Nolan laid on his back on his bed, hands folded behind his head and a cigarette hanging from his lips. It had been a slow afternoon, the kind of slow that seemed to drag on when nothing was happening and no distractions of the quidditch variety were available. Looking across the room, Nolan could see Keller hunched over books and parchment, looking wild-haired and tired. The other boy had been working for at least three hours straight, and had been working long before Nolan had walked into the dorm. Throwing his lighter at Keller’s back for his attention, Nolan grinned. “Take a break, boy genius,” he said, throwing his cigarettes over next, watching the pack skid along the papers.
Research was not something completed in a day, a week, or even a month: it was on-going, and so far, Keller’s research had been spanning months, plural. He wasn’t sure if he was any closer to answers than when he’d started - in fact, he was sure he only had more questions. The parchment spread out in front of him, as well as the books piled high on either side, effectively cut him off from the rest of the world until he felt something hit his back, dragging him lethargically out of his zone and away from the question of aurors and the Ministry and just in time to see a packet of cigarettes land on his desk. Glancing over his shoulder to see Nolan lying on his bed, a cigarette lit between his own lips, Keller knew he should take a break like Nolan suggested. Folding his glasses and placing them on top of his papers, he grabbed the smokes and the lighter and moved to his own bed, sitting on the edge and lighting one. It felt like they were thirteen again, sneaking smokes while the coast was clear, and Keller smiled as he breathed in the first drag - which was always the best. “Please don’t-… don’t call me that,” Keller argued, a repeated sentiment. “What are you even doing inside on a day like today? I thought you’d be out uh-.. you know-… with people, doing stuff, not shelving yourself in here like some kind of uh-.. anti-social bookworm,” he said, smiling as he breathed out the smoke and looked at Nolan questioningly.
Maybe you need to make time. You can’t be at everyone’s beck and call twenty-four, seven - you’d go mad. Not that you already have, but it’s a possibility. And surely they can’t need you all the time… right? Just an hour away from the castle might do you some good. Ah, and the tragedy continues to unfold. You’re not reading fiction? Merlin’s beard… but I’m reading ‘The Turn of the Screw’ by Henry James - it’s interesting. Have you read it? It’s a muggle take on the supernatural, which is interesting in itself.
Well-… I suppose that being Head Boy might entail being there for anyone and everyone at any time of day. But perhaps I uh-.. I do need to make time for myself, even just an hour, like you say. I just don’t really-… I don’t know; when I’m alone, with nothing to do but a hobby, I feel-… lost. It’s hard to explain but I get restless and anxious and uh-… just feel like I should be doing something else. I’ve read that story by James; rather intriguing and certainly an interesting Gothic piece of work, though one of the best has to be Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. No one can beat Austen.
You’ve never grabbed a book, taken some food and a thermos of tea, and sat in the grounds? Keller, you’ve never lived! This is honestly the highlight of my week if I can get out there and do a solo picnic. You just need to tell everyone you’re busy and cut all ties, and run - run to your spot and maybe cast some kind of charm so you can be left alone.
Uh-.. no, not in my living memory, but I have been known to forget things-… but no, I don’t really-… I don’t really do things like that anymore. Just-… no time, I suppose. But cutting all ties could be dangerous - what if there’s an emergency? And uh-.. what if they need me? I don’t think I’d be able to properly disconnect from the castle and stop worrying. What book are you reading at the moment? I feel the need to live vicariously through someone who is still reading fiction.
I’ve decided that sitting and talking with someone is nice, but there is something nice about sitting alone with your thoughts, regardless of what people think of it when you’re sitting in the grounds with a picnic basket all alone.
I’d be inclined to agree if I’d ever done that - though I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure. I just uh-.. I feel like there’s too much going on to simply go have a picnic by myself. Any tips?
