Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us. ~ Oscar Wilde
When she opened her eyes the first time everything was fuzzy. She blinked and tried to make the world resolve.
"Her eyes are open," came a voice and she turned. "Her eyes are open," again, and two men were watching her, one dark, one fair. The dark one took her hand and said, urgently, "Stay with us, we're right here, you're okay," while the fair one stalked away. She frowned, closed her eyes again, and when she opened them the room was brighter and the bright man was talking, backlit by a window. He glowed in that light and she wondered if this was some kind of hallucination.
"She opened her eyes, don't tell me it's nothing."
"Sir, it was probably a –"
"They're open again." It was the dark man, he was holding her hand and, putting together that she must be in some kind of hospital – what could have happened – she held her arm out obediently for him to take whatever readings he wanted, too tired and confused to object.
"Well now," a woman bustled into sight, cutting off her view the glowing man. "Are you back with us? You gave everyone quite a scare, missy."
"What happened," she whispered.
"You fell down the stairs." It was the dark man. "Just tripped, an accident, but you," he was working to catch his breath and stay calm and she wondered why he was so emotional. "You hit your head pretty hard."
"You've been out for two days," the woman said briskly. "Scared your two blokes half to death, I'm thinking, but now that you're with us again I'm sure everything will be fine. I'll just go get the healer to take a look at you."
She felt so tired, and the healers were here, weren't they. She went to close her eyes again but the pale, fair man snapped, "Don't you let go again. Don't you fucking drift away from me, you hear? Stay right there." She forced her eyes open and looked at him. He was still up against the window, arms crossed over his chest. She couldn't even make out his expression against the brightness and she looked back at the darker man, sitting in a shadow holding her hand.
"Listen to him. We can't have you going off right after you get back."
"I've been unconscious for two days?" she could barely hear her own voice.
"52 hours, 43 minutes," the fair man said.
"We've been here the whole time," the dark man murmured. "We didn't leave you alone for a moment. These chairs, not comfortable to sleep in, you know." He seemed to be trying to twist his face into a smile. "You can make our sacrifice up to us later."
"But," she looked at him in confusion, "Who are you?"
His hand tightened on hers and as she closed her eyes again she heard the other man snap, "Where the fuck is that healer?"
When she opened her eyes again a determinably cheerful looking middle-aged man in a white coat was looking down at her. "Sorry to interrupt your nap. Mind if I pull up a chair and ask you a few questions."
"I, yes, no, of course," she stammered.
"Which is it?" The fair-haired man drawled.
"Shut up," hissed the one she's decided to call her dark angel. "This is not the time for your – "
"Be quiet, both of you" the healer doesn't even turn to look at either man, "Or I'm going to ask you both to leave."
"You can't," snapped the blond. "We're her…"
"I know who you are. The entire ward knows who you are, how much power you have, how much influence. You've waved that around like a flag to bully your way into this room with no regard for what are commonly called 'visiting hours' but if you actually care about this woman, you will be quiet and let me do my job." The man didn't raise his voice but she noticed her fair angel settled back against the window again, arms crossed and glaring but silent.
"Shall we try this again," the man smiled at her. "Let's start with the basics. You've been unconscious for a little over two days after you took a nasty fall. Scans show nothing wrong with you, but medical arts are ever imperfect and we sometimes learn more by talking to people than any other way. Now, how many fingers am I holding up?"
He held up three and she looked at them for a while; at last she heard her dark angel suck in his breath and immediately felt bad for worrying him though she honestly wasn't sure why. She was just trying to analyze exactly what she saw, to give a clear report with more information than just the number and why this stranger cared was confusing. "It's not exactly blurry," she finally said. "I can see that there are three, but they kind of shimmer, or wiggle."
"That's good." The healer smiled at her and when she looked at him with disbelief he laughed and said, "No, it's quite common right after coming out of a period of extended unconsciousness. If things still seem wiggly in a few days, then we'll start to worry. Right now, you can see so we call that good. How about the date. What year is it?"
"2008," she responded and he smiled again.
"Again, good news. Now, who's Minister of Magic?"
"Kingsley Shacklebolt," she was feeling more confident now. She'd been hit on the head, she'd been unconscious, but everything seemed to be in working order. She was weak, she was woozy and she wanted a shower but she was going to be fine.
"Great. Now, what's your name?"
She looked at the Healer, then, starting to panic, turned to her dark angel who was watching her with taut fear stretched across his face. She looked up at the light and that angel was holding himself like a man trying not to start raging. She glanced back at the healer, who still had a cheerful, encouraging smile on his face. She tried to figure out how bad this was from that smile; he was the professional here. "I... I don't know."
