Chapter 13 : XII
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Like a small boat bumping the shore with its nose, you wake up softly, gently, deposited neatly back into consciousness. You feel warm, almost too warm, and a little uncomfortable - the bed underneath you is harder than yours is, stiffer and almost fanatically clean. Despite that, the differences, the little oddities, you feel safe and calm. It’s almost as if you know that nothing and no one here would hurt you, even if they could.
Blearily, you open your eyes, scrunching up part of your blankets in one fist, and look around, taking the décor of the room - with some difficulty at first as the light plunging in through the windows bounces off the white-washed walls and ceiling, illuminating everything it touches. You see curtains, strung on brass poles, positioned around you, around the bed you’re lying in, your body encased in white sheets, a woollen blanket spread over, the tops of which you’re holding in your hand. On the bedside table next to you, there’s a beaker and a bottle of potion - the former is empty and the latter full and still sealed.
You’re in the Hospital Wing.
You don’t get any time to wonder about why you’re in there, though, as Madam Dagnell bustles through the curtains, a flick of her wand pushing them back and away, letting you see the rest of the infirmary.
“Miss Weasley, how are you feeling this morning?” she asks you, her tone brisk and sharp, laying a warm hand against your forehead, feeling your temperature.
“Very well, thank you,” you respond politely, making sure to stay still while she fusses over you, her eyes running over your face, analysing each small detail, taking in the colour of your cheeks, your irises.
“I’d like you to stay in the Hospital Wing until tomorrow evening, Miss Weasley,” she tells you - even though it’s worded like a question, like a plea, you know it isn’t really. “Just to make sure you’re not going to become hysterical again. If at any moment you feel yourself beginning to panic, or like you’re going to cry, shout and I’ll come and we’ll deal with it, alright?”
You just stare up at her, wordlessly, and nod. From what she’s saying, it sounds like you were hysterical. Hysterical? You were hysterical? It makes sense - all you can remember is crying unstoppably for minutes, unable to reason, unable to control yourself, unable to think. You hadn’t thought, though, that you’d actually gone so far as to be hysterical. Girls like Lucy got hysterical. Girls like you didn’t - you soldiered on and fought past whatever was troubling you, you worked something out.
“I will,” you say quietly, remembering that she has asked you a question and you have yet to answer.
“Good. I’m going to be in my office - if you need anything, just give me a shout,” Madam Dagnell informs you, giving you one last, long stare before evidently deciding you didn’t look as though you were about to burst into tears right this moment and walking away.
You’re glad she’s gone, as it gives you time to think on your own - to think about what had happened, to go over the scene in your mind again and again and again, to try and work out why you were quite so upset.
In some ways, the simple fact that you don’t know where the tears came from, you don’t know why you got quite so upset over a simple letter, concerns you more than anything else. Everything else - how you got here, the lessons you’re missing, the fact that you just had a hysterical fit - doesn’t matter as much. You suppose it makes sense, in an odd way. When you were younger, you never really got upset, as such - it was more disappointment than anything else. Throwing fits and tantrums was Lucy’s speciality, so it was a rare occasion that you even managed to find a long enough gap to squeeze one in.
Now, though, you rarely cry, you rarely break down like that, you rarely get overwhelmed by such trivial things. Now, you’re lying in your white hospital bed, the sheets messy from a night’s sleep, staring up at the ceiling and wondering. Now, you’re confused. You can remember the feeling, the hopelessness, the spike of irritation when you got the letter - the feelings of being set a task too large and too difficult for you to ever complete - but you don’t think, you would never have thought, that those emotions were strong enough to result in the outcome they did.
Nevertheless, you suppose, they were.
The door to the Hospital Wing opens, admitting two boys, one in front, striding in confidently, the other one loping behind, looking quite as though he’d rather not be here. You’re surprised - it’s a Hogsmeade weekend, Hogsmeade Sunday to be exact, so you’re not sure why they’re here. Admittedly, they could be injured - an exchange of hexes on the way to the village or a prank-gone-wrong in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, perhaps - but they haven’t exchanged vegetables for body parts or can’t stop talking in riddles or are bouncing off the ceiling and walls. It’s baffling.
Then one of them grins at you - a good-to-honest grin that infects every pore in your body so severely that all you can do is smile back.
“Hey there! You’re Molly Weasley, right?”
It’s the boy in front who speaks, coming over to sit by your bed. When the second boy, his silent shadow, comes closer, following his friend, standing somewhat awkwardly at the end, hands shoved in his pockets, you recognise him immediately. How could you not? That perfect golden hair, each strand placed just so; the deep, ocean-blue eyes. You could get lost in them, if you dared.
