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Chapter 8 : Suspect
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I don’t know how long I was out there for. If I was being logical I probably would have clued in it wasn't the best idea to sit out in the open. It was one of the precautions the MInistry had recommended. However, I wasn't being massivley logical at the moment and so I continued to lean against the door to my parents house. My limbs were refusing to move anyway.
It was odd, to feel the sun and hear the sound of a car horn. Even birds were singing their doleful tune. It seemed so out of place because I could still smell the blood and hear the cries, but everything here seemed so normal. I thought of how I would have liked this life, the life we were promised when we were eleven.
In the movies, the heavens would pour out rain in their agony. Lightning would flash in the background, and thunder would roll in like waves of an ocean. The scene always seemed so correlated to the actions of the world. But the sun was getting hot and the sky so blue. People actually looked happy as they were wandering down the pavement. It wasn't right and it made me angry.
But, the anger only lasted a moment, it wasn't their fault the sun decided to shine. It wasn't their fault the Death Eaters were lording over the light and the dark. Or that Voldemort didn't discriminate based on night or day.
The door behind me abruptly opened to break me out of my reverie and I fell backwards onto someone’s feet.
“Eleanor?” I looked up and shifted uncomfortably as the door jamb was jabbing into the small of my back. My brother, Edward, was standing above me with a quizzical expression on his face. His hair was still sticking up in the back and I was left speechless with the idea he could have been having a lie in after all that had happened today.
“What are you doing?” he asked. I frowned; I wanted to tell him. To grab onto him and just say that life was crazy and I wished I hadn’t ever got my letter because having a lie in seemed less complicated than what I was facing.
“Sunbathing on the doorstep, obviously,” I replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. I couldn’t tell him though. Not him, nor my parents. They still seemed happy and it's not like I would take that away from them. If they could be obvlivious to the dangers at our doorsteps for a bit longer I would take that.
Edward snickered, but he also leaned down and pulled me off the ground. I held his arms for a moment too long and he got the concerned look in his eyes again. Smiling, I squeezed passed him into the house. Brushing off the dirt on the back of my robes I kicked off my shoes. It was reassuring to see him. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I’d end up here and they’d all be dead.
I know, the very picture of optimism right there.
“Well, you fail. You’re still pretty pasty,” he said. I smacked him in the arm. Only I could make fun of my near transparent skin. I think I was destined for those spidery veins my mum tried to hide.
“Why are you here anyway? Shouldn’t you be at your flat canoodling with your lady friend or something?” I asked. Mum was always so pleased Edward had found someone. Always dropping copius amounts of hints of how I should pick up my game and join in the game. Obviously, I fail quite a lot at that, hence why she tries to set me up every Christmas.
“That eager to see me, aye?” he replied.
“You know how much I miss you when you’re not around,” I said. I pat him on the head as I would a poodle and quickly skirt away from his flailing hands as he tried to push me away. I followed my nose to the delicious aroma of pancakes and sausages that were drifting down the hall. Eating was always a good distraction.
My dad was in the kitchen with an apron around his torso and his hair pulled into a ponytail. A bandana was holding his fringe out of his face. He turned around with a cheeky grin; the specula in his hand dripped oil onto the floor as he did so.
“Smelt the food all the way from your flat I see,” he said. He didn’t seem to notice the oil drips and I didn’t bother mentioning it as the showdown when mum would see the mess would at least be funny.
“The perks of being magical I think, I smell everything." I said and gave him a brief hug.
“Stay away from the public toilets then, yeah?” he replied. He laughed his deep throaty laugh and turned back to the frying pan. I sat down at the big oak table and for a moment just took in the sound of my dad humming some muggle tune and the smell of freshly cut bread.
I started tracing the grain patterns of the oak. It made me remember when I was a kid in this house. I would trace the patterns for hours and ask loads of really annoying questions like were the tree brother and sisters sad when this one had to be cut down for a table. Mum and dad handled it well though, even with Edward dramatically weeping in the background for his lost tree friend. They'd say that as long as you gave wishes to the knots then the tree was plenty happy to be repourposed. They liked wishes, see. It gave them a purpose as they'd pass the wishes on to someone who could actually do something. It sounds silly, I know. But this table alone had hundreds of wishes whispered to it.
Edward came and sat down across from me. I avoided his eyes because I knew how easily he could see right through me. I didn’t want to reveal the thoughts that were still tumbling around inside me. I found myself making another wish as I followed the age lines. A wish for clarity in a dark world where there was none to be had.
