Hello everyone. Thank you so much for all the great reviews that you all have given me so far! I really appreciate it. This chapter should start the action in this story and the pace should pick up as well.
I hope you enjoy it.
gorgeous chater image by hayley jade
Christmas Eve left Elena feeling buoyant. The spirit of the season had always affected her more than any other holiday. There was something beautiful about the snow blanketing the world and the evergreens that seemed to spring up throughout the city as if by magic.
Of course, things would have been better if she was getting ready for a party at her parents’ house, instead of ready for work, but she’d made her choice. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to go to Vienna, but she wanted some alone time. And spending her holiday in a cramped hotel room with Marianne, Ollie and her parents was something she just couldn’t tolerate.
Under her robes, Elena had on a pair of jeans and a red sweater that was her attempt at holiday spirit.
Her attire was complete with the addition of a warm winter coat. Though coats and robes looked odd together, looking odd was better than being cold. And as it always was on Christmas, it was quite cold outside.
Elena stepped out of her flat, locking the door as she left. She looked both ways, a habit to make sure no Muggles were around, and turned into the air with a crack.
She apparated to the atrium at St. Mungo’s, realizing stupidly that she hadn’t even gone outside and hadn’t even needed her coat. Lack of sleep tended to muddle her mind. When she checked around the room to see who was there, she saw no one.
The normally-alive room was silent, the lights dimmed the silence echoing off stone walls. Even the Welcome Witch Therese who normally sat at a desk to admit patients and visitors was gone, though a steaming mug of tea indicated that she had only left for a moment.
Elena made her way to the staff rooms, where she left her coat in the coatroom and clocked in her hours. A quick note of the register showed that there were only nine other Healers in the building, two for each floor, leaving out the fifth floor with the tearoom. More were in reserve, of course, but right now there were only the ten healers (including herself) and the dozen or so nurses that were watching over the overnight patients.
She supposed that the load was going to be light tonight. After all, it was Christmas Eve (she had even put on tiny bells as earrings to prove it). People tended to be calm on Christmas in particular, unless they got drunk. With any luck, she’d make it through an uneventful Christmas night shift.
After stopping herself from yawning, Elena took the staff’s lift up to the fourth floor: Spell Damage. She exited the lift and walked down the hall. The lights flared to life as they sensed her coming, then dimmed down after she’d passed. The only place where there were lights before she’d arrived was the Closed Ward, where those with irreparable damage stayed.
Elena made it to her office and unlocked the door and deciding that since there were no patients, she might as well get a start on her paperwork. She had a lot piled up since the weeks leading up to Christmas had been busy. Mostly it was mindless stuff--filing claims, noting procedures, sending checkup owls to patients--tasks that a secretary could easily do. Unfortunately, only Senior Healers were allowed the luxury of such help, so Elena was stuck with her quill, alone in her tiny, cramped office.
The clock seemed to move slowly and the pile of papers progressed even slower. Was it possible that she’d only been here for an hour? It had seemed like hours more than that--almost a whole day. And there wasn’t a single patient.
It was strange working these almost silent shifts. Elena felt like an intruder on the peacefulness of St. Mungo’s. She hadn’t seen a single other human since she’d arrived, only adding to her sense of loneliness. Did she still have seven more hours left in the shift? That didn’t seem possible.
Elena let her mind wander from the paperwork again, thinking of the Owl she’d received from Vienna this morning. Enclosed was a picture Ollie, Marianne and her parents smiling and waving to the camera, the snow-covered city behind them. The note was short, only a quick wish of “Happy Christmas” and a wish that she was there.
Sitting alone in her office, Elena wished again that she was. Surely anything was better than this monotony. Really, what a way to spend Christmas. If only she had someone, anyone to talk to right now.
Elena felt her head nodding and didn’t stop herself as she tilted towards the desk, closing her eyes. Sugarplums, she thought, remembering the children’s rhyme, she would dream of sugarplums.
She might have slept for a few minutes or hours but she woke feeling like she hadn’t slept at all. “Healer Wood?” Therese the Welcome Witch called over the magical intercom.
“Yes?” Elena asked.
"One moment." Therese's voice carried a worried edge, an odd tone for a woman who was normally a cold professional.
Elena murmured a response as she swept her dark hair up into a bun. She’d put it up so many times that she figured she could do it in her sleep. That is, Elena mused, if she ever got any real sleep.
