Arthur Weasley loved Muggle things, and this ‘motor home' was no exception. America was a big place, and finding wizards to stay with or renting hotel rooms every night would have been difficult at best. The borrowed motor home was a little cramped, but his family was used to having little personal space.
And when you were driving across America, who could complain about feeling cramped?
Arthur gloried in the feeling of safety he found here; not only were Voldemort's supporters generally ignoring America, but his family's lack of a definite itinerary would make them a difficult target.
That need for safety, to a large extent, was why he had taken almost a full month off of work. The other reason was that he'd needed a vacation, and had finally been pushed into it when co-workers became concerned that he would collapse at work. His hours with the Order of the Phoenix had just become too much of a strain.
The length of the vacation also explained why his older sons weren't with him. They were all working, one way or another, for the Order, and since they weren't in danger of collapsing, they had stayed on.
It was getting late. The sun was almost down, sinking out of sight behind the hills to the west. Molly was sleeping in the seat beside him as he drove, and he could hear Ron and Ginny talking quietly behind him, their conversation interspersed with yawns. He started looking for a place to stop for the night; they were almost to Pittsburgh, where they planned to spend tomorrow.
The Muggles in America were amazing – how they could build such huge networks of roads without any magic… well, it was just amazing, that was all. The numbering seemed a little odd though, and all the comments about compass directions were a little suspicious; he'd checked with the Four-Point spell and as often as not the roads weren't going the direction they said they were.
If Arthur Weasley had been a more experienced driver he might have spotted the oncoming car sooner. He might have paid more attention to the way the two cars in front of him violently swerved out of the way. As it was, he saw the minivan in his lane far too late to avoid it. He swung the wheel desperately, but all that achieved was to turn the head on collision into a broadside, with a closing speed of almost 120 miles an hour.
His world spun; glass was shattering; metal and voices competed to see which could out scream the other. He tried to reach for his wand but before his fingers touched it the blackness took him.
The completely unmusical sound of dispatch tones caused David Rene to look up from his dinner in annoyance. He had hoped to finish his meal without interruption, but the life of a paramedic does not lend itself to such comforts. He was already out of his seat when the dispatcher's voice replaced the notes.
"NorCom, Unit 42, Rescue 40, Priority 2 in Ross."
David picked up his radio to acknowledge the call. "42."
The dispatcher spoke again. "Unit 42, Rescue 40, Priority 2 in Ross. Motor Vehicle Accident, with injuries, possible entrapment, 279 Southbound near Perry Highway Exit."
The rest of the crew was moving as well as David strode out of the squad room and down the stairs to the vehicle bays. Ambulance 42 had a crew of three tonight; David, a paramedic for only a few months; Matt, a paramedic for fifteen years, and Ed, a volunteer who loved bright lights and loud sirens. Jon, another paramedic, headed for Rescue 40.
The ambulance pulled out as Ed eagerly switched on the lights and selected his favorite siren pattern, closely followed by the specialized rescue truck. It was only a minute or two to the highway ramp, and the accident turned out to be visible from the overpass.
"Damn!" Ed sounded excited rather than upset. The motor home was quite clearly a total loss; on its side and crumpled. What was left of a minivan was perched on the concrete barrier of the median strip, and two other cars also showed damage. Matt was calling dispatch for their supervisor, a second ambulance, and a fire truck before they even stopped. The crew quickly pulled on protective gear, and three sets of eyes swiveled to Matt.
"Dave, check the RV. Ed, those two cars. Jon, you've got the van." It always seemed to David as if Matt lacked the slightest amount of emotion in his job or concern for the people he treated. David hoped that wouldn't happen to him, though right now he wouldn't have minded a little of that calm as he approached the wrecked vehicle.
The front windshield was gone. The place where it had been offered easy access. David switched on his flashlight and panned it over what he could see inside. Two adults, a man and a woman, neither one moving.
"Sir? Ma'am? Can you hear me?" A moan from the man, nothing from the woman. She was breathing. OK. The man mumbled something. Be calm. First things first. Names are important. "Sir? My name's David. I'm a paramedic. Can you hear me?" Another moan; this one sounded almost like a ‘yes.'
"What's your name?"
"A… A'tur Weeesl…"
"Arthur? How many people were in the car with you?"
Damn. The others must be in the back. He hoped. If they'd been thrown from a wreck this bad they didn't have a prayer. He glanced at the passage to the back of the motor home, but it was going to be an effort to get in there. First things first. He had a count, and that was important. OK.
"Arthur, we've got lots of help on the way. I'll be right back. We're going to help." Never leave them without saying why. Get the triage count in.
