In a meeting room on the second floor of the Ministry, a rather large group of people had gathered to discuss the Aurors’ investigation into what was now being called the Projectile Investigation. Ron, as head of the investigating team, chaired the meeting. Round the table sat Healer Payton Stilwell; Madam Felicity Nigel, Director of St Mungo’s Hospital; Randolph Robards, Deputy Director of the Auror Department; and the members of Ron’s Auror team Susan Bones-Finch-Fletchley, Terry Boot, Garrett Carmichael and Brodie Chambers. Also present at the meeting were the four members of the second forensics team, headed by Lavender Brown-McKenna, who had been called to investigate the scene in the basement of the house, as well as Silvio Tornincasa, the undertaker from the St Mungo’s morgue. Padma Pakrasi, head of the Auror’s Toxicology Department, sat next to Mr Tornincasa quietly going over her notes. The last two to enter the room were Stewart Ackerley, the representative from the Minister for Magic’s Office and Eloise Midgen, one of the Ministry solicitors who had been tasked with compiling the government’s case against the criminals to be discussed at the meeting. The two slid, slightly red-faced and out of breath, into the two remaining chairs as Ron rapped the table with the handle of his wand to call the meeting to order.
“I think we all know why I’ve called this meeting. Yesterday, due to the cooperation of the suspect we arrested several days ago, we learned a great deal of pertinent information,” he began. “We also need to hear the reports from the other departments and discuss what our next moves will be to ensure the safety of the public and the patients and ward workers at St Mungo’s. Auror Bones, will you please brief us on what the suspect told you yesterday.”
Susan’s report was quickly presented, revealing all of the facts but none of the emotion of the day before. What surprised Ron, however, was the fact that she didn’t stop with the revelation of the proximity of Mark Huntley’s second injury to Harry’s accident. She went on to say that he told her his wounds healed almost instantly, although they still left terrible scars. He had also reported that he’d been returned to his flat within hours of the “treatment”—as the Matron was calling her experiments—under a much stronger Imperius Curse. She ended her report by saying that on the day Brian Nelson was victimized Mr Huntley had only half-heartedly tried to escape as instructed previously by the Matron through the Curse—again having finally shaken it off—knowing that he needed to admit his involvement in order to stop others from becoming victims. When she was done, she passed copies of her report round the table.
Deputy Director Robards thumbed through the report as if looking for something. When he found what he was looking for, he marked the page with his finger and asked, “Auror Bones, why didn’t you mention that Huntley was one of the attendants present when Auror Potter was prepared for transfer to The Groves?”
Susan met his gaze as she answered, “That evidence is pertinent to a subject that will be discussed later in the meeting.”
“What is being done with the rest of this evidence?” Robards asked as he tapped Susan’s report.
“I’ll defer to Auror Weasley, if you don’t object,” she said, inclining her head towards Ron.
Ron cleared his throat. “Pursuant to what we learned from the suspect, I contacted the Department of Experimental Spells and had one of their Curse Reversers work with the two prisoners we arrested back in October.”
Robards frowned. “Why weren’t those prisoners released months ago?”
“Both had previous records, and as the Wizengamot considered the two dangerous to the public, bail was set very high. Neither could post bail, so they were being held downstairs in the holding cells,” Ron answered.
“And why hadn’t they been processed and sent to Azkaban?”
“They were under medical supervision they couldn’t get at the prison,” Madam Nigel interjected. “It was suspected the two were cursed, but our healers had determined that it would be detrimental to the prisoners if the unknown spell or spells were broken without proper observation first, even if it turned out the two were only under an Imperius Curse.”
“Very good, carry on.”
Ron said, “The Curse Reverser, Mr Justin Finch-Fletchley, was called away this morning at the last minute, so I’ll give you an overview of what happened yesterday. When he arrived on level ten, I briefed him on Auror Bones’ discovery and he began working with the male prisoner. In due time, he was able to lift the Imperius Curse which had been cast on the prisoner nearly a year previously. He was also able to lift the same curse from the female prisoner.”