There was a crackled as Therese spoke again over the intercom. “I have a wizard here who has some sort of spell damage. I have no idea what, but it’s bad.”
“Alright,” Elena said, mentally cursing that she’d fallen asleep. She had to be awake and aware now.
“The man’s friend is going to be bringing him up,” Therese said in a bored voice. “Get ready, Elena. This looks like it’ll be messy.”
Elena refrained from a sarcastic remark. “I’ll be waiting,” she said, jumping up and pushing the paperwork aside.
Knowing that the man would be in bad condition, Elena raced down the hall, sprinting to the other end, where the lift was. There were several emergency rooms right next to them, which were thankfully always stocked, since Elena had no time to prepare such a room.
She reached the lift just as the grate opened and saw a tall wizard with brown hair levitating another, smaller man who was soaked in blood. “This way,” Elena directed him into the emergency room, wincing when the lights flared on into blinding brightness.
The tall man lowered his wand and caught the other man in his arms, carrying him in and placing him on the bed. Elena saw the blood and wished that there were at least two other healers with her right now. This looked bad. If the cause of the blood was magical, which it had to be, since a simple spell could have healed anything else, it would be hard to fix. Elena rolled up her sleeves and muttered a quick sanitation spell.
The wizard who had brought in the other man thankfully stayed at the edges of the room out of Elena’s way. He was surprisingly calm, making Elena wonder what his relation was to the bleeding man. Most relatives, even the male ones, would be showing a lot more stress at this point.
But she didn’t have time to analyze anyone but her patient. The man was losing more blood at every turn. Elena ripped open his shirt, trying to find the source of all the blood, but there didn’t seem to be any one source. It was oozing out of his every pore in his chest.
She muttered several incantations hopefully, but they did nothing. “Accio dittany
!” she pointed her wand at a cupboard and let the glass jar fly into her hands. She opened it dripping the liquid onto his chest and when some of the blood stopped, she started pouring it in greater quantities over his chest, watching as it steamed and stemmed the bleeding.
Another quick wave of her wand cleaned up the blood and she let out a breath of relief. Now that the bleeding had been slowed to a trickle, she just had to find out the cause of it, because while the man was not going to die from blood loss, some powerful curse had caused his injuries.
“Is he going to be alright?” the tall wizard questioned hesitantly, a note of urgency in his voice.
Elena jumped, for she’d forgotten he was there. “Don’t know,” she said tersely. “I still have to find out what caused this. You don’t know, do you?”
“No,” the man said sharply. A beat passed, then he said slowly, “Do you mean that he might still die?”
Elena nodded. “Possibly, yes.” He had to put it so morbidly. It was as if the man expected the worst from the whole situation, like he had no hope.
To end the conversation, Elena murmured a few more incantations that were supposed to help reveal some of the spells that had been used on the man and then remove them.
She felt several spells worm deeper into the man, as she’d expected. The dark worms were all too familiar: this was dark magic, she realized with a tingle of dread. Elena bit her lip, wondering what she was going to do, when all the spells were concealed, but then, one spell worked its way free, a simple concealment spell. With a wave of her wand, she dissolved it and watched in surprise as the man’s features melted away. He grew hair, became taller as he lay on the bed and his facial features morphed. He grew more heavy set and the bed creaked with the added weight.
Elena felt her mouth open in shock as she recognized his face. This was a face she’d recognize anywhere. The sharp jaw, the full cheeks, the oversized nose. It was the Minister for Magic, Marcus Gordon. Her patient was the Minister!
Once she got over her shock, she rounded on the tall man. “What is this?” she asked, feeling her confusion and panic rise. “The Minister? Why was he concealed? What
happened to him?”
The wizard held up his hands to stop her questions. “I can’t tell you any of that, Madam. I just need you to do your job and heal him.”
“Can’t you tell me anything?” Elena asked. Now the stakes were so much higher, if the minister was lying there on her bed, possibly dying. He was too important a man to die.
Elena felt her fury rise at this. “I can’t do my job without information! I don’t know what sort of curse was used on him, but I know it was Dark. Anything would help. Sir,” she added as an afterthought.
The man’s lips twitched into a smile, “Sorry,” he apologized, obviously not understanding the gravity of the situation. The Minister might not have been bleeding, but he was far from healthy.
