Warning: This chapter contains graphic depictions of substance abuse.
"Accio ‘Norcon’!" Nothing. "Accio ‘Noxolone!’" Nothing. Roxanne wracked her brain for the word Perry had used earlier that day, but couldn’t remember it. "Accio Heroin Antidote!" she tried.
To her surprise, Perry's bedside table began rattling, as if some caged creature wanted to be freed. Pulling open the drawer, a cellophane-wrapped box leapt into her arms.
Narcan (Naloxone), the label read. Roxanne rushed to unsheathe the life-saving muggle drug, reading through the instructions several times to be sure she understood them. Into the thigh muscle... through clothing if necessary.
With a deep breath and the steady hand of a trained Healer, Roxanne pumped two milligrams of Naloxone Hydrochloride into Perry's bloodstream. The instructions had indicated that it might take as much as a minute for the medicine to take effect.
One, two, three… She waited while the agonizing seconds ticked by, not daring to breathe. Thirty three, thirty four…
A sharp, ragged breath, like a person saved from drowning; bloodshot eyes snapped open.
"What the fuck?" Perry cried, leaping to his knees as his stained blankets slipped to the floor.
Roxanne tried restrain him, to check his vital signs, but he pushed her away.
"Did you really just dose me with Narcan?" he demanded. "I was sleeping!"
"You were on heroin!" Roxanne countered.
"Yeah, but was I overdosing?" Agitated, Perry ran his hands through his stringy hair and reached for a cigarette. He tried to light it, failed, and sprang from the mattress. He seemed suddenly possessed of boundless nervous energy. "I'll answer for you: no. I'd isolated the pure diamorphine, and been careful to give myself a safe dose."
"A safe dose?" Roxanne spluttered. "We're talking about heroin. You were unresponsive!"
"Yes, that's what heroin does!" he groaned. “It’s kind of the point.” He'd begun jumping on his bed like a small, misbehaving child. "It hardly warrants two milligrams of Wake the Hell Up."
"How long have you been on the heroin?" she asked, voice clipped. Perry finally succeeded in lighting his cigarette. The mattress springs creaked as he resumed his bouncing.
"Oh, just tonight." He shook his head. "I took it to get to sleep."
"You have half a dozen injection marks, and that's just your arms," she shot back. Her fury was matched only by her enduring concern for a patient's well being.
"That's from the cocaine," Perry rolled his eyes, annoyed.
“?!?!?!?!?!” Roxanne replied.
"A seven percent solution. I use it when I'm working a case—keeps me sharp. The heroin was to help me come down."
"I can’t believe this," Roxanne shook her head. "This is ridiculous. I can't stay here. Consider our arrangement dissolved, Perry. I won't be co-depending your behavior."
He plopped down cross-legged onto his mattress, squinting his eyes as he pulled on his fag. "So the way you see it, you just saved me from an overdose, and I'm currently in the clutches of a crippling addiction. So, what, you leave? Leave me here all alone to drown my sorrows in more than a kilo of purified heroin?"
In the battle between concern and rage, concern had just taken a sucker punch to the chin. For the second time that month, Roxanne prickled with righteous outrage. Her knuckles blanched as her fingers curled into fists. "Don't you dare try to manipulate me," she said in a dangerous whisper.
She wouldn't leave him alone, that much was true, but she wouldn't be sticking around to babysit either. Seizing him by the ear, Roxanne forced a protesting Perry off his bed. He yelped and cursed while she frog-marched him out of the bedroom to the hall. She would take him to the only person he had, and the only person that had any reason to put up with him.
She felt guilty rapping on old Mrs. Hudson’s door well after midnight, but reminded herself of the massive rent Perry afforded her every month. Surely, such a princely expense must come with some advantages—some insurance for this precise situation.
"Oh dear, what's happened?" Mrs. Hudson asked as she opened the door, a tartan dressing-gown pulled tight over her breast. "Is it drugs again?" she whispered, nose scrunching like she already knew the answer.
Roxanne gave Perry a shove through the door and nodded solemnly. "This is called Narcan," Roxanne explained. "I've given him a dose already, but it'll only last maybe an hour more. Here.” She tossed over the box. "If he shows any troubling signs, give him two-milligrams. Up to one dose an hour, no more than ten milligrams total. The instructions are inside."
"Well, there are new episodes of Doctor Who up, Perry dear," Mrs. Hudson said kindly. "What do you say we make a night of it?" Perry cast Roxanne a childish glare while Mrs. Hudson patted his shoulder and pulled him into her sitting room.
With that, Roxanne turned on her heel back up to 221B and proceeded to dispose of every sample Perry had isolated. Even the lactose and distilled water didn't survive her purge. It took longer to find his stash of purified diamorphine, but soon, it too got vanished along with everything else.
And it's not like we need the samples now we've got the notes, Roxanne thought, before reminding herself that she wouldn't be continuing to investigate. She would compose an owl to Harry outlining everything she knew in the morning and then leave the trained professionals to finish the job.
