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Neither my father nor I knew how to respond to what Dr Mitchell had said. For some reason, I didn’t cry; I didn’t even want to cry. While he went through each of my lab results, my eyes continued to glaze over. It was finally happening. I had my set amount of time to live, and I had never kidded myself into thinking I’d never see this day. So why was I suddenly feeling hopeless, empty, and like there was something unfulfilled inside of me? I’d been just fine with my life before, my wallflower existence. I’d been happy to see everyone else enjoy their lives. But now… when I knew my time was so severely shortened, I was feeling as if there was something more.
“Laura?” Dr Mitchell asked softly, and I snapped out of my thoughts.
“Hmm?” I said, meeting his gaze.
“Did you hear anything of what I just said?” he asked, not impatiently but knowingly, as if he understood I wasn’t feeling up to grasping what he’d told me.
“Sure,” I said tiredly. Fatigue had set in after I’d received the prognosis, and all I felt like doing was sleeping. “My body’s given up, right?”
Dr Mitchell smiled, but it wasn’t one of amusement at all. “Sort of,” he said gently.
“Technically, your body has stopped reacting to the chemotherapy, so the body can’t fight your cancer cells. Since they can’t fight the cancerous cells, they’ll eventually begin to outnumber the non-cancerous cells. The chemotherapy before didn’t do much in terms of targeting the cancerous cells but now it’s stopped working completely.”
“So what does that mean?” my dad asked, jumping in.
“Well, eventually, her organs will start to fail. The best chance she has is to be matched with a cord blood or bone marrow transplant but as we’ve had her on the list when she was ten, I don’t know how much hope we can really put into it.”
It was such a matter-of-fact statement that for a second I couldn’t comprehend what he had said. When I did, it crushed right into me. Dr Mitchell didn’t need to say it any clearer than he had, I knew there was no hope I could recover.
As for my dad, I couldn’t even look at him right now. I didn’t even want to imagine what his face must look like. How could the world take not just his wife, but his only child away from him in almost the exact same way? How was that fair? My heart tore more for him than for me and I hated my sickness with a burning passion I’d never felt before.
“I really wish I had better news,” Dr Mitchell said, standing up. “However, Laura, you do have options. Currently, as I’m sure you both know, we have doctors all over the world working on cures for the various forms of cancer. Obviously, in with certain types of cancers we’ve come up with ways to slow down or detect cancer sooner, but we have no definite cure for any of them as of yet. However, there are clinical trials cancer patients can go through. The success rate is not high, but it’s a chance. More so than the donor list. And I wouldn’t be offering this to you Laura if I thought there were better options, but I’m afraid that right about now, there aren’t. It would, unfortunately, require you to leave school and stay in the hospital full-time,” he said heavily and paused. “I’ll leave you alone to discuss your options. You can stay in the hospital to see if any clinical trials match the type of cancer you have, or you can wait to see if a donor is found and live out the last months of your life doing whatever you wish.”
Once he was gone, I finally dared to look at my father. His eyes were brimming with unshed tears, making me regret looking at all. He swiped at his eyes, trying to stop the tears from crashing down, but he was unsuccessful, and I watched as a solitary tear rolled down his cheek. I reached up and smoothed it away, and he took my hand in his.
“We’ll get through this, honey. I know we will,” he said, but I couldn’t help thinking he was saying it more for him then for me.
“I know, Dad,” I said, not able to tell him he was wrong. I would get through this, but he wouldn't.
Despite what I’d said, I knew it was wrong to let him think I had hope for my survival or even a slight remission. But I couldn’t just tell him that; it would break his heart. But I realised that when I died, it would hurt him even more because he had held out hope for my recovery. I wanted to cry at the sheer helplessness of my entire situation, but I didn’t.
I knew what I had to do, but it didn’t make voicing it any easier. I was almost positive my father would try and talk me out of it, but if the alternative was living in a hospital room, white walls all around me and the air of disease and dying, I couldn’t give up living. If I only had six months to live at the most, I wanted to go back to Hogwarts. I wanted to be normal and make friends and talk with those friends. I wanted to go on real trips to Hogsmeade, and I even wanted to have to study and take my O.W.L.’s at the end of the year.
“Dad, I can’t stay here,” I finally confessed. He looked at me in surprise but waited a moment before speaking.
“Are you sure? What about the clinical trials Dr Mitchell was talking about?” he asked, and my heart clenched. I wanted to believe those would work as much as he did, but I couldn’t. What I could do was accept that I only had a little time left. It was the way I had always known things would turn out, so why did I feel so disappointed?
“I don’t know,” I admitted, turning my head to look at him. “I wish I could believe they would work, but what if they don’t, Dad? What if I’m stuck in this hospital for the rest of the time I have left and then it all turns out the same anyway? What if I die here?”
I choked on that last sentence and buried my head into his chest.
