Following the Healer’s sudden abduction of Fred, the room was left in shocked silence. This lasted a whole few seconds before half the Weasleys made a mad scramble for the door led by Mrs. Weasley. Harry looked around at those left; Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Bill and Charlie. On each of their faces was the shock that must have been clearly etched across his. Waiting for the Healer’s return was awful, pacing up and down the small room in silence and trying to decide if this was worse than having to face down Voldemort. Gradually the others filtered back, none of whom having worked out where the Healer had taken Fred. Last of all was Mrs. Weasley.
When he finally did return looking a bit sheepish, he was immediately pounced upon.
“Erm, sorry about running off like that. It was rather unprofessional of me. But we needed to run some tests and unfortunately family weren’t allowed to be there. Now before you all lynch me,” he said looking nervously at Mrs. Weasley, “I’d just like to explain what is going on.”
This seemed to temporarily appease everyone, who stepped back to give him room.
“Right, well, thank you for that. I was just writing down some details about how he er... died. I was confirming them for official records, and well, frankly, it didn’t seem to match. He outwardly seems healthy, and I was wondering if maybe he wasn’t dead after all but merely petrified. Except he’s outwardly normal, so I wanted to check for internal petrification. It’s rare but not unheard of, sort of like the Petrificus Totalus spell. Victims are not completely rigid, but internally, their cells are all petrified. So I went to check and it turns out I was right.”
Harry couldn’t believe his ears. Had he just heard that Fred was still alive? Hope blossomed in his heart and he looked around at the others, all similarly amazed, though George looked rather sceptical. Only the Healer still looked downcast and a guilty shuffle drew their attention back to him. He sighed before continuing.
“Unfortunately, that’s as far as the good news goes. He’d been hit by the Killing Curse as well at practically the same time as he was petrified. Complete fluke and it saved his life. Sort of. The problem is that his cells are frozen in a state of death. If we revive him, he will die. I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can think of to help him...”
Having finished his hasty explanation, he looked around at the room. He was met by a sea of blank faces. He sighed.
“Ok, sorry, perhaps that wasn’t very clear. Let me try and explain again. Fred was dying from a killing curse when he was internally petrified, which has halted the death but not prevented it.”
“But how can you be internally petrified?” interrupted Hermione with her brows furrowed.
“Well, it’s not really well understood, though there have been cases in the past. Usually it involves some sort of spell misfire or striking through stone and absorbing some of its characteristics. In this instance, some sort of spell seems to have hit the stone just after it was blasted. When it’s contacted Fred, it has dissipated through the stone, into him and down him into the ground. I don’t know what spell it was. It may have been Petrificus Totalus, corrupted by the characteristics of the stone. Maybe it was a Killing Curse, which was reduced to petrifying him like the reflection of a Basilisk’s gaze. Two killing curses would have been unlikely to happen at the same target at the same time though, unless it was just the one inside the stone...”
He paused and looked around. Everyone looked back at him blankly. Harry wasn’t the only one having trouble getting his head around this.
“Er, yeah, my point is we don’t really know how it happened. We can only theorise based on the results. And they are that Fred here is internally petrified and held on the point of death.”
“Sort of like stasis?” asked Hermione. She elaborated at the confused looks the Weasleys were giving her. “It’s a Muggle concept where someone is frozen and then reawakened later.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “You can still move him, because some of his muscles still remain flexible. But overall he is stiff and solid. This means he won’t have to eat or drink or breathe or anything. In truth, he is as good as dead unless we can find a way to heal his cells and organs. The problem with that is that they are frozen and so we can’t do anything about them unless they are revived. But reviving them will kill him before we could repair them.”
Harry’s heart sank within him. To have a glimpse of hope and then have it taken away like that was terrible. Still, just because the Healer couldn’t think of anything didn’t mean there wasn’t away. He wracked his brains, trying to think of something. Anything. But it was Hermione that spoke first.
“What about life saving magic? Like what Voldemort was after? The elixir from the Philosopher’s Stone? Or Unicorn Blood? If you mixed something like that in with the reviving potion, it would heal his cells at the same instant they were revived before they could finish dying?
“Hermione, the Philosopher’s Stone was destroyed,” replied Ron. “And Unicorn blood curses you! Fred wouldn’t want to be brought back just to live a cursed life.”
“Better than none at all!” she fired back.
Harry felt a twinge of sympathy for Hermione. She was clearly trying to think of something and Ron was biting her head off as he so often did when he was emotional. He just wished Ron would offer something constructive instead of arguing.
“You may be onto something though,” said the Healer slowly. “Powerful life magic like that could potentially save him when combined with a few other ingredients. It would theoretically be fast enough! But Unicorn blood wouldn’t work because of its properties and the Philosopher’s Stone is unattainable.”
The room descended back into silence, though looking around you could almost hear cogs ticking over in everyone’s minds.