For a moment, you can’t breathe. Then you feel yourself blushing, heat rising up in your cheeks as you pull the covers up, almost to your chin, wishing you were wearing something other than your thick polo-neck jumper and trousers - anything, really, would be better.
“Um, yes, I am,” you mumble, tearing your eyes away from Adonis and focusing instead on his friend - dark-haired, stocky and with a mild Scottish accent that tickles your ears.
“I’m Arthur Henderson,” he tells you, noticing the confused look you’re giving him. “I know your cousin Louis - we’re on the Quidditch team together.”
“Right,” you nod. That makes sense - a lot of sense, actually, and you’re glad he’s here if only because it pulls you away from your own muddled thoughts. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but… why are you here?”
“Er… I found you yesterday crying by the door to the common room,” Henderson explained, looking somewhat embarrassed to be saying this. “So I brought you here and, well, thought I should see if you were okay.”
“Oh, well, thank you,” you say, swallowing. Your face is burning again, heating up like a radiator, glowing like a salamander. If Henderson found you, did his friend see you? In that state? The idea mortifies you beyond belief. “I’m fine now. Madam Dagnell won’t let me out, though. She says I have to stay here until the feast tomorrow evening.”
Henderson grins at you again, a knowing grin, the edges of it laced with sympathy and compassion. Of course, you think, he would understand - Quidditch players practically have their own beds.
“Yeah, she likes keeping people in for ‘observation’,” he agrees lightly. “But hey, at least you won’t have to go to lessons.”
You stare at him, shocked. He’s a Ravenclaw - a Ravenclaw, of all things! How can he say something like that, let alone expect you to agree with it? The very idea that you have to miss lessons to lie around in a bed like an invalid when there is, really, nothing wrong with you horrifies you.
Adonis gives a quiet chuckle, a soft, musty sound, as though his voice is muffled by something.
“Not everyone likes the idea of missing lessons, Arthur,” he tells his friend, managing somehow to look haughty and amused at the same time. There must be some kind of art to it, you decide as you watch his expression carefully, some way of placing your voice, arranging the muscles in your face, holding your head just so…
“Some people do,” Arthur just retorts easily, seemingly completely unbothered. “How was I to know she wasn’t one of those people?”
“You could have asked,” Adonis points out with a roll of his eyes, the light bouncing off the sapphire irises when they turn towards the ceiling, making them shimmer like a pair of jewels.
“It’s fine,” you interrupt weakly, half-hoping neither of them heard you. Their conversation reminds you so much of your cousins, of Fred and James and Louis and Hugo, that it makes you smile. While you don’t want them to argue, part of you is loath to stop them - your parents always told you it was bad manners to do so and you don’t want to be rude. “I don’t mind.”
“See?” Arthur grins at Adonis, giving you a wink. “Molly doesn’t mind.”
You smile feebly back since you can’t wink. It’s one of those things that people like Uncle George and Fred and Uncle Bill and James can just do - one of those things that, it seems, the people who would do it, can do it. They’re the type of people, confident and slightly brash, who would wink whenever they could, whether it was accompanied by an ‘all right, darling?’ or a ‘cheer up!’, and so the world has given them the ability to wink. You can’t do it. When you were younger, you’d tried. Standing in front of the mirror, you’d carefully closed one eye, then the other, then opened both and repeated the motions until your mum interrupted.
“Do you mind?” Adonis turns to glance at you, although this time he maintains his gaze. You can feel yourself shrinking under the weight of it, under that cool and somehow intense look, and a part of you wonders how long it will take for your face to return to its normal colour after this conversation is over, once they’ve gone.
“No, not at all,” you manage to breathe out, unable to tear your eyes away from his, stuck there hopelessly, with no chance of escape.
Adonis just raises an eyebrow, surprised by that - obviously he had expected you to say that you did mind, that you would very much have preferred if Arthur Henderson had asked you if you liked the idea of missing lessons or not in the first place - but he says nothing more, falling silent again.
“Don’t mind Cyril, Molls,” Arthur tells you cheerfully, almost conspiratorially, leaping into the space left by his best friend. “He can be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud sometimes, and he just loves being pedantic about everything and anything. Wordplay and all that jazz - drives me mad.”
“It’s not my fault you don’t appreciate wordplay,” Adonis - Cyril - points out with another roll of his eyes.
