Chapter 3 : Outrage
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 9|
Background: Font color:
A soft groan pulled Justin’s attention away from the society pages of the Daily Prophet. He wasn’t sure which day’s edition he was reading. He’d found it in a bin in the waiting room outside the Curse Trauma Ward at St. Mungo’s. As stuffy and intransigent as wizarding high society tended to be, he supposed that the news didn’t change that much from one day to the next. Setting the paper aside, he watched as the dark-haired wizard in the bed next to his chair gradually opened his eyes.
“Here you go, boss,” Justin said quietly, taking a pair of black, circular eyeglasses from the table next to the bed and handing them to its occupant.
Harry slid them onto the bridge of his nose with a shaky hand and then opened his eyes experimentally. From the look on his face, Justin guessed that Harry wasn’t pleased with the outcome of that experiment.
“Everyone... alright?” Harry’s voice sounded like he’d been gargling sand.
“Here, have some of this.” Justin held a glass of water with a straw in front of Harry’s face. Harry sucked down half the glass while Justin spoke. “Neville just had a twisted ankle and ringing in his ears. He’s back at the Ministry, briefing Robards and Kingsley. Terry had a concussion and two broken ribs. Susan had a concussion, second degree burns, lots of cuts from the flying glass and a broken collarbone from the Hogwarts Express over here landing on top of her.”
“Very bloody funny.” In the room’s other bed, Ron propped himself up on his elbows to get a better look at Harry. “You try taking three pain potions and see if you don’t snore a little.”
“A little?” Justin replied with a grin. “Ron, you were shaking the windows.”
Harry lowered his head back onto the pillow. “How long?”
“Optimistically, the Healer thinks that you might be out of here by Tuesday,” Justin answered.
“No, how long was I out?”
“Oh.” Justin checked his watch. “We got here about three and a half hours ago.”
“‘Mione says she hopes you feel better,” Ron added. “You were out when she stopped by. She’s planning to visit again this evening.”
A frown had settled on Harry’s face. “The muggle woman, how is she?”
“I don’t know,” Justin replied. “They whisked her away as soon as we got here.”
Harry’s frown deepened. Without any warning, he suddenly hauled himself to a sitting position. Justin watched in disbelief as Harry pushed the sheets away from him. A loud grunt of pain escaped his lips as he swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“Mate,” Ron said, looking very concerned, “we’re not supposed to be up and about.”
Harry ignored him and, finding his clothes in a dirty, bloody pile at the foot of his bed, he shed the thin hospital gown and started to put them back on.
“Harry, Ron’s right. You need time to heal.” Justin stood from his seat as Ron sat upright in bed.
“We’ve already lost too much time,” Harry muttered through clenched teeth. The lines on his forehead deepened as he fought through the pain of bending over to pull his socks on. “Jugson will find out we survived and he’ll go even deeper underground.”
“Harry, you can’t...” The sentence died on Ron’s lips as Harry stood up and limped out of the room. Justin and Ron started at each other for a moment, trying to figure out what to do next. Then a voice echoed from the corridor.
“Mr. Potter, return to your bed this instant!”
Justin sighed and made his way toward the door. Behind him, Ron struggled out of bed and pulled a robe on over his hospital gown. Halfway down the corridor, he found the source of the commotion. Harry was forcing his way past a middle-aged wizard in Healer’s robes who seemed to be operating under the flawed assumption that mere words were going to change his mind. Justin almost found the scene amusing. Madam Pomfrey hadn’t been taking the piss when she declared Harry the worst patient in the history of magical medicine.
“Mr. Potter,” the Healer continued as he tried and failed to impede Harry’s progress, “you’re suffering from a concussion, severe blood loss, a separated shoulder, nerve damage to your hands and face and flash burns to your-”
“Where is she?” Harry interjected, looking past the Healer toward the nurse’s station.
“Where is who?” the Healer replied curtly.
It dawned on Justin what Harry meant to do, and he jogged the last few steps to his boss’s side. “Harry, you can’t. She just-”
“The muggle woman who was brought in with us,” Harry snapped, suddenly fixing the Healer with a withering stare. “Where is she?”
“Harry.” Ron was limping toward them. The urgent tone of his voice seemed to give Harry a moment’s pause, but it didn’t last.
“Mr. Potter,” the Healer replied, raising his voice in response to Harry’s aggressive posture, “the only patient we’re discussing at the moment is you. Now I need you to-”
“So you don’t know,” Harry surmised. He once again stepped around the angry Healer and resumed his hurried limp toward the nurse’s station.
