A/N: New fic. If you're unsure just go with it. This one is a challenge, and as such should hopefully be one of my better multichapters? Finally started posting because I need to overcome the block I've got with it, and piling on the pressure is a good way to do that. (Plus I have a week off work, so you know, gonna use my time well.) Anywho, enjoy! And let me know what you think. =]
"I don't know."
"What's your name?"
"I don't know."
"Where does it hurt?"
"I don't know."
"We'll be moving you to Hogwarts in due course." The man from the Ministry shuffles his papers and places them neatly on the bedside cabinet. "You know Hogwarts, I trust?"
"Hogwarts…" she says softly. "Yes, I know Hogwarts."
"Good," the man says, frowning slightly. Perhaps her behaviour unsettles him. She doesn't much care if it does. He has no right to be unsettled when she's the one that can't even remember her own name.
"Yes," she replies in that same dreamy tone. "Good."
"And how are you feeling? Better?"
She looks around the room, as though the answer might be written on the drab, off-white walls. Her slender hand finds its way to her chest, which is not so tender now, after these long days of bed rest and potions. "A little better," she says, addressing the blank gaze of her visitor. He picks up his papers and a quill, and scribbles a quick note on the topmost sheaf of parchment.
"And your…memories?" He doesn't look at her. Perhaps he fears indelicacy.
"Non-existent," she replies. A sad smile graces her lips, but it is fleeting. She has had enough of him for today.
"Terrible shame," he says. "Terrible." He continues writing, shaking his head slowly, while she watches. She takes in every detail of him: the odd way he holds his quill, with two fingers and a thumb; the small specks of shaving foam caught in the edges of his bushy grey sideburns; the way his glasses somehow cling to the very tip of his nose but never fall off; the small grey hairs sprouting from his ears and nostrils, signalling the imminence of his pension.
He taps the parchment with his wand and it rolls up, sealing itself, and then finds a comfortable space to rest in his open briefcase.
"Well Clara," he says, holding out his hand. She looks at it for a good few seconds before reaching out and shaking it. "That's everything for today. Professor Dumbledore will be coming to collect you himself, later in the week. He'll make sure you settle into Hogwarts nicely. With any luck you'll get to spend Christmas there, instead of this miserable old ward."
"Yes," she says. "Hopefully."
"Clara," he says, quietly but firmly, his tone clearly requesting that she concentrate. "The most important thing to hang onto is your name. Clara Dewhurst."
"But that's not my name."
"It is from now. If you ever remember your real name, come back to us, and we'll amend the situation, all right?"
"That's it. Very pretty name it is too."
She frowns, but says nothing.
"I'll be on my way then." He stands, pulls his cloak on and picks up his briefcase.
"Thank you for all your help, Mr…"
"Buckfield," he tells her. "Mr Buckfield."
"Thank you Mr Buckfield."
Clara, as she is still not quite accustomed to being called, spends the following three days being fussed over by kindly nurses, one of whom sneaks her a large bar of Honeyduke's Best, 'seeing as it's Christmas'.
Healer Raybould is less endearing.
"What happened to me?" Clara asks for the umpteenth time.
"You had an accident," he answers curtly, also for the umpteenth time.
"What kind of accident?"
"We don't know."
"How can you treat me if you don't know?"
"If somebody breaks their arm we don't need to know how they broke it. We just need to know that it's broken, and then we can fix it."
Clara folds her arms and watches as he makes various notes on his clipboard.
"You'd best get dressed," Raybould tells her. "Professor Dumbledore will be coming to collect you this afternoon."
"Where are my clothes?"
"I'll tell the nurse to fetch you some."
"No, I mean my clothes. I must have been wearing some when I had my accident."
Healer Raybould glances up at her and stares for a few moments. "They were ruined. The Ministry disposed of them."
"They had no right to do that," Clara says, her lower lip trembling with anger. The only things that were hers, truly hers, are now destroyed.
"Take it up with them. It's nothing to do with us."
Clara huffs as Healer Raybould leaves the room. Minutes later, the red-headed motherly nurse bustles in with a set of clean clothes. When Clara looks at her outfit in the mirror, she doesn't like what she sees. She stares quietly at her reflection, her heart heavy in her still fragile chest.
"I can change the colour if you like, dear?"
Clara picks at a loose thread from her calf length grey skirt and skews her lips. "I don't think that will help too much."
"Well I think you look lovely. Very grown up."
"I look old," Clara murmurs.
There is a knock at the door and Clara turns to see a man with a long auburn coloured beard and bright blue eyes, half hidden behind a pair of spectacles. He is sporting a set of elaborate indigo robes, and steps over the threshold and into the room.
"Clara, I believe?" he says cheerfully.
She nods. "So I'm told, anyway."
The man's eyes glitter with amusement. "I'm Professor Dumbledore. I teach at Hogwarts."
"Yes, Mr Buckfield said."
"Ah," Dumbledore replies. "Those Ministry fellows, always a few steps ahead of the rest of us." He smiles, and Clara feels less bothered about her frumpy outfit now. After days of confinement and loneliness, she at last feels her heart lift, if only a little. Things might be all right after all.
"Are you ready to go?" he asks.
"Yes," Clara says firmly. "Can I have my wand back now as well?"
"I have it here for you. I've just been to the Ministry to collect it." He reaches into his robes and takes the wand from an inside pocket, then hands it to Clara. Warmth spreads through her hand and up her arm when she takes it, and the distant, elusive memory of herself, of her true self, feels closer than it has since she first opened her eyes a week ago.
"Priori Incantatem," she whispers. A puff of grey smoke issues from her wand tip, but no previous spell is illustrated.
Professor Dumbledore's eyebrows contort into a frown.
"They've wiped it," Clara says, then turns to look at Dumbledore. "Why would they do that?"
Dumbledore clears his throat. "I'm sure there's a very reasonable explanation…"
As they depart the ward, the troubled expression still sitting on Dumbledore's features suggests to Clara that he doesn't believe that any more than she does.