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Breathless by celticbard
Chapter 12 : Chapter Twelve Uninvited
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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Beautiful chapter image by laelia @ 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 The methods I have described in this story are a mixture of both modern regimens and outdated procedures from the heyday of the sanatorium.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
Oliver Lias - Derek Cecil
Cecilia - Ellen Page


 

Chapter Twelve Uninvited


On a morning about two weeks after the ribbon-cutting ceremony and garden party, Freddy was stunned when Nurse Jenkins came into her room and told her she had been granted up-time. And although she’d never been quite savvy when it came to the slang of the sanatorium, she knew that up-time invariably meant something good, or at least, meant that she was getting better.

Of course, she had her own private hopes for her condition and as the summer rolled on, Freddy began to note some rather positive changes in her health. Although she had spent a few good hours at the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Remus, Oliver and Cecilia, she hadn’t once felt winded or fallen into a prolonged coughing fit. And that was certainly a good sign, wasn’t it? Yes, it had to be.

The nurse who took her temperature every day had also reported that her hectic fever was nearly gone, and although Freddy had always felt a bit on the pudgy side, she was glad when the scale said she had finally put some meat back on her bones.

All this, evidently, had convinced Healer Crane to give her up-time, which meant that she could not only leave her room whenever she wanted, but would also be given some light work or occupational therapy to keep her busy.

There would have been a time when Freddy would have scorned such a mundane pastimes, but after receiving the cheerful news from Jenkins, she found herself rushing off to tell Oliver about her good luck.

“Do you think it’s pathetic that I’m so excited about being allowed out of bed?” she asked him at breakfast.

As it was, Oliver was only half-paying attention to her. Cecilia had owled him the seating chart for his wedding reception the night before and apparently, he objected to some of the table arrangements.

“In case you haven’t noticed we are all rather pathetic, my dear,” he said, several unlikely creases wrinkling his brow as he spoke. His eyes were on the seating chart. “I’ve had up-time since I came to the hospital but I never took advantage of it.”

“I appreciate the encouragement,” Freddy told him sourly. After that, she resolved to make the most of her up-time, even if Oliver was intent on being a rotten stick-in-the-mud. And despite the obvious implications regarding her improving health, Freddy felt that her new ambulatory privileges were really a blessing, something to keep her sanity intact and her nerves from becoming too frayed.

Since the incident with Crane at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, she had been decidedly on edge, spending each long hour of the day worrying and fretting and wondering, yes, wondering if she had really broken Crane’s heart.

But Freddy wasn’t sure if she believed it, if she would even allow herself to believe it. Because it was utter nonsense, all utter nonsense. Crane did not love her and she had not broken his heart. The matter was cut and dry, really, when she thought about it.

She had told Crane a little white lie, yes. But there was little harm to be found in white lies. Even Remus, who was an interested party, didn’t know about it. And there was absolutely no harm in the lie she had told Crane, because he meant nothing to her.

Absolutely nothing.

Still, that didn’t mean she wanted to bump into him more than she already had to and being out of her room for extended periods of time, being able to wander around the hospital whenever she pleased provided Freddy with a necessary escape. And distraction. Distraction from her guilt, from her very real and potent regret….

In order to give herself something to do, Freddy joined some of the other ambulatory patients who volunteered their free time by helping the orderlies and nurses with little tasks around the hospital. For the first week, she was assigned to accompany the nurse who brought the mail to the patients on her ward. And even though Freddy was friendly with Oliver, she had never been the most sociable person and hadn’t attempted to get to know her fellow wardmates.

Unfortunately for her, the nurse she went with took it upon herself to introduce Freddy to almost everyone in the hospital. The woman’s name was Mirabelle, and although generally sweet, she was a chatty little thing. She also had a habit of telling the other patients that Freddy was a Hogwarts professor. This tactic, however, ultimately backfired when they ran into one particularly cantankerous old chap, who asked, “Well, if you're so smart, then how'd you get TB?”

