Chapter 16 : To Find a Cure
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My weekday date with Dillan seemed to be like a stopper in a dam. Once we said goodnight, the dam was unplugged and we started seeing each other at least every other day. On days I finished work at a decent hour we would have dinner. Either at his place or a restaurant; we never went to my place. On days I could not get away before nine or ten, we would meet for lunch. I wasn't sure how on call weekends would go, but I didn't have another scheduled until February.
The late January full moon passed and once the usual after full moon rush at work died down, I was able to focus on the support groups. The first were scheduled for a week after the full moon, giving enough time for those not on Wolfsbane to recover. Two of the four sessions were scheduled for the first night- for children with lycanthropy and for siblings of children with lycanthropy. The parents would meet the same night the following week, giving them the opportunity to attend with their children in the first meeting. The group for people with lycanthropy would be the following night.
By some stroke of luck I was able to finish work early which left me time to meet Matt at my study before the groups began. He was quite eager to go over what he had planned, making me even more sure that involving him was a good idea.
“I thought I'd just have the kids get to know each other tonight,” Matt began after we'd settled in my study with a few cups of tea. “They won't know each other and I don't think that will help them to open up. So I don't think we'll talk much about lycanthropy tonight.”
“That's a good idea,” I said. “I'm doing the same for the siblings.”
“I'm bringing a few sets of Gobstones and decks of Exploding Snap,” Matt continued. “I figure they'll be more comfortable getting to know each other in pairs or even smaller groups. And I definitely don't think it'll help if I'm just talking to them the whole time. I'm going to have to earn their trust.”
I smiled. This was exactly why he was perfect for this group of kids. And it was why I was the best choice for the siblings group. “What about the parents?”
“I'm leaving it up to them,” Matt said. “If their kids want them to be involved they can, but I'm not forcing them. I think they're basically going tonight to make sure this isn't going to be bad for their kids. Can you imagine Mum and Dad letting me go to something like this when I was younger?”
I laughed. “Good point.”
“One other thing I thought of, though. Do you know the ages of the kids?” Matt asked.
“Yeah.” I nodded. I had asked anyone interested to let me know if they were attending, just to get a rough estimate of numbers. “Most are between 10 and 15. Although I do believe an eight year old signed up.”
“Okay. If we ever do get a huge age difference, I think it would be best to split the group up.”
I had had similar thoughts about the siblings group, but luckily they were around the same age group. “Makes sense.”
“Sophie's not going?” Matt asked.
“No. Victoire isn't sure if she's old enough. She's only five. Maybe in a few years or so,” I explained. “One more thing, Matt, have you decided whether you're going to tell the kids you're a werewolf?”
“I think I will,” Matt said. “I think it's the best way to gain their trust. And if they somehow found out later, I don't think they'd be happy I kept it from them. Are you going to tell the siblings about me?”
“That's up to you.”
“I think you should,” Matt said quietly. “They'll trust you then.”
Matt and I ordered Chinese takeaway for dinner and ate it quickly before heading to the fourth floor of the hospital to prepare the conference rooms. By some stroke of luck we'd actually acquired two conference rooms next to each other. I wished Matt good luck as he entered the room on the left and I headed into the one on the right.
The room did not look very inviting for pre-teens and teenagers and why should it? It was meant for Healers, nurses, and other hospital personnel to discuss patients. There was a large wooden table in the center, surrounded by black office chairs, with a large chalkboard along one wall. There was a poster of a human brain along the opposite wall. I walked across the room and pulled up the blinds, which didn't do much. It was dark, save for the lights of London. Better than nothing, I thought.
I set down a few packs of Exploding Snap, a chess set, and a box of Chocolate frogs onto the table. I wished I knew how to make a decent batch of cookies. They'd at least make the room smell inviting. I also wished it wasn't against the rules to transfigure hospital property. Farina had instituted that rule after a gutsy intern had transfigured all the desk chairs in the hospital into bean bag chairs. I was surprised he hadn't been fired. But I suppose since the rule hadn't been in effect when he'd done it, Farina hadn't the grounds to fire him.
But bean bag chairs or comfy armchairs like the ones in Gryffindor Tower would have been so much better for this sort of thing. Maybe I could talk to Farina about it. Oh, well, I thought as I propped the door open and sat down at the table to wait.
I didn't have to wait long. Two minutes later I noticed two kids hovering in the doorway, clearly not wanting to be the first inside. I smiled. It was so much like it had been at Hogwarts. Rising from my chair, I strode over to the door to encourage the kids inside.
It was clear that the two were siblings. Both were tall and lanky, with stick straight brown hair, about the color of the table in the room. The boy was slightly taller, his face plagued with acne. The girl wore glasses. Judging from the girl's Ravenclaw sweatshirt they were in Hogwarts.
“Hello,” I greeted them. “Are you here for the Siblings of Lycanthropes meeting?”
The boy nodded. Both looked slightly startled. “You're in the right place,” I said and gestured to the room. “Come on inside.”
The boy lead the way into the room and the girl followed. They sat down next to each other at the table, neither saying a word. Soon, the room filled with a few more kids. There were only six all together. The meeting was scheduled to begin at seven, so I waited an extra five minutes in case anyone had gotten lost.
