Just a few comments first:
English is not my first language and therefore you can expect many errors in this story. So, if you're looking for a very good written story or if you're a member of the Grammar Police, this fanfiction may not be for you. Be warned!
That being said, I am looking for some constructive criticism, so do feel free to point out any mistakes or things that simply don't make sense^^"
Truth be told, I started writing this story to practice English before my exams. Seemed like a more interesting way to learn than by studying textbooks. And I feel like posting chapters online will keep me more motivated to write regularly and put more effort into it, so… here we go!
I hope you'll enjoy it :)
My dad was not insane. He had some unusual qualities- disregard for personal safety and a blind spot for the consequences of his actions being the most obvious- but he was not mental or out of control. He had his own code of conduct and his own way of looking at the world around him. I always thought there was nothing wrong with that. After all, if we all saw the world in the same way, life would become really boring really quick, right? My dad simply had his own way of looking at things. A way that didn't really correlate with the way others, more socially accepted people, looked at it. There was nothing wrong with that.
My dad was not really insane. He never really meant to get stuck in circumstances like this one, right now. He didn't have control over the situation. Sometimes things just happened and there was nothing he could do about it. Truth be told, I think he would be perceived as a bad person if he did what most people would do, were they in his place, and turned a blind eye to what was happening. But dad was not a bad person. He was a good person, who wanted to help. If you have the ability to help someone and ease their pain, you should do it, right? Despite the consequences and despite who those people are?
My dad was not insane. He was just a good person.
That's what I told myself as I was kneeling on the floor of the hallway at two in the morning and peaked through the balusters to try to distinguish from which part of the house the terrible noises were coming from.
Loud cries of anguish were filling the otherwise quiet night. Pained screams, crying, glass clinking and noisy squeak of bed. All clear signs that there was a patient in the Jones' Health Clinic.
"What are you doing, Mia?" came a hissing voice from above me.
I tilted my head to look up at my sister, Clara, who was standing in the hallway with her arms crossed over her chest. Her long, wavy blond hair was in a complete mess and her face showed nothing but annoyance. Even her eyes shone with an angry spark. I suppose she would look quite intimidating if it wasn't for her pink, flowery nightgown.
"I want to figure out who it is" I informed her, using my best conspiratorial voice. "It sounds like a young boy, less than 10 years old. And there is a woman crying, I'm thinking it's his mom. Now, I'm trying to hear if it's a Muggle or a wizard." After which I added proudly "I'm solving a mystery, like that detective in the books"
Unfortunately, Clara wasn't impressed.
"Merlin's beard," she said with exasperation " You just get weirder and weirder with every passing day."
I puffed my cheeks and squinted my eyes at her.
"Says the one weirdly obsessed with some old man's hairy face." I said in an accusatory way.
'Merlin's beard' seemed to be my sister's favorite saying. Whether she was annoyed, angry, happy or confused- she always talked about this beard. What was so special about it anyway?
Apparently, a lot, because she was now looking at me in outrage.
" Some old man! That old man was one of the most powerful wizards of all time, stupid!"
"I'm not stupid. Daddy says I'm just smart in a different way."
"You shouldn't put too much value into what dad says" she muttered under her breath but I still caught it. And even if I didn't, there was no masking the look of disdain that crossed her face. That look graced her features quite often, always associated with something that had to do with dad.
I didn't like it.
"Why are you so mean to daddy lately?"
Clara threw her hands in the air in clear exasperation and snarled. "Well, I'm sorry that I don't worship a man who puts his own daughters in danger in order to fulfill some sick need of self-validation"
"That's not true!" I objected immediately "We are never in any danger"
Clara's perfect eyebrow rose high on her face and she gave me that condescending look, which I hated.
"Oh really? Do you not remember a group of angry men from last month? Trashing half of the clinic and muggle police coming over to save dad's buttocks?"
"Bikers" I supplied helpfully.
"The group of angry men. Daddy said they were bikers."
Clara blinked couple times, clearly put off the track. It lasted only seconds though because soon after she was looking at me as if I was the most ridiculous thing she has ever seen in her entire life.
