I awoke in what was obviously a boy’s room, struggling to figure out exactly how I’d ended up here last night. Quidditch posters covered most of the hideous dark blue floral wallpaper, but it was the Gryffindor banner which clued me this was the room of their eldest. Wallace, William, Walter...I couldn’t remember his name right now. He’d been a page boy at Jamie and Lily’s wedding. I did remember that much. The last definite memory I had from last night was sinking to the floor when Sirius had left. Too weak to resist any longer, I let the pain and emptiness crash into me, and I felt things that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel in three years, three months and eleven days. Not since the last night we had together, the night before Sirius had married… Her. Jamie had rescued me in the early hours of the morning, carrying me home and holding me as I wept. He stayed with me all day, not really saying anything, not promising me anything, just being there. He missed his best mate’s wedding to care for me. Sirius was thankful for Jamie’s actions that day as well. By the following morning, the heart-searing pain of their first night had passed, and I had constructed the wall behind which I had hidden since. I became the shell in which I existed but didn’t live. In the ensuing years, I would catch Jamie watching me, hoping for some signs of life. I know it saddened him when there weren’t any. I wanted to be the girl from his childhood, but I just wasn’t able to do so anymore. The only glimpses he caught of her were brought out by little Harry. He’d died without really seeing me smile again. I couldn’t imagine how disappointed he must have been in me and the way I lived.
“Would you just tell me what has you so happy?” Jamie yelled at me from across the lawn. I was turning lazy cartwheels in the grass, my shoes off so I could feel the warm dew on my feet. “You’re—you’re making me barmy this morning.”
“I can’t tell you, it’ll make you upset,” I told him, knowing he’d blow up something if he knew what was making me happy. Whenever Jamie did accidental magic, he blew up something. Finding out I’d snogged his best friend last night would definitely make him angry enough to do accidental magic.
“Ellie, if you’re this happy, then it won’t make me upset,” he tried to promise me; however, I knew better. We’d been at the summer house for two days, Sirius was already here, and he was waiting for us. He’d confessed that he was sweet on me three days before the end-of-year exams. It had been ten whole days since I’d seen him, but I knew I wanted to confess that I felt the same way, then snog him. Thankfully, Jamie ended up in trouble and had to stay in and do chores after dinner last night. That gave Sirius and me time to be alone.
“Nope, it will make you upset,” I said, again turning myself upside down and then righting myself. “It’s my secret.”
“Nothing would make me angry—well, except a bloke making moves on you. There isn’t anybody good enough for my little sister,” he announced, and I fell out of the cartwheel and landed on my head with a rather ungraceful flop. James had always felt this way; no boy would ever be good enough for me, and whomever I wanted to go out with would have to get past him. I was thirteen, almost fourteen; his attitude was already old.
“What made you say that?”
“Because I don’t know anyone who would be good enough for you, Ellie.”
Just then, Sirius ambled up; he waved at James, but smiled at me, and I could tell he was thinking about last night, too. A blush bloomed in my cheeks just from remembering his lips on mine, his hands holding my hips as we embraced.
“Sirius, agree with me here, there isn’t a bloke alive who’s good enough for Ellie, right?” James asked, interrupting my pleasant memory.
“There might be one,” Sirius said with a smirk, “but for the most part, nah, she’s just too sweet,” he said, and thankfully James didn’t notice that Sirius couldn’t take his eyes off me, and I was having a hard time breathing from remembering the amazing sensations of our private time.
“See, Sirius agrees, so please, tell me what it is that has you so happy.”
I tipped my head to the side, my forefinger tapping my chin in mock contemplation. “Nope,” I said shaking my head. “Just accept I’m happy, Jamie, I’m very happy,” I told him, returning to my cartwheels in the grass.
“I give up. Sirius, we’re gonna have to work extra hard to keep the guys away from her. Pinky-swear, no boys near Ellie till she’s thirty,” James said, holding his little finger up to his best friend. Sirius took it in his and they shook the requisite number of times.
“I promise, no other boys near Ellie,” Sirius said, looking at me with a knowing smile. I couldn’t take it anymore; I just started giggling and ran off to the tree house.
