A/N: It is with much regret that I tell you this is the last pre-written chapter in the story. The last five chapters are still in the writing stage because I've been suffering from a combination of writer's block, real life family events and a serious need for sleep because my ten-year-old son has been trying to share his cold with me for the last week. I think I may be over the writer's block, but the next chapter probably won't be finished in time for next Thursday, much less in time for my pre-betas to give me the feedback I need to make sure the quality of the chapter is the same as all the others. Frankly, I'm surprised I've made it this far without running out of chapters. Therefore, I beg your patience with me and I hope you'll all continue to read and leave reviews when I do post the next chapter.
That said, I must thank Jedi34, Mutt n Feathers, RebeccaRipple, Rosina Ferguson, and RSS for their feedback. You've helped me keep the quality of my writing up the high standards I've set for myself and I'm grateful to you all. Also, thank you to Aggiebell, my beta, who has read and posted my chapters every Thursday even when the turkeys seem to want to get her down!
1655 hours, Friday, 8 January 2021
He had been distracted all day. Consequently, the Matron had been particularly surly towards him whenever his nerveless fingers caused him to be clumsy in her presence. Her displeasure was particularly evident when, at lunchtime, she called him into her office, sealed and silenced the door, and then Cruciated him in an effort to get his mind back on task. It hadn't worked. In fact, the spell had made him dwell more determinedly on the subject he'd been preoccupied with all morning: his predicament. The more he thought about it, the easier it was to come to the conclusion that he needed to turn himself in… and soon.
He had two possible places to go. The first was the Auror Office, which would offer him the most protection, but wouldn't do anything about the piece of sharp metal shrapnel imbedded in his back. He knew from witnessing the Matron's most recent treatments that the potion delivery device was also the focal point for the remote spell. It needed to come out of his body so that if she somehow found out that he had turned himself in, she couldn't kill him outright; the potion would still react to the spell, but it would take several days of lingering agony before he finally succumbed. If that happened, it just might be enough time for him to tell the Aurors everything he knew, as opposed to his sudden death and the missed opportunity to tell his side of the tale. Still… if he went to the Auror Office it might be hours before someone was called to remove the piece of metal. In that time, the Matron might find out where he was and cast her spell. If she did, he would die instantly without getting the opportunity to tell all he knew.
That left his second option: He needed to go to Healer Stilwell and make an Unbreakable Vow to tell all he knew if the healer would agree to remove the shrapnel. At least with the metal removed, he, Tim, would have a ghost of a chance to live long enough to give his evidence.
Tim glanced at the clock. Only five minutes left in his shift. Smiling to himself, he began to cast Voiding Spells on his patients with a gentleness he had never used before. Some of the more alert patients recognized him and thanked him, something no one had ever done before. When he was done, he quickly went to his locker and cleaned it out, knowing that he'd never use it again.
The knock at his office door made him look up from the report he was reading. The patient in question had nerve damage due to a spell gone wrong, and the healers in Spell Damage had sent her file to him to see if he could do anything for her. The interruption was not welcome because he needed to concentrate on this complicated case in order to determine whether or not he could help the witch. Getting up, Healer Stilwell went to answer the door.
He was surprised to see Tim Dawson, one of the Matron's Assistants in his ward and one of Ronald Weasley's suspects, standing on the other side.
"Can I come in?" Dawson asked. He looked scared, which caught Healer Stilwell's attention immediately.
"Certainly. What can I do for you?" he asked as he closed the door behind Dawson.
"Sir, I need your help," Dawson began. "I know some things about the Potter case that you need to know, but I need you to first cast the Foreign Body Detection Spell on me and remove a piece of metal from my back."
This wasn't what Healer Stilwell had been expecting. He stared at Dawson for several seconds while he digested this information. "How do I know you're sincere about giving evidence to the Aurors after I remove the object?" he finally asked.
Dawson took a small package from his pocket and set it on Healer Stilwell's desk. He added his wand and then stepped back, nearly to the fireplace. "I am a dying man, Healer Stilwell," he said. "The metal in my back was soaked in a poison that is slowly eating away at my nerves. Already, I am losing control of my fingers, and at times have to use two hands to hold my wand. I can hardly feel my feet and sometimes have to look to see whether I am wiggling my toes or not controlling them at all. I have given you my wand and my personal effects from my locker, which I cleaned out just a few minutes ago. I do not expect to ever come back to St Mungo's as an employee. By the time the Aurors are through with me, the poison will have taken over my body and my death will be imminent. If you require it of me, I am prepared to make an Unbreakable Vow to reveal everything I know about what happened to Harry Potter that night in October, as well as where Scorpius Malfoy is being held. Does this satisfy you?"
