Chapter 17 : Escape Plan
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The hospital wing smells like a fart.
When I woke up here this morning, a sheen of sweat covering my body, limbs weakly aching at every move, it’s safe to say that I was a bit...befuddled. At first all I saw were the bright blue eyes of Madame Smitty, the school nurse, eclipsing my vision of the rest of the room. If it weren’t for my current physical state, I’d have popped up in surprise, perhaps smacking foreheads with her. Instead, I just laid there, weakly blinking around in confusion.
It wasn’t for a few minutes until my mind started to work again: piecing together things that I had forgotten and slowly recalling the night before. By noon, I am finally fully comprehensible.
Tugging at the uncomfortable button-up nightgown, I try speaking a few times, but fail. Immediately, my mind flies to being a mute. In reality, I just don’t know what to say. My bed is covered by a curtain, so I can’t see around me. I want to leave. Really badly. I also want to know a few other things like, I don’t know, what the bloody flobberworm has happened to me.
And then another thought hits me: what happened to Al?
A lump rises in my throat.
The second Madame Smitty has entered my section for what I assume is another round of potions, I speak. “Where is Albus Potter? Is he here?”
She smiles at me. “I see you are feeling better.”
Just from forcing those words out I already have a pounding headache and a faint ringing in my ears. No, I wouldn’t exactly say better. Worse might be along the right lines.
“You’re dehydrated. You sound like a gnome.” She hands me a small goblet with a lot of wispy potion in it.
I swallow the stuff quickly and again, I prompt, “Is Albus Potter here?”
She busies herself with the side table before saying, “He’s been out and well for more than four days, dear.”
My jaw drops. Again, I tug restlessly at the neck of my nightgown.
I’ve been out for four days.
Have I been...dead?
Her next words seem to reassure me. “Don’t worry, you’ve not been dead,” she says, sitting down on the edge of my bed and patting my knee affectionately. “Though, out of the four of you kids, you were the only one the boy hit with a Cruciatis Curse.”
As she says this, I feel it. Right from the marrow of my bones I can feel the lingering ache. The kind of full-boy ache that can only come from something so terrible.
However, I nod. Of course he hits me with an Unforgiveable. He hates me. As long as Al, Rose, and Carter are okay, I’m okay.
“What about the others?” I manage.
“Mister Hanes and Miss Weasley are both fine and attending classes again. Though, I will say, there are many that are anxious to see you.” She crinkles her brow slightly, obviously displeased at the healthy being in her hospital wing. “Mister Potter has been quite … persistent.” She glares down at the floor.
I snort and it hurts my ribs. The pain reminds me of a lingering question I’ve had, one that I’m not really sure I want the answer to. “Riley is —”
“Expelled.” She stands up and smooths the covers she had crinkled.
The pit in my stomach gives a slight clench and then releases. He’s gone.
Finally, the selfish question. “Am I going to die?”
“Child, don’t be ridiculous,” she snaps, fixing another potion. “Granted, you’re lucky you didn’t go mad, but people seldom die from the Cruciatis Curse.”
“Well I’m sorry I’m not up to date on CODs,” I retort, yanking the covers up to my neck and wincing slightly.
She sighs and hands me another potion. “This’ll knock out the pain for a bit.”
I take it in my hand and sniff the greenish fluid. “It smells like vomit.”
She gives me a challenging look.
“You don’t have to be a berk,” I say, rolling my eyes. I swig down the potion (it tastes like grass) and hand the empty goblet back to her. “So when can I leave?”
She laughs. “Oh, honey, you won’t be leaving for a while. You’ve been unresponsive for nearly five full days.”
I chortle to myself.
Yes, because a great beast like you is going to keep me from leaving.
“However,” she continues, “you do seem to be feeling better, and it’s about visiting time.” She removes the curtain from around my bed so that I can finally see the area around me. My eyes water painfully at the iridescent white walls.
And then I see him, straight through the window of the door. “Al!”
A smile breaks across his face as he sees me too, and he mouths something I cannot hear.
Madame Smitty wips around, hands on her hips. “There’s still another ten minutes before he’s allowed to come in—”
Sitting up slightly, I give her a weak push with my arm. “Let him in!”
“He’ll disturb the other patients!” she hisses tempestuasly.
I gape at her. “What other patients! I’m the only one!”
She looks huffy but sighs in defeat. “Fine.”
When she swings open the door, Albus hardly waits for her to slide aside before bolting over to my bed. His green eyes are alight.
“You’re all right,” he breaths.
I grab his hand. “Yeah, guess I am,” I say.
He laughs, sort of wildly, setting down in the chair next to me and running his fingers through his hair stressfully. “I just can’t believe it. I should’ve never let you go.”
