A/N: - This is only the first half of the chapter
In Only Seven Days
I think I already miss you – it’s been only a month and I can’t get your face off my mind for more than a minute! I wonder how I’m going to be surviving the rest of my life if you become an auror and go off on exciting, extremely long and dangerous missions!
Anyway, leave my daydreams out – I’m going to be at the Diagon Alley tomorrow morning through evening. Mother has some work in Muggle London as it is, a tailor’s shop I believe, which leaves me free for… a while. Better make sure you are present there tomorrow and escort me to all the places. A date at Diagon Alley should be, well, exciting, right?
My brother Richard, the one who turned eleven in last week (I wrote about the party we had, remember?) did not get a Hogwarts letter. I think Mother and Father are happy about it. They still haven’t gotten over the fact that our eaves are burnt from my first magical accident. But I’m still going to miss him. Did you miss Regulus in your first year?
I’m scared, Sirius, about all these happenings about muggleborns being killed. Professor Sinistra, when she came to our house to register my name down for Hogwarts, warned us as such that our whereabouts had to be concealed very carefully, and that we shouldn’t tell it out to any other students. I know we are safe, but it doesn’t keep me from waking up from nightmares of hooded wizards and glowing skulls like the one in Daily Prophet that Dorcas showed me on the train ride home.
I hope these fights all get over before we complete Hogwarts. I am not as brave as you, or Potter or even Dorcas. I don’t want to live in constant fear of being maimed and killed, Sirius. Hogwarts and Professor Dumbledore keep me safe – but outside…? I miss you, I miss your words, your comforting hug and your promises, and your protection.
I’m afraid, terrified, that it might come down to a situation and I may not be allowed to see you again. Professor Sprout had written to me separately to let me know that further attacks on muggleborns will lead to a visit to the parents from the staff, explaining to them about the severity of the circumstances and an offer to withdraw their wards if they choose to. My parents will choose to keep me home, safe and away from you and magic, everything I have come to love.
Find me soon, give me hope, and wait for me at Diagon Alley.
Your (Emily) Rose
Sirius Black folded the letter that had now stood on his large mahogany desk for the past seven days. Many, many things had happened in that span. And he had never gone to Diagon Alley.
His parents had begun fearing for him earnestly. Gone was the stern scowl on his mother’s face. For the past two weeks, all that had been in her eyes as she looked at him was a queer mixture of pity and disgust. His father, on the other hand, kept him by his side as he traveled to the Ministry and back, to his various offices at Gray Estates, Blackwoods and Whitewall, and even for meetings with wizards he normally entertained for purpose of business.
Orion Black had, to Sirius’ high suspicion, reduced his seasonly visits to his friend, Lord Voldemort, who had been but a few years his senior at Hogwarts, a leader after and a terror now. Though he was just shy of his fortieth year, Orion Black had more grey hairs than men a decade older, and beginnings of grimace wrinkles graced his broad, ruggedly handsome face. If one looked too closely, his cautious and quick reflexes had now a twitch, as though in fear.
Regulus, on the other hand, was stuck with his mother and cousins. Bellatrix and Narcissa had visited more times than Sirius cared to count, unless he began numbering the bruises on his arm that Bella always left behind with her natural violence.
Sirius scratched the latest one, a scar forming along the centre ridge of his elbow, which had lodged itself on his arm when Bellatrix practiced the new spells Voldemort had taught the Death Eaters on him. On the first day she had done that, Sirius had asked if the petty lord didn’t provide them with enough muggleborns, and had gotten a long, red lash on his back with a tittering reponse of how blood traitors and Gryffindor dogs weren’t much better. His mother had never interfered, even though Bellatrix claimed no one else should ever know. But his mother would have known. Nothing escapes Walburga Black.
“Sirius?” a faint voice came from his door. A soft knock followed, in a manner of urgency. “Sirius? Open up, please!”
Sirius went to the door, but didn’t open it. “What do you want, Regulus?” he asked his little brother. There were few things that made his younger brother resort to such urgent tones, and Sirius wanted none of those.
“Open – please!” Regulus whined. “I can’t say it out loud.”
Sirius stiffened. If Regulus couldn’t tell out what was wrong, it was probably something forbidden in House Black. And Sirius welcomed things of those nature into his mind, room and life.
He unlocked the door with a non-verbal spell he’d come up by himself, and moved back as his brother entered. There was only a year and a few months between the both of them, and they looked so alike that some people often mistook them for identical twins. Before, when they had been much younger, Regulus had been the bigger, heavier child, and Sirius the scrawny one with big eyes. Nevertheless, now, Sirius looked down at his brother, who was scarcely two inches shorter than him. And Regulus looked up to his brother even now, despite their similar heights. Somethings just don’t change.
“What is it?” Sirius hissed, shutting the door behind his brother.
"The Alley Attack,” Regulus whispered, pulling out a folded copy of the day’s Daily Prophet from his robe pocket. He shoved it in his brother’s face and went to sit down by the desk, seemingly interested in watching the dull orange flames dance in the hearth.
Sirius opened the paper greedily. His parents had forbidden him from reading the Daily Prophet as a punishment for still being friends with the werewolf, Remus Lupin. And since it was the only source he had other than the occasional letters from his friends, Sirius had followed it like a madman. His cousin Bellatrix had often slipped up names – very familiar names from the list of people she had, was and wanted to attack with vile curses, and Sirius desperately tried to find out whether anyone he knew was in the list.