He reached Matt in time to hear Jon's report. "… dead. Drunk, by the smell. No sign of a passenger."
He gave his own report. "Two visible, driver says two more in the back, no sounds from back there. Both pinned, front passenger's unconscious."
Ed came up. "Three with scrapes and bruises. They say no one's missing, and the driver of the blue car says he doesn't think there were any other cars involved. He's the one who called in. He says that minivan was coming full bore the wrong way, and…" He shrugged.
"Jon, get into the back of that RV and see what's there. Davie, the two you saw. Ed, you're running for both of them." More units were pulling up. Sirens indicated more were coming. Matt began to give another radio report.
David walked quickly back. "Arthur, my partner is going to check on your passengers. Where are you hurt… worst?" Good catch, dummy! It'd be shorter to ask where he isn't hurt!
"Faml'y… Moll… chldr'n…"
"We're taking care of them sir." Suiting actions to words, he was checking the woman as Jon slid over them into the passageway to the back. Good strong pulse. Regular breathing.
David looked up to see Arthur fumbling with something in his pocket; a shaky hand was trying to draw something out. Trust in the goodness and rationality of human nature is not part of paramedic training; David couldn't risk that being a weapon, and he grabbed the man's wrist.
"Let me help you with that sir." Be calm. Be cool. Be polite, but always in control. He patted the pocket; not a gun, wrong shape. A syringe? Closer, but… he removed the man's hand and carefully opened the pocket. He was puzzled to see what looked like a smooth wooden stick, about a foot long. What on earth? He drew out the object, and almost dropped it as he felt a sudden warmth, even through his leather work gloves. Whatever it was, it could wait. Unthinkingly, he shoved it in his thigh pocket and got on with his job.
Mercy Hospital had a good ER, but it always seemed to David as if the ambulance parking lot had been shoved into a small corner as an afterthought. It wasn't really that small, but it felt like it.
Perhaps the number of ambulances that had arrived from the accident scene contributed to the feeling; perhaps David's mood did too. He hated seeing children hurt. That girl couldn't have been out of her teens. To David at twenty-two that shouldn't have seemed young, but it did.
Still, they were lucky to be alive, and he'd done his part in getting them here that way. David tried to concentrate on that, and not on the memory of an unconscious boy, with both legs broken and bleeding from the chest, being hauled out of the remnants of a motor home. He wasn't very successful. Red blood and red hair intermingled on the girl… stop it. Clean up the truck, get back in service. Do your damn job. The healers are always taught to move on.
Matt came out of the ER, whistling, a cup of coffee in his hand. David felt the anger building inside him. He had just watched a family pooling their blood on a highway because some drunk didn't know what side of the road he was on and he's WHISTLING?
"How's it coming?" As always, there was no emotion in Matt's voice. He didn't care. David did. He clenched his hand on his thigh to stop it from shaking.
"Almost done. Got all the sharps." Yeah, and the broken glass, and the blood…
"Uh huh. Well, we aren't holding for paperwork. They didn't have any ID on them. That guy'll be in trouble for that."
In trouble? I'll say he's in trouble. He's in the ER; his wife and his kids are unconscious and some of them are probably going to die. Trouble doesn't come much worse than that, you cold, uncaring, HEARTLESS, B… what the…?
David leapt off his seat in reflex as he felt the heat on his leg. A wisp of smoke curled from the thigh pocket of his pants. If he hadn't known they were fire retardant and that there was no source of fire here anyway he'd have sworn he had a fire in his pocket. Matt was looking at him strangely.
"Gotta… right back…" David hurried inside and ran for the bathroom, not sure what was going on - he only knew that something was wrong. He closed the door and then carefully opened his pocket. The lingering smell of smoke greeted him, but no fire. Just the wooden stick he'd… the stick he'd forgotten to give back to Arthur, or at least to security. Though what security would say if he handed them a stick…
He drew it out. It was warm to the touch, but not hot enough to start a fire. Whatever it was, it wasn't just a stick. Was it some sort of heater? But it was too small – a battery wouldn't fit in there, and it was too thin to hold any heat.
Arthur's injuries hadn't been too bad – he'd been put in a side room. It was possible he would be alone just now. He could go and find out what this strange stick was, and return it if it was safe. If he wasn't sure, he'd give it to security and tell them he had picked it up on scene and thought it belonged to one of the patients. There wouldn't be any need to mention the odd warmth if they didn't notice it. Why did he have the feeling they wouldn't?
Arthur was alone. The staff had put him in a gown, and he was sitting up in bed. He also looked like he was on the verge of panic. When David walked in, he recognized him from the accident scene. "Ah, Mr. Rene, err, David, did you happen to see a wooden stick, about a foot long… its… ah…"
David was now even more worried. This man's family was in the hospital and the first thing he asks about is a stick? What IS this thing? Well, there was an easy way to find out. He pulled the stick out of his pocket. "This stick, sir?"
