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Breathless by celticbard
Chapter 7 : Shades of Regret
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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Enchanting chapter image by chocolat. @ 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 The methods I have described in this story are a mixture of both modern regimens and outdated procedures from the heyday of the sanatorium.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
Finella Fotherby/Mam - Maria Doyle Kennedy
Healer Elliot - Mark Ruffalo


Chapter Seven Shades of Regret 

I saw the danger, and yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
     --Taken from “Raglan Road” by Patrick Kavanagh




When Freddy got back to her room, she had a coughing fit. It was a terrible spasm. Long. Racking. Excruciatingly painful. She pulled her chair up by the open window and tried to take deep, calming breaths, but her ribs protested with every inhalation. Ugly gurgling noises came from the back of her throat and more than once she hacked up a mouthful of sputum into the cardboard cup kept on her bedside table for just such a purpose. At length, she resorted to her paper handkerchief to muffle each feverish gasp. And when she drew the tissue away, her eyes narrowed, searching for telltale specks of blood.

The patients shuffling about the hallway peered curiously into her room as they passed by.

Freddy shut her eyes. Oh God. Oh God help us all.

She had upset herself, just when she could not afford the luxury of any heightened emotion. It was better for consumptives not to feel, not to feel at all if they wished to live.

But ah, what was living without passion?

Freddy didn’t know, but her mind jumped immediately to Crane at the mere thought of infatuation.

Ugh.

After a while, when the coughing fit did not cease, Nurse Jenkins poked her head through the door with a concerned frown.

“Are you all right, Professor?”

Freddy waved a shaking hand at her. “Fine. Yeah, just fine.” She choked, struggling to suppress another spasm.

Jenkins stepped into the room. “Get back to bed. Now.” And she lifted the blankets.

Freddy reluctantly obeyed and slipped between the cold sheets. Cold as a shroud. And Lavinia Wainwright had need of a shroud.

Suddenly, there were tears in her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” There was rare tenderness in Nurse Jenkins’s expression.

Freddy found herself clutching the woman’s hand. “I’m worked up over nothing…over a very little thing.”

“Shall I send for Healer Crane? He’s quite busy, but I’m sure he could find a moment to see you.”

“No!” Freddy started forward, the mattress creaking under her as she moved.

But Jenkins was already out the door.

Dammit! 

She did not want to see Crane now…could not explain her fury towards him, her unnecessary outburst.

But was it so unnecessary?

Freddy folded her arms and slumped down against her pillows.

Her chest burned.

Fifteen minutes later, Nurse Jenkins returned, not with Healer Crane, but with another healer Freddy had seen a couple of times in the solarium. His name was Healer Elliot and he worked on the male ward on the other side of the sanatorium.

Happily, Elliot was the exact opposite of Crane. An American. Burly where his colleague was lithe. Olive-skinned as opposed to pale. His black hair fell in curls over his forehead, shining slightly as if he had run a damp comb through them.

“Nurse Jenkins tells me you’re not feeling well,” he said, sitting on the chair next to Freddy’s bed. “Healer Crane is busy with a few patients in the pneumothorax pavilion, so I thought I’d check on you. Wow, you’re as red as a lobster. Breathe in for me now, all right? And what’s your name? I didn’t catch it.”

When she told him her name was Freddy Fotherby, Elliot’s eyes widened ever so slightly.

“Oh, Professor Fotherby,” he drawled. “You’re the one Calum performed the pneumonectomy on in February, right? Geez. I can see-” He didn’t finish, but instead broke off with a rough laugh. Dimples framed his mouth.

“Can see what?” Freddy prompted. The words came out as a faint gasp. A warm lump rose in her throat.

The healer clapped his broad hand on her shoulder. “No talking, or I’ll have to pack ice on your chest. You don’t want to hemorrhage now, do you?”

She shook her head.

In the end, Elliot ordered Nurse Jenkins to give Freddy a dose of Sleeping Draught, which would force her to rest whether she liked it or not.

“Remember, the only thing you have to worry about is recovering,” Elliot said as she drank a glass of purple liquid. “I don’t think Healer Crane would be pleased to find one of his patients in hysterics.”

Freddy was about to tell him that she wasn’t hysterical at all and if she was, Crane should be at fault. But just as she handed the glass back to Jenkins, her arm went slack and she fell against the pillows.

Elliot and the nurse left, their footsteps trailing down the long hall outside her room. The last thing Freddy remembered was the sound of music. The patient in the room next to her was playing something on an old radio. Something with strings. Mahler, maybe…

Whatever it was, Freddy didn’t like it. Didn’t like it at all.

