Chapter 1 : Don't Lose Me
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Written for ShelbyBlack’s Human Condition challenge.
Chapter graphic by Celtic_Dreamer7
Disclaimer: This story contains frank discussion and imagery of Alzheimer’s Disease that may be disturbing to some readers who have family members with the affliction.
"Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering - and it's all over much too soon." Woody Allen
She could see him sitting idly on the sofa in the living room, his bony, aged fingers intertwined loosely in his lap. The roar of the amber flames in the ornate fireplace did little to grab his attention, nor did the tinny song whispering from the radio on the side table adjacent to the sofa. She placed her mug of tea on the counter and gazed out at him, memorizing the way his gray hair laid just so, the way his wrinkled trousers hit just above his ankle, the way his glasses slipped slightly downward as he quickly and expertly succumbed to a midafternoon nap.
Molly Weasley could feel the familiar tears well up inside of her, but she pushed them down as usual, busying herself with mundane, monotonous tasks in the kitchen. Her beloved Arthur, father for 60 years, husband for even more, had been fading from her for nearly 2 years, but never had it been this bad. Alzheimer’s Disease was his official diagnosis, at least that’s what they’d told her at St Mungo’s.
In her memory, Molly could see the healer’s kind, liquid brown eyes and short, curly blonde hair tied up in a ribbon. She could recall every sordid detail of that appointment, and she remembered the healer’s soothing voice that had steadily assured her that everything would be ok. Molly closed her eyes as she recalled the explanation that was given to her explaining why, exactly, her husband’s condition couldn’t be cured.
“It’s a neurological condition. Magic can cure many things, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. It can cure Cancers muggle doctors can only dream to cure. It can regrow most organs, it can heal open wounds, clean blood vessels, it can do so much. But it can’t touch neurological tissue. We’re still researching why that is, but the main theory involves the chemical make-up of neurons and the electrical impulses that travel between them. We just can’t replicate it, and we do more harm than good when we go in and try to heal it. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything magic can do. What we can do is slow the progression with certain potions, and I know some wizards that have even resorted to muggle medications. We as a hospital do not promote that practice, but I find, in my experience, that they can help. I’m so sorry, but you’ll find that if you work together, you’ll be able to help one another out through this difficult time.”
Of course, Arthur hadn’t heard anything past “muggle medications.” As was true to his kindred spirit, Arthur had wanted to try muggle treatments from the beginning, completely convinced that newfound research would usurp the disease’s hold on his brain. Molly had never been completely sure why she humored him, but he took all types of medications obtaining prescriptions from a very perplexed muggle physician. Namenda had been the best medication he’d taken, but it made him so dizzy that the therapeutic effects were barely worth it.
So now they were together, in a downward spiral of degeneration, each day a different and more painful adventure than the day before. Their life was slowly beginning to fade into brief glimpses of lucidity. It wasn’t just that Arthur couldn’t remember many things from their life together; he couldn’t even remember her. He often asked for her, but didn’t recognize the frail, elderly woman that served his dinner and did his washing as his wife. When his children and grandchildren came around to visit, it was as though he’d never laid eyes on their faces.
But the worst, most heart wrenching thing about the disease was that she was watching the love of her life slip further into oblivion every single day, yet he was still there, talking to her in the same voice that had been her security blanket for years. His crystal blue eyes still pierced her soul, his laugh made the soft fuzz on her arms stand on end, and his thin, wane smile still turned the corners of her mouth. And though the voice that emanated from his lips was still his, the tones were different. The demands, the cold, flippant way he addressed her, that wasn’t her Arthur.
Yet the short moments when he came back to her were worth all the days of enduring the stranger that currently sat napping on her ancient sofa. They were always cruelly brief, but they were a blessing. She looked forward to those days when he would surprise her with a kiss on the cheek and quietly growl “I love you, Mollywobbles.” But those moments were becoming rare, and more often than not, he spent his time staring straight ahead with a flat affect, talking in unintelligible circles about pure nonsense.
