Chapter 21 : Eleanor Lockhart.
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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise in this chapter, including the book Year with the Yeti is the property of J.K. Rowling. (The quote from it isn't from canon though.) No copyright infringement is intended.
The rest of February passed without incident. Soon it’d be Easter and they’d still no more idea who was behind the incidents than they’d had in September.
Rose spent every spare moment rechecking her lists and researching the Death Eaters, but she wasn’t getting very far.
“The thing is most people who’d family members in the Death Eaters are in Slytherin,” she said. “And even Flint, one of the few suspects we have who is a Slytherin doesn’t seem to have any Death Eater connections.”
“It he did it, it’s probably not because of Death Eater connections anyway,” Albus reminded her. “It’s probably to get back at James or because of something that happened when our fathers played Quidditch.”
“But most people who weren’t Death Eaters suffered under Voldemort and would’ve told their kids how awful they were. Whoever wrote the graffiti seemed to think Voldemort coming back would be a good thing.”
“Well, maybe there were some people who didn’t suffer too much.
“Maybe. I suppose they can’t have gone after everybody. But all the same…” She sighed. “I just wish I could find a definite connection somewhere. I’ll keep trying.”
She was doing more than her fair share of the work. Albus knew that, but he just couldn’t bring himself to go through all those lists again. The mere thought of it gave him a headache.
He did, however, take part in researching the Death Eaters. He and Rose sat in the library, flicking through some of the many books on the war and noting down the names of any Death Eaters or supporters they hadn’t heard of before.
It was pretty interesting in a way and yet, it was awful to think that his parents had lived through those days, that those things had happened to people he knew.
She looked up.
He read out a graphic description of how the Carrows had punished students who misbehaved.
“Neville must have experienced that. And my mum. I guess Dad was lucky he wasn’t here that year.”
“They were on the run, at constant risk of being arrested and tortured or killed. I don’t think anybody was very lucky.”
“Look Albus, dreadful things happened; we already know that.”
“Well, yeah, but…”
His parents always sort of played it down. Of course he’d known Voldemort had repeatedly tried to kill his father, that Muggleborns had been rounded up, that his mum and her fellow students had faced dreadful punishments for stepping out of line, but somehow it seemed worse when written down in black and white. The books didn’t pause when things started getting upsetting and say “well, that’s enough for now. It was all a long time ago and thankfully, you’re living in a much better world today, the one we fought to leave to you.”
“We’re lucky to live when we do, aren’t we?” he whispered.
They were silent for a moment, both contemplating what it would be like to have grown up when their parents were young.
Albus really didn’t think he could have faced it.
Rose probably could have and James definitely could. They were all so much braver than he was. Braver and more capable. Even now, it was Rose who was making all the plans, who was doing the lion’s share of the work. He really hadn’t contributed all that much.
Well, that was going to change.
He stood up.
“Hey, aren’t you going to check for any more Death Eater names?” Rose asked.
“Later. I’ve some other stuff to do first.”
Exactly what that other stuff was, he wasn’t sure, but he was going to figure it out. For once, he wasn’t just going to wait for Rose to tell him what to do. He was going to use his own initiative and get back to her with some information she hadn’t even been expecting.
Deep in thought, he headed back towards Ravenclaw tower.
“Hey.” Derek’s greeting broke into his thoughts.
“Oh, hi, Derek.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve been in the library again. Hanging around with Rose must be rubbing off on you.”
“Oh, I wasn’t studying. I was looking up some stuff about the war.” He paused, wondering if he should say any more. Rose was always wary of letting anybody else into their confidence. But Derek already knew they were trying to figure out who’d done the graffiti and it wasn’t as if they’d found out anything new anyway. Plus he was quite certain Derek couldn’t be involved. Apart from anything else ,he’d been with Albus when Scorpius’s broom was damaged. “We were trying to figure out if anybody at Hogwarts now had relatives in the Death Eaters or anything.”
“And did they?” Derek sounded enthusiastic. Being a Muggleborn, the war was nowhere near as real to him as it was to Albus.
“Well, yeah, but that doesn’t necessarily help that much. Purebloods intermarried a lot – they wouldn’t have been able to keep their blood pure otherwise – so they’re all pretty much related.” He sighed. “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack really.”
