Tough Love

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Story Notes:
Started 2005
Prologue


It was a beautiful day in early November when Adrian Pucey stepped onto the frost covered pitch at Ilkley Moor. He inhaled deeply, the scent of the morning dew all too familiar, his full lips curving into a slight smile as he surveyed the pitch. It was the first game of the season, an event that never failed to excite him. He had begun playing Quidditch nearly from the moment that he learned how to ride a broom, making the Slytherin team his second year and continuing to play following graduation from Hogwarts. It was one of the greatest joys of his life, the one he wouldn’t trade for anything.


If he were given a choice between shagging, firewhiskey, or playing Qudditch, he’d always choose the latter because there was no other feeling like it on this Earth. Flying through the air, wind in your hair, the adrenalin of competition racing through your blood, your entire focus on the Quaffle and scoring as many points as possible. It all combined to give him a high that easily surpassed the fleeting pleasure that he gained by shagging or drinking.


Adrian walked onto the pitch, his stride confident and graceful. At that moment, the world was his. He was twenty-six years old, a Pureblood with an inheritance that set him up for life and then some, handsome and reasonably intelligent in the areas that really mattered, and one of the most successful Chasers in Quidditch today. He had never been noticed during his years at Hogwarts, only playing one year before Potter started school during his third term. After that, the game was rarely noticed except when it involved Potter. It was only after graduation, when he had been approached by the Coach of the Appleby Arrows, that he had been given an opportunity to really show what he could do, steadily gaining a reputation and quickly making it to the regular circuit.


By the time he was twenty-one, he was often on the cover of Quidditch magazines, a hero to young boys and an infatuation for the girls. He had remained out of the conflict with Voldemort, following his family’s example by remaining neutral, focusing his attention on his game and ambitions. The War was over before he made the cover of Quidditch Monthly as most valuable player for the year, Adrian not even really noticing who won because it had such little affect on him. Of course, that, in itself, meant that Voldemort was defeated and life had gone on with little change for him. He had become a celebrity, much in part for the fact that he was handsome, congenial to fans, and photographed attractively as well as his actual talent at the game.


During the last five years, he had enjoyed his share of willing witches and a few wizards, gained enough galleons on his own efforts to not even bother touching his inheritance, was always invited to the new places in which one of his reputation should be seen, and effectively balanced what Marcus referred to as the ‘party boy prat’ with his position as Chaser for the Arrows. Today was the first game of the season, a match against the Wimbourne Wasps, his team’s primary rivals. Needless to say, they were focused on winning.


He had spent the evening alone, resting and going to sleep early so he would be refreshed for the game. He knew there would be time for celebrating afterwards, confident that his team would triumph as they had for the last six years. After the game, he had plans to meet up with Melody, a rather attractive witch he’d been seeing sporadically over the last six months, at a new club that was opening in Diagon Alley. She was a fun girl, always ready to party or shag, and she knew the game. There was no question of her wanting more than an enjoyable time, using him so she was seen at the right places just as he used her for a body to warm his bed at night.


Adrian sat in the middle of the pitch, ignoring the frost that still covered the blades of grass. He leaned his head back, closing his eyes as the sun warmed his face. A cool breeze ruffled his light brown hair, causing it to fall across his forehead, his hand pushing it back before it again fell forward in the tousled way he had perfected over the years. He kept it short in back, just grazing his neck, but liked a little length on top because he had realized that it was attractive when his hair was disheveled in this way. It wasn’t vanity or arrogance, it was simply an acknowledgement of fact. He was a good-looking bloke, having no particular conceit about how he looked, but he was honest enough to admit that he would much rather be handsome than forgettable.


Ever since he was a child, he had been told that he was cute and adorable. During his years at Hogwarts, he had continued receiving admiring gazes from witches and even a few wizards. As he got older, he had begun to use his looks to his advantage, flirting and charming people to get what he wanted, shagging those he was attracted to if the situation arose. He never made a fuss about how he looked, knowing that such egotism was considered unappealing, but he had a quiet confidence and security that drew people’s attention. He wasn’t so vain as to claim he could bed anyone he wanted, but he could get bloody well close with the right smile, gleam in his green eyes, and words of seduction.


