Chapter 3: September First
The day dawned sunny and bright, an ideal day for a picnic or a trip to the zoo. I don’t know what sort of day you need for what we were about to do, but the early morning sunlight and the chirping of the birds seemed completely incongruous as I showered and dressed.
My state of mind could best be called chaotic. As Remus and I sat at the breakfast table, he ate while I picked at my food. He tried gamely to spout platitudes, I ignored him. Nervous to the point of feeling ill, I stirred my once crisp cereal into a gooey mush.
“It will be all right, won’t it?” I asked for the ten millionth time, abandoning any pretense at eating.
Remus reached over to squeeze my hand. “Dumbledore thinks so. Tonks and Kingsley think so. Another six hours and it will all be over. Malfoy will be in custody, and we can get on with our lives.”
“Or I’ll be on the way to the airport,” I sighed.
Last evening, Tonks had stopped by to go over the plan one final time. The extortion note, she told us, would be sent at eight a.m. to coincide with Lucius Malfoy’s usual arrival time at the Ministry. If he replied to the message, the response would go directly to Kingsley Shacklebolt’s desk. He would notify us immediately.
I still worried that I could be accused of a crime, but Tonks assured me with a wink that it wouldn‘t happen; not only had she charmed the writing on the note to blur to the point of illegibility after being read, the paper itself would disintegrate. Malfoy would never be able to prove that I had criminal intent in mind.
It made me feel slightly better. I knew that this plan had been polished and honed by some of the finest British Aurors, yet I still had the sense that I was deliberately stepping out in front of a speeding locomotive. And it was all my doing.
“What if Malfoy tries to reach Kailin before the meeting time at noon?” Remus had wanted to know.
“Get to her at work, you mean?” Tonks shook her head at once. “Not possible. My sources tell me his schedule is booked solid until ten forty-five, at which time he heads to King‘s Cross to send off darling Draco. And just in case, we placed one of our interoffice memos in Malfoy’s office and charmed it to fly straight to alert us if he leaves the building.”
There was nothing to do now but wait for the time to crawl by.
As I left for work I glanced at my packed suitcase, waiting by the door. I didn’t want to use it, didn’t want to leave Remus or Britain. At once, Remus saw which way my eyes were looking. He pulled me into a reassuring embrace.
“It’ll be all right, dearest,” he murmured.
I wondered if he was trying to bolster his own confidence as well as mine.
Remus accompanied me on the Tube, then kissed me goodbye as I left him in the Family Members Lounge on the main level of London Heart Hospital.
“Promise me -” I began, but Remus was already fishing my cell phone out of his pocket, a smile on his face.
“I promise. I’ll call just as soon as I hear anything.”
The only bright spot to the day was that it promised to be a busy one; there was a full load of scheduled surgeries, not to mention the emergency bypasses that come through. I was glad of that; it meant I would have less time to dwell on what was scheduled to take place at King’s Cross at noon.
I don’t assist in the surgeries themselves; I care for the patients as they meander their way back toward consciousness. The Post-Anesthesia Recovery Suite where I work is a large area just off the operating rooms. There is space for thirty-five stretchers in PARS, which means it’s essentially one large ward with curtained cubicles. Additionally, there are offices, storerooms, a utility room and a break room, all adjoining a long corridor.
By eleven business was booming. The ward was ninety percent full of semi-conscious patients. The voices of the staff mingled with the occasional groan of discomfort, and all the while, electronic IV administration pumps and heart monitors bleeped and buzzed and chimed. It was a noisy place, so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t hear my supervisor call my name the first time. When it finally got through to me that she wanted my attention, I could see her miming picking up a receiver and mouthing the word ‘telephone’.
My mouth went dry. I walked toward the nearest phone, my stomach writhing in panic. “Hello?”
It was Remus. “Good news,” he said tersely. “Tonks says everything’s on target. The message was sent out on schedule, and right now Malfoy’s at King’s Cross, seeing the train off.”
“Did he respond to the message?” I wanted to know.
“No. But,” Remus added quickly, “you remember that she wasn’t necessarily expecting him to do that.”
“Right.” I was disappointed. I’d wanted him to threaten all manner of retribution; it would have given my accusations a bit more weight.
“Are you all right, dearest?”
“Just great,” I said, managing a pained smile. “Thank God we’re busy. It helps to keep my mind off things.”
“It won’t be long now. And I’m just upstairs, if you need me.”
“I know. Wish you were down here.”
“Next time, get a job someplace with a waiting area close by, would you?”
