A/N - Beta'd by the wonderful flying_rabbit
I felt numb all the while Dad walked me up to Professor McGonagall's office to use her fire to Floo us to St. Mungo's. I barely registered what she said something about being sorry. It didn't matter, for little by little my Grandpa's memories were disintegrating. Soon, he would remember and know nothing.
I weakly repeated the address Dad told me before I disappeared into the green fire. I didn't even notice that I had scratched my arms quite badly in the fireplace until Dad gently took hold of my arm and did a simple healing charm. "Alix," he said, but he hesitated. What was there to say? ‘You okay?’ I was obviously not okay; I was losing someone important to me.
"I want my mum," I whispered pathetically, and a tear dribbled down my cheek. Dad used his thumb to wipe it away.
"Let's go then," he said and he put his arm around me. He guided me up the stairs to the fifth floor. We walked by an open door and, as I caught sight of Gilderoy Lockheart, my heart panged with sympathy.
He was well into his eighties now, and he turned to the nurse, pointing at his hair. "W-Wh-Why?" he asked. His voice sounded used up and it was as if he was going to burst into tears.
"You are getting on now, Gilderoy dear," the nurse said, shaking her head sadly. "Happens to us all dear".
Happens to us all
Can't stop it
Might as well just accept it
I forced myself to look away, after getting a mental picture of my Grandpa pointing at his brain and going "W-Wh-Why?" in the exact same voice. Merlin I can't cry now. I have to be strong, Grandpa Jack hasn't lost any memories yet. He has just found out he has Alzheimers.
Dad stopped outside the door. "You're not coming in?" I asked, my voice threatening tears.
Dad shook his head. "Your grandfather dislikes me, and it really isn't my place; plus, I have to get back to the office." He gave me a quick kiss on the head. "Stay strong honey, I love you."
At least he waited till I went in before he left, not leaving me standing in a corridor shaken. I took a deep breath and entered. I immediately hated the sight I was met with. Uncle Ricky was standing next to the window. A lone tear ran down his cheek as he watched my Mum cuddle into Grandpa, sobbing her heart out while he petted her hair in a comforting way. The sight that really tore my heart out was the fact Grandpa Jack was crying too.
I sniffed and covered my mouth with my hand, as more tears ran down my face. Uncle Ricky came over and hugged me tightly. "Oh Alix," he breathed out. He gave me a shaky kiss on the forehead. "Oh, baby girl, it'll be okay".
Mum looked up and her bottom lip was trembling. "Alix," she choked out and I ran to her. She gripped me tightly. "We'll get through this sweetie, Grandpa is going to fight this."
I glanced at Grandpa Jack. He had removed his glasses and was sitting up, smiling at me sadly. "Alix, apple of my eye," he said fondly. I let out this snivelly sound as I went to hug him tightly, as if by pure physical force I could keep him here exactly the way he was. How can you fight Alzheimers?
"Grandpa," I wailed in a watery voice, "please say you don't have it, please, please," I begged just as I had begged Dad. "I need you, I can't just let you go like this."
He took a deep breath in and stroked my hair. "Shhhhhh love," he murmured in a soothing voice. "Shhhh." I let him rock me gently as if I was a toddler again, but it didn't stop my crying, it stopped no one’s tears. It didn't stop the fact that we were going to lose him completely.
The Healer came in and looked stricken at the sight. "Mr Halliwell?" she asked quietly. I glanced at her; she seemed to be the same age as Uncle Ricky. She had blonde hair that came to a stop just at her chin.
Grandpa Jack nodded and gave a grim smile. "Healer Crighton."
She glanced at Mum, Uncle Ricky and I. "I know these people are your immediate family, but I think we should speak in private." She hesitated. "I can talk to your family later."
"Very well," he said, raising an eyebrow, "you heard the doctor." Uncle Ricky went and put an arm around Mum while I just floated behind them. I kept wishing and wishing that this was a dream and I would wake up in my dorm in Gryffindor Tower, but a quick series of pinches soon made me realise this wasn't a dream.
We stopped in the waiting area of St. Mungo's, which was quite crowded with people waiting to see a Healer. One man had hooves instead of hands and his wife had to hold the magazine and turn the pages for him. Another patient, a little girl had both her feet glued together, so she had to be carried about like a little doll.
