James Potter looked up from his breakfast to see Professor Longbottom approaching him from the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables. His head of house gave him a small, tense smile as he leaned across the table.
"Please come to my office after breakfast, James," he said, his light tone sounding forced.
Panic flooded through James as he asked, "Am I in trouble, sir?"
"No, James, not today," the professor answered, straightening up.
James heaved a silent sigh of relief, but couldn't help feeling that something about how Professor Longbottom was acting was amiss. He gulped down the rest of his porridge and pumpkin juice, grabbed his bag and made his way out of the Great Hall, joining his brother, fourth year Albus, and his sister, second year Lily, on the stairs leading up to Professor Longbottom's office.
"What do you think this is all about?" Lily asked, looking worried. "Professor Longbottom looked a little tense."
James shook his head. "He said I wasn't in trouble…" He peered at Albus. "…but might it be you?"
"Nope, not me," Albus replied, "at least not for another week."
"Oh, is that when the next prank on Scorpius Malfoy is taking place?" Lily asked with a giggle.
Albus smiled smugly at their sister. "I'm not telling, Short Stuff," he replied.
"Oh, I'm telling Mum!" Lily crowed, pulling an envelope out of her pocket. "I'll just add a little post script to my letter to her."
"Don't you dare!"
"Hey, shut it, you two!" James ordered. "We're almost there."
Albus and Lily stopped arguing, but continued to glare at each other as they approached the door to Professor Longbottom's office.
James knocked on the door when they reached it, waiting tensely until the professor bade them come in.
"Have a seat, you three," he said, indicating the four chairs clustered by the window across from his desk. He seated himself closest to a small table upon which was displayed a rather large and magnificent plant. James recognized it as the professor's prise Mimbulus mimbletonia, a plant they'd studied back in September.
"What's all the secrecy for, Professor?" James asked as he and his siblings sat down.
Professor Longbottom looked sad and a pained expression flitted across his face as he answered, "There's been an accident. Your father was hurt very badly last night and is at St. Mungo's."
Lily let out a cry of alarm and grabbed for James' hand, squeezing it so tightly it hurt. He pulled on her hand and she scrambled into his lap, weeping quietly.
"What happened?" James asked through the haze of shock and worry that had engulfed him at the professor's words.
"I know very little, James," the professor admitted. "All I know is that he was on an Auror mission when the accident took place."
James frowned. He knew that as the Head of the Auror Department, his dad wasn't supposed to go out on cases unless they were top priority. What about last night's mission had made it so important that his dad had felt compelled to join the other Aurors?
Finally, he murmured, "Dad only goes out on important cases any more."
Albus finally found his voice. "Dad hasn't mentioned anything of interest in his last few letters. Maybe… maybe this one was so top secret that he couldn't tell us anything about it."
Lily raised her head from James' shoulder. "Is Daddy going to be all right?" she asked.
"It's too early to tell, Lily, but your mother has sent word that you three are to come home immediately. The Headmaster has given you permission to leave school as soon as possible." Professor Longbottom looked worried and James felt a lump form in his throat as the professor added, "I've sent house-elves to pack small valises for you; they'll take them to your Uncle Ron's house. Is there anything specific you need?"
James looked at Albus and Lily who were shaking their heads. "No, sir. There's nothing," he said as dread settled like a hard lump in the pit of his stomach.
"Very well, then," Professor Longbottom said as he offered a handkerchief to Lily. "You are expected in the Headmaster's office in five minutes. Headmaster Wolcott will give you the name of your Floo Network destination."
James tightened his hold on his sister and closed his eyes, fear for his father's life blocking out all other thought. When the five minutes were over, he gently pushed Lily back to her own feet, picked up their school bags and led Albus over to Professor Longbottom's fireplace. A moment later, he and Lily stumbled out onto the headmaster's hearth and quickly stepped forward to make room for Albus.