"Because that's the crucial part of the story!"
"Daddy is a wizard," I said, ignoring Clara's incredulous look. "He could stop them if he wanted to and we were upstairs the whole time. We were safe".
And I had no doubts about it in my mind. Dad might not care all that much about his personal safety, but he always made sure that Clara and I were protected. He never allowed us to stay alone with any patient, no matter how harmless they seemed, unless he was in a hearing distance and was able to appear in the room almost instantaneously if something happened. I know he put protective charms on the staircase leading upstairs, so no Muggle could possibly find it, even if they tried, and he also secured our bedroom doors, so no one would be able to enter without our explicit permission. Honestly, I thought we were safer than most kids usually are. As long as we were careful and kept a common sense, there was no way any harm could come to us.
Too bad Clara didn't see it that way.
"Oh, amazing!" she exclaimed with a voice filled with sarcasm. "As long as we stay in our rooms for the rest of our lives, nothing will happen. Too bad our Father of the Year constantly forgets to close the door so we still have to listen to everything that's happening downstairs at 2 am."
"So we'll feel sleepy today," I said, shrugging my shoulders without a care. "People don't die from being sleepy…"I paused for a bit as a certain scenario suddenly entered my mind "Unless a bee flies into your mouth while you're yawning and it bites you and you're allergic… but you can't blame daddy for that. You should blame the bee. What was it looking for in there anyway? There are no flowers in people's mouths."
As if to make a point, I opened my mouth and came near Clara so she could see. She looked outraged as she grabbed my chin and forced my mouth to close, causing me to bite my tongue in the process.
"Dat hult!" I complained as I took my tongue between two fingers and pulled a little, trying to examine the damage with my own eyes.
Clara made a noise full of annoyance and swatted my hand.
"Close your mouth, you little weirdo! Merlin's beard!
"What's so special about his beard?" I asked, genuinely curious at this point.
Clara had no answer for me. She looked pretty done with this conversation, to be honest.
"I swear, if you're still so ignorant about the magical world when you come to Hogwarts, I'm telling everyone you were kicked in the head by a Hippogriff when you were a baby"
I rolled my eyes at her. She always acted so disturbed when I came short on some magical culture knowledge. As if that was my fault!
Dad raised me in a very Muggle lifestyle. He didn't use much magic at home unless he was working with wizards and witches. He did all the chores around the house without using his wand. He didn't talk about magic or anything related to it unless it was in a specific company or specific area in the house. Only when he was absolutely sure that no word would reach an unwanted ear did we talk about magic-related things.
I sometimes think that might be the reason why Clara is so annoyed with this whole thing. When mom was still alive, they used magic freely and lived in a way any other wizarding family lived. Back then dad only had his health clinic for wizards-he was just a healer, not healer and a doctor. I, of course, don't remember those times. I was barely 2 years old when mom died and so I only know of her and the life we lead while she was still with us, from the stories. I was raised in an entirely Muggle-way, I had no memories of magic-filled home.
Clara, on the other hand, was five years older than me and still vividly remembered times when objects would fly freely in the air, when dishes washed themselves, when she could have actual conversations with our mirrors and clocks, when dad would make flowers sing and mom decorated Christmas cakes with dancing reindeers… she was raised in an entirely magical way and thus the transition into a Muggle life took a toll on her. I think she always resented dad for his decision.
I could never really understand why she would be so mad about it though.
Yes, we were mostly surrounded by Muggle things and I was raised on mostly Muggle culture, but it's not like that's all there was. It's not like we were completely cut away from the wizarding community. We still talked about magic from time to time. I knew basic facts and information and Clara always talked a lot about Hogwarts and new stuff she learned each year. We also got to talk to other wizards and witches that came to dad's clinic. We were still a wizarding family, we just lived in a Muggle home.
Clara didn't get to tell me that I was ignorant about it.
"I already know lots about magic!" I assured her. "I know you can fly on a broom and make pictures move and you mix potions and use them to make people feel better. Oh, and you wave a stick and stuff happens"
My demonstration of knowledge was met with a glare, which clearly showed that my sister was not impressed.
