Chapter 12 : Recreational Magic Abuse Recovery
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EMILY woke up early on Sunday morning wanting nothing more than to put on The Velvet Underground and Nico, and salute the sun. It was a special Sunday morning routine that Emily was only ever afforded at home, since she couldn't listen to music at Hogwarts. Surely, though, it would bother Isobel to be woken at dawn.
Except--Isobel's side of the bed was vacant.
Isobel couldn't have woken up before Emily; Emily had gone to sleep hours before her friend. In fact, Emily couldn't recall Isobel climbing into bed last night at all. She pulled on a pair of woolen socks, and crept out of her room. The Madley house was quiet and sleeping in the early hours, and Emily fought violently against her worry. What if Isobel went jogging, as she often did, and couldn't see the steep edge of the glen... Emily determined that Isobel must have woken up in want of a fag, and was simply smoking out back.
Emily slipped on her boots and overcoat at the back door and checked outside, but Isobel wasn't on the deck either. Crossing the vegetable patch, hidden under a deep blanket of snow, Emily headed towards Lucas' shack. Isobel had spent the previous night late with him, surely he'd know where she was.
“Lucas,” she called as she got near. “Lucas, you haven’t seen Isobel?”
The shack door creaked open, and a sliver of Isobel revealed itself in the crack.
Emily stopped dead.
“You haven’t,” Emily whispered, stunned, and Isobel looked down on her feet.
Isobel squeezed around the corner of the door and said something to Lucas before closing it behind her.
“You got off with my brother!” Emily said, in something that was at once a scream and a whisper.
Isobel nodded, embarrassed, and Emily punched her playfully on the shoulder.
"What is with that bleeding shack?!” demanded Emily.
“Is that where you and what’s-his-name…?” Isobel asked.
“Yeah,” replied Emily. But there was newer news than that old story: “I want to ask, but he’s my brother…” Emily considered her quandary. “You didn’t go all the way?”
Isobel’s silence spoke volumes.
“Get out! You could be my sister in a few years!” cried Emily.
“Shh,” hushed Isobel as the two trudged back to the main house.
“So was it,” Emily began, but stopped. “Ergh, I wish he wasn’t my brother so we could discuss this proper.”
Emily was supposed to be the most experienced, after all, and her friends usually came to her to talk about these things.
“Not that it’s bad you shagged my brother. He’s a great bloke,” she added.
“Yes, it was good. Yes, we might see each other again. But no, it’s not a big deal,” Isobel curtly summarized.
“And that was your first time?” asked Emily unnecessarily. Isobel nodded. “Well like I said, Lucas is really nice, and I’m sure he won’t behave an arse about the whole thing.”
Isobel just nodded, looking half humiliated, half pleased, and totally overwhelmed.
“And if he does, I’ll hex him,” Emily promised. “You watch out now, Lucas” Emily yelled, before Isobel could throw her hand over Emily’s mouth, and steer her back into the house.
“I’ve got a wand!” Emily shouted, breaking free of Isobel’s grip.
The two stumbled back to Emily’s room, giggling wildly. Isobel collapsed onto Emily’s bed.
“I feel like,” Isobel considered her words, rolling onto her back. “A woman.”
That set Emily back off again, and it took her several minutes to regain her composure. “I just keep thinking that that shack is now haunted by the ghosts of both of our hymens!” Emily giggled.
They took showering in turns, and Isobel borrowed some muggle clothes from Emily for their trip down to London. Emily watched, concerned, as Isobel zipped up the denim trousers Emily had long since outgrown without any difficulty. Once Isobel wasn’t drowning in flowing robes, Emily was shocked to see how little was left of her.
Isobel didn’t fit into any of Emily’s trainers, and resolved to wear her own shoes. They were pointed and witchy, and somewhat at odds with the rest of the outfit, but Emily insisted that they wouldn’t break the Statute of Secrecy.
Isobel’s father apparated onto the front yard shortly after breakfast to take the two girls down to London. Emily had packed the tins of biscuits in her rucksack, hoping against hope that Mr. Mostafa wouldn’t recognize the lingering pungent smell. After exchanging pleasantries with Emily’s parents, they were off.
