Late in the morning, Enjolras deposits Grantaire at the door of the hospital wing with a handshake. Grantaire has to forcibly restrain a groan of exasperation.
The truth is, though, that there’s a certain dignity to a handshake, and Grantaire is positive that Enjolras knows this, considered it, and chose it deliberately. It’s so very Enjolras, practical and reassuring—effectively “I’ve witnessed the hideous scars along the inside of your thighs and the desperate noises you make when I put my tongue in your mouth, but, on the whole, I’m just really glad you’re part of our resistance movement”—that a small smirk plays around Grantaire’s lips as the matron retraces her wand along his inexpert healing spells and tucks him into a bed in the far corner to sleep it off.
He hasn’t been out long when his friends start arriving in the short breaks between classes. Jehan comes with a bouquet of garish wildflowers for the table by his bed, Bossuet an hour later to knock these flowers and their vase to the floor with a smash, and Joly immediately behind him with an indulgent smile and a whispered “reparo.” This, too, goes some way towards easing the knot in Grantaire’s stomach.
It’s not that he is afraid Enjolras will tell them. Enjolras has always kept his secrets. From second year to the end of fourth, he was the only one to know that Grantaire was a werewolf. He told precisely no one. Grantaire supposes it’s more the fear that things will change. But things are already changing—for months now, there has been an uneasy, electric feeling of change in the air, like the moments before a thunderstorm—and, anyway, the rather obvious acts of wringing his hand and shooing their friends into the hospital wing are meant to tell him otherwise.
By the time the sun begins to set, casting patterns in orange light on the row of little white beds, Grantaire is well enough to hobble to the dining room with a fussing Joly at his side. As he picks at his bourride, he finds his eyes drifting to Eponine at a nearby table. She never looks back, never catches him staring, and when she gets up to leave alone, Grantaire sees an opportunity.
Eponine walks so quickly that Grantaire, still stiff and aching, cannot hope to keep pace. He only just manages to get to the foyer in time to see her making a left toward the corridor that leads to the library. But when he rounds the corner moments later, he nearly walks into her. She is waiting there with her arms crossed over her chest, leaning casually against the wall, and Grantaire stumbles back in surprise, wincing as he feels the break in his leg.
“I don’t like people following me,” Eponine states with an affected nonchalance to let Grantaire know that she isn’t intimidated by him. Her eyes have a kind of fire in them. “As a rule, I don’t take kindly to people lurking where they shouldn’t be and hearing what they shouldn’t hear.”
“About last night…” Grantaire begins, but Eponine is already shaking her head.
“I’ve known werewolves,” she says, “and they lied, and stole, and hurt people.”
From the way Eponine drops her gaze, her eyes still ablaze, Grantaire strongly suspects that she means hurt her.
“And they told me, time and time again, that they were just following their instincts. Just doing what werewolves do. So…” she challenges. “Tell me that I was wrong.”
It’s fairly common knowledge that Eponine had a difficult childhood. Muggleborn, she came to Beauxbatons from a rough neighbourhood in the environs of Paris, having seen her fair share of drug abuse and crime at the tender age of eleven. Grantaire, though, had never known any details. Why her muggle family might have been mixed up with werewolves, he could only guess—the desperation that clung to most werewolves like a second skin might make them easy marks for an unscrupulous dealer or petty criminal, especially one whose daughter’s gifts had introduced him to a whole new world’s seedy underbelly.
“You’re wrong,” he says, his voice firm. When she opens her mouth to protest, he pulls up his left sleeve to the elbow—a sudden, sharp intake of breath, and she goes silent.
There’s no mark there, just the shocking crisscross of scars against his pale skin.
“I never would,” Grantaire continues quietly. “Just because I don't think we can win doesn't mean I don't think we're right.”
Her eyes snap up to his face, and she seems to be looking for something there.
“Why do you pretend like you don’t care?”
“You and me? A mudblood and a half-breed?” he replies bitterly. She is not shocked by his language. “We're fucked either way. They have a chance. What difference do you suppose their deaths would make if this tide is coming as strong as you say?”
“Enjolras,” she says in an undertone, as though a realisation has dawned.