Justin moved quickly to intercept Harry as Ron struggled mightily to keep up. “Harry, slow down. She was hurt even worse than you were. If Neville wasn’t a pretty dab hand with healing charms, she would have died.”
“And she wouldn’t have been the last!” Harry shot back, refusing to pause. “Jugson is still out there. She might know something about where he went.”
The three Aurors reached the nurse’s station and Harry locked eyes with a young wizard working behind the counter. “You. Where would they take a muggle who was brought in here with severe injuries?”
The young man stared back at Harry and the red-faced Healer following in his wake, looking very much like a deer caught in headlights. “I... um...”
“Hold your tongue, Mr. Barnes!” the angry Healer demanded. “It would be a violation of hospital policy to-”
“We’re in pursuit of a marked Death Eater who’s accused of more crimes than I have time to list,” Harry shot back. “He tried to kill every person who came in with me today, including the muggle woman. If you don’t help me, he’ll kill even more people.” Harry’s gravelly voice softened a bit, but the hard look in his eyes remained. “Please.”
Barnes looked back to the Healer, then shifted his gaze back to Harry. It occurred to Justin that he was holding his breath. “She would have been taken to the Muggle Isolation Ward on the sixth floor. That’s where the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes sends muggles who get injured in, well, magical accidents.”
Harry turned away from the station and started off toward the lifts. Ron and Justin followed close behind while the flustered Healer continued to try to accost them.
“Seriously, Mr. Potter. Do you believe you’re in any condition to apprehend a dark wizard? You can barely walk! The spells holding your shoulder together wouldn’t last-”
As soon as Justin and Ron stepped into the lift behind Harry, he turned and cast a shield charm that held the Healer at bay until the doors slid closed.
“Sixth floor,” Harry growled. Justin lunged forward, barely catching Harry as the lift lurched upward and he nearly collapsed.
“Mate, this is mad,” Ron blurted out while grabbing onto the side of the elevator to steady his own shaky legs. “She’s probably still unconscious.”
“Then we’ll wait for her to wake up,” Harry replied. Justin found it strange to have his boss leaning on him for support. He had always thought of Harry as being nearly invincible. They all did. In an odd sort of way, it gave him an even greater appreciation of Harry’s strength and determination to know that he was no more immune to injury than anyone else.
The lift doors opened and the three Aurors stepped out into a long corridor. “Can somebody read that sign?” Harry asked, squinting as he adjusted his glasses. “Everything’s still a bit... fuzzy.”
Justin debated another attempt to talk Harry back into bed, but there didn’t seem to be much of a point. “This way,” he sighed, gesturing to his left.
As Harry led the way, Justin and Ron exchanged concerned looks behind his back. Justin decided that their best hope was that the muggle woman was too badly injured to speak to them. When you were dealing with Harry Potter, it was often ironic what counted as your best hope.
Harry turned the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Justin had to sidestep a bit to avoid running into his boss’s back. Standing in the middle of the hallway was a witch in white nurse’s robes. Based on her grey hair and weathered face, Justin would have guessed she was in her sixties. Based on the wand she was pointing at the center of Harry’s chest, Justin felt certain that she was very upset.
“That’s far enough, Mr. Potter.” She jabbed the wand toward them to emphasize the gravity of her statement. “Healer Branscombe warned me that you were coming. Perhaps they let you do as you please at the Ministry, but not in my ward. My patient is in no condition to answer your questions.”
Justin heard Harry take a raspy breath as he kept his eyes fixed on the older witch’s wand. Clearly she was no match for the three of them, even with Harry and Ron being hurt. Cursing a nurse in a hospital was out of the question, though. When Harry spoke, he sounded much calmer.
“We’re not looking for a fight, but I need to speak with her. The wizard who hurt her is still on the loose, and he’ll hurt more people if we don’t stop him.”
“Typical,” the nurse replied, adjusting her grip on her wand. “Always the way with your sort.”
Harry continued to stare at her, but Ron plainly took exception to her statement. “Our sort? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means Aurors,” she shot back angrily. “Yes, I know your sort very well, Mr. Weasley. You strut in here with your chests puffed out, demanding to interview victims because it helps your case, your investigation, your career. You never spare a thought for the ones who’ve had to live these nightmares. Before that poor girl had the misfortune to run across a dark wizard, she had no idea that somebody could break her bones with the wave of a wand, torture her with a single word. Do you honestly think she’s ready to discuss these things?”