Today was not one of the rare days that she enjoyed. Today was the darkest day Molly had seen, and she had fought with the gut reaction that had sent her to Ron. He was an auror along with her son-in-law, head auror Harry Potter. During Arthur’s afternoon nap the previous day, Molly had taken a trip to the ministry to see her youngest son. Her hands shook as she picked up the cracked red mug from the counter and took a sip of the warm tea, the memory on repeat behind her eyelids.
“He’s set the house on fire again, Ron. I’m afraid he’s going to burn it down,” Molly admitted quietly as she stared down at the large bluish veins in her hands peeking out under her pale, translucent skin.
“Again, Mum? Merlin, I better get my room cleaned out all the way or he’ll burn all my childhood memories.” Ron grinned at his mother from behind his desk.
“You ought to have done that a while ago, I’ve got half a mind to put all those old, moldy Chudley Cannons decorations in the rubbish bin!”
“Mum! No! It’s all legendary now, I bet I could pawn it off and make some galleons off it!” Ron whined, jutting his lip out just slightly.
“Even so, come pick it up, I’m tired of dusting it all.” The two of them laughed together, something that seemed to scarcely be happening with the burden of his father’s disease.
“Seriously though, Mum, I’m afraid Dad will take you down with him one day if he starts another fire.”
“Don’t be silly, Ronald, we’ll be fine. I just don’t want anything to happen to all of our things. If there was some way to make it flame retardant…”
“Do you really think that’s the answer? Putting spells on everything? It’s not safe anymore.” Ron stood from his desk and began to pace. Molly felt the muscles in her jaw tighten as she watched his frustration. Ron could never understand the way his father lived, nor the intricate, scheduled routine that the two of them had come to rely on.
“I’m there with him all the time. I don’t really want to bring anyone else into this, but we need to take some precautions just in case.”
“He’s hurt you, Mum. Not just because he throws hexes and jinxes at you behind your back. Taking care of him, it’s taking its toll on you, too.” Ron spoke softly, wisely recognizing the sensitivity of the topic.
“How could you say something like that!” Molly exclaimed, her eyes wide with anger.
“He can’t control his magic anymore, Mum.”
“Don’t you dare say that about your father, Ronald, of course he can control his magic.”
“No, Mum, he can’t. He’s hurting you, he’s hurting the house. I know he’s still here, but…it’s like he’s a child.” Ron leaned against the wall of his office with his arms crossed, making him appear almost like a shadow of the gangly 17 year old he once had been.
“He’s a grown man, Ron …I’m sure it’s just a phase,” Molly whispered shakily, defiance evident in her tone.
“No. He has Alzheimer’s, Mum. He’s not going to get better.”
“I know he’s not going to get better!” The pitch of her voice became slightly higher as she responded. “I understand what his disease means, I live with him every day. But I love him, Ron. He’s my husband…your father…and I’ll do everything to keep him safe.”
“Mum, you’ve always been the one protecting, always putting yourself in harm’s way for us. But this time, you need someone to look after you. This is too much to do on your own.” Ron’s voice was softer now as he approached his mother. Her countenance was still hardened as she replied.
“It’s what I do, Ronald. Your father needs normalcy, he needs a schedule, he needs familiarity. He doesn’t need us to change things.”
“And when he uses his wand to set the house on fire next time?”
“I’ll be there with water to put it out,” she replied calmly.
“Like I said, he’s like a child,” Ron pushed. “Children aren’t allowed to do magic, they aren’t allowed to have a wand. And people with documented cases of Alzheimer’s disease with advanced progression are not allowed wands either.”
“No! You can’t take his wand, Ron. He’s…it’s…it’s the only thing that defines him as being a wizard! You can’t separate him…” she trailed off, knowing her argument was a weak plea to maintain her husband’s dignity and identity. Her son was absolutely correct, and it positively murdered her to admit it.
“Mum,” he began gently, “It’s time. He’s not just a danger to you, he’s dangerous to himself. We’ll take it, store it somewhere safe where it won’t be harmed. But he can’t have access to it anymore, Mum. The cost is too great. The two of you shouldn’t be living alone anymore.”