Stunned beyond belief, Healer Stilwell could only nod. Finally, he said, "I must cast the spell on bare skin. Would you remove your shirt, please?"
Dawson seemed to sag in relief as he tugged off his blue robes and removed his shirt. He stood before the healer with a grateful expression on his face before turning his back. "Will it hurt?" he asked.
"You won't feel a thing, Mr Dawson," Healer Stilwell said. "If the spell detects the metal you say is there, you'll see a steady blue glow until I cancel the spell. Are you ready?"
Dawson nodded and Healer Stilwell cast the spell. Immediately, a bright blue glow appeared over the muscle on the left side of Dawson's back, about half-way down and close to the spine. What sickened him were the angry red lines radiating from the area that indicated the poison Dawson had mentioned was coursing through his body. This man was indeed dying.
Using another spell to mark the area, Healer Stilwell then cancelled the Detection Spell. "I'm sorry I doubted you, Mr Dawson," the healer said. "If you don't mind, I need an assistant and a witness for the procedure to remove the metal object. With your permission, I'd like to ask Auror Weasley to be the witness and one of the Senior Medi-witches to assist me."
Dawson turned his head. "Just get it out of me," he begged. "I don't care who helps."
"Very well. Have a seat while I make my calls," Healer Stilwell said. He flicked his wand at the objects on his desk, affixing them to the wood, before making his calls.
It was his turn to rest while the others stood watch; he'd get forty-five minutes to an hour to sleep, if he could calm his mind enough to relax. He closed his eyes, letting the warming charm he'd cast on himself do its work to relax his body as much as he dared let it while out in the field. Five minutes later, he slipped into a light slumber.
The incessant, violent vibration of his wand woke him instantly. This alert was followed by a series of long and short vibrations—a code Harry had invented which was based on Muggle Morse Code. The Aurors used it as a means of silent communication between operatives in the field and the main office, should there be a need to call someone back to headquarters. Ron immediately responded and then scrambled to his feet.
"You've another half hour of sleep," Terry whispered when Ron joined him at the castle observation tent.
"I know, but Robards just informed me Tim Dawson has turned himself in to Healer Stilwell," Ron murmured. "I'm to Disapparate to St Mungo's immediately. Don't know how long I'll be gone. You're in charge until I get back."
"No matter," Terry said. "I'll tell the others."
Ron smiled at him. "Thanks," he said, and Disapparated to the hospital.
The fireplace flared green, disgorging Senior Medi-witch Amelia Johnson just as Healer Stilwell opened the door to admit Auror Weasley.
"This sounds serious, Healer," Auror Weasley said. "What can I do for you?"
Healer Stilwell pointed to Tim Dawson. "I need you to witness the extraction of a piece of metal shrapnel from this wizard's back. Did you bring the evidence bags I asked for?"
Auror Weasley nodded and held up several clear bags in different sizes. "What should I put in them?" he asked.
Healer Stilwell smiled. "The piece of metal and some personal effects. I'll explain after we extract the metal," he said. He then turned to the Medi-witch. "This extraction is not a conventional procedure because I need to do it in secret here in the office." He pointed his wand at the sofa, transfiguring it to a surgical table. "Please sterilize the table and my surgical wands. You'll find anything you require in the cupboard behind my desk. After Mr Dawson lies down, I'll need two overlapping spotlights directly above his back." He gave her several other instructions and then they prepared Mr Dawson for the procedure.
The extraction didn't take very long. The piece of metal was long and thin and seemed to have settled point first in Mr Dawson's muscle tissue. As he withdrew the metal, Healer Stilwell heard Auror Weasley murmur several swear words and had to smile; he was thinking the same thing. The wound closed up nicely as Auror Weasley sealed the metal in a small evidence bag, labelled it and sent it away to the Auror Office. A moment later, Mr Dawson was sitting up, looking quite relieved.
"Thank you, Healer Stilwell. May I tell Auror Weasley who I am now?" he asked. He slid slowly off the surgical table, which immediately became a sofa again.