I heard my dad talking and Edward answering, but I couldn’t make myself interested in the conversation. They were giving me space I knew. Trying to ease the tension because, to be honest, I had just been sitting for who knows how long outside the door like a lost dog. It was strange behaviour, even for me.
Dad always said that violence of any kind was morally wrong. That nothing should ever be figured out at the end of a fist. He told me that after a fight I had in primary school where I attacked a girl for calling me weird. To be fair, I had once turned her hair purple, accidently of course, and her pencils always seem to disappear when I was around. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, only that this girl was the bane of my existence. But Dad showed that in every aspect of his life. No matter what annoyance was in his way I had never seen him raise a fist or even raise his voice my whole life.
And you want to know what? He was happy.
“Eleanor?” I looked up to see Edward staring at me.
"Pardon, went off in fairyland for a moment there,” I replied. I smiled, though I think it turned out to look more like a grimace the way my eyebrows were still knotted together.
“Dad just asked how many pancakes you’d like,” Edward said.
“Oh, em, two would be great, thanks old man.” I chanced a glance at Edward and he was still looking at me with an anxious look in his eyes. I looked back at the table and pulled at the tips of my hair. I couldn’t bring them into this and I wondered why I had come here at all. This wasn’t protecting them, but I feared it would drag them into the mess.
I wondered if Henry was right, that Crouch would turn things around. If he could this war could be over before we knew it. He’d been put in charge of the Magical Law Enforcement Department halfway through seventh year and he seemed to have the steam of a thousand men. His face always seemed to be in the Daily Prophet where he was doing some press conference or bringing in another man or woman in for questioning. Trying to raise the troops, Sirius would say with snarl. I didn't know why Sirius hated him, but then, sometimes Sirius didn't need a reason to hate. It came so easily for him.
Crouch was the one responsible for all the delightful little pamphlets they were handing out too. Ones about home safety and protecting yourself from the terrorists who threaten our much deserved peace. His words, not mine. The one I especially liked was about keeping your door locked. It might keep out muggle neighbours and five year olds, but a wizard bent on killing you was a different story altogether. It’s not like he’s going to cower and scream ‘look, it’s a locked door, my greatest weakness’. But hey ho, it was better than when the Minister for Magic tried to make every death and abduction as an inconvenience rather than murder. That was a right scandal.
A plate slid in front of me with two pancakes covered with sugar and lemon. I smiled my thanks and rolled the pancakes up tightly, licking my fingers when the lemon juice dripped out of the end of it and onto my hands. There was a momentary silence and I knew they were just watching me. My dad briefly placed his hand on my shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze.
Instead of talking though I took a bite, but it tasted like lead in my mouth. The boy was still in my head and I realized that he’d never get the chance to eat this again. I pushed the plate away, sick of the idea that I could eat as if everything was normal. I didn’t want to think of being that sort of person who could just brush things aside like they didn’t even matter.
Before Edward could ask what was wrong, which I could see was on the tip of his tongue, there was a knock on the door. My body tensed for a moment, but then I sprung up from the table. I had to answer it and no one else. I don’t know why I felt so strongly on that but if it was – my body shivered at the thought that I might have been followed or found.
“I’ll get it,” I said unnecessarily as I headed to the door. My hands shook a little but I reminded myself that a Death Eater wouldn’t just knock on the door. They’d do something a little more dramatic like make a window shatter and then smash through the door like a hurricane.
And, if they dared come here I'd eat them for dinner, so they better beware.
I got to the door and looked out the window on the side. I recognized the jaunty stance and the long black hair even though his back was to the door. I straightened and wondered why he was here, especially after being out of contact for so long. Was he here to tell me how much I sickened him because I ran?
I opened the door knowing I couldn’t put it off because he’d just knock again and then my brother or dad would come. It would just be weird to try and explain. I scooted outside and stood beside him on the porch, overlooking the quiet street. On clear days if you looked a little to the right you could see the port with all its massive ships in the distance.
“Hey,” I said. I briefly looked up at him as he rubbed his hands through his hair. Week old stubble grew across his cheeks.
“Amelia told me where you’d be,” he said after a moment. I immediately felt guilty because I hadn’t even bothered to check to see if she was alright.
“Is she okay?” I asked. He only nodded and so the silence stretched between us. “Great, because I was going through this pile of applications for those wanting to be my new roommate and they’re all duds.” Sirius raised his eyebrow and looked at me. “Tasteless, I know.”
“As always.” He almost sounded amused.
“What happened today, Sirius? Why were they after her?” I ventured to ask. Part of me didn’t want to know at all, but... well, I knew I needed to know. There had to be a reason behind it for me to try and make sense of it.