“Hermione...” began Harry slowly. Everyone stared up at him instantly. “What about, you know, in second year when Fawkes saved me?”
“Oh Harry!” she cried. “Yes! Phoenix tears! Would they work?”
“They might,” the Healer conceded, “but there are no Phoenixes in Britain and we don’t have any Phoenix tears stored.”
“What about Fawkes?” asked Ron.
“He left after Dumbledore,” responded Hermione. “But I remember reading about them in our Care of Magical Creatures book. About where they were found. Why can’t I remember?!”
Ron moved to embrace Hermione who was clearly distressed.
“It’s ok Hermione, we’ve got time to work this out,” he stated, looking over at the Healer.
“His condition won’t change unless he’s revived,” he nodded. “You’ve got as much time as you want. I’ll leave you to yourselves now though. If you need me, you know where to find me.”
The rest of the evening was spent in the Hogwarts library. A quick word to McGonagall about the situation and they had it all to themselves and Madam Prince personally assisting. This part of the castle was still relatively intact, though it had seen fighting like the rest. Books were scattered and some damaged, but it seemed nobody had had time to pay them any attention during the battle. After some initial searching, Hermione found the books they were looking for and they got down to reading. Phoenix law proved rather thin on the ground and when they returned to the Burrow an hour later, they hadn’t worked out much. This was more down to the fact that most Phoenix references tended to be in the form of stories or anecdotes, and little about them in the wild, than lack of effort in covering ground. They’d had everyone except Mr and Mrs Weasley searching under Hermione’s guidance, along with Fleur who had joined them as soon as she heard the news. Meeting around the kitchen table they combined what they’d found out.
“I think our best source of information was from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” began Hermione. “And even that didn’t have much. We know they nest on mountain peaks in Egypt, India and China and they eat herbs. They can also disappear and reappear at will. That’ll prove interesting in our efforts for catch one. Anyone else find anything?”
“Erm, I read about its song if that helps?” offered Ron. “It makes good people brave and the bad guys even more cowardly.”
“Yes, I did come across mention of that,” replied Hermione. “It doesn’t really help us much with finding one though. Did anyone else find anything?”
She looked around the table hopefully. Ginny, Bill, Fleur, George and Charlie each sadly shook their heads. Feeling like he should contribute something, Harry piped up.
“When they disappear, they leave a tail feather behind and can travel anywhere, regardless of anti-apparition jinxes.”
He’d worked this out more from thinking about Dumbeldore’s escape in his fifth year than anything he’d read. Information on the Phoenix was frustratingly rare.
“That’ll just make catching it even harder,” sighed Hermione. “Well, that’ll certainly make things interesting. But I suppose we can plan how to actually get its tears later. First off we need to organise how we’re even going to find one.”
“If it’s ok with you Hermione, Charlie and I have been discussing this and we want to go searching in Egypt,” George cut in. “Charlie is going to take a year off from his dragon studies, and I’ll shut the shop temporarily. As neither of us is needed, we figure we can be spared.”
“I’ll travel with you,” said Bill instantly.
“But Bill, you’re needed to help with counter-curses,” said Charlie. “And I’m not sure Fleur would be happy with us either.”
“There are better qualified wizards than me to help the repair. Anyway, if you’re going to Egypt, you’ll need some local knowledge. Don’t forget I know what it’s like there and I have several contacts that might be able to help. As for Fleur, she’ll understand.”
George and Charlie looked at each other before Charlie nodded assent. Harry felt this was his time to speak up as well.
“I’ll also help. I owe it to Fred. Plus it’ll be good to get away from all the attention.”
Again, George and Charlie looked at each other. It was different to their previous glance though, and Harry knew they’d been preparing for this.
“Harry, mate, we know you want to help,” began George. “But you need some rest. You’ve been running the whole year. Plus, it’ll be too difficult to accommodate and look after four of us. We appreciate the offer, we really do, but I’m afraid we can’t accept it.”
Harry breathed out and nodded. In truth, he’d been rather reluctant about leaving again, but had felt honour bound to offer assistance. Maybe some rest was the best thing for him.
“It’s settled then. We’ll prepare to leave as soon as we can.”
A/N: Sorry it's taken a while to update. Exams and all that. This will be getting a lot more attention in the future as it's my NaNo story. Chapter 4 is just about ready to go and the next few are all mapped out. Also, for this chapter I have to thank xtinjsc for her motivation, ideas and drumming sense into me in parts, as well as WriteYourHeartOut for her proof reading. You guys are the best! And also I need to credit 1917farmgirl who wrote a convincing scene in Healing about Fred surviving and who I have shamelessly drawn inspiration from (with permission). She is an amazingingly talented writer and I advise reading her stories if you haven't already. And finally, thank you, the reader, for taking the time to read this. Please leave me a review to let me know what you think about this twist (and the story in general)!