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Chapter 3 : Whispers in the Dark
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Andromeda’s training as a healer had started. She didn’t know how she had thought it was desirable. No one had really mentioned the odd hours and the pure exhaustion that came with the training. And she wasn’t even doing the good stuff, like helping the patients.
She barely saw her housemates nowadays, as she worked at the oddest hours, and Fabian and Gideon especially seemed never to be there. They did their Auror training, which led them away for periods of time for training camps but also supervised field work, but even when they weren’t they were mysteriously absent with the weirdest excuses. She supposed she should just ask them about it – when she managed to catch them between her odd hours and their missions. Maybe they should make an appointment.
Maggie was feeling the strain of her teaching position, so Matt kept visiting as often as possible.
Instead, she had seen a lot of someone else, someone she wouldn’t have minded if she never had to see him again. Rookwood seemed to be in need of the medical assistance rather often these days. While the receptionists didn’t seem to mind the handsome pureblood wizard, she always felt creeped out by his presence, not least because her aunt had picked him as her future husband, but she feared he might plan something to seek revenge for the rejection.
She thought about that while she sorted through the cases she was supposed to file. Approaching footsteps jerked her out of those thoughts, and she smiled shyly as she recognised Ted.
She had tried to get to the bottom of the mystery why Ted was the one to go get her, but he wouldn’t say, nor would their friends. Ted seemed to avoid her most of the time, but as he was also training to be a Healer, that could just be down to the fact that he was stationed in another ward for now, and they barely saw each other. He was also the instructor’s favourite, and this gained him a bit more tolerable hours.
It was rather late at night, which meant only the personnel from the night shift was there, and it had been a quite shift so far. Their conversation was cut short as the floo erupted in green flames, two men dragging in another.
Andromeda felt her heart beat faster as she recognised one of the helper’s as Fabian, the other was older, but she didn’t know him.
“Fabian!” she exclaimed, hurrying over with Ted and the receptionists in tow.
The redhead seemed to have to orient himself first because it took a second before comprehension dawned on him.
“Ted! Andy! Never been so glad to see you! We need to help him!”
“What happened? Who is that?” Ted asked, now all business-like, as he motioned for the approaching paramedics to hoist the injured man on a stretcher.
“An attack. We were … on our way home, and then we … happened to see a group of masked men attack that Muggle house ,” the older man replied, shooting Fabian a warning glance. “This is Xander Meadows, he’s taken a nasty course. Is – is Healer Bones in?”
Andromeda had only been half-listening to this, methodically checking her patient as Ted conducted the interrogation. The whole group was moving toward the emergency room. “Nurse Thomas, contact Healer Bones.” She didn’t bother to ask why they asked for Bones specifically, but fact of the matter was that he was in that night.
He’s losing far too much blood, Andromeda thought dimly, trying to fight down the panic. She also knew where she had seen the patient, he had been one or two years ahead of them at Hogwarts. She breathed a sigh of relief as they reached the ward. Ted and Andromeda set to work, Bones was not here yet.
She hadn’t questioned Fabian and his companion when they followed. Andromeda tried stemming the blood, but it didn’t seem to work. “What spell was it?” she asked urgently, fearing the worst. Cloaked men. If they had been the same she had heard rumours about in her aunt’s circles, it didn’t look good.
Fabian shook his head, he was interrupted by Healer Bones rushing through the door. He blanched as he caught sight of Fabian and the other man, then turned to the two apprentice healers.
“Condition?” he questioned, now emotionless.
“Unknown curse, blood loss; we’re trying to stop …” Ted reiterated, before he was interrupted by Bones impatient hand gesture, as the Healer waved his wand to wrap cloth around the wounds. It was soaked through almost immediately.
“Dark curse, I’d say,” Andromeda added more quietly.
Bones snapped in her direction, appraising her with his eyes. “We need blood, and a lot of it,” he barked in the direction of the nurses, but hadn’t taken his eyes off her. “Black, is there anything you know about this curse?”
“I – I haven’t ever seen them used – nor have I used one myself – but my uncle had books about them. I …” she interrupted herself, putting her hand to her head to think.
Bones nodded curtly, proceeding to try and close the patient’s wounds with Ted’s help. The wounds bleed still bled sluggishly, but they wouldn’t heal with the usual healing spells.
“I remember one, which makes it so wounds won’t be healed. But to counter it, you’d need the exact wording of the incantation, or it’s just going to get worse.” All three healers looked at Fabian and the other wizard at that, who where still in the room. Andromeda wondered briefly why Bones hadn’t chased them out the very first second.
“Was too far away,” the unknown man said. Fabian furrowed his brown, then his expression cleared as he told her what he had thought he had heard.
“Are you sure?” Andromeda urged him.
“It doesn’t matter, we don’t have much choice anyway,” Bones brushed away her concerns, looking at her for the counter-curse.
Andromeda took a deep breath, closed her eyes briefly to picture the old, worn pages of the book she had read in her long, miserable summer holidays. “Ok, you do this: …” And she told Bones the counter-curse, hopping she hadn’t just condemned Meadows to his death.