Roxanne packed an overnight-bag before apparating to Diagon Alley. James would probably still be up, even if interrupting him at this late hour proved ultimately embarrassing. True to form, he answered the door wearing only a towel round his waist.
"What's up, Rox?" he asked, reeking of sweat and alcohol and cannabis.
"I need to spend the night," Roxanne said. "You can cast muffliato around your bedroom."
"Sure, yeah, of course," James stepped aside to let her pass. "We'll, uh, leave you to the sofa, then."
Roxanne curled her lip to see a naked figure reclining on the couch she'd hope to make her bed.
"Hi, Lorcan," she said as he hastened to cover himself with a throw-pillow.
* * *
"I worried something like this would happen," Harry sighed. False sunlight streamed in through the briefing room windows. A vain attempt to trick guests into forgetting they were several stories underground. "Is it the cocaine again?"
“With a side-order of heroin,” Roxanne gave a solemn nod. "So this has happened before?"
"He gets too invested in cases," Harry explained. "At least he isn't taking this one personally. A few months ago..."
Harry leaned back in his chair and gazed into the half distance.
"Yes?" she encouraged him to continue. "Listen, I think we're past the point of you protecting his reputation. I'm going back later to collect my things and I need to know what to expect."
"He, well, he lost it," Harry admitted. "Wacked out on muggle drugs, not sleeping. He got it in his head that a respected member of the community was part of some... wild conspiracy. A dark wizard and all that. In the end, he broke into the wizard's house. Completely lost sight of reality. I took him to a special kind of muggle hospital to treat his substance abuse."
Roxanne let the story sink in, trying not to let her imagination fill in the details of what Harry had said.
"I'm sorry I kept information from you," she finally said, stinging with regret. "I've compiled all of our notes in that file. Perry might have figured out more after I left for the gig, but it's not as if we can trust his judgement."
"I'm sure you're right," Harry sighed again, eyeing her tidy little notes. "We'll station aurors at all the cinemas in the Strand area. Thank you for this."
"There's something else," she gulped, trying to determine the most delicate phrasing. "I think you should talk to Hugo. He knows people that've used the Silver. He might be able to tell you something; help find the supplier."
Harry shook his head wearily. "That boy..." was all he said.
Roxanne gathered her things and stood up to leave.
"One more thing," Harry said. "Just a heads up—you were in the Prophet again this morning.
* * *
FOXY ROXY, BACK ON THE BOTTLE, the headline announced. Had she been ‘on the bottle’ before?
Continuing a downward spiral into drink and drugs, blah blah blah, Roxanne fled the party, leaving concerned family members shocked by her outrageous behavior. While readers might have hoped her Tuesday excursion to Diagon Alley had been rock-bottom, apparently there are no limits to how low her star might fall…
So she'd graduated to the morning Prophet, but the gossip piece hadn't made the front page. That must, she determined, amount to a net neutral. At least Healer Blishwick hadn’t been dragged into the story. She’d avoided criminal charges another day.
She fretted, though, over the damning photo accompanying the piece: Roxanne climbing over Felix’s lap, flashing her knickers, and then stumbling over her stilettos out of the booth. One could easily mistake her anxious haste for drunkenness—and in all fairness, Roxanne hadn’t been particularly sober. She couldn’t help but wonder how Skeeter had even managed to obtain the image. Roxanne hadn’t seen her at the event and they’d all been in a private VIP section at the time.
Roxanne apparated into the Baker Street courtyard, a cappuccino from Leonardo's clutched in one hand. Fuck it, she'd thought, handing over a galleon and a few knuts for the overpriced coffee. Just… fuck it.
While she'd never properly considered James' flat to be tidy, Perry's little hovel appeared all the more wretched after spending the morning away. Debris leaked out from his bedroom into the hall and the sitting room looked like the entire archive of The British Journal of Healing Arts had exploded in it. She felt a jolt to see her own name emblazoned on the cover of the most recent edition among the scattered magazines. She recognized the headline from the joint paper she and Blishwick had submitted only a few months before. Treatment Efficacy in Profound Cruciatus Damage: A Longitudinal Study. She hadn’t even been notified that it had passed peer review.
"Good, you're back," Perry noted from his armchair.
"I'm just here to collect my things. You can keep the rent for this month," she replied, stalking into her bedroom. Looking around, she regretted having made herself so at home.
How was it that she could have lived out of boxes during her first several months living on Diurn, yet had managed to settle all of her many possessions in at Baker Street in such short a time? Her expansive wardrobe was all hung in the closet or folded in the chest of drawers. Her pots and pans, silverware, and china had already gotten mixed up among Perry's mismatched dishes. With a heavy sigh, she resigned herself to sorting and re-packing her many things.
"Question," Perry startled her, emerging at her door. "I keep coming back to it: why did your uncle call us into the Ministry?"
"Let it go," Roxanne said, reopening a few cardboard boxes she'd flattened just the day before. "I've surrendered all our findings to the Auror Office."
