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CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE TEMPEST

Madame Pomfrey smiles sweetly at Aurora as she tucks her in for tonight. She couldn’t believe that just over four months ago, this child that came to them practically skin and bones is now glowing with health and stubbornly won’t go to bed like any toddler her age.

“Come on, love,” she coos to the little girl. “It’s time for bed.”

In reply, Aurora whimpers and wriggles underneath her sheets. Outside, lightning flashes and is accompanied with a thunder barely above a rumble. It is hardly a frightening warning, but a warning nonetheless.

Madame Pomfrey gently pokes the baby’s nose and laughs. “There’s more time to play tomorrow. Good night.” She raises her wand, ready to turn down the lights but the knocking that ensues from the Infirmary’s front doors stops her.

Aurora immediately ceases her squirming. The child looks at the school nurse curiously.

“I’ll be right back,” sighs Madame Pomfrey.

She walks out of the nursery and checks the clock hanging above the front doors. It is nearly eleven. She wonders who it might be.

Usually, it would be Severus but ever since he discovered and reported the identity of Aurora to Dumbledore, he ceased his nightly visits to avoid further attachment—just like what they’re trying to avoid with Draco and Hermione.

Aurora hardly misses the Potions professor’s unusually large nose, Madame Pomfrey can tell. But the child’s bedtime has been severely affected by the lessened detention hours of her student babysitters. Whatever “attachment” they wanted to avoid, has obviously been formed long before the discovery of Aurora’s identity.

Madame Pomfrey opens the double doors. “Ms. Granger! What are you doing here?” She takes in the student’s muddied yellow Wellingtons and soil-covered robes.  Also hard to miss are the dark circles under her eyes and the smattering of small pimples over her forehead. Clearly, this girl hasn’t been getting enough sleep. “Heavens child, are you all right?”

“Yes,” Hermione nods, brushing hair away from her face. “I’m fine, Madame Pomfrey. I just came from Professor Hagrid’s hut… for my detention…”

The school nurse nods back, remembering last week’s incident, due to a stolen necklace. School must be harder than it used to be, with even its best students getting in more trouble than they should. And on the first day of mocks, too.

Stealing never seemed to be Granger’s style but one can never really know a person fully. Why, just a few weeks ago, she thought the Malfoy boy has actually learned to care for those whose blood isn’t as pure as his. But from what has conspired that fateful Monday, she thought she couldn’t have been more wrong.

It is just unfortunate that Dumbledore has forbidden the faculty to involve themselves in their students’ personal disputes. It is part of their learning process, he insists. Madame Pomfrey’s maternal instincts can’t help but feel otherwise but she can see the light in this rule and trusts that the headmaster knows what he’s doing.

“What is it you need then, Ms. Granger?” she asks. “It’s awfully late. Shouldn’t you be heading for bed?”

Hermione fiddles nervously with her cable knit sweater. “I was wondering… if I could see Aurora?”

The nurse presses her lips in a firm line. “You know the rules, Ms. Granger. Just Wednesdays from now on.”

“Yes, but… I’ll be just a short while.”

A gust of wind blows through the doors and the two ladies shiver inwardly. Madame Pomfrey holds up her hand to hush Hermione. She thought she heard something down the hallway. She pushes the student aside and looks down the Infirmary annex.  Hermione follows her gaze. Nothing seems out of place.

“Charles,” the nurse calls out to the white marble statue of Charles Curative just a few feet away, “keep your eyes peeled. I think I heard a student.”

The statue nods and salutes back. “I’m on it.”

Hermione took this busy moment as another opportunity to insist. “I just want to see her, Madame Pomfrey. I miss her.”

“Hermione—“

“I’ll be very quiet. I won’t even touch her. Just let me see her. I promise I won’t wake her up!”

Madame Pomfrey sighs and shakes her head. There was no need to worry about that. She recalls the wide-eyed look Aurora gave her the instant she heard Hermione’s knocking. It was of hope and anticipation that she will see her friends today. The child was definitely far from asleep.

“What is it?” Hermione asks.

The school nurse pauses, thinking of the best answer. Unfortunately, her silence only made Aurora’s bored gabbing reach Hermione’s ears.

“Is… is that her? Is she still awake?” The girl steps in the lounge, hoping to get past the nurse. “Oh Madame Pomfrey, I can put her to bed! It’s the weather, you see--”

“Child, you’re being a little too loud—“

“She hates it when it’s bad. She needs a song, is all. I know a good one for a storm like this!”

Another flash of lighting again, this time, the accompanying thunder is less merciful. It is a resounding crash that causes the whole castle to tremble. Another cold draft blows through the area and causes a couple of torches to go out.

