The sunlight that shined through the infirmary windows diminished little by little as the sun sunk lower behind the bordering mountains and reflecting onto the undisturbed water of the lake. The golden tincture of the light descended into the large room, covering the two occupants in its glow.
Regulus hardly noticed as time slipped by slowly, his attention never wavered from Emily's face, and his grip never left her hand.
"Mr. Black." Madame Pomfrey said, appearing in the doorway of her office. "Visiting hours are over."
Regulus rose from his chair and shouldered his bag. He cast one last look down at Emily before turning to the nurse. "Is Professor Slughorn finished with the antidote yet?"
The question did not faze Madame Pomfrey, as Regulus had repeated it every time he visited for the last month since the new term started. "Professor Slughorn has informed me that he has finished and will be giving it to Miss Potter today."
Regulus brightened slightly, a shred of happiness appearing in his eyes. "Can't I stay? I…I want to be here when she wakes up."
Pomfrey shook her head. "I'm sorry Mr. Black, but rules are rules. You'll have to come back tomorrow."
"Mr. Black." She interrupted. "No matter what, Miss Potter will be here tomorrow. We are not even sure if she will wake up immediately after given the antidote." She spoke tentatively, not wanting to worry the boy even more.
"Go to dinner, Mr. Black."
Regulus scowled and left, but not before glancing back at Emily's prone form one last time. Silently promising to come back as soon as he could.
When she had first been admitted to the hospital wing, he wasn't allowed to visit, and then he had to return home for Winter Break, his mother not making any exception for him even though he tried to explain what happened. So he spent his entire vacation worrying over Emily's welfare. The day he returned he spent all his free time visiting her. Madame Pomfrey had told him that she was in a very deep coma, but that didn't stop him from talking to her.
Madame Pomfrey had watched Regulus all the while and felt somewhat guilty for making him go when the day the antidote was going to be given finally came. However, she didn't want him to get his hopes up, only to have them shot down because Emily may not wake up right away, or at all. She had watched him and sympathized for him, not having the heart to tell him that she could never wake up again.
Leaning against the doorframe, Madame Pomfrey sighed and stared out the window. The sun finally disappeared behind the mountains and the sky turned a dark pink, the light dimming. The torches immediately lit as the shadow of dusk reached the walls. Pomfrey watched as the torch above Emily's bed lit up and the light flickered across her pale face. The lack of expression adorning her face, that had been there since the potion that put her in the coma was given about two months prior, never faltering.
Madame Pomfrey jumped, her hand flying to her fast beating heart as she turned to face the caller. She took a deep breath and smiled at him. "Horace… you startled me."
He smiled halfheartedly, his prominent eyes glancing around anxiously while he wetted his dry lips. "Sorry, I… called you twice…"
She waved a hand. "It's fine… do you have it?"
He nodded and held out a vial of pink potion. "Yes, and it's ready for distribution."
She took it and stared at it for a moment. "Wait here." She entered her office and opened on of the cabinets and pulled out a vial of red potion labeled Awakening Draught. She reentered the ward a potion in each hand and bustled to Emily's bedside, Horace hesitantly following. They stood on opposite sides, and while Madame Pomfrey checked Emily over, Slughorn stood awkwardly, rubbing his hands together.
"Ah…" He licked his lips again. "Which…Which do you give her first?"
"First we wake her system up." Madame Pomfrey answered professionally as she uncorked the Awakening Draught. "She'll show a sign, a sudden movement maybe, and then we give her the antidote."
"And then we wait. Could you hold her head up Horace?"
He nodded in a jerk-like motion and did as Poppy asked as she slowly poured the potion into Emily's mouth and massaged her throat to get her to shallow.
"Alright, now set her down gently…" Both adults stepped back slightly, staring down at Emily, waiting.
After a few minutes Slughorn looked up at the nurse questionably. "How long do we-"
A shrill scream tore through the air and Emily gain a twitch, her back arching and her hands gripping her sheets tightly. She flailed and thrashed, screaming in agony.
"Poppy! What...?" Slughorn yelled, looking down at Emily with frightened eyes.
Madame Pomfrey seized and opened the second vial, not in the least bit fazed by the sudden reaction. "Her body is trying to fight off what's wrong at full force since it's been dormant for so long." She tried to get near Emily, but almost got hit by a kicking leg for her effort. "Horace, hold her down!"
"Right!" He held Emily down by the shoulders, trying to block the kicking legs as Madame Pomfrey leaned over her and gave her the antidote. The response was quick. Emily's legs laid flat and her body relaxed, slumping down and going limp. Slughorn backed off again, looking anxious, while Madame Pomfrey corked and pocketed both empty vials.
