Emmeline Vance notices some irregularities at St. Mungo, and Harry ruminates on his possible guardians.
Of Irregularities at St. Mungo and two Conversations
It has been previously remarked that the last day of Harry's fifth year was a momentous one. While Harry was busy with the DA meetings, and the remainder of the wizarding world with dealing with the damage done by Voldemort's attacks the previous night, Emmeline Vance was having to deal with a different set of problems. Healer Emmeline Vance, the lady in charge of the Magical Core damage ward at St. Mungo, was not a happy woman that day. Nothing had gone right for the tall, stately middle-aged woman since morning. First thing in the morning, Healer Miriam Strout had been reported ill with a nasty case of dragon pox. Strout handled the long-term spell damage ward, and as the only other person at St. Mungo who could handle cases of long-term spell damage, Emmeline had been informed that she would have to shoulder Miriam's work for the coming month. Next, the Hospital Supervisor had told Vance that there would be a full scale audit of the various medical potions and their ingredients in all the wards, and this work would have to be completed in the next four weeks and reports dispatched to the Ministry. In view of the return of the Dark Lord, Hospital Supervisor Marcia O'Higgins had appealed for increased grants to gear up the hospital to deal with wartime casualties. Marcia's request had been granted, but with a caveat; the Ministry wanted a full report of the projected expenditures for the coming year. This meant a huge increase of workload for Emmeline, not to mention having to deal with the irritating, officious, pompous and self-important bureaucrats. Handling just her ward would have been annoying enough, but now she had to complete this idiotic report for Strout's ward as well - and all to satisfy a few desk-bound abominations who probably would not comprehend a tenth of what she would have to send! Bitterly, she wondered if Strout was fabricating her illness to get out of the madness of the coming month. However, no object would be served by her ruminations, so she gave a sigh of resignation, pushed her greying, wavy hair out of her eyes, and began her task. Deciding to check on Strout's patients first, she looked up who her apprentice was. Once she had found the name, she picked up a pinch of floo powder and tossed it into the fire. "Apprentice Healer Brookes", she called.
A portly, short and sandy haired young woman answered, "Yes, Healer Vance?"
"Healer Strout is on sick leave for the next month. I will be handling her patients. Can you get the list of her patients, and the course of treatment being followed?"
"Of course, Healer. I'll be in your office in ten minutes."
A few minutes later, Emmeline was reading the reports of the damage and illnesses suffered by the various patients, and the therapy that was being attempted. She studied reports of the damage suffered by Gilderoy Lockhart, and agreed with the mind-strengthening potions and the focussing charms being attempted on him. The damage of Agnes Fairchild was extensive - no one knew the actual occurrence that had brought to the state of a half-canine (or half lupine), but if Emmeline had to guess, she would say that the idiot woman had tried to turn herself into a werewolf or some other magical canine, with disastrous consequences. The form-restoring charms and potions had done very little to help her, and Vance wondered if the magical core was seriously damaged, preventing the therapies from working. Finally, having read up the histories of illnesses of various other patients, she came to the case of the Longbottoms. This stirred a deep interest and sympathy in her - she had been quite respectful of Frank and Alice in the previous war. Although the two aurors - or rather, the two ex-aurors - were never particular friends of Emmeline, she had been quite horrified at their fate. She herself had never examined the two, but from the details that Prof. Dumbledore had given at the Order meetings, she had learnt that the two had suffered irrevocable damage to their minds. Poor devils, she grieved aloud for her two friends. Then, she picked up their file and began eagerly thumbing through the reports of the course of treatment the duo had been given. She was horrified to find very few details of it. Even worse, no complete evaluation of the actual damage existed in the report. She frowned - surely, Strout knew better than to treat mental damage with inadequate diagnosis. What the deuce! No - given that the two were aurors, there must be a reason why the actual details were not in the file. She fire-called Brookes again, and ten minutes later, the apprentice was seated before her.
"Brookes, where are the details of the trauma suffered by Frank and Alice Longbottom, and what treatment is being given to them?"
"I am not exactly sure, Healer. Healer Strout personally handles that case. Something to do with security."
