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Breathless by celticbard
Chapter 3 : The Solarium
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 14

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Amazing chapter image by Sarah_Bee107 @ TDA

I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work, however, all OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Medical Disclaimer: Much of this story revolves around the infectious disease, tuberculosis and its treatment. The methods I have described in this story are a mixture of both modern regimens and outdated procedures from the heyday of the sanatorium. For the purpose of this story, the main character contracts and suffers from a strain of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis found only in “wizards”, therefore, her experience may differ from the experience of a “muggle” with the same disease. Finally, I am not a physician. My statements regarding tuberculosis, although thoroughly researched, should not be taken as actual medical facts.

Cast List:

Forbia “Freddy” Fotherby - Melanie Lynskey
Healer Calum Crane - Peter Facinelli
Nurse Jenkins - Samantha Morton
Remus Lupin - James D'Arcy
Lavinia Wainwright - Naomi Watts

Chapter Three The Solarium 

It was a month before Healer Crane would let Freddy leave her room unsupervised. And even after he gave her permission to leave the Intensive Care Ward, it was only for one hour a day. One measly hour.

She was allowed to go the solarium and back, with absolutely no detours to the dining hall or library. Freddy felt the bitter need to argue with him over this point, but held her peace when she realized even this precious liberty was in jeopardy.

Crane was only semi-pleased with her progress, he said. She was getting stronger, yes, but her last sputum test had come back positive.

She had TB of the right lung and it was not going away.

What did that mean? Freddy didn’t know, nor did she want to think about it. Instead, she distracted herself with the promise of a daily outing. Freedom, though limited, was better than nothing.

During the last week of April, she left her room unescorted and headed downstairs to the solarium. Although she had been a patient in the sanatorium for nearly two months, Freddy still had trouble finding her way around. Most of the building was a mystery to her, and as she tip-toed down the yellow-walled corridors with their green tile floors, she was reminded once more of the burden of life in an institution.

It was very different from life at Hogwarts, and she had begun to feel like an orphan in some Dickens’ tale. But the other patients she passed in the halls seemed cheerful, leaning out of their doors to chat with orderlies or simply to watch the world pass by.

Freddy thought they looked a bit like pigeons. Watchers with empty eyes. And she swore to herself that she would never become so inert.

The solarium, once found, was an impressive place. It was a long, narrow room on the second floor with a screened in terrace and great big windows that overlooked the extensive grounds. Unlike the tiled corridors, the floor here was of solid, polished wood. Wicker lounge chairs and benches were scattered about, along with a few beds that were kept pushed against the walls.

Almost all the patients in the solarium were seated, except for one man who was tending to two parakeets in a birdcage. And everyone wore slippers and robes.

Freddy thought the gathering looked absurdly like a pyjama party. Pairs of men played chess or cards, and some of the women sat in circles, knitting, reading or gossiping. There was a radio in the corner belching out Celestina Warbeck, who was now making waves with her sudden affinity towards Cole Porter.

Nurses bustled about between square tables with half-finished jigsaw puzzles, and temperatures were taken over the covers of dog-eared magazines.

Freddy suddenly wished to go home. Very badly.

Or at the very least, she wished she had brought a book with her.

Timidly, she picked her way past several of the lounge chairs, all too aware that blood-shot eyes followed her progress. There was a small bookshelf behind one set of benches, and she tried to peruse the titles.

Romance paperbacks, a few works by Jane Austen and The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller.

Ugh, this was going to be difficult. She found little succour amongst the proffered material and was considering the puzzle when a twitter of laughter made her jump.

The tight cluster of gossiping women was alight with excitement.

“A new lunger!”

“It’s the Hogwarts professor.”

“Ask her!”

“Excuse me.” One woman, a statuesque blonde who reminded Freddy vaguely of some 1940s movie star, rose from her seat. “Sorry to bother you…but are you the Hogwarts professor who had the pneumonectomy?”

Freddy stared at the glamour girl for a full minute. “Uh, yeah, I think so.”

“I knew it!” A second woman chirped.

Someone clapped her hands.

“Oh please, won’t you come sit with us?” The blonde pleaded.

Freddy fought the urge to back away, but in truth, she had nothing better to do. “I’m only allowed out an hour,” she said, taking a seat in the circle of patients. Maybe they wouldn’t keep her too long…

“Crane is so strict,” a tiny witch in a red robe muttered.

