Ye Old Disclaimer:Harry Potter and associated milieu, characters, and situations are owned by J.K. Rowling and her licensees. This is a work of fan fiction, produced solely for enjoyment. No infringement of rights is intended. J.K. Rowling owns it all, I am just playing with the Story. No money is being made by me in any way shape or form.
Still running solo on this one. Hopefully I did all right. I have Beta'ed this story to the best of my limited ability.
Chapter 1, Not an Unfamiliar Situation
The alley was completely deserted save for a pair of grey tom cats foraging in the dust bin for scraps. Tails flicked showing their enjoyment of the fair helpfully provided by the Indian restaurant that sat next to it. Little did any save for a very few people know that the end of this particular non-descript mundane ally was actually a very special place. To those in the know it was called an appartion point. A safe location to appear in if, like the woman who just did exactly that, you were magical and could actually pull off that particular method of travel. Of course if anyone in the neighborhood was told such a thing they would have looked to the story teller, called him or her a nutter and gone on about their day, because everyone knew that magic did not exist.
The young woman who appeared in complete disregard of this common wisdom did so with a moderate 'pop' of displaced air. The noise startled the unsuspecting felines to hissing followed by a quick bolt in different directions. The young woman who appeared looked around to make sure no one else noticed her arrival. Far be it for her to be the one to shatter the ignorance of the populace in the area. That was not why she was here, in this particular ally, this particular night. Tonight she was here only to see her long time and best friend and hopefully convince her that a night out on the town was a good idea.
Once satisfied that no one noticed her arrival, she moved to the mouth of the ally. It only took a few steps for her to enter the harsh light of the streets electric lamp. There she raised her hand to push her long dark hair out of her face and behind her ear keeping her focus on the building across the road. The building was a two story affair that was completely at ease in its brick and mortar design with its fellows in the poor neighborhood. The windows were dark which let her know that the business was closed. The woman snorted. If you can call a Free Clinic a business. She looked around the neighborhood taking note of the deserted street and the fact most of the other mundane shops were closed themselves. Satisfied no one was about to enquire about her leaving a dead end ally she checked to make sure none of the horseless carriages were speeding or going to speed her way on the road. One near miss was more than enough to instill the precaution in her.
How her friend ended up here running the clinic for the mundane people around her was a complete mystery to her. O sure, she was a licensed Healer but why she would seek to know about non magical medicine practices was something that up until she did it was not something she would have foreseen. It was a far cry from the life either of them had lived only five short years ago. Not to mention nothing of the directions she envisioned for her friend at this point in their lives. She sighed as she crossed the road advancing on the building. Just goes to show you nothing ever seems to fly strait when it involved… him.
With long practice she circled around to the rear of the building through the adjacent alley. She shivered as she past the ward line as she always did. They were very powerful and to a magical person not keyed into them, potently deadly. How he got away with putting them here was way beyond her. To her understanding they had only been tested once. She had it on good authority from an old acquaintance that the individual in question was still, three years later, recovering at ST. Mungos hospital for magical maladies for trying to breach them. Just the feel of them as she past the line was enough for her to be thankful she was keyed in. It was well beyond her power or knowledge to even think about trying to breach them. However aside from the moments thought she flicked it from her mind. Tonight the only thing that she was going to allow her thoughts to focus on was music, drinks, her man, and getting her friend to come with her for a good time. Merlin knew she wouldn't go out unless prompted.
It didn't take long for her to climb the iron scroll work stairs at the rear of the building. Or for her to fish out the key to let her into the flat that sat atop the clinic itself. She could feel, as she always did, the rise in heat from the key as it communed with the wards and allowed her to unlock the door. However she no sooner entered the building and called out her greeting when all her plans for the night fell to ruins.
"Hey Daphne! I…"
The room was smallish, at least compared to her own sitting room. Her friend Daphne had always kept a neat home but neat was not something that could be applied to the room at this moment. Aside from the crystal vials, small clear bags, and red stained cloths thrown haphazardly about the most disturbing thing was the pool of blood. The coffee table itself was latterly dripping blood onto Daphne's tan carpeting. Judging by the amount on and around the table, the smell in the air, and her friends clothes, the first conclusion someone would have had would have been she murdered someone in her sitting room. For her part Daphne looked at her with surprised widened eyes, hands and arms crimson apparently caught in the act of cleaning up.
