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Vital by Aderyn
Chapter 6 : Chapter 6
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 19

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Disclaimer: I own nothing but the original characters.

Stunningly perfect image by nouvelle @ TDA

Aurors walk with conviction, Elena noted as Simon nodded in greeting at the sixth wizard they had passed since stepping off the lift at the Ministry of Magic.  She was starting to be able to predict who Simon would greet next, simply by watching how they strode down the Ministry halls—as if they could face any foe.

As they approached the Auror department of the Ministry, more and more walked with the same noticeable assurance and Elena became increasingly nervous. Simon had assured her that there would be no problems with her coming along, but Elena wasn’t comforted.

“Almost there,” Simon muttered after another moment and took a sharp turn left, opening a door with a flick of his wand and shutting it manually behind them.

Elena glanced about, noting that they were inside what looked to be a small study. Bookshelves lined the walls, and there were several cabinets for filing papers in one corner. A large desk filled much of the room and several plush chairs were nestled in the remaining space. The lighting was warm and soft, giving the room a vintage sort of feel.

“This is your office?” Elena asked incredulously, surprised how refined the room was. For a Ministry office, it was opulent.

Simon shrugged.

“Yes, though I hardly use it. I prefer to work in the field,” he said with a laugh.

Elena nodded vaguely and ambled over to sit in one of the plush chairs. It was incredibly comfortable and she felt an urge to pull up her legs and read a good book. However, when she saw Simon pulling out a quill and some ink from the desk, she jumped to her feet, feeling more eager now that she was away from the other Aurors’ questioning gazes.

“What can I do?” she offered, staring up at Simon expectantly.

He ran a hand through his hair, thinking.

“Just a minute,” he told her as he pulled out a scrap of paper from his pocket. “402A-78,” Simon read aloud. “Can you remember that?”

“402A-78,” Elena repeated back to him. “What’s it for though?” she asked, furrowing her brow in confusion.

 “Form number,” Simon said, moving to the file cabinets and rifling through several drawers before pulling out several sheets of blank parchment. “Here we go,” he mused, setting them down onto the desk.

Elena moved behind him to watch as he tapped the parchment several times with his wand, muttering incantations.

“What was the number again?” he asked.

Quickly, Elena spouted out the code, causing Simon to glance up at her with a bemused expression.

“You’re going to have to say that slower,” he said with a half grin.

 “Sorry,” Elena apologized, feeling a blush spread across her cheeks. “Four-zero-two-A-seven-eight,” she recited slowly, making sure to enunciate each number.

That time, as she said each number, Simon repeated it, tapping the paper again. Slowly, the numbers appeared in black ink, running across the top of the forms. One more quick spell created a cascade of words that flowed from Simon’s wand, scurrying to place themselves in the correct order.

Once the process was finished, there was a three page form lying on the desk, though the information had yet to be filled in.

“Bloody amazing, magic is,” Simon said with a shake of his head.

Though she agreed with him, Elena thought it was odd that he had decided to express this point of view. Simon had the look of a pureblood, but that sort of phrase was normally only heard from the mouths of muggleborns, or academics.

“Right,” Simon continued, picking up the quill. “So ‘Request to Requisition Additional Personnel and Equipment,’” he read. “What are we requesting? Personnel, that’s you, Elena. And some supplies as well.” He dipped the quill into the ink and it flew of its own accord across the parchment, filling in the information as he said it.

“Reason for requesting?” Simon read again for Elena’s benefit. He cracked a smile. “So that we can investigate the death of the Minister for Magic, who we have yet to inform you is actually dead.” The quill continued to scribble obediently along.

“Are you really going to write that?” Elena asked, as Simon seemed to be unaware that the quill was still scribing.

Simon glanced down at the parchment.

“Damn!” he muttered and erased the ink with a wordless spell. “This stupid quill.” He glared down at the offending feather. “It always takes me so literally. Never understands that I like to have a go at the bureaucracy sometimes.”

Elena smirked at that. “Good thing I caught it then. Because the bureaucracy might have had some problems with what you just said.”

