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stunning image by fantome (hafsa) @ TDA
For half of a moment, Elena felt safe, as the familiar nothingness of apparation surrounded her, held her still, and forced her body to be calm by halting her rapid breathing. All she could feel was Simon’s grip around her wrist.
Then they were spinning out of control, as if they had been travelling by portkey rather than by apparation. The twirls made her mind dizzy and disoriented and when her feet hit hard concrete, she and Simon tumbled to the ground. All Elena could do was lay there in the darkness of wherever they had landed with cold floor below her. For a moment, there was silence. With distracted interest, Elena noticed the cold. It bit through her robes and her clothing beneath them but she did nothing to stop her shivering, such a human response was welcome after the magical travel.
An orangey light flooded the room, bathing Elena in its warming glow. It wasn’t harsh, like magical light could be, but the soft shine of incandescent Muggle light. Footsteps echoed throughout the room, starting out slow, but growing rapid and heavy as they drew nearer. Elena heard the breath of the runner when the footsteps stopped. A dark shadow passed over her, as a cloud covers the sun and Simon's hand left her arm as he was dragged up.
The silence was punctured by a near hysterical voice, yelling things that Elena couldn’t understand. At last, she felt enough purpose and confusion to sit up. From that position, she could better try to comprehend the situation. Where had Simon taken her?
Simon and the runner stood over her and as the voices lowered their volume, their words became more clear.
“Where is he?” an accented female voice said angrily. “Simon, where is he?” she asked again, her voice was jarring, her accent harsh with pain.
“He’s dead,” Simon said darkly, taking a great, shuddering breath.
The woman cursed loudly, the word spitting from her mouth, hitting walls and bouncing back so that it was amplified a hundred fold, until its echoes were worming into Elena’s very mind.
The room stayed silent as the curse slowly died down, until the only sound was breathing. Elena held her wand clenched in her hand, waiting. If she could only calm down enough to apparate away safely!
“I take it you didn’t catch anyone,” Simon said very softly to the woman, more breath than speech, as if hoping Elena wouldn’t pick up the sound.
The woman scoffed, a self deprecating sound. “No. No, I, too, was too late,” she replied frantically, the last words became something of a sob that was hastily muffled.
Elena looked around, anywhere but at Simon and the woman, noticing the corrugated silver walls of the warehouse sized room. With one more deep breath, turned, as if to disapparate, only to have nothing happen. She tried again, and again, only to find herself still in the warehouse, her head spinning with effort. After a second of weakness, she pulled herself out of her daze and into up to a standing position, finally filled with enough strength to have questions.
“Simon?” she asked tentatively, turning around slowly to face him.
Simon had promised answers, if she came. True, he had taken her without her permission to this place that was was terrifying, secretive, and cold, but she had come and she deserved answers. Stupid
, Elena admonished herself. She should have called for help earlier, should have run when she had the chance.
The woman looked at Elena, as if seeing her for the first time and her face morphed into a grimace.
“Why the hell did you bring her here? You know what that means Simon you bloody idiot!”
“Let me explain,” Simon began, only to be cut off as the woman raised her wand in protest.
“Stop!” Simon shouted, and grabbed the woman’s arm, forcing her wand towards the concrete floor. Still holding her arm, he put his other hand on her shoulder. “Wait, Corinne. I can explain.” He hesitated for a breath, to see if she would react, before continuing hastily. “She was his healer, so she knew too much. And I wasn’t about to kill her,” he added before Corinne could interrupt.
“Well you could have wiped her bloody memory!” Corinne snapped, jerking out of his grasp. “Now we’re stuck with her!”
“Yeah, well I figured that she already knew and it was a waste just to wipe her! We were going to need help anyways and she’s proven herself quite capable.”
“You could have run it by me!”
Simon rolled his eyes. “Sorry for not thinking clearly after Marcus had just died. And besides, it’s not like we’re going to put an ad in the bloody Prophet!”
Corinne didn’t reply but rather raised her wand again, pointing it at Elena. Elena reached for her own wand, but couldn’t get it out of her pocket before Corinne had shouted, “Stupefy
A jet of red light hissed across the room, shooting through the air until it released its power into Elena, sending her sprawling onto the floor once more.
As she fell into unconsciousness, she heard one more quick exchange between the two.
“What was that for?” demanded Simon, sounding angry.
“I needed to talk to you alone,” was Corinne’s explanation.
