A/N: Once again, thanks to everyone who reviewed! You have no idea how much those little comments mean to me! Also, thank you to whomever reads this story and doesn’t review - even though you’re not saying anything, I’m glad to have you along for the ride.
“What do you mean ‘no’?”
“I can’t allow it, Mr. Weasley,” Healer Mitchell repeated, pushing her curtain of shiny blonde hair over her shoulder. She was getting annoyed with me, but I could have cared less. If anyone should be up in arms, it was me.
“You do realise that I’m paying you to help me get better, right?”
That wasn’t true. Because, technically speaking, my parents were paying an outrageous amount of money so I could see the best of the best in Great Britain. They simply put the money in my pocket and let me hand it over. But what Healer Mitchell didn’t know certainly wouldn’t hurt her.
She pinned me with her icy stare. “Yes, I realise that, Mr. Weasley, but there are too many risks involved. It would be too dangerous in your present condition -”
“Too dangerous?” I exclaimed incredulously, ready to leap out of my seat in anger. My grip on the armrest tightened. “You failed to mention that the first time around!”
“I gave you more than a fair warning during your consultation about the risks involved in the treatments administered. As I remember it, you were eager to jump to the challenge and seize the unicorn by the horn, so to speak.”
Right. So, maybe she had me there. I had been extremely eager to get over my mental roadblock and recover my memories, but that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. When she had first explained electroconvulsive therapy, she had only highlighted the positive aspects. She said it would help ignite the “spark of remembrance” in my brain, that it would speed up the recovery process. If that wasn’t as appealing as a bowl of double chunk cookie dough ice cream smothered in Nutella, I didn’t know what was.
“You didn’t say a thing about the negative side effects.”
“And I’ve already apologised for that, Hugo,” Healer Mitchell said through gritted teeth. “The data sent to me by a reliable source said that there were some less than desirable side effects, but the chances of -”
“Less than desirable? Less than desirable?!? Are you mad, woman? Because I’m certainly starting to believe that you’re absolutely nutters.”
She didn’t look phased by the sudden flare of my usually controlled temper. In fact, she looked as though she was suppressing an amused smile. However, when she spoke, her voice was anything but mirthful. “Please sit down, Mr. Weasley, and let me explain.”
“So you can use your fancy words and weasel your way out of this?”
“I’m not trying to weasel my way out of this.”
I snorted. “Sure you aren’t.”
She ignored my petty comment, instead straightening her glasses and brushing invisible lint of her lime green robes. “If you would please sit down and listen to what I have to say then maybe we can fix this.” There was an earnest note in her voice, but I couldn’t let myself be fooled by it. I refused to be lulled into a false sense of security. I had already let my guard down when it came to Healer “Long Legs” Mitchell and I had lost an additional week of my memory. I couldn’t let it happen again.
I wouldn’t let it happen again.
For the first time in a long while, I took the initiative. “I’m sorry, Healer Mitchell, but I don’t think I can continue seeing you any longer. I think it’s time to see another healer.”
Her mouth fell open, but only slightly. As quick as the surprise flitted across her face, it fled, leaving a blank, composed mask in its place. She was too professional to allow her emotions to show on her face. Too tough to appear so fragile. Clearing her throat, she squared her shoulders and asked, “Is there any particular reason why?”
It was a struggle, holding back the mocking laugh. But somehow, I managed to refrain from acting like a total prat, even though it felt oddly relieving. Refreshing, even. It was no wonder why Lorcan always acted like an arse. Hm, maybe I’d have to try it more often.
“You’ve already tried to fix me, and you’ve done nothing but further the damage.”
She gave an almost imperceptible nod of her head. The only reason why I caught the motion was because a lock of golden blonde hair fell into her face. She brushed it away and forced a smile at me. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Hugo. It’s my only hope that you’ll consider your decision before you seek the help of another healer.”
Not knowing what to say under the intensity of her critical stare, I left.