Kreacher, the Black Manor’s house-elf had caught him owling an attack to Dorcas Meadowes, whose father was in the Wizengamot and was a prime target of Voldemort’s, and reported him duly to Mr. and Mrs. Black. Hence, he had been forbidden to send owls – even as replies to his friends.
Kreacher and Ceeweed, the other house-elf who had been a gift to Orion Black for his marriage, together monitored letters. Sirius doubted if either of them could even read, but he was sure his mother taught them to look for certain words that rhymed with ‘Baldy-wart’, ‘meth’ and ‘cuttack’. Anything they doubted was first shown to Regulus, who had, by far, proven to be the more obedient Black child. Regulus, his only ally when it came to letters, brought the meager sheets of parchment with James’, Remus’, Peter’s and Rose’s handwriting on them. And it was Regulus who answered every letter in Sirius’ stead, except for those from his brother’s muggleborn girlfriend.
Sirius had only pleaded in vain, and the effect of his unanswered letter – to the one lying on top of his desk – rippled across the front page of the newspaper he was holding.
KIDNAPPED MUGGLEBORNS RESCUED FROM THE DARK LORD’S HOLD!
A week it is today since the attack of Death Eaters at the Diagon Alley. The Prophet had been prohibited to print any news of the details of the attack by the orders of the Ministry of Magic until the missing witches and wizards – the rumored ‘ransom muggleborns’ were found.
The Ministry’s Aurors Finally Take Action
- By Miranda Rielly
Early on the morning after the Alley being attacked, a new notice had found its way to the Plaque of the Fountain of the Fair Brethren in the Ministry of Magic. As investigations continue to go about as to the origin of the parchment and its sender, the message proved to be the simplest: “A score of prisoners intended for Azkaban in return for the twenty muggleborn hostages.”
Known to be one of the least famous of England’s abandoned magical manors, Castle Thorne was where the hostages had been held and subsequently, rescued from by the twelve Aurors involved in the case. The manor collapsed upon itself by a self-styled trigger activated by the dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, trapping more than a dozen witches and wizards underneath. The Aurors managed to rescue fifteen muggleborns from the ruins, in addition to the twelve who had managed to sneak out and alerted the Ministry about the location.
Before embarking on the rescue, Magical Law Enforcement Officer Barty Crouch answered the Prophet and the queries of worried muggle relatives thus, “The release of twenty criminals can only increase the amount of crimes against the muggleborns. The Aurors are working with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to devise a way to rescue the hostages.”
Of course, his statements have been met with angry accusations of sheer coldheartedness in place of the required practicality and courtesy. Several Muggles – relatives of the kidnapped hostages, have been found hurrying in and out of the Ministry for these few days, accompanied by at least one Auror on the case.
Auror Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, the Head Auror in-charge of the rescue refused to comment to the Prophet – both before and after the rescue had been carried out. Second-Auror-In-Command, Auror Micheal Rivers, wrote a letter to the editor of the Prophet with instructions to reveal its contents after the success of the operation. (The letter’s contents and photograph can be found in page 9.)
Sirius shuffled through the pages and read the Auror’s letter. Despite his hopes, the letter was of no importance to him, merely stating the list of criminals bound for the gaol, who had been demanded of by Voldemort. He thumbed back to the front page.
Currently, nearly thirty muggleborns undergo critical treatment at St. Mungo’s. The healers have been known to confirm that half a dozen are on the brink of death and one person had completely stopped breathing since arrival. In addition to more than the registered number of hostages, two witches from known magical families and four muggles had been found dead at the spot of crime. The Magical Law Enforcement Squad had the bodies of the deceased collected for magical autopsies, in order to determine their causes of death and the manner of curses used upon them.
Below this the print ran smaller and finer. Sirius held the paper closer and read it through, determined to know what he wanted to know.
The Daily Prophet received today the names of the hostages who had been kidnapped and held at Castle Thorne, written by hand of one of the hostages, Rachel Perkins, who lost a sister to the collapse of the manor. (The list and the photograph of the letter can be found on page 12.)
We at the Daily Prophet bring to you the true reports of the happenings of the magical world. More features of the Dark Lord’s most recent victims will follow this edition. Please continue to buy your own copy of the Daily Prophet to ensure being in the thrall of magical news.
“I know her writing’s awful…” Regulus began when Sirius started madly flippin the pages. “But you can still read it.”
Sirius finally found the page he was looking for, and hoped to heaven that the name he was looking for wouldn’t be there. Except, he was not so lucky. In fact, he wasn’t so sure if he had lost his ability to feel his heart pump blood, or whether it had actually stopped beating when his mind registered the name, and the person who owned it, on the blurred lines of Rachel Perkins’ incredibly runny handwriting.
“She was there, Reg,” he said in a hollow voice.
“I saw,” his brother said non-commitally, his expression distracted. “I am going to sneak out to St. Mungo’s tomorrow. Will you come with me?”
Sirius looked at his brother in a mixture of confusion, suspicion and hope. Before him stood a person Sirius would not understand, despite the fact that Regulus was his own brother, and more than a year younger. However, Sirius couldn’t figure out who was the bigger person in that moment – his own angst-ridden, lovesick self, or the boy who had pushed away an entire lifetime of beliefs just in order to help a brother who had publicly treated him lesser than he would treat a disobedient house-elf.
Regulus waited with bated breath for Sirius’ answer. He dared not meet his brother’s eyes, in fear of what Sirius
might see in his own eyes. He had taken the decision to go the wizarding hospital in less than a minute. He had worked out what lies to tell his parents in less than ten minutes. He had decided to offer his brother a chance to come along after pondering for more than an hour.
