The Assassin Wore White
a/n – the entirety of the Harry Potter universe belongs to JK Rowling and her various and sundry corporate partners. Anything recognizable belongs to her and them, and no infringement of that ownership is intended.
This story came out of a discussion about how St. Mungo's in particular, and healers/mediwitches in general seemed to be outside the Death Eater depredations in canon. While in fanon you see Voldemort and his minions moving against the hospital or kidnapping healers or mediwitches, in canon they're left alone as far as I could remember. And that got me to thinking about why that might have been.
Which led to this…
Chapter One – House Calls
9 pm bst, 4 August, 1997 – 14 Winding Lane, Greenock, Scotland
The fading light of the setting sun caused the malevolent Dark Mark that floated over the burning house to glow slightly. Arriving with a faint 'pop', Poppy Pomfrey looked around quickly. Not seeing any aurors present, and since this was a muggle neighborhood she wasn't really surprised, she moved quickly to where her former student was sitting, staring at the debris that used to be her family home in horror and disbelief.
Slowly kneeling, so as not to startle the crying witch, Poppy gently reached out and touched her on the shoulder.
"They're gone," Caitlyn Mackenzie whispered without looking up. "Matron, they're all … dead. Mum, Da, my brothers, my sister …" Trailing off at the mention of her younger sister who had been slated to start Hogwarts this September, before everything fell apart, she finally looked up with tears in her eyes. "I got back from London to find …"
Gesturing towards the smoldering ruins that was the only legacy she had from her childhood, Caitlyn looked up at the Dark Mark hanging over the house and shuddered.
"We need to get you out of here," Poppy said gently as she reached down to gently take the younger witch by the upper arm as she could hear the approaching sirens in the distance.
Diagnosing with a practiced eye that the younger witch was in shock, and as soon as she came out of it, hysterics would be a likely result, Poppy reached into her pocket and removed one of the half doses of a Calming Draught that she had brought with her.
"Take this; it will help you hold it together until its safe …"
Breaking off at the look Caitlyn gave her, Poppy nodded reassuringly. "I'll take you somewhere and it will be safe. You and yours should have been safe here, but there's naught we can do about what has happened." Pausing for a moment, Poppy added in a harsh whisper, "The animals that did this will pay before the night is out."
Raising her hand, almost without thinking, the blonde witch took the small vial and expertly thumbed the seal as she stared at her mentor in disbelief. Downing the potion in one go, she closed her eyes for a moment and simply said, "Where will I go?"
Standing up, Poppy helped steady Caitlyn as she helped her to her feet before holding out her arm. "I have an old classmate who runs a healer's clinic on Shetland. He's been looking for a mediwitch for a while now, but he's not had much luck. Not many appreciate the quiet life up in the Isles these days."
Pulling the younger woman into a reassuring hug, Poppy held her for a moment before continuing. "It's remote enough that you won't have reminders on a daily basis of what happened and it's quiet enough to give you time to heal."
Pausing for a moment, she added, "And there's a dedicated long distance floo connection to hospitals in both Reykjavik and Oslo on Shetland if you decide to leave Britain behind until this is all over."
"Will it ever be over," Caitlyn asked as she turned so she could take one last look at her childhood home, flinching as the sound of blues and twos began to draw closer.
"The night always ends," Poppy said with conviction as she held her arm out for the younger woman to take. "This one will too," she said as soon as Caitlyn took hold and she then touched the portkey that whisked the two of them away to the gates of Hogwarts.
As the pair appeared at the gates of Hogwarts, the venerable gates opened as Poppy approached. Taking off at a brisk pace up the path towards the front doors of the school, Caitlyn followed along slightly behind Poppy, lost in her thoughts, lost in the enormity of the changes that had occurred in the last few days.
Strange rumors floating around, with a new Minister of Magic without all of the usual politicking that went on top of everything else. Still remembering all of the speculation and furor when Rufus Scrimgeour replaced the generally useless and totally corrupt Cornelius Fudge, she was surprised at the suddenness with which Pius Thickness replaced Scrimgeour without much fuss or public notice.
Her advisor for her mediwitch training at St. Mungo's told her not to speculate about it and to keep a low profile, at least until she got her certificate as a mediwitch.
Once she had taken her final oaths this morning and received her certificates, she spent the afternoon celebrating with friends and classmates in London before coming home late.
Coming home to find everything gone. Her home in flames and her family dead.
Part of her mind, the part that was still functioning as a trained mediwitch, realized that she was operating on autopilot, as her da would have said. Mentally taking note of her reactions, her inner mediwitch was calculating exactly how long she could continue to function before she broke down into a useless heap. Two more hours, tops, unless Poppy had another dose on her before she would lose it.
Before she could decide whether or not another dose would be a good thing or a bad thing, they stopped as the massive doors to the school creaked open.
Looking up, Caitlyn was surprised to see her old Potions instructor, Professor Snape, standing in the doorway looking very determined.
"Matron Pomfrey," Severus Snape began, "I hardly think this is the time …" before Poppy cut him off.
"Headmaster Snape," she began brusquely, "Mediwitch Mackenzie's family was attacked tonight. The Dark Mark floats over her home in Greenock even as we speak. The Oath demands that I know where to find those responsible."
"She has taken the Oaths," Snape simply asked, ignoring the shocked look on his former student's face at Poppy calling him 'Headmaster'."
Looking at Caitlyn for an acknowledgement, Poppy waited until she nodded before answering.
"Yes, she's sworn and she stands ready to perform her duties. The family of one who has sworn the Oath was attacked, will ye be also foresworn or will ye tell me what I seek?"