Remus’ gentle teasing had the desired effect: I managed some genuine laughter, despite my heightened anxiety.
“Are you all right, Kailin?” My supervisor, a kindly, older woman by the name of Georgia Tate, was eyeing me with concern when I hung up the telephone. “You’ve looked tense all morning.”
“I’m fine, Georgia,” I lied, smiling.
“All right, then. You just seemed a bit jumpy, that’s all.”
Jumpy? She didn’t know the half of it. I was ready to jump out of my skin, pure and simple.
“Really,” I repeated, shaking my head, “it’s nothing.”
“Was that your Remus?” Georgia wanted to know.
“Yes,” I said, smiling. I loved that term, ‘my Remus’.
“Oh. I thought that might be him, calling back.” As if that explained everything, Georgia nodded in satisfaction and walked off.
Something wasn’t adding up. I mentally ran her words through my brain one more time. “Wait, Georgia,” I called after her. “What did you say?”
The woman turned back to face me. “I just meant that I wasn’t surprised when he called back.”
“But he didn’t call before,” I pointed out carefully.
“Not for you, no. But he did phone a bit earlier to see if you were in. Didn’t he realize you were working today?”
My blood froze.
I hurled myself at the telephone. My hands were shaking so hard I could barely dial my own cell phone number.
It seemed to take an excruciatingly long time for the connection to go through. Finally, I heard Remus’ voice at the other end.
“He’s coming here!” I gasped without preamble. “He called here to see if I was working today!”
Suddenly, there was a flash of light, and an enormous bang resounded throughout the ward as the doors at the far end flew into the air and crashed to the floor. I dropped the phone with a clatter while, amid gasps and cries from the staff, a figure clothed in black appeared out of the smoke and dust.
Lucius Malfoy stood there, his cold eyes darting from person to person. He was clad entirely in black, long blond hair cascading over his shoulders, a wand resting loosely in his right hand.
Georgia’s eyes widened and she marched straight toward him. “This is a restricted area!” she snapped. “What in the world do you think you’re doing? Get out! You don‘t belong in here!”
My feet felt suddenly, utterly, rooted to the floor. I heard a different voice urging someone to call Security. I wanted to laugh; hospital security guards against a Death Eater? They’d be slaughtered in seconds.
“Nobody move!” he hissed.
But Georgia wasn’t finished ranting yet. “These are patients who’ve just been released from -”
Malfoy’s eyes flicked toward her. He raised his wand and murmured something, and immediately a bolt of red sizzled from the end of it. Georgia spun in a circle and toppled to the floor.
Screams erupted from the staff. It was obvious to me that Lucius Malfoy would mow down each and every person, nurse and patient alike, if need be.
Protect the patient.
It was a moral Marvy had drilled into me long ago when telling me tales about her nursing career. Malfoy was not after the patients or the staff, he was after me, and I had to draw him away from the area at once. All I could think was that I would die protecting my patients, and Marvy would be proud.
I bolted for the door next to me; it opened onto the hallway which housed the storeroom, Georgia’s office, and our break room. At best, I thought, I could only divert Malfoy for a minute or two, but it might give Remus time to notify Tonks and Shacklebolt and get them here. I was barely through when I heard something impact the door frame with a loud bang. I tore down the hall to the storeroom.
I skidded inside the room and slammed the door shut behind me. I locked it - I have no idea why I thought a lock might deter a Death Eater - but it seemed the appropriate thing to do. I heard footsteps running down the hall. At once I started looking for a place to hide.
When supplies are delivered, they typically stack up for a day or two until someone has a chance to open boxes and shelve the items. With a sinking feeling, I realized that someone had taken the time yesterday to sort things out, so the notion of hiding behind a stack of cartons was out of the question. My only choice was to squeeze behind one of the massive, mobile shelving units, but they offered limited protection, depending on what the shelves contained.
I ran to the end of the room, shoved one of the last units aside and slid behind it. The shelf in front of me held liter bottles of bleach, the cheap, effective disinfectant which not only made your towels sparkling white, but also killed the AIDS virus and a host of other nasties. It was the solvent of choice for cleaning just about everything in hospitals these days. As cover went, it didn’t conceal much, and I prayed that help would arrive by the time Malfoy found me.
There was silence from the hallway. Malfoy, I hoped, was unsure which door I’d gone through. Not that it would take him long to find out; there weren’t many to choose from.
As if to bear me out, I could hear a door being blown off its hinges. It sounded as though it might be Georgia’s office, next door. That meant I had possibly ten more seconds before Malfoy reached the storeroom.
