Chapter 5 : In which I worry about messages
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Sirius once sent me this bloody message telling me to meet them in the Astronomy Tower. I was annoyed at first, not wanting to lug myself all the way up there, but it ended up being a night to remember. We set off about twenty fireworks into the crystal clear night and woke up half the castle. We did end up getting two weeks of detention, but it was worth it.
Messages always have a purpose to them, whether it’s insignificant or life altering. And you can’t necessarily tell the difference between the two at the time. What if I’d never gone to meet them in the tower? That was in fifth year, when we were just getting to be mates. Would we have gotten as close as we are now? Or would it have all been different?
Then there are the messages you get, and you can’t do a think about. The ones that you hate, but you can’t change them. You can try to ignore them, but it doesn’t do one bloody bit of good. Like when Bertram says he’s leaving- that message is crap. Then there’s the message in this morning’s paper that says a family was murdered last night but won’t give names till further investigation.
That would mean nothing to others. It’s just another statistic. But it means the world to those close to Bertram because we trusted he’d be okay; he was getting out. But what if he didn’t and that family was his?
So yeah – the messages that are unclear are definitely the worst.
“I know you’re a good witch Hughes, but being a Healer requires more than just skill with a wand,” Healer Davies said, standing in front of me with a clipboard. Giving me yet another message to try and sort through. I blinked, cleared my head and focussed on her. She was the woman I trained under. A soft spoken lady who could’ve been a Quidditch player but chose healing instead.
I sighed and rubbed my eyes trying to clear the images that danced across them and invaded my every thought. They’d been doing that all day and I couldn’t even properly pay attention to my poisons and antidotes lesson this morning.
“I know, but I also know that being all doe eyed over a patient isn’t going to make them better,” I said. I shut my eyes briefly, still seeing Bertram close the door to my flat behind him. My mind had been playing the memory of him leaving over and over and sometimes his faced morphed into Sirius’. Sometimes I’d see them both dead. I couldn’t stop it; it was like The Dashing Gryffins new single where the singer repeated his lyrics again and again and again. To the point you wanted to huck a mouldy sandwich at their not so dashing faces.
“What would you do with him, then?” Healer Davies quizzed. We had started walking down the corridor and away from the patient we were examining. He’d been hit with a mean curse and they had momentarily stopped the curse from spreading further but it was only a matter of time.
We can explain. I heard whispers in my brain and a doleful Bronson appeared, his blonde hair ruffled up even more. But can loss ever really be explained? Properly explained like maths or letters when we were still in grade school, as if it was an easy thing? There would always be gaping holes and empty spaces that filled the air like smoke. Messages that can’t be learned.
“Erm-” I said and paused, trying to concentrate on the task at hand. I pushed last night’s conversations from my mind before trying to answer. “His arm will have to be amputated. There is nothing else we can do, is there? I mean, dark magic can’t be neutralised easily and it’s only a matter of time before it’ll start spreading again and god forbid it get to his heart.”
“So how would you suggest telling him?” I knew where she was going and I didn’t like it. It just seemed ridiculous to beat about the bush when we all knew what needed to be done. Like The Prophet, just tell us who the family is and put me out of my misery. I just need to know.
We dodged around a Healer who was racing down the corridor with a few vials in his wrinkled hands and a harried expression on his face.
He doesn’t want to go. It seemed like such a lie. But I knew it wasn’t, it wasn’t and the logical part of my brain knew that. It did. But it hurt, somewhere inside me it grew up like weeds. This is why I never wanted anyone close. I didn’t want the weeds or the pain. The messages that dangled from their words – his words. From Sirius’ silence which was my silence as well because I wouldn’t be the first to break it.
What did it all mean?
“Are you alright Eleanor? You seem a bit distracted today,” Healer Davies asked, using my first name which she wasn’t prone to do. I blinked, clearing the images from my mind yet again and nodded. It was weird how these things kept coming back, distracting me to the extent that I felt like I couldn’t really breathe. But I had to do this, to keep going because how else are supposed to get through this?