Elena awoke with a splitting headache, the kind associated with prolonged unconsciousness caused by stunners. If the headache persisted, it was a symptom of more serious spell damage. She had had her fair share of patients complaining of a throbbing pain in their skull after being stunned. For some, it was just the immediate effect, already diminishing when they were examined. For others, it was a sign that potions had to be taken, or else brain damage might occur.
Elena wasn’t sure what category her head ache fell into. All she knew was that it felt like she’d be hit by a rock. Then again, it could have been only a migraine.
After lying still for a few more moments in agony, she fumbled for her wand to help alleviate some of the pain. When the wand wasn’t within her pocket, she felt annoyance seep over her. Probably on her bedside table, she decided.
With a bit of effort, she rolled over and grabbed at where the table should have been. Only instead of hitting wood, her hand hit hard, cold metal. That was—odd. There weren’t any metal furnishings in her flat…at least none by her bed.
She opened her bleary eyes, squinting against the light as the pain increased. Even with her poor vision, she could tell that this was definitely not her bedroom, or any other room of her flat. It was too small for one, and silver. Her mind kicked itself into gear as she tried to remember how she had gotten here, but she found it sluggish with pain.
Elena had been working, that much she knew, but it all got a bit blurry after that. She’d had a patient, and he’d died. She couldn’t put a face onto the patient and she had no recollection of the events that had followed.
Cursing softly, she sat up in the bed, swinging her legs over the side as she began to take in her surroundings. It was a tiny room, more like a cell—windowless, with metal walls and a carpet-less floor. The ceiling was low and metallic as well. The whole effect was claustrophobic and wholly unsettling.
As she glanced around once more, Elena noticed a small table at the head of the bed and saw upon it a copper goblet. She picked it up and upon peering inside, realised that it was filled with some sort of ice blue potion.
A scrap of parchment lying on the table caught her eye and she set down the goblet to pick it up. Scrawled on it in hasty letters were two words: drink me.
Elena thought first of the old Muggle tale of Alice in Wonderland
, then sipped at the potion. The liquid flowed down her body like fire, burning her legs and arms with its warmth. For a moment, she was terrified that she’d taken some sort of poison, but the warmth faded, leaving a new sense of clarity as it left.
A horrible, icy clarity. The previous night’s events filled in like flood waters breaking over a dam, memories piling up inside her skull. The pressure built as the memories fought for a place in her already crowded mind. Through the storm, she could make out some things- blurry at first, but clearing with every second. Her patient had a face, the face of the Minister for Magic. She saw his body, dead on the bed and she saw Simon. She remembered the warehouse, Corinne and the stunner.
That explained the headache, which, thankfully was receding even as memories poured in, but even the potion couldn’t fill in everything. There was still a long blank between the jet of red light and now. A blank that no amount of potion could ever fill.
Moving rapidly, Elena strode across the room to the door, pulling on the handle. She was only half surprised when it didn’t budge, probably locked. With any luck though, it was something that a simple ‘Alohamora’
could fix. Elena reached into her pocket for her wand and her hand came up empty. She searched the other pocket, with the same results.
If it was not in her pockets, nor on the table, she didn’t know where it could be in this tiny, sparse room. Simon wouldn’t have taken it, would he? But that was the only way. Elena was sure she’d had it before. And now she couldn’t open the door—perfect.
For a moment, she stood there, trying to think of what to do. Then with a sigh, she raised her hand and pounded on the door. After a minute of rapping, she paused waiting for someone to answer. When she heard no footsteps, Elena began knocking once more.
“Hello?” she called, in case they were waiting for a voice. “Please! Let me out!”
Again, she stopped to listen for a reply but none came. A wave of mixed emotions washed over Elena and she sank to the floor, her back pressed flat against the door. For a moment, she thought she might cry, but that passed.
Finally, after what might have been only minutes of waiting, she took stock of her situation. She was somewhere, though she had no idea where. She was in a cell, with metal walls. There were no windows. The only door was locked. She was without a wand. Elena was trapped, there was simply no other way to put it.
She could have summed up the situation many ways, but none of the others would have been quite as succinct or accurate. She punctuated the word with a kick to the door, in case someone somehow hadn’t heard her.
No one replied, which of course, didn’t surprise Elena. After standing there for another moment, she went back to the bed and sank down onto the thin mattress, putting her head in her hands.
Why was she being so calm? Elena knew that she should be panicking: the whole situation was a one big disaster after another. And she wasn’t exactly known as a level head, war had always made her jumpy and insecure. Elena, from a young age, had a vivid imagination, which led to an excessive amount of paranoia, especially during the war. Now, she was perched on top of the bed, not crying or having any sort of breakdown.
That was possibly the most confounding thing of all.