Molly’s jaw fell open and her eyes glazed over in anger and dismay.
“Ronald Weasley, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself and your father. We’re fine! And you have your own family, Hermione, Rose, Hugo. Think of them!”
“Rose is out of school, and she’s living with that..with that…Malfoy…and Hugo will be in school all winter long.”
“That’s a ridiculous idea, your father would never consider moving! His home is…he won’t know where anything is in your house! He needs to stay where he’s familiar.”
“ Mum listen to me. You need some help. Pretty soon, Dad isn’t going to be able to do anything to help care for himself. He’ll need total assistance. Now, we’ll keep the house in good shape, but Hermione and I have been discussing it, and either you’re moving in with us, or we’re moving in with you. You decide.”
“I know. But it isn’t safe anymore. And you know it. Don’t be stubborn, Mum. I’ve also discussed it with George, Ginny, and Bill, and they all agree. You’ve got bad knees, bad hips, your back is always killing you. You’ve raised all of us, and it’s time we give back to you. Please, Mum. Just say yes.”
Arthur’s rough coughing startled Molly, and she nearly dropped her mug on the kitchen counter. Her beautiful home, the Burrow, the place she had raised all of her children. Soon, she would make room once more for her son and daughter-in-law, who meant well but were clearly underestimating her abilities as a caregiver. She overheard Arthur’s grumblings and knew his thirty minute afternoon nap was finished. He was always more confused after awakening, and she did not look forward to reorienting him.
“Molly?” He called from the couch, looking around the room.
“Yes, love?” she asked, moving from the kitchen into the living room. His eyes followed the sound of her voice until he met her unsteady gaze.
“Where is Molly?” He asked again, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
“I’m right here, Arthur.” Instead of fighting with her as usual, he turned his head to stare vacantly out the window for a few moments before turning back to her.
“I spoke to your father last night,” he said simply.
“You did?” Molly sighed inaudibly, her knees creaking as she sat down in her old, comfortable rocking chair across from him.
“Yes. He told me about the minister of magic, and that muggle car that has the leather seats that I liked. He told me about his mother and how I always worried about her because of that incident on the broom. I told my mother yesterday that I wish it could be like old times. I worry about your brothers, you know. She told me she was doing better, but I’ve seen those parchments come and go.”
Molly nodded with his words, pretending to follow his words.
“Where is Molly?”
“You’ve already asked me that, dear.”
“I did? I hope she’s getting ready to go out, I’d really like to take her into muggle London, there’s some fantastic things I ‘d like to show her.”
“I…I think she’d like that.”
“I’m hungry,” Arthur changed the subject, holding a hand to his stomach.
“You just ate lunch an hour ago, love.”
“I did? Did I like it?”
Arthur put his hands on either side of his hips and pushed up from the couch, his bones crunching as he stood fully erect. He began to walk toward the hall, abruptly stopping after a few steps. He glanced around before changing directions, ambling toward the family’s beloved, dust covered old clock that had served them faithfully for many years. Molly watched him curiously as he gently lifted his aged hand to caress the antiquated face of the clock. After spending several minutes examining the timepiece, he moved to the kitchen, gazing aimlessly at Molly’s spotless counters and then out the window. When he started toward the kitchen door, Molly felt panic rise in her throat. Arthur had a history of wandering around outside in the garden, and had even apparated random places, only to be returned home by neighbors and kind strangers.
“Arthur, where are you going?” she called from her rocking chair. He turned back to face her, his eyebrows wrinkled in obvious confusion.
“I’m going to check on the state of the elves down by Elm’s way.” He replied matter-of-factly.
“Are you sure you aren’t headed to the bathroom?” She attempted to redirect him.
“Yes. I was going to use the toilet. That’s right. Thank you. Let me know if you see Molly, she’s probably out chasing the kids.”
“Of course I will.”
