a small distance between us. Nobody paid any attention to me, which felt really nice for a change. For once I got to just walk forwards in peace.
Okay, walk was maybe the wrong word. My advancing was quite tedious, I had not really mastered the use of the crutches yet. It really wasn’t as easy as it looked; it was hard to find the right pace how to do it and the cuffs around my forearms didn’t feel comfortable at all. But somehow I managed to move forwards and keep up with the boys, although I suspected that was because they seemed to be stalling a bit so I wouldn’t get left too far behind.
We all entered the same elevator with a few other visitors. It was painfully silent for the whole ride down stairs. James and Teddy stood quiet, just staring forwards as the other occupants of the lift goggled at them with wide eyes. Teddy had some real troubles keeping his crust, I could see the corners of his lips twitching as he forced himself to stay calm.
I wanted to laugh too. Or cry. The press would realise immediately that it wasn’t me if he couldn’t keep his expressions at bay.
James and Teddy rushed out of the elevator the moment the grilles opened. I let the other occupants exit before me and chuckled at their whispering about how wonderful it was to see me look okay after that horrible accident.
I took my time as I made my way towards the doors. The guys had exited a moment ago and I prayed that the plan had worked. I squinted my eyes shut as I jumped through the magical portal with my crutches, expecting a large commotion. But it wasn’t there. The only thing I could see was the black car I recognized as one of Ministry vehicles.
As I hobbled towards it as fast as I could, I still managed to steal a quick glance towards my right. A large crowd was moving away from the hospital doorway, camera lights flashing around two people. It had worked, the plan had really worked.
I pulled the car door open and threw the crutches in before practically diving on the backseat.
“Hey, Gwenny,” Harry greeted me from the driver’s seat.
“Hi,” I said with a groan as I pulled the door closed and tried to settle myself better on my place.
“Plan seems to be working well,” he pointed out as he started to drive forwards immediately as the door slammed shut.
“Yeah, I’m a bit surprised about that. I was certain something would go wrong,” I admitted, glancing out from the car window as I tried to see if I could spot the guys. But all I could see was the old abandoned department store that was the hospital’s disguise.
“Naah, Teddy did a good impression of you. I watched them for a few moments after they walked through the window. The instructions James gave him were really good, he couldn’t fail. You’ll see it for yourself soon when we pick them up.”
“Where are we picking them up?” I questioned.
“I’ll stop the car after the next corner. They’re walking around this block. That reminds me, the invisibility cloak is there on the bench. You should put it on, so the reporters can’t get a picture of you when the boys open the door.”
“Oh, right. I didn’t think about that,” I said as I scanned the backseat in search for the silvery material.
Harry pulled the car over after the next corner and I covered myself with the invisibility cloak. The silence filled the car for a few moments as we waited for the guys to show up.
“I can see what you meant,” I commented as we finally spotted them. “Teddy’s doing an excellent impersonation of me.”
“It took him hours to do it well enough for James to be satisfied. I never knew he could be such a perfectionist,” Harry chuckled.
“Oh, he is, about certain things,” I told him. “Quidditch, that’s one. Also, he’s quite obsessed about retaining and organizing his movie tickets. Oh, and Potions was one back in school.”
Harry just let out a hem, but didn’t say anything. We watched as the guys walked closer. When they were few feet away, they broke into run. The reporters were too slow to react, they just stared after them for a few moments. As they reached the car, Teddy’s hair had already turned electric blue.
As the boys slipped inside the car, the reporters started to realise they had been hoodwinked. Few of them snapped a couple more pictures as Harry started to drive again but most of them were already rushing back towards St. Mungo’s, desperate to see if they could still catch me.
If they only knew where I really was…
As the doors were closed I pulled the cloak away, I knew the paparazzi couldn’t get pictures through the charmed windows of the car.
“Did you see their faces?” James grinned. “That was just priceless!”
“Man, I can’t believe it worked that well! They’ll go mental when they realise they can’t use any of those pictures or the comments they got from us.”
“You did great,” I complimented Teddy.
“Well, I had a good teacher,” he said, punching James’s shoulder. “Oh, tell her what you said when they asked how I was feeling and if I’d talked with Ryan about the accident.”
They started to relive the funniest moments and I found myself laughing and rolling my eyes at their stupidity for the rest of the journey.
James helped me out of the car once Harry pulled over in front of our apartment house. The familiar doorman opened the doors immediately, sending me a sympathetic glance.