Despite what Regulus felt about his own overbounding courage, he had no wish to look upon the face of his brother’s muggleborn girlfriend. After all, his mind had fought a lot with his heart to let in only one muggleborn into the latter, and it was for her – and only her – he plunged into the plan. Regulus knew that he and his brother cut strikingly recognizable figures in magical audiences, but among the frenzied muggles, they would be just another couple of people.
“Why would you do this for me, Reg?” Sirius asked in a weak voice. “You hate Emily, and the fact that I’m with her. Shouldn’t you be hiding this from me?”
Regulus took a deep breath, trying to carefully compose his thoughts into words.
“I’m not doing this for you,” he confessed, and continued hastily as Sirius raised an eyebrow. “Alone
. But I’m not doing this for your lowborn girlfriend, either.”
Sirius’ face showed the slightest beginnings of a scowl at the insult, but he tried to stay impassive to understand what his brother was saying. Regulus finally sighed and got up. He looked at Sirius’ eyes as he placed a long, pale finger on the page Sirius was looking at.
“I’m going there for her
Sirius looked at where his brother was pointing. His dread intensified almost doubly as he took in the name.
. The unfortunate young girl whose place in Gryffindor he had usurped. The inexplicable piece that never fit anywhere in the the puzzle of Hogwarts.
He looked up at his brother’s eyes and saw a lost cause echoed in them that were so remarkably identical to his own grey ones.
Her dreams flickered with images of red, green and dark laughter. Her nose frowned in mid-sleep as she half-remembered the last time she was awake. Then, out of nowhere, a bolt of green seemed to be shot towards her, and jolted her out of sleep.
Maitri woke up to a familiar white-walled room. Except, this time, there were many windows and a lot of curtains billowing about. She tried to turn to her left and found her vision obstructed by another bed. A very recognizable healer with messy grey hair was performing some serious-looking wand movements over the person on the bed to Maitri’s right.
“Healer Potter,” Maitri tried to call him, but found that her voice was all but gone. A rush of air escaped her mouth, but no sound accompanied it. A raspy breath scraped against the bruised walls of the inside of her throat, making her wince and dissolve into a fit of coughs, which, finally, caught the attention of the healer.
Healer Potter’s face darkened as he saw Maitri’s awoken state. Grimacing at the file he was holding, he deftly finished the scans he was doing over the young, unconscious patient and moved over to the other, conscious one. Maitri noted how his gait had slowed, as though he was holding a burden of unimaginable weight on his shoulders.
The Healer Potter who reached Maitri’s bedside was not the one she remembered with much reverence – gone was the twinkle in his eye, replaced by pools of sadness. The easy, infectious smile was covered by the numerous wrinkles that now traced the corners of his laughter lines. Somehow, the reassuring presence that had been his was altered into something formidable and hardened. Maitri found herself trembling as he turned his gaze to her. Was it disgust in his eyes? Anger? Was it towards her, or was it a shadow of his earlier emotions against somebody else?
She struggled to lift her hand and touch the good Healer, shake him out of the reverie of hatred he seemed to be in. Her fingers fluttered against the pain that was shooting up her arm, but she forced her mind to feel it numb as she inched her hand towards the healer.
“What happened?” she mouthed. Tiny coughs escaped her as breathy drafts teased bruised skin in her oesophagus. At once, the look in Healer Potter’s eyes softened and the sadness became magnified behind his ominous glasses. He manually gripped the girl and pulled her up to a sitting position, still not answering her question and began to work the magical scans on her.
Maitri waited patiently. There was something terribly wrong here, and she could feel it. The kidnapping had spurned a lot of unrest among the wizarding people. She fancied she heard the clamour and screams of muggles somewhere in levels below, as they yelled for vengeance. Had the aurors caught any of the Death Eaters? Had the aurors caught their Dark Lord, that icy Lord Voldemort? What was Healer Potter guarding with his silence? Did something happen after she passed out at the bottom of the collapsed building? How long has it been since then?
As the scans passed across her body, Maitri noted that she felt like the slightest brush of butterfly wings. They swept across the painful contours of her bruises, her badly-scraped knees and her healing ribs (had they broken during the fall? She couldn’t remember). Her back, especially towards her neck, tingled, almost pricled unpleasantly – the gold particles were still firmly embedded there. Her head… her head felt heavy, to the point of inducing dizziness. The far din of the shouting and the swirling feeling in her head made her want to vomit.
She didn’t notice when the scans reached her eye. The electric-blue laser spell attacked her irises without warning and she lashed out in fear and anger. She had slapped Healer Potter’s wand out of his hand before she realized what happened.
“M – m so-sorry,” she rasped in shock as the healer picked up his wand, the sadness in his eyes framed by a glimmer of anger. He shook his head before pointing the wand at her again.
“When were you here last?” he asked, in a tone Maitri had never heard from him before. The girl gaped at him before remembering that she had been asked a question.
“Mr. Prewett’s death,” Maitri said after a few minutes. Her voice was still raspy, but she managed to make clear sentences. “With Gideon and Fabian Prewett.”
“And before that?” What was with the steely edge to his voice?
“After I received an injury at the attack on Trafalger Square,” she said without missing a beat. She narrowed her eyes at the normally jovial healer. “The gold particles are still there, if you want to check.”