My dad didn’t tell me not to be outrageous or to stop being so melodramatic, he simply considered what I’d said, and then kissed the top of my head. “What’s the real reason you want to go back to Hogwarts, Laura?” I didn’t point out to him that he hadn’t answered my question.
Instead, I raised my head to look at him and swallowed thickly, “A wise man once told me I should make the most of the time I have left.”
His eyes filled up with tears again and he hugged me tightly. I coughed, and he seemed to remember how fragile I was. “Sorry, Laura,” he said. “But you know all I’ve wanted since you started going to Hogwarts is for you to live your life to the fullest, and not let the cancer stop you. It’s been... painful to watch you distance yourself from everyone just because you were sick,” he divulged, and I suddenly had an insight as to how hard things had been on him for the last five years.
“I know, Dad, and I think I should to take your advice... while I can.”
I looked around the room, letting myself take in every familiar wall. I had become too familiar with them. Still, I took the sight in, and said softly, “I don’t want to die here, Daddy.”
He stiffened, and his voice was muffled as he choked out, “You’re not going to die, baby.”
And for that moment, that one impossible second, I tried to believe him.
When Dr Mitchell came back into the room, I told him what I had decided while my dad was holding my hand tightly.
“I can’t say I don’t respect your decision, Laura,” he said with a half smile. “I’ve seen so many oncology patients decide they want to stay here until the end, and I always knew that if one of my kids or myself were in your position, I wouldn’t let them.”
I was surprised since I believed a doctor is supposed to wholeheartedly want a patient to stay where they can monitor them at all times, but again, I appreciated him telling me the truth.
“I can’t... I can’t die here,” I said softly for the third time, and looked him in the eye.
He nodded gravely, and I knew then he didn’t have much hope in my recovery either. This, however, only cemented my decision to live like I’d never done before until the end.
“I’ll get the discharge papers as soon as possible, and then you and your dad can be on your way.”
He turned around, then hesitated and turned back towards me.
“You have always been one of my favourite patients, Laura,” he said suddenly, and I almost thought I detected a hitch in his voice, but I was sure I had just imagined it.
“You’ve always been my favourite doctor,” I said, a smile tugging on the corners of my mouth.
He smiled sadly back at me, nodded, and then turned and walked through the door.
Once I’d been discharged, my dad and I walked through the hallways of the too familiar hospital and before I left, I turned to look at all the nurses and everything I’d come to appreciate about this place. A wave of nostalgia rocked through me and my eyes stung. I was happy I would never go through chemo again, but also sad that I would never again see the people who had been so nice to me. Yet I put on a brave smile and waved goodbye to everyone.
My dad grabbed my hand and we walked to the car, exhausted more mentally than physically from what had just happened.
“Dad, do you think I could write to Professor Dumbledore and see if he’d let me stay home for a couple of days? I don’t want to leave you just yet,” I said, and he squeezed my hand even tighter.
“From what I know of him, he probably wouldn’t mind. But I don’t want you to get behind on your studies, Laura, especially not in Charms.”
He opened the car door, and helped me inside.
I thought about the sheer ridiculousness of keeping up with school when it wouldn’t even matter, but I shook the thought off quickly. I was determined to make sure I lived now as if I wasn’t dying, and a normal, healthy person would put her whole self into her studies. I was glad that he had said what he did, if only for my sake. It meant he strongly believed in my decision to make sure I really did live my life.
“Of course, Dad. I have to get an ‘O’ on that Charms O.W.L.,” I said, and he laughed.
“I expect to see it on the reports when it comes home this summer,” he said seriously, and then grinned.
I smiled back at him, happy we could already joke about everything even if we knew it was all a façade.
I wrote to Professor Dumbledore as soon as we got home and waited for a reply. Once it came, with the Headmaster’s approval, I began to relax. My father was in the kitchen, and I walked there, holding the letter in my hand.
“Professor Dumbledore said it’s alright if I stayed here for a couple of days,” I said, waving the letter.
My dad nodded and I remembered the last winter I’d spent in this house, six years ago. When I was ten, they’d found the cancer and I remembered spending Christmas in the hospital as they tried to figure out what treatment plan would have the most success. The winter before, I’d had the best Christmas day of my life with my dad.
“Remember the day we went to the frozen pond before any of this happened? We skated for hours, until I looked like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and then you brought me in and we sat by the fire with hot chocolate for hours.”
I couldn’t help smiling as I retold the day.
My dad smiled and I knew he remembered.
“We could go see if Miller’s pond has frozen over yet. It’s been pretty cold lately,” he said.
“I’ll grab my coat and meet you in the car,” I said, grinning at him.
The pond wasn’t frozen, but I don’t think either of us really cared or even expected it to be. We were just happy to recreate the memory from happier times, when I wasn’t so sick; when I wasn’t dying. It still felt weird to think I was, even though I’d known it to be true ever since my diagnosis. Yet I couldn’t admit out loud, even to myself, I was actually going to die within the year. It was almost too much for me to deal with, and I couldn’t even imagine what my father was going through.