He opened his eyes, blinking slightly as the sun caused dots to appear. With a soft laugh, he sat up, his pre-game meditation nearly complete. The frost had melted, soaking into his robes and trousers, but he was oblivious to the cold. Ever since he had begun playing for the Arrows, this was his tradition. Sitting on the pitch several hours before the game and just relaxing, letting himself get a feel for the game and focus on the upcoming match. Running a now damp hand through his hair, he took one last look around the pitch before he stood up.


Eyes closed as a wave of dizziness swept over him, causing him to stumble slightly. He caught himself before he fell, cursing under his breath for standing so quickly. After taking a moment to collect himself, he stood up straight, making a face as he thanked Merlin that no one was around to see the clumsy act from the normally elegant and graceful Slytherin. He was just a bit over six foot with a lean but muscular figure that he kept in shape by jogging and flying, yet he knew he was far from perfect physically. He was just an average height, his legs were too skinny, never gaining the muscle that his chest and arms did though he had been told often that he had a great arse, his ears stuck out just slightly, and he personally found his facial features a bit too pretty for his taste, sometimes wishing he was more rugged.


With a snort at the direction of this thoughts, realizing that no one could complain about being good-looking, even if said good looks were more beautiful than handsome, Adrian laughed at himself for being a pompous prat at the moment instead of focusing on the upcoming match against the Wasps. He blamed it on the fact that he’d not been sleeping too well the last few months. Even an exhaustive night of shagging only provided a few hours of sleep before he woke up, usually with a horrid headache that even a potion barely dampened.


Marcus had declared that it was too much fun and activity, the older wizard smirking as he pointed out that he’d always warned Adrian that too much wine and too much fucking would bite him in the arse in the end. Not that he’d ever admit it, but he had a belief that Marcus might be right. He’d stretched himself thin, practicing and playing Quidditch during the afternoon and spending his evenings at various social functions and then generally going home with someone who caught his fancy. The headaches and insomnia had not been so frequent when he adjusted his schedule and begun to spend slightly less time making appearances at various events and, instead, spent some boring but quiet time at his estate, wanting to be ready for the new season.


Leaving the pitch, Adrian headed for the dressing rooms. He was early, but the others should be arriving soon. Their Captain always liked to do a warm up before the match began, which was only two hours away. By the time he had changed into his uniform, his teammates were arriving. After a strenuous practice, he sat with his mates as they watched the Wasps, getting their first glimpse of their team for the year. He smirked slightly as he watched them, noting the new players and admiring the new chaser, a rather cute witch with a right nice figure. They were worse than last year, a victory for the Arrows practically guaranteed.


The match was half over. The Arrows were ahead, but the Wasps were not going down without a fight. Adrian flew through the air, his eyes focused on the Quaffle, avoiding the other players as he headed towards the goal. The snitch was still flying around, proving an illusive item for their Seeker. He smiled as he scored, green eyes flashing with triumph as he deftly flew over the goal and turned to make his way back to the pitch.


As he turned, his grip tightened on his broomstick as the world began to tilt. Everything was blurry as his other hand gripped the wood, his eyes closing as he took a moment to collect himself, shaking his head before opening them again. It hadn’t helped. If anything, his vision was even more unclear. He could hear the anxious gasps of breath as his knuckles turned white around the ebony wood of his broom, his eyes blinking rapidly as he tried to see. It was useless. It was all a blur, dimly lit with sunlight from behind, the voices of the crowd echoing in his ears as he began to spiral downward. His balance was lost, his handsome face grimacing from the pain in his head, his body hitting the ground below with a dull thud as everything went black.


**************


"What?" Adrian stared at the man beside his bed, his eyes narrowed out of anger as well as an attempt to clearly see the face of the man that was ruining his life. It had been three days since the match at Ilkley Moor when he had gotten dizzy and taken a nosedive to the ground below. The majority of his injuries were all ready healed, though he was told that the bruises on his face must heal naturally, which meant he’d be these particular shades of purple, blue, and yellow for another week or so.