But Healer Potter had already softened the moment she mentioned Trafalgar Square. The anger had gone out of his eyes now, and the sadness intensified. Maitri caught traces of anguish in glance, something that tightened the knot in her stomach. He groaned and collapsed into the visitor’s chair, burying his face into his palms.
“H-healer? Is something w-wrong?” she asked, her voice cracking towards the end. He lifted tortured eyes on an anguish face to her.
“What happened, child?” he asked, his tone strained. “What happened to you?”
Maitri sucked in a breath, wincing as it left a cold draft to scrape against her sore wind pipe. “The last I know, I was attacked with curses – mostly the Cruciatus. And something blue, something green – all non-verbal. Is something wrong with me?”
“Your blood results,” he said, trembling slightly – out of anger or sadness, Maitri couldn’t tell. “Your blood results came out, a-uhm, abnormally.”
“Abnormally?” Maitri repeated.
“Your bloodstream shows traces of new blood cells,” the healer said softly. Maitri didn’t understand the confusion – didn’t all blood cells in the body get regenerated all the time?
“But isn’t my marrow supposed to pump new blood cells every few hours?” she asked, trying to remember the muggle biology she had written in an exam but only a few days previously.
Healer Potter smiled wanly, as though he had expected her to make light of the difficult situation by belittling something as big as a disaster. Only, he knew that, this time, it was of catastrophic proportions.
“Not your entire bloodstream, child,” he explained gently. “The entirety of blood cells in your body show traces of being produced in a single stretch – as though all old blood was taken out and replaced with a new batch. Every single blood cell in your body, if tested, will show proof that your blood production began only 7 days ago. All of your blood cell production.”
Maitri felt suddenly cold. Her entire blood circulatory system was replaced? She never remembered such a process.
“And not only your blood cells, Ms. Harys,” the healer continued. “When you were first brought in, unconscious, your skin peeled off, like a newborn. On the second day after you were brought in and tested, your vital organs came out with the same results as your blood, but yesterday, the organs responded age-perfect to fourteen years.”
As far as Maitri knew, there was no spell that made a person’s organs, skin and blood to be replaced in a single day or night. What had happened to her then?
“We had received an index of everybody’s injuries as examined by medi-witches at the spot,” he said, flipping her medical report sheets to the very back. “With the amount of injuries you had inflicted upon you, all of us were sure you would either lose a major limb or have an arterial problem – the fall from the second level had broken your back, and some weight had fallen on your legs with some force, shattering your knees. Your shoulder had been dislocated, and you had broken ribs. Your toes had been found severely inflammated, leading us to believe that bone and cartilage had broken and scattered across the flesh. It was mentioned that you had severe bruises around your neck and upper arms, leading us to suspect possible strangulation and asphyxiation. Your diaphragm had been oddly positioned, indicating trauma of stomach, intestines and liver. Your blood pressure was unusually low when you were first brought in, making us believe that your injuries had depleted your blood. The report had us stumped – we didn’t know if we could save you.”
Maitri stared at the healer and then back at herself. She remembered it had been excruciating the last time she had been conscious, but was she really that injured?
“But the first day we tested on you,” the healer said, his tone somewhat confused. “Half of the indexed injuries were well healed. Your stomach and intestines hardly showed bruising, while your liver reacted a little too well, rendering you with a mild case of jaundice. Your toes, knees and ribs alone remained to be fixed. Your blood pressure and heart rate resumed normal levels within two hours, without medical attention. Your ears and neck, which had shown signs of attack, healed rapidly, and on the second day, when your skin peeled off, they were perfectly fine. The other healers who catalogued your diagnosis were ready to give in your unusual report to the the aurors when the results came back about the newly rejuvenated cells, but I forced them into testing a second time. Right now, we have refrained from handing your report to the aurors because we wanted your formal inference of what had actually happened.”
"Is it really that unusual?” Maitri asked, bewildered by what the healer had just told her. “Rapid healing? I’ve always been a fast healer.”
“There’s a difference, child,” Healer Potter said with a thin smile. “Even fast healers have a pace when it comes to injured organs. The jaundice your liver brought in was most common among new-born infants. In fact, your healing process was so unusually similar to that of infant witches and wizards, who begin to develop and grow organs and differentiate bone divisions.”
He paused for a moment, staring at something on her medical record. “We suspected a possible Cloning Spell.”
“A… cloning spell?”
“We suspected that you were a decoy – either a living person cloned to your appearance, or a newly created bio-magical clone. In both cases, one would exhibit progressively hastened healing abilities. But a bio-magical clone does not have a consciousness – it has the appearance and bodily functions as a normal human, but remains in a vegetative state and survives only as long as there is life support binded to its heart and brain. No consciousness, no thoughts, no social behavioural skills – just a physical clone, much like muggle robots.”
He smiled the weak, thin smile again and patted the top of Maitri’s head. She waited for him to complete, though. The theory was very intriguing – a clone of her? It meant that Voldemort would have made sure of a captive in his clutches and spread a different reality to the public.
“If you had been cloned out of an already living person,” Healer Potter continued. “You would have woken up, possess all the normal symptoms and behaviours of a normal person, but you’d be someone else. In all essence, the clone would be physically a resemblance of Maitri Harys, but the actual person would be the entity who had been cloned over into your appearance. A more permanent solution to the Polyjuice Potion’s properties, especially if you never wanted to be the person you once were known to the rest of the world.”
“That’s why you asked me those questions,” Maitri connected the dots. “You hadn’ expected me to wake up, but when I did, you suspected I may have been somebody else.”
The healer nodded. But Maitri found something missing in her own interpretation.
