Author's Note: Sure took me long enough didn't it! Sorry for the long wait. I've been busy and that coupled with horrible writer's block does not make for some good jojoo. Forgive me? I hope you enjoy it and please don't hesitate to review!
Sean Bean as Hr. Malachai "Mal" Eynsford
Emily Blunt as Ophelia Hobbs
Jude Law as Audilius Dowd
Standard Disclaimer: JK owns. Furthermore, the cast list mentioned above is a list of people I envision to be the characters and is only provided to serve as visual aids for the reader. I have, in no way shape or form, any means to actually procure these actors to be my characters. Thank you!
Chapter 1: God Complex
“Take heart my dear wife and heed my words well. Lessons are learned and men are
made in the throws of war. A man can only call himself a Healer when he has managed
to fight away a grin at the sight of the village fool. A Healer can only call himself a God
when he can muster that which he cast away when faced with his darkest fear. And thus
all Healers are men, but no healer can ever be God. Fortunately you are no man and
your making lies in a different path.”
- Taken from the letters of Brimthorn of Gorsemoor to his wife, the Healer Gunhilda
And these were supposed to be the Healers of the future? With a sigh of disgust and an arched eyebrow, he dismissed them all as idiots who proved the future dim indeed. He prayed then and there that he would die in his sleep to spare himself their care. God knew that it might as well be their care that would kill him one day.
It was freezing in the examination room, but he’d already grown quite accustomed to the temperature. The cadavers needed to keep fresh and this was the only way how. Even the preservation charms cast on them relied on the lack of heat and humidity. But the cold didn’t help with the stench at all. Three cadavers fifteen students and one tiny little room made the smell as fresh as when the damage was first inflicted. It was not enough to knock you unconscious, but it was damn near close. There were no spells to prevent that. The sight of them, well that was another thing that might just do the trick.
The whole lot of them were shivering, wrinkling their noses, their eyes stinging with held back tears. Some of them looked like they were about to show him what they’d taken for lunch. All of them were green, too green and too stupid to look straight at the bodies and diagnose the corpse. Of course, they were fresh from Hogwarts but that was no excuse. England was thrown into the aftermaths of war and these good for nothing neophytes were all that stood to help keep troops on the lines. They called themselves Healers but all Mal could see were children who didn’t know the difference between pepper-up potion and cough medicine.
“Now ladies and gentlemen,” he cast a sonorus charm on himself. “If any of you can take their head out of the bucket and look at the damned corpses, I would much appreciate a diagnosis. Raise your hand if you have something worthwhile to say.”
As expected, no one even flinched. Must he do everything himself?
“The bodies that you’ve been avoiding for the past few hours were all killed by the Akroposthia Curse. Does anyone know what this is?”
A mousy little student from the back slowly raised his hand, taking it off his nose and looked as if she would die from the stench. Mal nodded his head, gesturing the student to continue, as she did so shakily. “It’s a dark, offensive curse burning the flesh of the victim.”
“Correct Ms. Hobbs. You may resume hiding behind your handkerchief.” As she so did gladly.
Malachai Eynsford had been a teaching Healer at St. Mungo’s for over fifteen years now. He’d seen every kind of student from the one who fainted at the sight of blood to the other who found utter bliss in cutting open a human heart. Every student was different, but every batch was the same. They came into the profession thinking it to be a pool of glorified miracle workers who had more magic in their finger tips than the whole Wizarding community combined. Healers had the power of life in their hands. They were the thin line between survival and an early funeral service. Bloody idiots, all of them. Being a Healer was not noble nor was it beautiful. Life was not all mandrakes drafts and sleeping potions. Especially nowadays. Only a year after He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s death, the world was still full of Akroposthias and Killing Curses. The sooner these would-be Healers realized that, the better. Mal’s ward was the darkest pit of hell there was and his students needed strong stomachs and hard hearts. To be a Healer in the Dark Arts ward, you had to be impervious to the smell of charred flesh no matter how much it made you want to retch.
