Chapter 5 : (5)
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A/N: THIS UPDATE IS LATER THAN LATE AND I AM TERRIBLY SORRY. Basically, university has been kicking my ass but I passed my first year which is great and I'm trying to make the best of the holidays to write more.
Some notes about the chapter - we meet the Hufflepuff boys here; please tell me if you like them, hate them, if their interactions feel forced, yada yada yada! Also, it may seem strange to see Eloise so comfortable with them all, given that she's originally portrayed as someone who keeps mostly to herself but it didn't seem too weird to me? Please let me know if it seems off so that I can edit if needs be!
Also, Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night are works of William Shakespeare, whom I am unfortunately not. Austen, Byron, or Shakespeare also happen to be people, therefore I do not own them (nor any of their work, for that matter).
Onwards with the chapter and don't forget to review!
(And big shout-out to Sian for being lovely and super supportive despite my posting schedule being more sporadic than fungus <3 )
Breakfast the following morning was a subdued affair. Susan and Eloise crowded with Ernie, Justin, Wayne Hopkins and Zacharias Smith, the little group all poking morosely at their breakfast. Zacharias, Eloise knew, could be the most insensitive tool to have ever walked the face of the Earth when he set his mind to it, and Eloise was extremely grateful that he kept his mouth shut for once – having to pacify Susan after she punched him in the face was the last thing she needed.
"Where's Henry?" Eloise inquired when she realised the boys were one short.
"Hospital wing," Ernie replied quietly. "Dumbledore's… intervention in Herbology yesterday triggered some pretty bad nightmares last night, so he went to ask Pomfrey for calming draught early this morning."
That made the already gloomy mood even worse.
Eloise paid the shouting Gryffindor no mind and continued making her way down the hallway. Double Charms had been shit (Susan didn't take the class so she normally paired up with Hannah), she had a pop quiz awaiting her in Arithmancy and all she wanted was to down a cup of tea before the Great Hall was cleared out. With the fates on her side, maybe McLaggen would get the hint and piss off before she cursed him into next week…
The fates, of course, were not on her side, and he caught up with her easily, dropping a hand on her shoulder.
"Don't touch me," Eloise hissed, recoiling away. "I've neither the time nor the patience to put up with you right now, so please leave before I get angry."
He held his hands up in surrender. "Alright, alright, I'll leave. I just wanted to apologise for not showing up the other night."
"Oh, you want to apologise!" The scoff escaped her before her manners could kick in, and from then on it just went downhill. "I suppose you've got a fucking good excuse, do you? Some meaningless lie you're going to try and force-feed me, paired with puppy eyes so it goes down better, all so you can worm you way back into my good graces and still get me to help you despite you having been a rude, obnoxious asshole? Well, I don't want to hear it. You can stick your apology and your Herbology NEWT somewhere the sun doesn't shine, because I've got better things to do. Good day."
Without giving him any time, Eloise whirled around and only stopped stomping once she was back in the Common Room, cup of tea be damned.
Two seventh years – Eloise recognised one as Alfred Summerby, the Hufflepuff seeker – looked up from their homework as she slid down against the door with a groan.
"You alright, love?" Summerby's friend was a picture-perfect portrayal of worry.
"'M fine," Eloise mumbled. "Been a long day and it's only noon, is all."
The girl smiled softly. "I bet. Want to talk about it?"
"I'm alright, thank you."
"Well, if ever. I'm Caroline, Caroline Hansen –"
"But everyone calls her Caro," Summerby supplied. "Else she'll have you nailed to the door before you can say Quidditch."
Caroline turned to the Seeker with a glare that'd freeze water. "Thank you, Alfred, for your life-changing contribution. It's a wonder we hardly get any new Hufflepuffs these days, with you traumatising the ones we already have."
Eloise let out a small snort. "I'm harder to scare. You're going to have to try harder, Alfred."
"I like you," Caroline decided. "I'm keeping you. It's Eloise, right?" Eloise nodded and something dangerously close to pity flickered across the older girl's face. "I heard about your friend Hannah. Anyone gives you shit about her, you direct them to me."
