The Sugar Quill
Author: Rachael DuBois (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Healer's Touch  Chapter: Default
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“She’s dead,” Snape said and let the woman’s limp wrist fall to the floor

A Healer’s Touch

 

VII

 

“She’s dead.”

 

Severus Snape was crouched over Emmeline Vance’s limp form sprawled on the carpet of her living room.  He let her wrist fall to the floor. 

 

Snape, you were supposed to fix her for me so I could play some more,” Abigail Carrows whined as she leaned against the end table.  “I’m disappointed.  Little Emma was about to crack, I could feel it.”

 

Snape’s lip curled into a sneer.  He picked up Emmeline’s wand from where it had been thrown next to the owner’s body and stashed it in his robes.  “Then, Carrows, I suggest you play more gently in the future.”  He rose from the floor and regarded the other grumbling Death Eaters in the room.  “Either clean this place up or get out before the Ministry and the Order show up.”  He strode from the room.

 

Abigail leaned over Emmeline’s body and scowled.  “You disappoint me, little Emma.”  She spat at the body and kicked it once more for good measure.  “I’m not cleaning up here.  Let the Ministry worry about it.”  She stomped out after Snape, and the others followed.

 

 

VI

 

The room was cold, and although she could hear voices, Emmeline felt very alone.  She lay on the floor of her living room, staring at the ceiling.  A watermark had spread out like a massive spider, and she wondered why she had never noticed it before.  Well, that’s what happens in a position like this.  You get new perspectives. 

 

She winced.  She was fairly certain her liver had been lacerated at some point today, but her pancreas was probably causing most of the pain now.  Without help she was probably going to bleed to death.  If she could just get to her wand . . . but she couldn’t move her head and she didn’t know where they had thrown it.  She coughed on the blood in her mouth.  Wouldn’t that be a way to go.  But that was depressing, so she returned to contemplating her ceiling.

 

Snape’s ugly face loomed into her view.  She sighed, but internally because it hurt enough to breathe normally.  Does he have to interrupt my final moments?

 

“You’re dying,” he said bluntly, but softly so only she could hear.

 

I already knew that.  Do you have anything helpful to add, or are you just going to make fun of me for it?

 

“I could fix you.  You’re not quite too far gone yet.  But I’m not going to.”

 

You really are going to play god with this.

 

“If I fixed you, she would just keep playing with you, over and over again, as long as I was around to repair you.  I don’t want to give her that pleasure.”

 

You get a jab in at everybody at my expense, I see.

 

He leaned in closer and sneered.  “It shouldn’t be too long now.  But take your time.  I’ve got all day.”

 

He moved away.  She scowled in her head and tried to go back to contemplating the spot on her ceiling.  She really did wish she had fixed it— and she suddenly couldn’t breathe.   Her heart began to pound uncomfortably in her chest as she struggled for air and couldn’t find any.  She tried to move her arms but they wouldn’t lift off the floor.     

 

With an effort she coughed and her lungs cleared, but she gasped in pain.  There was no denying it.  She really was dying.  She was surrounded by people but she was going to die alone and no one was going to lift a finger to help.

 

She had seen death before, had even tried to help her patients meet their ends in peace.  But it hadn’t seemed like this, all cold and hateful.  She was breathing quickly and her side was hurting now.  Without moving her head she looked around as far as she could.

 

Snape leaned in again and eyed her.  She looked back at him with wide, frightened eyes.  He smiled horribly.  “It seems it’s time.”  He lifted her wrist to feel a pulse.

 

Everything went black.

 

­

V

 

“What do you mean, Dumbledore’s been hurt?” Tonks demanded and dropped her spoon in the soup bowl.  “What happened?”

 

The others at the table leaned in and Moody’s eye spun as Shaklebolt answered.  “I don’t know any details.  Dumbledore just said everything was fine now.”

 

“And you just left it at that?  Why didn’t you ask any more questions?”

 

“He said Snape fixed whatever the problem was, and that was the end of it.”

 

Molly frowned with concern.  “Are you sure he’s alright?  He doesn’t need anything?”

 

“Molly, he’s at Hogwarts.  Madam Pomfrey and Snape can handle anything that comes up.”

 

“So Snape is staying at Hogwarts, then?” Moody asked gruffly.

 

“Matter of fact he said he had some things to tend to, but I understood he’d be reachable if needed.”

