At eleven thirty the next day, I walked into Peter Blare’s office.
“Chief, you asked for me?”
Peter Blare was the Chief of Surgery at St Mungos, and he was that guy everybody was either terrified of or hated. Some called him lax, some called him crazy. I called him the Chief. I didn’t always agree with his archaic thinking, as he was always scorning Muggle techniques simply because they were Muggle techniques, and was a bit narrow-minded when it came to technology.
“I wanted to know what was going on the Candy Hooper case,” he said, swirling around in his chair.
“Jane needs financial help. There’s no way she can ask for another loan and she hasn’t got any family to help out. She said she’d get back to me after calling her ex-husband, Max,” I filled him in on all the details and he looked back blankly at me.
“What do you think we should do?”
“I wouldn’t say the operating is our best bet, but at least it gives us a chance,” I shrugged. “I spoke to Dr Zimmer and he said he’d be happy to scrub in, in case there’s any issue with her lungs.”
“Are they coming in today?”
“No. I told Jane I’d call her if I could figure out some way to help her. I don’t need to run any more tests on Candy; it’s definitely valve expansion,” At that moment, my mobile began ringing and I jumped to reach for it.
“Don’t pick that up,” the Chief snapped and I nodded. I checked the number – it was Alexander’s. I mentally cursed and turned back to the Chief.
“Sir, I was wondering if there’s any way we could maybe waive the – ”
“Don’t even start that conversation, Weasley,” he cut across and I opened my mouth to protest, but he raised his eyebrows at me. “Do you know how many assistants and technicians and nurses we have inside the O.R. for an average surgery?”
“25. For a major one like a valve expansion, you’re also including a pulmonary specialist. Now, if we bring down the cost of surgery by fifty percent, Jane Hooper is still not going to be able to pay it by herself. So you’re implying that you want me to reduce the salaries of 25 plus one medical professionals involved in the surgery – yourself included – by more than fifty percent? How do you expect us to buy new equipment? How do you expect anything to happen in this hospital, Dr Weasley, if we keep cutting the cost of surgery just because our patients can’t pay for it?”
I didn’t say anything. “I can understand that, sir.”
“We’ve had this conversation before, Weasley. Don’t pretend like we haven’t,” he looked at me sharply and I nodded.
“I was wondering ... I was wondering if it would be okay if I could pay a portion of it. Or if you could deduct whatever is my salary from the total cost.”
He looked at me like I was crazy. “You want to pay for this kid’s surgery?”
“I can’t pay the entire thing off. I mean, I could, but ... Is it okay if I volunteer to pay about, half of it maybe?”
“It’s your money. If you’re willing to give it, I don’t see why not,” he shrugged. “We’ll need half as an advance, so, if you want to pay that part, sure thing.” He was still looking at me like I was crazy.
My mobile began to ring again and I sighed.
“Alright, get out of here. You get more calls than the bloody Minister for Magic,” he grumbled and I walked out of the room and picked up Alexander’s call.
“Why do you even have a mobile if you never answer it?” Alexander said from across the line.
“I was with the Chief of Surgery, Your Royal Highness,” I mocked. “Is there something you need?”
“No need to get so snappy. You’re the one who needs my help after all,” he replied. “Anyway. Remember I mentioned a Malcolm Links?”
“Who?” Clearly I didn’t. Alexander sighed.
“Malcolm Links, he’s going to help us write the Bill,” he said. “He’s only in town for a week so we’re in a bit of a crunch for time. I called him yesterday and he wants to meet.”
“Meet who? When?”
“Meet you, smartass. Well, he said ‘the team’ but we don’t really have one, do we?”
“It’s amusing how you keep saying we and us like you’ve been on board with me since day one,” I scoffed and he chuckled.
“I have been!” he cleared his throat. “I told him we’d see him at six today at the Villa, is that alright for you?”
“Should be. Should I tell Gina?”
“I told her already, she’s okay with it.”
“Oh.” I replied, not knowing what else to say.
“I know, I know, you’ll get used to my super efficiency in a while,” he drawled and I resisted the urge to gag.