"Oh Merlin." My Mum let out a shaky breath, and more tears fell. I had never seen my Mum this broken. Sure, I had seen her cry during sad movies or if a character died in a programme that she liked, but never like this. Uncle Ricky sat next to her and pulled her into a hug, kissing her head.
"Don't cry, sis," he whispered, and rubbed her back.
I suddenly felt so lonely and wished my Dad could have stayed, so I would at least have someone to comfort me. Uncle Ricky must have somehow read my mind because he gave me a sad smile and beckoned me over. I stumbled over and my Mum reached out to put me on her lap. I was not as tall as my Mum, but I was catching up. She didn't complain; she just stroked my hair and held me close. Uncle Ricky cuddled us both and I don't know how long we stayed like that.
It probably was a while because Healer Crighton soon came to find us. She sat down and pushed her short hair behind her ears, a couple of strands falling forward. "I am sincerely sorry about your father," she said, looking at Mum and Uncle Ricky. "And your grandfather," she added, speaking to me.
"Is there nothing we can do?" Uncle Ricky asked weakly.
Healer Crighton looked like she hated her job at that moment. She was actually very pretty and looked incredibly smart and professional in her blue healer robes. "I am sorry, Alzheimers or Senile Dementia is incurable." She took a deep breath. "We ran some tests on your father a few days ago. He came to us, complaining about forgetting simple things and usually this is the most common symptom."
"What kind of tests?" my Mum sniffed. She looked like she had aged ten years.
"When SD is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed by behavioural assessments and cognitive tests, often followed by a brain scan if available." She gave us a sympathetic look. "And I'm afraid to say your father has advancing Alzheimers".
"How long," I asked croakily, "till he forgets us?" I had to know, or did I? Yes – I would be more devastated if I woke up one day and he had no idea who I was.
"It's hard to say. The effects of the disease are different for every person who is unfortunate enough to get it," Healer Crighton said. "That is a factor why there is no cure for it, but there is no way to say how fast his memory will deteriorate."
Uncle Ricky looked stricken. "Would he have to go to a home?" He pointed at himself and Mum. "We both have full-time work and Alix is completely out of the question."
I glared at him. "I would look after him in a heartbeat!"
Mum shook her head. "Alix, no way. You're too young and you have school."
Healer Crighton nodded. "I'm sorry Alix but you are too young and taking care of someone with SD can be hard, unless you have been properly trained." She looked back at Uncle Ricky. "In answer to your question, we have you a ward here where he can be around others with the same condition and fully trained staff to care for him."
Mum frowned. "Not right now, right?" she asked. "He is still the same man, so he can stay at home."
"Oh no, not now, of course not." The Healer looked sympathetic. "But when the time comes, he will have a place here." She brought out some forms and brochures. "Your father is going through his share of them with the Head Chief of the Memory Ward but these will need his next of kin's signatures."
Uncle Ricky could obviously tell that Mum was in no stable condition to fill in the forms, so he took them and ran his hand through his longish brown hair. "Can we go see him again?" he asked.
Healer Crighton nodded. "I truly am sorry," she said sadly. "And in this case I can honestly say I know what you’re going through." She looked down at her clasped hands. "My mother has had it for three years now."
Mum looked sorry now. "Is it hard?" she asked, scared.
"It was, but you learn to cope." She stood up sharpishly. "Now, I'll leave you and your father and grandfather," she said, smiling down at me.
She walked away down the corridor and Uncle Ricky watched after her. "Nice Healer," he murmured. "Rare, that is."
We got up and made our way back to Grandpa Jack's room, and were surprised when he was sitting in bed happily reading a newspaper. Mum frowned. "Dad, why are you smiling?" she asked, sitting on the bed.
He looked up. "The Head Chief was preparing me for when the time comes," he said. "The Memory Ward is a pretty good establishment and it serves great food."
"Why are you happy about this?" I asked shrilly. "Because I don't see a silver lining in this!"
Everyone looked startled at my sudden outburst. "Alix!" Mum hissed, but Grandpa Jack smiled sadly.
"Of course it isn't a silver lining honey," he said, sighing "but this is my way of coping. What do you want me to do, be mournful? I've had a good long life, I'm not going to ruin the time I have left."