The man looked relieved. "Yes, that's it. Could I have it please?"
"What is it?"
"It is…" Arthur trailed off. He looked into David's eyes, seeing the silent warning there that a lie might very well be spotted and would be an extremely bad idea. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Is it a weapon?" Great question David, is a foot long piece of thin wood a weapon? A pencil would be more dangerous than this.
Arthur hesitated. The only way out seemed to be to tell the truth, but he clearly wasn't happy about it. "It… can be. But I promise you I mean no harm to you or anyone here."
"What does it do? Why does it feel warm?" Why am I having this surreal conversation?
"Warm?" Arthur seemed surprised. "It feels warm to you? Did it… do anything else?"
David felt as if they had some unwritten agreement that there would be honesty, no matter how bizarre, in this conversation. "I… it was in my pocket, and it suddenly felt very hot, and I saw smoke coming out. But when I took it out it just felt warm."
"I see." Arthur stopped for a moment, clearly thinking hard about something. "David, would you mind trying something? Give the wa… the stick a wave."
Arthur made a sweeping motion with one hand. "Just wave it around."
Feeling more uncomfortable than ever, David waved the stick through the air. His mouth dropped open as a few sparks like little stars drifted away from the end, bright green and blue sparks like nothing he had ever seen.
"Extraordinary." Arthur thought hard for a moment, then spoke very seriously. "David, I'm going to tell you some things. You're not going to believe me at first, but promise to hear me out."
"Ah… OK." David was still staring at the stick in his hand.
"That's a magic wand. I'm a wizard. You are too."
"You mean like a magician? Magic tricks?" David was puzzled.
"No. The real thing. Real magic. We keep ourselves hidden from those who can't do magic. That's why I don't have any licenses or papers. With that wand… I can help my family."
He believes it, David thought. He believes what he's telling me. Do I? Why am I even in doubt? This is impossible. "I can't be a wizard. I'd know, wouldn't I?"
"You've never made anything unusual happen when you were angry? Or really needed something and had it happen?"
Put that way… yes, yes he had. "Sometimes things just happen. You see a lot of strange things out there on the street."
"If magic isn't real, what harm can giving me the wand do?"
Good point. "What will you do with it if I give it to you?"
"I'll go and get help. Other wizards will come and help my family."
"You can't take them out of here – they're badly hurt, they need…"
Arthur cut him off. "I know the people here will do the best they can, but magic can do more. There isn't much time. Please."
He honestly believes his family will die if they stay here, and I can't say he's wrong. That girl shouldn't even have lived this long… if they're going to die anyway… if there's even a chance he's telling the truth… if this is just a stick, what harm can he do…
"I want your word, your solemn word, that you won't harm anyone here and that you will find me when this is over and show me this healing magic."
Arthur hesitated only a second. "Yes. I swear. Thank you."
"All right." David handed him the stick. A moment later he was in no doubt that something odd was going on, though heavily in doubt of his sanity. Arthur had taken the stick, muttered something, and vanished with a soft ‘pop'.
A week later David still doubted his sanity, but he didn't doubt that magic was real. Everyone else at the base or at Mercy seemed to have very incomplete memories of the accident, and none at all about the Weasleys. Arthur had appeared inside his apartment one night, and taken him to a nearby house, where they had traveled through a fire (how he still wasn't sure) to what was obviously a magical hospital. David had seen the Weasleys alive and in far, far better condition than they should have been.
Then had come the conversation with the Salem Witches Institute. Decade old records had been examined, and they revealed that one David Rene had been sent no less than three letters offering him a place there. A letter from his parents had also been found, demanding that the ‘agents of Satan' cease threatening their children. Almost on a whim, he'd asked about his eleven-year old brother, to find that he too was magical, but that Salem would have no further contact with a member of his family in case his parents revealed the secret of the wizarding world's existence.
David had been angry then. He was angry at his parents, angry at the Salem Institute, and angry at fate. Arthur had calmed him down, and offered help.
"I owe you a great deal, David. Find out what your brother wants. If he wishes, I may be able to get a place for him at Hogwarts, where my children go to school."
Author's Note: for the curious, I am a paramedic. In order to avoid tortuous explanations, some procedures and dialogue have been simplified, while trying to leave enough real stuff to set the tone. Sorry about beating up the Weasleys, but hey, I didn't kill any of them! Thanks again to Delylah, my Beta, and to everyone who reviewed The Making of a Wand – it was awesome to get your comments.