Chapter 12 : Scouts
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“I just don’t understand why they didn’t send this months ago!” John exclaimed as he read the letter for what must’ve been the tenth time.
“Would you have done anything different?” Albus asked, not looking up from his revised Auror Academy essay. The application was due in a week and Professor Longbottom wanted it sent off the next day. “Rose, could you look this over again?”
Rose sighed, setting down the book she was reading. “Did you actually change anything since I last read it?”
“I…I think so,” Albus muttered. “Could you just read it?”
“Fine,” Rose said. “But the next time I read it is going to be the last, and that’ll be right before you send it.”
“When’s your School of Healing application due?” Albus asked.
“Not until next month,” Rose said. “But I don’t have to do all the testing you do. Just an application and an interview.”
“Right,” Albus said. If the Auror Academy liked him enough on paper, they’d contact him within the month to schedule an interview, physical test, character evaluation, and psychological test. Once those were over, he’d have to wait until the spring to find out if he was accepted or not.
“Are you working on your essay, Rose?” John asked.
“No, I’m working on my editorial for the Prophet,” Rose answered. “I want it done before I turn in my application, so I can put it on there if it gets published.”
“What exactly is it about?” Matt asked quietly, looking up from his astronomy charts.
“I don’t have a title yet. I want people to see lycathropy for what it is. People need to start calling it lycanthropy and not call people who have it werewolves. Because it’s a disease…a disability. And I don’t meant that in a bad way-“
“I know you don’t. And you’re right. That is what it is,” Matt said.
Rose nodded. “And if people could see it for being that, for being something that affects someone’s ability to lead a typical life without modifications, then maybe people with lycanthropy will get the help they need, whether that’s government provided potions or to qualify for disability payments or whatever. I’ve been researching and someone like Boone, for example, wouldn’t even qualify for disability despite his hands, because lycanthropy is not seen as a disability and his hands are as they are because of his lycanthropy. Whereas James would possibly qualify for disability because his hand was injured due to Quidditch. I don’t know if he’d get it, but he could apply and his application would be taken seriously. Isn’t that insane?”
Matt nodded. “Dad complains about that all the time. There are a lot of people with lycanthropy who wouldn’t be able to work even if people would hire them and none of them qualify for any kind of assistance. I’d get denied if I applied on the basis of my lycanthropy-“
“But you’re fine most of the time,” John said. “So wouldn’t you get denied because of that?”
“Possibly. But when I get older and the transformations really start taking their toll, I wouldn’t qualify then, either. But if I were to apply because of my anxiety, I might get it for that.”
“Really?” John asked.
“Yeah, They started taking mental health seriously after the war,” Matt explained.
“Baby steps, I suppose,” Rose said. “And Al, your essay still looks fine. Look it over once in the morning and then send it off.”
“We’ve got practice, Albus,” John said as he stood up.
“Right,” Albus said, taking his essay and placing it carefully in his bag. “And thanks, Rose.”
“Al, could I talk to you before practice?” Matt asked. “I’ll be quick.”
“Sure,” Albus said. “I’ll meet you there, John.”
John nodded and set off for the pitch. Albus turned to Matt, who stood and followed John out of the room. Albus followed.
“What is it?” Albus asked once they were in the corridor.
Matt glanced up and down the corridor to make sure it was empty. “You know that group therapy session Norlam started?”
“Yeah,” Albus said, nodding.
“I- I think I’m going to go tomorrow. Norlam thinks it would be good…and I won’t have to say anything about lycanthropy. He reminded me that I’m not in therapy because of lycanthropy. The anxiety is related to it, but it’s not the same thing.”
“That makes sense. I hope it goes well.”
“I…I was actually wondering if you’d go with me. It’s just…I have no idea who’s going to be there and even if I’m not talking about lycanthropy I-“
“Of course,” Albus interrupted. “After class, right?”
Matt nodded. “Yeah, before dinner. And you won’t always have to go. Just…this will be the first one.”
“No problem,” Albus said. “Is this something you don’t want everyone else knowing about? I mean Rose and John and-“
“I just didn’t want Rose to go with me,” Matt said quietly. “She’s great, but she wants to do this for a living and I just thought she’d try to be Norlam’s assistant rather than….”
“Help you,” Albus finished.
“Exactly,” Matt said. “Thanks, Al.”
“No problem,” Albus said again. “I’ve got to get to Quidditch. I’ll see you later.”
Albus had no idea what to expect from a group therapy session. As a small child, he’d gone to a few family therapy sessions with his parents, James, and Lily due to his dad’s PTSD, but all he remembered doing was playing with the therapist’s puzzles and games with his siblings while their parents spoke with the therapist. He doubted that’s what he’d be doing at Healer Norlam’s group therapy session.
