AUTHOR'S NOTES: Dedicated to my sister Trix, who doesn't read fanfic, but who inspired this while reading out passages of 'Order of the Phoenix' - specifically the section where Hermione comments about the pact the DA made and the results of betraying it. "Well put it this way, it'll make Eloise Midgen's acne look like a couple of cute freckles."
A Matter Of Perspective
She'd tried everything.
Not spells, not potions, not even Julianne Morgan's 'cleanse, tone, and moisturise twice daily' lotions which she swore up and down on her wand had worked for her Muggle cousin Claire.
Eloise was so desperate, she cleansed, toned, and moisturised twice daily for a year before she realised her problem was there to stay. She pulled the curtains around her bed that night, ignoring her dorm-mates, and cried.
It was so unfair!
Her mother kept telling her that beauty was only skin-deep. If that was the case, then why it was that Christine Alverton, who would die of shame if a blemish ever dared to think about marring her rose-petal complexion, had received seven invitations to last year's Yule Ball by guys from all three Triwizarding schools, while Eloise didn't get a single one. Christine had all the brains of a cow and all the wit of a clod of mud. And that wasn't just sour grapes, either. She was the type of girl who made being in Hufflepuff an embarrassment.
Still, Eloise was determined not to completely give up hope. She kept doing the lotions, although she wasn't persuaded of their efficacy. She kept looking for spells that might help cure her acne. She didn't hex Susan Bones when the fifth year gently suggested that she wait a few years and see whether her skin settled down. "It might just be a teenage hormonal thing," the older girl had said. Of course, Susan was nice and her advice had been well-meant. It was just...annoying.
Eloise wanted her acne gone now.
So she lived with the sneers and the laughter. She lived with being 'that zit-faced Hufflepuff' or 'the Mount Vesuvius of pimples' as some of the nastier students sometimes called her behind her back. She endured, and hoped and prayed and researched for something that would make the acne go away.
Until Professor Dumbledore left the school.
And it was all that horrible Umbitch's fault.
There were rumours whispered around the common-room and in the corridors, but the most that Eloise could pick up was that there had been some kind of claim that the Headmaster wanted to take over the Ministry of Magic and that Harry Potter had been involved...
Of course, Harry Potter was always involved when this kind of thing happened. It was practically his destiny to be involved when this kind of thing happened.
Eloise didn't care much who was involved or what was going on. All she knew was that Dumbledore had been a bit nutty, but he'd been a good Headmaster for the school. Now, they had Umbitch, and she went around causing trouble and sneering at people, and setting up that Inquisitorial Squad that simply went about taking points off other houses.
And then there was the case of the Mysterious Hooded Student.
Rumour had it that it was Marietta Edgecombe, a sixth-year Ravenclaw. She didn't appear in classes for a week - or so Eloise overheard from a sixth-year Hufflepuff - and when she did, she had this hood over her head that only had slits so she could see out - and nobody could see in.
Nobody had the faintest idea why Marietta was doing it, either. Which made it really mysterious.
And then Eloise's acne started getting worse.
So Eloise was in a very bad mood the day that she tripped in the corridor and had to stop to pick up her scrolls and books and writings. She was already late for Potions and Snape would definitely take points from Hufflepuff, and it would all be Eloise's fault.
She'd just gotten everything into her satchel, when another student came flying around down the hall, and tripped and fell over the bag. There was the crunch of squashed parchment and the sound of tearing material, and Eloise grimaced and bit back the urge to scream. Once again, all her things were scatted across the corridor floor.
"Next time, would you mind looking where you're..." She glanced up at the other student as she spoke, and the words vanished from her mouth as her brain stuttered to a halt.
Eloise was used to looking at the complexions of the other girls. It was an automatic reaction, something that she did without conscious thought.
However, even if she hadn't been looking, there was no way she could have missed this.
Marietta Edgecombe's usually-okay complexion was marred by the biggest, ugliest, most horrendously purple pustules that Eloise had ever seen on another human being. Her jaw dropped as the Ravenclaw girl screamed fit to bring Filch down on them like a ton of bricks, before flinging the thing she'd been wearing over her head back over and pushing past Eloise to run down the corridor.
The younger girl just stared after her. What the...? Had Marietta...? But it was so...! And they'd spelled a word!
I wonder what she sneaked on, Eloise thought, too shocked to even pick up the books and papers she'd dropped. Merlin, I wonder who did that to her! And why Madam Pomfrey hasn't undone it for her...
Her shock was so great that she stood there until a seventh-year Ravenclaw prefect walked into the corridor and found her still staring after Marietta. He peremptorily shooed her off to class where she lost ten points for Hufflepuff on account of being late.
Eloise's attention drifted in and out of the next couple of lessons. She concentrated enough not to make a complete hash of her potion, but even Snape's most cutting comments weren't quite hitting the mark as much as they usually did, and she lost another five points for not paying attention.
Her classmates were shooting her significant glares by the end of the lesson, and when they got back to the common room, most of them weren't talking to her. Eloise didn't care.
She dumped her bag in her dorm, then took her homework down to the common room where lots of other students were also doing their homework and talking. Dinner wasn't for another couple of hours, and it was usually best to get homework out of the way straight after classes, while you still had the lesson fresh on your mind.
But Eloise stared into space, pondering the somewhat cryptic message contained in Marietta's pustules. Who had she sneaked on? And why had the person taken such drastic measures?
There were assorted topics flying around the room, including the Weasley Twins' latest inventions. Think what you liked about the Weasley twins, they could make trouble like nobody else in the school. There was some speculation about who would next get 'done' by the Inquisitorial Squad, and the usual, ordinary gossipy bits and pieces.
Eloise listened until Julianne Morgan flopped down beside her, and she felt curious enough to ask.
"Has anyone actually seen what's on Marietta's face?" Eloise asked.
The question had been intended to be quiet, but the conversation lulled just as she began speaking, and it was heard clearly enough through the common room.
"No," Zachariah Smith said, looking up from his work. The blue eyes fixed her with that rather frighteningly intense way he had. A way that made Eloise stutter and recall very clearly that he was on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team and she was just a girl with a big skin problem. "Have you?"
Quite abruptly, she was the centre of attention in the common-room.
"What is it?"
"How bad is it?"
"It must be really bad for her to walk around with that bag on her head all day!" Someone proclaimed, somewhat gleefully.
Even the older students were looking at her expectantly as she flushed, uncomfortable with all the attention. "Um..."
Somehow, it seemed unfair to expose Marietta to that kind of attention. Even if she was a sneak.
"Considering how much trouble Marietta has gone towards hiding her face," Susan Bones said quietly, "It's probably best that we don't know."
"Speak for yourself," Justin Finch-Fletchley retorted. "I want to know!"
"And I don't think we need to know," Susan replied, her calm voice even and measured as she turned back to her book. "It's bad enough for her to cover her head all the time, so it must be pretty bad."
"So, Eloise?" One of her classmates urged, avidly. "What is it?"
"It's...bad," Eloise managed. Susan was right. It was bad. As a fellow sufferer of 'facial blemishes' - although granted, she'd never sneaked on anyone - she felt a certain creeping sympathy for the defaced Ravenclaw.
Her housemates prodded and pushed, queried and complained. Eloise kept her mouth firmly shut, and refused to give in to any wheedling at all.
That night, for the first time, she looked into her mirror at the acne that had plagued her for the last four years, and didn't wince.
Her face was quite lovely, really.
It was all a matter of perspective.
- fin -