It was the water balloon that did it. The perfectly round and filled red water balloon, with a few drops of water from the faucet still clinging to the outside, had been exactly what it took to break Ellie’s silence. She could handle a lot of things, but the consequences the water balloon could bring were enough to make her question her judgment.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this Sirius,” she said nervously. The hallway was empty at the moment, but every student at Hogwarts knew that at exactly two every day, Filch patrolled the corridor containing the Charms classroom.
“Are you listening to me?” she asked in a low voice, her eyes scanning the hallway. “We’re going to get caught!”
“Chill out Ellie. We have an escape plan.” He casually tossed the water balloon up and down with a grin. “It’s so perfect, I almost feel bad about throwing it.”
“And risk losing this opportunity?” He flashed a mischievous grin. “Never.”
Exactly what the opportunity was, Ellie had not known when Sirius had first proposed the mission to her. It hadn’t been until she had ducked out of class claiming a stomach ache and met him by the stairway at the end of the hall, that he had shown her the water balloon.
“But this is just stupid,” she persisted, crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes. “What point is there in throwing a water balloon at Filch?”
Sirius gave her an incredulous stare. “Because it’s funny,” he stated simply. “Besides, he got me detention for no reason last week.”
“You were mocking him!”
“It was not mocking, per se. It was more of a creative interpretation.”
“Well whatever it was,” Ellie sniffed, “it doesn’t warrant throwing a water balloon at him.”
“You’re entitled to your opinion, even though you’re wrong.”
Ellie checked her watch and anxiously rose to her feet. Only a minute left. “This really isn’t a good idea.” She could hear footsteps approaching from an adjacent hall.
“Then leave,” he replied with a shrug. “Either way, this balloon will be thrown.”
Ellie bit her lip and with a groan she sank back onto the floor besides him. “If we get detention,” she began threateningly.
Sirius rolled his eyes. “We won’t. I promise.”
They fell silent once more, listening as the footsteps grew closer and closer. Any second now, Filch would walk around the corner and turn towards the Charms room, his back completely exposed, and all hell would break loose. Her eyes found her watch again. Three, two, one –
Sirius suddenly shot up from the ground, the balloon clutched in his hands like a Quaffle. He drew his arm back and, in what seemed like slow motion to Ellie, he lobbed the water balloon up and into the air with all his might. He stood for a moment, breathing heavily with excitement, until the sound of a definitive pop and splash hit Ellie’s ears.
“Come on, come on!” he hauled her to her feet and dragged her around the corner. They took off sprinting, their feet echoing loudly in the hall as they heard Filch swearing from somewhere behind them.
They skidded to a halt and slid around another corner, making their way past classrooms filled with students. Ignoring a few curious looks, they raced on. Sirius stopped short, nearly pulling her shoulder from its socket as he ducked through the front doors leading to the grounds. A second later, they were out of sight and hidden near the edge of the forest.
“That was bloody brilliant!” Sirius said as he roared with laughter. He sank to the pine needle covered ground and crossed his legs.
Ellie rolled her eyes and nervously edged away from the forest. “Yes, it was bloody brilliant,” she said mockingly.
“Don’t try to tell me you didn’t find that hysterical,” he said. “I mean, come on. The look on his face was priceless!”
Ellie made a face and sank down beside him. “Be that as it may,” she said primly, “it wasn’t exactly a nice thing to do.”
“You loved it and you know it,” he said with a grin.
“I will neither confirm nor deny that,” she said as she plucked some blades of grass from the ground. “How long do you think we’ll need to hide out here for?”
“Knowing Filch?” Sirius asked thoughtfully. “Probably until we’re both forty.”
“Lovely,” she sighed.
Sirius grinned and shot her a look from the corner of his eye. “You know, it’s awfully chilly out here,” he began.
“No,” she said before he could continue.
“You don’t know what I was about to say!”
She shot him a glare. “It could only be one of two things and I’m not doing either of them.”
“Come on,” he said, throwing an arm around her shoulders. “Gibbons doesn’t need to know.” Ellie shoved his arm off and stood up, brushing the dirt from her clothes. “Don’t leave Ellie. I was just kidding! Beside, Filch may see you.”
“I’d rather take my chances,” she said coolly as she turned and marched off. She was thankful when she didn’t hear him following her. He had no right to tease her like that, especially now that she was back with Ben.
She hurried towards the castle, flinching as the wind whipped her hair across her face. She hated March; always had and always would. Bitterly cold and ridiculously rainy, it was the single most miserable month in her opinion. She could hardly contain her excitement at the thought that in just a few days it would be replaced by the milder weather of April.
Ellie darted back to the common room, barely managing to avoid a wet and homicidal looking Filch as he stalked the halls with Mrs. Norris at his side. She didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until she was back in the general safety of the common room and the portrait was securely shut behind her.