“Could any of your cousins help? You’ve so many of them; surely one of them would know something.”
“Derek, you’re a genius.” Albus practically jumped with excitement. “None of us are in Slytherin, but Lucy should know something about the older Ravenclaws, shouldn’t she? She’s shared a common room with some of them for four years.” He thought for a minute. “She wasn’t in the library when I left it, so she’s probably in the common room. Are you coming?”
“Yeah, but I’ll let you talk to her yourself. She’s your cousin, after all.”
“You’re not scared of approaching Lucy, are you?”
“She’s a fourth year,” he explained. “And everybody says she’ll probably be a prefect next year.”
“Well, yeah, she probably will be, but so what? Lucy’s cool.”
It was actually easier to approach her than James, as she wasn’t surrounded by a large number of friends, but was sitting in a corner of the common room, reading.
“Hey, Lucy,” he said tentatively.
She put down the book she was reading.
“Oh, hi, Albus.”
He scuffed his foot against the floor, wondering how to begin. He looked around at Derek, who was standing a couple of feet behind him and who looked away immediately.
“Um, I was wondering if you knew Eleanor Lockhart?”
“Not really. She’s a fifth year, you know.”
“Yeah, I know, but you’ve lived with her for the last four years, pretty much, so I thought you might know something.”
“She’s way too old for you.”
“WHAT? I don’t fancy her!”
“You’re about the only guy at Hogwarts who doesn’t, so. Come on, you must have noticed how pretty she is.”
In truth, he hadn’t taken much notice. Girls weren’t much on his radar yet, certainly not in any romantic sense. And Eleanor had to be at least fifteen, practically grown-up.
Lucy smiled. “I’ll tell you what I know, but I have to warn you, it’s not much. This is going to sound awfully mean, but to be completely honest, I don’t think there is all that much to know about her. All she ever seems to do is preen in front of the mirror and chat up older boys. She doesn’t seem to have any interest in any one of them in particular though. Or maybe they’re not interested in her. I don’t know.”
“You don’t happen to know if she’s related to Gilderoy Lockhart?”
“That guy who taught here when our parents were at school? I’ve no idea, but I could try and find out if you wanted. I’m friendly with a couple of the girls in her class. They might know.”
“That would be great, thanks.”
“I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me why you want to know.”
He paused for a moment. “It’s just, if she is, then she might have a grudge against Dad.”
“I can’t imagine her bothering to pay off an ancient grudge, to be honest with you. She seems like somebody who’s very focussed on the present. But I’ll let you know if I get any information.”
It was over a week before she got back to him.
“Sorry I couldn’t give you an answer sooner. I asked Leona, who said she wasn’t sure, but she could ask. And apparently the answer is that, yes, Gilderoy Lockhart was her uncle. Is her uncle, I suppose. I don’t know what’s happened to him.”
“Thank you so much.”
He couldn’t wait to tell Rose what she’d told him.
“Well, that does give her a motive,” she said. “It probably doesn’t mean anything, but it might be worthwhile having a word with her.”
Albus stared at her. “We can’t do that! She’s a fifth year. She’s not going to answer to a couple of first years.”
“You’re right. We’re going to have to be smart about this.” She thought for a moment. “I think I have an idea.”
She sent an owl order to Flourish and Blotts, ordering a copy of Year with the Yeti and, to Albus’s surprise, set about reading it. He’d assumed it was going to be used as some kind of prop.
Though he supposed Rose was incapable of leaving a book unread.
“Any good?” he asked tentatively.
“It’s absolutely hilarious, but I’m not sure he meant it to be. So far, there hasn’t even been a mention of the Yeti. Look, here, he’s talking about his favourite colours and how he bought a beautiful lilac robe.
“’People have asked,’” she read aloud, “’how I maintain my style and good grooming while tackling Dark Creatures of all kinds in some of the most uncivilised corners of the earth. My response is always that style comes second. While I naturally take pride in my appearance, I am always aware of the great responsibility that lies upon me as an honorary member of the Dark Force Defence League. People depend on me and if that means I occasionally have to neglect my personal grooming, it is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.’” She cracked up laughing. “Can you believe people took this stuff seriously?”
He couldn’t. “What are you going to do with this anyway?” He gestured towards the book.
