Chapter Five, In Which I Learn the Meaning of French
I think I could kiss him, I'm so bloody happy! I mean throw-my-arms-around-his-neck-in-the-mid
It's so strange, this bubbly feeling I'm getting right now for no reason at all, just sitting here thinking about how happy I am. Merlin, I bet I have a goofy smile plastered on my face and everything. I raise a hand to my face, the other still cradling the egg, though it's more then secure in my lap. Yes, I can feel the smile there. I try to remove it. I think of scary things, like Mrs. Weasley when she's angry or the Skrewts we finally finished in CoMC. It doesn't work. It's still there. Damn. I can't leave Snape's office with a goofy smile on my face. It would both ruin his reputation as Lucifer's love child and give the papers more ammo.
Oh, yes, I'm in Snape's office. In a dressing gown. It is at least eleven o'clock at night, if not later, and I'm stifling yawns already. I'm almost happy enough to kiss him too, but I think that's the want-of-sleep talking, if not the head injury.
So, let me just say, despite the fact the past fortnight has been awful, what with every dish-rag newspaper in the country and more than a few from the continent asking about what exactly is going on between me and Mr. Snape of Kent and making up things for me to have said when I refused to answer them, and everyone in school staring at me once more and opening up that bag of innuendos I started back before Halloween, and having to fend off a letter from Mrs. Weasley (who said if I didn't give her an explication as to my activities within twenty-four hours of her letter she'd castrate a certain Mr. Snape of Kent, but also included a recipe for a prophylactic potion in case it was "what I wanted." The letter I replied to, the potion, well, I didn't know what to say about that, so I just ignored it entirely, counting the number of brothers Ginny has against the likelihood of it actually working – not that I was tempted to test it out anything. Still, it was about as awkward as if Aunt Petunia had handed me a box of condoms with my lunch in grammar school and told me to play nice), another from Sirius (who wanted to know what had happened to spark Rita's story, by Merlin thankfully not taking it seriously, but still wanting me to send envelopes large enough for some of the curses he wanted to send his old school chum now that he'd been provided such a perfect excuse for them), and a third, surprisingly, from Remus. I guess threats to my virtue bring out the best in everyone.
Anyway, Remus's letter went something like this:
I'm sorry for not writing to you sooner, Éléonore (he, like Sirius, and the Dursleys did before first form, calls me by Éléonore. I'm given to understand it's the name my parents called me, before they died and all), but I can honestly say, until now, I have not known what to say. Naturally, I do not believe the rubbish they have printed about you in the Daily Prophet, but even Skeeter needs a grain of truth to create her lies. I do not know what may be going on between you and Severus, if there is anything at all. You do not have to tell me if there is, nor do I care whether you are involved in any way other then student and teacher. It is not my place to pass judgement on such things and, so long as no one is hurt by it, I will not stop you.
I will say one last thing on the matter before leaving: be careful. My generation came of age in the shadow of war. Yours was born in its darkest hour. Such things leave behind marks that cannot be seen nor can always be healed.
and then, as promised, drops the subject entirely, and goes on to tell me how he's been looking for work, and how Padfoot has been keeping him company during full moons at his mother's old place, and how, because of the Black's preternatural desire to be left alone, the house is so well warded that the whole Auror division could be standing right outside the doors and never see the house at all. I like Remus. Only he'd be so wonderful as not to care whether I am having a torrid affair with Snape so long as we kept our bedroom activities free of virgin sacrifices. When I wrote back to him, I asked for him to write down some names of lawyers, you know, while he was out and about looking for a job and all, and what do you know? He sent me a package with a set of like twelve basic law books he found at Sirius's place, asked me why I needed a lawyer, and has been on the lookout for a publicist ever since.
I wonder why Sirius never told me he was crashing at his family's old place, let alone with Remus, but Sirius never did seem to be a man of details.
