It was 8:30, and Michael sat anxiously in his front living room. Yesterday when he had told the woman that he lived close to Laois, he actually lied. Michael lived in Caterjune Square , which was located in West Country of England. It was a secret wizarding community, unknown to the muggles. While the muggle way of life did not bother Michael, he found more comfort in a wizarding society. Since he did not live in the typical area for non-magic folk, his phone was enchanted to have the same type of phone number as the surrounding town or, depending on the caller, could be from a particular area. Earlier, he had sent an owl, via Gatsby, to his work stating that he had an emergency and would not be able to come in. Michael just knew there would be a large stack of paperwork on his desk the next day. At least he would be kept busy most the day.
The clock struck 8:45, chiming the normal sounds. Michael stood up and walked to the middle of his room. Inhaling deeply, he focused on a vision in his head. The image was of the Institution which he had not been to in years. There was some loud crackling and soon Michael disappeared completely from the room, while a large breeze seemed to roll through.
While the broomstick is used in the wizarding world, it is not the most common way of traveling, mainly because of muggles being able to see people on brooms flying through the air. A particularly normal method, one commonly used by adult witches and wizards is apparition. This is exactly what Michael had just completed. At first he was quite shaky in his travels, but recently he had gotten a hang of the business.
A loud crackle preceded Michael’s arrival at a wizarding pub in the center of Laois. He had appeared in the back room which was filled with cobwebs and broken chairs. He walked through the curtain leading into the sitting area. Several old and tired wizards and witches sat with his their mugs clasped in their hands, clearly having sat there since last night. They all wore velvet cloaks and some had pointed hats on their heads. A mop was in the corner, scrubbing down the floors on its own, and a dishrag with wiping down the tables.
Michael nodded to the bartender as he passed. The wizard didn’t seem to be in a conversation mood, which was probably good for Michael since he was in a hurry. Unlike the rest of the patrons in the pub, Michael was wearing muggle clothing, specifically a clean gray suit. It would not be proper for him to walk straight into a muggle town wearing his wizarding robes. The magical folk were known to wear clothing that must seem quick old, nearly medieval, to muggle eyes. Clearly they would seem out of place if in large groups.
Michael looked down at his watch and glanced at the time. It was 8: 47 as he pushed through the door and out into the busy streets of Laois. The pub, known as The Drunken Dragon was hidden amongst several busy stores. There was a charm that if a muggle happened to walk into the pub they would immediately forget what they were doing and would leave straight away.
The street that The Drunken Dragon was hidden on led straight out into the busy square. Michael walked to the side of the street and held out his hand, and swiftly a small blue taxi arrived at the curve. Not many taxis were around in these parts, but Michael knew where the small company’s headquarters was right across the street.
Slipping into the car the man at the dash turned around. “Where’s it ya headin’?” he asked in his thick accent. Michael requested to be taken to the institution, which was nearly two blocks away. He easily could have walked there, thought the driver, but soon reminded himself that money was money. He sped off down the street, taking only three minutes to reach the driveway of the large building. It rested on the top of a hill, and it seemed like a mile long stretch to the front door. There was a large gate blocking the drive and the taxi pulled to the small guard box. The window rolled down as Michael stuck his head out as the man dressed in navy approached him.
“I have an appointment with Dr. Augusta, my name is Michael High – “
“Oh yes, you are expected, please drive through,” the man had interrupted clicking the button on his belt to open the gate. Michael stuck his head back in as the taxi pulled up to the building. It was quite massive, almost looking like a castle in the distance. The taxi driver pulled to the front where another iron gate stood. A short woman pushed open the gate and walked through holding a clipboard. She opened the door for Michael, and he climbed out. Before he could make his way to the window in order to pay the driver, the woman had already handed him a stack of money. This was much more than the driver needed for the five minute venture but he took it. She shut the door and motioned to Michael as the taxi sped off.
“Good morning Mr. Highmore, my name is Susan Wilkins, Dr. Augusta’s personal assistant,” she spoke as quickly as she had on the phone moving quite fast for her short legs. Michael looked around the courtyard, turning back to see the iron gates closing him inside again, like he had been for five years of his life. It only seemed like yesterday that he was here, not the happiest feeling. Using his long legs he kept up with her quick pace. All the while she was speaking and Michael had missed most of her conversation.