A brief squeezing sensation, half a second of nothingness, and Emily felt solid ground rise up to meet her feet. She opened her eyes, and found a dingy alley in Muggle London on the other side.
“I’ll walk you girls in,” said Mr. Mostofa, as he strode purposefully toward a condemned department store called Purge and Dowse, Ltd.
“Have you been to St. Mungo’s before?” asked Mr. Mostafa.
“No,” replied Emily, curiously inspecting the window display that Isobel’s father had lead them to. The mannequins behind the glass sported garish leisure suits, heavily faded from from what were, originally, shocking shades of orange and turquoise. Emily guessed they’d been there since the ‘70s.
“It’s like platform nine and three-quarters; you just go straight through the window,” Mr. Mostafa instructed.
For a frantic moment, just like when she first crossed through the platform at King’s Cross, Emily wondered if it were some sort of trick; as if she would actually just smack into the window for their amusement. She knew the notion was foolish, and after seeing Isobel disappear through the glass, Emily followed suit.
Passing through magical barriers was always confusing. Like the moments before and after full anesthesia, it was hard to determine what had happened in between. As with dreams, the memory dripped like water through fingers. What should have been the interior of the garish window display was instead a gleaming entrance hall, bustling with Healers and patients waiting to be seen. A little girl sitting to Emily's left was burping moths while her mother prattled hysterically to a hospital administrator. A few rows behind, a woman casually read Witch Weekly, seemingly unfazed by the fact that her head was blown up four times its original size. Emily was just wondering if she recognized a young, round-faced boy accompanied by a stern old witch, when her thoughts were interrupted.
“Dad!” yelled Isobel’s beautiful older sister, Iman, from behind the reception desk.
Emily had always been intimidated by Iman, but had also courted vague thoughts of setting her up with Lucas. After last night’s events, Emily supposed that she'd succeeded by proxy.
Isobel’s sister was stunning, and had been Head Girl at Hogwarts. Iman came around the reception desk and hugged her father and sister in turn. After making a show of grasping Isobel's withered hips, Iman whispered something of apparent gravity into her sister's ear. It wasn't difficult for Emily to guess the general theme of the exchange.
“Hey Em,” Iman said, hugging Emily as well.
“Your mum is making a roast for tea,” Mr. Mostafa informed his daughter. “So see that you don’t stay too late.”
“I’ll try,” replied Iman.
“Alright girls, send Laurel our support. Emily, be sure you call your parents when you get to your friend’s house. Izzy, send an owl straight away,” Mr. Mostafa said, and kissed his daughter on the forehead.
It had taken a great deal of convincing for Emily and Isobel to be allowed to spend the night at Tristan’s house. Emily’s parents were fine with it as soon as they spoke to his mum, but Isobel had needed to beg for days, and insist that they would be chaperoned the whole time. A good few owls were sent between the households as Isobel’s parents discussed every detail of where the girls would be sleeping, and exactly how far it was from Tristan’s room.
Emily considered the whole affair to be rather pointless; if either of them were going to shag Tristan, they could bloody well do it at school. What’s more, the Doge-Mostafa’s didn’t think twice about Isobel staying at Emily’s house, where it had been so easy for her to find herself in Lucas’ shack, sans virginity.
That bloody shack, Emily thought again.
“Alright, we’re going up to the fifth floor,” Iman informed the two, handing over guest badges.
“Miss Doge!” called a frazzled looking hospital administrator as she ran towards Iman. Isobel's sister unloaded a heavy stack of files from the older witch.
“Hope you don’t mind we take the long way ,” Iman said. “I’ll need to drop these off as we go.”
Their first stop was the Dai Llewellyn Ward for Creature-Induced Injuries. Iman dropped a file into a healer’s pigeon-hole, and briefly discussed the best potion to use on infected Hippogriff scratches with a fellow intern. On the next floor, Magical Bugs and Diseases, Iman passed Emily and Isobel each face-masks before continuing with her deliveries. Apparently, there had been a severe outbreak of Scrofungulus near Ottery St. Catchpole. They removed their masks as they climbed the stairs to the third floor, where Iman deposited the last of her files on the ward for Potions and Plant Poisoning. Finally, they made it to the fifth floor: Spell Damage.