In case you haven't guessed, I've had at least three owls after my blood at any hour of the day, which can get quite disruptive, and nobody seems to know any way to keep them away. My first line of business, after finding a lawyer or, rather, a law firm, is to get them to sue the Daily Prophet in general for libel (Rita Skeeter in particular for defamation of character) and every other news-rag out there who picked up on the story for being a public nuisance, though I don't know if that last one is possible. Then, of course, I shall undergo the great undertaking of suing the Ministry for illegal imprisonment of Sirius, as they never tried him for the crime he was suspected of, which should count as going against habeas corpus or the wizarding version of such. And then either Sirius will be free to take custody of me like he always should have been, so I can avoid another summer at Azkaban South, or I'll be old enough to submit my petition for emancipation.
Maybe I should consider a career in politics. Or law. Because I'm aching to sue somebody. There's something I enjoy in the thought of arguing with someone under nicely polished rules – and its a lot less messy than arguing with wands.
I was just so happy after, I dunno, making up with Snape that it gave me the courage to my classes normally the next day and do my best (which was better than my usual, I must note, considering I've been bolstered by this point with assurances from my various non-related relations – Sirius, Remus, and Mrs. Weasley – that no murder shall take place without my say-so) to ignore the gossip and the accusations that come at me from every angle. It didn't seem to matter. I knew the truth, he knew the truth, and the people who mattered were also informed, so who cared what they thought? Still, I must have worn a blush the entire time I was in class or the Great Hall.
Just yesterday morning, for instance, I was eating breakfast with Fleur and the S's, whom I still can't tell apart for the life of me, though one is blonde, another dark-haired, and the third has some artificial shade of red, and trying to explain to them why the English feel the need to serve kippers with breakfast (though their explanation of escargot has made me no less reticent to try snails with any of my meals) when Draco suddenly took the seat next to me.
"Potter," he said, his tone the usual nasal one he reserves for people he thinks he's better than, i.e., everyone, "what do you think you're doing?"
"Eating breakfast," I replied candidly, not bothering to even look at him. I will him just to insult me already and leave me be.
This throws him only a little, unfortunately, "I mean with Snape."
"Nothing at the moment." I think I would have noticed if I was in flagrante delicto with the man, but you never know with these things.
"Now," ask if I'd not said anything at all, "I can understand someone in your position wanting to marry up and all that," his goons are eyeing the food behind him while Pansy is hanging on his every word, "but I'm a little insulted that I apparently wasn't even considered. The Malfoys of Devon are twice as wealthy as the Prince Family." I consider what part of my anatomy to tell him to bite as goes on. "Now," he seems to be looking me up and down at this point like I'm, I don't know, a horse or something, "Pansy and I do have a marriage contract to consider," ah, the joys of pureblood youth. Marriage contracts and unfortunate hair gel purchases, what fun, "I don't think she'd have a problem with a legal concubinage."
He looked expectantly at the girl, whose nose went a notch higher then it already was into the air, "I would have thought you'd have better taste then…" she trails as I fume into my porridge. I tell myself it's not worth the detention I'll receive if I fling it in her perfectly manicured hair.
"I have always let my charitable works get the better of me." My hand griped my wand underneath my robe. When he paused to ask me what I think of his offer, I kindly blasted him across the hall with the Banishing Charm Flitwick taught us yesterday and offer another to Pansy and the goons if they'd like, though both refuse, oddly enough. I accepted the detention offered for my kindness with an aplomb only suited to a Potter (I give The Twins, who are applauding across the hall, a solemn bow) and serve it with, shudder, Flitch that same night.
The exciting part – and the reason I'm so happy – is Diggory is a prefect in addition to having a handsome face, a very appreciable form, and his proper place as true Hogwarts champion. The reason I'm willing to risk French kissing him where his girlfriend, a sixth year Ravenclaw every boy seems gaga over and who, I'm also told, is very handy with a wand, might see is that he told me to take a bath with my egg. Weird, I know, and if he wasn't half so hot or a fundamentally trustable guy I'd never have done it. But I did. Tonight, a couple hours after I finished the cauldrons in the Potions classroom, though, oddly, Snape had been nowhere to be seen…
Now I just need to figure out how to breathe under water, swim in said water, and what I might have that I'd be willing to need to breathe under water to retrieve. I'm actually doing better on the first problem then I am the last. I mean, it's not like anyone is going to take Sirius and put him beneath the lake; even if he'd consent to it, he's a(n illegally) convicted criminal. You just can't have suspected mass murderers show up at school functions. It's just not kosher.