The next day, Freddy discreetly asked to be transferred to another nurse. In the end, things worked out of the best when she was offered the chance to accompany Jenkins to the sanatorium’s owl post office in one of the outer buildings to collect the flower delivers some patients received from family members and friends.

Although the walk from the main building to the post office was short, Freddy enjoyed every minute of freedom she had. It was late July now and the moors and meadows and fields were awash with purple heather and the chalk pathways were bleached bone-white by the heat of the glorious sun. Freddy just loved strolling through the sanatorium gardens with bunches of flowers in her arms. And as it turned out, Jenkins proved to be exceedingly pleasant company. The tight-lipped, serious woman almost reminded her of a young Minerva McGonagall in a way.

Most days Jenkins kept them on a strict schedule that took them to the post office and back in less than an hour, but on one Tuesday afternoon, about a week after Freddy had been placed on flower duty, the nurse took an unexpected side trip.

They had been walking through the section behind the sanatorium that housed the staff residences and when they drew near Crane’s hulking brownstone, Jenkins motioned for Freddy to follow her through the gate and up the path.

“I have to make a quick stop,” she told her. “Healer Crane asked me to call in an order for hellebore and murtlap from the dispensary. He left the list in the back parlor by his phone. It won’t take long. Do you mind?”

“No,” Freddy replied, even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to linger about Crane’s private quarters. And it struck her as more than a little ironic that she was being dragged to the one place she wanted to avoid most. Professor Trelawney, she realized with a nervous pang, might call it fate.

Jenkins, however, had no idea of the tension between Crane and Freddy. Perpetually business-like, she let her into the front hall, showing her to a small chair by the door.

“Wait here,” the nurse instructed, leaving her bunches of flowers behind on the floor in the vestibule before she retreated further into the house.

Settling herself in the chair, Freddy could just make out Jenkins down the hall, standing in the back parlor where she picked up the receiver of a Muggle phone and held it to her ear. Although the sanatorium was a thoroughly magical hospital, the staff had implemented an in-house telephone system that kept the main building connected with the outlying staff cottages and smaller medical pavilions. This form of communication was quick, efficient and reliable, especially considering not everyone knew how to send a message via Patronus and using flying notes like the Ministry tended to get chaotic. And when it came down to it, it was easier for a healer to pick up a telephone at home and dial down to the nurse’s station in the main building to check the condition of patient as opposed to using the Floo Network. Still, Freddy had often heard some of the staff members complain that the telephone system confused them and that sometimes, Healer Crane was just too forward thinking.

Freddy, however, thought it was rather clever.

And from the looks of things, Jenkins seemed more than comfortable using the phone. The nurse was standing casually, the receiver cradled between her shoulder and neck as she read something off a small notepad.

“Do you have that written down?” she asked. A pause, then. “Oh yes, I’ll hold.”

Ugh, this was undoubtedly going to take a while. Freddy felt jittery and she stood, stretching her legs as she paced over to the front door and then back to her chair. The hall, she realized, was rather narrow for such a large house, with the big, dark wood staircase taking up most of the left side.

Freddy paused by the foot of the stairs, craning her neck so that she could get a better look at the second floor landing. But the stairway curved away as it reached the next floor and she could not see past the thick bars of wood that made up the railing. From somewhere overhead, a clock chimed.

Hmm. It almost sounded like a grandfather clock. Freddy’s father had owned a rather handsome grandfather clock himself, but he’d kept it in the living room of their farmhouse, proudly displayed for all potential visitors to see.

Vaguely, she wondered just what kind of grandfather clock Crane had. He didn’t seem the type to own such a stately, stuffy timepiece. Rather, Freddy imagined him owning an antique pocket watch or maybe a baroque carriage clock covered in ornate carvings and smiling cherubs.

Yes, that seemed more his style. Archaic as opposed to old-fashioned. Opulent. Sumptuous.

