Chapter 3 : In which my mind stews
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My mind was still stewing on Sirius. Well, not on him exactly, more like his words and since he said them his face does have the audacity to float in my head from time to time. Though, it’s better his face than Brady Patil, who looks like he might have been a toad in a past life, warts and everything. But it isn’t important whose face keeps budging into my thoughts, what’s important is the fact that I don’t like stewing. Well, apart part from stewing potions but that usually makes my head whoozy.
It isn’t the kind of conversation that’s easy to forget, and as much as I wish I could obliviate myself I’m not sure if I have those kind of powers. Yes, I’m now a graduated witch from the magnificent Hogwarts but I was ill during the lesson that taught us the theory of the spell and I’ve never mastered it well. Plus, I’m always worried I’ll do massive damage whenever I practice it. Amelia let me try once and she forgot a full three days of life. I was only trying to blast out her memory of eating lunch. That’s probably why they never actually taught us the spell, can’t have just any student running around obliviating each other every which way.
I leaned my head against the window of the train, feeling the engines as they rumbled against the glass and tried to forget that this is the last trip I’ll ever take on the Hogwarts Express. The last… and instead of being able to fully appreciate it I’m thinking of the war and how it’s just rubbish and how I wish Sirius hadn’t told me because after everything, I don’t want to disappoint him. He’s lost so much already.
I wasn’t entirely surprised he said something though. He hated everything that Voldemort stood for, it was etched in his very being like a map. He’d want the people closest to him with him on this, it was the only way. The war took his brother and they hadn’t talked in months because Regulus proclaimed his allegiance. Sirius wouldn’t lose anyone else.
Amelia opened up our compartment door, drawing me from my thoughts and jumped over the feet of Henry and Bertram and sat opposite of me.
“Last Prefect meeting I’ll ever have,” she said wistfully, a bittersweet smile playing across her lips.
“How was it?” Bertram asked, pulling his eyes away from the book he’s reading.
“Sad, actually. We just all said our goodbyes and reminisced, really. Lily went over some stuff about what could be done better next year but it was a bit half hearted,” Amelia replied. “And for some reason, Remus Lupin looked really sad, like his grandma died or something.”
“Well, he does have that issue with a rabbit, maybe it did get his grandma this time...” Henry said with a frown. We were all still for a moment and then laughter burst into our compartment like the freshness of spring. There’s something about imagining a rabid rabbit attack that seems absolutely ridiculous.
“Oh yeah, and Bronson said he’d be about later,” Amelia said after the laughter died down a little.
“Of course, what little bird caught his eye this day?” Bertram asked.
“His girlfriend, Bertram. You think so highly of your best mate,” Ameliea responded with a roll of her eye.
“Ah, that Ravenclaw tart? I thought he broke up with her when they beat us in Quidditch.”
“They always beat us,” I reminded him with a sour look. Our team was too busy looking at rainbows and fairies to even be a contender. If we took it to heart every time we lost we’d be one depressed House and we’d have no friends. We used to win, back in our first and second year when Laurence Wesley was captain. But he graduated and the team went way downhill from there. Not even Bronson could bring things around.
“Well, it’s the principle of it really; the captain of our team shouldn’t be consorting with the enemy,” Bertram said with finality. Henry nodded emphatically causing me to snort because Henry really didn’t care about Quidditch. I hadn’t met anyone who cared less about the sport and would spend game time in the silence of the common room studying rather than pretending to even support our team.
There was a silence for a moment, a comfortable one between people who didn’t need words to understand one another. I drank it up and rested my head against the window again, flashes of this year crossed before my eyes as fast as the scenery flashed passed the train. I saw myself jumping recklessly into the Black Lake on a bet during the middle of winter and that time that spear got caught in the back of my robes when I was trying to scare Amelia. Sirius caught me and he laughed about it for months.
I closed my eyes, trying to focus on the rumble of the engine rather than the faces and places I had seen. Trying to stop imagining how the early dawn hit his face the time we stayed up all night in the Owlery just talking. I hated how I had never been able to shut off my mind and how the same images would regurgitate themselves through it, like they were haunting me. I never asked for the ghost memories or the way they made me feel… like I was frozen in place.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought there might be a chance I’d say yes to it all, to everything I didn’t want to be part of. Because maybe if we could fight and win those images could become real again.
