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Eli Benoit

Do you have experience being lost?

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Eli Benoit

Morgan Boyle

c/o SNARLL
Taith Coch Reserve

 

Dear Morgan,

 

I hope this letter doesn't find you. I hope you got to leave the reserve and go back to work at your shop in Diagon Alley. I know your plan was to leave as soon as possible. I checked your storefront when I was shopping for school supplies and it's still burnt out. It didn't look like anyone even started to renovate after the fire, but I hope it's all fixed up now.

 

I'm sorry I didn't write back sooner. My parents wouldn't let me all summer. There's stuff all over the Prophet about werewolves, and nobody agrees about anything, except my parents, who agree than everything is dangerous and I shouldn't have a penpal. I'm back at school now, which is why I can send this. I'm nervous about quidditch tryouts, but I'm really excited to get to take electives for the first time this year even though I already got to start two Creatures projects last year. I think I maybe want to be a healer after I graduate. It might be a good way to fix something.

 

I will write to you more for the rest of the school year.

 

Love and luck,

 

Eli

 

 

Summers were already hard. As soon as 11-year-old Eli got to experience what he'd been missing—magic used freely and fearlessly—it was hard to go without. The summer after first year was bad. The second summer was worse. He could write to TK and Harlow and Rad, but a werewolf penpal was off-limits. And Eli hadn't gotten to warn Morgan before his communication was cut off. It wasn't like he could email a werewolf from the county library. The boy felt guilty on top of stifled, which in turn just made him angry. It was good to be back at school.

 

Eli had been hoping to make a less conspicuous exit from the welcome speech, though. He was hoping to be a nobody third year, not the winner of the Rowena award. It was so unexpected that he hadn't even been worried about being able to sneak off to the owlery until Professor Ripley called his name, but that wasn't going to stop him from sending this letter at the first opportunity he had. He felt hot and a little bit jittery by the time he got to the owlery, and it wasn't because of the stairs.

 

Eli tied the letter to the leg of a school owl and ushered the owl to the window. After it was out of sight, he gave a loud long exhale. He was putting at least one thing right in his world.

Edited by Eli Benoit

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Drew Knight

Drew’s desire to sit around and be friendly at the Ravenclaw welcome party this year was pretty much nil. What he really wanted was to just go to bed, but sorting night usually got kind of rowdy, and the dorms weren’t likely to be much quieter than the common room. Kaleb and Kacie were Gryffindors, Nico and Fiona were freaking gone, Eloise and Vladimir gone too, and he hadn’t even tried working up the guts to approach River. He was...well, the badges made people busy and important anyway. And Howe knew Drew hadn’t had a snowball’s chance at prefect.

 

Meeting people and hanging out with them were two of the extrovert’s favorite things...normally...but Drew hadn’t been feeling all that normal lately. Pushing at the headache gathering in his forehead, Drew swiped a golden drink from the table, sniffed it just in case, then took it outside.

 

His feet chose the west tower more than his brain did—Drew just wanted to get out in the fresh air without leaving the castle. He had this thing about forests now. As he was rounding the final curve of stairs, Drew found that he wasn’t alone.

 

Oh, hey Eli,” he greeted with a smile when he found he recognized the other student. He hadn’t even noticed his friend’s disappearance from the party, oops. “Forget something at home or something?”

 

Drew had definitely sent frantic owls to Mum during the first week of school, asking her to send along forgotten items. Then again, Drew wasn’t exactly up here to mail anything, maybe Eli was escaping from something too.

 

Or I can leave you alone,” he offered, uncharacteristically unsure.

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Eli Benoit

Eli habitually answered questions before really registering who he was talking to, and this was no exception.

