Chapter 13 : Rose. --- The Erkling.
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The creature let out a shrill squeal and dodged away from the jet of red light, which set off sparks when it hit a tree trunk. The creature turned and began running on all fours toward the woods, and Dedworth took after it.
Rose was following him when he yelled, “Check her!” He waved his free hand vaguely toward the body on the ground as he sped into the trees. She heard him calling out to her cousin as she came to a stop beside the body - apparently, the three metre rule was no longer in effect.
She looked down at the person lying on the ground and felt a chill run down her spine. Rose was no stranger to monsters, but she’d never been this close to someone who’d been ravaged by one before, at least not before they’d been patched up some in St. Mungo’s.
The body belonged to a young woman - she probably wasn’t much older than Victoire. Her face was oddly untouched other than a few small scratches and some dirt, but the rest of her body was a mess. There were rips and holes in her dress that Rose somehow suspected hadn’t been there before she’d ventured out into the forest, and judging by the sharp, violent little incisions crisscrossing the skin visible beneath them and the blood seeping into the ground around her, they’d interrupted the Erkling in the middle of a feast.
Rose couldn’t help but wonder what it had done to lure the woman into the forest.
She knelt down and mechanically put two fingers on the woman’s neck. With the obvious severity of the injuries, she wasn’t really expecting much, and she was just pulling her hand away again when she thought she felt a faint beat.
Keeping an eye out for the Erkling’s return - or some other magical beast that smelled an easy meal - she doubled her attention as she pressed her fingers back.
This time, she was sure of it - that was a heartbeat.
She glanced toward the forest. She could faintly hear Dedworth and Victoire yelling, but she couldn’t quite make out their words. She considered calling out as loud as she could - when she was really trying, Rose’s voice could definitely travel - but she didn’t want to risk distracting them. Erklings weren’t the worst of the worst, but still, they shouldn’t be taken lightly - the Ministry rated them as XXXX, and she knew that they could do quite as much damage as a manticore when they set their minds to it... or when someone underestimated them.
The evidence was right in front of her.
The woman’s heart gave a very faint throb again, and Rose rocked back on her heels. If only she had Scorpius here. He would know what to do.
He might still be in training, but he was good at what he did - really good. Between his Outstandings in his N.E.W.T.s in Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Medical Magic, and Potions and his generally cool-headed demeanor even in the face of a real crisis, St. Mungo’s had been ecstatic to take him on. If he was here, he’d probably have the woman stable (if not completely healed) within a few minutes.
Unfortunately, the woman didn’t have Scorpius. She had Rose, and Rose was not very good at saving people. She was good at fighting, not healing, and she felt helpless in the face of the injuries that this woman had sustained.
“Damnit.” Rose stood and took a step back, trying to recall everything from the Medical Magic N.E.W.T. class Scorpius had all but begged and bribed her to take. Rose had tried to pay attention. She really had. However, the subject hadn’t come naturally to her, and over the two years they took it, she’d often found herself getting distracted by his eyes or his smile or thinking about what his hands could be doing to her instead of performing complex spells or...
If he was here...
But he wasn’t, and the blood was still seeping steadily out of the woman’s wounds. She didn’t have a lot of time.
From the squeals that had started to echo out of the forest, Victoire and Dedworth had tracked the Erkling and were currently fighting it. She definitely didn’t want to risk distracting one of them, though she wasn’t particularly confident about her ability to cast Healing spells; she’d been lucky to scrape an E in Medical Magic.
At this point, though, Rose was more than a little worried that if she didn’t do something now the woman wouldn’t last to get real help.
She heard a crack in the bushes behind her, but when she spun around, she didn’t see anything there. This was not entirely comforting to her: if a rabbit had hopped out from behind the tree or a bird had taken flight, she would have known what had caused the sound.
As it stood, she didn’t know, but she couldn’t leave the woman to go investigate. It could be nothing. It could be a trap. Hell, even if it was nothing, there might be some other creature, quietly waiting in the woods for an opportune moment. Rose didn’t know all the things that lurked in the forest off Hogsmeade, but the woman had lost so much blood that anything with a halfway decent sense of smell would be flocking to this area. From the cracks and the shrill screaming she could hear in the distance, Victoire and Dedworth still had the Erkling occupied. She briefly wondered why they hadn’t killed or stunned it yet, but while it seemed like an eternity had passed since she realised that the woman was alive and that she needed to do something now, it was probably only a couple minutes.
