Ellie felt the sudden urge to hit her head against the wall. For the past hour, Quinn had been asking the same thing and for that same hour Ellie had had no answer to give him. “I don’t know,” she said through clenched teeth. Isabella was lying on her stomach as they lounged on the couch. “Shouldn’t you be doing arithmetic?”
Quinn stuck his tongue out at her. “Arithmetic is for nerds,” he declared. “Nerds are whimps.”
“Yes,” Ellie said dryly, “and it just so happens that nerds are the ones who control the world, so shut up and study.”
Quinn made another face, but dutifully followed orders when her hand twitched for her wand. Shooting him one last glare, she turned her attention back to Isabella. The infant lay on her stomach, merely staring back at her. Without warning, a rancid smell reached Ellie’s nose.
“What has mum been feeding you?” Ellie asked as she made a face. Isabella answered with a loud scream and tears. “You do your arithmetic,” Ellie said sternly to Quinn. “I’m going to change the baby. You better be working on that when I get back.”
She turned and left the room, certain that Quinn was making a face at her back. But she didn’t care about that at the moment. The crying baby in her arms was commanding most of her attention.
She made a face as she removed the diaper and replaced it with a new one. She felt horrible for her poor mother, who had to do this several times a day. At least she wasn’t like Quinn. Ellie could still remember her mother having to dodge to the side every time she changed his diaper. He had had a fondness for trying to hit her in the face.
Soon enough Isabella was changed and back to her normal, calm self. It was eerie almost how she never seemed to cry. Not that Ellie was complaining, but she had expected more tears based off her mum’s comments in her parents’ weekly letters.
Ellie headed back to the den, making sure to stomp her feet as loudly as she could. Sure enough, by the time she got back, Quinn was still scrambling back to the table where his work sat. She sighed. What on earth were they going to do with him?
“Don’t call her that,” Ellie snapped irritably. She sank back onto the couch, making a mental note to finish off the last of her homework before she left for school the next day. “Isabella is not stupid. She’s developing at a faster rate than you did when you were her age.”
“Can she talk?” Quinn asked.
“No,” Ellie replied.
“Can she walk?”
“Can she do arithmetic?” he asked. When Ellie shook her head, Quinn nodded with triumph and said, “Then she’s still just a stupid baby then.”
“Apparently you are as well then,” Ellie said as she looked at his work. “Two-hundred and ten divided by seventy is three, not thirty.”
Quinn shot her an outraged look as he erased his answer. “I am not a stupid baby!” he protested. “I can talk and walk!”
“And how I wish you couldn’t talk right now,” Ellie said fondly. Quinn’s glare deepened. “You better finish that up. Mum will be getting back from the market with Aunt Rosaline soon. You know how she hates it when you don’t do your work.”
Quinn muttered something under his breath that Ellie chose to ignore. For the next half-hour she contented herself with allowing a sleepy Isabella to nod off on her stomach and making the occasional biting remark to Quinn.
Just as Quinn put down his pencil and said, “Done!” excitedly, the back door opened and the voices of their mother and aunt reached their ears.
“Nice,” Ellie said to her brother with a grin. He grinned back and even went so far as to high-five her. He refused, however, to give a mini-high-five to Isabella when the infant reached her hand out like they had. Ellie sighed, but let it go. She couldn’t make him like her no matter how much she wanted to.
“Hey mum, Rosaline,” she said as they walked into the kitchen. Quinn slunk in behind her as she bounced Isabella on her hip.
“Hello,” her aunt said cheerfully as they placed the groceries onto the table. A wave of her wand later, and the groceries were sorting themselves onto the shelves in the cupboard. “How are my favorite nieces and nephew?”
“I’m your only nephew,” Quinn said as he sat at the table.
“Which makes you twice as special,” she said as she ruffled his hair. Quinn ducked out of the way, but grinned at her. Rosaline was the only one who was able to do that lately. She held out her arms to Ellie and she gently transferred Isabella to her. “She’s getting heavy,” Rosaline commented.
“Yeah, she’s kind of fat,” Quinn remarked. Instinctively, he ducked down as Ellie’s hand went flying above him. “It’s true!”
“She is not!” Ellie protested. “She’s perfectly healthy.”
“Of course she is dear,” her mother said as she waved her wand. A jar of her homemade tomato sauce poured itself into a sauce pan and landed on the stove top. “And Quinn, ‘fat’ isn’t a nice word to use dear.”