Without realizing it, Freddy began to move up the stairs, her hand gliding discreetly along the banister, feeling the fine grain of the polished surface. But then her palm squeaked along the railing and she jumped back, startled.

All was quiet downstairs. Had Jenkins heard her?

Freddy waited a beat and listened. No, the nurse was chattering away on the phone again. A sigh of relief slipped past her lips. But why should she be relieved? Why should it matter if she took a casual stroll up to the second floor?

Suddenly, Freddy felt very much like one of the many students at Hogwarts she’d deducted points from over the years for being out of bed past curfew or wandering about the castle when they shouldn’t.

But she wasn’t a child. No. And as an adult, she had the right to go wherever she pleased. And if Jenkins found out and threatened to remove her out-of-bed privileges, then so be it. Freddy wouldn’t be scolded and punished and treated like an eight-year-old anymore. Let them threaten to kick her out of the sanatorium for breaking the rules. She might just save them the trouble and discharge herself….

Freddy put her hand on the banister and walked purposefully up the stairs. The boards creaked as she reached the landing, but she ignored the noise and carried on until she reached the second floor hallway.

Unlike the downstairs hall, the floor here was carpeted with a smooth, Oriental style runner. And Crane obviously wasn’t much into privacy, for he’d left all the doors to his rooms open.

But even Freddy wasn’t that nosey and she tried her best to keep from peeking into each of the rooms. Some of her mother’s old lessons on politeness and propriety came to mind, making her feel awfully guilty as she tip-toed through the corridor like a thief. As it was, she wasn’t even sure why she was indulging in such a meaningless little adventure, because it truly was meaningless. There was no legitimate reason for her curiosity and Freddy was much too narrow-minded to consider the unthinkable, because she certainly had no interest in Crane, mysterious though he was.

Coming to the end of hall, Freddy paused by an open door and took a deep breath. She really shouldn’t be doing this, but then again, there was nothing else to do. When life was so dull, so tedious, so filled with endless, empty waiting, the little thrills began to matter all the more, although Freddy hated to think of herself as a mischievous daredevil.

She was just having a look around, after all. Trying to find that grandfather clock….

The runner ended abruptly at the door’s threshold and Freddy stepped off it onto the hardwood floor, feeling, for all the world, that she was leaving the relative safety of the known path for the dubious wilds of some enchanted wood. But then she dismissed the thought as too melodramatic, too clichéd and moved into the room.

It was a small space positioned at the front of the house, an afterthought almost, as if the builder realized he had over-calculated and had too much room to spare. Judging from its furnishing, from the plain desk and chair pushed in front of the shuttered windows, from the motley green walls and nearly empty bookcase in the far corner, Freddy guessed that Crane wasn’t in the habit of using the place. After all, hadn’t he mentioned that the house was too big for him?

She was pleased, however, to see that her eyes hadn’t deceived her. The grandfather clock was standing just inside the door, its bronzed pendulum clicking and creaking as it swung back and forth. The clock was at least ten minutes off by Freddy’s reckoning and she remembered how meticulous her father had been about keeping his clock on time, balancing the weights, moving the hands inch by careful inch.

Without thinking, Freddy opened the glass door that shielded the face of the clock and moved the minute hand ahead. Crane probably wouldn’t even notice, but if he did….

Well, that was it then, wasn’t it? She’d seen what she’d come to see. The whole thing had been rather silly when she thought about it. Freddy wanted to laugh at herself. As she turned to go, fully intending to head back downstairs before Jenkins even noticed she was missing, she caught sight of one of the picture frames on the desk.

For some reason, Freddy had thought they were empty. Or perhaps she hadn’t looked at them closely enough, for who kept empty picture frames on a desk?

Picking up the one closest to her, she studied the slightly faded image, a strange, half smile lifting her lips.