“Welcome,” I began. I had decided to remain seated while I spoke so as to seem less like a professor. “Before we get started I thought we could just go around and introduce ourselves. Why doesn't everyone tell us your name, your age, your Hogwarts house if you're in Hogwarts, and something interesting about yourselves. I'll start.
“My name is Amy Eckerton. Feel free to call me Amy, although I'm not going to tell you my age. When I was at Hogwarts I was in Gryffindor and as for something interesting, I was born in Australia and lived there until I was fourteen.”
The kids all looked slightly impressed or surprised by that. I gestured to the boy to my left to start.
“I'm Tyler Pickins,” he began. He had jet black hair and looked quite muscular, like he played Quidditch. “I'm a fifth year Slytherin.” Tyler paused, trying to think up something interesting. “I like playing Quidditch on the school brooms. It's even more satisfying to beat Gryffindor when I'm on a crappy broom.”
The tall brown haired boy who had been the first one there rolled his eyes. Everyone said hi to Tyler and then the girl next to him began.
“Izzy Alfman,” she said. She was a tiny girl, with red hair and freckles all across her face. “I'm not in Hogwarts yet, but I want to be in Hufflepuff. I'm ten. Two years ago I accidentally turned my cat pink and no one can figure out how to turn him back.”
I laughed and welcomed Izzy to the group. I was fairly certain she was the youngest there.
“Scarlett Sloan,” the brown haired girl in the Ravenclaw sweatshirt said. “First year Ravenclaw. And I don't like chocolate.”
There was an audible gasp from Izzy. “She's crazy,” Scarlett's brother said. “Vincent Sloan. Just call me Vinny. Second year Ravenclaw. And unlike my weird sister, I adore chocolate. I ate an entire chocolate cake on a dare last year. The house elves were placing bets.”
Izzy looked impressed. I turned to the girl seated next to Vinny. She was slouching, with a scowl on her face.
“Kate Young,” she muttered. “Fourth year Gryffindor, and if I wasn't here I'd be in detention for setting fire to the Headmaster's study.”
“That was you?” Vinny exclaimed.
I gaped at her and then recovered quickly, hoping she hadn't noticed. Set fire to the headmaster's study? It seemed like that would warrant more than a mere detention. More like a year of detentions. But it didn't seem like Kate was saying much more on the topic.
The remaining girl was clearly the oldest one there. She hadn't reacted much to anything anyone else had said. Her black hair was thrown up into a messy ponytail and she looked almost sad.
“I'm Liane West,” she said. “Seventh year Hufflepuff. And the most interesting thing about me is that I'm going to find the cure for lycanthropy.”
There was silence for only a few moments and then everyone else in the room started talking at once.
“That's impossible!” Scarlett exclaimed.
“It's been attempted,” Tyler put in, “they say it'll never happen.”
“Wolfsbane's the closest we're going to get,” Izzy replied as she twirled her hair around her finger.
“Wolfsbane is not a cure,” Liane muttered. “And I can do it. I'm already researching.”
“You're still in Hogwarts,” Tyler said. “How the heck do you find the time?”
“I make the time. Instead of goofing off on a broom I research in the library,” Liane said defensively.
“Then why aren't you in Ravenclaw?” Scarlett asked.
“Because not all smart people are in Ravenclaw,” Liane said.
“That's enough,” I said, and surprisingly, they quieted down. “We're not here to comment on whose dreams are achievable and whose are not. We're here to support one another. We're here because we all have one thing in common. We all have a brother or sister with lycanthropy.”
“Except you,” Kate muttered as she picked at the black nail polish on her nails. “You're just some St. Mungo's witch who got picked to run this stupid group.”
Tyler glanced at Kate and then back at me, wearing an expression that clearly read 'she's got a point.' I sighed, very relieved that I had talked to Matt about this prior to the meeting.
“That's where you're wrong, Kate,” I began. “When I said we all have a brother or sister with lycanthropy, I meant all of us. Including me.”
“Wait seriously?” Tyler asked, his eyes growing wide. “Is that why they picked you to lead this?”
“No, it's why I decided to form this group. And the one for people with lycanthropy, and the group for parents,” I explained. “My younger brother has had lycanthropy since he was five years old.”
“How old is he now?” Scarlett asked.
“Twenty-three,” I answered.
“Wow, that's eighteen years,” Scarlett said quietly. “Our younger sister has only had it for two.”
“I brought a few packs of Exploding Snap and a chess set, if any of you are interested in playing,” I suggested after a few moments of silence.
Everyone looked surprised. Scarlett turned to her brother and raised her eyebrows. Tyler grinned and Izzy smiled. Kate did not react and Liane looked pensive.
“What, did you think this wasn't going to be fun?” I asked.
“I thought it was going to be more like therapy, to be honest,” Izzy said.
“It can't be. I'm not a therapist,” I replied.
“Then what do you do here?” Tyler asked.
“She's a Healer,” Izzy replied. “She's my little brother's Healer, actually.”
