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Chapter 4: In which I cut my finger on parchment
autumn.shades@TDA made this beautiful CI!
Time passed so quickly that I barely had a chance to think properly. Before I knew it a week went by and then another since I left Hogwarts. Amelia and I moved into our flat, a small two bedroom above the Apothecary. If you looked out the front window it overlooked Diagon Alley and into Flourish and Blott’s, however, if you looked out my window you saw a wall. Really stimulating view, I may have to paint it one day and sell it for galleons. I’ll entitle it the Detuned Mind or some other such nonsense.
On the bright side of this no thinking or stewing about in my head as if it was an indoor swimming pool was that I didn’t have time to really think about how I hadn’t heard from Sirius since the platform. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal and we were both too busy and he wasn’t actually cross. I mean, what did it matter to me if he was anyway?
“Eleanor, what are you doing?” Amelia asked. I moved my head to the side so that I could see her from my place on the couch. I’d been laying facedown before, breathing in the delightful aroma of our second hand furniture. It had a distinct smell of cheese and feet if anyone was interested.
I groaned loudly and shifted myself into a sitting position. I closed my eyes tightly when my head felt instantly dizzy from the movement. My mum used to say that it was brain fairies that were spreading their dust when this happened.
“I hate my life,” I muttered. I dropped back onto the couch and covered my face with a cushion. I had started my Healing training and if training could be a monster it would be the boogeyman that lived under my bed when I was four. It was scary and tried to eat my head off one night when I ate too many biscuits for dessert. Training however, just tried to eat my head off period, no matter to how many biscuits I did actually eat.
It was apparently a big deal, getting invited for the early session and meant I would finish earlier by skipping a few classroom modules. But it also meant I worked long hours with little pay because we were simply apprenticing. Perfect way to get slave labour I’d say, which is probably their master plan anyway. Good going St Mungo’s. How I was going to pay rent though, I really had no idea. I was thinking of selling all my things. I’ve heard simple living was all the rage so I might as well jump onto that bandwagon.
“At least you’re doing something, you know, helping people,” Amelia said. She sounded irritated and ready to blow which was not her usual state of equilibrium.
“If you call ‘no sir, you should not transfigure your stairs into balloons’ helping then I suppose I am,” I snorted through the cushion.
“Maybe he thought balloons would be funner to walk on?” Amelia said.
“Yeah, until he cracked his face open, bloody idiot. Stairs are stairs. He even tried to convince us that it would one day be the next big thing.” I blew out some air from my mouth. It might have been really funny if I didn’t have to deal with it. I could easy imagine someone playing that prank on Wilkes when he’s coming out of Divination. Ooops and that nasty Slytherin is done for. I snorted with glee at the image.
“What’s so funny?” Amelia asked. Her face was scrunched up as she started to make some tea for herself.
“Just imagining the stairs getting transfigured into balloons under Wilkes feet. Why did we never think of that?” It would have been a good prank, even if he broke an arm.
“Because we had better things to do?” Amelia said. The edge was still laced around her voice as she put on the kettle and waited for it to whistle. She levitated the pot over her cup and poured the scalding water in.
“Well aren’t you a Hinkypunk today? Did your boss yell at you again?” I asked. Amelia dropped a tea bag into the cup and stirred it around, letting its inky blackness bleed out into the water. She shrugged her shoulders and I let out an irritable sigh. She’d tell me when she was good and ready. She always liked to prolong things - I think I made the mistake of telling her in third year that it may make her more mysterious. Bad idea on my part because she was now the queen of it and it really didn’t make her mysterious, that was just an adolescent hope that we could be different than what we really were.
“Well,” I paused. “In one and half weeks my schedule will be normal! I think this is their weeding out process and only the strong survive. Hence why I’m still there, obviously.”
“Obviously,” she echoed with a smirk dancing across her lips. “It’s only natural selection.”
“Suzanne Wilkes left already, but she was god awful and I’m pretty sure she pretended to be a grindylow by night,” I said. I had narrowed my eyes at her though as I continued my grumbling. She was probably far too used to it to actually argue with me.
“Is that a lie?” she asked. I guess she was still going to question me. Darn her.
