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Inside by Leonore
Chapter 1 : Inside
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8


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He woke early, as he often did. Another day in the hospital bed, like all of those before. Being fed, washed, and left to sleep more. Would they have more treatment for him? Probably not; it was weeks since they had last fed him foul-tasting potions and muttered spells over him without explanation. No, they'd probably given up. Useless bunch of imbeciles. In the Department of Mysteries, no-one ever gave up. They kept looking until they had the answer, no matter what it took.

The Healers were back, bustling around in a failed attempt to avoid disturbing the patients. Well, Broderick was awake already, but if he hadn't been before he would be now. A thud from the office, the clinking of glasswear, and one of the younger Healers wrenching the curtains open to  suddenly flood the room with morning light. Blundering around regardless of the fact that few people outside bothered to wake by this time. Was it even possible for any adult to be so totally incompetent?

A door slamming, footsteps rushing around as though everything needed to be done quickly. As if the patients in this ward wouldn't be hear all day anyway, as though they were sitting up demanding attention. No, no-one in this room would object to any delay. Being disturbed early in the morning and talked at by overly sympathetic healers was unlikely to help them recover.

Did they think he couldn't hear them? Like the curse had damaged his brain, somehow undoing decades of adulthood? Broderick wasn't a baby, surely that should be obvious. Babies wouldn't be given responsible positions in the most sensitive department of the ministry. He'd seen and done things they couldn't imagine.

"How are you feeling today, Mr Bode?" Fussing over him like everyone else, as though he couldn't look after himself.

"Positively spiffing, darling. In perfect health, clearly. Which must be why I've been lying in this bed for the past two weeks." He could see the healer flinching back, realising her mistake. She was a good woman, and looked after him well enough, but a bit of respect would be nice. She could start by taking down that stupid calendar - as if he cared about fancy hippogriffs and days of the week. It was just a reminder that he was missing work. He'd tried enough times to tell her.

"Let's sit you up a bit and get you a bite to eat. Would you like that?"

"I'd like to sit up to a table and have a proper meal, not this stupid hospital mush." Seriously, why did they bother asking questions if they weren't going to listen to the answers? She was shifting him already, moving the pillows to prop him up. Wouldn't let him out of this stupid bed, as though he'd fall over the moment he didn't have a mattress under him. They'd even got some kind of shield round the edge of the bed, as though he'd fall out given the chance. He was not a baby. He did not need a cot.

"Here you are. Open wide for the broomstick-" She made a dumb noise that sounded nothing like a broomstick - broomsticks flew silently, everyone knew that, unless they had idiots on them screaming - and deposited the spoonful of hospital mush on his tongue. He could spit it out, but that would be childish. What was the point anyway, when they'd only tut and get a new bowl or a nutrient potion? But he'd done the broomstick trick for his little niece, and even she hadn't been convinced.

She was washing him and helping him to lie back down, although he tried to tell her he'd rather stay sitting up. Talk, talk, talk; did she ever stop? She probably talked in her sleep, too. "You're doing really well. Not long now and you'll be back on your feet. I bet you get so bored just lying there all day, but that can't be helped. I don't know what you Unspeakables get up to in that Department of Mysteries, but this isn't your average workplace accident. If we knew what you did, it would be so much easier to sort out. Spell gone wrong, I suppose, and it was a nasty one-"

Broderick let her prattle on, concentrating on trying to remember what had happened. That night- the memories were hazy. Panic, maybe. Going in to the Department late at night, when no-one else was there. That was against the rules. Unspeakables never worked alone. Why had Broderick decided to go in - it wasn't as if he could work on the project without Saul. Saul Croker had come up with the ideas, developing time turners to incorporate transportation devices, like portkeys. It shouldn't have been so difficult, but time always made things tricky. And there were the sensors, so you landed on solid ground not on top of something or someone. Then they were going to look into warnings if you were heading into a place where people might see you arrive. Making time travel safer - that was important.

But he knew all of that. He'd be back at work soon, getting the modifications finished and tested. What he wanted to know was what had happened that night. The memory had slipped away again.

"Now you get some more sleep. Nothing like rest to help the mind recover."

There was nothing wrong with his mind. "I'm bored of sleeping - at this rate I'll sleep myself to death." She leant forward for a moment - to listen more closely? But no, she left without answering. He kept trying to talk to them, but the words were trapped inside his head. He supposed they meant well.

Maybe if he remembered, he could figure out how to escape. He could feel his body - it seemed normal - but when he tried to move it did not respond. Concentrating really hard, he could just about move his fingers and even his mouth - although no-one could understand him. At least he seemed to have suppressed whatever it was that had controlled his body at first. If only he could tell them, they might stop treating him as though they expected him to return to his original state. He knew perfectly well that he was not a teapot or any other inanimate object - although he might as well be.