“—I hope you don’t mind?” she finished looking up at him for a response.
“What was that?” he asked absent-mindedly.
“Dr. Augusta is with a patient right now, you wouldn’t mind waiting for two minutes in her office?” she questioned agitated. Her face was growing as red as her dyed hair, seeming to become tired of the many steps towards the office or maybe she was not having a very good day.
“Of course not,” he said still looking around the massive building. Their steps echoed constantly through the high ceilings. After what seemed like ten minutes of walking they arrived at Dr. Augusta’s private office and study. He had only been inside twice; once when he was being evaluated at the beginning of his stay, and once on the last day of his treatment. It was where the doctor’s office and living chambers were located. The first heavy wooden door led to the outer office, where Susan worked. She quickly made her way to her large desk that seemed too overbearing for her as she sat in her chair.
“You can go on in and have a seat, she will be with you in a moment,” she said with a smile, and then quickly began to open files scribbling away into them. Michael was right; she had very long fingernails that were painted a bright pink.
He looked at the open door leading into the doctor’s study. It was a very beautiful room, much like he remembered. There were several old pieces of furniture including two comfy chairs, a large dark desk, and bookcase that seemed to fill one whole wall every inch covered with books. He took a seat in one of the comfy chairs across from the desk. The memories of being in this room brought back even more thoughts of his days here. The only thing he could think was that he was different now, he had cured himself.
A movement caught him out of the corner of his eye and he saw a woman enter. She was extremely beautiful for her age. Dr. Lucia Augusta had worked here for nearly forty years, and was not yet ready to retire. She had a pointed face with high cheek bones and squinting clear blue eyes hiding behind thin glasses. Her hair was perfectly white, wrapped up neatly in a wavy bun. The doctor was always known for keeping herself very neat and tidy along with her work. There was never a thing out of place that she didn’t know about and personally took care of at the institute. Michael stood up to face her realizing that she looked as if she hadn’t aged a day. A warm red lipped smile grew on her face as she strutted towards him. Michael was about to hold out his hand for her to shake, but instantly she wrapped him in a deep embrace.
“Michael Highmore, it is nice to see you in my office again,” she said stepping back from him, still gleaming towards him. Her perfume was quite overpowering to Michael, but he smiled just the same back at her.
“It is quite a highway of memories here Dr. Augusta,” he said as she led him to his seat, and grabbed the plush chair next to him.
“Oh please call me Lucia, you are no longer a patient here,” she said crossing her legs.
“Lucia,” he said with a nod, “you said there was an emergency.”
“Oh, well that can wait,” it seemed like hardly something that could wait, thought Michael, “It has been ten years since I have seen you last and I would like to hear how your life is and also to get your input on your stay with us. So how about we talk about the year that you left us, you were twenty three at the time.”
Michael felt like he was back in his sessions with her, a sudden wave of anxiety rushing over him. This seemed like a poor excuse for him to miss a day of work or to be called an emergency at all. If he would have known that he would be telling her about his life, he would have come up with some good lies. Instead he sat hot in his seat giving a weak smile.
“Well my family moved to Florence once again, my sister has recently moved out and is getting married in a year or so, to a nice gentleman.”
A smile was still on her face, “That must have been incredibly exciting. So are you helping plan the wedding?”
“Uh, no, I don’t think I would be much help at all with planning, but she seems to have it well under control,” in fact his sister, Lucy had requested him not to help at all. She understood what stressful things did to him, and just wanted him to enjoy the wedding when it came time. The man that she was marrying was actually a wizard, and she hoped that though she was stunted in her magical ability that they were would have several children that could do magic.
“Well, I wish Lucy well then,” she said with a grin. “So you work, I hear.” She stood up and walked behind her desk making it seem more and more like a questioning than interested conversation. Michael looked puzzled, as she pulled up with looked like a file for a patient. “I have been keeping tabs with your mother and father, since we were unable to contact you for a while. I have only checked with her every other year.”
Michael mother’s was always the one to be very forward about getting things done. She only wanted the best for him which he understood, but this seemed slightly back handed. “Well, yes, I work at – er – at a law firm as a desk worker.” He felt accomplished with himself at thinking something up. Lucia looked down at the file and began to write, no doubt about the specifics of his job.