And in the hall, Elliot was speaking with Jenkins in hushed tones.

“You should have told me who she was,” he said. “Calum’s very particular about her, so very protective…”










For most of the day, Freddy’s sleep was dreamless. Uneasy, but dreamless. The specter of Lavinia Wainwright stayed hidden in her subconscious, leaving her mind barren, plagued with only a soft nothingness.

By dinnertime, Freddy was loathe to stir from her rest and she grumbled when Jenkins shoved a dinner tray under her nose. She didn’t feel like eating and picked at the roast beef until the orderlies came to take away her leftovers.

With the sun waning weakly to the west, Freddy succumbed to sleep once more.

And this time, she dreamed.

She dreamed of a summer two years ago, when June was at its height and the world held such an aching promise of life. But Freddy was a wasted figure. And she sat in Professor Dumbledore’s office, trying to recount everything she knew about Quirrell’s trip to Albania, including his manic behavior that had developed over the school year.

She remembered having to hear how Harry Potter, the wunderkind, the brave, brave boy, had stopped You-Know-Who from stealing the Sorcerers Stone and in the process, had killed her fiancé.

Had burned the flesh from his face.

And she had sat there crying, blubbering in Dumbledore’s office, with a crumpled tissue in her hand and no one to mourn with her.

Life was sand in an hourglass. Fleeting. Fickle. And faint. Time was borrowed from darkness, edged by eternity.

And you could end up dying of TB, just because fate was unfair.

So very unfair.

In the morning, Freddy awoke feeling tremendously guilty. She knew shouldn’t have been so hard on Crane. After all, he too was painfully aware of humanity’s fragility. Instead of embracing him as a companion to her grief, she had rejected him. Harshly. Rudely.

By breakfast, Freddy was already forming a suitable apology.

If Crane would even see her. If he hadn’t dismissed her as stubborn and prickly and useless.

When the orderlies came to change her sheets, she stood by the window and watched the heather tremble under the slight touch of the wind. Sunlight glanced down on the distant spire of the town church and the chalk road was as white as a bone.

Freddy found herself blushing. If only Crane did not pay so much attention to her, if only he didn’t care…

A nurse rapped briskly on the door. “Professor, you have a visitor.”

Her reverie was shattered and Freddy turned from the window, her gut clenching.

For once, she truly wished to be left alone.

“Who is it?” she asked, feeling entirely ungrateful.

The nurse raised one shoulder in a half-shrug. “Your mother.”

Instinctively, Freddy grimaced. Not Mam, not now! 

She was being selfish, of course. Mam had every right to visit her and Freddy had to admit, her mother was trying her best to support her only child at such a tricky time. She regularly sent books or new magazines and encouraged her friends to owl get well cards to her invalid daughter. But Mam was, well, Mam. She nagged. She worried. And she objected to Freddy’s carefree attitude, citing the many times impulsion and poor planning had landed her child into trouble.

Freddy had very little patience for her mother, not because she disliked her, but rather, because she was a generally impatient person.

And so they quibbled and quarreled and got on each other’s nerves. It was expected, even anticipated. Right now, however, she didn’t feel like going head to head with Mam.

Feeling undeniably anxious, Freddy opened the drawer of her bedside table and found a brush. Nurse Jenkins had suggested that she get her long hair cut, keeping it short and manageable until her health improved. Freddy, however, argued that she had already given up one lung to TB. Her hair was staying just as it was…tangles and all.

Quickly, she pulled the brush through her tresses, scowling as the humid air made the ends all too frizzy. She was trying to separate her locks into two neat braids when Mam entered in her traveling cloak.

The older woman put down the wicker basket she was carrying and shook her head. “You’re making a mess, Forbia. Let me help you.”

“Mam!” Freddy groaned as her mother undid the plaits. “It’s fine.”

But her mother would not be dissuaded. Taking out her wand, she muttered a spell which worked wonders on the elf knots. After a minute of pinching and pulling, Mam had her hair up in a clean, if not frumpy bun.

“You look decent,” she said, turning her daughter around to face her.

“Not like death warmed over?” Freddy muttered sarcastically.

Mam pursed her lips in annoyance and hugged her. “Not so much skin and bones. They’ve been feeding you well, I see. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought so much food with me then.”

“Oh, let me see!” Freddy was generally intrigued now and she watched as her mother opened the wicker basket, lifting sealed jars out onto the top of her bureau.