Emmeline opened her eyes wide - this was an unheard of violation of all principles and ethics. The Healers were bound not to keep any medical details from their apprentices. While in the case of high security patients, the various maladies and the treatment was omitted from their files, nothing would be hidden from the apprentices. It was actually common sense - in case the Healers were incapacitated, their apprentices would know the details so the patients would not suffer. "You mean to say that you have never examined the Longbottoms?! What possessed Miriam to black out all particulars?"
The apprentice made no answer, and Vance wondered whether Miriam had decided that telling Brookes was a breach of security. Therefore, Emmeline cut in, "Who was the apprentice before you?"
"Avernicus Sorenson, now in plant and poison damage."
"Excellent!" With that, Emmeline flooed Avernicus, and spoke, "Avernicus, what course of remedy was followed for the Longbottoms? Do you have specifics of their problem?"
"Sorry, Emmeline, but Healer Strout's the only one who can answer your questions. None of the apprentices were allowed to examine the Longbottoms or know about the treatment being pursued. Apparently, it was on the request of Lady Augusta Longbottom, who feared that it would draw the attention of You-Know-Who's followers."
"Thank you, Avernicus. Good day!", replied Emmeline frowning. This made even less sense. A blanket ban on tidings would not serve the interests of the Longbottoms; on the contrary, it would exacerbate their danger. The minions of the Dark Lord tended to assume the worst and act whenever they were suspicious. The news of the Longbottoms' helplessness would serve their cause more than any news blackout.
She then spun back to the apprentice. "Since Healer Strout is currently incommunicado, let us go and meet the Longbottoms. We'll determine what needs to be done once we examine their condition. And, by the way Brookes, try to set up a meeting for me with Augusta Longbottom!"
A few hours later, Emmeline Vance had ordered an entire battery of tests on Frank and Alice to determine the extent of their damage. She had gone to meet with her two old colleagues from the Order of the Phoenix, but their condition was pathetic; they were totally incapable of any speech, and Frank Longbottom seemed completely oblivious to her presence. At first, it seemed that Alice Longbottom was in a similar case; however, after a few minutes of trying, she had simply handed Emmeline a Droobles bubble gum wrapper and resumed staring blankly into space. Emmeline's first instinct was to throw it away, but something deep inside her told her it was important. She shrugged and pocketed it. She inspected the other patients, found their condition to be as comfortable and proper as possible. Her visit to Strout's ward finished, she returned to her office and started working on the chore set her by the obnoxious Ministry. She would deal with the problem as soon as she had received the results of her tests, and had had a meeting with Augusta Longbottom.
Having finished speaking to Mrs. Chang, Harry put down the journal Hermione had given him. It was still too early and Harry did not feel like sleeping. He was too excited and restless to read, and had a lot on his mind. Foremost was the deaths of the Bones and Longbottoms, and Harry bitterly reflected that his actions in the Ministry had likely drawn Voldemort's attention to the Longbottoms. 'Great!', he thought. 'More people dead because they are my friends.' For the moment, there was little he could do to help either Neville or Susan. He sat down at his desk, wrote a short condolence message to both of them, urging them to let him know if he could do anything to help. Then he attached both notes to Hedwig and sent his owl to his two grieving friends. He stretched and looked out of the window - the clear night was tempting and Harry decided to go out into the yard. Pacing about easily, he was turning over the conversation he had just had with Mrs. Chang in his mind, when he heard a soft pop behind him. Harry's quidditch trained reflexes were excellent, and before the newcomer could adjust to the new surroundings found herself with a wand pointed at her heart. "Harry!", she cried. "Take it easy! It's me, Tonks."
Harry spoke, "What did you first tell me when you came into my room."
"I told you I was not as good as my mum at household charms." Harry's head snapped up when Tonks mentioned her mother. Her mother, Andromeda, was a Black and a sudden idea flashed in Harry's mind. If only ...
Harry nodded, pocketing his wand. "Dumbledore sent you to watch over me, cousin Tonks?"
Tonks gaped, "Cousin?!"
