Chapter 5 : Five
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If anyone were to be considered misunderstood, it was Antioch. Or so he had convinced himself. He used to give his brothers orders so that they would play with him, but instead, it turned them against him. Cadmus had his friend Astrid whom he always wrote to and talked to while Ignotus was always surrounded by mounts of books that Antioch could not understand the allure of. Therefore, he was unable to find a way to befriend either of them and pressure was the only way he could have had them do anything with him. And it always ended in tears and in distancing him from his younger brothers further.
The only thing that kept the eldest of the Peverell boys sane was how he was to leave for Hogwarts in a matter of a few days. He would go there and start over; he was going to be nice and lighthearted and hardworking. He was going to have friends who did things with him because they wanted to, not because they were scared of him.
"YOU SAID IT WAS LIKE A SNAKE! YOU SAID WE SHOULD FEED IT RAT WHISKERS!"Antioch heard Cadmus shout. The eldest of the Peverell boys was passing by his brothers' rooms as he envisioned himself be surrounded by a group of appropriate mates, as he imagined what sort of people he were to meet, which house he were to be sorted into.
But such fanciful images could have waited.
For weeks, he had seen Cadmus and Ignotus bond over books, constantly talking about some creature and another similar one that Astrid had. Nonetheless, until that moment, Antioch had not found himself a way to interfere and know what they were talking about without scaring them into doing so.
The door to Cadmus's room was slightly open, allowing Antioch a tiny crevice to watch things through.
"I did not know! And we fed it grass as well!" Ignotus cried in response, getting to his feet while wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
"IT HAS LEGS! HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW?!" Cadmus's hands flew up in the air with fury, his face redder than Antioch had ever seen it before.
"I DO NOT KNOW!" To Antioch, Ignotus seemed to be feeling guilty. Even though he was shouting, every time Cadmus opened his mouth, Ignotus looked at the ground and pouted, his eyes full of tears.
"IT WAS HERE IN THIS VERY BOOK! HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE KNOWN?!" Cadmus seemed to be inconsolable as though he had lost something very special, and Antioch could not help but wonder whether this was merely about the creature he and Ignotus had been discussing for weeks.
"I HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK BEFORE!" Ignotus argued, the tears slipping onto his cheeks faster than he could have stopped them.
"WELL, YOU MUST HAVE! IT HAS ALL THE ANSWERS!" Cadmus pointed at an open book on his bed, his eyes focused on his brother.
Slowly, Antioch pushed the door open to enter the chamber and was glad it did not creak as he had expected it to.
"I DID NOT KNOW!" Ignotus repeated loudly and continued to cry.
With his brothers distracted by their fury at each other, Antioch took the chance and picked up the fat many-legged creature and let it rest on his held out palm. Hoping that his brothers would not notice him, he tried to make his way over to the window as quietly as possible, taking one wide, gentle step at a time.
"YOU ARE AN ABSOLUTE FOOL! YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING, THAT YOU KNOW BETTER THAN ME, BUT YOU DO NOT! YOU ARE A FOOL! AND YOU HAVE HURT URSULA!" At that moment, Cadmus's hands came in contact with Ignotus's shoulders, and a moment later, Ignotus hit the wall behind him and fell to the ground.
If what was causing the problem was gone, there would be no problem at all.
Antioch quickly set down the small, slimy creature onto the window sill and ran over to where his brothers were standing.
"I was only trying to help!" Ignotus's voice was squeaky and his face was damp with tears. Momentarily, he covered his face with his tiny hands and continued to sob quietly, his knees brought up to his chest.
"Dear Lord," Cadmus mumbled and looked down at the ground as he realised what he had done. Antioch was eager to see how Cadmus was going to deal with this situation, what was he going to do differently. How was this any different from when Antioch had pushed Ignotus outside in the garden?
The concern and guilt that appeared on Cadmus's face did not remain for longer than a few moments when his fell onto the small wooden box on the ground. Abruptly, his slumped shoulders straightened up and he stood tall, his eyes wide with confusion as he began to turn around himself in circles, scanning the chamber for something he could not find.
"Cadmus?" Antioch said to catch his brother's attention, wondering what accounted for the sudden change in reaction.
"Where is Ursula?" Cadmus stopped revolving around and stared at his older brother, his eyebrows closer to his hairline than his eyes.
Before Antioch could ask who Ursula was, Cadmus was pointing at the box on the ground and saying, "She was right there! Antioch, what have you done?!"
