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Chapter 9 : Caught Off Guard
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By Friday evening my sleeping schedule had somehow gotten screwed. It had only taken a couple days, but there you have it. I had purple bags under my eyes. I showed up at shell cottage and my mum went into instant worry mode. Seriously, she needn’t worry. I could take care of myself. Things had just been hectic at the hospital in the last fortnight.
“Louis, you really need to take better care of yourself,” Mum said.
“I’m fine, Mum,” I said. “Honest. I’ve been busy is all.”
“That’s no excuse.”
“Mum—” I started, but was interrupted by Dad.
“Listen to your mum.”
I nodded, not feeling up for arguing with Mum over how much sleep I was getting. I really had been getting enough sleep up until a couple nights ago. I was on-call tomorrow night, though, and it was also the full moon. That basically meant that I would be getting a fire-call at some point in the night since there was sure to be another attack.
Both Hugo and Albus would be working, stationed at different posts. I was glad that I was only a healer. I was not the adventurous type in the slightest. Plus I was afraid of what could be lurking in the dark, in this case there would be a werewolf lurking. It wasn’t the dark I was afraid of, though, just what lurked in it. There was some scary shit out there.
I looked over toward my nephew, sitting in Teddy’s lap. The kid looked exhausted; his eyelids drooped, threatening to shut any second. It was always tough seeing him the closer to the full moon it got.
I walked over to the couch in the living room. “Hey, little buddy,” I said, ruffling his sandy hair.
“Tired,” he said, letting his head fall against his father’s chest as he put his thumb in his mouth.
“Oh, Louis, I thought I heard you come in,” Victoire said, joining us from the kitchen. She must have been helping Mum out with supper. “I was going to write, but I forgot. I took Remus in to see Jonah yesterday. The two became friends quickly. Jonah’s Mum is going to write after he’s been discharged so the two can play.”
“That’s great, Vic, I was going to ask you about that.”
“It was a great idea,” Victoire said. “Thanks for pushing me into taking him. You were right. He needs a friend that knows what he goes through each month.”
I shrugged. “I just figured they could help each other out.”
Victoire pulled me into a hug at that moment and I only half-heartedly resisted. I could tell she needed to hug her gratitude out. Sometimes you had to let your big sister hug the feelings out of you.
“Well isn’t this sweet,” Mum said. “If only Dominique were here.”
“Oh, yeah, where is Dom now?” I asked once Victoire had freed me. “Still in France?”
“Yeah,” Mum said. “She sends her love. Apparently Braden has picked up a few freelance jobs for a couple Wizarding magazines. Can’t remember which ones, but at least he’s still finding magazines to submit articles to.”
“What about Dom?”
“Still taking pictures and submitting,” Mum said. “Honestly, I’m not sure because she’s always so vague about her career as a photographer. She’s still working at that cafe, though.”
“She should quit this constant moving around and come back closer to home,” Dad said. “Honestly, I don’t know how many times I have to offer her a job at Gringotts.”
“Oh, Bill, hush will you,” Mum said. “Dom doesn’t want to work at a bank. Can you even imagine her working there?”
“Fair point,” Dad said. “I just wish she would find a more stable source of income.”
“But she has one, Dad,” Victoire said. “She works regularly at the cafe.”
“I meant a real job.”
“A job is a job,” I said. “We can’t all have serious jobs; at least Dom is doing what she wants to.”
It was kind of annoying how we could all end up talking about Dom even when she wasn’t actually here. I wondered if they would talk about me if I wasn’t here. Probably not. No matter the circumstance, Dom would still be the problem sibling. Whoever said middle siblings didn’t get enough attention clearly hadn’t seen my family. Of the three of us, Dom was by far the most spoiled as a child. Not that I minded. All I needed as a kid was a broomstick and I was set to entertain myself for hours in the backyard.
“We should talk about something else,” Mum said, “especially since Dominique isn’t here to defend herself. How’s work, Teddy?”
Teddy looked up as he had been watching his son, who had fallen asleep on his chest. “Mad is what it’s been. Harry has all of us on duty tomorrow night.”
“Do you think you’ll catch the werewolf responsible?” Dad asked.
“Hopefully,” Teddy said. “If not then I fear there might be an outbreak of riots that might spark attention from the Muggles, thus endangering the Statue of Secrecy.”
“Emotions are running tight with this string of werewolf attacks, uh,” Dad said. “I’m not surprised. I hope you guys can catch the werewolf responsible.”
“Me, too,” Teddy said. “We’re also working closely with the Werewolf Control Unit, too.”
“I’m on-call all tomorrow night,” I said.
