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Breathless by celticbard
Chapter 6 : The Lady of Shalott
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10


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               Lovely chapter image by PrincessTuTu @ TDA



Disclaimer: 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 The methods I have described in this story are a mixture of both modern regimens and outdated procedures from the heyday of the sanatorium.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
Remus Lupin - James D’Arcy
Slatero Quirrell - Simon Woods
Minerva McGonagall - Maggie Smith
Sibyl Trelawney - Emma Thompson
Nurse Jenkins - Samantha Morton
Lavinia Wainwright - Naomi Watts



Chapter Six The Lady of Shalott

Upon entering Crane’s office, Freddy was greeted by a regal looking Irish Setter who lifted his head and thumped his red tail on the area rug. She immediately extended her hand and let the dog sniff it.

“Hullo, fellow.”

Crane looked up from his record player. “I see you’ve already won Finn over. Do you like animals, Professor?”

Freddy scratched Finn’s ears with a smile. “Yes. I grew up on a farm in the southern uplands. My father gave me a highland calf for my fifth birthday.”

“And how does a Scottish farm girl end up becoming a world traveler?” Crane asked as he lifted the needle from his skipping record, plunging the room into silence.

Freddy shrugged in response. “I don’t know. I never really thought about it.”

Finn sighed loudly and rolled onto his back, exposing his pink belly.

“Oh, you’re a darling, aren’t you?” Freddy cooed as she knelt next to him on the floor.

Crane hovered over them. “Forgive my formality, but I’m going to have to ask what you were doing out of bed after nine thirty.” He leaned back against his mahogany desk. Behind him, a dictating quill scribbled fluid letters over a patient’s chart.

Freddy shrugged once more and concentrated on Finn’s lolling tongue. “I was restless. Couldn’t sleep. And I heard your music coming up from the vents.”

“Sorry. Did it disturb you?”

“Not really. I was already awake.”

“Are you having any pain? Coughing spasms?”

“No,” she hesitated briefly, “nightmares.”

Crane shifted his feet and Freddy caught sight of his polished, black leather shoes. Reluctantly, she straightened up and faced him.

“I always have nightmares. It’s nothing new.”

He frowned, his face drawn with concern. “If you need someone to talk to-”

“A shrink? No, it’s nothing like that.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Crane folded his arms, his clear eyes twinkling with a suppressed smile. “If you ever wanted to talk…you can come to see me, you know. Not to sound arrogant or anything, but I’ve been told that I’m a good listener.”

Freddy felt her cheeks grow hot. “Yeah, thanks,” she muttered, gazing past him at the wall behind his desk. It was taken up entirely by a dreamy painting of the Lady of Shalott reclining in her boat, silhouetted by the sunset.

Crane was indulgent when it came to art, she realized. He seemed to favor the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, images of classical sentimentality and sweeping romanticism.

She had never been sentimental herself, really, but found she had trouble avoiding the emotion now. Vague memories resonated in her mind, as beguiling and enigmatic as the music that had summoned her forth from her room.

And moving through a mirror clear, that hangs before her all the year, shadows of the world appear*,” she muttered, quoting Tennyson. “It’s like that…my dreams.”

“Pardon?” Crane took a step nearer and Freddy felt his presence shadowing her.

She pulled her robe tighter over her shoulders. “Wasn’t the Lady of Shalott a Seer?”

“I thought she was cursed,” he replied, his voice taut with uncertainty. “Or at least, she suffered from a ‘weird fate’.”

The spell was close about them. Smothering. Freddy felt it growing into her chest, roaring through her scarred lung. It made her dizzy.

“Yeah,” she laughed, breaking the enchantment, “whatever that means.”

They were both quiet. Finn had fallen back to sleep on the hunter green rug, his tail tucked protectively around his haunches.

Freddy ripped her gaze away from the painting, half-remembered bits of her trance made her mind slow and hazy.

Quirrell’s face. His lips. Had he be trying to tell her something? Or, had she refused to listen? She still smelled the heavy fragrance of the cemetery…the scent that cloyed her nostrils…

Crane was standing by her left shoulder now, his cologne fading away in wisps as the night deepened.