“What were the affects of the reversal?”
“Both were given time to rest and then were questioned by members of my team. Both prisoners were cooperative and willing to answer questions instead of blatantly refusing or falling asleep as they had in the past.”
“What have you learned from these prisoners?”
Brodie spoke up. “Both prisoners acted as associates to or colleagues of the leader of the group, a witch known to us at this time only as ‘the Matron.’ The female prisoner, whose name is Alison Morven, told us that she, Kasey Oswald— the male prisoner—and two others still at large had a higher status than several volunteer and paid assistants. Incidentally, anyone working with or for the Matron agreed to be Imperiused against the possibility they should be captured by the Aurors.
“Anyway, Morven and Oswald were heavily involved in the preparation of the potions and various spells used during the Matron’s experiments,” he continued. “When asked, the two described the experiments they helped the Matron carry out, either handling the materials used or guarding the victims and inspecting and recording the results. There’s more about those in my report.”
“And did they confirm that one of the victims they experimented on was Mark Huntley?” Robards interrupted.
Terry Boot explained, “They did. Apparently, Morven and Oswald originally tried to recruit him because he is training to be a healer. What they didn’t count on was his sense of justice and how fiercely he stood by his Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.”
“There’s not much more about those two,” Ron said, “except that they suddenly stopped duelling, put their wands on the ground and allowed themselves to be captured on the night of the raid.”
“During his interview, Oswald said he stopped duelling with the Aurors because the Matron told him to through their Imperius Curse connection,” Terry added.
Robards raised an eyebrow. “Did he give you any particular reason for why she had him stop?”
“Apparently, she reported she was done with her treatment.”
“Interesting. I wonder what that meant,” Robards mused as Ron raised an eyebrow at Terry. This was old news to him, but in light of all the new evidence, he was beginning to form his own profile of this Matron character.
Garrett Carmichael broke in, “We’re reasonably sure she meant she was done inserting needles into Auror Potter’s back. Auror Weasley’s report reflected his findings in the pit: the extra, smaller pit; Auror Potter’s blood and personal wand; and several vials containing extra needles and the residue from two different potions.”
Robards thumbed through a thick file he’d brought with him, finally pulling out a thick sheaf of parchment, which had been sectioned and flattened to allow filing. He turned a few pages and ran a finger down the middle of the one he’d selected. “Yes, it’s right here.” He closed Ron’s report as he queried, “And how long had Oswald and Morven been Imperiused again?”
“A little over a year. Apparently, they were in the Matron’s employ for several months prior to her being employed as a matron at St Mungo’s. They helped her set up the laboratory in the basement of the house we raided,” Garrett said.
“I see. What do you know about the volunteer or paid assistants?”
“The one we know about is most likely a wizard named Tim Dawson. My brother, George Weasley, employed him for a short time as a potion maker and stock clerk,” Ron reported flatly. “George dismissed him eight months ago for copying his development notebooks for a product that uses a magical version of a Muggle remote control device. At the time, George was just looking for an excuse to fire him because Mr Dawson wasn’t doing the job my brother was paying him to do, as well as his rudeness to customers. Once we started investigating Mr Dawson, we discovered that he was holding down a second job at St Mungo’s, first as a sani-wizard cleaning up the potions labs and then as a Matron’s Assistant.” Ron consulted his notes. “Mr Dawson held the job of sani-wizard from 1999 through 2018 when he applied for and was hired as a Matron’s Assistant. He wasn’t liked by the patients in the first three wards he was assigned to and had been shuffled from ward to ward when the patients complained. About two weeks after the Matron appeared on the Non-Magical Injuries Ward, Mr Dawson was assigned to her ward and has been there ever since.”
“Why do you think he has stayed in the NMIW so long?” Eloise Midgen asked, speaking for the first time.
“The patients in that ward are usually too sick to complain when they first arrive in the ward,” Healer Stilwell answered. “I investigated the rotation schedule to discover how the matrons were handling their personnel. The matron we’re discussing assigned Mr Dawson to the sickest patients and when they had responded to treatment enough to be more coherent and alert to their surroundings, Mr Huntley and other, more agreeable, Assistants were assigned to care for them.”