Perry lit a cigarette and Roxanne nearly told him off for smoking in her room—before remembering that it wasn't her room anymore.
"You have to admit, nothing about this case makes sense," he said.
"I'm not on the case anymore, Perry, and neither are you," she reminded him, transferring folded clothes from her drawers into her boxes.
"Adding pixie milk to heroin probably makes for a better high," he went on, ignoring the interruption. "But why risk blowing the Statute of Secrecy just to make a few quid? Unless the goal was to undo the Statute..."
Roxanne spared him a sharp glare. "I'm not playing along." Unable to help herself, she added, "besides, if the end-game was really a dark plot to undo the Statute, then why distribute it in the wizarding world and draw attention from the D.M.L.E.? That's just begging to get caught."
"Which brings us back to the first question: why did your uncle call us in to the Ministry? I come to him, not the other way around."
"He didn't," Roxanne shot back. "He asked me in to consult because I'm a Healer. He said you could tag along."
"Do you usually consult with the Ministry?" Perry asked, and the question bore a rhetorical edge.
"No, but I was already involved, wasn't I?"
"So? It takes, what, fifteen minutes to brief an expert?" he went on. "Why you?"
"Because he didn't want to bring in Blishwick!" Roxanne huffed, temper rising.
A puck-like smirk emerged on Perry's lips. "If you really are leaving me forever, then at least tell me what happened at St. Mungo's. Because no matter what you say, Weasley, it sounds an awful lot like you two had an affair."
"I punched Blishwick in the face, alright!" she shouted. "Broke his nose..."
Roxanne had never before been on the receiving end of a slow-clap. She'd hoped the admission might shut him up, but instead, an impressed Perry followed her around the flat like an anxious puppy while she tried to gather her far-scattered possessions.
So that's why you had the disciplinary hearing? Yes. But why did you punch him? It was a mistake. But why? We had a disagreement. So you punched him? Yes; we've established that. What did he do? He made a treatment decision, and I thought it was a mistake. Is that normal among Healers? Punching people because they make a bad call? Of course not! He was going to proceed with the treatment, and I needed to stop him. So that's why the charges were in conflict! 'Insubordination' was you punching him out, 'malpractice' was the dangerous treatment. Yes, you're quite the investigator. But if Blishwick's such a star Healer, how come you were the one to realize that the treatment might hurt people? He knew, he just didn't care. Why? Because he was more concerned with discovery than patient care. Why? Oh I don't know! But—
Roxanne slammed the kitchen cabinet with a clatter. She wanted so much to be angry with Perry, but instead just found herself annoyed. Why, why, why, he sounded like a three year old.
"So why would Harry call in Blishwick for a consult?" he pestered further.
"I suppose because he's an expert on pixie milk," Roxanne said, exasperated. "And researching magical-muggle hybrids is sort of his pet interest."
"Wait, what?!" Perry cried. "How have you not mentioned this before?!"
* * *
Suspect. Such a heavy, loaded word. It rang with promise, with almost giddy anticipation.
Having grown up under the banner of 'Weasley,' Roxanne had been predisposed to Healing work that might benefit victims of the Second Wizarding World. She'd seen it almost as an inherited duty, like she'd been bred to carry on her family's torch of good work.
Even thirty years on, wounds from the great conflict lingered. Their most obvious example was the nearly one hundred individuals who'd been permanently damaged by the Cruciatus Curse. In the early days of the new millennium, St. Mungo's had had to radically expand the Spell Damage wing in order to accommodate the many residential patients. The vast majority had been tortured into insanity by the infamous Bellatrix Lestrange. In most cases, there hadn’t been any reason for it. No information to be gained. Just senseless, meaningless cruelty, devoid of both purpose and function. She'd merely enjoyed it.
Bellatrix Lestrange. The Healers at St. Mungo's never said the name. And while they never went so far as to dub her 'She Who Must Not Be Named,' they only ever referred to Her with pronouns. You could almost hear the capitalization in the intonation.
And Roxanne's own grandmother had been the one to vanquish Her. It seemed logical, then, that Molly Weasley's granddaughter should be the one to finish the job. To find a cure for Her many victims.
Pixie milk had long been the traditional treatment. It caused euphoria and sedation in healthy people, and successfully managed the worst symptoms of Cruciatus damage in those who suffered most terribly. One ounce administered four times a day kept patients docile, lowered the risk of suicide, and prevented violent outbursts. But pixie milk wasn't a cure.
"The muggles have had a lot of success with something called 'pharmaceuticals,'" Rudyard Blishwick had said earlier that Spring. Roxanne could remember looking at the churning, steel-grey sky out his window. The sound of heavy rain rattling the glass. "They've developed a number of synthetic compounds. If we found the right regimen—if we could enhance the substances—the patients might have a shot at living independently. Having lives."
An exciting idea, but a fraught one. "How long do you think it would take to get Ministry clearance for a study?" Roxanne had asked. "How many different compounds are we talking about?"