It was an older photograph, a picture of Crane when he was younger. The Healer was looking somewhat Muggle-ish in the photo, donning a t-shirt and jeans and trainers. He was sitting in front of some sort of hut or hovel, surrounded by a group of Indian children whose ages ranged from pre-teen to toddler. Freddy squinted as she stared at the smiling faces and the waving children. Hmm, hadn’t Crane once told her that he spent some time as a healer in the slums of Mumbai?

She set the picture back down on the desk, reminded of a similar set of photographs she had kept in her office back at Hogwarts, taken when she had gone to Africa some years back. That had been a long time ago, a long….

But then a footstep sounded in the hall and Freddy lost that warm, fuzzy feeling inside of her and felt blank terror.

“Excuse me?”

“Oh God!” She whirled around, her hands gripping the desk behind her. “I’m…I’m so sorry. You scared me.”

Raising her eyes, hoping to see Jenkins, Freddy was sorely disappointed when she caught sight of Crane lingering in the doorway, his expression frozen between shock and amusement.

“Scared you?” he asked, his eyebrows raised so high they nearly disappeared beneath his hairline. “Scared you?”

“Ugh,” Freddy sighed, her face growing hot. Perhaps, she mused, it was a sign of her hectic fever returning. Or perhaps she was just utterly and completely embarrassed. “Sorry,” she said again, her fingers tightening over the lip of the desk, her nails finding splinters in the unpolished underbelly of the wood. “This is terrible, really. I mean terribly embarrassing. I was downstairs with Nurse Jenkins, you know. She dropped by to use your phone.”

“And when you say downstairs, I’m certain you actually mean upstairs,” Crane said, his chin jutting out slightly as he spoke. Oh, he wasn’t going to let her off easy this time.

Freddy shook her head. “No, I mean downstairs. I was sitting in the front hall when I heard your grandfather clock chime. I wanted to come upstairs and see it.”

Crane’s eyes flickered over to the now silent clock standing like a sentinel in the corner of the room. “I didn’t know you liked clocks.”

Again, Freddy found herself shaking her head. “I don’t, really, but my dad had one. It reminds me of him, every time I see a grandfather clock.” And as she spoke, Freddy sincerely hoped that her answer would satisfy Crane. As it was, she was aware of its somewhat flimsy nature, but she feared having to explain herself to him now. After all, what could she possibly say?

I was bored so I decided to snoop around your house.

The truth sounded ridiculous even to her, but Freddy was unwilling to examine it further. There was no reason for her to be sneaking around Crane’s house…just as there was no reason for him to be in love with her.

When the Healer didn’t respond to her explanation right away, she decided to fall back on another apology.

“It was an obnoxious thing for me to do,” she said, letting go of the desk. “I’m sorry. I should have known better. After all, I wasn’t even sure if you were home.”

She half-expected Crane to get angry with her. After all, she hadn’t given him much reason to find her endearing over the past few weeks. But he surprised her with a laugh.

“No, it’s all right,” he said, his eyes on the floor, his shoulders pulled up in a shrug. “I wasn’t home, anyway. I just Floo’d over here from the main building.”

It was only then that Freddy noticed his attire. Crane wasn’t wearing his usual pressed shirt and tie and white healer’s coat. Instead, he had on a pair of dull blue scrubs that were wrinkled at the cuffs and gave off an unknown, slightly sterile smell. His normally neat hair was mussed, having obviously been crushed beneath a surgeon’s cap and the skin around his mouth and nose was flushed red, a sign that he had been wearing a mask.

Freddy quirked an eyebrow. It was somewhat odd to see Crane looking undone and not all buttoned up. He seemed more human this way, more like a real man and not some marble statue that all female nurses and patients gathered around to worship and flirt with.

For some reason, Freddy didn’t think even Lavinia Wainwright would find the sweat stains coloring the underarms of his scrubs attractive.

But this small sign of humanity, of very real frailty, made her smile. “I’m guessing you didn’t just come off your rounds,” she said, trying to inject some much needed levity into what was an increasingly uncomfortable situation.