Miss Midgen’s eyes skewered the healer. “You seem to know quite a bit about this particular suspect,” she observed.
Healer Stilwell sighed. “That, I do. If we’re talking about the same witch, I’ve known her for over twenty years. I’ve always assumed her real name, the one I’ve always called her, was Shirley Higgins.”
“Any relation to Terrance Higgins, the Death Eater who was released from Azkaban a year ago?” Susan asked.
“Not that I know of,” Healer Stilwell replied. “As closely as we worked together over the years, I never knew much about her personal life.”
“And what did you work on together, sir?”
“Shirley was employed as an entry-level Potioneer on the Injuries floor beginning in 1997. I was a Healer-in-Training at the time and had been treating paralysis cases with conventional potions and not having much success. Shirley and I developed several potions, one of which has become the main nerve-regeneration potion used in the Non-Magical Injuries Ward.”
“I assume both of you have been compensated for your contribution to Healing,” Miss Midgen stated.
“Actually, only I have,” Healer Stilwell responded. “Five years ago, Shirley and I had a rather spectacular falling-out over the fact that the Wizarding healing journals were still giving me full credit for the potion’s success while her contributions seem to have been overlooked. She seemed to think that I was purposely not giving interviewers her name when, in actuality, I was. To make a long story short, Shirley quit her job at St Mungo’s and relocated to Germany to study at a healing school there for her matron’s certificate. When she returned to Great Britain and the hospital, she was re-employed as Shirley Gorman. She was assigned to the NMIW and shortly after that my troubles with non-responsive patients began.”
Miss Midgen surveyed the two St Mungo’s representatives shrewdly. “I recognize everyone here and know that the hospital’s legal representative isn’t present. How are you going to defend yourself if the Wizengamot decides to press charges against you and the hospital?” she queried.
Madam Nigel fielded this question by first tapping her lapel with her wand. Ron tried to hide his smile as he recognized one of George’s new products, a small, nearly invisible voice recorder disk to which another of his new spells was applied to activate it. He scribbled a note to himself to tell George he’d seen one being used.
“Everything being said by, about or to Healer Stilwell and me is being transmitted to a dicta-quill back at the hospital. Our solicitor, Vicky Frobisher, will have a transcript of this meeting five minutes after I deactivate the device,” she explained.
Miss Midgen nodded. “Very well. Healer Stilwell, I’m concerned that you’ve cast a blind eye to the fact that someone has been deliberately tampering with your patients, thus making their conditions harder to heal and causing them undeserved pain and suffering.”
Healer Stilwell half-rose from his chair at the accusation, but sat down when Madam Nigel touched his arm. With a great sigh, he addressed the Ministry solicitor. “You assume incorrectly that many of my patients were affected by Mrs Gorman’s experiments. According to my records only twenty of the three hundred sixty-seven I’ve treated in the last year were given unapproved potions to inhibit the success of treatment or were hurt in any way by Mr Dawson or Mr Huntley. That’s a little over five percent! Each case was different from the ones before it, so there was no reason to suspect any tampering until recently. I’ll tell you this: Mrs Gorman is a very shrewd witch who plans every move she makes very carefully; only when she’s absolutely certain that she will achieve the desired outcome will she actually order the administration of an unauthorized potion or actually hurt someone as she deliberately did Mr Potter and Mr Nelson. She was like that twenty-odd years ago when we worked together on the nerve-regeneration potions.”
“And do your records show which patients Matron Gorman experimented on and to what degree these patients were harmed?” pressed Miss Midgen.
It was Madam Nigel’s turn to bristle. “Miss Midgen, the hospital refuses to let Healer Stilwell answer that question. Suffice it to say that a full investigation is being conducted at this time by the hospital’s Board of Inquiries. If you wish to speak with any Board member or follow the investigation, please contact me after this meeting,” she stated imperiously.