 

“Dumbledore should tell us when he goes off to do something dangerous,” Tonks complained.  “I mean, that’s what I’m trained to do.”

 

“He really isn’t as young as he used to be,” Molly worried and passed the peas to Moody. 

 

“This is Dumbledore,” Shaklebolt reminded her.  “He knows how to take care of himself, more than any of us could.”

 

“I know, I know.  I just . . .”

 

“You worry too much,” Tonks offered. 

 

“Too much!” she protested.  “Tell us, Kingsley, how is it going in the west?  Poor dear Muggles, after those giants went through.  And Fred and George won’t come home at night—they insist on staying with their store and I can’t sleep at night for worrying.  And why shouldn’t I?  You-Know-Who is back and what can I do about it?  And if Dumbledore is hurt—”

 

“Fred and George are fine,” Shaklebolt told her gently.  “They’re smart young men and they’ll let us know before they get in over their heads.”

 

“And what about Emmeline?”  Molly pressed on.  “Wasn’t she supposed to be here tonight?”

 

Moody’s eye twirled to his watch.  “Was she coming?”

 

“She told me she wanted to try my steak and kidney pie, and since Arthur wasn’t going to be home until late she was going to bring over some recipes.”

 

Tonks frowned.  Shaklebolt shook his head, though.  “She probably just got caught up at work.  You know St. Mungo’s is busy these days.  But I’ll stop by her house on my way home and make sure she got home alright.”

 

Tonks nodded at that.  “He’s right.  And this is marvelous steak and kidney pie.  I’d ask for the recipe myself if I had a prayer of actually cooking anything.”  She swallowed a large mouthful to prove she was telling the truth.

 

“It’ll be alright, Molly,” Moody reassured her.  “Dumbledore’s fine, and Hogwarts will be fine, and we’ll work together on everything else, like we always do.  Pass the butter?”

 

Molly still looked worried enough, but she passed the butter and managed to smile a little even as she craned her head to check the hands on her family clock.  Shaklebolt mentioned how good the soup was, and then Tonks said something funny and the mood lightened considerably.  But Molly couldn’t help feeling that something was wrong, despite not being able to put a name to it.

 

 

IV

 

Emmeline’s head lolled to the side and she jerked it back up.  Blood was running from her nose and kept dripping in her mouth.  “I don’t know.”

 

Abigail Carrows smiled coldly.  “Come now, little Emma.  You wanted to play.  It’s your turn now.”

 

“But I don’t know!”  Her eyes darted around the room.  There were two men in Death Eater masks by the door, another flipping through her mail at the desk, and three others working their way through her liquor cabinet.  Abigail was standing in front of her, where she was strapped to a chair with thick ropes.

 

“Emma, I am losing my patience.  You won’t like it when that happens.”  She knelt down so they could face each other.  “Please, Emma.  I thought you wanted to talk.  We don’t have to go through this.  You can make it stop.  Just tell me—where does Dumbledore go when he leaves Hogwarts?”

 

Emmeline shook her head, close to tears.  Abigail’s face softened and she reached out to stroke her cheek.  Emmeline coughed and blood splattered the other woman’s face.  The Death Eater blinked, then slapped her captive hard across the face.

 

“That’s it, little Emma,” she growled.  “You’ve had your chance.”  She spun around to collect her wand.

 

At that moment the door opened.  Emma looked over fearfully.  Snape entered and she sagged against her bonds in relief.  She was going to be rescued after all.  He had come to help her, despite what he had said earlier. 

 

“Is she still holding out?” Snape asked, his ugly face impassive as he approached.

 

Abigail pouted.  “I don’t need you checking up on me, Snape.  I’ll get it out of her.”

 

“Oh, no.  I’m not here to check on you.”  He turned to Emmeline, his dark eyes glittering as he smiled coldly.  “I just wanted to watch the fun.”

 

“Good.  Then you can just stay over there and let me—”

 

Snape!”  Emmeline cried out desperately, her heart sinking.  “Please—”

 

Abigail laughed.  “What, little Emma?  You think Snape is here to help you?”  Snape gave Emmeline a scornful glance and stepped closer to the mocking woman.  The other Death Eaters in the room joined the laughter.  “More the fool, you are.  Snape was the one who turned you over to us.”