"Daphne…" she muttered sadly. This was not an unfamiliar scene, but one that always seemed to catch her by surprise every single time it happened. Ever since the first time it always disturbed and frustrated her. Just as much as it sadden her.
"Hello Tracy." Daphne muttered while knelling down to sop up the pooled blood with the cloth in her hands. Her hair shifted from over her ear and covered her friends face while she worked. Tracy noticed the dark bags under Daphne's eyes before she lowered them and they became lost behind the curtain of her raven hair. She knew just by looking at her she must have been at this for some time, Daphne never fatigued fast.
She closed her eyes before she resignly asked. "Is it as bad as it looks?" With him here she knew there was just no way period she was going to get Daphne out of the flat tonight.
Her friend paused in her efforts to think for a moment. "Not as bad as Brasilia. Worse than Melbourne. Closer to Tibet and Los Angeles." Still with that maddening calm to her voice.
She sighed again at her friends tone. "Daph, you can't keep doing…"
She heard real emotion in her friends curt reply. "What do you want Tracy?"
"Look, I came by to see if you would like to go to Club Three with us but even I can see thats shot now. Daphne, you know you can't keep doing this…"
Daphne tossed the blood soaked rag onto the pile of other similar cloths before she started picking up the various vials and syringes. The sound of the crystals hitting each other sounded around her own words. "Tell Charlie I asked about him."
"Come on Daphne…" Tracy tried to reason.
"This isn't healthy for you, it needs to stop."
"NO!" Tracy took an instinctive step back as Daphne rose fast to her feet shaking. In rage or fear she could never tell but this always seemed to happen when she tried to talk to her about this. Tracy watched sadly as her friends stood defiant for a few moments, body shaking and tears streaming down her pale face from her cold blue eyes.
Tracy sighed again holding up her hands. "Okay, I'll stop." A few moments past while Tracy watched her best friend calm down. "Look, why don't you get some rest. I'll finish up in here."
Daphne shook her head before she replied, once again in that tired guarded tone. "No, you should go, get to Charlie. I'm sure he's waiting on you, and it's been a while since either of you have had time together."
Tracy offered a halfhearted smirk. "It's okay. Besides, waiting is good for a man's soul. Go on, you're dead on your feet. I'll finish up."
Daphne hesitated for a moment before she asked, "You sure?"
Tracy nodded resignly. It wasn't the first time she'd done this for her. "Go on. Knowing you, you haven't slept in a day or two."
For the first time tonight warmth sounded in her friends voice. Even if it didn't reach her tired face. "Thanks Tracy."
As her friend moved past she gently placed one hand on her shoulder. Despite that she said she wouldn't badger her anymore she couldn't help but do so anyways. "You know I'm right."
"He needs me. He came to me."
"One day he won't."
Daphne's voice lowered, real fear underlining the words she spoke. "I know. Until then, I will be here for him. This is what Father wanted."
Tracy bit back but tried to keep her frustration out of her voice. She only partially succeeded. This was an old circular argument and it just grated on her nerves every time they walked these same roads. "Bollux and you know it. Cyan didn't want this kind of life for you, and you know it. Besides, you know perfectly well this has been going on longer than since Cyans death. This goes all the way back to Hogwarts. I was there Daph, how often did I cover for you? You got to let this go!" Wrung of emotion Tracy swallowed and continued. "This is going to break you, either when he doesn't come back, or if you fail. Daphne, you know I'm right, you can't fix this."
Her voice even Daphne replied. "I know."
"Then walk away! Let him go Daphne, this is obviously what he wants…"
Like every time they reached this point in this conversation she could tell her words fell on def ears. Daphne's reply did nothing to dispel this assumption. "Good night Tracy. Thank you for helping."
