The moment Ellie appeared in the Gryffindor tower, Professor McGonagall by her side, the entire common room went silent. Ellie had been expecting this. What she hadn’t been expecting though, was for Lily to nearly tackle her to the ground with a hug. It was only the steadying hands of Professor McGonagall that kept them from tumbling onto the floor.
“I’m so sorry,” the red-head sobbed. Ellie could barely understand her through her tears. What she did understand though, was that Lily was slowly cutting off both her circulation and ability to breathe.
“That’ll do Ms. Evans,” Professor McGonagall said kindly. She waved a hand and a moment later, Lily had been deposited into James’ arms. “As you can see, Ms. Swift has returned,” McGonagall began. “I will warn you now, anyone who attempts to make her to talk about what happened will be punished accordingly. Ms. Swift,” she said, turning to Ellie, “you may go and unpack your belongings if you wish.”
Ellie nodded and silently made her way through the crowd, up the stairs, and into her dormitory. She shut the door quickly, blocking out the sound of McGonagall’s voice as she continued speaking. She leaned back against the door not bothering to keep her head from banging against it, which, of course, was a mistake as it made her head begin to pound.
She groaned and sank onto her bed. She had been hoping for a completely uneventful return to Hogwarts. She should have known better.
Within half-an-hour, Ellie’s belongings were unpacked and she was laying silently on her bed, staring up at the canopy. It was the same canopy that she had stared up at on many sleepless nights for the past six years. Nothing about it had changed.
She envied it for that reason alone.
Ellie shut her eyes, blocking out all the noise coming from the common room. She was very tired and felt very weak now, like a newborn kitten. All she wanted was to sleep.
Green flames shot up in the fireplace –
Ellie’s eyes snapped open. The canopy was still there. She was still on the bed. It was nothing more than a stupid dream. She shook her head and shut her eyes once more.
She wrenched open the window and threw the bowl out into the night sky. A moment later, the door burst open. She turned and, for half a second, remained completely still. Silently, she was hoping they would overlook her, that she was invisible. It was the same wish she had made as a child when she and Blake had been caught doing something naughty.
The moment passed as the first person through the door turned their wand toward her. She dropped to the ground and rolled behind her father’s desk. The curse rocketed over her head and through the window. Glass rained down upon her, slicing her delicate skin.
“We found the girl!”
Her eyes snapped open again as she shot up in bed, the voice still echoing in her ears. She could hear the noises from the common room as they drifted up to her, could see Lily’s bed nearby. She was safe and back at school. She took a shaky breath and placed a hand against her forehead, shivering at how cold it felt.
It was only a dream.
She repeated it to herself repeatedly as she lay back down. It was going to be a long night. . .
By the end of her first day back, all Ellie wanted was to collapse in bed and never move again. Her left side was aching horribly and she had never felt so tired in her life. Unfortunately, James and Sirius had other plans.
“I told you I just want to sleep,” she said irritably as they sat her in front of the fireplace in the common room.
“And we told you that it is entirely too early to be going to bed,” James said as he shook his head.
“Far too early,” Sirius repeated.
“I really don’t care,” she snapped as she moved to get off the couch. Sirius grinned and tapped her lightly on the shoulder, causing her to sink back down again.
“How do you expect to get up the stairs without help when I can knock you down with a tap?” he asked innocently.
Ellie clenched her teeth and shut her eyes. He had a point. “It looks like I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon,” she said angrily. “What do you two want?”
“To talk with you Hobbles McGee,” Sirius said with a grin.
Ellie’s eyes narrowed and she released a growl. “Don’t call me ‘Hobbles McGee,’” she snapped.
“How ‘bout Gimp?”
“How ‘bout I slit your throat?”
She said this with such ferocity and anger that even Sirius was taken aback by it. “Such hostility,” he finally said, sadly shaking his head.
“You’d be hostile if you were in my position,” she muttered, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I bet I would be sweetheart.”
She scowled at the name. She wasn’t sure exactly why, but the way he said it sounded so patronizing. “I’m going to bed,” she announced as she got up from the couch.
“So stubborn,” Sirius said, pushing her back down with one finger. “No wonder her patronus is a bull.”
“Lay off her,” Remus said suddenly. The three looked over to the armchair he was sitting in, a book in his hands as usual. He wore a scowl on his usually thoughtful face, which, when combined with his scars, gave him a menacing appearance. “Can’t you two see that she’s tired and mourning?”
