Chapter 4 : (4)
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Annoyed, Eloise gave her watch another glance, just to make sure she wasn’t misreading the time. With the confirmation that it was indeed quarter past eight already, she slammed her books shut and stuffed them into her bag before exiting the library angrily. Her leather satchel knocked repetitively against her left thigh as she walked, each impact accompanied by a barely audible expletive. More than anything, Eloise was angry at herself for having waited for so long (although she was furious with McLaggen as well, and wouldn’t hesitate to share a piece of her mind when she next saw him).
Susan barely looked up from her homework when Eloise stomped into the Common Room and dropped her bag unceremoniously to the floor.
"He didn’t turn up," Eloise seethed, curling up on an armchair. "I waited over an hour and a half and he did not turn up. I used the time to do some of the homework we have for tomorrow, but I still have an Arithmancy essay to finish plus my Herbology diagram, and I haven’t had any dinner." She seemed to deflate as all anger escaped her, replaced only by a look of intense exhaustion. "For all I know, the wizarding world has been under a zombie attack for the past twenty-four hours, and I’d have no idea because I wasted my time yesterday and left all my work for the last minute, then had to do it all today."
"Well," Susan began, fumbling around her bag, "the world has not been under a zombie attack – or in any case, the Ministry hasn’t said anything about it. I labelled my diagram already, all you need to do is copy, and I brought you this –" she triumphantly fished out a paper bag "– from the kitchens."
Eloise caught the bag mid-throw. It contained four bacon and tomato sandwiches, an apple and a cookie. She grinned up at Susan.
"You’re the best."
Shoving a first sandwich into her mouth, Eloise bent over her homework, rapidly scribbling the answers Susan gave her, then pulled out her Arithmancy textbook. By the time she finished eating, all she had left to do was find practical applications of the golden number in everyday life and conclude her essay, something she did in the rush relief that accompanied the perspective of being done.
Susan looked up with a smile from the issue of the Daily Prophet she'd been leafing through. "Do you want to crash the kitchens?"
"I would but I think I'd fall asleep halfway down the corridor." Her words were punctuated by a yawn that felt like it would tear her head in two. "I think I'll go to bed – anything worth reading in that?" Eloise jutted out her chin towards the newspaper in Susan's lap.
"No." The brunette scowled at it. "Just a load of ministerial bullshit. Given what aunt Amelia told me and the way it absolutely does not fit with what I've been reading, it's not surprising she was murdered. I think the Ministry is covering the extent of You-Know-Who's power to avoid mass panic. You know Fudge's resignation? I'll bet you anything he was fired – he didn't fill the role of a leader who'd keep the country together in case of a crisis, so they got rid of him."
Though Susan's voice was low, Eloise glanced over her shoulder. "The walls have ears, why don't we discuss this in our dorm?"
Susan nodded and followed Eloise down the tunnels. They changed quietly into their sleeping garb to avoid waking Hannah, peacefully asleep, and only once they were both seated on Eloise's bed with the drapes shut did they resume their conversation.
"Fudge was fired, there's no doubt about that. It'd be unimaginable for him to keep his job after his failure at recognising You-Know-Who's return."
"He's still a better option than Scrimgeour," Susan spat. "Now that's one person who gives me the creeps. Have you met the guy? His nomination is more than suspicious – did you know charges were pressed against him for corruption and embezzlement while he was head of the Auror department? The whole thing was kept quiet and he was deemed innocent, but still."
A small bout of laughter escaped Eloise's lips. "You've been going through Ministry files again, haven't you?"
"Of course." Susan waggled her eyebrows. "Illegality is the spice of life."
"I know you've been doing this for years and technically you didn't do anything illegal but walk into your aunt's study and rifle through the papers on her desk, but you've got to be careful. I don't want the next dead Bones to make the headlines to be you."
Susan nodded. "I know. But now that I've started accepting Amelia's death, I also know that there is no way I'm not getting involved with what's happening."
Eloise sighed. "I wish I could be as brave as you are."
"It's not always bravery. Sometimes it's stupidity, recklessness and the thrill of adventure."
"Should've been sorted into Gryffindor," Eloise snorted.
"Nah, red isn't my colour."
They both burst into uncontrollable laughter at that.
"That – isn't – even – funny," Eloise choked out, holding her ribs. Susan only laughed harder.
When their giggles eventually died out, Susan leaned forwards to grasp Eloise's hand. "You are brave, you know. Maybe not in a Harry Potter way or anything, but you're the least cowardly person I know. Remember third year, when you told off the boy who was nattering on about how professor Lupin should be put to death after we found out he was a werewolf? Sometimes bravery isn't about big things, only about standing up to your convictions and doing what you can at your level."
"Susan, if you ever run for Minister you'll have my vote."
Susan scoffed. "I certainly hope so."
"You arrogant little shit," Eloise teased. She elbowed Susan off the bed. "I'll never be able to vote for you if I'm dead, and if I don't go to sleep soon Snape will have my head off tomorrow for dozing off during his class. Shoo!"
Once Susan had left, Eloise punched her pillow into a satisfying shape and curled up in a ball under the yellow coverlet. Although – rather grimly – talking about murder and the incoming war had become natural, she still didn't feel comfortable with Susan's lax attitude towards it. Her friend knew what she was doing and wouldn't take absurd risks, Eloise hoped, but the stakes weren't the same as before. If Amelia Bones really had had access to some of the best kept secrets of the Ministry, and if Susan really had been privy to quite a few of them (with her aunt's entire approval, Eloise suspected), then she was a potential target, even more so now that Amelia was gone.
