Sometimes her eyes show flickers of light, and for a second you hope that she’s going to smile that smile of hers and tell you everything’s going to be fine. Then twenty minutes later you’re walking out of the ward and you know that all your hope is gone. You knew those eyes once. You don’t know them now.
The nurses smile at you, but after a while you lose the strength to smile back. You hate it here, you wish you could take her out of this hell-hole and take her somewhere - anywhere - just for a while, so she could remember what the world looks like. The overpowering smell of cleaning fluids makes you nauseous here and the lights are too bright.
But you can’t. And you won’t. And in seven days when the thoughts return as you stride through the marble atrium you know that the light of hope will be even further gone. So you do the same thing every week, arriving promptly in similar clothing with your hair styled the same in blind hope that perhaps she’ll remember that you’re coming and be waiting for you at the ward door. She isn’t. She never is. Not any more.
Healer Geoffrey Martin’s office is on the way to the ward, you pass it every week and your mind reverts unwillingly back to the day that changed your life forever. You remember everything. The carpet, what suit you wore, how her hair was, even the strong smell of pipe smoke that the Healer apologised for before he even introduced himself.
Stronger than the memory of the smoke was how shifty she had been that day. She held your arm through the hospital but kept stopping and looking around, and you tried to pretend that you hadn’t seen it because you didn’t want to admit the truth to yourself. The truth, that she really had no idea where she was.
A small part of you always thought that no matter how much she forgot about how to levitate a sheet of paper with her wand or what the inside of St Mungo’s hospital was, she would always know her own son. She would always look up and you and say “Where am I?”.
The Healer knew there was something wrong with her that day. You both sat down and he started talking, you were tuning in and out wondering if your father was going to be home early enough to prepare dinner, and then you realised the man had stopped talking. You looked at him. He was looking at her.
She was staring at you, and her eyes were glistening. “I can’t remember your name.” she breathed, tears rolling down her cheeks as she looked across at you, the son she had once doted upon. “I don’t know who you are.”
You didn’t know what to say, and for a long time a painful silence hung in the office as the two of you stared at each other in a combination of horror and resolute grief. Then the Healer heaved a sigh and leaned forward. “I know how strongly you object… but I’m really going to recommend that you leave your mother in our care. At least for a while.”
You didn’t know what to do. So you left her there, and she stared balefully at your retreating back and you knew she was trying to remember where she had seen you before. You wondered if she thought perhaps you were someone she had passed in the street once upon a time. When you returned the following day she had never seen you before.
Now you stand at the door with a bouquet of pointless flowers in your hand. Your father is dead. It was officially declared an accidental overdose but you know he just couldn’t handle not having the woman he loved recognise him anymore. Your life is in pieces. All you do is wait for Thursday to come around so that you can stroll into the hospital and watch the only family you have left slip further and further away.
They’ve given her two months. You don’t care. Your mother died half a year ago in the office you just walked past; the hollowed out shell inside the long-term ward is already forgotten by the world that she has forgotten, and the only person hurt by it all is you.
“Good morning sir.”
You’re not sure who has spoken, you just step past them and into the ward. The flowers are lilies; they always were her favourite. You can’t see her yet, perhaps she’s eating her dinner or being bathed by the nurses. Their regime isn’t as strict as yours, it wouldn’t be the first time.
The nurse is still there, she’s looking at you. Your pulse is increasing, it knows something is wrong before it has registered in your brain. They don’t talk to you. They greet you and then leave you alone with your mother for the half an hour before you leave… why is she talking to you? You realise that you still can’t see her.
“Sir… it’s about your mother.”
The arm holding the flowers falls to your side and you suddenly feel so alone, despite the fact that there are at least ten other nurses and patients standing in the ward around you. You don’t know how it has happened, but you know it has happened. And you thought it would be a release, but it’s not. Because deep down a part of you always wanted her to remember you before she died. Just for her to say your name.
“Sir… your mother died last night. We tried to owl you but… well the storm…”
She leaves to get the Healer when you continue to ignore her existence. You can’t move. You can’t feel anything. You can’t even tell if the flowers are still gripped in your fingers because your entire body has gone numb. The vague smell of pipe smoke appears and Healer Martin rests a gentle hand on your shoulder, steering you out of the ward and down the corridor to his office. You walk, although you don’t feel your legs.
He’s talking, but you can’t hear him.
You sit down in front of his desk and he seats himself opposite you, not speaking anymore. Maybe he knows you’re not listening. You tune back in and look up at him. “She stopped breathing at just after midnight.” he says slowly. “We couldn’t save her.”
“Oh.” is all you can say. You want to shout at someone, shout and ask why he’s bothering to tell you all this when you might as well have been a complete stranger to her. You wish that you cared as little as she did. She didn’t know you, if you died she would be blissfully oblivious to the fact that you had once been mother and son. It’s unfair that you should hurt so much.
“And,” he’s talking again. You want to tell him to shut-up. “Sometimes with patients like your mother there are brief periods when they remember certain things. On one of the days you brought her lilies, she looked at them after you had left and told me she liked them.”
You wonder why the hell he’s telling you this. Is it supposed to make you feel better that she liked the flowers you brought her week after week after week until they had probably embedded themselves into the dead brain matter sparking in her skull?
