Chapter 7 : Dearly Departed
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It was no surprise, therefore, that Sirius told Ellie one Friday that their mandatory time together would be devoted to fun and not schoolwork. For once, Ellie had to admit that Sirius Black occasionally had good ideas.
“What do you want to do?” Sirius asked as he lay on his bed.
“No clue,” Ellie replied from the windowsill besides him. It was chillier there, but the cold prevented Sirius from attempting to grab her. “I’d ask you the same, but I probably wouldn’t like the answer.”
“Something tells me you’re right,” he replied with a sigh. “Too bad. It’s awfully cold in here and we could both use some warming up-” He fell silent at the glare she shot him. “I was just kidding,” he said quickly. “Well, half-kidding. I haven’t been shagged in ages.”
Ellie snorted and looked away. It was well-known among the Gryffindors that the last time Sirius had been shagged was last term, specifically April 12th. He and the lucky lady had kept the entire tower awake for an hour.
“I’m so bored,” Sirius complained.
“Find something to do then,” Ellie replied calmly. A few snow flurries drifted through the air outside the tower.
“But there’s nothing to do besides homework.”
“Then do some homework.”
“But this is a homework free zone,” Sirius explained. “And I’m allergic to homework.”
“Well complaining won’t make the time go any faster,” Ellie pointed out.
“I don’t necessarily want the time to move faster,” Sirius muttered. Ellie frowned but remained silent. The other sixth years had left for a walk around the grounds twenty minutes before and weren’t expected back for another hour at least. It looked as if Sirius was beginning to avoid them as much as they were him.
“They’ll forgive you eventually you know,” Ellie said kindly. “They can’t stay mad forever.”
“Yeah they can,” Sirius grumbled. “I wouldn’t forgive someone if they did what I did.”
“Maybe,” Ellie sighed. “They miss you though. All of them.”
Sirius looked towards her curiously. “Really?” he asked. “They miss me?”
She nodded in reply. “Lily told me last week.”
A grin crossed Sirius’ face as he pushed himself up into a sitting position. “That’s the best news I’ve had in a month Swift,” he said happily. He paused for a moment before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and slipping on his shoes.
“Where you going?” she asked.
“To find them,” Sirius answered as he grabbed his wand. “I want to talk with them.”
“Maybe that isn’t the best idea.”
“You just said they miss me.”
“Well, yeah.” Ellie was beginning to wish she hadn’t said anything at all. “They’re still really mad though Sirius. I don’t think they’ll just forgive you. It might be a good idea to let them have a little more time to work things out first.”
He shot her a look as he swung his cloak over his shoulders. “Thanks for the advice Swift,” he said, “but I think I know them a little better than you do.”
Ellie bit her lower lip and turned back towards the window. The snow was beginning to fall faster now. As she stared towards the forest she caught sight of something flying towards her through the snow. A moment of confusion passed, before she threw open the window and leapt out of the way. A large Great Horned Owl swooped through the open window, dropped a note at Sirius’ feet, and flew out again.
“What’s that?” she asked as soon as the owl was gone. She pulled the window closed again and locked the latch into place.
“Letter,” Sirius said. She turned to face him and watched as he turned the letter over in his hands. “It’s from my parents.”
“What do they want?”
Sirius shrugged slightly. He moved as if to throw the letter onto his bed, but he paused. Ellie took a few steps towards him and sank onto the foot of his bed. After a moment, he opened the envelope and removed the letter. Several minutes passed in silence as Ellie sat watching him. His face fell as he got further down the page. Finally, he cleared his throat and looked at her. “Alphard is dead.”
Ellie merely looked at him for a moment. His face was composed except for a twitching near the corners of his eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said cautiously. She knew, as did every pure-blood family in England, that Sirius had run away from home the previous summer. His mother had still been furious a month later when Ellie had seen her at the annual summer picnic.
Sirius didn’t answer immediately. He turned and placed the letter back on his nightstand, before sinking onto the bed besides her. For once, Ellie didn’t immediately recoil. “Are you alright?” she ventured timidly.
He nodded once. “I didn’t know he was sick,” he replied quietly. “He never told me in any of his letters this summer.”
“He didn’t look ill at the picnic,” Ellie added. “He kept talking about how proud of you he was after you left home. Your mum’s face turned a rather nasty shade of green when she heard.”
He gave a half-hearted chuckle that died quickly. “He did have a brilliant sense of humor,” he said. “I don’t know how he was related to my mother.”
“I don’t think anyone knows that,” Ellie said simply. “Mum always liked Alphard better than her.”