Miss Midgen made a notation on her legal pad and sat back after murmuring her thanks. Stewart Ackerley, the Minister’s representative, leaned close as the two put their heads together for a few seconds. Ron couldn’t hear what they were saying, so he continued the meeting by calling on Mrs Pakrasi and the four forensics team members.
The forensics team tacked a large poster featuring the layout of the investigation site, which included the arrival area where the first forensics team was murdered. They described the house and its contents as well as those of the cellar dungeon, including the pit and experiment and holding areas. When asked for details, they deferred to Ron to describe his investigation of the pit within the pit.
He ended his report with some speculation: “It is my opinion that the Matron was the one down in the pit waiting for the stairs to give way so her victim would fall into position. Once Auror Potter landed on the stones, she set to work inserting sets of needles in his spinal column and a sword-like device in his left lung.”
“And the evidence you found corroborates this speculation?” Robards asked.
“Yes, sir,” Ron confidently stated. Robards nodded and then looked expectantly at the forensics team members.
The forensics team then reported on the contents of the wardrobe found in the experiment section of the cellar, which included four cauldrons full of variously coloured potions and several large blocks of a gel-like substance.
“It took us several weeks, but we finally identified the substance known as ballistics gelatine,” reported Lavender Brown-McKenna. “Once we identified it, the substance was easy to locate in Muggle chemical supply shops and a diluted version can be found in grocer’s shops because it is actually a common substance found in jellies.”
Ron, Susan, Garrett and Brodie exchanged glances as Mr Ackerley asked, “Why would they need ballistics pudding? They weren’t shooting arrows or firelegs at anyone.”
Ron barely kept a straight face as Lavender answered, “No, Mr Ackerley, there were no Muggle guns involved, nor were there any arrows. The Matron and her assistants were probably using the gel to evaluate their testing methods. Do you recall that Auror Bones reported how the glass shards and metal fragments were projected into Mr Huntley’s body?” Ackerley nodded. “Most likely, the suspects were throwing glass and metal at the blocks to gauge wound penetration and the force needed to bury the projectiles in a person’s flesh. Made properly and wrapped in pig flesh to simulate human skin, ballistics gel has a similar composition to human flesh and it’s relatively clear so it was the ideal substance to use in their tests.”
Mr Ackerley, looking a bit green, excused himself from the meeting.
“This substance, since it is available as food, is untraceable in the Wizarding world,” Ron added. “The MLE has someone inquiring about large purchases of gelatine as we speak. We may know in a day or two where the gelatine was purchased.”
Padma joined in now. “As for the other contents of the wardrobe, I was given samples from the six cauldrons Auror Weasley’s team found in the basement. The first substance I tested turned out to be a small quantity of a potion known for inhibiting lung function. The sword-like object Healer Stilwell took from Auror Potter’s body had traces of this substance on it. This potion may be the reason why the healers in the A and E at St Mungo’s had to resort to using a modified Muggle respirator on Auror Potter in order to re-inflate his lung after their inflation spells and potions did not work.”
Healer Stilwell and Madam Nigel both nodded in agreement as Padma continued. “There was also a nearly-dried-up potion that I identified as a cocaine-based mixture. Since Muggles use cocaine as a recreational drug to dull the senses, the suspects may have been testing this potion as a potential nerve inhibitor. They also have prescription forms such as Oxycodone, which Muggle doctors prescribe for mild to severe pain. However, due to the expense and possible unwanted side-effects, I think this potion was abandoned early on.”
“Would the cocaine-based potion have been easily brewed in someone’s kitchen?” Brodie asked.
“Absolutely. The quantity brought to me in its original cauldron was less than a litre, so it could have very well been brewed in the kitchen of the property in question,” she answered. “However, if they were using Muggle prescription drugs like Oxycodone or OxyContin pills, all they would have had to do is pulverize the pills and dilute them with water to the concentration they wanted. But again, if such side-effects as inhibited respiration and lowered heart rate became a problem, the Matron would have had enough reason to abandon the potion due to the real possibility overdosing their test subjects.”