Freddy coughed, feeling her feet firmly planted in reality once more. The sanatorium. Four walls. One lung.

“You have a nice office,” she said, noticing the masculine, dark wooded furniture and bronzed bookends. “It’s almost out of place, you know, I wouldn’t expect to find something so homey in an institution.”

“Perhaps you would have preferred a crypt? Or some dark room cluttered with jars and weird objects floating in formaldehyde?” Crane appeared to thoroughly enjoy their banter and, as if by instinct, he loosened his tie.

Freddy, however, could never feel at ease in the sanatorium. “I don’t know how you stand it,” she remarked. “Doesn’t this place get to you? Maybe it’s easier if you’re not a patient.”

Crane leaned back easily against the arm of his chair. “I see what you mean, but it’s hard for me to think of this hospital as an institution.” He lowered his eyes and seemed to consider her query. “Before the sanatorium was opened, I was head of the tuberculosis department at St. Mungo’s. There was such an overload of cases, though, and we didn’t have enough isolation rooms to house contagious patients. When the Ministry approached me with an offer to run my own sanatorium in order to provide long-term treatment, well, it was such a blessing. I suppose that’s why the morbidity and isolation of it all doesn’t faze me. I feel very lucky to be doing this.”

“You are lucky then,” Freddy replied, though she stopped herself from admitting how much she hated the sanatorium. “Maybe, I’m the morbid one. All that Poe and Dunsany I read as a child couldn’t have been helpful.”

Crane quirked a brow and Freddy realized she was rambling.

“Never mind me,” she choked out awkwardly. “I’m not making much sense. I guess I have a lot on my mind.”

He smiled generously. “That’s understandable. Do you want to talk about it?”

Yes! She shook her head, driving away her first instinctual reaction. But in the end, she was shy.

“It’s not really my business,” she said offhandedly, fluttering her hands about. Accidentally, her fingers brushed the sleeve of his grey shirt. The fabric was cool. Her eyes trailed down to his rolled up sleeves, a light dusting of fair hair covering his forearms.

I need to get out of here. Too close. Too close. 

Slatero, I cannot stand this. Why didn’t you tell me?


Crane was waiting patiently, his eyebrows slightly raised, his eyes intent.

“One of my friends,” Freddy began unsteadily. “I think you’ve met him, umm, Professor Lupin. Yes, well, it’s really unfortunate. He resigned from his post at Hogwarts. I just feel so bad for him…he's such a sweet man. A good man.”

Crane seemed to hesitate, his white teeth dragging over his lower lip. “Was it unexpected?”

“Yes, very. He sent me a letter…honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to say to him when I see him next. He should have kept-”

“Is he going to visit you again?” Crane slipped his hands into his pockets and let his shoulders drop. The space between them was rapidly shrinking.

A nurse Freddy didn’t recognize knocked briskly on the open door. “Excuse me, Healer Crane.”

He half-turned, twisting his neck to look at the flushed woman. “Hello, Florence. What’s the matter?”

“It’s Ward B. We can’t stop the hemorrhage. There’s been a spontaneous pneumothorax.”

Crane’s face froze; his expression was somewhere between desperation and flagging control. “I’m coming. Run ahead and tell them to put in a chest tube.” He glanced back at Freddy and for a second, she felt a flash of his panic, hidden to all but her. “Get back to bed, okay?”

“I promise,” she began, but he was already rushing out the door. 

 

 






When Freddy woke up the next morning, she felt as though the world was pressing down on her, keeping her pinned to her tiny bed. The sheets were soaked with sweat and a fine sheen of rain that had blown through her open window. Nurse Jenkins roused her at seven-thirty and made her sit in the chair by the bureau while the bed was stripped and fitted with new blankets.

Freddy watched the orderlies go about their work efficiently, piling damp sheets into laundry bags with indistinct frowns and tired eyes and silence -- unfathomable, depthless, silence.

Something was wrong.

She picked at her breakfast of porridge and soggy toast, sipped at the tasteless tea. A headache gnawed at her temples and she felt hung over. Drunk.

Jenkins came with her pills soon after, the skin about her mouth puckered and lined.