James and Sirius gave her a closer, more scrutinizing look. “I think he’s right,” James said, squinting his eyes. “She does look kind of off.”
“Can’t be because of the throbbing pain in my side can it?” she asked sarcastically.
She refrained from beating her head on the wooden table in front of her. Remus sighed and got off his chair, pushing James and Sirius out of the way. “Do you want to go to bed?” he asked.
“Yes please,” she said.
He nodded, before pointing his wand towards the boys’ side and saying, “Accio broom.” James had only a few seconds in which to protest against Remus using his broom before he was silenced with an icy glare, courtesy of Remus.
“I know you hate flying,” he said as he turned back to her, “but I can’t get you up the stairs otherwise.”
“Because of the slide thing, I know,” she replied with a sigh.
She held her arms out in front of her, allowing Remus to pick her up and place her on the broom. She mentally noted that he was much stronger than he looked as he swung himself onto the broom behind her and gently lifted off. She heard James mutter something along the lines of “why didn’t we think of that” as they reached the correct door. Remus remained hovering on the broom, but kept it steady enough for her to slide off.
“You’ll be ok tonight?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” she said. “Lily has been helping out a lot.”
“Right,” he said. “Sleep well,” he added as he flew back down to the common room.
Ellie sighed. He had no clue how badly she wished she could sleep well. . .
The cool night air blew across her face, whipping her hair around her. “I told you, my children aren’t inside,” she heard her mother snap. “They’re visiting with relatives.”
“Where are the children?”
She was screaming for her mother to run, banging her fists against the walls frantically. . . but no sound came out of her mouth.
“I’d rather die than tell you!” her mother growled back. Ellie leaned against the wall breathing hard. She could hear Quinn say something from the kitchen, but ignored him.
“That can be arranged.”
“No! No!” she shrieked, stumbling backwards and into the kitchen. “Run mum!”
Ellie opened her eyes, gasping for breath. Her blankets were tangled around her legs and she was sweating. The room slowly came into focus and she sat up.
“What the hell was that for?”
Her head snapped to the left, her hand automatically fumbling for her wand. Lily was sitting on the ground, her legs sprawled out in front of her.
“What?” she asked in confusion. “Hold on. Let me get my wand.” She reached to the table and silently waved it, lighting the lamps around the room. “Oh my god, what happened?” she asked, catching sight of a large red spot on Lily’s left cheek.
“You punched me!” Lily said accusingly.
“You punched me in the face,” she repeated. “You were screaming in your sleep and I tried to wake you up!”
Ellie sighed. It appeared that it wasn’t a wall she was hitting after all. “I’m sorry Lils,” she said. “I was having a nightmare. I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s my fault,” Lily grumbled as she got to her feet. “I should know better than to try and wake you up by now.”
“Just pour cold water on me next time,” Ellie said with a frown. “Are you sure you’re ok? Your cheek is really red.”
“Yeah, it’s no problem,” Lily answered. “I’ll just put something on it and it’ll be fine by morning.”
Ellie nodded before miserably sinking back down into her pillows. How on earth had she been able to hit Lily and not realize it? Why wasn’t Lily angrier at her? Had she heard what she was screaming? She buried her face in the pillows and took a deep breath. She’d go and speak with Madam Pomfrey tomorrow about getting a sleeping potion. With any luck, it would keep the nightmares at bay for at least a little while. . .
Ellie was living in a haze. A sleep deprived haze to be exact. She was humiliated to admit it to herself, but she was scared to go to sleep at night and she was terrified of the nightmares she would face, especially after that sleeping potion Pomfrey had given her. Rather than submerging her in a dreamless state, it had intensified the dreams and made it twice as difficult for Lily to wake her up.
And so it was a moody, cranky, and all around exhausted Ellie that sat down in the Library to do some studying with Remus, who seemed to have decided he was her new body guard, and Peter, who seemed twitchier than ever.
“You feeling alright?” Remus asked for the tenth time since they sat down.
“Yes,” Ellie snapped. “I’m just fine. Thank you.” He arched an eyebrow slightly, but decided not to comment on her desperate need for an attitude adjustment.
Ellie released a long breath and ran a hand through her hair. She really needed to sleep, but she couldn’t sleep with those horrible nightmares. Even just closing her eyes for a minute was enough to draw them to the surface again.