“I caught her looking at the photograph of the three of you for long periods of time. She liked to stare at it.” he continues, oblivious to your complete and utter loss of interest. “Last night, before I tucked her into bed, she asked if you were coming to visit today.”
You look up at him. The fact that she had started to vaguely recognise the weekly pattern of a blond man coming into the ward seems strangely irrelevant to you. But he’s not finished.
“She called you Draco. And she knew you were her son.”
You seem to be choking on oxygen. You cough heavily and look back up at him, the tears you wanted to hold back flowing freely down your cheeks. “She remembered me?”
“Yes. It sometimes happens before they slip away… it’s an unsolved mystery in magical medicine, but Narcissa recognised you as her son before she died. I don’t know if that helps you deal with it any better, but…” he trails off and smiles at you. “Mungo’s would like to supply you with a grievance counsellor, I happen to know a wonderful one called Astoria Greengrass… I have her card in here somewhere…”
The air in the room is clear with only a hint of stale smoke. The card he gives you is rough against your fingertips and you slip it into the breast pocket of your jacket, carefully buttoning it back up more from the dislike of losing things than fear of misplacing a counsellor’s business card. You sit up straight, testing the effect on your body after so long of slouching wherever you went. The Healer is smiling wisely at you. “Give her a visit, she’s good at what she does.” he suggests. “The arrangements for Narcissa’s funeral were made before her death and her body is in the hospital morgue at the moment…”
His tone is lighter than you have ever heard. He knows as well as you do that you won’t be back. You shake his hand.
Leaving the office seems a less daunting task than usual. For the first time in a long, long while… you can stride through the white corridors and step into the empty elevator without feeling the guilt of leaving a part of your soul behind to rot in a long-term ward.
The lift descends while your shoulders ascend, rising from the slouch they had become so accustomed to with a lot of protestant aching. You don’t know how to feel. But for the first time you don’t feel like you are constantly waiting for something - the week of free time ahead of you will not end with insomnia on Wednesday night, panicking as you try to remember where you put your blue tie.
She never noticed the tie anyway. She liked the fact that your hair matched hers.
The thought reaches your hands and you run one over your head. It’s definitely time for a haircut. You’re beginning to look like Lucius.
“See you next week, Mr Malfoy.” the receptionist flashes you a busy smile, overwhelmed with paperwork and a waiting room filled with patients. You wave but don’t bother telling her that you wont be back. You’re too busy trying to separate the mixed feelings of relief and loneliness that are weaving around your mind like parasitic organisms, making it hard for you to figure out how to feel.
In your confusion you bump into someone; typically someone with an armful of papers and files that consequently skim across the slippery atrium floor. You vaguely recognise the ‘shit’ to be in your own voice.
“Oh I’m sorry!” she exclaims, scrambling to collect them. You help her out of minor guilt. She dances across the floor in heeled shoes piling the lost papers back up again a lot quicker than you, and halfway through your combined effort one of the Healers materialises behind her.
“Greengrass.” he snarls, drawing your attention to the cringing woman. “What have I told you about carrying confidential files through a busy atrium?”
The comical guilt written across the poor woman’s face is enough to pull a long-overdue smile onto your lips. And then, before you know it, you’re laughing. She looks just like you used to when Narcissa had caught you with Lucius’ broom in the library with ruined books strewn around you. It briefly occurs to you that the first human interaction you have made with someone who wasn’t a Healer looks torn between being affronted and amused at your apparent hysteria.
You sober and hand her the papers. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, Mr Malfoy.” the Healer pats you on the arm. “This is Astoria Greengrass, our grievance counsellor. I believe Healer Martin suggested you see her?”
The humour has passed and you’re back to wondering how you should feel. You nod, not paying attention to the situation again. Greengrass balances the stack of papers in one arm and offers you her hand. You shake it with a tired smile that you know wont reach your eyes.
“I’m on lunch. Want to grab a coffee?” she offers, dumping the papers on the reception desk. The receptionist who had previously spoken to you shoots her a knowing glance - apparently Greengrass’ disregard for everyone else’s work schedules was well known around the hospital.
You look up at the ceiling, imagining that you can see through the four floors separating you from where you would normally be sat on a Thursday, dying a little inside and accompanied by a cheerfully humming blonde woman. Astoria Greengrass tucks a strand of brown hair behind her ears and patiently waits for you to respond.
“It would seem,” you’re currently mentally punching the air as the old drawl, hereditary amongst Malfoy men, finds its way back into your voice. “I have nothing else to do today.”
You are leaving the hospital.
For the first time in six months you are stepping out of the infirmary without the feeling that it is coming home with you to haunt your nights with the smell of blood and bleach.
Your mind will clear eventually, when the counsellor helps you realise that the six months you bequeathed upon the hospital were not wasted.
And your hope is a golden - no, not golden. Rich, chocolate brunette - spark firing in the depths of a cardiac muscle that you weren’t even sure would work anymore. It’s raining outside. Greengrass mutters something about how the heavens have opened and your face splits into a broad smile at how appropriate the statement sounds.
Write a Review Lantern: Paper Stems On Pointless Flowers