“Right, Exploding Snap anyone? I need to get my mind off the fact that this is our last journey!” Amelia said. This was my favourite game and I was ace at it but I had to be in a good mood to play otherwise my cards just exploded in my face, every time. It was almost depressing.
“Eleanor, stop being so bloody moody. You look sadder than a skinned leprechaun,” Amelia said as she pulled out her pack of cards. I frowned at her, wondering when she learned to read me so well.
“Yeah, you’re giving Henry a run for his money,” Bertram quipped. I not so subtly flipped him off while Henry tried to look affronted but he was always a bad actor. Everyone knew he was worse than a girl during her time of month.
“Come on then, let’s play,” I said keeping the glare on my face and hoped it warped my features so I looked like a velioceraptor. No one wants to play that at Exploding Snap. “Scared I’ll whoop your arses?”
“Yeah, shaking in my shoes,” Henry said.
“You better be, Henry. Because we all know you’re slower than a turtle at this game,” I said, a smile cracking through my serious demeanour. Henry frowned, forcing his thick eyebrows curve together to make him look even more like he had a unibrow.
Amelia dealt the deck and we began to play, each trying to prove how fast we were but every time I put my hands on the cards for a match it’d explode in my face and I’m pretty sure it gave me a few paper cuts.
I growled, when yet again, the cards exploded on me, causing Henry to snigger because even he was doing better than me. Punk. I glared at the rest of my hand and threw the remaining cards across the compartment. Blasted game, I’ll show it who’s boss.
Bertram laughed and I could tell from his dancing gray eyes that he was about to crack some ridiculous joke but our compartment door slid open before he could take a cheap shot at me.
Davey Grugeon was leaning against the door. I could see a few other Ravenclaw’s behind him, obviously on their way to somewhere but waiting for Davey. Such good friends they were.
“Hey Eleanor, Amelia. We were walking by and wanted to say bye just in case we don’t see each other on the platform,” he said and looked around at the mess of the compartment with a half smile.
“Oh-” Amelia said and I saw her cheeks redden a little and looked over at me. I laughed inwardly at her because, although she’d never admit it, she fancied Davey’s trousers off.
“How very nice of you Davey, really. We wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t come to say goodbye!” I said, trying to cover up for Amelia’s awkwardness. They were perfect for one another. Although he was a bit thick, I blame his run in with the Whomping Willow in fifth year for that, he was a nice guy. We had a history though which I think is why Amelia refused to act. Though, a few snogs back in sixth year didn’t mean I laid ownership of him.
“Yeah, well, I’m that kind of guy,” he said, puffing up his chest. I rolled me eyes at him.
“You’re consorting with the enemy,” Bertram pointed out. Davey looked at Bertram ludicrously and I slapped Bertram lightly on the shoulder. “I think you should be excommunicated from Hufflepuff.”
“Never mind him, he’s still sore you beat us at Quidditch at the beginning of the year. He’ll get over it, the little pumpkin,” I said, grinning. Bertram flipped me off and turned back to his book pointedly. Davey laughed and I saw Amelia redden even more. She was so obvious.
“Oh hey, did you guys hear about Samantha Yates’s family?” Davey asked, suddenly sober.
“That’s that fifth year Gryffindor, right? The one with frizzy brown hair?” I asked. The air of the compartment had changed with his words though because they really could mean only one thing. Voldemort.
“Yeah, she got a letter from her aunt, apparently while on the train,” Davey said, ruffling his sandy brown hair up with his hand.
“Oh god,” Amelia said, finally breaking her silence. Henry and Bertram looked equally disturbed because the words didn’t need to be said. Davey didn’t need to confirm that they were either dead or missing which was basically the same thing. They’d turn up in a few days, maybe mangled or maybe there would be mercy and they’d just have the glassy stare of the dead.
“Missing,” he said with a shrug after a silence. “We were just going to see if we could find out anything else.”