Even if Albus hadn’t known Matt since they were 11, it would’ve been easy for him to tell Matt was nervous as they walked side by side to the group therapy session. Matt wrung his hands the entire way and his face was pale the way it was before full moons. Normally Albus would try and distract him when he got anxious like this, but wasn’t the point of therapy to embrace the anxiety and figure out what was causing it?
“Maybe this was a stupid idea,” Matt muttered as they walked down the 7th floor corridor.
“You don’t have to go,” Albus said. “No one’s going to force you. But I don’t think it’s a stupid idea. It’ll be good to talk to other people who are going through what you’re going through.”
“No one else there has lycanthropy,” Matt whispered.
“No, but I bet at least one other kid there has an anxiety disorder. That’s why you’re going. No one has to know about the lycanthropy. Plenty of people have anxiety disorders without having gone through what you’ve gone through.”
“I know, I know,” Matt said.
“Look, if you hate it, we’ll leave,” Albus said.
“Okay,” Matt said, sighing. “Okay.”
They continued down the corridor, past the Room of Requirement and past the entrance to the Astronomy Tower.
“Isn’t it in the hospital wing?” Albus asked, as they passed the stairs.
“No,” Matt said. “Can’t close the hospital wing for this and it’s got to be private. It’s in a classroom, just a bit farther.”
Matt stopped in front of an open classroom door and looked at Albus. The look he gave him reminded Albus a lot of when he testified at the Boone trial.
“Okay,” Matt muttered, then slowly walked in.
Albus followed and was surprised to see that all the tables and desks had been removed from the classroom and replaced by squashy couches and armchairs. They were arranged in a circle, surrounding an oak coffee table, upon which sat a variety of sweets. Healer Norlam sat in an emerald green armchair and held a clipboard in his hands.
“Matt!” he said, smiling. “Nice to see you. And Albus, welcome. Have a seat.”
Matt nodded, stumbling over his shaky legs as he moved toward the circle. He caught himself on the back of a blue chair, then chose one of the couches. Albus sat next to him and looked around at who else was there.
Across from them, on another couch, sat a boy and a girl, neither of whom Albus recognized. They looked to be a few years younger, perhaps in Lily and Hugo’s year. They weren’t Gryffindors, but since they weren’t dressed in robes, Albus wasn’t sure of their houses. The boy eyed Albus warily, and Albus knew he was trying to figure out what sort of mental difficulties the son of Harry Potter had. He was both surprised and unsurprised to see Elsie Willinson curled up in the chair next to Healer Norlam’s, her face blank and devoid of emotion. Lastly, and the youngest of the group, was Erin Ellery, one of Hufflepuff’s Beaters.
The longer they sat waiting for the session to begin, the more nervous Matt became. While the rest of the group didn’t exactly look comfortable (save for Erin Ellery), Matt seemed by far the most anxious. Albus wasn’t sure whether that was because everyone else had already gone to these sessions or if he had been wrong in thinking some of the other group members would also have anxiety issues.
Healer Norlam checked his watch, then nodded, turning to Elsie. “Elsie, could you shut the door?”
Elsie didn’t reply, but stood up, shut the door, then sat back down in the same position she’d been in before.
“All right, time to begin,” Healer Norlam said. “Now, we have a few new faces this week, so I’d like to go over our ground rules again and then we can all introduce ourselves. The most important rule is nothing said in this room leaves this room. While I encourage all of my patients to be open about their mental illness, we all must understand that not everyone feels comfortable with that. Therefore, if someone feels comfortable enough to speak freely about it here, that doesn’t mean they want it spread around the school. We all need to respect that. Second, this is a judgement free zone. We are not here to make anyone feel bad about who they are or what they’ve done. We are here to help each other. If anyone breaks either of these rules, they will not be asked to return.
“Now, onto introductions. For the past few sessions I’ve had you introduce yourselves with your name, house, and an interesting fact about yourself. Remember, that interesting fact should have nothing to do with your diagnosis. Anyone remember why?”
“Because we are not defined by our illnesses,” Erin announced.
“Exactly. If you wish to share what illness you are struggling with as well, that is up to you. Erin, why don’t you start.”
“Erin Ellery,” she said. “OCD, since I was 5. And I can balance my wand on the tip of my nose.”
The boy who kept looking at Albus strangely went next. “I’m Franklin Matherson. I have depression. Um…and for an interesting fact…I once swallowed a chocolate frog whole, and I could feel it jumping around in my stomach.”
“Seriously?” Erin asked, her eyes huge. “How did you manage that?”
Franklin shrugged. “My brother dared me when I was eight.”
“Izzy, your turn,” Healer Norlam said.
The girl sitting next to Franklin sat up a little straighter. “Um…I’m Izzy Johnson. I, um, haven’t been diagnosed with anything…but I’ve had two panic attacks this year.”