"Well, considering Sirius was my godfather, and your mum is his cousin - it makes us related."
Tonks shook her head. "You've got a queer humour, kiddoo. And yes, Dumbledore wants to keep you safe."
"Tonks, will you answer a couple of questions?"
"What about, Harry?"
"Your mum is a Black, right?"
"Was, Harry. She was disowned and disinherited because she married a muggleborn."
"Legally? I mean - Sirius ran away from his house, but he was never disinherited."
Tonks laughed bitterly, "Regulus died before Sirius' father, Harry. As Sirius was the last Black male left, he could not be disowned. Nothing like that applied to my mum."
Harry sighed inwardly - if she was deemed not a Black for legal purposes, it might be a problem for him to choose as a guardian - there would be no real binding reason. Still, it might be a good idea to explore this possibility further.
"But by blood, she is a Black, is she not?"
"That counts for little, kiddoo. Someone disgraced and disowned is considered to be against the family values. But why are you so interested in the Blacks?"
Harry thought quickly. He decided to give her a bit of truth dressed up. "You know, after Sirius spoke of his family, I wondered what they were like. I never got to know other Blacks apart from Sirius, and I can hardly ask Bellatrix or Narcissa for information now, can I?"
Tonks muttered, "I am not sure mum wants to talk about her family. She doesn't really speak of her original family or childhood."
"Another thing, Tonks. Did Dumbledore speak of getting me any training over summer?"
"Training for what, Harry?"
"Duelling, defence against dark arts, anything connected with training to keep myself alive."
"Not as far as I know. But I can ..."
At that moment, the back door of the Dursley residence opened, and Uncle Vernon bellowed, "Boy! What are you doing there?! Oh no, you've got your freak friends here! Get in, boy, and tell those freaks to keep away."
"But, Uncle Vernon .."
"Get in now, or you are sleeping in the yard."
Harry sighed. "When are you next on duty, Tonks?"
"Day after tomorrow night."
"We'll speak then if it is okay with you."
Tonks nodded. "Goodnight then, Tonks."
After a tongue-lashing from his uncle, Harry retired to his summer prison. He was wondering what further he could do that evening when his journal began to glow. He snatched it up, and saw that it was Hermione who was trying to contact him.
"Harry, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Hermione. How are your parents?"
"They are shaken, Harry, but otherwise fine. I have a bit of news."
"Harry, the letter I sent with Hedwig after Theodore's warning never reached my parents. But Hedwig returned the next morning to Hogwarts. What happened to the letter?"
Harry told her about the confundus charm on Hedwig, and the likelihood that the post had been intercepted. Hermione was aghast, but wondered, "But why, Harry? What had anyone to gain by getting my parents killed?"
"I can think of two things, Hermione. One - it could have been put by Umbitch; she could've got rid of the letter. Two - it could've been a death nibbler at Hogwarts."
He continued, "Hermione, did your parents recognise who helped them?"
"No, Harry. They know nothing except that it was a witch and two wizards."
Harry then proceeded to tell Hermione about the talk he had had with Mrs. Chang. Hermione was interested. "Have you considered possibilities for your new guardian?"
"Hermione, my parents selected Edgar Bones, Alice Longbottom, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew for my guardians. Now Susan and Neville are the last left of the Bones and the Longbottom families respectively; so there is no one from those two families who can be my guardian. Andromeda Black-Tonks was disowned as a Black; so, I doubt either Tonks or her mother would be considered favourably if I tried electing them for my guardians. In any case, Tonks is loyal to Dumbledore, so I am not sure it'd be any freer for me. Pettigrew has no family that we know of, so we can rule that out."
Harry could almost hear Hermione sigh. "Harry, I can ask my parents .."
"I don't think the High Council would be happy if I chose muggles as my guardians."
"The Weasleys ..", began Hermione.
"That's what Dumbledore would want."
"What can you do then?"
Harry shrugged internally, "Not sure."
"When are you going to try out the Black ring?"
"We've not decided the date, but sometime next week."
Hermione signed off, "Goodnight, then, Harry. We will talk tomorrow."