"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Healer Stilwell asked as he and Ron sat down in the consultation area of Healer Stilwell's St Mungo's office.
Ron gulped and nodded, petrified at the thought that if the mission he was about to commit to failed, he might end up as crippled as Harry. However, he was determined to carry out the plan, because it was time the Matron was stopped.
"I can see no other alternative," he said quietly. "We have to catch the Matron in the act of deliberately hurting someone and I won't ask another Auror to risk his or her health. It has to be me."
"I don't like the plan, Ron, but like you, I see no other way for you to get the evidence you need," sighed the healer.
"I appreciate your willingness to participa—" Ron began, but Healer Stilwell cut him off.
"I'm only participating because you need a qualified healer on your team," he said, skewering Ron with his eyes. "I know what the Matron is capable of doing: she's trying to discredit the hospital and ruin my reputation because of something that happened twenty-odd years ago. I'll not have it, not after how hard I've worked to help patients like Harry and Brian." He shook his head. "I'm also thinking about how many patients will need my services in the future. If the Matron ruins my career…" Healer Stilwell looked troubled for a moment and seemed to be staring at the framed certificates on the wall behind Ron, as if the thought was too horrible to imagine. At length, he shook his head as if returning to the present. "Ron, if anything goes wrong, you'll need immediate medical attention and none of your Aurors are qualified to help you," he added, bringing the subject back to the mission.
Ron sighed. He knew Healer Stilwell was right on all accounts. Looking down at his clipboard, he waited for the healer to continue.
"How many Aurors are you stationing on the Injuries Floor?" he asked.
"There will be two Aurors disguised as my worried relatives outside in the corridor. The same goes for the three other members of my team who will be at my bedside," Ron reported thinking about the newest Auror he'd added to the team, a witch named Mary Beth Prendergast.
"Might I suggest that at least one, possibly two, of your Aurors wear Assistant's robes?" asked Healer Stilwell. "They can mingle freely with the regular staff in our restricted areas in order to report on the Matron's activities and whereabouts if they're dressed properly. They can be passed off as a couple of new trainees who were recently hired as part of the increase in staffing mandated by your sister's request for better patient care."
Ron smiled. Thank goodness for Ginny's tirade, he thought, thinking of the bits and pieces of gossip that had been floating round the office in recent months. Aloud he said, "That makes more sense. Have you really hired extra assistants?"
A small smile made Healer Stilwell look less stressed for a moment. "We have and the patients seem happier for the extra attention. The ward workers are more relaxed, less overworked, I think. Your sister was right to raise the issue."
"What about the healers in Emergency? Ron asked.
Again, Healer Stilwell smiled. "At our department heads' meeting last week, the head of A and E reported that his staff actually cheered when the new-hires arrived for their first shifts."
"Can I tell Ginny?" Ron asked, pleased with the changes he was hearing about.
"Of course. I imagine the Fundraising Chairwitch will be contacting your sister this week. Madam Nigel always wants preparations for the March Gala ball to begin as soon as New Years celebrations are over. There's something about how the holiday, alcohol and magic never mix well…" Healer Stilwell shook his head and glanced down at his notes. "Now… back to business. The two Aurors out in the corridor should be the ones to bring you into the A and E via Portkey. Five minutes prior to the Portkey activating, you will take a potion which will simulate the injured and paralyzed condition in which you will arrive."
Ron nodded and made a note on his agenda. "What will happen next?" he asked apprehensively without looking up.
"Your condition will be diagnosed and I will be called to consult on your treatment. It will be decided that you belong in the Non-Magical Injuries ward."
"Healer Stilwell, the last time we talked about this you said it might be necessary to actually break my back," Ron reminded the healer. "Is that what the first potion will do to me?"
"No. We will not be breaking your back, not with a potion nor with a spell. It's too dangerous. Instead, the injuries will all be simulated. The first potion you'll ingest prior to arriving at the hospital will create the pain you must experience with the sorts of injuries you're arriving with; the pain will be real because the potion affects the nervous system the same way the Cruciatus Curse does. I must warn you that it's not pleasant.
