Into the Gray
Pain. There is nothing else. Pain beyond anything I have ever felt or imagined. There is no word that comes near to describing it. It does not merely fill my consciousness, it is my very being.
Somehow I force my eyes open enough to see. I cannot really feel the gravel path upon which I am prone. I know the sharp tiny stones must be digging into my flesh wherever it is exposed, but I cannot identify them as separate pains, there is no room for that. It is not an accident that I am exactly here, no, that much is very clear. He is on his back. I force myself to focus and look into the face that I have been thrown beside. The pain becomes even greater, as it was intended to do. I nearly forget the physical now, awash in the agony that is not physical, and all the more terrible for it.
I am looking directly at Malcolm's face. It has always been a face filled with such a warmth and kindness that even his pale blue eyes never seem cool. Now, however, the face is arranged into a such an expression of utter surprise, shock really, that I know whatever pain he felt was so fleeting that he barely knew it was there. The eyes though, they are empty. The brown curl that falls in front of one of them does not distract him. It no longer concerns him. If there can ever be comfort, that is where it will rest.
Slowly the remainder of the universe is forcing itself into the pain and becoming manifest. I realize that there is no sound now. Well, no sound beyond the evening's breeze in the greenery and a dog somewhere in the distance making a half-hearted challenge. If I could concentrate, there would be some hum of activity from the village. I have a vague memory of there having been screaming before. I am rather sure that I was the source. I can feel a dry rawness in my throat as I force myself to keep breathing that seems to confirm it.
The face before me is all I can focus on and hold. He did that with intent. The rest was so hurried and disinterested that He can only have positioned us like this as the last little bit of viciousness to bring some joy to an otherwise fruitless encounter. I understand now that it is why He didn't kill me as well. That, and the fact that He seemed to have lost interest and decided to hurry things along so as to move on to the next outrage. Or, maybe, it was just time for dinner, He was getting peckish, and lost any real commitment to the overall artistic shape of the thing. So this was an easy, and cruel, finish that was quick and left the right sort of impression. He is nothing if not dedicated to His reputation.
On the whole, it was probably quite a brief encounter. I was just arriving home from the hospital, and in the moment I had fully Apparated I saw Malcolm's body and just enough presence of mind to begin to raise my wand when the blow came from behind. A sledge hammer to the kidneys would have felt better. I had slammed into the ground with such force that I had heard my nose break. I also realized that the two sharp things poking into my left breast were the ends where my wand split.
"Good evening, doctor." I have heard the title spoken as a statement, a petition, an accusation, but never before as an obscenity. "I'm afraid you'll find your Mudblood husband's condition is a bit beyond your Complementary Medical skills.”
Maybe I am unworthy, being a blood traitor, but I never see His face, not even a glance. His voice, on the other hand, was like a living thing in its own right. It is smooth, well practised in getting people to do what it wanted all by itself. You want to do this thing I ask, you just didn't realize it until now. It seeks to make reasonable all sorts of unreasonable things. The problem being that the things it asks are literally impossible.
I had told the Headmaster that as one who had dedicated myself to healing, I didn't think I could do what might be necessary should I join his group. Malcolm wasn't even asked, too gentle a spirit I suppose. We had probably been at school with, and perhaps even remained friends with, some of those who had joined together, but they would never tell and we would never ask. So, I really have no idea where James and Lilly Potter are.
His voice was disappointed with my answer, very disappointed. And yet, there seemed to be a tiny element of joy amidst the disappointment. Now, it implies, the fun can begin. So for several hours, seconds, or days, the question I can't answer is accompanied with pain I can't bear. That's when the screaming happens, and the bone breaking. I am, as I said, pretty sure that I was doing the screaming, but how my bones got broken is, perhaps mercifully, not clear. If I could have thought of anything to tell Him, I have no doubt I would have done. In the end, and to no credit of mine, He got nothing and left. They left. I am also vaguely aware that he wasn't doing all the laughing. I think there were a few others and at least one was a woman; she seemed to really enjoy the evening's entertainment.