Healer Stilwell nodded, and indicated to the Auror that he should sit in the wing chair facing the sofa. He himself sat down behind his desk. Medi-witch Johnson sat on a small stool she'd conjured after putting away the equipment they'd used.
"Auror Weasley, my name is Tim Dawson. I am one of the suspects you seek in the Potter mutilation case. I also have information on the Nelson case, the deaths of the four Aurors and know the location of where Scorpius Malfoy is being held. I promise to come quietly and to tell all I know in exchange for refuge from the witch you know as the Matron," he said. "I gladly turn in my wand and personal effects from my locker here at St Mungo's as evidence, too."
Healer Stilwell nearly chuckled at the look on Auror Weasley's face. He supposed that after all this time, apprehending someone this knowledgeable of all these cases was akin to an expensive present.
"Why… why… why are you turning yourself in now?" sputtered Auror Weasley.
"I am a dying man, Mr Weasley," Tim Dawson said. "I have done many regrettable things in the last few years, and before I die I want to help you capture the witch who has influenced and finally tortured me because I displeased her. I also want to save an innocent young lad from becoming one of her victims. What I know will help you capture her and find him."
Auror Weasley caught Healer Stilwell's eyes. "Is he for real?" he asked.
"He is," he answered. "May I suggest you two leave now? I know you're anxious to speak to him privately." He cancelled the Sticking Charm on the wand and package. "You'll probably want to take these with you as evidence," he added.
Auror Weasley levitated the items into a second evidence bag and sent it, too, to the Auror Office. Then, still looking as if he couldn't believe his good luck, he offered his hand to Mr Dawson who had been struggling to stand.
Healer Stilwell went to his private potions store cabinet, took out several vials and made note of what he had taken before he handed them to Auror Weasley. To Mr Dawson he asked, "Are you in much pain?"
"It's bearable," the man answered.
Healer Stilwell handed the last vial to Mr Dawson, telling him what it contained as he did so. Mr Dawson opened the vial and swallowed the potion. As he handed the vial back, his pained expression lessened a little and the healer knew the man was in more pain than he had let on.
"Auror Weasley, the potions I just gave you should help with Mr Dawson's pain," he explained. "I'll make arrangements with the Auror Office to do a more in-depth examination tomorrow. Then, I can prescribe potions more suited to his individual case. I'd like to do it now, but I know finding young Mr Malfoy is a more pressing matter."
Auror Weasley murmured his agreement and then turned to his prisoner. "Which would you prefer, Side-Along-Apparition or taking the Floo Network?" he asked.
"I no longer Apparate, sir," Mr Dawson answered. "The pressure hurts too much."
"Then we'll go by Floo," Auror Weasley said. He turned to face Healer Stilwell. "Thank you for asking me to come. Can we use your fireplace?"
"Yes. It was the least I could do," Healer Stilwell replied as the two stepped over to the fireplace.
Auror Weasley threw some Floo Powder into the flames and a moment later, he and Mr Dawson were gone. Healer Stilwell turned to Medi-witch Johnson. "I don't think it's necessary to secure your word that what you witnessed here this evening won't be spread about the hospital or circulated amongst your friends?" he asked.
"It won't, sir," Amelia Johnson said. "I suppose that if there's a trial we'll both be called to testify or if there isn't, I should not speak of this at all if I value my neck?"
Healer Stilwell nodded. "The only person we need to inform is Madam Nigel. Will you come with me? I don't believe she's left her office yet."
"Yes, I'll come."
Healer Stilwell took a moment to secure the files on his desk and then led the way to Madam Nigel's office. He hoped she would take the news well.
All in all, it had been a difficult day. There were two new patients in the NMI ward whose injuries weren't suited at all to the type of experiments she needed to carry out. Although… no, the potion wasn't meant to be drunk… There had been the lunchtime incident with Tim that had unsettled her day even more, and she couldn't shake the feeling that she had pushed him too far this time; especially after having finally given into her desire to teach him a lesson by giving him a triple dose of the new potion. At first, she had been pleased to see the gradual deterioration of his nervous system—his jerky movements, the items he could no longer grip firmly, the way he was uncertain on his feet at times—but now it seemed she was going to have to Imperius another employee to do her bidding because Tim was definitely dying. That would take time and right now, none of her employees were impressionable enough loners to be effectively convinced their mundane lives could be better if they started working a second—unpaid—job for her. Damn it!
