Love rule #18 - Tough love is always preferrable to no love at all
It was a beautiful day outside the hospital wing window. Snow was built up on the sill and in the grounds below, but the sky was a clear if watery blue. I trailed my hand along the glass window pane and revelled in the icy feeling that shot through my body.
Today, I was dressed for travel. Behind me, my bed for the last two weeks had been stripped of its linen and my suitcase was placed on top.
“Are you sure you wish to do this, Miss Weasley?”
I turned around to face Professor McGonagall, sombre but certain. “Yes, Professor. It’s for the best.”
My professor only nodded, and shifted some papers in her hands. “Here. This is the address to which you send your assignments. They’ll be marked externally by Ministry examiners until you return to Hogwarts as a full time student.”
“Thank you, Professor McGonagall. I really appreciate what you’ve done for me. I just..”
I broke off, red-faced from embarrassment. I’m sorry that I’m seeking treatment at Mungo’s? I’m sorry for leaving you without a head girl? I’m sorry for being sick?
I had to leave, though. Staying at Hogwarts, with the thought of head duties, Scorpius and schoolwork hanging above my head all the time, wasn’t doing me any favours. I just needed to focus on getting better and getting on with real life once more.
“I understand, Rose, and I look forward to your speedy return,” my professor spoke with surprising warmth, and I gave her a real smile – not one of the ones I’d been practicing in the mirror lately. Picking up my bag, I thanked her once more and made my way to Professor Higgins’ office.
I was barely halfway there before I was waylaid.
“Rose?” came Callie’s reproachful voice, and I stopped short.
“Hey,” I said softly, turning to face her and Soph. They both wore worried frowns, and Callie seized my bag from me. “I can carry that, you know,” I protested, and she snorted.
“Where are you going?” Sophie said, but I could tell from her voice that they both already knew. I shifted awkwardly and shrugged.
“Oh, Rose!” Callie surprised me by bursting into tears, dropping my bag and crushing me in a hug.
“Geroff me!” I gasped with a laugh, tears filling my own eyes. Callie stepped back and Sophie took her place. I clung to her before forcing her off. If I let them have me for too long, I’d never leave. “Who told you then?”
“McGonagall,” Sophie answered, and I nodded. I wasn’t angry at my teacher; I was going to tell the girls eventually but I just lost track of time.
“I’m not going to be gone for long, you know. Just until I get better.”
“Can you promise to be back a few months before NEWTS?” Callie pleaded, and I found this small, worried side of her endearing.
“I’ll try. That means I’ll only be gone for two months or so.”
We were almost at the headmaster’s office by now, and I took my bag off Sophie who’d picked it up when it was dropped by Callie.
“We love you, you know that yeah?” Sophie said, and I nodded. Tears were threatening again and I started to turn away.
“Did you speak to Scorpius?” Callie wanted to know, grabbing my arm before I could speak the password to the gargoyle.
When Scorpius had apparently been closed-mouthed for the last two days and I had stopped talking about him for once, the girls knew straight away that something had happened. The truth had been forced out, but I found no sympathy from Callie nor Sophie. Callie had gone so far as to tell me that running away wasn’t going to solve any problems to do with Scorpius. I’d bluntly told her that it would help other, more pressing problems.
Callie let go of my arm and fell back with a small nod – neither of the girls had been pushing me towards any train of thought of late, as though I were too fragile to be pressed – and they both waved.
“Gumdrops,” I said, and the gargoyle jumped aside. “Bye! I love you girls!”
And they were gone.
I gripped the handle of my bag tightly, feeling the plastic dig into my hand. I was surprisingly nervous as I lifted my hand to knock on the headmaster’s door. It was here that I’d come yesterday with my parents. I’d sat down in the middle chair, cleared my throat and said nothing. Dad had held my hand and Mum did the talking, and now here I was. Ready for Mungo’s like the basketcase I truly was.
Before I could push the door open this time around, it was flung open and Mum bundled me into a hug. What was with these people? I was going somewhere so close by that I could floo there, and the plan was to only be there for a few weeks max. Telling the girls that I was gone for months was to get them off my back about a speedy recovery. I could only do the best I could, and that wasn’t usually enough.
“Hi, Mum,” I said weakly. Behind her choking embrace, I could see Dad leaning against his walking sick. His new joke was to poke me with it; needless to say that he was the only one amused.