“More than a few, I’d wager,” Simon countered, before continuing to read off of the form. “Requested Personnel? One—primarily healer,” he winked at Elena at the last bit. “Duration of request? Undetermined.” Simon rattled on about what supplies would be needed and for how long, finally, twenty minutes later, coming to a finished and putting the quill away. “That’s about it then,” he told Elena. “Come on,” he indicated a moment later, after having cleaned up the work place. “Now all that’s left to do is to expedite the process a little.” Again he gave a sly smile. As he had explained back in the warehouse, all he had to do was provide the proper forms signed by the ‘Minister’ and their request would be validated in the hour.

 Simon clipped the ‘Minister’s Order’ to the front of the other papers and sent the whole packet flying with a swish of his wand.

“Come on,” Simon repeated, walking out of his office. “Let’s get a bite to eat.”

Elena nodded mutely, feeling the scrutiny of the other Aurors once more as she stepped into the corridor. While Simon’s kindness was making her feel less out of place, she couldn’t help but to be self conscious.  Some of the looks she was getting made her feel a bit like she was being interrogated and she wondered with a shudder if any of the passersby were practiced in Legilimancy.

Simon and Elena headed to the lift, crowding inside with several others. The gilded grate slid shut in front of them and they rattled downwards, towards the ground floor and the Ministry Employee canteen.

Smells of roast chicken and some sort of soup were starting to waft into Elena’s nose when someone flagged them down.

“Burke!” a deep male voice called.

Simon looked up at the mention of his name and waved to a balding blonde who had stepped off to the side.

“Hello Darryl.”

“Can I have a quick word?” Darryl asked Simon.

“’Course,” Simon nodded.

Darryl paused, watching Elena, as if waiting for her to leave.

“In my office, Simon,” Darryl elaborated. “It’s about something I’d rather not discuss in public.”

“Oh,” Elena said awkwardly. “Go ahead then. I’ll just go get a bit of food and wait for you.”

“Sorry,” Simon apologized quickly. “It’ll only be a minute.”

“Really, its fine,” Elena assured him, though she wasn’t quite sure what she was going to do.

Simon walked off with Darryl in the opposite direction and Elena headed to the canteen. She stood in the queue for what felt like hours, finally taking a plate of the chicken and some pumpkin juice over to the least crowded table she could find. However, it was lunch hour at the Ministry, so the least crowded table was still occupied by four other witches and wizards.

Elena had no idea what protocol dictated in this situation. She wondered if she should introduce herself, but the other occupants of the table didn’t so much as give her a second glance, so she decided it was all right to remain silent.

Lamenting Simon’s absence, Elena began to eat her lunch, chewing the chicken slowly, as it was a bit rubbery. The pumpkin juice was too sweet for her liking, but she had to drink it in order to swallow the dry chicken. This had to be the worst meal that she’d eaten in ages. Even the rudimentary cooking that Corinne prepared was better than this.

There was quite a bit of chatter in the room that Elena busied herself listening to. Behind her, two witches were arguing over which potion was a better household cleaner. Several ancient wizards were discussing some obscure law. A group of younger workers was having an animated discussion about the latest Quidditch match, wondering if they would finally hold a World Cup in England, now that You-Know-Who was dead.

Finally, there was no use denying that her food was gone, so Elena moved to put her dishes into a bin that would vanish them, presumably to the kitchens to be washed. Simon was still missing, probably having a ‘quick’ word with Darryl. Just to be sure she hadn’t missed him in the throngs, Elena glanced around the room a bit, but didn’t manage to spot him.

“Are you lost, dear?”  a middle aged witch with wispy, mouse-coloured hair asked kindly, putting a hand on Elena’s shoulder.

“Oh no,” Elena said hastily. “I’m just trying to spot my friend.”

The woman nodded, but didn’t leave, instead regarding Elena with an interested expression.

“You don’t happen to be the daughter of Elizabeth Wood?” she asked.

“I am, actually,” Elena said, wishing that she could avoid this friend of her mother. The last thing she needed right now was to have this witch reporting Elena’s activities to her mother.

The witch’s face lit up. “Then you must remember me, dear. I’m Gladys Twiddling. I was part of Elizabeth’s literary society a few years back.”

“Right.” Elena actually had no recollection of a Gladys Twiddling in the literary society, but she certainly had the personality to have been in it.

“You look just like your mother!” Gladys gushed. “You have the same hair, the same eyes, even the same nose!”