 

Snape smirked.  “She’s a stubborn one.  But don’t give up, Carrows.  If you apply enough pressure she’ll crack.”

 

“See, little Emma?  No one’s coming to rescue.  It’s just us here.”

 

Emmeline had to blink to fight back the tears she refused to show.  Snape had really turned her over to the Death Eaters.  She was going to die, here, today.

 

Abigail pulled her wand and pointed it at Emmeline.  “Let’s see just how much it’s going to take, shall we?”  Emmeline sat up, her jaw set.  If it was just her now, she wasn’t going to go begging, and she wasn’t going to give them anything.  She owed the Order that much at least.  She eyed the wand.  At least, she hoped so.

 

Crucio!

 

 

III

 

Dumbledore sat very still, his eyes closed and his face calm.  His right arm was stretched out, but the skin was blackened and shriveled and it ended in a claw instead of fingers.  Snape was kneeling next to his chair, his eyes unblinking and his wand pointed steadily at the disfigured limb.  He muttered under his breath and made a few tiny flicks of his wand. 

 

“I’ve done all I can.”  He dropped the wand and went to the desk to open a box sitting there.  Dumbledore examined his arm.

 

“It’s not as bad as it could have been.”

 

“I’ve stopped the spread.  It won’t go any further, at least for now.  I can’t promise it won’t kill you eventually.”

 

“Will I have use of my hand?”

 

Snape paused a moment in selecting bottles from his box.  “No,” he said coolly.  “The tissue is damaged beyond repair.”  He chose a bottle of blue liquid and set it on the desk top.

 

“Never mind,” Dumbledore said, flexing his healthy left hand.  “I suppose it’s worth the cost.”

 

Snape glanced at him but said nothing.  He mixed the blue liquid with a black one in a goblet and handed it to Dumbledore.  “Drink this.  It will replenish some of the strength you have lost.”

 

Dumbledore set the goblet to the side to try a few flicks of his wand with his left hand.  Snape closed up his box, then turned back to the Headmaster.  Emmeline Vance has been captured by Death Eaters.”

 

Dumbledore’s blue eyes clouded and he set his wand down.  “Why her?”

 

Snape stared back at him steadily, “Because I suggested it.”

 

Dumbledore’s eyes cleared and he gazed back at Snape with sharp blue eyes.  “And why would you do such a thing, Severus?”

 

“I felt it was necessary at the time.”

 

“I see.”  Dumbledore rose from his chair and slowly crossed to his desk.  He leaned heavily against the wood, as though the weight of the conversation were too much.  “How many of the Order will this require?”

 

“Headmaster, it would be better not to involve the Order with this.  I am prepared to resolve the situation on my own.”

 

“And how are you going to do that?” 

 

“In the usual manner.”

 

“You should have come to me first, Severus.  There could have been a way to handle this differently.”

 

“No, Headmaster, there was not.” 

 

Dumbledore rubbed his forehead with his good hand.  “You’re sure there is nothing else that can be done?”

 

“I am.”

 

“And you have made the necessary preparations?  You are ready to do this on your own?”

 

“I have, and I am.”  Snape stood calmly, waiting for Dumbledore to be satisfied.

 

Dumbledore shook his head.  “Then it is a very sad day, Severus.  Emmeline is a very good woman and I will miss her.  Please let me know when you have finished.”

 

Snape bowed his head.  “Of course, Headmaster.  Don’t forget your drink.  You will need your strength.”  Dumbledore did not reply to this, except to turn back to his desk, his head bowed.

 

Snape collected his box and left the room.  Only when the door had closed behind him did he permit himself a small smile as he descended the spiral staircase.

 

 

II

 

Emmeline was panicked.  She flew down the hall from her office, her heart pounding in her chest.  The count down had begun and she had to get out of there.  The hospital ward seemed to stretch forever in front of her.  A door creaked behind her and she whipped her head around in time to see a patient ambulating toward the sitting room at the other end of the hall.  Her breath was ragged and she stopped a moment to let her heart slow again.  She couldn’t afford to panic.  The Carrows could be lying in wait for her anywhere. 

 

She reached out to push the stairway door open when calls from the room across the hall made her jump.  She clutched at her chest as an apprentice stuck her head out of the door.  “Healer Vance!  Oh, thank goodness!  We’ve got a problem in here!  He can’t breathe!”