There was a long moment of silence. Justin considered the implications of what she was saying. The idea that the poor girl had been brutalized wasn’t surprising, considering it was Jugson they were talking about, but the nurse’s blunt assessment made it all immediate and real. Justin couldn’t help but think about his own family and their abrupt introduction to the world of magic. Even after Professor McGonagall’s patient explanation, his mother and father tried to talk him into attending Eton instead of Hogwarts. It would have been a terrible mistake, but with the benefit of hindsight he could understand where they were coming from. Magic, even the helpful type, could be frightening to those who were unprepared.
“Wait a minute,” Ron countered after taking a moment to ponder what she’d said. “Are you saying he used the Cruciatus Curse on her?”
“I’m saying that she’s suffering from severe physical and psychological trauma,” the nurse responded brusquely. Her voice continued to rise as she went on. “I’m saying that she has symptoms consistent with being placed under the Imperius Curse. I’m saying that her bones have been repeatedly broken and then healed, poorly, with magic. I’m saying that we found evidence of contraceptive charms being applied to her for reasons that must be obvious even to you. And yes, Mr. Weasley, I’m saying that she’s been subjected to the Cruciatus Curse.”
Ron stumbled over his words for a moment before sputtering out, “But that’s not possible. Muggles can’t survive the Cruciatus Curse. Everyone knows that.”
Justin resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Of the three Aurors, he seemed to be the one that she disliked least because she favored him with a brief look of incredulity. Perhaps it was the fact he’d stayed quiet the entire time. “He’s a pureblood,” Justin offered weakly. “He means well.”
The nurse snorted mirthlessly in response, but she kept her wand trained on the middle of Harry’s chest. Harry slowly raised his palms and winced in discomfort. “I take it you’re a half-blood, then?”
The old nurse stared at him suspiciously for a moment before answering. “My father was a muggle and my mother was a witch. What of it?”
“So you must have muggle relatives, then?” Harry continued. “Aunts, uncles, cousins? Maybe even a sibling?”
“My personal life is none of your concern, Mr. Potter!” she snapped.
Harry lowered his hands to a more neutral position and took half a step toward her. “It’s a simple question, I’m not asking for their names.” The old witch jabbed her wand toward them, trying to make Harry step back, but he held his ground. “My mother was muggle-born. I was raised by my muggle aunt and uncle until I was old enough to go to Hogwarts.”
“I take the Prophet, Mr. Potter,” she replied tersely. “I’m familiar with the unfortunate circumstances of your upbringing. As it happens, my brother is a muggle and I’ve remained close with his family.”
“So it’s fair to say that you don’t want to see any harm come to them, is that correct?” Harry’s voice stayed perfectly neutral.
The nurse’s eyes narrowed and Justin thought he saw a stream of faint red sparks coming from the tip of her wand. “Are you threatening my family, Mr. Potter?”
“No,” Harry replied simply, “but the man we’re after is a threat to every muggle who encounters him. He’s a Death Eater and a pureblood fanatic. The poor woman we brought in here? Her life meant nothing to him. He used her up and when he was done with her, he handed her a bomb and left her to die.”
“And what is your use for her? A means of keeping your name on the front page of the Prophet?” Justin felt a surge of irritation at her words. Did she seriously believe that they only wanted to catch Jugson for the fame and recognition? Justin had seen his face on the front page of the Prophet several times already. Like Harry, he’d come to dislike the notoriety. It made his job -- indeed his life -- more difficult. The old nurse’s accusatory stare was starting to wear very thin with him. “Tell me Mr. Potter, how much will her life mean to you once you’ve closed this case and moved on?”
“Her life does matter!” Justin could feel his hands shaking. He stuffed them inside his pockets and wrapped his fingers around his Auror badge, drawing a measure of composure from the weight of the smooth metal in his hand. “My mum and dad are both muggles. So’s my sister. If you think I value their lives one bit less because they’re not magical...”
Justin noticed that the old witch was staring at him with a hint of interest behind her hard eyes. He wasn’t entirely sure what to say next. He took a deep breath and just let his thoughts flow out. “When I got my summons from the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, I told them I had to go on the run. Anyone who was at Hogwarts when Dolores Umbridge was there knew what she was all about. I told them I had to go alone. I explained to them what would happen to them if the Snatchers found them with me.”