“Right, well, I have to go back to work,” I said lamely, not exactly enjoying being badgered over the phone.
“Any good cases today?” he asked, like it was CSI Miami or something. I rolled my eyes.
“None, actually. I’m in a bit of a financial situation – ”
“What? Why didn’t you say so? How much do you need?” he cut across immediately.
“Not me. My patient. She can’t pay for the surgery,” I told him, sighing. “I’m paying off the advance for her. But there’s still about a fifteen thousand she’ll have to pay after.”
“Merlin! What’s your hospital doing with all the galleons in town?” he asked, sounding outraged.
“Maybe when you become Minister you should do something about affordability in health care for Middle Class and Lower Middle Class people, Alexander,” I said, poking fun at him.
“I’ll make sure it’s the first thing I do,” he said, and I could hear him smiling.
“Well, if you don’t have any solutions, I’m going to hang up now. I might need to talk to an insurance company,” I cleared my throat and waited.
“Do you want me to ask the Working Mum’s Federation? I’m sure they’d be able to help out in some way,” he offered and I was slightly grateful.
“I don’t know, could you ask them though?”
“If you say please,” he teased and I rolled my eyes.
“And if you agree to have dinner with me tonight,” he added and I shook my head.
“Not bloody likely.”
“Alright, then, you can tell the girl you’re operating on that you’re very sorry – ”
“Okay, fine!” I cut across. Merlin, everyone always got away with guilt tripping me.
“Perfect,” I could practically hear him grinning. “I’ll see you at the Villa at six, then?”
“I’ll be there,” and I hung up before he could say anything else.
“This is great, though,” Meredith said at lunch, a gleeful look in her eyes. “You and Alex are moving forward.
“Alex? Since when do you call him Alex? And there’s no moving forward,” I growled. “He’s just doing me a favour and won’t do it for free.”
“If life was utopia, you’d call me up tomorrow morning telling me you’re pregnant,” she chuckled and I glared at her.
“Thank god it’s not. I’m excited that we’re moving forward with this, though - the bill, I mean. I think it might get somewhere,” I poked at the vegetables in my tray uninterestedly.
“Why do you need the Minister on your side if he might lose the elections in March, especially if the final hearing is only in May?” she asked.
“Because the Wizengamot doesn’t shuffle till August. So it’s the old Warlock. You know what they say, the Warlock and the Minister are supposed to be attached at the hip. So if we get Wicket on our side then we have the Warlock on our side, and therefore, pretty much the entire Wizengamot.”
“Hang on,” Meredith had stopped chewing and looked a bit worried. “I don’t know much about the law but I’ve been doing some reading because of you. And. Okay, assuming that Alex gets voted in as the new Minister – ” I giggled but she held up her hand to stop me from commenting. “Assuming he gets voted in as the new Minister, he won’t be able to help you in any way.”
“What, why not?”
“Because remember there’s that thing...the Minister is not allowed to administer cases in which he has personal contact.”
“Shit. That’s why they didn’t take the Giants proposition further because Scrimageour was helping out the committee before they replaced him with Fudge. Shit. We’ve just got to hope that Alexander doesn’t become Minister then.”
Meredith looked at me worriedly. “I was talking to some guys at the Change dinner that night...I don’t know, Mol. He’s everybody’s best bet at the moment.”
I sighed. “He’s not really associated with us anyway, right? I mean, he’s just giving us a few contacts.”
“He’s also going to be sitting at the meeting where you actually write the Bill. He’s going to know all the details. He’s very much in it, Molly.”
I sighed again. “Should I talk to him about it?”
“What are you going to tell him though? Oh hey, Alex, I appreciate the help but could you bugger off because I think there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to Minister, and that could bomb our chances of this Bill getting passed.”
“That’s actually not so bad,” I groaned and hit my head. “What do I do?”
“You have to talk to him about it anyway. Ask him if he knows about this rule. The Minister’s involvement, I mean.”
“I’m sure even if he can’t help us anymore once he gets the post, we’ll still be able to push it forward. There will be a way. The Giants didn’t even try, for Merlin’s sake!” I said surely and Meredith shrugged.