Tracy watched as her friend walked down the short hallway. She paused only for a moment to place her hand on the door to the spare room of her flat. Tracy watched almost heart broken as the seconds past before Daphne entered her own bedroom and closed the door. The sound of the shower running was the only sound for some time.
Tracy sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time. She knew better than to use magic to help with any of the cleaning, after the first time she helped Daphne clean up and the results of her magic mixing with Daphne's unique potions taught her enough. By the time the shower stopped she gathered up all the vials and syringes and got them washing in the sink, picked up all the scattered blood stained bandages and cloths, and using a solvent that Daphne created just to clean up all the blood in her sitting room. She just finished when she noticed her friend walking from her own bedroom and entering the spare room. With another heavy sigh she set the rags to wash before she let herself out retracing her steps to the apparition point. She was already over an hour late for her date with her husband when she appeared around the corner of her destination. Her mind lost in thoughts about how the whole thing started all those years ago. Or at least, when she became aware of it.
At the time she became aware of this, bizarre for lack of anything else to call it, situation it had already been going on for more than a year. It was their shared Sixth Year when Tracy herself found out and got the beginnings of it from Daphne. Both of them were returning from dinner in the Great Hall looking forward to an early night. Trying to stay ahead of all the N.E.W.T. work they got was truly challenging but on this particular night, both had managed to get a head and so looked forward to the extra few hours of sleep that the last week had denied them. They had just entered their dorm in the Slytherin Dungeons when it became apparent that extra sleep was the last thing they were going to manage.
The reason for that was the young man lying on Daphne's bed. However, this was not the embarrassing situation of a young man being caught going through their knickers. No, he was bleeding, and had bled enough to soak a very visible bloodstain on her emerald and silver comforter. Daphne rushed forward pulling her wand with nary a though while chanting diagnostic spells. The fact she even knew them impressed as well as scared Tracy a bit. The way she waved her wand and never hesitated cemented the thought she was well practiced in their use.
"Hurry, Tracy, put up the partition."
In complete shock of the situation Tracy replied completely different than the calm request that was given her. "What is going on Daphne?"
"Please Tracy! I'll explain in a bit."
"You better; you have any idea how much trouble we are going to get into if he's found here?" Tracy stated while casting the ward. A deep grey wall slowly rose up from the floor to meet the ceiling effectively cutting the room in half. It was something they've been doing since fourth year when they learned it. Mostly to keep Parkinson and Bulstrode out of their hair as both were more than just a bit nosey into things that were, quiet frankly, none of their business.
With her teeth clenched in concentration she replied to Tracy's question. "Not as much as we would be in if they find his corpse. Hand me my satchel over by our vanity Tracy."
"Daphne, you got to give me more than this…"
"Now Tracy! Unless you want to explain to Professor Snape why we have a Gryffindor corpse in our dorm!" Daphne cut her off. Tracey blinked at the commanding and hard tone to her dorm mate.
Tracy moved and retrieved the satchel handing it to her friend who had somehow closed the last of the deep cuts on the boys back. As much as she personally thought their head of house would enjoy the sight of his dead body Tracy didn't want to be the one to have to explain the what's and the how's, especially since she didn't know anything. "Daphne, maybe we should get him to the Hospital wing. Madam Promfrey…"
"No. Help me turn him over; he's too heavy for just me and the levitation charm will break open the knitting I've managed so far." Daphne asked while grabbing one arm trying to turn him over to check the damage to his front. "It always seems to with these gashes. Come on Tracy!" Tracy for her part just shook her head before moving to helping her friend pull it off without dropping his body onto the floor. She was pretty sure it would be a bad idea if they let it happen.
"Why not take him to Promfrey Daphne? We can say we just found him in the corridor or something." Tracy looked at the four deep gashes along his front. "Besides, he's in a bad way and as much as I don't like him, I don't want to be responsible for his d…death. Seriously Daphne, I think we should take him to Madam Promfrey."
