drool-worthy chapter image by !batman @ TDA
Chapter Three - Catch Me When I Fall
A low buzzing sound from over my head made my eyes shoot open quickly but as the bright light forced its way into my dilated pupils I regretted it. Flinching, I squeezed my eyes shut, fully prepared to try this again. I reopened my eyes, slowly this time, to see a flickering fluorescent light above my head.
My hands pressed down onto a slightly firm yet comfortable surface with beige sheets. I frowned. This wasn’t my bed. I sat up unsteadily and gazed about the room with rapt curiosity. There was a small writing desk in the corner of the room, covered with stacks of parchment and thick, old books. It was situated almost intentionally below an open window where the quiet sounds of night flooded in, as did the wind, disturbing the neat piles on the desk.
On the other side of the room, there was a closed door but what lay beyond it would remain a mystery to me. I heaved a small sigh as the side of my head began to ache dully, fighting the urge to sink down onto the soft pillows behind me and close my eyes. But I couldn’t. It didn’t occur to me that I might be held captive by some vile fiend, the very atmosphere of the room was too inviting. The one thing that seemed so out of place in a room like this was the poster on the wall. There, the eyes of a motionless, blond man stared back at me; his lips formed an amused smirk as if he thought the mere sight of me was funny but not enough to laugh.
I looked down to inspect myself and nothing seemed out of place except that my trainers were gone and my jacket was removed. Subconsciously, I placed my left foot under my right knee which hid the little hole I always meant to darn and frowned. I vaguely wondered how I ended up here in the first place but my head hurt too much for me to even considering that much depth of thought.
As I attempted to ponder about these things, the door opened and a very familiar face peeped around the polished wood. His blue eyes brightened and his lips lifted themselves into a broad smile. Even though I knew I should’ve smiled back, I couldn’t seem to pick my jaw up off the floor.
“You’re awake,” he said.
I’ll admit those aren’t the words I wanted to leave my mouth but it wasn’t every day a girl woke up in her neighbour’s bed with very few details as to how she got there. Ok, I take that back. But this was a very different situation; I still had my knickers on.
He chuckled, pushing the door open further wearing a black shirt and a sheepish grin. I shook my head as the sound of low chattering filtered in from outside.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered, pressing a hand to my forehead, “but, what’s going on? How did I get here?”
“Well, it’s-” He was cut off by a shrill voice at his side, a horribly familiar shrill voice. I sighed, it was my mother.
“Molly!” Audrey Weasley swept into the room like a gale-forced wind and gathered me up in her bony arms. “Oh Molly, I’ve never been so worried in my life.”
“Mum,” I groaned, “for heaven’s sake, stop shouting.”
She held me away from her, inspecting my face with her usual shrewd expression and clucked her tongue. An annoying habit she picked up from a certain aunt of mine whose name I shall not mention... Aunt Hermione
“Now don’t get smart.” she scolded, “If Healer Scamander hadn’t found you when he did, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Scamander?” I repeated, glancing at the bashful looking man hovering at the door.
Lysander took a step towards the bed and nodded. “Yeah, that’s me.”
My mother turned to face him, pulling my chin closer to her as she did. “Will she be alright, dear?”
“Yes, Mrs Weasley,” he assured her, “just as long as she gets some more ice on her head and keeps still.”
I finally noticed that he was holding an ice pack in his hands and as I looked between the pillows, I saw the used one forming a wet spot on the sheets. After giving me a thoughtful look, my mother excused herself leaving me alone with my saviour-slash-healer-slash next-door neighbour. Lysander sat down next to me on the bed, placing the ice on my forehead with one hand and fishing out the spent one with the other. His hands felt surprisingly gentle as they grazed my forehead.
“What did she mean?” I asked him softly, “My mother.”
“About what?” His blue eyes found my own questioningly.
“About if you hadn’t found me,” I prompted.
“Oh,” he gave me a sympathetic look, “well, it seemed your flat was robbed.”
“What?” I flew up, pushing him roughly away from me and tried to reach the door. I didn’t get very far before he caught my arm and pulled me back towards the bed.
“Molly, please,” he began, “I understand you would be upset about your flat but I need you to calm down. You’re not helping yourself if you don’t.”
I scowled at him. Damn that bedside manner. I didn’t even bother protesting; the minute I started to complain, Mum would barge in with all her shrillness again.
“Fine,” I relented, crossing my arms over my chest. “You may continue.”