A momentary look of fear crossed the features of the usually unflappable man. Drawing himself up to his full height, he simply reached into his pocket and pulled out a small circular token. Handing over the silver coin that had a peacock on the front of it, he simply said, "This will take you where you need to go and return you here when you are finished."
Looking down, Poppy's lip curled in a sneer as she saw the token. "It would be too much to hope that Lucius was directly involved in tonight's raid. Or is my old classmate only sending out children these days to kill and maim?"
"Those who have taken the Mark are no longer children," Severus simply said as he turned his attention to his former student.
"My apologies for what happened tonight, Matron Mackenzie," Severus said in a voice without emotion. "And my condolences on your loss. I know what it is to lose someone you care for and I can offer you sanctuary here at Hogwarts for three days after tonight's … unpleasantness is finished."
Before Caitlyn could answer, Poppy shook her head. "She'll be gone shortly after the sunrise; I've a place for her far enough away to keep from tempting any more fools into doing something rash."
Turning abruptly, Poppy began moving back down the lane towards the gates, and the closest place the portkey would operate.
"Matron Pomfrey," Caitlyn began in a hesitant voice as she hurried to follow the older woman as soon as she heard the door close behind her. "Headmaster Snape? I would have thought …"
"The new powers that be decided that Professor Snape would be a better choice than Professor McGonagall," Poppy simply said without looking around. "You'll find that the world is full of interesting and unusual decisions these days."
As the two witches passed back through the front gates of Hogwarts, Poppy stepped to the side, off of the path that continued on to Hogsmeade Station. Taking a look around, and seeing that they were alone and, as far as she could tell, unobserved, Poppy turned her attention back to the young woman who accompanied her.
"If I could leave you here, safe, I would," Poppy began in a reassuring tone. Seeing the look of fear in the younger woman's eyes, Poppy shook her head. "There's too much at stake, but you shouldn't be in any physical danger tonight."
"My family shouldn't have died," Caitlyn hissed. "The Oath …"
"The Oath does protect, but only from those who care to know," Poppy broke in, putting her hand on Caitlyn's arm to try and calm her.
"Wards would have been placed around your family's house to alert anyone that a Mediwitch called it home tomorrow. Unfortunately, after a couple of first generation mediwitches refused the Oath at the last second in the past few years, the Ministry will no longer sign off on the warding until after the Oath is taken."
Taking a deep breath and listening for a moment to Caitlyn's rant about bureaucratic idiots, though she wasn't really certain why anyone would care exactly how many beans were involved in something much less count them, Poppy saw that she was about to take a breath and interrupted before she could start up, again.
"We're going to go find the animals that attacked your family, I'm going to invoke the Oath and then we'll see whether or not the person who authorized this attack was present for the attack."
"And if they were." Caitlyn asked her voice brittle with emotion.
"The invoking of the Oath should put paid to that account and we'll be leaving."
"And if they weren't," she asked, holding Poppy's gaze as if she were searching for something in the older woman's eyes.
Slowly reaching up, Poppy touched the tip of her wand to the clear crystal bead, almost a half an inch in diameter that was attached to the top of the mediwitch's insignia she wore on her Matron's uniform.
Instead of the traditional twin serpents twined around a winged staff used by non-magical medical professionals, Healers and Mediwitches used a variant that dated back to the days of Master Healer Galen of Pergamon, who had formulated the variant of the Hippocratic Oath that bound magical healing professionals and their patients to each other.
A large crystal orb topped a winged wand that was surrounded by twin winged serpents marking the difference between magical and mundane healers.
Tapping the crystal orb, Poppy simply said, "I will enforce the Ban. Most Mediwitches and Healers go through their entire careers without doing this, and I won't have you taking this step tonight." Pausing for a moment, she added softly, "Especially tonight, you won't be able to muster the detachment necessary to keep necessity from becoming vengeance. I've done this before, upon occasion, and I'll do it again."
Her eyes wide, having heard stories about Poppy Pomfrey during her training that lead her to believe that she didn't really know the witch who had run the Infirmary at Hogwarts while she had been a student there, Caitlyn simply nodded and looked down at the silver coin in Poppy's other hand.
"Where are we going?"
"Into the belly of the beast," Poppy replied as she watched Caitlyn place her finger on the peacock that appeared on the face of the coin. "If asked, you cannot reveal where we're going for the Oath cuts both ways, but our next stop is Malfoy Manor."
Before the younger witch could react, Poppy tapped the coin and said "Portus" in a clear even voice.
And they were gone in a swirl of color and that familiar hook through the navel feeling that one never quite got used to.
Peacock Hill Manor, near Westbury, Wiltshire UK
Arriving with a graceful flex of her knees, Poppy looked around to find that they had arrived outside the main gates of Malfoy Manor, which she recognized as being the former Black family estate of Peacock Hill that had come with Narcissa Malfoy as part of the arrangement between the Blacks and the Malfoys. Looking over at Caitlyn, who was starting to look a bit pale, Poppy waited until she was looking at her before speaking.
"You're a professional," Poppy said gently. "Regardless of what has happened, tonight is as much a medical procedure as if you were attending to an injured Quidditch player or someone who's run afoul of one of Hagrid's 'cuddly and misunderstood' pets."
Seeing that she was staring at her in disbelief, Poppy sighed and took Caitlyn by her upper arm. "Just focus. I'm here to deliver a diagnosis, to tell them the outcome of some tests that they failed. That's how you have to think about it. Once we get back to Hogwarts, I'll pour you a wee dram of some splendid single malt and then you can fall apart into a blubbering heap."