"Again, not uncommon. Don't worry." The man sounded totally at ease and she flicked a glance back at the dark man sitting by the side of her bed, hoping to see some kind of easing in his face. She didn't, but she reached out a hand to him, wanting some kind of support, something to ground her as the world spun out of control, even if it came from the hand of a stranger, and he grabbed it, held on to her as if she were some kind of lifeline for him.
"What's the last thing you remember?" The healer pressed on through his little quiz and now things were really bad.
"I… nothing." She said finally. "I don't remember… anything. How is that even possible?" Her voice was going up in a panic, she could hear herself getting hysterical.
"Nonsense," the healer's voice cut through the spiraling thoughts. "You know what year it is, you know basic political facts. Obviously, you can speak, you can reason. Again, this is not uncommon. I'm not worried, and I don't want you to be either. Everything will come back." He patted her hand. "Why don't you visit with your," he paused, "your friends? They've been most vigilant, sitting here by your bedside." He stood, turned and looked at the man leaning against the window, and said, "Don't upset her."
Then the healer left and she was alone in a hospital room with two strange men, one of whom was still holding her hand.
"I want a shower."
"Are you sure you're stable enough for that?"
She glared at the man and yanked her hand away from his. "I don't know who you are, but I'm quite sure I'm over the age of majority and thus allowed to make decisions about whether I shower for myself without your input." He closed his eyes during her words, swallowed hard.
"I'm just worried. You've been unconscious for a while; you might be a little shaky on your feet."
"Well, let's find out," she swung her feet over the edge of the bed and realized she wasn't only alone in a hospital room with two strange men, she was wearing a gown that opened in the back. So far, if she were making a tally of her day 'hospital gown' would go in the 'bad' column. Actually, the bad column would be pretty long. All she had for the 'good' column would appear to be 'alive' and 'conscious' which, before this, were things she's sure she'd pretty much taken for granted.
"I think," she muttered, "I can handle this." Then she stood up and the world wiggled to the left. Before she could even correct her balance her dark angel had grabbed her and was holding her steady.
"As usual," the other man muttered, "your idea of what you can handle is vastly larger than what you can actually handle."
"Just...walk me to the bathroom," she muttered in turn and, to her immense relief, the man holding her up didn't argue, just supported her as they crossed the room and helped her through the door. There was a chair in the actual shower and she relaxed. She really could get clean, could get this feel of sickness and stale sweat off her skin, without having to find a nurse to hold her upright.
"Go get her some clean clothes," the one man told the blond, who rolled his eyes but headed for the door.
"Who are you," she whispered after the man had helped her into the chair then left her, letting her have privacy.
. . . . . . . . . .
When she was done showering she realized she has to go back out, into this scary world where she doesn't know anyone, and she didn't even have anything to wear. She wrapped the thin, institutional towel around herself and opened the door, leaning cautiously against the frame and looking out. They were still there. The blond held out a pair of pajamas and she took a step towards him to grab them when the room tilted again and he suddenly grabbed her and was holding her steadily upright. "It's okay," he whispered. "We've got you." She buried her face against him, utterly humiliated that this stranger was keeping her from falling, that she was somehow in nothing but a towel, for goodness sakes, pressed up against this man's chest. He smelled… good. Like the sea, she thought. Salty and clear and clean. The scent was – it was something she actually knew.
"Why do you smell familiar?" She asked out loud, not meaning to. He kissed the top of her head and those arms held her tighter for a moment.
"You did know me fairly well, love, before you fell down the stairs," he said. "Do you want to get dressed or do I get to keep holding you in this delightful state of near nakedness?"
"Don't tease her," she could hear the other man snap and she looked at him, grateful and he smiled back at her.
"Dark angel," she murmured.
"If he's an angel, what am I?"
"Fair, fair Lucifer." She murmured. "From lux, lucis, Latin for light, and ferro, to bring or to carry. You are the one who brings the light. Light bearer."
"Well, her brain does still seems to function," muttered the dark one, "Even her judgment is on if she's comparing you to a fallen angel. Give her her clothes, let her get dressed." He was next to her, then, holding out his hand so she could take it, so he could help her back to the small bathroom where she can get dressed in privacy.
When she was finally dressed she slipped her way back out, looked at them. The dark one – she really needed names – wrapped an arm around her as soon as she was out the door, helped her to a chair.
"I had them change the sheets while you took the longest shower ever." The fair man announced.
"I, uh, thank you." She looked at him in confusion. "But why? Who are you?" she muttered in frustration.
"Why is fairly simple," he smirked at her as she huddled in the corner of an armchair. An armchair, she realized, that one of them had slept in for the past two nights, watching her. "Looking after you is what I do, though I admit you're usually far less dependent than this. As to who," his smile faded. "Of all the myriad things I've done in my life, I never expected to be introducing myself to my fiancé."