I'm so, so sorry it's taken me so effing long to post a new chapter. I've been having a really terrible case of writer's block when it comes to this story. I've been writing, just out of order. I promise I'm not abandoning it, just working at a slower pace. But enough of me whining.
Thank you, thank you to ReadingRobyn for putting up with me and being an amazing beta.
Everything recognizable (which shouldn't be a lot in this chapter) belongs to JKR.
Please Review, Please Critique. It really helps me to know what to do next or at least inspires me to keep going even when I'm frustrated.
Three Weeks Ago…
Celia Cornwall made her way through the halls of Saint Mungos. She had put on high heels and had worn her glasses in an attempt to look smarter, more professional. She was clutching her file like a life line; her knuckles were almost white from her grasp. She kept her lips pursed in a fine line and silently refused to loosen her grip on the file for fear that if she did she would pass out from her nerves.
Her heels click clacked on the marble floors, drawing attention from the other nurses. Few knew about her plan, she didn't know who to trust with her information and thoughts.
If she was right, exposing it could bring out something terribly frightening. She not only did not want to worry anyone, she didn't want to have anyone come after her.
She came to the elevator, the bellman didn't even have to ask for her clearance pass anymore. He drew the door closed, barring a plump nurse who was trying to get on with her cart of medications.
Normally Celia would've struck up a friendly conversation with Barrett, the bellman, in order to distract her from her daily work in the Shadow Wing. Today though, she was solemn, quiet and stared unwaveringly at the elevator doors. He knew from the distance she kept not to ask questions.
She didn't even hear him wish her good day as she walked briskly into the empty hallway of the Shadow Wing. She didn't look back to apologize for her iciness, she kept walking to her destination.
Celia was fairly certain she knew what the outcome of the meeting would be. No one would believe her, either because of the absurdity of it all, or simply because it would be too dreadful to believe. She would have to continue on with her days, giving medication and assisting in the analysis of her patients and she would have to pretend like Angela Christensen never happened. She would have to force herself to believe that Angela was really just crazy, and nothing more. Celia did not know if she could go on believing that there was nothing they could have done for Angela or just that there was no one to blame for what had happened to her.
Celia walked to the end of the hall and went through the giant steel doors, entering the board room. The head healers were all sitting around the arch shaped mahogany table looking intently at the door. Their gazes did not falter as Celia came into the room. Everyone was somber and there was a general cold feeling wafting around them.
Celia exhaled slowly as she made her way to the podium in the center of the room. Ebenezer Earnest sat directly in front of her with his hands folded on his lap. His gaze was not bored or focused, but in between as he watched her pull out different papers from her manila folder.
Celia pulled a picture out from the stack of papers and levitated it into the air. With another flick from her wand she enlarged the picture by ten sizes. There was a quick gasp from one of the healers, two averted their eyes, and one coughed uncomfortably at the picture of Angela Christensen laying on the muggle autopsy table with her organs on display.
"How vulgar," one witch whispered, covering her mouth as the color drained from her face.
"Yes, I'd have to agree," Celia said coolly as she turned to face the rest of the room. "What happened to Angela Christensen was absolutely horrendous. What's worse though, is that we did not stop it."
She let the photo linger for a few moments before waving her wand and causing it to disappear. She thought she heard a sigh of relief as she pulled out her notes. Ebenezer's gaze had not budged and was unchanged.
"Because of our lack of investigation Angela Christensen hung herself three weeks ago. Because of our inability to see beyond the surface her parents took her body back to the United States where muggles attempted to find out what we could not; why she died. Yes, suicide was the reason, but what drove this young girl to that fate is still technically a mystery.
"I'm here with you all today because I believe I know what happened to Miss Christensen. I believe her death could have been prevented, I believe we could have done more. I will present my findings and my hypothesis and, hopefully, you will believe me too."
She took a deep breath and flicked another picture into the air. This one was from an old textbook she'd found in a seedy little bookstore in Knockturn Alley, though she'd never tell anyone she'd been there. Even thinking of the way it had stunk of death made her shudder.