"I… thank you."
"Anytime. You want to join us, or…?"
"I should probably head to class. Thanks again though."
The redhead shrugged. "Hufflepuffs stick together. We'd better start doing that before things get too bad, right?"
With her brother deaf or her friends' aunt and mother assassinated, Eloise wondered what exactly qualified as too bad.
When the bells finally marked the end of the day, it was with a sigh of relief that Eloise slipped into the Hospital Wing. It was quiet, almost eerily so – the curtains were drawn around only one bed, and save for Madam Pomfrey moving around in the back doing god knew what, not a sound could be heard. Eloise closed her eyes for a moment, appreciating the silence, before knocking on the door to the nurse's office.
"Eloise, hello! How was your day?"
"Long and dreary," the girl admitted. "Students from other houses keep staring at us because of what happened to Hannah's mother, it's getting irritating."
The elder woman nodded. "I can imagine. Do know that you and any other student who feel the need to talk about it are always welcome here, yes?"
"I'll forward the message. Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No, I was just finishing tidying up and everything else has already been taken care of. However, your friend Henry could do with the company, if he's awake, perhaps you'd like to say hello?"
"Is he alright?"
"He had to be more heavily sedated than usual, but he should be out by tomorrow morning."
Eloise frowned. "I see. I'll check on him and if he's asleep I won't stay in your feet. Good evening, Madam Pomfrey, and see you in two days then?"
"Perfect! Goodnight to you too, Eloise."
Henry was in fact not asleep when Eloise poked her head past the curtains, and a small smile graced his features when he saw her.
"Hey El." He patted the mattress next to him for her to sit.
"Hiya. You feeling better?
"Not really… Every time I close my eyes, I see – them, and it's even worse than the first time."
"What'd Pomfrey say?"
"She's going to give me a less potent sleeping draught for regular use. I wish I could do without, but…"
"At least you'll be sleeping."
"I'm not sure how well you will be sleeping though. The others have offered Suse and I asylum in your dorm for a few days – did you know that when one of your dorm mates leaves their bed disappears? The dorm already seemed gigantic for the three of us but with that number down to two, it almost feels like sleeping in the Great Hall."
Henry reached over and gave Eloise's hand a squeeze. "I'm always glad to have two pretty girls sleeping in our dorm."
"Susan called dibs your bed and she kicks in her sleep," Eloise deadpanned. Her friend cracked a half-grin.
"Maybe I'll stay here a while longer then."
"Oh, Henry –"
"You're making pity eyes at me, El, please don't, not you... I already get patronising slash watery eyes from everyone because I'm the boy who found his slaughtered parents and brother lying in a pool of blood on the living room floor and I wish people would stop asking how I feel and offer to pay for the dry cleaners for the carpet instead, because if they can't stop seeing me as broken, how can I?"
It was the first time that Eloise heard the story directly from Henry's mouth, which she wisely chose not to comment on, instead settling on, "Dry cleaners?"
"People who clean textile using a solvent other than water. When you do your laundry the Muggle way, it's a lot harder to get bloodstains out of the fabric." Almost as an afterthought, he added, "You snobby pureblood."
Eloise stuck her tongue out at him petulantly. "You swine of a Muggleborn," she teased back, falling into the familiar rhythm of a joke they'd had since second year.
"The swine of a Muggleborn introduced you to Shakespeare, Austen and Byron, so show some respect."
"Speaking of, I picked up your copy of Twelfth Night before coming over; I'd have left it by your bed if you'd been asleep. You want it?"
"Yes, thanks! Did you like it?"
"More than Romeo and Juliet, that's for sure."
"Oh my god, this again –"
"Look, I'm sorry but I don't understand the fuss, the plot is ridiculous –"
"Eloise, I do hope you're not upsetting my patient." Both students paused to look bashfully at the nurse, standing with her hands on her hips. "That'll be enough distraction for you, Mr. Zeller. Miss Midgeon, you should be seeing your friend tomorrow morning. Now, out!"