The stringent laws against tampering with muggle chemistry meant they'd need a compelling proposal. Even if they worked at it full time, it could take months to get it through the various subcommittees. With both of them already working overtime, the project would realistically take upwards of a year. Then again, it helped that Roxanne's aunt had been the legislation's original architect. That her uncle ran the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts and Technology office. She could probably manage a recommendation from Hermione Granger and Percy Weasley; expedite the process...
"The Ministry have passed a moratorium on any proposals for Muggle Chemical Research," Blishwick had replied. "Opposition's coming from all sides. The conservatives don't want to compromise the purity of wizarding academia. The progressives worry that any findings might be exploited by anti-muggle extremists. The fools..."
"I suppose that's that then," Roxanne had sighed. "There are still some promising avenues in traditional Herbology—Professor Longbottom might have identified a new species of fungi that—"
"There's a moratorium on any project reverse concocting, amplifying, or studying muggle pharmaceuticals in a laboratory," Blishwick had interrupted. "We could still test the hypothesis. We could treat the patients—administer various admixtures and see what happens. I prefer to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.”
"But we can't take them off the pixie milk!" Roxanne had protested. "It's all that keeps them stable! And we don't even know how these muggle compounds might contra-indicate—treatment could kill them!"
Roxanne shook herself from the memory and bit her lip. The squalid sitting room at Baker Street had become illuminated by the golden afternoon light while she'd explained the situation to Perry.
"So what happened?" he urged. "What did you do?"
"I agreed to start three patients on very low doses of three different compounds," she admitted. "And monitor their progress. I agreed to it, so long as we stopped if anything went sideways."
"We lost a patient,” she admitted. “But Blishwick wasn't sure it had been the treatment. The woman was old—one of the first residential Cruciatus victims. A former auror. She'd been injured back in the first war. Blishwick was sure that it had been something else; insisted she'd actually been showing progress before she died. He wanted to try the same drug on another patient—a younger patient."
"And that's when the face-punching happened?" Perry clarified.
"Indeed," Roxanne said.
Perry swooped up from his armchair and resumed pacing. "So Blishwick is trying to cause a fuss by getting an admixture of pixie milk and mug-drugs out on the street. Trying to force the Ministry's hand—get them to lift the moratorium and approve research to devise an antidote. Distributing the silver to wizards gets attention; distributing it to muggles raises the profile of the issue and makes it an auror matter. A very tidy plan, all in all."
"Except that people are dying," Roxanne pointed out.
"Well as you've mentioned, Blishwick doesn’t seem all too concerned about that kind of thing."
"There's just one, very big, problem with this theory," she said before Perry could work himself up too much. "We haven't got a single shred of evidence."
“So?” Perry rolled his eyes.
Roxanne was forcibly reminded about what Harry had said—how he’d accused someone of a dark conspiracy. Lost control of himself. Broken into the wizard’s house. Been sent to rehab.
“So, I can’t just go accusing my former-boss without any proof!” Roxanne threw up her hands in frustration. “I assaulted an on-duty Healer in the course of his work—that’s a criminal offence, even with the extenuating circumstances! Blishwick is this close to pressing charges.”
“And with everything the Prophet’s been saying about me, I ‘d probably get convicted if this goes to trial. That’s six-months-to-a-year in Azkaban!”
“Alright, so worst case scenario, you spend a few months in Azkaban,” Perry said. “You’re aunt’s Head of the D.M.L.E. and Chief Sorceress of the Wizengamot—you’d definitely get out early for good behavior. And it’s not like they have Dementors anymore, so what’s the problem? Get a few tattoos, read some trashy novels—a few months in Azkaban is a walk in the park.”
“I’d have a criminal record!” Roxanne shouted, furious at his lack of sensitivity.
“You’re a bloody Weasley, Weasley,” Perry waved a hand. “No one cares if you assaulted some unethical wanker. Besides, if we’re right, you won’t go to Azkaban anyway.”
“If,” she reminded him.
* * *
Roxanne didn't like their plan. She didn't like their plan one bit.
She waited outside the briefing room at the auror office, her second visit of the day, and picked at a bronze upholstery pin on the leather armchair. Auror Bones brought her a cup of tea while Auror Finch-Fletchley fidgeted at his desk. His left ring finger was bare.
Finally, the briefing room door creaked open and Roxanne's heart sunk to see a bowed, ginger head emerge. Hugo spared her a look of deep betrayal before stalking away to the lifts without saying a word.
"Roxy—if you're ready," Harry called once Hugo had gone, so she gathered her rucksack and followed her uncle into the chamber.
In a brittle voice, she told him precisely what she wanted him to do. Harry looked just as surprised and bewildered as she'd expected.
"I know there's a lot of personal animosity at the moment—but from a Healing perspective, it's the right call," she said, summoning as much calm, and feigning as much objectivity, as possible. "Healer Blishwick is best qualified to treat any Silver users who come in to St. Mungo’s."