With a strange detracted interest, Elena’s mind wandered to thoughts of her work. At St. Mungo’s her unexplained disappearance must be causing uproar. Simon said that he’d take care of it all, but he’d also promised that he’d explain the whole situation with the Minister, and considering he hadn’t, what was to say that he’d keep his other promise?
She tried to imagine Ruby, Roger and Quentin, in various states of worry and frenzy, but it didn’t work. Instead, all she could see were her parents and their faces when they’d been told about her brother Oliver's new assignment. They had looked defeated, beyond worry almost as if accepting that he was going to die. Marianne hadn’t been nearly as calm, but her worry had been tolerable and expected. Remembering her parent’s fear made shivers run up Elena’s spine. Could they take it if their other child, their only daughter, and their baby girl suddenly disappeared? Elena didn’t think so and, for the first time in months, was glad that they had gone to Vienna. Word of her disappearance would take much longer to reach them.
Elena was lost in thought when the door to her cell opened and a woman stepped inside, her wand drawn. Instinctively, Elena shirked back towards the wall, reaching for the wand that wasn’t in her pocket.
“You’re awake,” the woman said and Elena recognized her as Corinne. She hadn’t gotten a good look of Simon’s partner the night before, but now she could see that the woman was tall, with dark curly locks, cut to just below her chin. Now her accent was less pronounced than it had been before, but from Elena knew of foreigners, Corinne was French.
“Yes,” Elena said, using a lot of effort to stop her voice from shaking.
Corinne’s beaked nose curled in obvious disgust. “What’s your name?”
Elena shrugged. “I’m not about to answer your questions. You’re the one holding me here for no reason. I think that I deserve the answers.”
“Name,” Corinne said in a deadly tone.
“Elena,” the Healer spat out, sensing that she shouldn’t argue.
The other woman nodded slowly. “Listen closely, Elena, because I won’t be repeating this story to you. Honestly, I was against telling you but Simon...” She paused. “The Minister for Magic is dead. He was escorted from the Ministry to his home by Simon and me. He went inside his house. He stumbled out a minute later, bleeding. Simon took him to St. Mungo’s, where he died. End of story.”
That was obviously a much shortened version of the tale, but it was actually quite informative. Elena had discovered mainly that Simon and Corinne were some sort of guard to the Minister, probably Aurors.
“How are the public taking the news?” Elena asked quietly, wondering how tumultuous the world had become over night.
Corinne’s blue eyes flashed. “They do not know. Consider yourself privileged, Elena. You’re one of three people who know that Marcus Gordon is dead.”
Against her will, Elena felt her jaw drop. Three. That meant her, Simon and Corinne.
“Are you saying that you’ve told no one? Surely they’ll notice when he doesn’t show up at the Ministry today! Even if you say he’s ill, he has a family that will worry!” Her voice was hysterical by the end, as she tried to solve a problem she couldn’t even comprehend.
“Who says he’s not showing up at work today?” Corinne said cryptically.
The tall woman shrugged her shoulders elegantly. “I’ll let Simon explain that to you. He should be back in an hour.”
Elena raised an eyebrow. Corinne was being intentionally evasive and that irked her to no end. It was already clear that the woman didn’t like her, but in all honesty, Elena wasn’t quite fond of Corinne either. She barely spoken to the woman, but she’d already been stunned and humiliated.
“Do you think you could give me my wand back?” Elena asked finally, remembering that her wand was gone when she had started considering all the curses that she would use on Corinne.
Corinne reached into her robes and pulled out a ten-inch maple wand. “This one?” she asked in a cruel, mocking voice.
“Yes,” Elena said, gritting her teeth to remain calm. “Look, I promise I won’t leave. I won’t apparate and I won’t attack you, or anything,” she said this in a rush. “Just please give me my wand.”
Corinne raised an eyebrow. “Not that I’m concerned about you attacking me, but why should I believe you?”
She twirled Elena’s wand absently between her fingers.
“Because I want answers,” Elena snapped. “Because even though Simon dragged me here I can't stand not knowing. I can’t just walk away from it all. I’d be wondering my whole life. And besides, with the Minister dead, Merlin knows what will happen next.”
Across the tiny room, Corinne nodded her head slowly, hearing the truth in Elena's words. Silently, she extended the wand to Elena, who jumped up off the bed to grab it.
“Alright. Take it,” Corinne said. “But just know that you cannot apparate from this building. And, if you try to fight me, I will win
Elena held up her hands in mock surrender. “I wasn’t planning on it. I’m not stupid.”
That elicited a laugh, albeit a harsh one, from Corinne, who was now looking at Elena with something that resembled approval.