"Next, one of the Aurors with you will cast a Fracture Simulation Spell on your spine. This spell will make it look like you have broken your vertebrae. Again, there is some risk because if done incorrectly, the spell is powerful enough to actually cause the injuries it recreates. If the spell is done incorrectly the bones could be completely broken, you would be permanently disabled. Therefore, before I entrust you to their mercy, the Auror must practice the spell on livestock carcasses to learn the right inflection for simulating the fracturing of bones. Is there an Auror on your team whom you trust to administer the spell?"
"Yes, there are two, but I would like to speak with them first," Ron replied.
"Very well… Now once I'm with you and I've healed your 'fractures', you will drink the antidote to the first potion along with several others to help you relax. I will then start casting the spells I usually use to activate certain components in the nerve regeneration potions you will have supposedly drunk. I will be including a spell that will continue your paralysis, but in a more easily reversible form. The spell will last several hours during which time I may need to come 'examine' you again to renew the charm, if the Matron hasn't made her move yet."
"How long do you think it will take for her to discover her latest victim?" Ron asked.
"That's up to you and your Aurors because one of the disguised Aurors will need to perform the Imperius Curse on her to suggest she look in your file."
Ron bristled at this suggestion. "Healer Stilwell, the Imperius Curse has not been performed by an Auror in over thirty years, not since the First War ended with Harry's parents being killed and Tom Riddle's disappearance. It is an illegal curse, which carries a penalty of life in Azkaban if its use is detected. No one on my team will be sanctioned to use the Curse."
"Then how do you propose to entice the Matron to even consider you as a candidate for her experiments?" Healer Stilwell countered.
"My team has been trained to persuade suspects into doing their bidding without resorting to the Imperius Curse. Will you trust us to do our job while you do yours?" Ron asked.
Healer Stilwell nodded, not looking very convinced.
Ron scribbled a quick note on his parchment and then asked, "Getting back to my paralysis, you said the spell will be easier to reverse than the potion…"
"Yes, it is," Healer Stilwell said, "Whoever is with you will be able to completely mobilize you with Finite Incantatem. Your wife or another Auror stationed in your cubicle under an Invisibility Cloak can easily do this for you during the apprehension of the Matron."
"My wife will not be participating in this mission," Ron said flatly. "She is not a trained Auror and as much as I would like her to be with me, I refuse to involve her."
Healer Stilwell looked taken aback by Ron's vehemence. "I understand your reluctance, but won't it look strange if she doesn't show up at St Mungo's sometime during the mission?"
"No, it won't. I confessed last night to being worried about our meeting this morning; she knows I'm planning a dangerous mission, but none of the details. It's been this way since I joined the Auror Department: she accepts that I can't tell her much about my job, especially if the information is classified. This is just another classified, high-priority mission," Ron explained.
"But what about the fact that you will be seen in the A and E and then in the NMI ward? Someone with good intentions might try to get word to her that you're in hospital and that she needs to be with you," Healer Stilwell protested.
"Then I'll just have to tell Hermione the location of the mission and about the possibility that someone may try to contact her about my being there. It's happened before, but in other places." Ron sighed. "Anyway, she will only come to St Mungo's if the right phrase or password is given to her; it'll be something we work out prior to the mission. She may leave as suggested, but she won't show up at the hospital unless she responds correctly to the password. It's safer for her that way," he said grimly.
Healer Stilwell nodded, muttering, "I just don't like all this cloak and dagger stuff we're planning."
"Neither do I, but it's necessary," Ron said. "Erm, will there be any side-effects or lingering paralysis with the spells and potions I'm going to endure?"
"None whatsoever. The potions and spells I will be casting on you are used regularly in teaching situations to simulate paralysis in potential patients. Healers-in-training are often made to experience the conditions their patients find themselves in so that they learn what their patients are going through." He paused, then asked, "Would you feel more comfortable if I told the A and E healers working on you that you are part of a training exercise?"
Relief washed over Ron like a balm. "Yes, it would, but would that make any difference as to how I am treated?" he asked.