“Then that settles it,” Mum said. “You’re to come over and get some sleep in your old bedroom until you’re called in.”
“Mum,” I said. “I really don’t—”
“No excuses,” Mum said.
“Fine,” I said.
There would be no arguing with my mum that night. She was certainly on a roll. As much as I loved my mum, I really wished she would stop with her constant fussing over me. I could take care of myself. I mean, she still did my laundry, but aside from that I was a fully grown wizard, dammit.
I made sure to owl in that I would be at my parents’ on the night of the full moon so they’d know where to get in touch with me. The first thing my Mum had me do when I arrived was march straight into my old room to get some shut eye. She said she’d wake me if anyone fire-called for me. It was still the same as I had left it during my Hogwarts years. Same Gryffindor banners hung on the wall, a poster showing my support for England’s Quidditch team, and a scarlet and gold duvet on the four-poster bed that closely resembled the one I had slept on at school.
There was still parchment, quills, and ink wells scattered on the surface of my desk. I glanced at the top sheaf of parchment to see that it was my acceptance into the St. Mungo’s Healer Training Program. Funny, I had thought my Mum would have snatched it up and had it framed by now. Kidding, or am I?
I collapsed under the covers on my bed and was fast asleep before you could say Sleeping Draught. But I honestly couldn’t tell you how long I was asleep before my Mum was shaking me awake. I blinked a few times before my eyes focused on her. The expression on her face was conflicted; I could tell she was guilty about having to wake me up.
“Healer Newman just fire-called,” Mum said. “He needs you to come in. There’s been an attack.”
“Did he say anything about the werewolf being caught?”
“No,” Mum said. “He seemed preoccupied. All he said was that they needed you in.”
I stood up and made my way downstairs, bleary eyed but alert.
“Do you want something to eat before you leave?”
“No time, Mum,” I said. “I have to leave now.”
“Oh, alright,” Mum said. “But be careful, I don’t want you splinching yourself.”
I nodded as I left out the front door and made it to the end of the drive before apparating, successfully, into the locker room of St. Mungo’s. There I hurriedly exchanged my jeans and polo for the lime green healer scrubs and robe. I very nearly forgot to pin my ID to the front of my robe and had to double back to my locker for it.
By the time I finally managed to reach the ER on the Dai Llewellyn ward it was a bustle of activity and I could barely tell which way was up and down. When I finally spotted Thomas in the centre of it all, it took me a good five to ten minutes of dodging around everyone else that was crowded in the ER to reach him. And when I do reach him I had to force myself not to turn away from the child laying on the gurney, just barely alive.
I was still gapping and at an utter loss as to what to do when Thomas finally noticed me and started shouting orders at me to which I had no other option but to do as he said. But for all we do it might as well be in vain for the young girl who was bitten ended up dying after we had invested over an hour in treating her in attempt to stabilize her vitals. My first loss as a healer.
Thomas ordered me to go grab a cup of tea once he saw how shaken up I was over it. I vaguely felt myself nod in response as my feet started to move toward the double doors that led into the ward.
I headed toward the lifts to take it up to the cafeteria when I inadvertently run into Elsie, though, and ended up awkwardly apologizing for bumping into her.
“Louis, I didn’t even know you were here,” Elsie said. “Were you in the ER?”
I nodded, still not trusting my voice to verbally repeat what I had witnessed.
“Is she...?” Elsie’s voice trailed off, making me think my expression gave her the answer she was looking for even if I didn’t say anything. “No, she’s not?”
All I could do was nod.
Elsie’s hand covered her mouth as her eyes watered. Her reaction doesn’t help my own; in fact it only worsened how I felt before running into her.
Something on my face must have concerned her because Elsie suddenly sobered, turning stoic, and reached out to place her hand on my forearm. I barely even registered her touch in that moment. My mind was so far away, still back in that ER with the little girl that would never again smile at her family.
“Louis, are you alright?”
I could tell she was concerned, but she needn’t be. I would be fine. I just needed to get as far away from the Dai Llewellyn ER as I could in that moment. As far away from the lifeless corpse of that girl.
“C’mere,” Elsie said, tugging my hand as the lift doors open.
I wasn’t exactly sure where she was taking me since I couldn’t see what button she pressed once in the lift. But since we were leaving the Dai Llewellyn ward I was happy to let her take the lead.
“I remember how I felt when I witnessed my first death,” Elsie said over the quiet hum of the lift. “How incompetent I felt, like it was my fault. Like I hadn’t tried as vigorously as I should have. We all have those days, Louis. We just have to take it one day at a time. It comes with the job.”