“You came!” she cried, and I pushed her away.
“Of course I did,” I muttered, looking at the floor. Everyone in the room, however, knew that I’d be running in the other direction if I was allowed to.
“Hello, love,” Dad pushed Mum out of the way unceremoniously and planted a whiskery kiss on my cheek. “All ready to go, then?”
I nodded determinedly, at both him and Professor Higgins standing behind his chair.
“Right, then. Give me that.” Mum snatched my bag from me –what was with people doing that?- and marched to the fire place. Her bushy hair was bigger than ever, and I self-consciously patted my hair own down.
“It’s fine, love,” Dad said with a wink as we watched Mum scoop up a handful of floo powder and throw it into the fire.
“St Mungo’s!” she cried, and was gone in a flash of blue flame. There was silence in the circular office, and I shuffled my feet awkwardly.
“Professor, I’m so sorry for leaving.”
Higgins came around the desk and gripped my bony shoulder. “Rose, take as much time as you need. You’ll always be head girl.”
“Thank you, and again, I’m just so sor-“
“Miss Weasley, apologise once more and I’ll dock fifty points from Gryffindor.”
My mouth closed with a snap and Dad snorted. “If only I could get her to do that at home. Off you go, love.”
He shoved me towards the fireplace with a gentle smile, and I took a deep breath. My parents battled Lord Voldemort at my age; now it was time to go and battle my own demons.
White and sterile was my first impression – then I noticed the vase of red flowers on the desk, the blue ribbon in the receptionist’s hair, the faint sound of laughter coming from the hallway.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be the second coming of Voldemort that I was expecting.
Mum was standing in front of the reception desk talking to the woman sitting there. My bag had disappeared, and their words found their way into my ears.
“I assure you, Mrs Weasley, that we operate this ward, and all of Mungo’s wards for that matter, under the utmost discretion. You and your family have nothing to worry about.”
I was almost floored as Dad stumbled through the fireplace, his walking stick slipping on the spotless tiled floor.
“Oof! Watch it, Rosie!” he gasped, tripping over. Our presence announced, both Mum and the smiling receptionist turned their heads to us.
“Welcome, Mr Weasley, Miss Weasley,” a new, almost slimy voice said, and I looked up to see a healer entering from one of the many doorways leading to reception. “I’m Hr. Trumpleton and I’ll be looking after Miss Weasley during her time at St Mungo’s.”
Mum strode forward, ever domineering, and shook the healer’s hand. I felt a twinge of annoyance and forced it down. She’s only trying to help, Rose.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Hr. Trumpleton. Please, call me Hermione. This is my husband Ron, and, of course, Rose.”
Trumpleton shook hands with Dad before surveying me over his round-rimmed glasses. I immediately hated the way his cold blue eyes bore into mine, calculating and judging. The moment was broken when he showed his teeth in a harsh smile.
“Welcome, Rose. It’s a pleasure to have you with us,” he said, and I tried not to raise a Scorpius-style eyebrow. A pleasure to be in an eating disorder unit? Please sir, the pleasure is all mine.
“Of course,” I forced out, taking a step away from him. We were led into the room he had emerged from and offered coffee. At my request for a black coffee, I felt eyes in the back of my head from the healer.
“Please, sit,” he gestured, and we all did so. The chair was hard on my bony back and I noticed even Mum shifting in discomfit.
“Today I’d like to talk you through our procedures here at the eating disorder unit, and answer any questions you may have about your daughter’s wellbeing. Following our conversation, Rose will be evaluated by myself and another specialist. At this evaluation, she will be weighed, mentally reviewed and her warden given an eating plan for Rose to follow. Depending on what she weighs now and what she needs to weigh in order to be a healthy weight, she could be kept here for anywhere from a few weeks to an indefinite amount of time.”
His words, and the way I was excluded from the conversation, made my heart sink. An indefinite amount of time? Mental evaluation?
“Visitors are allowed on Sunday afternoons only after your daughter has been a guest for two weeks and has cooperated with all requests from staff.” At this, his steely eyes bored into mine once more, and I took a scalding sip of coffee to avoid eye contact. Was he always so awful, or was it just because he didn’t like me?
“Two weeks?” Dad broke in, looking worried, “That’s a long time. How can we be sure that she’s okay?”