"No. A training exercise is a simulation of the real thing," explained Healer Stilwell. "The Healers are usually briefed a day or two beforehand on the situation they will be practicing so that they can review hospital procedure. However, sometimes they are given no notice on the exact situation they will be facing; they only know they will be evaluated on how they conduct themselves during the exercise."
"And the potions I will be given during the exercise…" Ron asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Will all be placebos except for the Paralysis Reversal Potion."
"Pla-see-what?" Ron had never heard of this term.
"Placebo. A fake potion, most likely flavoured sugar water," the healer explained with a smile.
"All right. Yeah, I want you to tell the healers in A and E I'm part of a training exercise," Ron said. "That actually makes sense because my office does hostage simulations where we have to rescue the hostages and apprehend the suspects without hurting anyone."
Healer Stilwell looked pleased as he said, "Very well. After that, all we do is wait for the Matron to attack you."
"What if it gets back to her that I'm only part of the training exercise?"
Ron nodded, remembering that he'd seen only Ginny and Hermione that night. "Why is that?" he asked.
"In the past, reporters from the Daily Prophet have tried to interview the Auror's family and friends before they've had a chance to talk to the healers about the patient's injuries," Healer Stilwell explained with a note of disgust in his voice. "It happened one too many times during the war, so hospital policy now decrees that any employee who leaks information to anyone not authorized to know a patient's identity will be fired immediately."
"That's good to know," Ron murmured. "So you're sure the Matron will not find out my injuries are simulated and that she will consider me the victim she needs?"
"Yes, I'm sure she won't find out. Also, I've studied both Harry's and Brian's files and their injuries were remarkably similar. That's why she chose them. The potions and spells will make your injuries look just like theirs."
Ron shuddered. He disagreed silently with this observation because of what he knew about the Matron's experiments. He stood up to leave. "Let's hope she decides I'm her man, then," he said instead.
Healer Stilwell stood as well. "When do you want to carry out this mission?"
Ron ran a hand through his hair. "Not for a couple of weeks, not until the Auror I choose to learn the Fracture Simulation Spell has mastered it. I'll let you know which Auror needs to practice so the two of you can get together."
"I'll wait for your owl, then."
"Anything else before I go?" Ron asked.
"Not that I can think of. Good day, Ron."
"Good day, Payton," Ron said, and with a wave of his hand he exited the healer's office and headed down the stairs to the hospital's street exit.
She was desperate. Nothing was going right and everything seemed to be crumbling about her ankles. She realized that even though she was doing her part well enough, it was her hired help who was ruining her campaign of revenge against Healer Payton Stilwell. The name sat bitterly in her mind, festering like a sore as it had for twenty years. How she hated the man and what he'd done to her, stolen from her!
And now she had a new enemy. An insignificant little toady, a friend of Harry Potter's, who was bent on ruining her life—by tattling to the Aurors the location of her last potions lab—just as much as Payton Stilwell had. Well, if that's what Malfoy wanted, then he'd get what he deserved. Her decision made, she hastened towards the mirror in the potions lab, her wand in hand.
Quickly, she transfigured her facial features, elongating her nose, squaring her chin, altering her eye colour, and heightening her cheekbones. Her greying hair was next to go; with a flick of her wand, it became the mousey brown of her youth, shoulder-length, and allowed to freely fall about her face. The more it was allowed to hide her face, the better, she reasoned.
Finished with her disguise, she Summoned her cloak from its hook and Disapparated to the Edinburgh Wizarding district. As she strode along the crowded street, she made a mental note of what she would need: an owl, stationery, quills and ink.
Her first stop was a small stationery shop where she purchased several rolls of letter-sized parchment and an assortment of inexpensive quills. The shop had a number of novelty Muggle items, including a writing implement identified by a sign as a 'biro'; she bought two of those, one blue, one black. A bottle of ink completed her purchase and as soon as she had her package, she left the shop without talking to anybody.