I felt like I was going to crumble. "No, I want this all to be wiped away and go back to the way it used to be before," I sniffed. "And I want you to become immortal."
Uncle Ricky put an arm around me. "I think it's a good idea we put a good spin on this," he said, and he gave a ghost of his smirk to Grandpa. "At least Ellen won't be able to nag you about forgetting to put the toilet seat down, you escape that."
Grandpa Jack laughed out loud and even Mum managed a giggle. I joined in and it felt a little better – maybe this was our way of coping.
It was about half five when we came out of St. Mungo's. Grandpa Jack had asked if he could stay for the night since he had an early appointment the next day, so it was only me, Uncle Ricky and Mum on the way home.
"Any ideas for dinner?" Mum asked me over her shoulder. I grimaced; food was the last thing on my mind right now. "Well, we'll have to stop for shopping, there is nothing in the house."
"Oh crap," Uncle Ricky hissed, hitting the steering wheel. "I forgot to lock up the shop."
Mum sighed. "I'm surprised you haven't been burgled yet, the amount of times you forgot to lock up."
Uncle Ricky shot her an annoyed look. "My mind was kind of preoccupied sis."
"Okay, drop me off at the corner and I'll walk to the shops while you two drive to Diagon Alley. I'll meet you at home with something to eat".
"Why can't you take Alix?"
"Because she will just sneak things into the trolley like she always does"
"I resent that!"
"Fine, I'll take her," Uncle Ricky grumbled as he stopped to let Mum out. She grinned at him and gave him a peck on the cheek.
"Love you, brother darling," she said in a sing song voice. Uncle Ricky just tutted and waved, but he smiled.
I wouldn’t say that they were a perfect sister and brother who never argued, but they did show that they cared for each other everyday. And considering what they went through today, I was surprised they weren't biting off each other’s heads... though they might have if I hadn’t been in the same space.
I climbed out of the car, hopped into the front seat and turned on the radio. An indie sounding band came on crooning about love and it's deceit.
We continued driving along the busy streets of London; it was about an hour’s drive to Diagon Alley and I was already tired five minutes in.
"Are we there yet?"
"How about now?"
"Yes Alix, we are there, wasn't that fast?" Uncle Ricky gave me an annoyed look and I just couldn't help but laugh. He looked away, but I could see a small smile on his face. He patted my knee. "You doing okay there, Ally Boo?" he asked, giving me a quick glance.
I smiled. "Yeah, it's like Grandpa Jack says, I'm not wasting our time left with being depressed."
Uncle Ricky grinned. "Okay, now the hard part…," he said, looking about the street, "finding a parking space."
It took us about ten minutes to find a place. We ended up going around twice before seeing one down the street. London was actually a little quiet, which was surprising. Usually there is traffic as loud as the heavy metal band ‘We Who Must Not Be Named’ that Hugo plays incredibly loud to annoy Rose.
It was quite chilly when we got out and obviously, since I had no idea I would be traipsing around London after finding out my Grandpa had Alzheimers, I hadn't brought a coat. So, in short, I was freezing, wearing only a blouse and my Hogwarts robes.
Uncle Ricky, noticing this, merely put his arm around me and hugged me close. "Let's quick walk," he muttered, and we quickly made our way to the Leaky Cauldron. The pub was actually quite quiet for a Thursday night.
"Ahh Ricky, how's it going, son?" Bernie the bartender said, smiling. He and his wife Kimberly had taken over after Tom had died, and the pub was still quite successful.
"Not bad, Bernie my man, not bad at all." Uncle Ricky replied, nodding, and walked by with his arm wrapped around me tightly. We walked out towards the little alley and Uncle Ricky tapped the wall. It opened to reveal a dimly lit, empty Diagon Alley.
"Merlin, its creepy round here at night," I said, tightening my robe around me and looking about nervously. "You just need to lock up right?"
"Yep, don't worry kiddo, we'll be home before you know it." Uncle Ricky sighed. "Today’s been unreal, hasn't it?".
I leaned into him and nodded. "That’s one way of putting it."
I stood in the pool of light in front of the Quality Quidditch Shop where my Uncle was attempting to lock the door. "Damn thing," he cursed, but in ruder terms.
"Oh, for God’s sake," I grumbled and came forward, ignoring the biting cold and eerie silence of the once busy street. I grabbed the key and stuck it into the keyhole. The problem with this key is that you have to be rough with it or it won't lock, and Uncle Ricky was too gentle with it.