Seeing the tremulous nod, Poppy reached into the pocket of her robes and pulled out another half dose of the Calming Draught. "Take this and focus on the fact you're leaving Britain in the morning. Pay attention to everything, but the only question you're to answer is whether or not you've taken your Oaths as a mediwitch. Everything else, I'll handle."
Pausing until Caitlyn finished the vial of potion, Poppy added, "He'll be there, most likely. You wouldn't have completed your training if you didn't have, at least, basic Occlumency shields. Keep them up, keep yourself centered behind them."
Seeing another nod, Poppy added, "And for Heaven's sake, accept nothing from anyone. No refreshments, no condolences, nothing. We will not obligate ourselves to these animals nor will we give them absolution. As professionals our Oaths require us to do what is necessary to preserve life. Nothing more and nothing less."
"I'm ready, Matron," Caitlyn said in a voice that was much steadier than she felt. Wondering how much of it was the potion and how much of it was the 'pep talk' from Poppy, Caitlyn recognized more than a bit of resemblance to the pregame talks the quidditch mad captain of her house team had given. "It must be the Hufflepuff in them" she thought with a snort.
Passing through the marble gates and up the walk to the manor house, Caitlyn tried to clinically and dispassionately catalogue everything she was seeing. Almost jumping out of her skin when one of those blasted albino peacocks cut loose not two feet from them, she flashed Poppy an apologetic smile when the older witch looked over her shoulder at her when she squeaked in fright.
Pausing at the door, Poppy removed her mediwitch's insignia from her uniform and passed her wand over it. The insignia transfigured into a rod, about two feet in length with the twin serpents still wrapped around it, except that now they appeared to be alive, the wings becoming less feathered and more akin to the wings one would find on a dragonet.
The crystal globe on the end of the rod now appeared to be more in tune with the rest of the rod. Poppy simply reached out and struck the door with the end of the rod twice. A ringing sound, as if a large bell had pealed sounded on the second blow.
Less than a minute passed before the doors began to slowly open, revealing Narcissa Malfoy standing in the doorway, looking every inch the Lady of the Manor.
"Matron Pomfrey," Narcissa said with a slight nod. Her eyes widened for a moment when she saw the rod that the older witch was wielding. "The House of Malfoy welcomes you and your companion."
"Lady Malfoy," Poppy replied with a slight nod in return. Looking at the woman in front of her, she could see the student that she had been before the marriage with the older Lucius Malfoy had been brokered for just a moment. Wondering where that young witch who had been considering a career as a healer before circumstances joined her with Malfoy would be now if things had turned out differently, Poppy mentally shook herself and took a deep breath.
"The Accords have been broken; the Oaths that bind Healers and Mediwitches to their duties to the wizarding world and the wizarding world to Healers and Mediwitches have been set aside.
"The sanctity of their lives and the lives of the families of those so sworn has been violated. I come to this house to either heal the breach or to proclaim the oath breakers to be anathema and foresworn. As we have sworn the Oaths of Hippocrates as formulated by Galen of Pergamon, I ask for an audience to heal this violation of the Oaths."
Narcissa Malfoy's naturally pale coloring paled significantly when Poppy began her formal recitation, so much so that Caitlyn wondered if Poppy would end up having to revive her before she could gain admittance to the manor. Narcissa Malfoy, nee Black, knew exactly what was at stake here, exactly what price would be paid by someone.
And since Narcissa feared for the stability of the Dark Lord, she wasn't certain exactly how far the cost would extend.
Even during the height of the depravities of the First Blood War, healers and mediwitches were left strictly alone. Anyone could walk into St. Mungo's or any other medical establishment and be treated for both sides had scrupulously left the healing community alone to perform its duties for any who needed them.
Even Barty Crouch at the height of his paranoia, intent upon rooting out dark witches and wizards at every turn, refused to turn his attentions to any protected by the Oaths.
A mediwitch visiting from Canada had been killed during an attack on a muggle hotel without anyone realizing she was there until the attack was over. The Chief Healer of St. Mungo's sent a runner to Knockturn Alley to inform the first person they saw of the mediwitch's death.
The next day, the heads of three Death Eaters appeared on stakes in front of St. Mungo's with a declaration that the sanctity of the lives of healers, mediwitches, and their families was respected by the Dark Lord's forces and no lapses would be tolerated.
But that was then. That was before the Dark Lord's rebirth.
"Matron Pomfrey, Matron …" Trailing off when she realized that she didn't know Poppy's companion's name, Narcissa waited so she could formally allow the pair entrance.
"Matron Mackenzie's family was attacked tonight. The Dark Mark still floats over her home where all of her family was killed," Poppy answered, seeing that her former student knew exactly what was at stake when Narcissa broke character and visibly swallowed.
"Matron Pomfrey, Matron Mackenzie, welcome to Malfoy Manor. The peace of the household is offered, and as is the peace of the Family Black. Your presence here is welcomed, and I humbly ask that you enter this household in the pursuit of your ancient and honorable craft."
Dropping into a curtsey, Narcissa held it for several seconds. As she rose, she visibly relaxed to see that Poppy was nodding in approval.
"Lady Malfoy, we acknowledge the peace of Malfoy Manor as well as the peace of the Ancient and Honorable House of Black. I request entrance for myself and my companion to heal the breach of the Oaths and for no other purpose. If any within are in need of healing, we will attend to them once the balance of the Accords has been reestablished."
Leaving unsaid that it was only after a successful balancing of the Accords would any healing be forthcoming, Poppy simply waited for her former pupil to respond.