The Owl Emporium was two streets over and the Matron hurried through the cold towards the shop. She was thinking hard about how big and strong an owl she would need because it would need to fly a round trip of several hundred miles to deliver her letter to the Hogwarts Express and come back to her in a timely manner. She would need a big, powerful owl…
The tiny shop was dimly lit, and even when the bell tinkled as it opened, the feathery occupants didn't pull their heads from beneath their wings. The Matron made her way to the back of the shop where a tiny little man sat reading by wandlight.
"I want to purchase an owl," the Matron said. "Preferably one that can fly long distances."
"Eagle owl, then. Thirty Galleons. You'll need a cage at five and a supply of owl nuts, two Galleons. You'll need to go down the street to the Menagerie for fresh rats. Pay here for rats, two Galleons verses five there. Total thirty-nine Galleons," the man told her, ticking off the items on his fingers.
The Matron paid without a word.
"Call your owl. His temporary name is Nelson."
The Matron felt silly calling the owl, but she did so and Nelson woke up with a start, gave a great "HOO-uh!" that woke all the owls in the shop and glided down to the Matron's outstretched arm. It landed heavily and sat there staring with unblinking eyes at her.
"You'll do," she told the owl. She stuffed Nelson into his cage and left the shop, stopping only to purchase five fresh rats before she Disapparated back to the cave.
While Nelson explored his new home, the Matron carefully composed her letter. When she was done, she carefully rolled the parchment tightly, used the parchment to create a Portkey and cast a spell that would activate it only when the letter was unrolled by her victim.
As she heard the tell-tale pops of her two paid assistants Apparating into the cave, she decided not to name the victim until the very last minute.
1400 hours, 30 December 2020
Harry looked up from his unpacking to find Silvia leaning against the doorframe of his room.
"Good afternoon, Harry," she greeted him with a smile. "How was your visit home?"
Harry Banished the last of his clothes to his bureau before answering. "Eventful to say the least," he answered truthfully, thinking of all that had transpired over the last two weeks. "Would you believe I'm actually relieved to be coming back here?"
Silvia smiled. "Yes, Harry, I would," she replied. "Going home for the first time, venturing out into the real world, as opposed to the sheltered environment you have here, can be a rude awakening."
Harry stared at her briefly, trying to decide how much to admit. "Yeah, definitely rude…" he said and left it at that.
Silvia seemed to understand he didn't want to elaborate on his comment because she changed the subject, saying, "Do you have a moment? I'd like to discuss something with you and this seems like a good time."
Her words making him uneasy, Harry replied, "Sure, have a seat," and gestured to one of the wing chairs under the window. He remained in his wheelchair as Silvia sat down. "What did you want to discuss?" he asked.
"I'll be direct, Harry," Silvia said. "Healer Stilwell and I think it's time to start your leg strengthening exercises. We think it's time you learned to walk again."
Harry could only gape at his therapist. "What? I thought… Why? When?" he managed to sputter.
Silvia chuckled. "You heard me. I'm going to teach you the skills to enable you to learn to walk again. I'm sure at some point in the near future you're going to think I'm completely sadistic and unthinking and gleefully torturous as the exercises become harder, but if you continue to work as hard at walking as you have on all your other skills, I believe you'll be walking out of here using crutches when you're released." She paused, then asked, "Would you like to start in twenty minutes or tomorrow morning?"
Feeling as if he'd been given a gift, Harry answered hurriedly, "Twenty minutes. Let me get changed. Where do I meet you?"
Silvia stood up. "Come to the PT Room when you're ready. I have a few things to set up before we can begin." She walked to the door and turned to face him. "Oh, please bring your swim equipment. I think you'll want a soak in the whirlpool after we're done."
"All right. I'll be there as soon as I can," Harry said, and began collecting the clothes and equipment he'd need.
Twenty minutes later, he rolled into the PT Room wearing a sweat suit and a t-shirt bearing George's Las Vegas shop's logo, "Weasley's Magical Wheezes." The family had laughed at the change in the name of the franchise, but since half of that shop was to be Muggle, the name change made sense to Harry. Silvia looked up from the pile of therapy objects she was working with, and pointing to the shirt, asked, "Advertising for your brother-in-law's shop?"