"Good morning, children," Headmaster Wolcott said as he stepped round his desk and came over to where James, Albus and Lily were standing. "I'm sorry about your father's accident. I hope your visit home will help with his recovery."
"Thank you, sir," James murmured. "Where are we going?"
"Healer Stilwell's office at St. Mungo's," the headmaster replied. He reached up and took a small canister from the mantle top. "Have a safe journey, you three."
James smiled tightly and looked at Albus. "You go first with our school bags. I'll bring Lily."
Albus nodded once, shouldered the bags, and stepped up to the fireplace. He threw a pinch of Floo Powder into the flames, turning them bright green. "Healer Stilwell's office, St Mungo's," he said clearly. The flames engulfed him and he was gone. James and Lily quickly followed their brother.
Ginny Potter heard the fireplace roar to life and stood up, ready to greet whichever of her children came through first. Albus stumbled out carrying three identical school bags and looking as if the world had been turned upside down. Quickly, Ginny engulfed him in a motherly hug as the most reserved of her children finally let the horrible news sink in.
"Will Dad be all right?" Albus asked quietly as James arrived with his sister.
Ginny gathered the newcomers into a family hug and allowed a few of her own tears to fall before she pulled back and gestured towards the sofa. A shaky sigh escaped her as they all sat down together.
"We don't know, Albus," she admitted. "It's too soon after the accident. Your father's body is terribly broken and the Healers have put him in a potion-induced coma."
"What does that mean?" Lily asked in a small voice.
"They're making him sleep, sweetheart," Ginny answered. "Just like Madam Pomfrey made Albus go to sleep with the Dreamless Sleep potion last March when the Bludger broke his elbow and she needed him to lie very still."
"Oh, all right. I understand now," Lily said, sounding a little better, although her expression told Ginny she was still very worried.
"And Dad's injuries?" James enquired.
"Internal haemorrhaging, six broken ribs, a punctured lung, both legs broken, a concussion and five broken vertebrae," Ginny said, distractedly running her hand through her hair as she tried to remember everything. Harry had several other injuries that escaped her memory at the moment, but she knew they were minor in light of what she could recall.
"Oh, Merlin," Albus and James exclaimed quietly.
"What happened? Professor Longbottom told us Dad was on a mission and he never goes on those any more unless they're top priority," James said.
"James, your dad was leading a very important mission last night. It was so secret he didn't know when he was coming home," Ginny sighed. "All I know is that he fell fifteen meters into the bottom of a pit and hit his head very hard on some rocks that had been placed there."
"Were the bad guys Death Eaters?" Albus asked.
"I don't know, son. Your father couldn't tell me anything before he left except that it was very important that he catch those people," Ginny answered.
"Did the other Aurors catch the people they were after?" Lily asked.
"Not all of them," reported Ginny. "Your Uncle Ron said they captured two of the three as they sprinted from the house into the woods. They couldn't Apparate or Disapparate, since he and his partner had cast Anti-Apparition spells over the building and grounds." Relief that her brother's life had been spared in his duel with the two criminals flooded her as she said, "The one who managed to get away from Uncle Ron only did so because he tried to kill him."
The faces of her children paled at the news.
"Was… were… any of the other Aurors hurt?" James asked.
Ginny sighed. "Thank goodness, no."
James closed his eyes and seemed to sag in relief. Ginny watched some of the tension leave her son's face and was proud of the fact that she and Harry had successfully taught their children to be as concerned for others as they were for their own family members.
"Can I see Daddy?" Lily asked, her voice shaking noticeably.
"Yes, sweetheart. I'll take you to him now," Ginny said. "Bring your book bags. We can't leave them in Healer Stilwell's office."
Her three children shouldered their bags and followed Ginny out the door.
Albus was scared. He'd seen his father in hospital before, usually recovering from spell burns or some other minor injury that could be healed within twenty-four hours. There had been one or two occasions when his dad had been hit with multiple spells that required him to stay in hospital for a couple of days so the Healers could sort things out. Albus had been frightened at those times, too, but his mother had been cheerful and somewhat cheeky when she told him and his siblings about what had happened to Dad.