“Yes mother,” Quinn said as he rolled his eyes. Ellie felt very tempted to give him an attitude adjustment in the form of a wicked wedgie; but one look from her aunt restrained her. How she knew what Ellie was thinking was beyond her.
“How was the market?” Ellie asked.
“Quiet,” her aunt said as she shook her head. “You’d barely recognize the place.”
“It was like a ghost town,” Arabella added. “Barely anyone was there.”
Ellie sighed. She had loved going to Diagon Alley with her mother as a child, but that was before people started disappearing and dying. Now, she was perfectly content to hide at home with Quinn and Isabella. . . she would be the last one to admit, however, that part of that willingness was due to overwhelming shame. She had done her best to hide it from her family, especially her mother. If her mother saw Ellie begin to lose it, she might start to fall apart too and then who would take care of the kids? It wasn’t like Blinky could go out and do the shopping; House Elves were required by law to have a chaperon when they entered Diagon Alley. And they couldn’t keep relying on the kindness of Rosaline. She had enough to worry about.
“What’s for dinner?” Quinn asked, knocking Ellie out of her self-reflective state.
“Spaghetti and meatballs,” her mother replied absently. While she had been taking care of the house and kids, it was clear to Ell that she still wanted her husband released from prison despite what he had done. Ellie wasn’t overly surprised; her mother adored her father. Besides, she hadn’t had the heart to inform her of her husband’s infidelity, especially when she was about to leave for school again. “It’ll be ready soon.”
“Good,” Quinn said decidedly. “I’m hungry.”
“You’re always hungry,” Rosaline said affectionately. “You’ll be a teenager soon enough and then you’ll be eating your parents out of house and home.”
“He already does that,” Arabella commented, grinning a bit at her son.
“I can’t help if I’m hungry,” he replied simply.
Ellie giggled a bit and looked as innocent as she could when Quinn looked at her. Despite the overwhelming guilt she still felt over what she had done, which had been made worse upon hearing her father’s thirty year sentence, Ellie was finding that life was moving on. Yes, her father would not be around for a lot of important things, such as Isabella’s first steps, Quinn’s first day at Hogwarts, and Ellie’s wedding day. . . but maybe it wasn’t the end of the world that he wouldn’t be there. It was not going to be easy, but Ellie was sure, as she looked around the kitchen, that her family would be just fine with time. Now, whether she would ever be able to say that about herself, was a different matter entirely. . .
The train ride back to school was one of the longest of Ellie’s life. It was bad enough that people stopped talking the second she appeared and began whispering as soon as she was out of sight. That she could handle. She had expected that much. What she hadn’t expected, and what she would have been incapable of preparing for, was the reception she had received from Lily.
Maybe she should have expected it. After all, her father had tried to sell Lily and her family out to people who wanted them, and everyone like them, dead. But it still came as a shock when Lily grabbed her belongings and left the compartment as soon as Ellie had sat down.
“Don’t worry about her,” James had whispered just before going after her. “I’ll talk to her.”
But Ellie had worried about her. She was still worried about her as the train raced through the dreary English countryside. Lily had been her very first friend at Hogwarts. Everything that had happened in the past five years, they had weathered together. It was excruciating to even consider the idea that Ellie would have to deal with this, her father’s actions and her betrayal of him, without her.
The trolley came and Remus offered her some of his pumpkin pasty, but she ignored him. She wasn’t hungry. She was far too miserable to even consider food at the moment. Instead, she sat and stared out the window silently as the sky got darker. Soon enough, rain was falling fast and furious. The drops smacked against the windows and lightning flashed across the sky in the distance.
“I wonder where James is,” Remus asked quietly. “He’s been gone a while.”
Ellie merely curled up on the seat and pulled her cloak around her body. If he wanted to taunt her that was fine, but she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of seeing her get upset over it. Besides, James was probably just talking with Lily. She could be pretty tempestuous when she was angry. In Ellie’s opinion, it would probably take a while for him to calm her down. It was at that moment, that Ellie decided that telling James about the list had been a huge mistake. They had made no mention of who had been targeted in the trial in order to try and protect those people better. The only reason Lily knew of her family’s inclusion, was because of James. Well, she wouldn’t be making that mistake again.
