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rock&roll!@ tda made this absolutely lovely CI
I never thought I’d be standing here. Right here. In front of them.
That word rang in my head, and it gave me a bitter taste in my mouth like I had just swallowed one of Pomfrey’s delightful little potions. I wanted to vomit, preferably on them, but I’d settle if it just went in their general direction. Maybe if I positioned my feet at a 20 degree angle to the right and tilted my head to the left a little I’d hit that giant mammoth of a man. He looks like he fancies a little present. God, I feel sick. So sick. What am I doing? I honestly think I’ve gone off kilt, finally gone around the bend. A few times.
This was wrong. So wrong.
Why was I here? I breathed in deeply and tried to force my memories away. But images of my parents waving to me all those years ago, faces beaming with pride as I boarded the Hogwarts Express for the first time, flashed across my mind. I could still see it. All of it. Smell it, taste it, feel it. It was my life. It was all right in front of my eyes like those pumpkin pastries Amelia never let me eat because she said my hips were getting too wide. Little did she know I snuck into the kitchens every night to get what she deprived me from. That’s beside the point, the fact was that I wanted them at tea time and they would sit there on their platter haunting me, begging for me to eat them! Amelia had no idea how hard it was to wait till night time to fulfill my craving. It was a rough life, I know.
My stomach lurched, bringing me back to the present. I laid my ice cold hand on my stomach, willing it to be strong. The feeling of death cloaked the dark room, a dank sensation infecting it like mildew. It was suffocating. I think they fed on it like cockroaches. The Filth. I fixed my eyes on the chair to keep the images from coming back. Images that I didn’t- couldn’t handle right now. It was too much. I couldn’t change my mind. This was the only way.
My eyes glanced to an empty chair. Though it was currently deserted, only moments ago a bubbling, sweaty pig of a man had sat atop the hard wood and held out his arm like a trophy. I had this incredible urge to go up and kick him in the shins like I used to do with boys that irked me. I refrained. I had to get through this; God knows my choices were limited. I hadn’t known him; his face had been covered, as they had covered mine with their cold metal masks. I tried to tell myself he had no other choice.
I glanced away from the chair to a group that conversed in the corner, their faces obscured, afraid of showing who they truly are or maybe just ashamed. A sea of faces, all the same, covering up for the shameful acts. I caught myself half smiling. I’d have to tell Amelia I’d finally become a poet, I’m sure she’d be really impressed and want my autograph for when I became famous.
Finally they raised my wand; it was gleaming in the low candlelight. I heard from someone that once they did that, the wand would never be the same. That in the hands of such evil it lost its own goodness. Which was complete tripe; it’s not as if wands had souls or anything that could change so intrinsically. Could they? I mean honestly, Sirius just wanted to see if any if any of us ‘clueless’ Hufflepuffs would believe him. I hadn’t, but even Amelia had fallen for his dirty little lie and she’s supposed to be the logical one. I bet if he said that if they jumped on one foot for one whole day then the next they’d meet their true love, they’d believe him. But now – now as I watched them turn my wand around and around and saw their faces light up in a mirthless joy – now I wasn’t so sure.
The room started getting hotter, signaling that it was almost time. The palms of my hands began to drip with sweat and my eyes sought to look at anything but them. They glanced at the high reaching walls and the impressive, gleaming chandelier above. It screamed money and I wondered whose self-righteous pureblood house was this. Avery? Yaxley? Mulcibur? Whose house was I now bowing to? A new wave of nausea wracked my body and I bit it back, willing for strength and demanding survival. Life was too precious to throw it away on a weak stomach. I had to get through tonight.
“You- come,” a man said gruffly. The brute probably didn’t even know my name; I think that’s how he kept us from forming bonds with each other. Keep us all anonymous and we’ll do whatever he wants us too like pawns, and it works like clockwork.
I felt my feet move forward to the center of the room and the few people surrounded me, their steel faces gleamed in the dim light and their robes billowed around them as they settled into the circle. I looked at them all, wishing that I could have seen their faces, to know the kind of person I aligning myself with. Although, I suppose, I already knew. He didn’t come though; my recruitment was only a side note to his plan. What really was I to him but a statistic by now?
The man who seemed to be leading this cleared his throat and started reading from this scroll., I tried to block out his terribly dull voice, he was worse than Binns, I swear. Going on about blood purity, group membership, and how this moment would change my life forever. A chill ran up my spine because I knew the latter to be true. Nothing would be the same after this.
I heard a commotion at the door and turned to face it as they dragged in a middle aged man into the circle. He was whimpering, and I noticed his eyes never left the floor but remained bowed in submission as they threw him at my feet. His face scratched the floor and I heard a deep moan emit from his throat. I knew though that he had been through a lot worse if the reputation of this group could be trusted.
“Who’s this?” I asked shocked to hear that my voice was startlingly level despite the nerves I was feeling.
“Does it matter? Do what you need to do to prove your loyalty. Prove that you deserve this respect. You’ll inherit the trust of hundreds and serve the greatest wizards of all. There is no greater honor in this life.” I nodded my head; I think I always knew that this was coming. I tried to clear my mind to avoid thinking about it, but when you’re about to take the life of someone else, I think it’s only natural for issues of your own morality to pop up. Could you be human otherwise?
“Well?” someone else in the group demanded. His voice was full of something I couldn’t quite pinpoint, was it eagerness?
My breath caught in my throat as I raised my wand, it hovered there as I stared at the man in front of me: his matted hair, his heaving body, and the way his hands were clenched into fists. He seemed so normal, so human. Like me. I took in a ragged breath and wondered what he was thinking as he lay there. Was he thinking of his family? Family. I bit my lower lip and glanced around the room, the figures present seemed to bear down on me, their very presence making my body feel paralyzed.
What has I become?
I closed my eyes and tried to push the thoughts away. But they wouldn't leave. They demanded to be heard.
I could see it. All of it- my life. I guess when it’s all over, everything comes crashing back. The vibrancy like a burning fire, I could smell it, taste it, feel it burn into my skin and not being strong enough to hold them back I let them out. Let these ghosts come and hold me- caress me because the worst part of it wasn’t that I'd lost it all; it was that I lost myself.
Note: This is a new story! It came as result of The Impossible Challenge. The premise was to write something I haven't before. I was given humour as one of the genre's and the pairing of Sirius/OC. I haven't written either so I hope this goes alright. Seeing as the challenge was never judge i've taken liberaties with the story and I've changed the overall feeling of the story since starting it. Thank you so much to academica, JChrissy, nott_theodore, and theVividimagination for help with the summary!
The title is inspired by Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice "All that glisters is not gold".
Disclaimer: Eleanor is mine, but everything else is JKR's, she lets us play with her work .
rock&roll! @ TDA made this stunning CI!
I couldn’t believe this was it. I felt a weird numbness in my body that I couldn’t quite explain because I should be happy. I should be excited about the possibilities that are opening up before me but I’m about as excited for this as if Sprout asked me to take on Devil’s Snare. The last time I tried to work with that plant it nearly broke my arm.
I looked up from my plate where I had spent the last half hour pushing my food around and making volcanos from my mash. Amelia sat beside me chatting with Henry Jorkins, they were both going to work in the Ministry after school; Henry would be working in spell development and Amelia in law.
Their menial chatter about the future made bile rise up in my throat. The knowledge that this war took away the dreams we all once had and forced us in directions we never planned on going was almost too much for me to handle. We spent our whole lives learning magic and being told we can be whatever we want to be and it was a lie. We couldn’t be anything our hearts desired. We couldn’t have everything.
Amelia wanted to work with kids from abused homes. Instead she’s going to be working behind a desk because the war demands it.
“You should try some of this Eleanor, it’s so yum,” Amelia said, breaking me out of my reverie. She was holding a chicken leg in her hand and smiling at me manically. I frowned.
“I hope everyone who eats meat drowns in the Black Lake on our way to the station tomorrow,” I snapped and pointedly shoved a forkful of mash in my mouth. Amelia laughed and bit into her chicken with great relish.
“You’re just sexually frustrated dear one, we need to get you a man,” she said and patted my cheek. I slid away from her with an aggravated snort. I need no man because I’m a tough cookie and I don’t ever want to be one of those girls who needs a man. Plus, that would circumvent my dedication and love to pumpkin pastries and we can’t have that. Amelia though was kind of like that, she always dreamed of having a husband and she even had a scrapbook of what their wedding would be like. She had it planned right down to the serviette colour. Talk about obsessed.
“Eleanor, lighten up will you? We’re done; we’re out of this place!” Amelia said after seeing my scowl deepen. That was great for her to say, but what did it matter that we were finished? There was nothing out there. Sure, I had my Healing training but I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do that.
I knew I should be happy. I want to be bursting with joy because this finally meant no more essays or lessons or hiding from those mangy students who kept calling me halfbreed as if I wasn’t even human. As if having a squib brother and muggle father made me abnormal. You know, if my brother couldn’t even perform magic than how can we even be considered human? Call the Aurors because that must mean our blood is severely tainted. Absolutely ridiculous like that rumour back in fifth year that claimed I had a stump for a leg.
“Sorry- this is supposed to be a celebration, isn’t it?” I said and tried to force a smile onto my face. I think I was just hormonal and moody. I didn’t want to let go of everything I had here because for some reason there’s this feeling like this is the best I’ll ever have.
She rolled her eyes and I couldn’t help but think that I had rubbed off on her too much; she never used to roll her eyes. I wasn’t sure if I was proud or not because I think the world needed someone like her who never failed to look on the bright side of things. It was never just the glass half full but always overfilling so much that it sloshed sticky pumpkin juice down the sides.
My eyes started looking across the Great Hall which was decorated in blue and gold, not only did Ravenclaw have the most house points this year they also won the Quidditch Cup. Bit greedy on their part, really. You’d think they’d have shared the love around a little and stopped being such goody two shoes. Punks.
“What are you scowling about today Eleanor?” I turned at the voice to see Sirius and his band of misfits standing behind us.
“She’s vegetarian,” Amelia supplied and continued to shove food into her mouth. “She also doesn’t understand the definition of celebration.”
“Oh piss off.” I said and folded my arms across my chest. It wasn’t my fault that this morning Sarah and Donnah-Mae or the others as I liked to call them actually had the audacity to ask if we could all take a photo together because they wanted to remember us. As if we were friends and not just unfortunate dorm mates. I’m thinking that if I actually complied they’d have used the photo and thrown darts at my head. Sentimentality didn’t suit them.
At least, that’s why I’m claiming to be in a bad mood if anyone asks. Though, if I’m being honest, I’ve been feeling ready to turn into a very disgruntled troll for the last few months. I hexed a first year the other day just because he got in my way.
“Well budge up then, you clearly need some Sirius in your life,” Sirius replied flippantly and shoved his body into the small space between me and a fourth year Hufflepuff. His friends squeezed in around us as well and grabbed some desserts from our table.
“Ah bugger, Hufflepuff’s always getting all the good desserts,” Peter said picking up a treacle tart with adoration. Sirius rolled his eyes and grabbed a pumpkin pastry for himself. I went to do the same with a sly smirk at Amelia. She dubbed herself my girth patrol police and never let me have dessert. She’s a real tyrant, she is. People think she’s soft and a bit of a push over but I think the act of keeping me from pastries proves that she’s evil in disguise.
“Can you believe we’re actually done?” Lily asked. She had squeezed in beside James and was clinging to his side like a leech. “What are you doing after this Eleanor?”
“I was preliminarily accepted into Healing training, so, as long as I didn’t completely bomb my NEWT’s then-” I trailed off with a shrug.
“Wow, honestly that’s great. I heard it was really hard to get into the program, you need E’s for every subject, even your electives, to be considered.” Lily continued. She was always so intense. I shrugged again and nibbled on the edge of the pastry. “Mary from my dorm’s been accepted too I think, but Jeanne from Ravenclaw last year didn’t get accepted and she was clever, had quite a few O’s too from what I heard.”
“Yeah, well, I’m a genius,” I said, tapping my finger on my head. “No matter what this boy says.” I looked pointedly at Sirius.
“I don’t know what you mean, your brains have always intimidated me,” Sirius said with mock surrender. I rolled my eyes and ran my hand through my hair distractedly. It wasn’t such a surprise that they accepted more this year, there was a greater need.
“Are you sure you didn’t bribe the male administration, if you know what I mean?” James said with a wink. I stopped mid-bite and stared at James who was cackling at his joke along with Sirius, Peter, and Remus. Lily tried to look reproachful but she was clearly trying to restrain her amusement.
“I’m very offended that you think I’d ever dip to those levels, so offended that I’m leaving,” I said and shoved my nose in the air and jerked myself away from the table, tripping on the bench as I went which only caused the boys to laugh harder. I glared at them feebly and turned to Amelia who was watching with a small smile. “Amelia, come, be offended with me,” I ordered.
We stormed out of the Great Hall in what I hoped made a statement and that James would feel so bad he’d be grovelling at my feet by breakfast tomorrow. I'd make sure of it, maybe I'll put some grow-your-own warts powder in his pants. Who's laughing now?!
I was relieved to leave the table though as sitting so close to Sirius was making me unnecessarily antsy for some reason. These last few months have been weird between us and the normal flow of our friendship had been disrupted by unnecessary confessions and fear. Fear of what’s in the future… The knowledge that every day may be the last makes us say some say stupid things. Things that could easily be regretted one day. Sooner than later I’d say.
I don’t do well with that and it makes everything that much more confusing for me. I can’t handle it because it scared me. Like when Filch said he’d hang me up by my ankles with chains if he caught me out past curfew again. I believed him because he had this manic look in his eyes when he said it. Not that it stopped me; I just learned to run faster.
“We probably should pack...” I said as we reached the Entrance Hall. I looked out at the stained glass windows and noticed the light trickling in and causing colours to dance across the stone walls.
“That might be a good idea,” Amelia said with a frown. “Though, we do have all night and we can do it by magic.”
Before I could reply I felt myself get shoved from behind and I fell to the ground, my knee scraping against the stone. Idiots, I was definitely going to get a fun bruise for that. I was about to yell at the guilty party but when I turned my head I saw Wilkes push Amelia to the wall, his wand held to her throat. Mulciber and Avery were standing behind him. They didn’t seem too worried about me, but then, they never had been before either.
My eyes darted to the Great Hall- it was right there, the professors a mere shout away! Though, they never really cared before because nothing too drastic would happen. They’d get reprimanded, detentions and that’s all. And this was the last day we were here; consequences to their actions meant nothing at all to them.
“Hello love,” Wilkes said, a cruel smile warping his handsome features. I hated to admit that but he was good looking in a dark kind of way with his dark hair and blue eyes contrasting wonderfully together. I wish all despicable people looked like trash. It would make hating them easier. “I’d tell your family to watch what they were saying if I were you.”
I glared at him when I saw Amelia shaking under his wand. How dare he, the filthy bastard, threaten my friend? I stood up slowly as not to draw attention to myself but they paid me no mind, either because I was no threat or they had a very specific mission to accomplish today. Though if they thought for one second I’d let them try to intimidate her than they were sadly mistaken. The buttmunchers.
“Oi, you shitface,” I screamed. I hoped my voice would carry into the Great Hall. “Get off my friend!” I barrelled passed Mulciber and Avery and shoved Wilkes with all my might. It might have been the shock of being attacked in a very muggle way but his hold on Amelia loosened enough for her to squirm out of his hold and grab her wand.
My eyes widened though when the shock didn’t last long and his hand reach for my throat and shoved me against the wall, his hot breath grazed against my cheek. I looked over at Amelia who was distracted by Mulciber and Avery. Belatedly it hit me that this might have gone better if I had used my wand. Old habits die hard I guess.
Wilkes was standing so close, his face just inches away from mine but instead of cowering away I spat into his face.
“Halblood bitch!” he seethed and raised his wand. I closed my eyes, waiting for whatever was to come. It wouldn’t be bad; we were too close to other people. At least, I hoped so. "Or should I say half breed-"
“Get your fucking hands off her,” I heard someone thunder before Wilkes could utter his spell. Before I could figure out who it was Wilkes was shoved off me and I cracked open my eyes to see Sirius, all power and lightening, punch Wilkes in the face before he grabbed his own wand from his pocket. Remus, James, Peter and Lily were right behind him. Mulciber and Avery backed away from Amelia and pulled a bleeding Wilkes off the floor.
A few other students trickled from the Great Hall at the commotion but didn’t stay to watch because this kind of thing had been happening so much recently it was old news. Plus no one wanted to get caught up in the crossfire. I know, people were really gallant these days.
I pushed myself from the wall and grabbed onto Sirius’ arm from behind, knowing where this was going. I wasn’t worth it.
“Sirius, it’s fine,” I said, trying to get his attention. His body was shaking underneath my touch.
Wilkes seemed to have lost his gusto and holding his robes up to his nose he turned to walk away. Avery though, stopped and faced Amelia.
“I’d watch who I associated with Bones. Some people may actually get your family killed,” he sneered and with that they swept down the hall to their dark dungeons. Sirius took another step forward, but I kept a tight hold on his arms.
“It's fine, it’s over, can we just forget it and enjoy this last bit of day we have left?” I said. It was six and the evening would be coming soon. I manoeuvred myself so I was facing Sirius. I stood close, close enough so our bodies were nearly touching and I grabbed his hand and held it between both of my own. He finally looked down at me, his eyes still alive with anger. For a moment I wondered if he even recognized me the way he stared through me, without awareness of anything but the hot blood that coursed through his veins.
There was a strange stillness around us echoing off the cold stone walls as if it came just for us and just for this moment.
“Sirius...” I said and touched my cold hand to cheek briefly, wanting him to come back. I didn’t want to be the reason for letting him stew in his dark and angry thoughts. The stuff that was always brewing just below the surface with him.
I looked over to James who was currently talking to Amelia and she seemed to be recapping what happened while Lily, Remus, and Peter were leaning against the opposite wall, their faces pinched with undisguised hardness. They all looked so much older than they should. We were just children really, but we were being forced to play in shoes much too big for us.
I hated that and what it did to everyone. Lily really only had James now, her friendships with the other Gryffindor girls were disintegrating at the seams. Peter and his girlfriend broke up a week ago because her family disappeared and she couldn’t handle if he died too and she tried to make him chose the war or her. Life was really getting mental.
Sirius finally seemed to shake himself and I felt him clutch at my hand.
“Are you alright?” he asked. I nodded and tried to step away from him now that he seemed in control again, however, he held me close. “Have they done this much before?” They had. It seemed if someone in the family somehow didn’t get the magical gene that means the whole lot of them must be tainted, broken. They wouldn’t let me forget it. Not that I wanted to, I loved my brother more than life itself.
I didn’t want to tell him that because it really didn’t matter, not now. After this I wouldn’t be bothered by them anymore. Wilkes was still a sixth year and it’s easier to avoid someone when you aren’t sharing lessons
“They were really here for Amelia, they were threatening her family,” I said. The look he gave me clearly told me he knew I was avoiding his real question. That was okay though, I had dealt with it by myself for the last few years just fine. Fine as in I wasn’t already dead, plus there were people who got worse hexes thrown at them than me.
“Because of you though,” he pointed out. It was true; normally they left her alone because her family was one of those old pureblood lines. Though, her family was resolutely against Voldemort and I knew she wouldn’t always be safe. “Because you’re halfblood and because of your brother. They see that as making you barely human to have that kind of blood running through you.”
“It’s stupid, it’s not even the blood that makes us magical,” I grumbled. He smiled lightly at me.
“Try telling them that, they’d probably Avada Kedavra themselves.”
“Good,” I said with venom. Sirius smiled and I saw him share a look with James who nodded his head briefly. I’ll never understand the two of them; they were on a different wave length then the rest of us.
“I’m going to go,” Amelia said, catching my eye. “I’m going to tell Dumbledore and send an owl to my family just to check on them.” I nodded my head and let her head back to the Great Hall. She liked to do these sorts of things on her own, I think it was to prove that she could because so many people thought she was a right duffer, the black sheep of the Bones family if you will simply because of her overexcited nature. They didn’t see beyond that to the power that she had.
Sirius was looking at me with an intensity that brought back the discomfort of earlier. I pulled myself away from him, almost roughly. It’s that exact look that makes me feel like he could see the things I didn’t want him to. There was no future in it; there simply was no future past this darkness that invaded this world like death. Nothing that I could see because I felt it grab at my wrists and caged me as if I was a Cornish pixie.
“Can we please just enjoy this last day that we have?” I asked and looked over at the others. I didn’t want to spend the last moments here thinking about this war. I knew that it would be the only thing that I’d be able to think of in the days and weeks to come, until the Ministry stopped Voldemort anyway.
“Right, let’s go then,” Sirius said and threw open the door to the courtyard. I noticed that the rest of them didn’t follow and I felt my body tense as we left them behind in the Hogwarts halls. We walked out in the yard towards the lake. We waved to Davey Grugeon who was heading out to the Quidditch pitch with some of the Ravenclaw team while we sat down at the edge of the lake.