"Yes Ma'am." Dropping a kiss to Henry's cheek, Eloise told him, "If you're not there tomorrow morning don't worry, we've got you covered. The boys'll come to see you with notes and shit."
"See you around, Midgeon, and for the love of God stop Susan from smothering Zach in his sleep!"
"Sorry 'bout the mess," Ernie apologised, hastily waving his wand around the room and sending the dirty laundry flying into a hamper by the bathroom door.
"Are you joking?" Susan was indignant. "We're invading your space and you're the one apologising?"
"Plus it's nothing they haven't seen before!" Wayne intervened from his bed, barely looking up from his copy of the Standard Book of Spells.
"Fair point. Why the fuck are you reading that?"
"I need background info on the Fidelius charm, we've got an essay to hand over in a week and I am not pulling another one-nighter to finish my homework."
"You are such a Ravenclaw," Susan chortled.
Wayne pushed his glasses up his nose, frowning at the brunette. "I will have you know that the Sorting Hat –"
"– almost sorted you with the birdbrains," the group chorused.
"It shouldn't be used as an insult," Wayne mumbled. "We need to stop using gross stereotypes when referring to the other houses because then all we do is perpetuate biased ideas that make us antagonise one another when we should be trying to increase inter-house unity."
Wayne had always been the most pacific of all sixth year Hufflepuffs, so his declaration surprised no one. That, however, did not stop Zacharias from raising an eyebrow at him.
"Jesus, Hopkins, what crawled up your ass and died there?"
"Fuck you, Smith," Wayne replied coolly. "The day shit goes down I'd like people to have my back and we're not going to go very far between the eight of us."
"Seven," Eloise threw in. "Hannah isn't here anymore."
"About Hannah," Ernie interrupted, effectively cutting off Zacharias who had directed a belligerent glare at Wayne and was clearly gearing up to argue, "I tried to write her last night but my owl came back this morning with the letter. Do you – I'm talking to you, Susie and El – know if there's any way to reach her?"
"Haven't the foggiest," Susan admitted. "If the owl came back, that must mean she and her dad have security wards stronger than the usual ones up, right?"
Justin looked thoughtful. "That's best case scenario. Worst case, they've gone into in hiding or something..."
"Which would make sense, given the circumstances. Has there been any explanations as to why her mother was murdered?"
"None yet, although there are theories floating around the rumour mill."
"Alright," Wayne pronounced with fake cheer. "I'd rather we not casually discuss murder like an everyday occurrence it looks like it's about to become, especially not when the issue here isn't why Hannah's mother was killed but rather what we can do for Hannah. Who's up to going to see Dumbledore tomorrow and asking if he has any idea how we might contact Hannah?"
"Thank you," Eloise murmured to Wayne later that evening, sitting cross-legged at the end of his bed. Ernie had pulled the honey drapes of his bed shut, Zacharias and Justin were playing a game of chess (and Justin was losing, if Zach's smug grin was anything to go by) and Susan had excused herself to the bathroom, leaving Eloise free to quietly talk to her favourite of the five boys. They'd only been friends for about a year, but there was something about Wayne that made Eloise feel like they'd been friends forever. Susan teased her mercilessly about said friendship, convinced that there was more going on, and while his curly brown hair and blue eyes were far from repulsive, Eloise could not have been less attracted to Wayne.
"Remembering that there are people behind the headlines, and reminding the others about it. How many more people are going to suffer from the situation?"
"Wish I knew... How's your brother?"
"No news from Vince directly, but mum wrote earlier and said he'd come home dazed but happy to be out of Mungo's, something about their food being disgusting? You'd think with magic and whatnot they'd serve decent meals but evidently not."
"Maybe it's because all the decent house elves are here."
Eloise laughed. "That is a definite possibility. I think it's because the staff at Mungo's wants their patients out asap though."
"Also an option. C'mon, we can continue this fascinating theory about the plot behind magical hospitals tomorrow, I'm exhausted."
He shut the drapes on Justin banging on the bathroom door asking Susan whether she'd fallen in, and Eloise fell into a deep slumber before his quiet snores could lull her to sleep.
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