Eloise sighed deeply. It's not my place to talk Susan out of this. I've got to focus on my studies and that Healer internship.
That brought back the memory of the greenhouses, talking to professor Sprout, and ultimately being convinced into tutoring McLaggen. Much to Eloise's annoyance, his face popped up in her mind – despite her irritation with him, she couldn't help but consider him very good looking. And yes, as ridiculous as that sounded, it had partly influenced why she'd accepted to help him.
Grumbling, she buried her head into her pillow. Get a grip, this is immature.
Her chastising thoughts were the last thing on her mind before she fell asleep.
Being summoned to the Headmaster's office halfway through breakfast was quite high on Eloise's list of things she really didn't like, even more so when no explanation was given to her. As soon as she walked in and caught sight of her father, her irritation changed to cold dread.
"Dad? Why are you here?"
"Hi sweetheart." He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Have you read the papers today?"
"No, they hadn't arrived yet. Who is it, mum or Vincent?"
"Vincent. There was an attack on the WWN headquarters. He's mostly alright but Mungo's are keeping him under observation until tomorrow just in case. Professor Dumbledore has given his permission for you to be excused today if you want to see your brother."
"Yes, please. Thank you, professor."
It was only once they'd stepped out of one of the chimneys in the atrium of Saint Mungo's that Eloise dared question her father further.
"I'm not going to ask for details on the attack because this isn't the place, but what happened to Vince?"
"It's not entirely clear in his head, so you should take the story with a pinch of salt. He thinks an exploding curse was cast his way and apparently part of the wall shattered on top of him. Luckily, he was crouching under a desk to be able to fight back with some cover and the desk took the brunt of it all."
"And you said he was mostly alright? Why mostly?"
Her father's mouth made an odd downward twisted movement. "I would say he'll tell you himself, but that won't be the case. The curse… it exploded directly behind his head and he lost his hearing in both ears. The Healers aren't sure he'll ever be able to hear again."
Eloise froze. "Fucking hell."
It was a sign of how difficult it was for her father not to cry when his only reaction to her language was to nod.
Hi, she mouthed when Vincent blearily opened his eyes. You okay?
He made a face and pointed to his ears. Eloise gave a sad half smile, reaching for his hand as only reaction.
"Why aren't you in school?" he tried to ask as quietly as possible. All of his instincts were screaming at him to shout in order for him to hear himself speak, but Eloise could hear him perfectly well and it wouldn't do to yell.
Her mouth moved in response but he couldn't understand, only shrug helplessly. Something flashed in Eloise's eyes, halfway through grief and murderous anger (not directed at him, he guessed, but it was scary all the same), as she picked up quill and parchment to scrawl a few words.
Dumbledore gave me permission to leave to come and see you and dad picked me up.
Vincent nodded. "You been here long?"
She held up a hand with the thumb folded down.
Her face broke into a grin. I like to watch you sleep.
He felt the laugh rise in his chest and the huff of air go out his nose, but heard nothing.
Eloise went back to scribbling on her parchment.
I went to the hospital library. There's a spell you can cast that will transcribe what people say into text only you can see, but it's tedious because you have to cast it individually for every person you want to transcribe. It's the only one I found, though. But there was also a small section dedicated to how Muggles deal with deafness and I found a book on sign language too, so if I can talk dad into going into London before I go back to Hogwarts, we can buy a similar book for us.
"We can start with the spell, at least for you, mum and dad, I think."
Eloise nodded, pulled a book out from underneath the armchair she was perched on and slid it over, tapping a certain paragraph on the page.
You'll have to wait, because you aren't allowed your wand in here, but in the meantime you can find out what how it works and shit.
Another huff of laughter escaped Vincent's mouth and Eloise smiled.
Plus now you'll have to write me letters!
She held out her little finger and mouthed, Promise?
He curled his own pinkie finger around hers. "Promise."
"Thank goodness!" Susan threw herself at Eloise as soon as she crossed the threshold to the Common Room, causing the few students there to lift their heads at the commotion. "I was worried sick, I thought you'd left too!"
Susan's eyes, already red-rimmed, threatened to overflow with tears again. "Hannah left. Her mother was apparently murdered by Voldemort."
There was a collective gasp and Susan rounded on the gaggle of fifth years behind her. "Jesus Christ, saying his name isn't going to bring him running!"
"Susie, calm down," Eloise wrapped a hand around her friend's wrist and tugged her towards a chair. "When did this happen?"
"During Herbology. Dumbledore and McGonagall turned up, took Hannah outside to explain without the whole class listening in and while Dumbledore led Hannah out, McGonagall told me I may as well come along because my presence would be needed. And Hannah didn't react, stayed very straight-faced until we got back to our room where she let out a horrible scream I don't ever, ever want to hear again because it sounded like she was shattering into a thousand pieces. For all my talk of doing the right thing and fighting back, Hannah falling apart was a slap in the face because we're still just kids, aren't we? How the hell could I ever have thought we were equipped to deal with any of this?"
There was nothing Eloise could think of in answer so she just wrapped an arm around Susan's shoulder and hugged her fiercely.
A/N: So it's been over a year since I last posted anything and I don't know if anyone is still around to read my ramblings. I don't really have any excuse, my will to write just sort of plummeted? It's tentatively back now but I'm not making any promises, especially with uni getting in the way (although I really do want to get back to it, so fingers crossed).
Hugs and thanks go out to the twitter clique (you know who you are) for cheerleading, and especially to Lottie for boosting my self-esteem and supplying links to other fanfiction when needed! ♥
Please review to let me know this isn't too bad?
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