We were silent for a moment and I relaxed under the early summer sun. I pulled out tuffs of grass and let the blades blow out of my fingers into the gentle wind. It was easy to forget that bad things happened when the sun was shining like this. It wasn’t fair and it was dead scary. But as we stretched ourselves out by the edge of the water it felt like all that was a dream.
I found myself leaning my head against Sirius’ shoulder and stared out across the lake. It was beautiful, the way the slight breeze created the soft waves and how every so often you’d see the tentacle of the Giant Squid brush the surface of the water.
“If only it could stay like this forever,” I said quietly. Sirius shifted beside me and I felt him squeeze my hand lightly. I moved my body again so I was lying on the ground and plopped my head on his outstretched leg, letting him bury his hand in my hair. I inhaled his smell and I thought that this was probably really pathetic of me but I knew these moments would be brief where we could sort of pretend like we were still safe.
“Listen Eleanor,” Sirius said, his voice held a tone of gravity that made me pay attention. “I want to talk to you about something. James wasn’t sure if we should say anything but I want you to be protected.”
I didn’t say anything and tried to concentrate on just how the waves looked upon the lake. Trying to memorize their changing patterns. I didn’t like where this conversation was headed, but maybe he’d just say he wanted to ship me off to Australia to keep me safe. I wouldn’t be opposed to that because I’ve always wanted to go there and kidnap a kangaroo.
He was silent too and I wasn’t sure if he was waiting for my permission to continue or if he was just finding the right words. I let the silence be and let him continue twirling the ends of my hair around his fingers.
“It’s just this war,” he said finally. Always. It was always the war. There was hardly anything else to talk about these days. It had a way of trivializing everything else, making talk of papers, lessons, and crushes seem empty. “Eleanor, it’s going to get worse, a lot worse and there are people who doubt the Ministry’s ability to stop it.”
“Who else will?” I asked after another brief silence. I didn’t want to know. I couldn’t face the war, not like he could. Not even like Amelia could. Of course I didn’t want Voldemort to win. I wanted him to crawl into a hole and die but I also couldn’t face this. Not as bluntly as they could, things were either fair or not fair and they’d do whatever it took to bring balance again. I had to dance around it which is why in the past year I’d been spending hours with my potions book or learning Healing charms… because if I looked at the war straight in the face I think I may actually disintegrate.
Amelia always thought it was stupid considering there were people around us dying and others disappearing. She said that sitting in front of a cauldron seemed menial and empty. But it was my escape, my way to try and see past the darkness that choked me.
“There’s just this group, it’s not really that organized yet and I don’t know a lot about it. This guy Dearborn, he was a Ravenclaw from a few years back, came and talked to us this afternoon. We met in Hogsmeade, a meeting set up by Dumbledore,” Sirius trailed off. I was very still, almost not breathing. I couldn’t look at him because I knew he’d see my thoughts written across my face. “I just, I don’t want you to be powerless. The Ministry is in shambles, no one knows who to trust and who’s been Imperiused. It’s all really fucking stupid, honestly.”
“Sirius...” I said but I didn’t know what I meant to say or how to even say it. I sat up and folded my arms around my legs, pulling my chin to rest on the top of my knees.
“You don’t have to say anything right away, I just want you to know about it. The people in it you can trust, they’ll have your back. That’s all I want for you, everyone there wants this war over. You wouldn’t really have to fight and you can be a Healer still. It wouldn’t be that dangerous,” Sirius said and I felt him touch the small of my back briefly. “I just- I want you safe and being in groups is better than being alone.”
His voice was almost desperate and for a moment I wanted to say yes. I could imagine myself doing it, looking into his storm cloud eyes and watch as they shifted from dark to light and back again. I could see myself giving in, throwing my caution and my damned cynicism to the ground and let him stomp on it. I could take some of his light and let it engulf me- us, though I dared not think of that- like a symphony of note played out just for two.
“Everything is dangerous,” I said softly. I wasn’t sure if I could give my soul to this war yet. I didn’t ever want to kill a person.
He didn’t reply, instead, we sat there for a while as the evening cooled down and the sky darkened into a hazy blue. I looked back out to the lake and I wished again that I could just stay here forever. I didn’t want it to change, didn’t want it to be forced to.
I guess there was comfort amongst all the silences, the deaths, and the madness. Tomorrow, we’ll be taking the train home and into a new life. But life will still go on. Pastries will always be made, the stairs enchanted to move, and students will always come to the edge of the lake. Life will remain here, even long after we’ve all gone. That’s really the only thing we could hang on to, that somewhere, sometime things will be normal again. All this isn’t forever.
Major thanks to Jami! She's a wonderful beta and I owe her so much!
rock&roll!@tda made this great CI!
My mind was still stewing on Sirius. Well, not on him exactly, more like his words and since he said them his face does have the audacity to float in my head from time to time. Though, it’s better his face than Brady Patil, who looks like he might have been a toad in a past life, warts and everything. But it isn’t important whose face keeps budging into my thoughts, what’s important is the fact that I don’t like stewing. Well, apart part from stewing potions but that usually makes my head whoozy.
It isn’t the kind of conversation that’s easy to forget, and as much as I wish I could obliviate myself I’m not sure if I have those kind of powers. Yes, I’m now a graduated witch from the magnificent Hogwarts but I was ill during the lesson that taught us the theory of the spell and I’ve never mastered it well. Plus, I’m always worried I’ll do massive damage whenever I practice it. Amelia let me try once and she forgot a full three days of life. I was only trying to blast out her memory of eating lunch. That’s probably why they never actually taught us the spell, can’t have just any student running around obliviating each other every which way.
I leaned my head against the window of the train, feeling the engines as they rumbled against the glass and tried to forget that this is the last trip I’ll ever take on the Hogwarts Express. The last… and instead of being able to fully appreciate it I’m thinking of the war and how it’s just rubbish and how I wish Sirius hadn’t told me because after everything, I don’t want to disappoint him. He’s lost so much already.
I wasn’t entirely surprised he said something though. He hated everything that Voldemort stood for, it was etched in his very being like a map. He’d want the people closest to him with him on this, it was the only way. The war took his brother and they hadn’t talked in months because Regulus proclaimed his allegiance. Sirius wouldn’t lose anyone else.
Amelia opened up our compartment door, drawing me from my thoughts and jumped over the feet of Henry and Bertram and sat opposite of me.
“Last Prefect meeting I’ll ever have,” she said wistfully, a bittersweet smile playing across her lips.
“How was it?” Bertram asked, pulling his eyes away from the book he’s reading.
“Sad, actually. We just all said our goodbyes and reminisced, really. Lily went over some stuff about what could be done better next year but it was a bit half hearted,” Amelia replied. “And for some reason, Remus Lupin looked really sad, like his grandma died or something.”
“Well, he does have that issue with a rabbit, maybe it did get his grandma this time...” Henry said with a frown. We were all still for a moment and then laughter burst into our compartment like the freshness of spring. There’s something about imagining a rabid rabbit attack that seems absolutely ridiculous.
“Oh yeah, and Bronson said he’d be about later,” Amelia said after the laughter died down a little.
“Of course, what little bird caught his eye this day?” Bertram asked.
“His girlfriend, Bertram. You think so highly of your best mate,” Ameliea responded with a roll of her eye.
“Ah, that Ravenclaw tart? I thought he broke up with her when they beat us in Quidditch.”
“They always beat us,” I reminded him with a sour look. Our team was too busy looking at rainbows and fairies to even be a contender. If we took it to heart every time we lost we’d be one depressed House and we’d have no friends. We used to win, back in our first and second year when Laurence Wesley was captain. But he graduated and the team went way downhill from there. Not even Bronson could bring things around.
“Well, it’s the principle of it really; the captain of our team shouldn’t be consorting with the enemy,” Bertram said with finality. Henry nodded emphatically causing me to snort because Henry really didn’t care about Quidditch. I hadn’t met anyone who cared less about the sport and would spend game time in the silence of the common room studying rather than pretending to even support our team.
There was a silence for a moment, a comfortable one between people who didn’t need words to understand one another. I drank it up and rested my head against the window again, flashes of this year crossed before my eyes as fast as the scenery flashed passed the train. I saw myself jumping recklessly into the Black Lake on a bet during the middle of winter and that time that spear got caught in the back of my robes when I was trying to scare Amelia. Sirius caught me and he laughed about it for months.
I closed my eyes, trying to focus on the rumble of the engine rather than the faces and places I had seen. Trying to stop imagining how the early dawn hit his face the time we stayed up all night in the Owlery just talking. I hated how I had never been able to shut off my mind and how the same images would regurgitate themselves through it, like they were haunting me. I never asked for the ghost memories or the way they made me feel… like I was frozen in place.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought there might be a chance I’d say yes to it all, to everything I didn’t want to be part of. Because maybe if we could fight and win those images could become real again.
“Right, Exploding Snap anyone? I need to get my mind off the fact that this is our last journey!” Amelia said. This was my favourite game and I was ace at it but I had to be in a good mood to play otherwise my cards just exploded in my face, every time. It was almost depressing.
“Eleanor, stop being so bloody moody. You look sadder than a skinned leprechaun,” Amelia said as she pulled out her pack of cards. I frowned at her, wondering when she learned to read me so well.
“Yeah, you’re giving Henry a run for his money,” Bertram quipped. I not so subtly flipped him off while Henry tried to look affronted but he was always a bad actor. Everyone knew he was worse than a girl during her time of month.
“Come on then, let’s play,” I said keeping the glare on my face and hoped it warped my features so I looked like a velioceraptor. No one wants to play that at Exploding Snap. “Scared I’ll whoop your arses?”
“Yeah, shaking in my shoes,” Henry said.
“You better be, Henry. Because we all know you’re slower than a turtle at this game,” I said, a smile cracking through my serious demeanour. Henry frowned, forcing his thick eyebrows curve together to make him look even more like he had a unibrow.
Amelia dealt the deck and we began to play, each trying to prove how fast we were but every time I put my hands on the cards for a match it’d explode in my face and I’m pretty sure it gave me a few paper cuts.
I growled, when yet again, the cards exploded on me, causing Henry to snigger because even he was doing better than me. Punk. I glared at the rest of my hand and threw the remaining cards across the compartment. Blasted game, I’ll show it who’s boss.
Bertram laughed and I could tell from his dancing gray eyes that he was about to crack some ridiculous joke but our compartment door slid open before he could take a cheap shot at me.
Davey Grugeon was leaning against the door. I could see a few other Ravenclaw’s behind him, obviously on their way to somewhere but waiting for Davey. Such good friends they were.
“Hey Eleanor, Amelia. We were walking by and wanted to say bye just in case we don’t see each other on the platform,” he said and looked around at the mess of the compartment with a half smile.
“Oh-” Amelia said and I saw her cheeks redden a little and looked over at me. I laughed inwardly at her because, although she’d never admit it, she fancied Davey’s trousers off.
“How very nice of you Davey, really. We wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t come to say goodbye!” I said, trying to cover up for Amelia’s awkwardness. They were perfect for one another. Although he was a bit thick, I blame his run in with the Whomping Willow in fifth year for that, he was a nice guy. We had a history though which I think is why Amelia refused to act. Though, a few snogs back in sixth year didn’t mean I laid ownership of him.
“Yeah, well, I’m that kind of guy,” he said, puffing up his chest. I rolled me eyes at him.
“You’re consorting with the enemy,” Bertram pointed out. Davey looked at Bertram ludicrously and I slapped Bertram lightly on the shoulder. “I think you should be excommunicated from Hufflepuff.”
“Never mind him, he’s still sore you beat us at Quidditch at the beginning of the year. He’ll get over it, the little pumpkin,” I said, grinning. Bertram flipped me off and turned back to his book pointedly. Davey laughed and I saw Amelia redden even more. She was so obvious.
“Oh hey, did you guys hear about Samantha Yates’s family?” Davey asked, suddenly sober.
“That’s that fifth year Gryffindor, right? The one with frizzy brown hair?” I asked. The air of the compartment had changed with his words though because they really could mean only one thing. Voldemort.
“Yeah, she got a letter from her aunt, apparently while on the train,” Davey said, ruffling his sandy brown hair up with his hand.
“Oh god,” Amelia said, finally breaking her silence. Henry and Bertram looked equally disturbed because the words didn’t need to be said. Davey didn’t need to confirm that they were either dead or missing which was basically the same thing. They’d turn up in a few days, maybe mangled or maybe there would be mercy and they’d just have the glassy stare of the dead.
“Missing,” he said with a shrug after a silence. “We were just going to see if we could find out anything else.”
We waved our goodbyes and they were gone. I felt a shudder of fear. I think her family was a mixed blood family as well. That had been happening a lot more recently. A family of four were found in their home last week, and the week before that it was a newly married couple. All of them were from mixed bloodlines.
“She was half-blood wasn’t she?” Henry asked, breaking the silence that had descended onto our compartment like a heinous crime.
“I think so,” Amelia said with a glance at me. I tried to put on a neutral face because I didn’t want anyone to really know how much it affected me and I didn’t want anyone more worried over me than normal. I hated when people acted differently because of this war, it was barmy because you’d think they’d try to act normal, like that would be better than walking around like we’re on eggshells all the time.
It reminded me of Sirius’ words again - this group, they all just want this war over. They’ll have your back. I wondered if it was true and if they had mine, would they have my families too? It would make it worth it.
I just- I didn’t want the war and I hated what it did to people. How it warped them, made everyone grow walls up around themselves as if that would be enough to stop the destruction from coming to their doorstep. It all seemed so futile, like we were chasing ghosts in the wind. How are we to show them that what they do is wrong, the killing and torture, if we turn around and do the same thing?
This was wrong. So wrong.
Bitterly wrong. War didn’t make sense. Fighting, all this death. Amelia getting threatened in the hallway. It just didn’t stop and it seemed like no matter what, it wouldn’t stop. People were stupid and proud. Though, it couldn’t last forever. It couldn’t, maybe it’ll even be done by the end of summer. All this worry for nothing. I would kick the war if I thought it would do something to stop it. To make the people in it see sense.
Sirius’s face rose in my mind again, how it felt with his hand on the small of my back telling me it’ll only get worse. I wondered what it would have been like to curl myself up into his arms. I wondered if it would make me feel safe, secure, like I wouldn’t be worried that when I step off the platform my parents won’t be there to greet me. Instead, Ministry officials with a grim look but disengaged eyes because they’ve seen this all too often.
I pushed my thoughts away. How stupid of me to even think of him, his arms, his warmth- that cannot chase away the darkness, he welcomed it. My parents would be fine. They would be okay and I don’t have to worry. Worrying about it was about as useless as Binns’ History of Magic class. When would I ever need to know that Attila the Hun was rumoured to be magical? Would it somehow make me a better person, doubt it, and I tried telling Binns, even had a nice little argument for it but he sort of just floated through the wall in the middle of my speech. Way to boost a girl’s confidence, Binns.
I smiled slightly at the memory as I drummed my fingers on the small table, breaking up the silences that we were each caught up in. I couldn’t sit here and think. To think of what would await me when I stepped out on the platform and beyond. There was so much unknown and no way of really being able to figure it out. Sometimes I did wish I could be as steadfast as Amelia or Sirius. I wish I could just know in my soul that I had to do this, to fight. But it didn’t feel so black and white for me.
“I’ll miss this,” Amelia said quietly. She looked around at us, her dark eyes blinking tears away. “This, just us, you know?”
“Yeah, we’re all pretty stellar,” I said, trying to crack a smile but failed miserably and I looked back out the window. The green hills flashed passed and the hazy gray sky seemed to bleed its tragic tale. It had seen too much already.
“Yeah, and obviously you two will be so lonely in your flat without us to annoy you,” Bertram said. He grinned softly too as we both kicked him in the shins.
“I will not miss Henry yelling at us to be quiet, though. Even if I was duly impressed when he was able to scream loud enough when he tried to quiet the whole Great Hall for his studying purposes,” I said with a shake of my head. I hadn’t looked away from the window, it seemed easier this way. To not look at the things I was losing.
“It was a necessary precaution,” he said stiffly. We laughed a little but it felt hollow, forced because we had nothing else to do.
The rest of the journey continued on in the same way between scattered conversation and the flipping of the pages of Bertram’s book we let the rest of our last train ride pass in relative peace. Each too lost in thoughts that bled us dry.
Eventually, as evening was about to settle, Bronson wandered into our compartment. His dark blonde hair was ruffled and he, like we had, changed out of his robes into muggle attire for the station. He sat down next to Henry and lounged his long legs onto the empty seat across from him.
“Was just up at the front, they said we’ll be rolling in soon,” he said. He stuck his hands into his trouser pockets and looked over at Amelia with a gleam. “Oh and Amelia, Davey was looking fine wasn’t he?”
“Oh? I hadn’t noticed,” Amelia sniffed. He raised his eyebrows at that, but mercifully let the subject drop apparently not up for Amelia baiting today. He grinned a little and leaned his head back against his chair ready to take a quick nap before the train stopped in London.
I found myself watching them from beneath heavy eyelids. I could still see us those years ago just trying to figure things out. I saw myself yelling at Bronson and how he took it in stride or how Bertram never took it personally when I did everything in my power to lose his friendship. Their loyalty had eventually gotten through my thick skull somehow. Maybe it was Bertram’s muscles. That must be it because I’ve always imagined my skull pretty solid, kind of like metal and not a lot of things can get through that. Unless you have the right saw... or muscles in my case. Though fifth year arms are really nothing special really, they’re more like glorified chicken sticks.
It wasn’t even something they had done that had set me off either, but bygones are bygones. Life has a funny way of making you feel like you’re cheese going over a cheese grader. Though once you come out, you’re tasty chunks of cheese so maybe it’s worth it.
The train started to slow down. The engines rumbled louder and the activities in the corridor beyond our compartment seemed to heighten. Bertram pushed his mop of curls off his forehead and shoved his book back into his trunk.
“Well, this is it,” Henry said. He stood up and stretched his limbs out from the long journey.
“Yeah, see you losers later,” Bertram said. He was always the most sentimental out of all of us. He heaved his and our trunks down off the rack, nudging over a couple of students in the corridor to make room for everyone. There was a heavy silence of finality that settled over us for a time.
“More like smell you later,” I quipped, receiving a groan from everyone in the compartment. “What? It’s funny.”
Amelia patted me on the cheek in a consoling manner and did a little hop around all our trunks so she was standing out in the corridor, ready to take on the crowds.
The train came to a stop and the five us fought through the pushing students to disembark on the platform. There was a different feeling that surrounded most of the students. A heaviness and an almost untrusting attitude as we all pushed our way out the door whereas any other time we may have exchanged high fives with passing students or took part in idle chit chat. However, there seemed be this seclusion. Not just because of Samantha, but simply that everyone on this train knew that maybe Hogwarts would be safer than the home their going to.
We finally got onto the platform and we eyed each other with catlike wariness for a moment before we joined in for a final group hug and vague promises that we’ll meet up, we’ll find a way to stay together. The boys eventually broke off and drifted away in search of their own families.
“I’ll owl you tomorrow,” Amelia was saying as we dragged our trunks down the platform. “Then we can look at that flat to make sure it’s okay. As much as I’d like to believe our parents, I’d like to have a look before signing the lease. Ah, there are my parents now! Okay, well, till tomorrow then!”
We briefly hugged and she totted off to Mr and Mrs Bones while I continued searching for my own. I pushed passed a group of first years chattering animatedly with each other and a fifth year Hufflepuff being reunited with his younger sister and mother. I scanned the platform, standing on my tiptoes to try and see over the mass of heads.
I felt a touch on my shoulder and I turned around quickly to see Sirius grinning at me.
“Thought you’d get away before saying bye to your favourite person?” he asked, flicking his hair out of his eyes.
“I was hoping but now that you’ve stalked me down-” I said, shrugging and pretending to be really put out by his intrusion. “I guess I have no choice now, aye?”
“Nah, not really, but it’s for your own good.”
“Like you know what’s for my own good,” I said, rolling my eyes at him.
We stood, facing each other in silence for a moment and I pulled on the edge of my jumper uncomfortably. He also seemed to be at a loss for words as his eyes drifted from me to look out at the disappearing crowds.
“Look, I don’t want to pressure you,” Sirius said quietly and pulled me further away from others. I stiffened because I wasn’t ready to give any answer and knew he’d hate that. I looked beyond him and finally saw my parents and Edward. They stood huddled together tightly and I could tell that they felt uncomfortable, which was uncommon as they were usually so alive in this place. “It’s just with-” With Samantha. It freaked him out too because I knew he saw the pattern as well. It was only a matter of time.
My eyes focussed on Edward, his hair was longer, curling around his ears and he looked smart with his black overcoat over what I assumed was a suit. He must have come from work. His blue eyes were scanning the platform for me but Sirius’ body and trunk was probably hiding me from view. I felt my breath tighten as I looked at them.
Would they too be protected? They were after us, the intermarriages and the tainted blood. Maybe not now, but eventually. Could this group do that? They probably had bigger things to be worrying about than one families wellbeing and wouldn’t—I pushed the thought away, trying to see this thing clearly but I gnawed on my lower lip.
