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Chapter 48 : Afterward
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I woke to find Severus still at his post, a bit of parchment propped on his knee as he wrote by the slant of light coming through the cracked door. He was immediately alert to my consciousness and set the parchment aside, turning on the light and leaning forward. "How do you feel?"
"I'm not sure." I answered, still feeling dazed by the potion. The headache seemed to be gone though I detected a slight burning in my ribs still. "Better."
"Good. I hate to seem indifferent but I really do need to get back. I still have to teach today."
"Sorry you had to come here, but I really do appreciate it."
He nodded, touched me lightly on the arm in farewell, and strode from the room.
As soon as I was alone with no one to protest, I got out of bed and padded to the bathroom. I felt a little discomfort, but nothing I couldn't handle. Feeling smug with my sneakiness I returned to bed and adopted an innocent expression.
The next hour was a very long one. A trainee healer informed me that I'd have to see a fully qualified one before they'd let me leave. They brought breakfast to me -- typical hospital slop. Whether Muggle or wizard, it seems that some things like hospital gowns and food are exactly alike. I was plotting possible ways to escape again when the first visitors arrived.
Remus, Basil and Augustus came as soon as visiting hours were open. "Mel was with us but he got kicked out for pinching a cute healer on the butt." Augustus announced.
That explained why Remus looked red in the face. "I do not know these people." he wryly told me.
"Look at this -- we smuggled you some food." said Basil, pulling a bag from under his cloak. "It's cold because we picked it up last night, but it'll still taste good."
It was a fast food paper bag with grease stains on the bottom. "Where'd you get that?"
"Hey -- we know how to get by in the Muggle world now. And it was my idea, but Mel gave us the money."
"Thanks." I said, opening it up. It was a hamburger. "They're trying to kill me with crappy food in this place."
"You look much better." Remus told me, partially shutting the door to prevent a passing healer from spotting my second breakfast.
"I had a good sleep." I answered, thanking God that Severus had left before Remus arrived.
"Good. I'm glad to hear it."
I had polished off the burger and was getting impatient again when the door opened and Hagrid walked in, ducking his head to keep from hitting it on the top frame.
"Hagrid!" I happily exclaimed, though I wondered if there was anyone in the world that Dumbledore had not informed of my accident.
Basil and Augustus looked at him curiously and with understandable surprise. Remus, smiling, stood aside to make room for him at my bedside.
"Are yeh alright Kerri?" asked Hagrid. He looked as pale and concerned as the others had looked the night before. I hoped he wasn't getting ready to start crying.
"I'm fine." I quickly assured him, unable to stop smiling. I was so thrilled to see him. I reached out and he leaned down so I could throw my arms around his neck.
"Yeh look good." he said, eying me critically. "I couldn' believe when I heard."
"Where did he hear it from?" I asked.
"I dunno." Hagrid shrugged. "But yeh know Dumbledore. He doesn' miss anythin'. I couldn' believe it when he told me." he repeated.
His words made me blush. I didn't like him thinking that I'd had some careless accident, but I didn't want him knowing the truth either.
"Hello Hagrid. It's good to see you." Remus cut in, perhaps understanding my dilemma.
Hagrid looked around as though only just realizing we weren't alone. "Remus. It's been years." he said delightedly. He thumped Remus on the back, almost sending him sprawling. "Er...sorry about that."
"Same old Hagrid." said Remus, smiling as I took his hand. I looked up at Hagrid significantly.
He looked back at me for a few moments before comprehension dawned on his face and he realized what I wanted. "Oh." he said, almost in a tone that suggested he'd just remembered something previously forgotten. "It's nice...you two...together." he said awkwardly. I took that to mean that we officially had his approval.
Basil and Augustus were watching, looking mystified.
"This is Hagrid -- he's like a father to me." I explained. "He helped me adjust when I first moved here and taught me to love animals."
"Oh this is the maniac who gave you a crossbow." Basil muttered quietly.
"Sorry about yer father, Remus." Hagrid was saying. "How's yer mother?"
"She's doing very well. We're discussing selling the house and her moving into a smaller place."
It watched Remus and Hagrid interact with interest. Probably my expression was similar to the one Remus had had as he'd watched me speaking with his mother on that first night. I felt that our relationship had just progressed to a new level.