“But she said that you took a year off, now why was that?” her eyes looking over her glasses at him with a questioning stare. It made his throat tighten and he began to feel the pressure.
“I began to feel stressed, having moved away from my family, starting my life on my own. I began to want the things that I had stayed away from. So I didn’t want to risk the safety of myself nor my family,” it was extremely difficult to say because it made him feel like a failure.
“Did you ever take any substances during that time?” She questioned him, her face changing to a more serious expression. It felt like lemon juice on a fresh wound.
“Yes, once and that was it.”
“What substance was it and where did you get it?”
“I am unsure what exactly it was but I received it from…” he truly did not want to continue but her questioning eyes were on him. “I received the drug from a…strange, someone I didn't know.”
Lucia glanced back down at her file and began to write again. “Now Michael, you know we asked you to return to us if you ever had taken any other drugs after your release. May I ask what happened?”
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t come back. This place helped me at the point that I was at when I first arrived. After leaving I didn’t think that this place could help me anymore than it had. When I took the drugs I began to hallucinate creatures, and visions of my family dying. It was too much handle. I left and went to India. I stayed in the Manali Buddhist Temple, where they taught me of meditation and forgetting of self. At that time, I needed that help,” it seemed like all these feelings were just being release from inside him. The doctor was known for getting these results out of her patients. A few years had passed since Michael had bought his home when Michael’s anxiety became too overwhelming. Something snapped in him, and he could just not take the pressure. An unfortunate evening at a pub left Michael in a terrible nightmare of hallucinations. For some reason the particular drug that Michael had tried that night did not react well with his body or mind. It ended him up in the wizarding hospital, St. Mungo’s. Though the nurses kept wishing him to return to the mental institution for help, he wouldn’t hear of it. Instead he had traveled to a place that he found much comfort, for it was the place where Michael was born. The temple was a place he had never visited but it seemed the most welcoming. There he learned everything he needed to know in order to control his urges. After the stay there Michael was more than prepared to start his drugless life.
Lucia sat back the smile beginning to tug on her lips. “Well, I must say, you certainly have grown up Michael. Well, continuing on. I’m assuming you came back because you are still employed I see.”
“Yes, I came back a year later, I finished up the rest of my renovations, and began to work as a desk worker at the firm again,” he ended with a smile. It was close enough.
“Excellent, I hope you know you were one of my favorite patients that I have had. You had the strength and the perseverance to overcome any situations given to you in your life, which is what we hope all of our patients to leave with. Now how about we take a walk, I will show you the new things we have added to the building and maybe you can give me some of your personal experiences here.”
The pair began walking through the building. Lucia made detours to show Michael all the new additions to the building while still visiting the old rooms were Michael went through his different treatments. They had practically seen the whole building having a long conversation about his years in attendance. Before beginning to head back to the office again, Lucia stepped in front of Michael. There was slyness in her eye as she looked at him.
“I wonder,” she began, “would you perhaps like to see your old room?”
Michael wouldn’t have imagined going to see it, but now that she was asking, it would be interesting to see what they did with it. He agreed to go and see it. For some reason she seemed very pleased that he would want to visit the room again. They made their way to the children section of the building. The youngest ages to 25 were in this wing of the building. She led him through many corridors, until they reached an isolated area. They were stopped by a large metal door with a small window. The guard buzzed them through and they entered into a white hallway, not matching the rest of the building.
“A new feature we have here. It makes the sleeping quarters safer and secure.” Safe for who, he thought as they stepped through. There were several doors lining the hall each with a large painted number. Above the number was a thin rectangular window that looked into the rooms, another new feature. They moved their way through the hall slowly, soon seeing the large numbers, 314 in the distance. Michael could feel his heart racing, many nights he had stayed in that room, countless nightmares and dreams were hidden in that room.
“It is habited of course,” she said breaking Michael from his trance, “so we can’t let you go in until she goes to dinner. Well if she goes to dinner,” Lucia said folding her arm under his. They reach the door, room 314. He could still see it clear in his mind. The walls were white but were covered by his art work and writings. There was a small metal bed, a desk and chair, and window with bars over it. He realized that it would seem much different without his artwork in it. One thing that kept him calm all those years was his sketching, mainly of things that he wanted to remember from the magical world.
