Chapter 2 : The Rumour Mill
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We arrive at Hogwarts in the evening as the last touches of the sunlight touch the ground. Albus, Leo, and Scorpius are chatting happily about the new Slytherin quidditch captain, Charlie McGauvon. I follow them as we leave the train and walk towards the carriages. As we walk, I get dirty looks from females and nervous looks from males. This is strange. I know I'm not a beloved Potter/Weasley girl, but I have yet to do something that really puts me on the “Hogwarts Hate List”. I reach out to grab Leo when a passing Slytherin girl crashes right into me and sends me flying to the ground. When I get up, I don't see Leo or his friends. I've lost them.
I look around frantically for a few more moments before giving up and grabbing the nearest nervous looking boy.
“What's your name?” I ask, pleasantly, but forcefully.
“John?” He's a Hufflepuff, a fourth year by the looks of it.
“Hello John, my name is Ellie Galatian. Could you perhaps explain to me why I'm being treated as though I'm Bellatrix Lestrange reincarnated?” Best to get to the point with these kinds of things.
“I don't know," he shrugs, about to leave, but my wolf takes over and a growl escapes my lips to his and my own surprise.
“Look, I promise to never even look at you again, if you'd just help me and explain this predicament to me,” I plead at him.
John looks around nervously before leaning in and whispering, “Some pretty girl from my year told me that you are secretly a squib and you bribed your way into Hogwarts.” What? That doesn't even make any sense.
“That's not true. Who was the pretty girl?” I know, I just want him to tell me.
“Lily Potter," he finishes and leaves to catch a carriage.
I watch him go and bite my lip. This is not good. This is not good at all. Is Lily trying to make my last year a living hell? Yes, yes she is. I see James talking with, what looks like, the Head Girl and walk over to him.
James looks over at me so quickly that I fear he may have whiplash, “Galatian?”
The head girl is looking at me curiously. She must not know about the rumour yet, “Have you, er, heard what's being said about me?” I ask him.
His left eyebrow shoots up and I can't help but think of how cute he looks, “No, what's the rumour mill churning up these days?”
“Apparently I'm a crazed squib,” I state, closing my eyes and rubbing my temple in exasperation.
To my surprise, James laughs really hard. I wait a few minutes before opening my eyes. He's doubled over on the ground in a fit of laughter. I look up at the head girl, but she looks just as confused. I cross my arms and frown at the boy.
“What's gotten into you?” I ask him, biting my lower lip.
He gets up from the ground and shakes his head at me, "Seriously? Apparently they've never seen you in Charms class."
"Yeah, watching me in Charms now are you Potter?" I ask, rolling my eyes. James just smiles and shrugs his shoulder, unaffected by my accusation.
“I'm Charlotte Parkings, Hufflepuff,” the head girl says to me and offers her hand.
I smile and shake it, “I'm Elizabeth Galatian, Gryffindor.”
James beams at us, “Well, we best catch a carriage before they all gallop off,” he announces as he drags us behind him.
On the ride up to the castle, I look out of my window to see the castle come into view. It is really awe-inspiring every year. One can never really shake off the excitement that comes with living here all school year. James and Charlotte exchange a few more words as I stare at the scene. James eventually coughs to get my attention.
“So...you're a squib? When did that happen?" James teases me.
Charlotte pipes in, "I think what he means to ask you is why everyone supposes that you're a squib?"
I cross my arms over my chest and look at my lap, “It's just a rumour started by a very popular girl.”
“Who?” they both ask me.
“Good question, I never learned her name,” I lie easily, looking into Charlotte's blue eyes.
“We're going to tell McGonagall so she can address the rumours and end them before they escalate,” James states with command in his voice. I am surprised to feel comforted by his words. I now understand why he has been chosen as head boy.
“Thank you,” I tell them sincerely. I've never had somebody besides Leo try to protect me from antagonistic words before and my blastedly peaked emotions are burning at my eyes. I stare out of the window to try and keep from crying in front of the two.
We arrive at the castle and they excuse themselves to go find McGonagall before the sorting begins. I enter the hall and suddenly feel overwhelmed by the eyes that instantly followed my movements. I bite my lip and find a seat at my table and try to ignore the stares. The wolf, growling inside me, feels its territory being threatened by people other than me and fights even harder inside my body.
Charlotte and I hurry to find McGonagall, luckily for us, she's lining the first years up for sorting. Being headmistress, she should hand this job down to another professor, but she's always enjoyed the excitement and unity the first years have before they are sorted into houses.
“Headmistress, could we have a word with you?” I ask her when we reach her.
Her features deepen in worry, “Of course, Potter. What is wrong?” I can't help but wonder from the stories my father tells us, how many times he, himself, has come up to her with the same phrase. His problems are exponentially bigger than ours, but, to each their own.
“There is a rumour being spread that one of the students has had, er, a squib,” I tell her, “It's not true,” I quickly add after a second.
“Oh dear, do you know who started the rumour?” McGonagall asks us.
Charlotte shakes her head, “No, ma'am.”
“I see. I will just have to address it in my welcoming speech. Who is the student targeted in these rumours?”
Charlotte and I look at each other, “Elizabeth Galatian, ma'am,” she answers.
A sudden change comes over the headmistress, “Ms. Parkings, please wait fifteen minutes and then escort the first years to be sorted. Mr. Potter, follow me,” she commands and rushes off towards the Great Hall. I nearly trip in my attempt to follow her.