Crane seemed to relax, the tense line of his shoulders falling as he began to laugh. “No, no,” he muttered through a chuckle. “I guess you caught me red-handed. I’m fresh out of surgery.”

“Hmm, no pun intended, I’m sure,” Freddy remarked, exhaling sharply through her nose. She disliked this surgeon’s humor, which more often than not, seemed to come at the expense of the patient. “Did you get to do something fun like take out a lung?” She asked, even though the mere notion made her shiver slightly.

Crane shook his head, advancing into the room with lazy, long strides. “No, nothing like that. Today was just a simple pleurodesis. To be honest, we don’t perform a lot of pneumonectomies. Your’s was the last one I did.”

“Well, I only understood about half of that,” Freddy said. “Doctor’s jargon, you know.”

Crane shrugged, looking apologetic. “Sorry. I can’t put things into laymen’s terms right now. My adrenalin is still pumping from the O.R.. My mind isn’t exactly clear.” He was standing next to her, the usual scent of his cologne dissipated in favor of the odor of antiseptic and the lingering smell of anesthesia. “And before you say I’m a ghoul, you should know that most surgeons get a rush whenever they operate. We generally enjoy our work.”

“A lame excuse,” Freddy said, although she was still smiling, amused at Crane’s boyish enthusiasm. He was much more likable now, she realized. Less intimidating. Less overwhelming. If only he had been like this before, if only he had been so offhand, then maybe she wouldn’t have….

But of course she would have. Of course she would have broken his heart and told him a lie, because it was the right thing to do. The safe thing. And the proof was in the pudding. Didn’t he seem much happier now?

Much happier. Much, much happier.

Inwardly, Freddy congratulated herself on a job well done. It wasn’t often that she made the correct decision. Perhaps she was getting better at judging herself and others. Perhaps she was finally growing up.

Or perhaps, yes perhaps, she was still wrong and didn’t even know it.

Freddy shook her head, annoyed at her own self-doubt.

I’ve done well, she told herself firmly. There’s no mistake about it. No mistake….

Crane was close by her now, all gangly limbs and mussed hair, leaning on the desk. “I see you’re enjoying your up-time, although to be frank, you already seemed to be on up-time before when you’d go wandering around the hospital at night.”

“Oh.” Freddy blushed. “I don’t do that anymore.”

“I guess I was the exception then. You only came to see me, right?”

And without thinking, she responded with, “Right.”

“Well, you look good,” he said.

Freddy’s blush deepened.

“But that’s only half the battle, you know,” Crane remarked. “The real question is, how do you feel?”

A nervous bubble of worry rose up in her throat. Was he slipping back into healer mode already? Unconsciously, Freddy grimaced. She liked it much better when he acted, well, human. The tension between them, while not significantly diminished, was at least bearable then.

“I’ve been much better,” she said, hoping to assuage his physician’s concern. “I didn’t have a single coughing fit during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Even Remus noted the change. He said I looked terrific.”

And even as the words left her mouth, Freddy realized her mistake. Crane looked away, his eyes finding the face of the grandfather clock which now kept the correct time. There was a moment of silence, of miserable, heavy silence that made her start to sweat. Her relief, her sense of conviction and self-assuredness, was wavering again.

But I did the right thing, she told herself. It had to be the right thing.

Crane didn’t say anything for a long time and Freddy even began to consider excusing herself, to run away from the awkward moment and the mess she had unknowingly (or knowingly?) created.

She took a step forward, inching towards the open door. But then Crane stopped her, his hand falling over her wrist.

“Wait,” he said, his fingers pressed against the soft underside of her arm, at the place where her wrist joint met her hand. “Let me see something.”

“I…” Freddy tried to pull away, but Crane maintained his grip.

“Relax,” he said, his voice heavy with resignation, as if he recognized that she was uncomfortable with him even though he didn’t want her to be. “I’m trying to do you a favor here.”