Elena threw up her hands. “Fine, but I’m going to have to call in some other healers. This sort of guess work isn’t exactly my expertise.” She reached for a button that would summon all other healers in case of a major emergency. For if the Minister’s injury wasn’t an emergency, she didn’t know what was.
“Stop!” the man grabbed her wrist before she could press the button. “You cannot tell anyone
“Get your hands off of me,” Elena raised her wand and the man dropped her wrist quickly. “This is the Minister for Magic, sir. I assume it is imperative he survives and his chances would increase greatly if there were about ten more healers in here!”
She reached for the button again but the man stepped in front of it, blocking her hands. “I’m sorry, but you need to help him on your own. No one else can know he is here.”
Elena massaged her temples, “Fine,” she assented, knowing the man wasn’t going to give anytime soon. If she wanted the Minister to have any chance at life, she would have to stop arguing. And so she turned back to the patient.
He was white from the blood loss and Elena summoned another potion to help him replenish the lost liquid. Again forgetting that there was anyone else in the room, she cast a few more spells, some to check for magic, some looking for any other injuries. Strangely, there seemed to be nothing else wrong, except for his unconsciousness. “Rennervate
,” she muttered, trying to wake him up. Even if the obstinate man wouldn’t tell her anything, it was possible that the Minister could.
His eyelids twitched, and fluttered. “He’s waking up,” she told the man quietly, glad for this Christmas miracle.
“Hello Mr. Minister,” Elena said softly. “You’re at St. Mungo’s right now. My name is Healer Wood.” She was tempted to ask him if he remembered anything but figured that that wouldn’t please the man who had brought him in. She would ask later, once she was sure he was all right. “Can you speak?”
The man came up next to Elena and leaned over the minister. “Marcus,” he said urgently. “I need you to tell me where it is.”
Minister Gordon’s eyes fixated on the man, who he obviously knew. His lips tried to move to form words, but no sound came out. “
“Make him talk!” the man said urgently, not taking his eyes off the Minister.
Elena shook her head, “I can’t! He’s just waking up. Give him a minute’s peace. Please, sir, I think it would be best if you sat down over there and didn’t upset Mr. Gordon too much.”
“You don’t understand!” the man shouted suddenly, his hand closing on Elena’s shoulder. “He must talk to me. You must make him talk”
“I told you to keep your hands off of me!” Elena yelled back, her lack of sleep and nervousness over the situation making her lash off. “I can only do so much with no help or
information. I’m not even a Senior Healer!” she wailed.
The man backed up, looking like he regretted his outburst. “Sorry,” he grunted, then the grunt turned into a choked gasp and he pointed over Elena’s shoulder.
She turned around only to find Minister Gordon bleeding again. Only this time it was more of a gush than a trickle. “Merlin,” Elena shouted. She’d only turned her back for a few seconds and the Minister looked even worse than when he’d come in.
The half empty bottle of dittany was on the bedside stand and Elena emptied it over the man’s chest. Only this time the essence did nothing to stem the bleeding. “No,” she breathed in despair. Without knowing what kind of spell was on the Minister, she had no idea what to do. It was every healer’s worst nightmare.
Finally she licked her lips and cast the most powerful revealing spell she knew. Again, Elena caught the scent of dark magic, though the specific spells were hidden too deeply for her to reach. One thread of the tangle of spells was obvious though, a simple silencing spell. Elena muttered the counter spell, fixing the only thing she could.
“Minister,” she said again. “Please try to remember what happened.” Thankfully, his eyes were open still, though they were starting to glaze over.
He moved his bloody lips again and this time sound came out, though it was so quiet she could hardly hear it and she had to lean in so that her ear was almost touching his mouth. “Simon,” he said. “Albania. Long—” he cut off and started coughing. “Simon has to know, has to protect Al—” The coughs stole the rest of the word and without any warning his eyes closed.
“Minister?” Elena called, “Sir. Minister. Marcus! I need you to wake up now! Keep talking to me. Rennervate
!” The spell did nothing, and the man kept bleeding. “Please?” she whispered.
But there was no answer. Elena cast one quick spell, which told her the worst. His heart had stopped. The Minister for Magic was dead.
“Merlin,” she whispered, feeling tears well up in her eyes and she rested her face in her blood soaked hands. “God what have I done?” After a minute she looked up to see the other man sitting in a hair, head in his hands. “Sir,” she said at last, “Sir, I’m sorry but he’s dead.”