He could feel the tightness in his chest as his voice shook a bit. “They wouldn’t hear of it. My dad left his job and they pulled my sister out of school. We packed up whatever we could and moved to a rented flat in Hackney. My dad found part-time work as a bookkeeper at a local market. He was a senior partner at his firm in London, but he took a job that paid peanuts, cash in hand, just so nobody could track us. He and my mum taught my sister and I as best they could. I had to hide my wand inside the ceiling until I turned seventeen and the Trace broke.”
The old nurse nodded slowly, and he took a steadying breath to shake off long-forgotten feelings of gloom. “There were scary things happening everywhere, things the muggle government couldn’t explain. I was pretty sure I knew what the signs meant. Every time somebody knocked on our door, we held our breath and hid in the back bedroom. But no matter how bad things got, my parents never once regretted the choice they made.”
Justin pulled out his badge and held it in front of him. “I understand how you feel about Aurors, ma’am. Some of the ones we work with are arrogant, self-important tossers who just see the job as a ladder to climb. I can’t speak for them, I can only speak for myself. I joined the Aurors to try to pay back the sacrifice my family made, the risks they took to make sure I stayed alive. I joined the Aurors to keep them safe from wizards like the one we’re after.”
He slowly returned be badge to his pocket. “We need your help. Help us talk to her without hurting her any more. Jugson is a monster. Help us get him off of the streets before he hurts anybody else.”
The old nurse slowly lowered her wand without ever taking her eyes off of Justin. She seemed to be weighing a number of unappealing options in her head. “I’ll allow you five minutes. Not a second more! If anything upsets her, you will leave immediately. Do you agree?”
All three Aurors nodded somberly. The old nurse pocketed her wand before continuing. “I’ll need several minutes to prepare her to speak with you. Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley, I suggest you make use of this time to find appropriate clothing. No robes or cloaks, nothing that makes you look like wizards,” she added pointedly.
“Thank you,” Harry replied quietly. “I promise we’ll make this as easy for her as possible. And if she needs anything to move on with her life once she’s fit to leave the hospital, contact me at the Ministry. I’ll make sure she gets it.”
The old nurse stared at him curiously for a moment. “I’ll be sure to pass that along, Mr. Potter.”
She disappeared through a heavy wooden door and Justin turned to Harry and Ron. “We passed a loo in the corridor. Let’s see about fixing the two of you up.”
Ron summoned his clothes as they walked and he went into the gents first to dress and try to magically modify his clothes to look more like a muggle. “You think he’ll get it on the first try?” Justin asked, smirking a bit.
A small grin briefly appeared on Harry’s weary face. “Probably not. Try to make his clothes match while I fix this mess up.”
Justin paused for a moment to study just how awful Harry really looked. His shirt and trousers were riddled with small tears from flying debris and there was a huge bloodstain that stretched from his neck to his shoulder. Every inch of him was covered in dust and ash and his face was criss-crossed with red scars that had been open cuts less than three hours ago. “Harry, are you really sure you’re up to this?” Justin asked quietly. “We could call Robards. Even he wouldn’t turn his nose up at a chance to catch Jugson.”
Harry stayed silent for a moment, staring at his filthy, blood-stained boots. “I have to do this, Justin,” he finally replied without looking up. “She gave her life to try to help us catch Jugson. I can’t just hand this to Robards and the others and take a chance of them cocking it up.”
His reply sparked a connection in Justin’s head, one that he’d been pondering on since before they left the destroyed house in East Sussex. “She was the informant, wasn’t she? The elf, Bizzy.”
Harry nodded slowly, still not looking up. “She hated the things that Jugson made her do. Hated that she was ordered to help murderers and rapists escape. She couldn’t betray Jugson because he was her master, but he never ordered her not to betray the others. It never occurred to him. He thought she was just a stupid, cowardly animal. He never had any idea how brave she really was. Nobody did.” A snort of bitter, mirthless laughter escaped from Harry’s lips and his shoulders drooped even lower. “Nobody except me.”
“It isn’t your fault, Harry,” Justin replied, trying his best to offer support. “She must have known-”
“Justin.” Harry abruptly looked up. A touch of exasperation was evident in his eyes. “After the past three years, I’ve pretty much got the ‘don’t blame yourself’ speech memorized, mate. I know she knew the risks. I know it was her decision. I...” He seemed to struggle a bit to get the next sentence out. “I know it’s not my fault that she died. But she died for a reason.”
