At their first meeting after Eponine’s death, Enjolras announces another mission. It’s been two weeks, and they have barely had time to process, let alone mourn. Around the room, the Amis stare back him, looking pale and shell-shocked. This time, no one objects when Enjolras says he’ll go.
They do, however, volunteer to go with him. Courfeyrac gets to his feet, and then Combeferre. Enjolras opens his mouth but cannot think of a single reason to refuse them other than the fact that he wants them safe and alive—a sentiment which will not help the already bleak morale. So he simply nods in gratitude, his throat tight.
Grantaire closes his eyes and tries to breathe.
As they make their way back to school, he deliberately falls behind. Grantaire watches the others, little groups of pale blue uniforms bobbing along in the gathering darkness. They look ghostly, and he doesn’t want to think about it. So he focuses on Enjolras, walking ahead between Combeferre and Courfeyrac, talking quietly but urgently. Even from a few yards back, he can see the rigidity of Enjolras’s posture. Grantaire briefly wonders if, like most purebloods, he had been painstakingly taught to hold himself this way, or whether it had come naturally to him, always firm and unyielding.
As they draw near to the Beauxbatons gates, he knows that his time is running out. Grantaire surges forward, takes Enjolras by the hand, and pulls him back.
“I need to talk to you,” he murmurs. Enjolras nods first to him and then to Combeferre, who gives a grim smile, before crossing through the gates and leaving them alone in the shadows.
“When I told you that Eponine was dead, I didn’t—” Grantaire struggles for a minute, wishing that his compulsion to say something, to warn Enjolras, would translate into eloquence. But no such luck. “Rosier knows I’m a werewolf. It didn’t seem important at the time, but…”
This is a lie. The word werewolf from Rosier’s lips had sent panic clawing its way through Grantaire’s chest, so much so that his brain had been slow to process the fateful words that came after. It’s just that it hadn’t seemed like the thing to mention once he had processed them.
“…but he called me ‘werewolf,’ Enjolras. He knows. And he would have no way of knowing. None of the Amis would have given that information to Evan Rosier.”
Grantaire watches as Enjolras frowns in confusion, follows the path of his eyes down to where their hands are still clasped. He hadn’t realised that he was still holding on to Enjolras, and he drops his hand hastily.
“Sorry,” he mutters, off-footed.
“What are you trying to say?” Enjolras prompts. His is expression unreadable. Grantaire cannot tell if he’s wary or annoyed or simply exhausted.
Grantaire presses on: “If they’ve got that much on me, what must they have on the rest of you? We think we’ve been so clever, hiding in the backroom of the Musain. Can’t you see? We’ve behaved like children. We’ve been underestimating them, and—not only that—we’ve been underestimating our importance to them. They knew where Eponine was going to be. She walked into a trap. They know who we are, and what we are. And we’re not safe, Enjolras. You’re not safe. They know everything.”
There is no bite in Enjolras’s voice when he responds, “And what would you have me do?”
Grantaire gapes at him. Enjolras already knew. Grantaire can tell by his tone of resignation, by the look on his face, that he has not told Enjolras anything he didn’t already know—maybe all along.
“Don’t go,” he can’t help saying anyway. “Cancel the mission. Odds on, they’ll be ready to slaughter you, along with Courfeyrac and Combeferre.”
He only just manages to stop himself from adding “please,” but the plea is there in his voice nevertheless. It sounds desperate even to Grantaire’s own ears, and he knows what Enjolras’s response will be before he shakes his head.
The next morning, Grantaire wakes to the sight of Enjolras’s empty bed. Without getting up, he fumbles in his bedside table for a small bottle, drains its entire contents in one, and waits, staring up at his hangings with unseeing eyes, until it takes effect. Only then does he manage to put one foot and then another on the ground. With shaking hands, he finds a robe from his trunk and dresses with jerky, mechanical movements.
At breakfast, he sees Gavroche slip into the dining room, finally back from Paris and Eponine’s funeral. He is sporting a black eye. It provides a moment of distraction, as Grantaire’s chest clenches to see him looking so small and so damaged.
That is, until Gavroche hurries across the crowded room without looking at anyone and throws himself into the empty seat beside Grantaire. Taken aback, Grantaire blinks at the young boy at his side, but Gavroche ignores him. He says nothing, just piles food onto his plate and begins to inhale pastries and fruit and milk as though he hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. In fact, Grantaire reminds himself, he probably hasn’t.
Feuilly cocks his head at Grantaire from across the table; Grantaire can do nothing but shrug. As he eats, Gavroche subtly shifts his chair closer until their arms are nearly touching.
For the next few days, while he is wracked with worry, Grantaire often notices Gavroche trailing him around the palace him like a small, angry shadow. Once, he turns on his heel to double back for a forgotten book only to discover Gavroche very nearly under his left arm. He is clinging to Grantaire in the way he never clung to Eponine. Eventually, it occurs to Grantaire that he might, however inadvertently, have been the first person to try to protect Gavroche in the eleven-year-old’s living memory.
But while that may have been his instinct that day on the lawns, it was also a fluke. Grantaire knows he cannot be trusted to look after anything, not himself, not his friends, and certainly not a desperate child. Gavroche needs someone—this much is clear—but he needs someone better than Grantaire. The further he can run, Grantaire thinks, the safer he will be. So he continues to say nothing to him, and Gavroche continues to say nothing in return.
On the third night, Grantaire gives up on sleeping altogether. Images of Enjolras’s eyes, dead and half-open, of blood spilling over his lips, of his broken body sprawled out at odd angles keep Grantaire physically moving, twisting about in his sheets in an attempt to block them out until light begins to seep through the dormitory windows. Terror and apprehension and guilt—as if just by thinking these scenes, he is making them true—chase each other around his brain in cycles.