At the same time, somewhere down the hallway, a terrified scream is heard. From the nursery, Aurora whimpers and begins to cry.

“Poppy!” shouts Charles Curative. “Come quick!”

Momentarily distracted, Madame Pomfrey almost misses Hermione as she heads towards Aurora’s room. Fortunately, she is quick with her wand and waves the door shut and locks it in a split second.

“But Madame Pomfrey!” cries the girl.

“Hermione, if you step into that room, you’ll only make things worse!” She points at the chairs that lined the lounge. “You stay here while I go see what that is!”

The teenager reluctantly takes her place on the plush seat and glares at the white, tiled floor. Certain that she won’t be trying anything soon, the nurse steps out into the hallway.

“What is it, Charles?” She gasps. The scene before her was enough of an answer. Apparently, she was wrong. It wasn’t a student but two.

Before her, a disheveled-looking Draco Malfoy stands struggling with a seizing Patricia Elliot in his arms. The girl, despite of her tremendous convulsions, still manages to scream.

“Aaaaahhhh!”

“It’s okay!” Draco shouts as he dodges her flailing limbs. “It’s okay, Patricia. It was just thunder.”

“Too loud… interfering with my aura… hate loud sounds…”

Madame Pomfrey rushes to his side and helps him restrain his classmate. “What happened, Mr. Malfoy?”

“Wasn’t there,” he grunts, “but Karla and Pansy reckon it’s a snake. Blaise is searching the common room for it.”

“Snake… gold scales… Slytherin… snake…”

“Hermione!” the nurse shouts as they amble towards the lounge.

“What?” Draco gasps, nearly dropping Patricia. He looks at the doors hanging open. “She’s—she’s here?”

Charles Curative nods from his pedestal. “’Fraid so.”

“Hermione, help come over here and help us!” the nurse shouts once more.

“Hermione…” Patricia mutters. “Mudblood… ugly hair… stupid know-it-all…” She gasps and covers her mouth with her hands. “What’s going on?” she sobs through her palms.

The student emerges through the front doors. She and Draco freeze in their places at the sight of each other.

“Merlin strike upon both of you!” Madame Pomfrey cries exasperatedly. “A student is having an allergic reaction and you two just stand there!”

The two immediately return to their senses. With great effort, they move Patricia from the hallway and into the surgery, trying their best not to look at each other. Much louder now, Aurora’s crying reaches Draco’s ears.

“Is that Aurora?” he asks, instinctively to Hermione. He realizes this upon seeing her face stiffen. But she nods back at him.

“Under no circumstances will you two go in there!” shouts the school nurse. “We will attend to Ms. Elliot first!”

“Baby… cute baby… weird… magic…”

“It’s an allergic reaction?” Draco asks as Madame Pomfrey quickly sorts through her emergency potion cabinet.

“Yes, yes Malfoy,” she replies without looking up. “Look at her; she’s swelling up like a tomato. If that were venom she would’ve looked the same but dead long before you got here. Are you quite sure it’s a snake?”

Draco nods and pushes back Patricia’s hair to show the three bites on her neck. “I can’t think of anything else that can do this kind of damage.”

“Well I can’t give her anti-venom when there’s no poison in her system. Ah hah!” She holds up two ampoules in her hand victoriously.

Patricia screams and doubles up in pain. “It burns, Madame Pomfrey!” She curls up and holds her abdomen agonizingly.

“Hush child, it’ll be over soon.” She turns to face Draco. “It looks like allergy to me, Mr. Malfoy. But if it’s venom, I need to give her this other one. And these two can’t mix in her system. It’ll be a dangerous combination so you have to be sure.”

“Well I’m not sure!” he cries. “We can’t just ask her, I’m not even sure if she can hear us!”

“Can bloody hear… everyone… including that screaming mole rat!” She gasps again and covers her mouth with one free hand. “I’m sorry, Madame Pomfrey… didn’t mean to talk like that!”

Madame Pomfrey raises an eyebrow. Her eyes reflect careful discernment. “That’s all right,” she says as she slowly approaches the writhing girl. “What did you have to eat for tonight, Ms. Elliot?”

“Are you kidding? Trying to lose five pounds… haven’t had any dinner… past two weeks--- aaaarrrrgggghhh!” She curls up in a tighter ball.

“Did a snake do this to you, then?”

“Yes!”

“What kind of snake?” Draco prompts.

“Don’t know… maybe we should wake up that Creevey boy, yeah? Geek would know… the name to every crawling thing in this… bloody castle!”