"My goodness -- busy place, this." came a cheerful, female voice.
I had to lean to see around Hagrid as Professor Comes, head of Merlin's Zoology Department came walking in.
"Yes, try to hide." she lightly scolded. "A few more performances like the one yesterday and your standing might slip to second. Don't you dare do that to me. I have a lot of money riding on you being the valedictorian."
"Hi." I said, feeling sheepish.
"What the hell were you doing? Don't make it a habit."
"I won't." I promised. "This is Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper. I learned a lot from him while I was there."
"Kerri came to Merlin already knowing more than most of my other students combined." said Professor Comes, not looking at all surprised or perturbed by Hagrid's size. "You must be a good teacher."
Hagrid blushed. "No...I'm not a teacher." he stammered. "I'm jus' the gamekeeper."
"Don't believe him." I contradicted. "I learned more from him than I ever did in class. Hagrid is too a teacher."
"Kerri is the best student I've ever had." said Professor Comes, launching into a long praise of me that made Hagrid go misty eyed with pleasure and pride. Somewhere in the middle of it a mouse poked it's nose out of his pocket and I pulled it out, cradling the warm little body in my palm.
"Some red haired boy is out front, pinching girl's backsides."
I tuned in to the conversation again as Professor Comes made this declaration. Basil and Augustus exchanged amused glances and Remus looked at the floor.
"It's been a weird couple of days." Professor Comes continued. "What happened, Kerri? You rarely make mistakes and you're not accident prone -- unlike that roommate of yours."
"You know Tonks?"
"Of course. On her first day here she was on her way to orientation and managed to trip the headmaster and knock him into the fountain. The whole school knows her."
I had never heard this story before. I filed it away for later reference in the event that Tonks ever did anything to annoy me. Basil was frowning slightly, looking loyally affronted on Tonks's behalf.
"You didn't answer my question, Kerri." Professor Comes pointed out. "What happened?"
"I don't really know. I hit my head." I hedged.
"Well try to remember because I need to file an accident report. Come see me in my office in a day or two."
The healer arrived then, looking shocked at the sight of an obvious half giant, the crumpled hamburger bag, and the rodent in my hand. I wonder what he'd have thought if he'd known there were three werewolves present too? "How are you today, Miss Howard?" he asked, his tone disapproving.
I handed the mouse back to Hagrid and he and Professor Comes left. Remus motioned Basil and Augustus out into the hall to give me privacy. I was in too good a mood to complain about being examined and my cup of joy overflowed when he cleared me to go home with the stipulation that I rest for the remainder of the day.
It was so nice to finally get out of that place and nicer still to know how loved I was by all of those people who took time out of their lives to visit me. (With the exception of Professor Comes who just wanted to check that I haven't done anything to jeopardize her bets).
By the time we made it outside, Mel had been chased off by security. He was waiting on my doorstep though, Mary Ann having locked the door and refused to let him in. Remus nearly had heart failure when Mel boisterously picked me up and jostled me around in a fit of high spirits. On the other hand, he spared no comment at all for Mary Ann who came streaking out into the yard and threw herself into my arms like a ton of bricks. "You're so stupid, Kerri!" she howled before running back into the house with suspiciously moist eyes.
"Mental." said Basil, shaking his head. "Maybe she has rabies. I've always suspected it."
Tonks was gone so I was at the mercy of a teen werewolf and a quartet of overly anxious bachelors. They settled me on the sofa and proceeded to drive me nuts thinking of nice things to do for me. I felt like a flower being mercilessly over watered.
So now I've met Remus’s mother and he's met my dad. I feel like we've reached an important step in our relationship. So, what next? I know what should come next. I should come clean about the Voldemort thing, but I'm too cowardly. Well, what's the rush? After all, I'm recovering from an injury.
Professor Comes summoned me to her office today to write up her accident report, an event that I've been dreading. I hadn't made up my mind yet whether I should tell her the whole truth or not. I decided to just go with it and see what happened when it happened. Remus is of the mind that someone ought to be told, but Tonks's teacher doesn't think a case can be built considering I‘m the only witness to the disembodied voice and I did take a good hit upside the head.