I sat up in the bed, wondering what time it was. When I Summoned my watch to me, I realized I had slept through the morning and it was nearly noon. I needed to go in to work for a while today, to tell them I was taking a few months off to figure out what my life was going to be like now. I didn’t currently have an existence that lent itself well to a toddler. There would need to be changes. My mind started cataloguing all I needed to do.
I needed to find out what had happened last night, where Jamie and Lily’s bodies were. There were burial and memorial plans needing to be arranged. There were the basic necessities of clothing and nappies and such that Harry would require. I had to do some shopping today. There was the issue of my work. The potions I was experimenting with would need to be given to someone else or set into stasis.
I rose from the bed and dug through the clothes I had brought with me. I would need some new things if I was going to be home with Harry now. I couldn’t wear my work robes around a toddler. It would be too easy for him to get caught up in the flowing sleeves or the long hems. He was going to need clothing as well. Professor McGonagall had told me that what was in his small case was all they could salvage. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around everything a little boy should have. I hoped Molly would be able to go shopping with me. She would at least know the important things, and what was best for Harry. I also needed to take care of a permanent place to live. Remus had been living with Jamie and Lily; I guessed our new home would need to be big enough for him, too. Jamie and I had made a promise to each other that we’d always take care of him, since it seemed the larger society didn’t care. I’d appreciate his company and help with Harry. The little guy loved his Mus. The feeling was mutual.
I pulled out a pair of jeans; they were ripped and patched, but they were the best ones I had. It struck me how I’d purchased them on a shopping trip before our seventh year with Mum and Lily. They were both now gone, but I still had this ratty pair of denim. I grabbed the Quidditch jersey from in my bag. As I slid it over me, I realized I had grabbed Jamie’s and not mine. I had stolen it from him not long after the shopping trip.
“Ellie, give me back my jersey,” Jamie said. I was trying to help the guys pack. We were supposed to leave Hogwarts in a few days for holiday, and there was junk all over their room. I couldn’t tell whose stuff any of it was. “Potter” on the back of the jersey let me know it was Jamie’s, otherwise it could have just as easily been Sirius’ or Remus’. They were all slobs back then.
“Nope, I want it. I need something to sleep in,” I told him, quickly shrinking it and putting it in my pocket.
“Why would you want to sleep in your big brother’s jersey?”
“Because it reminds me how you’re always there and you’ll always take care of me,” I told him and it made him smile. He drew our secret symbol in the air, the one we’d make at night before we went to sleep as kids. We’d started it when I was five and I’d been having recurring nightmares involving an old hag, a dragon and soup that featured me as the main ingredient.
Jamie and I could see each other if we left the doors to our bedrooms open, but once lights were out, we couldn’t talk, a Mummy rule. So one night, James made up the symbol, a rough outline of a bird in flight: an arc, half a circle bump and another arc. We had agreed that, when he made it, I would make the symbol back, and he’d know I was okay.
Standing in their dormitory, I made the symbol back, but Jamie could see in my eyes I really wasn’t all right. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be all right again. I was losing hope that the mess Sirius and I had found ourselves in was going to end well. I had just had a crying jag with Lily, weeping that perhaps all fairy tales didn’t have a happy ending after all.
Jamie wanted me to come and live with him and Lily after they were married, but they didn’t need his sister in the house as newlyweds. Mum and Dad wanted me to live at home, but I refused them as well. I had our flat — no, it was now my flat — and I’d be fine alone. In my bones, I could feel that I was destined to be this way. It would make it easier on those who loved me, to not live with my anguish.
“You won’t be in the same house as me anymore, Jamie, I need the shirt as a reminder,” I said quietly, hoping no one else in the room could hear us. Jamie closed the distance and smothered me in his embrace.
“Wear it then, and think of it as a hug from me.”
I wrapped my arms around myself in my brother’s torn and worn-out jersey, and tried to feel the comfort I had felt that day, but it wasn’t the same. I could feel the tears and the pain coming on again, but I didn’t have time for them now. I pushed them away, vowing to simply get through today. I quickly cleansed my mouth and pulled my hair into a loose ponytail and headed downstairs. The noise of a family this large reached me as I neared the bottom floor, and I was suddenly thankful for the eight children who would be running around today; they could help me keep my mind off everything.