“I- Sirius, I-” I said and I could see in his eyes that he knew what I was going to say. A flash of anger crossed his eyes and he half turned away from me. I grabbed his arm, forced him to look at me, to understand.
“I-can’t Sirius, you realize what position I’m in? I can’t- I can’ t be the reason they get targeted,” I said, desperately, searching his gray eyes for any sign that he actually did understand, if only a smidgen. He was still frowning, and his face was stone.
“This is the only way to stop them from targeting them, they’d protect them Eleanor too... you’d be loads safer,” Sirius replied. Edward seemed to have spotted us and they all headed over this way. I grasped Sirius’ arm tighter. He’d never understand, I suppose I always knew that. You were either all in like him or you were nothing at all.
“Don’t be naive Sirius, they, whoever ‘they’ are have bigger kettle of fish than worrying about one family. They want people to fight and if I’m associated with that you know how quickly my family’s going to die? Don’t think for one second that if Voldemort wants someone dead that they won’t end up that way.”
Sirius was silent, I could see him stewing could almost see the shift inside himself.
“Are you ever going to trust someone other than yourself?” He asked bitingly.
Before I could reply my family was there and they pulled me into a hug. I saw him move away and avert his eyes up to the sky. He was always uncomfortable around families, usually darting away before he had to properly witness any kind of outpouring of love.
I watched him closely as I hugged each family member quickly. He was stiff and wound, still high on anger from the news on the train. It wouldn’t make this easier.
“So Eleanor, are you going to introduce us to your friend?” My Mum asked. There was a glint in her eyes that was all too familiar to me. I had to squish that because this was the reason why I knew we’d only ever be friends, if that. There was something too polar inside us that made this too hard. Maybe he was beginning to see that too.
“Erm- sure, guys, this is Sirius Black, Sirius, this is my family – Edward, Ondina, and Charles – Mr and Mrs Hughes to you,” I said, trying to smirk.
“Very nice to meet you Sirius,” mum said, taking his hand in hers. He smiled politely. “Quite nice actually. Why haven’t you brought him home sweetie?”
“Yeah, it’s not like we’d embarrass you or anything,” my dad added with wink.
“Of course not, you guys are the picture of innocence,” I rolled my eyes and looked apologetically at Sirius. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
We chatted briefly before Sirius said he had to go. I bit down on my lip because I didn’t want to leave it like it was. Where we were hanging by mere threads.
“Good luck with your Healing, Eleanor. I know you’ll be great in it,” he said and backed away from us. I wanted to call out, to say something – anything to fix it. But there was that hollow sound in his voice. It was dead and I didn’t know what I could say other than I changed my mind.
So I let him walk away, his broad shoulders and black hair disappeared through the barrier between the wizard and muggle world. I pulled on a smile for my family and told Edward his long hair made him look like a wet dog as they led me out into King’s Cross shortly after.
There was no sign of Sirius once we got through the barrier, though I felt a strange awareness of myself as if I was being watched and my steps calculated. But when I looked around all there was were muggles who peered at us uncomfortably because of the strange assortments of luggage pieces I had. I ignored the sensation and continued moving in stride with my brother. He carried the conversation on, his words being released into the night air like a birds call in the middle of the forest. We walked into the car park and I looked up into the evening sky where the London lights were twinkling on.
And somehow I knew everything would be okay.
Note: Thank you so much for reading! I really hoped you enjoyed this chapter and would love to hear your thoughts! As always, JK Rowling owns everything you recognize.
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.”
“Bertram...” 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!
The thing with messages is they come in all shapes and sizes. They come in small, crumpled up bits of parchment, from the lips of someone you trust, or in a passing picture that meant nothing to anyone else but you.
Sirius once sent me a message telling me to meet them in the Astronomy Tower. I was annoyed at first, not wanting to lug myself all the way up there, but it ended up being a night to remember. We set off about twenty fireworks into the crystal clear night and woke up half the castle. We did end up getting two weeks of detention, but it was worth it.
Messages always have a purpose to them, whether it’s insignificant or life altering. And you can’t necessarily tell the difference between the two at the time. What if I’d never gone to meet them in the tower? That was in fifth year, when we were just getting to be mates. Would we have gotten as close as we are now? Or would it have all been different?
Then there are the messages you get, and you can’t do a think about. The ones that you hate, but you can’t change them. You can try to ignore them, but it doesn’t do one bloody bit of good. Like when Bertram says he’s leaving- that message is crap. Then there’s the message in this morning’s paper that says a family was murdered last night, but won’t give names till further investigation.
That would mean nothing to others. It’s just another statistic. But it means the world to those close to Bertram because we trusted he’d be okay; he was getting out. But what if he didn’t and that family was his?
So yeah – the messages that are unclear are definitely the worst.
“I know you’re a good witch Hughes, but being a Healer requires more than just skill with a wand,” Healer Davies said, standing in front of me with a clipboard. Giving me yet another message to try and sort through. I blinked, cleared my head and focussed on her. She was the woman I trained under. A soft spoken lady who could’ve been a Quidditch player but chose healing instead.
I sighed and rubbed my eyes trying to clear the images that danced across them and invaded my every thought. They’d been doing that all day and I couldn’t even properly pay attention to my poisons and antidotes lesson this morning.
“I know, but I also know that being all doe eyed over a patient isn’t going to make them better,” I said. I shut my eyes briefly, still seeing Bertram close the door to my flat behind him. My mind had been playing the memory of him leaving over and over and sometimes his faced morphed into Sirius’. Sometimes I’d see them both dead. I couldn’t stop it; it was like The Dashing Gryffins new single where the singer repeated his lyrics again and again and again. To the point you wanted to huck a mouldy sandwich at their not so dashing faces.
“What would you do with him, then?” Healer Davies quizzed. We had started walking down the corridor and away from the patient we were examining. He’d been hit with a mean curse and they had momentarily stopped the curse from spreading further, but it was only a matter of time.
We can explain. I heard whispers in my brain and a doleful Bronson appeared, his blonde hair ruffled up even more. But can loss ever really be explained? Properly explained like maths or letters when we were still in grade school, as if it was an easy thing? There would always be gaping holes and empty spaces that filled the air like smoke. Messages that can’t be learned.
“Erm-” I said and paused, trying to concentrate on the task at hand. I pushed last night’s conversations from my mind before trying to answer. “His arm will have to be amputated. There is nothing else we can do, is there? I mean, dark magic can’t be neutralised easily and it’s only a matter of time before it’ll start spreading again and god forbid it get to his heart.”
“So how would you suggest telling him?” I knew where she was going and I didn’t like it. It just seemed ridiculous to beat about the bush when we all knew what needed to be done. Like The Prophet, just tell us who the family is and put me out of my misery. I just need to know.
We dodged around a Healer who was racing down the corridor with a few vials in his wrinkled hands and a harried expression on his face.
He doesn’t want to go. It seemed like such a lie. But I knew it wasn’t, it wasn’t and the logical part of my brain knew that. It did. But it hurt, somewhere inside me it grew up like weeds. This is why I never wanted anyone close. I didn’t want the weeds or the pain. The messages that dangled from their words – his words. From Sirius’ silence which was my silence as well because I wouldn’t be the first to break it.
What did it all mean?
“Are you alright, Eleanor? You seem a bit distracted today,” Healer Davies asked, using my first name which she wasn’t prone to do. I blinked, clearing the images from my mind yet again and nodded. It was weird how these things kept coming back, distracting me to the extent that I felt like I couldn’t really breathe. But I had to do this, to keep going because how else are supposed to get through this?
“Yes- fine. I’d tell him that the curse got too deep and that in order for him to survive he’s going to lose his arm,” I replied. Healer Davies sighed and she stopped our trek down the corridor. She looked into a room which held wizards and witches suffering from fatal curses. There was nothing to do for them. The curse had wrapped itself around the heart or some vital organ too quickly and it was slowly sucking the life out of them. Some of them were from Crucio but others were from curses that not even the healers could identify.
I had learned quickly during my training that there were darker curses than just the Unforgivables. Slow death was always the worst.
“And what would you tell them?” She asked. She had a faraway look in her eye as she looked on at the patients that couldn’t be fixed. There were some that were curled up in a ball and moaning, others were drooling, and a man on the far end of the room was as stiff as a board, though he was alive because every so often he would sit straight up in the bed and scream. No one knew the nightmares he saw beyond his closed lids.
“I see where you’re going,” I said, though I know I didn’t sound convinced. It seemed like a lot of extra work for something that wasn’t going to work. At least, for someone who didn’t have a chance of keeping his arm. We knew there wasn’t anything else. They had tried already. I mean, there were always more wizards and witches waiting to be helped. Why waste their time too?
“Patients need to know that there is hope, that there is something beyond this wretched war. We know how much time we have for Mr. Jarvis before it starts spreading again and perhaps we can find a spell to reverse it or perhaps a way to keep the curse confined to his arm. If he has no hope he could give up. It is the same with patients like them-” she pointed into the room. She continued walking and I followed. “They have to know that hope isn’t lost. Why’s that Hughes?”
Bertram is a muggleborn as you know; there is nothing for him or his family here. No hope. I closed my eyes briefly sifting through my thoughts which seemed to grow with every passing moment. These thoughts were haunting me like a damned ghost. Like I had done something wrong.
But Bertram had been a fighter. Where did that leave the rest of us?
I looked over at Healer Davies who was looking over her charts and I know she’d wait for the answer to her question all day if she had to. She had this ridiculous amount of patience instilled in her as if she was time itself.
“If they thought that life was really over, that there was nothing left to fight for then it would be like a self fulfilling prophesy wouldn’t it? They’d fade faster- die faster. The ones who gave them the curse would win in more than one way; they took more than just their life but their soul as well.” Sometimes, I thought it might be a blessing if they died. Simple for the reason they were in so much pain right now.
“Right, if they can still fight, than so can everyone else. Also- if they are going to die,” she paused and looked at me meaningfully. “We want them to die with as much comfort as possible. That is the main reason. If there is still comfort and love there is hope, even if only a sliver of it.”
I nodded absently.
“Be sure to remember that Hughes,” she said as we reached the lift. She tapped the front of it with her wand a few times before it opened up for us to step in. The lift zoomed down to the main floor.
It was odd to think that Bertram was gone from our lives and we’d only see him again if we made it out alive. It was an eerie thought, that someone you’d known for seven odd years was gone. Maybe not gone forever, but the way things were looking he might as well be.
“You won’t hate him, right Eleanor?” The memory of Amelia’s voice rang in my ears as I leaned against the wall of the lift, waiting while it lumbered downward, unable to block out the night before. I couldn’t stop seeing Bertram do the one thing I could only dream of. Leaving. Getting out of this hell- but I couldn’t shake the hope that it had to be over soon. It had to be, and leaving meant admitting that it wouldn’t be.
Bertram left and although it was to appease his worried family, to try and keep them safe, he was still gone. Deserted. Left us all here and it may not have helped at all. They may have been taken before they even had the chance to flee, and that would be pretty damn ironic, wouldn’t it? Because they didn’t want this to happen. They wanted life and maybe, if that article in the Prophet was about them, got death.
“Did you hear me, Eleanor?”
“Erm-” I sputtered. She smiled lightly at me.
“I said I’m giving you leave for the day, you don’t look well,” Healer Davies said. She said it in a no nonsense type way that rarely left for any wiggle room.
“I’m fine- really.” I said but her pale lips frowned and her narrow forehead creased with lines as she stepped off the lift which came to a shuttering halt. “It’s just that – you know that family on the front of the paper this morning?”
“Yes, but the names were not mentioned till further investigation, unless you know differently.”
“No- not really, just a feeling – a friend was um – well,” I shifted uncomfortably and gnawed on my lower lip. I wasn’t sure how much to say; it wasn’t really my secret to give out since he came to us in good faith. Plus, I didn’t really like chatting about this to my Healer. It made it seem like I was going to some sort of confessional to atone for not being able to stop it.
“Whatever the case, your head isn’t in it today. Go and do what you need to do and come back tomorrow with a clear head,” she said pointedly. I nodded, knowing that there wasn’t anything I could say that would convince her otherwise.
I turned on my heel to leave the hospital through the toy shop entrance. There was a few loitering people in the hallways, probably waiting for any news of their loved ones. The superintendent at the reception was tapping her fingers against desk as she filled out some charts of newly arrived witches and wizards. It was sad how many came in each day and how many of them were absolutely useless cases which took time from the Healers who needed to help curse or poison cases. Emergencies rather than stupidities.
“Oh and Eleanor, I do hope your friend is okay,” she called after me.
I was heading down a hallway which was the wing for temporary cases, people who may have broken a wrist or a spell backfired on them while cooking. Second and third year trainee’s, those wearing the pale yellow or brown robes respectively, were usually dotted around this wing taking care of things with only a few supervisory Healers to make sure nothing got too mucked up.
The walls were painfully white, much like a muggle hospital, and the waiting rooms and furniture had the same drab decoration: hard chairs that made your arse numb and magazines that were as interesting as tin foil. Which is to say I’d rather eat dirt than to get in a mile of those things.
Anyway, I was drifting down the hallway amidst the chaos and moving bodies trying to avoid the harried Healers and the drunkards. Their smell was about as delightful as Snape’s greasy hair. I smiled at them though because I did understand.
If only briefly. It’s better to be out of your mind than to face all this.
It was strange when such a despicable habit seemed like an okay alternative to reality. My eyes caught onto Healer O’Kelly, an Irish woman with flying carrot hair. She graduated Hogwarts only four years ago. She was hard to miss because she was always flailing about and knocking things over. However, everyone loved her anyway. She smiled and waved at me when our eyes met. The freckles around her eyes crinkled up and she dodged a third year trainee who was pushing an older gentleman quickly up the hall and to the lift.
She opened a door into what I assumed was a treatment room and she looked down the hallway, her green eyes flashing darker and it was only when she rushed inside that I noticed the person behind her. A tall man with slicked brown hair and a slouching gait. Our eyes only locked for a moment before he followed Healer O’Kelley in and the door shut behind them.
I stopped in my tracks for a moment. A woman with pinned up hair swore at me as she knocked into my back at my sudden stop. I ignored her and stared at the closed door for a moment, not sure why I was bothered by it. Bothered wouldn’t even be the right word... intrigued maybe- or just curious. It was normal obviously to see patients here but I recognised the man and when our eyes met, my blue ones with his hazel, something passed between us that I couldn’t decipher.
It was as if he knew me. Could see into me. I don’t know. I frowned and forced myself forward into the training room to sign out for the day and collect my shoes. Who cares about a slouchy man, he probably just fancied the pants off me and was thinking a staring contest was the best way to win my affection. Think again buster, I’m too good at those to be taken down by someone who slouches about like a sloth.
Soon I was Flooing back home because I was crap at Apparating and thoughts of the man were far from my mind. Instead I focussed on what Londy the cat needed for the night and if I could convince him that leashes are the best thing since cleaning charms. I imagined us taking walks through Victoria Park and he’d scare all the dogs by his roundness and livid meow. Bertram would’ve liked that.
Amelia, however, was waiting for me in the flat and Londy was sleeping lazily in the corner with a look on his face that clearly said disturb me and die.
“You alright?” she said. She was leaning against the slightly yellowish counter that I think must have been white once. Her arms were crossed in front of her, one hand clutching a note and the other her wand. I would’ve been wary except for the smile that lit up her face.
“Alright,” I replied, almost mechanically. My body just felt weary, achy as if I was getting the flu, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I didn’t want to think of it anymore though. Wanted to pretend that everything was fine.
“Cool,” she said. A silence reigned for a moment as she uncrossed her arms and pushed herself off the counter. I brushed some remaining ashes off my robes and threw off the outer robe that was the heaviest and most uncomfortable.
“What’s up? You look like you’ve just defeated Voldemort himself,” I said. She rolled her eyes but it didn’t keep the look of pure unadulterated joy that spread across her face like the bloody sun.
“I’m going to be a godmother!” she squealed, throwing her hands up in the air. “Richard stole their first child but they’re expecting again! Second children are always the best, anyway. Except for Richard of course, but he’s an anomaly.”
“Almost all your dreams have come true!” I said with a small smirk as I grabbed a package of biscuits.
“Shut up, Eleanor. This is just one more thing I can tick off my five year plan.”
“You’re too dependent on that thing.”
“Well you wait, in ten years I will be married, have a great job, and children -successful, and where will you be?”
“Happy,” I said snorting. Amelia laughed.
“Plans are good my dear friend, you wait and see.”
“I’d rather get eaten by a shark,” I replied. “Speaking of eating, what are we going to do tonight?”
“Em- there’s that new Chinese take away?” she said. “Or – we could try to cook some pasta or something, I don’t know.”
“Last time we tried that we burned the water. I vote Chinese.” I popped another biscuit in my mouth. “Or biscuit soup.”
Amelia rolled her eyes and threw the note at me. It fluttered to the ground halfway between us and we both just sighed.
“Bertram would’ve remembered to scrunch it up,” Amelia said. I shrugged and poured some cat food into Londy’s dish. “Or made some joke that I’m basically an idiot. I tried to eavesdrop on some conversations today about that family but I couldn’t make out any names if they were even mentioned at all.”
“Wish people would learn to speak louder so eavesdropping was easier,” I muttered. She nodded her head.
“Bronson owled too, said not to worry until we know for sure.”
“So helpful, Bronson is,” I said. I sighed and sat down on our couch. We really needed to do something about this one couch thing, it did seem quite pathetic. Like taking muggle studies when you are in fact a muggle. I think Mafalda Hopkirk from Gryffindor did that, though she was a bit daft.
“It’s his forte, don’t you know,” she replied. It wasn’t, obviously, but we didn’t want to tell him that. We sighed again because it was easier to communicate that way. Then we didn’t have to actually voice our fears, and maybe that could stop them from coming true.
We continued chatting for a while as we cleaned up around the flat. Well – she cleaned, I moved positions and sat in the middle of the living room, popping more biscuits in my mouth. She was always better at cleaning spells than I was; I stopped paying attention in those lessons because – well, I was usually trying to catch up on some Zzzz’s. It seemed like as good as any lesson to skip out on for that noble reason.
Until Bertram would charm my parchment to do flips in mid air causing the professor to actually notice us Hufflepuff’s. He did it almost every time I feel asleep, too. You’d have thought I’d have learned to sit farther away from the bloke, but he was always hard to get away from. He liked to just hang about, kind of like a cold; it was always a bit annoying. Though, I don’t think I would mind that now because at least I’d know if he was alive.
Eventually we decided it was time to find that Chinese place because our stomachs couldn’t handle us ignoring them any longer. We left Diagon Alley and ventured into muggle London. It was strangely quiet- calm, and felt safe as if it was beyond the grasp of the war. The pavement was still gleaming from the afternoon rain and water was flowing down into the drainpipes, picking up bits of rubbish and fags along the way. It certainly didn’t feel magical here; however it did feel like a world without an end. Without things to fear.
For a moment, as we dodged passed business men and shop owners closing up their shops for the night, I felt untouchable.
Note: Massive thanks to me beta JChrissy, she always has great sugguestions and has made this chapter so much better when she's finished with it.
In a moment we found ourselves hugging. Bronson’s arms were around me and then Henry’s. The door was still swinging open on its hinges behind us but it didn’t matter. Amelia was crying into Bronson’s shoulder, hiccupping and laughing at the same time and I held onto Henry’s hand, squeezing it briefly before I squirmed out of the grasp and went to close the door. I watched them for a moment quietly before heading to the kitchen.
My skin felt jittery, as if there were hundreds of tiny spiders crawling underneath my skin. It was uncomfortable and I ignored the urge to smack myself, whether to get rid of the jitters or to prove to myself that this was real, I wasn’t quite sure. This could very well be a dream.
Finally Amelia dragged herself away, puffy eyed and red faced. I pulled out a couple of extra chairs and some mugs to share the orange juice that we had opened earlier. There was silence. I think because we were scared that if we spoke we’d break the spell and wake up in our beds realizing that we still didn’t know what happened to him.
Could anything really be said though? It reminded me when Laura White from Ravenclaw was murdered in sixth year. Though this ended up being a completely different situation, that doesn’t stop it from stealing the words from a person. Whether the moment is sad or happy, too much of some kind of emotion limits a person from being able to articulate themselves. At least, that’s my theory on the matter.
I could very much be wrong, like when I theorized that Slughorn actually ate slugs in his spare time and I spent three weeks following him around like an expert stalker. Turns out he doesn’t eat slugs, but he always came to class with a shiny and sort of slimy visage that made me think something had to be causing it. Probably comes from staring into a potion for hours on end and your pores taking in the toxins rather than eating said slugs.
Anyway, no words, no fun little adjective like relief, joy, happiness... or anything seemed appropriate just now. There was too much going on inside all of us. Kind of like the feeling you’d get if you climbed a mountain; exhaustion and adrenaline would both crash through you, creating the sensation that you could jump off the bloody mountain and fly. But in the end, you’d come crashing to the ground. And neither of us could handled that, the crash, so we didn’t even try to find the words.
Moments like that are rare. They come and go like the fourth floor staircase which always seemed to be just as unpredictable and unavailable. Making students, namely me, late for Transfiguration every Tuesday afternoon.