"Sometimes I wonder if you're a squib."
I blinked. "What's a squib?"
Clara looked at me with resignation, however before she got a chance to give me yet another lecture, a loud, shrieking scream filled the air, successfully cutting off our conversation.
I leaned towards the stairs and pricked up my ears.
"Definitely a wizard." I stated with confidence.
There was no mistaking a scream so loud. The voice was carried with an echo all through the hallway. It was definitely coming from the left side of the house- the magical health clinic side.
"Stop listening to it, weirdo!" scolded Clara. "You shouldn't be hearing things like that at all. And come to think of it, you shouldn't be up either. Go back to bed."
"I'll still hear it in my room" I pointed out, as I had no intentions to go back there. None whatsoever.
"No, you won't. I'll go downstairs and close the door."
"I'll go with you." I decided as I made to move toward the stairs.
Clara took a step to cut me off, her hands firmly placed on her hips. "Absolutely not."
"I'll go anyway."
We stared at each other for a while. Clara with disapproval and annoyance, me with unmoving determination. In the end, Clara scoffed angrily and I immediately knew I won this one.
"You are such a pain in the buttock!" she complained but proceeded to grab my hand and lead me down the stairs.
I smiled a bit. That's why I loved my sister, although I didn't like her all that much. She was annoying most of the time, but she had moments when she was alright.
My uplifting mood didn't last long, however, as we neared the bottom of the stairwell, crossed the kitchen and found ourselves right in front of the entrance to the Jones' Health Clinic for wizard and witches.
The door was wide open. Dread curled in my throat, leaving a rancid taste in my mouth at the scene that was happening a few feet away.
"Don't look." Cautioned Clara before she went further down the corridor.
But of course, I looked. How could I not? The view was not something you could turn your back on.
Just as I thought, the patient was a young boy. He looked to be a similar age as me.
Even from the distance, I could see a thin, pale face twisted in pain and anguish. I could see deep cuts marking his tiny arms and legs. I saw my dad tending to each cut separately, applying some strange mixture to it. Every time the liquid touched the boy's skin, a heart-wrenching yelp escaped his lips.
The boy looked so small, fragile… and sad. A shadow crossed my heart at the mere sight.
It wasn't till Clara finally tiptoed across the wooden floor and as quietly as possible closed the massive door to the clinic, that I managed to blink and rid my thoughts of the terrible images. With the door now closed, the noise level was considerably lowered but I could still hear quiet whimpering of the injured boy.
"He looked so sad. What do you think happened to him?" I asked in a hushed voice, as soon as Clara came back to my side.
She, however, dismissed my question with an annoyed glare. "Don't ask questions you don't want answers for."
"But I do want answers"
"No. You don't." she snapped angrily and grabbed my hand again, this time dragging me forcefully back upstairs. I had no choice but to follow her.
"At least it was a wizard and not one of them." She added while sending one last short glare towards the door on the right side of our house, towards the muggle health clinic.
I honestly couldn't tell if Clara really hated Muggles, or if she just loved magic so much? Maybe it was a little bit of both? I can't really recall how she felt about magic in the beginning, as I was too young back then, but I do remember how utterly happy and relieved she looked when she first received her Hogwarts letter. I also remember each time a huge smile would grace her face when she disappeared in a train called Hogwarts Express and how each time she arrived home for Christmas and summer vacation her smile became forced and almost pained.
Clara was rarely happy at home.
I glanced curiously at her face, now twisted in cold anger and barely contained frustration.
I didn't say anything else as I quietly followed her upstairs.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
I reached out to turn the clock off, but instead, I managed to push it on the floor, still ringing.
Groggy and half awake, I rolled on the bed, taking the entire comforter with me as I landed on the floor with a soft thump. Luckily, I was wrapped in so many soft layers that I barely felt a thing.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
"Where are you, Mr. Clock?" I asked with a wine as I searched through my messy floor to find this obnoxiously loud object. Clothes, comforter, and blankets were dispersed all throughout the space near the bed as I searched frantically for the clock.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
"Turn that bloody thing off!" came a voice of my sister from the room next to mine. The wall was pretty thin here so we could practically hear everything that happened in each other's rooms. I didn't mind. Clara minded a lot.