Harry blew out a long breath and considered her carefully. "Pixie milk admixtures with muggle compounds is his forte—and we all know he’s keen to research muggle chemistry," Harry agreed tentatively.
For an excited moment, Roxanne thought she might have seen something pass over his eyes. Perhaps he would come to the same suspicion that she and Perry had had. Perhaps they wouldn't need to go through with the scheme after all...
But it passed, and Harry resumed his business-like manner. "It would mean dissolving any relationship you have with the case," he pointed out. "No more consults, no more coming into the office. We can’t risk you violating the restraining order.”
"I understand," Roxanne nodded, misgivings roiling in her gut. This is a terrible idea, she thought. "How long until Blishwick takes over patient care?"
"He might resist, if only to spite us," Harry admitted. "He's not too happy with Hermione at the moment—he knows she'll defend you if he tries to press charges. But even so, we can get an executive order. It shouldn't be more than a day until the ward's been set up."
"Good," Roxanne nodded. "Well I guess that's it for me, then..."
With her consulting privileges officially revoked, Roxanne left the Ministry and strode out into muggle London. Rather than apparating back to Baker Street, she headed instead toward the Strand area and slipped into the first fast-food restaurant she found.
Her shoulders tensed as she stepped into the putrid bogs. The toilet lacked both a lid and a seat, and hadn't been flushed. Finding no hook on the door to hang her rucksack, and disturbed by the sticky, damp floor, she washed out the sink and set her bag down in its porcelain basin.
She pulled out the wrinkled tartan skirt, stained striped jumper, and green nylons—stretched and smelling from having already been worn two days in a row. Stripping off her clean clothes in exchange for her dirty ones, Roxanne took care not to let her bare feet touch the filthy tile floor. Next, she poured a small puddle of olive oil into her palm and rubbed her hands together before working her greasy fingers through her hair. Lastly, she pulled out her makeup bag, and used shadow and red lip-pencil on her eyes.
The woman looking back at her from the cracked, graffiti'd mirror was even more convincing than the first time Roxanne had tried the disguise. Something deep inside her chest felt as though it were starting to harden, and her face seemed to betray that fact. Anyone who knew what to look for would find all she had seen writ behind her eyes. Roxanne no longer cared what that meant, only that it might now come to some utility.
It had seemed such a wise idea, at the time, to vanish the isolated components of the Silver. She'd never anticipated it might cause for later inconvenience.
And apparently, Perry and Roxanne had been successful in their attempt to get as much of it off the streets as possible. She returned to every dodgy alley, overpass, and backroom they'd visited that Tuesday, but the reply of every dealer was the same: fresh out, love.
Roxanne made it all the way to Brixton before she found any Silver.
"Yeah, I can help you with tha’," the dealer said. He was sat on a low wall in the courtyard of a council estate, a cigarette perched between his lips. The words LOVE and HATE had been branded onto his knuckles. Further tattoos crept up his arms and neck almost to his jawline. He seemed loathe to make eye contact, and his nose had clearly been broken at least once. "Follow me then," he said, tossing the end of his fag onto the already rubbish-strewn grass.
The cramped little flat had hardly any furniture, and lacked anything that might make it 'homey.' No rugs, no throw pillows, nothing on the walls outside of a few hastily tacked up photos of bikini-clad women torn from a magazine. Two men sat on a lumpy old sofa in front of a telly smoking something that smelled like spliff from a glass cylinder filled with water.
"I can do two bags for ten," the man with the crooked nose told her as she stepped across the threshold onto the tacky lino. "How much were you after?"
In truth, Roxanne only needed a bag or two, but she figured she might as well take the lot. She pulled over a hundred pounds worth of crumpled bank notes from her skirt pocket to show that she was serious.
"Are you sure abou' tha'?" the dealer asked warily. "I dun' know about this stuff, if I’m honest with yeh." Something that looked like worry began to shadow his intimidating face. "Five of my mates are in hospital after usin' it," he admitted.
"I promise I'm careful," she said, rather at a loss for how to proceed.
"Be sure yeh are," he nodded. "I won' be stocking more of this stuff, believe."
Despite herself, Roxanne felt a surge of appreciation for the hardened criminal as she accepted the bags he tentatively passed over. For a wild second, she considered telling him she wouldn't actually be using the stuff—that she was trying to protect people by getting out of the hands of addicts—but knew that was probably a mistake. He might take her for a copper, might panic. His tattooed knuckles had certainly seen fights.
Instead she just said 'thank you,' and noted the way his brows arched up at the center with concern. The expression was almost child-like, like she could see the little boy he'd once been peeking out from behind those world-weary eyes.
It was a trick she'd learned long ago, back in Healer training. A method of finding compassion even for patients she might not personally like. Everyone had once been a child, a baby. Every person had once boasted a toothless grin, been giddy over receiving sweets, and asked why the sky was blue. No matter what someone might have become later, they had entered this world innocent and full of possibility. Remembering the child in everyone had been the best tool Roxanne had ever found for combatting scorn.
