The Duality of Darkness

Pairing: Bellatrix Lestrange/Luna Lovegood............Luna Lovegood is a new Trainee Healer on the fourth floor of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. She finds that her mind might also be in need of some healing when she is introduced to one particular long-term patient, Bellatrix Lestrange; who was mistakenly presumed dead at the Battle of Hogwarts, only one year before......................Warnings (current, and in the future): AU, FEMSLASH, background OCs, destructive personalities, self-injury, conspiracy, subject matter on a close-relative's death, neglect, forms of child abuse (although, nothing descriptive, and it is very much in context and relevant), mental disturbances......................I originally posted this story up on FF.net, so, if you're on there, search for me and leave me a nice little message (or some harsh critique) if you like via PM or review! My writer name on there is 'ShelleyRusalki' also.

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2. Vines of the Soul

 

"Ahh, Miss Lovegood." came a tired but warming voice from the back of the room.

Miriam Strout was kneeling at the back of her office atop a large and rather comfy looking bean bag. Luna had envisioned her to have been poised at her wooden oak desk and ready to receive a visitor, but then quickly realised that not everyone who has an office has to be constantly sitting at a desk; nor have been ready for a visitor who was visiting particularly early.

Strout had a mass of books, all differing in age and opened onto various yellowing pages, scattered about her knees. She may have been looking at them all with an intensity just a few moments before the intrusion, but was now looking up at the blonde witch with a large smile on her face. She then patted her hand softly on the bean bag beside hers, and gestured for Luna to join.

The young Ravenclaw bowed her head a little, and walked over to where the older witch sat. She took great care not to step on any of the books which addorned the floor, and then took her place on the bean bag next to Strout.

"A little on the early side, but you look ready to go." Strout said. "You also seem markedly less nervous than most. I guess, being that I accepted you with only your curriculum vitae - and it was a most outstanding read - it must be easier to not have a case of the jumping nerves."

"I guess I do feel a little jittery, if I'm being honest." Luna replied, as she had learnt throughout the years that it was the most normal response to give.

"This suprises me, being that you've dealt with so much, and so young. Your jitters are misplaced." The older witch noted aloud. "But, it's a natural feeling nonetheless, and not one that can't be soothed quickly. Today will consist of meeting some of your fellow collegues, seeing what goes on generally from day to day, and a small tour of our floor. To start with, though, I must say that I'm feeling a little thirsty... You simply must have a taste of my homemade wolfberry juice!"

Miriam Strout stood abruptly and hurried over to a cupboard which was above a rather crudely made sink, grabbed at some glasses and began to pour some blood pink juice into them from some labelled glass bottles. She was a very motherly looking woman, with large round glasses and light brown bobbed hair. Her lime green robes where exactly the same as Lunas, but with three white stripes on one of the sleeves, and she had several other brooches pinned to her uniform other than the standard one depicting the St. Mungo's emblem.

Luna looked around the room in a little more detail, and saw all sorts of objects, familiar and unfamiliar, scattered around on various tabletops as well as the desk. Nearly everything seemed to be collecting dust. She liked that Strout seemed to have an obsession with books, although they were absolutely everywhere except for in the large bookcases that took up an entirety of one wall. She fondly thought of Hermione; and how she would have had a fit at seeing so much reading material carelessly thrown about the place. Perhaps everything was structured to how Strout liked it to be. There was a large treasure chest in the corner which had been painted blue, with black dragonflies stenciled on it. The walls were painted in a sea lavendar colour, and the blonde witch felt many eyes resting on her from the various pictures which were scattered around the walls; seemingly all previous senior Healers, and none of the occupants seemed particularly pleased at being nailed up in such an asymmetrical manner. The ceiling was a deep chocolate brown and with a large and glittering chandelier hanging from it, and Luna took in every sparkle that it could emit in that moment.

The Ravenclaw suddenly thought about what her office might look one day, and hoped that it might give newcomers the same comfortable feeling that this one invoked from her.

"Here we go," Strout sat back down beside the blonde witch again, and offered her a glass.

Luna took a large sip, and let the cool taste of wolfberries immerse themselves in her mouth, the liquid was sweet and with a tangy aftertaste that cleared the pallet. "It's nice. Thankyou." she said in a genuine tone, and the older witch grinned.

"What have you been researching?" The blonde witch continued to sip her drink, but turned her attention to the books nearest to them both, she tilted her head and fingered one around in particular which had been laying upside down infront of her.

The book was ladden with too much text and not enough pictures, in Luna's opinion, which could hurt the eyes and make you feel boxed into a page of relentless symbols. She would rather that books like this had the same amount of text and be triple the size, as long as they were full of decorations and pictures, to lessen the force needed to stare at each line. To give the mind a breather and to think in between each statement or instructon, was a great method in keeping the Wrackspurts at bay. The young witch always found that information slipped into her mind much easier when you could trick it into believing that what you were reading was much more enjoyable.