"Mr. Clock is hiding from me!" I shouted back with a complaint.
It took me a few more moments to finally locate the ringing object near the bedframe, cleverly hidden behind one of the many pillows.
I reached for it and hit the off button and then shouted victoriously. "Clara, I found it!"
It was six in the morning and other than my sister's grumpy voice, only the bright chirping of birds could be heard. There was something soothing about being up this early. Things outside were so quiet and peaceful. Everything was at rest.
I skipped enthusiastically towards the small window in the middle of my room and peeked outside. Only a few cars were out on the road… oh, and our elderly neighbor, Mrs. Benedict, walking down the sidewalk with her dog, Ziggy. She was a nice lady. She always gave me lemonade and cookies when I played outside during the summer.
My observations were interrupted as something new grabbed my attention. Wonderful waves of sweet-smelling air reached my room.
Melted butter…maple syrup…Breakfast!
I quickly put on my bunny slippers and run downstairs.
As always, I was greeted by the sight of my dad, moving around in the kitchen, wearing a two sizes too small apron with a picture of a laughing duck on it. Mom's apron. For some reason, dad always wore it while cooking, even when it wasn't really necessary.
He was already finishing preparing breakfast, as could be seen from the stock of pancakes on the table, surrounded by various kinds of fruit.
I sometimes wondered how many hours does dad even sleep?
The day always started early for Audric Jones. When the sun got up, so did he. He always said that time is too precious and scarce to waste. As a result, I learned to wake up early as well. Dad was always very busy, what with running two clinics and an overwhelming number of patients, so the mornings were really the only time when we could spend at least a little bit of time together.
"Good morning, Daddy!" I exclaimed happily as soon as I entered the kitchen.
Dad turned around and send me one of his big grins that lighted up his otherwise tired features.
"Good morning, Muffin." He greeted me back and scooped me up in his arms for a morning hug. I wrapped my arms around his neck and squeezed as hard as I could. However, because of the lack of sleep, my hug was not as strong as it usually is. After a few seconds, he put me back on the floor and ruffled my hair playfully.
"That is not a hug worthy of the 'morning hug' title! Where has all the strength of my Warrior Muffin gone?"
"I'm just tired, Daddy. Your new patient woke me up at night"
A smile suddenly fell from my dad's face.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, sweetheart. I guess I forgot to close the door…" he trailed off, rubbing the back of his head in a slightly sheepish gesture.
"Don't worry, Daddy! I don't mind."
And I really didn't. Dad was helping people so it's alright. Who cares about how much sleep they've gotten when there is a person injured and in pain?
As on cue, Clara entered the kitchen.
She still wore her flowery nightgown and her hair was now tied loosely in a messy bun. Annoyance was clearly written on her face.
"Good morning, Princess." Dad greeted her with a slightly hesitant smile.
Dad and she have had enough fights about the late-night visitors in the past that I think he was kind of expecting her to be mad at this point. And the fights were usually consisting of Clara shouting and dad trying to soothe her anger.
This time, Clara just send him a glare and mumbled half-hearted "Mornin'". My guess is that she wasn't awake enough to argue just yet.
"I'm really sorry about all the noise last night, girls. I will definitely make it up to you! How about we start with- "he paused dramatically for an effect and then proclaimed proudly"-as much chocolate for your pancakes as you want!"
I threw my hand in the air and shouted victoriously. "As much as we want! Awesome!"
Dad was always quite strict in the amount of chocolate and sweets we could eat at one go. I think it had something to do with that one time I ate 20 bars of chocolate in an hour to show Clara that I could. I spend the rest of the day with a hurt tummy.
Since then, we've always had chocolate rules and so this new chocolate freedom was getting me really excited.
"Anything for my Muffin and my Princess!"
I grinned happily, while Clara looked entirely unimpressed.