And then, just as suddenly as they disappeared, they come back.
Enjolras, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac file into History of Magic on Tuesday morning with books tucked under their arms and bags slung over their shoulders as though they’d never been gone. Grantaire lets out a shaky breath he didn’t know he’d been holding and feels his body go weak with relief.
The relief doesn’t last the day. There’s another makeshift meeting after curfew, this time just a few of them to avoid being noticed in the corridors. There’s another assignment. Only one person is needed—to serve as a scout, a guide of sorts and maybe a translator, for a critical Order of the Phoenix mission in northern France under the care of Benjy Fenwick. It will almost certainly be risky. Those are all the details Enjolras was given.
Jehan has somehow crept to the front of the room without calling attention to himself. They all notice too late.
“I’ll go,” he says softly. “I speak English.”
And, just like that, it’s decided.
The next evening, Grantaire pulls up the collar on his cloak as he steals across the lawns toward the village and his wine cellar. He passes no one on the Beauxbatons grounds but keeps his head down nevertheless. The nervousness and the ache and the thought of Jehan’s smile all cut more sharply without the potions.
“Where are you going?” asks a cocky voice as he nears the gates. He nearly jumps out of his skin. Gavroche rolls out from behind the pillar flanking the right side of the entrance, smirking at Grantaire’s alarm.
“Don’t do that,” he hisses, inadvertently clutching at his chest like someone’s nervous grandmother. Gavroche snickers at this and repeats his question, and Grantaire thinks: to hell with it.
“To my cellar,” he says, jerking his head to indicate the fading light. “I’m a werewolf.”
Gavroche scoffs again and fixes Grantaire with a look. “Yeah, and I’m Brigitte Bardot.”
Grantaire merely raises an eyebrow at him.
“Where are you really going?” he demands.
Grantaire shakes his head and then keeps walking, leaving Gavroche standing there. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Wait! I want to help.” Grantaire freezes in his tracks without turning around, and Gavroche continues, “I know you’re going on a mission.”
Grantaire wheels around to face him. He looks small and pale, the bruising around his eye so prominent even in the shadowy dusk, but his jaw is set.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Grantaire says with every single ounce of conviction he can muster.
“Don’t lie to me,” he bites out. There is so much bitterness in his tone. “I heard him. When he came to tell my parents—tall, English guy in a loud suit—think he thought he looked muggle.”
He laughs humourlessly. Grantaire stares at him.
“He said Eponine was fighting. He said she died for the resistance. That’s what you’re doing. I know it. And I want to fight.”
He wants to tell Gavroche that he isn’t that brave, that he’s never volunteered because he would inevitably fuck it up and get them all killed, but he doesn’t want to make the bravery of his friends sound admirable—not to this child who wants to be a part of their war.
So instead he says, quietly, “Who gave you that black eye?”
Gavroche shrugs, and it tugs at something deep inside Grantaire. He remembers how it felt to be this young and this alone and this broken. He is struck by the insane urge to wrap his arms around this boy, who would probably black his eye for trying it. All the same, he hikes up his sleeves just slightly and watches as Gavroche goes wide-eyed for a second.
He won’t let it happen. Maybe he’s fucked up and maybe he’s not fit to take care of anyone, but he won’t let this happen.
Even if France fell, he thinks, and they were coming for muggleborns, Gavroche could make it. He could snap his wand, go back to Paris or—preferably—another city and get lost in the crowd, live as a muggle. He’s clever enough and careful, and he’d be fine. Grantaire’s friends are hell-bent on fighting, and he can’t stop them from throwing their lives between the innocent and the inevitable, but he can stop this.
“No,” he says finally, in a voice that brooks no argument. “Sixth year and up. It’s not even our rule to change. They won’t take anyone younger in any capacity.”
Grantaire shudders to think that it might be a lie, that they might take this eleven-year-old if he asked.
“A fourth-year already tried. I’m sorry.” He locks eyes with Gavroche, and then he does place a hand gently on his shoulder. Gavroche doesn’t shake him off, just gapes up at him. Grantaire feels sick. “I have to go.”
He turns again, bites down hard on the inside of his cheek, and hurries off toward the little alley beside the Café Musain.
Enjolras calls another emergency meeting of les Amis the following night. Grantaire feels a serge of anger when he hears. They’re calling attention to themselves, and the last thing they need is more attention. They don’t even know for certain that one of Rosier’s gang didn’t overhear their meeting before Eponine’s mission, that it’s not the reason she’s dead. This lack of caution will get more of them killed. Grantaire wants to shake him.
Until he gets there, and sees how uncharacteristically anxious Enjolras looks at the front of the room.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” Enjoras says gravely the second the door closes.
He tries to speak matter-of-factly, but his tone betrays him. Grantaire can hardly comprehend the words coming from his lips. He feels as though the room is tilting at odd angles. Something is wrong. They were ambushed near Amiens. Benjy Fenwick is dead. And Jehan…
They’ve found pieces of Jehan.
Pieces. Of beautiful Jehan, colorful, tender, goofy Jehan, Jehan who once held Grantaire’s hand in the hospital wing just because, he’d said, he looked like he needed it. Grantaire can feel himself choking.
And then the words are out of his mouth without his making a conscious choice to say them: “I want to go. Send me.”
Enjolras's eyes are burning. Grantaire is shocked to find them brimming with tears as he spits back, “This isn't a game, Grantaire.”
“I know. I want to fight. I want to help.”
“You're not equipped.”
“Send me as an envoy. To the werewolves.” Grantaire doesn't care who knows it now. Marius and some of the other sixth years are gaping at him with wide, shocked eyes. “I’m the only one who can do that.”