“We’ll all come by to check on you tomorrow. We figured that you’d want to have a peaceful and relaxing day today,” Harry told me before they left. “Try to rest properly.”
“Vic said she and Rosie will drop by later today already, apparently they just cannot wait for tomorrow,” Teddy chuckled.
“That’s fine,” I nodded. “See you tomorrow then.”
James waited patiently as I struggled my way towards the elevator with my crutches. He did joke about it though on our way upstairs, making stupid jokes about my slowness.
Remind me again why I’m friends with him…
As we entered my apartment, I found myself feeling quite surprised.
“Why?” James asked, furrowing his brows a bit as I informed that to him.
“Because it’s so clean! You’ve been staying here for three weeks, I was certain there would be your clothes everywhere!”
“Oh,” he laughed. “I actually cleaned last night. I thought you’d like to come back to a tidy apartment.”
“Aww, you didn’t have to. You know I don’t mind about stuff like that,” I beamed happily.
“I know, I know. I just… wanted everything to be perfect,” he admitted a bit embarrassedly. “Oh, there’s food waiting if you’re hungry,” he added pointing towards the kitchen counter where there clearly was a food basket Nana Weasley had prepared.
Personal heaven, right there. I had been waiting to eat Molly’s food again for days.
Everything really was perfect, which on the other hand made my heart ache because I really shouldn’t be feeling that way. I tried to push all those thoughts away as we sat down and started to eat lunch, but I really couldn’t get rid of them. I wanted to be alone, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy to make James leave.
So I decided finally to take a step towards the subject he had been avoiding for three weeks.
“Go talk to her,” I said as I set down next to him on the couch where he was resting after stuffing himself with his Nana’s cooking’s.
He furrowed his brows a bit as he didn’t at first get what I meant. “No,” he answered silently when the realisation finally hit him.
“Please?” I asked hopefully, taking his hand in mine.
As always, he started to absentmindedly rub slow circles on my palm. “Why?”
“Because you need to talk to her. Clear everything up.”
“I know. I just don’t want to do it right now,” he muttered, closing his eyes and covering them with his other arm.
“You should though. It’s not fair to her to keep her hanging like that.”
James snorted, “Yeah right, you don’t like her one bit. Why would you care?”
“Well… it’s your baby, possibly.”
“That’s what she said, but are you really sure about that?”
“Well then, you really should go talk to her. Figure things out and agree what you’re going to do about it all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you getting back together with her?” I asked even though I already knew the answer.
“You know I am,” he commented.
“Yeah, I do. But she doesn’t. So you really should talk to her about this all.”
James was silent for a moment before he answered. “I know…” he started with a sigh. “It’s just, once I do, there’s no turning back anymore. It makes it all final, and I’m just not ready to do that yet.”
“But the longer you push it, the harder it’ll be for you. You can’t get peace from it. And besides, what are you going to do, other than mope around here? Continuing your previous lifestyle? You know that won’t help right now, it’ll only cause you more trouble.”
James didn’t say anything, he just pushed himself up from the couch into a sitting position. I couldn’t help it – he looked so sad – I just had to wrap my arms around him and pull him into a hug. He didn’t object, but hugged me back so tightly, like he never wanted to let go. It made me want to cry so much, but I didn’t want him to see my pain. I needed him to go, so maybe that way I could finally help myself too. If his attention was in his unborn baby, maybe I could concentrate on getting over him as he wouldn’t be by my side all the time.
So I pushed myself away from him, giving him the most understanding look I could muster. “Please, James. Go talk to her, clear everything up. You can stay here if you’re still feeling like you can’t stay with her yet, but you need to talk things through.”
I could see the pain in his eyes and my feelings sparked inside my heart once again. All I wanted to do was kiss him and make his suffering go away. But I knew I couldn’t do that. It would only make things more complicated and I would only get more hurt when he’d turn me down and go to Kat.
Because that’s exactly what he’d do. He would never, ever abandon his baby, not even if he did feel the same way about me. Family was too important for him, he could never live with himself if he didn’t do everything in his power to try to make it work with Kat first. And now that she had gotten her second chance, I knew she wouldn’t give him up.
I had lost him for good so all I could do for him now was to be the best friend in the world and support him through this even though I hurt myself on the way.
“Go. You’ll be fine,” I smiled in a supporting way. “It’ll all be okay in the end and I’m always here for you, okay?”