A Muffin and a Princess.
That's how dad always called us, ever since I could remember. I don't really know where my nickname came from, but hers was quite obvious.
Clara really did look like a princess. She always had. Even at this moment, with dark circles under her eyes and her long, blond hair tied up into a messy bun. She made even that look charming.
My sister has always been praised for her looks. She was an adorable baby, then a beautiful child and now a gorgeous young woman. She was tall, with a perfect olive skin and bright blue eyes. All that was complemented by long, shiny blond hair that always seemed to arrange itself in a way that made her look pretty.
And me? I honestly think I had more in common with a muffin than with a princess. I was short, even for my age. I had puffy cheeks and freckles on my nose. My hair was long and blond, but I could only dream of having them shine like Clara's. They also never managed to stay in one place after I brushed them. They were always flying everywhere and getting in my face in the most inconvenient way possible.
While Clara looked very similar to mom, I had mixed features of both mom and dad. The only thing we shared, in the same way, were our eyes. Bright blue eyes with a certain spark in them. Just like mom's eyes.
Unfortunately, Clara only inherited mom's looks, not her personality.
"I'm not hungry," Clara stated coldly. "I just came down for some tea."
I watched as she quickly grabbed a cup and poured some hot liquid into it. As soon as she was done, she turned around and left the kitchen with a gloomy expression.
I glanced at dad and felt my heart sunk. His previous enthusiasm completely disappeared. His eyes filled with familiar by now hurt.
He closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them, it was with a somewhat gentler gaze. It was always like that- a quick flicker of hurt and then the well-crafted mask was back in place. If I wasn't paying such close attention, I would have missed it.
But the thing is- I did pay attention. I noticed every time and just like always, I immediately felt the need to cheer him up.
"Don't worry, Daddy. She's just mad that she didn't get her 'beauty sleep'. She's worried she'll get ugly now."
"I HEARD THAT!"
"It's rude to eavesdrop, Clara!" I shouted back just before I heard her slam the door.
I slumped into the chair and mumbled unhappily. "She's so annoying"
"It's not her fault, sweetheart." Dad insisted, as usual defending my sister from any criticism. "It was mine. Clara has a right to be angry"
"No, she doesn't"
Dad sent me a small, sad smile but didn't say more about the subject. Clara's behavior was never up for discussion. Dad just accepted her annoyance and anger and endured moments of hurt. Then he immediately went to change the topic.
Just like now…
"I actually have to leave you for a while. I have a new patient in 15 minutes"
… And it always worked. Clara momentarily forgotten as the new information sparked my interest.
"Which side?" I asked eagerly.
I hummed thoughtfully. Muggle patient.
"-And, since this patient will most likely take over the entire morning… Can I entrust you with a very important mission, my Warrior Muffin?"
A big smile appeared on my face. "Absolutely!"
"Can you go the spare room in the clinic and let Mrs. Lupin know that she can help herself to breakfast? The poor woman has been here all night. She must be starving at this point."
I nodded solemnly.
"I'll do it, Daddy."
When I entered the room, Mrs. Lupin was sitting on a chair placed right next to the spacious bed. I glanced up and saw that the injured boy was fast asleep. Some color returned to his cheeks and the deep cuts from earlier were almost invisible.
"Hello, Mrs. Lupin." I started softly, sending a warm smile her way. "Daddy asked me to show you to breakfast. He made pancakes"
If there was one thing that dad made absolutely sure to taught me is that you need to smile. You have to be nice in any way you can.
People don't come here because they had a good day. Dad would say. They come here because something bad happened to them or to someone they care about. These are the people who desperately need kindness. Please, smile for them, Muffin.
And so I always did. And with Mrs. Lupin, I think I would try to be nice to her, even if dad never asked me to. She just looked so sad, sitting alone on the chair and holding her son's hand with such a gentle care, as if she was afraid he would break if she holds too tight. Her red, puffy eyes showed that she spend a big part of the night crying. It didn't look like she slept at all.
"Oh, thank you. That's very kind of him" she replied with a weak smile that didn't reach her eyes.