“Just talk to him when you see him, I guess,” she said. “At your little dinner, maybe.” She looked at me suggestively and I glowered at her.
“I don’t know what his bloody problem is,” I was beyond frustrated. “He was never like this at Hogwarts, remember? He wouldn’t even flirt or anything, we just argued. And disagreed. Now he’s just out there.”
“Boys take longer to mature than girls do, Molly,” Meredith said informatively and I rolled my eyes. “He’s probably just growing a pair now. Or he’s tired of playing cat and mouse and wallowing in denial.”
“Wallowing in denial about what?”
“Oh shut up, the two of you are such ignoramuses. You were besotted with each other right throughout Hogwarts – ”
“That’s bullshit! He had a girlfriend in seventh year! And in fourth year,” I reminded her and she snorted.
“He was a hormonal teenager. He just needed someone to satisfy his – ”
“Okay, never mind, I’m finished with this conversation, thank you,” I interrupted, standing up. She laughed.
“You should look in the mirror. That’s what denial looks like, babe.”
“Jane, hi, this is Molly Weasley from St Mungos,” I said, trying to sound cheerful.
“Dr Weasley, hi! I was going to call you after I got a word from Max, but you know...” her voice trailed at the other end and sighed.
“Jane, I can pay off the advance for you,’ I told her and she said nothing for a couple of seconds.
“I – wha – but – ”
“Look, it’s not a problem really,” I said smiling. “I’ve seen Candy since Addison delivered her. I spoke to the Chief and he said he couldn’t waive the cost, so I’m offering to pay the advance.”
“I really don’t know how to say thank you, Molly,” Jane’s voice broke, and then my heart did. “I’ll try and find a way to pay off the remaining, I really will. I’m so sorry!”
“Don’t be silly,” I cried, shushing her. “I have a ... err friend who’s offered to talk to a couple of organizations and see if they can help you pay off the remaining amount. I’ll let you know as soon as he calls, but just try and find some other options as well, yes?”
“Definitely, definitely,” now she was definitely crying. “Thank you so much, I really don’t know what else to say, or how I can ever thank you enough!”
“Don’t worry about it, please,” I smiled. “I’ll call you later, then. Once we’ve finalized the finances, I’ll book an O.R. for maybe Saturday or Sunday at the latest. Is that alright with you?”
“Well, you said the surgery is our best bet, right?”
I sighed. “It’s our only bet, Jane.”
I got to the Villa late, and ran to the reception.
“Uhh I’m supposed to be meeting a Malcolm Links?” I told the receptionist. She told me to take the stairs to the second floor and that they were in the first room in the left flight. I then ran up the stairs, huffing and puffing as I knocked on the door. Gina opened it and threw her arms around me.
“Oh good you’re here!” she squeezed what was left of my breath out of me. “Why are you panting?”
“Ran up the stairs,” I breathed. “Sorry I’m late.” Gina introduced me to Malcolm and Alexander gave me a lazy smile from the easy chair.
“I’ve worked on pretty much every Half-breed rights bill there has been in modern history,” Malcolm said, giving me a toothy grin. This didn’t comfort me; given the fact that none of these bills had obviously been passed. “There’s always been some hitch or the other. But you’ve got Alex, so I’m sure you’ll win this one.”
“We’ve got Alexander for now,” I wanted to say, but didn’t. We occupied the remaining chairs and Malcolm asked for what resources I had. I handed him a big bunch of paperwork, everything I had ever amassed or written.
“They’re in chronological order so erm ...” try not to mess it up I wanted to add, but refrained from doing so again.
“Anal,” Alexander pretended to cough and I glared at him.
“Organized,” I mouthed and he rolled his eyes, smirking.
“This is good,” Malcolm said, nodding his head. “This is great material. There’s just a few things here and there that are different from the other cases, but they’re the ones that will matter.”
Hours stretched away. We were nowhere close to even a rough draft. There were thousands of amendments made and everybody was cross-questioning each other. At half past eight, Gina groaned and hit her head on the desk. Alexander laughed, running a hand through his hair and making it stand up quite attractively at the back. Malcolm and I lost focus as well.