She let out a sigh and rubbed the back of her neck. "There… she should be fine now."
The Potions Master's eyes roamed over Emily's once again black face before snapping back up to Pomfrey's. "And when do you expect-"
"I don't expect anything, Horace." She said calmly. "That was the risk. We cannot do anything to wake her, that's all up to her. All we can do is wait. Now I suggest we busy ourselves with other things. Dinner has already started and I myself am going down now to get something to eat. Care to join me?"
Slughorn rubbed his hands together in a nervous manner and licked his lips again. "No…No, I think I'm going to go to my quarters… been a tiring day and whatnot."
Madame Pomfrey nodded. "Yes, I'd think you'd be tired after all this stress. Would you like me to inform you in the future if there's any change?"
He nodded, looking distracted. "Yes… Yes, that'd be lovely. Thank you, Poppy."
"Good night, Horace." She called after him as he left the infirmary. She shook her head and sighed again as the door closed behind him. Her gaze returned to Emily's face and she covered her own mouth thoughtfully, cradling her elbow with her other.
"It's up to you now dear."
Madam Pomfrey took a deep breath and let it out in one gust. "Well, best be on my way."
She turned, dropping off the empty potion vials in her office, and left the infirmary, heading towards the Great hall for dinner and leaving Emily alone, the yellow light of the flames bouncing off her pale skin.
Regulus ran, his robes billowing behind him and his bag hitting his leg with every stride. He turned every corner sharply, rushing past, and through if they didn't get out of the way quick enough, the other students in the hallway. He ignored their shocked faces, the greetings, and the smiles. He only had one thing on his mind, and so far as he was concerned, that was the only thing that mattered. He rounded another corner, only to have to stop short at a sudden roadblock.
He tried to move around the unknown girl in his way, but she mirrored his steps, giggling. "And where are you going in such a hurry? Don't you know that it's lunch time and that the Great Hall is the other way?"
"Not hungry." He said shortly.
"Oh?" She asked concerned. "It something the matter?"
"No," he said distractedly. "I'm fine."
"Yes, yes you are." She muttered under her breath. Regulus caught a bit and paused for a moment, raising an eyebrow.
"What was that?"
"I was just saying," she said slowly, flicking some of her long blond hair over her shoulder. "That if anything is wrong I wouldn't mind helping you to…relax."
"No thanks." He said quickly, his attention going back to his first objective. "I don't need your help." He dashed around her, not sparing her another look, and continued on his way.
Angry brown eyes followed him, a scowl on her lips.
Regulus grabbed the handle of the infirmary's door and pulled it open. He rushed inside, his heart beating a mile a minute and hope in his eyes, but it all came crashing down as he gazed at a familiar sight.
His shoulders slumped and he made his way to Emily's side, finding himself sitting down the same way he did every day, looking down at her unconscious body as he did every day, and letting out a depressed sigh as he did every day.
"Guess I hoped too much that you'd be better now that they gave you the antidote."
Reaching over, he took her hand and laid it gently against his cheek, closing his eyes. Nothing was different and he was beginning to think that she might never wake up; never come back to him. Even though she was so close, she was still for far away from him. Even though he could take her in his arms, he could never really hold her. Even though he could feel her warm hand against his cheek, he could…
Regulus's eyes snapped open and he looked at her hand. "Warm…?"
Her hands had always been so cold to touch, but now they were warm. His eyes trailed to her face and he noticed her cheeks were rosy and her expression was relaxed. He could see her chest rising a falling as her breaths came in and out with more evenly and easier than he'd seen over the last month. Hope rose again and Regulus leaned closer, her hand held tightly in both of his hands, resting against his chest.
"Emily?" He breathed. "Emily, can you hear me?"
He held his breath and waited. Waited for a sign, a movement of some sort that would convince him that she could wake up. But nothing happened.
He tried again. "Emily…" He pleaded. "Please Emily wake up. It's been so hard without you. Everything is so hard. Please…" He laid his head on her stomach his eyes shut tightly. "Don't do this to me. I'm sorry I couldn't save you. So please…please wake up. I need you." Tears began to escape the corner of his eyes and he began to whisper. "I love you, I can't do this without you, not without you by my side."
Regulus's eyes slowly opened and he lifted his head slightly, looking anxious. "Emily…?" He stared for a couple of tense moment, waiting for her to do… something. But when nothing happened he sighed and sat up, wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his robe. "Idiot, like that would make her wake up."
"I don't know about that, that's the first kind of response she's shown since the antidote was given."
Regulus jumped in surprise and turned to face the newcomer, unconsciously shielding Emily as he stood. He relaxed when he saw it was just an old woman. She was tall and thin, with many wrinkles adorning her face; her graying, black her in a bun at the top of her head. She smiled at him weakly, but Regulus just raised an eyebrow.