“Hey now,” I say, “I would’ve gone no matter what you said. I knew what I was getting myself into.”
He looks gratefully at me, though shame is still colouring his expression. “I’m just so glad you’re okay.”
He lifts his hand up to me and covers my own. In this motion, his sleeve falls, and I finally see it. The puffy, pinks scars that have coiled around his forearm, and, I notice with a sharp intake of breath, all the way up to his neck. They are raw and inflamed, making his skin appear maimed. Slowly, I touch his arm, sliding the sleeve of his robe higher up his arm. “Al...”
He watches me carefully. “I could hear you screaming.” The way his eyes are slightly glassy, it breaks my heart.
“It was all you could do,” I say quickly, trying not to look at the burns. I squeeze his hand. “You couldn’t see anything — I couldn’t see anything!”
“I know,” he says, shaking his head. “I just — I hate seeing you like this.”
“Likewise.” I swallow, glancing at the fiery burns under his jawline. “Rose and Carter — are they okay?”
He nods slowly. “Hanes just got a Hysterical Jinx and Rose he hit with ropes to keep her from helping me. They’re both fine — pretty worried about you, actually. The whole school is talking about it.”
“Great,” I groan, burying my face in my hands. Just what I need right now. And then, a thought occurs to me. “Al?”
“Do you think we did the right thing?” I ask quietly. “Rose was so angry.”
He nods, looking down at his shoes. “I don’t really know, Laney.”
“Is she still—?”
“Mad?” he finishes. “No, she’s horrified at what happened. Naturally, she’s depressed, thinks it’s all her fault.” He sighs. “She can’t even come up here, she thinks you hate her.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I say, shocked. “For the Bloody Baron’s sake — I did this for her!”
He laughs. “I know, I’ve tried explaining it to her about a hundred times.”
“Do you remember anything from that night?” I ask. “I can only remember up to being hit.”
He gives my hand a squeeze. “McCollough was on patrol on the seventh floor. Riley had left the door open, so she heard the screaming and came running. He was nowhere to be found when she got there. Carter and you were curled up on floor, bleeding and that. Rose was all tied up and I was — well, I was still on fire.” I swallow. “She put me out and called for help. All four of us were put into the hospital wing, except they sent me and you to Saint Mungo’s after a while because we were in the worst shape.”
What? I was in Saint Mungo’s!
“Anyway,” he continues. “We were both back at Hogwarts by the next morning. I guess Shacklebolt found Riley hiding with the Slytherins and he expelled him. Rose and Carter got out pretty fast, and I was out a day later. We were all really worried about you — you weren’t even responsive.”
I swallow. “I don’t remember anything from the past four days.”
He touches my cheek, watching me carefully. “I just can’t believe you’re all right.”
I begin to reply but am cut off by Madame Smitty, who is poking her head out from her office. “Visiting time is up, Mister Potter! She needs her sleep!”
I roll my eyes. “You don’t have to leave.”
“Mister Potter!” Smitty prompts, tapping her foot and jabbing her wand towards the door.
“It’s all right, Laney,” he says, kissing my forehead. “I should go.”
I nod, feeling drowsy. “I think she spiked my potion with Sleeping Draught, anyway.” I narrow my eyes at the thoroughly indignant nurse.
He laughs. “I’ll come back tomorrow, all right? Sleep well.”
As he begins to leave, a thought bursts into my mind.
He turns around, looking concerned. “Are you all right? Do you need me to get Madame Smitty?”
“I — yes, I mean, no. No, I’m fine. It’s just...” I trail off, playing with the neck of my night gown.
“What’s wrong, Laney?”
I look up at him. “I just want you to know that I — I love you too.” A strange feeling of release overtakes me.
It takes a moment to register with him, standing there staring at me. Slowly, he takes on his old, lopsided smile. “I love you too,” he says.
And then he’s gone.
Humming the theme of the popular Muggle superhero Netta was infatuated by, Batman, I do a sort of ninja jump from my hospital bed to the ground.
Holy mother of hell and all that is awful, this place is so boring.
It’s been six days of laying here, staring at the flickering light, the white walls, and the one, crooked tile next to my bed. Not to mention, Madame Smitty has only been allowing one visitor at a time (apparently I’m still in a delicate state... sigh). So the rare times when Al has been able to make it up to the hospital wing (with O.W.L.s looming, you’d have to be mad to miss class. Or, you know, me.) we’ve only been able to visit for a few minutes at most. With all that, how can you blame me for wanting out?
So, in turn, I have developed an escape plan. And not just any old escape plan — a Laney Becks escape plan.
Which obviously can only lead to good things.