This time, though, it was different. Albus had sensed his mother's worry as soon as he had stepped from the fireplace and had gone to her to give her what comfort he could. She had sighed in relief when he'd put his arms around her, and he had taken that as a sign that he didn't have to be terribly strong or stoic any more unless he wanted to be.
Now, as the little group approached the ward in which his father lay, Albus' biggest fears came back with a vengeance; he was sorely afraid that his father would either not know who Albus was, or he'd be so broken inside that there would be no hope of fixing him and he would die soon. The news that the Healers had put his father in a potion-induced coma was almost as bad as the nightmares that sometimes plagued Albus' sleep. It meant that his dad was so badly hurt that his recovery would take a very long time. Would his father ever fully recover?
His mother stopped in front of a set of double doors guarded by two Aurors. Albus peeked over Lily's head at the men and was shocked to discover their clothes were dirty and torn, as if they'd seen battle recently. He wondered if these men were some of his dad's team members. If they were, were they guarding the door because of the escaped wizard or were they guarding the doors because it was the right thing to do for their fallen leader?
Albus jumped as his mother addressed the nearest Auror. "Has there been any change, Terry?"
The man shook his head. "No, Ginny, there hasn't."
"Thank you. Can we go in? The children are anxious to see Harry."
The Auror glanced at his partner, who smiled tightly and rested a hand on Albus' mum's shoulder. "Hang in there," he murmured as he opened one of the doors.
As Albus followed is mother inside, the Auror his mum had called by his given name put his hand on Albus' shoulder. "Your dad's a fighter, son," he said, giving Albus a reassuring pat. "Even if he seems not to know you're here, he can hear what you say to him and he'll recognize your voice. You'll help him fight his way back to us just because you're here."
Albus bit his lip. The only thing he could manage was a tiny nod. Then, his mother put her hand on his back and gave him a little push inside the hospital ward. He went reluctantly, his eyes zeroing in on the curtains drawn around one of the beds and the strange hissing noises coming from behind them.
Lily clung to her mum's hand. She was torn between running away and finding out whether her father still looked like himself. She hoped he would, even if he had bandages on his head…
"Daddy's sleeping, right?" she asked her mum as they entered the ward.
"Yes, sweetheart, he's sleeping. If you want to, you can hold his hand. They're the only parts of him that weren't broken," her mother answered with a hitch in her voice.
The family stopped in front of the curtains and Mum parted them just enough to let them inside. Lily hid behind her until she heard her older brothers walking towards the bed. Then she sneaked a quick look at her father.
He lay very still on the bed, his arms at his sides. His head was swathed in bandages and his neck looked like it had been magically stiffened. Most curious, though, was the tube going into his mouth that was hooked to a large silver box sitting next to the bed. On the side facing the bed were a lot of switches and dials that made it look like a fancy wireless. It made the hissing sounds they'd heard earlier. Albus was standing next to the machine, glancing between it and Daddy.
"What's that?" she asked curiously, pointing to the machine.
Both Albus and James looked at their mother expectantly.
"It's an enchanted Muggle breathing machine called a ventilator, children," Mum said.
"Does that mean someone has put spells on it so it will work around magic? Lily asked.
"Yes, Lily," Mum answered. "Dad's lungs were injured and the Healers tried every spell they knew to help him breathe again on his own. Unfortunately, his body is too hurt right now to sustain his breathing…" A tear tricked down her cheek and she brushed it away quickly.
"Will he… will he need it… the rest of his life?" Lily asked fearfully.
"I don't think so, Lily," Mum said. She gave Lily a reassuring hug. "Healer Stilwell is using the ventilator to help Daddy get well. He said he wants to turn off the machine in a day or two when Daddy's lungs are stronger."
"That's good," James murmured. He picked up one of Dad's hands and bent down close to the bandaged head and began talking quietly to him. Albus did the same, but waited to talk to Dad until James had finished.
