Alexandra Zach awoke with start, yet she could not help herself to sit up. Something heavy seemed to weigh on her entire body, and a stinging pain stabbed her chest that she winced in pain, her eyes tearing up. Even breathing heavily was causing her pain. She willed herself to relax and to try to remember what happened to her. Why was she in so much pain?
Then, she opened her eyes again, this time taking in her surroundings. She realized that the white walls and ceiling were not familiar to her. Or was it? She was sure she’d seen these before, but she expected to see the warm colours of her red-and-teal bedroom, not this dull and plain room. Panic started to rise inside her. Where is she? Why is she in someone else’s room?
“Oh dear. Oh dear—“ she heard an elderly female voice said from the corner of the room. “She’s awake. She’s awake. She’s awake.”
“What is that you are fussing about, Martha?” another female voice spoke who sounded stricter and calmer. “Go on, now. Go on. Go back to your ward with Dmitri. You should not be lurking in here—“ she came into Alexandra’s view, and Alexandra saw that the woman who was speaking was pointing at something that was probably beside or behind the elderly woman. Then, the woman turned to her, her speech ended abruptly, and to Alexandra’s surprise, the woman almost ran to her,
“Oh, my! You’re awake! You’re finally awake!” her voice sounded so amused and nervous, Alexandra thought the woman almost teared up. “How are you feeling, love? Do you feel sore? Are you hungry? Can I get you something?“
Alexandra felt her head spin from all the questions. She tried to shake her head to reply but she immediately felt dizzy.
“Oh, don’t force yourself to move, dear, or you might feel dizzy and weak,” the woman said shrewdly, gently patting Alexandra’s forearm.
“W-where am I?” she asked and was surprised to hear herself sounding so hoarse. Her throat felt so dry it seemed like she hadn’t spoken for so long.
The woman suddenly looked a bit horror-stricken as she placed her hand on her mouth, as if to stifle a cry. Then, she straightened herself and cleared her throat before speaking, “You’re at St. Mungo’s, love. You do know St. Mungo’s, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she answered very softly. Her eyes immediately surveyed the room once more. It just dawned on her that what she thought were white walls were actually the hospital bed curtains. And the reason why the place felt oddly familiar was because she had been there before, countless times since she was a little girl, but not as a patient, but as an observer—her mum Elethea worked here.
“W-why am I h-here? W-what happened t-to me?” she asked again. She returned her eyes to the woman and recognized the lime-green robe she was wearing; she was a Healer. Just like her mum. “My mum. S-she’s a Healer, too. Elethea Zach. I-is she here?”
This time, whatever her reason for trying to hold back her tears could not hold it in anymore. She started sobbing so much that her shoulders were shaking almost violently. She said something incomprehensible and left her side, leaving Alexandra confused with her thoughts.
What could be wrong with that woman? Was had she acted like she never expected Alexandra to wake up anytime soon? And what’s up with asking about her mum? Why did she act like something bad happened to—
Something in her brain clicked. And almost at once, the Healer returned to her room with a company three older people, two Healers and an old man she knew from somewhere, but could not yet remember where. They all looked sombre.
“W-what happened to my mum? Where is she?” she asked at once, trying to sit up again and ignoring the stabbing pains in her chest and head.
The female Healer approached her once more and gently coaxed her to stop moving, still crying. Alexandra was feeling too weak to resist, but she could not fight the urge to know what was wrong with her mother.
“Alexandra,” the older female Healer spoke, she sounded like she was forcing herself to speak clearly. “Alexandra, do you remember anything that had happened to you?”
Alexandra stared at her for a moment and considered her question. She tried to remember what she could as she closed her eyes. When was the last time she saw her mum? Her dad? Her head started to ache but ignored it. She could picture it now—their living room! She was sitting by the fire with her father and Scout, one of their two wolves, and they were holding a letter, reading it together. Then, her mum came in holding a tray of treacle tarts and mugs of steaming hot chocolate, telling them about Almond their family owl, that was probably enjoying an extended stay at the place where he was sent to deliver their reply.