“Yes- fine. I’d tell him that the curse got too deep and that in order for him to survive he’s going to lose his arm,” I replied. Healer Davies sighed and she stopped our trek down the corridor. She looked into a room which held wizards and witches suffering from fatal curses. There was nothing to do for them. The curse had wrapped itself around the heart or some vital organ too quickly and it was slowly sucking the life out of them. Some of them were from Crucio but others were from curses that not even the healers could identify.
I had learned quickly during my training that there were darker curses than just the Unforgivables. Slow death was always the worst.
“And what would you tell them?” She asked. She had a faraway look in her eye as she looked on at the patients that couldn’t be fixed. There were some that were curled up in a ball and moaning, others were drooling, and a man on the far end of the room was as stiff as a board, though he was alive because every so often he would sit straight up in the bed and scream. No one knew the nightmares he saw beyond his closed lids.
“I see where you’re going,” I said, though I know I didn’t sound convinced. It seemed like a lot of extra work for something that wasn’t going to work. At least, for someone who didn’t have a chance of keeping his arm. We knew there wasn’t anything else. They had tried already. I mean, there were always more wizards and witches waiting to be helped. Why waste their time too?
“Patients need to know that there is hope, that there is something beyond this wretched war. We know how much time we have for Mr. Jarvis before it starts spreading again and perhaps we can find a spell to reverse it or perhaps a way to keep the curse confined to his arm. If he has no hope he could give up. It is the same with patients like them-” she pointed into the room. She continued walking and I followed. “They have to know that hope isn’t lost. Why’s that Hughes?”
Bertram is a muggleborn as you know; there is nothing for him or his family here. No hope. I closed my eyes briefly sifting through my thoughts which seemed to grow with every passing moment. These thoughts were haunting me like a damned ghost. Like I had done something wrong.
But Bertram had been a fighter. Where did that leave the rest of us?
I looked over at Healer Davies who was looking over her charts and I know she’d wait for the answer to her question all day if she had to. She had this ridiculous amount of patience instilled in her as if she was time itself.
“If they thought that life was really over, that there was nothing left to fight for then it would be like a self fulfilling prophesy wouldn’t it? They’d fade faster- die faster. The ones who gave them the curse would win in more than one way; they took more than just their life but their soul as well.”
“Right, if they can still fight, than so can everyone else. Also- if they are going to die,” she paused and looked at me meaningfully. “We want them to die with as much comfort as possible. That is the main reason. If there is still comfort and love there is hope, even if only a sliver of it.”
I nodded absently.
“Be sure to remember that Hughes,” she said as we reached the lift. She tapped the front of it with her wand a few times before it opened up for us to step in. The lift zoomed down to the main floor.
It was odd to think that Bertram was gone from our lives and we’d only see him again if we made it out alive. It was an eerie thought, that someone you’d known for seven odd years was gone. Maybe not gone forever, but the way things were looking he might as well be.
“You won’t hate him, right Eleanor?” The memory of Amelia’s voice rang in my ears as I leaned against the wall of the lift, waiting while it lumbered downward, unable to block out the night before. I couldn’t stop seeing Bertram do the one thing I could only dream of. Leaving. Getting out of this hell- but I couldn’t shake the hope that it had to be over soon. It had to be, and leaving meant admitting that it wouldn’t be.
Bertram left and although it was to appease his worried family, to try and keep them safe, he was still gone. Deserted. Left us all here and it may not have helped at all. They may have been taken before they even had the chance to flee, and that would be pretty damn ironic, wouldn’t it? Because they didn’t want this to happen. They wanted life and maybe, if that article in the Prophet was about them, got death.
“Did you hear me Eleanor?”
“Erm-” I sputtered. She smiled lightly at me.
“I said I’m giving you leave for the day, you don’t look well,” Healer Davies said. She said it in a no nonsense type way that rarely left for any wiggle room.
“I’m fine- really.” I said but her pale lips frowned and her narrow forehead creased with lines as she stepped off the lift which came to a shuttering halt. “It’s just that – you know that family on the front of the paper this morning?”