Justin nodded in acknowledgment. Harry’s deep green eyes were locked on his. “She’s no different from Fred and Remus and Tonks and all the others who died. It... it doesn’t make a difference if you blame yourself for what happened, it only makes a difference if you do something about it. That’s what Kingsley’s been telling me since the battle at Hogwarts and... well, I guess maybe I’m starting to believe it. The war’s not over. Not as long as people like Jugson are still on the loose. That’s why we have to find out what the muggle woman knows.” Harry paused and stared at the wall over Justin’s shoulder. His voice became quiet but no less sincere. “I want it to be over.”
Without really thinking about it, Justin reached out and gently gripped Harry’s shoulder. “We all want it to be over, Harry. You and Ron remember that, yeah?”
Harry nodded solemnly in understanding just as the door to the loo opened. Ron stepped out and held his arms out from his sides. He was wearing a red and black tartan suit with a mustard yellow tie. “Pretty smart, yeah?” he asked, staring down approvingly. “George says that the suit makes the man.” Harry lowered his forehead into his hand for a moment before stepping toward the door of the loo.
“Ace, Ron. Justin might have a couple small suggestions.” Fix it, Harry mouthed to Justin as he stepped inside and closed the door.
After toning Ron’s suit down several notches, Justin charmed his own clothes to be closer to the current muggle fashion. As he was tucking his wand away, Ron quietly asked, “How is he? You know, mentally?”
Justin took a moment to consider his answer. “You mean aside from the fact that he’s up and walking around with injuries that would have Dawlish laying out on sick leave til New Years?”
“Well, yeah,” Ron responded thoughtfully. “Aside from the fact that it’s Harry we’re talking about.”
“I think he’s good,” Justin answered. “We talked about it while you were changing. For Harry, I think he’s doing alright.”
Ron nodded, not looking entirely convinced. A few moments later, Harry emerged from the loo looking clean and presentable if not exactly sound. As the three Aurors made their way back to the wooden door, Justin quietly asked, “How do you want to handle this, Harry? I mean, she might not know anything or be able to remember the things that she does know.” He recalled the furious look in the old nurse’s eyes as he held them at wandpoint. “How far can we really push her before we’re doing more harm than good?”
Harry shrugged his shoulders slightly and winced in pain from the injured one. “Dunno. Hopefully she’s angry enough at what Jugson did to her that she’ll spill everything she remembers. If not, we’ll just play it by ear.”
They had been waiting outside the door for a minute or so when it opened and the nurse reappeared, wearing the traditional white dress of a muggle nurse. “She’s awake, but we’ve had to give her pain medications,” the old witch explained. “The healers have cast a spell on her that keeps her from noticing her missing hand. Since you had the foresight to remove it with a charm instead of a curse, Mr. Potter, we should be able to regrow it.” Justin thought that he could detect a hint of approval in her stern eyes. “I will once again caution you all, her condition is precarious. If anything you ask upsets her in any way, you will be ordered to leave. Is that clear?”
Justin nodded in response, along with Ron and Harry. The old nurse slipped muggle-style hospital gowns over their clothes and led them into the Muggle Isolation Ward. The change was as abrupt as stepping through the door of the Leaky Cauldron. Gone were the polished gold lamps and marble floors of St. Mungo’s, replaced with fluorescent lights, linoleum floors and formica countertops. Ron’s eyes darted to and fro, an odd sort of wonder evident on his freckled face. Halfway down the corridor, they paused in front of the door to one of the patient rooms.
“Her name is Teresa,” the nurse said. The way her hand was gripping the doorknob implied yet again that nobody would be entering until she was satisfied that they understood the situation. “She’s originally from Robertsbridge, she’s twenty-six years old and she was a nursery teacher in Crowborough. Based on the residual magic in her system, the Healers estimate that she first encountered your dark wizard between eight and ten days ago.”
Justin nodded absently as he pondered the timeline that the Healers’ estimates implied. It was unheard of for Jugson to remain in one place for a week. Either he’d grown very confident in his ability to stay hidden or he enjoyed abusing this particular muggle a great deal. After one last appraising sweep of her eyes, the nurse opened the door and the three Aurors followed her into the room.
“Hello, Teresa. These are the visitors I was telling you about.” The nurse’s voice changed so dramatically from the harsh, accusatory tone she’d been using with them that Justin struggled to keep the surprise off of his face. The muggle woman slowly opened her eyes and stared at them. Both of her eyes were blackened and her face and arms were covered with bruises. A thick layer of white bandages covered the stump of her left wrist. If Justin narrowed his eyes and concentrated, he could just make out dim flashes of magic coming from a number of objects around her bed that were charmed to look like muggle medical instruments.