“Not the one about her leaving.” She knew me too well I suppose. Though, back in fifth year she took all my claims as truth. Until Sirius came along and debunked all my made up myths which is a bit unfortunate I suppose. It meant I had to be honest and gosh, who likes that? It wasn’t any fun and it’s not like the things I said ever were spread as rumours. I just indulged in my fantasies a little too much.
There was nothing wrong with that. At least according to my Aunt Ruth, who always said that a healthy imagination was a step in the right direction. She’s an ‘arteest’, but I think she lived in a studio flat up north that was infested with rats. I’m not sure if her advice was always stellar but she was a favourite relative so I guess there’s that.
Amelia finished with her tea making and her precariously overfilled teacup spilled over the edges from her jerky movements as she plopped down next to me. She howled as the scalding tea dripped onto her fingertips and she promptly blew on them to try and stop them from burning.
“Is that hot?” I said. I tried to keep my voice serious but even I heard a twitch of humour in it. She frowned and didn’t answer; instead, she put the cup down and wiped her hands on her standard issued Ministry robes.
“So, have you seen Sirius since Hogwarts?” she asked. I looked at her from the corner of my eye and frowned. I didn’t think she had noticed and I sure as hell hadn’t told her what had happened on the platform. I wasn’t planning on spilling my guts now. I mean, it wasn’t even a row per say, but Sirius had a tendency to hide his feelings and what he meant was usually hidden in the subtext of conversation.
What he really meant by good luck was goodbye.
This wasn’t what she really wanted to talk about anyway. She was avoiding, trying to deflect her own uncertainty and frustration into something else. Which was this, whatever this actually was. Though she should know that I was never the kind of person to talk of emotions, rather, I kept them wrapped up inside like a precariously dancing acrobat on a tightrope. At least in that, Sirius and I were nearly identical.
“Seen is such a vague term, I’m afraid,” I head myself replying. I accio’d some biscuits and shoved one into my mouth, ignoring the crumbs that fell onto my robes. “No matter, he smells of rotten pastries and I can’t really associate myself with that.”
I heard her sigh beside me. A heavy one that seemed to be like a cold winter wind.
She put a cooling charm on her tea and her eyes had this far away quality to them that made me wonder if she really even cared if I hadn’t seen Sirius. I told myself that it didn’t matter too, I told myself this a lot actually because it really didn’t matter and I shouldn’t care either. It’s not like I owned him or he owned me. We were only just friends, mates. Though, that didn’t stop me thinking about him or wanting to see him laugh or feel his calloused hands brush against my arm. It was rather a stupid train of thought because friends don’t think of that sort of thing.
I tried to focus again on Amelia because at the moment that was what’s important. She was wrapped up in something and it was eating away at her usual positive glow. She had always been the one to make me think that life would be okay again.
I didn’t feel that right now.
I get this awful feeling sometimes that things aren’t ever going to be okay again because, if Amelia can’t find her optimism then how are the rest of us supposed to? I can’t remember a time where Amelia actually looked like she just ate a hinkypunk. But there were dark lines underneath her eyes, blue veins zigzagging together and popping out from underneath her pale skin. Lack of sleep. Hours spent in her little cubicle where they rarely listened to eighteen year olds.
And why would they listen to one that still smiles?
We sat in silence; feeling the air around us move and breathing it in, the thick London fumes were heavy against our throats. It made me think that I may actually choke on the pollution one day or fall to the oppressive darkness. It was so dark now, even during the day the sun didn’t seem to shine so brightly.
“They changed Giant laws,” she said finally. She brushed her hair out of her eyes and pulled it into a knot at nape of her neck. “They are basically throwing them at Voldemort’s feet. I mean, if I was a giant and the land allotted to me kept dwindling down till nothing, I wouldn’t support those people who enforced the law.”
“Well- it sounds like it’s one giant step backwards,” I said, my lips twitching.
“This is serious Eleanor,” she replied almost immediately. She was frowning at me with her large blue eyes. There were deepening shadows even there. Pools of grace, slowly being drained away. “Anyway, it’s not even that I completely disagree, I don’t know what to do with Giant rights, honestly I don’t and they can be dangerous and unpredictable. But making them hate wizards even more isn’t going to help anything. It’s just so messed up, you know? There goes the whole ‘cooperation and unity will bring down our foes’ motto of theirs.”