“We should go somewhere – can I-” he looked toward the brick house.
“Erm- I don’t want them...” I trailed off not knowing what to say, but Sirius nodded his head in understanding.
“They don’t know.” He said it as a statement and not a question. “What about your mum?”
“I honestly don’t know how much she knows about it; I can’t remember her ever getting the Daily Prophet or Owls from old friends during holidays. She’s cut herself off quite a bit from the world,” I said. It surprised me though when I thought about how much I didn’t know my mum.
We talked a lot and I’d tell them all about my life at Hogwarts. Mostly the funny stories though, leaving out the bits where I might have gotten hexed for having a squib brother or told my blood was dirty. It never seemed important enough to darken their doorstep with. Plus, I never wanted to admit to Edward that a world supposedly so wonderful could be so dark. Nonetheless, I never ventured to ask Mum how much she was involved with her old friends or anything. She’d sometimes tell me stories but they always seemed to be in the distant past.
“Could we walk?” I asked. I looked up to the sky and around us, unsure if it was even safe to be gallivanting about. It probably wasn’t clever, but if someone wanted to kill you, doors and walls would only do so much. Anyone could be found eventually.
Sirius seemed to consider for a moment before he shrugged and stood up. I expected him too; he wasn’t someone to worry too much of the consequences.
“Great, let me just change into some muggle clothes,” I said and dashed inside before he could answer. I quickly threw on trousers and a shirt and went to the kitchen where Edward and my dad were. I halfway hoped they’d forbid me from going and it would save me from this conversation. Save me from explaining myself and from learning the truth about the attack today. I wanted to know of course, but the idea sickened me that people could do this.
“I’m going out for a bit, thanks for the food though,” I said. He had a soft smile on his lips and nodded his head. The two pancakes were still rolled up on the plate with a lone bite taken from one of them.
“Of course, I always knew there’d be a time when you’d ditch your old man for someone else. Just thought it might be a couple years yet, I’m truly gutted,” he said. Edward chuckled at pulled my uneaten pancakes towards him. “Wait until your mother hears she’ll have a field day.”
“Punk, you will not say a thing to Mum! She’ll send out wedding invitations by tomorrow,” I said, scrunching up my face in annoyance. My dad laughed and waved me off. I rolled my eyes at him as I left. His laughter followed me as I went down the short hall and outside to where Sirius was waiting. I hoped he hadn’t heard that.
“Right,” he said. I chanced another glance at him as we walked to the street. His eyes were focussed and ready, scanning everything as we walked by it, however his arms were swinging nonchalantly by his side as if this was just a casual walk.
“How did you know about the attack?” I asked. He steered me right and we walked down the cobblestone street for a moment in silence. We passed an older couple and a few black taxi’s flew passed us and still he didn’t say anything. “Sirius...?”
“It’s the Order. One of the things we do is watch people who we think are being targeted,” Sirius said quietly.
“Why would Madam Mildred get targeted? She owns a tea shop!” I replied. It didn’t make any sense and I couldn’t imagine the friendly shop owner being targeted by the Death Eaters at all. She couldn’t offer them anything. Unless they had some weird fascination with tea leaves and wanted to see their future.
Where is he? The shouts from the Death Eater rang in my ear. I closed my eyes briefly and I felt my body sway at the impact of the memory. Her face, the smear of blood as her tears fell down her cheeks. I felt Sirius grasp my arm to steady me and I shook my head, telling myself to pull it together.
“They wanted her husband,” I said in sudden understanding of why they’d been shouting at her for his location. The husband must have been the elusive 'he'. I tried imagining the man, but had only seen him on a few occasions. He had dark hair, shifty looking eyes, and sickly skin that looked like it had never seen the light of day. Nothing that made him extraordinary though. I didn’t even know where he worked.
“Yes, he was a magical artefact dealer for the Ministry. Did mostly fieldwork,” Sirius said. His clipped answer though made me feel like he wasn’t telling me everything.
“Why... why would they want a magical artefact dealer?” I pressed. Sirius nodded casually to a man walking his dog and was quiet until were were completley alone again.
As I waited for him to speak I gazed at the towering houses on this street. The dark red and white brick support beams gleamed in the early afternoon light. Tall black lampposts lined the pavement and post boxes were at the corners, though they were covered with graffiti. Since the economic turn that Liverpool was experiencing the more graffiti and deserted homes seemed to appear. Not as much of it here where we lived, but the air of peace this city used to have was drifting away as people we passed all had a desperate air about them.