I was so distracted as I made my way towards the lift that I didn’t realised I’d collided when another human being until I was falling forward. My hands searched for something to grasp. I definitely got a handful of something, but it was too warm to be the wall or stray cart that I had been hoping for. And since I didn’t have anything to grab for purchase, the mysterious somebody and I tumbled to the floor. The impact was cushioned by the person pinned beneath me, who gasped as my full weight settled upon them.
“Oh, shit! I’m so sorry -” My sentence was swallowed by the sudden yelp that escaped me. Was I imagining things or did my bum just get pinched? Judging from the delighted, feminine laughter shaking the body beneath me, it had been. My bum, I mean. It had been pinched. Blanching, I looked down at the person pinioned underneath me and my eyebrows made an extravagant leap towards my hairline. My stomach dropped at the sight of her dark blue eyes, silver-grey hair, and the laugh lines around her mouth.
I tried to scramble to my feet, but she wrapped a bejewelled hand around my upper arm, keeping me in place. For an old woman, her grip was surprisingly tight. “Don’t get up at my expense, love. I quite like it down here.” Her eyes sparkled as she gave another tinkling laugh, which only deepened my nausea. Much like before, her entire body shook as she laughed. “On second thought,” she said, a mischievous smirk playing at her lips. “Maybe you should get up.”
And then she wiggled her hips suggestively underneath mine.
Someone kill me now. I mean, really? Really? Now, I wasn’t horrible with women, but it would figure that the only one currently expressing any interest in me was old enough to be my grandmother’s best friend. And with my luck, she probably was.
“June!” shouted a bespectacled man as he made his way towards us. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Oh, Benny, I was just having a bit of fun,” June said with a glittering smile.
The new addition named Benny looked less than amused as he shoved his thick glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Yeah, sure you were. Now unhand him before I have to call Gertie.”
Thankfully, she listened, unwinding her hands from around my arms and allowing me to get to my feet. I don’t think I’ve ever moved so quickly. Putting a good ten feet of distance between us, I glanced between the stranger newcomer and my assaulter. When she caught my eye, June winked audaciously at me. I nearly vomited on spot.
“June,” Benny warned.
She pouted. “You always spoil my fun.”
“It’ll hardly be fun when you’re facing a sexual harassment lawsuit. Trust me, Junebug; I know from experience.” He sent me a pointed look and I frowned. Was he suggesting that I would sue the old woman for pinching my ass? I might have felt a little violated, but it wasn’t a big enough deal to bring the law into the matter. Now if Benny had been the one…but that was a completely different and totally unrelated subject.
“Haven’t you ever heard of free love?” June objected, all traces of feigned innocence gone from her expression, replaced by a stern, almost calculating look. “I wasn’t harassing him - I was merely complimenting his…assets. Which are exemplary, by the way.”
Despite myself, the tips of my ears turned tomato red. “Er - thanks?”
She smiled. “At least someone appreciates my compliments. You know,” she said conspiratorially as she folded her arms over her chest. It was then that I noticed the bracelet encircling her thin wrist. It was similar to the one I had worn during my first week in the hospital following the accident; the healers had wanted to observe me to gage the damage done. The only difference was the colour. Mine had been purple while hers was a vivid red. The shade was oddly familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I had seen it. “I think he’s jealous.”
“Who, me?” Benny laughed loudly when June nodded. “I’m not jealous. What reasons would I have to be jealous of him?”
“His bum’s nicer than yours. Firmer.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed that Benny wouldn’t respond to her remark. I was already embarrassed as it was. If he even added to the argument…oh Merlin, thank God Molly, Louis, Lorcan, and Lily weren’t here. They’d never let me hear the end of it.
“See, now you’re learning that it’s better to agree than disagree! Arguing takes too much time and exudes too much negative energy.” She reached up and patted his cheek roughly, sending his glasses askew. “As much as I would like to stay and chat, I’ve got a knitting patterns class to get to.” She cut her gaze over to me. “It was nice to meet you…”
“Hugo,” I supplied out of habit.