She watched as Daphne ran the tip of her willow wand along the first of the gashes on his chest. The wound slowly closing shut as the fibers of his muscle and skin responded to whatever she was doing to seal them closed. Sweet fell from the effort of the spell Daphne was using as she worked. "If he wanted Promfrey to heal him he would have gone to the Hospital Wing on his own Tracy. I need you to give him one of the potions in my satchel. The blue potion, no the big one, make him drink that one. He's lost so much blood I don't think he can replace it on his own."
Potion in hand she raised an eyebrow at the fact that I was unlikely she was going to be able to get the thick liquid down his throat without his help. "How? Daphne I don't know this stuff like you do and its not like he's going to be drinking this on his own."
Still concentrating on what she was doing her reply came distractedly. "Place the tip of your wand to the top of his throat, pour the potion into his mouth and slowly move your wand down to his collarbone while incanting Tenicurela."
Surprisingly it worked and she managed to get him to swallow the potion without choking on it. She noticed his pale flesh seemed to gain a much better color within a few moments. By the time he skin appeared just a shade pale instead of corpse white Daphne had managed to seal the last of the gashes on his body. Only then did Daphne relax, half falling backward from the exhaustion of her work.
"Okay Daphne, talk." Tracy demanded once her friend had a moment to collect herself.
Daphne took several deep breaths while slowly sliding down the wall she was leaning against. She replied in a quiet voice while never taking her eyes of their bloody guest. "It started last year, just before Christmas. You remember when I was obsessed with finding fresh Moon Rose for that experiment I was working on? The improved formula for healing draughts I was so sure would work?"
Tracy snorted. "Like I'm likely to forget. You drove me barmy for almost three weeks." Tracy frowned in thought. "You know, I don't remember you ever actually finishing that project, you just stopped talking about it."
Daphne nodded once as she explained. "I heard overheard Professor Sprout and Professor Hagrid talking once. He motioned Moon Rose might grow wild in the Forbidden forest. Not sure what put them on that particular conversation as I came in half way through it. He vaguely mentioned he thought he saw a patch of it near one of the Centaur ranges." Daphne took a deep breath before she started again. "It took me a week of planning before I felt ready to go find it. You remember how strict things were back then. I left after curfew managed to avoid all the teachers and ghosts, and got through the main doors without anyone seeing. From there I started exploring. I was so sure that Moon Rose would prove my theories. It was my chance to prove I was right and I wasn't going to let a few rules stop me. I went out every night during the yule holidays but it wasn't until about a week after classes started back up I found what Professor Hagrid mentioned.
"I had to be careful, the Centaurs were very aggressive for some reason and of course, they are not the only thing that lives in that forest. Once I had enough for a couple of tries for my experiments I started heading back. That's when I found him the first time."
Tracy watched as her friends eyes as they seemed to glass over as she fell into the memory. "I could see spell fire, and hear incantations, screams of pain from some sort of fight. Before I even realized what I was doing I had crept forward to see what was going on. By the time I got there it was over. He was still standing, but breathing really hard and even a blind hag could see he was hurt. There was maybe half a dozen of these giant spiders everywhere and the area was devastated. I took one step too many and broke a twig with my foot which caused him to spin around and notice me. Even now I don't think he could actually see me but he had his wand pointed in my general direction. He mumbled something; I don't know what, before he collapsed. I don't know why I didn't run, morbid curiosity maybe. I'd never been close to someone in his position before and you know I wanted to be a healer since before we started Hogwarts. So, I kept going forward, ready to run if he twitched the wrong way but he just lay there. I…I couldn't just leave him and we were really deep into the forest. Way too far for me to levitate him out, so, I tried to heal him."
Daphne's voice sounded more and more haunted as she continued. "I had my satchel with me incase I got hurt, which was really fortunate. He had a lot of wounds on him, some days old, some weeks, most fresh from that night. It took a long time before I could close most of his bleeding wounds, bandage and set his ribs, and a few other things. Most of his injuries were beyond me and I was getting really worried that there was nothing I could do. In the end I did manage to patch him up enough for him to regain consciousness and walk back to the castle even if I had to support him most of the way."
"Daphne, that doesn't explain what he is doing in our dorm, on your bed, half dead." Tracy stated.