“Yes, but the names were not mentioned till further investigation, unless you know differently.”
“No- not really, just a feeling – a friend was um – well,” I shifted uncomfortably and gnawed on my lower lip. I wasn’t sure how much to say; it wasn’t really my secret to give out since he came to us in good faith. Plus, I didn’t really like chatting about this to my Healer. It made it seem like I was going to some sort of confessional to atone for not being able to stop it.
“Whatever the case, your head isn’t in it today. Go and do what you need to do and come back tomorrow with a clear head,” she said pointedly. I nodded, knowing that there wasn’t anything I could say that would convince her otherwise.
I turned on my heel to leave the hospital through the toy shop entrance. There was a few loitering people in the hallways, probably waiting for any news of their loved ones. The superintendent at the reception was tapping her fingers against desk as she filled out some charts of newly arrived witches and wizards. It was sad how many came in each day and how many of them were absolutely useless cases which took time from the Healers who needed to help curse or poison cases. Emergencies rather than stupidities.
“Oh and Eleanor, I do hope your friend is okay,” she called after me.
I was heading down a hallway which was the wing for temporary cases, people who may have broken a wrist or a spell backfired on them while cooking. Second and third year trainee’s, those wearing the pale yellow or brown robes respectively, were usually dotted around this wing taking care of things with only a few supervisory Healers to make sure nothing got too mucked up.
The walls were painfully white, much like a muggle hospital, and the waiting rooms and furniture had the same drab decoration: hard chairs that made your arse numb and magazines that were as interesting as tin foil. Which is to say I’d rather eat dirt than to get in a mile of those things.
Anyway, I was drifting down the hallway amidst the chaos and moving bodies trying to avoid the harried Healers and the drunkards. Their smell was about as delightful as Snape’s greasy hair. I smiled at them though because I did understand.
If only briefly. It’s better to be out of your mind than to face all this.
It was strange when such a despicable habit seemed like an okay alternative to reality. My eyes caught onto Healer O’Kelly, an Irish woman with flying carrot hair. She graduated Hogwarts only four years ago. She was hard to miss because she was always flailing about and knocking things over. However, everyone loved her anyway. She smiled and waved at me when our eyes met. The freckles around her eyes crinkled up and she dodged a third year trainee who was pushing an older gentleman quickly up the hall and to the lift.
She opened a door into what I assumed was a treatment room and she looked down the hallway, her green eyes flashing darker and it was only when she rushed inside that I noticed the person behind her. A tall man with slicked brown hair and a slouching gait. Our eyes only locked for a moment before he followed Healer O’Kelley in and the door shut behind them.
I stopped in my tracks for a moment. A woman with pinned up hair swore at me as she knocked into my back at my sudden stop. I ignored her and stared at the closed door for a moment, not sure why I was bothered by it. Bothered wouldn’t even be the right word... intrigued maybe- or just curious. It was normal obviously to see patients here but I recognised the man and when our eyes met, my blue ones with his hazel, something passed between us that I couldn’t decipher.
It was as if he knew me. Could see into me. I don’t know. I frowned and forced myself forward into the training room to sign out for the day and collect my shoes. Who cares about a slouchy man, he probably just fancied the pants off me and was thinking a staring contest was the best way to win my affection. Think again buster, I’m too good at those to be taken down by someone who slouches about like a sloth.
Soon I was Flooing back home because I was crap at Apparating and thoughts of the man were far from my mind. Instead I focussed on what Londy the cat needed for the night and if I could convince him that leashes are the best thing since cleaning charms. I imagined us taking walks through Victoria Park and he’d scare all the dogs by his roundness and livid meow. Bertram would’ve liked that.
Amelia, however, was waiting for me in the flat and Londy was sleeping lazily in the corner with a look on his face that clearly said disturb me and die.
“You alright?” she said. She was leaning against the slightly yellowish counter that I think must have been white once. Her arms were crossed in front of her, one hand clutching a note and the other her wand. I would’ve been wary except for the smile that lit up her face.