“If someone had taken pains to impersonate me,” she asked, confused. “Wouldn’t he or she have perused my memories? To know about me so that he or she does not induce enough suspicion?”
“Ah, but that would a special problem with you,” he replied with a grimace. “The Trafalgar Square attack had an effect on you that would be impossible for anyone to steal your identity.”
“The gold particles embedded in your skin can never be cloned,” the healer said, clapping his hands together. “And the moment you brought them up, I knew it was you truly.”
Maitri returned the weak smile Healer Potter gave her. It was the sarcastic reflection of a wrong that had become right in the long run.
Alex Messiers was prowling the corridor of the Spell Damage Ward no. 5, his tension increasing by the minute as he waited for his father to come out of the Chief Healer’s room.
His sister had left for Cousin Malfoy’s house earlier, cursing viciously under her breath, leaving him alone to fumble with the sudden presence of their father, who'd sent for them from St. Mungo's - of all places on earth. Brelton Messiers was a brand of wizard who made anyone uncomfortable, no matter what. The only people who were comfortable – and enjoyed his company – were Alex’s mother and paternal aunt.
Alex stopped pacing when he heard the door swing open with slightest of creaks. Three men stepped out, still in conversation.
Not very tall, Brelton Messiers undermined the general stereotype that followed French wizards, but he made up for it by being the most striking person in any room or gathering. Being one-quarter Veela, Brelton had a mesmerizing effect on most witches. His perfectly combed blond locks and piercing blue eyes drew attention anywhere and everywhere. His children, who were said to inherit his enchanting looks, paled in comparison when he stood beside them.
“Shall we leave, Alexander?” his father asked him, his words completely devoid of the French accent he frequented in the Ministry of Magic. Alex wondered how a Ministry lapdog would react if he saw the usually ebullient Mr. Messiers in his current stern stance. Despite the fact that Mr. Messiers worked in the Spellyrgy Section of the Department of Magical Catastrophes, he liked to maintain the airs of a dunderhead – a tactic that let him know more than others knew.
“What was the problem?” the boy asked his father. At sixteen, Alex was the same height as his father, unlike his twin, who cleared five feet of height with some difficulty a year back. “Why are you here?”
“They called me in to check on an abnormal blood sample,” his father said in a matter-of-fact voice.
“Since when are you
an expert on magical biology?” Alex countered, chuckling. His father smiled grimly.
“Ever since I learnt necromancy, son,” he said in a quiet voice, switching to a rare German dialect without flinching. Alex stared at his father’s tightened jaw-line, wondering if what he said was true. After a few moments, Mr. Messiers sighed and turned to his son again. “It was related to spell-induced anomalies in blood, Alex. Don’t believe everything I say.”
Alex blushed. His father was, no matter what anyone said, his role-model. “I didn’t. I knew you were joking.”
His father smiled. “And I’ll believe that when you’re a better liar.”
A few seconds of silence passed by them as they made their way up the stairs. The wizarding hospital had a banning spell on Apparition within its walls, and everyone had to walk all the levels to get outside and apparate away.
“Was it a particular blood sample?” Alex pressed. He was seriously considering taking up magical research with specific relation to blood magic. His father encouraged his decision by discussing blood-affecting spells and their repercussion with him, often
. It was one of the reasons why he was more successful in making spells than many others in his year.
“Yes,” his father said. “A blood sample of a fourteen-year old muggleborn that showed remarkable healing pace. The healers thought the girl had been magically cloned before she woke up with perfect memory and residual amount of traumatic stress.” He paused for a while, lips pursed. “Poor thing, the child had gone through a lot of spell-damaged battering before half a floor collapsed on her. It is a miracle she made it through alive – but there is still the case of the rapid-healing blood cells…”
Alex froze. His father had gone a few steps ahead before he realized that his son wasn’t by his side anymore. Baffled, Brelton Messiers looked back and saw his normally calm son staring straight ahead, panic evident in his eyes.
Could it be her?
“Alex…” he called out, but the boy did not hear. Alex knew only one muggleborn who had heightened abilities of healing, hearing and seeing – his best friend.
Without a second thought he turned around and ran.
“Professor Dumbledore is in Scotland right now,” Healer Kramer informed Maitri. “He came by when you were unconscious, but the Wizengamot sent him off to Azkaban to check up on the index of prisoners – there has been rumors of a breakout.”
“Not possible, Ethel,” Healer Potter shook his head at his colleague. “Azkaban is fully protected – magically and naturally – to discourage any breakouts. Now, Ms. Harys, time for your Blood Replenishing Potion.”
He pushed the a crimson liquid-filled phial to Maitri, making sure she drank it to the last drop. The girl grimaced, the salty, coppery taste spreading to the inside of her cheeks and mouth.
“Can I see my friend now?” Maitri asked for the hundredth time. She had been prevented from seeing Emily. As far as she knew, Eddie had made it out of St. Mungo’s in just under three days, but had to be transferred to a muggle hospital in the course of doing so. Most of the others had gained consciousness, and a few had come over to meet Maitri and stare at her innumerous bandages while asking after her health. Rachel Perkins had been the most sombre one, despite the fact that she raised a make-shift hell in the Spell Damage floor by trying to kill herself by overdosing on a Dreamless Sleep Potion that had been stacked by Maitri’s bedside.
Potter looked at her with concern. He had not been allowed to let the child go anywhere away from her ward because of the blood-cell problem. And Ms. MacArthur had not woken up yet – and Charlus Potter doubted if the fair-haired girl ever would.
