When Ellie opened her eyes, the first thing she registered was that the lights were much too bright. It felt as if the back of her eyes were burning and she quickly shut them again with a groan.
“Sorry about that. I’ll dim the lights,” she heard a man’s voice say. A moment later he added, “You can open your eyes now.”
Ellie did as she was told, albeit a bit reluctantly. While there was still an uncomfortable feeling in the back of her eyes, it didn’t hurt so much. She looked around the room slowly, taking in the plain white walls and tiled floors. A lanky man with sandy hair stood by the door holding a clipboard. He looked at her briefly before jotting something down with his quill. “Where am I?” she asked shakily, surprised at how weak her voice sounded.
“St. Mungo’s,” the man replied. He stuck the clipboard under his arm and crossed to the bed. “Do you remember who I am?” he asked.
Ellie looked at him for a long time. His voice sounded very familiar, but she wasn’t sure why. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Should I know you?”
The man smiled kindly at her. “I’m Healer Fenwick, better known as Benjy,” he answered gently. “I met you when your family came to the hospital a few days ago.”
Ellie thought hard. It hurt, but she made the effort anyway. Dimly, she recalled walking through a hallway and an overwhelming sense of loss. . . but nothing more would come to her. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I just can’t seem to remember.”
“I’m not surprised,” he said as he turned back to his clipboard. Ellie guessed it was a chart of some sort. “You received significant injuries and haven’t been fully aware of your surroundings since you arrived here three days ago.”
“I was hurt?” she asked stupidly. A moment later she felt like hitting herself. Why else would she be lying in bed in St. Mungo’s? “Dumb question. Sorry.”
Benjy gave a chuckle and made a note on the chart. “That’s quite alright,” he said as he removed his wand from his robes and waved it along the length of her body. “It looks as if you’re healing fine,” he said. “Your abdomen is taking a bit longer than I’d like, but it’s moving along all the same.” He continued chattering with her as he examined her various wounds, but Ellie stopped listening after a while. All she could think of was what had happened and how she had ended up in the Infirmary.
“Benjy?” she asked, interrupting him as he looked at something on her face. “How did I get injured?”
He was silent for a moment as he looked at her cheek, but gave a sigh and moved back. “Someone will be along shortly to explain everything,” he said simply.
Ellie nodded. What else could she do? It wasn’t like she was in any condition to make him tell her and he had said that someone would explain everything soon. So, instead of bickering with the nice man Ellie lay back in bed and politely answered his questions about how she felt and whether she was comfortable.
“You’re much better behaved than my last patient,” Benjy noted. “Though, to be honest, he had been hit by a particularly powerful Confundus Charm and couldn’t be held responsible for his actions.”
Ellie smiled a bit. She was beginning to like the nice Healer with the cute smile more and more. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said, eliciting more laughter from him. She felt almost as if she were back at school with her friends.
A moment later, that semblance of normality was shattered when Professor Dumbledore entered the room. He greeted Benjy with a firm handshake and then turned to Ellie with a kind smile. “How are you feeling Ms. Swift?” he asked.
“Fine,” she said, very aware that her mouth had gone dry. She shot Benjy a pleading look as he gave her a small wave and left the room. She decided at that moment, that he was completely useless when it came to anything not healing related.
Dumbledore sat in a chair that had been left by the bed and gave her another small smile. “You must be very curious about what happened,” he said gently. Ellie replied with a nod that made her head ache a bit. She wouldn’t be doing that for a while. “Do you know how long you have been here?”
“Three days,” she said quickly. “Benjy, I mean Healer Fenwick, told me that. He wouldn’t tell me what had happened though.”
“As I asked,” Dumbledore said fairly. “I specifically requested that he allow me to be the one to speak with you. I had to bribe him a bit with some Lemon Drops, but he agreed eventually,” he added with a mischievous glint in his eye.
“Right,” Ellie said, not entirely sure her Headmaster was sane. “So what happened?”
Dumbledore sighed and the glint disappeared. He looked tired, almost as if he were being weighed down by whatever he was about to say. “Ms. Swift, may I ask what you remember last?”