“Some people just never learn do they? Too bad they didn’t listen to that report of yours. Alas, a green student, a Hufflepuff at that, and you get no respect,” I shook my head and tutted a few times. I gained in return, a huff from Amelia and her choking on her tea. I wasn’t particularly going for either reaction but I suppose it’s better than the gloom.
“You’re being ridiculous,” she pointed out, but I noticed a small upturned lip if I looked close enough.
“Well, it’s true. Teach them who’s boss, my friend. You need to win a few battles first before you can win the war anyway,” I said and stuck my fist out as if I had just made a speech that would go down in the history of speech making. Maybe one day it would be remembered, written in the history books of the words that sparked the best Ministry Law intern to become a Wizengamot or something. Who knows, anything is possible.
“It’s just so-” she trailed off and shrugged her pointy shoulders. The words failed her, but maybe there wasn’t anything left to say other than the world we knew was rapidly decaying. It was mouldy and at times the fight seemed useless. Sirius said he was afraid the Ministry wouldn’t be able to handle it and I wondered if this is what he meant.
“It’s just going to get worse. There’s no getting around that I guess, but I wish there was, you know? Life is just mental,” she continued after a few moments. Apparently gathering her thoughts up enough to voice them. She laid her head back against the sofa, her long brown hair came out of the knot she had tied it in and fell down around her shoulders. She pulled at it irritably, muttering that she might actually cut it all off if it continued to be a pain. It wouldn’t do for her vision of her future marriage where she saw herself with hair down to her butt though. So I doubt she’d ever follow through.
“We’re basically screwed yes, I’ve been telling you this for years,” I said, smirking. Amelia rolled her eyes.
“We’ll be okay, they’ll pull their heads out of their arses soon enough I’m sure,” she said after a few moments, her familiar optimism budding up around her. Though I couldn’t help but feel like she was also trying to convince herself of it as well. “Then, I can get married and have those two children I’ve been dreaming of.”
“You’re way too co-dependent,” I said. She sniffed and pulled her book from underneath the sofa and pointedly looking at everything she had already seen a thousand times before. She named it her Wedding Book and pasted pictures of exactly what she wanted her wedding to look like. A scrapbook of hopeful memories.
“I haven’t dated anyone since Arnold White and that was 2 months ago,” she said from the corner of her mouth as if it proved my point wrong. That ignored her history altogether, but before I could reply there was a knock on our door.
I hopped off the sofa and walked across the flat to the door with Amelia watching warily. Our flat was really quite pathetic, the kitchen area bled into the front room, a small round table we found in an alleyway and a single couch that Amelia’s older brother let us borrow. A few wooden chairs were around the table, all of them a little wobbly but they were free so we couldn’t really complain. Sometimes I did wish Amelia had accepted the money her parents had offered her, it would have done this place a load of good.
The knock sounded again just as I was about to turn the handle. I gave a loud huff before swinging open the door to reveal Bertram, Henry, and Bronson.
“Took your time, didn’t ya?” Bertram said. I ignored him, instead lunging myself at the thing in his arms.
“Ah, you brought Master Londy!” I said, scooping up the fat gray cat into my arms. “Or should I say, Master London...?” I laughed as his face blanched.
“I was eleven and had never seen the city before, what else was I supposed to call my first pet?” Bertram replied, though his face was a little red, having not gotten over being a country boy and being thrust into the lights.
“Cool it Bertram, I’m only joking,” I said bringing the cat into the kitchen so I could feed it some hot milk. I was determined to be the best cat auntie in the world. It was a good aspiration I think.
The three boys pulled up our wobbly wooden chairs and were chatting with Amelia as I cooed and played with Master Londy. I always wanted a pet but my parents thought it was a waste of money and I’d probably kill it. Completely naff they are. If anyone would accidentally kill a pet it would be them. They’d just forget about it outside or something and then say a parrot got to it.