Emily MacArthur had suffered a severe case of spell damage and had lost consciousness upon arrival due to excessive blood loss. Despite having healed her to the best, Charlus knew that the child had been dealt with a ‘killer blow’, same as the autistic witch, Grace Perkins, who died a day after she was brought because of an artery bursting in her heart.
The curses had affected the victims’ nervous system to a dangerous level, and as of late, Emily MacArthur had started experiencing seizures – triggered by regular nervous responses that are sent from the the brain during healing processes. If Maitri Harys showed a sense of rapid healing, her friend showed the opposite: rapid deterioration in health. If the girl actually survived through this, she would have to live her life in a bed with a dozen potions running in her system to prevent her from frayed nerves leading to possible death.
“Healer, please?” Maitri insisted. She had started moving around using a magical hoverpad, a structure with an inbuilt Levitation Charm and rubber-pads to support her hands and feet, assigned to her by Healer Kramer a day previously. “I can take care of myself – she’s just in the next room, isn’t she?”
Charlus refrained from answering. Though Maitri was no longer restricted into her ward (thank Merlin, Brelton Messiers saw to that!), he felt it would depress her to see her friend in such a state. He knew who MacArthur was – James had not failed to mention how his best friend’s girlfriend took up Maraudering times and held Sirius back from their antics. Perhaps, Sirius wasn’t as fanatic as his parents, but he was no good for the girl, either.
“I won’t disturb her,” Maitri pressed again, sitting up on her bed and reaching out for the hoverpad and her wand (which had been found clenched in her fingers by the Aurors). “I’ll be extremely quiet and behave –”
“This isn’t about your good behaviour, Harys,” Charlus interrupted with a heavy heart. “Go and see, if you must. If you want to stay hopeful, though, stay here.”
And without a single word, he left the ward, leaving Maitri to stare after him. Not a moment too later, a very familiar face rushed in through the door.
“M!” Alex shouted, enveloping his friend in a huge bear hug, noticing how she flinched when he held on too tight. He released her, glad that she wasn’t as bad as his father’s words had made him think, but she looked worse for the wear, with bandages all over, like an Egyptian mummy.
“Alex!” the girl exclaimed, surprised to see her best friend. If she calculated right, the Hogwarts train was leaving from the King’s Cross in less than 24 hours, and Alex was the one person she knew who packed obsessively just on the previous day. “What are you doing here?”
“I came for Dad,” Al gestured at the man who was now taking up most of the threshold to the ward-room. Maitri noted the many similarities between her friend and his father: the same warm smile, the intelligent eyes and the aquiline nose that pointed neatly up in the air.
“Mr. Messiers,” Maitri greeted him, trying to stand up. “Nice to meet you.”
The man came into the room, staring very hard into Maitri’s eyes. Though he did not force his presence into her thoughts, she felt he could read her mind by looking at her way he did.
“Cannot say the same about you, Ms. Harys,” he said slowly, still staring. “This is not the way I imagined I’d meet my son’s best friend, regrettably.”
“I expect that particular gratitude must be extended towards Lord Voldemort,” Maitri answered, nodding grimly. Alex tenderly sat on the bed near her feet while Mr. Messiers took the visitor’s chair.
“Indian sarcasm,” he noted, chuckling drily. “I dare say I have met your father,” he said, to Maitri’s utter surprise. “Once, during a seminar regarding the rights of the human descendants of magical beasts – you know, being a Part Veela, I have often been restricted from many things…”
“You – you mean my uncle,” Maitri choked out, understanding his mistake. “My dad’s a Muggle – who lives back in India.”
“Vib Harys, your uncle?”
Maitri didn’t bother to correct the name’s correct pronunciation. She nodded. Mr. Messiers looked properly chastised.
“You know, you look a lot like your uncle, then,” he said with a small smile. “And if all that my son says is even partially true, you are a lot more like Vib inside, too.” He tapped the side of head, smiling. “You’ll go a long way – as long as your blood protects you.”
“What’s wrong with my blood?” Maitri asked immediately. “There’s something different, isn’t there?”
This time Alex did take his eyes off his friend and, instead, look at his father for answers. Mr. Messiers, for the first time in a long while, felt uncomfortable as the girl’s bright brown eyes stared him down. It had been ages since he had encountered anyone with such a gaze.
“You are special, Ms. Harys,” he said, coding his words carefully. “I am not the foremost expert on magical blood types – my wife’s more your guide for that. But, you have some rare Whisperer blood in you – that is strange.”
“Whisperer blood?” Maitri asked, bewildered. She remembered coming across the brief passage about Whisperers in the book her parents had gifted her years ago – but it wasn’t much to go on except that it was an ancient magical race whose trace was dormant when the offspring was a muggle. There was a huge possibility she may just have descended from a Whisperer, though it may have been a hundred years through and through.
“Yes,” Mr. Messiers asserted. “Very ancient, and apparently powerful enough to heal your injuries on its own – albeit, slower than the the healers, but faster than any other magical human. You are very lucky, Ms. Harys. Such abilities may go suppressed even in wizards sometimes. Your uncle never had this.”
“Is that why he died out of that – that horrible disease?” Maitri asked, not being able to restrict herself. Had Vaibhav Harys inherited the Whisperer blood, would he have overcome the fatal disease?
Mr. Messiers frowned in surprise. “Disease?” He asked incredulously. “What disease? What killed Vib Harys was no disease – but a barrage of the darkest curses in existence.”