“Why didn’t you go with them?” Peter asked.
Ellie blinked. “Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, completely flustered. “I know it’s not my business and all, but I was just wondering why you didn’t go with your brother and sister to your grandparents house,” he said. When she didn’t answer immediately, he added, “You don’t need to answer if you’re not comfortable.”
“It’s alright,” Ellie said, shaking her head slightly. She should have expected some curiosity. “I couldn’t risk it,” she finally replied. “If I had gone with them, I would have had to leave the Floo powder in the room and they would have been able to follow me.”
“Do you think they knew the address?”
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” she said bluntly. “My grandfather is a Ministry employee, so his information floats around in a lot of the departments that regular people’s wouldn’t. It wouldn’t exactly be too difficult for someone to get a hold of it if they really wanted to.”
“But couldn’t they just walk up to the house or something?” Peter asked again, ignoring a warning look Remus shot her.
Ellie shook her head, a gesture meant for both of them. She really didn’t mind talking about it too much. “My grandparents placed a bunch of defensive spells over their property,” she explained. “You can’t get in through walking, flying, or apparating unless you’re a blood relation. Everyone else needs to be let in by someone inside or someone who is a blood relation.” She paused for a moment. “My grandfather and father had put the same spells onto my house in the autumn. They must have messed them up somehow.”
“I’m still not getting the whole deal with the Floo powder,” Peter pressed. “Why did that matter so much if they can’t get in without being blood relations?”
“Because,” she said patiently, “the Floo network wasn’t affected by those spells since it’s a Ministry controlled system. The best we could do was get the Ministry to agree to set up a private system that would only allow access to their house from our’s. They have no other family, so there was no need to set it up with anyone else.” She paused a moment before adding, “My Grandfather has a lot of friends in high places, so it wasn’t to difficult to get done.”
“So if they had the address and they had the powder,” Remus said, “they would have been able to get access to them only through your house?”
“Correct,” Ellie said simply. “So, as you can see, I really had no choice in the matter. I had to stay behind in order to protect them.”
“What if they had had Floo Powder of their own?” Remus suddenly asked.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Ellie admitted. “Looking back now, I probably should have, but, honestly, they’re so arrogant that I’m willing to bet that they would have assumed that they would have killed us all easily and then had ample time to steal some of our Floo Powder and then slip off to kill my grandparents.”
Silence fell over the little group. Ellie watched as Madam Pinch stamped returned books and sent them flying back to the correct shelves. “How did they get into your house though?” Remus finally asked.
Ellie looked at him. His brow was furrowed in concentration as he looked down at his text book. “I have no clue,” she said, ignoring the little voice in her head that was saying otherwise. “I guess the protective measures around the house failed somehow.”
Remus nodded after a moment. “That’s a distinct possibility,” he admitted, though his face remained set with concentration.
After a moment of silence, Peter looked at Ellie cautiously. “When did you know something was wrong?” he asked hesitantly. “Was it when your mum was attacked?”
Ellie fixed him with a firm glare. Peter’s face drained of blood as he quickly fumbled for an apology. Remus, for his part, had closed his eyes upon hearing him ask the question. “Its fine Peter,” she said after a minute of this. “Really, it’s fine.” She swallowed over a lump that was forming in her throat. “Can we talk about something else now?”
“Of course,” Remus said, quickly adding, “did either of you see what Wallace was wearing today?”
The conversation killed nearly thirty minutes of their time, time that none of them would ever get back. . . but it made them laugh and it made Ellie forget her new responsibilities for a short amount of time, which was more than she could have asked for.
The short moment of forgetfulness was, however, completely shattered as she caught sight of Blake as he roamed through a nearby book stack. She felt her breathing become more jagged, her palms begin to sweat, and a general sense of panic wash over her. Unfortunately, this was not lost on Remus.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Can we leave?” she asked, her voice rising an octave. “Please?”
He looked at her curiously, before nodding his head. He waved his wand, sending their belongings into their bags and the three, led by an urgent Ellie, exited the library. As soon as the door closed behind them, Ellie let out her breath and leaned back against the wall.
“What was that about?” Peter asked.
Ellie didn’t answer. It made no sense that she had reacted in the manner she did. There had been no danger or signs of aggression from her cousin.