“Daily correspondence from myself and also from your daughter,” his oily voice assured my father, and I wanted to hit him. I don’t think I’d ever hated anyone so much, so soon. Not even Loretta O’Walsh. As if sensing my hate, he raised his voice, saying, “Miss Balfour?”
There was silence, and then the pretty receptionist stuck her head through the door. “Yes sir?”
“Please take Rose Weasley to her room and see her settled.”
The girl smiled at me, but I was too busy bristling at his commanding tone of voice. I had wanted to hear the end of the conversation.
“Go on Rose,” Mum encouraged, “we will come and say goodbye when we’re done talking.”
Dad patted my knee and I stood up reluctantly. I purposely placed my moist coffee cup on an important-looking document sitting on the healer’s desk and looked up at the hateful man. His lip curled up in a cruel smile, and I smiled sardonically back at him. Two can play this game.
I left the room and followed the receptionist down the hall. She was chatting inanely, and I interrupted her to ask, “What’s the deal with Hr. Trumpleton?”
A frown creased her pretty forehead, and she looked like a confused puppy. “What do you mean?”
I sighed and shook my head. Clearly she hadn’t noticed how awful he was. “Never mind.”
Through a rabbit warren of corridors and more stark white walls, we finally stopped in front of a door.
“Here you are, Miss Weasley,” the Balfour girl simpered, and I cruelly wondered if there was anything in her head apart from cobwebs. “You have a room to yourself, but you’ll be sharing a bathroom with four other girls. There’s only fourteen of you here at the moment, so it’s nice and cosy!” she gushed, and a surge of annoyance rose in my chest. It was hardly as if I were on holiday in a boutique hotel.
“Lovely,” I forced out, stepping into the room and shutting the door pointedly. I went to lock myself in but stopped short. There was no lock on the door handle, nor a latch to secure it. Anyone could just come in. Did these people not know of privacy? Troubled, I turned to survey the room. It was the same bleak, white walls and spotless, clean floors. Bars across the window caused the sunlight to slant across the single bed, and I moaned.
What had I gotten myself into?
“Miss Weasley?” a knock on the door, and then it was opened before I could say anything. I sat up from where I’d been brooding on the unyielding bed, and met the hard eyes of Trumpleton. “It appears that we have to go through a few ground rules.”
“There’s an open-door policy in this ward, Miss Weasley. Given the nature of the illness and the… unstable minds it affects, it’s in the interest of everyone’s safety. On that note, I’ll take your wand thank you.”
“My wand?” I gasped, standing up and crossing my arms. What would I be without my wand? “What for?”
“For everyone’s safely, of course,” he said, advancing with an outstretched hand.
“Oh dear,” he said softly, “I feared that you’d be a spirited one. Security!”
He raised his voice only slightly, but straight away two burly people, a man and a woman, bundled into the room and stood poised.
“It appears that Miss Weasley is reluctant to part with her wand. Secure it for me.”
Before I could even protest in horror, I was being searched and my wand was taken from my school robe.
“Get off me!” I cried, trying to ward them off. They batted aside my weak attempts like I was nothing more than an annoying fly. The moment my wand was gone, I knew that I was in a bad situation.
“I’m awfully sorry that it’s come to this already, Miss Weasley,” Trumpleton simpered, sounding anything but sorry, “You’ll understand that it’s for the best, of course. Ryan, Sanders, accompany Miss Weasley and myself to the examination room. I don’t want any… trouble.”
“Wait!” I protested, shaking their hands from my shoulders, “I didn’t say goodbye to Mum and Dad!”
“Didn’t you? Such a shame. In that case, I suppose you’ll have to be on your best behaviour for the next two weeks. Come along, now.”
The evaluation was worse than I thought possible. The room was cold, and I idly wondered if the ward didn’t get enough funding or if they were sadistic on purpose.
“Please keep still, Rose,” came a soft voice, and I tried not to glare at Megan van Rosen. She was my other healer, and as surprisingly lovely as Trumpleton was horrible. “This will be over soon.”
I pulled my robe tighter around my body and let the icy metal of the scale numb my feet. At a desk in the corner, Trumpleton was tapping a pen against the wood. My clothes were folded neatly behind a changing screen, their warmth far out of reach.
“Interesting,” Meg, as she asked to be called, hummed. “The good news, Rose, is that you might not be with us for too long.”
Her smile made my hopes rise, only to be shot down seconds later by Trumpleton.