Suddenly it is all done but the pain, and that is more than enough to fill the space.
I try to reach out and touch Malcolm's face, but I just don't have enough strength left to do it. I know that the only thing I have to do now is hold on until somebody finds us so that I can tell them what He was after, or rather who, and hope they can be warned in time. I live for that. I promise myself that if I live just that long, I can stop for good.
The Dark Mark is set over the cottage, so someone arrives before the twilight has gone to see what has happened. There are a couple of neighbours nearby who work for the Ministry. Their voices are familiar and try to be comforting. I pull together the strength I have left and manage to say aloud:
"The Potters...He's hunting...”
"We know," a man says, "We'll take care of it. Now we'll get you to St. Mungo's.”
I let go.
I let go, but not completely, and I am not sure why. I have been in hospital for several days. I cannot decide to go nor commit to stay. I am sometimes conscious enough to know there are people in the room, to feel someone holding my hand, or hear a bit of conversation.
"She's very strong, Madam Ramsay," someone says, a Healer perhaps, in an encouraging voice.
"Yes," replies my mother-in-law, as she takes my hand in hers, "poor thing. That's the problem. She knows she can do it. It's if she wants to, that she can't decide.”
Yes. Staying would mean the pain goes on, not so much the body, the worst of my physical injuries are healed. It's the pain of the injury for which there was no cure that I must face—if I stay.
The pain, and what else? Our life, built with a mix of pieces from two worlds: the Muggle born boy who grew up to make wands and his wife the scion of an "old Wizarding family" in a residency at a Muggle hospital? Our family, which is really his? The cottage? The friends and neighbors? The family we were ready to start?
Well, clearly, not that. The rest, however, and all the things I can't even remember. What will there be left to go back to—if I go back?
Somewhere in my head the questions begin to coalesce.
Who are you?
Jordan Artemis Hekate Blackthorne Denbeigh, healer, physician. The not-son-former-offspring of Jasper Denbeigh and Aurora Blackthorne. Wife of Malcolm Burns Ramsay. No, widow of... . Daughter-in-law of Robert and Fiona Ramsay, sister-in-law of Ian. Yes, still. I know that Fiona has been with me, no doubt Rob and Ian as well. Jasper and Aurora are no doubt home waiting for a final close to the whole sorry chapter.
What do you want?
Malcolm was the only thing I wanted, I can never have him again, no matter what I choose. Well, then, I want to get even—but there is nothing that can get me that.
Someone is sitting with their hand over mine. It is a woman with a highland accent, familiar somehow, but not Fiona.
"Oh, Jordan, I know it's a hard choice. Please come back to us. There's been enough death."
Do you have anything worth living for?
Well, my family has thrown me away. No—my relations threw me away, my family is the Ramsays, and they love me, want me to live. And it is my choice to make; even He didn't manage to take it from me.
So, that morning I woke-up in the hospital bed. Malcolm was dead, the Potters were dead—but somehow not their son. He is missing. I had stayed alive to little purpose, apparently.
I was able to the work throught the rest of my physical recovery in a tiny village on a tiny Greek island. Malcolm's parents were with me for the first couple of weeks. We had liked each other from the beginning, and their delight when Malcolm had told them we were getting married was an anodyne to my own parents disgust. I assured them that disowning me was the best wedding gift the Denbeighs could offer. Fiona and Rob have always introduced me as "our daughter, Jordan," with no mitigating 'in-law.' My affection for them is the part of my former self that has not died. It is the thin tether to my humanity.
The life I had was gone, and I saw no point in returning to half of my old world. I came back to England having decided to live as a Muggle and physician focussed on diagnosis of referred patients I wouldn't have to engage with, beyond a brief, polite, and professional encounter that would have no lasting ties. I sold the cottage and moved completely into the flat I kept in London.
