Chapter 36

Chapter 3:

"Alright class, settle down" I advise as my fifth year students file into the classroom, chatting with their friends. "As you may have noticed, we have a, uh…guest, with us today," I explain as I try valiantly to restrain my ire at the pastel clad Ministry sycophant, poorly masquerading as an educator, who is perched primly at the back of my classroom to observe my curriculum and instruction methods.

Much to my amusement, I notice that more than a few of my pupils are not quite as adept as I am at hiding their annoyance with Umbridge. Ignoring their rolling eyes and huffs of frustration, though I am aching to echo their sentiments, I continue as they all find their seats. "However, she is only here to observe so we will proceed with class as usual. Last week we left off talking about healing lacerations. This week we will continue in that vein," I joke, smiling as my students groan at my cheesy pun, with a few muggle born students adding a "ba dum dum" sound effect, "as we address the healing of deep, severe lacerations. With these types of injuries, the healing spells are most often layered, requiring multiple recitations to address the various stages of healing. The first spell that I am going to teach you guys for this segment is Vulnera Sanentur."

Before I can launch into a decscription or demonstration of the spell, a high pitched, annoying hmm-hmm floats up from the back of the room. I assume this is merely a tickle of the throat so I ignore it and continue. "This healing spell works on three components of a laceration, firstly slowing the flow of blood to prevent death by exsanguination; the second to clear residue and begin to heal the wounds; and the third to fully knit the wounds. To achieve all three effects one must recite-"

"Hmm-hmm" rings out again from the back of the room, and this time the pink pain in the arse does not give me the option of ignoring her. "Miss Bradford, don't you think this topic is a bit…morbid…for these young impressionable minds?"

"Excuse me?" I ask in disbelief.

"All this talk of blood and death, not to mention this spell you are teaching!" she cries in affront as I am reminded of an uptight Victorian maiden. "These children are apt to end up with nightmares! Besides, when would any of these kids be faced with such a serious injury?"

Is this dullard serious? What the bloody hell does she expect a healing class to deal with if not blood? "Miss Umbridge-" I begin in a snooty tone to match hers.

"It's Professor Umbridge, dear, or High Inquisitor," she simpers with a haughty smile.

"And my proper nomenclature is Healer or Professor Bradford," I retort, now truly angry at this useless bureaucratic toady. "This is a healing class, of course it is going to deal with blood, and since the main purpose of healing is to stopper injuries and prevent death, that will be discussed as well. If any of my students feel uncomfortable with a subject they are always welcome to excuse themselves for that particular lesson. However, these students are 15, not 11, so I am confident that they can handle a lesson on severe lacerations. Furthermore, considering the current climate, I'd say the chances of them needing to know how to heal life-threatening wounds is sadly increasing."

"Current climate?" she asks, her soprano voice dripping with fictitious naïveté. "Whatever do you mean, dear?"

"I mean," I very nearly growl, losing the tendrils of control I have over my temper, "the return of Lord Voldemort and the inevitable war his resurgence is bound to provoke."

Umbridge's already bulging eyes widen, though I would have thought that

impossible without them bursting out of her slimy head, and her mouth forms a small 'o'of surprise. "Surely you do not believe the hysterical ravings of that degenerate rabble-rouser over there," she scoffed as she pointed at Harry Potter, who had the unfortunate luck of being a member of my current fifth year class.

The emerald eyed boy glares at her with hate in his eyes and it is clear he is about to lash out, but I step in before he can form his retort.

"As a matter of fact, I do believe Harry, who has never been anything but an exemplary student in my class, and furthermore; I also believe Headmaster Dumbledore, who has personally battled Voldemort and is well equipped to recognize the monster's magical signature." At this point I have stalked up to Umbridge and am in her face, a hairs breadth away from her. She pulls back, but does not flee. I drop my voice into a whisper so that only she can hear my next statement. "Even if I did not have the word of both of these trustworthy wizards, I would have my own medical expertise to rely upon. I was there when poor Cedric returned from the Tri-Wizard Tournament maze. I stared into his lifeless eyes as his father wept inconsolably at the loss of his only son. I examined the young man and determined the killing curse as his cause of death; an extremely powerful version of it with a magical signature the likes of which I had never seen. So don't you come in here with your Ministry approved script, puppeting their placating lies, wasting time teaching negotiation theories instead of real useful defense, and tell me there is no need for these kids to learn about healing life-threatening injuries! You may be fine with being complicit to the deaths of children, but I, High Inquisitor, am not.! When I became a healer, I took a vow to protect and heal to the best of my ability, and that is damn sure what I am going to do, no matter what you or that simpering, self-serving fool Fudge thinks!"

For a moment, the toad is too dumbstruck to speak, looking as if I had cast a Stupefy upon her. After a moment, though, she recovers and her hauteur returns. "Well, I never!" she huffs as her pale waxy complexion flushes to the same shade as her hideous blazer. "I am here by order of the Minister himself and you can be assured that he will hear about your blasphemous and treasonous attitude! No one speaks to me that way! This is going in my report to Minister Fudge and then we will see just how brazen you are when faced with his judgment!" she crows.

"Yeah, yeah, go ahead, run along to your precious puppet master and tell him all about the big bad Healer," I encourage as I waved my hand nonchalantly at the door. "As long as it removes you from my classroom so that I can continue to actually teach these kids then I am all for it."

"You will regret this. You mark my words!" she threatens as she storms out of the room and lets the heavy wooden door slam behind her.

"Ok, so, back to Vulnera Sanentur," I began as the class stares up at me with collectively wide, disbelieving eyes. After a moment, though, the silent tension seems to break and they erupt into cheers and a round of applause.