I watched as she carefully let go of her son's hand. She brushed a few loose strays of hair from his forehead and then adjusted the comforter, so it would reach far up to his chin. She did all that with a great gentleness.
Before she stood up, she sends one last look towards her son. A look full of love and adoration, as if she was looking at the greatest treasure of the world.
I watched her every move with fascination. I wondered if all moms were like that.
Mrs. Lupin followed me to the kitchen in silence. Once there, I showed her to the chair. I placed a plate full of food on the table right in front of her and went to prepare a cup of camomile tea. After a minute or two, I put the tea and a small jar of honey next to her plate.
She thanked me with a small smile and I took a seat next to her to finish my own breakfast. For a while, we ate in silence.
I kept watching her as she gently brought the mug to her lips and slowly sipped the warm liquid. Her hands were shaking slightly, probably from exhaustion.
Mrs. Lupin had a very amiable essence about her. Maybe it was her warm brown eyes and lilac-grey hair or her soft accent. She just seemed like the kind of person, who could not possibly be cruel to another living being.
Maybe that's why I didn't like that she looked so sad?
"Your son will be alright, Mrs. Lupin." I tried to assure her. "Daddy said so and he's a really good healer"
Mrs. Lupin looked a bit startled at first, probably having been consumed in her own thoughts and not expecting me to speak at all, but finally, the corners of her mouth lifted in a small smile.
"Your dad is a very good man. I'm sure he did his best. We've heard many good things about him."
"Really? From who?" I asked with a genuine surprise. "Most wizards think my daddy's crazy"
I know many people disapproved of my dad's actions. I might be only 8 years old, but even I could put together certain puzzle pieces to figure out that dad wasn't exactly popular in the wizarding community. Ministry officials were coming over almost every month to check on dad's work and making sure no law has been broken and no Muggle came too close to any magical activity. It's as if they were waiting for the other shoe to drop so they could close dad's practice. On top of that, wizards and witches looked distasteful and disapproving every time dad even acknowledged the existence of his other patients… his Muggle patients to be exact.
So maybe opening a health clinic for wizards and opening a health clinic for muggles and then stationing them both on the opposite sides of the same house was not the most popular idea, but who cared? Dad was a good person and he helped people, whether they had magic or not, whether they had the money or not, and even if they were good people or not. He just wanted to help. There was nothing wrong with that, right?
Mrs. Lupin seemed to share my thoughts on that.
"Negative opinions are always the loudest. It takes a trained ear to hear the truth." She spoke gently, looking at me with an odd mixture of sympathy, reassurance, and definiteness. It was an odd look. One I didn't get to see often… maybe ever? However, I found that I liked that look. It made her seem determined and yet still gentle and caring.
I smiled at her brightly, but that quickly faltered as I looked at her closely. My eyes winded in shock. How come I didn't notice it before?
Mrs. Lupin had blood all over her shirt, even some on her skirt. It didn't look fresh, it was clearly dry by now, judging by the color. Still, it made me jump a little in alarm.
"Did you get hurt too?"
Mrs. Lupin looked surprised at first, clearly not understanding why I would suddenly ask such a question. Eventually, she followed my line of sight towards her bloodied shirt. Her own eyes winded in shock.
"Oh, this. No, no it's his… it's…" she trailed off, her eyes instantly glossing over with unshed tears.
I felt guilt washing over me. I shouldn't have asked her about that. Stupid me!
Whatever better mood Mrs. Lupin seemed to be in a second ago, it was all gone now. She went back to the same miserable, heart-wrenching state she was in when I entered the room for the first time.
I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit.
"I can watch over him." I offered immediately, a hint of desperate eagerness in my voice. "If you'd like to go home and take a shower and change. He's asleep now anyway"
Mrs. Lupin regarded me with a troubled look, clearly conflicted.
"Daddy is always home. If something happens, I'll call for him and then he can call you. And if your son wakes up and he's fine, I'll keep him company until you're back."