Garrett mumbled in Ron’s direction, “Overdoses and dead bodies wouldn’t have been a problem for this group, but Padma’s theories are definitely sound.”
“I agree,” Ron murmured back as Susan commented, “That would also explain why we found only a few traces of that potion when we cast the detection spells.”
Ron turned his attention back to Padma.
“As for the other cauldrons,” Padma continued, “the potions in two of them were artificially coloured green and the other two blue. I was able to replicate each potion after breaking down their composition. One, the green, was a common anaesthetic used by Muggles during surgery or dental procedures. It had been altered and magically concentrated. The other, the blue, was a narcotic potion similar in nature to a Serum of Sentient Death. However, instead of simulating death, this potion actually was a tissue-killer.”
Healer Stilwell smiled at Padma. “Thank you very much for corroborating my theories, Mrs Pakrasi. You see, when I extracted the needles from both Auror Potter and Mr Nelson, both blue and green substances leaked out of the hollow needles; in both cases, the green substance was placed higher in the spinal column than the blue. Since the two victims were already hurt, they naturally wouldn’t have needed much of each potion to exacerbate their conditions.”
“Your report states you found another type of needle in the victims’ backs,” Miss Midgen spoke up. “What was the purpose of the second type of needle?”
Lavender spoke up. “Those were used to rip and tear flesh, most likely spinal cord fibres. I had the misfortune of having one of those needles worm its way in to my finger. It left a huge wound that was difficult to heal after I extracted it. Healer Stilwell, what sort of damage did you find in Mr Nelson’s and Auror Potter’s spinal cords?”
The healer described the extraction process and the results of the spells he used to see inside the victims’ bodies. He ended by saying, “The damage done to young Mr Nelson is much more profound than Auror Potter’s. I highly doubt Mr Nelson will ever walk again, the damage is so severe.”
At this, the witches and wizards around the table all looked very sad and quite grim. It was Lavender who broke the uncomfortable silence.
“I’d like to ask something of Auror Bones,” she said. When Susan nodded, Lavender said, “You stated earlier that Mr Huntley witnessed Auror Potter’s preparation for transfer. What, if anything, do you have to say on this?”
“On November first, Mr Huntley was asked to assist in the bathing and general preparation of Auror Potter for transfer to the rehabilitation facility, The Groves,” Susan began. “When asked what he did for Mr Potter, he answered that he was there to dress and undress Auror Potter before and after his bath. When I asked him if he’d seen anything else, Mr Huntley admitted that he’d witnessed the Matron inserting needles from various vials into Auror Potter’s spine and that there was no evidence of their presence once the wounds had closed themselves.
“It was shortly after Auror Potter was transferred that Mr Huntley overheard Tim talking to the Matron about ‘Auror Potter squealing like a stuck pig.’ The two later confronted Mr Huntley and threatened him with more treatments if he didn’t learn to activate the needles to use on subsequent victims,” Susan said with a shudder.
“That would explain Mr Potter’s unaccounted-for pain,” mumbled Healer Stilwell.
“Which leads us to the subject of boot prints,” Ron said, moving to the next topic. “Lavender, what has your team discovered about those?”
Smiling, Lavender said, “The prints at both the arrival point near the house and under Auror Potter’s window at The Groves are the same. Each set has the same wear pattern on the heels and identical nail patterns on the soles. Therefore, they belong to the same wizard.”
“This is only conjecture,” Ron stated, “but I’m willing to bet that the wizard in question is Tim Dawson, especially after what Mr Huntley overheard.” The others all nodded in agreement, so Ron continued, “Do any of you have any other evidence in this case?”
Terry Boot raised his hand, making Ron smile. “Auror Potter sent us an address given him by an anonymous informant who thinks a warehouse in North Woolwich is the newest hide-out of our gang of perpetrators. I checked it out during the day and found traces of blood in the alleyway beside the warehouse and on the pavement in front of the building. I also went again late last night; I saw movement in the upper windows, but didn’t hear or see anything unusual.”