“Maybe that’s why she doesn’t like your mum much,” Sirius mused. “It might be because she’s practically foreign born though. Mum hates them almost as much as muggles and muggle-borns.”
Ellie chuckled. It was true that Walburga Black despised foreign-born wizards. She had almost gotten into a duel with Ellie’s Italian-born grandmother, Elettra, twenty years ago. Apparently, Walburga didn’t like the fact that her daughter, Arabella, was speaking to a group of mutual friends in Italian (which she had never bothered to learn) and Elettra had intervened in the resulting argument. Even when she had improved her English the two women had avoided one another like the plague.
She shot another look at Sirius. His arm was wrapped around one of the wooden poles supporting the canopy and he was resting his forehead against his hand. “Are you sure you’re alright?” she asked quietly as she laid a hand awkwardly on his shoulder.
He nodded after a moment. “I guess so,” he answered just as quietly. “I think I need some air,” he added.
“Sure,” she agreed quickly. She got off the bed and pulled her sneakers back onto her feet. “Where are we off to?” He opened his mouth to argue, but she silenced him with a look. “You’re obviously upset and it’s not a good idea to wander the school alone as it is. I’m going with you.”
“Alright,” he conceded with a sigh. He moved towards the door and held it for her as she slipped through in front of him. They walked out of the Common Room in silence, ignoring a group of seventh years huddled by the fireplace.
The halls of the school were empty. The howling wind outside and cold that was seeping into the castle had sent most of the students and faculty scurrying for the nearest fireplace. Ellie shivered and pulled the sleeves of her sweater over her hands. She managed to find a tiny grain of pity for the Slytherins. According to her mother their Common Room was somewhere beneath the Great Lake. It had to be freezing down there, regardless of how many fireplaces they had.
They wandered in silence for a few moments, neither one really leading the way. Ellie stared at her reflection as they passed by the windows near the Transfiguration classroom. Apart from a little extra weight she had yet to lose, she had never looked better.
“You can be so incredibly vain.”
Ellie stopped walking and turned. Blake was lounging against the wall in front of her, a smirk on his face and his arms crossed over his chest. “You’re one to talk,” she shot back. “Is that makeup on the huge pimple on your chin?”
“Maybe,” he said with a shrug. “At least I can admit it though.”
“Like I can’t?” she asked as she crossed her own arms across her chest. Behind her, she could sense Sirius moving closer to her.
“No,” Blake said, a smile crossing his face. “I don’t think you can admit it. You’re too proud for that.”
“Well, if you’re done lecturing me,” Ellie said in a bored tone. “What do you want Blake?”
“Where did all this hostility come from?” he asked in mock surprise. “I just wanted to say hello to my favorite little cousin.”
“How thoughtful,” she said dryly as she eyed him carefully. He looked too happy. “And this isn’t hostile. If I was being hostile you’d know it.”
“I don’t doubt that. You always did have a temper little Miss Impatience.”
“And you don’t?” she fired back. “I distinctly remember several tantrums being thrown when your mother made you visit her parents last summer.”
A scowl crossed his face. “That’s a different matter entirely,” he said snidely. “Why should someone like me have to associate with muggles? They’re worse than vermin.”
“Your mother is muggle-born,” Ellie pointed out furiously. “How can you say that?”
“My mother is nothing more than a filthy mudblood bitch. Just like your friend Evans.”
Anything Ellie may have said was drowned out by a bull-like roar. Sirius whipped his wand out and aimed it at Blake. Before he could fire a spell, Ellie had jumped in front of him. “Don’t talk about Lily that way,” he growled. “Get out of the way Swift!”
“No,” she said firmly. “I want to hex him as much as you do, but that is exactly what he wants.”
“That’s exactly what I want too,” Sirius shot back as he tried to duck around her. Ellie pushed him back with all her strength and remained where she was. “Move Swift!”
“No. He wants you to get into trouble. Don’t give him what he wants!” Sirius bared his teeth, but lowered his wand after a moment. “Ok,” Ellie breathed, “let’s just walk away.”
She waited until Sirius had turned his back and began to move before she allowed herself to take a breath. Just as she began to follow him, Blake spoke. “I didn’t know they let cowards into the mighty house of Gryffindor.”
“I didn’t know they let morons into Ravenclaw either,” Sirius spat. “I guess we learn something new every day.”
“Just ignore him,” Ellie said calmly. “He’s not worth it.”