Turning, Narcissa began striding through the hallway behind her. Without looking behind her, Poppy followed on, with Caitlyn falling into step just behind her and to the right. A position to show she was with Poppy, but that the older witch was the one in charge, but it also meant that her wand arm was uncovered and she was free to engage, if it all went to Hell in a hand basket once they were inside.
Making their way through the opulent manor, Caitlyn made a point of not looking directly at the doors they were passing, but she was wondering what was behind them in case they needed to make a hasty retreat. Everything she had learned through her training said that they would be walking out of here in a little while, but since her family shouldn't have been slaughtered ….
Quickly and ruthlessly putting down that train of thought, Caitlyn's eyes widened as they entered what had originally been the ballroom of the manor. Now it was a throne room. A throne room for …
"My Lord," Narcissa began in a tone of diffidence as she lowered her head from the doorway. "Matrons Pomfrey and Mackenzie have arrived. There has been a breach of the Accords and they are seeking to resolve the matter."
Silence, total and sudden, fell over the room. The twenty some witches and wizards in the room were staring at Narcissa in disbelief as she awaited the response from the Dark Lord. Standing beside the throne-like chair, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the one that her former headmaster had used in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, Bellatrix Lestrange was glaring murderously around the room to see if she could divine who had brought them to this point.
The figure on the throne raised his head and stared at the doorway. The malevolent red eyes and snakelike visage struck Caitlyn and she had to physically restrain herself from reverting to her childhood faith and Crossing herself at the sight of Voldemort.
Realizing she was, hopefully, about to become the only muggleborn witch to actually come into his presence and survive the encounter in a very long time, she strengthened her Occlumency shields and kept focusing on the fact that she was a professional and she would not shame Matron Pomfrey.
And ruthlessly shushing the little voice in the back of her head that was telling her that if things went badly, she probably wouldn't live long enough to regret it.
"Enter Lady Malfoy, and bring our … guests," the thin high voice said.
As they entered the room, Lady Malfoy made for a place on the floor about four feet from the slight dais that the throne was resting upon. Kneeling with her head bowed, Lady Malfoy waited to be acknowledged.
Matron Pomfrey, in stark contrast, strode into the room with the bearing of a queen. Caitlyn could only try to emulate her mentor and friend. Keeping her head erect, but not allowing it to turn to the left or right, the two mediwitches swept into the room and came to rest standing behind the kneeling Lady of the Manor, waiting patiently to be acknowledged.
Ignoring the wife of his chief lieutenant who was kneeling in front of him and trembling, Voldemort stared at the pair in front of him. While part of his inner mind raged at the hubris of these two who were standing defiantly in front of him, the part of him that remained from his days at Hogwarts recognized the peril that he and his were in.
The fact that his old classmate was standing before him bearing the Healer's Caduceus in its full form meant that she was deadly serious and prepared to invoke the Oaths on him and his minions if it came to that. And simply killing her out of hand would magnify the offence and doom them all.
With a slight nod of the head, Voldemort allowed a stray memory of the witch in front of him to surface. Before she had hexed the entire student body into submission over calling her 'Poppy' she had been …
"Phemie, it's good to see you," Voldemort said glibly, enjoying the puzzlement in the younger witch's eyes and the narrowing of the gaze of his old classmate.
"Tom, I thought we had this discussion outside the Potions dungeon," Poppy replied as she forced herself to not smile at the fact that if he remembered Euphemia Campbell after all that had happened, there was an excellent chance both she and Caitlyn would live to see the sunrise.
Seeing the scowl on his face, and the looks of puzzlement around him, Poppy realized that the origins of 'Lord Voldemort' were hidden deeper from his minions than they were from his opponents. Deciding to leave well enough alone, she began.
"The Dark Mark floats over the home of Matron Mackenzie, a duly sworn mediwitch. The home is destroyed; her parents, brothers and sister were killed within the last three hours. I ask what your intention is. Will the Accord be restored or are you and yours going to withdraw from the Oaths and the Accord?"
"That's a lie," came an outburst from behind her. Not bothering to turn around, Poppy watched what was left of her old housemate as he sat on his throne. The look of cruel indifference wasn't new; Tom Riddle had always been an excellent representative of the dispassionate image that some members of Slytherin House tried to cultivate.
The glowing red eyes, snakelike skin, and lack of a nose were new, but the expression was that of the prefect a year behind her she remembered quite well.
"Mister Morneau," Voldemort hissed, looking past Poppy at the wizard who was suddenly standing alone, "You would dispute Matron Pomfrey's diagnosis?"
Arching an eyebrow at his characterization, Poppy subtly relaxed. If Tom had accepted this, then barring a suicidal outburst from one of the soon to be proscribed members of the raiding team, and suicide was all they really had left, then this would soon be over and she could focus on getting young Caitlyn out of Britain proper.
Seeing the subtle nod and gesture from Voldemort, Poppy nodded curtly and turned to face her accuser.
It wasn't difficult to tell who the guilty parties were. Four wizards and one witch stood apart from the rest of the gathered Death Eaters. Still dressed in the traditional black robes they wore when in public, the four wizards were all younger sons of cadet branches of pureblood families.
Lackluster would have been the watchword for their Hogwarts careers, though Melchior Stanwyck's time at school would have been labeled 'mediocre' if it hadn't been for his connections to the Malfoy family which he used shamelessly to scrape by with two NEWTS.
The witch, however …
"Miss Selwyn," Poppy said coolly. "I'd wondered where you ended up after being asked to leave the Healer's program. Everything is much clearer now. You, of all of these, should have known better and not allowed your passions to overrule your judgment."
Pausing for a moment, Poppy added, "But then again, that's why you washed out of the Healer's program, wasn't it?"