Elena wasn’t quite sure what the polite response was to such statements.

“Right,” she said again, starting to feel rather awkward, standing in the middle of the cafeteria talking to some stranger.

Gladys seemed impervious to Elena’s indifferent answers and continued her questioning. “And how is dear Elizabeth? I haven’t seen her in quite a while. I do hope she’s not ill!”

“No, no, she’s fine,” Elena assured Gladys quickly. “She’s just taking a short holiday, that’ all.”

“That is lovely,” was the saccharine reply.

“Well,” Elena began, trying to worm her way out of the situation.

“And how are you,” Gladys cut her off. “Aren’t you a healer? What brings you to our Ministry of Magic?”

“Well,” Elena said once more, but she was saved from having to answer by a hand on her shoulder.

Simon had come up behind her and now was watching Gladys with undisguised boredom.

“Who is this?” he addressed Elena, ignoring the middle aged witch.

“A friend of my mother’s,” Elena said softly.

“Sorry for the wait,” Simon whispered, equally quiet. “Darryl is a bit long winded.”

Gladys chose that moment to interrupt, her hands crossing over her chest.

“It’s quite rude not to introduce me properly,” she said in a prim voice. “Just who is this man Elena?”

Simon didn’t even bother to address her. “Come on, Elena,” he directed, pulling her by the arm away from the indignant woman. “We can pick up the supplies now.”

“Well I never!” Gladys fumed. “Really, Elena, let me tell you dear, never associate with the rude. It tends to rub off.”

Elena valiantly resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

“I’m afraid Simon’s right,” she said. “I do need to be going. Goodbye Madam Twiddling.”

“Goodbye,” sniffed Gladys Twiddling.

Simon dragged Elena halfway to the lift before speaking once more.

“I suppose I should apologize for that,” he said grudgingly.

Elena laughed. “Hardly. I should be thanking you. ”

“Then we’ll call it even,” Simon declared with a large grin. Elena nodded agreement, feeling, for the first time, some of the stress lift off of her. Simon seemed so much more relaxed away from the warehouse and Corinne. As they walked through the busy Atrium, Elena noticed however, that Simon still hadn’t lost any of his confidence, probably, she mused, he never would.

“Where are we going, exactly?” Elena asked moments later, as Simon turned away from main lift, choosing to walk down the corridor a few more paces.

Simon paused at a small door, holding up a hand to indicate that Elena should be patient. He rummaged through his pockets, this time producing a tiny key and inserting it into the lock. The door opened with a hiss, as if pressure was equalizing between hall and room. The air that blew out was cold and dank.

Elena followed Simon inside, exclaiming in surprise when she saw they were in a warehouse like building, very much resembling the one she, Simon and Corinne stayed in. It was cavernous with the same concrete and metal walls that created an eerie echo. However this was lined with rows and rows of shelves and packing crates and chests. It resembled an odd cross between a library and a Gringotts vault.

“Is this place inside the Ministry?” Elena asked suspiciously. There simply couldn’t be this much unused space in the crowded Ministry, could there?

“Yes,” Simon replied curtly, the easy banter from before falling away.

He glanced down a list and strode purposefully across the room, gesturing for Elena to follow. “What we want is on the top shelves,” he said. “A bit like Hogwarts’s Restricted Section,” Simon added with a bit of a grin.

Elena had to jog a little to keep up with Simon’s rapid walking. “Are you saying that we went to all that trouble to requisition books?”

Simon gave a small laugh. “I forget you’re not used to this, Elena,” he said. “Sometimes you seem to be adjusting perfectly, and then you ask questions when I least expect it.”

A mixture of emotions flooded Elena. She was proud that he thought she was adjusting, but she wished that she could avoid the awkward questions Simon was talking about. “Sorry,” she apologized quickly.

“Don’t apologize,” Simon told her, and having finally reached the shelf he was searching for, conjured up a step ladder and began to climb.

Elena nodded, then as Simon started to hand down tomes, she quickly transfigured a sheet of paper from her pocket into a cardboard box to set the books in.

Darke Magick for the Light Wizarde?” Elena read the title off one of the books with a bemused laugh.

“Oh they get better,” Simon promised, handing down a leather covered book titled 317 Ways to Defeat Powerful Wizards.