Iman directed them left past the Janus Thickey Ward, and used her badge to open a locked door leading to a long corridor. The sign read ‘Recreational Magic Abuse Recovery.’
“Straight to the end,” Elphia pointed them. “Good luck with Laurel, and send her my support.”
The ward was awful. There was a day room; a jumbled mess of games and muggle toys, like one might give to a child. A serious looking witch in a white robe marched up to them and confiscated their wands before they could enter. She went on to search their rucksacks for any concealed magic and, thankfully, didn’t seem bothered by the tins of biscuits. Once they’d been searched, they were informed that Laurel was “in group,” and would be back shortly. Emily and Isobel decided to wander out to the courtyard, and join the other miserable looking people under the white December sun.
“Check this,” said Isobel, producing a pamphlet. “I nicked it when that healer was searching you.”
“‘How Rec Magic Wrecks,’” Emily read aloud. “Bloody hell. ‘Charming isn't charming when your charms marks get charred.’”
Emily and Isobel spent a quarter hour happily criticizing the terrible pamphlet, and it’s trite motivational slogans and platitudes. Just as the literature was beginning to lose its appeal, a little blonde girl hopped up onto the narrow bench beside them.
“Hello,” said the young witch dreamily, as if Emily and Isobel knew, and would be expecting, her.
“Er, hello,” said Isobel.
“I’m Luna, what’s your name?” she asked, wide eyed.
“Isobel, and this is my friend Emily,” Isobel told little Luna.
“Are you a Ravenclaw?” asked Luna, unexpectedly.
“Yes, I am,” replied Isobel, surprised.
“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure,” chirped Luna.
The phrase meant nothing to Emily.
“Are you both Ravenclaws?” continued Luna.
“No, I’m in Hufflepuff,” replied Emily, completely unsure how this conversation had started or where it was going.
“That’s nice,” Luna nodded, meaning it. “I’m going to be in Ravenclaw next year. Both my parents were. My mother’s dead now, and daddy got sick after. That’s why he’s here.”
“Oh,” said Emily, quite at a loss for words. “I’m so sorry to hear about your mother.”
“Yes, it was quite terrible,” agreed Luna. “It happened last year.” She opened up a copy of the absurd Quibbler magazine, and began reading. “I know that daddy isn’t sick-sick, like with a cold or dragon pox. I’m ten and a half and I’m not stupid.” Luna didn’t say it defensively or with any violence, but because it was the truth. Luna read in silence for a moment before asking, “is your friend sick in her heart, too?”
Emily considered what Luna had asked for a moment. Sick in her heart. It was about as accurate as anything she’d ever heard.
“Yes, that’s probably it,” said Emily.
“I’m very sorry,” Luna offered, in her mild and airy voice. “Tell her she can have this,” she said, dropping an orange radish-looking thing in Emily’s hand. “I’ll leave you alone now.”
And with that, Luna hopped up and away.
“See you in Ravenclaw next year,” Isobel called after her.
Little Luna turned around and beamed.
Emily soon found that Isobel wasn't the only one to have lost a tremendous amount of weight.
In the weeks since her hex-out, Laurel had shrunk to, what Emily imagined, was the bare-minimum of what would still constitute a human body. Her hair was clean and her face was clear of spots, but her complexion had grown sallow and her skin waxen. Emily and Isobel approached their friend’s bed, and a witch in a white robe set out two chairs for them before closing the thin curtains to offer some minimal privacy.
Laurel was sitting cross-legged on her bed, slouching, and braiding a friendship bracelet. She looked up at them when they sat down, but didn’t seem affected by their arrival.
“All right,” she said, returning her gaze down to her work. Her thin, twitchy fingers managed the multi-colored threads with fury.
“All right,” Isobel replied tentatively.
“We brought you something,” Emily began, as brightly as she could, while rustling through Emily’s rucksack for one of the biscuit tins. “Lucas helped us make them,” she said, hoping the reference wasn’t lost.
“Ace,” Laurel responded robotically.
Isobel opened the tin and set it on Laurel’s bed before helping herself to a biscuit. She took a bite, and handed the other half to Emily.