“The Akroposthia Curse is one of the most common in the battle field. Soldiers of Grindelwald and You-Know-Who alike have used it for years. And as such, over the years it has taken on various forms. On the first table,” he lead them to the corpse on the farthest corner of the classroom, “you’ll notice hints of blisters. The earliest form ignited the skin. Traces of cloth merged with the skin indicates that this would set the victim ablaze with something akin to Greek fire. The second body demonstrates the second evolution of the curse. It made the blood boil from the inside, thus burning the flesh on the surface. Finally, the last body is the current form of the curse. A combination of the two previous forms. It burns the victim from inside as well as out. A quicker death than either of the two. Fortunately for us, the Akroposthia is not instantaneous death. It can be stopped and minimally treated. However, the victim will never return to full function again. The best we can hope for is a 30% repair with a high possibility of blindness and limited muscle function is common. Any questions?”
No one could speak. Mal supposed he was like this once, muted by the gruesome effects of five little syllables. But time would prove to be their best teacher. Give them a few years of so with death all around them and they’d grow to appreciate how much that 30% means to the person they saved.
“Today, I have a special treat for you all,” he smiled. “You get to tinker with these lovely examples and write a five foot essay for me on the prognosis and treatment plans for a patient affected by the Akroposthia Curse. The said patient’s chart will appear on your group worksheets. Each group will get a different chart. Copy them down as quickly as you can because they will disappear in five minutes. Go.”
As his students scrambled for composure, rummaging for their quills, ink and parchment, Mal found himself seated at his desk, a nice cup of coffee and the morning’s paper waiting for him.
“Quite a class you gave there,” a deep voice called to him. Five minutes of peace was all he asked for in the day, but even that was not allowed him. He reluctantly looked up from his paper and saw an old man dressed in flamboyant purple robes. Mal would say that he looked like a clown if he didn’t have his crown of overgrown, golden hair. A man with golden hair never looked a fool. But a man in purple was never to be trusted, much less this man in purple. “I must say Malachai that I didn’t remember you this serious back in school. As I recall, you were the queasiest of the lot.”
“Well. As a great man once said, lessons are learned and men are made in the throws of war. A man can only call himself a Healer when he has managed to fight away a grin at the sight of the village fool.”
“Still quoting Brimthorn.”
“He wrote that letter and three years later, his wife discovers the cure for Dragonpox. Words that can inspire such miracles should be quoted as often as possible.”
“Well he did also say: All Healers are men, but no healer can ever be God.”
“No words have ever stopped men from trying, nonetheless,” Mal took another sip of his coffee before finally standing up and properly welcoming his old school friend. Less than friendly but still warm considering the man who gave it. “I know you didn’t come here to discuss literature. The only reason Audilius Dowd comes calling is if he wants a favor.”
“After all these years Malachai, how little you think of me.”
“Ask any man in London and they’d probably say the same thing. In more a colorful choice of words mind you. Last I heard you owed money from more people than the Ministry of Magic. What are we raising funds for now? A sick uncle? The restoration of a 3rd century temple? The future Mrs. Dowd’s ever growing wardobe - whoever she may be this time?”
“Old business Malachai. Old business. I’ve paid off all those debts-”
“And in the process of making new ones?”
“Ha. Good one. What a difference a quarter of a century makes don’t you say? Gone was the milksop who used to follow me around the castle, begging for protection.” Dowd genuinely laughed. “Well I think you’ll find that you’re not the only one to turn a new leaf.”
“Pray enlighten me.”
Twenty-five years ago, Dowd was the perfect man’s man. He was practically the king of Hogwarts Castle during the old days, the best dueler in school. Women fought for his attention left and right. As smooth as a calm night’s journey and more charming than a snake with an apple. But as skillful as he was of getting power, he was a poor wielder of it. Dowd made one wrong decision after another. He married a rich girl, yes. But he spent most of his money on gambling and booze. What was more, he managed to drive her away and all of her millions with her. Since then, Dowd had made his charm as his trade, living off webs of lies and managing to milk galleons from fools and friendless alike. At one point, he was even near conviction but charges were dropped and he was set free with an unscathed reputation. Some say he was dropped in a vat of Felix Felicis as a baby. But the truth was, there were more halfwits in the world than people expected and Dowd could sniff them out like a bloodhound. The idea of him changing was as far from Mal’s mind as what he had for lunch a year ago.