She looked at the clock opposite her desk and shut her ward log with a bang. She should have left ten minutes ago. She didn't trust Tim to feed the prisoner, much less not drop him on his head, without her supervision. Without a new victim to experiment on, he was likely to take out his frustrations on the boy and cause some irreparable damage… and for the time being, common sense told her to leave the kid alone.
So… to the cave.
Terry was the first to see the lone figure striding purposefully along the cliff top path towards the castle. There had been several castle-goers who had sauntered down the path leading from the car park, but no one coming from the village of Stonehaven a couple of miles north. He tapped his wand between his eyes and immediately, his vision zeroed in on the figure, sharpening the image so he could identify the person. Terry smiled: the Matron was coming down the path.
"Matron sighted on path from village. Estimated time of arrival, fifteen to twenty minutes," he tapped on his wand, sending the message to Ron.
Mary Beth vibrated back, "Brilliant. I'll alert the others."
Terry smiled. So far, so good, he thought, and resumed his surveillance of the Matron.
She Apparated to the little village of Stonehaven and wearily began walking out towards the field entrance to the cave. Just as she was about to leave the village, she decided to stop at the baker's and see if he had any pasties; she'd forgotten to eat at the end of her shift… again. She bought two and ate them as she walked, washing them down with a bottle of water. (Oh, how she hated the practice of bottling water in plastic bottles. The water tasted stale, but what could she expect when she was forced to buy her dinner from the Muggles?)
The sun was nearly set when she reached the fissure. She paused to admire the view before descending the steps into the darkness of the passage leading to cave. Eventually, she emerged into the weak light of the torch-lit main cavern. It was quiet except for the sound of the water lapping at the sea entrance, and the Matron decided against disturbing the prisoner until she absolutely had to. Instead, she decided to begin preparing for the evening before going to see the prisoner. She had given Tim the responsibility of watching him and had delighted in the pain the wizard had visited upon the prisoner: the sounds of the boy's shrieks resonating through the cave had been music to her ears.
The Matron traded her travelling cloak for her lab robes, noting she would need to buy another set because this last batch of potion had started eating holes in the material in the places it had dripped or splattered on. She then began preparing the prisoner's gruel in the kitchen area: this was the only place she cooked any sort of food, because if she cooked anywhere else in the cave for her prisoners, she knew she would be tempted to add a few drops of her experimental potions to the food. That wouldn't be good research technique; she had to keep strict control over what was given to or forced upon her "visitors" so that any changes could be written down in the her experiment journals. It wouldn't do to replicate something she'd already tested and approved…
When she finished the gruel, she set it aside for Tim to take to the prisoner when he deigned to show up. She was still angry at him for some of the things he'd done wrong this morning, especially with the two new patients, and she wondered if he would decide not to come to the cave this evening; he'd left before she'd had a chance to talk to him. With a shrug, she dismissed him for the moment and went to her bed, writing down the exact time before fishing the Time Turner out of her robes and taking her fifteen-minute nap. Her last thought before she fell asleep was that she hadn't cast Homenum Revelioto see if anyone had infiltrated the cave. No matter, I'll do it when I get up, she decided. Seconds later she was asleep.
She woke from her nap feeling refreshed and ready for the evening.
At the sound of footsteps in the tunnel, Scorpius whispered, "She's coming."
The four Aurors Disillusioned themselves and moved to the back wall. As they did, the one called Auror Carmichael told Scorpius to stay on the pallet. Scorpius gratefully remained where he was even though he knew the crazy lady expected to see him hanging upside down when she came to inspect his cell. From his position on the floor he watched in fascination as one of the Aurors magically closed the cell door. Feeling safe for the first time since his kidnapping, Scorpius closed his eyes and slept.
Brodie scowled at Susan's Disillusioned form as she closed the cell door, but did not lock it. "What are you doing?" he whispered angrily. "You'll trap us in here."
"Biding us some time," she hissed back. "From this far away, the door looks like it's locked. I've closed it in such a way that she'll have to put her hand on it to discover it isn't locked. Besides, I cast a Forgetfulness Spell on the doorway. The first person through will forget to check for people other than Scorpius."