The occupants of the emergency room waited with baited breaths. Slowly, the bleeding stopped, and this time, Bones and Ted’s tentative healing spells seemed to work.
“Tonks, Black, wrap this up, get him settled. He was lucky, it seems. His family wasn’t.” Bones added darkly, then motioned for the two others to follow.
Andromeda looked at Ted to see if he understood as they worked silently on Meadows’ bandages.
“Fabian and Tomkins – the other wizard – said they found the house in ruins, Xander was still fighting. His parents are – were – Muggles, his sister is still at Hogwarts,” he answered quietly.
Andromeda suppressed the angry tears that threatened to spill from her eyes, and concentrated on the task at hand instead. That was something her so-called family would support; when would it all stop?
Xander Meadows was recovering slowly but surely. His sister had been allowed to come and visit him. Andromeda felt sick as she watched the siblings mourn their parents, it was all so pointless. The attack had been all over the newspaper, but curiously enough, Fabian’s and Tomkins’ involvement (and she strongly suspected there were more involved, like Gideon) had been hushed up, and they didn’t appear in the file either. This could only be Edgar Bones’ doing, but she couldn’t fathom why.
She had been offered charge over the night-shift for her quick thinking, Ted had been given the chance to do an internship at France’s wizarding hospital, which he only took after the continued convincing from his friends and his mother. She hadn’t talked to him a lot during the months of their apprenticeship, but it was weird knowing he was in a whole different country.
The dawn promised a crisp, clear spring day as she made her way home. Usually, she would have apparated or floo-ed, but with her new work routine, she had barely time to spend outside, let alone in the daylight, so she indulged herself and decided to walk, at least part of the distance.
Not many people were out and about yet, which suited her just fine. Two sets of hurried footsteps approached her from behind, the heels beating in a fast-paced rhythm against the pavement and almost drowning out the second set. She intended to just let whoever it was pass; but as they had almost drawn level with her, she felt a hand grip her wrist in an iron-like grip.
“If that isn’t my sister, the disgrace. How are you, Andromeda?” Andromeda tensed at the voice, a voice she had hoped to forget but would recognise everywhere; that smooth, taunting timbre. She had stiffened under Bellatrix’ touch, yet was still facing straight ahead, trying to wrench her hand free and continue on her way, although she knew her sister wouldn’t let go before she was satisfied.
“Not talking to me, are you? You’d rather talk to those abominations you call friends, is that right?” Andromeda tried to keep her composure; it was never good to let Bella see how she affected her. Not far now, she could already see her home.
“What’s the hurry anyway? Eager to go back to the Mudblood?”
Incredibly angered, Andromeda whirled around, her eyes ablaze as she nearly touched noses with her sister. “Don’t. Ever. Call him that!” She growled, dangerously calm.
“Aww, did I hit a nerve there? Ickle Andromeda has found someone who wants her?”
“Now that’s news,” the second person made himself known in a cold, detached voice. Rookwood. Andromeda could have slapped herself, he hadn’t just been at the hospital by for treatment, he must have studied her work schedule. As fast as her anger had come, she felt it deflate; worrying how to get herself out of that situation. Would her friends be able to help her? Would she want them to go against her sister for her?
“Aren’t you glad to see me, Andromeda? I’ve been told you broke our betrothal, how am I to take that? Are you choosing the Mudblood your sister’s talking about over me? If so, I couldn’t very well just ignore that, could I?” He hissed.
Oh Merlin, Ted. Why did he have to go and present himself like that in front of her aunt? Of course her sisters knew of his blood status.
“He’s got nothing to do with this, Rookwood. I thought I made it clear from the moment this scheme was mentioned for the first time that I am not interested. Over my dead body!” She exclaimed fiercely.
“That can be arranged,” Bellatrix drawled lazily, like she had just commented on the weather.
Andromeda wasted a few precious seconds, staring horrified at her sister, her own flesh and blood. She knew her family was furious with her, but this?
She barely managed to dodge the first curse that flew in her direction, more on instinct than a conscious movement. The curse hit some trash cans on the pavement, the noise reverberating through the still deserted street.
Andromeda gripped her wand hard, firing curses at the two black-clad figures she had known all her life, but did not anymore. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or horrified when she heard Julius, Robert and Matt’s voices, and then several sets of heavy footfalls.
“Stop it! What do you think you’re doing?!” Robert commanded, as they reached the group of three. Andromeda turned, ready to tell her friends to stay out of it, they’d only make it worse, when she felt a burning sensation on her back, and flew forward. Julius, his eyes wide open, caught her and they both sank to the ground. Andromeda could only watch numbly as now also Fabian and Gideon joined the fray, how the Bellatrix and Rookwood retreated and apparated away. Julius stood with difficulty, heaving her up in his arms and started to run for their house. Andromeda watched, with a detached feeling, as everyone seemed to shout although she couldn’t hear the words; Julius still clutching her to his chest.
Andromeda could only recall blurry shapes, and blood. Oh so much blood. Had that all been hers? And various faces, calling for her to hold on. As she opened her eyes tentatively, she heard several intakes of breath, and seven heads slowly came into focus. Julius, David, Fabian, Gideon, Caspar, Robert and Matt. She groaned a little, trying to wave them all away from her personal space.