Biting your lip, you look between the two boys. You know what you want to do - you want to jump into the middle of the conversation, declaring that you too love wordplay and ‘all that jazz’ - but you’re not brave enough to do it. Not brave enough to actually open your mouth and form words, and certainly not brave enough to trust yourself to form words which make sense and bear any relevance to the current topic of conversation. Attractive boys have always made you tongue-tied and Adonis… well, Adonis makes you feel young and silly and ties your thoughts in knots when he smiles or looks at you.
“Well, we’d best be going,” Arthur announces less than a minute later, while you’re still debating about commenting, telling yourself it’s too late to say anything. “Hoping to grab some Butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks before the third years drink it all. See you around, Molly.”
“See you around,” you reply, your voice the strongest, firmest, most sure it’s been all conversation, as Arthur rises from his chair, giving you another of his infectious grins.
Adonis - Cyril - nods at you, a slight smile covering his mouth, quirking the corners of his lips upwards, and you smile back at both boys, unable to stop yourself from doing so even if you wanted to.
The two head for the Hospital Wing doors, the start of their conversation lingering behind them, a teasing dispute about whose fault it is that they’re going to be late to The Three Broomsticks and therefore whose fault it is should there be no Butterbeer left kicking off, with Arthur swearing blind it’s Adonis who’s in the wrong. You notice as your ears strain to keep listening that Adonis doesn’t deny that it was his fault, preferring to avoid the point entirely.
Cyril, you remind yourself. His name is Cyril, not Adonis. Cyril, Cyril, Cyril.
It suits him, you muse idly to yourself, your fingers smoothing out the creases on the edges of the blankets, lining them up perfectly. Cyril is a light name, an airy name, like the name of a young prince, a hero from a book. The syllables fit together so beautifully - the first one sibilant, the second lyrical, leaving a gentle chime in the air, even after the conversation has moved on and the air has grown still again, silent and heavy.
Underneath your blankets, warm and content, you smile to yourself, shifting position slightly, pulling the covers more securely around your shoulders, clasping them tightly in both hands.
Well, you think, relaxing, that didn’t go too badly.
You spend most of the day daydreaming, something which is neither difficult nor boring for you. Your mind spins intricate webs around the dark figure of Rodolphus Lestrange, tugging Malea along with him, Bellatrix sauntering behind. A thread is attached to Louis and Dominique, the former accompanied by Jake, wrapped around their wrists and bringing them inside the web, spinning them around and around and around until they’re dizzy and confused and lost. On the edges of it all, Adonis stands, Arthur Henderson next to him, simply watching you as you pull your captured flies closer and closer, before it all melts away, the web unravelling, fading and vanishing, as Cyril - because he’s Cyril now, now that the web’s gone - smiles at you, holding out a hand and waiting, so patiently, for you to run to him.
A house-elf, a neatly pressed Hogwarts tea towel wrapped around his waist, brings you your lunch, beaming and squeaking happily ‘anytime, Miss Wheezey!’ when you thank him for it before disappearing with a crack. The elf’s sudden departure sends a slight breeze racing through the room, teasing the ends of your hair gently, as the air around the space rushes in to fill it, sending the warm scent of freshly baked bread wafting over to you.
You’ve barely begun to eat lunch - only one of the four rolls is gone, the lump of butter on the small plate sitting undisturbed and the soup in your bowl is perhaps a centimetre or so lower - when the doors of the Hospital Wing open, one of them crashing into the wall and rebounding, eliciting a curse as it almost smacks a familiar head of messy black hair.
“Language, James,” you reprimand him instantly, blowing lightly on the soup in your spoon to cool it.
He just grins at you, sidling over to your bed and jumping onto the end of it, making the soup in your bowl wobble dangerously and one of the bread rolls jump out of the wicker basket.
“Be careful, you dolt,” Dominique scowls at him, running her fingers through the ends of her hair as she claims the seat nearest you. “You could have poured soup all over her.”
“Sorry, Molls,” James chirps, shooting Dominique a petulant glare which morphs into a sheepish smile when he looks at you.
“It’s fine,” you assure him. “So, why are you all here?”
You guess they’re there to see you, but you ask the question nonetheless, so that you’re not all sitting in silence for four and a half minutes until James decides to have a second shot at pouring soup all over your lap. It feels a little cruel to even think it, but you’re a little nervous that James is quite so close to you; you make a quick mental note to keep an eye on where his arms are at all times, more than aware of his habit to imitate an octopus when he gets excited or is explaining things.