“Marius?” Grantaire supplies. He’s not even sure he’s hitting a mark, but he’s seen her looking. He usually sees things.
Her face flushes.
“It’s worth fighting. There are more innocent lives at stake than just les Amis. Someone has to stand up before it’s too late,” Eponine asserts, her voice just a little shaky. “But I’m sorry for what I said.”
She leans in, kisses him twice on either cheek, turns on her heel, and walks away.
Enjolras calls an emergency meeting of les Amis two days later. Because it is a Wednesday, and none of them is allowed to be seen creeping into the village at night, they meet in a workroom at the end of the Potions corridor long after curfew. Bahorel stations himself at the mouth of the hallway, tucked out of sight, a lookout for professors and Rosier’s gang alike.
They light the room with only a few candles so that the dim glow might be plausibly dismissed as a student revising late. In the flickering gloom, with shadows moving constantly in the corner of everyone’s eyes, les Amis are tense; they talk in hushed voices, waiting for news they dread to hear
When Enjolras stands to speak, Grantaire finds it difficult to see anything but the dramatic shadow he throws onto the far wall. Even through the haze of his strong post-moon cocktail of potions—or perhaps because of it—he feels his breath catch at the lines of Enjolras’s strong shoulders and slender torso and defiantly-angled chin writ large and dark there, like some avenging angel. Grantaire wonders, just for a moment, if the rest of them see the power he sees when he looks at Enjolras.
Judging by the way they fall silent, they do.
Enjolras doesn’t waste time: “I’ve had a report. Marlene McKinnon is dead. She was murdered by Death Eaters in her home, along with her family, and a Dark Mark set off above the scene. They have every reason to believe that Voldemort was making an example.”
There is absolute, ringing silence following these words. Most of the gathered students look shocked, a few scared. Grantaire clenches his jaw against all the things he wants to say but for which doesn’t have the words. Courfeyrac nods grimly, squaring his shoulders and urging Enjolras on.
“The Order is being threatened in a very real way now,” he continues, sounding brave and strong and unwavering. Of them all, he is the one most impassioned by his grief and his fear, most able to kindle a fire with tears. “Their anonymity is being compromised daily as skirmishes with Death Eaters play out in broad daylight, and they don’t have the numbers to stand alone against the support that Voldemort is amassing. We have to stand with them—and there’s a specific way we can help. They suspect that the Death Eaters, coming off recent successes, are making more forays onto the continent. There’s reason to believe that something big is coming this weekend—whether it’s an initiation or a potential recruiting event, we don’t know. And we need to know if we’re to have any hope of preventing an easy takeover in France. So there’s a reconnaissance mission for one of us at a holiday estate belonging to the Notts, an English pureblood family. It’s going to be brief—I expect less than two days if all goes well—but it’s also going to be dangerous. We will be making one of our number very vulnerable, and I think it would be best if I take the assignment.”
Grantaire’s “no” is caught somewhere between his chest and his lips when Combeferre says it for him.
“No. It’s not a job for you.” He gets to his feet. “It’s a covert operation, and that doesn’t play to your strengths. You’re a leader. We need you to lead.”
“I won’t send any of you on a mission I’m not willing to take on myself,” Enjolras bites out, just this side of petulant.
“But you are willing. You’ve said as much,” reasons Combeferre, gentle but unyielding. “We can’t afford to lose our point of contact with the Order of the Phoenix or the person we all look to as head of les Amis.”
“If not me, then who?”
From the corner of his eye, Grantaire sees Marius standing before the question is even fully out of Enjolras’s mouth.
“I’ll go,” he announces. Marius looks so young in candlelight that Grantaire could almost laugh at the perversity of it.
“No,” says another of the sixth years, immediately getting to her feet. Grantaire has seen them holding hands, though he can’t quite remember her name in his fog. “I will go.”
The room is thrown into chaos, in which no single voice can make itself heard over the others. Grantaire is caught between admiration and nausea as nearly every Ami rushes to volunteer.