I nodded and swallowed before attempting to speak. “I know death happens,” I said, surprised at the croakiness of my voice before clearing it, “but I just wasn’t expecting it tonight. None of the other children bitten by this werewolf had died.”
“Yeah, I don’t think any of us were expecting a death tonight.”
“Where are you taking me?”
“To the lab,” Elsie said. “Apparently they, the Werewolf Control Unit, got a more definitive sample at the scene tonight.”
“Please tell me you’re being serious.”
“Of course I’m being serious,” Elsie said as the lift gave a shutter before stopping. “Well that can’t be good.”
I stared at her in shock, unable to grasp the realisation that we were now stuck in a lift together.
“I thought they fixed this last month,” Elsie said, not paying him any attention as she sent a message via Patronus to, I assumed, someone in technical support. “Brian better still be here.”
“And if he isn’t?”
“Then we’re stuck here for at least an hour until Kevin comes in for his shift,” Elsie said. “Brian should still be here, but he’s been known to slide out of his shifts early.”
I frowned. “How do you know so much about the magical engineers and their schedules?”
“Oh, I just used to date Brian is all,” Elsie said. “Jealous?”
“Me, jealous,” I said, trying to keep my face neutral, “yeah, right, in your dreams.”
“It’s alright if you’ve had fantasies about me, Louis,” Elsie said. “After all, you have stayed over at my house. Few men have been inside. You should count yourself as lucky.”
“You’re awfully full of yourself.”
Elsie shrugged. “I’m confident.”
“Are you sure that’s all?” I asked. “You’re not just hoarding something about what happened the night I stayed over from me.”
“Oh, you would know considering you were so thrashed you couldn’t even walk on your own, let alone disapparate.”
I felt my cheeks warm and knew I was blushing. Ducking my head, I mumbled incoherently to myself.
“Sorry, didn’t quite make that out,” Elsie said, albeit snootily.
“What is with you?” I said, staring angrily at her.
“If you must know,” Elsie said, “you. You’re what’s the matter with me. You’ve gone and gotten into my head thanks to what you tried to do that night. And what’s more is you don’t even remember any of it.”
“Well, as you so rightly put, I was thrashed,” I said. “I believe that was the word you used.”
“You are so immature,” Elsie said. “I don’t even know what I see in you.”
I was stunned speechless, unsure of what to say to that. Had she meant what I thought she meant? But surely she didn’t like me like that. Elsie had made it clear that we were only friends. What game was she playing at? I creased my brows.
“You know, for someone who’s supposed to be so smart,” Elsie said, “you really are dim-witted.”
I tried to grin chastely, but was still trying to wrap my head around what she was really saying behind all the insults. Why couldn’t girls be straight forward? I thought.
“Even when I’m trying to tell you I like you,” Elsie said, continuing for him, “you stand there like a complete moron.”
“Wait,” I said, finally finding my voice. “You like me?”
“Well, duh, I’ve only been trying to tell you that for the past several minutes. Where have you been, Louis?”
“But you made it pretty clear we were only to be friends,” I said. “And hang on, what did I try to do that night? And why didn’t you tell me when I asked you if anything happened?”
“Why do you think?” Elsie parroted back.
“Don’t start,” I said. “I want answers.”
“Nothing, okay,” Elsie said. “I stopped you before you could do anything.”
“But what did I try, Elsie?”
My voice was terse and I was surprised when she didn’t back down, but instead matched my anger.
“You tried to kiss me,” Elsie said. “That was all.”
“And you stopped me despite liking me?”
“That was before I started liking you as more than a friend.”
“And now,” I said evenly.
Did I really have to spell it out for her? Seriously, girls really knew how to beat around the bush. I was being nothing but straight with her.
“Do I really have to say it?”
Elsie just stared at me and I could tell that I would have to say it. Clearly she wanted to hear me say it.
“If I tried to kiss you now, would you let me?”
“You’ll just have to figure it out for yourself.”
I rolled my eyes and let out an exasperated sigh from between my clenched teeth. She was so infuriating.
Before I could act on any of her words, she had shifted closer in front of me. I could smell her perfume, some flowery scent, and it was overpowering my senses. If anyone held me at wand point to force what happened in this lift I’d say it all happened because her perfume had addled my brain. It was the only reasoning that could explain what I did next since I wasn’t the type of bloke to act on my impulses when it came to women. And oh did I act. I pulled her right up against me and kissed her full on the mouth, and wouldn’t you know that the lift chose that exact moment to spring back to life.
Author's Note: Hope you all enjoyed this chapter! If you have a spare moment then I'd love to hear your thoughts in a review. Thanks again for reading! (:
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