"I told the mudblood that she would pay for what she did, and she has," Constance Selwyn snarled. "I thank you for bringing her here; it saves me from tracking her down to finish the job."
"You fool," Voldemort snarled as he leaned forward on his throne, coiled as a massive serpent ready to strike. "You placed your petty concerns above those of our calling to restore the purity of Britain's wizarding community," he hissed in his high voice.
"My Lord, she is but …"
"She …Is…A…Mediwitch," the Dark Lord proclaimed. "It matters not who her family was; she has sworn an Oath to render aid and healing without allowing her personal feelings to interfere. Do you realize what you have done?"
"Lies. It's all lies and flummery that they use to cow the world into catering to them," Constance shot back. "Your powers and majesty are beyond their petty tricks; they cannot limit you, my Lord."
Turning and facing the rest of the room, Constance glared defiantly at the crowd who were staring at her with undisguised horror and loathing.
"Have one of you ever seen evidence of this 'Oath' in effect?"
Before anyone could respond, silence fell across the room as the Dark Lord stood and held out his hand to Matron Pomfrey. Constance's face became gleeful, until she realized that the Dark Lord did not have his wand in the hand that he extended to the Hogwarts Matron.
"Matron, do what you must." Turning his gaze upon Selwyn, he added, "Please show this former follower of mine the error of her ways."
Turning around, Poppy crossed the caduceus and her wand across her chest and gazed impassively at the five in front of her. While Constance Selwyn was glaring defiantly at her, Ichabod Morneau, Melchior Stanwyck, Augustus Lestrange, and Castor Dagworth all were pale and staring at the witch in their midst in disbelief.
"Mister Morneau, Mister Stanwyck, Mister Augustus Lestrange, and Mister Dagworth," Poppy began, specifying which Lestrange since she could see both of the more infamous Lestrange brothers in the room and she didn't want to panic anyone into a rash act, "You have acted against the family of one who swore the Hippocratic Oath as laid down by Galen of Pergamon. As the Oath binds those that heal to those who are healed, your actions have broken those bonds."
Taking a look around the room, she could see that the rest of the gathered minions of her former classmate were watching with a sick fascination. It had been forty years since a mediwitch or healer in Britain had been forced to invoke the Oath publically, and once the stories and rumors from tonight spread, it would probably be that long again.
"By your own actions, you will be condemned. You are hereby proscribed, no healer or mediwitch who has sworn the Oath of Galen will be able to render you aid. The Oath you accepted when you accepted healing is now void, and the healing and care you have received is hereby revoked."
A sickly green light pulsed from the caduceus Poppy was holding and surrounded the four condemned wizards. First a look of surprise on all of their faces, which under other circumstances would be comical, but it was quickly replaced with looks of pain and horror as all of the healing treatments they have received in their lives began to reverse themselves.
Wounds, illnesses, and mishaps that, in and of themselves, would not necessarily be fatal seemed to compound themselves when mixed together. Stanwyck fell to the ground, writhing in pain as both of his legs collapsed from old injuries. Morneau, along with a plethora of minor injuries and illnesses, had apparently taken the elixir that mitigated the aftereffects of the Cruciatus curse a number of times as he began to twitch and shake, mewling in pain as he collapsed.
Both Poppy and Caitlyn watched impassively, though the younger mediwitch was taking mental notes trying to catalogue the injuries and treatments that flashed before her eyes as the treatments reversed themselves.
After two minutes, the green glows dissipated leading to three of the four lying still on the floor, obviously dead, while Augustus Lestrange was crawling away, obviously in pain his once handsome face marred by spattergoit. As one of the assembled Death Eaters, who bore a resemblance to Antonin Dolohov slipped a vial from his robes that Poppy recognized as a powerful painkiller, she held up her hand.
"If that potion was brewed by a licensed Potions Master or Mistress, they have all taken an oath to support the Healers and Mediwitches in order to get their license. That potion will act as a deadly poison now that he's under that ban," she said in an even and calm voice.
"I'm not certain where you could find an unlicensed potion brewer," she added, "but the results that I've seen over the years might be less than satisfactory since they specialize less on the healing arts than they do on other things."
Turning her attention back to Constance Selwyn, Poppy shook her head at the look of horror on her face as she stared at the injury riddled corpse of Melchior Stanwyck.
"Miss Selwyn, I think you can see that your scoffing in the face of the Oath was a bit premature," she said dryly as the witch looked up at her numbly.
"However, you knew that Matron Mackenzie was a mediwitch today, she was in training at the same time you were training as a Healer before you were summarily terminated and I remember from my time as a trainee mediwitch, you knew when everyone around you was scheduled to finish, and you led a team to her home out of spite and out of revenge."
Pointing the caduceus at the younger witch, Poppy simply said, "You knowingly violated the Oaths and responsibilities that bind the healing community to the wizarding community as a whole. As you have struck at the heart of that bond; I invoke the Oath to rectify that wrong."
The crystal at the end of the caduceus flashed a brilliant red as Selwyn clutched her chest. Her complexion became ashen as her breathing became labored. Falling to her knees, the look of pain and distress on her face passed as her eyes rolled back into her head and she fell forward, collapsing to the floor as a marionette whose strings had been cut.
Turning back around, Poppy inclined her head towards the Dark Lord. "The Accords have been restored. Miss Selwyn has passed away from a heart attack, shocking in one so young."
Nodding, the Dark Lord looked around the room, fixing each of his minions with a long, lingering look. Turning his attention to the witches in front of him, he inclined his head in response.
"The Accords will be honored. If Matron Mackenzie does not have a vault currently with Gringotts, by noon tomorrow there will be one in her name."