Several of the older ones stopped talking and stared at me as I passed through the lounge and into the kitchen where I could hear Molly talking. When I entered the room, I saw Harry sitting in a high chair next to a little ginger-haired boy who looked close in age. There was a very small but pretty baby girl in a carrier on the table. Molly was busying herself at the stove.
“Ehwwie!” Harry cheerfully said, “Ehwwie!” he screamed again. Harry had still not mastered the “L” sound, so my name sounded funny.
“Ellie, dear,” Molly said, stopping what she was cooking and, wiping her hands on her apron before coming over to hug me. “Did you finally get some sleep last night?”
“I did, but I don’t remember going to bed,” I confessed, hoping she could shed some light on how I’d made it back to the little bedroom.
“Sit down, let me get you something to eat,” she remarked, releasing me from her hold. I went over and kissed Harry, who put his slimy fingers on my face. I looked into his bowl, trying to discern what the mushy items inside were. I wiped my face with the sleeve of Jamie’s jersey and then sat down. “Arthur thought he heard something downstairs. He found you slumped by the door and levitated you back to Bill’s room.”
“Oh, that was nice of him. I sort of lost it last night,” I explained as she set a bowl of soup down in front of me. I recognized what Harry was eating now; it was the vegetables and noodles from the soup without any broth. “I need to go to the Ministry today; I want to take a six-month leave from my job,” I announced before eating a spoonful. “I suppose there are arrangements that will need to be made as well.”
‘None of that needs to be taken care of today, dear. Why don’t you just take some time to relax—”
“Molly, I need to keep moving, to have something to do. It’s the only way I can…” I stopped again, tears falling down my face. I had to swallow thickly so I could continue. “Please, this is how I cope,” I confessed and the older woman stopped what she was doing and came to take my hand.
“I understand, dear; it wasn’t all that long ago I lost my brothers, you’re doing much better than I did,” she divulged and I smiled half-heartedly at her.
“I need to keep moving, I have Harry to take care of now,” I explained and the toddler smiled at me.
“Wub Ehwwie,” he proclaimed, rather loudly, while banging his spoon on the tabletop, awakening the sleeping baby on the table.
“Oh, there, there, Ginny,” Molly said as she came and lifted the little girl. I was struck by how much she looked like Lily, same apple cheeks and brilliant ginger hair. As I stared at the baby, another memory slammed into me.
“Ellie, Ellie, where are you?” I heard a pleasant and familiar voice calling me while I was working in the lowest level of St. Mungo’s today. I had been called over to consult on a rather perplexing poisoning case. I slid from my stool and away from my cauldron and walked to the doorway, where I saw Lily waiting for me.
“Lil, what are you doing here? Where are James and Harry?” I asked as I hugged my sister-in-law.
“Home, I had a Healer appointment today,” she was beaming at me, and I felt a similar smile break across my face as I embraced her again.
“You are, aren’t you?” I asked, although I suspected the answer to my vague question.
“I am. Nearly eight weeks along. I’m due in March. I can’t wait to get home and tell James, but I knew you were here. Please don’t tell him you knew first,” she pleaded with me and I nodded.
“Sisters don’t tell their secrets,” I reminded her. We had enough dirt on each other to bury the opposite several times over. “Did you find out if it’s a boy or a girl?”
“It’s a little girl, but I’m not telling James just yet, I want him to wonder for a while.”
“Oh my, a little girl. What are those men are going to do to her? If I thought that they were overprotective of me when I was young… she’s surrounded by her daddy, her uncles and an older brother. Boys won’t even be able to look at her,” I mused and Lily laughed.
“We’ll have to sneak her out of the house,” Lily promised.
The memory faded and I couldn’t help but look at little Ginny and know in my heart the baby would have resembled her, but somehow with James’ bright hazel eyes rather than Ginny’s chocolate ones. My heart started racing at the memories, and I was afraid the two spoonfuls of soup I’d managed to get into me would come back up. She had died along with Jamie and Lily; they’d never had a chance to tell Harry he was going to be a big brother.
The infant stopped crying at her mother’s touch and I closed my eyes and concentrated on slowing my down body. Molly must have realized there was something deeply wrong, as she called her two oldest sons in to take the toddlers out to the garden to play before their nap time. Before they took Harry out, I held him to me and kissed his head again.