Antioch tried to answer but he was unable to as his brother's hands were clasped around his neck, preventing air from getting into his body and his voice from leaving it. Antioch fumbled around and tried to push his brother away, but Cadmus would not move. What was wrong with Cadmus that day, Antioch could not tell, but the eldest of the Peverell boys was mentally reciting the prayers his mother had taught him, thinking he was going to die at his brother's hands.
"Cadmus! Cadmus, let him go!"
Suddenly, there was a lot of movement as though someone was shaking Cadmus by the shoulders. Antioch noticed his youngest brother behind Cadmus, trying to pull the enraged boy away but failing miserably and falling backwards onto the ground instead.
When Antioch saw Ignotus flee the room in a hurry, he realised that he had to handle the situation on his own or be killed by his younger brother. Somehow he managed to push Cadmus away, but Cadmus stayed away only long enough for Antioch to gasp loudly. Soon enough, it was an entanglement of limbs and collisions between fists and noses, and heads and walls. Domination was split between the two of them, each gaining control for no longer than a few seconds before being pushed underneath and losing grasp on the matter.
Antioch could have sworn that it lasted for hours, that the throbbing pain in his head could not have resulted from a shorter fight. Nevertheless, it had only been minutes when Ignotus returned to the room with Buck and Milly. And seconds later, their mother was at the door, one of her hands covering her mouth in shock.
"Mother, help me! He is going to kill me!" Antioch screamed once he saw Beatrice as Cadmus nailed him to the ground, punching him in the face once again.
"Cadmus! Get off your brother this instant!" Beatrice ordered firmly as she entered the room.
"Please stop!" Ignotus was standing next to their mother, his face still tear-stained. "Mother, they are bleeding."
"Where is Ursula, Antioch? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO IT?!" Cadmus ignored his mother's order and kept his hands at his brother's collar.
"I put it on the window! Get away from me now!" Antioch told Cadmus and took a deep breath in, glad that things have slowed down a little. He had no intention to withhold information from his brother, but Cadmus had lunged forward at him to suddenly that he had not the opportunity to respond or say anything coherent.
As Cadmus scrambled up in a hurry and ran in the window's direction, Antioch sat up and winced upon touching his face.
"My dear lord, Antioch, are you okay?" Beatrice was kneeling by her eldest son but her eyes were on Cadmus who was clinging onto the open window.
"It hurts, Mother," Antioch complained and cringed once his mother touched his shoulder. Every bone in his body felt as though it had been forced out of place, enlarged, then cruelly shoved back. His muscles felt swollen underneath his now bright pink skin and he could tell that soon, they would have shown a colourful display of purple and blue as well. They hurt that much. Now that his brother was off him, Antioch could feel something cold trickling down the side of his face. He put his hand on his face, and it returned blood-stained.
"Ignotus! Ursula is stuck on a leaf! I do not know what is happening! Something is getting wrapped around her! Do you think she is dying?" Cadmus had completely lost grip on his nerves and emotions. He was scared and furious at the same time, his voice shaking as he seeked help from the same brother that only a few minutes ago he had shoved aside. His shirt was ripped at the sleeve, revealing what seemed to be a nasty cut that dyed the white cloth surrounding it red.
"It is forming a cocoon. It is growing," Ignotus informed his brother quietly before he went and hid behind his mother and looked at Antioch with concern.
For once, they were in the same situation. For once, they were both victims.
Ignotus was the only one who noticed how worried their mother had been. She kept on looking between Antioch and Cadmus, each of them more bruised than the other, each lacking justification for the massacre they both had caused. Not knowing what else to do or how severe the boys' injuries were, she decided to send them to the care house where their uncle worked, the one Ignotus had been wanting to visit ever since Antioch's party.
Perhaps it was right. That saying that the quietest people have the loudest minds? It was probably right. Poor little Ignotus had spent days onward with his brain screaming at him in a pleading manner to move ahead and search for answers to his questions about the little girl from the party, Anastasia.
Until that moment, he had not known how he was going to go to the care house but he had assumed that he could have convinced his uncle that he was interested in healing. And while his mother was in frenzy over Antioch and Cadmus, Ignotus managed to gain her approval of his accompanying them in order to explore the care house his uncle constantly talked about.
As each of the three boys left the mansion with his house-elf, Beatrice assured them that she was to arrive to the care house as soon as she possibly could. They could have all disapparated but she did not want to risk hurting the boys more than they already were, and she was not even in appropriate attire for leaving her household. Therefore, as the boys entered the carriage, she informed them that she had owled their uncle and that by the time they reached the care house, he would have been expecting them and waiting for them by the entrance.