The rest of the women ignored her.

“Lavinia,” the blonde said, holding out a slender hand. “Do you have a name to go with that impressive title, professor?”

“Freddy,” she replied with a nervous hiccup. “I’m Freddy Fotherby. I…um, I teach International Magic.”

“Oh, exotic!” Lavinia cooed.

“Jacqueline,” the little witch supplied. “We’ve heard a lot about you, Freddy. Didn’t know when we’d see you, though.”

“If we would see you at all,” Lavinia noted.

The other witches in the group nodded gravely.

Freddy felt a chill crawl up her spine, and she coughed into her hand. Were all the patients so morbid?

“Glad I could make it,” she said, realising how absurd she sounded.

“I hope you know how famous you are,” Lavinia put in. Her smile was dazzling, but her posture conveyed a certain sense of cattiness.

Freddy slumped her shoulders. “I’d rather not be.”

“Crane never performs pneumonectomies. And he simply loves you!”

“But what about me?” Another witch, who had been sitting off to the side, frowned indignantly. “I’m the only one here with TB of the spine, and Crane absolutely adores me.” And suddenly, she pulled up her pyjama top, revealing a back brace that held her stiffly upright. “Lungs are so very boring, a dime a dozen.”

“You can keep your crooked spine, Gracie,” Jacqueline quipped. Glancing at Freddy, she explained, “I didn’t know I had TB until my first haemorrhage. My Healer told me it was bronchitis, and when I didn’t respond to treatment, he switched my diagnosis to whooping cough. Healer Crane says I’ll have to be here for six months. Can you imagine?”

“Uh…” Freddy began, but she was swiftly cut off by Lavinia.

“I only have a spot of TB,” she said, examining her lacquered fingernails. “Nothing to be bothered by. Crane hardly gives me any attention!” She sounded almost like she was complaining.

Freddy shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Perhaps she could still slip away to the jigsaw puzzle. “I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about our illnesses,” she said sheepishly. And it was true. The sanatorium’s pamphlet espoused the benefits of a positive attitude for all patients. Complaining, if possible, was supposed to be kept to a minimum.

The other witches looked at Freddy strangely, but surprisingly, Lavinia agreed with her.

“You are right, Professor,” she said, shooting a look of warning at the grumbling Jacqueline. “Don’t mind us; we’re very predictable old hens. Let us talk of something else. Girls?”

Gracie, who had been staring glumly at her fluffy slippers, immediately perked up. “How often do you see Healer Crane, Freddy?” she asked.

Crane. Freddy sighed. She’d rather not talk about Crane either, to be honest. It was times like this that she really missed Remus Lupin. His visits, while regular, were not enough to keep her socially content. She had never been one for company, although now loneliness had become an entirely different entity, something that was dark and hungry and relentless.

But despite her unfortunate solitude, she was utterly repulsed by these women.

“Once a day, I suppose,” she said.

Her reply provoked mass hysteria amongst the group…or so it seemed to her. The women were downright indignant, including Lavinia, who had suddenly lost her sleekness by becoming angry.

“I only see him once a week!” Jacqueline huffed.

Lavinia jutted her sharp chin out, taking Freddy’s measure. “Do you know what they say, Professor…on the wards that is. Do you know what they say?”

I couldn’t give a damn, Freddy thought viciously, but she offered Lavinia calm curiosity. “What do they say?”

“They say that you are Crane’s favourite patient.”

“I think it’s true!” Gracie whined.

“What does it matter?” Freddy snapped, feeling unjustly harassed.

For a moment, she thought the women had been quieted by her sudden sternness. They all dropped their eyes and blushed. Lavinia fiddled with the silk sash on her robe.

A hand touched Freddy’s shoulder, and she jumped.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” Crane said politely.

He was standing behind her chair, his white robes smelling of expensive cologne. Freddy wasn’t sure if she should feel relieved for his interruption or disturbed. Either way, she wished he would remove his hand from her shoulder.

“Oh, Healer Crane!” Gracie was squirming about despite the added weight of her back brace. “We’ve met the professor. She’s delightful!”

“Finally, some decent conversation around here,” Lavinia said, her curled lashes drooping over her blue eyes. “We’re glad you finally let her come to the solarium.”