 

"Nah, I'm mailing a penpal letter," he said evenly and casually, only half a second after he startled at the sudden discovery that he wasn't alone. It was just Drew, though. Eli knew his voice and had it confirmed when he turned away from the window to greet the older boy. (Had Drew gotten taller?) It was only then in their exchange that Eli really started putting the details together. Drew's tone, his empty-handedness even though he had just arrived in the owlery, and a certain something that Eli couldn't place hit the younger Ravenclaw like another punch in the gut. Drew was unhappy. Drew was unhappy and that was something that was possible? The knowledge piled itself onto the list of Everything Is Terrible, and Eli slumped as though the pile was physical.

 

"You don't hafta leave me alone. I wrote a letter on the train 'cause I couldn't at home, and now I mailed it, and..." He trailed off when he realized he didn't have any plans for what came after that. There was a reason Eli booked himself dawn to dusk with activities, and he was lost that evening without them.

 

He sat right down on the floor of the owlerly, placed his wand on the ground in front of him, and spun it in slow circles with a finger, trying to think. "Point Me," he whispered, and gave the wand a flick. Wherever it ended up pointing, he'd figure out what in the castle was there and maybe have some idea of what to do. Its spin stopped pointing right back at Eli. 'Solve your own problems.'

 

Eli dropped his chin onto his fists and scowled.

Edited by Eli Benoit

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Drew Knight

There were many kinds of penpals, of course. Drew’s kindergarten class had done that thing where they were penpals with another class across the world. New Zealand, some back burner of Drew’s brain remembered idly. But lately, the word “penpal” spoken in Hogwarts tended to mean a single specific thing.

 

Oh, the werewolf thing?” Drew asked with a practiced tone of neutral interest. It was the only thing he could think to say. The ‘write a werewolf’ thing had flown so low on Drew’s radar that he’d almost managed to forget about it, back in the nebulous before. Now, of course, the word ‘werewolf’ was never far from Drew in any capacity, snarled up messily with other words like ‘inquiry’ and ‘friend’ and ‘failed.’

 

But oh, the werewolf thing, was pretty solid, considering all that.

 

Drew waited out the end of Eli’s dangling ‘and’ for a little while, then took the absence of words as an ending of a different kind and plopped himself down on the owlry floor near his housemate. While Eli’s wand spun, Drew took an idle sip of the golden drink. Huh, it wasn’t actually awful. Man, Drew hoped he wasn’t gonna turn into a trophy or something.

 

He couldn’t hide his interest in the outcome of Eli’s spell, glancing up to see how Eli took it.

 

Yeah, I feel that,” sighed Drew, in response to many words unspoken. “Wanna just hang out here a bit, then? I don’t feel like going back.”

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Eli Benoit

"Yeah." The werewolf thing. "I picked it up because it sounded interesting, and then my penpal was a real person." Eli frowned, though he was already frowning. That sounded all kinds of not-what-he-wanted-to-say. "I mean, of course he was, but... I'm used to books." Eli shrugged and stared at the far wall instead of at Drew, crossing his fingers figuratively that Drew would understand what he meant. In this case, reading something and putting himself in someone else's shoes wasn't a fun game that ended with the last page of the story. It was a chose your own adventure that actually mattered, and he didn't get to decide between a pair of predetermined options.

 

Like drink or don't drink a golden beverage. Eli looked on curiously. He had left without touching any of the golden food, but (abstractly at that particular moment) he did appreciate Ripley's almost forcible house spirit.

 

"Rah, rah, Ravenclaw," he said with a skeptical expression but his first smile of the evening. The smile lingered when Drew suggested they stay. He didn't have to go back yet.

 

"Definitely."

 

Eli popped to his feet and scanned the room for something to do. He could... organize all of the leather gloves by size. Or maybe sweep.

 

"The big deal was," Eli jumped back to the topic of his penpal, "that I wasn't allowed to write all summer and I won't know whether everything is ok until I hear back. And it matters." He could talk while he was doing something. Whatever had stolen away his momentum a few minutes earlier was temporarily allayed by Drew's presence and the prospect of straightening up the owlery.

