Russell sat through the entire Learning class but only vaguely heard Christina’s voice as she taught a lesson on spelling and punctuation usage. He’d never had to take stupid classes like these at Hogwarts, so he reasoned that he probably didn’t need them, anyway. What occupied Russell’s thoughts more than anything was seeing those kids down in the basement, all locked up and alone. Nicki had said they were Death Eaters, and while he had no reason not to trust the peculiar girl, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for the kids.
Lunch came and Russell still wasn’t feeling any more cheerful. He normally ate everything on his plate, but today he’d quite lost his appetite. It only got worse when he saw nurse Barrington pushing her cart around the lunchroom, doling out meds to every resident that had to take them with meals. She still scared him a bit, but at least he didn’t see her with any of the orange liquid Nicki had warned him about on his first day.
“What’s the matter with you?” Nicki asked pointedly.
Russell was moving around a lump of mashed potatoes with his fork and didn’t look up from his plate to reply, “Err, nothing.”
“Liar,” Nicki accused.
“Hey, where’s Clarence?” Russell had suddenly realized that their mute friend was absent.
“Don’t change the subject, Ron. What’s wrong?”
“It’s just…those kids…I miss my family.” His reply came as a shock even to himself because, even though he just talked about missing his family to get around telling Nicki about feeling sorry for the Death Eaters, he realized he truly meant it. He missed his parents and his brother and sisters. Now he felt worse than ever.
“Oh… Well, why don’t you call them?” the brown-haired girl suggested.
“On the fellytone? I don’t know how to use—”
“YOU DON’T!? What, were you born in a barn or something?”
“No, a Burrow, and only Muggles use felly-”
“Telephones, Ron. Sat it with me: “teh-leh-fones.”
“Teh-leh-fones,” he repeated. “Teh-leh-… Well whatever, I don’t know how to use it. And how do you know, anyway? You’re a witch.”
“Nicki looked at Russell like he had a frog growing on the end of his nose. “Riiiight, exactly. But I do live in the Muggle world, see, so umm, you kind of pick up on that sort of stuff after a while.”
“Russell nodded his head. “That makes sense. Can you show me how?”
“ “Do you know your parents’ phone number?”
“ “I need a number?”
“ “Well, of course. How else would you know who you’re calling?”
“The redhead widened his eyes, seeming to understand where Nicki was getting at. “How about five? Is that a good number?”
“Nicki had to use every ounce of restraint she owned to keep from laughing. Her poor friend was so clueless that it was amusing. Then she reasoned for a bit, and reminded herself that this boy was a “wizard” after all, so he didn’t really understand the concept of communication by telephone.
“ “How about you just try writing to them? You do know your home address, right?”
“ “Address? Yeah, the Burrow… Is there an owl anywhere around here that I can borrow?”
“Nicki bit her lip. There were no owls—or any animal, for that matter—at Deerfield Home. Well, maybe there were mice here and there, but certainly not any owls that knew how to carry wizards’ mail. For a moment, Nicki considered just telling Russell to forget about it, but then she had a better idea.
“ “Tell Christina you want to write a letter to your family. She’ll take care of it for you.”
“Russell considered the letter. What exactly would he tell his parents? Would he tell them that he met another magical resident? What about the Death Eaters in the basement? No, no…that would just worry them. He had to tell them that everyone was very nice and treated him well (this is the point where he also decided to leave out nurse Barrington, as she was still rather frightening).
“Just minutes after the two friends’ conversation, the intimidating nurse with the medicine trolley approached their table. Nurse Barrington set down a paper cup with two pills in it and handed Nicki a note and then smiled, though Russell thought it looked more like a sneer. Nicki reluctantly took her medication and held out her tongue for Barrington to inspect that indeed she had swallowed it. Russell craned his neck to see what was written on the note.
“Ten o’clock, it says. Wants me to meet in her office.”
“WHAT!?” Russell shouted. “By yourself? She’s a Death Eater, Nicki! It’s a trap!”
“Oh, Ron, I can look after myself,” Nicki insisted.
“Russell shook his head. “No. I’m going with your for back-up. No way could you take on a Death Eater of her size and viciousness.”
“She’s not that bad.”
“How can you say that? Of course she is! She’s a De-” But Russell stopped mid-sentence as his eyes met with nurse Barrington’s from across the room. She smiled at him—an evil smile, as Russell had interpreted. “She’s got that crazy look in her eye that people get when they’re about to kill… Barrington’s got it in for me, now.”