“I know,” he said, brushing few loose hairs behind my ear. “I don’t deserve you,” he then added with a sad smile.
“Well of course not. Nobody does,” I tried to relax the mood.
It worked, at least it made him chuckle. “That’s true. You deserve only the best things in the world and I don’t think anybody can give those to you.”
I rolled my eyes. “Now what would the press say if they heard you’re such a big softy and not the biggest playboy in the country?”
“They would never believe you. But that’s because nobody else will ever get to see this side of me, it’s all reserved for you.”
And soon for Kat too…
“Thanks,” I said. “Now go. I think I’ll take a nap before Vic and Rosie get here.”
James let out a big sigh, but nodded anyways. “Yeah, I really should go.”
I watched him stand up and pace around the room a few times, brushing his hand through his hair. The stress was starting to show on his face as he seemed to finally let himself think about the whole situation.
“Oh lord,” he groaned. “I don’t even know what to say to her. I was such a jerk the last time, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t there and never wanted to see me again.”
I highly doubt that.
“Nonsense,” I replied.
He stopped and turned to look at me again with a pleading expression. “Will you come with me?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re a big boy, you need to handle it by yourself.”
“Right,” he nodded. “By myself.”
“Try to be calm and don’t shout. She doesn’t need any more stress. It’ll be bad for the baby.”
“Right, no shouting,” he nodded again, like he was making a checklist for himself. “Anything else?”
“Listen to her? I’m sure she’s had a rough time during these weeks because she’s been all alone, not knowing what’s going through your head. And try not to blame her for everything, admit that you’re also to blame.”
“Listening and not blaming her, I’ll have to remember that.”
“You’ll be fine,” I repeated again.
“Oh lord, I’m going to be a dad,” he groaned once more before finally exiting my apartment.
And as the door slammed shut, I let myself burst into tears.
A knock on my door snapped me out of my slumber, apparently I had fallen asleep at some point when I had been pouring my eyes out. I let out a small groan as my head was aching like hell from all the crying and pushed myself up from the couch.
I cursed my luck. Of course Vic and Rosie would be here now when James hadn’t returned yet and I would have to go and open the door. Thinking about the ugly crutches that I had hid under the sofa – I really didn’t want to look at them more than necessary – I shuddered. I never liked to complain much, but those had to be the worst invention in the whole world.
My arms were hurting from all the jumping around with the crutches and I felt exhausted, I definitely didn’t look forward into using them again. And since the idea of hopping to the door with only one leg didn’t sound that alluring either, I decided to just wave my wand and open the door that way.
“Hey,” I greeted, preparing my ears for a lot of screaming and hoped my eyes weren’t looking too puffy.
But for the umpteenth time today, I found myself feeling surprised.
“Somehow I knew you wouldn’t be using the crutches…” a familiar voice commented from the direction of the doorway, making me turn my head towards it so fast that I hurt my neck on the process.
“What are you doing here?” I blurted before I could stop myself as I stared at that gorgeous smile of my former Healer. I could feel the bottom of my stomach fluttering, and I thanked Merlin I had chosen to stay seated. I would be lying on the floor by now if I had opened the door myself.
Stupid stunning man with his annoyingly beautiful smile…
“Do you want me to go?” Joshua questioned bemusedly.
He looked even better than I remembered, light wavy hair curling in such a perfect way and those dazzling eyes twinkling amusedly at the sight of me.
“No! I didn’t mean… I –” I started to stammer and couldn’t stop the dim blush creeping up on my cheeks.
“Relax, I’m just teasing you,” he laughed. “I wanted to see how my favourite neighbour was coping.”
“Oh… okay,” I said, trying to organize my thoughts. “Err, do you want to come in or something?” I added, glancing quickly around my apartment, hoping that it was in a presentable condition.
“Sure,” he beamed, looking clearly pleased that I had suggested that. I couldn’t understand why, but that wasn’t unexpected. I had no idea why he had bothered to even come here in the first place. It’s not like he owed me anything.
“How are you feeling?” he questioned after closing the door and sitting down on one of the armchairs.
“I – fine,” I replied before I even realised it. I was too busy trying to figure out why he was here.
“As always,” he grinned. “You able to stand on it at all?”
My curiosity got the best of me.
“Look, I don’t want to be rude, but why are you here?” I asked, ignoring his question.