"It that true?"
The old woman nodded, taking a seat in the chair on the other side of Emily's bed. "Yes, I've been here since yesterday night, and nothing has changed with her."
Regulus slowly sat down as well, staring across the bed at the unfamiliar woman. "How were you able to be here that long? People aren't allowed to visit after visiting hours."
She smiled a bit. "An exception is usually made for the patient's parents."
Regulus's eyes widened a fraction. "P-Parents? You're…You're Emily's…"
"Mother, yes." She filled in. "I know I look a bit over my age limit to have a teenage daughter, but that's how it is." She held out a hand to Regulus. "Joan Potter."
He shook her hand with a little hesitation. "Regulus."
Joan sat back and smiled, her hands folding in her lap. "Pleasure to meet you, and how do you know my daughter?"
"She's my…We're…" He fumbled with his words a bit and glanced down at Emily. "I'm her…"
"Ah…" Joan murmured in realization then proceeded to wave a hand. "No need to explain."
Regulus nodded and looked away and the two sat in silence. Regulus stared at the floor, occasionally glancing up at Joan, but she either didn't notice or just ignored his gaze. She pulled a pair of glasses out of her bag and pulled a book out along with them. She then began to hum pleasantly as she read the book, her glasses balancing on the edge of her nose. Regulus's eyebrows furrowed and he stared openly, feeling somewhat annoyed.
"Why are you so happy?" He asked out of the blue. "Your daughter is lying there and you're just humming away as if everything is alright."
Joan looked at him over the brim of her glasses and raised an eyebrow. "Is there a way I should be acting?"
"Worried, sad, anxious?" He said. "Something more suitable for the situation!"
"The situation?" She mused. "My you're acting as if she's on her death bed."
"She might as well be!" Regulus cried. "She may never wake up."
Joan looked sadly down at her daughter's face. "Yes, but that doesn't give any reason to grieve. As long as she is still alive and there is still hope, then it's better to keep a positive attitude then acting as if there is no hope at all."
"What if there is no hope?"
"Oh, there's always hope." Joan said softly. "As long as you believe things can get better. Emily just has to realize that there are people who love her who are waiting for her to wake up. I know my daughter and know that she doesn't like to run away when things get bad and she'll wake up when she's ready. I see no point in being sad when I visit, because if I'm happy and bring that happiness with me, Emily will sense it and know that it's okay to wake up. Besides," Joan sent a smile Regulus's way. "I've spent too much time depressing myself over the risk that she may not wake up. It's much better for us both if I just stay by her side and wait."
"I…I never thought of it like that." Regulus muttered.
"Bet you've been thinking more along the lines of what you would do without her than how to act during your visits." Joan said knowingly.
Regulus flushed and bowed his head in shame.
Joan laughed lightly. "It's alright dear, I'm sure she knows you want her to wake up."
Regulus nodded. "I do… I want her to wake up so bad."
Joan smiled, an amused glint in her eyes. "I'm glad Emily has someone who cares for her to go to when she comes to school."
His cheeks tinted red again and Joan laughed. They both fell silent, Regulus looking down at Emily, and Joan returning to her book.
"You're in Slytherin then?" She asked unexpectedly after a while, staring at the embroidery on his robes.
He nodded, suddenly a little wary. "Yes…"
Joan caught his look. "Don't worry, I have no judgments. Unlike my husband and son, I happen to think that it's not the house that makes the person. Anyone can be wicked, no matter the house."
"Yes, well Gryffindors are very narrow minded." Then added. "No offense."
"Don't worry, I was a Ravenclaw."
"Oh." Regulus muttered, suddenly realizing why Joan wasn't a judging person, as he would have expected her to be when she saw that her daughter's boyfriend was a Slytherin, or judging her daughter for being a Slytherin as well. Regulus noted that he never had a run in with Emily's father or brother, both who were Gryffindors.
"You shouldn't judge the Gryffindors, though." Joan said as if knowing what he was thinking. "Even though the conflict between the founders happened so long ago, the students of Slytherin and Gryffindor still take it personally. Everyone has their opinions and although what they think may be considered evil, they have a right to think that way and shouldn't be judged for it."
"Some would call you foolish for your own opinions." Regulus said with a smirk.
Joan hummed and flipped through the pages of her book absently. "Considering my age, I'd much rather think of myself as wise."
Regulus leaned over and perched his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. "Well your wisdom will most likely be overlooked in the end."
Joan nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe, but I like the thought of everyone coming to terms with themselves and everyone else and seeing that we are all not so different as they think."
