Chapter 2 : (2)
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"No funny business." Helen Midgeon stared her daughter straight in the eye. "I mean it, Eloise. One toe out of line in terms of your safety and we're whisking you home faster than you can say Accio."
Eloise shuffled uncomfortably. She was aware that her parents had been very close to forbidding her to return after the proclamation of You-Know-Who's return, but a lot of pleading, crying and convincing with Vincent's help had done the trick.
"So no roaming the corridors after curfew searching for your Kneazle, or falling asleep in the library again. I know you think Hogwarts is safest with Dumbledore there, yet if we judge that the situation is too risky we'll remove you from the school."
"I know, you and dad told me already, and I promise I won't do anything even mildly dangerous." There was no need to remind her mother that she'd only gone looking for Oscar once, when he'd gotten himself stuck inside a suit of armour - Eloise knew this would only make it appear like she was taking the lecture lightly, and hence would increase her mother's anxiety.
Helen smiled and swooped down to hug Eloise tightly. "I'll see you at Christmas, then."
Eloise held her back for a moment, before freeing herself from her mother's grasp. Pulling her trunk along with her, she trundled onto the train, and paused by the window to wave at her mum. The latter smiled, slightly teary, and Eloise bit her lip.
She knew her parents, and particularly her mother, were terrified – it wasn't something they managed to hide very well. During the first war, they'd been safe from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named: both Anthony Midgeon and Helen Midgeon née Goshawk (Miranda the textbook author was a cousin twice removed or something along those lines) being pureblood. Their history of Squibs in the family and the persistency of members on either side being sorted into Hufflepuff, however, had apparently been enough to make them unappealing pawns, and they had made sure to lie low, thus avoiding disaster.
Yet it seemed that previous loyalties meant nothing anymore. Everyone had heard about Lucius Malfoy being sent to Azkaban, and hadn't he been a faithful servant of You-Know-Who? At least, that was what the newspapers had been suggesting all summer.
Eloise wasn't afraid. Worried, of course, overwhelmed by a situation she didn't know how to deal with, but Hogwarts was her home. If anything could take her mind off the upcoming turmoil, it was the return to familiarity and a place she knew by heart.
Nothing was the same though. Where train rides used to be about laughter, filling one another in about one's holidays and eating far too many Cauldron Cakes, Eloise knew, as soon as Susan Bones threw her arms around her, that this one would be very different.
"I thought you weren't going to come back," Susan admitted as she let go of her friend and helped her wheel the trunk into a compartment. "With everything that has happened, I was almost certain your mother wouldn't let you out of the house again."
"She nearly didn't. I had to get Vince to help me convince her, and even then it wasn't an easy thing to do. What about you? I thought your parents were firmly opposed to you leaving after…"
They exchanged a silent glance, Susan's eyes filling up with tears. It had been plastered all over the front pages: MURDER OF AMELIA BONES. DEATH OF THE HEAD OF MAGICAL LAW ENFORCEMENT DEPT. And then the worst: SUPPOSEDLY KILLED BY YOU-KNOW-WHO IN PERSON. Eloise gave her friend a comforting squeeze.
"My parents thought I'd be better here. The press have been harassing us for a statement, and mum threw a potted plant at the wall two days ago when one of them tried to Floo in. Fortunately, your dad did an excellent job in sealing our chimney off to intruders, and the reporter only managed to stick his head into our living room before he went sailing out the other way around."
She laughed slightly through her tears, then yanked a tissue out of her pocket and blew her nose loudly.
"Anyway. I don't think I could have handled staying at home. Mum keeps crying, and as much as I love her, I'm not exactly the type of person who can deal with her grief. All of a sudden, she isn't treating me like a child, and while I would have been happy about this new independence months ago, right now all I want is to hide like a small child with someone telling me it'll all be alright."
"I'm afraid that won't be the case," a new voice stated dully from the doorway. "Apparently, this is only the beginning."
"Thank you for your optimism, Hannah." Eloise raised an eyebrow in amusement at her friend's pre-apocalyptical tone. There were much more suitable ways to react, but it was better to laugh than cry.
Susan seemed to agree with this philosophy, and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, wrapping her other arm around Hannah's shoulders.
"Come on, grumble guts the cynic, let's get you seated and you can tell us all about your fascinating life."
Hannah's mouth twitched into a smile, and she followed inside, letting the compartment door snap shut, sheltering the girls momentarily.
To be honest, Eloise thought, reaching for a slice of apple pie as the opening feast came to an end, she'd never really considered Hannah as her friend. Susan yes, without question. They'd known one another from Ministry parties all the way back when they were five, as Susan's aunt was Eloise's mother's hierarchical superior. Susan had been the one to come towards Eloise, who was shyly shuffling about, and had taken her by the hand to go and play hide and seek in the corridors.
Hannah, for quite a long time, had simply been a friend of a friend. Eloise hadn't liked her at first: she'd felt, quite pettily, as if Hannah was stealing Susan from her. She was too nice, too simpering, too meek; and despite the fact that Eloise was a Hufflepuff, those were traits that made her hair stand on her head. She liked being in Hufflepuff because it was said to house the loyal, the determined, those true and unafraid of toil, who refused to give up. Hannah was the type of person who always tried to see the good in people, whereas Eloise preferred to be suspicious, expecting the worse from people and waiting for them to prove her otherwise.