Michael looked up to see the door in front of him. His eyes moved slowly to look through the window. It seemed like nothing had changed. Artwork and written pages hung on the wall. It was quite messy as if the person inside had thrown a fit. No one could be seen in the room. He turned to Lucia with a questioning look.
“You said there was a patient,” he said turning back only to be met by a pair of blue eyes. The breath was taken away from him as he stared into the girls eyes. She backed away slowly still watching him. Her hair was pale blonde, messy and tousled around carelessly. She was in one of the gowns that they would make you wear if you would not put on clothing. It seemed to blend in with her pale complexion. She moved back to the bed and sat down curling into a ball.
“Her name is Eva. She was brought to us a few months ago by a truck driver. He didn’t know who she was. He found her in his storage that he was carrying, and brought her here seeing that she was clearly unstable. We have tried everything to find out who she was. All we know is that her name is Eva. There is no one missing of her description or even going by that name. She could practically not speak at all when she arrived but has picked it up quickly,” Lucia said folding her arms and looking at the child through the window.
Michael kept staring at her, finding something familiar and odd about the girl. “Why won’t she tell you anything about her?”
“We are not sure. She will say phrases that don’t make sense. Sometimes we think she is trying to tell us a story. We are thinking something happened to her family and she suffered slight amnesia and somehow found her way onto the back of that truck,” she continued being stopped by a worker there to take Eva to her dinner. They stood back and watched as she was wheeled out of her room strapped down to a wheelchair. The girl turned and watched as Michael got farther in the distance.
“Come on in,” Lucia said showing Michael into the room. It seemed a lot smaller than before. The room still was set up like always, he thought the mattress might have been the same too. Soon the artwork caught his eye and he moved closer to examine them.
“They’re amazing aren’t they. She really has a knack for making character sketches. But who these characters are, I couldn’t tell. Such as this one,” she picked one off the table and showed it to Michael. “It looks like a skeletal horse with wings, quite frightening to be in a child’s mind.” Michael took the picture from her and looked at it closer. He had only ever seen illustrations of the creatures but this looked exactly like a thestral which was a creature that was invisible to everyone unless you had seen someone die. Michael continued to shuffle through the pile of pictures filled with magical beasts, some only a wizard or witch would have to know about. Suddenly Lucia was at his side again she gave him another picture, one that made his mouth drop.
“And this one?” she said with a questioning glance, reading his astonished expression. “I must confess that my reason for bringing you here was not entirely true. You see I found this while discussing with Eva last night. She could not give me the name of the person nor how she knew him.” Michael couldn’t draw his eyes away from the yellow paper. The charcoal scribbles outlined a young version of himself as a child. Actually it was a picture that was taken of him while he was in the institution. He remembered seeing the photograph and everything was the same. Slowly he looked up at Lucia.
“What is this?” he asked almost breathlessly.
“That is what I would like to know. Have you ever seen that girl?”
“No, never. How did she get this picture? My mother has it in one of her albums,” Michael gasped sitting on the small bed.
“I do not know. You see she is very odd, much like you were while you stayed here. Doors open on their own, things magically disappear. Now Michael, I want you to be completely honest with me.”
“Doctor, I promise I have never seen that girl in my life, nor do I understand the meaning of this,” a sickness seemed to drop into his stomach. How could this possibly be happening to him? The only explanation was clear, but yet he didn’t know how to deal with it. When he had entered here as a patient he knew about magic, learned about it, but if this girl had never even seen a wand there could be big problems. Then he wondered. “How old is she?”
“We are not really sure, the physician found several things that seemed quite peculiar, but he believes that she is ten years or so.” This confirmed Michael’s fear. It was common for a magical child to be born to a muggle family. Nearly fifty percent of witches and wizards were either muggle born or half-muggle born. It was also common that the child never knew they had such powers until they received their letter from a school of magic. Something seemed too strange about this girl to be safe. If she would be turning eleven anytime soon, owls would be dropping letters all over the institute for her. And if she had enough power, she could do some bad things, on accident of course, but it could be bad for her and the other patients.