“I wanted to visit my favourite patient,” he smiled.
“Yeah right.” I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t help to feel a bit pleased. However, it was quickly replaced by my doubting feelings again.
None of this just made sense.
“Well of course! Your case was the biggest I’ve handled in a long time and I didn’t hear you complain once. It’s always a pleasure to work with a patient like that.”
Then why did you give my case away?
I wanted to ask that, but then again I might not like the answer so I decided to keep my mouth shut. I just let out a little hem.
“You ignored my question,” Joshua then pointed out. “How’s the leg?”
“It’s fine,” I repeated.
“Let me see you walk then,” he commented calmly, as he once again saw through my charade.
“Do I have to?”
“Yeah, unless you’re going to tell me how it really feels.”
“Well, since I’m not your patient anymore, I don’t think I actually have to do anything…” my stubbornness shined through once again.
He stared at me for awhile, with a look I couldn’t quite read. “Fair enough,” he said eventually. “There’s a reason for that though.”
“Don’t you want to know what it is?”
“Oh, I already do!”
“You do?” he asked with a puzzled tone, brows furrowing a bit.
“Yes, Healer Smith told me you give him your cases that aren’t worth your time anymore, I get that. You’re a busy man.”
“Aah,” he nodded with a small chuckle. “True, true, I do that sometimes. But that’s not the reason this time.”
“No. You want to hear the real one?”
“I don’t know. Do I?”
“Then tell me.”
“Walk first and I will.”
“You really aren’t the one to bargain here…”
“Maybe not. But I made you curious now, didn’t I?”
Argh! Why did he have to be so clever?
“No,” I lied.
“Oh, well let’s forget all about that then…” he commented, taking a more relaxed position on his chair and falling silent.
We sat there quietly for a few moments before my impatience gave in.
“Fine, you win.” I sighed defeatedly. “I need the crutches, I can’t walk without them. But I don’t want to use them because they’re stupid and make my arms hurt.”
“Don’t you worry about that, Smith shouldn’t have appointed them in the first place.”
“Why? He said that was pointless to walk without them, I’d only hurt my leg more.”
“Maybe, if there was something wrong with your leg. But since it’s just because of the new bones, you should train it as much as you can. That way it’ll heal faster. But you can use the crutches and make your healing process last longer.”
“But by all means, do what ever you think is right, I’m not your Healer anymore.”
I wanted to ask him more about the subject, but more importantly I wanted to know why he had given my case away, especially if there was a reason behind that.
“Explain that then.”
“I actually thought it was quite obvious,” he smiled.
“It wasn’t,” I pointed out.
“Ah well… You see, I had to do it. We Healers have some rules we have to maintain. We cannot reveal anything about our patients to others, we cannot accept gifts from our patients, we cannot date our patients…”
I just stared at him without a word, the bottom of my stomach tingling uncontrollably. I was hoping I was understanding what he meant with that but there was no way I would ever say it first.
Joshua let out a little hem as he examined my expression. “So what I’m trying to say is, if you still were my patient, I couldn’t ask you out. But since you’re not… How does next Saturday and dinner sound?”
The silence fell for awhile as I tried to suck in what he was saying. Had I honestly just heard him correctly?
“Umm, this is the part where you should answer something…” he said, sounding a bit uncertain for once, apparently I had staid silent for too long.
“Are you asking me out on a date?” I said eventually, wanting one more assurance.
“Well…” I started, trying to organize my thoughts.
Every little brain cell I had were screaming yes, but I needed to make it sound less pathetic so I tried to think of a better way to answer. But as always, while I hesitated, my ‘good’ luck decided to get involved.
My front door slammed open, startling us both. We turned our heads immediately towards the doorway only to see Rose and Vic rushing inside together.
“Sweetie, you’re home! Finally! We’ve been so…” Rose’s voice trailed off as she noticed the handsome Healer. “Oh, hello! We didn’t realise you had company.”
Everybody fell silent for a few moments and I realised that maybe they were expecting me to do some kind of introduction.
“Umm, girls… this is my Healer –“ I paused for a few moments as Joshua added ‘former Healer’. “Yes, my former Healer. Joshua, these are Rosie and Vic, my good friends.”
“Yes, we’ve met, back when you were still unconscious,” Joshua told me. “How are you, girls?”
“We’re doing okay, feeling happy that Gwenny’s finally home,” Vic said and sent me a questioning smile.