So, in dressing gown and Invisibility Cloak, handy map in one hand and a bag of toiletries plus golden egg in the other, I started my climb back to the tower, keeping an eye out for Filch (scrub the flagstones of the great hall by hand, that's what he made me do. I'm in negotiations with Dobby for delivery of massive amounts of tapioca pudding to the man's office in exchange for socks) when I notice a dot in Snape's office and, unconscionably, find my feet taking me in that direction before I read the name bouncing along beside the dot:
My curiosity was peaked – why would a man, so sick he sent Percy of all people in his place to a ball (and who in their right mind sends Percy to any social function?) be in Snape's office? So I continued in that direction, and when I got to the last corner I hid there, invisible but knowing there were other ways that people could find me, and peaked my head around…
The door was ajar, an immediate sign something was wrong, and a shifting, tintinnabular noise like glass preservation bottles being moved echoed down the cold and dank hall. My skin was still warm from my bath-with-egg, but my hair was already uncomfortably plastered to my face and neck, the cold droplets creating veins of goose bumps as they travelled down my rosy skin. Slowly, checking the map and finding no one else in immediate proximity, I inched around the corner and to the open door. My own steps were the ones of slippers on stone, liquid and daring, but practised from years of sneaking in castles and middle-class prisons.
It opened towards me, the heavy oaken door, allowing a breath of space between it and the wall for me to hide uselessly behind, invisible and unseeable in the deep shadow there. I palmed my wand from my waistband and set down my bag, acutely aware of the deep veins of the dark-stained wood, the black iron of the wide hinges, so like a prison door… There was the familiar scent of mint hanging about in the room, darkened by the heavier smells of viler things from the supply cabinet within, of vinegar and preservatives, and of a man who did not belong in a place so completely Snape that it as heinous to imagine another within that cloud of scents.
My bag clanked as I set it down, the egg hitting the stone more solidly than I'd hoped as I tried to make my way around the half-open door-
-which slammed against me, pushing me and my tenderized head against the stone wall behind it as the intruder, hearing the noise, pushed the door farther open. I cannot see his face, nor any feature about him as my eyes stream with blackness in all its shapes and forms, only a figure running away. As I tumble onto the ground, my bag jostles the wrong way, and the egg within cracks open to sing its unintelligible song…
I come to my senses several minutes later, black spots moving erratically in front of my eyes. Blinking them away, but finding even when I close my eyes they remain, I shut the egg, my hand frantically searching for what I cannot see. It is too late, though, for as my ears readjust to the pervading silence of the Potions corridor, they catch a noise endemic to this hall: the soft whisper of cloth that is Snape come.
He sees the door is open and dark within and draws his wand. It lights without a word from him, and serves to light for me the billowing of his robes as he moved towards me – and the door. Perhaps he would not have entered a room with a possible intruder inside, or maybe he catches a glimpse of dressing gown or bag that has slipped out from underneath my cloak, but he stops less than a yard from where I have managed to sit up and sniffs. Slowly (for my own benefit; my pulse thuds all the louder as my muscles try the movement), I raise my hands and push the hood back from my face.
What emotions play across his features as he takes me in, apparently a floating head floating near ground level, eyes unable to concentrate on their own, damp hair clinging to skin still bath-warm? I cannot see, so I do not know, but I doubt they are many, if any show at all. "It's not what you think," I manage and, pushing my cloak off entirely, struggle to my fuzzy slippered feet.
If his face didn't show any emotion, his voice betrayed him, a level concern in the simple way he said my name – "Éléonore?" – enough to focus bleary eyes towards, what I assumed, was him. "What happened here?"