“Ehwwie, Mummy, Daddy gone?” he asked me, perhaps remembering what I’d told him last night.
“Yes, sweetheart, Mummy and Daddy are with Grammy and Pappy Potter. Aunt Ellie is going to take care of Harry now, all right?”
“Okay,” he said. I wasn’t sure he really understood. I watched the children go out to the garden. The house was now unnaturally quiet.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Molly asked as she settled down across from me, throwing a blanket over herself as she nursed Ginny. Molly was as discrete about it as Lily had been when she’d fed Harry. At first, I hadn’t realized what my best friend was doing when she held her baby under a blanket. The intricacies of motherhood weren’t something I understood. I had believed it would remain that way until my death.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” I told her honestly. “If I stop to think about it too long, it’s just… the pain is unbearable, and I know for pain, Molly.”
“We know you do, dear,” she said thoughtfully. My head snapped up in surprise. I believed that the details of my life were private. “Lily had told us a little of what had happened, and…” I looked down at the table. I hated how Lily had betrayed my trust in that way. The only people who really knew what had happened were my family and Remus. Of course, Sirius knew. “She didn’t tell us to make gossip, it’s just…” she hesitated, “…after your parents died, I never understood why you didn’t come around with the rest of them. I was going to go and drag you away from your job one day, and tell you that you had to come and celebrate the holidays with us, when Lily explained it. I can’t imagine how… just know your secret is safe with Arthur and me.” I nodded at her, unable to form a response to the fact that my deepest secret was known to someone I wasn’t aware of. I felt a deep need to change the subject.
“I’m going to take six months off, it should give us time to get settled somewhere. My flat isn’t appropriate for a child. Dumbledore doesn’t want me going back to my parents’ cottage either, says it won’t be safe. I suppose I need to find a house to live in.
“But before I consider housing, I have to go shopping. Harry only has the clothes and the few things they salvaged…” I stopped, not wanting to think about the snippets of description of the destroyed safe-house that had attached themselves to my brain. I looked up at the woman across the table from me. “Could you help me with that? I don’t really know what he might need. Money won’t be a problem, I have more gold than I could spend in a lifetime, but I just don’t know what he’d need.”
“Of course, dear, and might I suggest you get some things for yourself? Your outfit there, well, I think some fresh clothes might help your mood,” she told me in a motherly way, and I was reminded of my mother telling me much the same thing shortly after I’d started my job. She had begged me to go to London with her, make a day of it. Mother and daughter time. She took ill before I’d bothered to make the time.
“I was already planning on it. I’ll just head into Hogsmeade and buy a few things. It’s far less crowded than Diagon Alley, especially at this time of the year. Is there a Muggle shop in town for some simple clothes and shoes and such?”
“There is, and we’ll find some play clothes for Harry as well. I have a few things Ron has outgrown you can have also.” I nodded, acknowledging her generosity. I stopped for a moment, and realized I didn’t want to move, didn’t want to breathe, but I had to. I had Harry to care for now, and he deserved someone who wasn’t paralyzed by their grief and remorse. I swallowed down the bile that had again formed in the back of my throat and took another spoonful of soup.
“Ellie, dear, why were you downstairs last night?” Molly asked, trying to lighten the mood again.
“I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t want to disturb anyone. After Sirius left, I couldn’t get myself back upstairs…”
“Sirius Black was here?” she said harshly, and I looked at her, seeing her anger. “The Aurors are looking for him. Why didn’t you turn him in, or at least scream for Arthur and me?” I lifted my hands and started waving them at her.
“Molly, Molly, he didn’t do what everyone thinks he did,” I told her and she stopped, looking at me suspiciously. “Molly, Sirius didn’t betray Jamie. I know he didn’t.” I was hoping she’d catch on without me explaining everything, and I suddenly wished I understood exactly what Lily had told them about why I was so reclusive.
“How could you know, dear? Look at his family. Look at his wife!” The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as she mentioned them.
“Sirius isn’t like them,” I pleaded his case. “I’ve known him since I was six and I would trust him with my life,” and with my heart, I added in my head. “He loved Jamie almost as much as I did. He wouldn’t have betrayed them. He didn’t have the secret to give away anyway.”