“Nicki cleared her plate and headed out the door, nearly leaving Russell by himself. He badgered her the whole way down the corridor about going with her to see Barrington that night, but Nicki would hear none of it. He finally gave up trying to convince her, but he had a little plan of his own that night, so it wouldn’t be too hard to conveniently drop in to check on his new friend.
“Christina had locked room number 311 from the outside, but the fork Russell had nicked from the lunchroom was a perfect tool to pry the little bugger open. Nine-thirty pm was the curfew for residents at Deerfield, yet somehow Nicki was ordered to attend a “secret meeting” with nurse Barrington at ten pm. Russell knew this could not be about something good.
“He discarded the bent fork in the waste bin along his way through the winding corridors towards the nurse’s office. He stealthily ducked behind the brick pillars, slinking around the shadows to avoid being caught by the night watch. If he was found out of bed, he knew he’d get it for sure.
“Russell came to a stop just outside the wooden door marked with a sign that read: “N. Barrington”. The door was closed but he distinctly heard two women’s voices inside: one he clearly recognized as his belonging to his friend, Nicki, and the other to the supposed Death Eater nurse. So far everything seemed to be calm. There were no shouting or cursing or loud crashing noises. It seemed almost as if the two were chatting like friends would do, with no ill will toward the other whatsoever. Puzzled as Russell was, he was relieved that Nicki was safe (at least for the moment, anyway) and was handling Barrington like an expert. He reasoned that she must know how to deal with all the Deerfield staff, given the amount of time she had lived there, and decided to continue on with his mission.
“The image of the Death Eater children locked in the basement of Deerfield Home had plagued his mind all day, and he couldn’t wait even twenty-four hours before doing something about it. Death Eater or no Death Eater, a child was no to be kept in depressing solitude forever. The keys he’d sneakily borrowed from Nicki rattled in his pocket as he made his way down the creaking staircase as he tried to stay as far away from the dingy gray walls as he could. Several keys rejected the lock until one finally clicked into place and, with a whispered “Alohamora”, Russell opened the door.
“Darkness permeated the room; the only visible light was the emergency light in the far corner. He looked through the windows at the children and saw that most of them were still awake. He tested several keys on each lock before succeeding. The first girl had simply stayed where she was when her door was opened, while the first boy bolted out and ran up the stairs faster than Russell even had time to warn him about Barrington. The second boy hollered as loud as his lungs would allow, swearing at the stupid boy to shut his door so the demons couldn’t get in. The noise was so incredible that Russell panicked about being caught; he dropped the keys at the bottom of the stairs and ran. Scared though he was, anger also ran rampant through his veins at his failed attempt to free the kids. He knew they’d be apprehended and put right back into the misery they came from.
“Panting, Russell ducked behind the nearest corner to gather his thoughts and formulate his next plan. However, before he could come up with anything, he heard screaming voices echo through the hallway and the distinct sounds of a scuffle. Someone was fighting, and someone was running. And they were coming back his way.
“Thinking quickly, Russell headed down a connecting corridor and ran through, what seemed, almost five endless corridors after another. There seemed no place to turn; all of the classrooms and offices were locked for the night—except one. Russell knew Barrington would have heard the screaming and running, so he took a risk—hoping that she wouldn’t still be in her office—and dived into the empty room.
“Everything inside was very orderly. Labels adorned every shelf and file. No spot of dust was visible on any piece of furniture. Russell made a note to himself not to touch anything, for Barrington surely would notice, but something caught his eye. A vertical, tan-colored file cabinet was situated behind Barrington’s desk and the four cabinets were divided by alphabet. Russell knew these had to be files for each of the residents, and his curiosity struck him to know what his said. He bent down to the very bottom cabinet, the one that read “T-Z”, and gave it a glance over for “Weasley”. To his disappointment and bewilderment, no such folder existed.
Then, remembering a conversation between the doctors and his parents at the hospital, he decided to check in the first cabinet under “G” for “Green”. Strange as it felt to be looking under someone else’s last name, Russell had a feeling he’d find what he was looking for this time. As he fingered his way along the manila folders, he stopped short of the “G’s” and his blood froze. There, labeled in heavy black marker, was a folder bearing the name “Barrington, Nicki”.
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