Chapter Eleven: Interlude (2) of Shifts is up at SQ. It's the one where Dora and Andromeda visit Miriam and Joe.
Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Getting into St. Mungo's was the first hurdle. When Dora had brought Joe and Miriam, she'd had the strength of the Ministry behind her, and had been allowed to use an emergency entrance that kept them from the view of most of the magical visitors. Remus had no such privilege; they would have to go through the visitor's entrance through the run-down clothing shop, and that meant keeping Dudley close enough to him to cast an Inclusian Incantation, which would put Dudley within Remus's identity long enough to cross through the magical barrier during the few seconds it was weakened for entrance. This was more difficult in practice than it had seemed in theory.
When Dora pulled the car up in front of the store, Remus got out and opened the back door, pulling out a paper sack from the Muggle book store under Dora's flat and pretending that it contained a gift he was bringing for someone. He felt Dudley pass him and whispered, "Hold on to my sleeve so I know where you are."
The sleeve of his coat was yanked up quite visibly.
"Looser, Dudley. The point of being invisible is to not be noticed."
The grip loosened and became only a minor wrinkling near his elbow. He stood up and closed the door.
Dora rolled down her window. "Say hello to your ex for me," she said, winking.
"I'll do that."
She drove away, leaving Remus alone with the invisible Dudley, whose harsh and rapid breathing was becoming alarming.
"You need to calm down, Dudley," Remus said. "We're helping you, not hurting you."
"Why am I invisible then? If I get caught in here..."
"Nothing will be done to you. It will fall entirely on me." He muttered the Inclusion Incantation. "Be quiet now until we're inside."
He walked to the window and looked at the battered mannequin. "One to visit Healer Patil," he said. "She's expecting me."
The mannequin nodded.
Remus started to go through, but the tug of Dudley's hand on his sleeve increased. The boy wasn't moving.
Remus started going through his pockets, feigning a search for something. "Just a moment," he whispered to the mannequin. "I'm coming through right now."
In his pretended search, he let his hand move to the level of Dudley's arm, to which he gave a sharp jab.
When he moved again, Dudley--with palpable resistance--followed.
He was glad the waiting area was busy and the man closest to the door seemed to be suffering from an excessive Cheering Charm; the noise covered Dudley's startled shriek entirely. "It's all right," he said out of the corner of his mouth. "We'll go through to the other side. Be careful not to bump into anyone."
But Dudley wouldn't budge.
Remus could hear his breath nearly whistling now, and he had a very real fear that the boy would simply faint.
To Remus, it was a rather average Saturday at St. Mungo's--a few loud curses, a handful of Transfiguration accidents, magical games that had gone awry--but he tried to imagine it as Dudley was seeing it, coming from the straitlaced, manicured world of Smeltings and Privet Drive.
There was a man singing his complaint in a high falsetto.
A little girl whose legs had turned into something rubbery and kept getting caught in things as her mother moved her about.
A pair of young lovers who had literally become joined at the hip.
A woman whose fingers had turned to carrots.
Several people in various stages of botched transformations.
And a squinch victim, his leg propped up casually to one side.
To Dudley, it probably looked like a deep circle of hell.
"They're all right," he whispered, trying not to move his mouth. "All of it is fixable."
He looked up. Mehadi was weaving through the room, smiling brightly and holding out her arms. He wasn't certain why, as he'd never been accustomed to embracing her, but he understood when she batted her right arm vaguely until it landed on Dudley. She gave Remus a little one-armed hug, then stepped around him and slipped an arm around his waist, now placing Dudley solidly in front of them, with her arm pushing him from behind.
The got him through the waiting room that way, talking across him about the weather and how busy work was, and when they got into the somewhat emptier corridors, he moved more easily. She steered them into the upper floor of the transformation ward, which was empty except for a mop that was working on a spill in the far corner, and closed the door.
"Let's get you out of the cloak," she said brusquely.
There was a swirl of distortion, and Dudley Dursley appeared, his eyes wide circles of terror, his hair clinging to his head in sweaty clumps. "What is this place?"
"It's a hospital," Remus said.
"That woman... carrots... and the leg..."
"It's all right," Mehadi said. "There's another way out, and I'll get you through it. Come downstairs for now. No one will walk in on us there today."
"Are you sure?" Remus asked. "It is the day before the full moon..."
"I took duty again tomorrow. I'm the only one inspecting it."
She took them down to the long underground ward, and Dudley's eyes widened even further at the lines of beds wrapped in heavy chains. "What is wrong with you people?"
"They're to restrain werewolves and keep people from getting hurt," Remus said, trying not to let his voice reveal his distaste.
"There are werewolves?"
Mehadi raised her eyebrows at him, but didn't question.
"Yes, Dudley. But you'd only need to worry under the full moon, and that's not until tomorrow night."
"Are you sure?"
Mehadi shook her head. "Mr. Dursley--or would you prefer Dudley?"