Bronson was the first to crack, cutting the silence between all of us. “Here’s to life!” He raised his orange juice into the air and swished the contents around. We laughed at our meagre cheers but we all raised our own glasses and clinked our mugs together.
“Here’s to Bertram!” Amelia said a giggle burst through her lips as she raised her glass in cheers to our absent friend. She wiped her eyes again with the back of her hand.
“Here’s to forever wishing those mangy Voldemort followers suffer from testicular cancer and get tape worms inside their brains!” I said with a flourish. Henry raised his eyebrows at me but he was laughing.
“Whatever that means; what is cancer anyway?” Bronson asked. I rolled my eyes, ignorant tosser. I just smiled at him with a raised eyebrow and sipped at my juice. Let him wonder about it for the rest of his life. I’m sure I’ll forever enjoy the confusion.
The Saturday morning Prophet was on laying on the table, the four faces of a family that we didn’t know stared up at us with vacant expressions. It wasn’t the Aubrey family though and for that we had to celebrate. A few days without any news had eaten away at us like moths locked in a linen closet too long. Or like all those times I used to wait around corners to scare Edward during the summer holidays. I usually chose the times when he’d sneak into the kitchen. Too bad for me that he’d take ages in there, being a massive pig and eating all the sweets, so I’d end up just standing behind that blasted corner with all this pent up energy and no little brother to take it out on.
I caught Bronson’s eye as I glanced around, the look in it bringing back all the worry I’d tried to ignore. It was evident he’d been just as frightened as Amelia and I. We all were.
“Gods, he really scared us,” I said after a moment, glancing around at my friends. “I don’t like it- I was so close to getting pissed off at him, you know.” I tried not to let my voice waver. Bloody Bertram. Bloody Death Eaters. All of it just pissed me off.
“I remember that time Bertram pissed off Sirius Black and James Potter,” Amelia said, her eyes lighting up. I wanted to hug her for changing the subject. She knew I didn’t do well with all this... this expressing your feelings rubbish. It didn’t suit me well. “Which year was that? Fifth?”
“Sixth,” I answered with a shake of my head. “He ended up getting hexed so badly and was left at the door of Dumbledore’s office.”
“What the hell did he even do that could’ve warranted that?” Bronson asked. I shrugged my shoulders because Bertram never said and Sirius always just laughed when I brought it up and told me that some secrets are better kept that way. Though I doubted it was anything too bad because- well, Sirius was always offended over something.
“He never talked about it, though I would imagine he could have done any number of inappropriate things considering who we are talking about,” Henry said with a small laugh.
“I’m still going with my theory that he tried to ride off into the sunset with Lily Evans and Potter didn’t take too kindly to that,” Bronson said gleefully. “Nor Lily for that matter, because who’d want to go into the sunset with him?”
“Yah- he always looked better in the full light of day,” I said.
“Or maybe he found treasure in the dungeons and Black and Potter found out. However, because it belonged to Black’s great-great grandfather they obviously fought him till the bitter end for it back.”
“Amelia, that’s the silliest one I’ve ever heard, worse than the rumour that he tried feeding Sirius to the Giant Squid naked,” I said with a roll of my eye.
“Wait, which one was naked?” Bronson asked through gasps of laughter.
“I’ve heard it both ways- sometimes it’s Potter and Black, sometimes it was Bertram. Though – why anyone would believe that is beyond me because why would you try to feed someone to the squid naked?”
“Because he secretly wanted Black and Potter, obviously. It was his way of showing them his love,” Bronson replied. We dissolved into laughter and I sank into one of the rickety kitchen chairs and put down my glass of juice which was spilling all over my fingers making them uncomfortably sticky.
“I almost feel bad because he can’t defend himself here,” Amelia said after a few moments. She had put her glass down as well and was leaning against the counter. Bronson just shrugged and drank the rest of his drink.
“Aye, but he would’ve done the same if he was here,” Bronson said. He flicked his blonde hair out of his eyes but in the silence what was left unsaid meant more than any words could ever mean. But he wasn’t and he may ever be here with all of us again.
I ignored the thought for the moment. At least now we knew he was okay and sometimes you just have to focus on the positive. There was no other choice.
The conversation turned to other topics, about how hard it was to get a job and that some of our fellow classmates were starting to be worried. It had only been a few weeks since they all left school but they had all imagined that things would be easier. But no one wanted to hire someone who had no experience and no was a hard word to cope with. Bronson was even worried because the only skills he had were Quidditch and he’d been looked over by the recruiters.
“So-” Bronson started and then stopped. He stood up from the table and poured himself some more orange juice and then pulled his stocky form onto the counter and leaned against the cupboards with his back. He lifted his head to look at the ceiling and I saw him take a deep breath in as if he was calculating. Which was odd because Bronson rarely ever calculated what he had to say.
It was rare and the last time I remember him getting like this was- well, this wasn’t connected to that and couldn’t be because it wasn’t something we talked about anymore. We all deemed it toxic. Grab onto the happiness and release yourself from the pain sort of rubbish they talk about as if it was something that could be grabbed. Happiness wasn’t floating just out of reach though. Heck, it was Everest – or maybe on the other side of Everest and you had to climb both up and down it to achieve some semblance of it. Or a lighthouse where the light blinked only every so often but in between there was darkness.
“Clarence and Donna-Mae broke up,” he said. There was silence. I felt perhaps there were eyes upon me but I didn’t know because the orange juice became very important to look at for some reason and then I wondered why it even mattered.
“Well- that’s too bad,” I said finally. It felt awkward to my lips to say but words themselves were hard to deal with sometimes and even though there wasn’t a good way to say them they had to be said. To clear the air, to make it mean something but the truth is I wasn’t sure if I felt anything at all. “Does it even matter?”
They shook their heads and they bit their lips and I wondered why he had to bring it up. Why them to tarnish this day but then there would never have truly been a good day for it. Them. Whatever it was. I didn’t even know myself. I knew I should just leave it.
But the past isn’t easily left.
I remembered when we used to call him Clarey. I remembered when I hit Bertram and yelled at Amelia after it all and tried to push them all away. Or Sirius. How we made the end of fifth year memorable and finally gave me something to latch on to. You can’t forget that.
“Bully for them, really,” Bronson said after a spell. He looked up to the ceiling again and Henry balanced on the back two legs of the chair.
“Where do you think Bertram is?” Amelia asked. She collected the mugs and charmed a sponge to start washing them.
“I can imagine him on a beach somewhere with his pale, sickly skin and oogling over the locals,” Bronson said.
“Yah, he’d like that wouldn’t he? He’d be burnt to a crisp already though because of how fair he is,” Amelia said laughing.
“And he’d have more freckles which will absolutely kill him,” Henry added. I laughed because Bertram spent so much time obsessing over his looks it was ridiculous. Spent far too much time in front of a mirror trying to imagine what he’d look like without his red hair and freckled skin. Counterproductive really, but we all agreed we needed a proper girl in our friendship group and he fit the bill.
“Yah, he always thought they threw off his game,” Bronson said. They did. Or at least that’s what I always told him because I’m not a very supportive friend apparently.
“I have to go to work,” Henry said with a sheepish look on his face. “I’m already a few hours late.”
“You should’ve just taken the day off mate,” Bronson said. He stood up too, though. He could never stay long either as he didn’t want to be separated from his dear lady friend. “And it’s Saturday, you should be allowed.”
Henry shrugged his shoulders and squinted his eyes at Bronson.
“It’s important; you know this stuff I’m doing. I can’t just take a day off,” Henry said. He ran his hand through his mousy brown hair like he did when he was irked. It messed up his perfectly brushed look and he quickly patted it down again.
“I know, mate. You’re saving the world one spell at a time.” Bronson clapped Henry on the back and he grabbed his own cloak and threw it on. “You just need yourself a girl.”
We laughed and it felt right, like it was fine to just smile and be together and take the mick out of each other as if there were no other worries. Nothing else to cloud our vision and maybe there wasn’t. Maybe we could just focus on each other and see the good. Sometimes life allowed that without reminding us that things were really crap.
Henry pulled on his black ministry robe and smoothed his hair back one more time so that it was perfectly plastered to the sides of his face.
“Speaking of birds, I need to go see mine. Told her I’d spend today with her,” Bronson said with a wave of his hand. Typical Bronson. He told her everyday that he’d spend the day with her because he was whipped. Like a cookie in the oven, you know? It has to cook; it has no choice like Bronson has no choice but to be whipped. It was how he’s with every relationship he’s been in, it’s almost gotten boring.
“That’s shocking,” I said. I looked at Amelia and winked at her. She bit her lower lip and I heard her giggle a little.
“Yah, unheard of,” she quipped.
“I don’t spend that much time with her!” Bronson said crinkling his brows like he does when he’s trying to prove a point. If there was one thing he disliked it was being wrong. He put his hand on the doorknob though.
“You don’t, I agree completely,” I said with a bored tone. I avoided his eyes though because I felt myself getting ready to laugh.
“You just spend all your time with her,” Amelia said.
“Nice one Amelia,” I said, laughing. Bronson rolled his eyes and ruffled his blonde hair which made him look like a flamingo on drugs.
“You are entirely ridiculous. You’re just jealous because you’re both devastatingly single,” Bronson replied and opened the door for Henry and him. I shrugged my shoulders and stuck my tongue out at him as he left which I know is really mature and shows where my seven years of education has brought me.
Amelia was quiet for a moment before she too shrugged her shoulders. Though I knew that slow roll, it meant that the comment actually bothered her because, in the end, all Amelia wanted to do was get married and raise a family. It didn’t stop the fact that she hadn’t dated anyone in absolutely months and that her last boyfriend called her uptight.
“Load of rubbish obviously,” I said tagging along behind her as she went back to the kitchen to make some tea. “We’re single because we’re just way too awesome for men and because we intimidate them.”
“Yah, we’re fabulous and anyone who doesn’t see that is just rubbish anyway.” I patted her on the head and dropped an earl gray into a chipped mug. I had dropped it the other morning because a bird was at the window and Master Londy had jumped at it, forgetting of course that there was a barrier between him and the outside. Safe to say it startled me enough to forget I was carrying something in my hands.
Speaking of which, he was strangely absent though I blame that on Henry as he wasn’t ever much of a fan of that boy. I think it had to do with his finicky personality. But now that Henry was gone he should show up with a raging appetite.
But he didn’t show his chubby face and my eyes fell upon the newspaper that displayed the family that had died a few days ago. The one we thought might have been Bertram’s family and it felt strange to have celebrated.
To feel the joy of life when someone else had died and to taste the sweet relief when there was another family in mourning somewhere else. A family - and friends who had all wished that it wasn’t someone they knew and yet here we were making merry but forgetting that someone had bloody died and there was nothing we could do.
There was also a column next to it that described a brutal death last night and that there was suspected involvement of a Mr. Albus Dumbledore but to what extent he was involved was unknown, only that witnesses had sworn to see him at the scene. It probably had something to do with the Order, I supposed. Sirius flashed through my mind and I wondered not for the first time if he was alright. If being part of it had been all it cracked up to be.
It probably was. He lived off the danger, the unknown, and the need to prove oneself. He needed it like he needed oxygen which is why there was no place in his life for someone like me. Maybe this is how it would be as suffering always seemed to bring out the real person inside. I was this and he was that and no matter the years we had together as mates, some gaps couldn’t be filled. What wasn’t a big deal in the corridors of Hogwarts meant everything now.
“Stop reading that; you always get into such a mood afterwards. Today is supposed to be a good one. By the way, where is Londy?” Amelia said. The tea was done but I didn’t move for mine but instead sat back down at the table with the Prophet in front of me.
“Seriously I don’t want to deal with grumpy Eleanor today.”
“You’re too kind and I was just wondering that,” I responded and I pushed the paper away from me. The already wobbly table shook as the paper fluttered to the ground. I thought of Edward and my parents. If one day it’ll be them in there. The thought terrified me, and I knew suddenly where I wanted to be just then.
“I may go home today,” I started, glancing at Amelia, the article still fresh in my mind. You never knew how much time you really had left. How much time your family had. “You can come if you like. Mum I’m sure would over the moon. She always asks for you because she knows she can talk about girly things with you. I think she likes you better than me.”
“Your mum never talks about that stuff to me,” Amelia pointed out. I shrugged my shoulders.
“First we need to find Londy.”
We looked in all the regular places- behind the couch where he sometimes crammed himself, behind the grayish curtains, and underneath our beds. There weren’t a lot of places for him to hide as our place was small. I even checked in the bath tub though I doubted he’d be there because it would suggest he’d actually have to jump and I wasn’t sure if that was possible for him.
“Gods, where is this cat?” Amelia said coming from her bedroom with a sour look on her face. “We’ve looked everywhere!” She pulled back the curtains again and sighed when he didn’t magically appear from behind them.
“Oh no,” I said and whacked my hand against my head. “The door!” I pointed and groaned.
“What about it?”
“It must have swallowed him!” I said rolling my eyes long and hard at her. She grimaced. “It was left open for a bit earlier, you know how he likes to try and escape!”
“Oh,” Amelia shrugged and blew her fringe out of her eyes. “Fabulous. Let’s get searching then, shall we?”
We threw on some shoes and raced out of the flat, our robes flying out behind us. Thankfully the alley wasn’t full. It never was these days, and we looked down both ways for a moment deciding what to do.
“We should stick together,” Amelia said firmly. I nodded and just as we were about to go down the alley towards Gringotts we heard a subtle meowing from behind a bin next to the Apothecary. I looked at Amelia with a raised eyebrow and we snuck up on the bin. We were careful to be quiet, both of us knowing that when Londy had a taste of freedom he could turn into a completely different cat. Still a rolly polly one but a rolly polly one that could run.
As we snuck closer the meowing ceased and suddenly the cat hopped out from behind it and shot down the alley in a blur.
“Ah!” I yelled and we took after him. My hands were raised up in front of me and my knees bent ready to capture the squirming cat before he got any more bright ideas. Amelia looked very similar as we ran down the cobbled stone street, ignoring the few odd looks of the shop owners who peeked out of their windows at the ruckus.
There was something freeing about feeling the wind against your cheeks and suddenly not worrying if the man you’re passing is someone you should fear. I ran around a light post and Amelia skidded past a park bench, continuously calling Londy’s name who seemed determined to keep running. He’d tire out soon enough; his legs could only handle his abnormally large body for so long.
As the chase continued the sun peaked out from behind the clouds causing pockets of light so glide across the sky. My nose caught the smell of Diane D’s Baking for All Occasions. She was probably getting ready for lunch hour and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that maybe Bertram was also smelling the tantalizing smells of a bakery in some other part of the world right now. It made me feel calm for a moment, like maybe all this wasn’t it but that there could be some hope. If only for those who got away. If their life could be saved, maybe that would be okay.
Note: Thanks to everyone still reading and reviewing this! Massive thanks to JChrissy for just being an awesome beta!
Would love to hear what you think of this little chapter. =)
All recognizable work belongs to JKR and no copywright infringement is intended.
I think I finally realized that something was off when I heard a scream. I was so focussed on the bloody cat that I hadn’t been looking and suddenly all I hear is this scream. Chilling. I glanced up to see Amelia rooted in the spot, her arms still reaching out but her eyes were no longer looking at where Londy bounded down a side alley.
Instead, she was looking at Madam Mildred’s Exotic Tea Shop which had been our favourite shop since we were eleven. Madam Mildred herself was being dragged out into the alley by a man dressed in black with a silver mask across his face. He had her by the hair, blood was smeared across her face, and her screams echoed down the alley like the cry of a Siren. Haunting and yet there was something in it that called you to it.
Men dressed the same as the first followed after them and a child smashed his face against the glass window of the shop, fogging up a small circle where his mouth was. His blue eyes wide with desperation as he looked on. Madam Mildred, who’d always been known for tumbling brown curls, was now soaked in sweat with her hair stuck to her like seaweed.
My own heart was thumping and I crept over to Amelia, who still hadn’t moved. Her hands were now shaking, and her eyes were wild. I grabbed onto her hand and felt her long fingers tighten around mine.
These must be Death Eaters. I hadn’t ever seen them but the name had always been whispered behind closed doors. Sirius told me of them first, his face had been full of repulsion and hurt. He said they left death wherever they went. Eaters of life. The worst kind of cannibal he’d say because the things they did were that repulsive, that degrading. They ate the lives of others and even if it wasn’t their actual flesh it was just as despicable.
They barely even took notice of the few people who stopped dead at the action that was playing out before their eyes. How the vicious act made an older couple jump out of the way while others tried to sneak away as quickly as possible. Some just stared wide mouthed and eyed at the display. It suddenly felt very much crowded and suffocating, like we were stuck in a room with no ventilation.
I pulled a little at Amelia’s hand. I didn’t know what I wanted from her because I wanted to leave but was captivated by this. Like an insect to a light, knowing that if I got too close I could get burned. The thump in my chest though came from more than just fear; there was something else and I couldn’t be sure what it was.
The man who still held Madam Mildred by the hair laughed as he stared out at us. Maybe he realized we were all petrified.
“This is what happens,” he said. A clear warning that it could be us instead. His voice was low and he turned away from the spectators. That is exactly what we were in that moment because none of us did anything. Just stood like idle fools because none of us wanted to be Mildred. You know as much as we liked her there were an underlying feeling that – that it was better her than us. That’s what made me feel sickest.
He shoved her to the ground. Her knees scraped the ground and she let out a low moan. Grasping at the cobblestones below her, she coughed up blood.
“Please, I don’t know,” she choked. She tried to push herself up but her arms were shaking so bad that she could only make it halfway before collapsing onto the ground again. A couple other wizards crept into a shop and locked the door behind them.
My heart was beating in my chest. One. Two. Three. So fast that I felt like it would burst. One wrong step, one wrong move and they’d turn on us like we were a field ready for the harvest.
“Get the kid,” the man said. One of the other Death Eaters went in and grabbed the boy from the behind the glass and dragged him out. He was crying and his eyes were glued to his mum. He was old enough to understand what was happening.
The other four Death Eaters patrolled around the perimeter making it clear that a wrong move could mean death. There wasn’t a lot of us but with the bottle neck it seemed that everyone who had dared venture out today was now involved in the drama. One of the Death Eaters prodded a younger man with his wand sending the man flying backwards until he hit the side of a building. He laughed and moved on.
My eyes widened and I took a step forward without thinking. This- I couldn’t look at the kid without getting ill because I knew what they’d do. There had been too many news reports lately about innocent children dying.
The man grabbed Madam Mildred’s arm and thrust her up into standing position and held her there for a moment, she grabbed onto the arm for support. I noticed the tears that ran down her cheeks; the trail gleamed in the sun.
“No,” I mumbled, barely audible to even my ears. But this- this shouldn’t be. It was sick. I felt my eyes moisten and I tried to brush them away because all I could imagine was death and I couldn’t even fucking move.
“Tell us where he is,” he demanded.
Before anyone could say anything there were a few load cracks that made me jump back and then there were cries and flashing lights. I looked over and coming down the alley were Ministry officials, Auror’s perhaps, their black robes billowed out behind them as they ran. Three of them. Only three. As if their forces were somehow better or more equipped than the Death Eaters. I doubted it and almost laughed at their ignorance.
People scrambled out of the way but a man who I knew worked as an apprentice at the Daily Prophet got hit with a curse from one of the Death Eaters. He withered to the ground, crying out for God to stop the pain. His shrill moan could be heard echoing down the alley like a cry from hell. No one could get to him even if they tried as the spells were firing from one side to the other.
I pulled Amelia away, her body was stiff and her hand was gripping her wand tightly like a cat ready to attack. My head felt heavy and light at the same time, barely able to take in the sight before me.
For a moment it looked like they might be okay. The Death Eaters seemed scattered, confused and the Aurors fell on them like the setting sun. Surrounding them and beating them down. The charge of their anger radiated out of them like fire. One of the Aurors was shouting orders and jabbed his wand at ever faster intervals.
People dodged out of the way, some even took up the fight as well, briefly as it were, to shout out a stinging hex or body bind. But it seemed as if this fight had was no place for such spells and the ones who tried ended up withering on the ground, by a better placed spell from a Death Eater.
My heart beat faster still.
The chaos made it seem like people were everywhere, scrambling around like ants on a log. Amelia and I got separated as we dodged a rogue spell. I couldn’t see her amidst the bodies and ruin. However I found myself captivated by the scene in front of me. I clung to the cold stone of the building behind me.
The Death Eater who had been interrogating Madam Mildred was still standing next to her, trying to block spells aimed at him and she was trying to crawl away. But with her injuries she wasn’t getting very far. Her son was close by, huddled by a rubbish bin as during the chaos he escaped from the man holding him.
Things started to shift again as the Death Eaters got the upper hand and four of them were fighting the Auror’s while the others grabbed the woman and the kid. Outnumbered. It seemed like two separate dramas were being played out. There was the fight and the chaos in front while behind a more subtle game of shadows behind.
“Not him, please leave him out of it!” I heard her scream over the din of voices surrounding us. People were scattered, some were pressed tightly to buildings like they hoped it would suck them in. I couldn’t move though, my eyes transfixed by those in front of me.