Tracking for the Tracked had several locks holding its cover shut. Elena paused when Simon handed her down a copy of Moste Potente Potions. “I’ve read this,” she commented, opening the cover and leafing through the yellowed pages.

Simon paused his searching to glance down at her. “What for?” he asked. “I’ve had to get it before and I couldn’t make sense of a word of it.”

Elena set the book down gently. “It was required reading for Healers, a few years back. They wanted us to be able to recognize some of the more dangerous potions. It was quite descriptive,” she said, savouring the last word as she remembered the graphic descriptions of the injuries caused by some toxic brews.

With a shrug, Simon turned back to the shelves and slid his ladder over to pick out a few more volumes. One was so heavy Elena nearly dropped it. Another was light and felt almost hollow. Elena paused to examine its cover. The golden etched title had faded, but she could make out the words ‘Magick.’  Curious to see why it was so light, she opened the cover. Wisps of pale mist swirled out, surrounding Elena’s hands, leaving behind a burning sensation. As the shock of the burning faded, she tried to shut the book, but her fingers were frozen, unable to move.  With horror, Elena saw the mist wrap round her arms, the same burning and then freezing occurring. “Simon,” she said in a wobbly voice.

“Have you read that one as well?” he asked, not pausing from his search to look at Elena.

“I- no. Simon, help,” Elena chocked out, as the mist continued up her arms to her shoulders and chest, constricting her flow of air.

Simon turned around then, and seeing Elena immobilized, he jumped from the ladder with shocking speed and pulled the book from her arms, snapping it shut. There was shriek from the tome that made the hairs on the back of Elena’s neck stand up.

“What happened?” Simon demanded harshly, grabbing Elena by the shoulders. “Why did you open it?”

She tried to speak, but still felt as if someone was wrapping hands round her ribcage, keeping her from breathing. Frantically, she shook her head and realizing that she couldn’t move, Simon pulled out his wand, and muttered several counter curses.

Almost instantly, Elena felt the pressure lift from her body and she gasped for air. She tried to step back from Simon, but only managed to collapse into his arms as her legs buckled under her weight.

Simon calmly hoisted her up by the arms, carrying her to sit on a rung of the ladder. “What happened?” he repeated.

Tears of shock flooded Elena’s eyes and she blinked quickly to banish them. “I opened it and some sort of mist just froze me.”

“Are you alright?” Simon asked, looking down at her, a worried frown on his face.

“Fine now.” Elena nodded her head slowly, feeling exhaustion seep into her bones suddenly.

“I think that’s all the books we really need,” Simon said softly, offering Elena a hand. “Can you get up and walk?”

Elena took his hand and nodded, once she didn’t fall over. “Is that really all we need?”

“Just one more stop,” Simon promised. “This time, there won’t be any danger. All we need is supplies.”

An hour later, the pair left the ministry via Floo, carrying with them an arsenal large enough to take out half of the Ministry with one carefully executed spell. Surprisingly, Elena realized that even though they were mostly carrying books, the incantations for spells or curses that were nearly as horrific as the Unforgiveable Curses and just as powerful.

The rest of the supplies was either bits of tracking equipment or galleons so that Simon could purchase food and the like. Needless to say, they got several odd looks when leaving the Ministry and several French curses from Corinne, when she was given a tome to read through.

“I hate reading in English,” she complained when anyone was around to listen.

“I hate reading,” Simon countered finally. “So for the sake of Merlin, Cor, shut up.”

Corinne replied with several French curses, but buried her nose back into the copy of Tracking for the Tracked. She was silent until a few minutes later.

“This is the most useless book,” Corinne declared, laying it down on the table in disgust. “They try to describe how to cast a Protean Tracking Charm and they’re doing it all wrong.”

“Write your own book then,” Simon said dryly, looking up from Moste Potente Potions. “And at least you can read about something you know.”

Corinne rolled her eyes. “I’ll take your bloody potions book then,” she said, snatching it from Simon’s hands. “But you have to read this mess,” she gestured to Tracking for the Tracked.

Simon agreed grudgingly and started the new book.

Elena, who was experiencing no lasting effects from the book’s curse, watched their continued exchanges of banter with amusement. She, for once, thought that she might get used to this sort of life.

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