I think my explanation of, "I was taking my egg for a bath," worried him, so I was drawn inside and placed once more on that soft, well-loved couch (with faded green threads and still-sparkling silver edging, I now see, very Slytherin in style but comfortable in a way I suppose old Slytherins are after they've made kings and started wars, sitting around at class reunions with snifters of brandy, comparing their rumourmongerings and bedevilments. Solid, yes, but a little more malleable than you'd otherwise expect) with that selfsame blanket wrapped around me while Snape went to examine the damage made of his stores.
"I didn't do it," I offer again, the last spots flitting away as he lights the torches.
"Even a thief as inept as Longbottom couldn't manage to concuss himself on the way out." I somehow doubt this. If I'm lucky for staying alive as long as I have, Neville's as equally unlucky for all the scrapes, bumps, burnt cauldrons, and misplaced eyebrows he seems to receive. "Would you care to explain to me what has occurred here?"
I find myself explaining the necessary bathing of my egg and my returning to the tower when I, er, noticed something going and came to investigate. He seemed amused at my inept spy-work, not as if it were something entertaining in and of itself, but because it reminded him of something in those years of the war, something that had been a bright spot then. I wondered, briefly, as I yawned, how long it had been since he'd truly laughed. The Potions Master cleaned his store room, vanishing broken glass and spilled preservatives as necessary.
"Why do you think it was Barty Crouch?" he asked, almost absent-mindedly as he worked – almost, because the name came out sharp and cutting, though for no reason I could see why. Crouch was the type of man I could easily see annoying many people, so I took it in my stupor to be reasonable.
Dad and Sirius will kill me if they ever find out I ended up telling him about the map. He examined it, another of those amused, not-quite-smiles on his face while the gears behind his dark eyes spun and made connections I daren't guess at, only that he probably knew who the Marauders were a lot more then I did when I first got the map a year ago.
I was yawning heavily by this point – and entertaining thoughts of expressing my happiness that weren't quite appropriate for what I wanted to thank Diggory for – and warm, and blanket covered when Snape got up from his examination of the map and poked his head in the now clean storeroom. "I could have sworn I smelled something…" his voice trailed, searching for that illusive broken container that could let rot run rampant through his storeroom.
I sniff too, leaning back from the map spread across my legs. It is gardenia. I turn a little redder in embarrassment. "Oh, yeah, that's me," I tell him at last, which causes a true ghost of a smile as he closes the storeroom door behind him and comes to straddle the chair he's moved beside me. He is very close to me, smelling very nicely of mint and musk, eyes intent on the miraculous map my father and his friends created, and I believe I can see a hint of what might be causal clothes beneath partially-unbuttoned robes as I drift off, wondering if he knows a potion that can help me breathe underwater…
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I'm not sure which is more awkward, sneaking back into your dorm room in formal clothes you've slept in after a ball or sneaking back into your dorm room in pyjamas and bath robe after you've clearly showered elsewhere. You'd think I'd know by this point, but I really don't. I think I'll go with the second one, 'cause even though my hair's still not quite dry, Snape managed to wake me up after an hour or so of staring at my wholly remarkable map, so no one's likely to be up this time.
"You should get back to the tower, Éléonore," he tells me as he shakes me awake. I start for a moment feeling the male hand on my shoulder, my magic preparing to unleash itself, before I realize who it is touching me.
I sit up, embarrassed and tired, momentarily pondering why that icy sliver of fear coursed through me in that brief instant. I can't recall the last time I was shaken awake by anyone, let alone a man. My cheeks flare red. I nod and take my map, preparing to go.
"I hated to wake you," he admits, this man I have inadvertently thrown with by the shared fate of a name in a newspaper article, "but you were beginning to thrash again."
Again. That implied I'd trashed previously. Which means I'd a nightmare. It wasn't a bad one of there wasn't any screaming. I can't recall any details beyond a dark, endless room filled with high, narrow shelves and inhuman laughter. I shrug at him and shoulder my bag.
"What do you dream about that frightens you so much?"
I turn from the door I am about to open and look at him, my mouth cottony, eyelids heavy with sleep. I look at him, and he looks away quickly, understanding, the momentary tension beading on my clammy skin.