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Drew Knight

Drew was still working out what to say, so he was content just to nod in understanding. He thought he understood what Eli was getting at—the storybook remoteness of an idea like ‘werewolf’ melding with the mundane. Radically different experiences, of course, but perhaps a similar feeling.

 

“Mmhmm,” he supplied, when he looked up from the shimmering surface of his drink to realize that Eli wasn’t looking at him, and might not’ve seen the nod. Someone taking their first sip of a mystery drink offered by a professor, though, that was always worth watching. He chuckled at Eli’s toast and willingly offered himself as guinea pig for the sake of levity.

 

“Just do me a favor and let me know if I grow feathers or anything,” he suggested with a wry smirk, then ran a hand through his hair just to check. He joked, but he’d also breathed smoke and grown scales on his first sorting night.

 

Smiling in any form felt good, Drew decided immediately, and when Eli took him up on the suggestion to stay in the owlry, Drew found himself relieved. Even better, he was cast primarily for now in the role of listener. Drew liked listening, he liked it when his friends felt secure enough around him to confide their problems. It also drew less attention to the fact that Drew couldn’t actually reciprocate very much about his own summer. He had a werewolf-free version, but that had some gaps.

 

“Sure it does, he’s a real person,” Drew replied logically, rising to his own feet and dusting a loose owl feather off his pants. There were lots of dropped feathers all over the floor, actually. Half as a game and half just for something to do, Drew pulled his wand and began using shower charms to push the floating feather towards the open door. “Aspergo. Not allowed like, your parents aren’t cool with it?”

 

He’d written on the train because he couldn’t write at home. Not allowed all summer. Parents seemed the likely answer, but Drew didn’t want to assume. He sprayed the first feather out the door, then went back to the opposite wall and started in with more dedication, more purpose. Doing was good.

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Eli Benoit

"Of all the places to turn into a bird, though." Eli gestured at Drew's pick of perches to roost on. Joke aside, Eli would definitely tell Drew if he started growing feathers. He'd even do something about it if it happened; so what if his primary motivation was to get an English sentence from his housemate rather than a Caw?

 

To prove his point, an actual eagle wouldn't have been able to guess that it was his parents who forbid him from writing. Eli confirmed. "Yeah. You know Murphy's Law, anything that can go wrong will? I think it's like, their JOB to apply that to everything." Like a typical teenager, he defaulted to blaming his parents, but that really wasn't the whole story. The immense mental weight of it stopped him in his tracks; the several pairs of mismatched gloves he was holding would have to wait. The problem was that Eli didn't have an answer. He barely even knew what the question was. "But... what do I do?" He protested vaguely. Desperately. To nobody in particular. The outburst would have happened exactly the same if Drew had turned into a bird after all. (He hadn't.) How was Eli supposed to get a man out of Taith Coch? How was he supposed to change everyone's mind about werewolves? How was he supposed to cure lycanthropy, and there should be a cure. They were wizards, for Merlin's sake.

 

The intermediate stepsthere had to be intermediate stepseluded him. He let a long silence grow before commenting instead on Drew's chosen task.

 

"I know that one. Didn't get to use it last time we dueled because of all of those books. Wait, wait. What if you had to slalom the pedestals and we scored it like golf?"

 

Part of Eli didn't want to dwell on life's big questions that evening.

Edited by Eli Benoit

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Drew Knight

Drew’s head bobbed uselessly up and down in a series of quasi-supportive, quasi-“I’m listening” nods. He had heard the Murphy’s law thing before, although he was most likely to quote it right after blowing up a cauldron. He wondered briefly what it would be like to be raised by parents who saw danger lurking in everything, including the mail. He’d lived the kind of bumped and bruised childhood of a kid with parents who weren’t hounding him every second to slow down and be cautious. Yeah, Dad had warned him to stay behind the wards, but he’d also left Drew and River free to ignore it. Ugh, stop.

