"Madam Bell! We need you over here. We have another one."
Katie Bell ran down the corridor, barely missing a procession of levitating stretchers and their patients. She maneuvered through the chaos at St. Mungo's Hospital. Running through the hallways here had become second nature to her during the past several months. It was akin to flying around the Quidditch pitch, a dream she had given up when she had rejoined her fellow classmates and D.A. members at Hogwarts after graduation.
It had been eleven months since the Second War. Although the Dark Lord had been defeated, there were various followers that were still being brought to justice. Azkaban Prison was under renovation for the break-out that had occurred. Many of the inmates who had escaped had been Death Eaters. Despite the demise of Lord Voldemort, they were continuing to adhere to his beliefs. There had been attacks on Muggles, public displays of the Dark Arts, and even a few attempts to overthrow the Ministry. Though the attacks were less frequent now that the Aurors had rounded up a majority of the remaining Death Eaters, there were still days when Katie was called upon to heal. With the first anniversary of the war fast approaching, she was concerned the attacks would not come to an end any time soon.
After being cursed at the Three Broomsticks, Katie had questioned her ability to continue as a Quidditch player. Professionally, she had the natural talent and technique, but the drive to fight was no longer for the game. The opal necklace had changed everything. While Quidditch was still an effective way to distress, Katie felt the drive to fight altered. She still had the determination. The goal was no longer as simple as winning a match. She wanted to win the Final Battle.
"Madam Bell!" the nurse called again.
Katie darted into the room, not surprised by what she found. Lying on the cot was a young man, his right arm severed off. Dispatching limbs seemed to be the new favored torture method for the Death Eaters. They particularly liked to use the technique on Muggles. The unsuspecting humans often bled out before they could be rescued. Being born of a Muggle family, Katie had petitioned the Ministry of Magic to allow treatment of the victims to be done at St. Mungo's regardless of their magical abilities, since they were afflicted by dark magic. Permission had been granted on the grounds that all Muggle victims would have their memories erased once they had made a full recovery.
Training as a healer had never been Katie's ideal career path. It had taken her three months to master the essential spells and another six months to completely dominate the more difficult potions and remedies. She had become fully licensed less than a month ago. In that time, she had worked on dozens of limbless victims, finding ways to perfect the technique she had been taught so it was less painful for her patient.
"What's your name?" she asked the man, who was looking between her and the nurse, frantically. She pulled a long swatch of white gauze from her medical robes, making a tourniquet against the bleeding.
"C-Conner," he grimaced, clutching his shoulder, where the start of his arm should have been.
"Conner," she smiled. "I'm Katie. I'm going to be your healer. I need you to lie down and try to remain calm, alright?"
He nodded, though his eyes were still wide and full of fear. Katie knew what was beyond these walls. She understood the fear in his eyes, even if he didn't truly understand what he had witnessed. The terror going on had not stopped during the Final Battle. While the Daily Prophet and the Ministry of Magic liked to proclaim the Dark Lord was defeated, she knew better. There was still a war going on. People were dying every day. The lucky ones got brought here. They were given a chance to reclaim their lives. The ones that were not as lucky were collected later and deposited in one of the large unmarked graves in the catacombs under the Ministry.
Katie took the mortar and pestle off the side table, mixing ingredients from the various vials in her portable trunk. Conner's heart rate was fast and uneven. She could hear it over the screams for assistance and terrified cries in the hallway. He had lost a lot of blood. She needed to get him to drink the potion before he went into shock. It was a crucial part of the healing process. Once his Muggle body went into shock, it would be nearly impossible to administer the medicine and the chances of his system accepting the concoction were even smaller.
"Now Conner," she began, "I need you to drink this, alright? It is going to taste unpleasant, but you need to take all of it, alright?" She finished pounding all the herbs into dust, pouring them into a cup. The nurse added a clear liquid and then a few ounces of a dark brown liquid. The cup sizzled, as if it were boiling, then turned quiet. "Here," Katie handed the cup to her patient. "Drink up." She watched the man's face contort in disgust as he drank the entire cup. "Good," she smiled. "Very good." Seconds later, he was unconscious.
"Thank you, Madam Bell," the nurse said. "That is the third one so far today. It's getting worse before it gets better."
"I'm afraid so," Katie agreed. "Make sure when he wakes up to clean his bandage. It's going to take about a week or so until his arm grows back. Until them, we are going to have to make sure the end is kept clean and treated."
"Yes, Madam Bell," the nurse nodded.
As she began cleaning up the room, Katie slipped out. She had been asleep in her office when the nurse's call had woken her up. This week she had worked nearly sixty hours and she was currently running on about four hours of sleep. She made her way down the corridor, trying to recall the last time she had ate or drank anything other than water. Just as she moved to round the corner to her office, she heard a voice say her name.