Then, without Eloise being quite able to pinpoint when or how, Hannah had started to make snide remarks. She stopped letting herself get trampled on. There'd been a particularly loud scene in the Common Room, where she had screamed at Justin Finch-Fletchley to stop using her as a doormat (after that, no one was surprised by their breakup). She became slightly more selfish – yet as this was Hannah selfishness remained quite an abstract notion - and Eloise found herself tolerating, if not appreciating her more.
She considered Hannah as a friend on the day they'd spent an afternoon by the Black Lake, originally planning to work, but the sun had decided against it. Hannah had made a very nasty comment about a Ravenclaw girl in their year, complete with a few choice swear words. As Susan and Eloise's mouths had dropped in shock, Hannah had simply smirked, shrugged and stated: What? It's so much more fun to be on the evil side.
"Ellie? Are you okay?" Susan stared at Eloise from across the table. A slight chocolate smear ran across her cheek.
"Just thinking. You have chocolate on your face."
Susan dragged her napkin across, then looked back at Eloise. "Thinking about what?"
"How we became friends. It's quite odd, don't you think? We've come this far because of luck, just small events that happen out of the blue and that bring us together."
"Anything could have happened, and things could have been very different," Hannah finished. "I like you when you get sappy, Eloise."
"Oh, shut up," Eloise stuck her tongue out at Hannah. "Get moving, prefect, Ernie is starting to herd the midgets."
"Be nice," Hannah immediately scolded. Then she winked. "Or I'll have to deduct house points."
Susan started laughing. "You may be the nicest person to have ever walked the Earth, but darling, you're also the most competitive human being ever. If you need to scheme for us to win the Cup, you will."
In mock disdain, Hannah sniffed, pinching her lips together. "I have no idea what you're on about, but I really need to go. Ernie's going purple, and it doesn't match his robes."
As she left, Susan turned to Eloise. "Should we call this a night too? I'm nodding off in my plate."
The common room was the same, blindingly yellow at first, until the earthen floor and stone walls became visible in between the sunflower-y blotches. It may not have been as breathtakingly beautiful as the Ravenclaw Tower was rumoured to be, but it was comforting and it was home.
Like little children, both girls pulled off their shoes and ran barefoot down the tunnel to their dorm, feeling the dirt between their toes. Susan got there first, rapping her knuckles once against the round wooden door for good luck like she always did, and Eloise followed suit.
There were only three beds, with matching yellow quilts folded neatly at the foot of each. Eloise tossed her sweater onto the one farthest from the bathroom, and grinned at Susan.
Yes, it definitely was home.
Cormac McLaggen was having a foul first day back.
He'd woken up late, thus didn't get to breakfast on time, and therefore started off his morning on an empty stomach.
Now, you could say whatever you wanted about Cormac, but if anything, he listened to his mother, and his mother had always advised against skipping breakfast.
Then his leg had been mauled – yes, mauled – by Bowtruckles in Herbology which had left a long tear in the right leg of his jeans, and he'd been wandering about with a good piece of leg showing since then.
He didn't really care, of course, because he used any occasion to show off his Quidditch-toned body and this one was worth any other, except that these jeans were brand new and had cost him four bloody galleons.
The climax of his day was the double period of potions half-way through the afternoon, which Cormac decided to escape by stirring clockwise twice instead of counter-clockwise once, resulting in a charming explosion he made sure to stick his head right into.
Now, as he hobbled to the infirmary with warts erupting about his ass (why in such a location when the potion hadn't even reached him there?), he wasn't so convinced it was that good an idea.
He grimaced the entire way through Pomfrey's healing spells. Then, when he was informed that he had to stay face down on the bed until he was completely healed (which would take ten minutes at most), he let out a few choice words his mother wouldn't have approved of. Deciding that this was too reductive, he went against the nurse's advice, turned round, attempted to sit, and let out a yowl of pain that made someone come running to his side.
Not the nurse, mind you, no, someone much younger and much, much more appetising.
"What are you doing?" the blonde scolded, so coldly he flipped back to his original position. "Do you want to have scars down there for the rest of your life? Get back on your stomach before the damage is permanent."
"Worried about my ass then, are you?"
"Just doing my job," she stated airily, tugging the curtains closed. "There. No one will you see like this and maybe you'll let me take care of people who deserve my time."
When Cormac was released, the girl had disappeared.
Unfazed, and certain she'd be coming back without him having to look for her, he didn't bother. After a few days however, he was beginning to wonder if the entire thing had been a hallucination, not having seen her anywhere.
It took a detention in the Hospital Wing (Snape refused to be lenient about late homework) for Cormac to see her again. Scrubbing bedpans was the not the best situation one could be in, but he was counting on his natural charm to do the trick.
Again, though, she disappeared, and Cormac was left with nothing but the handkerchief embroidered E.M. that he'd Accio'd out of her pocket.
A/N: Hi guys! I'm really sorry about the amount of time it took me to get this posted, but I was revising for exams and it was really difficult to find the time and inspiration to write. Speaking of which, my exams start tomorrow (and will probably be over by the time this chapter is up), so I apologise if your reviews are still sitting there unanswered.
I need to thank a few people now: Gina for nominating this story in the annual Ravenclaw Diadem awards (Logarithmic and Eloise won the Most People Person Diadem!); Jami for beta'ing this for me; Katie for leaving me a review that really kicked my butt into writing this chapter; and Sam, Sarah, Sophie, Charlie and Aisha for just being awesome.
Thoughts on this chapter? Thank you for putting up with me! ♥
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