“Now let her breathe, give her some space,” Andromeda heard a gentle voice from somewhere off to the side. Healer Bones came into view, moving in to do a series of checks.
“Where am I? What happened?” She asked quietly.
“You were attacked, dear. Your friends here called for me; you were lucky Prewett here remembered the curse he witnessed some time ago at St. Mungo’s; I would have been too late otherwise.”
It took a little for her sluggish brain to comprehend, but then she turned her head slightly to search for Fabian. He only nodded at her, still as white as a sheet. Now that she looked closer, they all seemed rather shaken and in various states of shock.
Andromeda absolutely refused to go to St. Mungo’s for treatment; she was a healer, not a patient. After some convincing, Bones agreed under the premise that she stayed in bed and took the next two weeks off. She grudgingly agreed, after she had turned to her friends for support and finding none, only incredulous looks.
The days had dragged by for her, she was barely allowed to leave her bed. Her friends all seemed to have remembered something they just had to do now; Robert claiming to have forgotten quills, bookcases, hats – as if! – and popping it every ten minutes; Matt and Maggie saying they wanted to spend some couple time – with her in the house?! – and made a point of being there for meals; Gideon taking a leave “because he needed to clean his room – as true as this was, he couldn’t have got much cleaning done, checking on her every five seconds. Casper would always bring knick-knack of all kinds when he got home in the evening. That was when all of them were falling over each other to make sure she was fed and comfortable; something she hadn’t experienced before.
Andromeda felt ready to jump at the next person who told her she needed rest; she was tired of all the babying.
After slipping on some comfortable clothes, she started to go to the kitchen but had to pause in the doorway, leaning heavily against it, because she felt uncommonly faint. Ok, maybe it would be wiser to stay in bed, she just wasn’t someone who could sit around doing nothing.
The house was quiet, only some faint sounds from downstairs could be heard as she left her room. The stairs seemed to stretch unusually long, and she paused in the middle. She could see light from the television screen, and that’s also where the noise had come from. The small black-and-white set was David’s, and the purebloods – herself included – were all over the thing whenever they had the chance.
When she, after what felt like an eternity in her impatience, reached the bottom of the stairs, Andromeda saw that no one was actually watching TV.
But someone was talking somewhere nearby. Paranoid after the attack, she crept closer, locating the voices in the kitchen.
“Are you going to take me or not?” Andromeda relaxed a bit as she recognised David’s voice, but his demanding tone stopped her from revealing herself.
“Defintely not, David. You’re a Muggleborn, they’re going to target you even more if you’re part of the Order,” Fabian answered.
Take him where? Why? And which Order? Andromeda pressed her ear to the door.
“I’m through with hiding, my mother is dead, and Andy was attacked too. And she is a pure-blood, isn’t she?” David argued. “Besides, Dumbledore asked me, and I don’t need your permission! I’m going to fight!”
“But Da- …” Gideon started to say, but they were interrupted by the sound of key turning in the lock.
Andromeda had barely time to take some steps back, making it seem like she had come from the direction of the bathroom. Robert, Maggie and Matt walked through the door, pausing in their conversation as they caught sight of her.
“Andy! You’re not supposed to be out of bed!” Maggie scolded.
“Oh come on, I’m not even doing anything, not exertion at all. And I’m going stir-crazy in that room!” she complained.
“At least sit down,” Maggie commanded, towing her into the kitchen and sitting her down on one of the chairs. “And you, you were supposed to be looking after her …” Maggie now rounded on David and the twins.
Andromeda was glad no one suspected she had been eaves-dropping. She had only heard some pieces. Dumbledore and an Order; the attack on her and the murder of David’s mother years ago. She wouldn’t put it past their old headmaster to organise a group to fight the kind of attacks that swamped St. Mungo’s with victims lately. She would have to ask them, as soon as possible.
Right now, she contented herself. Blowing some stray strands of black hair from her face in frustration, she snatched up David’s discarded wand from the table, shoo-ing Robert and Matt away from the pans and pots, as they were trying coordinated knifes, spoons and heat by magic. They looked like they wanted to protest, but instead fetched the chair for her, apparently grateful the food would be somewhat decent today. Matt took care to distract Maggie, because she didn’t cook any better than any of the males currently in the room. The thought fleetingly crossed her mind that suddenly, no one seemed keen to send her back to bed.
Casper and Julius soon joined them, and they all enjoyed a meal together, the first in a very long time.
The next morning, Andromeda had made sure to be up before anyone else, preparing breakfast for her friends.
The table was set, coffee and tea were being prepared on the stove by themselves, and the first of her housemates should stumble downstairs any minute now.
Andromeda was humming contentedly under her breath, but was interrupted by a tapping noise on the window pane.
She didn’t recognise the owl, but let it in anyway. She exchanged the letter for some bread and the owl took off again.
The letter had her name on it, and as she turned it over, she read “Sirius”. Delighted, she slid her finger under the lid to slide it open.
“Don’t open it,” a panicked shout came from behind her, and that was the last thing she knew.
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