Ben was seated by the fire with a group of his friends. He waved to her and she perched herself on the arm of his chair before giving him a kiss. As she pulled away, she noted the momentary look of disgust that passed over the blonde girl’s face.
“What’re you doing?” she asked curiously.
“Discussing whether macaroni and cheese tastes better when the noodles are shaped like dinosaurs.”
“Now I remember why I date you,” she said with a snicker.
“Very funny,” he replied. “Come up to my room.”
“I want to talk privately.”
“If by talk you mean f-”
“Shove it Albertson,” Ben barked. After shooting his friends a glare that dared them to say anything else, he took Ellie’s hand in his own and led her to his room. He shut the door behind them and gently sat Ellie down on his bed. “How are you?”
“I’m well,” she answered. “My side still hurts a bit, but the Healers said-”
“I don’t mean that,” he said, biting his lower lip slightly. “I mean, how are you?”
Ellie sighed. She had been expecting this for a while, but had been hoping it wouldn’t have come up. “I’m,” she began, “well, I’m pretty crappy to be honest.”
Ben nodded as he looked down at his hands. “You need to talk about what happened.”
Ellie flinched. She really didn’t want to relive the last moments of her mother’s life nor did she wish to return to what she feared were her own last moments. It was horrifying enough having to deal with the constant nightmares.
“I really don’t want to,” she muttered under her breath.
“I wouldn’t either,” he answered. “But bottling it up isn’t healthy.”
That much was evident to her. It didn’t change the fact that she didn’t want to discuss the matter further.
“It doesn’t need to be with me,” Ben said. “You can talk to whomever you want to, but you need to talk about it.”
Ellie remained silent as she thought over his words. She obviously couldn’t talk to her family about what happened; her mother and aunt were dead, her father was in prison, her siblings and grandparents were in hiding, and she suspected her Uncle and cousin of having a hand in the attack on her home. No, family was definitely out of the question. Which left only a small group of people she could speak with; Lily, James, Sirius, Peter, Remus, and Ben.
Lily she couldn’t talk to. She may have forgiven her, but Ellie would never be able to fully trust her again. Similarly, while James hadn’t meant to upset her when he let the entire tower know about her father’s affair she wouldn’t be able to trust him with this information either.
Peter was out of the question completely, mostly because he was Peter. He had a good heart and he genuinely seemed to care about his friends, but he always seemed a bit too eager to please others that he perceived as being the most powerful. There was no way to know whether or not he would reveal what she told him to anyone else.
Which left Remus and Ben. She adored them both and felt a connection to them that she didn’t have to the others. Remus had been there to defend her and help her heal after her father’s arrest. . . but he was hiding something from her and it had to do with the prank that Sirius had pulled on Snape a few months before. She hadn’t pressured him, thinking he would tell her when he trusted her. . . but after all this time he still hadn’t said anything, which meant he still didn’t trust her.
Which left Ben.
She turned her eyes towards him, slowly mulling over the pros and cons of telling him anything. He was loyal and trustworthy; he had proved that much in waiting for her. He was willing to listen and help her work through her problems.
But he was also overprotective and worried about everything. If she told him what happened would he be able to handle hearing it? Would she be able to handle reliving it? And then there was his family. She knew that he and his brother were no longer on speaking terms and that he rarely saw his parents, but there were still rumors floating around about the elder Gibbons men being involved with the Death Eaters. Could she trust him knowing that?
Ellie shook her head. Thinking that way made her no better than Lily had been when her father was arrested. It made her no better than that countless number of wizards and witches who judged her or Sirius for things that they couldn’t control.
So, it was with the spirit of not being a hypocrite that Ellie sighed and said, “It started earlier this year.” She stumbled her way through the events of the past year; everything from Blake’s admission that he was willing to sacrifice his mother by the Lake to the day of her father’s trial. It wasn’t until she began to speak of Rosaline that she felt her throat tighten up. The pain of losing both her aunt and mother so quickly was terrible.
“Rosaline was always my favorite member of the family,” she finally managed to get out. “Quinn’s too, although he mainly liked her for the cookies. She just had this cheery outlook and no nonsense manner about her.”
“Sounds like you,” Ben said as he absentmindedly traced the design on the blanket. “Minus the cheery part of course.”
“Very funny,” she said sarcastically. The slight joking tone fell from her voice as she continued, her face slowly growing paler. “It was completely unexpected when she was attacked. The last time I saw her was over Christmas holidays and all of a sudden I get a letter from mum telling me she’s at St. Mungo’s. . . and then only a few weeks later we found out she was dead.”
Ellie buried her face in her hands, but she held back the tears. Ben had gone silent and his hand had stopped moving. “I think Sal did it.”