Fact: There are 199 ways to escape from any given hospital wing.
Also a fact: There is only one effective strategy, and that is mine.
And no, I’m not a pathological liar.
I’m perched on the cold tile in my hospital gown (probably quite the sight), scanning around for any movement. Out of the corner of my eye I can see my target — the door. Large and inviting, I long for it. However, I can see the faint glow of light spilling out from Madame Smitty’s study, and I know that if going to make it out of here, it’ll have to been done fast.
I crawl, quickly but silently over to her doorway, and slide the tip my wand underneath it. After readying myself I say, ”Mufffliato.”
If my spell has worked, then her ears should now be filled with a steady purring sound. It should give me just enough time to get to the door before she—
Suddenly the door to her study swings open and smacks me hard in the face. “Agghhhh!” I scream out, grabbing at my nose in pain, and sprawling out across the ground.
“Elena Becks!” she roars, grabbing my forearm tempestuously and yanking me into a standing position. “For Merlin’s sake, child, can you not just behave!”
“Help! HELP!” I call out, fighting against her dragging force.
She pushes me into the bed and yanks the curtains closed around it. “Godric’s panties!” she shouts. “This is the last time I’ll be putting you to bed!”
“This is against my rights!” I sputter hysterically.
Smitty looks close madness. “If I’m still alive by the end of your stay then I deserve a serious raise!” she huffs and, after a moment, she conjures a goblet and shoves it down my throat. “Sleeping Draught!” she shrieks, disappearing from behind the curtains.
Day after day, I lay here, miserably. I feel fine, and eventually I realise that the only reason I’m still here is for psychoanalysis. Because, well, I was under the Cruciatis Curse for a full three minutes, apparently.
However, the thing about me is, I actually am kind of insane. So how are they to know the difference between my natural state and an actual manic episode?
I have tried to explain the situation to Madame Smitty several times, but every time I get to the part about my ‘natural self’, she spikes my drink with Sleeping Draught and stalks off.
It’s late on Thursday, my eighth night in the hospital wing. I am unsuccessfully practising my Patronus while waiting for Madame Smitty to go to sleep. Once her light’s gone out, I’ll be able to roam around the room as I please. Not that there’s much to do in here, anyway.
Suddenly, I hear a slight creek, and see the silhouette of a very bushy-haired girl standing in front of me.
“Rose?” I say, shocked.
She smiles sheepishly at me. “Hi.”
“I — how are you here?” My eyes fly to Madame Smitty’s darkened door, and then the propped open entrance.
Shrugging, she holds out her wand. “Alohamora.”
I shake my head, still taken aback. “Long time no talk,” I say finally.
Tears have welled up in her eyes at my words. “I’m so sorry I haven’t come up to see you,” she whimpers.
“I’m sure you’ve been busy with classes and studying,” I say quickly, shaking my head.
“No, that isn’t an excuse.” She sits down on the edge of my bed, wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her robe. “I was scared, Laney.”
“Albus, he told me you weren’t angry but I just — I don’t know.” She looks pleadingly at me.
I smile. “Rose, how could I ever be mad at you? Granted, you nearly broke my ankle...” I laugh.
She looks down at her folded hands. “Laney, I just want you to know that... I’ve never had a best friend before and what you did for me — you did what a best friend does and I guess I’m just trying to say — well, thank you.”
I blush. “I was just being a friend.” I take her hand and squeeze it.
“I’m so sorry this happened to you,” she whimpers.
“It’s okay,” I reply. “I’m fit as a fiddle, Weasley.”
It’s quiet for a moment before she reaches into her robe pocket and extracts a folded parchment, crinkled and torn. She looks down at it, a pained expression on her face. “Laney, I have to tell you something.”
I eye the parchment carefully, confused. “What’s up?”
Eyes welling up again, she holds it out to me, the green, iridescent letters glimmering in the candlelight.
The breath catches in my throat. “Rose...”
“All those months ago when my Uncle Harry gave you this... that night when you told me you’d read it... I — I copied it, Laney. I knew you wouldn’t read it so I duplicated it and kept it.” At my terrified expression she quickly says, “I never read it, I didn’t. I just wanted to have in case — in case you ever wanted it...” Again, she wipes her glassy eyes.
“The letter from my parents,” I say aloud, more to myself than anyone.
“You almost died that night, Laney,” says Rose quietly, her voice shaking slightly. “Please, read it. You can’t die not knowing.”
I look up at her, my eyes heavy and scared. This letter, this letter could change everything. In a few minutes, so many things could make sense. I could know why they left me, who they really are. I could understand. I lift the letter in my hands. “Okay.”