“Thank you, Auror Boot,” Ron said. “I think you’re right about the warehouse and we will keep it under surveillance during the next few weeks.” He looked about the table. “Anything else?”
Silvio Tornincasa, the undertaker, spoke up. “I just want to confirm that the order in which the four members of the first forensics team died is correct in the report.”
Ron smiled at the soft-spoken wizard. “Thank you very much, Mr Tornincasa. Your report has been made part of the overall investigation,” he said. Then, turning to the table at large, he suggested, “Let’s all take a five minute break. Healer Stilwell, Madam Nigel, Mr Tornincasa, and the forensics team, we are done with this phase of the meeting. I do request that anything you’ve heard in this room not be discussed with anyone until the suspects have been apprehended and tried before the Wizengamot. Thank you very much for your time. If you are needed again, you will be contacted. The rest of you, I’d like you to stay and be part of the planning meeting after the break.”
The meeting broke up as everyone rose.
“Hi, Mr Potter, Auror Weasley,” Brian greeted the two as Harry rolled into Room Three followed by Ron.
“Hey, your custom chair arrived!” Harry exclaimed happily. “Looks good!”
Brian glanced down at the shiny new wheelchair in which he was sitting and shrugged. “It fits me better than the big silver one did,” he said softly, “but I don’t know how much I like it.”
Harry understood how he felt. “It’s a tool,” he said. “You don’t have to like it.”
Brian looked relieved and smiled shyly at Harry.
“Are you feeling better?” Ron asked.
Brian’s expression morphed into a scowl as he growled, “If one more person asks me that I’m gonna scream.”
Harry chuckled and said to Ron, “He’s definitely feeling better.” He turned back to Brian. “How was P-T this morning? I saw you working on the mats with Melissa as I was going out to the therapy grounds.”
“Hard, but it helped me stop being angry,” the boy replied.
“I agree,” Harry commiserated. Then he added, “Tomorrow, ask Melissa to show you how to use the punching and speed bags in the boxing area. The next time you feel like punching something, punch the bags. It’s better than hitting a wall or snapping at someone for no reason.”
“I’ll ask her,” said Brian somewhat unenthusiastically, but Harry knew he would when given the chance to think the idea over.
“Brian, do you have time to give us some help?” Ron asked, changing the subject.
Brian looked at his watch. “Yeah, I do. I’m not going anywhere until three and my mum said she’d be back in about five minutes.”
“Good,” Ron said as he put the box he was carrying on the table and sat in one of the straight chairs. “I’d like her to be here for you, but I can explain some things in the meantime. Brian, I need you to recall your memories of your stay at St Mungo’s—”
“I gave you my formal statement yesterday,” Brian interrupted.
“I know you did, Brian. This is something entirely different and it might be far more important than just words,” Ron explained.
When the boy looked bewildered, Harry interjected, “Have you ever heard of a Pensieve?”
Brian shook his head.
Harry explained, “A Pensieve is a tool Aurors use to view people’s memories.” He went on to describe how a Pensieve worked and some of the reasons the Aurors used one. He ended his explanation by saying, “I’ve used a Pensieve quite often in the last few weeks. I have one in my room and use it when my head feels too full to make sense out of things.”
“So what do you want with my memories?” Brian asked Ron.
“Remember the man I apprehended the day Healer Stilwell discovered the needles in your back?” Ron asked.
Brian looked troubled. “Sorta,” he answered, sounding scared. “I was in too much pain to remember very much.”
Ron reached out and patted Brian’s shoulder. “It’s all right,” he soothed. “The suspect has answered our questions and now we need to corroborate his evidence. What I’m asking you is if you’d be willing to let me copy your memories of the people you came in contact with during your stay at the hospital.”
“Will it hurt?” Brian asked as his mother walked in and greeted Harry and Ron.
“Will what hurt, love?” Mrs Nelson inquired.
“Auror Weasley wants me to give him some memories for his Pensieve,” Brian told her.
Mrs Nelson looked sceptical. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” she said. “My son’s already been through so much.”