 

The apprentice ducked back into the room, and Emmeline froze.  She hated herself as she stood there, her own breath caught in her throat, wondering if she dared stop to help.  She was a Healer.  It was her duty.  But it would be a waste of precious moments to stop . . .

 

Almost before the thought had finished she had entered the patient’s room.  This was a patient and she couldn’t leave him to die. 

 

Three apprentices were clustered around the nearest bed.  The man was sitting up, his face purple as he struggled to draw in air through a closing windpipe.  “Please, Healer Vance,” the assistant said in a rush, “we gave the anti-venom, but he seems to be allergic to it.” 

 

She pulled her wand and grasped the man’s hand.  “You’re going to be okay,” she said in a soothing voice.  “Try to breathe slowly.”  Aiming her wand at the man’s throat she said, “Reductio tracheatus.  It was only a second, although the time seemed to drag on, before he could breathe again. 

 

Gulping up air, as his face turned red and then flesh colored again, he smiled his thanks.  Emmeline patted him on the shoulder.  “You’re going to be fine.  Just remember to stay away from whatever bit you in the first place.”  To the apprentices, she reminded them, “Make sure to give a throat expander if he needs any more of the medicine.”

 

“Of course, Healer Vance,” they chimed.

 

The crisis resolved, Emmeline’s fears, allayed by the rhythm of her work, came back in a rush.  She took the stairs in almost a daze, wondering what was next.  She was in the lobby before she realized she didn’t know where to go.  Did she dare go home first to collect some belongings, or should she simply try to leave the country?  If she went to Dumbledore or the Order, would they help her or would Snape betray her first?

 

She had almost made it to the Apparition point, which had been specially cleared for the comings and goings of visitors and patients, when she felt hands clamp down on her arm.  “What is it this time—,” she started, and found herself face to face with Abigail Carrows.  “—oh.”

 

Abigail smiled but it didn’t reach her eyes.  “So good to see you again, Emma.  It’s been much too long, really.”

 

Emmeline scanned the lobby but the only person there was a greeter who was flipping through a magazine and had not noticed her panic.

 

“Don’t you dare say a word, Emma.  You know I won’t hesitate to destroy this place.”  Abigail’s whisper was ice, even as she smiled widely for the rest of the room to see.

 

“What do you want with me?”  Emmeline whispered back, which was all the volume she could manage.  She tugged uselessly against the other woman’s grip.

 

Abigail’s eyes narrowed.  “You know exactly what I want.”  In a louder voice she announced, “A drink at your house before dinner?  What a lovely idea!”

 

Not relinquishing her iron grip on Emmeline’s arm, Abigail steered her to the Apparition point.  “Where are we really going?” Emmeline asked, her stomach doing flip-flops and her palms sweating.

 

Abigail cocked her head.  “Why, your house of course, darling.  You don’t think I’d mess up my rugs with all the fun we’re going to have, do you?  Now hold on tight.  I’ll be doing the driving.”

 

As the darkness of Disapparation sucked at her, Emmeline at last found her voice and managed a scream.  But it was already too late and she was home again.

 

 

I

 

“Healer Vance?” the assistant asked tentatively, poking her head in the room.

 

“Yes?” Emmeline replied, looking up from the stacks of reports and charts on her desk.

 

“There’s a man here to see you.”

 

“Send him in then.”  She shuffled an article on the best cures for the Poxatus Curse to the side as Severus Snape entered her office.  Somewhat surprised, as she couldn’t recall ever having a conversation with the man before, she leaned back in her chair and asked pleasantly, “To what do I owe such a visit, Mr. Snape?”

 

Snape closed the door behind him and took a seat across the desk from her.  He leaned forward.  “I won’t prevaricate.  I know what you attempted to do.”

 

She frowned and leaned forward herself, hiding the sudden fear she felt.  “I don’t know what you mean.”

 

His lip began to curl.  “I think you do.”

 

She braced herself against his steely gaze.  “No, Mr. Snape, I assure you I don’t.”

 

“Did you really think I wouldn’t hear from the Carrows?” 

 

Emmeline felt lunch curdle in her stomach, but forced her face to remain calm.  He knows.  “Really, Mr. Snape—”

 

Snape leaned in closer.  “You thought they wouldn’t talk to me first, didn’t you.  What did you think you could tell them?  What secrets do you think you know?”