Perhaps, she thought, that was why Perry was so particularly skilled at accessing her deep reserves of patience—he was just so childlike, so lacking in self-awareness.
Roxanne had once confided this technique to Healer Blishwick, but he’d dismissed her as sentimental. She'd hoped it would inspire some sympathy in him for the spell damaged patients upon whom he wanted to experiment.
"Children are inherently manipulative," he'd said. "They are adorable for no other reason than that they have evolved to be, because they are otherwise helpless. It's nothing more than an adaptive strategy for survival."
In that moment, Roxanne had suspected that Rudyard Blishwick had burst forth from his mother's womb already middle-aged. His Healer certifications might have predated the signing of his birth certificate.
She thought about Blishwick all the way back to Baker Street. He was nothing if not a clever man—shrewd, and not easily fooled. Perry was no match for him.
"Did you get the stuff?" Perry asked, leaping from his armchair as Roxanne kicked off her shoes. She'd walked for more than three hours that day in search of the Silver.
"Yes, but I've also changed my mind," she sighed, collapsing at the kitchen table. "There's just too much wrong with the plan."
"What do you mean? It's brilliant!" he cried, pulling a cigarette out from his pack. "Elegant, even."
Roxanne's jaw couldn't help but drop. "Elegant?!" she demanded. "It's hideous."
"It kills so many birds with the same stone!" he argued. "Everyone gets what they want; I get to investigate the suspect, you get to force me into drugs treatment. It's win-win!"
"Just promise me, if things go sideways—no matter what happens—I won't be implicated," Roxanne said.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Perry sucked his cigarette. "It only confirms my reputation and there's still hope for yours."
"That's not what I meant!" she protested.
In truth, it was exactly what she’d meant.
* * *
Roxanne watched while Perry bent one of his spoons at the handle, curling it into a U shape. Unlike everything else he owned, the old cigar box containing his various paraphernalia was kept clean and ordered. With a practiced hand he scraped the silvery gunk into the bowl and added water from the tip of his wand using aguamenti. Roxanne couldn't help but reflect on the mastery with which he summoned the appropriate amount of fluid. Next, he held a flame beneath the spoon and the solution began to bubble.
"Cotton ball," he directed, and she obliged by dropping one in where it soon absorbed the liquid. She tried to combat her distress over the whole procedure by pretending herself that she was back at St. Mungo's, that it was just a potion like any other. A medical procedure.
Perry pierced the cotton with the point of the syringe and pulled back the plunger. Once he'd sucked it all up, he handed it out to Roxanne. She only blinked at him.
"What?" she asked after a pause. "I'm not going to dose you! I took an oath to 'do no harm!'"
"You're not a Healer anymore," he rolled his eyes.
"I don't care—I don't like this and I think we should stop," she huffed. Perry's grey eyes held her gaze.
"How much experience do you have with IV injection?" he asked and it sounded like a leading question.
"None!" she shot back. Healers had much less savage methods of administering potions.
"Exactly—we need the shots to be messy,” he explained.
"This is too dangerous," Roxanne concluded, swooping up from her armchair. "I'll not be doing it."
"They're small doses," Perry insisted. "And we've already determined the purity and strength of the substance. Even if you gave me that whole shot at once, I wouldn't overdose. And like you said, you're a Healer. You're more than capable of keeping track of my vital signs."
She closed her eyes, shook her head, and with incredible unease, sat back down. "Alright, but I reserve the right to send you to hospital early if I think you're in any danger."
"I won't be in any position to argue," he assured her. “Come on, let’s get some birds stoned.”
It took Roxanne a moment to work out his convoluted metaphor. Two birds, one stone. So many birds, same stone. Get birds stoned... Very fucking clever.
The clock struck midnight and she administered the first dose. Early on, he was still mostly functional. His eyelids drooped, and he lost track of what he was saying mid-sentence, but he was lucid enough to twist the rubber tubing around his own bicep. Sometime after dose number three he was capable of little more than gently drooling.
The nerve-wracking minutes trickled by as slowly as a dripping tap while an exhausted Roxanne kept watch from her armchair. She checked his breathing and heart rate every five minutes and continued to administer hourly doses as long as she was sure he was stable. The experience was both very tense and very boring.
By five in the morning, the injection site had become an angry, swollen red—which had been their goal. Perry hadn't allowed her to sterilize it.
Finally, the last of the syringe had been unloaded into his veins. Roxanne hastily changed her clothes, keeping the door open so she didn't lose sight of him (it's not as though he could see her, anyway, she figured). She wanted badly to have another shower, but that would mean leaving Perry unattended too long. Instead, she applied under-eye concealer and mascara in a rough approximation of how a well-slept person might appear.
With some relief, she crouched at long last before the hearth and tossed in a pinch of Floo powder. "Number Seven Hope Lane, Godric's Hollow!" she shouted into the flames. There followed a few dizzying seconds, her face flashing past so many fireplaces while her knees stayed planted on the stained carpet at Baker Street. Finally, the familiar sitting room warbled into focus, lit only by blue morning light.