That's how I found myself here. Sitting in a chair of a clinic with my legs crossed and a large book firmly placed on my knees as I quickly read page after page. Every now and then I would glance up towards the boy, who was still laying sound asleep on the bed right next to me. He still looked terrible- his hair all tangled up, circles under his eyes and greyish skin- all signs of exhaustion and all the pain he went through couple hours ago. His breathing, however, was much less erratic than before. Every time I looked up, he seemed to be a bit better. Every few minutes, his skin was getting a little pinker, his breaths deeper and the dark circles ceased slightly.
There was something truly fascinating about watching a person regaining their health. No wonder dad loved his job so much.
I wasn't even sure how much time passed, till I finally heard a squeak of the bed and soft mumbling. I jumped a bit in my sit and looked up alarmed. However, the boy didn't seem to be in any distress. He seemed to be waking up.
I closed my book and set it aside on the night table, all while watching the boy. I observed closely as his eyes slid open. He blinked many times before he was able to open them properly. Even then, his gaze was unfocused as it wandered over his surrounding, still cloudy with confusion.
He slowly looked to his left, clearly trying to make sense of where he is and what's happening. When he didn't find any clues there, he carefully moved his head to the right. His gaze fell on me and I could see, as if in slow motion, how his eyes grew bigger in surprise. The room was completely silent as we both stared at each other, neither too sure of what to do or say.
Now that the boy was awake, looking at me with his confused eyes, I suddenly felt very self-aware. There was only me and him here.
I smiled awkwardly. "Hello."
The boy looked startled as he tried, and failed, to get into a sitting position. I saw him wincing in pain from even this slightest movement and I'm pretty sure I winced with him. He looked so hopeless at this moment.
"W-Who are you?"
His voice sounded weak and strangely vulnerable as it cracked at the beginning. His eyes, however, now shone with attentiveness and the same unusual gentleness as Mrs. Lupin's eyes. He was very similar to his mom, in a way he carried himself.
"I'm Amelia Jones." I introduced myself but I made no move to shake his hand. It would be quite silly in his current state. "You can call me Mia if you want. This is my dad's clinic."
The boy nodded slowly, wincing a bit at the movement. Some of the tension left his shoulders. He glanced around the room, clearly searching for something. Finally, he furrowed his eyebrows.
"Where's my mom?"
"She went to take a shower and change. She had your blood all over her shirt."
I immediately knew I said something wrong when I saw the boy going very still all of a sudden.
"Don't worry, she'll be back soon." I told him softly.
I saw a flicker of uneasiness pass his face.
"I offered to watch over you-" I continued hastily "-and keep you company if you woke up. Which you did. Do you want to talk?" I said on one breath, trying to grab his attention and point it somewhere else.
The boy blinked surprised. He looked at me uncertainly.
"Talk about what?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. Anything. What's your name for starters?"
He paused for a moment before he spoke. "Remus"
Remus. I don't think I've ever heard such a name before. I smiled and said to him. "That's a weird name! I like it."
The corners of Remus' mouth went up a bit in something that, I believe, was supposed to resemble a smile. Except it wasn't a smile. It wasn't happy. It was sad, just like him. A sad boy.
"You'll get better, you know? My daddy said you'll be alright. You don't have to worry."
If anything, he looked even sadder than before.
"I'll get better- "he spoke in a small voice "-but I'll never be alright."
Remus shifted uncomfortably in his bed, sending me an uncertain glance.
"I don't know if I can say."
"You can tell me anything," I assured right away. Now that we started talking, I felt strangely desperate to keep the conversation going. "Daddy says that we always have to keep our patients' secrets if we want them to trust us. You're a patient at Jones' Health Clinic. I'm a Jones. So I have to keep your secret."
He was quiet for some time. I was starting to think he was going to ignore me from now on. A shadow crossed his face and when he finally opened his mouth, he spoke with a voice so broken and miserable and tired that I felt something twist painfully in my chest.
"I'm a monster"
I looked at him in shock, eyes wide and mouth slightly open. In one swift movement, I jumped from my seat and went to stand directly next to him. I moved my eyes carefully over his entire being, looking for any confirmation of what he just told me. Claws? Fangs? Any deviation from a normal human?