We waved our goodbyes and they were gone. I felt a shudder of fear. I think her family was a mixed blood family as well. That had been happening a lot more recently. A family of four were found in their home last week, and the week before that it was a newly married couple. All of them were from mixed bloodlines.
“She was half-blood wasn’t she?” Henry asked, breaking the silence that had descended onto our compartment like a heinous crime.
“I think so,” Amelia said with a glance at me. I tried to put on a neutral face because I didn’t want anyone to really know how much it affected me and I didn’t want anyone more worried over me than normal. I hated when people acted differently because of this war, it was barmy because you’d think they’d try to act normal, like that would be better than walking around like we’re on eggshells all the time.
It reminded me of Sirius’ words again - this group, they all just want this war over. They’ll have your back. I wondered if it was true and if they had mine, would they have my families too? It would make it worth it.
I just- I didn’t want the war and I hated what it did to people. How it warped them, made everyone grow walls up around themselves as if that would be enough to stop the destruction from coming to their doorstep. It all seemed so futile, like we were chasing ghosts in the wind. How are we to show them that what they do is wrong, the killing and torture, if we turn around and do the same thing?
This was wrong. So wrong.
Bitterly wrong. War didn’t make sense. Fighting, all this death. Amelia getting threatened in the hallway. It just didn’t stop and it seemed like no matter what, it wouldn’t stop. People were stupid and proud. Though, it couldn’t last forever. It couldn’t, maybe it’ll even be done by the end of summer. All this worry for nothing. I would kick the war if I thought it would do something to stop it. To make the people in it see sense.
Sirius’s face rose in my mind again, how it felt with his hand on the small of my back telling me it’ll only get worse. I wondered what it would have been like to curl myself up into his arms. I wondered if it would make me feel safe, secure, like I wouldn’t be worried that when I step off the platform my parents won’t be there to greet me. Instead, Ministry officials with a grim look but disengaged eyes because they’ve seen this all too often.
I pushed my thoughts away. How stupid of me to even think of him, his arms, his warmth- that cannot chase away the darkness, he welcomed it. My parents would be fine. They would be okay and I don’t have to worry. Worrying about it was about as useless as Binns’ History of Magic class. When would I ever need to know that Attila the Hun was rumoured to be magical? Would it somehow make me a better person, doubt it, and I tried telling Binns, even had a nice little argument for it but he sort of just floated through the wall in the middle of my speech. Way to boost a girl’s confidence, Binns.
I smiled slightly at the memory as I drummed my fingers on the small table, breaking up the silences that we were each caught up in. I couldn’t sit here and think. To think of what would await me when I stepped out on the platform and beyond. There was so much unknown and no way of really being able to figure it out. Sometimes I did wish I could be as steadfast as Amelia or Sirius. I wish I could just know in my soul that I had to do this, to fight. But it didn’t feel so black and white for me.
“I’ll miss this,” Amelia said quietly. She looked around at us, her dark eyes blinking tears away. “This, just us, you know?”
“Yeah, we’re all pretty stellar,” I said, trying to crack a smile but failed miserably and I looked back out the window. The green hills flashed passed and the hazy gray sky seemed to bleed its tragic tale. It had seen too much already.
“Yeah, and obviously you two will be so lonely in your flat without us to annoy you,” Bertram said. He grinned softly too as we both kicked him in the shins.
“I will not miss Henry yelling at us to be quiet, though. Even if I was duly impressed when he was able to scream loud enough when he tried to quiet the whole Great Hall for his studying purposes,” I said with a shake of my head. I hadn’t looked away from the window, it seemed easier this way. To not look at the things I was losing.
“It was a necessary precaution,” he said stiffly. We laughed a little but it felt hollow, forced because we had nothing else to do.
The rest of the journey continued on in the same way between scattered conversation and the flipping of the pages of Bertram’s book we let the rest of our last train ride pass in relative peace. Each too lost in thoughts that bled us dry.
Eventually, as evening was about to settle, Bronson wandered into our compartment. His dark blonde hair was ruffled and he, like we had, changed out of his robes into muggle attire for the station. He sat down next to Henry and lounged his long legs onto the empty seat across from him.