With her dad's attention monopolized by her brothers, Lily decided it would be best to stay with Mum. She sensed her mother was just as scared as she was and needed someone to hold her hand or at least cuddle up next to her.
"Mummy, I have an essay due in Charms tomorrow and it isn't done yet. Can I sit next to Daddy and finish writing it?" she asked.
Mum smiled down at her. "Of course, love," she said, taking out her wand. "What kind of chair do you want?"
Lily thought for a moment. "One big enough for both of us?" she ventured.
Mummy smiled and pointed her wand at the corner under a window. A moment later, a Hagrid-sized upholstered chair with a high back appeared there, along with two smaller wing chairs and four small foot stools.
"Think you'll be comfy now?" she asked Lily.
Lily walked over to the pile of book bags Albus had dropped when he came in and found her own. Then, she slid into the over-sized chair and smiled at her mother. "This is great, Mum. Come sit with me," she invited.
Mummy sat down next to Lily and put her feet up on one of the foot stools. As Lily found her place in her essay, Mummy leaned her head on the back of the big chair. She looked so tired and worried and suddenly Lily wanted nothing more than to take care of her mother. Setting her essay aside, she rummaged in her bag for her cloak and threw it over her mum.
"Take a nap, Mummy," Lily whispered. "We'll wake you if Daddy needs you."
"Thank you, love," Mummy answered. Her eyes fluttered shut and a moment later, she began to snore softly.
James came over to the chairs with his own book bag. He glanced at their mother and smiled sadly at Lily. "Thanks for taking care of her, Lils," he said. He took out a book and opened it to the place he'd marked in his reading.
"Are you scared?" Lily asked as she found her self-inking quill.
"Yeah, are you?"
"Not so much now," she admitted. "I just want Daddy to wake up and talk to us."
James nodded. "Yeah, me, too."
The hours dragged by broken only by the occasional Healer coming in to check on his dad. Towards the middle of the afternoon, James finally ran out of reading material and essays to write. The feeling of being caught up was completely foreign to him, as was the concept of free time. He sighed. Fifth year was harder than the last four years combined; sometimes he wondered whether he'd ever get rid of the seemingly perpetual case of writer's cramp in his right hand. Now, as he put away his Transfiguration book, he wondered whether he should start revising for his OWLs or find something else to do. He glanced about the bare room and decided to pull out his second-year Potions notes and look those over.
A movement to his left caught his attention, causing him to look up. Albus was still standing by Dad's bed, holding his hand and quietly talking to him. The curtains around Dad's bed moved again and Aunt Hermione came through the opening. She strode quietly to Albus' side and whispered in his ear. Albus nodded and started talking to Dad again. James put down his notebook and walked over to her.
"Hey, Aunt Hermione," he greeted her. "Where's Uncle Ron?"
"Spell Damage ward," she sighed. "He was hit last night in the duelling."
Alarmed, James asked, "Will he be all right?"
Aunt Hermione smiled. "He's fine now, but the Healers won't let him come up here. At least not until he stops twitching."
James couldn't help smiling. "What spell was he hit with?" he asked.
"Something rather nasty, but the symptoms seem to be going away slowly." She looked back at James' dad and sighed. "I thought we were done with this bedside vigil stuff."
"What do you mean?" Albus asked.
"Albus, your dad has slept in a hospital bed at least once a year since your Uncle Ron and I met him in 1991," Aunt Hermione said. "Between the Quidditch injuries, his run-ins with Voldemort, and wounds he's suffered as an Auror, I don't think we've gone more than ten months between sittings beside one hospital bed or another. I think your mother will agree with me that Harry needs a safer job."
"He wouldn't be my Harry if he didn't spend at least one night in hospital every year," James' mum said from her place in the huge chair.
Aunt Hermione walked over and perched on one of the footstools. "How are you holding up?" she asked.
"Better. With the children here, I could at least get forty winks… even if it's given me a stiff neck."