Please, Remus, please help me! Get Tonks, get Shacklebolt, and help me!
Then the storeroom door blew open, and I stifled a whimper. Wasn’t there a limit on how often any one person should face death in the space of six months? A small voice reminded me that early on in our courtship, Remus had tried to warn me against getting involved with him. Another small voiced hushed the first one, saying that it was too late now to worry about that sort of thing.
“Filthy Muggle!” Lucius Malfoy hissed at the room in general. “I know you’re in here! How dare you try to intimidate me?”
I could hear the overhead speakers paging all available Security Officers to the Post-Anesthesia Recovery Suite. Perhaps taking out his wrath on the poor unsuspecting guards would occupy Malfoy for a couple of minutes - anything to keep me alive for a little longer, to give Remus more time to get here…
“You bastard! You tried to kill me!” I cried, my whole body trembling now.
“So you realized that was me, did you?” Malfoy said smoothly, pulling back a shelving unit and peering behind it.
“It wasn’t that hard. But why?” I knew why, but for my own satisfaction, I wanted to hear him say it.
“Because you’re an ignorant Muggle, my dear.” Another shelving unit slid out of position. “And as an ignorant Muggle, you are both expendable and useless.”
“Not to my friends and family!”
“The werewolf? No wonder the two of you hit it off. You’re both expendable and useless.”
One more shelving unit slid away. Only a few more to go, and I would be looking Lucius Malfoy in the eye.
“Why not kill you?” Malfoy continued. “You do realize that after the Dark Lord takes over - which will be any day, now that I have the Ministry in my pocket - Muggles will be steadily eliminated.”
“And you don’t think the rest of the world will notice?”
“Let them.” The next shelving unit slid to the side, and I could clearly see Malfoy shrug in indifference. “Tell, just how did you manage to escape the cottage fire? I’ve been burning to know.”
Burning to know… That bastard, I seethed inwardly. I had to fight back, to do something. But what?
My eyes focused on the bottle of bleach in front of me. Slowly, I slid my hand in my pocket and pulled out my bandage scissors. “I don’t think I’ll tell you,” I shot back at him. “Muggles have skills of their own, you know.”
Malfoy chuckled. “Play your little game, if it makes you feel better. I can assure you that I’ll have no trouble getting the answer from you.”
Clumsily, I used my scissors to spear the bleach bottle below the neck, then hastily sliced around it. It wasn’t easy; my hand was shaking so hard I could barely work the scissors.
The top third of the bottle came off just as the shelving unit filled with bleach bottles slid away from me.
“Ah, there you -”
I hurled the contents of the bleach bottle directly into Lucius Malfoy’s face.
My aim was perfect. A gallon of caustic, burning bleach hit Malfoy squarely in the head and chest. He uttered a choked cry of pain and his hands flew up immediately to his face.
I dropped the bleach bottle, grabbed an IV pole off the rack on the wall behind me, and brought it down on his head as hard as I could.
There was an enormous, thudding crack, and I wondered briefly if I’d shattered his skull. Malfoy staggered sideways into a shelving unit and dropped to his knees, cursing and choking.
I was raising the IV pole again when Tonks came rushing into the room.
“Stupefy!” she screamed, and a bolt of red shot from her wand to hit the sputtering, floundering Malfoy.
With a sob, I slumped against the wall. No cavalry charge had ever been more welcome than Nymphadora Tonks and her flaming - pink, today - hair.
“Get out into the hall, would you, Kailin? I’ll take care of Dear Lucius here.” Tonks waved her wand, and ropes flew from the end of it. She began to tie up Malfoy on the spot.
I didn’t have to be told twice. I stepped over Malfoy’s legs and ran for the door.
The corridor was full of people. Kingsley Shacklebolt appeared to be telling the hospital security guards that everything was under control. A group of witches and wizards I didn’t know were milling about, looking grave. From inside the ward, I could hear a loud voice assuring the nursing staff that absolutely nothing amiss had taken place, and I caught the word ‘Obliviate’. Evidently troops from the Ministry had arrived. I wondered how much trouble Tonks and Shacklebolt would be in for this unauthorized little escapade.
“Kailin!” I heard Remus’ voice and looked around wildly to find him.
And then he was fighting his way through the crowd of Ministry officials, and I was running toward him.
Remus enfolded me into his arms, clutching me to him fiercely. “Kailin,” he mumbled, “dear God! I didn’t - I couldn’t -”
He couldn’t finish, but it didn’t matter. I was safe. Somehow, some way, safe. I began to cry into the depths of my husband’s shoulder.