And before he could have guessed, Ignotus was walking past the doors of the care house. There was a feeling of nausea arousing itself in the pit of his stomach and a premonition of falling onto the house's marble floor from his dizziness clouding his thoughts. Perhaps he should not have come.
He looked at the arched ceiling above him and tried to connect the ambiguous carvings on the ceiling to any of the books he had read but could not. The ragged blocks of the wall held candles that radiated both light and heat beyond the powers of regular candles. There was a strong scent of a potion that Ignotus could not quite recognise but it was one that he would link to his uncle.
"Healer Peverell!" a young girl greeted the boys' uncle loudly and cheerfully from her wooden wheelchair.
"Good morning, Anastasia; I see you are awake at quite an early hour once again," Ignotus's uncle said with a caring smile as he approached the seated girl.
"I do not have time to waste, Healer Peverell. I am suffering from a disease that no one has seen or heard of previously and we already can notice its progress and clearly see how destructive it is. I shall not waste the little time I may have on remaining in bed with my eyes closed," Anastasia responded, smiling slightly.
Ignotus was surprised to see that smile upon of her face. He did not comprehend how she could speak of something so greatly morbid, of the expectancy of death, grave illness, and running out of time and yet smile as she let the words escape her mouth. He could not comprehend how so calmly and fluently she let such painful thoughts transform themselves into coherent words then voice them out in manner so casual as though she was discussing the weather and not her fleeting life.
"I understand that, Anastasia, as you have explained yourself before; yet, as I did previously tell you, your body does need its rest. The more you rest, the less fragile you get. And putting aside your very serious condition, Anastasia, you are still a child," Healer Peverell lectured Anastasia ever so gently.
"Yes, but I am not really growing... We know that much. Therefore, I would rather spend most of my remaining hours with my eyes open and learn as much as I possibly could about this world before I have to leave it," Anastasia said in response, still smiling.
That day, Anastasia looked more lively than she had in the mansion, or so did Ignotus believe. Her skin was not quite as yellow; it was still as taut, concealing very little of the blue veins than ran over her body.
"Uncle Andrew!" Antioch, seemingly impatient to get his wounds inspected, called out loudly, interrupting the conversation between their uncle and the little girl.
"Oh boys, you are here! Come forward and meet Anastasia." Their uncle turned around and motioned for them to come closer, a smile on his face.
Once the three of them were lined up in front of Anastasia's chair, Uncle Andrew said, "Anastasia, these are my nephews: Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus. Boys, this is Anastasia; she is one of the people I must keep a watch on and she is one of my top priorities. As you can see, despite how high-spirited she is, she does not believe that we will find her a cure or that she will have the chance to live long."
"We have met; Ignotus and me that is," Anastasia started with a small smile of greeting meant for Ignotus, "at that party you have taken me to a few weeks ago."
"Oh, have you now? Well, that is quite wonderful then. He is here because he wanted to learn new things about healing and about this house. Before I can help him with that, I must see to the injuries of these two troublemakers. Would it be okay with you to spend some time with Ignotus?"
Ignotus was glad that question was not directed at him because although he did want to spend time with Anastasia –after all, she was the reason he had decided to come to the House – he would have been too shy to nod in agreement or say anything coherent to show that he was okay with that.
Thankfully, Anastasia did not reject the offer or even take time to think about it. Instead, she responded excitedly with a very wide smile that made her eyes go narrow, "Of course! I would love to spend some time with Ignotus. It is not like I have many other things to occupy my time with."
"Well, that is splendid then!" Healer Peverell said jovially then turned to look at Ignotus,"Do you believe you could handle the wheelchair or should I have someone help you with it? It is a little hard to deal with in the beginning, a bit heavy even. Never mind, I will assign someone to take care of that. You shall remain with Anastasia until I'm done then I will come take you and we shall tour the house as you please, alright?"
To that, Ignotus nodded and finally looked up from the ground and glanced at Anastasia who was smiling, still looking in his direction.
In minutes, a healer was accompanying the two of them and in silence, and they started to leave the house and head towards the garden.
In her chair, Anastasia was thinking about a way to break the silence, a thing to ask Ignotus about. She had always visualised herself talking to people, imagining her side of the conversation and constructing it carefully, weighing out the words in her head and, on several occasions, speaking them out to hear them for herself and decide whether they made her sound smart or did not.