 

“I don’t know what you think this is, but it’s not the way it seems—”

 

“Did you really think it would take more than a word from me to convince them that you were merely laying a trap for them?”  Emmeline felt her face run pale.  “Needless to say, they were not pleased.”

 

Her mouth didn’t want to work for a moment.  She had dreamed of this moment, when she didn’t have to hide her secret anymore.  She had never imagined it would come out like this.  “What did you tell them?” She finally managed.

 

“Perhaps you should worry more about what I’ve told the Order.”

 

Snape,” she said, with a hint of hysteria, “you have to understand.”  Please understand!  “The pressure was horrible.  This hospital—”

 

“Is beside the point.  You swore faithfulness, and you have betrayed Dumbledore and the Order.  Betrayed them poorly, at that.”

 

“What did you tell the Order?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Nothing?”

 

“They don’t need to know the truth.  It’s enough that you and I do.”

 

Emmeline looked at him with fascinated horror.  “I don’t understand.  What are you going to do?”

 

“Me?”  Snape’s mouth curled into a half smile.  “I’m not going to do anything.  I’m going to let events take their course.  The Dark Lord will have his revenge on you, and the Order will not stop him.  I may come by and watch.”

 

“Dumbledore will never let that happen!”

 

“Dumbledore,” Snape hissed, “is going to listen to me.  He will not do anything to stop this.”

 

Emmeline felt as though she were drowning.  “I don’t believe you.”

 

He leaned in even closer and snarled.  “You are a traitor, Emmeline Vance, and you and I both know there is only one fate due someone like you.”

 

Her face flushed with sudden rage.  “You don’t get to judge me like that, Severus Snape!  Not after what you’ve done!”

 

“Calm yourself,” he said and rose.  “I am not in the business of deciding who gets a second chance.  Perhaps you can die a martyr.”

 

“No!  Snape, stop this!  You can’t be serious!”

 

“You have little time.  I recommend you figure out what you want to do with it, as shouting at me will help nothing.”

 

She sputtered after him, but the door slammed shut behind him and she found herself alone and terrified. 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue

 

The sun was bright on the green hill overlooking the tiny Italian town.  Emmeline waited patiently in the shade of an obliging olive tree.  She straightened as a man in black robes approached her.  “I’m here, like you asked,” she said when he was close.

 

Snape eyed her stonily.  Then he reached in his robes and pulled a sack from it.  She caught it when he tossed it to her and peeked at the gold coins inside.  “That is a portion from your account at Gringotts.  It should be enough.  The rest will go to support the Order.”

 

She closed the bag and nodded.  “Thank you.”

 

“Don’t,” he said brusquely.  He frowned.  “I want you to remember that you have no information.  You have nothing to barter with.  If you ever return to England, if you ever try to contact the Ministry, or the Death Eaters, or the Order, ever again, I will reveal you for what you really are.”

 

She regarded him seriously.  “I believe you.”

 

“You might want to know they gave you a hero’s funeral.  It was reasonably well attended.”

 

She swallowed hard.  She would not cry, not in front of this man.  “And none of them know?”

 

“Dumbledore believes you are alive, somewhere.  But no, no one else knows the truth.”  Snape glanced at the town.  “Don’t waste this chance.  I won’t be seeing you again.”  He turned away and Apparated.

 

It wasn’t fair.  Emmeline stared down at the tiny town.  She didn’t know anyone here, and she knew only a few words of Italian, barely enough to say hello.  Snape had spared her life, but he had stranded her here without so much as her wand.  She had asked for that, when Snape had first dropped her off.  He’d sneered at her and said it had been a complicated piece of magic to get her out of her house, and that she ought to be grateful more than her wand hadn’t been left behind.

 

She started down the hill to the town.  There were fates worse than this, she mused.  There would always be work, if she could master enough of the language.  She could make new friends, and here she wouldn’t be looking over her shoulder all the time.  But it also meant there was no Order.  There was a fight going on, and she was no longer allowed to participate.  She could do good here, but it was not going to be the good she had hoped for. 

 

She set her first footsteps into the town.  Snape was right.  Here she was not a traitor, and the past was the past.  Perhaps the fight would be here someday, and if it was she would be ready.  She would not waste this second chance.  She raised her chin and continued walking.

 

The End.

 

//
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