Surprised, she looks up at me. “Really?”
“Yeah,” I reply, nodding. “I want to know.”
I slide my finger across it, breaking the seal. I take a deep breath, trade one, furtive look with Rose, and unfold the parchment.
You do like to be called Laney, still, right? Sorry, if Elena’s the thing now. I guess I haven’t seen you in a while. It’s your dad writing, by the way. And I think I have a bit of explaining to do. I wish I could see you, I’m sure you’ve become so beautiful in these past seven years. Wow, seven years.
I’m so sorry. I’m sure you hate us — in fact, you should hate us. What we did isn’t right. But I hope, someday, you could find it in your heart to forgive your mother and me.
When I met your mother, I was still very young. After being home-schooled for so long, all I wanted to do was travel. To get away from the books and my parents and the closed off doors of my house. Your mother was my solace — the one who understood me. We travelled for three years before we married in Aruba. Two months later, your mother was expecting you. With a child on the way, we knew that this life could not be healthy — the travelling and constant uprooting. That’s no way to raise a daughter. We moved to London and interviewed at the Ministry. They had never heard of us before — both being home schooled — so when we demonstrated our abilities, they were shocked, and pleasantly so. We were rushed into an Aurour training programme, and right after you were born, we were full-blown Ministry Aurours. Within three months, an opportunity emerged — the Minister of Magic asked us to join a discreet team of Aurours to stop a group of straggling — though strengthening — Death Eaters. He encouraged us deeply, explaining our extreme potential to stop them, and how dire the situation was becoming. Your mother was so hesitant, worried about you. What would happen to our daughter if we were caught up in Death Eater business? Would she be hunted? The idea was unnerving. But the Minister assured us — it would only be a few months, nothing big. We would track the Death Eaters, take them down, and be back with our child as soon possible. Just until they were able to replace us.
But they didn’t replace us.
After we took down the original Death Eaters, a new group began emerging and soon, it was our full time job. And naturally, loving travel, we enjoyed the work. We couldn’t say no. But it didn’t come without guilt — watching you grow up, slowly disconnecting from us more and more, every day, was torture. We saw the neglect when we visited you. The disgust and resentment. How you clung to your Great Aunt like she was more to you than we were. Often your mother was inconsolable. But eventually we became so invested in our hunt, that we knew it wasn’t safe for you anymore. We had to make a decision. It was that year, the year you turned nine, when finally stopped visiting you. We had to remove any connection aside from letters, which had to be nonchalant at most. We knew you had to hate us. To think we hated you. It was the only way to protect you once the Death Eaters discovered who we were. Seldom Ministry officials knew who were and that we had a daughter.
About six months ago, we found a music box at one of their camps — highly protected. We were able to take down the Death Eater protecting it and get back to the Ministry. No one knew what it was or what it meant, but what we did know was that we were no longer hunting them — they were hunting us. Whatever the music box was — they wanted it. And they would stop at nothing to get it. That was when they found Netta and killed her. That was when we knew that if they found out about you, they would do the same. It was late one evening when the Minister, once again, sat us down. He told us what we had to do. Your mother was furious — she refused in every sense. But quickly, it became our only option.
If you are reading this, then I am sure you have gotten your Christmas gift from your mother and me. This music box, Laney, it must not be lost.
I know what you must be thinking — how could we put your life in danger like this? After not being there for you for so long? My answer is that I am so, so terribly sorry. Once again, we were faced with a painful decision. But Laney, people were dying. It would be so easy to find them once they were tracking the box, but we could never let them get near it. And we knew they would never expect it to be at Hogwarts with a student. A week prior, we found them trying to break into the Ministry, evidently searching for the box we had just sent out to you. Because of this, we were able to finally identify them. But they escaped right from our fingertips.
Their names are Pippa and Theodore Osiris, and they have a son and a daughter in your year at Hogwarts.
Laney, please, if there is one thing you’ll do for us, please keep that music box safe — you must take it with everywhere. Protect it with your life. Once we can capture them, we will write you. We will be a family again, Laney.
I hope you can forgive us. We are so, unbelievably sorry. And Laney, we love you. We love you so much.
My eyes are wide like saucers, and they lift to Rose.
“What?” she asks frantically. “What did it say, Laney?”
“Ivy,” I gasp.
She shakes her head, confused.
I take the letter in my trembling hands. “Rose,” I manage. “I need you to get me to Gyffindor Tower — I’ve got to get my parent’s music box.”
Author's Note: ...yeah.
So, this was a really important chapter. The biggest so far, I think. This is the official turning point of the story. I hope this lived up to your expectations! I also hope that you have reacted to this, ha. THAT WOULD BE IDEAL~