Aunt Hermione stood up and held her wand to the back of Mum's neck. A moment later, she said, "That should help, I think."
Mum smiled up at Aunt Hermione. "Thanks. I'd forgotten that spell."
"It's one of Ron's favourites," Aunt Hermione replied. "Now, how about if I stay here with Harry and you take the children over to our house? All of you look like you need a break."
James shook his head. "I'm staying, Aunt Hermione. I don't want to leave Dad."
"Me, neither," Albus agreed.
"I'm staying, too," Lily piped up. She skewered Mum with a fierce expression. "Mummy, go home. We'll be all right here with Aunt Hermione. I don't think the Healers are going to wake Daddy any time soon."
Two tears slid down their mother's cheeks. She stood up wearily and held open her arms. James, Albus and Lily went to her and shared a hug. "Thank you, all of you," she sniffed. "I'll be back in a couple of hours."
"I'll walk you to the fire places," Aunt Hermione volunteered as the two walked toward the curtains. Their conversation faded along with their footsteps.
Ginny stumbled out of the fireplace at their Godric's Hollow house and out of habit she looked around as she always did for signs that her husband was home. If he was, she'd find his shoes next to his favourite chair, or his cloak carelessly hung on its hook near the back door. Sometimes, he'd even leave his briefcase on the kitchen counter if he forgot to Banish it to his study. Unfortunately, she saw none of this and the absence of his possessions claiming the house brought back the dread that Harry was laying in a coma at St. Mungo's and there was a chance that he would never come home.
Walking further into the kitchen, she noticed yesterday's discarded Daily Prophet on the floor by Harry's chair. It was open to the sports section and the article she had written covering the Cannons/Ballycastle match, which had ended in a fist-fight when the Cannons' Seeker accused the Ballycastle Seeker of blagging. As she set last night's dinner on the table, Harry had commented that grabbing onto another player's broom with the intention of slowing it down was so commonplace these days that the rule should be stricken from the rule book. Ginny had disagreed with him and they'd spent the rest of the evening before he left for the mission discussing old and out-dated rules.
Now, as she absently picked up the paper and tossed it into the box of tinder she kept next to the fireplace, the thought crossed her mind that even if he did wake up, Harry's brain injury might prevent him from ever carrying on a discussion like that again with her. Ginny's eyes stung with the unshed tears she'd been keeping at bay all day and a wave of sadness engulfed her entire being.
"You can't think like that," Ginny admonished herself as she hung up her cloak. "Think positive."
But thinking positively was hard at the moment, especially when she felt so guilty for being angry and annoyed at Harry for getting hurt in the middle of the night and making her come to St Mungo's for what she'd thought was just another minor injury. Six months ago, he'd promised her no more dangerous missions, no more being gone weeks at a time. It wasn't the Head of Department's job to go on every top priority mission; there were other, equally competent Aurors eager to prove themselves just as he had done. Unfortunately, Harry had had a hard time removing himself from the action since it was ingrained in his every cell to be in the thick of things. Ginny understood that, but she was tired of the constant worry.
An ironic thought hit her as she walked into the master bedroom. Well, Potter, you wanted your husband to stop going on missions. Your wish has been granted! The moment the idea crossed her mind, she crumpled onto the unmade bed and sobbed until she had no more tears to shed.
"I'm going to see Uncle Ron," Albus announced a little while after his mother had left.
Aunt Hermione looked up from the file she was reading. "I think he'd like that," she said. She looked over at James and Lily who had fallen asleep in the two wing chairs. "I don't think those two will miss you one bit," she added with a smile.
"Where can I find him?" asked Albus.
Aunt Hermione told him and Albus left to explore the hospital on his own.
The ward Uncle Ron was on was easy to find because it was usually the noisiest one in the hospital besides the one that housed the new babies and their mothers. Albus liked this ward, mostly because of the funny things people had done to one another that required medical help to reverse. The last time he'd been here to see his dad—the year before he went to Hogwarts—there had been a lady who had a pair of bat's wings instead of arms and a little kid whose legs looked like lizard's feet. The kid had snarled at Albus as he'd walked by, making him giggle.