Then, Eponine’s voice cuts through the rest. “Enough,” she half-shouts, tearing her eyes away from Marius to fix them on Enjolras. “I’ll take the mission. He—The two of them are not even of age. I’m eighteen, I’m well-suited to a reconnaissance mission—every one of you knows that—and I volunteer.”
No one can find a sound argument to counter Eponine’s, and so she is chosen.
As they file out of the room to creep back to their dormitories in the dark, Eponine stands to consult with Enjolras on the details of her assignment. Marius lingers at the back of the room with the girl at his side until Eponine gives him a wink.
“I’ll see you on Monday,” she says with bravado.
But Eponine doesn’t come back on Monday.
Strictly speaking, this is no cause for alarm. There were no hard and fast deadlines set for her return. Her continued absence might be explained in any number of innocent ways, from a need to keep out of sight to an interesting lead she chose to follow, but the uncertainty wears on their nerves.
If Beauxbatons felt tense before their covert meeting, it is nothing to the way it feels to the Amis now. They jump at loud noises and constantly glance behind them in corridors; Bahorel earns himself a detention for dueling between classes, because someone had the audacity to look askance at him.
Grantaire himself nearly throws a punch when Enjolras, whom he did not see approaching, places a gentle hand on his shoulder in the corridor.
Enjolras ducks slightly, the ghost of amusement flashing in his eyes for the first time in days before he sets his jaw again. “Grantaire, may I speak to you in private for a moment?”
Suddenly, all Grantaire can think of is the gentle pressure of Enjolras’s lips against his own. He hastily averts his eyes from the look of determination on Enjolras’s face. They haven’t been this close since the wine cellar, and if Enjolras wants to talk about it, he has chosen one hell of a time to do it.
All the same, Grantaire follows him into an empty classroom, a new panic—wholly unrelated to Eponine’s wellbeing—gripping his chest. He is caught completely off his guard when Enjolras turns and announces, “One of the members of the Order of the Phoenix is a werewolf.”
Grantaire ogles him for a moment, unsure whether it’s relief or disappointment settling in his stomach. Of course this is about werewolves. He wonders if Enjolras, for all his good intentions, ever looks at him and sees anything other than werewolf.
When he’s actually processed Enjolras’s words, though, he finds himself asking slightly desperately, “The Hogwarts werewolf?”
Enjolras looks puzzled at this. He doesn’t know. Grantaire shakes his head, not up to the task of explaining this stranger who incidentally gave him his life, this embodiment of all he could be if he weren’t so weak, and so Enjolras presses on:
“They’ve sent him as an envoy to the werewolves in Britain.”
“That’s going nowhere fast,” Grantaire scoffs bitterly.
Enjolras ignores him. “We know that the Death Eaters are approaching many different marginalised groups—werewolves, giants, even dementors. We need to be countering their advances. You could—You—” And here he hesitates. It’s an oddity, to hear Enjolras struggling with his words. “Would you consider acting as an envoy to French werewolves?”
Grantaire can believe what he’s hearing, but only just and then only because it’s Enjolras. “What can I offer them? The chance to keep living as they have been? Unemployable? Starving? Relegated to back alleys and remote campsites? I know as well as you that the Death Eaters intend to use them if they can and then kill them off as quickly as possible. But werewolves right now are desperate and miserable, are they are going to take whatever limited power Voldemort is offering as bait.”
“But you're educated. You could show them what's pos—”
Grantaire actually growls with frustration and immediately hates himself for it. “Well then, all the more reason to hate me. Why was I so coddled by the wizards that spat at them? I’m functionally a pet, Enjolras, and they don’t want to be told by me that they can better themselves.”
“You’re wrong,” snaps Enjolras. “And sometimes I think that you’re so self-destructive that you just want to w—”
But Grantaire doesn’t want to hear any more. “Oh really, Enjolras? I’m wrong about the werewolves? Tell me, what do you know about it? You can’t tame all of us!”
And, for the first time in his life, Grantaire turns and walks away from Enjolras’s undivided attention.
When Eponine is still not back on Wednesday, the anxiety among les Amis is almost palpable.