The man glanced up, nodding slowly and pressing his lips together. He looked like he’d been expecting these tidings.
“I -- what do I do?” Elena asked softly, deferring to him. “Should I call for someone to pick up his body or, or do you have other arrangements?”
Again the mention of other people thrust the man into action, though this time he was less vehement. “No. Don’t call. This is a delicate situation, if you haven’t already gathered that, Madam.”
“Healer Wood. Elena Wood,” Elena said, tired of being called by such a formal title. Though she didn’t feel like a healer at the moment, not after the Minister for Magic had died on her watch. “I know that, sir. I’m sorry but this is so unusual. What do you propose we do with the body?”
The man sighed and walked over to the body where, with his wand, he cast a spell that roughly severed all of the minister’s hair from his head. Another wave of a wand put the hair into a small bag conjured from air. Elena watched this with so much surprise that she wasn’t prepared for the inferno that suddenly engulfed the body.
There was so much heat from the fire that she had to jump away. “What are you doing?” she demanded as the body burned. It was the Minster for Magic! Surely he deserved a better funeral than this. “God, what is going on?” she demanded, feeling tears sting her eyes, part from exhaustion, part from the heat.
The man stepped back to watch his handy work. “I can’t tell you, Healer Wood.”
Elena stomped her foot like a child, tired of the cryptic man. If it wasn’t for his refusal to tell her about the Minister’s condition, the dead man might still be alive. “I'll tell everyone,” she threatened impulsively. “Obviously
you want to keep his death a secret, but if you don’t start explaining it would be very easy for me to leak it out to the Prophet.”
“What do you want to know?” the man asked warily.
“First, your name,” Elena said, though that was perhaps the least important piece of information that she craved.
The man shrugged, “Simon.”
Elena’s eyes widened with recognition. “The Minister said your name before he—he died. He said ‘Simon’ then ‘Albania’ and ‘Long.’ He-his last words were ‘Simon has to protect Al.’”
The man’s face darkened. “Did he say anything else? Anything at all?”
“I’m going to need to take you in with me for some questioning,” Simon said. “Tonight.”
“Who are you?” she demanded, not about to go off with some stranger. Slowly, she inched back towards the call button, hoping he wouldn't notice if she pressed it.
“I can’t tell you here,” the man said. “But if you come with me I can answer all the questions you want. You have to promise not to make a scene though.”
Elena shifted back again, her fingers brushing the button. She pressed it, and instantly a blaring alarum sounded in the room echoing throughout the buliding.
Simon's face contorted into a frown. "What have you done?" he asked in a dangerous voice, lifting his wand.
"Sir, put your wand down." Elena pressed the button once more, hoping that someone would arrive sooner.
"Why did you do it?" Simon yelled, his voice loud even over the shriek of the alarum.
Elena glared at him, staring at his glinting brown eyes. "It's my job." She had to keep him talking until the others arrived to subdue him.
"Can you make Polyjuice Potion?"
"What?" The question seemed so sudden and unexpected that Elena couldn't think to answer. "But it takes months to brew that!"
Simon stepped towards her, eyes shifting to the door. "Can you?" he dropped his voice, so that it was a harsh whisper.
"Yes," her voice shook as she pressed her back to the wall, trying to lean away from this man.
“Alright,” Simon said after a long pause. “Give me your hand.” His manner had suddenly turned brisk, as if he were making a business deal.
The suddenness of it all caught Elena off guard. “Wait!” she said. “What am I supposed to tell everyone here?” Perhaps if she kept talking, she could stall him long enough for someone to finally come and rescue her.
“They’ll know you’re going home early. You’ll feel ill or something like that,” Simon waved a hand through the air. “Now grab hold of my arm and hold on tight.”
"Are you mad?" He couldn't possibly think that she was actually going to come with him.
Simon shook his head. With a sudden burst of energy, he grabbed onto her wrist with his hand. "Do you want answers?" he asked softly, his voice barely reaching her ears.
"Yes." Elena couldn't help but answer honestly.
A detirmined look filled Simon's eyes, and Elena realized that he was about to act. Normally she would have been on full alert but the lateness of the night and the trauma of the situation had dulled her senses. Elena tried to jerk free of Simon's grasp, but could not escape before Simon spun in the air, disapparating, dragging Elena along with him.
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