"I'm glad you asked." She said. "Memory has always been a particular interest of mine. It's such a powerful thing, as it is everything we are, and it runs through our minds, our dreams, as well as our blood. In the present, we do not know quite how much we are feeling until we remember it in the future. It can become clearer, be embellished, or become clouded, and stored away until the most unlikely moments. We can even think that we remember things that have never happened. A good few of our patients have had unfortunate experiences with their memories, in losing it, or, at least, claiming to. Most, however, seem to remember far too much. "

Luna mulled over this, she had read a great deal about memory. "We can forget what we want to remember, and remember what we want to forget." She said dully, and then suddenly perked up a little. "I don't much think that I have ever wanted to forget anything. I doubt I ever would. For patients who have collected to many painful events; are you helping them to forget?"

"No. We do our best to equip them with the tools needed to function in society. They need to learn, as you already have done, that our pasts are our pasts, they can't be changed. Once a memory, and all too often they are bad memories here, has been remembered so many times - only spells can rid them. They make us who we are, and we all have to learn to cope." The older witch said.

"Why do you not rid people of their pains with spells?" Luna enquired, genuinely intrigued as she had read a little into this subject, but then remembered herself. "Sorry, I hope you don't mind my asking. I have an interest in memory too."

"Not at all." Strout smiled at her again. "Nothing bad can ever come from a curious question put to me. You will learn, in time, on how to phrase them to get the best results. I always believe that trial and error is the best way for Trainees to start, especially on a ward such as this; so that they can find their own feet and flourish in their paths in ways that is best suited to them individually, and thus we have a diverse range of Healers here. One healer might be great with a particular patient, whereas another would be a truly abominable idea."

The senior Healer chortled a little at that, and then proceeded to place her empty glass to the floor and walk back over to the side with her collection of mutlicolour homemade juice bottles. She grabbed a particularly large bottle, full of the blood pink wolfberry juice, and brought the entire thing back over to where they convened.

"In regards to your question, this ward focuses on spell damage. As you know, spell damage usually occurs in duelling, or fights of some kind. A lot of spell damage is accidental, of course, but often seems to be much more easily treatable than to the degree and purpose in which it has been dealt to a lot of patients here; to affect their mental disposition on such a long-term basis. It is our policy to consider memory loss by the use of wand as spell damage. The worse the damage, the worse the fight, and this leaves us with witches and wizards who have more than just a few simple issues. A lot of memory loss is easily fixable, as most spell damage is, but the few long term patients here who have suffered from such unfortunate circumstances..." She sighed for a moment. "It can require a number of years, if ever, to get them back to a similar mind that they once had. It is unethical, in our policies, to take away the past from those who are fortunate enough to remember, and to learn from their memories. I very much advocate that. We help to regain memory, not destroy it. Or falsify it, for that matter. Especially, as some of our patients have criminal backgrounds, and our Trust agreed that a line had to be drawn somewhere. We have had a lot of success with our therapies on those who have had darker pasts, and we have a great success rate of many being rehabilitated back into society."

"I can understand that." The young Ravenclaw replied. "It's best to avoid running the risk of a dark witch or wizard feigning to be insane, rather than criminal, and to put it all to a bad past that they need to be rid of to be better people."

"Right," Strout nodded. "It could lead to disrespecting the memory of any victims killed or seriously injured by a criminal patient, as well as the victim's families. Who, by chance, might also want to forget their pains, but most won't because they want to keep the good memories they may have of that patient also."

Luna suddenly felt something sharp as she thought of her friend, Neville Longbottom, and of his parents, who she knew to be long-term patients on this ward. Although he had always kept the story of his early life with them close to his chest around most, he had felt that he could open up to her on several occasions. Perhaps that she seemed so distant from the story about her own mother had helped him to do that. Perhaps he coveted her mind set, or her as a whole. She had always felt a pang of guilt that she did not grieve for her mother in the same way. Most days, she never grieved for her mother at all.

The blonde witch had often been the hard shoulder for a lot of her friends, and they had often specifically sought her out for advice. It had caused her to feel strange flutters of delight, so many butterflies, and it brought home that she did have friends, or, at least, people called her a friend. She knew that this is what led her to choose her path as a mind Healer. She guessed that Neville had never found his closure, and that visiting his parents must be torture: every single time. They were existing, and alive, and yet they did not know him, nor understand the love that he felt for them. At the same time, she knew that he had good memories of them as a child, and despite his pain he would never want to forget a single moment that he had had with them.

"My friend, Neville... his parents are on this ward." The blonde witch said, as she gratefully received another freshly poured glass of wolfberry juice. She knew that it would be improper to not mention this straight away; even if Strout didn't already know that her and Neville were good friends. Anyone who knew enough to link Neville with the golden trio, who had tried desperately since to veer away from any attention, would sure enough not have to look much further to see herself entwined in the story also. With her mind in a sudden trail of thought, her teeth began to bite down on the inside of her lip.

"Ah, Frank and Alice Longbottom." Strout pursed her lips, and looked down at the floor through her glasses and at the books around her. "That's such a sad story, as I'm sure you already know much about. I'm afraid that, due to them being permanent patients, and due to patient confidentiality and by several Healer decrees, I could never place them directly under your care. I hope that you understand my meaning. I could never assume that Master Longbottom has told you everything.. but if there is anything that Master Longbottom has left out, then I'm sure it is with good reason."