“How would you know?” Maitri whispered, shell-shocked with this brand new piece of information.
“Because I was there when his body was brought into the Ministry of Magic,” the pale-haired man confessed solemnly. “Mr. Harys, a muggleborn employee of the Ministry of Magic, London, is the first ever known casuality of this conflict between Lord Voldemort and the rest of the magical world.”
It wasn’t that their parents wouldn’t notice them missing. Mother and Father were at Uncle Cygnus’ house, congratulating Bellatrix for the newest, most unexpected phenomenon in the Black clan – she was with child. Regulus had choked on his food when the Floo visit from his aunt had come (Sirius being banished to his room for fighting with Father, again)
Regulus froze. He recognized the tousled blonde head of Alex Messiers from the far distance, followed by the impeccably styled head of Mr. Messiers. He put out a hand towards Sirius to stop him from moving forward, the oaf probably not having noticed the distinguished French wizard hurrying down to a nondescript ward in the Spell Damage floor of St. Mungo’s.
But Sirius wasn’t there; his hand met thin air. Regulus whipped around, panicked, and spotted his brother’s face pressed against one of the doors’s viewing pane.
“She’s in here,” he said in a strangled voice when Regulus touched his arm. “My Rose…”
Regulus looked around to see if there were any medi-witches or healers before he quietly tapped at the door. Sirius caught the hint and began undoing the lock with his wand as well. It wasn’t a standard magical lock, but thank Merlin, there were no password charms. The door yielded to them in under a minute. Sirius slipped in, followed by Regulus, who closed the door and leaned on it.
Sirius tentatively approached the bed on which lay the prone form of the only girl he was sure he’d ever love in his entire life. Strange holographic images beeped and whirred about her – magical scans, no doubt.
He slumped down the visitor’s chair, his breath pushed out of him by the sight of her covered in scars and bandages. The medical apparati attached to her form, the lesions caused by poorly healed scars, the serrated edges of cursed scars and the coarse healing gown did nothing much to hide the girl’s apparent beauty. Sirius resisted as mch as possible to keep him hands to himself, and not stroke her savaged skin. Somehow, he was convinced that his presence would change the state Emily was currently in.
“Emily,” he called softly. “Emily, wake up.”
Regulus kept his face turned to the door, and back to his brother, trying hard to listen.
“Emily, it’s Sirius,” the boy asserted. “Please, wake up.” He fought badly to keep the panic off his voice, but it spilt out onto his voice anyway as he prodded his unconscious girlfriend to wake.
“Check her vitality sheet,” Regulus whispered, eyes still on the hazy panel of glass on the door, watching the corridor for anyone who came to pass. He saw a couple of muggles, disoriented with magical activity around them, stumble past behind a healer who was levitating a score of parchments with details of patients scribbled across.
Behind him issued a scramble as Sirius made a lunge for the sheaf of parchments that lay on top of Emily MacArthur’s bedside cabinet. A soft cry broke the silence several minutes later, only to descend into a heavier quietness that rang in Regulus’ ears. The younger brother sneaked a glance behind him and found his brother slumped, face down, chin resting on his chest and the parchments scattered across the floor.
“It’s not true,” Sirius whispered so quietly that Regulus might not have heard him on normal occasions. But there was a prevailing silence that would probably make even a pin clatter upon its fall, so the boy found it easy to hear his brother.
Regulus swallowed his pride and looked at the girl lying on the bed. The principles instilled by his parents had been driven right to the core, effectively steering him away from any sort of positive or neutral emotion towards muggleborns (except Harys, who was his best friend), prevented him from accepting the MacArthur girl as a close associate of his brother’s, much less, a girlfriend who threatened to defile the purity of the Black name were she to end up with Sirius in the long run. He had never hated the MacArthur, but he hadn’t liked her either. She was one of the reasons Sirius was willing to denounce the side of his own family… for as long as it took.
But he braved his hatred and disgust away and prepared to look at the girl with the perspective that she was someone like him – a witch trapped in the middle of violence. Except, she ended up physically hurt.
“She doesn’t look too well,” Regulus said, his voice trembling as he took in the injured girl’s appearance. “What does the report say?”
“It’s not true,” Sirius muttered again, not lifting his head. Regulus waited. “It says she will never be able to walk again and suffer some serious organ problems.”
Then, the fact she was alive was in itself a miracle, Regulus realized. His cousin Bella had been quite furious that day last week, having narrowly escaped from the aurors, but her strange glee upon hearing that there were casualties was now explained. She had wanted this girl dead, and the fact that MacArthur was breathing is more than a feat.
Sirius suddenly lifted his head and looked at Emily. Thoughts ran haywire into his mind. What if he could heal her? He, after all, loved her so, and had the best intent to save her, and maybe, he could, too… He raised his hands and made to grab at her, ready to focus on mentally getting her healed.
“Sirius!” Regulus hissed as his brother fell upon the prone girl. “What are you doing?”
But Regulus knew what his brother was doing. It was utter foolishness, not to mention the great amount of stupidity that must have gone behind his moment-hatched plan. It didn’t take more than 3 strides to drag him back – or at least, try to.
“I can save her, Reg!” Sirius shouted, forgetting that he had to remain inconspicuous. “I know I can!”
“Don’t be stupid!” Regulus cried. “A whole bunch of Healers couldn’t heal her! What makes you think you can?”
“I just know I can!” Sirius pushed against his brother’s hold and tried to prise his arms off himself. “Let me GO!”
“Shut up! Someone could hear us!”