Seeing that Poppy was about to protest, he held up his hand, "Phemie, this isn't a bribe, and it's certainly not trying to 'pay' your colleague for what happened to her. While the actions of these five severed them from my service, I was their Lord at the time they committed those acts.
"As you so passionately articulated in our Common Room during our Hogwarts days that those in charge have a responsibility to and for those they lead, I take my responsibilities to and for my people quite seriously. Wergild is required by the wrongs that were done. "
Turning his attention to the younger mediwitch, the Dark Lord simply nodded. "Matron Mackenzie, wergild for the losses your family experienced will be paid. Your parents were both professionals, correct?"
Nodding numbly, her father had been a teacher while her mother had been a librarian; Caitlyn glanced at Poppy out of the corner of her eye. Seeing the resigned nod from the older witch, she simply said, "An educator and a librarian sir."
Turning to one of the Death Eaters standing near to his throne, the Dark Lord simply nodded. "Twenty five years pay for a professor at Hogwarts, twenty five years pay for the librarian there. Half of the professor's salary for each of the children slain since we have no way of knowing what careers they would have followed."
"Yes, my Lord," the man simply said before turning and leaving the room.
Turning back to the mediwitches, the Dark Lord inclined his head. "The Accords have been restored, are we finished here?"
Nodding in return, Poppy simply said, "The Accords have been restored, we'll take our leave now."
Waiting until Narcissa Malfoy stood and started heading towards to door, the two mediwitches fell into step behind her and headed for the door. Just as they were about to exit, the Dark Lord spoke.
"Phemie, Horace's death, it wasn't any of my people," the Dark Lord said as he watched his old classmate pause in the doorway.
Without, turning around, Poppy closed her eyes at the mention of the death of her husband of less than a week in a violent attack on their flat in Hogsmeade while she had been in London, took a breath and simply said, "I know. You're still breathing aren't you?" she said as she resumed her exit from the room.
As the trio retraced their steps through the house, no words were spoken. As they reached the entryway to the manor, Narcissa paused as the doors opened in front of them. As Poppy passed by, Narcissa put her hand on the older witch's arm, stopping her.
Tentatively, she began, "My son …"
"Is a Death Eater, Narcissa. There is no coming back from that."
And with that, Poppy strode out of the manor and down to the gates, scattering the milling albino peacocks and peahens in her wake. Giving the older witch a nod, Caitlyn followed behind her mentor towards the manor's gates and safety.
As they stepped through the gates, Poppy looked over her shoulder to see Narcissa standing in the doorway, staring at her. Holding out the coin, Poppy waited until Caitlyn placed her finger on the coin before tapping the coin with her wand and saying "Portus" in a whisper.
Colours swirled, and the pair was whisked away.
Arriving back at the front gates of Hogwarts, Poppy looked around once to see if they were being observed before speaking.
"You did fine; I should have warned you about him. His asking about the wergild was … expected given his history and background."
"Beg pardon, Matron," Caitlyn began hesitantly. "It sounded as if you … knew him." Pausing for a moment, she added, "Before, I mean."
Gesturing towards the gates, Poppy walked beside Caitlyn as they made their way back to the castle at a much more leisurely pace than they had exited from it earlier. About halfway to the doors, Poppy sighed and placed her hand on Caitlyn's arm, pausing the pair in the middle of the path.
"Both Professor McGonagall and myself attended Hogwarts during the Grendelwald War," Poppy began with a faraway look in her eyes.
"I was three years ahead of her, and a year behind me there was a young man who was quite the enigma," Poppy said with a wistful tone. "Tom Riddle was charming, charismatic, and very intelligent." Pausing for a moment, she added in an offhand manner, "He was also vindictive, secretive, and totally amoral. Being what we thought a muggleborn, or at least muggle raised, in Slytherin House was very difficult back then, but he quickly rose to where he was one of the powers behind the scenes in my old house."
Hearing the gasp of surprise from her companion, Poppy simply rolled her eyes and chuckled. "I'm not certain why it is that everyone assumes I was a Badger during my school years. Pomona Sprout and I are good friends, but the Sorting Hat quite decisively placed me in Slytherin."
"I just thought …"
"You're letting the depths my old house has sunken to to cloud your judgment and reasoning skills," Poppy said kindly. "There is nothing evil or debased about cunning and ambition, any of the key traits that the Founders used to sort students can lead to evil if taken to an extreme."
Seeing the skeptical look on the younger witch's face, Poppy laughed. "Yes, even the hard work and cooperative ethos of the Badgers can become an obsession and destructive if taken too far. But we were speaking of the current Dark Lord and his student days."
Pausing for a moment, Poppy simply shrugged. "He had a difficult life, outside of school. From the first moment he set foot in the dungeons, he was scheming and plotting. People who crossed him, even accidently, always seemed to come to a bad end shortly thereafter.
"He was very closed mouthed about his background; he'd never answer questions directly but always insinuating that he was from an old wizarding family that found it … expedient to have him grow up in the muggle world."
Seeing the puzzled look on Caitlyn's face, Poppy shrugged, "While it's nowhere as prevalent as it used to be, the occasional old family still finds that having a potential heir born on the wrong side of the blanket raised out of sight and out of mind with a cadet branch of the family or some other place to be expedient."
Looking troubled, Caitlyn's eyes widened as she remembered a bit of overheard gossip. "That would explain the problem that Ravenclaw berk had with Miss Davis in Slytherin."
Chuckling, Poppy allowed a wry smile as she thought about the pompous prig who had finished up a couple of years earlier and the problems he had with his younger half-sister.