Brodie still wasn't mollified. "What about her habit of checking on Scorpius first thing?"
Susan looked annoyed. "That was part of the Forgetfulness Spell, Brodie," she said testily.
Mary Beth murmured, "Stop it, you two, before we get caught. We need to make a break for it and hide someplace other than this particular cell. Was the door to the other cell open? If it is, let's hide in there."
Reluctantly, Brodie agreed as Susan nodded. Garrett alone dissented, saying, "I can't leave Scorpius."
"Be careful, Garrett," Brodie whispered. He and the two witches eased through the gate to the cell and entered the dark second cell just as the footsteps reached the cavern.
The first thing that occurred to her when she awoke was that something looked strange in the first cell. There was also something not right about the corner of the drop-off leading to the water: footprints and disturbed places, almost as if someone had slid down the slope to the water. She hadn't noticed them before, she'd been so tired; the light had been wrong earlier, too, but now it was obvious that someone had climbed up and down the drop-off from the sea entrance, not bothering to use the stairs. She rose from her bed, pulled out her wand and strode around the U-shaped drop-off that surrounded the boat slip to the detention cells.
The first thing she noticed was the boy. He was lying on the filthy pallet inside the cell when he should have been hanging upside down. Rage filled her. The only possible explanation was that Tim had taken pity on the prisoner this morning. After what he'd done at the hospital today, the Matron decided Tim had chosen not to suspend him like he was supposed to after giving the boy his morning gruel.
Angrily, she bent and picked up a good-sized stone from besides the bars, took aim, and hurled the stone at the sleeping boy. It hit him in the side and he cried out in pain as he woke. She smiled in satisfaction and cast the suspending spell, reeling her prisoner in like a fish on a line. The boy's terrified expression warmed her heart.
The Aurors had promised to keep him safe from the cruel witch. He knew there was one still in his cell. Why wasn't Auror Carmichael duelling her? Then Scorpius remembered; the Aurors wanted to catch all the suspects, not just their ringleader.
By now Scorpius was used to being yanked upside down, but to find himself floating towards the bars was quite unnerving.
"Who let you down?" the witch screeched when Scorpius floated to a stop before her.
Thinking quickly and hoping to put the blame on the man who had brought his food last night, Scorpius answered, "The man… the man in the b-b-blue robes."
"I see," the witch said, not sounding satisfied with his answer. "And tell me, are you all alone?"
Scorpius averted his gaze as he whispered tremulously, "Yes."
"LIAR!" The witch spat the word venomously at him and flicked her wand, causing Scorpius' head to strike the bars.
"I'm alone!" he cried, trying to keep the tears at bay even as the pain in his head made his eyes sting.
"We'll see about that," she cackled and all but threw him into the middle of the cell. "Crucio!"
The pain from the witch's spell was unlike anything he'd ever experienced, even from the maniac wizard. Scorpius' very bones filled with fire, his body tried to curl instinctively to protect itself, he couldn't see as his eyes rolled in different directions in their sockets. Underneath the pain, he felt hatred so vast that it propelled the spell straight to his mind. At first, Scorpius bit his lip and tried not to scream, but as the spell continued, he couldn't stop himself from crying out, from screaming himself silent. The pain was gone as suddenly as it had started and he felt the suspension spell release his ankles and drop him back onto the pallet. His head hit the blankets and he blacked out.
Garrett watched the Matron's approach from his hiding place in the dark back corner of Scorpius' cell. He didn't like her expression and wondered if she'd detected him and the other Aurors present in the cave. A moment later, it became obvious that her ire was focused on Scorpius and the fact that he wasn't where he should be.
When the Matron began yelling at Scorpius, the Auror found himself admiring him as he endured the Matron's wrath. The poor boy had more courage, Garrett decided, than most of the Gryffindors at Hogwarts, Harry's sons and daughter included. They had never been tortured like this or subjected to this sort of cruel interrogation; Scorpius, on the other hand, was holding his own against the onslaught of cruelty and hatred coming from the Matron and even finding a way to give her a cheeky answer that certainly didn't help his situation.