“We’re running a bit behind schedule this morning,” the nurse said as she handed Freddy the paper cup of water. “Healer Crane will see you after lunch.”

A steady rain pattered against the window panes. Freddy swallowed with some difficulty and crushed the cup between her fingers. The heat came on with a clatter and a bang, the iron radiator hissing in protest.

“Awfully damp out for June,” she remarked.

Jenkins looked up from where she was fussily arranging the pair of shoes Freddy kept by her bureau. “The moors usually are, even in the summer.”

“Something has happened. I know it.”

Jenkins tossed her head, nearly dislodging her white cap which seemed to be sitting slightly askew atop her curls this morning. “You look tired, Professor. Get some rest. Take a nap.”

“But I’ve just woken up-”

“Well, you should be able to go back to sleep with no trouble then.” For some reason, Jenkins lingered by the door, looking down the hall.

“The dead sleep,” Freddy replied blankly.

Jenkins exhaled. “Nonsense. You shouldn’t talk about such things. It’s against sanatorium policy.”

Freddy didn’t bother to respond. She was feeling awful, all bleary-eyed and useless. After Jenkins left, she grudgingly took the nurse’s advice and laid in bed, half-dozing, half-dreaming.

Spirits walked the halls. Moaned and wept and danced with the wind as it tormented the moors. Grey light came in through the windows. Hazy. Hopeless. The hours dragged by. And in the bowels of the old building, some measure of restlessness stirred to life and threatened to drive her mad.

Freddy tried her best to distract herself. She read a little, but couldn’t properly digest the words, which bounced off her brain like hail on stone. After a while, her mind began to wander and in its wandering, it settled itself on a most troublesome topic.

Freddy found herself thinking of Crane. She was starting to feel more at ease with him as the days went on…perhaps that was a bad thing. She couldn’t afford to enjoy his company. Not now. It was forbidden her. This Adonis, this shining, incalculable Adonis who worked wonders in confusing her.

He was so handsome. Radiant… 

When was Lupin coming to visit?

The sound of metal wheels on a tile floor disturbed her. An orderly had entered her room with a wheelchair. Freddy sat up in bed, still groggy, and rubbed her eyes. The heaviness in the chest had ceded. She tried to take a deep breath, but only ended up coughing loudly.

“Is it time for my examination already?” she asked the young orderly.

He was a short, burly lad with small ears and clean, rosy skin.

“Yes, Professor. Healer Crane managed to squeeze you in before lunch. I have to get you down there in a hurry though. We’re awfully backed up today.”

“I suppose you won’t tell me what happened last night?”

“Excuse me, Professor?” The orderly said, steadying the wheelchair as she climbed into it.

Freddy looked him in the eyes and for the first time in ages, let her mind reach out to him.

Professor Snape always said I had potential as a Legilimens.

But at the last minute, she became frightened and withdrew, pulling away into the cold of her own thoughts.

The orderly blinked. “Are you ready, Professor? I do hope the lift isn’t busy.”

And he wheeled her out of her room and into the hall.

 

 






Despite the supposed hold-up, Crane was punctual as usual. Freddy had not been waiting for very long in the examining room before he came in, wearing his handsome pressed robes and a bright smile.

“You look reasonably awake,” he said, pulling a stool up to the table she was perched on. “What time did you finally fall out last night?”

“Uh,” Freddy hesitated, studying his smooth, pale face. His eyes looked slightly bruised. “Probably around one in the morning. You?”

Strangely, Crane ignored her question. He was busy flipping through her chart, running his finger along the scribbled notations. His class ring from Johns Hopkins flashed in the light from the overhead lamp.

“How have you been with the regimen? Any side-effects from the antibiotics?”

Freddy rolled her shoulders. The metal sides of the table chilled her calves considerably. “I’m doing pretty well, I guess.”

Crane did not look up at her when she spoke.

A cold stone sank down her throat and lodged in her chest, somewhere near her heart. Perhaps he was embarrassed by what had passed between them the night before and was now struggling with an increased level of intimacy?

No, reason told her. Something’s wrong, Freddy, and you know it. Something is terribly wrong. 