Sirius bristled at her words, but took a shuddering breath and continued walking. “Looks like cowardice is a Black family trait then,” Blake continued in a poisonous tone. Sirius froze where he was. “But then again, there are bad apples in every family.”
“Keep going,” Ellie whispered to Sirius. “Please, let’s just go!”
“Look at my family,” Blake continued in a voice so venomous it was seductive. “A blood traitor for a cousin, a coward for an Uncle, and a mudblood for a mother.” Ellie stiffened at his words, but refused to acknowledge them. “Then there’s your family,” Blake pressed on relentlessly. “Cowards the whole lot of them if you don’t count your dear sweet cousin and her future in-laws. They claim to uphold the purity of our race, yet not one of them has done anything to protect it. Not one of them has done anything about the great problem.”
“What problem?” Sirius spat through his teeth. His face was slowly beginning to turn red and his shoulders were beginning to shake.
“The mudblood problem of course,” Blake said simply.
“Have you been listening to your father and his friends?” Ellie asked angrily. “They’ve been feeding you lies Blake! They want you to believe your mother and other muggle-borns are less than human!”
“They haven’t lied to me sweetest Ellie. They’re some of the only civilized wizards I know,” Blake replied. She could hear footsteps behind them and felt a cold wave of fear wash over her. “The only people who have been lying are you and your precious mother. How you two can call yourselves purebloods is beyond me.”
“How you can call yourself civilized is beyond me,” Ellie snapped back.
“Civilized people don’t associate with filth.”
“No Monticello,” Sirius growled. “Civilized people don’t murder innocent men, women, and children. There’s no sanity in that.”
Silence fell over the hall for a moment. Ellie could faintly hear laughing voices a few floors below them. She closed her eyes and began to wish she was far away from the hallway and the two bristling boys in it. “There was no sanity left in your Uncle Alphard either.”
Sirius spun around and tried to shove Ellie aside. She clung to his arm, refusing to let go even when she hit the wall. “What did you say?” he growled. There was a vicious glint in his eye that scared her.
“Rumor has it that Alphard went completely mental before he died,” Blake said carelessly. Ellie glanced at him quickly and saw he was examining his nails. Behind him stood a group of three Slytherins, including Severus Snape. This was not good. “Not that it really showed. He was always a bit mental in my opinion. After all, he was a dirty blood traitor.”
Ellie blinked. She was falling backwards and Sirius was barreling towards Blake with a murderous roar. Blake raised his wand towards Sirius, as did the other three, as if in slow motion. The cold wall slammed into her back, but she felt no pain. A spell rocketed past her face and down the hall. It hit the wall with a resounding crash that sounded too loud.
What was going on? Ellie stumbled away from the wall and took in the scene. Sirius was fighting the four of them alone. He barely avoided being hit by a spell sent his way by Snape. . . or at least she thought it had come from his general direction. Everything was happening so fast. There were too many sounds, too many spells, too many people.
“Get out of the way!”
A hand grabbed Ellie’s wrist and pulled her back. Pain shot across her face and she cried out. Blood splattered onto her hand and the floor.
“Come on!” She looked up. Ben was looking at her expectantly, an odd look in his round blue eyes as he looked at her. “We need to get you out of here.”
“What about Sirius?” she asked. A spell hit the wall across from where they stood.
“He can handle himself,” he said quickly as he tried to block her view. She pushed him aside. Sirius was backed up into a corner, still fighting furiously.
“Bugger,” she swore as she grabbed her wand. “Depulso!” she shouted. Blake flew back and into a wall. He fell to the ground and remained there. Ellie sprinted towards Sirius, ignoring Ben swearing behind her. “Incarcerous!” she shouted again. Her spell missed a hefty blonde boy and nearly hit Sirius instead. He turned towards her and fired off a hex. She leapt aside, barely avoiding it.
A second later Ellie felt something warm hit her chest. She flew backwards and landed on the floor. A moment later, she heard something heavy hit the ground besides her. She lifted herself up on her arms and looked around. A furious looking Professor McGongall was standing over Blake, her wand drawn. Professors Flitwick and Wallace were standing beside her, their wands in their hand. “What is going on here?” she demanded. Her nose was slightly flared.
“He attacked us,” the hefty blonde boy complained.
“You instigated!” Ellie shot back just as quickly. A confused look crossed his face as he turned to ask Severus what that meant.
“We didn’t do anything!” Blake sneered at her. “It’s not our fault that the truth bothered you.” Out of the corner of her eye, Ellie saw Sirius leap towards him. A second later he was back on the ground.