Today, however, the ward was quiet. An old lady with a flower pot stuck to her forehead snoozed away in the bed closest to the door. There were curtains around two others; their occupants were quiet as well. Albus searched the other beds and found Uncle Ron sitting in the one closest to the tiny window. He looked up as Albus approached.
"Hey, there, Al! It's good to see you," Uncle Ron said, grinning. Then he sobered. "How's your dad?"
Albus sighed. "No change. The Healers are keeping him in that potion-induced coma. They're waiting to revive him until the swelling in his brain goes down some more."
"That's what your mum said when she was down here after she sent the owl to Hogwarts," Uncle Ron said.
Albus took out his wand and pointed it at one of Uncle Ron's shoes. "Don't tell Mum I'm doing magic outside school," he said and he concentrated on turning the shoe into a simple four-legged stool. It took three tries, but he managed to form a passable place to sit. "I'll reverse the spell before I go back upstairs."
"You're getting really good at that, Albus. That's pretty advanced magic," Uncle Ron commented as Albus sat down cautiously. When the legs held, he relaxed a little and smiled his thanks at his uncle. "I promise I won't tell your mum," Uncle Ron continued.
They shared a wink as Uncle Ron asked, "How old are you?"
Surprised, Albus answered, "Fourteen. I'll be fifteen in January."
Uncle Ron smiled. "How would you like to help out at Uncle George's shop during the Christmas hols? We could really use the help."
Albus' eyes widened. "S-sure, Uncle Ron, but… shouldn't you ask James instead?"
"Nope. He has to start revising for his OWLs. Besides, your mum's going to need his help…" he trailed off, looking sad.
"You… you mean she's going to need him to help with Dad?"
"Amongst other things," Uncle Ron replied vaguely.
Albus felt fear gripping him again and decided to ask the question he couldn't ask Aunt Hermione upstairs. "Can you tell me what exactly happened to Dad?"
Uncle Ron shook his head and stared at the lumps his feet made in the blankets stretched across his lap. His right knee bounced up and down a few times before he managed to control it by holding it down with his hands.
"Sorry, Albus, I can't. I was assigned to a position outdoors and only knew something was amiss when two of the suspects came racing out the back door as if they were being chased by an irate manticore," he said without looking up. "After that, I was too busy duelling to get close to the building."
"When did you find out Dad had been hurt?" Albus asked.
"Not until the suspects had been taken away by my partner and a Healer had decided I needed to come here."
"What was wrong with you?"
"Just a bunch of little things, the last of which is this bloody twitch," Uncle Ron said as his entire body began to move uncontrollably. The spasms spent themselves in less than a minute, but it was enough to make Albus more than a little uncomfortable.
Albus tried to ignore the few remaining shudders as he asked, "Who were you duelling with?"
Uncle Ron frowned and shook his head. "You know I can't tell you stuff like that. I'd get in trouble if someone overheard me divulge classified information in a public place."
"I don't want that to happen," Albus said. "You get in enough trouble from Aunt Hermione about what you tell Rose and Hugo sometimes."
His uncle chuckled softly. "You're certainly right about that. How have they been? Do you know?"
Albus smiled and began recounting a couple of the funnier incidents that had happened in the last week or two, courtesy of their Uncle George's magic tricks. The time passed swiftly until Aunt Hermione's otter Patronus bounded into the ward and bade Albus come back upstairs; his mother was back and the family was about to learn what was going to happen next with his dad.
Uncle Ron patted the bed next to his legs as Albus restored the shoe to its rightful appearance. Albus cautiously sat down and was completely surprised when his uncle pulled him into a Grandmum-like hug.
"Albus, I know you're scared," Uncle Ron murmured. "If it helps, I'm scared for your dad, too. I hope you know that you can come talk to me or Uncle George or Uncle Percy any time you need to, even if it means getting permission from your head of house to use the Floo."