Harry intervened, “Mrs Nelson, the memories Ron wants are the ones connected with the people who hurt us; the suspect he apprehended that day at St Mungo’s has finally talked and Ron wants to see if Brian observed more than just what he recalled in his statement.”
“I’m not sure my son will benefit from reliving his experiences at that hospital,” Mrs Nelson said forcefully.
“Mum, I want to give Auror Weasley my memories,” Brian interjected. “Mr Potter just told me that I could have the copies back when the Aurors were done with them and that if he and I viewed them together, he’d be willing to talk with me about them. He says he’s used a Pensieve a lot in the past few weeks.”
“If I allow this to happen and you give us back Brian’s memories, could I see them, too?” Mrs Nelson asked.
“Of course,” Harry said. “But Brian has the last say whether you get to come into the Pensieve with us.”
She looked relieved as she gave her permission. “And the extraction process won’t hurt my son?” she asked one last time.
Harry shook his head. “It doesn’t hurt to copy memories any more than thinking about them constantly does, Mrs Nelson.”
Still looking sceptical, Mrs Nelson sighed, “Very well.”
“Then let’s begin,” Ron said, taking out his wand.
Brian suddenly looked apprehensive. “You’re going to cast a spell on me?” he asked. “You’re not going to wipe my memory, are you?”
Harry rolled closer to Brian. “The spell is very specific and copies only the memory you attach to the wand tip. If you’d like me to get my Pensieve for a demonstration, I’ll go get it.”
Both Mrs Nelson and Brian looked relieved. Harry mumbled, “Be right back,” and quickly rolled down to his room where he unlocked his bureau and took out the small wooden box that held his Pensieve. Less than a minute later, he was back in Room Three.
“Let me demonstrate,” he said. “Ron, I’ll think of a memory and you can take it and put it in here.” He pointed to the Pensieve that now sat on the table. “Then, we’ll view it together.”
Ron stepped forward and when Harry had recalled a memory, he nodded and Ron touched his wand to Harry’s temple, pulling away a short length of fine, silvery memory. He gently shook it into Harry’s Pensieve and a moment later, the four were watching James Potter flying above the surface of the Pensieve, obviously playing Quidditch.
That’s all it took to reassure Brian and his mother. Brian willingly complied with Ron’s instructions and was soon handing over the specified memories Ron needed for his investigation.
When they were done, Brian asked, “Is it all right to feel relieved?”
Harry laughed. “Absolutely, Brian.”
“Good,” Brian smiled. “I hope what I gave you helps, Auror Weasley.”
Ron smiled at the boy. “You’re helping me a great deal.” He lifted the box of vials. “I’ll be sure these get back to you. And now, I need to be going. Harry, I’ll see you in a day or two with those papers we talked about.”
“Sounds good,” Harry agreed. Then, as Ron turned towards the door, Harry remembered something. “Hold on a moment, Ron. I have another memory for you,” he said. “Do you have an extra vial?”
“I do.” Ron set the box back on the table and took out the last empty vial and his wand. “I’m ready when you are.”
Harry nodded. “Go ahead and take it,” he said and Ron pulled the memory from his head. Harry closed his eyes, feeling a momentary sadness as he thought of Ginny. When he opened them, both Ron and Brian were staring at him.
“You OK?” Brian asked. “Your eyes are watering.”
Harry smiled at him. “I am. I just gave Ron a memory from eight months ago. It’s a promise I made to my wife in front of several hospital staff the last time I was in St Mungo’s. I’m feeling a bit sad thinking about how I broke that promise, though.”
Ron’s eyebrows shot into his fringe. “Are you sure you want me to have that one, Harry?” he asked incredulously.
“I am,” Harry said fiercely. “I think it’s important to the investigation.”
“If you say so.” Ron shot him a dubious look as he picked up his box again. “I’ll have a look at some of these this afternoon. See you soon,” he added.
“Say hello to Hermione for me,” Harry called as Ron headed in the direction of the Transportation Office. He stayed for several minutes talking with the Nelsons before taking his Pensieve back to his room.