“We made the butter pretty strong. Each biscuit is about as much as a whole spliff,” Isobel told Laurel.
Upon that recommendation, Laurel took a biscuit and nibbled it, and Emily second guessed the wisdom of smuggling drugs to someone in rehab.
“I’m getting really good at these muggle bracelet things,” Laurel told them. “Here,” she said, reaching into her bedside table drawer.
Laurel took out three bracelets, and tied the first around Emily’s wrist. It was a complicated pattern of baby blue, light pink, and yellow string. Isobel’s was deep blue, purple, and brown. The last, Emily presumed, was for Tristan; woven in green, black, and white.
“They’re called friendship bracelets,” Emily told her. “I made them all the time in primary school.”
Emily took the black, grey, and red threads that Laurel had been working on, and carried on where her friend had left off. Laurel picked out some colors for Isobel and began showing her the simplest pattern. Laurel took another biscuit from the tin, and the three friends carried on braiding in silence.
“Tristan sends his love, by the way,” Emily said after a long time without speaking. “He seems to think it wouldn’t be right if he came, or something.”
“He’s not wrong,” was all Laurel said. She was quiet for a long time before adding, “my mum blames him. When I was still really sick, I made the mistake of telling her how we’d gotten hexed together.”
“I’m really sorry,” Isobel said, in a small voice. “About using Finite.”
“You probably saved my life,” Laurel responded without looking up. “The crash was awful—the worst—and I was still reeling until about a week ago. But mum’s talked to the school, and given me the assignments she got off you, so I still might be able to sit my O.W.L.s in the spring.”
It didn’t sound like Laurel was particularly glad about this news, more that it was the only thing she had on.
“What did you do for Christmas?” asked Emily, regretting the question as soon as it was out of her mouth.
“Well we can’t leave the ward, so the hospital did a bit of a do here, and people had their families round,” Laurel told them. “It was pathetic and depressing as shite.”
“Have you had many visitors?” Isobel asked.
“Outside of you lot it’s just been mum,” Laurel replied. “I think Tristan tried to come a while back, but I was still well sick, and mum banned him. But the editor of The Quibbler is in the men’s ward, and his daughter comes to sit with me when her dad’s asleep or in group. I like her,” Laurel reflected. “She doesn’t blather on about ‘one day at a time’ or any other bollocks like my mum and the nurses do.”
“Is she the one with hair down to her arse?” asked Emily.
“Yeah,” said Laurel. “You met her?”
“Out in the courtyard,” Isobel told her.
“She’s dotty as hell, but I think she might be something of a genius,” said Laurel. “When it comes to the big things, anyway.”
A few hours and several biscuits later, Laurel’s spirits had definitely improved. She still seemed to be followed by an enduring gloom, but at least she was putting on a show of acting merry. She finished her lunch tray down to the pudding, which prompted the nurse to make a delighted note on her clipboard.
“Oh no! It was her boyfriend?” Laurel gasped as Emily shared the story of Tristan’s run-in with Stuart. “Bloody hell! Did they duel?”
“Of course they didn’t duel,” Isobel laughed. “The bloke was a muggle, wasn’t he?”
“Well the girl had her memory modified, so Tristan just stuck to the story that nothing happened,” Emily explained.
“Blimey,” said Laurel. “That bloke does get the shite end of the stick more than anyone." A pause, then, "how is he?”
“Well,” Emily considered. “The same, I guess,” she said, but that was hardly good news.
“He’s showing us around muggle London tonight,” Isobel said excitedly before looking guilty. “We’ll miss you. I wish you could come.”
“I wish I wanted to,” Laurel said. “Even if I could leave the ward, I’m really not up for that much these days.”
“What’s it been like?” Emily tentatively asked.
“Like waiting,” Laurel shrugged. “Waiting for the day when you can feel cheerful again all on your own. Waiting for when you stop screaming inside because you can’t turn a wand on yourself.”
It stunned Emily to hear Laurel speaking so brazenly, and to think that Laurel was still feeling that way, but what had Emily expected? She couldn’t tell if it was a subject that she should steer away from or not; it seemed like Laurel almost wanted to talk about it.