The ride seemed to last longer than usual. Every clap of thunder that rocked the train startled Ellie out of her daze until the rhythmic tapping of the rain made her nod off once more. Eventually, she was shaken out of her stupor by Remus, who informed her that the train had stopped and they needed to get out. Forgetting to thank him for not leaving her asleep on the train, Ellie stumbled from the train and into the first carriage she found. A few seconds later, Remus was sitting beside her and the carriage was bouncing through the rain and to the castle.
“I wouldn’t worry about Lily too much,” Remus said after a few moments. “She can be head-strong and stubborn, but deep down she is a good person. Eventually James will get her to see reason.”
Though his words were meant to be reassuring, Ellie found no comfort in them. In fact, they only heightened her sense of unease and anxiety. What if Lily did come around? Would it really be for the best? Or would Ellie betray her just like her father had?
“Just stay calm,” he suggested as the carriage came to a halt. “Put on a brave face. Don’t let them know you’re scared.”
“I can handle myself,” she said bluntly. The door swung open and Ellie descended from the carriage, hurrying into the castle before she got soaked. She paused outside the Great Hall as she used her wand to dry what parts of her had gotten wet. Looking up through her lashes, she noticed several passing students look at her and whisper behind their hands.
Ellie looked up, slightly bemused to see Remus standing there. “Yeah,” she replied hesitantly. Why was he following her around like that?
He gave her a kind grin and walked towards the door. He paused and looked back at her. “You coming?”
“Sure,” she said after a moment. She walked over to stand beside him as they walked into the Great Hall. As soon as she was visible to the students, a hush went over the hall. If Remus hadn’t been walking beside her whispering encouragement in her ear, she probably would have turned and run out as fast as she could. Instead, she merely blushed horribly and walked with him as quickly as she could, before they took seats at the very end of the table.
“Smile,” Remus said quietly. “Pretend you don’t care about what they think.”
She did as she was told, even adding a giggle for good measure. Remus nodded approvingly and proceeded to tell her all about how his mother had burned the goose on Christmas Eve and his father had wound up waging battle against the garden gnomes that had taken up residence near their house. In fact, he was such a good storyteller that he had Ellie laughing hysterically by the time Sirius and Peter had joined them.
“Where’s Prongs?” Peter asked curiously as they sat down.
“Calming Evans,” Remus answered smoothly. “How were your holidays?”
“Boring,” Sirius answered as he threw an arm around Ellie’s shoulders. She snorted and shoved it off, completely aware that some people in the Great Hall were still watching her. “Peter kept me amused enough though, especially that night where he dressed up like a vampire and attempted to scare the First Years that stayed.”
“What happened?” Remus asked, a smile beginning to spread across his face.
“He got hexed by them,” Sirius said, obviously enjoying himself. “It was beautiful to see really. The curses flying, Peter screaming, the shredded cloak flying through the air.”
“I’m so glad you enjoyed it,” Peter said, rolling his eyes despite a faint blush creeping into his cheeks. “My goal in life is complete. I can die happy now.”
“Look whose finally grown a pair,” Sirius said, somewhat mystified. “Really Wormtail, when did you decide to start defending yourself.”
“Right around the time you decided you wanted to get into Swift’s pants.”
Ellie let out a squawk of outrage. Sirius ignored her. “So, you’re telling me that you grew a pair starting in Fourth year?” Peter nodded his head as Sirius and Remus chuckled. “Yeah, very funny. This is only the second time I’ve seen you stand up for yourself in five years.”
“Fourth year?” Ellie managed to get out, shooting Sirius a look of disgust.
He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “Don’t worry,” Remus interjected. “Fourth year was the year he wanted to get into every girl’s pants.”
“Not true,” Sirius said, holding up a finger. “I wanted to get into every attractive girl’s pants. I do have standards.”
“So I’m guessing that I should take that as a compliment then?” Ellie asked sarcastically. Sirius nodded in a manner that suggested he was quite pleased with himself.
Any further conversation was cut short as Professor Dumbledore stood at the head table. He smiled affectionately at his students and spread his arms to the side as he waited for silence. “I hope you all had enjoyable holidays,” he said. “Tuck in!”
Roars of approval, the loudest of which came from Ellie’s part of the table, met the Headmaster’s words as food appeared on the tables. Peter and Sirius lunged for the food the second it appeared. Remus maintained a small part of his dignity and only half-lunged. Ellie restrained the urge to roll her eyes and busied herself with politely adding small portions of several dishes to her plate. She did, after all, have a reputation to uphold and that was more important than ever. . .