"Lord Davies is in the curious position of having a daughter by a muggleborn mistress who is much more capable and astute than his heir. While all of the 'official' Wizengamot titles will pass to young Mr. Davies if he survives the upcoming troubles, the business interests, both magical and mundane will be under the control of Miss Davis.
"Miss Davis was fostered with the Greengrass family, partially to assuage Lady Davies and partially due to the fact that as a witch with mixed parentage, young Tracy would find Lord Greengrass' house a much more welcoming and nurturing environment."
"And your … classmate?"
"Ah, young Tom grew up in a muggle orphanage that was neither welcoming nor inviting," Poppy said sadly. "By the time he arrived here at Hogwarts he was a bitter and cynical lad who was used to controlling anyone and anything he could.
"Apparently he'd studied enough from books he was able to obtain in Diagon Alley regarding wizarding culture that he could say the right things to obscure his origins enough so that people never knew exactly where he came from or who his actual family was."
"And Miss Selwyn …"
Smiling enigmatically, Poppy reached up and with a tap of her wand, removed the crystal from the end of the caduceus. Another tap and the crystal was replaced with a new one as the caduceus shrunk down to its usual size, which Poppy affixed to its usual spot on her uniform.
As Poppy tossed the crystal up once, so that it caught the light of the setting sun, Caitlyn could see that the crystal was now filled with a dark red fluid instead of the usual hollow chamber in the center before it was slipped into a pocket of the Matron's robes.
"Young Miss Selwyn suffered from a heart attack," Poppy began in a conversational tone. Apparently changing tracks, she asked, "Did you take the optional course on muggle healing techniques?"
Seeing Caitlyn's baffled nod, she then asked, "Do you understand why one taps a syringe or other needle to remove air bubbles before injecting a patient?"
"Of course Matron," Caitlyn began. "Injecting air into a blood vessel could …" Trailing off, Caitlyn's eyes grew wide. "A switching spell?"
Nodding grimly, Poppy sighed. "The air within the hollow crystal is switched with the blood in the inferior vena cava right before it enters the heart. That bubble of air hits the heart less than a second later and death usually occurs in less five minutes.
While there is the pain of the classic 'massive heart attack', it's relatively painless as a method of execution in that the patient usually quickly loses consciousness and expires without any other undue stress.
"If the patient were in a muggle facility, immediate treatment might suffice, but without knowing exactly what to treat, death is almost an assured outcome."
"Why the spell or why Miss Selwyn," Poppy asked as they resumed their trek to the front doors of the school.
"Well, both," Caitlyn answered. "I've always realized in the back of my mind that the things we know could be used to harm rather than heal, but I thought that the Oaths …"
"Ah, yes, the Oaths," Poppy said as they reached the steps leading up to the doors. As they set foot on the steps, the door creaked open, and Poppy smiled.
"Thank you, Severus," she said as they entered, watching the look on Caitlyn's face as they closed behind them.
"One of the perks and drawbacks of being the Head or the Deputy is that you are tuned into the school's wards and unless you consciously separate yourself, you know the comings and goings of everyone. While I'm fairly certain that the Headmaster is in either his office or his quarters, he was keeping an 'eye' out for our return and opened the doors for us."
"I see," Caitlyn said dubiously. "When I was in school, Professor Dumbledore …"
"Allowed things to happen that suited him and ignore things that didn't interest him and prevented his Deputy from intervening," Poppy answered. "The man was brilliant, but I was tempted to think he'd spent too much time listening to his own counsel."
As the pair passed through the halls and up the various stairs towards the Hospital Wing, Poppy kept up a stream of nonsensical chatter about witches and wizards that Caitlyn had been in school with. As they passed through the doors into Poppy's domain, she sighed and motioned towards her office.
As the pair seated themselves, Poppy waived her wand and a tea service appeared on her desk. Taking up the role of mother, Poppy fixed two mugs of strong tea and then fortified them from a small flask she removed from desk drawer.
"Not the single malt I promised you earlier, but a spot of decent gnomish brandy goes well with tea," she said as she handed the mug to Caitlyn and then seated herself.
"Back to your question about the Oaths," Poppy said after Caitlyn had taken a couple of sips from the mug. "You know that the intent of the Oaths is to allow us to treat our patients, but not cause them lasting harm, correct?"
Seeing the cautious nod, Poppy continued. "While the concept 'Do no harm' sounds good at face value, we both know that sometimes a small harm is necessary to save the patient."
Seeing the mutinous look on the younger witch's face and refraining from rolling her eyes, she simply said, "If we had a patient with Mummy Rot in their hand that wasn't immediately responding to treatment, do we dither around trying to find what language the curse was cast in until it has spread to the chest?"
"Of course not," Caitlyn said indignantly. "Standard protocol is that if you can't halt the process by the third attempt, using the most likely choices given the area and culture, you amputate …"
"Yes and amputating to remove a Dark Curse is without a doubt 'harm' since the limb cannot be regrown, but it saves the patient's life and our Oaths not only allow that 'harm' but compel us to do it, correct?"
"Correct," Caitlyn agreed as she took another sip. "But that still doesn't explain Selwyn's 'heart attack'. Or how you could do it? The others were simply a reversal of earlier treatments and cures because they'd violated the Oath."
Sitting back in her chair, Poppy cradled the mug between her hands and gave the younger witch a long look before answering.
"Because the world is an imperfect place, there has from the beginning existed a variant of Galen's Oath that certain mediwitches and healers are sworn to," Poppy began in a serious tone.
"The senior councils of the Healers and Mediwitches gather and select witches and wizards who meet certain criteria to be offered the chance to be released from their original oaths and reswear with a slight modification of the Oath."