She watched him walk slowly down the hallway before stopping at the door to the bathroom. He stood briefly in the darkened hall before taking a few steps into the tiny room. Just as the door clicked shut, Molly heard the familiar sound apparition outside the house. Within seconds, Ron and Harry came through the kitchen door, in full work uniform. Harry smiled warmly at his mother-in-law, and Ron hugged her quickly before they reviewed procedure together.
“With all things like this, we’re required to tell the person why we are taking their wand, since it is usually only for serious offenses or for situations like these. So we’ll need to tell him what we’re doing, and we’ll use whatever means we need to in order to obtain the wand. Gently, of course,” Harry said, adding the bit on the end after watching Molly’s eyes widen.
“He won’t be hurt?”
“Of course not, Mum! We won’t hurt him, we just have to secure his wand,” Ron dismissed his mother’s question with a lazy wave of his hand.
A sharp noise from the bathroom startled the three conspirators, and in a flash they were all at the door.
“Arthur? Honey?” Molly asked, knocking.
“I’m…on the floor…I fell…on the rug…”
“It’s ok, Dad. We’re here to help,” Ron called, casting a quick glance toward his mother. “Mum, Harry, and I are going to get you up, ok?” He grabbed the door knob and yanked the door open. Arthur was sprawled on his side. The bathtub was dotted with small droplets of crimson from where his head had made contact with the porcelain. The small, pink, ragged throw rug that had served the Weasley family for years was twisted at his feet.
“Here, Dad. Let me help you,” Ron said, extending a hand while Harry did some minor healing he had learned in his years at the ministry. Within seconds, Arthur’s lacerations had sealed, and Ron had cast several spells to get his father upright once more.
“Thank you. I didn’t know they called the aurors out for minor things like falls. Back to report to Fudge, I suppose?” Arthur asked with a smile. The two looked at each other knowingly before returning his smile and leading him back to the sofa. Molly trailed behind, feeling shaken and secretly relieved that the boys had been there to deal with him. Once he was settled back into comfort and familiarity, Ron cleared his throat loudly.
“Dad…how have you been doing lately?” Ron began, folding his fingers stiffly in front of him.
“Well, I’ve been doing fine. Job’s going well, kids are doing well, Molly’s pregnant again, we’re hoping for a girl this time, I know the boys would love a sister, even though the twins are still little.”
Ron shifted uncomfortably and stole a brief glance at his mother, who shrugged helplessly in reply.
“Yes, well, how is your memory doing? Do you feel like things are going well for you?”
“What kind of question is that? Is this some type of job performance review I was unaware of? I thought the office of wizard performance would be dealing with this type of thing. And yes, I feel like my performance has been good. Sure, it can be a struggle at home with the little ones, but I think that I do well at work, thank you.”
“Sir, do you feel like you can remember things like you used to?” Harry piped up.
“Of course I can.”
“Forgive me, Arthur, this may seem like a silly question, but what year is it?”
Molly watched as Ron and Harry exchanged a look before Ron broke the silence. His words rushed quickly from his mouth in a jumbled mess, and Molly scrunched her eyes closed as his words drilled perfectly rounded circles into her heart.
“Dad, Harry and I are here to collect your wand. Because of your memory. Because it’s not safe anymore for you to have it.” Arthur’s eyes twinkled as usual, and he laughed as he grabbed his wand from his pocket.
“Funny joke, really. Did Carnier put you up to this? I’ll have his neck, really good trick, smashing job, really.” Molly felt her heart rate increase as she watched Ron and Harry, but they firmly stood their ground, maintaining eye contact with the elderly gentleman who had provided them years of love and happiness. This small, seemingly innocent act would do more than break the man’s spirit—it would take away one of the only things remaining that defined him as a wizard.
“I’m afraid not, sir. Please hand over your wand, by order of the minister of magic, and the head of the department for magical law enforcement,” Harry took over for Ron. The smile quickly faded from Arthur’s sunken face, and he quickly stashed his wand back into his robes.
“What is this? Where’s Molly?”
“Right here, darling. I’m here,” Molly whispered, taking the seat next to her beloved husband.