Yet, there she was with an opportunity at a real conversation practically thrown at her, and she could not think of any topic to discuss. Nonetheless, she refused to comply to the silence that the boy next to her seemed to be enjoying and asked, "So you read books about potions, and you are interested in seeing a healing house... Are you hoping to become a healer?"
Ignotus seemed to be surprised by the question. His head bobbed up suddenly as he continued to walk beside her mobile chair, and he just looked at her blankly without saying anything.
Many seconds later, he shook his head, and Anastasia assumed he was saying 'no'.
"Why not? It is a very honourable profession; you would be able to save lives and prevent the lives of healthy people from worsening," Anastasia said.
"I..don't know," was Ignotus's response.
"If I were offered a chance, I would become a healer. This is not because I am sick or because I believe that if there are more healers then perhaps there would be fewer illnesses, no. But I would like to be someone who is as loved as Healer Peverell for example. To be someone that tells people that they are getting better and make them smile, and to give hope to people like me who believe that they do not have a chance to survive another month. It is... inspirational, I believe," Anastasia explained and after she was done talking, she felt as though she had sounded as smart as she did when she imagined herself talking in her head.
Anastasia wondered if Ignotus were to say anything in response; if he would agree or disprove or add another advantage to the list. She hoped that this would not just be another speaking rehearsal in front of the mirror for her.
Sadly though, Ignotus merely nodded in acknowledgement but did not say anything as the healer escorting them positioned the wheelchair beside a table in the garden and left them alone.
"So... besides reading, do you enjoy doing anything?" Anastasia asked him with a hopeful smile.
Ignotus seemed to give himself a moment to think about anything that he admired or anything that helped him pass time in glee as much as reading did, but apparently, he found nothing.
Therefore, he shook his head.
Mentally, Anastasia translated that into, "All I ever do is read."
Could not he have just said that instead of just moving his head?!
"I like to explore. I have already made notes on every type of plant and flower there is in this garden. Also, Healer Peverell said that he will help me learn about the clouds, and I shall take notes on those too. He also said that if I get any stronger, I could be let out and explore bigger and more important and unknown things. That is why I am hoping that they figure out what I am suffering from. I just want to explore," Anastasia told him happily.
There was an awkward pause that hung in the air for quite a while and Anastasia believed that there were no more words to be exchanged between her and the boy seated on a chair next to her. Nonetheless, Ignotus decided to bring out an element of surprise, and said, "I have something for you."
Although his words sounded abrupt and somehow forced, Anastasia admired the fact that he did not just remain silent. Then, she actually noticed what he had said and started to wonder about why he would get her something at all before she began to think about what he could have possibly brought her.
She watched in silence –as she was at loss for words– while Ignotus turned around to slide his backpack off his shoulders and pulled a blue box out of it. "This is for you," Ignotus told her as he reached over to hand her the box.
"I... don't understand," Anastasia said hesitantly while she slowly allowed her small hands to grasp the box. She looked at Ignotus with questions all over her face.
"Just open it," Ignotus managed to say and gave her an encouraging nod.
He watched her face closely as she slid the lid of the box and gently laid it down on the table beside her. When she smiled, and ran her hand over the cover of the book that was at the top, Ignotus smiled too.
"You said your birthday was soon, the other night," Ignotus said, trying to explain himself a little.
Anastasia neither knew what to say or what to think. Was he even supposed to bring a present to someone he did not truly know? Or did the fact that they had shared a conversation, no matter how brief, at a party and the fact that he remembered that she had said her birthday was soon and he came over to visit her with the gift in her hand account for some sort of acquaintance? No, they were not friends, but still... There was something there.
"They are new so I do not know how good they are; they do seem promising though," he added.
What Anastasia did not know back then was that this was no usual behaviour when it came to Ignotus. He was not the sort of a boy who would act on instinct or just head out and buy a present for someone he did not exactly know.
"This is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me," Anastasia said while she tried to hold back tears of joy. She seemed overwhelmed by Ignotus's actions."Thank you," she added with a genuine smile that made the tears slip out of the corners of her eyes and onto her dry, wrinkled skin.
With that, Ignotus returned to his semi-silent state as he watched Anastasia open one of the books and she started to read out loud.
Anastasia noticed the sky darken with clouds, but she did not care much. She was too happy, too endorsed in the book that she was reading to try and change anything about what she believed was a perfect setting.
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