Chapter 1 : Comfort
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But nothing would. She wanted to look her best – he deserved that from her – but no amount of makeup could withstand the slow drip of tears that emerged from her blue eyes. Her fingertips bore mascara smudges from her futile attempts at wiping the wetness away, at concealing the open, slow bleeding of her heart.
It had begun three days ago, when she’d first received the news. He had been competing in an international Quidditch tournament for charity; just hours before the game, he’d written to tell her that Normandy was beautiful and he wanted to take her there sometime. But he’d fallen suddenly, broken his back, had died on the field surrounded by concerned strangers instead of his wife.
Her first instinct had been to grab that letter and hold it, as if trying to hold him together, to keep her life intact as it had been that morning. She tried to think about anything else—her morning coffee, the baby clothes she’d bought hopefully and tucked in the back of her closet, the fact that she had to do the laundry and plan out what to make him for dinner when he came back on Thursday. Being in the house was too suffocating, so she foolishly ventured out. Every couple she saw in the street, every advertisement for a broomstick started the bleeding anew. It never had a chance to scab over. It was raw and wet, deep and painful.
Katie smoothed her dress, a measure of comfort she’d run to quite regularly over the past few days. She stared at herself in the mirror. If she could only avoid eye contact with the funeral guests, she’d almost pass as pretty. A beautiful grieving widow.
As she reached for her purse, resigned to her fate, she noticed the cat bed in the corner. A smile came to her face, unprompted, unwelcome. It was never for a cat but for her Niffler, a gift he’d given to her years ago, when she’d felt a different pain.
She had been in the hospital for three days. Her hand ached down to the bone and was as cold as death, despite the fact that she was still wearing her glove. The nurses had been too afraid to touch it and take it off. The doctors on her case were busily researching everything they could about the curse that afflicted her in order to see what sort of intervention might help. Until they found an answer, she was trapped here, staring up at the white ceiling.
Katie had so many questions – What happened to me? Who did this? Can I see my mum, please? PLEASE? – but she had no strength to stop the staff that checked in on her each hour and then departed quickly, fearfully.
When she wasn’t completely out of it, she was so lonely.
“Hi,” a voice said from somewhere across the room.
Katie tried to sit up and was able to accomplish it, though not without pain.
“Here,” the voice said, moving into view. Oliver smiled at her, grabbing a few pillows from the chairs in her room and stacking them behind her to help prop her up.
“Thanks,” she murmured. “How did you get in?”
“What do you mean?”
“I haven’t been able to have any visitors.”
“Sure you have. Your mum and your little brothers have been here every day. They were the ones I got your room number from.”
“I haven’t seen them,” Katie said, frowning.
“Today is the first day you’ve been fully conscious all day.”
“How do you feel?” he asked, and the cheerfulness in his voice made her smile despite the truth.
“My hand hurts. It’s worse than that time we played Hufflepuff in the snowstorm and it got smashed by a Bludger. I’m going to be the youngest Quidditch retiree in the history of the sport. Eighteen.”
Oliver laughed. “Don’t say that! The team needs you.”
“At this rate, the season will be over by the time I get out of here.”
“Stop,” he chided her. “I’ve brought some things to cheer you up.”
He laid a card on the bed in her lap, and she could see it was signed by all the members of her team. Ginny Weasley had sketched a scene from their most recent game, a big upset against Ravenclaw, and animated it to show Harry catching the Snitch. Katie looked through it, smiling. “How are they doing?”
“Good season. Robins, the new girl, she’s doing really well, great record—”
“Wood,” Katie said gently. “I mean, how are they doing? How’s life?”
“Oh,” Oliver murmured, blushing. “They seem well. They miss you, of course.”
“What about Angelina and Alicia?”
“Doing fine. They wanted me to tell you that they found some three-bedroom flats in case you want to move in with them after you graduate. They want you to decorate.”
“Of course they do,” Katie rolled her eyes playfully. “Tell them I’ll think about it.”
“I, um—” Oliver hesitated. “I have something for you too, actually.”
In the beat of silence, Katie thought she heard a small squeak. Oliver moved over to the corner, unwrapping something from his coat. As she watched, a small black creature with a long, thin nose hopped onto her bed sheets and looked up at her with large, wet eyes. It blinked, fluttering its long eyelashes thoughtfully, and then began crawling over the bed, squeaking contentedly to itself.
“That’s—” It finally clicked, from Hagrid’s classes. “A Niffler, Oliver?”
“Yeah, I—” Oliver paused again.
“They’re used to find treasure, you know that. It’s silly, but I thought you might feel better if you could use it to keep an eye out for anyone carrying—you know, it’s not like it would ever happen again, but maybe it would just be nice to have—”
“Don’t they bite people who are carrying jewels?”
“Sometimes,” Oliver said, turning a furious pink.
Katie laughed, though it hurt a bit. “I love it.” She reached out to the creature, confident that she wore nothing of value. The Niffler sniffed delicately at her fingers and then plopped down happily in her lap.
Suddenly, a nurse came into the room. “Oh, you’re awake,” she said pleasantly, and then she looked down at the Niffler. “And what is that doing in this hospital?”
It didn’t seem as if Oliver could blush any deeper, but apparently it was possible. “I’m sorry, I just—”
“Just get rid of it, please,” the nurse said in a clipped tone, exiting quickly.
Katie tried not to laugh again, petting the Niffler gently. “Could you have Alicia and Angelina look after it for me, please?”
“Actually, I thought maybe you could see it when you and I go out on a date.”
“If you want to,” Oliver said awkwardly. “If not, you can still keep the—”
“I’d love to,” Katie said, smiling.
Oliver was still blushing when he left the hospital, clutching his squirming jacket.
Another tear fell from her eyes as Katie gazed down at the sleeping Niffler. No wonder she saw it now, when she again needed comfort, when she felt as if the biggest treasure in her life was gone forever. As she watched, the creature’s nostrils perked up in its sleep, sniffing at the air. Perhaps it was dreaming.
Perhaps, though, it detected a treasure she could not see, not just yet. Something left behind, worth more than gold and jewels and anything that could be taken by death.
Shrouding herself protectively in her memories, Katie smoothed her hair and dress one last time. She left her mascara on the counter. She hadn’t worn it in the hospital and wouldn’t need to bother putting any on now. She would be the girl he had loved.
Then, with an inexplicable smile, she departed, the Niffler remaining undisturbed.
Feels good to just sit down and write something in one sitting again :)
This one-shot came out of nowhere and was written for Prompt 1 of the 2014 House Cup, which was to write about an experience with a magical creature.
I hope you enjoyed the story – please review, and go Ravenclaw!
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