"Harry!" Roxanne cried, summoning all of the anxiety she'd kept checked for the last several hours. "Harry it's Roxanne! Emergency!"
She could hear her aunt and uncle beginning to wake upstairs. First came gentle murmuring, then heavy footfalls on the stairs.
"Roxy? Where are you?" her uncle's groggy voice called out.
"Fireplace!" she hollered back. "It's Perry. I just came back to Baker Street to collect my things and I found him. I would have used that antidote again but I think he took the Silver and I'm not sure what it might do."
"Alright, I'm coming through," Harry said, jaw firm, as he stooped down to meet her eye.
Roxanne nodded, eyes wild with worry that hadn't needed to be manufactured, and crawled back out into her flat. She was still disorientated by her head's return to Baker Street when Harry marched purposefully out of the hearth. He didn't even bother dusting the soot off of his robes before examining Perry.
"You're right, it's the Silver," he concluded, eyeing the residue in the bag she'd carefully laid out for him to find. "I'll take him to St. Mungo's. You stay here—or go back to James' if you prefer—but keep away from the hospital. The restraining order is in effect as long as you don't need healing attention yourself."
"Right," Roxanne nodded, wringing her hands as Harry slung the unconscious young man over his shoulder. "Apparition point's out back, in the courtyard."
"Yes, I know," was all Harry said before departing.
* * *
Roxanne finally got her shower later that morning and took extra care dressing for the day. Choosing her most conservative outfit, and working extra hard to repair the damage on her abused hair, she might have been on her way to a job interview. She refused to offer the paparazzi further fodder with which to slander her. Win or lose, she would likely be photographed by the end of the day.
She apparated to Diagon Alley and set a course for James’ flat. Most of the shops were still shuttered for the morning and the street was all but empty. Roxanne kept her eyes downcast as she trudged up the street. She was only a few metres from her cousin’s front door when a blur of technicolour cut her off.
“Well aren’t you the woman about town,” Marga Skeeter beamed, closing in on her prey. “I was sorry to see you so out of sorts at the Diogenes Club.”
In her shock, Roxanne struggled to find an excuse. Instead she replied, “I didn’t realize you were there.”
“Oh, I’m everywhere,” Marga said, more enigmatically than could ever possibly be necessary. “And I hear things aren’t going very well for your boyfriend?”
“No comment,” Roxanne grit her teeth. “And he’s not my boyfriend.”
In the grand scheme of things, it might have been good that Roxanne had run afoul of the horrid journalist. At that moment, Jia Fawley stepped out the front door of James’ building. Her blazing red dress robes boasted a long slit up the side, giving the distinct impression of ‘evening wear.’
Jia and Roxanne shared a covert glance while Marga chattered on, too distracted to notice the young woman stealing from James Potter’s apartment. Jia disapparated with a curt nod, successfully evading detection.
On its own, James bringing a supermodel home wasn’t much of a story. But Jia’s mother was the Deputy Head of the D.M.L.E., and The Prophet liked to suggest that Madame Chang-Fawley and Harry Potter were embroiled in some kind of affair. That the two had gone on all of one date during their school days seemed enough evidence that there might be some ‘unresolved feelings’ between them. Roxanne could just imagine the headlines blaring JAMES POTTER BEDS FUTURE SISTER-IN-LAW.
“Excuse me, I need to get on my way,” Roxanne finally interrupted the reporter before marching up to her cousin’s front door. By the time James answered, Marga Skeeter had disappeared from the street.
“What’s up, Rox?” he asked as they stepped into his flat.
“If anyone asks, I slept here last night,” she instructed.
“When clearly you didn’t sleep,” James cocked an eyebrow.
“I can’t discuss it,” she said, firm. “But I need you to do this for me.”
“Give you an alibi?”
“I’ve done it for you,” Roxanne pointed out. “I also distracted Marga Skeeter for long enough that she missed Jia walk-of-shaming out of your house—you need to be more careful.”
The two cousins fell into a quiet staring contest. Roxanne surrendered first, collapsing exhausted onto James’ sofa while she scratched her head absently. Perhaps she’d be able to get a nap in…
James had just putting the kettle on when a milk-white owl swooped in through the kitchen window, followed in quick succession by an ashen Scops.
“They’re for you,” James noted with surprise. “That gray one is Hermione’s.”
Roxanne, she saw her aunt's neat cursive as she tore open the parchment envelope. I'm so sorry—Blishwick has pressed charges. You have two hours to surrender to the Ministry. We can beat this, but you'll have to make it within your allotted window, or you're technically a fugitive.
But try not to worry.
Roxanne cursed loudly, surprising both owls as well as her cousin. She didn’t know what might have caused Blishwick to change his mind. Wondering if it was possible that it might get any worse, she detached the second letter from the albino bird. Breaking open the sealing wax, she thought she recognized the coat of arms stamped therein.