“Ginny, you home?” Ron’s voice called from the direction of the kitchen.
“Yes,” Ginny answered from the lounge. “Come on through.” She hung a brightly-coloured ball on the Christmas tree she’d set up and turned to see Ron walking through the doorway carrying a box.
“Hi, am I interrupting anything?” Ron asked as he set the box on an end table.
“Just this.” Ginny gestured to the tree. “Nothing the kids can’t finish when they come home on the nineteenth,” she answered. “What’s in the box?”
Ron took his time taking off his cloak and laying it carefully over the back of a wing chair. “Erm... it’s what I’ve come to talk to you about,” he responded somewhat nervously, making Ginny raise an eyebrow. “I... erm... we... my team needs you to share some memories with us.”
Surprised, Ginny asked, “Memories of what?”
“Memories of all the healers, matrons and matron’s assistants you remember from Harry’s most recent stay at St Mungo’s,” Ron stated, sounding apologetic.
“Whatever for?” Ginny asked. “Do you know how many people I talked to from the time I first saw Harry in the A and E to the time he left? You’re asking a lot, Ron.”
“I know I am, but you don’t have to recall the people from A and E. We’re most interested in the people you encountered on the Non-Magical Injuries Ward,” Ron explained.
Ginny sucked in a sharp breath. “You mean... you think those people are somehow connected to Harry’s injuries?” she asked, sinking onto the couch.
“I can’t be specific, but watching your memories would be most helpful,” Ron replied.
“Gulping gargoyles!” Ginny exclaimed. “You’re asking a lot, but I’ll help. You want to do this right now?”
“Could we? The sooner we can sort through them, the better for the investigation,” Ron said as he took out his wand.
“All right. Give me a moment. Who do you want me to concentrate on?” she asked. She rubbed her temples trying to relax enough to let the memories come to the surface.
“Anyone who cast a spell on Harry, excluding the healers,” Ron instructed.
Ginny nodded and closed her eyes. When the images she wanted were close to the surface, she whispered, “I’m ready. Here’s the first...”
Five minutes later, Ron closed the lid on his box. Inside were twenty-five memories stored in variously-sized vials. He put on his cloak and Ginny, who had yet to open her eyes, felt the couch shift.
“You need anything?” Ron asked, his voice full of concern.
“No, but I could use a hug,” she murmured. “It’s not the most pleasant thing to recall so many memories. As glad as I am to share them with you, summoning them from where I’d tucked them away just brought the whole frustratingly stressful experience back in full force.” Ginny opened her eyes and looked at her brother hopefully. “Is there any chance I could have the vials back when you’re done? I might want to view them sometime in Harry’s Pensieve.”
Ron’s strong arms gathered her close as he said, “I promise to return the vials, sis.”
Ginny sighed thankfully. “Good. I hope what I gave you is useful,” she said.
“I think it will be. Thanks for your help.” He stood up and collected his box. “Will you and the children be at Mum’s on the twentieth?”
“No, we’re coming back here for a couple of days for some family time together before we go to The Burrow,” Ginny answered.
“All right. I’ll tender your regrets to Mum for the family, then,” Ron said. “See you soon.”
Ginny walked him to the fireplace, and with mixed feelings, watched her brother disappear into the green flames.
A/N: There you have it... the evidence all nicely laid out for you by the Aurors and other departments involved in collecting the data the Aurors need to legally arrest the Matron... if they can ever catch her!
My sincerest thanks goes out to Mutt n Feathers for her expertise in Muggle medicine and Rosina Ferguson for her Brit-picking prowess. Between the two, this chapter was spruced up and made ship-shape in those areas while Jedi34, RSS and RebeccaRipple read and asked questions during the numerous rewrites of various sections. Also, I appreciate the time Aggiebell took to go through the final version of the chapter after I sent it to her with only days to spare. I appreciate her questions and comments, which forced me to rewrite part of several paragraphs until we were both satisfied... and then I decided to change them again! Thanks a bunch, Aggie! You’re the greatest!