“Get out of here,” one of the Aurors shouted to me as the fight got closer. His voice was gruff but I didn’t listen, couldn’t. My mind felt blank, like it couldn’t make the connections it usually would. I just froze. God so frozen but I could feel wetness behind my eyes. So much destruction.
I could almost see the sequence of events in my head before it happened and the man who held the kid roughly in his hands raised his wand, looking at the woman one more time who was still screaming. He said something to her and she started to cry harder. Things seemed to go in slow motion then. Like I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing or my brain couldn’t comprehend it.
I was so dizzy, so heavy as if a weight was pushing down on me as I saw the mighty green flash. I stopped. Everything stopped. For a moment, there was only green and it swallowed us. As instantly as the slow motion began it stopped and the child fell to the ground. I screamed a real gut wrenching scream along with the mum who was looking with an almost vacant expression on her face.
The man walked to the woman and grabbed her chin, yanking her face to look at him. I didn’t know what he was saying or even if he was saying anything. It seemed like they were years away from me.
I couldn’t take my eyes away from the boy and without even realizing I was making a decision about it I darted for him. I knelt over him and tried to block out the sound of the cries above and the fear that was gnawing at my heart. Didn’t even think of what would happen if the Death Eater turned around and saw me there.
I heard the mum somewhere in the back of my mind. I could hear voices and cries and screams but I couldn’t focus on anything but the child in front of me. It seemed to get louder around me. Fiercer, like the energy of the fight had changed again but I found myself muttering spells, all the spells I knew about healing and directing them at the child. One after another.
They kept hitting his chest. Over and over. My head felt so heavy. I pleaded for his life. I had read too many stories of children dying in the last few weeks. Months. Whenever this whole thing started. Too many had just died.
I felt someone’s arms around me. Strong arms.
“Get out of here!”
I grabbed onto the child. No.
“Please,” I said and muttered a few more spells but nothing got rid of the glassy eyes that stared at me. Yearning for life but not getting it. I had just stood there watching. Just stood there.
My head felt heavy and my heart beat so fast. One. Two. Three. I kept breathing and the arms pulled me away. I looked wildly around and noted there seemed to be more people around. More fighting but I couldn’t see their faces. Couldn’t recognize them as they all had freckles and blue eyes of a child.
“Come on, fuck you’re going to get yourself killed woman!”
“No, I just- I just,” wanted to save him. The person pulled me away and I clawed at the air with fear.
“Black what the bloody hell are you doing? They’ve got Dearborn,” a woman screamed. It was then that I turned my head to see a pair of steel eyes looking at me with exasperation.
“Let me go!” I cried to him and motioned to the kid. He just shook his head and kept dragging me away. His face was creased and as hard as stone when he finally pushed me down a small alley beside Flourish and Blotts.
“Stay here,” he commanded. I could hear the anger radiating off of him, but before he walked back out I heard a woman screaming again and then a loud crack that I took as someone Apparating away. He visibly tensed but I couldn’t focus on him.
Couldn’t see him but rather I saw Madam Mildred’s child; I didn’t even know his name and now I may never know it. I don’t know why that bothered me so much. That I didn’t know his name. That I couldn’t wave to him as I bought another cup of tea. I had just... I closed my eyes trying not to picture myself there without movement. Like a statue.
I took a few deep breaths and tried to fight the dizziness, like the world was turning way too fast for me. Like I was on one of those annoying carnival rides that makes your stomach feel like it’s going to flip out of your mouth at any second.
Seriously, why do people think that’s fun? It is about as fun as going to visit that aunt of yours who’s clearly mental but you have to go and pretend you don’t smell the moth balls in her furniture and eat the food that’s probably been sitting in the fridge for weeks.
Gods. I didn’t even know his name.
There was stillness. I could feel it the same as I could feel a weird fluttery feeling in my heart. How it was still pumping and yet not quite as madly as it had before because the energy seemed to have changed again. I leaned against the wall of the alley and felt my legs collapse from under me and I put my face in my hands blocking out the way the boy’s blue eyes were so empty.
“Black, I gave you and Potter one job and that was make sure they don’t take Dearborn and you go gallivanting off to your girlfriend. Do you realize what you’ve done?”
“Meadowes calm –“
“Don’t tell me to fucking calm down! This is why I warned Dumbledore not to get involved with adolescents whose hormones are raging a mile a minute!”
I glanced over briefly trying to clear my mind and saw a tall woman with electric black hair jabbing Sirius in the chest. She looked familiar but I couldn’t place her and did it really even matter who she was because someone had died and I hadn’t done a damn thing.
“I wasn’t just going to leave her there to die, friends matter, strangely enough,” Sirius shot back. I knew if I was closer I’d see that he’d be tense, coiled and ready to spring no matter how hard he was trying to control himself. He was never good at that.
“She’s as good as dead now and so is her husband; think of that next time you decide to go against orders.”
There was silence.
I didn’t break it. I could still feel the softness of the boy’s clothes under my hands and his blue eyes were dancing around me.
“Sirius-” Another voice started and then stopped and I felt that maybe they were looking at me but I kept my face in my hands, hiding because I didn’t want them to see this. See me like this. I didn’t know why this bothered me so much. I read about it all the time. I knew what happened in the world. I knew it. It was harsh and scary.
“What?” Sirius asked. His voice was still laced with anger. I could almost feel the burn of it myself.
“They’re gone mate and we’re just- well cleaning up out there, just thought you should know that.”
“Fine, great,” Sirius snapped again. Footsteps faded away but I knew he still stood there on the other side of the alley leaning against the wall. I could still feel his damn overpowering presence.
More silence. It seemed to extenuate the beating of my heart. How it wouldn’t stop and I could almost feel everything that was coursing through my body but I tried to push it all away. I didn’t want it.
The bricks were so cold behind my back and the longer I sat here the more I could smell the rotting rubbish at the end of the alley way. It was tense. So much more tense right here than it ever been between us. It had always been easy, us being together. Being friends. Until the war changed that when it actually mattered and all I could think of was how bad I wanted him gone. Didn’t want him to see what I really was.
“Go,” I said. It drifted in the air between us and he just laughed. Coarsely as if his vocal chords were being dragged across rubble.
“Eleanor, what the hell was that? You ran into the middle of a bloody fight!” His voice was still hard. Pent up anger and frustration from the weeks of silences. I didn’t know, maybe I was just imagining that, but neither one of us found it easy to get over things.
“No- just go,” I said. I stood up and dodged away from him when he walked closer. I wasn’t crying. But I knew I looked rubbish and maybe a little mental. I couldn’t look at him, I still saw the boy. Still saw his face. His freckles and blue eyes that would never age. Just rot away like the rubbish.
He let out a long breath of air and rubbed his hand through his hair.
“What’s wrong with you?” he finally asked. I was asking that myself. I needed to get a grip but the world was spinning.
“I just- just...” I couldn’t answer, the words kept getting caught in my throat. How annoying, just like those typical hysterical females I’ve always loathed. How pathetic was this. I wanted to roll in my own misery by myself and I didn’t want anyone else to see. That’s all I bloody well wanted. That and for the boy to survive; I wanted to know his name. Somehow that would’ve made it better. I hated faceless people.
He took another step closer, his hand was out and his eyes cautious. Maybe he thought I was contagious. Which for all I know I was.
“Please,” I yelped and shied away from him. Panic kept building up and I saw the boy fall again and again and again. I let it happen.
“Come here,” he said. Calling in that voice. The voice he used to use for me. I couldn’t explain it but it was when he was actually being sincere and not his usual dickish self. His eyes seemed softer around the edges, wanting to tell me he understood. But I don’t think he did. Not really.
I couldn’t believe that just this morning we found out that Bertram was alright and we celebrated like a bunch of arrogant tossers who thought the shadows could disappear. It was only a couple hours ago and the sun was shining and it just didn’t seem right that this could be happening right outside our doors. The sun was still shining but it felt wrong. So mocking, so harsh to my eyes like the callous reality that things were rotting.
“Just go!” I said. I felt the panic and the tears were building up and I couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t right. I could see his face but it morphed into a young man with blue eyes and freckles and I knew he’d never get to see that far. God it sucked.
Sirius reached out again and this time he looked scared. Scared of me as I grabbed onto the tips of my hair and jerked away from his warm fingers. I had to get away. I had to leave. The air was suffocating like there was only so much oxygen that could be breathed. I shook my head.
“Don’t...” he said but his voice was lost to the wind and in that moment I left. Disappeared into space and for once I didn’t mind the feeling of being squished into a small space. When I reappeared, I leaned against the oak door and felt the breeze against my skin. I breathed. I told myself that was all I could do now, was keep breathing. Though even then I knew that it was a lie.
I do not own any part of Harry Potter. Anything you recognize is a part of JKR's world and not mine. Thank you for reading! Hope you stay tuned for chapter 8!
I sat there for a while longer. The heat brushed against my skin and I wished it could melt away the image that played in my mind over and over again. It burned into my retinas and the smell still assaulted my senses – the smoke, the blood and sweat. The screams were ringing in my head so loudly that I found myself pressing my hands to my ears.
I don’t know how long I was out there for. If I was being logical I probably would have clued in it wasn't the best idea to sit out in the open. It was one of the precautions the MInistry had recommended. However, I wasn't being massivley logical at the moment and so I continued to lean against the door to my parents house. My limbs were refusing to move anyway.
It was odd, to feel the sun and hear the sound of a car horn. Even birds were singing their doleful tune. It seemed so out of place because I could still smell the blood and hear the cries, but everything here seemed so normal. I thought of how I would have liked this life, the life we were promised when we were eleven.
In the movies, the heavens would pour out rain in their agony. Lightning would flash in the background, and thunder would roll in like waves of an ocean. The scene always seemed so correlated to the actions of the world. But the sun was getting hot and the sky so blue. People actually looked happy as they were wandering down the pavement. It wasn't right and it made me angry.
But, the anger only lasted a moment, it wasn't their fault the sun decided to shine. It wasn't their fault the Death Eaters were lording over the light and the dark. Or that Voldemort didn't discriminate based on night or day.
The door behind me abruptly opened to break me out of my reverie and I fell backwards onto someone’s feet.
“Eleanor?” I looked up and shifted uncomfortably as the door jamb was jabbing into the small of my back. My brother, Edward, was standing above me with a quizzical expression on his face. His hair was still sticking up in the back and I was left speechless with the idea he could have been having a lie in after all that had happened today.
“What are you doing?” he asked. I frowned; I wanted to tell him. To grab onto him and just say that life was crazy and I wished I hadn’t ever got my letter because having a lie in seemed less complicated than what I was facing.
“Sunbathing on the doorstep, obviously,” I replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. I couldn’t tell him though. Not him, nor my parents. They still seemed happy and it's not like I would take that away from them. If they could be obvlivious to the dangers at our doorsteps for a bit longer I would take that.
Edward snickered, but he also leaned down and pulled me off the ground. I held his arms for a moment too long and he got the concerned look in his eyes again. Smiling, I squeezed passed him into the house. Brushing off the dirt on the back of my robes I kicked off my shoes. It was reassuring to see him. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I’d end up here and they’d all be dead.
I know, the very picture of optimism right there.
“Well, you fail. You’re still pretty pasty,” he said. I smacked him in the arm. Only I could make fun of my near transparent skin. I think I was destined for those spidery veins my mum tried to hide.
“Why are you here anyway? Shouldn’t you be at your flat canoodling with your lady friend or something?” I asked. Mum was always so pleased Edward had found someone. Always dropping copius amounts of hints of how I should pick up my game and join in the game. Obviously, I fail quite a lot at that, hence why she tries to set me up every Christmas.
“That eager to see me, aye?” he replied.
“You know how much I miss you when you’re not around,” I said. I pat him on the head as I would a poodle and quickly skirt away from his flailing hands as he tried to push me away. I followed my nose to the delicious aroma of pancakes and sausages that were drifting down the hall. Eating was always a good distraction.
My dad was in the kitchen with an apron around his torso and his hair pulled into a ponytail. A bandana was holding his fringe out of his face. He turned around with a cheeky grin; the specula in his hand dripped oil onto the floor as he did so.
“Smelt the food all the way from your flat I see,” he said. He didn’t seem to notice the oil drips and I didn’t bother mentioning it as the showdown when mum would see the mess would at least be funny.
“The perks of being magical I think, I smell everything." I said and gave him a brief hug.
“Stay away from the public toilets then, yeah?” he replied. He laughed his deep throaty laugh and turned back to the frying pan. I sat down at the big oak table and for a moment just took in the sound of my dad humming some muggle tune and the smell of freshly cut bread.
I started tracing the grain patterns of the oak. It made me remember when I was a kid in this house. I would trace the patterns for hours and ask loads of really annoying questions like were the tree brother and sisters sad when this one had to be cut down for a table. Mum and dad handled it well though, even with Edward dramatically weeping in the background for his lost tree friend. They'd say that as long as you gave wishes to the knots then the tree was plenty happy to be repourposed. They liked wishes, see. It gave them a purpose as they'd pass the wishes on to someone who could actually do something. It sounds silly, I know. But this table alone had hundreds of wishes whispered to it.
Edward came and sat down across from me. I avoided his eyes because I knew how easily he could see right through me. I didn’t want to reveal the thoughts that were still tumbling around inside me. I found myself making another wish as I followed the age lines. A wish for clarity in a dark world where there was none to be had.
I heard my dad talking and Edward answering, but I couldn’t make myself interested in the conversation. They were giving me space I knew. Trying to ease the tension because, to be honest, I had just been sitting for who knows how long outside the door like a lost dog. It was strange behaviour, even for me.
Dad always said that violence of any kind was morally wrong. That nothing should ever be figured out at the end of a fist. He told me that after a fight I had in primary school where I attacked a girl for calling me weird. To be fair, I had once turned her hair purple, accidently of course, and her pencils always seem to disappear when I was around. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, only that this girl was the bane of my existence. But Dad showed that in every aspect of his life. No matter what annoyance was in his way I had never seen him raise a fist or even raise his voice my whole life.
And you want to know what? He was happy.
“Eleanor?” I looked up to see Edward staring at me.
"Pardon, went off in fairyland for a moment there,” I replied. I smiled, though I think it turned out to look more like a grimace the way my eyebrows were still knotted together.
“Dad just asked how many pancakes you’d like,” Edward said.
“Oh, em, two would be great, thanks old man.” I chanced a glance at Edward and he was still looking at me with an anxious look in his eyes. I looked back at the table and pulled at the tips of my hair. I couldn’t bring them into this and I wondered why I had come here at all. This wasn’t protecting them, but I feared it would drag them into the mess.
I wondered if Henry was right, that Crouch would turn things around. If he could this war could be over before we knew it. He’d been put in charge of the Magical Law Enforcement Department halfway through seventh year and he seemed to have the steam of a thousand men. His face always seemed to be in the Daily Prophet where he was doing some press conference or bringing in another man or woman in for questioning. Trying to raise the troops, Sirius would say with snarl. I didn't know why Sirius hated him, but then, sometimes Sirius didn't need a reason to hate. It came so easily for him.
Crouch was the one responsible for all the delightful little pamphlets they were handing out too. Ones about home safety and protecting yourself from the terrorists who threaten our much deserved peace. His words, not mine. The one I especially liked was about keeping your door locked. It might keep out muggle neighbours and five year olds, but a wizard bent on killing you was a different story altogether. It’s not like he’s going to cower and scream ‘look, it’s a locked door, my greatest weakness’. But hey ho, it was better than when the Minister for Magic tried to make every death and abduction as an inconvenience rather than murder. That was a right scandal.
A plate slid in front of me with two pancakes covered with sugar and lemon. I smiled my thanks and rolled the pancakes up tightly, licking my fingers when the lemon juice dripped out of the end of it and onto my hands. There was a momentary silence and I knew they were just watching me. My dad briefly placed his hand on my shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze.
Instead of talking though I took a bite, but it tasted like lead in my mouth. The boy was still in my head and I realized that he’d never get the chance to eat this again. I pushed the plate away, sick of the idea that I could eat as if everything was normal. I didn’t want to think of being that sort of person who could just brush things aside like they didn’t even matter.
Before Edward could ask what was wrong, which I could see was on the tip of his tongue, there was a knock on the door. My body tensed for a moment, but then I sprung up from the table. I had to answer it and no one else. I don’t know why I felt so strongly on that but if it was – my body shivered at the thought that I might have been followed or found.
“I’ll get it,” I said unnecessarily as I headed to the door. My hands shook a little but I reminded myself that a Death Eater wouldn’t just knock on the door. They’d do something a little more dramatic like make a window shatter and then smash through the door like a hurricane.
And, if they dared come here I'd eat them for dinner, so they better beware.
I got to the door and looked out the window on the side. I recognized the jaunty stance and the long black hair even though his back was to the door. I straightened and wondered why he was here, especially after being out of contact for so long. Was he here to tell me how much I sickened him because I ran?
I opened the door knowing I couldn’t put it off because he’d just knock again and then my brother or dad would come. It would just be weird to try and explain. I scooted outside and stood beside him on the porch, overlooking the quiet street. On clear days if you looked a little to the right you could see the port with all its massive ships in the distance.
“Hey,” I said. I briefly looked up at him as he rubbed his hands through his hair. Week old stubble grew across his cheeks.
“Amelia told me where you’d be,” he said after a moment. I immediately felt guilty because I hadn’t even bothered to check to see if she was alright.
“Is she okay?” I asked. He only nodded and so the silence stretched between us. “Great, because I was going through this pile of applications for those wanting to be my new roommate and they’re all duds.” Sirius raised his eyebrow and looked at me. “Tasteless, I know.”
“As always.” He almost sounded amused.
“What happened today, Sirius? Why were they after her?” I ventured to ask. Part of me didn’t want to know at all, but... well, I knew I needed to know. There had to be a reason behind it for me to try and make sense of it.
“We should go somewhere – can I-” he looked toward the brick house.
“Erm- I don’t want them...” I trailed off not knowing what to say, but Sirius nodded his head in understanding.
“They don’t know.” He said it as a statement and not a question. “What about your mum?”
“I honestly don’t know how much she knows about it; I can’t remember her ever getting the Daily Prophet or Owls from old friends during holidays. She’s cut herself off quite a bit from the world,” I said. It surprised me though when I thought about how much I didn’t know my mum.
We talked a lot and I’d tell them all about my life at Hogwarts. Mostly the funny stories though, leaving out the bits where I might have gotten hexed for having a squib brother or told my blood was dirty. It never seemed important enough to darken their doorstep with. Plus, I never wanted to admit to Edward that a world supposedly so wonderful could be so dark. Nonetheless, I never ventured to ask Mum how much she was involved with her old friends or anything. She’d sometimes tell me stories but they always seemed to be in the distant past.
“Could we walk?” I asked. I looked up to the sky and around us, unsure if it was even safe to be gallivanting about. It probably wasn’t clever, but if someone wanted to kill you, doors and walls would only do so much. Anyone could be found eventually.
Sirius seemed to consider for a moment before he shrugged and stood up. I expected him too; he wasn’t someone to worry too much of the consequences.
“Great, let me just change into some muggle clothes,” I said and dashed inside before he could answer. I quickly threw on trousers and a shirt and went to the kitchen where Edward and my dad were. I halfway hoped they’d forbid me from going and it would save me from this conversation. Save me from explaining myself and from learning the truth about the attack today. I wanted to know of course, but the idea sickened me that people could do this.
“I’m going out for a bit, thanks for the food though,” I said. He had a soft smile on his lips and nodded his head. The two pancakes were still rolled up on the plate with a lone bite taken from one of them.
“Of course, I always knew there’d be a time when you’d ditch your old man for someone else. Just thought it might be a couple years yet, I’m truly gutted,” he said. Edward chuckled at pulled my uneaten pancakes towards him. “Wait until your mother hears she’ll have a field day.”
“Punk, you will not say a thing to Mum! She’ll send out wedding invitations by tomorrow,” I said, scrunching up my face in annoyance. My dad laughed and waved me off. I rolled my eyes at him as I left. His laughter followed me as I went down the short hall and outside to where Sirius was waiting. I hoped he hadn’t heard that.
“Right,” he said. I chanced another glance at him as we walked to the street. His eyes were focussed and ready, scanning everything as we walked by it, however his arms were swinging nonchalantly by his side as if this was just a casual walk.
“How did you know about the attack?” I asked. He steered me right and we walked down the cobblestone street for a moment in silence. We passed an older couple and a few black taxi’s flew passed us and still he didn’t say anything. “Sirius...?”
“It’s the Order. One of the things we do is watch people who we think are being targeted,” Sirius said quietly.
“Why would Madam Mildred get targeted? She owns a tea shop!” I replied. It didn’t make any sense and I couldn’t imagine the friendly shop owner being targeted by the Death Eaters at all. She couldn’t offer them anything. Unless they had some weird fascination with tea leaves and wanted to see their future.
Where is he? The shouts from the Death Eater rang in my ear. I closed my eyes briefly and I felt my body sway at the impact of the memory. Her face, the smear of blood as her tears fell down her cheeks. I felt Sirius grasp my arm to steady me and I shook my head, telling myself to pull it together.