Ellie thought hard and did her best to ignore the throbbing sensation in her head. Everything was so hazy and out of focus. “There was something about my father,” she said uncertainly. “Is he alright?”
“Your father is physically well and sound,” Dumbledore answered, much to her relief. “And yes, you are right to say that he had something to do with what happened. Do you remember being told that he was striking a plea bargain with the Ministry?”
Ellie thought for a moment. “Yes,” she said, faintly recalling her mother telling her that. “I think we read it in the Prophet. Why?”
Dumbledore, who had been watching her patiently while she thought, answered, “Your father proposed a plea bargain. In return for a reduced sentence he was willing to pass names of people associated with the Death Eaters to the Ministry. As I’m sure you’ve guessed,” he said, looking at her over his half-moon glasses, “this did not sit well with the Death Eaters or Lord Voldemort himself.”
Ellie shivered violently as he said the name and Dumbledore waited patiently as she composed herself. How he was able to say that name without fear was something she couldn’t comprehend. “So what happened?” she finally asked.
“Three days ago,” Dumbledore began, “your family received a message concerning your Aunt Rosaline, who had been taken to St. Mungo’s after being injured during an attack on Diagon Alley.”
“She died,” Ellie said, remembering the hallway and the grief from before. It all came rushing back now as she pictured her aunt lying dead in a room very similar to this. “She died after being brought here. Benjy was one of her Healers.”
“Yes he was,” Dumbledore affirmed. “According to Healer Fenwick, your family left the Infirmary for home soon after arriving. We’ve spoken with your brother-”
“You’ve talked with Quinn?” Ellie interrupted, immediately clamping a hand over her mouth. “Sorry Professor.”
“Quite alright Ms. Swift,” he replied. “As I was saying, we spoke with your brother and, while he was very confused about what happened, we were able to see what happened thanks to him.”
“What do you mean?” Ellie asked with a frown.
“We used a pensieve,” he explained. “With permission from elder family members, we were able to view what he saw that night.”
“And what did he see?” Ellie asked uncertainly.
Dumbledore fixed her with a long look. “This will not be easy for you to hear,” he said gently. “But I am a firm believer in not postponing pain. It has been my experience that in doing so, it only makes it worse later.”
Ellie looked at him in confusion. What could he have to say that was worse than Rosaline’s death? “I’m ready,” she said.
“Very well,” he said, spreading his hands onto his lap. “The first thing we saw upon viewing the memory, the first thing your brother remembered, was being told to hold an infant while you checked the pantry for something. He didn't seem to fond of the request.”
Ellie nearly snorted as she recalled the moment. “Quinn hates holding Isabella,” she explained.
Dumbledore nodded. “To be fair, babies are rather messy,” he said. “But we’re getting off the topic at hand. When you reappeared in the memory, it was clear from your expression that something was very wrong. What that was, however, you did not deem necessary to explain to your brother, but instead forced him to take Isabella and travel to your grandparents’ residence. Does any of this sound familiar?”
“Yes,” Ellie said as the memories flashed before her eyes. “I remember that. I went into the pantry to get some pasta. I was going to make dinner for us because my mum. . . my mum,” she trailed off. Where had her mother been? She felt that this was an important question and one that needed answering.
“Your mother was not available?” Dumbledore suggested.
“Yes,” Ellie said, beginning to remember something. “I could hear her though. She sounded frightened and. . . .” She remained silent for a few moments, before the memory hit her like a rouge Bludger. “She was in the garden!” Ellie exclaimed. “She had gone for a walk and I heard her arguing with people. She said no one was in the house and that she’d die before they’d hurt us. When I heard spells being fired, I got Quinn and Isabella and made them leave.” A frown flashed across her face as she thought hard. “But I stayed behind?” she asked.
“Yes,” Dumbledore replied.
“Why did I stay behind?” Ellie asked herself. “It must have been to help my mother. I can’t think of another reason why I wouldn’t have gone with them.”
“That is what I believe as well,” Dumbledore commented.
Silence fell between them both. When Dumbledore didn’t say anything, Ellie asked, “Is my family alright?”