“Her husband?” She nodded in answer. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” she said vaguely, not wanting to seriously consider the possibilities. “I guess because of the way Blake has been acting lately. He said that he and his father intended to be on the winning side of things and that if his mother didn’t make it then it didn’t matter.” She looked up at him as he nodded seriously. “Am I horrible for thinking that?”
“Of course not,” he said as he draped an arm around her shoulders. “With an attitude like that it’s no wonder you think they were involved.”
Ellie breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn’t voiced her thoughts on the matter to anyone since she silently worried that she was overreacting. But Blake had changed over the past few years. He had begun adopting an increasingly worrisome attitude towards muggleborns and even his own family. And her Uncle had always been a bit standoffish towards Rosaline from what Ellie could remember. Her mother had always assumed it was because of the long hours and stressful work that came along with his job, but Ellie wasn’t so sure anymore.
“When we left the hospital,” Ellie continued, forcing the words from her throat, “we went straight home. I was jumpy the entire time because I was worried we would be attacked on the way home. I didn’t even think to be concerned about our safety when we got there.
“Quinn was still really upset when we arrived, so Blinky took him to his room and told him a story before heading to the store. Mum needed some air, so I offered to watch Isabella while she went to walk in the garden.”
“I thought House-Elves weren’t allowed in Diagon Alley without an escort,” Ben said furrowing his brow.
“They can’t,” Ellie agreed, “but Hogsmeade doesn’t have the same standards, so she went there instead.”
Her voice suddenly stopped working. She could feel her mother’s hand on her hair as she told her how proud she was of her. It was the last time she had seen her mother alive.
“Do you need a break?” Ben asked quietly.
“No,” Ellie said, barely holding back the tears. “After a while, Quinn came downstairs. He was hungry and wanted to know when mum would be making dinner. We couldn’t find her and I thought she needed some more time to herself, so I offered to make dinner.” It was getting increasingly difficult to carry on with the story, but she knew it needed to be told. It had felt wonderful when Ben had told her she wasn’t terrible for suspecting her uncle and cousin. She knew that telling the rest of the story would be difficult, but she would feel much better when someone knew the truth.
“I went into the pantry for some pasta. Quinn loves spaghetti and I wanted to cheer him up a bit. Plus, spaghetti is pretty difficult to mess up,” she continued, her voice low and hands trembling. “I overheard people arguing in the garden. My mum kept insisting that Quinn, Isabella, and I weren’t home, but they didn’t believe her. They-they attacked her.”
Ben grasped her shaking hands in his own and stared at her face. Ellie’s eyes were wide and her face had contorted into one of extreme terror. “I grabbed Quinn and Isabella and ran them to dad’s office. Quinn asked if I was going with them and I-I said yes!” She burst into hysterical tears at this point, no longer to contain the sobs.
Ben pulled her into his arms and cradled her there as she sobbed. She had promised her brother that she would go with them, that she knew what she was doing. She had failed in keeping both those promises.
“I was going to go back,” Ellie sobbed. “Mum was outnumbered. I was going to help her, but they found me first.”
“It’s ok,” Ben soothed as he rocked her gently. “It’s ok.”
“I had to stay to keep Quinn and Isabella safe,” she continued, barely able to get the words out. “They would have followed us otherwise!”
“I know,” Ben replied. When her sobs turned into nearly hysterical screams, he took her face in his hands and forced her to look at him. “It isn’t your fault Ells.”
“But I li-lied to him!” she sobbed.
“And you saved them both in doing so.” Ellie took a few deep breaths. “You did exactly what you needed to in order to keep them safe.”
She sniffled and wiped a few stray tears from her cheeks. “But I lied,” she said thickly. “I lied to him.”
“And he is alive right now because of you,” Ben reminded her gently. “Look, would he have gone if you had told him the truth?”
Ellie shook her head after a moment. “No,” she said. “He would have refused to leave.”
“And you would have died defending them both,” Ben said simply. “And they would have been killed as well. Yes, you lied to him, but you saved his life, Isabella’s, and your own by doing so and there is no shame in that.”
She released a shaky breath and rested her head on his shoulder. “After they left,” she continued after a few moments, “I threw the floo powder out the window and they found me. They tried to kill me.”
“And failed,” he reminded. “They failed to kill you.”
“That much is evident,” she muttered. A moment later they were both overcome by the giggles. By the time they had quieted down, the sun was setting and their stomachs were rumbling.
“I’m hungry,” Ben announced.
“You’re a boy. You’re always hungry,” Ellie scoffed. Their eyes locked and Ellie became very aware of the fact that they were alone. She felt the blood rush into her cheeks as she quickly looked away once more. Ben placed a hand beneath her chin and turned her face towards his once more.