“When I asked her why she saw you all she could respond was magic.”
“Magic,” Michael said understanding the word far too well. “Can I talk to her? See if I can get something out of her. Clearly she knows my face somehow.”
“Actually, I was counting on it,” Lucia said with a sly smile. She asked Michael to follow her down the hall to an office room. Eva was strapped to her chair still staring at Michael as he entered. “I will leave you for a while, you only need knock on the door for assistance.” With that Lucia was gone leaving Michael with Eva. Michael felt that his trust in Lucia was becoming far more stretched then he originally anticipated. It was an emergency, but she wanted to make him comfortable in order let the truth out. A great play on her part, but she got the wrong culprit.
“Hello Eva, I believe you know me from somewhere,” he said holding up the picture. She looked down at the image and then back to him, her steel eyes so innocent and fair. She nodded her head and looked away. “How do you know what I look like?” He asked slowly to see if she understood.
Several moments they sat there in silence. He was fearing she would not speak to him at all until something escaped her lips. “My sleep,” she mumbled under her breath.
“You saw me in your sleep?” he questioned not quite understanding. “Dr. Augusto told me that strange things have happened while you were here.” The girl would seem quite frightening to anyone looking on her, but especially when she opened her pales eyes widely with fear. “Doors unlocking, things disappearing.”
“Magic,” she whispered.
“Magic, can you do magic?” he asked not sure if this was the right question. The thoughts seemed to be rolling in her head as she searched for something to say.
“Yes, things move, things open. I see things in my head. I see you.” She said slowly and slightly fumbling through her words. Eva seemed very frustrated with the situation and began to rock in her chair.
“It is alright Eva, my name is Michael Highmore. I can also make things move, make things open. I am wizard,” he said leaning in close to her. Her eyes questioned him, to see if he was speaking the truth, but soon her face became sad as tears began to stream down her face. “I think you are a witch, you have just lost your way.” He placed his hand on her shoulder to calm her down.
She cried several things though Michael could not understand her. “I thought I was insane.” She finally translated her face turning to a sad smile. Michael gave her a warm grin and stood up making his way to the door.
“I need to speak with Lucia,” he told the worker and was led back to her office where she was waiting for him. There were no pleasantries when he returned, she clearly thought that she had found the key to Eva’s past.
“Oh good, so did she tell you anything?” Lucia asked as she clicked her pen.
“I feel that she is too frightened to open up her mind enough. I want to take her with me. Clearly she has a connection to me that neither of us understands. I think that if I am around her enough she will begin to remember the things that she has lost.”
Lucia made a grim face sitting up slightly. “You know Mr. Highmore that these things are very difficult.” She used his proper name, meaning something not so good. “She is a mental patient with a history of violence towards herself and other patients. We cannot trust that moving her out of this facility into another will not make her go insane.”
“I don’t think she is insane, she is just confused,” he said standing close to her desk. Something seemed to waver behind Lucia’s thin eyes. He could see her walls slowly coming down. Perhaps he didn’t know anything.
“I understand how you feel. Give it some time Michael, I will speak with the board, we will have to do tons of paperwork and also do a background check on you, and see how your home life is. Then there will be the adoption forms and…” she was suddenly interrupted by Michael.
“Adoption?” he questioned. The thought had never crossed his mind, nor had the thought of taking care of children at all.
“Yes, you can’t very well take her out of here with no proper medical license or childcare experience. She will be legally yours, if everything works out. To be quite honest, I can’t help her anymore, Michael. I have tried every method, brought in every specialist and I can’t. The way she looks at you showed me that she can care about something. Watching the tape of your speaking to her,” she began again never having mentioned that they were being recorded. “That made me believe that she could actually relate to someone. Being an orphan of the institute I have the legal obligation to give her to a suitable parent that represents themselves. Clearly, she knows you, somehow she knows you which is the strongest connection I think I am ever going to find.”
Michael stood stunned for a moment. Was he really willing to take on this challenge? He rolled the thoughts over in his mind, coming to the conclusion that he didn’t know a thing about raising a child, nor a child with amnesia and a history of violence. Lucia stared at him with a solemn face. She wanted an answer here and now whether he wanted to take her or not. Clearly she was at the end of her rope and needed his help.