“A very fitting name for a very fit young man.” She grinned at me, her eyes roving over my body. I felt indecent. Overly exposed. I wish had a jacket to through over her head. Or, you know, cover up with. Either one worked. “See you around.”
As she walked - more like sauntered - down the hall, I muttered, “I sure as hell hope not.”
Next to me, Benny laughed. “You’ll have to excuse June. She’s from the Janus Thickey Ward.”
“You mean she’s a -”
“A few Knuts short of a Sickle? Through and through, mate,” he said. “That’s why she wears the red bracelet. It signifies which ward she’s in and restricts her accessibility to certain areas.”
“She can’t go into the lounge near the lifts, can she?” I asked worriedly, thinking back to the previous week when Rose had accompanied me to St. Mungo’s and waited in the lounge for three and a half bloody hours.
“Oh, she can,” Benny said. “But patients can’t actually use the lifts without a healer or nurse present. It’s all a part of the enchantment, see.”
Well, that explained why Rose was in such a sour mood after everything was all said and done. She had been surrounded by a bunch of crazies who had probably tried to pull the wool over her eyes, much like June had done to me. Of course, I did throw up on her shoes on the way home, so that might have been a contributing factor as well. Tomato, potato, right?
“So how do you know so much about the hospital? Do you work here or something?”
“Nope,” Benny said with a shake of his head. He held up his wrist; he was wearing the same red bracelet that June was. “I live here.”
Great. How the hell was I supposed to respond to that? ‘Oh, that’s nice. If the bed beside yours isn’t taken, can I be your neighbour?’ Shaking my head to myself, I did the only thing I could - smiled in what I assumed was a friendly manner.
It must’ve worked because Benny smiled back. “It’s not all that bad, really. The food’s so-so, but the nurses? Have you seen the tits on Nurse Fraun?” He whistled lowly.
“She is really pretty,” I said, bobbing my head in agreement.
Benny snorted. “She is really pretty? There’s no need for such nancy words, Hugo.” He shook his head, chuckling. “Anyway, I should probably go track down June. Knowing her, she still hasn’t made it to her knitting pattern class. So see you around?
He clapped me on the shoulder. “For your sake, I hope not.”
It was a Friday night. And on Friday nights, Albus and I went out to one of the local pubs for a few drinks and some friendly conversation. Unlike my other cousins, Albus wasn’t nearly as boisterous or obnoxious. In fact, neither of the Potter boys were - Lily seemed to inherit all the rowdy genes. Where Lily and Lorcan and Louis and Molly fancied going to Muggle nightclubs and getting tanked, like me, Albus preferred the laidback environment of pubs.
And he carried a flaming hot torch for the bartender there, a cute girl named Cecelia.
Pulling a lighter out of his pocket, Albus ignited the end of his cigarette a took a long drag, allowing the smoke to fill his lungs. I grimaced. I had never understood the attraction to smoking, but if his serene expression was anything to go by, it must have brought some form of joy to his life. I didn’t question him. Let the man have this brief reprieve. He would probably be nervous for the rest of the night, especially since Cecelia was working.
“Your mum told mine that things with the healer weren’t going so well,” Albus said as he exhaled.
I waved the smoke out of my face. “Not after the electroshock therapy.”
“I still can’t believe you went through with that. I would’ve been too scared.”
“What’s life without taking a bit of a risk?”
“Sensible,” replied Albus with a smile. It was one of our jokes. Everyone made Albus out to be some stiff, overly cautious, humble person. And while he certainly was humble, he wasn’t stiff or overly cautious by any means. He just didn’t fancy making an arse out of himself in public.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I couldn’t bypass the opportunity of getting better.”
“But you’ve regressed.”
“Only a week. It could have been much worse,” I said pointedly. Then I frowned to myself. Was this what Healer Mitchell was trying to say when she denied me another round of electroconvulsive treatment? That instead of being somewhat damaged, I could be a fried vegetable?