“Thank you,” he smiled, “It was your cat that saved you, actually.”
“My cat? You mean, Muffin?”
“Yeah, she found me coming out of the lift and refused to let me pass through my front door until I’d been to yours first. That’s where I found you out cold on your sitting room floor.”
“Oh,” my eyes were downcast, “how did you get through to my parents?”
He gave me another sheepish smile. “I called Albus and as it turned out, Fred and his sister were over there, they called your sister who called your mum-
“And a few minutes later, the entire Weasley clan showed up on your doorstep?” I finished for him.
He laughed. It was the sort of laugh that made me glad to hear. “Not quite,” he answered.
I shook my head, “Well, is my Nan here?”
I nodded resolutely, “Then they’re all here.”
“I thought you would be grateful for something like that,” he mused softly, peering at my face with his searching blue eyes.
I shrugged, playing with the sheets under my fingers. “I guess so, but then that’s something people take for granted, isn’t it?”
His hands dropped from my face as he gazed at me with a thoughtful expression. “Yeah, I guess so.”
We sat there in a sort of comfortable silence: he fiddled with his ice pack while I sat back against the pillows with my eyes partially closed. In spite of myself, I wondered what his expression was about but who was I to press him? I didn’t know him.
The door banged open again, shattering whatever quiet Lysander and I had established and the low buzzing from outside had filtered in once more. I thought my head had gotten worse for all I saw were blurs, flitting about the room. One in particular was headed straight towards me. Startled, I shrunk back into my soft, feathery haven and automatically reached for Lysander’s hand.
“Molly, bloody hell!”
I cringed as Roxy’s voice pierced my ears; she was just like my mother, only less shrill. I felt her plop down on the mattress and gripped my wrist tightly.
“What?” I mumbled.
“Don’t get all sassy,” she said with an ounce of irritation, “you scared me half to death!”
I pulled the ice from my forehead and glanced wearily in her direction. “Sorry.”
Two more blurs appeared at my right side but much slower this time. My eyes focussed themselves on my sister, Lucy and Gareth, both of whom smiled solemnly down at me. After a moment’s hesitation, Lucy stretched out on the bed next to me and buried her shoulder in my side. Biting my lip, I managed to throw my hand over her shoulder, hoping that my eyes would not well up with tears.
I always thought everyone deserved a time like this. A time where they would appreciate the delicacy of this thing we so often lamented about, this thing called life. I barely registered Lysander’s weight leave the bed. The last image I remember seeing of him that night was his mournful face as he slipped out, closing the door ever so quietly behind him.
Almost a week later, I was up and around like before. Mum had come round to help me fix my flat while Uncles Harry and Ron went over the night of the attack with me, hoping to find out who the thieves were. Not that I had anything they would want. They broke a few ornaments, made a mess of the kitchen but didn’t get as far as the bedrooms. Uncle Ron reckoned that I’d interrupted their search and narrowed it down to a couple of restless Muggle youths. Though I was physically in the clear, I still felt my insides grow cold whenever I was alone at night. My mother suggested that I come home for a bit and even Dad offered to sleep in the spare room but I turned them down. I wasn’t four years old anymore, they were no monsters under my bed; I decided to jump into the middle of the pool where all the sharks were and at twenty-five, I had to deal.
Today would’ve been my last day at home before I started work again tomorrow. In spite of my misgivings about my job, I was relieved to go back just to occupy myself again. Healer Scamander was a rarity as well. For the first two days, he appeared at my doorstep for a quick check-up before he left for Saint Mungo’s. The mournful look on his face had not disappeared fully as I would see flickers of some emotion in his eyes when he thought I wasn’t paying attention. His parents didn’t seem to be the neglectful sort and Lorcan was a decent enough bloke too. There must be something else. I mulled over this particular thought as I stood at his doorstep with a dish in my hand. It was late and I figured he should be at home by now unless he had a visitor.
I rapped my fist gently against the door and after no response, I tried again. After a few minutes, I gave up, fully prepared to return to my own flat when the door opened quickly behind me. A dishevelled looking Lysander stood looming over me in a hastily buttoned up shirt and a pair of trousers which I could tell he was holding up with his hands. His dirty blonde locks were stuck to his forehead and the back of his neck, still saturated with water. As it appears, I caught him at a bad time.
“Oh,” I stammered, “I didn’t know you were – I’m sorry,”
“It’s alright, Molly,” he said dismissively, “Are you alright though?”