Yeah, Madame Pomfrey would be the last result, she’s kind of scary at times… to be completely honest. But well, I think I’m passed the last resort, I probably should have talked to her ages ago.I just- I don’t know how to ask for help. I’m not really used to people caring enough to listen anyways. Oh Keller, don’t blame yourself, really don’t. There was so much going on and I thank you guy for worrying about pulling us out of the rubble first. It was probably buried under piles of rocks. Mostly I just hope that a magical person found the bag, and not a muggle. I wonder if I could get in trouble for a muggle finding my wand… something to look into. This new one is Aspen wood with Unicorn hair. Same core, different wood. This one is a bit longer than my first, but I like it. It suits me a little better, and my Charms seem to have gotten a bit stronger with this new wand. It’s odd really. I know abilities come from knowledge more than the wand, but it still seems to have improved everything a bit.
She can be quite stern, but I guess she’s usually just harnessing the professionalism of a doctor-… or healer. When she becomes more of a therapist type of doctor, she softens, I promise - she’s like a completely new woman. I think I know how you feel about-.. about people not caring, or you perceiving that they don’t care, but… I can promise you that there’s always someone who cares, or who will listen, and uh-.. you’re looking right at him. Hm-.. I don’t think you can get into trouble for that; and would a wand in the hands of a muggle even work? I don’t think it would, since it’s the person whose magical, not the object, so they probably thought it was just a very odd, sentimental stick you kept. Oh, you’ve improved? That’s fantastic! Perhaps what happened in London-.. it changed you, and that meant a wood change as well, and the two combined produced a progression of your abilities, or the Aspen wood just corresponds more with your emotions now. Either way, I’m glad it seems like your Charms is improving. How are uh-.. things in other classes, especially with everything going on?
I don’t think Becca did it only to get ahead of you, but -uhm…she did still pay a price. An unfair price, but-…it’s something we all have to watch for and be careful of because do we ever know when too much information is too much? But-…but how could you say this is not a time for being strong? You’re the one who is having us go to the protests to show just how strong we are. You’re the one-…we have to be strong now because it might be too late to be smart. If I’m a target with you…I’m still a target without you. I mean-…you just said it yourself, didn’t you? That werewolf was waiting for me because of the wallet…the dreams were because-…maybe those were because of how close I was to you, but now-…I’ve been there for so much of your theorizing and for so many of the things you’ve uncovered. I know enough now to be a target on my own and of course that terrifies me, but-…that’s not something I want to go through alone, Kell. Just like it’s not something you should be going through alone. If one of us were to be taken…if I was to be-…I don’t know, okay? I don’t know what would happen…I don’t know. How could anyone ever know? It will be something we can try protecting ourselves against, but that’s not something I can do on my own either. So please-…please, for the love of Merlin, Keller. If you’re going to say we’re going to find a solution together, stop telling me all the reasons you’re putting me in danger and expecting me to accept it all…and walk away. I can’t do that. So-…if we really are in this together, let me make the decision, too.
I don’t think there’s ever a time to not be smart-… brains over brawn, any day; any situation can be dealt with when you can outsmart your enemy, rather than “being strong” which is mostly a path to pain and loss. Why can’t we be both, then? Try to outsmart them, stay a step ahead, and be strong while we do that? If you’re a target regardless of our relationship status, then-… then I suppose it doesn’t matter what we do, then - we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. And if we’re damned either way, then obviously I’d much rather it be with you than without. I just don’t want to wake up one morning, find you gone, and think to myself ‘I should have done that while I had the chance’ and live to regret it. Protecting ourselves against it-… what if we did that, then? We-… we keep together, keep strong, and try to take preventative measures - that’s being strong and smart. And of course-… of course you get a say; of course you’re beside me in this. You’re-… you-… you’re half my heart; you’re so deeply entrenched in-.. in who I am that it would be impossible not to make this without you, so-… if you want to do that, be smart-.. be strong-… together, then-… I’m with you, because whatever keeps you with me has to be the right decision. It’s worth trying, at least.