“Your brother and sister are fine,” Dumbledore said. “They’re safe and at your grandparents’ home with the house-elf Blinky. The house has been placed under additional protective spells and the Floo network has been completely closed off by your grandfather.”
“Yes,” Dumbledore said. “She arrived back at the home just as the Aurors located you. She was escorted to your grandparents’ home soon after to be with the children.”
“And my mum?” Ellie asked. “Is she there too?”
“No,” Dumbledore said heavily. Ellie gave him a closer look. His face was clouded with what she could only call grief. Suddenly, she had a feeling that she really didn’t want to hear what he had to say next. “Ms. Swift, I’m very sorry to tell you this, but your mother was killed in the attack.”
Ellie heard a rushing sound from very far away. Her sight was spinning, she could hardly breathe. What had he said? Had he really said her mother had been killed? Murdered? How could this be? It couldn’t be true. She had been fine and in perfect health the last time she had seen her. How did this happen?
“Deep breaths,” she heard someone say.
Deep breaths? Deep breaths! They wanted her to breathe deeply when her mother wasn’t breathing at all? What kind of daughter did they think she was?! She tried to push the person away, but they grabbed onto her arm and pushed her back until she was laying on her pillows again.
“She’s going into shock!” she heard someone yell, a moment before everything faded into black. . .
She awoke several hours later, to a darkened room. The small amount of light coming through the windows from the moon felt good on her eyes, until she remembered why she was here. It washed over her like a tidal wave all at once; Rosaline, the attack, her mother, Quinn and Isabella, the duel. . .
She shuddered as she remembered it all. Her aunt was dead. Her mother was dead. Both murdered by Death Eaters and if they had had their way she, Isabella, and Quinn would all be dead right now too.
Ellie squeezed her eyes tightly shut and wrapped her arms around her torso as she drew her legs up into her chest. It hurt to move, but she didn’t care. Her physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain and paralyzing fear that was raging through her body. She was practically an orphan with two young children to care for. How was she supposed to finish her education and raise Quinn and Isabella?
She squeezed her eyelids until she saw stars. There would be no crying. There could be no crying. If she cried there was a chance that she might turn into a complete wreck like her mother had and she couldn’t allow that to happen. She couldn’t afford to be weak now, not when there was a chance that they were still be hunted. The thought made her dry heave.
She needed a plan and she needed one now. What would be the best way to keep Quinn and Isabella safe?
As much as she didn’t like the thought, separating herself from her brother and sister was the only way she could see that would guarantee they would be alright. Hadn’t Rabastan said that they would kill her before any of the others? Wasn’t she, as the eldest, the biggest target for them now, especially after she betrayed her father? The Death Eaters would naturally assume that Ellie would drop out of school now that her parents were gone in order to raise her siblings. Anyone who knew anything about her would know that this would be her obvious choice; and therefore, in Ellie’s opinion, it was the most dangerous option.
If they were still hunting them, and Ellie was convinced they were, she would need to let them know where she was and what she was doing. If she didn’t there was a chance they would give up on hunting her and go for Isabella and Quinn instead, and that was something that Ellie would not allow.
As much as she didn’t want to, Ellie realized that she would be forced into leaving them in the care of her elderly grandparents. While she loved them dearly, she wasn’t entirely convinced that they were up to the challenge that a nine year-old and an infant would bring. And then there was the added stress of the war and planning the funeral-
Ellie bit her lip. Would she be able to attend her mother’s funeral? Would her siblings or grandparents? Or was it considered too dangerous to do so? It probably was.
She buried her face into her pillow. Why was this happening to them? Why her family? There were thousands of other citizens in the magical community, so why did it have to be her that was lying in a hospital bed near tears? What had they done wrong to deserve this?
She feared it was a question only her father could answer.
That bastard! He was the cause for all of this! If he hadn’t written that list none of this would have happened. If he hadn’t selfishly tried to strike a deal with the Ministry, her mother and aunt would be alive. How selfish could one man really be? The moment he stepped foot out of Azkaban, no matter when that was, Ellie would be there, ready and waiting to slit his throat like the pig he was. . .