The muggle woman didn’t respond immediately, so the nurse kept speaking in her warm, cheerful voice.” This is Inspector Harry Potter and his colleagues Ronald Weasley and Justin...” She paused for a moment, looking slightly embarrassed.
“Finch-Fletchley,” Justin filled in for her.
The nurse smiled gratefully and continued. “They’re from the Sussex Police RIT. If you feel up to it-” Justin noticed that she emphasized those words heavily, “they’d like to ask you a few questions.”
The muggle woman seemed to struggle a bit to focus on the three of them. Then her eyes grew wide and she briefly tried to sit up before collapsing back onto her bed. “I’m sorry,” she whispered in a hoarse voice. “I’m so ashamed. Please forgive me.”
“Teresa, what’s the matter?” the nurse asked, her voice heavy with concern. “You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Lying here like this,” the muggle woman whispered, gesturing weakly toward herself. “I’m useless and I look terrible. Master would be so disappointed. He would...” She shuddered involuntarily. “...terrible things. Please, forgive me.”
The look on the nurse’s face was rapidly shifting from concern to alarm. Harry took a measured step closer to the bed and spoke slowly and calmly. “Teresa, who do you mean when you say Master? Why would he be disappointed?”
Justin noticed that Teresa looked down, not meeting Harry’s eyes as she spoke. “I’m worthless. I haven’t even taken your coats or asked if you’re hungry or thirsty. Master would be furious...”
“Teresa,” Harry responded, “we’re here to try to help you. Why do you think you need to wait on us? Did this Master make you do that?”
“Horrible. I’m just horrible!” Teresa appeared to be near tears. “That’s why Master left me. I’m not even worthy to be punished. I’m-”
“Teresa, please, calm down,” the nurse interrupted, stepping closer to her bedside. “If you don’t feel strong enough to talk to these gentlemen right now, they’ll be happy to come back another time.”
“No, no!” Teresa’s hoarse whisper was thick with panic. “I can’t keep them waiting.” Again, she tried and failed to pull herself to a sitting position. “I’m so ashamed.”
Teresa continued to struggle with her injured body as the old nurse moved to her bedside and tried to calm her. “I’m sure you gentlemen remember our agreement,” she said without looking away from her patient. “I think it’s time for you to leave us.”
Justin and Ron started to turn toward the door, causing Teresa to let out a small yelp. “You don’t understand!” she cried. “We can’t disappoint them.” The terrified muggle woman lowered her voice to a whisper. Her next words froze everyone in the room. “They’re wizards.”
For a long moment nobody moved or said anything. Even the old nurse seemed to be at a loss for what to say. Harry recovered first. He moved to the foot of the bed and gently asked, “Teresa, how did you know that?”
“Master told me if I was ever caught that men would come and want to ask me questions,” she replied in the same terrified whisper. “He said they would pretend they weren’t wizards, but it would be a lie. He told me they’d make me tell them things, make me hurt if I didn’t.”
Harry took a deep breath and stared straight into her eyes. “It’s true. We are wizards. But we aren’t going to hurt you and we aren’t going to make you do anything. We need your help. We need to find the wizard you call ‘Master’.”
Teresa stared back at Harry uncertainly. “I don’t think Master wants to be found. You shouldn’t go looking for him. I think that would make him angry.” Her entire body seemed to tremble with fear. “He does terrible things when he’s angry.”
“I know the kinds of things he does,” Harry replied. Justin could hear a thin edge of anger in his otherwise calm voice. “We need to talk to him, Teresa. We have a very important message for him.”
A long moment of silence passed as the muggle woman worried at the hem of her bedsheets. She seemed to be struggling with a very difficult decision. “Maybe you could use one of your magic birds?” Her voice was filled with trepidation and uncertainty. “The bird could take the message to him.”
“We can’t use an owl for this message,” Harry replied evenly. “It’s too important. Do you know where he might have gone?”
“He could go anywhere, he has magic.” The strain in Teresa’s voice was unmistakable. Justin stole a quick glance at the nurse, searching for any sign that they were about to be asked to leave again. For the moment, she also seemed very interested in what the muggle woman had to say.
“I know that, Teresa,” Harry responded patiently. “But he’s also a very smart, very careful man. I don’t think he’d go just anywhere. Do you remember him mentioning any places he’d been to? Maybe someplace special to him?”