“What? Dumbledore was certain that he was the Secret-Keeper. If it wasn’t Sirius, then who was it?” Molly asked me, pulling Ginny out from under the blanket and resting her over her shoulder to burp her.
“Molly, Jamie had asked me to be the Secret-Keeper first. I told him no because if the Death Eaters were to come after me, I wouldn’t have… I wasn’t ever very good at Defence. He wanted to ask Sirius, but he said no, too. Sirius didn’t trust his mother or… his wife,” I explained, nearly choking on the last word. I had gleaned enough information from him last night as to his reasoning for not wanting to be the one who knew where they were. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t trust his mother or Rosemund, but since I knew they’d both be willing to curse him for information, he had reason to be afraid of them both. Molly looked shocked at the implication.
“You don’t think… could they really have forced the information from him?” she enquired, horrified it was even a possibility.
“Molly, they’re not like normal people. I know they’ve hurt him before,” I said, my hand again going to the scar on my arm. “It wouldn’t surprise me for either of them to choose to use an Unforgivable against him. He just wanted to keep Jamie, Lily and Harry safe. Sirius couldn’t have betrayed them, and he can’t lie to me, so I know it’s the truth.” I watched her face as the reality dawned on her.
“Oh,” she said, and then her eyes grew wider. “Oh, I see,” she added, and I now knew she’d come to a full understanding of our situation. “Well, then, who was it?”
“James asked another friend, Peter Pettigrew. He must have been desperate, because to be honest, I never understood what they saw in Peter, except they had shared a room at Hogwarts. Peter didn’t really spend time with us at school, but, if Sirius and I both said no — and given the other problems Remus has, it would have been unrealistic to have expected him to do it — Peter might have been his only choice,” I explained.
“Ellie, we need to tell Dumbledore right away, he has to get them to search for the right man,” Molly implored me, getting up and throwing some Floo powder into the fireplace, and calling for the Headmaster’s office. I didn’t really want to see him right now, nor did I want to explain all of this to him. He had no idea what we’d done… I had always respected him and I didn’t want to see the look of disappointment in his eyes when he learned.
I could hear Molly talking rather rapidly into the fireplace, and before she’d even taken a breath to continue, Albus Dumbledore walked through the fireplace and stood looking at me. It looked as imposing as he did the first time I saw him when we walked into the Great Hall to be Sorted that first night.
“It’s so big,” I whispered to Jamie. He was standing in front of me, Sirius was behind me. They were both holding my hands, since I had burst out into excited fits of laughter twice on the train ride here. They didn’t want me embarrassing them in front of the whole school by doing it again.
“Hey, there he is,” Jamie said loud enough for Sirius and me to hear. We both knew who he was talking about. Daddy was friends with Professor Dumbledore, and talked about him often, but we’d never met him. For a while I wondered if he was like Father Christmas, someone you knew existed but you never really were able to see. The Headmaster must have recognized us, because he looked down and winked at us, which of course made me giggle again. Both boys tugged on my hands to quiet me down.
The Sorting started and Sirius went first because his last name started with a B. There was much murmuring in the Hall when he was Sorted into Gryffindor, including a rather shrill yell from a shockingly blonde-haired girl in Slytherin house. All of Sirius’ family had been in Slytherin; it was obvious from when we’d visited his home. The whole place was covered in snakes and such. Sirius slapped James’ hand as he passed us and then pulled on my ponytail. Both Mummy and Daddy had been in Gryffindor, we hoped we would be, too.
We listened as others were Sorted into their houses, paying attention to who went into Gryffindor, hoping we’d be dorm mates. A boy with very sad eyes was sorted into the house, and all I could think was that he needed a hug. I hoped above all else Jamie and I would be in Gryffindor, so he could have some friends.
“Potter, Eleanor,” the woman with the very tall witch’s hat on called and Jamie squeezed my hand before letting go of it. I walked up and sat on the stool and she put the Hat on my head. I looked from Jamie to Sirius, knowing I needed to be in the same house as my brother and our best friend.