Harry chuckled. "I suppose I am."
Silvia smiled and patted a wide, padded bench beside her equipment pile, indicating that he was to slide onto the bench.
"What will I be doing?" he asked as he took his place.
"I'll be doing a range of motion evaluation," Silvia replied. "I want to see how far you can move your legs so I can plan the rest of your week."
Harry waited patiently while Silvia bent down and removed his shoes and socks, telling him she wanted him to try to feel the equipment this first time. Then, she put a small skateboard under his right foot with the wheels parallel to his left foot.
"Harry, scoot forward a bit and then do your best to straighten your right knee by rolling the skateboard towards me," she instructed.
Pushing himself forward a little on the bench, Harry gripped the edge and tried to push his foot forward as Silvia cast a spell and watched it carefully. It was hard work because the movement needed all his concentration to carry out. Slowly, very slowly, the skateboard inched forward until his foot left the board and hovered above it for a second before he had to let it drop to the floor, pain shooting through his leg. There was a time when that small movement was instantaneous, he thought, feeling greatly discouraged. And it never hurt like that!
"That's all the farther I can go," he said, trying to hide the pain in his voice. Silvia pushed the board back under his foot—the momentum had caused it to roll into her knees. He looked up to see her smiling at him.
"Harry, that's far better than I hoped for," she said. "Try it again, but this time, don't lift your foot from the board. I know by the look on your face that you're in pain. This isn't meant to hurt so much. Don't push yourself beyond what feels comfortable."
Harry looked at her as the pain subsided a little. "If I don't push myself, I'll never walk," he said.
Silvia frowned. "Haven't you listened to me every time we've started something new? Don't I always tell you that if you're hurting you should stop?"
"I want this so badly I have to push myself," Harry muttered, not meeting Silvia's eyes.
"Hippogriff scales!" Silvia scoffed, making Harry look up at the strange expression. She grinned at him. "All right. Here's the exercise: with your foot on the board, roll it forward only to the point where it begins to hurt, then bring it back towards you."
Again, Harry concentrated. The skateboard inched forward until the pain in his leg signalled he could go no farther, so he rolled it back towards the bench. "Is that what I'm supposed to do?" he asked.
"Yes. You're doing very well, Harry," she said as she taped a pencil to the floor in front of the wheels. "I'm now going to limit how far you roll the skateboard forward so you won't go past the point of pain. You'll be working the same sets of muscles needed for the higher lift, but it won't hurt as much. Try it three more times."
Harry did as he was told. The smaller movement was indeed easier and he completed the last three repetitions faster than he anticipated. When he was done, Silvia repeated the evaluation and exercise with his left leg.
"Now for some side-to-side movement," she directed. She pried up the pencil before turning the skateboard perpendicular to Harry's body and placing his right foot on it. "Without shifting your body weight, roll the board from side-to-side as wide as you can." She cast her spell again and watched it carefully.
When Harry had completed the task once on both legs, she again limited how far the skateboard travelled. This activity was followed by an ankle-movement evaluation and two new exercises and a set of stretches for his ankles. By the time Silvia asked him to lie fully extended on the bench, he was drenched in sweat. Harry was allowed to rest for a few minutes while she made some notations on her clipboard.
When she was finished writing, Harry commented, "You weren't kidding about my being tired and ready for a soak. Are we doing anything else before I can get wet?"
"Yes, several things. I'll tell you about them as we get to them," she answered.
"All right," Harry said and waited for her to continue.
"We've worked the knee and the ankle," she said. "Now I need to assess your hip movement. You've done leg raises before as part of your physical training for your job?"
Harry grumbled, "I have," thinking of all the physical training he'd gone through as a trainee and then as a full Auror.
"Good. We'll do only one in each position—to the front, to the side and to the back—before I have you do the actual exercises. Are you ready to start?"
"I am," Harry replied, wondering how much height he was actually going to attain. Lying on his back as he was, he couldn't see his feet at all.