"Yes, but there are those who are different and can't never be equal to us."
"Us?" She inquired, her smile wavering.
"Purebloods of course." He said simply. "To have those who are so beneath us invading our world and pretending that they belong when really they should have never been allowed into our World in the first place."
"Our World would be much smaller if it was only pureblood." Joan said. "I think there's enough room for everyone, and more personality helps things flourish wonderfully. So many brilliant young people ready to make the world a better place for everyone."
Regulus leaned forward, his eyes narrowed. "But that's just it; if we let too many think that they are equal then they'll try to take over and where will that leave us?"
Joan shook her head. "Us? Them? I don't think there should be any sides. If everyone realized that no one is superior, then conflict could be avoided."
"No one can be equal when there are those who deserve to be superior." Regulus argued.
"Is it time that makes some more deserving? Because they were here longer?" Joan asked. "Or is it magical ability? If that's so then why are magical creatures looked down upon, for they've been here much longer than us? And half-breeds, surely they would be the superior ones seeing as their magic is so much stronger." Joan shrugged. "Prejudices are just so old and worn out that I no longer see the importance of them."
Regulus stared, his mind reeling. "Is…Is this more of your wisdom?"
"That depends." Joan said thoughtfully. "Do you, Regulus, find what I'm saying wise or foolish?"
"I find it strange." He said after a moment. "And I'll let you think what you want since you seem so content on letting me think what I want."
Joan smiled. "Now you're getting the idea. The next step is seeing is that there is no Us or Them, only…We."
Joan nodded. "Yes, because we are whatever we want to be and we should feel proud no matter what and know that we all are equal and no one can be above the rest."
Regulus didn't make any return remarks as he thought over what she just said. No one can be above the rest. His left forearm tingled slightly at the thought and he unconsciously grasped it.
Joan's gaze flickered to his arm before she looked down at her book again as Regulus looked back up.
"I think you're wise." Regulus said quietly. "A lot of people would agree with what you say and a lot who would disagree, but I also think that your way of thinking is being thought of during the wrong time of life."
Joan smiled. "Well, that's the thing about time. It always has strange ways of doing things. Sometimes it's too fast and other times it's too slow, but it always has a way of catching up to you. My time will end, while your time, and the time of your generation, will thrive. All that matters is what you do with that time and if it's something that matters to you and to those you love. Time is not something to be wasted, it's to be cherished and spent with the ones you love most." Joan looked down at her daughter. "Some forget how precious time is and let their prejudices get in the way of love."
Joan turned her attention back to Regulus and he almost couldn't look her straight in the eyes when he saw the intense emotions they held. "You can do whatever you think is right and spend your time however you'd like, but when your choices and how you spend your time begin to affect everything around you, you must decide what is important. Your time or your loved ones time? And when time catches up to you, who will suffer?"
Regulus gave an involuntary glance in Emily direction before returning his gaze to Joan. He swallowed thickly and wondered if he just imagined the tension in the air and the warning in her words. He tried to respond, but couldn't find it in himself to open his mouth and form words. So he settled for trying to return the smile Joan was suddenly giving him. Even if his smiled looked as fake as it felt to him when he forced it, Joan gave no indication that she noticed.
She suddenly looked down at her watch and let out a surprised noise. "Well, time seems to have slipped by me and I've stayed longer than I meant to." She looked up and smiled. "Although time does seem to fly when one has such pleasant company, however," she muttered, putting the book that she never got a chance to read back into her bag and standing up. "I really must get going before my husband starts to worry."
Leaning over she gave Emily a kiss on the forehead and sent one last smile Regulus's way. "It was a pleasure meeting you Regulus, I hope we can see each other again. I feel happy knowing that I can leave and not worry about my daughter being alone. I hope you remember everything we've talked about."
"I…I don't think I'll be able to forget." He managed.
Joan laughed. "No, I suppose not, I usually have that affect on some after a ramble or two. Good day then." She nodded to him and left the infirmary, Regulus's eyes following her until the door closed firmly behind her.
He turned and faced forward, staring off into space, his mind buzzing. Suddenly he smiled and looked down at Emily. "Well, I guess I finally know why you love to ramble." He let out a short laugh and shook his head. Leaning over Emily he placed a hand on her cheek and smiled down at her.
"I won't let time get away from us. I'll always be here for you."
Leaning closer he placed a soft kiss against her lips before standing, knowing that if he stayed any longer he would be late for his next class. Lunch was only so long and most of his visit had been spent talking to Emily's mother. Grabbing his bag he headed for the door, sending one swift look back at Emily before closing the door behind him.
Emily shifted in her sleep and the corner of her lips turned up as she let out a soft whisper.