“To see you, dummy,” Louis tells you matter-of-factly, buttering the escaped bread roll thickly, focusing on his task. “We came by to see you yesterday - well, me and Dom did, James had run off somewhere under that Cloak - but you were asleep so we thought we’d come back today.”
“How did you know I was here?” you ask, mystified, watching with a slight frown as he takes a bite out of what used to be part of your lunch and is now, instead, part of his early afternoon snack (you don’t doubt for a second that they’ve all had lunch before coming to see you - it would be highly un-Weasley-ish to do it any other way round).
“Arthur told me,” Louis shrugs easily, glancing up at you, oblivious to the frown on your face. “He and his mate found you outside by the Common Room, so they brought you here. When they saw me and Dom looking for you, they let us know.”
“I know - they stopped by a while ago and told me,” you nod. “They were very nice.”
“They are,” Dominique agrees with you almost immediately, and when you turn to look at her curiously, wondering how she knows that, you see a faint blush steal across her cheeks although she holds your gaze. “What?”
“The tall one - the blonde one - he’s dreamy,” James remarks.
Louis coughs, almost choking on the remainders of his bread roll. As one, you and Dominique stare at James, stunned, and he just grins at you.
“What?” now it’s James’ turn to defend himself, and he does so better than Dominique - giving you all a bemused look.
“Why does everything think he’s so dreamy? He’s not that clever, not that good-looking and it’s not like he has any kind of natural talent -”
“Louis,” Dominique interrupts him. “Shut up. You’re just jealous.”
Louis shoots her an annoyed look and opens his mouth to respond, but is cut off - something which you are very grateful for since both he and Dominique were getting dressed for battle - by another voice, stern and yet slightly, just slightly amused.
“Oh, stop it, both of you - I’m sure Molly doesn’t want you two arguing over something pointless while she’s not feeling well,” Victoire orders them, rolling her eyes and giving you a sympathetic smile as she claims the seat next to Dominique.
“We weren’t arguing,” Louis frowns.
“We were just talking,” Dominique agrees easily.
“No harm at all,” Louis grins brightly at Victoire. “So lighten up, sis.”
“She’s just missing Teddy-bear,” Dominique coos with a smirk, fluttering her eyelashes in a very over-the-top imitation of her sister.
“Like you can talk,” Victoire scowls at Dominique, flushing a deep, Weasley red. “How about -”
“Well, I should be going,” Dominique interrupts her, standing up, the blush once again staining her cheeks like a light dusting of pink sugar over the top of a cake. “I’ll see you all later.”
Without bothering to wait until she’s rushed out of the Hospital Wing, walking as quickly as she can without running, Louis leans forwards, his eyes narrowed, to ask Victoire,
“Dom has a boyfriend? Who is it?”
“Yeah, who?” James joins in, shifting on the bed to face you, looking between the siblings eagerly, enjoying the fact that - for once - people seem to be about to reveal secrets in front of him.
“She doesn’t have a boyfriend, don’t get yourself worked up,” Victoire rolls her eyes again. “She just likes someone, that’s all. Now, Molly,” ignoring her brother’s protests and pleading demands to know who Dominique likes, she turns to you and gives you a gentle smile. “How are you feeling?”
“All right,” you shrug, not entirely sure how you feel. You don’t feel ill, which you think is what she’s asking - do you feel sick, faint, nauseous, tired, does your head hurt: that sort of thing. “I felt tired earlier, but I’m fine now. Madam Dagnell is refusing to let me out until tomorrow evening, though.”
“Well, while you’re here, focus on getting better. You should take more care of yourself, you know,” she advises you. “OWL year doesn’t have to kill you - just pace yourself and take it easy. Don’t let yourself get overloaded with work and don’t get too stressed about everything, all right? And make sure you eat and drink enough - you frightened the life out of me when I heard you’d fainted and Aunt Audrey would never forgive me if I let you get away with not looking after yourself properly.”
“I will,” you nod, your fingers playing with a loose thread on the blanket. You don’t mention anything about your breakdown or how you burst into tears or anything like that - and you feel suddenly very grateful to Arthur Henderson and Adonis for not saying anything to your cousins. If they had, you’re quite sure they’d never leave alone. “Thank you.”
“It’s fine,” she smiles at you again. “Now, I’ve got to go and meet Teddy - he’s got to get back to London by four o’clock at the latest, so I’ve got to dash. Get better, and I’ll see you later. Oh, and Lucy says to tell you that she hopes you’re all right and that you get better soon. She said she’ll take notes for you in Transfiguration. She would have come and seen you herself but she’s in detention with Professor Longbottom.”