Then the Matron cast the Cruciatus Curse and Scorpius' screams filled the air. It had been a long time since Garrett had heard that sort of screaming; it was a sound that would keep him awake in the nights to come as he tried to squash his childhood memories of seeing his mother Cruciated by the Death Eaters who had broken into their home the summer before Garrett and his twin sister had been scheduled to go to Hogwarts. He himself had endured the curse's pain that awful night, and it was almost impossible for Garrett to remain hidden and let the Matron exhaust her fury. When at last she tossed Scorpius back onto the pallet, the Auror breathed a sigh of relief. The boy's ordeal was over and, to tell the truth, so was Garrett's. He would wait another few minutes and then take Scorpius and Apparate him to the hospital.
Stunned wasn't a word Ron used for himself very often these days. He knew he'd always been somewhat gormless about certain things—like Hermione when they were in school—but after talking with Tim Dawson for a few minutes during his processing at the Ministry, he could only say that having such a gold mine of information presented to him and his fellow Aurors had left him completely and utterly stunned.
Dawson had wanted to make a complete confession of everything he'd been involved in and had wanted to make a statement as soon as they reached Auror headquarters. Ron had enlisted Deputy Director Robards' help, explaining the prisoner's fragile state of health and sense of urgency. Robards had expedited the check-in process so that Ron could take advantage of his time with the prisoner before going back to his mission as quickly as possible. Of the myriad things Dawson confessed to, the most valuable to Ron at the moment was the knowledge that his team was watching the correct site and the times the Matron and her other two associates usually showed up at the cave.
As he stood to leave, Ron asked, "What should we expect when we encounter Scorpius Malfoy? Has he been used as one of the Matron's experimental subjects?"
Dawson shook his head. "No, you'll find him cold, hungry and tired of hanging upside down. The Matron has no desire to experiment on him. He doesn't have the injuries she requires for her experiments."
Ron couldn't help the sigh of relief that escaped him. "Thank you," was all he could manage to say as he let the interrogation room door close behind him.
Now, five minutes after leaving the prisoner with Robards, Ron reappeared in the Aurors' invisible tent. He sat down on the unoccupied camp bed and took out his wand. "This is Ron. I have returned to the tent. One more suspect in custody. Matron should be inside with two more suspects to come. I will remain on watch up here," he said to the wand.
Seconds later, Terry replied, "Combined team with prisoner. Main suspect in cave. Waiting for last two suspects. Prisoner out after suspects confirm he's still in cell."
Garrett reported, "Prisoner Cruciated. I will Disapparate him to St Mungo's."
Ron thought about this, about whom the Aurors could trust. "Leave prisoner with Healer Stilwell when you get there."
"Will do," Garrett sent back.
Ron contacted Deputy Robards. "Contact Healer Payton Stilwell at St Mungo's. Ask him to stay with victim."
Robards sent back several minutes later, "Healer to greet Auror and victim."
Ron cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself as a sense of satisfaction swept through his body. Scorpius Malfoy wasn't completely safe yet, but with Garrett Carmichael as his protector he would be much safer than if he'd been left alone in the cave. Ron let his wand slip back into its holster and stepped out of the tent, intent on reaching the observation shelter before the last two suspects arrived and saw him.
The boy's screams echoed satisfyingly around the cave, warming her inside as nothing else could. It was the sound of pain, the sound she longed to hear Payton Stilwell utter. How she hated him! How she loathed working with him day in and day out while he used her potions, the ones he'd stolen from her, to make people better! One of these days she would get her revenge when patients began dying because the potions they were taking turned to poisons when they encountered the trace amount of her newest potion in their systems.
The Matron ended the curse and flicked her wand again. The suspended boy zoomed across the cell where she released the suspension charm and dropped him unceremoniously back onto the blankets. She smiled as his head struck the ground first.
She needed to inspect the drop-off. She needed to see how many sets of footprints had invaded the cave. She was puzzled, too, because the intruder-repelling curse she'd cast on the sea entrance should have been strong enough to discourage someone trained to ignore the suggestion. She reached the cave wall and cast a magic revealing spell. Curiously, there was only one set of footprints… or was there? She looked hard at the spell and decided the same shoes had made two tracks: had the boy tried to escape after Tim had let him down? She would punish the imbecile for taking pity on the prisoner…
The sound of her two associates arriving caused her to give up her investigation and she hastened back to the experiment room to greet them. She was pleasantly surprised to see the two had brought a female victim: she had grown tired of the guttural cries of her male experimental subjects, no matter how they screamed and pleaded.