As soon as the feast was over, Ellie found herself surrounded by the three boys who proceeded to march her all the way back to the tower while proclaiming that a newly initiated Death Eater was approaching and other students should make way. Despite the overall jovial and joking manner in which it was undertaken, Ellie felt an urge to embrace her so called inner-Death Eater and kill them all. It was bad enough that half the school had suspected her of being a Death Eater before; it was even worse when the entire school wound up believing it was true after seeing their little parade.
“You know,” Sirius said seriously, “if you really want people to believe that you are a horrible killer for the Death Eaters, you’re going to need to get a tattoo on your arm.”
“What?” she asked completely outraged. “I would never blemish my skin with such an unsightly mark! Beside, you’re the ones who are proclaiming me to be a Death Eater. Fairy lights,” she said to the portrait.
“See?” Peter said as the portrait swung open to admit them. “I told you she wouldn’t do it.” He shook his head sadly. “Ruin all our fun.”
Ellie rolled her eyes and stomped into the common room. Ignoring the eyes which all turned towards her, she hurried up the girl’s staircase and into the room she shared with Lily. She closed the door loudly and fell against it with a sigh. Yes, there were times when she absolutely loved being the center of attention. . . but having her father arrested for treason was not one of those times. She had never wished to disappear as much as she did at that moment.
She looked around the room. Lily was nowhere to be seen, which wasn’t entirely surprising. James was probably still trying to calm her down. Ellie pushed away from the door and fell onto her bed with a groan. It had not been a good day.
She heard the door open and shut behind her, but she didn’t bother sitting up. Honestly, she could have cared less if it was He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself. All she wanted was to drift to sleep in the very comfortable pillows and blankets.
“We need to talk.”
But that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Repressing a moan, she rolled onto her back and pushed herself up into a sitting position. Lily stood by the door, her arms crossed and eyes narrowed as she looked at her. She really didn’t want to have this conversation.
“What the hell is your problem?”
Ellie blinked. “Well, hello to you too,” she said in confusion.
Lily rolled her eyes and shifted her weight onto her left foot. Ellie caught a glimpse of her wand sticking out of her pocket near her hand. Great, so there was a chance that Lily would curse her after all. “Again, what the hell is your problem?”
“What do you mean?” Ellie asked as she sat back against the pillows.
“Don’t pretend that you don’t know!” Lily snapped. “What happened?”
Ellie took a deep breath. “James and I snuck out of the Winter Ball to drink,” Ellie began. “We hid in the first room we found, which happened to be the room that my father and two men, who we think were the Lestrange brothers, entered a short while later. We hid and overheard them threaten my father if he didn’t do something for-”
“I know that,” Lily interrupted angrily. “I don’t need you to tell me what James already told me.”
“Then what do you want?” Ellie asked heatedly, beginning to get angry herself. “Why are you so angry with me when I didn’t do anything wrong?”
“Wouldn’t you be angry if it was your family targeted?”
“It was my family targeted!” Ellie snapped. “If my father didn’t do as they asked, they would have killed all of us, starting with me!”
“That’s no excuse!”
“I never said it was!”
Both girls paused for a moment, glaring at one another as they took deep breaths. Ellie felt sure that her face was slowly turning red and did her best to calm down a bit. Yelling at Lily wouldn’t accomplish anything.
“Look,” Ellie said as she tried to calm down. “I get why you’re upset. I’d be just as upset in your position. What I don’t get is why you’re upset with me.”
“If it weren’t for you, my family wouldn’t have been put in that position in the first place,” Lily said.
“No,” Ellie said icily, “if it weren’t for the Death Eaters, my father wouldn’t have been put into that situation to begin with. If you want to blame someone, blame them.”
“I do blame them, but I blame you and your father too,” Lily snapped back. Ellie recoiled as if she had been slapped.
“I repeat,” she said slowly, “I didn’t do anything, which you bloody well know. I don’t see why you’re angry with me when you have absolutely no reason to be, especially when I was trying to protect you.”
Lily turned and walked to the window. She stood silently for a few moments as she looked out at the raging storm. “I’m angry because my family was targeted,” she said. She turned to face Ellie, the same expression on her face. “I’m angry because I want to know why our names were on that list.”