He stepped forward with his eyes narrowed, scanning my face in concern.
“Oh no, no!” I held my dish out for him to see, “I baked you a pie.”
His lips lifted themselves into an amused smirk as he glanced from my reddening face to the pie.
“I wanted to find some way of repaying you for all you’ve done so, I baked you this,” I muttered, placing the hot dish gently into his outstretched hands. “It’s apple pie. I figured it would be a nice change from pumpkin, heaven only knows we ate loads of it at school.”
Taking a whiff of my tentative creation, he smirked. “Thanks.”
My heart sank a little, I wasn’t sure what that smirk was for but I gave him a small smile anyway. “You’re welcome.”
We stood there rather awkwardly in the middle of the corridor and I found myself looking anywhere but his face.
“Molly,” he called.
My head whipped around to see him holding the door, “Would you like to come in?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t want to impose,” I muttered weakly, “you looked as if you were going out.”
He shook his head, “No, not at all. Come in.”
Gripping my elbow lightly, he guided me over the threshold of his front door and into his flat. Nothing had changed much from my last visit over here, those few days ago. It was quite like mine in some aspects, just that his was much more spacious. The door opened literally into his sitting room which was neatly decorated but still carried a hint of being a bachelor pad.
“Make yourself comfortable,” He gestured to the armchair to his left before disappearing down the dimly lit corridor. “I’ll be right back.”
“Of course,” I muttered to his retreating back, while standing in the middle of his sitting room.
There was something about it that felt warm and homely, at least more homely than mine made me feel. It was filled with browns and greens and everything in between; from the couch to the walls and even the kitchen countertops. The room held signs of Lysander being some sort of closeted green thumb: there were strange looking potted plants shoved carefully in little alcoves and a particularly sinister one, perched menacingly in the window like a sentinel. Its small, blue petals would grow larger and unhinge themselves like jaws, sporting an intimidating set of fangs which, if you got close enough, would snap at you. And like anyone with half a brain cell, I moved away.
In the corner sat a phonograph on its stand. On either side were tall shelves which at first glance I thought held books but as I came closer, they got much thinner.
“They’re vinyl records,” came Lysander’s voice from behind me and in spite of myself, I jumped a little.
He came and stood next to me with his hands resting lightly on his narrow, denim-clad hips, completely dry.
“Vinyl records?” I asked him curiously.
Lysander nodded in affirmation and pulled one of them out of the slots, handing it to me. “They’re quite similar to the ones we have, just that they play Muggle music.”
I was rather surprised to see the blonde man from the poster in his room on the cover with his arms wrapped around a woman in a leopard print dress. His face was partially hidden in her hair but from what I could tell, he was wearing that same smirk complete with a mischievous glint. I found myself smiling back at the immobile image then at Lysander.
“Do you think this is true?” I pointed at the album title. “Do blondes have more fun?”
He grinned. “No, I think that’s truer for red-heads,”
“Very funny,” I said dryly, making him grin wider.
“I know.” He replaced the record on the shelf and led me to one of his armchairs, which when I sank down in it, felt absolutely blissful. “Would you like something to drink?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks.” I smiled, still gazing around the room with interest. “So, how did you get into Muggle music?”
“From Muggle Studies, actually.” He settled himself in the chair next to me and leaned back. “We had a group presentation on different cultures, my group did music.”
I remembered Lucy nattering on about this project, though the people in her group weren’t as enthusiastic about it as she was. Not that I could blame them; Lucy was known for getting a bit bossy. ‘A bit’ has to be the biggest understatement I’ve ever given.
“Did you do Muggle Studies?” he asked, steering my mind back to the present.
“No, I don’t think I was very interested in it, to be honest.” I said, looking rather sheepish. “I stuck to Astronomy which my dad said sort of suited me.”
“Really, why?” Lysander raised an eyebrow.
“He said my head was always up in the clouds,” I smiled slightly at the uncomfortable expression on his face. “What? No awkward words of sympathy?”
He laughed, shaking his head at me. “That sounds a bit bitter, don’t you think?”
“Tastes even worse.” I sighed, pulling my legs up in the chair. “At least you’re not giving me one of those looks anymore,”
I really hated those. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You reveal something unfortunate about yourself, then there’s an awkward pause where the other person tries to find something to say to you. It’s usually preceded by one of those looks, drenched in pity, of course.