“They wanted her husband,” I said in sudden understanding of why they’d been shouting at her for his location. The husband must have been the elusive 'he'. I tried imagining the man, but had only seen him on a few occasions. He had dark hair, shifty looking eyes, and sickly skin that looked like it had never seen the light of day. Nothing that made him extraordinary though. I didn’t even know where he worked.
“Yes, he was a magical artefact dealer for the Ministry. Did mostly fieldwork,” Sirius said. His clipped answer though made me feel like he wasn’t telling me everything.
“Why... why would they want a magical artefact dealer?” I pressed. Sirius nodded casually to a man walking his dog and was quiet until were were completley alone again.
As I waited for him to speak I gazed at the towering houses on this street. The dark red and white brick support beams gleamed in the early afternoon light. Tall black lampposts lined the pavement and post boxes were at the corners, though they were covered with graffiti. Since the economic turn that Liverpool was experiencing the more graffiti and deserted homes seemed to appear. Not as much of it here where we lived, but the air of peace this city used to have was drifting away as people we passed all had a desperate air about them.
“He may have found a few things Voldemort wants,” Sirius replied. At the end of the street I turned on Greenbank Road. We continued our walk on a footpath that would lead us to Sefton Park. Shrubs grew up beside the footpath and a strong scent of dust and budding flowers assaulted my nose. “Things that may help us get support from some magical creatures that might usually align themselves up with Voldemort's kind. Though now that they have Mildred I don’t know what’s going to happen. We knew that someone from inside the Ministry had tipped Voldemort off about this so we were watching but-”
“Didn’t work well though, did it?” I said. I knew it was harsh, but I couldn’t help thinking of how he said we’d be protected if I'd joined. It was all just a false sense of security because no one could possible protect another person. Not completely protect them at any rate. And sometimes being in the thick of it targets those who are innocent. LIke my brother or my parents.
It was like we were all jumping down an empty elevator shaft into the darkness and each of us just hoped to God that someone knew how to grow us wings so we could fly out.
“No it didn’t,” he snapped, his eyes hot before he turned his glare away from me. We wandered into the massive park and walked along the lake till we found a park bench to sit on. I pulled my knees up to my chest and stared out at the pond only vaguely taking in my surroundings. The trees that were along the water’s edge reflected off the surface making one wonder where the water ended and the grass began.
I couldn’t believe all of this happened because of some old relics. I knew they probably had some importance in the grand scheme of things, but it was just disgusting to think that a person’s life was traded in for that.
“Are you alright?” He asked, breaking our silence. It had never been so quiet between us before. When I looked into his face and saw the dark shadows underneath his eyes and the lines on his forehead more pronounced, I understood the demons were haunting him too. The uphill struggle where there didn’t seem to be a foothold or a way to beat them. It will come, I knew it would. But when you were in the midst of it like he’s put himself, seeing anything, but the ravaging beasts that were biting at your feet was almost impossible, especially for him. Sirius would only see those beasts, would fight harder against them, but in the end they’d consume him.
“Yah- fine,” I finally said. Ignoring the part of me that wanted to scream and say of course I wasn’t alright. I just saw a child murdered for heaven’s sake and a mother tortured. I couldn’t help but imagine then that it was my mum who was laying there instead. Or if it was Edward who’d been killed. It could have been. Their lives were on the line, everyone’s was.
I had always seen the aftereffects of war. Patients who had death clawing at them like animals because of a curse. It was easier to disassociate yourself from that though. To just focus on making things better rather than to imagine the event that got them there. That was our job. Seeing it happen in front of your eyes was different. When you hear the harrowing scream of a mother losing a child, her way of life- I dont know, it was haunting and it ripped through my soul leaving jagged marks in its wake.
I wouldn’t say that, though. It made it real then and I’m sure he had other things to worry about than a hysterical female. More demons to fight, more death to chase. I wouldn't to burden him.
He must have heard the quiver in my voice though and I cursed him for still being able to read me so well. He'd known me long enough to read my moods and when they changed. I knd of wish my face was brick and voice stone. Then no one could actulaly see what was there beneath and I could just get on with it. You can't hurt brick, if you try, usually you just get bruised. Edward tried doing karate once but quit when he had to break through that ston slab. His hands would always come back black and blue.
He reached up and turned my head so I was facing him. His hands were cupping either side and it was only then when he brushed his thumb gently across my cheek that I realized I had been crying.
“Contrary to my eyes betraying me I’m- I’m really fine,” I said. Trying to be firm, trying to be stone. This kind of thing happened and I had to get over it. Get over the fact I had just stood there and done nothing.
“Of course you are,” he replied. I nodded smartly and turned to face the pond again. His hands fell to his side and he leaned forward so his arms were resting against his knees. “Look, I have to tell you something – and you’re not going to like it. Just promise me one thing.”
“Don’t freak out.”
“What are you on about?” I said. I brushed the back of my hands against my cheeks to make sure that my eyes weren’t playing dirty little tricks on me again. He grabbed one of my hands and held it loosely in his while rubbing circles with this thumb on the back of it. But only for a moment before he released it again as if only just realizing what he was doing.
“They think-” he paused. His eyebrows knotted together and his lips formed a hard line. “That is, the Ministry...”
“Stop dithering and just spit it out,” I said after he paused yet again.
“They suspect you,” he finally spat out in an angry hiss.
And again I felt like my world was spinning out.
Thank you for reading! Massive thanks to Jami (again!) because she's increidbly helpful with her mad beta skills.
The world, canon characters and events all belong to JKR.
“What?” I said. I felt dazed, but mostly just confused by his statement. What did they suspect me of? Of having a rabid biscuit fetish? The biscuit lord may have something to say about that, but not the Ministry, unless they have a biscuit department that I don’t know about. Maybe it’s in the Department of Mysteries. That would make sense, because if I could get a job where all I did was eat biscuits, I’d want it to remain a secret.
“They-” he paused. His face darkened and sparks seemed to fly from his eyes. “They think you’re in league with the Death Eaters.”
I stared at him my mouth hanging open like I wanted to catch grindylows with it. Obviously I don’t because that would be painful. Though the idea of that is about as ridiculous as me being in leagues with evil wizard number one. Honestly.
“What are you on about?” I said, still not able to comprehend his words. Though a chill was settling in my bones. “Why?”
“Why do you think?”
“Because the Ministry is full of bunch of blockheads who have cheese for brains? Blocked chees, that is,” I replied.
“Exactly,” Sirius said, smirking. “Though I see where they’re coming from, you know? Your excellent apparition skills and love for cats definitely marks you as a possible potential.” I glared at him as the grin stretched further across his face.
“I bet it was my excellent summoning charm really convinced them,” I said.
“Definitely what Voldemort is looking for, I’d say.”
“Obviously. He needs such people on his foul team of delinquents. It adds balance, doesn’t it?” I said. I laughed hollowly. They were taking the piss; they had to be.
“Knew I couldn’t trust you,” Sirius continued. His eyes were glinting dangerously. But I ended up just blinking at him dumbly for a moment.
“You can’t trust anyone it seems,” I said. Though I felt like the humour had worn off and what he had said was settling deep into my soul. “Why though?”
“You said it, the Ministry is full of people with cheese for brains, though I wouldn’t even give them that much,” Sirius said. He looked back out to the lake in front of us and watched a goose glide across the glass like water.
“They saw you,” he said after a moment of silence had passed. I kicked at a rock at my feet which was half imbedded in the grass. It rolled a few feet down the slight slope and stopped just before the water’s edge.
“Saw me?” I echoed.
“Yeah, with the kid. They saw you with the kid,” he said.
“I- I was trying to help him! Didn’t they see that or are they bloody blind as well.”
“No one really knows what happened. All they saw in the chaos was some woman bending over the kid shooting spells at him.” I looked at him ludicrously and for once I couldn’t read the expression that crossed his face. It was pinched and thoughtful at the same time. Was he thinking what they were?
“Are they bloody mad? He was...” dead. I stopped before I said it though. I still couldn’t admit it.
“Why would you try to heal someone who was already dead?” Sirius asked.
“Are you kidding me Black? Yes, because I always wanted that on my CV as a healer; killer of children by day, Death Eater by night.” I pushed him away and stood up ready to walk away from the bugger.
He leaped up after me and grabbed me by the arms and turned me so I was facing him. He refused to let me go when I tried to push him away again.
“Calm down, woman,” he said. I refused to look at him but continued to struggle out of his iron grasp. I wish that somehow my skin would become like molten lava and burn his grubby hands off.
“What are you doing here then? To cart me off to the Ministry like a sack of potatoes where I’ll never be seen again?” I spat at him. He was silent and then he started laughing. He tipped my chin up and forced me to look in his eyes.
“I don’t believe them you emotional twat,” he said, his eyes were burning into mine. “These are questions they’re going to ask you. You have to be prepared for that.”
“You don’t think I can handle it?”
“I think you’ll say something stupid in a rage that will get you imprisoned. Like you just did,” Sirius said. I frowned, but I stopped struggling, letting my arms hang limply by my side. He was probably right. I’d make some dumb, sarcastic quip and they’d take it seriously and off to Azkaban I’d go. Such a great field trip.
“It’s serious, Eleanor. They don’t mess about.”
“I know, but it’s ridiculous,” I said. I was adamant about that. There was no way they could twist me to being involved. The Death Eater clearly killed that kid.
“Why did you run?” Sirius asked. He sat back down on the bench. He leaned against the back and sprawled his long legs out in front of him. There was an easy answer to that really, but not one I wanted to admit out loud.
“Technically, I apparated away,” I replied. I shoved my hands in my pockets and looked past him into the rest of the park. There was a family out having picnic and a couple was trying to fly a kite in the slight breeze. They were not having much luck, and I imagined that if they ever got it up it would just get stuck in trees that were surrounding us.
“And you didn’t splinch yourself.”
“I’m as impressed as I know you are.”
“I bow to your prowess.”
“You should, most people do.”
We were smirking at each other and it seemed like the tension melted away. I sat back down beside him and we were quiet for a time. He stretched his arms behind him so that they were folded behind his head and he stared out amiably into the pond.
“I’m in a bit of trouble, aren’t I?” I asked finally. I breathed in deeply and tried not to let the panic overtake me again. I told myself firmly that he was here to help. He was Sirius, I could always trust him. My body involuntarily shuddered and I felt him shift beside me. His thigh was pressed up against mine and our arms smashed together. I didn’t move away though. It helped me feel like I was grounded.
“Not if we can help it. You just- you just need to answer their questions. Give them what they want, but don’t give them a reason to arrest you.”
“I wasn’t planning on giving them a reason to arrest me. Shocking, but I don’t really fancy ending up in Azkaban.”
“I know. I know- but they don’t, and all they want to show the world is that they are making a bloody dent in his ranks. Being innocent almost means nothing to them when compared to that.”
“Twats,” I replied. He smirked and squeezed my hand.
“It’s nice to know we have a government who has our back, isn’t it?” he said darkly. I rolled my eyes at him and leaned my head against his shoulder. I was tired of thinking about the repercussions of this and not even quite sure if I understood fully what I was up against or why they even suspected me.
It seemed ludicrous, but stranger things had happened. I'd even heard whispers that the Ministry himself wasn't so against the idea of blood purity. Though, that was probably pure speculation and perhaps annoyance over how inactive the Ministry was a few years ago when the threat became quite real. Blame had to be put somewhere.
Wrapping his arm tightly around me, we were quiet again. His body was still tense and tight. It was like he couldn’t relax for a moment, but I understood it. My body was just as stiff and cold. And somewhere in the back of my mind I kept wondering why he was here now when he spent weeks not talking to me. I didn’t know much of the Order, but perhaps it was just another extension of the Ministry Dumbledore was involved with and perhaps- perhaps he was simply here to get me to come in easily.
“You’re doubting again,” he said quietly. His thumb was slowly rubbing circles on my arm and a shrugged him off. “Don’t do that, I’m not Cla-”
“Eleanor,” he replied with an annoying quip to his voice that made me want to push him off the bench. He turned my face so that I was looking straight at him. His fingers stayed pressed against my cheek.
“How do you even know?” I said grumpily, frustrated that he could read me like a bloody open book.
“You get that freaky lizard look on your face when you do,” he replied.
“I don’t look like a lizard.”
“Sometimes you do,” he replied, still studying me intently. Gods, I hated him sometime. “It isn’t all that becoming.”
“Well good because I don’t want to attract anyone, anyhow,” I hissed at him. He laughed and I noticed that the tension in his body seemed to have lessened. His head was leaning back as he laughed, and his shoulders seemed to be resting more easily on the bench as if he wasn’t expecting it to be an electric chair anymore.
I found myself relaxing slightly as well and I told myself again that it was Sirius. It was Sirius. My best mate, someone who’d more or less showed me I could trust him. Despite his troublemaking, or his innate need to irritate and to push everyone’s boundaries to the max. He would never admit he was wrong, but the fact that he was here had to mean something.
“I have to go in, don’t I?” I finally said after he stopped laughing. He nodded his head. I wished he hadn’t and instead told me of a plot to whisk me away and I could hide away in the Himalayan Mountains for the rest of my days. “What do I have to be prepared for?”
There was no use avoiding the subject any longer. There was only so long that jokes and japes could last before the reality of the situation sunk in. I was being tried by the Ministry, perhaps even the Wizengamot for treason. That sounded weird to me.
“Depends who’s doing the questioning. At worse you can expect them to twist your words and even have you convinced of your own guilt. They won’t have much mercy, especially if they’re more concerned of putting someone behind bars than seeing what’s right in front of them.”
“Sounds delightful,” I said. I watched a bird fly from somewhere in the branches and shoot out above us and into the sky. To freedom. I wished that I had that, where I didn’t have to worry about what to say or who to trust but only had the sky as a limit.
“You’ll love it,” he replied ruefully, “just, Eleanor, you have to be honest. No matter what they ask you. No deflecting.”
I frowned at him. Obviously. I wasn’t an idiot. But I didn’t say that because I noticed my hands were shaking as I realized what it could have looked like this morning. If I cleared my mind enough I could see that I’d been the only one still standing dumbly around, even Amelia had ducked under a bench at some point. Could they construe my non-action into something deeper?
I must have lost my mind.
“Shall we go do this, then?” I said. I stood up and shrugged. There was no point putting it off anymore. The inevitable will come whether I want it to or not. Plus it would look better if I just marched right into the Ministry myself. Though I’ve always thought it would be a great story to tell if I'd had to be dragged in, kicking and screaming. I might even make front page.
He nodded and with a quirk of his eyebrow he stood up.
“Eleanor, why did you run?” he asked again. He took a step closer and I knew I couldn’t avoid the question this time. I looked down at my shoes. “You’ll need to be prepared for that question.”
“I was-” I stopped talking and swallowed deeply. His hand rested on my forearm and I glanced up at him. “You’re going to hate me.” He shook his head no and then just waited some more.
The seconds stretched on for an eternity. “Scared. I was fucking afraid and so bloody ashamed that – that I couldn’t save him.” I whispered. My voice cracked, but I preferred to pretend like I’d simply swallowed a fly so I started coughing afterwards.
“I wasn’t thinking, all I could see was this boy’s face and that I didn’t even try to help him. What kind of Healer does that?” I said after another pause. I shook my head and cleared my throat again.
Instead of looking at me with disgust like I thought he would -- he was never good with accepting other’s weaknesses -- he pulled me against him. His arms wrapped around me, and I felt his heartbeat against my cheek. I didn’t hug him back, just stood there for a moment wondering if this was his way of saying it was okay I wasn’t as brave as him. I didn’t know but he soon let me go with a funny look on his face. I shrugged my shoulders and sighed, not sure what to think myself.
We walked back to my house. We figured it would be safer to apparate inside there than to try and find some back alley where some muggle might be watching. I hugged my parents, punched Edward on the shoulder and I grabbed onto Sirius’ arm for side along apparition. I did not trust myself to get back to London in on piece. My mind was everywhere and I’m sure I’d end up with a leg in Scotland.
“Oh,” Sirius said when we were walking down the maze of London streets. “Best not say that Amelia told me where you were. She lied to them and told them she had no idea where you’d gone earlier.”
“She lied?” I replied, with aghast. Amelia never lied intentionally. Unheard of even in the most extreme situations. I wondered how she was and if her conscious was letting her live. Sirius smirked, but didn’t reply as we weaved through the crowds and down another alley. I had been to the guest entrances a couple times before and when we reached it Sirius stopped before going in.
“You have to go alone, make it seem like you came here on your own accord,” Sirius said. I saw the muscle in his neck twitch and I knew it was the opposite thing that he wanted to do but there was no other way around it.
“Of course I’m going alone. I couldn’t have you cramping my style, could I?” I replied. He laughed and pushed me into the phone box.
“How long are they going to keep me?” I asked wildly, feeling the separation keenly now that I knew that I’d have to face them alone.
“I don’t know. They can’t keep you longer than 24 hours without something more than circumstantial evidence.”
I raised the phone to my ear and dialled the correct number into the buttons. A brief conversation followed, then soon after I was given a gold badge. I stared at the badge and glanced over to Sirius who was still standing out in the alleyway. I felt a pang of fear jerk forcefully through my body as I realized what I could be facing. I didn’t feel prepared. I raised my hand and touched the glass. He raised his too and suddenly I was falling through the ground.
People were milling about everywhere and I saw a few law enforcement officials standing at my grate, apparently, waiting for me.
“Eleanor Hughes?” One of them asked gruffly. His dark eyes appraised me with a hard look.
“I hear you want me for questioning,” I said, smiling slightly at him. He didn’t break his cool demur and he grabbed my arm roughly and led me through the entrance. I had to jog to keep up with him. Other witches and wizards employed at the Ministry were looking at me sideways, trying to assess the danger I may pose. I thought about how funny it would be to growl at them; however I promised to be on my best behaviour.
I found that I couldn’t focus on anything and the majesty of the atrium was lost to me. It was only when we marched passed the welcome witch I realized I didn’t remember passing the massive fountain. I didn’t look back as I feared if I did I’d trip over myself. It probably didn’t even matter, but somehow I was put out by this. Like by not acknowledging its presence I was bringing bad luck to myself.
We had made it to the lifts when the one we were waiting for opened to reveal a tall man with slicked back brown hair and thick black glasses on his round face.
“We’ll take her from here, Brown,” the man said.
“We have orders to bring her to courtroom ten,” the man who was holding me said gruffly. He tried to shove passed. The man stood his ground though and shoved a letter Brown’s hands.
“That won’t be necessary, we can deal with her now,” the man pressed. He looked momentarily at me and winked. The man holding me scowled and I ripped my arm out of his hand with an angry huff and flounced into the lift. “Thank you for your cooperation.
The lift doors shut after a couple memos had zoomed in, leaving the three men who had escorted me with sour looks on their faces. I tried to withhold a smile to see them; they properly looked like a child who just had their sweets taken from them.
“Just like them to try and put up a fuss. They like to pretend that their jobs as security guards somehow give them some sort of power. I suppose I shouldn’t fault them for trying to do their job, but Brown is always nipping around trying to show off.”
“Thank you,” I said quietly.
“Wouldn’t be thanking me just yet, ma’am. You still have a long way to go from here,” he replied. His brows creased though and even though his tone was ominous and full of warning I felt better with him next to me. He seemed kind at least.
“So, are we going to courtroom ten?” I asked. A sense of fear ran through me when I heard that. It just seemed so official to be tried in a courtroom for something that I didn’t really think they had evidence for. But raising any sort of fuss would make them think I was guilty.
“No, you’ll be taken up for questioning in the Auror department for now,” he said. I didn’t miss it though. For now. That could mean anything and I had a flash of being dragged from some shifty interrogation room to a courtroom full of wizards and witches staring down at me with beady eyes and a guilty verdict before they even held the trial.
We were quiet the rest of the way up. The lift opened a couple times to let a memo zoom out, but other than that no one else joined us on the journey to one of the higher floors. I tried to calm my beating heart. Even though this was better than being stuck in a stuffy courtroom, there was still that element of unknown to worry about. Maybe they just wanted this to be a quiet case so they could ship me off to Azkaban without much fuss. But that was just me being cynical.
Or not even that, but perhaps they hired some wizard hit man and I’ll just be taken care of quietly, you know? No extra prison fees or anything... just left to rot at the bottom of the Thames. Easy. I wished Sirius was here. It didn’t seem so scary when I was talking to him.
The corridor we were walking down after the lift opened was long and plenty of offices seemed to branch off from it like a maze. I couldn’t really focus on it though and really, the only thing I saw and felt was that the walls were closing in on me.
“You’re lucky to have such good friends,” he said. We turned down a corridor and he opened a door for me. It led into a staircase going down and the only thing that lit the way were torches that were periodically lined the walls.
“What do you mean?” He didn’t reply though and motioned for me to continue my way down the stairs. My heart was thumping in my ears as the air got colder around me. I tried to ignore it but a shiver ran through me that I had to wrap my arms around my body.