“I think we should call it a night,” he said sighing. “This is good work, though, don’t be disheartened,” he told Alexander and he chuckled.
“Tell her that, she’s the one who looks like her goose has been shot,” he said, pointing towards me and I threw my hands up in the air.
“I thought we were getting somewhere!”
“We are, Molly,” Malcolm said kindly and I glowered at Alexander and Gina, whose head hadn’t resurfaced. “But let’s do this at a proper pace. We don’t want to rush things and make a mess.”
I nodded. “You’re only here for a week, though?”
“That’s alright. The Winter Session isn’t for another month. We’ll definitely be done by then,” he assured and I pretended like I was in fact reassured when I wasn’t.
“Alright, then,” Alexander stood up and stretched, putting his blazer back on and snatching up his tie. Malcolm shook hands with all of us and saw us to the door.
“What are you lot doing then?” Gina asked us, yawning. “Please tell me we don’t have to do this for another month.”
I scowled at her. “Way to be encouraging, Gina,” I said, shaking my head. “And I’m going home, I think.”
“Excuse me?” Alexander said suddenly, and I remembered that I was not in fact going home.
“Oh, right. I’m being dragged to dinner by Alexander,” I gave her a wide, false smile and she shrugged.
“Thanks for inviting me,” she told Alexander, before walking down the stairs. I chuckled.
“You can go instead of me,” I offered and she snorted.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere alone with this bloke.”
“Oi!” Alexander was outraged to say the least. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
We giggled all the way down. Gina hugged us both and then left, leaving me with Alexander.
“So – ” he began and it took a lot of strength not to sigh.
“Did you talk to the Working Mum’s Federation?” I asked straightaway and he chuckled.
“My car’s that way,” he said, and he held out his hand. I folded my arms and walked next to him. “I did call them. They said they can’t help pay it as such but they could maybe do a fundraiser like they do for the other mums.”
“A fundraiser? She’d need at least fifteen thousand galleons,” I told him and he nodded. We stopped at his car and he opened the door for me. Once he was driving, we began talking again.
“The fundraiser I was at yesterday? That one managed nearly a hundred thousand,” he said my eyes widened.
“How on Earth – ”
“I thought so too. But they get a lot of these high-profile blokes to cough up some coins, you know?”
“Like you?” I asked and he grinned.
“Damn straight. I’m not that rich though. Not to give away a hundred thousand, anyway,” he chuckled. “I mean, I could, but – ”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. If this is final, then I’m telling her that we’re operating on Saturday, provided the O.R.’s free.”
“When do you need the money?”
He bit his lip and I watched, pretending not to be fascinated. It was not fair that he was that bloody good looking. “Okay, you know what, call her right now. Call Helen. Take my mobile, it’s in my pocket.”
I looked at him strangely.
“Go on, my blazer pocket, take it out!” he said hurriedly and I did as he said. “Look for a Helen WMF.”
“Found it. Call her?”
“Yeah. And hold the phone to my ear,” he said. I shot him a look. “I can’t hold the phone while I’m driving, can I?”
I rang the number and placed it next to his ear when someone picked up.
“Hi Helen, it’s Alex,” he said charmingly and I heard an excited female voice at the other end, making me roll my eyes. “Listen; remember I told you about the mum who needed some galleons for her daughter’s surgery?” He paused and listened. “Yes, that’s the one. Anyway love,” I snorted here and he turned to glare at me, but the phone almost slipped from my hand. He turned back and continued speaking. “I think her surgery is being finalized for Saturday, so do you think you’ll be able to raise fifteen grand before that?” He waited. “The Minister, really? Oh alright. Perfect, perfect. Wonderful,” I switched hands and sighed. “Alright, thanks very much, Helen. Right, thank you. Have a good night! Yeah alright you can take it off now.”
“So?” I said, flexing my arm and dropping his phone back into his pocket.
“She’s having a fundraiser the day after tomorrow. Bruce Wicket is likely to make an appearance, so everybody’s going to want to show off a bit, right? She says fifteen thousand will be a piece of cake.”