Behind her stood a man dressed in a long, black cloak. In one arm, he held a young boy, probably only about two or three years old. The other arm was at his side, holding the hand of a boy a few years older. It was obvious the children were brothers. They both had dark brown bushy hair and green eyes. The one in the man's arms was asleep and his head was tucked in the wizard's shoulder. She could make out some dried blood near his temple, suggesting he had suffered a head wound. The other older child also had dried blood on his face and hands, but there was no open wound.
"Follow me," she said, leading the three to her office. "I need better light to exam them."
When they got into the office, she waved her hand to light all the candles in the room. She removed all the items from her desk, before motioning to the cloaked figure to set the sleeping child down. He picked up the older boy, sitting him down on the desk, next to his brother. Katie scanned both of the boys, relieved when she realized they were not wounded. She retrieved more gauze from her robes and a solution from one of the vials on her shelves. While she cleaned off the dried blood, the man behind her stood silently, watching. The young boy woke up. She thought he would cry, but he just looked at her as she worked. Once she had disposed of the bloodied gauze, she opened the top drawer of her desk, revealing a jar of candy from Honeydukes.
"You are such brave patients," she smiled reassuringly at the boys. "Help yourselves." The two glanced at her and then at the jar. After a second's hesitation, they took the lid off and began digging in.
Katie used the candy as a distraction, exiting the office with the cloaked man. With one eye on the window to her office, overseeing the children, she asked, "Who are you?" The man stood wordless in front of her. Katie's patience was thin. Her lack of sleep and food was making her bed-side manner less friendly and more agitated. "Where did those boys come from?" Still no response. "Why did you bring them to me?" Silence. With one swift motion, she yanked the hood back, gasping when she saw the face it had hidden. "You."
"Bell," Marcus Flint greeted her.
She knew where the blood on the boys had come from. He had a large gash across his face. It wasn't a clean cut. From the angle of it, she believed it came from a jagged blade. "You should let me treat that," she insisted, moving to go back into her office for supplies.
"It's nice to see you too," he commented, not moving.
She wheeled around. "What are you doing here, Flint?"
He pointed to the boys on her desk, devouring the candy, "They needed a safe place to stay until things out there calm down. This was the closest option."
Katie followed his eyes to the boys. "Who are they?"
"The little one's name is Christopher. His older brother is Jacob. They are my nephews," he admitted. "My sister and her husband were killed in an attack a few weeks ago. I've been searching for them since. I found them tonight hiding in a shop in Diagon Alley during the latest Death Eater attack," he explained. "I didn't think you would hide them if you knew it was me asking you to do it."
"Why are you asking me to do hide them?" she questioned.
"I don't have any other option. I was cast out of my home. This is Plan B."
Katie ran a hand over her forehead and barley hair, which was beginning to come undone from the bun she had pulled it into over eighteen hours before. She sighed, feeling the exhaustion of the war and her sleepless nights weighing on her. She had heard how some of the Slytherins had chosen to join the fight against the Dark Lord. She had just never thought Marcus Flint would be one of those people. It was hard to believe, but it was harder to imagine him bringing two defenseless children to her to keep safe. Yet, here he was.
"Alright," she relented. "But you need to let me heal your face or it will scar."
"Scars are sexy," he grinned, trying to joke despite the situation they were in, as they returned to the office.
"Your looks don't need another flaw," she teased back, but when she inspected his face under the light, she noticed how he had matured. His body was muscular and toned. He loomed over her, almost a full foot and his green eyes were more brilliant than ever. His teeth had been fixed and were no longer crooked. She was sure he had had someone tend to them. It wasn't appealing to share the appearance of a troll every day. He had a beard growing in with the same dark, raven hair as his head. Minus the bleeding cut that marred his pale flesh, he was the definition of ruggedly handsome.
"You were saying, Bell," he smirked, noticing how she was taking him in.
"Hold still," she commanded, as she waved her wand methodically over his face. She began the healing mantra to reform the tissue and cause the bleeding to stop. After ten long minutes, the cut had sewn itself back together. It wasn't fully healed, but it wasn't gushing blood all over his face either. "Christopher, Jacob," she peered over her shoulder at the two boys. They stopped mid-reach. "Why don't I get you all some real dinner? Would you like to take a walk down to the kitchen?"
The boys stayed silent. Marcus stood up, his body brushing against Katie's as he rose. Looking over her at them, he said, "Its ok. You can talk to her. This is the friend I told you about. She's going to make sure you are safe."
Jacob was the first to speak, "Yes, m'am."
"You can call me, Katie," she smiled. She held out her hand. Jacob paused, but seeing Marcus nod at him, he took her hand and hopped off the desk. Marcus moved over to the desk and lifted Christopher up in his arms. The four walked through the dimly lit corridors, Katie leading the way. No one spoke, but when they reached the kitchen, she gave Jacob's hand a squeeze.