“Use it to strike up a conversation with Eleanor. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I think I can pull it off. I’ll have to do it alone though.”
“All right.” He felt a little disappointed.
“Well, you can be there. We’ll probably be in the common room, so you can listen, as long as you don’t make it too obvious. It’s just meant to be a casual conversation, so nobody should be taking any particular interest. “
“I could have a game of Wizards Chess or something with Derek nearby.”
“Yeah, that would work. She shouldn’t be paying much attention anyway. Not if I do it right. The only thing is you mightn’t get much time to set up a game. The more spontaneous this is, the more convincing it’ll be.”
He shrugged. “Well, I’ll try to find an excuse to move closer if I see you talking to her.”
“If you can’t, it doesn’t really matter. I can tell you anything I find out anyway. But it would be helpful to have another set of ears. Sometimes it’s easier to remember everything if you’re not taking part in the conversation.”
A couple of days later, Rose entered the common room, carrying her copy of Year with the Yeti.
Strolling casually towards the fire, she suddenly veered off.
“Come on,” Albus said to Derek, with whom he’d been playing Exploding Snap.
“Just gather up the cards and come with me. Please. We can continue the game when we get there.”
Though he wondered if Exploding Snap was the best idea if he wanted to pay attention to the conversation.
Rose appeared to have cornered Eleanor by a mirror. Albus grinned, remembering how Lucy’d described her.
“Let’s sit here,” he said, choosing a spot a few feet from them.
“Oh, but when I heard you were his niece I just had to speak to you,” Rose was saying. “He writes so wonderfully and yet nothing’s been heard from him in so long.” There was a slight hint of a question in her last words.
Eleanor shrugged. “Dad doesn’t really talk about him. I asked once when I realised how famous he’d once been and all Dad said was that he suffered some sort of a nervous breakdown and spent years in St. Mungo’s. I believe he was released eventually, but I don’t think he ever fully recovered. It all sounded pretty sad to me, but I don’t think he and Dad were ever particularly close. He’s pretty good-looking, isn’t he? Maybe Dad was jealous.” She tossed her own wavy blonde hair.
“Maybe,” Rose agreed. “You look a bit like him actually.”
Eleanor preened. “I’ve been told that before. Mostly by older witches. I think they all had crushes on him or something. A bit pathetic, don’t you think? People that old having crushes. As if they were still teenagers or something.”
Rose shrugged. “I guess they were young once.”
“A lot of them are older than Dad. They must have been old enough when they’d a crush on him. Still, I suppose it’s nice I remind them of him.” She tossed her hair again.
Albus decided he didn’t like her much. She seemed far too full of herself.
She hardly seemed to know her uncle though, so he supposed it was pretty unlikely she was involved.
“I don’t know,” Rose said thoughtfully, when he said that to her later. “It’s hard to believe she really knows that little about him. He was a well-known writer, after all and his fall from grace was fairly well-publicised.”
“Maybe she’s just not that interested. She seems pretty focussed on herself.”
“You’re biased. By what Lucy told you.”
“Don’t you think she is?”
She shrugged. “I guess so, but I would have expected her to be interested in a celebrity uncle she’s supposed to look like. To tell you the truth, I expected her to be suspicious about my claim I didn’t know anything. I was just hoping she wouldn’t connect me with your dad.”
“So, do you think she’s lying?”
“I don’t know. Somebody certainly is. Remember, we’re dealing with somebody who faked a letter from Slughorn and planted that inkwell in your trunk. Whoever this is isn’t stupid and they’re well able to fool people.”
A shiver ran down his spine. Put like that, they sounded a formidable opponent. But of course, they were. Even McGonagall hadn’t managed to find out who they were.
“I just don’t think we can afford to take what anybody tells us at face value,” she continued. “About themselves, I mean. I think we can believe what people like our parents say.” She grinned.
“I guess you’re right,” he said dismally.
“So we continue keeping an eye on her. OK.”
They met with Scorpius one last time before the Easter holidays, but he didn’t have any new information either.
“I’ll talk to my dad over the holidays,” he promised. “If he tells me anything important, I’ll let you know.”
Albus rather doubted he would hear anything important. So far it seemed like every thread they followed ended in a dead end. Why should this time be any different?
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