“I can book the O.R. for Saturday then?”
“Actually, I was thinking why not go to the movies on Saturday,” he said and I looked at him like he was crazy.
“Yeah okay, you do that. I’ll be in the O.R.,” I said, picking up my own phone and dialling Maggie’s number. “Mags, hi it’s Molly. Yeah I need you to block the O.R. for Candy Hooper, age 3, she was my case with the Chief last week?” I scratched my neck and sat back in the seat. “No don’t book it yet, I need to talk to her mum. But just block it for now because I’m seventy five percent sure it’s going to be on Saturday, okay? Okay, thanks! Ah no, I’m just headed out with a .. err friend. Yeah. Yeah, okay. Bye.”
“Err... friend?” Alexander mimicked and I shrugged.
“I was going to say troll,” I replied, and he laughed.
“Don’t you get tired of it?” Alexander asked, once we were at a Lilline’s, one of the less shady bistros in Diagon Alley.
“Tired of what?” I asked, taking another bite out of my Yorkshire pudding.
“Working at St Mungos,” he said. “Being a Healer, really. I mean, just look at this one case. It’s completely consuming you.”
I shrugged. “Most of them at her age and given her situation don’t survive surgery. But it’s worth it. There’s always...I don’t know. Yeah, it blows, when they don’t make it, and when you’ve spent twelve hours hunched over an operating table for nothing. But it’s not for nothing. Ultimately, what you’re aiming for, is another shot at life. So it’s always worth it. And nothing really beats the joy of a successful surgery.”
“It’s exhausting though,” he said, and I agreed. “I’m exhausted just looking at you.”
I shook my head. “I love it. You get used to doing seventeen hour shifts and all the sleepless nights after a while. The kick, the thrill, of actually being in the O.R. – nothing really matters when you’re in there.”
“Impressive,” Alexander nodded his head. “You were always a bit of a workaholic, to be honest.”
“I was not!” I cried.
“Oh yeah,” he laughed. “You always signed in your assignments first and you’d do so much research, Merlin it was annoying.”
I laughed and hid my face. “I needed really good scores to get into Healer training, okay? I’m sorry it annoyed everybody.” I snorted.
“Perfect Molly Weasley, that’s what you were,” he said, shaking his head. “I never quite understood you.”
“That’s because you were stupid,” I said outright and he laughed loudly. I remembered my conversation with Meredith and sat up straight. “By the way, there’s something I wanted to ask you.”
“Yes, I am single,” he said, grinning from ear to ear and I glared at him.
“No, this is serious,” I said and he moaned, rubbing his eyes.
“Just when we were having some fun!”
“It’s important,” I emphasized and carried on anyway. “So you know how the Minister for Magic can’t help push any cases if he’s affiliated with it in any way?”
“You know about that rule, then?” I asked and he looked at me like I was an idiot.
“What idiot doesn’t?”
I sat back in my chair. “Okay. So do tell, what happens once you become Minister, if you become Minister. The final session is only in May and elections are in March. Assuming you win – ”
Alexander cleared his throat and dropped his napkin onto the table. “There’s no assuming if I’ll win, I can give it to you in writing that I will win.”
“Okay, that’s not good news for me, then,” I said honestly and he looked at me seriously.
“That rule is a thousand years old. I can maybe amend it, or – ”
“Oh come on, this is the oldest Wizarding law ever! You can’t just change it to suit your whims and fancies.”
“I can try,” he said and I wasn’t reassured.
“And if you fail?”
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Let’s try and get this through primaries first?”
I gave up, but only temporarily. “How are you so sure you’re going to win?”
“I have the entire Committee at my mercy,” he said, smiling this time.
“You’ve only been here a couple of weeks,” I said, looking at him suspiciously. He scoffed.
“I’m a political analyst, give me a bit more credit darling. I’ve been planning this for years,” he said.
“I still don’t see it,” I said frankly, mildly amused.
“What, me as Minister? See that’s the problem. Everyone’s gotten used to some octogenarian old fart who isn’t capable of making better decisions than my old landlady, that when they see someone with actual potential, they shoot down the idea.”