“True,” Albus said, taking another drag. “But still, it sounds to me like she was using you.”
“Using me?” I repeated, baffled. “How?”
Albus sent me a look that implicated my naivety. Or stupidity. With me, the two seemed to walk hand-in-hand. “Honestly, it’s no wonder why people call you ‘Doormat’.”
“Hey! People stopped calling me that when I was nine,” I protested weakly.
“Yeah, to your face.” Albus grinned and flicked the grey ashes clinging stubbornly to the end of his cigarette. The smile slipped from his face as he pinned me with his wide, emerald eyes. “But really, Hugo, did you even consider the possibility that she was using you to advance her career?”
I sent him a sceptical look. “Have you been talking to Molly?” I questioned, raising a brow in suspicion.
His answer was much too quick for my liking. “No.”
“You have!” I exclaimed suddenly, making the old man at the end of the bar jump in fright. “I knew it! I told her to leave it be, but she didn’t listen!” A wave of annoyance swept through me at the thought of my cousin discussing my personal issues with other people. “Merlin, I’m going to kill Molly!”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute!” Albus said hurriedly, extinguishing his cigarette and holding up his hands. “Don’t go killing her just yet - she was only looking out for your well-being. And don’t start with that ‘I can take care of myself’ bullshit. We all know that you can, Hugo. You’re just too damn trusting for your own good.” He pushed a hand through his messy hair and sighed. “But don’t you think she had a point, mate?”
I glared at him. “Perhaps.”
Albus rolled his eyes. “Stop looking like a kicked puppy and get over it. You’re free of the wicked witch’s clutches. That’s like shaking a case of dragon pox - it’s a good thing! So why not celebrate it? We’re here for a reason, you know.”
“Yeah, so you can hit on Cecelia. Want me to wave her over for you?” I asked, grinning broadly.
“Don’t you -”
“Oi, Cecelia!” I shouted down the length of the bar. She looked up abruptly, turning her head this way and that. I waved at her and she grinned, dropping the dish towel and heading over to us.
“I’m going to kill you,” Albus growled under his breath as he bent his head, staring purposefully at the knotted countertop.
Cecelia Reeds was a pretty girl with pixie-like features. She had a button nose, closely cropped brown hair, and a smile that melted many a man’s hearts. “Hey Hugo, Albus,” she greeted warmly. “What can I get for you?”
“I’ll take two shots of whiskey and a Guinness.”
“Oh, someone must be celebrating,” she commented with a knowing smile, her eyes drifting away from my face to the top of Albus’s dark head. Her brow furrowed and she asked, “Can I get you something, Al?”
He mumbled his order incoherently.
“Hm, well, I’m afraid we’re all out of harruphmity,” Cecelia joked, reaching for a glass underneath the bar and wandering over to the beer tap. She filled the frosted glass and set it down in front of me. “So,” she leaned her elbows on the countertop, “what can I get you?”
Albus picked up his head and stared at her. Two red splotches appeared on her cheeks, and after a few moments, she ducked her head.
“You two are ridiculous,” I said after sampling the deliciously bitter beer.
“Excuse me?” they cried in unison.
“Look, Cecelia, he fancies you. In fact, he’s fancied you for quite a long time, which is why we don’t go to any other pubs aside from this one,” I explained in a rush. I didn’t have to look at him to know that Albus was glaring at me; I could feel the heat coming from his eyes like laser beams. “Basically every time he says he wants a porter he’s actually asking you out on a date. So, please, spare him the misery and just let the bloke take you out already.”
Cecelia’s wide brown eyes swung from my face to Albus, who looked as though he would explode at any given moment. Much to either of our surprise, Cecelia let out a small chuckle and said, with a coy smile, “Let me get my coat.”
As she untied her waist apron and tossed it underneath the bar, I looked over at Albus and grinned cheekily. “There’s no need to thank me.”
He punched me on the shoulder. Hard.
Well, there’s gratitude for you.
A/N 2: Questions? Comments? Concerns? As always, review! J