“That is enough!” McGonagall roared. “Filius, I assume you’ll be taking care of Mr. Monticello. Conan, if I could ask you to bring Snape, Crouch, and Gregor to Professor Slughorn’s office?”
“Of course Minerva,” Wallace said with a scowl at the three Slytherins.
“Black, Swift,” McGonagall said, turning a steely look onto them. “Come with me.” Ellie stumbled to her feet. Without looking at Sirius she began to move.
It was the longest walk of her life. Every step was difficult to take. Every window that she caught sight of her reflection in caused her pain. After a while, she learned to just avoid looking into the windows.
“Sit,” McGonagall ordered angrily as soon as they reached her office. The pair did as they were told silently. Ellie’s face was beginning to throb from where it had been sliced. McGonagall sank into a seat on the other side of her desk. “Explain.”
“Blake was saying some really vulgar things Professor,” Ellie began quietly.
“He was being a jackass,” Sirius cut in.
“Language Mr. Black,” McGonagall snapped at him.
“It’s true though!”
“Be that as it may, there are other ways to voice your opinion.” She gave Sirius a long look, as if daring him to say another word. He merely sat with his arms crossed and his eyes on the ground. “I am severely disappointed in you both,” McGonagall continued angrily. “Attacking other students! It’s disgraceful!”
“Technically, I only attacked Monticello,” Sirius pointed out, his eyes still on the ground. “Ellie only joined in after the others started attacking me.”
“That doesn’t matter Mr. Black,” McGonagall said loudly. “I expect better of those from the House of Gryffindor!” She took a steadying breath and fixed them both with a firm look. “Fifty points from Gryffindor and detention for both of you. You’ll receive notice of when and where later this week.” Sirius opened his mouth to protest but shut it again at the look on her face. Ellie, for her part, remained silent and still. “I suggest you take Ms. Swift to the Hospital Wing,” McGonagall said to Sirius. “She needs to get that looked at.”
Sirius shot a quick look at Ellie and winced. “Yes Professor,” he said quietly.
The pair rose from their seats and slipped from the room. They walked to the Hospital Wing together in silence. Madam Pomfrey, upon catching sight of Ellie’s face, burst into a tirade about fighting in school. Neither Ellie nor Sirius attempted to interrupt her. When she tried to keep her there over night, however, Ellie politely declined and they left. “At least try not to get hit next time!” she called after them.
“Like I really wanted to get hit,” Ellie muttered darkly. Sirius didn’t reply.
“And you both got detention?!”
“Yes James,” Ellie said for the twentieth time. They had arrived in the Common Room to find that word of the duel had preceded them. Despite being greeted like heroes, Sirius had slipped off to his room to be alone and Ellie had thought better than to follow him. It wasn’t until the others had arrived back that the crowd of admirers had dispersed. “We both got detention.”
“But they provoked you!”
“And that doesn’t matter in the least bit,” Lily chirped in. James turned an outraged look on her. “I’m not saying I agree with the punishment, but I can understand why McGonagall punished them.”
“She does have to uphold the rules,” Remus mused. “But what did Blake say to make Sirius attack him?”
“Well, at first he was just spouting filth his father has been telling him,” Ellie explained. “But he first got really angry when he called Lily something nasty.”
“What did he call her?” James asked instantly. Lily made a face and rolled her eyes.
“I don’t want to say,” Ellie said awkwardly. “But Sirius tried attacking him when he said it and then he actually managed to attack him when he called his Uncle Alphard mental and a blood traitor.”
“What do you mean ‘succeeded’?” Remus asked.
“Well, I kind of got in his way,” Ellie admitted. “I was just trying to keep him out of trouble though,” Ellie added quickly upon seeing James’ face. “Blake wanted us to get into trouble.”
“Why would he want that though,” Lily asked as she frowned. “I thought you two were really close.”
“We are,” Ellie said, “or were. I’m not quite sure anymore. Ever since his father became friendly with the Lestranges he’s changed.”
“You don’t think they’re Death Eaters do you?” Peter asked in a low voice.
“I’m not sure,” she answered honestly. “I wouldn’t be surprised though. Blake was spewing some real filth. . .” She trailed off into silence. It was horrifying for her to have heard such horrible things said by someone she considered a brother. She almost didn’t want to believe he had said everything he had, but every time she started to think that she remembered the look of disgust on his face as he had called her a blood traitor and Lily a mudblood. “Blake isn’t a Death Eater though. He would never join with them.”
“But you said he was saying really horrible things,” Remus pointed out. “There is a distinct possibility that he may be a Death Eater.”