Albus sniffled and hugged his uncle back. Right now he felt as if he were five years old again and getting ready to go into the Muggle world with his parents to get his eyes checked. That day his dad had told him it was all right to be scared, just as Uncle Ron was offering solace to him now. "Thanks," he choked out, and before he broke down entirely, he wriggled out of Uncle Ron's embrace and headed back upstairs.
Deep in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic, two Aurors in separate interrogation rooms were becoming more and more frustrated. This was the second time in twenty-four hours that they had come face to face with the witch and wizard they'd captured at the house and the pair was refusing to cooperate.
In the first room, Brodie Chambers irritably called for a MLE officer to take away his prisoner. Forty minutes ago, the wizard had somehow sealed his lips even though he had no wand, and no matter what Brodie did, the prisoner refused to talk. As the man was led away, Brodie slammed the interrogation room door and headed for the stairs.
In the second interrogation room, Susan Bones slapped the table in front of her with her good hand to keep the witch from falling asleep. Susan was nearly at her breaking point for two reasons: the first was the uncooperative prisoner sitting across the table, the second was because she was feeling horrible at the moment. During the duel at the house, she had slipped in some sort of liquid that had been spilled on the basement floor and to stop herself from falling into the pit, she'd put her non-wand hand out, and it had touched the liquid. Now her hand was numb and her robes stiff where the substance had soaked into the cloth.
"You haven't answered my question!" she exploded as she leaned across the table, purposely invading the witch's personal space. "What was the purpose of the big pit filled with rocks?"
The witch smiled sleepily. "I'm not telling," she yawned and promptly fell asleep.
Susan let out a growl of frustration; this was the first time in her career as an Auror that a detainee had fallen asleep during an interrogation. She knew the witch had been unarmed because of the search performed when the two suspects had been brought in. So why was the witch able to induce sleep so quickly and so thoroughly? Another mystery to solve…
Getting up, Susan walked to the door and called to the two MLE officers standing outside, "Take her away. She's fallen asleep again. I'm going upstairs to write my report."
"Yes, ma'am," the younger of the two officers said as Susan stood aside to let them into the room.
A few minutes later, Susan collapsed at her desk in the Auror office across from her partner, Brodie Chambers. She rubbed her numb hand, trying to bring the feeling back into it and realized it was sticky. She cleaned her fingers with a flick of her wand and then dug in her drawer for a quill and some ink.
"What a waste of time! I couldn't get anything out of her because she kept falling asleep! I've never seen such a thing!" she complained. "Did you have any better luck?"
Brodie shook his head. "Nope. My bloke refused to even speak. The only way I even know his name was because of his arrest record and the information we gleaned from the wand we confiscated from him. It's as if he either took a potion or did wandless magic of some sort," he explained.
"Right. I had that same impression," Susan agreed. She reached into a drawer and pulled out a blank form. "Let's get this over with and go home."
Brodie yawned hugely and picked up his quill. "I hate reports," he grumbled and began scratching away.
Susan giggled in spite of her tiredness. "I couldn't agree with you more," she said. Then she asked, "Any news about Harry?"
Brodie nodded. "Yeah. Terry just called. Harry can have visitors this evening after they wake him up. Boot's going with Carmichael and asked if we wanted to come along."
Susan smiled. "I'm always willing to visit Harry… and you're going with me." She sighed and looked down at her report. "I just wish we didn't have to go so often. The strain is always so hard on Ginny…"
Lily looked up when Albus walked through the gap in the curtains left by the Healer. He looked a little more relaxed than before her nap and she supposed that going down to see Uncle Ron had been good for him. Lily turned back to watch what the Healer was doing to Daddy as Albus came to stand next to her and Mum. Mum put an arm over his shoulders just like she had one over Lily's.
The Healer's wand twirled and twisted, making her father's body glow different colours and the silver breathing machine change its rhythm and sounds.