“Are most people in for Cheering?” asked Emily.
“A lot of them, yeah,” said Laurel as she finished off Isobel’s bracelet for her. “It turns out it’s pretty common what I was on—a cheer with some tranquil. Nearly half the patients are in for that. Alacratus is another big one.”
It made Emily sad that these were Laurel’s new people. There were so many new words Laurel used, new phrases she’d picked up in the ward, to talk about her problem. It was like she’d become member of a new group, the Hex Heads of Britain, and would define herself in terms of inclusion and exclusion from here on out.
Visiting hours ended at five, and Emily and Isobel bid their farewell to Laurel, leaving her to weave friendship bracelets alone in her bed. Emily watched sadly as little Luna was taken away by a Ministry social worker.
They met up with Iman, who was running late, at the reception desk. Isobel had insisted that they could manage the trip to Tristan’s by themselves, but Ahmad had been unshakable. Having Iman drop them off at Tristan’s was a necessary compromise in their staying over.
After introducing herself to Tristan’s parents and denying offers for tea, Iman hugged the girls goodbye and disapparated back to Godric’s Hollow. Mary, who didn’t eat meat, fixed them all a vegetable curry for supper, which Isobel was thrilled about.
The two chatted amicably over their meal, and Eddie seemed delighted by Isobel’s interest in his muggle upbringing.
“I still have some family up north,” Eddie explained. “Mum’s running the farm with help from me brother. Sis teaches primary school nearby in Great Hangleton. Got a few great aunts and uncles scattered in the area.”
After supper Mary produced an old photo album, to Tristan’s obvious dismay.
“Goodness, you were always like this?” Isobel joked, flipping through identical photos of Tristan looking sullen. “Where’ve you hid all the baby photos, then?”
“We lost that album in the move,” Tristan lied easily.
“Oh, he’s smiling in this one!” Isobel squaled, pointing out the picture to Emily, who was glad for the change of subject. “And you’ve got a broom!” Isobel gasped.
“Oh Tristan used to love flying” Mary said wistfully. “Don’t know why he ever gave it up.”
“Well I was hardly about to play for Slytherin,” Tristan scoffed.
“But I thought you didn’t know the rules,” Emily said.
“I don’t,” he shook his head. “Throwing a quaffle around with your mum once a week isn’t exactly the same as a proper match. Iz," Tristan switched his attention on Isobel. "You grew up 'round Quidditch. Your parents must have forced you onto a broom when you were little."
"I was too fat to fly," Isobel sighed, and the words stung Emily. Isobel leaned in, and lowered her voice confidentially: "tits and Quidditch don't mix."
Emily remembered. Madame Hooch had excused Isobel from flying practice in their first year--eleven years old, and the Ravenclaw sported a chest rivaling every professor save Sprout.
At around eight o’clock, after Tristan’s parents made him promise that he’d call at ten and be back before midnight, the three headed out into London. Mary traded some of Isobel’s galleons for muggle money, and explained the exchange rate. Isobel had a hard time grasping the relative purchasing power of pounds.
“And if people catch you getting confused, just say that you’re French,” Mary finished, and gave Isobel a hug.
They took the underground to SoHo so Isobel could see the escalators, walked around the city center, and drank in a few pubs Tristan knew off the High Street. At one in the morning they boarded the bus back to Tristan’s house in Lambeth. When they returned, Emily found that Mary had set up the sofa and a camper bed for the girls to sleep on. She reminded herself to thank Mary in the morning.
After guiltily sharing a spliff in Tristan’s room, she and Isobel descended the stairs, and collapsed into sleep.
1. The first track of The Velvet Underground and Nico is titled "Sunday Morning," and the opening line is "Sunday morning, praise the dawning." The 'sun salute' is a yoga thing. Yoga and Lou Reed should hardly intersect, but that's Emily for you. (The CI text is a lyric from "Sunday Morning" as well.)
2. So, as you may have noticed, the purchasing power of pounds to galleons is incredibly inconsistent. To this I say: MAGIC. (If anyone is interested in this variety of nerdy minutiae, I highly recommend the fic "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" by Lesswrong--which is rather a masterpiece of Crack!Fic epic.)
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