I think I'm just going to have to take care of it myself, and I have an idea in mind that involves shooting a cursed crossbow bolt into the McNair’s well. Not that this is something I'm going to share with anyone, of course. Unlike Franklin, I have enough sense to keep my mouth shut. If I do it, I'm not going to waste time threatening. I'm just going to act.
"Have a seat, kid." said Professor Comes as I walked into her office. As always, it looked like a hurricane had struck. "I think there's a chair under there somewhere." she said, gesturing to a pile of heavy books stuffed with assorted papers and bookmarks.
There was indeed a chair at the bottom, which I found after removing all the books.
"How are you doing?" asked Professor Comes.
"Fine. All better."
"So which one was the werewolf?" she asked, sounding merely curious and not judgmental. On a previous visit to her office I had mentioned that my boyfriend was a werewolf.
"All of them but Hagrid, actually. The two youngest ones were band mates."
"Oh I've heard about that band of yours. Yes, you do have some interesting friends. And what is with that Hagrid? He's not completely human, is he?"
I would have been offended by the question but her tone was still just curious. Nevertheless, I hesitated, knowing that it wasn't my secret to tell. Luckily she didn't seem too intent on getting an answer. "I liked him." she continued. "And he seems very fond of you."
"We've sort of unofficially adopted each other. He's been there for me and my father hasn't." (Thank God).
"What the hell happened the other day?" asked Professor Comes, suddenly getting down to business.
I blinked, blindsided by the sudden change of subject. I deliberated for a moment, knowing that the time for deciding had come. Well, I hadn't done anything wrong, so why should I lie about what happened? If anyone had reason to be evasive, it would be Franklin. With that in mind, I went ahead and told her the full story.
"You have a talent for getting into trouble. Usually my students don't get into these situations. It's the charms students that are wild and crazy. I wouldn't teach that subject for anything. Did you recognize the voice?"
"I think so. It sounded like Franklin McNair. I got into an argument with him about a week earlier --- do you know who he is?"
"I know of the family."
"Seems like everyone does." I commented.
"Tell me the rest."
I gave her the entire story, going back to the argument with Franklin, his threat, and the way I'd been seeing him around campus more often than usual in the days leading up to the ‘accident.’
"Have you reported this?" she asked.
"No. Tonks is a magical law enforcement major and she talked to one of her teachers who doesn't think there's a case. No one else heard the voice -- no one saw Franklin around -- let's face it, I was hit upside the head so they could accuse me of imagining it. Mary Ann was there when he made the threat but no one is going to listen to her. If I accuse him and end up losing, he'll love that. It's not worth the trouble."
"I'll make a note of it in my report. I'd be tempted to try getting the campus guard to look into it, but you're not exactly on their good side either, are you? About the McNairs...you are aware of what they are, aren't you?" asked Professor Comes very seriously.
"Yes. My boyfriend warned me."
"Good. Being from abroad I expect there is a lot you don't know about some of the wizarding families that the rest of us know from having grown up here. It isn't like it was a decade ago when people just disappeared if they run afoul of certain individuals. Still, those certain individuals often have money and have ways of getting things done. You need to watch yourself."
"Oh I know. I've seen how these people get things done." I answered, thinking of Royal.
"I've had a lot of very interesting insights into how the law works lately."
"Well, the criminals have rights too, kid."
"Well please try to stay out of trouble until graduation." Professor Comes begged. "The bets I have on you, you know. And Professor Gardener will never let me hear the end of it if one of his students beats you."
"I'll do my best." I wondered exactly how much money was at stake, and then decided I'd rather not know.
So that's that. Hopefully that's the last I'll have to deal with any of it, other than when I go curse the McNair well. I'm not even going to start thinking about the morality of this idea. Franklin deserves it. It's not like I'm going to kill him or anything. Just put him...and probably his brother too...into the hospital. I'm not doing it just because I have a sick sense of humor. I am not turning out like Voldemort.
"You smell like a wet dog and you have fleas --- Tonks is never going to go to bed with you so you may as well leave."
"Kerri really ought to put a muzzle on you."
"How about a foot up your ---"
"Tonks won't what because WHAT ?!" This last exclamation came from Tonks who sounded completely appalled.
"That's how Basil and Mary Ann always greet each other when he comes over." I told her, pleased that she was there for once so I wouldn't have to deal with it alone.