The next few days passed uneventfully enough. Dumbledore returned to speak with her again and Ellie let him know that she had decided to return to school. To her surprise, the Headmaster hadn’t tried to talk her out of it or convince her to stay with her family. He had merely nodded his head and turned the conversation to her mother’s will.
Ellie was now the owner of the house in Surrey. She had also inherited her mother’s fortune, which she had been smart enough to keep separate from her husband’s finances. While all three of the children had technically inherited the house and money, Ellie had been named as keeper of the estate until Quinn and Isabella had both come of age and could take their part of the inheritance.
But that really didn’t matter, as Ellie was a very reluctant recipient of all these things.
As she sat in her bed staring out the window, she mentally counted up the things she had gained and lost. She had gained a house and some money, but she had lost both parents, an aunt, and whatever innocence she had still had.
Not to mention her beauty.
Absentmindedly, Ellie ran a finger along the left side of her face. A long scar ran from her temple to the corner of her mouth. Benjy said the Healers had done their best to get it to fade, but that scars caused by dark magic were more difficult to get rid of. It was unlikely that her’s would ever disappear. She would be stuck with a physical reminder of all she had lost for the rest of her life.
She had been told it wasn’t so bad, but she had still refused to look at it in a mirror. She didn’t want to see her once beautiful face so disfigured. She didn’t want to remember the curse and the duel that had taken the last bit of her youth away.
She sighed and blinked back the tears that rushed to her eyes. She had always defined herself by her beauty and her strength, both of which were gone now. She felt lost and unsure of who she was. If she was no longer beautiful, was she still Ellie Swift?
She wasn’t entirely sure. . .
Another day passed and still no one from her family came to visit. She knew it was dangerous for them to venture out of the house, but she had still hoped that they would. She missed Isabella and her grandparents. . . and she even managed to miss Quinn a bit too.
Ellie stared blankly at the wall in front of her as she tried to figure out what day it was. All she got was an aching head and the feeling that it had been nearly a week since the attack. School would be starting soon. Everyone would know, if they didn’t already, that her mother had been killed and Ellie herself had nearly died. She wondered if anyone would care.
She was saved from further soul-searching when Benjy entered the room. “Hello dear,” he said in a hushed voice. “How are we this morning?”
“Fine,” she managed to say. She liked Benjy because he didn’t bullshit her, but she really wasn’t in the mood for another round of tests and inspections.
He waved his wand and removed the bandage around her mid-section. Despite herself, Ellie felt a blush creep over her cheeks as he inspected her bare abdomen. Thankfully, he worked quickly and had moved on to examining the rest of her wounds before too long. “Well,” he said as he sat back in a chair, “I have good news or bad news. Depends on how you look at it.”
“Alright,” she said steadily.
“Now, promise you won’t burst into hysterical tears or anything. I know how much you’ve come to adore me after all our time together.”
Ellie restrained the urge to roll her eyes and instead answered with, “I promise.”
“Well then, based off your charts and your progress, I would say you are just about ready to be released.”
“You mean I can leave?” she asked incredulously.
“Sadly yes,” he replied.
Ellie closed her eyes and fell back against the pillows. “When?” she asked.
“By tomorrow morning I would say.”
A range of emotions raced through Ellie’s mind. The only one she paid any attention to was the profound sense of relief she felt at the news. In the hospital she was no good, but back at Hogwarts she could actually do something to keep the Death Eater’s focus firmly fixed on her and not on her siblings.
“Professor Dumbledore has already been informed of your release,” Benjy continued. “Someone from Hogwarts will be by tomorrow to escort you back.”
“Is that really necessary?” she asked.
A grin spread across Benjy’s face. “Standard protocol,” he said. “Sorry. My hands are tied.”
“I suppose that will have to do then,” Ellie said sarcastically. Benjy merely chuckled in return.
A second healer, a woman, entered the room and shot Benjy a stern look. “Don’t you have other patients to be harassing?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am, healer Vance!” he said, snapping off a salute. He shot Ellie a wink before frog-marching out of the room. Ellie shook her head. He really reminded her of James and Sirius sometimes.