Dowd cleared his throat and looked back, ensuring that all the students had left the hall. The room was clear. Even the cadavers were gone too. Time had slipped silently as a burglar during their small talk and neither of them seemed to be the better. Dowd cast a Muffliato Charm around them and suddenly wore an expression that troubled Mal. Whatever mess he was in required more effort to fix than his marriage.
“I know I can trust you Malachai. No matter how much you’ve changed, I’m sure you’re still the old Mal that used to call me friend.”
“What have you gotten yourself into?” Mal interrupted.
Dowd didn’t seem to be listening to Mal. He snatched the Prophet from Mal’s table. He was looking for something. Turning pages back and forth. Finally, he slammed the paper back down on the table, pushing it towards Mal. “Have you heard of this?” He pointed at the picture.
It was Deerfang Hospital. Mal had been stationed there during his residency. His brother-in-law, Robert Grier had taken over as acting Chief since the massive transfer of Healers to St. Mungo’s. Mal got a post from Evelyn a few days ago. His sister was seething. The hospital had some magical mold or some other. The place was quarantined to prevent the mold from spreading, but it was still running as usual, although like every other hospital in England, they were understaffed and overwhelmed so the Ministry routed incoming patients to Ireland instead. Free of charge. It was all odd, but not the first bit of crock Mal had heard from the Ministry. They claimed to be in a deficit but they still had enough money to keep themselves looking pretty for the papers. Naturally, Robert was required to work.
“He didn’t even have the gall to tell me himself! I had to hear it from some Ministry Liason! Couldn’t he just drop the paper work for one minute, come to the fire place and have the decency to tell it to my face!”
Evelyn had gone on and on about it. By the end of the day, Mal was relieved to be rid of her. All it took was a promise to call Robert up and give him the earful that his sister had been so kind as to dictate to him. Blood is thicker than the bonds of profession, she said. Of course, Mal understood the call (or rather the contractual cage) of work, but his sister was a force of nature who’s resolve was thicker than concrete.
Dowd took out a small piece of wrinkled of parchment hidden deep in the many pockets of his robes. Encrypted parchment from the looks of it. He even had to cast a revealing charm to show what they contained.
“I know you’re suspicious. You wouldn’t be you if you weren’t. But believe me. The lies are not nearly has bad as the truth.”
“Whatever the matter is Dowd, I don’t want any part of it. Leave my classroom before-”
“It’s too late for that.” Dowd threw the parchment before Mal. A gold dust rose from the empty page and slowly formed the distinct shapes of a hospital corridor. Then people within it. People screaming from help. Trying to break down the doors guarded from the other side. Behind the crowd, a pool of Healers stood, trying to calm everyone down. “Hr. Grier was able to send these before the Ministry could gag them silent.”
Grier? “What happened?”
At an instant, Mal felt like one of his simpering students. Stunned and floored by a sudden rush of incomprehensible information. It had been a couple good centuries since Vena Poison had last broken out. Now, Dowd was saying that it had taken Deerfang? It was impossible.
“How?” was all he managed to choke out.
“We suspect it was Death Eaters. We all knew it was only a matter of time before they tried something bold. This is as bold as it gets.”
“We? Who is we?”
“If people knew about this, England would be in chaos. It’s only a matter of time before the disease spreads and the Ministry is trying to prevent panic the only way they can. They’re going to burn the hospital.”
“There’s no cure. Vena Poison has no known cure. They have no choice.”
“‘A Healer can only call himself a God when he can muster that which he cast away when faced with his darkest fear.’ Here’s your chance Malachai. We’re asking you to find a cure.”
“I’ve had enough of your riddles Dowd. WHO THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!”
“We’re called the Order of the Phoenix and we’re asking you to join us.”