Madame Pomfrey nods and raises the dark ampoule. “That’s it then. Anti-venom.”

“Wait!” Patricia cries. “But you said that will kill me if I don’t have poison in me!”

“Well I—“

The Slytherin squeezes her eyes shut, as if trying to remember something. “I felt the bite… after I put on earrings and…” Her eyes fly open. “It’s from a necklace… Granger’s necklace…”

“What?!” Draco and Hermione shout at the same time.

“Don’t know… what kind of snake… definitely from Granger’s necklace. I put it on… forgot it wasn’t mine… for tonight… sneaking out to Hogsmeade… new gastropub… with the boys…”

Realization dawns on the school nurse’s face. But of course, the answer is short and simple. “Yes, Belinda Bauble’s anti-theft charms are foolproof. But her specialty isn’t Transfiguration but Potions. Most importantly, exceptionally potent Veritaserum.”

“Veritaserum…” Patricia rattles on. “I’m allergic to Veritaserum.”

Upon hearing this, Madame Pomfrey sends the dark ampoule flying back into the potions cabinet. She then breaks off the lighter colored ampoule’s cap and starts charging her wand with the liquid remedy inside.

“Veritaserum,” Draco repeats slowly. In his eyes is the unmistakable gleam of exhilaration. He grabs Patricia’s arm. “How did you take her necklace?”

“Mr. Malfoy! Step back, this instant. You’re agitating the patient!”

“Switching Spell… Pansy’s plan… said it was for your own good…” she answers. She turns to face Hermione. “Sorry, Granger… just wanted to embarrass you, is all… didn’t want you to get another detention…”

“Uhm,” Hermione reluctantly pats Patricia’s hand, “well…”

“Are you two quite through? I need to give her a shot!” Madame Pomfrey admonishes. She pushes them aside and touches the back of Patricia’s hand with her wand.

“That feels better,” she whispers into her pillow, succumbing to sleep induced by the potion.

At this point, Madame Pomfrey is ready to collapse in a chair and call it a night. But another loud crash of thunder reminds her that all is still not well. Aurora still needs… tucking in.

“Well thank you for your help, both of you,” she tells the two students, careful to keep her voice calm and steady. “But I’ll take it from here. Ms. Elliot will have to stay for the night but I’m sure she’ll be back on her feet by breakfast tomorrow.”

“Madame Pomfrey,” Hermione begins to say, “what about—“

“Go on then,” she interrupts, ushering her and Draco back into the lounge, “it’s nearly midnight.”

The nursery doors suddenly open with a resounding crash. A huge gust of wind laced with snow and rain blows through the lounge and knocks the three of them down on their backs.

Fighting the force with her small frame, Madame Pomfrey wobbly gets up on her feet. Outside the menacing howl of the blustery weather brings a chill down her spine. She scrambles frantically for the nursery. She’s not sure yet but Aurora’s crying seem to have gone.

Draco beats her to the crib. Hermione is a few feet behind them, struggling to close the heavy west window that somehow flew open.

“Aurora?” Draco calls out.

Madame Pomfrey sees the blankets move. Her chest lightens a bit. But on closer inspection, she sees that the crib is empty.

Empty. Aurora’s blanket flutters to the floor and she hears Hermione gasp from behind her. “Where is she?!” the girl cries out.

“Maybe she crawled,” Draco mutters. He looks underneath the crib, the couch and the armchairs. “Aurora?” he calls out, hoping perhaps, for a cry or a gurgle of some sort. But there is none, only the ceaseless moaning of the storm.

Madame Pomfrey faces the students.  “All right,” she says, her steady voice beginning to falter. “Everybody, calm down. I am going to get help.”

“What is going on, Madame Pomfrey?” Hermione asks suspiciously.

“You two will stay here, inside the castle where it is safe.

Draco eyes the nurse guardedly. “Do you know where she is?”

Madame Pomfrey puts her hands on her hips. “I am not playing games here, Mr. Malfoy.” She turns around and walks briskly for the door. “Stay here!”

“Wait!” Draco shouts, following the nurse out into the hallway. “I don’t know if Hermione told you but Aurora hates it when the weather’s dodgy like this. We can help you—“

“I shouldn’t tell you this,” the nurse interjects, “but the reason why we want you and Ms. Granger to stay away from Aurora is to keep the both of you safe.”

“I… don’t understand,” Draco mutters. “What do you mean?”

Madame Pomfrey looks at him pityingly. “I mean she doesn’t hate the weather, Draco. Because she is the weather.” And with that, the nurse switches her brisk walk to a steady run and leaves the stunned young man by the doors of her Infirmary.

 

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