“Was just up at the front, they said we’ll be rolling in soon,” he said. He stuck his hands into his trouser pockets and looked over at Amelia with a gleam. “Oh and Amelia, Davey was looking fine wasn’t he?”
“Oh? I hadn’t noticed,” Amelia sniffed. He raised his eyebrows at that, but mercifully let the subject drop apparently not up for Amelia baiting today. He grinned a little and leaned his head back against his chair ready to take a quick nap before the train stopped in London.
I found myself watching them from beneath heavy eyelids. I could still see us those years ago just trying to figure things out. I saw myself yelling at Bronson and how he took it in stride or how Bertram never took it personally when I did everything in my power to lose his friendship. Their loyalty had eventually gotten through my thick skull somehow. Maybe it was Bertram’s muscles. That must be it because I’ve always imagined my skull pretty solid, kind of like metal and not a lot of things can get through that. Unless you have the right saw... or muscles in my case. Though fifth year arms are really nothing special really, they’re more like glorified chicken sticks.
It wasn’t even something they had done that had set me off either, but bygones are bygones. Life has a funny way of making you feel like you’re cheese going over a cheese grader. Though once you come out, you’re tasty chunks of cheese so maybe it’s worth it.
The train started to slow down. The engines rumbled louder and the activities in the corridor beyond our compartment seemed to heighten. Bertram pushed his mop of curls off his forehead and shoved his book back into his trunk.
“Well, this is it,” Henry said. He stood up and stretched his limbs out from the long journey.
“Yeah, see you losers later,” Bertram said. He was always the most sentimental out of all of us. He heaved his and our trunks down off the rack, nudging over a couple of students in the corridor to make room for everyone. There was a heavy silence of finality that settled over us for a time.
“More like smell you later,” I quipped, receiving a groan from everyone in the compartment. “What? It’s funny.”
Amelia patted me on the cheek in a consoling manner and did a little hop around all our trunks so she was standing out in the corridor, ready to take on the crowds.
The train came to a stop and the five us fought through the pushing students to disembark on the platform. There was a different feeling that surrounded most of the students. A heaviness and an almost untrusting attitude as we all pushed our way out the door whereas any other time we may have exchanged high fives with passing students or took part in idle chit chat. However, there seemed be this seclusion. Not just because of Samantha, but simply that everyone on this train knew that maybe Hogwarts would be safer than the home their going to.
We finally got onto the platform and we eyed each other with catlike wariness for a moment before we joined in for a final group hug and vague promises that we’ll meet up, we’ll find a way to stay together. The boys eventually broke off and drifted away in search of their own families.
“I’ll owl you tomorrow,” Amelia was saying as we dragged our trunks down the platform. “Then we can look at that flat to make sure it’s okay. As much as I’d like to believe our parents, I’d like to have a look before signing the lease. Ah, there are my parents now! Okay, well, till tomorrow then!”
We briefly hugged and she totted off to Mr and Mrs Bones while I continued searching for my own. I pushed passed a group of first years chattering animatedly with each other and a fifth year Hufflepuff being reunited with his younger sister and mother. I scanned the platform, standing on my tiptoes to try and see over the mass of heads.
I felt a touch on my shoulder and I turned around quickly to see Sirius grinning at me.
“Thought you’d get away before saying bye to your favourite person?” he asked, flicking his hair out of his eyes.
“I was hoping but now that you’ve stalked me down-” I said, shrugging and pretending to be really put out by his intrusion. “I guess I have no choice now, aye?”
“Nah, not really, but it’s for your own good.”
“Like you know what’s for my own good,” I said, rolling my eyes at him.
We stood, facing each other in silence for a moment and I pulled on the edge of my jumper uncomfortably. He also seemed to be at a loss for words as his eyes drifted from me to look out at the disappearing crowds.
“Look, I don’t want to pressure you,” Sirius said quietly and pulled me further away from others. I stiffened because I wasn’t ready to give any answer and knew he’d hate that. I looked beyond him and finally saw my parents and Edward. They stood huddled together tightly and I could tell that they felt uncomfortable, which was uncommon as they were usually so alive in this place. “It’s just with-” With Samantha. It freaked him out too because I knew he saw the pattern as well. It was only a matter of time.