“Come on,” she said at last. “I’m sure you’re hungry.”
Corinne didn’t offer any more explanations while Elena was eating. Instead, she watched Elena carefully as if waiting for her to slip up, as if this was some sort of unspoken test.
“Are you sure you can’t tell me anything?” Elena asked, after she’d finished eating.
Corinne narrowed her eyes. “I’ve already told you: I
won’t answer any more of your questions.”
Elena sighed, realizing that she’d get nowhere with Corinne. The woman had adamantine resolve.
“Right,” she said and fell silent, choosing instead to examine her surroundings.
She was sitting at a small table in a miniscule kitchen. From what she’d seen, she was in the same metal warehouse where Simon had brought her. Elena figured that it was some sort of safe house, since the only food in the kitchen had been in cans and a thick coating of dust covered everything (at least it had, since Corinne had taken to banishing every speck of dirt in her impatience.)
At last, there was the familiar crack that signalled apparition. Both Elena and Corinne jumped up, the latter pulling out her wand.
“Who is it?” Corinne called, pushing Elena aside to peer out the door into the large open room.
“Who do you think?” said a deep voice that Elena didn’t recognize.
Corinne nodded and ushered the man in with her wand. As he made it into the light, Elena caught a glimpse of his face and blanched. It was the Minister for Magic, looking to be in perfect health.
“Merlin!” she shouted, jumping back and looking wildly between Marcus Gordon and Corinne in shock. He was dead. He shouldn’t be walking around.
“What’s going on?” Elena asked anyone stepping back from the Minister as he approached her. “You’re dead! I saw you dead!”
“Elena, calm down,” the Minister said, before turning to Corinne. “Did you even tell her?”
Corinne wrinkled her nose. “No. Why would I?” she said, her voice dripping with disgust and a tinge of amusement.
Marcus Gordon turned back to Elena and as he did so, his face melted and bubbled. He grew taller and hair sprouted out of his bald head. When he finally straightened up, he was Simon, tall and dark.
Elena bit her lip, sure that her eyes were as wide as saucers. “Simon?” she asked, incredulous.
He nodded tensely. “Polyjuice potion,” he said as way of explanation. And with that, he sat down heavily in one of the chairs. “It’s been a hell of a day,” he said, turning his head to address Corinne.
But Elena wasn’t satisfied by this change of subject. “You’re impersonating him?” she asked, just to make sure she’d understood.
“Yes,” Simon answered.
“But,” Elena stuttered. “But, you can’t mean that! I mean, you can’t hide this forever. Sooner or later someone is going to find out he’s dead. Even if they don’t, that would mean that you’d have to pretend to be the Minister for the rest of your life.”
“Oh?” Simon cocked an eyebrow. “All I need is to find a reliable source of Polyjuice Potion and I’m set for life.”
“You couldn’t just brew it?” Elena asked, confused at his words, though she knew that she should be appalled.
That elicited a laugh from Corinne, who Elena had almost forgotten about. “Simon can’t brew a potion to save his life. He can barely handle something simple, much less the Polyjuice.”
“Actually, I was hoping you could make it for me,” Simon said, cutting off Corinne quickly, a faint blush spreading up his neck.
Elena recoiled. “Is that why you kidnapped me then? So that I can be your own personal apothecary? So that I can brew that bloody potion and help perpetuate this lie? Because I won’t! I won’t be locked up in here forever!”
Simon laughed softly. “You have your wand back, Elena. If you wanted to leave, you could have. Corinne, for all she says, wouldn't have stopped you. You're free to go."
Elena could hardly speak at that. She was free to go. She imagined standing, walking out the door, returning to St. Mungo's and explaining everything. She would take some time off, go join her family in Vienna. She had worked too hard, for too long.
But her legs didn't move, because her mind knew one thing: if she left, she would never find out the truth. "And if I stayed?" she spoke the words with as much contempt as she could muster.
A small smile crossed Simon's face. "I didn’t say that you were only
going to brew the potion, did I? Honestly, if I could make it, if Corinne could make it, I wouldn’t even ask you. You just happen to know. So calm down. Anyways,” Simon continued, “we could always just buy it, if it takes too much time away from everything else.”
At these words, Elena felt her brow furl. “Do you care to explain?” she asked bitterly, feeling exhausted, confused and angry.
“What Simon is trying to say is that you’re not really needed for the potion,” Corinne began.
“Yes. Elena, we need you to help us find out who killed the Minister.”
Edited Feb 26, 2011 with edits from my beta, kirstenalanna.