It was strangely normal. The five of us here as if we had nothing better to do than dwindle our time away with menial chatter and half-hearted jokes. This was how I always imagined life after Hogwarts though; the five of us, facing the world as if nothing could touch us or break us. People always thought Hufflepuff was the worst house to be in, that our prospects after Hogwarts were dim. Though when we graduated we stopped being that- just a house, we became witches and wizards attached to nothing but our own selves. Ourselves and the family that our house gave us.
We were defined by nothing else.
Supposedly, anyway. Blood defined us more now, told us whether we’d live to see another sunrise or sunset.
I looked up at the four of them, their faces grim now and I realized talk must have turned to more serious matters. Reminding me that we were always going to be touched by this and no matter what, nothing would be normal. I couldn’t fool even myself of that. I heard snippets of conversation; some guy named Jerry went into hiding with his family, another former student went missing, and another store closed itself to the public.
Bertram was sitting upright in his seat, feet tapping continuously like a metronome. His hands were shoved into his green robes, for once, ignoring the perpetual strand of red hair that hung in his eyes. He seemed like a jack in the box ready to spring at any moment and his eyes flickered around the flat as if he was caged. Or just afraid. Bronson in contrast looked a little more relaxed, his blonde hair had grow since the last time we saw him and his blue eyes looked calm and collected as ever. He lounged back in his chair, almost like he was trying to lie on the thing instead of sitting. I almost wanted him to slip and fall to the floor. Just to relieve the tension.
“I have a toy for you; it’s full of this muggle stuff, catnip. It’ll drive you mental,” I said to the cat and escaped to my room. There were still a few boxes pushed into the corners, and some photos where sitting on my desk. I was planning on hanging them up at some point. I went over to one of the boxes I had packed up from home. A few things from my room where shoved inside and some stuff my parents and brother gave me.
I dug through the contents but before I could reach the bottom where I knew the catnip was I felt a papercut slice my finger. I pulled my hand out and saw a bead of blood zigzag down my ring finger. I performed a simple healing charm before I dug out the offending paper to find that it was a neatly folded piece of parchment. My name was written in a messy scrawl on the front but my body stilled as I looked at it. I recognized the writing, had seen it too many times before.
Without another thought I opened the creased letter because I wasn’t a chicken I told myself. I wouldn’t let something as small and miniscule as a letter get to me.
Meet me in the morning? I have something to show you and trust me; it’ll change your life. (and I know your pining away for me anyway since you haven’t seen me since Thursday.)
6:00 in the empty classroom on fourth floor.
I didn’t ‘pine away’ like he so aptly put it, I was probably glad to be rid of him for a time. I could barely even remember what it had been he wanted to show me, probably some stupid prank I’m guess. We had spent the better part of the day together that Sunday though. I wondered why I had even kept the letter, though I was loath to throw anything out so I probably had every miniscule, stupid, idiotic letter that had been sent to me to remind me of everything.
How droll of me. How damn sentimental
I wondered why I had trusted him, though, maybe, part of me always knew this would happen and I wanted to sabotage myself. Maybe I was one of those masochist personalities who liked inflicting pain on oneself. Not that this was pain or anything gosh because it was his fault that he couldn’t stand anyone who didn’t give everything in ones soul to a single cause. Was I really that bad of a person to cut communication off completely?
I rolled my eyes and myself and dropped the letter back into the box. A tiny little letter was not going to affect me. That wasn’t me; I wasn’t the damn co-dependent one. I huffed and hastily plopped the box back in the corner and headed back into the front room with everyone.
I picked up Londy with a heave because he truly was a greedy fat thing and sat back down beside Amelia. Master Londy kneaded my legs for a moment before curling up on my knees heaving a contented purr, completely ignorant of the conversation floating around him. I wish I was a cat; I’d even content myself with being as furry and large as him if it meant that I could live his simple life.
Henry reached over and patted Master Londy on the head. The cat let out an aggravated growl and snapped his teeth at Henry who recoiled his hand and shook his head. Even after seven years the cat never took to Henry. The one we all said would grow up and be the crazy cat man.
“The reason we stopped over unannounced was that-” Bertram said and then broke off, looking almost at anything but us. The tapping of his foot increased in speed. “Well- will you look after my cat?”