“How should I know?” Ellie demanded. “You think that I know why my father does anything that he does? You think I actually want to know?” Lily was silent as Ellie stared at her, as it began to dawn on her. “You think I told him to put you on that list?” she asked.
“No,” Lily said, a bit too slowly for Ellie’s liking.
“Yes you do,” Ellie said. A soft growl escaped her lips as she felt her temper rising once more. “What is wrong with you? You think I want you and your family dead?”
“How could you think that?” Ellie asked, completely horrified. “Lily, you’re my best friend! Why on earth would I want you dead?”
Lily shook her head and sank onto her bed across from Ellie’s. “You’ve been more hostile than usual lately,” she said finally, “and you’ve seemed so confused about what’s been going on with your cousin and family. I know things about you that no one else does, things that could potentially ruin your life. How can I be sure about anything anymore?”
Ellie blinked several times. “You honestly believe I would want you dead?” Ellie asked in a pitiful voice. When Lily nodded, Ellie buried her face in her hands. “I can’t believe you think that. After all these years of friendship, I can’t believe you don’t know me better than that.”
“How am I supposed to know?” Lily asked bitterly. “You rarely, if ever, tell me anything about your family, you keep almost all your secrets to yourself, and you never volunteer information about yourself to me unless you have to. I feel like I barely know you.”
“You’re one to talk,” Ellie said cynically. “I’ve really needed you for the past few months, but you’ve been off gallivanting with Potter the entire time. How am I supposed to tell you anything if you aren’t around?”
“I have been around,” Lily protested angrily. “Maybe if you weren’t so self-centered you would have noticed that!”
“You’ve only been around when Potter is at Quidditch practice or he’s doing something you’d have to report him for,” Ellie pressed. “If you had been around more the past few months, maybe none of this would have happened.”
“So you’re blaming me?”
“Why not? You don’t seem to mind blaming me,” she snarled back. “If you had been around more, maybe I could have worked through my family’s problems before any of this happened. Maybe I could have spoken with my father and stopped him from getting involved. But no, you had to go and spend time with your precious Potter instead of being a true friend.”
“I can’t believe you!” Lily shouted. “I’ve kept so many secrets for you over the years! No one knows that you got drunk several times last year before you were of age! No one knows that you dated Ben Gibbons for a year! No one knows that you were -” She cut herself short and took a deep breath as Ellie shot her a warning look. She wasn’t above jinxing her if it kept that particular secret quiet. “How could you?”
“I didn’t do anything Lils!” Ellie stated passionately. “I can’t control what my father does and doesn’t do. I wasn’t the one that wrote that list!”
“Then why was my name on there?”
Ellie paused and took a breath. “My father has a very good memory,” she said in a strained voice. “He probably remembered meeting your family a few times when picking me up or dropping me off at the train. There isn’t a family with the last name Evans in the pureblood world. He was bound to be curious!”
“More like he was trying to keep me quiet,” Lily snapped back. She turned away and faced the window. The night sky was dark except for the occasional burst of lightening. “How can you defend him?” she asked in a hurt voice. “He would have had my entire family killed just to get out of trouble. How can you defend that?”
“I haven’t,” Ellie stated simply as she looked at her hands. “I was the one who turned him in remember? I testified against him at his trial! My own father!”
Lily sighed and turned back towards her. Her faced looked tight and stretched. “I don’t know if I can trust you.”
Silence fell between the two girls. Ellie remained perched on her bed and Lily remained standing by the window. Neither so much as moved a muscle, even when the sound of hysterical laughter drifted up from the Common Room. “Well,” Ellie finally said. She stood and fixed Lily with a long stare. “Well I guess you’ve made your decision then.”
Lily nodded sadly. “I guess I have.”
Ellie nodded briefly, but remained where she was. She clenched her hands into fists as Lily turned and left the room as quickly as she could. The second the door shut behind her, Ellie collapsed onto the bed and buried her face into the pillow. She had never hated her father more than she did at that moment. . .
A/N: Yes, yes, I know that I am a stickler for canon and that I (probably) took a lot of liberties with Lily's character, but honestly, wouldn't you be a little pissed off at Ellie's dad too? Now, whether you would blame Ellie is another matter entirely.
Hope everyone is enjoying the story so far. Only eleven chapters until the end!
- Anders -
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