"Where did you find our guest?" she asked, letting her satisfaction colour her tone.
The wizard, Ogden, answered, "Edinburgh."
"And the reason you chose her?"
"She tried to steal my handbag," the witch, Beda, answered. "Muggle's not too smart," she added, jerking her thumb at the woman.
The Matron smiled. "You've done well," she said, allowing herself to smile. "Show our guest to the table and make her comfortable. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
The woman began to scream as Ogden and Beda yanked her towards the experiment table. The sound was invigorating and the Matron hastened to the kitchen as the sounds of the woman struggling filled the cave.
After the Matron checked on Scorpius, Garrett emerged from the dark recesses of the far corner of the cell. He was concerned the boy was suffering horribly from being Cruciated and was quite relieved when he raised his head.
"Are you feeling up to getting out of here?" Garrett asked quietly as he knelt beside Scorpius' pallet.
Scorpius struggled to sit up. His mouth was bloody where he'd bitten his lip in his efforts not to scream. Oh Scorpius, Garrett thought, you didn't have to put on such a brave front for us. We all know how much that curse hurts. He pulled his wand and siphoned away the blood before conjuring a StayFull glass and filling it with water. Scorpius took the glass, but it slipped through his fingers. Garrett held it to the boy's lips. He drank all the water in small sips, then smiled wanly as the glass refilled itself. He finished the second glassful, too. He smiled his thanks as the cup disappeared having sensed the drinker was satisfied.
"I'm… better now, Auror Carmichael, but I can't stand up just yet," he whispered, looking troubled.
"If you'll let me carry you, I can Disapparate directly to St Mungo's from here. Are you agreeable?" Garrett asked. He moved closer to Scorpius so the boy could lean on him.
"Yeah, you can carry me," Scorpius said weakly.
Garrett smiled and gently gathered Scorpius in his arms. He put an arm around Garrett's back and as soon as the Auror felt it tighten a little, he turned on the spot and left the cave.
They arrived at the Auror arrival room to find Healer Stilwell seated at a desk reading a medical magazine. An empty trolley floated a little ways away and as the Healer approached, the trolley followed him.
"Welcome to St Mungo's, Master Malfoy," Healer Stilwell said as Garrett laid Scorpius on the trolley. "I'm Healer Stilwell. I'll be the healer who examines you. How are you feeling?"
Recognition dawned on the boy's face. "You're… you're the healer who helped Mr Potter and Brian Nelson," he said and Garrett again heard the note of trust creep into the boy's voice.
"I am," replied Healer Stilwell, looking surprised. "Can you answer my question?"
"I hurt all over," Scorpius said.
"He's just been Cruciated," Garrett explained.
"Then we need to get him to A and E," Healer Stilwell said. He opened the door and the trolley and Garrett followed him out of the arrival room.
As soon as they reached the corridor to the examining rooms, Garrett said, "I'll go notify the parents."
Scorpius suddenly looked terrified. "Stay with me," he pleaded. "Please. I… I'm scared."
Garrett couldn't leave. Instead, he reached for Scorpius' hand and held onto it. "I'll stay if you want me to," he said. The boy nodded and seemed to relax a bit at the contact, curling his grimy fingers around Garrett's hand.
The three entered an empty examination room and Healer Stilwell stepped to one side, directing the trolley into the room. As soon as Scorpius was transferred to the examining table, the trolley disappeared with an audible pop. While this was happening, Healer Stilwell gave orders to several medi-witches who appeared at the door and then shut it once they left.
"Auror Carmichael," he said, "if you'll stand next to Master Malfoy's head that should be far enough away that you won't interfere with my diagnostic spells."
Garrett moved to the head of the table, keeping his hold on Scorpius' hand. As he did so, the door opened admitting the two medi-witches. One looked directly at Scorpius and said, "Your parents are on their way."
Scorpius closed his eyes and a tear trickled slowly down the side of his head. Garrett gently wiped it away. "Thanks," he said to the medi-witch and turning back to Scorpius, he added, "It's all right to let it out if you need to."
The boy sat up with a quiet wail, threw his arms around Garrett's shoulders and hung on with a vice-like grip as his body heaved with great, gulping sobs. Garrett held Scorpius close, murmuring nonsense phrases and telling him he was safe, until the storm passed and Healer Stilwell could continue his examination.