It is easier to make it up to the Tower unseen in dead of night with a cloak and map like mine, even if the egg in my bag is an unwelcome inconvenience. At least now I know the clue. In, oh, a month's time I'm expected to learn to swim, breathe underwater, and fight merpeople for possession of something that will apparently blacken after an hour. Yeah, no problem at all with that.
I'm itching to tell Hermione about what happened tonight, about Crouch in Snape's office, but I can't think of a way to tell her without telling her I've crashed on a Slytherin-themed couch in said office again. I suppose I'll have to settle for it gnawing away at me alone.
The number of things I can't tell my oldest friends is growing deeper and deeper with each passing day, and I don't know what glue can heal the chasm separating us. But, as much as I want to forgive Ron for being so cruel to me, the fissure still exists between us, and would continue to do so if he could forgive me for being sleepy in the wrong place. And Hermione just would analyse my desire to go to the office even before I knew a crime was being committed as, I dunno, co-dependent or something, which is not an appealing way of spending time. Merlin, if I were to tell her how nice Snape smells when he's real close, even if he's just examining your father's map, and every nerve is on fire, trying to leap across the distance between you, not because you have anything like feelings for the man – no, Merlin, no – but because you've never been so close to a guy who you could have feelings for if you wanted to… Yes, if I told Hermione that, she'd tell me… I dunno, maybe my desire to have a parental unit in my life has translated with the onset of puberty to the desire to have an authoritarian figure in the shape of a lover in my life.
I've been spending too much time with Hermione. I mean, he's a professor, hello. Can't I just say he smells good?
I thought not.
At least I can sneak into bed without a fight this time. Fights are so exhausting, worse so then battling dragons… You know where you stand with dragons… with people, you can never know if they love you or want to see you dead… A dragon can only kill you. A person can make you wish you were dead…
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When I wake up again, it's morning and time for, yeah, History of Magic (I'm currently using this time to read through the law books Remus sent me; hopefully he'll buy be a law firm soon; if news that I spent part of last night in Snape's office again gets out, my spin-control options may soon be limited. Besides, I need to add Draco to my list of people to sue, and, if that list gets much longer, I doubt I'll live to see the completion of all the trials. I have discovered, though, various ways that I can keep myself from being conscripted in the Muggle armed forces should the draft be instated), Charms (not so bad), and (drum-roll) Potions! What a happy, wonderful day.
I'm still filled with the bubbly joy of yesterday, but it's rather more contained now. Which is a pity, because jumping Diggory could be fun in its own way – better then History of Magic anyway.
I must not think thoughts like that. He is happily dating someone at the moment. If I must jump someone, I should jump a single someone. Since none of the guys, not even Diggory, interest me enough to consider it, I'm left at square one, which, frankly, leaves me with Fleur and the S's for company at the next Hogsmeade weekend…
I wonder if I even own a swimsuit. Unless Fleur snuck one into the hordes of clothes I purchased that one time, I am pretty sure I don't. I'm going to have to rectify that somehow. Maybe someone on Diagon Ally owl-orders swimsuits during the middle of January?
I'm sitting between the dark-haired S and the fake red-head (I'm relatively sure that one's Sylvie) and eating my breakfast calmly, not blasting anyone with Banishing Charms today, when McGonagall comes up to me and asks me to meet her in her office after I'm done eating. Though I agree (what do you say, anyway? "Oh, no professor? Mars is in the seventh house and means that green-eyed Leos like myself should stay as far away from cats and people who turn into cats this week?" and, even if that would work, you'd only be able to use that excuse once), my mind works furiously to figure out why she might one to see me.
. She's found out I'm the one behind the tapioca in Filch's office. I hope not, because Dobby wasn't supposed to deliver it until The Twins get their next detentions.
. I've failed my cross-species transfiguration test. I'm pretty sure I haven't, as I managed to change the Guinea Pig into the Guinea Fowl, but you never know.
. She wants to offer me advice on how to breathe underwater, something all grandmother-y figures do for their grandchild-y figures at some point in their lives.
. She found out about last night and I'm about to be in huge, nova-sized trouble.
