Chapter 21 : Love rule #20
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Love rule #20 - Fast thinking can mean the difference between love and death, or incarceration
I sat up suddenly in my bed. Faint moonlight struggled through my barred window, and I wondered what had woken me in the middle of the night.
Then I noticed it. A patronus, the small, shaggy wolf which I knew to be Teddy’s, was sitting at the end of my bed.
I leapt up, pushing the thin hospital blankets off my legs and scrambling closer to the shining apparition. My heart was beating unevenly, from my sudden wake up and from the anticipation of what Teddy had to say.
“Teddy?” I gasped, kneeling in front of the patronus. I briefly marvelled at the genius of using a patronus for communication – all letters went through reception, and the air space around all of Mungo’s was protected from broomsticks and magical creatures such as hippogriffs.
“Sorry I took so long, Rose. I’m on my own so I had to improvise. Your dad changed his mind about helping me.” The voice sounding from the wolf was clear and loud, and I quickly shushed him. To be found out now would be the end of any escape plan.
“Talk quieter. Dad doesn’t want anything to do with it? How come?”
“I think he figures that you’re meant to be getting better in here. He trusts those damn Healers too much, probably because of how well he has been healing; trusts them enough not to question your lack of contact any further than he already has. I think that your Trumpleton bloke must have said something reassuring.”
I felt my bottom lip wobble slightly, before pushing the news from my mind. I understood Dad’s concerns, but it would have been nice to have his help.
“So what’s the plan?” I asked, slightly frustrated that I hadn’t been able to escape by myself. This place required a contact on the outside. In light of a ridiculous and possibly illegal escape from the ward, the logical, rule-abiding side of me had approached Trumpleton earlier that day to ask to be released. He had laughed in my face.
“You have to wait another week. Use that week to get as healthy as you possibly can. I don’t think anyone in the family will approve if I bring you out still waif-like.”
I started to protest at his last comment, but he held up a paw to stop me. “Rose, you looked great when I saw you five days ago. Still much thinner than you were this time last year, but great. I just need to reassure myself that I’m not doing something stupid by helping you get out. I want you to be healthy again.”
I was touched by his concern, and tears briefly clouded my vision. “I understand, Ted. I am feeling so much better now than when I first got in here, but much of it has been an improvement that I’ve forced myself to make, not the healers. I will get so much better if I can just be back at school with my friends again. I know how to do it now.”
I felt as if the little wolf patronus was studying me, and almost laughed at the absurdity of the situation. Sitting on my bed talking to an apparition – I really had gone crazy.
“And your little friend? Lila?”
“Lucy,” I corrected. “She’s sick but she’s improved since I’ve been here. I asked her who looks after her, and she said she lived with her aunt before here. I’m a bit worried about suddenly turning up on her doorstep and surprising her, but hopefully she will be a rational person.”
The Teddy-Patronus barked in laughter, and I half-smiled, too. People were never rational when you needed them to be.
“Here’s to hoping. What’s her last name? Maybe I can track down the aunt before next Sunday. If I can’t find her, what to do with Lucy is one part of the plan that we can decide upon when we get to it.”
“Hollingberry,” I said, and the patronus looked puzzled.
“Hollingberry,” he repeated, “Now why does that name sound familiar?”
I shrugged as I settled back onto my bed, hope blossoming in my chest as I thought of freedom. “What about my wand, Teddy?”
“I haven’t forgotten,” the little wolf told me, “Here’s what we’re going to do next Sunday…”
Sitting at breakfast the next Sunday, nine days after I spoke to Teddy’s patronus, I was hard pressed to contain my nerves. Looking around the table at my fellow detainees, I couldn’t help but feel almost grateful for my time in Mungo’s. It had changed me, and for the better. I’d never been so mentally strong, even if I did still struggle with self-image. Life was starting to make sense again, and I had hope for the future.
“Is that all you can do?” I encouraged Gretchen, who was picking at her scrambled eggs. She rolled her eyes at me and swallowed another mouthful. Another small victory. My own plate was scraped clean, and I breathed through the panic of my heavy stomach. I was handling it well lately, and there had only been one incident in the past week where I felt I couldn’t deal with eating.
“Anyone getting a visitor this afternoon?” Emily asked, and I could have kissed her for mentioning it. There were various nods and head shakes around the table in answer to her question. Lucy, sitting next to me as always, shook her head.
I took a deep breath and turned to the small girl. Making sure my voice carried, I asked, “Do you want to come to my room after lunch, then? I can show you that braid I was telling you about.”
Just as she opened her mouth to reply, a Warden’s voice cut across our conversation. “I don’t think so, Miss Hollingberry. If you don’t have any visitors, self-reflection in one’s room is non-negotiable.”