 

And now, unless it was rhetorical, Drew was being called upon to break his quiet. What did Eli do? Well if Eli’s wand didn’t know, Drew sure didn’t. He swallowed the second sip of drink he hadn’t been aware of taking, then left his goblet on the windowsill.

 

“I guess there’s...not much you can do,” he finally admitted, then flapped an arm at the patch of air through which Eli’s owl had departed. “Wait for your owl to get to him...then see what he says...”

 

Which was basically how penpals worked. Rah rah Ravenclaw.

 

“Which sucks,” he added hurriedly, just so that Eli knew Drew didn’t think much of his answer, either. He was getting ready for another shower charm when Eli spoke up about knowing it himself. By the time Drew thought of making a proper game of the activity, Eli was already proposing rules and scoring. Drew smiled again—heck yeah, this kid got it.

 

“You’re on. That was a good duel, by the way,” Drew observed, “You know, I went back for more books the next day, but they were all gone. Guess it was a temporary thing. Aspergo.

 

His feather spun crazily along the floor for a while, then stopped woefully short of where Drew had been hoping for. Maybe less about power and more about accuracy, then.

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Eli Benoit

That was how penpals worked, yes, but all Eli could do was reluctantly agree to the immediate next steps. He gazed out the window through which the school owl had left and mumbled an answer.

 

"Yeah." And also, "yeah."

 

His gaze out the window was another scowl. Books were a happier note. "Really? Where do you think they went? Where did they come from?" The questions were relevant, but they were part of a larger theme. "The dueling chamber is WEIRD."

 

Eli spent another minute sifting through the gloves to find matches while Drew made an attempt at their feather game. Eli watched with half of his attention. "Maybe the key is to do it like dueling-the-sport. You just want a hit, you're not trying to disable an enemy with water or anything. That wouldn't work unless you were fighting sabre tooth tigers. Which are definitely extinct." Cats, though. Cats hated water.

 

Finessing a shower charm was easier said than done, however. Eli's first attempt had his feather thoroughly soaked and plastered to the floor. Eli frowned a different kind of frown. It wasn't a frown of sadness or anger. It was a frown of working through a concrete problem. Subsequent jets pushed the feather (a new, dry feather) along by a few inches at a time but at least succeeded in making it move instead of getting it stuck. More forward momentum per charm was the next step, then, if he wanted to score well according to the rules.

 

"Your turn?" He offered.

 

He fell unconsciously into the comfort of solving a problem like a Ravenclaw.

 

Analyze. Troubleshoot. Try again.

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Drew Knight

Drew had already given disappointing answers to weightier questions tonight, both Eli’s and his own. He found he preferred theorizing about the books.

 

“Maybe taken to the library,” he suggested, shuffling a foot, “By means magical or manual. I doubt the dueling students carried them all off...” One corner of Drew’s mouth tugged upward, conspiratorial. He and Eli had absconded with several of those books, and they probably hadn’t been the only ones. “Speaking of magical, maybe they vanished. In which case they...went into nonbeing, or whatever.” Now Drew waggled his hands dismissively in the air, his tone deepening into a quasi-mocking register. His understanding of vanishing theory was pretty much zilch.

 

As for Eli’s pronouncement, it was really more of a truth. Seriously. Drew laughed, which felt nice. “Yes,” he agreed, “Yes it is.”

 

He nodded thoughtfully along with the sabre tooth tiger comment, but mostly he watched Eli puzzling out the shower charm and feather game, shaping Drew’s goofy distraction into something with goals, obstacles, technique. Drew could play along with that, literally and otherwise. It was just about the only thing left to do, tonight. He watched Eli’s trial and error closely, picking up what he could as visual feedback.

 

Yeah, sure,” Drew replied when his housemate offered him a turn.

 

Wand in hand, Drew began to push the feather down the river a few inches at a time. It was tricky. It felt like a metaphor, or whatever.

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