Disclaimer: Of course The Dresden Files belong to Mister Butcher. And the original idea for this story came from crazyfoxdemon.
A/N: This story will go back and forth between two stories and two points of view. The first will be told from Elaine's point of view and will follow her journey as she tries to find out what's wrong with Harry. The second story will be the past in flashback form telling what would have happened if Elaine had not faked her death after Harry killed Justin DeMourne instead they both get charged with breaking the first law of magic and are both placed in the care of Ebenezer McCoy (Under the Doom of Domcles of course.) Because Elaine stays with Harry the entirety of the series would have been different, no basement apartment, no Blue Beetle, and no faltering wizard business.
One last thing: All chapters with "his" in the title are from Elaine's point of view and chapters with "my" in them are from Harry's point of view.
Prologue: Someone by his Bed
Agony, pure, simple, and unadulterated.
Agony, anguish, misery, torture: the only words that could even come close to quantifying what he was going through, simple as that. The sweat forming on his brow, his face twisted with pain, his body curled into the fetal position.
And all I could do was sit beside him; holding his hand, and gently mop his forehead. If I could only take his pain away, I would gladly do it for him. After all I loved him and if all the romance novels in the world are right that's what you're supposed to do for the one you love.
Of course I would do it with or without the crappy novels that littered our lab around Bob's skull; because Harry would do if for me every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
I sighed a little, wiping a tear from my cheek; I hurt too. Not nearly as much as Harry was, but it's hard watching someone you love writhing in pain and not having any idea about why.
"But I'm going to find out, Harry. I promise." I swore, reluctantly letting go of his hand.
As I walked out of our bedroom, Harry let out a pathetic whimper, and my heart plummeted to the floor. I did an immediate about face and went right back into the bedroom sitting down on the bed. I gently caressed his clammy cheek, hoping that whatever was causing this was something magical…something I could stop…something that wouldn't kill him.
If Harry died…I don't know. He's a survivor, he always was; if he was on a plane and the plane crashed he would be the one person that would be able to walk away. Not even I'm that lucky, well only when he's around.
I picked up the towel I'd been using to wipe the sweat away from his forehead and dipped it into the bowl of cold water that sat on the night stand. I wrung it out into the bowl before wiping the sweat away from his furrowed brow, down his sharp nose, over to his angular cheek bones, and along his sharp jaw. Not necessarily handsome and a far cry from a perfect ten, but I wouldn't have him any other way.
I stood up from the bed again and headed to the door, again. There was not pathetic whimper this time, just a ragged and unstable sigh. My heart broke again but I slowly shut the door any way, wiping a new tear from my eye. I joked out an ironic laugh; here Harry was in unbearable pain and I was the one crying.
No…I had to be strong for him, I had to help him as quick as I could; but where was the best place to start? What kind of doctor still makes house calls? I can't really take him into any ER there's only a couple million dollars worth of equipment that we could destroy; and that would only kill two dozen people or so. I guess that isn't the best idea I've had today.
Maybe I should start with a magical cause, knowing Harry that would be the much more likely candidate than some mystery illness. That meant the best place to start was in the basement lab. I padded as quietly as I could down the short hallway that leads from our bedroom, past the bathroom to the door that leads down to the lab slash basement.
The stairs down to the basement are narrow and steep and on more than one occasion I've almost broken my neck trying to walk down them. I put out a hand, groping for the one actual electric light bulb; had they been candles I would have lit them with a single word. But the basement having no windows and no air vents a light bulb seemed like the most logical thing to put down here.
At the bottom of the stairs I managed to close my hand around the braided metal chain and pulled down. After a soft click the basement was flooded with a sickly yellow light, from the old antique light bulb hanging from the center of the room. Before anyone says anything about "going green" or any other such nonsense, a compact florescent light bulb would last a matter of seconds around two wizards.
The basement/lab was set up in the most functional way that the cramped space would allow. In the center was a silver circle that could function as a regular spell circle, a binding circle, or in rare occasions a summoning circle when we need to get some information from a demon from the Nevernever. Along three of the walls were hastily built work benches filled with magical supplies of one kind or another. The most notable is somewhat organized area that contains a few beakers, a flask, and a set of graduated cylinders that we use for brewing potions.
Below the workbenches in giant plastic boxes were an assorted lot of books and other papers of the supernatural variety. Being a wizard doesn't instill a superhuman intellect, it just makes one necessary; so we have to keep a lot of books around. Fortunately we also have Bob.
Bob sits on his own workbench; this one came with the house, on the fourth wall of the basement. Bob is also a skull, not like the medical kind that is bleached and preserved, more like the real kind that's dirty and yellowed. I shouldn't say that Bob is a skull, more like he lives in one; Bob is a spirit of wind, and a spirit of intellect. I suppose a long time ago some powerful wizards managed to capture him in a skull and he pretty much gives information for books. I use the term books as a euphemism for smut; the dirtier, and the steamier the better.
After turning on the light I walked straight over to Bob's skull, picking up a pencil from the corner of the workbench that was otherwise littered with worn out paperback romance novels. Don't ask me how he reads them, I've never seen him do it, but the books come in whole and are completely thrashed in a day or two.
"Bob, wake up!" I said rather forcefully thumping the pencil down on the top of the skull.
"Ugh, what is it?" Bob replied, two small motes of orange light filling the eye sockets of his skull.
"Harry's in trouble and I need to find out why." I said whacking his skull again with my pencil.
"What's wrong with him this time?" Bob asked sounding a bit bored. Normal for Bob, at least around me, I think I intimidate him a little.
"If I knew I wouldn't be asking you now would I!" I practically shouted slamming my hand against the wooden bench.
"Whoa, keep your panties on straight." Bob said slipping back into his usual sarcastic attitude. "Seriously – what is wrong with him?"
"I don't know…" My stony façade finally cracked and a tear slid down my cheek. "He seems to be in a massive amount of pain. He's burning up; it's like he has a massive a fever."
"Penitus incendia," Bob replied lowly, the motes of his eyes visibly dimming.
"What does 'inward fire' have to do with anything?" I asked translating Bob's Latin.
"It's what's wrong with Harry. It's an extremely powerful curse; it burns the victim from the inside out." For all of Bob's sniping of Harry, I don't know what he would do without him.
"How long will it take to kill him?" I asked hoping I would have enough time to fix whatever was wrong with him.
"A day, maybe two, depends on how far along the curse is right now." Bob said in the most serious tone I'd ever heard from him.
"How do stop it?" I pleaded, grabbing a pad of paper from a drawer in front of his skull.
"You can't stop it." He responded as if he were giving a weather report.
"So…so he's going to die no matter what?" I choked out, feeling the pencil slip out of my hand. The hollow clink on the concrete seemed to echo around the basement for what seemed like an eternity.
"I didn't say that. You can't stop the curse; only the person who cursed him can perform the counter curse." Bob explained like I was a child; and in a way I felt like one.
"So I have to find him and persuade him to undo the curse, without killing him?" I asked in a low, hollow voice.
"Or skin 'em and undo the curse that way." Bob said as some 'life' returned to his motes.
"Okay, so I'll find the bastard and skin him alive." I said running out of the basement and back to Harry.
"You'll have to bathe in his blood too!" Bob called after me as I slammed the door to the basement shut.
The best place to start looking for answers was back with Harry. If someone cursed him they would have left a psychic, and hopefully a physical, trace behind. I needed to find that so I could start to track the bastard who did this.
God I hate Mondays!
A/N: Next chapter will be the beginning of Harry's story starting just before the fire that killed DuMourne.