“Ellie?” Remus asked in a softer voice. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” she managed to get out. “Sorry. I was feeling a bit lightheaded. Room was too warm.”
“Do you want to see Pomfrey?” Peter asked. She avoided looking at Remus. She had a feeling he would know she was lying if she did.
“No, I’m alright now,” she said. “I’m just going to head back to the common room if you don’t mind.”
“We’ll come with you,” Remus said in a tone that left no room for argument.
Ellie had just managed to restrain the urge to roll her eyes when she caught sight of Ben coming around the corner with his group of friends. Upon catching sight of them, Ben waved his friends on and hurried over. Ellie could see the look of disgust the blonde girl shot in her direction before they disappeared around the corner.
“Hey,” Ben said, greeting all three of them. “How are you all?”
“Fine,” Remus said civilly. “And yourself?”
“I’m well,” he said, “beginning to wish I didn’t have to take the N.E.W.T.s to be part of the Ministry though.”
“I’ve heard those are tough,” Peter piped up. “Hope I don’t have to take them.”
“I’m sure you’d do well,” Ben politely lied. Peter lit up at his words and Remus even managed to grin a tiny bit. That grin, however, was wiped away the moment Ben asked, “Can I talk with you Ellie?”
Ellie glanced at her two keepers. Peter was staring at his nails, but had a firm grip on his wand. Remus, on the other hand, looked ready to attack him the moment she showed any indication of discomfort. “Alright,” she answered. “Why don’t you two go on ahead. Ben can walk me back to the tower.” Remus opened his mouth to argue, only to be dragged down the hall and around the corner by Peter.
“Sorry about them,” she apologized. “They’ve gotten rather protective lately.”
“I know,” Ben said with amusement. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he rocked back and forth on his heels. “The entire school knows about your body guards at this point.”
“Something tells me you think that’s a good thing.”
“It is,” he said. “With everything that’s been happening lately and all the rumors going around, it is a good thing.”
“What do you mean?”
Ben glanced around quickly. Seeing no one in sight, he bent down and whispered, “There are some people in the school who aren’t happy you’re alive right now.”
Despite his proximity to her and his warm breath on her skin, she felt cold. “Blake?” she guessed, barely daring to say his name.
“Among others,” he said. “I’m not entirely sure who, but I do know that some of them are angry enough to try something dumb.”
“Like attack me?”
He nodded and drew her arm through his own as they began to walk. “It’s probably safer if you don’t leave the tower alone.”
“I haven’t been. Remus is always with me and sometimes Peter, James, Lily, or Sirius is there too,” she answered. “I’m sort of sick of feeling like I’m being babysat though. I am capable of taking care of myself.”
“I know,” he answered as he turned a serious look to her. “But I would feel better if you let them keep at it,” he added quietly.
Ellie was quiet for a moment, before she nodded. “Alright,” she said.
“Thanks,” he answered with a small smile.
They fell silent as they walked slowly. Ellie’s mind was churning as she processed the information Ben had told her. Would this group of students really try anything and, if so, would Blake join them? She shivered, not liking the answer her mind gave her.
“You cold?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “Just a little frightened I guess.” She looked towards her feet, a bit embarrassed she had admitted it.
“I think everyone is a little scared,” he said, “myself included.”
“What do you have to be frightened about?” she asked. “You’re about as safe as anyone could possibly be.”
“Being a pureblood means nothing,” he said as he shook his head. “I’m not scared for myself.”
“Then who are you scared for?” she asked, hoping he would answer.
He looked at her, then shook his head and turned away. “You already know,” he said.
In spite of herself, Ellie felt blood rush into her cheeks. It was a ridiculous reaction, but one she couldn’t control. “I want to hear you say it,” she said.
They stopped walking and turned to face one another. Ben laid a gentle hand on her right cheek and looked her in the eyes. “I’m scared of something happening to you,” he said softly. “I’m worried that I’ll lose you.”
She closed her eyes and turned her face towards his hand. “I’ll be fine,” she said. “I’m like a cat. I have nine lives.”
“Well, do me a favor and don’t try and test that ok?” he asked with a tiny grin.
“Sure,” she replied with a grin of her own.
He removed his hand from her right cheek and moved it to the other side of her face. Ellie tensed up as she felt his hand move over her scar. “Don’t move,” he said quietly.
“Please don’t touch it,” she said.