Crane laughed and dropped his hand from Freddy’s shoulder. “It’s nice to see my patients enjoying themselves for once. And what about you, Freddy?” He gazed at her. “Does the rest of the sanatorium live up its reputation?”

Freddy looked from him to the women. Harpies, she thought bitterly. God, I hate this wretched place. 

“I suppose,” she said lamely. And then, she promptly coughed into the sleeve of her robe. “But I’m quite tired, as is. I think I ought to be getting back to my room now.”

She tried to rise from her chair, but Crane was standing close, too close.

“I’m heading up to the Intensive Care Ward myself,” he put in with an Adonis smile. “I’ll walk with you, if you like.”

“Umm.” Freddy folded her arms across her scarred chest, shrugging. How could she possibly get out of this?

Lavinia, however, was more quick-witted.

“I’ll come with you both!” she said, standing with fluid grace, her lovely robe billowing out behind her in a wave of beige silk. “Freddy was going to show me some of her books. I never took International Magic myself. It all sounds so fascinating!”

Like hell it does. Freddy wanted to crawl away under a rock somewhere. Why couldn’t she just be left alone? Why? Why? Why?

Biting her lip, she scooted around her chair and followed Crane out of the solarium. Lavinia was right on her heels, and she actually jockeyed for position next to the Healer once they were out in the hall.

“Have you had your temperature taken today?” Crane asked Freddy as they waited for the lift.

She scratched her nose, if only to disguise her darkening frown. “Probably…yeah, I think so.”

“You’re looking flushed,” he continued, holding out a hand to touch her forehead.

His palm was chilly against her skin.

She pulled away from him, nearly colliding with a passing orderly. “I feel fine.”

Crane gazed at her thoughtfully, unaware that Lavinia was pouting behind his back. “I’ll tell Nurse Jenkins to bring you a thermometer as soon as we get upstairs.”

And, as if on cue, the lift doors slid upon with a shrill ding!

Once inside, Freddy found herself an unwilling bookend as Lavinia sandwiched Crane between them.

“How is your husband, Mrs. Wainwright?” he asked her.

Freddy raised a brow. Lavinia was married?

The woman seemed too eager to forget the fact. “Same as always,” she said, waving a manicured hand.

“Will he be coming this Sunday?”

Lavinia’s lips puckered. “I told him not to. He’s been awfully busy at the shop. I hope he takes a weekend off.”

Crane rubbed his smooth chin. “That’s awfully nice of you,” he said, making Lavinia beam. “But I’m sure you must miss him.”

She did not reply.

Freddy was beyond relieved when they reached the Intensive Care Ward. She was hoping Crane would let her go off to her room and maybe, just maybe, Lavinia would forget to follow her.

Unfortunately, both her companions were set on seeing her directly to her door. Along the way, Lavinia chattered constantly with Healer Crane. She asked him if he would be coming to solarium after dinner and if he would join them for songs around the piano.

He, however, turned his attention to Freddy.

“Perhaps you would like to join the rest of the patients after dinner,” he said. “We have some talented musicians here. Do you play an instrument?”

Freddy stared at her feet. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to leave my room,” she replied.

Crane’s eyes widened and for a moment, he looked like a deer in the headlights.

He’s caught himself, she thought. No more bending the rules for a favourite patient.

“Well,” he said after an unbearably long pause. “We’ll see how you do.”

“Yeah.” Freddy was thrilled to reach her room, and she darted inside. “Thanks. I’ll see you later.”

Crane could linger no longer. After a quick goodbye, he headed off to start his rounds.

Lavinia stood on the threshold and watched him go. When he was out of earshot, she turned to Freddy with a truly frightening scowl.

“I don’t know why he likes you so much,” she simpered, turning on her heel and heading back down the hall.

Freddy lay on her bed, stuffing a pillow between her teeth. Taking as deep of a breath as she could manage, she screamed with all her might.



Author’s Note: I’m back! This chapter was a long time in coming. I would have posted it much sooner, but (irony of ironies) I somehow contracted whooping cough in late September. And yes, I was actually tested for TB. Needless to say, I’ve certainly come to sympathize with Freddy a great deal ^_^

Anyway, I’m so happy to be back and I thank you all for your patience, thoughtful reviews and continued support. I also want to thank my two amazing betas, soliloquy and Renfair, who have both been sources of endless inspiration and encouragement.

The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. Thanks for stopping by!

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