“We — we were reading my Hogwarts letter,” she said weakly, her head buzzing painfully. “Then, Uncle Rand came in wearing his old Hogwarts robes, congratulating me. Snuffles was carrying a small cauldron behind him. We were … planning to visit Diagon Alley … on the 22nd to buy my, my Hogwarts things and … stay at the Leaky Cauldron until the 1st of September, so I could … g-get on the train,” she recalled slowly, pausing every now and then to clear her hoarse throat.
The first Healer who attended to her held up a glass of water in front of her and helped her drink it, which she gratefully accepted, gulping slowly and finishing the entire glass.
Although somehow occupied by while drinking, Alexandra did not fail to catch the three older people exchanged anxious glances.
“I-I see,” was all the older female Healer said, and she looked away. “Do you know … what day it is, Alexandra?”
Alexandra looked at her and frowned, “It’s August 2nd, isn’t it? We sent Almond to deliver our reply on the 31st. Mum did. Where is she anyway? Is she coming now?”
Once again, the three of them briefly looked each other tensely, with the younger Healer beside her joining in.
The old male Healer took a step forward and placed his hand on the edge of Alexandra’s bed, “You see, dear,” he said, his voice sounded more reassuring, “it’s been ten days since the 2nd of August. And you have been unconscious for those ten days, only gaining your consciousness now.”
He said it so calmly that Alexandra didn’t know how to react. She’s been sleeping for ten days? What had she drank then, a powerful sleeping potion?
“Something … happened, Alexandra,” the third old man had finally spoken. Alexandra fixed her eyes on him as she tried to remember where she saw him. “You’re house were attacked that night—”
He said it without warning that the two older Healers faced him abruptly and tried to cut him off.
“She’s just a child!”
“She needs to know the truth!”
“Not when she’s this weak!”
Their hissing almost drowned out Alexandra’s head. Attacked?
“Attacked, you say?” she said loudly, attracting everyone’s attention, but none of them looked at her. “What do you mean?” she tried to prop herself up on her elbows, but the stabbing pains prevented her, yet something else struck in her head, “A-are my parents hurt, too?”
The Healer beside her stifled a cry once more, turning her back to Alexandra. The pair of the older Healers hung their head, while the other old man took a hesitant step toward her and gently patted her hand.
Their odd reaction was like a poisonous confirmation. Tears started to flow from Alexandra’s eyes, yet she wanted to know whatever was there to know.
“It was … too late for them,” the old man said quietly, his blue eyes staring intently on hers. “Your wolves brought you to safety — to my bar. But one of them was badly injured …”
She did not need to hear the rest of his story. Slowly, like a flow of gushing water, Alexandra’s memory swam back to her head. She started to put piece by piece together. This old man, his silver beard and hair called Dumbledore — he’s Aberforth, and his bar was called Hog’s Head. He was one of her dad’s friends.
And the Healers. The old man was called Mauritius while the old woman was Donnatella. And the Healer beside her was Greta.
Then, she remembered what had happened that night. Her dream about attending Hogwarts and going to her Uncle Rand’s class was suddenly interrupted by a deafening explosion. Still feeling groggy, she opened her eyes and saw her wolves—old Scout and her grown pup Snuffles—were howling madly. Then, her mother burst through her bedroom door, hoisting her off the bed, lifting her on her shoulder, speaking to her and the wolves in hushed yet panic-stricken voice,
“Go! Go to safety! Stay safe,”
“M-mum,” Alexandra said, starting to feel scared, “what’s going on? — Dad!” she shouted as she saw her father’s back standing outside her bedroom door, as if blocking her view. He turned to face her and smiled, and then a blinding light and blasting sound and she saw her father’s body raised off the floor and slammed on the wall adjacent to the door. With a loud thud, his body landed heavily on the floor, the twinkle in his eyes gone.
“ARDOLPH!” it was Rand, Alexandra’s uncle. He had just reached the top of the stairs which was at the end of the hallway, the opposite end of Alexandra’s bedroom door. He looked furious and confused. He looked to his right, his wand on his hand and raised it. A bright red light flew from the end of it.
For a moment, Alexandra and her mum stood frozen on their spot. Elethea’s horror-stricken eyes were filled with tears as she stared numbly at her lifeless husband on the floor, his blank eyes staring at the ceiling, his mouth still with the trace of the kind smile he gave his daughter.