He lowered his hand and looked at her puzzled. “Why? It’s only a scar.”
“To everyone else maybe,” she said awkwardly, “but to me it represents everything that I have lost. I don’t like thinking about it.”
He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked at her seriously. “You can’t live in the past Ellie,” he said simply. “What happened was terrible and it’s going to hurt for a long time, but the worst thing you can do is focus so completely on what’s happened that you never get the chance to experience what’s happening now.”
Ellie moved away from him. “How would you know?” she asked bitterly, knowing full well that she shouldn’t be taking her frustration out on him. “How could you possibly understand?”
“I can’t,” he said honestly. “I’m one of the fortunate few who don’t know what you’re going through. . . but I do know that bottling your anger and fear up inside is no way to live.” Ellie remained with her back to him, silently staring at the tapestry before her. She didn’t jump when he lay a hand on her shoulder. “Ells, you can always talk to me. You know that right?”
“I do,” she said as she placed her hand on top of his.
“You know I’ll always be there for you?”
Ellie stared at the tapestry for another moment, before she turned towards him. He wrapped his arms around her and she rested her head against his chest. It was warm and safe and she never wanted to be let go. “You know you’re just as beautiful as before right?” When she remained silent he clucked his tongue and placed a hand under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “You are.”
“I have a huge scar on my face,” she said, pulling a face.
“And I still think you’re beautiful,” he said seriously.
“No I’m not.”
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
“And clichés are overrated.”
“Touché madam,” he said with a grin. Ellie surprised them both by giggling. “See? That’s why you’re beautiful Ells; not because of your hair, not because of your eyes, and not because of your skin. You’re beautiful because of what’s here,” he said, tapping her forehead, “and here,” he added as he lay a hand over her heart. “It’s what’s inside that makes you beautiful and that’s something that no one can take away from you.”
Ellie looked into his eyes for another moment, before sighing and placing her head back against his chest. She could hear his heart beating through his shirt. “You know I love you right?” she murmured.
“Yes,” he answered and she could hear the smile in his voice. . .
“Ellie’s got a boyfriend! Ellie’s got a boyfriend!”
“Shut up Black.”
Sirius grinned at her from across the table. “What’re you going to do? Going to ask him to beat me up?”
“Tease me enough and maybe I will,” she snapped back as she eyed the mashed potatoes. She had never been more tempted to start a food fight in her life.
“Can’t we all just be happy for her?” Lily asked.
“No,” the four boys responded at once. Lily rolled her eyes.
“Really?” Ellie asked. “You’re all being way too overprotective right now.”
“We’re just looking out for you,” James said simply.
“Yeah, don’t want Gibbons taking away your virgin status anytime soon,” Sirius added.
This time, Ellie had to sit on her hands to keep from chucking the bowl of potatoes at him. She glared at Sirius. “That is none of your concern Black.”
“But I’m the protector of young girls’ chastity,” he said proudly.
“Yeah, guarding them from other blokes maybe,” James snorted.
“That’s beside the point,” Sirius said, eliciting laughter from the other boys.
“Why do we hang out with them?” Lily asked.
“Because we have no choice?” Ellie asked.
“Lovely aren’t they?” Peter asked.
“So how is the boyfriend?” Remus asked, placing his chin in his hand and batting his eyelashes at her.
“He’s fine,” Ellie said coldly.
“You give him that kind of reception?” James asked, before crossing his arms and saying, “Brrr.”
“You’ll never lose that virgin status if you keep that up,” Sirius said wisely.
Ellie released a shriek, shot up out of her seat, and flipped the bowl of mashed potatoes onto Sirius’ head. Sirius sat in his seat, a look of complete shock on his face. It wasn’t until a clump of potatoes fell from his hair and into his goblet with a splash, that James lost it completely and began to laugh hysterically.
“Think that’s funny?” Sirius asked.
“Yeah,” James answered. A second later, his face was covered with potatoes. The two boys looked at one another. “Duh hur hur hur,” James said as potatoes fell from his nose.
“Duh hur hur hur,” Sirius answered back.
Ellie slapped her forehead with her hand. It was going to be a long night. . .
A/N: So yeah, I was wrong about not finishing this in time. I have about half of Chapter 21 written at this point, so keep an eye out for that towards the beginning of October. Thanks for reading everyone!
- Anders -
You must be logged in to post a review on this story.