“Are we disturbing? We can come back later!” Rosie asked. “We can visit James if we were interrupting something?”
I was about to protest, I couldn’t let them go there when James and Kat were having their discussion. But fortunately Joshua stepped in and helped me out
“Oh no, that’s completely unnecessary. I was just about to leave.” Joshua smiled and rose out of his seat.
Although I didn’t like the sound of that either.
“You’re going?” I asked, trying not to let my disappointment show.
“Yes, I have to get back to work. My lunch break is almost over,” he said as he turned to look at me. “Though, before I go, I’d like to get my answer…”
Dear Godric those eyes were lovely. I felt like I was melting under his gaze. Was it even possible to say no?
“Sure,” I managed to mumble eventually and watched the smile light up his face, making him even more irresistible.
“Great. Six o’clock good with you?” he asked and I just nodded. “Perfect. Train that leg of yours until then.”
“We’ll see.” I smiled a bit embarrassedly, feeling the burning gazes of Rosie and Vic. The interrogation would begin instantly when Joshua walked out through that door, I was sure about that.
“Okay. Well, off to work for me then, I’ll see you in a few days,” he said taking a few steps towards the door. “Nice seeing you again, ladies.” he nodded to the two Weasleys.
“You too!” both Rosie and Vic beamed.
Everything fell silent for the few seconds it took Joshua to walk to the door. As he reached it, he gave me one more of those amazing smiles of his and then exited my apartment.
“Why are you meeting him in a few days at six o’clock?” the two girls asked in unison immediately as the door slammed shut and they rushed to my side.
“Erm… he’s my Healer so…” I started to mutter something.
“Oh, don’t lie!” Vic stated, rolling her eyes. “That was not about your next check-up! Besides, didn’t you say he was your former Healer?”
“Umm… maybe?” I suggested and gained two stern looks all the Weasley women were so good with. Something I could never pull off.
The pressure was too much for me to handle.
“Okay, fine. He asked me out, but don’t get carried away!” Just as I had anticipated, my ears were filled with squealing as both of them tried to squeeze me to death.
Or hug me, if you could call it that.
“Oh Gwenny, we’re so happy for you! A real date – and with a Healer! What are you going to wear?”
“Err, just some normal clothes?”
“I’ll help you,” Vic promised. “You need something special.”
“Let’s calm down shall we. It’s just one date, nothing more…”
“But it’s a date with a Healer!”
“Who has a date with a Healer?” James questioned suddenly from the doorway, making all three of us spin our heads in his direction. The girls had been making too much noise so we hadn’t heard the door open.
He stood there, looking a bit confused. My eyes concentrated on the bag he was holding in his arms and I guessed his big talk with Kat hadn’t been successful.
“Who has a date with a Healer?” he asked again as none of us replied anything. “Because I think Teddy and Scorpius would like to know if either one of you is going on a date behind their back,” he added, staring at his two cousins suspiciously.
“Oh don’t be stupid, Jimmy!” Vic rolled her eyes.
“Who’s Jimmy?” James asked. “And I’m not being stupid. I’m sure they’d appreciate to know something like that.”
“We’re talking about Gwen of course!” Rosie said.
“You have a date?” James turned to me immediately, with an odd look – he was probably trying to figure out why the girls would know something like that but he didn’t.
“Yeah…” I started.
“How did he know where you live?” Vic interrupted.
“Oh, he lives just a floor below…”
“You’re going out with him?” James questioned.
I was about to continue my answer to him, but this time Rosie cut me.
“That’s why he looked so familiar! He’s the guy I told you about, the one who I bumped into when I rushed up the stairs back in December!”
“I remember him from Hogwarts. Never knew him personally, but I remember Sam having a huge crush on him at some point, he was a year below us and in Ravenclaw, but I think he had a girlfriend so it never worked out.” Vic informed.
The girls started to blabber more about Joshua, but I ignored their conversation. I kept an eye on James who seemed to have abandoned his attempt to get an answer and closed the door after him, throwing his bag on the corner. He came to take a seat on the armchair Joshua had sat only few moments ago, and tried to look like he was listening. But I knew he wasn’t really, I could tell something was bothering him.
Instantly my heart beat a bit faster, signalling me that maybe he was jealous, maybe he didn’t want me to go out with Joshua, but I pushed those feelings aside. I wasn’t going to let them take over again. No, it was more likely that he just didn’t like him.