“ELETHEA, RUN NOW!” Rand’s voice thundered from the hall, as series of jet lights flew from all directions. This seemed to bring Elethea to her senses because the next second, she pulled Alexandra toward the window, which was parallel to the bedroom door. But the next second, another loud explosion shattered their small cottage, and Alexandra, for the second time that night, saw a man’s body flew off the ground and landed limply on the hallway. It belonged to her Uncle Rand.
Alexandra stood there, with her eyes and mouth wide open, staring at the lifeless bodies of her father and her godfather. She wanted to scream, to call out their names, to run toward them to shake them, wake them up, for in her head, she was sure they were just playing, but she could not move and she could not say anything.
“SCOUT! SNUFFLES! HERE!” the clear voice of her mother made her jumped. She turned to look at her, standing at the broken window pane that Elethea had just crashed with a bedroom chair. Elethea grabbed her by her shoulders and knelt in front of her, so their eyes were levelled and said, in a firm voice not betrayed by her shaking hands, “You need to go and stay safe. Scout and Snuffles will take you to safety. Stay with them and don’t ever come back — don’t even look back! Live for us, Alexa. Dad and Uncle Rand and I love you very, very much,” at this her voice quavered and tears flowed from her eyes. She hugged Alexandra tightly and kissed her on her forehead.
Then, in a swift movement, Elethea hoisted her at the back of Snuffles who was almost twice as big as Alexandra. Alexandra had meant to hold on to her mum, to pull her to safety with her, but Snuffles had suddenly propped himself on the broken window pane that Alexandra held tightly on his neck, and with a swift movement, they jumped off the window, with Scout on their tail.
A sickening whimper of pain echoed throughout the dark night, obviously coming out of the broken window. Snuffles had just jumped off the fence when Alexandra turned to look back at her bedroom window, and what she saw made her fall off from Snuffles’ back — Elethea’s lifeless body fell from the broken window.
“NOOOOOOO!” Alexandra screamed, ignoring the pain that crawled on her back as she fell on the ground, her whole body shaking with fear.
Scout had turned back to try to break Elethea’s fall on the ground, and they both landed on the soft patches of flowering shrubs.
Snuffles went back for her and started pulling her arm sleeve, as if signalling her to get on his back again. But she could not move, her arms shook badly when she tried to support herself to sit up. Then, Snuffles started to growl madly, his big fangs glistened in the moonlight. He bounced on Alexandra and crouched in front of her, as if to block her from something.
A shadow emerged from the broken window, and Alexandra saw the outline of a big man who seemed to be staring at her, a huge twisted smile on his face.
“CRUCIO!” he shouted, his wand pointed at her. But Snuffles had blocked the curse and received it for Alexandra. He howled and whimpered in pain, collapsing on the side, a couple of feet away from Alexandra.
“I can’t believe how heroic everyone in this house is!” the hoarse voice said in mock surprise. “But even heroes act stupidly, too.”
Alexandra watched him raised his wand arm once more and aimed at her. This time, with no one to block the curse, she struggled to move away. But a numbing pain in her back prevented her from moving.
“CRUCIO!” he shouted once more, and the jet red light flashed straight at her.
Alexandra let out a scream so horrible to hear as she felt excruciating pain all over her body; every inch of her body and her bones felt like on fire, like she was about to melt and explode and break apart.
She fell back on the ground, weakly, almost dying, but her eyes, after a moment, focused on the stranger who seemed to be speaking.
“… it’s a pity she didn’t have her wand with her. What a stupid witch!” he said loathingly and laughed horribly. He raised another wand with his other arm, aimed it at her. But before he could open his mouth, she saw it.
Two furry figures had stealthily found their positions to attack the unknowing stranger. One of them, the bigger one, Snuffles — who seemed to have recovered from the earlier attack — was crouching below the window, waiting. On the other hand, she saw Scout, crouching behind the man. Then, she attacked from behind, pushing the stranger off the window. Scout’s leap was too powerful that she ended up landing badly on the ground, hitting the fence. Yet, after a few seconds, she joined Snuffles in attacking the stranger, who, as the man fell, immediately bit the stranger’s wand arm after the other so hard he yelped in pain, then whimpered as he crashed on the ground painfully.