“I’m not shooting down anything. You just sound like all those other twats who’ve said they’ll change things and haven’t,” I said, holding up my hands.
“That’s the difference. I will change things.”
“So I’ve heard,” I said, and I wondered if I was testing his patience. “You’re lucky we don’t vote, you know. Because people need proof. We like being reassured, and hope is nice and pretty and all that. But we need proof. Proof that you’re going to be worthy of all those pamphlets with your face on it.”
“Would you vote for me?” he asked, leaning closer.
“I might feel obliged to do so,” I answered.
“Right,” he chuckled. The waiter brought the bill and we both grabbed it instantly. “Let go.”
“No! I can pay for my dinner perfectly well, thank you very much,” I said haughtily and he rolled his eyes.
“Come on, save your little ego trip for later. Dinner was my idea anyway,” he said, pulling it towards himself. I caught it with my other hand and pulled back.
“Alexander, let go. Don’t be a pretentious twat!”
“If you don’t let go – ”
“You’ll what?” I challenged and I regretted it immediately. He bent his face towards my hand and I gave a yelp, smacking his face away from my hands in the process. He yanked the bill towards himself and laughed for a good ten minutes. I felt like a bloody moron.
“You won’t turn into a frog if I kiss you, you know,” he said laughing and I glared at him. “That reaction was a bit extreme. I’m offended.”
“Justshutup,” I managed, cheeks still burning. He laughed and stood up.
“Come on, let’s go.”
I checked my phone as we got back into his car and saw three missed calls from my dad. I sighed and shook my head. He’d have a fit if he found out I was out with a boy, all by myself.
“What are we doing next?” Alexander asked, drumming his hands on the steering wheel.
“Are you kidding me? It’s nearly midnight.”
“I like London best at midnight,” he said and I shot him a look.
“I’ve been on my feet since six in the morning,” I complained and he shrugged.
“I’m not asking you to run a triathlon,” he argued and I sighed and closed my eyes, giving up. “Fine, I’ll take you home if you’re going to pout like that. Give me directions once we get to the bridge.”
I’m not sure when, but I fell asleep at some point. I felt Alexander nudge me and I woke with a start.
“Merlin, you sleep like a hippogriff,” he chuckled and I rubbed my eyes. “Where do I turn?”
“Right,” I mumbled. “What time is it?”
“Fifteen past midnight. Past your bedtime, then?” he teased and I glared at him.
“Ugh bugger, I have to be up in another four hours,” I groaned, collapsing back onto the seat.
“My place is actually closer to St Mungos,” he said. “Why don’t you sleep over?”
I snorted, eyes still shut. “Not bloody likely.”
“You’ll regret it tomorrow, when you have to scramble for a floo network at four in the morning,” he said and I opened my eyes just to roll them at him. He chuckled. “You do that a lot. You roll your eyes at me all the time. And you’re always scowling. Just at me, though. Actually, to be honest, I haven’t seen you smile all day. You’ve just been a grumpy little hinkypunk.”
“Why don’t you just keep talking and I’ll pretend like I’m listening,” I responded, covering my ears.
“Where do I turn here?”
“Right. There’s a small white sign further down, you have to take the left there.”
“Are you going to be alright, all by yourself?”
I laughed this time.
“Oh, she laughs. Who would have known,” he said, smiling himself. “Alert the press.”
“What can I say, your concern amuses me,” I said. “Left here. Bugger it’s dark.”
We sat in silence, except for me telling him where to turn. Once in front of my gate, he turned off the engine and I picked up my bag.
“We should do this again,” he said.
“No, you drive me nuts, to be honest,” I said, giving him a knowing look. He grinned.
“You mean that in the best way possible.”
“I absolutely do not,” I chuckled. We sat there for another few seconds, him looking at me and me looking either looking at him or my shoes. I felt him lean forward and looked up suddenly, and his face was just a few inches away from mine. It happened so fast, I wasn’t even sure if it did, but I felt his rough stubble against my cheek and soft lips just next to my ear.