While Lucy’s excited smile turned into a sad line, my heart lifted. Phase one of the plan was complete.
“Seems a bit unfair, doesn’t it?” I said cheerily, beginning the objections to authority that came so easily to me now.
“What does, Miss Weasley?” my warden Cecelia questioned flatly, looking past me. Really, I don’t think they’d miss me much after this afternoon.
“The way we’re all shut up alone so often. You’d think constant social interaction would be beneficial to us all. Help the little ones come out of their shells a bit.” I nudged Lucy, who poked her tongue out at me. I loved when she acted her age – it was a sure sign that there was still a functioning little girl hiding in her frail body.
“Enough, Miss Weasley,” another warden snapped, and I smiled lazily at her.
“Do accept my apologies, great and respected figure of authority,” I said sarcastically, and I heard some of the girls giggle.
“See you tomorrow then, Rose,” Emily pre-empted, and I grinned.
“To your room, Weasley!” Cecelia yelled over the laughter, and I stood up and bowed. Under the pretence of my arrogant and uncaring display, I quickly spoke to Lucy.
“Stay awake during reflection time, okay? I’m going to come and visit you.”
“NOW!” yelled my warden, and I quickly straightened, forcing the sarcastic smile back onto my face. Lucy only looked at me with big eyes, and I winked at her. Saluting the livid wardens and grinning girls, I marched out of the dining room and into my room, feeling safe in the knowledge that no one would check on me until dinner as punishment for speaking and acting as I did. Cecelia slammed my door shut, and I sat on the edge of my bed.
Phase two complete, and now time to play the waiting game.
At about one o’clock, I started to hear voices coming from a few corridors away. At last, the families coming to visit their sick daughters. Various shoes clacked on the cold floors, and I waited until the noise faded away. Trumpleton would be in the dining room, simpering and lying to the visiting families, along with most of the wardens and other healers. Those wardens not in the dining room would be stuffing their faces in the staffroom until dinner time.
I stood up, relieved to finally be doing something. The long wait was starting to do my head in. I looked around the room and felt a stab of regret at leaving my school books behind. They were piled neatly on my bedside table, but I couldn’t take anything but a small bag with me. A girl carrying bags of books and clothes down the corridor wouldn’t get far.
I crossed the small room to the door, peering down the corridor nervously. Time for phase three: get Lucy and go to reception.
Hastily making my way to Lucy’s room, I didn’t see a single person. It was eerie, as if everyone had simply disappeared. It wasn’t until I reached Lucy that I was reassured that there were still people in the ward.
“Lucy. Lucy!” I gasped, skidding to a stop at her door. The tiny girl looked up in confusion,
“Rose? What are you doing here?”
“Getting you. Come on, we’re leaving,” I said, crossing the small room and pulling her to her feet. Hope blossomed in her eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“Going, leaving, escaping. Come on, let’s go!” I said quickly.
“What about my stuff?” she asked, and I shook my head.
“We don’t have any time to pack anything up.”
She gave a small, scared nod and followed me out of the room.
“I can’t believe this,” she gasped as we hurried along, and I squeezed her hand.
“Here,” I said, stopping and opening my arms. Lucy quickly climbed up, clinging to my middle. She weighed next to nothing, but in my own still-weak state she felt heavy. Burying her head in my hair, I heard her snivelling and brief doubts about what we were doing crossed my mind.
Those doubts left when we reached reception, and I saw who was standing at the desk.
“I made an appointment,” a man was insisting, looking down his overly-large nose at the receptionist and rubbing his bald head.
I shrank back behind the door frame, watching and waiting for my moment. My arms were wrapped tightly around Lucy, who still had her head hidden.
“I’m sorry sir, but you’re not in the book. Perhaps you spoke to the wrong department.”
“I insist you take me to your superior,” the man replied, familiar brown eyes meeting mine as I peered around the door. I’d know those eyes anywhere.
“How about I call him…” the receptionist, who I remembered as Balfour, said uncertainly. Teddy frowned impressively and shook his bald head.
“I don’t think so. Do you know who I am?”
The receptionist clearly had no idea, but slowly stood regardless, pushing her chair back. “This way, sir.”
Teddy followed her towards where I was hidden behind the door, stopping when he reached me.
“Pardon, my lace has come undone.”
He knelt down and rolled his wand towards me when she turned her back impatiently. I bent, still holding tightly onto Lucy, and picked it up. I gripped it ecstatically, pleased to have access to wand magic once more.
“Right, fixed,” Teddy said, straightening. The receptionist turned around and frowned impatiently at him.