Uncle Ricky grinned embarrassedly. "Okay, let’s head back." He peered into the shop. "I’ll need to come tidy this place tomorrow." I stayed quiet, hoping he wouldn't ask me to help – well, that is, if I wasn't returning to school, which I hoped I wasn't.
"Uncle Ricky, do you think Mum will allow me to stay off till Monday?" I asked. Just the thought of returning to school and having to tell everyone and having them all asking me if I was okay just stressed me out.
He looked confused. "School going okay?" Uncle Ricky and Mum never went out of their way to learn every detail of my life. Instead, they trusted me to come to them with my problems.
"Oh, it’s nothing like that, school’s fine, it's just the whole explaining about Grandpa Jack. I'd rather come to terms with it first."
Uncle Ricky nodded. "I went through that when my mum died, having everyone ask you if you’re okay. That was just too much for me and I snapped."
"I punched a Slytherin and then got into a fight with his friends. I got a busted lip and a week’s worth of detention." He laughed. "Your mum hexed at least ten people that day when they kept asking her questions.”
I laughed. "And you all say I have anger problems.”
Uncle Ricky laughed again. "Well kiddo, if you’re anything like we were when we were your age, you’re pretty much screwed". We started to head back. "So how’s the relationship with Potter going?" he asked, smirking. "Bet you've snapped at him a couple of times."
I frowned at him. "It's going peachy and I have SO not snapped at him."
"Yes you have."
"Okay, maybe once."
"Fine, I've snapped at him loads!" I muttered.
Uncle Ricky pulled me into a hug again. "You wouldn't be human if you hadn't snapped at him. That would not normal for the Halliwell women."
"Or men," I said smugly. "How did you handle your last relationship?"
Uncle Ricky looked away. "Okay, point taken."
I giggled. Last year, Uncle Ricky had started seeing Cho Chang, a PA for Quidditch Stars, and he really didn't know how to break it off. It was kinda like Chandler and Janice from Friends.
We went back through the pub and gave Bernie and Kimberly a wave. Then, we started running to the car as the skies opened and rain started to hurl down. "God dammit," I shouted; I was soaked to the bone. "Next time, screw your shop, I ain't getting wet!"
Uncle Ricky chuckled as we grew closer. He was wet to the bone too, since he was only wearing his t-shirt. I got into the car and squeezed my hair, making a small puddle on the car floor.
My blouse was completely see through, my robes felt heavy, as did my hair, and my feet were sore inside the wet dolly shoes I had on.
"Okay, you want anything before we head home? Maybe a hair stylist?" Uncle Ricky asked, smirking.
"Oh, shut up," I said, just before I sneezed. Oh great, a cold. More Pepper Up Potions to enjoy, bleaurgh.
It didn't take long for us to sink into silence to listen to music. I was suddenly tired and just wanted a hot shower and then my bed. Oh, and dinner, whatever my mother was brewing up in that kitchen of hers.
"What do you think the old girl is making for dinner then?" Uncle Ricky asked, making a face. "I hope its something simple not like when she tried to make a roast."
God bless my mother for trying, but that was one Christmas where a fry-up or something like that would have made a more sustainable dinner.
"Mac 'n cheese probably," I said. "She makes that when something’s wrong, that’s how I knew she had killed my sea-monkeys by mistake." And to think I hadn't even managed to name them all yet.
"You were so distraught that day." Uncle Ricky couldn't help but laugh. "I'd understand if it were a dog or a cat, not little tiny things that float about in the water."
"Hey, they were cool little monkeys," I said, but couldn't help laughing along with him.
We got home in record time and ran up the steps. I nearly slipped on them and was thankful for Uncle Ricky's seemingly superhuman reflexes.
"Thanks," I said. When we got into the hall, he closed the door and I was surprised when it didn't creak as it usually did.
I raised an eyebrow at Uncle Ricky who shrugged his shoulders.
"I eventually did it, I'm surprised too."
I laughed and headed into the kitchen. "Hey mum, you never told me that Uncle Ricky actuall-" I stopped mid-sentence as my eyes widened and my voice died in my throat.
The scene before me just shook my world, shook it and turned it inside out and upside down.