We didn’t talk about it. We just sat there, enjoying each other’s company while we still could. That led my thoughts to places I didn’t want them to go yet, so I finally spoke, if for no better reason to actually have something else to think about.
“Dad,” I began, and he looked over at me. “Tell me some more about Mum.”
He seemed surprised, and then a look of pain flashed across his face. I almost said to forget it, but he cleared his throat and asked, “What do you want to know, pumpkin?”
“How did you meet her?” I asked, wanting him to start at the beginning.
It may seem strange I didn’t even know that about my parents’ relationship, but it’s been just the two of us for so long. I’ve never brought it up before, knowing how much it hurt my father to talk about her. Now, however, I had to know before it was too late.
He sighed deeply, and a small smile tugged the corner of his lips. “I met your mother, oddly enough, after I was released from a brief overnight stint at the jailhouse.”
I looked at him and gasped, and then giggled. “I didn’t know you’d ever been arrested!”
“It’s not exactly something I start a conversation with,” he said, smiling.
“Well, you definitely can’t stop now!” I exclaimed, a little too enthusiastically.
He just chuckled and kept going.
“It’s not what you think, honestly,” he said, and his cheeks burned red as he seemed to recall the situation. “I had this ferocious crush on a student at the University of London, and I actually followed her there. I waited in the student lounge for hours, just sitting there, not really doing anything, waiting for an opportunity to talk to her, but, as it turns out, some students found my behaviour a bit... suspicious, and in the end, the police were called to escort me off the campus. I ended up doing an overnight stay at the local jailhouse, just to give me time to cool off my heels.”
“So... how did you meet Mum?” I asked curiously.
“Well, she wasn’t the girl, if that’s what you were wondering. Though I do recall the girl finally
noticed me after I was hauled off... That kind of stunt gets a bit of attention. Anyway, your mother was actually at the jailhouse too, but not for serving a sentence,” my dad said, and smiled.
“Yeah,” I laughed softly. “From what you’ve told me about Mum, I don’t think she’d exactly be the type to be found in a jailhouse.”
“She wasn’t. At the time she was actually a reporter for the daily local newspaper and she was there following up on a lead. She was discussing the issue with one of the policemen when I was released and well, once I saw her, the feelings I’d felt for the other University girl just evaporated,” he said, shaking his head. “I know it sounds horribly clichéd, but it’s honestly what happened. I followed her out and found the nerve to ask her out right then. I can’t believe to this day she ever agreed. She didn’t even know what I’d been in for!”
“Mum was always a bit impulsive, at least from the stories I have heard of her... which aren’t many,” I said, and he nodded.
“I’m sorry about that, Laura. It was... a bit difficult to talk about her at all for awhile. I just wanted to enjoy the time I had with you. It’s funny though... I knew she was sick before we even got serious.”
“You did?” I asked, a little shocked.
It wasn’t as if I thought my mother wouldn’t have been up front with my dad about her sickness, but more so that he’d actually stayed with her even after he knew. It hadn’t been serious at the time, as he’d said, so staying with her showed me he really thought she was the one for him.
“You’re wondering why I decided to stay with her, aren’t you?” he asked me softly, and I just nodded.
“Well, your mother was unlike anyone I had ever met. She knew she wasn’t going to live much longer and yet... she didn’t let that faze her. She lived her life to the fullest, never backing down from anything. That changed, of course, as she got progressively worse, but in the beginning stages, she was quite the adventurous woman, and she kept me guessing.
“Even on our wedding day, when nothing seemed to be going according to plan, she ended up moving everything to the beach in Bournemouth where we had decided to move after the wedding. Your mum had always loved the beach. When the reservation for the original venue got lost, she used it as a convenient excuse to move the wedding outside instead. I still wonder sometimes if she did it on purpose,” my father continued with a chuckle.
Talking about my mother this way made me feel two completely opposite emotions; one, insane jealousy that she’d been able to live her life as if she wasn’t sick and hadn’t been afraid to overcome the knowledge of what her death would do to anyone she let in; and two, it made me feel happy that she had been able to do so. I was happy my dad was finally opening up to me about her, and I longed to hear more.
“It’s been pretty difficult talking about her, but I want you... to know what she was like,” my father said, as if he could read my mind.
He stood up and stretched.
“What do you say if we pretended the pond was actually frozen and I looked like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer so we can talk about Mum a little more over some steaming hot chocolate?” I asked, standing up beside him.
“It’s like you read my mind,” he grinned and put his arm around me, leading me back to the car.
A/N: Aww, okay, you can't tell me you didn't like that sentimental talk they shared about Laura's mum, can you? So, what did you think of Laura's decision? I'd love to hear it all in a review, you know they make my day! (:
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, nor the character 'Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer'. Rudolph belongs to Robert May and was published by the Montgomery Ward in 1933.