Soon the stairwell levelled off and we walked down a narrow corridor. The torches cast ghostly shadows upon the wall. I couldn’t figure out where we were and wondered why the Ministry would even have a place like this. It seemed like an extension of the underworld or something. I half expected – okay, fine, fully expected- a vampire to jump out at us from beyond the shadows and that would be it.
However, my thoughts were proven wrong yet again when he opened a door I hadn’t even noticed. It seemed to have appeared out of thin air. I highly suspected it would only appear with the right person in front of it. I followed him inside. It was a small round room with a wooden table and chair in the middle. A glass of water was on the table and the room was lit with the same deep blue haze that the atrium, as if there were a million fireflies flying above us. Except they’d be blue fireflies.
“Please sit ma’am, the others will be along shortly,” the man who still hadn’t named himself said and interrupted my stimulating train of thought.
“What am I doing here?” I asked. I didn’t sit, I wanted answers instead.
“We’re just going to ask you a few questions,” he replied noncommittally. I narrowed my eyes and wondered if his nice guy act was all a ploy. I wouldn’t doubt it. No one would find me in this dark coffin like room.
“Where are we? This is still the Ministry, right?”
“Yes, we use these rooms for questioning,” he replied.
“You guys usually lead witches down long, darkened corridors for questioning? That’s a bit shifty to be honest. What’s wrong with a nice bright room with some armchairs or something?” I said. He cracked a smile and leaned against the wall casually.
“What can I say; Auror’s have a flair for the dramatics.” I smiled at that and decided that I liked him quite a lot.
“I didn’t do whatever they say I did,” I said. Mostly because I felt better with just one person who had least shown some degree of humanity to me. Maybe I could get this one man on my side and then the others, whoever they were, would be easier to convince of my innocence. The Ministry couldn’t be as bad as Sirius always griped about. No one could be that corrupt. There was good, because I knew most of Amelia’s family worked here. Now that I thought about it, Edgar, her brother, was an Auror. Maybe he would be on my case. I’d met him a few times and he was alright.
He didn’t reply. He had a slow, sort of crooked smile on his face, but that as all. It was unnerving. Especially since I expected yelling, questions, and acquisitions and as of yet, I hadn’t experienced any of that. Except Brown’s brusqueness and that’s hardly counting.
I decided to eventually sit in the chair because my legs were tired and it seemed useless to stand if we’d have to wait a while. Which I feared they would make me do. The man was eventually called out by someone who’d popped their head in, but I couldn’t see their face and they both left. I was left in the eerie room by myself, and the door had vanished as soon as he disappeared from the room.
I don’t know how long I waited in there for, but it felt like the time stretched on and on. I wondered what on earth could hold them up for so long. Maybe they would trying to starve me into a confession which is definitely a possibility as I hadn’t really eaten anything since breakfast. I was apt to say anything if they promised me something to eat, honest.
Or maybe they forgot which room I was in or the door moved. You know? Magical things aren’t always the most reliable and they are cranky. Hogwarts was like that all the time. You could never trust the rooms, sometimes the Transfiguration room just up and moved floors because it wanted to.
I bit my lower lip and stared at the glass of water for a moment. I was probably thirsty enough to take a drink, but something stopped me. I think it just that I didn’t want to accept anything from them and be indebted to them in any way. Perhaps this was a bad idea and I should have stayed with Brown. At least he looked official and not in plain clothes as this other man.
What would this look like at St Mungo’s? I thought belatedly as I stared at the age lines on the table. Maybe they had no idea. I could just get passed this and I’d be on time for my shift Monday morning. None would be the wiser. It wouldn’t be a big deal and if I was acquitted then there would be nothing to worry about. Other than the fact that they’d always be wondering if it had been true and I’d somehow managed to talk myself out of it.
I could be forever branded.
I cursed myself for fleeing. It was what I was good at, but this time it wasn’t serving me well. I also wished I hadn’t frozen and hadn’t launched myself like a madwoman at the boy. But what was I to do? How was I supposed to know?
Before my thoughts could continue spiralling out of control the door appeared again and I heard the quiet murmur of people outside the room. I held my breath and grasped the table so tightly my knuckles turned white. The door opened revealing the smiling man, and following him were two other men and a woman. The man still had this unnerving casual look on his face, but the rest of them were grim faced and looked at me as if I was an insect they’d most like to squish.
The room felt hotter now, as if I was burning up and I gulped some air into my heaving lungs. I waited as they filed in, bringing in the extra chairs with them. I looked at each of them in the face, trying to see past their hardness and to the human beneath.
“Just so you know magic doesn’t work in this room, so don’t get any ideas.”
And with that, it began.
Note: Hi all! I've finally got another chapter up! I hope you enjoy this and thank you so much for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.
I was alone.
They had all left some time ago, though, i'm not entirely sure how long ago. Things seemed to swirl together in my brain that I found it hard to focus. I was a bit angry they left. I wanted this to be over and I was wondering how long they could prolong before the obvious dawned on them. It made me want to scream, but it was really echoey in here and it would probably make me ears ring if I did so.
I did not like this room without a door either. Now, I'd have rather the courtroom rather then this room with my executioners with empty stares. They did not trust me. Not really. They tried to be all nice, but then go and ask questions like what would I think if I saw someone shooting spells at a child? How can you answer that? They take the situation out of context and it's as if they have a checklist of dumb questions to get through. I answer just as dumbly because I feel like that is what the questions deserve.
I remembered tmy response to that question.
"I wouldn't think anything, I would need more information to why it's occuring." I said. She sighed and tapped the quill against the desk in frustration.
I gave equally vague asnwers to most of their questions. I know Sirius wanted me to be more direct, but their questions were ridiculous. They had a end result in mind and that was having headlines that proved the Ministry was an active threat against Voldemort catching some of their most loyal servants. Which is me me, obviously. I keep Voldemort stocked up on biscuits, didn't you know?
At first, I thought the smiling man, with his easy grin and winks would have been helpful, but he didn’t say much. He usually leaned against the back of his chair with his long legs stretched out before him as if he was sunning himself in the Bahamas.
God. It seemed pointless right now. I hated these walls. How I only had my head and the way it was swirling around without a clear thought of anything. I don’t even know what I was thinking. Or if I believed any of it. Or if I had thought about it before. I hated it. This silence in here except for the scuffing of my chair against the floor. A chair I moved simply to remind myself I wasn’t going deaf. I mean, obviously, I wasn’t. It’s not like someone could go deaf by sitting.
Don’t be ridiculous, I told myself. This place wouldn’t break me. Instead, I thought of Sirius and his promise to me that they couldn’t keep me longer than twenty four hours without evidence, proper evidence that is. That was their law. They only had this maddening room that, honestly, could make someone say anything to get away from the blue hue that broke up the darkness.
Finally though, after my thoughts tumbled around and got tied up in more knots, the door appeared. In the blue fog I watched the doorknob turn in steady precision. The sound screeched into my ears like a melody. Noise. Life. I had never been happier to be reminded of it. But I felt hostility to the man who came in. So much that I felt it bubbling inside like lava. I imagined a house falling on his head. I almost laughed at the though. Where's that tornado when you need it?
“Miss Hughes,” the drawl of the man I’d come to know as Stone said as he entered the room. The other, the smiling man I had yet to learn the name of, came in after him. They were the only ones this time. He glanced at the cup of water briefly and then back at me. “Sorry to keep you waiting.” I glared at him. He did not look sorry at all and I reckon he'd been in his office being positively gleeful about it, thinking he was going to reel one in today. Another tick on his proverbial bed post. I nearly snorted to myself thinking how Sirius would’ve loved the joke.
“It’s quite alright,” I replied with a mad glint in my eye. “I was growing rather fond of this chair.” I quirked an eyebrow at him. I had not warmed up to this man with his salt and pepper hair and his bushy mustache. In any other life I’d have reckoned him a Death Eater. But he was an investigator of a sort. So he said. But I didn’t even know if I trusted that.
He was just some bureaucratic mess. It made me think of the Ministry though. I think there is part of everyone that thinks the Ministry really is there to help and that you'll get fair treatment. They were elected because we thought we trusted them and who they'd hire to represent them. But perhaps there were so many hoops they had to jump through to get anything done and a ridiculous hidden agenda that they were basically useless. I didn't like this train of thought as I could see why Sirius was part of the Order rather than being part of the Ministry. Maybe they got things done and looked at people who were actually threats.
I stared at him and I imagined what I must look like. Unstable, unfit, were some adjectives I could conjure up. Probably with dark half moons underneath my eyes, and hair that hung limply around my pale face like a willow tree in fall. The brown haired man sat in one of the chairs opposite. His round face was calm and controlled. Dark eyes followed me, and I wondered again who he was.
“We have one request of you and if you can help us, you’re free,” Stone said. His eyes held power in them. They gleamed bright, coming alive like a fire. But I told myself I was imagining things. I glanced at the other guy who was, for once, frowning. I tried to think what had happened outside of my little prison here. What was going on in the world and if my picture was in the Daily Prophet. I hoped to god not. As much as I thought it would be hilarious to see it, in my more logical part of my brain I knew it would wreck me.
“If you could name someone that would definitely show us your allegiance,” the man said after a lengthy pause. I stared at him.
“Name someone?” I whispered, almost to myself. I knew what it would insinuate. I knew what it would mean. I would not. “I told you. I know nothing. I am no part of Voldemort as much as you want me to be.” This was getting old and I felt like a broken wireless radio.
“I wish for nothing more than that, but these are dangerous times. That kid died in the raid and you were the last with him.”
“He was dead before I got to him! I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that, but he was dead. I freaked out and I ran to him for no other reason than I’m just some hysterical female who cannot control herself!” I said my temper breaking. It was bound to happen like the coming storm. I had promised calm, logical, but the idea that I’d hand someone else into their hands was too much. I stared straight in his face. I would not name someone; even those I thought were part of it because naming would insinuate my guilt. I would never be free.
“I just need you to name someone you suspect. It’s a simple thing and no need to be worked up over,” he said.
“I don’t know! I’m just an intern at the hospital. Or was.” I added as an afterthought. After this? Who knows. “I’m not trying to be uncooperative, but I have no idea.”
“I will have a name!” The guy yelled, spittle fell onto my cheeks. Gross. He could have dragon pox and now I could be infected. Disgusting old man.
“Because yelling is damn helpful! It has somehow jogged my memory!” I yelped right back, heat rising to my cheeks. “Except not really, if you didn’t catch the sarcasm.” I deliberately wiped away the spittle on my face. I stared into the man’s eyes with defiance. The audacity of some people.
“What are you doing?” The smiler said. Though he was looking at Stone, I felt like was talking to me. Sirius swam in my mind and all his stupid warnings that I wanted to shove in his aristocratic face. It was easy for him to say play it nice and don’t fly off the handle. I wanted to kick him and his damn advice. He’d have been yelling too.
“I don’t know anyone, period. I don’t know what more you want from me.” I continued in a calmer voice though I could still hear the slicing edge to it.
“Miss Hughes, it would be in your best interest to stay calm in this situation,” smiler said, looking directly at me. I frowned at him. He’s been here this whole time; calm didn’t work out seeing as I was still here.
“I am calm! I’m just frustrated that you guys are in here wasting your time with someone like me. The real perpetrators are out there, and you guys are here, fluffing about with me!! You can’t keep me here without any evidence, which you have none, so I’d say it’s in your best interest to let me go.” Fuck being calm. Fuck playing it nice because it wasn’t working.
“Do you really think we have nothing?” Stone said.
“I know you have nothing,” I said in outrage. Unless they lied, which I wouldn’t put passed them. I’d had a weird amount of hope for smiler, but he was a passive door jam. I would not be baited. But perhaps I’d already taken the bait. I didn’t know, but I had to get out of here. I couldn’t stand this blue haze. This dream I was in, it was killing me. I tried to focus my mind. To remember my purpose and remember what I found. It was the only way out.
I suppose I always believed they’d look at me and realize their mistake. They’d apologize and say that it was dangerous times we lived in and couldn’t be too careful. I expected that woman to smile and crack that jagged glass like persona, admit they were paranoid, but that I was okay. I wanted that reassurance. I don’t know why. It must have been that weird, superficial trust in the Ministry. They were supposed to be good and seek out justice.
Obviously not. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do believe in government. But this was rubbish. This is where some subconscious trust in some flimsy organization leads us. I was coming to realize that part of me always believed that those rumours about them were merely from the cynics. Or that it only showed part of what the Ministry was. A part of something was never a whole. So I gave them the benefit. Sure they had their crackpots. The eccentrics. The ones who gave those blasted pamphlets out as if it was going to save our pathetic little souls.
No one could be saved.
That much was clear. They almost seemed like they didn’t want that, but would rather watch the flood waters as they rose and let their pocket books get fatter. They did not care about innocence; they just wanted to prove to everyone that they were doing something. Maybe they didn’t even care if you believed in the right things. Hell, belief almost had nothing to do with it anymore. I hated to admit that. I hated it.
I glared at them both. Good wizard, bad wizard. That’s what this was. There was no other explanation. They weren’t on my side. They weren’t anything to me. Just a waste of space.
“What day is it anyway? If my twenty-four hours is up than I want out of here, right now.”
“You’re not really in the position to be demanding things,” smiler said, with that annoying smile on his face. I imagined punching him to wipe it off his face. There was no secret joke he was in on. He must be some sort of observer. To watch my reactions to declare my guilt or innocence. I’ve heard of them, they worked in the Department of Mysteries. They were experts on the mind and persons. He was probably just posing as some auror for these purposes. God, you can’t trust anyone.
Stone laughed and pulled his chair closer to mine. I jumped at the sudden movement from him. His face was fierce and ugly. Deranged, though, I’m sure that was just my perception of it. The scowl only heightened his box like face, and the large pores that spread across his large nose. I’d have to write him a delightful howler after this telling him how his face reminded me of a boulder.
“Of course I have the right. I am a citizen wrongfully accused of murder and treason! I have every right to demand things; we live in a free country with democracy! I see you have forgotten that. If you keep me here longer than the lawful time without proving that I’m what you say I am, which I’m not, then I can hire an independent lawyer and fry your arses. Don’t think I won’t because it’s my greatest wish right now."
The air was filled with tension as we all stared at each other with varying degrees of hostility. It was so charged that I was slightly shocked the magic that was coursing through our blood didn’t cause the table to blow up into shards. Then I remembered that magic didn't work in this room.
“Tell me, Miss Hughes, what would you think if you saw what we did? If you were in our position, could we truly let you go if there was that possibility you were a spy? Spying on Ministry officials, let’s say? You live with one who has impeccable connections and who’d probably tell you anything you needed to know. You’re also friends with a man whose whole family is known for their strong beliefs of pureblood supremacy-”
“If you think that Sirius would have any part of that or lead others into-”
“Let me finish, I’m not quite done,” he cut me off. He was holding his hands together, suddenly quite calm. “As I’ve heard, you’re brother is a squib. Maybe they offered your family protection because we both know they’ll need it. You also got nearly perfect grades in NEWT’s and excellence in Potions. Something that I’ve heard he greatly desires. -- I could go on Miss Hughes of the case against you if you’d like,” Stone said. He smiled slightly, in a way that reminded me of tired waitresses who were still trying to get good tips.
I wanted to laugh. I know that's a terrible reaction, but I knew all a jury had to do was hear that and their fear would convict me faster than anything. I also knew something he didn't and that gave me the upper hand.
“So I suggest that you name someone, or you’re not getting out of here.” He finished off after a moment of silence. I noticed out of the corner of my eye smiler jerked, as if a wasp had bitten him. I ignored it though and looked at Stone straight in the face and stood up. I grabbed the cup that was still sitting on the table and moved it closer so that it was placed right in front of him.
“Veritaserum. Although it is quite indistinguishable when placed in water, if you swirl the contents around there is a slight separation of the two liquids as the potion has a more oily consistency. Most wouldn’t notice, but since you so kindly noted that I’m adept in Potions, it would make sense that I’d take note of it. The usage of Veritaserum is prohibited without the prior knowledge and consent of the drinker in wizarding law, at this point anyway. So, unless of course you suddenly feel like you’re above the law, I’d let me go now or I’ll make sure everyone knows about this.”
I hadn’t known right off what it was. But they had given me hours by myself with only this small cup for company. It would have been silly of me if I hadn’t investigated it. I’d dumped some out to make is seem like I’d taken a drink. I had hoped it would have made them take me at my word and let me go, but that hadn’t worked either. There were ways to fight the potion so I'm assuming they'd simply say I, a newly graduated student, had the powers from Voldemort to do so.
This was my last chance though. I saw that. I looked them both in the face, Stone looked angry, the other one looked quiet calm. His think glasses seemed to cover any true emotion from him though. I didn't like going this way, it felt like blackmail. But what choice did I have?
“What makes you think you have evidence of that? I could just dump this glass right out,” he said, after a moment of hesitation. There was victory in that, even if it was small. He knew as well as I did.
“You won’t because you know I’ve already taken some. You know they can easily test me, and you know what the results will show,” I replied. I wouldn’t tell him that the results would actually be negative if he chose to get rid of that glass. He didn’t really need to know that. I didn’t feel so bad about this lie, not compared to what my future would have looked if I didn’t do it. Life is rarely full of black and white answers.
They were quiet. Smiler lifted his hand and rubbed his eyes while Stone was absently playing with the glass in his hands. I walked beyond them to where I imagined the door would be. I waited for the decision to be made. I knew what they would do. They did not need another scandal. Not after they’ve been nursing their wounds from when they’d foolishly tried to claim the war wasn’t as serious and that it would be over before we knew it.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure working with you, Miss Hughes, we’ve reviewed you file and it seems like you’re free to go,” Smiler said. He stood up and Stone followed slowly. I smiled and as he walked towards the wall a door appeared like a tree out of fog. They led me out of the maze of corridors and back up the stairs. I almost couldn’t believe it was happening, just like this.
We reached the white corridor with the long black walkway that changed colour at each person’s step. The place was bustling and no one paid us any mind, all too busy trying to get somewhere. I breathed in the air deeply. It smelt differently up here, fresher, as if the possibilities were endless.
I still felt on edge. It seemed far too easy for them to just let me go like this. It’s not like I was going to complain or anything, but it wasn’t their normal reaction. They hated being proved wrong or challenged. They always had to be right. I wondered how many other rooms were full of people who had no connection to Voldemort. How many others they were wasting their time with. It was just so bloody pointless, in the end.
What were they really doing?
Nothing. Sirius’ voice from the end of sixth year floated in my head. We’d been using the Great Hall for studying. Peter, Sirius, and I had spent an hour working on an essay for DADA and we’d gotten bored and were throwing hexes at other students who were dotted across the Great Hall. Eventually we were tired of that as well and the conversation turned to the war as it always seemed to. The Daily Prophet that morning had featured some wedding of some prominent Wizengamot member. It had seemed out of place among all the other stories.
Our conversation turned to that and Sirius threw a rather nasty hex to a Slytherin student as they were leaving the Great Hall. One that Lily would have probably thrown a book at his face for. He probably deserved it, but with that, he grumbled about the uselessness of the Ministry. How they were doing nothing. Nothing, but propagating that life was still normal and safe.
It had been a normal comment from him, but it was particularly aggressive that time. One I’d hear repeated constantly throughout the year. That memory was poignant though. The way he’d channeled his anger at that Slytherin, how his face contorted, almost like a growling, raging animal going in for the kill.
I noticed we’d reached the atrium by this time. The memory faded away from me as I watched the people around me closely. I expected something to happen, but perhaps not. Perhaps my yelling and demands were actually being met and I’d be free. I’d have my life back. The silence hung between us like a thick sheet. They brought me to a grate and I looked into the dark abyss for a moment and was about to walk in when Stone grabbed my arm. He pulled me so that my face was square with his.
“Don’t think I won’t be watching Miss Hughes. We’ll be in touch,” he said quietly. He let go of my arm and I staggered back into the grate. I grabbed the little bit of floo powder and let myself become consumed by the fire.
I opened my eyes as I stumbled into the small flat. Amelia was sitting on the couch, with the Sunday Prophet spread across her lap. So that answered that question, it was Sunday. Unless she was reading an old paper but I didn’t think so. She jumped up when I came stumbling out.
“Oh god,” she said. She rushed over, her hands still grasping the Prophet in her hand. “Read this.”
Suspected Death Eater Tried by Ministry
I didn’t get farther than that as my eyes were fixated on the photo.
Note: Sorry (again!) for the long delay in getting to this. I've been so busy lately with traveling and starting school. I'm hoping that i'll be able to update more consistently from now on.
This chapter has not been beta'd yet. I was far too excited to post this and see what everyone thinks than to wait. Please forgive any errors that you find. But please point them out if you wish :)
All reconizable work is JKRowling's and i claim no ownership as it belongs to her. No copyright infringment intended. Also, the tornado bit and house falling on the MInistry official is a nod to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written by Frank Braum.