Grantaire sits with Courfeyrac and Jehan on the lawns during a midmorning break. Jehan, busy scribbling in a battered notebook, keeps getting distracted by the clouds. This wouldn’t be at all uncharacteristic behaviour from Jehan, except that there is a nervous energy playing about his hands, and he is continually frowning and crossing out whole lines at a time. Courfeyrac, usually so effervescent, is trying his best to lighten the mood with a litany of reasons why he might someday make an excellent cursebreaker—“I am a counterjinx maverick, I have abs for days, plus goblins love me…” His heart just isn’t in it, though, and he trails off when he sees Eponine’s younger brother making his way towards the greenhouses amidst a crowd of other first years. Jehan and Grantaire glance up at his sudden silence and follow his line of vision.
All of the Amis have caught themselves staring at Gavroche this week. At eleven, he is the second wizard in a family of muggles, something of an anomaly in the wizarding world. He does not particularly look like his sister, but everything about his demeanor calls her to mind. Like Eponine in her first year, Gavroche is too messy and too loud, too confrontational and too crass. Seeing him is like looking into a pensieve, and it makes all of their hearts ache.
This is the reason that Grantaire can’t quite look away from his progress down the sloping lawn, even after Jehan turns back to his notebook and Courfeyrac resignedly pulls out his Transfiguration essay. It is the reason Grantaire’s eyes are still fixed on Gavroche when he walks directly into Evan Rosier and a knot of other-would be Death Eaters returning from Herbology.
“Get out of my way, mudblood,” Granatire just barely hears Rosier sneer.
And, instead of backing away from the looming figure twice his height, Gavroche draws his wand. The other first years scatter in alarm. A classmate with blonde plaits reaches for Gavroche, but he shakes her off, and then he is standing alone before five seventh-years.
Grantaire is on his feet before he knows what he’s doing, sprinting across the grass.
“You don’t scare me!” Gavroche shouts.
Rosier laughs, lazily pulling his own wand from the pocket of his robes, twirling it between his fingers. “Oh, but I should. I have magic coursing through my veins, and what do you have? Filth.”
Gavroche scowls. “I’ll show you filth, you inbred piece of—”
Grantaire is almost there when he literally sees the curse forming on Rosier’s lips.
“Protego!” he yells, and for once in his career as a student of Defense, his shield charm is perfectly timed.
Rosier turns in confusion and sees him. His lips go tight with rage and his eyes are blazing as he raises his wand to Grantaire, and Grantaire knows that he stands little chance in a proper duel against Evan Rosier—let alone the other four.
But then Courfeyrac is there, throwing himself between Grantaire and Rosier’s gang, with Jehan just behind.
Grantaire instinctively lunges for Gavroche and pulls him back. Without really thinking, he curls an arm protectively around Gavroche’s chest and holds him there, just out of the line of fire.
“I really wouldn’t,” Courfeyrac is cautioning, his voice calm and his wand at the ready. He’s top of the year in Defense and, frankly, could probably out-duel all five of them. “Unless you want a great number of things to come to light before the Headmistress, including the reason you tried to hex a first year.”
“Oh, it’s a matter of time before pests like him are no longer a concern at Beauxbatons,” Rosier shoots back in a would-be casual tone. His eyes flick back and forth between Jehan and Courfeyrac.
“Just walk away,” Jehan echoes, ignoring Rosier’s comment. Gangly, dreamy Jehan looks all grown up in this moment, as impressive as Courfeyrac with his wand drawn. “You don’t want to fight this war here.”
Another of the purebloods puts a hand on Rosier’s arm and murmurs, “It’s not worth it, Evan. They’re not worth it. Let’s go. We’ll be late for Arithmancy.”
Evan Rosier snorts, his eyes coming to rest on Grantaire, and says, “You’re right. They’re not worth it.” Then he lowers his wand, gestures to his friends, and sets off toward the palace once more. He deliberately clips Courfeyrac with his shoulder as he passes by, but Jehan holds him in place, whispering something Grantaire can’t hear.
As he draws level with the other two, Rosier leans in so close that Grantaire can feel breath against his ear. He refuses to shiver, setting his spine and clutching his wand.
“Keep a careful eye on him, werewolf, or he'll go the same way as his sister.”