“Saying something is different than actually believing it or doing something about it.”
“Why would he say it if he didn’t believe it though?”
Ellie fell silent. She had been trying not to think about that particular question. If Blake really believed everything he had said, then he was being honest about his feelings toward his mother. . . and if that was true, it was also possible that he meant what he had said by the Lake earlier that year. It was that possibility that was most terrifying to Ellie.
“I don’t know,” she finally answered. “I’d rather not consider the possibilities though.”
“You may have to eventually,” Remus said slowly. “I know you don’t want to, but you may need to consider the possibility that your family has begun to take sides.”
“Moving on,” Lily said quickly. “Why did Sirius get so upset when he insulted his Uncle? I thought Sirius didn’t like his family.”
“He liked Alphard,” James said. “He’s one of the more liberally minded individuals in the Black Family, like his cousin Andromeda.” He paused for a moment and turned towards Ellie. “But why would he attack him because of that? Usually when someone insults his Uncle he just shrugs it off.”
“Sirius got a letter from his parents this morning,” Ellie began slowly. “Alphard is dead.”
The group froze. “What?” Remus finally said.
“He died,” Ellie said again. “Blake knew already. He got Sirius to attack him by telling him that Alphard was mental and a blood traitor.”
James swore under his breath. “No offense Swift,” he said, “but your cousin is a prick.”
“Where is Sirius now?” Lily, the voice of calm, asked.
“In his room,” Ellie said, nodding towards the stairs. “He went up shortly before you all got back.” James shot up off the couch and raced up the stairs, followed closely by Remus. Peter got up after a few moments and followed them. “I wanted to talk to him,” Ellie said softly, “but there were all these people and they all wanted me to tell them what happened. I couldn’t get away.”
“It’s probably for the best that you didn’t follow him,” Lily said with a sigh. “He can be rather tempestuous when he’s upset. James knows how to calm him down though.”
Ellie nodded and leaned back in her seat. “Ben was there too.”
“Yeah,” Ellie replied.
“Did he get detention too?”
“No. He ran off before the Professors got there.”
Lily snorted. “Nice of him to help.”
“He did a little,” Ellie validated. “He pulled me out of the way of a curse. If he hadn’t done that more than my cheek would have been sliced up.”
“Well that was certainly nice of him,” Lily replied. “But it would have been better if he had done more.”
“He tried to get me to leave,” Ellie sighed. “If I had gone with him I wouldn’t have detention now.”
“And what about Sirius?”
Ellie was silent for a moment. “He said he would be fine,” Ellie said. “But he was backed into a corner and he was outnumbered. So I shot off some spells. I guess Ben must have taken off after that.”
“How noble,” Lily said sarcastically. “You’d almost think he didn’t care by the way he acted.”
Ellie remained silent. It was true that it only seemed like he didn’t care, but Ellie knew he really did. That much had been evident to her when he had pulled her out of harm’s way. But Lily wasn’t likely to believe that, especially after everything that had happened.
“Do you think Sirius will be alright?”
“Eventually,” Lily answered sadly. “It can’t be easy for him. Alphard was one of the few people he actually spoke with in his family. Now the only one left is Andromeda.”
“And her husband and daughter,” Ellie specified.
“They wanted him to move in with them when he ran away from home last summer,” Lily said. “He only said no because the Potters had taken him in and refused to take no for an answer.”
“The Potters are decent people,” Ellie added. “Mrs. Potter makes the best chocolate chip cookies. James’ dad used to keep all us kids entertained at parties by making shadow puppets muggle style. . . or at least he did until some of the parents found out and complained.” Ellie stared into the fire as a log cracked in the flames. “I don’t understand why people can be so intolerant towards others.”
“I don’t think anyone really does,” Lily replied. “I think that by belittling others and blaming them for your problems, it makes them feel better about themselves. When you have someone or something to blame for things that go wrong it makes life better for you and worse for them.”
Silence fell between them once more. A group of third years were playing Exploding Snap near the window and they released a roar of laughter when the cards exploded. “What do you think is going to happen?” Ellie asked quietly. “About the war I mean?”
“I don’t know,” Lily said as she shook her head. “Both sides will keep fighting until one proves to be stronger than the other. We can only hope that the stronger side is the right one. . . otherwise, I and everyone like me, are dead.”
Ellie shivered at her words. It was a bleak and dismal future they had before them if Blake’s attitude was any indication.
A/N: Hope you all enjoyed reading this Chapter (and the previous ones too!). :)
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