She felt as if the world were spinning. Here she was, completely alone with none other than Ben Gibbons. Sure, they had been alone countless times while they had been dating the first time around, but it still felt like the very first time to her. Ellie wasn’t even sure it was real.
“So,” Ben said as he looked down at her, a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. She merely stared back at him, feeling her cheeks turn pink at his attention. Ever so slowly, she watched him move towards her. One of his hands placed itself on her waist, drawing her closer to him as his mouth moved towards her’s. A second before their lips met, Ellie felt a nervous flutter in her chest and she twitched as if she wanted to step back.
“Yeah,” she answered, giving Ben a small smile. “Just a bit nervous I guess.”
“I tend to have that affect on people,” he grinned. She was struck by just how perfect his teeth were. Without saying another word, he stepped forward and kissed her. . .
Ellie was rather pleased. She had finally managed to sleep through the night without any nightmares. In fact, she hadn’t dreamed of anything at all, but that was better than constant images of shrouded women and dead relatives. It seemed that all she really needed was to talk to someone about what had happened. She made a mental note to remember that in the future.
She walked into the girl’s room and threw her things down onto the bed. “Have a good time last night?” Lily asked, hiding her smile behind her Transfiguration textbook.
“James and Sirius followed us didn’t they?” she asked, not bothering to deny the fact. When Lily didn’t answer, she sighed and sat down at her desk. “We didn’t even do anything! Bloody boys.”
“They’re just concerned,” Lily answered. “They know how boys think and they don’t want Ben trying to pull anything.”
“And according to Ben neither do you,” Ellie said as she raised an eyebrow. “Castration?”
“I’m just making sure he knows how to treat a lady,” Lily said firmly. “I don’t want a repeat of last time.” Ellie shot her a glare, but the red head merely shrugged and said, “Well, I don’t.”
Lily turned back to practicing Transfiguration. Ellie watched for a minute, before she sank down onto the seat before her mirror and did her best to block Lily’s voice out.
Ben had said she was still beautiful, but Ellie wasn’t sure she bought it. She ran a hand along the left side of her cheek, repressing a shudder as she felt the raised form of her scar beneath her fingertips. How could she still be beautiful in his eyes?
With a sigh she dropped her hand into her lap. No amount of magic would erase the physical, emotional, and mental scarring she had experienced within the past year. She was utterly convinced of it now. The only thing that remained to be done was to come to terms with her new face and the only way to do that was to look at herself in the mirror.
But she was scared. Her entire life she had always been told how beautiful she was. She had always prided herself on her beauty. It was a defining characteristic of her personality.
And now it was gone.
Just as quickly as it had come, blossoming in her youth and flourishing in her adolescence, it had gone. It was a harsh lesson that Ellie had learned and one that she would not be forgetting anytime soon. No matter what you were given, what you earned, what you worked for. . . it could be taken away just as quickly and cruelly.
She took a deep breath. So what if she had a scar on her face? She was still herself and, like Ben had said, that was what was important. She steeled herself for what she was about to see, turned her hear, opened her eyes, and stared into the mirror.
She had no reflection.
She rubbed her eyes and stared into the mirror once more. Her reflection was still gone and the room was not reflected in the glass. Instead, she watched with rising horror as her father’s study came into view. As she watched, the green flames flickered to life and a pool of blood appeared on the floor. As soon as she saw her own wounded body materialize on top of the blood, she felt a searing pain tear through her left side. She clamped her hands to her side and fell from her seat, screaming in agony. She pulled her hands away, shivering uncontrollably as she saw them covered in blood. Her blood. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping it was nothing more than a dream.
Her eyes flickered open. She was all mixed up and confused. Where was she? What was going on? Why was there so much pain? Where was she? She felt tears rolling down her cheeks. She bit down on her tongue and felt a hot metallic taste flood her mouth. She couldn’t hear Lily chattering anymore, just the strange sound of a roaring fire.
Ellie forced her eyes open and choked back a sob. She was in her house, lying in front of the fireplace once again. Blood was pooling around her, spilling from the wound in her side where the fire poker had torn through her. She had never been rescued. It had all been nothing more than the lovely dream of a dying girl.
She heard the familiar sound of heavy boots walk towards her. She felt a foot slid beneath her stomach and roll her over onto her back. Once more, she looked up into a pair of dark eyes and a face half-hidden behind a mask. Once more she heard the cracking wood in the fireplace, but she forced her eyes to remain open. Once more she stared into her cousin’s eyes, refusing to look away even as he raised his wand towards her chest. With one last frenzied breath, she raised a hand to protect herself. Blake whispered two small words and a green light engulfed her vision as a scream was rent from her lips. . .
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