You smile, thank her for the message, and then watch, laughing, as Louis follows Victoire out of the Hospital Wing, badgering her the whole time about which boy Dominique likes, naming various students in their year and above, mentioning them by characteristics when he doesn’t remember their names.
James remains sitting on your bed, cross-legged, looking at you closely, his dark brown eyes fixed on you, looking a shade or so brighter in the light of the room.
“Are you all right?” he asks you after a moment or two’s uncomfortable silence.
“I’m fine,” you assure him. For some reason, the way he’s looking at you, the way he’s asking you that question - as though it carries with it all the weight of the world, as though your answer to it is so incredibly important to him - effects you more than Victoire’s small lecture or Louis’ teasing or Arthur Henderson’s concern. A small part of you considers answering it truthfully, but you don’t say anything, almost scared of what would happen if you did, how he would react and who he would tell, what would happen to you.
“No, you’re not,” James shakes his head, ploughing on when you try to repeat yourself, to inform him tartly that he’s wrong and you’re fine - there’s nothing wrong with you. “You’re not fine. Molly Weasley doesn’t let me get away with going to Hogsmeade underage, Molly Weasley doesn’t walk to lessons with Slytherins, Molly Weasley isn’t late to breakfast or class. Molly Weasley is not fine.”
Silence falls, a soft curtain settling down around your bed, encasing the two of you, so at odds with the tension which sits in between you and your younger cousin. You don’t know what to say - you don’t know what you can say. The worst thing is that part of you wants to admit that he’s right: that yes, you don’t normally do those things, that it isn’t quite your normal behaviour.
But you’re fine. You’re fine. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, even Madam Dagnell herself has admitted it - although not in quite those words. You’re here for observation, not because you’re ill or exhausted or liable to breakdown again at any minute. Observation, not illness. You’re fine.
“Visiting times are over!” Madam Dagnell sweeps out of her office, fixing James with a hard stare reminiscent of Professor McGonagall, only she looks far more likely to wallop him round the head with the book in her hand than assign him detention with Filch.
“But it’s only half past two!” James protests, gesturing at the clock on the wall. You don’t mention that it’s actually just twenty-three minutes past two - you don’t think it would helping in this situation. “Visitors only have to leave after five on weekends! I’ve got another two and a half hours left!”
Inwardly, you can’t help but wince. What would James manage to work out if he stayed for another two and a half hours? What theories would he come up with as to why you’re ‘ill’? What else would he decide, his imagination spinning yarns faster than Louis could fly around a Quidditch pitch.
“Visiting hours are not set in stone, young man - your cousin needs her rest and she can hardly do that while you are sitting here, disturbing her,” Madam Dagnell informs him swiftly, her eyes taking in his position sitting on the end of your bed with a faintly disapproving look.
“Please?” James immediately changes tack - his attempt as see-through as a glass window - launching his puppy-like expression at the nurse. It works wonders on your Aunt Ginny and Nana Molly (and, you suspect, Uncle Harry too), a truly formidable weapon.
The nurse’s face softens slightly, but, much to your surprise, she stays firm.
“I’m sorry, Mr Potter, but you’ll have to come back and visit your cousin at another time. Visitor’s hours -”
“End at six thirty on weekdays, yeah, I know,” James nods, his good humour instantly restored. Hopping down off your bed, he grins at you. “See you tomorrow, Molls!”
“Bye, James!” you call back as he strolls out of the Hospital Wing, giving you a quick wave before he disappears from sight behind the white-painted door.
“That boy is such a cheeky little thing,” Madam Dagnell sighs, a flick of her wand smoothing out the creases left in the bedcovers by James. “Honestly.”
As the nurse removes the lunch tray from your lap, the metal spoon clacking noisily against the bowl with the movement, she gives you a stern look.
“Now, you, Miss Weasley, need to sleep,” she tells you. “Or, if you can’t sleep - try to relax, at least. Sleep will come eventually.”
With a nod, you settle down, slipping back underneath the covers again, pulling the white blankets up to your chin. Closing your eyes, you try and sleep, imagining that you’re back in your room at home, the faint sounds of cars zipping by outside your house a continual, never-ending stream that quickly falls into a regular pattern. The sound soothes you and you barely even notice when the lights flick off, plunging the room into a grey darkness.
Madam Dagnell comes to check on you fifteen minutes later, and she finds you deep asleep, one hand clutching on to the blankets surrounding you, your hair spread all over your pillow, your breathing quick and regular, short and shallow. She gives a slight smile and then disappears back into her office, shutting the door softly behind herself.
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