Her eyes regained their focus as she shook her head from the memory. "No, but that's how it started. I tried to get him to go to Madam Pomfrey, but he wouldn't. He didn't want anyone to know what he was doing."
"And what was that exactly?" Tracy asked.
Daphne took in a shuttering breath before taking her eyes off the boys form for the first time to look direction into Tracy's own. "You can't tell Tracy. You have to promise me you won't tell anyone about this."
Tracy shook her head in bafflement while looking at her best friend as if she grew a second head. "You're mental you are if you think I'm going to make that promise Daphne."
"Tracy…" Tracy watched as Daphne's eyes hardened, a look most Slytherin boys knew very well, but this was the first time that look had ever been directed at her. "Promise me Tracy. No one can know about this. No one. I've never asked you for anything before Tracy, I'm asking now, please. If you are my friend, if ever you were my friend, promise me."
Tracy knew exactly what she meant by that harsh statement. Friendship in the Dungeons was a fickle and flighty ideal depending on who was leading in the never ending power struggle of their house. However their friendship, they had promised each other in first year when they noticed the trend, was nothing like that. For six years they had struggled living in their house of shifting alliances, but their bond never waivered. "Daphne…come on that's not right. You can't ask that. This isn't about keeping our heads down or staying out of the pureblood politics of our house; we have a half dead boy in our dorm! And not just any boy but…"
"Please!" Daphne begged. Tracy closed her eyes instantly regretting what she knew she was going to do. Never had she heard the pleading tone to girl sitting next to her.
"Okay Daph, I promise." Tracy debated for a moment about how far down this pit she was willing to go. Her friend was deep in this and for that alone she knew so was she now. "In for a Knut, in for a Galleon. Okay Daphne, what the hell was he doing and how have you been caught up in this madness since last year."
Daphne's tears of gratitude enhanced her words. "Thank you." She quickly cleared her throat. "He told me he's been training. Mostly on his own. He's been treating himself for a while but doing a pretty bad job of it. It was three weeks after that first time before he sought me out.
"I was in the library looking up uses of Firevine when he staggered into me in the aisles. He looked pale, and pretty scared. Told me he couldn't close the cut on his stomach. One look at his shirt told me that readily enough. I took him to an unused classroom and after we sealed it so no one would walk in on us I took a look. It was pretty bad but fixable. His problem was he couldn't keep his hand from shaking, I honestly don't know how he kept from screaming in agony when I cleaned and sealed the wound. I wasn't very good back then and I know from cleaning out a minor wound on my own leg a few days prior how much the sanitation spell alone would hurt."
Tracy looked to the young man in the bed then back to her friend. "I just don't understand Daphne. I get you found him and helped him the first time. I can even see him letting you help him to the castle but what I don't get is how it kept going." She jerked her thumb at the unconscious man. "That one is moronic enough to keep trying to kill himself in his down time, yeah, okay, makes sense. I've always said he was a twisted blighter with about as much brains as pond scum, but what made him seek you out?"
Daphne rose from her seat to cast a few charms on her patient, enough time had passed for her to get an idea if there were any problems from the treatments she used. Tracy rose with her but keep her focus on her friend waiting for a response. It didn't talk long before she got one. "I asked him that once. Why me? Surely there were others closer to him who would be better suited to helping him. Granger for sure anyways. Just because I helped him the first time why risk coming back to me? I'll tell you what he told me when I finally asked him at the end of last year.
"He said to me, 'I don't know." Tracy kept looking at Daphne in silence. "I know, it wasn't good enough for me then either and I told him so. For all he knew, I would give him to the Dark Lord, or Malfoy. I even told him so. In his condition its not like he could fight me off, no matter how good he was. Tracy, he just turned and looked at me, his eyes completely empty of anything and he told me he didn't care if I did."