"I understand. He has a soul which likes to guard itself." The young Ravenclaw replied. "Having a connection with Neville could also mean that I would unintentionally favour them. I could also learn information which Neville does not, and I wouldn't like to be put into that situation. It could also potentially affect the path of my own becoming of to be a Healer." Luna suddenly realised that she had been biting down on the inside of her lip perhaps a little too hard in between speaking, and reaped a few iron droplets with a flick of her tongue for the unintentional effort.

"I am thankful for your honesty." Strout said, sipping more of her delicious concoction. "It's not to say, that you can't befriend them. I'm sure that Neville wouldn't mind that he has a good friend keeping a loving eye over them at the times he can't be here. I can imagine it would be very comforting to him. However, their care plans, as well as any small progresses, are discussed at length with Neville and his gran by their designated Healer; so nothing else need be said other than how they've been doing in themselves. Perhaps, what activities you've seen them enjoy, that sort of thing."

Luna smiled at the older witch. She decided that it would be better to speak to Neville about this, before attempting to know them.

The older witch carried on, "We have, however, over the last year or so, been receiving large donations from the Ministry, as well as a few other private donations, to help fund our research into the treatment of memory damage. It's been years since we've had such an influx of gold. Even longer since we've had any outside interest in the treatment of extensive mind Healing. I plan to use it well while it's here, and we've had just enough to help other areas of the hospital too. I'm also hoping that this might make another small progress for your friend's parents."

Miriam Strout then stood to her feet and stretched tall, the age of her body was made apparant as a few loud cracks expelled from her spine. She walked over to her desk and pulled with some force at a rather defiant draw, and grabbed at some parchment from within.

"That would be nice. I'm sure it would make him very happy." The blonde witch said, pulling another book towards her which had some illustration amongst its text. There were diagrams of the brain and the soul projecting from it in various manners of multi-colour, with the phrase 'Ayahuasca - The Rope of the Dead' underlined in quill ink. It was the only word that was scribbled under in such a manner, and one with which its meaning had escaped her, that Luna found to be rather curious.

The older witch walked over to a table top which had a few, and much less dusty, books placed neatly on top of it. "These will be some beginner's study books, they are full of varying decrees and policies, as well as basic Healer termionology and common abbreviation meanings. I will hope that you will have read them all by the end of this month. Amongst each sections of each book, there are designated spots that require you to sign to show that you have read and understood them." Strout's voice was suddenly more stern, but she was very delicate in handing the books to Luna, who stroked her hands along their spines to get a feel for them. "It's not something newcomers like to hear as it's a sudden pressure that's placed, but you will have a lengthy test at the end of the month. I trust that this won't be too hard a task for you, as I know that you have put your time into researching whilst you were in your last year of Hogwarts, anyway. You will also be tested on your Herbology and Potions skills, it's pretty basic and I'm sure you'll do fine as you obtained an Outstanding for both subjects in your N.E.W.T.s."

The blonde witch felt for her hair flower, to check that it was still secure amongst the roots of her long pale tresses. She impelled the petals to shadow soft lines in-between her fingers.

"You can leave the books here for now, and we shall collect them later." The senior Healer's face softened again. "Right, now that we have gotten a feel for eachother, and you seem to have lost your misplaced jitters, I think that we should take a look around. But first - we must officially initiate you with our special St. Mungo's Crystal Ball, as we don't want you to be unable to get through any doors if its needed! Also, it will record any specific traits in your personality, and help us to to see what patient, or patients, would fit with you best in the future."

Luna stood up and followed the older witch over to a large pine cupboard near to the front of the room, and Strout swung open the doors. The Crystal Ball was very large, and was not Crystal, as Luna had expected, but a silvery smoking ball of gas. It floated above a platinum stand which had celtic knot branches and roots engraved across the sides of it.

"Like a Sorting Hat." The young Ravenclaw did not phrase it as a question.

"I guess, it runs from a similar vein. It won't pluck the thoughts from your head, as a Sorting Hat would do, however, as running thoughts are equivocal." Strout affirmed, and then took a hold of one of Luna's hands and began to trace her index finger around the younger witch's palm. "Biology, however, is tangible."

Strout placed one of Luna's hands onto the smoking ball and they both watched as the silvery gases enveloped her hand and turned a heliotrope colour, and then faded. "And, as we have contrasts to bear..." Strout took the young Ravenclaw's other hand, and placed that onto the Crystal Ball as well. Luna felt the smoke weave through her fingers, lick at the underneath of her fingernails, and whirl itself around the lines and patterns of her hand that she knew to be there. She suddenly realised that she did not know her palm lines off by heart, as she did with every part of the rest of her body, and it disturbed her to think that she had perhaps spent more times in her life memorising the lines of her face in a mirror.

They both watched as the smoke flashed to a vibrant purple once again, and then faded.

 

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