I assure you that I would not have sent contact were this not an emergency situation. I hope you will forgive the intrusion, as well as my request for your attention. If possible, I would like to confer with you at your earliest convenience.
This letter will grant access and navigation to the private apparition site at my home. I suspect you would prefer avoiding detection as you arrive.
With Much Appreciation,
Draco Lucius Malfoy
Two hours. Two hours to surrender to the Ministry, lest she be named a fugitive. She hurried outside with barely a farewell to her gaping cousin, both letters clutched in her fist, and rapidly calculated weighed her options. Mysterious summons from Perry’s father, or obligation to the arrest warrant? Closing her eyes, she turned on the spot.
Two hours is a long time, she decided, focusing on the letter from Mr. Malfoy and letting it guide her to her destination.
Even before she opened her eyes, she could tell she was somewhere on Diurn Alley. She'd never before noticed that the street had its own smell, but indeed, the distinct aroma of coffee roasting at Leondardo's struck a familiar note.
Looking around, she realized she'd apparated into the courtyard of another apartment building. One marble fountain bubbled at its center and a dozen neatly pruned rose bushes lined the edges of the grass. Mr. Malfoy’s letter withered into ash in her hand as though burnt by an invisible flame.
She stole inside the posh building and addressed the doorwizard on duty: "I'm here for Draco Malfoy?"
"Apartment thirteen," he replied curtly and the lifts burst open to accept her. Stepping in, she felt very, very awkward.
For her whole life, Draco Malfoy had been nothing more than half a face shielded with one hand—a grainy photo fending off the camera flashes—perennially splashed over the Daily Prophet. She knew little of the man, except that he had willed his family’s Manor to the Ministry. In the event that the Malfoy name died out, it would be turned into a museum of the Second Wizarding War. Future schoolchildren would tour its cellars while guides explained the misery suffered by those who had been imprisoned there. The thrilling tale of her uncle's capture and heroic escape would likely be commemorated by a mural in its foyer.
In life, Draco Malfoy was a small man. His white-blond hair, further bleached by how it had grayed, receded sharply over a tall forehead. His nervous hands gestured that she take a seat, so she settled herself delicately on the cream sofa.
She practically had to squint her tired eyes against the brightness of his sitting room. Mr. Mafloy’s flat was as pallid as the man himself, all whites and creams and taupes. There was an ascetic simplicity to the design scheme, with no heavy antiques or old family heirlooms on display. And there was something fragile about it, too. It was the kind of flat that required a careful sort of life—nothing ever spilled and everything kept in order. Roxanne couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to share the delicate space with a teenaged Perry.
"Would you care for a refreshment—tea? Coffee?" he offered, but he never quite caught her eye. He was as soft-spoken as a mourner over a hospital bed, and the lines on his face had been eternally etched into a pained sort of grimace.
"Coffee would be welcome," Roxanne replied with as much warmth as she could manage in her exhaustion, trying not to let her curious eyes wander down his left forearm.
Rather than call out for his house elf, he strode into the kitchen and politely made his request. The well-dressed union elf followed with a silver tray of coffee, cream, and biscuits.
"It's about Scorpius," Mr. Malfoy finally said, retaking his seat across from Roxanne. "He's been arrested."
"Oh no!" she coughed on a sip of coffee, a great tide of guilt erupting in her chest and anxiety creeping at the nape of her neck. "What... What's happened?"
"He was caught trespassing in his Healer's private office," Mr. Malfoy replied, gaze still focused on his own white fingers. "He's still infirmed at St. Mungo's, but he faces a sentence at Azkaban."
"I'm so sorry," Roxanne hung her head.
"It certainly isn't your fault—and it won't be the first time Scorpius has been to Azkaban on some petty charge, but," the wizard paused. "I thought I ought to let you know, I suspect he is having another breakdown. He claims you have been working with him, investigating. I regret to tell you that Scorpius has never been of sound mind. He confided in me his suspicions about Rudyard Blishwick—they are reminiscent of delusions he has had in the past."
"Thank you," was all Roxanne managed to say.
"You can't understand how much I appreciate your befriending him, so I feel compelled to warn you—" For a moment, Roxanne felt certain that Draco Malfoy might cry. She didn't know what she would do if he did. But the moment passed, and he continued. "Right now, your priority should be protecting yourself. Wash your hands of him if you must."
Roxanne gazed out the wide parlor window at Diurn Alley waking up below in lieu of responding. She couldn't quite figure out her current location—probably because the building was unplottable. All those years she'd lived on Diurn and she'd never realized she was neighbors to Draco Malfoy.
"With that warning," Mr. Malfoy went on. "Scorpius wanted me to give you something—I urge you to disregard it." He rummaged through his robes pocket, and then handed her an envelope.
Another bloody envelope, thought Roxanne. Of late, they'd only brought trouble. She turned it over to find an inscription, scrawled in a messy hand: ‘the game is on.’
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