Tracy shook her head just not understanding any better than when this whole thing started. She heard the hitch in Daphne's breath when she took a deep breath before she started talking again. "Up until that moment we never talked. He'd show up hurt, I'd patch him up. I won't deny it was thrilling to have my very own living practice dummy. There is only so much you can learn from books and the kinds of injuries he showed up with keep me researching newer and more varied spells. He didn't have any expectations, like he didn't care if I succeeded in healing him or not. In the beginning that was often the case. He'd go weeks with certain injuries while I tried to figure out how to fix them. He never pushed or complained or tried to hurry me, just accepted what I could do and what I couldn't. As I got better at it he would show up more often. That night last year was the first time I saw that look in his eyes or heard that tone in his voice though.
"I asked him again why. Why me? I'm just a novice healer more prone to kill him than save him with what little I knew. I am honestly surprised he'd even lived this long under my care. I know I didn't expect him too. So why come to me? Why would a Gryffindor, much less him, come to a snake for healing? That's when he started talking for the first time. He said in the beginning, it was because no one would suspect me helping him. He didn't want anyone knowing he was practicing his spells on live targets in the Forbidden Forest. 'Tempering Himself' he said. He knew the Dark Lord was back, and no one was training him so he was going out there trying to catch up since no one believed him. He wanted to be ready when the Dark Lord moved into the open. But then a few days prior something changed. He learned something and it changed everything for him. He said he finally understood why his life was the way it was."
"Did he tell you what or why?" Tracy asked.
Daphne shook her head. Tracy frowned when she noticed the single tear trek down Daphne's face. "No he didn't. But this year it's been worse. He's been pushing himself really hard… and he only trusts me to heal him. He did tell me that if I got tired of him to just say so, but I don't think he has anyone else to turn to…" Her voice lapsed into silence for a few moments. "You can't tell anyone Tracy…"
"Daphne, you know if Malfoy finds out about this, you know what that will look like! They are going to take it that we are taking a side, and they will punish our families for it. They stayed neutral last time and I know Dad is going to try to do the same this time. If they find out about this though, its going to look like it is, that we chose a side, his side. You know how bad that is going to be."
"Do you really want the Dark Lord to win Tracy? You heard that little sycophant earlier this year going on and on about the things he was going to do."
Tracy shook her head. "You know I don't but… Daphne we cant get caught. You need to tell him to stop coming to you, or next time just take him to the Hospital wing and call this done."
"No. I will help him anytime he comes to me for it."
"Why? This just doesn't make any sense…"
Daphne was quite for some time before she replied strangely. "Because he needs me…"
Tracy shook off the memory. He needs me, he came to me. The same excuses then as they were now. She felt herself sit at the ground floor bar of the Club without realizing she was doing it or that she had arrived, so lost in her memory. This thing had been going on too long; Tracy knew she had to do something to stop it. Merlin knew Daphne was not strong enough to do it herself. She was broken out of her dark thoughts by the feeling of her husband's hand on her shoulder as he took the stool next to her. She smiled tiredly while knocking back a serious swallow of the drink he had in his hand once she stole it from him. Her eyes looked unfocusedly at the back of the bar not seeing the slightly singed eyebrow raise at her actions. She had never been one for the 'common swill' as she referred to it, he normally drank when they went out.
The moment was broken when she did speak. "Potters back."
She could tell by the way he stilled he understood exactly what she meant by that statement. "How's Daphne?"
Tracy lowered her eyes while running her finger around the lip of the glass she nicked from her husband. "Tired. I cleaned and sent her to bed. It's why I'm late."
Charlie sighed. She noticed from the corner of her eye he ranked his hand through his short ginger hair. "Did you want to do this another night love? I know we hardly ever get out with our jobs but I would understand."
Tracy shook her head. "No, tomorrow I am going to do the rounds. If she won't listen to reason maybe I can talk to the others and get them to do something about this. Someone at that company of his has to be able to do something. Tonight though, your hard arse is mine." She smiled wickedly at him pushing the darker thoughts she couldn't do anything about out of her mind.
He smirked knowingly while offering her his hand giving her a gimlet eye. "Come then, let's see how much fun we can have before they chuck us out."
Okay, this little story is just something that hit me and so, to get it out of my head here it is. Plans to continue it are in place, but I am really curious to see how people take it. If the story intrigues you, do let me know. I could use all the thoughts you all have.
Thank you all for reading and Please Review.