The commotion on the ground beneath the window was accompanied by sickening screams of pain and breaking bones. One of the wolves made a weird noise, and soon enough, Alexandra saw Snuffles jumping off the fence, with two sticks on his snout, one of which he intentionally broke by prodding the end with his paw. It let out a silvery smoke, and Alexandra immediately understood that that was a wand. Snuffles just broke the wand that probably belonged to the man.
Then he bounded toward her, dropped the other wand to her hand, and licked her cheek. The warm breath of Snuffles felt comforting. In a few moments, Scout joined them, limping from her injuries, and licked her on the cheek as well. Alexandra could not clearly remember how she was hoisted back to Snuffles back, whether her wolves managed to do it on their own or she was able to raise a part of her body. All she knew was the pain she was feeling was so intense, she was ready to die.
She knew that Snuffles and Scout had started to run toward the forest. But she was also aware that they stopped once in a while, perhaps to drink water or to rest. She sometimes heard Scout whimper in pain.
The next thing she knew, she was hearing incomprehensible voices, one of which — she just realised now — belonged to Aberforth. Her wolves must have brought her to Hog’s Head. It was probably the first establishment they came across with. Whatever happened after that, she could not remember anymore.
In the following days, Alexandra learned about what happened during her long stupor through her visitors’ accounts—most of which were friends of her parents and godfather from Hogsmeade, St. Mungo’s, Diagon Alley, Ministry of Magic, and Hogwarts.
She learned from the Hit Wizard friends of Uncle Rand that the ministry decided to proceed with the funeral of her parents and godfather after holding it off for five days to wait for her to wake up. To make up for this, the ministry had decided to bury them on a good spot in the moor just outside their house. It was actually made possible through the influence of these Hit Wizard fellows because they knew how much the family loved that spot, despite the fact that adjacent to that was where they met their fate.
It was also through these men that Alexandra learned about the stranger who attacked them. He was a deranged wizard who was once arrested by Uncle Rand and was punished by having his wand broken. He managed to acquire another wand and hunted down Uncle Rand. Alexandra was told that this man also caused her uncle’s injury the previous year. Her uncle, however, decided to just let him go, told him to start living clean and good. But of course, this man did not heed Uncle Rand’s advice. He was completely unhinged when he finally tracked down where Alexandra’s uncle lived.
It was Aberforth who told her that Scout had also succumbed to her injuries, a few minutes after they arrived at Hog’s Head. Hagrid — who was Uncle Rand’s co-worker at Hogwarts and was a very good friend of her dad Ardolph — was kind enough to bury Scout in a nearby part of a forest that was particularly chosen by Snuffles. Snuffles, on the other hand, only sustained minor injuries and was treated immediately by Hagrid. He was currently staying at the Leaky Cauldron, through the kind suggestion of the owner Tom.
Alexandra was frequently visited by people she knew from the places her parents and godfather had brought her. Some of them she knew so well, while the others were just familiar faces. Her favourite visitors were from the Hogwarts staff (Hagrid who updated her about Snuffles and Headmaster Albus Dumbledore who was Aberforth’s older brother) who gave her loads of wonderful get-well-soon gifts such as sweets, books, and flowers with twinkling fairy lights. She was also very fond of Madam Rosemerta, the beautiful owner of the Three Broomsticks at Hogsmeade who had always been so kind and sweet to her. She brought her loads of chocolates from Honeydukes. Mr. Florean Fortescue from Diagon Alley dropped by twice to visit her and brought her ice cream.
Her least favourite were the people from Ministry of Magic and St. Mungo’s. They were always so serious and sombre in front of her. They repeatedly assured her that she’s safe now. And that the culprit has been caught and was already in Azkaban. These words never comforted her, despite the fact that it obviously brought comfort to the adults. The Healers on the other hand kept insisting on a lot of things that Alexandra might still be experiencing that they would not even let her stand if they could help it.
During her third day of being awake, a whole bunch of important-looking people came to visit her to read the will of her parents and her godfather. She soon found out that they were from the Ministry of Magic, accompanied by the elderly Healer Mauritius (he was Elethea’s senior) and the Dumbledores. It was fairly a quick visit, but somehow, judging by the poorly-concealed tense looks on most the people’s faces—except for the Dumbledores—Alexandra had a feeling that they were holding back something else. But she decided to keep her observation for herself. Seeing the calm looks on the faces of the two Dumbledores was enough assurance for Alexandra to trust them to keep what must be concealed from her.