Rose shuffled around the body so she was facing the direction of the forest. It was too shrouded in shadows for her to see if there was anything peering out at her, but at least this way if there was she wouldn’t be taken unaware.
She sighed and steeled herself before leaning down and pointed her wand at what looked like one of the worst of the woman’s many wounds. “Sanores,” she whispered, and the flesh immediately started to come back together. It stopped about two-thirds of the way there, which wasn’t ideal, but at least the spell had worked.
That turned out to be her best effort; she ended up needing several tries each to close up the major wounds most of the way, and she had no luck in stopping the blood that still leaked out from several, though at least the wounds it was leaking out of were smaller and it was flowing more slowly.
The noises from Victoire and Dedworth’s battle with the Erkling had died down, and Rose hoped it meant they were on their way back - she was completely out of her depth.
There was another crack from the bushes from behind her, and she spun around. At this point she was clenching her wand so tightly that her knuckles were white.
She was so focused on the part of the woods she’d heard the crack from that she didn’t process the footsteps behind her until she heard a rip and felt a sharp pain blossom across her back. She spun around just as a stunner hit what looked like a smaller Erkling in the head. It fell against her back with a thud, and she winced as the pain from the scratches intensified. When she jerked her head around, she saw Dedworth standing about ten metres away. His wand was outstretched, but he looked calm and in control.
“I -” Rose started, though she had no idea what she was going to say.
“I’d be a pretty poor leader if I let you get seriously hurt on your first real field assignment, wouldn’t I?” He jerked his head toward the woman lying on the ground as Victoire emerged from the trees hauling the prone body of the Erkling they’d been chasing over her shoulder. “What’s this?”
Rose looked back at the woman. She’d been momentarily distracted, but now it was rushing back. “She’s alive. She needs help.”
Dedworth didn’t quite run toward them, but he was at kneeling at her side in a matter of seconds and pressing his fingers to the woman’s neck. “Was she conscious when you stopped?” Rose shook her head. “I take it her wounds were bigger than this when we got here?”
“Yes. I - I tried to make them smaller, but I didn’t do a very good job.”
“You did fine.” He looked up at Victoire, who had just tossed the Erkling she’d had onto a pile with the other one. “Vic, we need to take her in now.”
“I’ll stay.” Victoire brushed a few stray hairs back from her face and rubbed the back of her neck. “Somebody needs to watch these things until they can be collected, and I don’t fancy leaving Rosie to it.”
“Right.” Dedworth looked up at Rose. “Grab onto me. I’m going to use the Portkey.”
Rose grabbed onto his shoulder as he pulled a small bottle engraved with the words “St. Mungo’s” in gold letters. She couldn’t see the cork, but she knew that the letters “D.C.B.” were etched into the top.
Ministry divisions that frequently had to deal with injuries - either in civilians or among their own ranks - were all required to carry at least one of these little bottles per group every time they went out in the field, for occasions just like this.
Dedworth pulled the cork out and grabbed hold of the woman’s shoulder, and Rose closed her eyes. She didn’t mind traveling by Portkey as much as she minded Floo powder, but it did tend to leave her a little disoriented if she didn’t close her eyes. She felt the familiar twinge in her stomach, and when the sounds of the eerie quiet of the forest had been replaced by a low murmur of voices, she opened her eyes again.
They were in a quiet, isolated room. The shelves lining the adjacent wall were filled with a large variety of potions, and a large sign on the opposing wall said, Welcome to St. Mungo’s Emergency Ward for the Ministry of Magic. We hope you enjoy your stay.
Dedworth was already up and calling out to the Mediwitch sitting at a desk to the left of the door. Before Rose could process what he was saying, the witch tapped the hourglass sitting on the desk with her wand and hurried over to where the victim was still lying motionless on the cool wooden floor.
“Do you know anything about her?” the witch asked as she knelt down and waved her wand over the woman.