The illustration was of two witches. One was standing at the opposite end of the pictured room with her wand at the ready; it appeared that she was casting a spell on the other who was lying on a sofa sleeping. There was an apparition of the witch who was awake hovering above the two of them, and it appeared it was floating into the sleeping woman's body. The caption below the drawing read:
"Hosting. Host body and Idler in process of transfer."
Celia stared firmly at the board, holding her ground. Almost all of them were staring at the photo with their mouths gaping. One witch, who'd always been kind of a nightmare in Celia's opinion, rolled her eyes and clearly tuned out. When she looked at Ebenezer one of his eyebrows simply twitched, it was the only reaction she got from him.
"I know what most of you must be thinking. There is no proof that hosting still exists. There is no proof that hosting has even happened since the Imperius Curse does the same thing with far less effort from the Idler.
"I believe that someone was using Angela Christensen as a host body. We know that someone named Sara was communicating with her through a dream world. Well I believe this Sara character was actually a Death Eater that was attempting to get to Carson McNamara, Miss Christensen's boyfriend.
"When Miss Christensen was admitted to Saint Mungos we did a full medical evaluation to rule out poisons, potions, spells, illness, etcetera etcetera. I do not need to remind you that we found nothing. There was absolutely no reason that she should have been fighting a mental illness, and we would have discovered the source if it was foreign.
"We failed, however, to look into who Mr. McNamara was as fully as we should have."
Celia flicked her wand again bringing up a photo of the well known Aurors from the Ministry of Magic. She drew a circle around two of the faces creating a red frame around them. The woman's face was so angular and her hair was such a striking blonde that Celia would not have had to point her out, she stuck out enough. All though she did not have a smile on her face, her eyes were beaming as she looked at the handsome man who was grinning from ear to ear next to her.
"Electra and Maxwell McNamara are not only two of the best Aurors in the country; they are one of the biggest threats to You-Know-Who and his army. You see, Electra's maiden name is Malfoy. Her older brother is Lucius Malfoy, a proud supporter of You-Know-Who. Electra and her husband have been missing for sometime; but a source who wishes to remain anonymous assures me that they are all right, they are simply hiding from the Malfoys and the Death Eaters who want to make sure they will not compromise any plans she? Who is she? could know about."
"I'm sorry, what could she possibly compromise?"
Celia turned to face Ebenezer. His hands were now above the table and he was pressing his fingers together in an arch while he furrowed his brows.
"Excuse me?" The question had shaken her up a bit.
"If she is a successful Auror and is not, that we know of, a Death Eater, we can safely assume she and her brother have been out of contact for some time. If that is the case, how she could compromise plans? Why would they want to get rid of her for any other reason than that she is not on their side?"
Celia nodded quickly and more eagerly than she had intended to look.
"I asked that myself. Thankfully Carson proved to be a valuable source of information."
Ebenezer raised his left eyebrow ever so slightly. "You found him?"
"I did," Celia continued. "He is safe and sound, though I cannot say his location as he's been in hiding since the incident with Miss Christensen. His mother was a very crafty witch and planted bugs and other listening devices in the Malfoy residence the last time she'd tried to reconcile with her brother. She had planned on getting enough evidence against their family to send Lucius and his wife to Azkaban. Needless to say, Luicius found out and went after her. But she and Maxwell had run and, to this day, no one that does not have either clearance with the Ministry or them personally knows where they are.
"Carson was going to be a bargaining chip. He told me that when Miss Christensen came to him the night before she was institutionalized she was not going to kill him, she was looking for his parents. She had been casting Cruciatus Curses on him and telling him that she would kill him if he did not divulge their location to her.
"And then she came to and stopped, horrified at what had been going on. Those were his exact words.
"People don't just "come to" from the Imperius Curse or potions. And if she were disassociating as can be the case with mental illness she would not have changed as a person, strength wise, ability wise or physically. Hosting, as bizarre as it may seem, actually adds up when you look at the symptoms and occurrences.