Teresa seemed to be thinking very hard. Justin suspected that she was thinking more about how to not answer the question than how to answer it. “No. Master never took me anywhere. He always sent the little one, Bizzy, if he needed something.”
Justin felt a stab of remorse when she mentioned the elf, but the panicked tension on her face seemed to soften slightly. For a moment she looked almost wistful. Harry plainly hadn’t missed it. “Did you like Bizzy?” he asked gently. Teresa nodded slowly and cautiously, as though she was trying to figure out where Harry was going with the question. “I liked her, too. She had a good heart and she was very brave.”
She seemed to ponder Harry’s words for a moment before her eyes widened. “Why are you talking about her like that? In the past?”
Even Harry wasn’t able to completely keep the sadness off of his face. “Teresa, Bizzy died. The man you call Master killed her.”
Teresa’s face turned ashen and her good hand clutched at the front of her hospital gown. A few tears spilled onto her battered cheeks. “Bizzy was very kind. She used to bring me fresh-picked apples and cobnuts when Master was away. She was always nice to me, even though I didn’t deserve it.”
Something clicked in the back of Justin’s mind, a connection that wouldn’t immediately take shape. He filed it away for the moment. Teresa seemed to be getting emotional. It was risky in that the nurse might end their conversation prematurely, but strong emotions tended to make people talkative. He tried to pay attention to every word and expression.
“You’re wrong, Teresa.” Harry’s voice was firm, but kind. “Nobody deserves to be treated the way that this man treated you and Bizzy. Wizards have laws against using magic to hurt people and make them do things. Especially people like you, who don’t have magic. That’s why we’re looking for him.” He pulled his badge out of his pocket and held it out in front of her. “We’re police officers. Ron, Justin and I work for the wizard government. If you help us find him, we’ll make sure that he never hurts anybody again.”
Teresa stared at Harry’s Auror badge, looking stricken. She finally looked back at Harry. “You... you mean you’d put him in prison?”
“That’s right,” Harry replied. “There is a special prison where wizards go when they break the law. Even with his magic, he wouldn’t be able to escape.”
“You... you can’t do that!” she finally stammered out. “Master is the most powerful wizard alive.”
“Even powerful wizards must obey the law, Teresa.” Justin’s head snapped around in surprise. It was the first time the old nurse had spoken since the young woman identified them as wizards.
“No!” The look of anguish on Teresa’s face deepened. When she spoke, Justin thought that she sounded more like she was addressing herself. “Master’s magic is older, stronger, purer. They tried to destroy master’s family during World War Two, but they failed. Master told me so. He’s going to pay them all back. Master will pay them back.”
The pieces suddenly fell into place in Justin’s head. “Kent!” Harry and Ron both turned to look at him. “They grow cobnuts in Kent, and Kent was on the front lines during the Blitz.”
Ron looked down and worried at the inside of his lip for a second, deep in thought. Then he looked up with wide eyes. “There’s a very old wizarding village near Canterbury. My great grandparents lived there, the Prewett ones. Lots of pureblood families did. Most of it got blown up when our muggles were fighting the German muggles. Mum said the old family homes are mostly abandoned now.”
“Justin, go check up on Terry and Susan,” Harry directed. “Bring them up to speed. Ron, find a floo and call your mum. See if she knows whether any of Jugson’s family had a house in that village. I’m going to let Kingsley know what’s going on.”
A pitiful yelp brought all of the Aurors’ hasty planning to a halt. Teresa was once again trying to pull herself out of bed, muttering, “No, no, no.” The nurse hurried to her side, but tears were no streaming down her face and she appeared inconsolable.
“Teresa, everything’s going to be alright,” Harry said soothingly. “You’re perfectly safe here. We’ll make sure that you’re protected, even after you leave the hospital. That... monster will never hurt you again.”
“You can’t!” Teresa was moaning as she struggled to free herself from the nurse’s strong hands. “You can’t put him in prison. Please!”
From the looks on Ron and Harry’s faces, Justin concluded that they felt every bit as bewildered as he did. “Teresa, why don’t you want him to go to prison?” Harry asked. “He controlled you, tortured you, held you captive in your own home. What is it you’re afraid of?”
The muggle woman’s eyes flicked desperately back and forth, as though she was looking for a way to flee the room. Justin noticed her lips twitching, as though she was talking silently to herself. Finally her eyes settled on Harry. “Please, just let me go. Master will never forgive me if I tell you. He’ll... it’s too terrible to say what he’ll do.”