But the damage was already done. And it was the heavily injured, unconscious girl who had been the first to hear them, and jolted out of her medicinal sleep.
Emily’s red-streaked blue eyes darted from side to side. Her arms and legs twitched, like in a spasm. When her eyes found the Black brothers, she let out a strangled sound – something like a scream that was obstructed by a piece of fish in the throat.
The twitching increased and increased till she was shuddering with full force. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head, until all Sirius could see was only the whites. He shoved Regulus away in a fit of energy and fell on his knees, hands across Emily’s shuddering form.
“No, no, no,” he muttered, shocked. “No, no, no…”
Regulus backed away, looking at the girl’s flaying limbs. It was as though she were having what muggles referred to as a stroke (something he had only read about). The scans around her stopped and started flashing red blinks. A low keening sound of an alarm sounded somewhere outside, with the magical monitors instructing healers to get to the MacArthur girl’s ward. There was a sudden increase in the noise, with the girl starting to shriek in rhythm with the spasms, and Sirius trying to hold her still, the alarms growing louder and the sound of running feet accompanying it.
The ward door burst open, and in spilled Great-Uncle Charles – Healer Potter, as he was known at St. Mungo’s. Behind him were two more healers, and, to Regulus’ surprise, a very bandaged Maitri and Alex, who was holding her so that she wouldn’t fall.
Charles Potter hauled Sirius off the girl and pushed him back, his movements frantic. All the three healers huddled around the girl, one trying to hold her limbs, one pushing a magical clamp to her jaws so that she wouldn’t bite her own tongue off, one waving his wand all over her to figure out what was wrong.
“Emily!” Maitri gasped, looking horrified. “Emily!”
Alex held Maitri firmly, making sure she didn’t walk on her own. When the alarms had sounded, she had nearly fallen off her bed trying to stand. If she hadn’t insisted on this too much, he would have warned her to stay put. Mr. Messiers was right behind them, eyes flicking from his son to his friend and back every few seconds.
Maitri squirmed against Alex’s grasp, wanting to get closer to her friend. She could see what went wrong – the blood pressure was much too high for her system, causing her nerve endings to spasm and glitch. It had been a whole of ten minutes ago that she had been aware that Emily MacArthur was responding in anyway to the magical treatments, and even wild Thestrals couldn’t have stopped her from storming into the room she had currently stumbled into.
Alex Messiers, however, did his best to do so, and now, sighed as he tried to distract her from the spastic girl in front of her. It was a difficult job for Alex – it took a lot in him to avert his own eyes from the healers and the girl in the bed – but Maitri was struggling too hard against his hold that he was afraid he might let go at a point of time and she’d fall, crashing into something because of her injured feet. Instead, he made a slight shift to his left, and both he and his best friend locked onto a sight that froze them both in mid-action.
To her utter shock, Maitri found Regulus holding Sirius back in a very similar position to the one she was trapped in. The younger boy looked up from his position and stared at Maitri and Alex, unsure of what was happening.
Mr. Messiers joined in with the healers and tried to help them in any way – for the time being, he was given the task of holding Emily’s feet down.
Sirius had begun screaming out her name, and with each scream, her shuddering increased. With no other options left (since Sirius refused to be removed from the room), Healer Potter cast a Silencing charm on the boy. It was yet another total of fifteen minutes before Emily had been calmed down, only slight tremors coursing through her battered body.
Healer Brown looked up at her colleague and shook her head, her lined face writ with worry. They had desperately tried to save this child, but it was of no use if the slightest of hormonal imbalances led her in to a frenzied stroke.
“She won’t be able to live a normal life this way,” Brelton Messiers noted. He was well aware that the four very conscious teenagers in the room were not allowed to be there (he couldn’t fathom how the two Black boys had made it into the room, either, and he didn’t trust them, either).
But it didn’t matter to him very much with the highly injured girl in front of him, who had obviously suffered more spell damage than the girl he was asked to observe. Mentally, he made note of all the possible curses that may have been cast on Ms. MacArthur, and, sadly, drew an observatory result that whatever damage has been done couldn’t be reversed, especially since it involved forbidden, dark magic. Letting the child live meant letting her undergo a lot of pain and a very drawn out death sentence.
Sirius still struggled against Regulus, widely mouthing words as though he were screaming. Maitri stopped resisting against Alex the moment she heard his father speak. She also noted Healer Potter’s fingers clenching and unclenching while the other two healers – one a Calming specialist, and another one a Spell Damage Therapist like Potter himself – held a whispered argument.
“What’s wrong with her?” Maitri asked after what seemed like a millennium of awkward silences.
“Her nerve endings are damaged beyond any magical repair,” Healer Potter answered her, surprising almost everyone in the room by even reacting to the fact that she had spoken, despite the fact that she wasn’t allowed in the ward in the first place. “Her organs had already failed once upon arrival, but we managed to revive them. Except, now, her entire nervous system is too sensitive to accommodate even the slightest of motor functions.”
“What does that mean?” Regulus asked, his eyes wide.
“It means that,” the other Spell Damage Healer, an old witch said. “She will not be able to walk and move like others, nor will she be able to perform magic. She will have to be in a therapeutic chair or bed for the rest of her life. Her body and her mind will never be able to respond passively to any kind of stress.”
The Calming Specialist, a wizard with an insipid appearance and limp, mousy brown hair, looked up at Sirius, who continued struggling and spoke.
“It means that she is better off not being alive,” he said in a quiet, strangely cold voice which made the older Black boy stop his rebellion and stare in horrification.