The bit of his mind that was in control was at least the part that controlled basic bodily functions, such as breathing. Perhaps it was buried so deeply in the core that it had been protected from- whatever had left him like this. Why had he gone in? There must have been some thought to prompt him, but-

No, he'd just woken up and gone to the ministry. Through the floo, into the elevator, down to the lowest level then down the steps. A long corridor, a door at the end - the entrance to the department. Almost there, he reached for the door handle and opened it. What had he come for? Don't interrupt the memory now, nearly there-

"Where are you going, Mr Bode? Come back to bed - it's too early for you to go already." A hand on his arm and his eyes snapped open. He took his hand off the door handle and forced his legs to walk back. He'd made it here effortlessly, without meaning to. He couldn't stand to be carried back.

"Another funny moment, Mr Bode? It's a long time since the last, and we wouldn't expect you to get better completely all in one go. Now back in bed, and we'll get you a dreamless sleep potion." A dreamless sleep potion! But he wasn't tired - how would he be, never doing anything but sleeping and eating? And he couldn't even hope that the memory returned in a dream-

Back in the bed, the healer left to fetch the potion. Left alone, Broderick realised how to avoid the potion - when the healer returned, he seemed to be asleep. He heard her place the vial on his bedside table and lean in to check on him, then she was speaking quietly to one of the junior healers.

"Definitely damaged his mind. It looked for a bit as though he'd recover, but the longer it takes the less chance there is of a full recovery. Terrible shame. Not to mention we're filling up here - already three long-term patients,and you know what a pain Gilderoy can be. They need a care home, not a hospital." They moved on out of earshot, but not to avoid him hearing. They were beginning to believe that because he couldn't respond he could not understand them. No, they'd felt that all along.

Broderick knew that they were wrong about him, that his sleepwalking wasn't a sign of a relapse. In fact it was more like an improvement. He'd regained control of his own body! OK, not deliberately, but it has been his inner mind that had caused he movements. But what if he never did recover, like they believed? No, he would recover! He only needed to know what had happened that night. Along the dark corridor, through the door - but which part of the Department? And what sent him there?

It took him a while to drift off again; he couldn't close his eyes. So he kept thinking, but got nowhere. What could have left him in this state? There was no shortage of possibilities; the Department was filled with dangerous things. All he knew was that it was not the Veil. His time-turners, perhaps. Time was a dangerous thing, and if he has handled one of the unfinished and untested models in his strange state-

The ward was dark, the quiet broken by the low muttering of other patients. Broderick hoped that he didn't mutter like that, but he wouldn't put it past whatever was controlling his body. In fact he thought he remembered doing it earlier in his stay. As to what he did when he was sleeping - he had no idea. No wonder they thought he was as mad as the rest.

What if they were trapped too, like him? What if they were buried deep inside - watching, feeling, hearing,  no control over their own bodies. When - if - he escaped this state, he could tell the healers. He could repeat their conversations to them, and perhaps they would treat the other patients more like adults.

Footsteps came and went, pacing up and back down the ward, and in the dim night-lighting he saw the junior healer return to his seat. What a terrible job; Broderick could never have stood that kind of thing. So boring! Not like the Department; safer, perhaps, but so repetitive!

In the sickly pale glow, Broderick watched the dark tendrils of plant on his bedside table as they swayed menacingly. Healer Strout tried to make him look after it, somehow convinced it might be beneficial to him. She held his hand to help him lift a little jug of water and pour some in. As if he cared about plants! It shouldn't be here at all: none of his friends or family would have sent him such a thing. The fancy hippogriff calendar might be expected; either it was a joke, bad taste, or a complete lack of ideas. But the plant? They would at least have put a card with it to explain what it was and who exactly it was from.

It was stupid, the healers putting it there when they didn't even know what it was. No flitterbloom, that was for sure; he'd done some work with flitterblooms a few years ago, and they didn't sway like that when there was no wind. He'd tried to tell them that the day it arrived, but of course they hadn't heard him.

He lay awake for hours, watched the junior Healer stand and another take his place.

Down the stairs, along the dark corridor to the door, he reached out and opened it. Inside, the rotating chamber; he did not close the door, but strode straight across. His feet carried him on, as though following a line he could not see, drawn forwards, into-

The Hall of Prophesy. Suddenly Broderick understood what had happened. He knew well enough the dangers of the Department: touch nothing that you do not understand. He did not understand prophesies, nor would he ever. No Unspeakable understood the prophesies. The seers themselves did not know. This great chamber, filled with orbs of drifting smoke, each one a deadly secret.

He had been sent to retrieve one, although not in the normal way. He would never have agreed, and no-one would ever have asked it; at least no-one who knew. Which one? One of these prophesies must hold the reason, must explain who had sent him and why. His brain screamed at him to stop, but his arm rose anyway, reaching out, hand closing-

He jolted awake as his wrist was gripped and something began to snake up and wrap around his arm. Too tight! The curtains were beginning to glow with the morning sun, and in the sickly night-light he could see that the plant no longer swayed gently as though in an imaginary wind. He could not fight, his body refusing to cooperate although he focussed with all his might. The tendrils of the plant inched towards his throat-




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