He ran a hand through his hair before bringing it to rest on his tired face. His blue eyes were fixed on me as if I were some sort of puzzle he couldn’t figure out. “No one’s ever brought that up before,” he paused. “At least not for me to hear, but you do make sense.”
I shrugged. “It’s one of those things that made me feel uncomfortable enough to say something, you know?”
He made a noncommittal grunt and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes tightly.
“Are you tired?” I asked him suddenly, rising from the chair. “I could just go home,”
“No, no, it’s all right,” His eyes snapped open and he waved me back to my seat with a grin. “You just got here.”
“Right,” I smiled. Looking around, I spotted a set of pictures on his coffee table that I bypassed earlier for his collection of vinyl records. The first one was a picture of him and his brother, Lorcan, in their school robes. I took it, from their uneasy expressions and smooth faces that they were in their first year here. Behind them, was a bit of the Hogwarts Express. Another picture was that of a much older Lysander, but this time, he was in robes of lime-green. Whoever had snapped the photo caught him when he was looking elsewhere with a faraway expression on his face. It reminded me of his mother from a picture I saw of her when I went over to Uncle Harry’s for dinner...before the incident.
“What made you decide to become a healer?” I gestured to the framed picture which he leaned forward to pick up.
“I guess you could call it a last resort,” he gave me a wry smile. “I really didn’t know what to do with myself to be honest. And the thing is, they always expect you to know as soon as you hit seventh year.”
I nodded in agreement. “What made you decide in the end?”
I laughed. “Are you serious?”
Our Head of House was supposed to be an academic counsellor of sorts, to help you pick what’s right for you. Mind, he wasn’t much help to me but that’s probably because I wasn’t much of a big help to myself. Professor Flitwick was passionate about duelling and he wanted his Ravenclaws to continue that. You know, become a Hit Wizard or something, just to show them your finesse. It was all a bit mad, if you think about it.
Lysander shook his head. “You know how he is, with the duelling and such. But after a while we talked about all the things I found interesting and my best subjects. I liked Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology best; I guess you could say my parents influenced that. It’s what we were weaned on. So in the end, I decided on Healing but going into research to see how plants and animals could possibly help with, well...treatment.”
Wow. So much for not having it all figured out. I almost hoped he didn’t ask me what I did for a living. I don’t exactly have the passion for it as he has. I copy papers and send memos, for heaven’s sake and my eyes certainly didn’t light up at the idea of me collecting Mr. Stebbins’ laundry. Where’s his wife, you might ask? Believe me, I ask the same question when he throws the receipt at my head.
“Huh?” My head shot up, and I felt the heat slide its way up my neck. “I’m sorry, what were you saying?”
“I was asking what sort of work you do,” he prompted, raising an eyebrow. One of these days, I’ll figure out how people do that.
“Oh, well, I copy papers, send memos; take notes at meetings, you know, that sort of thing.” I chimed but seeing him looking visibly confused, I decided to be serious. “I’m a secretary, Lysander. I work in the Department of Magical Cooperation.”
“Oh.” He frowned. “Flitwick’s duelling speech didn’t inspire you?”
“No, I guess I never really decided what I wanted to do.”
We drifted into an awkward silence, with me pulling at the loose thread in the hem of my jeans and him leaning back in his chair, staring at the ceiling with a thoughtful expression etched on his face. If I could say one thing about his response to my indecisiveness, it’s that he didn’t judge me. People always give you the raised eyebrow complete with a frown followed by a mass of questions you really don’t have it in you to answer. For once, I didn’t have to bite back any tears and this is someone I’ve only known properly for one week.
I leaned across to touch him on his bare arm. “Lysander?”
“Hmm?” His eyes flicked over to see me standing next to him.
“It’s late, I should go.”
“Right, of course.” He leapt out of his chair and ushered me to the door where he leaned in the doorpost to watch as I unlocked my own front door, across the hall.
“Good night, Molly,” he said softly.
I looked back and smiled. “Good night, Lysander.”
The description of the album is NOT my own creation; it came from Blondes Have More Fun
, Rod Stewart’s 1978 studio album, (c) Warner Music Group.
A huge thanks goes out to my wonderful beta, Rachel (PenguinsWillReignSupreme
) and GeorgiaWeasley
for the ToS assistance. You also would have noticed the difference in chapter titles...I'll eventually go back and change all of them and replace them in the summary section. Sorry about all of that : /