Johnson Albus thought. Did Meg have a younger sister? Or perhaps a cousin? Then again, Johnson was a very common last name. Albus missed her interesting fact, too focused on her last name.
“I’m Elsie,” Elsie said, in a whisper so soft Albus could barely hear her. “I, um, have anxiety. And…I can’t think of any interesting facts.”
Healer Norlam nodded. “That’s okay, Elsie. Perhaps next time. Matt, you’re up.”
Matt looked like he was about to be sick, but he clasped his shaking hands and began. “I’m Matt Eckerton. I have generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. And for an interesting fact…um… I can do almost any spell nonverbally.”
If anyone was surprised at Matt’s list of disorders, they didn’t show it. Everyone except Elsie, did, however, seem impressed by his interesting fact.
“Albus?” Healer Norlam prompted.
“Er,” Albus began. He thought it was a bit ridiculous that he had to introduce himself when everyone obviously knew who he was because of his father. “I’m Albus. I don’t have a diagnosis. I’m here for Matt.”
“Thank you, everyone,” Healer Norlam said as he scrawled a note on his clipboard. “Now, if anyone would like to begin by sharing either a struggle or a success they’ve had this week, go ahead.”
Erin Ellery began, and Albus figured this was how the sessions usually went. Erin, it seemed, was very much a chatterbox. Albus paid only vague attention, however. His mind was half on Matt, who didn’t seem to be getting any less anxious as time went on, and half on Izzy Johnson and whether she had any relation to Auror Johnson.
The session continued with everyone except Matt and Elsie offering their struggles and successes, and everyone offering their comments on each person’s struggle or success. Healer Norlam said very little, and when he did, he simply prompted someone to think about why they had reacted in a certain way or done a certain thing.
Toward the end of the hour, Albus wondered why Healer Norlam ever thought this would be good for Matt. Matt hadn’t relaxed the entire time. His hands still visibly shook and there was a shiny film of sweat all over his face.
“Well, that’s all the time we have for today,” Healer Norlam said after Erin finished another story, this one about Quidditch practice. “I will hopefully see you all back here next week. Matt, if you could hang back for a moment.”
“I’ll wait for you outside,” Albus said, as he made to get up and follow everyone else.
Matt shook his head. “No, stay.”
After Izzy Johnson left, shutting the door behind her, Healer Norlam got up and sat on the coffee table, next to the chocolate frogs, and faced Matt.
“Your success,” he said quietly, “was the fact that you came here, verbalized your diagnoses, and stayed the entire time.”
Matt nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“I know that was tough. But I hope it will get easier if you keep coming back.”
“E-everyone e-else…they’re not as b-bad as I am,” Matt said quietly.
“I never compare my patients,” Healer Norlam said. “I’m not saying you have it worse off than they do. But, you have PTSD. From multiple traumatic events. PTSD is a whole other cauldron of fish. Not to mention, your emotions are heightened because of the waxing moon. If you’d like, I can look into a PTSD support group for you-“
“N-no,” Matt interrupted. “Not yet.”
“Ok. You let me know when. For now, go get some rest,” he said, pausing to pick up a handful of chocolate frogs. “And eat these. You’ll feel better.”
Matt nodded and took the frogs. He got up, and Albus followed.
Once they were outside the room and the door was shut, Matt sank down onto the floor and put his head between his legs. His breathing was hitched and he was shaking so hard it was clearly visible.
Albus sat down next to him. “Breathe,” he said. “In and out. Slowly. In…and out.”
They sat there for ten minutes, waiting out the panic attack. After it was over, Matt slowly picked his head up, his face covered with sweat and tears. “I d-don’t know if I c-can do that again.”
“You don’t have to,” Albus said. “You okay to stand?”
“I think so.”
Albus got up and stretched out his hand for Matt, who took it and stood up.
“Have you ever met Izzy Johnson before?” Albus asked, figuring the distraction would be good.
“N-no,” Matt said.
“I wonder if she’s related to Auror Johnson,” Albus said.
“Johnson’s a c-common name,” Matt said. “But I b-bet James would know.”
“Right,” Albus said. “I’ll send him an owl.”
The following morning at breakfast John was the one on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He sat staring at his plate of bacon and eggs as if it had all the answers in the world, or at least the ones that would enable Gryffindor to win their match against Slytherin.
“Won’t the scouts be more interested in your plays and how you unite the team?” Rose asked in between sips of tea. “Rather than whether you win?”
“Well, if we lose that’ll mean my plays and strategies weren’t good. Or at least not better than Slytherin’s,” John muttered.
“Isn’t it a bit more complicated than that?”