Silvia walked to the foot of the bench. "All right, Harry, give it a go with your right leg," she instructed. He heard the faint swish of her wand through the air and knew she was casting another diagnostic spell.
Concentrating hard on lifting his entire leg, Harry felt his body shift on the bench. His eyes drifted shut as he concentrated on ignoring the pain in order to reach maximum height.
"Harry, STOP! Put your leg down now," Silvia commanded, jolting Harry from his thoughts. "I told you not to push yourself until you can't stand the pain. You're not doing yourself any good." She paused, sighing as he let his leg drop, and then continued in a much quieter tone, "Other leg, please."
Hating the mostly dry, emotionless tone Silvia was using today, Harry switched legs, raising his left as high as he could manage, this time still pushing past his comfort level by a little. The scratching of Silvia's pen told him it was time to put his leg down before she gave him the actual verbal direction. She seemed pleased as she helped him turn onto his side. He could see how much he was moving his leg in this position and he was actually surprised at how high he lifted his foot before he had to stop. He dropped the leg gratefully, only to find himself on his stomach lifting first one and then the other leg to the back. This was hard because he wasn't allowed to bend his knee—Silvia cast a modified Leg-Locker Curse on his knee, which helped—and Harry wasn't at all sure his leg had even left the bench. Then, with one final position shift, Harry was made to raise his left leg to the side.
Silvia allowed him to roll onto his back and sit up before she said, "I'm pleased with this, Harry. You've earned a soak in the whirlpool, but not before we do one more thing. You need to change first. I'll unlock the changing room for you now. Please come back here when you're ready."
Puzzled as to what they were going to be doing, Harry changed to his swimming costume as quickly as he could. When he emerged from the changing room, he found Silvia waiting at the bench holding a small plastic box from which dangled what looked like Muggle electrodes.
"What's this?" he asked.
Silvia held out the device and Harry took it. The size of one of Ginny's romance novels, it looked like a small handheld wireless with a compartment on one side. Harry lifted the cover, revealing two dials and a rectangular battery. "Will this work in the magical section of the facility?" he asked.
Silvia shook her head. "No, it won't. It hasn't been modified magically, so you'll have to use it in here," she explained. "I picked this particular unit because it can stimulate two areas at once and also because I want to be around when you're using it."
"So what is it?" Harry repeated.
"Oh, sorry. It's a TENS Unit, short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator. Just by the way you're moving I know you're in pain, Harry. We'll use this device to help the muscles relax so you won't be in pain from your leg exercises later on. You'll need to use it before you go into the whirlpool each day," she explained.
"How does it work?"
Silvia explained that the device delivered electrical impulses to the muscles and how Harry was to use it. When she was done, she had him lay down on the bench he'd used previously and attached the electrodes in two places on Harry's lower body, showing him how to work the dials which controlled the electrical pulses going to his muscles.
"Now just lay there and relax, Harry. I'm going to start your whirlpool," she said after she seemed satisfied with how he was responding. She stood up and headed towards the door to the pool room.
Harry lay where he was. He wasn't enjoying this experience at all. The TENS unit was making his muscles quiver strangely and he hurt in places he hadn't hurt in weeks. No matter what he did to make himself comfortable, he found no relief. He closed his eyes, willing his body to relax as the TENS unit continued to send pulses to his muscles.
A gentle hand on his shoulder caused him to open his eyes. Silvia was standing over him, holding several small bags of ice. "This should help," she said, laying the bags over his hips and disconnecting the TENS unit. After she put it with the other equipment he'd used, she came back, pointed her wand at the ice bags and enlarged them magically so they encased his body from his hips to his ankles.
"Thanks," he murmured.
The cold felt good. As it penetrated his sore muscles, Harry was finally able to relax. "Will I feel like this every day?" he asked after a while, already knowing that Silvia was going to say yes.
She smiled. "It depends on whether or not you behave and don't push yourself like you did today. I know you're determined to walk out of here, but you also need to listen to me. Will you let me be the judge of what's too much?" she asked.
"Yeah, I will," Harry answered. "I don't want to feel this bad every day."