"He wants your body." Mary Ann told Tonks, distractedly slapping Basil on the arm as he pushed past her. "Don't give in. His stupidity might rub off on you."
Basil rolled his eyes. Tonks stared at Mary Ann, apparently genuinely surprised that this kind of talk goes on when she's not around. I returned to my homework, deciding to let her deal with it.
"Augustus and I have another job." Basil announced.
I turned back to face him but Mary Ann spoke before I could. "How long before he loses this one? Let's make bets. I say two days."
"Doing what?" I asked, ignoring her.
"Taking in laundry and ironing."
Mary Ann through herself down on the sofa, laughing hysterically. "Girl stuff. That's the real reason Tonks won't go out with you -- she suspects you're gay."
"Kerri, you can't seriously be thinking of taking her to Hogwarts with you next year." said Tonks.
"I can lock her in the dungeons if she doesn't behave." I shrugged.
"And I'd gag her too if I were you."
"Hey -- I'm on your side, Tonks." Mary Ann protested.
"Anyway..." said Basil, turning his back on Mary Ann, "We do our own laundry all the time so what can go wrong?"
"I don't know, but something always does."
"Not this time." Basil insisted as Tonks went to get the mail which had just arrived at the kitchen window. He shot a disgustingly lovesick smile at her as she sat down to open an envelope.
I wasn't paying her any attention -- I was listening to Basil who had begun whining about my plans to leave the band when I start teaching --- when Tonks suddenly let out an ear splitting scream and jumped to her feet, breaking into a dance. This was a bad idea as she tripped over the stool she’d been sitting on and both of them toppled over.
Basil practically broke his neck getting there to help her up. Mary Ann and I exchanged smirks. Tonks waved Basil away, crawling under the sofa to retrieve the envelope which had flown there when she tripped. "I..." she said, breathlessly, her voice trembling with excitement. "Have just been accepted into Auror training! I wanted it so much..." she continued, babbling as though close to tears. "I was trying to play it cool but it would have just killed me if I hadn't gotten in. I thought there might be a chance, but you can never be sure. It could have gone either way. I'm the first trainee they've accepted in... I don't know how many years. It's such an honor that they picked me. I have to tell my parents right now."
"I guess a congratulations hug wouldn't be allowed." Basil complained, though he sounded hopeful.
To everyone's surprise, including his, she seized him by the chin, kissed him fiercely on the cheek, and then drifted out the door without bothering to grab a sweater.
"Eew." said Mary Ann.
"Let's go to Quality Quidditch Supplies and tell Gideon Tonks is going to be an Auror!" said Basil excitedly. "The sooner he dumps her, the sooner she can come cry on my shoulder."
"No." I said seriously. "Don't you dare. If it's going to happen, let it happen on it's own. If you don't, she'll blame you for it."
"But --- " Basil started to protest. And then he paused as a cagey look came into his eyes. "Maybe you're right. If he screws up on his own, she'll hate him even more." he sounded delighted by the prospect. "I hope he throws a right tantrum. I hope he completely breaks her heart so that she comes running right to me. Or she curses him into a pile of slime on the floor -- that would be good too. This is great. Maybe she'll come to more of our concerts now. I think the real reason he stays away from them is because he's afraid of me." Basil was babbling as excitedly as Tonks had been, as he too drifted out the front door, forgetting to shut it in his distraction.
"No way is Tonks going to go out with him." Mary Ann predicted. "I'm going to laugh when she turns him down."
Privately I agreed with her prediction, though it didn't give me any pleasure. I knew it was going to make Basil very disappointed and I wasn't looking forward to that. I think Tonks ought to give him more credit than she does. Sure, he's an idiot, but I think he really cares for her and that's not something that you run into every day.
Next Chapter : Royal returns from Azkaban, Mary Ann helps Tonks break up with Gideon.
"I said I'd be willing to compromise didn't I ? Just go into regular magical law enforcement if you have to. It won't be so demanding."
"Exactly where does your part of the compromise come in?" asked Tonks icily.
"I'll be tolerating not having a wife who stays home and takes care of things there."
"He wants a personal slave." Mary Ann helpfully translated.
"You're old fashioned Gideon." Tonks said, ignoring Mary Ann.
"And stupid too." Mary Ann added.
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