"That was wicked!" Mr. Weasley exclaims in awe, and I realize that, at some point, my whispered discussion with the toad must have escalated in volume. Either that or someone cast a Sonorous on me. Either way, it is clear the students have heard my tirade. I had been trying to spare them the emotional trauma of revisiting Cedric's death, particularly for Mr. Potter, but as I look his way I see gratitude in his eyes, along with the expected measure of grief.

I laugh, realizing my entire attempt at discretion was a failure, but move on quickly to get us back on track. "Thank you, Mr. Weasley, but now we really do need to get back to these spell if we want to stay on schedule and have time to practice the wand movements." With that, the class settles back down and I am finaly able to finish my lecture.

"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?" Severus shouts at me as he glides furiously through my laboratory door, slamming it and wordlessly sealing it behind him. "HAVE YOU LOST YOUR DAMN MIND, WOMAN?" he continues, grasping my forearms and staring furiously into my eyes. Gods, he's sexy when he's angry! No, stop it! Bad El, bad!

"No," I answer unfazed. "It's right over there," I continue as I point to a brain specimen I am currently in the midst of testing treatments upon.

Severus growls, (oh dear Merlin he is so sexy when he does that!) and tightens his grip on my arms. "This is no time for jokes Eleanor! You have put yourself in serious danger, after I explicitly warned you not to!" he chastises, now with an edge of despair seeping through his anger. This causes me to abandon all attempts at frivolity as my heart aches at seeing his pain.

"Severus, I-" I try to explain as he throws my arms down and begins to pace.

"What were you thinking, Eleanor? Publicly opposing Umbridge? Deriding the Ministry? Standing up for Potter?"

"I know you loathe the boy, but he was telling the truth, Severus, and you know it," I retort, feeling sympathy for the hell that poor boy has been through since last year.

"Of course I know he was telling the truth!" my love rails, yanking at his left sleeve. "I, of all people, intimately know that! But just because he was being truthful, for once, that does not mean you need to go shouting his praises from the rooftops! You have now just, very publicly, proclaimed yourself as an enemy of the Dark Lord! I explicitly asked you – I begged you – to stay off of his radar, and what do you do? You announce for all and sundry that you support his two greatest enemies, Potter and Dumbledore!" he concludes in abject misery, sinking down onto the treatment table. "El, I ended things between us to keep you safe. It killed me to do it, but I would rather die a thousand deaths than watch you be tortured or killed, so I did it. I gave up the only good thing in my life, and you've just gone and thrown that all away. Why?"

His deep black eyes are boring into mine as guilt consumes me. "Severus, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to go against your wishes, and I certainly didn't mean to take your sacrifice for granted, but I just couldn't let that bitch stop me from teaching my kids how to protect themselves! You and I both know that these kids are going to have to fight for their lives, no matter whose side they are on, and I can't shortchange them on a single opportunity to save someone for the sake of my own well-being. Every day that I am forced to see you in the halls, at meals, and at your treatments, it tears me up inside that we can't be together. You are the only man I have ever loved, and I know that I will love you forever, so I understand how difficult it was for you to break things off with me for the sake of my safety. The only reason I agreed to it was for the sake of your safety; so the Dark Lord would not be able to use me against you. But no matter how much I love you, I can't dispel my morals. I was in Healer training in Australia for most of the first war and it drove me crazy that I wasn't back here helping, but this time, I am in a position to make a difference, and I couldn't live with myself if I just meekly crawled into a hole and hid while others around me, especially you, fought this monster. I am not a trained warrior like you and Albus are, but I am a damn good Healer, and if I can help save lives by passing on my knowledge then I am damn well going to do it. I promise, I will be as careful as I can be, but I can't bow to this short-sighted Ministry's directive that we have to pretend the threat isn't real when I have seen its results firsthand. I can't think of Cedric's youthful, lifeless face, or the haunted look in your eyes and the tremors that wrack your body after you return from meeting with that abomination, and claim to believe he hasn't returned. I just cant do that."

"Are you sure you aren't a bloody Gryffindor?" Severus sighs, "because I never thought a Ravenclaw would be so damn noble!" he grumbles.

"I could say the same about you, Mr. Head of Slytherin House," I come back with, giving him a playful jab in the side. He gives me a sardonic smirk and it takes all of my willpower not to pull him into a passionate kiss. Gods I miss the feel of his lips on mine, the warmth of his arms around me, the sated, content look in his deep dark eyes after we've made love! For a moment I think it might happen, we might share that longed for heated kiss, as he leans into me, but he pulls rapidly away when his lips are mere centimeters from mine.

"No! I can't! We can't!" he exclaims as he rakes his long fingers through his ebony locks. "You may be on record now as opposing the Dark Lord's ideals, but you haven't actually done anything against him yet. We still need to just remain colleagues so you do not draw any further attention to yourself. Please…please El, promise me you will try not to antagonize him."

"Ok Sev, I promise I'll try," I agree as a layer of ice freezes back over my heart. "As long as you promise not to shut me out like you have been these first few months. I can accept being colleagues, but that doesn't mean you can't talk to me over meals like you do with Minerva or Pomona. I've missed you so much, and I just want to be able to say hello and chat about curriculums, or new healing potions, or even the bloody weather! Agreed?"

"Agreed. I am…regretful as well that my total isolation from you had such a negative affect upon you this term. I had noticed you didn't look like your usual vibrant self, but I had no idea that extent of the problem until Mr. Rossi acted out in class last week. I have no wish to be the cause of your suffering, and even the Dark Lord cannot find discussions of the weather as anything but innocuous, even if I were to have them with Dumbledore himself."

"Great! Then from here on out, until this madman is destroyed once and for all…friendly colleagues?" I ask with a modicum of hope.

"Yes, friendly colleagues," he agrees with a reticent smile.