“Alright,” I replied, almost mechanically. My body just felt weary, achy as if I was getting the flu, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I didn’t want to think of it anymore though. Wanted to pretend that everything was fine.
“Cool,” she said. A silence reigned for a moment as she uncrossed her arms and pushed herself off the counter. I brushed some remaining ashes off my robes and threw off the outer robe that was the heaviest and most uncomfortable.
“What’s up? You look like you’ve just defeated Voldemort himself,” I said. She rolled her eyes but it didn’t keep the look of pure unadulterated joy that spread across her face like the bloody sun.
“I’m going to be a godmother!” she squealed, throwing her hands up in the air. “Richard stole their first child but they’re expecting again! Second children are always the best, anyway. Except for Richard of course, but he’s an anomaly.”
“Almost all your dreams have come true!” I said with a small smirk as I grabbed a package of biscuits.
“Shut up, Eleanor. This is just one more thing I can tick off my five year plan.”
“You’re too dependent on that thing.”
“Well you wait, in ten years I will be married, have a great job, and children -successful, and where will you be?”
“Happy,” I said snorting. Amelia laughed.
“Plans are good my dear friend, you wait and see.”
“I’d rather get eaten by a shark,” I replied. “Speaking of eating, what are we going to do tonight?”
“Em- there’s that new Chinese take away?” she said. “Or – we could try to cook some pasta or something, I don’t know.”
“Last time we tried that we burned the water. I vote Chinese.” I popped another biscuit in my mouth. “Or biscuit soup.”
Amelia rolled her eyes and threw the note at me. It fluttered to the ground halfway between us and we both just sighed.
“Bertram would’ve remembered to scrunch it up,” Amelia said. I shrugged and poured some cat food into Londy’s dish. “Or made some joke that I’m basically an idiot. I tried to eavesdrop on some conversations today about that family but I couldn’t make out any names if they were even mentioned at all.”
“Wish people would learn to speak louder so eavesdropping was easier,” I muttered. She nodded her head.
“Bronson owled too, said not to worry until we know for sure.”
“So helpful, Bronson is,” I said. I sighed and sat down on our couch. We really needed to do something about this one couch thing, it did seem quite pathetic. Like taking muggle studies when you are in fact a muggle. I think Mafalda Hopkirk from Gryffindor did that, though she was a bit daft.
“It’s his forte, don’t you know,” she replied. It wasn’t, obviously, but we didn’t want to tell him that. We sighed again because it was easier to communicate that way. Then we didn’t have to actually voice our fears, and maybe that could stop them from coming true.
We continued chatting for a while as we cleaned up around the flat. Well – she cleaned, I moved positions and sat in the middle of the living room, popping more biscuits in my mouth. She was always better at cleaning spells than I was; I stopped paying attention in those lessons because – well, I was usually trying to catch up on some Zzzz’s. It seemed like as good as any lesson to skip out on for that noble reason.
Until Bertram would charm my parchment to do flips in mid air causing the professor to actually notice us Hufflepuff’s. He did it almost every time I feel asleep, too. You’d have thought I’d have learned to sit farther away from the bloke, but he was always hard to get away from. He liked to just hang about, kind of like a cold; it was always a bit annoying. Though, I don’t think I would mind that now because at least I’d know if he was alive.
Eventually we decided it was time to find that Chinese place because our stomachs couldn’t handle us ignoring them any longer. We left Diagon Alley and ventured into muggle London. It was strangely quiet- calm, and felt safe as if it was beyond the grasp of the war. The pavement was still gleaming from the afternoon rain and water was flowing down into the drainpipes, picking up bits of rubbish and fags along the way. It certainly didn’t feel magical here; however it did feel like a world without an end. Without things to fear.
For a moment, as we dodged passed business men and shop owners closing up their shops for the night, I felt untouchable.
Note: Massive thanks to me beta JChrissy, she always has great sugguestions and has made this chapter so much better when she's finished with it.
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