"Mr. Pucey, you are suffering from optiocycosis."


"And what, exactly, is this optio whatever?" Adrian asked quietly, his voice low but demanding.


"It is a disease that affects your vision," Jacob Collins, the mediwizard explained, "Have you noticed blurriness over the last few months? Perhaps headaches that were centered around your eyes? I believe insomnia and dizziness are also symptoms of the beginnings of the disease. From the results of my tests, I would assume the symptoms began to appear in the last three months."


"What do I need to do to fix it?"


"I’m sorry, Mr. Pucey, but there is nothing that can be done."


"No," Adrian shook his head, "there must be some potion, some spell."


"It is untreatable by our ways, Adrian," he said gently, hating to be the bearer of bad news to the amicable Quidditch star. "I had to consult with my Muggle colleagues to ascertain the correct diagnosis because it was something I have never seen before. It is a rare disease, I’m afraid, and there is very little than can be done. Based on the examination of your tests, you are in the final stages."


"No," Adrian closed his eyes, his voice denying the words the mediwizard was saying, "I will not lose my sight. There must be something that can be done. I can’t be blind."


"I am sorry," Jacob sighed, hating to see a patient so hopeless. He looked through his notes, adding, "With time and proper treatment, there is a slight possibility of retaining a very small percentage of sight, but this would be minimal at best."


"But there is a chance that I could see again?"


"A very small chance," Jacob stressed this point, not wanting the young wizard to believe that he would suddenly be healed. He’d dealt with many patients in the past who lost their sight, but this was one of the youngest and the first from the unknown disease. He hadn’t been exaggerating when he said he had consulted several Muggle doctors for information on the rare disorder, learning what was known about a disease that was still being studied and had no specific cause or cure.


Most results seemed to believe the disease was genetic, only occurring in those predisposed for the condition, which proved to be one in every five million people. Unfortunately, Adrian Pucey was one of those few people. He knew the wizard laying before him in the hospital bed, being a follower of Qudditch as well as the father of two teenage girls who were often going on about the handsome Chaser that was currently dealing with this dreadful news.


"But still a chance?" Adrian grabbed on to that statement with both hands, hoping that this was just a terrible nightmare, that he’d wake up on the pitch and see the game between the Arrows and Wasps being played above him. This can’t be real, he kept repeating to himself, refusing to accept the diagnosis or the possibility that his entire life could be changed by some stupid disease he couldn’t even pronounce.


"Adrian, if you manage to retain even the slightest vision, all you will be able to make out will be blurry images with the occasional sharp focus before the world is again hazy and unclear. There are only a few cases in the research I discovered to prove that retaining that small amount of sight is even possible, but you must resign yourself to the fact that you will be blind within a month if the disease continues on its current course."


"No," Adrian shook his head again, refusing to accept the words of the mediwizard. There had to be a solution. "I will not lose my sight. Bloody hell, I’m a quidditch player! I can’t go blind. That is not acceptable. You must be wrong. There has to be some mistake."


"The tests have been performed several times, Adrian," Jacob sighed, "there is no mistake. I’m sorry, but you must prepare to be blind within six weeks."


"Prepare?" Adrian repeated sharply, "How does one prepare for such a thing? I can’t go blind, Collins. There has to be something you can do, some potion or even some Muggle treatment. Something?"


"There is nothing," Jacob told the stubborn wizard, wishing he had better news. He watched as the handsome young man literally deflated at his words, eyes closing as he fell back against the pillows, a lost and desperate expression crossing his face. In a more gentle voice, he said, "There are far worse things in the world than losing one’s eyesight, Adrian. With the proper training, you can function with relative ease."


"I’m a Qudditch player," Adrian spoke quietly, "my entire life is centered around my vision. Without it, I’m left with nothing."


"You’re left with your life," Jacob pointed out.