A silvery blue mist descended over them as Dedworth answered, “Victim of an Erkling attack. We found her near Hogsmeade. That’s all I know.”
The Mediwitch nodded and waved her wand again. The mist vanished. Rose had no idea what she’d learned from the spell, but when two more Healers rushed through the door next to the desk a moment later, she looked decisive when she gave them a quick summary of the woman’s condition. The Healers immediately carted her through a door that seemed to appear out of nowhere next to the sign on the wall, and Rose sagged against the wall with relief. She liked being responsible for killing things, not saving people.
“Is she going to be okay?”
The Mediwitch finished vanishing the blood off her robes and looked over at Rose. “We’ll see.”
Rose did not find this exactly comforting, but Dedworth nudged her before she could decide whether she wanted to press the witch further. “They never like to commit to an answer. Don’t waste your time.”
“Oh.” She let herself slide down the wall. “Now we wait?”
He joined her on the floor and cracked his neck. Rose managed to stop herself from wincing, though just barely - the sound of people cracking their body parts had always made her twitch. “Now we wait,” he agreed. “I do, anyway. If you’d like to go home, you can.”
Rose stared at him. “And not know what happened and whether she’s okay?”
A small smile spread across his lips. “That’s what I thought.” He glanced over at the door the woman had been taken through. “If she makes it, though, you don’t have to stick around for the interview.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I’d like to.”
Dedworth cleared his throat. “All right, what I meant was that you shouldn’t stick around for the interview.” Rose’s initial confusion almost immediately turned into shame and unhappiness - she knew she hadn’t done well. He must have read it on her face, because he hurried to add, “No, Rose, that’s not what I meant. When someone’s been through an attack, the fewer people there are talking to them the better, and you’re not experienced enough yet to ask the right questions.”
Rose looked down at her knees. Whatever he said, she couldn’t help but feel like she should have done a better job. Before the guilt overwhelmed her, she said, “I’m sorry I didn’t do better.” Her voice was barely above a whisper, but thankfully, he heard it. She wasn’t sure whether she could have repeated it.
“What are you talking about?” She didn’t lift her gaze from her knees, and out of the corner of her eye she could see him scrutinising her. “Rose, you did a great job.”
“I’m not very good at Healing spells. I should have practised more. I just didn’t think...” She trailed off. “I’m sorry.”
Dedworth snorted and let his head fall back against the wall. “Most of us aren’t very good at those. Maybe the department should make Medical Magic a required N.E.W.T. for joining the D.C.B., but…” He shrugged. “Look, Rose, you did what you were supposed to do. You listened to me and knew what I wanted you to do without my having to spell it out. You assessed the situation and came up with a solution. You implemented it as well as you could.” He shrugged. “Nobody expects you to be a Healer. If she survives, it’s thanks to you. If not, it’s not your fault. Okay?”
She nodded tentatively.
“Rose, you did a good job. I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.”
Rose finally dragged her eyes up to meet his. “Thanks.” She glanced up at the Mediwitch, who was back at her desk and seemed to be ignoring them. She had the air of someone who was quite accustomed to having people in dire need of medical assistance appear out of nowhere. “Was she the one who was reported missing? The woman from the forest, I mean?”
“We won’t know until we talk to her or do some more investigating. Seamus’ll have people scanning the area and talking to neighbors in the next hour. I have my doubts, actually, but we’ll see.” He frowned at her. “Actually - how’s your back? Should we have someone take a look at it?”
Rose shook her head. In reality, it was stinging quite a bit, but it realy wasn’t that bad, and she wasn’t about to look like a weakling. She’d have Scorpius fix it later.
She and Dedworth continued to talk on and off for the next few hours, during which Rose discovered that Dedworth really wasn’t as intimidating as she’d initially felt. She might even start feeling like she could call him Van.
A/N: "Sanores" is a spell of my own invention, taken from the Latin for "heal" (sano). (I think. I haven't taken Latin in awhile.)
I hope you liked this chapter. I'm so thrilled with the reception the story has gotten so far.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, even if they're as simple as, "I loved this chapter." Regardless, though, thank you so much for reading!
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