I'm thinking option four myself.
So, after eating, I head up to McGonagall's office, which is almost as austere as Snape's levels below. However, whereas his gives off the feeling of being closed in, embraced by the stone walls, hers benefits from being several floors higher, with many tall, narrow windows with that diamond-shaped glass you see in old buildings and a large, almost kitchen-y fireplace opposite her desk. The rug was crimson, the walls accentuated by moving black-and-white pictures of graduating classes and cup teams, an occasional pennant hanging between the frames. A tin of biscuits sits on the corner of her desk; there is probably another tartan tin in a drawer underneath.
I do not sit in one of the straight backed, Quaker chairs. I instead look for Mum and the Marauders in the pictures. Dad's team won the cup three years in a row – '76, '77, and '78. I never knew that. I have his build and his hair, people are always telling me, but my eyes are Mum's and so are any other graces I might have inherited. They were very brave, and loved each other very much. Dad died first, telling Mum to take me and run, but Mum loved him too and could not leave, even if she could've, even to save me, and died in an exchange her murderer never meant to honour. I do not know if they were religious or not, traditional or nonconformist, morning birds or night owls, but I do know those few things.
These things are gems and precious to me. They give me a history that my name and fame cannot tell me.
She walks in, as sober as this room, tight-knit and in control. I can see Hermione in her place fifty years from now, hair in that selfsame bun, a few less pieces Quidditch memorabilia on the walls, but essentially the same. I can see the young Hermione McGonagall must have been, bushy haired and ever eager to learn. It is a comforting simile. I wonder how long this cycle has gone on.
Without prelude, "Severus tells me you've been spending quite a bit of time together." Her brogue is comforting, if the words somewhat accusatory. I bask in the familiarity of it all. How many times have I landed myself in here for detention? How many more times will there be?
"Someone needs to clean all those cauldrons every night. He'll just create a detention for someone so he doesn't have to do it. I enjoy cleaning. It's mutually beneficial."
"As pleased as I am to see you two finally starting to understand one another, don't you think you have been taking it… a bit extreme?"
Snape told her. I don't know why, but he did. "If I'm not in bed by midnight, I turn into a pumpkin. I just so happened to do so in his vicinity." If he didn't like me hanging around, why hadn't he, in character, said something to my face?
"Twice," I agreed. It's not like I'm propositioning the man (seriously) or anything. I fail to see what her problem with it all is, nor why Snape would want her to know.
She seemed… I suppose happy is the closest word, or maybe relieved, or even smug at this, but I do not know why. I can only assume there is something she's not telling me. There is much I think she knows and does not tell me. I even think she knew about my Dad and them being animagi that whole time, but didn't say anything for Remus's sake sometimes. "See to it you're in your own bed at midnight from now on, will you?" It is a dismissal if I know one. But I also know she doesn't have a class this period on Fridays and I'm only missing the chapter on marriage contracts in Ye Olde Youth Law textbook.
I dared. "Professor? Did you know my parents?"
I know she did. She had to. But she can back out if she chose with that question. It is safe… "Yes."
"Can you tell me about them?" Another strange look took hold of her, this one motherly and wizened.
She dove right in. The Potters were of Calais, which, along with Nord-Pas-de-Calais proper and Aquitaine in the south are still under the control of the English Ministry of Magic, as they have been since the 1300s, but as English as it was possible to be. As many generations of Potters and their forbearers had attended Hogwarts for as long as there had been a Hogwarts to attend, though Potter men had a tendency to marry French-born witches. My grandfather's name was Henri-Gabriel, and he was the Gryffindor Head Boy some years before McGonagall came to Hogwarts. He married a Franco-Italian, Alexandrie Morietti, and their only child was my father, Jacques-Henri. Everyone, including his parents, anglicized his name for everyday usage. "We always called your grandfather Gabe," she recalled. She seems fond of those early days.
Jacques-Henri, called simply James, was an attention-seeker, a little spoiled, charismatic, great on a broom; a good student if a bit of a trouble-maker. He loved my mother at first sight, and spent his life convincing her she loved him too.