"What's he doing, Mummy?" Lily asked quietly.
"I think he's getting ready to wake Daddy," her mother replied. "Apparently, the potions have worked and your daddy's brain is getting better."
"And what about all those spells?" she asked.
Mummy glanced up as Daddy's body was bathed briefly in two-tone orange light which made the Healer frown. He did the spell again with the same results. After a third repetition, the Healer made some notes on his clipboard and then put away his wand. He looked expectantly at Mummy.
She whispered to Lily, "I think he wants to tell us something about the spells he's been doing. Listen carefully and afterwards, I'll try to explain what you don't understand."
"All right," Lily said. "I'll listen."
The Healer spoke to Mummy then, his tone grave. "Mrs Potter, we've done all we can to help Mr Potter at the moment. The potions we've administered have mended the multiple fractures your husband sustained in his fall as well as reduced the brain swelling. Until Mr Potter wakes, we can do no more. I recommend that we curtail the coma potions and encourage him to wake up for a few moments. The revival potion needs permission from a loved one to stop working and let the patient rest. The next time Mr Potter wakes, he will do so naturally. Do you have any questions at this time?"
Mummy nodded. "Is Harry in pain? And what did you find from the two-toned orange spell? What do I need to say to help him rest?"
The Healer sighed. "Mr Potter shouldn't be in any pain, or if he is, it will be a mild headache and some body aches from the trauma his body sustained in the fall. However, the spell did reveal that certain nerves leading to your husband's legs were not functioning properly and warrant further investigation, which can only take place once he has awakened."
Lily looked up at Mummy and was surprised to find tears making silent tracks down her mother's face. Does this mean Daddy can't use his legs? she wondered. She glanced over at James who had his arm around Aunt Hermione's waist: she, too, was crying.
Oh, Daddy, Lily pleaded silently, please wake up all better so Mummy and Aunt Hermione will smile again.
The Healer cleared his throat. "Mrs Potter, I'm going to administer the revival potion now. I think it will be best if the first thing Mr Potter sees is your face since he'll still be unable to talk. Your reassurance that he can rest will let him go back to sleep on his own."
Mummy motioned to Lily and her brothers. "Come, children, Dad's going to need all of us in a few moments."
Together, the Potter family and Aunt Hermione gathered round Daddy's bed. Mum held Daddy's hand and when she was ready, nodded at the Healer. He tapped a vial of brown-coloured potion with his wand and the liquid disappeared.
"It'll be about thirty seconds, Mrs Potter," he intoned and sure enough, Daddy's eyes fluttered open and began looking wildly about. His eyes looked scared as he clutched Mummy's hand. The silver breathing machine began to beep wildly and the Healer flicked his wand at it. The beeping noise vanished, leaving only the dials waving wildly.
Mummy reached up with her free hand and smoothed Daddy's fringe away from his forehead so that Lily could see his faint lightening bolt-shaped scar. Her touch seemed to calm him.
"Welcome back, Harry," she said, "You're in St Mungo's and you've been badly hurt. There's an enchanted Muggle machine helping you breathe. Just rest for now and let the potions help you get better."
Daddy blinked twice as if to say, Yes, dear. Then he closed his eyes and Lily watched the dials on the silver breathing machine go back to their normal, steady rhythm.
Daddy was once again asleep.
A/N: Thank you, everyone, for reading and commenting on this first chapter. As I indicated on Tuesday, I will be posting on Thursdays until the story is complete, so you won't have very long to wait until the next installment.
At this time, I want to thank my pre-beta team for their willingness to read the story and help me find its direction. Jedi34, Mutt n Feathers, RebeccaRipple, and RSS your questions, comments and suggestions encouraged me and spurred me on to make this the story it has turned out to be. I am grateful for everything you have said to me about each chapter and I've taken it all to heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I also appreciate my beta Aggiebell for the commas and "that's" she either exorcised or added where appropriate. I even forgive her for repeatedly calling me an "evil woman" because I actually do agree with her on that point!