Death.
The word struck her, insistent and painful. She suddenly remembered that upon her entry to the sanatorium, she had been asked to give her permission to perform an autopsy should she pass away.

The question, at the time, had been jarring, frightening really and it came back to Freddy now with such a force that she felt the wind knocked out of her.

Death.

Crane put down the chart and leaned forward to open her robe. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a quick listen,” he said, pressing his stethoscope to her breast.

Death.

His hands had touched death, she realized. Had pumped chests and taken pulses and prayed for life to be restored into empty shells. This man knew death. He had lived it, with every breath and thought and memory.

Freddy stared at Crane. Without thinking, she let her mind unfold and envelope his. He did not reject her, had no defenses to do so. Using instinct as her guide, she navigated her way through his thoughts.

To her surprise, his mind was relatively clear and brilliant with clarity. She wondered if this was what Trelawney had meant about his radiant aura. There was very little clutter amongst his reasoning and even less about his conscience…except one little black spot of worry that seemed to involve her.

She was curious and eager to investigate, but was drawn onward by panicked urgency. There was something deeper, something more terrible awaiting her.

Vaguely, Freddy was aware of him moving the stethoscope about her chest, listening to her heartbeat. With all her strength, she concentrated on the pulse of his thoughts.

And then she saw it.

A flash. Three nurses pulling screens around a bed. Another was adjusting an oxygen mask over a pair of waxy lips. Crane, cupping his hands over a sunken chest, pounding, his brow dappled with sweat.

Silence. Silence. And then, death.

Crane, walking away from the body and picking up the chart that was still hooked at the end of the patient's bed; a pen was in his hand. 


Respiration ceased at 12:15 AM.

The chart snapping closed. A name on the cover.

Lavinia Wainwright

She jolted off the table, wrenched her mind away from his so suddenly that for a moment, her head swam in the haze of his absence.

“Freddy?” Crane was staring at her. He still had the stethoscope in his hand. “Freddy, what is it?”

“Lavinia Wainwright,” she coughed, surprised by the tears that gathered in her eyes. “She’s dead, isn’t she?”

“How do you know?” Crane stood and towered over her. “Who told you?”

“No one…I…” she stammered. “I just know.”

He seemed skeptical until she looked at him, begging from him to understand.

“She wasn’t that sick. I spoke to her in the solarium that day,” Freddy bleated. “Just a spot of TB, she said. "Just a spot.”

Crane remained standing for a moment, breathing hard and then he deflated, falling back on his low chair.

“We call it galloping consumption,” he replied slowly. “A patient comes to us, seemingly healthy, strong. And then they sicken…there are complications…”

“And they die,” Freddy whispered, shivering.

Crane raised a hand and placed it on her forearm. His palm felt warm. Soft.

This was insufferable.

“I can’t stand this!” she blurted out, awash in fresh confusion and despair. “I hate this place.”

Crane squeezed her wrist, his face drawn. He looked truly heartbroken. “Don’t say that.”

“Are you mad?” she cried. “Did you expect me to enjoy my stay here?”

“Well-”

“It’s a fucking asylum, not a holiday resort!”

“I’m trying to help you,” he protested bleakly.

But Freddy was beyond his remonstrations. “I’m not your prisoner, all right? You can’t keep me in this place, this wretched place. I won’t die here, Calum!”

This time, she didn’t wait for the orderly to come with the wheelchair, but took herself up to the Intensive Care Ward alone.
 

 





Author’s Note: R.I.P. Lavinia Wainwright. She was annoying, but she served a purpose. The culture of death in TB sanatoriums was a tricky thing. Whenever possible, patients were shielded from the death of a fellow consumptive, although, with high mortality rates it was quite difficult for the staff to keep their charges in the dark. Freddy, therefore, probably would have eventually found out about Lavinia’s passing through hospital gossip.

As always, I must thank my amazing betas, soliloquy and Renfair. I don’t know where this story would be without them. And I also wish to extend my most heartfelt thanks to all those that have read/reviewed/favorited. You guys are the best!

The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. I hope you have a pleasant week!
 

*These lines are taken from "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred Lord, Tennyson.


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