“Yes, but winning is still a better way to impress them than losing,” John snapped. He turned to Albus. “I’ll see you on the pitch. I’m going down early.”
Albus nodded. “I’ll be there in a bit. I told James I’d meet him in Dad’s study and give him the cloak and walk down with him.”
“Right, well, try not to be late,” John said as he got up, his breakfast still uneaten.
“He’s putting too much pressure on himself,” Rose said.
“Think of it like N.E.W.T.s,” Albus said. “You’ll be nervous for your N.E.W.T.s because the marks you get on those will either get you into the School of Healing or not. Same with the Quidditch matches this year. They’ll make teams want to hire John, or not.”
Rose looked slightly horrified at the idea of comparing N.E.W.T.s and Quidditch matches, but nodded all the same.
“I’ve got to go meet James,” Albus said, shoving the remainder of his toast into his mouth. “See you after the match.”
Albus hurried upstairs, stopping every few minutes to accept “good lucks” wished to him by various Gryffindors, while ignoring the glares of Slytherins. The Defense Against the Dark Arts corridor was empty and Albus slipped into his father’s study unnoticed. Neither James nor their father were there, so Albus wandered the room, noting how much messier it was now than it had been at the beginning of the year.
His father’s desk was extremely disheveled, with random pieces of parchment and remnants of biscuit scattered everywhere. Albus brushed the bits of biscuit off the desk, his hand resting upon a letter from Matt’s dad.
Albus glanced at the door, but the corridor outside seemed empty still. The fire still crackled orange and red, no sign of James. Hesitantly, he picked up the letter.
I think you’re right. I think we do need continue to move
toward a change in status. Even if the motion fails (and I am
99% certain it will), it will tell the world there are people
who want equal rights for lycanthropes, and it will keep
the idea at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
But we do need support from other countries. We’ll be
laughed out of the International Confederation of Wizards
if we walk in without support. I think we can count on
Canada, France, Sweden, and a number of others, but
I think we need to make a few trips abroad to visit with
other governments. See if Kendrick will give you a week or
so off sometime in the next month. Let me know.
The fire lit up green before Albus had a chance to process what he’d read. Quickly he set the letter back down and stepped away from the desk. James stepped out of the fire and smirked at Albus.
“I saw what you were doing there,” he said.
“I wasn’t doing anything,” Albus said hurriedly.
“As if you’d ever give up the opportunity to snoop,” James said. “You have the cloak?”
“Yeah,” Albus said, taking the cloak from where he’d left it on a table and handing it to James.
“Thanks,” James said as he wrapped it around himself. “How’s John doing?”
“He’s a wreck,” Albus said. “And I’m not talking to you while you’re under that cloak. I’ll look barking mad.”
“Fair enough,” James said.
They made it down to the pitch with plenty of time to spare, although there were a few students already in the stands. Albus led the way into the changing rooms, where the rest of the team was already huddled around John’s model Quidditch pitch. They turned toward the door as Albus and James entered.
Without saying a word, James pulled the cloak off himself and set it on the nearest bench. “Surprise,” James said.
There was a collective gasp from the team and they all abandoned John’s model to crowd around James.
“How are you?” Janie exclaimed. “How’s your hand?”
“Pretty useless,” James said, holding up his right hand, which was still encased in a brace. “But can’t say it’s any worse than it was a few months ago.”
“And your head?” Niamh asked.
James shrugged. “Better than before, not perfect.”
“It was never perfect to begin with,” Albus said, smirking.
The team laughed and James punched Albus in the shoulder. “Ow!”
“Oh, come off it, that didn’t hurt,” James said. “I punched you with my bad hand. That’s like getting punched by a baby.”
“It’s the principle of the matter,” Albus said.
“All right, enough fighting,” John said. “I’ve got to finish showing you this play.”
Having James there seemed to be a moral booster for the team and a confidence booster for John. As soon as James complimented one of John’s tactics, John seemed to lose all the anxiety he’d had that morning at breakfast.
The crowd grew louder and louder as the minutes ticked down to the start of the match. Eventually, they stopped talking tactics and simply waited for the team to be called.
“Did you see the scouts?” Albus asked.
“Yeah. They’re sitting with the professors,” John said. “It’s time.”
James donned the cloak and lined up behind the team. As they walked out onto the pitch, Albus couldn’t help but think that it should’ve been the other way around. Albus should’ve been the one watching James play.
A/N: Thanks for all the reviews! NaNoWriMo starts in less than five hours, so this is going on hiatus for the month of November. Depending on whether I finish NaNo early or not, I might update once in November. Otherwise, I'll be back in December with every other week updates since I've almost run out of chapters to post. And I know this seems like a cliffhanger, but the match was too long to fit the whole thing at the end of this chapter. Nothing earth shattering happens during it.
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