Note: Just a quick note for anyone who's been following this. I deleted the original chapter 11 because I didn't like where it was going. So, I've written this and hope it is much better. Let me know what you think! I hope I can continue to update this a bit more now that I have a bit of a plan for the next ten chapters. Enjoy ;)
“Eleanor, I’ve got you a new cloak,” Bronson said immediately when we entered their flat. I looked at him in doubt as he dashed away, presumedly to get me the cloak. “It’s quite nice and I think it’ll bring out your eye colour.” I hear him say from somewhere in the flat. I look at Amelia with raised eyebrows. She shrugs her shoulders and I was left thinking perhaps Bronson had actually been taken over by a troll.
He came and pranced about with a coal black cloak in his hands. I frowned at him.
“Wow, that is so fetching. So fetching I don’t think I could ever don it. I couldn’t live up to its standards,” I replied. He holds it closer to my face for inspection and I step back. “Are we going to go? I’m hungry.”
“You’re not thinking straight, you’d scare kids out of the socks. Death Eater Eleanor, strikes again on her rabid biscuit stealing rampage,” he pressed. He was laughing and tried to throw it over my shoulders. I dodged him and hid behind Amelia.
He thought the whole escapade with the Ministry was a joke and made taking the mick at my expense his job. Especially since my photo made second page on the third day of my release. The article hadn’t just named me, but apparently I’d become the new face for this neighbourhood watch crew. It was disgusting. However, Bronson got me chocolate. Which I obviously ate because no sane person would turn it down even though he said it was a bribe so I wouldn’t attack him at night.
“I’m not wearing that, don’t be ridiculous,” I replied, rolling my eyes at him. I shoved him away again when he made another leap to throw it over my head. He was determined and let out cackle as he continued on his merry chase. “Anyway, I’m already pretty scary and I was thinking of getting this surgery done where it would file my teeth to points. The cloak would be a bit much, don’t you think? It’d look like I was trying.”
He stops and looks at me for a moment, pondering it. I bared my teeth for him to get a better idea, but he just shakes his head and throws the garment at me. I feel the fabric beneath my fingers and wanted to laugh.
“You could at least be thankful dear. I went out of my way and bought this myself as a gift to yours truly.”
“It’s a sheet you cut up to make look like a cloak!” I retorted. The nerve. Bronson laughed and mussed his straggly blonde hair up some more. I shook my head, but made sure my face repressed the smile that was budding. Amelia was right, it was a good idea to go out with Bronson this afternoon. His eternal jokes helped ebb away the dark mood I’d been falling into.
It was just dreadfully bothersome to deal with my coworkers attitude to me as of late. They seemed to think I would actually grow fangs. Hence the idea of pointy teeth. It helped me get through the day imagining the look on their faces if I actually did it. Never mind that I doubted Voldemort’s followers actually had fangs. That meant less than nothing these days.
“I’m appalled, Hughes, that’d you’d think so lowly of me. Of course it’s not a sheet, who do you think I am?” he said and scooped up the cloak which I’d let fall to the ground. Amelia was chuckling beside us. I really should have seen the cloak thing coming, to be honest. Bronson rarely took anything too seriously, unless it was Quidditch and I knew I could rely on him for a laugh.
“A broke Hogwarts graduate?” I replied with a wide smile. Bronson shoved his nose in the air.
“Who wanted to be an elephant trainer when you were eleven,” Ameila added. Bronson glared at her as if to say ‘whose side are you on anyway?’
“Fine, if you won’t accept my gift of a cloak, so be it. Don’t come crying to me when you realize you’ve run out your precious addiction and all you have is your gaudy red robes,” he said over his shoulder. I felt myself laughing at him. He soon came back, without the robe thankfully, and had tugged on his shoes.
We continued to banter back and forth for a while as we walked through Muggle London to get to Diagon Alley. I’d tried to spend the smallest amount of time there as possible since the attack. The boy’s face was never far from my mind these days and he would even surface in my dreams. The Alley served as another reminder of that grand ol’ day, so I ended up flooing to the hospital every day.
Seeing someone kill another is completely different than seeing someone fade away in the hospital. They both hurt, but they touch different places within a person and the idea someone could do that to someone so innocent was incomprehensible. It made me sick. Sicker than I’d ever felt before.
The streets of London were pretty quiet and it was a world apart than in the wizarding world which always held an air of fear and caution. Sirius told me of a halfblooded family in a magical community in Cardiff had been killed and Mary MacDonald’s uncle in Cornwall was reported missing. Rumour was; he was seeing a muggle woman down there and perhaps had paid for it with his life. It didn't mean there wasn’t horrid things going on in the muggle world though. There were numerous reports of attacks on muggles, it just seemed like a bigger, wider world. None of the juggles felt it yet. The fear, I mean. Or the knowledge they were under attack.
The constant news of darkness and disease was running so rampant, it was hard to ever escape it. I looked around at the tall, brick buildings around me and dodged around a few muggles who were trying to give samples to me at their food stalls. The pavement beneath our feet gleamed with last night’s rain, but the clouds overhead looked like it was only a matter of time before the rain started again.
In short time we were walking through The Leaky Cauldron. Of course, there were the regulars who lined the bar and a few more seedy characters who were hiding away in the corners. I’m pretty sure there was a crone by the fire. We didn’t linger and headed through the pub.
The alley was dead. Literally. We couldn’t see anyone loitering around the alley and I think if I yelled, the sound would echo back to me. It reminded me of when Sirius and I would go on adventures through the castle to find the best echo. The North Tower was the winner. Though, there was this corridor we found once, but could never find it again where the acoustics were sublime for echo’s. Which is too bad because the Hogwarts choir could have practiced there and might have actually sounded good. We really missed out on that goldmine.
I forced myself to look at Madam Mildred’s tea shop when we passed. It was dark inside and had a feeling of abandonment. I wondered if the shop was even locked up and I concluded it didn’t matter because they wouldn’t be back for it. There was nothing left to come back for if they even survived.
An older witch come out of the Daily Prophet headquarters and her eyes darted to us for a brief moment, but upon deciding we were probably alright she kept going. Her heels clacked down the cobblestones and she disappeared around the corner.
Florean Fortescue’s ice cream shop was still open, the owner, a middle aged wizard with a round, jolly face could be seen cleaning the windows. Coming out of the shop at that moment was Cecilia Edgewood and Davey Grudgeon. Ravenclaw graduates. We’d always been mates with them so we hurried over.
“Oh!”Cecillia exclaimed when she saw us. Her eyes darted to me and I felt my face flush slightly before reminding myself who this was. They were always the ones who’d pat us on the back when we lost at Quidditch, which, to be honest, was a lot.
Cecillia was also the best mate of Bronson’s girlfriend and would sneak me pastries in Transfiguration class. It was right before lunch. The professors should know that students cannot learn on a slightly hungry stomach and should have just extended our lunch hour. Alas, apparently transfiguration is important.
“Bit cold for ice cream,” I said. I laugh because it was cold and I couldn’t imagine wanting a sundae when it looked about ready to rain.
“Oh,” Cecilia said again. She let out a little laugh and then rubbed the back of her neck. Her ice-cream jerked in her other hand. “It is, isn’t it? I was just craving it though.”
“Honestly, she was a bit mental with the whole ‘I need ice cream now’ deal. Was having a right go at me for suggesting tea instead,” Davey added on. Cecilia didn’t grin at it though and I felt her eyes dart to me again. I couldn’t help, but feel uncomfortable under her gaze for once.
“Look, it was- it was great seeing you lot, but we really need to go. I forgot to feed Tadpole before I left my house,” Cecilia said quickly. Davey looked startled for a moment, but she pulled his arm and he was forced to follow her.
“Isn’t Tadpole your parents cat?” Davey said. Cecilia let out a laugh at that and continued to back away slowly.
The sky was darkening and I felt rain start to spit. The woman who came from The Daily Prophet was back again with a package of tea in her hand. She passed us with weary eyes. She pulled her cloak over her head and ran back to the newspapers head office to escape the bit of rain that was coming down. Someone from Quality Quidditch Supplies across the street locked their door. It wasn’t unordinary for shops to close early anymore.
“Yes, well,” she paused for a long, pregnant moment. “Em- I still should feed him, you know? I am looking after him, Davey” she sputtered out. I frowned because I knew this wasn’t about her cat. Not even close. She could have been a bit more subtle about how she kept glancing at me and looking as if I would blast her to pieces. So much for Ravenclaw’s being clever. I would have done it by now if that was my end game. However, blasting people to pieces has never been on my agenda. You’d think a friend would know that. Coworkers you could expect it from because hell, we haven’t known each other for years.
“Cat’s got your tongue?” I said dryly. I raised my eyebrow at her. She bit down on her lower lip and looked at Davey who simply looked confused.
“No, no, I just should go-” she replied. She turns around and quickly takes off in the opposite direction. Davey followed her, but he looked back and gave us a wave before running to catch up.
“What was that about? You were right cross with her,” Bronson said. He grinned suddenly. “Some cat fight I don’t know about?”
“Why don’t you ask her? She was looking at me as if I’d grown a second head. I mean honestly,” I replied. The weather wasn’t helping matters at all.
“Have you looked at yourself recently? There is an abnormal lump growing, just there,” Bronson replied. He pointed to an imaginary bump on my shoulder.
“Very funny,” I replied sourly. “Let’s just get to Gringotts already.”
“She probably really had to feed that cat. People are stupid about their animals,” Amelia said. I rolled my eyes at her and we hurried to Gringotts. I always disliked dealing with the Goblins, partly because their breath was horrid and partly because they were just unfriendly. I swear, they took pleasure in our discomfort of going on those trolley’s.
“Don’t you wish you had that cloak now?” Bronson said, wiggling his eyebrows. I punched him in the arm with all my might. I’m think it hurt him, but I can’t be sure.
I remained in a sour mood as we each collected a bit of gold so we could run the few errands and stop by that Chinese place for take away. Though, now we were here, I wasn’t in the mood and I sort of wished I’d said something else to Cecilia. Like she looked like a squished penguin.
“I mean honestly, it’s like we didn’t know each other at all in Hogwarts!” I burst out as we were walking out of Gringotts. “What is she even thinking? That I’ve suddenly grown horns and wear a black top hat of death?”
“What do you expect?” Bronson said, pausing for a moment as he held the door for Amelia. “People are scared. Think about it, if you saw someone you knew in the newspaper being accused of Death Eater activity, would you trust them as much?”
“I’d give them the benefit of the doubt!” I said. I shoved my hands deep into my pockets, toying with the gold coins I felt beneath my fingertips. “That’s what friends are for, right? We stand by each other.”
“It’s true though, we get this sort of thing coming through our offices all the time. Neighbours alerting the Ministry of what they think their own neighbours are up to even if the neighbours were mates. Any kind of follow up usually shows there is no evidence of it, but we have to question them anyway. It’s getting ridiculous, but no one knows who to trust anymore,” Amelia added in. She huffed and kicked her foot into a puddle that was forming. “I’m not saying it’s right or even fair, but that’s whats happening.”
I made a face. Life was going to the trolls. Before I could make another remark I saw Sirius, James, and Peter coming out of Knockturn Alley. I wondered where Remus was. It was odd seeing them separate from one another like that. They had drawn faces and looked older than what I knew they were. James looked the most relaxed and I knew without him, they other three would have fallen apart by now.
They spotted us too and they gave us brief waves before heading in our direction. Sirius was looking down the alley with suspicion and Peter toddled behind them since his robes were a bit too long and he was trying to keep it out of the puddles that ran along the alley. It was a bit of a useless pursuit considering it was still raining and he was bound to get wet anyway. HIs blonde hair was already getting frizzy and curly.
I put on a smile on my face and pretended like nothing was wrong because I figured they’d say the same thing as Bronson anyway. I really should have expected it. It’s not like betrayal was a foreign concept to me at all. I’ve just let my guard down for too long before this.
“How’s our resident Death Eater?” James asked, mussing up my hair. I jerked away from him, the smile falling from my face briefly.
“Careful Potter, I now have severely dark magic, so I wouldn’t mess with me,” I replied and bared my teeth. Sirius smirked a little at that, but still looked so tense and ready to uncoil.
“Very scary,” James replied. I simply shrugged my shoulders and peered down the Alley again. I could see a couple other wizards further down, but they didn’t worry me as I could see the smoke rising from their cigarettes.
I swept my fringe off my face, feeling a bit like a wet dog. Jumping from foot to foot to keep from getting too cold, but the rain kept soaking through my robes. I looked up at the heavy clouds hoping to see it clearing, but it looked to be a proper summer storm.
“We really shouldn’t be loitering about,” Peter said. He rustled his hair and looked grievously annoyed when he realized the only thing he managed to do was plaster it to his head. I nearly laughed because Peter always spent ages on his hair every morning.
“Where are you headed?” Sirius asked.
“Some errands, Amelia needs some new parchment and Eleanor some new book,” Bronson answered.
“It’s not just some new book, it’s a book about dark curses and alternative ways to healing,” I said. Bronsongave me a counsolling pat on the hand.
“We’ll walk you down the alley, we were headed that direction anyway,” Sirius said. James and Bronson led the way and they fell into conversation about Quidditch. There was a game coming up, the Peruvian national team against the Irish. Peru was obviously going to win, the Irish were terrible this season.
“Peru’s going to win!” I interjected. James laughed and looked over his shoulder at me. Sirius was walking beside me looking sulky. I put it aside though, trying not to worry about his moods.
“No way, I’d be willing to bet you the Irish will beat them by a landslide,” James replied. I raised my eyebrows at the challenge.
“You’re on mate, there is no way Ireland will win. Peru’s on a four game winning streak,” I stated. I shot him a wicked grin.
“One that is about to end in a flurry of green,” James said with a gleam in his eyes. I glared at him, however, he simply laughed and turned back to Bronson. I walked beside Sirius in silence for a moment. I looked up at him as he was scanning the shops around us. Perhaps noticing as well how many of them were boarded up or closed early.
“You alright?” He asked, breaking the silence.
“Yah, dandy,” I replied. I looked down a the cobblestones and watched as the water merged and flowed down the street to the drainpipes. I felt his fingers brush my wrist and I was forced to look up at him.
“You looked ready to blow someone’s head off when we saw you,” he stated. Clearly, he wasn’t beating around the bush and I was annoyed he could see right through me. I wouldn’t get any answer that was satisfactory from him either though.
“I’m fine,” I said. I smiled at him to try and reassure that it was nothing. Up ahead I saw a puddle, so I went for it and jumped in, laughing as the water splashed around me. Sirius simply looked at me with raised eyebrows. He probably thought was going a bit mad. “Come on Sirius! Stop being Mr Sulky Pants.” I pulled on his hand to try to get him to play along, like we used to in Hogwarts. It didn’t seem like a month and a half ago we were there. It seemed so distant now.
I kicked up some water and it splattered on his robes. I grabbed his hand tighter when the next kick was sufficiently harder than I expected and lost my balance. He kept a hold of me and with a small smirk he pulled me out of the puddle.
“You really are a nutcase,” he said with a shake of his head.
It is weird how fragmented our life has become. As if moments and memories have been compartmentalized and forgotten. Or like a woven blanket where it keeps getting holes and we can’t always see the connections anymore. I suppose it would be naive to think we could still be carefree, not with reality all around us. One would like to hope though, to think we could, at times, grasp at something pure and beautiful simply because if we didn’t grasp it now, we might not get another chance.
I'd promised myself in seventh year to never let the war eat me alive. That I’d sail through it and still be who I was. I was going to survive and still come out laughing. I’d bring everyone with me because I couldn’t bear if they weren’t. I had hoped it would be possible, but I’m looking at Sirius now and I know it’s not. Even if we get out of it, we’ll never have what we had. None of us will. The stains that leak their ways into our lives wouldn’t let us.
“Where’s Remus?” I asked. We were walking again, trailing after the other four. Amelia and Peter were walking abreast the other two now and James looked like he was reliving an especially dramatic memory.
Sirius frowned at my change of subject, but thankfully, he did not push any further. Perhaps accepting that some things are best left alone.
“Lily and him are working on something together,” Sirius said.
“Does this have anything to do with you guys prancing about Knockturn Alley?” I said. I felt him stiffen beside me. His grey eyes were storms and I couldn’t define what I saw there. They seemed darker than the storm above us now.
We passed the wizards who were smoking, though neither group acknowledged the other as was customary now. The wrong nod or smile could mean much more than you bargained for. Instead I let my eyes settle on Flourish and Blotts up ahead. I could just see the canopy and the old, rotting sign in the mist.
“We’ve been trying to suss out news of Madam Mildred, we have a contact who usually hears more than people think he does,” Sirius said softly.
“You think she’s still alive?” I said. I was shocked because I wouldn’t have thought she’d survive this long. If they didn’t get what they wanted, they simply disposed of the ‘waste’.
“We don’t know, but her body hasn’t been recovered. We haven’t heard from Caradoc either so that could mean any number of thing,” Sirius said. He seemed so distracted, the way his eyes kept shifting about and the twitching of his wand hand. I didn’t say anything about it. I didn’t really need to. This war was making it far too easy for him to fall into his dark thoughts and moods.
We reached the bookshop. The others had already gone inside and so we ducked into the low door as well. It was dark inside with a thin layer of dust accumulating on the shelves. A few lanterns hovered in the rows and I could hear the murmuring of the others further in. My fingers drew designs in the dust and Sirius turned to face me again.
“I know you’re not alright,” he said. He lifted my chin with his fingers so I would look into his eyes. He brushed my wet fringe away from my forehead, dragging his fingers across my cheek to tuck it behind my ear. He smiled slightly as he rolled some of my air between his fingertips. “Ventus.” he whispered. A shot of hot air emitted from his wand and my robes become dry.
“Thanks,” I said, still staring into his stupid grey eyes that read my discontent so easily. I couldn’t stand being so close to him, so I stepped away and let my eyes rest on the books. I couldn’t really tell him what was on my mind. How everything was coming crashing down around me and I was realizing, again, how much I couldn’t trust people. Anyone. I mean, how long would it be till I lost everyone I’ve ever let close to me?
Slowly, the war would take everyone I’ve ever cared about. Distrust, fear, and death would make fools of us all. There was no escaping that and no matter if someone said they’d never leave, who’s to say we know what will happen in a few years… or a few months? You cannot promise anything and letting anyone close to you is basically just asking to get hurt, over and over again. Why would anyone do that to themselves?
I figured that out in fifth year and somehow I let myself forget that people really were as dependable as goblins’ help in this war. Which wasn’t dependable, at all, in case anyone was even remotely witless enough to think they could count on them. I let Bertram, Bronson, Amelia, even Sirius and James bull their way into my life and it could easily just unravel around me like twine. Bertram is gone, Sirius has already shown his fickleness, old friends run from me, so who was next?
“Let’s go find the others, or are you afraid to be caught in a bookshop?” I said. I pulled myself away from my thoughts. I wouldn’t speak them. I wouldn’t. I’d avoid and deflect because I knew how to do that.
“Afraid? I’m shaking in my boots,” he replied with a wink. I was relieved he stopped pushing. My will was just as stubborn as his and he knew he wouldn’t get anywhere anyway.
“Thought so,” I replied and I turned around and headed down one of the long alley of shelving. I could feel Sirius right behind me, so close that I could feel his breathe against my neck.
“Excellent,” James said when he saw us come up to them. “You guys found the place.” He winked at us and I couldn’t help but frown at him.
They were sitting on some chairs that were around a little table, obviously meant for people who wanted to settle into the shop for a little longer. The Daily Prophet was spread out on the table and they were pouring over the contents. I’d stopped looking at the newspaper days ago because I didn’t know if I trusted it so much anymore. However, from here I could see the front page that reported on an Inferius raid in Northern England.
I pulled the report closer to me to see the man showing in the photo. He was laying on top of someone else and though his eyes were wide open, he was clearly a casualty. In the background of it a flag flew in the wind. One of the few things left standing in the photo.
“It’s horrible, isn’t it?”Amelia said when she saw me looking at the photo. “To use them to do your bidding. They have no heart, so what they do is so savage.”
I nodded my head, unable to tie my eyes away from it. It brought me back to when Amelia and the other Hufflepuff girls told me about the Inferius in fourth year. We were sitting on our beds telling ghost stories. They scared me the most, to think that the dead would walk again. For a week straight I imagined my neighbour who’d died a few years previous would come and get me because I’d always stolen apples from the tree in their garden. I pushed the memory away though because I didn’t like to think about it, or more specifically, hated to think of the other girls in our dorms. It only reminded me of that betrayal.
“I’ll owl you about it,” he said. His words shook me out of my reverie and i beladely noticed James and Peter were standing, ready to go.
“About what?” He smirked as my confusion.
“The Leaky Cauldron, James reckons it’s time to ‘celebrate’ our graduation or some other such nonsense, like we have time for that sort of bullocks,” he said. James laughed, his shoulders shaking with him.
“It’ll be good mate, take our minds off things,” James said. Sirius just rolled his eyes and pushed James who wasn't expecting it and toppled into Peter. James swore and gave Sirius a motion that his mum probably wouldn't have approved of. They soon said their goodbyes and they were gone, slipping through the rows of books and out the door. It banged behind them leaving a startling silence in their wake.
I hardly knew if I'd even meet up with them now.