Once their footsteps faded away, I darted around the door and entered the lobby. Trumpleton’s office was to our left, and I quickly approached the door.
“You have to hop down,” I said quietly to Lucy. She obliged, but still clung onto my shirt. I reached out and grasped the handle, turning. The door didn’t budge, so I held the wand out in front of me.
“Alohamora,” I whispered, and was rewarded by the sound of the lock clicking. I quickly pushed the door open and pulled Lucy through, before slamming it shut behind me.
“Stay put, okay?” I said, detaching Lucy from my shirt and gripping her shoulders, “This won’t take long.”
She gave a small nod and crouched down next to the door, watching me with wide eyes. I surveyed the office before me. His desk sat in the middle of the room, with chairs arrayed in front of it. Behind the desk was a large window that I didn’t remember from my first visit. Most importantly, there was a row of filing cabinets along one wall. I hurried to the one that had ‘W-Z’ displayed on the front and pulled it open.
“Warring, Wealsie, Wester, Wheezer…” I trailed off, running my fingers over the files. Mine wasn’t in the filing cabinet. “Shit! Accio file!”
Nothing came soaring towards me, and I was ruffling through the names one last time when I heard the footsteps outside and the door handle turning. Heart in my mouth, I shut the cabinet as quietly and as quickly as possible and threw myself under Trumpleton’s desk. Please, Merlin, don’t let it be Trumpleton.
“Lucy!” I hissed, holding my hand out to her. She jumped up, face pale, and joined me under the desk as the door opened.
Eyes squeezed shut in fright, we listened as someone crossed the office, placed something on the desk and exited the room. The door was slammed shut.
Surely, just maybe, Dad could have come and taken me out of this place. Does it seriously have to be this hard? Do I really, actually have to escape from a ministry institution?
I squashed my doubts with a resolute yes, because I tried to get out in a legal way and opened my eyes. I could almost hear my blood pulsing quickly through my veins as I once again took a moment to calm myself. If I didn’t find my wand, then there was no point in leaving.
The consequences were unthinkable.
One last deep breath and I was ready to start searching again. I had pushed Lucy back to where she was before and I was crawling out from under the desk when an irregularity in the desk caught my eye. Just above my head, about where Trumpleton’s right hand would be if he was sitting down, was a panel of wood that didn’t match the rest of the desk. I grinned, grateful that he would resort to Muggle techniques in order to hide something and grateful that Mum had encouraged me to read a variety of Muggle stories when I was growing up.
I reached up, poking and prodding at the panel determinedly, and was rewarded when a draw popped out and hit me in the face. Pain lanced through my head, and I almost laughed. Where were my smarts gone, given that I was sitting on the ground trying to open something that I knew would open level to my face? Drawing upon some Gryffindor courage, I quickly wiped away involuntary tears and pulled myself up onto Trumpleton’s plush office chair.
The drawer had been magically expanded, and I rifled through the files. Some of the names were familiar, some were not. I kept looking, until I found my own face smiling up at me.
I grabbed the file from its fellows and eagerly opened, only to be greeted by the glorious sight of my wand. I snatched it up, beaming happily as I tucked Teddy’s wand into my pocket. It felt indescribably good to have it between my fingers after more than a month of no magic, and I resisted the strange urge I had of rubbing it against my face. Resting it on the desk, I quickly glanced through the rest of my file.
There were various notes written by Madam Rivers during my time in the hospital wing, notes from Doctor Lewis, newspaper clippings about Dad’s illness and my own declining weight, a letter written to Trumpleton from the editor of the Daily Prophet and a large wad of envelopes all with my name written on the front in Callie’s, Sophie’s, Albus’ and even Scorpius’ handwriting.
My anger was growing as I stared at the huge pile of letters. Why were they kept from me? My eyes fell once more on the letter from the Daily Prophet, and I picked it up.
Dear Hr Trumpleton,
I would like to extend my gratitude over your recent contact with my esteemed publishment. Your letter detailing your current patient was most welcome, and will serve us both well in the future.
As you may imagine, this is a difficult matter. Due to the delicacy of publishing articles of a slanderous nature, one cannot simply publish articles at ones whim. One must wait and observe, and be sure of one’s facts. Therefore, I ask that you keep Miss Weasley under your careful eye for as long as possible. For this, you will be handsomely rewarded.
And, as one understands, this reward may be enough to cover one’s rather significant debts. Discovery of a scandal will double any such reward.
I look forward to future conversations,
I immediately recognised the name from History of Magic lectures, and I crumbled the letter involuntarily before shoving it in my pocket. That one missive answered so many questions, but opened up my mind to more doubt and confusion.