“He may have found a few things Voldemort wants,” Sirius replied. At the end of the street I turned on Greenbank Road. We continued our walk on a footpath that would lead us to Sefton Park. Shrubs grew up beside the footpath and a strong scent of dust and budding flowers assaulted my nose. “Things that may help us get support from some magical creatures that might usually align themselves up with Voldemort's kind. Though now that they have Mildred I don’t know what’s going to happen. We knew that someone from inside the Ministry had tipped Voldemort off about this so we were watching but-”
“Didn’t work well though, did it?” I said. I knew it was harsh, but I couldn’t help thinking of how he said we’d be protected if I'd joined. It was all just a false sense of security because no one could possible protect another person. Not completely protect them at any rate. And sometimes being in the thick of it targets those who are innocent. LIke my brother or my parents.
It was like we were all jumping down an empty elevator shaft into the darkness and each of us just hoped to God that someone knew how to grow us wings so we could fly out.
“No it didn’t,” he snapped, his eyes hot before he turned his glare away from me. We wandered into the massive park and walked along the lake till we found a park bench to sit on. I pulled my knees up to my chest and stared out at the pond only vaguely taking in my surroundings. The trees that were along the water’s edge reflected off the surface making one wonder where the water ended and the grass began.
I couldn’t believe all of this happened because of some old relics. I knew they probably had some importance in the grand scheme of things, but it was just disgusting to think that a person’s life was traded in for that.
“Are you alright?” He asked, breaking our silence. It had never been so quiet between us before. When I looked into his face and saw the dark shadows underneath his eyes and the lines on his forehead more pronounced, I understood the demons were haunting him too. The uphill struggle where there didn’t seem to be a foothold or a way to beat them. It will come, I knew it would. But when you were in the midst of it like he’s put himself, seeing anything, but the ravaging beasts that were biting at your feet was almost impossible, especially for him. Sirius would only see those beasts, would fight harder against them, but in the end they’d consume him.
“Yah- fine,” I finally said. Ignoring the part of me that wanted to scream and say of course I wasn’t alright. I just saw a child murdered for heaven’s sake and a mother tortured. I couldn’t help but imagine then that it was my mum who was laying there instead. Or if it was Edward who’d been killed. It could have been. Their lives were on the line, everyone’s was.
I had always seen the aftereffects of war. Patients who had death clawing at them like animals because of a curse. It was easier to disassociate yourself from that though. To just focus on making things better rather than to imagine the event that got them there. That was our job. Seeing it happen in front of your eyes was different. When you hear the harrowing scream of a mother losing a child, her way of life- I dont know, it was haunting and it ripped through my soul leaving jagged marks in its wake.
I wouldn’t say that, though. It made it real then and I’m sure he had other things to worry about than a hysterical female. More demons to fight, more death to chase. I wouldn't to burden him.
He must have heard the quiver in my voice though and I cursed him for still being able to read me so well. He'd known me long enough to read my moods and when they changed. I knd of wish my face was brick and voice stone. Then no one could actulaly see what was there beneath and I could just get on with it. You can't hurt brick, if you try, usually you just get bruised. Edward tried doing karate once but quit when he had to break through that ston slab. His hands would always come back black and blue.
He reached up and turned my head so I was facing him. His hands were cupping either side and it was only then when he brushed his thumb gently across my cheek that I realized I had been crying.
“Contrary to my eyes betraying me I’m- I’m really fine,” I said. Trying to be firm, trying to be stone. This kind of thing happened and I had to get over it. Get over the fact I had just stood there and done nothing.
“Of course you are,” he replied. I nodded smartly and turned to face the pond again. His hands fell to his side and he leaned forward so his arms were resting against his knees. “Look, I have to tell you something – and you’re not going to like it. Just promise me one thing.”
“Don’t freak out.”
“What are you on about?” I said. I brushed the back of my hands against my cheeks to make sure that my eyes weren’t playing dirty little tricks on me again. He grabbed one of my hands and held it loosely in his while rubbing circles with this thumb on the back of it. But only for a moment before he released it again as if only just realizing what he was doing.
“They think-” he paused. His eyebrows knotted together and his lips formed a hard line. “That is, the Ministry...”
“Stop dithering and just spit it out,” I said after he paused yet again.
“They suspect you,” he finally spat out in an angry hiss.
And again I felt like my world was spinning out.
Thank you for reading! Massive thanks to Jami (again!) because she's increidbly helpful with her mad beta skills.
The world, canon characters and events all belong to JKR.
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