“Not you! Why is it always you! I want my Molly! She’ll sort this. The two of you should back away quickly.” Before he could reach for his wand again, Harry had already used the summoning spell, and Arthur’s wand floated lithely into his hand. Tears began to form at the corner of Arthur’s eyes.
“I don’t understand…I haven’t done anything wrong…please don’t take my wand. Please…I’ll go have a word with the minister himself. Please, I’m begging you, please don’t take my wand. I-I have children, I have a wife…I don’t understand. I worked at the ministry!” The tears glistened in the bright midday sun as they cascaded unceremoniously down his wrinkled cheeks. “They should sort this out, please, please! Where is Molly! Molly! Please! Please don’t take my wand…”
Ron turned from his father then, unable to look at the sobbing man for fear of breaking down himself. Harry stashed the wand in his robes and nodded to his best friend and brother in law once before disapparating out of the house. Molly watched the exchange in horror, unable to move or respond for a few moments to her distraught husband or son. Ron made eye contact with her then, and she could see the tears threatening to fall from her son’s eyes.
“We’ll be back later to survey the best way to move. Are you sure you don’t need anything else right now, Mum?”
Molly was seemingly unable to activate her vocal chords, so she shook her head twice and gestured for him to leave. Ron smiled at his mother before disapparating away from the painful wails of his father. Molly, unable to come up with a better solution, made her way to the sofa and sat down next to her husband, who was still crying softly to himself. She raised a hand and made contact with the tense, knotted muscles in his upper back. Stroking lightly, she used her whole hand to rub up and down the spinous processes in the center of his tense flesh. Within a minute or two, his tears had dried, and he resumed his vacant staring, his affect flat once again.
“I’m hungry,” he said, turning his head slowly toward his wife. His eyes were red and puffy from the tears, but that was all that remained of the previous episode.
“Darling…you’ve just had lunch an hour and a half ago.”
“I did? Did I like it?”
“Yes. Yes you did.”
Arthur leaned his head back against the soft indentation of the couch, and his eyelids began to droop as though gravity was willing them shut. His wife took a deep breath and leaned against the back of the sofa as well, watching his breathing become more steady and regular as he drifted off.
“I love you, Mollywobbles.” It was a whisper, barely audible, but it made the steady rhythm of Molly’s heart skip a beat and tears bubble at the corners of her already weary eyes. The man she’d loved for years was still there, hiding beneath the hardened exterior of a malignant, invasive disease.
“I love you too, Artie, my sweetheart.” She grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly before he dropped off into another nap. Molly made sure he was completely asleep before rising from the couch. She walked very slowly into her bedroom, feeling every single step in her aching knees and hips. The door to her bedroom was slightly ajar, and she ambulated into the room. The bed was located in the center of the far wall, the faded powder blue bed spread a beacon of memories involving stolen kisses, passionate nights, and quiet romance. Molly fell forward onto the bed she’d shared with Arthur since they were married. There, she sobbed for her husband as grief enveloped her tired soul, for everything that they’d been through in their life, and for the shaky uncertainty of their future.
Ok, there are definitely some thanks that need to happen here.
First of all, I had 3 different people read this over for me, and they deserve all the thanks and appreciation in the world. RenegadeNiffler, Squallywrath, and Keroberros. Thank you so much.
In addition, thanks to Drummergirlred for her help and support. Thanks to Shelbyblack for issuing the challenge. Thanks to Slytherangoddess for the amazing banner, Celtic_Dreamer7 for the chapter image and The Prophecy for submitting a banner as well. Thanks to the amazing members at HPPC for helping cheer me on when I felt really down about my own writing.
I know that the subject matter of this story is tough, and that you may have had some issues with it. I treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and I know how horrible and draining it can be on families. This is a companion piece with my story Centrifuge, and I just felt like I had more story I wanted to tell. Hopefully this made you think critically about Alzheimer’s disease and make you think about life. Please review and remember to go to harry potter fan podcast for all your HPFF podcast needs, as well as request stories for story seekers.