"The first clue is simple; her eyes were never glazed over in the way they are when someone is under the Imperius Curse, so we can officially rule that out."
Celia wanted to smile; she could tell that she had their complete attention. But she kept going on, ready to finally take action.
"Next we can rule out Potions because unless she had nothing in her system when she came to us we would have found a toxin or something foreign in her body. Even the slightest irregularity would've prompted more testing and we would have found it. So whatever was causing her behavior had to be coming from her, it had to be something internal whether it was mental illness or something else.
"But Angela changed. She was able to perform magic far beyond her ability as a witch, including causing things to happen without the assistance of a wand. Her eyes changed color, her appearance changed. She was not in control of the things that happened to her.
"I believe that a Death Eater became an Idler in Angela's body, using her weakened state to gain access to her mind and to force her to do things against her will.
"Hosting is not simple by any means. As an Idler the Death Eater would have had to first transfer a piece of themselves into her, which would allow them access to her thoughts and dreams. In everything I've read about Hosting most commonly people share blood somehow, all Angela would have had to do was inhale the molecules and if they had the right incantation placed on them it would have begun the process.
"The Idler will then have to keep learning about her mind, which is why it is such a slow process. It can take weeks, even months, before the Idler is able to control anything. Before they know how her thoughts work, how her mind works, they can just manipulate the thoughts, not actually control them or the Host's motor functions.
"The most frightening thing about Hosting is that it is virtually impossible to detect. Only the Host will know what is going on and if their Idler is skilled enough, they can stop their Host from letting the symptoms show. Symptoms are not well known, because they vary from case to case. But erratic behavior, changed appearance, mania, and amnesia are all staples of Hosting. The only other solid thing is that all Hosts should have, according to legend, is an irregular dilation of their irises, because of the way their brains are being compromised."
Celia exhaled sharply. She hadn't realized that she'd been breathing so sporadically. She stared at the faces of the board, they all looked back at her with wide, slightly worried eyes except for Ebenezer who closed his and rubbed his forehead with a wrinkly hand.
"Nurse Cornwall, I must first commend you on a very well put together presentation," he said slowly. "Unfortunately I must inform you that your findings today are of no use to us. Unfortunately you are probably right; Miss Christensen was probably a host body to a Death Eater who was acting as an Idler in order to find the McNamara's. But we are not the Ministry, we are not Aurors. We can do nothing for people who are not sick.
"What happened to Miss Christensen was horrifying. That is one of the terrible consequences of war though, people will die. Unfortunately, a young, innocent witch was one of those casualties. Unfortunately She is probably not the first one who has been taken over against his or her will; unfortunately and she will probably not be the last. And unfortunately, The only thing I can offer you is a congratulations on being far more observant that I. But fortunately, if your findings are correct, Miss Christensen's Idler was unsuccessful and the McNamara's are safe. So please, look at that and not that there is nothing we can do for your case. We cannot spend time researching something that is not medical when there are actual sick people who need our help. I'm sorry, but I am enforcing my right as head of the board and denying your request to look into this case any further."
Hermione stared back at Nurse Cornwall with her mouth hanging open.
"So if…if this is happening to Ginny, what do..d-do I do?" She stuttered as she spoke.
Nurse Cornwall shook her head sadly. "I'm not sure. Everything I've read says that your friend, Ginny right? Your friend needs to expel the Idler herself, no one can take care of it but her. Perhaps you can help convince her to do so, but that's all I can offer you."
Hermione nodded and stood, placing her now ice cold cup of coffee that Nurse Cornwall had given her on a table.
"I just wanted to make sure you knew what I knew, I couldn't bear seeing another girl I can't help come in here like that," Nurse Cornwall said softly, staring at her white apron. "I hope you can get her to stop whoever is doing this to her, because if what you told me is true, I think we both know what they're after."
Hermione's mind was already racing, because someone was in control of Ginny and they were after Harry.
And they were both running out of time.