Raspberry preserves. Fresh honey. A loaf of good farm bread. And, of course, the obligatory chocolates and candies Freddy had loved as a teenager.

“Mrs. McGregor gave me a bottle of whiskey to bring you, from her own still,” Mam said. “But the nurse at the front desk confiscated it. She says you aren’t allowed alcohol.”

“Well, she can go to hell,” Freddy replied, picking up a jar of homemade apple butter. “Did you bring any biscuits? I hate the ones the give us. They’re like something a soldier would eat in the trenches…what do you call it?…government issue.”

“Here.” Mam produced a package of biscuits from the bottom of the basket. “Don’t go through them all at once, though.”

“I’m not twelve, Mam.”

“You certainly sound like it.” She removed her grey traveling cloak and her own dark hair, touched with rivers of grey, fell in tidy waves down her back. “Do you still have the books I sent you two weeks ago?”

“Yeah, I’m hiding them under my bed.” Freddy sat on the edge of her mattress and gave her mother the chair by the window. “The library here is so dismal. I think the other patients might sneak in here and see if they can scrounge anything interesting from the professor.”

“Speaking of which.” Mam sat, pulling off her dainty, tan gloves. “Is Professor Dumbledore still intent on keeping you on his staff? I have to say, he’s a more generous employer than I could ever be.”

“I know. You fired the cowhand, Jamie Murray, when he broke his leg. Dad was so mad at you!”

“You always bring that up. Every time, Forbia. I told you, I caught the lad stealing from our grain stores.”

Freddy folded her arms over her white pajama top. “Yeah, well, I would have given him a second chance. He was a good worker.”

Mam looked at her hard, her brown eyes perfectly shrewd. “I’m not saying you always have to take my advice, but still, you might be more considerate.”

“What? Of you?” Freddy said, eyeing the jarred preserves. Her appetite had suddenly returned.

“No, of yourself, Forbia.” Mam swung her right leg over her knee. “You see, this is what happens when you trip all about the place. I know your job requires you to travel…but perhaps you wouldn’t have picked up this awful disease if you’d been a bit more careful.”

“They say I caught it in America, Mam, not the Amazon.”

“And to think you fought me when your healer wanted to send you here.” Mam glanced out the window and the sun touched the narrow lines around her eyes and lips. “I thought I would have to commit you.”

“It’s a TB sanatorium, not a mental institution.” Freddy exhaled sharply through her nose and sat up straight. Her posture was becoming terrible these days…something to do with what Crane called the TB walk. Consumptives often walked with their shoulders stooped, shuffling about as they protected their concave chests. “The only person who could commit me is a healer and not because I’m crazy, just contagious.”

Mam pinched the bridge of her nose. “Forbia, what a mess.”

“Mam, I didn’t intentionally spread TB about Hogwarts.”

“I know, but if you would only take better care of yourself instead of running about-”

“It’s always like this. Every time I see you, you have something to say. Some complaint. I really can’t stand it-”

Another knock sounded on the door. This time, both Freddy and her mother jumped. The same nurse was standing on the threshold, looking perfectly prim in her blue uniform and starched cap.

“I’m so sorry to interrupt again,” she said and Freddy wondered if she had overheard the beginnings of their mother/daughter quarrel.

And it really wasn’t her fault that they were fighting already. Mam just had to be picky. If Dad had been here, he would have taken up the role of exhausted moderator and separated the pair before they really began to sharpen their verbal daggers.

Hmm, perhaps it was good that the nurse had come in after all…

“It’s fine,” Freddy assured the woman. “No trouble, really.”

The nurse grinned convulsively. “I only wanted to tell you, professor, that your other visitor is here. He said you’d be expecting him.”

Freddy felt her eyes widen. Another visitor? That was crazy…she wasn’t expecting anyone else today.

The nurse moved to the side, allowing Remus Lupin to step into the room.

He had a bunch of wild daisies in his hand.










They were sitting in the solarium, towards the back of the room where the patients kept the bird cage. The pair of parakeets, aptly named Hamlet and Ophelia, were feasting on a broken up biscuit Freddy had tossed amongst their seeds.

Lupin smiled appreciatively as Ophelia vocalized her thanks. “I don’t know, Freddy. This place reminds me of some posh spa. I can just see tourists sunbathing in here.”

Freddy exhaled sharply. “Let’s trade places then, shall we?”

“Forbia.” Mam, who was sitting comfortably between them in a cushioned, wicker chair, offered Lupin a piece of shortbread. “You see, Mr. Lupin, my daughter would do anything to get out of here. She’d sell her soul, I believe.”