"Dudley." Dudley's eyes snapped to her for a moment, then went back to looking in horror at the chains. They stopped moving, an Remus realized that he was looking at a gash in the wall above a bed, where someone had apparently gotten a limb free before morning.
"Dudley, then. I need you to lie down on one of the beds."
"One of the..."
"I'll get rid of the chains." She pointed to the nearest bed with her wand, and Vanished the restraints.
This didn't seem to ease Dudley's mind, and she had to prod him over to it. Finally, he lay down, his fingers gripping the mattress as he looked up at the square of daylight that showed through the window in the ceiling.
"I'm casting a diagnostic spell," Mehadi said. "It won't hurt you." She took her wand and passed it over him in a complex pattern, working her way from head to toe while whispering incantations. An orange net of light wove itself over Dudley. He watched it with great apprehension.
When she finished, she said, "Now, Dudley, I just have to let the spell do its work for a bit. Ten minutes, at most. I just want to make sure we clear this curse out completely."
"Mm-hmmm," Dudley managed.
Mehadi backed away and stood by Remus. "You didn't tell me how badly frightened he'd be."
"I thought he was getting past it. He's been practicing ducking Stunning Spells from me, and he came on his own when he decided to let us clear the curse."
"We should do a Memory Charm on him, Remus. He's not going to be able to manage this information."
"I'm not going to do that when it's not necessary."
"Look at him. It's necessary."
Remus shook his head.
Mehadi sighed. "You know him better than I do, Remus, so I'll trust your judgment. But I have some reservations about it." She sat down, keeping her eye warily on the net of light around Dudley. One strand of it had wound down around his left ear and another was creeping down his arm toward the hand Narcissa had cut. "I need to ask you a favor."
"I certainly owe you one."
"Come here again tomorrow night."
His heart sank. "Mehadi--"
"I know you hate it. You're right to hate it. I stayed down here with Edward Holmes last month--"
"You did what?"
"--because he's no more ready to do this alone than your friend Dudley is to visit Diagon Alley."
"Mehadi, what if he'd got loose? What if you'd come too close? What if--"
"That's why I'm asking you to come tomorrow."
Remus nodded. "All right. I've done it before, I can do it again. I just hate the damned chains."
"So do I. We tried sealing the door once and letting them have the room to wander, and two of the males fought over the female. One of them died. The female didn't precisely have an exemplary evening either. If you ever invent a better way to restrain werewolves in a ward, do let me know."
Remus looked down at his feet. "I understand. Maybe I'll have another easy transformation. The last one was marvelous, as such things go."
"Of course it was. You're happy."
"Why should that make a difference?"
"Why should it make a difference when you're upset? But it always has. So why wouldn't it work in the other direction?"
There was a flash as the diagnostic spell finished and the arching net over Dudley body disappeared. He was now traced with random, wobbly lines of light which seemed to pool around his left hand and his knees. Mehadi frowned and went to work, using a simple Finite Incantatem on some spots, but more advanced charms on others. One at a time, the lines faded, until Dudley was unmarked.
"You're clear," Mehadi told him. "All done."
Dudley sat up. He was trembling. "Really?"
He looked at Remus. "Can we go back now? Please?"
Remus nodded. "Do we need to put the Cloak back on?" he asked Mehadi.
"Not until we're out in the corridor. But it would be best if no one saw him leave with you. I'll take you out through the staff doors."
"Where do they exit?"
"About three streets down from the visitor entrance."
"How are we getting back to Smeltings?" Dudley asked. "Is your wife driving?"
Mehadi widened her eyes comically. "Is there something you're not telling me, Remus?"
"Quite a lot."
She laughed. "Well, married life suits you."
"How are we getting back to Smeltings?"
Remus nodded. "Dora will pick us up at one o'clock." He checked his watch. "Which is in half an hour. We probably shouldn't rush out."
But Dudley was already on the stairs, rushing up to the upper level of the ward. By the time Remus and Mehadi got there, he was staring at the door as though something might come out of the dark and drag him back down.
"Memory Charm," Mehadi mouthed.
Remus shook his head.
They waited until twelve forty-five, then Remus got Dudley hidden under the Cloak again and Mehadi led them up two levels to the area of the building reserved for Healers and other hospital staff. There was a tea room (shoddier than the one for visitors), a quiet place for people on long shifts to get some rest, and a row of administrative offices, leading up to the chief administrator's at the far end of the corridor. His door was open and Remus could hear him giving a hearty fake laugh.
"Donors," Mehadi said. "I'm glad I don't have to deal with them."
She led them down the corridor to an unmarked wooden door, which she opened for them with a password. A wide staircase with a threadbare carpet ran down to a pair of glass doors. Sunlight streamed in from outside. Dudley nearly dragged Remus toward it.
Mehadi waved to them from the top of the stairs and opened the door again. "Oh, hello," she said.
"I'll be going out this way," a woman's voice said, and Dudley froze.
Remus looked up as the woman slipped in through the door and Mehadi disappeared back into the hospital.
"It's her," Dudley gasped. "It's her."