“What?” Amelia said. She shifted in her seat and then looked at the cat who had moved and was stretched out across my lap as if he owned the place. “Why? You love him!”
“Come on mate, just tell them,” Bronson said, slapping Bertram on the back. Henry frowned, his dull hazel eyes giving nothing away. Though he too look defeated.
“I’m leaving the country,” he said with a sigh. “Tonight.”
“What in the bloody hell?” I said. My whole body jumped at his announcement. I told myself to control myself; it was one of the precious small things that I still could control. But I couldn’t stop the anger building up inside me. “What are you on about? You gormless troll, why didn’t you say anything before? - Don’t tell me this lot is going with you and you’re just deserting us!” I glared at him. Master Londy jumped off my lap and he scuttled off in the direction of my bedroom. Bertram’s eyes widened, looking cornered and uncomfortable. I continued on with my glare, glad that he felt some discomfort with just dumping this on our laps.
“No, we’re not going,” Bronson answered. Of course he wasn’t, he had nothing to worry about really with this war.
“Where are you going?” Amelia said, hitting me in the thigh. I gave her a pointed glare. I didn’t like to be deserted. First Sirius, now him. What was this world coming to?
“I can’t really say, you know. My parents didn’t even want me to tell anyone I was leaving, which is why I’ve only just told all of you tonight – I couldn’t – couldn’t just leave without saying something,” Bertram answered, giving me an apologetic look. He folded his hands together in his lap and heaved a terrible sigh. He looked disgruntled. “Look – I’ve really got to go, the portkey has a specific time and I’ve stayed here too long as it is.”
“Betram...” Amelia said but she couldn’t continue, so the word just hung in the air. Bertram stood up and grabbed a rucksack that I hadn’t noticed before. He handed it to me.
“These are Master Londy’s things; you will look after him, won’t you?” I nodded at him and took the bag and placed it next to the sofa.
We headed to the door. I trailed behind them and let them all say their goodbyes and give clinging hugs. I held onto Master Londy instead and stared at the wall as I heard Amelia whimper and Bronson actually sounded strained when it was his turn. He probably realised this may be the last time they ever talk.
Finally there was a silence and I knew they were looking at me. I dragged my eyes away from the riveting speck on the wall. They were staring at me with knowing looks, as if they expected this from me. But I suppose after you know someone so long, things become less unpredictable.
I thrust Master Londy into his arms and stepped back, letting my left arm drop beside me and grabbing onto it with my right. I shuffled on my feet as Bertram held Master Londy close and patted his head.
“You be good Master Londy, only poo on Eleanor’s pillow once a week, you hear me?” he whispered to him and stroked him one last time before letting the cat jump to the floor. He meowed and rubbed up against Bertram’s legs a few times. I bit my lower lip but slowly I moved towards him and I felt him envelope me into a hug. I held onto him for a moment, ignoring the catch in my throat and pulled away.
“Bye then, see you around,” I said and shrugged. I was wretched at goodbyes. I breathed in deeply, trying to collect myself as the door was finally opened and a few more hugs exchanged and he was gone, down the stairs and out into Diagon Alley where he would have apparated away at first chance.
Our flat had a ringing silence after he left and I stared at the door, expecting him to say it was a joke, or that it would only be temporary. But nothing happened and the silence was only broken by the constant meows of Master Londy who must have felt that something was happening. He was sniffing at his things by the sofa and I couldn’t help but feel sad for him. He was probably wondering why his stuff was here and not his home. Why his own master had deserted him too. I went to pick him up.
“We probably should explain...” Bronson said after a moment, rubbing his neck.
I didn't say anything so instead I buried my face into the cat’s soft fur, feeling his deep vibrating purr as it tickled my cheeks. Life really was mental and the more the world spun around, the faster the sun seemed to count down the times we all had left.
Note: JK Rowling obviously owns everything you recognize. I hope the pacing of this is alright so far. I feel a bit out of my depth with longer stories and I hardly ever know how much information to add in or leave out till later. Reviews would always be appreciated if you have something to say. Finally, many thanks to Jami who's always challenging me and helping me along with this story!