My colleagues made some attempts to learn more about the car accident that had injured me and killed my husband, but found I had nothing to say about it. I am not good at constructing lies, but I can certainly be depended on to keep silent when there is nothing to tell. I'm sure they think it is a move to protect myself, guarding against further damage to my heart and soul. The thing is, it's like wearing a cast in a sling. If people see you only a few times and then never again, they might remember the cast and tell themselves your arm must be healed now and your getting on with things. If you have an ongoing relationship they are eventually going to notice the cast is empty and the arm is gone. I don't have enough heart or soul left to protect. I lived, I just didn't survive.
One winter morning I found myself in Ollivander's shop. I don't know when I decided to go. I had made an absolute decision to leave my old life behind. I think I told myself it was just to see Mr. Ollivander once more. He had been at the funeral, but I was still in limbo at St. Mungo's. I was going to stop in, thank him for having been so kind to Malcolm when he had worked for him, and leave it all behind once and for all.
Then the wand found me.
We were standing in the shop saying "polite meaningless things," and I was trying to make my escape a quickly as I could without appearing to be running away, which of course I was trying to do, when I sensed something connected to me, waiting to be called. I stopped talking. I closed my eyes and raised my hand and thought of a bright line reaching out from my palm toward somewhere in the shop. Deep in the shelves a rustling grew into a rattling then the sound of several boxes falling, then there was a box in my hand and I closed my fingers and opened my eyes. As I opened the box the wand that was resting in it the suddenly it snapped into my hand.
My old wand had been as different from this as possible for two wands to be. This was a foot in length, nearly four inches longer and stained so dark it was nearly black. My old wand was blond and whip-like with a unicorn's hair, while this was rigid with a dragon's heartstring at its core. I had gone from a scalpel-like tool to the wizarding equivalent of a masterpiece katana. It was the perfect extension of my arm, the arm of a warrior.
"Well, I have never seen a wand quite so eager to choose its wizard. Malcolm made that one. His last.” Olivander's voice was quiet, but with an edge of intensity.
Looking at it that night, I found that our wedding rings fit perfectly in slots at the top and bottom of the grip. At first they were a little loose, but now fit as if they grew there.
So there and back again, but not quite. Not really back. So where to?
One day Ian, also a physician, called me about a curious case. Being the brother of a wizard means you pick-up things, so when a patient presents with some unheard of symptoms you do not think zebras rather than horses, your version of Occam's Razor takes you right to hexes. You also happen to know a witch with an MD. So, we sorted it out quietly. The Ministry of Magic saw the value in having me working for them, as did the Ministry of Health, together they began calling on me to work those 'special cases' that the former wanted kept quiet and the later didn't really want to hear about. An Auror-at-Large with a specialized case load. I was back with a foot in each world, now keeping them apart where I had hoped to blend them together.
In the Ministry of Health I am referred to, mostly behind my back, as "Our gray lady" for the fuzzy nature of the cases I'm called upon to sort out, my sparkling personality and my colourful wardrobe. For the few that know about Malcolm, it's just another layer of insider meaning. At the Ministry of Magic it is Jordan the Relentless.
I cannot make-up for what happened to us, but I can do what I am able to counter some of the petty nastiness that can follow a good magical education. For the not so petty, and there is always too much of that, even without Him leading the way, I hunt it to it's source, always. I will not take a life, I will not cause harm if it can be avoided, but I will not let them go if the law can made to stop them. If somehow influence or other means of persuasion can get them out of being held responsible, well, that is the real world, and I live with it. I also wait, most can be depended to try it again, and I am there if they do. Those are the ones who call me Jordan the Merciless. I am not popular in certain circles, my race treason is merely the insult added to their perceived injury.
I do not see myself as merciless, or relentless. I have very clear lines I will not cross, but I also recognize that even a human with a wand and moments of unreasonable anger is just human. We do stupid things without being evil or meaning to do real harm. I try to keep that in mind and find a resolution that is fair to the injured party and gives the guilty a chance to resume their life with the knowledge of how narrow the gap between venting your spleen and a ruined life can be. Like this case I been given concerning a Muggle boy presenting with a pig's tail... .