Her head swam from all the things one of the Ministry official read off from the list that she now owned. Firstly were the Gringotts vaults of her parents and her godfather, the keys to both vaults were handed to her. Secondly, their cottage at the moor beyond Hogsmeade forest and everything inside their cottage. Thirdly, the small house her godfather owned in a secluded area in Suffolk (he used to live there when he was still a Hit Wizard), and all the contents of his house which were mostly his books, journals, inventions. And fourthly, Almond the family owl and Scout and Snuffles the family wolves.
What would she do with all those things now that she’s an orphan? They all seemed worthless. She felt the great desire to swap everything she now owned to have her family back again. And as soon as the people exited her room, she started to cry. She was comforted by Aberforth who went back in immediately as soon as the rest of them left.
Four days after that, she was finally set to leave St. Mungo’s. Being stuck in the hospital for a total of seventeen days—ten of which were spent in a deep stupor—was starting to get on Alexandra’s nerves, especially now that she was feeling strong and well. The last two days were merely spent by several concerned people discussing about her temporary lodgings before she would leave for Hogwarts. It had been agreed upon by Aberforth, Headmaster Dumbledore, Madam Rosmerta, Tom of the Leaky Cauldron, and a Ministry of Magic representative that she could go back to her home in Scotland to visit her parents and godfather’s graves with adult supervision. She would stay at Hog’s Head while in Hogsmeade. However, she must be back in London by the 22nd and stay at the Leaky Cauldron until the 1st of September. Incidentally, Ardolph had already reserved and paid for rooms there a month prior to their scheduled trip. One of the Hit Wizard friends of her Uncle Rand had volunteered to take her to King’s Cross Station to board her train to Hogwarts.
It all happened so quickly.
Alexandra and Snuffles, accompanied by Hagrid, Aberforth, and Madam Rosmerta, arrived at the Zach Cottage in the morning of the 20th. She saw what remained of their house but did not want to enter it. Aberforth told her that her brother Albus had somehow created an enchantment around it to protect it from being looted by passersby, so the house could sit there in peace until Alexandra was ready to enter it again. She sat for a very long time by the two graves of the people who raised her. Her parents’ names were carved on one grave stone while beside it was her godfather’s. She sat there crying until she had none to shed, her eyes feeling dry and itchy. She left a flower on each of the graves and promised to come back soon.
Madam Rosmerta and Hagrid took the liberty to collect some of Alexandra’s belongings for her, particularly her clothes and two trunks, the bigger one was her mother’s and the smaller one was her godfather’s. Snuffles carried out the small cauldron he was carrying the last night Alexandra saw her family alive.
After going back to Hogsmeade, she and Snuffles went to Scout’s grave, with Hagrid following from a distance. She also left a flower on the headstone that bore Scout’s name.
Two days after that, as she and Snuffles were bound to go back to London, Aberforth handed her a brown mokeskin pouch which she recognized as one of her father’s creation and a sealed letter written by Headmaster Dumbledore. He told her that she needed to show the letter to the train guards in case they question her about Snuffles. Apparently, she was given the special permission to be accompanied by her pet wolf, Snuffles during her Hogwarts Express journey.
But there was something else, and Aberforth started acting like it was a big secret no one else should know. From his robes, he brought out a long piece of wood that Alexandra immediately recognized as her mother’s wand. He said that when they arrived at his doorstep, he noticed that despite the fact that Alexandra was unconscious, her grip on the wand never relaxed. He decided to keep it until she was ready to receive it. He advised her to put the wand in the mokeskin pouch, so she could always bring with her something that belonged to her parents.
Feeling very grateful and considerably happy for the first time since her tragic ordeal, she thanked Aberforth and gave him a hug before she stepped on the Floo Network transporting her to London.
As soon as she arrived at the Leaky Cauldron, Tom served her a special dinner and led her to the room with an elaborate brass number 7 on its door.
And for the first time since she her ten-day unconscious stupor, Alexandra Zach slept soundly in her bed, with her eyes dry and her mind serene.