"Smart decision, Harry," she said, chuckling quietly. "So… tomorrow you'll find a new list of additional exercises attached to your clipboard. You're to do them in addition to the ones you already do. I'll have Mandy walk you through them tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday and then you'll be doing most of them on your own for the rest of next week."
Harry raised an eyebrow as he asked, "You won't be with me the whole session?"
"No," Silvia answered. "These additional exercises will overlap your therapy time with that of another of my patients. You'll be in different parts of the room, so that shouldn't be a problem and I'll be nearby should you run into trouble."
Reassured, Harry agreed to the additional therapy time and then gratefully followed Silvia into the pool room for his soak in the whirl pool. As the warm water began working wonders on his tired body, Harry laid his head back and allowed himself a small smile.
I'm going to walk again! he thought, excitedly. I need to tell Ginny.
Healer Stilwell stowed his wand in its pocket in his robes and smiled at his favourite patient. He knew he shouldn't favour one above the others in his care, but over the last nine weeks he'd grown distinctly fond of the courageous wizard sitting patiently in the wheelchair before him.
"Well, Healer Stilwell, what's the verdict?" Harry Potter asked, sounding distinctly uneasy.
"I've good news and bad news, Harry," Healer Stilwell replied. "Which do you want first?"
"Just tell me," Harry said. "I'm either seeing things or I'm seeing things."
That made the Healer chuckle. "Harry, the bad news is I'm still detecting traces of blood and some swelling of the occipital lobe. The good news is the swelling has gone down significantly enough to stop most of the pressure on the blood vessels and you're down to a very slow leak," he said. "Your peripheral vision to the left is widening as you reported—you've gained eight degrees peripheral vision since you left on your holiday—so yes, you are seeing things much better than you did less than a month ago."
Mr Potter returned the smile. "I'm glad to know I'm seeing things, then," he said, making Healer Stilwell nod in agreement. Then he asked, "How long before we know if the damage is permanent?"
This question gave Healer Stilwell pause. He didn't want to make any promises, but he also didn't want to be completely disparaging either. Finally, he settled on the truth. "I really have no idea, Harry," he admitted. "You've come a long way in the last month, but healing the brain takes time. I can't cast charms on the brain like I can other parts of the body and I certainly can't target one specific lobe or area of the brain with potions without affecting the others. Healing the brain has to be done on the body's natural timetable, it can't be hurried along. What I can and have been doing is remove the results of the injury, the blood I've been extracting, in an attempt to speed up that timetable, but it's best not to be too invasive. Does that make any sense?"
"Yeah, it does," Mr Potter said with a sigh. "I'm just going to have to be patient because I trust you; everything you've done for me has helped me improve physically towards what will eventually be my normal."
"'Your' normal," Healer Stilwell echoed slowly. "You choose your words well." He glanced at the clock on the examining area wall. "Do you have any questions before I send you downstairs?" he asked.
Mr Potter shook his head. "No, you've answered the ones I needed answers to," he said. "Thanks for seeing me without an appointment."
"My pleasure, Harry, my pleasure," Healer Stilwell replied as Mr Potter nodded, rolled out of the office and turned left. A moment later the lift doors at the end of the corridor rumbled open, making the walls of the office shake slightly. The Healer let out a sigh, feeling pleased with his patient's progress and strode over to his desk to make note of his examination findings.
A/N: I owe a huge thank you to my friend, A-T, who answers all my questions about physical therapy. The scene with Harry and Silvia wouldn't have come off as believable if I hadn't had her guidance and patience. Thank you so much, A-T, for being willing to share your experiences and advice. Harry and I appreciate you more than you know!
My usual thank yous are as follows: To my pre-beta team of Jedi34, Rosina Ferguson, Mutt n Feathers, RebeccaRipple, and RSS, the five of you are priceless friends for sticking with this story and giving me the feed-back I need to make it the best it can be. To my beta, Aggiebell, thank you again for being there for me week in and week out. Thank you for telling me where the story was confusing, contradictive and not quite right. I was glad to add the new parts you recommended because the story is better for them.