Freddy obliged him, albeit reluctantly. The ticking of the grandfather clock grew louder, filling her ears with an unpleasant sort of beat that matched her shallow inhalations. And it was while she was standing there in the cramped room with Crane, having her pulse measured by the careful touch of his fingers, that she realized just how wrong she was. Terribly, horribly wrong.

As always, Freddy had been a fool. A fool to think that some sense of indifference could exist between them. There was no accord of impassivity. No neutrality. No truce. She was very much in the same position she had been a few weeks ago when they stood together in front of his house and he had looked at her with heartbreak in his eyes.

Heartbreak. Yes, heartbreak.

For a moment, something very like pity threatened to overwhelm her.

Oh God, she thought, her throat going dry, the pressure building in her temples as her head began to ache. It can’t be undone. It can’t be undone.

And that was the trouble with the inevitable. It came whether you wanted it to or not.

Freddy was so far gone, so lost and wandering in her fear, that she did not notice when Crane removed his fingers from her wrist.

“Well,” he said, his crisp, clear voice dragging her back from her unreliable musings into the cold comfort of reality. “Your pulse is steady. A little quick, but not too bad. You don’t seem to have a fever…your skin feels cool and you haven’t coughed once since I came in.”

“Oh,” Freddy said, feeling pretty breathless at the moment.

“And you’ve been ambulatory for how long now?” Crane asked, folding his arms across his middle, putting more creases into his already wrinkled scrub top.

“Two weeks,” she said, knotting her fingers together to disguise the slight trembling she felt. But soon, that slight trembling was shooting through her limbs, making her legs weak.

Something was happening to her, she realized. Something dangerous. She was putting too much thought into Crane when she should be making a clean break, she was becoming involved….

“Sorry,” she said, her laughter weak, “but I’m not sure how this constitutes as a favor. Isn’t it your job to take my pulse?”

But Crane was suddenly business-like, his eyes taking on the hard, scientific glint of the physician. The impartial healer.

“If ambulatory patients do well during their up-time, if they don’t develop a fever or have too many coughing fits, then they are given day passes to leave the sanatorium, visit the village for a couple of hours,” Crane explained with a shrug. “I thought that’s something you might like…to be able to see your boyfriend.”

Freddy didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t expected this…Crane’s selflessness. If anything, she thought he would cling tighter, would pull her closer, but here he was, letting her go.

And wasn’t that true for most people in love? Weren’t they able to let go, to finally let go….

If only she could let go.

Oh God.

Freddy felt panic rise up in her like an unrelenting tidal wave, but she forced it back down. She was in too deep now and for a moment, she was almost tempted to reveal her lie. It felt wrong now to deceive him. Cruel.

And Freddy wasn’t cruel.

But then she remembered that she had promised herself a clean break. A fresh start. And Crane would have to keep his broken heart and she would have to keep her distance.

After all, there was always Remus….

“Yeah,” Freddy said, finding an appreciative smile for Crane. “I would like to see my boyfriend. Thanks.”

But even in her heart, even as she spoke the words and told the lie, she knew she didn’t believe it. Not one bit.

And neither did Crane.

Because that was the problem with the inevitable, Freddy realized. It was coming and, nothing, not even the greatest lie, would stop it.

 

 

 







Author’s Note: This is one of those strange chapters that was never supposed to be written but was written anyway. When I was revising my story outline recently I realized that I just had to write this chapter and, despite much resistance on my part, I finally gave in. Plot bunnies, it seems, are rather stubborn, haha.

Thanks so very much for taking the time to read and review. If you have a free moment, please leave a review. I cherish all feedback. The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. Until then, take care and be well!


Medical Dictionay:

Pleurodesis: a surgical procedure in which an artificial adhesion is created between the visceral and parietal pleura. Generally used to treat pneumothorax and pleural effusions.

Pneumonectomy: The removal, by surgery, of an entire lung.
 
 
 


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