There were a few nurses eating in the area, rushing through their meals before they got called back to work. When Katie entered with the boys trailing behind, no one even gave it a second glance. She took them up to the counter, where an elderly witch was spooning out bowls of stew with crispy rolls. When her eyes fell to the two small boys, she gave Katie a knowing smile, putting an extra roll with each of their soups. Katie thanked her, helping Jacob carry his on a tray with the rest of their meals.
"Can we go back to the other room?" Jacob asked Katie, pulling on her robes to get her attention.
"Sure," she smiled. At his age, she was sure the entire hospital was spooky, especially after what he must have seen in the streets. The quiet, but well-lit office would be a welcomed retreat from the darkened halls and sterile rooms.
Once they got back, Marcus sat on one side of the desk with Christopher in his lap, while Katie mirrored his stance with Jacob on her lap on the other side. The boys ate all their stew and both rolls. Katie gave half of her roll to Jacob, who was still hungry. Moments later, both boys were yawning. She pulled her filing cabinets out, transfiguring the open drawers into temporary bunk beds for the two to sleep in. No sooner had they crawled in, then they were asleep.
"Clever," Marcus said, as they finally sat down to eat their food. "How have you been, Bell?"
"Fine," she replied, feeling awkward having such a normal conversation over dinner with a man who had made it routine to knock her off her broom and belittle her existence since she came from a Muggle family. "How have you been, Flint?"
"Just peachy," he grinned. "I don't play Quidditch anymore. I'm too busy with my new hobby, dodging Death Eaters and, in general, trying to stay alive." His sarcasm almost masked the pain in his voice.
"It's hard for everyone," Katie agreed.
"I noticed you haven't been on a broomstick in some time."
"I'm here most of the time," she informed him. "I made a choice. I chose a side."
Katie paused, her spoon hovering just above the bowl. She furrowed her brow and put the spoon back down. "Why did you chose our side?" she asked.
"Our side?" he chuckled. "Are you Dumbledore's Army now?"
"I was a part of it."
"Ah," he nodded. "Well, Madam Bell, it may be hard for you to believe, but I do not have much of a stomach for torture and death." She raised an eyebrow at him. "My techniques on the Quidditch field are purely to win the game and on occasion piss off Wood." Katie couldn't help but giggle at the last comment. Even after all this time, the feud between Gryffindor and Slytherin on the pitch was present. "You are pretty when you laugh," he stated, surprising her. "Then again, you always were attractive."
She opened her mouth to snap back at him, but the intensity of his gaze suddenly made her fall silent. It had been a couple of years since she had been on a date. There hadn't been a lot of positive celebration lately. The attacks were keeping the hospital full and busy. If Katie wasn't working as a healer, she was on the community pitch in the park across from her flat, or sleeping. There was rarely any room for anything else in her hectic schedule. She assumed at some point she would get over the opal necklace, the deaths of so many of her classmates and friends during the war, and the horrors of what she saw on a daily basis. She assumed there would be a time when she felt comfortable enough to pursue a relationship, but she had never expected to receive compliments from Marcus Flint.
"Um, I'll take the dishes back," she said quickly, trying to hide her unease. She knocked over her bowl, as she scrambled to get them all on the tray.
"Katie." He was at her side in a second, his hand on her arm. His touch was surprisingly warm, gentle. She looked up into his eyes, searching his face. It wasn't the boy who had called her names in class, or shoved her off her broom to avoid her team scoring another ten points. This man in front of her was changed. The scar was there, still fading from her handiwork, but underneath it, behind his emerald orbs she could see the difference.
His lips descended on hers. She hadn't realized what happened until she was kissing him back. The soup bowl lay forgotten on the floor. Katie forgot how tired she was, how sad, how broken. She let the intensity of the kiss build, wrapping her arms around him, forcing herself closer. Marcus bit her bottom lip, exploring her mouth. His hands pressed on her back, keeping her form locked against his. Minutes ticked by unnoticed. A pleasurable heat began to build within her. Marcus deepened the kiss, as Katie's fingers began to work their way through his dark hair.
"Madam Bell," a nurse's voice called from down the hall. Katie jumped out of his hold, rushing to her office door. "There you are," the nurse greeted her. "We have another one in Room 112."
"I'll be there in a second," Katie told her, shutting the door. She hurried over to her desk, yanking open a smaller drawer, hidden within the center one. "Here," she handed Marcus a set of keys. "You and the boys can stay at my flat. You'll be safe there."
She turned on her heel to leave, when Marcus grabbed her wrist. "This wasn't my plan, you know," he told her softly. His other hand reached out to tuck a lock of her golden hair back.
"I know," she sighed, leaning into his touch. "It's Plan B."
"True," he nodded, "but it looks like it may turn out better than Plan A."