"I can’t go blind," Adrian whispered desperately, "I can’t. I just can’t. There has to be something that can be done. A chance that I’ll be okay."


"I will have a mediwitch speak to you before your release so that arrangements can be made," Jacob said, "you will need to employee someone that has knowledge of vision loss to assist you in the transition, until you are comfortable functioning on your own. As I’ve said, Adrian, this is not the end of the world. It is an adjustment, certainly, but you are a strong young man and I have faith that you will adapt to your new situation in time. If you need a list of prospective employees, please let me know. I maintain a file of mediwitches and wizards that work through various agencies that are highly recommended."


Adrian ignored the mediwizard, his arms wrapped tightly around his chest as he stared through the blurry haze at a bit of light. There had to be some mistake. He was just fine three days ago. There was no possible way that this was happening to him. He refused to accept that he would lose his sight, refused to consider that he had ignored the signs of vision loss during the last few months, refused to believe that his entire life could be changed by some disease that he had never heard of, refused to think about how drastically this diagnosis would change his life. Instead, he concentrated on the chance that everything would be okay, that he would regain his sight and everything would be back to normal. He had to think about that chance because, without that hope, he was lost and the world was uncertain and scary.


End Prologue.


Hermione Granger arrived at the front gates with a sharp ‘pop’, taking a moment to steady herself after apparating. It was the beginning of December and a light snow was falling, the twenty-four year old witch pulling her coat tighter as she surveyed the ornate iron gates before her. A skeptical frown crossed her lips as she looked at the gates that probably cost more than she had made all last year. Perhaps this hadn’t been a good idea, she thought for could possibly be the hundredth time since accepting this assignment.


She was accustomed to working for patients with little to no income, the majority elderly or the occasional child. This would be the first time that her services would be required around the clock, a situation that had arrived at an opportune moment because she was forced to leave her flat and had yet to find something affordable. According to Dr. Collins, this assignment would last at least six months, the salary enough for her to find a nice flat when she was released from her contract. She had never chosen a job based on monetary compensation, but losing one’s home and realizing that there were not enough galleons at Gringotts to secure even the cheapest flat had caused her to consider Dr. Collin’s request.


When he had first contacted her about the patient, Adrian Pucey, she had refused to consider the assignment. She’d been working with an elderly witch who had lost her sight to old age, a nice woman who was adapting well to the sightless world, but Hermione had known she had several weeks left before Matilda was ready for her to leave. Then, everything seemed to happen at once. Her building had been condemned, Matilda and her husband had successfully completed the training and had dismissed her, she’d been left without a job and a flat when Dr. Collins owled her again.


During her meeting with him, she had learned that Pucey was a successful Quidditch player who was losing his sight due to disease. He was only a couple of years older her, wealthy, and refused to accept his condition. Three things that didn’t appeal to her at all. It appeared that he had been through six mediwitches all ready, running them all off with his rude, contemptuous behavior, refusing to listen to them or admit that he was going blind. Collins had told her that Pucey was an attractive wizard with quite a reputation amongst the gossip columns and that hindered the amount of qualified candidates to send to assist with the transition.


In other words, Dr. Collins didn’t want to send any of the impressionable witches that might rather spend their time flirting with the patient instead of actually forcing him to adjust and learn. She knew instantly why Collins had first approached her with the offer upon learning more details of the patient. Her reputation was solid, she had taken classes at a Muggle university in regards to assisting the blind, she was a qualified mediwitch, and there was no chance of her being seduced by a charming Qudditch player who refused to acknowledge the changes in his life.


Since the War had ended nearly five years ago, she had focused on her career, preferring to work with the blind for many reasons. There were far more glamorous pursuits, many that paid much more than her work at the agency, but she had never regretted her decision. While the idea of working with some wealthy, stubborn prat didn’t appeal to her at all, the salary and six months of lodging was too good to pass. She had accepted the position and now found herself standing outside ostentatious gates that caused her to doubt her choice. With a determined gleam in her eyes, she shook away the doubts and proceeded to ring the small bell by the gate to alert them that she had arrived.

TBC