“Alright, it’s time for walking,” she said. She waved her wand, magically pulling the blankets off of Ellie. She shivered as the cool air hit her skin.
“Do I have to?” she asked, hating the whining tone that crept into her voice.
“If you want to be released tomorrow, then yes,” Healer Vance replied with a no-nonsense look. Ellie resisted the temptation to rebel and dutifully pulled herself into a sitting position. Her side didn’t hurt nearly as much as it had yesterday, but there was still a dull ache that was going to be annoying her for a few more days.
Ellie allowed the healer to help her from the bed, but the moment her feet touched the ground she shook her off. “I think I can do it myself,” she said hopefully. Vance, for her part, merely shoved a strand of long blonde hair over her shoulder and stood back.
Ellie took a deep breath. Ever since she had woken up in the hospital, she had been forced to rely on Healer Vance to help her around the room. . . but there would be no Healer Vance at Hogwarts. If she wanted to be able to go back to school and get around, then she would need to be able to walk on her own.
Still, she was a bit scared. It had hurt a little less each day she had laboriously made her way around the room with Healer Vance, but she had no idea how badly it would hurt trying it by herself. She remembered the sickening pain of the fire poker ripping through her body. What if it hurt that badly?
But she would never know if she didn’t try and the healer was watching her closely. If Ellie showed even the slightest bit of pain, she would be there to help her.
Slowly, Ellie lifted her foot from the ground and placed it gently down a small distance in front of her. She took a deep breath. It had hurt, but not as badly as she had feared. She lifted her other foot and took another step, then another, and another. The pain was still there, but it was manageable.
She staggered around the room slowly and was pleased to find that it became easier with each step. “Excellent,” Healer Vance said happily as Ellie made it back to the bed. “You’ve made excellent progress Miss Swift.”
“Thanks Healer Vance.”
“Call me Emmeline,” she replied. “Healer makes me feel far too important for my own good.” Ellie smiled, but said nothing as Emmeline helped her into the bed once again. “Well, I am very glad to say that it appears that Healer Fenwick was correct. I’ll have your discharge forms ready for you to sign tomorrow morning.”
“Thanks,” Ellie answered as the blankets were drawn up to her chin. “And thanks for taking care of me. I really appreciate it.”
“It’s my job dear,” Emmeline replied as she placed her wand behind her ear and left the room.
Ellie stared up at the ceiling, a happy grin on her face. She could walk on her own. It might take her a little longer to get around than before, but she could walk. . .
Ellie awoke bright and early the next morning and waited impatiently through breakfast for someone to appear. Finally, Benjy arrived with a grin and a form. “Healer Vance was kind enough to fill these out,” he said. “I just need you to sign.”
She snatched the quill from him, scrawled her signature and handed it back within a minute. “Can I leave now?” she asked anxiously.
“Sure,” Benjy answered, repressing a grin. Ellie got out of the bed as quickly as she could. “Already changed?” he asked as he raised an eyebrow.
“I changed when I woke up,” she said with a grin, automatically checking her pocket for her wand. She was relieved to see she had remembered it.
“You were supposed to wait for someone to help you to the lavatory.”
“I’m impatient,” she stated. He rolled his eyes and waved his wand. A wheelchair rolled into the room and came to a stop at her feet. “That won’t be necessary.”
“Hospital policy,” he said. “If we don’t wheel you to the exit and something happens, you could sue us for all we’re worth.”
“So what’s my motivation to get into that thing?”
Benjy gave her a stern look. “Just get in.” Ellie frowned, but sank onto the seat.
It was a short and silent trip to the lobby. When they finally reached Hagrid, who had been sent to escort her, and Ellie was allowed out of the wheelchair, she turned to Benjy with no real idea of what to say. She finally settled on extending her hand to him and shaking it with a hearty, “Thanks.”
He grinned in return and a moment later he was gone. . .
A/N: Hello my dears. For anyone who doesn't check my homepage (which you should you naughty children) I may not be able to post the next chapter the weekend of the 26th due to school. Please see my homepage for more details.
- Anders -
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