“Depending on your attitude and your impending mental evaluation, of course.” His smile was brief, cold and very satisfied, sending a further chill through my body.
“Now now, Samuel, don’t worry the girl with you words. She’s had a big day.”
The constant babying was wearing down on me, and I sighed. “Please, let’s get this done with.”
I stepped down from the scales as Meg scratched something down on a piece of parchment, and an onslaught of questions ensued.
“What is the average daily calorie mean that you consume?”
“Why are you vegetarian?”
“What do you think of soups and drinks?”
“Do you have many friends at school?”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Do you feel pressure from your parent’s fame?”
“How well do you get along with your brother?”
The constant questions wore me down as I answered the best I could. After all, I didn’t want to be here and the only way to get out was to get better.
“Do you ever binge eat?”
“When was the last time you purposely expelled food from your body?”
“What do you want to do when you leave school?”
When they finally stopped I was exhausted. My stomach rumbled loudly and the two healers exchanged significant glances.
“Time for lunch, then. Your evaluation will be handed to your warden, who will in turn oversee your meals and ensure you receive adequate nutrition. We will continue to evaluate your progress each week, and when deemed suitable you will become an outpatient. Your days will be spent in workshops and counselling sessions with both the other patients and individually. Until next time, Rose.”
Meg bid me goodbye while Trumpleton gazed at me from his desk. I ignored him and followed my warden, Cecelia, out of the door and through the rabbit warren of corridors once more.
Cecelia was a whippet-thin woman who could probably do with adequate nutrition herself. She spoke little, hardly sparing me a glance. Since arriving at the ward hours ago, I’d felt like nothing more than a nuisance.
“In here, girl,” Cecelia said shortly, ushering me through an open door. I was faced with two long tables, each set for lunch. A buffet ran along the back wall, and the same stark walls glared at me. Gone were the colourful touches from reception. “You’ve missed lunch with the rest of them. Sit.”
I slowly sat down at a table near the door, wondering why I hadn’t seen even a hair of any other patients.
“Eat this. Eat this. And eat this,” she said, placing three plates in front of me and seating herself opposite. I noted the lack of sympathy and cajoling, and frowned at her. Was this seriously how the ward was run?
I looked down at the food and longed to be back at Hogwarts, even if it were just in the hospital wing. At least the house elves tried to tempt me with appetizing food… this just looked like leftover sludge.
“Erm… thank you?” I questioned, and the warden harrumphed.
“It’s the best you’re going to get, girl, so eat.”
I slowly picked up a fork and prodded at a grey mound, wondering if it would wobble like jelly or collapse in on itself. It did neither, choosing only to suction onto my fork. I shuddered and brought it to my face to smell. There were no words to describe what it smelt like, and I hastily dropped my fork.
“What in Merlin’s name is that?” I muttered, and received only a glare. “There’s no way I’m eating it. At least try to feed me something nice.”
“You’re not at your precious Hogwarts anymore, girlie.”
I hated the condescending tone and I hated the grey sludge in front of me – I was so determined to get better and get out of this place that I probably would have eaten a meal if it had been even slightly edible, but whatever was in front of me had to be a joke.
“I’m not eating it,” I repeated, and those steely eyes narrowed once more.
“Fine. To your room then.”
I was hauled to my feet, fast discovering that her thin frame belied her fierce grip.
“I can walk,” I protested, but was only tugged along harder. Without a word or movement in edgewise, we arrived at my room and I was thrown in, the door locked behind me before I could even shut it.
Was this place meant to be helping me or meant to be making me worse off?
Lacking anything else to do, I lay back on the hard bed, whose legs were bolted onto the floor and sheets attached to the blankets. I sighed - I wasn’t one of those girls, who self-harmed and who needed to be protected from themselves. The sunlight from the blue sky I’d admired only that morning struggled through the barred window and I bit my lip and sighed once more – what on earth had I gotten myself into this time?
A/N – Ahh don’t hate on me! Poor Rose, she’s stuck in an awful place!! What do you think about the new characters? Healer Horrible? I hate him so much! You’re not in Kansas anymore, Rose!
This chapter is a bit different from usual, mainly because Rose is so far out of her comfort zone and somewhere she’s never been before. I sincerely hope that there are no eating disorder clinics in the world run like the St Mungo’s one is run.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope to hear your thoughts in a review!