My eyes focussed on Edward, his hair was longer, curling around his ears and he looked smart with his black overcoat over what I assumed was a suit. He must have come from work. His blue eyes were scanning the platform for me but Sirius’ body and trunk was probably hiding me from view. I felt my breath tighten as I looked at them.
Would they too be protected? They were after us, the intermarriages and the tainted blood. Maybe not now, but eventually. Could this group do that? They probably had bigger things to be worrying about than one families wellbeing and wouldn’t—I pushed the thought away, trying to see this thing clearly but I gnawed on my lower lip.
“I- Sirius, I-” I said and I could see in his eyes that he knew what I was going to say. A flash of anger crossed his eyes and he half turned away from me. I grabbed his arm, forced him to look at me, to understand.
“I-can’t Sirius, you realize what position I’m in? I can’t- I can’ t be the reason they get targeted,” I said, desperately, searching his gray eyes for any sign that he actually did understand, if only a smidgen. He was still frowning, and his face was stone.
“This is the only way to stop them from targeting them, they’d protect them Eleanor too... you’d be loads safer,” Sirius replied. Edward seemed to have spotted us and they all headed over this way. I grasped Sirius’ arm tighter. He’d never understand, I suppose I always knew that. You were either all in like him or you were nothing at all.
“Don’t be naive Sirius, they, whoever ‘they’ are have bigger kettle of fish than worrying about one family. They want people to fight and if I’m associated with that you know how quickly my family’s going to die? Don’t think for one second that if Voldemort wants someone dead that they won’t end up that way.”
Sirius was silent, I could see him stewing could almost see the shift inside himself.
“Are you ever going to trust someone other than yourself?” He asked bitingly.
Before I could reply my family was there and they pulled me into a hug. I saw him move away and avert his eyes up to the sky. He was always uncomfortable around families, usually darting away before he had to properly witness any kind of outpouring of love.
I watched him closely as I hugged each family member quickly. He was stiff and wound, still high on anger from the news on the train. It wouldn’t make this easier.
“So Eleanor, are you going to introduce us to your friend?” My Mum asked. There was a glint in her eyes that was all too familiar to me. I had to squish that because this was the reason why I knew we’d only ever be friends, if that. There was something too polar inside us that made this too hard. Maybe he was beginning to see that too.
“Erm- sure, guys, this is Sirius Black, Sirius, this is my family – Edward, Ondina, and Charles – Mr and Mrs Hughes to you,” I said, trying to smirk.
“Very nice to meet you Sirius,” mum said, taking his hand in hers. He smiled politely. “Quite nice actually. Why haven’t you brought him home sweetie?”
“Yeah, it’s not like we’d embarrass you or anything,” my dad added with wink.
“Of course not, you guys are the picture of innocence,” I rolled my eyes and looked apologetically at Sirius. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
We chatted briefly before Sirius said he had to go. I bit down on my lip because I didn’t want to leave it like it was. Where we were hanging by mere threads.
“Good luck with your Healing, Eleanor. I know you’ll be great in it,” he said and backed away from us. I wanted to call out, to say something – anything to fix it. But there was that hollow sound in his voice. It was dead and I didn’t know what I could say other than I changed my mind.
So I let him walk away, his broad shoulders and black hair disappeared through the barrier between the wizard and muggle world. I pulled on a smile for my family and told Edward his long hair made him look like a wet dog as they led me out into King’s Cross shortly after.
There was no sign of Sirius once we got through the barrier, though I felt a strange awareness of myself as if I was being watched and my steps calculated. But when I looked around all there was were muggles who peered at us uncomfortably because of the strange assortments of luggage pieces I had. I ignored the sensation and continued moving in stride with my brother. He carried the conversation on, his words being released into the night air like a birds call in the middle of the forest. We walked into the car park and I looked up into the evening sky where the London lights were twinkling on.
And somehow I knew everything would be okay.
Note: Thank you so much for reading! I really hoped you enjoyed this chapter and would love to hear your thoughts! As always, JK Rowling owns everything you recognize.
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