Eventually, I furrowed my eyebrows and stated firmly.
"No, you're not."
He looked at me sadly and repeated with the same broken voice as before.
"Yes, I am."
"Are you sure about that? Wait, let me see!"
I went to grab his hand. I lifted it from the bed as gently as I could as to not cause him any more pain. His hand was warm, soft, almost the same size as mine. I glanced at his face cautiously, only to see him looking transfixed at out our hands, now in a firm hold. I shifted my palm a bit, so it would set directly on his. His fingers aligned perfectly against mine.
"Human fingers are special, you know?" I said softly, now looking at our touching hands. "Because there aren't many things in this world with fingers like ours. There are only monkeys, I think…. But you're not a monkey, are you?"
Remus snorted shortly. Still no traces of humor in his voice.
"It's not that simple" he claimed as he removed his hand from mine and placed it back on the bed.
"Sure it is!" I told him with determination." You look like a human, you act like human and therefore you're a human."
It made perfect sense in my mind. He was gentle and had soft hands… What monster had soft hands? That was just ridiculous.
However, Remus didn't share my confidence in his humanity. He still had that resigned and miserable look on his face.
"Not everyone looks at me this way"
I let out a short laugh and looked at him with a raised eyebrow. My arms crossed over my chest as I spoke patiently. "Sorry to tell you that, but if you want everyone around you to like you, you'll end up disappointed. There's no single person in the world, who is liked by everyone."
There was a long moment of silence before he mumbled in a small voice. "What if no one likes you?"
I shook my head sternly. "That's not possible either! Everyone has at least one person who likes them and one person who dislikes them. Besides, I like you! You have a weird name and soft hands. If you want, I can always like you and then you will always know that you have at least one person. Do you want me to be your person?" I blurted it all out, not even pausing between each sentence.
I felt an unusual urgency in reassuring Remus that- yes, he is a human being and- yes, there are people who will like him.
Remus was startled by the question for only a moment before numbly nodding his head. I wasn't sure if he even knew what he was doing. He seemed to be in a similar state of confusion as he was when he first woke up. He stared at me with an unreadable expression for quite a while before he finally cleared his throat and spoke nervously. "Y-Yeah, I'd like that"
A huge smile started to form on my face, but before I could properly show Remus my best grin and profess my happiness at our new-formed friendship, something very strange happened.
Remus suddenly tensed up, his eyes widening in… Shock? Surprise? He lifted his hand and placed it over his face, in a way that would cover his eyes. A moment later, his lower lip trembled slightly. He bit his lip with a force that would most likely leave a mark.
"What's happening? Are you in pain?" I started asking frantically, feeling panic rising in my chest. Did I do something wrong? Were his injuries getting worse? Should I be calling dad?
But none of it seemed to be necessary, as Remus shook his head and finally removed his hand from his face. Unshed tears were shining in his eyes.
"It's-It's nothing. I'm fine." A peculiar look graced his face and I had no idea how could I possibly interpret it. I honestly couldn't even tell if he was happy or sad. His eyes were slightly glossed with tears, but they were also bright and filled with warmth.
An awkward silence fell between us. I still wasn't too sure about what was happening, but I also didn't know how to go about finding out. Remus was clearly distressed, but it wasn't a physical pain. However, I didn't know what I did that could upset him. I just asked him if he wants me to like him and he said yes. There shouldn't be anything wrong with that.
I laced my fingers behind my back in a self-cautious gesture and then mumbled the first thing that popped up in my head. "So…Did you know that turtles can breathe through their butts?"
I thought maybe there had been too many moments of complete silence in the past 15 minutes. I bit my lip nervously as Remus stared at me, stunned speechless. The previous peculiar expression was completely gone. Then the moment was broken as he opened his mouth and stammered, struggling to ask. "W-Why are you telling me this?"
I shrugged nonchalantly. "No reason. I just wanted to make you think about turtle's butt"
He looked at me for a long time with an unreadable expression.
The sad boy laughed.