Lilly Margaret Evans was a Muggle-born with the same understandable hatred of wizarding "backwardness" as Hermione, but a heart compassionate enough to moderate the difference. She was beautiful and a good hand in most things but had no head for numbers, but scraped an E in her Arithmancy NEWT through sheer willpower alone. She refused to lift off the ground when they taught First Years how to fly. She spoke fluent French and was disgusted when she discovered James, who lived in what Muggles construed as France, could barely string together a sentence, though that too changed over time.
Everybody loved them, or, at least, everybody who mattered. They married a month out of school. She was training to be a Mind Healer. He was part of the Muggle-Worth Excuse Committee at the Ministry during the day, a vigilante for the Light whenever he had a free moment to fight injustice. "He spent all his time at Hogwarts giving his professors excuses for this, that, and the other thing. It's only fitting he went on to do it professionally." Ironically, he'd suggested a gas leak as an excuse for another of Voldemort's attacks a month before they went into hiding, and the idea stayed on file until November 1, 1981, when they gave it to the Muggle press to cover up Wormtail's murder of twelve people and subsequent escape, all of which they blamed on Sirius, their best friend.
These are more details then I have ever known about past, and I drink it in eagerly, but sadly too. These are people I will never know. They are just names to me, halves and quarters of blood whose secrets remain unlockable. I can assume that my great-grandfather was named Gabriel-something, based off the small pattern I've found in three names, but I could be wrong. There could be no pattern at all.
She only stops when her class is due to start, a group of First Year Slytherins and Hufflepuffs, and she shoos me off to Charms. No one notices my distraction at a spell I did quite well at last week. I wonder if anyone notices anything about me, ever, when my name isn't I the paper against my will or there's a rumour making its way about with my name attached.
Potions is different. He notices right away, my aura, or some Divination bunk like that, tasting of tears-held-back and sorrows-best-forgotten. I chop and dice and slice accordingly, but my hearts not in it. If he'd thought to insult me, I don't think I would even notice, what with the state I'm in. I'm operating on autopilot and no one but he can see it. Hermione, who gives the orders to chop and dice, to slice and grate, seems happier I'm doing everything without nagging her as she stirs and adjusts temperatures and feeds the flames. I don't even know what we made today. We might have carried on a conversation and I'd never have noticed.
Everyone rushes out for dinner after the indeterminable time of forever is over, but I move slowly. I pack my bag. I clear my desk of excess supplies. I take my cauldron over to the sinks to be washed. I pick up a sponge and start in on them, not caring that I've not eaten since this morning – I've gone longer without – and thinking over again everything McGonagall told me:
I am Alexandrie-Margaux Éléonore Henriette Potter, daughter of Lily Margaret Evans and Jacques-Henri Alexandre Gérald Potter of Calais, he himself the son of Alexandrie Lorriane Moretti and Henri-Gabriel Philippe Potter, also of Calais, where the Potters have resided, apparently since the Battle of Hastings, though not always under that name. I am Alexandrie-Margaux for my paternal and maternal grandmothers in turn. I am Henriette for my father and paternal grandfather. I am Éléonore for no one but myself – that I know of – and that is the name I was meant to be called.
I am Éléonore, The Girl-Who-Lived, and I have a history now.
It overwhelms me. I barely notice that he has not left the room. He is concerned. It is a palpable undercurrent to my worries. Witches rarely randomly start cleaning cauldrons in his classrooms when they could be eating or, in general, not in his classroom. Not even the Slytherins. He doesn't know what to do. It bothers him more than it ought.
"Do you have a problem with me being here?" I ask suddenly, my voice a dull monotone. I am rough and unfinished today. He will not care if I don't pretend otherwise.
"No." He is lonely too. I can feel that in the air around us. I wonder if we'll ever have a conversation where I'm not cleaning or not asleep on his couch.
"Why did you tell McGonagall about me being here last night then?"
His words surprise me. "So they don't forbid you from coming." He likes my company as much as I, for some reason, like his.
I will, at some point, have to ask him if he knows how to breathe underwater.