“Gryffindor!” it cried and I jumped up off the chair and hugged my brother. I started walking towards the table, but I did it really slowly, knowing Jamie would be called next. I’d only moved about six feet when he was Sorted into the same house as I was. Sirius stood up and cheered, which only brought more strange looks from the girl across the room, but we both hugged him when we sat down at the table for dinner.
“Eleanor? Your name is Eleanor?” Sirius teased me.
“Yeah, it is, but if you ever call me anything but Ellie, you’re going to find yourself on the receiving end of my Dragon-Breath Hex,” I promised, getting nose to nose with him.
“Yeah, yeah, Ellie. No problem,” he said, looking at me oddly. I sat down between Jamie and Sirius, and across from the boy with the sad eyes. Jamie was already introducing us to him. That was the day we met Remus. I looked up at the head table, and realized the Headmaster was watching us. He had a smile on his face that reminded me of Mummy’s, right before she told us we’d done something well. I smiled back at him, and he tipped his head at me, which made me blush.
“How are you doing today, Ellie?” the old man asked, and I shrugged my shoulders at him.
‘Bloody brilliant,’ I felt like replying. ‘My brother and his wife were killed in cold blood last night so I’m having a great day,’ was what I felt like saying to his stupid question, but I was kinder than that, and just kept quiet.
“Molly tells me we’re searching for the wrong man. Can you tell me why you think that?” he asked me gently as he pulled out a chair and sat down.
Molly set Ginny back down in her carrier and went to the stove.
I was looking into his eyes, peeking over his reading glasses, and I knew I was going to have to endure the same look from him I had received from my father when I had told him.
Molly set a cup of tea in front of Dumbledore, and thankfully, he looked away to prepare his cup. I closed my eyes and inhaled, hoping for strength to come into me with my breath.
“Sir, Sirius was here last night. He told me he wasn’t the Secret-Keeper. Jamie had made it Peter Pettigrew,” I announced, and I knew what question was going to follow.
“My dear, why would James have done that?”
“Jamie had asked me, but I told him no for fear I wouldn’t be able to defend myself against an attack. He then asked Sirius, but he said no because of… well, he didn’t trust some of the people around him,” I said, praying he caught onto my meaning. Dumbledore nodded his head. “Sirius told me he’d then asked Peter.”
“I hate to ask this, but isn’t it possible Sirius was lying to you?”
I started shaking my head at him. “No. He came to check on Harry and me, knowing you’d place him with me,” I started, but he cut me off.
“How did he find you? There were only three of us who knew where we were placing you and Harry,” he said, his voice heavy with concern.
“Sir, Sirius can find me; it doesn’t matter where I am, he will always be able to seek me out. It’s part of why I know he didn’t lie.” The Headmaster looked unconvinced and I became aware of how I’d need to share the entire tale. I steadied myself, gathered my inner strength and spoke. “Sir, when we were at school, Sirius and I were very close,” I started, and then needed to stop again, closing my eyes, trying not to remember those days.
“I seem to remember having to reprimand you for being on the Astronomy Tower when you had no business being there,” he reminded me and I nodded, slightly embarrassed.
“Yes, sir, you’re correct. See, Sirius and I were close, and we had every intention of… well, we were in love and we were afraid of what his family would do about it and we… we needed a way they couldn’t break us apart…” I stopped, knowing I was rambling on without saying anything.
“Ellie, dear, what did you do?” he asked, his face showing worry about my response to his question.
“Sir, how much do you know about the Rite of Croi Ceangal?” I asked him, and I watched as his face fell and his eyes became serious.
“I know the practice was abandoned about two hundred years ago, because of the emotional pain that could be inflicted by it,” he said, and then I saw his eyes soften. “Ellie, what did you and Sirius do?”
“We thought it would be a way for us to be together. We researched the rite, and we… the day after I turned sixteen, we performed the rite on each other. Jamie tried to talk us out of it, but we were…” I couldn’t finish, I just wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole again. The room was silent, even little Ginny seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. “You see, he couldn’t have lied to me, he isn’t capable of it.”
“Oh, Ellie, I wish I’d known before… Sirius was captured by the Hit Squad last night, he’s already been taken to Azkaban,” he told me, his hand reaching out for mine just as all the pain I’d kept at bay for so long crashed down upon me and the world went black.