My musing was interrupted as Lucy spoke. “What were you reading? Can we go?”
I grabbed my wand from the table and pointed it at my thick file. “Diminuendo,” I muttered, and shoved the now-tiny wad of papers into my pocket alongside Teddy’s wand and the letter from Avery. I wanted to think more on the letter, but it was time for phase four: go to the elevator.
I twirled my wand through my fingers, getting used to it again before I called Lucy to my side.
“We’re going to leave now, okay? I need you to be as quiet as possible, because the spell I’m going to cast doesn’t silence sounds.”
“Okay. Who was that man who gave you the wand?”
“Teddy Lupin. He’s helping us. He’s really nice, I promise,” I reassured her as she climbed back into my arms.
“Okay,” she said again, and I raised my wand and cast the disillusionment spell. I used to be able to disillusion someone perfectly, but my magic was weak at the moment, from lack of practice and lack of proper nutrition. Lucy and I wavered into view briefly, before disappearing again. I’d have to focus hard to keep the spell up.
I slipped back through the office door, sparing the room a last, contemptuous glance for the man to whom it belonged. We waited quietly by the receptionist’s desk for Teddy to come back from his trip around the ward, Lucy tracing patterns on my back to distract herself. I felt a rush of affection for the small girl, and made a silent promise to help her get better.
After what felt like a lifetime, we finally heard voices and footsteps coming down the hall.
“Well, that was a waste of time,” Teddy was saying cheerfully, and I could imagine the receptionist’s eyes rolling at his comment.
I focussed my magic to ensure the disillusionment hadn’t slipped, and waited for Teddy to stop before the receptionist’s desk as she once again took her seat.
I touched his shoulder to let him know we were there, and a tiny smile lifted the corners of his mouth.
“Well,” he said cheerfully, “Have a good day.”
He was turning away as more footsteps hurried down the hall. Lucy’s grip around me tightened, and panic rose red-hot through my chest as he came into view. Trumpleton.
Teddy began to turn quickly towards the elevator, and I followed, breathing shallowly.
“A moment, if you please,” Trumpleton called after Teddy, who stiffened.
“Who were you claiming to be visiting?”
“Are you a relation?”
“Yes, an uncle. Good day.”
“A moment, if you please,” Trumpleton repeated, voice dangerously sharp. “Lucy Hollingberry’s only relation is an aunt. The rest of her family is dead.”
Lucy whimpered in my ear, and her arms tightened around me.
“I’m a distant uncle,” Teddy said coolly, stepping towards the escalator.
“I don’t think so. Call security,” Trumpleton said to the receptionist, who was watching the proceedings with wide eyes, “They can sort this imposter’s purpose.”
At his words, my disillusionment charm wavered. The look on Trumpleton’s face would have been funny if I wasn’t so utterly terrified.
“Weasley!” he began to thunder, but in the next moment I disappeared again. A piece of material had fallen over Lucy and I, and I struggled silently, believing that we’d been captured.
It wasn’t until a pair of strong arms went around my back and a voice spoke in my ear that I realised we were still relatively free.
“Be still, Rose.”
At the sound of that voice, I couldn’t possibly have moved even if a herd of angry centaurs were galloping towards me.
Outside the invisibility cloak, Trumpleton was staring at where we’d been standing seconds before.
Teddy appeared to have regained his composure, because he said “No, good sir. My name is Stevenson, not Weasley. There is no need for security when I can assure you that I am certainly a relation of Lucy Hollingberry; indeed I am quite offended that I am being questioned by one such as yourself.”
Teddy ran disapproving eyes over Trumpleton’s ruffled, panicked appearance, raising an eyebrow.
“Now, if you’re finished with your absurd accusations, I will be on my way,” Teddy continued haughtily, stepping into the elevator before anyone could protest.
The pair of hands around me gripped onto my waist, pulling Lucy and I into the elevator behind Teddy. My almost-cousin pushed the button for the ground floor, and my image of Trumpleton was cut off by the doors closing.
“Rose? Rose, are you okay?” Teddy asked, looking around the elevator blindly. I tore the invisibility cloak, which should have been with Albus at Hogwarts, off our little group, gasping and almost hysterical. I stumbled into a corner of the small elevator, my now-aching arms still clutched around Lucy.
I ignored Teddy and his worried, now-back-to-normal face, my eyes glued on the last person I ever expected to see that day.
“Who is that, Rose?” Lucy whispered, and I rubbed a shaking hand over her bony back. I couldn’t open my mouth to answer, so the person in question answered for me.
“Hi there. I’m Scorpius. Scorpius Malfoy.”
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