“I am,” I confirmed. “I work on the Creature-Induced Injury ward and see regular patients with lycanthropy. I'm also a Brewer.”
“Do you brew Wolfsbane?” Izzy asked.
“Yes, I do,” I answered.
Izzy looked slightly in awe, which unnerved me a little. I didn't want them to idolize me. It only lasted a few moments, though, because then they decided to play games. Tyler took on Vinny in chess while Izzy and Scarlett played Exploding Snap. Kate remained stationary while Liane rose from her seat and sat down in the one next to me.
“I am going to do it, you know,” Liane said quietly. “The others just don't want to get their hopes up but I can get my own up because I know I'll do it.”
I turned to look at her. Her dark eyes were filled with determination and not a hint of happiness at all. She looked far older than her seventeen or eighteen years, and for some odd reason I believed her. I knew I was looking at the face of the person who would one day cure lycanthropy. I had been a Healer long enough to know just by looking at a person whether they would make it in the field and she was one who would go far. I couldn't help but smile at her determination.
“I have two brothers,” Liane went on. “One is twenty-five and the other would be twenty-three.” My smile faded at the words 'would be'. “I was born on a full moon. Two weeks early, actually. The nurses said it was the moon that caused me to be early. A lot of nurses and Healers think it affects even those who aren't lycanthropic. My mum and dad rushed here, of course, leaving Shane and Tucker home with my grandparents. But then they fell asleep, and Shane and Tucker went outside. Shane was eight and Tucker was six.
“We live out in the country and there's an old horse barn on the property. Shane dared Tucker to run to the barn and back again. It was really far away, too far for a six year old to go to alone, especially at night. Tucker ran as fast as he could, but he never came back. Shane heard his screams and ran after him, only to find him being attacked by a werewolf. The werewolf saw Shane and abandoned Tucker. Shane ran straight for the house and was caught only a few meters away, where my grandparents were already awake and running after the boys. My grandpa was able to hold the werewolf off while my grandma contacted the Ministry. But it was too late. Tucker died of blood loss and Shane became a lycanthrope.”
I was stunned. First, at the fact that Liane had told me that, after knowing me for a half hour. Second at the story period. It was tragic on so many levels. Having not only one, but two brothers attacked by a werewolf and having one die, all before she was even born.
“You know that happy family?” Liane asked. “The one in Muggle television commercials where they all play a game or eat dinner together?”
I nodded. I did know that family. I had been a part of that happy, everything's perfect, family for the first few years of my life.
“My family was never like that. I wonder what it would be like sometimes. Normal for me was Mum not being able to get out of bed some days, because she missed an older brother whom I had never known. Normal for me was Dad giving excuses like 'Mum was ill' because he didn't want me to know that she would rather live in the past than live in the present. Normal for me was seeing pictures of Shane and Tucker on the mantle, but not one of me, until I put one there myself when I was five.”
It would have been enough to make anyone cry, listening to Liane. But I managed to hold myself together, knowing that I would not have been able to if I did not see sadness on a daily basis.
“I love Shane and I love my parents, but I know things would have been different if Tucker hadn't died,” Liane continued. “I wish I had known him, but I never did. I got over blaming myself, and I did blame myself, a long time ago because I knew it wouldn't help anything. There's nothing that can bring Tucker back, but I could make life better for Shane. Wolfsbane is great and all, but he's still tired for a few days every month and he never got to go to Hogwarts. My parents probably could have gotten him in if they had tried, but they didn't. It's like all their energy died with Tucker.
“I guess that's what I wanted to talk to you about, before I spilled my guts. Sorry about that.” She gave a short laugh.
“Don't apologize,” I said, as I gave her hand a squeeze. “That's what this group is for.”
Liane smiled a little. “I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about Healing and Brewing since I obviously need to become both a Healer and a Brewer if I want to find a cure.”
“Well, it's a long road,” I began. “You can start your training right out of Hogwarts, and you'll spend about three years in classes and observing. Then about two years as an intern, basically doing whatever your resident and attending Healer want you to, but learning along the way. Then you're a resident for three years, the first two years doing general residency and the final year concentrating solely in your specialty.”
“That would be what you do, right? Creature-Induced Injury?”
“Yes,” I told her. “It would be best for working towards finding a cure. You can either do your Brewing training alongside the Healer training or do it after. I did them together, which made the process a lot more work and I spent an extra year in classes and observing.”
“That's fine. I can do the work,” Liane said. “I won't sleep if I don't have to.”
I laughed. “It's helpful to get at least six hours every two days or so.”
Liane and I chatted for the remainder of the meeting. Everyone else seemed content to play games and Liane had so much to talk about. At eight, I had to wrap up the meeting and once Izzy's mum had picked her up, I walked with the Hogwarts students to the Floo so they could return to school.
All except Kate said goodbye and that they were excited about the next meeting, which would be in two weeks. Liane was the last to Floo and even after the flames turned from green back to orange, I continued to stare at them. There was something about Liane that seemed so familiar to me. It wasn't until I was walking back upstairs to my study that I realized that she reminded me of myself.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed! You guys are awesome!
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