Lupin took the shortbread, muttering his thanks. “Please, call me Remus. And I suppose I shouldn’t tease her, then. Sorry, Freddy. Let’s not have any Faustian bargains, shall we?”

“Whatever,” she huffed in response. “You were the same way at Hogwarts, Remus. Constantly goading me. What am I going to do now that you’ve resigned your post?”

“You’ll survive.” Lupin finished the bread and nodded at the older woman on his left. “You’re an accomplished baker, Mrs. Fotherby. I wish my mother was a good cook. She’s a brilliant lady, but I’m afraid she’s never quite mastered the culinary arts.”

“Oh well.” Mam blushed. “I do what I can.”

Freddy allowed herself a relieved sigh as she listened to the pleasant chatter of her two visitors. Things were going well. Unbelievably well. When Lupin had first showed up in her room an hour ago, Freddy had feared the worst. She worried that her rather tricky relationship with her mother would be undeniably obvious to even the casual observer and Lupin would be scared away. Up until now, she hadn’t realized how sorely she needed a friend, a good friend. And if Lupin decided to shake her off, well, then she’d be quite alone.

Except for Crane, of course. Though he wasn’t exactly her friend, was he?

Fortunately, Freddy soon realized that her anxiety was unfounded. Mam was a sociable woman and she always tried her best to make others comfortable, to play the part of the good hostess even when she wasn’t in her own home.

And Lupin was gracious and kind and sweet. He talked at length about his new position with Robert Rosetree, a scholar of defensive magic who was currently putting together a new book on non-verbal spells. Lupin worked as Rosetree’s assistant, helping with some of the research, organizing the bibliography and managing all of the correspondence with the publishing house. He liked the job a good deal, although Freddy guessed the pay wasn’t half of what a Hogwart’s professor received. In fact, his robes were looking a bit more shabby…

Mam must have also noticed just how hollow Lupin’s cheeks were, because she kept feeding him her homemade shortbread.

After a while, she rose abruptly and handed the nearly empty tin to Freddy.

“Say what you will, but I know shortbread is dry,” Mam said with a kind smile. “We need something to drink with it. I’m going down to the tea room to bring a tray up for us. Be back in a bit.”

“Oh, all right,” Freddy replied. She didn’t really think anything of her mother’s suggestion…until she leaned down to whisper in her ear.

“I’ll give you two some alone time,” Mam whispered, her eyes suddenly knowing.

Freddy raised her eyebrows, but said nothing.

“I feel bad,” Lupin said once Mam was gone. “If I’d known I was disrupting your visit with your mother-”

“Please,” Freddy cut him off at once. “I’m so glad you came. We’d have killed each other already.”

“Really? I thought you two seemed to get along rather well.”

“If we have someone to mediate our conversations, yes.” She cleared her throat, realizing at once that she had accidentally revealed the not-so-pleasant tidbit she’d hoped to keep quiet.

But on the upside, Lupin didn’t show any signs of fleeing. In fact, he began to laugh.

Freddy shuffled her feet, her fingers curling around the edge of her seat. “Thanks for the flowers, by the way. They really brightened up my room.”

Lupin looked embarrassed and his taut cheeks darkened with color. “I remember Professor Sprout mentioning that you liked daisies.”

“They’re very cheerful,” Freddy noted. “Completely un-English.” She glanced out one of the tall windows and saw several patients reclining on the patios that stuck out from the floor below. The weather was warm. Pleasant. And yet, something sharp and painful stuck in her throat.

“Do you think I’m a cruel person?” she asked him. “Well, maybe cruel is the wrong word. I don’t know. Remember…remember the time I snapped at you during the start of term, when we first met in the staff room?”

“You snapped at me a lot,” Lupin said wryly.

Freddy tilted her head to the side. “Yeah, I did, didn’t I? I suppose that answers my question.”

“Not so fast.” He raised his hand to stop her. “Give me a chance. If you solicited my opinion you must surely want.”

“Obviously.”

“Then I will give you my answer.” Lupin bowed his head courteously. “No, you are not a cruel person. You are not even a nasty person. I think, however, that you are on edge and I certainly know what it’s like to always be on the defensive.”

“And to lash out at people,” Freddy said, attempting insightfulness.

Lupin laid his fingers on his knees. “In a manner.”

He suddenly looked very constrained, very controlled. Freddy wondered if that was a by-product of his lycanthropy. Lupin overcompensated for his feral nature by restraining himself. And she overcompensated for her fear by snapping at people.