We enter the Great Hall and I can see, instantly, that there is something wrong. If I hadn't known there was a rumour, I would have figured it out. Nearly every student's eye is staring at Ellie. Those not staring are talking in whispers amongst each other. Dragging my eyes across the table, I see Lily smiling and chatting animatedly with her little friends. They seem to be the only group not staring at Ellie. I hurry to where Headmistress McGonagall and Ellie are located.
“Ms. Galatian, are you all right?” the headmistress addresses Ellie. Even I could see she isn't well. She was pale this morning, but now she's just white as death. A sheet of sweat covers her face and her beautiful long, blonde and wavy hair is plastered to it. The thin scars that trace her face are more prominent giving her a very grotesque look. Hell, she's still damn fine.
Ellie opens up her eyes and I see a distinct look in them: Pain.
“Potter, take her to the hospital wing.” I didn't need to be told twice, I bend down and pick her up in a quick motion. Her soft hair whips across my face and I smell a sweet, flowery kind of scent. She groans and I leave the Hall, hundreds of eyes trailing after us.
I hurry through the corridors, willing my quidditch training to kick in and keep me moving. Ellie moves in my arms and commands me to stop moving. I'm torn whether to listen to her, or to keep going until we reach the infirmary. “Stop, or I'll puke on you,” Ellie moans. This makes my decision clear and I stop near the third flight of stairs and place her, tentatively on the ground. She sprawls out on the floor.
I wince at the stupid question that flows out of my mouth, “How are you feeling?”
She shushes me and I decide that she'll probably not want me to pick her up again for a little while, and slouch against the nearest wall to wait. We sit there in silence for a few minutes. I close my eyes and listen to her breathing.
“Potter?” I jump at the sound of her voice.
“Thanks. . .again.”
“I'm just being the head boy. Carrying sick, beautiful women up a few flights of stairs is a perk,” I laugh.
She smiles, “You always find something to laugh about, don't you?” she teases me.
I shrug my shoulders and smile down at her. She's looking better, but I should make sure Madam Pomfrey sees her anyway, “Come on, Sleeping Beauty. Pomfrey will fix you better than some hundred year old marble floor.”
“Fine, but I'm walking," she states as I help her off the ground. I smile at the familiarity of helping her off the ground, though, I'm usually the cause of her being down there in the first place.
She leans against me and we walk again, “Er, so I was wondering why you're feeling unwell," I state, watching our feet trod against the tile.
“Were you now?” she replies.
“Yeah, would you help enlighten me on the subject?” I ask.
Ellie sighs and wipes some sweat off her forehead, “I've got some virus, my stress has catalyzed its progression through my immune system,” she looks up into my eyes and, for a moment, I'm lost in the depths of grey.
“Oh,” I say stupidly, trying to shake off the effects her look has on me.
We reach the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey all, but attacks us as we walk through the door. I idly wonder why she's not down stairs participating in the festivities, but I see quite a few students, already resting in the beds. I recognize one of the patients as my cousin, Fred Weasley and smile. Only he would pick a fight the second he stepped into Hogwarts.
“Thank you, Mr. Potter. You may rejoin the rest of the school in the Great Hall,” Madam Pomfrey waves me off and I frown.
“Headmistress McGongall told me to stay with Ellie,” I lie to her and sit, stubbornly in the chair next to Ellie's bed.
“Oh. . .all right,” Pomfrey says irritatedly and races to treat her patient, mumbling about proper visiting hours.
“It's just my immune system fighting off a virus!” Ellie calls after the nurse, stopping her mid-step.
“Is the virus winning?”
Ellie frowns, “More than it usually does on a day like this.”
What is going on? They're talking about this like its some sort of sport. I fidget in my chair, trying to get comfortable. My stomach rumbles loudly and I run a hand through my messy hair as the nurse stares me down.
“Here, take these potions, but I won't keep you over night. You're right to say that your virus is attacking your body particularly harsh today. These potions should give you enough strength to fight back. See me in the morning if you still feel the same about your. . .virus. Potter here, can show you to the kitchens,” Pomfrey waves us out and busies herself over a bruised sixth year.
“That was weird,” I say, leading her towards the Hufflepuff common room and the kitchens right next to them.
“What was? It was a perfectly normal visit, Potter,” Ellie says, irritation leaking in her tone.
“Whatever,” I reply, a little more harshly than I normally would, but I'm hungry and confused.
Ellie hisses under her breath, which is very frightening, by the way, “I'm not in the mood for your immature remarks, Potter. In fact, I'm not really that hungry. I'm going to the common room,” she marches off.
I glare after her, “Not without the password!” I call at her retreating figure.
She pauses, turns around, and walks back, “What's the password?”
“Not without an apology, Galatian.”
“Look, I'm sorry. Now, tell me the password.”
“Nah, that didn't really sound sincere.” I know I'm being annoying, but I want us to go back to before we saw Pomfrey, sad enough.
“I'm sorry, Potter," she says in a nice tone.
I beam at her, “Good, the password is nimbleworts. See you tomorrow.”
Ellie turns to leave, “Oh wait,” I stop her, “I forgot to ask: will you go out with me?”
“Not when hell freezes over, James,” Ellie replies before leaving.
I walk to the kitchens, whistling and smiling like an idiot. She called me James.
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