Harry took a step around to the side of her bed. Justin flinched involuntarily at the pain he could see on Harry’s face as Harry knelt down so that he was almost at eye level with Teresa. “I can’t do that, Teresa. But I can help you. Whatever it is you’re frightened of, we’ll deal with it. But only if you tell me what it is.”
Teresa stared at Harry’s bruised face for a long moment before lowering her eyes to her lap. Her voice was barely more than a whisper. “If you put him in prison, I’ll never see my son again.”
A terrible, cold weight settled into the pit of Justin’s stomach. He rapidly blinked his eyes, willing his brain not to work. Something awful was lurking just at the edge of his awareness, and while his body had already worked it out, he felt a desperate need to keep his mind from catching up. Justin stared at Harry, hoping against all hope that The Chosen One could once again pull a miracle out of thin air. Instead, Harry spoke the words that brought the terrible realization crashing home.
“Your son’s name is Donny, isn’t he?” Harry’s voice sounded hollow, dead and drained of all emotion.
For a brief moment, Teresa’s eyes lit up. “Do you know where he is? Master turned him into a dog when I was too slow refilling his drink. But you can turn him back, can’t you? You’re a wizard! Please, turn him back! Please!”
Justin closed his eyes. It felt like someone had closed a cold steel vice on his heart. Harry’s voice sounded muted and far away. “Teresa, there’s something you need to know.”
Even after the door to the Muggle Isolation Ward closed behind them, Justin thought he could still hear Teresa’s wails of anguish. The sound was burned into his mind, just as the devastated look on her face haunted him when he closed his eyes. Ron pressed his back against the wall and slowly slid to the floor with his face in his hands. Harry stared into empty space, pressing the tip of his wand into the palm of his left hand. It looked painful to Justin, assuming one could feel anything.
When the nurse emerged from behind the heavy wooden door, the fire was conspicuously missing from her eyes. Before he quite realized what he was doing, Justin found himself toe to toe with her.
“You have to make her forget.” His voice sounded shaky, a sharp contrast to the absolute moral certainty that he felt. “Give her a whole new life, new memories, new everything. We can’t leave her like this.”
The sympathy he found in the old nurse’s weary eyes was maddening. Her voice was firm, but quiet. “We can’t do that. If you think about it, I’m sure you’ll understand why.”
“No! I don’t understand!” Justin’s hands were shaking and he wrung them together behind his back to try to still the tremors. “You were the one lecturing us about what people don’t want to remember! Do you really think she wants to spend the rest of her life mourning her little boy who Mortitius Jugson turned into a fucking dog and murdered?”
He’d been shouting into her face, but her unperturbable calm remained. “The particulars needn’t remain as they are, but she has every right to mourn the death of her son,” the nurse countered. “It would violate our most basic principles to take that away from her.”
Justin spun away, unable to continue looking into her gentle, unwavering eyes. “So she ends up remembering what? That her son got sick and died? That he drowned in the bathtub? Fell asleep and just never woke up?” The injustice of it all felt like it was eating away at his insides. “That’s even worse! If you’re going to make her live with this then she has the right to look Jugson in the eyes before we lock him up in Azkaban and throw away the key. She has the right to tell him to burn in hell!” He stubbed the toe of his boot against the wall.
“We can’t do that, Justin.” Harry’s voice sounded surprisingly steady, but there was a hard edge to it. Justin turned and looked at his boss. “Leaving her bitter and angry when there’s not a bloody thing she can do about it would be more cruel than anything Jugson did to her. It’ll consume her. Let her grieve. Let her move on.”
To Justin, it didn’t sound like enough. “She’s lost so much, Harry. She has the right to be angry. We can’t take that from her.”
“We’re not taking anything away from her.” Something was slowly filling the cold emptiness in Harry’s green eyes. A dark, smoldering intensity that mirrored Justin’s own churning emotions. “Whether she knows it or not, we’ll make sure she gets justice. For her and for Donny and for Bizzy, too.” Ron looked up from his spot on the floor. His eyes were red, but his jaw was set in a grim scowl. Harry tucked his wand away and closed his eyes. “We can be angry for her.”
Hello again, dear readers. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, even if it was a bit on the sad side.
As always, many thanks to my beta reader, sophie_hatter. If you haven't read her story, Evolution, I promise you'll enjoy it!
If you could spare a moment to leave a review, I would be most grateful.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Other Similar Stories