Pausing for a moment, Poppy thought back to what she remembered of the witch from her school days. Remembering some of the muggle paperbacks she'd been reading the one time she'd been confined to the infirmary for several days, Poppy simply asked, "Did you ever read any stories by the muggle author Asimov?"
Seeing the cautious nod, Poppy continued. "Your muggle golems, I mean robots, do you remember the story where they modified one of the rules that controlled them?"
Eyes brightening, Caitlyn remembered the story about a lost robot. "The Nestors, they modified the First Law, but I'm not certain how …"
Trailing off, she shook her head, "you've not sworn to avoid inaction. You could have saved her and chose not to."
"Very good," Poppy said. "As long as I could save my patient from the consequences, my Oath wouldn't prevent me from switching blood about to enter her heart with a bubble of air. My Oath simply allowed me to choose not to subsequently save her, which your Oath wouldn't."
Seeing the horrified look on Caitlyn's face, Poppy smiled reassuringly. "It's not something we do lightly or often. But there needs to be people who can do what needs to be done.
"Professor Dumbledore used to natter on about 'the Greater Good', but the man really had no idea of what that was , he was simply following the very narrow view of a 'greater good' that catered to his beliefs and experiences."
"But isn't it a temptation …"
"Heavens, no," Poppy reassured. "While I'm hardly a saint, the Oath I did swear constrains me in ways that my original Oath didn't. I was compelled to pronounce judgment on Miss Selwyn that way simply because she had trod the path to become a Healer and she knew better.
"She knowingly and deliberately struck at someone who was constrained by an oath from retaliating. I was forced to point out to her and to the rest of my former classmate's minions that we are not easy targets and there is a cost."
"They said you were involved in the Grendelwald War," Caitlyn said, "but I never thought…"
"Heavens, child, I was a mediwitch trainee rushed through classes and then assigned to a squad of hitwizards from various Commonwealth countries. I was much too busy trying to keep those men alive to be running around the countryside acting on trivial vendettas."
Seeing that her companion/patient was almost finished with the mug, Poppy held out her hand. As Caitlyn passed it back to her, Poppy poured about two thirds of a mug before reaching into her pocket and removing yet another potion container, this one with a distinctive amber seal.
Seeing Caitlyn's eyebrows rise, she chuckled. "Where you're going in the morning, there will be plenty of single malt to make up for my lack tonight. However, I want you to take this half dose of Dreamless Sleep and go into the visiting healer's accommodations through that door over there and prepare for bed before drinking it."
Pausing for a moment, she added, "And I want you in bed before you drink it because I'm getting too old to be picking you up off the floor and tucking you in. I'll be in after a bit to make certain you're all tucked in, but if I find you sprawled out on the floor, that's where you'll awaken in the morning. Understood?"
"Yes Matron," Caitlyn said with a shaky grin. "I do appreciate everything and I'll think about the things you've told me tonight."
Standing, Poppy smiled as the younger witch got to her feet and made her away across the office to the door Poppy had indicated. Waiting until the younger witch had gone in; Poppy sat back down and watched the telltale runes over the door to the visitor's quarters.
As they cycled through their pattern indicating that the younger witch had finished her evening ablutions and was sleeping in the bed provided, Poppy finally sighed and shook her head.
Reaching into her desk, she deftly retrieved a bottle of single malt Scotch from a distillery near Pitlochry that her father had always favored and her late husband had become fond of before …
Shaking her head, she poured a couple of drams into a glass and stared at the amber liquid a moment before holding the glass up for a toast.
"Horace, one day, my love. One day I'll be able to join you. But until then …"
Draining the glass in one pull, Poppy closed her eyes as the smoky liquid reminded her of better days. Days of innocence.
Gently placing the glass on her desk, Poppy slid her hand into the pocket of her robes to wrap her fingers around the crystal she had placed there earlier. Feeling the warmth of the now dark red crystal, she left her office and entered her quarters through the door in the corner of the infirmary.
Looking around her chambers, Poppy sighed as she crossed over to a nondescript cabinet that sat in one corner of the room. Placing her palm flat against the door, she waited until the wards protecting the cabinet recognized her and judged her worthy, once again, to open the door.
Smiling wryly at what she hadn't mentioned to young Caitlyn, that if she had exorcised her justice on the unlamented Miss Selwyn unworthily the wards that the healer's council had placed on the cabinet would have taken her life in exchange, Poppy opened the door and blinked at the rows of gleaming dark red crystals that greeted her gaze.
Gently placing the latest one in a slot, her eyes swept over the dozens of reminders of the things she had done in the name of restoring the balance to the wizarding world.
Unlike poor Albus, however, she was willing to admit to the numbers of lives she had ended.
Lives she had taken.
Shaking her head, she closed the door, marveling at the fact that when the time came it was always such a surprise to the ones she was tasked to kill.
Always such a surprise that their assassin wore white.
a/n2 – Since someone has already quibbled about it, on the day in question the sun set at 9:14 p.m. bst (British Summer Time) for the location in Scotland in question.
Also, the entirety of the Positronic Robot universe belongs to the estate of Isaac Asimov including the Three Laws and the short story "Little Lost Robot" first published in Astounding Magazine and then in the classic collection "I, Robot" (which had little or nothing to do with that dreadful movie of the same name) and other collections.
And if the thought of Poppy the assassin, or a legion of unknown mediwitch assassins roaming the world, is too disturbing, remind yourself it's just a story. Especially before the next time you're in the doctor's office and the nurse comes in with a needle and tells you that it'll just be a little pinch.