Hmm, self-reflection wasn’t the least bit flattering.

“I quarreled with Crane last night,” she admitted at length.

Lupin’s expression narrowed. “Your healer?”

“Yes. I should have been understanding…should have been thoughtful. And yet, I turned against him. Told him what I really thought of this place.”

They were silent for several heartbeats, but Freddy found she could not stand the quiet…the quiet of the tomb.

“It’s getting harder, Remus,” she said. “I thought it would get easier after a while, but it’s not.” Peeking over her shoulder, she spotted two male patients sitting at a nearby table, a game of wizard’s chess between them.

Discreetly, she rose and took her mother’s vacant seat, closer to Remus. His nostrils dilated in bewilderment.

“A patient died two nights ago,” she whispered. “A woman I knew. I didn’t like her…she didn’t like me, but she died, and…and she wasn’t even that sick.”

The muscles in his jaw worked, pulsing in time with the vein in his temple. “Did you…See it?”

“Not until after. I sensed it in Crane. He was devastated. I’m…God, I’m devastated. I just keep thinking of Quirrell. And how Lavinia--that was her name--how Lavinia must be laying downstairs in the morgue, right now.”

Freddy was surprised to discover that her cheeks were damp and even more shocked when Remus put his arm around her.

They embraced.

“Hey,” he said in a low, husky tone. “Hey, it’s all right. I understand…there’s no way of escaping death here. But you’re not going to die, Freddy. In September, you’ll be back to teaching. I just know it. Look at how much progress you’ve made so far. Come on now, don’t think such ugly thoughts.”

Freddy swallowed, regaining enough of her composure to be ashamed. “Sorry,” she said thickly, wiping at her tears. “I’m too sensitive about things like this. You think I would know better by now. It’s just nice, to have--” She trailed off, realizing for the first time in months, that someone was touching her, not with the impersonal hands of a nurse or a healer or an orderly, but with the intention to comfort and console.

And Freddy had missed being touched.

“You’re a good friend to put up with me,” she told him. “I’m really going to miss having you as a colleague. Out of all the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers I knew, you were the best.”

Remus’s brows knitted together in confusion. “Quirrell?”

But Freddy just shook her head, tactfully sliding out from underneath his arm and leaning back in her chair. “He shouldn’t have taken the job…for obvious reasons.”

“So you’ve made peace with it?”

Freddy nodded. “I suppose I should move on now. That would be the obvious thing to-”

But then Mam returned with the tea tray and Freddy entirely forgot what she was going to say.










Remus stayed long enough to have a cup of tea and then politely excused himself. Freddy saw him to the door of the solarium, where he promised to return as soon as he could. They embraced once more, briefly, and she watched him walk down the hall, so out of place in his shabby robes with nothing but polished floors and gleaming walls around him.

After he left, Freddy felt exhausted. She went back to her room and let Mam fuss over the state of her pajamas.

“But I like this robe,” she said with a yawn as her mother frowned doubtfully at her lavender wrap with the fraying, yellow embroidery. “I bought it in Prague a couple of years ago and I finally have the chance to show it off now.”

Mam was exasperated. “You look very maudlin, like the Lady of the Camellias, really. I’m going to Diagon Alley next week. I’ll pick you up something nice…something comfortable and stylish.”

“Don’t waste your money,” Freddy replied.

Once more, Mam pursed her lips, but surprisingly enough, she relented and changed the topic. “I like him very much, by the way.”

“Remus Lupin?” Freddy raised her head. Somewhere outside in the corridor, the dinner bell was ringing. Visiting hours were over.

“Yes.” Slowly, Mam began to gather her things. “Why didn’t you tell me about him before?”

“Uh--”

Mam reached for her traveling cloak. “I’m glad, though,” she said, fastening the clasp about her neck. “It’s good for you to have someone. After all, I never thought you’d get over that Slatero Quirrell.”









Author’s Note: The Lady of the Camellias, referenced in this chapter by Freddy’s mother is a novel written in 19th century by Alexander Dumas, fils. It was subsequently adapted to the stage and later, the basis for the opera, La Traviata, and the film, Moulin Rouge. Consistent with all the adaptations is the heroine, a courtesan who suffers from TB.

Hmm, I didn’t realize how much I missed writing Remus. He’s such a fun character.

As always, I’d like to thank my fabulous betas, soliloquy and RenFair, along with everyone who took the time to read/review. You guys are great! Thanks!

The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. Take care!


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