Or maybe it was something else. I was dying to ask how things had gone with Kat, but knew I couldn’t go into any details while the girls were here.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Peachy,” he replied, tone full of sarcasm as he lifted his legs on the table. “Not really in the mood to talk about that.”
“Okay.” I nodded, signalling that I understood.
“What about you then?” He examined me with a puzzled expression. “Apparently a lot has happened since I left?”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “Joshua dropped by and asked me to dinner.”
“I’m guessing that was his reason for dumping you case to Smith?”
“Told you he was being obvious.”
“No he wasn’t,” I protested.
“That’s because you’re always so bloody oblivious about stuff like that.” He rolled his eyes at me. “And that’s why you need me to point these things out for you and to make sure the guys understand not to even think about taking advantage of you.”
Oh lord, he’s already starting his overprotective brother phase…
“James Sirius Potter, you will not ruin this for Gwenny! Joshua is a perfect gentleman, he doesn’t need you shoving your fist in his face and threatening him, so don’t even think about that!” Victoire came to my rescue.
“Oi, I don’t shove my fist into people’s faces!” James protested immediately.
“Tell that to Gwenny’s last boyfriend!” Vic retorted.
“That doesn’t count! That git had it coming, he’s the biggest arsehole on this whole planet!”
“No he wasn’t! He was always polite to rest of us. You can’t call him an arsehole just because he wouldn’t stay silent when you were provoking him all the time!” Vic argued back.
“Come on you guys,” Rosie started. “Let’s not fight, okay?”
“Tell that to Jimmy there,” Vic sneered.
“Oh yes, because perfect little Vicky is never wrong,” James snapped.
I closed my eyes and leaned back on the couch, waiting to see if they’d actually for once stop this idiotic biggering by themselves. Pointless really, because I already knew that wouldn’t happen. This was Vic and James’s ‘favourite’ pastime fun every single time I was about to start dating somebody.
They both were too similar for their own good. Extremely passionate and stubborn, they could go on for hours if not stopped in time. Luckily it didn’t happen too often, but James’s overprotective side happened to be one of Vic’s pet peeves and she wouldn’t just sit by and shut up about it. And of course James could never back down about anything like that.
“Gwen is perfectly capable of making her own decisions about the guys she dates, she doesn’t need you to make up her mind!”
“Well of course she is, I’m not saying that! I just want to make sure the guys know that there are people who will not take it well if they try to play her. Freddy agrees with me one hundred percent, I can’t understand why you don’t see it!”
“Guys, please!” Rosie tried again, and after that failed she turned to look at me. “Gwenny, make them stop, you can always do it.”
Why me? It wasn’t my fault they wanted to act like prats! Let them shout.
They kept throwing verbal punches at each other, neither one willing to back down. It was sort of amusing, but also quite tiring. There really didn’t seem to be an end for it before somebody stepped in and made them shut up.
“You’re such a bitch! Teddy must be out of his mind for wanting to marry you!” James shot back.
Okay, now that was a low blow. He knew perfectly well that Vic would go mental from something like that.
I opened my eyes and leaned forwards, preparing to say something and finally stop this stupid argument, but I was a moment too late.
Why oh why didn’t I react sooner? Note to self; never, I mean never, let their argument get this far! Because calling Victoire a bitch will apparently make her lose every little control she has over her words.
I could’ve prevented this all. But I didn’t so I got to suffer because of that.
“You’re just jealous!” Vic shouted.
“Of you? Yeah right,” James snorted.
“No, not me, you idiot! Of Joshua, and all the others too. Merlin, why do you have to be so stubborn?”
Well, at least that silenced him, and everyone else too. The silence filled the whole room.
Say hello to awkwardness…
A/N: Yes, I know. It took me too long to update! And I'm really, really sorry about that. But here it is now! And boy was it a long one! But it's my gift to you guys for waiting so patiently ^^
As always, I'm dying to know what you thought about it! Even the smallest comments make me so happy!
Thanks for reading anyways, you guys are so awesome! I mean, 8000+ reads? 300+ reviews? Almost 100 favourites? I never even dared to dream about anything like this! You all deserve lots of hugs!
I'd like to thank atellam once again for being there for me, supporting my every stupid idea d: And also CambAngst and Moonyxluna for their help with this chapter! You guys rock and I would be lost without you ^^ So thank you!
Take care! Hopefully next chapter will be out a bit sooner (x