Hermione Weasley sat at her desk at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries rubbing her temples.
Neville Longbottom was lying in a bed in a private room, tucked away from everyone else and it was all her fault.
He had such an odd array of magical afflictions that the healers wondered often if he was having an adverse reaction of their treatment or that his affliction was morphing into something else.
Augusta Longbottom visited frequently, sometimes more often than the healers in Neville’s ward would like. She always showed up with a flurry of questions that caused the more accomplished healers to fluster and the newer ones to scurry.
Hermione looked at the large shelf of books in front of her. Every bizarre ailment that had ever come through St. Mungo’s was in front of her. She had it teleported up from the records department last week and had spent most of her time pouring over the dusty texts. She had found nothing.
If she didn’t cure Neville he would die. The Longbottom line would end. Most importantly, she would lose a friend.
She had lost too many friends.
The war had been long and bloody and there had been heavy losses on both sides.
Dumbledore and Snape, of course. And then there were the ones that no one saw coming.
Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan were killed in their bed in Hogsmede one spring night years after the war had ended. Lavender Brown had been killed at the primary school she taught at, alone with several dozen Muggle children. Padma and Parvarti had been killed in Diagon Alley with their daughters when they were out shopping for the day.
There were a handful of Death Eaters that had avoided the Aurors and they still caused trouble from time to time.
Hermione steepled her fingers and touched her forehead to them in thought.
There was another solution. Well, not really a solution, but the chance she could find someone that had a solution. It was unorthodox, of course. Highly controversial.
He’d had his wand snapped in half for illegal experimental medical treatments. He had no respect for authority or guidelines. He was a hazard as far as Hermione was concerned.
He was also their last chance.
Gregory House cracked an eyelid and groaned as the sunlight hit his pupil. He tried to move, but pain shot through his leg. It was going to be one of those days.
House reached out and cracked the drawer of his nightstand. His hand found the small brown bottle without looking. He flipped the top off with his thumb and poured some pills into the palm of his hand. He knocked them back into his mouth without caring exactly how much he was taking as long as it was more than one.
Ha lay on his back with his eyes shut, waiting for the pain to subside. He counted slowly to one hundred. Then he concentrated on the rhythm of his breathing.
That was when he heard the flutter of wings.
He frowned and opened one eye.
There was a large brown owl perched on the footboard of his bed. It had a scroll case attached to one leg.
He opened the other eye and stared at the bird. He reached into the nightstand without taking his eyes from the owl and removed the brown bottle. He read the label through his blurred just-waking vision. It was the right prescription.
“Great.” House said in a worn out voice. He closed his eyes again and fell back on his pillow. “Perfect start to a perfect day.”
The owl hooted softly.
Suddenly, House violently threw the brown bottle at the owl.
The owl made an angry sound and shook its leg at House. The scroll rattled inside the decorative case. House saw the seal on the case and groaned.
“Oh I see, they have a problem and now they want me.” House said sarcastically. “Well you can tell them to bugger off.”
The owl hooted in a determined way.
House swung his legs over the side of his bed and sat up. He reached for his cane and glared at the owl.
“And you can bugger off, too!” He gave the owl a firm poke with the end of his cane. The owl tottered for a moment and looked offended, but merely hopped out of reach and hooted louder.
“Fine! Stay as long as you like! Mice are in the garden, bathrooms second door down the hall on the left! Make yourself at home!”
House winced as he got to his feet. He stormed from the bedroom to the bathroom and slammed the door.
The last thing he needed was to be reminded of his past.
His father had gotten his transfer papers when House was three. According to Blythe House, her young son was amazed at all the tall buildings in London, but had been overwhelmingly unimpressed with all the rain. As soon as he was old enough for schooling he attended the Edinburgh Academy in Scotland.
When he reached his eleventh birthday an owl had arrived at the House residence and at the beginning of the new school year young Gregory was headed for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
He had excelled at Transfiguration and Potions. When he graduated, St. Mungo’s was happy to oversee his training as a healer.
Then he had been caught using questionable techniques in his research. Then his research notes showed he was dabbling in the Dark Arts in order to get some of his research information.
They had snapped his wand in two. Claimed his dedication to the Healing profession and his obsession with gathering knowledge obscured his view of the patient. They said he was scarily near to becoming a dark wizard.
Since he hadn’t harmed anyone, the reasons given in his argument were rooted in the healing profession and he had no personal gain whatsoever from his actions, he had gotten away from a prison term in Azkaban.
He still dreamed about the cracking sound the wood made and how it dangled for a moment before the unicorn hair broke.
Now that stupid owl was sitting in his bedroom waiting for him.
Well, the damn owl could keep waiting. House had waited for years in vain before accepting his fate as a Muggle diagnostician.
He had a comfortable life as a Muggle. He had food and comfortable home. He had a challenging job that allowed him to forget about the pain in his leg for moments.
The Muggles had bungled it and he lived with it rather than seek out magical healing in the US.
If they didn’t need him, he didn’t need them.
But it looked like they did need him.
He wondered for a wild moment if Cuddy had contacted them.
He filled his bathtub and spilled some bath salts that smelled like herbs into it. He tossed in a rubber duck and a floating soap dish with a bar of soap clamped into it.
He undressed as the tub filled and thought about it for a moment.
It was highly unlikely she even knew about magical healing; let alone how to contact St. Mungo’s.
He lowered himself into the tub and soaked while he mindlessly made his rubber duck putter around the floating soap dish.
It really was worth a shot.
He didn’t have any cases active and he still had to hire a new staff. He had plenty of holiday time and if they really had something, the proper paperwork would be secured to make Cuddy think he was working at a Muggle hospital.
As much as he hated England, he missed the raucous carousing women you could find in certain pubs. He allowed himself a small smile.
Even if he walked out on St. Mungo’s he could still amuse himself for a couple weeks.
He scrubbed off and pulled the plug in the tub.
He slowly lifted himself from the tub and threw on a dark blue bathrobe.
He threw open the bathroom door and walked, dripping water with each step, back to his bedroom. The owl was predictably still waiting for him. It hooted at him and looked completely annoyed.
“It’s your lucky day, Owl.” House said to it simply as he reached for the scroll case. “You’ll be on your way soon with a positive reply instead of sitting here indefinitely with a scroll dangling from your leg. Aren’t you the lucky one?”
House’s eyes swept over the parchment and he squinted his eyes. Pictures that moved had been imbedded into the page so he could better examine them. Fascinating.
The right big toe was actually glowing slightly green.
He looked accusingly at the owl as if the creature had kept him from looking at the fascinating page. The owl stared at him, waiting for him to write his reply so he could leave on his return journey.
“All right. It’s interesting.” House admitted to the owl. “And the name that signed it isn’t someone I know. They seem to be sincere.”
He hobbled over to a desk where he scribbled a reply.
“I’m sending you with a second message for the owner of the Leaky Cauldron. It will include my boarding needs. See that he gets it.” House placed his reply to St Mungo’s into the scroll case and the letter to the Leaky Cauldron in a manila envelope. He attatched them to the owl’s leg and looked at it.
The owl blinked before he hooted.
“Oh! Sorry!” House shuffled back to his kitchen and opened his refrigerator. The chicken he had bought at the grocery store the night before was still sitting on the shelf, waiting to be prepared into dinner.
House wrestled with the packaging before he shoved his hand into the carcass and fished out the liver. He put it on a plate and washed his hands and brought it back to the owl. The owl ate it happily and hooted a goodbye to House before it took flight again and went out the window it had entered through.
House blinked for a moment before he scratched his head and walked back to his desk where he would compose a letter to Cuddy, requesting his vacation time.